"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Eleventh Hour: Containment

It’s a beautiful day in Pittsburgh, and a building is being destroyed. Construction workers putter over the site, and one breaks away to call his family. It’s his son’s birthday, you see, and as he walks into an excavated cave to hear his wife better, you can tell he wants nothing more than to be home at his son’s birthday party.

That was my first clue that something’s going to go very, very wrong. Ned the construction worker’s call breaks up in the cave (duh) and he finds himself in what looks to be an old Native American burial chamber. A bunch of skeletons lie in alcoves in the wall, and one not-quite-skeleton lies on the floor and grabs at Ned. He’s still alive, but he’s covered in pustules. Eww.

Jacob to the rescue! Rachel summons him out of a very important meeting to tell him he’s needed. This time it’s an old friend who needs him – Calver Rigdon, from the Pennslyvania Health Department, happens to be the man who introduced Jacob to his wife. He also happens to be in charge of what’s happening at the demolition site. Jacob and Rachel hurry out to meet him and see what’s up.

The pustule-y man turns out to be Christopher Fisher, a licensed mortician who was brought in to look at the skeletal remains. He is fast on his way to becoming a skeletal remain himself, as he has died from some sort of hemorrhagic fever. Jacob and Cal discuss it a bit, tossing around ideas. Some sort of ebola? Nope. Maybe there is radiation lingering in the rocks of the cave! But no, the radiation levels or normal. Jacob examines the full list of symptoms – rash, fever, blistering, pustules – and comes to one conclusion: smallpox. The disease may have been eradicated, but somehow here it is, all the same.

Hazmat teams start to pour in, scientists and construction workers alike are given vaccines, and Jacob and Rachel set about to finding out where Fisher could have contracted the disease. It’s some sort of genetically engineered hybrid. They head to his apartment to search for environmental causes. Nothing seems too dangerous, but a wad of money hidden away is a bit suspicious. A second job, perhaps? Jacob picks a speed dial number at random and finds that on the side, Fisher works as an embalmer for a funeral home. Now it’s time to track down the bodies he’s recently worked on to see which one could have passed it on.

Meanwhile our construction worker Ned seems okay, until he starts coughing and demanding that he be let out to see his family. Somehow he breaks away, and that’s when the real trouble starts. He begins coughing up blood, but he’s determined to see his family. Jacob manages to trap him in the hallway before he reaches his family, and a hazmat team drags him off.

It is soon determined that a cold storage maintenance man by the name of Jack Ruddick is the best bet for the body that infected Fisher. Ruddick died from a fall, and Jacob and Rachel go to investigate the death. Alan Pulido, the manager of the storage facility, gives them a bit of a tour. Perhaps Ruddick didn’t contract the disease from anything in the facility. Perhaps he caught it from a fellow worker.

It turns out that there are a bunch of workers recently from Guatemala. After a bit of questioning, Rachel finds out that most of them are at home, too sick to come to work. Jacob and Rachel head to the Guatemalan’s apartment to see what’s up. It is a very sick apartment. One of the men in bed bolts for the fire escape when he sees them coming, and Rachel takes off after him. He is hit by a car in front of her very eyes, and she just reacts – she stoops down to check on him and gets covered in his blood. Wrong move, Rachel.

Preventative measures are put in place to stop the spread of an epidemic. The Guatemalan home village of the workers is put into quarantine. So is Rachel, who is lumped in with the storage facility workers and Ned. She tries to do some good on the inside by comforting Ned, but more importantly, she wants to help Jacob. She tries to convince him to call the FBI and get a new handler, but he won’t listen. He in turn goes to try to have Rachel moved to solitary confinement, just in case she’s not infected, but Cal won’t listen. He’s starting to seem suspicious. So Jacob goes to concentrate on the virus, discovering under the microscope that the virus isn’t brickshaped like smallpox usually is, but round like… chicken pox! Rachel and all the storage workers rejoice and are set free. Ned… dies. Poor Ned.

One of the storage workers leads Rachel and Jacob to a crate in the storage facility that until lately contained samples of smallpox, but the samples are gone! The facility manager is starting to show symptoms, and he has the samples. He wants $75,000 from Cal for them. After all, the virus was Cal’s making, in a misguided effort to further science. However, not such a great idea to store them in public, buddy. Jacob and Rachel go after Pulido, who runs into a restaurant and threatens to kill everyone if he doesn’t get his way. Rachel’s done messing with this stuff, so she shoots him and recovers the virus. But one vial is missing! Jacob knows where to look – Cal has locked himself in quarantine and injected himself with the disease. Very noble, if depressing.

Towards the end of the episode we have a touching moment where Rachel says despite all the dangers of her assignment, she likes working with Jacob because he does a lot of good. Aww. Let’s hope their mushy moments don’t extend much past this.

I promise I wasn’t hoping Rachel would die. In fact, I was really pleased that they didn’t make her get sick at all. It would have been so tiresome had they had her get sick and then have Jacob swoop in and find a “cure” or something. The less chance they have of getting more emotionally attached to each other, the better. I’d hate to see this professional relationship turn into something romantic.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Life On Mars: Things to Do in New York When You Think You Are Dead

The show with the longest episode titles ever doesn't disappoint with another wordy installment. As the title suggests, Sam was faced with some new clues to the mystery of why he's in 1973, seemingly pointing to the fact that he could actually be dead. Meanwhile, the case of the week involved a young African-American girl seemingly pushed off a roof by a Puerto Rican janitor.

This episode, however, the outcome was telegraphed from the start. Angel's protests of innocence fall on the deaf ears of everyone on screen, but it's pretty clear to the audience almost immediately that there's more to the story. That didn't stop everyone from assuming the worst and attempting in their own ways to prevent an all-out street war between the African-American and Puerto Rican communities. As usual, Sam found out that his familiar way of policing doesn't exactly apply in his new environment, but even he didn't catch on until way too late in the game. Then again, I can't exactly blame him for not suspecting that the answer lay in chasing butterflies. No one could have anticipated an explanation that lame.

Sam met a young version of his future mentor, Fletcher Bellow, and in turn becomes his mentor. Just when I think this show could become a routine police drama, it throws me a time-travel curve ball. If Sam passes down his wisdom and advice to the young Fletcher, who in turn passes it on to the young Sam somewhere down the line, doesn't that create the paradox in that Sam is essentially passing down his own advice to himself? At least the twist with Fletcher was a little less obvious than the one involving Angel.

The casting of Whoopi Goldberg in a guest-starring role as a militant DJ was a head scratcher, though there was nothing wrong with her performance. It's just that, despite the massive afro and '70s garb, she didn't exactly disappear into the character of Brother Lovebutter, even when disguised as a male voice over the radio. Her strong celebrity persona has the effect of taking the viewer out of the story anytime she's on screen. You can't say it wasn't a brave choice -- both on the part of Goldberg and the producers -- it just didn't quite work within the setting of the series.

In further casting developments, Lisa Bonet was back as Maya this week, and continues to be irrelevant. She's not really a part of 1973, and she's not helping Sam figure out why he's there. She just seems to be in the way. It made me kind of miss Sam's loopy spiritual guide and neighbor Windy, who was MIA this week (due to being merely a recurring character and not a series regular). The writers have successfully found a balance between the policing and the freaky time-travel stuff -- as well as the humor and the drama -- now they just need to work on solidifying the relationships between Sam and his colleagues, especially Gene and Ray. The key is in building layers of reality. On the surface it may seem that Sam doesn't fit in with his surroundings, but it should be evident that underneath it all, he's having the time of his life.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Supernatural - Wishful Thinking

The Supernatural team offered up another stand alone episode, with just the tiniest bit of ongoing story tacked on at the end. For some shows that could be the signal of a weak episode. A simple idea, be careful what you wish for, became the setting for a very entertaining tale. It offered up some of the classic wish themes, with just enough of the crazy to keep me on my toes.

First and foremost on the crazy scale, the alco-holo-porno addict teddy bear. Where did that come from? I get that wishes go south, but that one went south, jumped the tracks, and made way for funky town. It was so strange, I just couldn’t help but be interested in it. It led to a couple of the many great lines in the episode as well. “He’s some kind of alco-holo-porno addict. Kind of a deep woods Duchovny.” Later followed by the incredibly odd discussion about whether or not they were going to kill the bear, which culminated with, “I don’t want some giant, flaming, pissed off teddy on our hands.”

It was pretty clear the minute that Wesley walked into Lucky Chin’s that he was going to be involved. When Sam mentioned that they had to find the original wish maker, I was sure it was Wesley. For what was essentially a one off episode, they did a nice job with the backstory to the case. Tiamat, the primordial goddess of creative chaos, is a cool reference, and I liked the addition of Wesley’s grandfather bringing the coin back from the war.

It was a fun way to spend an hour. There were still a couple little kernels of development for the boys. First, Sam’s revelation that given the chance he wouldn’t wish to go back. He’s not that person anymore. Instead, he’d wish for Lilith’s head on a plate. Bloody. Our Sam really has changed.

More importantly, I got to the bottom of Dean’s memories of his time down under. That came as news to me. I was under the impression that Dean couldn’t remember anything specific but was being haunted by random flashbacks from that time. Now I learn that he does remember everything, and it’s an incredible burden. As he put it, “The things that I saw… there aren’t words.” And, as I would expect, knowing what I do about Dean, he’s not telling Sam what those things are. Not because he can’t bear to speak them, but because he is still operating under his one true goal, to protect his brother.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CSI: Leave Out All The Rest

CSI never fails to make me cry. All those poor dead people, their families, Catherine’s “professional” attire… and this episode tries to hook us all in immediately. It’s a motif that runs throughout the episode – Grissom watching and rewatching a video that seems to be Sara’s final goodbye. Whether or not it is truly the goodbye remains to be seen (and with Jorja Fox’s track record for staying off the show when she’s supposed to be off, I’d have to say it’s doubtful). Either way, Grissom looks pretty broken up about it.

