September 2009


The Wife:

You know what was great about the episode with Teddy’s party yacht? 90210 took a classic move from Gossip Girl by getting all of the characters to attend the same event and have to work out their issues with one another in a confined space. You really don’t get much more confined than on a boat, sailing out to sea. So what’s the albatross around each character’s neck on this pleasure cruise?

Navid: After totally smearing Teddy in his interview last week, Navid needs to make it up to Adriana by being extremely nice to Teddy. After getting seasick, he confesses to Teddy that he really doesn’t like him at all and he’s just being nice for Aid’s sake.

Annie: Because Naomi sent out that sext, Annie corrals Liam and makes him come with her to tell Naomi the truth. However, because Liam won’t say who he really had sex with, Annie makes up a lie that they were fucking all summer just to try and get him to confess. It does not work.

Dixon: He met a cute DJ while picking up pizza for Navid and the Blaze crew, but when she turns out to be the DJ for Teddy’s party, Dixon piles himself in to a world of lies, telling her that he’s in the music business, has Navid for an assistant, and so on. Basically, anything he can think of to make it look like he’s not in high school.

Silver: Sensing that something is up with her ex (in her off hours from being Naomi’s lackey), she meets Dixon’s new squeeze. But, in a total act of kindness, she plays into the lie Dixon has created, proving, once and for all, that she was the bigger person in their relationship.

Land hos.

Land hos.

The subsequent episode basically follows up on these boat conflicts, particular Dixon’s. His new girl Sasha, on a whim, decides to drive all the way to Napa to spend the weekend with Dixon in a hotel. Dixon, of course, still has Navid’s credit card and Lamborghini, to make him look like the super fly baller Sasha thinks he is. (By the way, I’m pretty sure their version of Napa was actually Santa Barbara.) Navid spends the weekend covering for him with his parents, telling the Wilsons that Dixon is over at his house working on a project about tse tse flies. Inevitably, Dixon runs into some problems that nearly give up his lie: he oversleeps in Napa and barely makes it to school on time, especially because he gets a flat tire along the way, during which time he agonizes over losing face if he uses his AAA and they see his driver’s license. Sasha, looking for the engine in the wrong part of the Lamborghini, finds that the car is stuffed to the gills with porn. She’s not pleased, so Dixon adds on another lie that he is, in fact, working in the porn business, but is trying to get out. She then grows so suspicious that she stakes him out at his house and sees him driving a different car and hugging his mom, thus making her a better detective than Vanessa on Gossip Girl.

Adriana is having crazy sex daydreams about Teddy and, eventually gives in to temptation and kisses him. This runs parallel to her mother pressuring her to get back into acting, which Navid advises against because that business made her totally batshit crazy with the drugs and the baby-having and whatnot. So, naturally, the minute she lands a role on a pilot is the minute she kisses Teddy and realizes that Navid is right. End of conflict. (Well, until Silver tells Navid that she saw Teddy kiss Adriana.)

Meanwhile, there’s Annie, trying to cope with her tragedy of a life when another wrench gets thrown in: the homeless man she killed left a generous donation to WestBev because he was a former student, and now his non-homeless nephew attends the school. When Annie sees the face of non-homeless Jasper, she weeps uncontrollably. Jasper, I think, kind of knows something’s up with her and he spends most of the episode trying to befriends her. I had hoped that he’d actually known what was up and taken Annie out to the cliffs not to look at the stars, but to murder her, but, alas, maybe he’s just a little moony over her from seeing the sext and Annie’s outpouring of tears for Jasper’s dead homeless uncle.

Liam gets ahold of some tabloid photos of Jen and tries to blackmail her into telling the truth to her sister. Unfortunately, Jen, ever the clever bitchface, only tells half the truth. She doesn’t fess up about fucking Liam, but at least she tells Naomi that she’s been living off of her and blew all her money gallivanting around Europe. It’s just too bad Jen keeps her sister wrapped up in her by saying that she’d come into this state of financial ruin before marrying a French billionaire, who happened to cheat on her, which is why she left and came back to the States. Naomi won’t let her sister run back to a cheater just because she’s broke, so Jen stays in her cush situation, maintains her sister’s trust and leaves Liam high and dry. Oh, this bitch is evil, and she’s the kind of evil you love to hate.

Stay thoughts and quotes:

  • Dixon’s baseball conversation with Sasha was the most realistic dialogue I’ve ever heard on 90210. That is actually how baseball nuts talk.
  • Is it a bad thing that I kind of want to emulate most of the things Silver is wearing this year? I love her feminine fedora in “The Porn King.”
  • So, we are working our way up to a lesbian kiss between Rumer Willis and Silver, right? We can all see that coming a mile away?
  • Dixon: Boom boom boom.
    Sasha: Boom boom boom.
    Dixon: Boom boom boom.
  • “Let me know if you’re gonna have a fit so I can find a broomstick to put in your mouth.” — Jen. I can make neither heads nor tails of what that might mean.
  • The porn in Dixon’s trunk is great: Mr. Holland’s Phallus. 10 Things I’d Lick About You. Those are great. But no porn will ever be as good as Ready to Drop 38. (Ask me about the big sack of VHS porn I inherited sometime!)

The Husband:

Not sure why my wife didn’t mention this, but the actor who plays Teddy showed up in the Bruce Willis movie Surrogates, which we saw over the weekend, playing a hunky surrogate robot who people can jack into at a run-down Asian electronics store. First Naomi has a love interest that’s a pod person, and now Adriana has a plastic surrogate cyborg. Good job keeping up the tradition, 90210.

