The Wife:

Usually, the Tyra Shoot is my favorite shoot of the season, as I really do like Tyra as a photographer, but this Tyra Shoot was somewhat disappointing. Scarves, Tyra? Your inspiration for these photos actually came from you fucking around on your webcam with your headscarf on before beddy-byes? What inspiration! Couldn’t you at least have made up something about Renaissance paintings or India or old movie stars to make it sound more glamorous than the fact that you came up with this one in your final five minutes of waking consciousness?

Its okay, because Nicole doesnt look all that awake here, either.

It's okay, because Nicole doesn't look all that awake here, either.

Even less inspired than the scarf shoot was the Amazing Race through Wal-Mart CoverGirl challenge in which Nigel Barker and his wife Chrissy instructed the girls to wear cheap-ass “model basics” from Wal-Mart and compete in a foot race against the other girls to then acquire horrible-looking gladiator sandals, their photos, and, finally, put on a face full of CoverGirl lash blast lip slicks mascara gloss radiance whatever. In order to make this less droll, one or two girls got eliminated at each station, leaving on Erin, Sundai and Bianca in the final three. Furthermore, the editors honed in on Erin’s competitiveness and made the whole race about how she pushed people and hurt them and played dirty, which later made her cry in a limo. Look, she shouldn’t have grabbed on to anybody’s arm, but when you’re racing through Wal-Mart, you really shouldn’t even bother to pretend that you’ve got a sense of race etiquette that would keep you to politely running around your competitors, rather than barreling through them. All that didn’t help Erin win, though, because the Barkers liked Sundai’s cheeks, so they gave her some inconsequential prize like being on the Wal-Mart website.

Tyra then did her scarf thing, and gave one girl immunity immediately after the shoot. That girl was Brittany, who has won two things, but Erin thinks two is a million. So Brittany was given the much better prize of shooting with two male models that Tyra just discovered, because this prize, ultimately, had to be about Tyra’s merits, not Brittany’s.

Emerging from Tyras womb.

Emerging from Tyra's womb.

As for the rest of the photos:

  • Brittany: With a golden scarf across her face, this reminded me of an Anne Geddes shot of a baby in muslin.
  • Erin: Is Erin’s deal that she’s ugly pretty? She looked like a raisin in this photo. I do not understand.
  • Kara: Looks like an unpleasant drag queen, which is kind of the point, I guess.
  • Ashley: Her clothing at judging was a hot mess, and this photo was one, too. In fact, Tyra had to change her setting three times during the shoot to even get this disaster. Which just goes to show you: not every girl you pick out of a talk show audience can be a model.
  • Laura: Wearing a playset her meemaw made her to panel that I totally adored, I also adored her photo. She looked like a J.A.L. David odalisque.

    Whats an odalesque?

    What's an odalisque?

  • Bianca: Why is this girl so mad in every photo? She’s got stank face in every damn one of ‘em.
  • Rae: Lovely, lovely, lovely.
  • Nicole: Hunched over in a green scarf, Nicole once again knocked it out of the park.
  • Sundai: A nice, simple beauty shot.
  • Jennifer: This is a nice shot, but is it a beauty shot? It shows more body than face, but it does hide her bad eye . . . so  . . . draw?

Callouts: Jennifer, Rae, Nicole, Erin, Laura, Sundai and Kara, leaving Ashley and Bianca in the bottom two. This being Bianca’s third bottom two appearance, she was finally ousted. Praise Jesus!

The Husband:

So…we can all agree that Nicole is awesome, and certainly the frontrunner, right? Her weirdness hasn’t turned off too many people, has it? Walking around her high school with her books in a wheelbarrow isn’t tooooo strange, is it?

Our precious!

Our precious!

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The Husband:

Due to our ever-changing work schedules, alterations/advancements in career, far too many new shows on the proverbial television slab and my just-now-begun quest to watch every musical Scarecrow Video has on the shelf (all the ones not categorized into certain main musical actors or directors, and ones that are not rock music- or beach-focused, come in at around 350, so this should take me about 1.6 years), this is an introduction to a new way we’re going to do things around here. Certain shows, like So You Think You Can Dance, Glee and ANTM (the best Wednesday line-up ever), obviously get full and detailed articles nearly every week, but others happen to fall through the cracks. And yet, I still feel like discussing them. I’ll try to get them into three-episode blocks, but my first foray into this new manner of writing will have settle for a belated four-episode review.

Up now, FX’s tough biker drama Sons of Anarchy.

Riding hard.

Riding hard.

