Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Girl 3.13: "Birthday"

“Why did I think that I could bartend?” “Because you can. You are strong, and you are confident. Those are skills. Use them.”
-Cece and Schmidt

This is the first episode of “New Girl” where I really did not like Jess. At all. Jess has a lot of quirks, and I find most of them endearing. I’m a pretty quirky person myself, so who am I to judge? In this episode, however, the quirk goes way too far. Apparently Jess has extremely high expectations for what people will do to celebrate her birthday, and when those expectations aren’t met, she falls apart. She has taken to just going to the movies by herself on her birthday, because then there will be no expectations. Poor Nick is actually trying to plan a nice birthday for her, and Jess is fighting it and being incredibly ungrateful every step of the way. Sure, she’s happy by the end of the episode, but she should have been grateful for whatever Nick tried to do, really. The one bright spot of the episode was some Schmidt and Cece interaction. I don’t think they’ll be getting back together any time soon, but Schmidt helps Cece through some work problems, and it was really sweet. When Schmidt is the most likable character in an episode of “New Girl,” though, we’ve got a problem.

Anyway, like I already said (and you could probably tell from the title anyway), this episode is about Jess’ birthday. We learn through flashbacks that Jess always has obnoxiously high expectations for her birthdays. For instance, when Cece gives her a shirt that has “Made in China” on the tag, Jess immediately assumes Cece is taking her to China, and she gets a little upset when that isn’t the case. I guess Jess has realized that this isn’t normal, but she has chosen to deal with it by spending her birthday alone at the movie theater. That doesn’t seem healthy, either. Nick wants to try and buck this trend, though. He’s planning an awesome surprise birthday party for Jess, and he has enlisted the whole gang to help. Winston is on cake patrol, Coach is on decorations, and Cece is covering Nick’s shift at the bar. Schmidt ends up helping by keeping Cece from getting fired on that shift.

The Winston and Coach tiny subplot is kind of silly, so let’s just get that out of the way right now. Coach and Winston are both competitive athletes (probably because Winston was developed as a replacement for Coach when Daymon Wayans Jr. had to go back to “Happy Endings”), so they have issues sticking to their respective assigned tasks. Each wants to believe that their task is more important than the other. Then Winston screws up the cake (he picks up the wrong cake from the store). Coach wants to show Winston how cake-acquiring should be done, but Winston also doesn’t want Coach to walk all over him. They end up baking dueling cakes. Because they put both cake pans in the oven at the same time, the cakes merge, and it ends up making one big cake that the guys decorate to look sort of like Jess. Mostly this little subplot made me sad at how marginalized Winton and Coach are. I miss the Winston of season 1, where it seemed like they were really actually attempting to make him into a fully formed character.

Nick’s doing a relatively great job planning the surprise party (you know, considering he’s Nick), but he runs into one potentially huge snag. The rest of the gang reminds him that Jess is probably going to expect birthday festivities during the day as well (the party is supposed to start at 7). Nick is pretty chill about it. He figures Jess will probably want to sleep in (since that seems like the kind of thing people might do on their birthday), so he’ll only have to start entertaining her beginning at noon. He doesn’t realize quite how deep Jess’ birthday obsession goes, though. She has her alarm set for 7:00 AM, and she’s ready and raring to go. At first Nick thinks he can stretch out some of the things he has planned (making breakfast, sex, a nap), but Jess keeps foiling all his plans and giddily wanting to move on to the next thing. They go for a walk in the park, and Jess starts getting a little upset that there doesn’t seem to be any point to the walk (I think just taking a walk is nice, personally). Jess sees a birthday party set up in the park, and she immediately assumes it’s for her. Nick doesn’t want to upset Jess, so he goes with it. Everything comes crashing down, though, when a little girl appears and starts screaming about how the lady stole her birthday party. Jess runs off, sobbing. Back at the loft (between sobs) she admits to Coach and Winston that she’s partially upset at Nick for his lack of planning and partially upset at herself for not being more grateful. Still wasn’t enough to excuse her horrible behavior in my book, though.

So, it turns out that Cece isn’t very good at bartending. Because of this, the other bartender she has to work with during Nick’s shift is not happy at all. He takes every opportunity to demean Cece. At one point, he says that if she can’t prove she knows how to make an Old Fashioned, he’s going to report her to the owner. Luckily for Cece, Schmidt comes in with a save. He tells her how to make the drink, and it turns out perfectly. Schmidt’s help makes Cece’s night go smoothly until neither of them can figure out how to tap a keg. Cece tries to do what she remembers Nick explaining, but she ends up spraying beer all over the grumpy bartender. Cece starts feeling extra sorry for herself, and Schmidt gives her a rather epic pep talk, reminding her that her attitude can be an asset in her job, even if she still has to work on her technical skills. Cece takes that attitude and finishes the night strongly.

Jess ends up rushing off to the movie theater to have her traditional birthday instead, but this plays right into Nick’s hand. He had planned to have her surprise party at the theater. When she’s about to start watching the movie, a video from Nick comes on the screen instead. He had gotten all their friends and family to say nice things about Jess and wish her a happy birthday. Also, all their friends are right there in the theater. The video was cheesy as hell (and for some reason, Winston had no idea what to say in his shout-out), but Jess loves it. She finally stops acting like an ungrateful grump and thanks Nick. I’m wondering how Nick is possibly going to top this next year, though. He’s set a dangerous precedent!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Trophy Wife 1.13: "The Tooth Fairy"

“Mom didn’t want me to do yoga until her swami came back from his spirit journey.”

“The Tooth Fairy” was a kind of disjointed episode of “Trophy Wife” in the sense that it had three rather different plots going on at once. There was, at least, an overarching theme, which would be that the Harrison kids are growing up. Bert loses a tooth, Warren tries to flirt with a girl, and Hillary has her first high school sleep over. The Harrison parents all have to come to terms with the kids growing up, and the kids, especially Warren and Hillary, learn to appreciate their family just a bit more. While I appreciated the thematic ties, I will say that I just didn’t really find the episode all that funny. Pete and Jackie especially were acting rather immature and pathetic. It was kind of fun to see Kate and Warren team up, but I still didn’t really laugh all that much during the episode. When I watch a comedy, I’d like to laugh at least a little.

The episode opens on a Harrison family lunch at an Italian restaurant. While eating his pasta, Bert loses his tooth. Apparently it’s his first lost tooth, which makes Pete really excited. We learn later that Pete has a thing about body parts. He has a box in a drawer of all his kids’ lost teeth. I think this character trait is more gross than funny, really. The overall point Pete tries to make with Kate is that every parent has something where when they see there kid has achieved it, they get really emotional. For him, it just happens to be kids losing teeth. There’s just one problem on this particular occasion, though. Pete put Bert’s tooth in a napkin and put the napkin in their leftovers take-home bag. The pasta sauce from the leftovers seeped through the bag and made a “bag hole.” The tooth has been lost. Jackie’s on her way home from a meditation retreat to congratulate Bert and play tooth fairy, and Pete’s upset about the situation in his own right, so the tooth search begins in earnest, with Kate checking the car and Pete going back to the restaurant (where they think he’s a bit nuts, of course).

Meanwhile, Hillary is at her mom’s house for the evening, because she’s having a sleep over party for the student government girls at her high school. He wanted the party to be at Diane’s house because she thought it was classier. Diane certainly has a classy affair planned, with charcuterie and mulled cider (mulled cider is kind of awesome, by the way…we always have some in my family for Christmas). Since these girls “literally” run the school, Hillary thinks she needs to impress them, and pizza at Pete and Kate’s house just wouldn’t have cut it. Turns out, though, that student government girls are still teenage girls, so what they really want is pizza and a cheesy horror flick. Hillary tries to change herself immediately to fit in, which I found a little sad. Throughout the course of the episode, Diane also realizes that her presence is making the other girls mock Hillary, so she goes to read in her bedroom. Hillary feels bad that Diane can’t join in the fun, but Diane assures Hillary that this is her (Hillary’s) night, not Diane’s. It’s one of the few good parenting moments we’ve seen from Diane ever, really.

The Great Tooth Search is unsuccessful, so Pete and Kate try to pass off one of the other teeth in Pete’s collection as Berth’s tooth when Jackie arrives. Somehow, though, Jackie can instantly recognize it’s not Bert’s tooth just by smelling it. While she sort of salvages the situation by painting a popcorn kernel while and doing the while Tooth Fairy routine with that, she’s still really pissed off that Pete stole one of Bert’s “firsts” from her by losing the tooth. In retaliation, she lets Bert watch “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” (the only good Indiana Jones movie, in my opinion). Pete had planned to watch it with Bert on Bert’s tenth birthday. Pete continues the retaliation train by teaching Bert some yoga moves and sending a picture of it to Jackie. As you can tell from the Quote of the Episode, Jackie had very specific plans for how to teach Bert yoga. Kate finally gets Pete and Jackie to call off the war, but then she makes things even worse by mentioning that the “tooth” wasn’t real In front of Bert. Bert is then all worried about having cheated the Tooth Fairy. Pete and Jackie have to work together, first to try and find the tooth, then when that doesn’t work, to decide that they would use (yet another) of Hillary’s teeth as a stand-in and not tell Bert about it.

When she’s not trying to deal with the tooth related drama, Kate is kind of delighting in teaching Warren how to flirt. He gets a text from a girl named Ally that Kate interprets as flirting, and since Warren thinks Ally ticks all his boxes, Kate is only too happy to help him get the girl. She stops Warren every time he’s about to text something completely inappropriate or something that would make Ally think he wasn’t interested, and she coaches him on what to text instead. While Ally is over at the Harrison house to study math with Warren, Kate tries to talk up Warren to Ally. Which really just ends up being hilariously awkward and inappropriate (Kate talking up Warren makes it sound like Kate is into Warren, which she’s obviously not). Ally leaves her sweatshirt behind when she tries to escape the weirdness of Kate, and when Warren returns it, he gets his first kiss. This is the “proud parent” moment that makes Kate tear up. Of course, when he gets back to the car, Warren says that after the kiss, Ally told him that she’s gay. Warren’s still pretty happy about the first kiss achievement, though, as is Kate.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sleepy Hollow 1.12-1.13: "The Indispensable Man"/"Bad Blood"

“If using this map meant betraying your trust. That’s something I cannot do. For the world, for our friendship. You and I will choose our own destiny. We have free will. I choose to forge my fate with you.”
- Ichabod

The finale is finally upon us. I must admit I put off watching it as long as I could because I didn’t want to say goodbye (even temporarily) to our Witnesses and their world. We find Abbie getting home and leaving Ichabod a voicemail (yes our dear Crane has a phone). And she even gets a couple of texts back, including hilarious autocorrects. Abbie doesn’t have much time to muse over her partner’s techno problems because Andy shows up. He warns that Moloch is after Washington’s Bible because it leads to a map that could help Ichabod and Abbie. Andy begs her to give him the bible so he can have her soul spared, otherwise Moloch gets it through Ichabod. She basically tells him to get lost. Out at his cabin, Ichabod is pouring over the bible when he recalls Washington mentioning something to him in reference to the biblical story of Lazarus. Ichabod pours over the passage and finds ten extra verses that shouldn’t be there. Abbie arrives and he promptly complains that the phone he has is antiquated (it’s a flip phone so I totally understand his frustration). Abbie promises to get him a new one. It’s so damn adorable. He and Abbie discover it’s a message from our first President to Ichabod explaining that he’s created a map to Purgatory. Well hello Katrina!