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The Wife:

So far, I can easily divide this season of Gossip Girl into things I care about and things I do not care about. I am interested in all things going on at NYU, including Blair’s adjustment to not being Queen, Georgina’s meddling, Dan’s sudden popularity and the Vanessa/Scott thing that, inevitably, ties into Rufus. I do not care about Nate’s extremely isolating romance with Bree Buckley, specifically because it is so isolating. I like Joanna Garcia and I like Bree and the idea behind this plot, but Nate needs to reconnect to the rest of the group of this plot will remain just as lost as its been so far this season.

I especially do not give a shit about Serena Van Der Woodsen and her daddy issues. Her life is a series of bad decisions which could easily be fixed by simply acting like a person. Rather than going to Brown like she told Rufus and Lily she should, she hides out with her friends in Manhattan because, suddenly, she’s decided she’s not going to college. Why? Because she doesn’t know who she is or what she’s supposed to do with her life and she can’t see how leaving everything she knows is going to help her answer either of those questions. And that, my friends, is how you know Serena is too fucking dumb to go to Brown in the first place. I mean, what? I’m pretty sure that NO college freshmen has any idea who they are or what they’re life should be, and that’s precisely why we go to college for four years, away from everything we know, so we can FIGURE THAT SHIT OUT.

So because Chuck talked to Rufus about her skipping out on Brown, she decides to ruin all of his business deals? And pit Chuck against Carter? Serena, you are infantile and an idiot. You do not come between someone and their money. You can mess with their social life all you want, but you don’t ruin someone’s business. Even fucking Tyra Banks knows that shit, yo. Just be a person, Serena. Be a fucking person.

Why are we so bad at being people?

Why are we so bad at being people?

While Serena is having a difficult time operating like a human being, Blair is having a hard time fitting in at NYU, where no one gives a shit if you’re a socialite and would really rather have pizza and beer and watch pretentious films that make you feel superior than, say, getting dressed to the nines and eating sushi and sake at a soiree. Dan takes pity on her and helps integrate her into Georgina’s way-more-appropriate rooftop kegger, only to find out that he’s been Blair’s inside man for embarrassment when she calls all of Georgina’s Jesus Camp friends to the party and tries to tell everyone it’s a conversion party. I mean, that’s pretty genius, and I’m surprised that Dan was able to turn everyone so quickly from Blair’s side simply by saying, “So, who wants to stay here and drink cheap beer with me?”

I feel badly for Blair. It’s hard to fit in when you’re so different from everyone else, but it is about time she got off her Queen Bee high horse. That shit may fly in high school, but college just doesn’t care. It’s good to see her humbled, cozying up to Chuck Bass, but that, of course, doesn’t last long when she receives an invitation to Le Table Elitaire, a totally made up secret society of college socialites, asking her to bring them a photo up for auction at Sotheby’s to secure her entrance into the group. Unfortunately, Chuck needs the same photograph to smooth over a business deal. What follows is an adorable bidding war between Chuck and Blair, which is actually a battle of who loves more than whom in their relationship. Serena, acting like a person, for once, realizes that the invite was written by Georgina, just as Chuck realizes that Georgina was turning his gears as well, via an office assistant she happens to know. Humbled once again, Blair gives the photograph over to Chuck for his business deal, which ultimately doesn’t go through when he decides, instead, to sell his shares in Bass Industries and buy a hotel on his own.

Meanwhile, Vanessa has finally started to get suspicious about Scott’s lies and finds out, after we all realize that she’d make a terrible detective, that he isn’t even enrolled in NYU. She does manage to get an easy confession out of him, where he tells her that he is Rufus and Lily’s son and he’s been trying to get close to the family to meet them. Vanessa convinces him to tell everyone at the auction, but when Scott’s adoptive mother shows up, he simply can’t tell Rufus the truth, lest he break his mother’s heart. Instead, he tells them that he is Dead Andrew’s brother, maintaining the lie that Andrew was Rufus and Lily’s son, and he wanted to meet his brother’s parents. It’s all very sweet, and was probably one of the most loving things anyone in the GG universe has ever done, but Vanessa is not happy with Scott because now she is burdened with his terrible secret. And, suddenly, I don’t think I care about Vanessa anymore.

Stray thoughts:

  • “The only queens at NYU are the ones with tickets to Liza at Carnegie.” — Chuck
  • I love Blair’s saffron wrap top.
  • Did it bother anyone else that Scott’s lies could have easily been confirmed by, oh, I dunno, looking on NYU’s website and checking course times? As well as confirming professor recommendations through ratemyprofessors.com? In a world where everyone gets gossip via text blasts, why can’t these characters use the internet?
  • OH.MY.GOD. It just dawned on me that no one has received any conniving text blasts from Gossip Girl. Where did the central conceit of this show go?
  • Oh, and there’s some old wounds between the Bayson family and the Buckleys . . . maybe this will solve Nate’s storyline isolation problem as Bree plans her revenge on Carter?

The Wife:

The past two weeks’ worth of Mad Men have been full of “Holy Shit” moments, some major, some minor. Let’s list them:

Minor:

  • Holy shit! Joan is actually leaving Sterling-Cooper? This will not do!
  • Holy shit! Can Ken Cosgrove ride into every scene atop a John Deere? That’s officially the most awesome thing he’s ever done.
  • Holy shit! Did Betty just touch herself a little bit?
  • Holy shit! Is that Don passed out on the floor?

