Monday, January 31, 2011

The Big Bang Theory 4.13: "The Love Car Displacement"

“You know, for a smart guy, you really seem to have a hard time grasping the concept ‘don’t piss off the people who handle the things you eat.’”

“The Love Car Displacement” was one of the better episodes of this season of “The Big Bang Theory,” although I don’t think I would rank it above my all time favorites. I will say that Bernadette and especially Amy grated less than they usually do. I think Amy showed more humanity than she has in the past, and I appreciate that she’s beginning to develop layers. This was definitely an episode that was all about the character development, as opposed to plot, which is quite rare for a Chuck Lorre show. If only I thought this character development would really inform future episodes. We also got our requisite Sheldon antics, although I didn’t find him nearly as obnoxious as he was in “The Bus Pants Utilization.” Although, come to think of it, some of the things he did in this episode were worse, especially in the way he treats Raj. I guess because so much of that behavior was off screen this go round, it was more palatable.

The episode actually doesn’t open in the university cafeteria or Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment, but it still opens with the group having a meal. They’re eating at the Cheesecake Factory. Sheldon is really grumbly about the service. He’s nitpicking everything Penny says to the group as she tries to take her order. Penny makes the very good point that if Sheldon wants reasonably hygienic food, he ought to stop digging at the people who are supposed to serve it to him. I found it somewhat funny that Sheldon actually believed restaurant workers took an oath of cleanliness, and that gave him license to treat them like crap. While all this is going on, Amy finds a chance to ask Penny if she would be her “plus one” to a science conference the whole gang is supposed to speak at. Amy says she wants Penny to come along because Penny is her “best friend.” This is news to Penny, which surprises Amy, because Amy posted about it on her blog. Penny eventually agrees when she finds out that the conference will be at a fancy spa in Big Sur.

We next see the gang in Sheldon and Leonard’s living room, with Sheldon preparing the group for their immanent road trip to Big Sur. Sheldon has this fancy touch screen board to show everything from car assignments to the locations of pre-determined rest room breaks. Sheldon is the “travel supervisor,” so of course everything is planned to minute detail. This was probably the height of Sheldon’s visible obnoxiousness in this episode, but it was still funny because of the graphics on the touch screen. Penny is surprised to find out that she’s in the “lead car” with Sheldon, Leonard, and Amy. It turns out Amy wanted her “bestie” in the same car. Penny kind of grumbled about the car assignment, but she would later come to appreciate the car assignment.

I thought the car trip sequence was pretty funny, although there wasn’t a whole lot of substance to it. There were a lot of amusing little moments, such as Leonard calling Howard to tell him that Raj (who was in the back seat of Howard’s car) texted him to ask him to tell Howard to explain to Bernadette that when Howard says “nap,” he actually means “sex.” It sounds kind of convoluted when I write it out here, but it was funny on screen, I promise! In the lead car, Penny dares to question why Sheldon was allowed to become “road trip God.” Leonard explains that the group vote happened late at night, Leonard was tired, and Sheldon was “threatening to filibuster” if he wasn’t named travel supervisor. None of this is really surprising, but the exasperated way in which Leonard says it is pretty funny. Penny dares to suggest that the rest of the group should rebel against Sheldon, and she gets sent to Howard’s car for her trouble. Howard’s car has been dubbed the “Love Car,” and he and Bernadette spend most of the trip singing “I Got You Babe,” much to Penny’s chagrin.

The major drama of the episode goes down in the hotel check-in line. Bernadette runs into Glenn, who was played by Rick Fox. Apparently the producers met him during the episode Eliza Dushku guest starred in (they’ve been dating for a while now) and thought he’d be a good fit for the show. Glenn is Bernadette’s former professor…and ex boyfriend. The height difference between Rick Fox and Melissa Rauch is quite comical. I have met Melissa Rauch in person, by the way (she did a stand-up act at my undergrad once), and she really is that tiny. But so am I, so I can’t really talk! Howard is not thrilled about Bernadette and Glenn’s history, and when he and Bernadette get to the hotel room, Howard feels quite inadequate. He ends up majorly sticking his foot in his mouth when he tells Bernadette that he thought he would have these sorts of issues dating “a girl like her.”

What follows can only really be described as hotel room musical chairs. Bernadette is upset with Howard, so she asks if she can stay in Penny and Amy’s room. Penny originally agrees to share a bed with Amy to make room for Bernadette, but Amy’s night terrors turn out to be too much for Penny to handle. Penny then goes to Sheldon and Leonard’s room and agrees to share a bed with Leonard as long as Leonard agrees to acknowledge “the neutral zone.” Sheldon freaks out over Penny being in the room, and he asks Penny and Leonard if they can promise that they won’t have sex at any point that night. Penny immediately responds “yes,” but Leonard says “no.” And he has the most adorable gleeful little boy smile on his face when he says it. I’m not sure whether to be amused or annoyed that Leonard is so set on having sex with Penny, who clearly states she’s not interested. Sheldon goes to Raj’s room and interrupts Raj’s watching of “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” Great movie, by the way. Raj then ends up in Leonard and Penny’s room (walking in on their actually about to have sex…Penny changed her mind, of course) because Sheldon kicked him out.

Needless to say, after all this drama, the panel in which the gang is supposed to participate is quite a disaster. Everyone (Sheldon excepted, of course) talks about what went down, only thinly veiled as discussions about science, and eventually the references are not veiled at all. From the audience, Penny shouts out a request for someone to drive her back to L.A. Glenn says he’s heading back to L.A. that night, and Bernadette gleefully makes introductions between the two of them. The funniest moment of the episode is when Leonard suddenly realizes that Glenn is going to throw a wrench into his plans to reunite with Penny. He jumps up and screams “nooooooo!” The car ride home isn’t any more fun than the panel. Howard finally has it with Sheldon constantly babbling to him over the walkie talkie and throws the device out the window, and in the lead car, Leonard gets pulled over for speeding.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pilot Season Preview: Five Intriguing Greenlit Pilots

It’s a very interesting time of year in the television world- pilot season. Networks are greenlighting pilots, and major roles are beginning to be cast. It will be a while before we know which of all these pilots we’re hearing about will actually be picked up to series, but this year there have been an usually high number of pilot premises that sound especially intriguing to me. These pilots all sound so great that honestly, at the moment, I’m more excited about next TV season than I am about the current season. In this post, I’ll be taking a look at the five pilot reports I’ve read about that intrigue me the most. Some of them are intriguing because of the premise alone, some because of the showrunner (and sometimes it’s both the premise and the showrunner), and some because of an actor tied to it. If even two or three of these pilots make it to series, I will be a very happy TV viewer, and you (one, maybe two) readers will have some very interesting recaps from me next season.

Aaron Sorkin Project for HBO

There’s been buzz for quite a while that Aaron Sorkin was working on a project for HBO, and the pilot has finally been greenlit. The premise is behind the scenes of a cable news show, similar to the now-cancelled “Countdown” with Keith Olbermann. It strikes me as something that could be a sort of amalgam of previous Sorkin works “Sports Night” and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” Both shows dealt with the behind-the-scenes of television, the former with a cable sports show and the latter with a sketch comedy show. Here’s hoping this new project is closer to “Sports Night” than “Studio 60.” Now before you all start flaming me, I did actually like “Studio 60.” It had some especially excellent episodes, like “The Christmas Show,” but as a whole, I think “Sports Night” worked better because the show the characters were supposed to be producing felt more believable. Sorkin does especially well when his characters are dealing with politics, and unlike “Studio 60,” this project should provide an appropriate forum for the characters to do so. I think this will lead to a more believeable “show within the show.”

For more information:

Grimm’s Fairy Tales Pilot for NBC

NBC has greenlit a pilot from “Angel” executive producer David Greenwalt. I’m always up for trying any show that someone from the Joss Whedon stable of writers is involved with, so this was exciting to me before I even read the premise. The premise makes it even better, though. This particular pilot is a cop drama (not especially exciting), but is set in a world that includes characters like those in the Grimm fairy tales. It seems like it has potential to be dark and fantastical. I love attempts in television and movies to make fairy tales adult, such as “Pushing Daisies” and “Stardust,” and given how dark the original Grimm fairy tales were (Cinderella’s evil stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to fit in the glass slippers, people!), I think this could be the perfect example of the “Grown Up Fairytale” genre. I’m not thrilled that it’s being fit into the mold of a crime procedural, but “Pushing Daisies” didn’t suffer by having a mystery of the week for Emerson and friends to solve- the mystery was secondary to the characters and the beautiful world they lived in.

For more information:

“Grace” for ABC

“Grace,” which was recently greenlit by ABC, is a family drama set in the world of professional dance. I think this is an extremely original premise. Family dramas are a dime a dozen on television, but I think adding the ballroom dance culture into the mix could create something really interesting and entertaining. Carrie Ann Inaba, one of the judges on “Dancing With the Stars” is an executive producer, so she should lend some authenticity to the show. Most exciting to me is the fact that the writer of this pilot is Krista Vernoff, current head writer (and co-showrunner) of “Grey’s Anatomy.” “Grey’s” and I have a rocky history, but Vernoff is one of my very favorite TV writers, along with Aaron Sorkin, Bryan Fuller, and Joss Whedon. In fact, she once worked for Bryan Fuller when she wrote for “Wonderfalls.” I especially love her sharp, snarky dialogue. I’m excited for her to finally get out on her own and to see what she can do with a show that’s entirely her creative vision (not withstanding studio and network interference, of course).

For more information:

“Alcatraz” for FOX

“Alcatraz” is yet another pilot from the very prolific Bad Robot (J.J. Abrams’ production company) machine. “Lost,” “Fringe” and “Star Trek” are all Bad Robot productions that I have enjoyed in the past. This particular pilot isn’t going to be written by J.J. Abrams himself but by former “Lost” writer/producer Elizabeth Sarnoff. I think this may be the first Bad Robot show with a female showrunner, which I find to be very cool. The premise is that a group of Alcatraz prisoners and guards have traveled forward in time, and an FBI team that is pursuing them. I always like a plot that involves, as the Tenth Doctor would say, “wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.” This show promises to be good fun. I also think it’s interesting that this pilot was picked up by FOX. FOX is generally very genre-friendly in the sense that they take risks on pilots with interesting genre premises. As “Wonderfalls,” “Firefly,” “Sarah Connor Chronicles,” and “Dollhouse” show, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll stick with the show for the long haul. Here’s hoping this one breaks the mold.

