February 2009


The Wife:

I don’t know why, but “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” is the first episode I haven’t been all that jazzed about this season. (I’m not a fan of “The Lie,” either, but that one’s more like a coda to the season premiere, so it functions.) John Locke is one of my favorite characters, actually, and I was initially excited for this episode to flesh out the hows and whys of his collection of the Oceanic Six, but the actual execution of this conceit left a little something to be desired. Maybe it was a lack of a real on-island story, necessary to balance this off-island stuff out. I’m also starting to feel like Lost, in general, is answering a few too many questions or, at the very least, saying things too plainly. Like the scene where Widmore christens John Locke as Jeremy Bentham by explaining who Bentham is and how it’s funny that Locke is reborn as a different philosopher. Most of us knew this already. It didn’t need to be said.

This right here? Mostly just the death part.

This right here? Mostly just the death part.

There is, however, one very valuable thing that I take away from this episode. My allegiance before as to whose side of the impending war would be the right side was in favor of Ben and those of the island, but after seeing Ben’s machinations in this episode and hearing certain pieces of information from Widmore, I no longer know who to trust. As pointed out by EW‘s Doc Jensen, Lost is constantly exploring problems of epistemics: how do w know what we know, and how can we trust that knowledge? I, and possibly some of you, have been willing to believe up to this point Ben’s claims that Widmore is evil and has ill designs for the island and its people should he ever find it. This claim started to be problematized when Locke met Widmore back in 1954, leading us to questions Widmore’s alleged intentions if his association with the island goes back further than Ben’s. It’s even further problematized when Widmore tells Locke in his Tunisian hospital bed (because the Frozen Donkey Wheel always dumps its turners in a Tunisian desert) that wily Ben Linus tricked Widmore into leaving the island, which we know means exile. Until that time, Widmore was the leader of his people. He instructs John that he must go back to the island because “there’s a war coming, John, and if you’re not back on the island when it happens, the wrong side is going to win.”

From there, Widmore rechristens Locke and gives him Matthew Abbadon as a chauffer/assistant. The travel to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where Locke pays a visit to the new-and-improved Habitat for Humanity Sayid, which is drastically different than the assassin-for-hire Sayid. Locke tries to convince Sayid to return to the island, but he refuses, informing Locke that leaving the island allowed him to be with Nadya, until her death, and that he likes building things and doing good for the world. (Did anyone else notice that the school Sayid was building was called “Escuela de Isla,” or “School of the Island?”) From then, Locke and Abbadon head to New York to see WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALT! Walt informs Locke that he’s had some prescient dreams about the island’s impending war and seeing Locke return to the island in a suit, but despite this information, Locke does not ask Walt to join him on the return trip to that mysterious island. Abbadon chides him for this and, in the distance, Ben Linus spies on the conversation. (Man, Ben sure gets around, doesn’t he?)

Next, the Locke and Abbadon road trip heads to Santa Rosa, California, which I always thought was just the name of Hurley’s medical center, but it turns out that it’s so named because it’s actually in Santa Rosa. There’s a bit of levity where Hurley assumes he’s seeing John because he’s crazy, until a nurse confirms that he is, in fact, talking to a bald dude in a wheelchair. Hurley seems alright with the prospect of going back to the island, until he sees Matthew Abbadon watching over their conversation and freaks out, screaming about how he once saw Abbadon at Santa Rosa, claiming to be a representative of Oceanic Airlines. The orderlies take Hurley inside. Locke has struck out on yet another attempt to bring the O6ers back together. With some doubt planted in his mind about Abbadon, he asks the man exactly what he does for Mr. Widmore, to which Abbadon replies:


“I help people get where they need to get to, John. That’s what I do for Mr. Widmore.”


From Santa Rosa, the odd pair of bald men head down to Los Angeles, where Locke fails at getting Kate to come along. Frustrated, Locke demands to be taken to see Helen, his lost love. Abbadon refuses to take him, but eventually caves and shows Locke to her grave. There, Abbadon tells Locke about how he’s helped Locke get where he was supposed to be (suggesting Walkabout, for instance), and asks him if his death, his instruction from Richard Alpert, will be inevitable or a choice. Suddenly, Abbadon is shot and Locke speeds away on his broken leg, landing himself in a massive traffic accident that he miraculously survives under the care of Jack Shepard. Indeed, Abbadon gets people where they need to go.

Locke tells Jack about his mission, their mission, but Jack is less than receptive. He thinks Locke is delusional and wholly un-special, until Locke tells Jack that he has a message from Christian Shepard. Even then, Jack refuses to believe, and Locke, once discharged from the hospital, returns to his hotel to write that fateful suicide note. He prepares to hang himself with some electrical cords, and I was more than surprised to see that for all the things John Locke knows, he doesn’t know how to tie a noose. That knot he tied wouldn’t hold a human body long enough for it to hang by the neck until dead. Surely, this is something Locke would have learned in Boy Scouts, no?

It doesn’t matter how poorly Locke ties knots, though, because Ben knocks and lets himself in. He reveals that he killed Abbadon to protect Locke and the O6ers from Widmore. He proceeds to contradict the information given to us by Widmore earlier in the episode, claiming Widmore is indeed bad and that Ben moved the island to keep Locke and friends safe from that terrible man. He begs John to let him help collect the O6. Locke breaks down and tells Ben, the man he has trusted as one who groomed him to take his rightful place as leader of the Others, that he is a failure, unable to convince anyone to return with him, and probably because he turned on Jack back in season three. Ben assures him that whatever he’s said to these people is working, because whatever he said to Jack caused Jack to buy a round trip flight to Sydney. All Locke had to do, Ben suggests, is convince that one person. He suggests they go to Sun and start again with her, but Locke tells Ben that he promised Jin he wouldn’t bring Sun back, explaining that he planned to give her Jin’s ring as proof that he was gone. Ben goes to comfort the heartbroken Man of Faith, telling him:


“You can’t die. You’ve got too much work to do.”


