Friday, December 31, 2010

TV Things I'm Excited About for 2011 (but probably won't have time to blog about)

As I’m getting ready to leave for a New Year’s party that happens to be (what else?) a TV marathon, I’m thinking about the television I’m really excited for in the new year. Unfortunately, because of my schedule, I probably won’t be adding any of these to the blogging rotation, but I thought they deserved a little mention here on the blog, at least.

Doctor Who Series 6

Although I was kind of lukewarm on “new-new Doctor Who” as we saw it in series 5, I saw the preview for the new series while watching the “Christmas Carol” themed new Christmas special earlier this week, and it made me pretty excited. First of all, the Christmas special itself was pretty decent (although still not quite to the level of “The Christmas Invasion”). As far as the preview goes, I like that the Doctor’s obsession with odd clothing choices continues, and I like that we’re going to be seeing more of River Song. I think Alex Kingston has more chemistry with Matt Smith than David Tennant, so I enjoy her interactions with Eleven. Although I’m a bit wary of trying to import British television ideas in any way, because the original product is so much better, I’m intrigued that at least a few episodes will take place and were filmed here in the United States. The new series will premiere on BBC America in Spring 2011.




Off the Map

“Off the Map,” premiering January 12 on ABC, is the newest show to be produced by Shonda Rhimes, of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” fame. If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you’ll know that I was once a big-time “Grey’s” fan, but Shonda and I had a bit of a “falling out.” Why am I seriously considering going back to Shondaland? First of all, Rhimes will not be writing on this series. The pilot was written by former “Grey’s” writer Jenna Bans. Second, it stars two of my absolute favorite actors, Caroline Dhavernas (Jaye from “Wonderfalls”) and Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen from “Friday Night Lights”). I’ll deal with the trademark Shonda melodrama for quite a while to see these two actors work, especially Dhavernas, who has not been on American television (she’s French Canadian) on a regular basis since her “Wonderfalls” days.




Torchwood: The New World

As I mentioned when talking about the new series of "Doctor Who," I’m a little wary of the “International” scope of the new series of "Torchwood," but it will be good to see Jack and Gwen back on my television screen, and I’m curious to see how the team gets back together after the tragic events that ended the last series. The last series of “Torchwood,” called “Children of Earth,” was fantastic. I’m also missing Russell T. Davies’ unique voice since he is no longer head writer for “Doctor Who.” I’m hoping that since Davies is still head writer of “Torchwood” this will give me my fix of what I’ve been missing so much with Moffat-run “Doctor Who.” Jane Espenson, who has written wonderful episodes for every TV series created by Joss Whedon, will also be writing for this series of "Torchwood." "Torchwood: The New World" is set to premiere on Starz in Summer 2011.




Being Human Series 3

The American version of this wonderful BBC Three series will be debuting on Syfy on January 13, but we won’t speak of that here. I’m talking about the original. The third series of “Being Human” is currently filming in Cardiff, Wales, and although there doesn’t appear to be an official premiere date available yet, it is slated to premiere at some point in 2011. “Being Human” tells the story of a vampire named Mitchell (Aidan Turner), a werewolf named George (Russell Tovey), and a ghost named Annie (Lenora Crichlow), who are roommates. The trio try to blend in with the rest of society as best they can while dealing with big supernatural threats at the same time. To whet your appetite, here’s a behind the scenes video of the first read-through of the new series (which took place over the summer) from the BBC.




The Cape

“The Cape,” which premieres January 9 on NBC, is this television season’s second superhero-themed show, and even though I’ve been kind of up and down on “No Ordinary Family,” I’m really looking forward to this one. The trailers are intriguing- they make it seem a little more grown up than I originally thought it would be. I’m also excited that fabulous Joss Whedon alum Summer Glau (major Whedon roles being River Tam in “Firefly” and Bennett on “Dollhouse”) has a major role. Glau brings a fascinating physicality and grace to any role she inhabits. Overall, “The Cape” looks like it will be good fun with some intelligence, and we need more of that on television. Sarah may be blogging this one for MTVP depending on her school schedule, so you may get recaps of “The Cape” despite what I said at the beginning of this post.


Glee 2.09: "Special Education"

Always entertaining guest blogger Sarah is back again, helping me catch up on fall blogging before winter shows start. She'll be blogging a couple of episodes of "No Ordinary Family" too, so keep an eye out for that. Meanwhile, here's her take on the "Glee" episode "Special Education."

***

“I don’t care if you guys hate each other. All I want is for you guys to go out there and sing together. Get up there and for six minutes, remind yourselves that you’re not alone.”
- Will

So, I liked “Special Education." For one thing, it was mercifully void of one Sue Sylvester. I mean she was entertaining to a point last season but now she’s just obnoxious and irritating most of the time. I know I said she was nice last episode with sticking to her word about expelling Karofsky, but generally, she gets on my nerves.

Anyway, the episode starts off with Will talking to Emma in the teacher’s lounge. He’s offered her tickets to Sectionals, saying she’s their good luck charm. When he starts to go through their killer set list, Emma interrupts by saying he’s going to have Rachel and Finn sing a ballad and then the rest of the group join in with a rock song with Mercedes ending it. Will’s a little surprised by her statement but soon realizes she’s right. He’s not letting all of the talent be showcased. He brings this up at Glee rehearsal and Finn and Rachel (well mostly Rachel) are thrown. Mike Chang and Brittany are going to do a dance number and Sam and Quinn are going to be doing the ballad. To make things worse, Santana outs Finn for sleeping with her last year.

Meanwhile, we see Kurt settling in at Dalton Academy, complete with blue and red uniform. I have to say, the uniform just isn’t Kurt. I miss his cute style. So he’s sitting in on the Warblers rehearsal and they hand him a canary named Pavarotti to take care of. He makes a joke about taking it to work with him in a coal mine with stray cats but it falls on deaf ears. Then, the council comes to order. Blaine explains that they select three upperclassmen each year to be the council since they don’t have a director. Kurt jumps in with his ideas for a Sectionals set list when the council promptly shuts him down. Instead, the council decides to do their entire set list in 8-part harmony. How they actually have enough singers to double parts is a little suspect but whatever. You need a little suspension of disbelief.

Back at McKinley, Rachel confronts Finn about what Santana said. It’s obvious she’s hoping it isn’t true, but Finn can’t lie. It turns out they are in Emma’s office for a counseling session. Rachel is pretty caught up with the fact that Finn slept with Santana. It seems she’s not all that pissed that he lied about having sex. It’s more the who than the what. I guess it’s not that surprising that she’s so obsessed. Things end with Rachel storming out. Meanwhile, Artie finds Brittany hiding in a classroom. She says she’s scared about performing at Sectionals because she doesn’t want to be responsible for if they win or lose. Artie cheers her up by giving her his “magic comb”.

Will tasks Puck with finding a new member for the Glee club. Since Kurt left, they’re a member short, and if they don’t find someone else, they can’t compete at Sectionals. Puck tries to recruit from the football team and gets locked in a port-a-potty for his troubles. He’s rescued by Lauren (Typhoid Mary from “The Substitute”). Will and Rachel kind of have it out when she protests not getting a solo for Sectionals. Will’s tired of all the kids being about themselves and says rather sternly that they will be good sports at Sectionals. They’ll cheer on the other teams and if either of them wins, the New Directions will congratulate them.

After rehearsal, Tina shows up at Artie’s locker, dressed like a cheerleader zombie (according to Artie) and tells Artie that she thinks Brittany and Mike Chang are cheating on them. Artie doesn’t want to believe it but Brittany has been avoiding him a little and when he goes to confront her, she says she has to go rehearse with Mike.

Kurt is in slightly higher spirits when Blaine tells him he can audition for a solo at Sectionals. Kurt pops by McKinley to ask Rachel for help in picking out a solo, and they end up doing a rather odd duet of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”. Don’t get me wrong, I loved their duet of “Defying Gravity” but this one just didn’t live up to the past performances. Another thing I don’t get is that it was really Rachel’s song. Kurt doesn’t get the solo and he’s again rather put out by his lack of success with the Warblers.

Emma ends up telling Will that she can’t go to Sectionals with him and the kids as they board the bus. She told Carl about everything and after a fight; Emma says that she can’t lie to him anymore. With a rather dull call from Rachel, Will boards the bus and they head off to Sectionals. Rachel runs into Kurt before performances start and she tries to be sympathetic that he didn’t get his solo. They share a sort of sweet moment before Blaine comes to collect Kurt.

We first see the Hipsters do “In the Living Years,” which is okay and kind of reminded me of the movie “Young At Heart.” Not a great performance but amusing enough. The looks on the New Directions are pretty amusing as well. Next we get the Warblers doing a very good rendition of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister”. I have to say, I adore this song and I really like Darren Criss’s voice. For those of you who watched “The Sing-Off” on NBC, my favorite group (Street Corner Symphony) did a great version of this song as well. Apparently, the background singers that make up the Warblers are actually a group from last year’s “Sing-Off.” Kurt is a little straight-faced at first but Rachel motions to him to smile and he does. Now it’s time for the New Directions to go on, and things still are pretty tense behind the scenes. Artie confronts Brittany about her supposed cheating and it’s revealed that she was avoiding Artie because she lost his “magic comb”. He’s relieved to say the least and admits that it was just a comb he found on the floor and was going to throw away. Rachel and Finn have it out as well and Finn makes the very good point that Rachel was dating Jesse at the time so she has no right to be mad at him. So true. Will comes and tries to rally the troops and stop the in-fighting.

Sam and Quinn do a duet of “Time of My Life”. It was pretty good. I liked their costumes more this year than last year. Chord Overstreet and Diana Agron actually have a good harmony. It would be nice if they laid off the Autotune a bit. Kurt enjoys the performance and ends up giving a standing ovation. The next song they do is “Valerie” that Santana sings the lead on. It’s an okay song but I’d never heard it before, and so it wasn’t all that memorable for me. I did enjoy that it was someone other than Rachel. I do have to say the dancing by Mike Chang and Brittany was really good and impressive.

It’s voting time, and it turns out that the Hipsters came in last place. Not surprising really. And both New Directions and the Warblers are going on to Regionals. They had to keep everyone in the storyline somehow. It seems a little odd that both got to move on. Wouldn’t it mess up how Regionals work? Anyway, it will be nice to see Kurt and the Warblers again. I’m hoping we get Kurt back at McKinley soon.

Will shows Emma the trophy and she reveals that Carl took her to Vegas and they got married. Will is really not happy with the news and I have to say it was kind of out the blue and rather stupid as storylines go. He feigns happiness and leaves. Next we find Rachel talking to Finn. She admits that she messed around with Puck after she found out about Santana because she was mad at Finn. Surprisingly, Puck was the one to break it off before it went too far. She doesn’t seem to get that this isn’t the same as what Finn did. She actually did cheat on him. I would hate to be Finn. He really needs a new best friend. Puck has a tendency to steal his girlfriends. Finn leaves Rachel standing in the hallway looking horrified that he’s just broken up with her.

