Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween "Classic" Recap: HIMYM "Slutty Pumpkin"

“It was carved in strategic places.”

I know I’ve briefly covered this episode back in my “15 Most Legendary Episodes of HIMYM” series (which I wrote over a year ago- how crazy is that!), but “Slutty Pumpkin” is too good not to get the full recap treatment, especially on Halloween. I really feel like all the characters are at their best in this episode. Ted is being a dopey romantic, Marshall and Lily are being ridiculously couple-y, Robin’s being fiercely independent, and Barney’s being a silly womanizer. Okay, maybe those last two aren’t really the characters at their best, but they are well-rounded and show potential for growth (which sort of happens in fits and starts throughout the rest of the series). This is the only Halloween episode HIMYM has done, and I wish they would have done more. Something tells me that by 2010, Ted has gotten over waiting on the roof for the Slutty Pumpkin.

The episode opens in MacLaren’s, as they often do. Lily and Marshall’s Halloween costumes have arrived, and they are extremely excited about it. They go all-out for Halloween every year, always buying exprensive couples costumes. We learn via flashback that the year before, they were reverse-gender Sonny and Cher. Robin turns out to be not that into Halloween. She also reveals that she has a new boyfriend, Mike. Lily is pleased by this news, and she thinks they should double date for Halloween. Ted then joins the group, and when Robin asks what he’ll be doing for Halloween, the rest of the group groans as Ted begins to tell the story of the “Slutty Pumpkin.” I have to take a moment here to voice my appreciation for the fact that the HIMYM writers are pretty clearly Peanuts fans, with “Slutty Pumpkin” being a play on Linus’ devotion to the “Great Pumpkin” in the comic strip/animated specials. Anyway, much like Linus spends all night in the pumpkin patch while his friends all go have fun Trick-or-Treating, Ted spends every Halloween night at the lame apartment building rooftop Halloween party.

The reason Ted spends every Halloween at the party is because in 2001, he met a “Slutty Pumpkin” there, and the two hit it off. Ted was dressed as a “hanging chad,” which I found hilarious, and he uses the same costume year after year to help the Slutty Pumpkin recognize him if she ever returns. As 2001 Ted tells 2001 Marshall in flashback, he thinks the Slutty Pumpkin is the perfect girl for him. She’s a penguin researcher, she made up her own cocktail of Kaluha and root beer, she likes Star Wars, and she’s even pro-Ewok (which I am too…take that all shows that dis Ewoks…yeah, I’m talking to you “Lost”). Anyway, as Ted says and his friends mimic (because they know the story so well), “something went horribly wrong.” The Slutty Pumpkin wrote her number on a Kit Kat bar, and Lily accidentally gave the Kit Kat to a Trick-or-Treater who stopped by the apartment. Ted ran after the nearest Trick-or-Treater and dumped the poor kid’s candy out, but the Kit Kat wasn't there. Ever since, Ted has gone to the lame rooftop party, hoping he’ll find her again.

We then fast forward to the group getting ready for Halloween 2005. Marshall and Lily are Captain Jack Sparrow (who is only referred to as a “gay pirate” in this episode, I guess because WB couldn’t afford to pay Disney for the rights to the actual name) and a parrot. The costumes are really quite impressive, and Lily and Marshall are convinced they’ll win the MacLaren’s costume contest. They’ve put way more money into the costume than they could win from the competition, but they don’t really care. Ted, of course, is the hanging chad. There’s a brief riff on how sad it is that 2005 Halloween party guests probably won’t have any clue what Ted is supposed to be, and I have to agree that’s sad. I am a politics geek, after all. Barney then makes a dramatic entrance as one of the fighter pilots from Top Gun, complete with music. I think, as this was an early episode, the writers were hoping Barney would be the wacky character with the signature entrance, a la Kramer on Seinfeld. Thankfully, they eventually decided to take him in a less cartoon-y direction (then made him more cartoony again, which is a rant you’ve heard me go on many times). Barney has tickets to a Victoria’s Secret Halloween party on a yacht, but Ted still wants to go to the rooftop party on the off chance the Slutty Pumpkin will appear.

After Barney and Ted leave, Robin arrives for the double date. Lily is surprised Robin isn’t in costume, but Robin assures Lily that she and Mike discussed it and decided not to do costumes. Now they joked about costumes, mind you, but they weren’t serious. Of course, Mike promptly shows up in a rather ridiculous “Hansel” costume. He thought Robin was serious when she e-mailed him about being Hansel and Gretel. Obviously, she wasn’t. Things go from bad to worse when the two couples begin their meal at MacLaren’s. Mike sees Marshall and Lily being super cutesy and couple-y sharing their food and such, and he wants to try and be the same with Robin. She’s really not feeling it, though, and you can see Mike get more and more disappointed with every attempt. Lily and Robin have a bathroom conference, and Lily tells Robin that she’s going to lose Mike if she doesn’t try to enjoy the couple-y stuff. She tries to assure Robin that even though all those couple-y things look lame from the outside, they’re pretty great from the inside.

Heeding Lily’s advice, Robin decides she can share dessert with Mike- a brownie sundae. Even this doesn’t go well, though. Robin remarks that the sundae looks pretty small, and she watches every bite Mike takes. The straw that breaks the camel’s back comes when Robin distracts Mike, then starts downing the sundae as quickly as she can. Mike ends up breaking up with Robin at the end of the evening, because he doesn’t think she can adapt her lifestyle to fit another person. Robin tries to play it off like she doesn’t care about the break-up. Then Marshall and Lily win the costume contest, and as Robin takes their picture and sees how very happy they are, she starts wishing for what they have.

Not surprisingly, Ted’s rooftop party is rather lame. The entertainment is an a cappella group of Yale alumni. After trying to score the number of a hot chick dressed as a Hula dancer and failing miserably, Barney decides to bail on the party. He’s going to be the “Barnacle” and stick to the Victoria’s Secret yacht. Barney shows up at the rooftop again, though, this time dressed as a Devil. He strikes out with the Hula dancer yet again and decides to bail on the party yet again. Ted, however, is still determined to stick it out for the night. Ted thinks he has made the right choice when someone dressed as a penguin enters the party and mixes Kaluha and root beer. It’s just Barney, of course, messing with Ted yet again. Barney finally gets Hula girl’s number, although when she realizes who he is, she tries to take it back.

At the end of the evening, Ted is still sitting on the roof as the rest of the party guests leave. Robin finds him there. She’s upset over the break-up with Mike, and she wants to know if not liking couple-y stuff means she’s wired wrong. I know the feeling, being quite set in my independent ways myself. Ted assures Robin that the right guy will appreciate her independence. Robin expresses her admiration for Ted’s dedication to the idea of the Slutty Pumpkin. The two spend the rest of the night on the roof together, waiting for their dream partners to arrive.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fringe 3.04: "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?"

“We all draw our moral lines in the sand. And unless you can put yourself in another man’s shoes, I don’t think you can really judge their situations.”

I loved the title of this episode, although I think you can probably guess from my past posts that I wasn’t thrilled with some of the events that occurred. The episode certainly raised a lot of really interesting questions and possibilities, though. I’m very anxious to see where things go after baseball hiatus (a moment of silence for my dear loser Phillies). This episode had a theme that actually seems to run though most of the “our universe” episodes this season at least a little bit. That theme is people taking their surroundings and loved ones for granted to the point where they don’t recognize when something is horribly wrong. It’s either not recognizing, or going into denial. Or maybe some of both. Peter is arguably in that mode right now, and some of the other characters we met this week were, too.

The episode opens with Alt-livia and Peter on a date. They’re making friendly banter, and Peter’s bringing out his con man skills, impressing Alt-livia with his ability to read their fellow diners. Peter makes a comment about how you can always tell when a couple is getting close to deciding to sleep together, and Alt-livia just looks uncomfortable. Obviously she’s not prepared to cheat on Frank for the sake of the mission…yet. In fact, it makes her so uncomfortable that she has to go in the bathroom and compose herself before they leave the restaurant. It was an interesting parallel to our Olivia having to compose herself in the gas station bathroom over on the Other Side in “Olivia.”

We next get our introduction to the case of the week, and for once that introduction isn’t especially creepy and gross. Or at least it’s pretty tame on the “Fringe” spectrum. Senator van Horn (who debriefed Peter following the team’s trip to the Other Side), is driving home after a long day at work. He stops at a lemonade stand run by some neighborhood kids and buys a cup of lemonade. He seems like a generous guy. The kids were selling that lemonade for $1.00 a cup. Seems mighty steep to me, but I’m a child of the 80’s. What do I know? Anyway, just as the Senator pulls away from the lemonade stand, another car crashes into his car. He winds up in the hospital with no pulse but still breathing. I knew what was up immediately. He’s a shapeshifter.

Apparently the real Senator van Horn and his wife, Patricia, were friends with Broyles, so he shows up at the hospital to provide some comfort, and maybe get Patricia some answers. And there’s the little matter that the Senator’s current condition (how does one have a pulse without breathing) makes the whole situation Fringe fodder. The hospital hadn’t told Patricia much of anything, so Broyles growls at an orderly for an explanation. The hospital staff turn out to be scared of him, so they let Patricia see her “husband.” Broyles isn’t the only person who has come to see the van Horn’s, though. Newton’s there, too. There’s a big shoot out where Newton kills a bunch of doctors and other hospital staff before escaping. He doesn’t succeed in recovering van Horn’s body, though. That ends up with the Fringe team.

Meanwhile, Walter is at Massive Dynamic, giving a speech to his new employees. His speech gets stranger and stranger, and the employees are really not feeling it. You can tell they’re wondering why Walter is their boss and not receiving medical care. It turns out Walter was tripping, which isn’t really surprising. He always deals with stressful situations by taking hallucinogens. When Walter is told of the Senator van Horn incident, he asks for the body to be brought to “his lab.” Only this time he’s not talking about the Harvard basement, he’s talking about Massive Dynamic. I’m wondering what this means for the future of the show. Are we going to be phasing out the quaint, eccentric Harvard lab for the sleek Massive Dynamic? I’d guess at this point even Walter isn’t quite sure exactly what he wants his transition to head of Massive Dynamic to look like. He’s scared about the responsibility (hence the drugs), but excited about all the new toys. Alt-livia is conspicuously absent through all this. She is paying a visit to Newton. Newton is messing with her head, saying Peter doesn’t trust her and that she will probably fail at her mission.

