Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.06: "A Remedy to Cure All Ills"

It's time for yet another Merlin series 1 rewind courtesy of Sarah...


“In life you always have a choice. Sometimes it’s easier to think that you don’t.”
- Gwen

We open in a laboratory of sorts with a hooded figure enchanting a spell over a box of tiny black beetles. The spell brings them to life and one crawls into a bouquet of flowers. The next thing we know, Gwen is carrying that same bouquet to Morgana saying they’ve just arrived. Morgana asks who they’re from and Gwen suggests Arthur. Morgana quickly dismisses it as “disappointing” and says she’d prefer they be from a tall, dark stranger. Too bad her wish has come true in a not good way. Night quickly falls and the beetle comes out of hiding. As Morgana sleeps, the beetle, and its master (a disfigured man) make their move. The beetle settles in Morgana’s ear and the disfigured man makes his way to Camelot.

Next we see Morgana, she’s been unconscious for two days and Gaius seems at a loss as to how to cure her. He believes it may be inflammation of the brain, caused by an infection but he can’t be sure. Uther is none too pleased by his ward’s condition. This is the first time we really see him acting in any sort of paternal capacity towards her. Merlin offers to help cure Morgana but Gaius reminds him of the last time he tried to “help” (Gwen nearly got burned at the stake for suspicion of being a witch). Meanwhile, Arthur finds the disfigured man, whose name is Edwin, in the courtyard. Edwin says he has a remedy to cure all ills and wants and audience with the King. Arthur promptly tells him that Camelot has a court physician. Edwin brings up Morgana’s condition which only serves to irritate Arthur more.

To add to Arthur’s annoyance, Merlin is pacing in Arthur’s chambers saying that Morgana is going to be fine. Unfortunately, Merlin goes from pacing to nervously tapping his fingers on the table and drives Arthur to pacing, too. The next day, Gaius says that Morgana is hours, maybe less, from death. Arthur refuses to accept that and informs his father about Edwin. Arthur, now more pissed off about Morgana dying than some unknown-maybe-hack showing up unannounced at the castle, lobbies for his father to at least speak with Edwin. Uther agrees and Edwin does a fairly good job at convincing the royal family he can cure everything. And he begins to plant the seeds of doubt in their minds about Gaius’s abilities. Gaius is suspicious of Edwin and thinks they may have met before. But Edwin denies it, claiming that no one would forget a face like his (what with how disfigured and burned it is). Merlin becomes Edwin’s little helper and lugs a bunch of equipment, including the beetle box, to Morgana’s chambers, where Edwin promptly kicks everyone out. He claims he has to work in complete silence and peace.

He begins to coax the beetle out of Morgana’s brain when Gwen appears. Edwin scares her off saying she could cause Morgana to die. He extracts the beetle and dabs some blood on a bit of cloth to make it look like he caught a bleed in her ear. He shows it to Uther and says that had Gaius continued his treatment, it is likely the hemorrhage would have worsened and killed her. Uther, while annoyed that Gaius could have missed the bleed and misdiagnosed Morgana, is grateful she’s alive. Gaius is still untrusting of Edwin and makes a show of trying to learn the secret to Edwin’s methods. Edwin quickly says that his elixir isn’t perfected yet. Gaius brings up the scars on Edwin’s face again and gets yet another denial about knowing each other. Still, Gaius goes down to visit Geoffrey and ask to see the court records from the time of the Great Purge. Geoffrey refuses, saying it’s not allowed.

Uther tries to convince Edwin to stay in Camelot awhile as their guest. Edwin feigns humility, saying it’s not necessary, but Uther is insistent. So, they make plans to dine together later, and Uther is expecting Edwin’s answer. Merlin shows up at Edwin’s room and is messing around with some of his alchemy artifacts when he opens the box of beetles and reads the incantation on the box, bringing them to life. Edwin sees it and we have a brief scene where Merlin and Edwin show off their abilities. Merlin is pretty impressed with Edwin, especially when he spouts off stuff about magic being used for good.

Night falls and we find Gaius in his chambers. Geoffrey shows up with the court records Gaius wanted. Meanwhile, Edwin dines with Uther and sows more seeds of discord. He convinces Uther that Gaius’s sleeping draughts for Morgana were a symptom of her fake brain bleed. Uther orders Edwin to review Gaius’s work. Gaius goes to confront Edwin about who he really is. Edwin doesn’t deny it now but threatens that if Gaius tells Uther the truth, he’ll expose Merlin. Gaius can’t let that happen, of course. Edwin blames Gaius for his parents’ death (even though it was Uther who ordered his parents killed). Gaius seeks an audience with the Great Dragon, so we get our fiery wisdom for the episode. The Dragon doesn’t have much encouraging for Gaius. The Dragon confirms Merlin’s destiny and says that it’s up to Gaius whether Merlin and Arthur’s time starts now or not.

Not surprisingly, Edwin finds fault with Gaius’s work, saying Gaius is too old and failing in his facilities and Uther has no choice (or so he thinks) but to dismiss Gaius and instate Edwin as the new court physician. Gaius is allowed to stay in his chambers until such time as other arrangements can be made. Gaius attempts to out Edwin but can’t bring himself to do it. Edwin kind of intimidates him into keeping quiet. I have to say that Edwin rather irritates me. It reminds me a bit of the pilot and not in a good way.

Merlin tries to keep Gaius around, but Gaius leaves Camelot. Merlin wants to go with Gaius, but Gaius says that Merlin’s destiny is in Camelot with Arthur. Merlin ends up griping about Uther sacking Gaius to Arthur during training. Arthur sort of defends his father by pointing out (again) that Gaius nearly let Morgana die. That bit got on my nerves.

Edwin convinces Uther to try a new remedy for an old shoulder wound. Uther seems thrilled with the idea. After all, Edwin has a remedy to cure all ills. Around the same time, Gwen finds Gaius loading up a horse and getting ready to leave the kingdom. She says he can’t go because she doesn’t trust Edwin. She says she didn’t see any blood in Morgana’s ear and that Edwin did something to her. Gaius says she needs to be careful who says that to. Gwen says she’s telling Gaius because he can do something about it. I find it interesting that Gwen seems to know who can handle situations. She said much the same thing to Merlin in “Valiant”.

That night Uther drinks the elixir Edwin gave him. It turns out o be a paralytic agent. As soon as the King is immobile, Edwin unleashes one of the beetles on him. Gaius is out in the woods and ends up going back to Camelot. Gaius finds Edwin in his chambers and tries to use magic against Edwin. Unfortunately, Edwin is far more powerful than Gaius and quickly captures Gaius in a ring of fire. Luckily, Merlin shows up and after a brief battle of the wills, beheads Edwin and saves Gaius. It wouldn’t be an episode of Merlin if he didn’t save the day. He manages to remove the beetle from Uther’s brain before it does any damage. Gaius is reinstated as the court physician and a free man.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Community 1.25: "Pascal's Triangle Revisited"

“I can’t believe I made it through my first year of college. I finally get to click ‘send’ on so many ‘I told you so’ e-mails!”

Despite “English as a Second Language” feeling very much like a finale, “Community” still had one episode left in it this season. I don’t know if it was dueling finale ideas that the writers couldn’t choose between or what. “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited” was a satisfying finale, though, with appearances from many favorite guest characters and a fun twist at the end. One thing I didn’t especially love about this episode was that it centered around yet another school dance. Although there was a meta reference made about how many dances Greendale has, that doesn’t negate the fact that there are indeed a ridiculous number of them. This one was at least more of a romantic comedy send-up than yet another John Hughes homage, at least. That’s a little variety!

It’s the last day of the school year, and understandably, Jeff is in a really, really good mood. He happily says hello to everyone as he walks across campus, and some of the people he sees are fun minor characters that haven’t shown up for a while like the professor who bases his persona off of “Dead Poets Society.” Jeff ends up talking to Annie and Vaughn, and as Jeff and Annie are about to leave for class, the Dean steps in with a plan, as always, to inevitably ruin Jeff’s day. The Transfer Ceremony, which honors Greendale students moving on to bigger and better things, is taking place today, as is the obligatory Transfer Dance, or “Tranny Dance” for short. Gotta love how Dean Pelton fails so utterly at being politically correct, even though he normally tries so hard at it. The Dean wants to make sure the study group will all be at the festivities. He thinks they’ll be especially interested in participating because of Britta. Yeah, that was a brief fake-out to make us all think Britta might be leaving.

In actuality, Britta isn’t transferring, she’s been nominated for “Tranny Queen.” Britta doesn’t quite know what to make of that, but she does mention that she’s never been nominated for something like that before. She discusses the issue in a therapy session with Professor Duncan. Yep, that’s right, John Oliver is back! I enjoy the absurdity of Professor Duncan more than I enjoy the absurdity of Señor Chang. I think I just enjoy the British comedic sensibility in general, and John Oliver definitely brings that to “Community.” Anyway, Professor Duncan convinces Britta to participate in the competition. As Britta leaves his office, Chang arrives. Chang makes the same proposition to Professor Duncan that Jeff made in the pilot. Once again, Professor Duncan refuses to help an unenthusiastic student cheat. Duncan is also relishing in Chang’s downfall, which is really hilarious.

There’s plenty of drama going on with other members of the study group, too. Troy’s home life has become pretty unbearable, and he needs to find a place to live for the next school year. He keeps hinting to Abed that he would like to move into Abed’s dorm room, but Abed isn’t really taking the hint. Jeff runs into his ex, Professor Slater, and it turns out that she wants Jeff back. She claims she was afraid of commitment (which is what she accused Jeff of being) when they broke up, and she says that she made a mistake. Jeff and Britta, meanwhile, are kind of awkward around each other following hooking up in “Modern Warfare,” but they also seem to be potentially interested in exploring a relationship. Finally, Vaughn has gotten a hacky sack scholarship to a college in Delaware, and Annie says she’s joining him there for the summer. She secretly tells Jeff that she’s planning to make the move permanent. She feels like she needs to start living in the moment more, and moving to Delaware with Vaughn would be a good step in that direction.

