November 2008

The Wife:

First of all, I realize that Zeljko Ivanek’s character in this episode is technically named Jason, but I think we can all agree that Jason is not as cool of a name as Zeljko, so I will only refer to him as such throughout this post. That said, I think this extended episode was a really nice addition to the House canon: it used the formula, but shook it up by making it have to work within a high-stakes hostage situation; it utilized all of House’s fellows (at least a little bit); and it ultimately gave us a new character arc for Thirteen to follow (so maybe now the writers can focus on someone they’ve ignored . . like Kutner).

Zeljko was this week’s POW, who has become so frustrated with the state of healthcare (seeing an endless string of doctors who just don’t know what’s wrong, as well as being financially buried in medical bills) that he believe the only way to get someone to take his pain seriously is to take some doctors and hostages at gunpoint and force them to work on his case. This is just what he does when, hoping to take only hospital administrator Cuddy hostage, he catches House in Cuddy’s office and rounds up ten or so hostages and Thirteen to join him, forcing them to remain in Cuddy’s office with him until someone solves his case. He’s lucky House happened to be the best diagnostician on staff, otherwise he’d have been SOL.

“You really think re-enacting Dog Day Afternoon is gonna get you diagnosed faster?” – House

House does a quickie diagnosis and tells Zeljko that he needs to administer a test drug to prove that he has pulmonary scleroderma. Zeljko will only agree to the test if Dr. Cuddy brings in the medicine, alone. He then demands that the drug be tested on one of the hostages first, all of them except Thirteen and a nurse amounting to nothing but a handful of sick people who, if given the wrong drug, could be getting even sicker. House administers the drug to one of the beefier patients, who passes out. Thinking it’s a trick, Zeljko shoots an investment banker Patrick Bateman-looking patient in the leg as a warning.

This shot of Zeljko reminds me far too much of his guest spot on The Mentalists pilot episode.

This shot of Zeljko reminds me far too much of his guest spot on The Mentalist's pilot episode.

Realizing how serious the situation is, House does a conference call differential with all of his fellows, past and present, to help solve the case. During this process, a SWAT team from the outside lurks outside the windows, which House realizes Zeljko could hear from inside the room. Assuming his hyper-sensitive hearing is a new symptom, House assumes that he has a nerve problem, which Thirteen confirms when she notices that Zeljko has trouble moving the muscles on one side of his face. House convinces Zeljko to trade two hostages for the test to prove neuralgia. He then asks for another drug guinea pig, a position for which ready-to-die Thirteen immediately volunteers. The test is incredibly painful for her, but shouldn’t be for Zeljko if he does indeed have neuralgia. Nerve disorders are ruled out when the injection causes him pain, and in the lab, Foreman and Cameron find out that Zeljko’s white blood cells are normal, thus ruling out an infection. The team is now left with a either a cancer diagnosis or a heart defect.

Zeljko allows Thirteen to leave the room to get the heart-slowing drugs House requires to make the man’s heart return to normal speed, which, when injected into her normal-beating heart slows it down considerably, while Zeljko’s heart reduces to a normal speed. But then he starts sweating only on one side of his face, leading House to believe he has a lung tumor that’s pressing on his sympathetic nerves. Zeljko decides to trade three hostages for a trip to radiology and ties the two doctors, the nurse, and the remaining two civilians to him to journey to radiology. In the CT scan, he refuses to unhand his gun, which causes a sunburst over the image. House convinces him to give up the gun in order to get a proper diagnosis, at which point the nurse and one civilian hostage decide to make a break for it. The youngest hostage stays, just to check out what’s going down. When the CT scan does not reveal a tumor, House returns Zeljko’s gun, an act which prompts House, Zeljko and Thirteen to discuss the nature of cowardice and the need to be right. (For the record, both House and Zeljko have a destructive and violent need to be right, and Zeljko and Thirteen are both cowards about facing their own deaths.)

House now thinks that because of Zeljko’s wonky hearing (he now appears to be deaf in one ear), that he might have Cushing’s Syndrome. The hostage negotiators agree to get the drugs for him if he lets the boy go and stops testing drugs on Thirteen, an agreement upon which Zeljko immediately reneges. Thirteen gets incredibly sick, and Zeljko remains unchanged from the treatment. In a last-ditch discussion with the diagnostics team, all signs point to a tropical illness like Meliodosis, which Zeljko discounts because he’s never been anywhere south of Florida  . . . apparently not realizing that Florida is a tropical climate. Zeljko agrees to let House go for getting the answer, but wants to keep dying Thirteen to test the next rounds of drugs on, despite House’s warning that any additional strain on her body would fully shut down her kidneys and kill her. She agrees to take the last round of drugs, knowing that in eight years, she’ll be dead anyway.

“Who’s the martyr now? Either the drugs kill me or he kills me.” – Thirteen.

But when the time comes, Thirteen is unable to give herself the fatal dose, declaring, “I don’t want to die,” just as Zeljko steals the syringe from her hand and injects himself as the SWAT team blasts through the wall. When the smoke clears, the SWAT team arrests Zeljko, who seems to be at peace, finally, knowing that he’s actually gotten an answer for all his trouble. Jail, it seems, is worth that to him. Thirteen goes on dialysis to flush out her kidneys, and finally consents to some clinical trials for Huntington’s Chorea, her near-death experience giving her a renewed appreciation for life.

The Husband:

I was not looking forward to this episode. Hostage episodes are usually very desperate ploys to get viewers tuned in, story be damned, and usually result in most of the characters not acting like themselves in any capacity. It can be done right, however. I point you to “Bang!” from Desperate Housewives season 3, which is more than the sum of its parts.