Walter is working on van Horn’s body in one of Massive Dynamic’s labs, and Peter suggests they try to “fix” the shapeshifter. It could be useful to find out what he knows, after all. And, of course, this is meant to get the audience thinking “Yay! They’re going to find out about the Olivia switch!” Walter manages to get van Horn to twitch just as Alt-livia walks in. Walter plans to map van Horn’s brain in an attempt to find his memories. Meanwhile, Peter and Alt-livia search van Horn’s office. Peter finds some very informative files. There’s a little fake out at first where Peter shows Alt-livia a file on Olivia. We’re supposed to think for a second that the jig is up. Not quite, though. It turns out that van Horn had files on all the members of the Fringe crew.

After their reconnaissance is over, Alt-livia pays yet another visit to Newton. She tells him exactly where van Horn’s body is being stored. Newton, then, has to go get an assassin to try and solve this problem. He goes to the home of a police officer who appears to be a happy family man. He’s really a shapeshifter, though. This is where we really start to see the theme of the episode. It’s all about how shapeshifters fit into our world. This particular shapeshifter is content in his adopted existence and doesn’t really want to give it up. He especially loves his “son,” and makes sure to tuck him into bed before leaving on his mission, possibly forever.

We also see the other half of what a shapeshifter integrating into someone else’s life looks like. It’s the perspective of the victim’s loved ones. van Horn’s brain is triggered when the real van Horn’s wife is mentioned. Walter figures the shapeshifter must have developed an attachment to her, and he wants to get her involved in the investigation. Alt-livia protests mightily, but she gets overruled by the rest of the team. Patricia arrives at the lab, and after she has a chance to gather her thoughts and process the magnitude of what has happened, she starts to cry. She tells van Horn she is so sorry she didn’t realize he (the real van Horn) was gone. She had been living in denial. Like the assassin, we can see this shapeshifter was attached to his adopted life, too. In response to Patricia’s voice, he spouts off some random addresses. They were hotels he was considering for their anniversary getaway.

Alt-livia gets a text that the assassin is coming, and gets everybody out of the lab (except for van Horn, obviously) by suggesting food. Walter gets some inspiration in the cafeteria line when he and Astrid talk about animal crackers. Walter thinks it would be fun if they made animal crackers in the shapes of dinosaurs. Walter and Astrid start naming dinosaurs, and when Astrid says “stegosaurus,” it gives Walter an idea. He goes back up to the lab, and we know he’s in trouble. The assassin is in the elevator, too. Walter is finally interrupted by the assassin at probably the most inopportune time. He had just taken an electronic chip of sorts out of the base of van Horn’s spine. The chip is the shapeshifter’s “second brain,” much like the stegosaurus’ second brain. Walter actually fights back, which is pretty awesome. He stabs the assassin, then the assassin knocks Walter out and takes the chip.

Back in the cafeteria, Peter tells Alt-livia that he understands Patricia. He has noticed major changes in “Olivia” since they returned from the Other Side, but he’s chosen to ignore them, and he’s accepted her excuses. It’s hard to tell from this scene whether or not Peter really, truly knows what’s going on. Has he gone into con man mode, or not? Peter’s thoughts are interrupted when he realizes Walter is missing. He and Alt-livia head up to the lab as the shapeshifter is coming down. They see mercury on an elevator button and know things are bad. Alt-livia says she’ll go after the shapeshifter, and Peter stupidly agrees to that. Peter finds Walter in the lab. Walter is injured, but he’ll be okay. Walter lets Peter into the computer system so he can do some investigation.

Newton catches up with the assassin outside the assassin’s house. He’s disappointed that the assassin didn’t follow orders to take another form before beginning this mission. He realizes that the assassin doesn’t want to give up his “family,” so he kills the assassin. Peter and Alt-livia show up at the scene just as Newton is trying to put the assassin’s body into his car. The result is a pretty epic (for television) car chase. Interestingly, Peter drives while Alt-livia shoots out of the passenger side window (and misses pretty deliberately). The chase ends when Newton crashes in a tunnel. Alt-livia pockets the van Horn disc while Peter is distracted on the phone.

Newton is now in jail, but that doesn’t stop Alt-livia from paying him yet another visit. She gives him a very small chip, different from the “second brain” chip. Newton tells her that the fact she has lines she’s unwilling to cross will be her undoing. I’ve got to kind of agree with Newton here. I think without his help, this mission is going to be going downhill fast. And that can’t happen quickly enough for me. Alt-livia is rattled by this, and next thing you know, she and Peter are having sex, something that she was not at all willing to do at the beginning of the episode. This is intercut with Newton putting the new chip in his mouth. Apparently it’s some sort of suicide device. RIP to a very interesting villain.

Monday, October 25, 2010

On Her Way to Boston: A Weekend of Buffy and Geekery

As I teased earlier this week on the blog, I spent last weekend visiting friend of the blog/frequent guest blogger Sarah in Boston. The occasion was Wizard’s New England Comic Con, which included quite a bit of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” programming this year. There were autographs and photos with “Buffy” actors to be had, and Q and A’s with the actors as well. Even President Obama made his presence known at the event (more on that one later). Sarah and I didn’t get to do absolutely everything we wanted to at the con, but we did quite a lot, and it was a great time. I’ve never been to Boston before (although I’ve driven around it on the way to family vacations in Maine when I was growing up), so it was a good opportunity to get to explore a new city in addition to meeting some of the people who contributed to one of my favorite television shows.

I arrived in Boston on Friday morning, and the con didn’t start until that night. It would have been a great opportunity for sightseeing, except the weather was rather cold, miserable and rainy. Our first evening at the con, thankfully, was much more cheerful than the weather. This was my very first comic convention, and I wasn’t quite prepared for experiencing such a thing in person. Adam West was at the con, so Sarah and I stood in line to get in to the event behind someone in full Batman garb. A Nightwing passed by later, as did a variety of characters we didn’t recognize. We saw my favorite costume later that weekend, though. A man and his two kids were all dressed up in Jedi-like clothes from “Star Wars,” and they were accompanied by a life size, robotic R2-D2 that alternated between playing the “Star Wars” theme song and doing R2-D2 beeping sound effects. It was very creative and must have taken quite a lot of work to put together.

Anyway, our focus on Friday night was Amber Benson (Tara), because of the actors we wanted to see, she was the only one there! Charisma Carpener (Cordelia) was only booked for Saturday, and James Marsters (Spike) had either missed his flight or got stuck on a delayed flight depending on who you talked to. We started by waiting in the autograph line for Amber. She was very sweet and remembered Sarah from another event earlier this year. It turned out she was willing to autograph her books for free (she’s an up-and-coming novelist, among many other creative pursuits), but the con hadn’t done anything to publicize that. When Sarah and I presented our books and autograph tickets, she got a volunteer to go get her two photographs and signed those in addition to our books. Sarah’s photo is going to a friend of hers (who had also met Amber previously) who is going through some serious health issues. Have I told you enough to illustrate that Amber Benson is a gem? She also remembered both our names when we went for our photo op with her later that evening.

We spent most of Saturday morning sitting in a hallway at the Hynes Convention Center. The James Marsters Q and A was at 11, and since we didn’t have VIP passes, we needed to be early in the line in order to be able to get in. We had decided on Friday that for Saturday morning, we would take the T to Prudential and walk through the Prudential Center to stay out of the cold. We were stopped by the security guard at the Prudential Center entrance to the convention center and told we would have to enter through the main doors. As we went outside the building to circle around to the main doors, we encountered a Boston Police vehicle setting up metal barricades. We then remembered a message that had been sent out by Wizard several days earlier. A rally was happening at the Hynes for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and none other than the President of the United States himself was planning to be there in support. As we waited in the hallway outside the program room for our Q and A, we could see the security tightening up. Two layers of barricades were completed, it felt like every motorcop in the city was there, and Secret Service officers were even patrolling our hallway. The crowd of people at the Hynes who were planning to attend the rally was massive, and the ½ of the hallway they had been given quickly turned to 2/3. It made it a bit difficult to get around, but it did make me happy to see so many people still excited about politics.

For the most part, James Marsters Q and A was quite fun. A Star Wars fan group gave him an honorary membership, which seemed to make him quite pleased. James was generally good natured and up for answering whatever the audience asked (although he did start the session with the disclaimer that he might not answer every question). There were some odd moments, such as one woman who wanted to sing a duet from “Once More With Feeling,” and some uncomfortable moments, such as when a man asked about “Seeing Red,” but overall, it was a good time. Sarah did a photo op with James, and she was very pleased with how it turned out. We ended up missing Nicholas Brendan and Charisma Carpenter’s panels later that afternoon because we were waiting in the autograph line for Charisma. Yes, on Saturday, the autograph line was indeed that long. We figured that since we had already paid for the autograph and Charisma was only there on Saturday, that should be our first priority. Charisma was nice and polite. I didn’t actually get to interact with her for all that long- we were kind of being rushed though because of the line. She signed my “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3 DVD set.

Sunday began much as Saturday did, minus the crowds wanting to see the President. Sunday morning was a Q and A with Amber Benson and a showing of her movie “Chance.” I really enjoyed “Chance.” Going into it, I had gotten the impression that it was kind of abstract, but it ended up being really charming and emotionally affecting. And because it was filmed during the filming of “Buffy” season 5, it was amusing to see James Marsters (who also starred in the movie) with his platinum blond “Spike” hair. Amber took general questions afterwards, and most of the questions were really well thought out and interesting. There were questions about her creative process and questions about Tara as a role model, among many other things.

We finished up our weekend at the con back in the main exhibit hall. First on the agenda was getting a James Marsters autograph for each of us. I had him sign my “Torchwood” series 2 DVD set, which Sarah had just given to me for a birthday gift. He was just as friendly in the autograph line (which wasn’t as long as Saturday’s) as he was at his Q and A. He seemed to genuinely enjoy talking with fans. He jokingly made a disparaging comment about John Barrowman when he saw my Torchwood DVDs, but since I had heard him praise Barrowman to high Heaven in the Q and A on Saturday, I knew he was just kidding. For once, I wasn’t gullible! To top off the weekend, Sarah and I each got ourselves Mutant Enemy T-shirts. Overall the con was a very fun, although tiring experience. I won’t soon forget it, or the people we met there (including one woman who had met James Marsters over twenty times). Here’s hoping another similar event comes to the Baltimore/DC area sooner rather than later.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Big Bang Theory 4.04: "The Hot Troll Deviation"

“I see you decided to go with ‘pathetic and frightened.’”