Britta and Slater clash at a party Abed holds in his dorm room (I’m assuming he’s trying to check another item of his college experiences list, because I can’t imagine him being okay with all those people in his dorm room otherwise), and the insanity continues at the Tranny Dance. Both end up making absolute idiots of themselves over Jeff, trying to outdo each other in showing their affection and how each would be a better girlfriend than the other. It’s really kind of ridiculous, especially since Britta is usually above that sort of thing. One Britta moment that I liked in the whole mess is when she and Shirley are having a bathroom conference and Britta admits to Shirley that she slept with Jeff. What I liked about it from Britta’s perspective was that it showed her growth as a character. Earlier this season, she had to be introduced to the concept of ladies’ room chat, and now she’s revealing a huge secret to Shirley in just that setting. I also liked Shirley’s reaction. She didn’t care so much about Britta’s possible impending relationship with Jeff, she was just concerned about the cleanliness of the study room!

The Britta/Jeff/Slater triangle reaches its most ridiculous point later on when the Tranny Queen is about to be crowned. Britta and Slater are still arguing over who is better for Jeff. Britta says that Jeff needs someone who doesn’t wear underwear because she hasn’t done laundry for three weeks. Although I have never let laundry get quite that out of control, I have to say score one for those of us who are not domestically inclined! After she makes that comment, the Dean starts his queen crowning spiel. Britta thinks she’s the winner, so the goes up to the microphone and is about to give a speech, but it turns out that the Dean was just listing the names of all the nominees. Humiliated, Britta makes one last play for Jeff. She announces on the microphone that she loves him. Jeff isn’t quite sure what to do with this, and he seems to be leaning towards letting Britta down gently when Slater has to chime in and say she loves him too. This sets up a stereotypical romantic comedy moment where everyone at the dance expects Jeff to choose between the two women. Before he can make his choice, however, a very drunk Professor Duncan takes over the microphone, and Jeff takes the opportunity to get the heck out of there.

Much hilarity ensues as Duncan goes on a bit of a tirade, making fun of the Dean’s (more than) kind of gross Dalmatian fetish. Duncan gets suspended for his conduct, and as soon as that happens, Chang takes the opportunity to punch him. Chang had been refraining from doing so before because he didn’t want to get in trouble for hitting a professor. Also while all the triange drama was going on, the Troy and Abed story progressed as well. Abed feels like if Troy moved into his dorm room, it would be too much of a good thing. He feels like their friendship would “jump the shark.” Troy doesn’t understand this at first, but he finally gets it after he eats a giant cookie and feels sick to his stomach (the cookie was an only mildly funny sight gag). Troy takes Pierce up on his offer to live with him instead, but of course, there’s been a very politically incorrect misunderstanding. It is Pierce, after all, and what is Pierce if not politically incorrect? Pierce wanted Troy to become a member of his household staff.

When Jeff ran out of the room where the dance was being held, he ran right to the parking lot where none other than Annie was waiting. She has changed her mind about going to Delaware, and she thinks Greendale is where she belongs. They make small talk about Annie’s decision and about Jeff’s dilemma, and Jeff is genuinely glad that Annie is staying at Greendale. All seems to be as normal until suddenly Jeff and Annie kiss. The Jeff/Annie relationship still seriously squicks me out, but I have to admit that it was an excellent surprise ending. Okay, maybe it wasn’t really all that surprising, but it was a fun twist. I’ll definitely be tuning in this fall to see what happens next.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.05: "Lancelot"

Sarah joins us again for a recap of Merlin episode 1.05...


“You played God, Merlin. You set him on a path of your choosing and tonight you brought him triumph, but who knows what the future may hold.”
- Gaius

We find Merlin out in the forest picking mushrooms when a loud screech echoes through the trees. He looks up and a giant griffin is charging him. Merlin does his best to scamper off to safety, but he trips. Just as it looks like the beast is going to swallow him whole, a man appears out of nowhere and fends off the griffin. He and Merlin take off when it becomes clear a sword isn’t doing much damage, and the griffin loses interest. Merlin thanks the man, whose name is Lancelot, for saving his life just as we notice Lancelot is wounded. Merlin gets him back to Gaius, who assures Merlin that the wound is superficial and the fever it has induced will pass by morning.

Meanwhile, Arthur and Uther are at one of the outlying villages. A large pillar of smoke is billowing up from the center, and Arthur reports that the creature has wings (it didn’t leave any tracks) and wasn’t interested in livestock, only people. Uther isn’t pleased by this (but rarely is he ever happy?) and orders Arthur to post sentries at all the outlying villages. They need to be prepared if the beast heads for Camelot.

The next morning, Lancelot is back on his feet and feeling pretty good. Merlin promises he can talk to Arthur and see about getting him to consider accepting Lancelot as a Knight of Camelot. They head down to the training ground where Arthur is proctoring the last round of tests for knighthood, and the guy he’s up against loses in short order against Arthur. Arthur complains that the guy he just fought was the third to fail that month. Merlin suggests he meet Lancelot because he saved Merlin’s life. Arthur says the only way it will happen is if Lancelot is of noble blood.

Of course, Lancelot is not of noble blood. Gaius explains that Uther created the first code of Camelot (only those from noble bloodlines can become knights) to keep the kingdom safe. He needed a way to be able to trust each knight with his life. So that automatically means noblemen who swore their allegiance to him and Camelot. Lancelot explains his motivation to become a knight (his village was slaughtered when he was a boy), and he seems pretty put out that his life-long dream that he’s trained so hard for has come to a premature end. But Merlin’s not discouraged. He slips off to the Records hall and uses magic to forge a seal of nobility for Lancelot.

At first, Lancelot refuses to accept the fake seal. But Merlin convinces him that once Lancelot’s in, he’ll be judged on his merits alone and he’ll outshine everyone else there. Once Lancelot agrees to it, Merlin takes him to see Gwen so she can outfit him with clothes and chainmail. It would be a sweet scene where she does her innocent flirtation, except the flirting is directed at Lancelot. Yes, the man is very attractive. But it’s quite obvious Merlin does really fancy her. Of course he denies they’re anything but friends when Lancelot comments on how nice Gwen is.

Lancelot, now all in his knightly get-up, approaches Arthur. He tries to hand Arthur the seal of nobility and gets punched in the face. Arthur says his reflexes are too slow and to come back when he’s ready. Lancelot says he’s ready now, and Arthur tells him to go muck out the stables. That night, Gaius finds out what Merlin’s done and he’s none too pleased. Lancelot isn’t that happy either as he comes in covered in muck.

The next morning, Arthur challenges Lancelot to a fight with broomsticks. It’s fairly entertaining and ends in Arthur inviting Lancelot to basic training. But there’s not going to be much of that because the griffin attacked another village closer to Camelot. So, Arthur moves Lancelot’s final test up, and Lancelot shows why he’s so good with a sword. He even manages to trick Arthur into thinking he’s been beaten. The next thing he knows, he’s being knighted by Uther.

The party gets underway, and of course Uther has to be a mega spoil sport. He has Geoffrey of Monmouth, the Court Genealogist, check the authenticity of Lancelot’s seal. Which of course is found out to be a fake. But Lancelot doesn’t know that yet. He’s off drinking too much and hanging out with Arthur. Merlin even teases Gwen that Lancelot likes her. He tries to get her to admit who she’d rather choose, Arthur or Lancelot, but she refuses. It’s a little obvious what the writers are trying to do, but for the moment it was entertaining. Unfortunately, Merlin’s scheming has drawn Uther’s suspicion, and Lancelot is dragged out of Gaius’s chambers the next morning.

Lancelot doesn’t deny the truth, and Uther has him sent away. Arthur tries to argue on Lancelot’s behalf, that his deception was wrong but he only wanted to serve. As usual, Uther doesn’t want to hear it. Merlin goes to visit Lancelot in the dungeon, and Lancelot tells him that all the decisions to go forward with the deception were his own, not Merlin’s. Merlin doesn’t want to believe Lancelot, but he’s left with no real choice. Shortly, he and Gaius determine that the beast actually is a griffin. Just as they make this discovery, the beast attacks Camelot. Arthur and his knights do their best to defend against the griffin, but when their weapons break against the creature’s skin, they’re at a distinct disadvantage.

When Gaius tells Uther that the creature is born of magic and can only be killed by magic, we get the usual Uther Pendragon response; a glower, some anger and this case massive denial. He orders Arthur to ride out by nightfall and kill the creature. Merlin worries that if Arthur faces the griffin again, he’ll die. Gaius says Merlin is the only one who can save Arthur and Camelot. But Merlin feels it’s too much to ask. Unfortunately, Merlin has no choice. After all, his destiny is tied to Arthur.

Speaking of Arthur, he slips down to the dungeons and releases Lancelot. But not after a brief talking-to about how Lancelot doesn’t dress or sound like a knight but he fights like one. All Arthur can do is grant Lancelot his freedom. Lancelot can’t ever return to Camelot. Meanwhile, Merlin tries to make a spell work that will infuse a weapon with enough magical power to kill the griffin. It kind of reminds me of the bit in Valiant with the dog statute, except this time we get some amusing positions and Gaius prodding him on.

As Arthur and his knights ride out to face the griffin, Lancelot goes to Gwen for armor and weapons. He says he has a duty to protect Arthur, knight or not. Gwen begs him not to go, but he says he has no choice. [Editor’s note: This part totally had me humming “If Ever I Should Leave You” from the Lerner and Loewe musical] Luckily, Gwen races off to tell Merlin of Lancelot’s plan in time for Merlin to catch him. They find Arthur in the woods. He’s unconscious but alive. The rest of his knights weren’t so lucky. Lancelot goes to face off against the griffin in what appears to be a joust. Merlin gets the magic working and Lancelot’s spear kills the beast. Arthur wakes up just in time to see what Lancelot has done and he’s thrilled.

We see two similar scenes, one between Merlin and Gaius and one between Uther and Arthur. The latter however, ends in a massive shouting match between father and son. Arthur says he’ll accept nothing less than Lancelot’s full reinstatement of knighthood for his actions. Uther refuses. Lancelot makes the ultimate sacrifice (okay so maybe not the ultimate one) by leaving Camelot to keep father and son from being in conflict. He rides off, but not before telling Merlin he saw what Merlin did and his secret will be safe. Merlin’s sure he’ll see Lancelot again someday, once the rules of Camelot are not so rigid.

V 1.12: "Red Sky"

“Anna didn’t cure your aneurism. She gave you one.”

“Red Sky” was the season finale of “V,” and surprisingly, I found it very effective. I know I’ve been hard on “V” here at MTVP, but this episode really worked for me. I actually started to view the characters as characters and not just pieces that were being moved around on the chess board that is the plot. Some loose ends were tied up in this episode, some more questions were posed, and things definitely got very, very dangerous. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next, even though it appears that we have a rather long wait. All of the major characters got a moment to shine in “Red Sky,” and while normally that might make an episode a jumbled mess, I think this particular episode was better for it. We viewers really needed to become invested in the characters, and “Red Sky” was when that finally started to happen for me. It’s about time, right?

