Sunday, July 29, 2012

MTVP London 2012 Olympics Coverage: Opening Ceremony

So apparently when I developed the summer calendar here at MTVP, I kind of forgot that the Olympics were this summer. If you were reading this blog back in 2010, you know that I’m kind of obsessed with the Olympics. This year, my roommate and I have been up until midnight the past two nights watching all the festivities. So while I’m not going to attempt to bring you every day coverage like I tried (and failed) to in 2010, I do want to talk about the Olympics somewhat. Expect to see posts about the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and check-ins on my favorite Olympic sports in-between. I’m a big fan of swimming and gymnastics, so there will definitely be some posts about that, and there may be some other sports too as the mood strikes me. I’m going to be out of town from Thursday-Monday next week, so there may be a bit of a lull in the coverage (Sarah may provide some tennis coverage while I’m gone if she feels inspired), but I’ll do my best to provide some amount of Olympics content over the next two weeks.

So, let’s rewind to Friday night where my roommate and I sat in front of the television, fish and chips dinners cooked by my roommate on the tray tables in front of us, and Strongbow Cider and Newcastle Brown Ale at the ready. We’re both Anglophiles, so we were ready to see the best of British culture on display. This year’s Opening Ceremony was designed and directed by acclaimed Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, who is best known for “Slumdog Millionaire.” Up until this point, Boyle’s directing experience had been exclusively in film, so he tried to bring a little of that expertise to the ceremony with video interstitials in between big live production numbers. When I first saw Olympic Stadium all decked out for the beginning of the ceremony my reaction was, “Is it odd that I think the stadium looks like a Quidditch pitch?” The shape of the stadium and the lush green of the infield reminded me forcefully of the stadium where the Quidditch World Cup took place in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

After a rather beautiful sequence highlighting the UK’s pastoral roots (which also included a sweet video of children’s choirs singing traditional songs from each of the four states that make up the UK), Kenneth Branagh, with an expertly delivered monologue, ushered in the Industrial Revolution change in the stadium. Essentially, it was a transition from the Shire to Isengard. Sorry, it’s really difficult to describe a British cultural presentation, especially one that uses the imagery that this one did, without invoking Britain’s fantasy literary tradition. The Industrial Revolution scene resulted in the forging of the Olympic rings, which were lifted into the sky. The center ring was gold while the rest were read, even more forcefully invoking the Lord of the Rings trilogy. My mother, when I talked about the ceremony with her yesterday, really seemed to dislike this portion of the presentation, because she didn’t think that the destruction of the countryside should be celebrated. I thought it was more just an acknowledgement of the totality of British history. After the Industrial Revolution, things just got kind of weird as we followed two teenagers through decades of British music. The less said about that part of the show, the better.

I think the highlight of the ceremony was one of the earliest video interstitials. This video featured Daniel Craig as Jams Bond and Her Majesty the Queen herself. She and Bond walk out to a helicopter to take them to the Games, and the Queens corgis waddle behind. It was really quite adorable, and I appreciated that the Queen had the good sense of humor to participate in the sequence. The video was followed up by stunt doubles for Craig and the Queen parachuting into the stadium. I thought it was a lot of fun, and it showed the more lighthearted side of British culture- sort of the Monty Python side, if you will. Given this sequence, I was really looking forward to hearing the Queen open the Games, because I thought it would be fun or inspiring, but her actual opening speech was a bit dull. Can’t win them all, I suppose.

The other major element of surprise of any Opening Ceremony is who will light the big Olympic cauldron. David Beckham impressively brought the torch to the stadium, but the cauldron lighters were seven teenage British athletes who were chosen for the honor by former British Olympic medalists. Metal petals were lit, which then rose to form the cauldron. What I found a bit disappointing was that the cauldron is rather short by Olympics standards and located completely inside the stadium. I’m used to the big outdoor cauldron that serves as the fixture for television coverage establishing shots. Even in Vancouver, where they had small-ish in stadium cauldron, there was a separate, bigger outdoor cauldron, and Wayne Gretsky taking the flame from indoors to outdoors was one of the iconic moments of those Games.

Overall, I found the musical selections for the Ceremony to be pretty successful. The Arctic Monkeys delivered a rousing performance of “Come Together” as part of the teenage music through the decades sequence. Also, following the lighting of the cauldron, Paul McCartney played a couple of songs, including the classic “Hey, Jude.” While McCartney’s voice seems to leave a little something to be desired these days, the performance definitely had good energy. I think it a situation like this one, energy is the most important thing. Vocal slip-ups can be (mostly) forgiven (as long as the slip-up isn’t being horribly out of tune) if the energy is good and fun.

Overall, while there were some problematic elements, I enjoyed this Opening Ceremony. I liked that it wasn’t quite as serious as Vancouver. It celebrated the lighter side of British culture, and dry British humor is one of the things I love the momst (oh, did I mention, Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean, did a funny segment with the London Symphony Orchstera). No city could hope to recreate the sheer spectacle of Beijing, so I think keeping it light and true to the culture was a good move. I’ve been eagerly anticipating these Games since London was first announced as the host back in 2005, so let’s get on with it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer DVR Dump: The River 1.05: "Peaches"

“I’m not sure even Emmet knows about Emmet anymore.”

I liked this episode of “The River” because even though it sort of fit the typical “creepy Amazon supernatural thing of the week” mold, this episode was unique because it focused more on Lena. We hadn’t really learned a lot about her yet. This episode gave us a chance to learn a little more about her childhood and her relationship with her dad. We even got to meet her dad (spoiler alert). The name of the episode comes from Lena’s childhood nickname. While the creepy happening of the week was a bit underdeveloped, I did appreciate the time spent on character development. I think the best television shows tend to have a pretty even mix of character development and plot. This episode was the first to really make me wish “The River” had continued beyond eight episodes. I think the characters on the show are just better developed in general than many other procedural-type shows.

Instead of the standard “Undiscovered Country” clip, we instead open this episode with Lena acting quite grumpy because the rest of the crew is so focused on finding Emmet at the expense of thinking of her dad. This is interspersed with footage of Lena and her dad, Russ, back in “Undiscovered Country” heyday. They’re playing a game of poker together, and it’s quite cute. Meanwhile, the Magus is moving very slow in the dark, and Tess and Lincoln are frustrated by this. Tess orders everyone on watch so she can speed up the ship (they can make sure she doesn’t bump into anything. While both taking watch from the bow of the ship, Lena and Jonas have a little moment. Jonas tells Lena how her dad was awesome and he learned so much from him, and Lena’s all smitten because nobody else on the Magus has said a word about her dad. Lincoln sees this, and he’s understandably peeved that Jonas is moving in on his woman. Lincoln doesn’t have much time to be pissy, though. It looks like another ship is on a collision course with the Magus, and they aren’t adjusting their course. The ship seems to collide with the Magus, but then it disappears.

The collision has caused some serious damage to the Magus. The transmission gears are stripped, and they can’t be fixed. The Magus is in desperate need of replacement parts. Tess starts very calmly calling Mayday (like that has ever helped at any point ever in this series), but no one is responding. Meanwhile, Jonas takes Lena to the edit bay and shows her footage of her dad. Not only is it footage of Russ, it’s footage of Russ leaving a message specifically for Lena. Lena, understandably, is super grateful to Jonas for showing her this, and Lincoln, also (sort of) understandably, gets even more pissy (he saw what was happening from out in the hallway. Lincoln is on a mission to continue the quest to find Emmet, so he decrees that they’ll continue by Zodiac and on foot if necessary. Just as this plan is about to swing into action, a ship called the Exodus answer’s the Magus’ mayday. The crew of the Exodus seem like sort of the Greenpeace of the rain forest. They’re job is environmental protection. They also happen to have the spare parts the Magus needs to get up and running again.

Out on the deck, Jonas tries asking Lena about her relationship with Lincoln. Lena’s not biting, though. The best she does in confirm there is nothing romantic currently happening. She tries to distract him by telling him to film the Exodus. Jonas does so, and he thinks he sees someone moving on the ship. This is curious, because the crew of the Exodus is supposed to be on board the Magus for dinner. While everyone is eating, one of the Exodus men leaves to use the rest room. While he’s gone, a woman from the Exodus burns herself, and Kurt goes to get her a bandage. On his way to get the bandage, he sees the Exodus guy sneaking around. Kurt watches the monitor, and he sees the Exodus guy say that the plan for the Exodus crew is to capture the Magus crew. Meanwhile, Jonas and Lena stupidly decide to go over to the Exodus to figure out who Jonas saw. When they arrive on the Exodus, they even more stupidly break horror movie rule number one and decide to investigate a strange noise. Lena and Jonas open a mysterious door, and inside is none other than Lena’s dad, Russ.

Back on the Magus, Kurt confronts the Exodus captain about what he heard (the whole capturing the Magus crew thing). Kurt doesn’t like the captain’s answer, so he shoots him. That doesn’t solve the problem, though. The captain comes back to life and hurls Kurt across the room. Over on the Exodus, Russ tells Lena and Jonas that the Exodus is a ghost ship. The crew are all dead, but they must find people to take their place on the Exodus before they can move on and be at peace. That explains how the captain was able to recover from being shot and toss Kurt. To the Exodus crew, the Magus crew seem like prime replacement prospects. The seriousness of the threat is apparent on the Magus, where the woman from the Exodus crew successfully lures Tess over to the Exodus with promises of a more accurate map of the area of the Amazon they are traveling through.