Every single hostage situation episode of a TV drama usually gives center stage to the hostage taker and they rarely disappoint, so much like Laurie Metcalf’s wildly successful performance in the aforementioned DH episode, Zeljko was in it to win it.

The result was just okay, a gimmick that thankfully gave us more than one location – man, how big is that x-ray room? – and some resolution with Thirteen’s recent b-story arc (one that many viewers have been complaining about, but not me). My wife’s right, though – it’s time to give Kutner some focus. Nobody underuses Kal Penn and gets away with it. Nobody!

Special shout-outs for several of the guest actors. First, one to Natasha Gregson Wagner for actually blending into the story that I barely noticed her. (I dig on the actress quite a bit, but she has a tendency to overrun any scene she’s in, whether it’s in High Fidelity or Another Day in Paradise.

Another to Evan Peters as the young teenage hostage, who just makes me miss the show Invasion even more.

And one to Wood Harris as the SWAT negotiator, a far cry from playing Avon Barksdale, the king of all drug lords, on HBO’s The Wire. His presence made me realize that whenever I see a talented African-American actor on TV and turn to my wife and say, “Hey, I know that guy,” it’s always somebody from The Wire. That show was apparently filled with every single fairly unknown African-American actor in the country. I didn’t even bother mentioning it last night, because I’m sure the conversation would have been this:

Me: Guess what I know him from.

Wife: The Wire. Shut up. I’m watching Zeljko.


The Wife:

I can’t possibly be the only person who found the butterfly attack in this episode’s cold opening to be extremely funny, right? While I’m sure getting attacked by hundreds of butterflies with razor-sharp wings would actually be quite terrifying to experience, watching it happen to someone just looks funny. All I could think of is that the lacerations from razor-sharp butterflies must be akin to being covered in thousands of tiny papercuts. This scene stopped being funny, of course, when the victim, Mark Young, threw himself out the window of Massive Dynamic’s New York high rise and fell down to his doom in a state of suspended animation through a rain of glass and butterflies. This shot was so powerful, so beautiful, that it made me feel really terrible for laughing about the butterfly attack as Young drifts down before plummeting full force into a car.

This accident interrupts Olivia’s plans to go to a surprise party with her friends, whom we didn’t know she had at all. As she wipes off her lipgloss to return to work, I wondered about how out of character this attempt to humanize Olivia seemed. I know that she needs this breath of life, and that we do need to see her as someone outside of the cold-hearted bitch FBI suit she puts on every day. But this scene didn’t really tell me much about her other than that she seems to constantly have to put her social life on hold to do her work, which we already know from hundreds of other FBI shows is just an occupational hazard. I suppose the one insight it did give us is that Olivia is the kind of person who feels that she can’t wear lipgloss to the field. I’m not sure why, but I’ll assume that this detail combined with her earlier story about her drunken stepfather means that she thinks showing any signs of femininity equates a visible weakness in her work. If I knew more about Olivia, this scene would have made more sense overall as an illustration of the kinds of sacrifices she makes for her job and her country, but as she’s not the most fully-realized character on the show, it seemed a bit clunky to me.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter, as Olivia has to give up her plans in order to go to NYC and investigate. When surveying the accident site, she sees John Scott in the crowd, which jolts her. Walter notices that there are two kinds of lacerations on Mark Young’s corpse: deep cuts from the glass, and some other, shallower cuts that appear to have happened from the inside out. Walter takes the body back to the lab, and Olivia goes to discuss the accident with Nina Sharp, who doesn’t seem to have much information for Olivia other than to simply state that working on crazy science sometimes makes people go crazy. When Olivia and Charlie Francis search the victim’s house, they notice that he had recently booked a flight to Kansas on Oceanic airlines (which I can’t believe flies to Kansas – I thought they only flew the Pacific Coast route), indicating that his apparent suicide was not a planned event. Olivia is struck by Young’s butterfly collection, which appears to move before her very eyes, and notices the word “MONARCH” written in Young’s day planner.

Please get me some coffee yogurt so I can examine this mans numerous tiny papercuts.

Please get me some coffee yogurt so I can examine this man's numerous tiny papercuts.

Back at the lab, Walter determines that the shallower lacerations were indeed made from the inside of the body when he finds a synthetic psychotropic compound present in Mark Young’s brain. However, he has no idea what this means until John Scott ghost hacks Olivia’s computer as she researches the meaning of the term “MONARCH” (pulling up various images from California’s state butterfly to Queen Elizabeth – sadly, The Monarch from The Venture Brothers was not present in her search results). Scott sends her an email with the address 1312 Labrador Lane, which she immediately heads off to. The building is yet another of Scott’s dingy basement haunts in which Olivia finds some thumping containers of . . . frogs, another one of our Fringe symbols. After this discovery, she goes to Francis to ask for a bereavement leave, telling him that he was right all along about how Scott’s death would affect her, admitting that she’s still seeing him. Francis is about to grant her request when Astrid calls to tell her that Walter may have found a link between the frogs and Mark Young’s death.

Meanwhile, Peter gets a call from an old flame, Tess, who has heard that he’s back in town and says she urgently needs to meet with him. He meets her at a cafe and urges him to get out of town because if she can find him, then the wrong people certainly can find him. As he takes her hand, he realizes her wrist has been badly bruised. Michael is beating her again, which makes Peter incredibly angry.

