Saturday, April 30, 2011

Glee 2.18: "Born This Way"

“Being a ginger has plagued me my entire life. People say that I smell like copper, and I can get a sunburn indoors at night. And according to recent legend, I have no soul.”

I wasn’t especially enthusiastic about watching this 90 minute “Glee” extravaganza, because I’ve kind of soured on “Glee” in general this season, but I ended up enjoying “Born this Way” more than I thought I would. It was lighthearted with good jokes, yet it tackled some serious stuff at the same time. Plus, the show seems to be moving towards a reconciliation for Emma and Will, and it’s a reconciliation that would put them in a much healthier place than they were in the first go ‘round. Things also seem to be on their way to righting themselves in the world of the kids. Finn and Quinn are still dating, which I find appalling even with the extra character development we get on Quinn in this episode. On the other hand, Kurt transfers back to McKinley High! I think trying to split each episode between two schools was hurting it. Now episodes can be more focused since we don’t have to have the token “Kurt at Dalton Academy” scene in every episode. Kurt seems to be quite happy to be back, too, although I really don’t understand his motivation behind the transfer.

Anyway, the episode begins pre-Kurt’s return, with Will running the glee club through a dance rehearsal. He thinks New Directions can compete with Vocal Adrenaline vocally, but their dancing needs a lot of work. And mostly thanks to Finn, he’s right. Finn’s dancing is so atrocious that he accidentally pushes Rachel in the middle of one of their numbers. Rachel falls and injures her nose. Finn, feeling guilty, accompanies Rachel to the doctor. The doctor says Rachel’s nose is broken, but it’s a clean break, so it’s not serious. The doctor then suggests that Rachel should have surgery to fix her deviated septum and make some “cosmetic adjustments.” He really tries to sell the surgery by telling Rachel that fixing the deviated septum will improve her singing (I guess because she’ll be able to take in more air). Always looking for a way to get a leg up on the competition, Rachel begins to seriously consider it.

Rachel announces to the entire glee club that she’s considering a nose job, and the reaction is decidedly unenthusiastic. Santana is especially bitchy about the news, which doesn’t make a lot of sense considering she’s had some more significant “cosmetic adjustments” herself. Hearing that Rachel is so insecure about herself makes Will upset, and he talks to Emma about this while helping her clean her fruit for lunch. He has an idea that he thinks will both help the kids and get Emma to finally admit she has OCD. And of course, it involves Lady Gaga. Will and Emma jointly present the next glee club assignment to the kids. They’re going to sing “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, and Emma is going to make each of them t-shirts with their biggest insecurity with which they were born. The kids don’t quite understand this, so Emma shows them her own t-shirt as an example. Will encourages Emma, clearly thinking she’s about to make a breakthrough. Her t-shirt doesn’t say “OCD,” though. It says “ginger.”

Another major plot in this episode revolves around the election of Prom King and Queen. We already know that Quinn’s seriously gunning for the title, but it turns out Santana really wants it, too. She thinks that if she’s named Prom Queen, she can convince Brittany that she has issued a royal decree requiring Brittany to date her. Sadly, the idea probably isn’t that far from the truth. Which is why Brittany’s kind of awesome. She spots Karofsky checking out Sam as Sam bends over to use the water fountain, and she gets an idea about how to actually make her Prom Queen dream happen. For some reason, I’m not quite sure why, this involves getting Karofsky to pretend to date her and getting Kurt back to McKinley. I’m happy Kurt’s coming back, so I really don’t mind that I don’t understand the logic. Santana takes Karofsky out to blackmail him. She lets him know that she’s figured out he’s in the closet, and she reveals that she is too. She’s going to out Karofsky to the whole school if he doesn’t make amends with Kurt. To make the Prom King/Queen race even more complicated, Lauren eyes the crown and tells Puck about how she was once successful on the toddler pageant circuit. Puck says they can run for King and Queen so Lauren can once again have a crown.

In addition to “Born This Way,” the glee kids are all supposed to choose and perform a song about accepting who they are. My favorite is a mash-up of “Unpretty” and “I Feel Pretty” by Rachel and Quinn. The song starts when Rachel takes Quinn along with her to the doctor so the doctor can have a reference for the nose Rachel wants, and it ends up with them performing in the choir room. I think this is one of my favorite musical performances of the entire series, because it just sounded very natural. Then there’s poor Corey Monteith trying to handle a rat pack-style number all on his own. Well, he’s on his own vocally, but Harry Shum, Jr. is doing his dancing thing all around the room. Corey really shouldn’t try to sing solo like that, but Harry sure can dance! Like we didn’t know that already. After the performance, Rachel hands photos her doctor made of what she’ll look like with Quinn’s nose. The glee club still doesn’t approve. Finn even tells her she’s beautiful as she is. Rachel doesn’t care, though. She’s getting the nose job anyway. Rachel’s not the only one refusing to confront her issues. Will has a talk with Emma about not wearing an OCD shirt, and he tries to get her to eat unwashed fruit. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well. I just want the pineapple sweater Jayma was wearing in that scene. Since I’m not working for a big law firm, though, that’s never going to happen.

Going along with Santana’s plan, Karofsky makes a big speech to the glee club about how Santana has “rehabilitated” him. Karofsky and Santana also claim to be in love. To show how sorry he is and make amends with Kurt, Karofsky, with Santana’s help, is going to start an anti-bullying club. Following this, there’s a big meeting in Principal Figgins’ office with Kurt, Karofsky, and their dads. The discussion gets heated between the dads, with Karofsky’s dad desperately wanting to believe he has back the son he thought he knew from before all this bullying started. Kurt has had it with the bickering, and he asks to talk to Karofsky alone. He gets Karofsky to admit the truth about why he’s asking for peace. Kurt says he’ll go along with all of it and come back to McKinley on the condition that Karofsky starts a chapter of a group called PFLAG, which supports LGBT individuals. At noon the next day, Kurt’s transfer is official. The Warblers, led by Blaine, of course, give him a big send off with Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.” Kurt then goes into a big Broadway number about how everything’s as he remembered it and he’s happy about that. I’m not the biggest fan of Chris Colfer’s voice, but I did notice that the character of Kurt seems a lot more confident in his performance these days. He’s kinda sassy, which is fun.

Puck finds Rachel in the girl’s bathroom looking at her nose, and he asks for an hour of her time. Rachel continues to insist that she’s absolutely getting the nose job, but she agrees to go with Puck. He takes her to the local mall and hands her off to Kurt, who reminds her of her love for Barbara Streisand. Then we get a massive flash mob right in the middle of the mall that dances around to a song about Barbara. I think I preferred Joss Whedon’s take on the mall flash mob last season in “Dream On,” because it was a fantasy. A real flash mob of this scale just seems kind of unlikely. Rachel enjoyed it, though, and she happily dances along. I guess that’s what really matters. Near the end of the episode, Rachel makes yet another big announcement. She has talked to her doctor again, and she’s not getting the nose job after all.

Meanwhile, the Prom Queen race heats up when Lauren digs up some serious dirt on Quinn. Quinn didn’t come from the middle school she led people to believe. Lauren found her real middle school and found out that Quinn used to go by the name of Lucy. Also she was chubby and had horrible acne. And she had a very different looking nose. Quinn begged her parents to let her start over, and she got a nose job, too. Lauren has put Quinn’s old school picture up on the bulletin board, thinking it will cause Quinn’s popularity to plummet. Quinn thinks that’s what’s going to happen, too. They’re both wrong. Realizing that she was once just like them gets Quinn the vote of the masses, and she and Lauren eventually make amends.

Santana and Brittany have another confrontation about the state of their relationship. Brittany has made Santana a shirt that says “Lebanese,” which is really supposed to say “Lesbian.” Santana thinks the slip-up is sweet, but she’s not yet ready to forgive Brittany for shooting her down. Meanwhile, Emma takes Will’s advice and finally goes to see a therapist. She spends most of the appointment time cleaning her chair and the last few minutes denying she has OCD. Her therapist gives her a prescription anyway. The therapist tells Emma that OCD doesn’t have to just be a part of her she can’t change. It takes her some time to come to terms with it, but Emma eventually starts taking her anti-anxiety medication.

The episode ends with the glee club, minus Rachel and Santana, getting ready to perform “Born This Way” with their t-shirts. Rachel’s not performing because she needs to be careful of her nose for a little while. Santana’s just being Santana. Will is the first to reveal his shirt- it says “butt chin.” The performance itself was fine, nothing really out of the ordinary for “Glee.” Emma arrives in the auditorium with a new t-shirt. This one finally says “OCD.” Here’s hoping this paves the way for a healthy Will/Emma relationship in the not-so-distant future. Santana’s also got a more truthful t-shirt on. She’s sitting in the back of the auditorium with Karofsky wearing the “Lebanese” shirt Brittany gave her.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Game of Thrones 1.02: "The Kingsroad"

“Starks have manned the Wall for thousands of years, and you are a Stark. You might not have my name, but you have my blood.”

“The Kingsroad” continues many of the plots set up in “Winter is Coming.” For all the material I understand needs to be covered in this season, it felt a little bit like treading water. We got some good insight into some of the characters (always appreciated), but the plot didn’t really move. There’s lots of talk about how war is coming, but it doesn’t seem like it will really be coming any time soon. Dothraki are still milling about across the Narrow Sea waiting for the right omens, I suppose, and Robert, Ned and their crew start thinking about making their way towards King’s Landing, reminiscing about times gone by. Things are a little more exciting back at Winterfell, where Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard son, is getting ready to leave for the Night’s Watch, and more tragedy befalls the Stark family. In the second half of the episode, we can see cracks start to form in the relationships between the three Westerosi families we’ve been following so far.

The episode opens with the Dothraki on the move. Sort of. They’re just doing their usual roaming thing. Daenerys is having some trouble adjusting to her new life, and Ser Jorrah is teaching her about the Dothraki and helpfully (and sort of dryly) downloads a whole lot of information about the Dothraki to us viewers. Meanwhile, Viserys says he’s sticking around with the Dothraki until he gets what he was promised- an army and the Iron Throne of Westeros. Khal Drogo just walks into Daenerys’ tent and has his way with her whenever he feels like it, and this understandably upsets Daenerys quite a bit. She draws comfort from looking at the dragon’s eggs she was given as a wedding gift. The dragon is her House sigil, after all. Daenerys ends up asking one of her attendants, who was once a prostitute, how to better satisfy Drogo. The attendant obliges with a lesson, and she makes Daenerys realize her worth, in a way. Daenerys finally realizes that her foreignness to Khal Drogo is probably what drew him to her, and the next time he enters the tent, he takes her on her terms, instead of “like a slave” as the attendant would put it.

Most of the drama of this episode happens on the Westeros side of the Narrow Sea, though. Early in the episode, we get to spend some quality time with the Lannisters, which I appreciated. Sure they’re skeevy and quite possibly evil, but it was nice to get a chance to see what makes them tick. Tyrion wakes up in a barn, as you do, thanks to the prodding of his nephew, Joffrey. Joffrey is a little brat, and Tyrion impresses upon him (by repeatedly slapping him) that he needs to offer his sympathies to the Starks because of Bran’s accident. Bran, by the way, is still alive, but in a coma. Tyrion and Joffrey then join the rest of the Lannisters for breakfast, which is really where you see that despite all their nefarious machinations, they have their normal family moments, too. When the younger Lannister children leave, Tyrion insinuates he knows that Jaime and Cersei were behind Bran’s accident. His loyalty is with his family, though, so he’s not going to be telling anyone else about his suspicions. He is, however, taking a trip to the Wall with the Night’s Watch. It’s basically going to be a sightseeing trip for him.

