Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.08: "Mutually Assured Destruction"

“I cannot lie to everyone. Too dangerous.”

“Mutually Assured Destruction” is an interesting episode of “The Americans” in that it focuses on a mission that Phillip and Elizabeth ultimately fail to complete. I think this failure is going to propel the rest of the season. It sets Phillip and Elizabeth on a different emotional path, and it raises the tension between the FBI and KGB. What is especially interesting is that Elizabeth blames herself and Phillip for the failure, even though they had hardly any information to work from. They actually did find the person they were supposed to find, but they were too late. Her position is that they should have done whatever needed doing to complete the mission, no matter how the deck is stacked against them because that’s their job. I think Elizabeth is a little too committed for her own good. And holy crap is there a lot of sex in this episode. I rewatched it on the plane home from San Diego, and it was hella awkward. Let’s say I figured out how to hide the video very quickly. I think my seat neighbor kept giving me the side eye, though.

So, like I alluded to in the introduction, the premise of this episode is that somebody at the KGB took out a contract to kill fourteen scientists who were working on the anti-ballistic missile shield (aka “Star Wars”) program. Now the Center has changed their minds, so they want Phillip and Elizabeth to find the assassin and call them off. They know nothing about him. All they know are the names of the fourteen scientists who were supposed to be killed. Their first step in the mission is to try to get the American government to start protecting these scientists. They do this by setting off a bomb in one of their cars. They are careful to wait until the scientist and his wife have stepped out of the car before actually setting it off. They don’t want to hurt anyone. They just want to make sure that the Americans know there is a threat.

Meanwhile, at the FBI, Stan’s boss gives him the key to a studio apartment in Eastern Market that Stan can use as a safe house to meet with Nina. Stan is a little hesitant given that things have turned a bit romantic with Nina and he doesn’t want to encourage her further, but he accepts the key. Let’s just say that Nina really, really likes the new place, and this was just one of many times when I had to minimize the video in this episode. Later in the episode, Nina gets called into a meeting with Arkady. He starts questioning her about how she likes it in America, and it seems like he might suspect her of sending goods back home to sell. We find out when she talks to Stan later, though, that she actually got a promotion. She offers to use her new position to try and get into the Directorate S files, but in exchange she really and truly wants to be exfiltrated. She’s not optimistic that it will actually happen (she knows spies bleed people for information for as long as they can), but she wants it.

The one bit of information Phillip and Elizabeth can get on the assassin is that he’s East German. They get this information by finding the guy who sold the assassin some explosives. This guy has a rifle-toting small daughter (maybe eight or nine years old), which is both terrifying and kind of awesome at the same time. Meanwhile, Phillip also uses Martha to get more information on the scientists. Again, I had to use the screen minimization button. Phillip tells Martha that he’s in danger of losing his assignment to another team, and Martha offers to bring him some files so that he can be a hero and get a promotion. Oh sweet, naive (but kind of kinky) Martha. Amador almost catches Martha while she’s copying the files, which would not be a good thing at all, considering he’s her ex-boyfriend and has an axe to grind with her.

Throughout all of this, Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage continues to unravel. Early in the episode, Elizabeth takes a meeting with Claudia, and Claudia says that Phillip slept with Anne (the ex-lover from the previous episode). Elizabeth doesn’t believe it at first, but the doubt starts creeping in. The Jenningses and Beemans have dinner together, and as per usual, it’s interrupted by a call from work for Stan. Elizabeth manages to hear a few snatches of the conversation. Later, Elizabeth calls Phillip on what Claudia told her about what happened in New York. Phillip admits he cheated on her, begs forgiveness, and asks to start over. Elizabeth refuses. Prodded by Claudia’s words, she wants their relationship to be all business now.

Putting their marital difficulties aside, Phillip and Elizabeth locate the assassin in his motel room. Cornered, the assassin points out that he has set up an explosive device for just this sort of occasion. He refuses to call off the attack on the scientists. Phillip and Elizabeth shoot him, and they throw the explosive in his direction. By the time it’s over, the assassin is pink mist in the kitchen, and Phillip and Elizabeth are speeding away before emergency services arrives. They think they have completed the mission successfully, but they turn out to be very, very wrong. All the scientists are in a safe house, and a bomb planted by the assassin before he died goes off. All the scientists and some FBI agents are killed in the blast.

The rest of the episode deals with the fall-out from the explosion. The meeting at the FBI is tense. Some of the guys want revenge for their fallen comrades. Their boss doesn’t think that is going to happen, though. The Administration doesn’t want to risk open war with the USSR. Amador seems especially peeved about this. He ends up following Martha home after work, which is more than a little creepy. Phillip and Elizabeth are equally upset at this news. Elizabeth is convinced that they failed because she was emotional over the break-up of the romantic part of their relationship. Phillip reminds her that the deck was stacked against them. The Center had conflicting orders and couldn’t give them enough information to sort things out quickly. Elizabeth refuses to let up on herself. Phillip mentions that people separate all the time now, and if she doesn’t really want to be married to him anymore, he doesn’t think the KGB would care. Elizabeth ponders this and goes to say good night to Paige and Henry.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer DVR Dump: Atlantis 1.08: "The Furies"

“We are men of pluck, mettle, and unerring courage.”

After two episodes which really propelled the series mythology forward, “The Furies” was kind of disappointing in the sense that it was a rather stand-alone story. We get nothing in this episode about King Minos or Pasiphae or Jason’s larger destiny. Instead, our trio is trying to earn some money by completing a rather difficult delivery job. One thing the episode does have going for it is that it provides a great deal of background on Pythagoras. We learn that Pythagoras has a younger brother, Arcas, and their father was murdered. Arcas was young when this happened, so he is still really bitter over it. Pythagoras remembers how abusive their father was to their mother, though, so he is much less sentimental and angry.

The episode opens with Hercules lining up a job for the group. A rich guy’s son is getting married in the town of Helios, and the trio are hiring to help guard the “brideprice” (a trunk of gold) as it is transported across the desert for the wedding. The night before the journey is set to begin, Pythagoras’ brother, Arcas, shows up. He turns out to be a gambler to rival Hercules, so naturally, Hercules likes him a lot, and they spend all night drinking and gambling. Hercules is slow to wake up the next morning thanks to all the debauchery of the previous night. Arcas is now going to join the group on their expedition.

Before the group sets out, Pythagoras pays a visit to the Oracle. He is very nervous, both about traveling across the desert and having such prolonged interaction with his brother. This doesn’t really make sense until we learn what we learn later in the episode about their family history. The Oracle basically says that Pythagoras is going to go on a “journey of the soul” in the course of their trip through the desert. We also meet the rest of the traveling party. There’s the leader of the group, a rather stoic sort. There’s a silent man who bears a brand on his arm. And there’s a very mysterious woman.

As the group is about to leave, Arcas gets in a fight with the man with the brand on his arm. It turns out that the brand is a “murderer’s mark,” and Arcas hates murderers. We learn, as I mentioned in the introduction, that Arcas’ hatred comes from the fact that his father was murdered. Pythagoras explains that Arcas was too young when the murder happened to know what their father was really like. Because of what happens, Arcas hates all murderers. The leader of the group tells Jason and Hercules that the murderer had a good reason for doing what he did and has done his penance. They all try to mollify Arcas with this information, but it doesn’t really take. Arcas isn’t getting into any more fights, but he’s not happy, either.

There’s also the matter of the woman in the company. Several of the men complain that she will bring them bad luck, but Jason and the groom are both especially kind to her. Nevertheless, she keeps acting kind of shady. Nobody even knows her name. As night falls, the group is attacked by thieves. What I found interesting about this scene is that the woman jumped in to fight off the thieves. She was as tough as all the guys. When the thieves are defeated, the group takes refuge in a cave that has a sort of angel-like statute in it. We learn that this is the Cave of the Furies. The group leader swears it never has given him any trouble, though.

The woman and the groom briefly are separated from the group. She takes a drink from the groom’s wineskin and says her name is Baucis (appropriate, given the whole wine-drinking thing). Later, the group sits around the fire, and we learn what exactly the Furies are. If invoked, they will seek vengeance for a specific murder, and they won’t stop in their quest to kill the murderer unless the person who invoked them truly forgives the murderer. Naturally, Arcas is quite keen to hear this story, given his hatred of murderers and all. The group leader says that the Furies are harmless as long as nobody is stupid enough to actually invoke them. Guess who is that stupid, though? Arcas, of course! He wastes no time in invoking those Furies while everyone is asleep. He wants revenge for his father’s murder.

