August 2009

Hello readers!

We all know Project Runway returned this week, as did Top Chef and some crazy-ass shit went down on Big Brother. So why haven’t we written about it? Well, this week marks our big move north to Seattle. We spent all of Thursday loading our belongings into a 16 foot shipping container (except for one TV, of course, so we’re not behind on who’s in and who’s out or who had to pack their knives and go) and have been spending the remainder of our days here cleaning our duplex and saying our final goodbyes to the Bay Area.

I plan to post about Mad Men on Monday, but reality TV updates will have to wait until next Thursday when we’re in our new home with cable and internet. So don’t fret! We’ll be back in full force very soon!

–The Wife

The Wife:

There’s a certain kind of storytelling I’ve come to expect from Mad Men. It was admittedly a show that took me some time to get into. It took my husband and I forever to get through the final four episodes of season one, having TiNoed them after even taking our time to get through the first episodes of that season. (Husband Note: Not because I didn’t love them, but MM is quite intimidating television.) But those final four episodes of season one were so strong that I was wholly prepared to launch myself into this universe of careful, subtle, deliberate storytelling.

The show feels more like a novel than a television show. We’ve grown accustomed to a certain kind of story style as viewers: stories fit neatly into their hour-long format, characters are constantly moving forward, the motivations and themes within the work are very accessible. I’d be selling short a lot of great television to say that most things on TV just aren’t that deep, but not even shows with great depth tell their stories as slowly and poetically as Mad Men does.

I was happy to have “Out of Town” as a season opener. While I didn’t feel that this was one of the shows most subtle episodes, every moment of it was riveting. The producers have spoken much about how this season will really strip down the characters we’ve come to know and love/hate to answer fundamental questions like, “Who is Don Draper?”

Fittingly, the episode opens and closes with stories about birth. Don reminisces about his own less-than-upstanding origins while warming some milk to help pregnant Betty get to sleep. The Whitmans did not have a happy marriage, and Don’s mother was unable to bring a child to term, for which her husband squarely blamed her. Just barely peeking into the bedpan holding her stillborn child was almost as terrifying as the stillbirth nightmare that opens Orphan. Across town, a working girl has found herself in a troublesome situation, having offered her services to a service man for 85 cents, because he didn’t have the extra quarter to afford a rubber. She promises him then that if he got her in trouble, she’d cut his dick off and boil it in hogfat. She mutters these words to herself as she lays dying from complications during childbirth, echoing across town as Mrs. Whitman’s midwife delivers little Don Draper to her in a fruit crate.

“His name is Dick, after a wish his mother shoulda lived to see.”

Though Don meanders on his business trip in a manner befitting his birth mother, he returns home to his wife and children and tells Sally the story of her birth after scolding her for breaking the latch on his briefcase.

On a non-birth related note, I am pretty sure Sally is going to grow up to become some coked-out rock groupie for all the scoldings she gets and the childhood mistakes we’ve seen her make. Her mother announces the broken latch to Don by saying that their maid “saw Sally hitting it with a hammer. She’s taken to your tools like a little lesbian.” Don’s punishment for the broken suitcase is for Sally to find out the cost for repair and to have that amount deducted from her allowance. “I don’t get an allowance,” Sally meeps. “Then don’t break things.” Last season, she drinks herself to sleep at Sterling-Cooper. This season, she’s committing acts of violence against inanimate objects. She’s about three steps away from ODing at Studio 54, if you ask me.

Missing from this picture: Grant Shows pornstache.

Missing from this picture: Grant Show's pornstache.

But between those birth stories of the Draper family, Don and Sal jetted down to Baltimore after the firing of Burt Peterson to take over his London Fog account. A couple of very randy stewardesses, recognizing Don’s brother-in-law’s name on the tag (Betty’s brother, it seems, loves to put his name on anything he can get his hands on), invite themselves to dinner with Don and Sal, all of which is just a precursor for dalliances. It’s clear that Sal is not so used to playing the “pick-up-a-stew” game, though he puts on a show for Don, exclaiming that he’s never seen stews so eager as Lorelai and Shelly, only to let Don take the lead at dinner, letting Lorelai go back to her room alone (or with the pilot, perhaps?) while Don takes Shelly upstairs.

Having caught the eye of an attractive bellhop during a brief glance in the elevator, Sal takes a chance and “breaks” his air conditioner to get the young man up to his room. Sal has been one of my favorite characters on this show, and my favorite episode from last year involved his flirtation with “author” Ken Cosgrove in “The Gold Violin.” I was so much more excited to see Sal finally get a little action, rather than sitting at home pretending he’s happily married to his beard, and I thought back to a line he tossed out at the London Fog meeting as he writhed in ecstasy: “Our worst fears lie in anticipation. That’s not me. That’s Balzac.” But it is Sal. His entire life is lived on the down low, both fearing and desiring to give in to his homosexual attractions.

But a slightly-too-convenient fire drill prevents Sal from fully giving in, just as it keeps Don and Shelly from cheating on their respective significant others. (Honestly, I think Shelly reminds Don just a little too much of the Betty he married . . . the hopeful model. Not the one who breaks chairs and gets upset over serving Heineken.) As Don descends the fire escape, he pauses outside Sal’s window and sees his companion redressing, as well as the young bellhop hurriedly handing him his pants. Don, being a gentlemen, doesn’t cause a scene about what he’d just witnessed. Instead, ever the clever ad man, he saves his advice for Sal for a London Fog sales pitch on the plane ride home. He describes the ad he’d like to see, a woman in a short trenchcoat, standing before a businessman on the train. Her coat is open. “Her legs are bare,” Don continues. “We know what he’s seeing. ‘Limit Your Exposure.’” Sal knows just as well as we do that this pitch is also a warning. He gulps back all of his anticipatory fears. “Yes,” he breathes. “That’s it.”

Back at the home office, the British Invasion is in full swing. Pryce appreciates Bert Cooper’s new hentai painting, not because he agrees with Cooper’s vision of ecstasy, but because he sees it as a metaphor for what his company is doing to Sterling-Cooper. That painting isn’t about giving oneself over, but about being overthrown. And Pryce is executing that notion by firing loads of people . . . and playing chess with others.

Case #1: Pete Campbell is named Head of Accounts to replace Burt Peterson. I suppose he’s gotten over the world of hurt Peggy threw on him at the end of last season, because he immediately calls Trudy (who has given up on having a baby and has decided to throw her worth into charity functions) who happily shares his joy. Unfortunately for my favorite sniveling bastard, Kenny Cosgrove has also been named Head of Accounts. Neither one of them is told that they’ll be sharing the job, but both are eager to subtly gloat to one another through subtext-laden conversations in elevators about how they admire one another’s work and think they’d each be good for the job.

There’s really nothing funnier to me than indignant Pete Campbell, and throughout all of his conversations with Ken, I kept thinking back to a line of his from season one when trying to return a duplicate wedding item. The item in question is a chip-n-dip, a new bit of entertaining ware from the 60s that he constantly has to explain to the men he works with. His indignance is always wearing this mask of civility, though, so whenever I think of Pete Campbell, I feel like the best way to explain the kind of man he is is simply to grit your teeth and say, “It’s. A chip-n-dip,” in the clipped way only Vincent Kartheiser can. I was waiting here for his chip-n-dip reveal, and it came in the first Heads of Accounts meeting in which Ken, being empty-headed as usual, thought nothing of Pete’s presence and was merely happy to write down his list of clients, bobbing along to the lilt of Joan’s voice. But Pete sat across the table from Kenny, utterly livid, unable to hold back his anger and letting his mask of civility slip.