A whole lot of plots that had been brewing for a while come to a head in “Red Sky,” and the first of those is the birth of Val and Ryan’s child. The birth is complicated by the appearance of a Soldier. The Soldier knocks Val’s doctor unconscious and takes Val to the mothership. When the doctor comes to, she contacts Ryan immediately. Ryan, of course, goes a bit nuts. He decides that the best way to handle the situation is to turn himself in and get taken up to the mothership. This plays perfectly into Anna’s nefarious plans, of course. Anna’s goal is to turn Ryan back to the side of the Visitors. The fact that he’s immune to her Bliss seems especially troubling to her. She also, of course, wants to know how a human/Visitor hybrid could ever have come to exist.

Understandably, that development takes Ryan out of all the drama happening with the rest of the Resistance. The main focus of the Resistance in this episode is destroying Anna’s Soldier eggs. Erica agrees to let Tyler accept his Liveaboard invitation just to give the group more of a chance to squish the eggs. It’s a move that shows just how important destroying those eggs is to Erica. Before now, she wanted to keep Tyler as far away from the Visitors as possible, but now she’s willing to put Tyler in harm’s way. Anna has invited Tyler and Erica to the mothership so they can discuss Liveaboard further, and Erica thinks it is the perfect opportunity to attack. Joshua is going to create a diversion so Erica can get to where the eggs are growing and destroy them. Nothing can possibly go wrong, right?

Something does, of course, go wrong rather quickly. Anna is stepping up her hunt for possible Fifth Column Visitors aboard her mothership, and Joshua has to ditch the comms device to avoid being found out. This means he can’t coordinate the squishing the eggs plan with Erica and the rest of the Resistance. Each side of the plan is wondering how to possibly get in touch with the other before everything is supposed to go down. Jack wants to use Chad to deliver the message. He figures this can’t do any harm. If Chad delivers it to the medical bay as instructed, Joshua will get it. If Anna intercepts it, she won’t be able to understand it. Joshua, in turn, tells Lisa he’s cashing in that favor she owes him for not telling Anna that Lisa failed her empathy test.

Chad’s Anna’s lapdog, so of course he takes Jack’s message directly to her. Anna doesn’t just dismiss it as gibberish, though. She tells Chad to deliver it as he was instructed to. She’s going to use it to root out the Fifth Column aboard the mothership. She’s still insistent with Chad that no Visitors are Fifth Column, however. She makes up the excuse that it must be Liveaboard humans who are responsible for anything Fifth Column related happening aboard the mothership. Chad heads to the medical bay and tries to deliver the message to Joshua, but Joshua turns him away, claiming he knows no one on the surface. Joshua’s Fifth Column second-in-command is in the medical bay, too, and he panics that Anna is soon going to be able to round up all Fifth Column. He thinks they need to send out some sort of warning message not to interact with Chad Decker. Soon after the message is sent out, the medical bay is stormed by guards, and Joshua is held still in a sort of blue light until Anna can arrive to deal with him.

Meanwhile, Hobbes has the job of drawing Marcus away from the mothership so that all the distraction and egg destruction can happen (Marcus would certainly snuff out any plan if he was allowed to remain on the mothership). We know Hobbes has been in contact with Marcus since finding Parker’s research, so this task isn’t as difficult as the rest of the Resistance thinks it will be. The two meet in a car in a deserted parking garage. Marcus wants Hobbes to work for the Visitors to stomp out Fifth Column on Earth. Hobbes isn’t too thrilled about the idea, considering he is Fifth Column, but Marcus seems to have something on him. Marcus shows Hobbes some surveillance photos and claims that Hobbes has unwittingly been working for the Visitors for years. He also brings up a “she” who might be harmed if Hobbes doesn’t play along.

Chad returns to the medical bay to gloat to Joshua a bit. Joshua tries to get Chad to see the error of his ways, but Chad is convinced that everything Anna tells him must be the truth. Joshua tells Chad how to get to the room where the Visitors experiment on the Liveaboard humans, and he tells Chad that if he goes there, he’ll realize that Joshua is telling the truth. Joshua’s next visitor is Lisa, who skipped out on the meet the parents dinner after giving Erica a blue energy grenade to use on the eggs. Lisa sets Joshua free, and before she leaves the room, she does a very Anna-like move and touches his chin. Joshua then calls her his “queen.” This makes me wonder if Lisa is really going to be on the side of the humans, or is she her own side now, fighting to take power of the hive from her mother because she can.

The meet the parents dinner is interrupted when guards burst in with news of a Fifth Column “attack.” Erica’s gun and purse had been taken from her when she arrived at Anna’s quarters, but under the guise of protecting Anna, she gets her gun back. Erica eventually makes her way to the room with the Soldier eggs, and after pausing to be disgusted by the squishy embryos, she throws the blue energy grenade and runs out of there, just barely escaping the grenade’s blast. She runs into Joshua, who is in the middle of a gunfight with V security. Joshua tells Erica she has to kill him. It’s important for Erica to maintain her standing and trust with Anna. After some hesitation, Erica does what Joshua says. This isn’t the end of Joshua, though. At the very end of the episode, he is brought back to life. I definitely enjoyed Joshua’s arc in this episode. It was really the first time Mark Hildreth got to do more than just be a pretty face who occasionally talks on the comms device.

Just before the insane conclusion to the show is what I like to call the “dance of lies.” Chad has seen the experiments like Joshua told him to, but he still tries to act exactly the same around Anna. Anna convinces Ryan that Val died in childbirth, even though Anna killed Val herself. She secures Ryan’s renewed devotion by showing him his child. Surrounded by fellow Resistance members, Hobbes tries to act like nothing has changed, despite the fact that he might be working for the Visitors now. The one person who is truly being honest is Jack. He gives a forceful anti-V sermon over the objection of Father Travis, who went so far as to say that if Jack preached against the Visitors, he would no longer be welcome at the Church. At first, it seems like Jack is going to give into Father Travis, but he doesn’t. As he preaches his sermon, more and more people start to leave the sanctuary. By the end, only Erica, Hobbes, and a few other devoted followers are left. Erica and Hobbes stand in support of Jack as he leaves the sanctuary. As the Resistance lost Ryan, they gained Chad, who shows up in the back of the sanctuary near the end of the sermon.

When Anna sees the room of dead Soldier embryos and her handlers tell her just how bad the damage was, she goes absolutely berserk. Her handlers start telling her she’s become subject to human emotion, but Anna doesn’t care. It’s Morena Baccarin’s finest performance of the series to date. She just completely lets go, and it’s so powerful that it’s uncomfortable to watch. In her rage, Anna decides to step up the schedule for whatever it is the Visitors are planning to do to Earth. As her handlers protest, Anna marches over to a panel and starts pushing buttons. As she does, the sky starts to turn red all over the world. Although we don’t quite know the meaning of the red sky yet, it’s obvious that it can’t be good.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lost 6.16: "What They Died For"

“You should get your friends. We’re very close to the end, Hugo.”

“What They Died For” was most definitely a set-up episode, moving all the remaining “Lost” pieces into place for the two-and-a-half hour finale extravaganza (which I will eventually write about…I promise!). Everything in the sideways-verse is starting to come together, and some big-time answers that we could have guessed at after “Across the Sea” were made explicit here. There was also some more character development for Ben in both universes. I didn’t really like what happened to Ben in the original universe when I first watched this episode, but on rewatch, I think I appreciate it more because of its complexity. It’s always been impossible to tell whether Ben was good or evil (and I usually came down firmly on the side of evil), and this episode continues that nicely.

The episode opens in the sideways-verse, where Jack looks at himself in the bathroom mirror and sees a nasty gash on his neck. It’s very much like the appendix scar Jack noticed in “LA X.” Jack doesn’t have much time to think about this, though, because it’s time for breakfast in the Shephard household. Claire joins Jack and David, and the whole thing is rather sweet and cozy until Jack gets a phone call from Oceanic saying they found Christian’s coffin. We quickly learn that it wasn’t actually Oceanic calling Jack, though. It was Desmond, being creepy as always. I really love this arc for sideways Desmond. It’s extremely entertaining, and Henry Ian Cusick seems to play the role with relish.

We then move from one of my favorite moments of the episode back to the Island and my least favorite moment of the episode. Jack stitches up Kate’s gunshot wound, and Kate talks about Sun, Jin, and Ji Yeon. Kate is determined to kill Locke for what he did. I can’t stand Jack/Kate interaction in any form, so, moving on, Jack has a new plan for the remaining survivors. They’re going to go find Desmond in his well. Time for more wandering around the Island! Miles, Richard, and Ben are also doing some wandering, although they’ve at least made it to the Barracks. There’s a bit of creepiness as Miles reacts to the group walking near Alex’s grave. This scene seemed kind of pointless at first, but it’s very important for establishing Ben’s mindset later in the episode. Seeing his “daughter’s” grave for the first time is obviously a big deal.

The trio is at the Barracks to pick up some C4 stored in Ben’s secret closet storage compartment. They’re still following Richard’s “blow up the plane” idea, after all. They make it to Ben’s old house, and Miles and Richard are pretty impressed by the secret room with the Hieroglyphs. Ben grabs all the C4, then they’re interrupted. It’s Zoe and Widmore, back to make more trouble, of course. To make things worse, Locke is closing in on them too. There’s a bunch of “who is going to go with whom” shuffling around at that point. Miles basically just wants to get as far away from Locke as possible, so when Zoe and Widmore want to run or hide, that’s fine by him. Zoey and Widmore end up hiding in Ben’s closet. Richard and Ben go outside to face Locke once and for all. Richard doesn’t last very long in the confrontation. Locke slams him up against a tree before Richard can even get a word in.

Ben figures heavily in both universes this time around. Desmond continues to be awesome, as he makes a second trip to Ben and Locke’s school on the day that Locke returns to work. Ben recognizes him instantly and threatens to call the police. Desmond claims that he didn’t want to hurt Locke. His purpose was to help Locke “let go.” Desmond then proceeds to help Ben “let go” as well by giving him a good beat down. Of all things, this is what triggers Ben’s memory of the original universe. Specifically, he remembers when Desmond beat him up at the Marina after Ben threatened to kill Penny. Needless to say, I quite enjoyed this scene. I enjoyed it even more when Desmond showed up at the police station to turn himself in. He finds Sawyer and Miles, and they’re pretty incredulous at how chipper he is about the whole thing. He’s equally cheery to fellow prisoners Sayid and Kate, which kind of pisses them off. Kate seems especially annoyed by Desmond’s upbeat attitude. There is also a wonderful Sawyer and Kate moment when Saywer says goodbye to the prisoners before they’re transported to County.