Major:

  • Holy shit! Is that Peggy in bed with Duck?
  • HOLY MOTHERFUCKING SHIT THAT SECRETARY JUST MANGLED THAT LIMEY’S FOOT WITH A FUCKING JOHN DEERE! ZOMG!

As far as that business with the John Deere is concerned, the British honchos from PPL invade Sterling-Cooper, appropriately, over 4th of July weekend to announce their plan to restructure. Cooper has convinced Don that this may be advantageous for him, possibly changing his job to head of creative for both branches of the company, which means he could relocate his family to London if he so chose. (Betty is as excited as Betty gets about anything in regards to a possible move: “I could get a proper nanny and a pram.”) But when the Brits arrive, things do not go as expected. The grand restructuring plan, lead by upstart ad man Guy McKendrick (who reminds me of British version of Pete Campbell), leaves Don basically where he was, with Guy getting the promotion Don desired. Roger Sterling, whose name is in the name of the company, gets left off the list entirely, and Pete is relegated to being subject to Ken as head of accounts “for the time being.” Lane Pryce is told, via a plastic snake in a basket, that he’s done such a good job whipping Sterling-Cooper into financial shape that he’s to be shipped off to Bombay to do the same thing to PPL’s Indian holdings. In short, the only person to come out on top of this deal is Harry Crane, who gets a promotion to head of Television and Media Development.

Although Joan’s final day at S-C has been usurped by the British, she makes a good go of things by making sure that the office is running in tip-top shape, instructing her cadre of secretaries to schedule all deliveries for the morning so that the office looks busy while the Brits are around. Hooker and the girls attempted to plan a surprise for Joan’s departure, ruined, of course, by Hooker’s giant idiot mouth. But her final days at S-C are, of course, bittersweet. Her husband, Dr. Greg, did not make chief resident, a fact I cannot believe he was not aware of at that dinner party. It was pretty obvious that he wasn’t going to make chief resident, especially with all the chatter between his colleague (who did receive chief resident) and their boss. But Greg, being so sure of his own ambition, asked Joan to quit her job, erroneously thinking that he would, for some reason, get the job over someone with smarter fingers. After spending the day drinking, he asks Joan to get her job back, but she knows she can’t. What’s done is done.

So on her final day at Sterling-Cooper, Guy McKendrick is big enough to turn the day into a farewell party for Joan, wishing her the best things he can think of that start with the letter C: champagne, caviar and children. This causes Joan to burst into tears. People get trashed and ride the John Deere across the floor . . . leading to Guy’s unfortunate encounter with the out-of-control tractor, which mangles his foot and sends a splatter of blood onto the crisp, white shirts of Kinsey et al. Truly, that was the best thing I’ve ever seen on Mad Men. So grotesque. So amazing.

Fortunately for Guy, Joan dried her tears and rushed to his side to create a tourniquet. Thanks to her quick actions (no doubt Hooker would have passed out at the very sight of blood), the young ad man didn’t bleed to death on the floor of Sterling-Cooper. But despite that, he still loses his foot. Don, who had skipped the party to meet with Conrad Hilton (who was, for some reason, bartending at Roger’s country club the other week, which I still find to be totally weird), waits with Joan at the hospital and the two share a moment of levity and some Dr. Pepper, despite the rough day they’ve both had.

What really interested me here, since I work on embodiments, is the way Guy’s superiors treated him upon learning he’d lost his foot. Rather than noting his physical pain and, now deformity, they are concerned that he’ll never be able to golf again, which means he has become useless to them and should be cast aside. If he can’t golf, he can’t schmooze clients. And if you can’t make money for PPL, you have no value. You may as well be dead.

These questions of value arise again in “Seven Twenty Three,” in which Pryce, who gets to stay at S-C due to McKendrick’s accident, tries to lock Don into a three-year contract — especially since Don simply being Don managed to attract Conrad Hilton’s business to S-C. Don is inherently valuable, and S-C needs to own that value in order to assure they’re own success. However, the idea of the contract is presented not as an option to someone who, last year, essentially made partner, but as an ultimatum. Sign, or work elsewhere.

Don hesitates, and so Roger goes behind his back and tries to wheedle Betty into getting Don to sign the contract. Though both are offended by Roger’s actions, Betty still does what Roger wanted her to do and urges Don to sign, pointing out how ridiculous it is to think that he’d be anywhere but where he is in three years. As he does anytime he is questioned by Betty, Don walks out and ends up picking up a couple of kids hitching to Niagara to get married so they can escape the Vietnam draft. The two dope Don up on barbiturates, punch him out and rob him. They are, however, kind enough to leave a note and his car.

Betty, trying to find something to occupy herself, gets the living room redone and gets involved in the local Jr. League’s efforts to bar construction on a water tower in town. Using Don’s connections, she lunches with Henry Francis, whom she had met at Roger and Jane Sterling’s Kentucky Derby fete and shared an intense few words. Though Henry ultimately can do nothing about the water tower, he does keep her from fainting when she (naively? intentionally? defiantly?) looks into the eclipse. He playfully suggests that she get herself a fainting couch, and so she does, placing it in front of the hearth, despite the advice of her decorator. This piece of furniture makes Betty happier than we’ve ever seen her, running her hands down her body as she lies there, caressing her thighs like Manet’s Olympia, or practically any other French impressionist painting of a prostitute or harem girl.