Cat is taking Bran’s accident very hard. She essentially hasn’t left his bedside since it happened, even though the doctors say he’s out of the woods. Before leaving for King’s Landing, Cersei pays her a visit that does some work towards humanizing her. She tells Cat that she had a son who died of a fever at about Bran’s age, and this situation brings back painful memories for her. I guess that explains why she protested Jaime’s desire to make sure Bran couldn’t spill their secret. I think Cat appreciates the show of empathy, but she’s too distraught to really acknowledge it. King Robert’s party is due to leave Winterfell, and Cat really does not want Ned to go. He says that he really has no choice, he has to do what Robert asks, but Cat disagrees. Even though Cat is really upset about it, Ned is still going to go to King’s Landing and become the Hand of the King.

Ned isn’t the only one leaving Winterfell. Jon Snow is leaving with his uncle to join the Night’s Watch. Jaime takes a chance to be even more of a jerk by making fun of Jon’s choice to join the Night’s Watch. He, and later Tyrion, both mock the idea that there are creatures on the other side of the Wall from which Westeros needs to be protected. They mock creatures such as the White Walkers, even though we know they exist thanks to the opening sequence of the pilot episode, saying they are really more the stuff of legend. Tyrion’s mocking of the job was much more good natured than his brother’s. He and Jon sort of bond during the journey to the Wall, both being outcasts. Before he leaves, though, Jon has to say all his goodbyes. As he says goodbye to Arya, he gives her a sword. Then he goes to say goodbye to the still comatose Bran. He tells Bran that when he’s better, he can come visit him at Castle Black, home of the Night’s Watch. Cat gets really huffy and tells Jon to leave. The most profound goodbye is between Jon and Ned, though. Ned says that even if he doesn’t have the Stark name, Jon is a Stark, and his joining the Night’s Watch is upholding a proud family tradition. Jon asks if Ned will tell him about his mother, but Ned says that will have to wait until the next time they see each other.

Early on in their journey on the Kingsroad, Robert and Ned share a meal and some banter about the old days. Mostly about the women they slept with before (and sometimes during) their marriages. Robert seems to want to recreate the good old days, but Ned is happy with where he’s ended up in life and wouldn’t want to go back. The conversation turns more serious when they receive a message about Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s marriage, though. Ned doesn’t see why it’s a big deal, but Robert sees it as the bad omen it is. He knows that means Viserys could cross the Narrow Sea with an army of Dothraki at any time. He tells Ned there’s a war coming. Ned is kind of skeptical, but Robert is speaking ominously, so it must be true!

Meanwhile, back at Winterfell, Cat is being even more annoying since Ned and several of her children have gone to the Kingsroad. She refuses to take on any of the duties of managing Winterfell, and she continues to refuse to leave Bran’s room. Robb, the oldest Stark son, has to keep Winterfell running in his father’s absence. Rob is begging Cat to finally leave Bran’s room when he looks out the window and sees a fire. He rushes to help put it out, and while he’s gone, an assassin enters the room. The assassin’s objective was to kill Bran, but since Cat is there, he’s going to kill her too. Cat puts up a valiant fight, but just as she’s about to be overcome, Bran’s direwolf rips the heart out of the assassin and saves her. This incident finally inspires Cat to leave Bran’s room, and she begins to investigate Bran’s fall. When she looks in the tower from which he fell, she finds a long blond hair. This leads her to call a meeting of her most trusted advisers out in the Godwood. She tells them she suspects the Lannisters are behind Bran’s fall and that they still intend to kill him. Add in the evidence that the assassin’s weapon was way too fancy for a man of his station, and the advisors agree. Cat goes from insisting she’ll never leave Bran’s room to insisting she must personally deliver this message to Ned at King’s Landing. That can’t end well.

Things are already not going well for the Starks who are on their way to King’s Landing, and Cat hasn’t even arrived with the incriminating message yet. Joffrey and Sansa go for a walk, and they come upon Arya and her friend the butcher’s boy play-sword fighting. I guess Joffrey thinks he can win some points with Sansa by “saving” her little sister, so he proceeds to try to punish the butcher’s boy for “hurting” Arya. He starts to use his sword to cut the butcher’s boy’s face, and Arya tries to put a stop to it. Joffrey is enraged by her imprudence, and he begins to attack her instead. Arya’s direwolf comes to the rescue- the wolf bites Joffrey on the arm. Joffrey goes into petulant little boy mode and just starts crying. The whole scene is wonderful at showing how these individuals, Joffrey and Sanya, who are being treated as future rulers of Westeros, are really still just kids.

Arya and her direwolf run off, because Arya knows this situation is going to be nothing but trouble. Out in the woods, she begs her direwolf to run away because the wolf will be killed if it is found. The wolf is reluctant, but obliges. Ned had been searching for Arya, and he is extremely upset to find out that she has been found by the Lannisters and taken directly before the King without informing him. He bursts into a room where King Robert is trying to sort out what happened. It’s all a he said, she said. Joffrey claims that Arya and the butcher’s boy beat him with clubs, then set the direwolf on them. Arya rightfully denies it. Then Cersei brings Sansa in to give testimony. After being warned that lying to a King is a serious offense, she just says she doesn’t remember what happened. Robert thankfully sees reason and leaves Ned to handle Arya’s discipline, while promising to discipline Joffrey. Cersei is determined to see blood, though, and she demands the death of Sansa’s direwolf, since the direwolf that actually caused the injuries is nowhere to be found. Robert doesn’t object. Ned, feeling an obligation to a fellow creature of the North, is left to carry out the grisly deed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fringe 3.20: "6:02 AM EST"

“Oppenheimer saved us too, but at what cost? He couldn’t bear the nightmares. The screams of all the innocents he had killed.”

“6:02 AM EST,” beyond having a kind of lame title, was very much a set-up episode, beginning to move all the chess pieces that are the “Fringe” characters into position for the final battle (for now, at least) between the two universes. As a set-up episode, it was difficult for me to get especially emotionally invested in it, considering I know that everyone’s situation will likely be radically different by the end of parts 2 and 3 of the three part season finale arc. By the end of this episode, Peter is in a coma and Alt-livia is locked up in Walternate’s house of horrors, and clearly both of these things much change, at least, by the end of the season. There was this sense of doom and dread permeating through the episode. I guess that was to be expected, considering Walternate’s been planning the destruction of our universe for quite some time.

This episode switches back and forth between the two universes, and we start on the Other Side. Alt-Brandon is meeting with Walternate, updating Walternate on the status of his latest nefarious plan. We find out why Brandon nabbed the DNA sample of Walternate’s grandson (who we find out later is named Henry, after the helpful cab driver). They were able to extract half of Peter’s genetic profile from the DNA sample, and Brandon speculates that will be enough to activate the doomsday machine. Brandon says he’ll have the machine up and running within the hour. Walter has a very emo monologue about how even though he’ll be saving the universe, it will be at a great cost. I’m sorry, but I have no sympathy for him. He hasn’t exactly gone out of his way to try and find a way to save both universes. It doesn’t have to be us vs. them.

Back in our universe, things finally start to get apocalypse-y after all the warnings we’ve heard for the past two seasons. They get apocalypse-y in a field on a sheep farm in upstate New York, to be exact. A flock of sheep and two shepherds are taken away in a vortex. At his bowling alley, Sam Weiss hears a noise, probably caused by the vortex. He abandons his bowling companion and rushes into a storage room. He roots through the shelves with determination and pulls out what must be an apocalypse detecting machine. I was actually kind of surprised how quickly he finds the machine he’s looking for, given how packed the storage room was. If Sam is worried, things are going to get bad quickly. We later see him in a park, using a machine and writing down equations as the sky seems to be blinking all different colors.

We then switch to Peter and Olivia, waking up in each other’s arms. Clearly this is one of those “last moment of happiness” type scenes. Trying not to wake Peter, Olivia sneaks out into the kitchen, where she is greeted by a very naked Walter. Olivia deals with it as best she can, then goes back to Peter’s room for some cuddling. They talk about how Walter regularly cooks naked on Tuesdays, and how Olivia’s favorite time of day is sunrise, because the day still holds promise. Neither of them want to let go of the moment, but their cell phones ring, as they tend to do. The Fringe teem assembles at what I’m going to call the sheep field. After looking at the destruction, Walter speculates a vortex appeared in the area and took everything and everyone away.

Cut to Massive Dynamic headquarters, where Nina is having a rather frantic discussion with one of her employees. I predicted what was happening with this one before the actual reveal. Nina looks at something that is obviously very troubling, and she immediately calls Broyles. The doomsday machine spontaneously turned itself on. Coincidentally, the machine turned itself on at about the same time that vortex zapped away the sheep and shepherds. After a little work, Walter discovers a similar pattern to what he identified when the typewriter to the Other Side was turned on. He thinks that the doomsday machine must be turned on on the Other Side, and the machine in our universe turned on sympathetically. This is a crushing blow to Walter, who thinks that Walternate has won and the world is about to end. I told you this episode was heavy on the dramatics.

Back on the Other Side, Alt-livia and her nanny are walking baby Henry in a stroller across a park when Alt-livia gets a page about a Fringe Event on Liberty Island. Because Liberty Island is Department of Defense headquarters, this seems like it should be a big deal, and the Fringe team roles out, ready to start a big evacuation based on the reading they’re seeing. Just as they’re about to arrive on the scene, Lincoln gets a call telling them to stand down. Alt-livia is confused and frustrated by this, and she uses her position as Peter’s baby mama to get an audience with Walternate to grill him about it. Without officially confirming it, Walternate implies he has activated the doomsday device. Alt-livia is not happy to hear that, mostly because Peter is still over in our universe. And that just made me roll my eyes.

In our universe, the Fringe team is scrambling todeal with escalating events. The vortices are coming fast and furious, people are disappearing, and the Blight is starting to take hold. Olivia wants to use her knowledge of Alt-Fringe procedures to help our universe. She shares the protocol for early detection of Fringe events with Nina, and Olivia also wants to go to New York to help Nina and the Massive Dynamic team more directly. She and Peter have s sort of stoic goodbye, but that fits with Olivia’s personality. Walter’s frantically trying to come up with idea after idea to stop the machine, including encasing the whole thing in lead. Peter stops him, saying that he thinks the only way to truly stop the machine will be if he tries to use it. His DNA turns it on, so maybe it can turn the machine off, too. Walter realizes that this is what September the Observer had been preparing him for a few weeks back. The whole thing is just heartbreaking.