Abbie and Ichabod continue their search and find a list of names of individuals who were present at Washington’s resurrection. One of them happens to be the poor Reverend who got beheaded in the pilot. Ichabod surmises that his prayer beads assisted and they call in Sin Eater Henry Parrish for an assist. I have to say, I’ve started watching Fringe and so now I appreciate John Noble’s performance on Sleepy Hollow so much more. While our Witnesses are getting ready to meet Henry, Irving is trying to dodge an investigation into what happened to the priest and other cop from last week. And Andy, pathetic thing that he is, begs Moloch to make him a weapon. And so our Big Bad infests Andy with locusts. Yuck. At the cemetery, our trio finds the prayer beads but things take a turn towards the hinky. Henry gets burned by the beads (a hex perhaps)? And he’s looking a bit worse for wear. He catches a few glimpses of Washington’s resurrection and the Reverend but that’s it. And then Ichabod and Abbie have a little heart to heart. Abbie is concerned that Ichabod may not be able to sacrifice Katrina’s freedom if the time comes because this game is all about sacrifice. I have to agree with her. I’m not saying Ichabod doesn’t understand that they’re at war and there is so much riding on their shoulders, but he is deeply in love with his wife and has been longing to save her since he woke up. And then some of Moloch’s sand beasties arrive. I love how Abbie shoots them.

In the sewers, Andy bursts out of the locusts as a demon, ready to serve Moloch’s will. I have a feeling most, if not all, of his feelings for Abbie are negated at this point. Our trio heads back to the cabin to try and figure out what to do next. Ichabod realizes that Washington, being a Mason, would want his secrets literally buried with him and he would have required the Reverend to keep watch over him. We get some intriguing altered history about a secret grave for Washington and the gang heads out to an island. As Ichabod searches for a Masonic marker, Abbie lets Henry know about the prophecy. He mentions that a portion of John’s testament was left out which mentioned the two witnesses turning on each other and neither surviving. Abbie’s concerned that this will happen but Henry reminds her that prophecies have a way of fulfilling themselves if you let them. Before they can speak more on it, Ichabod finds the hidden grave and we are one step closer to the map. And all the while, Ichabod is trying to use a smart phone per his agreement with Abbie and it’s just typical Ichabod fun. Tom Mison truly has a gift. And can I just say, damn those Masons are show-offs! Washington’s tomb is seriously elaborate.

In a very National Treasure-esque sequence, Ichabod finds Washington’s true resting place and it seems he’s no longer resurrected. He’s a gross crispy corpse. But Ichabod snatches up the map. Unfortunately, demon-Andy shows up and gets all destructive on them. Henry helps remind him about how he felt about Abbie and that’s enough to get him to back off and reveal Moloch needs the map to win the war. Abbie shoots Andy in the head but that’s not enough to stop it. So she shoots the rigged pyramid and the place collapses in on itself. Ichabod leads our heroes away just in time and he burns the map, citing Abbie’s friendship and the fate of the world as being more important. However, back at the cabin, after reminiscing about Katrina some more, he draw the map from memory. I sense the whole betrayal thing creeping towards actualization here.

Elsewhere in town, the cops are continuing to dig into the murders and they take Macey’s DNA. Obviously, we know she killed the priest but they don’t know that she was possessed. In an effort to save his family, Irving confesses. I’ll be interested to see what his journey is going forward. News travels pretty fast. The next day, Ichabod happens upon a War reenactment and gets some new threads (well new “old” ones really). However, he gets a call from Henry and it’s dire. He’s had a premonition that Moloch will make a creature rise and he describes a figure on a horse riding during a solar eclipse. Jenny and Abby fill in some blanks about the eclipse and the fact that it was 13 years ago to the day that they first saw Moloch. It would seem the Horseman of War is coming by day’s end. Just a little problematic.

As we move into the back half of the finale, that ominous feeling just continues to build. Abbie goes to support Irving but his case has been moved upstate and he left her a present. Back at cabin HQ, she gets back to learn that Ichabod copied the map. He professes he wouldn’t have used it without her say-so but he did lie to her. They also have a plan to stop the Horseman. They need to cast a spell over the ground where the Horseman is to rise. So naturally, they need Katrina. So copying that map was useful. Jenny is kind of surprised Abbie is going along with this given the fact that Moloch is hot for her sibling’s soul. The Mills sisters exchange professions of “I’ll be okay and we’ll get through this” and it’s very sweet. But that just adds to the stress of how things are probably going to go horribly awry. Jenny searches Corbin’s audio files for any mention of meetings with the Reverend and finally finds one that may be helpful. Meanwhile, Ichabod, Abbie and Henry head to the spot where all the ley lines converge to access purgatory. This is going to be interesting.

Both Abbie and Ichabod are tested by Purgatory with visions of their friends and loved ones welcoming them with open arms and the words they want to hear. But they each remember the other and are able to break free. And with a little luck, they find Katrina at the church where the Golem first attacked. Katrina explains she can’t leave purgatory without forgiveness and that’s not likely to come along any time soon. But there is another option. She can leave if someone else stays. And this, I believe is what Moloch was talking about with Ichabod delivering Abbie’s soul.

I was right. Abbie says she needs to stay behind to face Moloch, even if it means the prophecy comes true. So while Ichabod and Katrina escape back to our world, Abbie faces Moloch and seeks shelter in a replica of a dollhouse she and Jenny played with as kids. And it appears that Moloch took some of their memories. As Abbie gets shown what she’d forgotten, Jenny finds the final piece of the puzzle about the “saint’s name being a sign”. Unfortunately, Headless shows up and shoots up her truck. It’s unclear if she’s alive but I’m guessing she’s probably dead. Which is a shame. While all those shenanigans are going on, Katrina and Ichabod are happy to be reunited. Too bad they can’t find the spot where War is supposed to arise. And then things just got from weird to “oh my God” territory. In a whirlwind reveal, we learn that Henry is not only a servant of Moloch but also Jeremy. I sort of didn’t see that part coming but I sort of did. Either way, as his parents are pleading with him to see reason, it’s just amazing that Moloch and his own circumstances have corrupted him so much. He hands over Katrina to Headless (fulfilling Moloch’s promise that he’d get her soul) and Henry buries Ichabod in the same grave he’d been in.

I have absolutely no idea how they’re going to go forward in season 2 and I kind of can’t wait for it to come because the only words I’m forming right now aren’t particularly socially appropriate. It was just that insane! The writers did a bang-up job plotting out and presenting this season. And they made you care about all the characters, even the bad guys (well maybe not Moloch). Bravo creative team! Bravo!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sherlock 3.01: "The Empty Hearse"

“You have missed this. Admit it.”

After a two-year hiatus (which is referred to several times in this very meta episode), “Sherlock” is back. The show is back, as is the titular character, who when we last saw him, had the modern version of a “Reichenbach Falls” moment. The crime/mystery to solve is really an afterthought in the season opener. Instead, the episode focuses more on Sherlock’s return to London after having faked his own death and the effect his return had on numerous other characters, especially Watson. The whole thing was a touch self-indulgent for my taste. We don’t even get the true story of how Sherlock faked his own death. Instead, we get an onslaught of reenactments of various theories. Is it too much to expect a Stephen Moffat show to tie up one piece of plotting neatly? I think “Sherlock” overall is more successful when trying to update a specific Conan Doyle story. It gives the episode focus, which “The Empty Hearse” definitely lacked.

As I said, the main purpose of “The Empty Hearse,” which was written by Mark Gatiss (our least favorite “Doctor Who” writer here at MTVP), was to set up Sherlock’s return after two years of self-imposed exile. Arch-nemesis Moriarty had engineered a situation where Sherlock had to at least appear to be dead, otherwise people Sherlock cared about would be moved to the top of a hit list. So Sherlock appeared to jump off the roof of a hospital, and for two years, his faithful sidekick Watson thought he was dead. There were other people in Sherlock’s life who knew he was still alive, particularly his brother Mycroft and medical examiner Molly. Learning that other people knew the truth only puts some salt in the wound for Watson, really.

Somehow, amidst all the sadness, Watson managed to find love with a woman named Mary, played by Martin Freeman’s real life significant other, Amanda Abbington. Mary seems nice enough, and she’s certainly very supportive of Watson, but because this is a Steven Moffat show, there is probably a lot more going on under the surface. Watson and Mary are at a fancy dinner, where Watson is about to propose to Mary, when Sherlock makes his appearance. He dresses up as a waiter, thinking that the surprise would please Watson, but it has just the opposite effect. When Watson realizes that Sherlock is standing in front of him, he is furious. A few of the things Sherlock says makes Watson want to physically fight him. While Sherlock may not be interested in romantic relationships and Watson may be in a serious relationship with Mary, it’s pretty obvious that for Sherlock and Watson, the most important person in their lives is each other.

Sherlock’s reintroduction to the other people in his life is a little bit smoother. Mrs. Hudson just plain screams, which is kind of funny and sad at the same time. Mrs. Hudson was very attached to Sherlock and Watson. Early in the episode, Watson goes back to 221B for a quick visit, and Mrs. Hudson admonishes him for hardly ever calling her since Sherlock’s “death.” She’s convinced Sherlock and Watson were romantically involved, but she also accepts the fact that Watson is now engaged to a woman. Molly doesn’t seem especially shocked at Sherlock’s reappearance, but she is rather embarrassed to admit that she got engaged to somebody else while he was gone. He never reciprocated her feelings anyway, so good on Molly for getting hers (even if he does look kind of creepily like Sherlock). LeStrade has the best reaction. He basically just growls “you bastard!”

