July 2009


The Wife:

This episode was the stuff of my nightmares. And I’m not saying that because my perfect Top 4 was shattered with the inclusion of Evan because I do like Evan very much. I’m saying it was a nightmare because it opened with a Tyce DiOrio Broadway routine about clowns. Clowns! WHY, GOD, WHY! Two of my least favorite things in the world were synthesized into one horrible vision. And yet, despite my dislike of both of those things, the “Send in the Clowns” number was actually pretty solid. It didn’t inspire any intense Tyce hatred in me, and, frankly, sad Harlequin clowns are the kind I find most palatable. It even established a somewhat ominous tone for the show, as well. I mean, how can you not see the appropriateness of one sad clown Evan being left out of the box by the other clowns? It’s totally a metaphor for the competition, and not in a painstakingly obvious TabNap kind of way. It’s there, but it wasn’t covering your head with a moving box, if you know what I mean.

In addition to our results, we were treated to a showing of the four Emmy-nominated routines from last season: Tyce DiOrio’s “Silence” for Will and Jessica, Mia Michaels’ “Mercy” for Katee and Twitch, Dmitry Chaplin’s “A Los Amigos” for Chelsie and Joshua and Nappytab’s “Bleeding Love” for Chelsie and Mark. Since this isn’t the meat of the show, I’m not going to spend time critiquing second showings of these works, but here are some observations:

  • “Silence” is way better live because you can actually hear Will and Jessica struggling for breath. It struck me as extremely beautiful on the tour because of that, but not so much replayed on my TV.
  • Also, I still hate Jessica.
  • “Mercy” is never not awesome. I loved that Katee and Twitch kept character even through their bows.
  • I think the reason “A Los Amigos” is such a good Argentine Tango number is that it’s choreographed to be performed as part of a stage show, rather than part of a dance competition. It’s really dynamic and visually interesting in its movement and stagecraft. Sometimes, I think the problem with some ballroom on this show is that the choreographers forget they aren’t choreographing for a competition, but for a stage show.
  • “Bleeding Love” will always be one of TabNap’s best, and that’s because of the sheer ferociousness with which Chelsie and Mark dance it. If you strip that away, the choreography is kind of just a lot of bouncing and flailing, no?
  • Kupono, you are not, nor will you ever be, anywhere near as good as Mark Kanemura.


The first winners of America’s Best Dance Crew, the amazing Jabbawockeez, performed and they were totally tizzight as usual in their routine to “Freak-a-Zoid.” I could have done without the giant mask onstage, and the mask projections on the screens. They were a little distracting to the movement. Sean Paul also performed with a bunch of backup dancers who were dressed like Darryl Hannah in Blade Runner. I do not know why, and I apparently never will. Cat wore a sparkly green dress. Jeanine and Brandon were sent straight to the finale, and the remaining dancers soloed again, with no changes at all on the part of the ladies. At least Ade added in his deadly backflip and Evan, I think, pumped up his technique a bit.

Farewell, Melissa and Ade!

Farewell, Melissa and Ade!

But after all that, Evan and Kayla were allowed by America to join Jeanine and Brandon in the finale and I’m fine with that. Yes, I do love Evan, but I also think he’s outlived his usefulness here. However, I have to keep reminding myself that once we hit the Top 10, it becomes about being America’s Favorite Dancer, not America’s Best Backflipping Guy. When you compare the strengths and weaknesses of Ade and Evan, I think you can make the case that, personality aside, Evan has a better technical background. When it comes down to adorability and personality, Evan clearly wins there. But watching Ade falter in yet another ballroom routine made me wonder if maybe Evan really is the more technically skilled of the two and, for some reason, that just isn’t coming through in the works he’s been given. When I look at both men’s solos, they astound me for completely different reasons. So even though I’d have preferred Ade, I’m really fine with Evan in the Top 4. It nearly guarantees that he’ll be invited back to choreograph if he so desires, à la Travis Wall.

As for Melissa, there was no way she’d have made the Top 4. I like her bunches, and I think she did a great deal to help classical ballet become a popular style again. In my dream world where everyone spends money on art, Melissa’s very presence in a reality dance competition program means more ballet patrons and therefore more money going to sustain dance companies and dancers themselves. But when put next to Kayla and Jeanine, who are both such powerhouse performers, Melissa didn’t stand a chance.

So congrats to Jeanine, Evan, Kayla and Brandon! I’d automatically give my winning vote to Spiseagle Brandon Bryant, but I’d like to see a talented female win this year, so my votes next week are going to Kayla. Who will you guys be voting for now that we’re down to the wire? The (dance) floor, my friends, is yours.