Olivia arrives at Massive Dynamic to find that Nina is not optimistic about their chances. The early warning system is up and running, but an early warning system isn’t much good if you can’t do anything to solve the problem when you detect it. Massive Dynamic has been unable to find rare minerals in a quantity necessary to produce the amount amber that would be needed to stop the increasing number of fringe events. Nina starts to get a bit whiny, telling Olivia that it “wasn’t supposed to be like this” and that she was told that if Olivia was with Peter, everything would be fine. This obviously shocks Olivia, and she demands to know who told Nina this. Nina reluctantly tells Olivia that it was Sam, and Olivia rushes off to find him. Olivia succeeds in finding Sam’s Boston apartment, but he’s long gone.

On the Other Side, Alt-livia’s saying a rather sad goodbye to Lincoln. She’s planning a trip to the Other Side to find Peter, and she needs Lincoln to watch Henry. Her reasoning is that she thinks Peter might be able to convince Walternate to turn off the doomsday device, but it’s pretty obvious that she just plain wants to see Peter again, too. Why oh why couldn’t she just be happy with Lincoln? Poor boy is smitten with her! Alt-livia’s plan seems to work well at first. She gets Brandon at gunpoint. She wants him to take her to the device Walternate used to cross over and fetch Peter. Brandon warns Alt-livia that particular device causes loss of molecular cohesion, but Alt-livia doesn’t care. Brandon gives her the device, but an alarm goes off, and Alt-livia quickly starts being chased by guards. She puts up a good fight, but she gets cornered, and she can’t get the device to work. By the end of the episode, she occupies a DoD holding cell much like her doppelganger did at the beginning of the season. Walternate pays her a visit and says that because she’s the mother of his grandon, he’ll spare her life, but she’s staying in the cell until the battle with our universe is over.

Back in our universe, Peter is preparing to enter the machine. It’s a rather painfully drawn-out scene, where Peter says emotional goodbyes to everyone except for, you know, his girlfriend. Since she’s still in New York. Even Peter’s walk across a causeway to the machine is long and drawn out to milk the drama for all its worth. Less than a second after Peter touches his hand to the machine, he gets thrown from the platform. I found this to be kind of lame. Peter getting thrown is so quick in comparison to his preparation to touch the machine that it’s actually jarring. Peter is taken to the hospital, where Walter briefly tries to micromanage his care before one of the ER docs throws him out. Olivia is finally clued into what’s going on, and she arrives at the hospital understandably upset. Tests run at the hospital couldn’t find any real brain damage, but Peter is in a coma. Olivia steps outside to take a breather and look at the sunrise when Sam suddenly appears. Sam says he needs Olivia to take him to the doomsday machine right away.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Glee 2.17: "A Night of Neglect"

We get an extra post from our frequent guest blogger Sarah here on MTVP this week! Because I was going crazy studying for an econometrics final last week, she generously agreed to blog this episode of "Glee." Enjoy!


“If you want that closing spot, then you go in there and take it from me.”
- Rachel

I have to say that “A Night of Neglect” was not one of my favorite episodes of “Glee.” The overall idea of the episode was good, but the execution was rather disappointing. We start off with Will telling the kids that they need to raise $5,000 to go to Nationals. Apparently the money they were supposed to get from the Cheerios budget is hidden away in off-shore accounts (could Sue get any more obnoxious?). Will’s idea is for the kids to sell salt water taffy because that’s what they did when he was in Glee Club. Yeah, hate to say it Will, but that’s a really lame idea. The kids are still complaining that they’re treated like dirt by the rest of the student population, and Mike Chang gets up and starts to leave. He, Tina, Artie and Brittany are on the academic decathlon team, and they are totally ignored, even by the rest of the Glee kids. They won their semi-final match against Carmel High (home of Vocal Adrenaline), but they don’t have the money to go their final. So Will adds in how much they need for their trip to how much the kids need to raise for their Glee Club nationals trip.

That night, Sue has gotten what she calls the “League of Doom” together. The League consists of Dustin, the coach of Vocal Adrenaline, Sandy (the guy that sells pot to people and who lost his job to Will) and Terri. It’s laughable how pathetic it is. The Evil League of Evil was so much better [ed. note: as was the 1997 Philadelphia Flyers “Legion of Doom” line]. Anyway, Sue gives them all stupid code names and tells them she’ll be in touch. Meanwhile, Will and Holly are having pizza for dinner, and she tells him that his taffy idea is pretty stupid. She suggests a benefit concert to raise the money instead. It’s a good idea, and Will is really into it. Then again, he’s really into Holly (even though she’s not around all that much since she’s a sub). More on that later.

The next day at school, Sue puts her plan into action. She sends Dustin to break up Will and Holly and tells Sandy to sponsor a new club focused on heckling. Basically Sue’s roped in Jacob, Becky and one of the football guys to heckle the Glee club during their show via this new club. While this is going on, some of the Glee kids (Tina, Mercedes, Mike and Lauren) are talking about what songs they want to do for the concert. Mike obviously is going to dance, because that’s what he does. Mercedes is doing Aretha Franklin. Rachel interrupts to say that the group has picked all good songs to do before her big closing number of “My Heart Will Go On”. She can be so overbearing sometimes. Anyway, Finn shows up and they find Sunshine Corazon (the girl Rachel sent a crack house in the season 2 premiere episode) in the auditorium. She claims not to be a spy and that she just wants to be part of their benefit. She sings “All By Myself” and the group allows her to join (mostly because she has like 600 Twitter followers and all of them will show up). Rachel is still against Sunshine and tells Mercedes she can’t perform last (like she wants to).

Lauren hunts down Mercedes in the library and gives her what at first appears to be a pep talk about respect. Then Lauren says she’ll be Mercedes’ manager. And this is where it gets really over the top and ridiculous. I want to say I was happy for a Mercedes plotline, but this was just horrible. Because Mercedes has gone diva, Finn and Quinn appoint Rachel head of talent relations for the benefit. And this is where things really start to get super crazy. Mercedes is demanding all kinds of stupid stuff (a giant tub of green M&Ms, a puppy to dry her hands on, etc). Rachel tries to make Mercedes happy with all the stupid things she’s asked for. She’s still not happy to be going before the final number. Sunshine is going last because she is bringing in so many people. It’s just really ridiculous, and I’m not going to spend any more time on it right now.

We actually get some drama involving the adults in this episode. In the teacher’s lounge, Will finds Emma back to her OCD tendencies due to stress over Carl leaving her. She’s cleaning a counter with an electric toothbrush. It’s kind of obvious the writers are pushing Emma and Will back together because he basically says he’ll be there for her for whatever she needs (including cleaning a grape before handing it to her). Meanwhile, unfortunately for Sue, Dustin’s attempt to break up Will and Holly doesn’t work. He’s obnoxious and irritating, but Holly doesn’t fall for it. I do have say though that she’s pretty awesome as a teacher. She really gets into the material (dressing up and everything). Will is a little jealous though to see Dustin leave. Will and Holly were supposed to have lunch, but obviously he was spending it with Emma.

It’s now the night of the benefit, and Kurt is showing Blaine around. They’ve obviously come to support the Glee kids. Blaine notices how wistful Kurt looks just as Karofsky spots them. He puts on his tough act like he’s going to beat them up, and Santana gets involved. She basically tells Karofsky to back off or she’s going to kick his ass. It was kind of interesting to see her get up in his face knowing what we know about her. Just as Karofsky storms off, Santana gets a text. Sunshine has pulled out of the benefit and none of her Twitter followers are going to come. One thing I have to say is why aren’t all the parents there supporting their kids? I mean, seriously? Tina is first up, and the heckling kids ruin her self esteem. Will tells the kids to hand out the taffy to shut them up. It works. Mike goes out and does an awesome dance number. Then again I think it is impossible for Mike to do a bad dance number.

They’re still concerned that the hecklers are going to get back to their heckling once intermission is over, so Holly goes to talk to them while Will and the Glee kids go to find Mercedes. She’s acting all extra diva and refusing to perform. Holly gets the heckler kids to go home. Rachel goes to talk to Mercedes in the rain. Rachel basically tells Mercedes that she (Rachel) doesn’t care who she hurts in her quest for stardom, but that Mercedes is better than her. Mercedes needs to fight for the closing number. That’s how she’ll get respect. Holly does a number by herself, singing “Turning Tables” (there was talk earlier about how she and Will were going to do a duet). She’s even got an orchestra. It’s a decent song, and afterwards she basically tells Will that she’s leaving and that they need to break up. It seems okay though, since he’s got Emma. Sue’s not pleased that the hecklers are gone. She sends Sandy back in, but he loves the song that Mercedes sings. She sings “Ain’t No Way” by Aretha. And she gets an entire choir as back up. From where, I’ve no idea.

The next day Sandy’s in the choir room and he’s giving the Glee club (and the academic decathlon team) the money to go to nationals. So much for being a super villain. And Dustin failed Sue too. He wasn’t the cause of Will and Holly’s break up, but he did pull Sunshine from the benefit. Sue declares that it’s time for Terri to try her hand. We end with the academic decathlon team at their finals, and it’s all tied up. And the final category is Hermaphrodite Nazi Sympathizers. Thank you Holly Holiday for being an awesome teacher (she taught the kids her opinion about Wallis, Duchess of Windsor earlier in the episode). They’ve got this one in the bag.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Body of Proof 1.05: "Dead Man Walking"

Sarah is joining us once again to recap the most recent episode of "Body of Proof"


“You solved a crime and you saved a life. Not just George White’s.”
- Kate

Overall I thought “Dead Man Walking” was a decent episode. It was a bit whacky and broke form a little bit because we had two cases going at once. And it had Whedon alums, Christina Hendricks (Saffron from “Firefly”) and Marc Blucas (Riley on “Buffy”) beefing it up. We begin with a man walking down the street looking a bit freaked. He stumbles near a staircase and we see an imposing figure following him. The first man (who we later learn is Ted Harbinson) begs for help, and then the screen goes black. Cut to Megan and Peter arriving on scene. The scene is only a few blocks from Northeast General (Megan’s previous place of employment). Sam’s working this case alone again. Megan thinks it was a mugging gone wrong, but she says the cuts to his body weren’t enough to kill him. One of the other officers on scene recovers the duffle bag the guy had, and Megan quickly deduces they are looking for someone who either works at or was recently a patron of a cheesesteak place. So Sam and another officer go hoofing it to all the cheese steak places around, and just as Sam is getting fed up, they catch the guy.

Back at the lab, Ethan and Curtis have their own case to deal with. A seemingly healthy woman in here thirties, Jessica Archer, was found dead in her hotel room. She died from a giant blood clot (looks like a big leech) blocking her arteries. So now they have to figure out what caused it, and the case only gets freakier from there. In interrogation, Sam finds out that the guy took Ted’s duffle because it was on the ground, and he didn’t see a body fall into the bushes. Meanwhile, Megan and Peter are doing the autopsy on Ted. The other stuff in his bag was kind of odd (accounting magazine and pilot logs). He also had a post-op drug and Megan finds surgical incisions in his stomach. She cuts him open and there’s lots of blood. Definitely not a good thing. Megan’s first instinct is that Ted’s surgeon, Mark Chandler (played by Marc Blucas) is responsible. Megan and Peter talk to Ted’s wife, and she’s pretty upset about what happened. He told her to go to work and that he’d be fine. They also clear up why he had pilot logs in his bag. He got his license to conquer his fear of flying. And he had the surgery to remove his gallbladder because he’d had problems before. Ethan and Curtis think they have found something on Jessica. She was on the pill, and given the location of where she died, they think she just got off a long flight.