The episode opened with images of Don passed out, Betty enraptured on that divan and Peggy in bed with a man, and we were asked to make sense of these images, following each character to that end point of them in repose. Though Betty in repose reminded me of a Manet painting, there’s something to the fact that her choice of furniture is old and clashes with the modernity of the room. She’s like that couch, a thing out of joint with the time. And yet, somehow, she, Manet’s Olympia and that fainting couch harken back to a time of repressed, yet blossoming, sexuality. The Victorians always had an undercurrent of sex and naughtiness, and I think we all know that Betty does, too. (Like when she totally fucked Captain Awesome in a bathroom last season.) The idea of placing her and that divan next to the hearth speaks to a Victorian conceit that a woman should be the Angel in the House, and, like that hearth, should be the seat and soul of the family.

There’s a lot to be said there, about Betty and femininity and sex and couches, but that requires a lot more thought than I am presently willing to put into a massive post on two episodes of Mad Men.

Girl on the make.

Girl on the make.

It’s interesting that I read the image of Betty in repose as similar to a prostitute, because I clearly should be reading Peggy’s in repose shot that way. It turns out that Duck is still trying to court Mr. Campbell and Ms. Olsen to join Grey, sending them Cuban cigars and Hermes scarves. Pete pleads with Peggy not to go (especially after his desire to join the Hilton account is shot down by Don), but she defies him. She has no intention to tell him her plans, but insists that she should keep the gift, as it is a really nice scarf. Later, Peggy herself is shot down by Don when she asks about the Hilton account. He is angry that she has such a perceived sense of entitlement and reminds her that she was once his secretary and should work for what she wants like the rest of them, not simply ask for it. “You’re good,” he tells her. “Get better. Stop asking for things.” And with that, Peggy makes a fateful call to Duck to say that she’ll be returning the scarf. He coerces her to return it in person so she can meet the Hermes people at Duck’s hotel room — his preferred place of business because he is a smarmy d-bag. Only a few very icky, very lusty words later and Peggy and Duck are in bed, doing things I’d rather not think about because, well, it’s Duck. I can’t decide if this is an upgrade from her usual manchild attraction, of if Duck is just the most extreme example of the kind of manchildren Peggy is into.

Stray thoughts:

  • Chicken salad and Ritz crackers: dinner of champions.
  • Bert Cooper really likes pudding. You know what would be an awesome crossover episode/spin-off back-door pilot? If Jared Harris’ Lane Pryce crossed over to an alternate dimension, tracked down Fringe’s Walter Bishop and imported him to the Mad Men universe so that Cooper and Bishop could share their love of custardy desserts and, perhaps, abandon their mutual jobs altogether and start a pastry shop.
  • “Can I pet him?” — Bobby Draper, misunderstanding that babies are not cats.
  • “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” had a lot of references to lights: Edison, Sally’s nightlight, Joan asking Greg to let her turn on the light, Don staring up at the light fixtures when he’s unable to rest. These things all point to a sense of illumination in the future: Don rethinking his position at S-C, Joan rethinking her marriage to that dbag, Sally growing up and setting aside childhood.
  • “Babies get fairies to do things. You know that.” — Betty, attempting to make Sally more comfortable with her little brother by giving her a Barbie from Eugene. She’s right. Babies totally do get fairies to do stuff for them.
  • I’ve glossed over Don’s conversation with Miss Farrell here, but I wonder why she’s even trying to put on a good face when she’s the one who called him the other week, drunk and blowsy.
  • Picking up on “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” and its light references, here we have an eclipse. Betty and Don choose to both look directly at it. Are they staring into the penumbras that obscure their own illumination? Or does looking into the eclipse achieve the illumination on its own?
  • By the way, Don’s barbiturate-fueled visions of his father were totally creepy.
  • “It’s a beautiful night. It smells good. But then everything smells good when you’re high.” — Stoner Girl
  • “I was an anthropology major. Imagine that.” — Betty, who I really didn’t think attended college at all, let alone Bryn Mawr.

The Husband:

And now my weekly recap of ABC’s blatantly female-focused melodramas, Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters:

How is it that a show known for its huge sweeps episodes and mystery-exploding finales can come up with a season premiere that doesn’t really feel like anything? With Desperate Housewives, it’s pretty much that aside from a well managed but mostly unnecessary flashback structure (pretty much designed to let you know immediately who Mike chose to marry) and a very brief start of a new neighborhood mystery, it was pretty much just picking up where we left off last season. And aside from the wedding (which starts and ends the episode), no time has actually passed, progressing only through some quick leaps throughout the eight weeks between last season’s finale and the Mike/Susan wedding.

Oh…yeah…Mike picked Susan over Katherine. And this is the absolute best choice from a purely storytelling standpoint. Admit it — we were all done with Susan’s love problems and her will-they-or-won’t-they with Mike, and Katherine’s story was completely static. This way, Susan can try out a new type of story and see how it fits, and Katherine, raging against Mike and Susan for their betrayal, finally gets a storyline that can bring out the fire she was completely lacking last season. Instead of a pushover just hoping that her new fiancé won’t fall back in love with his ex-wife, this new Katherine fights back, intercepting Susan’s wedding dress and threatening to stain it with pasta sauce, playing mind games with their respective friends, and ultimately blackmailing Susan into apologizing during the damned wedding ceremony. But all is not forgiven, and Katherine’s final moment, when she whispers to Susan that the apology didn’t really help, is the best Dana Delaney has been since the climax of her season 4 mystery.

But the rest of it, as is up to par with the majority of DH‘s episodes, is full of stories of wildly varying quality. I find no pleasure in any bit of Bree’s story with her affair with Karl, and I can honestly say that at this point I find anything Orson does far more interesting and sympathetic than any Bree story. I just can’t bring myself to care, and the affair is clearly not meant to last. Let’s see if Marc Cherry and the writers can, perhaps, give Orson another mystery revolving around those three years in prison we never really saw.