For more information:

“Ringer” for CBS

“Ringer” could potentially mark Sarah Michelle Gellar’s first return to series television since “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” This would be the pilot that I would place in the “interesting because of casting” category. It would be wonderful to see Gellar back on television. She was, at one point, cast in the HBO pilot “The Wonderful Maladys” with Nate Corddry, but that particular pilot was not picked up to series. Here’s hoping this one fares better, even if it doesn’t quite fit in with the CBS “brand.” Beyond the casting, “Ringer” also has a rather promising premise. Gellar will play twin sisters. One has fared much better in life than the other. The less successful sister is on the run from the FBI, and she ends up taking the place of her sister who lives a ritzy life on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It looks like this could be a fun family drama with some legal intrigue. The fact that Gellar will get to take on two characters also gives this pilot the potential to be quite the showcase for her talent.

For more information:

No Ordinary Family 1.13: "No Ordinary Detention"

Our guest blogger, Sarah, is back for another "No Ordinary Family" recap. This time, it's "No Ordinary Detention." Two Eighties movies will enter, and only one will survive. Or something like that...

“Don’t you see Joshua? Either way, this little flirtation with a normal life will soon be over.”
- Victoria

Upon reflection, I found only one of the three major plots of this episode really interesting. And if you haven’t figured out by now, it’s not the mini Powell plot of the week. Anyway, it will become readily apparent in short order which plotline this week I found intriguing. We start with Stephanie in the kitchen making eggs. She’s hoping for a nice family breakfast, but she is quickly dismissed by the kids. Daphne has a student council meeting and J.J. is meeting Natalie to study. Jim says he’d love to eat breakfast with Stephanie, but of course George has to call and interrupt. There’s four escaped convicts, and Jim has to stop the ringleader before he gets away or hurts anyone. Jim does this rather successfully by knocking the guy off a motorcycle.

Meanwhile Daphne is giving a history presentation that sounds rather boring. She hears Chris (the kid who almost got blamed for his brother’s drug possession) thinking how boring she is. He ends up in detention and Daphne ends up there with him for talking during another student’s presentation. J.J. and Natalie are texting during math class and they both get sent to detention for it. I guess the writers needed to have all the kids in one place [ed. note: or the writers couldn’t resist creating their own version of “The Breakfast Club”]. They end up playing truth or dare. Bailey, the girl Daphne beat out for student council president, is there as well, for some unknown reason.

Anyway, Daphne ends up getting dared to kiss Chris and sees a flash of his memory involving a car accident and him getting arrested (he had just denied ever having been arrested). J.J. finds out that Natalie is a foster kid and doesn’t stay in one place for long. She has to keep her grades up in order to get into a good college to get out of the system. It is why she broke up with J.J. (in detention). J.J. in turn, after some sulking and hanging out with Chris, reveals a secret. He uses his super brain to make fake snow. It’s significant because that was a memory of Natalie’s that made her feel really happy. Unfortunately for J.J., Natalie still doesn’t want to date him. Bailey on the other hand, wouldn’t mind so much. The end of Daphne’s arc for the episode involves Chris explaining that he’d been out with his dad who had had a lot to drink. Chris took the keys and ended up driving home and crashing into a tree. He obviously felt guilty about it and embarrassed and Daphne tries to be nice to him. Who knows where that will be going in the future?

Later that morning, Stephanie gets a call from a rather distraught Katie. “Joshua” is sick and refusing to let Katie take him to the doctor. Stephanie says if Katie can get him to the lab, she’ll take a look. Katie does in fact manage to get him to the lab by saying she left her wallet in her desk. They arrive at the lab and are immediately cornered by Victoria. Victoria feigns interest in why Katie didn’t take the Miami job and acts like she’s never met “Joshua” before. They end up in Stephanie’s lab for maybe two minutes before the entire place goes on lock down because of some sort of radiation leak (which we see Victoria initiate). Katie is freaking out over the lock down while Stephanie examines “Joshua”. He’s really not looking very good. He’s burning up and looking really sweaty and icky. The power comes back on just as Victoria shows up and manages to get Katie to go with her to the specimen room with Stephanie’s key card. That obviously will not end well.

Meanwhile, Jim has gotten to the police station and is filling George in on what happened with the convict. He’s quite proud that he took down the guy without being seen. Unfortunately, IAB is investigating a bunch of the arrests made by the department lately. All arrests instigated by Jim. Naturally, George is protective and tries to keep Jim out of it when he meets with the IAB investigator (played by Joanne Kelly (of SyFy Warehouse 13 fame amongst other things).
Later at the police station, Jim catches sight of the guy he helped bust that morning and hopes he’s not seen. Jim ends up in the bathroom splashing water on his face to try and keep calm. Unfortunately, just as Jim is trying to calm down, the cons escape and take over the squad room. And thus begins the Die Hard reenactment, complete with about five mentions of “Die Hard” in the rest of the episode. The bad guys barricade the squad room and lock all the cops up.

George has managed to get himself tied up with the rest of the hostages. And I have to admit it’s kind of a funny scene where George convinces the lead bad guy that he (George) will be their lawyer. The lead guy is distrusting at first, not believing the cop negotiator will give him the money and airplane he wants. He gets one guy to go get a pregnant woman some food. Jim uses the air vents to ambush lackey #1 and knocks him out (complete with partial Die Hard quote). I mean I’m a fan of the first Die Hard movie because let’s face it; Alan Rickman makes one hell of an awesome bad guy. But really, did we need a recreation? I really don’t think so. Jacobs (the IAB investigator) is complaining to George that she could have sworn Jim was around when the bad guys took over. It gets rather annoying as it goes on.

Katie and Victoria are still gone as Stephanie continues to examine “Joshua’. She makes the comment she’s seen some of his symptoms before and asks what drugs he’s on. He denies being on drugs (which is only kind of true) and basically makes a break for it. He tries to use his powers to open the door when Katie shows up. She tells him she wants him to feel better and kisses him. He’s not fooled though. He pushes her away and she shape shifts back into Victoria. “Joshua” demands to know where Katie is and we see her for a brief glimpse lying unconscious on the floor of the specimen room. “Joshua” and Victoria have a little skirmish but it’s really very one sided. He’s getting weaker by the minute. She says in about twenty minutes he’ll be dead. So she leaves him lying in the hallway, a syringe of the injection used to give him his powers lying on the floor near him. She’s really evil. I think I preferred her on LOST.

Stephanie is still in her lab when Katie shows up and tries to get Stephanie to inject “Joshua” with stuff from the plant but Stephanie says they don’t know how it would affect people. Just as Katie says that Stephanie would do it in a heartbeat if it was Jim, Daphne or J.J., Joshua stumbles into the room and promptly collapse after warning Stephanie to not trust Katie. Stephanie uses her powers to go grab some ice packs to try and bring “Joshua’s” temperature down and Katie looks surprised by it. She tries to hide the shock by rushing off to see what’s taking so long with getting them out.

Back at the police station, Jim takes out another of the bad guys which only makes the lead bad guy angry. Again, Jacobs tells George she thinks Jim is behind taking out the bad guys. George denies it again, but it’s not much use. Jacobs claims that Jim’s actions are hurting the hostages more than helping. Jacobs is trying to reason with the bad guy by saying he’ll never know who is taking out his guys if he shoots her. Unfortunately, she gets shot in the arm for her trouble and Jim reveals himself. We got another Die Hard reference in this scene. I mean, I liked seeing Joanne Kelly on my TV for a little while but her character was rather boring and the bad guys were stereotypical and kind of two-dimensional. The bad guys are getting what they want from the negotiator. He takes Jim and Jacobs to the parking garage and Jim takes them out. Jacobs sees it and tells Jim she thinks he’s a hero and won’t be pursuing her investigation into the department.

And now we get to possibly my favorite exchange in the whole episode. Katie shows up and rambles about waking up on the floor of the specimen room just as a second Katie walks in another door. The two Katies are hilarious. They end up doing a quiz and for the first few questions both of them get them right. Then Stephanie asks what happened for the first time the week before. The real Katie steps forward and Stephanie believes her just as Victoria knocks her out with a pipe. Victoria attacks Katie and it looks pretty bad. Victoria is trying to stab Katie with some sort of syringe. It’s not obvious what is in the syringe but considering Victoria is evil and a lackey of Dr King so it’s not good. Just as things are about to go horribly wrong, Joshua gets to his feet, races to the hallway and injects himself in the arm. His powers are back and he saves Katie by sending Victoria flying through a glass wall. Katie is kind of shocked and confused but she gives very vague details to Stephanie when she wakes up. I’ll be really interested to see what happens next with her and “Joshua”. She knows he has powers now. Will she keep it to herself or share it with Stephanie? And once again, the Katie plot is far more interesting than the entire Powell family put together.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

HIMYM 6.14: "Last Words"

“Hey son, I just want to leave you with a little advice. Rent Crocodile Dundee III. I caught it on the cable last night. It totally holds up!”

I have to admit that “Last Words” was kind of a difficult episode of HIMYM to get through. Not in the sense that it was poorly executed- it just dealt with a serious and emotional subject matter. While I (thankfully) have not yet experienced the loss of a parent, I totally understood where the rest of the characters were coming from. When something horrible happens to a friend, it’s hard to know what to do. You do what feels right, and you try to be supportive, but with something as horrible as what Marshall is going through in this episode, there’s not a lot that is actually going to do much good. And that’s where the rest of the gang is here. Robin has her bag of any pseudo-contraband under the sun, Lily’s got “Judy Duty,” and Ted and Barney have silly internet videos. I think what helps Marshall more than any of the things they actively try to do, however (maybe with the exception of Lily- her plan does actually end up being pretty good), is simply their presence. There were some funny moments in this episode, but it almost felt inappropriate to laugh at them. I think it ended in a good place, though. While this sort of episode isn’t necessarily what you expect to see when you tune into a sitcom, I think it was needed. Without this episode, the ending to “Bad News” would have felt like a cheap shock, and HIMYM is better than that.