The next day there are numerous creepy signs that the Furies have been invokes, like a dead bird outside the cave, and the wind whipping up occasionally. The group tries to ignore it, though. Some drama with Baucis also serves as a distraction. At one point, she rides off on a horse with the chest they were all supposed to be transporting. Luckily, Jason put the actual gold in a separate bag and was using the chest as a decoy. After another wind in the desert incident (stronger than the first), the group finds Baucis. The leader wants to leave her in the desert to die because he doesn’t trust her not to try and steal the gold again. The groom and Jason, however, convince the group otherwise, and Baucis is once again allowed to travel with them.

Later at night, the Furies strike again, this time more powerfully than before. The insistence behind the attacks convinces Arcas that the marked murderer in their party must have been the person who killed his father. Arcas is about to strike up another fight with him when Pythagoras puts a stop to it with a shocking admission. He killed their father. It was an accident which happened in the course of trying to protect their mother from one of his rages. You would think this would put a stop to the Fury attacks, but it doesn’t. Arcas is steadfast in his anti-murderer stance, and he leaves Pythagoras and the rest of the party to the Furies.

The attack keeps intensifying, and something has to be done. They might survive the night, but the Furies will keep attacking and attacking until Pythagoras is dead. The groom and Baucis go after Arcas to see if they might be able to get him to change his mind while Hercules and Jason try to protect Pythagoras. Pythagoras wants Hercules and Jason to just leave him to his fate, but they don’t. Eventually, convinced by the groom and Baucis, Arcas comes back. He says he forgives Pythagoras, but the Furies don’t leave right away. Arcas has to truly mean it. Eventually, after they have a heart-to-heart, Arcas does truly forgive Pythagoras, and the Furies relent.

The group and the gold finally arrive in Helios. Many things have changed, though. Arcas wants to stay in Helios and make a new life there. He does so, and he and Pythagoras have a nice goodbye. Also, the groom has fallen in love with Baucis, so he’s no longer the groom. Hercules, Jason, and Pythagoras now have to transport all the gold back to Atlantis. And because the wedding never took place, they probably won’t be getting paid. Just their luck!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The 4400 1.02: “Pilot Part 2”

“You saw what Bailey could do. You felt it. Who knows what the rest of them are capable of?”
- Diana Skouris

Things pick up pretty much where they left off at the end of the first episode (probably because on original airing, they did a 90 minute pilot episode). Diana swings by the hospital to get Tom because they’ve got a case. One of the 4400 has been detained in a murder investigation. Elsewhere, Shawn is finding it very difficult to get back into the groove at school, especially when a kid starts hassling him about selling him stolen concert tickets three years earlier which led to the thug getting busted. Danny intervenes on Shawn’s behalf which I can’t imagine is much of a boost of confidence. To have your younger brother have to fight your battles. Definitely not what an older teenage brother wants. Things only get worse for Shawn when the kid starts trash talking Shawn after school and they get into a fight. Shawn takes the kid down and starts sucking the life out of him. Definitely creepy. Things are getting complicated for Richard and Lily, too. He calls the house but Heidi (Lily’s daughter) answers the phone and tells him that no one by that name lives there. Meanwhile, Lily gets the shocking news that she is pregnant. She can’t understand how but the doctor suggests she conceived right before she was taken. I’m not so sure about that. And I have to say I really dislike her husband. She tells him she’s pregnant and he slaps her with a restraining order to keep away from him and their daughter. Real class act he is.

Anyway, Tom and Diana go to the police station to talk to Orson (the 4400 who was detained). All the video footage shows that he wasn’t anywhere near the guy who owned his firm when he died but something wonky happened. And as Diana reads an email from the dead guy, Orson gets upset and things start shattering. On a visit to the morgue, our duo learns that it wasn’t being impaled that killed the guy, it was the millions of micro fractures in his skull. Just like the glass. Tom and Diana get the guy released but things only get worse. He goes to visit his wife only to learn she died in the middle of the night. He is distraught and things start flying around the hallway and off the walls. He shatters light fixtures and then takes off all freaked out. Even with Tom’s warning to the staff at the nursing home to keep quiet, I doubt the public will be ignorant to what’s going on for long.

Speaking of more odd things, Maia gets her foster parents to take her to visit her parents’ graves. They try to assure her that her parents thought of her every day while she was gone. And then they get freaked out when Maia says she knows where her foster parents will end up buried. They get a brochure from the cemetery the next day. Maia doesn’t seem too concerned though. She’s all packed and ready to go back to quarantine. She claims she knew her stay was temporary. Well, that gels with what she told Diana earlier. But she won’t tell Director Ryland why she was brought back to quarantine. I’m guessing she’s starting to figure out that telling people she can see the future is just scary.

At school, Danny’s girlfriend Nikki (who Kyle was totally up for “corrupting” three years earlier) doesn’t seem fazed by everyone else treating Shawn like a pariah. She burns him a mix CD of bands he should listen to and kind of flirts with him. I’m pretty sure that gives Danny another reason to not be happy with his brother. Lily ends up at a park and is watching little kids play when Richard finds her. The relief on her face kind of makes me sad. They end up sharing lunch at a diner and she unloads about the baby. He says he wants to help and they realize there’s a connection between them. She isn’t surprised when he admits that he and her grandmother were going to start a family after the war. They are awfully sweet together.

Back at the Seattle Homeland Security office, Tom and Diana are trying to find where Orson might have gone by looking through his wife’s things. They find a photo taken in 1949 in front of his wife’s family cabin and so they start doing a grid search to try and find the location since that seems the most probable place he would have gone. They get to the cabin and Orson refuses to come out. He is scared of what he can do and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone else. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean he won’t use his ability if put under pressure. He rants that he can’t control what he’s doing and it looks like both Tom and Diana might succumb to the pain but Diana gets off a shot and takes Orson down. She’s never shot anyone so it will take some time to come to terms with it. And she’s concerned that if he had these abilities, others of the 4400 might as well. And that just opens up a huge can of worms. She asks Tom if he’s noticed anything off about Shawn but Tom denies it. Speaking of Shawn, he sees Nikki and Danny looking some stupid 4400 conspiracy theory websites. This prompts him to take a trip to the hospital to see Kyle. Shawn seems have an inkling of what he can do and I can understand he feels responsible for Kyle being the coma (since other people blame him, too). He puts his hand on Kyle’s chest and it seems to almost wake him up before Shawn pulls away and Kyle falls back to being a vegetable. Things are continuing to get interesting and I can’t wait to see Kyle wake up. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched this season so there’s probably things about various storylines I’ve forgotten. That’s the best part of watching shows again after a long time. Like reading a good book, there’s always things you miss the first (or even second or third) time around.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Leverage 1.08: “The Bank Shot Job”

“Sometimes bad guys are the only good guys you get.”
- Parker

There are some episodes you remember better than others on rewatch. I have to admit, I didn’t entirely remember the plot of this episode when I started watching it. The team is running a rip deal scam on a local corrupt judge. And oh lord do I want him to suffer for being a misogynistic pig who thinks he’s abo e the law. Sophie and Nate are in the bank getting money from the judge while Parker and Hardison are in the van monitoring things. Eliot is off getting out of town when a father and son pull out guns and hold up the bank. The judge, who has the briefcase full of money from his safety deposit box, slides the case out of view when the robbers start demanding money. Whatever is in the tills isn’t enough for them to do what they need and the sons tarts getting agitated when it gets near 5:00. Nate thinks it will be a good idea to help the robbers so that at least everyone gets out safely. The judge goes to try and talk the father down (flaunting his “I’m the law” attitude) while Nate and Eliot have a conversation that the local sheriff thinks is aimed at him. Nate decides that they can’t let local law enforcement handle the situation. They need to put their own people on the ground. Well and the judge doesn’t impress the father at all. I don’t blame him. The guy is scum and I wouldn’t believe him if he said he could call off the sheriff and the deputies and just let them walk out of there unscathed and uncharged.

