Friday, April 30, 2010

Community 1.21: "Contemporary American Poultry"

“And for your information, I don’t have an ego. My Facebook photo is a landscape.”


“Community” is seriously on a roll. “Contemporary American Poultry” was another hilarious, entertaining episode. I liked that we got a look into what makes Abed tick. I think this episode helped fill in his character more than any other. I loved that much of the episode was a mob movie parody. Being the voracious pop culture consumer that I am, the show’s pop culture-based humor really works for me. The episode really had a nice balance of humor and heart, and it’s nice to know that chicken fingers being the height of college cuisine isn’t unique to my own college experience!

The episode opens with a fairly typical study group session with everyone sharing the latest triumphs and trials of their lives. The conversation is interrupted when the call goes out that chicken fingers are up in the cafeteria. Britta’s the only one who isn’t enthusiastic- she’s a vegetarian. She starts sobbing about how her cat is sick as everybody else rushes out of the room. Shirley looks like she’s going to very reluctantly stay, but Britta tells her she can go. The rush is useless, though. Starburns is the fry cook, and he controls the chicken finger distribution. They’re all sold out by the time the group gets there.

Jeff’s got a plan for a chicken coup. Heh. Yeah, I just half-heartedly laughed at my own joke. I blame the fact that it’s Friday. Britta flirts with Starburns to make him distracted, and some incriminating photos of Starburns skimming chicken fingers are taken. Starburns is fired, and the fix is in for Abed to replace him. Abed’s experience at his family’s falafel restaurant doesn’t hurt. And neither does Troy purposely giving the worst interview possible while dressed up in Ancient Egyptian headgear.

Jeff begins to second guess his plan, though. He and the rest of the group are happily chowing down on chicken fingers when they see Abed give a container of fried goodness to Señor Chang. There are protests all around from the group until Abed says that he negotiated the chicken fingers for a ten percent bump in the grades of the entire study group. The protests turn to squeals of glee, and Shirley says that they’re good with having Abed make all the group decisions from here on out. This makes Jeff a little pissy, to say the least. It was painfully obvious to me that Jeff was resenting not being the center of attention anymore, but it took the rest of the characters a little while longer to catch on. Maybe Jeff’s initial reaction could have been dialed back a bit.

The group’s got a whole chicken finger syndicate going on, and each of them (except Jeff, really) has a part to play in getting the chicken fingers from the fryer to the students and getting something in return. I really enjoyed Abed’s narration as he was explaining everybody’s role. You can tell that being the pop culture nut he is, this is right in his wheelhouse. With success, however, comes greed. Abed gets nice things for the entire group. Annie’s got her dream backpack, Britta’s got her own personal hairstylist, Pierce has an entourage, Troy’s got…a monkey named “Annie’s Boobs” (oh I am so going to regret including the name of Troy’s monkey when I check out what Google searches lead people to this blog).

Abed runs the whole thing out of his dorm room, and Jeff stops by, disgusted at how taken his friends are with their new found power. Abed explains to Jeff that he likes being in charge of the chicken fingers because he feels like he speaks everyone’s language now. They all relate on exactly the same level- chicken. Jeff, however, is not impressed with this explanation and storms out of the room. He later quits the group entirely, swearing to bring down the whole operation. He gets a little help from Starburns (the only person who will actually talk to him). Starburns has the key to the kitchen, and he also has some important intel. There’s one particular piece to the fryer that can’t be replaced, and if Jeff steals it, Abed’s reign is over for good.

Meanwhile, Abed starts realizing how power has changed his friends. They’re starting to care more about the things Abed has gotten for them than they care about Abed himself. They’re getting ungrateful. Pierce, for instance, wanted someone named Travis for his entourage and is pissed when he finds out Abed only got him someone whose middle name is Travis. Abed decides it’s time to send a message. He destroys Annie’s backpack. He lets Troy’s monkey go free. He puts gum in Britta’s hair. As soon as the goodies stop flowing, the group comes flocking back to Jeff. Jeff promises to steal the fryer part and end Abed’s rein.