Case #2: Pryce has brought with him his secretary, Mr. John Hooker, who insists, of course, on being addressed among the other secretaries as Mr. Hooker, not as John, because, frankly, he’s not that kind of secretary. Pryce and Hooker are like an acting dream team imported from FOX. Pryce is played by Fringe’s Jared Harris, while Hooker is played by the adorable Ryan Cartwright from Bones, who, in my mind, will always be referred to as Mr. Nigel-Murray. (Cartwright, it seems, enjoys playing characters who enjoy being referred to with a degree or two of formality.)

Mr. Hooker is distracting Peggy’s secretary, which makes Peggy angry, and making ludicrous demands of Joan, regarding his method of address, how he won’t do his own typing (making Peggy’s secretary do it for him, actually) and demanding his own office. He’s sort of a douchemeat, really, but Cartwright’s voice is just so adorable I can’t help but love him. Maybe Lola’s right: there really is something about that accent that makes you want to listen to him read the phone book.

It’s great to have this show back. I’ve missed looking at gorgeous suits and beautifully furnished rooms. And on a fashion-related end note, what am I to make of the fact that Trudy’s black hat mimics the hairstyle of the girl being ravished by an octopus in Cooper’s hentai painting?

The Husband:

Things we learned from the previous week of Big Brother:

  • Kevin is a better player than most of us thought. I always had an inkling, and would have loved to see him receive the power of Coup d’Etat, but he revealed a very shrewd side of his gameplay by not using his hard-earned Power of Veto (the egg competition looked nigh impossible) to save his bestie-best Lydia from the block. His explanation, which makes perfect sense in a strategic fashion but not as far as friendship is concerned, was that he didn’t want to make any enemies. Good call, Kevin, even though it took me by quite a bit of surprise.
  • As a result, Lydia thinks Kevin is a “poopy bear.”
  • Chima was raped by a serial killer. My wife and I disagree over whether or not two murders counts as making one a serial killer, but he was definitely a serial rapist.
  • Jordan seems to baffle Jeff on a constant basis, and after a lengthy discussion on how spiders “do it,” gives him the best line of the week: “Jordan, what do you think about all day?”
  • Jeremy Piven is a bit of a media whore, but at least he brought the house a bit of levity. Still, CBS doesn’t usually allow such majorly R-rated films to be advertised right on their very show, so The Goods seemed like an extremely odd fit. Imagine all the blue-haired ladies who watch this show going to the movie theatre based on BB‘s advertising, only to be aghast at the number of times the word “pussy” is uttered during the film’s running length.
    Ohmigod, Jeremy Piven, I cannot believe you just said pussy in your moooooovie!

    Ohmigod, Jeremy Piven, I cannot believe you just said "pussy" in your moooooovie!

  • Somehow everybody decided to become eight years old again, as evidenced by the agreed-upon name for the hidden power: the Wizard Power. I was amazed nobody mentioned anything about dragons or princesses. (Well, Chima’s family did describe her as a princess, but completely unrelated to anything wizard-based.) (Wife’s Note: But Jessie was, in fact, pretty sure a unicorn would somehow oust him from the house. So, there’s that.)
  • Chima is a sore loser, and her outcry after Jeff used the Coup d’Etat to overthrow her nominations that she needed to “have a talk with the producers” as well as bitching about them not being able to go back into the house after the HOH competition (I assume that they’re getting Jessie’s belongings, as he didn’t have time to pack) just further cements her as one of the most spiteful contestants Big Brother has ever seen.
  • Russell apparently has “ugly-ass cauliflower ears.”
  • Russell is overly sensitive about race to the point that he misunderstands insults, such as “terrorist.”
  • We, apparently, are victims of major CBS editing (what’s new?), as my previous statement could be disproven as it has been mentioned that Chima has actually said some terribly racist things to Russell and that when she said “terrorist,” she may have actually meant what he thought she meant. But we wouldn’t know, since we don’t have live feeds, and I couldn’t find out anything on YouTube yesterday.
  • I’m a fickle bitch, because I actually didn’t want to see Jessie go. I was actually really starting to like him, but I have to consider whether or not I’m just simply comparing him to last year and having a knee-jerk reaction. But he somewhere along the line became noble, or at least the only person who would stand up to Russell and call him out on his bullshit without resorting to Chima-like histrionics.
  • My wife and I disagree greatly on Jeff using the Coup d’Etat. I just really wanted to see Russell go home, but my wife was more interested in having a very entertaining game, and she was basically chanting for him to use it. I think it puts Jeff out in the open too much, even if he has the numbers to back him up. It will bite him in the ass later on, and I still doubt he’ll make it to top 3 as a result because the house will soon see he and Jordan as the house’s biggest threat and split them up the first chance they get. But my wife has said that as long as Chima and Natalie get evicted from the house, she doesn’t entirely care who wins. Nobody has stood out as a major show hero this year, I agree, but I still have my preferences.
  • Michele is owning everybody’s asses.

The Wife:

I was indeed extremely excited for Jeff to use his Coup d’Etat power because I knew it was the only way to break up the Jessie-Natalie-Chima alliance. Natalie is nothing without Jessie to follow around and, while I agree that he became a much better person this season, he still fell back on some of his old gameplay from last year. He knew he was going home, and rather than fight for it, he just gave up, sleeping away half his days, as Julie pointed out in his exit interview. This is exactly what he did last year, as well. The minute he knew there was a change in the wind, he just gave up.

Do I think Russell is a d-bag? Absolutely. However, when he doesn’t allow himself to get overcome by emotions and foiled by the intricacies English semantics, he actually has shown me some smart gameplay. Case in point: his appeal to Jessie at the pool table in which he told the bodybuilder that the ladies of the house would most certainly oust him sooner rather than later because they know they can’t win physical competitions against him. That’s the moment in which I think Jessie knew he was doomed.

I really believe that the biggest d-bag in the house is Chima, though. I feel sympathetic regarding her rape, and I admire her dedication in being a “survivor” and not a “victim.” However, she’s still a terrible person. She’s a diva, an instigator and not as smart as she thinks she is by any stretch of the imagination. Nothing has made me feel better about my opinion of Chima than hearing the package in which her grandmother commented on her beloved Chima’s actions in the house . . . and seeing the elderly woman’s complete and total disappointment in Miss Chima’s lack of civility and downright stank-ass attitude about everything. That is not how she raised that girl to be! I hope Chima watches that package one day and weeps openly for disappointing her meemaw, that sweet old lady who raised her while her mamma was overseas. WE DO NOT TREAT OUR MEEMAWS LIKE THAT!

And on a final note, Miss Julie, I really liked your polka dot dress . . . until I saw that it had both a bubble hem AND some sort of dust ruffle. You were classy from the boobs up, and a mess from the baby bump down. But we’re getting there! Anything’s better than the yellow jogging suit!

The Wife:

Once again SLOTAT teetered into total ridiculata, as evidenced by the whole “musical houses” plot, the second joke about dreamcatchers to make it into this drama and all of the following exchanges:

David: A night in the garage does not a lifetime make.
George: What is that? Iambic pentameter or Pig Latin?
. . . or it’s neither of those things . . .

Ricky: How do you even know [Ben] had sex?
Amy: Because he’s acting all grown up and reasonable!
. . . because that’s exactly how every other character on this show who’s had sex acts . . .

Anne: I like that building block weenie!

Adrian: Cribbage? Wait – what is that?
Ricky: Adrian, you don’t care and I don’t care.
. . . he’s right; nobody cares about cribbage . . .

