Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This Is Us 3.07: “Sometimes”

“I can’t talk about it, Vietnam. The things I did and saw, I don’t want to bring that part of my life into this, with us.”
- Jack

I enjoyed this episode of “This Is Us” more than I have some of the others. While we didn’t get nearly the amount of information or answers we probably wanted about Jack and Nicky, that’s honestly not that surprising. They dole out answers in bits and pieces and I feel like we got some more of Jack’s war story as Kevin and Zoe made their way to Vietnam in the present.

As we see, post-war, Jack and Rebecca are embarking on their roundtrip across the country to LA so she can meet with a record executive. She’s got high hopes for her demo and Jack is kind of there for the ride. He’s got some business he needs to take care of nearby which he won’t tell her about. In fact, while they start to get more into each other—slow dancing at a diner and making out in a myriad of hotel rooms—Jack still can’t let Rebecca in on the pain he’s carrying around from the war. She wakes him one morning from a nightmare bout he claims not to remember his dreams and he says he never cries because he’s learned to swallow the bad stuff. I’m not sure that’s a good tactic, Jack but it is probably accurate for how men coming back from this particular war dealt with it. As they make their way across the US, we see Jack trying to deal with Nick during the war. He’s high and at first he thinks Jack isn’t real and then Nick’s commanding officer kicks Jack to the curb. Jack has to walk back to the village he’s stationed in and he ends up getting a ride from a local. It is interesting that it seems this guy may be Viet Cong (or as he eventually puts it to Jack…sometimes). But, Jack eventually makes it back to his village and then Nick shows up. His commanding officer gives Jack two weeks to straighten is brother out. Nick seems unhappy that Jack stepped in.

Not surprisingly, Rebecca’s meeting with the record guys doesn’t go how she wants. He says she’s good but she’s “Pittsburgh” good. She tries to take it as a compliment. While she’s getting this rather brutal feedback, we find that Jack has gone to see the parents of one of the men who died under his watch during the war. He goes to tell them that he is responsible for their son’s death and he is sorry for what happened. God, it broke my heart to see him placing the blame on himself. They rightly tell him it wasn’t his fault. And when he meets up with Rebecca later, he asks her to sing the song she’d sent as the demo. She’s reluctant at first but as she sings, we see how much it touches him and he starts crying. Kudos to Mandy Moore for writing a sweet song.

In the present, Kevin and Zoe land in Vietnam and Kevin is understandably excited to see what he can find about his dad’s time in country. Zoe doesn’t seem quite as excited and she sort of freaks when he takes a selfie of them and is going to post it to Instagram. She says her dad is in China and he would try to reach out if he saw she was in Vietnam. She doesn’t elaborate beyond that and Kevin accepts it, even though you can see he wants more. They end up eating lunch at a market where Kevin sees a tourist with the necklace his father had given him and he quickly learns that tons of them are sold all the time. He’s disappointed because he thought the necklace was such a key piece. I think it still may be. After all, a man bought it for a woman but he discarded it when he saw her with another man. Another guy picks it up and then when he dies, a woman takes it off his body so it clearly has a story. Still, Kevin is kind of moping about the whole thing when Zoe asks to go back to the hotel. At first Kevin thinks she’s just being a party pooper but when she gets sick, he rushes her back and even buys her coconut water. Kevin may be kind of a dope sometimes but he can be awfully sweet when he tries. He explains that his parents built a relationship on secrets with Jack not letting Rebecca in on his life before they met and it worked for them but Kevin doesn’t want that for him and Zoe because he’s falling in love with her. I appreciated the parallel that the writers drew between these two stories. I also get why Jack didn’t want to talk about the horrors he experienced because he didn’t want what he had with Rebecca to be weighed down by everything he was feeling. After Zoe divulges the deal with her father, I can see why she wanted to keep it quiet and why Beth previously told Kevin that Zoe’s history is complicated. She was sexually abused by her father and every so often he reaches out to try and make amends but she doesn’t want to forgive him. She’s let what he did to her affect her life and relationships for so long, she doesn’t want to give that part of her history power anymore because she’s falling for Kevin, too.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I liked this episode. It did move storylines forward, if a bit slowly. But, they’ve got the rest of the season to dole out this information and I know that the writers will give us all of Jack’s story eventually. I have faith in their ability to give us all the pieces to the Jack Pearson puzzle. I am excited to see how the story continues to unfold as we hit the Thanksgiving episode for the season.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

This Is Us 3.06: “Kamsahamnida”

“I’m curious about Dad, too, but Vietnam that was a chapter in his life he didn’t want us to know about.”
- Randall

This episode of “This Is Us” saw a bunch of present-day storylines continue to move forward which I think is a good thing. And we got to see a glimpse into a period in the past we haven’t seen quite yet. The Big Three are about 12 years old and Jack comes home with a black eye from boxing at the gym. Rebecca kind of freaks out about the whole thing and he promises to only hit the punching bag from now on. His promise doesn’t last long because Randall tells Jack he’s being bullied at school and he wants to be able to defend himself. Jack agrees to give his son some lessons without telling Rebecca but she finds out anyway and she again gets upset. They both then end up confused when they discover Randall lied about the bully. When Jack confronts him, Randall admits he just wanted a piece of his dad that Kevin got biologically. In typical Jack fashion, he reminds his son that his secret weapon his is mind. I was also kind of surprised that in the end, Jack related a story to Rebecca about him and Nicky boxing as kids. The look on her face says “you’ve never told me about him before” and I think that’s just great. We also find the whole family watching boxing on TV and Jack points out that sometimes when an opponent is hurt really bad, they put on a big smile to fake out the other guy.

That advice comes back to help Randall later on. He goes to Philly for church and gets called out by his opponent. It’s all gracious and covered in a fa├žade of friendliness but Randall sees it for what it is. He’s not going to win the black neighborhood. When Kevin drops by to inundate his brother with all of the stuff he’s been digging up about Jack and Vietnam, Randall realizes he needs to take a different approach. He does a little research and finds out the Korean population in the neighborhood barely votes. And also, they apparently love the Manny in South Korea. So, they use Kevin’s fame to set up a voter registration table. Randall gets to give an impassioned speech that touches the residents to show that he does care about them and what they need and want. Randall even manages to get a new campaign manager out of it, too. I am excited to see what happens with this new character. I liked that he really seemed impressed with Randall after Randall got his 75-year-old grandmother who’d never voted in her life to register.

While Randall is off having his campaign drama, we see Beth is still struggling with being unemployed. She’s been trying to hide the fact that she’s not dealing with it from Randall and the girls but when they go out to try and sell girl scout cookies, she ends up snapping at Tess (who admittedly is being kind of a brat). Beth goes to apologize but Deja has quite a few words of wisdom. I’m so glad they kept her character on the show and have made her part of the family. She really has an interesting way of seeing things and her life experience really shines through in this conversation with Beth. She reminds Beth that Randall is head over heels in love with her and he’ll be there to support her and remind her of how awesome she is. He does that when he gets home but she’s just not feeling it. He then decides to offer her a job on his campaign team. Not as a pity job but because he knows they work so well together and he realizes having her with him was the missing piece to the puzzle. Later that day, Randall goes to see his opponent and we see him smile big when Randall exclaims that he’s going to win Koreatown. Randall knows he’s hit his opponent hard and he’s just covering. Even all these years after they lost Jack, his presence is still being felt and I love it.

And lest we forget about Kate, she and Toby are still dealing with the fall out of Toby being off his medication. Even though he’s on the meds now, it is taking a long time to recalibrate and he’s just really struggling. Kate calls Rebecca a whole bunch for advice and I like that their relationship is in a place where she can do that and accept what her mom has to say. Since the wedding, I feel like Kate and Rebecca have started to become closer and have a stronger mother-daughter bond. Kate isn’t sure if she should push Toby or let him do things at his own pace. It seems that letting him do things his own way isn’t really working. And as Kate laments this to her mom on the phone while walking the dog, said puppy gets into a bag of garbage and ends up eating a rock. So now she has to worry about what to do about the dog. Ultimately, the dog is fine. But, we get some really good insight into Toby’s character. While Kate is at the vet, Toby showers and gets dressed but he’s still not feeling better. As he tells Kate, he hoped going through the motions would make him want to do things but it doesn’t. He almost gets out of going for another walk with Kate and the dog when she just tells him he should go on the walk. So not coddling him seems to be the answer. He also worries that Kate is going to eventually leave him given his depression 9and that’s what happened with his first wife). Kate insists she’s not going anywhere because she agreed to be with him in sickness and in health and for better or worse. Her life has been kind of crappy at times but she thinks it’s made her stronger and she’s determined to stand by her man, no matter what.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

This Is Us 3.05: “Toby”

“The joy in you is as much a part of you as this sadness, you hear me?”
- Mrs. Damon

We usually don’t get non-Pearson family centric episodes until around episode 16 or 17 of the season but this year, we got some background on Toby early on. Then again, his story, especially with his depression, tied into active storylines with him and Kate trying to have a baby. Overall, I thought this episode was just okay. I didn’t dislike it but after the previous episode, I wanted more answers about Nicky!

Focusing on Toby and Kate, when last we saw them, they had eight eggs retrieved to be fertilized. As the episode progresses, we see that three of them were viable when fertilized with Toby’s sperm and ultimately one of them is good to implant into Kate’s womb. I did like the cute little graphics they put up on the fridge with each step of the process. It has now been about five weeks since Toby was off his medication for his depression and his withdrawal symptoms are clearly getting worse. He’s agitated and the leg shaking is getting worse. He goes to the pharmacy to ask if they can just refill his medication so he can be ready to go back on them if Kate is indeed pregnant, but the pharmacist tells him that he needs to call his doctor to get on a sfe plan to go back on the medication. In his past, we see that depression isn’t just affecting Toby. It’s clear that his mother is also suffering from depression (whether it’s post-partum or otherwise is unclear). But, even at a young age, Toby exhibited signs of mood swings. We see Toby’s first use of humor to cope with a situation when he’s out shopping for school clothes with his mom. We also get glimpses into when his father left and when, as an adult, Toby’s marriage to Jose fell apart and he spiraled into a deeper depression. In the present, Kate gets the good news that she is indeed pregnant again and this pushes Toby over the edge into a bit of a breakdown. He admits to Kate what he did in going off his medication and we finally catch up to the flash forward scene from the season 2 finale of Kate letting Toby know the doctor wants him to go in to adjust his medication.