Jeff sneaks into the kitchen that night to find Abed diligently working. He realizes that the power of chicken is waning, and he’s trying to find some other fried delight with which to replace it. Jeff takes pity on Abed, and they have a heart to heart that ends with Abed having to choose between pop culture reenactments and choosing to sit with Jeff on top of a table like in Sixteen Candles while they share a plate of chicken fingers. Abed ends up quitting his job as fry cook to save Jeff’s ego, and the study group goes back to normal, once again under Jeff’s control.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Community 1.20: "The Science of Illusion"

“Nice frame job, Brittadict Arnold.”


So, I kind of forgot to blog this episode back when it originally aired. I’m glad I finally got to see it, though. I thought it was freaking hilarious- easily one of the series’ funniest episodes to date. It was an April Fools themed episode, and there was definitely a lot of foolishness going on. What was great about it (besides being really funny) was that much of the foolishness also illuminated character. That’s something all the best sitcoms need to be able to do. I like my sitcoms with equal doses of laughs and heart.

The Dean wants Greendale’s students to handle April Fools in the way he wants them to handle everything- as inoffensively as possible. He’s even had pamphlets made up to advise them of approved pranks. The pamphlet says Greendale will be hiring extra security for the event, and Annie and Shirley think that sounds like fun. Meanwhile, Jeff is already on his way to conducting a non-approved prank. Pierce comes into the study room cheerfully talking about how his “Buddhist group” (cough…crazy cult…cough) is having a ceremony to make him a Level Six Laser Lotus this coming weekend. Thanks to Jeff’s quick thinking and Abed’s quick trip to the theatre department, the gang soon has Pierce thinking he’s the proud owner of a Level Six robe…aka a wizard’s robe complete with stars and moons.

At first, whenever the rest of the study group is talking about April Fools, Britta starts on one of her preachy speeches about how it degrades people and such. She’s accused of being a buzzkill, and it definitely gets to her. She decides to pull the most inoffensive April Fools prank possible- she wants to prove you can pull a prank while still treating people with respect. The prank will involve Britta going to the science store room and getting a frog. She plans to dress the frog in a mini sombrero that says “Señor Chang” and place it on Chang’s desk before Spanish class. Britta tells Jeff her idea and Jeff thinks it sounds pretty lame.

Annie and Shirley get deputized into Campus Security by the Dean. Abed’s DVR is broken, so he decides to watch Annie and Shirley’s security adventures for fun instead. He wonders aloud which one of them is going to be the hard ass of the typical buddy cop show pairing. Both Annie and Shirley want that role, and they go to ridiculous lengths to prove it. Somebody has pushed over a sign on the Greendale campus, and investigating it is Annie and Shirley’s first assignment. They try to outdo each other being aggressive in their questioning as Abed looks on while happily snacking. The Dean tells them they have to solve this case if they want to stay deputized.

Britta’s prank doesn’t go at all as planned. She gets her frog and puts the sombrero on it but then, as frogs tend to do, it jumped away. To make matters worse, when she tries to catch the frog again, she accidentally knocks a gurney with a cadaver on it (I thought those were just for med school…don’t look at me like that! I’m a lawyer, which means I avoided taking any science classes in college!). To make the situation even worse, the cadaver flies through a window, making quite a few Greendale students freak out.

The Dean is not happy that such disgusting shenanigans happened on Annie and Shirley’s watch. He is incapable, however, of chewing them out about it, so Abed steps in. Abed becomes the stereotypical movie police chief, which made me start thinking about HIMYM. Particularly, the episode “Murtaugh,” where inspired by Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon movies, Ted makes a list of stuff he’s “too old for.” Abed even says he’s “too old for this” in his rant. He sounded just like the Laser Tag manager who kicks Barney out in the beginning of that episode. “Murtaugh” is one of my favorites, so anything that reminds me of it makes me happy. I find it fascinating that even though he has trouble relating to other people, Abed can draw from pop culture to do things others are afraid to do.