Jack: It’s nothing. We just had a few meetings of the Dead Parent’s Club.
. . . a weak defense for spending the summer with Renee Olstead . . .

Jack: Wait a minute – you, Dr. Grace Bowman, are jealous? I kind of like that. It makes you less doctor. And more woman.
. . . because being a doctor absolutely removes your gender identity . . .

But even with all that craziness, I have to say that this episode was actually one of the best in terms of dramatic tension and performance level in a long, long time. Although I find Adrian’s quest to move in to George’s house kind of silly, the resolution of the Anne-George-David love triangle and Adrian’s confrontation with Ricky about living next door to his baby mama actually gave Francia Rasia some levels to play. By the time Anne has broken up with David, but also chosen not to go running back to her ex-husband/baby daddy, Adrian has decided it’s not worth spying on Ricky anymore and has a wonderful, if unnaturally pop psychology-sounding, conversation with her mother about the nature of her relationship with Ricky. This leads Adrian to go talk to Ricky during his night with John in which she earnestly asks him if they could ever stop cheating on one another and just be together, or if being mistrustful cheaters is all they’ll ever be. Nothing really got resolved out of that conversation, but I enjoyed Rasia’s performance in that scene and I think that we can take the following moments of her interacting with John as an indicator of Ricky’s trust in her (he previously wouldn’t let her near his son). The show isn’t known for subtlety, but I’m going to pretend that scene was intended to include some.

Dont worry; no ones going to start calling her mama Adrian.

Don't worry; no one's going to start calling her mama Adrian.

I thought there was a similar level of adult awareness in Ben’s scene with Amy on their date night during their frank discussion of Ben’s jealousy about Ricky’s presence in Amy’s life, whether or not either of them has cheated, etc. Unfortunately, this launched into a screed from Amy about how much she hates Ricky and, consequently, Adrian, which prompts her to demand that date night end and she pick up her son from Ricky’s house. Upon seeing her son in Adrian’s arms, she turns into Psycho Amy once again and starts lashing out at the woman who once drove her to an abortion clinic as Ben and Ricky try to act like civilized people, apologizing for interrupting one another’s evenings while the girls hiss catspit insults at one another and Amy demands that the “slut” not be allowed anywhere near her son. I mean, I get that sometimes we don’t want other people to hold our babies and whatnot, but let’s not forget that the “slut” was the one who tried to give you the option to not have said baby. She’s only trying to help you, Amy! God!

All of that stuff? That stuff is good crazy. It’s soapy as hell, but at least it felt well crafted and somewhat real – which is to say that I believe people do and say insane things when they’re jealous. I am down for this Amy-Ben-Ricky-Adrian hate trapezoid. Give me more of this. It makes way more sense than Grace’s reaction to Jack hanging out with Madison all summer, which is jealousy for no good reason, as Madison, though pretty, is so annoying that no one can even stand being around her for an extended period of time.

In other news, I somehow missed in the last episode that new kid Griffin was teh ghey. I guess I was too busy laughing at his “Are you planning to get pregnant this year, too?” line to notice he announced his sexuality for no apparent reason. I do, however, adore him. I would watch an entire show about his relationship with Ashley, because sometimes they come off like a Beckett play. It’s as though they should both be wearing bowlers, he should be crawling around like a dog and both will get into lengthy discussions about the insanity of the world around them and the proper way to put on boots.

As for his gayness, it so far seems pretty incidental to his character, and I do sometimes find it refreshing that a character can just be gay without having to make a big deal about it or force their existence within a work to be strictly issue-based. (A great example of gay characters who simply are: two of Nick’s friends in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.) In some ways, I think you can argue that not making an issue out of someone’s difference is the best way to demonstrate acceptance, and that’s an attitude that’s always been displayed in Secret Life land, a place where the only missing minority has been the LBGT community . . . until now.

The Husband:

The restaurant scene between Ben and Amy was the first this season to get me to put down my iPhone (and my intense clicking), and for a show that I watch from a distance to achieve the maximum amount of amusement, that’s 100% a compliment. It was almost smarter than this show has deserved in recent weeks, and adult enough to completely renew my interest in the Amy-Ben dynamic, which had completely fallen apart this season.

And yes, we will go with Hate Trapezoid over Hate Square as a term from now on. Spread the word. It’s both unnecessarily bizarre and confusing enough for dumb people.

The Wife:

Before we could smother this year’s incarnation of America’s Favorite Dancer with flowers half the size of his or her body, the good people at SYTYCD regaled us with two hours worth of Judges’ Favorites, retrospectives on the season and Cat Deeley’s earnest one-on-one interviews with each of our Top 4 dancers. Though the content of Cat’s interviews didn’t prove to be quite as in-depth or illuminating as last year’s (in that there was no Katee moment in which Cat asked a dancer what was going through their mind when they announced to millions of viewers that if they didn’t make this year’s Top 20, they were going to stop dancing), but everything that makes us love Cat as a host is reflected in her interviewing style. The woman actually scratched her head and, I believe, cleaned her ear with her finger during her interview with Jeanine. For someone so imminently fashionable, I admire her complete lack of vanity. And I want to be her friend. (If only so I can borrow some of her clothing, even though she strangely decided to don what appeared to be one of those “towels you can wear” to the finale.)

So . . .  many . . . sparkles . . .

So . . . many . . . sparkles . . .

The evening’s dance encores started out with a retooled version of Tyce DiOrio’s “Brand New Day” Broadway routine. Why retooled? Well, you see, it was originally choreographed for the Top 10, but they decided to add 10 more dancers and make it the only time the Top 20 would appear together in the finale. At first, I didn’t notice because the camerawork focused on our Top 4. It lingered on Kayla’s barely-there spangles, Jeanine’s mane of hair and even a little bit on Melissa’s ballet segment (even though she didn’t make the Top 4). But then I saw a really tall dude in the back and I thought, “Oh my God. They let Tony Belissimo join this number.” My question is this: what was wrong with the perfectly fine Shane Sparks routine to “Boom Boom Pow” that was intended to be danced by 20 dancers? No other Shane Sparks routine was performed that night, and yet another Tyce DiOrio routine was. Shane was even there, wearing a baby blue baseball cap and some stunna shades. Granted, of the hip-hop group numbers, I actually prefer TabNap’s “Seven Nation Army,” and they later had a routine on the show. Were they trying not to overrepresent each style of dance? That couldn’t have possibly been their goal as three of the judges’ picks were contemporary routines, and Mia’s A Chorus Line routine walks the line between contemporary and Broadway, so it would have easily filled the Broadway quotient alone. I don’t know, guys. I can’t figure it out. It’s not that I dislike “Brand New Day,” or even that I thought “Boom Boom Pow” was all that spectacular (it’s no “They’re Everywhere”). It’s simply that I do not understand the decision to rechoreograph a routine to include more dancers, rather than using the one that was originally intended to be danced by that number of people.

After that, we saw several judges’ favorite routines. Shankers asked for a repeat of TabNap’s “Mad” for Jeanine and the Chbeeb, which I like just as much as I did the first time, especially the spooning (or “schnoogeying,” if you’re Cat) at the end. Debbie Allen inexplicably wanted to see Asuka and Vitolio’s Louis Van Amstel waltz to Enya’s “Dreams Are More Precious,” which I assume was chosen simply to give them something to do in the finale. I don’t love that waltz, but it was the pair’s best work together. Miss Allen was right about that.