Kurt has a weird little scene with Blaine discussing Pavarotti molting. It seems like they are trying to show some sort of twisted metaphor that Kurt is like the bird stuck in its cage of uniformity and I really doubt that will last, no matter how smitten he is with Blaine. We close out the episode with the Glee kids doing “Dog Days Are Over” with Mercedes and Tina singing lead.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

No Ordinary Family 1.08: "No Ordinary Accident"

“Remember how hard it was to argue with a teenager that didn’t have a super brain?”
-Stephanie

Compared to “No Ordinary Mobster,” “No Ordinary Accident” was a bit of a disappointment. Sure, there was the big problem that Jim’s powers are suddenly not reliable, but somehow I didn’t really feel the stakes. Sure there were the occasional news articles about how bad things had gotten without Jim to play clean-up, and Jim sure was pouty, but it wasn’t enough to really feel like this situation mattered. Add in way too much teenage drama, and this wasn’t exactly one of my favorite episodes of television ever. Each episode tries to have a plot around at least 3 of the 4 family members, and I think that’s just too much. Each episode is spread a bit too thin for my taste.

As the episode opens, we see Stephanie planning for a romantic evening with Jim. She’s got rose petals and candles all over the place. Kinda clichĂ©, but it is a good example of using a visual to just drop us right in the middle of the story. When Jim gets home from work, Stephanie happily shows him what she has planned. Meanwhile, George is having a date with Amanda. They are in his living room, having some wine, when Amanda hears George’s police scanner. George tries to play it off as neighbors being noisy, but Amanda is still pretty suspicious. George rushes into the garage, pretending like he’s telling his neighbors to be quiet, and he hears something big going down on the scanner. Next thing we know, Jim’s phone rings at a very inopportune time.

It turns out George is calling because a big carjacking just went down, and people were injured. Jim decides to go after the stolen car, hoping to catch the carjacker. Jim is trying to move dumpsters into a sort of blockade, when all of a sudden, he no longer has super strength. Stephanie is very concerned when Jim tells her about this the next day, and she rushes to get a lab kit. She wants to take a blood sample from Jim. When she goes to use the needle, however, he’s once again become impenetrable. He can lift the kitchen table, too. Jim wants to believe that means that he’s okay again, I guess because crimefighting is so important to his sense of self worth, but Stephanie’s not so sure. She gets a saliva sample from Jim instead. From this sample, Katie discovers that some changes have taken place to Jim’s DNA. She thinks he might have a virus. Jim’s powers keep blinking in and out throughout the episode, and Stephanie bans him from crimefighting until they figure out what’s going on.

Meanwhile, over in teen land (my least favorite place to be, naturally), J.J.’s friend from the football team, Kenny, failed his math test. J.J. is indignant about it because he helped Kenny study, and he knows Kenny understood the material. Mr.Lichfield, the math teacher, says that he failed Kenny because Kenny’s answers on the test were identical to J.J.’s. He figures this means Kenny must have cheated. J.J., who has an overdeveloped sense of injustice about such things (so do I- but I became a lawyer, not a hacker), goes so far as to try to change Kenny’s grade in the school computer system. Mr. Lichfield, who doesn’t like J.J. at all anyway, catches J.J. trying to change the grade, and he is furious. Not only is he going to make J.J. pay for his crime academically, but he’s going to alert the police to what J.J. did as well.

Jim and Stephanie have to pick J.J. up from school, and when they get home, they are pretty furious with him. J.J. does his best to rationalize what he did, pointing out that when Jim roughs up a criminal, he’s technically committing “assault and battery.” Although I’ve got to take a moment here to make my rather legendary Criminal Law professor happy and point out that the crimes of “assault” and “battery” are actually two completely separate crimes. Anyway, Jim later goes back to the school to try to convince Mr. Lichfield not to press charges against J.J. Jim bugs Mr. Lichfield as he’s walking to his car, and Mr. Lichfield is not interested in budging at all. As he gets in his car, he assures Jim that J.J. is going to feel the full consequences of his actions. Lucky for J.J. (I suppose), the carjacker Jim has been after chooses that moment to careen in a stolen car straight into Mr. Lichfield’s car. Mr. Lichfield ends up in critical condition with a torn aorta.

In the even shallower regions of teen land, Daphne once again decides to lie to that popular boy she likes. The one she went to the art museum with in the last episode. He strung her along by saying he might have chosen the wrong girl, so when Daphne hears him think about how he has nothing in common with his girlfriend, she’s all on that. This time she lies about liking sushi and being fluent in Japanese. Daphne begs J.J. to download Japanese into his brain and play Cyrano again, but he refuses. He’s got bigger fish to fry with the whole Mr. Lichfield mess. On their sushi date, the popular boy asks Daphne to order since she’s “fluent” in Japanese. She tries to accomplish this by reading the chef’s mind. The pair end up with “dancing prawns”…aka still alive and kind of twitching prawns. It’s pretty gross, but it did make me laugh as I was cringing. Daphne ends up coming clean with the popular boy by the end of the episode. He’s not thrilled, and she decides to walk away from the relationship until she has time to “figure out” who she really is. Yep. This was such a big deal compared to everything else going on in this episode. Yawn.

J.J. and Jim, who are at the hospital fussing about Mr. Lichfield, hear the doctor tell Mrs. Lichfield that things don’t look good. Mr. Lichfield was essentially impailed on a piece of metal, and the doctor thinks that when they try to take the metal out, he’ll bleed out. Ever seen the “Grey’s Anatomy” episode “Into You Like a Train?” It’s like that, but with only one person on the metal bar instead of two. J.J. and Jim both feel responsible for Mr. Lichfield’s predicament, J.J. because his grade changing antics put Mr. Lichfield in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Jim because he couldn’t stop the carjackers sooner. J.J. starts using his super brain to study medical books, and he thinks that Stephanie (who apparently is also an MD) can successfully perform the surgery to save Mr. Lichfield because of her super speed.

Stephanie doesn’t say “no” outright, but Jim does. I guess he wants to clean up his own mess. They don’t really end up having a choice in the matter, though. J.J. is nowhere to be found, and when Jim goes into his room, he sees the OR schedule on J.J.’s computer. Jim and Stephanie arrive at the hospital to find J.J. with Mr. Lichfield. This whole plotline is like a really frustrating philosophy class what with all the talk of who is morally responsible for Mr. Lichfield’s condition. J.J. says that now that the Powells know they can help, if they refuse to help, Mr. Lichfield’s death will be their fault. Seriously, I’m starting to have flashbacks to my philosophy professor this past semester talking about the morality of switching train tracks to kill one person instead of five again.

Jim stands guard outside the OR as Stephanie starts surgery with J.J. assisting. She repairs the tear to the aorta, but it’s not enough. Mr. Lichfield is still bleeding out. It takes just long enough for Stephanie to find the second tear to amp up the tension a little bit. To make matters worse, the doctor who is supposed to be using the OR later in the day is giving Jim a hard time about not being let in the room. Stephanie finishes the surgery just in time for the doctor to barge into the OR to find Mr. Lichfield still unconscious, but completely alone. Near the end of the episode, J.J. goes to visit the recovering Mr. Lichfield, and in a remarkable display of tact (holding up a sarcasm sign for all you Sheldon Coopers out there) asks if Mr. Lichfield still has a problem with him. Mr. Lichfield rightly responds that everything is not about J.J. He barely remembers his address let alone what J.J. might have done to upset him before the accident.

In yet another plot going on in this episode, “Will” and Katie go on another date. It goes extremely well, and when “Will” kisses Stephanie, she has a light-bulb moment about her research into why Jim’s powers are going wonky and runs off. Katie eventually calls Stephanie in and tells her the problem. Jim didn’t catch a virus. He has an allergy. Specifically, he has an allergy to an ingredient in Stephanie’s new lip gloss. That’s why his powers going away coincides with times he’s been kissed by Stephanie. The discovery is made just in time, because Jim has decided to go snooping around the carjackers’ chop shop, powers or no powers. He figures at the very least he can be a reliable witness if he can ID the carjacker. Jim gets caught in his snooping, of course, and the carjacker shoots him. There’s a bit of a fake out to make us think Jim has been shot and seriously wounded, but his powers are back just in time. He caught the bullet. He can recover from the allergy when he’s not exposed to the allergen, after all. At the end of the episode, “Will” manages to use his connection with Katie to introduce himself to Stephanie. While giving “Will” his injections, Dr. King says he is very happy with “Will’s” progress.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Glee 2.08: "Furt"

I honestly couldn't stand this episode, and I could write a whole essay just on why Kurt is an unbearably annoying Mary Sue, but now is not the time for that. Instead, our guest blogger, Sarah, has a somewhat more positive take on "Furt." Enjoy!

***

“Today a new union was formed. Furt. You and me, man. We’re brothers from another mother and quite frankly, no one else has shown me as much as you about what it means to be a man."
- Finn

Overall, I found “Furt” to be a pretty decent episode. Personally, I could have done without the Sue storyline but I don’t run the show so I guess I can’t complain too much. Anyway, the episode opens with Kurt, Carol and Burt approaching Finn’s locker quite excitedly. In short order, Burt and Carol explode with the news that they’re getting married. Finn is kind of stunned into silence while Kurt bubbles with joy and says he’s going to take care of the entire wedding, including getting the New Directions to be the band.

Meanwhile, Sue is in her office sealing wedding invitations of her own and we quickly learn that she’s going to marry herself. It’s because her ex-boyfriend from the news studio and his co-anchor are getting married themselves. Honestly, I think this is one of the stupidest storylines in the history of television. Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal. Kind of like marrying your dog. But she does it anyway. More on this in a little bit.

The third storyline we’ve got going in this episode (there’s about 4) is centered on Sam and Quinn. I like them as a couple- they’re kind of adorable. Sam is going to find a way to make Quinn his girlfriend, and he does it in actually a sort of sweet way. He asks her to accept a promise ring from him. And he promises to be the model boyfriend, including not pressuring her to do anything more than kiss. Given her track record, I’m sure she’s pleased. She doesn’t give him a straight answer, but a maybe. By the end of the episode, she’s wearing the ring.

Meanwhile, Finn approaches Kurt at his locker and is kind of freaking about the wedding itinerary. They end up deciding, well Kurt does most of it, that in order to up Finn’s leader quotient, he’s going to have a lovely dance with his mom at the reception. Even though Finn is a rubbish dancer. Right after Finn leaves, Kurt’s tormentor, Karofsky, shows up and just stares Kurt down. You can see the terror on Kurt’s face as Karofsky takes the wedding topper from Kurt and walks away.

