January 2009

The Husband:

Thursday night marked the final session of American Idol auditions, and we were privileged to view two locations in one. The first was New York City, which gave us 26 more Golden Tickets (rock that shit, NYC), and the second was Puerto Rico with…nine Golden Tickets. (How do you say “OH NOES!” in Spanish? Is there a Spanish LOLcats translator engine? Whatever. Just picture Fred Armisen hitting a drum and saying “Ay, dios miiiiiiiio…”)

So 35 GTs for the night, and yet in my last post I had counted that there were only 33 GTs left. Now, it’s more likely that I just misheard/miscounted during the previous shows (perhaps even tonight), but I prefer to think it’s a conspiracy to fuck with my mind. What accounted for those two extra tickets? The elvin magic of Seacrest. Where did they go? Josiah Leming and his monstrous ego.

Now onto the notes!

  • In all honesty, thank you so much, Idol director, for the West Side Story tribute in discussing both of tonight’s locations, even if it was pretty forced.
  • No matter how bad the episode (which it wasn’t, btw), at least we got to listen to orchestrations of both Bernstein and Gershwin. Rock those classic American standards, y’all glorious dead Jews.
  • In continuation of calling out interesting and/or funny jobs on the show in ridiculous ways, I continue with “FORMER” BANK TELLER! What an awkward several minutes as Simon tries to get the failed auditioner’s job back. How presumptuous, contestant.
  • Speaking of the “FORMER” BANK TELLER, I didn’t even realize she was singing Dreamgirls until the chorus.
  • I wholeheartedly welcome a multilingual Idol winner. How positively American.
  • WAITRESS AT ‘50s CAFÉ! How oddly specific. Was “waitress” not good enough?
  • In their introduction to beautiful short-haired African-American singer Melinda Camille, the show loudly played Hair’s “Age of Aquarius” in reasons confusing to me. Is general positivity about life an inherently hippie-ish quality? I would just call that “being happy.”

    Girl, you let that sunshine in!

    Girl, you let that sunshine in!

  • And speaking of Ms. Camille, girl, if you make it to the semifinals, do not grow out your hair. You’re gorgeous and unique, so don’t let the Man get you down.
  • Another sign that it’s a good episode no matter what? Playing songs from both The Darkness and Chris Isaak in the same segment. It’s a show after my own heart.
  • Rat hug!
  • GuyPod was brilliant. He was like a Tom Green bit gone horribly wrong.
  • NORMAN GENTLE” is a job?
  • Patricia Lewis Roman is just a good name, singing voice or not. All of her album names could be references to ancient times.

Aaand…that’s it. I have nothing more. It was a silly episode without much substance, so I guess that’s all I could muster up.

The Wife:

  • I did nothing but laugh at Idol’s attempt to link NYC and San Juan through that West Side Story montage. I kept thinking of the West Side Story segment of Animaniacs featuring the Goodfeathers, where the “I Want to Be in America” sequence is about how only the Goodfeathers get to perch on the statue of Martin Scorsese in Central Park. You know what else I thought of? This scene in Camp, where In The Heights‘ Robin DeJesus realizes his parents didn’t come to his performance of Romeo & Juliet like they said they would so he starts doing Maria’s monologue when she realizes Tony is dead. (Killer, killer, killer, killer, killer!) Yeah, I giggled for about five minute straight.
  • Uh, Paula? I’m pretty sure that everyone sings the same way, no matter what language they’re singing in.
  • Melinda Camille! I second my husband’s sentiments about growing out your hair if you make it onto the show! DON’T DO IT! He and I feel similarly about women with short hair, and there is nothing I love more than a gorgeous African-American girl who can pull off having a shaved head.

The Husband:

Due to returning home at a very late hour thanks to seeing Adele in concert last night, my wife and I did not watch any television, and even my own foray into the boob tube – Wednesday night’s episode of The Real World (really digging this season so far, by the way) – was cut short by a faulty DVR that only recorded 25 minutes of a 60-minute show. Oh well.

To make up for the absence of posts (no Private Practice, no special Thursday edition of American Idol), here’s the last two episodes of My Name Is Earl, a post made easier by the fact that it was a two-parter.

Another week, another list item. (Well, Earl takes a side project in eliminating #182 – played tetherball with Randy’s face.) This time it’s #31 – ruined Joy’s chance to be on TV. Her whole life, Joy wanted nothing more than to be a celebrity, and coinciding with her trailer park upbringing, she finally sees her opportunity in Fear Factor. Making a tape of herself eating bugs and doing dumbass stunts, she thinks she’s perfect for the show, but Earl (pre-karma) ends up using the videotape for shotgun practice and lies about sending it in. Ever since then, Joy has been distraught about not being accepted, leaving her to wonder if her asshole grandma was right when she said that Joy would never amount to anything.

“My granny may have been a drunk, racist monster, but she was a good judge of character.” – Joy

Suddenly Earl hears about a new project, a popular televised talent show that is now holding special auditions that week in Camden. The show? The incredibly named Estrada Or Nada.

There is no better joke about this picture than the picture itself.

There is no better joke about this picture than the picture itself.

It’s one of these episodes of Earl that makes me love it despite some of its flaws, because had I described the plot of the two-parter to a regular person, they’d think I was losing my mind. Case in point – Estrada Or Nada. You show up to the audition and do your specialty act, and Brian Dunkleman, the host of the show, is there to see if you should go onto the main show or not. The main show, as you may have guessed, is going up against actor Erik Estrada, where he will view your talent and then do a similar talent but much, much better and with far more suave, Latino charm. Because Estrada is better than you, and he knows it.

The whole town wants to audition, though, so Joy has to make her talent extra-special.

“Man, I haven’t seen a line this long in Camden since the opening day of the methadone clinic.” – Darnell

Finally getting onstage, Joy does a pretty mediocre act involving her contorting her body, hopping around and poorly singing a pop standard. She is rejected outright with all cameras pointed at her, so she attacks Brian Dunkleman. Before nearly beating him to death, Darnell comes onstage and intervenes.

Here’s the big problem – regular viewers of the show know that Darnell, for reasons unknown, is in the Witness Protection Program, and that Darnell isn’t even his real name. Unfortunately, by pulling Joy off of the Dunk, millions of people saw his face during the audition special of Estrada Or Nada. This means only one thing – a new identity, and now that he’s married to Joy and has two sons with her, they have to come along, too.

Earl, of course, knows that it’s his duty to fix this, and when he finds out that Joy has become a mini-celebrity for beating the shit out of Dunkleman, and she has been invited to the real show to make an appearance, he has to track her down, which proves difficult.

But Catalina has an idea. Just as she entered Camden, so too shall they exit Camden. Meaning? In a box. Because, through a series of connections and government protection points, Joy and Darnell are still receiving their mail, even if nobody knows the real address.

But where are Joy, Darnell and the children? Well, they’re still training to be their new personalities – the Rosensteins, a Jewish family from Columbus, Ohio. Joy is not really big on de-glamming herself into bespectacled, ratty dark-haired Phyllis Rosenstein (who makes clothes for dogs as a career).

“It’s like you took an episode of The Swan and ran it backwards!” – Joy

She hopes, instead, to become Goldilocks “Goldie” Cristal, especially since she can’t sew for shit, but this plan is clearly shot down.

“Only thing I ever sewed was my stab wound on prom night!” – Joy

Soon, though, the family takes on their personas better, leading to the following two little bits of dialogue incroyable.

Kids: “Shalom, dad!”

Darnell: “Shalom, boys!”

“I’m gonna snip off the tip of my penis tomorrow.” – Darnell

When Joy finally gets wind of her requested appearance on Estrada Or Nada, though, she makes her way to the studio, where she surprisingly does very well up against Estrada, so much so that the challenge has to go several rounds. Finally, she one-ups him with what Earl describes as the following: “dressing a dog while talking in Hebrew with a follow-up trivia question about Ohio.”

She looks just like Hope Davis in American Splendor, no?

She looks just like Hope Davis in American Splendor, no?

Estrada defeated, he gives Joy props, and though Darnell is happy for Joy, they still have to leave town to avoid whoever is out to get Darnell. Joy, despite all of her time in Camden, loves Darnell enough to go with him wherever he needs to be, and the episode ends with them skipping town.

A lot of people don’t like this show when it changes things up, but if you’ve read even one of my Earl entries, you’d know I’m the exact opposite. I loved it when Earl was in prison and I loved it when he was in a coma, because it allowed the rest of the cast to carry on his tasks, thus recognizing the wonderful ensemble nature of the show. Joy and Darnell will be back, and I’m fascinated as to what is going to happen to them next.

