Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Leverage 1.05: “The Mile High Job”

“Oh I’m just remote accessing a plane’s electrical systems from 3,000 miles away. You know what, if you were a geek you would be really turned on right now. I’m just saying.”
- Hardison

As usual we begin our episode with the team meeting the client. It’s a couple who lost their daughter because a chemical company released an unsafe fertilizer. Nate gloms onto the case because he has an angry spot for dead kids. While Sophie distracts the security guards in the lobby, Nate, Eliot and Parker bust in to Genogrow Industries to try and find a paper trial of wrongdoing. They’re all pretty pissed that Hardison isn’t there (they have to climb 30 flights of stairs). He’s back at HQ making a hot pocket and chilling. He gets on the coms as soon as the company CEO, Allen Haldeman shows up. The gang manages to duck out without being seen and get some Intel that a flight is leaving in an hour with the assets on it. It sounds like he’s going to bankrupt an entire division of the company which would in effect kill any chance their clients have of winning their civil case. So they’re going to nab the assets on the flight and get it to their client.

Everyone sans Hardison heads to LAX. Eliot’s got an Air Marshal badge and Parker poses as a flight attendant to get on the plane. Nate and Sophie end up being Tom and Sarah Jane Baker. Nate also had Sylvester McCoy as an alias. I hadn’t realized until just now that it was big fat Doctor Who reference. Thank you Leverage writers for being huge geeks. We get a rather amusing scene when Sophie and Nate are going through security. Sophie picked up a bag at lost and found and it’s got all kinds of kinky sex toys in it. Hardison is tasked with going back to Genogrow to find the smoking gun that’s going to bring down the company.

Once the plane takes off, the crew searches everyone they think might be there on behalf of Genogrow. While they find a lot of shiny stuff worth stealing, none of it is property of the company. And Sophie and Nate start a little tiff. Sophie wants to build their backstory on the date they first met. She says it was ten years ago and Nate says eight. And then when she is searching a guy’s briefcase, she remarks it reminded her of Tuscany but Nate thought it was Paris. Back in coach, Parker is dealing with a needy passenger who keeps asking for ginger ale to calm her stomach. At first Parker is kind of annoyed by the woman. I can understand why.

Back at Genogrow, Hardison works his magic by getting himself into the building as a maintenance guy and then changing into a suit. He gabs with a “co-worker” about World of Warcraft (which is the reason he missed the mission the day before) and then gets the idea to call a meeting, including Haldeman, and then faking food poisoning to get into the guy’s office. Once there, he feeds some very interesting Intel to the rest of the team. The assets they’re looking for are people, not money or other tangibles. The needy woman is coach is a low level employee and the guy in first class is head of security. Hardison checks out the woman’s office to find people shredding stuff. She clearly knows more than she should.

After a brief discussion, the team decides that the accountant in coach needs to know the truth. So Eliot and his Air Marshal badge escort her up to first class and she explains that she found some accounting issues in regards to the fertilizer. Money was paid but there was no confirmation safety studies were completed. They now know that it’s going to be a hit and we get a rather awesome airplane bathroom fight between Eliot and the security guy. Back at Genogrow, Hardison is mediating between two co-workers who probably have some unresolved sexual tension. But he needs to think on his feet because Nate wants him to snag Haldeman’s hard drive and beat a hasty retreat. So he announces that it’s his birthday and everyone throws him a party. He finds some emails and payments to people in the Caimans. It would seem that both the security guy and the accountant will wind up dead before the plane lands. And if you believe Eliot, it would be a bomb on the plane. So Parker gets to squeeze down into the luggage compartment. I have to say the flight attendant onboard has some great skeptical expressions.

Once Parker determines that the bomb isn’t in either the accountant or the security’s guys’ bags, Hardison has her look at the flight system. It becomes evident fairly quickly that they’ve actually tapped into the plane’s black box and are feeding a computer virus into it that is going to make them crash and spoof the data so it won’t be detectable as sabotage. Hardison gets a little pep talk from Nate and actually manages to beat the code and make the plane land safely. Everyone on board is cheering. It was a pretty awesome sequence and a definite ‘age of the geek” moment. Hardison makes his exit by faking the fact that he’s quitting. It’s kind of amazing what some people will believe. The two co-workers he was mediating between act like they’ve actually known him. I suppose in a big company like that, you don’t know everyone. The accountant agrees to testify and Haldeman is hauled in on 12 counts of attempted murder among other things. The episode ends with Nate clearly up the discrepancy over when he and Sophie met. They saw each other for the first time a decade ago but it was 8 years ago that they actually first met. It was rather sweet actually. It’s going to take a long time for these two to get together. I forgot how playful they were in the beginning.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Orphan Black: The Clone-spiracy Thus Far

If you follow the blog at all you know we are huge fans of sci-fi and genre TV. Encapsulated in that label is the wildly popular and critically acclaimed “Orphan Black”. There are many fantastic aspects to this show and you may be wondering why we aren’t covering it on the blog. The short answer is these types of shows with lots of twists and turns and heavy mythology don’t always do well in a recap format because there’s the worry that you might miss something important. But I wanted to take a little time as we wait for an announcement on whether we’ll be getting season 3 (BBC America would be daft not to renew it since the ratings have increased season over season) to talk about the show, both its strengths and some of its weaknesses. Warning, spoilers ahead for seasons 1 and 2.

The Concept

First, a little background on the concept. We begin with Sarah Manning, She’s been living rough and things take a weird turn when she watches a woman who looks exactly like her commit suicide by jumping in front of a train. This leads Sarah to meet Cosima and Alison, two other clones. Along the way we pick up Helena who turns out to be Sarah’s twin sister. Not all of the clones are on Sarah’s side. We have the nefarious Rachel Duncan who is running the Dyad Institute which monitors the clones. Rounding out the world we have Sarah’s adorable foster brother Felix, Sarah’s young daughter Kira, foster mom Mrs. S (Siobhan) and Art (a cop who was partnered with the suicidal clone from the first episode).

The Acting Anchor

In case you didn’t know this show is about clones. And they have one actress playing them all, the lovely and fairly new Tatiana Maslaney. On top of being just a really sweet person, Tat is amazing acting chops. While you might think it is easy to play multiple characters who are genetically identical, you’d be wrong. Tatiana actually looks different enough as each clone that you forget she’s playing all of them. She gives them their own voice, mannerisms and personality. What’s more amazing is when the clones interact with each other in scenes. Having seen the behind-the-scenes snippets that explain the way they film it, it’s a wonder Tatiana doesn’t go to sleep for months when filming is done. She’s in almost every scene every show and sometimes as multiple characters. One of the show’s biggest feats in terms of clone interaction happens in the season 2 finale where the girls (Sarah, Alison, Cosima and Helena) are having a dance party. I’ve seen a behind-the-scenes video of how they filmed it and I have to say it is flawless and it just felt so good to watch. Clearly Tatiana isn’t the first person to play multiple character in a show (Sarah Michelle Gellar had the honor of doing it on two shows) but no one does it with as much grace and finesse as Tatiana. That she can make you forget you’re watching her play multiple roles is an amazing credit to her skillset and she deserves all of the accolades she gets (and probably some she should get but won’t).

The Other Talent

This show isn’t all about Tatiana and her clones. Part of the greatness of “Orphan Black” is the supporting cast they’ve put together. Chief among those secondary payers are Mrs. S played by the formidable Maria Doyle Kennedy (she played Catherine of Aragon on The Tudors) and newcomer Jordan Gavaris as Felix. Mrs. S and Felix are really Sarah’s support structure and as we learn more in season 2, Mrs. S is far more involved the clone-spiracy than we originally thought. But a little more on that later. I have to spend a little time talking about Jordan because he is also a sweetheart and he and Tatiana have amazing chemistry together whether they’re Felix and Sarah, Felix and Cosima or even Felix and Alison. Admittedly, Felix and Helena are pretty freaking hilarious. After the initial shock of Helena surviving being shot at close range in the chest by Sarah (they are mirror twins and all of Helena’s organs are reversed) I was glad they brought her back. She is kind of lovable in her own whacky way. But the thing about Jordan is he just commits to his character and I have to say I had no idea he wasn’t British at first. It evoked memories of James Marsters on Buffy and then I saw an interview where Jordan says Buffy and Joss were prominent influences in his life. Rock on Whedon!

The Wider Clone-spiracy

It’s hard to find fault in anything about “Orphan Black” but I did have a bit of a quibble with season 2. In season 1, we were introduced to the core group of clones (Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena) and we learned about each of them and they dug into the conspiracy of their existence and why someone was trying to kill them. We spent ten glorious episodes with them and we latched on to them all but in season 2, the clone roster expanded to really include Rachel and Tony (a transgender clone that a lot of people didn’t like). I didn’t dislike Tony, I thought it was brave of the writers to tackle that type of subject matter but I do have to agree that his introduction kind of halted the flow of the few final episodes. I think they could have held off until season 3 to introduce him and it would have a stronger and more positive impact on the audience. I felt like by focusing on the Dyad and the Proletheans (the crazy religious freaks who kidnapped Helena and had been using her to kill her sisters) we lost some focus on our core group. And they also expanded the conspiracy in that the clone were getting sick (Cosima mainly) due to genetic modification that made them sterile (Sarah and presumably Helena) were mistakes. Oh and they aren’t the only clone project out there. There is a male counterpart to it and I’m not sure how that’s going to work out. I appreciate that the writers wanted to explore the mythology of our girls and expand on the show’s universe but I just feel like it went too fast and we did have a few filler episodes whereas in season 1 it was high octane all the way through. Still if that’s all I have to quibble about, I think we’re in pretty good shape.

For those of you who don’t have BBC America, Netflix has both seasons on disc and Amazon Instant Video has them as well. However you choose to watch, I highly recommend you do. There is so much that is good about this show that you shouldn’t miss out. And let’s keep our fingers crossed that BBC America comes to their senses and brings the Clone Club back for another season. It’s too good not to keep the crazy train moving!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Orange is the New Black 1.04: "Imaginary Enemies"

“Hope is a dangerous thing.”
-Miss Claudette

The fourth episode of “Orange is the New Black” focused on one of my favorite characters, Miss Claudette. Miss Claudette is Piper’s Haitian roommate who found herself mixed up in (and later running) a sort of human trafficking ring. She doesn’t tolerate foolishness, and while she was basically presiding over the indentured servitude of girls, if someone tried to hurt one of her girls, they were in trouble. They might find themselves on the wrong end of her immaculately clean carving knife. “Imaginary Enemies” also dealt with the emotions of getting out of prison. The story of little-heard-from Mercy being released is viewed through the lens of her current and ex-girlfriends, and Miss Claudette considers whether she wants to reopen her case. There’s also yet another silly “Piper is a fish out of water” plot involving a missing screwdriver, but that didn’t have as much meaning as the rest of the episode.

