Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Glee 2.06: "Never Been Kissed"

Always willing to help me out in a pinch, our lovely guest blogger Sarah has stopped by to blog a recent episode of "Glee." Enjoy!


“Before yesterday, I’d never been kissed.”
- Kurt

Overall, I found “Never Been Kissed” a pretty decent episode. It had some pretty good music. We start with Finn and Sam in the locker room, discussing their girlfriends. Sam’s complaining that he’s had to take lots of cold showers since he started dating Quinn. Obviously, she’s very anti-fooling around because of what happened with Puck. Finn explains his technique for keeping things in his pants (remembering hitting a postman while learning to drive) and Sam thinks it could work. He decides on picturing Coach Beiste in a compromising position. Unfortunately, this storyline is very pick-on-Beiste in nature, and that was one of my problems with this episode.

Next we see Kurt and Tina walking down the hall, and thus begins our next storyline for the episode. They don’t get more than a few steps before a big football player slams Kurt into a locker. From the look on Kurt’s face, it’s obvious it’s happened before. He walks into the glee club rehearsal without a word, and he takes his seat while Mr. Schuster announces their sectionals competition; the Dalton Academy Warblers, an all boys a Capella group, and the Hipsters, a group of elderly people getting their GEDs. The glee clubbers don’t seem too fazed by their competitors. To prep for sectionals, Mr. Schuster is going to have them do another mash up with boys vs. girls. Like last year, Kurt attempts to join the girls but is shunted back to the testosterone-filled side of the room. After another shove into a locker by the football player, Kurt ends up in Mr. Schuster’s office, and he admits he’s not happy at McKinley High. Being the only openly gay student is getting to him. This leads Mr. Schu to mix up the mash up. The boys will do songs traditionally performed by female musicians and vice versa for the girls.

Kurt suggests Diana Ross to the guys, and they immediately shoot it down and suggest he go spy on the Warblers. Meanwhile, that night, Sam is making out with Quinn and tries out his new technique. He imagines Coach Beiste in a teddy chopping meat and ends up saying her name. Quinn’s pretty confused and brings it to Sue’s attention the next day. Honestly, I’m really starting to find Sue irritating more often than not. Anyway, Sue tells Quinn to make a public spectacle of the whole thing and shame Coach Beiste into leaving. Sue really can be a despicable human being sometimes.

We also have yet another storyline in this episode; Puck and Artie. Puck’s returned from his stint in juvenile detention and he claims that Artie is his community service. During lunch, they head out to the quad to busk. They end up singing a really nice duet of “One Heart”. I have to say, I really like the songs Mark sings. And he and Kevin have a really nice harmony. They end up making about $300 and Puck tells Artie they’re taking Brittany and Santana on a double date to Breadstix so Artie can win Brittany back.

Kurt is now off spying on the Warblers and he’s quite impressed. He meets Blaine, a rather cute guy (Darren Criss) who lets him sit in on a Warblers performance. They do Katie Perry’s “Teenage Dream” which actually is pretty awesome. Kurt is obviously crushing on Blaine and the fact that he feels so at home at Dalton.

Meanwhile, Tina and Mike Chang are making out. Mike’s told Tina about Sam’s “Beiste” trick and Tina ends up picturing the coach in a tutu smoking a cigar and saying her name. Mike’s pissed and tells Beiste to leave his girlfriend alone. Quinn has similar words and accuses Sam of sleeping with Coach Beiste. Mr. Schu gives Sam and Mike a talking to and tells them they can’t be making fun of Coach Beiste, even in private, because it’s just going to alienate her more. It was a good message but a little preachy in the way he said it.

Back at Dalton Academy, Kurt’s having coffee with Blaine and a couple other guys. It’s pretty clear that Kurt’s overwhelmed-in a good way- by what they’re saying. Dalton has a no-tolerance bullying policy and it’s enforced. Blaine ends up pulling Kurt aside and telling him that it wasn’t so easy for Blaine either. He was taunted at his old school and he chose to run away from his problems. He encourages Kurt to confront his. I really like the relationship they’re setting up between Kurt and Blaine, even if it’s only friendship right now.

Coach Beiste confronts Will about what’s going on with the kids. Will reluctantly tells her about the guys imagining her in compromising positions and she takes off, clearly upset. It’s a little unclear whether Will was trying to save face by not telling her or genuinely didn’t want to hurt her. I think it was probably a combination of the two.

Out at dinner at Breadstix, Puck is telling the group about how tough he was in lockup and how he made some 300-pound tat-covered thug hand over his waffles. Santana’s impressed and Artie’s playing along. Puck says they should dine and dash but Artie can’t do it and Puck leaves him behind.

It’s the girl’s day to do their mash up and they perform a combo of “Living on a Prayer” and “Start Me Up”. They’re dressed in crazy black leather with eighties hair. It’s a decent mash up. I think I like it a little better than last year. We got a Mercedes singing lead on one of the verses which was nice. Right as the girls finish their number, Will is summoned to the auditorium by Sue, care of Becky. I really wish they would find a better use for Becky. It just tends to piss me off the way they use her like she’s the token mentally disabled person in the show. Anyway, that’s a rant for another time. Once Will arrives in the auditorium, he learns that Coach Beiste has quit, and Sue celebrates by setting off two confetti cannons (she’s gotten her full budget back).

Kurt gets a text from Blaine, giving him courage to confront the football player, when the kid slams Kurt into a locket. This time, Kurt doesn’t take it. He confronts his attacker in the boy’s locker room and just when you think Kurt’s going to get slugged, the football player kisses Kurt. Kurt looks surprised by the action and the football player looks really upset.

Will is giving the Glee kids a stern lecture about what they did to Coach Beiste (Quinn realizes she was wrong and apologizes to Sam) when Principal Figgins shows up and demands that Will and Puck get to his office. Puck’s probation officer is there and she’s not happy. She thought he was going to do his community service by doing outreach to a local gang, not hang out with Artie. Puck kind of loses it and storms out of the office.

Kurt has now called Blaine for some in person moral support in talking to the football player, but things don’t go as planned. The football player gets defensive and blows them off. Kurt’s upset because he’d never been kissed before the day before. Blaine’s sympathetic and offers to buy lunch. Meanwhile, Will goes to see Coach Beiste and convinces her to come to the choir room the next day so the boys can apologize. He also finds out Coach Beiste has never been kissed and does the honors. It was in theme with the episode but it felt kind of shallow.

Before we get to the last musical performance of the show, the boy’s mash up, Puck admits to Artie that juvenile detention was terrifying. He got beat up and attacked and people stole his waffles. Artie is understanding and offers to tutor Puck in geometry while he cleans up trash on the side of the highway as real community service. The boy’s mash-up is “Stop in the Name of Love” and “Free Your Mind”. It’s pretty good and Coach Beiste likes it. It seems that for now, all is well with her and the Glee guys. Kurt’s happiness remains to be seen.

HIMYM 6.08: "Natural History

“That was a great dream, but we have a mortgage, and we’re trying to have kids. We’re grown-ups now, Lily.”

So I’ve been a bit spoiled with my blog writing recently. I’ve actually had the chance to write about some great episodes of television. “Amber 31422” was the first, and now HIMYM’s “Natural History.” This episode had a lot of wonderful elements. There was great Barney/Robin chemistry, a doozy of a humanizing moment for Barney, and Marshall and Lily dealing with an issue that’s very close to my own life at the moment- changing your life plan after you've experienced a bit of the "real world." All of this takes place at New York’s Museum of Natural History, the perfect place to tackle stories about collisions between childhood and adulthood.

The event that brings the gang to the museum, the “Autumn Spectacular,” is GNB related, of course, and even Robin gets to tag along. During the cab ride to the museum, Lily, Marshall, and Ted talk about how anti-establishment they used to be back in college and how strange it is for them to be all dressed up going to a swanky corporate event now. Marshall protests a little, saying their college selves were rather pretentious. We’re treated to a flashback to their sandwich-smoking selves acting douchey to a student dressed in a suit at Wesleyan on his way to his mother’s funeral. Back in the cab, Lily prattles on about how Marshall will still work for the NRDC one day. Marshall just looks uncomfortable.

The gang enters the museum, and Barney starts telling this fantastical story from when he was a kid about how he managed to knock down the blue whale exhibit and destroy a dinosaur skeleton at the museum. Nobody believes him because the story is so out there. Marshall and Barney’s boss, Arthur, then introduces them to “The Captain” van Smoot, played by Kyle MacLachlan, most recently of “Desperate Housewives.” Arthur calls Marshall and Barney the “future of GNB,” and the Captain jokingly tells them not to touch anything at the museum. Barney, of course, responds with a “Challenge accepted!”

Barney and Robin spend most of the rest of the episode racing around the museum touching all the exhibits they can. They start with an Ancient Egyptian outfit and go on from there. Eventually, Barney ends up wearing the Egyptian outfit and yelling out “Niled it!” The plot is rather childish, but it’s nice to see Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders’ comedic chemistry again. It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen Barney and Robin just have fun with each other. A security guard catches Barney and Robin in their antics, and they wind up in his office. The security guard starts ranting about a six-year-old who once knocked down the museum’s blue whale, and eyes gleaming because he knows he’s just been vindicated, Barney asks the security guard to check his files for the name of the kid.

This is when the plot goes from silly to something deeper, which I think is part of what makes the best HIMYM so great. You can be laughing one minute and close to tears the next. The guard checks the file and confirms that the story Barney told was indeed the truth. But there’s more. “Uncle Jerry,” who took Barney to the museum that day, is actually Barney’s father. He checked the box “father” on the form that was filed with the security office. Barney is shocked. Later, he tells Robin that the day at the museum was the last time he ever saw Uncle Jerry. He is very contemplative, and Robin is supportive. Barney asks her not to tell the rest of the gang what they’ve learned. The scene is Neil Patrick Harris’ best work on the show this season by far.

Meanwhile, Ted is very surprised to see Zoey at the event. He’s not especially happy about this development, because Zoey recently wrote a very nasty op-ed about Ted and the GNB Headquarters project that ran on the crossword page of the newspaper. It ruined Ted’s “Crossword Day.” It turns out that the Captain is Zoey’s husband. The Captin is pretty cool, and agrees to call Ted “Galactic President Superstar McAwesomeville.” It’s nice to see Kyle MacLachlan in a role where he can be a bit more laid back, as opposed to the very proper Orson Hodge. When the Captain leaves to go “check on the boat,” Ted starts having fun with the fact that Zoey’s campaign to save the Arcadian is most likely the result of being a bored trophy wife. Zoey starts to cry.