Mary requested to see Travis Wall’s completely fabulous contemporary routine for Jeanine and Jason set to Jason Mraz’s “If It Kills Me.” Watching that piece again, I am even more impressed by Travis Wall as a choreographer and the incredible grace and athleticism of Jeanine and Jason. Every lift in this dance is superb, and those two dancers just ooze the pent-up sexual tension the dance requires. Furthermore, there was something about the camera work this time that made the use of the prop necklace seem more necessary. Maybe it was having a little extra rehearsal time, as well, because not only did the two transition the necklace between each other more smoothly, but I simply felt like those movements were intended for the prop, rather than pantomime that was filled with something. It read better this time, and now I think I was wrong to say the piece could do without the prop. Isn’t it amazing how a little extra rehearsal can change your mind?

Mia picked the evening’s second Louis Van Amstel number, proving that these routines were not chosen at all with a view to letting each choreographer shine, but of the Van Amstel pieces we got to see again, this one was hands down my favorite. She invited Max and Kayla to perform their hot-pink, fringed, Hot Tamale Train Ticketing, smokin’ hot, showstopping samba from the first performance show of the season, and it was just as marvelous as it was when I first saw it. I’m glad someone gave Max his due, because that dude partners a lady like nobody’s business. But then again, I always root for the Russian. It was a tradition started with Artem that will continue every season hence.

Your! Top! 4!

Your! Top! 4!

Taking a break from so the dancers could set up for their next bit, Cat screened a little producer package for the Top 4 in which they were invited to see a private screening of this year’s SYTYCD-related movie, Fame, starring Kherington Payne! And Miss Debbie Allen! It comes out Sept. 25! Go see it! After some lip service to the great Debbie Allen, who just kind of IS Fame, Debbie made her second pick for the night, the super hot club salsa number for the Top 16, choreographed by another favorite Russian of mine, season 2’s Dmitry Chaplin and TabNap. Once again, I feel the need to reiterate that there’s something about Dima’s choreography that I think is very unique among the SYTYCD choreographers. His work always feels very big and bold, and I think that’s because he understands, first and foremost, that he is choreographing a stage show for a live audience. Some of the choreographers choreograph for a competition setting first, and think about how it will look on a performance stage, being filmed for TV later. I started noticing the difference in Dima’s work with last year’s Argentine tango for Chelsie and Joshua, and it really hit me with this club salsa number. Both of those things are so amazing that they’d fit right into a stage show about Latin dancing.

Tahlia Fowler, the winner of SYTYCD Australia, was invited to perform a solo routine choreographed by our own Sonya Tayeh (marking her only routine of the night) to “Shot You Down” by Audio Bulgs. Because Sonya’s style is so strong, I can’t really say much about Tahlia’s talents except that she danced a very Sonya routine very well. Following this, Lil C chose to see Nakhul’s “Jai Ho” routine for Caitlin and Jason, but strangely insisted on pronouncing it “Jay Ho” instead of “Jai Ho.” Naturally, C insisted his pronunciation was correct, a fact about which I’m not really sure. I can see why he’d think that, as the vowels in the song are elongated, which makes you hear them not quite as they are actually pronounced (this is why so many song lyrics are misunderstood: vowel lengthening), but I am relatively certain that with my degree in linguistics and my small knowledge of how Hindi vowels work, it is indeed pronounced “jai.” (In fact, listen to a native speaker pronounce it here and totally prove Lil C wrong.)

Farewell, my lovely!

Farewell, my lovely!

Finally, after eight routines, we were given our first taste of results. Things ended up being pretty much in line with the EW Predicitify SYTYCD game as my beloved Kayla was awarded fourth place to join the gallery of losers along with Travis, Danny and Will. America, I will never understand why you guys never latched on to this amazing dancer. I mean, she’s what you find under “girl,” “perfection,” and “star” in Mia Michaels magical cross-referencing dictionary. How can you not love a girl that’s cross-referenced? Kayla was immediately swathed in a bouquet of pink lilies and said some lovely parting words about how everyone who makes the Top 20 is a winner (except, probably, for those who don’t make the Top 10, in my opinion) that I’m sure made her dear old grandpa weep his weepy adorable man-tears. She then was practically shooed off the stage to make way for what I knew was coming from Evan’s costuming during the results line-up: Mia Michaels’ “butt dance,” chosen by Adam Shankman as his second pick of the night.

I realized during the butt dance that I think Mia and Sonya were the only two choreographers on the show who even bothered to give Evan a chance to fit into their work. I know it must be hard to envision a routine, not exactly knowing who you’re going to get (and I also have to assume that each season, the choreographers have several ideas and decide which ones to do each week when they see what dancers they’ll be working with), but the routines Evan took the hardest critiques in were always in ballroom routines, which are typically styles that are not very flexible in terms of bending to the dancers performing them. That’s not really the choreographer’s fault, but I’m convinced there are things that would have been possible to do in those routines that made him, and by extension the choreographers, look very good. He really shined in the butt dance, and in the Sonya pieces he was in. Maybe there’s just something very contemporary and jazzy about being a modern-day Gene Kelly? I don’t know, but in any case, it was great to see him hit that horizontal leap again here. J’adore.

At least he went out on a great routine, no?

At least he went out on a great routine, no?

But, and there is a but, just as swiftly as Kayla was dismissed with her pink flowers to usher on the butt dance, more results were dished out after the butt dance and our own Gene Kelly was awarded third place and a bouquet of yellow flowers that were actually about as tall as he is. I know that the show is about being America’s Favorite Dancer, and I really do like Evan and think that he is more talented in his own style than other people’s choreography allowed him to demonstrate, but after five seasons of this show, I have come to choose my favorites based on their versatility. Versatility here is key. In the first season, the final four were winner Nick, Melody, Ashlé and Jamile. I fucking hated Jamile. Why? Because that d-bag couldn’t do shit out of his own style. He only made it to the Top 4 because it was the first season, people didn’t know better then and he was a pretty great popper. However, I really resented his inclusion in the final four over other, more versatile dancers . . . like my beloved Artem, ousted in week five of that abbreviated eight-week season. Of the season 2 finalists (Benji, Heidi, Travis and Donyelle), I liked Heidi the least because I thought she was the least versatile, but I never hated her like I hated Jamile. In season three, the final four didn’t present a problem of a dancer lacking versatility, so I couldn’t hate anybody, although I was awfully tired of both Neil and Lacey by the end of the season. As for last year, the fact that Courtney made it to the Top 4 over the much more talented and versatile Chelsie Hightower was a constant thorn in my side. This year, I thought that Kayla, Brandon or Jeanine were all equally deserving of a win, and even though I do adore Evan as a person and as a dancer, I’d probably have been upset had he won because he simply hadn’t shown me the versatility that the other dancers in the Top 4 had. With all seriousness and respect to him, though, I want him and his brother to have their own stage show where they can show off their talents in a venue and manner conducive to their creativity. Surely, someone with money must also want this. I’d produce it myself, but I don’t really have the wherewithal to solicit money from people to fulfill my old-timey theatre daydreams.

With only two dancers remaining in contention for this year’s title, Nigel revealed his pick for a routine to see again: Mia Michaels’ addiction contemporary for Kayla and Kupono, set to Sara Barielles’ “Gravity.” I once again got some serious misty eyes and chills watching this piece, especially in the crescendo segment where Kupono starts throwing Kayla around. I already loved that song, and its single-take music video. But now associate it just as much with Kupono’s malicious sneer as I do with Sara Barielles herself walking toward the camera as the world, filled with lights, pulls away from her. Certainly, this was the most effective piece in the season for me, and it definitely goes on my list of all-time favorites.