Annie and Shirley’s security detail scenes were funny all the way through the episode. I especially liked a scene where Jeff is suspected of the whole frog/cadaver fiasco, and Annie opens his backpack to find all sorts of items to confirm the story (like other small stereotypical Mexican paraphernalia to go with the sombrero). Jeff first says that Britta is trying to frame him, but then he makes a run for it, and Annie and Shirley aren’t very successful following him in their little Security golf cart. The chase is hilarious with Jeff jumping over a wall and Shirley getting the cart stuck because of two poles separating the parking lot from an athletic field. Words can’t really do it justice here- it was a great bit of physical comedy that ends with Annie accidentally getting caught in the mist of her own pepper spray.

With Abed’s talking-to in mind, however, Annie and Shirley realize they need to band together to solve this “crime” and get back in the Dean’s good graces. They confront Jeff back in the study room, who still maintains that Britta framed him. Things get more than a little out of hand with Annie slamming Jeff’s head against the table repeatedly and Shirley brandishing a pizza cutter. The threat of real violence prompts Britta to finally fess up. She wanted to do the prank because she was sick of being the buzzkill, but she only made things worse. In typical kind-of-sappy-but-not-overly-so Community fashion, the group tells Britta that she doesn’t need to change. They see her as the heart of the group more than the buzzkill. Oh, and Pierce totally realized those robes (which he wore throughout the episode complete with a cookie wand…long story) weren’t really from his “religious group.” He failed the Level 6 test, and he was embarrassed by that, so he went along with the joke.

Monday, April 26, 2010

V 1.08: "We Can't Win"

“Agenda? I thought this was a gift.”


After a somewhat more focused episode in “John May,” we’re back to what is becoming the standard “V” formula in “We Can’t Win.” Anna’s got a new nefarious plan and the Resistance thinks they’re going to make a completely unrelated breakthrough only to be foiled again. And you’ve got to add in a dash of Ryan/Val drama for good measure. The most interesting deviation from the usual formula in this particular episode was a side plot involving Lisa, Tyler, and Joshua. I’d like to see more of Joshua overall. His character is intriguing, and if his backstory gets filled in, could be the answer to some of what is missing in the show overall.

Anna’s nefarious scheme of the week involves the World Progress Forum in Geneva. She hasn’t been officially invited, but she decides to show up anyway, Chad Decker predictably in tow. She wants to make a presentation about a V technology called Blue Energy. The episode opens with Chad in his hotel room in Geneva, dreaming. The dream is a fantasy about Anna that ends with her strangling him. The whole Chad/Anna attraction thing still grosses me out. Anna’s plan faces a roadblock when the Secretary General tells her that only invited guests are allowed to make presentations. She’s going to have to find a way to convince them to let her present anyway. I like that the Secretary General seems to see through Anna somewhat. Chad even says that the Secretary General is the only politician currently openly opposing Anna.

Anna finds her solution while watching the news. A monsoon has devastated the island nation of Timbal, destroying all their infrastructure, and there’s political wrangling going on over the rescue effort. Anna sees the opportunity and takes it. She tells her lieutenant to dispatch rescue shuttles to Timbal immediately. She gives Blue Energy to Timbal, and they’re able to get emergency operations up and running. This earns Anna a spot at the World Progress Forum presenter’s lectern, where she uses more Blue Energy to put on a bit of a light show. She says it’s basically the answer to all our energy needs, clean and sustainable. Remember how back in my very first post on this blog, I mentioned how some critics saw an anti-Obama (or maybe just anti-Progressive) sentiment in V? Well, I’m definitely seeing where it’s coming from, and it’s getting harder to ignore. And I’ll stop here because I don’t want my TV blog degrading into political discussion.

Back in the United States, the Resistance members have some personal drama to deal with besides fighting the Vs. Tyler is still furious with Erika, and he isn’t at all interested in listening to or believing her explanation. He’s going to the V ship and doesn’t know when he’ll be back. Ryan also still can’t find Val. She does contact her briefly by cell phone and tries to tell her that he was on her way home to tell her the entire truth, but she says it’s too late. The V doctor he took Val to warns Ryan that because of the…unique…nature of the baby, Ryan really does need to find Val ASAP.