I was very happy that this episode featured Miss Claudette, because I think she brings a much needed maturity to Litchfield. Despite the fact that she’s done some pretty horrible things in her life, she likes order, and she’s forced to suffer indignity after indignity at the hands of Piper. The episode opens with the first in a long line of such indignities. Piper is cleaning up the Crazy Eyes peeing incident (with some pads, naturally), and Miss Claudette is stressing that while Piper is getting rid of the liquid, she’s not disinfecting. We start to get a hint from the very first flashback why Miss Claudette is such a neat freak. When she was a teenager, a man named Baptiste brought her to the United States to work at a company called Clean Makers. Clean Makers was really a trafficking front. All of the girls were working off debts their parents owed back in Haiti. Baptiste seems to have a soft spot for Claudette, and the feeling appears to be mutual.

In more mundane news, Piper finds herself in an electrical shop class. She’s confused because when she asked to be in the “education program,” she thought it would be like being a TA in college. The CO who runs the electrical shop is Luschek, and he’s pretty much an idiot. A harmless idiot (compared to Pornstache, at least), but an idiot nonetheless. There is somewhat strict security around the tools in the shop, considering inmates can get pretty creative when they want to hurt each other. Luschek puts an especially ornery inmate in charge of collecting the “chits” everyone is supposed to hand over to get tools. Piper gets a screwdriver and diligently starts trying to fix a desk lamp. Piper, of course, is the only person bothering to try, and there isn’t exactly much direction. Luschek just gave her the lamp, a manual, and told her to tinker with it.

During lunch break, all the ladies working in the electrical shop get to go outside. Nicky and Piper have an interesting conversation because Nicky has been getting to know Alex better lately. Nicky is determined to learn more about what happened between Piper and Alex pre-incarceration. Piper’s not talking about it, though. When they go back inside, Piper accidentally leaves her sweatshirt on the outdoor bench, the screwdriver still in the pocket. Piper retrieves the sweatshirt when she is allowed to leave electrical shop for the day, and the screwdriver is still in it. This causes a huge problem, because used creatively, a screwdriver can apparently be a deadly weapon. The missing screwdriver causes a massive search effort throughout the facility. Piper has to let Miss Claudette know what’s going on, and this is yet another annoying thing to ruin Miss Claudette’s day. She manages to successfully hide the screwdriver during a bunk search, but not before Pornstache completely trashes the place. Poor, long suffering Miss Claudette!

The other big news at Litchfield besides the missing screwdriver is that a woman named Mercy is due to be released soon. Mercy’s girlfriend is a blonde woman with cornrows named Trish, and Trish wants to plan a going away party. She also wants Piper to look over a letter Trish hopes to use to win an appeal. Trish is worried that if she’s in prison for too much longer after Mercy has been released, Mercy will move on. Complicating things further is the fact that before Trish, Mercy dated another inmate, Boo, for two years. Boo still holds a candle for Mercy, and Trish, understandably, doesn’t like that. Beyond the sensationalism of a lesbian love triangle, though, the Trish/Mercy/Boo situation makes many of the Litchfield inmates contemplate what it would be like to be released. Trish wants to be sure to hang on to Mercy, obviously, and when some of the other ladies hear about Piper reading over the letter, they all beg Piper to look over letters for them, too. The crowd in their room is yet another of the indignities Miss Claudette must suffer in this episode. Of course, all of the ladies say they were really innocent for one reason or another.

In a second flashback, we see that Miss Claudette eventually grew up to run Clean Makers. One day Baptiste stops by with his new wife, and that really throws Miss Claudette for a loop. Around the same time, Miss Claudette notices that one of her girls is refusing to take a shower. When Miss Claudette pushes the girl to get a shower, the girl shows Miss Claudette some nasty bruises she suffered on the part of one of her “clients.” Miss Claudette visits the client’s house and says she’s the new cleaning lady. When we next see her, she is making sure the kitchen is immaculate, and she is paying special attention to cleaning a very large knife. The one mess in the kitchen is the dead body of the man she just presumably killed with the knife.

At Litchfield, the search for the screwdriver intensifies, and when a bunch search is done for a second time, Piper is worried that they’re going to be caught. She thinks the screwdriver is under her mattress, but it turns out to be missing. Piper thinks this gets her off the hook, but it’s not definite. If it’s used as a weapon and traced back to Piper, she could face some problems. It’s kind of nice to see how Piper and Miss Claudette interact through this whole drama. Miss Claudette is frustrated as all get-out with Piper, and Piper is as annoying and WASP-y as ever, but they reach an understanding for their mutual benefit. Anyway, it turns out that Boo took the screwdriver, and she’s been using it as a dildo, which to be honest, just seems painful. Luschek ends up buying a new screwdriver and passing it off as the old one, and thus the great screwdriver crisis passes.

Mercy’s release is kind of an emotional moment for the women of Litchfield. Trish and Boo are both worried they will never see their lover again. Piper kind of hangs back. It’s like she can’t mentally handle thinking about being released before her time actually approaches. Later in the day, Bennett stops Miss Claudette because he has a letter for her. Miss Claudette never goes to mail call because she never gets mail, but this time is different. It’s a letter from Baptiste saying that his wife has died and he wants to see Claudette. Miss Claudette decides right then and there that she wants her case reopened after all. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, this can’t possibly end well.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dominion 1.02: "Godspeed"

“Doesn’t it make you angry that they were given our birthright, this earth, these bodies. And what did they do with it? They turned it into a pit. When they’re gone, the last of them a bad memory, maybe then Father will come back.”
- Gabriel

We begin our second episode this week in a flashback to happier days for Jeep and Alex. It looks like we find them shortly before Jeep abandons Ales. They’re at a small house playing basketball when some eight balls attack. Jeep fends them off but Alex is freaked out that his dad will leave him. Jeep promises that won’t happen but then we cut to his funeral as Alex hides and watches from afar. We cut to him drinking and then he and Claire get into it. He wants to run away and forget all the Chosen One crap. But she won’t go. She says the city needs him now more than ever and she has faith and proof that the Chosen One will save them all. Alex is just massively in denial about everything. He refutes her reason for him becoming a soldier. He just wanted three squares a day instead of starving to death at the bottom of the pack. Claire sends him away after he finishes his drunken rant. It’s a tad stereotypical but I’ll let it slide.

Elsewhere, the council is meeting and some of the senators want to punish Wheel for letting the eight ball loose inside the city but Rysen backs his play. Interesting that they’re not at each other’s throats when we know they don’t particularly like one another. And my dislike of Wheel increased as he tells Rysen that the issue of everyone in the room (tech people etc.) are being taken care of. His version of taken care of is a bullet to the head and being fed to a lion. Rupert Giles this man is not. I don’t even think Ripper would be that cold hearted.

Over in Frozen land (and not the cool Disney version), Gabriel and his horde of eight balls are celebrating and mourning the deaths of some of the Powers Michael took out. We see the little boy Power has rejoined the gang. For a moment though, Gabriel seems to lose focus before rushing off and leaving his horde to their giant orgy. On a lovely seaside cliff, Michael is flexing his wings in the breeze when Gabriel shows up. Gabriel assures his brother that surrender is definitely an option and the way he sees it, he lost a battle, not the war. They bicker about their Father leaving and Gabriel blames humanity while Michael points out that Gabriel is just an angry child lashing out. But Gabriel has to have the last word and he whips out the “I know the Chosen One is here” bit. And we also were denied an awesome Michael/Gabriel fight.

Wheel pulls the Helena representative out of lock up (they were deprived of their full body coverings which is apparently part of their culture) and is interrogating her about the boy Power show infiltrated her ranks. She disavows any knowledge on her part or on the head of her city. Wheel wants their air force but she knows her superior won’t go into a fight with Gabriel again unless they are directly threatened. Oh and apparently killing her would mean nuking Vega. Well I guess he won’t get what he wants out of her. Over at house Rysen, Claire and Bixby (I got her name wrong in the pilot…sorry folks) are eating breakfast when daddy Rysen comes in and he knows that Claire loves Alex. They can’t really marry for love at this point. Apparently, the class system was supposed to be temporary but the senate is stuck in their ways. He won’t be stepping down soon either. It also seems Alex’s assignment has been swapped to House Wheel. He’s on the way when Michael literally whisks him off to a tower. Alex is pissed at Michael and tells him that he read one of the tattoos and warns Michael to stay away. There could have been another fight here but again we were denied.

Alex makes his first appearance at House Wheel and gets a warning from David about the price of fame and we also learn that Wheel was a former televangelist. I can kind of see it but it just adds to my dislike and distrust of him Of course, William is all hot to trot about Alex and is bowing to him and stuff. If we didn’t know he was Gabriel’s son, I’d probably think he was just obnoxious. But he does seem to be sort of nice. He hands out extra rations and medical care cards to poor people. Oh and it turns out Papa Rysen has congestive heart failure and he’s keeping it a secret from Claire. Not a good idea. Also, leaving the city is not a good idea and he seems to be doing that on a regular basis, too.

In prison, the de-robed women are scraping their nails down to the beds to make poison so they can kill Wheel. I don’t really get that but I guess I don’t have to. I’m assuming it will fail since Tony is in more than just two episodes. Back at House Wheel, Alex bumps into one of the other household staff and he reveals a sliver of a tattoo. She turns out to be a Power as well and sprouts some wings and takes off. Michael really ought to be checking people more closely. Speaking of Michael, Papa Rysen is kind of annoyed that Michael never mentioned the Powers. Michael admits he didn’t think they’d factor in since they were hands off for the first war. He doesn’t know how to reach Alex about his destiny. He asks Rysen for advice but the dad doesn’t have any idea.