Mr. Schuster sees the exchange and ushers Kurt off to the principal’s office. Sue is still acting principal so they’ve got to deal with her. Surprisingly, she’s actually sympathetic to Kurt’s situation. Unfortunately, since Karofsky didn’t physically assault Kurt this time, she can’t legally do anything. Kurt explains that it is the fear that is the worst. The not knowing when it’s going to happen. Sue promises though, that if he touches Kurt again, she will expel the bully. Kurt makes the comment to Sue as they walk out of her office that calling him Lady is bullying and hurtful. Sue, in typical fashion, claims she thought it was his name and allows him to pick a new nickname from her little list.

The Glee girls are having an impromptu meeting in the rehearsal room. It turns out it’s all the girls who have boyfriends on the football team. Rachel insists they need to do something to make the bully leave Kurt alone. Their plan is to get the guys to take on the bully. The outcome however, isn’t what they expected. Finn refuses to help, saying Kurt will be fine and he can help by staying the quarterback. Mike Chang, Artie and Sam take on Karofsky and Sam ends up with quite the black eye. The kids are back in the glee club room and the girls are tending to the boys. Puck complains that he would have loved to get in on the action (he couldn’t because he’s on probation) and Finn makes a lame excuse that he was still out on the field. Kurt says it was nice of them to try but it isn’t their fight. It’s his.

Sue is in a meeting with her wedding planner, who is not her wedding planner for long, when Sue’s mysterious mother Doris shows up. Sue’s none-too-pleased to see her mother after a thirty-year absence. Doris says she’s been off hunting Nazis. She hasn’t even been to visit Sue’s sister yet, which I think upsets Sue. She takes her sister’s well-being very seriously. Sue’s mom decides that her gift is going to be singing at Sue’s wedding. We get an okay number with Sue and her mom. I mean Carol Burnett is a good actress but not the best singer I think. They end up singing “Ohio”. Maybe it’s just that I’m not overly fond of the song that makes it not that great. Surprisingly, the episode is pretty void of musical numbers. They end up having an argument whilst singing which I think was at least a good use of the time.

Kurt is giving his dad and Finn dance lessons for the reception and things are going well until Karofsky walks by and Kurt freezes up. His dad notices and asks what’s going on. Kurt reluctantly tells his dad what’s been going on, and Burt confronts Karofsky. Finn’s just as surprised as Burt when Kurt admits that Karofsky threatened to kill him. Everyone seems to be dumping on Finn about not protecting Kurt. So, they end up in Sue’s office again and true to her word, after hearing both sides, she expels Karofsky.

It’s now time for Burt and Carol’s wedding and Finn is trying to put on his tie. And he’s failing. Which gives Santana the opening she needs to try and hit on him. She tells him to tell Rachel about their night the previous year, but Finn refuses. We get a quick flashback in which Rachel admits she didn’t sleep with Jesse. So Finn doesn’t want to hurt Rachel because he loves her. We get a really fun number to “I Think I Want to Marry You” in which pretty much all the Glee kids have been coupled off. I think it’s a little odd but whatever. It worked for the number. Burt and Carol each give a little explanation as to why everyone has been invited and it is very touching. Beautiful wedding vows really. And you can see Finn starting to accept the idea of Kurt being his brother.

The reception is in full swing and Burt and Carol are sharing their first dance while everyone watches. Will is singing which is nice because I like Matt Morrison’s voice. And now it’s time for Finn’s speech to the newlyweds. He gives a very brief toast to his mother and then focuses on Kurt. He apologizes for not standing up for him like he should have and promises to be there going forward. Plus, Finn’s put together a number in Kurt’s honor, “Amazing” complete with Finn dancing with Kurt. You can see Kurt’s face visibly brighten with emotion.

We end with Sue’s wedding rehearsal with which is horribly ridiculous because Sue is not only marrying herself but officiating too. Her mother protests and Sue sets her mom in her place. Sue says that her mother was a bully and she only started feeling good about herself when Sue stopped trying to please her.

Kurt is back in Sue’s office and finds out that Karofsky is returning to school. Kurt can’t take the terror again. Unfortunately Kurt announces he’s transferring to Dalton Academy. The Glee kids offer to protect Kurt but he says it’s not going to work. It looks like the Glee kids are in for a rough Sectionals now that they’ll be competing against Kurt. But at least for now, Kurt will feel safe.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

HIMYM 6.10: "Blitzgiving"

“Dude, you walked out of the room, the laws of physics stopped, and the laws of awesome tripled.”
-Marshall

“Blitzgiving” was a wonderful episode of HIMYM. In the Thanksgiving episode of HIMYM lexicon, it is really only surpassed by “Slapsgiving,” which is in a class all its own. “Blitzgiving” comes close that that level, though, with a funny new gimmick (the curse of “The Blitz”), more silly singing in harmony by Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel, and a thoroughly entertaining and appropriate guest appearance by Jorge Garcia (Hurley on “Lost”). It was joyous, silly fun, but it also had heart. As I’ve said before plenty of times on this blog, that combination can be found in all the best episodes of HIMYM. It had a vintage HIMYM feel, even down to a drawn out “legendary” from Barney, something I don’t think he’s done in ages. I’m a little wary of where the show may be going with the character of Zoey at the moment, but I’m willing to forgive that for this entertaining episode.

Ted is hosting Thanksgiving this year, and he’s really excited about it because he’s making what he calls a “Tu-turkey-key,” where he’s going to stuff the turkey with a smaller turkey. It’s like a Turducken, but boring. When the rest of the gang hears about it during an evening at MacLaren’s, they just think it sounds gross. Ted wants to call it a night because the bar seems to be dead, but Barney says that this time of year, college chicks should be home. The bar should be a happening place any time now. Marshall throws in that Ted doesn’t want to be “The Blitz.” “The Blitz” is a guy Ted, Marshall, and Lily knew in college, and he’s played by none other than Jorge Garcia. He’s actually the latest in a long line of Blitzes at Weslyan- the curse has been passed down through the student body, from the original Matt Blitz. The subsequent Blitzes weren’t related to Matt, but the nickname stuck. What the Blitzes all have in common is this: when they leave a room, awesome things start to happen.

Ted does not heed Marshall’s warning, and while he’s sleeping in his apartment, he receives the curse of the Blitz. When he wakes up the next morning, the apartment is in shambles. Awesomeness definitely went down the night before. The entire gang is still there, and they’ve been sleeping on the floor and the couch. Barney and Marshall sing “My Blitzey Lies Over the Ocean” in harmony, which was such good fun. All his friends accounted for, Ted heads into the bathroom to wash up and is greeted with quite the surprise. Zoey, his nemesis/love interest is sleeping in the bathtub. It turns out Zoey was hanging out with the rest of the gang all night, and now they have an inside joke about something they all call “The Gentlemen.”

Ted gets really indignant and wants to know why his so-called friends are spending time with his sworn enemy. Lily says that they had every intention of getting revenge on Zoey when they first saw her walk into MacLaren’s. Then Zoey was really sweet to them and said she loved Lily’s paintings, so they started hanging out with her and had a lot of fun. At one point, Zoey dared Maarshall to text a photo of his junk to a random person. Marshall agreed, and when the gang is trying to choose a phone number, the Blitz appears, and naturally, his suggestion is “4 8 15 16 23 42.” That was just one of many awesome “Lost” shout-outs.

Ted, still peeved, goes into the kitchen to start cooking his Tur-turkey-key. That backfires, though, because the night before, Robin kind of danced on the oven door and broke it. They’re going to have to find an alternate place to have Thanksgiving. Lily mentions that Zoey offered to host all of them at her place, but Ted isn’t having any of that. What follows is a very funny sequence of the gang taking a cab to everybody else’s apartments and finding problems that prevent Thanksgiving from happening there. At Dowisetrepla, there was an explosion at the sewage treatment plant, and the smell is unbearable. Barney doesn’t actually have an oven. And cats have been living in The Blitz’s oven. Lilly suggests that they take up Zoey’s offer, and Ted finally agrees.

The gang had all been really smushed in the same cab, and Barney ends up taking his own cab to Zoey’s apartment. This, of course, leads Barney to be the next recipient of the curse of the Blitz. When he arrives at Zoey’s building, he finds out that the other cab made a wrong turn and they all got to be part of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Barney spends the rest of the afternoon frantically trying to pass the curse on to anyone else. At one point, he offers to pay Robin to take on the curse. Eventually he gets so frustrated and upset that he goes to another room to cool down. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang wants to know if enemies can ever become friends. The person who Marshall texted has sent a similar return text, and Robin suggests they ask “Wang Guy” for his opinion on the subject. Turns out Robin has a little crush on Wang Guy, which is kind of squicky. Wang Guy replies that enemies can be friends, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for Ted and Zoey in the near future. They get into a bit of a food fight with the cranberry sauce, and Zoey kicks everybody out. Barney accidentally gets left behind, and still being the Blitz, misses Zoey walking around the apartment half naked because he was too busy pouting.

On the cab ride back to his apartment, Ted finally pieces together why Zoey got upset enough to throw everyone out. She had mentioned that the Captain was spending Thanksgiving with his daughter, and Lily had come across a stuffed animal turkey that was supposed to be a gift from Zoey to “Hannah.” Then Ted remembers the just before he was thrown out, he called Zoey an “evil stepmother.” Ted realizes that Hannah must be Zoey’s stepdaughter, and Hannah must not like Zoey. His comment hit a little too close to home. He asks the driver to turn around the cab and go back to Zoey’s place. Zoey is extremely surprised to see everybody sitting at her dining room table. Barney let them back in the apartment. Ted apologizes to Zoey, and the two seem to have reached an understanding, at least for now. At the end of the episode, Barney catches an elevator as the door is closing and leaves the Blitz behind. The curse is then transferred back to the Blitz, and all is as it should be.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fringe 3.07: "The Abducted"

“We’re going to pull her out of the field tomorrow morning. I don’t believe we’ll be needing her anymore.”
-Walternate

“The Abducted” was one of the more disturbing episodes the “Fringe” producers have cooked up. It was, however, fascinating to get another look into how the Other Side Fringe Division works a case. They have an array of technology not available to our Fringe team, and they make good use of it. The technology isn’t enough, though. To truly solve this particular case, they require the intuition of one Olivia Dunham. This episode provided yet more wonderful character development opportunities and one new important ally for Olivia. It was fascinating to watch Olivia continue to work within the Other Side system while desperately plotting her escape. And there was one much-welcome twist at the end that will certainly have Peter feeling like quite the idiot.

The episode opens with a classic “Fringe” scene of creepiness. An elderly man is using a razor to scrape something off of a belt. He then starts using the razor to shave his head. He pours liquid into a bowl while chanting a prayer, then he begins to wash himself with the liquid. When he is cleansed, he holds up a stark, metal mask. Elsewhere in New York, a little boy, Max, is in his bed at night, looking very scared. He finally musters up the courage to run to his mom’s room, where he tells here there’s a monster in his bedroom. His mom doesn’t believe him, as moms do, and she makes a show of doing a search through his room for the monster. She looks in the closet, and she looks under the bed. She reminds Max that when he sees monsters, he should be a big boy, count to three, and the monster will go away. She heads back to bed, leaving Max to try to get some monster-free sleep. At that moment, something moves from behind Max’s previously-opened door. Max closes his eyes and counts to three, but it’s too late. He’s kidnapped by the man in the metal mask, who jumps out the window holding Max.