Following this, the Rage Boyz Crew performed and I waited with eager anticipation to see them toss that little dude across the stage. I adore watching Cat interact with children, and I’m glad adolescent boys find that tall English glamazon attractive enough to paw at her, give her their sweet-ass jacket and allow her to be “in their crew.” I hope she has lots of adorable English babies someday, but I don’t know if I couldn’t handle that much cheeky cuteness.

Our jidges: singular sensations.

Our jidges: singular sensations.

Tyce asked for a repeat of Doriana Sanchez’s super-speed disco for Janette (whose name I’ve finally decided to spell correctly) and Brandon, followed by a repeat of Tyce’s cancer contemporary for Melissa and Ade, which took on special significance last night with the announcement that the friend for whom Tyce created that routine was officially cancer-free. The gang then repeated Mia’s A Chorus Line piece about the hellish work of being a professional dancer, with special hokey guest appearances from our jidges. I have to say it was mighty ballsy of Tyce to even appear in A Chorus Line-related number, given the fantastic ass he allegedly makes of himself in the documentary Every Little Step. (The documentary is about the casting of the most recent revival of ACL, from which Tyce was denied a role. I cannot wait to see it.) Brandon and Janette were then asked to repeat their final number from Wednesday night, Louis Van Amstel’s industrial goth Paso Doble and there, clad in vinyl, she and Brandon stood to find out which of them would be crowned America’s Favorite Dancer. The voters, it seemed, favored goofy, graceful and incredibly talented Jeanine, making her only the second female winner in five seasons.

I’m very happy with Jeanine as the winner, as she proved to me all season that she was an extremely talented dancer with a great personality. She was second only to Brandon as a soloist, and I think she’ll go very far. She’s said her alternate career is to be an actress, and I can only hope that someone (maybe someone named Rob Marshall!) will make a movie musical that will feature her in a dancing-acting role like the great ones once created for the likes of Cyd Charisse, Leslie Caron and the fabulous Ann Miller. As for the rest of our Top 4, I have some unsolicited career advice for them, too. I’ve already mentioned my dream stage show plans for Evan, but I’d like to see Kayla find her place on the stage as well. I think she has a lot of opportunities ahead of her in a number of performance-related fields, but she’s a perfect choice for Ivy Smith if there’s ever an On the Town revival (and, yes, I think Evan would make a fine Gabey). As for Bradon Bryant, he needs to join Alvin Ailey’s dance troupe immediately. He is perfect for them. And barring that, even though he is not a ballet dancer, I’m sure Desmond Richardson’s company could find a way to utilize his grace and athleticism. I really wish all of these talented, talented kids well and hope that they have long careers ahead of them.

Viva Jeanine!

Viva Jeanine!

It’s been a blasty blast writing about dancey dance for you guys this season. (And, by the by, I officially beat every EW staffer and placed 129th out of 3535 players in the SYTYCD game. I will take these braging rights with me into my regular life and pretend they mean something.) I’ve hope I’ve provided you with commentary that is both insightful and, at times, irreverently funny. Thank you all for reading, and I hope you’ll join me again in the fall for season six!

The Husband:

Ronnie took a risk, and now, finally, the risk came around to bite him in the ass. He did not, in fact, take the advice of either myself or my wife to simply slow his roll, at least not to the point that it would have taken the target off of his back. But even if he had completely sat back and let the house evolve organically into different situations, he had caused so many problems during his one week as HOH that I’m not sure if he ever could have recovered.

Although, if Russell had continued to be his hidden ally (which we found out about last week in a bizarre surprise) and not simply reverted back to complete douchery, we might have had something. But since he became the fourth HOH of the house, somebody turned his paranoia volume to 11, and pretty much anybody who was talking in a room where he was not became his enemy. So say goodbye to his alliance with Ronnie and hello to getting in a completely mind-bogglingly pointless screaming match with Chima.

Meanwhile, Lydia just had to lay back and let everybody scream at Ronnie, and she was set. I usually don’t appreciate floating on most reality shows, but I think she and Kevin (especially Kevin) have the right idea in this season of noticing that all the strategy this season seems to have been injected with steroids and methamphetamines, and have reacted by simply stepping the fuck out of the way. Lydia’s only mistakes in the house so far have been letting her temper take over or letting her libido take over.

And while all this nonsense has been occurring, I was aghast to find myself, during the Tuesday episode, turning to my wife and saying, “When did Jessie become a good person?” This was the moment where he and Natalie peeked into the pool room and very nicely and calmly spoke with Ronnie, without even a hint of strategy or pent-up frustration, telling him that they did everything they could to save him and that there is just too much momentum against him. Seriously, when did he stop being a buffoon and start becoming a real human being? My wife says it’s because he lost last year to somebody who was one of the nicest players in the game (and certainly the nicest winner), and that, presumably, he had to rethink his douchery. Believe me, Russell have enough douchery to lap around the entire house for the next three years.

I really wanted to continue posting silly photos of Jessie, but youll have to settle for the face Ronnie is now permanently making having lost the game to someone much better at poker than he is.

I really wanted to continue posting silly photos of Jessie, but you'll have to settle for the face Ronnie is now permanently making having lost the game to someone much better at poker than he is.

But despite all my Ronnie defense, man, it was time to go. I also clearly have missed something, because the back-and-forth between Ronnie and Michele during Thursday’s episode seems to come almost completely out of nowhere. I know that they are not allies, but I have no clue why Michele felt the need to insult him during the Veto competition, why he felt the need to declare that she was the worst human being he has ever met, and why she gave him a final bit of shit during her taped farewell. They have both played each other in interesting ways, and I would have hoped that they would have at least respected each other’s games. Ronnie, you got played and I hope you can deal with that, so no need to stomp your feet like a child when you get caught. But Michele, you are a neuroscientist, so you are by definition a dork, so no need to throw crap around, no need to insult and no need to lie. What in God’s name happened?

And Chima is still worthless. But she’s the new HOH, so it’s going to be at least two more weeks of her worthlessness.

The Wife:

Because I care about what people are wearing, I feel the need to talk to the Chenbot for a second. Miss Julie, you usually dress rather nice for live eviction nights, sometimes wearing a cocktail dress and sometimes looking like a news anchor. That’s all lovely. And Julie, I know you’re pregnant and there’s a part of you that’s intentionally trying to hide your bump by holding your notecards at just-such-an-angle. However, you’re going to need to explain what the fuck was up with your bright yellow capris-and-athletic-shirt look from last night. That was neither up to your usual standards of professionalism, nor did it go with your perfectly coiffed hair. I realize you’re carrying a tiny hooman and that you might not feel like looking really gorgeous every day. I get that you want to be comfortable, but that outfit was a disaster. I could MAYBE have let you get away with the yellow capris with a different top –maybe just a simple white peasant blouse– but altogether it was too much. It looked like you were wearing workout clothes, and that just doesn’t make any damn sense when your hair and makeup look that good. No more workout apparell, okay, Miss Julie? Next week, I expect you to do better.

The Wife:

In front of an audience of three thousand at Hollywood’s Kodak theatre, our final four dancers performed in the last competition show of the season. Overall, I have to say that I was very impressed with the routines presented last night, as well as the solos. Clearly, some things were better than others on both counts, but this finale certainly lived up to the grandeur that was the oh-so-very-MTV set on that big ol’ stage. Well, except for that opening groove that the dancers do each week. That thing looks doubly stupid in a giant stage when performed by only four people. I’ll be sticking to my regular format this week of ranking the dances and solos in order of my preference, but first I’d like to talk about that Top 4 number.