Lynette’s story is considerably dark for the Scavo family — and yes, I’m aware that their story last year involved a nightclub fire that resulted in a major death — as she deals with the twins that are on their way, her fifth and sixth child. After tearing into the happiness of a new mother at the doctor’s office, she admits to her husband that she is just really not feeling right about what is currently happening, as with these twins she doesn’t feel like she loves them as she did with all of her previous (and all unplanned) pregnancies. We’ve already seen the woman find a balance between her family life and her desire to reestablish her career over the last couple seasons, but this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Will we finally deal with a major abortion storyline on this show? Probably not, considering how gigantic the show is all across the board, as well as the fact that this isn’t Maude.

And as I expressed interest at the end of last season in Gaby’s new storyline that has the Solis family taking care of a free-spirited and nasty teenage niece, that plot is pretty much progressing as I expected. Some of it is fascinating in the way that Gaby sees a great deal of her younger self in her niece and therefore wants to help her to avoid years of suffering and unhappiness, but some of it is also embarrassingly melodramatic and pointlessly cruel — the nightclub scene where Gaby gets on the mic and embarrasses her niece for sneaking out of the house went absolutely nowhere. But Gaby works best when she has a worthy opponent, so I’m not going to be too picky for a few more weeks.

Drea De Matteo: here to fuck up your shit.

Drea De Matteo: here to fuck up your shit.

And yes, that new mystery — Drea De Matteo (of The Sopranos), her husband (Jeffrey Nordling from last season of 24) and their son have moved onto Wisteria Lane, they had to move because of something the son did, Drea has a major burn/scar on the majority of her back, and somebody strangled young Julie at the end of the episode. But it wasn’t much establishment for how much I think we are meant to care.

As usual, the world of Brothers & Sisters fits more into the real world and, you know, generally believable situations. (It helps that it doesn’t pretend it’s a comedy like DH does.) And unlike DH, this felt like a real season premiere. Big emotions, big secrets, big starts and even potentially terminal illnesses abound in our return to the Walker Clan.

As Holly and Nora prepare for Justin and Rebecca’s engagement party, the two (as usual) clash, which comes to a boil when the soiree must be moved to Chez Walker after an influx of termites. There, Holly oversteps her boundaries during the party-planning while Nora has to deal with her and Saul’s aggressively insulting mother (Marion Ross from Happy Days), and it all comes to a head when Holly breaks the rules and buys the happy couple a new car, leading Nora to oust Holly as “that disease-ridden tramp” that her late husband was banging for decades (and, you know, the mother of Justin’s fiancée who was once thought to be the Missing Walker). It’s another Walker Clusterfuck, but come on…Holly had it coming.

Justin, meanwhile, is losing his mind to stress thanks to a one-two punch. First, he is called into the Dean’s office and told that if he wants to stay in the med program, he needs to seriously up his grades all across the board. Second, he finds out that he was admitted to the school not because of his grades (which weren’t great), but because his Senator brother-in-law made a few phone calls. But by the end, Justin and Rebecca have stopped bickering, he has vowed to stop being a quitter, and then they almost get into a car accident. (Whatever.)

Kevin and Scotty get a big plot boost in their mission to adopt a child, focusing on the emotions involved far more than the details of the adoption itself. (Really, how many times have we seen a TV show delve into that story and think it’s being informative by letting us know all of the steps we already know because we watch so much television?) The heart of the story lies in Scotty’s hesitation in expanding the family, a character twist instead of a plot twist, and I am grateful for that. Kevin and Scotty are still probably the most realistic gay couple on television (seriously, I’m hard-pressed to find another, although Modern Family may prove its ability to join this distinction) and I’m glad that they can talk like adults about adult issues. Besides, the story gave me the only two quotes I wrote down the entire night.

“Which one of you gets to sleep with the egg lady?” — Grandma Marion Ross, completely missing the point of surrogacy

“How’s Assembling a Child by Tolstoy?” — Kevin to Scotty regarding the gigantic manual they received from their adoption counselor

But all this interest had to take a backseat to the big sad center. While Kitty and Senator Robert go to couples therapy to deal with that douche from Eli Stone making Kitty all weak in the knees, she finds that there is something wrong with her lymph nodes, and that the news isn’t good. The episode ended without declaring what the potentially terminal disease was, but we have to go with cancer, right? My wife, just based on me describing the episode, says lymphoma, especially because it allows her to suffer but gives her the possibility of not dying, and I’m pretty sure that Nate Stone didn’t spread any HIV to her. But still, boo.

So there you have it. B&S sucked me right back in, while DH was more of the same (although a vast improvement over last season’s first handful of episodes).

The Wife:

What a great character-driven episode, and what a great step forward for Glee. I loved Kurt’s arc and his fabulous dance performances in this episode. Caught dancing in a leotard (which wicks the sweat from his body) to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” Kurt tries to butch up for his dad by pretending he’s dating Tina and that he’s now the kicker on the football team. So, with Finn’s help, he “auditions” for the football team and manages to land the role of kicker simply by being able to deliver a Beyonce-fueled kick clear across the goal posts, something their previous kicker couldn’t do with or without the help of Beyonce.

But Kurt butching up for his dad isn’t the only thing hinged on McKinley High football. Quinn tells Finn that she’s pregnant (you know, from that time he came in the hot tub because he couldn’t think of hitting the mailman with his car fast enough), and that she’ll be keeping the baby. Finn, wanting to be a good guy and not just another “Lima Loser” like other teenage fathers he’s met, knows that if he wants to be able to support Quinn and their child, he’s got to get a football scholarship and go to college. The only problem is that the football team sucks. Hardcore.