Fringe Division has been called to investigate the kidnapping, even though they can’t find anything especially strange about it. The “Peter Bishop Act” mandates that every kidnapping be treated as a possible Fringe event until proven otherwise. It turns out to be a good thing that the Fringe team was there. While analyzing some fingerprints collected by the local police, Lincoln finds traces of sucrose. This means something very ominous to the Fringe team. A serial kidnapper they call “The Candyman” is back. He hasn’t kidnapped anyone in two years, but the sucrose in the fingerprints is his calling card.

Walternate stops by Broyles’ office to have a serious chat. It turns out that Broyles’ son, Christopher, was a victim of the Candyman. Christopher is still alive, but his health was seriously compromised by the experience. Walternate wants to know that if Broyles feels like he would get too emotionally involved in the Candyman investigation, he’s welcome to turn the investigation over to someone else. Broyles doesn’t want to give up the case, and he tells Walternate that because he’s so determined to catch the person who destroyed his family, he’s the best man for the job. There’s only one thing that makes him hesitate. He wants his proper Olivia back. He feels like he needs his real team all together to do the job. Walternate reassures him that our Olivia will be gotten rid of and Alt-livia will be back very soon.

Even though she knows her time on the Other Side is winding down, Olivia is always the professional. She wants to help her new, temporary colleagues catch the Candyman. Luckily, Alt-livia wasn’t with Fringe Division the last time the Candyman struck (she joined after), so when Olivia starts asking a lot of questions about the case, it doesn’t seem odd. Olivia notices that two children, one of which was Christopher, told Fringe Division that they were held captive by two men, one old and one young. Because his story is unusual, Olivia wants to interview Christopher again. Charlie and Lincoln think this is a bad idea, warning Olivia that Broyles is extremely protective of his son. They turn out to be right. Broyles hates the idea and pretty much kicks Olivia out of his office when she suggests it. The act break that follows is one of the most horrifying the show has done to date. We see the apartment where Max is being held captive, and we see the masked old man approaching, saying his prayer. Max begs to be left alone because he doesn’t feel well. The camera pans to show machinery integrated into the back of Max’s neck.

The next act begins with Broyles arriving home to his son and wife. Christopher is just watching TV. You can tell his experience with the Candyman took a serious toll on his health. Mrs. Broyles is worried that the Candyman might attack their family again, and she’s wondering if the police cruiser parked outside is meant to validate her fears. Broyles says he’s just being overly cautious. He also mentions that Olivia asked to interview Christopher. Surprisingly, Mrs. Broyles thinks this is a good idea. She thinks Christopher might tell Olivia things he’s too afraid to tell his dad. Meanwhile, Olivia just keeps on being awesome. She has a theory about what’s been going on, and she runs it by Lincoln. She thinks that the Candyman has been stealing “youth” from his victims by stealing chemicals from their pituitary glands. It takes Lincoln a few minutes, but he starts to buy the theory. I was surprised that nobody on the Other Side thought of this before. It was one of the first things I thought of when I saw an old guy kidnapping a kid.

Olivia and Lincoln’s confab is interrupted when Olivia gets a phone call. Broyles has given his permission for Olivia to question Christopher about his kidnapping. Olivia thinks the interview will go better if Christopher is as comfortable as possible, so he asks him about his very favorite place to go. The interview ends up taking place at a beach that Christopher loves. As Olivia and Christopher talk, Broyles takes a disturbing phone call from Walternate. Olivia is going to be pulled out of the field the next day because she isn’t needed anymore. Olivia, meanwhile, is doing an amazing job talking to Christopher. Christopher reveals that the Candyman threatened to hurt the Broyles family if Christopher says too much. Olivia reassures Christopher and gets him to recite a phrase of the Candyman’s prayer.

The prayer ends up being a major break in the case. The Fringe crew traces the phrase to a church in Queens. Olivia and Broyles make a trip to speak to the pastor of the church. The pastor mentions how many members of his congregation have been healed. He is reluctant to give up the names of any of his parishioners, but after some convincing, he offers to give the roster of the church’s men’s group. Broyles mentions that his son will be able to identify the voice of the Candyman. The Fringe team are soon visiting the homes of everybody on the roster. Olivia, naturally, is the person to finally hit pay dirt. She arrives at the apartment of Wyatt Toomy, who looks to be about thirty-years-old. She sees a random doll in his apartment, which is just plain creepy and clues her into the fact that this is probably where Max is being held. Wyatt sees Olivia’s look of realization and goes to attack Olivia, but Olivia stops him with an awesome move that involves smashing his head with the door to his apartment. She finds Max in the next room, and when the rest of the team looks at the lab Wyatt had constructed, Lincoln is able to confirm that Olivia’s pituitary gland theory was right.

Now that the Candyman has been caught, Olivia turns back to executing her escape from the Other Side. Early in the episode, she had met with our pal Bubbles (actually called Henry on this show…sorry, I’m an adopted Baltimorean…I can’t let “The Wire” go…). Over breakfast, Olivia asked Bubbles if he had a boat that could assist her in sneaking on to Liberty Island, where the DoD lab is located. Now, Olivia shows up at the boat, which belongs to Bubbs’ brother. It turns out Bubbs’ brother only just taught him the basics of boating. This forces Olivia to make a rather disturbing realization. Somebody had to teach Toomy, a blue collar guy, how to do all the very technical work to harvest the pituitary gland hormones, just like somebody had to teach Bubbles how to use the boat. The most logical suspect is the Reverend.

Olivia makes a frantic phone call to Broyles, who is pretty freaked out because he stupidly mentioned to the Reverend that his son could ID the voice(s) of the Candyman. To make matters worse, his wife hasn’t been picking up her phone. Olivia leaves poor Bubbles to watch the boat while she rushes off to help Broyles one last time. Olivia and Broyles arrive not a moment too soon. The Reverend has already knocked out Mrs. Broyles and has begun to terrorize Christopher when Broyles shoots him dead without hesitating. The Broyles family and Olivia all wind up at the hospital (Christopher and Mrs. Broyles are fine aside from a few bumps and bruises), and Olivia comes across Max’s mom. She tells Olivia that Max wants to see her, and Olivia happily obliges. Max asks Olivia what the FBI is. When Olivia rescued Max, she told him not to worry because she was with the FBI. I knew that was a slip-up at the time, and it looks like it’s about to bite Olivia, because Broyles is listening to this whole conversation. He calls out Olivia on the fact that in this universe, the FBI hasn’t existed for quite a while. He’s not going to do anything about it, though, presumably because he’s grateful for what Olivia has done. He says he’s just going to go home.

Olivia does eventually rejoin Bubbles on the boat, and he takes her over to Liberty Island. Olivia tells him to just follow the exact same bearings on the way out to avoid security patrols. I loved this because it felt like a little shout-out to the Island on “Lost,” another Bad Robot show. Olivia breaks into the lab because she wants to use it to jump back to our universe, and Walternate is alerted to the security breach. Olivia barely has time to give a few instructions to a very confused custodian in our universe’s Statue of Liberty gift shop before Walternate’s goons yank her bank out of the tank. It was enough time to make a difference, though. Peter’s curing up with Alt-livia for the night after watching “Casablanca” when he gets a call from the custodian saying that Olivia is trapped on the Other Side. I can’t wait to find out his reaction to that little gem.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Big Bang Theory 4.09: "The Boyfriend Complexity"

“I don’t care for novelty editions of Monopoly. I prefer the classics- regular and Klingon.”
-Sheldon

I found “The Boyfriend Complexity” to be a rather shallow and unfunny episode of “The Big Bang Theory.” I’ll admit, I laughed a bit at the end, but they were cheap laughs. As much as it pains me to admit it, because I generally support the pairing, I’m wondering if the reason this episode didn’t quite measure up is because it focused on Penny and Leonard’s relationship. Such episodes are generally weaker than episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” that focus more on the guys and their nerdy antics. Leonard was pretty thoroughly unlikable in this episode, even though I can totally understand where he’s coming from. Meanwhile, Raj and Howard were taken to a new level of awkward.

The guys are all in Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment discussing silliness related to Marvel Universe characters. Specifically, they’re trying to figure out the bravest sort of unsung hero in the Marvel Universe. For instance, Captain America’s undocumented Mexican gardener was a big contender. The discussion is interrupted by a call from the pizza delivery guy saying he’s arrived at Leonard and Sheldon’s building with their dinner. On his way downstairs, Leonard knocks on the door of Penny’s apartment, hoping to let her know dinner has arrived. He’s greeted by Penny’s dad instead. Penny appears in the doorway too. To Leonard’s surprise, Penny plants a huge kiss on Leonard, then slams the door to her apartment shut.

Leonard goes back into the apartment, sans pizza, feeling pretty bewildered and confused. Thankfully, Penny soon drops by to explain. Leonard is the only guy she’s dated that her dad has ever approved of, so prior to his visit to Pasadena, she told him that she and Leonard had gotten back together. She asks Leonard to go along with the story, and Leonard is more than fine with that. They promptly start bickering over their story for how they got back together (who asked whom, etc.), which I guess was supposed to be one of those “see, this is why they really shouldn’t be together now” moments, but it didn’t work for me. When Penny’s dad steps out into the hallway to see what’s going on, Leonard starts milking their ruse for all its worth, kissing Penny at every opportunity. Penny is not at all amused.

Raj and Howard are spending the night at the university because Raj has much-coveted time with a telescope in Hawaii. Raj is hoping to prove the existence of a planet, which would probably place him higher in the ranks of the astrophysicists than making that “People” list a few years back did. Bernadette has been invited too, because Howard is hoping that Raj and Bernadette will bond a bit. This makes sense, considering both are very important people in Howard’s life. Howard proposes that they drink some wine, knowing that Raj is incapable of speaking to women unless he has at least a bit of alcohol in his system. Raj is a little hesitant, wondering if he should really drink while he’s technically working, but it’s not long before he decides to just go with it. Bernadette does manage to spoil the euphoria of drinking on the job a bit by wondering if she washed her hands after working with a particularly nasty pathogen at work, though.

Much to Penny’s chagrin, Leonard has been invited to go along on a dinner she’s having with her father, Wyatt. On the car ride home, we can see that Leonard and Wyatt are getting along splendidly. This pisses Penny off, as she’d love nothing more than to feel validated in her choice to break up with Leonard. The conversation turns into sort of parade of Penny’s exes, with Wyatt recounting all the worst stories to Leonard. Leonard is just loving it. Someone besides Penny who doesn’t love it is Sheldon. He hears conversation out in the hallway that makes him believe Penny and Leonard are truly back together, and he frantically starts drafting addenda to the roommate agreement. As he puts it, he feels the need to deal with Penny’s bad habits if she’s going to be spending nights in their apartment again.