To his credit, Lincoln realizes something is wrong pretty quickly. He and Clark plan to use the Zodiac to go after the Exodus. As they’re getting ready to leave, Lena is trying to use the camera to broadcast a message to the edit bay, but Lincoln and Clark don’t notice. So they leave the Magus not entirely sure where to go to find the missing crew. Jahel, when walking past the edit bay on an errand, however, does see Lena’s message, and she radio’s Lincoln with instructions on how to find the Exodus and also the suggestion to bring flares. Just as Clark and Lincoln arrive at the Exodus, Kurt manages to break out of the holding cell. A huge fight ensues, and the flares Clark and Lincoln brought win it for the Magus folks. Apparently burning is the only way to destroy the Exodus ghosts. Lena obviously wants Russ to return to the Magus with the rest of the crew, but there’s one final twist. Russ has been turned into a ghost. Lena doesn’t want to leave him, but when the fire spreads and starts to engulf Russ, Lincoln has to drag her off the boat and back on to the Zodiac. Then he cradles her as she sobs. Take that Jonas!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer TV Rewind: Downton Abbey 1.05

“You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”

This particular episode of “Downton Abbey” featured one of my all-time favorite battles between Isobel and Violet. It involves the village flower show, which, on its face, seems kind of minor, but it means a lot to the Crawleys and the villagers. It reminds me how small the world was at the turn of the century. I think it’s quaint and nice and has a real community feel. It reminded me of a village fete I went to in Shropshire once. There was also plenty of real drama, both upstairs and down. Mary and Matthew continue to make each other miserable, Mary and Edith begin what will become a rather devastating war with each other, and Thomas and O’Brien escalate their war against Bates and Anna. It’s just another week in the life of our favorite English manor house. Suffice it to say, there won’t be many characters who survive the season with their reputations intact.

At the beginning of the episode, some of the maids are straightening up Mary’s room, and Daisy has a little freak-out when trying to light the fire. She’s flashing back to seeing Mr. Pamuk’s body carried through the house. There’s also been a letter from Aunt Rosamund (Robert’s sister) saying that Mary’s name isn’t so good in London anymore. When the servants are all having a meal later, Daisy gets a bit blabby, implying that she saw something way back when related to Mr. Pamuk and Mary’s bedroom. O’Brien and Thomas pick up on it immediately, of course. Later, O’Brien and Thomas discuss the latest intel. It turns out that Thomas wrote a letter to a footman in London that mentioned that Mary might not be as virtuous as everyone thinks. Word has gotten out, and rumors about Mary have spread throughout London. Which explains Rosamund’s letter. Also, Thomas is worried that Bates saw him steal a bottle of wine, so they’re going to come up with a new plan to try and get rid of him.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Gwen has another job interview. This is one that Sybil actually arranged, so Gwen is surprised by it. Sybil is even going to take her to the interview in the governess cart. Gwen has to feign sick to get out of work for a few hours, and then the ladies are on their way. The interview goes reasonably well, but Sybil and Gwen run into trouble on the way home. The horse pulling their cart throws a shoe. The plan is to take the horse to the blacksmith in the nearest village, but when they make it to the blacksmith shop, Sybil and Gwen find that the blacksmith is out of town. So they’re going to have to walk the rest of the way home with a lame horse. As they are trying to coax the horse forward, Sybil and Gwen end up falling in a huge mud puddle. It’s going to be really difficult to hide what they’ve been up to when they get home in muddy clothes. Somehow, even though the Crawleys were all getting worried about Sybil not returning, the pair manage to arrive home without too much trouble. Gwen, however, does not end up getting the job.

O’Brien and Thomas really have two nefarious plans running at once in this episode. Frist, Robert shows Bates that one of his collection of fancy snuff boxes is missing. Simultaneously, O’Brien gets Edith to question Daisy about what makes her so frightened of Mary’s bedroom, so now Edith knows something probably happened between Mary and Mr. Pamuk, too. Edith keeps quiet at first, but she won’t for long. The Crawleys have Sir Anthony Stratten, a member of the peerage who is middle aged and lives nearby, over for dinner as a potential suitor for Mary. Mary, however, is not enthused, and in a conversation with Cora that Edith overhears, Mary remarks that Cora should spend more time trying to help Edith find a husband, because Edith actually needs the help. The dinner itself is a horrible bore to Mary, even with little excitement due t Mrs. Patmore accidentally sprinkling salt on top of a pudding instead of sugar (Mrs. Patmore’s vision had been failing, but she didn’t tell anyone). Anyway, Mary had enjoyed talking with Matthew significantly more than she enjoyed talking with Sir Anthony, but when she sees Edith getting too chummy with Sir Anthony, she decides she wants all the toys for herself. She bets Edith that she can snag Sir Anthony before Edith can. When the men join the ladies in the drawing room, Mary does everything she can to get her turn of the 20th century flirt on. This, naturally, upsets Matthew, who had thought he had a chance with Mary again. He ends up leaving the party quite grumpy.

Regarding Thomas and O’Brien’s first bit of trickery, Carson gathers the staff to make a big announcement about the missing snuff box. He asks the staff for information on its whereabouts. Bates and Anna figure that Thomas and O’Brien probably planted the box in one of their rooms to frame Bates, so they find it and turn right around and plant it in either Thomas or O’Brien’s room (we don’t know which for sure). Bates and Anna then put on a show of being really super eager for Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes to search all the servants’ rooms, and Thomas and O’Brien know the jig is up. They race off to try to find the box in one of their rooms before Carson and Mrs. Hughes can, and they’re most definitely caught in the act. Since they weren’t actually caught with the snuff box, it doesn’t seem like there will be any long-term punishment, but it certainly put the kibosh on this particular scheme to get rid of Bates. It was nice to see Thomas and O’Brien beaten at their own game.

As I alluded to earlier in this post, my favorite plot in this episode was the little diversion about the village flower show. Violet wins the Grantham Cup for “best bloom in the village” every year, apparently because the judges are afraid of her. Isobel, however, thinks the roses grown by Mr. Mosley’s father are superior, and she wants him to win the cup. Never being one to pull her punches, Isobel tells Violet straight up that she’s only been winning the cup out of obligation. Violet does not seem at all inclined to change this tradition. Soon enough, it’s time for the flower show itself. Mary tries to chat up Matthew, but he’s been spurned by her one too many times, and he refuses to talk to her. Hurt by this, Mary then makes a disparaging comment to Edith. In lighter news, Violet, when announcing the winner of the Grantham Cup, has a moment of conscience and announces Mosely, Sr. is the winner, instead of herself. I thought this was a sweet, illuminating moment for Violet. Anyway, Edith is so incensed by what went down at the flower show with Mary that when she gets home, she writes a letter to the Turkish ambassador, detailing what she knows about the death of Mr. Pamuk.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Newsroom 1.04: "I'll Try to Fix You"

“First of all, I’m a registered Republican. I only seem liberal because I believe that hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure, and not gay marriage.”

So “real” TV critics, you’ve done it again. You made me dread watching an episode of “The Newsroom” that I decidedly didn’t hate once I actually watched it. Sure, there were some problematic moments, but there were moments that were Sorkin at his best. If you’re a massive Sorkin fan like I am (he pretty much introduced me to good quality drama on television), there really isn’t much to dislike about “The Newsroom” or this episode in particular. I take issue with Sorkin’s views on and portrayal of women, but I enjoy the rest of what he does so much that more often than not, I can forgive him for not doing right by his female characters. This episode was one of those times when I can forgive, if only for the absolutely fantastic closing sequence of the episode, dealing with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It was the type of high-emotion television at which Sorkin excels. I also appreciated that this episode tried to make Don a little less of a douche. He’s still an ass, and Maggie needs to break up with him permanently ASAP, but at least he’s starting to grow a bit of a spine at work.

The episode begins on New Year’s Eve, which seems to be a theme with the television I’ve been covering here in MTVP lately. There’s a big party going down at News Night, and Jim is for some reason trying to work right in the middle of it. Maggie helps him for a little bit, but then Don arrives at the party and she becomes more concerned with making out. Don’s tired of having to compete with Jim for Maggie’s attention, so he decides he should try to set up Jim with Maggie’s roommate Lisa. Maggie doesn’t love this idea, obviously because she has a thing for Jim. Lisa arrives at the party, acting quite insecure, and Don goes through with the set-up even though Maggie tries to stop it. Jim and Lisa continue to see each other a few times after the party, but Jim lies to Maggie about it. Later in the episode, Maggie and Don are talking before bed, when Don puts a plan into motion to further drive apart Maggie and Jim. He convinces Maggie to call Jim about a news story, and then while she’s on the phone with Jim, he calls Lisa’s phone, which has a very distinctive ring tone. It turns out that Lisa and Jim had been having sex in the next room. Jim and Maggie fight about this at work the next day, and it’s stupid enough that it really doesn’t warrant any more space here (Jim tells Maggie that it’s a good thing she’s jealous, basically).

In other love triangle news, Mackenzie has the brilliant idea to have Wade pitch a story to Will about how DoJ’s prosecution of financial crimes has been underfunded. Will is only slightly chilly to Wade when he’s making his pitch because he really does genuinely find the story interesting. Neal, on the other hand, spends the entire episode pitching a story about Bigfoot, which is just kind of stupid and really only serves to gather the team at the end of the episode to be ready to spring in to action when Rep. Giffords is shot. Anyway, after work, Will goes out to a party, and Sloan sets him up with a pretty blonde who just happens to be a gossip columnist for TMI named Nina. When Sloan finds out her identity, she tries to get Will away from her, but instead of retreating, Will begins a “mission to civilize” and starts lecturing her about how writing a “takedown piece” on one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey is a horrible idea. Nina doesn’t take Will’s advice- she throws a drink in his face instead. This little confrontation finds its way into Page Six the next day.

