The Wife:

Now that Baby John has entered this world, I think SLOTAT has gone a little bit off the deep end. The last two seasons have had tension and drama and elicited a modicum of emotional investment from myself and other viewers, but this season? This season is totally and completely bananas. For instance, this episode was about one thing and one thing only:

No one is having sex with anyone on this show . . . unless they’re going to Bologna.

Ben and Amy: Because Amy’s experience of young motherhood has made her a complete and total bitch (i.e. flat out refusing to have sex with or even kiss Ben, whining, complaining, begging other people to do things for her, being critical and nagging of everything and everyone to the point there I kind of hope she kills herself at the end of this season because she’s become a terrible, terrible human being), Ben’s father suggests that it might be good for Ben to have a summer abroad, working for his uncle’s company in Bologna. (This is a suggestion that comes out of Ben’s apology for being a dick to his dad last week and quitting the butcher shop.) He’s given the choice to go on his own, or he can bring Amy and John with him. So, naturally, when Ben brings this up to Amy, she immediately wants to ditch her son and pass him off to family, friends or Ricky for a week, two weeks or a month so she can go gallivanting around Italy with Ben.

Wait, what?

This coming from a girl who earlier in the episode said she didn’t want to go out to dinner at a restaurant because she wasn’t going to expose John to germs from the outside world until he’s three months old? (Furthermore, how does she know about that little piece of advice floating around the parenting world and yet she doesn’t know how to breastfeed?) A girl who two episodes ago didn’t want Ben babysitting her son, but now is totally willing to just up and leave the little baby for a month or so? No! Amy, you are officially the most frustrating character on television. I know you feel trapped by your choices and whatever, whatever, but you made those choices and now you have to live with them. P.S. It’s not like you can’t put a baby on a plane and take him to Europe with you. You said he’s ten weeks old now, which means he’ll be 12 weeks (or 3 months!) old in two more weeks . . . and summer’s a month away . . . so it’s not like you’re breaking your stupid three month germ rule by taking him to Europe when he’s more than three months old. I just don’t understand her logic here, and that’s because there isn’t any.

Please notice whos missing from this picture . . .

Please notice who's missing from this picture . . .

Grace and Jack: Grace returns to school, only to find it’s harder than she expected it would be to face her sex scandal and father’s death on the faces of other students. An impromptu conversation with Mr. Jurgens, however, helps her feel better about what’s happened in her life (esp. because he might actually be the father of his pregnant soon-to-be-ex-wife’s baby), so she decides to go back to school, forgive lots of people, apologize for being mean to people while she was grieving, reclaim her virginity and get back together with Jack, only this time, they’re not going to have sex again until their married. And so the Grace Bowman character arc comes full circle.

Ricky and Adrian: She doesn’t want him to sleep with other girls, but also doesn’t exactly accept his plea for commitment, even though she later calls Grace to gush about it.

What’s going on in Ricky and Adrian’s relationship in this episode doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that Adrian apparently knows something about Bologna that I don’t know. It’s known for only three things, apparently:

1. The oldest university in the world.

2. Really good food. (Specifically, per Ben’s earlier answer to the “Do you know what Bologna is known for?” question, bolognese sauce.)

3. Oral sex.

Wait, what? This can’t be real, but rather some totally weird thing made up for the show because I have never, ever heard this and one of my grandfathers was from Bologna. In the context of the SLOTAT universe, though, it seems like something hookers know about, as Ricky pointedly asks Betty the Escort if she’s ever been to Bologna and she replies that she’s been many, many, many times and that they have lots of spaghetti there. (Well, obviously. They have lots of spaghetti all the fuck over Italy.) Am I to assume that all Italian sex acts are named after pasta shapes? Adrian seems to follow that line of logic when she spills the Bologna beans to Amy by calling out rigatoni and other such shapes (in a beautiful and perfect accent, for which I give my compliments to Francia Rasia). What fucking looney toons universe was I dropped into where this entire episode became about using pasta names as euphemisms for sex acts? If any of that’s true, I’m pretty sure anything called “fusilli” would be the equivalent of the tongue tornado from American Pie. And I’m pretty sure we can all figure out what rigatoni is. Penne is also obvious. Spaghetti, though? What the fuck would that be? Any creative people, please chime in with your ideas for sex acts named after pasta shapes in the comments.