While “The Hot Troll Deviation” filled in some welcome backstory, I thought it was very much lacking in substance. It was two unrelated, shallow stories that just seemed to be smushed together because the writers had no other ideas. My notes on this episode didn’t even fill a full page. I usually go at least a quarter of a way on to the second page when taking notes while watching an episode of television I intend to blog. There were definitely some laughs, but it wasn’t enough for me. This episode was filler, I think. I think it could have benefitted from a different combination of A and B story. Like I said, the A story here filled in some important backstory, and the B story resulted in some amusing sight gags, but maybe both stories could have been in separate episodes, paired with better compliments.

The episode opens with a scene that sets up both of the episode’s plots. The guys are having dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Raj and Sheldon are arguing over work stuff, using physics terms I don’t understand, of course. I didn’t even realize Raj was still working for Sheldon. It hasn’t been spoken of since the episode (last season, I think?) where Raj was in danger of being deported if he didn’t find a new project to work on at the university. I would have thought Raj would have gone back to doing his own research by now, but I guess not. Or you’d think we would have had some funny Raj and Sheldon work stories by now. Just some mention of it would have been nice. Anyway, Penny is getting ready to take their order when she sees Bernadette, Howard’s ex-girlfriend, arrive for her shift. Penny is nice enough to give Howard the heads up, and Howard briefly contemplates what his reaction to Bernadette should be. He goes with diving under the table.

After the opening credits (which I still love even after three-plus years), we cut directly to Howard having a bit of a fantasy. Just like last season, when he was trying to figure out whether or not he wanted to commit to Bernadette, Katee Sackhoff once again has a prominent role. And this is why I tend to not really like Howard-centric episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.” The writers usually go a bit too far with his kind of gross womanizing/fantasizing ways. I think I like Raj episodes the best, by the way. Considering Chuck Lorre shows aren’t especially known for being culturally sensitive, I find that in general, the writers do a good job at “laughing with” Indian culture instead of “laughing at” it (unlike another current sitcom on another network which shall remain nameless). Anyway, Howard’s fantasy is a little different this time around than last season’s bathtub fantasy. His mother yells up the stairs about her usual mundane problems, and this distracts Howard from “Katee.” When he looks to his side again, Bernadette has appeared. Apparently Howard isn’t over her. Oh, and just for good, creepy measure, George Takei shows up too. I’d go on a rant about how it’s inappropriate to use homophobia for humor, but this isn’t really the place.

The next day, Howard and Leonard discuss Howard’s predicament at the university cafeteria. Leonard mentions that none of them know why Howard and Bernadette broke up. This is an amusing bit of meta humor, because viewers were surprised when Howard randomly announced that they had been broken up for a while late last season. Howard tells Leonard that the circumstances behind the break-up are too embarrassing for him to reveal. Leonard doesn’t have an opportunity to press further, because Sheldon and Raj arrive, and they’re still bickering over work. Now Raj wants a desk in Sheldon’s office, and Sheldon really doesn’t like that idea. Sheldon makes the mistake of saying that Raj can have a desk if he pays for it himself. I thought Raj still had his own office. I suppose at this point, Raj is just reaching for whatever he can to annoy Sheldon. I kind of don’t blame him. I think I’d find working for Sheldon to be pretty unbearable, myself. The bickering is mildly entertaining, but it’s not really the funniest work “The Big Bang Theory” has ever done.

We next see Penny in her apartment, where she’s interrupted by Sheldon’s typical “knock knock knock PENNY” patter. She opens the door to find Howard instead. He recorded Sheldon’s knock to trick Penny into opening the door, rightfully figuring that she would never open the door for Howard. He’s just too skeevy. Howard wants Penny’s help because he wants to get back together with Bernadette. Penny says she’ll only help if Howard tells her why they broke up in the first place. It turns out that Bernadette caught Howard having virtual sex with a troll on World of Warcraft. Definitely gross, and definitely not surprising for Howard.

The next day at the university, Sheldon arrives at his office to find that Raj has indeed purchased a desk for himself. It’s a freaking huge desk, and it’s pretty obnoxious. I guess the truth is that Raj can be kind of obnoxious (although not as obnoxious as Sheldon) when he isn’t hampered by his inability to talk to women while sober. In other words, he’s kind of obnoxious when he’s only around guys or when he’s drunk. This is the beginning of an all out war between Sheldon and Raj. Later, Leonard and Howard walk by Sheldon’s office to hear Indian music and screaming between Sheldon and Raj over the temperature in the room, the music, the desk, and all other manner of minutiae. In the episode’s tag, Howard and Leonard pass by Sheldon’s office again, and the battle still hasn’t let up. Sheldon is making some sort of noxious gas, and Raj is lighting aromatherapy candles. The gas is highly flammable, and well, you can guess the rest.

Penny arranges for Howard and Bernadette to have a talk at the Cheesecake Factory. Howard is trying to pour his heart out to Bernadette, and Penny keeps butting in to see how things are going. She keeps bringing them food and drink that they didn’t order, then her manager makes her give them the bill. Bernadette does agree to give it another go, which is cool because Melissa Rauch is very funny, and I’m glad we’ll be seeing more of her. At the end of the episode, they’re in the car following their date, and Howard is conflicted about how far he can go with Bernadette. This is a tricky question for him considering how their relationship ended the last time. Katee Sackhoff and George Takei act as his angel and devil on his shoulders, which I thought was pretty stupid, but it’s a Howard-centric plot, so what do you expect. He works much better in small doses.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

No Ordinary Family 1.03: "No Ordinary Ring"

“You’re stopping a felony, and I’m committing one. Remember when we used to have movie night?”

I think with “No Ordinary Ring,” we’re starting to get a picture of how the typical episode of “No Ordinary Family” will be structured. There’s Jim’s crime of the week, there’s teen drama, and there’s conspiracy stuff going down at the lab. The episode didn’t really stand out to me, although I still really like the adult characters and can’t stand the kids. I kind of think the show is trying to be too many things all at once. There’s the crime procedural, the conspiracy thriller, and the teen drama. I could do without the third, at least. Or if we have to have teen drama, I wish it could be as compelling as Friday Night Lights. I guess it takes a special gift to write believable dialogue for teens, and I’m not seeing that here.

The episode opens with Jim having a tough time dealing with lack of control. He’s worried about how to keep his family safe, and he’s upset over the death of Detective Cho. Jim is working out the stress by hitting baseballs full force off a cliff and into the ocean. George is with him, of course. After Jim does a little tell and not show to catch us up on what’s been happening (and the fact that he knows about Cho’s death), George tells him that he’d better get going or he’s a dead man. Jim starts to do his jumping thing across town, and he winds up at a tuxedo shop. The Powells are going to the wedding of a family friend. The wedding is, not surprisingly, interrupted by a rather scary robbery. A bunch of guys bust into the place and scare all the guests by firing off machine guns before taking all their jewelry (including Stephanie’s rings) and money. After a brief hesitation, Jim chases after. The robbers are on their way up to the roof where a helicopter is waiting (these are high class robbers, everybody), and Jim tries to jump after them but misses the mark.

The next day, Jim is still brooding about not being able to stop the robbery, especially since it resulted in Stephanie’s wedding and engagement rings being stolen. He wants to try and catch the robbers the next time they strike. Predictably, Stephanie is still kind of pissed off about Jim’s desire to fight crime. She wants him to hide it from the kids, because she thinks they’ll worry too much if they know what he’s really up to. The kids are too wrapped up in their drama at the moment to really notice, though. J.J. seems to hit it off with a girl in his math class. She’s impressed at his sudden improvement, considering she’s still having trouble, and she wants to study together. After class, he meets up with Daphne, who gives him a pile of homework to do. It’s her price for keeping silent about J.J.’s powers to their parents. Daphne’s interrupted by hearing the thoughts of her childhood friend Megan, who is thinking about how she really doesn’t want to be alone. Daphne tells Megan she can come over to her house and hang out.

For our conspiracy part of this episode, Dr. King shows up at Stephanie’s lab station to inform her that the board wants to fund her research on the plant she found in Brazil. Because the investment is a lot of money, Global Tech wants to take out an insurance policy on Stephanie. This means she has to get a physical. When Dr. King leaves, Stephanie freaks out because a physical involves bloodwork, and that bloodwork would certainly reveal that she isn’t normal. Katie has it right when she says that if discovered, Stephanie will “be the research.” Other scientists are certainly going to want to know all about her powers. Without running it by Stephanie first, Katie decides to be helpful by taking the physical instead. When she tells Stephanie, Stephanie informs her just how bad of an idea that was. Global Tech has a real blood sample of Stephanie’s that they took when she was first hired, so it will be blatantly obvious that an imposter took this latest physical. They have to get that blood back.

We then head back to the teen drama for a bit. Megan arrives at the Powells’ house, and Daphne tries to offer comforting words about how her parents’ marriage isn’t always perfect, either. Megan freaks out, demanding to know how Daphne found out that her parents are splitting up. She think Daphne has become a creepy stalker or something. Daphne can’t tell the truth, because her parents have forbidden her from revealing her powers, and Megan leaves, furious. Daphne is devastated that she’s lost one of her oldest friends, and she begs Jim and Stephanie to be allowed to tell the truth. She thinks it’s unfair that they each have a confidant and she doesn’t. Her problems become more complicated when she talks to Sarah, the girl from J.J.’s math class (at J.J.’s request), and hears her thoughts. Sarah thinks J.J. is a complete loser. She doesn’t have any interest in him at all, other than math help.

Jim and George show up at a high class wedding to try and stop another robbery. Again, Jim’s attempt at stopping the guys goes horribly wrong. Jim and George are pretending to be friends of the groom, and when the father of the bride brings the groom over to say “hi,” things get a little dicey. Because, obviously, the groom has no clue who they are. Jim and George are saved by the lights going out. Jim thinks it’s show time. When the lights come back on, Jim makes a tackle, but he accidentally tackles the cake delivery guy instead of a robber. There are no robbers here, and Jim has made a huge fool of himself. Honestly, I’m surprised he didn’t end up in jail after that stunt. I guess there wasn’t time for that in this episode. George tells Jim that Jim needs to work on his moves to get better at crime fighting, and he tries to teach him to dance. From the names of the CDs George had Jim choose from, I expected some great early 90s jams that I would remember from my childhood dance recitals. But no, we get Usher’s “OMG.” Daphne walks in on this, which is more than a little awkward.