I was thrown off by the presence of actress Susan Misner in this role, as I know her best from Gossip Girl where she plays estranged wife and mother Alison Humphrey. I now envision an alternate storyline for Alison where she leaves Rufus not to paint and fall in love with an artist in upstate New York, but to go to Boston and become Peter Bishop’s lover and partner-in-crime, which is a lot seedier. But I just realized now in looking her up on IMDB that I know her from one other show: the failed immortal cop drama New Amsterdam, which didn’t suck nearly as much as I thought it would. Misner played Amsterdam’s boss, Sergeant Callie Burnett, and she was basically a hard-ass every week. Misner is a beautiful woman, but I was shocked to see how old the makeup folks on Fringe made her look. The actress herself is only 37, and I had guessed last night that her character Tess might have been a hard-looking 38, which is to say she looked more like she was 48. Either way, I’m assuming that both Olivia and Peter are in their early 30s, so I was really thrown off to see Peter involved with a much older-looking woman. Even if Tess is also in her early 30s, she certainly doesn’t look it. I hope it was their intention to take a lovely woman and make her look way too old for her character, because otherwise, that’s just a really weird choice.

The substance found in Mark Young’s brain is the same substance found in the skin of the toads Agent Scott led Olivia to. Walter had (naturally) previously experimented with this substance, which causes people to experience hallucinations so vivid that their minds actually create the damage to their bodies that they think they are experiencing. So, if Mark Young hallucinated butterflies lacerating his flesh, his body manifested the lacerations. Moreover, the amount of this substance found in Young’s body was 30 times the normal amount a person would take, leading Walter to believe that this is a clear case of murder.

Olivia: You have to put me back in the tank.

Walter: You’re asking me to push the boundaries of all that is real and possible. Like roasting a turkey.

Olivia asks Walter to go back in the tank to help her purge John Scott’s memories from her mind and, also, to help her uncover anything Scott may have known about the substance he led her to. Walter is a bit reluctant to do so, fearing the damage he could cause to Olivia, but he goes ahead with the procedure. In the chamber, hopped up on LSD, Olivia goes through the door of a restaurant and sees herself and John Scott on their first date. (A scene which told me more about her character than the earlier scene of her on the phone with her friend did.) When her memory self leaves the table, she sits down and tries to talk to John, who she believes can see her, even though Walter assures her he cannot. She then finds John with Mark Young and two other men having a secret conference. Once the deal has been made, she watches John shank one of the guys as Young and a Latino man walk away. This scene disturbs her so much that Peter has to bust in and drag her out of the tank.

Olivia gets Astrid to digitally render a sketch of the Latino man she saw in John’s memory and asks Broyles to help her get full disclosure from Nina Sharp about every project Mark Young ever worked on at Massive Dynamic. Thinking about how to reach this man, whose name, by the way, is George, Olivia tries dialing the digits that correspond with the word “MONARCH.” When she does, she reaches George, whose cell phone is traced to the Lincoln Tunnel. Dunham and Francis immediately head to New York where they chase George through NYC traffic until he gets hit by a cab. Olivia grills him in his hospital bed, where he demands complete protection from Massive Dynamic in exchange for his cooperation, claiming that if they killed Mark Young, they’d kill him, too. He suggests that MD offed Young as a warning to other employees and tells Olivia that The Pattern is just a smokescreen created by Massive Dynamic so that they can do whatever they want and get away with it. (Honestly, The Pattern being a giant corporate conspiracy was not news to us, right? We all saw that answer coming together pretty neatly, right?)

With this news, Olivia heads off to MD headquarters to question Nina Sharp about everything she isn’t telling Olivia and Agent Broyles about the goings on at MD. She accuses Nina of protecting the shadowy William Bell, MD’s CEO, by killing off employees who threaten to expose his dealings. Meanwhile, in George’s hospital room, John Scott appears, his skin glittering like Edward Cullen’s vampire skin in the sunlight. Scott wordlessly and violently kills George by slitting his throat. After her uninformative interrogation of Nina Sharp, Olivia calls Broyles to tell him that she’s being suspiciously obsfucative, to which he responds that she needs to lay off Massive Dynamic because a nurse just saw George’s throat slit itself from the inside-out.

Peter has been off continuing his own misadventures throughout all of this, beating the shit out of Michael, who later reports to his cronies that Peter Bishop is back in town. Other than the gambling debts we do know about, I’m interested to find out more about Peter’s checkered past. I’m also pretty sure that Tess getting in touch with him may have been a set-up to expose him, because until now, he’s done a pretty good job of laying low and keeping away from the folks he’s on the bad side of. I’ll see you again, Alison Humphrey, I’m sure.

Olivia begs Walter to put her back in the tank so she can further access John Scott’s memories, but Walter refuses, fearing the worst if Olivia tries the procedure again so soon after completing it. That night, as she struggles to sleep, John Scott ghost hacks her computer again to email:


This leads me to believe that the clone/android John Scott Nina Sharp has in her big ol’ basement back at Massive Dynamic might have a fully-working consciousness that is able to do any number of awesome technokinetic things. I also think that his actual consciousness can interact with his memories, although I’ll leave that up to Walter to explain if it turns out to be true.

Finally, the Massive Dynamic phone number (1-877-8-MSSDYN) is a real number, according to the Fringe boards, although I’ve not yet called it myself. Nor have I tried calling MONARCH, because I don’t know what area code I should append to it and I don’t want to accidentally piss someone off.

Also: Six-Fingered Hand, Butterfly, Daisy, Apple, Apple

The Husband:

Here’s the big section of the George/Olivia hospital-set conversation. I post it because not only it is important to get every word to sink in, I just also think it’s very cool and represents a major turning point in the series.

George: I didn’t kill anybody. Why would I? That guy was a treasure trove of unbelievable things. Massive Dynamic killed him.

Olivia: Massive Dynamic killed Mark Young?

George: That’s right.