But enough of this sentimental stuff. Let’s get to the “body” of this episode.After a bit of mope time, Grissom decides to get his rear in gear and head over to the crime scene he was supposed to be at awhile ago. There he finds Catherine ankle-deep in mud, trying to preserve a tire track from the monsooning rain. She gives Grissom a mild talking-to about professional duty and then they head over to the body.And what a body it is. The face is completely gone, scraped off. The same for his fingers. From the marks on his shirt (oil and rope burn), they deduce that he was tied to the undercarriage of a vehicle, where his face was dragged off before the rope wore away and he fell out from under. The body is taken away and Doc Robbins gets a crack at him. He finds needle marks around the victim’s nipples, which at first seem to be some sort of drug injection site, but there are no drugs in the victim’s system, so that’s a no-go. He also finds burns on the vic’s tongue – some sort of grilling. Gross. Cause of death is ruled strangulation by someone’s bare hands. Some sort of S&M gone wrong, perhaps?

Meanwhile, Brass is off cheerfully destroying the victim’s property. Upon breaking open the front door of the vic’s house, they discover his ID and learn that his name is Ian Wallace. Nick and Riley search the place and they both find blood in different places. Something obviously went down here. The back door is unlocked and nothing seems to be broken into.

And what’s up with Brass suddenly becoming “Jim”? Did I miss this somewhere along the way? I’m sorry, but he’ll always be Brass to me. It’s more fitting.

Riley uses her keen observational skills to reveal that Ian lived with a female, given the fluffy heart-shaped throw pillow and the women’s magazines. And that’s how they discover her identity: Justine Stefani. And she is nowhere to be found.

Grissom broods a bit more before deciding that a visit to an old friend is just what he needs. He heads over to visit Lady Heather in her new life. She’s no longer a dominatrix – just your run-of-the-mill sex therapist. But Grissom’s not there for a head-shrinking (is that still what they shrink in sex therapy?). He needs professional advice.

Heather takes a look at the pictures of the vic and has some helpful ideas. The needle marks around the nipples are an arrangement called stacking, used in bondage. The tongue burns are too – metal chopsticks are placed around the tongue and electrified. She needs more information about the victim’s habits and lifestyles. Grissom has Nick, Riley, and Greg investigate the vic’s bedroom some more. Nothing at first, and then Riley hits the jackpot. A big toy box under the bed. But there are no tinker toys or Legos in there. Just S&M paraphernalia. They find a bloody shirt in the hamper with blood patterns that match the nipple needles, semen and vaginal fluid on a dresser, but no needles or tongue chopsticks. Nick does find a card for a club by the name over Lower Linx. Heather tells them that that’s an amateur bondage club with a well supplied back room. Maybe they’ll find more toys there.

The first thing Nick and Brass find when they infiltrate the club is the manager, Michelle Tournay. After a bit of badgering she gives them a DNA swab and lets them into her back room. They find the tongue chopsticks there, and another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

Checking in at the lab, the semen is Ian’s, but the vaginal fluid is not Justine’s. Another woman! There is also some blood on the back of the shirt that doesn’t belong to Ian. It could be from someone getting punched. The vaginal fluid does however match the epithelials found on the chopsticks. This could be the dom to Ian’s sub.

Soon enough they find a car burned near the crime scene. It’s Justine’s car, and Justine herself is in it (although all that really remains are her breast implants). She’s a victim now, not a suspect. Her hands were tied, and Doc Robbins determine she was probably hit and killed by her own car before it was torched with her inside.

Brass checks up on Justine’s phone records and sees that the last call was with a Martin Devlin, an insurance agent. He seems innocent enough, until they discover that it’s his blood on the back of Ian’s shirt! His hard-as-a-rock lawyer won’t let him say anything.

That is until they look at Martin’s phone records and find a picture he sent in a text after his call with Justine. It’s a photo of his lawyer and Ian together! He sent it to a number that is just one digit off from Justine’s, so it’s probably just a misdial. Time to talk to the lawyer again. She was involved in a little S&M play with Ian and Martin, but she got a little too involved with Ian. She fell for him, and that made Martin mad. He socked Ian at home, which explains the blood in the hallway. Ian socked back, which explains Martin’s blood on his shirt.

It looks like an open-and-shut case, but unfortunately the CSIs can’t link either Martin or his lawyer to the crime scene. The episode ends with a killer still free and Grissom staying in Lady Heather’s guest room. And is she staying too?

What a disappointment. I suppose even our genius CSIs can’t solve every case. Maybe they should have a separate CSI show for all the cases they just can’t break. Either that, or maybe they should have a CSI: The FUTURE!!! Where CSIs of later generations use their advanced crime-fighting gadgets to solve the cold cases of today. Either way, I’m thinking this won’t be the last we see of this case. Maybe it won’t be resolved next episode, but it’s fairly rare that they won’t tie it up in a nice neat little package for us.

Is Grissom going to leave the show solely for Sara? I hope not. Grissom’s character for so long has boiled down to his respect and passion for his job, and I’d hate to see his character change so drastically because of a failed romance. Even if it was Sara. She couldn’t hack it as a CSI any longer. Grissom doesn’t have to catch that disease as well.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Name Is Earl: Sold a Guy a Lemon Car

Earl is cornered into an unbelievably boring conversation by Kippy, a weird neighbor that Randy finds endlessly entertaining. Catalina helps lure him away with the promise of HBO and a room without killer mold, and Randy chastises Earl for “getting rid of all the cool neighbors, like the guy with that illegal penguin.” Oh, how glad I am that I’m not one of those cool neighbors.

A creepy new neighbor moves into the hotel and wakes Earl and Randy up by making noise at night. To figure out what the man is doing, Randy looks through the bullet hole and sees the man looking back. The guys go to Catalina for help, but she refuses to make him leave because he thinks she’s pretty. Downstairs in the hotel pool, Earl finds Joy trying to catch a fish. She’s trying to help Dodge win a $500 science fair prize so she can use the money to buy a Jane Seymour necklace. Joy dreams that Jane Seymour tells her to “prove evolution is a bunch of bullcrap,” and that’s where she gets the idea. Joy recognizes Lloyd as a guy they conned into buying a lemon car, so Earl asks Lloyd what he can do to make things right.

It turns out that all Lloyd did with the car was con someone else into buying it off him, because Earl basically taught him the ways of the world by conning him. Earl sees Lloyd with a box marked “explosives,” and assumes he’s “created a terrorist.” To solve this problem, Randy suggests cutting off his hands so he can’t light the fuses, proving that Randy should go into law enforcement.

Meanwhile, Joy’s fish (which is really a tadpole) grows legs, proving she doesn’t have to go to church anymore. Lloyd agrees that if anyone who bought the car didn’t con someone else, then people are good, so Earl takes him to find all the car’s owners.

In my favorite scene of the night, they meet a junkyard employee who agrees to sell Lloyd something that he could use to make a bomb because “I think we’ve established that scruples are not a part of my nature.” If I ever get arrested, I think I now know what to say as I am being dragged away in handcuffs. Thanks, My Name is Earl.

In the end, Lloyd realizes that even though Earl thought he was building a bomb, he still tried to help him, and so some people are indeed decent. Lloyd takes that cross-country trip after all, and Joy uses the spaceship that Lloyd was actually building to win the science fair. Dodge gets a savings bond, but Darnell gets Joy the necklace.

This episode was okay, mostly for Joy’s take on science, but I thought the product placement was really heavy-handed. I liked the Jane Seymour cameo, but I thought the episode could use a lot more Randy and a lot less creepy Lloyd.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dirty Sexy Money - The Verdict

That was more like it! Just as I was about to write off this episode as another bland installment of Dirty Sexy Money, down came an embarrassment of primetime soap riches. Letitia's trial was resolved with the kind of speed only possible in TV-land, and I got a cliffhanger and three major shocks to boot!

The Cliffhanger - Am I the only one who wouldn't be devastated if Nick and Lisa made their separation permanent? Lisa dug her own grave this time, partnering with Jeremy and getting caught lying to Nick about it. If she can't keep secrets, perhaps Lisa wouldn't have lasted in the Darlings' world anyway. I'd love it if the show explored the Karen-Nick relationship further; they have amazing chemistry and a far more interesting history. Still, I'm not sure it's in Karen's best interest to hook up with the man who suggested that Tripp cut her out of the Darling empire. Nick has become a dark, cold-hearted person this season, and I doubt that an affair with Karen would change anything. I'll have to wait at least a couple of weeks to see if he "steps up."

The Bad News - The scene between Andrea and Brian (when she discussed having cancer) was touching, and I'm close to becoming a fan of this couple. I hoped for Andrea's quick exit last week, but her illness brought out Brian's tender side. Brian's snarky personality is more enjoyable when he's given a chance to be a human being as well. Plus, those father-son scenes are the cutest part of the show.