Alex is sneaking around and ends up in Claire room and they have some hanky panky time and we get some good views of Alex’s tattoos. He’s on his way to sneak out when Bixby spots them. Claire drags the girl off to bed while Alex is left to face off against the lady Power. He’s getting his ass kicked and then he finally starts fighting back. But there are causalities. A random guard gets knifed (or maybe cut by her crazy wings) and Bixby gets cut, too. But she may be okay. Alex tries to light the Power on fire but she takes off while her wings smolder. I guess they aren’t like the angels from Dogma whose wings burn up with fire. And it also turns out we were sort of wrong about the women captives. They are all dead and the representative gives Wheel an ultimatum she can go back to her leader and say they were in league with Gabriel and so Wheel killed them and she has no involvement or all-out war erupts and Vega loses badly. I have a feeling I know what way he’s going to go. Alex is running again because he doesn’t want to put people in danger. Claire wants to go with him but he refuses. Gabriel welcomes his spy back into the fold and tends to her wounds but she reports that Alex is stronger than they expected. We end on a rather bizarre note. We learn the purpose behind Rysen’s trips beyond the walls. It seems his wife (or mistress maybe) is an eight ball and he’s got her locked up in what looks like an old casino. Definitely not what I was expecting and I get why he’s keeping it a secret from Claire. Well hopefully next week will bring us some more Michael fights and maybe some orgies. A girl can hope!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.04: "In Control"

“Because I fit in just fine. But I remember where I came from. Not having all of these things. It being about something bigger than just myself.”

“In Control” centered around one of those big news events that probably would have been important to me if I had been alive when it happened. It turns out I missed the Reagan assassination attempt by a little over two-and-a-half years. It was interesting to see the Soviet interpretation of the event, and heck, it was even interesting to see the American perspective. The fact that President Reagan was shot once was kind of a dry, boring historical fact that I learned. I’d like to do a little more research into the Reagan assassination, actually. I’m kind of a Cold War history buff, although I’ve generally been drawn more towards events in the 60’s and 70’s. Some of the conversations that took place in this episode felt very informed by 9/11, and I wonder if people actually talked about events in that way in 1981.

The episode opens with Elizabeth and Phillip really wanting to get their groove on. After the kids go to school, they head to a fancy hotel. Elizabeth and Phillip enjoy their romp, but as they are leaving the hotel, they see some disturbing news on television. President Reagan has been shot. They are also saying that James Brady has died (we know now that he didn’t, although he was paralyzed), and the Secretary of State gives a press conference saying he is “in control” of the government. This is a bit of a faux pas, considering there are others ahead of him in the Order of Succession. The Russian characters in the show all think this could mean a coup has taken place, and even if there is no coup, there is concern that the U.S. might blame this on the U.S.S.R. As a result, frantic actions are set in motion.

The Soviets have good reason to be concerned about the blame game, at least. The immediate first reaction over on the FBI side is to see if the assassination attempt was at all remotely connected to the Soviets. As Stan’s boss puts it, if Hinckley ever so much as said “nyet” in his life, he wants to know about it. This means that Stan needs to contact Nina, and quickly. What makes the situation complicated is that the Rezidentura is super busy at the moment, too. Stan thinks he can send a signal that will ensure a meeting within 24 hours, but that is not fast enough for his boss. Nina tells Vasili that she wants to go listen in on conversations at a bar Congressional staffers frequent. Vasili encourages this idea, but he doesn’t quite trust Nina, and he has her followed.

Elizabeth meets up with Claudia, and the news is not good. Those frantic actions I referred to earlier come into play. Elizabeth is instructed to prepare for “Operation Christopher,” which I gather, in the universe of the show at least, was the Soviet plan for guerrilla war in the United States. We see Elizabeth go to a remote field to dig up a chest of sniper rifles and dynamite. The Soviets mean business. That particular scene almost feels clichéd in its melodrama (they really were all doomsday prepper?), but I think it does some good work in illuminating Elizabeth’s thought process. Elizabeth believes in the Motherland above all else, while Phillip is a bit more skeptical and deliberate. We will see this dynamic play out throughout the episode, especially when the tension is ratcheted up further by a conversation involving the Secretary of Defense that Phillip and Elizabeth overhear. There are references to fighter planes and a duplicate “nuclear football” (briefcase with our nuclear codes).

When they’re not doomsday prepping, Phillip and Elizabeth are methodically trying to gather intelligence. Phillip uses a media source who is friendly to the cause to get the names of some of the staff at the hospital where Reagan was taken. Phillip and Elizabeth then pay a visit to the home of one of the hospital’s nurses. They roll up in a government car (courtesy of Gregory, which clearly doesn’t make Phillip happy), and they pretend to be staff in the Office of the Vice President. They tell the Nurse that the Vice President needs to know the truth about the President’s condition. Happily for everyone, the nurse says that Reagan is expected to pull through. This assuages one of the two big fears. There will be no coup, this time, at least.

Nina’s rendezvous with Stan is a really close call. Amador is supposed to be keeping an eye on the situation from a window above, but he somehow misses the fact that a car is trailing Nina. Stan, however, still has actual spy instincts, spots the tail, and calls of the meeting with Nina. Nina goes into the bar she had said she was going to, and all is well for now. Stan and Nina do get to meet up later, but Stan doesn’t get a ton of intel out of the conversation. The Russians were confused too, and there is some humor around Nina not understanding the idiom “chicken with its head cut off.” The conversation, at least, does go a ways in convincing Stan that there was no KGB involvement in the assassination attempt.

Preparing for Operation Christopher is quite emotional for Elizabeth and Phillip. There’s a scene where they have a screaming match over whether Phillip has become too American. There’s also a scene where they’re mapping out sniper angles in the Secretary of Defense’s neighborhood and they get caught be security. Elizabeth just flat out shoots the security guard in the head. Elizabeth wants to report the conversation they heard about the nuclear football to Moscow, but Phillip really wants to delay until they know for sure whether or not there is a threat. Luckily, Phillip’s slow and methodical approach wins the day, and there is no unnecessary Cold War escalation. Phillip talks to Stan and finds out the FBI believes Hinckley had mental health issues and wasn’t a spy, and that plus the nurse’s intel is enough to ease Moscow’s fears. Elizabeth ends up admitting to Phillip that he was right on this one, and that is a very difficult thing for her to do.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer DVR Dump: Atlantis 1.04: "Twist of Fate"

“I’m not sure we should get any further. The child’s clearly from a wealthy family. Whatever reason they had to abandon him one thing’s for sure, they don’t want him found.”
- Pythagoras

Our boys are out trying to do some hunting when they happen upon a sort of whining sound. Hercules throws his spear but Jason catches it (with crazy-skill precision. (Think Nick on Grimm as of last season). He stopped the spear because it was about to impale a baby. Against Hercules’ advice to leave the baby there because it’s been exposed and left to die, the guys bring the baby home. I swear this is going to be Oedipus! Anyway, Jason runs out to the market to get some food and supplies and lucky he runs into Medusa because he was going to be feeding the poor kid fish and olives. Luckily, she manages to call the little guy down but Hercules really starts bonding the little guy when Jason and Py go back to where they found the baby to look for clues.

Up in the palace, King Minos has returned from a hunt of his own, accompanied by King Leos. Pasiphae seems a bit too chummy with the king and Ariadne remarks on how sad Leos’ wife looks. Pasiphae passes it off as the other woman being young and not having grown into the role of queen yet.

Jason and Py find some broken shards and grain near where they found the baby and so they collect them to see if they can reconstruct what it was. Little do they know but they’re being watched by an old man. The guys get back to the house to find Hercules asleep with the baby on his chest. After a little work, Pythagoras figures out the shards were a pig and it was a baby rattle. Py doesn’t think that they should keep looking for the little guy’s family because they clearly didn’t want him for some reason. They finally get the little guy to sleep. It’s been a long day for our heroes.

That reason may soon come to light. Up at the palace, Minos makes an offering to Artemis for the hunt they had and the food it produced. At the head table, Pasiphae offers to go with Leos on his hunt the next day. This makes Leos’ wife a little snarky. Before long, the man who was watching Jason and Pythagoras appears and explains to another man and the queen that the child is gone. Leos appears and seems to know about the baby. Ah, so they’ve been getting horizontal behind Minos’ back. Not sure how they wouldn’t notice if she was pregnant.

The next morning, the baby wakes up crying and it’s Jason’s turn to get up with him. He realizes they are out of goat’s milk and so goes down to the market to get more. He spots a whole lot of soldiers starting to knock on doors and rushes home. Medusa has arrived and it’s not good news. I was right in part. The baby is King Leos’ son but probably out of wedlock so he’d want the child gone to avoid messing up succession with his legit heirs. Unfortunately, now our gang has to make a hasty retreat with the little tyke. Medusa stays behind to answer the door and hide the evidence that a baby has been in the place. She thinks she’s done it until she sees the rattle on the floor. She tries to hide it behind a basket but the soldier interrogating her sees it after she leaves. Out in the city our boys are nearly cornered. Soldiers are advancing on them and they’ve hit a locked door. Jason has the bright idea to leap off to the next tear of walkways and he and Py (and the baby) make it. Hercules says he’s too old to do it and he manages to bust through the door. He tricks the soldiers into going through, assuming he’d gone on ahead of them before slipping back through and locking the door on the other side.

Jason and Pythagoras are hiding out in the basement of a tavern at Medusa’s suggestion while Leos, Pasiphae and their lord buddy try to figure out how to find and get rid of the baby. The lord pays off a guy to follow Medusa and unfortunately she leads all the people looking for the baby right to them. Hercules says he’d rather die than give the youngster up but then a woman shows up claiming to be his mother and the lord admits that when the baby was born, they took him to the Oracle which said he was destined to kill his father. Yep, it’s definitely Oedipus. The lord even tells Pythagoras that the prophecy also said the boy would marry his mother. So our heroes agree to take the baby out of the city to safety (to the boy’s grandfather). Things look a little sketchy at first when they get to the gate and there’s a ton of soldiers but Jason leads them away and using his mad skill gets away and meets up with Py and Hercules beyond the border. It’s a bittersweet goodbye with the little guy (and yes, the lads do name him Oedipus). Seriously, if Jason grew up in our world, didn’t he study Greek myths and Shakespeare plays? Doesn’t know any of this stuff? Anyway, back in Atlantis, the boy’s mother thanks the lord (who actually serves King Leos) for his assistance. And everything settles back down in Atlantis as Hercules goes off to see Medusa and Pythagoras and Jason speculate about how bad things will get for their friend (all in good fun).