Stray thoughts:

  • My husband pointed out that when he rewatched Evan’s solos from the last two weeks, Evan was doing dead-on imitations of Gene Kelly’s facial expressions. If he paused the dance at certain moments, my husband would be able to tell you exactly what scene in what movie Gene Kelly makes that face.
  • For my part, Sad Clown Evan reminded me of John Leguizamo as Tolouse Latrec when he’s dressed as the Magical Sitar in Moulin Rouge and is crying because Satine is dead. This is much more of a compliment than saying, “He reminded me of Gene Kelly in the clown scene in The Pirate.” Because that dance is terrible. And it’s terrible because of Judy Garland.
  • I’m glad Ade was so happy for Brandon to make it straight through to the finale. I assume it’s because they’re both part of the Sexy Black Man Club, which I imagine has Seal as a president and Taye Diggs as VP. Denzel Washington was a charter member, but he resigned some years ago. They revoked Will Smith’s membership after Fresh Prince was cancelled. Djimon Honsou is their Cultural Attache to France. I can keep going. Really, I can.
  • When I saw a shot of Melissa’s husband in the audience standing next to a dude who looked suspiciously like him, I suddenly remembered that she and her sister were married to brothers. That’s so uncanny.
  • What do we all make of this “This dancer will be in the finale, but they didn’t necessarily pull the most votes” thing? Katee-Was-Actually-Second-Place conspiracy theorists, please weigh in.
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The Husband:

– I’m sorry, but Casey the Bitter Banana absolutely deserved that eviction. Thinking himself a noble being and a formidable player, he decided to do two things I very much don’t advise: 1.) expose your entire plan, and 2.) act like a total jackass. Oh, poor you, Casey. Things didn’t go exactly as you planned, so you stomped your feet and cried like one of your Floridian fifth graders. I’m sorry, but your ill-advised ego got a hold of your game and never let go, and you simply pissed off enough people to warrant an ousting. There are few things I hate more on this show than the woe-is-my-betrayed-hide guff I get from you and, during last week, Russell. It’s a strategy game, and if you end up on the outside of the house during the first half of the game, you personally did something wrong, and this very much includes your margarita-party-over-more-points bullshit during the challenge. (In the home stretch, it becomes less about your external mistakes and more about your internal ones, but that’s a discussion for another day.) And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with wearing a banana suit, especially one as non-embarrassing as that one. I had to wear a full banana suit my first day at Jamba Juice back when I was in college, and I relished the opportunity to traipse around the Powell Street Plaza in Emeryville jumping like a freak and handing out coupons. It was actually my favorite day at that summer job. So suck it.

-I still simply do not understand the hate for Ronnie from most of the house and the online community. He hasn’t acted a buffoon, he hasn’t acted like a sore winner/loser, and he most certainly hasn’t actually stepped on too many toes. He’s the victim of a terrible smear campaign, when he is doing what everybody should be doing – playing the godforsaken game. He’s using his smarts, he’s keeping his boasts to the diary room and he has 100% succeeded in moving his target onto Jessie’s back. Ronnie isn’t Jessie’s bitch, Jordan – Jessie is Ronnie’s bitch. Is it that Ronnie isn’t as good-looking as Dr. Will, who played a similarly risky game? Are your insults solely aimed at Ronnie’s nerdy looks? Can you look past your preconceived notions about “brains” and realize that he had bounced back admirably from nearly burying himself during his HOH run? It seems not.

This reaaaaaaallllllllly has to stop.

This reaaaaaaallllllllly has to stop.

– Lydia lusting after Jessie = gross. I thought you were better than that, Lydia, but I can understand your brain getting a little scrambled having lived in L.A. for so long. (That’s right. I said it. I lived there for five years, so I can say that.)

– Ohhhhh, Jordan, I understand that, judging from the live feeds reports, you are not nearly as stupid as you are made out to be on CBS. I can understand that. You have a very dark underside, and each episode I come closer to realizing how street-smart you are. But man, what happened during your childhood that would make you appear so completely vapid in regards to any actual education? I’m trying not to chalk it up solely to your extreme prettiness, but it’s hard to find another explanation.

Here are my favorite Jordan quotations from the week:

“I may not be the smartest crayon in the box.”

Jeff: What was that?

Jordan: That was a fart. On your face.

And her best ironic statement of the week:

Casey: They sent Laura home because she wasn’t a sheep. Same with me. I’m not a sheep.

Jordan: I’m right behind you.


– Did anyone see that Russell/Ronnie twist coming? As evidenced from my tirade against Russell last week, I certainly didn’t. After nearly destroying Ronnie’s soul last week, Russell is now in a secret alliance with Ronnie. (Which, of course, became not-so-secret when everybody noticed how chummy they were being. Good job, Aggie.) Oh well. The douche-manchu is gone, and Russell is back to being an unknowing buffer between the jocks and the rest of the house, as evidenced by the best dialogue of the last three episodes:

Casey: On that team, you’re number four.

Russell: [pause] I’m number two.

– I most certainly hope that the gigantic foam diploma (which looks more like a bow-tied crèpe to me) makes it onto The Soup tonight, because that’s certainly the funniest thing that has happened so far this season.

The Wife:

Usually reality shows do not coincide with major events in my life, but it just struck me while watching the show last night that next week would be the finale of SYTYCD 5, and that also means that summer is over and my move to the Pacific Northwest is imminent. We bought tickets to the Everett show, one of the last on the tour, last Saturday. It’s all happening.

This week, we were treated not only to six routines from our remaining six dancers, plus solos, but also two routines from Sonya Tayeh for the Top three dancers of each gender. I’m actually going to take a minute to talk about Sonya’s pieces first because they were both so good that they deserve recognition. First of all, I want to retract what I said last week about how I’d never cast Evan in a Sonya Tayeh piece. I’m sorry, Mia Michaels, but you are wrong and I was wrong to agree with you. For as good as Brandon and Ade were in Sonya’s Willy Wonka-inspired jazz piece to “True Romance” by She Wants Revenge, the person I noticed the most was Evan. He danced just as strongly as his counterparts, and, I’d argue, with more character. That piece was a joy to watch, quirky and weird and interesting, and suited each of the guys’ strengths. As for the girls routine, Sonya prepared something that highlighted each of their strengths and turned them into superheroes (complete with belts bearing their initials) for a routine set to “Kick It (Superheroes Remix)” by Nina Martino. What I liked about both of these pieces was not simply the dancing, which was excellent from every performer, but Sonya’s use of levels in her work, as well as her commitment to using the entire stage. It made these pieces really powerful, and that made them great bookends for the beginning and end of the show.