But then Locke mentions that he needs to find Eloise Hawking, and the very mention of her name sends Ben into a rage, causing him to strangle John, only to hang his lifeless body from the rafters in an attempt to make it look like John did what he had set out to do. This was the best scene in this whole episode for me, especially the ghastly shadow of Locke’s body looming over the scene as Ben frantically runs about, cleaning his presence of off the hotel room. I like this image not only for its grotesqueness, but because it shows Locke for what he has been constructed as: a puppet, his strings pulled by his considerable faith into many directions by as many masters – Widmore, Richard Alpert, Jacob/Christian Shepard, Jack. He’s a tragic figure, lead into ruin by his faith and believe in what he’s told. The only thing that’s certain about the various problems of epistemics we’ve been presented in this episode is that, whichever side is correct, John Locke had to die. That was always an absolute truth.

But true to Walt’s dream, Locke does return to that island in a suit, brought back to life as he touches that holy ground, much to the confusion of new castaways Ilana and Cesar, who are very confused about this whole situation. It seems they’ve crashed near the Hydra station, and Cesar is looking for something. Ajira did in fact crash, but as Cesar tells Locke, Hurley and two other people (Kate and Jack, presumably) disappeared when the light flashed, and two others (Sayid and Sun, presumably), took off in a catamaran the first chance they could get. Cesar the leads John to inspect the bodies of those who were injured, and among them, is Ben Linus. I like that Locke, reincarnated on the island, has become sort of deity figure, appearing from nowhere and yet being implicitly trusted by those around him. His reaction upon seeing Ben Linus?


“That’s the man who killed me.”


In writing about this right now, I’ve grown to appreciate the episode more than when I started this post. Though I stand by the issues I mentioned at first, the more subtle aspects of this episode really shine through all that, especially the deity Locke on the island and the puppet Locke body hanging from that hotel room ceiling. As always, for every answered question and spelled-out piece of dialogue, the writers throw something new at us: why were only some of the 06 zapped from the plane into time travel land, while others were left behind? Are only some of them necessary for the upcoming war? And why the fuck is Cesar so curious about everything? What made Sayid turn from killer to habitat builder? And why was Locke not supposed to meet Eloise Hawking? I have no theories on any of this. I’m just going to think about the grim spectre of puppet Locke until the next episode.

The Husband:

I’m very big on the Lost episodes that people seem to dislike when it comes to the ones that simply exist as backstory and exposition and not much else. That’s why I like s4’s “Confirmed Dead” more than “The Constant,” not because it was more emotional (that would be the latter), but because I loved how economical the entire story was in our introduction to the Freighties. It was mysterious, it was confusing, and it was informative.

The issue with “The Life And Death Of Jeremy Bentham” is that it simply didn’t pose that many mysteries. I think I like the episode far more than my wife does, especially the implication, via out-of-the-ordinary-for-Lost place cards over black screens, that we’re in the midst of an epic journey, far greater than the episode may indicate. Yes, we followed Locke from his island jump all the way to his death in one single episode – a disappointment, to be sure, to those like myself who wanted that story to last a little longer – but there are little bits and pieces that are going to be filled in later, just like every other damn thing on Lost.

I find, the more I think and read about this episode, that most of my disappointments can be blamed more on my overactive imagination than the show itself, and so I give Lost the benefit out the doubt. For instance, once Locke’s minute-long talk with Walt was over, I thought that it was underwhelming and didn’t really fit with how we see Walt later, talking to Hurley in Santa Rosa. But this morning I popped in that episode from s4, and found that Walt really didn’t really say much to Hurley beyond that Locke saw him briefly, and that Walt’s big conversation piece with Hurley, asking why the O6 were lying, was based on his own objections and not Locke’s.

I give Lost credit for really giving us a slow burn this episode, because we all know that these past few episodes are really revving up to something huge, and that’s okay. The Wire, a show I refer to so much as the great recent example of top-notch quality that I’m surprised our readers still haven’t figured out that they should watch it and tell me how much they like it, was the master of the slow burn, even spending whole seasons building up to something bigger but, if viewing episodes on their own, they may be confusing or even boring.

Lost didn’t pull it off as well as The Wire, and the last two episodes haven’t been the best the show has ever seen, but goddamn if it isn’t leading up to the fucking mother lode.

The Wife:

And so we come to the end of yet another season of Top Chef and, to be honest, while I am surprised by the eventual winner, I actually don’t give a shit. Last year, I was heartbroken to see congenial Richard Blais shoot himself in the foot and lose to Stephanie Izard, who, for all intents and purposes, was a fine chef and my second favorite competitor of the season. It was a win-win situation that year. Everyone was nice to each other, helpful and respectful, and I loved them for it. This year, I lost interest after Jamie left. I don’t know why, but the finalists this year just didn’t do it for me. I don’t even think it would have been an interesting match if Fabio had survived to talk about monkey assholes another day. Knowing that Fabio was the only ounce of pizzazz this show had left after Jamie’s departure, though, the Bravo executives invited him to tag along to the final challenge, perhaps in the hopes that he would say something about monkey assholes.

Unfortunately, he didn’t, and we were left with a really bland episode that only had a few interesting aspects to it. Tom and Padma instructed the remaining cheftestants that their mission would be to cook the best three-course tasting of their lives at New Orleans’ legendary Commander’s Palace. To help them out, they brought back season two’s villainous Marcel (whom I loved and will always love), season three’s fish-out-of-water Casey (who doomed herself in Aspen by not remembering that cooking temperatures vary in high altitudes) and my beloved Richard Blais from season four. The cheftestants drew knives to determine the order in which they would choose their sous. Hosea got the pimp knife and chose Blais, which was certainly the best choice of the three. Stefan got to choose second and took Marcel, definitely the second best choice of the three, and Carla got stuck with Casey, at which point I knew she was doomed.