Olivia: Why would they?

George: Maybe as a warning to any employee who’s thinking of doing the same thing.

Olivia: Maybe? I think it’s easy to invent a story that you think I want to hear.

George: Really? Did I invent ZFT? Flight 627? The Northwoods Group? John Scott? The Pattern? The whole thing is a hoax. It’s all a smokescreen so Massive Dynamic can do whatever it wants to whoever it wants. Do you understand that? Massive Dynamic is hell, and its founder, William Bell, is the devil. And I can prove all of it, but only if I get protection.

Olivia: So why me? Why do I get the privilege of your cooperation?

George: Because I know I can trust you.

Olivia: You don’t even know me.

George: John Scott told me about you. Immunity and complete protection, and I will tell you everything I know.

This conversation helps further along what I suggested last week in our Fringe write-up, that more of the show’s various elements needed to tie together. I’m happy that they may be going the route of a more serialized structure, having used the first handful of episodes to set up singular crises, and now we’re watching them connect right before our eyes.

As for it being obvious that The Pattern is just a big smokescreen, technically there could have been alternative suggestions, that maybe Massive Dynamic simply noticed something akin to The Pattern and used it to their advantage, as opposed to fabricating it entirely. So no, it was not new news per se, but it was definitely enlightening.

And the fact that Olivia can now harness John Scott’s memories that are hidden somewhere in her brain due to the activity in the show’s pilot? That’s extremely helpful, to say that least.

Quick note: If you, like us, had the episode of Fringe cut off at 10 p.m. due to a combination of House running long (as planned) and Fox not communicating to our collective DVRs and TiVos that Fringe was going to run over as a result, it’s easily accessible at Hulu. Just click at minute 42 and it’s a nice lead-up to those seven minutes that you actually did miss had you Tivo’ed/DVRed it.

Here’s the link.

The Husband:

It seems a little counterproductive, I’m sure, to discuss the halfway point of a show that, upon completing its airing of its 13 season two episodes, will no longer grace the ABC network ever again. Yes, Dirty Sexy Money has been canceled, but unlike Fox or CBS, ABC likes to at least freakin’ air the episodes they already have in the can just to be honorable. (At least, that’s how I look at it.)

So where are we with this soapy primetime dramedy about the filthy rich (or is that dirty sexy rich?) Darling family and their more socially conscious and intellectually respectable lawyer Nick George (Peter Krause)? Well, last season balanced its drama and comedy out very well, giving us as an audience a vantage point of this wealthy but immature family through Nick, showing us the ridiculousness that can permeate any family no matter what their situation. It was funny, it was strange, it was mysterious. (The last part? We still don’t actually know who killed Nick’s father.) It toyed with our conventions of who was a good guy, who was a bad guy, and how secrets both bring people together while also tearing them apart.

The Darling Mermaid Darlings . . . wait . . . sorry . . . thats that other cancelled ABC show.

The Darling Mermaid Darlings . . . wait . . . sorry . . . that's that other canceled ABC show.

This season? The comedy is completely gone. Aside from Letitia (Jill Clayburgh) running over a bicyclist or Jeremy (Seth Gabel) saying something misogynistic, this has become a full on drama, as over-the-top and preposterous as a daytime soap opera. You wanted Blair Underwood’s competing billionaire to no longer have any gray areas? Well, you get your wish, because now he’s a mustache-twirling villain. You weren’t interested in the problems presented by son and Attorney General Patrick (William “Billy” Baldwin), running for the position of New York senator, as he juggled his two relationships (one with his loyal wife and another with transsexual Candis Cayne)? Well, you win again, because they killed his wife in the first episode of this season and then had Carmelita leave him because of the cover-up. You wanted Samaire Armstrong to leave the show (as one of the two wacky young twins) and get some real-life rehab? Check. She’s not even on this season, an absence only meant once.

The show is still extremely easy to watch, an hour-long bout of rich people acting like assholes and its effect on the people in their lives, but it’s just not great TV anymore. It’s passable TV, and that’s about it. I will continue to be baffled as to why the producers/showrunners/writers decided that the thing that viewers really wanted to see was the disintegration of Nick and Lisa’s pretty healthy marriage (I certainly don’t), or that Lisa (Kate Walsh’s dead ringer Zoe McLellan) disgustingly hooking up with Lothario Jeremy is more fun than when Jeremy pretended to be poor in order to bed the luscious Sofia Vergara (who is still one of the hottest women on television). Even Donald Sutherland has pretty much been pushed aside, no longer an enigmatic self-made man with complex emotions and motives but simply a curmudgeon who exists solely to berate his children.

I love Peter Krause, though. My two favorite shows of all time are Sports Night and Six Feet Under. I wish him the best post-DSM and hope he can find a better fit for his talent. Even watching his character on this show slowly lose his soul (but not in an interesting vampire kind of way) is captivating enough just to see him react to whatever the hell the writers are throwing at him week after week.

I don’t know. I just don’t know. The show was always a strange fit for ABC, a little too strange for having a seemingly simple premise, a little too dark for those amused by Dynasty-like shenanigans, a little too smart to be on after Private Practice, and a little too silly for those of us who watch The Sopranos and Mad Men. But now it’s just a strange fit anywhere. Who was this show made for?

The Wife:

Sheldon approves of Leonard’s new girlfriend and does everything in his power to keep Stephanie’s interest in Leonard, mostly out of his admiration for her as a surgeon.

“If you fail at this relationship, and history suggests you will, we lose the medical officer we’ve needed for our landing party.”