Yeah . . . about that time we didn't have sex in the hot tub . . .

Yeah . . . about that time we didn't have sex in the hot tub . . .

Kurt suggests that the players loosen up by learning to dance, just as the Chicago Bears did with the Super Bowl Shuffle. I can tell you honestly that this isn’t just a myth, but that many professional athletes take dance lessons to improve their agility. Giants’s pitcher (and former Oakland A) Barry Zito used to regularly perform in the Nutcracker, and we’ve all seen how well athletes do on Dancing with the Stars. So, knowing that the football team’s reputation is on the line, Coach Ken Tenaka hands the team over to Kurt, who teaches them the “Single Ladies” routine.

But despite Finn’s heartfelt confession of his situation to Mr. Shuester and the goodness in his heart that inspires him to do right by Quinn, we all know its not possible for him to have fathered Quinn’s child, considering she’s the president of the celibacy club and they’ve never had sex. And Puck, our resident rakish, MILF-loving, pool cleaning lothario, knows that he is the only person Quinn has had sex with. Wanting her to admit what they’ve done, he spends the rest of the episode torturing her and Finn with his knowledge of the pregnancy. And Terri, learning of Quinn’s plight from her husband, sees a golden opportunity in it and sets in motion what will most likely become her plan to covertly adopt Quinn’s baby.

So with all this hanging in the air, McKinley High sets out to play football. At first, they get their asses handed to them, but with merely a second left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Finn takes a pregnant pause and calls a time out. He convinces his teammates that the only way they could possibly win now (and they so desperately need to — so they’ll have a chance at the championship, so they can get scholarships, so they can get respect) is to pull out their secret weapon play: Put a Ring on It. Rather than pass the ball immediately at the whistle, the whole team breaks out into the “Single Ladies” routine and confuses the hell out of the opposition. From there, they’re able to score a touchdown, which means that Kurt gets to be the hero of the game by scoring the winning extra point kick.

And all, it seems, is saved by the power of dance and the goodness of a little gay boy’s heart. I have to admit that I totally had tears in my eyes during Kurt’s final scene with his father in which he comes out to the man who has known all along, as all Kurt wanted for his third birthday was a pair of sensible heels. This scene, and Finn breaking down on Will’s shoulder totally got me.

Meanwhile, outside of the great parts of this episode described above, Sue has landed her own opinion segment on the local news and is speaking up for everything she believes in: caning, litter and so on. When the news station threatens to cancel her segment if the Cheerios continue to defect to the Glee Club, she reinvigorates her sabotage plans by blackmailing Principal Figgins (with his hilarious video from the time he was a steward for Mumbai Airways) to get Sandy back on campus as the school’s Arts Administrator. And Sandy’s first move as admin? Create a musical audition that will steal Rachel Barry away from Glee. Already jealous that Will wants to give Tina the West Side Story solo, Rachel readily takes the bait and when she sees that Will hasn’t changed his mind, she quits Glee Club for good.

It is a little disappointing how readily Rachel played into this scheme, but despite her seeming kindness and tendencies to be dumped upon by everyone, its also easy to see why she would be drawn to a place that wants her to have the star she so believes she deserves. A great arc for Rachel over the course of this season would be for her to realize that, sometimes, wanting what’s best for herself is a completely selfish act and that she should try to change those tendencies. Already, Will, Finn, Kurt and Quinn have grown and changed so much over four episodes, but Rachel, arguably the second lead, hasn’t.

I do think this was a wonderful episode, but I wish that the musical numbers had been better placed. Anything involving “Single Ladies” was great, but Rachel’s audition for Cabaret was not well-chosen or necessary, even if it was a “naturalistic” use of music. I was glad to hear Tina solo, but rather than the Rachel number, I felt like this episode needed to give Quinn or Finn a song to express what they’re going through. There certainly were moments where music could have worked, especially as Quinn ducks away to her car, in tears. I suspect she might have started singing along to a CD as she drove off, had Terri not been there to ambush her. Maybe the point was to break the expectations of the musical and not sing where we could all feel there should be singing? Or maybe, if Finn were to have a song, Ryan Murphy simply couldn’t get the rights to use Ben Folds’ “Brick?”

Stray thoughts and quotes:

  • “Is the baby black?” — Kendra, in horror, to her sister Terri before Terri reveals she’s not actually pregnant. What a great nod to Nip/Tuck, where Jessalyn Gilsig’s character actually did give birth to a black baby after spending the entire season making Julian McMahon’s Christian Troy believe it was his.
  • Dear sweet God, I absolutely need Emma’s baby blue sweater with the leaf detailing on the collar. This show is sweater heaven!
  • “To all those naysayers who say you can’t strike children on their bare buttocks with razor sharp bamboo sticks, I say, “Yes, we CANE.” — Sue
  • “My body is like a warm chocolate soufflé — if it isn’t warmed up properly, it doesn’t rise.” — Kurt, inadvertently also talking about his penis.
  • “Not everyone has the walnuts to take a pro-littering stance, but I won’t rest until every inch of this state is covered in garbage.” — Sue
  • Anti-embolism stockings are hilarious.
  • “If I was out to get you, I’d have you pickling in a Mason jar on my shelf by now.” — Sue
  • I’m sorry, Kurt, but as good as you look in that leotard and sparkly vest, you will never look as good as Joe Jonas, who has thighs so delicious I want to eat them. (Don’t worry about the dancing. Just stare at his thighs.)