A few other assorted goodies from the two-parter:

  • “It’s harder to follow her when she’s not chewing gum.” – Darnell on Joy
  • “Shoot, I can’t remember the sign for “cheese crunchies.” – Darnell
  • “Change the channel! Celebrity Rehab is on!” – Joy
  • “Cool! Darnell’s got a hairphone!” – Randy
  • The little person who auditioned for Estrada Or Nada dressed up as Ponch, calling himself MicroCHIPs

The Wife:

After enduring “Restaurant Bores” last week, I’m glad Top Chef provided me with an episode that was actually entertaining. I liked the idea of the cheftestants battling head to head with the All-Stars in an Iron Chef/cooking demo hybrid. Watching the chefs try to smack-talk their way through their prep sessions was great, and actually a nice look into the kind of playful camaraderie of the kitchen that Top Chef‘s contestants often lack. I base my entire knowledge of how professional kitchens work solely on the writings of Anthony Bourdain, by the way. And a little bit from his friend Gabrielle Hamilton. Both of these writers speak of the kitchen as a place of playful camaraderie where, on the line, in the middle of a dinner rush, the cooks are very serious about their work, but entertain themselves during the shift by teasing and egging on their companions. If you’re moving too slow on the grill, someone will call you a conjo or tell you that they know you can suck dick faster than you can pan fry a skate wing, and, maybe, they’ll insinuate that your mother is also prone to that similar proclivity. It’s a name-calling game that, like playing the dozens, calls on its participants to prove their mettle, both at firing off snappy comebacks and firing dishes in a timely manner. So seeing this kind of playful trash-talk enter the Top Chef kitchen was a nice change of pace from the often austere working conditions we usually see on this show. (I get that these guys are working with people who aren’t their usual crew, but, still, you’d think they could have a little bit of fun on the job, eh?)

But before that glorious contest of braggadocio began, the cheftestants had to participate in their requisite Quickfire Challenge, brought to you by Padma Lakshmi, Scott Conant of Scarpetta restaurant and Quaker Oats. Each chef was asked to create a dish showcasing one food group . . . paired with Quaker Oats in a new and surprising way. Padma designed who would get what food group by asking chefs to blindly choose squares on some football-type board that I didn’t understand at all because I am, how you say, not so sportif. Jamie got fruit, Leah got seafood, Hosea got meats, Fabio got veggies, Jeff got poultry, Carla got nuts and grains and Stefan got dairy. You know, there are some things I like oats with, and some things I do not. For many of these dishes, I would say that they fell into the latter category:

The Quickfire Dishes

  • Jamie: coconut and oat crusted shrimp with fresh fruit salsa
  • Hosea: weinerschnizel with warm potato salad
  • Fabio: oat-crusted eggplant, stuffed with an array of veggies that did not need to be there because nothing could fix that over-oated eggplant shell
  • Stefan: banana mousse with oatmeal and oatmeal petit fours, which I might argue is oatmeal’s natural habitat
  • Carla: nut-crusted tofu with salad
  • Leah: oat-flour crusted sea bass (I think. I actually just wrote down the word “seafood” instead of the actual fish)
  • Jeff: fried chicken pollard and fried zucchini and grits
Seriously, Fabio, what the fuck were you thinking?

Seriously, Fabio, what the fuck were you thinking?

Scott Conant disliked Leah, Fabio and Jeff’s dishes, and rightfully so. Jeff’s overly-fried everything was just too heavy. You know why? Because frying oats makes them way more substantial than any fried thing should be. Fried stuff is supposed to be light, and that’s why Jamie’s lightly crusted shrimp worked, but Jeff’s many fried things didn’t. Another person who shouldn’t have crusted stuff in oats was Fabio, who simply didn’t know what to do with vegetables because he’s so much happier cooking all the delicious meats in the world. Clearly, he doesn’t have Jack Bishop’s totally awesome Italian vegetarian cookbook, because there are so many great parts of the Italian diet that don’t have to have meat. Although, in fairness to Fabio, you know what definitely isn’t part of the Italian diet? Oats. Seriously, we do not really work with oats. Flour and cornmeal, yes, but oats? Not so much. Not even for breakfast. When I lived in Italy, my breakfast was a hard roll dunked into a cappuccino, or, strangely, when I was living with Illaria, a bowl of Mulino Bianco Gioccioli cookies in milk. (Best factory processed cookies in the world are Mulino Bianco anything. Pepperidge Farm can suck Mulino Bianco’s cock.) Either way, not oats. As for Leah, I think her dish failed because she cooked in oat flour and general malaise. Man, I can’t wait until she’s gone.

The challenge’s successes included Carla’s nut-tofu, which, frankly, as a vegetarian I would never order at a restaurant. I’m not into tofu steaks. I much prefer eating it in a stir-fry, soup or noodle dish than trying to pretend that I want to cut and eat it as though it is supposed to be on par with a meat steak. Also praised were Jamie’s lightly-crusted shrimp and Stefan’s exploration of oatmeal’s natural habitat. Conant picked Stefan as the winner because you can’t argue with nature, but I would have given the challenge to Jamie for managing to take a cumbersome ingredient and make it look like it belonged with the food she made.

Stefan didn’t win immunity, but instead got the right to choose his opponent in the Elimination Challenge, a head-to-head cook-off against seven of the show’s All-Stars: bromance Spike and Andrew from season 4, season 4’s Nikki, season 3’s Camille, season 2’s Josie and season 1’s Andrea and Miguel. Each cheftestant would pair-off against a rival and cook a dish inspired by the regional cuisine of several NFL teams: the Dallas Cowboys, the Miami Dolphins, the Green Bay Packers, the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers, the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints. The cook-off would be limited to dishes that could be fully prepared in 20 minutes with ingredients provided by the Top Chef kitchen specific to each region. Furthermore, the cook off would take place in a real demo kitchen at the Institute of Culinary Education in front of an audience of totally jazzed culinary students. (Seriously, I bet anyone who skipped class that day is totally kicking themselves.)

Stefan, trying to strategize by picking an opponent he knew didn’t last very long into her season, chose Andrea, known for her vegetarian cuisine, hoping she wouldn’t fare well in a challenge celebrating the cuisine of Texas. Jeff chose Miami and got to cook off against Josie, who I’m glad has taken the hate crime that was perpetrated against her in stride. Fabio chose Green Bay and faced off against Spike, while Hosea, the seafood chef, went with Seattle and got paired against Miguel. Leah chose the New York Giants, because New York doesn’t have its own cuisine, she figured, so she could make whatever and wouldn’t have to give a shit about it, and cooked against Nikki. Hometown girl Jamie rightfully chose San Francisco, because she knew we’d murder her upon her return if she didn’t, and got to cook against Camille, who I do not remember at all from season 3. Carla, reppin’ the South, chose N’awlins and cooked against her favorite chef Andrew.

Youre all on time out.

You're all on time out.

Padma then told the chefs that any person on the home team who lost their culinary battle was eligible for elimination. At the challenge itself, Padma dressed up like a sexy referee and announced that the four judges would award a 7-point touchdown to the chef whose dish they liked most, with a 3-point field goal up for grabs based on the majority opinion of five audience tasters. If the judges were deadlocked, the full 10 points would be awarded to whomever the audience tasters gave the field goal to. The highest score at the end of each battle would get an automatic win and whichever team at the end of the seven battles had the most points, won the whole shebang. Here’s me trying to be sporty by giving all the battles cutesy nicknames!

Battle 1: Leah vs. Nikki in the New York Knockout
Leah cooked a seared strip steak with creamed corn and snap peas, while Nikki prepared seared chicken livers with goat cheese and some other stuff on challah, which she mispronounced. The judges awarded Leah 7 points, while the 3-point field goal went to Nikki.

Battle 2: Hosea vs. Miguel in the Battle for Seattle
Miguel created a cedar plank salmon with noodley bits, while Hosea prepared an amazingly intricate crispy salmon egg roll with a ginger-blackberry sauce. Hosea took home the full 10 points.

Battle 3: Carla vs. Andrew in the Bayou Crawdad Brawl
Andrew put on the worst Cajun accent I have ever heard and made a crayfish crudo with a vinaigrette. Carla, instead, made a 20-minute crawfish and andouille gumbo over grits. Her Southern authenticity won her 7 points, while Andrew got the 3-point field goal. (For those who don’t know, crawdads, crayfish and crawfish are all the same thing. They are also called mudbugs and a variety of other names, depending on where you’re from.)

Battle 4: Andrea vs. Stefan in the Dallas Death Match
Stefan tried to make a duo of grilled meats over cold salads, while Andrea went for a tried and true Tex Mex chili with chipotles, earning her the full 10 points and completely shutting out Stefan, which is well deserved, considering that what he made didn’t say Dallas at all.

Battle 5: Jamie vs. Camille in the Frisco Fish Fight
Hometown girl Jamie made a crab cioppino, a North Beach staple, while her opponent made a sweet potato and miso mash with crab meat, which I guess is a nod to the city’s Japanese population. Jamie took home the full 10 points, and I am going to write her a letter that explains how to actually pronounce cioppino. It isn’t see-o-pino, it’s cha-pino. “Ci” is “cha” in Italian. The faster she learns this, the fast she can avoid having a hit put on her by North Beach restaurateurs.

Battle 6: Jeff vs. Josie in the Miami Meltdown
Josie made a warm rock shrimp ceviche with papaya, which offended challenger Jeff because he would never serve a warm ceviche if his life depended on it. He made a cold rock shrimp ceviche with sangria sorbet. Josie took home the full 10 points, despite how much Tom Colicchio liked Jeff’s sorbet.