You see, Leonard is Captain Kirk, Sheldon is Spock (clearly), Howard is Scotty, Raj is one of those Red Shirts who gets killed first and Stephanie is Bones. Which is great, in theory. Hey, far be it from me to put out the fire of one’s pop culture fantasies (says the girl who names her pets after literary figures). Except The Big Bang Theory isn’t Star Trek. And I’m pretty sure the one thing Kirk never fucked was Bones. (I’m imagining a fanfic right now: “Damnit, Jim! I’m a doctor! Not a homosexual!”)

Sheldon’s attempts to establish Leonard as the alpha male involve him tagging along on dates with Stephanie (why? just to exploit his character’s social awkwardness), which ultimately leads to Sheldon convincing Leonard to show his dominance by opening a jar of white asparagus for Sheldon, which Leonard cannot do. He resorts to tapping the jar on the counter to loosen the seal, only to break the thing open and impale himself with a shard of glass, which sends him to Stephanie’s emergency room for some stitches. This, of course, is after Leonard vomits on the steak Sheldon was defrosting in the sink.

Fearing the trip to the ER would be the death knell in the relationship, Sheldon hacks Leonard’s Facebook page and changes Leonard’s status to “In a Relationship.” The gang fears that changing his status first may be an even worse move than anything else, until they see that Stephanie has confirmed that she is in a relationship with Leonard Hoffsteader, which makes Leonard giddily smile, “I have a girlfriend.”

I just picked this photo because Sarah Rue looked pretty. Its not even from this episode.

I just picked this photo because Sarah Rue looked pretty. It's not even from this episode.

I liked the plot this week, and the acknowledgement that Facebook really is how we judge the official-ness of a relationship these days. But I have two issues with this episode:

1. For the first time, I’ve noticed that the stairwell in the apartment building in Los Angeles is brick-lined. Brick architecture on a major fault line is a major building code violation. We just don’t really have brick buildings in California. It’s because they fall down easily in earthquakes. That said, when we do have a brick building, it’s usually really old and was build before 1920 by someone who had no idea that California was basically constantly moving. All brick structures in the state of California have to be reinforced with steel struts to make them earthquake safe. The apartment building on The Big Bang Theory does not appear to be reinforced. I worry about the safety of the residents in even the tiniest of earthquakes. And I now think that the brick detail was put in by someone who wanted the show to have a more New York-sitcommy feel. In California, bricks just don’t make sense. I’m really struggling with this choice considering the designer has to live in L.A. I just don’t understand.

2. I don’t hate laugh track sitcoms, but the laugh track in this episode really bothered me, especially when Sheldon is grilling Penny for information about her brief relationship with Leonard at the beginning of the episode. The audio folks really overdid it on this one. They found a laugh track that made it seem like every part of Sheldon and Penny’s repartee was the best, most shockingly inappropriate zinger they’d ever heard. It had hoots, hollers and gasps. I’m frankly surprised they didn’t just go for a track of someone screaming, “Oh, no you didn’t!” Seriously, this laugh track was that close to being recorded at a Maury taping. I don’t mind a little laugh track where appropriate, but this was absurd. It took me out of the story and made me unable to suspend my disbelief because the sounds I was hearing were just so jarring.

The Husband:

I think that, for those people who don’t really like The Big Bang Theory (and it’s really not that arguable of a position, since the show is really all that great), they should at least be shown the movie theatre scene with Sheldon disrupting Leonard/Stephanie’s date by searching for the perfect acoustic “sweet spot” of the theatre. Simply cutting away from Sheldon, then hearing him shout “AH! AH! OHHHH!” then cutting back to him sitting in another corner of the screen scaring any number of theatre patrons is on the most rudimentary level of stupid funny, almost Pythonesque in its silliness.

It may not turn anyone onto the show, but they at least deserve to be given as big a laugh as that scene gave me.

Otherwise, I found the episode kind of obnoxious. There was just a point where I simply couldn’t believe that Sheldon could be so ignorant of his negative effect on the Leonard/Stephanie relationship. Even the most extreme of personalities would be able to assess their surroundings and know how annoying they’re being…


The Wife:

As far as misdirection and time manipulation are concerned, this was certainly one of How I Met Your Mother‘s finer episodes. From the beginning introduction about Ted’s elevator routine and working up the courage to talk to someone you spend a certain portion of your day with, we would think that HIMYM was going to give us let another lovely story about a lovely woman that Ted falls for, perhaps even a second Victoria could be found in Vicky? Another one that got away? But no, that story definitely didn’t go the way I thought it would go, something that HIMYM is really adept at doing. And then there was the sequence with all of the odd things Ted has walked in on in his apartment prior to encountering the titular Naked Man: Lily painting acrobats, Robin having an armed stand-off with some thieves, Barney practicing Houdini’s water escape (yet more magic!) and the appearance of the goat. (The goat is coming May 8, 2009! Be ready!) Every one of those flashbacks/flashforwards was brilliantly sequenced. This kind of stuff – this is why HIMYM is a great show.

I can haz red chairz?

I can haz red chairz?

On a personal level, I found that opening sequence so lovely because, as a commuter, I spend a fair amount of my time coexisting with people who have the same schedules that I do. And we all come to rely on seeing the people we see every day, as Ted and Vicky do in the moment where they re-time their entrances just to make sure they see each other. I see certain patrons at the bagel shop every morning, and I ride the train with the same people every morning. I even have regular homeless guys that I pass in Portsmouth Square. I don’t wonder too much about what’s going on in the lives of the people I see on the train and at the bagel shop. If they’re missing one morning, I just assume they’re taking the day off. But if I don’t see one of my homeless guys, I start assuming that he’s dead. I’m used to these people. They make up the scheme of my daily existence, and you really do start to notice something odd when those elements go missing.