What brought Sherlock back from exile (where he claims he was working on completely dismantling Moriarty’s network) was Mycroft saying that a terrorist plot needed to be foiled. So that’s kind of running through the episode, and it culminates with Sherlock and Watson on an Underground car with a bomb about to go off. Sherlock pretended to not know how to disarm the bomb until the very last minute, which was another cruel joke to play on Watson. These cruel jokes aren’t funny, Moffat! Watson’s a decent guy who never fails to have Sherlock’s back, and he deserves better than that.

As I alluded to earlier, there isn’t really one central mystery to ground and focus this episode. There’s the terrorist plot, of course, but there’s also many other things going on. Sherlock has a day of solving random minor crimes (as he does), and since Watson is still mad at him, Sherlock asks Molly to be his assistant. I’ve always meant to do a post on the similarities between the 11th Doctor and Sherlock (since both were conceived and written by Moffat, and this episode would certainly add more fodder to that post. There’s a conversation about companions and assistants that feels almost like it was accidentally lifted from a “Doctor Who” script. And of course, Sherlock doesn’t really want Molly to be his companion. He only invited her to help solve crimes for a day because he wanted to thank her for helping him out of the Moriarty jam. It felt kind of patronizing overall.

In addition to the terrorist attack and the day of solving random crimes, Watson also gets kidnapped. Will Watson’s suffering never end?! Anyway, it’s Guy Fawkes Day (“Remember, remember the fifth of November”), so there are lots of bonfires happening. Watson is drugged and placed inside one of those bonfires. Sherlock and Mary then start receiving texts saying they have a very limited amount of time to save Watson. The bonfire is about to be lit. The fire is, actually, lit, but luckily for Watson, the lighting happens only a few seconds before Sherlock and Mary arrive on the scene. They rescue him just as the fire is really getting going. It becomes apparent that somebody is trying to get to Sherlock through Watson, and that person is likely to be the new Big Bad now that Moriarty is out of the picture. My money is on Mary being involved somehow, although that would be just one more burden on the long-suffering Watson.

So, bottom line, I didn’t love this episode. It was disjointed, and it focused more on the return of Sherlock and being clever and meta than actually telling a good mystery story. I think “Sherlock” is more successful when the focus is on updating a specific Conan Doyle story. We all know that Steven Moffat tends towards overplotting, and thinking about how to update a specific story for modern times sort of provides an outlet for his attempts at cleverness that result in a more focused, cohesive work. That being said, because the next two episodes of the season each seem to be based more upon a specific story, I have hope that I will enjoy them just as much as I typically enjoy “Sherlock.” I only regret that this episode took up an entire third of a very, very short season.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Mindy Project 2.13: "L.A."

“Babe, this is the palest I've ever been. I'm basically a white person. Yesterday I caught myself watching lacrosse, and I liked it.”

“L.A.” took what should have been a rather lighthearted premise, entertainment junkie Mindy gets to go to L.A. for a conference, and turned it into a huge turning point in the personal lives of both Mindy and Danny. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I do like my comedies to have some depth and some heart now and then. On the other hand, I like my comedies to make me laugh, too. And there wasn’t really a lot that was funny about “L.A.” The group was kind of joyful in the beginning when they were all excited about their upcoming trip, but it quickly spiraled into drama. Danny has to deal with the fact that his father lives in Los Angeles, and Mindy has to deal with the fact that her relationship with Cliff is on much rockier ground than she originally thought. I’m hoping this paves the way for Cliff to be written out entirely, since all the dancing around the inevitable Mindy/Danny pairing is getting tiring, but we shall see.

Anyway, the episode opens with Jeremy telling Mindy, Danny, Peter, and Morgan that they’re going to L.A. for a convention on injectables. At first I was really wondering why an OB/GYN office would get involved in a plastic surgeon’s domain (especially since I usually hear about injectables in the context of the face. Then later, Mindy is reading a book on vaginal rejuvenation. So that answered that question. Anyway, everybody but Danny is really stoked for this trip. They all think they’re basically going to be living out “Entourage,” even though they’re technically supposed to be at a conference. Now I was in Chicago (a really neat city, by the way) for a work training with a few colleagues last summer, and we definitely took some time to see the sights, but the work came first. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to think about the lack of professionalism at Shulman and Associates. I guess it’s supposed to be part of the humor? Do I take work way too seriously? The answer to that would probably be yes.

Most of the episode takes place on the closing day of the conference, when the doctors are all trying to do some touristy stuff before having to go home to real life. Mindy in particular is trying to forget that before she left for the conference, she asked Cliff to move in with her, and he didn’t answer right away. He said he’d have to think about it. Even though his landlord already said he wasn’t going to be able to renew his lease. Cut your losses, Mindy! Anyway, Mindy and Peter are doing some high end shoe shopping when they run into none other than Mindy’s ex-fiancĂ©, Casey. Casey has finally settled down, and he now owns the shoe store where Mindy and Peter were shopping. Casey is happy to see Mindy, and he invites her and Peter to the big pool party he is throwing that night. Later, Mindy mentions the encounter in a phone call with Cliff, and Cliff asks Mindy to promise that she won’t go to dinner with Casey. Thinking that going to the party won’t count as going to dinner, Mindy promises.

Meanwhile, Danny is disturbed to find out that he seems to have been checked out of his room at the fancy Bel Air hotel where the doctors have all been staying. As you might expect, Morgan is responsible for this turn of events. Danny has been holed up in his room for most of the trip, trying to make sure he will avoid seeing his father, and Morgan decided that wasn’t healthy. He checked Danny out of his room, and he wants Danny to stay with him at the YMCA for their final night in LA. First, though, Morgan has an awesome day of sightseeing planned. He knows Danny is old fashioned, so he plans a trip to a set used on John Wayne movies, and Danny absolutely loves it. The mood is killed, however, when Morgan announces that he called Danny’s dad, and he (Danny’s dad) wants to have dinner with Danny that night. Danny wants to know how Morgan could have possibly gotten his father’s contact information. The answer is Danny’s brother Richie, of course. Danny has a short and angry phone call with Richie, who is clubbing it up, presumably back home in Miami. Richie basically tells Danny to man up and see their father.

Mindy and Peter hit up Casey’s pool party, of course. Both of them are pretty awkward among the more polished LA folks. Peter is coming off a second-hand rejection by Maria Menounos (he finds out she’s on vacation with her boyfriend), and Mindy is kind of confused by her recent reuniting with Casey, so they’re both acting pretty foolish. Peter keeps flirting with and getting nowhere with models and starlets. He ends up getting shut out of the party completely when he walks outside to give a homeless Morgan his room key. He just can’t manage to talk his way back into the party. Mindy decides to be weird and go in the pool, and Casey soon joins her. They start having a nice heart to heart, but Casey misinterprets this as an invitation for sex. He taxes his swim trunks off right there in the pool. Mindy is not at all amused, and she makes it very clear that she does not want to resume any sort of relationship with Casey.

Mindy’s cell phone ran out of battery while she was at the party, and when she recharges it, she finds herself in the middle of quite a mess. First there was Danny calling her to ask her advice on what to do about his father (Danny ended up calling his dad before he could get Mindy’s take on the situation). Then there were numerous missed calls from Cliff. Mindy calls Cliff back and says she really, really wants him to move in with her. Cliff was about ready to make that leap, too, but then he saw a photo of Casey and Mindy on a gossip site. He feels that Mindy promised not to see Casey and broke that promise, and now he can’t trust her. Mindy is pretty stunned and doesn’t really know how to respond. And so we leave this episode on a bit of a cliffhanger!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Girl 3.12: "Basketsball"

“Nick, do not challenge me to a sex standoff. I can challenge all my sexual energy into knitting. How do you think I made it through high school?”

While I wouldn’t put “Basketsball” with my all-time favorite “New Girl” episodes, it was a fun half-hour, and I also thought it was an interesting use of the character of Coach. Jess, because she always wants to see the best in people, really, really wants to be true friends with Coach. She thinks the best way to do that is to watch basketball with him, and she takes this quest so far that it results in a no sex standoff with Nick. I’m not sure if alienating your boyfriend for the sake of trying to be friends with a guy who doesn’t seem to like you much is worth it, but that’s Jess for you! Meanwhile, Winston still doesn’t know what to do with himself after having quit his radio station job in the previous episode (which was a pretty good job last we saw it over a season ago, so I still don’t get that plot development). He wonders if advertising/marketing might be a good career, and so he decides to shadow Schmidt at work for a day. And offensive hilarity ensues, of course. The characters are all really trying to make strides towards growing up, and that makes for interesting storytelling.

Early in the episode, we learn what Coach did to upset Jess to the point where she had to go all-out in her attempts to be his friend. Jess was being her usual crazy/uber-quirky self in front of one of Coach’s friends, and Coach apologized for her, saying she’s “his buddy’s girlfriend.” For some reason, just being considered “Nick’s girlfriend” really upset Jess, and it put her on a mission to try and be Coach’s friend. Nick warns Jess that since it’s basketball season, Coach is going to be spending most of his time watching Pistons games. Jess thinks that sounds fine. She can try to bond with Coach over basketball, even though she knows absolutely nothing about the sport. I think Jess might see in sports what I do. There’s drama, and there’s always interesting backstory to the athletes. Nick seems to think guys like sports for different reasons. Who knew?

Meanwhile, since Winston quit his job in the last episode, he’s been having a bit of an identity crisis. He thinks he might be interested in advertising or marketing, so he asks to shadow Schmidt at work for a day. On the shadow day, Schmidt and Winston are introduced to new hire Ed, played by Bob Gunton (“The Shawshank Redemption”). Ed is in his late 60’s, and the firm basically just hired him to prevent an age discrimination lawsuit by the 45-year-old female executive they just let go. Ed may not have the energy of Schmidt, but he’s crafty and he’s a shark. Schmidt doesn’t see this, but Winston does, and he tries to warn Schmidt. Schmidt tries to act like a know-it-all around Ed anyway, and he tells Ed about his great new idea, micromarketing. Of course, at the next staff meeting, Ed brings up micromarketing himself. Schmidt just knows that Ed is going to try and take credit for the idea.

Jess manages to be pretty successful with Operation: Use Basketball to Befriend Coach at first. She lures Coach out of his room by offering to watch the game with him on the big screen television in the living room. Coach is only too happy to go for the upgrade. It turns out that Coach is a pretty crazy Detroit Pistons fan. Unfortunately for Jess, Nick is a pretty diehard Chicago Bulls fan. And apparently they’re rivals. Like Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers level rivals. Anyway, Jess walks into Nick’s room in a Piston’s jersey, and it’s a major turn-off for Nick. He tells Jess that he absolutely can’t sleep with her if she’s a Pistons fan. The tap is off. Jess can’t get her “vitamin D.” Of course, with Jess and Nick being Jess and Nick, things only escalate from there. Jess goes full force into being a Pistons fan, and she really wants Nick to change his allegiance too. They both try to out sex starve the other, which really doesn’t seem like something that would do anybody any good. I didn’t think Jess would usually go quite so far to make a point.