Parker and Hardison show up as FBI (though not the same personas they used in “The Wedding Job” and they try to take over from the local law enforcement folks). Inside the bank, the robbers are getting really agitated and Nate orders the gang outside to get any background on them that they can find. Hardison works his magic and finds out that the dad, Derrick, is ex-Navy and that he just emptied out all his accounts that morning. Eliot pays a visit to the house and finds that it’s been broken into and there’s been a struggle. He also ID’s the son as Michael. So while Sophie offers to try and open the safe (posing as the branch manager0, Nate pulls Michael aside for a chat as well. Between the two of them they start to fill in the whole picture. Michael was running meth for some drug dealers and not long ago, a shipment worth $100,000 went missing. The dealers think Michael took it and so they give him the option of returning it or paying $100,000 to get his mom back. Sophie offers to help Derrick and explains why they were at the bank in the first place. Nate suggests they use the judge’s dirty money to pay off the drug dealers all while not breaking their covers. Yeah, good luck with that.

Parker gets into the old money drop chute on the side of the bank while Hardison distracts the locals with bizarre demands including twelve large pizzas and dog food. Parker take the briefcase from Derrick and hands it off to Eliot who goes to wait for the meth dealers. Meanwhile, the judge tries to talk to Michael and things take a turn for the very worse. In the struggle (Michael has a gun), Nate gets shot and Sophie blows their cover by yelling his real name. The judge catches on and starts ranting. He accuses Sophie and Nate of conspiring with Derrick and Michael to fleece him out of his money. See, I knew I detested this guy for a reason. He takes control and orders everyone to shut up and says no one leaves until he gets his money. That of course is going to be an issue since Eliot is off meeting the dealers in exchange for the mom. So, the gang is going to need to get the money back from the dealers in order to make a safe escape.

This necessitates Eliot being Eliot and beating the crap out of the meth heads. It wouldn’t be an episode of Leverage if he didn’t get to beat the crap out of someone. And empty bullets out of a gun. He just doesn’t like them. While all that is going down, the judge has determined that Sophie and Nate have a person on the outside and he crushes their earpieces, leaving the trio stranded on the outside. Hardison is trying to work some magic with the surveillance cameras but it’s taking longer than they’d like because not only do they have an unstable judge in the bank but the real FBI is en route.

The pizzas arrive and it’s time to the rest of the plan into play. Hardison gets in with the pizzas and Nate signals to the judge that he should really let them in since it has the money. The judge opens a box with the money in and then with a bunch of well-placed distractions, someone slips the briefcase back under the table and it now contains meth packets. Oops. And it turns out that Hardison was doctoring the security footage to show exactly how Eliot and Sophie say it went down. The judge is continuing rant but the local cops believe what is being said by the onlookers. Parker and Eliot switch clothes with Derrick and Michael who escort Nate out to the ambulance and once they are away from the bank, it’s revealed that Michael’s mom is driving the bus. So they get a happy reunion and the team took down the creepy judge. Hooray!

Eliot is stitching up Nate in the back of the ambulance after Parker and Hardison take their leave and our dopey FBI agents show and get to take credit for the bank bust and catching the meth dealers. So all in all, not a bad deal for everyone involved. While I despised the bad guy this episode, it’s still a decent episode and it just shows how good our team is to be able to switch up their cons so quickly and adapt to changes. Sure the team isn’t invincible but it’s still proof that they are the best in the business for a reason.

MTVP Comic-con International 2014 Coverage: Nerd HQ

While Comic-Con itself is a fantastic experience and a big draw, off-site nerdy events have popped up around the convention center in the last few years. The Geek & Sundry Lounge and Nerd HQ are two especially notable examples. We didn’t manage to make it to any of the Geek & Sundry festivities as we were busy Thursday and rather tired on Friday. But we made it a point to get some tickets for a couple Nerd HQ panels. For those who aren’t in the know, Nerd HQ is run by one Zachary Levi, formerly the star of "Chuck." He and some of his nerdy friends rent out part of Petco Park to hold panels and do signings and photos with fans to benefit Operation Smile (a charity that helps fix cleft palates in young children). Since we’d designated Saturday as our chill/off-site day we made sure we got tickets for a panel that day.

Our first Nerd HQ excursion was for a mystery panel of Bad-Ass Women. The panel ended up being comprised of Yvonne Strahvoski, Jennifer Morrison, Retta, Ming-Na Wen, Sophie Turner and Missy Peregrym. Kudos to Zack for getting such a diverse panel. It was nice to have a panel in such a small venue (about 300 seats). It really made the setting more intimate, which was a nice break from the Friday panels at Comic-con. We were expecting Zack to moderate and ask most of the questions, but he opened it up to the floor immediately. As we’ve mentioned before, audience questions can be hit or miss, but again, for the most part, the questions asked at this panel were well-thought out and appropriate. Overall, the questions asked all the panels we attended were pretty good. The questions for this panel focused heavily on women in the entertainment industry and in American society in general. The most notable question was from a woman who talked about how her Asian parents didn't want her to pursue an artistic career and how lack of diversity on TV makes it difficult for people who don't see people on TV who look like them. The ensuing discussion left both Ming-na and Retta (whose Liberian-born parents also discouraged her desires to be a comedienne) in tears.

The second panel we were slated to see was with the ever-amazing king of geekery, Joss Whedon. Unfortunately, he was in London and recovering from knee surgery. We discovered this on Saturday and were expecting some sort of announcement on the topic from Zack or the Nerd HQ twitter feed, but we got nothing until a half hour before the panel was supposed to start on Sunday. At that point, Nerd Machine finally tweeted to say that it would be mystery guests instead of Joss. We understand that he was out of commission and couldn’t fly. We don’t want him overdoing things and hurting himself more. But we would have appreciated the information earlier than we got it so we could decide if we wanted to do the panel or not. It would have to be a pretty stellar line-up to make up for the fact we weren’t getting Joss. As it turned out, the panel was pretty good; Nathan Fillion, Liam McIntyre, Chloe Bennett, Seth Green, and Alan Tudyk were all in attendance.

As with the prior panel, the audience asked questions most of the time (after Nathan explained that he pressured his friends into doing the panel with him and recounting when and how they each met him). One audience member asked the panel to discuss a time when they felt intimidated by Joss. They each gave interesting and funny answers, and then Joss’s head appeared on the screen behind them thanks to a video feed link-up from London. So we did get Joss after all. This combination of alternate guests and a Skype-in from Joss was really the only way we could think of that the panel could be salvaged (a completely streamed-in video from the UK wouldn’t have been worth it). It got a great reaction from the audience, and it seemed rather appropriate that it happened when it did. Jen wondered if the question about intimidation was a plant because it flowed so perfectly. Poor Joss was not super hopped up on pain meds thanks to the Brits being stingy with such things, but he did seem a little loopy. Still he answered some fan questions and was generally just Joss.

The only thing remaining that would have made the Joss situation completely rectified would be if Nerd Machine had allowed us priority photo ops after the panel. When we get to Nerd HQ on Sunday, the earlier Nathan Fillion panel got photo booth priority. Chatter among our fellow attendees suggested that this was because of a rush to the photo line following Fillion's Saturday panel that the security folks understandably didn't want to repeat. We assumed, however, that they would give priority to us, too,since we weren’t actually getting the panel we paid for. But they didn’t do that, and so we left rather disappointed. But at least we weren’t alone in our irritation and disappointment. Even if they had given us priority, the line was extremely long, and we doubt we would have had a real chance to get a photo out of it.

Overall, we would do Nerd HQ again, but we hope that they are a little more organized in case of emergency cancellations of such high profile guests and the like. Having a better plan for photos would be beneficial, too. But we were definitely glad we took time out of our con schedule to check it out. It was a way to have guaranteed opportunities to see interesting celebrities and took a little pressure off of us to see all the things while at the convention center.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

MTVP Comic-con International 2014 Coverage: The Epic Day of Panels

So as you can probably tell, we spent the day in panels on Day 2. We had to sit through many that didn’t really interest us (yes I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed and The 100) to get the ones we really wanted. As one can imagine, there are so many panels to see that it is hard to choose. Right until we got into the room in the morning for the first panel, we weren’t entirely sure what our game plan was going to be. But we ultimately decided to stay put in one room all day. Early in the day we got to see "iZombie," and the last panel we saw was "Sleepy Hollow." Having sat in the room all day and sort of made friends with some people around us, we managed to scoot up from third row to first row for this panel. Sarah was thrilled to be that close (granted were pretty close the whole day due to getting there at 7:30am and getting into the disabled line).