Throughout this episode, Will is seen dating what Mackenzie describes as a “Netflix queue” of women. And he ruins things will all of them thanks to his stupid “mission to civilize.” His date with one of them, a friend of Sloan’s, ends when he finds a gun in her purse and decides to lecture her about it. There’s a really funny conversation between Will and Sloan in the aftermath of that one where Sloan warns him not to be seen in Page Six with another woman too soon, because her friend is angry and armed. Will and Sloan have good chemistry for sure, but I’m pretty sure Sloan deserves better. Will does not heed Sloan’s advice, and he gets another drink in the face and Page Six write-up when he lectures a woman for talking too much about the Real Housewives. Sloan warns Will that her friend is really angry about this. I like that even though Will is an ass, he has to feel consequences for being one. He’s not a martyr in all this at all.

After the second drink is thrown in his face, Will has a bit of a sleepless night, and on Saturday morning, he gets called into the office by Charlie. Neil is doing a really stupid presentation on Bigfoot to the rest of the crew, but that’s not why Will was wanted at the office. Charlie informs Will that a huge takedown piece featuring his escapades with the date with the gun has been published in TMI by Nina. Charlie, Will, and Mackenzie are having a huge fight about this when all of a sudden Charlie realizes who is behind it. Someone had to leak all this information to the tabloids in the first place, after all. It’s Leona. She promised to create “context” to fire Will if Will didn’t tone down the show, and that’s what she’s doing now. I’m definitely curious to see how News Night will fare in the battle with the suits.

Will and Mackenzie are still fighting post-meeting, mostly because Mackenzie can’t believe that Will accepted a non-compete in his contract in exchange for the authority to fire her. All that stops abruptly, however, when Maggie, who has been relegated to the assignment desk for fighting too much with Jim (sigh) reads the mother of all news stories on the wire. The shooting has happened in Tucson. The staff suddenly swings into action to Coldplay’s “Fix You,” and it seriously made me cry. I remember so clearly sitting on the couch in my old apartment when the shooting happened, just unable to tear myself away from updates. The shooting was a horrible tragedy, and Sorkin successfully brought all those emotions bubbling back to the surface. NPR reports that Rep. Giffords has died, and other news outlets start to run with that story. Reese runs down to the News Night studio and demands that they do the same. Don, however, says no. They aren’t going to pronounce someone dead before a doctor does. And so Don has his one non-douche moment. And the News Night crew is right of course- she’s very much alive.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer DVR Dump: Sherlock 2.01: "A Scandal in Belgravia"

“I always hear ‘Punch me in the face’ when you’re speaking, but it’s usually subtext.”
-Dr. Watson

Since Sarah’s deep in the middle of studying for the bar exam, I’m taking over the “Sherlock” recaps for series two this summer. As with series one, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and crew put a modern twist on three classic Sherlock Holmes stories. This particular one is based on “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Most notably, it features Irene Adler, the only woman who ever seemed to work her way into Sherlock Holmes’ life. In this version of the story, Adler is a dominatrix who makes a habit of collecting secrets in exchange for protection. I thought this was a very interesting choice, although I wish the development had been a bit more of a slow burn. Three sort-of movies a year doesn’t really make for slow-burn storytelling, though. Instead, we have to believe that Sherlock and Irene are just instantly intrigued by each other’s intelligence. I also found the mystery to be a bit convoluted. It took me a time or two of watching to really understand the connection between the boring little cases Sherlock was confronted with in the beginning of the episode and the big case that unearths itself at the climax of the episode. It could be that PBS broadcasts the show late at night, and my brain isn’t quite up to along closely for 90 minutes at that hour. Don’t get me wrong- I found the episode to be enjoyable overall. I just think that the format limits the storytelling somewhat.

We begin this season where the last one left off. Moriarty, Sherlock, and Dr. Watson are still deep in the middle of their poolside confrontation (see what I did there?). Sherlock and Watson are a little more clever with the self-preservation that Moriarty anticipated (Sherlock pulls a gun on him), but ultimately, Sherlock and Watson are saved by the bell. Moriarty’s phone rings (his ring tone is “Stayin’ Alive,” naturally), and Moriarty is more interested in the phone call than Sherlock and Watson. Given what happens in the rest of the episode, I think this call was most likely from Irene Adler, who is about to enter the bedroom of a young, female member of the royal family. We never learn the exact identity of this royal, but you can use your imagination. Writer Stephen Moffat probably couldn’t get more specific for fear of libel.

Over at Baker Street, Watson’s blog is getting our boys quite a lot of publicity and potential clients. Most of the cases are missing person (or missing corpse) cases, and Sherlock finds this horribly boring. Only one case really interests Sherlock. There’s a guy who was supposed to have died in a plane crash, but his body showed up in a car trunk instead. In between this case and a second missing persons case, there’s a fun bit where Sherlock puts on the iconic deerstalker hat to try and hid from the Paparazzi. Clearly that doesn’t go so well! The photo of him in the hat makes him even more popular. Anyway, not long after that photo is released, a very shaken up man shows up at Baker Street. His car backfired, and he found a guy dead nearby in a field. He’s kind of afraid he might have killed him. Sherlock sends Watson to investigate, and Sherlock himself participates via wi-fi. It’s very season 4 “Fringe” Amber Walter and Astrid.

While this investigation is underway, some suits show up at Baker Street and take Sherlock away. AT the same time, a helicopter shows up at the crime scene to take away Watson. The two men find themselves in Buckingham Palace, with Sherlock clad only in a sheet (the suits brought nice clothing for him to change into, but he refuses to change out of stubbornness). Mycroft appears, along with a royal official of some sort, and Sherlock and Watson are told that they are being hired by the Queen to look into a brewing royal scandal. Irene Adler has made it known that she has photos of her time with the young royal. She claims that she only wants protection in exchange for not divulging the photos, but the Queen doesn’t want to take a chance. Adler has been having Sherlock followed, so she knows about this meeting. There’s a pretty cool sequence where Adler and Sherlock get ready to meet each other in parallel.

There’s a funny sequence where Sherlock goads Watson into beating the crap out of him, which was kind of hilarious, mostly because of the exasperated Arthur Dent-like tone of voice Martin Freedman used when explaining to Sherlock that even though he was a doctor in the Army, he had bad days and could still kick some ass. Anyway, Adler ends up greeting Sherlock naked. I think she wanted to throw him off his game, and she does, but not for the reason she thought she would. Because she’s naked, he can’t read any clues off of her. They engage in some flirtation banter about how Adler likes detective stories, and Sherlock successfully finds the safe where she most likely keeps a smart phone with the incriminating evidence. Sherlock is trying to figure out the combination when a group of American commando-types invade and demand Sherlock opens the safe. Sherlock figures out the combo just as the Americans are about to subdue Watson, then Sherlock, Watson, and Adler go about subduing the Americans.

In the aftermath of the battle and before the police arrive, Adler drugs Sherlock and takes her smart phone back from him. Then she escapes. When Sherlock wakes up back in his bed at Baker Street, he has a text from Adler on his phone. Once Sherlock has recovered somewhat, Mycroft stops by. Sherlock mentions that Adler must have something more than just pictures of a royal in a compromising position, and Mycroft doesn’t deny it. We then fast forward to Christmas, where the boys are having a little get-together (“Christmas drinkies” as medical examiner Molly puts it). After Sherlock is inadvertently very rude to Molly, his apology is interrupted by another text from Adler (she’s been texting him consistently since their first encounter). He turns around and sees the smart phone on the mantle, and he suspects this means that Adler is dead (she said she would die without the phone). Sure enough, a trip to the morgue seems to confirm Sherlock’s suspicions.

We next fast forward to New Year’s Eve Day, where Sherlock is still brooding over Adler’s death. Watson goes out to run errands, and he gets stopped in the street by a woman with a limo. He thinks he’s being taken to see Mycroft again, but he’s actually taken to a random abandoned factory. Inside the factory is none other than Irene Adler. She wants her smart phone back. Watson gets her to send a text to Sherlock to let him know she’s still alive. Sherlock had actually been following Watson, and he’s out in the hallway. He goes home in kind of a daze with his newfound knowledge that she’s alive. When he arrives back at Baker Street, he sees there has been a break-in and Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, has been captured. It’s the American thugs again. By the time Watson gets home, however, Sherlock has soundly dealt with them.

Sherlock spends some time at the morgue with Molly, x-raying Adler’s smart phone, oddly enough. When he returns, Adler herself is sleeping in his bed. She wants her phone back. Again. After some especially persistent whining from Sherlock, Adler lets him see what’s on the phone. She hopes he can deciper it. The document turns out to be a plane manifest. From various clues, he deduces that it is the manifest for Flight 007 from London to Baltimore (woot woot!). When Watson phrases it as “flight double-oh seven,” Sherlock has a breakthrough. He remembers hearing Mycroft say “Bond Air is go.” Adler secretly texts Moriarty about this development, and Moriarty subsequently texts Mycroft. Mycroft sends his people to pick up Sherlock and Watson yet again. At this point, Sherlock realizes that the government was planning to let a terrorist attack on the plane happen to avoid giving up the source of their intelligence.

When Sherlock is let out of Mycroft’s limo, he finds himself looking at the jet that is the target of the terrorist plot. He is taken inside, and he sees that the seats are all occupied by corpses. Mycroft appears and explains that the British government had filled the plane with corpses so that no one would actually die when it went down. Now that the plan has gotten out and the terrorists have been informed that the government knows what they’re up to, however, the plan has been scrapped. Back at Mycroft’s office, Mycroft and Sherlock try negotiating with Adler for the rest of the information on the smart phone. She says she had help from Moriarty to learn how to play the Holmes brothers, and I thought that was kind of gross. Sherlock doesn’t end up needing her help to access the information, though. The four letter passcode on her phone is SHER…as in SHER-locked. It’s kind of silly, really.