The chefs and their sous got a few hours to prepare their menus that day and they began frantically racing around the kitchen, hoarding ingredients. Hosea tried to steal more than his share of foie gras, and Stefan got all up in his grill about it, eventually losing out and only getting one of the three bricks of foie provided. (Hey, guys? I’m pretty sure Bravo provided three bricks of foie so you could each have one. At least give Carla a chance to succeed, jeeze.) Hosea and Blais also stole all the caviar. At the end of their first day of prep, Tom dropped by to deliver the twist on their final challenge by adding an extra dish to the menu. Tom requested that each chef create a tray-passed appetizer using one of three traditional New Orleans ingredients: redfish, blue crab and gator. Who would get what was determined as all things are allegedly determined in New Orleans: King Cake-omancy, or, whoever finds the baby Jesus within that spicy delicious confection gets to pick first. Just as before, Hosea got to choose first, as well as designate which of his competitors would have to work with that new protein. He chose the redfish for himself, gifted Carla with crabs and saddled his biggest competitor Stefan with the gator.

For my money, Stefan was lucky to get the gator. Gator’s actually quite tasty, if a bit fatty and oily. And he got the best line of the night when, upon seeing the gator, he proclaimed:


“Alligator is a wacky meat. It’s like having a kangaroo eat a fucking raccoon – what’s the point?”


That’s a pretty fair assessment of gator meat, and pretty damned funny.

The Menus

Hosea

  • trio of sashimi
  • scallops with foie gras and pain perdu
  • vennison loin with wild mushrooms
  • and a passed appetizer of blackened redfish on a corncake with creole remolaude


Stefan

  • hailbut and salmon carpaccio
  • squab with braised red cabbage and schupfnuedlen
  • strachitella ice cream with chocolate mousse, vanilla syrup and lollipops
  • and a passed appetizer of gator soup
The result of a kangaroo eating a raccoon: gator soup.

The result of a kangaroo eating a raccoon: gator soup.

Carla

  • seared red snapper with saffron aioli and crouton
  • sous-vide NY strip steak with potato rod and merlot sauce
  • cheese tart with apple coins and marmalade
  • and a passed appetizer of shiso soup with crab


Hosea and Blais had a productive and unproblematic prep time, which I largely attribute to the fact that both of those men do know how to work well and get a job done. Stefan decided to freeze his carpaccio dish so he could slice it thinly, which Marcel was uncertain about, but figured it wasn’t his contest to lose so he wasn’t going to say anything and just work on making lollies instead. And then there’s Carla, who basically made the crucial mistake of listening to the person who came in third place in her season because she couldn’t remember to adjust her cooking temperatures for the Colorado altitude. Upon hearing that Carla wanted to make strip steak, Casey suggested they sous-vide it, a cooking technique that makes the meat cook evenly, but not something I would ever imagine someone would do for a steak. Then Casey suggested that Carla step up her game by turning the cheese tart into a cheese soufflé . . . a soufflé that then burned in the oven and was unable to be served. I attribute this soufflé disaster not only to listening to Casey, but to Carla’s “I cook with love!” game plan. Why? Let me point you toward Billy Wilder’s Sabrina:


“A woman happy in love, she burns the soufflé. A woman unhappy in love forgets to turn on the oven.”


Love. It ruins soufflés. Make note of that, everyone.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU COOK WITH LOVE!

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU COOK WITH LOVE!

At service time, the judges and guests such as Branford Marsalis and Fleur Du Lys’ Hubert Keller were very pleased with everyone’s passed appetizers, particularly with Stefan’s gator soup. For the first courses, they liked all but Stefan’s, which they thought was too watered down. No one liked Carla’s sous-vided steak, but they loved Hosea’s scallops and foie and were ecstatic about Stefan’s squab. As for the third course, Hosea’s venison was declared the best of all his dishes, and the clear winner of that round as everyone was confused by Stefan’s 1982 plating of some tasty-enough desserty bits and very disappointed in Carla’s plate. Oddly, she chose to explain that there should have been a soufflé on the plate, breaking one of Julia Child’s pieces of advice about mistakes made while cooking:


“Remember, you are alone in the kitchen. You must stand by your convictions and just pretend that was the way it was supposed to turn out.”


It would have been appropriate for Carla to explain the failings of her dish at Judges’ Table, when she would have needed to defend that pitiful plate, but not while serving it to her guests, who proceeded to eat that dish with the taste of failure on their tongues. She knew she fucked up, and she knew she fucked up bad. I was surprised to have seen her come this far, but the fact of the matter is this: Carla has a lot of potential under all that hooty-hooing, but she doesn’t have the kitchen wherewithal to back it up. She let Casey talk her out of perfectly good ideas, and burned her soufflé with all that filthy love. It was clear she wasn’t going to win even before the end of Judge’s Table, when Padma rightly declared after the cheftestants had left:


“I think we can all agree that Carla’s probably out of the running.”


After much debate in which Toby Young kept trying (and failing) to convince everyone that Hosea’s meal wasn’t complete because he didn’t do a dessert, the judges decided to award the prize to Hosea anyway, noting that, overall, his last meal was better than Stefan’s, who basically lost the title due to a watery carpaccio.

The real Top Scallop: Hosea's scallops and foie with pain perdu.

The real Top Scallop: Hosea's scallops and foie with pain perdu.

Let this be a lesson to you all:

  • No one wants to eat a frozen, watery carpaccio.
  • Never listen to Casey.

and, most importantly,

  • Love will make you burn your soufflés.


Thanks for watching Top Chef with me, everyone. Should you miss hearing my thoughts about foodstuffs, start reading my rants about Hell’s Kitchen. I yell just about as much as Gordan Ramsay does.

Until next season, I must pack my knives and go.

The Wife:

“Target” was significantly, significantly better than “Ghost” and calmed all my fears about how this concept might ruin itself. I believe in you, Joss. I never should have doubted because you are, as always, smarter than me and you always know what you’re doing.

“Target” introduces us, through flashbacks, to the events of three months prior, in which the Active known as Alpha went all crazy-face and destroyed nearly everyone in the Dollhouse. Of the Actives, only Echo and a few others survived, with Echo experiencing the worst of it: the only Doll still standing amid a literal shower of blood and bodies. Her handler was killed during Alpha’s massacre, and poor Amy Acker had nasty things done to her face. We learn all this as Boyd learns it, when he is brought in to replace Echo’s old handler. It seems Alpha went rogue because he experienced a “composite event” in which he had echoes of personalities he should have been wiped off, causing him to go nuts and slaughter everyone he could get his hands on. No one really knows why he chose to spare Echo, but it seems that Echo, too, might be starting to remember things like Alpha did.