The Powell parents have told the kids that if they need someone to confide in, they should confide in Katie or George, since they already know about the powers. So when Daphne is conflicted about what to do with her knowledge about Sarah, she goes to George. George suggests Daphne lie to J.J. about the reason Sarah isn’t interested so J.J. can be let down easy. This bit is pretty great, because George is always entertaining. He’s delighted Daphne has brought a problem to him that he thinks he can handle. Daphne tells J.J. that Sarah only dates Jewish guys. Predictably, J.J. rushes to the computer and starts researching everything he needs to know to start acting Jewish. He ends up scaring off Sarah at their study session by going so overboard. She tells him that she’s never dated a Jewish guy, and J.J. knows Daphne lied. Needless to say, he’s pretty upset with her for that.

Speaking of lies, as Jim rushes out of the house to another wedding, Daphne asks him where he’s going. Jim tells her he’s going to the precinct, but Daphne hears him think the name of a hotel. She asks him if he’s lying to her, and he says “no.” At the wedding, there’s a big line dance sequence to “Mambo No. 5,” which is kind of silly. Who line dances to that song? Then the robbers show up and crash the party. Daphne has shown up at the hotel to try to catch her dad in the lie, and she sees Jim run after the robbers. Jim has better luck jumping this time, but some of the robbers still get away. He pushes one of them off a ladder, and he lands with a thud on a police car. Somehow the guy survives, though. You’d think Jim would get hit with assault charges or something for that bit, but he doesn’t.

The next day, George calls Jim to the precinct. The robbers are going to go free because none of the wedding guests got a clear ID, but he did manage to get Stephanie’s ring back. I thought that was kind of a dumb ending to the plot. Out of all the stuff those guys stole, somehow Stephanie’s jewelry mysteriously reappeared. Jim plans a romantic dinner for Stephanie to surprise her with the reappearance of the ring. Daphne, meanwhile, throws a complete fit over the fact that Jim lied when she has to keep all these secrets, and she runs off to tell Megan the truth about everything. She has a crisis of conscience at the very last second, though, and tells Megan she knew about her parents through eavesdropping at the grocery store.

Stephanie’s been having her own adventures this episode related to that pesky blood sample. She and Katie need to switch out Katie’s blood sample for an old blood sample of Stephanie’s. First they steal the key card of the scientist who disparaged Stephanie’s work with the plant in the pilot. The actual plan is for Stephanie to run full tilt through the Global Tech building so she won’t show up on the security cameras. The plan seems to work. Stephanie makes the switch and gets out without any alarms going off or security guards seeing her. At the end of the episode, though, we see Dr. King watching CCTV footage of Stephanie’s blood sample seeming to glimmer as one vial is switched out for another at top speed. He obviously knows something’s up, and since he’s evil, that can’t be good for the Powells.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Glee 2.04: "Duets"

“What’s the point of being popular if you can’t do what you want?”

“Duets,” while it had some entertaining moments, was overall a lower-than-middling episode of “Glee.” Overall, it just really didn’t have a lot of substance. Come to think of it, the musical numbers weren’t especially memorable, either. All of the drama came from shuffling around the typical pairings of the kids, and that just didn’t interest me. I’m in my late 20’s- the revolving romantic relationships of high schoolers just don’t involve high enough stakes in my world. I guess I’m one of the few “Glee” viewers who prefers an episode that mixes up plots between the adults and the kids, as opposed to the many who prefer that episodes focus just on the kids. “Who will sing a duet with whom” just isn’t a really suspenseful question that is going to keep me wanting to watch the episode.

The episode opens with Will announcing to the glee club that Puck is in juvenile detention (aka Mark Salling took a brief leave of absence to promote his new album). Therefore, Sam is suddenly joining the group. There really isn’t any time devoted at all to explaining Sam’s change of heart. He’s just there. Will tells the group that the assignment for the week is going to be duets, and they’ll be holding a duet competition. The prize is a dinner for two at Breadsticks. The kids are all super excited about this, but it sounds kind of “meh” to me. From the way the kids describe it, Breadsticks is pretty much the Olive Garden. There are lots of jokes about all you can eat breadsticks and salad.

Kurt enlists Sam for his duet, and it’s obvious Kurt has more than a bit of a crush. Finn calls Kurt on his tendency to come on a bit strong, referencing how Kurt got their parents together and even maneuvered so they would share a bed room before things finally blew up. Finn kind of has a point, even though he didn’t really express it in the best way. Kurt’s fixation with Finn last season got a bit creepy, and I don’t blame Finn for finally putting his foot down, even if he did use unfortunate language when doing so. Finn also takes his case to Sam, too, which I thought might be going a bit far. In the locker room after football practice, Finn tells Sam that if Sam sings with Kurt, he’ll have to quit the football team. The ridicule will become too intense. Sam doesn’t understand why Finn once told him that joining Glee would make him super popular. I’m still wondering why the heck Sam suddenly decided to join the glee club.

Other pairings for the contest are Finn and Rachel (of course), Santana and Mercedes, Artie and Brittany, and Tina and Mike. Brittany and Santana had been making out in one of their bedrooms (Santana was lonely with Puck locked up) when Santana sprung the news on Brittany that she didn’t want to be her partner for the competition. She really wanted her Breadsticks dinner, and she wanted to give herself a better chance of winning. Brittany and Santana should really make their relationship official already. Meanwhile, Tina and Mike are arguing. Apparently they’ve never been on a proper date. They just always go out for dim sum with Mike’s mom. Artie agrees to partner with the abandoned Brittany, and she takes his virginity in gratitude. I thought that moment was a bit too sudden. I thought it should have been a bigger deal to Artie, although it did have some consequences.

Rachel and Finn are practicing a badly lip synched version of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” when Rachel has a realization. She wants to throw the competition in favor of Sam. She feels like it will make him feel part of the team. Finn’s a little skeptical that Rachel’s motives are altruistic, but he goes with it. Finn again warns Sam about the consequences of partnering with Kurt, and his point is punctuated when Sam gets slushied. Quinn helps Sam clean off the slushy, and they have some chemistry, I guess. Sam’s a bit obsessive about Avatar, which could be geekily endearing. We’ll see how that goes.

Kurt is taking care of his dad, who is no longer in a coma but is convalescing at home. Kurt is telling him about his Sam troubles, and Burt suggests that maybe Kurt should back off a bit. Burt says that until he meets someone just as courageous as himself, Kurt is just going to have to be okay with being alone. Kurt takes his dad’s advice to heart and “sets Sam free.” He instead does a duet with himself to a song from “Victor/Victoria.” Sam goes to partner with Quinn, and Quinn tries to run. Rachel and Finn, continuing Rachel’s plan to help Sam, get them back together. Rachel and Finn then give the worst performance of their careers. They sing an easy listening tune and mock religion in the process. They’ve pretty successfully thrown the competition. Mercedes and Quinn give a solid, although not really my cup of tea, performance, and Tina and Mike perform a cute little number about how Mike can’t sing. I think Mike said more in this episode than he has in the rest of the series combined, which I think was definitely a good thing. Artie backs out of the competition when he’s informed that he was most likely used by Brittany. He tells her that because of his injury, the fact that he can have sex is really special to him, and he regrets wasting his first time on her. It’s sad, because it seems like Brittany had some actual fondness for the guy. She wanted to reenact the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp with him at Breadsticks if they won.

Sam and Quinn are the last to perform, and I really do love their song choice. They chose “Lucky” by Jason Mraz. It’s a really beautiful song. Unfortunately, their performance is rather lackluster. It’s a shame, because I probably really would have enjoyed it with other cast members singing it. Anyway, Sam and Quinn win the dinner at Breadsticks, and the outing turns into a date, even though Quinn protested at first. The best moment of the episode is when the camera pans from their table to the next table, where Brittany is sitting practicing pushing a meatball across the plate with her nose. Finally, Rachel saw Kurt looking sad as the competition winners were announced, and she convinces Kurt to sing a duet with her. That truly is Rachel’s first genuine moment of the episode, perhaps of the season.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

HIMYM 6.04: "Subway Wars"

“Stay sad, I’ll be right back!”

So I know the posts here have been a bit slow the past few days, but I have a good excuse, I promise! I’ve been in Boston with Sarah (of guest blogging fame) attending the New England Comic Con. The con included a “Buffy Fest,” and Sarah and I have been having a lot of fun geeking out and getting autographs. A full report will be coming in the near future, but for now, it’s time to talk about this past week’s HIMYM. “Subway Wars” was most definitely a quality episode. It was good fun, with the gang just being silly. And we saw Barney show a bit of humanity, which is always a good thing in my book. If the writers can keep putting together episodes like this one, I’ll soon be prepared to chalk Season 5 up to a serious misstep that has been corrected and can be forgiven.

The episode opens with the gang at MacLaren’s, like they generally are. Barney offends the group, as he does. He’s pointing out to the gang how he can tell a girl sitting at the bar has recently been crying. Then he reveals that he is using his skills because he wants to sleep with the girl, who is obviously in an emotionally vulnerable place right now. The group, especially, Lily, are disgusted, and Lily puts Barney on time out. Lily disciplining Barney is always good for a laugh. Somehow, the conversation turns to the fact that Robin has never seen Woody Allen. There has been reports of a Woody Allen sighting in a restaurant elsewhere in the city, and they all convince Robin that she needs to see him to be a real New Yorker. There are a bunch of other “Real New Yorker” things Robin hasn’t done yet, and Saget!Ted tells us that by the end of the day, Robin will have done them all.

The gang disagrees on the quickest way to get to the restaurant where Woody has been sighted, and they each end up racing each other, using their preferred methods of transportation. We also find out why each of the characters needed a “win” that day. Lily is upset because she and Marshall have been trying for a baby for two months and she isn’t yet pregnant. Marshall needed a win for the same reason. Ted needed a win because he discovered “” and had one rating of “boring” amongst many glowing reviews. Robin needed a win because of her obnoxious new co-host Becky, who seems intent on completely overshadowing Robin. Barney, of course, didn’t actually need a win at all. He even smelled good.

I think Barney had the funniest travel adventure of the gang. He went to a nearby restaurant and feigned a heart attack. He was hoping he could get the ambulance crew to take him to a hospital near the goal restaurant, but they tell him they’re obligated to take him to a different, closer hospital. Barney being rushed in an ambulance in the wrong direction was hilarious. Barney then enlists the help of none other than Ranjit to continue his journey. Meanwhile, Lily takes the subway, Robin tries to hail a cab, Ted takes the bus, and Marshall runs. Marshall even came up with his own theme song for the running, which was pretty funny as well.