It’s not going to be all personal drama and Anna’s schemes, though. Every member of a local Fifth Column cell except for one has been murdered. The woman in charge of the V task force wants Erika to investigate, given Erika’s terrorism investigation experience. This makes Erika a little uncomfortable, but she has no choice but to go along with it. The Resistance forms a plan of action. Ryan’s going to try to find Val while Jack goes and talks to the survivor’s (Alex’s) dad. Jack does indeed find Alex’s dad. He’s a Viet Nam veteran in a hospital fighting a losing battle with cancer. The fact that Jack is a veteran as well, and the fact that Jack has the telltale scar behind his ear, convince the father to give Jack some information about where his son might be found.

The Resistance finds Alex, and he’s definitely jumpy. He shoots at them, but Erika eventually gets him to calm down. She’s got a good point- if they were V’s, he’d already be dead. The plan is to set a trap for the V who tried to kill Alex (and succeeded in killing Alex’s friends). They’re going to use Alex as bait by encoding a message on the Fifth Column website saying Alex wants a meetup. The Vs obviously know Fifth Column code already, so they’ll see the message and show up to take Alex out. The situation is getting more urgent- there have been more Fifth Column murders all over the world.

Alex continues to make life difficult for the Resistance, but Jack is determined to make sure he comes out of the planned trap safely. He promised Alex’s dad he’d keep Alex safe, and Jack wants to keep his word. Jack can’t however, save Alex from his own stupidity. At the faux meetup, Hobbes sees that the V who was sent is actually in sniper position across the street. Alex isn’t in the line of fire yet, and if he moves exactly as Hobbes tells him to, he won’t be. Alex panics and starts to run, though, and he gets two shots in the back for his trouble. Father Jack tries to save him. If you consider yelling at someone to stay conscious saving them. In the end, all Father Jack can really do for Alex is say the Last Rites. And shoot the sniper right before the sniper is about to kill Erika. Oddly enough, the sniper isn’t a V, he’s human.

While all this was going on, Ryan was still trying to find Val. He had Erika do a trace on her phone, and the result was not good. She was at a V Healing Center. The V tending to Val got all sinister when he saw her unusual baby. He gave her a vitamin shot, and he was about to pick up some scary sharp looking tool when Ryan tackled him and broke his neck. Then Ryan shoved an immolation pill in his mouth. Val is shocked, but when Ryan asks her to trust him and leave with him, she complies.

As I said earlier, the most interesting plot of this episode involved Lisa, Joshua, and Tyler. Joshua tells Lisa that Anna has instructed him to administer the empathy test to everyone, even Lisa. Lisa fails the test, most likely thanks to her budding relationship with Tyler teaching her a little about humanity. Lisa thinks the failure is a death sentence, so when Tyler arrives on the ship stressed out about his own problems with his mother, Lisa takes them out on a shuttle so they can have some final peaceful time together. Not surprisingly, they have sex on the shuttle, even though Lisa says she’s not really okay with it. When they get back, Joshua informs Lisa that her mother wishes to speak with her. Anna has Lisa squish the egg of a weak soon-to-be-soldier (ew!) and says that she heard Lisa passed her empathy test. Lisa’s surprised, but she rolls with it. Later she asks Joshua why he lied. The answer is really simple. He wants Lisa to return the favor some day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lost 6.13: "The Last Recruit"

“John Locke was not a believer, Jack. He was a sucker.”


“The Last Recruit” was marginally Jack centric, although not a focused on one character as many episodes of Lost. I think this is where the show is really starting to kick it into high gear. The plot developments are coming at us fast and furious, in both the original and sideways verses. I’m thinking this is going to be how Lost is going to be from here until the end, speeding along, everything clicking into place. We’ve reached the home stretch, for better or worse. Now I’m getting a bit nostalgic! While I don’t think this episode will be remembered as one of “Lost’s” best, I think it did the job it needed to do and got us where we needed to go, and hopefully we’ll be on to bigger and better things when the show returns next week to begin the final five hours (four episodes).