The "iZombie" panel was supposed to include the premiere screening of the pilot, but because some recent casting changes have created the need for reshoots, we were treated to an "extended first look" instead. Overall, "iZombie" feels much more like "Veronica Mars" than either of us expected. The footage we saw relied heavily on voiceover, which was only slightly lighter in tone than the very noir "Veronica Mars." What was interesting was that star Rose McIver, who is from New Zealand, seemed to be basing her American accent on Kristen Bell's voice. Overall, the premise of the show is that Liv, a medical resident, becomes a zombie through the course of a horrific boating accident. Her life is turned up-side down, and she takes a job in a Medical Examiner's office so she can have easy access to the brains she needs to eat to stay sane. When she eats said brains, she temporarily gains access to the memories of the deceased, which helps her solve their murders. It's a little "Pushing Daisies" in that sense, which is just fine by us.

After the extended first look, Rob Thomas and crew came out to talk to us. Rob Thomas is pretty much a TV writing hero to both of us, so the chance to see and hear him in person was really special. Also special was the fact that the panel was moderated by Alan Sepinwall, who you might suspect is a pretty strong influence on what we do here at MTVP.

We learned that series star Rose McIver has to spend quite a lot of time in the make-up chair to achieve her undead pallor as Liv. Executive Producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright mentioned that because Rose's skin is naturally so glowing, they had to apply quite a lot of make-up to get the job done. Also, Rose herself mentioned that the make-up changes depending upon how hungry for brains Liv is. As she gets hungrier, the skin around her eyes gets darker and her eyes get redder. We saw this first hand in the extended first look.

The supporting cast all seemed to be good-natured, talented folks, but the real stand-out was Rahul Kohli. He plays Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti, Rose's boss. He figures out pretty quickly that Rose is a zombie, and he sets out to try and find a cure.

In the middle of the day, there were a number of other video game and TV panels. Relevant to your interests here at MTVP, we saw panels for "The 100" and "Falling Skies." Of note for "The 100," Isaiah Washington (formerly of "Grey's Anatomy" fame) was there, and Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond from "Lost") was not. For "Falling Skies," Noah Wyle and Doug Jones were highlights.

For "Sleepy Hollow," as you might expect, before the cast and creators came out (and they had all seven series regulars there), we were treated to a sizzle reel for season 2. It was pretty awesome and it looks like season 2 not only continues the high octane pace of season 1 but also a lot of the whit and banter. Sarah is still a little worried that the extended episode order for season 2 (18 episodes up from 13) may dilute the story telling a little but the video presentation definitely has her hopes up that it will just be that same fast-paced adrenaline-driven rush as season 1. Once the sizzle reel ended all of the famous people came out on stage and they pretty much all got raucous applause (well okay so Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie got the most).

Before we jumped into fan questions (which if you’ve read recaps of our other con experiences you know can be hit or miss), we got some good moderator questions, including a little sneak peek at what’s going on with the various characters. Tom had everyone laughing when he said that since the end of season 1, Ichabod has watched Glee and didn’t like it (and then promptly retracted that part of the statement having remembered they were both on Fox). I have to say he is a funny man in person. We can also look forward to some new developments with Katrina and Headless (and we even learned that Katrina sees Headless as he was before) and Henry/Jeremy is just going full-on evil. Evil John Noble is going to be amazing.

We also learned that some more historical figures will be filling in Ichabod’s past as well as the continued mystery of good v. evil and the founding of our nation. Some highlights include the previously announced Benjamin Franklin (who according to the creators doesn’t get on particularly well with Ichabod) and Benedict Arnold. We will supposedly learn how he became a traitor to his country. Exciting!

We had some pretty decent fan questions as well and it is so nice to hear Nicole advocate for Abbie and Ichabod to remain friends instead of progress to lovers. It just isn’t who Ichabod is and it is refreshing to hear someone say that their relationship is good the way it is. We also got a nice compliment on the diversity of the cast and some memorable statements on that topic came about, too including that the show is a multicultural approach to the apocalypse. Be sure you all tune in come September because we will be continuing on this crazy journey with Ichabod and Abbie as Sarah blogs season 2. Even though it was a long day getting there, it was a great panel to sit in on and we are so happy we made it through. It really made our Comic Con experience a blast.

MTVP Comic-con International 2014 Coverage: W00tstock 6.0

So, if you've been wondering where Sarah and I have been this week, we have a very good explanation. If you recall, we revealed last month that this summer, we would be attending Comic-con International in San Diego. Well, that's where we are right now. We spent our first full day in SoCal walking the Comic-con floor (Sarah will be writing about that later) and attending W00tstock. W00tstock is a celebration of geekery that has been organized on a semi-regular basis by Wil Wheaton, Paul and Storm, and Adam Savage. While Thursday night's show wasn't quite as epic as W00tstock 5.0 sounded, we still had a good time and were thoroughly entertained.

The show opened with a reminder that last year, none other than "Game of Thrones" mastermind George R.R. Martin smashed a guitar on stage. We were informed right away that this year's show wouldn't be living up to that moment. Instead, Adam Savage (of "Mythbusters" fame) came on stage to smash a guitar.

The first big musical act was Paul and Storm, who opened with my personal favorite song of their's, "Write Like the Wind." This song implores George R.R. Martin to write his books faster already! This was the song that was apparently interrupted by the guitar smash last year. As we know from recent interviews, Martin really does not like it when fans speculate that he will die before finishing "A Song of Ice and Fire." Paul and Storm's set overall was a lot of fun, even if it was a bit heavy with their trademark "cover band" jokes.

For his set, as any fan would likely suspect, Wil Wheaton performed a reading from one of his creative nonfiction pieces. This story in particular was called "Blue Light Special." This story was about young Wil on a trip to K-mart trying to decide between the instant gratification of a Star Wars figurine he didn't really want versus the delayed gratification of saving up for a Millennium Falcon. The story was told through the framing device of Wil watching a child play with Star Wars figurines while eating dinner with his teenage son. I enjoyed the bit of a twist at the end where Wil is taken out of his daydream with the realization that the child he's watching has a Jar-Jar Binks figurine!

For his set, Adam Savage also told a story, although it wasn't a story he had previously written down. He told us about a time when he was an NYU film student and he and his roommates were almost shot by a SWAT team. It involved construction workers jackhammering at all hours of the day and night and one of his roommates pretending to wield a (prop) machine gun to get them to stop. It was a funny, entertaining story, for sure. Not as entertaining was his attempt to sing "I Will Survive" in a Gollum voice!

The best part of Adam Savage's set, however, was that he was introduced by a very surprise guest. None other than Craig Ferguson!

After Adam's set, the whole gang came back on stage for the classic W00tstock closing, "The Captain's Wife's Lament." The whole schtick with this bit is that the guys do more talking and joking around than singing. I'd say this went on for at least 45 minutes. Most of it was very funny, although Sarah and my jetlagged selves were quite tired by the end of the whole thing.

Overall, we had an enjoyable evening, and we count ourselves lucky to have finally seen Wil Wheaton in person, since he (understandably) tends to stick to the West Coast. We would definitely recommend W00tstock to anybody in town during Comic-con.

MTVP Comic-con International 2014 Coverage: The Floor Experience

We came to Comic Con with a plan (can you blame us…we’re two attorneys). We intended to spend the first real day of the Con exploring the floor and doing a little cosplaying. We only ended up in costume for part of the day due to wardrobe malfunctions but we still got the experience. Jen dressed up as Oswin Oswald from “Asylum of the Daleks” and I went as The Moment from “The Day of the Doctor”. We saw one other Oswin and no one else dressed up as the Moment. We did happen upon a guy in a pretty solid Arrow cosplay though. I even managed to nab a photo of him. That’s one of the things that always makes me smile about cons. People are so willing to let others take pictures of them. I guess when you put that much effort into something like a costume, it makes sense to show it off.

Having only ever gone to small cons in the past, I was kind of shocked at just how massive the Convention Center venue is. After herding us through badge pick up and getting our tote bags we finally managed to make our way onto the floor. At first it seemed rather chill which was a shock to both of us. We’d come with expectations of pandemonium and chaos. As it turned out, it had more to do with the section of the floor we started in than anything else. We started at the Peanuts booth so Jen could get a shirt (which was finally acquired). We also got free buttons.