Battle 7: Fabio vs. Spike in the Green Bay Grudge Match
Spike created a five-spice seared venison, with no Wisconsin cheddar at all. Fabio made a venison with mustard sauce and a really odd cheddar cheese salad. Spike took home 7 points, while Fabio got the 3-point field goal.

Oh, Spike, I miss contestants with your weird energy and culinary boners.

Oh, Spike, I miss contestants with your weird energy and culinary boners.

Overall, the home team of season five’s cheftestants won the game, but Fabio, Stefan and Jeff are instantly in the bottom due to their losses. Thanks to all the time the editing room spent on Fabio, spouting out far too many Fabioisms to write down, I was pretty sure he was a goner at this point. Seriously, Fabio, what’s with you and monkey assholes? You seem to mention serving them a lot. Winningest chefs Jamie, Carla, Hosea and Leah were called to Judges’ Table where, oddly, Carla is actually awarded a win and given two tickets to the Super Bowl, which I’m sure her football-loving husband and stepson will enjoy very much. Someone owes Hooty-Hoo some hot hooty action. I don’t know what that entails, and I don’t want to know.

The judges surprised me once again by sending Jeff off to pack his knives and go. As far as skill and execution go, I knew there was no way they’d part with Stefan, and I am really shocked that they ousted Jeff over Fabio. I love Fabio, I do. I think he is supremely entertaining, but his food is not up to Jeff’s level. Many of the dishes Fabio creates may end up tasting good, but lack the artful presentation of his other competitors. Sometimes, I think his idea of what goes together on a plate gets lost in translation. I’ve been in many Italian restaurants and homes in Italy where food comes out looking exactly like Fabio’s. This is not to say that it’s at all bad (although those eggplant things were a fucking atrocity), it’s just not very elegant or elevated. Fabio’s had two bad Quickfires in a row now and he’s never actually won a cooking challenge. Jeff may not have had these wins either, but his food was consistently better looking and more complex than Fabio’s. It’s a close call between the two of them, but its pretty evident to me that Fabio the Italian Stallion stayed around this week because he has a bigger, brighter personality than Jeff does. Jeff’s kind of prickly. So, sorry Jesse Spencer. I guess you can go back to being on House now, while Fabio is free to roam the Top Chef kitchen, babbling about cooking monkey assholes or some such nonsense.

The Wife:

I get the feeling that Lost is slowing down its pace a little bit to guide us through the time travel, which is fine by me. It’ll help me recover the pieces of my blown mind when they drop game-changing revelations like the fact that Charles Widmore was of the “original” Others back in 1954. I’m hesitant to call them the “original” Others, because I don’t know how many other Others there may have been prior to the group we’ve come to know and love. So maybe I’ll just call them Retro Others.

On the island, the Retro Others capture Farraday, Miles and Charlotte, thinking that they’re American military. Their captor, a cute Army babe that’s a cross between AnnaLynne McCord and Mitzi Gaynor, Ellie, delivers a cryptic, “You just couldn’t stay away, could you?” to Farraday, which made me think that she’d known him before somehow. However, that thought quickly proved to be erroneous when the Retro Others take the group back to their camp and find one ageless Richard Alpert. Alpert and the Retro others think that the group is American military (“I assume you’ve come back for your bomb.”), completely unaware that, in the future, Alpert will know of these people and constantly survey them. Upon hearing that the others have a big giant bomb that could detonate at any second, Farraday decides to go along with the ruse, asking Alpert to let him fix their hydrogen bomb to prevent the whole lot of Retro Others from dying of radiation poisoning. Alpert asks why he should trust him, and Farraday replies that he can be trusted because he loves Charlotte and wouldn’t let any harm come to her.

Dont worry man, everythings gonna be fine! I know cuz Im from the future!

Don't worry man, everything's gonna be fine! I know cuz I'm from the future!

Meanwhile, Locke, Sawyer and Juliet are busy prodding their captors for information. The Army folk speak to each other in Latin, which alerts Juliet to the fact that they, like her, are Others. Previously, I had thought these mystery captors might have been Dharma based on the uniforms, but no, those shadows obscured the fact that they are indeed Retro Others. Once again, I’m forced to wonder why J.J. Abrams and his gang are so thoroughly convinced that Latin is a decent secret language. He pulled this over on Fringe in “The Ghost Network.” I thought it was ineffective then, and I still think it’s ineffective. In fact, I think it’s even more ineffective considering that this Latinate code language tradition started with the Retro Others back in the 50s. You know, a time when Latin was actually still taught in schools. Especially schools in England, where these Retro Others seem to originate. In short, lots of people are familiar with Latin. Especially in the 50s. This is a terrible code language. Esperanto would have made much more sense. Juliet talks to the Retro Others in their terrible code language and asks them to take them all back to their camp, dropping Richard Alpert’s name. They agree, which gets Locke’s wheels turning about finding out from Retro Alpert exactly how he can save the island, a conversation that never quite got finished because of the bright white flashes of sky.

On orders from Alpert, Ellie takes Farrady out to the bomb so that he can dismantle that big giant Jughead. After reading Doc Jensen’s column about Lost and its meaningful names yesterday, I can honestly say that I was not expecting the titular Jughead to be a bomb. Jensen wrote some pretty crazy ass shit about the importance of Archie comic’s Jughead in time travel theory, as Jughead himself once had a spin-off comic where he was a sort of time cop, so I thought perhaps the titular Jughead would be somehow involved with time travel . . . and while the bomb is sort of indicative of time travel, this is definitely not what I would have expected. Farraday inspects the bomb and finds a leak in the casing. He asks Ellie for some lead or concrete to seal the leak, and she immediately becomes suspicious of his intentions, inquiring as to how Farraday knows for certain that if the bomb is sealed and buried it won’t go off. Left with no choice, Farraday drops the bomb (figuratively) on Ellie that, 50 years in the future, the island is still there. And he and his friends know because they are, in fact, from the future.

Locke, meanwhile, gets his audience with Alpert, who, just as Alpert predicted when they last spoke at the biplane, does not remember Locke. (How could he? He technically hasn’t met him yet.) Alpert really doesn’t like the fact that Locke proclaims himself to be the appointed leader of the Others, explaining that there is a very specific way in which the Others choose their leadership. Suddenly, all of our suspicions from “Cabin Fever” about Alpert’s visits to little Locke and the test he administers make complete sense. Locke gives Alpert the compass he had given to Locke in their last meeting. Alpert doesn’t really know why he’s getting this object and is still dubious about Locke’s claims to leadership. Locke tells him, after finding out the year, that he will be born in two years and that Alpert should come visit him. This totally explains everything about why Alpert showed up after Locke’s birth and why, several years later, he was so thoroughly upset that John Locke did not choose the compass, the item that belonged to him already, effectively meaning that Alpert took all this time and effort to believe the man he met in 1954 and was, essentially, proven wrong when young Locke didn’t pass the test.

I thought the compass metaphorically belonged to Locke already, but no, Alpert very literally meant that the compass had indeed previously been in John Locke’s possession. Alpert needed to give Locke this item when they met at the biplane in order to continue the appropriate course of destiny. The compass was always Locke’s, he just didn’t know it yet. But just as Locke and Alpert make some progress in their conversation, the bright white sky flashes and, suddenly, Camp Retro Otherton and all of its Retro Others are gone. Poor Locke. Finding out how to save the island is not going to be easy.

Off the island, the narrative was dedicated entirely to Desmond. Penny has borne him a son, who I figured would be called Charlie, but was still incredibly moved to hear Desmond say so. The whole family sails around on their totally sweetles sailboat and avoids Grandpa Widmore, and they’ve been just peachy until Farraday surfaces in Desmond’s memory and instructs him to go to Oxford and find Mother Farraday. Penny isn’t too keen on the Hume family sailing back to Jolly Old England, but Des promises her that they’ll be in and out of port within a day and Granddaddy Widmore won’t even know they’re there.

I love Des so, so much and I’m glad this episode was balanced between crazy Retro Otherton stuff with Farraday and his constant, Desmond. Yet another reason in the long list of reasons to love Desmond David Hume: the story he tells little Charlie about England and Scotland, how Scotland’s the best part of Great Britain and how London, that shining city on the Thames, is where his mummy and daddy met and fell in love. I’m jealous that little Charlie gets to sail everywhere and see the world, but it made me a little sad that Charlie lives a very rootless existence. Nevertheless, that was a very sweet bedtime story and I teared up a little bit. I heart Desmond.

So Desmond leaves the safety of his boat and sets off to Oxford in search of Farraday’s mum. The folks at the Oxford library have no record of a Daniel Farraday, however, and, unfortunately, cannot get any closer to finding him without knowing the year in which Desmond last visited. Certain that he did meet Farraday, Des wanders around the hallowed halls until he finds what he remembers to be Farraday’s lab. The door has been sealed for “fumigation,” but Des breaks in and finds the remnants of Farraday’s things, dismantled and covered in white sheets. Even Eloise’s maze is no longer in use. After a few minutes of uninterrupted searching, a janitor interrupts and tells Des that Farraday’s lab had to be shut down and his records expunged from Oxford’s files when something terrible happened to some poor girl named Theresa Spencer. Desmond heads to Theresa Spencer’s house and is told that she isn’t home by her sister Abigail. Desmond mentions that he was sent there on behalf of Daniel Farraday, and Abigail lets him in where he sees Theresa, presumably unconscious and in a hospital bed, a place she’s been unmoved for several years in the care of one Charles Widmore, who assumed financial responsibility for Farraday’s research after Theresa’s accident.