The Excellent

Kayla and Brandon (Contemporary)
Choreography by Stacey Tookey
Song: “All I Want” by Ahn Trio

This was Uh. May. Zing. I seriously got chills watching this piece. It was a gorgeous story danced with sheer gorgeousness and gorgeousity all over. Highlights include Brandon lifting Kayla on her side, with her legs bowed together in a frog-like shape, the upside-down V-lift and anytime the two of them came together. Lil C said this was the first time Kayla had been paired with a partner of equal skill and the results were amazing, Mary put Brandon on the Hot Tamale Train beside Kayla and Nigel muttered something incomprehensible about how he thought they didn’t have enough chemistry together but the dancing was strong. To which I say: Nigel, this piece was about a man using and abusing his mistress. They don’t have to have romantic chemistry, they simply need to appear like they get together once a week to fuck. And they did that extremely well.

Another suitcase, another hall.

Another suitcase, another hall.

Kayla and Brandon (Disco)
Choreography by Doriana Sanchez
Song: “Dance (Disco Heat)” by Sylvester

Clearly, Kayla and Brandon are my couple of the night, and not only because they’re two of my favorite dancers. They were simply on fucking fire tonight. I thought disco might kill them, as it sometimes destroys people, but Doriana Sanchez gave us another really memorable, fun and awesome disco routine last night that was made all the better by the people performing it. I have no idea what the hell Lil C was talking about with his rambling about the darkness and seeing with your ears, but I’m going to guess that he meant that Brandon and Kayla demonstrated excellent musicality in this performance. They were, in fact, spot on in their double arm extensions when Brandon lifted Kayla with his shoulders. All of the judges loved this piece and the dance was hot enough to receive two Official Mary Murphy Screams, plus two first class tickets on the Hot Tamale Train for each of the dancers. If there’s one critique I can give the dance that went unsaid by the judging panel, it’s that while I liked the double death drop in theory, the reverse-gender half of it simply didn’t work for me as Brandon nearly took Kayla to the floor with him in his section. Great idea, but it didn’t quite work. Even so, this piece was excellent.

The Good to Very Good

Jeanine and Ade (Samba)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstel
Song: “LoveGame” by Lady Gaga

Dear Karla and Jonathan (and Tony Meredith): this is how a Latin ballroom number set to Lady Gaga should look and feel. Jeanine was in it to win it on this one from the moment she lowered her stunna shades and shook her feathered rump bustle like there was no fucking tomorrow. Also, I’m so glad I got my “LoveGame” wish and Jeanine sort of took a ride on her partner’s disco stick. At least, I’m pretty sure her ass feathers did. I would have put this in the “Excellent” section, but I have to agree with Mary that Ade’s samba rolls were a bit weak. Lil C, I believe, called this dance some sort of misfire in the Large Hadron Super Collider and Nigel reminded Ade that he has to change his style a bit to suit each dance. But even with Ade’s faults here, Jeanine was totally and completely amazing in this. She’s a spectacular performer, and any girl who can wear that many feathers on her ass is aces in my book. Totally my favorite outfit of the night.

Shake those tailfeathers, Jeanine!

Shake those tailfeathers, Jeanine!

Jeanine and Ade (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by TabNap
Song: “Move (If You Wanna)” by MIMS

After having Shane Sparks last week and being reminded how totally awesome hip-hop on this show can be when its hard-hitting and inspiring (which is not to say that I haven’t loved a few of TabNap’s lyrical hip-hops), I ready to roll my eyes at TabNap’s attempts to follow that zombie number. I saw moving boxes and thought, “Oh! Did TabNap just buy their first house? How sweet!” But what I thought would have been kind of stupid ended up being pretty damn fun. Jeanine and Ade were both fantastic in this number, although for a time I thought Ade was dancing too high until I realized that was just an optical illusion created by Jeanine’s smaller stature. The choreography here was fun and inventive, as well. The sad faces on the moving boxes at the end were a little too precious for me, but I loved the segment where the dancers had to move with boxes on their feet. That was inspired. The judges were way into this one as well, and Mary took the time to remind Jeanine how good she was in the samba. Nigel, instead, took the time to complain about his ex-wife. Nigel, fucking shut it. Half of everything you say makes you seem like a misogynistic asshat. I don’t care how much you hate your ex, just fucking let it go.