Ted always gets stupid when a crying woman is in play, so he starts babbling about how GNB is evil and he doesn’t really want to tear down the Arcadian. As soon as he’s made a proper fool of himself, Zoey’s expression changes. She’s been tape recording the whole conversation. Nevermind that this could possibly be illegal- I’ll just go with it because the episode is good overall. And it’s not like Zoey has ever shied away from jail time, anyway. The Captain hears about what happened, and being a decent guy, offers to get the tape and erase it. Then he starts going on about Zoey and her little hobbies in a very patronizing way, and that’s when Ted’s opinion starts to change. He tells the Captain not to bother erasing the tape. He respects Zoey and what she’s trying to do, and he was caught fair and square. Zoey hears him from the other side of the room thanks to the unique acoustics of the museum. Zoey and Ted later share a dance, and Zoey tells Ted she erased the tape. I really, really hope they aren’t going to have Ted have an affair with a married woman, but it appears that’s where this is all heading.

More interesting (at least to me) than Ted’s plot is Marshall and Lily’s plot. Marshall reveals that he’s been offered a five year contract at GNB. Lily is really upset, because she still wants College Marshall who wanted to be an environmental lawyer. Marshall tells her his plans changed. They want to have a family, and he needs to be able to provide for them. What really upsets Lily is that Marshall’s been thinking for a while that he wants to stay at GNB. She thinks he lied to her. Marshall says that, in fact, every time Lily asked him about his career plans, he would answer in made up words. He follows that up with a “lawyered.” Lily points out that “lawyered” is a made-up word. On behalf of lawyers everywhere, I must say “Hush, Lily. It’s a real word now!” Lily is really upset by the whole argument and walks away.

Lily finds herself in front of an exhibit of College Marshall. Lily tells him all the things that Corporate Marshall does better. College Marshall can’t understand why Lily wants her current Marshall to revert to who he used to be, when he’s pretty great now. College Marshall tells Lily she can’t have him back. There’s an “extinct” sign on the exhibit. Marshall comes up behind Lily and asks if she can be okay with who he is now. Lily says they can make it work. In the episode’s tag, we see Corporate Marshall looking harried at GNB. His boss is telling him he’s going to need to work overtime again. The camera pulls out, and we see that we’re looking at another exhibit. Corporate Marshall will also one day be extinct. But Saget!Ted tells us that’s another story.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving "Classic" Recap: The West Wing "Shibboleth"

“Well over three and half centuries ago, strengthened by faith and bound by a common desire for liberty, a small band of pilgrims sought out a place in the New World where they could worship according to their own beliefs…and solve crimes.”

This year for my Thanksgiving special recap, I decided to take a trip back to the year 2000 and recap one of my mom’s all time favorite episodes of television. That would be “The West Wing’s” season 2 Thanksgiving episode, “Shibboleth.” I love this episode too (although not as much as my mom). There’s wacky turkey-related hijinks and President Bartlett going on entertaining rants about the problems with our education system. All the characters are at their best here. There’s a reason why season 2 of “The West Wing” is considered Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece. Really, there are only two things I find a little lacking about this episode. The first thing is that the crises the White House staff faces here seem kind of overblown for all the fuss made over them. The second is, while I generally love Aaron Sorkin’s style of dialogue, he seems to be incapable of giving a different voice to a character, even when the story and the character itself clearly warrants it.

The main plot of this episode revolves around a container ship of Chinese nationals that has made port in California. The Chinese nationals who are still have suffered a horrific existence hiding in shipping containers among those who didn’t make it. They seek asylum in the United States, claiming they are devout Christians who have been trying to flee religious persecution in China. It’s easy to see how this issue fits in with the Thanksgiving story of Pilgrims traveling to the New World to escape religious persecution. The White House staff anticipates this is going to be a PR nightmare (as most things are for them), because China is going to want their nationals back, but the Christian community in the United States is going to demand the President allow them to stay.

Josh and Sam take meetings with people on all sides of the issue, who of course present the argument in overly-simplified terms. One thing I do have to commend Sorkin on here, however, is that out of the delegation representing the Christian right, there is a variety of opinions. The Reverend leading the delegation is, of course, in favor of letting the Chinese stay, but he isn’t rude about it. His colleague Mary, however, who I think Josh verbally sparred with in the pilot episode, is blunt, extreme, and caricature-ish. On the same note, the INS (what we would call ICE today) agents Josh and Charlie speak to are just as annoying in their single-mindedness. They are skeptical of anyone trying to enter the country, and they warn Josh and Sam that many Chinese refugees of this sort are coached to claim religious persecution. It’s really a very tragic situation upon which more light should be shed. Those who wish to escape China pay an exorbitant amount of money for passage in the shipping container. They are expected to work of their fare when they arrive in the United States, resulting in a sort of indentured servitude.

President Bartlett takes a very wise (as he does) approach to solving the problem. He wants to meet with one of the refugees and, essentially, test his commitment to religion. As he puts it, he wants the refugee to say “shibboleth” an identifying password that was used in the early Church. There is one refugee who speaks good English, a former chemistry professor, and he is brought to the White House to speak with the President. President Bartlett starts by taking a Catechism approach, grilling the man on religious facts. The refugee soon stops him, though, saying you can’t test faith that way. He makes a beautiful declaration of faith, and ends by using the word “shibboleth.” The President is convinced of the refugees’ religiosity, so he must decide how to help them. He decides that the National Guard soldiers guarding the detention facility should “fail to stop” a prison break. It’s a pretty ridiculous story, but it’s just enough to allow for the refugees to stay in the United States and for China to save face.

Also on the more dramatic (and dealing with religion) side, the White House staff is finalizing their list of recess appointments. Nothing is too controversial except for Toby’s suggestion to fill a high Department of Education post- Leo’s sister. Toby wants to put the school prayer issue on the front burner, and he thinks this appointment will do the trick. Leo’s sister is known for her very strict enforcement of separation of Church and State as superintendent of public schools in Atlanta. Leo is not enthusiastic about the idea, because he’s worried that the appointment will be seen as patronage, but he reluctantly goes with it. After the list is made available, Leo and Toby have a bunch of very angry Republican Congressional staffers to deal with. Toby makes a big self-important speech about how the Administration is going to win this one because they played the political game better when one of the staffers stops Toby in his tracks. It turns out Toby wasn’t “better” after all. The staffer has a photo of Leo’s sister at an Atlanta high school football game. Several students are on their knees praying, and Leo’s sister is looking on as police are placing handcuffs on them.

Leo is furious at how everything has unraveled, especially when he figures out that his sister tipped off the photographer because she wanted to make headlines. He calls his sister to the White House and asks her to decline the nomination. She is pretty furious herself, failing to see why she should turn down the nomination, when she’s perfectly within her rights to keep prayer out of her schools. Leo says that yes, they should enforce the laws, but they shouldn’t ever “strut” about it. Ashamed, she signs the letter declining the nomination. It doesn’t seem like she’s going to be talking to Leo again anytime soon, though. She realizes she’s in the wrong, but she’s still not happy about being called out about it and missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime.

On the lighter side, there’s plenty of wacky Thanksgiving-related hijinks going on around the White House in this episode. A high school kid (who speaks way too prettily for an undereducated farm deliveryboy) arrives early in the episode to drop off the Thanksgiving turkeys. One is to receive the famous Presidential pardon, and the other is to go back to the farm to be sold for Thanksgiving dinner. Josh, being a smartass, tells the deliveryboy that the turkeys should be placed in C.J.’s office. C.J. is, of course, surprised to see two turkeys sitting in her office the next day. She spends the next part of the episode testing them to determine which is more photogenic, and she eventually chooses the turkey who doesn’t mind being touched. I thought it was a little unrealistic, to say the least, that the two uncaged turkeys didn’t completely destroy C.J.’s office, but I guess I’m willing to suspend disbelief a little.

After C.J. makes her choice, she is very upset to learn about the fate of the unchosen turkey. She tries to buy the turkey, but the deliveryboy says it’s already sold to someone else. Then she tries to get President Bartlett to pardon the other turkey. President Bartlett thinks the whole thing is stupid until C.J. tells him that the deliveryboy actually believes the President can pardon a turkey. Ranting about the state of our school system, the President goes out into the hallway and says he pardons the turkey. When the deliveryboy accepts the pardon, President Bartlett goes on to teach him exactly why he’s wrong. This is the moment in the episode that is my mom’s favorite, I think.

The loveable pretentiousness of President Bartlett also provides for the rest of the comedy and heart in the episode. First there’s Josh, Sam, and Toby desperately trying to make sure that they will not get invited to spend Thanksgiving with the First Family. They have plans to hang out and watch football, and they don’t want to be sucked into learning the name of Thanksgiving foods in Latin instead. Surprisingly, their plans are still intact by the end of the episode. I was sure they’d get suckered into dinner with the Bartletts by the end. Then there’s Charlie. For the entire episode, he has Charlie on a mission to find a new carving knife, and he finds something wrong with every knife. Apparently the President is quite the connoisseur. Eventually, Charlie gets fed up and asks why the knife is so important. The President talks about how a carving knife is passed down in families through the generations, so it has to be just right. And he needs a new one because he’s giving Charlie his old carving knife. One that was made for his family by Paul Revere. On that heartwarming note, I’m going to end this post and wish all of my (very few) readers a happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy stuffing yourselves full of turkey and the nap that comes afterwards!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fringe 3.05: "Amber 31422"

“I am not a lingering symptom. You can’t ignore me.”

As impatient as I am for all my favorite characters from “Fringe” to be settled again back where/with whom they belong, I have to admit that splitting the show between the two universes for a short while has really taken the storytelling to a new level. “Amber 31422” was, in a word, fantastic. It really hits all the right emotional notes, and it progresses the story nicely as well. It’s kind of a relief that by the end of this episode, Olivia finally seems ready to accept that she’s not who she thinks she is, and she’s not where she belongs. Her final visit to our universe was heartwrenching in its brevity.

Olivia doesn’t begin the episode in that place of acceptance, though. She begins by being examined by Brandon. Brandon asks if Olivia has felt any lingering symptoms following her “psychotic break,” and Olivia denies it. Walternate enters the room and asks Olivia if she has read the dossier he gave her. It’s a dossier on her true self, and it includes the information that our Olivia can jump between universes. Walternate says that because the two Olivias’ DNA is the same, she should be able to jump between universes too, and he wants to put Olivia through a series of tests to see if it’s possible. Olivia agrees, but following the exam, she gets a bit of a talking-to from her vision of Peter, who is upset that she’s ignoring him, and thereby ignoring her true self.

Elsewhere in New York, we see a Brooklyn subway station encased in amber. Two men enter the station and start hacking away at part of the amber. They extract a person who had been encased in the stuff. The amber victim, who is the twin brother of one of the men who broke into the station, is eventually revived. Of course, for dramatic effect, he doesn’t start breathing until after an alarm signaling a break in the structural integrity of the amber goes off. The two brothers manage to escape, but the other thief is entombed in amber. The process is really quite horrifying to watch. The amber begins as a gas, and it quickly solidifies. I’m glad we’re getting some good, solid, interesting information about how things work on the Other Side. It feels like the writers are really having a good time getting to be creative in creating this other universe.