Randall and Beth have their own trials going on right now. Apparently, Randall is still bull headed and can’t see that his wife really needs him to be her rock because he’s going forward with running for city council. How he can do that without living there is a little confusing to me, but whatever. He sets up a sort of meet and greet at an old diner in the neighborhood and people come in for the food. None of them are overly impressed with Randall, especially when he tells them that they’ve become complacent with the current councilman’s behavior. It was honestly nice to see Randall fail at something for once. Beth, meanwhile, is struggling to find another job. She has an interview but breaks down when asked why she left her other company after twelve years. That has honestly got to be a hard thing to try and explain, especially when you were fired. I still wonder if there was something race-related in the decision but that’s probably just my day job seeping into everything in my life. She doesn’t tell Randall the truth about how poorly the interview went but she does point out to him that he needs to find a different approach to reaching people. This is very obvious when the owners of the restaurant who hosted the event explained that they were on the verge of eviction decades ago when the current councilman stepped in and set their landlord straight. How Randall moves forward with this storyline will be interesting. I’m hoping he sees that Beth is hurting and puts aside his own aspirations (and what he thinks he needs to do to live up to both of his fathers’ memories) to support her.

Speaking of living up to their father’s memory, Kevin sets out on his quest to learn about Jack’s time in Vietnam. Robinson writes back to him and invites him to come and chat. Kevin is all excited to meet someone who knew his dad back then. Zoe goes with him and there are some things that happen that she assumes that Kevin, as a white man, won’t understand. She needs her silk pillowcase (for her hair) but she doesn’t tell him the reason she needs it. Still, in typical clueless Kevin fashion, he actually manages to be sensitive to her needs and buys her one anyway. These two might just work out after all. At first, Robinson is hesitant to tell Kevin anything other than Jack’s line about being a mechanic. But, when Kevin insists he really wants to know this part of his father’s past, Robinson relents and admits that Jack was a Staff Sergeant. He shows Kevin a photo of the unit and I was honestly surprised that Kevin was able to point out that Nick was probably Jack’s brother. As we know, Robinson never met Nicky since Robinson was sent home with his amputated foot before Jack went to find his brother. We also get another clue in the puzzle that is pre-Rebecca Jack Pearson: the necklace that Jack gave to Kevin seems to have come from a Vietnamese woman whom Jack knew then (the mother of the little boy from last week’s episode). I honestly don’t think they’d go with the “secret family” angle. But I think Jack may have been found a friend in this woman after Nicky’s death.

Speaking of dealing with death, in the past, we find the Pearsons in their new apartment. The kids are getting ready for prom—well the boys are at least—but they don’t seem super excited. Randall is mostly nervous to meet his girlfriend’s parents. That goes horribly. Either she didn’t tell her parents that Randall is black or they are just typical white people in the 1990s, but her dad can’t handle the fact that Randall is not white. So, Randall bails on the whole thing and Kevin winds up massively drunk. So drunk that Sophie brings him to Miguel’s place to sleep it off. Miguel and Randall do get to share a nice moment which I think helps cement the fact that Randall doesn’t hate Miguel like his siblings do. We also see that Miguel finds a small upright piano and gives it to Rebecca. She and Kate end up bonding over it a little bit. This is the first time Kate’s even sung or touched an instrument since Jack’s death and Rebecca reminds her daughter that music is always in her. We even see this in the present when Kate is doing a singing telegram as Adele and one of the people points out how good she is and asks why she’s doing this instead of singing professionally herself. Kate explains that whenever her life takes a dark turn, music is the first thing to go. I appreciated that little tie-in.

While this wasn’t my favorite episode of the season, I am intrigued to see where the plots take us next. Will Kate and Toby actually get a baby out of this? What secrets will Kevin and Zoe discover in Vietnam when they eventually head there and what does life have in store for Randall and Beth?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween "Classic" Recap: Psych: "Scary Sherry: Bianca's Toast"

“I can’t believe this!”
“We actually started an urban legend!”
“That’s dope!”
-Gus and Shawn

The horror-themed first season finale of “Psych” is one of my favorite episodes of the series, and the flashback with young Shawn and Gus happen to take place on Halloween, so I’m counting it as a Halloween episode for the purposes of this year’s Halloween recap! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, so I couldn’t let it pass by without a recap. I’m also being occasionally disrupted from writing by Trick or Treaters, but this is my first year living in a place where I get any (not an onslaught, but I’ve had a few), so I wouldn’t pass that up, either! Anyway, this particular episode of “Psych” was co-written by none other than Shawn Spencer himself, James Roday. I believe this may have been his first-ever television writing credit. Roday is a big horror fan, and he crammed quite a few horror references into this episode.

The opening flashback takes place on Halloween, where nine-year-old Shawn and Gus have been Trick-or-Treating. Little Shawn is a policeman, and Little Gus is Lando Calrisian (which is awesome). Henry wants to take the boys to the police station to have all their candy x-rayed, but he gets called on to help with a problem at the Wispy Sunny Pines hospital. A woman wearing a very wispy outfit (who we later learn is known as “Scary Sherry” is about to jump from an upper story window. Henry leaves the boys in the car and tries to help, but Scary Sherry jumps anyway. Twenty years later, we see a co-ed running through Wispy Sunny Pines. Unlike Scary Sherry, though, she doesn’t jump out the window. She is startled and falls.

At Psych HQ, Shawn and Gus return from what looks like a game of racquetball happy engaged in their usual banter. They are surprised to see Juliet inside, dressed like a cross between Cher Horowitz and Elle Woods. She’s undercover as Mary Lou, Vice Parliamentarian of Beta Kappa Theta sorority. She’s investigating the (more recent) death at Wispy Sunny Pines, and the victim was a Beta Kappa Theta pledge. She wants Shawn’s psychic help to solve the case, because the girls keep reporting spooky supernatural happenings. They think Scary Sherry is back. Shawn and Gus head to the Beta Kappa Theta house, and they are enthusiastically greeted by all the girls. A sister named Bianca (played by Cheylan Simmons, who I know from “Wonderfalls” and “The LA Complex”) tells about how her clock was destroyed. As Shawn tries to create a distraction so he can go upstairs with Juliet (I forgot Gus hated being mistaken for Bud from “The Cosby Show”), the lights start flickering, and a voice screams at the girls to “get out.” The guys hightail it out of the house, but Juliet calls them back. Shawn obeys, of course, but Gus drives right away in the blueberry.

Meanwhile, Lassiter has been reassigned. He’s supposed to help train a rookie, Detective Goochberg, a much older woman that Lassiter anticipated. He starts by taking her to the shooting range, where she promptly destroys his favorite gun. Then she says she has to ride in the back of the car because the sunlight bothers her retinitis pigmentosa. Worst of all, she harasses, the chases down, a clerk who is trying to report a crime that happened at his deli. It turns out that she has a heart attack during the chase, and she winds up in the hospital. Lassiter is not pleased. He’s less pleased when (Interim) Chief Vick tells him that everyone thought he and Goochberg would get along because they’re so similar. It makes him start to rethink how he relates to Shawn, Gus, and Juliet.

All is not well in Beta Kappa Theta. The girls are out on the quad trying to recruit new members. Juliet sees Alice Bundy, the victim’s best friend, and tries to reach out to her. Alice, however, is not impressed. The other girls start getting annoyed at Bianca for not passing out enough flyers. Bianca says she’s still upset over all the hauntings, and she leaves in disgust. It turns out Bianca has good reason to be scared. Shawn and Gus have a breakthrough when they realize that one of the noises the ghost was making earlier was “Bianca” spelled backwards. They call Juliet and try to warn her, but it’s too late. Right before the sorority’s big recruitment mixer, Bianca is electrocuted in her bathtub. The sorority house receives a card inviting them to a vigil for both victims, Doreen and Bianca, at the same time as their mixer. This leads sorority sister Betty to confess that Bianca was in the Scary Sherry costume and accidentally scared Doreen to her death.

Shawn takes it upon himself to get to know Alice Bundy a bit better. He approaches her with a pineapple to share, and while she’s weirded out at first (I don’t blame her), we eventually learn that Doreen was her best friend, and they grew up together when Doreen’s parents took her in as a young child. Alice appeals to Shawn’s affection for Gus, saying she couldn’t have possibly murdered her best friend. Later, Shawn and Gus go to Henry’s house for dinner. Henry and Shawn are still somewhat estranged, so this dinner is awkward. We do learn, however, that Scary Sherry didn’t actually die. While Shawn and Gus had their eyes covered, Henry saved her, and she was rehabilitated. Shawn and Gus are pretty impressed with themselves for starting an urban legend.

Shawn and Gus pay a visit to Alice’s house, where Gus (who pretends he has lost his cat Mrs. Pickles) meets the nanny, Poppy. She says Doreen’s parents and Alice are all at the cemetery. Shawn gets a phone call from one of the sorority sisters saying Juliet went to a vigil. This makes him very worried. He and Gus think that Alice is going to try and kill Juliet because she thinks Juliet is the queen bee of sorority girls, and they are right. Juliet approaches Wispy Sunny Pines and sees a bunch of candles. She’s met by Alice, who lures her upstairs then tries to attack her with an Axe. Shawn calls Lassiter for backup, and the three all meet up at Wispy Sunny Pines. Gus isn’t thrilled at being back there, and he tries to set up some rules to avoid being the stereotypical black guy in a horror movie. He spends most of his time with his foot stuck in a floor board scared out of his mind. Juliet manages to fight off Alice just as help arrives, and Alice admits to trying to kill Juliet. She asks Shawn what he would have done if it were Gus.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Good Place 2.09: “Best Self”

“You’ve been our teacher this whole time. If we’re the best versions of ourselves, which that balloon just proved, then you definitely are.”
- Eleanor

When our core four and Michael duped Sean and the rest of the demons last episode, I wasn’t sure what this week was going to entail and frankly was the rest of the season (let alone series) was going to be. It feels like the writers tend to blow through story rather quickly on this show. Anyway, the gang is left in the “Good Place” and they need to find a way to get to the actual Good Place before Sean realizes what happened and punish everyone. Michael says he’s come up with a transportation device to get them there that turns out to be a giant hot air balloon which some rules that you have to be your best self to get on. Eleanor, Tahani and Jason get on but Chidi ends up being booted. He starts spiraling emotionally and Eleanor ahs to talk him down. The next go around, Tahani, Chidi and Jason make it and Eleanor doesn’t. When Janet tries to get on, she breaks the thing and Michael admits that the balloon was a lie and that he never figured out how to get to the Good Place. I guess it’s kind of interesting that he’s learned to admit his mistakes and take ownership of them. I thought Michael was going to admit that he made the balloon purposely not let everyone on so he could stall and spend more time with them but I was wrong.