The Husband:

Fun fact that I learned in an interview with Chris Colfer, the actor who plays Kurt: the coming-out scene was very much based on the similar conversation Chris had with his own father when he was younger. He didn’t get into specifics, but I have a feeling that pretty much everything Mike O’Malley said, aside from the “sensible heels” line, was close to verbatim. It was sweet without going too schmaltzy, but it also didn’t let some of his father’s prejudices off the hook. This is clearly a major point in Chris’ life having grown up in a very conservative town just outside of Fresno, California, and I’m glad he could share that with us.

The Wife:

Don’t mistake this as a complaint, but “Night of Desirable Objects” reminded me of a couple of X-Files episodes, hybridized into one. It took a little bit of the Flukeman from Season 2’s “The Host,” a little bit of the Peacock family from Season 4’s famously banned episode “Home,” but it also married that horrible family genetic secret arc and that mutant killer underground arc with two of its own similar conceits from season one: the albino bat boy and the chimera. For a MOTW episode, this was pretty entertaining, though because it’s mostly an MOTW, it doesn’t have a lot of value to the series overall.

Construction workers go missing from a field near the Hughes farm, grabbed from the ground by a shiny, blue-ish claw. Fringe division pokes into these disappearances, allowing Walter to analyze the residue found on the ground at the latest disappearance and discover that it’s a paralytic. On a visit to the Hughes farm, Olivia, who has developed occasional super hearing, hears an additional person breathing despite Dr. Hughes’ insistence that no one else is there. He is alone, because his wife died in childbirth about 20 years ago, and gave up doctoring shortly after that incident. Agent Jessup picks up a bible at the Hughes house and finds a note from the pastor telling him not to blame himself for the death of his wife and child, which leads the team to believe Hughes might have killed his family.

Wow, I’m so glad Jessup got a scene in this episode that’s so crucial to the plot or her character. I have no problem with Jessup’s existence in the series, but why write her in to a case she wasn’t originally part of? That scene with her struck me as very odd and out-of-place. Maybe her arc in this episode was a victim of editing. If so, I’m sure they could have reshot the scene with the Bible featuring, oh, ANYONE ELSE. Peter. Olivia. Evil Agent Francis. Dude, I’d sooner believe that they let Astrid go out in the field than insert Jessup for one lame scene.

Don't mind us, we were just exhuming some caskets!

Don't mind us, we were just exhuming some caskets!

Walter exhumes the bodies, only the baby casket doesn’t contain a body. Something tried to claw its way in or out and has stolen the bones. By examining the remains of the mother, though, Walter learns that she had lupus, and it is therefore a medical impossibility for her to have given birth, as the bodies of expectant women with lupus attack fetuses as though they were diseases. Through this, they realize that Hughes, who is in the process of hanging himself from the fluorescent light in custody, genetically engineered a child that could survive in hostile environments, such as:

Peter: He altered his baby’s DNA to survive its mother’s lupus.

Astrid: That’s sick.

Walter: That’s genius! He’s created the superbaby!

It’s part scorpion, hence the paralytic, and part mole or some such other underground creature. Armed with this knowledge, Olivia and Peter try to find it in its underground lair, where it snatches Olivia and then dies when one of its surface tunnels collapses, sending a police car crashing down atop it. Poor little scorpion mole boy, done in by the advancements of a world he could never be part of.

If there’s one really poignant thing I can say about this MOTW, it’s the Hughes desire for a son is very nicely mirrored in the act of Walter taking V2 Peter from the other side to replace the son he lost. They’re both about men who, at their cores, just really wanted to be fathers. And that scene at the end, where Peter talks about wanting to take his dad fishing as a boy but never could because Walter was always too busy? That broke me heart, especially when Walter invited himself to attend the trip with Peter and his “friend,” not realizing that the story was about him, or that he was invited all along. “You know, Walter,” Peter says, “that might just make the trip.”

Meanwhile, mytharc-wise, Evil Charlie Francis is told by his magical mirror typewriter that he needs to find a way to make Olivia remember the other side, and Nina Sharp sends her to see a “therapist” to talk about her accident and subsequent side effects of visiting the other side. This makes me wonder if Nina’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent bionic arm replacement were a result of her business with the other side. She has a really great speech about her cancer and her body becoming “a foreign thing, a threat” to her that engages with my work and connects very neatly to the origin story of the MOTW. Not Fringe’s best episode, but serviceable, and not without a few great moments.

The Husband:

Maybe it was the Indian food racing through my digestive system last night, but I’m already becoming a little impatient for MOTW episodes that don’t really wow me, preferring as usual to see a mytharc episode while still realizing that too many mytharc episodes in a row would overload the entire show. I just didn’t need to see John Savage being creepy yet again and living in a house that I am pretty damn sure appeared in the second episode of Chris Carter’s failed 1999 show Harsh Realm. (Which I can come close to proving, as Fringe moved its production city from Brooklyn to Vancouver between seasons 1 and 2.)

And now, more haiku.

Charlie Francis has
A kickass magic mirror.
Will it say “redrum”?

If this ep is true
Bowling represents more worlds.
Kingpin
has meaning.

Olivia is
Reliving Smallville, s1
Will she get to fly?

The Wife:

So far, I like Community. I’m watching it because I like Joel McHale, and the smarminess of his Soup persona translates nicely to Jeff, the lawyer who returns to community college rather than face disbarment, who is just as much of a lovably smarmy asshole as McHale is on the The Soup.