Never shoot until you're sure you'll hit your target.

Never shoot until you're sure you'll hit your target.

She gets sent on a fantasy date with an outdoorsy sort of fellow. They white water raft. They rock climb. He teachers her how to shoot a crossbow. They have sex. And then he tells her to run, because he plans on hunting her. Now, when I heard Olivia Williams tell this client that there would be an additional fee for the kind of engagement he requested, and then saw them rafting in the great outdoors, I was pretty sure he was going to try to kill her, I just didn’t think it was going to be in the exact same way as the human hunting episode of Criminal Minds. As she flees from him, she finds herself in a cabin where Richard, her fantasy-date/hunter, has planted a drugged canteen. Tripped out and disoriented, she starts hallucinating alternate versions of herself, and then falls into the rapids and nearly drowns. When she resurfaces, she remembers being the only survivor of Alpha’s massacre.


While Echo’s off on her fantasy date, Boyd has been monitoring her from the woods in his surveillance van, and we get to learn more about the relationship between an Active and his or her handler. Each Active is imprinted with their handler’s voice and ultimate trust through subliminal call-and-response programming. At the end of an engagement, all a handler needs to do is tell the Active that “everything’s going to be all right” and the Active will immediately respond with “now that you’re here.” This keeps the Actives from experiencing serious health risks during high-risk engagements, and also allows the handlers to immediately control the Actives after any engagement. This answers so many questions I had about how the Actives knew their handlers when imprinted with different personalities.

A park ranger encounters Boyd’s van out in the woods, and quickly reveals himself to not actually be a park ranger, shooting Boyd’s driver and taking Boyd into his custody in the surveillance van. Boyd manages to fight the guy off and then heads out to save Echo when he notices how spiky her vital signs are getting (he was unable to see before because Topher’s satellite feed got knocked out). Once he finds Echo, he tells her that everything’s going to be all right, even though her fantasy date manages to pierce his side with an arrow. Echo explains the things she’s been seeing or remembering, and vows to kill the man whose been trying to kill her. Boyd tells her that she simply doesn’t have the right training for this, struggling to not tell her that she simply isn’t the right personality at this point in time to kill someone, but Echo insists that she’s a fast learner. Boyd hands her one of his guns, and Echo proceeds to hunt her hunter, facing off against him with weapons until he wrestles her to the ground where she manages to off him by driving a fallen arrow into his jugular.

Meanwhile, Badass Government Agent Guy Paul Ballard is just a step behind the Dollhouse, poking around the site from which Davina was rescued. Firefly‘s Badger tries to tell him that the Dollhouse just doesn’t exist, just like how his coworkers at the FBI continually tease him about chasing a fairytale, but he finds Echo’s glasses, assuring him that he’s not on a total wild goose chase. At work, Paul receives a package containing a picture of Echo back when she was Caroline, the same package we saw being shipped by a naked mass murderer at the end of “Ghost.” I certainly hope that the mass murderer in question is Alpha, and I think the wounds on the bodies surrounding him in “Ghost” and the wounds on the bodies he slaughtered in “Target” are enough proof to make that connection.

After Echo kills her fantasy date, Reed Diamond and team sweep in to clean up the mess, and we learn that “Richard Connell” was entirely fake, which is why he passed the background check. No ordinary fantasy date, “Richard” knew about the Dollhouse and was sent to specifically kill Echo, explaining his somewhat cryptic chide for her to learn to hunt in order to prove that she’s “more than just an echo.” From this, we know that at least two outside agencies are after the Dollhouse, because I’m pretty sure “Richard Connell” and his not-a-park-ranger friend were not working for FBI man Paul Ballard. And I doubt they’re working for whoever (Alpha) sent Paul Ballard Echo’s photograph.

Knowing that Echo survived a massacre at the Dollhouse gives me someone to connect to, as does seeing how Boyd came into play in this wacky arena. If every Dollhouse episode is as good as this one, I will be in it for the long run.

The Husband:

While I definitely consider all the backstory stuff to be damn fucking good, I still feel that all of Joss Whedon’s shows – even bits of Firefly – are a little bit too low-rent for my taste. I know he prides himself on being able to get by on a very low budget, but goddamn does it show sometimes. A little intricate and creative filmmaking can cover up the worst of his weaknesses, such as shitty special effects or reused sets, but it’s almost like he delights in looking cheap.

Now, the Dollhouse itself looks rockin’, but all the Most Dangerous Game stuff looked like locations from Grizzly Adams. Maybe they could have done at least a little bit with the camera other than just follow the actors around, running through trees and hiding. It’s worth a shot. Put some filters on. Play with the light. Work some post-prod action.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain. I’m always saying story first, and I definitely believe in that above all else. But the story was solid, so why not at least put some effort into establishing a better mood for your show? Because even when it’d be obvious that certain planets on Firefly were just the Simi Valley or Santa Clarita, at least the CGI work on Serenity was top-notch.

The Wife:

Oh, Pussylips, so nice to see you again!

This time, Allegra Calderello turns up at McNamara/Troy at the behest of her husband, Manny, who is dying of prostate cancer and wants his Allegra to get some rejuvenating plastic surgery so that she can find another man to take care of her after he’s gone. I feel badly for Allegra anytime she speaks, as she’s a woman without voice and without authority over her own body. Manny is incredibly old fashioned, but layers his insults of his wife’s appearance and demeanor with something approximating genuine feeling for her. He loves her, yes, but he does it in the oddest of ways by telling her that she’s not attractive enough to survive in the world without him and that, without him, she still needs a man to survive.

Although she certainly needs a man about as much as a fish needs a bicycle, Liz moves forward with her wedding plans with Christian, even calling her mother to share the news and participate in the greatest tradition known to Cruz women: wearing grandmama’s vintage wedding gown. Only Liz doesn’t fit into grandmama’s gown because her breasts are too large. Christian tells her he can buy her a new gown, but Liz instead wants to book a reduction (you know, the one she didn’t get earlier) to honor her mom’s wishes.

Irreplacable.

Irreplacable.