Two Surprising Partnerships - I'll admit that I was caught off guard by Letitia and Jeremy's secret plot to take down Nola and make the murder trial go away. It's about time they gave Letitia more to do this season, and I loved that the revelation followed Nick's toast to Letitia's innocence. At least Letitia had more compassion for her child when he admitted he's fallen for their target; Tripp was less sympathetic to Karen's love for Simon. It appears that Nola won't be suffering from heartbreak anytime soon, though. Her partnership with Simon Elder was less shocking, but has far more potential than the simple romantic entanglement storyline. I'm eager to learn Nola's motivation for hurting the Darling family. Does she have a past with them, or is she acting out of loyalty to Simon? Will she start an affair with a second Darling brother to get what she wants? Simon told Nola that she had a chance to be part of something remarkable. I can't even venture a guess as to what that means.

Other thoughts:

Tripp can really kill the mood of a party. It was a pleasure to watch him crash the engagement party and intimidate Simon, Karen, and the Darling brothers in one short moment.

Patrick's fitting nickname for Karen is "tipsy." Love it.

With the trial out of the picture, how will I learn the truth about Dutch's murder? I expected this storyline to last way longer than it did.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Movie Review: Australia

Every once in a while, a movie comes around that reminds me what going to the movies is all about. It's a spectacle and an adventure and a love story. It’s full of magic, passion, music and breathtaking aerial shots. Australia is like the restoration of a long-lost cinematic art. It's pure entertainment with a human element to it that’s just emotional enough. With Australia, director Baz Luhrmann has brought me the most sweeping, grandiose, and visually stunning epic film of the year.

And in keeping with all the larger-than-life aspects of this production, Hugh Jackman of course embodies the manliest character ever. Playing a drover (a person who moves livestock, like cattle, over long distances) who's only ever referred to as "Drover," he's like a Greek god and John Wayne mixed together — but with an Australian accent. Under Luhrmann's watchful eye, Jackman's beautiful physique and macho charm help create something like an old-fashioned Western. The sunset softly lighting a wide landscape view, the pounding of galloping horses kicking dust up into the air, and a rugged man on horseback all make for a fine-looking movie indeed.

So that's most of what I like about the film — Luhrmann's lovely direction and Hugh Jackman — but there are other things.

There are essentially two parts to the narrative in this movie. The first has to do with the very prim and very British Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), who gains sudden control of a cattle station in Australia called Faraway Downs, having to get a huge number of cattle onto a ship. She relies on a rather motley crew to help her with this task, including the sexy, no-nonsense Drover and a mixed-race Aboriginal child (sometimes referred to as "creamy"), Nullah. Young Nullah narrates throughout the film, referring to Lady Sarah Ashley as "Mrs. Boss," which adds a sort of innocence and truthfulness to it all.

The second part of the story deals with protecting Faraway Downs from shady folks, and suffering an air strike as World War II rages on. Amidst all this, there is the ever-present danger of having Nullah forcibly taken away by the state in order to integrate him into white society (and to "breed the black out" of him as one character disgustingly puts it). In Australia, the mixed-race children who endured such removals were known as the Stolen Generations, and at some point Lady Sarah Ashley becomes determined to prevent Nullah from this terrible fate. In addition to all this, there are the general story arcs for the individual characters, most notably how the chilly "Mrs. Boss" learns how to passionately love three things: Nullah, Drover, and Australia.

The film is lengthy and there are a few moments when I thought it was over, only to find that there was much more in store for me, and for the first time at a super-long movie I actually hoped it wouldn't end. There are moments of cheesiness (like the frequent metaphoric reference to the movie The Wizard of Oz and its tune "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"), but it's not nearly as campy as Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge nor as over-the-top crazy as Romeo and Juliet. In comparison to those two films, Australia is really just a straightforward tale of romance and adventure in the Outback. Sure it’s incredibly long, but if you have the time and inclination, this movie is well worth the time and money — especially when viewed in all its dramatic splendor on a great, big screen.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bones: The Skull in the Sculpture

Temperance and Booth continue to creak toward each other at a snail’s pace. It’s a good thing I have Angela’s sex life to titillate me in the meantime (and when are they going to give Cam another lover? Poor Hodgins, too!). Maybe I need to include Sweets and Wick (the reversal of their names absolutely kills me — hilarious!) in the titillation category as well, though it didn’t really do anything for me personally….

There has been a lot of girl-on-girl action lately. Here’s a question: Why not have Temperance have a female lover? She always talks about being open-minded sexually. In fact, did anyone else pick up on a little tension between Temperance and Angela in this episode, while they were discussing Angela’s past with Roxy? It would be interesting to see that relationship explored a bit more.

The murder was interesting in this episode. I knew the death must have been murder due to the nature of the show. However, I did think it was kind of beautiful to have an artist who would potentially integrate himself into his art in the most literal and symbolic of ways. It was great to see Vicki Lewis, formerly of NewsRadio, appearing as the white-powdered gallery owner. It was kind of obvious that Lewis’s character was the killer just because they were focusing so much on the other suspects (especially Roxy).

I had the sense that this show was a bit out of order as well as the last episode show. For one thing, Sweets got together with Wick by calling her after her first episode and sympathizing with her being fired. Then, suddenly, she is back “in the rotation,” according to Cam. And yet … Sweets has to fire her. So, shouldn’t there have been a bit more consistency? Although the approach is altogether different for finding a replacement for Zack, as different replacements for Zack keep showing up. It’s not amusing as much as it is distracting. It would be fairer to me as viewer to just give me a replacement and be done with it.

I’m also getting sick of the squints praising Sweets constantly for being really good at his job when Sweets is just making ordinary observations that anybody with common sense and perhaps Psych 101 under their belts could make. It just makes Sweets seem incompetent — or the Squints look like they haven’t ever been to college. Is any group of people "this" clueless about human relations? Angela especially has had great instincts and even served as a bit of a consultant on human affairs before Sweets showed up. It’s wonderful that they are trying to give John Francis Daley constant work to do — but it’s wearing thin. Give him something that will really show his chops — or that will really show his lack of life experience and shake his arrogance a bit.

All in all, though, a solid episode, moving some things forward, and the case itself was interesting enough to mitigate my minor annoyances about certain plot points. I just really want Angela and Hodgins to get back together, so I’m cranky.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Prison Break: Greatness Achieved

I’ve watched operations on Nip/Tuck. I’ve seen brutal murders on Bones. I watched the Tigers win the World Series, but the kiss between Gretchen and General Krantz may be the creepiest, most disturbing thing on TV since Dennis Franz in the shower. Well, OK, so maybe it’s a toss-up with the Tigers.

As the episode opens, Linc is torturing Wyatt, trying to get him to call the General and tell him that Michael and Linc are dead. Mahone waits in the wings, knowing that he’ll get his shot at Wyatt after the call is made. Linc’s methods prove unsuccessful. Sara takes over with a more gentle approach, but Wyatt tries to sway her to his side. Self finally arrives with a sound editor, and they doctor Wyatt’s recorded calls to get what they need. Once the General buys into it, Mahone takes over, torturing Wyatt until he makes an apologetic call to Mahone’s wife. After that, Mahone leads him to the water’s edge with a cement block. He tries to persuade Mahone that they’re cut from the same cloth, but after about two words, Mahone tosses him into the water.

The police arrive at GATE to investigate Andy’s disappearance. Since Bagwell had issues with him, he is the first one questioned, as Michael and the crew start to make their way through the tunnel. Bagwell finally gets a free moment and persuades TrishAnne to doctor Andy’s sales records. He takes them to the CEO, telling him that Andy was laundering money, and it’s better to keep the police out of it. Bagwell feeds him a story to tell the cops.

Gretchen infiltrates the General’s lair. As she holds a gun on him, he clears the room. Once alone, he calmly takes the gun from her before that kiss. The others return to the room, where the General announces Gretchen’s addition to the team. He also orders Scylla moved by the end of the following day.

Michael, Linc, Sucre and Bellick head to the tunnel, following Whistler’s map. Unfortunately, there is an X, signifying a dead end that may be covered on the pages that Gretchen had. They decide to venture on anyway. The X turns out to be a conduit for the city’s water supply, a pipe that blocks their path. Michael sends Linc and Bellick to disrupt the water flow, while he and Sucre fashion a pipe thet will get them across. As Linc and Bellick leave, Michael starts to have double vision and motor skill issues, symptoms of a potential tumor. He swears Sucre to secrecy just before the others return. Linc and Bellick brace the pipe from the inside, then climb up to pull it through. But before the pipe is in place, the support breaks. With moments left, Bellick makes the decision that since he is the most expendable, he’ll crawl back inside to brace the pipe. As he gets it through, the water flow resumes.

In the first episode, the myth of Scylla was discussed, including that six of Jason’s sailors needed to be sacrificed. Roland was killed in the last episode, now Bellick. Make your bets on the other four. I have to say, though, that Wade Williams provided a damn noble end to the character, considering where he came from in season one. He even discusses the character before his exit, from an abusive guard to a bounty hunter to a prisoner. He’s been a menace, he’s been support and he’s been comic relief. If he’s really gone (and I have to qualify, with this show) Bellick has been a great character.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pam's New Music Downloads

Ben Folds still tries his darndest not be normal with the quirky piano pop on his latest solo outing, Way to Normal, whether it's the perky "The Frown Song" or "You Don't Know Me," his whimsical duet with kindred spirit Regina Spektor.

Rachael Yamagata is a smoky-voiced singer who delivers an ambitious double disc. Elephants . . . Teeth Sinking into Heart is all moody atmospherics - Norah Jones meets Damien Rice - while the second disc, which feels like a bonus CD, has more rock bite.