While the gang is temporarily pissed at Michael, they end up sharing some really good moments while they are all getting hammered (thank you Eleanor). Tahani and Jason break up (whether it’s because Tahani realizes Jason is kind of an idiot or she doesn’t want to compete with Janet it’s unclear but she’s actually solving her own problem for once so that’s progress. And Eleanor admits to Chidi that she still has feelings for him. I did like Michael reciting the time they fell in love. Sure, he was all grossed out by the kissing but it was really nice to hear that there was some version of Eleanor and Chidi who were comfortable enough with each other to actually express those feelings. I suspect if Chidi just relaxed a bit, he and Eleanor could actually be together and be happy. I feel like they’ve spent more time on the whole Janet/Jason/Tahani triangle and they are just not nearly as interesting. I still find Jason really dumb and annoying and Tahani is just so self-centered and full of herself that I want to smack her. For me, Eleanor and Chidi are the couple of the show that interest me and we’ve barely seen any development with them. I know we still have a few episodes left for the season (and the show has been renewed for season 3) so maybe we’ll get more progress with the two of them.

Near the end of the night, the gang ends up awarding Michael “Honorary Human” status, complete with a gift box of useless crap that makes him happy and highly amused including car keys, a beat up stress ball and a diet book. He really has found his tribe in all of this. I wasn’t expecting that to be the outcome when this season started but he’s actually making progress in being better. We also get some fun dance montages, including a sweet Chidi and Eleanor slow dance. Things then devolve into the core four wondering what the real Bad Place will be like for them all. After some drunk rambling, Tahani suggests they go to the Judge and plead their case. That’s all fine and good except the only way to get there is through the actual Bad Place (and a portal).

Elanor leads the charge to just throw caution to the wind and try to get to the Judge through the Bad Place and after Sean sends a bunch of texts to Michael about a Bad Place train arriving in the morning and the core four being rounded up and tortured, our ragtag bunch of misfits is off and running. Michael deactivates Bad Janet and our Janet conducts the train to their next destination as the fake Good Place disappears into a black void. I know we only have a handful more episodes this season but I honestly can’t predict what’s going to happen. Will they make it through the Bad Place? Will they actually get into the Good Place? I will be interested to see what the actual Bad Place looks like and how they end up changing it from what we’ve seen so far. Will we get to encounter some of the other demons we got to know, like Vicky?

The one problem I still have with this show is that the episodes sometimes seem random. I honestly worried we’d spend an entire episode dealing with the scale on the hot air balloon this week. The fact that they are burning through story (and not exploring things like the Eleanor and Chidi relationship in more depth) is worrisome to me. I feel like they could have spread things out over a longer period of time. They kind of wrote themselves into a bit of a corner by revealing that Michel was a Bad Place architect and they were in the Bad Place too early. They could have built up the other characters more before doing that. And now that they are on the verge of maybe getting into the Good Place, it makes me wonder how they will continue the story. I suspect they won’t actually make it into the Good Place this season. Or if they do, Michael won’t be let in and the rest of the group will have to decide whether they do an all or nothing approach or if they abandon him.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Good Place 2.08: "Leap to Faith"

“You’re bad, Eleanor. This is exactly the place you should be.”
-Michael

“Leap to Faith” was one of the twistier episodes of “The Good Place,” I think, and “The Good Place” is a pretty twisty show overall. Throughout the episode, we have no idea if we can trust Michael, and the other characters all have various different opinions on the topic throughout the episode. Things changed so quickly and so often that I didn’t know who to believe. Even at the end of the episode, I still wasn’t 100% sure about Michael. He seems to still be on the side of the humans for now, at least, but when the going gets rough and he doesn’t have a plan like he had this time around, I’m not sure if his loyalty will remain. Even this time, his plan to help the humans, while successful, was pretty darn cruel. It was cruel enough that the humans temporarily doubted him, which could have been a major liability.

We pick up with Michael being very surprised to see his boss, Shawn, sitting in his office. At first, Michael thinks that all his failed attempts at creating what I’m going to call a Huis Clos neighborhood (read your Sartre if you don’t get the reference) have been found out and that he’s in big trouble. That isn’t quite the case, though. Shawn says he’s been reading the reports on the latest reboot, and he’s trilled that our four humans are more tortured than anybody in a traditional Bad Place scenario. Shawn thinks this is just the second, reboot, though, not hundreds of attempts in. Due to the resounding success of Michael’s neighborhood, Shawn has been promoted, and he’s sharing the wealth by promoting Michael, too. He’s got a senior staff pin to give out and everything. When Vicky finds out about this, she is not at all amused. She wants a promotion, too. Michael thinks he has her under control, reminding Vicky that if Shawn learns about Vicky’s latest successful neighborhood, he’ll also learn about all the failed versions, and they’ll all be in trouble.

The four humans are called into Michael’s office, where Michael gives the “you’re actually in the Bad Place” speech and the humans try and act surprised. Shawn says that they’re going to shut the neighborhood down and send the four to a more traditional Bad Place neighborhood to be tested then tortured. Back at the house, the four debate what to do next. Chidi toys with the idea of ratting out Michael to Shawn. Tahani and Jason vote for taking the train to the Medium Place, which has been complicated by the fact that Shawn has shackled Janet, and she’s acting like she’s drunk, so she can’t call the train. Eleanor, however, thinks Michael is actually still on their side. She points out that a reference Michael made to Kierkegaard was too specific to be random. She thinks Michael was trying to tell them to take a leap of faith and trust him to work things out.

To send off the neighborhood in true Bad Place style, Michael hosts a comedy roast followed by an all night rager. The comedy roast is especially cruel, with Michael saying the exact right thing to really hurt each human. He even insults the Jacksonville Jaguars (that’s the final straw for Jason)! The roast is hurtful enough to make Eleanor doubt Michael. She thinks he is indeed in league with Shawn. Meanwhile, the demons are all partying like crazy to a Puddle of Mudd song and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” on repeat thanks to DJ Bad Janet. Michael kind of conspicuously mysteriously talks to Janet a couple times, and this draws the attention of Vicky. Vicky starts trying to ingratiate herself with Shawn, but then the train suddenly pulls out of the station. Since things are going south, she automatically wants to give Michael credit for everything about the neighborhood.

I’m going to take a little pause here for a second to recognize a pretty cool guest star (or maybe she’s been recurring and I just didn’t notice?). Amy Okuda, who I know from Felicia Day’s groundbreaking web series “The Guild” plays a demon named Gail. On “The Guild,” Okuda played a bratty but endearing gamer named Tink. I’ll admit, there’s not much to the character of Gail, but she kind of hits some of the same notes (she’s a major tattletale). It’s nice to see Okuda working on television, though. I like when people from my nerdy, small-time fandoms get a chance to make some bank. Plus “The Good Place” is a pretty great show to get to appear on, even if it is pretty brief.

Anyway, thanks to Gail being a tattletale, Shawn thinks that Vicky is responsibly for the humans escaping on the train. He calls up another train to follow them and encases Vicky is a very oozy cocoon. Once the second train pulls out of the station with all the demons on it, we see that the humans have been lying on the track the whole time. They sit up to see Michael staring at them. He is so happy to see them safe that he starts crying uncontrollably, and soon the whole group is crying.


We get a nice little mystery-style recap of exactly how the gang followed Michael’s clues to (relative) safety. Each of Michael’s insults at the comedy roast provided one of the pieces to the puzzle. They needed to get Derek (who I still think of as Pimento from Brooklyn Nine-Nine) back from Janet’s void and have him call the train. Then they needed to hide on the train tracks so that they couldn’t be detected when Bad Janet was asked to scan for human life signs. The final terrifying wait while the train traveled over them was the last piece of the puzzle. Michael, of course, has to mention that he actually left them 1,200 clues since their brains are so underdeveloped.

This Is Us 3.04: “Vietnam”

“He’s there now and he’s struggling. I just need to be where he is even if I can’t get to him, even if I can’t do anything for him. I just need to be there. He’s my little brother, Doc. It’s my job to take care of him.”
- Jack

Everyone’s been waiting to see the story of Jack’s time in Vietnam. And this episode introduced us to the start of the journey. The story was told in backwards fashion, using consecutive farther back flashbacks but I’m going to present it in a more linear fashion so we can see how Jack and Nicky ended up where they did (even if Nicky would prefer to look back and try to figure out how he got where he was).

We begin with Nicky’s birth. The nurse tells Jack’s mom that October 18th is a lucky day and Nicky just misses sharing a birthday with his alcoholic grandfather. It’s interesting to see that at this point, Papa Pearson isn’t a drunk or abusive. I want to know what causes him to snap and become so violent and such a horrible person. At this point, he seems like a decent guy. Next we find Jack and Nicky as young kids. They are tossing a football in the front yard and Nicky breaks his glasses. He’s terrified he’ll get a beating from their father but Jack swears he’ll never let that happen. He even fixes Nicky’s glasses for him with some tape. Later that night, both boys stand up to their dad and he ends up leaving their mother alone. I like that Jack tries to encourage Nicky to be brave and strong, even with glasses (he calls him Clark Kent).

It’s clear that Jack spends most of his life looking out for his baby brother. Even as adults, Jack has a plan in the event Nicky gets drafted to the war. I found it fascinating that Jack was more of a hard working type (he was a mechanic before the war) while Nicky is a bit more of a long-haired hippie. But, the worst comes to pass and Nicky gets drafted. To be honest, I didn’t realize they just called people’s birthdays out and everyone with that birthdate had to go to war. I will admit that not having an active draft is a blessing. I applaud the show for addressing this time period and this particular conflict since not many shows or films ever venture into the territory. I also appreciate that they filmed quite a bit of this storyline (even what we haven’t seen yet) on location. That’s some serious dedication! Jack plans to get Nicky to Canada to avoid the draft but in the end, Nicky decides it’s his turn to be the super hero and defend people for once.