The Fringe Division is sent to investigate the amber breach. Charlie brings up a documentary about amber on what looks like a sort of slate computer, and it includes some footage of the Brooklyn subway station they’re investigating. By comparing the scene in front of him to the documentary, Charlie sees that there is a new addition to the amber. Looking at the debris of the cut amber, Lincoln sees the impression of a face. While Olivia, Charlie, and Lincoln are at the subway station, Walternate and Broyles are having a meeting. Walter starts with some exposition. He talks about when and why he developed the amber, and he also lets us know the stakes for the episode. The public doesn’t know something very important about amber. When people are accidentally encased in it, they don’t die. They are kept in suspended animation.

With their fancy technology, the Fringe Division is easily able to figure out that the man who escaped the amber is a bank robber named Joshua Rose. The device he was using to break into banks caused small spots of degradation in the fabric of the universe, and each required an ambering. Broyles reveals to the team what Walter told him about amber victims. The team all agrees that Joshua must be captured so the public will not learn amber victims can be revived. If the public had this knowledge, there would be a revolt. One of the things I find fascinating about the Other Side is the well-meaning totalitarianism. I love dystopian future stories, and this is a different take on it than most I have read, in that we really see the motivations (other than lust for power) of the people doing the oppressing.

The team next investigates Joshua’s apartment, which has been sealed since he was ambered. They are about to give up on their snooping around when Charlie finds a hidden room. In the room, there are a bunch of strange objects strewn about. Lincoln recognizes the objects as things that are needed to build a device that lets the user walk through walls. I’m pretty sure there’s been an episode of “Fringe” before where someone from our universe had a similar device. The team doesn’t get to look around the secret room for too long, though. Olivia hears a noise, and she warns her colleagues to get out. As they are running away from the building, an explosion rocks all of them. Everyone survives, but the team needs to spend some time back at headquarters getting patched up. While there, Olivia steals a vial of the anti-psychotic medication she’s been taking. She’s trying to shut Peter out.

Recovered from the explosion, Lincoln and Olivia pay a visit to Joshua’s twin brother Matthew. He gives all the right answers and manages to convince Olivia and Lincoln (Lincoln moreso than Olivia) that nothing out of the ordinary is going on. It turns out, of course, that all is not normal in the Rose household. “Matthew” goes to the hidden room where “Joshua” is recovering and begins to talk to him. It’s quickly apparent that it’s Matthew who had been entombed in amber, and Joshua has been living Matthew’s life ever since the ambering. And this is when the episode begins a fairly obvious parallel between Joshua and Matthew and Olivia and Alt-livia. There’s lots of talk about people who are genetically identical with very different personality.

Olivia has agreed to undergo experiments to see if she can universe jump, and because this is “Fringe,” that inevitably leads her to be immersed in a tank of water while under the influence of psychotropic drugs. At first nothing happens, so Walternate orders Brandon to increase the dosage of the drugs. All of a sudden, Olivia starts to go a bit crazy, then the monitor watching her goes black. Olivia has crossed over, and she finds herself dripping wet, wearing a nightgown in what looks like a Statue of Liberty gift shop. Olivia is only there for a few moments before she’s once again yanked back to the Other Side.

Olivia finally gets back to her apartment, completely exhausted. Her mom stops
Olivia’s mom stops by concerned. All of a sudden, Olivia has a vision of Peter talking about twins he knew in high school and how they cheated on tests. She rushes off to work, leaving her mom bewildered at the apartment, and she tells the rest of the team that she thinks the Rose brothers switched lives. They bring Matthew in for an interrogation, and he passes all tests with flying colors. Olivia is agitated that her coworkers are starting to think she’s crazy. To make matters worse, Olivia’s mom pays a visit to Broyles to voice her concerns. Seriously. I’d be pissed if my mom pulled something like that. But my mom wouldn’t, because she’s awesome.

In response to Olivia’s mom’s really meddlesome intervention, Broyles takes Olivia off the Joshua rose case and puts Lincoln on lead. To add insult to injury, he sends Olivia home. Meanwhile, Matthew calls Joshua in a panic over the interrogation. Matthew’s wife (who has been living with Joshua in the years since the ambering, presumably…awkward) is seriously pissed at Joshua for causing her family all this strife. Joshua says he’ll fix everything, but Matthew’s wife is dubious. Not one to let a direct order stand in her way, Olivia goes to Astrid and asks her to run some calculations. She wants to know the bank Joshua is most likely t hit now that he’s “back.” Astrid says she already ran that scenario for Lincoln, but Olivia has another twist on it. She figures that after the trauma of what happened to his brother, Joshua will favor targets that minimize the chance of civilians getting ambered. According to Astrid, this narrows it down to three banks.

Next thing we know, Olivia has found the correct bank. She heads down into a nearby subway station, and she pretty promptly gets tasered by Joshua. Lincoln and Charlie soon arrive to save the day. They see Olivia’s car and know she’s around somewhere, so they beg Broyles for five minutes to find and rescue her. They manage to accomplish the rescue fairly easily. When the show goes back to its regular paradigm, I will miss Lincoln and Charlie. They and “Alt-livia” have great chemistry. Anyway, Matthew shows up at the scene too, and he finds Joshua in the bank vault. It turns out this robbery was all a set-up so Joshua could get himself ambered. Both he and Matthew can’t exist at the same time, because, as Joshua explains it, the government will want to experiment on the only person to survive being encased in amber. Matthew, after a protest, leaves the scene, and Joshua looks serene as the gas that turns into amber begins to seep into the vault.

In one last ditch effort to be proven right, Olivia makes another visit to the Rose house. Matthew answers the door, and Olivia tries to catch him in a lie, but then Matthew’s son appears at the door, and his happiness makes Olivia change her mind. The case is officially closed. Back in her car, Olivia once again sees a vision of Peter. Peter is upset that Olivia will use his advice for cases but refuses to believe she’s really from our universe. He starts rattling off things about our universe that Olivia could only know if she was from here. Acting more like her old self, Olivia goes back to the lab and asks Brandon if she can be put back in the tank a day early.

Brandon grants Olivia’s request, and Walternate stops by the lab while Olivia is in the tank. Brandon shows Walternate something very interesting. When Olivia’s brain chemistry is kicked into high gear by the drugs and the tank, he can see that there’s a synthetic chemical bonded to the neurons. That would be Cortexaphan, of course. The conversation is interrupted by Olivia seemingly crossing over again. Olivia finds herself back in the Statue of Liberty gift shop, and somehow it happens to be deserted in the middle of the day. Olivia sees a 9/11 memorial post card, looks out the window at the Twin Towers-less skyline, and knows that Peter is right. She picks up the phone, and the first call she makes is to Ella. It’s Ella’s birthday. Tragically, Olivia barely has a chance to say “hi” before she’s yanked back to the Other Side yet again. As Brandon and Walternate help Olivia out of the tank, they want to know what she saw. Olivia claims that the procedure didn’t work and all she saw was blackness. Walternate clearly isn’t believing it, though, and I’d bet some plotting against Olivia will be afoot the next time we see the Other Side.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Big Bang Theory 4.07: "The Apology Insufficiency"

“It doesn’t matter. They’ll find a way to give me a one-way ticket back to Ghandiville. And by the way, when I say that, it’s not offensive.”

“The Apology Insufficiency” was another episode of “The Big Bang Theory” without much substance, but it was somewhat saved by the return of Penny. Kaley Cuoco, who broke her leg earlier this fall in a horseback riding accident, had to be propped up behind the Cheesecake Factory bar or sitting in Sheldon and Leonard’s living room, but I was glad to see she was back. She brings warmth and heart to the show that can be lacking when she’s not around. Another interesting aspect of this episode was a guest starring turn by Eliza Dushku, who we last saw starring in one of my favorite, and unfortunately cancelled, shows, Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse.” It was kind of nice to see Dushku on television again, although the role didn’t really give her a whole lot to do.

The episode opens with the guys eating lunch in the university cafeteria. Which is how pretty much every episode of “The Big Bang Theory” opens if it doesn’t open with the gang all eating dinner at Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment. Leonard, who has lately become more desperate and obsessed about his track record with women, announces that he wants to be more confident with women. He demonstrates his newfound confidence on Raj, which, I have to admit, was pretty funny. Howard joins the group, interrupting Sheldon rattling off facts about capybaras (an animal I’ve loved since I was a kid, by the way). Howard has big news. He has been selected to work on a new Department of Defence project involving satellites. The only catch is that he needs security clearance. The thought of talking to any government official makes Raj very jumpy, even if it’s not ICE and Raj is legally in the country on an H1B visa. He goes on a rant about how he doesn’t want to go back to India, which I guess some people found a bit offensive. I found it kind of funny, because it’s Raj. Sheldon’s just fed up that he didn’t get to talk about capybaras, so he leaves the table in a huff.

It turns out that Raj didn’t use his best judgment in choosing his references for security clearance. Not that it would have done much good anyway, since my understanding is that investigators use your references to develop lists of other people to talk to. But anyway, we first start with Raj. He’s happily reading a book from the Twilight saga (New Moon, I think), when there’s a knock on the door of his apartment. It’s none other than Eliza Dushku as FBI Agent Page. Dushku’s performance is kind of robotic and not really funny. I’m also left wondering why the show’s world, which includes Summer Glau and Wil Wheaton as actors who are geek icons, doesn’t include Eliza Dushku as well. It seems to me that the reaction of all the guys should be “It’s Eliza Dushku!” Raj’s reaction is, as it always is with women, silence. He runs to his kitchen, takes a swig of rum, and quick grabs a rum cake and pretends to have been eating it (it covers up the smell of the rum). With a bit of alcohol in him, Raj can now talk to Agent Page. He starts out answering her questions about Howard just fine, but then he has another freak out about not wanting to go back to India.

Agent Page’s interview with Leonard is no better. Leonard opens the interview with an “X-files” reference, talking about how he thought the FBI would send Mulder, but he got Scully. Then he makes things even worse by starting to do his confident guy flirt on her. Agent Page is not amused. Sheldon, of the entire group, does the most damage to Howard with his interview. At first, he questions Agent Page’s true identity when she shows up at the apartment door. Then he complains about the FBI not doing anything with the evidence samples he sent to them years ago. When Agent Page asks if Howard is responsible, that’s when Sheldon goes on a full blown tirade. He shows Agent Page the Lord of the Rings Blu-ray set that Howard broke, and he goes off on a list of ways he feels Howard has wronged him. Unfortunately (for both Howard and Sheldon), Sheldon inadvertently throws the Mars Rover incident into his list. You know, that time when Howard inadvertently crashed the Mars rover while driving it around in an attempt to impress Stephanie.