The first Pretenders album in six years, Break Up the Concrete, features an entirely new lineup. Except for front woman, Chrissie Hynde, that is. The founding member of the group remains its life force, writing all but one song while keeping this from sounding like a solo project. "Break Up the Concrete," is a Bo Diddley-style groove.

With his richly textured voice, Ray LaMontagne can elevate even the most mediocre material on his latest CD, Gossip in the Grain. But when he has a truly good tune, like the retro-soulful "You Are the Best Thing," it's really something special.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sarah Connor Chronicles: Brothers of Nablus

Well, there's definitely a split between the terminators in the future. Even though Cromartie is after the Connors, he destroyed the Ellison model that was sent to replace the original, explaining by saying that Skynet didn't have the faith in the real Ellison to deliver the Connors the way Cromartie did. I'm still not sure what he meant by that. But then later, Weaver seemed genuinely intrigued by this turn of events as well, even asking Ellison if he knows why the T-Ellison may have been sent.

Meanwhile, Cromartie draws closer and closer to deducing the current location of the Connors in his own quest to find them, even enlisting some help from a former "friend" of Allison's Cameron's. This episode was pretty light on the time travel elements, which helped minimize the potential headaches in watching it and trying to figure out how the hell it all connects, but pretty high on the entertainment.

When Jody, Cameron's "friend," asked Cromartie if he was going to hurt Cameron and he answered "Yes," I learned pretty quickly that she still holds something of a grudge against Cameron and John for the whole choking and almost killing her thing. She even tries to ride shotgun with Cromartie to witness the ass-whupping a-comin'. I was actually surprised she let him tag along for as long as she did, and that he got rid of her non-lethally.

I liked the idea of Ellison getting framed for the actions of a Terminator who impersonated him. That's actually a pretty effective way to go back in time and take care of certain problem individuals; get 'em thrown in the slammer. You'd think they would intentionally do that. I mean, in this case it was by accident as the terminator was supposed to have replaced Ellison. Just imagine how the arrest would have gone if it had been a T-Ellison.

Jesse brings an interesting element out of Derek. He's generally all business. And considering she and Derek used to work together, it really makes me wonder who she's working for now and how long it will be before he figures her out.

When Cromartie showed up at the Connor house, would-be girlfriend Riley showed some real balls getting him out of the house, even though she clearly had no idea what was going on. When it turned out she was responsible for leaving the house vulnerable to the break-in, I'll admit that I got suspicious of her and her motives. After all, Jesse came back into Derek's life with a motive. Maybe Riley has one, too. Or is it possible that there is one simple and innocent girl who just happened to get interested in John Connor? Does that kind of thing even happen in a show like this? It's a shame it can't last because their developing bond is pretty damned cute. In fact, she's got a great personality, so normal and teenager-like. Unlike anything he's used to anymore. It actually amplifies just how screwed up his life is.

Other Thoughts:

In case I might have been forgetting that Cameron is a cold-oiled killing machine, the bowling alley tonight served as a great reminder. "They knew where we lived," seemed a good enough explanation for her.

The switch from the interrogating detective to Catherine Weaver was ridiculously cheap. They'd have been better showing him walking toward the corner of the building, cut to a shot from around the corner and show Weaver rounding it. Do I have to do everything?

Do all terminators have the Bible memorized? What possible purpose could that serve? Do they have other books programmed? If that is the case, then I could understand it because it's giving them a cultural basis on which to emulate human behavior. Maybe they're supposed to get religious.

Damn, the landlord is pregnant! I wonder if they'll work the baby's birth into the storyline somehow, or if the Connors will even still be around by then.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XIX

The traditional Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" has reached its XIX installment. And if I've learned anything from the Rocky movies, it's that XIX is a really big number. Multiply that big number by the three shorts in each episode and you get… a lot of "Treehouse of Horror." As any Simpsons fan knows, this is a chance for the series to tell a few short tales of the strange and bizarre, and usually the gory and gross. This year is no exception.

The opening segment, once simply an introduction/warning from Marge, has evolved to become almost a fourth short story in the episode. This year it's a mini-adventure with Homer going to vote. Doesn't sound very frightening, until you realize the electronic voting machine is changing votes. That, and it's eating people. It's a quick, surprisingly timely segment that serves its purpose of setting the tone for the rest of the episode.

Overall, this is a highly entertaining installment of "Treehouse of Horror." Of course, I have my favorites so it's not likely that these three segments will immediately be considered top-tier. But, really, they get the job done, providing some laughs and grossing me out just a bit. It is Halloween, after all. The first segment is an enjoyable parody of the Transformers. Heck, even the title of the segment transforms with humorous results. The story itself is rather predictable, but seeing transforming robots destroying Springfield is never a bad thing.

The second segment is the one I'm most disappointed in because the idea had so much potential. Homer accidentally kills Krusty (one of the best deaths in "Treehouse" history) and is then touted as an expert celebrity killer. An ad agency then hires Homer to kill celebrities so they can use their likenesses in their commercials. Great idea, right? Well, its execution doesn't quite live up to that potential. There are still some laughs, but their choice of some of the celebrities is a little strange: George Washington? Golda Meir? It was also disappointing that no actual celebrities did a guest voice. This would have been a great opportunity for some self-deprecating. Still, a number of the bits are entertaining, and you should definitely check it out if only for the fun, shot-for-shot homage to the Mad Men opening credits.

The last segment, as is often the case, is the best this year. Another great homage, it tells the tale of Milhouse waiting for the appearance of The Grand Pumpkin. This parody of the classic Peanuts Halloween special earns points right off the bat for the nostalgia factor. To see the Simpsons characters that I have loved for 20 years filling the roles of the Peanuts characters that I've likely loved even longer is just too good not to enjoy. This segment may not be all that gory, but it's funny and, quite honestly, it will just make you feel good. I won't say who plays whom, though some are fairly obvious, but there's one specific choice that works incredibly well.

Whether or not this year's "Treehouse" is up to the standards of past outings is up for debate, but I can't deny the fact that missing it would make the Halloween season feel incomplete. The fact that XIX is funny, entertaining and even nostalgic only makes this yearly tradition that much better. And as the years move on, I might just find myselff adding one of these segments to my own personal list.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Life On Mars: Have You Seen Your Mother

I am so glad that this series continues to push out excellent episodes, as it would be so easy by now to tumble down a hill of suckitude and cause me to hate this show.

Now, let’s get into Sam’s trip. I think I’ll try to always call his ordeal a “trip” because, whatever the explanation, Sam is definitely taking a journey of sorts … or tripping. The scene I added a picture of above really had my mind reeling. As I learned, Sam was drugged by Adrian during that scene when the tiny rovers skittered out of his mouth. They’re the same as what I saw earlier that went into Sam’s ear, while he was asleep. This seems to support the theory that drugs are involved in Sam’s trip in some way. Or is his mind completely preoccupied with these rovers he keeps seeing, since he seemed to be dreaming about the one going into his ear (remember, he said he saw it go in his ear, when that wasn’t possible unless he dreamt it).

Of course I’ve also got to mention the other two strange visions Sam saw: Nixon turning into Bush (political aficionados are going to have a field day on that one) and the kid at the club with the Nirvana t-shirt (with accompanying hospital machine noises). I’m not sure what to make of those yet, but I’m fortunate they keep adding them in to keep me wondering.

I’m getting a kick out of seeing the amount of drinking done on the job. Hunt practically has a wet bar in his office and he’s always with a handy flask in his pocket. It’s frightening how quickly and easily cops could become corrupt back in the day. On the outside, Hunt went on that he was OK with the arrangements, but he kept everything he’d “earned” in a bag. He knew all along it wasn’t the right thing.

Just as the previous episode with Sam’s dad, they get another obvious plot point out of the way very quickly by introducing Sam’s mother. Since they made a point of saying that Sam’s family traveled a lot, it’s unlikely I’ll see much of them again. The introduction and interaction between Sam with his mother was well done.

Sam using “Luke Skywalker” as an alias to his mother was awesome. And I loved Sam saw Jim Croce and Joe Namath in the nightclub and, rather than avoid them, went right up and met them.

I have two final questions:

1) Why would Sam be so adamant that naked photos of himself not be released? I guess I didn’t think that was that big of a deal. Sure, he was handcuffed to a bed, but would that really be that horrible that he reacted the way he did?

2) It’s not often that Sam isn’t in a scene, but when he’s not, I have to immediately wonder if it’s a hint to us that this is a real world we’re witnessing and not a figment of Sam’s mind. For example, Hunt burning the money in the final scene.

Sam: “What ever you do Jim, just stay away from small airplanes.”
Jim Croce: “Right. And you stay away from hallucinogens.”

Music in this episode:
Paul Simon - “Mother and Child Reunion”
The Velvet Underground - “Rock and Roll”
T. Rex - “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”
The Kinks - “20th Century Man”
The Hollies - “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)”
The Beach Boys - “Long Promised Road”

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Eleventh Hour: Savant

A girl stands in the middle of the street in Chicago before dodging traffic to get to the sidewalk. There she falls to her knees, grabs a piece of chalk, and begins to draw (with both hands!) an amazingly complex drawing. Meanwhile, Jacob is doing something that requires much less brainpower. He is being chatted up at a fundraiser. Rachel saves him (sorry Jacob, no girls for you!) and whisks him away to their next assignment.

It seems that several autistic children in the Chicago area have been abducted, only to return a month later with symptoms of Savant Syndrome. These kids now all have spectacular abilities. Jacob, of course, explains the differences between normal brains, autistic brains, and savant brains to Rachel with an analogy about the neatness of suitcases. Jacob’s examples are the most entertaining parts of this show.