And what exactly happened to Theresa? We don’t know for sure, but I am relatively certain that it’s the same thing happening to Charlotte Staples Lewis, who, after the island’s latest white sky flash, collapsed with the bloodiest nose we’ve seen her display in some time. I believe that Theresa may have suffered from the same sort of time travel sickness as Charlotte now does, but, rather that outright killing her as the sickness did to Fisher Stevens, it somehow made her mind slip away into the chasm of time. She is still alive, physically, but because her mind, like the minds of Farraday’s lab rats, is traveling through time, she is lost to the world. Not entirely brain dead, I don’t think, but definitely in a kind of coma.

Upon hearing the name of his hated father-in-law, Desmond realizes that he must break his promise to Penny and drop in on dear old dad if he’s to find Mama Farraday. Desmond tells Widmore that he will stay out of his life forever if he can answer some questions about Farraday, specifically, where his mother is located. Widmore will only divulge this information if he is assured of Penny’s safety, and Desmond lets Widmore know that his daughter is, indeed, safe. Widmore tells Des that Farraday’s mum is in L.A. and that she’s a very private person so she may not take kindly to seeing Des. Widmore warns Des to deliver his message to Mama Farraday and then to get out of the fray in order to protect Penny.

Desmond returns to his wife and child and tells them that it’s all over, that Mama Farraday died some years ago, but Penny knows he’s lying. Heeding Widmore’s warning and fearing that if he continues down this path, he will lose Penny again, perhaps permanently, Des tells her that he’s done trying to help Farraday. Penny knows that Des can’t and shouldn’t give up this quest, and she announces that she and little Charlie will be sailing to Los Angeles with Des to deliver Farraday’s message.

As for the identity of Farrday’s mother, I am now certain that it is Mrs. Hawking. Many people thought this long before I did, especially when they saw her in all her mystical robes trying to scientifically calculate the whereabouts of the island, but I’m sure of it now. We know Farraday’s mom is in L.A. and we know Hawking is there working for Ben. It seems like a good fit, especially because in “Flashes Before Your Eyes,” we know that Hawking also has a stake in the mystical role of one Desmond David Hume.

However, I think there’s another twist to this. I think that Retro Other Ellie, for whom we are not given a last name and should note that, aside from Retro Other Charles Widmore, she is the only Retro Other not wearing a jacket that identifies her by her last name, will grow up to be Mrs. Hawking. I think this for a couple of reasons, the first of which being that Lost has a way of paying homage to names. (See little Charlie, for instance.) It would make sense that, after meeting a man named Daniel who claims to be a time traveler, Ellie might name her own son after a man with such an astonishing destiny. Furthermore, we know that Farraday’s lab rat in “The Constant” is named Eloise, which sounds similar to Ellie. Hell, Ellie might even be a nickname for Eloise, meaning that Farraday named his experimental rat after his own mum. People tend to name things that they’re going to be close to names they like, or names they find significant. It makes sense to me that he might name his rat after or in homage to his mother, in the same way that Frasier Crane’s mother named him and his brother Niles after a pair of rats she fondly observed in her behavioral psychology practice. (I didn’t think I could find a way to reference Frasier on Lost, but I did it. It cannot be undone.)

My pick for the eventual Mama Farraday.

Ellie No-Last-Name: My pick for the eventual Mama Farraday.

All in all, this was a really tight episode. And the best part about it, actually, was that it wasn’t cluttered with any of the Oceanic 6. It had balanced stories that furthered the plot with nothing extraneous and still managed to provide us with a fair number of unanswered questions about which to theorize. This one was solid, and I am satisfied to know that Widmore was a Retro Other, which, I think, gives him a good motivation for wanting to get back to the island and explains some of his interest in it. I’m sure we will hear a lot more about Charles Widmore as the season progresses, because even that revelatory fact leaves a lot to fill in between that I cannot hazard to guess at.

The Husband:

And now it’s time for Salt Lake City, Utah!

Actually, I’m not too excited about SLC. It did lead to the very awesome movie SLC Punk, but aside from that, it is responsible for that wheezy little bastard David Archuleta. But on the plus side, its family-focused and polite culture does often lead to people using more showtunes as their audition songs, and that’s always a good thing.

Here are some of my notes:

  • No, Archuleta! No! [Clearly I saw his face and had flashbacks to screaming tweens.]
  • Dammit, Idol! Stop using the cold open to tell me what I’m about to see! I’m watching it already. That’s why I DVRed the damn thing.
  • “Shiny Happy People”? More like “Shiny Crazy Mormons.” [I grew up in a religion-less house with a slight bit of my father’s Jewish agnosticism and then ended up going to Catholic school for 10 years, so I tend to kind of be more confused than anything else regarding Mormon doctrine.]
  • Ack! Osmonds everywhere!
  • Speaking of Osmonds and MS, can we have Wheelchair Idol next year? … Sorry, I’m probably going to hell for that, but it couldn’t be any worse than the short-lived American Juniors.
  • *sigh* Okay. I like David Osmond. A lot. If I could get past Brooke White’s Mormonism, I can certainly get around his. [I was going to ask where her album was, but apparently it’s already out. Time to bust out the credit card.]
  • Wow. Paula actually dropped some music knowledge during an audition this week. Usually it’s all about feelings.
  • Tara’s audition of “One Day I’ll Fly Away” actually made me like Nicole Kidman’s singing voice more. I usually skip over that track on the CD and space out when watching the movie.
  • I definitely need that “Hippity Hop” song that accompanied the Bunny Man.

    Sorry, I thought this was an open audition for Harvey.

    Sorry, I thought this was an open audition for Harvey.

  • Simon feeds on your pain, contestants! How dare you nicely and politely accept his rejection of you!
  • Megan Corkrey = Sweet-ass ‘tats
  • I keep waiting for Rhonda Volmer to show up and out-evil Simon.
  • Rose Flack is an awesome name. Not so awesome? Having both parents die by the time you’re 15.

13 Golden Tickets given out in SLC. That leaves 33 for New York and Puerto Rico, and seeing as how everyone who worked on Idol has mentioned how much of a failure Puerto Rico was, I’m hoping for NYC to take nearly all of those tickets. Since most of the Idol winners have been Southerners – and nobody north of the Mason-Dixon Line or from a major metropolis or any coastal town, I’m really pulling for a Blue State win. Just to shake things up.

The Wife:

  • I am deeply concerned with the amount of young mothers at the Utah auditions. It is totally cool to be a stay-at-home-mom and totally cool to be a mom, but the sheer volume of these moms under the age of 23 mostly made me feel kind of sad for these girls. I am sure they love their babies and, with the exception of about-to-be-divorced Megan Corkrey, their husbands, but I wonder if had any other aspirations and dreams besides motherhood or if the idea of growing up, finding a husband and starting a very large family was the only thing people told them they should be doing.
  • Everyone in Utah is really good looking, but they all look the same . . .
  • . . . except for Tara the Goth, who has no idea what she actually looks like because if she did, she would have chosen a more flattering Goth-fit.
    Just because everything here came from Hot Topic doesn't mean it actually goes together.

    Just because everything here came from Hot Topic doesn't mean it actually goes together.

  • I have never seen a piece of architecture tattooed as beautifully as the old Victorian house at the top of Megan Corkrey’s sleeve. I WILL HAVE A TATTOOED IDOL, GODDAMN IT! I MISS CARLY SMITHSON!
  • I really liked Rose Flack, and I am certain that if Francesca Lia Block ever gets around to shopping her film adaptation of her young adult novel Violet and Claire, Rose would be perfect for the role of Claire. If there are elvin pixie folk living amongst us, Rose Flack is certainly one of them.

The Husband:

After a week off due to, what else, the inauguration, Scrubs is back with two new episodes. (It’s tough for me when this show misses a week. I’m so used to it on the verge of getting canceled year-after-year on NBC that even now that it’s on ABC, its absence gives my stomach that sinking sensation. Hopefully that’ll wear off soon.) And while I’m not entirely positive about a potential spin-off and/or continuation of the series with a whole new set of interns, I do appreciate getting to know them in such depth this season. It’s sort of a more confident but mildly less funny version of Scrubs’ first season, and that’s a nice approach for this show.

8.5 “My ABCs”

In the first episode, J.D. begins imagining Muppets everywhere for no reason other than the show is now on ABC (and Muppets are awesome), being yet another fantasy that mirror his own id. These rascally creatures aren’t in the episode enough for my tastes (put any kind of Muppet show or movie on the television and I will sit and watch until it’s done), merely making cameos, but it did lead to such gems as The Todd’s new “Grover Five,” The Janitor finding a new friend in Oscar The Grouch (although he cannot, unfortunately, keep his eyes open as long as the Grouch) and J.D. posing the following question after Elmo hits on intern Denise.