Sayid and Kate quickly begin to understand why Desmond is in a good mood. As they’re being transported to County, their vehicle stops. It turns out Desmond bribed the driver to let them go. The driver is none other than Ana Lucia, and the bribe is supplied by Hurley of course. Desmond tells Sayid to go with Hurley and Kate to come with him. Kate’s a little suspicious and wants to know what they’re doing. Desmond pulls out a little black dress for Kate and tells her they’re going to a concert. Daniel Faraday’s concert, no doubt. The final pieces of the sideways-verse are put into place when Locke shows up at Jack’s office. Locke is ready to “let go” and have Jack perform the surgery that could cure him of his paralysis.

Elsewhere in sideways-verse, Ben gets patched up by the school nurse and runs into Alex on his way out of the school building at the end of the day. Alex is horrified by what happened to Ben, and she insists that he get a ride home with her. Ben, with one arm in a sling, really isn’t in good condition to drive. Alex’s ride home is her mom, Danielle Rousseau. It was really great to see Mira Furlan back in the role, even if she didn’t have a whole lot to do. It’s “coq au vin” night chez Rousseau, which sounds horribly silly in the context of “Lost.” It feels silly to me because it seems like the writers just said, “Rousseau is French, so what’s the most French sounding meal we can think of?” Anyway, the plot gets better once they all get to the Rousseau house. Danelle tells Ben that he is like a father to Alex (whose biological father died when she was very young), and Ben has to fight back tears.

Back on the Island things aren’t so bright and shiny for Ben. He seemed to make progress back in “Dr. Linus” when Ilana forgave him, but he’s most definitely regressing. Locke doesn’t have to do much persuading to get Ben to give up the location of Widmore. Locke asks Ben if he’d be willing to kill a list of people, but Ben doesn’t answer just yet. Locke and Ben quickly find Widmore and Zoe hiding in Ben’s closet. Zoe annoys Locke, so he slits her throat. Ben is a bit peeved that Locke won’t kill Widmore, too. It turns out that Widmore could be useful to Locke. Locke wants to know why Widmore came back to the Island, and Locke threatens that he’ll kill Penny if Widmore doesn’t tell him what he wants to know. Widmore starts to whisper to Locke why exactly he came back and brought Desmond with him when Ben shoots him. Ben’s rationale is that Widmore “doesn’t get to save his daughter.” I still don’t quite understand why Ben blames Widmore for Alex’s death in the first place, but clearly, seeing Alex’s grave earlier that day affected him. Ben is also now willing to kill whomever else Locke tells him to. Locke and Ben head out to Desmond’s well, only to find that Desmond has escaped.

As Jack and company are heading for Desmond’s well, Hurley is distracted by mini-Jacob. Mini-Jacob steals real Jacob’s ashes from Hurley and runs of gleefully. Hurley follows as best he can and comes upon the grown-up version of Jacob sitting by a fire. Jacob has placed the ashes in the fire, and he wants Hurley to gather his friends so Jacob can speak to all of them. Jacob does tell the Losties some important information, although not as much as you might think considering his “I’m going to tell all” introduction. He explains that it was his job to protect the Island, and he created the Monster. Jacob says that the Island still needs protecting (specifically from the monster), but he’s going to do things differently from his Mother. He’s going to give the Losties a choice about whether or not to take up the mantle. Jack immediately accepts. He feels like this must be the answer to all those feelings about Destiny he has been having. Jacob goes through a somewhat simplified version of the ritual Mother performed with him, and now Jack is “like Jacob.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.04: "The Poisoned Chalice"

Sarah is back once again to continue her Summer TV Rewind of Merlin season 1. Enjoy!


“I’ll let his friends finish you off, Arthur Pendragon. It’s not your destiny to die at my hands.”
- Nimueh

Much like with the last episode, we begin “The Poisoned Chalice” in Nimueh’s cave. She’s chanting a spell that allows her to see Camelot (and Merlin). She’s enchanted a flower pedal and placed it in a goblet. Knowing what she’s capable of, we have to be suspicious. Next thing we know, we’re in the great hall of Camelot with Uther and his men approaching from one side and another king dressed in blue and his knights approaching from the other. This is probably just my weird brain but I was reminded just a tiny bit of the scene in Torchwood 2.01 “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” with Jack and John meeting for the first time. But, there are no hot kisses between Uther and Lord Bayard of Mercia. Just a firm hand grasp to signify that the two kingdoms will shortly be at peace. We see Nimueh amongst Bayard’s people and it’s obvious she catches Merlin’s eye.

We find Merlin complaining to Gaius about all the work he has to do. Gaius points out that he is a servant that’s his job. He’s about to complain some more when Nimueh, pretending to be a servant girl named Kara, drops the pillows and blankets she’s carrying. Merlin’s quite taken with her and he flits a little. It’s kind of cute, even though we know Nimueh is evil. And I hope it’s not just me, but her eyes are rather distracting. They’re so blue! Anyway, Merlin and Kara part ways and she heads downstairs and switches her own goblet for one that Bayard brought. In short order, Merlin is helping Arthur dress for the feast. There’s a brief comedic moment that the viewer can’t quite see because it’s from over Arthur’s shoulder as a point of view, in which he presents Merlin with what he says are the ceremonial robes of the servants of Camelot. We next see Uther and Bayard signing the peace treaty and Merlin in a ridiculous get up with a huge feathered hat. Gwen can’t help but tease him a little. The hat comes off the minute he sees Kara, and when Gwen remarks she’s pretty for a hand maiden, he tops her by saying she’s pretty for a princess. Gwen quietly stalks off to stand by Gaius. I love how jealous she is.

Bayard begins a speech to present the goblets, and Kara drags Merlin away. I have to say, she’s quite the little actress. Then again, it could be Merlin’s hormones running rampant, but he believes her when she tells him Bayard has poisoned Arthur’s goblet. Merlin rushes back in to save Arthur. Bayard is finishing his speech, and each time he pauses, Arthur goes to drink. He looks rather bored, honestly. But, Merlin shows up and accuses Bayard of lacing the goblet with poison. Both sides draw swords as Bayard denies the allegation. As is Uther’s way, he gets cranky and demands to know where Merlin got his information. Merlin says he can’t say and Uther is about to have him strung up. But instead, he makes Merlin drink from the goblet. If he dies, they know Merlin was telling the truth, and if he lives Bayard can do what he wants with Merlin. So, Merlin drinks from the goblet, there’s a brief fake-out where he thinks he’s okay, and then he crashes to the floor. Nimueh watches from behind a pillar in satisfaction at the outcome and darts away in the mayhem.

Arthur, Gaius, and Gwen rush Merlin off to Gaius’s chambers. Gaius quickly discovers the flower pedal hidden inside the goblet and identifies it as coming from the mortius tree. The only way to save Merlin is to retrieve a leaf from the same plant far off in a cave in a forest protected by a deadly and ugly creature whose venom, even one drop, is fatal. Arthur proclaims it sounds like fun and he’s off to go save Merlin. But, Uther isn’t having any of it. He says Merlin won’t be the first to die for Arthur and that Merlin’s life is worth less than Arthur. Arthur calls his father on his crap but gets grounded anyway.

Lucky for Arthur, Morgana drops by and gives him a little talking to. Amazing how his need to always impress her stirs him to action. He rides off into Nimueh’s trap because he has the need to be noble and fight for what he believes in. Honestly, not a bad trait. Back in Gaius’s chambers, Gaius and Gwen discover the effects of the poison have been sped up by magic. Gaius instructs Gwen to find Kara and fast. Merlin only has two days at most to live. Too bad Kara already left Camelot and is en route to intercept Arthur.

Uther has yet another hissy fit when he finds out Arthur disobeyed him. Morgana isn’t sympathetic in the least to the crotchety old King. She says Arthur’s old enough to make decisions on his own and have his own opinions. And she’s right. Uther just refuses to see it. Gwen returns to Gaius’s chambers with the news that no one has seen Kara since the banquet. Gaius isn’t surprised and tells Gwen that Kara (not her real name) is a powerful sorceress and she’s probably waiting for Arthur.

We see Arthur riding through some beautiful Welsh countryside as he goes in search of the mortius flower in the cave. No sooner does he reach the forest when he has to face off against the fatal-venom-ugly creature. It kind of looks like a giant lizard dinosaur with a snake tongue. Some entertaining CGI for sure. Being Arthur Pendragon, swords master extraordinaire, he handles the beast and saves who he thinks is an abused servant girl. It’s really Nimueh using her charms and freaking BLUE eyes to trick him. She says she knows where the flower is and takes him to the cave.

As Nimueh leads Arthur deeper into the caves, we see Merlin getting worse back in Camelot. He’s mumbling to Arthur (who of course can’t hear him) that it’s a trap and then tries to say a spell. Gaius assures Gwen it’s the fever and poison setting in. Back in the cave, Nimueh points out where the flowers are. They’re on a ledge across a rather deep looking cavern. There’s a rock formation that almost reaches to the other side that breaks right when Arthur needs it thanks to Nimueh casting a spell. He catches on pretty quick and manages to catch the other edge before falling into the cavern. That’s the least of his problems. A giant hairy tarantula the size of a tennis ball wanders over and tries to kill Arthur. It hisses too. Do spiders really hiss? Anyway, he manages to slice it in half but more are on their way. And they’re blocking his path to the much-needed mortius flower. Nimueh leaves him to his fate.

Back in Camelot, Merlin actually manages a spell in his delirium and produces a big ball of float-y light to guide Arthur through the dark and to the flowers. Arthur struggles to climb up the rock face and fight off the spiders. He gets some coma cheering from Merlin in the form of “go faster,” but he finally makes it out of the cave with the flowers in hand. He rides back to Camelot and is immediately summoned by Uther. Uther throws him in the dungeon for his disobedience. Arthur tries to tell Uther that it wasn’t Bayard who tried to poison him, but Uther yet again doesn’t listen and stomps on the mortius flower.