So Ted finally sets up a date with Vicky, and returns home one night to find Robin’s date, Mitch, naked on their couch. Mitch goes on to explain to Ted that this is his move, The Naked Man. He makes an excuse to go up to the girl’s apartment, waits till she leaves the room, then strips naked and waits for her. The reaction, two out of three times, is that the girl will laugh, and he will laugh, and then, somewhere in her, she will decide that since he’s already naked, they may as well have sex. Being naked is all Mitch has to offer a woman, as he is somewhat portly, not very attractive and constantly talks about his fantasy football league. He knows he’ll never get a second date, so The Naked Man is his only way to get laid.

Ted and Marshall find this unbelievable, and even more so that it actually worked on Robin. Marshall, whose only partner is Lily, claims that the only reason to have sex with someone is because you love them and calls slut on Robin. Lily then proceeds to prove her husband wrong by coming up with 50 reasons to have sex with someone, which my husband kept better track of than I did. I’d like to note that Lily’s first reason, as a cure for insomnia, is totally right. Good sex lights up all those parts of the brain that make you happy and warm and comfortable – all three of which can quickly lead to sleepy. Barney, instead, views The Naked Man as a gamechanger. Why spend all the time and money on disguises and clever ruses (like Old Man Barney) if all he has to do is strip down and wait?

Could it be possible that the great Barnabus J. Stinson has been wrong all along about bedding women?

Could it be possible that the great Barnabus J. Stinson has been wrong all along about bedding women?

Barney and Ted decide to try The Naked Man. Barney goes for it just for the hell of it, and Ted decides to do it when he realizes that he has no future at all with Vicky (because she’s mean to waiters and demands complimentary appetizers, which would be a no go for me, too). The two call each other while they wait to unveil their Naked Man and try out poses, such as Superman, The Thinker, Captain Morgan and Burt Reynolds. Barney ultimately chooses to unveil his Naked Man in a Superman pose, but Ted starts to think twice about the act when he sees a book of Pablo Neruda’s poetry on Vicky’s coffee table, bookmarked to his favorite poem as she talks to him from the other room about how much she loves hearing Ted discuss architecture. He puts his clothes back on just before she comes in the room. When he asks her about the Neruda, she declares the book a turd because, “It’s all in Mexican!” She further elucidates on what she considers to be good poetry:

“You know who writes good poems? Jewel. Her teeth are crooked and she lived in her car, so she’s got stuff to write about.”

Hilarious. Even when I was really into Jewel at the tender age of 13, I knew that the majority of her work wasn’t very good. I mean, really, kids, have you ever listened to half of Pieces of Me? It’s five good songs, and five songs with a lot of mixed metaphors and questionable lyrics. (I will never not admit that I love “You Were Meant for Me,” though. That song is pretty awesome.) After that admission, Ted decides to go for The Naked Man, knowing full well that he never wants to see Vicky again if Jewel is the epitome of poetry. Vicky sees Ted’s Naked Man, shrugs and figures, why not? In Dowisetrepla, Lily struggles to finish her list of reasons to have sex and arrives finally at number 50: because you love someone. She then springs The Naked Man on Marshall, using the “I have boobs” pose, which always, always works.

Robin, meanwhile, has been trying to prove that she’s not a slut by unsuccessfully taking Mitch out on a second date (an “I’m-not-a-slut-date”) and parading him around in front of her friends as though he’s her boyfriend until Marshall takes back what he said, at which point Robin release Mitch from social bondage, only to hear Ted and Marshall thank him for introducing them to the glory that is The Naked Man.

As for Barney, his Naked Man attempt fails and he is kicked out of his date’s apartment without shoes, clothes or his cell phone and forced to wander the streets of New York naked. (Two out of three times, man. Two out of three times.) As he comes upon a row of sale suits, he contemplates stealing one, until he realizes the fabric is low quality and skitters away. That is the Barney Stinson I know and love: he’d rather be naked than wear a cheap suit.

The Husband:

For the record, here are some of the 50 Reasons to have Sex. Keep in mind that 32 of them were not spoken.

  1. “Because you can’t get to sleep” sex
  2. Make-up sex
  3. Break-up sex
  4. “Your friend just told you about a new position” sex
  5. Revenge sex
  6. Rebound sex
  7. Paratrooping/”Banging for Roof” sex
  8. “Nothing good on television” sex
  9. Hotel room sex
  10. Curiosity sex (e.g. Barney’s desire to make it with a really tall woman)


43. “He said he loved you but you’re not ready to say it back” sex
44. “Wingman diving on the grenade” sex

45. “The condoms are about to expire” sex

46. “Wow, this is getting a little hard” sex

47. “You dropped a Cheeto on his lap and when you reached for it, he thought you were making a move, so you just went with it” sex (i.e. Marshall and Lily’s six-month anniversary)
48. “To reinforce good behaviors such as shaving and dental hygiene” sex (Marshall: “Great. That explains why I always get an erection when I floss!”)
49. “Just want to do it to change the subject” sex

50. “I love you” sex

So, after spending the time watching the episode on closed-caption and jotting down the whole list, I realize I’m a fucking moron. Why? Because this is HIMYM, and every little cultish bit of info you can cook up on the show already exists somewhere, either on Barney’s Blog or linked from the show’s MySpace page, created by the show’s writers themselves.

Here’s the full list, complete with actual stationary indicating where the list was written. #28 and #39 are the best additions to the list.

You can sure fit a lot of info on a MacLaren's napkin!

You can sure fit a lot of info on a MacLaren's napkin!