Wade and Amanda Robson choreographed a routine for Kayla, Jeanine, Evan and Brandon in which they played high school cheerleaders and football players shamelessly flirting with one another. It was set to Lady Gaga’s “Boys Boys Boys.” When I hear Wade Robson, I do not expect a routine associated with high school stereotypes. I expect romances between hummingbirds and flowers, quirky jewel thieves, vagabond cabarets, alligator people dancing to Tom Waits and, of course, Victorian zombies. Furthermore, I expect a certain style that accompanies such out-of-the-box conceits. What I got with this routine was essentially a pop-jazz routine, as though it were choreographed by Dan Karaty. This is to say that it was the most “traditional” work I’ve ever seen Wade Robson do. (And I should note here that Dan Karaty actually does hip-hop, but I’ve always felt his work has a sort of poppy, music video feel, and that’s what I felt when watching this Wade piece.)

High School Musical as choreographed by Wade Robson.

High School Musical as choreographed by Wade Robson.

Did I dislike it? No, not at all. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m pretty sure it’s the Robson’s response to something Lady Gaga herself said the other day about her views on feminism. In short, she doesn’t view herself as one because she loves male culture and celebrates it. And that makes her not a feminist . . . how? I give Lady Gaga the benefit of the doubt most of the time in that I know she understands art and performance and that, for her young age, she really is a gifted songwriter deserving of her early admission to Juilliard, but for her to think that feminism somehow denigrates male culture (especially third-wave feminism) is more than a little wrong. In fact, it’s kind of dumb. It’s statements like that which further mistaken notions of what feminism actually is: leading certain people to believe that it is inherently mysandrist.

So for Wade and Amanda Robson to take one of Lady Gaga’s songs in which she openly praises and worships male culture (and proclaims liking boys who are into that, with their cars and catcalls) and turn it on its head by giving the women in the dance the power roles seems to me to be a really interesting subversion of the song. Sure, it agrees in one point to the liking-of-boys aspect, but its clear in Wade’s choreography that the men here are just playthings for Jeanine and Kayla. They’re not the kind of women who will stand idly by and be catcalled – they’re the ones in control. And that doesn’t make Brandon and Evan any less manly for allowing themselves to be in Jeanine and Kayla’s control. Anyway, I continue to be perplexed by the bundle of contradictions that is Lady Gaga and impressed by Wade Robson, even when he does totally un-Wade Robson stuff like this.

Moving on!

The Excellent

Jeanine and Kayla (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mia Michaels
Song: “The Four Sections: IV, Full Orchestra” by Steve Reich

I talk a lot about art and theatre when discussing this show, and no piece this season has better expressed what contemporary dance theatre looks like than this Mia Michaels contemporary routine. The number, expressing through the metaphor of layered clothing and movement the dancers’ journey and growth within this completion, brilliantly used the entirety of the Kodak’s enormous stage to tell its story. Each skirt the women stripped off may have removed a layer from themselves metaphorically, but added a layer to the visual interest of the performance. Mia Michaels made this dance for a big ol’ stage, and the left-to-right movements and costume removal helped fill that big ol’ stage. It was a visual feast of beautiful choreography danced by two women of incredible skill.

Fully layered, like the rich, complex dancers they are.

Fully layered, like the rich, complex dancers they are.

I completely agree with Nigel that the only problem here is that the dance simply wasn’t long enough. (And not in his mildly pervy double entendre sort of way.) Although the movement was big enough for that big stage, it was far too grandiose a piece for such a short duration. This work was the stuff of contemporary theatre, and I believe it should have been a whole number in itself, rather than the competition-length vignettes that a number of these dances are. I’d had watched this piece for at least 10 minutes, ideally as a section of a contemporary dance work about dancing. And I’d really like to see Mia develop it into a larger work, because I would pay to see that.

I also want to note here that while I like the number Mia did for the Top 2 boys in season three (“Two Princes” for Danny and Neil), I believe her choreography is best when she’s choreographing for women. This piece proves that, as does her piece for the Top 2 girls from season one, in which Ashle and Melody danced just as strongly (if not more so) than their male counterparts to “Message in a Bottle” by The Police. I love that routine, and I hope you guys do to:

Jeanine and Brandon (Paso Doble)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstel
Song: “Tetsujin” from The Matrix Revolutions

If you’ve ever wanted to know what a industrial goth club for Latin ballroom dancing would look like, you now know. I was worried that the two ballroom numbers were at the end of the show, and even more worried to hear one of them was a Paso Doble. “Please be good!” I thought, knowing a lackluster Paso in the finale would be the ultimate in disappointment. This, however, was not disappointing. The industrial goth concept was a little weird, but I think it worked the instill in Jeanine and Brandon the dark passion that is the Paso Doble. They danced it clean, and they danced it mean. It will certainly be a Paso Doble to remember, and I hope that it will eventually erase all of the bad ones from my memory. Also, who knew Louis Van Amstel had this dark side?

Maybe a latin ballroom industrial goth club isn't such a bad idea after all . . .

Maybe a latin ballroom industrial goth club isn't such a bad idea after all . . .

The Good to Very Good

Jeanine and Evan (Jazz)
Choreography by Sonya Tayeh
Song: “Heartbreaker” by MSTRKRFT ft. John Legend

For me, the best part of this dance was Evan. I felt he was really strong here, well-suited to the style and 110% committed to the routine. The part where he clung to Jeanine’s back like an adorable spider-monkey was my favorite and highlighted both his agility and Jeanine’s strength. Honestly, I didn’t really watch her much in this number. That’s in part because I know she’s very good, but more because I wanted to see how Evan would do in this competition episode. He really surprised me here, and I think this number served him well to prove his capabilities and his worthiness in the Top 4.

Kayla and Brandon (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “Bye Bye Love” from All That Jazz

Only these guys could create a photo like this.

Only these guys could create a photo like this.

Kayla and Brandon are such stunning technicians that they can do no wrong. Ever. Something about the sets, costuming and disco-y music in this number instantly made me think of The Apple, and I had a hard time focusing on the piece because of that. I just know that the danced it superbly because they replayed the lift sections at the end and they were certainly stunning. For Tyce’s part, I’m glad he actually added a hint of theatre into his choreography (it’s about death! the table! the chest pains!) to contextualize the piece, because otherwise it wouldn’t have made sense from a storytelling perspective. I’m also glad he didn’t over-Fosse it, even though this is from a movie by Fosse about Fosse’s life.

Evan and Kayla (Jive)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Song: “T.R.O.U.B.L.E.” by Travis Tritt

I caught myself thinking the other day about a certain number performed in season 4 by Mark and Kherington. It was a country two-step, and it was awful. I tried to find a video of it for you, but apparently the internet has done it’s best to forget that atrocity. So here, you’ll have to settle for a picture of the awkwardness:

I cant believe this was the best the internet could give me.

I can't believe this was the best the internet could give me.

Much like how the Kalinka will be the end of Russian folk dance on this show, I thought that Mark and Kherington had just about done in any country western dances on this show. I’m glad that Tony and Melanie revived that by taking a ballroom/swing standard and giving it a country flair. While I wouldn’t want to see too much country western dancing, I’d love to see a little bit more on this show. Much like disco, it’s usually rather upbeat and crowd pleasing and there’s something very interesting to me about seeing club/recreational dances turn into competition. I mean, we welcome that with hip-hop and we’re more than happy to see competitive hip-hop (though not competitive krumping because that NEVER went well on this show), so why not give a little bit more to the viewers who love getting drunk in rodeo bars?