The gang is all out in Minnesota for Marvin, Marshall’s dad’s, funeral. As I already alluded to, they’re feeling kind of useless. Except for Robin. She claims to have been to enough funerals to know exactly what her role should be. She’s “vice girl.” Her bag is filled with everything from phone chargers to pills to dirty playing cards, and she’s happy to help out any mourner who might need a little something. It’s an amusing little subplot that helps break all the dreariness of the episode here and there, but not in an inappropriate way. Lily decides that her role is going to be “Judy Duty,” aka taking care of Marshall’s mom. That turns out to work in a way that’s quite unexpected. Judy goes off on Lily when Lily offers to help with the cooking, and Lily realizes that she can help Judy by essentially being Judy’s punching bag. Judy recognizes this by the end of the episode and thanks Lily for it, which I thought was kind of sweet. Finally, Ted and Barney think their job should be to make Marshall laugh. They keep showing him internet videos of guys getting hit in the nuts in odd ways, and Marshall (understandably) is not in the mood to laugh. Even when they take the concept to “live theater” (Barney punching Ted), it doesn’t help.

To make things even worse, the pastor of the Eriksens’ church has to go run to the birth of his grandchild, and he leaves the funeral service in the hands of his son, Trey, who is also a pastor. This wouldn’t be so bad if Trey hadn’t bullied Marshall back in their school days. Trey is played by Danny Strong, of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame, but I think he’s kind of wasted in this role. He’s really only in two scenes. Really the only purposes he serves are to provide a comedic visual (he is rather short, especially when compared to Jason Segel) and to start off Marshall’s conflict for the episode. That conflict isn’t with Trey, it’s with himself. Trey, acting like it’s the biggest hassle in the world, asks the Eriksens if they can remember the last words Marvin said to them. He says his father told him to ask- he really could care less himself. Everybody has these idyllic final memories, except for Marshall. He spends most of the rest of the episode perseverating on the idea of his father’s last words to him.

Marshall has some trouble figuring his father’s exact last words. First, he remembers denying his father a pork chop for the road as his parents were leaving to go back to Minnesota after the fertility issue conversation in the last episode. Which brings up an important point. Why is Marshall obsessing so much on the very last words, when he had this wonderful conversation with his dad, where his dad said all the things Marshall would want to hear, not long before his death? It really is an unfortunate oversight. Anyway, Marshall then remembers that he had another conversation with his dad before he left for Minnesota. His dad yelled up to Marshall from the street before getting in a cab. What his dad yelled was some well meaning but full of stereotypes comments about Marshall and Lily’s Korean neighbors. Marshall’s not satisfied with that as his father’s last words, either. Then Marshall remembers that he brought an umbrella down to his father before he left. His father said he had some advice to give Marshall, and that advice was…to rent Crocodile Dundee III.

Marshall is at least temporarily satisfied with those being Marvin’s last words to him because he likes Crocodile Dundee III, but then Marshall realizes he has a voicemail from his dad on his phone (the battery had been dead and Marshall had only just recharged it). Marshall now has the possibility of much better last words or much worse. When the rest of the gang act like Marshall’s strange for obsessing on this so much, Marshall asks all of them to remember the last words their dads said to them. Ted’s dad has been playing the field quite a bit since the divorce, so his last words to Ted were about his sexual exploits. Lily last spoke to her dad when he called to say he was in jail for tax evasion. Robin’s dad was berating her as always, and Robin was just happy that he remembered her birthday.

Marshall decides not to listen to the voice mail because “Crocodile Dundee III” is good enough, but then he changes his mind when he hears all the over-the-top last word stories at the funeral. He’s dismayed to find out that the call was just a pocket dial. As the rest of the gang gathers around him, he starts yelling at God about how unfair the whole thing is. I hate to say it because it was meant to be a powerful scene and I love much of Jason Segel’s work on the show, but President Bartlett in “Two Cathedrals” he was not. Anyway, it turns out that several minutes into the message, Marvin realized what was going on and left Marshall an “I love you”…and something about his foot cream, but Marshall chooses to go with the “I love you” for the last words. And actually, he keeps those last words to himself, choosing to tell the “Crocodile Dundee III” story to the mourners at the funeral. The experience leads the rest of the gang to all call their respective fathers, and most importantly (to me, at least), Barney calls his mom and tells her he’s ready to meet his dad.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Lost" Fifteen Favorites: "Exodus"

“There’s something that you need to know. If we survive this- if we survive tonight- we’re gonna have a Locke problem.”

I’m getting a little tired of the “HIMYM”/ “No Ordinary Family”/ “Big Bang Theory” rut the blog has been in lately, so “Lost” Fifteen Favorites is coming back from a much longer hiatus than originally planned. But see, I am following up on my promises, even if this is about a year later than I was supposed to reach this point in the series! Number Four on my list is “Exodus,” the Season 1 finale. The episode revolved around the Others’ creepy obsession with children, which was never fully explained, thanks to the Others (sadly) becoming rather irrelevant after about season 4. “Exodus” contained so many wonderful moments that I think this post is mostly going to be rehashing my favorites. It is, in my opinion, the best episode of season 1 because there’s a lot of payoff, both emotional and plot-wise. Another thing I liked about the episode was that the flashbacks are spread out among almost all the major characters, and they cover the time almost immediately leading up to everybody getting on the plane. Some of the flashbacks reveal more than others, of course, but I like that the wealth gets spread around a bit. I especially liked Jack’s flashback, we first meet Ana Lucia. An introduction, I must say, that is a whole lot more promising than the character actually turned out to be.

In “Exodus,” the Losties deal with what seems like a big threat at the time, although compared to what they face later, it’s really small potatoes. Rousseau, who always brings the kooky, shows up at the beach camp. At this point in the series Sayid is the only one who has met her before, so everybody is quite jumpy and nervous. You’d think Sayid would be too, considering she tortured him the last time they saw each other, but he’s pretty chill. Rousseau tells the Losties the story of how she came to the Island and how the baby she gave birth to on the Island was stolen from her. She says that the day her daughter was stolen, she saw a pillar of black smoke. Earlier today, she saw the smoke again, which is why she traveled to warn the Losties. Many of the (important) Losties have been working on Michael’s raft idea, and as they push the raft on to the rails that will eventually guide it towards the ocean, they see the black smoke and realize Rousseau wasn’t playing. Rousseau tells the Losties they can “run, hide, or die,” and Jack chooses hide. When questioned about where he can possibly hide 40 people, he shows some of the Losties his big idea. They’re going to open the Hatch once and for all and hide everyone inside. Much of the first part of this two-part episode is split between the Losties who are working on the raft and the Losties who are going to the Black Rock to get dynamite to blow the door off the Hatch.

There are three scenes that I especially love in part one. The first happens before Jack’s team heads to the Black Rock to get dynamite. Jack finds Sawyer in the jungle chopping wood. Sawyer is trying to atone for accidentally breaking part of the raft earlier in the episode. They have a rather surface goodbye conversation, but as Jack starts to leave, Sawyer calls him back. Sawyer then proceeds to tell Jack about the time he met Jack’s father, Christian, in Australia, and how Christian was actually proud of Jack but didn’t have the guts to actually tell Jack. Jack tears up at this revelation, and I think it’s one of Matthew Fox’s best performances of the series. And it takes a lot for me to say this, because if you’ve read any of my other “Lost” coverage on this blog, you know that I am not at all a Jack fan. I like this scene for the great performances and for how it really brings Jack and Sawyer closer together. They never really become close friends or anything, but after this scene, there’s a sort of begrudging respect under the surface of their relationship.

Another scene that I loved was where Walt gave Vincent to Shannon before leaving on the raft. This was one of the few times in her short run on the series that I ever actually sort of liked Shannon. You can tell that she’s genuinely happy that Walt would entrust her of all people with his beloved pet. She also appreciates the thought Walt put behind his choice for caretaker. It’s just heartbreaking when Walt tells Shannon about how when his mom died, the people around him just wanted to pretend like nothing had happened, so when he needed to talk about what he was going through, he talked to Vincent. For a kid, Walt was extremely insightful. He tells Shannon that if she needs to talk about Boone, Vincent can be a good listener for her too. Of course all that good will towards Shannon is pretty much used up in the next scene, where we see in a flashback that before Oceanic 815, she reported Sayid to airport police for leaving his bag unattended and committing the “crime” of looking Middle Eastern.

The crowning jewel of the episode, and perhaps the entire first season, comes near the end of the first part. That would be the big send-off of the raft, of course. This scene made me cry the first time I saw it, and it has succeeded in making me cry again several more times since, even though I fully well know that none of the characters are really leaving the Island…yet. It’s an absolutely beautiful scene, with a soaring, emotional score by Michael Giacchino. Seriously, when Vincent swims out into the ocean after Walt and Walt yells at him to turn back, if you don’t get at least a little teary, you have no heart. A boy and his dog were just separated, people! I’ve always had a soft spot for animals in general, especially dogs. In fact, I generally refuse to watch animal movies because they make me so upset.

Anyway, as we enter part two of the episode, Aaron is kidnapped by Rousseau (and later rescued by Charlie) because Rousseau thinks she can trade him for her daughter, Walt is taken by the Others because of their general obsession with kids, I think, and Jack and Locke blow the Hatch and look down the ladder shaft, quite perplexed. It’s moments like that which make me understand why some people gave up on “Lost” in its early seasons. If I hadn’t been able to pop in some Season 2 DVDs right away, I probably would have been very frustrated that we didn’t find out what was in the Hatch before a long summer hiatus. I do love the visual of the camera looking up the ladder shaft as Jack and Locke look down, though. It’s a very cool visual. I like to see a little creativity with the visuals in my television. Artistry like that isn’t just for movies! There’s also some foolishness where Kate inexplicably insists on carrying the very volatile old dynamite, and the raft runs into a log and Sawyer has to swim after the broken-off rudder (although I suppose I shouldn’t complain about shirtless Sawyer), but I’m not going to waste space on all that here.

One of the standout scenes of part two is when Arzt is pompously giving some of the other Losties a lesson in how to handle dynamite and gets himself blown up. I did love the irony of the supposed expert being the one to become “pink mist.” It seemed fitting in a way. Especially considering Arzt was so obnoxious about the whole thing. Although I guess the obnoxiousness was justified, considering how dangerous dynamite really is. This scene was also notable as an early example of a sudden death, something that would become a trademark of the show. The only comparable example I can think of that happened before this one was when the Pilot got killed by the smokemonster. The deaths that happened in between were more dragged out. Arzt’s death was a way to inject a shock into a kind of bloated middle of the episode and remind us just what the stakes are for our characters.