Anne/George/David: Inspired by his conversation with Grace, George decides to come clean with Anne about the vasectomy he didn’t actually have, but he chickens out when he eavesdrops on Anne and David having dinner, at which David admits that he thought he was infertile so his fathering a child would be something of a miracle, thus he suspected, perhaps, that Anne was faking a pregnancy in order to get her divorcee hands on David’s family’s millions. (Wow, that’s a very complicated revelation that came OUT OF NOWHERE). When Anne assures him she didn’t even know about the money and wouldn’t care either way, David proposes to her, which keeps George from making his admission, making this the second nicest thing he’s done for Anne this season. First he leaves her the house, and then he doesn’t ruin her chances to marry a rich guy? Wow, George is really turning over a new leaf these days, no?

Some lines I liked:

  • “He just cries. He’s a baby, okay?” – Amy, getting really, really defensive about her parenting skills.
  • “After I get home from work, we’re going to cook dinner?” – Amy, incredulous and angry at Ben’s suggestion that they make dinner together instead of going out, as though this isn’t something that thousands of men and women do EVERY SINGLE DAY when they get home from work.
  • “We got family there.” – The Sausage King on Bologna, harking back to his Sopranos roots.
  • “I know just how you feel. I lost my cat last year. And my virginity.” – Random-ass girl, to Grace.
  • “Hey, here’s a good idea. Why don’t you just put John in a kennel while you’re gone?” – Ashley, always coming up with solutions to point out her sister’s completely idiocy.

The Husband:

Yes, it has gone pretty far off the deep end, but if this episode is any indication, I think it’s much more enjoyable than much of the “second season” (i.e. the second half of the first season in TV land but not in DVD land). The major problem is that each episode so far in this short season was given a task, one to simply talk about one damn thing, and beat it into the ground. All of these plots would work just fine for me if they made up a third or half of an episode, but when dragged out to full-length, it can get tedious. But at least I feel like I’m back to what matters for these characters as far as their interconnected lives are concerned, and we don’t have to have, say, the white guilt of when Jack went to the “inner city” to tutor “the less fortunate.” That ended up going virtually nowhere, and there were far easier ways to make Grace jealous of Jack eyeballin’ other women (e.g. the worst Buffy slayer ever.)

And while I appreciate that Ben is really trying to stand his ground with both Amy and Ricky, his shift away from schoolyard politics and issues, mainly among his two now rarely seen Asian-American friends, hasn’t given him very much to work with. Right now, he’s almost entirely reactionary, while the best parts of the first season was his quest to get Amy to love him. Babies make things complicated, and they definitely change people, but I don’t want my beloved Ben gone forever.

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The Wife:

It’s very difficult to write about the final episode of Pushing Daisies, as we were all told by our humble narrator not to treat it as an ending, but as a beginning. It’s unfortunate that ABC’s axe deprived us of a fully-told story, leaving Ned’s father and Zombie Charles Charles roaming about somewhere in the town of Couer d’Couers in Papen County (or possibly in America or Europe) without any explanation or raison d’etre. But those are stories, I’m sure, will be told in the much-talked-about comic book, whenever it debuts. I think Daisies can go on to live a good life in comic/graphic novel form, and now has myriad cheaper ways to engineer its signature quirk in full-color panels. Buffy and Angel have gone on to live long, fulfilling lives in this format, and I hope Daisies does, too. So with that promise of new beginnings and format changes, I can’t talk about the series finale as though it is, in fact, a finale. It didn’t try to be one because it knew it wasn’t one. I will, however, pretend it was a season finale, in which case I have to say that it adequately tied up another long-standing storyline, as last week’s “Water & Power” did for Emerson Cod. And that’s basically what we expect a season finale to do: to tie up some things, while leaving others to be dealt with at a later date. So while we may not know why Ned’s father returned or where Charles Charles is, we do know that Emerson is reunited with his Lil’ Gumshoe and that Chuck finally faces her aunts as an alive-again dead girl.

The Children of St. Clare wish all the best for the cast and crew of Pushing Daisies. We loved you guys, and we hope you all get to do some great, inspired work in the future!

The Children of St. Clare wish all the best for the cast and crew of Pushing Daisies. We loved you guys, and we hope you all get to do some great, inspired work in the future!