Melissa and Evan (Quickstep)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstel
Song: “As Long as I’m Singin'” by the Brian Setzer Orchestra

I heard that they drew the quickstep and announced, “You’re done” to my television. After five seasons of this show, I think we’re all aware that a quickstep is the kiss of death on SYTYCD. It’s an awful dance that almost no one does well. In fact, I can only think of two I’ve ever really liked. One was performed by Artem in season one, and the other performed by Sabra and Pasha in season three to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. But Melissa and Evan broke my “Only Russians Can Quickstep” rule tonight by performing a number I actually liked. Louis Van Amstel’s choreography here was lively and fun to watch, and well-suited to the music. (Ill-chosen music, I think, kills many a quickstep instantly.) This style was far better suited to Evan’s talents than Tyce’s earlier Broadway routine was and I thought he looked really good here, as did Melissa. Lil C critiqued Evan’s retractions, which weren’t snappy enough for him, but admired how big he danced this number. Mary, who choreographed that great quickstep with Artem in season one, thought the dance started strong, but fell apart in the final grapevine section and noted that while the choreography was fun, it wasn’t a true quickstep. Frankly, I don’t care, because it was fun to watch. Nigel also pointed out Evan’s retraction problem in the lindy hop/Charleston segment (which, to my eye, contained zero lindy hopping).

Will I be proven wrong about Quicksteps? Doubtful.

Will I be proven wrong about Quicksteps? Doubtful.

The Mediocre

Melissa and Evan (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “Get Me to the Church on Time” from My Fair Lady, only it was some bizarre swing version of it

I do not even have feelings about this routine.

Solos

1. Brandon: “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana. Um, okay guys. I am now pretty sure that Brandon is not human. I think he was simultaneously part spider, part seal and part eagle in this solo. Like a Spiseagle. Spiseagle! Oh my god! That’s now my new nickname for him! Brandon the Spiseagle was totally freaking amazing in this, and I completely agree with Nigel that it may have been the best solo ever seen on SYTYCD. Even if Brandon’s personality isn’t quite your thing, you have to admit he’s the most fucking absurdly talented dancer on this show. I mean, seriously. Watch that solo again. You’ll see.

2. Jeanine: “Feedback” by Janet Jackson. This was not as strong as some of her past solos, but I think she toned down the technique here for the sake of personality. By which I mean she stole Melissa’s whole “naughty ballerina” thing from her. It was sexy, that’s for sure. But, dear Jeanine, please don’t rely too much on your sexiness. Remind us all that you’re also talented as all hell. We can tell you’re sexy just by looking at you.

3. Ade: “11th Floor Balcony” by Blue October. While this was his least impressive solo yet, for lack of near-death experiences, I am still continually impressed by the strength of Ade’s core and the way he sweeps his arms.

4. Kayla: “You Found Me” by The Fray. I think this solo was her attempt to dramatize the first season of Lost in under 30 seconds. Did you see her swim in this piece? I did. Again, not her strongest. I love her, but I’m still waiting for something as Radomkulous as her audition in Denver.

5. Evan: “Lady Is a Tramp” by Sammy Davis, Jr. What can I say? I love his solos. They’re so adorable. And he actually twinkled his toes in this one!

6. Melissa: “I Put a Spell on You” by Nina Simone. I like Melissa, but each time I see her solos, I am less and less impressed. I’d really rather she perform a classical ballet solo that shows her strengths, rather than these odd little improvs.

I’m really at a loss for who could be going home this week. I am pretty sure Melissa will be the girl to leave us, as both Jeanine and Kayla absolutely deserve to stay. Evan should leave us, in order to preserve my perfect final four dancers, but Ade kind of took a beating from the judges and there are as many Brandon detractors as there are Evan fans. But I’m going to vote with the Rule of the Quickstep and lock in Jeanine, Kayla, Brandon and Ade as my final four.

The Wife:

It’s the last day of school over on SLOTAT and everyone’s deciding what to do with their respective summers. Ben is headed off to Bologna, and Amy has finally made peace with the fact that he’s going because she’s got three incompletes to make up in summer school. Amy treats this like it’s basically the worst and most unexpected thing ever, but just because you got pregnant and had a baby doesn’t mean you can be late to class all the time and not do your homework.

I have no sympathy for her plight here, and that’s probably because I’m one of the kids who loved summer school. I never had to make up a class in the summer, but I voluntarily took summer classes every year through a program at UC Berkeley. I mean, really, what would you choose: spending a summer hanging out on a college campus when you’re a teenager, or spending your summer stuck in a small town, bored off your ass because there’s nothing to do? It’s pretty clear to me. Like, going to Bologna when someone offers you an all-expenses-paid trip. Or, say, attending a summer medical program when your dead father had the foresight to apply for you. I’m actually most happy about that turn of events for Grace, as it seems that this medical program is the only thing able to take her mind off her grief, despite Jack, Ben and Madison’s best attempts to give her a circle of peers by forming some kind of Dead Parents Club.

My absolute hatred of Amy this season has lead to my sudden and surprising love for Ricky. When Amy spends every moment of this episode complaining about summer school, having a baby, not being able to go on trips, having to work to support her child and, on top of that, being immortalized in the yearbook as “The Pregnant Girl,” Ricky reminds her that even though life is fucking tough all over, it could be a lot worse for her. She could have dropped out of high school. She could have been kicked out by her parents. All in all, Amy’s got it pretty fucking good and she needs to start being grateful for that.

Besides, Amy should be proud of that yearbook photo. Even without it, everyone would remember her as the pregnant girl anyway, so she may as well have a nice portrait to commemorate it. And yes, it is kind of funny that John got in the yearbook. It will horrify him years later, but then he’ll be cool with it and you’ll all have a good larf.