Agent Page is all over that Mars Rover story, and not surprisingly, Howard doesn’t get his security clearance. When Howard gives them the news over lunch, Raj and Leonard both own up to the fact that they didn’t give good interviews. Sheldon, however, is unusually subdued. He continues to be subdued even when Leonard says that he thought if any of them would screw up the security clearance for Howard, it would be Sheldon. Sheldon surprisingly has feelings about the whole mess. He even has guilt-ridden dreams. Sheldon tries going to Agent Page’s office to recant his story, but she won’t let him. Then Sheldon tries reciting a poem he wrote about how great Howard is. Agent Page says the matter is closed. In his hysterics, Sheldon almost tells Agent Page about the incident where Leonard was about to give the formula for the new rocket fuel to Joyce Kim, but he manages to backpedal just as Agent Page is starting to look like she wants to start another investigation.

Rattled by the fact that he’s actually feeling guilty, Sheldon admits what he did to Howard and tries to apologize. Howard doesn’t accept the apology. Even more upset, Sheldon goes to see Penny, who happens to be working a bartending shift at the Cheesecake Factory. We haven’t seen Penny bartend in a while, but it’s a convenient way to hide Kaley Cuoco’s cast, and it adds some comedy, so I’m good with it. Sheldon thinks he wants a drink, and he chooses a cocktail from an app on his phone. Penny just pours him a shot, and as they talk, Sheldon keeps trying to drink it and always ends up spitting it out. It’s kind of both funny and gross. Sheldon says that Howard’s forgiveness is unwinnable, and I love that Penny namechecks the Kobyashi Maru here. She watched the Star Trek movies while the boys were up in the Arctic, after all. Sheldon takes inspiration from that and says he wants to reprogram Howard.

Sheldon shows up at lunch and briefly tries to use some behavioral programming on Howard, but it doesn’t work. Sheldon then brings out the big guns. He gives Howard a bag that contains a couch cushion. He’s giving up his beloved “spot” on the couch to Howard. Howard is touched by the gesture, especially after Sheldon explains how much his spot means to him, and he decides to forgive Sheldon. In the episode’s tag, however, we see that Sheldon’s generosity doesn’t last for long. He goes a whopping 94 seconds sitting elsewhere before demanding his spot back.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

HIMYM 6.07: "Canning Randy"

“I love the office Halloween party. It is so much sluttier than the office Christmas party. Though, not as freaky as the office President’s Day rave.”

So, I was expecting to hate this episode, given the lukewarm reviews I had seen online a few weeks ago when it aired, but I actually found it kind of cute and entertaining. Maybe it’s because I kind of empathize with Marshall’s situation. Sometimes I can be nice to a fault, too, letting people walk all over me before finally getting fed up. Oh, and this was very loosely a Halloween episode, and Ted definitely did not dress as a hanging chad. Which kind of made me a bit sad. Ah well, I can imagine that he still actually dresses as a hanging chad for the rooftop party, and he just chose another costume for other events this year. A hot dog costume, to be specific.

Ted wears his hot dog costume as he teaches class, and he revels in how much his students like him. One student in particular really sucks up to him. His students generally think he’s cool, and Ted likes it that way. At the GNB office Halloween Party (which Ted attends thanks to his other job as architect of their new headquarters), Lily makes fun of him for it. Also at the Halloween party, we meet the hapless Randy, a GNB employee who seems to be Marshall’s assistant. We learn two important things about Randy in this early scene. First, he brews his own beer. Second, he seems to have a thing for Robin. Or at least he’s really adamant in asking the group about her whereabouts.

The day after the party, the gang, minus Robin, engages in one of their favorite Halloween pastimes. They hang out on the stoop of Ted’s building and watch the post-Halloween “walk of shame parade.” This is an event where the people who didn’t find themselves in embarrassing situations on Halloween night enjoy watching those who did make their way home. Just as they’re all wondering where Robin is, she walks up to the stoop with a dazed look on her face wearing a rumpled nurse costume. Much of the rest of the episode is spent with the gang trying to figure out who Robin slept with, because she’s being extra cagey. First Robin tries to change the topic, mentioning how appalling she finds it that her bimbo co-anchor Becky did a commercial for boats. Then she tries making up a name. The table at MacLaren’s inspires her to say she slept with “Bill Pepper.”

Meanwhile, Ted watches his cred with his class deplete almost instantly when Zoey shows up in his classroom. She’s upset because, while protesting outside the building, she and Ted had gotten into a rather silly war of words over the Arcadian. Ted’s reaction to realizing Zoey was in his class was absolutely priceless. He drops all of his books and has this hilarious look of horror on his face. Josh Radnor does indeed have comedic chops. Who would have thought? Lily tells Ted that she has a tried and true method for dealing with troublemakers in the classroom. There’s a car often parked outside Ted’s apartment building that has a unique and especially annoying car alarm sound. Lily imitates that (remember, she and Marshall used to be Ted’s roommates), and her kids quiet down immediately. One thing I thought was funny about this scene was that when Lily mentions the car alarm, Ted and Robin are able to immediately recreate the noise, perfectly in synch. Ted (rightly) decides that since his students are actually adults, he isn’t going to stoop to such measures.

For the final plot we must juggle in this episode, Barney is making the annual GNB “We Care” video. Barney is trying to film Marshall saying a really cheesy line, and Marshall really isn’t having it. Randy chooses that moment to walk into Marshall’s office. It turns out Randy really screwed up. He shreaded a contract that Marshall needed to work on. Barney says Marshall should fire Randy, but Marshall is way too nice to do that. Randy choose that moment to make things even worse by knocking Marshall’s salad onto his lap. Marshall still doesn’t fire him, though. The straw that breaks the camel’s back comes the next day, when it turns out Randy sent even more contracts Marshall needs to the shreader.

Marshall is horrified by what he has done, even having nightmares about the consequences of firing Randy. Both Lily’s theory that Robin slept with Randy on Halloween and Marshall’s fears, however, are proven false when Randy stops by MacLaren’s and talks to the gang. He’s smiling and happy because he is going to use his severance pay to start his own brewery. It’s his lifelong dream. Too bad for Randy, though, because Marshall already had a long discussion with his boss and got Randy his job back. Ironically, this makes Randy very upset. Randy threatens to do things that will force Marshall to fire him. Randy indeed follows up on this threat, pretty much completely destroying Marshall’s office with his mayhem. Marshall continues to refuse to fire him until Randy says that working at a big company like GNB might have been Marshall’s lifelong dream, but it isn’t his. This brings Marshall back to his senses. His lifelong dream, after all, was to practice environmental law and work for the NRDC. That dream was shelved when he needed to make money to help pay off Lily’s credit card debt. He tastes the bottle of beer Randy brought him, tells Randy he loves it, and fires him.

Ted ends up backing down from his earlier resolve, too. With Zoey constantly stirring the pot, Ted’s classroom gets more crazy than ever. Ted uses the car alarm noise, and the room is instantly back under control. When the class starts protesting again (instead of showing up to class), Ted calls Lily. Lily reveals her dark side, and tells Ted to use fear. Sitting by her is the headless stuffed horse of her worst behaved student. I thought that was delightfully dark humor. Ted takes Lily’s advice, threatening his students with an F if they don’t show up to class the next day. According to Saget!Ted, that next day was the best attendance he ever saw in his class. Oh, and in other news, it turns out Robin didn’t sleep with anyone on Halloween. She was doing her own commercial. For adult diapers. Clearly, trying to match Becky is not going so well.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Big Bang Theory 4.06: "The Irish Pub Formulation"

“You’re far too short to be Darth Vader. At best, you might be a turncoat Ewok.”

So the main thing I took out of this episode of “The Big Bang Theory” is that I want a Snoopy Sno-cone maker. This episode was a slightly different take on a story that had already sort-of been done in season 1, specifically “The Pork Chop Indeterminacy.” This time around, instead of Sheldon’s twin sister Missy, who we had never heard of before, randomly showing up in Pasadena, we’ve got Raj’s sister Priya, who we had never heard of before, randomly showing up in Pasadena. Another difference is that “The Pork Chop Indeterminacy” saw all the guys throwing themselves at Missy only to have no success, while in this episode, one of the guys sleeps with Priya, only to have to face consequences later. While I thought neither episode was among the best of the “Big Bang Theory” lexicon, I thought “The Irish Pub Formulation” had slightly more substance to it.

Raj brings Priya to lunch with the guys at the university. Since they last saw her, she has become an attorney for a large car company in India. She’s on her way to Toronto for a big business meeting, and she’s stopping in Los Angeles to visit Raj on the way. After some pleasant chatter about how far along Priya has come in her career since they last saw her, Priya asks if Leonard can show her where the rest room is. While they’re gone, Raj reiterates his command that the guys need to keep their hands off his sister. Howard says that shouldn’t be a problem. He and Leonard made a pact five years ago when they first met Priya to do just that out of respect for Raj. Leonard doesn’t seem to really care about that agreement, though. When he and Priya get out into the hallway, she grabs him and kisses him. The only thing that delays Leonard in returning the affection is doing a quick look out for Raj first.

That evening, Sheldon is sitting happily in front of his computer when Leonard comes home. Sheldon has discovered a way to play old school text-based RPGs, and he’s fully ready for an evening of typing his way through an adventure. This is bad news for Leonard, though, because he’s brought Priya home with him, and she’s hiding out in the hallway, waiting for Sheldon to go to sleep so she can sneak into the apartment and spend the night with Leonard. Leonard does his best to convince Sheldon to go to bed. Sheldon has some sort of crazy fear about being sleepy at work, and Leonard works that well. Sheldon heads to his bedroom for the night, but unfortunately for Leonard and Priya, he doesn’t stay there. Priya has to keep throwing herself behind the couch every time Sheldon comes out to the living room. It’s a really spectacular bit of physical comedy. I had never heard of Aarti Mann, the actress who plays Priya, before, but she is definitely fearless.

The next morning, Leonard shows that he’s still the total sap he’s always been. He wants to stay with Priya, even if that means looking for research opportunities in New Dehli.Next morning- Leonard wants to stay with Priya, maybe move to New Dehli. Priya says that is most definitely not going to happen, for a variety of reasons. As Priya is trying to leave the apartment, Sheldon almost catches them again. Priya manages to successfully hide, but Sheldon wants to know why Leonard has lipstick-colored marks on him. Leonard quick makes up a story about a rash, and Sheldon enthusiastically bustles off to look through his collection of ointments for something to help Leonard’s “dermatitis.” Priya makes a break for it, but Sheldon catches her as Sheldon catches Priya as she’s running out. He’s mostly upset that he almost gave up some of his ointment stash for no good reason.