Just as Manny prepares Allegra to find a replacement for him, Christian starts shopping for a replacement for the Troy half of McNamara/Troy, landing on Logan Traper, a surgeon of renown who loves Christian’s interior decorating and reminds me very much of Christian, but much creepier. Much creepier. This theme of choosing one’s earthly replacement reminds me very much of the Ana storyline over on HBO’s Big Love. When Barb’s cancer returns, she starts to think that she needs to have some say in creating the family she will be with in the celestial kingdom, and she desperately wants Ana to be part of that family as a validation of her polygamist lifestyle. Ana would be the only person in her marriage other than Bill that she actually chose, as Nicki and Margie were both forced upon her. With Manny, he continues his odd expression of love for his wife in a somewhat selfish way, dolling her up so he can help choose her next mate, like some last-ditch effort to do good by her. Christian, instead, chooses a friend and partner for Sean who is as similar to the man Christian used to be as possible, to make Sean’s transition easier.

But of course, all of these things go slightly awry. Over on Big Love, Ana stays married to the family for about a day before demanding a divorce. Manny Calderello starts parading suitors in to see his wife just hours after she enters the recovery room, pimping her out to the local butcher in their Florida retirement community. Ever shy, Allegra is horribly offended by this, as is the attending Sean. And as for Christian’s replacement, well, it turns out that he fucks furniture.

For as helpful as Logan is in helping Sean plan Christian’s bachelor party, he suffers from “object” sexuality, a feeling that he can have intimate, fulfilling relationships with objects just as well as people, which makes it extremely difficult for him to resist the siren call to fuck Christian’s vintage green couch, which is exactly what he gets caught doing, resulting in his expulsion from the practice. To wit:

“People aren’t like furniture. They’re not so easy to replace.” – Sean, followed by a scene of Logan fucking Sean’s operating table

Finally understanding how he had wronged his wife, Manny apologizes and tells Allegra that from now until the day he dies, he will only give her the best, which to him means that instead of trying to play matchmaker with the town butcher, he should give her the gift of a suitor in his late 50s who looks like a combination of Mad Men‘s Sal and Chris Noth. Clearly, this is a man more worthy of sweet little Allegra, but, like Barb Henrickson, I guess Manny just wants to make sure he has a say in what kind of man should make his wife happy, so he can continue to run her life from beyond the grave. She will never be free of this man.

As for Liz, Christian leaves her breasts a little larger than she would have liked, which makes her upset, until he buys her a brand-new wedding gown, further driving a rift between Liz and her mother that only deepens at Liz’s bridal shower with all of her lesbian friends. A gift of All-Clad pans with a lifetime guarantee causes Liz to break down, admitting to her mother and her friends that Christian has cancer and that she won’t have much time with him. Insensitively, Liz’s mom says that this makes sense to her, so Liz tells her mom off for always calling her ugly and hating her sexuality. She tosses her mother out of her house, and out of her wedding. Which is all well and good, because Liz’s mom has to keep Hurley from getting arrested. Or something.

This fight with her mother makes Liz realize that, as a married woman, she doesn’t need her hurtful mother anymore, because she’s replacing her old family with her new one, forming a beautiful and melancholy tableau as she and Christian hug Wilbur to them. Meanwhile, Sean sits alone, watching old videos of the good times he, Christian and Julia had in med school, weighted with the knowledge that soon, his best friend won’t be around anymore. As Teddy sneaks up behind him, he utters, “I feel like I’m losing everyone,” to which she promises that she won’t leave him. (Unlike the end of the last episode, I guess.)

While this episode wasn’t nearly as rich as its predecessor, I think it admirably propelled these stories forward, while still giving us some traditional Nip/Tuck oddity in Logan Traper’s couch-fucking. Still, it felt a little stagnant and a little light, which seems odd, considering it’s the penultimate episode in this season. I guess we won’t be getting an “Ava’s a man!” kind of finale this year.

The Husband:

That’s right – this episode has couch-fucking. Take that, Parents Television Council! Suck on that, you hypocritical, unconstitutional bastards! Or do you only get angry when women are objectified, and ignore male-on-couch action?

The Husband:

So what’s been going on the last couple weeks at Mode Magazine? Well, if the first episode in this discussion was any indication, absolutely nothing at all. Taking the rare 100%-personal-story route, UB throws a lot of mush at us with very little to really chew on.

Some of the not-so-great stories:

  • Claire Meade is approaching 60, so she acts out by shoplifting from high-class boutique stores. When Betty tries to stop her, she gets pulled aside by store security and is about to be in big trouble until Claire comes back and fesses up.
  • Betty, in preparation for Claire’s birthday, goes around with a video camera to interview all of Claire’s friends, only to find that she has no true ones.
  • Daniel tries to make Molly forget about her ex-fiancee Connor, but that’s hard when he goes out of his way to find a sweet Tibetan restaurant, only to find out that Molly has been there dozens of times, and the wait staff doesn’t like anybody dating her but Connor. Hilarity. (Not.)
  • Wilhelmina has to look after Connor’s parrot while he is out of town, but the parrot picks up on her speech and begins repeating “I love Connor,” something the emotionally stunted Wilhelmina only mentioned in passing. She doesn’t want to be the first one to say “I love you,” so she momentarily suggests that she kill the bird. This brings us to the only great line of the night:

“But that…birder!” — Marc

And in the only somewhat good story, Betty, with video camera, accidentally leaves the camera on in her house while away and videotapes her father squeezing the asscheeks of his assigned personal nurse, Elena. (I’ll always know Lauren Velez, the actress, as Dr. Gloria, the prison doctor on Oz who Dean Winter was always lusting after, so this storyline has its major awkwardness for me no matter how it goes. If you want to see Velez in a great film, though, I suggest you pick up I Like It Like That immediately.) Upon further investigation, Betty realizes that her father isn’t actually a sexually harassing dog — he and Elena are actually in love. Betty and Hilda won’t have this relationship, not accepting of their father dating anybody, let alone somebody so much younger than him, but when they find that Elena’s intentions are nothing but good, and that Papi has been lonely for years, they finally accept the couple as they are.

The following episode, “There’s No Place Like Mode,” brings the show back into absurd amounts of awesome with a huge bang in a mega-episode of lunacy and heart.