Megan and Peter are on their way to Northeast General to talk to Ted’s surgeon, and it is admittedly kind of an emotional moment for Megan. She hadn’t been back since she closed her practice and Gwen took over (had a myriad of jobs before becoming a hospital administrator). They walk in to find Gwen pruning a bonsai tree. Apparently, it has become an obsession. Thinking it will get her attention, Megan says they’re there to discuss Ted Harbinson and the fact that he died from what appear to be surgery related injuries. Megan and Gwen have a little bonding moment where we learn that Gwen was all distant when Megan had her accident because she (Gwen) lost her son around the same time. He OD’d at a frat party. The discussion with Dr. Chandler doesn’t go well. He insists that the surgery went perfectly and that he checked everything he was supposed to. He tells Megan to check the videotape of the surgery for proof. But it’s going to be hard to get it since Gwen is now stonewalling them. Adding to the theory that Chandler did it, one of the surgical nurses says that Chandler is reckless and has been known to leave surgical equipment in patients and then blame it on nurses. Megan’s not happy to hear that.

Back at the lab, Megan is examining Ted’s artery and finds that there were clips on the artery, but they’re gone now and she finds them in the blood. She brings Kate and Sam in on it and puts out her theory that it was either malpractice or murder made to look like malpractice. So Sam goes off to try and figure out if Chandler and Ted had any other connection, and Megan tells Kate (yes tells, demands even) to go get the tape from Gwen as well as the staple guns used in the surgery.

Back to our other plot of the episode, Ethan gets back to lab and has someone waiting for him, Jessica’s twin sister Karen (played by Christina Hendricks. Yep, she’s the third Whedon alumna to play twins, including Charisma Carpenter and Sarah Michelle Gellar). Ethan’s got quite the crush already. Karen says that she and her sister were close growing up but they’d grown apart as adults. Ethan explains what he believes killed her sister (the blot clot due to deep vein thrombosis), but Karen says that her sister hadn’t been flying. She was staying at the hotel while her apartment was being painted. After some arm-twisting and slight equivocating on Ethan’s part, he agrees to help Karen pack up her sister’s things.

Sam is talking with Ted’s wife and finds out that they didn’t have any connection to Chandler before the surgery. He was a referral from Ted’s wife’s OB/GYN. As Sam goes to throw a water bottle in the recycle bin, she notices wrappers from the same cheesesteak place where the guy who stole Ted’s duffle works. Meanwhile, Kate also gets stonewalled by Gwen. There apparently was no tape. The equipment wasn’t turned on. She phones the mayor (she’s on a first name basis with his secretary) to leverage the fact that the hospital needs the tax breaks from the city council, when the general counsel for the hospital says that there really is no tape of the surgery. But they’re handing over all employee files for personnel who had access to the equipment. And Kate wants access to their bio waste. Poor Curtis and Ethan. They look like giant bananas in their biohazard suits, and they got sucked in to sorting waste all because Ethan made a deal with Megan. He and Curtis help her with her case, and she helps them with theirs. By luck, Curtis knocks over a box of stuff and out pops the staple guns from Ted’s surgery.

Megan gives Peter a little lesson on what happens to physicians who kill patients on the table. It seems rather depressing honestly (independent commission evaluates, but it can take as long as it wants and meanwhile the doctor is still practicing). Megan is a little righteous in saying she could have hid behind malpractice lawyers, but she didn’t. Curtis and Ethan show up with the staple guns, and after Megan tells them to check for hereditary disorders that could have caused a blood clot, she tests the guns. Two are fine but one was tampered with. And since the equipment is supposed to be kept sterile, Curtis swabbed it and found spores of some kind. Sam is back at the cheesesteak place grilling the guy who took Ted’s bag. He swears he’s never seen her before, but the manager has. She was in the restaurant with a nurse (the surgical nurse that Megan and Peter spoke to). And the plot thickens. They’ve had more than two red herrings this week.

At Jessica’s apartment, Ethan is helping Karen move out the rest of her sister’s belongings, and things get kind of emotional and awkward. Megan and company are having a little status pow wow where they discover that Nancy (the surgical nurse) may have had motive to tamper with the equipment. Chandler had written her up multiple times. And Ted’s wife may have been in on it since his life insurance was gone. But it turns out that Nancy and Ted’s wife went to the cheesesteak place because Nancy was trying to dissuade them from going to Chandler. In fact, Ted wasn’t even supposed to be operated on the day he died.

Megan interrupts Sam’s interrogation of Nancy to share the info about Ted’s wife. Nancy also reveals that they only used one new gun from the pack instead of all 3. So instead of just one tampered gun, they’re looking for two. Chandler had another surgery at 10pm that day and that was likely the intended target. So with Kate being totally kickass, they shut down the hospital. In short order, they find out who the 10pm surgery was and Megan and Peter race off. An ambulance is supposed to meet them there. But there is no ambulance. They find the patient unconscious and lying on the floor. And Megan has to operate to save his life. She’s nervous (last time she performed surgery, the patient died) but Peter tells her that she can do it.

At the lab, Ethan is calling Karen because Curtis discovered that Jessica had a hereditary disorder that caused the clot and Karen (being her identical twin) likely has the same symptoms and risk factors. So Ethan races off to find Karen. He ends up at her sister’s apartment and gets her to go with him. He and Curtis explain what happened and that she needs to medication and to see a doctor. And there may still be hope for romance for her and Ethan. He’s like a little school boy with a crush.

Back at the hospital, Megan starts to figure things out when she talks to George (the guy she saved). He talks about his frat and things really start to click. It turns out Gwen was responsible for Ted’s death. She tampered with the gun because George was the president of the frat where her son died. She wanted revenge. And the bonsai spores gave her away. Later that day, Megan stops by to talk to Chandler as he arrives. She makes it clear that he better not have any of her patients in his care ever again. And if he does, his work better be perfect. I have to say, he is really a snarky cocky prick. Definitely reminds me of Riley during season 5. Kate and Megan have a little heart to heart where Megan learns that by saving George, they found the last staple gun and saved a little boy’s life. Guess things worked out mostly for the best in the end.

HIMYM 6.21: "Hopeless"

“Oh, sorry small-town preacher from the Midwest. Is there a law against dancing?”

Now everybody cut loose! Footloose! Kick off your Sunday shoes! Yep, John Lithgow was back on HIMYM this week as Jerry, Barney’s dad. There was even a little “Footloose” shoutout (see the above Quote of the Episode). It was a great opportunity for both comedy and moments to humanize Barney. I like when an episode of HIMYM has a good mix in that way. The episode also gave me some hope for Barney and Robin eventually getting back together, although I’m still quite gun shy about that. I’m gun shy about whether or not they’ll ever get back together at all, and I’m gun shy about what would be done with the characters if they were to get back together. While it was kind of sweet to hear Barney admit that he’d kind of like a quiet suburban life someday, why does there have to be a dichotomy between ultimate ladies’ man constant partier and quiet suburban life? Can’t Barney live a healthier lifestyle but still be awesome? I feel like sometimes life possibilities and relationships are presented in a very black or white way on HIMYM, when in reality, there are so many shades of gray.

The episode opens with a flashback to 1983, specifically the last time little Barney saw his father before their decades-long estrangement. Jerry is saying goodbye to Barney because Barney’s mom has decided that “Crazy Jerry” is a bad influence. We see Jerry giving advice about performing magic tricks (a magician’s best friend is “a drunk audience”), which was kind of a neat way to show where Barney gets his own love for magic. Jerry leaves his son with possibly the most inappropriate parting words possible for a six-year-old (a fact which present-day Jerry acknowledges with some shame). “Never stop partying.” Now we know from Season 1’s “Game Night” that it was a suited-up guy stealing Barney’s girlfriend that was the catalyst for Barney becoming the person we now know. But I can fanwank that these parting words from “Uncle Jerry” provided some validation for young adult Barney as he transitioned into that new persona.

We then return to the present day, where Barney bursts into Ted and Robin’s apartment, announcing to the gang that he’s mad at his dad. He’s upset because his dad called him to invite him on a fishing trip while he was in the middle of trying to hit on a chick at MacLaren’s. He turns down the fishing trip (after “checking his personality”) and declares to the gang that his father is “anti-awesometic.” Barney wants to take his dad out for a night on the town to show him what he’s missing by not being “Crazy Jerry” anymore.

To succeed in convincing his dad to change his ways, Barney says he’s going to need the “awesomest friends.” And he doesn’t think his current friends are all that awesome. He decides to give the rest of the gang alternate personalities. Robin is now a Scotch taster instead of a journalist. Marshall and Lily now have an open marriage (which intrigues Lily but disgusts Marshall). Marshall is also now a playwright, and Lily says she wants to be Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Ted has been given a whole stack of index cards of conversation topics to avoid. Finally, Ted and Robin have to pretend to be dating, because Barney is afraid that if his father meets Robin, he’ll say that Barney should marry her because “deep down you know you were never happier than when you were with her.” This gives me cautious optimism for their future.

When it comes time for the gang to meet up with Jerry at MacLaren’s, the fake stories still aren’t quite awesome enough for Barney. He tells the gang that it’s time to tell Jerry “the truth.” The truth isn’t really the truth, though. He tells his dad that they’re also a band. Which leads to one of my favorite things they’ve ever done on the show. We cut to the actors in Ted and Robin’s living room performing the theme song. Jason Segel’s on keyboard, Neil Patrick Harris is on guitar, Cobie Smulders is on drums, and Josh Radnor and Alyson Hannigan are singing back-up. Josh even kicks the microphone stand at the end. It looks like they had a lot of fun with it. What follows the musical performance is equally fun. The gang has a very “Who’s on First” conversation about where they should go for their night clubbing with Jerry. Of course, every time somebody says the word “Okay,” Ted has to chime in that the club Okay is lame. I definitely enjoyed the callback to “Okay Awesome,” one of my all-time favorite episodes of HIMYM.

The gang and Jerry end up at a rather lame club called Hopeless. There are plenty of amusing happenings at the club. Robin sees a long lost crush who she met at a department store several years ago. They hit it off when she embarrassed him by dissing the shirt he was wearing. Ted, thinking he’s doing her a favor, scares him off by telling him he’s her boyfriend. It later turns out that Robin’s initial meeting with the crush happened when she and Ted were still actually dating. That trip to a department store also happens to be when ted bought the infamous red cowboy boots. Ted’s upset about this revelation, but Robin reminds him that he doesn’t really have a leg to stand on, because he bought the boots only after a sales associate said he’d look hot in them. Ted’s especially upset that Robin was picturing her crush when she and Ted had sex that night, so he yells out to the crowd at Hopeless that Robin just agreed to marry him. Saget!Ted warns us that this isn’t the end of Robin and her crush. I sure hope the end is sooner rather than later. I can’t take another Don! There’s also a fun little bit where Marshall and Lily make the “usual wager” (sex in the bathroom) to see who can get five phone numbers first. Lily wins, but obviously, Marshall’s still quite happy.