My point in this is that from last year’s country two-step fiasco, we can only go upwards and I think this jive was a step in the right direction. (Although Kayla’s outfit, which was fringe AND ruffles AND cowboy boots was definitely a step in the wrong direction, fashion-wise.) Kayla was spot-on throughout. Once again the judges noted Evan’s retraction problems, but complimented him on his strength in the lift section. Truly, he served his purpose there by partnering well with Kayla and getting her into those double turns with grace. I simply cannot understand why a guy who is so good at old-timey Broadway stuff, which, oddly, translates well into contemporary and jazz work, can’t seem to get a decent retraction going in a dance style that was actually popular during the time period in which he specializes.

But he does look mighty cute in that shirt, no?

But he does look mighty cute in that shirt, no?

Which brings me to another question: Really, SYTYCD? You went an ENTIRE SEASON without a single West Coast Swing or Lindy Hop? Please bring those back. I love the Lindy Hop (as well I should, as Lindy was my grandfather’s Navy nickname because he was a top notch Lindy Hopper and my own middle name pays tribute to this fact). I love swing dance in general. All I want is one a season, dudes. Is that so much to ask?

Brandon and Evan (Pop-Jazz)
Choreography by Laurieann Gibson
Song: “Nasty” by Janet Jackson

Be cool, boys!

Be cool, boys!

The reason this number is last on my list is not because of the choreography, but because it was the only number of the night that really showed the disparity between the two dancers. Every step of the way, Brandon was out-dancing Evan. He was hitting it harder, getting nasty and dancing that shit into the ground. While I think Evan on his own would have made a good show of this (his movements were clean, well-timed and well-executed), standing next to Brandon he looked somewhat foolish. He just couldn’t keep up with Brandon’s inherent sense of fluid movement and musicality. Brandon gets a gazillion points for this one, Evan gets maybe 2,000. That said, I did believe Evan’s character throughout this piece and I loved the post-dance banter with Cat and Mary in which Mary seductively asked Evan what the nastiest thing he’s ever done was, and Cat balked at her and instructed Evan to answer only after the other Kasprzak’s covered his “grams” ears. (Side note: I was thoroughly surprised to see two elderly Kasprzak women in the audience, as I thought Cat was just being adorably British by making “grams” plural, as it seemed like something adorable British people would do, akin to calling your parents your “Moms” and “Pops” here in the States.) Evan’s version of nasty is more like being a Jet in West Side Story. In fact, I think he’d make an EXCELLENT Baby John. (Arthur Laurents! Take note! I am a very premium casting director!) But even if I believe Evan’s work here would translate to a 1950’s version of nastiness and street gangs, it just didn’t compare to Brandon, who was so damn nasty that he’d have to call Janet “Miss Jackson.”


1. Brandon the Spiseagle once again takes my top spot with his mind-and-laws-of-physics-bending solo to Karl Jenkin’s recording of “Dies Irae.” He did the Spiseagle thing again, but also added in some different movements I’ve not quite seen before. Like Shankers and Nigel, I, too, do not understand the decision to wear the Imprisonment Board Shorts, but odd costuming choices aside, this was the best solo of the night. Hands down.

Long live the Spiseagle!

Long live the Spiseagle!

2. Jeanine did another one of her absurdly impressive combinations of technique and personality in this solo to “Por una Cabeza” from The Tango Project, allowing her to remain the most competent soloist among the women in the competition. Shankers was right to note that those pirouettes were insane, because they were. It was risky, and she pulled it off. Unlike Shankers, I liked the plastic flower. It made me really look at her face during those turns, which highlighted how well she could spot.

3. Kayla has never been a great soloist. There’s something about her own choreography that just hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of her audition. But even so, you can’t deny that she’s exceptionally talented as a dancer, and I liked her music choice of “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics. Took me back to that great Mandy Moore routine for Neil and Sabra with the table.

4. Evan’s solo tonight suffered from too much stuff for too little time. As such, I don’t think we really got to see a good indicator of his style and technique from 30 seconds of “The Best is Yet to Come” by Michael Bublé. I loved the flip at the beginning and desperately want to know what kind of magic tape kept his hat on during that turn, and I liked the little slapstick bit with the hat-kicking after the end, but everything in between was very forgettable. It’s clear to me from his choreography here that this would have worked if he’d had a minute, or a minute-30, but he didn’t seem to know how to get that down to just 30 seconds and I think the solo suffered a bit.

So who will win? I really have no idea. Evan has a ton of fans, and my favorite lady has always been Kayla, but Nigel seems to think it’s between Brandon and Jeanine. I don’t know if he was just saying that to get the Evan and Kayla fans to vote hardcore, possibly promoting Kayla to winner, or if he really believes that. It’s hard to tell. At this moment, I’m not even sure who I’m going to lock in the EW SYTYCD predictify challenge. I’m feeling a Jeanine win is eminently possible, but I personally prefer Kayla. She is Radomkulous. That is all.

Other things:

  • The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for this episode is five, four of which were for that Paso Doble and one of which was for her own name.
  • I would really love someone, a producer, perhaps, to give Evan lots of money so he can create his own vaudeville-esque show with his brother Ryan. Dear people with money: make this happen. I, and millions of other Kasprzaktivists, would willingly pay to see that.
  • Do not credit me with the term Kasprzaktivist for an Evan/Ryan fan. That honor goes to CliqueClack’s Julia Hass. Kudos, Julia. That’s brilliant.
  • Did Shankers at all realize that when he compared Kayla to his favorite dancers from past seasons (Travis Wall, Danny Tidwell, William Wingfield) that he was basically comparing her to a bunch of losers? Look, Shankers, I love those guys, too, but we want Kayla to WIN! Let’s not doom her to a gallery of also-rans!
  • In other news, if I were 16 again, I would have freaking killed to have worn Jeanine’s Paso Doble outfit to prom. That single vinyl sleeve? Hot.

The Wife:

Hey, remember how, at the end of last week’s episode, everyone was about to embark on their summer fun? Well, apparently, we don’t get to witness even one episode worth of seeing these characters grow, change and have personal discoveries apart from the insular gossip mill in which they live. I guess that would have taken too much thought and would have required writing above the caliber this show is capable of because, instead, we returned this week to find that three whole months had passed and that everyone’s ready to return to school. Here’s about where they all stand on that:

  • Amy is still a fucking bitch and summer school was, apparently, entirely uneventful.
  • Ricky and Adrian, despite having asked one another to be in a committed hate-sex relationship with one another, both are fucking other people and lying to each other about it. What happened to the Ricky I thought was turning over a new leaf?
  • Ben is back from Italy and he’s not sure what to do about his relationship with Amy because, well, she’s a fucking bitch.
  • Grace is back from Doctor Camp with a head full of knowledge and it seems that neither her boyfriend nor her brother really like her all that much now that she knows things about things. I get that the extra-touchy “confidence inspiring” practice is a little odd, but what’s so wrong with her being a smart girl? Is it the blazer they don’t like? I like the blazer. It reads “Ivy League.” Frankly, if I were them, I’d be more concerned about the seeds of an inevitable eating disorder. You all saw the way she chastised Tom about his 2,000 calorie sundae and then surreptitiously took a bite out of the container when he wasn’t looking.
  • Lauren’s brother broke up with Madison. Yet more casualties of Doctor Camp.
  • Ashley is all ready to start her first day of high school . . . in pajamas. (Don’t worry. The pajamas eventually are shed for a way-too-sexy Gothic Lolita dress that, for some reason, no one has a problem with her wearing.)
  • Henry and Alice have discovered both oral sex and sexting. I’m impressed that they can multitask and he can answer texts while he’s going down on her. That man is a keeper.
This touching thing confuses and infuriates me.