We also got the first of the rather interminable Jack and Locke “Science v. Faith” conversations that would become such a staple of Season 2. Locke makes the mistake of almost trying to get himself caught by the smokemonster. The smokemonster does actually get him, and it drags him to its hole. Jack and Kate just barely rescue him. Jack, understandably, is kind of freaked out by Locke’s apparent death wish, and he demands to know what Locke was thinking. Locke starts going on about how everything that happens on the Island is destiny, and “Boone was a sacrifice the Island demanded.” Jack claims he doesn’t believe in destiny, naturally. He’s the “Man of Science,” after all. The only thing that makes all those long winded debates tolerable on re-watch is knowing how the tables get turned later in the series.

The final really iconic scene of “Exodus” takes place near the end of part two. The raft crew are really excited because the radar Sayid rigged up shows something moving nearby. After a lot of pestering by the rest of the crew, Michael sends up their one flare. The dot on the radar starts moving back towards the raft, and the crew are jubilant. Poor saps think they’re actually going to be rescued. We see the light of a small boat approach the raft. There are some brief pleasantries where the boat crew ask the raft crew what they’re doing so far out from land, and the raft crew tell them about the plane crash. All niceties are over when the captain of the boat, who we would later know as Tom aka “Mr. Friendly,” tells the raft crew that his crew is going to “have to take the boy.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Ordinary Family 1.12: "No Ordinary Brother"

It's time once again to welcome back (increasingly frequent) guest blogger Sarah for another "No Ordinary Family" recap!


“You once said you were given these powers to protect people. Who's more important to protect than family?”
- Stephanie

This week’s episode picks up pretty much where “No Ordinary Friends” left off. We find Jim and Stephanie in bed when a noise wakes Stephanie. She makes Jim go see what it is (possible burglar), and they find Mike, Jim’s younger brother, rummaging through the kitchen. The next morning, we find the family enjoying breakfast, and Mike says his latest job venture has fallen through but he’s got a new one; footwear repurposement. Basically, he takes defect shoes and sells them for a low price. Stephanie doesn’t seem impressed and it becomes quite clear she’s not overly fond of Mike.

Next, we find Katie confronting “Joshua” (have I mentioned I hope we learn his real name soon?) about Stephanie’s journal. “Joshua” uses his powers to change the writing on the page and makes it look like he wrote it about her. She apologizes for her freak out just in time to get a very important phone call. Global Tech is giving her a promotion that comes with her own lab. In Miami. Stephanie is kind of bummed and confronts Dr. King about why she wasn’t consulted before such a significant move was made. He feigns ignorance and summons the new VP of HR. Enter Victoria Morrow (or for those who are “Lost” fans, Charlotte!).

We have to drop into teen land now for Daphne’s episode arc. It’s not as obnoxious as some previous episodes. Now that she’s student body president, she is on the disciplinary committee. She uses her power to judge the students by reading their minds. Until she gets to a kid named Chris Minor who was found with illegal meds on him. He admits to it, but she reads his mind and finds out they weren’t his. Throughout the episode, she tries to figure out whose pills they are. She ends up enlisting JJ’s help to break into Chris’s brother’s locker, and they find the drugs there. Chris has been protecting his brother. Based on previews for next week’s episode, there may be some sort of romance brewing here.

Jim, Mike and George have gone out for a guy’s night (which Mike claims he will pay for), when Mike ditches. Jim finds Mike getting the crap beat out of him, and even though Jim beats up a couple guys, he gets hit by a car and flies off a building. Mike’s freaking out when Jim gets up and says he’s fine. And thus Mike finds out about Jim’s powers. In short order, he knows about everyone because Stephanie zips in without realizing Mike was there. Mike thinks their powers are pretty awesome and Jim even takes him to “the Lair”. Unfortunately, pretty much right after Mike leaves; “the Lair” is burglarized. George and Jim suspect Mike, and of course Mike denies it.

Uncle Mike is linked to J.J.’s storyline as well. I’m not a fan of J.J.’s storyline and I think you’ll see why shortly. Mike takes J.J. to the horse races and J.J. ends up picking winner after winner with his ability. And, J.J. finds it all really cool. Needless to say, Jim and Stephanie aren’t pleased with this and Jim finds out that Mike owes a big time loan shark $15,000. Jim goes to try and make a deal to take on Mike’s debt, but Mr. Loan Shark laughs in Jim’s face. Mike owes $150,000- quite a lot more than he originally let on, to say the least.

Mike just can’t get a break with Jim. First Jim chews him out about the money, and then things get real personal. When their father had a heart attack, Jim was there at his bedside. Mike wasn’t. Jim demands to know where Mike was, but Mike can’t give an answer. Instead, Jim basically throws him out. As he’s leaving, Daphne tries to get him to stay. He says he can’t do that. She gives him a hug and ends up seeing him at an ultrasound appointment on the day and time of the burglary. She tells Jim what she saw just in time to find out Mike’s been kidnapped. They have twenty-four hours to get $150,000.

The Powells don’t have much choice in what to do about the situation. They don’t have $150 grand lying around. So, J.J. makes the suggestion that they go to the race track, and he can pick the winners like last time. They could easily make the money. Jim (mercifully) hates the idea. I have to say I agree with Jim. Why let your 15-year-old son get into gambling when it obviously has been a problem with other family members? But, Stephanie talks Jim into it. Too bad the last race they pick (after putting their huge pile of cash on it) loses. So Jim goes to the warehouse, knowing at least he can’t be hurt, and says he’ll trade his life for Mike’s. Kind of nice I guess. It works because Mr. Loan Shark lets Mike go and the brothers Powell kick some ass. Turns out Mike even gets a nice check for apprehending Mr. Loan Shark. Now he’ll have plenty of money to take care of the baby his girlfriend is having.

Returning to Katie’s storyline of the episode, she’s not pleased that Stephanie was trying to ruin her promotion. But, as they’re sharing coffee before Katie heads to Miami, a big sheet of glass falls from a crane. It would have killed Katie if Stephanie hadn’t saved her. The construction guys act like it was an accident, but obviously it wasn’t. It turns out Ms. Morrow (the HR rep) is one of Dr. King’s lackeys. She’s a shape shifter, and it was really her that dropped the glass. “Joshua” is kind of going off the rails in trying to distance himself from King (even though he keeps popping up at the office). He says he’s going to Miami with Katie and that King can’t stop him. “Joshua” makes it pretty clear that, serum or no, he’s going to make King pay for everything he’s done to Katie and to him, including all the horrible things King made him do.

I have to say, this kind of reminds me a little bit of Spike in “Destiny” (season 5 of “Angel”). Spike says that while it may have been Drusilla that sired him and made him a vampire, it was Angel(us) that made him a monster. I can see the parallel here. It was Dr. King that made “Joshua” a monster. And in the same way that Spike went and got a soul in an attempt to be a better person, it seems “Joshua” is trying to do something similar to find redemption for the evils he has committed. He’ll take whatever the withdrawal symptoms are so he can be with Katie. I have to say, I find his storyline and back story far more interesting most of the time than the Powells. It seems even though he’s slowly shifting over to the light, he’s still in a massive gray area. He’ll use whatever means necessary for revenge on the way there. And that uncertainty of character is what I really like.

The Big Bang Theory 4.12: "The Bus Pants Utilization"

“The two achievements are equally surprising and equally admirable. Though, if pressed, I’d have to give a slight edge to the cat.”

“The Bus Pants Utilization” felt like an old school episode of The Big Bang Theory- season 2, in particular. In some ways, this was a good thing, and in other ways, it wasn’t so good. It was good in the sense that this episode was back to focusing on our core five characters: Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, Raj, and Penny. I haven’t really warmed to Bernadette much (although she’s fine in small doses), and I really dislike Amy, so I was glad to be able to just enjoy the characters I’ve liked for 4.5 seasons without interlopers. On the negative side, an old school aspect of this episode was how completely obnoxious Sheldon was. So obnoxious that I really don’t understand why any of the rest of the characters tolerate being in his presence at all. I mean, Sheldon is often a pain to deal with, but he hasn’t risen to quite this level in a while.

It seems like, these days, an episode of “The Big Bang Theory” must always open with either the guys eating lunch at the university or everybody having dinner at Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment. This particular episode manages to do both. Sort of. The actual opening is lunch at the university. Howard is on the phone with his mom, who is having trouble using the new computer Howard bought. Thankfully, since my mom is a very successful and respected software engineer, I’ve never had this problem. I’m one of those rare twenty-somethings who go to their parents for tech support instead of the other way around! Anyway, I thought that particular bit was kind of pointless other than a “oh look at the nerds make fun of the rest of us” moment. The plot starts to pick up when Howard gets off the phone. Leonard has an interesting idea. He wants to make a smartphone app that can solve differential equations. Sheldon likes the idea, but he has to show his approval in the most condescending way possible. All the guys, including Sheldon, agree to go in on the project together.

We then cut to dinner at the apartment (see what I meant by fitting in both the usual openings?), where Leonard wants to show off to Penny a bit by telling her his idea. Sheldon doesn’t want their big idea getting out, so every time Leonard tires to talk about it, Sheldon starts belting “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” It’s an amusing comedic performance by Jim Parsons, for sure. Then he gets a bit more obnoxious, and all the guys start wondering why Penny hangs out with him. Penny takes the hint and leaves, since she already got her free dinner. With Penny gone, Sheldon switches gears to the app project. He has it all planned out, and he hands out papers with everyone’s roles. Raj is “phone support,” which I didn’t find funny at all. Leonard is pissed that Sheldon has taken over, considering the app was Leonard’s idea in the first place. In Raj’s words, Leonard goes “Alpha Nerd” on Sheldon. Sheldon agrees to let Leonard take over, but he condescends all over the place as Leonard tries to lead a discussion on the app’s user interface. He gets more obnoxious by the second, until he finally asks for a vote of no confidence. Leonard (rightly) fires him.