When next we see Jack, he and his mother have gotten news from Nicky overseas that he’s not doing well. Despite a heart condition, Jack begs his doctor to let him enlist to look after his brother. The doctor isn’t thrilled but given that the government doesn’t have people lining up to voluntarily enlist, he gives Jack a few tricks to get him past the physical. It seems that even back then, Jack was a good leader and quickly becomes a Staff Sergeant leading his own unit. Unfortunately, they had to show the brutality of war and one night his unit is ambushed and he loses one man and another, Robinson, loses a foot. I liked that they tied in that he was the one Kevin reached out to in the previous episode. I also loved (and totally got a little misty-eyed) when Robinson was about to be sent home and he told Jack to breathe and put his hands on his face. Like Jack does with Randall as a kid. I just love getting to see where all these little gestures and mannerisms come from. It makes them all feel that much more real.

Following the ambush, Jack and his unit get sent to what’s considered a “cushy” job. They have to monitor a small village which is suspected to harbor Viet Cong and sympathizers. It’s mostly a village of women and children. It was also authentic to see some of Jack’s unit show prejudice against the people in the village, especially the little boys who would grow up to be teenage boys who could be drafted to fight against them. But, Jack, using some bribery gets his men in order before command shows up and uses it to buy himself a day to go see Nicky. Whether he intends to straighten out his brother or just be there, we aren’t sure. But it was kind of jarring to see Nicky with a close shaved head and beard when last we saw him he was a hippie. Nicky also doesn’t look pleased to see his big brother there. Then again, it’s been about a year and a couple months since Nicky got drafted. He’s no doubt seen some horrors of his own by this point. And he hasn’t had Jack to look out for him.

This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting when they touted that we would learn how Jack became Jack. I guess I was expecting more storyline with Jack and Nicky in the war. But we have the rest of the season (and beyond as I can’t imagine the network not renewing the show for at least a fourth season) to explore their relationship at this point in their lives and what leads to Nicky’s death. I find it fascinating that Jack lied to everyone about his war experience. I’m sure it had something to do with Nicky’s death. While it would have been interesting to tie this episode’s content in with Kevin’s search for Jack’s past, I think it served us well to give some necessary backstory and spotlight on Jack. I’m glad that even though we solved the mystery of his death, we have so much yet to explore about who Jack Pearson was. I love seeing little pieces of his experience from this era bleeding into how he operates as a husband and father. To me, it speaks to how strong a person Jack was to be able to take all of these experiences and still come out of it a decent and loving man. Yes, he had his own demons but he was willing to face them and do better for the people he loved.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

This Is Us 3.03: “Katie Girls”

“You deserve more than what’s in that house.”
- Jack

This episode took us back to the aftermath of Jack and Rebecca’s disastrous first date. We quickly learn that the man who showed up with flowers on Rebecca’s doorstep was her ex-boyfriend, Alan whom she met in shop class in high school. I was kind of surprised that she would have been allowed into the class in the 1960s and 1970s given that it was seen as a masculine endeavor. But, she and Alan had three years together before he jetted off to London for a job and she decided she didn’t want to follow a guy around the world. Well, at least at that point she didn’t. Now, he convinces her to move to New York with him. She goes out to grab some celebratory champagne and runs into Jack in the grocery store. He’s a bit dejected from seeing Rebecca with another guy and then gets plain angry at his abusive father for throwing the sandwich his mother made on the floor and demanding another because it had too much pickle. Jack gives his mom an ultimatum: pack her bags and stay with a friend or stay and Jack will kill his dad. I don’t see Jack Pearson as the kind of guy who normally results to violence, but to defend someone he loves, especially against her piece of garbage father, he wasn’t kidding. Ultimately, after Jack and Rebecca have their grocery store run-in, Rebecca realizes she wants to give Jack a try and she’s more than pleasantly surprised when she sees him doing dishes—a task she always saw her mother do. By the end, they agree to go on a road trip to LA together. I just love seeing the fact that this great relationship we entered into in the pilot wasn’t as effortless as a lot of us believed. They have so much to get through to where they end up and it’s exciting.

In the present, we get a quick reaction to Kevin’s film (everyone thinks it’s pretty great and Kate is so proud of her brother) but things take a turn when Randall confronts Kate about her “piece of Dad” comment. They end up in quite the argument where he mentions adopting and she throws back that he had two biological kids before adopting Deja. A week later, Randall still hasn’t apologized and in typical Randall fashion (which he totally got from Jack), he flies across the country to be there for Kate for her egg retrieval surgery to make it up to her. As sweet a gesture as it was, he probably should have stayed home because he’s got fires to put out on the home front. Beth has been putting together a fun kitchen co-op proposal but instead of approving it, her boss ends up firing her allegedly for budgetary reasons (okay there’s the day job bleeding through). It’s unclear if she took the severance pay or not but this offshoot of the Pearson clan now has zero breadwinners. So someone is gonna have to step it up. If you believe William (thank you flashback), it needs to be Randall who puts Beth front and center. But given he now wants to run for city council to try and improve things in William’s old neighborhood, I get the feeling there is going to be some discord in this marriage.

Speaking of Kate and Toby, they are both nervous about the procedure and we get to see Toby and Randall share some time together while Kate is under the knife, bonding over their “hidden” conditions. I like that they are starting to get close. I’m honestly hoping that continues. Kate, meanwhile, is under anesthesia and she sort of hallucinates the two younger versions of herself. Young Kate is just carefree and wants to know if she maries Zach from Saved by the Bell and Teen Kate is bitter and angry following Jack’s death and keeps pushing that Kate can’t have a baby or take care of another person. Things finally settle down when Jack—sporting the look from the pre-teen Big Three era—shows up and brings ice cream. Getting to see her dad one last time give our Kate the permission she needs to wake up. She’s allayed her own fears represented by her younger selves and it turns out the procedure was a success so she and Toby are one step closer to parenthood hopefully. I’m still waiting for Toby’s downward spiral to kick in. I have a feeling the embryos may not take or something else will go wrong that will prolong him being off his medication.

And then there was Kevin. He’s doing some wrap up press stuff following the movie premiere and he invites Zoe along for an NPR interview with one of her favorite reporters. It irritated me later on the way Zoe quoted the reporter as to why she was suddenly taking an interest in what was going on with Kevin. I mean it’s good he has someone to go on the journey with him but the way she framed it made it seem very self-serving. In the NPR interview, Kevin gets asked a bunch of questions about Jack’s time in Vietnam and Kevin realizes he knows next to nothing about his father’s military service. It’s a wakeup call for him to go digging into his dad’s past. He also has a memory of being a young kid, wanting to get a toy grenade (instead of plane) and Jack kind of freaking out and yelling at him. Jack later explained to young Kevin that he was in a war and a lot of people got hurt and war isn’t a game. He gives young Kevin the opportunity to ask him questions and of course he doesn’t ask anything. But this gives us a nice springboard into Jack’s past before he met Rebecca and his time in the war. I’m very excited by the fact the show is tackling this time period as not many shows really address this era.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Doctor Who 11.01: “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”

“We are all capable of the most incredible change. We can evolve while still staying true to who we are. We can honor who we’ve been and choose who we want to be next.”
- The Doctor

I have now watched this episode twice through and I have to say, it feels good to have the Doctor back on my screen. I know I spent a lot of the previous series complaining about a lot of things but when the new showrunner said this series was going to be fresh and accessible to new fans, they meant it. But, they also made sure to keep hints of the past for those of us who have stayed with the series. Jodie’s Doctor is vibrant and fun and in control and I love it all. I also feel more connected to the three companions (or friends as I believe they are being called now) than I ever di to Bill or Clara. I am properly excited again to go on adventures with the Time Lord with two hearts! v While the plot of this episode wasn’t anything spectacular or new, it served the purpose of introducing us to our new cast of characters. We begin with Ryan and his nan, Grace and her second husband Graham. Ryan has a coordination disorder that makes it really hard for him to do things like riding a bike. He gets so fed up with his failure, he chucks his bike off a cliff, only to be sent down after it while Nan and Graham hop the train home. Thanks to some poor choices (maybe don’t touch the weird glowing shapes in the air), a weird alien pod shows up, prompting a call to the police. Enter Yaz, a young female officer still in training. She’s bored of breaking up stupid squabbles over parking spaces and she jumps at the chance for something a bit odd. It also appears she and Ryan went to primary school together. I like that they aren’t just total strangers. They have a history we can explore.

We jump to Nan and Graham on the train that has a massive power outage and is being attached by a tentacle, electricity-shooting alien. Enter the Doctor. Or rather, she falls through the roof of the train. She’s a bit discombobulated as to who she is but she does fend off the creature for now. And then, in typical Doctor fashion, she starts trying to solve problems. She’s still regenerating so she’s having some memory gaps. I quite appreciated the fact she acknowledged that not long ago she used to be a white-haired Scotsman. I also enjoyed the fact that she was able to explain certain things about what she was going through while still taking charge of the situation. She motivated the gang around her to reach out to their contacts to figure out if anything else odd had happened.

As I mentioned, the story of the episode wasn’t anything new, although the alien certainly was. In a way, it almost reminded me of the Hirogen from Star Trek: Voyager. Not in how they looked (the Hirogen were way better looking) but in how they treated humanity as prey to be hunted for honor and glory. Even if she’s not quite sure who she is, the Doctor is clear she doesn’t like that one bit. She’s still working on a plan to get to the bottom of things, but regeneration energy knocks her out for a bit, reminding me of The Christmas Invasion (one of my all-time favorite Christmas specials and overall episodes of Doctor Who).

It turns out, the alien race has been to Earth before and took a young man’s sister. He’s intent on finding out what happened to her but he’s never going to get those answers because the alien kills him. Oh, and did I mention his name is Tim Shaw? How scary! Tim orders our motley crew to stay out of his way as he hunts his randomly selected human and he thinks he’s got a solid deterrent: DNA bombs that have been placed in everyone. Well he clearly has never met the Doctor before. She’s clever and resourceful. She built her own freaking sonic screwdriver! We haven’t seen any other iteration of the Doctor (at least in modern Who) do that!

Just when the situation seems the direst, the Doctor finally remembers who she is and gives quite the speech. It reminded me a little of Ten and Nine in her delivery. She stops the bad guy but unfortunately, we lose of the companions we’ve started to cling to: Nan. It wasn’t that unexpected given that we knew Graham, Ryan and Yaz were the ones she’d be travelling with. Still, it was sad to see Nan go. Following her funeral, the Doctor acknowledges that there are ways to keep the ones we lose with us by remembering what they would say and do. It makes me wonder who specifically she’s referencing. Her granddaughter Susan? “daughter” Jenny? Wife River? (Don’t get me started on how much I want a Thirteen and River adventure). But, it’s now time for her to move on. Except of course she hasn’t got her TARDIS. And she needs a wardrobe change. I still don’t love the new costume but I like the story behind it. She thinks she’s gotten the leftover alien tech to do what she wants and send her to the planet her TARDIS has landed but as she herself admits, seven layers of the tech made no sense and she zaps herself along with the other three into the vacuum of space. How are they going to get out of this pickle? I can’t wait to find out next week!