While Daniel insults Molly by trying to give her a high-fashion makeover, and Wilhelmina feels that her personal life with Connor is beginning to affect her professional standing in her industry, Betty gets the best story of the night — as an exercise at YETI, Betty is forced to pair up with a sports writer, and they are to learn about each other’s magazines through and through. This young man, Matt, seems like a perfect fit for Betty, and also a perfect fit for Ugly Betty. He’s not classically handsome, but he’s witty and looks like Josh Groban, and is a great romantic interest for the show. Betty isn’t interested in sports, but when Matt bitches her out for not taking an interest in his work and was pre-judging his industry, she gives in and learns that, just like in her industry, the best stories are the ones about the people within the industry. I’d love to continue seeing Betty’s foray into the sports world and its similarities and differences with fashion, and Matt is a much better dating choice for Betty than perhaps even Henry, who was a little too clingy even when he knew that he was going to have a baby with somebody else.

But what mission does Betty take Matt on during the episode? It’s to get the line of clothes for Fashion Week from the enigmatic German designer Heinrich, whose clothes are made of metal. Confused, Betty and Cristina write a fake press release just to goof around, but when Suzuki St. Pierre accidentally gets a hold of the bizarre parody piece, Heinrich is so amused that he asks Betty to produce his Fashion Week show.

I would love to be at this show, provided nothing cuts my face.

I would love to be at this show, provided nothing cuts my face.

But who gets to go, and who gets Betty’s two extra tickets? At the Suarez house, Hilda is getting a little weirded out by all of the smooching going on between Elena and Papi, especially now that he’s at perfect health for his age and technically doesn’t need a nurse anymore. And Justin doesn’t like them interrupting their movie-watching time.

Justin: I can’t hear what they’re saying.

Papi: Well, it’s either about steppin’ up, or the streets.


Justin, who was to go to Betty’s show with Hilda, decides to give his ticket to Elena instead so she and Hilda can talk, and while they have differences, they bond over their horrible fashion choices from the 80s and 90s and decide that they could be friends after all.

Ahh…but how does Betty’s big show go? Well, one of the metal dresses almost cuts Isaac Mizrahi’s face (Target spokesperson OH NOES!), but otherwise it seems to be going pretty well…until a very pregnant Cristina, who has been helping out backstage, reveals to Betty that she has been in labor all day but didn’t want to say anything, and now there’s not enough time to get to the hospital. Cristina collapses on the runway, and Wilhelmina gets all the metal-adorned models to make a circle around Cristina to give her privacy. Luckily, Elena is capable of delivering the baby and goes to the private circle, and moments later Willy rises up, baby in hand, in a tableau that looks to be a mixture of Brazil, Moulin Rouge! and The Lion King.

So yes, it was all kinds of wacky and messy, but I got a whole lot of Mode shenanigans out of it. Willy has her new heir by a dead man’s seed, Ashley Jensen can settle her story and leave the show as reported, and Betty has a new boy story. The mixture of heartfelt stories and absurd drama rises again, and that’s when UB is at its best.

We’ve got seven episodes left this season. Let’s hope it keeps us fully interested.

The Wife:

With the gay adoption off the table, the Jurgens-Boykevich-Whatever the Fuck Ricky’s Last Name Is Clan are trying to find other solutions. Mama Ringwald is back on her daughter to get a job, but Amy just keeps complaining that she’s too tired to work because carrying a baby is hard work. Granted, hauling around a rapidly growing hooman inside your body is indeed tiring, but I fully side with Mama Ringwald on this one. Most of us women folk work while we’re pregnant because that’s just how you function in society. Amy got into the whole earning-your-keep thing a little late, but two months of work before heading on maternity leave from the Hot Dog Hut is better than nothing. That buys you at least a few changes of diapers and a Beeba Baby Cook so you can steam your own baby foods. (I definitely want that when we decide to expand our TV-watching family, and mostly because I really like saying “Beeba Baby Cook.”) But despite Amy’s protestations, Mama Ringwald drags Amy off with her to go work in the food service industry, a job she garnered simply because the twentysomething manager thought she was MILFy goodness and decided to help her out, gleefully proclaiming:

“It’s minimum wage for the both of yas!”


Mama Ringwald is pretty happy to work in the food service industry, even if her daughter isn’t. And true to her theory that it’s easier to find a job if you already have a job, she gets a job offer from a cute architect at the end of her first shift.

Harumph!

Harumph!

Meanwhile, Ben and Ricky have a showdown about who is better suited to play daddy to Amy’s baby. Ben buys Amy four $5 chocolate bars, which is just one of his ways of showing unemployed Ricky how much more he, with his Sausage King money, can give Amy’s son. Ben further extends the candy bar analogy by suggesting that those $5 candy bars are like child support, which Ricky will have to pay every month until their son turns 18 should he decide to stick around and play daddy. The ultimate burn, as Ben snatches stolen candy bar from Ricky’s hand:

“Don’t take things you can’t pay for, Ricky.”


And where did those overpriced candy bars come from? Jack, who has taken up selling the sugar-laden treats on behalf of his mentee, Duncan, who is trying to raise money for disadvantaged youth, which is fitting as he himself is disadvantaged. With Grace’s help, Jack sells his share of the candy and heads back to Duncan’s house to give him the money, only to have the money stolen from his hand, and then to have his phone and keys stolen while trying to call the cops to report the mugging. Jack chases his faceless assailant, only to come face to face with two dudes who are ready to steal his sneakers. They make him run around shoeless for a minute, before telling him that they’re just playing with him and they wonder who he’s running from. He explains his situation, and they tell him that Duncan’s been scamming him with the candy bar money to scare Jack away from Shauna. In fact, Duncan’s the one who robbed Jack, just to teach him a lesson.

Grace is also helping Adrian to reclaim her virginity, which, short of a hymenoplasty, can be achieved through the power of prayer and God’s almighty forgiveness. Asking guys at her school who wants to buy chocolate from a virgin is, amazingly, how she sells all of Jack’s candy. Adrian tries to impress her brother with her new good girl act, especially because she enjoyed him courting her so much, but she’s a little dismayed when he reveals that a third date to him usually means fooling around, even if its a third date that begins with the gift of a teddy bear. However, I think he’s super cool because he is all about sexual responsibility. He tells Adrian that if they decide to have sex with each other, they should sit down and talk about their sexual history, like responsible sexual citizens.