I have to wonder if any of this storyline will potentially come back at some point. I know it will have to take a long time for the baby to grow up and it depends I suppose on how long the series runs. I think I enjoyed this episode more than the last to be honest. I thought it was kinda sweet that Hercules was cut out to be a dad. I think the show is starting to come into its own.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer DVR Dump: Warehouse 13 5.04: “Savage Seduction”

“Shut up and get in the TV.”
- Artie

I have to say I was a little concerned based on the episode description that this would just be a silly filler episode. Considering we only have six episodes for the final season, I thought it might be a bad idea. But it actually moves the story along and I laughed a lot at Pete and Myka’s storyline. Speaking of, we find Myka working on writing a book. Pete doesn’t have much time to razz her about it because his ex, Kelly, shows up. She’s very pregnant and Pete kind of freaks out. She reminds him they broke up like two years ago and he relaxes. But they’ve got a case. Her grandmother’s TV is possessed. So they head over and it is pretty clear there is something artifact-y going on. Her grandmother has been sucked into a telenovela. And before long, Myka and Kelly get sucked in, too! Pete watches the show (Myka and Kelly are playing a maid and the daughter of the family respectively). Artie arrives and he and Pete hop into the TV to try and find the artifact and neutralize it. Artie reads a letter from the telenovela company that thanked Kelly’s grandmother for watching the show and they gave her a broach. Holy artifact creation! Artie and Pete have cufflinks that allow them to remember who they are and Pete has some fun testing out his newfound Spanish skills before going in search of Artie. He runs into Kelly briefly and then goes to find her grandmother but the broach has been taken by a thief. Oh boy!

Elsewhere, Artie gives Claudia and Steve a case to help distract Claudia from her search to revive Claire and remove the crazy artifact energy. She’s crabby about it but I have a feeling she’s going to be enjoying herself shortly. Apparently, during a student presentation, said student was attacked by a shadow and his spine broke in three places. I have to say it totally reminded me of Pan’s shadow on Once Upon a Time. Creepy, no? Claudia and Steve go to the kid’s dorm room and his roommate tells them he was partying hard out by a bridge. So that’s their next stop. They find the kid’s cell phone with a video on it where he fell off the bridge and broke his back. Claudia notes that the kid was speaking Latin and Steve puts it together with the frat symbols spray painted on a car. At the frat house, they find that the boys have some kind of duplication artifact and that when you fall down or pass out (at least that’s what it looks like), the other you in shadow form slams back into you and you’re hit with whatever was going on with your other half. Not a good artifact methinks.

Pete goes to find Myka after he realizes that she left a note for Kelly’s grandmother about her supposed long lost son (aka Artie). Pete convinces Myka (as Maribel) to go with him to get the Colonel. Artie has no idea who took the artifact so he needs to get into character so he knows what the Colonel knows. I can only assume this is going to backfire. Almost immediately, Artie (as the Colonel) starts throttling Pete, calling him a bastard. I have to say this storyline is actually really funny and I’m kind of glad they did it. Though I did have to pay attention to the subtitles (even though I do have a minor in Spanish).

Back on campus, Steve and Claudia get into the frat house and down to the basement where all the spooky shenanigans are going on. Claudia zaps a guy with her Tesla and Steve sneaks into the ritual. But he’s outed as ATF when he starts pulling out an artifact baggie. And wouldn’t you know it, he gets whammied and split in two. I kind of wonder if they got both Aaron and Shawn for this episode. (A quick search on IMDB says no). It would have been awesome if they did though. That’s the benefit of having a twin in show biz. Anyway, this s probably the funniest pat of the episode. We’ve got straight laced Steve (no pun intended) and flaming gay Steve. They end up finding the candle but flamer Steve makes off with it and the two Steves end up fighting. I have to say I love flamer Steve (and so did Claudia). And hey, she got the college experience without all the expense! Claudia bags the artifact but there’s still the dual Steve issue. So she knocks out flamer Steve with a shot from the Tesla. Restored (and hung over), they head home and Claudia did have a good time. Girl needed it, really.

Back in the telenovela things get super crazy. Revelations abound. Maribel is the Colonel’s real daughter with his mother’s maid and Carmen is the product of an affair with another man. The cufflinks switch hands quite a few times and eventually they end up taking out all the necessary parties to save Kelly’s grandmother. And Maribel’s long-dead mother returns and stops her and Pete (aka Armando) from kissing because they are siblings. Weird. But kind of totally accurate for a trashy Spanish soap. They make it out of the TV and things are sort of back to normal. Well there’s some residual awkwardness between Pete and Myka and Kelly points out that things never would have worked out between her and Pete because he’s in love with Myka. So I guess they really are going towards getting the two of them together. Hey, at least they’re doing it right at the end. I still don’t think I can get behind that, though. They’ve always been too brother and sister for me to see them as a romantic couple.

Well I must say I’m really glad we had this light episodes right in the middle because things are about to get super crazy. Someone has taken Claire and it can’t be a coincidence that we saw Mark Shepard’s character come back in the season premiere. Only one more episode left until the series finale. I’m really glad we got these final run of episodes to tie everything up. It’s been an exciting ride from day one.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Leverage 1.04: “The Snow Job”

“Okay, let’s go steal us a mountain.”
- Nate

We begin this week with the Scotts, a small family in Florida whose house has been foreclosed on by the bank and bought up by the contractors who were supposed to be doing the repairs after Hurricane Katrina. The father decks the head contractor and gets locked up. So Nate goes and visits him in lock up and we learn that the father had been deployed overseas and when he got back the contractor had messed up the house and done shoddy repairs. Nate is rather drawn in because the father says that when someone messes with you and you really need help, it’s the kids that get hurt the most. We see our first (of many) flashbacks to Nate watching his little boy, Sam, die in the hospital. It’s pretty clear the memory spurs him to drink heavily because he’s late to the meeting the next day and he’s rather hung over (completely with coffee cup and sunglasses). Hardison runs through the contractors, Henry and his two sons Dennis (played by Danny Strong of Buffy notoriety) and Randy. Dennis is the man behind the business while Randy is just a snowboarding pretty boy. The crew heads to Aspen too run their con and it’s going to be a whopper. Sophie is playing a foreign Olympic medalist who ropes Randy in on a development of the ski resort and she says that his big idea for a sort of X-Games but bigger would be a great launch event. But he’ll need to buy into the group that’s redoing the resort. He offers up $500,000 immediately but he wants to meet everyone and see the plans for the resort remodel first.

While Hardison and Parker mess with the ski lift to get the real resort owner out of his office, Eliot and Sophie reel Randy in further. Unfortunately, his father needs to write the check so they head back to Miami. Sophie meets Henry and Dennis and henry love the idea of the winter games meets music festival. Dennis isn’t so happy and tries to talk Sophie out of getting into bed businesswise with his brother. While he’s trying to impress her with the construction scam they’ve been running (on over 400 families across the country), Parker gets a signal booster in the house and takes a dive out a window right on top of Eliot. And things get even more complicated because Hardison figures out that the signal issue was that there are police issued bugs in the house already. The team gets rather frustrated with Nate when he tells Sophie not to take the $500,000. He wants to take down the company and get all of the families their homes back, not just their client. So they’re switching up the scam. Nate goes in to meet with Dennis while Sophie continues her foreign athlete persona. Nate explains that he runs a scam where people with fatal diseases and short times to live try to take out some money on their insurance policies to do their bucket lists and he gets a big pay out when they die. Dennis is skeptical but says he’s in if he can have a doctor of his choosing examine one of the people on Nate’s list and he picks a woman with an inoperable brain tumor in Miami.

Nate is on his way back to the hotel while drinking from a flask in his car. Not a good idea to have an open container there, pal. He gets pulled over by a state police officer who is investigation Henry and his sons for racketeering among other things and he warns Nate that if he and his team are still around when the bust goes down, the Leverage crew is going to face the consequences. The team is scrambling a little find a way to fake a brain tumor. Eliot comes up with the idea to cross the MRI wires between two machines and feed a brain with a tumor into the image that the doctor sees. Nate rejiggers the plan a bit and they get a cadaver and fake the tumor. It’s enough to convince the doctor and Dennis. But Dennis still isn’t convinced. So while Sophie is trying to get him on the hook, Nate fakes a call that a mother of three just kicked it in Chicago. Dennis wants a cut after giving them $10,000 but at first Nate says he’s not even in the business yet. Dennis continue to argue and Nate ends up giving him a check for $100,000. Back at the hotel, the team continues to question his decisions. He says that the check was a stall to buy them a little more time. Nate and Eliot get into an argument when Eliot accuses Nate of making all these bad decisions because he’s drunk. I have to side with Eliot on this one but Sophie tries to take control of the situation and talk to Nate in private. I’m not sure if she gets through to him or not but he at least admits he’s not the same person he was when they met two years ago.

Things fall into place rather quickly. Dennis calls Nate and promises him $5 million to get into the venture. Randy and Henry see that Dennis is transferring such a big amount of money and they head to the bank to beat him to the punch. Henry transfer signatory power to Randy and thinks he’s gotten his son good. But it turns out thanks to a little techno magic from Hardison, Randy signs away majority interest in the company to Nate and company. And the list of potential people with diseases was actually the list of all the housing victims. The cops bust in and arrest everyone thanks to Nate getting them to agree to hold off a couple days for a minor transgression (transferring the funds off shore). And Nate gloats to Dennis that their big ass house being a corporate asset just backfired. The gang gives it to their client and all is good in the Leverage verse for another episode. But Sophie reminds Nate that he needs to be careful because there may come a day when the team won’t back his pay.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Orange is the New Black 1.03: "Lesbian Request Denied"

“That’s exactly what I need right now. A reminder of my ebbing fertility.”