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and I am so pleased by how well Jodie portrays the Doctor. She’s kept that balance of funny, smart and intelligent that so many of her predecessors had. And they didn’t make a big deal of her being female which I think was good. Because for the character, it doesn’t really matter. For the rest of us, it is nice to see someone a little more like us at the helm. We got a lot of strong women in this episode and I look forward to seeing how they continue to grow.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

This Is Us 3.02: “A Philadelphia Story”

“I’m doing the very best that I can. They’re grieving, what do you want me to do?”
- Rebecca

This episode of ‘This Is Us” had a lot packed into it and it all played into each era’s storyline beautifully. While Kevin’s premiere is the end point of the present-day storyline, everything else in the distant past and near past helps inform how our character act and react now. We see that Kevin and Zoe are still seeing each other, although there are some communication issues that need to be sorted out. Kevin kind of has an expectation that things are getting serious. He even is thinking about bringing her to the premiere as his plus one. But, she just wants to keep things casual. She’s busy making her documentary so she doesn’t have time for that. Well, at least, not until she hears an interview with him on the red carpet when he mentions he went solo (although his whole family came to support him). I am interested to see Zoe’s backstory and how that informs her relationship with Kevin.

In the far past, we find Rebecca and the teenage Big Three renting a house and trying to get their feet back under them after losing Jack. Kate and Kevin are not coping well: Kate’s overeating and Kevin is drunk. Rebecca is trying to keep it together and it seems Randall is the one having the most success. He also gets the good news that he was accepted to Howard University. As the family goes to look at a new house, we learn that Kate never sent in her audition tape to Berklee so she’s not going and obviously Kevin isn’t going to college (what with his football injury and everything). Rebecca is clearly disappointed in their decisions but it’s also clear that she’s struggling to keep it together. My heart broke as Randall realized after a confrontation with his mom, that he was needed closer to home. So, after he’d already accepted his spot at Howard, he calls and rescinds it. I was so looking forward to Randall being able to explore that part of himself. I wonder if he’d been able to do that if he would feel as if he’d found his place.

Speaking of finding his place, in the present Randall is still trying to find where he fits in terms of being Black. As we know, he lives in a predominantly white neighborhood and the girls go to school with a large non-Black population. Deja is the most out of place there. She misses her drill team from her old school. Randall has an idea. He wants to introduce her to the daughter of one of his building’s tenants. The girls hit it off and I think this will be a good experience for Deja. Unfortunately, I don’t think Randall quite does. I did really enjoy the juxtaposition between what Randall was doing in the present with seeing the girl’s mother move in years ago and meet William. Through William’s experience, we see that the building is really a community that supports one another. When the young woman, Gigi, has a screaming, unhappy baby, instead of getting mad, William offers Gig some dinner and someone to talk to. It was really lovely to see William able to connect like that. It was especially poignant that we saw the community come together to celebrate William’s fifth year of sobriety.

In the present, Randall wants to try and get the rec center where the kids from the building hang out cleaned up. An older Gigi with no time for Randall’s optimism points out they’ve tried to get the place fixed up by the city but no one cares. Randall learns that truth first-hand when he tracks down the local Councilman. In typical politician fashion, the Councilman promises Randall he’ll send some people over to at least replace the burnt out streetlights but of course he doesn’t. it really speaks to not just local politics but nation-wide politics how people, once elected, seem to forget where they come from or the fact that their job is to represent the people, not their own interests.

We also see the ramifications of Toby and Kate’s choice to go through IVF. The biggest change is obviously Toby. He’s jittery, really horny and emotionally volatile after going off his anti-depressants cold turkey. We even see him checking the symptoms online. Of course, he’s not going to tell Kate because he wants to give her what she wants: a baby all her own. They agree not to tell anyone about the treatment, but the cat is out of proverbial bag when Miguel accidentally finds the hormone shot in the fridge. Rebecca is really reluctant about Kate’s choice. At first we think it’s because of Kate’s weight but it ultimately turns out that she doesn’t want to see her daughter in harm’s way. She also regrets not doing more to help Kate get her weight under control when things really first spiraled out of control following Jack’s death. Kate makes a rather insensitive comment in front of Kevin and her mom and stepdad about how she is the only one who can carry on a piece of Jack. Kevin is hurt by her statement. Not because he wants kids, but because he feels like he’s never lived up to Jack’s expectations of who he could be. In fact, Jack never got to see him act before and Kevin is kind of bummed about that. Jack was the only person who took Kevin seriously and he wants to make his dad proud but he’s just not sure it’s going to happen. And then, Kevin relays Kate’s statement to Randall who has a wholly different reason to be upset by his sister’s words. I’m sure Kate wasn’t thinking about it that way when she said it. She’s being a bit self-centered at the moment but it still will certainly hurt her brother. As wonderful as this family is, they still have a lot of demons to conquer and they have a long way to go until they find peace.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

This Is Us 3.01: “Nine Bucks”

“I don’t like talking about the war or my brother. It makes me sad. It makes me angry. But, I like talking to you a lot. You make me feel like I’m home.”
- Jack

It feels like it’s been forever since we last shared time with the Pearsons. But, we are finally back and it feels great! And as has become customary, we join the Big Three on their birthday! In case you forgot, we ended last season with Kate and Toby’s wedding along with some quick flashes to the future with Kevin and Zoe (Beth’s cousin) heading to Vietnam, Kate and Toby dealing with what appears to be a resurgence of Toby’s depression and in the far future, a grown-up Tess and Randall were going off to see “her”.

We get glimpses of the direct aftermath of Kate and Toby’s wedding: Randall and Beth finding Deja has smashed the car, Kevin and Zoe hooking up for the first time and Toby ad Kate deciding to try for another baby. Out of the three, I’d say Randall and Beth have best outcome as of the ending of this episode. Deja has been in therapy but it doesn’t seem to be helping much. She’s still hurt that Shauna gave up her rights. But, Randall thinks he’s got an idea to fix things so he brings Deja to the building he and Beth bought and shares the fact that adoption shaped and influenced his life in a lot of ways. This is a long-winded way of telling her that the Pearsons want to adopt her but only if she chooses. It appears that Deja isn’t keen on the idea but after she visits her father (whose never been in her life and may or may not even know of her existence), her attitude changes. She realizes that she’s found a family that loves her and wants to support her. I’m looking forward to seeing this storyline develop.

Tangentially related is Kevin and Zoe. They both know that Beth would freak out if she found out about them. We assume Beth just doesn’t trust Kevin with a member of her family. But after she and Zoe get into a yelling match, Beth eventually reveals to Kevin that she really does love him a lot. She doesn’t show it but she does and she cares about him which is why she’s worried about him and Zoe. She fears her cousin is going to break Kevin and Beth doesn’t want to see that happen to her brother-in-law. To be honest, that’s not the reaction and reveal I was expecting out of Beth. I know we are getting more of Beth’s backstory so I hope that we get to see more of Zoe’s past, too. Hopefully it will enlighten us more about her character and what is going to unfold with her and Kevin as they eventually take that trip to Vietnam.

And then there was Kate and Toby. Since the wedding they’ve been trying to conceive and it hasn’t happened. Kate eventually gets diagnosed with PCOS and it turns out Toby’s sperm count is low, likely due to the antidepressants he’s on. Immediately I knew this wasn’t going to end well. They go to see a fertility specialist who declines to take them on as patients because of Kate’s weight and age and the likelihood of a successful pregnancy being so low. Kate mopes through her birthday party and she and Toby are in agreed to ‘screw IVF” when the doctor calls back and changes her mind. She wants to give then hope and do the impossible. This is going to be an interesting storyline. I like that they are focusing on issues that aren’t talked about a lot in the media. I’m less thrilled about the fact Toby has flushed his meds down the toilet and not told Kate about it. We also get another clue to the far future storyline when Randall calls Toby and asks him to join them. Now I’m thinking it might be Kate they’re talking about.

In the past, we get to witness Jack and Rebecca’s first date. If you thought it was going to be all sunshine and puppies, you’d be wrong. In typical Jack Person fashion, he wants to show Rebecca a great time but he’s only got nine bucks (thanks Miguel) in his pocket when they head to a nearby carnival. He blows all but two of it on entrance a snack for Rebecca. When it starts raining, he can’t afford the umbrella (if he got one, they couldn’t do any games) and so the date kind of takes a bad turn. They’re standing under an awning as the rain comes down. And it appears at first blush they have nothing in common. He’s a dog person. She’s into cats. He likes pepperoni on his pizza, she’s more of a mushroom girl. He can’t even share much about himself because he doesn’t want to talk about the war or the fact he lost his brother overseas (I’m really hoping that Kevin and Zoe’s trip reveals that Nick is somehow still alive). As Jack goes to drop Rebecca off at home, he admits the truth of why the date was such a disaster. She agrees it was a bad date but she can’t help liking the way he looks at her. And then she does something she’s never done on a first date: she kisses him. She also leaves an item in the car so he has to return it the next day (apparently that’s a thing girls did back in the 70s). But again, this isn’t a smooth road. As Jack shows up the next day, the other guy that Rebecca went on a date with shows up with a bigger bouquet of flowers than what Jack could afford. And so, as he seems them together, he drives off. Don’t stop fighting for her, Jack!

I didn’t cry as much in this episode as I usually do, which hopefully means the writers were telling the truth when they said this season would be lighter and funnier. There were some adorable moments throughout the episode (pieces of Jack and Rebecca’s date, Randall’s excitement over the new shoes Deja got him, Kevin chatting with Tess and Annie) and I’m excited to see what’s next for this wonderful family. It’s good to be home.

Friday, September 21, 2018

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2018: The Aftermath

“If you haven’t been watching tv lately, a comedy is just a drama that’s 30 minutes long.”
-Colin Jost

If there is one word to describe the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards telecast, I think it would be forgettable. Most of the bits didn’t work, because the were making light of things that shouldn’t be made light of right now (there is way too much at stake). I loved that “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” won so many awards, because it’s a fantastic show, but most of the other winners left me unexcited. I found myself frequently internet surfing or otherwise getting distracted instead of watching the telecast.