So Amy shows her gratitude toward Ricky for this reminder by allowing him to spend his first night at his new apartment with their son. (Which kind of pisses off Adrian, but ultimately reunites her with her mother and father who are desperately trying to form some semblance of a family unit with their headstrong daughter.) But even with that permission, Ricky ends up spending the night at Amy’s house because he doesn’t want to wake John, which provides a nice dramatic backdrop for Ben when he decides to give Amy the proper goodbye he’s been trying to give her all episode. She finally softens to Ben, only to have him be spooked by the fact that her baby daddy spent the night. It’s getting like a VH1 show up in that hizzouse!

Boom! You just got served!

Boom! You just got served!

Meanwhile, Anne serves George with divorce papers, having finally made up her mind to marry David after he ambushes her with a meeting with his parents. (Anne must have some seriously bad pregnancy brain, because she’s really, really slow to catch on to obvious situations like, say, someone building a house for you or someone’s parents not being clients, for instance.) Both Ashley and Adrian try to force George to tell Anne that the baby she’s carrying is probably his, but when she demands he sign the divorce papers, he can’t bring himself to do it. I’ve actually been enjoying this George-Anne storyline this season, as George’s actions reveal a hint of kindness we didn’t really know he had for the first two seasons. There’s a part of him that knows that Anne will be well cared for with David, and that means that the baby, as well as Amy and Ashley, will also be well cared for. Should he tell Anne? Absolutely, but I find there’s a real sweetness in the reasons he doesn’t want to.

Also, Betty is indeed an escort, and the Sausage King doesn’t care. Boy, I’m glad we spent so much time on that storyline, because it clearly had a worthwhile dramatic payoff. And Mr. Molina came back for this episode, only to announce that he wouldn’t be back next school year so he could care for his wife and child. Awesome. Can you say plot device? Because I can. And I just did.

Stray thoughts and quotes:

  • I am really curious as to the kind of sentiments Ricky would write in people’s yearbooks. “Call me if you want to bone!” I just imagine all of it would be really dirty.
  • “I thought we decided Betty was just a well-built, worldly woman with questionable fashion sense.” – Alice, with one of the show’s best lines ever.
  • Mr. Molina: “I still have both my parents.”
    Grace [snidely]: “Then I guess you can’t be in our Dead Parents Club.”
  • This local commercial played during SLOTAT last night, and I want you all to help me get it on WebSoup. I truly, truly enjoy it:

W E T P E T S! W E T P E T S!

The Wife:

This weekend, I was able to watch the original Joss Whedon pilot for Dollhouse (included on the DVD that comes out Tuesday, July 27), as well as the futuristic mind-fuck that is the unaired “Epitaph One.” And even though I have some slight misgivings about certain things in Whedon’s original pilot, I ultimately believe that it would have set the show up for a better, more consistent run, leading ultimately to “Epitaph One,” which is one of the most interesting episodes of science-fiction television I’ve seen in some time. Let’s look at these things one at a time:

“Unaired Pilot”

The only thing I didn’t like about this pilot is that it reveals that Sierra and Victor are dolls right away. Therefore, if this had been the pilot, the Victor reveal that happens a few episodes later wouldn’t have been shocking. Nor would have Echo witnessed Sierra’s making and called into question her own making. However, for all that was sacrificed, the episode managed to explain a lot about the business strategy of the Dollhouse in a very believable, naturalistic way. In fact, the opening scene here is of Miss DeWitt explaining the process to a skeptical client. Likewise, there’s a scene where Topher explains to Boyd, not quite as new to the operation as he appears in the reshoot we all saw, how his tech works and why he’s so concerned over the dolls flocking together. Sometimes, these parts felt a little too “telly,” but in the end, I really didn’t mind them. A pilot should establish your universe, and Whedon’s original pilot does that a lot better than the one Fox made him rewrite.

And if there’s any positive spin I can put on not having the Victor/Sierra introductions appear a few episodes in, it’s that Echo’s problems don’t surface right away and it establishes the possibility that her “evolution” might also be happening to other dolls. There’s also a better character introduction to Whiskey, although it still doesn’t affect the game-changing 11th hour reveal that she’s a doll. It simply hints about the Alpha problem earlier and actually answered my question about how many people in the Dollhouse’s employ were aware that Whiskey was a doll. It’s clear from a scene she shares with Topher (about how pro bono engagements with purely altruistic purposes are good for the dolls’ health) that he, as well as others, are aware of what she once was. They simply do not address it.

I do like that this version of the pilot established a prior connection between Echo and Ashley Johnson’s character who, in the finale, has Caroline’s personality uploaded into her. It would have been great for Fox to have allowed that to stay so that the season finale would have included a great big payoff for those who had been watching since day one (“Honey, I am you,” Echo growls at alcoholic Ashley Johnson, in a delightful bit of foreshadowing before launching into a screed about how she once was addicted to booze and men. Echo is a better Cleaner than Benjamin Bratt is, and I appreciate that altruistic engagements can still involve kicking out barstools from under people.) And it would completely explain why that particular mall employee is the one that Echo and Alpha as Mickey-and-Mallory kidnapped, as she would have looked familiar, thus triggering Echo’s memory issues.

There’s also not a hint of Mellie/November to be found, which is great, because Miracle Laurie was always the worst part of this show.