Most of the meat of this episode revolves around Barney and Jerry. Barney gets a round of shots for the group, and Jerry is a little reluctant to drink. When Barney tells him he wants to hang out with “Crazy Jerry,” though, Jerry appears to start downing shots like there’s no tomorrow. Then he starts acting like a very embarrassing drunk, with his tie around his head, and dancing like disco is still alive. Barney’s delighted that he finally has a chance to be embarrassed by his dad. Their night continues to get crazier and crazier, and the pinnacle is when Barney and Jerry are arrested after Jerry seemingly pukes on a police car. It turns out that Jerry wasn’t really drunk though. He was taking advantage of Barney’s drunkenness (remember, a magician’s best friend is a drunk audience) to appear drunk himself. All the crazy things they did were actually caused by Barney, but because Barney was drunk, he believed it when Jerry took credit for them. Jerry was stepping up and acting like a real father to Barney- he wanted to teach him what “never stop partying” really looks like.

Barney sobers up a bit when he realizes that his antics could mean that Jerry’s other son will miss out on a fishing trip with his dad (a trip to jail will make it take way too long for Jerry to get home), so Barney has an idea. Because both Barney and Jerry are magicians, they know how to get themselves out of standard handcuffs. They use this ability, and then they run for it. It’s still looking like there isn’t going to be enough time for Jerry to get home for the fishing trip, but then Jerry has a good idea. He calls one of his driving students, an elderly woman, to drive him and Barney home. Barney really opens up to his dad during the car ride. He tells Jerry that he’s worried he’s too broken to ever settle down like he thinks he might want to. Jerry says he was much more broken than Barney, and all it takes is the right woman. When Jerry says that maybe Barney will meet that woman tomorrow, Barney wonders aloud if he has already met her. And I started furiously hoping that the “right woman” will be Robin and not Nora. Then Barney decides at the last minute to join Jerry and J.J. on their fishing trip. Barney ends up hating fishing (it’s boring), but I thought it showed growth that he was willing to give it a try.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Game of Thrones 1.01: "Winter is Coming"

“He won’t be a boy forever. And winter is coming.”
-Ned Stark

So with “No Ordinary Family” ending rather early, I decided to add another show to the blogging rotation. I’ll be covering HBO’s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones,” based on the “Song of Ice and Fire” series of novels by George R.R. Martin, here at MTVP. To be honest, if I had my choice of spring shows to add, I’d probably add BBC America’s “Doctor Who,” which premieres this Saturday, but Doctor Who is airing on a split season this year, and I don’t blog split seasons as a rule, because I never know what the blogging schedule will be like when the second half of the season is due to premiere. Anyway, I have not read the “Song of Ice and Fire” books, which seems to be a theme with my viewing of HBO series. I had not read any of the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries before watching “True Blood,” either. I’m planning to cover “True Blood” season 4 here, by the way, which is based on my favorite of the Sookie Stackhouse books, “Dead to the World.” I imagine I will probably be starting to read the “Song of Ice and Fire” series this summer after the first season of “Game of Thrones” ends. Which means, while some of the points I am about to make are somewhat critical, I by no means hated it overall.

Now that all that housekeeping is over, let’s get into the actual show. I did not find “Winter is Coming” to be especially inaccessible as a non-reader of the books. It took some time to keep the many characters straight, but with the help of Wikipedia and the HBO website, I think I have most of the names down. I was able to figure out most of their relationships to each other without extra help, so I think that’s a mark of fairly successful visual storytelling. I was a bit turned off by the way women in general were treated (the pilot on its own has two young women about to be placed in to marriages for political gain), but I loved the production values. I’m willing to give the story more of a chance, and frankly, I’m hoping it will seem a bit less misogynistic once the story gets going and the characters have a chance to grow and deepen. I will say that I enjoyed the episode more on rewatch, probably because I had gotten past the shock of some of the things that happened in the episode.

The episode opens with a really beautifully creepy horror sequence. The Night’s Watch, a group of men who pledge their lives to defending the land of Westeros from all means of nasty people and things that live north of the Wall, are on the wrong side of the Wall to check out some recent troubling happenings. The creepy sequence involves a bunch of frozen dead bodies, a reanimated little girl (who was extra creepy), and a lot of violence. One of the members of the Night’s Watch wants to go back to the Wall (and I don’t blame him), and he’s told that if he does, he’ll be a deserter and sentenced to death. White Walkers start attacking the Night’s Watch, and the would-be deserter starts to run and becomes an actual deserter. He’s apprehended of course, when he gets back on the Westeros side of the wall. Bran Stark, ten-year-old son of Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark of Winterfell, is brought to see the beheading. It’s an interesting take on how in a harsh world, kids need to grow up fast.

I’m not really going to go through the rest of the plot in detail, because I’m sure I’ll get something wrong. I think instead I’ll just briefly touch on some important things that happened, some things I liked, and some things that gave me pause. And not necessarily in that order. I thought the introductions to the major characters were for the most part very effective. I especially liked a scene near the beginning of the episode where we are first introduced to the Stark family. We see little Bran practicing and not really succeeding at archery, when all of a sudden his young sister Arya leans out of a window behind him and shoots a perfect bulls eye. I think this shows a lot about both characters. Other character introductions are handled equally well. We see older Stark sister Sansa excelling at what appears to be embroidery (or some sort of sewing) lessons, which flows very well into her later desire to become the future queen of Westeros by marrying Prince Joffrey. Through Ned’s interactions with Bran during and after the beheading, we are introduced to Ned’s personal philosophy of honor and justice- it is of prime importance to him that the person who delivers a sentence also carries it out.

I think the Lannisters, the in-laws, as it were, to King Robert Baratheon, are also introduced especially effectively. The initial introduction of twins Cersei and Jaime was a little dry, with the two of them having a conversation that generally just serves to download a bunch of information to viewers about how Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, is dead, and the Lannisters may have had something to do with it. Also important is the fact that Cersei is the Queen (she’s married to King Robert), and Jaime is one of the King’s guards. We get more characterization of Cersei once the King and his court take a trip to Winterfell to visit the Starks. The King intends to ask Ned to be the new Hand of the King. When the King’s party arrives at Winterfell, the King immediately wants to see the grave of Ned’s sister, to whom the King was once engaged. Cersei is not particularly happy about this. The King asks Ned to be the new Hand, and he also suggests that they should join their Houses by having Sansa marry the King’s son Joffrey. At a later feast, Cersei again shows her true colors by grilling Sansa and making her quite uncomfortable. The third Lannister sibling, Tyrion, gets the most effective introduction, I think. Or at least the most memorable. He missed the big Winterfell welcome from the Starks because he was too busy sampling the local brothel, and that’s where Jaime finds him.

Robert may be king now, but his family wasn’t always in power. We also meet the two known surviving members of House Targaryen, the former ruling family. Brother and sister Viserys and Daenerys are exiled to the land across the Narrow Sea from Westeros. Viserys is seriously creepy and wants nothing more than what he sees as his rightful throne back. What makes him the most creepy is the too-close-for-comfort relationship he seems to have with Daenerys. Like in the time of Cleopatra, the Targaryens, when they were the ruling family, tended to marry their siblings to keep the bloodline “pure.” He has decided he is going to essentially sell Daenerys to the Dothraki warrior Khal Drogo in exchange for Drogo giving him an army to help take back Westeros. There’s an early scene where Viserys “examines the merchandise” he’s about to sell to Drogo that definitely squicked me out. After watching this episode, I ended up going on a bit of a binge of other projects Harry Lloyd, who plays Viserys, has done to kind of quell the squick. I watched the two part episode from series 3 of Doctor Who, “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood,” where he plays a creepy early 20th century schoolboy who gets possessed by an alien. It was a more palatable brand of creepy. And I watched an episode of the recent BBC series “Robin Hood,” where he played Will Scarlett.

Anyway, Daenerys is presented to Khal Drogo, who decides she’ll do just fine as his wife. Daenerys wants no part of it, but she really has no choice. Viserys puts it in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t care what it takes to get “his” throne back. I think this whole plot was the plot I was least comfortable with in the episode, for a variety of reasons. The wedding was very hedonistic, and it seemed like there was, perhaps unintentionally by the production team, some real “Othering” going on that could be considered offensive. Then there was Daenerys and Drogo’s wedding night, which was just horrifying for Daenerys and leaves her crying. I know full well that this is significantly different in the book, but I think it was an important change, because it seems to me that the situation Daenarys found herself in was quite horrifying on every level, and any thought that she might actually enjoy what is happening to her is really just a fantasy.

So this episode did a decent job introducing the world of Westeros and the important characters. There was also some political intrigue set up that will certainly take us at least through the rest of the season. The Starks receive a middle-of-the-night message from the sister of Ned’s wife Catelyn. Catelyn’s sister was married to Jon Arryn, and the letter says that she thinks her husband was murdered. Catelyn really doesn’t want Ned to go to King’s Landing to be the Hand now, but Ned really has no choice. I imagine Catelyn will be even more unhappy about Ned’s choice once she finds out what happened at the very end of the episode. Young Bran was climbing the Winterfell walls to see a big hunting party leave when he accidentally sees Cersei and Jaime (yes, the twins…I know…squick) going at it in a tower. They’re afraid Bran will tell someone what they’ve been up to, so Jaime pushes him out the tower window. Quite the cliffhanger for next week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fringe 3.19: “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide”

“I’m pretty sure there’s a good reason why we can’t enter each other’s minds. What if we kick something loose in there?”

This was certainly a unique episode of “Fringe,” a show that has already been making a good habit of pushing the creative envelope lately. I definitely did enjoy the trippyness, even if I didn’t quite get the emotional catharsis with this one as I have with other recent episodes such as “6B” and “Bloodline.” If this is a middle of the road episode for “Fringe,” though, I’m extremely happy. I really appreciate the creativity the “Fringe” team brings to the screen each week. Even after being pushed to the Friday night “death slot,” they aren’t afraid to try something strange. Of course, this week’s something strange was necessitated by Leonard Nimoy retiring from acting, but I think Nimoy’s absence has spurred the writers on to two creative ways to still include his character in the story. First was his consciousness inhabiting Olivia, Anna Torv’s bad Nimoy impression and all. Well, her impression of his voice isn’t great, but there was one moment in this episode where I think she captured one of his trademark quizzical facial expressions perfectly. This episode was the debut of the second depiction- a cartoon.

The episode opens with the Fringe team still trying to get Bell’s consciousness out of Olivia. They’ve found a brain dead man who meets all of Bell’s specifications, and they’re trying to transfer Bell into him. The procedure fails. To make things go from bad to worse, Olivia’s consciousness comes to the surface, and she starts seizing. Peter calls an ambulance immediately, and at the hospital, things are quite chaotic. The doctors want to run a code and shock Olivia back to life, but Walter is very reluctant. The code is about to start anyway when Bell comes back to the surface and makes them stop. Back at the lab, Belivia explains that Olivia’s mind isn’t holding up to being a host for Bell as well as Bell expected. When he did experiments on rats, they were always okay for a couple of weeks. At the moment, though, Bell is keeping Olivia alive, and if things keep going the way they are, she only has about a day left before her personality will be wiped forever.