“Saturday Night Live” actors Colin Jost and Michael Che had hosting duties this year (each network typically taps its own talent when it’s their year to broadcast the telecast. I like awards show hosts who have range. I’ve especially enjoyed Neil Patrick Harris’ song and dance numbers during awards shows over the years. Jost and Che didn’t do song and dance numbers. They mostly did forgettable banter. Michael Che did get in a few one-liners. He also did a segment called “Reparation Emmys,” where he gave after-the-fact Emmys to groundbreaking Black TV actors (including Jaleel White!). I’m still not sure how I feel about that segment. I appreciated the sentiment, at least, and I’m not really in a position to pass judgment on it.

Jost and Che might not have done the song and dance thing, but there was an opening musical number featuring other NBC talent, including Keenan Thompson (all the 90s kids rejoiced!) and Kristen Bell, called “We Solved It.” The number was meant to satirize the idea that by hiring one woman or person of color, the entertainment industry has “solved” its lack of diversity problem. There’s even a moment where Andy Samberg appears and is quickly told to leave because he’s a white man. And there was a “One of Each” dance troupe. This was another instance where I appreciated the sentiment, but I didn’t think the number quite worked. It was too on the nose, I think. There were also repeat bits with “Emmy experts Fred (Armisten) and Maya (Rudolph),” where it turned out they didn’t actually know anything about the Emmys at all. As a bit of an Emmy aficionado myself, I didn’t find it especially funny.

The format of the show was changed up a bit in an interesting way. For each award, the nominees would be announced by an offstage announcer before the presenters entered the stage. Then the presenters would just banter real quick and announce the winner. Sometimes there were other presenters to announce the category. I guess maybe it was a way to include more presenters? Regardless, there weren’t any presentations that were especially memorable. Except maybe John Legend and Chrissy Teigen presenting together – they’re always cool.

There were two other highlights that everyone seems to be talking about today. The first was Oscars director Glenn Weiss proposing to his girlfriend (weeks after his mother’s death) during his acceptance speech. It was sweet, although I would kill anyone who did that to me. I am not a make a fuss in public kind of person. Matthew Rhys, when he gave his own acceptance speech later for his work on “The Americans” mentioned that his girlfriend, fellow “The Americans” actor Kerri Russell, felt the exact same way. The other highlight was Betty White receiving a “Legends” award and giving a brief speech. Some of her words were a bit hesitant, but she still has the fiery spirit we all know.

The winners were hit and miss with me. Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz) won for his work on “Barry,” which is a show I didn’t even know existed. The commentariat seems excited about this win, but it didn’t do much for me, because I’ve never watched “Barry.” The “Black Mirror” episode “USS Callister, “ which features a Star Trek-like virtual reality scenario and the talents of Cristin Milioti and Jesse Plemmons, won for Outstanding Television Movie, which I appreciated. “USS Callister” is the only episode of “Black Mirror” I’ve ever watched, mostly because it was very hyped, and it lived up to the hype. It’s super creepy, but also has those nostalgic Star Trek vibes. The ending was a little too all tied up in a bow, but overall I thought it was solid. I was also happy to see Claire Foy win for her work on “The Crown,” because as I wrote on Sunday, she portrayed Her Majesty with a lot of grace, strength, and intelligence. “Game of Thrones” won for Outstanding Drama Series which, while I like the show, was a little “meh” as an award winner for me. I haven’t watched the most recent season, but I’ve heard it doesn’t quite measure up.

The big winner of the night, which was perfectly fine by me, was Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The show won Outstanding Comedy Series, co-creator Amy Sherman-Palladino also won for Outstanding Writing and Directing in a Comedy Series, and Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein also won acting awards. It got to the point where I started wondering what sort of marketing Amazon had done to make this happen. “Mrs. Maisel” is a great show, where 1950s housewife Midge Maisel reluctantly turns to stand up comedy when her marriage starts to crumble. It was created by “Gilmore Girls” and “Bunheads” creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, and it features plenty of their trademark rapid-fire dialogue. I also love how heightened the reality of their version of 1950s New York is. It’s a beautiful, thought-provoking show. I do wonder if all the awards were a bit overkill, but at least it was for a show I enjoy!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2018: The Players

Hello there! It’s been a while, I know. Working a demanding job with a 60 mile commute while managing a couple chronic health issues didn’t leave much time or energy for blogging. I now live in the same city where I work again (Hello, Charm City, I’m back!), so I’m going to try easing back into this blogging thing. What better way to get back into this than talking about one of my favorite events on the TV calendar, the Primetime Emmy Awards! The telecast will be tomorrow night on NBC, and "Saturday Night Live" stars Colin Jost and Michael Che will have hosting duties. Late Night talk show hosts are your typical Emmy host, so I’m interested to see how Jost and Che handle the telecast. I’m sure their improvisation skills will serve them well, and I hope they use their Weekend Update sensibility to bring a political bent to the telecast. Yes, I know everything seems to be politicized right now, but we’re in such a dire situation that everything needs to be politicized. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. As I do every year here, I’m going to go through a few categories and tell you who I would like to see win. It’s not a prognostication, just wishful thinking on my part.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Donald Glover (Atlanta)
Bill Hader (Barry)
Anthony Anderson (black-ish)
Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
William H. Macy (Shameless)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)

My Pick: Donald Glover

My pick this year is the same as last year: Donald Glover for his portrayal of Earnest “Earn” Marks on FX’s “Atlanta.” I’ll admit I’m only one episode in to Atlanta Season 2 (aka “Robbin’ Season), but I think it still holds up. “Atlanta” feels like nothing else on television to me, and I think that Glover’s vision is a big part of that. I look forward to watching the continued adventures of Earn and his family and acquaintances, and I’m happy to see Glover continue to get recognition for doing innovative work and showing us all something we don’t usually see on television.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Pamela Adlon (Better Things)
Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish)
Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie)
Issa Rae (Insecure)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)

My Pick: Rachel Brosnahan

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was pretty much the deciding factor to make me finally subscribe to Amazon Prime. I really enjoyed the pilot and wanted to see what was next as Midge Maisel pursued stand-up comedy in the 1950’s. Brosnahan’s winning personality really makes the show work. You can see Midge desperately trying to be the perfect 1950’s housewife, especially as her marriage falls apart, but at the same time she has a raunchy side that comes out when she gets in front of a microphone. Brosnahan makes both parts of Midge’s personality come to life, and it is really a joy to watch.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

The Nominees:

Sandra Oh (Killing Eve)
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
Keri Russell (The Americans)
Claire Foy (The Crown)
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld)

My Pick: Claire Foy

This one was tough. I had to decide between Tatiana Maslany, who did incredible work playing more characters than I can name on Orphan Black, and Claire Foy, who portrayed Queen Elizabeth II with such grace on “The Crown.” In the end, since Maslany has won an Emmy for her work on Orphan Black already, I went with Foy. Foy played the Queen on the first two seasons of The Crown – the role will be portrayed by “Broadchurch’s” Olivia Coleman. While “The Crown” has tended to go a bit too much in the direction of being all about poor, put-upon Prince Philip, I think Foy has done extraordinary work infusing the role with the dignity of the real QEII. I am still only part-way through season 2 of “The Crown,” but I still think Foy deserves to be recognized.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

The Nominees:

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones)
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)
David Harbour (Stranger Things)
Matt Smith (The Crown)
Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale)

My Pick: David Harbour

The second season of “Stranger Things” was a great showcase for David Harbour, as his character, Sheriff Jim Hopper, tried to be a father figure to recently-released-science-experiment and teenage girl Eleven. Hopper and Eleven’s relationship could be tumultuous, but they really do care about each other. As Hopper lost his own daughter to cancer before the series started, the relationship he builds with Eleven is especially poignant. Harbour shows a range of emotion throughout the season as he tries and fails to keep Eleven safe. Their fights and their eventual reunion were all pretty epic.

Outstanding Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Atlanta
Barry
black-ish
Curb Your Enthusiasm
GLOW
Silicon Valley
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

My Pick: GLOW

This was yet another tough one. “Atlanta,” “GLOW,” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” are all shows I really enjoy. I’ve given props to actors from two out of those three shows already, though, so I’d like to give the series nod to “GLOW.” “GLOW,” which chronicles the production of a 1980 all-female wrestling show, really celebrates women. With just a couple exceptions, most of the characters are women, and the show is written by women as well. This is something we don’t commonly see on television. The relationships between the GLOW ladies, particularly stars Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and Ruth (Allison Brie), director Sam (Marc Maron, whose podcast helped keep me going during those 60 mile a day commutes I mentioned earlier), and producer Bash (Chris Lowell, of “Veronica Mars” fame) are complex. In the second season, Debbie and Ruth’s relationship is especially tested, and Gilpin and Brie both offer up fantastic performances.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Art of the Con - Three Shows that Do It Well

So, if you’ve hung around the blog long enough, you know I am a huge fan of con and heist shows (and movies…still need to see Ocean’s 8). I thought I’d take a look back at some of the con and heist shows that I’ve enjoyed and break down what they do well and why I love them.

Leverage

I covered the first season in recaps a few years ago and I’ve since re-watched most of the show on DVD several times over (I enjoy listening to the commentary from the producers and writers. It is just fascinating to hear how they come up with certain ideas and find locations). If you aren’t familiar with the premise (well you’ve been living under a rock), it follows a group of thieves, hackers, and grifters as they work to take down bigger bad guys. Think of them like Robin Hood in the modern age.

Over the course of the five seasons that the show ran, we not only got to know these characters extremely well, but we got to see them progress and grow as people and expand their skillsets until the end where the baton is passed. I primarily got into this show because of Christian Kane (who I adored from his days on “Angel”). But, I stayed for the team dynamic, great acting and fun cons.

I think my favorite part of the show, besides seeing the cons play out, was at the end of each episode where they reveal how everything was in fact a con and how it all was laid out. It fills the viewer in a little on how they pulled it off and I find that aspect of it all really satisfying. I guess I’m just curious to know how it all works. That was probably why I enjoyed the first Ocean’s move so much, too.