As we’ve known for quite some time, Sheldon can’t take a hint, even a really big hint like Leonard saying “you’re fired.” Leonard stumbles out into the living room the next morning to find Sheldon still scribbling stuff about the app on whiteboards. Sheldon says that since he was “fired,” he figured he was now an “independent contractor.” Leonard clarifies that Sheldon is to have no part in the app project, and Sheldon figures that means Leonard no longer wants to interact with him at all. He goes to put on his “bus pants,” but Leonard stops him, explaining that just because they have a work disagreement doesn’t mean they can’t still be friends. Then, of course, Sheldon goes way too far, accusing Leonard of having a Napoleon complex. Needless to say, Sheldon ends up needing his bus pants after all.

We next see Raj and Howard at lunch (again), and Sheldon does what I thought he’d do earlier in the ep. He has formed his own company, and he wants Raj and Howard to ditch Leonard for him. He thinks that cheap trinkets like mugs and key chains and can cozies will convince them, but thankfully, it doesn’t. Sheldon then throws a horrific tantrum. The guys are trying to work on the project, and they’re having some success, when Sheldon walks into the living room and announces that he’ll be practicing his theremin. The theremin is an electronic instrument that produced a rather spooky, ethereal sound. It is also very loud, and Sheldon is using the theremin just to be obnoxious. Leonard (rightly…again) kicks Sheldon out of the apartment.

Penny finds Sheldon sitting at the foot of the staircase playing the theremin when she gets home from work (because that’s where Sheldon always goes when he’s banished). And inexplicably, she feels bad for him. First, she says that he can work on an app with her. Her idea is an app that, when you take a photo of a pair of shoes, tells you where you can buy them. I think that’s a pretty cool, useful idea (although the execution would be really difficult), but Sheldon, not surprisingly, doesn’t like it at all. He thinks it’s boring and too materialistic. Penny is ready to abandon Sheldon too, but then she feels bad (again) and invites him up to her apartment for hot chocolate instead. And he promptly insults the ingredients she has for making hot chocolate.

Penny can’t take Sheldon’s antics for as long as she thought she could, and she goes across the hall to beg Leonard and the guys to take him back. She even says she thinks she can get Sheldon to apologize. Leonard realizes how unlikely that truly is, so he says that Leonard can come back if he does actually apologize. This task does actually prove to be possible, although it takes a little extra thought from Penny. She reminds Sheldon about how he’s always trying to better understand sarcasm, and she suggests that he use the “apology” to practice his sarcasm. Sheldon loves the idea. Leonard doesn’t detect the sarcasm in Sheldon’s apology (although Sheldon gives Penny a big wink after he says it), and so Sheldon is let back on the app team. The second he’s let back in, Sheldon tries to take over and ditch anything anyone else suggested…again. They say that a sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result. Episodes like this make me wonder why the guys don’t ditch Sheldon for good. Thankfully, Sheldon’s second reign of terror didn’t last for long, because in the episode’s tag, we see him unhappily trying to work on the shoe app with Penny, who is gleefully taking pictures of all her shoes to start the app’s database.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No Ordinary Family 1.11: "No Ordinary Friends"

Sarah is still graciously handling "No Ordinary Family" recaps for a little while longer. Enjoy her take on "No Ordinary Friends!"


“I just wish we’d had a chance to become friends, real friends.”
“Michelle, we still can.”
- Michelle and Stephanie

So, I really wasn’t enjoying this episode until about 2/3 of the way through. We didn’t exactly get more power conspiracy movement, but what we did get on the Katie front was at least interesting. The episode starts pretty much where “No Ordinary Sidekick” left off. The Powells are trying to figure out why Daphne can’t remember anything about what happened. Jim lifts her and the couch up to show his super strength, Stephanie zooms off to get a glass of water, and JJ rattles off some genius-y sounding mumbo-jumbo, but Daphne’s still not buying it. I have to say this was the worst “fix” ever. All they had to do was put their hands together in a cheesy huddle and have Daphne touch them to get all their memories. Lame!

Later that day, Jim’s out and about when he gets a call from George. A really expensive painting ($8 million) was stolen from a museum. Jim’s a little annoyed that George didn’t tell him about it while it was happening, but apparently George didn’t know until after the fact. As Jim is walking, a guy walks out into the street, not looking where he’s going and nearly gets flattened by an oncoming bus. Jim, in superhero fashion, saves him just in time. The guy, Dave Cotton, is really grateful for Jim’s help and won’t let Jim go until Dave knows his name. Meanwhile at the lab, Stephanie is filling Katie in on the issue with Daphne, and Katie makes the comment that she can relate to Daphne dealing with hormones (Stephanie’s theory) and that she (Katie) is practically an adult. This sparks the conversation that reveals Katie is in love. It also reveals that she’s still a virgin. She decided to wait for “the one” and she never stopped waiting. She’s worried about how to tell “Joshua” and Stephanie advises that if he feels the same way about her, he won’t care at all.

That night, the Powells get surprise visitors in the form of Dave and his family; wife Michelle, son Troy, and daughter Chloe. How sweet, everyone has a little friend now. This storyline was not one of the better ones, sadly. In short order, Dave and Michelle invite the Powells over for a barbeque the next night. Jim and Stephanie have a brief conversation about why Stephanie accepted the dinner invitation. She wants to do normal things with a normal family for once. They’re interrupted by none other than George calling about another art heist. This one’s in progress. Jim leaps over and fails to apprehend the thief. He does, however, manage to keep the thief from stealing anything. The next day, George tells Jim that even though he didn’t catch the bad guy, the cops found a boot print. Jim, however, turns George down to go investigate because he and Stephanie and the kids are going to Dave’s for the barbeque.

We have a semi-cute scene where Stephanie is trying to decide what to wear and she ends up settling on a blouse and blazer combo. She says she wants to look nice because she felt a connection to Michelle. The happy feeling doesn’t last long when Stephanie discovers her journal of info about their powers isn’t in its drawer. More on that plot a little later. Katie’s having a night out, too- she’s on a date with “Joshua’ and she’s babbling on about Star Wars drinks. She almost tells him she’s a virgin but chickens out and rattles on more about the drink she’s having. I guess I could see why she’s nervous. He’s been flattering her pretty heavy. I wouldn’t mind Josh Stewart flattering me.

The Powells and the Cottons seem to be getting along. Michelle tells Stephanie that she feels like she’s missing out on friendships because their family moves so much. First Boston, then Seattle and now where they are now. Jim has a similar bonding moment with Dave over a set of drums. We find out that Jim was in a hair band in art school (amusing since he has no hair now). He also comments on Dave’s watch. Dave says it was a birthday present from Michelle. While they’re all eating, Jim telepathically orders Daphne to agree that she and J.J. will show Troy and Chloe around school the next day.

The next day, Daphne is showing Chloe around school and they run into Bailey, the snotty student council president. Chloe quite handily tells her off, and Daphne’s pretty impressed. Chloe suggests that since it appears Daphne knows what’s really going on with the kids at school, she should run against Bailey. After all, no one has run before because they’re too intimidated by the pretty popular girl. Daphne’s not really sure it’s going to work, but as she’s going through her day she reads people’s minds to find out what they’re really thinking and uses that in her campaign speech. It’s not entirely clear whether she wins, but I’m assuming she does. Similarly, we get the JJ plot of the episode which is fighting with Troy over Natalie. It turns out that Troy was just acting like a jerk so that J.J. could impress Natalie (who was very close to placing J.J. in the “friend zone”). The mission is accomplished when J.J. punches Troy in the face.

Jim and Stephanie are reflecting on how much fun they had at the barbeque and Stephanie admits that Michelle called for drinks and Stephanie said yes. Just before the act break, we see Dave and Michelle sharing a bottle of wine, and as Dave goes to the garage to get another bottle, we see a pair of boots. It was pretty damn obvious that one of the Cottons are behind the art thefts. In other couples news, Katie and “Joshua” certainly seem to go out on a lot of dates, and now they’re back at Katie’s place. She awkwardly invites him inside and has enough time to lamely tell him she’s only got juice boxes when he starts kissing her. And the night doesn’t end well for her. She tells “Joshua” she’s still a virgin and he splits. She’s left in her living room crying, most likely thinking she’s scared him off with the news.

Jim is gloating to George a little bit about his new friends, saying it’s been a long time since he and Stephanie liked both the husband and the wife. We learn that George had a wife, Hannah, but they’re now divorced. George tries to convince Jim that they talk about normal things but obviously, that fails. He’s come to fill Jim in on some information about the art thefts. Over the last two years there have been thefts in Boston and Seattle. Jim makes the comment that the Cottons lived in both places before moving. George immediately gets suspicious and Jim tries to brush it off.

Next is possibly my favorite scene of No Ordinary Family ever. Stephanie and Michelle are having drinks at the Powell house, and Stephanie is extremely drunk. She is about to spill the beans on her super speed when Jim gets home and stops her. She babbles that he’s super strong and she zooms but Jim manages to pass it off as she’s just horribly drunk. Julie Benz doing drunk just makes me giggle. Once Jim gets Stephanie settled in bed, he’s back at the museum and the thief is back too. Jim catches up with the thief with just enough time to see a very distinctive watch, Dave’s watch, before the thief takes off with the painting. Jim trips the motion sensors but manages to escape before the security guards find him by bending the metal gates barring his way. The next morning, Jim is telling Stephanie about his suspicions of Dave and she tells him to tread lightly. After all, he never used to think their friends were criminals. Jim says he’ll use a light touch, but it doesn’t go well. Dave ends up storming off all pissed off that Jim would accuse him of theft.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Katie is now complaining about “Joshua” bolting the night before. Stephanie tries to make Katie feel better by saying that she did the right thing and it’s not her fault if he couldn’t handle it. That maybe he wasn’t the right guy for her. It wouldn’t be a Stephanie/Katie scene if Stephanie didn’t get to complain about her own problems. She still can’t find her journal. Next we find “Joshua” in Dr. King’s office. In a scene that makes me quite happy, “Joshua” tells King he’s out of their deal. The powers aren’t doing it for him anymore. He’s found something better (Katie). King lets him go but tells him it won’t work with Katie because he can’t be what she wants and she’ll never accept the things he’s done.