When SOA premiered last year, I only caught two episodes on Hulu before deciding I would rather wait for the buzz to build and then catch the DVDs. I had too many shows going on at the household (and this was before we upgraded to two DVRs, so I don’t think I had room for it anyway) and my wife was exactly 0% interested, as the only thing she watches on FX is Nip/Tuck. So I grabbed the s1 DVDs from Netflix as soon as it was possible and pushed through the entire first season in five days. The problems that were apparent from the first two episodes, an over-reliance on us giving a crap about SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Organization) so quickly and thus hoisting far too much exposition without character-building, sort of eased their way out, and viewers were left with a very rough-and-tumble version of some of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies (Hamlet is the most obvious one) set in a fictional Northern California biker town. (A NorCal native, I enjoy all the references to Lodi, Stockton and Oakland, even if they clearly shoot in SoCal and treat six-to-eight-hour motorcycle treks as if they were nothing.) Suffice it to say, I got hooked quickly, and despite some of the show’s biggest flaws, I consider it a pretty true American television original.

But we’re not here to talk about the first season. Your TV snob friends have probably already talked your ear off about the power of season 1 and some of its greatest moments (“Dude, Peg Bundy just beat Taryn Manning ‘cross the face with a motherfucking skateboard!” “Holy shit they just burned an entire back tattoo off of a former Samcro rider!”), but now that the show has garnered a pretty substantial following — at least twice as many viewers as Leno’s nightly crapfest — it’s all about the here and now.

First season spread its villainy out wide, but s2 has brought us a great deal of focus with one of the more terrifying television creations in quite some time — Adam Arkin’s white separatist businessman Ethan Zobelle, who has threatened to destroy Samcro unless they stopped selling guns to “color.” Not one to take threats from anybody, Clay (Ron Perlman, intimidating as all hell) vows war against the white separatists should anything mind-numbingly terrible occurs.

And here’s where that mind-numbingly terrible thing comes into play. After a heated face-to-face with Clay, Ethan gets right-hand man Henry Rollins his cronies (at least allegedly at this point, although it’s pretty much guaranteed they did it save for a possible last-minute twist) to kidnap Clay’s wife Gemma (Katey Sagal) and gang-rape her in a warehouse, each of them wearing white Michael Myers masks. Much debate has raged on the internet regarding whether or not this plot device was too exploitative for the show’s own good (it was pretty goddamn horrifying), but the manner in which the story has progressed has solidified it in my mind as the only way to go in such a jagged-edged universe. Gemma has so far not told Clay or the men of Samcro what happened to her (only Chief Unser and Dr. Tara Knowles know, and they’re covering for her), and this strangely enough makes her a very strong woman. Why? Because telling Samcro what happened to her would give the separatists exactly what they want, and the town of Charming would devolve into a complete and utter war zone. It’s a harsh place for a television program to go, but nothing is black-and-white on Sons of Anarchy. (Except for the white separatists, who are, clearly, very white.)

Unfortunately, two storylines have kind of fallen flat for me, one mildly and one in a big way. The little problem is the sudden focus on a local adult film business, which, while fascinating in a weird way, has been mostly played for laughs, and it’s here that SOA loses some of its edge and sometimes feels like a Nip/Tuck deleted scene. Tom Arnold’s appearance as a rival porn producer didn’t help.

But the biggest problem in s2 so far is happening now that main character Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and the aforementioned Tara (the omnipresent Maggie Siff) are finally a couple. Whatever chemistry they had in s1, as they each struggled with their own personal problems (he his dying baby and his meth-addicted estranged wife, she her being followed across state lines by a rogue FBI agent), has all but dissipated, and it seems that their power existed mostly in the will-they-or-won’t-they. Now she’s just another biker bimbo, and while I appreciate that her brains are getting in the way of some of Samcro’s business, her character’s IQ seems to have dropped 50 points almost overnight. Their love scenes play like the animal crackers sequence from Armageddon, and it’s just not working. It’s a waste of two good characters.

Someone get these people some animal crackers and lame dialogue.

Someone get these people some animal crackers and lame dialogue.

SOA works best, I think, when it focuses on the ensemble, and so far s2 has not disappointed. Opie (Ryan Hurst) is a maniac on a death wish ever since his wife was accidentally gunned down in a botched assassination attempt due to FBI interference (s1’s best storyline by a mile), and what was a side character at the beginning of s1 has become one of the show’s most dangerous bits of energy. Taylor Sheridan’s Deputy Hale is finally coming into his own as a man who realizes that he may have to follow the tradition of helping Samcro in order to keep Charming virtually crime-free, and him standing up to the separatists has him close to crossing legal lines. And this week’s focus on Tig (Kim Coates) being captured by bounty hunters due to an outstanding warrant in Oregon was deviously clever in its Wild Bunch mentality. And all this plays against the power struggle between Jax (son of Samcro’s now-dead co-founder) and his sinister stepfather Clay, which so far has not gotten stale one iota. Their scenes together are charged with massive amounts of tenseness, and in the final moments of this week’s episode, it went one step further.

SOA is a deceptively intelligent and old school yarn with modern violent flair and some of the most shocking scenes currently on my television screen. I hope people won’t judge a book by its cover, saying that this is just some macho bullshit, and really allow themselves to dig into the moral depths of this NorCal treat.

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.

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.