“What is Elmo? A seal?” – J.D.

In the real central stories, each of our main doctors starts mentoring their respective interns. Elliot gets the two-faced kiss-ass Katie, Turk takes on the immature and lazy but bright Ed and J.D. continues his quest to make the cold and cruel Denise have more empathy for her patients. By the end, Elliot realizes that Katie secretly has no respect for her, Turk realizes that he’s being sexist in selecting one of the interns for a special research project (technically, he picked Ed for the project because Ed signed his name in multiple colors thanks to one of those sweet chunky multi-color pens) and J.D. realizes that he sometimes puts too much of his feelings in his work. (Or is that the next episode? The J.D.-Denise drama has been bleeding through several episodes.)

That Elmo! He tickles me so!

That Elmo! He tickles me so!

Other than the Muppet appearances, I don’t know how much was really exemplary about the episode, but I like Scrubs specifically for the fact that it doesn’t always try to strive for the biggest joke, and is willing to sacrifice some of its laughs for drama. I like Denise, I like her problems and I like her vulnerability. And while Ed hasn’t had too much to do so far this season other than just be obnoxious, I enjoyed his DJ scratching sounds.

“Sa-sa-sa-syphilis!” – Ed

Some of the other quotes I wrote down from this episode:

  • “It’s a good one! The letter’s ‘J.’” – Turk on Sesame Street
  • “Mark my words. I will zwa you by the end of the day.” – Cox
  • “Denise: I like bangin’ dudes.
    J.D.: I hear that’s nice.”

8.6 “My Cookie Pants”

A more emotionally involving episode that also managed to be far funnier than the previous one, this one finally picks up the J.D.-Elliot relationship and reveals them to be a more mature couple than they’ve been in the past seven goddamn seasons. Now, I’m definitely a J.D.-Elliot ‘shipper, but I will agree with some viewers that it has been far too much back-and-forth with too much of the same neuroses being blamed for breaking them up each time. But in this, where Elliot gets a day off from work where she can bake cookies and thus allowing her to wear her stretchy cooking pants, we see her complete attachment to the hospital, and how J.D. is now in a position to help her become more of a regular person. It’s especially difficult for Elliot to have a day off when she can’t even contact Carla, who is out of the country due to her aunt falling out of a balloon. (Hu-wha?)

J.D. has other issues to deal with at work, and that’s finally getting Denise, however slowly, to stop insulting the patients and telling them that their illnesses are really bumming her out. It’s so bad that J.D. uncharacteristically goes out of his way to insult her:

“I’ll see you tomorrow. If you’re not here, I’ll just assume that demons dragged you down to hell to chew your face off.” – J.D.

Fed up with her, he finally threatens to fire her if she doesn’t shape up, and we as viewers finally see J.D. become a truly confident doctor. No matter where the show goes after this season, this Zach Braff’s final one, so we only have less than 20 episodes to see him finally achieve his goal, which to me is to be as good of a doctor as Cox without all the self-loathing that comes with that label.

And Denise…well…she slowly begins to attain J.D.’s great amounts of empathy for his own patients.

Speaking of Cox, he has finally been offered the position of Chief of Medicine, but after being warned that it’s a soul-sucking, bureaucratic nightmare of a job that alienates one from their family, Cox gets in his own way and refuses the position. After getting a talk from Jordan and also realizing that it’s what he’s wanted for so long (and that Kelso was just trying to warn him and not outright shoo him away from the position), Cox relents and does, in fact, accept the position, fully aware of all of its drawbacks. Cox is finally making decisions as a father and a husband and not merely as a doctor, and that is his path toward redemption.

There were a lot of small gems in this episode, but my favorite (and I’m sure many others agree with me) is this final exchange between J.D. and Elliot.

“J.D.: You look amazing.

Elliot: Even in cookie pants?

J.D.: Especially in cookie pants.”

Other quotes:

  • “Elliot: Stop throwing dirty clothes at me!
    J.D.: Stop saying sexy things!”
  • “These are my muffin slacks. Bam!” – Kelso
  • “Are fraidy-cat’s ears too tiny?” – Cox to J.D.
  • “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.” – The Todd on sex

The Wife:

I noted a couple of things right away about this week‘s episode of Fringe.

1. This was the most X-Files-y cold open yet. It was old school, too. Like a cold open from seasons two and three.
2. As soon as I heard that ill-fated kid listening to The Killers’ new single “Spaceman,” I knew that someone on the Fringe production team finally got some money. This theory was confirmed when, in the very next scene at Olivia’s house, she and her sister and niece are listening to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” really loudly FOR NO GOOD REASON AT ALL. I’m glad you guys have money for incidental music not composed by Michael “The Little Ice Cube” Giacchino, but let’s use it judiciously. A kid listening to The Killers in the background of his scene? Good. That makes sense, because the music is coming from his computer and he’s talking to his friend on the phone over it. That thing with “Single Ladies”? Bad. That’s not how we do incidental music on this show. This is not a show where you can just play a pop song over the scene because you want to.

Musical gripes aside, the cold open set me up for an episode that turned out to be very different in tone than I have previously experienced with Fringe. On the whole, it was a lot . . . lighter than anything else we’ve seen before. I said the cold open reminded me of The X-Files in seasons one and two, but the rest of the episode turned out to be more like a TXF episode from seasons four and five, when the show lightened up on the Syndicate conspiracy and started letting Glenn Morgan and James Wong write as many cool, fanciful MOTW episodes as they wanted. I really didn’t expect Fringe to produce something so very like those Morgan and Wong episodes, but they did. This episode didn’t feel like Fringe at all, but I enjoyed it. But I also don’t know if this sudden change in tone is necessarily a good thing.

In the cold open, a teenager suddenly becomes mesmerized by a series of hypnotic images that pop up on his computer screen. I made a lot of Chuck-related comments about the Intersect until the kid started tearing up uncontrollably and a hand reached out of his computer screen to, uh, melt his brain. It is generally bad when anything reaches out of your computer screen, by the way. Due to the brain liquefaction, Olivia gets called in to investigate and brings the computer’s hard drive back to the lab for Astrid to play with. Slowly, the show is making Astrid into an actual character with helpful skills, and I appreciate that. She’s a linguist with a minor in computer science. I really don’t know what gets hotter than that. As labrats Walter and Astrid work on finding out what happened to the hard drive of both the victim and his computer, another victim turns up at a car dealership. His brain and computer are destroyed in exactly the same way. Astrid is unable to work with the hard drives because they are so corrupted, but she does discover that both computers downloaded a very large file before blowing up.

I'm pretty sure I didn't go to college for this.

I'm pretty sure I didn't go to college for this.

In order to find out what that file is, Peter pays a visit to one of his old criminal friends, a gambler who owns a computer repair shop. For a couple of very rare, shiny gold coins, Peter buys the man’s help. Even he can’t figure out where the “virus” is coming from due to advanced source coding on the file, but he is able to figure out where it’s headed to next: Olivia’s apartment. Olivia is busy getting ultimatums from Harris about taking the case. He’s unhappy that she’s decided to work on something that he feels rightfully belongs to the CDC. Although she can prove that there’s no pathological component at either crime scene, Harris, like Skinner in the first three seasons of The X-Files, gives her twelve hours to solve the case before he takes it away from her. When Peter calls her to tell her that the virus is headed to her apartment, she immediately fears for Rachel and Ella’s safety. While Rachel cooks in the kitchen, Ella picks up a nearby laptop to play Paint-A-Pony, a game I wish I had at work. In the middle of her pony-painting extravaganza, Ella sees the same images we saw in the cold open, but luckily, Aunt Liv comes home before the evil computer hand of doom can stretch its way out of the screen and melt Ella’s brain.

It takes a few minutes for Ella to come out of her hypnotic trance, but a doctor’s visit reveals that she’s absolutely fine. She describes a “weird, scary, glowy hand” coming out of her computer screen, which her mother writes off as a result of making too many visits to Aunt Liv’s house. Has Olivia actually told her sister the kind of cases she works? I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do when you work on top secret stuff. I can’t even chalk this up to a predilection Olivia might have for the weird and the strange because, as far as we know, she doesn’t. I mean, she’s not Spooky Fox Mulder. She’s just a regular old FBI agent who used to be a lawyer and whose lover was involved in a massive global conspiracy to do weird and strange shit. And I assume that’s all stuff Rachel shouldn’t know.

Olivia thinks that whoever sent the virus was watching the recipients through the computer, a conclusion she draws by noticing that Ella’s computer camera was turned on, even though the little girl doesn’t know how to use it. (That’s hardly evidence. I’m sure Ella is extremely computer-literate, given that she was born after 2000. And, even assuming she doesn’t know how to use the camera function, there are umpteen ways she could have accidentally turned it on.) Peter is willing to buy the fact that someone is killing people with a computer virus, but he is baffled by why someone would do that. The answer to that question doesn’t really become clear until a third victim shows up in Evanston, IL. He turns out to be the stepfather of Luke Dempsey, whose best friend died in the cold open. Luke’s father and the first victim’s father once worked together, until Luke’s father got laid off. Based on this information, Olivia brings Luke in for questioning to get at his father. After telling Luke about his father’s potential crimes, Olivia lets the kid go, hoping that he will lead her right to his father. Being 19, he does.

