Monday, May 31, 2010

HIMYM 5.21: "Twin Beds"

“Ted? I must have Robin back.”


While the end of this episode was somewhat irritating, I think it provided more laughs than many episodes of HIMYM have this season. That’s mostly thanks to what I consider the best comedic pairing of the show- Ted and Barney- especially when they’re drunk. The Marshall and Lily B-story from which the episode gets its name, however, isn’t really worth much of a mention here at all because it’s so ridiculous and such an overused sitcom plot. Marshall and Lily’s story plus my continued inability to understand or invest in Robin or Don could have ruined this episode for me, but thankfully, the comedic powers of Josh Radnor and Neil Patrick Harris were too powerful for the episode’s serious flaws to overcome.

Narrator!Ted reveals to us at the beginning of the episode that even though Robin and Don had been dating for a while, Don still hadn’t met Barney. And that was by design. One evening at MacLaren’s, Barney tells Robin that he wants to meet Don and give his approval, especially since Robin is now contemplating moving in with Don. Don is invited to MacLaren’s on a later night, and he and Barney get along great until Barney mentions that they both love Scotch and they’ve both dated Robin. This of course comes after an unfortunate comment by Don about how although hanging out with Barney is great, only women with really low esteem would date him. Don is surprised and kind of squicked out by the fact that Robin is still close friends with one of her exes.

Don is discussing his discomfort with Ted, who starts to get a little uncomfortable himself. He realizes that Don doesn’t know he once dated Robin, too. Don, in fact, was under the impression that Ted is gay. It’s more like Don saw Ted talking about calligraphy classes and complaining that his browning torch (for making crème brulée) was broken, and Robin never corrected that initial impression. Don is even more upset once he finds out that Robin is still friends with two of her exes and is living with one of them. He throws a bit of a fit and storms out of MacLaren’s. Later, Don feels bad about his behavior, and he invites Ted and Barney over for dinner.

When he sees Robin and Don kiss, however, Barney decides that he wants Robin back, and immature hilarity ensues. Ted tries to put a stop to it before it gets too out of control, telling Barney to read the letter Ted had Barney write after his break-up with Robin. This is a technique Ted uses to avoid rebounding, but what works for Ted doesn’t usually work for Barney. Mostly because Barney enjoys drawing pictures of boobs more than he enjoys writing out detailed reasons why he and Robin broke up. Barney acts like an idiot at the dinner at Don’s apartment, trying to show off by eating spicy things like wasabi. If Neil Patrick Harris wasn’t such a talented comedic actor, I would find this stupid instead of hilarious. Nobody else can make being in pain quite so funny.

At a post-dinner debriefing at Ted’s apartment, Ted takes out his own letter about Robin to make a point to Barney. It ends up having the opposite of the intended effect, though. Now both Barney and Ted want Robin back, and they’re both getting very, very drunk. My favorite scene of the episode is when both Barney and Ted drunk dial Robin. Barney goes into the bathroom, thinking he’ll be secretly making the call, and Ted goes into the kitchen to call at the same time. When Barney finds out from Robin that Ted is on the phone, too, he creeps up behind Ted in the kitchen, and Neil Patrick Harris gives his best evil Dr. Horrible gaze before tapping Ted on the shoulder and tackling him. Another great moment is when Barney and Ted start hypothetically discussing Don’s death, and Barney grabs Ted and fearfully yells “This is how it starts! This is how it starts!”

Drunk and Drunker eventually find their way to Robin’s apartment, where they both try to profess their love for her. Don actually handles the situation well, and sets both guys up on the couch in his apartment before he and Robin leave to go do their show. That bit of civility is not nearly enough to make me care about Don, though. There’s a lot more telling happening with Don than showing. Later, Robin says of her relationship with Don “This is real,” and I feel nothing, because I haven’t seen enough of their relationship to be able to agree with her. Anyway, Ted and Barney wake up the next morning to face a very upset Robin. Even though Ted and Barney apologize for being idiots, it’s not enough. Robin feels like she needs to give her relationship with Don a real shot, and to her, that means moving in with him…and taking a break from the group. Several days later, Ted walks into Robin’s room to find all of her belongings gone and the blue French horn propped up against the wall. And don’t even get me started on the fact that Ted somehow had the blue French horn again when he and Barney made their drunk visit to Robin- it should have stayed put after it was returned to the restaurant.