Teresa, the autistic girl they focus on in this episode, has returned home to her mother with extraordinary artistic abilities that she did not have before. Jacob sits down with her for a little doodling and learns that what she’s been drawing are MRI machines and brain waves. A quick look at the newfound abilities of the other children who went missing reveals similar patterns in their talents. Someone has been giving them unwanted medical attention.

Jacob and Rachel head to the Autism Institute of Chicago where Dr. Bonatelli assists them in looking at the children’s brain scans. They discover that the brain scans of all the children who went missing are almost identical, so they go looking for more of the same scans. Sure enough, they find two more. One of those children, Cameron, is currently missing.

They hunt down the other matching scan, Scott Butler, and find him at his apartment, playing piano. He begins to bleed and they take him to the hospital. He dies from brain trauma there. Jacob notices an interesting pattern: the piece that Scott was playing on the piano matches the blips of an anesthesia machine perfectly. He decides to go rooting around in Scott’s brain a bit and finds some sort of wiry implant. Hmm.

They return to Teresa, who miraculously is speaking. They inform Teresa’s mother that Teresa needs to go to the hospital, as she may be in danger of ending up like Scott. Teresa’s mom resists, but Teresa wants to help, so she goes with Jacob and Rachel. They make a pit stop along the way at a rest stop, and some very interesting graffiti and Teresa’s drawings lead them to the license plate number of Dr. Bonatelli.

After some brief dealings with the CIA, Jacob and Rachel have Dr. Bonatelli’s cell phone number and track her to where they believe Cameron may be held captive. Well, evidently Dr. Bonatelli wasn’t quite as involved as they originally thought, because a bomb goes off and kills her. Looks like they’re looking for some other evil doctors!

Now they have no choice but to look in Teresa’s brain to try and track the kidnappers through the wires in her head. However, when they’re at the hospital they run into Dr. Fisher, one of the doctors who was attempting to save Scott. He’s about to operate on Cameron! Evidently his son Noah has autism as well, and he believes that the only way to cure him is to dig into other autistic children’s brains to learn more. Jacob talks him down and everyone gets to live another day.

I thought this episode was a little less complex than some of the others, but no less interesting. I was intrigued by the idea of some people seeing autism and savantism simply another step in the evolutionary chain, and I would have liked to see them play that up a little more. However, I admire the writers for making this crime more personal, parents simply trying to save their son, rather than a mass conspiracy.

Rachel is growing more and more tolerable to me as I’ve allowed her to fade in the background. I appreciate her for asking the questions I cannot. And Jacob likes having her around so he doesn’t have to talk to himself.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

CSI: Let It Bleed

Nothing creepier than the already-creepy city of Las Vegas decked out for Halloween. Luckily, the Las Vegas Crime Lab knows what to expect. This episode opens with Riley and Nick investigating some liquor store burglaries. They interrupt one in progress, apparently being robbed by… a cop? Nick chases him down while Riley calls for back-up. They run through what looks like an old abandoned building, with Nick cornering the suspect in a room. The suspect decides he doesn’t want to be cornered, however, and jumps out of a window to his death rather than be captured. He lands in a garbage container and cuts himself to ribbons with broken glass. Ouch.

However, while he might not have done himself any favors, he did do the police one. He lands on the body of a young girl, already dead. The CSIs take the whole dumpster back to the lab to sort through the debris. As they piece together the shards of broken glass, both loose and imbedded in the victim, they discover that the female victim has what looks like a tattoo or a club stamp on her skin. Follow the stamp, find the last known whereabouts.

This time Riley teams up with Catherine to check out a hopping nightclub by the name of Koi. Together they hassle the club owner Greg Hess a little, who of course swears he doesn’t know the girl in question. However, when they review the surveillance tapes from the previous night, they discover that while the girl did not enter through the front door, she did exit through it, escorted by Hess, who apparently had something important to say to her.

And her body has something to say to our team. The glass wounds appear to be post-mortem, probably from the fall of the other guy. She has recent needle marks in both her arms, white powder in her nose, and hives. She also happens to be Angela Marine Carlos, the daughter of drug lord Juan Ramon Carlos. Bad news for whoever did this to her, because Juan does not take well to people hassling his daughter.

In the meantime, Nick works on the mysterious un-cop. Brass steps in to lend a forensic hand, proving that the cop costume is actually a real cop uniform by showing the pen stains left in the pocket. They trace the uniform to a Reno cop, in Las Vegas for a brief jaunt, who handed his uniform over for dry-cleaning and never got it back. And the dead guy just happened to be staying in the same hotel.

Doc Robbins and David do a little more investigating in Angela’s body and find some things of interest. For one, Angela has another piece of glass stuck in her head that appears to have been put there before she died. The white powder in her nose wasn’t cocaine by atropine, a tranquilizer. Also, her blood isn’t all her blood. It’s actually a combination of her blood and the blood of two unknown males. And there is our COD: one of the blood types is not compatible with Angela’s. Death by transfusion.

Back in the fingerprint lab, I learn that the falling man is Thomas Taylor. He was accompanied by Barry Wonderlick, a friend who was getting married. However, a little bar fight at his bachelor party ended up with Barry in the slammer. In a misguided attempt to help his best friend, Thomas attempted to get bail money by robbing liquor stores around town, and wound up dead. Not a very happy ending to a happy occasion.

The tech-inclined CSIs manage to trace Angela’s cell phone to a garbage truck that was carrying it. They find her phone, her purse, and a bunch of broken glass. Hodges pieces together the glass to find the shape of a fishbowl. He also finds a fish scale on the purse, and Catherine knows right where to go.

She heads back to the club to talk to Hess, who tells her that yes, he did know Angela, but he did not give her any drugs or kill her. Instead he referred her to his fish provider Goya, who also peddles drugs on the side.

The CSIs breach the fish warehouse and find Goya and another fish guy with a lot of coke. The story comes out after that. Angela came to them looking for drugs, and when their backs were turned she ended up snorting atropine instead. Taking the advice of an urban legend about Keith Richards getting a transfusion to filter out his blood after bad drugs, the fishheads decide to give her a little transfusion. However, that wasn’t so successful.

Unfortunately, even confessing won’t save these two, or any of the others who played any part in Angela’s death. Revenge is sweet, her father thinks, as he has all those closest to Angela executed.

I think they could have played a little more with the Halloween theme. I hadgrisly murders galore, and there couldn’t have been a bit more spookiness? It was disappointing.

One thing I think that CSI has always both succeeded at and failed is their handling of the characters’ personal lives. Interspersed here and there were mentions of Catherine’s daughter (though the resolution seemed to be simply that she is a good kid), Grissom’s hearing loss (a possible excuse for him leaving the show?), and, of course, Warrick’s death. However, these issues are merely glossed over and have little to no bearing on how the cases are conducted

Friday, January 16, 2009

Supernatural: It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester

There is really no series on television better suited than Supernatural where a Halloween episode is concerned. They decided to go at it old-school, with their own spin on the Gaelic legend of Samhain. Thankfully, the Supernatural Samhain tale was much more interesting, and it managed to tie in to the bigger picture story, giving me even more curiosities to ponder.

Starting with the story, how cool was the shot of the razor blades in Luke’s mouth? Any worries that budget concerns were going to hurt the look of the show have been put to rest at this point. Things look as good as they ever have. It was also a very Halloween way to kick off the episode. Who hasn’t heard that story?

As to Samhain, I’m certainly no expert on the ancient lore involved, but from what I do know, they took a few liberties making the story fit. I’m good with that. I’m going to chalk it up to the ‘real’ story of Samhain being in a special book not suitable for the public, much like the 66 seals, and get on with it. After all, the entire setup was very cool. Once every 600 years, three blood sacrifices, raising every awful thing the boys have ever seen, a slaughterhouse. Those are pretty good stakes.

I was caught off guard by the twist that it took both Don and Tracy to perform the ritual, assuming that Don was her unwitting pawn. Her reaction as the boys saved her was perfectly done in that it was so off from what it should have been that it immediately implicated her. That scene did lead to my one quibble with the episode, however. Why is it that Tracy’s ‘ray gun’ worked on Sam, but SamhainDon’s didn’t? Shouldn’t he be the more powerful of the two? It seemed odd.

Despite that oddness, it did all lead to the big showdown at the mausoleum corral. While Dean dealt with the zombie/ghost orgy, the real action was in the back, with Sam and Samhain. After all the talk about Ruby’s knife and Sam not using his powers, it was pretty clear where that was headed, right? Still, even expecting it, it held some surprises. I liked that Sam was struggling with the more powerful Samhain, and the little sputters of demon out of the bullet holes was a nice touch. What was really intriguing though, is the finish, with the bloody nose and the clutching of the forehead. Was that just the struggle against such a powerful foe? Or was it Sam pushing some boundary that will turn him into DarkSam?

That brings me to the bigger picture stuff. The return of Castiel was a welcome one. And it was nice of him to bring along his friend, Uriel. It set the stage for a lot of development, if not a lot of answers. Uriel made it pretty clear where he stands. He won’t be joining any Winchester based Facebook groups any time soon. The taunting of Sam over November 2nd, and the threats that followed it should be cause for concern. This is, after all, someone that can wipe cities off the planet.