I really do love the episodes that feel like something that could have been written by my smarter, wittier acquaintances who just happen to have a good grasp on casual sex in the 21st century and the ever-changing perspective on said casual sex. I love their ability to create (or gleefully retell) seemingly ridiculous modern vernacular, only to have it sound like the most normal thing in the world.

Addendum: I just realized that, technically, this is the second time Barney has tried The Naked Man, and the second time (that we’ve seen) that Robin has been witness to it. Back in s1 during the episode “Zip, Zip, Zip” when Barney and Robin had a Bro’s Night Out (Ted was dealing with another Vicky at the time, the sorely missed fan favorite Victoria), Robin walked back into her apartment and found a very naked, “birthday suited up” Barney. Robin gasped and freaked out, getting him to throw some clothes back on, rejecting his advances.

Now, it’s fair to point out that Barney was simply misconstruing the situation between he and Robin (this is way before he fell in love with her), thinking their awesome night out was something more than just Bro-ing Around. In addition, he did not know he was doing The Naked Man. But the principle is the same, and really, that means that for Barney, The Naked Man doesn’t work 2 out of 3 times.

Maybe Robin is a different person now. (She kind of is.) Maybe she was put off originally because of her impending major crush on Ted. (She no longer has said crush.) But I simply think that the writers forgot about this. For shame, writers.

Don’t worry, writers, I still love you. Just know that there are those of us out here paying close attention.

The Husband:

After a less-than-stellar third season – one that most viewers blamed on the existence of Danny DeVito finally becoming a full-time cast member on the show and not just a guest, while I chalk it up to lazy writing – It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia came into the fourth season with guns a-blazin’ and may have created their best season yet.

Finally, they figured out the secret to the success of their greatest episodes strewn throughout the first three seasons.

My favorite pre-s4 episodes, by the way, are as follows:

  • “Charlie Wants An Abortion”
  • “Charlie Got Molested”
  • “Dennis And Dee Go On Welfare”
  • “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom”
  • “The Gang Gives Back”
  • “The Gang Finds A Dumpster Baby”
  • “Sweet Dee’s Dating A Retarded Person”
  • “The Gang Dances Their Asses Off”

If you are familiar with the show, you’d probably know that most of the above episodes rely almost solely on the interaction between The Gang (the gang being Dennis, Sweet Dee, Mac and Charlie) and rarely anybody else. When the characters tend to go off on their own solo stories, the show suffers for it, so finally they figured out a way to utilize their ensemble in the best way they know how. This includes cutting down on the Charlie/Frank duo stories, which are usually more obnoxious and cruel than funny. (Yes, there is a fine line between funny and cruel.)

Now, Charlie is back with Mac and their combined stupidity has made for the best moments of s4 – their faked death being my personal favorite – and Dennis and Dee are back to setting each other off.

Basically, less Frank, less Cricket, less McPoyles. Less of everybody who’s not The Gang. Except for Charlie’s waitress. She’s better than ever (especially when drunk during the episode where Dee wants her life to be more like Sex and the City.)

And we should thank the comedy gods that the show understood the cult status behind what was basically a throwaway moment – Charlie’s glam rock song “Dayman” (fighter of the Nightman!) – and turned it into a rock opera for this season’s final episode. They didn’t have to do that. They didn’t have to go all musical. But they did, and you shall bow before them.

Really, really ridiculously good looking.

Really, really ridiculously good looking.

Best Moment of the Season:

When Dennis realizes, finally, that he was actually hallucinating seeing the comedian Sinbad and Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Marshall at a mental institution, when in actuality he had just been bumped on the head very, very hard. (“Sweet Dee Has A Heart Attack”)

Second Best Moment of the Season:

Witch Dee flies away on a broom, thus concluding their Colonial America-set story. (“The Gang Cracks The Liberty Bell”)

Third Best Moment of the Season:

Dennis’ penis shadow slowly moving through the glory hole. (“Mac & Charlie Die”)

Fourth Best Moment of the Season:

Dee’s complete inability to get through doing a stand-up comedy routine without retching. (“Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life”)

Fifth Best Moment of the Season:

“I will smack your face off of your face!” (“The Nightman Cometh”)

The Wife:

As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, Chuck is really turning it out this season. There hasn’t been a single episode this season that didn’t progress the main arc and the show has done an admirable job of putting Chuck in high-stakes positions with either his Buy More job, his home life or his spy work – sometimes all three at once. That said, this final (?) chapter of the Jill arc was an incredibly satisfying end to this November Sweeps story.

Chuck realizes pretty quickly that Jill is not who he thought she was when he picks up her cell phone and sees a note from her “mom” asking if she has met “Uncle Tobias.” Chuck flashes on the note and realizes that Jill is with Fulcrum and works with an agent called Leader. Chuck tries to run, but is caught by Sarah and Casey who tell him to return to Jill and to not let her know that he’s onto her. The General backs up Sarah and Casey’s decision and asks Chuck to continue his relationship with Jill to get as much information as possible on Leader.

Meanwhile, at Casa Bartowski, Ellie is freaking out about Captain Awesome’s parents coming over for Thanksgiving dinner. In an effort to make a good impression on her future in-laws, she has to un-invite Morgan from his favorite holiday, which leads to Morgan, Lester and Jeff being locked in the Buy More as part of Big Mike’s anti-Black Friday theft plan while he heads off to the lake to spend his holiday fishing.

Jill convinces Chuck to let her take him on a date without his bodyguards. Thinking that they’re going to a concert due to a recent purchase on Jill’s credit card, Sarah and Casey send Chuck off, assuring him that they’ll be waiting for him at the venue. However, Jill actually takes Chuck to a carnival and recreates the Ferris wheel kiss with which acrophobic Chuck first asked Jill out all those years ago . . . until she shoves a gun in his belly and tells him to come quietly into Fulcrum custody.