At the end of the episode, Mycroft meets up with Watson at a café. He informs Watson that Adler was killed by a terrorist cell in the Middle East, but he thinks Sherlock should be told that she’s in a witness protection scheme here in the United States. Watson agrees that this is probably the best way to go, considering how off the rails Sherlock went the last time he thought Irene was dead. Watson tells Sherlock the lie, and Sherlock simply asks for the smart phone back. He wants a little souvenir of the ordeal, I suppose. We then see, in a flashback I guess, that Sherlock actually saved Adler from the terrorists. I would have rather she saved herself, but I guess since it’s Sherlock’s story, that’s okay.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer DVR Dump: The River 1.04: "A Better Man"

“Death needs dignity, not ambition.”

So I’ve been looking forward to this episode ever since I decided to cover “The River” this summer because it is the first appearance of Scott Michael Foster in the series. I’ve been a fan of Scott Michael Foster since his “Quarterlife” and “Greek” days, and I was really excited to see him in a television show again. Unfortunately, this episode didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, Foster’s performance was very good. It was more the plot of the overall episode that didn’t work for me. It feels like the show is becoming very formulaic. The crew does something to piss off the local spirits, somebody risks their life to apologize, and all is well again. I was especially disappointed at the beginning of the episode when it seemed like Foster’s character, cameraman Jonas, was dead, because I thought I had been anticipating his arrival for so long just to have it only be in flashbacks. Thankfully that wasn’t quite the case. Still didn’t love this episode, though, because I think it stuck too much to the formula.

The beginning of this episode was a bit of a change-up from the usual. Instead of a clip from “The Undiscovered Country,” we get a clip from the footage Emmet shot just 4-5 months ago. Jonas and Emmet are trying to clear the Magus of vines that just keep growing back. Cutting to present day, the group on the Magus is kind of in a lull, and they don’t really know where to go next. Compounding the problem is the fact that they don’t have a real leader like Emmet used to be. There’s a serious power vacuum. Clark is trying to stir thing up even more, probably partly because it’s good drama and partly because he might be able to grab some power. He starts interviewing everyone on the team and asking them who they consider to be the leader. Let’s just say that the entire team is not on the same page in that department. Meanwhile, Lincoln and Lena are trying to keep things bright and shiny, leading a little indie folk rock-style sing-a-long on the deck of the Magus. It’s seriously out of place, but Joe Anderson has a nice voice, so I went with it. The warm fuzzies come to an abrupt end, however, when they discover Jonas’ body hanging in a tree.

At first, Jonas appears to be fairly newly dead, but all of a sudden, he starts breathing and moving again. He is most definitely alive, although not in very good shape. Lincoln does his best to treat Jonas’ many ailments, such as malaria, dehydration, and infections. While this is happening, we learn a little more about Jonas by seeing his audition video and interview. He appears to have been quite the daredevil- his audition tape involved jumping off the roof of a building into a swimming pool. The actual interview was a lot of showing off scars to impress/flirt with Lena, who we later learn actually hired Jonas. Cleary there’s a bit of a connection between Lena and Jonas, which means there’s going to be another love triangle and a disturbance in Lena and Lincoln’s happy folk roc paradise. We also get a little hint of what Jonas did to end up in the tree, courtesy of some found footage. The Magus came upon the funeral of an Amazon elder, and Emmet tells Jonas to stop filming it. Jonas is determined to win a Peabody, however, so he starts filming the funeral with his cell phone.

Elsewhere on the Magus, there are several arguments going on. In the engine room, Emilio and Jahel are arguing about something in Spanish, and Clark and A.J. are watching this on the monitor. Later, we learn that Jahel was saying that Jonas is El Colgado, the Hanging Man, and they need to get rid of him or the ship will be cursed. A storm is brewing, and Jahel thinks it’s because of Jonas. Lincoln and Tess are also arguing about Jonas, but their argument is whether or not they should backtrack to get Jonas some medical attention. Lincoln feels a moral obligation to help Jonas, but Tess thinks it will take too much time away from the search for Emmet. They don’t have a chance to finish the argument, though, because dead birds start falling from the sky. Seriously gross stuff.

Inside the Magus, Jonas is conscious again. He stumbles his way into the editing room, and he steals a tape with some important footage related to what happened after he filmed the funeral. Lincoln finds Jonas in the editing room, but he doesn’t know about the stealing. He’s mostly concerned with Jonas’ health. He leads Jonas into the main cabin, and Jonas’ reunion with Lena (which involves a big hug) is a little too comfortable for Lincoln’s taste. Jonas is surprised to see that there is a completely new crew aboard the Magus. He didn’t realize that his crew had all gone missing. Tess tries grilling him about where Emmet went, but Jonas genuinely knows nothing. The storm’s still brewing, so everybody naturally wants to go outside and check it out. That’s just as brilliant as that time in grad school when tornado sirens were going off all over campus and I got to my school’s building to find my classmates outside looking for the damn tornado. Anyway, the dark cloud that is approaching the Magus isn’t the storm. It’s a swarm of locusts.

When the locusts approach, everyone rushes back inside the Magus. Jonas is in trouble, though, and he collapses. He’s overdosed on the quinine Kurt insisted they give him for malaria. So Lincoln is once again occupied with trying to treat Jonas. Tess decides to get Jonas’ phone that she found and check it for clues. To make her point about what she thinks is behind all of this, Jahel has Lincoln draw from what looks like a deck of tarot cards. Every time he draws a card, it says “El Colgado.” In the editing room, Clark shows Tess the footage from Jonas’ phone (of the funeral), while back in the main cabin, Kurt tells the story of the Condemned Man who was cursed to hang from a noose while still alive for all eternity. Clark barges back into the main cabin and gets the stolen footage back from Jonas. It shows Emmet leaving Jonas in the noose where the current Magus crew found him.

After learning the whole El Colgado story, the Magus crew starts voting for whether or not to leave Jonas behind and ditch his cursed ass. Lincoln is the only voice really against abandoning Jonas. I guess moral to a fault is Lincoln’s defining characteristic. Tess is slightly hesitant to vote in favor of abandoning Jonas, but then she asks Jonas what he knows about Emmet’s disappearance. Jonas says that Emmet was looking for the source of all magic (aka the Source), but Tess doesn’t think that’s enough info. She orders him off “her” ship. Jonas goes back outside and stops on his cell phone, trying to destroy it. Then he gets in the noose and starts screaming an apology to the spirits. The soul of the elder escapes from Jonas’ cell phone, and all of a sudden the storm stops and Jonas is freed from the noose. Once the Magus has been cleaned up, Clarke gives Jonas a job as his new number 2 cameraman. Lincoln and Tess watch the video of Emmet abandoning Jonas again, but this time they see that that footage is followed by a lengthy apology video from Emmet. The apology makes them even more determined to find Emmet.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summer TV Rewind: Downton Abbey 1.04

“Women like me don’t have a life. We choose clothes and pay calls and work for charity and do the season. But, really, we’re stuck in a waiting room until we marry.”

The fourth episode of “Downton Abbey” largely continues the plots that began in the earlier episodes. Some time has passed since the Mr. Pamuk incident, and life at Downton has largely returned to normal. Also, Matthew and Isobel appear to be more comfortably ensconced in the life of the village and the Crawley family. All of the relationships between the characters seem to have deepened. Beyond the continuation of already existing plots, we also get a lovely little side plot about Mrs. Hughes that reminds me very much of one of my favorite books, “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro. That novel tells the story of a butler near the end of the age of the great British manor houses and the complicated relationship he had with the housekeeper. It’s interesting to stop and think of the personal cost these individuals paid to go into service. Both Mary and Mrs. Hughes have marriage on their mind in this episode, but the consequences of each potentially accepting a proposal is vastly different. For Mary, it would be simply continuing in the life she is supposed to live. It would be a happy occasion. For Mrs. Hughes, it would mean giving up everything she has known during her adult life. And I think that contrast really shows the value of watching both the upstairs and downstairs characters as they go about their lives.

A fair has come to Downton, which has the Crawleys and their staff all excited. The fair provides a backdrop for many interesting scenes throughout the episode, such as an especially poignant conversation with Matthew and Mary and Mrs. Huges pseudo-date with her childhood sweetheart. The other big news at the beginning of this episode is that the Crawleys have a new chauffeur. For those of who have already watched “Downton Abbey,” you know that this is Branson, the Irish Socialist who takes a liking to the youngest Crawley daughter, Sybil. In this episode, he gives Sybil pamphlets about women’s suffrage and smiles as she models a sort of Arabian pants outfit for the family at the end of the episode. Anyway, the servants all want to go toe the fair after supper, and footman William especially wants to go to the fair with scullery maid Daisy. As soon as Thomas realizes this, he asks Daisy to the fair himself. Just because he wants to be an ass to William. He doesn’t care that Daisy, who has a rather girly crush on Thomas, will be hurt too. Can you tell I am not at all a fan of Thomas. Mrs. Patmore tries to explain to Daisy that Thomas is gay, but Daisy doesn’t understand. Speaking of servants behaving badly, Thomas’ dastardly partner-in-crime, O’Brien, is quite a pistol in this episode, too. Mrs. Hughes asks her to keep an eye on the three younger maids since she wants to go to the fair and Anna is in bed with a bad cold. How dare Mrs. Hughes actually expect O’Brien to do any actual work!