Deception

This was a mid-season show this past season which sadly only lasted 13 episodes before getting the ax. And right when things were really taking a turn for the crazy and interesting. Deception fell into the “quirky consultant to the police” procedural niche where you’d expect to find shows like “White Collar” or “Castle”. The lead protagonist, Cameron Black, is a disgraced magician (because the world discovered he had a twin brother (Jonathan) he used in his act who got arrested for murder). The premise of the show was Cam working with the FBI to prove his brother was framed and free him. Unfortunately, by the end, Cam was the one behind bars while his brother walked free and no one was the wiser. I wanted to see what happened next but alas, it is not to be because the network decided to cancel it.

Similar to what I enjoyed in “Leverage”, I liked seeing the magic that Cam and his team used in their deceptions as well as unraveling the mystery behind the magic. It was a fun, for the most part light-hearted show and the cast of characters was interesting and very watchable. There was still so much I needed to know about these characters. I would have loved some flashbacks to before the start of the show to see Cam and Johnny working out their acts and why they decided to continue performing as if they were one person even though their dad was a big jerk. I got into it because the lead actor (who is a newcomer to my TV screen and to acting in general) was so charming and cute. Why do the Brits have to be so damn adorable! I think this show hurts the most because it still had a long way to go with its story and we will never see what happens to Cam and his team.

Sneaky Pete

“Sneaky Peter” is an Amazon Prime original series which is much darker in comparison to the other shows mentioned in this post. And that’s primarily due to the fact it is on a streaming platform and can afford to be more graphic and violent (and foul-mouthed). It follows the story of Marius, a con man who gets out of jail and assumes his cellmate’s identity to avoid a powerful man from his past from coming after him. He ends up landing with his cellmate’s bail bonds owning family and all sorts of shenanigans ensue.

What I liked about this show was that they had multiple layers and levels of cons going on. And none of the characters were strictly good or bad. They had shades of grey (and not the creepy BDSM kind). Despite some of the flaws, you were rooting for most of the characters (well okay, maybe not Brian Cranston’s character, he was kind of an epic tool). I also liked some of the bit players we got to see throughout the seasons. They’d pop up occasionally when Marius needed them and it reminded me of when the Leverage crew teamed up with some of their adversaries in season 4 finale.

The show really felt like it was more of a mature “Leverage” throughout its two seasons and I am really hoping we get a third season (though from what I’ve read it’s not very profitable for Amazon so they may be cutting it from their roster). I also liked that with this show, you never quite knew who to trust and what was going to happen. And they weren’t afraid to kill or hurt people. I also found it kind of funny that we actually got to meet and interact with the real Pete in season 2, along with his mom. Maybe say a small prayer that we will get another season because Marius and company aren’t done yet!

If you want to check out any of these shows (and I highly recommend you watch all of them), Sneaky Pete is available if you are an Amazon Prime member. White Collar is still on Netflix last I checked and ABC should have all of Deception up on their website or mobile app. Happy viewing!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lucifer 3.24: “A Devil of My Word”

“Hello, Pierce. It’s time for a reckoning.”
- Lucifer

We have come to the end of an era. Only a few short days ago, we got the sad news that Lucifer has been cancelled by Fox and unless another network or streaming service picks it up, this is the last we will see of Lucifer, Chloe and company. And I know I bitched about the storyline the back half of this season but after this finale, my faith in the show was renewed and I am downright pissed about not getting more. I can absolutely see now why the producer warned fans that they would be frustrated by the episode’s closing moments.

I’m going to structure this post a little differently than most of my recaps, seeing as this is the series finale. The crux of the plot is really bringing our team together to take down Caine for Charlotte’s murder. We know he did, even if he was aiming for Amenediel (side note: it seems for now, big brother has gone back to Heaven to stay). Dan is the first to accuse Cain after finding Charlotte’s Sinnerman file at home. I know it’s just a waffle iron but it broke my heart when Dan threw it against the wall and shattered it. He and Charlotte really were robbed of their happiness together. Lucifer has no trouble believing it since he’s known that Cain was the Sinnerman for ages and Chloe eventually gets on board with the theory (not the Sinnerman one necessarily but that he killed Charlotte). Ella is the last among them to be brought into the loop but only after Cain uses his Sinnerman connections to frame someone. Lucifer figures out who helped plant the evidence and the when the team uses Ella to try and draw Cain out, they get a hitman for their troubles. Before we get into the big final showdown, we also need to touch on Maze and Linda. They had their ups and downs this season with the whole love triangle nonsense but maze has finally realized that she needs Linda as a friend and she would run four miles and kill twelve guys just to get to her to make sure she was safe. I’m going to miss their odd little friendship. I was looking forward to seeing how they developed after maze accepted that emotions can make her stronger. For non-romantic pairings, this one was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed their drunken confrontation on the bachelorette bus a few weeks ago.

It turns out the hitman who promised information lied and sent Lucifer and Chloe into a trap. We know that things can get dicey for Lucifer when Chloe is around and she steps up to protect him (even as she continues to profess she doesn’t believe his metaphors). She takes a bullet and then Lucifer’s wings come out, creating a cocoon around them. The pain on Lucifer’s face as bullets hit him from all sides I horrible to watch and listen to. But he manages to save Chloe (thankfully she was wearing a vest!) and goes back to finish what he started. Despite the fact his wings are bloody and clearly causing him pain, he uses them to take out Cain’s men and ends up killing Cain with Maze’s blade. Amenediel’s theory about them making their own destiny seems to have rung true for Lucifer, but in killing a man, he gets his Devil face back, just as Chloe sees him and for the first time believes every word he’s ever told her. And that is where they leave us! What does Chloe do now that she has this information? How does it change her feelings for Lucifer (if at all)? So many questions left unanswered.

I have to admit that despite the ups and down of this past season, I have really loved this show. I really enjoyed Tom Ellis’ portrayal of the devil. Not having any background by way of the comics on which the show was originally loosely based, I came into the pilot with no expectations. And for most of the run, I wasn’t disappointed. I think they took what could have been a sort of hokey premise and made it something special. Sure, they are lots of procedural with a twist shows out there (and lord knows I’ve probably watched many of them as they tend to be in my wheelhouse) but Lucifer as a show really stood out to me. They built interesting characters that you wanted to get to know. They presented story arcs that drew out some fundamental questions and they weren’t afraid to throw you curveballs. Chloe being Lucifer’s Kryptonite? Wasn’t expecting that. Hell, I wasn’t expecting Lucifer to get his wings back or lose his Devil face. While the waiting and wanting to know the answers to some of these questions drove me nuts, I’m satisfied with the answers we got. I like that Lucifer and Amenediel figured out that the changes they went through weren’t God’s punishment or test but were their own feelings about themselves. It made the more human and relatable. And I have to admit, I miss Charlotte a lot!

If this is all we ever get of Lucifer, I’ll be disappointed because there are so many stories left to tell but I realize that many things go into renewing a show and admittedly Lucifer wasn’t owned by Fox (plus the ratings were down year over year and Fox may not exist beyond next season anyway). I have no doubt the cast will land on is feet wherever they go next and I do look forward to following them to whatever project pulls them in. So, thank you to Lucifer’s cast and crew for putting on a quality show that is gone far too soon. I know what I truly desire is more time with these characters but as in life, we don’t always get what we want.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Lucifer 3.23: “Quintessential Deckerstar”

“I am the devil.”
“Not to me, you’re not.”
- Lucifer and Chloe

It has been a long time since we’ve had a double quote for a post but I felt this was necessary. We are making some movement forward with Chloe and Lucifer and I think we may have gotten a potential answer to why Lucifer’s wings came back. But, more on that in a minute. This week’s case drew a lot of our characters together and highlighted a lot of the reasons I do enjoy the show. Lucifer thinks because Chloe “un-chose” Cain, that it means she chose him. Linda tries and fails to get him to see that isn’t the same thing but in typical Lucifer fashion he doesn’t listen. He decides instead of just saying he wants to get things back to normal, he’s going to do normal and try to recreate some of his and Chloe’s best moments on cases, complete with a drink and playing the piano at the crime scene of a famous baseball player whose wife has been murdered.

Charlotte is still having her hell loop dreams and when she wakes up from the latest one, we see that Dan was in the picture (which is really sweet). When she gets to the precinct, she sees the baseball player who was in her dream. She swears that he has to be the guilty party. Chloe doesn’t really think there is strong evidence (he had a head injury from being knocked out and everything) but Charlotte is insistent. When she was a young lawyer years ago, her boss gave her a bloody duffel bag in the middle of the night from the player and told her to burn it. She did and she clearly feels really guilty for helping to cover up his past crimes. She just can’t prove that he’s’ the killer now. Ella, thankfully, starts to poke holes in the guy’s story about his head wound. He said it came from being clocked with a gun but Ella identifies it as a sharp force versus blunt force injury.

Enter the mistress. She corroborates his whereabouts on the night of the murder so they are back to square one. Along the way, Amenediel starts to wonder if maybe he’s responsible for losing his wings and not God. Like, there’s no test, he has to help himself. This doesn’t impress Charlotte much because she still thinks she’s going to Hell. I do really like them working together, though. They are a lot of fun. He poses as a potential client to get into Charlotte’s former firm and then she shows up as a distraction while gets files that show the baseball player paid off a lot over women over the last twenty years.

One other thing the mistress does, is say that the victim was having an affair, too. The alleged adulterer explains that they just worked late and that they were trying to thwart corporate espionage. They pass off some video footage of a hat and glasses clad figure which Chloe spends all night reviewing to try and break the case open. She turns Lucifer away when he shows up with a board came, intent on continuing their greatest hits tour. She thinks he’s making fun of her but he isn’t. Around this time, Charlotte and Amenediel figure out that one of the women the player paid off was murdered around the time Charlotte was given the bag and that the man who went to prison for the murder didn’t do it and just got out of prison. In short order, Chloe gets the recent parolee to confess to the present-day killing. Lucifer sees this and realizes that she didn’t need him to do her job.

While the rest of the drama is unfolding, Cain has moved digs and Maze shows up to end him. He proposes they kill Amenediel so he can get his mark back (I don’t quite understand why that is the case that’s what he wants) and then Lucifer will be forced to take Maze back to hell. But, Maze pulls a crying ruse on Amenediel and is surprised when he comforts her and tells her that he’ll always be there for her. I think she just hasn’t seen that the people around her still care about her. She goes to tell Cain that the deal’s off and they get into quite a fight until Cain says that he’s hurt Linda as insurance against Maze. When she goes to check her phone, h nails her with a sedative and runs off.