We can, of course, predict where this is going to go next. You see, “The Big Bang Theory” has done an episode before about what happens when Sheldon is asked to lie, too. That episode was “The Loobenfeld Decay,” also of season 1, and it involved Sheldon going to far as to hire an actor as part of an alibi he was constructing so he and Leonard wouldn’t have to go see Penny perform. On the car ride to work, Sheldon is fretting about what to do if someone asks about Leonard and Priya. It’s not just the direct question he’s worried about, it’s all the other sneaky, seemingly innocuous questions people could ask that has him spooked. He’s also kind of pissed that Leonard broke his pact with Howard. Who knew Sheldon Lee Cooper had a sense of honor? Anyway, Sheldon once again takes to developing one of his elaborate alibis for where Leonard was the night before. This one involves an Irish bar and a barmaid named Maggie. He even has a lock of red hair (from an orangutan) to really sell the story.

When Sheldon and Leonard join the rest of the guys for lunch, Sheldon’s fears, of course, are soon realized. The conversation immediately turns to Priya, with Raj asking Leonard to confirm that Priya would never be attracted to Howard. Leonard successfully skirts that question, but then the conversation turns to the previous night’s episode of “Caprica” (RIP). Which Leonard missed thanks to spending time with Priya. Leonard starts using Sheldon’s alibi about “Maggie,” but he quickly gives up and goes with just plain old telling the truth. Raj is extremely angry for about two seconds until Leonard tells Raj that Priya “stomped on his heart.” Howard chimes in that he has never betrayed Raj’s trust, but then there’s a quick rundown of some of the ways in which the guys have all betrayed one another. Howard once dropped Raj’s iPhone in the toilet and also told Raj that it’s tradition for foreigners to give presents to Americans on Thanksgiving. Sheldon ground up moths and mixed them into Leonard’s food as part of an experiment. Raj once used Sheldon’s tooth brush. Everybody except Sheldon agrees that they should just all forgive each other. Sheldon is finally placated when Raj says he got Sheldon a talking Thomas the Tank Engine for Thanksgiving.

I thought this resolution was a bit too easy, but it’s a sitcom. In most sitcoms, everyone has to be happy at the end. “HIMYM” is really the one exception to this out of sitcoms that I watch. When Barney slept with Robin in season 3’s “Sandcastles in the Sand,” Ted at least stayed mad at him for a few episodes. On the positive side, I will say that I think this episode had more depth than “The Pork Chop Indeterminacy.” In that episode, Missy’s visit and the guys’ throwing themselves at her was pretty much just played for laughs. In this episode, the situation with Priya was at least used to examine the relationships between the guys, however briefly. Of course everybody had to be happy at the end, because that’s the nature of this show, but we got a little character work first.

Monday, November 15, 2010

No Ordinary Family 1.05: "No Ordinary Quake"

“You can have superpowers and I can’t have sources? This is what I do.”

“No Ordinary Quake” wasn’t really a stand-out episode of television, although it certainly wasn’t horrible, either. It was really more of the same, as far as “No Ordinary Family” goes. There were more silly high school plots (which I really, really could do without), more crime fighting, and more conspiracy and intrigue surrounding superpowers. There was some resolution to J.J.’s plot, for which I was grateful, because if you’ve been reading this blog, you know how much J.J. acting all self-righteous when he was hiding the fact that he had powers was bugging me. As for the other plots, there wasn’t really anything new brought to the table. Jim’s still crimefighting, Stephanie still doesn’t like it, there are still people other than the Powells with superpowers, and Daphne is still dealing with teen after school special stuff.

The episode opens with the Powells out for an afternoon of shoping at a wholesale club store. Stephanie is getting a new pair of running shoes (her super speed eats through shoes quickly). Jim is helping J.J. pick out a pair of cleats and telling J.J. how proud he is. J.J., of course is feeling the guilt. All of a sudden, there’s an earthquake. Jim and Stephanie shield their children as shelves come tumbling down around them. When it’s over, the Powells are safe, but one of the store employees is pinned beneath a pile of rubble. Jim decides to use his super strength to free her. J.J. looks at the situation, and his super genius gold writing vision kicks in. He can see that the debris Jim is about to lift will cause more damage, and he quickly yells at his father to remove another item instead. It makes the pile collapse perfectly around the woman. It’s a bit too perfect.

After J.J.’s feat of engineering, Stephanie wants to test him for powers. Jim thinks this is a bad idea, because it will undermine any trust they have with J.J. Stephanie is bound and determined to find out if J.J. has powers, though, so she tries to soften the blow with a story that she needs J.J. as a control due to his lack of powers. J.J. doesn’t get offended, but the wheels start turning as to how he’s going to submit a clean urine test. He first tries to delay, and that’s somewhat successful. He needs to drop his sample off at Stephanie’s lab the next day. J.J. makes the typical TV move of having a friend help him get a fake sample. The friend provides him with a sample that is not his own, but the friend guarantees it’s clean. When J.J. takes the sample to the lab, he sees Katie working on decrypting a file on her computer. The file once belonged to the last scientist to research the chromosomal abnormality that leads to superpowers. While Katie takes the sample to be tested, J.J. decides to do her a favor and finish the extremely complicated decryption.

In other teenage Powell news, when Daphne suggests her parents should get her a car, Stephanie tells her she should get a job. Daphne and Megan go to a sort-of far away coffee shop so Daphne can put in her application, and they have quite surprise. Their English teacher, Mr. Robbins, is sitting at a table talking to their classmate, Olivia. Both Mr. Robbins and Olivia act very cagey when approached by Daphne and Megan, so the girls immediately start to suspect something’s up. The snippets of thoughts Daphne’s heard don’t exactly shout out their innocence, either. Megan is especially gung ho about investigating this, and she tries questioning Olivia in the locker room before gym. Again, Daphne hears some thoughts that could be taken to mean Olivia had a relationship with Mr. Robbins. Stephanie advises Daphne to tell someone about the situation if she’s absolutely sure an inappropriate relationship has been going on. In one last effort to be sure, Daphne talks to Mr. Robbins directly. Mr. Robins denies a relationship with Olivia, but Daphne hears him think about how he thought he wouldn’t have these problems once he stopped sleeping with “her.” That’s all Daphne needs to hear to put a note about the situation in the principal’s mail box.

Jim’s plot for this episode revolves around the earth quakes, of course. George’s source for information is the DA’s secretary, and after protesting a bit, she tells him that they’re investigating the earthquake because it wasn’t actually an earthquake. George brings the case to Jim, telling Jim that he suspects a concussion grenade was used. The motive for setting of the grenade was to create a diversion so someone could rob a pharmacy. There’s surveillance footage of the robbery, but it’s locked up in evidence, and neither George nor Jim can get to it. George thinks it would be a great idea if Stephanie took the video. Jim, obviously, disagrees, but he doesn’t stop George when George lies to get Stephanie to do the job. George tells her that the surveillance footage might possibly show Jim doing his crimefighting thing. Stephanie, amongst much hemming and hawing, gets the tape. Jim and George sit down to watch, and they see the robber clearly. In the lamest act break ever (because why should this be such a huge deal?), it turns out that the robber is a woman. She’s been stealing anti-epilepsy meds.

Jim and Stephanie are arguing, as they do, when George calls Jim about a robbery in progress. Jim tries to protest, but he ends up jumping his way to the scene anyway. He sees Rebecca, the girl from the video, fleeing the scene, and he stops her. He says he doesn’t want to hurt her, but she’s not buying it. She calls up some powers and starts sending these waves at him. I guess we’ve found another superhero. Jim withstands the waves for a little bit, but soon he’s sent crashing into some concrete. Meanwhile, Katie calls J.J. into the lab about the decryption. She’s figured everything out, especially because if the urine sample J.J. submitted is to be believed, J.J. is pregnant. J.J. asks his friend why he gave him a sample from a pregnant girl, and of course the girl is J.J.’s friend’s girlfriend. It’s television, we couldn’t have it any other way. Katie had told J.J. she would keep his secret, but it doesn’t last for long. Stephanie asks her to rerun the algorithm used to decrypt the file, and when Katie can’t do it, she has to let the cat out of the bag.

Stephanie is furious yet again, but this time with J.J. She screams at him about lying while Jim just looks on kind of helpless. She wants J.J. to quit football because she thinks playing with powers is cheating. There isn’t too much time to deal with the drama, though, because Jim and Stephanie are due for a reception at the lab to honor the board members who have flown in to see Stephanie’s plant research. I thought it was kind of lame that the reception was actually at a lab. Wouldn’t a huge, rich research facility like Global Tech line up someplace swanky for an event like this? I imagine the truth has something more to do with the budget for the show limiting shooting locations than anything else.

Right as the reception is starting, Rebecca shows up in Dr. King’s office. She’s pissed because Dr. King had been keeping her locked up. Actually, keeping her locked up doesn’t sound all that unreasonable considering she’s fond of starting small earthquakes. She starts trying to use her powers against Dr. King, but Dr. King seems to have some sort of powers, too. He goes all Darth Vader and cuts off her air supply. When she passes out, Dr. King has his goons place Rebecca in a van to be taken back to the holding facility. The plan turns out to be pretty stupid, though, because Rebecca comes to and uses her powers to get herself out of the van. Jim feels the earthquake and runs to the parking garage to confront her. When Jim withstands her attack yet again, Rebecca realizes that he has powers too. She thinks that someone “got” him. Having powers doesn’t make Rebecca trust him, though. She convinces herself that the people who had been holding her would send a fellow powers-possessing person to recapture her because she would trust such a person. She holds him back with her powers, and eventually Jim passes out. Dr. King’s chief goon, The Watcher, arrives on the scene and knocks out Rebecca. He sees Jim lying on the ground, which will certainly have some serious implications in the future.

We end the episode by wrapping up the teenage drama. Olivia stops by the Powell house to confront Daphne about what she told the school principal. It turns out Mr. Robbins had been dating Olivia’s mom, not Olivia. He had become a sort of father figure to her. He and her mom recently broke up, and the lunch Daphne and Megan saw was to say goodbye to Olivia. Daphne apologizes to Olivia, but it doesn’t do much good. Daphne also goes to apologize to Mr. Robbins. He’s nice about it, applauding Daphne for wanting to protect her classmate, but he makes it clear that she’s caused his career quite a bit of trouble. J.J. is allowed to continue to play football, but before the game, Jim stops by the locker room for a chat. He tells J.J. that he thinks J.J. can be the person he wants to be without the help of powers. At a critical point in the game, J.J. decides to run with the ball instead of pass, and he comes close to making a touchdown. Holy cheesy ending, Batman.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Glee 2.05: "The Rocky Horror Glee Show"

“You know, Halloween is fast approaching. The day when parents encourage little boys to dress like little girls and little girls to dress like whores.”