Robin ends up stealing a cab from another woman, who ends up splayed on the hood of the car screaming. This traumatizes Robin, who gets out of the cab and starts walking. Barney, now being driven by Ranjit, sees her and offers her a ride. Robin accepts, and she tells Barney she’s upset with him because earlier that day, she tried to tell him about her work troubles, and he ignored her. This upset me, because I think I always want Barney to be a better guy than he actually is. Barney sincerely tells Robin that since he sees it’s upsetting her, he’s absolutely there for her and wants her to talk about it. Robin’s not having it, though, and she gets out of the Town Car in a huff. Meanwhile, Ted is loving his bus ride. He’s pointing out architecture to his fellow passengers and busting out the “fun facts” we haven’t really seen since Season 2. Unfortunately for Ted, his fellow passengers are not amused. He comes to the realization that he’s the “crazy guy on the bus,” and he leaves the bus and starts running. Barney’s running now too, and he’s catching up to Marshall. Lily, meanwhile, got stuck for a while on the subway because of track maintenance. There’s a fun little joke about how she can understand garbled conductor-speak.

Everybody meets up at the same place, and after a brief pause, they resume the race. Robin takes the subway. A fellow passenger catches her eye, which was another “grr” moment for me, but then she sees Becky’s face on a poster for her show and gets upset. She pulls the poster down to find a poster of her and Don, which makes her even more upset. Lily finds a sobbing Robin, and she goes to comfort her…just before she cheats at the race due to her understanding of conductor-speak. Barney, meanwhile, decides to take a pedicab. The driver isn’t going fast enough for him, though, so Barney ends up pedaling himself, while still smelling amazing, of course.

Ted and Marshall decide to run, and Marshall goes a bit nuts due to his stress over Lily not yet being pregnant. He ends up pushing over a guy in a calculator costume, which is a pretty hilarious visual. Marshall and Lily both end up in Ranjit’s Town Car, and they have a much-needed talk. Each had been worried about disappointing the other, and they come to a consensus that they need to dial back the pressure a bit. They decide to develop a “cradle list” (like a bucket list) of things they want to do as a couple while they wait for the pregnancy to finally happen.

Ted, Barney, and Robin are all closing in on the restaurant neck-and-neck. Saget!Ted then tells us that Barney did something unexpected that he still won’t admit to today. Ted’s certain he saw what he thought he saw, though. That would be Barney purposely falling so Robin could have the win. Unfortunately, Barney doesn’t really get rewarded for that act of compassion, though. Robin’s chatting up a new guy she met outside the restaurant. I have faith that if Barney keeps showing humanity every now and again, he will eventually once again be worthy of Robin, and she’ll see that.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fringe 3.03: "The Plateau"

“I am still a scientist, Brandon. I just have a much larger laboratory.”

In “The Plateau,” we got a chance to see how the alt-Fringe team handles an investigation. This was, admittedly, kind of fascinating. As a fan of dystopian future stories, I really do like the Other Side, although I wish our regular characters were there. I don’t really want to get to know these new characters all that well. I liked the ones we already had just fine. I know I get a bit petulant and whiny when I write about “Fringe,” especially because this concept has injected a jolt of extra creativity into the show, but I’m counting down the episodes until everyone’s back where they’re supposed to be. And I’m a bit nervous about what consequences they will face for things that happened while they were separated.

This episode’s opening scene was definitely creepy, as Fringe tends to be, although not so much gross. In the middle of a busy street scene, a creepy guy, whose name we later learn is Milo, is intently watching what’s going on. After observing, he places a pen vertically on a mailbox. The pen falls, a guy bends down to pick it up, and chaos ensues, all as Milo watches. The action all culminates in a bus hitting a woman as she tries to cross the street. Milo had been watching this woman particularly closely when the sequence started. The whole thing seems elaborate, but not especially odd, but we’ll soon see that for the Other Side, there were some elements that were most definitely odd.

Olivia arrives at the alt Fringe Division. It appears that the treatments have fully taken hold. She is acting like Alt-livia, not herself. Broyles and Walternate watch from afar. Broyles, astute as always, even in alternate universe form, has an uneasy feeling about the whole thing. He’s reluctant to have a non-authentic Other Sider on his Fringe team. Walternate placates Broyles by assuring him the tech works. Walternate also does something even more important. He tells Broyles the truth about his plans for Olivia. Surprisingly, Broyles seems to be going along with it. I thought he’d have a bit more heart.

Anyway, there’s plenty of work for the Fringe team to do. Apparently the crash we saw in the opening was the second bus crash in as many mornings. Astrid’s calculations say this is very unusual. It’s interesting to see how different this Fringe team is from our own. They have a lot more technology to work with when they conduct their investigations. It isn’t the tech which leads to the first break in the case, though. The team notices the ballpoint pen at the accident scene. This doesn’t seem odd to us, but it is to them. None of them have seen a ballpoint pen in years. It turns out that a man bending down to pick up the pen that fell from the mailbox (where Milo placed it) is what started the whole chain reaction that led to the crash. While investigating, Olivia thinks she sees Peter in the crowd watching. Understandably, it freaks her out.

Later at home, Olivia tells Frank about her vision. Of course, since she’s in Alt-livia mode, her reaction is more being surprised that she saw the Secretary’s son than any emotional reaction to seeing Peter. Frank is concerned and makes Olivia promise that if she sees another vision, she’ll tell Broyles. There’s been a smallpox break-out in Texas that he most likely will need to attend to, and it seems like he’s worried about leaving Olivia. Over at Fringe headquarters, Charlie and Lincoln discuss Olivia’s first day. Charlie is skeptical about Olivia. He knows they have the technology to implant memories in another person, and everything that went down at the opera house seems a little too convenient to him. Charlie’s a perceptive guy. Lincoln, however, is not. It turns out he and Olivia have a bit of a history, so he thinks he knows her really well, and he thinks Charlie’s nuts for not believing this is the real Alt-livia. What is it with the men in both Olivias’ lives not being able to really recognize her? It’s kind of sad.

After looking at security footage, it turns out that there were ballpoint pens at both bus accident scenes. Astrid doesn’t think that the ballpoint pens could be the cause of the accidents. The odds are entirely too remote. She gets a bit belligerent about her opinion, too. In the middle of Astrid’s tantrum, the team gets a report of another accident. They rush to the scene. It turns out this one isn’t quite over yet. Olivia sees Milo and starts running after him. She has him cornered on a bridge, but at just the right moment, he jumps off the bridge and on to a moving van. Milo ends up at his sister, Madeline’s, house. She’s very upset over what Milo’s been up to, and she shows him a small painted horse to try to get him to understand that he needs to behave. The horse was painted by their mother. Milo becomes like the creature from the Doctor Who episode “Midnight” and starts predicting Madeline’s senses. It freaks her out and makes her even more upset. Importantly, she mentions that when she “signed [Milo] up” for something.

At Fringe headquarters, the team is interviewing witnesses over the phone. Charlie starts testing Olivia to see if she’s really the correct Olivia. Olivia didn’t know a certain code she needed to use, which makes me think the memories they implanted aren’t perfectly up to date, but she did remember a time she and Charlie went to Coney Island. The testing is cut short when the team makes a break-through. All three victims are connected to Bryant Hospital, and the team takes off to check it out. It looks like some sort of mental institution, and among the shuffling patients, Olivia sees a vision of our Walter. When the Fringe team explains to the hospital administrator what’s been happening, he tells them that they’re looking for a patient. They’ve been giving their patients drugs to increase their intelligence, with the idea that the drugs would help them function independently. After looking at pictures of a few patients, Olivia is able to identify Milo. It turns out that the subjects are allowed to go home with a guardian for the final phase of the test, then they are regressed back to what they were before. Milo has been killing people who are connected to carrying out his upcoming regression.

Charlie and Olivia go to visit Madeline, who gives them a goodbye note Milo left her. The note says he can be contacted at a certain motel. By now, Olivia and Charlie have figured out that because of the drug he’s been given, Milo has the ability to predict future sequences of events with a frightening degree of accuracy. They argue of which action Milo would have predicted and prepared for, but they eventually decide to go to the motel and try to find them. Milo is waiting there for him, and he has seen a vision of cinderblocks falling on Olivia as she chases him. When Charlie and Olivia arrive, Milo starts running. The sequence looks exactly like his vision until the end, when Olivia successfully dodges the cinderblocks. After the near-miss, Olivia has trouble breathing. There is a “blinking auburn diamond” sign nearby, which, on the Other Side, signifies an atmosphere quality problem. Charlie is upset that Olivia broke protocol and went in a blinking auburn diamond area, but Milo has been captured, so all’s well that ends well.

It actually doesn’t really end well for Milo and Madeline, though. Because they couldn’t get to him soon enough, Milo’s change is permanent. Madeline is taken to see him at the holding facility where he is now kept. He spends all his time communicating with a machine. Madeline is told that he has risen above conventional “talking.” Madeline tries to talk to him anyway. Her voice and a touch of his hand only stop his communicating with the machine for a second. He doesn’t even notice when Madeline leaves the painted horse on the table in front of him.

Elsewhere, Walternate is talking to Brandon the lab tech about their Olivia experiment. Brandon has been using some of Peter’s clothes as an “associative link.” He thinks that the link will induce Olivia to want to jump to our universe. Walternate suggests Brandon use a sensory deprivation tank to enhance his results. Some things about Walter Bishop never change, no matter what universe he’s in or how intact his brain is!

Frank has left for Texas, and alone in her apartment, Olivia sees Peter again. He kind of does an explanatory wrap-up for us. Olivia didn’t die like Milo foresaw because she didn’t know the blinking auburn diamond protocol. The real Alt-livia would have stopped because of the diamond, but she didn’t. Milo couldn’t factor that in. Peter tries to convince Olivia that she’s not where she belongs and she can’t forget who she truly is and where she’s from. He ends his plea with a kiss. This is so not going to end well when Olivia finally gets back home and finds out Peter’s been all over her doppelganger.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Big Bang Theory 4.03: "The Zazzy Substitution"

“Women, huh? Can’t live with ‘em, can’t successfully refute their hypotheses.”

“The Zazzy Substitution” was a comedic yet interesting exploration of how much Sheldon actually cares about Amy. It’s an interesting contrast to “How I Met Your Mother” airing an episode about Robin getting over Don in the same week. I was able to empathize with Sheldon much more than I was ever able to empathize with Robin throughout her Don drama. Even though Chuck Lorre shows aren’t exactly known for their depth, I think the “Big Bang Theory” writers did a better job at showing us just why Sheldon and Amy were well suited to each other. Since they built that foundation, I could feel something watching Sheldon fall apart after their “break up.” Sheldon’s break down seemed fairly true to character as well, in that it was over-the-top and neurotic, although there were a few little details that didn’t seem quite right. But I’ll get to that later.