It was great to see an episode that focused primarily on the Aunts – and especially on the antiquated ridiculata that is professional synchronized swimming. I love both Ellen Green and Swoosie Kurtz, but I could tell that, as a season finale, this plot was meant to bring both of their character’s closure and allow them to exist in a world outside of Couer d’Couers. Taking them out of the main cast would allow for some new characters to enter into the Daisies universe, with Lily and Vivian returning as guest spots. I’d miss them dearly, but a change in the main cast would have undoubtedly been healthy growth for the show. So here the aunts decide to honor the half birthday of their dead niece/daughter by attending the Aquacade, the very aquatic circus in which they once performed before they retired from synchronized swimming and the world at large. Ned, for some reason, decides it would be a good idea to give Chuck a great half-birthday gift by also taking her to the very same show (and Emerson and Olive – but not their respective significant others, both of whom are ill for the purposes of this episode, and so Olive could say the phrase, “Out with the gout,” which is funny to anyone who doesn’t have gout). Naturally, there are some silly avoidance tactics in place so that dead-Chuck is not seen by the aunts who do not know she’s alive again; chief among these non-sighting sight gags include the gang hiding behind various balloons shaped like aquatic denizens. I was particularly fond of Emerson’s crab balloon and his insistence on talking through its many legs.

The Aquacade itself might be the quirkiest, weirdest thing this show has ever shown us. It includes an announcer (Joey Slotnick, forever known to me as Merril Bobolit, dog-hair transplanter and inventer of Bobotox on Nip/Tuck) riding in Neptune’s chariot with a triton-shaped microphone (which I need, by the way . . . my half-birthday’s next month!), a shark-cowboying act featuring Mad TV‘s Michael McDonald as Bubba the Shark’s wrangler, a very homosexual Wilson Cruz as Sid Tango the Aquadancer and skinny bitches Nora Dunn and Wendy Malick as the Darling Mermaid Darlings’ biggest synch-swim rivals, the Aquadolls. Oh, yeah, and Dr. Swingtown from Private Practice/Swingtown (Josh Hopkins) plays their himbo manager/Blanche’s husband/Coral’s lover. But amid all that finery, something awful happens: somehow, Bubba the Shark escapes his tank and finds his way into the pool where the Aquadolls are performing one of their many star-spangled routines, where he proceeds to gobble up Nora Dunn’s Blanche mid-backwards summersault. Because someone rubbed lard in her hair gel. Awesome. Gross. Hilarious.

With the Aquadolls officially defunct, Jimmy Neptune’s traveling Aquacade clearly needs a new headliner, so he invites the Darling Mermaid Darlings to come out of retirement and get back into the pool. Seriously, Jimmy Neptune had the best aquatic puns ever in his pitch to Lily and Vivian: “I wanted from the water wings.” “The audience soaked it up.” I imagine the writer’s room bursting into giggles while working on this episode. “These are so bad!” someone would exclaim. “But they’re also so good!” someone else would say. Daisies writers, I hope someone gives you guys jobs, because you people were awesome. My praise of the writers and their terribly awesome puns aside, Chuck sees the Aunts’ decision to return to the biz they call show as an opportunity for the rest of the gang to infiltrate the Aquacade and find out who murdered Blanche. Emerson poses as the Aunts’ coach, with Olive running hair and makeup and Ned, in a totally gorgeous 1960’s-style suit and a pair of sunglasses that made Lee Pace look the fucking hottest he has ever looked on this show EVER, as their manager. (If I take nothing else from this episode, I take away the shot of the first time Ned turns around in that suit and how it made my heart skip a beat. And I am very much not exaggerating here.)

As they investigate, they find a variety of incriminating things attached to Sid Tango: he’s taken over Blanche’s dressing room, where her lard-laced hair-gel is kept, and, apparently, keeps a remote trigger to open the shark cage on his very phallic belt. But Sid is innocent, and suggests that Olive and Emerson turn their investigation toward Blanche’s sister, Coral. In addition to being bitter rivals, you see, the Aquadolls and the Darling Mermaid Darlings had more in common than their mutual interest in synchronized swimming. Like Lily, it seems that Coral was also guilty of sleeping with her sister’s lover. Coral assures everyone that while she may have been sleeping with Himbo Dr. Swingtown, she would have never killed her sister. Vivian, having been born with a hole in her heart, takes pity on Coral and invites her to swim in the Darling Mermaid Darlings’ act. But being around Coral makes Lily feel all the more guilty for what she’s done to her own sister, and the two adulteresses share some harsh words. Coral knows Lily’s secret, and threatens to expose it to Vivian unless she gets to stay in the act, but Olive quickly thwarts her plan by revealing to Lily and Vivian that Coral had another costume under her senorita garb and had planned to steal the show from her fresh-out-of-retirement rivals.