Another major plot thread which ends up sort of intersecting with the fair is that the Dowager Countess is still bound and determined to get the entail broken and Cora’s money awarded to Mary. She decides to ask Matthew to look into the situation, I guess because she thinks he’s honorable, even if he does have a direct stake in the matter. I think that this is one of my favorite scenes of the series because the Dowager Countess is so out of her element in Matthew’s office, and Maggie Smith plays it extremely well. Her befuddlement at Matthew’s swivel chair is especially entertaining. Anyway, Matthew agrees to look into the entail, although, to Violet’s chagrin, his conclusion is the same as the other lawyers the Crawleys have consulted. Matthew and Mary talk about “the great matter” at the fair, and Mary explains why she’s just generally so dissatisfied with her life. Her path is already set for her. She’s supposed to marry and run a great house. Later, Matthew stops by Downton to tell Robert that he doesn’t think the entail can be broken, and Carson accidentally ruins his plan to not have to tell the Dowager Countess.

The Dowager Countess does get a bit of a win, however, in a more minor plot in this episode. Early on in the episode, Isobel notices that Mr. Moasley appears to have a painful rash on his hands. She immediately diagnoses it as some incurable disease, and she wants to take him over to the hospital to get treated. Dr. Clarkson isn’t around, so she cooks up a remedy (only to relieve the symptoms, not actually cure the infection) on her own. Mr. Moasley’s hands aren’t getting any better, though, so he ends up back at the hospital at a time when Violet happens to be there. Violet correctly diagnoses the rash as an allergy to a plant Mr. Moasley was removing from his mother’s garden. Violet loves the fact that she can lord her superior knowledge of village happenings over Isobel.

In other Crawley news, Matthew and Robert are overseeing the renovation of some of the cottages on the estate, and Matthew mentions that he’s starting to see a future at Downton now. The subtext being that since Mary’s finally giving him the time of day, it might not be so bad to stick around. I thought it was kind of sweet, but I’m a big Mary/Matthew fan. Mostly because they’re both miserable when they aren’t together, and the misery gets old. Anyway, back at the house, Robert is gushing to the rest of the family about how happy he is that Matthew is finally really taking an interest in becoming Earl of Grantham and all it entails, and Mary has to go excuse herself for a good cry. Cora tries to comfort her, but she just gets subjected to Mary throwing a huge fit.

My favorite plot of this episode was the “Remains of the Day”-like Mrs. Hughes plot that I mentioned earlier. The farmer she was dating before she started working at Downton has become a widower, and he has written Mrs. Hughes asking to see her again. They have a lovely time at the fair, which is quite sweet, and eventually the farmer asks Mrs. Hughes to marry him. This is actually the second time he has proposed to her. The first was before she left for Downton. Mrs. Hughes does briefly consider saying yes, but after a day of having to put out fires among the staff at Downton, she realizes just how much they all need her, and she decides to stay. I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad about that.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Newsroom 1.03: "112th Congress"

“The newsroom turned into a court room, Reese, because I made the decision that American voters need a fucking lawyer.”

I have seriously got to stop reading coverage of “The Newsroom.” The doom and gloom from the “real” critics who have been fortunate enough to receive screeners and have panned the show up one side and down the other make me dread every episode because they’ve assured me in their writing that it’s so horrible. I actually kind of loved this episode, though. I’m a sucker for that feeling only Sorkin can create. It’s a mix of warm found family with impeccable competence. I think I really have Sorkin and watching The West Wing as a tween/teen to thank for the direction in which my life (outside of blogging) has gone. I work in an office where people really do walk and talk! It never fails to amuse me. The one major criticism I have of this episode, however, is that it was kind of trying to fit ten pounds of plot in a five pound bag. It covered the entire final six months of the 2010 election cycle, I understand Sorkin wanting to fast forward to a competent, harmonious workplace, but I think there was a lot of material in this episode that could have been mined in much more detail throughout the course of the entire season. I would have ended the season with election night 2010, personally.

The framing device of the episode is a meeting Charlie is having with Atlantis World Media (AWM) top brass, primarily CEO Leona, played by Jane Fonda, and her hack son Reese. They’re very upset about what’s been going on at News Night, and showing us what happened during the final six months of election coverage explains why. It all starts in May, 2010, when will gives a big, dramatic apology on the air. He’s essentially apologizing for having been a hack, and he promises to report the actual important news going forward. We see the various News Night staffers as they receive an early draft of the apology from Will, most by e-mail or on their smart phones, although it appears that Jim has a fax machine by his bed, which is just plain odd. Anyway, the staff are all invigorated by what Will sent, and they all rush into the office to help him punch it up. Don’s pretty grumbly about it, though. He’s kind of jealous that Maggie gets to work on a meaningful show while he’s producing safe crap. Will and Mackenzie try to encourage him to join the real news revolution, but Don declines because he’s worried that he will lose his job if he doesn’t bring eyes to 10:00.

AWN dissatisfaction increases when News Night doesn’t play into the Times Square bomber hysteria like every other news outlet. The team decides to only devote three minutes to it in one of their shows, and to make matters worse (from the network exec perspective), they even mention that the person who reported the bomber was Muslim. The AWN powers that be are even more unhappy when Will has a big “epiphany” about the Tea Party. He compares it to some Vietnam-related political maneuvering that happened in the 1960’s, and he thinks it’s extremely dangerous. He wants this co-opting of his political party to stop, and he’s determined to make Tea Party craziness the top story on News Night every night until the Tea Party no longer has power. We then get a few scenes that are supposed to be spaced out over the next few months of Will humiliating Tea Party-types left and right. And he’s not just humiliating them, he’s showing how this supposedly grassroots movement is actually controlled by the Koch Brothers and the rank and file don’t even know it.

Will doesn’t just turn his ire on the Tea Party, however. He also goes after Senator DeMint (in the form of verbally sparring with the Senator’s PR flack) for a homophobic comment. When the AWM brass take Charlie to task for all this, it’s an opportunity to learn more about Will, although I’m not sure if I liked what we learned. Apparently, before he became a news anchor, Will was a law school prodigy and a Brooklyn prosecutor. He’s just so selfless, that Will. Other than his temper (which seems to have abated), I’d really like to learn something negative about Will just to make him a more well-rounded character. Anyway, the AWM folks are really upset about all of this, because it’s making political types upset. Reese mentions that he and his mother aren’t invited to all the parties that they used to be. Poor baby. Charlie gets through that part of the meeting (and much of the rest of the meeting for that matter) by, predictably, drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

There are also silly trying-to-be-romantic-comedy-but-kinda-failing plots woven throughout the episode. First, we see that Will has a sort of parade of girlfriends throughout these six months. There’s the Jets head cheerleader, a neurosurgeon, and many others. Mackenzie, of course, acts incredibly stupid and catty whenever one of these women makes an appearance. The tables turn on Election Night, however, when Mackenzie brings her own boyfriend of several months to the studio to see how the show is made (and make Will jealous, too, I imagine). She really parades him around- it’s kind of crass and reminds me of how Dana’s long term boyfriend Gordon was written on “Sports Night.” The obvious romantic obstacle.

There’s also the ongoing Jim/Maggie/Don triangle of doom. I call it a triangle of doom (a term I used to only reserve for the Jack/Kate/Sawyer/Juliet mess on “Lost”) because Jim is so obviously supposed to be the good guy and Don is so obviously supposed to be a gigantic douche. It’s really not subtle at all. The one good thing about this plot in this episode is that we get some awesome Jim/Neal moments and banter and Neal tries to encourage Jim to pursue a relationship with Maggie. It starts with Neal and Jim discussing Wikileaks at the usual bar. Neal likes it and Jim doesn’t. Maggie walks in, Jim smiles at her, and Maggie makes a bee line right for Don. Who is, as always, kind of gross. Later, during a rundown meeting, Maggie has a panic attack and ends up out on a balcony hyperventilating. Jim, using his awesome former embedded reporter skills, talks her through it using way more words than necessary. As you do when your dialogue is written by Aaron Sorkin. It’s both kind of sweet and patronizing at the same time. We see Neal and Jim back in the bar, and Neal tells Jim that Maggie and Don have broken up again. Apparently this is a semi-regular occurrence. This time it seems to be sticking, though. And of course Jim gets this news within days of telling Maggie that she should pursue something serious with Don. There’s a funny bit about Jim voting against his own interest in there somewhere.

Fast forward to Election Night 2010. The Tea Party is winning like crazy, and ACN has put together a panel of their TV personalities to provide analysis. Sloan and Will are the only panelists saying anything interesting. The 10:00 guy that Don works for is being especially tool-ish. Don tries to get him to say more and produce more substance, I guess because he’s jealous that his former coworkers get to make such an “important” show, but he just gets yelled at by his boss for his trouble. Sloan mentions to Will that the election results could mean trouble the next time Congress needs to vote to raise the debt ceiling. Will starts trying to brush it off assuming that you know, Americans would realize that raising the debt ceiling doesn’t authorize new spending, it just makes it so we can keep paying the bills we’ve already racked up, and then he realizes that yes, the American public is indeed stupid enough to equate raising the debt ceiling with new spending. He tries to question a newly-elected Tea Partier about it, and his and Sloan’s fears are confirmed.