The episode opens with “Shamy” at their most pretentious. They’re hanging around the apartment, playing a game called “Counterfactuals.” One person will propose a scenario that’s different from the world we actually live in, and the other has to name a consequence of that change. Leonard tries to join in, but because he’s not on the same strange wavelength and Sheldon and Amy, he just gets insulted for his trouble. Then Sheldon brings Amy for dinner with the group at the Cheesecake Factory. Amy brings the awkwardness by talking about her purchase of feminine hygiene products and getting really upset at Penny using the word “Shamy.” She pretty much ruins dinner for the guys, although Sheldon is completely oblivious, of course. After dinner, Leonard tells Sheldon that he doesn’t like Amy. She has two much of Sheldon’s personality, and two Sheldons is too much. Sheldon has a bit of a smack-down for Leonard in response. He brings up how he had to put up with some of Penny’s less hygienic qualities for the eight months she and Leonard were together.

Fed up with Amy, the gang, minus Sheldon, decides to try hanging out at Penny’s apartment instead of Leonard and Sheldon’s. It’s kind of a mess. Raj drinks all of Penny’s beer, and we know how he can become more than a bit of a jerk when drunk. Penny finds out about what Sheldon said about putting up with her, and she’s a little peeved Leonard didn’t do more to defend her. Penny then proceeds to start using a pumice stone on the calluses on her feet, something Sheldon earlier complained about her doing. Amusingly, and kind of creepily (it is Howard, after all), Howard offers to help her. He has experience helping his mother with her feet, apparently. The reason it’s funny is because Penny is astonished that Howard’s method does actually work better.

The next day, Sheldon brings Amy to lunch at the university (where Raj is very hung over, by the way). He wants to show Amy what he has been working on. She says that it sounds interesting “for theoretical work.” She and Sheldon then get into an argument about which field is superior, theoretical physics or neurobiology. Inevitably, the argument ends in the pair deciding to “terminate” their relationship, whatever their relationship is. After Penny hears the news, she sees Sheldon in the laundry room and tries to find out how he’s doing. Sheldon says he’s just fine, but then he mumbles something about wanting to buy a cat. Given Sheldon’s feelings about cats in past episodes, this obviously means that everything is not at all fine. I found this to be a pretty fascinating character study of Sheldon, especially when the situation escalates, as you’ll soon see. Sheldon really does care about people, he just has a whole lot of trouble processing that and expressing it.

Sheldon does indeed get a cat. A black and white one named “Oppenheimer”, to be exact. Oppenheimer is the father of the atomic bomb. Sheldon takes the cat everywhere, even to work.
Then Sheldon gets even more cats. He’s got a veritable menagerie. He names all the rest after Manhattan Project scientists except for one he names “Zazzles” because he’s “zazzy.” Leonard’s lost about how to help Sheldon, so he goes to what is always the last resort whenever Sheldon is especially troublesome. He calls Sheldon’s mom in. She’s on the first plane to LA, obviously. Leonard warns her that she’s going to be shocked by what she sees, and she doesn’t believe him until she opens the door to Sheldon’s room, smells the cat urine, and sees Sheldon surrounded by the felines. Here’s one of those instances where I don’t think Sheldon was acting in character. Leonard knocked on the door, and Sheldon said “come in” right away. What happened to “people don’t come in my room.”

It’s painfully obvious that Sheldon is trying to fill the Amy-shaped void in his life with his cats. He remarks that he likes cats because they don’t argue or try to show off their intellectual superiority. Sheldon’s mom, like always, has just the right solution to the problem. She brings Amy over, and she tricks Sheldon into speaking with her by telling him it’s time for dinner. When he walks out into the kitchen area, there’s Amy. Sheldon’s mom has more manipulation planned, too. She says she doesn’t think Sheldon and Amy are suited to each other. Sheldon disagrees, of course, and because he has to do the opposite of everything his mother says, he and Amy get back together. Leonard eventually catches on to what Sheldon’s mom is up to, although he falls victim to it as well and ends up serving Sheldon’s mom dinner.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

No Ordinary Family 1.02: "No Ordinary Marriage"

“It’s okay. You can say it. Best sidekick ever!”

So I think I’m really going to like this show. It’s not quite like the connection I felt to Pushing Daisies, and I still have some issues with characterization, especially with the kids, but “No Ordinary Marriage” was an enjoyable ride, and I look forward to following the Powells on more adventures. This episode mostly focused on the Powells continuing to adjust to their superpowers and trying to figure out when it’s appropriate to use those powers. Arguments over when to use their powers caused a lot of family drama in this episode, but I think by the end, the Powells were stronger as a family unit for having gone through that drama. We also learned that there is most definitely more to how they got their powers than we originally thought, which I think will keep things interesting for a while.

The episode opens with Jim doing his crime fighting thing. He’s trying to stop a bunch of bank robbers again. He’s not successful this time, but George pushes him to keep at it. George feels like Jim just needs more training. No superhero could do what they did from day one. Things overall at the Powell house are changing quite a bit. Jim is always “out jogging.” Stephanie is actually taking the time to make lunch for the kids. J.J. is actually studying and doing his homework. Daphne just looks at all this and notes how strange it is. Her problem doesn’t center around when to use her powers. Instead, she has to work to learn how to control them. Throughout the episode, she gets overwhelmed with hearing everyone’s thoughts. It really reminded me of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode “Earshot”- one of my favorites.

Jim and Stephanie are both struggling to understand their powers in their own way. Stephanie is taking a scientific approach, of course. She and Katie discuss how, if they’re going to pin down the actual cause of the powers, they’re going to need a sample of water from Brazil. Katie’s already on it. Jim is still trying to pass tips along to Detective Cho by telling her an anonymous witness came forward and gave him a description to sketch. Cho isn’t buying it anymore, and Jim is forced to admit he was the witness. He doesn’t tell her about his powers though. Later, Jim continues his training/testing with George. They’re trying to figure out if Jim can stop a moving car. It turns out Jim’s strength isn’t quite what they were hoping, and George runs him over. George is pretty horrified until Jim gives him a rather pained thumbs-up to let Jim know he’s okay. Stephanie is pretty pissed when she finds out Jim is still continuing with his crime fighting. She’s upset that he broke his promise, and that he doesn’t really seem to care about the family. Crime fighting is a risky business, even for a guy with superpowers.

Stephanie can’t stay mad too long,though. She’s got other things to worry about. This really bitchy “supermom” at the kids’ school is goading Stephanie about the upcoming school fair. She basically accuses Stephanie of being a bad mom because she has a demanding job. As the daughter of a working mom who feels I am better off for it (never, ever growing up did I feel like there was something I couldn’t do because I’m female), this pushed all my buttons. Stephanie, empowered by her super speed giving her extra time, tells supermom that not only will she help with the school fair, she’ll chair a committee. The first school fair meeting doesn’t go well, to say the least. Stephanie’s got all sorts of amazing ideas, but she’s interrupted by a phone call from work. Supermom jumps all over her for that, of course. Katie is on the phone, and she tells Stephanie that Mr. King, Stephanie’s boss, wants to talk to Stephanie about her research right now because he has a meeting with the board of directors later that day.

Stephanie decides she’s going to get to her meeting by- what else- running. This doesn’t quite go how Stephanie expected, though. She’s running along when she gets a text from Jim. This distracts her, and she trips over a bicycle and goes skidding down the road at rather high speed. Jim patches her up, with an assist from Stephanie’s own super healing powers. Jim rightly points out that Stephanie’s use of her powers can be pretty dangerous, too. Stephanie gets Jim to say her three favorite words, “you were right.” Jim’s three favorite words are “I love you.” Yet another amusing reversal of gender stereotypes in the Powell household. They both agree that they will stop using their powers until they learn more about them. George is really upset when Jim gives him this news. It’s pretty obvious that George has been living vicariously through Jim. Jim sticks his foot in his mouth by telling George that if he had a family, he would understand why Jim had to call it quits.

Stephanie is actually the first to break the agreement. Katie has bad news. The very time sensitive water sample from Brazil was delivered to a scientist with a similar name in Flagstaff, Arizona, and a tropical storm has since hit Brazil and changed the chemistry of the water. Stephanie is desperate to find out an explanation for her powers, so she decides to run to Flagstaff to pick up the water sample. Meanwhile, J.J. has been accused of cheating because his super-smarts have led to a dramatic increase in his grades, and Jim gets a call from the school about it. Not only has J.J. been getting As, he’s been doing work that some post-docs can’t even do. Jim hasn’t figured out that J.J. has powers, though. Daphne is the only one who knows, because she saw him studying at the library. Jim immediately calls Stephanie to tell her what’s going on, and he is not at all happy when he finds out she’s in Flagstaff, because he gave up his crime fighting for her.

Jim and Stephanie do eventually make up from their argument, and they decide that the whole family will be going to the school fair. Daphne and J.J. protest, of course. George shows up just as they’re getting ready to leave, and to his chagrin, Jim doesn’t come with him on his latest crime fighting adventure. Without the knowledge of the Powells, George takes Jim’s sketch of the bank robbery suspect before leaving their house. There’s plenty of powers-talk between the Powells while at the fair. Daphne is a good big sister and gives J.J. some advice. She tells him not to get all A’s. His sudden academic improvement will be more believable that way. Daphne then gets overwhelmed by her telepathic powers again, and Stephanie sees this and tries to intervene. She takes Daphne on the Ferris wheel, where Daphne finally manages to start controlling her power. Jim is about to use his powers at the dunk tank on supermom’s husband, when Stephanie stops him. She goes to throw the ball instead, but after some more disparaging remarks by supermom and her idiotic husband, she gives the ball back to Jim and silently gives him permission to give it all he’s got. Supermom’s husband, of course, gets dunked.

George, predictably, shows up at the next bank that’s likely to be robbed. He’s showing Jim’s sketch of the suspect to the security guards when the robbers arrive. They spray some gunfire around, and everybody does what they’re told. George, hiding behind a pillar, manages to call Jim and tell him there’s trouble before the robbers find him and make him turn off the phone. Stephanie lets Jim go to try and save George. I’m not sure how I feel about the control Stephanie has over Jim. I like that she’s a successful, in charge woman, but I don’t like the implication that women can’t achieve something without emasculating their men. Anyway, when Jim arrives on the scene, the robbers are dragging George into their van. Jim gets in front of the van and finally manages to pull off his car flipping move, which he and George have dubbed the “Urlacher.” The move successfully stops the van, and George is amazingly not seriously injured. Detective Cho sees Jim running away from the scene, and later she confronts him about it. She tells him that if she ever sees him at a crime scene again, she’ll arrest him. Stephanie’s giving Jim a hard time, too. She says that one day she’s going to find a “cure” for their powers, and when that day comes, she’s going to make Jim give up crime fighting.