The setting allows of a typically zany supporting cast, each one of them desperate for some kind of validation in their lives (as that’s kind of what community college is for). There’s the popular high school girl trying to make a fresh start, the jock who can’t let go of his high school pride, the mother trying to reclaim the education she never got, the hipper-than-thou girl who’s trying to do something with her life for a change, the kid who clearly learned more about pop culture over the course of his school life and therefore didn’t meet any expected learning results and the senior citizen trying to reclaim his youth.

This is probably why I never attended study groups.

This is probably why I never attended study groups.

I like all of them, but so far my favorite character is pop-culture obsessed Abed, who spent the entirety of the first episode misunderstanding subtlety and comparing Jeff’s plight to Michael Douglas roles.

“I thought you were like Bill Murray in any of his films, but now you’re more like Michael Douglas in any of his films.”

or

“I’m sorry I called you Michael Douglas and I see your value now.”

Another highlight of the pilot was John Oliver’s role as an anthropology professor trying to blackmail Jeff into getting his BMW in exchange for a year’s worth of answers to every test Jeff will ever take. Oliver plays the role with a Maxwell Smart-esque edge: the smart guy who makes too many idiot mistakes for you to actually think he’s smart. Case in point: “Con-4-s-8-tion” is his version of an abbreviated text.

With Jeff’s plans to cheat his way through community college falling apart before his eyes, he actually has to socialize with these losers from his Spanish class in the form of a study group and form some sort of community if they are all to survive and graduate, which sort of works out in his favor as, at the very least, it means he gets to spend time with love interest Britta.

In the next episode, Jeff switches assignment cards with Abed so that he can work with Britta on a Spanish project, but she has switched cards with Chevy Chase’s aging hipster Pierce simply so she won’t have to work with him. Rather than take the necessary 10-20 minutes to complete the simple assignment of creating a conversation using five stock phrases the class has learned from Senor Chung, Pierce goes balls-out and creates an epic, multi-page conversation that means very little and contains several anti-Israeli diatribes and a bunch of other vaguely racist shit.

Jeff tells Pierce off about the project and refuses to work with him, but Pierce wants to do the presentation as he wrote it. When Britta tells Jeff that she switched cards with Pierce because he paid her $100 just so he could work with Jeff, his Grinchian heart melts a little bit and he volunteers to do the project with Pierce as written. What follows is a hilarious, silent montage of each segment of the performance, which involves puppets, near minstrelsy, flag waving and silly-string wars. As triumphant as the finish is, Jeff and Pierce both earn Fs from Senor Chang. Jeff actually earns an F-minus.

But Jeff learns to be selfless, and that’s a more worthwhile lesson than anything in the B-plot, which sees Shirley and Annie hearing about one horrible global atrocity from Britta and deciding to become globally aware by setting up a protest rally about the death of a Guatemalan journalist. It tastelessly includes a piñata effigy of the dead man . . . who was beaten to death, as Britta points out, which Annie feels is part of why the piñata is poignant.

My problem with the B-plot isn’t its purpose, which is to mock collegiate organizations that rally around every cause without really understanding what that cause is and to demonstrate that “raising awareness” isn’t really doing anything, but its lack of growth for Shirley and Annie. Yes, through their actions Britta realizes that she is also one of those people who is all talk and no action and that she should actually do something other than being cool and bitchy, but Shirley and Annie don’t grow by this. I hope they do. Britta, Jeff and Pierce are all people. I’d like to see the rest of the ensemble become more than a source for jokes.

Stray thoughts and funny things:

  • Abed’s text misunderstanding in the first episode was funny.
  • I, too, question the validity of the library PA system.
  • Did anyone else notice that all of the flag cards in Mr. Chang’s Spanish class were Italian flags?
  • “In Spanish, my nickname is El Tigre Chino, because my knowledge will bite her face off!” — Senor Chang
  • Pierce: To the empowerage of words!
    Jeff: To the irony of that sentence.
  • “And this isn’t a school newspaper, it’s a real paper! There’s a Marmaduke in there.” — Shirley
  • Joel McHale is pretty well-built in the chest and arm area, is he not, ladies? I think Abed for coveting his dress shirt.
  • I would like to see Joel McHale and Lou wear those mini sombreros on The Soup one week.

The Husband:

So far I very much dig the wry humor and laid-back energy (oxymoronic, I know) of Community, but it’s still stuck in a Bill-Murray-in-the-70s type humor which results in smirks and knowing nods instead of outright laughs. There have, of course, been big laughs (Abed’s Breakfast Club outburst, for one), but I feel like I’m forcing myself to laugh at certain points. And I don’t want to force myself to do anything.

McHale is a great personality, and the second episode showed that it won’t be long before I can actually relate to Jeff as a character, but the snark might be, in my opinion, laid on a little too thick. It distances us viewers from the other characters, because he distances himself from them. I mean, even buffoonish Michael Scott has a heart. True, it took him a couple seasons to really find it, but as Community doesn’t have a big pedigree to its name, I’m not sure if viewers will wait that long.

Basically, there is a way to have your snark and eat it, too.

I do very much like the study room in the library, though. Every good sitcom needs its main room for the characters to congregate, like Sunshine Cab Company on Taxi, the newsroom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the hallway on Saved by the Bell (and yes, these are three of the shows I recently watched in my chronological journey through American sitcoms thanks to my workplace, Hulu and Netflix), as well as every single family sitcom that revolves entirely around the living room. It gives a nice air of familiarity.

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