After the show, Jim’s going around congratulating everybody. He’s about to try and talk with Maggie, but she’s back with Don again in a major way. All I could think about with that scene was “eww.” The Jim/Neal banter is what made it watchable. Most of the staff (minus Maggie and Mackenie) meet at the bar after the show, and we have a lovely found family moment where they enjoy a toast. Up on the top floor, however, Charlie’s still fighting for the show’s survival. After remaining silent for most of the episode, Leona finally gets her say. And it isn’t pretty. She has to do business with all of the soon-to-be Congressmen Will just spent a couple hours insulting, and she’s not happy about it. Charlie tries to lecture her about the sanctity of pure news, but Leona’s not having it. Will’s going to have to tone it own, or she’s going to fire him.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer DVR Dump: The River 1.03: "Los Ciegos"

“We're not here to drill for oil. We're not clear-cutting the forest. We're just trying to make a TV show, okay?”

“Los Ciegos” definitely felt creepier to me than the last installment of “The River,” probably because I hate bugs. Especially creepy crawly bugs with more legs than you can count. So in that sense, I feel this episode was more successful. I am beginning to question, however (and clearly this is a question ABC execs had too, since the show was cancelled) how you can sustain the “horror movie situation of the week” model the show seems to be trying to develop. I’m already starting to question why these people would still be on this expedition, and it’s only been three episodes. Sure, we know Lincoln loves his dad and feels like his dad was taken away from him, and we know that Tess and Clark feel guilty for betraying Emmet romantically, but seriously! After the third near-death (and sometimes actual death) encounter with the supernatural, I’d be out of there, no matter what other feelings were at play. If it’s that hard to believe they’d still be at it after three episodes, imagine how it would be after three seasons! Some supernatural encounters are obviously going to be more intense than others, but after this episodes, I really don’t know how they keep going for even one more episode let alone the five more that are actually left.

As per usual, the episode opens with a clip from “The Undiscovered Country.” This time, Emmet is talking about sharks, particularly about how they will turn on each other, even turn on their brother. This appears to be a not-so-thinly veiled reference to how Clark, Emmet’s close friend, had a romantic relationship with Tess, Emmet’s wife. Making this connection even clearer, we next see Clark in the present, watching footage of Tess on the Magus video monitor. Clark quickly changes the feed when Lincoln enters the room. Lincoln informs Clark that they have a new location to search for Emmet. There’s a cave that apparently shows up on a lot of the archival video Lena has been watching. It’s a bit of a hike to get there, but it seems promising, so Clark agrees that their next move should be to check it out.

At the cave, the team sees a drawing of what looks like an eye. This freaks out Jahel, who as the guru on all things supernatural in the Amazon, informs the team that the eye is the mark of the Morcegos, some seriously nasty tribal spirits. The team decides to check out the cave anyway. Except for A.J., that is. A.J. was once seriously injured in a mining accident, so he can’t take enclosed underground spaces like caves, and I really don’t blame him. Inside the cave, the team finds a decomposed body that looks like its eyes were removed. Then they start hearing a high-pitched screeching. Not surprisingly, the sound comes from bats. The team runs out of the cave as quickly as they can, but they’re still quite covered in bat guano by the time they make it back to A.J. A.J. thinks that’s quite hilarious, and he’s probably even happier that he didn’t accompany the team into the cave. It’s time to make camp, and as they’re sitting around, Lena cuts Lincoln’s hair. It’s necessary to remove the bat guano, but it has the added bonus of making Lincoln look a lot less sketchy.

Everyone goes to sleep, but the next morning, A.J. sees that the eye mark has been drawn in front of every tent but his. He wakes everyone up because the marks all over the place are seriously creepy. Emilio, however, is missing. After a quick search, the team finds him sitting in the jungle. There’s just one complication- he has gone blind. Jahel believes that the Morcegos are responsible for Emilio’s condition. The team has invaded the Morcegos’ sacred tribal lands, and Jahel warns the team that they are being judged. Once they get this news, the team decides to stand around in the jungle as they ponder their next move. All of a sudden, they hear a rustling noise. Freaked out, Clark shoots, and it turns out that he shoots a boar. This doesn’t seem to count in the team’s favor if they are being judged, so they head back to the Magus as quickly as possible.

Tess goes blind almost as soon as the team returns to the Magus. Lena and Clark start researching their predicament, trying to see if Emmet mentioned anything about the blindness in his journals or on the archival footage. While he’s scanning footage for information, Clark goes blind as well. He and Tess meet up in the hallway, and Tess makes a comment about sight that seems to have romantic overtones. Clark interprets this as being about himself, so he tries to give Tess a hug. Tess was actually talking about Emmet, though, much to Clark’s chagrin. Lincoln sees this moment, and it’s hard to know what he thinks of it at first. While Tess and Clark are having their moment, Jahel is trying to call for mayday. While she’s working the radio, however, she goes blind, too. Lena finds some information about a potential cure in the journals, and Lincoln says that he and Kurt will go search for it. Kurt, however, is quite busy guarding the Magus, and he accidentally (we think) stabs Clark when he gets freaked out by a noise. The fact that a boar’s head is floating in the water doesn’t help matters.

Lincoln stitches up Clark, but the injury isn’t minor. Lincoln is going to be needed on the Magus to tend to Clark, so the new cure search party is going to be Lena, Kurt, and A.J. As this plan is worked up, we see a creepy zombie-like creature peek into the boat. One of the Morcegos, no doubt, and he’s on the hunt. After the expedition party leaves, Clark’s condition worsens. He coughs too much and rips his stitches. Jahel has to go get some more fishing line, and Tess and Emilio go searching for her when she doesn’t come back right way. Lincoln rather stupidly chooses that moment to ask Clark about his relationship with Tess. Clark doesn’t really say much, since he’s in a lot of pain. He does say that the relationship didn’t start until after Tess and Emmet were separated. Meanwhile, Jahel finds the fishing line, but she senses that the Morcegos have found the boat. She yells for everyone to close all the doors so the Morcegos can’t get inside.

In the jungle, A.J. and Kurt get into a bit of a fight over A.J.’s dedication to the cause. Before they can really get into it, though, Lena senses the Morcegos coming, and she tells everyone to run. They run alright, and they fall into a ditch with some centipedes. It’s rather horrifying, but they can’t scream because the Morcegos are right nearby looking for them. This was probably the part of the episode that creeped me out the most. Once the immediate Morcegos threat has passed, A.J. realizes that Kurt has gone blind and forces Kurt to admit it. Lena also is forced to admit that her vision is starting to go. A.J. leaves them, saying that when he finds a nice eco hotel, he’ll send a helicopter. I’m not quite sure why the writers are going so out of their way to make A.J. unlikeable here. I think I could have found his arc in this episode interesting without them going quite so far to set it up.

Anyway, back on the Magus, Lincoln is looking for suture line since Jahel still isn’t back (she’s barricaded in a different room because of the Morcegos). Lincoln can’t find any line, so he tells Clark that he’s going to have to cauterize the wound instead. There’s just one small problem. Lincoln has gone blind now too. Lincoln somehow manages to cauterize successfully without any vision, but the Morcegos are still moving in on the Magus, and it’s not going to be pretty if they aren’t stopped soon. Meanwhile, A.J. is tromping through the jungle imagining the plush hotel he is going to find when he finds the santito tree under which the journal said the cure could be found (the cure is a bulb of some sort). A.J. is understandably pissed to find out that “under the santito tree” is literal. There’s a tiny cave under the tree that he’s going to need to enter to get to the bulbs. Despite his phobia, A.J.’s conscience takes over, and he enters the cave. Right after he gathers some bulbs, a cave-in starts. Pretty much A.J.’s worst nightmare.

Back on the Magus, the Morcegos are still closing in, and Clark decides to take matters into his own hands. He stumbles out into the hallway and starts yelling about how the invasion of the sacred tribal lands is his fault, and everybody else just went along with it because they wanted to find their family member. He begs the Morcegos to take him and spare everyone else. I guess the Morcegos are impressed by Clark’s willingness to self-sacrifice, because they back off. They also pull A.J. out of the cave-in. A.J. returns to Kurt and Lena just as Kurt is telling his handlers that the crew should be dead in a few days without finding the Source, and he needs an extraction. He’s speaking in Russian, though, so nobody knows this is what Kurt is saying. And Kurt does a pretty good job of not looking disappointed when A.J. shows up with the cure. They return to the Magus, where everyone gets the treatment and can see again. At the end of the episode, Clark watches dejectedly as Lincoln tells Tess that it’s okay if she moves on from Emmet when all of this is over, but Tess replies that she just wants her family back. Kurt interrupts Clark’s funk by apologizing to Clark for stabbing him. Clark doesn’t accept the apology. Presumably he’s going to be surly until Tess changes her mind.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summer TV Rewind: Sherlock 1.03: "The Great Game"

“Take this as a friendly warning, my dear. Back off. Although, I have loved this, this little game of ours.”
- James Moriarty

We’ve reached the finale of series 1. I know it seems like three episode isn’t enough. Don’t worry; you’ll be getting recaps of series 2 courtesy of Jen very soon. We begin our final episode in Belarus in a prison. Sherlock is listening to a man explain what he did to end up there. He killed his girlfriend after he flirted with a waitress and she nagged him about. Sherlock isn’t interested. I have to say when he first spoke in this episode, he sounded exactly like Alan Rickman as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films. Next we see him, he’s in his bathrobe utterly bored and shooting at the wall in Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson won’t like that. John’s not overly fond of it either, nor of the severed head he’s just discovered in the fridge. But good news for his therapy, he’s written his first blog entry about the cabbie from episode 1. Sherlock didn’t like it though. They get into a somewhat heated argument over the fact that Sherlock doesn’t know the Earth revolves around the sun and John storms off, ending up at Sarah’s place for the night. Just after Mrs. Hudson chastises Sherlock about the wall, an explosion rocks the neighborhood and blows out the windows in the flat. John sees it the next morning on the news and races off. He finds Sherlock quite calmly sitting in the flat, plucking his violin and ignoring Mycroft. Apparently, Mycroft needs Sherlock’s help on a case of national security.