So off Olivia goes to follow Luke to the warehouse, without any supervision or assistance. She arrives just as Luke is grilling his dad about killing people, and the murder admits that he’s merely trying to leave his mark on the world, in traditional mad scientist jargon. He’s intentionally hurting the loved ones of people who hurt him, although there’s still no word on how the car salesman fits into this at all. When his alarm is triggered, Dempsey sends his son to try to ward off Olivia, but she evades him easily, and then gets ambushed by Dempsey himself. He sent the virus to his own computer when he heard her come in, hoping to trick his would-be assailant into melting her own brain, but Olivia is wise enough to look away. Dempsey, however, holds a gun to his head after confronting Olivia and stares at his row of screens, eventually ending his life by pulling the trigger in a trance-like state.

A disapproving Harris is waiting outside when Peter, who rushed in at the sound of gunfire, and Olivia bring Luke out. Peter can’t understand why Luke would try to protect a murderer, but Olivia simply replies that Luke did it because the murderer in question was his father. This really hits home for Peter, who throughout this episode has been struggling with his urge to protect his father when Mary Beth Piel starts contacting him. Mary Beth plays the mother of the lab assistant, Carla Warren, who died during one of Walter’s experiments 20 years ago. Mary Beth contacts Peter, hoping to talk to Walter about her daughter. Finally, Peter relents and allows MBP to visit the lab and talk to Walter. She comes not with accusations, but only with a desire to remember her daughter. She asks Walter to tell her about Carla, and he goes on to lucidly explain that he remembers Carla’s beautiful smile, and leads MBP off to share their memories of the dead girl. Realizing that Olivia was right all along, he heads over to her house to apologize.

The things that really worked for this episode were the humanizing moments about how Olivia and Peter relate to their families. Both of them are in the position of protector, but the things they need to protect are different. Here, Olivia’s relatives are actually put to good use when their lives – or, at the very least, Ella’s brain – are put at risk by her work. I’m beginning to see this other side to Olivia as natural, although I still maintain my questions from last week about whether or not Rachel was affected by drunk stepdaddy in the same way Olivia was. Peter, on the other hand, is Walter’s legal guardian, and despite his begrudging earlier in the season, he has actually grown to love knowing his father. Mary Beth Piel is a threat to that relationship and Peter can’t handle the thought of losing his father again. I’m into these plots. Fringe really needs these humanizing elements to keep the stories and the characters grounded.

Next time, we should do more experiments!

Next time, we should do more experiments!

But as for the rest of this episode, I think it got a little too light. The policework and the science work in this episode were pretty shoddy, and, I believe, this is the first case in Fringe history that hasn’t had anything to do with one of Walter’s old experiments. (If he knew how to melt brains, I’d be very scared of him. I like wacky Walter better, with his love of car seats that warm your ass and his overwhelming concern with safe sex. I’m really glad that his eccentricities are starting to become running gags.) I also don’t know how I feel about this episode being completely outside The Pattern, either. I can get down with a MOTW, but I thought Fringe was going to have every MOTW be part of The Pattern, like my good friend and favorite Fringe villain so far Joseph Meegar. It just feels weird to have an episode I don’t really have to think about (you know, a no-brainer . . . heh . . . yes, I said that), even though I will always find things with melted brains to be amusing. It’s just such a drastic change in tone that I’m not entirely sure how to handle it.

Don’t get me wrong. I like many of the more fanciful MOTWs from seasons three and four of The X-Files. But I like them when they were on that show, and the MOTWs outweighed the mytharc episodes. I just don’t know if I like them on this show. You know, this show that is not, in fact, The X-Files.

My favorite Walterisms of the night:

  • Upon seeing the liquefied brain, Walter immediately assumes the first victim has really advanced syphillis.
  • “I hope she doesn’t notice the two thousand dollars for baboon seminal fluid I ordered.” –Walter, on Olivia requiring expense reports from the lab

The Husband:

I can’t entirely explain why, but this may be my favorite non-Pattern-related episode of Fringe yet. The villain wasn’t in it enough, but I dug the technological implications, and got a good mix of two of my favorite underseen silly supernatural horror movies – Brainscan and Hideaway, which both just happen to be written by Seven’s Andrew Kevin Walker.

I was also happy to get another unofficial TV reunion of several actors from the glorious HBO social drama The Wire, although none of the actors appeared in the same scene as far as I can remember. There is, of course, Broyles (Lance Reddick played Lt. Daniels), as well as computer hacker Akim (Gbenga Akinnagbe played high-level drug dealer Chris Partlow) and Brian Dempsey (Chris Bauer played Frank Sobotka, the focus of season 2’s dockworkers union scandal). There were so many people on The Wire that I’m surprised I don’t see more of them banded up together on television, but I’m happy enough to simply spy one every once in a while, even if it’s on the flailing Heroes.

The Wife:

I had a conversation with my friend Drew over Facebook this morning about the weirdly uneven storytelling in last night’s episode. This was a three-patient episode, with three stories in it that felt somewhat rushed. Nip/Tuck has given us multiple patient stories before, but, usually, they’re a little better balanced between two patients whose stories last for the entire episode, rather than what occurred last night:

Jennifer Coolidge’s Candy Richards came back, after having discovered her African-American heritage, and has decided to reinvent herself as rap/hip-hop artist Hot Coco. After spewing what I believe was a largely improvised list of reasons she knows she’s black (example: she has always loved chicken and waffles), she asks Sean and Christian to give her butt implants. She has her surgery and then completely disappears. For what it’s worth, though, during the surgery, the team listens to Coco’s new single “Yo Stank Bitch,” and we get to see the entirety of the music video, which is priceless, especially because it contains the phrase, “Whadja do? Smuggle garlic in your cooch?” (Husband Note: I equally like the new term “Dubba Deez.”)

Olivia, meanwhile, wants plastic surgery so she can look ten years younger before moving to New York to teach at NYU’s medical program. Although this is an inherent contradiction because she teaches Eastern medicine, she feels like she’s aged ten years and has the surgery despite Julia’s protestations. And then, after a freaky little hallucination where Sean imagines Olivia begging him to kill her on the table, she goes into cardiac arrest during surgery and dies somewhere off screen, presumably with her forehead still hanging off her face.

At his breast cancer support group, Christian meets Roxy St. James, a totally hot lady who lost both her mother and her sister to breast cancer and irrationally fears that she, too, will die from the disease, even though tests to see if she’s a carrier for the cancer gene continually show up negative. After some totally sweet cancer-survivor sex, she asks Christian to perform her double mastectomy. He signs on for it, but then listens to Liz’s misgivings about performing such a radical, irreversible surgery on someone who seems to be mentally unstable. “You can’t cut the fear out of you by taking off her breasts,” she warns. And then the greatest thing I’ve EVER SEEN ON TELEVISION HAPPENS: After waking up from her “surgery” totally distraught that she still has breasts, Roxy later barges into McNamara/Troy, asks the receptionist for an open outlet, plugs in an electric turkey carver AND SLICES OFF HER OWN BREAST IN FRONT OF A WAITING ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE. I wish the interwebs had a clip of that, but for now, I can only give you the seduction scene she has with Christian:

After watching that scene, I went to bed last night proclaiming that this episode was a tour de force, a return to form for Nip/Tuck. This episode was funny, not just because of Coco, but because Christian’s banter was some of the best it’s ever been. This episode was totally disgusting and weird, what with Sean’s open-faced Olivia hallucination and the self-breast augmentation. Sean was as needy a giant man child as he’s ever been, especially when he tries to get Julia to stay in L.A. by passionately kissing her, as though one passionate kiss is going to erase the fact that she remembers the fact that their marriage failed. And yet the episode was still tempered with a couple of superficially deep thoughts about keeping one’s scars and furthered the deepening relationship between Christian and Liz.

But for all of those things I really liked about it, it was uneven in terms of storytelling. Coco’s plot and Roxy’s plot could have each had their own episodes, although if this episode had decided to balance the two of their stories, it could have worked out a little bit better. At the very least, while the women’s stories and desires are unrelated, I think that having the two of them share an episode would have at least balanced out the concept of ornamentation vs. purposeful disfigurement. It was an odd choice to leap into her plot so quickly, with only one minor protest from Sean about how asking to become more ethnic in appearance by getting butt implants and wearing gold teeth is one step away from putting shoe polish on and performing in blackface. There was a much better execution of this dilemma back in season three, when Matt starts dating Neo-Nazi Brittany Snow and she rightfully questions McNamara/Troy’s policies regarding ethnicizing surgeries. Ariel (Snow) wonders why its okay for people to have their features made to look more white, including through skin bleaching procedures (one of which Ariel herself will test out), when it isn’t okay to have one’s features made to look more black. Sean balks at her accusation that his surgical practices are racist and homogenizing, even though, in essence, she’s right. Plastic surgery is about homogenization. (Although in another episode, Sean willingly agrees to add a slight slant to a patient’s eye so that his bride-to-be’s Asian parents will be more willing to accept him.) But rather than dwell on that dilemma again, Christian reminds Sean that they’re surgeons, and if a white lady who didn’t think she was black wanted butt implants, they’d do it. So in the scope of minutes, they agree to Coco’s surgery, perform it and are entirely done with her.