Our next destination was going to be the Funko booth to get a souvenir for a friend but as we made our way that direction we realized just how packed an insane the floor was becoming (and it was still relatively early). We couldn’t even get to the booth because the line was so long. They had to turn people away. Needless to say, we didn’t stop and try to pick up what we were looking for. We next made a pit stop at the Warner Brothers booth because we’d been told there were some specific souvenirs there as well. It was really disappointing. They just ushered us through and gave us TV Guides with covers of new and returning genre shows (including Arrow, Constantine, Gotham, The Following and Supernatural). That was it. No other items to be purchased. Oh and they were also trying to hand out tote bags with less desirable designs. No one wanted them.

We took a little break to grab lunch and regroup (oh and find out that for panels the next day if we got a disabled pass we’d get in a separate line…but more about that in another post) before diving back in. The afternoon was actually more interesting than the morning. We got some good shots of some of the various signs (including an Orphan Black poste and a Doctor Who posted with the Twelfth Doctor on it).

And we finally queued up to go through the BBC America booth. The line was so long that the volunteers who were corralling people had set up a line-up point on the far side of the floor and were taking people over in groups of 10. Once in line at the actual booth, we both debated what to buy (and whether to use cash or credit because a lot of the items sounded exciting). Ultimately, the designs on a bunch of the shirts weren’t eye grabbing enough and for some bizarre reason all of the fridge magnets hadn’t yet cleared Customs. WE can’t have been the only ones wondering how in the hell magnets get held up at Customs. Anyway, we each walked away with a T-shirt (both Doctor Who themed) before meandering past the ABC booth which was also mobbed due to an autograph signing. It was a giant castle which was actually kind of cool. Unfortunately the signing that was going on wasn’t something either of us were really interested in.

Near the end of the day (before heading out for food and our evening entertainment), we changed focus and found all of the publisher booths. I got to have a chat with a guy about some of our favorite authors and he recommended some series by them I hadn’t read yet (I’ll be adding at least two new series to my to-read pile for next year). We got some free books out of our booth visits which was cool. Both Jen and I prefer e-books but those are a little more difficult to give out as swag.

While there are tons of booths on the floor, we felt like we covered pretty much everything we wanted to on day 1. We will be spending a little time back on the floor on Sunday to see if there are any other bits of swag we want to pick up (that haven’t already been snatched up by the masses). We will also see if the BBC America booth has gotten in those bloody magnets. But our next visit to the floor will be a much chiller affair. And of course we will have an idea of what we are doing this time.

Overall, I think we both enjoyed the first day of our epic Comic Con extravaganza. We got some good pictures and it was rather impressive how many people were there. It was pretty amazing that we managed to get in and see most of what we wanted to without a lot of hassle. As you will likely see from the rest of our posts, the con is turning out like we planned for the most part and that is truly amazing. As always, check back for more recaps of our trip. See you soon nerds!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Orange is the New Black 1.07: "Blood Donut"

“Now the problem as I see it, is that we have a budget situation. Now I can do my best, but it’s going to be hard to do all these things and still be able to bring donuts to our meetings every month. And coffee.”

While I don’t feel like “Blood Donut” really coalesced around a central theme like some of the more refined episodes of “Orange is the New Black,” I did appreciate that several of the many disparate plot elements in play intertwined by the end of the episode. I also liked that we got to know Janae, who just had a rather small role several episodes ago (she was the mouthy inmate who got in trouble for the missing screwdriver incident, I believe). It was an interesting, although perhaps somewhat clich├ęd story of someone with a lot of promise who just can’t help but go down a bad path and make poor choices. We also saw Piper use her gift for scheming to do something nice for somebody else for once. Although that doing something nice did have the added benefit of easing Piper of some guilt. So it wasn’t completely altruistic.

Like I said in the intro, the focus of this episode is Janae, who got herself sent to SHU several episodes ago due to being the one in charge of the tools (and being rather belligerent) when Piper accidentally took a screw driver. At the beginning of this episode, Janae is picked up from SHU by Morello and driven back up to the main Litchfield building. She gets out of the van and just stands with her arms out, grateful for the (relative) freedom. It really makes you wonder what sort of a place SHU must be if “regular” prison seems like such a nice place in comparison! Many of the other inmates see Janae’s homecoming, including Piper. She sees what a wreck Janae is following her SHU time, and of course the guilt starts eating away at her.

Naturally, we get several Janae flashbacks throughout the episode. The first shows Janae as a child, playing a game outside with other children. Janae is such a fast runner that nobody can catch her. This makes Janae awesome, but it also makes it difficult for her to make friends, because kids don’t have fun playing games when they can’t win. Later on, we see that Janae became a high school track star. She was so good that she had a college scholarship pretty much in the bag. Janae, however, like many teenagers, wanted desperately to fit in. We get a scene where Janae goes to a party that seems like it’s being thrown by a local drug kingpin. Said kingpin tries to have Janae escorted out because he wants better for her than a life involved with his crowd. When a guy pays attention to Janae, he’s just interested in having her help with some petty crime. Janae then gets arrested following one of said petty crimes. She’s poised to run off, but then her guy tells her not to show off, just like those kids on the playground did. It stops her dead in her tracks.

My favorite scene of this episode (and perhaps all of “Orange is the New Black” thus far) is the first meeting of the WAC. It says so much about how difficult it is to change bureaucracy and institutions using very few words. Healy brings a box of Dunkin Donuts to the meeting, and of course all the ladies are salivating over such a treat. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Dunkin (the donuts tend to be kind of dry), but I can see why the donuts would be a big deal to the WAC ladies. The ladies start giving their list of improvements they would like to make (Piper wants to beef up the education program and help teach it, of course). All of these ideas cost money, though, and it wouldn’t be a government-run operation if there weren’t budget issues. Healy is very good at spinning this to the WAC ladies, though. He tells them that if he starts taking all these suggestions, he won’t have money to bring them donuts. And he’ll add coffee for future meetings to the bribe, too. So now the WAC ladies know the price at which they can be bought. Piper is the only one who hasn’t completely wanted to trade progress for pastry. She still wants to accomplish something, and the goal she sets for herself (out of guilt over what she did to Janae) is getting the prison track reopened.

Meanwhile, losing the election has sent Pennsatucky off the deep end even more than she already was. She’s deeper into the deep end now, if you will. Pennsatucky tries asking Piper to help her get dental work and threatening Piper, all in the same conversation. Alex tries to get Pennsatucky to knock it off, but she’s not really successful at first. What finally gets Pennsatucky to be quiet is Alex essentially threatening to rape her. Which was really not okay at all. Rape is rape, no matter the genders of the individuals involved, and it’s always wrong. I’m kind of surprised the show went there, really.

In other Litchfield news, Taystee has a parole hearing coming up soon, and Black Cindy and Poussey are trying to help her prepare. They drill her with parole board questions and take her to Sophia to get a new, more “respectable” hair style. This whole subplot is a wickedly sharp little bit of social commentary. Taystee is basically instructed to try and play on white guilt to get out of prison. Black Cindy and Poussey do a bunch of “Stuff White People Like” impressions, but beneath it all is so much more. Taystee hopes to never return to Litchfield. She wants a good clerical job, or maybe she’ll go to college. Her friends quickly try to disabuse her of that notion. She’s in the system, and she’s stuck there for life.

When Janae finds out that Piper is responsible for her trip to SHU, Piper’s guilt goes into overdrive. She tries to make a deal with Healy to get the track reopened. Healy says he will reopen the track if Piper finds and turns in the phone being used to send out pornographic pictures. Piper knows exactly where the phone is, of course, and she struggles with reaching her goal versus being a snitch. Piper tries to find a middle ground. She gives Healy the phone with everything (including the call history) but the photos erased. This isn’t good enough for Healy, so Piper tries another tactic. Next thing you know, the Assistant to the Warden is telling Caputo that Healy found the phone, and Caputo is jealous.