Over at the university, Bernadette and Raj do indeed bond, but not quite in the way that Howard intended. They bond by making fun of Howard and doing silly impressions of Howard’s obnoxious mother. Howard, naturally, is not amused, because his plan most definitely backfired. Raj, as he does from time to time, has definitely had too much to drink. He gets really, really upset about being alone. I guess things didn’t work out with that Deaf girlfriend he had a few weeks back. Bernadette tries to be really nice about it, and she tells Raj that he’ll definitely find someone. In his drunken stupor, Raj goes to kiss Bernadette. Howard slow-motion dives between the two of them to stop the kiss, and Raj kisses Howard instead. This makes the group lunch at the university at the end of the episode super awkward. I just kind of resented that the show was mining a kiss between Howard and Raj for jokes. Although, when it’s a show by Chuck Lorre, a guy who also likes to milk fat jokes for all they’re worth on “Mike and Molly,” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

The next morning, Wyatt and Leonard are playing a fishing video game, still chummy as ever. Penny, clearly still not happy that her dad and her ex are getting on so well, chooses that moment to call her father and tell her that she and Leonard are really still broken up. Wyatt is not at all happy, and he calls both Penny and Leonard into Penny’s living room for a conference. He yells and tells Penny how disappointed he is in her, then he tells Penny to go into the other room so he can talk to Leonard. Once Penny is out of earshot, Wyatt desperately tells Leonard not to give up on Penny. Then, in one of the only moments of the episode that I liked, he tries to help Leonard get back in Penny’s good graces by mock-yelling at Leonard and kicking him out. Sheldon’s not pleased when he finds out the news either. He’s upset that all the work he put into updating the roommate agreement was for naught. The pages he wrote go flying around the apartment after Sheldon tosses them in exasperation.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holiday "Classic" Recap: Doctor Who "The Christmas Invasion"

“Oh that’s rude. Is that the sort of man I am now? Am I rude? Rude and not ginger?”
-The Doctor

This year, I’ve chosen “The Christmas Invasion” for the Holiday recap. It’s my favorite Doctor Who Christmas special to date for a variety of reasons. It’s David Tennant’s first Christmas special, and he is, by far, my favorite Doctor. There is an abundance of sharp, dark humor- the kind of British humor I love. So much of it, in fact, that when I subjected my mom to watching this the other day, it kind of freaked her out (I’ll get to the bit that especially freaked her out soon). There are also many wonderful heroic moments for the Doctor. He has so many classic lines in this episode that I had quite a difficult time choosing a Quote of the Episode. No Christmas special since has quite topped this one. While “The Runaway Bride” introduced Donna, it was a much more abrasive version of Donna than the one we later got to know, and it reused many of the same gags from this episode. While “Voyage of the Damned” and “The Next Doctor” were both worth watching in their own right, they just don’t have the warm, Christmas-y vibe that this episode does. Well, warm other than Rose being devastated that her original Doctor is gone and aliens trying to enslave Earth, that is.

The episode opens with Jackie decorating pretty much the tackiest Christmas tree ever. She’s a bit wistful because it looks like Rose won’t be home for Christmas. We then see Mickey working at an auto mechanic garage. Mickey hears the signature TARDIS screech and goes running out into the street, eager to greet Rose. Jackie has heard the sound too, and she and Mickey meet up just in time to almost be decapitated by the out-of-control TARDIS trying to land on a small London street. They happily greet a rather downtrodden-looking Rose, and then they’re stunned when the Doctor comes stumbling out. He has regenerated since the last time they saw him, so they don’t recognize him. They don’t even quite understand what’s going on when Rose explains that this strange-looking person is actually the Doctor.

The Doctor collapses almost immediately after wishing Jackie and Mickey a Merry Christmas, and when we next see him, he’s unconscious in bed at the Powell Estate. He’s breathing out some sort of shimmery gas, and we see the shimmer go out into outer space. While hanging around her mom’s apartment, Rose is pleased to see Harriet Jones, who is now Prime Minister (instead of a backbencher Member of Parliament), on television. Harriet is talking about Guinevere 1, a British-made unmanned space probe that is nearing Mars. The first pictures from Mars are expected to be broadcast in time for Christmas.

Rose and Mickey get away from the craziness of Powell Estate for a little while to do some Christmas shopping near what looks like Rose’s former workplace (where the Auton damage from the pilot seems to have been repaired). Rose can’t stop talking about the TARDIS, and Mickey is getting quite irritated about it. He just wants to spend time with Rose, and she just wants to talk about the Doctor. They don’t have much time to be irritated with each other, though. Soon they’re being attacked with flamethrowers by a brass band in creepy masks. Rose and Mickey get back to Powell Estate as quickly as they can, but it’s not quickly enough. Rose notices in horror that her mother is decorating a new Christmas tree. Rose asks Jackie where she got it, and Jackie says it was randomly delivered to the door. Since Rose had been out shopping, Jackie assumed Rose bought it.

As soon as they all realize that the Christmas tree shouldn’t be there, it begins to light on it’s own, then it starts spitting at crazy speeds. Basically, it starts trying to decapitate all of them. This is the part that freaked out my mom, by the way. I thought it was delightfully dark humor myself. Then I noticed last night that the smaller artificial Christmas tree in my parents’ dining room looks similar in size and shape to the killer tree. Anyway, the group valiantly keeps the tree from killing them, and they find themselves pinned inside the bedroom where the Doctor is sleeping. The tree is getting closer, and Rose frantically finds the sonic screwdriver. She places it in the Doctor’s hand and whispers “help me.” It’s cheesy as hell, but it works. The Doctor bolts up in bed, points the sonic at the tree, and blasts it to oblivion. There’s a nice tree sized hole in the wall still left, though, which cracks me up.

The Doctor moves towards the window and threatens the “brass band” creatures by pointing his sonic screwdriver at them. Out on the apartment balcony, the gang watches them disappear. That effort has taken its toll on the Doctor, though. He’s not doing well at all. He does manage to explain that the “brass band” was actually a bunch of what he calls “pilot fish.” They were attracted by the regeneration energy he’s been spewing out into space. There’s an awesome scene where Jackie starts asking him what he needs, rattling off a list of cures, food, and vitamins. The Doctor tells her he just needs her to shut up. He says something’s coming, then he collapses back into a coma.

Mickey gets on the computer and starts researching pilot fish. He and Rose don’t like what they see. They learn that pilot fish generally tag along with bigger fish. Like sharks. Just as Mickey makes this discovery, the first pictures from Guinevere 1 are broadcast. Instead of the surface of Mars, they see a scary alien creature. I guess they’ve found their shark. Harriet and some of her staffers have a bit of a confab with UNIT to figure out what to do. They’ve sent out a story that the alien image was a hoax, but meanwhile, they need to figure out what to do about the very real alien vessel approaching Earth. They watch a broadcast message from the aliens, and Mickey and Rose are able to watch too, thanks to Mickey’s mad computer hacking skills. One of Harriet’s staffers rushes off to get a translation program to figure out what the alien is saying. Rose, meanwhile, is extremely upset because the TARDIS isn’t translating for her. She (rightly) figures this means the Doctor is in dire straits.

Harriet asks the UNIT representative about “Torchwood” and acknowledges that Torchwood isn’t something she should really know about. Nevertheless, she tells UNIT to get Torchwood ready to fight the aliens. Soon after that, the translation program is ready, and Harriet is able to understand the message of the aliens, called Sycorax. The message basically is the Sycorax engaging in trash talk. They want Earth to surrender. Harriet makes a very Doctor-like move in response. She first offers the Sycorax a way out of the situation peacefully, telling them that Christmas is a day of peace on Earth. But she also says that Earth can defend itself and will not surrender. The Sycorax are not happy with this response. Their leader comes on the screen again and emits a blue energy. People all over the world, including some of Harriet’s staffers, start glowing blue and moving towards high ledges. David, the chief scientist overseeing Guinevere 1, figures out what all the people on ledges have in common. They all have A+ blood. David included a few items to teach about Earth on Guinevere 1, including a vial of A+ blood.

Harriet’s not sure what to do at this point, so she goes on television to make an appeal for the Doctor to step in and intervene. Rose is devastated all over again when she sees this announcement, because “her” Doctor is gone, and this new imposter is useless and fading fast. Her mourning is interrupted, however, when all the glass in the apartment blows out. The Sycorax vessel has arrived in Earth’s atmosphere. Rose, feeling just as helpless as Harriet, tells Jackie and Mickey to get the Doctor and some food. They are all going to hide in the TARDIS and try to wait this out.

The Sycorax start bringing humans directly on board their vessel. First it’s Harriet, some of her staffers, and the UNIT representative. Daniel asks to negotiate with the Sycorax. It’s his mess, and he wants to try to clean it up. All he gets is killed by some sort of electric-looking whip for his trouble. The UNIT rep gets killed too when he protests that the Sycorax must have some sort of laws of war. Rose, Mickey, and the Doctor also end up on the Sycorax vessel. While Jackie is in the apartment getting more food, Rose and Mickey are tuning a TV-looking device on the TARDIS, hoping to get a news report. This alerts the Sycorax, who accuse Harriet of hiding sophisticated technology on Earth. Rose, not realizing the TARDIS has moved, opens the door and steps outside, only to be captured by the waiting Sycorax. Mickey, startled, drops a thermos of tea, which starts to drip down into the bowels of the TARDIS.

Rose decides to try to negotiate with the Sycorax, stringing together every alien-sounding term she learned during her time traveling with the Ninth Doctor. The Sycorax just laugh at her “stolen words.” The Sycorax leader is ranting about how she has insulted him when his words start to turn into English. The TARDIS translation circuits are working again. The TARDIS door opens, and we see the Doctor is back to fighting form again, too. He’s going to take on the Sycorax in pajamas and a dressing gown. As he himself later mentions, it’s very Arthur Dent. Which is only appropriate, considering Douglas Adams, author of the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” “trilogy,” was head writer for Doctor Who back in the day.

David Tennant goes on a rather epic monologue at this point, effortlessly switching back and forth between threatening the Sycorax and the Doctor trying to figure out just who he is in this new incarnation. The Doctor asks Rose what he looks like, for instance. Then he notices a “great big threatening button” on the Sycorax vessel and discovers the blood control magic the Sycorax have been using to keep 1/3 of Earth’s population standing on ledges. The Doctor presses the big button, and the A+’s are released from the blood control. If that wasn’t enough, the Doctor then challenges the Sycorax leader to a sword fight. In the middle of the fight, the Sycorax cuts off one of the Doctor’s hands. Because he’s still in his regeneration cycle, the Doctor is able to grow a new one, and he proudly proclaims it “a fightin’ hand.”