This touching thing confuses and infuriates me.

Is it just me or is it indeed extremely odd that summer just didn’t happen here in the SLOTAT universe? And what’s weirdest is that summer just didn’t happen IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON. It’s not uncommon for television shows to operate on their own time scale, but I make a general assumption with shows set in high school that they indeed follow the timeline of high school. When we go back to school in the real world, so, too, do the students of Constance and St. Jude’s, of WestBev, of Neptune High and of Sunnydale High. There are a couple of very simple reasons for this: the traditional September through May television season is the exact length of a school year and because that structure, that 9 month structure, is a reasonable timeframe in which to tell a story about high school students. This is because their lives revolve around going to school. It’s the place of action in a high school-based series, so it only makes sense that the story should be told in accordance with the structure of that setting. So we never see summertime on these series (and the summer-based episodes like the GG forays into the Hamptons kind of suck), and we accept that, because we’ve been off enjoying our summers along with Blair, Chuck, Annie, Naomi, Veronica, Logan, Buffy, Willow and Xander. We reconvene in the fall to go back to school along with them.

I recognize that SLOTAT started in July of 2008, yet we still had to pretend it was September on the show and their summer had just ended. The first season aired in summer 2008, with the second airing in spring 2009 (or the second half of the first season, however you want to look at it) and the third season airing now, in summer 2009. If the show had paced itself better, this season would have started not at the end of the last school year, but at the beginning of this one, this avoiding this whole summer situation. But it didn’t. And since this show hasn’t followed the traditional structure of a high school show in any way, I kind of expected to see at least an episode or two of summer, to see who these characters are away from each other. It was an opportunity both for great writing and great acting, but this show . . . is just not for those things.

I can’t even explain most of what went on in this episode because the conversations were just so bizarre, but two of them did make sense and actually contributed to the masterplot of the show.

1. After not talking to Amy for weeks, Ben accidentally gets them both detention by speaking his thoughts out loud in class (everyone else was wondering about sex, especially Alice, who loves oral). As they sit alone copying chapters in their notebooks, they talk about their relationship and how even though things are bad right now, they still love each other. Ben suggests they find things they can do that include John, as a family. All I can say is that I hope this makes Amy happier, because if I were Ben and I’d just done a lot of learning, thinking and growing in Italy for a summer, I’d return by saying, “Amy, I love you, but you need to stop taking out your bullshit on me. I am nothing but nice to you, and I need you to treat me like a person. In fact, just be a person. Stop being what you are and just be a person.”

2. George tells Anne that he’s probably her baby daddy, and she’s like, “I know. And so does David. But I’m probably going to marry him anyway.” They have lots of adult things to work out here, but their plot always gets shoved into the last five minutes of the episode like some frantic after thought.

As for the rest of the show, well, let me give you a sampling of the kind of ridiculousness that abounded:

David: ‘Morning, Amy.
Amy: It’s not a good morning.
. . . um! that’s not even what he said! . . .

David: I loved school.
Amy: I used to love school, and then I got pregnant at 15, had a baby and now it’s not as fun as it used to be.
. . . but it will be much more fun when her soon-to-be-stepdad bribes her with an SUV, that safest of cars . . .

Adrian: I’m not having sex with Ben!
Ricky: You’re talking to Ben!
Adrian: So?!
Ricky: Talking leads to sex!
Adrian: Everyone talks!
Ricky: Everyone has sex!
. . . truly, the logic here is airtight . . .

“This is the year we get boyfriends.” – Lauren, who asserts that her brother was just a practice boyfriend for Madison

Coach: Future medical students? How many of those students do you think actually make it to medical school?
Jack: I don’t know . . .
Coach: Me neither, but what I do know is that every year I lose a player to fear!
. . . that’s quite a transition . . .

No girls allowed!

No girls allowed!

“Oh, jeez. The old pistil and stamen. Could we just get to the nitty gritty? Or could you point me in the direction of a niiiiiice pistil?” – Lauren’s thoughts, being way more forward than I am comfortable with her being

Griffin: Nice attitude. Griffin.
Ashley: Ashley. The teen mother’s sister. Well, I know that’s why everyone’s staring at me. ‘Cause of my sister.
Griffin: I-I’m new here. I don’t know anything about that.
Ashley: Well, uh, my sister’s in the 10th grade and she had a baby last year.
Griffin: Uh . . . wow. Well, you know, stuff happens.
Ashley: Yeah.
Griffin: Well, uh, maybe you can point her out to me.
Ashley: Well, she’s pretty easy to spot. She’s the really pretty one with the French horn who’s unusually tired.
Griffin: Is she tired from dragging around the horn, or the baby?
Ashley: The baby. And just from being . . . Amy.
Griffin: So, are you planning to get pregnant your first year here?
. . . basically the best conversation ever uttered on this show, which includes absolutely the best icebreaker I’ve ever heard . . .

Coach: I don’t want you to see or talk to Jack Pappas for the rest of the football season. It’s not good for the team. It’s not good for Jack.
Grace: But . . . why?
Coach: I don’t want him distracted.
Grace: The other players have girlfriends.
Coach: Not girlfriends who wanna be doctors. I don’t like those kind of girlfriends.
. . . clearly, they’re smarter than women should be, candidly talking about groin injuries and the like . . .

That’s only a sample of the ridiculata. Truly, I think I laughed more that this episode than most other episodes of this show I’ve ever seen. What the fuck was happening? And why were so many ridiculous things being said in rapid succession? I like this new Griffin guy, by the way. It’s going to be interesting watching him adjust to this world. He’s already said my favorite line ever uttered in this history of this show, so I’m sure he’ll start to fit right in very soon.

The Husband:

This is without a doubt the best episode of SLOTAT this season and probably the best in a very long time. Unlike the past few episodes whose major flaw was focusing entire episodes on only one or two subjects and then hammering it into the ground like a stake, this was a massive overflow of information, with ridiculous conversations colliding in the hallways with other ridiculous conversations, until it almost seemed like Abbott & Costello mixed with one of those Monty Python sketches where everybody but one person in the skit is absolutely out of their minds. (That one pseudo-normal person? Ashley, as usual.) I am often flabbergasted by how open and bizarre these characters are, and it was in full force this week.

As for the sudden shift in time, it threw me off just as much as it did my wife, but I think I’m more forgiving. Why? Because I don’t think it’s a problem with the writers so much as the budget that they didn’t feel the need to open up the show to any new locations, because as we can all very clearly tell, nothing in a long time has taken place outside of a soundstage or the studio’s backlot, with verrrrry few exceptions. Hell, it probably wasn’t even in the budget to give us a montage at the end of last week’s episode showing all of our little teenagers off doing their own thing, even for mere seconds, which I think would have done away with that initial shock at the beginning of this episode (e.g. Grace in a full classroom of soon-to-be-pre-med students, Ricky caring for John, Ben walking past the check-in desk at an airport, stopping and turning around to see that only his father and Betty came to see him off).

Oh, and by the way, nobody in the world knows where the hell Brenda Hampton got that information about Bologna and its infamy in regards to oral sex. We are all baffled. I think someone told her that as a joke, and she took that one little bit of perhaps-false information and just ran with it, much like the weird confidence-building arm-touching doctor trick Grace and Lauren’s brother used all episode.