I’ve never seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” yet I was still finding “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” entertaining for the most part until about the last ten minutes. I think I would have appreciated the whole thing more if I had actually seen “Rocky Horror.” I generally enjoy good parody. Although I’m not really sure if this was good parody or not. If the one or two of you who actually read this blog have seen the movie, feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think. From what I saw in the episode, I might enjoy “Rocky Horror.” I may have to marathon “Rocky Horror” and “Xanadu” some time and just call it a cheesy ‘70s-80s musical movie weekend. I can think of worse things to do with my time.

The episode begins with some in media res. The New Directions crew are performing “Rocky Horror,” and John Stamos…I’m sorry…Carl…interrupts the proceedings. He’s in a ridiculous costume, and he’s pissed. He accuses Will of reneging on his promise not to go after Emma. Will looks both uncomfortable and horrified, and in voice over, he wonders how things got to that point. Well, folks, it all started one day during lunch period when Will noticed Emma was eating her sandwich with the crust still on. Will is irked, to say the least, that Carl is actually helping Emma move past her OCD tendencies. Will calls it “making her better,” which I find horribly patronizing, but I’ll save my full rant for a little later in this post. Not only is Emma now eating bread crust, she and Carl went to a notoriously filthy old movie theater to see a screening of “Rocky Horror.”

Will’s jealousy gets the better of him, and he makes what turns out to be a rather rash decision. He tells Emma that he loves “Rocky Horror” too. He loves it so much, in fact, that he’s going to have New Directions put it on as a musical. Emma cautions that some of the material is a bit risqué and parents won’t approve, but Will is determined that with some edits, he can make it work. When he brings the idea to the students, they’re just as skeptical about how parents will take it, but after some convincing by Will, they’re really enthusiastic about it. Finn and Rachel will be Brad and Janet, and the rest of the cast soon falls into place from there.

Over at the local news station, we finally get to see another long awaited segment of “Sue’s Corner.” In this particular edition, Sue is ranting about Halloween. Sue thinks the real meaning of Halloween is fear, and she encourages parents to do everything they can to scare their kids on the big night. The next day, Sue is paid a visit by the new station managers. Being from the cable news business, they thrive on perpetuating fear (a nice little bit of social commentary). They want Sue to do an exposé on the upcoming “Rocky Horror” production. Sue doesn’t like the movie thanks to how an audience one reacted to her sister when they went to see it, and she can’t resist the station managers’ suggestion that she could win a local Emmy for her work. Add her usual desire to make Will miserable, and of course she’s in.

In a kind of attempt to show us just how bad Will’s idea was, one of the plots in this episode involves an exploration of male body image issues. Finn is nervous about the fact that Brad spends part of the show in his underwear. Rachel tries to reassure him that she loves him and thinks he looks great just as he is, but Finn’s not buying it. He gets crap from the other girls in glee club because they know all about his bad eating habits. They say it’s only fair to make fun of Finn in this case given how guys usually treat them. Finn, Sam, and Artie have an interesting conversation in the weight room. Sam reveals the lengths he goes to in achieving his physique, and I’m left wondering if he has an eating disorder.

Sue calls Will out into the hallway in the middle of rehearsal. She says she’s heard about the “Rocky Horror” plans, and she wants in on it. Will offers the part of the Criminologist. That’s not the only faculty addition to the production, though. Since this whole thing is really just a plot to try and win over Emma, Will of course has to ask Emma for help. He asks her to be costume designer, clearly angling for a way to spend plenty of one-on-one time with her. There’s one other big production challenge to deal with in the middle of the episode. Mike Chang tells Will that his parents refuse to give him permission to perform. He’s upset because he was finally getting confident enough in his singing abilities to play Dr. Frank-n-Furter.

Sue is upset that the production, and her chance at a local Emmy, may not go on, but she gets an idea to salvage the show when she sees Emma and Carl talking about their Halloween costumes. She brings the couple to the choir room and tells Will that Carl should be the new Frank-n-Furter. Will is most definitely not amused, and he demands Carl audition. Carl sings a rendition of “Hot Patootie” that all the glee kids seem to like. I wasn’t all that impressed, personally. The song seemed a bit high for John Stamos’ range. Of course, Carl giving a good performance makes Will even more pissy than he already was. “Hot Patootie” is sung by Eddie, though, not Frank-n-Furter, so Eddie is the part Carl gets. Mercedes volunteers to be Frank-n-Furter. I’m not really sure what to think about that. Were the writers really trying to put their own spin on the classic, or was FOX just afraid to have a man in drag on prime time? There’s really no way to know. I’d be curious to know what Harry Shum, Jr. would have actually brought to the part. Sure, he doesn’t really have the vocals, but he would have brought a really great physicality to it.

At a rehearsal where everyone is trying out their costume, Sam, who is playing Rocky, voices his concern that his tight gold underwear might show too much if he tries to dance. Will, half thinking that yeah, maybe the role of Rocky is inappropriate for a teenager to play and half thinking of another opportunity to get close to Emma, decides he’s going to play Rocky himself.
Will has decided he’s going to play Rocky. He tells Emma he would like her help to practice his part. Of course, he wants to rehearse “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.” It’s a hot performance, to say the least, although it’s made more than a little creepy by Santana and Brittany watching through the window. I get, from reading a synopsis of the movie, why that was done, but it’s still creepy.

Sam and Finn have yet another conversation in the locker room, and this time Sam thinks he got kicked out of the show just because he complained about his costume. Finn is worried that the same thing will happen to him, and Sam gives him a pep talk to try to get him to embrace appearing on stage in his underwear. Next thing we know, it’s time for another rehearsal, and everybody is wondering where Finn has gone. Principal Figgins barges in and demands to speak to Will. It turns out Finn is going to be suspended. He got the great idea to walk down the hallway in his Brad costume, which Figgins didn’t find to be at all appropriate. After some pleading from Will, Figgins relents and lets Finn off with a warning. That’s not the end of the trouble, though. We see the in media res scene from the beginning where an angry Carl barges in demanding to know why Will is going after Emma again. Emma told him about “Toucha Me,” and understandably, Carl isn’t happy. Will just looks sheepish.

The final shoe drops when Becky stops by Will’s office while trick-or-treating. She lets it slip that Sue thinks “Rocky Horror” is an abomination. She takes Will to Sue’s office and shows him a pre-taped Sue’s Corner where Sue is speaking out against the production. Will confronts Sue about her scheming, but he also acknowledges that she has a point. He no longer thinks “Rocky Horror” is really appropriate for high school kids to be performing. He’s going to pull the show, to Sue’s chagrin (she can’t win that Emmy now). He also has a chat with Emma. He’s going to back off, because he sees how Carl is making her better (there’s that phrase again). He says she should be with Carl “for now,” and that he loves her, but sees this is best. I found this to be horribly twisted, especially the “for now” bit. So he wants Carl to do all the hard work of helping Emma control her OCD then just swoop back in once she’s “better?” Class act.

I was pretty happily going along with this episode (with the exception of the Brittany and Santana spying, of course) until the last ten minutes or so. Between Will being horrible to Emma and censorship winning, with was just a muddled message all around. Will announces to the group that they’re going to perform “Rocky Horror” just for themselves, not an audience. And the kids don’t seem all upset about it. They give a rousing rendition of “Time Warp” in the final scene of the episode. I just thought the ending was incredibly lame. All that hard work and they’re’ not going to actually perform it for anyone?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

HIMYM 6.06: "Baby Talk"

“In other news, later today, a Manhattan architect gets punched in the throat.”

Overall, I found “Baby Talk” to be a sweet, funny episode of HIMYM, although Ted really, really bugged me in this one. I laughed a lot (at the other plot lines), and I was really happy to see Barney and Robin start to get along well again. Since I’m so far behind, I know the next episode is truly horrid, but I decided to just put that out of my mind and enjoy this episode on a stand-alone basis. There were a lot of good things to take out of this episode, and I promise it wasn’t just a squee-worthy (yes they turn me into a twelve-year-old) Barney and Robin moment that made me enjoy this half-hour. It even had some fun continuity, which is essential for all the best episodes of HIMYM. Continuity is what sets HIMYM apart from more traditional sitcoms.

The continuity is evident right from the beginning of the episode. We get a chance to reconnect a little with Stuart and Claudia, peripheral friends of the gang who have popped up now and then in the story since the early days. They just had a baby, and Marshall and Lily are the first to visit after the big event. Stuart and Claudia, who never really seem to like each other very much, are still arguing over the baby’s name. Marshall and Lily are kind of horrified by this and don’t want that to happen when they have their own baby. At MacLaren’s, though, they discover that this goal could be easier said than done. Marshall suggests a list of boys’ names that all remind Lily of various horrible students she’s taught over the years. Most of these students got paint on her somehow.

Lily suggests a list of girls names that remind Marshall of women he has objectified over the years, such as a high school classmate and a stripper. I did appreciate the little “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” shout-out in this scene. Lily’s first choice of baby name was “Tara,” the name of Alyson Hannigan’s character Willow’s lover for several seasons of that show. In a sidebar with Ted, Marshall realizes that he’s afraid of having a daughter. He’s afraid he won’t be able to protect her, and she’ll end up with the likes of Old Man Barney (who was pretty hilarious, by the way, all plastic-surgery’d up). Robin is kind of preoccupied while all this is going on. She’s still having issues with her new co-anchor, Becky. Becky gets by using a little girl voice and acting helpless. Robin wants to know why the little girl act works on men. She thinks it’s sexist. Barney accepts an unintentional challenge to pick up a woman while talking like a little boy. Good times are guaranteed to ensue.

Marshall’s Skyping with his parents, as he does, and when his mom steps away from the web cam, his dad starts unleashing the Eriksen wisdom about how to make sure Lily has a boy. You see, Eriksen men for generations have only had sons. The advice is a bunch of silly little stuff like avoiding lemons and facing North. The next time he and Lily are planning to have sex, Marshall excuses himself to the bathroom and starts using all the tricks his dad told him. The worst is eating pickled herring- that’s just gross! Marshall soon finds out that Lily has learned about all these “Viking” legends, too. She’s got a whole pile of lemons next to her side of the bed. It turns out that Lily wants a daughter as much as Marshall wants a son. They reach an impasse until Stuart and Claudia tell them that they had to take their baby to the ER, and that reality check led them to agree on a name. The sobering news leads Marshall and Lily to decide to agree on a unisex baby name. They choose Jamie, although the choice doesn’t last for long, due to the behavior of one of Lily’s newest students.