The Doctor eventually bests the Sycorax, pinning him down on a ledge with a new sword, but in true Doctor form, he spares the Sycorax leader’s life if the Sycorax promises to leave earth without any trouble. The Doctor walks away from the Sycorax, happily chattering to Rose about the satsuma he found in the pocket of his dressing gown. The Sycorax, despite his promise, jumps up and goes to attack the Doctor again. The Doctor, proclaiming “no second chances,” throws the satsuma in a way that leads the Sycorax leader to plunge to his death. The Doctor gives a big speech about how the Sycorax ought to tell other alien species that Earth is defended, and then the gang all heads back to London.

As they are getting ready to part, the Doctor warns Harriet that Earth is getting noticed, and humans had better get used to it. This clearly worries Harriet. When the Doctor distracted talking with the Tylers and Mickey, Harriet calls in the Torchwood strike. The Sycorax vessel is shot by lasers and explodes. The Doctor is furious at what Harriet has done (which is repurpose some alien technology Torchwood found a few years back). He tells her that he can bring down her government in six words. He makes good on the threat, too, asking Harriet’s personal aide “Doesn’t she look tired?”

After taking his leave of Harriet, the Doctor happily looks through his wardrobe on the TARDIS, trying to pick out his own signature outfit. I love this scene because you can see the outfits of many of the previous Doctors. At one point, David Tennant even has Tom Baker’s iconic scarf on. I think this is especially appropriate, because before Tennant, I think the image of the Tom Baker Doctor was the most iconic. Anyway, after getting dressed in his signature long coat and spiffy brown suit with blue pinstripes, the Doctor joins the Tylers and Mickey for a jolly Christmas dinner. I love this scene because it shows just how different the Tenth Doctor is from the Ninth, who didn’t do family period.

The group is watching a news report of Harriet’s government being in trouble already when Jackie gets a call from a friend saying she should go outside. Jackie shoos everybody outside, and they see that it appears to be snowing. According to the Doctor, it’s actually ash from the exploded Sycorax vessel, but they all enjoy it anyway. Then it’s time for the Doctor to go. Rose is happy to learn that the Doctor still would like for her to travel with him. Mickey’s not so happy, naturally, but that’s okay by me. The episode ends with the Doctor and Rose happily looking up at the stars, trying to figure out where they’ll go on their next adventure.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Ordinary Family 1.07: "No Ordinary Mobster"

“I know you told me not to, but you can never tell me to not help you, George. Never.”
-Jim

I actually really liked this episode of “No Ordinary Family.” I think I probably liked it because it focused less on the kids (although there was a little time devoted to the kids) and more on the adults and the greater conspiracy surrounding the powers. Despite that attempt I just made to sound really smart in my TV criticism, I think a huge reason why I liked this episode was that the wonderful Amy Acker, of “Angel” and “Dollhouse” fame, was guest starring. She was an ADA and a love interest for George, and the two of them were just plain adorable together. I’d like to see a lot more of her character on the show, although a quick check of IMDb has me doubting that my wish will come true. I’ll take what I can get, I suppose, because what we got was great.

The episode opens with Jim and Stephanie planning a surprise birthday party for George. Everybody but Stephanie knows George will figure it out beforehand, but they humor her anyway. There’s also some rather fun using superpowers to decorate business. While all the planning and decorating is going on, George is in court. He’s prosecuting an Albanian mobster named Luka, with Amy Acker, whose character is named Amanda, as co-counsel. Luka is found not guilty, which is pretty devastating to George and Amanda. George indulges in a moment of really seriously bad judgment and threatens Luka, telling him that he’ll be coming after his boss next. Smooth move, threatening a mobster.

George acts appropriately surprised when he gets to his party, and the Powells are all thrilled to meet Amanda. Stephanie says she call tell Amanda is into him, throwing out some scientific jargon to explain her opinion. It’s pretty funny when she stops herself, saying she’s been spending too much time around Katie. Jim tells George he ought to ask Amanda out. After the party, George and Amanda share some serious cuteness in George’s car before Amanda steps out to go inside her house. Although they haven’t committed completely to a date yet, they do kiss. Unfortunately, the happiness and cuteness doesn’t last for long. As Amanda turns towards the door of her house, she is shot. It’s clearly a hit by the Albanian mob. George rushes to her side and calls 911, but things aren’t looking good. As soon as this happened, I realized I should have known that something this violent would occur. It is Amy Acker, alum of multiple Joss Whedon shows, after all! Stuff like this has most definitely happened to her characters before.

Amanda survived the shooting, although she’s in the hospital and in a coma. Jim stops by the hospital to visit George, who is keeping vigil. George feels like the whole mess is his fault. The trial of Luka’s boss was one of George’s first case, and apparently, George messed it up pretty badly. Jim wants to go after the Albanian mob and clean up the town (as always), but George says “no.” It’s interesting that there’s a bit of role reversal here. Often, it’s George who pushes Jim to take on or pursue cases when Jim is feeling reluctant (usually because of Stephanie’s whining, of course). I think George liked the cool-factor of playing superhero until the whole thing hit a little too close to home.

In teen-land (my least favorite place to be on “No Ordinary Family”), Daphne makes a date to the art museum with a popular guy who just broke up with his horrid, screechy girlfriend. She uses the fact that her dad is an artist to impress him. Only problem with that is she doesn’t actually know much about art, and cramming the knowledge isn’t working. Daphne then gets a rather brilliant idea. She tells J.J. to start reading her art books so he can teach her. Then she takes it a step further. J.J. is, essentially, going to be her Cyrano, feeding her intelligent-sounding lines about the art as she and her date walk through the museum. The date goes very well, ends with a kiss, and Daphne is on cloud nine. Unfortunately, Daphne is later crushed when she sees that the popular boy is back together with his screechy ex. Near the end of the episode, the boy stops by the Powell house to talk to Daphne. He apologizes for not telling her he was getting back together with his ex, and he says he may have chosen the wrong girl. Which is such douche move and can’t end well.

Staying in teen-land so we can get it all over with, Stephanie and Katie decide that Katie is going to tutor J.J. He needs to be challenged more than he’s getting from school. J.J.’s got a little geek crush on Katie, so he’s fine with the idea. Katie seems a bit down during one of their study sessions, and she reveals she was stood up by a guy she met online. Later that day, J.J. tells Daphne he wants to help Katie somehow. Daphne replies that “you can’t invent the perfect guy,” which , of course, gives J.J. a really bad idea. He heads for the online dating site Katie uses and starts creating a fake profile. Katie is smitten with “Will,” the persona J.J. created, and Stephanie convinces her to ask him to meet for dinner. This has J.J. in quite a pickle, obviously.

Getting back to the more interesting stuff, Dr. King calls Stephanie into his office to warn her to stay away from the Volson research. He doesn’t want it to destroy her career too. So he says. Stephanie seems ready to take his advice, but Katie throws her off track. Katie has found Volson’s elusive widow. She lives in Mexico. Katie even has an armful of protein bars to get Stephanie through the trip. Stephanie just can’t resist the opportunity to finally figure out what has been going on with her family. Against her better judgment, she starts running to Mexico. It turns out Volson’s widow was expecting Stephanie to stop by at some point. She tells Stephanie that Volson was fired for bringing home injections of what he was working on from the lab. The injections helped Mrs. Volson, who is in a wheelchair when Stephanie meets her, to walk. Mrs. Volson also has unfortunate news, though. According to her, the effects of the compound were only temporary.

Despite George’s warnings, Jim goes after Luka. Jim finds Luka in the middle of trying to shake someone down for money owed. Jim manages to save the victim, and he starts attacking Luka. Luka gets one over on him though, and pulls off his mask. As sirens approach, Jim has to leave Luka on the ground and flee. To make matters worse, Dr. King’s Watcher has been observing the whole situation, too. Luka is arrested, and George tries to make a plea deal with him. This backfires, because Luka turns to blackmail. He’s convinced the police department has a “super cop,” and he threatens to use the police department database to ID the super cop unless George lets him completely off the hook. George is at a loss for what to do.

After a little heart to heart with Jim, George has another meeting with Luka and Luka’s attorney. George gives a big, fancy speech to convince Luka to take a plea deal that involves testifying against his boss. Luka finally agrees. It’s kind of a lame resolution to the plot, but you know what Aaron Sorkin says about great oratory. It can blow the doors of the place. Apparently. George then goes to the hospital, where Amanda is miraculously finally out of her coma. They’re very cute, yet again. They kiss, yet again. And they also commit to go on a date (finally) once Amanda has recovered.

At the police station, the Watcher manages to slip into the elevator in which Luka is being transported. When the elevator door opens again, Luka is dead. That’s yet another person who has discovered Jim’s powers who is now dead. I’m really, really curious about the Watcher’s loyalties and motives. The web of intrigue only gets more complicated in the final moments of the episode. We see that Mrs. Volson was paid by Dr. King to make up the story about her superpowers only being temporary, and she most definitely can still walk. Stephanie stops by Dr. King’s office to thank him for waiving her off the Volson research. As soon as Dr. King can shoo Stephanie out of his office, the Watcher appears. Dr. King wants him to start watching Stephanie, because clearly, she’s on to something. The Watcher warns that this could be complicated. Next thing we know, he’s pretending to be “Will,” the online persona J.J. created, and showing up for the date with Katie.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Glee 2.07: "The Substitute"

“It’s broccoli. When I showed this to Brittany earlier, she began to whimper, thinking I had cut down a small tree where a family of Gummi Bears lived.”
-Sue

“The Substitute” was a somewhat entertaining, but ultimately unsatisfying, episode of “Glee.” This was the infamous “Gwyneth Paltrow” episode. Why does it seem like almost every episode of “Glee” this season either has a special theme or special guest star? I miss the characterization and plotting (as ridiculous as it could sometimes be) of the first season. This was a very Broadway heavy episode, music-wise. Generally, I think that’s a good thing, although I didn’t really love the specific Broadway choices for this episode. It might have benefitted from a wider range of music. I think the episode also suffered from focusing too much on Terri Schuster, possibly one of the most hateful characters ever written for television. If she never appears on the show again, I will be happy, although given the events of this episode, that dream is probably never going to become a reality.

A bit of a plague has set its sights on McKinley High, and the heavyset A/V club girl is Typhoid Mary. Sue’s having a walk-and-talk with Figgins, and when she sees A/V girl sneezing and just generally miserable, she makes sure Figgins gets a good dose of it. Figgins is now out sick for an extended period of time, and Sue has randomly been made interim principal. Which is completely ridiculous. Now, I like shows with a heightened reality, and “Glee” usually plays right into that, but I like heightened reality when it sparks the imagination. Not when it’s just plain stupid. Unfortunately for Will, right after he hears the news that Sue is principal, he gets sneezed on by the A/V girl, too. Talk about kicking somebody when they’re already down!