Walter and Belivia continue to work on the problem of getting Bell’s consciousness out of Olivia’s brain with new urgency. Belivia proposes that they find Olivia’s consciousness (which is hiding) inside her brain, and once that’s done, put Bell’s consciousness in a computer. They’re going to use a procedure similar to what allowed Olivia to access John Scott’s consciousness way back when. And Peter’s going to have to lead the expedition, because as Walter reminds him, he knows Olivia best. This will involve Peter tripping on LSD, which was pretty darn amusing. Broyles stops by to get a progress report, and Peter is already feeling the effects of the drug. He’s fascinated by the fact that Broyles is bald, and he openly wonders if Broyles is an Observer.

After they’re hooked up to the proper machines, Water and Peter are able to enter Olivia’s consciousness. It looks like New York City, but the World Trade Center is still there, so I’m thinking it’s probably the Other Side’s “Manhatan.” Walter notices a light blinking in Morse code from a window near the top of one of the World Trade Center towers. He roots through a trashcan for a pudding cup, and being Walter, I figured he had gotten distracted and just wanted some pudding. He ended up using the shiny lid of the pudding cup to send a message back to the World Trade Center, because he thinks the blinking message he saw is from Olivia. He tells her to stay put and that they’re coming to get her. Then Walter sees Olivia’s abusive stepfather across the street, and he knows that things are about to get bad quickly. All of the people on the street suddenly stop and stare at the interlopers Walter and Peter, “Inception”-style. Also “Inception”-style, they start trying to attack Walter and Peter. Walter and Peter get in a cab and hightail it to the World Trade Center.

Back at the lab, Astrid notices Broyles starting to act strangely. He’s fascinated by the jar of red licorice Walter keeps in the lab, and he starts waxing poetic about it. Then Astrid noties that Broyles cleaned up part of the lab, including the sugar cubes. He’s tripping on the LSD now, too. We cut back to the lab every once in a while throughout the rest of the episodes to get updates on tripping Broyles, and it’s pretty darn funny. Lance Reddick apparently has comedic chops, which I hadn’t really seen in his work on “The Wire” and in the earlier seasons and episodes of “Fringe.” I’d like to see Broyles be funny more often, because Reddick can apparently handle it. This was just as surprising as discovering he could sing in “Brown Betty” last season.

Back in Olivia’s mind, Walter and Peter enter the World Trade Center, and they’re greeted by Nina. Walter is very glad to see Nina, and Nina directs them to the proper elevator to get to William Bell’s old office (where they think the signal came from). Luckily, Walter and Peter think to be suspicious of this vision of Nina just in time, and they manage to avoid getting pushed down an empty elevator shaft. In fact, it’s Nina who gets pushed. Before dashing into another elevator to avoid the angry horde of people populating Olivia’s mind, Walter asks why everyone here is trying to kill him. I wanted to ask if he had ever seen “Inception.” It seems like Olivia’s mind is in defensive mode thanks to all the other people walking around in it (Bell, Walter, and Peter).

Walter and Peter finally get to Bell’s old office, and the door is open. Inside is not Olivia, but Bell himself. Well, a cartoon version of Bell. Apparently retiring from acting doesn’t mean retiring from voice acting. I thought this was a clever solution to the problem and worked in the context of the gang being on an adventure inside Olivia’s mind. When Walter and Peter enter Bell’s office, they become cartoons, too. The group figures out that Olivia’s fears must have been triggered when Bell entered her mind. Peter is finally useful, and he says that when Olivia’s scared, she retreats. Bell thinks that’s going to make her very difficult to find, but Peter has an idea. They need to go to Jacksonville.

A Zeppelin tethered to the roof of the World Trade Center is the perfect way to get to Jacksonville, but the gang has to fight some cartoon zombies (yep, Olivia’s mind is populated by zombies) to get to it. Peter almost gets left behind in the fight, but after some heroics and jumping only possible in cartoons, everybody makes it on board. Walter and Bell have a little chat on the bridge of the Zeppelin. Bell thinks Walter doesn’t need him for check and balance purposes anymore- he thinks Walter can make ethical decisions all on his own. This is important, but there’s no time to linger on it. Someone has cut the Zeppelin’s fuel line, and it’s going down. Peter investigates the engine room and finds the person who cut the line. It’s a random guy with an X on his shirt. I’m just going to call him X. X shoots a flare gun, which causes the engine room to depressurize. Peter and Bell manage to stay on the Zeppelin, but X and Walter fly out. As Walter hits the ground, he wakes up in the real world.

Peter and Bell arrive in Jacksonville, and Peter is once again useful, suggesting they go to the military base and find the house Olivia lived in as a girl. All of the houses look the same, but Peter remembers Olivia telling him that her’s had a red door. Her father painted it. It takes quite a long time, but eventually they find the house with the red door. Peter enters the house to find adult Olivia and child Olivia with her family. Adult Olivia rushes to Peter and tells him how scared she is. Peter, however, finally is able to recognize his Olivia, and he knows the Olivia looking at him right now isn’t her. I suppose that starts to make up for the Alt-livia mess. Child Olivia is the real Olivia. She had set up a test for Peter, and he passed. There isn’t much time to rest though, because Olivia’s stepfather appears, complete with military back-up. Peter gets run over by a tank while trying to save Olivia from being run over, and he wakes up. Walter says that saving Olivia is all up to Bell now.

Walter turns out to be wrong- Olivia saves herself. She ages up into adult Olivia and tells the attack forces to stop. Bell remarks that Olivia never feels safe, which is why their shared consciousness degraded so quickly. Before they can continue this conversation, there’s a lightning strike, caused by Walter firing up the device that’s supposed to put Bell in the computer. Before disappearing, Bell tells Olivia to give Walter a message- “the dog wouldn’t hunt.” Olivia wakes up in the lab, back to her old self again, but Bell wasn’t so lucky. The transfer into the computer didn’t work. Walter, despite the pep talk he was given on the Zeppelin, takes the loss of Bell pretty hard. He holes up in his office and doesn’t want to be disturbed.

Later that evening, Peter stops by Olivia’s apartment to check in on her. He notices she’s sketched a drawing of X. I never knew Olivia was at all an artist, so this was interesting. Peter asks who X is. Olivia replies that she doesn’t know, but the thinks it’s the man who is going to kill her. As if Olivia didn’t need another threat to deal with on top of everything going on with the Other Side! I’m wondering if this will be a short-term or long-term plot arc, but it definitely has the potential to be interesting.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Body of Proof 1.04: "Talking Heads"

For your enjoyment, here is Sarah's latest Body of Proof write-up.


“We’re trying to understand how this man died based on the parts we can see, and it’s getting us nowhere. Has it ever occurred to you that Lacey is trying to understand you ,but all she can see are the parts that you’re willing to show her?”
- Ethan

Unlike the last couple episodes, we begin not with the murder itself but with a homeless man finding what appears to be a dead body while he’s out collecting bottles. We cut to Megan dropping Lacey off at the library, which is kind of a nice bonding moment. Then again, Megan’s ex called her last minute to be a parental taxi. Still, Megan doesn’t seem to mind. Until Lacey asks if she can film Megan at work for a school project. Megan tries to say that her job isn’t really conducive to filming (or likely a safe place for a twelve-year-old), but Lacey assumes it is a yes. At the crime scene, we find Sam working the case solo because Bud is off at court. In short order Megan discovers that the hand and foot they found aren’t actually connected. Their victim has been dismembered.

Megan gets the body parts back to lab and is rather surprised to see Kate in scrubs. I have to say I was quite happy to see Jeri getting her hands dirty. We get a little montage of the two of them examining the hand and foot and then our team has a little pow wow to share what they’ve discovered. The hand and foot belong to the same person, a man likely in his 50s who was a welder. Megan also points out that he likely had sunglasses because the UV radiation from welding causes sensitivity to light. They also find a stamp from a casino on the hand. And lucky for them, Kate’s got an in with the casino general manager (she plays a mean game of Texas hold ‘em).

At the casino, the manager identifies their victim as Cal. He didn’t play a lot of big games until the week before when he won big ($25,000). And the surveillance shows he was with a woman named Wendy who tries to separate the winners from their earnings. Though according to Wendy, when she talked to Sam at the station, she wasn’t successful in getting him to spend much. She saw him get into a dark sports car with some mystery guy. At the lab, Ethan finds some sort of stuff under Cal’s big toe. which Peter identifies as cilantro. So the two of them and Megan head out to search near the crime scene and end up finding two more body parts as Megan panics about not being at the lab when Lacey arrives.

Ethan discovers that the knee had a replacement in it and gave Peter the serial number to track down. Megan sends Ethan back to the dump to try and find more body parts. Just as Megan’s heading back to her office, Lacey shows up. Megan gives her all the rules (including no filming of bodies) and a schedule and list of questions to ask all of Megan’s co-workers, starting with Kate. Meanwhile, Peter’s gotten the serial number results back and they have a positive ID on their victim. He’s got a daughter and son-in-law, and things don’t really go well at the notification. I still don’t get how Megan can get away with going on next of kin notifications, but whatever. His daughter loved him, but her husband was not a fan. He felt his father-in-law was too needy and always asking for money, and he’s really pissed to find out that Cal won big at the casino.

Back at the lab, Lacey is interviewing Kate, and while Kate tries to stick to the script, Lacey’s more interested in seeing dead bodies and finding out that her mom is the boss even though she’s not technically the boss. It’s an interesting scene to get Kate’s take on Megan. Sam and Peter head to Cal’s apartment to look around. At first they don’t find anything, but back at the lab Megan realizes that Cal’s body was frozen. So she calls Peter, and he and Sam find the rest of Cal packaged in little green plastic bags in the freezer. Yeah, because that’s not creepy at all.

Megan shows up at the scene to find out that Cal’s head is still missing. Would be too easy if the head was with the rest of the remains. And it looks like the bathtub was the dismemberment point. CSU sets to cleaning out the drains to see what they can find. Back at the lab, Ethan gets back from the dump and finds Lacey waiting for him. He tries to be cool but it kind of doesn’t work. He mentions Megan’s questions, but Lacey has a point. They’re kind of lame and they don’t really show her what her mom does. Still, she can’t see the dead body of the week.

Megan has Curtis run a tissue sample to see what kind of arthritis medication Cal was on while she and Kate determine that the killer was right handed and find a smudge above the wrist (hopefully transfer from the casino mystery man). Back at Cal’s apartment, they discover that $25,000 is also missing. and CSU finds a blue contact lens in the sink drain. The photo in Cal’s apartment of his daughter shows she has brown eyes but during the notification she had blue eyes. So, Sam and Peter head back to the daughter’s house and find her and her husband arguing over (quite literally) a giant pile of money.

Peter and Sam are interviewing the daughter and husband. and it’s still a crap shoot about who to believe. The daughter says her dad gave her the money so she could get out of her marriage and follow her dream of going to art school. The husband was just surprised to find out Cal was getting social security money in the amount of $500 every other week. Megan gets back to the lab, and Lacey immediately asks about the dismembered body. She says that Ethan told and Megan is pissed. She tells Ethan (in private) that she doesn’t want Lacey to see things in the wrong context and that seeing one’s first dead body is traumatic. But Ethan makes the point that maybe Lacey is trying to get to know and understand her mom, but she can’t because Megan will only let her see certain aspects. As they finish talking, Ethan finds something in one of Cal’s arteries.