Jim feels bad about accusing Dave, and George suggests he go and apologize. So, Jim does and finds not only the boots but the stolen painting. Just as he’s trying to decide what to do, Michelle walks in and we learn that Dave isn’t the thief. She is. In short order, Stephanie agrees to talk to her. We learn that two years ago Dave lost his job and Michelle ended up getting roped into helping a faux janitor at the museum she worked at steal a painting. And it just never stopped. Stephanie thinks she’s convinced Michelle to turn herself in after talking to her family. Unfortunately, she was lying. Stephanie follows her that night to a meeting spot for her buyer. Michelle tries to get Stephanie to leave, but she won’t, and the buyer ends up shooing Michelle. Stephanie, using her speed, gets Michelle to the hospital. It turns out later on, the cops even caught the shooter. But that doesn’t make Stephanie feel any better. She says she’s responsible for breaking up the Cotton family. Jim tries to assuage her guilt by saying if he hadn’t saved Dave from being flattened by the bus that would have also broken up the family.

Meanwhile, Katie’s wallowing in her sadness when the doorbell rings. She assumes it’s the pizza guy but finds “Joshua”. I really hope we actually find out his real name at some point. Anyway he apologizes for running out on her and explains, in very vague terms, that he hadn’t expected to fall for her in the beginning but now that he has, he chooses her and they end up sleeping together. As Katie goes to smell his jacket (kind of weird but whatever) Stephanie’s journal falls out of the inside pocket. Katie is left watching suspiciously as “Joshua” sleeps.

HIMYM 6.13: "Bad News"

“I’m not ready for this.”

Because I’m still a little behind on my blogging, I knew what was coming with this episode when I watched it. I’m not really sure how that has affected my perceptions about the episode, although I’m sure it has in some way. “Bad News” was quite controversial when it aired, mostly because of the tragic blindside at the end. Although, really, with a title like “Bad News,” it doesn’t really make much sense to expect a happy ending. The final scene was quite an abrupt change in tone. Before that point, the episode was a rather light, middling episode of HIMYM. There were kooky moments, but nothing that really made the episode stand out as either especially good or especially bad. The final scene, beautifully acted by Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan, elevated this episode to something slightly above ordinary. I think this is an example of an episode of HIMYM that really resonates more with those of us in our late 20’s/early 30’s than other viewers, because watching the final scene really made me do some thinking.

The episode opens with Saget!Ted reminding us how baby crazy Lily and Marshall have been recently. We seem them nervously visiting their doctor only six days after they started trying, and we see them visit the doctor again after several months of trying. Their doctor recommends they see a reproductive specialist if they’re concerned (although the doctor doesn’t seem especially concerned himself). When Lily meets her new doctor, she is (rightfully) disturbed that he looks almost exactly like Barney. Well, it’s Neil Patrick Harris with brown hair and a beard and a rather affected accent, so yeah, it makes sense that he looks like Barney! Later at MacLaren’s, Ted makes the mistake of admitting to Lily that nobody really thought the last Barney “doppelganger” looked like Barney. Lily freaks out, thinking that she and Marshall have violated their “covenant with the universe” by trying for a baby before they saw the real doppelganger.

Marshall goes with Lily to her next appointment to see what all the fuss is about, and at first, he thinks it’s Barney too. Never mind the fact that Marshall himself said earlier that he was with Barney for the entire day of Lily’s first doctor’s appointment. I suppose it really isn’t all that out of the realm of possibility that Barney would feign being a gynecologist. It seems like something he’d like to brag about achieving, at least. Marshall fairly quickly realizes a way to determine for sure whether or not the doctor is Barney- he pulls on the doctor’s beard. The beard is real, so Marshall is convinced. Lily, however, is still not convinced, and she’s really, really skeeved out by the possibility that Barney could examine her lady parts. Marshall ends up bringing Barney to the office so Lily can see both Barney and the doctor at once. Lily insists that Barney stays for the entire appointment just so she can ensure he and the doctor are separate people. He ends up having to wear this rather ridiculous blindfold, and for good reason. He spends the whole time (really unsuccessfully) trying to take pictures of the proceedings with his cell phone.

Meanwhile, Robin was the focus of the B-story in this episode. Her new job at World Wide News is not going very well, mostly thanks to the return of the incomparable Sandy Rivers. We haven’t seen Sandy since season 1, but since he’s played by Alexis Denisof, real life husband of Alyson Hannigan, I suppose his return was inevitable. Sandy is a fun, smarmy character, although I have to say that out of all the guest starring roles played by significant others of the regular cast (there have been three), my favorite is Scooter, played by Neil Patrick Harris’ partner David Burtka. Anyway, back on topic, Sandy makes Robin’s first day of work miserable by telling the entire World Wide News staff that he slept with Robin. It turns out that isn’t true. Sandy recognized her and just couldn’t think of why he would remember her if he hadn’t slept with her. The next day, things get worse when Sandy actually remembers why he knows Robin. He shows the rest of the staff video of Robin slipping in horse poo during a news broadcast. On Robin’s third day, Sandy has even more video. He shows everybody the Robin Sparkles videos and other embarrassing Robin newscasting moments. It’s a pretty funny montage, but horribly embarrassing for Robin.

Ted had been trying to convince Robin to be the bigger person in this feud with Sandy, but after things get so out of hand, Ted wants to handle it himself. He goes to Sandy’s apartment itching for a fight (Ted practices some really dorky ninja moves along the way) and finds Sandy scantily clad and partying it up…without his toupee. Ted thinks quickly and snaps a photo for blackmail purposes. He happily gives the photo to Robin so she can end Sandy’s reign of terror once and for all. Robin didn’t end up using the photo. She embraced her kookiness and brought in an old Robin Sparkles jacket instead. The nickname “Sparkles” would stick with her at the office, but she didn’t mind so much anymore. Especially after one of her coworkers spills coffee on himself and provides some redirection.

Switching tracks back to the main plot of this episode, Marshall and Lily get a message from the doctor that Lily is fertile. They’re super excited, and Marshall is about to call his dad to tell him the good news. Then he realizes that if Lily is fine, he must be the problem. He’s too embarrassed and ashamed to call now. Marshall’s dad keeps trying to call him, but Marshall refuses to answer. He wants to get checked out first so he can give his parents some definite answers if he has to break bad news. He tells Lily that he only likes to tell his dad good news. When he tells his dad good news, that’s when the good news feels real. I can definitely identify with that, living in a different city from my parents myself.

Marshall visits the doctor for his appointment, and he has a freak out about giving a sample for testing. I found this whole part of the episode to be rather ridiculous and right out of the “sitcom couple wants a baby” book of tropes. It was stupid, not a commentary on the lives of late 20/early 30-somethings. To make things worse (from a viewer who doesn’t like juvenile humor’s perspective), Marshall begs the doctor to be allowed to go home to collect the sample, where he’ll be more comfortable.

When Marshall opens the door to Dowisetrepla, he’s mortified to see that his parents have made an unannounced visit to New York. They were worried because he hadn’t spoken to them for a few days. Lily offers to distract her in-laws while Marshall goes into the bathroom and does his business. It didn’t go well. Despite Lily’s (miniscule, really) efforts, Marshall’s parents keep talking to him through the bathroom door, saying things that really cramp his style. Frustrated, Marshall leaves the bathroom and is about to leave the apartment when Lily spills the beans about what is really going on. Marshall has a really great conversation with his parents about how if he can’t have biological children, they’re okay with that. His dad says adoption or any other fertility procedures are fine, they’ll still love him. That moment of seriousness was sorely needed to bring us back from all the stupidity and silliness.

We next see Marshall back at the doctor’s office, waiting to get the results from his tests. The doctor says that Marshall is unable to have children, and he starts suggesting that Marshall go enter a laser tag tournament to improve his sperm count. This time, Barney really is posing as the doctor. He has wanted Marshall to be his laser tag partner for the entire episode. When he first asked the group if anyone would be his partner and they were all unenthusiastic, Robin was conspicuously missing. So I’m really wondering why he didn’t eventually ask her to go, since they seem to be on better terms now. The Barney and Robin laser tag scene in season 1’s “Zip Zip Zip” is one of my favorite moments of the entire series. Anyway, the real doctor enters the room and tells Marshall that he’s perfectly fine. Marshall tries to call his dad to tell him the good news, but he gets no answer.

Throughout the episode, semi-hidden numbers had been counting down to the moment of bad news. The numbers start counting down at a break-neck speed, and we soon switch from silly comedy to an ominous tone. Marshall, who is out on the sidewalk, sees Lily get out of a cab. He rushes towards her to tell her the good news, but he doesn’t have a chance. Lily is crying because she has gotten some horrible news. Marshall’s father has died of a heart attack. The moment where Lily and Marshall embrace, completely devastated, I think will go down as one of the best performances Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan have given on this show. All Marshall can say is “I’m not ready for this.” It’s a heartbreaking line that really hits home.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Big Bang Theory 4.11: "The Justice League Recombination"

“No. I know bullying. He left unswirlied and his ass crack was underpants-free.”

“The Justice League Recombination” was slightly better than “The Alien Parasite Hypothesis,” but I still don’t think I would count it among my favorite episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.” I did appreciate that the episode was trying to turn the typical bullying trope on its head by having our favorite nerds be the bullies, but it felt a bit forced to me. Zach is just so incredibly, obviously stupid in an uncomplex way that you kind of can’t fault the guys for ragging on him a little. I also didn’t quite get where some of Penny’s arc in this episode came from. Can I see her getting back together with Zach? Sure- Penny’s been known to make unwise romantic choices when she’s in a low place emotionally (doesn’t pretty much everyone?). What I didn’t get was her little freak out in the middle of the episode. We haven’t really seen Penny throw tantrums that often, and when she does, there’s usually a good reason.

One thing I did really like about this episode was the very beginning. The boys are playing “Mystic Warlords of Ka’a,” first introduced in “The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary.” I liked the continuity that they were playing a game we’ve seen them play before, and a game that’s original to the show at that. Penny stops by to drop off Leonard’s copy of “Science” magazine that somehow ended up in her mailbox, and Zach (the menu guy) enters the apartment behind her. Apparently they’re back together. Again. Zach’s happy to see the guys, because he wants to “talk science with the science dudes.” The guys spend the next few minutes insulting Zach’s intelligence, and eventually Zach gets the hint and leaves. Before leaving herself, Penny accuses the guys of being bullies, which is an especially serious accusation, because they were all bullied themselves when they were kids.