The episode picks up right where the last one left off, with Locke and Jack staring each other down for the first time since Smokey took Locke’s form. Locke wants to talk to Jack privately, and after basically warning Hurley that if this goes badly, it’s Hurley’s fault, Jack follows Locke into the jungle. Jack and Locke have one of their Season 2 vintage science vs. faith discussions, only they’re on opposite teams this time. Locke calls his original “a sucker.” Jack isn’t so sure that’s true, although the discussion is interrupted by a nearby rustle. It’s Claire. She followed because Jack’s her brother and she wants to talk to him.

Meanwhile, all manner of craziness is going down in the sideways-verse. St. Sebastian Hospital is jumping. Both Locke (thanks to his close encounter with Desmond’s car) and Sun (thanks to a close encounter with a stray bullet) have arrived at the hospital at the same time. Sun sees Locke on the gurney next to her and starts freaking saying “It’s him!” repeatedly in Korean. Over at the police station, Sawyer wants to question Kate. They don’t have all that much time to talk, but Kate does make an astute, although kind of pointless, observation. Sawyer helped her get off the elevator instead of arresting her because he didn’t want anyone to know he was in Australia. The conversation is cut short because Sawyer and Miles have bigger fish to fry. They’re on the case of the slaughter at Keamy’s restaurant. Security footage clearly shows Sayid exiting the building, so he’s their suspect. When Sawyer and Miles show up at Nadia’s house, Sayid gets Nadia to try and stall them so he can get out the back door. There’s one flaw in the plan though. Sawyer and ready and waiting in the back yard.

I really did mean it when I said this episode was all over the place in the sideways-verse. We see Claire in the lobby of a major commercial building. She tells security she has an appointment at the adoption agency. Who should appear while she’s signing in but Desmond! Now, it’s painfully obvious to anyone who actually reads this blog that I’m an unapologetic Desmond fangirl. But even I have to admit that he was a tad creepy in this sequence. He keeps talking to Claire, even when she’s starting to look uncomfortable, and he starts to ask her personal questions about her adoption. He says she needs a lawyer for the adoption and, what do you know, there’s one in this building who owes him a favor. Claire is reluctant, but Desmond follows her into the elevator and says he’s going to the 15th floor, too.

The lawyer Desmond sets Claire up with is none other than Ilana. I wonder what choices in life make someone a lawyer instead of a mercenary and vice versa. Ilana is shocked that Desmond has brought her “Claire Littleton from Australia.” Apparently the firm has been looking all over for her. Jack and David are walking into the same building, and it doesn’t take long to figure out why Ilana was looking for Claire. Jack and David are going to the reading of Christian’s will, and what do you know, they’re going to the same law office where Claire is. As they enter the building, Jack is talking on his cell to “David’s mom.” I really wish Damon and Carlton would get over the cutsey evasiveness already. Just tell us who she is! It turns out the firm has been looking for Claire because she was a devisee in Christian’s will. Jack asks Claire how she knew Christian, and when she says he was her father too, Jack is shocked and also slightly amused. There’s no time for a family reunion, though. Jack gets an emergency call from the hospital, and the will reading will have to wait.

David keeps tagging along with Jack to the hospital, and he wishes Jack luck as Jack heads for the OR. David is really a pretty cool kid. I hope he survives whatever happens to the universes. Sun’s recognition of Locke shows that there’s a bleed between the two, and I hope that some combination of elements from each side make it to the end. Speaking of recognizing Locke, Jack is convinced he can handle this case, even though it’s a really severe spinal injury on top of an existing spinal injury. He bustles into the OR all business-like. When he sees Locke’s face, though, he’s perplexed. He knows this man.

Back on the Island, there’s still plenty of drama taking place at Camp Locke. Sawyer tells Hurley that he wants to get the two of them, Jack, Kate, Sun, and Lapidus away from Locke ASAP. Hurley is surprised Sayid isn’t invited, and Sawyer explains that Sayid has gone to the dark side. Hurley tries to point out that Anakin Skywalker was redeemed from the dark side, but Sawyer doesn’t get the “Star Wars” reference, so the argument fails. There isn’t time to argue anyway. Zoe and some armed goons show up and demand Locke return what he took. They’re being evasive, and it’s not cute. It’s kind of infuriating. We know Locke took Desmond. Just freaking say Desmond! Zoe gives a demonstration of how they have some serious explosives at their disposal and tells Locke to call when he’s ready to return what he took. Locke smashes the phone Zoe gave him.