In other news, the Becky situation gets worse when Robin discovers Becky went out with Ted. Robin confronts Ted and finds out that he met Becky when Becky dropped by the apartment to deliver some baked goods to Robin. They bonded when Ted killed a spider. This was a pretty difficult thing for Ted to do, which was kind of amusing. The conversation is interrupted by Barney’s adventures in trying to pick up women by using a baby voice. The result of Barney’s challenge is creepily hilarious. Neil Patrick Harris seemed to tap into the ADD side of Barney we first saw last season in Robin 101. Barney ends up forfeiting the challenge, and it tears him apart. Not because of the women he’s lost, but because he’s never forfeited a challenge before. He is about to accept a new challenge to try to pick up women wearing a bright orange shirt, but he can’t bear it and runs out of MacLaren’s sobbing.

Ted says Barney was creepy, and Robin wants to know why Ted changed. She always thought he went for more intelligent, independent women. Ted reaches new levels of douchiness and tells Robin that she didn’t make him feel needed, and guys like to feel needed. After dropping that bombshell, he gets a text from Becky and rushes out of MacLaren’s. Robin finds herself at Barney’s apartment, and she apologizes to him for not making him feel needed when they were dating. Barney, because he’s awesome, tells Robin that her independence is what makes her great. And I’m hoping this is the writers inching them ever closer back together. It was a wonderful moment because it showed Barney and Robin starting to be friends again, and it was one of those “Barney is actually human” moments that can really make an episode shine. The moment is broken when Robin asks Barney about the other woman in his apartment. It turns out that he had a post-challenge failure little boy breakdown, and he actually found a woman who was turned on by the little boy act. So he succeeded in the challenge after all. Now he’s really sick and tired of the woman, though, who uses a baby voice constantly, too. Robin happily agrees to help Barney get rid of her.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Big Bang Theory 4.05: "The Desperation Emanation"

“When I call him, his phone plays ‘Brown Eyed Girl.’ Which, now that I think about it, is not so good.”

I found “The Desperation Emanation” to vacillate between mildly entertaining and incredibly disparaging to women. Overall, the episode just wasn’t all that enjoyable. Generally “Big Bang Theory,” especially through the character of Penny, who is fairly well rounded, does not stoop to these levels. Perhaps the problem is that this is the first of a stretch of episodes where Kaley Cuoco will be absent due to a horseback riding injury. I think the show needs Penny’s influence to really be watchable. Otherwise it’s just about a group of desperate, kind of mean nerds. I love me some nerd humor, but that’s not what this episode was at all. It was demeaning to both women and nerds, frankly.

The episode opens with Sheldon and Leonard in their apartment, discussing girlfriends, surprisingly enough. I say it’s surprising considering Sheldon is so rigidly anti-relationship. Leonard wonders why Sheldon doesn’t want to spend more time hanging out with Amy. Sheldon thinks that Leonard might be jealous of his relationship with Amy. Apparently, Leonard has suddenly become lonely and desperate since he’s gone without a girlfriend for a few months. Sheldon goes so far as to accuse Leonard of being unable to have a functional relationship with a woman.

Things get worse for Leonard when he and Sheldon arrive at the comic book shop to peruse the latest merchandise with Howard and Raj. Howard answers a phone call from Bernadette and makes a huge deal about how it’s Bernadette. He’s enjoying showing off that he has a girlfriend again. Raj reveals that he has a girlfriend now, too. When asked how she could put up with the fact that he can’t talk to women, Raj says that she’s deaf. This kind of irritated me. The deaf have a variety of ways to communicate, and just because a person is deaf does not mean that he or she has no need for communication. The writers reached a bit too far for the joke on that one. Stewart, the guy who owns the comic book shop, has a girlfriend now too, and this is almost as bad as Raj’s. He met her at Comic-con, and she’s overweight and likes to wear her extra large Wonder Woman costume before sex. This one irritated me as well, because it was a parody taken to such an extreme. As a geeky girl myself, it was incredibly insulting.

Leonard is on the couch moping over his situation when Sheldon asks him to move over so he can have his spot. At that moment, Leonard is a little creeped out to find out that Amy has been in the room via Sheldon’s webcam the entire time he’s been moping. Amy suggests, in many more words than necessary, that Leonard try to go to a bar and pick up some chicks, and Leonard decides to leave the apartment rather than take any more harassment. He’s not alone for long, though. Amy tells Sheldon that she’d like for him to meet her mother. Sheldon calmly ends their internet chat, then runs after Leonard screaming. He has quite the freak out, because he rightly figures that a request to meet the parents means Amy wants to take their relationship to another level.

We next see Leonard in front of Howard’s house. After the typical yelling banter with his mom (she’s preparing for a colonoscopy the next day), Howard answers the door. Howard wants t know why Leonard is wearing an Apple t-shirt, and Leonard reveals he’s been pretending to work at the Genius Bar. The Apple Store management didn’t take too kindly to the imposter, and Leonard spent a little time in the mall jail. At first, I was a little pissed at the product placement aspect of the t-shirt, but the fact that they crafted a pretty elaborate story to go with it amused me. Anyway, Leonard has come to Howard because he wants to invoke their girlfriend pact. The pact that led to Howard being introduced to Bernadette in the first place. Bernadette does end up agreeing to introduce Leonard to one of her friends.

Unfortunately for Leonard the date doesn’t go all that well. I really should go on yet another rant about how women are portrayed in this episode yet again. But I’ll try to spare you. For the most part. Leonard’s date is a woman named Joy, and she is absolutely horrible. She arrives fresh from the gym, and she’s crude and gross and has no filter. I really don’t understand why Bernadette would have thought such a woman would make good blind date material. It makes no sense. Leonard decides he wants to end things with Joy before they begin, and he gives Howard this speech about having self respect. Howard has dated plenty worse, after all, just to not be alone (a theme which has cropped up multiple times in this episode). Almost as soon as Leonard resolves to end things with Joy before they begin, Joy asks Leonard if he’ll be her date to a wedding. Leonard caves and says he’d be happy to because she promises sex. What sad commentary. I’ll leave it at that.

Sheldon spends much of the episode going way overboard in trying to figure out how to make sure he never has to see or hear from Amy again. He tries to go completely “off the grid,” changing all of his internet profiles and his phone number. He even takes one of the address numbers off the front of the apartment building, thinking that will result in Amy getting lost if she tries to find him. Predictably, though, it’s no use. Amy shows up at the apartment. Sheldon has Leonard tell Amy he’s not home, but Amy waits patiently in the building lobby. There are a few funny sequences with Sheldon chanting a little song as he jumps down the stairs, only to run right back upstairs when he sees Amy is still hanging around. Eventually, Sheldon has no choice but to hear her out. Amy says that what she really wants is a ruse. She wants Sheldon to pretend to be her boyfriend so her mother will get off her back. Sheldon agrees and is happy that things with Amy have gone back to the status quo. The pair scare Amy’s mom enough that she won’t bug Amy any more with talk of copious amounts of sex. Amy’s mother’s reaction was predictably hilarious.

No Ordinary Family 1.04: "No Ordinary Vigilante"

“Should I drive, or do you want me to just hop on your back and we could…I’ll drive.”

While I like the tone “No Ordinary Family” has established, I still haven’t become fully invested in the show. “No Ordinary Vigilante” was really just more of the same. There was a bit of conspiracy stuff, silly high school drama, and crime fighting, of course. The episode didn’t really bring anything new to the table. The kids didn’t irritate me as much as they did in the past, but they still weren’t especially compelling. They’re just doing their typical teenage rebellion thing, only with superpowers. The same conflicts that have been around since the pilot are still around at the exact same intensity. There doesn’t seem to be much of an arc yet. There wasn’t a whole lot of George or Katie in this episode, either, which could partially explain my dissatisfaction, since they’re very compelling characters.

The episode opens with Jim patrolling a park. It’s not really the type of park where you would want to bring your kids. It’s really pretty shady. Jim hears a scream and finds a woman being assaulted. Before he can do anything to stop the situation, though, a hooded figure appears from another direction and shoots the attacker. Jim is stunned. Jim is able to get away without being caught, amazingly enough, and he takes the attacker to a hospital and leaves him at the ER door with a sign asking for treatment.

The story of the attack is on the TV news, and Stephanie is pissed…again. She’s still really concerned about the kids either worrying about Jim when he’s indulging in his hobby, or worse, imitating him, especially when they hear about it on the news. Stephanie doesn’t have too much time to fret, however, because she’s got bigger fish to fry at work. She and Katie think their lab has been broken into, but it’s really just the annoying naysayer scientist from the pilot who was disparaging Stephanie’s work on the plant from Brazil. He’s been assigned to work on their project. Dr. King feels that since so much money is going into it, they need more help. It’s probably also a way to spy on them, too, but we haven’t gotten that far. Stephanie and Katie make the discovery that the plant has a genetic similarity to the change that has taken place in the Powells. The naysayer scientist sees their research on the chromosome affected and informs them that a Global Tech scientist, Volson, tried researching that chromosome in the past, and he was fired. Stephanie and Katie later discover that the former scientist is now dead, adding a bit to the intrigue. The project he had been working on was a sort of “genetic spackle.”

Jim’s colleagues at the police department were less than thrilled with his sketch of the “suspect” in the park vigilante case, and he goes to George to vent his frustrations. George wonders if maybe they should prioritize their cases, but Jim is adamant that they need to catch this vigilante. George relents, and he ends up having a bit of a breakthrough on the case. He finds the file of a man named Meyers whose child was killed violently. George and Jim suspect Meyers might be trying to rid the town of criminals like whoever killed his son. They go to a bar Meyers frequents, and Jim sits down next to Meyers and tries to talk to him. When the subject turns to kids, however, Meyers shuts down, then leaves the bar. Jim’s interrogation tactics are clearly lacking, but for some reason he’s convinced that Meyers must not be the vigilante. Perhaps he sees a bit of himself in Meyers, and he’s got to believe that Meyers wouldn’t kill.

The stakes for the kids’ plot are much lower, of course. It’s all very typical teen stuff. I’m wondering just how long it will take the writers to get through all the typical teen TV plots, actually. The two plots in this episode are so stereotypical it’s almost laughable. Daphne wants to get into a popular kids’ party, and J.J. wants to join the football team. Yes, the writers do attempt to put a twist on these typical teenage plots, because these kids do have special powers after all, but it really wasn’t enough. J.J. is watching football practice when he realizes that he has what I’m going to call “football vision.” He sees lines and formulas and such related to the plays, just like the lines he sees when looking at a math problem. J.J.’s math teacher is still convinced he’s cheating somehow, and I guess J.J. wants to try to prove his worth by joining the football team. When he tells the family his idea, they’re skeptical, especially Jim. They really don’t think J.J. has the build to be an athlete. Turns out the football coach agrees. J.J. strikes a deal with the coach, though. If he does well on his history mid-term, he can try out for the team.