Castiel’s position, on the other hand, is not so concrete. His confession to Dean adds a whole new wrinkle to what I know about his motivations. Where once it seemed that he was calculating and working toward a written-in-stone goal, now I hear, “I’m not a hammer. I have questions. I have doubts. I don’t know what is right and what is wrong anymore.” Added to the fact that he was actually relieved that Dean chose to save the town, and let the seal be broken, Castiel’s role in all of this just got all kinds of new facets.

Something I could also say where Dean is concerned. There is still have no explanation for just what it is that makes him the best man for this job, but the fact that Castiel and Uriel were on orders to do whatever Dean said certainly speaks to just how important he is. It is, as Castiel said, a lot for Dean to bear. Something made that much more difficult by what is going on with Sam. And I have to wonder if one of those decisions Castiel talked about is going to be about little brother. The look on Dean’s face as he rounded the corner to find Sam using his powers on Samhain has certainly opened that wound again. If that isn’t enough, he also has the Hell flashbacks to deal with.

All things considered, another very good episode for Supernatural. As a Halloween themed episode, it worked well. And as a part of the season four mythology, it worked even better. They’ve managed to get a lot of setup into these first seven episodes. It’s work that should pay off big as I move through the season and get to start knocking down some of those pins.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Name Is Earl: Little Bad Voodoo Brother

Halloween is here in Camden County at last. While Randy and Earl argue over who gets to be a sunburned guy this year, they run into Joy, who uses a surprisingly brilliant scheme to scare them. Well, brilliant for Joy, at least. Joy reminds Earl that he has to make up for number 94 on the list, “ruined Dodge and Earl Junior’s Halloween,” which he ruined by sending them out trick or treating alone, and this resulted in Joy getting to drive the speedboat while the cops dragged the lake for their bodies. It’s safe to assume that fun was had by all.

Meanwhile, Catalina’s nephew Oscar has been mailed to the crab shack, which reminds Randy that Earl also owes him for costing him a little brother. When Earl and Randy were kids, Earl says their mom got “fixed” after Earl put Randy in the washing machine. I can’t say I’m all that surprised. Since Randy wants a little brother, he and Earl go to Big Brothers Little Brothers. Randy seems to be an exemplary candidate until he trips a kid in dodgeball. Since Randy is rejected, Catalina says he can look after Oscar. Earl uses his “high-pitched lying voice,” and Randy is determined to prove that he can be a good role model to Oscar.

For the boys’ Halloween party, Earl wraps a blow-up doll in toilet paper (2-ply, Joy says) and Joy criticizes him for his effort since this mummy isn’t authentic enough. In my favorite moment of the night, Joy asks Earl “were you there? Are you Brendan Fraser?” While Earl is at the Crab Shack talking to Joy, he and Randy see Oscar steal money from a table. Randy confronts Oscar, who then goes into a trance and makes voodoo dolls of “Earl and a fat guy who has stains on his shirt.” After Catalina refuses to take the boy back, Earl and Randy decide to take him to the Halloween party, where Joy is dressed as Barbie. By the way, her explanation of the costume was brilliant. Joy, being the astute mastermind I know and love, recognizes instantly that Oscar is doing voodoo because as a child, she had a babysitter who cursed her to an unwed pregnancy after she stole cigarettes from her purse. Seeing Joy as a child was awesome. Earl and Randy flee with Oscar, but Joy forms a witch hunt posse. When Randy refuses to give up Oscar and fights “30 people at once” to protect him, Oscar learns something about goodness and changes his ways.

I liked this episode a lot, but mostly because I got to see Joy as a child, and it was everything I hoped it would be. Randy got a lot of screen time, and his dialogue with Catalina (“I’m sorry other strippers, I’m just mad!”) was hilarious.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dirty Sexy Money - The Silence

Election night on Dirty Sexy Money was about more than simple politics. There were lost children, marriage proposals, and bribes to worry about. With so many major things happening, though, I wish some of the minor storylines had been cut from this episode. Nick's gradual transformation into the next Tripp Darling is fascinating, and I finally got a better idea about Simon's master plan.

Nick Becoming Tripp: "The Star Witness" showed Nick and Tripp being equally manipulative of certain family members. "The Silence" gave me another look at Nick's development as Tripp's apprentice. Ellen's brother, Chase (a.k.a. Poor Man's Matthew Perry), turned up at Tripp's office with harsh words and accusations. It only took a hefty bribe and a persuasive argument on Nick's part to shoo him away. Even Chase noticed the similarities between the two men; as much as he tries to be the good guy, Nick is well on his way to becoming like his employer. He even has a duplicitous wife, just like Tripp. Lisa's no longer the object of Jeremy's affection, but she was more than willing to have a "financial affair" when it served her interests. Here's hoping the new gallery will put a stop to Lisa's tedious me-or-the-Darlings scenes.

Simon Declares His Intentions: It's about time Simon made his agenda known to the world (and, more importantly, the viewers)! The plan to take over Darling Enterprises using Karen's shares is only one piece of the puzzle, though. I still don't know who he's working with. Would it have killed Karen to wait for Tripp to recover from his heart attack before accepting Simon's proposal? There had better be a soapy Darling-Elder showdown. The rest of the family needs to get in on this feud; I'm starting to believe that Karen's in over her head.

No More Carmelita? Can it really be over for one of the few stable couples on this show? I could go either way on this development. My inner Carmelita fan is sorry to see the relationship end, but the break-up might be good for the show. A hardened, ambitious Patrick will be more entertaining than a blissful, honeymoon stage Patrick. I'm intrigued by Patrick's resolve to be more like Tripp, and curious to see what Pat has in store for his father. His conversation with Nick at Tripp's hospital bed sounded vaguely threatening.

Other thoughts/highlights:

I usually enjoy the father and son moments between Brian and Brian Jr., but this mini-drama was a little blah. On the bright side, the compromise between Brian and Andrea could mean less Andrea in future episodes.

"We're serving domestic limoncello? This stuff is toxic!" --Jeremy

Nick knows about Nola and Jeremy. I can't wait for him to use this information to his advantage.

"Look at him: Like Freddy Krueger, waiting for a chance to kill again." --Patrick, about Tripp

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pushing Daisies: Dim Sum Lose Sum

Poor Emerson Cod. This mystery brought real tragedy to the world of my favorite gruff P.I. The master chef behind his favorite dish at the Chinese restaurant downstairs from his office has passed away. Understandably, Emerson was distraught, but still trying to snatch tidbits to eat while interviewing interested parties. Once again, the mystery took a backseat to the character arcs.

The focuse was on Ned in this episode. It’s kind of funny, but in all this time the focus has been on Chuck and Emerson and even a bit on Olive, but almost never have they explored Ned’s backstory, aside from the narrative flashbacks. But Ned himself almost never talks about it nor has to confront it in any significant way. Dwight Dixon turned all that on his head by showing up and claiming to have known Ned’s parents.

I love Stephen Root, and while I was disappointed in his lack of screen time this episode, the future looks bright. It looks like this arc with Ned’s half-brothers and Dwight Dixon (Root) is going to go at least a few episodes. What I did get this time was more fun at the hands of Emerson, Olive and Chuck. Cod was awesome all pimped out, and the girls are always a hoot when they get dressed up and involved in the cases. In fact, what I noticed while watching all of this is that the least impressive character on the show is poor Ned himself.

That’s not to say that Lee Pace doesn’t play the role well, because I really think he does, but it’s an oddly written character. He’s so standoffish and yet so vulnerably needy. He was downright rude to Dixon, and even Olive when he told her she was family “to a lesser extent.” But he’s damaged goods, as I’ve seen on countless occasions, so I guess that gives him a pass? He just doesn’t come across nearly as likable as the others for some reason.
The twins are a fun addition, and I loved the addition of Ned’s eyebrows on them, and I am incredibly intrigued by what’s going on with Dixon and the gun. I have to say, though, it was odd how quickly they dumped the Chuck and her aunts storyline.

Cod’s quest for his daughter is ongoing and can fall to the background, but Chuck just found out that her aunt is her mother and yet not only did the aunts not appear, but there was no mention of them or any of it. I’ll admit it, I’m a continuity buff and like the slightest nods to it to help me feel rewarded for being a loyal fan. Even a passing mention would have sufficed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Eli Stone: Unwritten


There are always shows that promise big payoffs, emotional moments, episodes that can’t be missed. Rarely do those actually occur; the good parts get given away in commercials, or the twist ending you saw coming a mile away, or it’s no big deal after all. Since the beginning of the season (only two episodes before this, believe it or not) the writers of Eli Stone had been teasing us with the idea of big changes ahead. They definitely delivered on that promise.

Eli and Taylor are arguing over whether or not Jordan should take the stand at his competency trial. Jordan agrees with Eli that this is a bad idea. It seems Jordan agrees with Eli about everything, which miffs Taylor, but at least they seem to be getting along. Not so for Taylor and Matt, because Matt suggests that having his own daughter defend him is going to make Jordan’s case look biased, and that she doesn’t have to take the case to make her father proud of her. There’s the Matt Dowd I know and vaguely like, but Taylor doesn’t seem thrilled.

The next day, Eli’s not thrilled because Nate’s been poking around in their dad’s journal again. He wants him to help one of his patients, whose name he found in the journal. Apparently their lead paint liability case is supposed to go all the way to the Supreme Court, which never happens. Eli says he’s too worried about Jordan’s trial. Yet God decides to tell him to clear his calendar: he gets a nightmarish vision of Matt, now working at Posner & Klein, telling him he just got beaten senseless at Jordan’s hearing. The vision is enough to make him quit as Jordan’s counsel, which makes everyone unhappy. Except for maybe me the viewer, because I get to see more of Keith this episode and Keith is awesome.