This episode of “Orange is the New Black” was all about relationships and sexuality, so it appropriate that the spotlight character was Sophia, a transgender woman. At the same time, we also see both “Crazy Eyes” and Alex make passes at Piper, and Piper’s relationship with Larry begins to unravel. This episode was interesting because I feel like we really start to get a feel for what Litchfield life is like for people other than Piper. It’s the beginning of that transition from Piper being the goody goody and everybody else being scary prisoners, to Piper not being so innocent herself and everybody else being complex human beings. That transition is what makes “Orange is the New Black” really worthwhile television as social commentary instead of just a sensational “ooh a women’s prison” diversion.

Like I said, this episode’s flashback character is Sophia. When we first see her, she’s still a man, and that man is a firefighter. Sophia in her male state is played by Laverne Cox’s twin brother, which I think is pretty clever. Anyway, in the first flashback scene, we see pre-Sophia trying to engage in some identity theft in a home where he just helped put out a fire. He swipes a passport and takes photos of some documents. Later, we see some of the stages in Sophia’s transition from male to female. We see her wife coming to terms with how her husband is changing. She handles it pretty well, all things considered, offering hair, makeup, and clothing tips. She just really doesn’t want Sophia to get rid of her penis, which I suppose is understandable. Sophia goes ahead with it anyway. Given that I couldn’t possibly contemplate what she’s going through, it’s hard for me to judge if Sophia is being selfish or not. She certainly seems selfish, especially since she’s using the ID theft to bank roll all her medical procedures. On the other hand, maybe that nagging feeling that you are the wrong gender is really that bad. Like I said, I don’t know.

Anyway, in the present day, Sophia is facing issues related to prison budget cuts. Her hormone dosage has been cut to the absolute minimum needed for maintenance, and she’s now getting a generic. This isn’t working at all for Sophia. She tries to work through the system at first, requesting the proper meds from Healy, but when Healy refuses, she takes more desperate measures and swallows the head of one of the bobbleheads on his desk. This earns Sophia a trip to the clinic, but the result is the opposite of what she hoped for. The doctor says that since her liver function tests are off, they need to take her off the hormones completely for a little while until they can do a liver ultrasound. She tries to get her wife to smuggle in the meds, but that’s just one bridge too far.

Meanwhile, Piper is having to fend off rather aggressive advances from Crazy Eyes. Crazy Eyes has started to call Piper her “wife.” I guess she thought the hot pepper incident meant something? Piper, in her trying to be a goody good hipster white girl way, tries to let Crazy Eyes down as gently as possible. She casually mentions in conversation that she has a fiancé. This conversation takes place while Piper is trying to run on the track. Soon after the run, the track is shut down, again due to budget cuts. When I first watched this, I was kind of pissed off about how the budget issues were handled in the show (I deal with government budgets in my day job), but the final twist made it all make sense, so I’ll spare you that whining! While Piper is trying to avoid Crazy Eyes, she’s also trying to avoid Alex, who keeps trying to talk to Piper. In one bathroom scene, Piper finally confronts Alex about whether or not Alex named Piper as a member of the drug ring. Alex said she didn’t, and she emphasizes that Piper wasn’t innocent. Piper carried the bag of drug money on her own free will.

While Piper is getting closer to Crazy Eyes and Alex, the cracks are starting to form in her relationship with Larry. Piper asks Larry to have his dad look into who exactly named her as a member of the drug ring. She’s also upset that Larry isn’t planning to visit her that weekend because he needs to help her brother repair the roof of his mountain shack. Larry and Piper’s brother, Cal, are an interesting combo. Larry is the very hipster urbanite while Cal is kind of a recluse redneck. Cal used to be the Chapman family embarrassment, and he laments that now Piper is in prison, his Parents want to upgrade him to a mention in the Christmas letter. He preferred to not have so much attention. Larry complains about the sexual frustration he has experienced since Piper has been locked up, and Cal suggests the technique of “edging.” We see Larry actually trying it by the end of the episode. Oh, also, Larry not visiting Piper leads to a hilarious scene where Piper’s mom and best friend/business partner visit instead. It’s pretty amusing to see their reaction to Piper’s prison stories.

Throughout the episode, we get a few more flashbacks about what Sophia’s pre-prison life was like. The change from male to female was hard both on Sophia’s wife and son, and though her son seemed to take it worse. The scene that really stood out for me was a scene where Sophia takes her son to buy a new pair of sneakers. He wants a really expensive pair, and Sophia is desperate to have her son’s love again, so she agrees to buy them. Sophia and her son then run into someone they know at the shoe store, and when the acquaintance expresses shock over Sophia’s transformation, Sophia’s son runs out of the store, embarrassed, as a devastated Sophia has to pay for the shoes. Ultimately, Sophia’s history of identity theft catches up with her, and that’s how she ends up in Litchfield.

The other big event of this episode is that Piper gets assigned to her permanent bunk. She’ll be bunking with Miss Claudette, a Caribbean woman who has been in Litchfield for many years. She runs a tight ship, and through this episode, we see her trying to convey her expectations for bunk cleanliness and lack of drama to her pre-Piper bunkmate. That bunkmate has no respect, however, and Miss Claudette clearly has a lot of pull with the Litchfield brass, so Piper gets assigned to her bunk instead. Piper tries to be accommodating of Miss Claudette’s rules, however things go wrong very quickly. Crazy Eyes is upset at being turned down by Piper, so in the final scene of the episode, we see her have a squat and urinate right at the entrance to Piper and Miss Claudette’s bunk. Clearly that’s not going to fly with Miss Claudette.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dominion 1.01: "Pilot"

“Alex was the baby I saved all those years ago. He is under my protection.”
- Michael

Well folks, we find ourselves at the beginning of a brand new summer journey. I decided to cover the freshman season of SyFy’s new angelic post-apocalyptic drama “Dominion”. I’ll confess, I have not seen “Legion” although I’m told it was very dark and Paul Bettany’s Michael was super creepy. We will see how the current cast holds up. We get a little background for those of us virgin viewers. God disappeared twenty-five years ago and the angels blamed humanity. Gabriel and the lower angels (now called eight balls) tried to destroy humanity (including possessing mortals for bodies) but Michael sided with humanity and beat them back. And of course there’s a prophecy/myth that he found a baby who was to be humanity’s savior. They’ve established safe cities inside angel repelling walls, including one in what was Las Vegas (now simply Vega). We find a young solder, Alex Lannen out beyond the wall where he shouldn’t be and he finds three eight balls. One can change shape and spouts some big ass wings and tries to kill him. But Alex gets back to town and the walls repel said angel. Unfortunately, that means that Alex is in some serious shit for leaving. He’s sent to see Michael (who’s coming from a naughty orgy). Apparently Michael feels guilty after sex and he worries about creating more angel babies. But he heads off to give Alex his few lashes (yes with an actual whip0 before General Rysen (played by Alan Dale of “Lost” fame) intervenes.

Alex gets sent off to guard duty over General Rysen’s daughter Claire (whom he’s in love with and trying to elope with). She’s teaching some children about the myth of the chosen one. Alex gets in trouble with William Wheel (a big wig who it seems like may be in line to marry Claire instead). They pray together and we get a glimpse of just how messed up society is in Vega. They’re a caste system and the lower you are, the crappier your accommodations. But Alex is determined to get out of there one way or the other. Meanwhile, General Rysen has a meeting with David Wheel (Anthony Head) about the angel attack. Rysen tries to play it off as a one-off thing and not a resurgence of the angels that followed Gabriel. Also, can we just take a minute to detest Tony’s accent. I don’t know why they wouldn’t let him use his normal accent! It’s like trying to listen to David Tennant in the promos for Gracepoint. It’s just so jarring.

Anyway, after a random shower scene with lots of naked men (and a woman or two), we learn that the town has some visitors from a settlement on the East Coast. Wheel is the powerhouse of the city (but they don’t run it quite yet). David is enticing a woman to be his ally by showing her the reactor tech he’s built that will sustain Vega for a thousand years. She promises 500 child-bearing brides in return. I don’t trust either father or son. Quite frankly, I strongly dislike them both. Which is probably what was intended.

Out in the middle of nowhere, Michael is meditating when he gets a visit from a friend he thought long dead. The guy’s name is Jeep and I’m thinking he’s an angel as well. He’s got tattoos on his arm which apparently relate to the savior. Jeep asks about “him” and it’s pretty damn clear that the “him” is Alex. It would make sense for Michael to keep him close all these years to make sure he didn’t inadvertently die or get possessed. That night, Claire tires to bring up the whole “I want to marry Alex” bit but gets derailed when Rysen announces he’s stepping down from being Lord of the City. He thinks the people are ready to govern themselves. I highly doubt that.

David’s female visitor is bathing when he pops by to ask about a child she brought with her. Her city keeps their children hidden by law. She explains that the boy is a savant and we see him briefly wake up. It looks like he makes the sky light. Just after Alex gets the news from Claire that things didn’t go well with her father, he gets summoned by Michael and into a sword fight with Jeep who is his…father. Go figure. I didn’t guess that actually. Also, not an angel then. Jeep gave him up at age 11. Well that’s going to put a kink in things I’m guessing. Meanwhile, David’s done something in sane (even in William’s eyes) and brought an eight ball into the city. Sure it’s in chains but it’s still a crazy ass move!

Before the festivities can begin (everyone’s all dressed in their finest), Jeep and Michael call a council meeting where Jeep reveals that he found Gabriel holed up in the mountains outside Boulder. And he’s got second sphere angels on his side now, too. They can look human like Gabriel or Michael. Well, shit. And it may just be me but when Jeep was doing his little presentation I totally had a flashback to the tenth anniversary of Power Rangers when all the Red Rangers gathered together to fight evil. This of course is nothing like that because David isn’t interested in finding out who the Chosen One is or stopping Gabriel from attacking again. He wants to get to the damn Jubilee and do his thing. And boy does he. First, he announces the engagement of Claire and William (a blind person could see that one coming) and then he orchestrates some entertainment with the eight ball he captured. I’m thinking that will backfire horrendously. And boy does it. Gabriel is controlling it and it breaks free of its restraints and goes on a rampage. It doesn’t take Michael long to kick its ass and kill it. But things are escalating. Three soldier angels are inbound and two make it past the city’s defenses. Claire, Alex and his young friend Becca struggle to find each other and try to escape the city while the city leaders are ushered into a safe bunker. Ultimately, Alex lets Claire talk him into staying but he’s not staying put for long. Michael and one of the angels are fighting and it’s a pretty awesome fight. I hope we get to see more of Michael’s moves. I’m sure there’s some wire work in there (yes I know I’m getting a little technical and geeky…sue me). He’s about to kill the angel when the other one crashes and takes out the power momentarily. I’m just waiting for Alex to do something that screams “Chosen One”.