When Officer Fischer relays Piper’s track idea and ties it to better health outcomes for inmates, Caputo is only too happy to reopen the track. Healy is unhappy about this. Not having Piper on his (perceived) side anymore has kind of shaken his world view. Oh, and his wife is a sort of Eastern European just waiting for her Green Card type, and she’s a little odd. By the end of the episode, the track is reopened, and Janae is running around it like there’s no tomorrow (previously, she had been doing exercises in the middle of the night and pissing everybody off). Piper, feeling slightly less guilty now, enjoys a run herself, and Healy glares at her as she does so.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dominion 1.05: "Something Borrowed"

“You must learn to control your emotions or they will be the end of you.”
- Michael

Well it seems like Alex has turned a corner. He’s embracing his “savior” status (even though it’s still massively under wraps for the citizens of Vega. But now he gets to train with Michael and learn how to really fight angels. He’s doing a pretty crappy job of learning out in the desert. The ground is littered with spent shells. Michael keeps flying at him and knocking him over with his wings and finally the lesson ends. Michael points out that he made Alex forget everything he knew about being a soldier simply by provoking him. Alex doesn’t see it that way. But of course, Alex is annoying and stupid so…you can’t really argue. Plus he’s made at Bixby dying and Claire ends up dumping him for William. So, overall, I’d say he’s not having a good day.

It seems David isn’t either. He flashes back to the night his older two children and wife were killed by an eight ball. Little William is even more annoying than his grown up self. He’s sitting there mewling like a cat and it’s what attracts the angel’s attention in the first place. When David comes back to the present, he tells William that they aren’t immortal and to embrace every moment he gets with Claire. She’s at home fretting over her wedding dress and feigning happiness at the marriage when David pops by with something borrowed; his wife’s necklace from their wedding day. He also says he told Senator Romero about her dad’s heart condition and there’s going to be a move in the Senate for a vote of no confidence. This obviously upsets Claire. And it seems Rysen is going to have more drama because his eight ball lover has snuck into Vega and ends up killing a stall owner when he notices her eyes. Whoops.

Rysen goes to visit his angel lover and he sees a music box she stole from the dead stall owner. She accuses him of not thinking ahead about the consequences of him dying. He scoffs at her suggestion that Claire learn the truth and help her. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to fly. And Wheel is once again twisting Becca’s arm. Not only does he know about her and Michael but he knows about the little orgy and the other girls are willing to testify before the Senate. Bastard! Alex seems to be having a little more success. He meditates to see if the tattoos speak to him again and he sees Bixby and she tells him to not let anyone else die. He knows who he’s fighting for now.

William is out giving a sermon when one of his acolytes shows up. Williams turns all evil and nasty and stabs the guy a few times in the gut, warning him to never approach in public again and that by preaching what he is, he is in fact serving Gabriel. Claire interrupts what was probably going to be a murder and she basically admits to needing to blackmail big Wheel into not voting her dad out of power. Meanwhile, while all that’s going down, Michael is doing some shirtless training. Oh good lord is the man beautiful. And things look like they might finally get sexy (on screen) when Becca shows up but she’s there to be the second breakup of the evening. Michael doesn’t seem put out by her decision. Which kind of pissed me off. I mean couldn’t he get one final shag before they called it quits?

Meanwhile, Rysen’s eight ball lover has snuck into the city again and is in Claire’s room. She left the music box as a gift and Rysen finds her. He’s angry about the death of the stall owner and they argue. The angel in her ends up taking over and she escapes out a window. Elsewhere, Alex knows about the attack is going off all halfcocked and angry to avenge Bixby. Noma and Ethan point out it is a really stupid idea but they can’t stop him. Rysen asks Michael to have the Senate call off the search so that Michael can find the eight ball and take her out himself. Michael is perplexed by the request since Rysen admits he loved her once. Lots of “endings” going on in this episode. Elsewhere, William confronts his father and they have a battle of wills. I thin William may have actually won. And how conceited and full of himself does Wheel have to be to think that William owes him everything because he didn’t take a hammer to the kid’s head all those years ago?

Out in the city, Noma has followed Alex to make sure he doesn’t completely lose it and we get a little filled in history on them. They’d been together when they were drafted in t the Corp. but someone found out and told their commanding officer. So to make sure Alex didn’t get booted, Noma said she’d end it and so obviously she did. Hey, now that Claire is unavailable maybe he and Noma can have a go at it again? Their moment is ruined by another dead body. A fellow soldier happened upon the eight ball and clearly she panicked.

Back at House Rysen, William and his father show up and Claire is MIA. She’s at House Wheel snooping for blackmail material and she finds it. It turns out William stashed something linking his father to Gabriel in a drawer so she confronts Wheel about it at the engagement party. She seems to rattle him which is kind of impressive. She’s got balls. Nice. Sadly, it seems that Becca is seriously not going back to Michael because she sends the rest of the harem away to Helena. While Claire gives a speech thanking everyone for attending the party, Alex uses the training (read: beating) he got from Michael at the start of the episode to track the eight ball and corner her. He even wounds her but she begs him not to kill her. She claims she has a daughter and as the episode ends we see that she is in fact Claire’s mom. Well that explains why Rysen was keeping her around all these years. I can’t wait to see what Alex does next because it is sure to piss of Michael somehow.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.07: "Duty and Honor"

“I’m sorry I didn’t kill you. That’s my apology.”
“Better luck next time.”
-Elizabeth and Claudia

It’s appropriate that this episode of “The Americans” is called “Duty and Honor,” because it mostly dealt with fidelity in relationships. We learned about Phillip’s pre-KGB academy relationship, and Stan finally officially cheated on his wife with Nina (spoiler alert). This wasn’t one of the more intense episodes from a spy action perspective, but it was interesting from an emotional/character perspective. I found it especially interesting to learn about Phillip’s past. Before this episode, I never would have guessed that Phillip had such a full life before starting his Directorate S training. I guess I assumed he was more like Elizabeth, whose loyalty was initially fed by desperation in her family situation.

We already know Elizabeth’s other love interest, Gregory, and in this episode we get to meet Phillip’s. Her name is Irina, but she goes by Anne now, and she lives in Canada. A Polish priest who has been making noise about Polish independence from the Soviet Union is visiting New York, and Phillip is giving the task of stopping him. This involves going to a travel agent conference in New York City that Anne will also be attending. Elizabeth knows about Anne, which I found surprising. At least I presume she knows because she states some displeasure at the idea of Phillip spending a whole weekend with her and working on a mission with her.

The flashbacks of Phillip and Anne back in Russia, presumably in the 1960’s, are rather melodramatic. We first see them at a train station where they have a meet cute. There’s also a scene where Phillip delightedly tells Anne that he’s been accepted into a “Leadership Group,” presumably related to the Communist Party. They both think that this is the first step towards building a life together, although this first step involves Phillip leaving for a year. Clearly the whole being away for a year, then starting a life together thing never worked out for them. Which is kind of a shame, really. They’re cute together.

Anyway, the Polish priest just happens to be staying at the same New York hotel where the travel agent conference is being held. Before we get to him, though, Phillip and Anne spot each other at the conference. They have a rather cryptic conversation that says nothing about spycraft but clearly implies they recognize each other, and they’re both spies these days. Anne’s job is to get really chummy with the Polish priest. She is introduced to him as a Polish immigrant, and they bond over their shared language and her (obviously fake) story of leaving Poland as a small child. Phillip is completely in on this plan, too. While Anne and the priest are out for a walk, Phillip, hidden in a hoodie, steals Anne’s purse and pushes her down. When the priest tries to help her clean up from the ordeal, she gets blood all over his bed.

Phillip and Anne have a late night chat about their previous life and the life they could have had together going forward. Anne mentions that she really didn’t want to be the reason Phillip gave up going to the academy. She also mentions that he’s the father of her son. Holy bombshell, Batman! Phillip’s response to this revelation is to have sex with Anne. It’s super awkward when Elizabeth calls Philip later, saying she’s lonely and misses him. After reconnecting, Phillip next has to beat Anne up, which is pretty terrible. The whole thing is a set-up so that Anne can accuse the Polish priest of rape. This she does, and the plan works well enough that soon enough, the priest is giving a press conference to say that he is not going to ask the U.N. General Assembly to support independence and democracy in Poland after all. With the mission accomplished, Anne says she wants Phillip to run away from the KGB with her. Phillip thinks about it, but he ultimately decides that he can’t leave Elizabeth and the kids. Anne implies that her son might not really be Phillip’s after all. The world may never know!

Meanwhile, back in DC, Elizabeth has a comparatively mundane spy mission this week. She needs to help out Sandford, a man who used to report to the scientist/informant Elizabeth shot and killed in a previous episode. Sandford has serious gambling problems, and Elizabeth needs to sort out his debt. She does so by dressing in a rather provocative outfit and paying a visit to the holder of the gambling debt. This guy doesn’t really want to comply with Elizabeth’s demands until she steps on his lap in stilettos and literally twists his nuts. Pretty effective. The debtor doesn’t seem especially grateful, though.