Meanwhile, Schmidt and Winston are trying to figure out how Schmidt can possibly salvage his career from the pummeling it is about to take thanks to Ed. Schmidt had been banking on micromarketing to get himself a promotion. Thy guys decide to consult the most “old at heart” guy they know (Nick, of course) for some advice on how to trip up Ed at his presentation. Nick starts waxing poetic about the importance of having a hard copy of everything. This translates into the perfect trip-up for Ed. Ed had been planning to distribute hard copy handouts and the presentation. Schmidt says that all the office printers are broken, though, so he’s loaded everything up on a laptop. Just contemplating using a PowerPoint makes Ed have a heart attack. And that, says one of the executives, is why they don’t let employees stay on past age 45. That took the joke a little too far, I think, but Ed was such a jerk that I liked to see Schmidt and Winston get the better of him. Later, the gang talks about how good Winston is at reading people and finding clues. Winston’s new career aspiration is now to become a cop.

Jess gets sick and tired of watching basketball, so she secretly breaks the cable connection to the television. With the television broken, she asks Coach if he’d like to go get some dinner. He agrees, but he ends up taking Jess to a sports bar. Meanwhile, Nick is getting frustrated due to no sex from Jess, so he finally caves and wears a Pistons jersey. He shows up at the sports bar to see that Coach is still there, but Jess has already left in frustration. Coach, of course, thinks that seeing Nick in a Pistons jersey is the funniest thing ever. Nick ends up giving Coach some good advice on how to show Jess that he’d like to be friends. Unfortunately for Coach, he decides to implement that advice while Jess and Nick are in the middle of some make-up sex.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.12: "Seeds"

“All this history, you must be so proud. I wish I was a part of it.”
- Skye

We begin this week with a group of kids sneaking into an indoor pool late at night. It seems like all is well until the water instantly freezes and one kid gets his leg stuck. Luckily another kid breaks the ice to free him. It’s not long before we see the SHIELD logo on the wall. We’re finally taking a trip to SHIELD Hogwarts! On the Bus, FitzSimmons explains that there was a device found in the pool that caused the ice and since it was based on tech that they both created, they’re being called in to assist in the investigation. We also learn that the Academy has different divisions. Skye is kind of intrigued to be going. Meanwhile, Coulson is still brooding over his revelation about his death and May manages to snap him out of it when she says they’re going to Mexico City to hunt down the partner of the agent who died bringing Skye in as a child.

It’s pretty cool to see FitzSimmons not treated as the geeks of the team. They’re looked up to with awe of the student body and faculty. Before they start talking to said students, Ward talks to the kid who go this leg stuck in the ice. He says that the potential suspects are all friends with him except one. Turns out he was the kid who broke the ice to get him free. Oh and Skye laments not actually getting into SHIELD the right way because she sees all the history they have and feels left out. And I’d imagine as she sits in the lecture that FitzSimmons is giving, she feels left out of all the in-jokes, too. Things take a turn when the possible suspect turns to ice.

With some quick thinking from FitzSimmons, they thaw out the poor kid and Skye finds another device. So it would seem he was the target at the pool, too. But he can’t think of anyone who would want to hurt him. The main instructor explains that he’s only 18 and probably going to fail out just because he’s so introverted. So Ward puts a plan into action. He, Simmons and Skye will head down to where the students hang out in secret to try and get some answers and Fitz will buddy up to the kid. Fitz is pretty impressed with some of the ideas the kid’s come up with and encourages him to bring the ideas to his instructors. They aren’t his big ideas though. That’s kind of frightening. And Ward and Skye are also pretty impressed with the hide-out. It’s kind of like an underground rave.

In Mexico City, May and Ward are waiting for their target and May is rather chatty. She says it’s because Coulson is being so quiet and she wants to distract him and find answers for Skye. Coulson says he wants to root out all the secrets so May blurts out that she and Ward have been hooking up. We don’t get a reaction from Coulson because he spots their guy. I’m anticipating him having a rather amused delayed reaction though. They take off and May ends up fighting the guy a bit. But Coulson and Lola come to the rescue and once Coulson announces who he is, the agent seems to calm down a bit. Oh and we saw the billionaire guy from earlier in the season who tried to recruit Skye. Something tells me he’s involved in all this, too (either the Mexico angle or more importantly the academy storyline).

On the Bus, we get a rundown of what led to finding baby Skye. SHIELD got an 0-8-4 in China and things went crazy. Everyone in the village died and the 0-8-4 was actually little Skye. The team got back to the States and they started getting knocked off and taken out. So Agent Avery (the female agent who died) worked some SHIELD voodoo and set it up so Skye would move around in the foster system every few months so she wouldn’t be found. May implores Coulson to keep this quiet from everyone else since it could be rather dangerous.

Speaking of danger, our heroes are not out of it as it turns out. Ward chats up one of the smartest girls in the room, who has a rather eager attitude to get assigned to the Sandbox (aka where they build all the cool gadgets) and she explains that the two boys who got iced have been talking about meeting Fitz for weeks. Fitz is in the second kid’s room helping him solve a power issue. Unfortunately, just after Simmons warns him about the plan, he goes back to confront the kid and gets knocked out. It appears that the boys are trying to power a super big version of the ice machine. So not good!

The boys hide out near a parking garage and it turns out that Ian Quinn was involved in this plot. He was going to pay them for the prototype. But he’s not really interested since they can’t get it to him. He does say that if they give him a demonstration he might pick them up. But after he hangs up, he has his jet turn around. He’s not interested anymore. The kids get the machine to work but things go bad. They’ve made a super storm and now they have to find a way to stop it. Fitz has an idea that they can use the Bus to get to the center of the storm (when Ward can’t from campus) and they arrive in time to drag the two kids onto the plane. But the first kid, Seth, is dead (electrocuted by the device as they tried to reverse it). The second kid is pretty upset and won’t accept Fitz’s kind words as he’s ushered off to the Sandbox to be watched. And it seems when he was zapped by the machine, too, he took on some of its powers. Joy.

Meanwhile, Coulson comes clean to Skye about her past and she ultimately takes a minute to visit the Wall of Valor again down at the academy. As she’s doing this, Ward tells May that what he imparted to Skye could have ended her world but it didn’t. Skye took the information and reconciled it with what she thought she knew. Instead of thinking she didn’t have a family and she wasn’t worth anyone’s time, she sees now that SHIELD was protecting her. And that she had a really big family the whole time. But judging by the promos, things might not go so well for our newest 0-8-4. Oh and Coulson calls up Quinn to give him a warning. If he goes anywhere that has an alliance with SHIELD, he’s dead. Before Quinn hangs up, he tells Coulson that the Clairvoyant says hi. So it would seem Centipede is still in operation. Oh boy.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Trophy Wife 2.12: "The Punisher"

“I don't have time to empathize. Punishing is part of being a parent, and thanks to Peter's inability to date casually, that's something that you now are.”

“The Punisher” was an entertaining episode of “New Girl,” for sure. It had different from normal character combinations, and it also explored Kate’s desire to be parent-ish to Pete’s kids in a new way. Kate always wants to do things like go to parent/teacher conferences and pick the kids up from activities, but where parenting loses its luster to her is punishment. When Warren and Hillary do something really stupid, she has to grow a spine and try to be a disciplinarian. Parenting (so I’m told) isn’t all sunshine and puppies, after all. The problem provides an opportunity for some fun Kate and Diane interaction, though. Usually, they’re at odds with each other, but this time, they were on the same team, albeit in a kind of dysfunctional way. Additionally, we see Pete, Jackie, and Bert trying to sort of function together as a family unit, and we get a pretty good idea of why Pete and Jackie divorced.

The main plot of this episode is that Kate catches Warren and Hillary doing something just plain stupid. Warren jumps off the roof of the house into the pool, and Hillary films it on her phone (presumably to live in YouTube infamy). Warren deliberately takes the jump right after Kate tells him to get down from the roof, so Kate is very angry and thinks Warren and Hillary should be punished. She’s having trouble getting serious about the punishment, though, so she tries to call in the best enforcer she can think of. Diane, of course. Diane, however, wants Kate to grow a spine and learn how to dole out punishments herself. At first, Kate is pretty ineffectual. Meg is at the house, and at one point, she and the kids are just watching TV and laughing and eating popcorn in the living room when they’re supposed to be on punishment. To their credit, they’re watching “House Hunters International,” which is a pretty great (and appropriately nerdy) show.

Meanwhile, Pete and Jackie are at a parent/teacher conference for Bert. They are less than thrilled when Bert’s teacher says that Bert is solidly in the middle of his class, because of course they think he’s a genius. Bert’s teacher also has some additional troubling news. She thinks that home life tensions might be affecting Bert’s academic progress. Pete and Jackie try to defend themselves, but then Bert’s teacher shows them a picture Bert drew of himself with really long arms standing between his parents. Pete and Jackie think that it might be a good idea to do a family activity together, just to show Bert that they can be civil, and they’re still all on the same team. Pete wants to go for ice cream, because it’s quick, but Jackie wants to take Bert to a new pirate-themed miniature golf course. Why is “pirate” such a popular theme for mini-golf courses, by the way? Anybody?

Back at the ranch, Kate puts in another emergency call to Diane and gets Diane to come over to the house. Kate thinks Diane is going to deliver the punishment the kids deserve, but Diane still really wants Kate to do the work. She sends the kids upstairs and starts giving Kate a pep talk. After some role playing, Kate thinks she’s ready to dole out some punishment. She takes away Warren and Hillary’s phones and tells them “no screens” for the rest of the day. Diane is proud of Kate, but she warns Kate that the kids are going to test her. And test Kate they do. First, they start playing instruments badly, then they start throwing around a tennis ball loudly. Then they start staging readings of Pete’s “legal erotica” (say what?). The final straw is when they have a neighbor who started a pet charity come over for an hour-and-a-half lecture on the spayings and neuterings she does in her garage.

Across town, the pirate mini-golf session starts off well enough. Pete and Jackie do dueling pirate impressions, but they manage to not be terribly disparaging of each other in front of Bert. Then Jackie starts blatantly cheating. The score is heavily in Jackie’s favor, which makes Pete unhappy, because like most good lawyers, he has an overdeveloped sense of injustice. Just as the nightmare seems like it will be over, Bert gets a hole in one on the final hole of the course and wins a free second round (that has to be used the same day, of course). Happily for Pete and Jackie, round two ends early when they tell off some teenagers who were being rude and asking to be allowed to play through. It was amusing to see Pete and Jackie come together for the common cause of telling off the teens. Bert’s a little unhappy to be banned from the mini-golf course, but Pete and Jackie promise ice cream, which makes everything better.