But the most important and necessary part of Whedon’s pilot is the way in which it establishes Echo’s relationship to Paul Ballard. See, she was originally sent to kill him, in the guise of a woman looking for her lost sister (“Caroline”), and, once she got close enough to him to seduce him, she’d off him and rid the Dollhouse of the Paul Ballard problem forever. But Echo fails to kill him, and though she is called off her mission before she can snuff his life out in his hospital bed, this gives Paul Ballard a good reason to be obsessed with this woman who looks like Caroline and why it’s vitally important for him to find the Dollhouse.

Whedon’s original pilot only makes me wonder how much more solid the whole series could have been had Fox not asked him to make the series conform to some sort of case-of-the-week format. This episode definitely felt more like a Whedon episode, from ass-kicking ladies to corporations with less-than-forthright intentions to excellent character building and witty zingers. (More Topher = more goodness.) All I can say is that I’d have loved to see the show jump off from this point, rather than where it actually started. I can only imagine how much better it would have been.

The house that Echo built.

The house that Echo built.

“Epitaph One”

If you regularly read my Dollhouse posts during the season, you would know that one of my chief complaints during the course of season one was that the show always skirted issues of consciousness and embodiment, both physical and digital, as well as other cyberpunk-esque conceits. Here, Whedon treated us to a future, only 10 years down the line, in which the technology employed at the Dollhouse and other similar houses has gotten out-of-hand and basically caused the apocalypse. Not only has most of the world as we know it been destroyed by weapons technology from China (obviously, this is prior to the Sino-American alliance of Firefly), but there’s also an all-out war between natural humans and those with imprints, specifically those who have been imprinted so often that they no longer have a memory, roaming the land, it seems, like vacant zombies, capable of basic human function but incapable of emotion or real thought. The “actuals” have taken to tattooing themselves with birthmarks of their own names so that they never forget who they are – something which, for the sake of my continued work on tattoos and body marking, I hope is further explored as Dollhouse progresses.

In this episode, a group of actuals are heading underground to find a place called “Safe Haven,” and find themselves inside ruins of the Dollhouse. They’re mission is to protect a little girl, who turns out to not be quite what they thought she was, and by encountering Whiskey and experimenting with Topher’s chair on a captive “blank slate,” they learn about what happened to the Dollhouse that made things get so bad. Among these incidents: Victor and Sierra also underwent the multiple consciousness uploading processes that Echo went through, allowing them to be many people simultaneously; the Dollhouse acts as an underground safe haven, with Miss DeWitt heading up vigils for people’s memories, as forgetting seems to be a plague affecting the world; Topher, unable to cope with the fact that his technology, a technology he revolutionized so that uploads would happen in minutes, rather than hours, has wrought such horrors upon the world, is reduced to a blubbering mess, sleeping in the pods the dolls used to occupy and desperately trying to find the right math to fix things. There are many other things we learn here, but no image was more powerful for me than the image of Topher, scratching symbols into the walls of his pod with chalk, rocking back and forth in Miss DeWitt’s arms and crying, a mere shell of the brilliant, confident man he once was.

I think “Epitaph One” gives us an excellent look at where this series could go, getting darker and darker as it progresses. I’m not sure I’d like to see Dollhouse play out for 10 years (nor should it, as it would be hard to maintain being your best as a doll once aging takes its toll), but I’d love to see Dollhouse function on a five-year plan, exactly the length of each doll’s contract, building a momentum toward this destructive and horrible future, preferably with some episodes like “Epitaph One” thrown in. Lost revolutionized and reinvigorated its narrative by tossing in some flash-forward storytelling, and I think that Dollhouse would do well to include a few glimpses into the future, as well. I like every idea presented in “Epitaph One,” and I liked its execution. I’d like to see more like this, and it gives me great hope for the potential of this series.

The Husband:

If IMDb is to be trusted (which is should be about 80% of the time), the show is intended to run, as mapped out, for five years. This is a good, comfortable number, as that is the longest amount of time any Whedon show has lasted on one network. So it’s optimistic while still being realistic. And if you’re like my wife and you pay attention to the show (which I clearly did not do nearly as well), then you’re already ahead of this information and now I look like a fool. But hey, at least I’m confirming your estimates.

As far as “Epitaph One” goes, I hope more people don’t complain about its spoilerishness, because I don’t really look at it this way. For one, I don’t think anybody behind the show has said whether or not this episode should be considered canon. Then again, I didn’t listen to Whedon’s commentary on the disc, so I can’t be certain. Maybe Whedon mentioned something at Comic-Con this past weekend that could illuminate this discussion. But I do know that he mentioned (at least allegedly, as I read this on a blog review of “Epitaph One”) that even if it is canonical, we have to realize that the memories we see throughout the episode can’t be entirely trusted, as memories are, by nature, not always the truth.

But I often subscribe to the Sophocles version of storytelling mentioned in what I refer to as Ebert’s Theory of Sophocles vs. Shakespeare as found in his review for Road to Perdition, which raises the question of whether or not a reader/viewer wants their story’s conclusion fated/preordained/foreshadowed. Oftentimes, by knowing the direct ending of a story, it does not spoil what comes before but makes the events even more suspenseful, exciting and even heartbreaking. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle, we know how it’s going to turn out, but we don’t know why, and it makes the story that much better. It’s obvious from Death of a Salesman what is going to happen at the end, so it’s the journey that is the important element of that play. And, to go way-mainstream as an example, knowing that a major character was going to die in the Ministry of Magic battle climax in Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix (thanks to a shrewd marketing move by J.K. Rowling), that climax was that much more dangerous and readable, as almost all of the major participants within the fight came close to death at one point or another. (Ebert oddly misses the concept that, in most of Shakespeare’s tragedies, we are told almost immediately who is going to die, or at least that there will be a mega-bloodbath, but whatever.) And for Dollhouse, I don’t mind the “spoilers” at all. It’s the journey that matters. It’s Sophocles.