Since she’s got such a straightforward (compared to Phillip’s, at least) mission this week, Elizabeth’s got some time to brood about Phillip not being around. She and the kids have dinner with the Beemans one night, and there’s some drama when Stan doesn’t come home for dinner. Matthew, Stan’s son, isn’t any happier than his mother about the situation. He whines about how the President doesn’t always miss dinner, and Stan is most definitely not more important than the President. I see where the kid is coming from, I suppose. He thought he would get his father back after the undercover St. Louis mission, but he really hasn’t. Those demons have turned Stan into a different person and a workaholic.

Stan’s planning to spend a late night at the office, but Amador convinces him to go out to a bar. At the bar, Amador tries to convince Stan to hit on a woman who keeps watching him from the end of the bar, but Stan’s not having it. He’s pretty much being a complete bore, which is probably not what Amador had in mind when dragging his friend out for a drink. At first, we think that maybe Stan’s reluctance is out of loyalty to his wife, but that doesn’t really seem to be the case. We next see Stan in a car with Nina. She’s confused why he called her if there is no mission, and she is a little irritated that he’s drunk. None of this stops her from sleeping with him, though. Nina swears she’s not going to expect any special treatment now, but the next day, Stan tries asking his boss to exfiltrate her. Apparently Nina is not going to be exfiltrated any time soon because she’s too valuable. Womp womp.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer DVR Dump: Atlantis 1.07: "The Rules of Engagement"

“It was never really going to happen, was it, Jason? I mean, Ariadne’s a goddess on earth, whereas you? Are just you.”

We took a break from the overall mythology of “Atlantis” in this episode to settle some matters of the heart. The previous episode was a gamechanger in the sense of showing us the larger stakes and the greater forces at work. This week was a gamechanger in the sense of sheer plot momentum. Ariadne is officially bethrothed to Heptarian, and because Jason still carries a torch for her (and the feelings are pretty clearly mutual), this sets all sorts of interesting events in motion. So we dealt with Hercules’ romantic problems in the last episode, and we deal with Jason’s (and a little more with Hercules’) in this one. To be honest, I’m kind of surprised how this show has basically come down to an Ancient Greek soap opera. Not that I’m complaining. The characters are all, for the most part, engaging enough to make the melodrama interesting.

The episode opens with King Minos announcing the betrothal of Ariadne to Heptarian. To celebrate the occasion, there will be a Pancratium. The Pancratium is basically a tournament where two guys at a time try to get to one knife and draw blood from the other guy with that knife. Sometimes they didn’t just stop at drawing blood. The competition could definitely be fatal if someone got carried away. Pythagoras and Hercules are excitedly telling Jason about the Pancratium, but he doesn’t get why he should care. Then Pythagoras drops the bomb that Ariadne is betrothed. Jason does not take the news well at all, since he still had this Pollyanna hope that they could be together someday.

Hercules tries to soften the blow by telling Jason that he never had a chance with Ariadne anyway. Which is kind of a mean thing to say, really. I wonder if part of that was to get back at Jason for the things he and Pythagoras said about Hercules’ chances with Medusa? Hercules doesn’t strike me as a passive aggressive guy like that, but I can’t really think of a better explanation. Anyway, Jason, like Hercules, makes a rather dumb decision based on his unrequited love. Well, several dumb decisions, to be precise. First, he sends a note to Ariadne asking to meet up with her. He sends the note through Medusa and Korinna. Pasiphae sees Korinna pass the note, and she demands to see it. Pasiphae has Korinna arrested for treason, and she says she will only show Korinna mercy if Ariadne cuts Jason out of her life once and for all.

Ariadne meets with Jason, and while she acknowledges her feelings for Jason, Ariadne insists that they both must “bow to their fates.” Jason gives Ariadne his father’s necklace, and she accepts it, although she insists she doesn’t need a token to remember him. Jason leaves and Ariadne sobs, but getting the brush-off from Ariadne doesn’t keep Jason from making his second stupid decision of the episode. He decides to join the Pancratium tournament. Heptarion and Pasiphae both are very unhappy to see Jason at the signing-up ceremony, but they let him enter the competition anyway. Pythagoras and Hercules think Jason made a very stupid decision in signing up for the Pancratium, but they’re his friends so they try to help him out anyway. Hercules is going to give him some combat training, for what that’s worth. The training doesn’t go well at all. Hercules continues to beat Jason fairly easily, although Jason manages to get one victory out of the bunch.

Meanwhile, much more sinister things are afoot back at the palace. An older man named Stymas pays a visit to Pasiphae. He meets her in her bedchambers, but there’s nothing romantic going on between them. In fact, an affair would be way better than what does actually happen. Stymas has a delivery of a very slow-acting poison for Pasiphae. Pasiphae accepts the delivery, and she kills Stymas to make sure he will never tell anyone about the delivery he just made. We later see Pasiphae mix the poison into a drink that is consumed by King Minos. I guess this means that Alexander Siddig is not long for the show, which is a shame, because I have really enjoyed his nuanced performance. It’s clear he has done horrible things in the past, but his love for his daughter is pure and is his primary motivation now. It’s been fun to see just how much Siddig has grown as an actor since his “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” days.

Through the middle of the episode, we see a bunch of Pancratium battles featuring Jason and Heptarian fighting various opponents as they inch closer and closer towards ultimately fighting each other. Heptarian has significant Pancratium experience, so he makes it through most of his opponents with relative ease. Jason continues to be victorious too, but at a cost. At one point, he separates his shoulder. Medusa delivers some herbs to help ease Jason’s pain, and she’s impressed to see that Hercules of all people knows exactly what is wrong with Jason and how to fix it. She still (understandably) doesn’t want to talk to him, though. Throughout this episode, Medusa does gradually warm back up to Hercules, and by the end of the episode, they’re quite chummy again, although I’m not entirely sure he deserves it.

Eventually, Jason and Heptarian are the final two contestants, and King Minos announces that they will fight the final battle the next morning. Heptarian has gotten a little too angry and murdered at least one of his opponents, so the crowd is firmly on Jason’s side. In the evening before the final match, Jason and Pythagoras talk about what is going to happen the next day. Jason still wants to win the match and Ariadne’s heart, but Pythagoras disabuses him of that notion. Because Hectarian supposedly has Poseidon on his side and is betrothed to Ariadne, he has to win. Jason and all his friends would be dead by the end of the day if it went down any other way. Ariadne, meanwhile, goes to pray for Jason.

The fight between Jason and Heptarian is pretty epic, and there were several moments where it looked definitively like one of the two men would prevail. Ultimately, however, it ends in a draw because Jason found himself in a position to draw blood and chose not to so his friends would be spared. After the fight, Ariadne gives Jason the necklace back and gives him a brief kiss before going to confront the whole betrothal situation. She tells King Minos and Pasiphae that she can no longer marry Heptarian. Clearly he wasn’t Poseidon’s choice for her if he didn’t win the Pancratium. King Minos accepts this, but in an aside, Pasiphae tries to threaten Ariadne. Ariadne says she’s not afraid anymore.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The 4400 1.01: “Pilot Part 1”

“Don’t you lie to me. I’ve been waiting to hear the truth from you for three years so don’t you lie to me.”
- Tom Baldwin

So, in case you haven’t noticed, I am a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan. And way back in 2004 when this show first came on, USA Network took a chance in the genre and boy am I glad they did. What started out as a miniseries grew into a 4-season run. I will be covering that first season this summer. So let’s get started.

We begin in 1946 in California. A family of three is trying to have a picnic but the weather isn’t’ cooperating. But after some pleading, 8-year-old Maia is allowed to go out for a stroll so long as she comes right back. She wanders off to pick some flowers and suddenly a bright light appears. We cut to 1951 in South Korea as a black soldier named Richard is getting beat up for “crossing the line”. We see he had been with a white woman before the same bright light appears. Next, we find a man named Orson in 1979 in Washington State on his way for a fancy dinner with his wife when the light appears. Finally, two cousins, Shawn and Kyle, are doing some underage bonfire drinking on the beach in Washington when the light comes and Kyle ends up comatose and Shawn disappears. Three years later, Kyle is still in a coma and his parents have divorced due to the strain and his father, Tom, being obsessed with finding Shawn and waking Kyle up. As their family hangs in the balance, the Department of Homeland Security is tracking an incoming comet. Things go critical pretty fast when the comet changes course and accelerates. A plethora of missiles launched by numerous countries does nothing to stop it. And then, to everyone’s surprise and confusion the comet slows down, as if coming in for a landing. Director Ryland of Homeland sends a team to the probable location of where the comet is going to hit to investigate. I have to admit, it has been many years since I’ve watched this show and I forgot how intense the opening segment of this episode was.