When Warren threatens to eat a toe wart in front of Kate, Kate finally puts in another call to Diane. Diane tells Kate she just needs to ignore the kids, so that’s what Kate does. She does her best to not let any of the shenanigans phase her, and she seems to be gaining ground. Then Warren and Hillary find Kate’s phone. They pounce on it, but they don’t have time to use it before Kate returns to the kitchen. In a quick thinking effort to hide the phone, Warren tosses it down the kitchen sink drain. Kate then turns on the sink and runs the garbage disposal when she sees the sink isn’t draining. When she realizes her phone has been destroyed, Kate is very unhappy, and she lets off a string of obscenity at the kids. Hillary calls Diane to tell her about it, and Diane comes to the house again. Diane pretends to fight with Kate about it, but she’s actually proud of Kate. Now, Diane says, Kate just needs to work on finding that middle ground between push-over and rage monster. Diane lets it look like Kate won an argument between them, so for the rest of the evening, the kids wait on Kate hand and foot.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Person of Interest 3.13: "4C"

“You computer guys. You build something you can’t control and when it backfires you won’t take responsibility.”
- Reese

When last we saw Mr. Reese he was getting out of the game on Team Machine. And true to his word, he’s trying to get on an international flight to Istanbul. The flight’s been overbooked and he gets up on another flight with a stopover in Rome. At first he’s in seat 1B but he gets bumped back a row for a newlywed couple. As the flight prepares to take off, the guy in the aisle over is being a jerk to the female flight attendant so when she goes to get some help, Reese knocks the guy out. He’s pretty handy on a plane if you ask me. But pretty soon things start to get hinky. He gets a message on his phone saying “4C” (hence the episode title) and it looks like it’s a young guy. He takes a stroll through the cabin and notes that the two guys on either side of 4C are US Marshals. And shortly, one of them ends up knocked out in the lavatory. Reese is kind of irked at this point so he calls Finch to complain. Finch swears he’s not trying to mess with Reese’s travel agenda, even if he doesn’t agree with the decision to leave. It would appear the Machine is trying to still use Reese for its own goals.

Reese is not happy about this at all and he says he’ll inform the other Marshal about his buddy and back off. That plan doesn’t get far. The other Marshal starts having some kind of episode and a Colombian guy jabs 4C in the leg with a needle. Reese takes him out and ends up relaying the goings on to Finch. And while Reese liquors up 4C, whose name is Owen, we learn that he worked for the company that hosted a black market site that just got busted by the FBI. The head of the organization is still at large but clearly Owen knows something. Back in New York, Finch enlists Shaw to infiltrate her former employer because he thinks that Owen’s number might be relevant (which is why it didn’t get sent to the team).

Both of our badass heroes get to do a little but whooping as the case continues. It turns out that Owen actually built the entire system for the black market site and was handpicked by the elusive creator. So that makes him relevant since he can ID the guy. It’s not long before Reese enlists the flight attendant to keep everyone asleep and out of his way (and by asleep he means drugged up on alcohol). And while Shaw is interrogating the man named Foster who sent her on all her missions when she worked for the government, some ex-Mossad operatives try to take out Owen. Reese manages to stop them but he gets a fork in his shoulder. Shaw’s journey back into her old life reveals that an operative from the government is on the plane, too. Reese intercepts him but Owen disappears. I’m not quite sure how he can disappear. The plane isn’t that big and the two bathrooms in the first class section are full of knocked out people.

Reese bonds a bit with the flight attendant and then finds Owen hiding out near where they keep all the food and stuff. Reese drags him down to the cargo hold to keep him away from trouble while Shaw does a bit more digging to figure out why her former employer wants Owen dead. It doesn’t take long for Owen to admit that he’s the mastermind behind the program. He squirreled away a tidy fortune and he’s willing to split it with Reese. He also believes he was doing a good thing by cutting down on drug-related violence. Reese isn’t buying it and he lets out some of his frustration about Finch and the Machine (and presumably their role in Carter’s death) until the government operative shows up. It turns out the government had been skimming from the black market and couldn’t afford that to come out if Owen went public. Reese, with a final assist from Owen, manages to take out the operative but things aren’t all tidy. The Colombian he knocked out at the start of the flight had a partner. The coach flight attendant is the second Colombian on board and his mission is to crash the plane to take out Owen. No wonder the Machine put Reese on the flight.

It’s going to take both Finch and Reese to save the flight. Reese has to ram the door to the cockpit with a cart several times to get in. And Finch, after finally hacking into the plane’s guidance system manages to land the plane. It was a pretty hilarious scene as he hooks up a video game controller and talks himself through it. Just the expression on Michael Emerson’s face was priceless. And as they land and the passengers cheer, Reese notes that the only relevant number on the plane is 130 (the passengers). Things don’t turn out too bad for the Man in the Suit. He gets a night with the flight attendant and he realizes that he needs to work and there can be good points to what they do. Finch has arrived to settle Owen into his new ID and explains that he made the Machine opaque because he always wanted the human element in determining fate. I think that’s part of what turns Reese around. Well, that and the mention that Finch misses Carter, too. They head off together to see Finch’s tailor and visit an art exhibit. I’m quite happy to see that Team Machine is whole again and back in fighting form. Not that broody Reese wasn’t entertaining but I’m happy he’s back. He was pretty awesome in this episode and I loved the relationship he developed with the flight attendant. I kind of hope we see her again someday.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sleepy Hollow 1.11: "The Vessel"

“I beg you, don’t let that girl fall into the fire. Every moment we linger could hasten the end you’re so diligently trying to avoid.”
- Ichabod

Welcome to the beginning of the end. Of season 1 that is. We are just two hours away from wrapping season 1 of this amazing journey. And don’t worry, we’ll be back for season 2 come fall. There’s no way we’d let up on this ride. We catch up with Abbie and Ichabod just after the New Year and while they’re trying to puzzle out Moloch’s message to Ichabod, he’s trying on skinny jeans. He looked rather hot but he couldn’t sit down, poor boy. So he hastily dons his normal threads to which Abbie says he needs to visit a dry cleaner. I cannot wait to see that outing! Abbie suggests that maybe Moloch got spooked since they dealt a pretty heavy blow with stopping the War and the tree monster and that the warning was just to mess with them. Something tells me Moloch isn’t into that.

Meanwhile, Irving is still freaking out of the demon he ran into in the park with Macey. He has the two people brought in for questioning but the demon jumps bodies before he can get any answers. But the demon does make contact, demanding Washington’s Bible or else the demon will go after Macey. So, in a fit of spiritual panic, he calls hi priest who suggests Irving get his ex and Macey to a safe place. Once he agrees to that, he pays our Witnesses a visit and learns that they don’t really know what is so special about the bible. But they aren’t giving it up. They’ll find a way to stop the demon. To that end, Abbie and Ichabod find a substantial file on demon possession in Corbin’s cases accompanied by a DVD recording of a 19-year-old woman who is possessed. No big surprise but said woman is Jenny.

Jenny is surprised to find out that they’ve seen part of the video. Ichabod explains they only watched enough to ID her, though they need to see the whole thing so they can figure out how Corbin beat the demon. The video is pretty creepy. The demon (through Jenny) says that Jenny has been marked and that she will kill Abbie and at the start of the war, Corbin will die by the hand of the Horseman of Death. Why our heroes aren’t making the connection between Jenny and Moloch’s warning (about touching a soul once before), I don’t know. But Jenny freaks and takes off. She doesn’t get far because her car won’t start. Ichabod begs her to help them and we learn that Jenny still heard voices wanting her to do things to Abbie, even after the demon was gone. So she’d get herself committed whenever the voices came back to protect Abbie. That’s actually very touching and makes me worried for both Mills’ sisters! But by watching the recording in reverse (and thanks to Ichabod mastering the pause button) the trio figures out the demon’s name and how to contain and expel it. They’re going to need salt and a French lantern bequeathed to Benjamin Franklin by the French during the war.

Irving may think he’s getting his family to a safe place but the demon jumps into Luke who is tasked with checking the perimeter. Irving has also brought his priest. The demon gets the other cop to disperse a salt line so he can cross the threshold and then kills the cop (poor red shirt. He was kind of cute). I’m guessing Luke is going to be the one to go after Macey which is going to carry a whole host of other complications for our characters. Irving is getting a little jumpy when he gets the call that the team is on the move to get the lantern. Unfortunately, the demon has made its move. It’s taken over Macey and she’s hovering all Exorcist style in the living room when he gets back inside. Time is running out for young Macey.

Things indeed get worse for Macey. While possessed she kills the priest, gets kind of gnarly looking and threatens to kill Irving’s ex if he doesn’t take her to the bible. So he’s got no choice but to comply. However, he calls Abbie and company as they head off to steal the lantern from some crazy militia types to try and buy time to stop this thing. The theft seems to be going okay as Jenny guides Abbie and Ichabod to where the lantern is hidden. But once inside, the signal cuts out and that leaves our heroes vulnerable. We also see Jenny getting a weapon together. I’m thinking those voices are back and she may not be able to fight them. Lantern in hand, Abbie and Ichabod head back towards the car, only to be stopped by those scary militia guys.

Ichabod tries to play to the militia’s belief in avoiding going to hell but it turns out Jenny was not hearing voices. She’s playing the cavalry and they get away. They head to the archives to find Irving and possessed Macey at odds and the bible nowhere to be found. While Ichabod lays down a circle (well more like and oval) of salt around Macey, Abbie taunts the demon to come after her instead of going after children. With the help of the lantern the demon is cast out and the Irving family and the Mills sisters share much needed family hugs while Ichabod sits alone looking kind of sad. But for the moment, it would seem that this particular demon is kaput. Back at the archives, Ichabod concocts a substance that can reveal invisible ink and at the very back of the bible they find a date penned in Washington’s hand; December 18, 1799. This of course is odd because Washington reportedly died on December 14, 1799. New mysteries abound as we enter the final two hours of this season. I know there was some speculation that perhaps Abbie is not the Witness among the Mills girls but it clearly seems that is as the demon referred to her as Witness and Jenny as a disciple. Still, I think it was a close call and death could still claim some more lives before the season is out. See you next week for a double recap!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Mindy Project 2.12: "Danny Castellano is My Personal Trainer"

“Guys, over the holiday, I had five hams and a goose. Like I am a wolf in a children’s story.”