Meanwhile, Ned negotiates the Aunt’s contract and finds out that Jimmy Neptune wants to take the Aquacade on a European tour, which Lily and Vivian both agree to. Chuck, however, is not pleased with this information. She feels like being near her aunts, even though she can’t actually visit them, gives her some purpose to being alive again, like she’s meant to be their earthly guardian angel, slipping homeopathic curatives in the scads of free pies they never seem to question receiving. She tells Ned that she isn’t sure she could be happy with her aunts on the road, and that she might have to uproot and go with them somehow. Clearly, this would make Ned very, very sad. Before the big show, Emerson catches Chuck, disguised as a handyman, trying to sabotage the Darling Mermaid Darlings performance with an unauthorized music change, and catches Ned waiting in the shadows to sabotage her sabotage. Despite their confusion, from their vantage point in the control booth, they can all see that a more pressing situation is about to take place in the pool below when a giant lobster man karate chops Jimmy Neptune and steals the triton mike. With the lobster-head removed, Himbo Dr. Swingtown announces his intent behind Blanche’s murder and the imminent electrocution of the Darling Mermaid Darlings: everything he did was to give his lover, Coral, her own show. Fortunately, the underwater speakers drown out anything he has to say so that the Aunts never know of his plot to kill them and Chuck and Ned manage to capture both the Himbo and the microphone before any harm can befall Lily and Vivian.

Nonetheless, harm is about to befall them, as Lily wakes one day to find that Coral has dropped by her house and informed Vivian of everything. But just as Lily is about to kick her sister out of the house, Chuck and Ned arrive to announce the thing that would free and resolve the sisters: their daughter/niece is alive. And for Chuck to have them know that allows her to stay with Ned while they go out into the world on tour, just knowing she’s still around to take care of them. As for the others, Emerson’s Lil’ Gumshoe finds her way to him, and, randomly, Olive and Randy decide to open up a mac and cheese joint called The Intrepid Cow. I would say that these endings felt hurried, by, at least as far as Emerson and Penny and Chuck and her aunts are concerned, the swiftness of these resolutions carries with it some of the magic with which Daisies has always been imbued.

However, the moment I caught sight of Oscar Verbinius as the camera swept through the sewers and took us around the world as narrator Jim Dale assured us that endings should always be thought of as beginnings, I couldn’t help but wish he’d had something to do with the revelation that Chuck is alive-again. His arc in season one was truly incredible, and while I’m happy to see him again, I wish he’d figured into Chuck’s reveal to her aunts in a bigger way. Perhaps he’ll turn up at a later date – for even though the Aunts know she’s alive-again, there are still others who do not. Or perhaps he could be useful in sniffing out the location of Zombie Charles Charles. I guess I’ll take comfort in the fact that he’s still there, in the sewers, lurking. Just as I’ll take comfort in the fact that the beating heart of Coeur d’Coeurs will continue, panel to panel on the page.

On a final costuming note, I think the most fabulous thing in this episode, other than Ned’s suit, was Chuck’s orange-and-brown blossom skirt. I’ll miss the fabulous costumes on this show most of all – that just won’t be the same in the comic book.

The Husband:

I can’t talk long, because my bosses are hovering over me here at my work, but rushed or not, I absolutely loved the final 90 seconds of this episode, which swept through Couer d’Coeurs and flew by at least a dozen locations previously seen on this show, from the convent to French Davis’ bee empire to the graveyard where Stephen Root met his maker to the sewers, finally finishing on Digby in the field that opened the series, and am glad that the effects house was able to deliver it even after the show’s cancellation, thanks to some quick Bryan Fuller thinking and a great big hug of CGI charity.

Another good show dies young, because people apparently don’t want to see anything too original, too quirky or too fantastic in their everyday television viewing schedule. Let the CSIs and Law & Orders reign proud, because they’ve hypnotized their audience into watching the same damn show time and time again. Don’t blame the network. Blame the viewers. They gave up after the high-rated pilot, and that’s their fault.