Roxy’s plot was probably the only one of the three surgeries in this episode that was fairly well-paced, although, considering how psycho this lady is, I would have been happy to see more of her. The writers could certainly have done more with her story, but I think the climax of Roxy St. James makes up for any inadequacies in her narrative. People mutilating themselves with turkey carving knives? That is precisely why I watch Nip/Tuck. I certainly haven’t seen something that outrageously grotesque in a long time, and that scene alone is a tour de force. At the cancer support group, Christian callously told the women there that it’s only natural for their husbands to be disgusted by their scars, failing to understand why they wouldn’t get their chests reconstructed. “Any woman who chooses disfigurement,” he says, “chooses to be a victim.” No one is a great illustrator of this point that Roxy. There was nothing physically wrong with her at all, but she intentionally chose to mutilate her body. Having lost her mother and sister to breast cancer, she was already a victim of the disease although her own body never made her suffer. And for Roxy, there was no other way to be. I think there’s a lot of richness in this plot, and it poses a lot of questions about how we read the disfigured female body. That’s me mentally bookmarking this episode for later research.

Moving, on though, there’s one plot that just didn’t make sense in this episode at all, and that’s Olivia’s. It’s clear that this was just a way to get Olivia out of the show, and to establish the negative relationship between Sean and Julia that has driven the show for so long. Sean and Julia just don’t work when Julia’s working from a tabula rasa, so something needed to happen to make their relationship volatile again. And that thing had to be Olivia’s death. When she’s pronounced dead, Julia rails against Sean for intentionally killing her lover to try and get her back, but the autopsy later reveals that Olivia had neglected to tell the staff at McNamara/Troy that she was on anti-depressants (another thing that contradicts with her Eastern medical practices), effectively resigning herself to death via surgery. However, other than the spectre of her dead self that we see when Olivia looks in the mirror with her plastic surgery roadmap marked on her face, we had no idea that this character was going through this at all. Her death is a development that came out of nowhere, a machination to move the plot along. And that kind of sucks. Even Eden, who has been busy making porn in Europe (i.e. working with far less attractive script material over on 90210) dropped by to claim her mother’s ashes and couldn’t adequately explain why Olivia wanted to die. Taking advantage of Julia’s amnesia, Eden tells her that Olivia had been depressed for the last six months because she had been drinking, and shot Julia by accident, thus actually erasing the blame from the person who pulled the trigger: Eden Lord. Then Eden tosses Olivia’s ashes on Julia and Sean, a gesture which says, “Here! Take my mother! Please!”

I don’t understand anything about this plot at all. There had to have been a better way to deal with this, because while I’m willing to believe a lot of stuff, I am not willing to believe that Portia DiRossi would ever need plastic surgery. None of it makes any sense. And I’m going to choose to believe that Eden shot herself like I thought she did at the end of the first half of season 5, because that makes much more sense than her continued career in EuroPorn. After all, being on 90210 is like being dead anyway.

Christian Troy, you're the only man for me. And I mean that.

Christian Troy, you're the only man for me. And I mean that.

Outside of the patients, this episode did have one really great thing going for it, and that’s the continued trajectory of Liz and Christian’s budding relationship. Liz continues to experience her sexual identity crisis, wondering if men were the answer to why, after living as a lesbian for 20 years, she never found the right girl to settle down with. Christian suggests that they sleep together again as a scientific way of seeing if it’s just his cock that has “mystical powers” over Liz. Instead, she goes on a date with Bizarro Christian, an anesthesiologist who dresses and looks like a less wealthy version of the man with the mystical penis. She later tells Christian, as they sit and read the newspaper together in an adorable scene that made for a nice counterpart to human turkey carving, that Stephen’s penis also had mystical powers, but later admits that she lied about this, telling him that he’s the only man she likes. Christian, too, admits that the depth of their relationship is stronger than either of them realized, and he and Liz walk hand in hand to his bedroom.

Drew told me that he felt like this was the only plot that really got proper attention in last night’s episode, but still felt that Christian and Liz’s relationship rang a little false to him. I disagree with that last point – I think that Christian and Liz have always had a teasing, playful relationship that would evolve into something like what they currently have, and I’m willing to believe that his cancer was the catalyst for that transformation. She’s totally the opposite of everything Christian says he wants in a woman, but I think that’s one of the reasons why they work. I’m interested to see how their relationship will play out over the remainder of this season.

Without the Olivia stuff, this could have been a much stronger episode. It would have still been uneven, but not, say, lopsided like you’d just cut one of your breasts off with an electric turkey carver.

The Husband:

Even mooooooooooooore notes from my American Idol viewing. This week we go to Jacksonville, FL. Now, I try not to go out of my way to offend anybody, and I usually try to keep people’s feelings intact, but I have to say this: Jacksonville is the worst city I’ve ever been to.

I think I should clarify. I’m sure I’ve driven through worse towns in America, but Jacksonville is certainly the worst in which I’ve spend an extended amount of time. I was there for about 1.5 weeks during being on the road four months with a traveling film festival, and I was asked by my boss to leave the lovely people, nice, warm weather and lakeside awesomeness at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL (where Mr. Rogers went!) to drive 140 miles north with a co-worker I despise to launch the week-long filming session at Jacksonville University, or JU. (You have to say each letter on its own, otherwise people will think you are obsessed with Semites.) I was bored at the campus. The students had no spirit. (At many colleges/universities, we received more than 100 short films, but at JU we only got 15, one less than the minimum amount to put on the actual show on the final night.) I was bored at the hotel. I was bored in the city. Even when I left early to drive the equipment all the way up I-95 from Jacksonville to Boston, I hated every moment of my time there.

No offense to those people from Jacksonville, but your city, from what I experienced, basically sucks. And I love Florida. I love how various and nutty and crazy and humid it all is, and I love how you could drive ten miles away from you are and be in a completely different kind of town, slingshotting from liberal to republican, metropolis to swamps, quiet bordertowns to loud and bright beach cities. It’s completely bonkers, and I love it.

But not Jacksonville. My favorite bit of trivia that I gained from that trip is that outside the major downtown tall-buildings area of Jacksonville, the city has one of the lowest crime rates in America, but step inside the downtown area and it’s one of the highest. That’s Florida for you.

Now, onto the actual notes:

  • Thanks for the sweet footage of Randy’s stint as the bassist in Journey. I’ve only seen pictures so far. Any excuse to play “Don’t Stop Believin’” is a-okay in my book.
  • There’s a Beverly Hills, FL? Is it as sweet yet utterly obnoxious as the one in SoCal?
  • Simon actually very much likes puppies. I don’t know how I remember that, though. Maybe it was from his autobiography, which I read in just one night. (Go me! I waste time well!)
  • I want Dana Moreno’s audition of Chaka Kahn as my ringtone. [I still have last year’s “I Am Your Brother” for my friends and “Let My People Go” for my family.]
  • I would usually say to never bring the parent of any contestant into the audition room, but this time it didn’t go as poorly as it usually does. It was more just sad than anything else.
  • I would usually say to never audition with a Whitney Houston song, but Julissa Lopez worked it out, to use a Randyism.
  • I would usually say to never audition with Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You,” but…nope, I’m still right.
  • Jasmine Murray, the absolutely gorgeous 16-year-old African-American girl, will go very far, especially if she rises above and makes us forget about her age. [Other than Jordin Sparks, I can’t name one minor that I truly loved and wanted to win. They all end up annoying me with their naïveté.]

    Jasmine Murray -- gorgeous girl with a gorgeous voice.

    Jasmine Murray -- gorgeous girl with a gorgeous voice.

  • I love physicist George Ramirez, especially when asked where he sees himself in 11 years, in his wildest dreams. “A simple house, with nice floors.”
  • I tend to like people who’ve auditioned in previous seasons, as they show that they truly care about the competition, but I did not like T.K. doing David Archuleta’s version of “Imagine” note-for-note in his audition.
  • Anne Marie Boskovich is very nice for this competition. She’s laid-back and not too cocky, and that’s something I respect…up to a point. (coughjasoncastrocough)
  • 16 Golden Tickets for Jacksonville, leaving only 46 left for the remaining three locations.
The Wife:
  • First of all, I’d like to note that somewhere on that Florida trip my husband was talking about, he purchased for me a gator paw backscratcher. That’s right. I own a backscratcher, made from the dismembered hand of an alligator. I love it. I hang it in my kitchen, which confuses and bewilders guests, especially because I’m a vegetarian.
  • Julissa is the worst name I have ever heard. I hate this girl. She sings really well, but she is definitely one of the most genuinely dumb people I’ve seen in a long time.
  • How uncomfortable did Seacrest look when Kara made him sit on her lap? He looked so scared! Joel McHale is so going to have a field day with that clip over on The Soup.
  • I think physicist George Ramirez needs to get back to that mysterious island in the pacific and help Sawyer find his shirt . . .
  • It is highly unfair that Jasmine Murray and her three sisters are some of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever seen. That family has some amazing genes, to produce such beautiful girls.
Listen, if you were stuck on a time-traveling island for several months, you'd dream of hardwood floors too, okay?