Gwen sneaks down to the dungeon with some bread and water for Arthur, and he slips the flower onto the tray. Arthur makes a show of rejecting the food to get Gwen out of there, and it’s not soon enough because the real maid bringing his food shows up. Gwen manages to get away and brings Gaius the flower. He knows he needs to use magic to make the potion, so he sends Gwen from the room. He starts to say a spell, stops, and then decides to hell with Uther. He mumbles a spell over the potion. He administers it to Merlin, but it appears that it hasn’t worked. Merlin’s heart has stopped, and he’s not breathing. Gwen is quick to blame herself and throws herself into Gaius’s arms. He too blames himself and they have a good cry together. And…up pops Merlin saying it’s disgusting and Gaius is old enough to be Gwen’s grandfather. Out of extreme happiness, Gwen plants one right on Merlin’s lips. They go away a little embarrassed.

Uther is busy planning his defense since word of Bayard’s arrest got back to Mercia. Gaius runs off to tell Uther that it wasn’t Bayard who poisoned the wine. He says it was Nimueh’s doing but Uther doesn’t want to believe him. Uther dismisses his men and Gaius asks if Arthur should be told about who Nimueh really is. Bayard and his army are soon seen leaving Camelot and Arthur and Morgana share a cute moment where he tells her that he had help and he is only alive because of whoever it was that guided him to safety. There’s even a little moment with Uther that’s kind of touching. Uther gives his usual “magic is evil” spiel and then says he’s proud of Arthur even though he disobeyed an order. It was the right thing to do.

It’s clear that Nimueh was after Merlin as well as Arthur and Camelot. She knows his destiny, too. But that’s for another day. Now, Merlin has to worry about getting better and getting back to doing Arthur’s bidding. But, thanks to the near-death experience, he and Arthur are fast becoming more than just master/servant. They’re becoming friends.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Glee 1.19: "Dream On"

“Show choir kills.”
-Bryan Ryan

“Dream On” was probably the most anticipated event of the spring TV season (other than the “Lost” finale, perhaps) for me. It combined three of my favorite things: Joss Whedon, Neil Patrick Harris, and “Glee.” How could it not be great! On most levels, it met or exceeded my expectations. Really, the only thing I found lacking was some of the dialogue. I wished that Joss had written the episode in addition to directing it. The direction of this episode, however, was indeed fantastic. I could see Joss’ vision all over it. The shots seemed more carefully composed than they usually are, and he has a knack for catching beautiful little moments like the sunlight glinting off a school bus window. Neil Patrick Harris as Bryan Ryan also gave as good of a performance as I expected of him, even if the producers’ constant overuse of Autotune didn’t allow him to truly showcase his considerable talents.

The episode opens with Will being called into Principal Figgins’ office to meet a new member of the school board, Bryan Ryan. It turns out that Will already knew Bryan Ryan, who attended McKinley High at the same time Will did. Bryan was popular, or at least as popular as you can be and still be in Glee Club. Will flashes back to watching Bryan sing “Daydream Believer” with a hot girl, complete with a burning-piece-of-paper-turning-into-a-bouquet-of-flowers magic trick. I love how, like with Barney Stinson on HIMYM, Harris’ love of magic tends to be written into the roles he plays. Both Bryan and Barney also seem to really like to incorporate pyrotechnics into their magic, which had me laughing hysterically. Bryan is auditing spending on all of McKinley’s arts programs, and he seems determined to cut the Glee Club. After he graduated, Bryan worked at an amusement park and did the cruise ship circuit, then found himself unable to break into show business further. He now runs a show choir support group. Bryan asks Will if he can speak to the glee club, and Will allows it. Will comes to regret this, though, when Bryan gives a long speech about how all their dreams of show business are never going to come true.

Since every episode of “Glee” sticks pretty closely to the title theme-wise, the other plots in this episode also deal with following dreams. When Bryan gave his demoralizing speech, he asked everyone in the glee club to write their dream down on a piece of paper, then he ripped Artie’s up and threw it in the trash can. Tina snooped in the trash can after class and discovered that Artie’s true dream is to be a dancer, even though Artie says he’d like to learn how to do camerawork. Learning to direct is a realistic goal, considering his condition makes dancing unlikely. Tina doesn’t see it that way, though. She wants to put together a dance number for their glee club assignment of the week. We also explore Rachel’s dream in this episode. After a lot of prodding by Jesse (who is back from “spring break” and not so angry about “Run, Joey, Run”-gate), Rachel says her true dream is to meet her biological mom. Jesse thinks a full-on investigation into the situation is in order.

Will thinks he can change Bryan’s decision about the glee club if he can reconnect Bryan to his musical past. They go out for drinks, and Will tries to make his pitch. Bryan reveals that he still does love music and theatre, and three times a year he tells his wife he’s going on a business trip but goes to see a Broadway show instead. Will queues up Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” on the jukebox, and the two of them have a lovely sing-along. This was my favorite musical performance of the episode, and I really wish it had been included among the show’s many iTunes downloads. Although, I fear that if it had been released to iTunes, it would have been horribly produced and Autotuned and wouldn’t retain any of what I loved about it. When you have Neil Patrick Harris and Matthew Morrison singing together, there is absolutely, whatsoever no need for Autotune. There ends my rant about Autotune for this post.- I think. Anyway, after the duet, Will encourages Bryan to audition for a local production of “Les Misérables” and Will says he’s going to audition, too.

At the audition, the competitiveness between Will and Bryan ramps up. They try to psych each other out. Will says he’s going to sing “The Impossible Dream,” and Bryan says that’s what he was going to sing. Will then says he’s changed his mind to Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” and Bryan says that’s what he’s going to sing too. Soon, the director has had enough of both of them and says they should sing “Dream On” as a duet. Both actors seem to have quite a lot of fun rocking out to the sing, although the Autotune kind of ruins the whole thing. Which is a shame, considering “Dream On” is one of my favorite songs. Bryan’s rejuvenated by the whole experience, and he decides he’s going to cut the Cheerios budget to give New Directions more funding. And he manages to be so charismatic about the whole thing that Sue sleeps with him even though he’s cutting her budget. Well, she sleeps with him because she likes “angry sex,” but that’s really besides the point. Sue isn’t out of the funding game for long, though. As Bryan is happily showing off some costume and sheet music purchases to New Directions, Sue barges in to the choir room to announce that the casting decisions have been made for “Les Misérables.” Will will be Valjean, and Bryan will be a townsperson with one line.

Bryan’s decided to cut glee club again, and Will trys to talk him out of it before the first “Les Mis” rehearsal. Will’s first tactic is to show Bryan a yearbook and explain how all the New Directions kids were pigeonholed by labels before they had a chance to shine as part of the glee club. Bryan’s not buying it through. Finally, Will offers to resign as Valjean and give the part to Bryan. Bryan happily accepts, and New Directions has their funding back. Personally, I think the more amusing solution would have been to give Bryan the role of Javert, then he and Will could sing the Confrontation Song. It wouldn’t be the first time Neil had done so. Anyway, the kids protest a little bit when they find out Will gave up the part to keep the club going, but Will says he’s willing to sacrifice his dream to help make theirs come true.

Rachel keeps vacillating about how much she really wants to know about her mom. First she makes up stories about how Patti LuPone or Bernadette Peters must be her mom, but Jesse still wants to do a real investigation. While they’re going through all the information Rachel’s dads have stored in her basement, Jesse sneaks a tape into one of the boxes. When Rachel finds it, we discover it’s a tape from her mom. She doesn’t want to listen to it at first, but eventually Jesse gets her to. It turns out he’s been secretly meeting with Shelby, director of Vocal Adrenaline, who just happens to also be Rachel’s mom. She claims that she regrets not getting to know Rachel and she’s trying to right a wrong. It still makes Jesse look like a jerk though, considering he got close to Rachel under false pretenses. The tape is of Shelby singing “I Dreamed a Dream,” and Rachel sings along to make it a rather beautiful duet. It’s one of the episode’s better musical performances.

Artie and Tina’s dance number doesn’t go as well. Artie, not satisfied with “tap wheels” on his wheelchair, wants to try to use crutches, and he’s humiliated when he immediately falls down in front of Tina. Tina doesn’t give up, though, and she gives Artie a bunch of research she found online about new cutting-edge therapies for spinal cord injuries. Tina and Artie take a trip to the mall, and Artie’s newfound hope leads him to daydream a big flash mob dance scene to “Safety Dance.” The scene is quite a lot of fun, and it looks like Joss had quite a bit of fun filming it, too. He got to go all Busby Berkeley again like he did with “My Freezeray” in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog.” Artie makes an appointment to see Emma, explaining that when one of these new therapies works, he’s going to need some counseling to deal with his newfound mobility. Emma is quite the buzzkill, though, and she brings Artie back down to Earth by explaining to him that medical trials can take decades. Artie gives up his dream and tells Tina to find someone else to dance with. Tina asks Artie to still sing the song even if he won’t dance, and the final scene of the episode is a dejected Artie singing “Dream a Little Dream of Me” while Tina and Mike Chang dance. What? Joss Whedon directed this episode. You were expecting the ending to be upbeat?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.03: "The Mark of Nimueh"

Sarah has joined us again to recap another episode of Season 1 of Merlin for your reading pleaure...


“Magic isn’t good or bad. It’s how you use it.”
- Gaius

I have to say, the writers of Merlin are taking their sweet time developing the relationships between all of the characters to ultimately lead them to where we know they’re headed. But in terms of season arc, they introduce Merlin’s nemesis quite early on. The episode begins in a cave far from Camelot with a beautiful young woman molding something from clay. It looks kind of like a cute wingless baby dragon. Of course, given that fact that there’s some ominous music playing in the background, there’s nothing cute about it. She places the clay baby-dragon-thing in a spherical box, incants some words over it and sends it through the water system to Camelot. Right before opening credits, we see the creature start to hatch.

No sooner has the thing begun to hatch than we find Merlin and Gaius bent over a dead man. Gaius initially states that he’s not afraid of catching whatever it is because he’s the Court Physician and it’s his job. But he rolls the fellow over and his skin is blue and his eyes have lost their color. Merlin grabs a blanket to cover up the body so people don’t start to panic, and they wheel the corpse off to Gaius’s chambers for an autopsy. On the way, they run into Gwen, and we have some more fun Gwen/Merlin attraction. She gives him a flower and he sheepishly puts it in the collar of his bandana. I kind of wish they would have gone farther with this pairing than they did. It would have been a really fun twist.