Michael doesn’t get to finish off his enemy before he escapes. But there’s more drama to be dealt with in the bunker. The little boy stabs Jeep and takes off. He’s clearly an angel of some degree. With his dying breath, Jeep pronounces his son the Chosen One. David scoffs at it but everyone else is a little more willing to believe. Especially when the tattoos which are said to mark the Chosen One disappear from Jeep and reappear on Alex. David demands everyone keeps the secret until they figure out what’s going on when Michael returns and explains that yes Alex is the Chosen One and the little boy was a Power (one of the higher angels siding with Gabriel). This is getting interesting. I have to say I like learning about the different classifications of angels. It makes the story very layered. And I like that it’s kind of dark tonally.

While Claire prays for guidance and David rails against the idea of Alex being the savior, Alex gets a bit of a history lesson from Michael. The angel explains that the tattoos were meant for the Chosen One to decipher and use as a guide to win the war against Gabriel. Alex doesn’t want to be the Chosen One but he is definitely hiding things from his angelic pseudo father figure. Michael asks if Alex can read the tattoos and he says no even though it is clear that some of the ink changes into very clear words warning him about those closest to him. We end on a rather startling twist. William brings news of Alex’s true identity to Gabriel, his biological father. I like the twist and I can’t wait to see where all of this goes. Overall I was pleased with the pilot. It set up a lot of intriguing plot threads and character relationships to explore further.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.03: "Gregory"

“I was seventeen when I joined the KGB. I never had a boyfriend. They put me with you. We didn’t know each other. When we got here, I was twenty-two years old. I was living in a strange house in a strange country with a strange man. And I met Gregory, and he was passionate about the cause. He was passionate about everything. He was passionate about me.”

“Gregory” was another fairly self-contained episode of “The Americans.” I think when I say it was self-contained, I’m really comparing it to the second season. Season 2 doesn’t seem to have as defined episode stories as these early season 1 episodes did. I actually didn’t remember that the events of this episode happened so early in the season. Mostly I didn’t realize that Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage started unraveling so early. Gregory, after whom the episode is named, is an old friend of Elizabeth’s with whom she had an affair. She converted him to the KGB cause in her early years living in the United States, and sometimes she enlists his help for Directorate S missions. This episode would be one of those times. It’s an interesting framing device through which to learn more about Elizabeth’s past and about Phillip and Elizabeth’s relationship.

While I feel like this episode is fairly self-contained, it does have a connection to events that occurred in the pilot. Nina gives Stan some intel that the man who died of the stab wound in the pilot (Robert) was actually a Directorate S agent. At the same time, while Phillip is reading the newspaper, he sees a signal from Robert in a classified ad. Since Robert is supposed to be dead, to say this is troubling would be an understatement. Phillip and Elizabeth need to respond to the signal (Robert was one of Phillip’s best friends), but they need some distance to do it. They enlist the help of Gregory. When Elizabeth visits Gregory to make the request, it’s immediately clear that they have a romantic history. Since Elizabeth has been married her entire time in the United States, and we don’t yet know much of the Jennings’ backstory, this is a surprise.

Gregory is kind of pissed off when Elizabeth tells him that things are finally going well with Phillip for once (he still seriously carries a torch for Elizabeth), but he offers to help with the Robert situation anyway. It turns out that the signal was placed by Robert’s secret wife, Joyce. Joyce is being tailed by the FBI thanks to her late husband’s ties to Directorate S, so Gregory and his team stage a really elaborate series of distractions on a Philadelphia street to get her away from the FBI agents. Part of the ploy involves a big produce truck, and the whole thing is pretty impressive. Joyce is hustled away into the store room of a nearby building. Phillip and Elizabeth are concerned because Robert wasn’t supposed to have this secret life. They’re worried that Joyce knows too much. It turns out that she just thought Robert was a drug dealer, although all the shadiness that has happened since Robert’s death helps her put the pieces together that he was actually a spy.

The FBI is pissed that they lost track of Joyce, and a higher-up (somebody above Stan) leaks Joyce’s picture to the media along with a story that she is wanted for kidnapping. Joyce is not at all happy when she sees this on television, and it’s really the final piece that helps her figure out her late husband was KGB. Joyce gives Phillip a note that Robert instructed her to turn over, and while Phillip is trying to decode it, Gregory starts grilling him about his feelings for Elizabeth. Gregory goes for broke, telling Phillip that Elizabeth deserves something real instead of her KGB-arranged sham of a marriage to Philip. Phillip is clearly getting irritated, and he goes for a rather long walk after giving looks of death to everyone in the safe house. While on his walk, Philip sees a woman whom he also saw at a diner early in the episode. He confronts the woman, who turns out to be Claudia (Margo Martindale), their new KGB handler. She instructs Phillip and Elizabeth to make contact with the person from Robert’s secret note.

Phillip and Elizabeth are clearly in a bad place now thanks to Gregory, but they don’t really have time to work things out because Phillip has to investigate the note. Phillip goes to a warehouse basement, where he is confronted by two henchmen. After the fight, Phillip winds up with some very important military plans, for what I believe was “Star Wars” (aka Reagan’s missile defense pipe dream). This fits with Claudia’s intel that the United States was developing some sort of weapon that would hamper Soviet nuclear efforts. Turns out they didn’t really have much to worry about, but they couldn’t have known that at the time.

In the vicinity where Gregory pulled off the disappearing Joyce operation, the FBI are still searching like nobody’s business. Stan and Amador, while they are working, notice that they are being followed. The followee is a “hood,” and Stan wonders why an African American person would be involved in the KGB. This all happens while Elizabeth is trying to end things romantically with Gregory once and for all. Claudia takes Joyce’s baby (yes, did I mention Robert is a secret father, too?) and loads Joyce into a van. She tells Joyce that she is going to Cuba, and she is going to love the beaches there. I know I’m a naive person, because I actually believed that Joyce and the baby were going to Cuba to lay out on the beach.

Elizabeth and Phillip finally have a big conversation about the Gregory-shaped elephant in the room. Elizabeth explains how she never really experienced romantic infatuation as a teen/young adult because of her KGB experience, and when she met Gregory at a rally, it was something new and intoxicating. She tells Phillip that she’s starting to feel passionately about him (Phillip) now, which she hadn’t before. We also learn that Joyce did not actually go to Cuba. We see KGB folks delivering the baby to his grandparents in Donetsk. Thoughts to the people of Donetsk, by the way, as they continue to be right in the middle of the instability in Ukraine. Stan finds Joyce dead in the car, tourniquet around her arm. We all know she didn’t die of a self-inflicted overdose, though.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer DVR Dump: Atlantis 1.03: “A Boy of No Consequence”

“Sometimes being the Queen means you can’t follow your heart.”
- Queen Pasiphae

Jason, Py and Hercules are out in the market doing some shopping when they happen upon an old man whose cart has lost a wheel and toppled over. Jason goes to help him when a young man who is rather haughty and entitled demands the old man move his cart immediately. When the man says he can’t move it until the wheel is fixed, the young man starts beating him until Jason intervenes. This of courses lands all three of them in front of King Minos. Apparently Jason got into with the queen’s nephew, Heptarian. As punishment, all three of our heroes are sent to learn how to jump bulls. Seems like a really stupid thing but I guess with the odds of survival being so slim, it controls the prisoner population well enough Ariadne is worried for Jason and the queen (who it turns out is not actually her mother) can’t do anything to help.

The boys are taken down to the bull court to see what they’re up against. You literally have to leap over a bull (along with the rest of your team) to be set free. The queen and Heptarian are putting a plot into motion that will ensure at least Jason dies. They watch him deftly leap over the practice bull (after Hercules falls flat on his face in front of it). The motive for having Heptarian marry Ariadne is not entirely clear (though I’m a little less disturbed by the thought because they aren’t blood relations). That evening, one of the other prisoners on Jason’s team slices off a lock of his hair and delivers it to Heptarian. It seems they will use it for their nefarious purposes when Jason faces the actual bull in front of Minos. Meanwhile, Jason’s team is not at all cohesive as they watch another group get gored. There’s too much tension between a Nubian prince and a common thief. Something tells me, though that Jason will find a way to unite them all and work together.

Sure enough, when the group faces the real bull for the first time Jason charges the bull and looks like he’s been seriously injured so as to get the group to work as one. It achieves the desired result and everyone (minus the one woman in their group) share a meal together. Back in the palace, the Queen makes a voodoo type doll. Now they just have to wait for Jason to face the bull for real. One of the other prisoners confronts our snipping chica and he gets killed for it when he tells the guy who has been training them. My guess is he was in on it.

And this episode continues to be somewhat predictable. After seeing the guy’s body laid out in the bull pen (their trainer says the bull got him while he was out feeding it. The young woman in the group finally admits to Jason what she did and why. Heptarian said he would free her. Yeah, I doubt that, sweetie. But this only serves to bond everyone tighter together. Since you know, Jason failing means they all die. Ultimately they decide to get Medusa a message to try and find the lock of hair so the queen can’t use it in her spell. And it would seem Heptarian is not having much luck wooing Ariadne. The queen tells him to be patient because soon Jason will be dead and forgotten.

The day of the dance comes and the queen heads to her secret lair to start poking her voodoo doll. But lucky for our heroes, Medusa got the note from Hercules and sneaks in and watches, waiting for the right moment. For some reason (probably the pretty factor), Jason is the only one shirtless in the arena. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s attractive but it seems a bit unnecessary. Anyway things aren’t looking so good for them when he basically collapses in pain. The queen’s magic is working. So the Nubian prince and Hercules jump the bull first. The lone woman does as well. All the while, Heptarian is sitting at Ariadne’s side and sorta twirling his goatee in anticipation. The dude is creepy. Just as things are looking dire, Medusa steals and destroys the doll and Pythagoras and Jason are able to jump the bull as well and seal their freedom for the group. Honestly, it couldn’t have ended any other way. For one thing, the trio is the core of the piece and there’s no way they’d kill any of them off in episode three. They all end up leaving and Hercules is convinced that Medusa now has feelings for him while the guys continue to give him crap for it. That is going to be kind of a weird pairing given the mythology behind the two characters. And it seems Ariadne is going to do her own thing because she doesn’t really care what step mom has to say about her feelings for Jason or lack thereof for Heptarian.

