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?”

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 cliché, 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.

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