Zachary Levi has never looked more like John Krasinski than in this shot.

Zachary Levi has never looked more like John Krasinski than in this shot.

Leader tells Jill to eliminate Chuck in the middle of the fairgrounds, but she refuses to do it, so Leader punches her out and corners Chuck in the Gravitron carnival ride, leading to one of the most amusingly awkward fight/chase scenes I’ve ever encountered. After sufficiently disorienting Leader, Chuck escapes to the funhouse, where he tries to find Jill among the distorted mirrors, a nice device to let us know that nothing in this scene is quite what it seems. Leader follows Chuck into the funhouse, and Jill helps Chuck escape by shooting her boss through one of the mirrors.

By the time Jill and Chuck exit the funhouse, Sarah and Casey are there to take Jill into custody. Back at the Castle, they hook her up to a lie detector and make her play Moment of Truth, where she reveals that Leader is recovering in a mobile medical unit located in an office building in downtown L.A. Sarah and Casey head off to capture Leader, leaving Jill in Chuck’s custody. He can’t resist opening her cell to ask her the questions he’s always wanted answers to: if she ever loved him and if she ever loved Bryce. Jill’s answers reveal that she does indeed love Chuck, and, more importantly, that she never slept with Bryce. It was just what her Fulcrum advisor asked her to say when Chuck was expelled from Stanford. After building up his confidence with truths, Jill asks Chuck to let her out of her restraints, which he does, only to have her turn the tables on him and take him into her custody.

Jill Roberts, this is your Moment of Truth.

Jill Roberts, this is your Moment of Truth.

At the Buy More, Jeff participates in his Turkey Day tradition of setting traps for Black Friday shoppers while Lester noshes on frozen turkey dinners. Morgan takes pity on the boys, who have not experienced a real Thanksgiving in years, and escapes the Buy More to dig through Ellie’s trash and get one of her “practice turkeys,” tripping the Buy More alarm in the process which abruptly ends Big Mike’s fishing trip. Ellie and Awesome catch Morgan in the trash just moments after hearing that the Awesomes have to cancel Thanksgiving, so Ellie apologizes to Morgan and re-invites him to dinner. In accepting the invitation for himself and the other citizens of Buymoria, he accidentally tells Ellie about Chuck and Jill.

At the medical center, Leader was prepped to capture Sarah and Casey and force them to lead him back to the Castle, where he immediately locks them in a holding cell and demands that Chuck give him access to the access screen for the security database before locking Chuck himself in a cell. Fortunately, Chuck is locked in with the Castle manual, and he shuts off the power systems to the computer grid from inside, as well as calls in CIA backup. Leader threatens to kill Sarah and Casey if Chuck doesn’t help him escape, so Chuck leads Jill and Leader into the Buy More and sends a message through the Castle’s security system to let Casey and Sarah know where he’s taken the Fulcrum agents and that their door is actually unlocked. Casey heads over to the Buy More to take out Leader just as Big Mike returns from his fishing trip to body slam any intruders. Mike congratulates Casey for his fast response to the alarm.

“Grimes put you in charge? Smart boy.” – Big Mike

Sarah tries to hunt down Jill, but Chuck helps her escape into a Nerd Herder (which I never realized was a Toyota Matrix until Chuck pointed it out tonight) and both arrests and breaks up with her. (I drive a Matrix, so it’s nice to know that I can outfit them with remote control handcuffs if I pay a props guy at NBC enough money.)

At Bartowski Thanksgiving, Ellie and Morgan worry about Sarah and Chuck’s relationship, but Morgan assures Ellie that a Thanksgiving miracle will happen and Chuck and Sarah will walk through that door as happy as they’ve ever been. Outside, the Intersect and his handler realize that they make a great team together and walk in the door all smiles. This Thanksgiving miracle leads Morgan to immediately pray for others (including a flying Delorean), while Ellie takes her brother aside to ask about Jill. He tells her that she came back to town and tried to make things work, but that they just weren’t going to because Jill and Stanford were a part of Chuck’s past, not his present.

I’m seriously impressed with the way Chuck has reinvigorated its storytelling this season, and I can only hope that people keep watching and giving this show the attention it deserves.

The Husband:

I have to say…I’m actually a little disappointed. Not in the actual episode, because it was a great finale to the three-episode Jill arc, and definitely not with the whole carnival setting. (If you want me to pay attention to anything, set it at a carnival. I am that easy to please.)

Easy to please, but much harder to kill.

Easy to please, but much harder to kill.

What I’m disappointed in is how the show stayed strictly in its pre-established settings, including the Buy More, the Castle and Chez Bartowski. At the end of the last episode, Jill and Chuck were driving out-of-town, so I was ready this week for a major battle, both intellectually and physically, between Sarah/Casey and Jill/Fulcrum, in a brand new setting. It seemed like a natural progression of the story, a third-act free-for-all, a step outside the show’s comfort zone in order to see if they are capable of doing it. (They are capable. Remember the Stanford-set episode from s1?) It’s always nice to shake things up every once in a while – not too often, because then you have this year’s pain-in-the-ass season of Heroes – and it would have really upped the stakes.

So by returning to the Chuck world almost immediately, the tension was lowered by a certain amount, tension that they could have really cooked into something even better. Thank God that the actual episode kept twisting and turning, and that the Buy More was included in the spy plot. (My only real gripe with Chuck is that sometimes the Buy More feels unnecessary and superfluous.)

Now let’s get a series of three-episode arcs, and not just ones created for sweeps.

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