It was an interesting episode overall but it didn’t really give me any surprises at all. Maybe it’s because I watch so much TV that a lot of twists don’t shock me anymore. I keep expecting it to be like Merlin in quality but it just isn’t there quite yet. Obviously, Merlin season 1 wasn’t to the same level as say 4 or 5 but it was still strong and it had twists that I didn’t see coming. This so far just isn’t doing a lot for me. It may be that I’m expecting it be heavier on the mythology and Jason’s purpose (again as it was in Merlin) and that doesn’t seem to be where it’s going right now. I’ll stick through to the end of the season for sure to see what happens. They are still trying to find what kind of show they want to be and I can respect that. I’ll just have to be patient and hope that the mythology part of the storyline becomes a bit more prominent soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Game of Thrones 4.10: "The Children"

“I’m not interested in hearing another one of your smug stories about the time you won. This isn’t going to be one of those times.”

It’s hard to know where to start talking about the “Game of Thrones” fourth season finale, “The Children.” Typically, HBO shows, “Game of Thrones” included, use the season finale as a denouement, with most of the action taking place in the penultimate episode. “The Children” broke the mold. There was a lot of action happening in last week’s episode, but there was even more in this one. I can’t even tally the death toll off the top of my head. Let’s revisit that issue at the end of the blog post. We can count up how many people have died as I write about them. There was quite a lot of violence and death in this one. I know we’ve had ‘splodey heads and axes to the head this year, but the violence didn’t really get to me until this episode. There’s some hand-to-hand combat that is just really intense, and I kept hoping those particular scenes would be over quickly. While I didn’t really like the level of violence in this episode, I will say that all of it was at least grounded in emotion and storytelling. It wasn’t just violence for violence’s sake.

Let’s start this recap with some plots that didn’t involve deaths of major characters (although there was still plenty of death). We open this episode in the North, wrapping up the plot that we followed in last week’s episode. Jon has gone to talk to (and probably kill) Mance Rayder, and he finds him pretty quickly. Mance explains to Jon that the Wildlings just really want to move south of the Wall to get away from the white walkers. He also says that if the Night’s Watch surrenders, the Wildlings will spare their lives. I guess I should have put together the Wildlings’ true motivation before now, but I didn’t. I’m a bad geek, what can I say? None other than Stannis and his army ride in and subdue the Wildlings. Jon convinces Stannis to treat Mance with mercy. I’m sure this will have plot ramifications moving forward. Jon also buries Ygritte’s body near a Weirwood tree. I’ve read some interesting work on the use of religion in A Song of Ice and Fire recently. I’d recommend Googling the topic. It’s pretty interesting.

At King’s Landing, the Mountain is dying because Prince Oberyn poisoned his weapon. Cersei doesn’t want to accept this, because she’s paranoid and thinks she needs somebody like the Mountain for protection. Grand Maester Pycelle says there is no hope, so Cersei dismisses him and brings in a new doctor, Qyburn. Cersei then proceeds to tell off Tywin, saying there is no way she is going to marry Loras Tyrell. She threatens to reveal that all her kids are the product of incest, and this news rattles Tywin. I’m surprised he never believed Twincest was true. I guess it was willful ignorance. Then Cersei goes and starts kissing Jaime. As I’ve been saying a lot lately, this can’t possibly end well.

We then go across the Narrow Sea to Meereen, where Dany is still holding court. Today’s complaint is from a peasant whose young child was killed by one of Dany’s dragons. He’s brought the charred skeleton with him and everything. Dany is devastated that one of her dragons would do such a thing (really, though, what did she expect?). Her biggest dragon is still MIA and clearly off causing destruction somewhere, but Dany chains the other two up in a cave. It devastates her, but she can’t take the idea of anybody else getting hurt. It’s an interesting contrast to her “breaker of chains” reputation.

Our next spot is deep into the North, where Bran, Hodor, Jojen, and Meera are still looking for the Weirwood tree from the vision. They’re trudging through a rather desolate expanse when they’re attacked by wights (corpses that are reanimated by White Walkers). It’s pretty gross, and Jojen doesn’t survive the attack. The surviving members of the group are rescued by a fire-slinging creepy little girl. She turns out to be one of “The Children,” who are a non-human race that inhabited Westeros before the First Men. She takes Bran to the Weirwood tree from the vision, and there Bran meets an old Seer who happens to also be the three-eyed raven from Bran’s dreams. Bran is told that he will never walk again, but he will fly. Whatever that means.

We next head to the Riverlands, where a pretty epic character meetup takes place. Arya and the Hound run into Brienne and Podrick. Yep, the two awesome lady warriors of the story get to meet! The meeting doesn’t exactly go well, though. Arya doesn’t trust Brienne, and she doesn’t want to go with her. The Hound doesn’t help, saying that Brienne can’t keep Arya safe in a world as crazy and violent as Westeros has become. The whole situation escalates into a knock-down-drag-out fight between Brienne and the Hound. It starts with swords, but it eventually becomes a fist fight. It’s just brutal to watch. This is the part where the violence really got to be too much for me. It was too raw and too prolonged. Brienne prevails in the fight by pushing the Hound off a cliff.

There’s plenty more murder and mayhem taking place back in King’s Landing. Jaime has secured passage for Tyrion away from Westeros (so he can avoid his death sentence). Before he leaves, though, he has some unfinished business. He finds Shae in the Tower of the Hand. Apparently she’s been screwing Tywin, which is just plain gross. Shae came from humble beginnings, but I always thought she was kind of classy. She’s definitely not classy anymore, although I suppose I can see why she did what she did. She was very hurt by Tyrion’s rejection. Still, that’s not a good reason to sleep with his dad! Tyrion stabs Shae to death, which is just brutal. I think I wasn’t really looking at the television anymore by this point because I had had it with the violence. Tyrion was just that hurt by Shae’s betrayal. He then follows it up by murdering Tywin, too. This murder made me a little more happy (if a murder can make one happy at all). Tywin had it coming for being an evil asshole. The episode ended on a somewhat more positive note, though. Arya uses the code word she learned from the Faceless Men to get herself ship passage to Braavos. You learn to water dance, girl!

Summer DVR Dump: Warehouse 13 5.03: “A Faire to Remember”

“Alice are you still in there? Yes, good. Go back to plotting ways to kill me.”
- Artie

So if you pay attention to casting news at all, you’d know that two of the secondary characters in this week’s episode are played by two of the leads from “Alphas”. Unfortunately, it was not a crossover event which could have resolved both shows in one swoop. I mean, wasn’t everyone kind of wondering what happened at the end of that show? Anyway, they are playing Renaissance Faire actors this week. We start at the fair and we see that Oswald is a really crappy juggler. One of the guys in the crowd is heckling him pretty bad and then a jester appears and makes the guy laugh until he has a heart attack I spy artifact. Back at the B&B, Pete has burned breakfast. But that’s okay because he is super excited to go check out the artifact wackiness at the faire. Steve, on the other hand, is not so excited. And Myka is off to find Claudia so they can help Artie restock the new and improved Dark Vault. Myka finds Claudia visiting Claire at the regent stronghold. Our future Caretaker is planner to use two artifacts in an attempt to draw out the remaining artifact energy from her sister. It’s worth a shot I suppose.

The guys get to the faire and Pete is goofing off about all the costumes and the people. They speak to the owner but he’s not much help. There are so many jesters (both staff and audience) that it will be hard to find the guy responsible. They do go talk to Oswald though (after Steve dunks him). Poor guy. He gets stuck doing all the crappy jobs even though his contract says he should be a knight by this point. We know he’s not the one behind the artifact but it would give him motive to mess with people. And I really miss Ryan Cartwright with his normal accent. The fake British accent his cohort is using is so bad. Things just end up going from bad to worse though. A horseless cart goes running amok and then a wizard is trying to attack the princess. And it seems Oswald is always at the center of it. He does admit to Pete and Steve that he had his fortune read that morning and told he needs to become a hero to become a knight and win the hand of the princess. So they pay the fortune teller a visit. The guys try tossing her tarot cards in bags to see if they are all artifact-y but no dice. The fortune teller takes off running and Pete and Steve now encounter an angry human chess piece. I’m thinking the fortune teller is behind it.

Back at regent headquarters, Claudia and Myka attempt to pull the artifact energy out of Claire and it actually works. Of course Claire still thinks she’s a 15-year-old and Claudia is seven. Interesting she doesn’t even ask about Joshua. Claudia sends Myka back to the Warehouse to butter up Artie so he doesn’t completely blow a gasket when he sees Claire all revived. Too bad the excess artifact energy isn’t actually in the intended receptacle. It’s now residing in Myka. Definitely not a good thing. She goes to find Artie in the Dark Vault. She is clearly being affected by the artifact since she’s really angry and snappy. And after Claire freaks out a bit more about the time jump, she and Claudia bond a bit over guitars. They even have an impromptu acoustic jam session at the café where Claudia plays. It is actually rather sweet.

Things are of course not going well for any of our other characters. While Pete and Steve catch up with the fortune teller and learn that it was her granddaughter (the girl who likes Oswald) that read the fortune and they neutralize those cards, the magic (as it were) is still active. The girl reveals the last card she dealt was death. So Oswald has to beat whatever is coming next in the royal tournament to win the princess and break the magic. Of course Steve has to open is mouth and ask how bad it could be when a big ferocious looking black knight appears on horseback. Oswald is scared at first but when the girl who actually read his fortune steps into the ring he charges in and becomes the hero. He even turns down the princess for her. Pete thinks it is a good idea to get in on the princess action but once she opens her mouth and talks, he really regrets it. Bet he’s wishing he were Steve right about then.

And Artie realizes that Myka has been whammied by the music box energy and shoots her with a dart. I’m not sure what that was supposed to do. Maybe somehow fill her up with purple goo to neutralize the energy? Something tells me by episode end they will be putting the energy back into Claire and she’ll be back to being an artifact-induced vegetable. And I was right. Despite the sisters bonding, things take a sad turn. Claire remembers killing their parents and then Artie calls about Myka’s situation. Ultimately, Claire sacrifices herself to go back into a coma to save Myka.