Back in the original timeline, Locke’s got a sailboat. He wants Sawyer and Kate to take it and meet the rest of his people at a pre-determined location. They’re going to take on Widmore. Sawyer, however, has different plans. He wants Jack to get the people he already mentioned to hang back and meet him and Kate at a different location. Jack slightly reluctantly agrees. Sawyer doesn’t tell Kate the plan until they actually get to the sailboat (which happens to be the Elizabeth, the sailboat that originally brought Des to the Island). She’s not really thrilled about the plan, especially when she finds out Claire’s not invited. Which makes sense, considering rescuing Claire was why she agreed to return to the Island at all.

Kate doesn’t need to worry for long. While Locke and his crew are on the move to the meet-up point, Jack successfully gets the chosen folks to hang back. Claire sees this happen and follows them. She’s pretty angry that she’s about to be abandoned again, but Kate convinces her to join their group. She promises Claire that she will reunite her with Aaron. It seems like Claire takes Kate at her word, but Claire’s not working with a full deck, so who knows. She does say ominously that Locke won’t be happy when he finds out they’ve left him.

Locke has separate orders for Sayid. He wants Sayid to kill Desmond. Sayid is reluctant (this is kind of becoming a theme here…), but Locke says if Sayid wants to see Nadia again, Sayid needs to do what he’s told. Sayid head for the well, where Desmond is sitting on a rock at the bottom, calm as you please. The scene that follows is really beautiful. Desmond wants to know what Locke promised Sayid, and when Sayid tells him that Locke’s going to bring Nadia back to life, Desmond has some very sage advice that feels like it’s right out of a recent episode of “Fringe.” He asks Sayid to consider what he’s going to tell Nadia when she asks him what he had to do to bring her back. Later, Sayid tells Locke that he killed Desmond. It’s time to catch the sailboat, so Locke doesn’t bother to check that Sayid was telling the truth. It’s almost painfully obvious that Sayid didn’t actually go through with it, first because Locke’s declining to verify was so blatant, and second because the producers would be idiots to kill off such a beloved character off screen.

On the sailboat, Jack has second thoughts. He tells Sawyer that he thinks leaving the Island is a bad idea. He’s starting to have all those feelings of regret again that he had when he left the first time. It just doesn’t feel right. Sawyer has been through so much pain on the Island that he doesn’t want to hear it. He basically tells Jack to get off the program or get off the boat. Jack chooses the latter. Literally. He jumps off the boat and starts swimming back towards the Island. Kate is upset by this, yelling at Sawyer that they have to go back for Jack. Sawyer says “We’re done going back, Kate,” and I think I may have cheered. I’m sick of Kate and her following Jack along like a puppy dog even when it hurts others who care about her.

The Elizabeth arrives at Hydra Island, and Sawyer and his crew are quickly greeted by Zoe and her crew. Since Zoe recognizes Sawyer, she has her goons stand down. Out from behind them comes Jin, and he and Sun get a bit of a reunion. Honestly, after all this “Where’s Jin!” for the past 1 2/3 seasons, it was a bit anticlimactic. The one thing I did like was that after reuniting with Jin, Sun was again able to speak English. Jin promises her that he’s never going to leave her again. Hate to tell you, Jin, but Desmond promised the same thing to Penny not long ago, and we can see how well that turned out.

Things do take a turn for the worse quickly when Zoe gets a call from Widmore that the deal with Sawyer is off. The guns go back up, and Sawyer and his crew all are made to kneel on the beach. Widmore is going to launch mortars at Locke. Jack, meanwhile, has just made it back to the Island and right into the hands of Jack just as the mortar hits. He tries to run, but he still catches some of the shock wave and is sent sprawling across the beach. He wakes up dazed, and Locke picks him up and runs towards the jungle as another mortar hits. As he props Jack up against a tree, Locke tells Jack “You’re with me now.”