The boys have a brief discussion about how they don’t think what they were doing is bullying because Zach wasn’t physically harmed, but Leonard, being the doormat for Penny that he’s always been, wants to run across the hall and apologize immediately. The rest of the guys are not at all enthusiastic about that idea. Leonard even offers them free comic books and they still say no. They only agree to go along with them when Leonard reminds them that he might get punched by Zach. They don’t want to miss out on the violence, apparently. For all his insistence that an apology is necessary, Leonard’s attempt to apologize is pretty lame. He basically just says “you know we were just kidding around, right?” He doesn’t actually apologize. Which is kind of surprising, because Leonard is usually pretty sincere about that sort of thing. Surpringly, Sheldon is the one who actually smoothes over the situation. All it takes is offering Zach a Milk Dud, and all is forgiven. Zach even decides he wants to go with the guys to the comic book store, which doesn’t make Penny very happy for some reason. I guess she doesn’t like being reminded of what she had with Leonard.

At the comic book store, Stewart asks the guys if they’re going to be at the store New Year’s Eve party. The guys are planning to be there, and they’ll be costumed as the Justice League of America, as always. They’ve never won the costume contest with their Justice League costumes, but they want to change that this year. Leonard has always been Superman, and the rest of the group thinks that’s been their weakness. They think Zach should be Superman this year. With that change made, there’s some squabbling over how the rest of the costumes will be shuffled around. Raj has always been Green Lantern, but Leonard wants Green Lantern if he can’t be Superman. Poor Raj gets demoted to Aquaman. Not an avid comic book follower, I didn’t quite understand Raj’s complaints about how lame Aquaman is, but when I finally saw his costume (complete with sea horse for him to ride), I understood. The guys also want Penny to be Wonder Woman. They think that even just bringing a reasonably attractive woman to the party will win them the contest. Unfortunately (I hate negative geek stereotypes), they’re probably right. Penny’s not thrilled about the idea, but she agrees to go with it.

The gang all gathers in costume at Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment before heading over to the party. The guys all love Penny’s Wonder Woman costume, but Shedon starts perseverating on the fact that Penny isn’t wearing a dark wig to cover up her blond hair. Eventually, Penny just can’t take it anymore. She throws a bit of a tantrum, goes back to her apartment, and refuses to go to the party. This creates quite a dilemma for the remainder of the Justice League. Sheldon says that without Wonder Woman, they can no longer be the Justice League, and they’ll have to break out the Muppet Babies costumes instead. What I want to know is why Muppet Babies? The regular Muppets or Fraggles would be fun, and dare I say it, a bit hip. Not so much Muppet Babies, though. Thankfully, Leonard saves the group from that embarrassing fate by having a talk with Penny. She tells Leonard that she only got back together with Zach so she wouldn’t be alone on New Year’s Eve. And I kind of don’t blame her for that. More interestingly, Penny hints that it’s not the wig that is her problem with going to the comic book store on New Year’s Eve, it’s her unresolved feelings for Leonard.

The whole group does eventually make it to the party at the comic book shop, and of course they win the costume contest. There’s some funny business with Sheldon trying to give an acceptance speech (guess the writers forgot about his fear of speaking in front of crowds), but then there’s a ton of awkwardness when the clock strikes midnight. Penny messily kisses Zach, but she looks longingly at Leonard. On the way home, the group sees some thieves breaking into a car. They briefly ponder being real superheroes, but then they turn around and slowly walk away. Zach hesitates a little longer than the rest of the group, but he goes with the retreat.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

HIMYM 6.12: "False Positive"

“Robin, you better check yourself before you Trebek yourself.”

I found “False Positive” to be a rather enjoyable episode of HIMYM. It didn’t rely on any silly gimmicks like rabbits and ducks and manatees and mermaids to get its point across. Instead, it made its point by examining how every character reacted to a specific series of events. The episode was also a thoughtful look at the role Ted plays in his group of friends. I’ve never been a huge Ted fan, although I do occasionally enjoy his dopey romantic antics, but I definitely appreciated his role in this episode. The rest of the group all needed a real kick in the pants, and Ted was there to provide that. I’m not sure if this is really a role we’ve ever seen Ted take before, but it was sorely needed, so I didn’t especially care.

The episode employs a sort of fractured in media res structure. We start with Ted arriving at a movie theater because the group is going to see a special showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Ted is carrying a gingerbread house as a “seasonally appropriate snack,” which was so very Ted, even if it’s the more recent, douchey flavor of Ted as opposed to the “do stupid things for romance” Ted of the beginning of the series. We then flash back to two days earlier. Marshall and Lily are about to check a pregnancy test. It’s positive. Never ones to really follow tradition, they tell the rest of the gang almost right away instead of waiting twelve weeks. We pan to each of the major characters to hear their thoughts. Everybody is freaking out except for Ted, who is just thinking about getting a seasonally appropriate snack for the upcoming movie outing. We also take another trip in time to see a doctor telling Marshall and Lily that they aren’t pregnant after all.

After the title sequence, we flash back in time yet again, to a day or so before Lily takes the pregnancy test. Ted is talking on the phone to Punchy about Punchy’s upcoming wedding. Ted is, as he puts it, “crushing the floral arrangements.” Robin takes the opportunity to take a verbal swipe at Ted, saying the best man’s job isn’t to help plan floral arrangements. It’s to get the groom down the aisle. Ted doesn’t have a very good best man track record when you put it that way. We see a convenient flashback to Marshall freaking out and shaving his head before his wedding to Lily as Ted just looks on in horror. Robin’s got a point, no matter what Ted does later in this episode.

After mocking Ted, Robin has a little job-related conversation with him. She’s seriously considering accepting a job as a coin flip girl on the show “Million Dollar Heads or Tails.” I like the little dig at mindless game shows, even if it is a little outdated. Ted wonders what happened to Robin’s dream of working for World Wide News. Robin had made a New Years resolution to herself back in January that she would be wearing a World Wide News employee badge by the end of the year. Despite Ted’s disapproval, Robin turns down a job offer to be a researcher for World Wide News in favor of being a coin flip girl. When Lily makes her big announcement, it changes Robin’s mind. She starts thinking that she needs to do something substantial with her life and decides to take the researcher job. When she finds out that Lily’s news was a false alarm, she changes her mind yet again. Honestly, I’m surprised she still has offers from either employer after all this dithering. Beyond that, I thought the decision was very uncharacteristic for Robin, even though the idea of this episode was that by the end, everyone is doing something inadvisable. This one was really beyond anything I’d expect of Robin. “It’s hard and I’m pretty” is never an excuse I’d ever thought I’d hear out of Robin Scherbatsky’s mouth.

Next, we switch to how Barney experienced these events. Barney has gotten a huge bonus at work (which kind of pisses Marshall off because Marshall got a lame gift card for his bonus), and he’s trying to figure out how to spend it. He wants to buy the DeBiasi suit, which has pinstripes made of diamonds. Ted suggests that Barney might want to give the money to charity, but Barney’s not interested. He’s the “Bill and Melinda Gates of the sympathy bang,” and that’s good enough for him. Finding out that Lily is pregnant makes Barney less happy about his bonus. At MacLaren’s he decides to do “Barney’s Favorite Things,” and Neil Patrick Harris got to bust out a pretty funny Oprah impression. Everybody at the bar gets a lap dance, for instance. Then Barney goes to Sam’s father for advice about giving to charity. Just as he’s about to write a check to Sam’s father’s church, Barney gets a text that Lily’s news was just a false alarm. He only gives the church $100. He also shows up to “It’s a Wonderful Life” “diamond suited up.”

Finally, we see the event’s from Marshall and Lily’s perspective. They start completely freaking out. First, they decide to do everything on their “get ready” list in one night. They’re an absolute mess, but somehow they get it together and appear calm for an evening at MacLaren’s. In reality, they’re tired, fighting, and stressing. When the doctor gives them the false positive news, Marshall and Lily are really not all that disappointed. They show up for “It’s a Wonderful Life” looking rather cheery. Lily mentions that they’ve decided that maybe they aren’t ready for a baby yet after all, and they’re considering getting a puppy instead.

When Ted hears that Marshall and Lily don’t want a baby anymore, he’s had it. He throws the gingerbread house down on the ground to get everyone’s attention, then he starts correcting all of them. First he yells at Marshall and Lily about how they’ve wanted a baby for a while. Then he yells out to the general criminal population of New York that Barney is wearing a diamond suit. Finally, he pulls out a coin, flips it, and tells Robin to take the World Wide News job already. Finally, Ted answers a call from Punchy and gets Punchy back on track for the wedding. Everybody rushes off to do what they’re supposed to do (Barney even donates a bunch of his suits to Sam’s church), and Ted is left to watch the movie on his own.

When Robin starts work at World Wide News, her ID badge picture looks horrible, which I thought was an amusing little touch of continuity. After her first day of work, Robin asks Ted to be her best man if she ever gets married. I thought that was a very sweet, fitting conclusion to this exploration of what Ted truly means to the group. I also hope it takes us another step closer to the wedding scene we saw at the beginning of the season. I also hope it’s Robin and Barney’s wedding, of course. Hey! What else did you expect from me?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fringe 3.09: "Marionette"

“You’re a good man, Peter. She knows that.”

As I expected, “Marionette” was an extremely painful episode of “Fringe.” It had to happen, though, after everything else that has gone down this half-season. It was painful in the sense that it left Olivia utterly devastated, and it was also kind of painful in the sense that we’re back to the classic really gross and disturbing Fringe Division investigations. There was a real sense of the show settling back in now that everybody is back where they were belong, and that brought a feeling of comfort to this episode, despite the especially disturbing case and Olivia’s pain. It feels like the show has somewhat returned to its old formula, but with more depth thanks to what these characters have just been through.

The episode opens with two men bumping into each other as they get off a train. One is touched by the umbrella of the other. The man with the umbrella follows the first man home. In his front yard, the first man suddenly experiences shortness of breath and collapses. Next thing we know, the first man is strapped down in a plastic enshrouded torture chamber all “Dexter”-style, and the man with the umbrella is sticking a nasty looking needle in his neck. My reaction? Ewww! I absolutely hate needles. EMTs arrive at the house, at first not able to figure out why they were called. Then they see the plastic drape set-up. And they find the first guy has had his heart cut out. If that wasn’t strange enough, he manages to open his eyes and beg for help despite having no working cardiovascular system.