You know who else is awesome? Dr. Chen. He tells Eli to stop freaking out about his dad’s journal and manages to get it away from him. So Eli takes the lead paint case and I find out why these cases don’t work: with multiple layers of paint in a building it’s impossible to determine which manufacturer actually made the paint that caused the illness. He decides he’ll just sue all of them. Except he doesn’t know how.

Keith and Taylor aren’t having much luck with Jordan’s hearing. While Taylor kicks butt by bringing up past good deeds her father has done, she ends up having to cross-examine her own stepmother (makes me wonder what happened to her mother?), who admits that Taylor told her she was concerned about Jordan. Oops. Jordan is not happy and decides like it or not, he’s going on the stand anyway. He goes back to the office, which leads to the most awesome scene ever.

Eli wants to explain to Jordan why he quit Jordan’s case, but Jordan doesn’t want to hear about visions considering his entire world is falling apart around him. Victor Garber basically rips out my heart and tears it into little tiny pieces as I saw a very proud man at his lowest point. He wants to blame Eli, but Eli tells him that it was his decision to do what he did without them really talking about it first, and they argue. It’s leaving his mentor’s office that Eli has a vision of how he’s going to win his case. Thankfully he’s not on Jordan’s case because Posner wants to blame Eli for making Jordan nuts, since Eli admitted in the premiere that he talks to God.

Jordan takes the stand in his trial and talks about how he used to be a different person. He’s wielding this cocktail napkin he found while talking to Keith, on which he and his two fellow partners wrote their mission statement thirty years ago. Something about the public good. Yeah, that’s not true anymore. As Posner and Klein squirm and look genuinely chagrined Jordan tells the court he’s going to make that napkin relevant again. Never since The West Wing have I felt so much love toward a napkin.

Everything seems to work out in the end, almost: Jordan is declared sane, but he loses the backing of the WPK board and as such, his partnership. Not that he cares, because he’s going solo. Eli’s clients take an offered settlement that will pay all their bills, and Eli sneakily suggests to another attorney that he look into the case. Namely, with Jordan and his new firm. And oops, seems Jordan’s the only one whose name is on the title to the offices, so really it literally is his firm. Touche. Not to mention he makes Chen proud by burning his dad’s journal. He’s better off without it.

There’s one last hitch, though: in his last vision, Eli does in fact see the new attorney taking the lead paint liability case to the Supreme Court, but he sees Maggie…working for Posner & Klein, representing the bad guys! This is like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer accidentally changes the world because he sneezed in the past. Eli is shocked. (I’m not, really, because the camera totally gives away that she’s standing on the wrong side of the courtroom way before she opens her mouth.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Own Worst Enemy: Hello Henry

Hello Henry picks up right at the point that "The Hummingbird" left off, with Henry discovering that his covert corporeal counterpart, Edward, has murdered an old college friend of Henry's, Dr. Castle. This leaves Henry in a rather tight moral dilemma. How does one find justice for a murder that you committed yourself? This moment starts a physical and mental tug of war between both Henry and Edward that just might get the two of them killed with one single bullet.

Communicating through their little secret gadget phone, Henry and Edward are able to leave quick messages for the other one right as they're feeling a personality switch coming on. But even though they're able to relay very quick information, it still doesn't mask the fact that both of them can't stand each other. Edward won't act like a kind, loving, or even rational father when he's in Henry's home, and Henry won't stop trying to find ways to mess up Edward's top-secret operations. And while Edward might be fully capable of faking his Henry moments, it's really Henry who's become the hero, having to use his wits and grit to pull off Edward's job. At this point though, Henry has a laundry list of reasons to resent Edward, but Edward is needlessly hostile to Henry. Henry is the more unstable one at this point, so it doesn't really make sense that Edward would be trying to needlessly mess with him.

At the spy-org "Janus," Edward is being closely watched by both Mavis and Tromboll, but for different reasons. Mavis wants to make sure that Edward's co-spy Raymond is able to accompany Edward on his missions in case of an unexpected outbreak of "Henry" - and Tromboll thinks that Edward should be able to handle his missions on his own. Tromboll wants Edward to either sink or swim at this point. Either because he believes there's nothing wrong with him, or because he believes that something is wrong with him and wants to uncover the truth about Edward recent spotty results.

Henry has a lot of outlets to try and ask for help, but all of them come with a fair amount of risk. Should he tell his psychiatrist, Dr. Skinner, about Dr. Castle's murder? Should he play snitch to the overly inquisitive FBI Agent that approached him while walking his dog? Without being sure that he'll actually get the help he needs, Henry needs to weigh the risk involved. Especially since he's dealing with a company that gave him a toxic heart-attack in the last episode, just to make a point.

So while "Hedward," as Raymond refers to him, heads on down to Mexico to buy some weapon schematics, his wife Angie must help console Mary Grady, who is the wife of Tom Grady - who is Raymond's family personality. She's fed up with all of Tom's secrets and the last minute business trips. These husbandly-quirks are something that Angie can relate too as well. Angie suggests that Rose fly up to Portland, where Tom is supposedly business-tripping, and surprise him in his hotel room. But Tom is not in Portland, because Raymond is busy tracking a spy. This all leads to some great moments of suspense for both Raymond and Tom, but it also makes me feel that both Raymond and Edward need to be a lot more caring and careful when dealing with their "mild mannered" personality's families. Let's face it. They're both a couple of rotten jerks when it comes to "putting up" with their milquetoast alter-IDs. They should realize that they need Henry and Tom, not only as covers for their spy jobs, but because if that world gets messed up, they'll be freakin' killed!

Kudos to this show for not having the wives of these men be completely clueless. Mary gets close to their breaking points, and both she and Angie even notice that when they get phone calls from their husbands when they're away on business, that the boys sound rather distant and disingenuous. The show plays with a lot of neat tricks and treats and is able to demonstrate how Henry, with no training at all, is even more effective and clever than Edward. Edward is a blunt instrument, whereas Henry needs to use his emotions and intelligence to actually figure things out and find reasonable solutions.

There are, however, a couple of points in "Hello, Henry" when the phone messages that they send to each other border on being too contrived. After Henry is forced to jump out of a plane, he looks at his for phone a message - there's one from Edward instructing him on how to use a thumb scanner, which is what he has to do next. But no message instructing him on how to jump out of a plane? It's as if somehow Edward knew that he was going to change into Henry right at the moment that he needed to use the scanner, but not right before he had to skydive for the first time ever.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mad Men: Meditations in an Emergency

The storm clouds swirled on this exciting season finale of Mand Men. As the terror of the Cuban missile crisis thrums below the surface, everyone copes with the prospect of the end of the world in his or her own way. The entire episode has a nihilistic vibe to it, with characters weighing each moment against the idea that it could be their last.But worrying isn't just for global affairs: the ad men of Sterling Cooper are also fretting about big changes a little closer to home.

While the men in the office are riveted by the TV set, following every move President Kennedy makes, they are also concerned about the big merger. How will it work? Will anyone get fired? Meanwhile, Peggy and Betty each use impending doom to confront and attempt to make peace with their own issues. It's a doozy of an episode and plenty entertaining, even if it may be one of the gloomiest ever.

Betty Draper: The night opens with Betty at her doctor's office gazing at a picture of deer. An interesting image for a woman about to find out she's pregnant and immediately inquire about an abortion. From there we travel with Betty on the kind of cathartic journey that's been bubbling up in her for two seasons now. She smokes, she drinks, she broods — even when Don shows up with his tail between his legs, she doesn't skip a beat. When he tells her he had to get away for a while to think she responds flatly, "Must be nice, needing time and just taking it, all on your own terms." Oh, snap. Take that, Don. And then she drops the kids off with Don and has sex with a stranger at a bar. I got the sense that she finally understands her own discontent. She seems to place the source and no longer feels like she's the one going crazy. She takes control. It's an extremely satisfying finale to Betty's story this season (though maybe misguided).

Peggy Olson: Peggy also faces her past head-on this episode (amazing what the threat of nuclear war will do for one's emotional development, isn't it?). Father Gill lays a humongous pile of guilt and shame onto Peggy, hoping she'll make things right with God ("Don’t you understand that this could be the end of the world and you can go to hell?"). I half expected Peggy to mumble something like, "Thank you Father" and shuffle away — but she doesn't! She stands up for herself and her ideas: "I can't believe that’s how God is." She's bright and perky when Don returns, informing him right away that she landed the Popsicle account. Later, when things get really dark, she responds to Pete's declaration of love (also: OMG Pete declares his love!) with the truth about his baby. The look on Pete's face is priceless when she confesses her entire ordeal and how a piece of her is gone forever. And now Pete's the one crying and Peggy is calm and resigned.

A few more thoughts:

I am curious about Pete giving Don a heads-up about Duck becoming president of the new merged Sterling Cooper. In the previous scene between Pete and Don, Don gives Pete some new respect for handling things in Don's absence. Perhaps Pete feels like he's closer to Don's level and gives him the information about Duck because, as he says, he'd want to be in the know if he were in Don's place. It's an interesting change of pace, the two of them on the same team.

There's something comforting about Joan and Don back together in the office. Like the old Mad Men coming full circle. I liked Don's line to Joan about Peggy, "So, other than her office and new haircut is there anything else I need to know about?" (Also, again with a cute dress on Peggy! Love it.)