This particular episode of “The Mindy Project” advanced the potential of a future Mindy/Danny relationship in an interesting way. Granted, that advancement came with a heaping helping of juvenile humor, but I’m kind of thirty-going-on-twelve myself, so I’ll admit I laughed. A lot. Mindy needs to get in shape fast, and when she realizes how much of a gym rat Danny is, she asks for his help. The result shows just how good Danny could be for Mindy and how well he knows her, even if she’s not quite willing to see it herself just yet. Meanwhile, Jeremy takes some time off, and Peter realizes that supervision isn’t all fun and games. To do the job right, you can’t be the nice guy all the time. Quite an important lesson for anybody interested in management to learn, really, and I think Peter found a bit of a spine during his brief stint as acting managing partner.

The episode opens with Mindy voice-overing about how much she likes all the “firsts” of a new relationship. This corresponds with scenes of Mindy and Cliff trying and hilariously failing at these firsts, mostly due to Cliff thinking it might be a good idea to buy some satin sheets. Then there’s the kicker. Cliff asks Mindy to go with him on a weekend ski trip. Mindy thinks this sounds great until Cliff mentions spending time in the hot tub. She’s not comfortable with Cliff seeing her somewhat naked just yet. In fact, as she later tells her coworkers (holy TMI, Batman!), she has a whole set of elaborate moves she puts in play so that her boyfriends actually never see her naked.

At first, Morgan coaches Mindy, but it doesn’t really go well. Mindy thinks it’s too easy to manipulate Morgan into going too easy on her. She needs a personal trainer who is really going to push her and make her get in shape. When Danny comes back to the office from some time at the gym, boasting about how it was his best workout ever, Mindy thinks she has the solution to her problem. She asks Danny to train her. Danny is hesitant at first, but he agrees to it if Mindy agrees to do exactly what he says. Danny starts to regret his decision a bit at their first training session. And so does Mindy, really. Danny’s gym is barebones, and Mindy is disappointed that she won’t be able to watch trash TV while working out. I’m with Mindy on that one. Danny is disappointed that Mindy is wearing a workout outfit that includes rhinestones.

Meanwhile, Jeremy seems to be very ill, and he says he’s going to take a couple sick days. Nobody but Peter shows any interest in taking over Managing Partner duties, so Peter gets the nod. Peter thinks he’s a great choice. He was very popular as president of his college fraternity, after all. At first, Peter tries to take a “coolest boss ever” and “make everybody like me” approach to the job. Both Morgan and Tamra want a particular desk over in phlebotomy, and Peter tells them both that they can have it. He frames it as trusting them to hash it out among themselves. Peter not taking a side just makes it worse, though. Then he tells the staff that if they’re too warm, they should open a window. When he opens the window in the break room, though, an owl promptly flies. In. Apparently the owl is why the office had a “no opening the break room window” policy.

Out of the office, Danny and Mindy’s training sessions are going surprisingly well. Danny knows Mindy so well that he knows exactly how to motivate her. He uses her love of all things celebrity and entertainment to get her to do more pushups and other exercises. It’s kind of nice to see. We’re told often that Mindy and Danny are meant for each other, but this was a good example of showing it. They’re very comfortable together. Things go downhill, though, when Mindy decides it would be a good idea to take a sauna break. She thinks she’s entering an all-female sauna, so she goes in completely naked. Unfortunately for her, it’s a co-ed sauna, and Danny is already in it. Danny’s first instinct is to give Mindy his towel, Mindy is so horrified she drops the towel, and hilarity ensues.

Peter is getting extremely frustrated with how difficult he’s finding it to manage the office (the non-physician staff is seriously helpless), so he decides to pay Jeremy a visit to get some advice. Instead of being home in his sickbed, Jeremy is romancing some ladies when Peter shows up at his door. At first, Peter is upset that Jeremy lied, but Jeremy explains that he was a lothario before becoming managing partner, and he needed a little break to get back to being himself again. He tells Peter that he’s not going to be able to control the office if he continues to try and be everyone’s friend. Peter goes back to the office and takes Jeremy’s advice to heart. He lays down the law, and when Tamra tries to leave the office in protest, Peter drags her right back. By the time Jeremy returns to the office, Peter is most definitely in control, maybe even more so than Jeremy has ever been. That kid is going to go places.

As you might expect, things are pretty awkward between Danny and Mindy following Saunagate. Then Danny makes the mistake of starting to tell Mindy that since he’s seen her body, he can give her some suggestions of things to work on. Mindy doesn’t take too kindly to this at all. She goes into her office and starts looking at herself naked, to see if she can figure out what to work on. Danny barges in to ask Mindy a question and gets even more of a show than he got in the sauna. He goes with the “I can give you a few suggestions” line again, and Mindy kicks him out. Later, Mindy confronts Danny, telling him that he can’t tell her anything about her body that she hasn’t already heard many times before. He tells her that all he was going to suggest was that she not suck in her stomach. He likes that she looks like a woman. While Mindy and Danny aren’t going to be getting together any time soon, Mindy seems happy about this response.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Trophy Wife 1.11: "The Big 5-0"

“Early on in our relationship, I told you about all the skeletons in my closet. I have been married twice. I have three children. My grandfather was a horse thief. And I hate my birthday.”

While I wouldn’t put it among my favorite episodes, “The Big 5-0” had its entertaining moments, and I found the character combinations between the three plots to be interesting. Kate tries to help Pete celebrate his 50th birthday, even though he thinks the day is “cursed,” Diane and Jackie take opposite approaches to trying to figure out a gift for Pete from the kids, and the kids themselves have their own adventure related to an unusual gift Pete receives from a client. I’m 30, just like Kate, and I’ve definitely experienced that moment of “is it okay to be comfortable with being older,” although not nearly to the extent of Kate. I’ve always been more of a homebody, so not being able to handle nights out as well anymore doesn’t really throw me that much, because it never happened often to begin with!

Anyway, like I already said, this episode is about Pete’s birthday. The episode opens with Pete, Kate, and the kids celebrating the birthday with cake, however the celebration we’re seeing is actually the night before Pete’s true birthday. Pete enumerates some of the terrible birthdays he has had in the past (like being in a coma or getting mugged), and it sort of turns into a game where somebody names a year, and Pete immediately has an example of a horrible thing that happened on that birthday. The next morning, Kate acts as if she’s going to honor Pete’s request for no celebration, but as soon as he leaves for work, Meg arrives with gifts. Kate’s got a pretty elaborate celebration planned after all, because 50 is too important a birthday not to celebrate.

Kate arrives at Pete’s office dressed in nothing but a trench coat, which she kind of regrets once she realizes that there are other people in Pete’s office with him. They go out for lunch, which Kate says is “phase one” of her three phase birthday plan. Unfortunately, they get stopped by a cop, and Pete’s license is expired. The curse begins to rear his ugly head. Pete manages to piss off a clerk at the DMV (to be fair, it doesn’t really take much to piss off said clerk), and the clerk forces Pete to re-take the road test. It’s a pretty classic sitcom plot, although the usual set-up is that the road test is necessary because the license is expired. Pissing off the clerk was an extra twist. To try and cheer Pete up, Kate goes and gets “phase 2” of her birthday celebration plan, which is a fancy, souped-up sports car. Pete tries to take the road test in the new car and fails miserably at the parallel parking portion. Kate ends up having to drive them both away from the DMV.

Meanwhile, before the kids leave for school, a mysterious birthday gift arrives from one of Pete’s clients. It’s a cooler of live lobsters, meant to thank Pete for getting the client “out of hot water” with the EPA. Hillary says they should leave the lobsters be while they go to school and cook them when they get home as a surprise for their parents. Warren, however, doesn’t put the lid tightly on the cooler, and the lobsters escape. The kids find the lobsters pretty quickly, but when Bert finds out that the plan is to eat them, he’s not happy at all. He thinks of the lobsters as his “pets.” The kids, and later Pete, start telling him about all the animals he eats on a regular basis, and Bert is horrified. He decides that from now on he’s just going to eat bologna (although that’s really animals, too). He seems to be definitely becoming his mother’s son.

Speaking of Bert’s mother, Jackie shows up at Diane’s office asking for money to help pay for Pete’s birthday gift “from the kids.” The kids wanted to get Pete tickets to a football game, but instead, Jackie got custom wind chimes made by a couple of her New Age-y friends. Diane think this is horrible and demands that Jackie return the wind chimes. When Jackie hesitates, Diane decides to take a long lunch break to show Jackie how it’s done. Diane succeeds in returning the chimes by being (surprise, surprise) extremely rude to Jackie’s friends. Then they go to a spa to pick up a massage gift certificate for Pete. The receptionist mentions that they have a special going on, and Jackie and Diane find themselves in a couples massage. Diane is rude again and manages to get both herself and Jackie kicked out. They forgot to buy the gift certificate, so they end up going back and getting the wind chimes after all. Diane makes an effort to be on her best behavior, but she’s still kind of bitchy.

Back to the birthday craziness, Kate decides to take Pete to this trendy new club that has two bars, one of which is a water bar. They barely get two steps in the door, however, before they decide it’s too loud. Pete calls Kate on seeming to be the one with the mid-life crisis. He’s handling being 50 perfectly fine, thanks. Kate, however, has grown comfortable with being more of a homebody and wearing comfy PJ pants, and she’s not sure if that’s okay. Pete convinces her that it’s just fine, and they decide to spend the rest of the evening picking up some tacos and having a nice time at home. At what is presumably the taco place (which looks more like a dive bar), Pete turns on the juke box and asks to dance with Kate. She thinks this is wonderful until she accidentally flashes some of the other patrons. At that moment, she decides that maybe not celebrating Pete’s birthday is the way to go from now on.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.11: "The Magical Place"

“You were killed. And now you’re here. We want to know how. Don’t you?”
- Raina

With a new year, comes a new bunch of episodes. Oh and I’m taking over coverage from Jen (because as she said in the mid-season finale recap, it wouldn’t be fair for one of us to get all the glory with a Joss show). It’s been 36 hours since Coulson got nabbed by Centipede and things aren’t going so well on the Bus. Sure, Ward and May manage to grab a guy named Vanchat who was trying to sell some alien tech but they’re no closer to finding Coulson and the Bus is so packed with agents, Fitz is starting to get super surly. Skye tries to start tracing Vanchat’s financials but Hand cuts her off and boots her from the plane. But the team isn’t really supportive of Skye getting the boot. Ward gives her a head start to get off the Bus before agent show up to take her to be debriefed and FitzSimmons gives her a damper-resistant sat phone that can make one call.