Well, now I can give DC Comics some of my hard-earned money, and hope that Lee Pace finds a more welcoming home either on our television or in our movie houses.

The Wife:

I present you with “9 Things About This Week’s 90210, Some of Which Are Clearly Stolen from Other Shows and Others of Which Were Clearly Not Thought About Beforehand.”

1. 90210 and Rebecca Rand Kirshner Sinclair, I am calling you on your bullshit. Please stop stealing plot threads from Brenda Hampton shows. This week’s episode opened with a fantasy sequence in which Navid and Adriana discuss the possible future life for her baby, with Navid as a surrogate dad. They imagine names and places they’ll live and how they’ll negotiate being about to finish high school and raise the baby, which of course hinges on the help of Navid’s parents. Navid has got to calm it the fuck down with the baby fever because on this show, he doesn’t seem sweet, he seems fucking crazy. I have to compare their relationship to Ben and Amy on Secret Life of the American Teenager because a.) that show predates this one and b.) however silly SLOTAT may sometimes be, I have always, always found the relationship between Amy and Ben to be grounded and relatable. Ben’s desire to love Amy and help her raise her baby is founded in his own need to connect and love since the loss of his mother and he is utterly sincere in his pursuits, even though they may be naïve. But Navid doesn’t seem to recognize how naïve his suggestions are, and how insane his enthusiasm sounds. It’s making it easier and easier for me to conflate the terrorist Michael Steger played in the beginning of this season of Criminal Minds with Navid himself, and that’s really weird. (And yes, I thought of Shemar Moore chasing him to his death in a subway tunnel when he airplaned food into Baby Habib’s mouth. Because I’m a horrible person.) I buy Ben’s enthusiasm for Amy’s child, also, because his suggestions to help her care for it never seem like he’s forcing her to make decisions that he likes, but because Adriana just seems to go along with everything Navid says (why, I don’t know), there’s something significantly less grounded about their relationship because of her inability/refusal to think for herself and weigh her options. She totally just goes along with his whole “Let’s tell my parents your pregnant and we’ll get them to help care of the baby because we’re Persian and that’s what we do!” scenario without ever questioning it, and I can’t believe that’s a plausible reaction for a 16 year old pregnant girl to have.

2. And in regards to the aforementioned scene with Navid’s parents, it was actually pretty amusing to watch it play out exactly as he said it would (first shock and horror, then complete acceptance when he suggests they get a nanny because “family takes care of family”) . . . until, of course, he mentions that the baby isn’t his. At which point, his parents refuse to let him marry Adriana and raise that child in their home, which is a perfectly reasonable reaction when your son has gone crazy. Their explanation as to why Aid can’t become his wife sounds perfectly reasonable to me, and a very SLOTAT-ish warning. It doesn’t mean he can’t date Adriana and help her take care of her child, it just means that, at 16, it’s probably not a wise idea to legally tie yourself to a woman who is months away from birthing a child that isn’t yours. Being legally entrenched in that kind of situation is really difficult should any baby daddy drama arise. And Navid’s mom is also right about this: her son’s heart is in the right place. Because although I think he’s kind of nuts now, he is being very gallant. Good scene, 90210!

3. But, of course, Navid is actually crazy, and decides to propose to Aid anyway, turning his back on his family. Heeding Naomi’s advice, though, Adriana hesitates to accept the proposal with his pawn shop ring because she hasn’t told him who her child’s father actually is . . . which is a seriously good thing to know, considering potential baby daddy drama mentioned in my second point! And when she tells him it’s Ty Collins, well, he flips out. He leaves, and returns to yell at her, then leaves again, and returns again and so on to the point where his opening and closing the door was no longer dramatic but funny. If you want me to take them seriously, 90210, you need to treat it seriously. The door thing would have worked once or twice. But four or five times was too many. I’m also not sure his reaction was entirely appropriate for the situation, given that he isn’t being cuckolded in any way, and yet was acting as though he was. True, she shouldn’t have kept the father’s identity from him, and he should be upset about that, but not so upset as to abuse that poor door! In the end, though, he still puts that ring on her finger and demands that she never, ever take it off. Which is sweet. See? His heart’s in the right place!