Anyway, as I already said, there wasn’t really anything at all redeeming about the Marshall and Lily B-story in this episode. Marshall and Lily had gone away for the weekend, and the place where they stayed had twin beds. They were a little upset by this at first, but they ended up finding it so comfortable that they slept for 18 hours straight. Marshall and Lily decide this means they should get twin beds for Dowisetrepla. Don warns Marshall and Lily that this is a bad idea. He says he and his ex wife began to drift apart when they got twin beds. Marshall starts treating Lily like a one night stand, which is completely ridiculous and out of character for Marshall. At the end of the episode, they are both sleeping together in Lily’s bed. Honestly, the less said about this story, the better, so I’ll leave it at that.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Community 1.22: "The Art of Discourse"

“Get ready to meet Jeff Winger, Esq., attorney at aww, snap! …It’ll be better than that.”


“The Art of Discourse” was kind of light on plot, but it definitely had its moments that made me laugh. Some of it was “stupid humor” that I don’t at all gravitate towards, but some of it was genuinely funny. The main story in this episode was Jeff and Britta getting harassed by some overachiever high school students taking some classes at Greendale to get a jump on college credits. Like I said, light on plot. The plot involving Pierce and Shirley did have more substance to it at least, as they learn to come to a sort of mutual respect. And then there was Troy helping Abed complete his “quintessential college experience list.” While light on substance, that particular plot was definitely funny.

Jeff and Britta are eating lunch in the cafeteria discussing Britta’s knitting and cats when they’re interrupted by three high school students sitting at the next table. These kids do nothing to endear themselves to Jeff and Britta. Right from the start, they want to know how Jeff and Britta got where they are so that they don’t make the same mistakes. They then start calling them “Schmittys.” And yeah, because I’m so freaking old at age 26, I’m totally not sure I spelled that right. The three kids are so ridiculously obnoxious, buzzing around Jeff and Britta and taunting them in the most juvenile ways possible. My least favorite taunt is when the kids start repeating everything Jeff and Britta say in an extremely exaggerated way, followed by “duh.” These are supposed to be overachieving high school students, not first graders!

Anyway, the only part of that whole plot that was remotely amusing was when Britta and Jeff come up with a plan to defeat the high schoolers. Jeff is going to bang the leader of the high schoolers’ mom. I think the only reason I really found this at all amusing was because it reminded me of Season 3 of “The Guild” and one of the tactics the Axis of Anarchy used to break Bladezz. And we get to see Joel McHale look hot in exercise gear as he tries to seduce the mother. Jeff and the mother continue to flirt in the cafeteria, a fact which Britta gleefully points out to the annoying high schoolers. When the mother figures out what’s going on, she actually condones her son’s behavior, because she wants her son to “win” in this stupid feud with Jeff and Britta. Jeff decides that the only way he can get the kids to leave him alone is to stoop to their level, and Britta joins in. The result is slow motion immature antics by Jeff, Britta, and the high schoolers. One of the kids forgets to say “duh,” and Jeff and Britta are triumphant. Yay. I guess.

The saving grace of this episode, the thing that makes it at all watchable, is a plot involving Pierce and Shirley that starts out silly but actually ends up having some substance. Everyone in the group but Shirley is in the study room, and Abed has just introduced the concept of the “quintessential college experience list.” Troy offers to help Abed with the list, and Abed takes advantage of the offer right away by pantsing Troy. Troy does the same right back to Abed. The group is all laughing hysterically as Shirley walks into the room. Naturally, Shirley wants to know what was so funny, and instead of explaining it, Pierce decides to show by example. He pantses Shirley, who is absolutely mortified and furious.

Considering how Pierce has objectified Shirley throughout the series, I don’t really blame Shirley for pitching a fit, although other group members do point out that she isn’t the only one Pierce objectifies. It does seem that Shirley takes the brunt of it, though. Shirley basically makes a “him or me” declaration, and at first, the group goes with Shirley and kicks Pierce out. Without Pierce to be the focus of all the group ridicule, though, the group dynamics start falling apart. Everybody starts mocking everybody else. It’s Abed, naturally, who uses his pop culture knowledge to articulate the problem. I do enjoy Abed’s pop culture jokes, although I wonder if maybe they’ve started to become a bit of a crutch.