Lost is Sophocles. You heard it here first.

The Wife:

I’m going to do things in bullet point format this week, as I have only a few things to say about this week’s results show/100th episode spectacular:

  • While I wasn’t surprised to see Kayla and Jeanette in the bottom 2 (because Melissa and Jeanine were in two of the most highly praised dances of the night), I was surprised to see Evan escape being in the bottom two, sending Brandon there in his stead. I really love Evan, but I really think he’s outclassed at this point. That said, we aren’t looking for America’s Most Talented Dancer, but America’s Favorite Dancer. It’s sort of a Mark Kanemura situation, but I promise not to turn on Evan like I turned on Mark.
  • Jason and Jeanette went home, and I think these were the right choices. Jason may be a slightly better dancer than Evan, but I think he lacks the sheer personality and liability that Evan possesses. Jeanette just had a bad week this week, landing with two dances that weren’t high-scorers and a confusing solo. All of the girls left in this competition are so good that all it really takes is a single bad week to give one the boot, despite her being the judges “favorite, favorite, favorite.”
  • I’m replacing Jeanette with Jeanine in my Top 4 picks. Now: Jeanine, Kayla, Brandon and Ade.
  • Jeanette, I’m glad you realized that you love dance and are really good at it, but please, please finish your finance degree. You’ve only got one year left! You can totally pull a Troy Bolton and choose dance and banking.
    Katie! Katie! Katie! Does Judy! Judy! Judy!

    Katie! Katie! Katie! Does Judy! Judy! Judy!

  • The Mia Michaels routine to “One” from A Chorus Line: mocking Tyce’s usual Broadway work, or criticizing the heartbreaking, soul-taking, back-breaking work of being a professional dancer on Broadway, forced to conform to someone else’s idea in an overly synchronized, cookie-cutter fashion without any individuality or, if I’m to believe her robotic, toy-like choreography here, life? I mean, what else could those broken mirrors mean? Any way you slice it, it was an interesting play on the original concept from the show and deconstruction of the original choreography.
  • Somehow, the Bench dance seems simpler now that I’ve seen some of Mia’s more challenging work (uh, hello assisted run in “Hometown Glory”!), but it’s still moving and beautiful. Truly, that number’s a classic. The part where Travis melts down the bench is just as thrilling as it was the first time I saw it.
  • Watching the Hummingbird routine again actually made me wonder about some of the chatter I’ve been reading about the “overpraise” for Tyce’s cancer piece. I have to wonder: are the producer packages ruining some of the effect of the dancing for us, by explaining the conceits instead of letting the work speak for itself? Did some people immediately tune out of the work simply because they saw the headscarf (as I did and openly mocked it) and heard the producer package? Is that why so many people loved Mia Michaels’ Daddy-Daughter dance more than they should have? (Listen, it’s pretty, but that’s not her best work, even if it was her most heartfelt.) It was clear that the dance was about disease and dying without the package that explained it to us, just as the Hummingbird routine is absolutely clear in concept from the dancing alone. Which is as it should be.
  • Another thought on the “overpraise” comments, courtesy of Magen: She says it isn’t so much that the piece was about cancer or the overexplanation, but that the judges didn’t discuss the dancing at all, but merely the issue, which makes their weeping praise unfounded. I can get behind that assessment, but bear in mind that simply because something is overpraised doesn’t make it any less good.
  • By the way, I still love that Hummingbird piece. It was so uniquely created just for those two dancers, and could be developed into an excellent short ballet.
  • Speaking of Wade Robson, seeing him dance in “Rama Lama” was just about the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously, I am super in love with him now.
  • Wade was apparently replacing a dancer I DO NOT REMEMBER AT ALL from season two, even though he was Heidi’s partner until the Top 10. Do you guys remember Ryan Rankine? I just looked through a list of all the dances he performed with Heidi, and I don’t remember any of them. I vaguely remember the dance to “Bye, Bye Blackbird” he did with Allison, but I don’t remember him in it. I just see her in my head. Wow. I feel bad for the guy. If I don’t remember him, chances are other SYTYCDers don’t either. Maybe that’s why he didn’t come back!
  • The Katie! Katie! Katie! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! segment wasn’t bad. Katie hoofed it pretty well, for what dancing was required of her. (Mostly posing, a little light softshoe, some lifts.) As for her “singing,” it really would have been more convincing that she was singing live if they hadn’t shown that stupid pre-taped and highly unnecessary introduction. (Although the white suit she has on in the intro is fibbity fab fab.)
  • Still, my ideal version of this routine would involve Rufus Wainwright waiting backstage in full Judy drag, taking Katie Holmes offstage with one of those old-timey Shepard’s crooks and performing the number himself, just as he did during his 2007 Release the Stars tour.
  • Also, when Katie was younger, I always thought her cheeks made her looked like a withered apple, sliding off her face and aging her before her time. Since she married Tom Cruise, I can only say that she’s gotten prettier, and, for some reason, her cheeks now appear to be in the correct place. They’re also bonier. Did she get cheek implants just to appease me? And how much did she look like Cameron Diaz to ya’ll now that her cheeks could cut glass?
  • Cat wore a dress with a cat on it. I sincerely hope it’s Bob Mackie Wearable Art.
  • Why didn’t I get to see a shot of the show’s 100th episode cake? I love 100th episode cakes!!!!