Listen, if you were stuck on a time-traveling island for several months, you'd dream of hardwood floors too, okay?

The Wife:

In the last two episodes of SLOTAT, we finally got to figure out Ricky a little bit by bringing his drug-dealing child-molesting muscle-car driving father back into town, fucking shit up for his son and everyone else. Amy continued to struggle with the idea of giving her baby up for adoption and Ben desperately tried to find his place in this whole mess. Because it’s becoming a trend with SLOTAT for different sets of characters to have the same conversation five times, I don’t see the need to tediously recap things here. Instead, I’d rather discuss a few things:

Ricky: So, after numerous hints that Ricky may have been sexually abused, we finally get the truth as to why he’s so messed up and in need of scary therapy. He delivers a rousing monologue, filled with several levels of histrionics that remind me of a bad Brando impression, during the cold open of “That’s Enough of That” that explains – in as much detail as ABC Family is willing to divulge – about the horrors of his sexual molestation as a child. Adrian is so moved by this, hearing her lover actually become something of a human in front of her, that she spends the rest of the episode trying to do everything she can to get her dad to put Ricky’s dad back in jail. It’s interesting to see how this information actually makes Adrian care about someone, but this monologue really lost a lot of impact for me because I’d already heard the information contained within it about five times before – at least twice in the previous episode, “The Father and the Son.”

Because of Ricky’s history in foster care, he is adamant that Amy not give their baby up for adoption. Amy tries to protest to him that the baby might be better off in a home where one or more parents have jobs and health insurance, to which Ricky replies:

“Half the country’s out of work and half the country doesn’t have insurance. They’re not giving up their sons and daughters for adoption.”

I only sort of get where he’s coming from here. Yeah, the foster care system sucks. I can’t disagree there. But the difference is this: Ricky was not an infant when he went into the foster care system. An infant who goes up for adoption gets adopted. And it stays with that family. Why? Because people want to adopt infants. If Ricky and Amy decided to put their baby up for adoption, it wouldn’t be bounced from home to home. It would be, as Amy suggests, with people who can care for it better than its birth parents. But a child in foster care is a different story. There’s less demand in adoptive homes for non-infant children. And that’s a tragedy, truly. But ultimately, Ricky’s opposition to adoption just doesn’t make sense. He’s kind of being a selfish bastard.

But it's so easy to just go on hating everyone and fucking Adrian whenever I want to.

But it's so easy to just go on hating everyone and fucking Adrian whenever I want to.

Especially because he practically changes his mind in the next episode, although not directly about adoption, especially because his dad wants to make money off the adoption and take a cut of the money Amy and Ricky would get from the adoptive parents. Once more people learn the truth about his abuse as a child, Ricky starts to cleave himself from them. He tells Grace’s parents that he can’t be with her because of what happened to him, fearing, I guess, that he will become like his father. I’m glad that by the end of this episode Marshall Bowman sat him down and called him on his assholery. Sure, Jack called him out on two-timing Grace with Adrian at the end of “The Father and the Son,” but Ricky really needed to hear Mr. Bowman’s advice. By lying to Grace just to get in her pants and hate-fucking Adrian all the time, amidst the numerous other lies he’s told over the course of the series, Ricky is only setting down the path to continue the cycle of abuse set forth by his father. But Ricky can’t spend his whole life acting however he wants and blaming his bad behavior on the fact that he was abused. That only continues the cycle. He has to take personal responsibility for his life and his actions and actively change. I don’t know if he will, but I think this imperative will set us up for more really intense monologues from Ricky. And possibly more of him smashing carseats to vent his frustration.

Amy: Still resistant to having her baby be adopted, Amy really started to remind me of a favorite Maury guest (which I’ve included below) when she kept assuring herself that, even if she couldn’t get a job or marry Ben, her baby would be just fine. The spectre of Ricky’s abusive father, though, looms over Amy’s misguidedly sunny disposition. Mama Ringwald advises her daughter that, because of Bob the Child Molester’s presence in Ricky’s life, it’s probably best for the baby to be adopted by another family, presumably in a closed adoption so it will be entirely safe from Bob. Amy can’t really refute this argument, and has the fateful talk with Ricky about having their child adopted, which doesn’t turn out as she’d hoped.

While she’s still undecided about exactly what to do with her baby, Amy goes off to the doctor’s office to have a prenatal exam, and it’s a very special one. If she wanted to, she could learn the sex of her child. And here’s where Ben comes in . . .

Ben: While all this drama happens around him, all Ben wants to do is have his happy little fake marriage with Amy. He wants her to keep the baby, and he hopes it’s a girl. I find his naiveté in these matters to be adorably misguided. Poor Ben misses his mom so much that he just wants to have a nice nuclear family any way he can – even if that means raising his girlfriend’s baby by another man. Because he is her once and future husband, Ben assumes he’s allowed to join in on all of the pre-baby activities. He wants to be there when Amy finds out the sex of her baby. And he really wants to be there for the birth. The Sausage King basically tells him he’s nuts for wanting to do these things, but Ben can’t understand why it’s inappropriate. Sausage King goes on to explain that all of that is for people who have been intimate with each other and who have both had an active process in the creation of the baby at hand. He worries that his son hasn’t considered the fact that he’s never seen Amy naked and has never, ever seen her pregnant belly exposed.

Mom, even though you gave birth to me, I don't want you to see my belly, okay?

Mom, even though you gave birth to me, I don't want you to see my belly, okay?

To which I say: is there some taboo about pregnant bellies I do not know about? Maybe it’s the sort of free-wheeling feminist earth mother culture that I’m constantly surrounded by, but what is so taboo about a pregnant belly? Few of my friends have children, but I have seen numerous photographs of their pregnant bellies throughout the course of their pregnancy. Is Brenda Hampton honestly trying to tell pregnant women that they need to be self-conscious about baring their bearing bellies? Because that is the most fucked up notion I have ever heard. No one should be self-conscious about the most natural thing in the world. (Do not even get me started on my issues with the way birth is treated.)

Amy reiterates the Sausage King’s concerns when Ben asks her about them, perhaps a little too late since he’d already packed the video camera to record the moment of sex-finding-out for all posterity, and he’s understandably crushed. He asks her to please, please consider letting him attend the birth, and he promises, if it will make her more comfortable, to stand up be her face and stick to hand-holding and brow-wiping. She tells him she will consider it, and then ends up inviting him to meet her after her appointment to film a sweet little video to give to her son, whether she keeps him or not.

I can understand Amy being a little uncomfortable with Ben attending the birth, although I have a feeling that she will let him be there when the time comes, but if you are fifteen and having sex, I would generally assume that you’re comfortable enough with your body to let your boyfriend, who’s being a real mensch, by the way, offering to raise your child by another man, see your fucking belly. I mean, if you plan on marrying the dude, and did, in an illegal ceremony, I think you should act like an adult and appreciate his moral support. He’s not trying to be pervy. He’s just trying to do right by you, man.

Ashley: In “The Father and the Son,” Jack’s dad, Rev. Stone, came to drop by the Jurgens household to see if he could help with any of their problems by posing thoughtful questions and listening. Ashley really takes a shine to him and ends up going to see her “friend” in “That’s Enough of That.” However, we don’t get to see the development of Ashley’s spiritual side (which, from her snark about a white representation of Jesus she finds in the church, I gather will not be terribly deep), because a waitress named Veronica drops by to see the Reverend Stone, but can’t wait around because her restaurant is short-staffed. Ashley lies to her and tells her she’s 21 so that she can get a job waitressing. Despite her lack of people skills, Ashley does the job well and earns $100 in tips in her first two hours on the job, but gets busted by her dad when he meets the Sausage King there for dinner. She explains that she was just getting a job to try and help out with the baby so Amy didn’t have to give it up for adoption.

Jack: I think his entire mentor-a-kid-in-the-ghetto subplot was conceived solely so that he would see Bob the Child Molester selling drugs, call Adrian, who would in turn call her dad the DA, who would in turn call the cops and get Bob the Child Molester arrested, which is a big relief to Ricky and Adrian. I do not expect to see Jack going back to the ghetto ever again.

Some of the things I used to really enjoy about this show are kind of falling by the wayside as it becomes more and more mired in issue-laden storytelling. Seriously, Brenda Hampton, I’m glad you have an opinion on things live overcrowding in California’s prison system and the state of foster care, but the more “issues” you toss into this show, the more of its focus is lost. I miss some of the show’s lighter notes, and I miss seeing the teenagers actually be teenagers. It’s also a little weird that the last few episodes have involved information getting passed around to all of the characters in individual settings. I realize this is how information travels, but do I need to see it five times per episode? It’s getting a little tedious and far too “tell” instead of “show.” That’s enough of that, indeed.

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