Merlin and Gaius get the dead body back and start examining it. Gaius is at a loss for what could have caused the man’s death. He fears it was done by magic but can’t think of any sorcerer around powerful enough to have caused it. In short order, Arthur shows up requesting Gaius’s immediate presence. They arrive in the throne room to find another man dead of the same illness. Gaius is hesitant to tell Uther his theory because as we all know by now, Uther gets extra surly and cranky whenever the “M word” is tossed around. Uther instructs Arthur to conduct door-to-door searches to find the perpetrator before the illness spreads to the entire town. We get a montage (the writers seem to like those) of Arthur and his men searching the town and coming up empty handed. They have to check Gaius’s chambers too, and it ends up being kind of funny. They check Merlin’s room, and as Arthur walks in, the camera pans over the magic book Gaius gave Merlin at the end of episode 1. The camera moves back to Gaius and Merlin, and Arthur’s voice is heard off camera saying, “Merlin, come here.” Obviously, they want you to think that Arthur’s found the book. Ultimately, Arthur comments about Merlin’s poor hygiene skills and the improper use of a cupboard. Improper in that Merlin doesn’t use it. Merlin manages to hide the book before Arthur can find it.

Uther is not pleased with Arthur’s lack of evidence found. So he tells Arthur to impose a curfew and cordon off the lower town to try and keep the disease from spreading. Arthur isn’t thrilled with the idea but does it anyway. Meanwhile, Merlin and Gaius are examining a new victim. This time it’s a woman of higher social status and they figure out that the disease is being spread through the water supply.

Unfortunately, Gwen’s father has fallen ill with the disease (probably from the water cress soup she made the day before). It’s enough to push Merlin to try a magical remedy. He can’t stand to see Gwen so upset, so that night he sneaks past the guards who are supposed to be imposing curfew, into Gwen’s house, and places a poultice beneath her father’s pillow.

The next morning, the number of sheet covered bodies has increased, and Uther is even more pissed than before. He and Arthur have a bit of a whose got the kingdom’s best interests at heart showdown, which it looks like Uther wins. I have to say, I think they may go overboard a tiny bit with trying to juxtapose Uther and Arthur’s viewpoints on how to run the kingdom. We know Arthur is supposed to be a more benevolent King. You don’t have to hit us over the head with it. So, Arthur’s back out on the town looking for the sorcerer when he happens upon Gwen’s father back to work at the blacksmith forge. Arthur is initially sort of impressed by the full recovery and then suspicious when he finds out Gwen was the only person there when he got better. And so, he and a bunch of knights search her house, find the poultice and haul Gwen off from Morgana’s chambers.

Gwen begs Uther to listen to her and says she isn’t a witch. Morgana comes to her defense and tries to make Uther see reason. But Uther is stubborn and pig-headed. He pronounces judgment and condemns Gwen to death by burning. Even after Gwen is dragged off to the dungeon, Morgana is still fighting for her. It really shows the dynamic between Uther and Morgana. She dares Uther to explain why Gwen would work as hard as she does day after day if she could magic everything she wanted. Uther claims he has a duty to protect the kingdom. Arthur, too, tries to change his father’s mind but Uther simply says that Arthur hasn’t seen the kind of evil and destruction sorcery can cause.

Merlin, feeling guilty and rightly so, goes to see Gwen in the dungeons and he promises he’s going to save her. Gwen tries to put on a brave face but fails. They could have been such a great couple. And so, Merlin goes off to confess to Uther that he was the one who cured Gwen’s father. Gaius is aghast at Merlin’s admission and Uther orders the guards to arrest him. But, Arthur jumps in and manages to save Merlin’s but by claiming Merlin is suffering a grave affliction of the heart; he’s in love with Gwen. It gets a laugh out of Uther and Merlin is let go.

We see a quick viewpoint of our sorceress observing Merlin and Gaius head down to check the source of the town’s water supply. Merlin collects a sample of the water so Gaius can test it when the creature that’s causing the illness jumps out at them. They identify the creature as an Avank (Afanc) and Merlin, after a quick stop in the dungeons to tell Gwen he’s going to save her (again), goes down for his episodic visit to the Great Dragon. All he gets for his efforts is told to use the elements he has at his command and that he can’t defeat the creature alone. He is one side of the coin, Arthur the other.

Time is running out for Gwen because Uther’s moved the execution up to the night. Morgana goes to Gaius and she and Merlin form a plan. But they’ll need Arthur. We get some more sexual-tension banter from her and Arthur in which she convinces him to help save Gwen and fight the Avank. The cave where the Avank is hiding is full of little darkened corridors that freak them out and make them jumpy. But, they don’t have much trouble finding the Avank as it wants to eat them…or something. Arthur tries to fight it alone, but in the end, it’s Merlin’s magic that helps him defeat the beast.

Gaius brings a piece of the sphere to Uther and informs him it bears the mark of Nimueh, a sorceress that we can only gather Uther has had dealings with before. With the beast destroyed, everyone who was sick (and not yet dead) has recovered and the water supply is safe. Gwen is released from the dungeons and all is happy. There’s an interesting little scene with Merlin and Morgana after Gwen is released in which we are led to believe Morgana saw Merlin using magic in the cave. But, it was a red herring. She says his secret crush on Gwen is safe with her. Even though it all turned out well in the end, the fact that Merlin used magic to defeat the Avank did not escape Nimueh and she’s going to make him pay.

Chuck 3.17: "Chuck Versus the Living Dead"

“Reviewing pictures of people you killed? I do that myself from time to time.”

“Chuck Versus the Living Dead” continued to provide the entertainment value I expect of an episode of “Chuck,” even though there was a little more drama than I usually like from the show. If you couldn’t tell, I don’t love the “Chuck’s lying about the effects of the Intersect” plot. Chuck’s dad returned, and really the only good thing about that (considering Scott Bakula’s performance was not especially memorable) was that it promises an end to this drama surrounding Chuck’s health that I just don’t like at all. I find plots that revolve around misunderstanding to be incredibly frustrating, so I didn’t like that Ellie continues to be played by Justin the Ring agent posing as CIA. Wait, did I start this paragraph off with something positive? Well, despite these gripes about the ongoing story, this episode did have its share of entertaining moments.

As she told Justin she would do in the last episode, Ellie contacts her dad, Steve. The way they secretly communicate to each other is kind of amusing. They place encoded messages in the classified section of the newspaper. I liked how this shows Ellie has the brains for spywork, too. Sure, the show never implied she was stupid, she is a doctor after all, but I like that she’s clever when it comes to puzzles and such too. At the other end of the spectrum of things I did and didn’t like, Chuck is still lying to Sarah about the effect the Intersect could possibly have on his brain. He’s lying about something more immediate, too. He has neglected to tell her about his dream where Shaw was alive again. Chuck does, however, tell Morgan about the dream. Morgan, understandably, freaks out and asks to hide in Castle for a little while. That would be where Sarah finds Morgan, and in a very funny scene, she makes him tell her everything that’s going on.

Chuck ends up having to lie on several fronts all at the same time while working at the Buy More. Is it just me, or does “the consequences of lying” seem to be a very popular episode theme in television this year? Anyway, Casey sees Chuck looking at a picture of Shaw as Steve arrives at the Buy More. Steve got Ellie’s message and wants to know if everything is okay. When he sees Casey still around, Steve is rightfully suspicious that Chuck didn’t keep his promise to cut all ties with the CIA. Chuck adamantly denies that he’s still CIA just as Sarah arrives to confront him with what she learned from Morgan. Sarah plays along while in front of Steve, but when she and Chuck are back in Castle, it’s clear she’s not happy. It doesn’t help that Chuck’s dream has led Casey to decide he needs to scrutinize every detail of everything Sarah and Shaw ever did together (he was hoping a detail would provide a clue to where to find Shaw). Chuck getting increasingly uncomfortable as he learns more and more about Sarah and Shaw’s relationship was pretty funny, though.

While all of this is going on, Ellie continues to contact Justin. Chuck has asked Casey to keep an eye on Ellie, which causes some problems considering Justin has told Ellie that Casey is a double agent. Ellie is upset that her dad showed up instead of just giving her his address (which is the information Justin wanted), and Casey sees her run off to a nearby park and leave a message for Justin about how Awesome thinks she’s at the hospital and she really needs to see Justin. Casey asks Morgan if he thinks there’s any possibility Ellie and Awesome’s marriage might be in trouble. Morgan goes to talk to Awesome, acting like he’s a therapist. It turns out that Awesome is so ridiculously completely devoted to Ellie that Morgan believes if anything is wrong with their marriage, it is, surprisingly, on Ellie’s side. Justin and Ellie do eventually meet up, and Justin gives Ellie a new plan. Steve and Chuck have been fighting over Chuck’s continued involvement with the CIA, and as Steve decides to leave Burbank, Ellie plants a tracking device on him.

Before that big argument, though, Sarah, Casey, and Chuck went on a mission to Shaw’s old penthouse. Chuck had a flash that revealed Shaw had a super secure safe installed there, and the team wants to know what’s inside. While they’re inside the penthouse, somebody else shows up, and they all assume it’s Shaw. During the ensuing chase sequence, however, they see they were wrong. It’s Justin, although they don’t know the significance of Justin, of course, since Ellie hasn’t said anything about him. Chuck winds up hanging precariously from a ledge only to be saved by none other than his father (the big argument comes after this). The team also manages to uncover what was in Shaw’s vault, because Justin had taken it and then dropped it in the chase. It’s Shaw’s “spy will,” essentially a compilation of everything he has learned in his years as a spy.

During all this time, there’s a C story going on at the Buy More involving Jeff, Lester, and Big Mike. It’s not really at all connected to either of the spy stories, and it seems like just an excuse to make sure all the actors are involved in these last few episodes of the season. Big Mike offers to manage Jeffster, but Lester sees hiring a manager as selling out. The band breaks up, with Big Mike trying to briefly manage Jeff’s solo career. That doesn’t go so well, and Big Mike manages to convince Lester to rejoin the band and agree to the management contract. Big Mike accomplishes this feat by telling Lester he was once a member of “Earth Wind and Fire.” At the time, of course, according to Big Mike, it was called “Earth Wind Fire and Rain.” And Big Mike was Rain. This was a light, silly character-focused plot, but now it’s back to our regularly scheduled spy-ish intrigue.