Now that I have seen the cake, I am not impressed.

Now that I have seen the cake, I am not impressed.


What did you kids think of the 100th episode spectacular spectacular? I pass the floor to you.

The Husband:

Another look into the crazy world of Big Brother. I feel I must clarify, because while I mentioned in the first round-up that Big Brother was my favorite reality show, I realized that I had already said that about America’s Next Top Model. Both statements are actually true. If we’re talking sheer enjoyment, it’s still ANTM hands down. But Big Brother is my favorite strategy-based reality competition, and it amazes me year after year how much fodder I get out of each episode of this three-times-a-week show. So there you have it.

What’s been going on?

—First, I think everybody should start paying attention to what I’m saying, because goddamn it I’m usually right. Just as I suspected, Ronnie’s game has already 80% collapsed over the last week, and you know why? Because he played too hard too quickly. I know that it’s not very hard to have seen that coming, but man, did I call that shit. Slow your roll, Ronnie. Playing both sides of the house is a great idea, but you have to be quiet about it, up until the point that it’s halfway through the game and people are only then catching onto your plan. But nope, you had to snag HOH and turn the game into a free-for-all. And while I agree that targeting Laura was a good idea, her big mouth made his HOH week utter living hell. It’s not entirely clear whether or not she was using her brains instead of just being a reactionary weirdo, but she out-debated Ronnie on almost every confrontation, and her powers of persuasion really outshone his. The rest of the housemates followed her lead like crazy and just tore into the video game expert. (Even though they did, ultimately, vote her out 8-to-1) Then again, if Ronnie had those breasts, he might be a more convincing person. But we’ll never know, will we?

But hey, I guess Laura’s not that good at arguing, because she still got her ass booted from the house. Why? Because Ronnie learned to keep his mouth quiet and let her bury herself. Hell, as Kevin pointed out, she didn’t even ask her housemates to save her from eviction. I never thought it really had to be actually verbalized, but in such a crazy house I guess it’s just basic protocol.

You want to know how convincing Laura was, though? She got Russell to turn on Ronnie. Ronnie, his ally. But, then again…

— …Russell has done the impossible; he makes me sympathize, ever so slightly, with Jessie. How the hell did that happen? He represents all the worst qualities of a bully, mixing threats of violence with sheer stupidity and unrelenting preening, and it actually makes Jessie seem like a pussycat by comparison. When realizing that he might be backdoored, he began stomping around the house admonishing anybody who was talking strategy, I guess not realizing what show he was on. This is Big Brother, you jackass. Strategizing is what you do. If you don’t have the brainpower to comprehend that, don’t yell at Lydia until she cries. Just go lift some weights until your pecs explode.

You mean . . . LIKE THIS????

You mean . . . LIKE THIS????

But then, suddenly, when he is not backdoored, Russell gets just as angry and starts following Ronnie around the house, taunting him for not putting him up and thus inviting hell on earth. But you know what, Russell? Do you know why he didn’t backdoor you? It’s because he’s your fucking ally! He is literally in cahoots with your clique. Way to go. When Jessie of all people thinks your asshole threats to Ronnie, which in turn makes it so that Ronnie can’t even leave the HOH room without being accosted, are unjustified and mean-spirited, you know you’ve done something wrong.

Sigh. You have embarrassed us in the San Francisco East Bay. As my mother said in an e-mail to me in regards to my last BB round-up, “Russell is so much from Walnut Creek it hurts.”


— On the subject of Jordan, I think she owes Ronnie a big fat apology for calling him a rat. Why she didn’t believe that she was only being put up in order to ensure Laura’s eviction is beyond me, because there was no way the house was going to let her go. Not even with that last-minute conversation about how her and Jeff could potentially be indestructible as a couple. You can deal with that later, because she’s not really a threat to anybody’s game right now, just as Russell wasn’t. Ronnie told her she wasn’t going home, she yelled at him, and then she was kept in the house. Hmmm…you don’t think that maybe Ronnie planned it that way?

—Why in God’s name did Natalie decide to cast her vote to evict Jordan? She just said she wanted to shake things up, but other than that, there was no explanation. It’s going to bite her on the ass, because she clearly didn’t do it to frame somebody else. You know why? Because she doesn’t seem that smart and she clearly didn’t plan it out well in advance. She’s just being contrary, and her shitty lying is going to get her into trouble. (Just like how pretty much everybody saw through her half-assed lie about her age.)

Hooray! Let us all sing the Dan song!

Hooray! Let us all sing the Dan song!

—It was such a treat to have Dan back to host the luxury competition, because he is without question the best Big Brother winner of all time. Even better than Dr. Will. Why? Because he was a sly strategist who knew when to lay back, when to use sudden bursts of power in both persuasion and voting, he dealt with confrontations calmly and wisely, he switched sides without causing waves, he even got [most of ] his enemies to like him after their eviction, and he did it all without being a jerk. He was a sweetheart, a noble player and an all-around nice guy. Why haven’t these people learned from him?

The Wife:
I hate Russell, but I kind of the like the douche-manchu he’s sporting these days.

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