Somewhere, Coulson is being mind-probed by Centipede. They want to know what happened that brought him back to life because their Clairvoyants can’t see past his death. We see a scene from Tahiti with the masseuse and a cabana boy but Coulson isn’t spilling anything. We do learn that he lost his father at a very young age. Yay for some character development and backstory! After some more torture, Centipede goons usher Coulson back to his room and handcuff him to the bed. But being the resourceful agent he is, he picks the lock and almost gets free. We learn that he is being kept in a little town in the desert that was originally constructed in the ‘40s for bomb testing. It’s got creepy mannequins everywhere. Yuck. It turns out that Mr. Poe (the guy who got broken out of prison in the last episode) is not long for this world. Raina shows up and the Clairvoyant kills him over the phone. Coulson is skeptical of Raina’s intent when she brings him water is nice to him. She says that she just wants to uncover the secret that SHIELD has been keeping from Coulson so they can figure out how to resurrect their super soldiers. Coulson is still determined to withhold any information he remembers from her but he agrees to undergo the brain machine again (after Rain pushes his buttons about his dead mother and the cellist he’d been dating).

Back on the Bus, Ward goes in to interrogate Vanchat because Agent Hand’s guy is doing squat. With an assist from FitzSimmons, he gets Vanchat to give him the names of all his buyers (in alphabetical order). This leads to strike teams heading out on raids all over the world. The Bus is heading to Sydney where they have found a big warehouse. In the cockpit, Ward figures out that May wasn’t being a bitch when she told Hand that Skye was of no use to them on the plane. She wanted Skye out in the world so she could do her thing.

On the outside, Skye has to get a little old school to beat the bracelet that keeps locking her out of tech. She finds a guy who likely has financial ties to Vanchat, steals his car, crashes it and then impersonates Agent May to scare the crap out of him. She puts on her tough act and he starts sort of cooperating. He puts his info into the system to log into a Swiss bank account. I gotta hand it to her, she’s resourceful. Using someone who can touch a computer without it going on the fritz to get what she wants, good girl. With the help of one of the security guards, she learns where Raina is hiding and uses the sat phone to let the others know so they can converge and rescue their leader.

Coulson stops fighting the brain machine and the Tahiti memory falls away. We see a creepy machine messing with Coulson’s brain as Ron Glass’s doctor character (from the pilot) stands by objecting to what’s happening. And all the while, Coulson is yelling that he wants to die. He’s still yelling this in a somewhat delirious state when Skye and company rescue him. I have to say I didn’t really understand what happened when I watched it and I still don’t. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get a clearer answer. It’s obvious that Coulson is still very shaken by what happened even when they’re all back on the Bus and Raina is in custody. He and Skye have a bonding moment where he takes off the bracelet. I really feel like they’re starting to have a father/daughter type relationship which is good since she didn’t really have parents.

Things are not all settled though. Coulson still wants answers and clarification as to why SHIELD would hide the truth from him so he tracks down the doctor and we get a little bit of an explanation. Coulson wasn’t dead for mere seconds or hours. He was gone for days (which begs the question how did they get him to breathe and stuff). He apparently went through seven surgeries before the brain probing that was covered by the Tahiti memory. But he was so broken emotionally that they had to do some brain rewiring to try and get him back to the way he was. I’m going to go out on a limb and say they didn’t really succeed. Because Coulson hasn’t felt himself the whole length of the show. So now he knows a little about what happened and I have a feeling he may be going to a dark place as the season progresses before he deals with things.

And as a final tag, we see that Raina had been tending to another “subject” before taking over interrogating Coulson. This subject is none other than Mike Peterson. He’s a bit worse for wear (what with a lot of burns and a missing leg). So it won’t be the last we see of him but it’s the first he’s got one of those chips in his head that controls the super soldiers. Poor guy went from being a pawn of SHIELD to a pawn of Centipede. The good guys can’t really believe they wiped out the entire organization. I guess we’ll find out soon enough when the beast rears its ugly head again.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Person of Interest 3.12: "Aletheia"

“No offense Lionel, I know being a good guy is new to you but you’re not fooling anyone. And neither we were. We weren’t helping people. We were delaying the inevitable.”
- Reese

We pick up pretty much where we ended at the mid-season finale. Shaw, Finch and Arthur are in the custody of Control (Shaw’s former bosses). They demand the backup drives to project Samaritan but Arthur can’t remember where they are. Control orders her goons to shoot Shaw but then bullets start flying as Root comes to the rescue. Unfortunately for her, Shaw shoots her in the arm so that the boys can get away. They manage to escape and Arthur remembers where the backups are hidden. They head to a bank where Arthur has a safe deposit box in the name of a fake identity Finch set up in college as a dare. Both Control and Vigilance end up at the bank before our gang can get the drives and get out. While Shaw is trying to find an escape route out of the bank, Vigilance and Control stand off and Arthur realizes that he actually made Samaritan work right before it got shut down. And there’s a difference between that and the Machine, the NSA wanted Samaritan to be accessible so they could control it. Interesting.

We also continue our journey through Finch’s history. We see him as he puts his dad in an assisted living facility shorty before heading to college. He promises to continue working on his project to help his dad retain memories and thinks it may one day look after and protect his dad. How prescient of him. We see him next in 1980 as he hacks into the government to get more power so he can continue writing code. You little hacker, you. Shortly, he goes to see his dad an warns that some government suits will be coming to ask questions and say that Harold committed treason but his dad’s mental state is so deteriorated that it shouldn’t be a problem. So sad though to see how Finch lost his father to a similar illness that he’s losing an old friend now.

Control nabs an injured Root and takes her to a warehouse where she demands that Root give her admin control of the Machine. Root pretty much laughs in her face and revels in how bad an idea that would be. Control gets extra nuts by drugging Root as a way of getting her to talk (one drug in one arm to knock her out, a second in the other to wake her up). Her body can only tolerate so much before she dies. Root being who she is, she thinks it is kind of fun and gets mouthy with Control, saying it’s adorable how wrong she and the government are in thinking they have control of things. As things progress, she’s worse for wear and I had to cringe at the length Control went to inn order to obtain access to the Machine. She’s going to basically remove a key bone in Root’s head to stop sound from getting from her ear to her brain to cut off auditory access to the Machine. What’s next they throw acid in her face to blind her? That really made me uncomfortable. I know the government is not above torture of its own citizens but really? Root comes round and ends up besting Control. Even with hearing only in one ear, she can hear frequencies that Control can’t due to being over 40. And she managed to get a knife out of Control’s pocket and breaks free of her restraints. If Control dies I might just cheer. Root gets rather creepy and channels the Machine, telling Control that the Machine is trying to protect her and what she loves. Root is so creepy. And she heads off out into the world again free.

Out in Colorado, Fusco and Reese are sitting in county lockup and Reese is still down in the dumps about Carter. He says that everything he and Finch did was just fighting the inevitable decay of society and that it’s not worth doing what they were doing. Fusco lets him go free (he was playing Reese about them not getting out) and says that the team back in New York could probably use their help but obviously in Reese’s mind it doesn’t matter. Oh and Fusco calls Reese out on his attitude, saying that Carter was better than both of them but her death doesn’t mean they just give up. I’m not really sure what it will take to get Reese back on Team Machine.

Things at the bank are getting dire. Vigilance is going to blow the vault door and try and take Arthur and the drives but Shaw’s got a plan. They can escape through the sewer system beneath the bank. And we get some interesting exposition from both Machine architects. Arthur made Samaritan work and then he deleted things to keep it safe. Finch admits that he and Nathan took a lot of Arthur’s ideas to create the Machine and that he somewhat regrets doing it, given the fact that they’ve lost good people. Arthur keeps referring to Samaritan (and the Machine) as children and while Finch doesn’t see it this way, it helps convince Arthur to destroy the drives so no one else can use it for nefarious purposes.

Shaw comes to the rescue but it’s Reese and Fusco that really seal the deal on their escape. It seems everyone was happy for the rest of the team to rejoin them. Finch goes to see Arthur in the hospital afterwards and Root calls to warn him that the drives weren’t destroyed like the thought. We see the British man who recruited Reese’s former partner take the real drives from the woman who pretended to be a teller. She gets shot for her trouble. But Root does something nice for Arthur. Through the Machine he gets to see footage and hear his wife’ voice again. Back at the library, Reese shows up to tell Finch that he’s not staying and he only came back to protect his bespectacled buddy because he’s someone the world can’t afford to lose. It will definitely take time for Reese to return to the fold. And I’m a little worried that there are still more people out there (though a decent portion of both Vigilance and Control died at the bank so there’s that).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Girl 3.11: "Clavado et un Bar"

“It wasn’t long before I caught the attention of Old Man McCue. The Christmas Tree King of Syracuse. Inverter of Triple Netting.”

The winter premiere of “New Girl” was by far the strongest episode of the season thus far. It was a bottle episode, taking place almost entirely in the bar where Nick works. Jess has a big decision to make, and all the other characters tell stories to help her make that decision. The episode was successful because it really focused in on the characters and what makes them unique. The characters are what made me love “New Girl” in the first place, so it was a welcome creative choice. There’s also a bit of a holiday thread running through the episode (Schmidt’s story involves selling Christmas trees), which makes me think that this episode must have been originally scheduled to air before the holiday. That being said, the holiday-ness of it wasn’t so intrusive as to seem out-of-place in early January. I still feel a bit Christmass-y myself, really.

The set-up to the episode is that Jess has a big career decision to make. She’s been volunteering at a children’s museum (she doesn’t get enough of kids at work during the week?) and the director of the museum has offered her a permanent paid fundraising position. Jess needs to decide whether she wants to keep following her dream of being a teacher, or if she wants to leave her dysfunctional school for a higher paying job that isn’t teaching. Jess is especially frustrated with management at her school at the moment. Due to budget constraints, her class has been combined with a science class, and the science teacher and his frog dissection kits are just gross. It’s a big life decision, but she only has twenty minutes to give her decision to the museum director. The whole gang ends up at the bar, and they all start telling stories about career changes and such to try and help Jess make her decision.

Winston tells his story of how he had to stop playing basketball. Like Jess and teaching, Winston knew he wanted to be a basketball player for as long as he can remember. He kept at it, even when it meant moving to Latvia and even when it meant being switched from the indoor to the outdoor league in Latvia. He would have kept on playing, too, if he hadn’t blown out his knee. Jess says that Winston’s story doesn’t count for the purposes of helping her make a decision, because his doctor said he couldn’t play. This makes Winston realize that he hasn’t really made big decisions in his life. The decisions have always been made for him. Which I suppose is an interesting commentary on the character of Winston himself, who has always seemed like less of a fully-drawn character compared to the rest of the roomies.