A man was murdered on the train tracks and Mycroft thinks he had a flash drive with sensitive data on it. Sherlock’s not interested. He gets distracted by Lestrad calling about a package found after the explosion. It was actually a bomb, not a gas leak like the news reports said. Inside the package is what he is supposed to believe is the phone from the first case but it’s not. It has a voice message with 5 beeps and a photo of a room. Sherlock immediately recognizes it as the downstairs flat at Baker Street, where they find a pair of sneakers. The pink phone rings just as Sherlock bends down to inspect them and a woman tells him that it’s a puzzle and Sherlock only has 12 hours to solve it or the woman dies. So Sherlock takes the shoes back to the lab at the hospital and is running analysis of the soles of the shoes when Molly shows up with her new boyfriend, Jim from IT. Jim seems rather taken with Sherlock and with a bit of sleight of hand leaves his number under a tray. Sherlock profiles him as gay and Molly storms off all upset. Sherlock tells John to examine the shoes and tell him what he sees. John gets a lot of information from just looking at the shoes, such as they were worn by a child and they were well loved. Sherlock adds in that the boy came to London from somewhere else and that something bad probably happened because he wouldn’t leave the shoes behind.

In the car on the way back to the flat, Sherlock has a breakthrough. The shoes belonged to a boy named Carl Powers who drowned in 1989. Sherlock remembered being intrigued by the case because the shoes weren’t found in the boy’s locker with the rest of his belongings. As Sherlock focuses in on the case, he sends John off to deal with Mycroft and the national security case. The big question there is how the victim got from his home to the train tracks without using thee train or other transportation. When John gets home, Sherlock’s cracked it. Carl was poisoned through his eczema medication. He posts the findings on his website and gets another call from the hostage, saying he’d solved it and gave the address of where she was. There isn’t much time to celebrate though because Sherlock gets another message and another photo. And another phone call giving him 8 hours to solve the new mystery. A business man’s gone missing. His wife provides a few helpful clues. He was depressed and since he hadn’t renewed the tax on their car, he had to hire one to get around. Sherlock and John are off to the car rental agency. Sherlock does a bit of deducing and discovers the rental agent is lying. He’s in the middle of examining the blood found in the car when the bomber calls him to give him a clue. With it, he solves the case. The businessman wanted out of financial trouble and so went to the car company who helped him get out of the country. The wife was in on it and collected the insurance money.

John and Sherlock manage to grab a quick bite to eat for breakfast when the next case comes in. A TV personality was found dead two days ago. Sherlock goes to the morgue to examine the body. Autopsy revealed that she died of tetanus but the cut on her hand (which the gardener said was the cause of the infection) is clean. Sherlock notes a couple of scratches on her arm and some injection points in her forehead. At least point, I think the infection came from either the scratches or her Botox injections. John goes to meet her brother and is accosted by the cat (hello cause of the scratch marks). Back at Baker Street, Sherlock is going over photos and checking out videos of the victim. The bomber calls again to tell him he has three hours. John calls with news. He thinks he’s figured it out and needs Sherlock to come be a distraction. John thinks it was the cat that infected her. Sherlock says it was the Botox injections. Apparently, the victim was going to disinherit her brother (the house boy’s employer) and so the house boy took her out. Unfortunately, when the bomber’s latest hostage calls back to get rescued, she makes the mistake of starting to describe the bomber’s voice. Another explosion happens and kills twelve people.

Sherlock is getting a little antsy that the bomber hasn’t called back with a new puzzle until finally he gets a picture of the river. He and John are off to investigate and after some deductions and some fact checking on his phone, Sherlock explains the victim was a gallery attendant and was killed by a Czech assassin. He thinks it’s related to a painting that was supposedly lost but then recently found. Sherlock deduces the painting is a fake and he and John grab a cab. Sherlock makes a stop to give a homeless woman some money and note and then he’s off to the gallery. He sends John to investigate the gallery attendant. John finds out that the attendant was an amateur astronomer and had gotten a message from a Professor Cannes the night he died. He also gets a text from Mycroft about the national security case. So John pops off to talk to the dead guy’s fiancée. She says that her fiancé was a good guy and wouldn’t betray his country to pay off debts. As John is leaving, he runs into her brother who is not happy with the level of police investigation. There’s something fishy about him.

Sherlock impersonate an attendant at the gallery and tells the curator that the paining is fake before disappearing. He and John later meet up and apparently he asked the homeless woman where to find the Czech assassin. They get to the tunnel where he’s hiding but don’t catch him. John has an idea of where the assassin is going. They can’t save the professor and they don’t stop the assassin from getting away. But the visit to the planetarium does hold the key to proving the painting is a fraud. Sherlock solves it with only a second left but the bomber’s latest hostage, a child, is safe. And Sherlock and John manage to solve the national security case, too. Sherlock’s been following John on it since the start. It was the brother. He got deep into dealing drugs and thought stealing the flash drive would fetch him some cash to pay off some debts. He didn’t mean to kill his future brother-in-law. Back at Baker Street, Sherlock is watching crap reality shows and John heads off for a night with Sarah. Sherlock is clearly growing antsy. He’s not had any contact from the bomber. So he sends a message. He wants to meet to exchange the flash drive (he’s already given the real one back to Mycroft) at a pool at midnight. He gets there and waiting for the bomber to reveal himself when John walks in wearing a big parka. I have to admit, the very first time I watched this episode, I couldn’t believe John was the bomber. Luckily, my first instinct was incorrect. In short order, Moriarty materializes and it’s Jim from IT. He’s quite pleased with himself for luring Sherlock out. But after some witty genius banter that probably passing for some type of flirting for him is over, he promises to burn Sherlock one day (foreshadowing much?) and leaves. Sherlock has enough time to rip the parka (and the bomb) off John before Moriarty reappears and says he was kidding. He’s going to kill Sherlock and John now. Sherlock has other plans. He spins around and points his gun at the bomb on the ground and then we cut to black. What a way to leave the first series. I hope they knew they’d be back for series 2 at that point.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer TV Rewind: Downton Abbey 1.03

“Everything seems so golden one minute, then turns to ashes the next.”

So while I think that, in general, “Downton Abbey” might have benefitted from slowing down the pace a bit and not trying to cover multiple years of history per season, I will say that there is always something new in every episode, and I definitely appreciate that. In this episode, it was Bates trying something really stupid to fix his limp and Mary entertaining a visit from a couple of suitors (and Matthew joining the fray as well, which was rather amusing). I think this episode in particular really has the greatest effect on the series going forward. Mary’s actions in this episode have consequences that are still felt in the second season finale/Christmas special. So yeah, while some of the stuff in this episode was, admittedly, some of the more far-fetched, soapy stuff the show has done, I liked how it advanced the plot and affected so many characters. And we got to see a little more of Sybil’s personality, too, even if it was in a sort of tangential way. Character development is always welcome for sure. Mostly this episode, like the rewatch in general, is reminding me how good the first season was overall. This is crack television.

Given the big upstairs-related event that happens in this episode, the downstairs plot coverage is slightly less than the usual. One of the two downstairs plots involves Gwen, a maid who appears to be Anna’s roommate. Anna is trying to clear off the top of the dresser in their room, and she really wants to know what is in the heavy case Gwen has placed up there. Gwen reveals that it’s a typewriter. She’s been taking correspondence courses in secretarial skills like short hand and typing, and it’s her dream to leave service and become a secretary. She hasn’t revealed this dream before because she’s afraid it might offend her coworkers who think working in service is a noble calling. Anna seems to approve of Gwen’s ambition, and she helps her try to hide the typewriter when O’Brien comes nosing around. O’Brien, of course, reports to Carson and Mrs. Hughes that Gwen has a suspicious package, and when they find out it’s a typewriter, the staff is all quite confused. They don’t understand why Gwen would want to be a secretary, and even worse, they don’t think she would succeed because it’s above her station in life. Sybil takes an interest, however, and she both finds a want ad for a secretary and offers to serve as reference for Gwen.

Mr. Bates is also trying to keep a secret from the rest of the staff in this episode. He visits a kind of shady shopkeeper who makes prosthetics and advertised a limp corrector. It’s a ghastly sort of metal and wooden leg brace. Bates is rather desperate to diminish his limp, however, so he spends all of his savings to buy it. To say that the limp corrector is a disaster for Bates would be an understatement. He’s constantly doubling over in pain, and the rest of the staff are noticing. Eventually, after a particularly bad episode, Mrs. Hughes demands to look at the leg, and what she sees is horrifying. Bates’ leg is all bloody. I was having trouble figuring out if the brace was supposed to screw into his leg or if the wounds were caused from the metal constantly rubbing against his leg. I think it’s the latter. Anyway, there’s a nice scene near the end of the episode where Bates and Mrs. Hughes throw the limp corrector into the Downton lake, and Mrs. Hughes makes Bates promise never to try and cure himself again.

Most of the upstairs portion of the episode deals with Mary’s love life (which isn’t exactly surprising), however I found a bit that focused on Edith to be a bit more entertaining. Similar to how she felt about Patrick, the original heir, Edith seems determined to take Mary’s sloppy seconds. Since Mary doesn’t seem interested, she’s going after Matthew. She asks Matthew if he’d like to get to know his new town better by taking a tour of the area churches, and he happily agrees. Not because he really is interested in Edith, but because he really wants to see those churches. It’s quite hilarious that the poor boy doesn’t know what he’s in for! Although, actually, it’s Edith who gets more than she bargained for. Matthew is really, really enthusiastic about touring churches, but he’s not so enthusiastic about Edith. For some reason that isn’t quite explained, he’s suddenly hung up on Mary. Which I’m sure irritates Edith to no end, because this seems like something that has happened to her more than once.