4. Naomi. She’s also insane and completely in denial about the fact that Liam is a douchebag. I’m glad Annie called him on his shit on that double date she was forced into, and I really don’t care if he asked her out because he genuinely liked her or to prove to Naomi he’s a douchebag, because he’s a douchebag and no one should date him. But power to Annie for her actions. And for rocking that Ella Moss dress Naomi gifted her.

5. Naomi is a terrible, ungrateful houseguest so it’s a good thing for the Wilsons that she has a sister we’ve never fucking heard of that clearly was something the writers had never before thought of to bail her out of their father’s “Dionysian Debacle.” Also, her sister is a bitch and I see where she gets it from.

WestBev: so gauche.

Why didn't we ever know, with all of Naomi's family problems, that she had a sister?

6. Silver at St. Claire’s. Why is she so shocked that people pray aloud in Catholic school? That’s kind of what going to a religiously affiliated private school is like. Did she simply not think of that at all?

7. Paige Howard. By the way, I attended Catholic school for 13 years of my academic life, and I never, ever met anyone like Paige Howard’s character. I certainly had friends who were more pious than others (including myself), but none so horrible as to sweetly demand that someone come clean about their past in order to get right with God or whatever. Certainly, most of the people I know who went to Catholic school are so much more intensely strange and wholly un-pious than what Paige Howard is supposed to represent. Basically, all the kids I know from Catholic school are really fucked up. And that’s why I love them and we’re all still friends today. (And yes, Paige Howard is Ron Howard’s daughter.)

8. Catholic School is no different than Public School. I mean, really. Rumors are going to swirl and people will call you a slut if you make an Internet sex tape with your boyfriend, regardless of what school you go to. Hell, rumors are going to swirl even if you don’t make an Internet sex tape with your boyfriend. That’s just what high school is like, and I don’t know why Silver expected changing schools would make it any different. Hasn’t she watched Buffy? High school is hell. Literally and metaphorically.

9. Naomi’s sister we’ve never heard apparently slept with Ethan. Is Naomi going to kill him when she finds out? I would love a death at the prom, so I really hope that happens.
Oh, and a special shout out to Jessica Lowndes hair, which looked amazing throughout this entire episode.

The Wife:

Finally, only 11 episodes into the season, we find out what the hell Sayid has been up to off island, and a little bit about how our favorite Iraqi torturer became the kind of man to kill for money. I’ll begin with that anecdote, and then try to put this together in some sort of chronological fashion. The opening scene asks us to question if Sayid was always meant to be a killer, as he steps in a wrings a chicken’s neck on his brother’s behalf, earning the accolade from his father, “At least one of you will become a man.” Sayid, it seems, has been indoctrinated with the idea that necessarily violence (killing one’s food, killing one’s enemy) is inherent to his masculinity. This brief intro into Sayid’s childhood cuts to our other favorite murderer, little Ben Linus, bringing his Iraqi hostile a chicken salad sandwich (presumably, no mustard). I adore this transition, where Sayid appeases his father by killing a chicken, little Ben tries to endear himself to the man he thinks will free him from his brutal, drunken father by bringing him another dead chicken (although minus the feathers and heavy on the mayonnaise). Ben’s got daddy issues, just like everyone else, and he desperately needs approval from a male authority figure. He knows he’s got Alpert’s approval, now he just needs someone to facilitate getting him to Alpert, and Sayid the Hostile should be that shepherd, something of a surrogate father.

Later in the episode, I thought that’s how it was going to go, when Sayid refuses Sawyer’s help in hatching an escape plan and declares that he’s on his own because he finally know what his purpose is. Little Ben sets up a flaming Dharma van to speed through Dharmaville, distracting Phil and other security members so he can free Sayid, under the following conditions:

Ben: If I let you out, will you take me with you? To your people?

Sayid: Yes, Ben. I will. That’s why I’m here.

But, no. I was very wrong. Before that, though, here’s some stuff that happened to Sayid, off-Island:

In Moscow, he finishes his final assignment as an assassin for Ben. Seems they were killing people who worked for Widmore — people Ben said were out to kill Sayid’s family. But once freed of his obligation to work for Ben and simultaneously avenge his wife’s death, Sayid doesn’t know what to do with his life. Killing is all he’s ever known. Ben’s suggestion: “I suppose you should go live your life. You’re free, Sayid.”