Anyway, the group decides that the best way to get exactly what they want (everything back to the status quo) is to have Pierce apologize to Shirley. To say that this doesn’t go as planned would be an understatement. Pierce is supposed to sit down next to Shirley on a bench to make his apology, but he sits down next to another African American woman instead. Shirley is understandably insulted by this, and she vows never to return to the group. Pierce isn’t so keen on being part of the group right now either, since he didn’t want to apologize in the first place. He didn’t think he did anything wrong. As annoying as it is, it’s definitely very true to the character. Pierce is nothing if not consistently offensive.

The situation ends up working itself out when Shirley and Pierce, no longer part of the study group, find themselves studying in neighboring carrels at the library. Pierce actually has something genuinely decent to say to Shirley for once. He points out that as the two oldest members of the group, they have a lot in common. Nobody else respects Shirley’s struggle to be a single mom and get an education to make a better life for her kids. When Shirley realizes that despite his rude comments, Pierce does genuinely respect her, she has a change of heart. The group is all back together.

Throughout the episode, Abed and Troy continued to work on the “quintessential college experience list,” and it all culminates in one final massive movie stereotype about college- a food fight in the cafeteria. The episode ends with “Animal House” like blurbs about each character’s future as the food fight rages on. I found this amusing, but once again, I worry that Community will start to reference pop culture too much for its own good. Pop culture humor only stays relevant for so long.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Lost" Fifteen Favorites: "Tricia Tanaka is Dead"

“Look, I don’t know about you, but things have really sucked for me lately, and I could really use a victory. So let’s get one, dude. Let’s get this car started. Let’s look death in the face and say, ‘Whatever, man.’ Let’s make our own luck. What do you say?”


I love “Tricia Tanaka is Dead” because it is light hearted and serves as a breath before “Lost” heads full-throttle into mythology and doesn’t really look back. It is appropriate that this character-focused pause is Hurley-centric, because Hurley is really the heart of “Lost.” I think this is the Hurley-centric episode that most epitomizes that notion. A lot of other Hurley episodes show Hurley dealing with personal drama, such as “Dave,” but in “Tricia Tanaka is Dead,” we see Hurley trying to make people happy. As Ben said in Sunday night’s epic finale (I will share my thoughts on that one eventually, I promise), Hurley “take[s] care of people,” and that’s what we see him do in this episode.

We get some backstory on Hurley’s family in this episode, which I enjoyed. Hurley’s dad left when he was pretty young, leaving his son with a broken Camaro and a candy bar. It’s hinted at that the candy bar is what starts Hurley’s issues with food that would still plague him on the Island. Hurley’s dad left him with something positive, too, though. The ability to hope. The broken Camaro needed a new carburetor, but Hurley’s dad told Hurley to try starting the car anyway. The car didn’t work, obviously, but the experience taught Hurley that it’s okay to have hope that things will work, even if it looks bleak.

Hurley’s world is turned even more when, seventeen years later, his father returns. Mr. Reyes originally returned because he hoped he’d get to share in Hurley’s lottery winnings, but he eventually comes to realize that his son truly needs him. He bribes a psychic to try and convince Hurley that she can remove the “curse” so Hurley won’t go to Australia in search of the meaning of the Numbers. Hurley’s not buying it, though. He still resents his dad for disappearing for seventeen years, and I honestly don’t blame him.

On the Island, things are pretty miserable, too. Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are still missing, and Charlie is understandably broody over Desmond’s proclamation that he’s going to die. As Hurley and Charlie are discussing Desmond’s vision, Vincent appears, and a sequence of events begins that eventually will give Hurley another idea about how to make his friends feel better. Of course, this realization comes with an appropriately “Lost” twist. Vincent approaches the two friends with a heavily decomposed arm in his mouth. Although my initial reaction was probably to be a bit grossed out by that, in retrospect, I think it’s quirky and very “Lost.” Vincent leads Hurley to an abandoned VW Bus with a big Dharma logo on the front. Inside the Bus are the remains of Roger, who was a “Work Man” for the Dharma Initiative.