There’s a bit of wrapping up to do on the other ongoing plots of the episode. Daphne is feeling much more control, even in school. J.J. has scaled back and gets a B-, but his teacher is still very wary of him and thinks he’s still cheating. Stephanie and Katie look at the water and realize it’s completely normal and not the source of the powers. One of Dr. King’s minions has been kind of stalking Detective Cho throughout the episode. He sees her investigating the bank heist, and he shows up at the station to talk to her. When Cho gets home after her confrontation with Jim, the minion is there waiting for her. He uses telekinetic powers to take her gun. Then he lines up the gun, and as he leaves the apartment, we hear the gun fire.

Glee 2.03: "Grilled Cheesus"

If you couldn't already tell from the slowness of the blog, this past week has been a busy one for me, with three major assignments due at school. Luckily for all you readers, however, our frequent guest blogger Sarah agreed to help me out and blog this week's emotional episode of "Glee." Enjoy!


“I don’t believe in God, Dad. But I believe in you. And I believe in us. You and me, that’s what’s sacred to me.”
- Kurt

When I first watched this episode I admit I cried. The story was emotional and it just kind of hit me in a way the first two episodes of the season didn’t. Maybe it was the religious storyline that got to me. I mean, I’m not overly religious but I feel a certain connection to God through song. And that was what this episode was about. Plus, how could I not like an episode that used both Simon & Garfunkel and the Beatles?

So anyway, the episode starts with a Finn voiceover, and we see him making a grilled cheese sandwich. When he takes it out of the grill, he thinks he sees Jesus. So, he decides to try praying. He prays that they win the first football game of the season (he says it’s for Artie) and in return Finn promises to honor God at Glee that week. As nice as I think it is to do an episode on religion, Finn was ultimately pretty shallow in his prayers. Then again, I guess it was pretty in line with what teenage boys think about.

The next morning, Kurt brings his dad breakfast (something much healthier than his can of Coke and two slim-jims). Burt reminds his son that their Friday night dinner is going to be earlier that week because Finn and his mom will over, and Finn’s mom needs to work that night. Kurt says he can’t go because there’s a one-a-year sing-along “Sound of Music” playing and he’s been looking forward to it all year. Burt tells him that their dinners (started by Kurt’s mom before she died) are sacred and that means that it supersedes anything else going on. Kurt blows it off, ignoring his dad’s comment about being disappointed. To me, this sets up a lot of Kurt’s theme for the episode, which eventually gets paid off.

In any event, the McKinley High football team wins the game (Artie scores the final touchdown) and so Finn brings up singing about God in Glee club. Finn explains he’s found Jesus and feels they should honor Him with songs that week. He gets mixed reactions from the group, ranging from Kurt being totally disinterested in religion to Puck not liking that people just throw around Jesus whenever they feel like it. This prompts our first musical number of the episode. Puck gives a really fun rendition of “Only the Good Die Young”. He’s got everyone up and dancing, except for Kurt who sits texting on his phone (though who he’s texting I don’t know since all his friends are in the room). The happy and energetic mood disappears pretty fast as we go to a mainly silent montage of Emma and Will informing Kurt that something’s happened to his dad (we saw Burt keel over while helping a customer). We soon find out that Burt had a heart attack caused by an arrhythmia. He’s comatose, and the doctor has no idea if or when Burt will regain consciousness. Kurt asks for a moment alone with his, dad and he begs his father to just squeeze his hand. It’s rather emotional as it fades to black.

Finn’s back to praying to Grilled Cheesus and this time, he asks to be able to touch Rachel’s breasts. Typical teenage boy thing to ask for. That’s part of what really annoyed me with this episode. Finn was so shallow. Anyway, the next day, everyone’s somber as they walk in to Glee club rehearsal. They comfort Kurt, and even Brittney and Santana are sweet and respectful. Then Finn bursts in, angry that he was the last to know. He and Kurt have an argument about whether they’re family and thus Finn had a right to hear about it right away, instead of in gym class. Mercedes gets up and expresses her feelings in song. She does a very nice spiritual, “I Look to You.” I think I enjoyed this song because, hey, I’m a fan of contemporary Christian music, and it was a piano ballad that I could relate to. Not surprisingly, Kurt reacts badly. He repeats the fact that he doesn’t believe in God and while he respects his friends for voicing their beliefs, he doesn’t need or want their prayers.

Meanwhile, Sue’s found out about the Glee club lesson for the week and seeks to put a stop to it. She spouts off about separation of church and state and then storms out of Figgins’ office. That night, Rachel and Finn are spending time at Rachel’s house and they end up making out. Rachel even lets Finn touch her breasts. He thinks his prayers have been answered again.

Sue continues to put her plan to stop the Glee club from doing spiritual songs on school grounds into action. After pumping Brittney and Santana for information, Sue turns to Kurt and tries to convince him to complain to the school board about what’s going on. Next thing we know, Emma’s being a competent adult for once and calls Sue out on her actions. Sue explains that she doesn’t believe in God because as a child, she prayed every day to make her sister get better until she realized no one was listening. I can understand Sue’s reaction and subsequent loss of faith. I think that it shows Sue can be human and have emotions.

Finn’s third prayer of the episode is that he becomes quarterback again. Puck catches him praying and Finn scrambles to cover what he was doing. Puck admits to going to temple with his grandmother to pray for Burt. I know some people don’t like the sensitive side of Puck and think it’s out of character but I find it cool. Tough guys who are pretty much jerks can have softer sides. It makes them more three dimensional. We don’t see the result of Finn’s prayer quite yet. Instead, he and Rachel are outside and Rachel sings “Papa Can You Hear Me?”. To be honest I had to fast forward through that part the second time I watched because I don’t really like the song. It ends in Burt’s hospital room. Quinn, Mercedes, Finn and Finn’s mom are there with Rachel when Kurt shows up. They explain that since Mercedes, Rachel and Quinn are of different denominations and religions, they’ve been taking turns singing to Burt. Kurt’s offended by their actions and tells them all to leave, as a Sikh healer arrives to try acupuncture.

In the second football game of the season, Finn gets to be quarterback again because Sam (the new kid we met in the pilot) gets his shoulder dislocated in a botched play. Finn’s a little concerned but he doesn’t think much of it. The next day in Glee, Kurt shares a story from his mother’s funeral where his dad just held his hand, and knowing that his dad’s hands would always be there was what got Kurt through the loss. He sings “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. It was one of my favorite performances of the episodes. I’m a sucker for Beatles music. And I think the song fit his voice. His voice has definitely matured since last season. He’s still obviously a tenor, but it’s a much stronger tone. While Kurt sings, we see a flashback to Burt and a young Kurt (who really looks like a young Chris Colfer) having a tea party. After the class, Mercedes approaches Kurt and asks him to go to church with her that Sunday. Her congregation dedicates a service to someone each week and this week they’re dedicating it to Kurt’s dad. Kurt agrees to go, after Mercedes mentions he’ll get to wear a fabulous hat.

Finn finally confesses about his prayers to Grilled Cheesus to Emma. She gives rational, non-God related reasons for the happenings of all three events and Finn’s face falls. He says that now he feels like everyone else and not special anymore. He’s just floating around alone. Emma tries to convince Finn that he’s not alone and that the big questions are big for a reason and everyone struggles with them. Finn leaves her office and ends up singing REM’s “Losing My Religion”. It was a decent rendition but I think I prefer the original a little better. Everyone’s a little shocked at Finn’s change of heart.

Next we see Mercedes and Kurt going to church. Mercedes gives a little speech before she and the choir go into a gospel version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. I was so excited to hear a Simon & Garfunkel song in this episode and the gospel version was very interesting. Anyway, Mercedes impresses upon Kurt that even if he doesn’t believe in God and the power of prayer, he needs to believe in something that is sacred. That’s really only the second time we see the theme in the episode which is nice that the writers didn’t bang the theme over our heads. Kurt seems genuinely appreciative of the song at the end of it.

We have a short scene with Sue and her sister playing checkers. Sue explains why she doesn’t believe in God (again) and her sister says that God doesn’t make mistakes. It’s clear that her sister’s belief affect Sue and she even allows her sister to pray for her. Meanwhile, Kurt’s at his dad’s bedside recounting a story of their first Friday dinner after his mom died and ends up breaking down. He tells his dad that their relationship is what’s sacred to Kurt, and Burt, still mostly unconscious, squeezes Kurt’s hand.

The episode ends with a really good version of “One of Us”. I remember being really excited about this in the promo because it was the theme song of one of my favorite shows from a few years ago; “Joan of Arcadia.” The Glee version (the full version, not the one used in the episode) is on repeat on my iTunes at the moment. I think it was a good way to close out the episode. Sue doesn’t even object when she sees the kids singing it. The final scene is Finn eating the other half of the grilled cheese.

HIMYM 6.03: "Unfinished"

“Done with that.”

“Unfinished” seemed to get a pretty mixed reaction in the online community, but I have to say that overall, I liked it. Some of the attempts at humor were a bit over-the-top silly, but it still feels like this episode was constructed with more care than many Season 5 episodes. I know “better than Season 5” isn’t an especially rigorous standard, but I love what this show once was enough that I’m willing to be somewhat forgiving. The title explains the theme of the episode pretty literally- it’s all about what we leave unfinished. Mostly this episode focused on the unfinished nature of Ted’s career as a practicing architect and Robin’s relationship with Don. As for the latter, I’m really, really, really hoping that this episode’s events mean we never need speak of it again. If that’s the case, I will love this episode on principle for that alone.

The episode opens with a scene of in media res where Ted is lecturing too his students about a famous, unfinished building. Most of the unfinished business of the episode, however, centers around Robin. She apparently has some amazing TV package that lets her see Don on the news in Chicago, and when she sees him, it makes her a bit…stabby. Robin thought she had moved on, but seeing Don on TV led her to calling him and leaving him a drunken rant and death threats on his voice mail. The death threats are kind of funny at first, but it quickly escalates into kind of creepy and disturbing. The sort of thing Robin should probably be investigated by police for. Robin also mentions at one point that she’ll go to Chicago, kill Don, and see a Bears game. Which doesn’t make sense to me, considering Robin has never really shown interest in football. She should have wanted to take in a Blackhawks game. Anyway, Robin tried to play it off to her friends like she truly was over Don, but Lily sees right through it, thanks to a certain look on Robin’s face. Lily compares it to the look on the face of her childhood dog after he had pooped somewhere in the house. She spends much of the episode asking Robin “Where’s the poop?” which gets kind of annoying.