Homeland personnel and news crews arrive on site and the comet turns into a giant ball of light. Then said ball of light begins to fold in on itself until it’s a pinprick and then it explodes, knocking everyone watching back. When the smoke clears, thousands upon thousands of people are standing there. The camera pans among the group and we pick out Maia, Orson, Richard and Shawn. It would seem they and a lot of other people have been taken and returned. A few days later, Tom begs Ryland to put him back on active duty. Sure part of it is because he wants answers for what happened to Kyle but he does genuinely want to help. He gets partnered with former CDC scientist Diana Skouris. They’re skeptical of each other at first but agree to work together. All the returnees (as they’re being called) have been locked up in a containment facility and have undergone interviews. It seems that no time has passed for them. Diana is intrigued by Maia, who seems to be fairly calm about the whole thing. Tom gets to interview Shawn personally and he thinks that his nephew is lying about what happened the night Kyle went into the coma. Maia continues to be kind of cute but creepy by handing Orson a tissue right before his nose starts bleeding. There is definitely something different about her. Oh, and Richard meets Lily, the granddaughter of the woman he was in love with.

Six weeks later, the government is releasing the returnees since the courts have deemed their containment illegal. Diana is concerned about this but she gets vetoed by Ryland. So the returnees start to head out. But it’s not all happy reunions. Sure, Shawn is happily reunited with his mom and brother but that’s really about the only happy ending we see. Richard goes to St. Louis to find where he used to live has been turned into an overpass. Orson finds his wife, suffering from mental illness in a rather decrepit place and Lily finds that her husband has remarried and her daughter doesn’t even know who she is. At first, some of the returnees, including Maia elect to stay in quarantine since they have nowhere to go. But eventually, Maia gets sot of fostered to a couple. She tells Diana that they’ll see each other sooner than Diana expects. At her new home, Maia carefully places her shoes on a chair in room, stating she doesn’t want them to get wet. That night, a pipe leaks and water floods into her room. IT seems she is developing precognitive abilities. And she’s not the only one. During a welcome home party, Shawn sees a bird fly into a window. It looks like its dead but after holding it in his hands for a moment, it comes back to life. And Orson, whose luck is so down he can’t even get a job at his own firm, ends up shattering all the glass in the current firm owner’s house and killing him.

Overall, I thought part one of the pilot was really strong and it sets things up for a lot of intrigue. Not only do we want answers to where all the returnees have been but how some are exhibiting abilities and what that means. Besides, it seems some of the general public aren’t keen on their being let out as evidenced by Shawn’s car getting vandalized. A lot of times, pilots aren’t that good and it takes a few episodes to get into the groove by establishing characters and what the feel of the show is going to be. I think The 4400 surmounted that problem by making things interesting and kicking off with a bang right from the get go.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Leverage 1.07: “The Two-Horse Job”

“We’re all trying to prove something being here with you.”
- Sophie

This week’s adventure starts in Kentucky when a young woman finds her father coming out of a horse stable that’s on fire. They’ve lost all but one of their race horses and the father, Willie, has gone to Nate and Eliot for help. Willy just wants ownership of the remaining horse even though it’s injured by the fire. Apparently, he didn’t own any of them, a man named Alan Foss, owns the horses and he’s getting a $2 million payout on the insurance. Things are a little tense when Willie’s daughter Aimee shows up because she’s an old flame of Eliot’s. Well that explains why our hitter is so invested in this case. While Hardison is explaining background on Foss, we learn that Parker has a fear of horses from her childhood when she saw a man dressed as a horse kill a clown. Very weird. The con is going to be simple. At the racetrack, Sophie runs into Foss as a southern belle who tests the purity of horses to make sure they’re purebred and what not. Foss falls for her pretty fast and she convinces him to come in on their poker game. Parker lifted his credit card so they set the buy in at the max on his card. Nate insists that they only play for cash or horses when Foss tries to use his watch as the rest of his buy in. So he gets Sophie to witness that he’s giving up his remaining horse. With a little con magic, Nate wins the game. They think they’re all set and the con is done but as Nate is walking in the parking lot, his old partner, Jim Sterling, rolls up. Sterling is investigating the fire for the insurance company (Nate’s old boss) and now he’s going after Willie. So the con needs to change, and fast.

Parker is freaking out over Sterling’s prowess while Eliot is just pissed off that it sounds like Willie could lose the horse and Foss could stay in business which is exactly what they were hoping to avoid. Nate tries to calm everyone down and set up a new con. Parker and Hardison keep tabs on Sterling and try to jam him up but he’s good and he makes them take off after calling the cops to report a suspicious black van. Meanwhile, Eliot obtains some stables and Aimee unhappily agrees to help. Nate ups the price to buy back the horse to $2 million and Foss calls him crazy. Unfortunately, Foss explains to Eliot that he’s got some hedge fund buddies together and they’re going to start doing portfolios based on horses. So not only is he not getting out of the business, he’s getting deeper into it. This only serves to piss Aimee off and we get a little back story on Eliot. He left the last time because she got married and he didn’t write or call because he was working (probably off somewhere beating people up or getting beat up himself). And of course they have some angry make-up sex for the hell of it.

Not long after, they come up with their new scam; the lost heir. I’m pretty sure this one comes up again in a later season just not with horses. If they can trick Foss into thinking he’s buying the lost heir of some kickass noble bloodlines, then they’ve got it made. So they’re going to use the horse that won the race the other day and fake the bloodlines. Foss seems pretty interested in it and offers $12 million to some Chinese tourists whom he think own the horse. Not surprising, Sterling got the tourists to use his camera so he now knows that Sophie and Nate are working together. Sterling pays Nate a visit that night to share the insight he’s gained into Nate’s criminal enterprises. So now we have to wonder what Nate and Sterling really had back in the day. I always thought they were partners and friends but they seem more like enemies these days.

Foss and Sophie wander around the stables for a bit until they come upon the fake horse’s stall. The whole point was to get Foss turned around so they can con him later on. Eliot, parker, Hardison and Aimee are trying to find the horse (it went missing off to a stud farm) and Parker gets to overcome her fear of horses. They are almost back to the stables when there’s an accident up ahead of them and the cops show up. Racing against the clock, Eliot just gets on the horse and rides off all impressive. He really is a man of many talents. Fighting, cooking, horse riding. No wonder he’s my favorite character on the show.

Eliot gets to the stable just in time to save the con. Foss wires over the money to Sophie and signs what he thinks is a contract of sale. He then goes off to meet Sterling and his investors to show him the horse. As they are walking up to the stall, Sterling drops the bomb that he bought Kentucky Thunder (the horse that won the few days before). In fact, Sterling brought along the horse’s trainer to ID him. The horse they find in the stall is actually the horse that Foss lost in the poker game to Nate. And the paperwork he signed was a new insurance claim for $12 million. Since he insured the horse for only $200,000, he’s going down for insurance fraud and now owes his investors $10 million. Oops. So the team gives the horse back to Willie along with the $12 million to start his own stable where he can own all the horses outright. Eliot and Aimee get a tender moment to say goodbye and I thought it was a great choice to use one of Christian’s own songs “More Than I Deserve” playing over the scene. I had the song but lost it when one of my computers died. I really should find a way to get it back. But it is still a happy-ish parting between them.

Back at HQ, Nate finds Sterling waiting for him. They exchange some barbs about what they did that was clever or messed the other one up. But in the end, Nate didn’t get to screw over the insurance company because the fraud meant they didn’t have the write a check. Sterling warns Nate that he won’t be so nice the next time they meet. Nate doesn’t seem to mind that much since he won’t be nice either. I can’t wait to see Sterling come back to mess with our team. Mark Shepard is just an amazing actor and brings a lot more depth to the Leverage world.