Speaking of characters who aren’t especially fully-drawn, Coach doesn’t really have much to do in this episode other than provide the (ticking) clock. Apparently he likes to time things, and he always carries a stopwatch to make that happen. He sets the stopwatch for exactly twenty minutes. I remember Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse saying once (maybe in commentary on a DVD episode of “Lost”?) that a good quick way to raise the stakes in storytelling is to add a ticking clock. I guess this was the “New Girl” creative team’s attempt to do that. Anyway, we also (sort of) learn how Coach got his nickname. It’s nothing earthshattering, really. Nick and Schmidt thought the name fit because of how Coach likes to boss around anybody he can.

Back to more endearing aspects of this episode, we learn that while in college, Schmidt had to make a career choice between candy striping at the local hospital or selling Christmas trees. I had completely forgotten that Nick and Schmidt went to Syracuse. I have worked and currently work with a disproportionate amount of Syracuse grads (for living in Maryland), so I found this entertaining. Especially because Syracuse v. University of Maryland is a pretty regular topic of conversation in my office. Anyway, Schmidt has a massive crush on a nurse at the hospital where he’s volunteering, but she’s got a smarmy advertiser boyfriend. The boyfriend tells Schmidt that he’s never going to get a girlfriend unless he’s rich, so Schmidt decides to try selling Christmas trees. He excels at it, and when the owner of the Christmas tree stand falls ill, he tells Schmidt that money is really the most important thing in life. So Schmidt started working out and working on his marketing skills, and I suppose that’s how he became the guy he is today.

Throughout the episode, Nick tries to tell his story in fits and starts. He was doing reasonably well in law school, but over time, he realized he didn’t want to be the person he saw his classmates becoming. As somebody who got out of the practice of law after a measly one year, I totally get where he’s coming from. On my first day of law school, I got to class twenty minutes early, thinking that was a reasonable time to get used to the new building and get settled. I was one of the very last people there and got a seat way in the back corner of the room. Just saying. Even though he dropped out of law school, Nick still took the bar exam, just to prove to himself he could do it. And what do you know, he passed. But he’d really, truly rather be a bartender. Interesting character, that Nick. His lack of ambition would drive me bonkers, but he’s never boring, for sure.

Cece doesn’t really have a story about her own career change, although as a thirty-one-year-old model, she realized that the career change is going to have to happen soon. Jess tells a story about the first place she taught, which was a super-preppy private school in Oregon, and it doesn’t seem like that uplifting first teaching job story. She also finds out that her prize student from that job is now wanted by the FBI. Cece doesn’t want Jess to be discouraged though, so she reminds Jess that she, Cece, was Jess’ first student. They became friends when they met in the library and Jess helped Cece with some school work. It’s a pretty sweet story, and it convinces Jess to keep her teaching job. She makes the best of the combined classroom situation, and handling that difficulty convinces Jess that she could manage a school as well or better than her principal. Her new goal is to become a principal herself. Go Jess!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Traveling Through Television: Great International Television from the Great White North to the Outback

A cold snap like much of the United States is experiencing right now makes for the perfect excuse to stay inside on the couch with a cup of coffee or tea and watch television. If you’re like us, though, the fact that we’re coming up on the end of the winter tv hiatus means that you’ve pretty much worked through everything that had piled up on your DVR in the fall. What’s a TV fan who just wants to be warm and cozy to do? Thanks to stations like PBS and BBC America, plus web sites like Hulu and Netflix, there are more ways than ever for Americans to legally have access to international television shows. We’ve put together a sampling of six of our favorites here for you to get started.

Downton Abbey

One of the UK’s newest imports of the last few years (airing on PBS) has been the critically acclaimed “Downton Abbey”. Opening just after the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912, the series follows the Crowley family and their household staff as they make their way through the changing times. With a very large ensemble cast, the show does a fairly good job of splitting the stories between the family above stairs and the staff below.

When it started out, Downton was a unique period drama, at least for the US. It has superb acting chops linked to it, including the ever witty Dame Maggie Smith and family patriarch Hugh Bonneville. We both enjoyed the first two series (as they are referred to across the pond) as the household lived and changed through the First World War and into the roaring 20s. We were fascinated by the interplay between the upper and lower classes and enjoyed seeing them merge. Series 3 was a bit more polarizing with the unexpected deaths of youngest Crowley sister, Lady Sybil and family heir, Matthew. While Jen may not be tuning in to series 4, Sarah will be sticking around as long as Maggie Smith and her snappy one-liners continue. From the limited buzz we’ve paid attention to, series 4 sounds at least a little more positive than last year. We both hope that the series will not linger longer than it should and think perhaps series 5 should be its final foray into the world of the Crowleys.

Call the Midwife

Another little-known British period gem broadcast state-side by PBS is “Call the Midwife,” based on the memoirs of a young midwife in East London in the early 1950s. Not only do we get to see this profession which has somewhat fallen by the wayside but how these women (both nuns and regular nurses) serve this tiny portion of the city.

Sarah initially started watching the show to tide her over during the lull between series of “Downton Abbey.” While not a perfect substitute, it is a quaint little show with well-drawn characters which we suspect has to do with being based on real people. It provides interesting social commentary on small city living in the ‘50s as well as how the role of midwives changed during that era. Sarah also found it interesting to see it address other issues such as children born of mixed race relationships and children with disabilities. We’ve come to care deeply about the women who provide care to expectant mothers and their babies and are excited to see the next chapter unfold in March.


"Broadchurch" was broadcast to great critical acclaim on BBC America this past summer. Starring David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor...can you sense a theme among some of the international shows we like?), the show tells the story of the fallout of a murder in a small seaside town. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, DI Alec Hardy (Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) are on the case. In the process of investigating the murder, they dig up many of the small town’s long held secrets. What once seemed like an idyllic place becomes anything but. The show also takes a look at how the media sensationalizes stories such as this boy’s murder, following two reporters as they try to do the police department’s job for them.

"Broadchurch" all around just has a stellar cast who turn in stellar performances. Tennant portrays the very damaged DI Hardy with a lot of vulnerability underneath the gruff exterior. It’s also clear that he’ll do what is necessary to protect the people who work for him, which is always an admirable trait. Ellie, who thought she was going to get the promotion Hardy swoops in from outside to take, even appreciates that about him by the end of the series. As for Ellie herself, Coleman does a great job portraying her character development in the opposite direction. Ellie toughens up and becomes a better cop than she was before. She needs that additional strength when the real story behind the murder is finally revealed.

The Thick of It

To add some comedy to the mix, British comedy “The Thick of It” is currently available on Hulu. Created by Armando Iannucci, “The Thick of It” is basically the British version of “Veep,” which currently airs on Showtime. It follows the misadventures of the people who work at the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship (DoSaC), a rather inconsequential government department that always seems to have a rather disproportionate amount of bad press. Trying to contain the damage is Labour government spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, played by new Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi.

We’re both government employees ourselves, so “The Thick of It” provides a good release from work stressors. It reminds us not to take ourselves so seriously all the time (although taking your job seriously most of the time is generally a good thing). The real draw of “The Thick of It’ is Capaldi’s performance as Malcolm Tucker. He can weave together insults and profanity like nobody’s business, yet somehow it’s all hilarious. All he has to do is glare at a DoSaC employee, and the laughs start. It’s a bit of wish fulfillment sometimes, really. Who wouldn’t like to let off a string of profanity at certain people they have contact with in their professional lives once in a while? We can’t do that in real life, so it’s entertaining to watch Malcolm. There’s a bit more to Malcolm under the sweary surface, though, as we learn in season four when his spin empire starts to crumble.

Lost Girl

Not unlike the UK, Canada has its own intriguing imports. You would think that we would get Canadian shows at the same as they air up north seeing as we are on the same continent, but you’d be wrong. One of the better examples of Canadian sci-fi fare, which you can sometimes see on Syfy here in the U.S, is “Lost Girl”. It follows a young woman named Bo who discovers she is a succubus and that the Light and Dark Fae exist. Neither side is pleased when she won’t declare allegiance one way or the other.

Jen originally started watching Lost Girl a year or so ago (in fact she blogged season 1 this past summer), and then Sarah binge watched all 3 seasons and is eagerly awaiting the start of season 4. The world is vividly drawn and you get sucked into the Light v. Dark battles just as much as Bo’s journey to discover who she is, where she came from and what her destiny has in store. The characters are quirky, and it feels as much a straight sci-fi/mythology show as it does a procedural as it mixes those elements throughout its three-season run. Amongst all of this drama, Bo has her own love triangle going on with hunky werewolf Dyson and Light-serving mortal doctor Lauren. We are firmly in Camp Dyson by the way. With the shifting dynamics of the Light and Dark and how it all plays out in the wider world, we can’t wait to see where it goes. And really, who doesn’t love the idea of a leading lady being a succubus.

The Straits

The Straits is an Australian show produced in 2012 which is currently available on Hulu. It’s basically an attempt at creating an Australian “Sopranos,” following a crime family that is powerful in Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands. Harry and Kitty Montebello, he Caucasian and she from Zey Island in the Torres Strait, rule over their crime empire and their four adopted children. As the show begins, Harry is beginning to contemplate his mortality, and he wants one of his kids (preferably oldest son Noel) to prove they have what it takes to run the Montebello business one day.

Like “The Sopranos,” (so we’re told), “The Straits,” especially in the earlier episodes, mixes dark humor and melodrama. While “The Sopranos” may actually be the superior show (we wouldn’t know...we’ve never watched it), “The Straits” is entertaining from start to finish. There’s some torture in the middle (thanks to a feud the Montebellos are having with a local biker gang) that is a bit hard to get through, but the rest of it is addictive, soapy goodness. The concept of the crime family drama isn’t original, but what makes “The Straits” especially interesting is that it serves as a sort of primer on a culture most Americans know nothing about. The show is rich with Far North Queensland/Torres Strait dialect, and by the end of the series, it seems perfectly normal to refer to Papua New Guinea as “PNG” or say that somebody is “going tropical.”

We hope this gives you some ideas for how to spend the rest of this weekend. It’s too icy to try and go outside anyway, so enjoy your international television guilt-free! In researching this post, we’ve come upon a plethora of other international shows we want to check out (some of which aren’t even English language shows and require subtitles), so this is really just the beginning. Expect another post like this when the summer TV doldrums kick in. You can also watch “Doctor Who,” which is an international show we’ve written so much about we didn’t think it necessary to spotlight it here! For now, though, enjoy a nice cuppa and stay warm!