Thanks to some clever teamwork between Chloe, Charlotte and the player’s latest mistress, they catch the player admitting to the past murder. So, that’s two murders Chloe solved without Lucifer’s help. You expect him to be upset that he’s not needed but he realizes that Chloe works with him because she wants to. He also finally admits his feelings that he was too afraid to tell her the truth honestly before because she worried if she knew all of him, she’d run. He admits that he’s the devil and she tells him that he’s not to her. Now, Amenediel’s theory seems like it might hold some weight. What if Chloe seeing him not as the devil he thought all this time gave him his wings back? It’s a possible theory that I hope we continue to explore. And hey, we get a kiss between them, too! Unfortunately, all of the happiness is short-lived. Cain has decided to take matters into his own hands and he goes to kill Amenediel in the park as he sits with Charlotte. I really wish got to see more of them together. They’re a fun pair. They hear the approaching gunman and Charlotte throws herself in front of Amenediel, taking the bullets meant for him. She dies in Amenediel’s arms but he realizes that he has his wings back and he carries her off to Heaven. I do hope he comes back to face off against Cain with the rest of the gang and maybe be a shoulder for Dan because he’s devastated by Charlotte’s death. Poor Dan. He just finds happiness and it’s ripped away. I was honestly worried for a second they were actually going to kill Linda. Next week’s finale is going to be good.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Lucifer 3.22: “All Hands on Decker”

“It’s one night, what could possibly go wrong?”
- Ella

This episode turned out to be more entertaining than I expected it to be. Given that at the start of the episode, Chloe and Cain were getting married in just three weeks, I’m pretty pleased with the end result. Chloe is kind of overwhelmed by the all the wedding planning so Cain convinces her to take a few days of vacation to work on it without distraction. Ella also gets to fulfill a dream of hosting a bachelorette party. Things take a weird turn though when Ella appoints Maze as co-host. Maze still thinks Cain has his mark and she’s convinced she’s going to make sure they get married so the mark will go away.

With Chloe on vacation, Lucifer gets paired with Dan and much hilarity ensues. Lucifer can’t figure out why Chloe would say “yes” and so he’s decided to get into her head by being her. Meanwhile, Amenediel is tackling the Cain angle (Charlotte is on Chloe duty at the party). Charlotte suggests that Amenediel tap into some of his own fears since turning mortal and use them to needle at Cain to try and get him to change his mind. The guys do share a drink at Lux but I don’t think our fallen angel was successful in his task.

The Bachelorette party is a bust at first, too. Maze has planned a ridiculous party with no booze, strippers or good music. Charlotte remedies the situation by hiring a party bus (and convincing some potential sexually harassing college students to strip in exchange for dropping charges). Along the way, Linda sort of figures out what Maze is up to and a fight nearly breaks out on the bus several times (not least of which because Maze literally tosses the guy Linda was making out with off the bus). Ella is also not happy that Charlotte appears to be freaking Chloe out with divorce stats and such. In the end, it appears Chloe gets some sage advice from the bus driver that leads her to make an important decision.

Before we get to the big two outcomes of the episode, I should discuss the case of the week. Dan and Lucifer end up investigating the murder of a dog show participant and along the way, find the missing show dog. Things are rather awkward at first as Lucifer tries to “be” Chloe and Dan has to remind of things like certain questions to ask. The first lead takes them to an illegal gambling den where Lucifer does a little sleight of hand and takes Dan’s gun and badge and slips a wad of cash in his pocket before leaving Dan inside. He almost gets their current suspect to confess over poker when Lucifer bursts in with SWAT. It turns out, the suspect got into dog shows while in prison. He was seen arguing with the victim because the ex-con’s dog had gotten the victim’s dog pregnant and they were negotiating over the puppies. Their next lead takes them to the vet who has to certify all the dogs in the show. She claims to not know the dog was pregnant but Lucifer’s persuasion works on another employee who admits to taking the dog. She wanted to sell the puppies because she’s strapped for cash. As Dan and Lucifer are heading back to the precinct with the dog in the front seat, Dan explains that Chloe isn’t just her job. She’s a friend, a single mom and so much more. He also acknowledges that he’s been scared to tell Charlotte what he wants and he also points out that Lucifer is scared to ask Chloe why she agreed to marry Cain because he doesn’t want to know the answer. They return the dog to the victim’s husband but things don’t seem to sit right with Dan or Lucifer (especially after Lucifer discovers in doing the paperwork for the case that the husband knew about the puppies which contradicted what he’d told them when he picked the dog up). Dan also figured it out when the dog wouldn’t go to the husband. So, he’s gone to face the killer alone and unarmed. Lucifer shows up and Dan manages to take the guy out. It would seem the husband felt displaced by the dog (and now the puppies). The death was an accident and its at this point that Lucifer realizes why Chloe would say yes to Cain. He seems safe and stable and reliable.

However, it would appear that all of Lucifer’s soul searching wasn’t really needed since Chloe ends up breaking up with Cain (after he suggests eloping). We aren’t entirely sure why she ended it but I’m just glad she did. And so is Lucifer when he sees she’s no longer sporting a ring. I’m also happy to report that Dan and Charlotte are officially back on. Dan wants her and she’s cool with that. I think I’m going to like them together more than I did when she was Mom and just being weird and using him for sex. I think he can really have a good influence on Charlotte. I’m not sure why they decided to end things as quickly as they started them with Chloe and Cain as it seems a bit contrived. If they wanted to pit Maze against everyone as it seems they are doing, it could have been accomplished another way. As it stands, it looks like she’s still going after Lucifer so that’s not going to be good. I just hope the rest of the gang is able to thwart whatever she and Cain cook up next. And for goodness sake, Lucifer needs to admit his feelings to Chloe! I want to say that him being so immature and taking whole episodes to realize what he’s doing wrong or seeing his own behavior reflected in someone else is just his jealousy of Cain because I thought he’d made some good progress emotionally last season. But, it could just be the writers are still finding ways to keep them apart.

Lucifer 3.21: “Anything Pierce Can Do, I Can Do Better”

“I’m in. You are my brother and my test, whatever needs to be done.”
- Amenediel

So, going into this episode I had a sinking feeling I wasn’t going to like where it left Lucifer and Choe and the Cain of it all. And boy was I right. I’d love to say I’m surprised by Lucifer’s actions, but at least the way he acted was in character. And hey, I wasn’t the only one disappointed in him. He was, too!

The case involves the murder of a prima ballerina. The first suspect is her understudy (whose shoe was found at the scene and was in fact the murder weapon). But, Lucifer and Chloe are quickly pointed to a new avenue of inquiry: the victim was leaving to host a reality ballet coemption (seriously, do we need any more reality show?). With a little devil mojo thrown in, we learn that the head of the show was blackmailed into hiring the victim and then when he confronted her about it, she quit. Apparently, this guy was a big-name dancer who allegedly suffered a leg injury in a car crash. Thanks to Lucifer’s persuasion, we learn he faked the whole thing. Hence, blackmail.

In the midst of the investigation, we find both Cain and Lucifer trying to win over Chloe. Lucifer won’t admit it at the start but he wants Chloe to be with him. He initially frames it as restoring their partnership to what it was pre-Cain. Linda considers stopping him but doesn’t and she comes to regret it by the end of the episode. In his effort to woo Chloe back to him, Cain orders Maze to back off their plan (although hey his mark is gone). She isn’t going to let things go. She wants to kill Cain and pin it on Lucifer so his life on earth is ruined and he’ll take her back to Hell. She tries to make amends with Chloe in order to further her own objective but I don’t think it works out so well. Lucifer quickly sees what Cain is doing (trying to win Chloe back) and decides it’s going to be a competition of who can be better.

They start with giving her “stuff”. They both give her baked goods and then Cain stuffs her car with roses. Lucifer thinks he can one-up the Lieutenant by buying Chloe a car. She’s initially amused but then when she realizes he did it to one-up Cain, she gives the keys back. I really wish lucifer got out of his own way sometimes and just told her how he felt about her! He also tasks Amenediel (and by extension Charlotte) with finding a way to prove that Cain is the Sinnerman so that they can disrupt Cain’s attempts to win Chloe back.

I will admit, I enjoy Charlotte and Amenediel working together. They are quite fun. They stalk Cain to a meeting with a known fence and then Charlotte takes off on a motorcycle when Cain leaves. She lies about why she was following him (offering to be a rebound) to try and see what he got from the fence. Unfortunately, she can’t get her hands on it and when they break into his place later on, whatever he got from the fence was gone.

Thanks to some sleuthing by the cyber crimes division, Chloe learns that the blackmail video was sent from the IP of the person who runs the ballet company. Lucifer similarly deduced this (though I’m not sure how) and he’s already there when Chloe arrives. They start snooping and Lucifer proclaims the man is a stalker. When the guy gets home and Lucifer grabs him, Chloe realizes it isn’t so nefarious. They were having an affair. Later, Cain invites Chloe over to dinner so he can explain what’s going on. Lucifer overhears and invites Chloe to his place so that he can try to dissuade her from taking his nemesis back. Again, Chloe is impressed at first until she realizes that Lucifer is just trying to beat out Cain. She’s about to head over to see her ex when Ella and Dan discover a reflection in the blackmail video of the male lead in the production.

It’s only at this point that Lucifer realizes what a big mistake he’s made. The killer didn’t want to kill the victim but he did want her out of the way so the understudy could be the lead because he loves her. He was just afraid to admit his feelings to her. So, as Lucifer wallows in his own self-pity and heartache, Linda drops by to tell him she’s sorry for not stopping him. She challenges him to confront why he doesn’t want Chloe to be with Cain. First, he rails about his father’s plan but she calls bullshit on him. It’s an excuse and he knows it. He really wants Chloe to choose him because he loves her (and if Cain’s theory is right that Chloe’s affections make them both vulnerable, then she has feelings for him, too). But, Lucifer’s revelation is too little, too late. He arrives at Chloe’s to watch from the window as Cain proposes to her and she says “yes”. Honestly, I’m not sure why she accepted. She spent most of the episode unhappy with him and saying she couldn’t trust him for what he did. I knew this was where the story was headed based on previews and some other articles I’d read and it’s partly why it took me so long to get this post up. I really have not enjoyed this part of the season because it feels like an artificial way to keep Lucifer and Chloe apart. There was so much promise at the start of the season that now, feels like such a long time ago. Let our leads get together. Let Chloe know the truth and go from there. That can still be an interesting story and quite honestly, if we don’t get to at least Chloe knowing the truth by season’s end (in 3 episodes), I may be done blogging Lucifer.