Isn't it just like Don to get to drop out of work for three weeks and when you return you've made half a million dollars? Oh, and your wife takes you back after years of cheating and lying. Life goes well for that guy.

I thought Betty and Francine's conversation about the possibility of Betty having an abortion was fascinating. Even though it's illegal, the women still talk about it as a viable alternative.

I love the scene in which the guys corner Lois the phone operator and pump her for information. Can you imagine people listening in on your office calls?! I think the ominous way she delivers the news is so perfectly gossipy: "There are definitely going to besome . . . redundancies."

What did you think about Don's letter to Betty? Romantic? Sweet? Too little, too late?

And how about Duck? After all that work on the merger and then he flips out when Don stands up to him.

So, I'm not left with too many crazy cliffhangers this time around, which is kind of nice. The biggest one is Don's future at the agency. It will be interesting to see what goes on with Pete's marriage, and the dynamics between Pete and Peggy in the office should be pretty awkward going forward. Season three will be interesting!

Friday, January 9, 2009

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg

In 1951, Paige Dunn is a vibrant young woman, twenty-two years old, nine months pregnant, and happily married. Then she contracts polio. The fact that she was able to deliver a healthy baby girl while in an iron lung is an amazing feat all in itself. Paige is a strong-willed and, despite her husband leaving her, is determined to raise Diana. She hires caregivers, moves into a small, two-bedroom home in Tupelo, Mississippi, and moves on with life. She spends the next three years in that dreaded machine and the rest of her life on a respirator.

The story picks up in 1964. Thirteen-year-old Diana's best friend is neighbor Suralee Holloway. The two put on plays they've written, go into town for an ice cream cone, dream about boys, and collect Sweetnuf box tops.

While the story is told from Diana's point of view, the overpowering presence of Paige and her self-determination take center stage. She may only be able to move her head, but she is a mother first and foremost, guiding and disciplining her growing daughter.

In the background is the Civil Rights Movement. The daytime caregiver, Peacie, and her boyfriend, LaRue, become actively involved. Then there are the social workers who monitor Paige and Diana's caregivers. And of course, there is the shadow of Elvis. You cannot have a story set in the sixties in Tupelo, Mississippi, without mentioning the King.

But ultimately, though this book is sad in places, victories, small and large, are achieved. We Are All Welcome Here is not perfect, but it is highly recommended.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Quantum of Solace - Just an Action Flick

Where Casino Royale was bright, shiny and breathtaking, Quantum of Solace is cold, steely, and flat. Don't get me wrong — the explosions, gun play, and dry quips are all present and accounted for. But where there might've been a compelling narrative there's just a string of action sequences and chase scenes, interrupted by the occasional heart-to- cold, mistrusting spy heart. It's not bad, it's just that it seems like there's no real pulse beating behind Bond's deadly calm veneer.

Daniel Craig reprises his role as superspy James Bond, who is still consumed by anger at having been betrayed by Vesper Lynd, the woman he loved. Still, he wishes to take revenge on the company that blackmailed Vesper and in his search, he and M (Judi Dench) uncover the plans of Dominic Greene, the shady leader of an environmentalist company, to take control of Bolivia's water supply from the equally shady General Medrano. In the midst of all this, Bond meets Camille, who has her own vengeful plan in mind for General Medrano. Camille and Bond then become partners in crime (literally) in their efforts to take down Dominic and Medrano.

One of the things I like best about this movie is that the "Bond Girl" (Camille) isn't just there to sexily wield a gun and sleep with Bond. In fact, she has her own past and her own agenda — and it never includes sleeping with Bond. It’s rather refreshing, really, and hers is the story that intrigued me the most, by far. While it’s fun to see Bond kick some butt and continuously lock and load, it might have been fun to have had some more mystery in this story of our "international man of mystery," so to speak. There is, however, plenty of the "international": we leap and soar and zoom from country to country (each with its own font, a quirky touch), with little breathing room in between each location's requisite fight scene.

In general, it would have been cool to have had some more scheming and more outwitting the opposition, and maybe less of a blindly rage-filled Bond just blowing away everyone and everything in his path. While that might have been the intention — to show how much Vesper’s death has messed with our hero and left him colder and crueler — it’s not altogether satisfying to watch for two hours. It is still a treat to see Daniel Craig onscreen, and the intense action scenes are sure to please many moviegoers, but expecting more than that may leave one disappointed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Eleventh Hour - Argo

I better watch what I eat. After downing a hearty breakfast, a San Jose family flops on the floor - stricken with paralysis. Just twitching and drooling all over the place. But not the daughter, Emily, who winds up being a suspect in the poisoning of her family.

Now it's up to Dr. Hood and his FBI cohort Agent Young to save the family from dying a freaky fungal infection death. When I first see Hood, he's in South Dakota looking into a mysterious airplane crash. Glaring at wreckage and looking at a marker board full of "D=R x T" equations, Hood is able to "see beyond" the obvious in the ways that most Procedural Crime show heroes can. With flash-editing and trippy sound effects, I get a glimpse into Hood's advanced mind.

Well no wonder he can solve all this science stuff, when he looks at things the camera tilts in all these extreme angles and such. I actually think it would work better if I was just able to believe, on my own, that Hood is a genius - without the amped-up Bruckheimer jazziness to tell me so. But what am I gonna do? It's a Bruckheimer production.

Hood is called away from this case in order to head over to California to look into the paralyzed families case. But not before he easily solves the crash case however. I actually liked seeing Hood work on another case right before heading into the main plot. It comforts me to know that, since the FBI has this guy on some sort of retainer, he's being used to the fullest. It did seem strange that the head of the Case Team in South Dakota, Agent Bennett, went from being very thankful to being skeptical to being hostile - back into being thankful in a matter of a few seconds. That's how fast Hood solved the case. You would think that these know-nothing FBI guys might have figured out how geniuses work? They just blurt out the name of junk food. They don't speak to people like they're human beings. Just random musings come out of their mouths.

Bennett: "What is it, Dr. Hood?" Pause. Hood: "Ice Cream. Do you have any?" Don't worry. Hood actually used the ice cream in a little science experiment. He didn't just want to eat some like Walter on Fringe. Look at me, I'm spending too much time on the first five minutes here.

I really wish that Young would go back to the more aggressive she-soldier that she portrayed back in the first episode, but I fear that that element of her persona might have gotten chucked aside - at least for the meantime. Right now, she's the character who says "oh?" after Hood comes up with a brilliant scientific lead. Oh, and she wears a suit and chases the villain in the end when they try and run away. Kind of like Olivia in Fringe.

Eleventh Hour isn't about to be entered into the annals of TV greatness any time soon. It's a perfectly enjoyable show, that can be entered into at any point and makes me forget about my looming gas bill that's due for an hour. Like most crime shows, the lead is very important, and I'm a fan Rufus Sewell's Hood. He's just a nice balance of compassion and creepiness. The way he talks to Emily as she's crying about saving her family is distant, yet earnest. It's the way he has to be in order not to get emotionally drained from his work.

A farmer used organic pesticides on his crops. Pesticides that his son stole from the waste dump where he worked. Pesticides that were dumped there by a giant Agricultural technologies firm, Aeonium, after it was discovered that the scorpion venom they used in it was toxic when combined with food coloring made from insects. Through all of this, I get to learn about the family farms' struggle against giant corporate farms, the greed of global agro-business firms and genetically modified foods. I also get a little peak into Hood's sadness as well, learning that his wife died from brain cancer. I feel educated.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Life On Mars: My Maharishi is Bigger Than Your Maharishi

Life on Mars is showing that it’s not going to pull many punches (no pun intended) when it comes to how the ’70s are portrayed, and this episode was a prime example of that. And Sam is finding, more often, that he’s going to have to adjust his own way of thinking to accommodate for those not ready for 2008.

I have wondered since the first episode when Sam would eventually happen upon his younger self. I could see it was going to happen as soon as Sam mentioned going to a Knicks game with his dad during the finals. I like that this is out of the way so early in the series, though I’m sure it’s not the last I’ll be seeing of young Sam.

The scene with the Maharishi was one I had to go through a few times to make any sense of it. I think I even pulled on my face with my palms like Sam did at one point. There was a point when Sam had to wonder if 1973 was the reality and 2008 was made up in his mind. I’m not sure how he or anyone watching this could think this is a possibility, when he’s rattling off facts about the future. Though I do have a theory on that I’ll mention later.

What is curious, however, is his memories about what he’d find in the loose baseboard in his old home. Instead of G.I. Joes, he finds a girl’s photo and toys in a box. At first I thought this might be Maya’s stuff he found, but I have no idea how old she’s supposed to be. I don’t believe Maya’s supposed to be older than Sam, and that girl seemed older than four.

Here’s something I hadn’t considered before with what’s going on with Sam. If 1973 is the reality, and 2008 is an illusion, it’s certainly possible that the writers could be telling us: “What makes you think the show’s 2008 is our 2008?” What I mean is, what if Rock Hudson really isn’t gay in Sam’s 2008?
As the episode ended, I heard the sound of a heartbeat when Sam saw his child self walk by and look back at him. In past episodes, I heard clear hospital machine noises, so a heartbeat could mean just about anything really. To me, it means he’s very much alive and not visiting this world in any sort of purgatory or hell.

Last crazy tidbit from this episode: It appears Sam invented the word “gaydar.”
Songs from this episode:

Tommy James & The Shondells - “Sweet Cherry Wine”
Dusty Springfield - “Just a Little Lovin’”
Marmalade - “Reflections of My Life”