Lily encourages Robin to delete Don’s number from her cell phone, and we get several fake-outs where it looks like Robin has actually done this. She keeps on calling Don and embarrassing herself. Finally, Robin tells Lily she will delete Don’s phone number if Lily will delete one number from her own phone. Robin wants Marshall to do this, too. It gives both Marshall and Lily a chance to reflect on small moments from their past that they’ve chosen to preserve through their contacts lists. The number Lily is asked to delete is the number to “her dojo.” When Robin calls her on it being ridiculous that she has a dojo, we see a flashback to the one time Lily actually went there. She was surprised to see that the martial arts class she signed up for was all kids. It was a rare occasion for Alyson Hannigan to really show off her comedic chops. For Marshall, the number he had to delete was for the booker at the club where his “all lawyer funk band” played once four years ago (when Marshall was still a law student, I might add). This was pretty funny too, although not as funny as the Lily in martial arts class bit. Marshall and Lily resist a little at first, but they do eventually agree it’s time to end that chapter of their lives, and they delete the numbers.

Meanwhile, Barney spends much of the episode trying to convince Ted to go back to his former life. Barney visits Ted while he’s teaching at Columbia and brings a gift. The gift is Ted’s old plans for the new Goliath National Bank headquarters. If you’re a HIMYM nerd like me, you’ll recall that in Season 4, Ted was contracted to design the GNB headquarters, only to have GNB hire Sven instead at the last minute. Silly Sven and their silly fire-breathing dragon building plan. Anyway, the plan for the headquarters is back on, and Barney wants Ted to be the architect again. Ted says he thinks his answer is going to be no. He’s happy with his life as a professor, and he doesn’t think he wants to go back, even though designing a building in the New York skyline was a dream.

Ted’s rejection leads Barney to take a very interesting, and fairly funny, course of action. He starts “putting the moves” on Ted like he would any random woman at MacLaren’s that he wanted to sleep with. He “always gets the yes” with the ladies, so he’s convinced that his techniques will work to get Ted to design the GNB building, too. The first step is ignoring Ted. Specifically, Barney ignores Ted when Ted is going on a rant about the architecture of the Death Star. My inner nerd most definitely appreciated this. There is also the backhanded compliment, put down about himself that is actually bragging, intense eye contact, and physical contact. Ted sees through all this for the “moves” they are, but he does enjoy the extra attention for sure. Ted remains steadfast in his refusal to participate. This leads Barney to try a different move. He tells Ted that’s fine because GNB has hired someone else.

This last tactic gets to Ted. Marshll provides confirmation, telling Ted that he just drew up the paperwork for the new employee. That makes Ted start having serious second thoughts. He busts into Barney’s office and tells him he wants the job and would be willing to design the building for half price. It doesn’t take long for Marshall to tell the truth, though. He was acting as Barney’s wingman. This brings Ted back down to Earth. He tells Marshall that designing a building for the New York skyline isn’t is dream anymore, and letting go of that dream was a good thing for him. Ted does change his mind one more time, though. We’re back to him giving the lecture about the unfinished building. Just as he’s wrapping it up, something clicks in his brain. Ted runs out of the classroom and almost gets hit by a bus (like the architect he was teaching his class about) on his way to Barney’s office. He accepts the job, but first he makes Barney take him to dinner, something Barney says he never, ever does for women.

We end the episode on Robin. Earlier, she had told Lily that you “can’t delete contacts from your brain.” In Robin’s mind (not in the viewers’, considering Don has always been all tell and no show), the relationship ended too fast, and Robin thinks it will always be a loose end. In the end though, Robin goes to call Don after seeing him on the news yet again, and she realizes she dialed the wrong number. She has truly, finally forgotten Don’s phone number. I sincerely hope this means she has finally moved on. Of course, I’m hoping this is the beginning of a story arc for Robin that takes her back to Barney, who has also matured since they last gave a relationship a go, but I’m still gun shy after the mess that was last year.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fringe 3.02: "The Box"

“Walter? Your tie. I, uh, think you have a little bit of brain on it.”

So, I’m kind of spending my “Fringe” viewing time marking time until the real Olivia finds her way back to our universe and the real team is back together again. Again, I can appreciate from an intellectual standpoint that it’s great the “Fringe” writers have given Anna Torv more to play, and switching up the dynamic is necessary now and then, but I’m restless. It was definitely interesting to see Alt-livia working against the rest of the Fringe team in the shadows, but I only want to see that for so long. What I really want to see is the reunion between Olivia and her boys. That will be sweet. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until likely the fall finale to see it. Anyway, this particular episode was set entirely in our universe. We were back to the familiar blue hue, as opposed to the red used on the Other Side. We followed our usual Fringe team (with the wrong Olivia, of course) on a seemingly normal (form them) mission that actually has greater implications for the mythology.

Despite the every other episode is a different universe major format shift, some things about Fringe don’t change. That would be the creepy and gross opening. A group of people are being held captive in a gloomy house. A kind-of-creepy man walks into the room where the captives are held and turns on a “Roadrunner and Coyote” cartoon. Way to ruin one of my favorite memories of childhood, “Fringe!” Outside, two thieves have been hired to dig down to a basement. They find what they were looking for- a very strange box- but the success is short-lived. A light starts to flicker, and soon the thieves and the captives are all standing perfectly still. It’s quickly apparent who is behind this. Alt-livia pays a visit to Newton. It turned out she asked him to hire the thieves. Meanwhile, the rest of the Fringe team is spending some time looking into the doomsday device Walternate wanted Peter to create.

Alt-livia interrupts the research and discussion and successfully draws Peter away with the promise of a date night. Alt-livia hasn’t quite slipped into her role as Olivia yet, although she’s certainly trying. So the date night is a bit off. Olivia manages to play off any oddities, though, and Peter’s convinced he’s dating the real Olivia. They even dance together. I don’t think the real Olivia would ever actually dance. Thankfully, before I got too angry, the dance was interrupted by a phone call. Peter and Olivia are told about their new case. It’s the house where we saw the captives and the thieves at the beginning of the episode. It turns out there was a third thief who got away with something valuable. As soon as she can make her excuses, Olivia visits Newton to confront him about the botched job. Newton tells her he only hired two thieves.

Walter and Peter have other things on their mind besides the investigation. They have to go to Massive Dynamic. It’s the reading of William Bell’s will. It’s sort of treated like Bell’s funeral, which I found a bit odd. I’ve never really heard of a formal will reading actually happening like you see regularly on TV, so it seemed a strange choice to only have the will reading. An emotional Walter hugs Nina, and it’s super awkward, mostly because Walter is just awkward in general, and at this particular event, he’s extra on-edge. The lawyer starts reading the will and handing out envelopes to the various devisees. Walter seems very surprised and kind of upset by what was in his envelope, but we’re left to wonder what it was for a while. It turns out to be an envelope with a key and a note that says, “Don’t be afraid to cross the line.” The note upsets Walter so much that he shows up at the door to Astrid’s apartment to talk about it. Astrid tells Walter he needs to tell Peter his side of the story.

When the gang is mostly all reassembled back in Boston, Broyles wants to know if Peter got the message about a lead on the case. The FBI knows where the thief who survived lives. “Olivia” didn’t pass the message along to Peter, which should have been a huge red flag, but of course Peter is still clueless. He continues to be clueless when he shows up at the thief’s apartment and discovers that “Olivia” is already there. Alt-livia makes a quick save by saying that she knew Walter was having a rough time with the will reading, so she didn’t want to pull Peter away from them. Peter accepts the excuse and does some sleuthing while Alt-livia surreptitiously makes a phone call outside.

Later back at the lab, Walter makes breakthrough. Whatever killed the thieves caused major ear damage. Walter thinks that the weapon must have been “ultrasonic.” As Walter’s making this reveal to the rest of the team (minus “Olivia”…it’s becoming a recurring theme), we cut to Alt-livia in Olivia’s apartment watching film of Olivia as study material. There’s a knock on the door, and when Alt-livia opens it, it’s the third thief. It turns out that he’s deaf, which explains how he survived the ultrasonic device. Alt-livia ties him up while she tries to think of what to do with him. She settles on killing him, which I think is interesting given out Other Siders have this absolute view that they’re good and we’re evil. Here Alt-livia is being the one to do the killing. Who is good, really?

Peter, it turns out, has the worst timing ever. He’s pissed off from Walter’s attempt to talk to him about his kidnapping (it didn’t go well), so he shows up at Olivia’s apartment just after Alt-livia shoots the thief. Peter wants to have a serious talk about the doomsday machine and the two Walters, but Alt-livia can see that blood is starting to seep under the gap in the bathroom door. She needs a distraction, and fast. She starts talking about how she’s had a hard week too, and then she basically jumps Peter. Since he’s a guy, he goes with it. Thankfully, for the sake of my sanity (and my voice, because if they had gone too far, I would have been screaming with rage at Peter being with Alt-livia instead of Olivia), they both receive phone calls at the same time, from Astrid and Broyles.

The reason Peter and Olivia were called was because people were fried by the ultrasonic device in a subway station. Newton had asked a little person to watch the box for him, and the security cameras show that man walking into the subway tunnel. The box must be retrieved before it kills more people. Peter, of course, wants to go after it, and Walter, of course, has a rather uncomfortable-seeming method of trying to keep Peter safe through the ordeal. He wants “Olivia” to shoot her gun off by Peter’s ears. She does so, and this makes Peter temporarily deaf. When Peter gets to the box, he recognizes it as part of the doomsday machine, and he tries to disable it.

That’s not enough drama, though. There’s a train coming, even though trains were supposedly rerouted around this section of tunnel. Alt-livia rushes into the tunnel and pushes Peter to the side just after he disables the device and just before the train would have made him a pancake. Amusingly, Peter chooses to spend the rest of the evening studying the device instead of going for another date night with “Olivia.” Meanwhile, in the big cliffhanger of the episode, Walter uses his key to open a safe deposit box. He shows up on Astrid’s doorstep once again to tell her what Bell left him. Walter is now sole shareholder of Massive Dynamic. That will certainly be interesting.