Meanwhile, Lacey is supposed to be talking to Curtis, but she doesn’t see the point since her mom is just controlling everything. So Curtis says to hell with Megan’s list of questions and shows Lacey a slide under the microscope. The smudges on the wrist were cigarette ash. And one would need to be a pretty heavy smoker to have that much buildup on your fingertips. Megan catches Curtis showing Lacey the slide and tells him to call Sam with the information and find out what brand Cal’s neighbor smokes. Sam confronts him and finds out that he went out for a guy’s night and saw Cal at the casino and helped him home. He didn’t mention it during the canvas because he knew his wife would get pissed off. Apparently she hated Cal for blaring his music so loud that they had to soundproof their whole apartment so their baby could sleep. Sam says she can’t believe staying home all day with the baby is that hard with a full time nanny. The neighbor is shocked to even hear the word.

At the lab, Megan sits down with Lacey and talks to her about what she does in a very matter of fact but relatable way. She talks to Lacey about what her hand tells about her life and then shows her the photo of Cal’s hand and what it says about him. She tries to impart in her daughter that the victims they see aren’t just dead bodies but it is the story of the life they lived and how they died. She even shows Lacey the tissue Ethan found in Cal’s artery. And it turns out, Lacey may help lead to a breakthrough in the case.

We hop over to a status pow wow where the team is trying to figure out what they know. They still can’t decide on who the killer is or even how it happened. Enter Megan and Lacey. Megan says it was blunt force trauma to the head. When Ethan remarks that they still don’t’ have the head, Megan says that they don’t need the head either. Cal was struck so hard on the head that some of his brain tissue travelled into his heart. Right then, Curtis comes back with the arthritis medication Cal was taking. It had to be by injection and given how weak his hands were, he had to have someone do it for him. Ah, the pieces are falling into place. Megan gets a call from her ex-husband that he’s there to pick up Lacey, but she doesn’t one leave. She wants to see how the case turns out.

Just then Sam shows up with her own news. Megan tasks Peter with getting Lacey down to her dad while she fills Sam in on what she found out. They’ve got the same person. The woman who claimed she was the nanny for Cal’s neighbor. The name she gave isn’t real. Sam finds out her real name and brings her in for questioning. Sam’s attempt to get her to talk fails miserably. So Megan gives it a try. And she’s much more successful. According to the woman, she liked Cal. He paid her under the table, and he was going to help her bring her son to the States. But the day he died, she found him in the bathtub. It looked like he’d fallen and his hit head (blunt force trauma and the blood pattern in the tub). She cut him up because if he was found dead, her attempts at finalizing immigration status would be off. Megan says she believes her but that she needs the head for proof. So they head back to the dumpsters and they find his head in a green bag. But there was a second wound in his head. It turns out it was the landlord. He wanted Cal out because he was the last rent controlled tenant.

Cal’s daughter comes by the morgue to pick up her father’s remains to have them cremated. She’s leaving her husband and going back to art school. Her dad would be so proud. Later that night, Peter stops by to find Megan still in her office working. She swears she’s wrapping it up. Peter says the DA is deporting Cal’s caretaker instead of filing charges against her. As Peter leaves for the night, Megan gets an email from Lacey with the video she’s put together. It has clips from everyone at the lab and it really is a great video and it really shows Megan that Lacey gets who she is and what she does.

HIMYM 6.20: "The Exploding Meatball Sub"

“Marshall and I have been together fifteen years, and the only debate we’ve had about ‘Tommy Boy’ is whether it’s awesome or super-awesome. That’s love, bitch.”

“The Exploding Meatball Sub” had a lot of laughs, but it was definitely lacking in substance. I will say that because of the laughs, I didn’t dislike the episode as much as I thought I would. Yeah, I’ll admit that being a little behind in the blogging leads to me hearing things about episodes before I watch. What I didn’t like about the episode was that there was also only a little bit of heart, which happened to be provided by Marshall and Lily. Episodes of HIMYM are at their best when the mix big laughs with lots of heart. HIMYM is generally much more a character piece than most half-hour sitcoms. To further deepen the lack of heart in this episode, Barney, who is often very effective at providing heart for an episode, was a cartoon villain in the worst possible way, especially because it involved trivializing his relationship with Robin. I was happy that Robin was looking out for him during a difficult time, but it turned out that there was really nothing under the surface of his actions in this one.

Like many episodes of HIMYM, this one was all about relationships, specifically how partners do and don’t support each other. We open with Saget!Ted rehashing how Ted and Zoey disagree on just about everything, especially Ted’s work on building the new GNB headquarters at the site of the Arcadian. There’s a rather funny bit where Zoey’s protesting outside GNB, and when Ted looks out the window, she pauses the protest to ask Ted about their plans for a date later that night. The discussion about Ted and Zoey moves to MacLaren’s, and Marshall and Lily (especially Lily) are surprised the relationship still exists considering how much Ted and Zoey fight. Ted calls it “challenging each other.” We get a really funny flashback montage of them disagreeing on mundane things, including analysis of the movie “Tommy Boy” (they disagree about what classic story it’s based upon) and who will hang up the phone first. That second one is ended by an exasperated Robin (she is Ted’s roommate after all) calling both of them and telling them to hang up.

Lily claims that she and Marshall are extremely supportive of each other and hardly ever disagree on anything. We quickly see that bigger problems are brewing in the Eriksen-Aldrin marriage, though. Marshall has accepted the fact that he hates his job at GNB, despite what he said back in Natural History. There’s a job opening at the NRDC (his lifelong dream employer), and he wants to quit his job at GNB to take it. Barney is very upset about this, presumably because he liked working with his friend (and I’m going to stick with that story despite the rest of the plot of this episode!). Marshall doesn’t quit right away, though. On the day he planned to quit, he got a bit wistful. This leads into another classic HIMYM naming of a social phenomenon. This time, Robin provides us with the concept of “graduation goggles,” where on your last day some place or at the end of a relationship, you suddenly get wistful and see the world through a soft-focus lens montage set to Sarah McLaughlin’s “I Will Remember You.”

Marshall does end up quitting GNB, but by time he does, the paid position at NRDC has been filled. Marshall decides to volunteer at the NRDC instead, and Lily, with a tone of resignation in her voice, says she’ll be fully supportive of that. Barney is very upset about this turn of events, so upset that he burns a photo of Marshall in his office. Robin is concerned about how hard Barney is taking Marshall’s change in jobs, and she asks Barney if maybe it’s because his recent interaction with his father has brought up abandonment issues. Barney dismisses it with a long (and pretty funny) monologue about how Robin is worse than his shrink, and he doesn’t need her meddling. Then Barney throws a massive fit in his office when Marshall says he can’t join him for lunch, and Robin sees the whole thing. It turns out she had stopped by GNB to check on Barney (which made me happy), and when she suggested going to lunch, Barney asked if he could call Marshall to join them. Barney completely forgot Robin was there in his rage at Marshall for saying “no.”

Over drinks at MacLaren’s, Robin makes up this story about her father that sounds a lot like Poe’s “The Telltale Heart” to try to get Barney to open up about his own father. Barney figures out pretty quickly that the story wasn’t true, and he proceeds to tell Robin the real reason he was so upset about Marshall leaving GNB. It turns out that one day at lunch, it was meatball sub day, and Marshall pointed out that Barney got a spot of marinara on his tie. The other coworkers who had joined them laughed, and Barney was so embarrassed that he started to go all Dr. Horrible (complete with lab coat and goggles, albeit the wrong goggles). He wants revenge on Marshall, and he was planning on getting his revenge via serving Marshall an exploding meatball sub. I found this incredibly disappointing, because it was Barney as cartoon instead of human. The fact that there was no depth to this plot is even affirmed in the episode’s tag where we see a 10 years later flash forward of Barney pretending to be terminally ill in order to finally get Marshall with the exploding sandwich. Anybody who has read my HIMYM coverage here at MTVP for any length of time knows that all an episode of HIMYM has to do to make me happy is have Barney act like a human being.

Any depth that this episode had at all came from Marshall and Lily. Marshall is planning this big NRDC fundraiser at Dowisetrepla, and Ted goes with Lily to the airport to pick up a Spanish speaking environmentalist who is going to speak at the event. On the way to the airport, Ted finally admits to Lily that he would like a little support from Zoey. She has finally gotten the landmark preservation committee to hold a hearing about the Arcadian, and this could seriously jeopardize Ted’s dream of building a high rise in New York City. It turns out that Ted wasn’t even necessary on this trip. He tries using really bad Spanish with the environmentalist, and it turns out that the environmentalist speaks perfect English. The big news is that Lily grabs a suitcase from the car and says she’s got a flight leaving for Spain in 45 minutes. She’s really upset that Marshall has decided to put all their dreams like vacations to Europe and finally having a baby on hold.

At the NRDC fundraiser, Ted is about to break the bad news to Marshall that Lily has run off again (last time being at the end of Season 1), when Lily shows up. I guess she just couldn’t bear to give up on Marshall. Without Lily even expressing her unhappiness, Marshall says he knows that even though he loves what he’s doing for the NRDC, he needs to find something that isn’t quite as soul-sucking as working for GNB, but at least gives him some sort of paycheck. That’s something Lily really can truly support. Seeing Marshall and Lily work out this huge issue makes Ted realize what he doesn’t have with Zoey. He’s about to break up with Zoey, but then those darn graduation goggles kick in, and they end up dancing and kissing. To “I Will Remember You,” of course.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Big Bang Theory 4.20: "The Herb Garden Germination"

“Leonard, the people at Nintendo can only go so far in helping us recreate an actual athletic experience. We have to do our part, too.”

“The Herb Garden Germination” was a fun episode of “The Big Bang Theory.” All of the plot threads were focused on the theme of gossip spreading through our favorite group of nerds and the ladies in their lives, and it was a good exploration of the dynamics between all the members of the group. And, hello, Howard Wolowitz, wanna-be womanizer extraordinaire, is engaged! I also think this is the first episode where I’ve really at all liked Amy. She is most definitely an acquired taste. I think Sheldon and Amy working together to try to understand something about social interaction was a very interesting concept. It felt like it had some direction beyond just showing us what social misfits these two characters are. There was depth, and it was funny. Although I do have to criticize their research methodology. But more on that later.

The episode opens with Sheldon and Amy at a book reading for an author who attempts to translate complex scientific concepts into language that non-geniuses can understand. Sheldon and Amy, especially Sheldon, think this idea is laughable. That’s not really the important thing about the opening scene, though. Amy decides to share some gossip with Sheldon. Sheldon thinks he’s above such petty behavior as gossip, but Amy explains that research shows gossip is an integral part of any functioning society. Sheldon finally relents, and Amy does indeed have some juicy information. She has heard that Bernadette is thinking seriously about breaking up with Howard.