Hurley thinks it would be fun to get a group together to get the Bus running again. He thinks it’s just the ticket for getting everybody out of their funk. The rest of the Losties don’t seem to agree, though. Only Jin agrees to help Hurley out, and Jin probably didn’t even fully realize what he signed up for. Hurley soon has more help, though, in the form of Sawyer. Yep, this is the episode where Sawyer and Kate return to the beach camp from their imprisonment on Hydra Island. Kate’s fixated on doing exactly what Jack told her not to do- trying to rescue him. No sooner does the classic beach reunion montage finish than Kate is formulating a plan to rescue Jack. She goes off in search of Rousseau, and Locke and Sayid end up joining her. Kate’s got pretty good Rousseau bait, too. She tells Rousseau that she thinks the teenage girl who helped her escape from the Others was Rousseau’s daughter, Alex (and Kate would be right about that).

Sawyer finds himself in the jungle helping Hurley and Jin with the Dharma Bus. The Dharma Beer inside the Bus is a pretty good motivator for Sawyer, even though it’s probably disgusting. At one point Jin and Sawyer do give up, but their respite is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. Sawyer, impressed that Jin has begun to learn a few phrases in English, teaches him the three things women want to hear, including “I’m sorry.” It’s a hilarious, low-key, fun moment, and it’s little character moments like that which made “Lost” great. That moment is one of the first times we see Sawyer show real affection for his fellow Losties. The other time was when he first shows up at the Bus and Hurley gives him a big hug. That was kind of sweet, too.

Drawing on the lesson he learned as a young boy from his father, Hurley has a crazy new plan for getting the VW Bus back up and running. He’s going to roll start it on a hill so steep it looks almost like a cliff. Joining him in this crazy endeavor is Charlie. Charlie has decided to take Hurley’s advice and take control of his life. After a suitably suspenseful close call with some large rocks, Hurley successfully gets the Bus to start. He gets Sawyer and Jin to hop in the back seat, and then he gleefully drives around in circles. This is another one of my favorite moments of the series overall. Hurley, Sawyer, Charlie, and Jin get to forget their problems for a few minutes of triumph, and with all they’ve been through, they deserve it.

The episode does end on a more serious note. The guys return to the beach camp at the end of the day, and Jin and Charlie are happily telling Sun and Claire respectively about the fun they had that day. Sawyer looks around hopefully for Kate, but it’s in vain. She’s long gone. Resigned to the fact that the woman he loves will never quite feel the same way, he sits down in his chair and drowns his sorrows in Dharma beer. Hurley, however, is still out in that open grassy area happily driving circles in the Dharma Bus.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Lost" Fifteen Favorites: "I Do"

“Kate, damnit, RUN!”


I think “I Do,” episode six on the Fifteen Favorites list, is really a love it or hate it episode of “Lost.” And I believe I fall pretty firmly in the “love it” camp, although not quite to the level that I did the very first time I watched it. I remember kind of being in a daze as I did some laundry after watching “I Do” the first time, overwhelmed by the emotion of all the performances in the episode. And for those of you who despise the idea of Sawyer and Kate and think of “cage sex” as the epitome of everything that ever went wrong with “Lost,” there’s at least a guest appearance by the wonderful Nathan Fillion of “Firefly” and now “Castle” fame. It’s not exactly Fillion’s best performance, but he brings to a rather shallow role what he can, and it does illuminate some interesting things about Kate.

It’s rather fitting that “I Do” directly follows “Outlaws” on this list, as the two episodes work fairly well as companion pieces. The flashbacks in this episode illuminate one of the more interesting revelations from Kate and Sawyer’s game of “I Never” in “Outlaws”- that Kate was married once, but it didn’t last for long. We see Kate in a motel room, gazing at her bridal veil, when there’s a knock on the door. The person outside the room identifies himself as police, and we’re supposed to think Kate’s in trouble. It turns out to be Kevin, her loving (and kinda horny) fiancé.

Since Kevin is a police officer and doesn’t know a thing about Kate’s past (he thinks her name is Monica), it’s clear that this can’t possibly end well. If those two facts aren’t enough, there are anvils dropped all over the place during the preparation for the wedding and the wedding itself. Kevin’s mom mentions “Monica’s” honesty as she gives Kate a locket that she herself was given by her mother on her wedding day. The officiant at the wedding mentions that Kevin says he loves “Monica” because “what you see is what you get.” In addition to all these honesty anvils, it’s clear that Kate isn’t meant for domestic life. The scene where she’s talking to Kevin on her cell phone as she grocery shops for “taco night” just shows how out of place she truly is in this existence.