Overall I felt like a lot of this episode (read the faire portions) were filler. Again I felt like I wanted more on the Claudia and Claire storyline. I know we still need case of the week to keep the format up but I’m just really hoping that the finale really resolves everything. On the bright side the writers know it is the end so they better answer all the questions and give us a non-cliffhanger ending. Something tells me many fans (including this one) would be unhappy if that weren’t the case. But it was nice to see some nods to some of the old artifacts (like the shard of Lewis Carroll’s mirror) pop up in this episode. After all, Alice has been one hell of a character on the show over the course of the whole run. Based on the promo for next week, I think we are in for some pure silliness.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Leverage 1.03: “The Wedding Job:

“Her man’s gone to jail for fifteen years and she’s waiting for him. For fifteen years. Do have any idea how hard it is to wait for someone?”
- Sophie

This week’s case begins five years ago when a couple who own a restaurant get mixed up with the local mob. They witness a mob boss, Nickie Masconi, shoot a rival and he pins it on the restaurant owner, Ray. Masconi tells Ray that it will be an open and shut self-defense case and that the mob will support his family but Ray gets 15 years and his family loses everything. So Theresa, Ray’s wife, goes to Sophie for help when she sees that Masconi is throwing a big wedding for his daughter. We get a cute scene with Parker and Theresa’s daughter timing her in picking locks. Nate doesn’t want to take the case but the team convinces him that if he doesn’t think about the mob, it’s the exact type of case they take. I also think Nate is in a bit of a mood since he didn’t get to pick the client. The team heads out to Masconi’s mansion and finds it under heavy security. Their usual surveillance methods aren’t going to work so they’re going to piggyback off someone else. The FBI is watching the house, too and so we get our first introduction to Agents Taggart and McSweeten. Parker and Hardison manage to get a bug into the van and Parker scans one of the agents’ badges so Eliot can Photoshop himself onto a badge to get in the FBI. Things get kind of touchy between him and Hardison when he finds that the audio surveillance files are not digital but on cassette tapes. Hardison has to trigger the fire alarm just so Eliot can get out of the building unseen.

Hardison spends quite a bit of time sifting through all the audio files and finally comes up with something good. Mrs. Masconi is stressing big time over the wedding and some photos show people setting up for the wedding. So our crew has their con. They show up at the mansion as a wedding planning team. Sophie is the head of the planning. Hardison is flowers and music. Nate is the priest, Eliot is the chef and Parker is the seamstress. Nate is his somewhat grumpy self as he’s walking around the house trying to find the $2 million in cash Masconi has lying around the house somewhere. Sophie’s too into the wedding planning (as is Parker) and Eliot is more concerned about making sure all the guests have something to eat. I just love that badass Eliot is a whiz in the kitchen. Hardison walks the house planting bugs and they overhear a conversation between Masconi and a business associate about a payment going down during the reception. And to show what a total jerk this guy is, he also tells Nate that he tried to bribe his future son-in-law to not go through with the wedding. Asshole. Back at HQ, Nate laments about how useless and overblown wedding are and Sophie just gets very annoyed at him. We also learn that Eliot almost married someone once but she got hitched to someone else after he joined the military.

The day of the wedding arrives and the crew has to step it up to get the money before Masconi can hand it off to his business partner. Not long after the guests start arriving, Nate spots a bunch of Russian mobsters, including a man called the Butcher of Kiev who has a fiery past with Eliot. Nate wants to pull the plug on the con but he gets overruled by the rest of the crew. He goes off and gives a rather rambling speech to give Eliot and Parker time to find the money and it’s really just him talking to Sophie about why he’s not ready to move on from his ex-wife and start a relationship with her again. It brings tears to her eyes. Sophie had kind of gone on a rant of her own to the bride about how men suck earlier so it was a nice way to bring it full circle. And his actual speech to the bride and groom was touching.

Parker searches everywhere in the house but comes up empty handed. Eliot can’t go check the last place because he’s got food on the stove. One might think he’s getting too into the con but it actually comes in handy. After the ceremony, Masconi and the Russian mobster go to exchange the money but find an empty briefcase (Parker is hiding in the room in a bride’s maid dress). The team starts to piece things together when Nate recalls hearing Mrs. Masconi telling someone that “it” was in the screening room. Sophie lifts her phone and we see the last person she called was the Russian mobster. Apparently the guy Masconi shot (and framed Ray for) was this guy’s brother. Oops. Unfortunately, before Eliot can make a clean get away he’s confronted by the Butcher. Can I just say that I adore Eliot to pieces (and yes some of it is probably because I loved him as Lindsey on Angel) but his fight scenes are always so amazing, too. While he and the Butcher fight, Parker drags Masconi and the Russian back down the reception and Sophie hunts for Mrs. Masconi. Eliot ends up winning the fight by using his stuffed mushroom hors d’oeuvres to take the guy out. Priceless.

The rest of the con wraps up nicely when Mrs. Masconi gets away and the crew gets access to Masconi’s overseas bank accounts and they clean them out. It also turns out Parker was wearing a bug in her dress that the FBI could overhear and got Masconi’s confession about the shooting. And because it wouldn’t be a good episode otherwise, the happy newlyweds get off with all of Masconi’s cash. We end with a really sweet scene of the crew not only giving Theresa back the keys to the restaurant but Eliot making them dinner and the news that Ray is coming home soon. Overall I thought it was a good episode. We have the start of a Parker/Hardison relationship that I can’t wait to see develop. And who doesn’t love watching Eliot take out a guy with food?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Orange is the New Black 1.02: "Tit Punch"

“Because no matter how hard you try, and how much we want it, there’s the people who serve the bread and the people who eat the bread. And for once it would be nice if you would be on my side.”

As with most television series, once the pilot is out of the way, it’s time for the creative team to show what they intend for a show to be like on a regular basis. The scene has been set, and now it’s time to dig into the story. From this episode of “Orange is the New Black” we see how each episode is going to have several important elements. Piper is going to immerse herself more in prison life, we’re going to get some flashbacks to Piper’s pre-prison life, and there will be other flashbacks to illuminate the past of one of the other inmates. “Tit Punch” is Red’s (Kate Mulgrew) flashback episode. We start to see the sequence of events that will land her in jail. We also get a glimpse of what she means to the Litchfield community, as the present day scenes in this episode focused on Red and Piper’s war over the food. Peppered throughout are some great overall observations about how this particular prison runs, which the policy geek in me enjoyed.

It’s orientation time for Piper and her fellow new inmates, and that’s where we get most of the episode’s social commentary. There’s a video left over from the 80’s that warns the ladies of potential prison violence. There’s also a demonstration by Officer Mendez (aka “Pornstache”) of some of the MacGyvered weapons Litchfield’s residents have put together over the years. The piece de resistance is a razor blade melted into a toothbrush handle. The Executive Assistant to the Warden also stops by to tell the newbies that if they have any lady issues, they should tell her and she’ll handle it personally. When Daya actually raises her hand to ask a question, though, the assistant hightails it out of there. There is also an incident where Litchfield’s big freezer goes on the fritz, and Red uses the occasion to try and negotiate a new freezer. Healy keeps nattering on about how they have budget issues.

As I already mentioned, Red is the subject of this episode’s flashbacks. Before coming to Litchfield, she was the cook in a restaurant/shop she owned with her husband. It’s a Russian Mob hangout of choice. Red’s husband wants Red to make nice with the wives of the local crime bosses, because he thinks the connection could be helpful for their business. Red agrees, and we see her go powerwalking with the ladies. Red doesn’t really fit in with the other wives. She tells off-color jokes, and her hair isn’t bleached blond. The ladies ditch Red, and when she realizes what has happened, she is furious. She punches one of the wives in the chest and breaks one of the woman’s breast implants (hence the name of the episode). Later, Red tells her husband that she just didn’t want to be left out, and she had hoped they could move up in society. Red’s husband says that the crime boss husband of the woman she punched wants them to pay $60,000 for a new surgery.

The Piper flashback of the episode is kind of inconsequential, and it depicts a time when Piper decided that she and Larry should do the Master Cleanse. Larry is not at all enthusiastic about it, but Piper guilts him into it. It turns out that Larry takes to the cleanse much more than Piper. Larry is feeling great, but Piper is ready to quit after five days. This is juxtaposed with the beginning of Larry and Piper growing apart in the present day. While Larry is visiting, Piper begs him not to watch Mad Men while she’s gone. She wants them to both watch it together in bed when she’s finally home. Larry promises Piper that he’ll wait, but near the end of the episode, that changes. We see Larry flipping through sports channels, frustrated that nothing he wants to watch is on. Eventually, he settles on Mad Men, and he watches it in spite of his promise. While it seems kind of trivial, this can’t bode good things for Piper and Larry going forward.

Piper thinks that if she just really, sincerely apologizes, Red will allow her to receive food again. Piper couldn’t have been more wrong. Red takes criticism of her food personally, and she sees Piper as being nasty like the wives who cut her out of their walking group. She refuses to accept Piper’s apology, even when Piper offers to fight her to save face. Pre-Litchfield, Piper was working on starting an artisanal bath product line, and she uses those skills to ultimately end the starve-out. Red has back problems, and Piper thinks she can make something that will ease Red’s back pain and motivate Red to call off the war. There’s just one problem. A vital ingredient to the back cream is capsaicin oil, and Piper can’t find any hot peppers. Piper does some pretty ingenious trading to get the other ingredients for the cream, like shea butter, but the peppers are proving especially difficult.

Through Piper’s quest to find hot peppers, we start getting to know one of the more interesting denizens of Litchfield – the woman known as Crazy Eyes. Crazy Eyes does indeed have a case of the crazy eyes, and she tends to make people uncomfortable. She also has taken a liking to Piper. She tops by Piper’s room one evening and starts telling Piper about how she once had a Mexican girlfriend. The upshot of this conversation is that Crazy Eyes has some jalapeños, courtesy of said Mexican ex-girlfriend. Capsaicin procured, Piper is able to make her lotion, and she gives a bottle to Red. Red is dubious at first, but she tries the lotion and it really does help her back. By the end of the episode, Piper is once again given food from the chow line. The person who is starving now is Alex – punishment for trying to give Piper food during the height of the starve-out.