Will’s trying to teach the glee club when he starts to feel a bit faint and queasy. He turns around to look at his students, and all of a sudden, they’ve turned into toddlers. The child actors were talented and rather adorable- the scene was really a highlight of the episode. All that goodwill went away quickly, however. Will passes out, and next thing we know, he’s at home. What makes it so unpalatable is that Terri has stopped by to take care of him. Terri is just so incredibly revolting that seeing her on the television makes me want to change the channel. It’s not Jessalyn Gilsig at all- she plays Terri extremely well as written. It’s the character herself I can’t stand because she’s so horribly, irredeemably manipulative. Anyway, it’s clear that by taking on the role of nurse (or more like forcing the role), Terri is angling to get back together with Will. Will manages to get her to leave, but she puts “Singin’ in the Rain” in the DVD player before she leaves just to remind him how well she knows him.

Back at McKinley, the glee club is left leaderless. Rachel tries to fill the void, but to say it doesn’t go well would be an understatement. She writes “ME!” in huge letters on the chalkboard (trying to be like a substitute teacher, I guess) and barely avoids being attacked by Santana. After that disastrous rehearsal, Kurt and Mercedes chat in the lunch line. Mercedes is a little upset that Kurt is ditching her that weekend to hang out with Blaine. Kurt doesn’t really pay too much attention. He’s got an idea to fix the glee club’s problem. He runs to the Spanish classroom and asks Will’s substitute, Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow) if she’ll fill in for Will with the glee club too. She was recently a substitute in Kurt’s English class, and her full-on performance of “Conjunction Junction” (probably the only performance I really liked in this episode- yay Schoolhouse Rock!) convinced Kurt she’d be up for leading New Directions. Holly is more than a little crazy. She thrives on making things fun for her students. I guess she figures that’s really the only way to survive as a substitute teacher.

In the spirit of being lenient and keeping things fun, Holly approaches New Directions by stressing how she wants them to sing whatever songs they want. There’s a funny running bit throughout this episode of Will gleefully (pun not really intended) giving the group music to sing from yet another Journey song. Sue, meanwhile, is not having such an easy time in her new position. She wants to go on a total power trip, but she’s failing miserably. Her dumbest attempt is when she tries to disband the football team. Coach Beiste helpfully points out to her that Sue finally thinks of a way to finally assert her power over the kids of McKinley. She’s going to ban tater tots from the cafeteria.

While all this drama is going down, Will is still at home recovering. He has a rather entertaining dream/hallucination of performing “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Mike Chang. It’s a dance spectacular, obviously, and it was quite a bit of fun. The fun is over, however, when Rachel arrives at Will’s apartment to complain about Holly taking over. I think Rachel’s really more upset that her own quest for power was thwarted by Holly than any threat Holly poses to Will. Rachel saw Holly being really buddy-buddy with Sue, so she’s concerned that Holly won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

At McKinley, Kurt is once again planning to flake out on Mercedes to hang out with Blaine. Just as Mercedes is going to voice her displeasure, she’s got something to be even more upset about. The Cheerios bust into the cafeteria and take away all the tater tots. Later, Kurt tries to set Mercedes up with a football player. He thinks she’s upset because she’s been treating Kurt as her substitute boyfriend, and now he’s found a real boyfriend. I don’t really think this is the case. I think Mercedes is justifiably upset because her best friend is one of those people who pretends nobody else exists when they have a significant other. Anyway, Mercedes gives Kurt a hard time for using “African American” as one of his primary criteria for who he would set Mercedes up with. Then she completely shuts Kurt down by starting a tater tot protest in the cafeteria.

Holly tries to win over Rachel by playing the “Will didn’t let you choose your own songs” game. She tells Rachel that she needs to lighten up a bit, and Rachel plays into it. There are more quick flashbacks to Will being obnoxious about Journey, which I still found pretty funny. After some prompting, Rachel says that she always wanted to perform a glamorous song with a good dance beat. She needs help for the one she has in mind, and Holly is only too happy to oblige. That glamorous song with a dance beat turns out to be “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag” from “Chicago.” While that’s definitely a song I enjoy, it’s not really at all what I think of when I think “glamorous song with a dance beat.” It really has no dance beat to speak of. And the performance Rachel and Holly give is elaborate, complete with pyro. I thought this club could barely afford a handicapped bus for Artie, let alone pyro for rehearsal.

Terri shows up at Will’s apartment yet again, and this scene probably made me scream “NO!!!” so loudly that it disturbed my neighbors. Terri is armed with Vicks vapor rub, which Will apparently really likes when he’s sick. So much so that he forgoes all semblance of sanity and has sex with Terri. The next day, Will is feeling better, and he tries to go back to work at McKinley. Sue is having a bit too much fun on her power trip, though. She tells Will that she is now permanent principal of the school. Which really doesn’t make any sense, but I’ve already griped about that. She also tells Will that he’s fired. Holly is the new glee club coach. Will goes to the choir room and tries to convince Holly to let him have his job back, but she doesn’t give in. In this economy, such jobs are just too difficult to come by. Holly soon regrets her choice, though. When she’s called to Sue’s office because Mercedes messed with Sue’s car as part of her tater tot protest, Holly fails utterly at protecting Mercedes.

Mercedes goes to dinner with Kurt and Blaine (awkward!), and she ends up being horribly bored. Kurt and Blaine discuss topics she’s not interested in. like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and fashion. Playing third wheel on somebody else’s date is just bad news, no matter the sexual orientation of the couple in question. The next day, when Mercedes shows Kurt that she smuggled tater tots into school, Kurt tells Mercedes he thinks she’s substituting food for love. Mercedes thanks the infallible Kurt for the sage advice and goes off to talk to the guy he had tried to set her up with. It’s really a rather infuriating scene. The football player who has been tormenting Kurt pulls the same tricks again once Mercedes leaves. He slams Kurt in the locker and threatens to kill Kurt if Kurt ever tells anyone about the kiss.

Holly stops by Will’s apartment, which seems completely inappropriate. She explains to Will that she wasn’t always so carefree. In her early days of substitute teaching, she was pretty regimented about making her classes do their work. Then, in a horribly, horribly racist flashback, we see what changed Holly. It involved Holly getting punched in the face, and it’s so offensive that I’m not even going to describe it more here. Terri interrupts Will and Holly and makes a huge scene, introducing herself as Will’s wife. Holly is taken aback at first, but then Will clears up that Terri is actually his ex-wife. He also tells Terri that the other night was a mistake and that he never wants her to come back. This can’t possibly end well. Nevermind the fact that the whole thing is horribly awkward for Holly.

Thanks to the glee kids groveling to Sue to a rather sickeningly sweet degree, Will eventually gets his job back. He wants the kids to perform “Singin’ in the Rain,” but the kids are not at all enthusiastic about it. He finds Holly in her new classroom, and he enlists her help in making it more modern. They all end up performing a mash-up of “Singin’ in the Rain” and Rhianna’s “Umbrella.” I might have liked it if it wasn’t so freaking Auto-tuned. I think that’s my major problem with most “Glee” musical performances, really.

Monday, December 20, 2010

HIMYM 6.09: "Glitter"

“Robin, did you know that boutonniere is French for ‘booty is near.’ True story. Une histoire vraie.”
-Barney

I was super excited about “Glitter” because it was the long awaited return of Robin Sparkles. I don’t think it quite reached the level of “Slap Bet” or “Sandcastles in the Sand,” but it was still fairly enjoyable. It didn’t have much depth, but there were some great laughs, and if the laughs are good enough, I’m okay with that from HIMYM once in a while. Another “fun fact” about this episode: Nicole Scherzinger guest starred as Robin’s co-host and best friend in Canadian teen pop-stardom, Jessica Glitter. It was entertaining to see the glee with which the rest of the group checked out Robin and Jessica’s old TV show, “Space Teens,” even if the show itself mostly got its laughs from innuendo.

The episode opens with a montage showing us just how obsessed Lily has become with babies. She even has a book called “What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Expect.” Lily has really become insufferable, constantly talking about the details of biological processes associated with pregnancy and things she won’t be able to do once she’s pregnant. If she’s this obnoxious now, I don’t really at all want to know what she’ll be like when she actually has a child. Most of this baby talk happens around Robin. Robin is really not at all amused by it, which I totally understand. I think I like kids more than Robin does (although I really wanted to wear a hazmat suit when I had to set foot in an elementary school recently), and I think I would have stopped talking to Lily after just one or two of her baby-related rambling monologues.

We then move to a standard MacLaren’s dinner/drinking scene, and the episode pick up a bit, mostly thanks to some fun Barney/Robin interaction. Barney is wearing a boutonniere as part of his newest theory on how to get laid, and Robin (understandably) thinks it’s rather silly. She thinks it’s even sillier that Barney is trying to convince everyone that “boutonniere” means “booty is near.” The wordplay between Barney and Robin is a lot of fun, and the resolution to the argument is even more fun. In the heat of the argument, Barney uses his ultimate weapon. It’s another Robin Sparkles video. Sure it may seem kind of harsh to break out a Robin Sparkles video because Robin insulted Barney’s suits in an argument, but I really don’t care. Because it’s a Robin Sparkles video! Time for some cheesy 80’s goodness.

The gang sits eagerly at Dowisetrepla, waiting to see the video. Robin explains that this is the TV show that originated the character of Robin Sparkles. The video surpasses even Ted and Barney’s high expectations. It’s called “Space Teens,” and Robin and Jessica solve crimes (assigned to them by Alan Thicke, naturally), using math. When the “Space Teens” title first shows up on the television, Barney immediately thinks it must be a porno. In one of the most brilliant bits of callback comedy this season, he goes to slap Marshall (tracing back all the way to Season 2’s “Slap Bet,” where Barney bet Marshall that Robin’s big secret was that she did porn). One thing I really thought was cool about “Space Teens” was how well it incorporated and explained a lot of the random things from the other Robin Sparkles videos, like the robot, and yes, even Alan Thicke. The video is really vaguely pornographic. Lily calls it a “pornocopia.” There’s just lots of innuendo and unfortunate camera work.

Robin mentions that she and Jessica were best friends when they were teenagers, and Lily, being Robin’s current best friend, naturally wants to know what happened to lead to Robin and Jessica parting ways. Robin doesn’t want to talk about it, and she gets very upset and leaves the apartment. Ted mentions that he and Punchy are still best friends, so it’s definitely possible for such a friendship to last. Marshall questions Ted’s true friendship with Punchy, so Ted decides to prove his point by making a rather silly late night call to Punchy’s Cleveland apartment. Ted then does a little math to figure out why exactly Robin and Jessica “broke up.” He finds a Christmas card from Jessica that shows a child who Lily estimates is 4 years, 3 months old. Ted then hypothesizes (in rhyming poetry, of course) that Robin, who is well known to hate kids, dumped Jessica when she got pregnant. Lily is extremely upset by this revelation, given that she hopes to become pregnant soon herself.