There’s a very “Catch Me if You Can” moment where Kate calls Marshal Mars on a pay phone and begs him to stop chasing her. I guess he’s feeling a little generous (or he feels like he’s making a bet he can’t lose), because he tells Kate that if she can truly stay put with this guy, he’ll let her go. At the moment, I think Kate truly believed that she could make it work with Kevin, but it doesn’t last long, obviously. A negative pregnancy test sends her into panic mode. It’s not entirely spelled out, but I think it’s the idea that she was ready to actually have a baby with Kevin that scared her and made her think she really needs to start running again. She tells Kevin the truth as he’s getting woozy. She drugged him so he’s got plausible deniability, you see. Then she sadly resumes her life on the run, leaving the locket with Kevin as he lies unconscious.

On Hydra Island, Sawyer and Kate’s situation has reached a breaking point. Sawyer’s still demoralized from what Ben showed him at the end of “Every Man for Himself,” and Kate is bound and determined to make him snap out of it, since she doesn’t realize the full gravity of the situation (that they’re on a separate island miles from their own Island). Pickett is also still Hell-bent on killing Sawyer as revenge for Colleen’s death. Kate probably saves Sawyer’s life when Pickett says Sawyer has the day off work, but Kate insists that if she’s working, Sawyer’s working, because they’re a team. It’s pretty obvious that Pickett was trying to get Sawyer alone to enact his revenge. It’s not a typical day at work, either. Sawyer and Kate are doing their rock breaking and hauling thing when an alarm goes off. Alex, armed with her sling shot, has infiltrated the compound. She’s demanding to know where Karl is, but she’s just hauled off as she screams to Kate that the Others killed her boyfriend, and they’ll kill Kate’s boyfriend, too.

Juliet expertly takes advantage of the situation. Jack has been refusing to operate on Ben’s spinal tumor, and Kate might be able to tip the scale in favor of the Others. Juliet reminds Kate that Pickett is just itching for a chance to kill Sawyer, and if Kate convinces Jack to do the surgery, Juliet says they might all be set free before Pickett has his chance. The scene that follows is one of the most iconic and sad scenes of the series. Separated by the Plexiglas in Jack’s cell, Kate tearfully begs Jack to do the surgery. Jack is furious, demanding to know what the Others offered Kate to make her ask such a thing. When Kate tells him, between sobs, that Sawyer will be killed unless Jack does what he’s told, Jack gets even more furious and refuses to speak to Kate further.

Back in the cages, Kate has had enough of waiting around. She climbs out of her cage and breaks the lock on Sawyer’s. Sawyer, however, isn’t going anywhere, and he chooses that moment to tell Kate the truth about their predicament. Kate’s response leads to the now infamous cage sex scene. It’s very difficult to judge what Kate’s feelings are in this moment, and I think that might be why this episode doesn’t quite affect me now the way it did when I first saw it. Kate has always had a certain affinity for Sawyer, and I believed her feelings to be genuine at the moment, but so much has happened since to negate whatever happened there. I guess I should have seen that coming when Sawyer asked Kate if she meant it when she told Pickett she loved Sawyer, and she only responds with a kiss. That’s a typical move from The Bachelor[ette] when the Bachelor/ette is trying to be cagey about his/her feelings, people! And yeah, I just admitted that I have watched that franchise, although I didn’t watch the most recent season. It was fun to gab about it with my best friend who happens to live very far away, okay! I’ll stop being defensive now and go on with the recap.

Of course, as Sawyer and Kate are cuddling after the cage sex, Jack, thanks to being let out of his own cage by Alex, sees Sawyer and Kate on one of the security monitors. He’s now willing to do the surgery because he just wants to get off the Island as quickly as possible and forget everything. The next day, everything is prepared for the surgery. Pickett decides to take advantage of the distraction to finally deal with Sawyer once and for all. Luckily for Sawyer, Jack is still scheming. He slices Ben’s kidney sac with a scalpel, and he tells the Others who are watching that Ben now has only one hour to live unless they do what Jack says. Jack wants to talk to Kate on the walkie-talkie. Pickett, who had the gun to Sawyer’s head in the midst of Kate’s screams, has to stop what he’s doing and hand over the walkie-talkie. Jack wants Kate and Sawyer to get the heck away from the Hydra, and he wants her to radio in with the “count down from five” story when she’s safe. Kate dithers, muttering that she can’t leave Jack. Jack startles her to her senses with the now iconic line that you see at the beginning of this post.