Is there anything sweeter than a tender hug between two people who are technically brother and sister, but still want to bone each other?

Is there anything sweeter than a tender hug between two people who are technically brother and sister, but still want to bone each other?

I am, however, strangely concerned about this whole notion of men wanting to have sex with a virgin. My husband tried to explain to me why that concept is so appealing to men, that it’s a question on deep-rooted biological imperatives about being the first to lay claim to something, but I find the idea to be extremely troubling. In certain cultures, I understand the value of virginity, and I understand it in context with Grace’s religious beliefs, but outside of religious and cultural morays, the idea of wanting to deflower someone is just so . . . unsettling. Like Adrian’s brother, one’s sexuality should be something mutually shared, and I can’t help but think that the notion of intentionally deflowering a woman comes a little too close to rape for my comfort.

Anyway, his battle with Ricky won, Ben comes to visit Amy at work where he promises to help her give her baby a good life, a notion that angers the Sausage King, who reminds Ben that while they have money, they only have money because the Sausage King worked hard for everything he had, and Ben doesn’t get anything until he turns 18. To teach his son the value of an honest days work, he suggests that Ben work at the butcher shop like he did as a boy to earn money to support Amy and her son. I like a Sausage King who values a hard day’s work, and I think it’s a good lesson for teenagers who aren’t pregnant. If you want something, you should work for it. Seriously.

In a final note, sullen Ashley is still hanging out with bus stop Thomas, and using the chaos over jobs and her pregnant sister to stay under the radar so she can hang out with him alone in her home. She heeds her father’s warning to not get pregnant (“unless you want a job you don’t want”) and spends her time with Thomas being more domestic and grown up than her parents are by cooking him dinner and sitting around the table to read the paper and trade conspiracy theories, as well as numerous mentions about her feelings on shelter animals. If anything breaks up this incredibly droll but incredibly perfect couple, it will totally be the fact that Thomas doesn’t believe in shelling out money for pets from a no-kill shelter, which he thinks cost $250. I’ve never seen a shelter dog cost that much, and someone needs to tell him that there are adoption fees at shelters to pay for the cost of that animal living in a no-kill shelter. You just can’t put a price on saving a life, man.

The Husband:

This is the best episode of SLOTAT in a while. I was starting to feel really bummed for Ben, how he had reverted back into a completely weak pussy after having spent the first season really finding his inner confidence. How Ricky could just walk all over him even when the words Ricky said made very little sense? I guess Ricky’s sneer really is that powerful.

But now, now Ben is willing to fight tooth and nail for the woman that he loves, the woman he protects and the woman he sort-of-kind-of married, and no sneer can take him down. He’s finally thinking logically, and trying to make Ricky understand that his douchebaggery will only result in everybody being unhappy, the baby uncared for or gone completely, and probably through some means or another Ricky will end up in jail. (I think we can all assume he’d end up stealing something or selling something illicit just to support Amy and their son.)

In addition, Jack – the show’s most worthless character – finally has a story, and while it’s not the best story in the world, it’s definitely the funniest this season. Watching this meathead white boy walk around this show’s lame version of “The Ghetto” and be basically humiliated each and every step of the way is just nutty and absurd enough that this show had to be on cable. I don’t know one major network honcho who wouldn’t have noticed that Jack’s “muggings” were screwball basic cable comedy at its finest, and it’s even better that Brenda Hampton doesn’t even seem to notice.

And Ashley is still hilarious. Do people still think she’s a shitty character played by a shitty actress? Do these people know any actual teenagers?

The Wife:

Finally, an episode that deals with how Chuck’s spy life affects his relationship with Morgan! I think we often look at Morgan as comic relief, and he does get to be the ringleader of the Buy More shenanigans most of the time, but rarely do we see Morgan as a fully-realized person (with feelings other than lust and humor), and to that end, this episode was a great success. It also answers my question about where the hell Anna has been for the past six episodes or so, because the answer is making out with another guy who is taller than Morgan and richer than Morgan.

Morgan convinces Chuck to help him spy on Anna, and in so doing, Chuck flashes on her new boyfriend’s car. Anna’s new boyfriend, Jason Wang, deals with an espionage group known as Triad, and the General orders Chuck to get close to Jason Wang so he can suss out his exactly level of involvement with the group and find out what their planning. Chuck refuses to do this, feeling that any association with Anna would betray Morgan’s trust.

“You want me to befriend my best friend’s ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend?”

To facilitate this, Chuck invites Anna and Jason to go on a double date with him and Sarah. Thrilled, Anna invites them to a party Jason is throwing that night to display the collector’s cars he’s lined up for auction. Uncomfortable with his betray-Morgan mission, Chuck proposes a sub-mission in which he and Sarah try to get Anna and Morgan back together. At the party, Sarah endears herself to Anna, telling her that she’s always thought of Anna and Morgan as a great couple and good friends, which instantly wins Anna’s trust and has her confessing to Sarah that she still loves Morgan even though she thinks Jason is a better catch. Morgan, spying from outside, catches Chuck talking to Jason and instantly thinks his friend has betrayed him.

Chuck then flashes on some of Jason’s friends, members of Triad, and follows them to the garage to plant a bug so Casey can survey them and find out what they’re up to. He knocks over a can in the process, leading him to almost get caught. When he hears Triad call for security, he assumes Casey is coming to rescue him, but then they both realize that the Triad gang members have caught Morgan and the only way Chuck believe he can save his friends life is to publicly shame him, telling the Triad folks that Morgan isn’t a spy, just a worthless, lowly stalker who can’t get over his ex. With a half-hearted plea to “grow up,” Chuck breaks Morgan’s heart and his trust, and undoes all the legwork Sarah had done to convince Anna to take Morgan back.