And finally, the big events of the episode mostly involve Mary. Evelyn Napier, the son of some noble or other, is visiting Downton, presumably to spend some quality time with Mary, and he’s bringing a friend with him- a Turkish diplomat named Mr. Pamuk. The Dowager Countess and Cora are extremely happy that Mary seems to be taking an interest in someone of appropriate breeding who can give her the life to which she is accustomed. They plan a big hunt, and Mary is told she will ride out with Napier and Pamuk. All their plans turn on their head, however, when Mary develops more of an interest in Pamuk than Napier. It’s rather entertaining to watch the three men (Napier, Pamuk, and Matthew) stumble all over each other to vie for Mary’s attention. Mary seems most stuck on Pamuk, even though there would be no future in that (both of their families would seriously object.

Thomas is assigned to be Pamuk’s footman, and reading the signals wrong, he tries to get a bit too friendly with Pamuk. In exchange for telling no one what happened, Pamuk asks Thomas to show him to Mary’s room later that night. Thomas is only too happy to oblige. When confronted with Pamuk in her bedroom, Mary first objects a little, but they do end up having sex. Unfortunately, for Mary, however, Pamuk doesn’t survive the night. Mary frantically wakes up Anna, but the two of them aren’t strong enough to move the body. They have to include Cora as well. Unfortunately, Daisy glimpses the three women trying to drag the body across the house. She hasn’t said anything yet, but the fact that she saw can’t be good. The next morning, Thomas, bearing what looks like a Moroccan silver tea pot (I wonder when the Crawleys were in Africa?), finds Mr. Pamuk dead in his own bed. While the scandal of how Mr. Pamuk died is still not known to the general public, the death still rocks Downton to the core.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Newsroom 1.02: "News Night 2.0"

“We don’t do good television. We do the news!”

“News Night 2.0” didn’t nearly have the emotional punch of the series pilot, but I did get something I wished for in my last blog post about “The Newsroom.” The “News Night” crew screwed up big time. And how. I think that I the News Night crew was smarter than every other news crew and always reported each story perfectly, the show would be boring. I didn’t love the reason they screwed up on this one (flighty woman can’t be trusted to do the pre-interview without her past sex life being a problem), but I appreciated that they screwed up nonetheless. I just ask that when they screw up again, can it be Don’s fault? The news issue Sorkin attempted to tackle with this episode was Arizona’s SB 1070, aka the “show me your papers” immigration law that the Supreme Court only very partially upheld (for now…I could go all con law nerd on you and explain how they left the door open to completely kill the law later, but I don’t want to bore you) last week. Other critics have criticized Sorkin’s use of Tea Party caricatures in this plot, but that didn’t really bother me because the team acknowledged there was a much better argument that could have been presented, and the reason that argument wasn’t presented was because of a screw-up, not because they wanted to show their bias.

The episode opens with Will in what looks like his home office (although it’s quite a fancy home, especially for New York City). He’s going through files on all his staffers, which at first seems a little nefarious, but it turns out that he’s just trying to learn all their names. There’s construction going on in the building, and in a typical bit of Sorkin slapstick humor, a chunk of ceiling falls right smack in the middle of Will’s desk. This leads him to wander over to the News Night office, presumably earlier than he normally would. Mackenzie is prepping for the day’s rundown meeting, and Will interrupts her in her office for the oh so important purpose of making sure she tells nobody why they broke up. Way to have your priorities straight, Will. Then Will and Mackenzie disagree over whether the broadcast should lead with more news on the BP oil spill. Will thinks it should because it will get ratings, and Mackenzie thinks it shouldn’t because there are other stories that the public doesn’t know so much about yet. At the actual rundown meeting, Mackenzie is confused by the new office e-mail system and accidentally sends a stupid e-mail to the whole staff. Then she proceeds to knock down the white board. I found this whole sequence silly, and I was left wondering what happened to Mackenzie being the best executive producer out there. The main interviewee of this newscast, by the way, is supposed to be Arizona governor Jan Brewer.

Meanwhile, Charlie is taking a meeting with CAN’s ratings guru, who is telling Charlie how ratings for News Night have gone up since the Northwestern incident and the BP spill reporting. Charlie really doesn’t want the ratings guy to continue to have his regular meetings with Will because Will is a ratings whore (although Charlie objects to that term). Charlie is worried that if Will is too concerned about the ratings, he’s just going to keep riding the BP story and not try to make the broadcast better. Later, we see that Will keeps meeting with the ratings guy anyway. They have a big argument over whether or not to include footage of Sarah Palin talking stupidly about the BP spill in the broadcast. The ratings guy thinks it would energize Republican viewers if Will aired the footage and didn’t mock Palin for it, and Will thinks that would be blatant pandering (which it would be).

Backtracking back to the rundown meeting again, Neal and Will both want to bring a guest on the show who is an undocumented immigrant who had his Washington State drivers’ license taken away. Mackenzie vetoes this, however. I think it violates her “is this the best form of the argument” rule. After the meeting, Maggie is supposed to do the pre-interview with one of Jan Brewer’s staffers. Jim is supposed to supervise the pre-interview, and Maggie kind of resents that, even though she’s only been an Associate Producer for all of a week. They do a little rehearsal, and after a rather heated argument about how we as a country treat undocumented workers, Jim says she’s ready. It turns out, though, that Maggie wasn’t really ready. Jim stops by to check on her, and a dejected Maggie tells him that they lost Brewer and the whole Arizona Governor’s Office because she has a relationship with Brewer’s press representative in college. Now the ex has decided to stick it to Maggie by keeping News Night from interviewing anyone in the Governor’s Office. Maggie tells Jim about an incident where she had to hide under the bed while her ex had sex with his ex. It would be kind of hilarious if it wasn’t so patronizing. It doesn’t help that Jim claims he doesn’t know anyone else who would have hidden under the bed in that situation.

Next we head over to another ACN studio where a reporter named Sloan, played by Olivia Munn, is taping a business report. What follows is a horribly offensive conversation where Mackenzie recruits Sloan to do a five minute economics report for each broadcast of News Night because of her legs (and the fact that she has a PhD in economics, of course). Mackenzie thinks people will actually listen to her because of her looks. I can’t imagine any highly educated woman taking kindly to the way Mackenzie phrased her goals, but for some reason, Sloan just eats it up. Sloan does, however, imply that she thinks Will is an ass and must have cheated on Mackenzie to cause their breakup. For some reason, Mackenzie gets irrationally flustered at the thought that the staff might think Saint Will is responsible for the break-up. Will somebody please tell me why Sorkin is completely incapable of writing women characters? I love everything else about his writing, but this is freaking ridiculous!

The junior producers, including Maggie, whom I have now dubbed the Ducklings, tell Mackenzie about the new guests they have lined up to replace Jan Brewer. They’re all pretty caricature-ish, including a militia member and Miss Oklahoma. Regarding the latter, isn’t Sorkin over Kristen Chenoweth yet? It’s been a number of years, and I think he’s dating someone else now. Yet it still appears that he is take pot shots at her in his writing. It’s kind of sad, really. Mackenzie is horrified, but she doesn’t think Will will fire them. Because, you know, he’s not the monster everyone thinks he is. She sends an e-mail to Will telling him that everyone thinks he cheated on her, but she actually cheated on him, and of course, the e-mail accidentally goes to the entire staff. Remind me why “I can’t use e-mail” is even a plot in a show that takes place in 2010? Anyway, Will is absolutely furious about the e-mail, and he and Mackenzie get into a shouting match that moves into Will’s office. Mackenzie rattles off some drivel about how she didn’t realize she was in love with Will until she cheated on him with her ex, and Will is somewhat placated.

As Will sits at the anchor desk prepping for the show, Maggie approaches him and admits that losing Jan Brewer was her fault. She offers to resign, but Will says he hopes she doesn’t. I think Maggie had been getting frustrated by her superiors taking the blame for her mistake (which is something I’ve experienced in my first weeks at a new job, although I’m generally grateful for it myself). When Maggie leaves, Will asks another staffer for the Palin clip, probably hoping this can help the show recover from the mess that is about to happen on the pro-SB 1070 side of the show. Clearly this won’t end well. The anti-SB 1070 part of the show, which features someone from the Council of La Raza, goes very well, but the next segment, predictably, blows. It is horrible in a kind of funny way, though. Will has to basically state every pro-SB 1070 argument for his guests. They’re more interested in gun rights and beauty pageant rules. Then he breaks out the Palin clip, and Mackenzie gets really pissed off.

After the disaster of a show, Will goes to Charlie’s office to apologize. Charlie tells Will to ditch the ratings guy, but Will seems reluctant. Then Will gets in a big fight with Mackenzie, with Mackenzie being really pissed off that he added the Palin clip (and defended it poorly) without her. Mackenzie wants to know if Will is in or out with how she is trying to reboot the show. Will wants the rest of the staff to see how Mackenzie treats him, but they’ve all already gone to the bar to drown their sorrows. At the bar, Jim starts to approach Maggie to comfort her, but Don slides in before he has a chance. Predictably, Don is an ass, and he and Maggie decide to break up. It was a very short-lived hallelujah. After Don leaves, Jim and Maggie get in a fight about Jim covering for Maggie regarding Brewer-gate, and Maggie says she wants to go make up with Don. Because all women are flighty and stupid and only like assholes. At the other side of the bar, Mackenzie receives a phone call from Will saying he’s “in.” And thus ends the second installment of News Night Middle School.