J.J. fulfills his part of the bargain by acing the history test, but the going doesn’t get any easier from there. The guys on the team give him a hard time for being so small. They start to warm up to him when he makes a brilliant pass, though. Unfortunately for J.J., his super annoying math teacher is creepily watching practice and sees J.J. make the pass as well. He calls in Jim and Stephanie and accuses J.J. of being on some sort of drug such as Aderall. Jim and Stephanie confront J.J. about this, and J.J. pitches a fit. Not really how you expect a teen to react to such a situation, I don’t think. When asked if he has powers, J.J. goes on this rant about how horrible it is that when he finally starts succeeding at things, nobody believes he could accomplish any of it without help. If J.J. really were accomplishing these great feats on his own, I’d be sympathetic to his plight. Since it really is his powers, the whole thing is just stupid.
Daph and girls talking about party.

In the other teen drama trope of the episode, Daphne and her friends are in a convenience store talking about this big party coming up. It’s so exclusive that only people who are invited know where it will be held. It doesn’t take Daphne long to realize what she needs to do. She approaches the mean girl hosting the party and starts asking her questions about it. The mean girl is, of course, horrified that a loser like Daphne could even know the party exists. Daphne comments on the “location” of the party, clearly making it up, and then she listens in as the mean girl thinks about the real location of the party. Daphne and her pals crash the party, and Daphne is surprised to see J.J. there too. He was actually invited because he’s on the football team. The mean girl spots Daphne and is pretty furious. She tries to throw Daphne out, but Daphne is saved by a guy pointing out that the keg is empty. Daphne has the oh so brilliant idea to save her social status by offering to buy booze.

While his kids are running amok, Jim is in the part yet again, looking for the vigilante. There’s another shooting, and Jim sees a hooded figure, which now looks an awful lot like Meyers, run off. This time, Jim gets himself in a bit of trouble because a rather yuppie couple that really had no business being in that park saw him. They didn’t get an especially clear view, but it was enough to make Jim nervous. It gets worse when the couple come to the police station as witnesses, and Jim is assigned to produce a sketch of the person they saw. Jim fakes a coughing fit to have an excuse to keep covering his face, and lucky for him, the witnesses suggest a fact that looks very much like his, but they said the person they saw had long hair. It’s enough to give Jim plausible deniability. The sketch makes it to the news, which causes some brief trouble when the police chief sees it (it does look an awful lot like Jim), but George makes the save by really pushing the police to investigate Meyers instead. There’s a line-up, but the witnesses don’t ID Meyers, and Meyers walks.

Daphne thinks she can use her powers to secure booze and her place in the high school social hierarchy. She goes to the convenience store and brazenly places a bottle on the counter. When the cashier questions her, she tries to blackmail him. She heard him thinking that he’s been skimming money from the register. I half expected the cashier to fall for the blackmail, but he doesn’t. Quite angrily, he points to the CCTV camera behind him and says Daphne doesn’t really have any room to blackmail him, because she has been caught on video trying to buy alcohol underage. Next thing we know, Jim and Stephanie are angrily escorting Daphne into the house. She was let off with a warning, but it’s still a big deal. For some reason, Daphne thinks this situation will be made better if she can prove she didn’t drink at the party (because trying to buy alcohol underage is so much better if you don’t actually intend to consume it). J.J. steps up and admits that he was at the party, too (both kids had liked to their parents about their whereabouts) and Daphne didn’t drink. The whole thing becomes more about Jim and Stephanie than about the kids, with each accusing the other of not “being there.” I think the phrase “be there” must have been said at least five times in two minutes in this part of the episode.

Jim goes back to the bar for another chat with Meyers, who, of course, says he lost his kid not because of the murderer, but by not “being there.” Jim goes home, and we get a sappy Powell family moment, where Jim and Stephanie apologize to J.J. for not believing that he couldn’t achieve things without powers. It would be sweet if J.J. weren’t, you know, actually achieving things thanks to his powers. Then there’s another cheesy scene where Jim and Stephanie inform Daphne that even though she’s grounded, she’s going to J.J.’s football game. It turns out that the writers aren’t just dipping into teen drama tropes here- they’ve got to go for the sports tropes too. The QB1 of the football team is injured, so J.J. gets to play. A scene of J.J. making a great pass is intercut with a scene of Meyers going vigilante once again. And this time he gets killed by police.

Monday, November 1, 2010

HIMYM 6.05: "Architect of Destruction"

“Ted, I know ya love crappy old stuff no one cares about, but I’m gonna give ya four words to live by: ‘new is always better.’”

While I don’t think “Architect of Destruction” surpassed “Subway Wars” as my favorite episode of the season thus far, I did find it to be a fun, entertaining half hour. The resolution to the main plotline kind of bugged, but overall I’m happy to see the show returning to plot arcs instead of standalone episodes and more nuanced characterization. These episodes are funny on a level that most of last season’s were not. I think HIMYM really does need the season-long plot arcs to succeed. It feels like there’s more substance to the show now. Substance isn’t usually something I look for from a sitcom, but it’s part of what made early HIMYM great- humor that comes from a real place with heart. Okay, maybe this episode didn’t have so much of the “heart” (Subway Wars did, though), but it certainly had humor that came from a real place.

Barney is super enthusiastic about Ted working at GNB. The guy just adores being surrounded by his friends. We actually get a “legendary” from Barney, which, believe it or not, he hasn’t said in ages. This time, he finishes the word via inter-office memo. I thought that was cute. It’s really been a long time since we got a spiced up “legendary” like the line from the pilot that turned it into a catch phrase “legen-I hope you’re not lactose intolerant because the second half of this word is- dary.” Anyway, things go south with the happy Barney-Ted working relationship when they find out the site for the new GNB building. The building currently on the site is “The Arcadian.” It was one of the world’s great hotels in its heyday, but it has since become horribly run down, and it’s in a bad section of town.

At MacLaren’s, Ted breaks the news to Barney that he doesn’t think he can do the GNB headquarters project anymore. Barney launches right into a campaign to change Ted’s mind. He claims that “new is always better.” Ted tries to test that hypothesis with things like the old Star Wars movies compared to the new Star Wars movies, and Barney always has a reason for preferring the new. Then Ted brings out the big guns. He asks the barmaid about the oldest and newest Scotch. Never one to back down from the challenge, Barney requests the really nasty sounding new “grape Scotch.” Barney eventually realizes why Ted has changed his mind. It must be a girl. At first Ted denies it, and I believed him because that would be just stupid, but then it turns out Barney was right. When Ted was sitting in front of the Arcadian contemplating its destruction one night, he met a woman named Zoey who is leading the campaign to save the building. Barney accuses Ted of constantly changing his personality for women, and a series of pretty amusing flashbacks proves Barney’s point. It also turns out that Ted told Zoey he was a vet just so she wouldn’t realize he’s involved in the immanent destruction of the Arcadian.

In other news, Marshall and Lily are still trying for a baby. They’re getting ready to have sex when Lily mentions that Robin has hooked up with Marshall’s law school friend Max, and they want to double date with Marshall and Lily. This is the guy she hit it off with at the end of “Subway Wars.” Marshall is very happy, saying Max is a great guy, until Lily mentions off hand that according to Robin, Max has a small penis. Marshall really, really didn’t want to know that. The topic comes up again later at MacLaren’s, where the other guys recoil in horror just like Marshall did. The guys didn’t realize that women really talked about that sort of thing. The ladies try to counter with the stereotype of guys’ “locker room talk,” but Marshall says that locker room talk never gets into specifics. The double date doesn’t go so well, because Marshall can’t stop thinking about Max’s lack of endowment. He treats Max like someone who is terminally ill. Robin knows what’s going on, and she tries to deflect it as best she can.

Things go from kind of juvenile to really funny when Marshall realizes that Robin and Lily must talk about his prowess in the bedroom, too. The next time he and Lily have sex, he can’t help but picture Lily and Robin sitting in the corner of the room, sipping Cosmos and commentating on the action, “Sex and the City” style. There was even “Sex and the City” music to really set the scene. I thought that was one of the funniest moments of the episode. To relieve his anxiety, Lily calls Robin and reads from a script (prepared by Marshall) about how wonderful the night was. Robin can easily tell it’s a script (it’s chock full of cheesy romance novel clichés), but she goes with it to make Marshall feel better.

Meanwhile, Ted continues to lie to Zoey. The situation comes to a head when Zoey brings a truck full of liberated laboratory bunnies to Ted’s apartment. Ted stupidly says he’ll go get his vet supplies. We never see the actual consequences of the lie going this far, which is kind of disappointing. It turns out that Zoey is a pretty wacky activist, and not just for old buildings and animal rights. She pretty much goes all out whenever she thinks someone or something is getting stomped on. She’s been arrested a bunch of times, and there’s a really funny montage of all her mug shots. Ted, completely stupid in his pursuit of Zoey (as always), shows up at The Arcadian, ready to join in one of Zoey’s prtests. Zoey is very pleased until she looks up at the building and sees a big sign announcing that the new GNB building is coming soon, designed by “architectural wizard Ted Moseby.” The sign is hilarious, with an unflattering photo of Ted in a wizard costume. Zoey is understandably pissed when she discovers Ted’s role in the immanent destruction of The Arcadian.

Ted gets back to his apartment to find Barney waiting for him, once again in the rented swivel chair. I think that chair last made an appearance in season 2 when Barney wanted to meet Ted’s sister. This time, though, Barney’s holding one of the bunnies Zoey liberated. He gives his best Dr. Horrible evil laugh as Ted walks through the door. Barney was responsible for the sign, of course. He didn’t want Ted giving up on the project because of a girl. Ted claims that he just came to the realization that he truly wanted to save the building, and he starts working furiously. The next day, he shows up to one of Zoey’s protests with new building plans in his hand. He wants to preserve the façade of The Arcadian. Zoey is thrilled. As she’s looking at the plans, Ted spots the ring on her finger and realizes she’s married. At that moment, he claims, he realized that it was about the girl and not the building after all. This didn’t make sense to me. Ted is a huge architecture nerd. He scared a bunch of people off the bus because he was being such an architecture nerd in just the last episode.

The episode’s tag makes up for any frustration I felt over the resolution to Ted’s plot, though. The guys are in the locker room, and Max mentions he might break up with Robin because of something she does in the bedroom that is apparently pretty crazy. Ted and Barney, having both dated Robin, instantly know what Max is talking about and tell him that “it’s not for everyone.” I always like little moments when Ted and Barney acknowledge their shared history. It always makes me laugh. Anyway, Marshall wants to know what this crazy thing is, and Ted, Barney, and Max refuse to tell him. It is “the locker room,” after all. They’ve got to keep it classy.