The next day, Robin gets home to find Ted and Barney waiting for her on the couch. They want to see more of Space Teens. This time the unfortunate innuendo centers around “beavers” (the official animal of Canada, don’t you know). To be more specific, Robin and Jessica both have pet beavers. Ted and Barney find this absolutely hilarious, especially when the teens are asked to calculate the amount of wood needed to feed their beavers. Just as Robin turns off the video as punishment for Ted and Barney being disgusting, Punchy randomly shows up. We then cut to MacLaren’s, where Punchy is being annoying as ever. Ted wants to let Punchy stay at the apartment for a few days because Ted worries about him. Punchy has remained in Cleveland, working at the same car rental agency for fifteen years. Ted is eventually able to convince Robin to let Punchy stay for a little while by invoking LeBron James.

When Lily and Marshall arrive at MacLaren’s, Robin gets up to leave. She says she’s going for a Korean massage, which is something she and Lily used to always do together. Remembering what Ted said about why Robin and Jessica are no longer friends, Lily asks the rest of the gang for advice. Marshall says Lily needs to try not talking about babies around Robin, even for a little while. Lily agrees to give it a try, but as soon as Robin says “crib” and “rattled,” Lily just has to start whining about how she wants to talk about babies. She starts talking about how when the baby comes, she’s going to need Robin’s support. Robin just gets frustrated at how Lily is acting before she’s even pregnant, and she makes that frustration known. Lily decides to “break up” with Robin right then and there. Marshall is upset with Lily, so much so that he refuses to comfort her at first, but it doesn’t last long. Because we all know Marshall is a big teddy bear, especially when it comes to Lily.

We next head to MacLaren’s, where Ted and Punchy have stopped for a drink following a sightseeing trip to Times Square. Punchy thinks Times Square is the greatest thing ever, and he’s still acting as obnoxious as ever. When Punchy goes out to the alley to urinate in a jar, Barney uses a very unique method to tell Ted that Punchy needs to go. He rattles off more reality show cut lines than I could count, starting with “You are the Weakest Link. Good bye,” and ending with “Auf wiedersehen.” I was impressed that he even included the “Top Chef: Just Deserts” line “Your desert just didn’t measure up.” I thought the whole thing was rather brilliantly delivered in rapid-fire style by Neil Patrick Harris. Ted finally agrees with Barney when Punchy comes back in from the alley and continues to be obnoxious.

In an effort to repair the damage Lily has done, Marshall takes Lily to Madison Square Garden. The organist just happens to be Jessica Glitter. Jessica explains that Robin didn’t break up with her, she broke up with Robin, and she regrets it. Lily realizes that Robin is capable of being friends with her, even after she has a baby, and she rushes off to apologize. Meanwhile, we also find out the true reason Punchy came to New York. He worries about Ted, who lives in a small apartment, has no backyard, and is still single. He thought Ted sounded depressed when he called the other day. Punchy also has a fiancĂ©e and wants Ted to be the best man at the wedding. Ted says he’d be glad to.

Lily knows exactly where to find Robin to make her apologies. The Hoser Hut. Robin is glad to see Lily and says that even though she doesn’t generally like kids, she’ll love Lily’s kid. She might hold it and everything! After Robin and Lily make-up, the opening notes of “The Beaver Song” from "Space Teens" start to play. Robin thinks one of the rest of the gang asked for it to be played to embarrass her, but it’s Jessica. Robin and Jessica sing a happy rendition of the song (which is, on its surface, about friendship) as various people dressed up as items of Canadiana (hockey players, a bear, etc.) join in.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fringe 3.06: "6955kHz"

“Fine. If you end up breaking the universe, this time it’s on your head.”
-Walter

This episode dealt with one of my favorite creepy/conspiracy theory-ish topics—numbers stations. For those of you who either very young or don’t like conspiracy theories (or both), numbers stations could be found on short wave radio, especially during the Cold War. The broadcasts would begin with a creepy little tune to identify the broadcast, and then a monotone voice would read out seemingly random strings of numbers. A common theory is that these numbers stations were part of clandestine operations, used to transmit secret, encoded messages to undercover operatives. Of course, since this is “Fringe,” that’s not the “true” explanation at all. The story of numbers stations in the “Fringe”-verse is much more extensive and has ties to the Other Side.

The episode opens with several people throughout the North East United States tuning into a numbers broadcast. The two who are most memorable are a guy who runs a light house and a suburban mom. I thought the idea of the suburban mom as closet conspiracy theorist was especially creative. Even her husband not totally understanding what she does when she rushes into her office with the short wave radio. Her name is Becky. Anyway, everyone’s sitting attentively at their radios when the creepy, tinny-sounding tune starts up. The monotone voice starts to read off the numbers in a language other than English, and everyone listening starts seizing. One by one they pass out. We then see some of them start to wake up again (at first I thought they were dead, so this was a surprise), only now they have amnesia.

Peter and Alt-livia are having a romantic morning, with Peter bringing Alt-livia breakfast in bed, when thankfully (because their being together just irritates me), Walter interrupts the mood by calling Peter to complain about his discovery that Peter is still working on the device from the Other Side. Walter does not want that device anywhere near his lab. The mood is further interrupted by Broyles calling Alt-livia with news about their new mission. It’s the mass amnesia caused by the numbers station, of course. Only the Fringe team doesn’t yet know about the numbers station. We see the team investigate most in-depth at Becky’s house, where Becky’s husband first introduces them to the concept of numbers stations.

This revelation prompts a visit to Massive Dynamic, where Nina admits that Massive Dynamic was once hired to investigate numbers stations. They could find no answers as to their source. Here I think the writers are stretching the legend a bit, considering, according to the legend, intrepid numbers stations enthusiasts once traced some broadcasts to specific U.S. military installations. Walter think he may have an answer about why the numbers stations are suddenly hurting people, but he says that to test his theory, he needs something from Massive Dynamic’s child development center. Considering Walter’s history (the Cortexiphan experiments in Jacksonville), I think we’re supposed to believe he’s contemplating something icky, but we later see that all he takes is a See N’ Say. Yay for the classic 80’s toys of my childhood! Peter escorts Walter to the child development center, and Nina and Alt-livia have a conversation about the recent tension between the father and son. Alt-livia, naturally, thinks Walter is being unreasonable on the doomsday-device building issue, and Nina thinks it’s strange she hasn’t confronted him directly about it.

There’s been a rather horrific incident at a radio tower with multiple people dead, and Fringe is naturally sent to investigate. They find an odd metal box hooked up to the tower’s electronics. Meanwhile, back at the lab, Walter has made a bit of a breakthrough, thanks to the See N’ Say. He has modulated the signal (so it can’t cause more damage) from the numbers broadcast that caused the amnesia. Essentially, he has split the signal in two. There’s the numbers, and then there’s an inaudible pulse beneath that. Walter’s theory is that the pulse is what caused the amnesia. Peter, obviously more concerned with his own personal drama than the case, is mostly just pissed that Walter used the soundboard Peter was using in his own, doomsday device-related experiment. On a similar note, although it did turn out to be somewhat connected to all the Other Side mythology, I did appreciate that this case, overall, seemed kind of separate. The team was investigating a freaky event and had no idea of the connection. Anyway, to speed the investigation forward further, some fingerprints are found on the device from the radio tower. The Fringe team visits Becky’s family to see if they recognize the suspect while the suspect is setting up another device in another radio tower. This case especially hits home for Walter, who has his own cognitive issues he constantly has to battle.

Soon enough, the stakes are even higher. The second device goes off as a pilot is trying to land a plane in the D.C./Baltimore area. He’s scrambling to tune in the air traffic control tower on this radio, and he accidentally tunes into the numbers station. With even more casualties built up now, Walter is getting really frustrated. He’s trying to solve the full mystery of the cube device that broadcasts the pulse. Astrid puts on some Bach to try and calm him down. Meanwhile, Peter and Alt-livia visit a used book shop for some insight. The proprietor points them to a book called “The First People.” It’s about people who lived and had advanced technology before our history was recorded. On the car ride back to the lab, Peter takes a look at the book and thinks that the numbers printed on the First People calendar correspond to the numbers from the numbers station broadcast. He asks Alt-livia if she can recall the numbers from the broadcast. Olivia would be able to do so easily, of course, since she has a photographic memory. Alt-livia hesitates for a second, but she manages to recall the numbers. It turns out Peter is right.

Nina drops by the lab for a chat with Walter. At Alt-livia’s request her job is to try and convince Walter to be more supportive of Peter’s research on the doomsday device. She and Walter sit on a bench outside on the Harvard campus and wonder why students are so serious these days as opposed to back in the 60’s when they were students themselves. Feeling a little nostalgic, I suppose, they share a “sandwich” as they’d say on HIMYM. Nina tells Walter that she thinks Peter should be allowed to continue his research because they need to know what they’re up against. Walter reluctantly agrees. Walter’s mood improves wants Peter gets back to the lab and tells him all about the First People. Walter is super excited about the concept. He thinks the numbers are basically the code to the universe.

Peter looks at the numbers cube and notices a particular type of Polish transistor. Apparently this bit of electronics is very difficult to obtain, and Peter thinks he should be able to pretty easily check into who has purchased one in Boston recently. Also, Astrid thinks she might have an idea about how to crack the numbers code. All she needs is a decoding matrix. Because the team is actually making some breakthroughs, Alt-livia is nowhere to be seen. She’s off warning the guy who has been planting the devices. He’s a shapeshifter frm the Other Side. Alt-livia is warning the shapeshifter that he’s been sloppy when she gets a phone call from the rest of the team that they’re on their way. Desperate to maintain her cover (and when has she really felt remorse for anything anyway), Alt-livia shoots the shapeshifter and pushing his out the window as backup arrives.

Peter looks over the body of the shapeshifter and is upset to see that the storage unit is busted. While he stares at the device, Alt-livia smirks. I am so glad that we’re not going to have to deal with her in our universe much longer. The investigation is delayed by a phone call from Astrid. She has finally cracked the numbers code. The numbers are locations. Walter has a theory that something is probably buried in the earth at those locations. The nearest location is Jersey City, so that’s where the team is headed. At the dig site, Alt-livia does an about face and tries to convince Peter to stop working on the doomsday device. Peter says that he thinks there has to be a better way to resolve this problem besides the destruction of a universe. Just as he’s finishing up his rather pretty speech, the diggers find something. When it’s finally unearthed, the team sees it’s a piece of machinery. Astrid calls Alt-livia and says she thinks all the locations she found have pieces of the machine buried in the ground. Alt-livia agrees, but she’s certainly not going to tell the rest of the team that. It turns out that they are all pieces of the doomsday device.

Alt-livia is informed that it’s time to initiate “Phase 2” of the plan, whatever that is, and we swoosh over to the Other Side. Olivia gets a rather unwelcome phone call from Brandon at the lab. They won’t be doing a universe jumping procedure today. Echoing my thoughts almost exactly, Peter appears to Olivia in a vision again and tells her that Walternate and his goons don’t need her anymore. Olivia is most definitely no longer safe. I’m looking forward to seeing how things escalate to her eventual return to our universe. Of course, everything won’t be back to how it was, because so much has changed since Olivia got left behind, but it will be nice to have everybody back in the right place.