Once Justin is back at his (fake, presumably) office, he uses Ellie’s tracking device to send a squad of goons after Steve. Steve is frantically doing something to a device in his watch when the goons arrive. Luckily for Steve, Sarah and Chuck happen to be on their way to his cabin, too, because Chuck wants to make things right with his dad. Sarah swiped his ID, so she had his address. Which I thought was kind of awesome. Yay Sarah for coming through in a difficult situation! When Steve sees Chuck go all kung-fu on the goons, he figures out that Chuck did indeed download the Intersect 2.0 into his brain. One of my favorite moments of the episode is after the fight, when Steve asks Chuck if Sarah downloaded the Intersect 2.0 as well, and Chuck proudly states that Sarah’s fighting skills are all her.

After the fight, Casey’s investigation into Ellie continues. Casey goes to snoop around Ellie and Awesome’s apartment while he thinks Ellie is at work, but Ellie comes home early, most likely for another secret conversation with Justin. Ellie hears Casey in the house, and since she thinks he’s a double agent, she gets scared. The fact that Justin is on the phone prodding this fear doesn’t help. He tells her to open up a speaker he gave her, and Ellie finds a gun inside it. Justin wants Ellie to shoot Casey. Ellie can’t bring herself to do that, but she does hit Casey over the head with a frying pan. She then runs out of the house and starts crying in Justin’s arms (he just happens to be waiting outside, of course). Justin takes her to his “office” and locks her in.

Elsewhere, Chuck and his dad talk about the Intersect and the effect it can have on the brain. Steve has known for a long time that the Intersect can overload the brain, and he’s done something about it. He has created a device called a Governor for his own use, and that’s what was inside his watch. When the goons were approaching his cabin, he was frantically running tests to see if it would work with the Intersect 2.0 as well. Good news is that it does, and he promises Chuck that he’ll make one for him. Things seems to be going better for Chuck for now. Chuck now realizes the gravity of the lifestyle he’s chosen, and after Sarah gives him her spy will to hold on to, he starts to write his own. It turns out that Chuck has a very good reason to be concerned. In the final scene of the episode, we see that Shaw really is alive again, and he’s downloading the Intersect.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

HIMYM 5.23: "The Wedding Bride"

“There is only one street where that is normal. Here’s a hint: a giant, yellow bird lives on it.”

I could see “The Wedding Bride” trying to be everything that the best episodes of HIMYM are. There was an in-depth look at a specific aspect of the dating world, callbacks to past episodes, a silly show within a show that could totally be a hit web video, and a sentimental ending. Note I used the word “trying,” though. The whole of this episode did not add up to the sum of its parts. I’d say that maybe it’s because the characters have gone beyond the point in life I can identify with (since I’m in my mid-20s, I mostly identify with the situations they face in seasons 1 and 2), but I honestly think there’s more to it than that. It felt hollow and like it was going through the motions. It wasn’t an awful viewing experience, but it wasn’t especially great either. I generally expect better from the penultimate episode of a season of HIMYM. This is when big, emotional things generally happen.

The subject of the episode is baggage. Apparently, ever since the Stella debacle, Ted has be very wary of dating any women with baggage. The concept of baggage is illustrated by large pieces of luggage with major issues printed on them. Ted’s, for instance, would say “Left at the altar.” He just doesn’t realize that yet. Ted is dating a woman named Royce, but he says he’s reluctant to open up to her because of how his heart got stomped on when Stella left him at the altar. Apparently, this is the explanation for his recent parade of women he’s dating. He goes on a few dates, discovers the woman has baggage, and hightails it out of there. The thing is, he hasn’t yet discovered that Royce has any baggage. She’s seems perfectly together and stable and happy. She’s kind of boring though. Maybe lack of character development for Royce is why I found this episode to be somewhat lacking. The big romantic comedy parody ending (spoilers…sorry) doesn’t have the same punch if you don’t care about one of the characters.

When Ted is discussing this dilemma with the gang at MacLaren’s, Marshall claims to have no baggage. The rest of the group begs to differ. Bottom line is that Marshall is “too nice.” He’s sweet and polite to people to an absurd degree and therefore gets walked all over. There’s a kind of fun fantasy sequence of Marshall happily skipping down a street, greeting everyone he sees, and joining in a round of break dancing. Later in the episode, the situation gets more serious when Lily tells Robin that Marshall insisted they help a couple of people move out of an apartment, only to discover too late that they were actually helping out burglars (not robbers, which is what Lily actually said to Robin…as far as we know, the occupants of the apartment were not home to have their belongings taken by force or threat of force). I didn’t even laugh at this joke, because HIMYM has used it before, and to much funnier effect, in last season’s episode “Murtaugh.” In that episode, Barney and Robin accidentally help burglars empty an apartment when Barney is trying to complete everything on Ted’s “Murtaugh List” of stuff he’s too old to do.

Speaking of Barney, this episode has a rather disappointing lack of Barney. Barney is not in most scenes at MacLaren’s (he is in the one from which the Quote of the Episode was taken, though), and he shows up at the movie theatre Ted and Royce later patronize just for several second comedy bits here and there throughout the second half of the episode. Barney really is the best thing left about this show to me when the writers are remembering to keep him a bit human. The only thing that really made the lack of Barney tolerable to me was that I’d bet the reason for it is that Neil Patrick Harris was off filming the spectacular Joss Whedon directed episode of “Glee,” “Dream On.” I’d gladly take one episode of HIMYM that is low on Barney in exchange for what was one of my favorite episode of television this year (not overall, but definitely this year).

Ted’s story starts to take an interesting turn when he and Royce take a trip to see the new hit movie “The Wedding Bride.” Ted knows he’s in trouble when he sees that the movie was written by Tony, the guy Stella left Ted for. The movie turns out to be a super cheesy romantic comedy telling the story of the Ted/Stella/Tony triangle from the point of view that Tony was the hero and Ted was the villain. Tony doesn’t try at all to hid the real-life story his movie is based upon. The villain’s name is “Jed Mosely,” and he wears red cowboy boots. Although there are some aspects of “Jed” that ring true like the boots and the way he pronounces “encyclopedia,” there are also plenty of things about Jed that are unfairly exaggerated. Jed doesn’t care about Stella at all and views her more as a possession than a person. I’ve been known to enjoy watching a romantic comedy here and there, but I prefer rom coms where the “villain” isn’t so moustache-twirling. “Sweet Home Alabama” would be a great example of that, I think. The first time I saw it, I think I actually rooted for Patrick Dempsey’s character to end up with Reese Witherspoon’s character by the end, even though it was clear that wasn’t how it was going to end up.

Ted tries for a while to keep his identity as “Jed” a secret from Royce. The rest of the gang (who rather gleefully go to see the movie and bask in how successful the movie is) try to convince Ted that he should come clean with Royce. Ted, naturally, doesn’t take the advice, and he ends up making a complete ass of himself in front of Royce and her friends. They’re all talking about how great “The Wedding Bride” is, and Ted’s being bitter about it. Because Royce doesn’t know the whole story, she just thinks Ted is being a jerk for no good reason. When Ted laments about this to the rest of the group (minus Barney…like I said, unfortunate lack of Barney in this one…), Marshall tells Ted he needs to try and win Royce back. The end of the episode is a juxtaposition of the end of “The Wedding Bride,” where Tony wins over Stella, with Ted back in the movie theater trying to win back Royce. Even the dialogue is made to be parallel. Both Ted and Tony succeed, and we have a happy rom com ending. Which we know can’t last, of course, because Royce isn’t the Mother. Oh, and there's the pesky fact that in the episode's tag, it turns out that Royce has more baggage than the rest of the women Ted has dated combined.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.02: "Valiant"

Another installment of the "Merlin" Summer TV Rewind from our lovely guest blogger Sarah...


“How can you go out there and fight like that?” “Because I have to, it’s my duty.”
- Merlin and Prince Arthur

Uther has decided it’s a good time for a tournament and knights from all over the realm have come to Camelot to compete. We first see a man walking into what appears to be a blacksmith’s shop, and he meets with a creepy little man about a shield. The shield bears three intertwined serpents that come alive when a spell is said. The creepy man hands it over, and all he gets for his trouble is dead. The first man, who turns out to be Knight Valiant of the Western Isles, arrives in Camelot and enters the tournament.

Merlin’s first day as Arthur servant isn’t exactly what he expected it would be. He’s basically a moving dummy for Arthur to wail on to get ready for the tournament. It does have a bit of comedy to it in that Merlin is just so bloody awful at parrying Arthur’s blows. And he gets knocked on the head a few times. Merlin gets a nice massage and some grief from Gaius about how being Arthur’s servant could end up being fun. Merlin’s not buying it. The next day he’s managed to wrangle Gwen into helping him figure out how to put on armor. After all, she’s a blacksmith’s daughter and knows everything about armor.

The tournament begins and we get a fun montage of fighting in which Arthur (the reigning champion, gee no surprise there) and Valiant move up the leader board. After the day’s festivities, Merlin is quickly tasked with cleaning Arthur’s armor and chainmail and repairing his shield and sharpening his sword. Way too much for any normal person to do in a night. Good thing Merlin’s not normal. In short order he has everything going along quite nicely via magic when Gaius interrupts and everything comes crashing down.

At the big reception to welcome all the knights that have come, Valiant manages to schmooze with Uther and flirt rather confidently with Morgana. The champion of the tournament has the honor of escorting her to the final festivities and Valiant says he will win at all costs. Creepy much? I think so. And so does Arthur. Even though he tries to brush it off and make it look like he’s not jealous, he really is. He may not say it but he has a thing for Morgana.

The episode wouldn’t be complete without some creeping around by Merlin. In fact, throughout the remainder of the episode he does a bit of creeping. He’s in the armory when he hears a hissing sound. He’s drawn to Valiant’s shield and he sees a painted serpent’s eye glow red and wink at him. Before Merlin can do anything, Valiant appears and scares him off. Merlin makes a show of it as he grabs random armor (claiming it’s Arthur’s) and runs out.

Day two of the tournament arrives and Merlin manages to dress Arthur and not forget anything. In fact, Merlin looks quite proud of himself for his efforts. There’s some more montage fighting and then we see Valiant fighting another knight. The other knight is knocked to the ground and it’s the first time we see Valiant using his shield. One of the snakes bites the other knight and it arouses Merlin’s suspicion. His fears are confirmed when Gaius points out fang marks on the knight’s neck and the symptoms of poisoning. Merlin rushes off to spy on Valiant whom he finds feeding a mouse to the snakes on his shield. Merlin may be magical but he is definitely not the best at the quiet getaway. Luckily he’s quick enough so that Valiant doesn’t see him.