Later, Sheldon and Leonard are playing some sort of archery game on the Wii, and Sheldon spreads the gossip about Howard and Bernadette. There was some amusing business about how Sheldon pretends every aspect of archery that the Wii doesn’t provide (ie pulling arrows out of a quiver), but it wasn’t really relevant to the plot. Just another one of those “oh isn’t Sheldon so neurotic” moments. Leonard gets some more good gossip later that evening when talking to Priya while both are in the bathroom brushing their teeth. Priya lets it slip that Raj will be very happy if Howard and Bernadette break up, because Raj has a thing for Bernadette. She found a really bad poem he wrote about her, where he rhymed “Bernadette” with “clarinet.”

Leonard and Penny have a conversation in the stairwell about all the gossip. It turns out Penny was the one who told Amy about Howard and Bernadette in the first place. She claims that doesn’t make her a gossip, though, because she told Amy the story “in confidence.” Leonard mentions the information he learned from Priya about Raj, and Penny accuses Priya of being a gossip, too. She also warns Leonard that gossiping isn’t a very attractive trait in a woman. Can Penny just admit to herself (and Leonard) that she still has feelings for Leonard already? The sooner this rift in the group is healed the better, in my opinion.

Raj and Priya have one of the show’s classic video chats with their parents, but somehow it isn’t quite as funny with Priya involved. Back in season 1, when the Koothrappalis appeared on Raj’s computer, it was hilarious. They were meddling in Raj’s life from another continent, and it was kind of adorable. Now they seem to be there just to allow the writers to make fun of Indian culture. Raj sort of lets it slip that Priya might be seeing someone, and Priya really does not want her parents to know about Leonard. The parents start speculating about which member of the gang Priya might be dating, and they focus in on Howard. Raj tries to explain that Howard is dating someone, and Priya accidentally lets it slip that Bernadette is unhappy in the relationship. This puts Raj in a very good mood that is still going the next day during lunch at the university. At lunch, the gang discovers that Raj has a very different perception of the status of his relationship with Bernadette. He is getting ready to propose. He’s called his cousin David to find him a half-carat diamond ring and everything. The rest of the gang thinks this plan can only end in disaster, which continues to make Raj happy. I guess he thinks he can pick up the pieces.

Sheldon and Amy discuss these latest developments over what is probably tea at Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment. They’re extremely surprised at how quickly gossip seems to spread through their group, and Amy convinces Sheldon, who usually looks at the social sciences with distain, to participate in a bit of an experiment to test memetic epidemiology (a theory about the rate at which gossip spreads). They decide that in order to have a control, Amy must tell people both a good piece of gossip and something mundane. Personally, I think to really have a counterfactual, you’d have to do some randomization, have a control group and a treatment group, tell the control group the mundane information, and tell the treatment group the juicy gossip. Just seems like a more sound methodology to me. I blame the professor I work for for this brief diversion.

Amy quickly puts the experiment into action. She tells Penny that she and Sheldon had sex, and that she has decided to start growing an herb garden. The juicy gossip (and not the bit about the herb garden) spreads through the gang like wildfire. Later that day, while Penny is working, she passes the news on to Raj, who is at the Cheesecake Factory drinking a caterpillar and hitting on Bernadette. Soon enough, Leonard is walking into his apartment wanting to have a talk with Sheldon. He wants to both congratulate Sheldon and make sure he’s okay. Sheldon just smirks, happy his experiment is working.

As the group gathers for dinner, Sheldon and Amy have an innuendo-filled aside about how their meme has reached “full penetration” and Bernadette wants to know how Sheldon is in bed. There’s soon bigger news than Sheldon and Amy’s sex life, though. Howard decides to propose to Bernadette in front of all his friends, and Bernadette, surprisingly, says yes. Poor Raj is crushed. I’ll be curious to see how this plot plays out. Either Bernadette and Howard will call off the wedding and Bernadette likely won’t be part of the group anymore, or they’ll get married and the group (and show) dynamic will be forever changed. The show ends with Sheldon and Amy attempting another mimetic epidemiology experiment. As Amy and Penny are walking down the stairwell, Amy announces to Penny that she’s pregnant…and recently purchased orthotics. It only takes seconds for Leonard to hear the news via text. But to Amy’s chagrin, the text contains nothing about orthotics.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Body of Proof 1.03: "Helping Hand"

Guest blogger Sarah is continuing to provide her take on "Body of Proof" for MTVP. Enjoy her latest write-up!


“It’s not that hard, you know. To connect with people. Just take an interest.”
- Kate

Much like “Letting Go” we begin with the murder of the episode. A young Hispanic woman is shot and dies. Next thing we know, Megan is arriving on scene. She was supposed to have a day off but someone’s wife had a baby and so she got called in. Detective Morris is in a rather unpleasant mood as Megan examines the scene. The victim is Elena Rosas. She looks very out of place in the dingy motel room in a nice business suit. Morris is still cranky when Megan says she can’t give him a cause of death because there’s a distinct lack of blood around the body (even though she was shot). Outside, Sam and Peter share a look and Megan’s left wondering what she’s missing. She doesn’t really know much about the people she works with. That’s kind of the theme of the episode.

At autopsy, Megan finds Ethan rearranging her surgical instruments because someone put them out of order. Megan is a little disturbed that Ethan knows the order she likes her instruments but she dismisses it quickly. She does however ask Peter what was up at the crime scene. He tells her that Bud is having issues with his wife. Megan is clueless to his situation obviously because she thought he was already divorced. They discover that Elena did die from a gunshot wound to her arm because it passed through her arm and into her torso and caused massive internal bleeding. While going over the other x-rays, Megan notices surgical clips on Elena’s skull and like a true neurosurgeon, has to investigate. In short order she discovers to her extreme surprise that Elena was one of her patients. Megan’s in her office brooding over the fact that she didn’t remember Elena was her patient when Peter walks in. He wants to know what tipped her off in the first place, and Megan explains that surgeons have certain techniques they use, like a signature, and Megan recognized her own. She requested Elena’s file from Northeast General, which Kate delivers, and Megan remembers Elena (after reading the file). Megan’s pissed at herself for not remembering Elena as a person but as a surgical procedure and is determined to find her killer.

Down in the lab, Ethan tells Curtis that the crusty stain on Elena’s blouse was breast milk, but not from her baby because she’d never been pregnant. The plot thickens. Meanwhile, Megan is meeting with Elena’s father. He’s surprised to see her there. He tells Megan that Elena was inspired by her and became a social worker with Child Protective Services in order to help people. Sam, Peter and Megan head over to CPS (Bud is taking a long lunch) and meet with Elena’s boss, Jeremy. He confirms that she was dedicated and that morning had 5 home visits. Unlike a lot of the staff, Elena continued following up on cases until she was satisfied the child was in a safe environment. They head out and discover that Holly Bennett was the only visit Elena got to. And she’s got a baby. She confirms that Elena was good to her and helped convince her to throw her cocaine addicted boyfriend out. That morning, Elena got a call that freaked her out, and she left in a hurry.

Megan is examining the bullet fragment from Elena’s chest when Kate stops by. She asks how things are going, and Megan says that she’s examining the bullet while Sam goes through Elena’s case files. Kate says that it isn’t hard to connect with people. She just needs to take an interest and again, Megan is kind of clueless. Kate changes the subject back to the bullet and Megan reveals that the bullet hit someone else before hitting Elena.

The gang is having a case status pow wow, and Megan’s still hung up on why Elena was in the dingy motel room to begin with. Morris posits she’s a prostitute and that just gets Megan annoyed. She smacks him in the arm and notices his suit jacket has a big hole in the seam (pus he just generally looks like crap). They head over to talk to Elena’s father again to see if maybe she was seeing someone her father didn’t know about. Megan and Morris are looking around Elena’s room and Megan asks how Morris is doing. He ends up spilling his guts to her but she’s distracted by a photo of Elena and herself after Elena’s brain surgery. They discover by fluke a card that came with flowers, signed by Elena’s boss. They bring him in for questioning, and Jeremy explains that he was interested in Elena, but she didn’t really return the affections. She didn’t want to date her boss. It turns out while he was trying to get Elena to reconsider, she had a seizure. He tried to help her and that’s where the bruises on her arms and the abrasions on her lips came from. She bit him during the seizure and once she was recovered, he left.

Megan is examining Elena’s brain to see if she really did have a seizure when Curtis feeds her some info on Ethan (after she asks Curtis how he’s doing). It ends up being a pretty funny result later on. Kate shows up with the results on the foreign tissue from the bullet. It belongs to Sean Wilcox, a kid who just got out of juvenile detention for weapons possession. The cops find him with Elena’s car and they tackle him at a junk yard. They take him to the hospital because the bullet grazed his neck and it’s now infected. Sean appears to be suspect #1. He got busted for having a gun by Elena when he was still in foster care so it would seem he had motive. But he explained that Elena visited him every week while he was locked up to show that she wasn’t going to give up on him. She got the hotel room for him while he looked for a job. He fell asleep, and when he woke up she was back and then someone shot them. It also turns out he’d called the same number six times that day. And meet suspect #2, Vincent Stone. He owns the junkyard where the cops cornered Sean. Vincent claims to be a father figure to Sean, but it turns out he was really using Sean to do his dirty work. Elena confronted him and she used pepper spray (colored with dye now to mark the attacker). He was responsible for the call that got Elena back to the hotel.

Megan’s examining the swabs from Sean’s neck to get her own results. Ethan helps out, and in short order Megan figures out Curtis was messing with her about Ethan’s interests. Ethan seems pretty confused by the whole thing but I think it was an interesting comic relief. They do however bond over their love of science. Right at the end of their conversation, Megan discovers that Sean had an infection that only results from pigeon droppings. Megan calls Morris to fill him in and they figure out that the shot that killed Elena went through the motel room window. The shooter was standing outside. Morris gets Peter and Sam to line up so they can figure out how far away the shooter was standing. They find a shell casing.

Peter heads over to the hospital to get Sean to help them get back on to Vincent’s property to search for guns. Peter reveals that he too was a foster kid and he was one of the lucky kids to get adopted by a great family. But he can empathize with Sean about feeling like any hand that reaches out to help should be taken. Sean ends up telling them where the guns are, giving them probable cause. The cops find a trunk full of guns. Lots of ballistics to test!

Megan walks in on Kate prepping for an early dinner date and is quite impressed. So was I. Great color dress on Jeri (kind of a pinkish orange). Then again she could wear a potato sack and I’d think she was gorgeous. Anyway, Kate congratulates Megan on the fungal infection finding. Kate’s bemoaning the fact that they didn’t have any prints or DNA to help match the gun. All they found was rice flour. And Megan knows who the killer is. Rice flour is used in baby cereal. Megan, in short order, explains that she ran a toxicological panel on the dried breast milk. There was evidence of cocaine in the results. Elena found out that Holly was using again and was going to take her daughter away. And now she’s lost both a woman who cared about her and her daughter.

Megan wants to be the one to deliver the news to Elena’s father. He’s still devastated that it was her work that got her killed. He was proud of his daughter but he worried about her every time she left the house. That night, Megan finds Bud about to sleep in his car (his trunk is full of clothes and such). She offers to fix his suit jacket for him and they have a brief discussion about how you can miss the signs right in front of you that things aren’t working anymore. It’s unclear if Bud is going to get a divorce, but they really connected.