In Boston, Olivia is in a meeting with Broyles. She wants to be allowed to go back to work. Broyles is a bit skeptical, considering what Olivia has just been through. And he’s probably right. Olivia mentions something about a friend on the Other Side, and Broyles correctly infers she’s talking about his own doppelganger. He gets Olivia to tell him a bit about the Colonel, and he’s very surprised to learn that the Colonel was still married. Olivia assures Broyles that his doppelganger was a good man. Similarly, Walter is assuring Peter that he’s a good man. They’ve been told they have a case, and as they are heading from their house to the crime scene, Walter starts nagging Peter that he needs to tell Olivia the truth about what happened with Alt-livia. Peter assures Walter that he intends to do just that, even though it will probably fundamentally alter their relationship.

When they get to the crime scene, Walter is overly enthusiastic about the case, as he generally is. Actually, he hasn’t really gone to that place this season, and I didn’t realize I missed it until now. I wonder if on a subconscious level, he knew Olivia was still missing and therefore couldn’t take joy in the usual things…like an especially gross case. Now that she’s back, Walter is back to his usual goofy self. While looking at the victim’s body, which amazingly still has not succumbed to rigor mortis, Walter notices scar tissue where the victim’s heart had been. The victim has had heart surgery before. A little research turns up the fact that the victim also had a ton of medicines usually prescribed to transplant patients, and those medicines were prescribed by a Dr. Ross.

Olivia and Peter pay a visit to Dr. Ross, and while they’re waiting in the hospital cafeteria for her to be available, Peter decides to unload the truth on Olivia. They had just been eating and chatting, and Olivia was grinning ear to ear, going on about how she’s happy to be back and with Peter again. She also says that being back is a little disconcerting because of how Alt-livia has been through all her stuff. Before Olivia can go on too long about how happy she is, Peter gets the truth out. It’s heart breaking to watch Anna Torv play that moment. Olivia’s expression just falls instantly. It doesn’t help that Peter doesn’t get the confession out all that well. He starts talking about differences between Olivia and Alt-livia, stupidly mentioning that Alt-livia was “much quicker with a smile.” Olivia tries to brush it off, telling Peter it’s okay, and she understands how he could have been fooled by someone trained to impersonate her, but below the surface, it’s obvious Olivia is struggling with this news. They do eventually speak to Dr. Ross, who tells them that the victim had a heart transplant.

Back at the lab, Walter finds a serum in the victim’s blood. It’s some sort of preservative, and it reminds him on an experiment he and William Bell did long ago. They were trying to figure out how to talk to people after they were dead, naturally. While they’re working, Peter brings up how well Olivia seemed to take the news about Alt-livia. Walter rather astutely (and hilariously- oh how I missed Walter in the Other Side episodes) wonders if Walternate replaced Olivia with a robot before sending her back over. Olivia is not at all a robot, though. As she’s in her apartment looking through her closet, it all starts to hit her. She has a complete breakdown, pulling all the clothes out of the closet and all the sheets off the bed. Things go from bad to worse when she opens the washer to throw the sheets in and finds Peter’s clothes.

Meanwhile, Broyles has discovered more organ theft victims. All of the victims received organs from the same donor. The body was also sent to an eye bank, and the Fringe team thinks that whoever received her corneas could be the next target. And boy howdy are they right. We see the man with the umbrella start the surgery that will remove the new victim’s eyes. Not long after the sadistic surgery, the Fringe team pulls up to the restaurant where the donor used to work. Clearly, they’re way too late. The plastic sheets have already been set up and used. While they’re investigating, the Fringe folks hear a noise. They split up to try and find the source of the noise, and Olivia runs into the poor guy who was just operated on and is now eyeless. For the second time in this episode, my reaction could be summed up as “Ewww!” There really isn’t a more eloquent way to put it.

Walter thinks he’s on a verge of a breakthrough in the investigation, especially when Astird finally brings him the files on that project he and Bell had been working on. Walter wants the organ donor’s body to confirm his theory. Olivia and Peter in just the right place to make this happen. They are talking to the donor’s mom, who says that all her daughter, Amanda, cared about was ballet, and that she didn’t have any friends. Amanda was also very depressed, and her death was due to suicide. While the mom is revealing this very painful information, Olivia gets a phone call from Astrid to ask for the body of the donor. There’s just one small hitch. Peter brings back Amanda’s ashes to the lab- not an intact body. Walter tastes the ashes to confirm they aren’t human remains. The tasting kind of grossed me out. Who does Walter think he is? The Tenth Doctor?

Anyway, in what is probably the most disturbing scene of this episode (yes, even more disturbing than the surgeries), we see just what exactly has been done with the Amanda’s body. The thief has just finished reattaching her eyes, and we can see that she’s hooked up to an elaborate system of pulleys and ropes. She’s also dressed in a ballet costume. He turns on some music and begins to move the ropes. Amanda begins a halting dance, guided by the ropes. She has truly become a human puppet, and it’s rather horrifying to watch.

Amanda had been in a variety of support groups for her depression, and Peter and Olivia decide to look among the group members for possible suspects. This really just results in a whole lot of awkwardness, mostly due to Olivia now knowing Peter’s secret. They argue about instinct and their different approaches to solving cases. Peter eventually makes a breakthrough. He finds a guy whose background leads Peter to believe that he could potentially reanimate the dead. It turns out Peter is right. The thief reanimates Amanda just as the FBI arrives. He is troubled by something, and he tries to leave just as agents are swarming the house.

Olivia finds the thief and immediately tackles him. He tells her that although he brought Amanda’s body back to life, it’s not really her. He looked into her eyes, and he just didn’t see the person he loved anymore. This hits more than a little close to home for Olivia, and she has yet another breakdown. She finally ends up telling Peter that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore. It’s not okay that, even though he’s supposed to love her, he didn’t recognize Alt-livia was an imposter when he looked in her eyes. I say good for Olivia. I hope they’ll eventually be able to heal from this and find their way back to each other, but for now, Peter needs to understand his mistake.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Big Bang Theory 4.10: "The Alien Parasite Hypothesis"

“Couldn’t you just fool around with him and then listen to NPR?”

“The Alien Parasite Hypothesis” was an absolutely horrible episode of “The Big Bang Theory.” I really can’t think of an episode of this show that I dislike more. The problem I have with it is that this is one of the rare occasions when the show laughs at geek culture instead of with it. It was uncomfortable and unfortunate, not funny. I think part of the problem is the character of Amy. I’m sure the idea of “Sheldon’s match being a woman just like him” seemed like a brilliant idea at first, but it’s really just way too much of a good thing. When it’s just Sheldon engaging in odd antics, it can be presented in an endearing way, but when you throw in a second character acting exactly the same way, it feels more like a gimmick than an honest look at an interesting character.

As they often do, the episode opens with the boys eating dinner in Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment. The girls are conspicuously absent. It’s so strange to even include a sentence about “the girls” with this show. For so long, it was just about the guys and Penny. I’m not sure how I feel about the expansion in scope yet. Anyway, Sheldon is trying to force a conversation about what the best number is, and of course he already has only one correct answer in mind. Meanwhile, the girls are out together at a bar. Penny’s ex Zach (the menu printer) walks in. Bernadette is naturally very interested in their history and wants to know why they aren’t still together. Penny mentions that she didn’t find Zach intellectually challenging enough. Amy is strangely silent. Even when Zach introduces himself, all Amy can say is “whoo.”

The next day, the boys (minus Sheldon) are having a lunch conversation about co-workers who were in danger of being bitten by a radioactive rat. They talk about how although superheroes are often created (like Spiderman) when people are bitten by a radioactive animal, being “Rat Man” would be really lame. This leads Raj and Howard to get into a disagreement over who, between the two of them, would be more likely to be a superhero and who would be more likely to be a sidekick. Naturally, each thinks that he himself would be the superhero. There’s a competition between the two that lasts for the rest of the episode. It begins with Howard goading Raj into a “bravery test” involving a jar with a big spider in it. That first attempt backfires on Howard, when he ends up with the spider on his back. Next is wrestling, although Howard and Raj just keep circling each other and hurling insults instead of doing any actual fighting. Poor Leonard just looks on exasperated, wondering why he has no life.

I mentioned earlier that Sheldon wasn’t with the guys when they were first discussing the radioactive rat. That’s because he was spending his lunch break with Amy in her lab. Amy brings up the “symptoms” she experienced when meeting Zach, and Sheldon offers to do a bit of differential diagnosis. Sheldon and Amy play a bit of “Who’s on First” with Amy’s description of her symptoms because of how she said “whoo” when she saw Zach. I found that to be more annoying than funny. Leave that particular bit to Abbot and Costello, thanks. It was just too glaringly obviously a bit, as opposed to organic humor. Anyway, Sheldon can think of only a few possible causes for Amy’s symptoms, including an alien parasite, and most disturbing to Sheldon and Amy, sexual arousal.

Sheldon keeps doing intellectual gymnastics to rule out the arousal theory, and Amy wonders if the reason might be jealousy. Sheldon assures her that it is not, and because it’s Sheldon, I think he’s probably telling the truth. Sheldon’s upset that Amy suggested such a thing, though, and he leaves the lab in a huff. Later, Sheldon discusses the situation in the laundry room with Penny. Sheldon is rather upset that Amy is suddenly horny. Because a geek actually being horny is such a strange, funny thing. Obviously. Anyway, Penny tries to subtly suggest that if Amy is suddenly horny, maybe Sheldon should be the person to satisfy those feelings. Sheldon doesn’t quite get the message, though. Sheldon says he will “do something” about the situation, which Penny takes to mean that he’s actually planning to have sex with Amy. Sheldon being Shledon, though, isn’t thinking of any such thing. Instead he calls Zach to see if he’s interested in having sex with Amy.

Sheldon then takes Amy back to the bar to see Zach again. Amy gives this really long, rambling speech about how he has affected her bodily functions. It’s really, really awkward. Zach doesn’t understand a word of what she’s saying, though. He really is dumb as rocks. Like most of Penny’s boyfriends (other than Leonard, of course). Amy is sufficiently turned off by Zach’s display of stupid, and she decides she can no longer go through with hitting on him. She’s going to take Sheldon’s advice and try Vulcan meditation to get over her horniness instead. She shakes Zach’s hand and leaves him standing in the bar, kind of confused. Sheldon and Amy walk home together, chattering about what just happened. Amy grabs Sheldon’s hand as an “experiment.” I did have a bit of worry right there that they would enter a physical relationship after all. Then Amy, in her monotone way, informs Sheldon that holding his hand has no effect.