Merlin goes straight to Gaius and tells him what he’s seen. Unfortunately, Gaius says there’s nothing they can do without proof, or an antidote. Uther wouldn’t believe either of them but he would certainly believe another knight. So they have to convince Arthur of Valiant’s treachery and nurse the injured knight back to health.

Day three of the tournament finds Arthur and Valiant have climbed to the top of the leader board and will be facing each other in the final. Merlin is more determined than ever to find proof that Valiant is using magic and to stop him from using the shield against Arthur. While the knights are dining with the King, Merlin once again sneaks into Valiant’s chambers and cuts off one of the snakes’ heads. Another daring and slightly comedic escape ensues before Valiant can find him. With venom from the snake, Gaius can now make the antidote and Merlin can show Arthur that the truth. Of course the CGI snakes from the shield are far more convincing than the rather sad fake snake head Merlin is now toting around. Still it does the trick and Arthur has requested an audience with the King.

Things are looking good for Arthur and Merlin’s case against Valiant. They present Uther with the fake snake head (god it’s so cheesy) and Uther is rather annoyed that someone would dare use magic in his kingdom. Things take a turn for the worse however when Gaius shows up and reveals that the knight has died. Uther becomes enraged that his son would make up such baseless accusations about another knight and would do so on the word of a servant. The anger and outrage must be a Pendragon trait because Arthur gives it to Merlin good and sacks him for making Arthur look like a fool in front of the entire royal court.

Merlin leaves Arthur alone and goes to tell the Great Dragon that his stint as Arthur’s servant is over and that their destinies can’t be linked. The Dragon says that it’s just the beginning of their destiny. Merlin doesn’t quite believe the Dragon, and he ends up outside sitting on the steps feeling rather sorry for himself. Gwen shows up and tells him that he has to show everyone that he was right and they were wrong. He has no idea how he’s going to do it until he spots a statute of a stone dog and the idea hits him. He’s going to make the stone dog come alive. That way he can make the snakes on Valiant’s shield do the same. This is probably the funniest part of the whole episode. Merlin trying all manner of pronunciations of the spell is really amusing, especially with Gaius blissfully ignorant and asleep in the next room.

Morning dawns and Arthur faces off against Valiant. They’re in the middle of a pretty brutal fight when Merlin finally gets the wording right and the stone dog becomes a rather angry Doberman. Merlin races off to the tournament grounds just in time to save Arthur from being snake chow. The snakes come alive but Arthur chops their heads off with the help of Morgana (throwing him a sword) and then runs Valiant through the gut with much cheering from the crowd.

That night at the feast, Arthur looks pretty pleased to be back in his father’s good graces, even if Uther won’t actually apologize. He is also pleased to be escorting Morgana. That happiness, however, is short-lived because the two can’t seem to go for very long without arguing. They end up going their separate ways in a huff and Arthur complains to Merlin that Morgana is unbelievable. In what I think is kind of an important moment, Arthur apologizes for not trusting Merlin and then gives him a laundry list of chores that need doing in the morning. Guess destiny is once more, back on track.

Friday Night Lights 4.02: "After the Fall"

“Okay, well I can explain to you that everyone gave absolutely everything that they had out there and you just quit on us.”

Although “After the Fall” didn’t have me completely along for the emotional ride like “East of Dillon” did, it was certainly a quality hour of television with some impressive performances to make watching worth your time and mine. It continued the “fish out of water in familiar territory” theme of the last episode, which has me thinking this is a theme that will tie the season together as a whole. That seems rather appropriate to me, considering this is a season where the writers appear to be really trying to transition us from the original set of characters the show started with to a new set of students at East Dillon. The attempt at transition is certainly admirable, although I’m not entirely sure how successful it will be, given that the episode’s best performances were all from veteran FNL actors, not the new additions.

The episode opens with many of our characters having a bad day, to say the least. Tim, who has been sleeping in his truck, is awoken by a cop who tells him to get a move on (we later learn that business at Riggins Rigs hasn’t been good, to say the least). Disparaging signs have once again cropped up on the Taylor front law, this time saying things like “Quitter” in reference to Coach’s forfeit of the first East Dillon game. What I love about that particular scene is that coach goes outside to see Tami already cleaning up the mess, and she tells him that she’s going to finish the job. The Taylor marriage is absolutely the best thing about FNL, and there are several more moments in this episode alone to prove that statement. Vince gets his locker vandalized thanks to the football debacle as well. If that wasn’t enough, Landry accidentally hits the bicycle of a girl named Jess (Jurnee Smolett) while trying to back out of a parking space that some other kids wouldn’t let him pull into fully. Jess gives Landry a rather preachy lecture about how not everyone at East Dillon has money for a car or parents who can buy them one.

Matt’s having a rough time of it too, although at first it looked like things were looking up for him. He’s taking art classes at Dillon Tech now, and his professor has set him up with an internship because he has “pluck.” The internship is with a sculptor who is apparently a very respected artist. Who chooses to work in his underwear. Matt’s a little upset that his duties pretty much consist of hauling materials around for the artist, but with Julie’s encouragement, he wants to stick with it. At Julie’s suggestion, Matt asks the artist to look over his drawings. The artist isn’t the most talkative fellow, though, and he pretty much ignores matt except for telling him what stuff he needs. Eventually, Matt has had it. In his own anger, that’s when the artist starts giving his opinion on Matt’s work. He takes one of Matt’s drawings, rips a corner off, and tells him that corner doesn’t make him nauseated, so Matt should work from there. My favorite creative writing professor, when in a conference with a student, was known to point out one sentence of a short story and say, “That’s where the story is!” I never really thought about how that would translate to the visual arts, but I guess we have that here. And it seems like it stung Matt a lot more than it stung me.

The Lions football team hasn’t been showing up for practice, mostly because they’re pissed that Eric forfeit the game when they still wanted to play. There’s a break in the bad fortune when Eric is paid a visit by none other than Buddy Garrity. Buddy’s got some interesting information about what the Panthers Boosters have been up to under the leadership of Mr. McCoy. The Panthers quarterback, Luke, has been using a fake address to stay at West Dillon, and the address was most likely provided by the Boosters. It’s just a mailbox and an open field. Eric passes this information on to Tami, who has the unfortunate duty to inform Luke that he’s being sent to East Dillon. Poor Luke is despondent and tries pleading with Tami to stay at West Dillon, but it doesn’t work. It’s not just Luke who is displeased with the decision, Tami has to deal with Mr. McCoy and his Booster thugs, too. They roll up to Tami on their golf cart (which is kind of a pathetic funny image) and try to threaten her into letting Luke stay at West Dillon. Mr. McCoy mentions that the mailbox was around while Eric was still Coach of the Panthers, and an investigation could result in their 2007 State rings being taken away.

Coach is kind of distracted from what Tami’s going through because he’s busy trying to get his team back together. Landry basically told Coach to go to Hell when Coach asked him to try to talk to the guys and get them to come back to practice, so Coach’s next potential target is Vince. He first stops by Vince’s apartment, where he has the misfortune of meeting Vince’s mother, who asks Coach for $20 before she’ll tell him where he can find her son. Coach heads to the place Vince’s mom told him about, which turns out to be a basketball court. Coach is taunted by the teenagers there, and Vince won’t acknowledge his presence. He refuses to take the chance Coach is desperately trying to give him to straighten out his life. Things only get worse for Coach at home when he and Tami fight over the whole mailbox issue. Coach didn’t realize his possible actions (it’s never said exactly how much he knew or didn’t know about the mailbox, although we’re left believing he knew something) dragged Tami into a deeper mess, and she didn’t know just how bad the situation with his team had gotten. Since it’s Coach and Tami, though, we know they’ll make it through this rough patch. Like I said, best portrayal of a married couple on TV.

The most bizarre scene of the episode was also a scene I found very funny, even if it didn’t really flow with the episode. Coach is sitting in his SUV at the gas station when a random guy comes up to him, recognizes him, acknowledges Coach’s forfeit from last week, and tells coach to “find your inner pirate.” I went through a bit of a pirate phase in college (still do enjoy pirate stories, actually), so I appreciated the sentiment. Following that rather random encounter, things start looking up for Coach. He’s looking out at his football field a bit teary eyed when Tim Riggins shows up to offer his help. I’m guessing Tim figures it’s a good way to make a little money, since working for his brother isn’t paying at the moment. Coach is extremely glad for the offer of help. The second thing is that Vince stopped by Coach’s office to return the $20 his mom took, and Coach begged him to try to get the guys to come to a special Saturday night practice to start rebuilding. Vince doesn’t say anything as he leaves the office, but on Saturday night, the team shows up. Luke shows up too, ready to start the transition from Panther to Lion. Coach has one of his trademark inspirational speeches ready for the occasion, of course, and he has the guys burn their jerseys in recognition of the new beginning. That didn’t seem very smart to me considering the Lions’ financial woes, and Coach makes a very funny mention of that at the end of the episode when he tells Tami, “Now I’ve just got to find out a way to get us some new uniforms.”

Despite all her grumbling to and yelling at Coach earlier in the episode, Tami comes through on the Luke issue (which is obvious, considering I already told you he showed up to the special Lions practice). In fact, she kicks ass, as Tami Taylor is wont to do. Mr. McCoy and the Boosters are sitting around a table at a restaurant making their plans when Tami waltzes in and confronts Mr. McCoy in front of the other Boosters. The Boosters aren’t thrilled by the fact that Mr. McCoy threatened to get Panther State Championship rings taken away. Tami has won this battle, but it remains to be seen whether or not she’ll win the war. At a Panthers pep rally, she gets booed for causing Luke to be transferred to East Dillon. It’s strange hating the Panthers now after three years of rooting for them through their ups and downs, but such is life, I suppose. Tami goes home to enjoy a glass of wine and forget her troubles for a while, and when Coach gets home, they both apologize for their earlier argument.

The final problem to be resolved in this episode is where Tim will live, since Billy and Mindy kicked him out in the last episode, and he can’t live in his truck forever. I don’t think he showed up for the special Saturday night practice (at least I didn’t see him, he might have been there), which I thought was kind of odd considering how genuine he seemed to be about wanting to work for the Lions. He was however, back at the bar where his one night stand (Becky’s mother) from the last episode works. She’s not letting him come home with her again, but she does have a solution to Tim’s problem. She’s going to let him live in the trailer in her backyard for $100 a month. I can only imagine Becky is as pleased about this arrangement as Tim is, considering she’s been kind of fixated on Tim since she met him in the last episode.