Meanwhile, Ellie is up to her neck in wedding plans and she asks Shirtless Awesome to help her with some of her to-do list. In a good-natured attempt to get Chuck involved, as well, Awesome asks him to help find a band for the wedding, which Jeff and Lester overhear and pitch themselves for. Chuck nixes this plan without even hearing their music, to which Jeff shoots back:

“Don’t be a musical bigot.”


When Ellie’s computer crashes, Jeff and Lester see it as an impromptu chance to audition, so they take the Nerd Herder and head over to Chez Bartowski to endear themselves to Awesome and Ellie, but once they set up shop, Lester gets stage fright and can’t bring himself to live out his dream of singing in the greatest rock band of all time, Jeffster. (He fears, by the way, that he will die of auto-erotic asphyxiation, which is always funny, because I think of Peter Boyle telling that to David Duchovny in The X-Files episode “Clive Bruckman’s Final Repose.”) Ellie then gets mad at Awesome for outsourcing his list to Chuck, as brides are want to do.

This is not what I ordered from Amazon!

This is not what I ordered from Amazon!

Chuck feels awful about hurting Morgan, but Sarah has little sympathy for him, putting the greater good of the mission into perspective. Chuck tries to make up with Morgan, but Morgan realizes he doesn’t want to be Chuck’s friend anymore because, ever since the flashback to 1992 that opened this episode, Chuck has always been stepping in to save that little bearded Alf-loving man’s ass and it’s about time Morgan learned to do things on his own. But then Chuck sees those Triad baddies enter the store, and he knocks out Morgan with some knock-out Binaca and tries to haul his buddy out of danger in a flat-screen TV box, until he gets distracted and flashes on Jason Wang on TV, leaving Triad to steal their boxed-up and incapacitated target all the more easily. While he loses Morgan, Chuck realizes through his flash that Triad plans to kill the Chinese ambassador at Jason’s auction by planting a bomb in his brand new Rolls Royce. Things only get worse when they arrive at the auction and find that Triad has put Morgan into the Ambassador’s trunk, killing two birds with one bomb, as Smooth Lau observed.

Sarah heads to the garage in the hopes on intersecting the vehicle before it’s driven away, but instead she gets into a knock-down drag-out girl battle with Smooth Lau, and they end up beating the shit out of one another using car parts and seatbelts in a BMW. Chuck chases after the Rolls with Casey hanging off the roof, begging to be let in. Chuck finally agrees and Casey takes over driving the car with his remote control, until he is able to corner the Rolls and stop it. As Casey distracts the Ambassador and his driver, Chuck pulls the bomb out of the car and puts in the Nerd Herder, appearing to drive away with it, and causing late-arrival Sarah to react in tears and horror when the Herder blows up. Apparently, Casey forgot Chuck knew about the remote control he had only told him about minutes before, because Casey seemed pretty upset to potentially lose Chuck, too. But you know who didn’t think Chuck was in that car at all? Me. Nonetheless, having Sarah and Casey believe Chuck had just died for Morgan made the scene worthwhile, providing the right note of drama on their horrified faces that I didn’t get from the Nerd Herder fake-out. (Note: I want to trick out my Matrix with a remote control, too.)

Apologizing for nearly giving Sarah and Casey heart attacks, Chuck gets Morgan out of the Ambassador’s trunk and wheels him back to the Buy More before he even knows what happened. Chuck tells him that he passed out before the Triad guys could even fight him, and Morgan is touched that someone he’d been mean to recently would have his back, always and forever. Awesome makes up with Ellie and convinces her to let Jeffster audition for them at the Buy More, where they rock out to some sweet sounds by Toto. At the show, Anna and Morgan get back together, and Sarah apologizes to Chuck for not understanding how important his friends are to him because she doesn’t have anyone who cares about her like that, to which Chuck replies, “Yes, you do.”

What I love about Chuck is that for all its coolness and geek humor, it always finds a way to make use of tender and heartbreaking moments. I was sad for Morgan when Chuck betrayed him in front of Anna, and wholly touched at the end when Chuck professed his devotion to Sarah as Morgan and Anna joined them at the Jeffster show. This was a solid episode, all around, and fused the three plots pretty neatly.

Stray observations:

  • I also like that this show realizes how much the female/gay male audience loves to see Captain Awesome shirtless. I will never say no to shirtless Captain Awesome.
  • Y: The Last Man makes two appearances in this episode! Awesome is reading “Volume 1: Unmanned” when he wakes Chuck up to ask for band advice, and Chuck also has a poster of some of the art on his wall. And no, I don’t think it’s sad that I can identify a graphic novel just by seeing a panel of a blonde girl in the Aussie outback and a glimpse of the back cover. You know what that makes me? Fucking awesome, is what.
  • Because I spent so much time last week reading the last four volumes of Y and thinking about how it interacts with Brian K. Vaughn’s work on Lost, I also realized that the graphic novel also makes sense in the Chuck-verse, on a surface level. Like Yorick Brown, Chuck Bartowski is a man thrown into a situation that he’s completely unprepared and unqualified for. They both hang out with monkeys, or men who are very monkey-like, and both narratives feature an awful lot of hot girl-on-girl fight scenes. I might even propose that Smooth Lau is an homage to Y‘s super-ninja bitch, Toyota. (For serious, they look alike.)
  • In short, all of you should read Y: The Last Man. It’s fucking amazing.

The Husband:

The best episode in some time, this was the Chuck that brought us back to the show’s original intention – to be a comedy/action show, and they should hold equal ground. The entire second-to-last segment was as good as anything s1 cooked up as far as tension was concerned, what with a surprisingly well-shot car chase sequence (it helps that both of the cars looked effin’ sweet), mixed with some old school Bondian gadgets and silly criminals. I think I like the show best when all of the main characters are acting in one reality (ours), while the spy story is something out of a comic book (alternate reality), finding the humor in the dichotomy. It’s what makes Monty Python so funny, applying logic to the silliest of situations, and it’s what makes Chuck special.

I will show you smooth, bitch.

I will show you smooth, bitch.

And yes, the Sarah-Smooth Lau combat inside the BMW was so well-choreographed that it felt like an early 90s Jackie Chan movie (one of the ones with Michelle Yeoh). Good stuff, Schwartz.

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