Struggling to change his stripes, Sayid winds up in the DR building La Escuela de Isla. Post-Jeremy Bentham’s visit, Ben arrives to announce Locke’s death. He claims it was murder in retribution for the work that Ben and Sayid have been doing, a plot executed by none other than Charles Widmore. Ben tries to tempt Sayid into killing again by telling him that people have been watching Hurley outside Santa Rosa, and that Hurley need’s Sayid’s help. (This, by the way, is only the first in what I feel are several Sayid/Christ comparisons in this episode.) He implores Sayid not to rebel against the fate he was made for: killing. Sayid responds: “I am not what you think I am. I don’t like killing.”

I really like your hair in that ponytail, Sayid . . .

I really like your hair in that ponytail, Sayid . . .

At the docks with Ben and the other O6ers, Sayid realizes that Ben if a liar and that everything he’s said so far about Widmore and his friends being in danger was all a ploy to get them back to the island. He walks away, and winds up drinking alone in a bar next to Ilana, whom I will, at least for now, stop calling by the name of the actress who plays her since I’ve finally gotten an idea of her character. Sayid thinks Iliana is a professional, but she says she’s not a prostitute, she just likes to go to bars, drink expensive Scotch (always Scotch on this show!) and talk to sad men. He tells her he’s trying to change who he is, and eventually they wind up in bed together. As he takes off her hooker boots, she kicks him in the face and pulls a gun on him. She is a professional, she says, a bounty hunter hired by the family of the man he killed in cold blood on an Italian golf course last year to be brought to justice in Guam. (In retrospect, perhaps killing someone in such a public place with a membership roster was not the best idea, eh?)

Ilana takes Sayid to the airport in cuffs. As he sees the O6 in various parts of the airport, he begins to grow suspicious. He asks Ilana, “Can you do me a favor? Can we get on the next plane? I am very superstitious when it comes to flying.” She refuses, and they board that fateful flight to Guam, from which he gets sucked out during bright white flashy time.

Back on the island, the Dharmites wonder what to do with their captured Hostile Sayid. Horace offers to help him if he’s somehow in trouble with his people, but Sayid won’t talk to anyone by Sawyer, who makes the first of a few attempts to save his friend by asking him to pretend that he’s a Hostile trying to defect, and beg for protection within Dharma if he can provide information to them about his people. Sayid refuses, and stays in his cell for a fascinated Little Ben to chat with while the Dharmites discuss their next plan. Roger “Work Man” Linus catches his son bringing Sayid a sandwich, and Sayid witnesses young Ben being beaten, a moment in which I had such tremendous sympathy for a man I know full well to be evil. You just don’t beat up a kid, man.

The Dharmites take Sayid out into the woods to visit Oldham (Deadwood‘s William Sanderson), who, as it turns out, is Dharma’s version of Sayid — a torturer, of sorts. (“He’s our you,” says Sawyer.) Being a dirty old hippie who lives in the woods, Oldham’s version of torture is tying victims to a tree and giving them some kind of LSD/Saliva Divinorum/Truth Serum combo to peacefully make them talk. Under the influence, Sayid tells the Dharmites everything. He babbles about airplanes and being from the future and warns them all that they’re going to die. Oldham wonders, “Maybe I should have used half a dropper,” but Sayid insists that he used exactly the right amount. This scene had some Christ-like images for me, with Sayid tied to a tree as though it were a cross, spouting off about being from the future as though he were some kind of prophet or Messiah. I had hoped that the Dharmites might suspect him less and worship him as a god-figure for a time, but alas, they simply think he’s crazy.

Ill sit in that jail cell as long as you guys want; just keep giving me that LSD shit you gave me in the woods.

I'll sit in that jail cell as long as you guys want; just keep giving me that LSD shit you gave me in the woods.

Dharma votes, encouraged by new mom Amy, to kill Sayid, reluctantly forcing his one defender, James LeFleur into agreeing with them (because Horace would really like to say the vote was unanimous). And then the Flaming Dharma Van interrupts further planning and Ben lets Sayid out. They abscond into the jungle, and run into Jin out on routine Dharma patrol. Sayid lies to Jin and tries to convince him that Sawyer let him go, but Jin, suspicious, calls to confirm, and Sayid is left with no choice but to knock him out. Little Ben admires Sayid’s bad-ass killing skills, and looks on in awe as Sayid huddles over Jin’s body, to make sure his friend is still breathing and to turn his radio off. And then, unexpectedly, Sayid announces, “You were right about me. I am a killer.”

AND DRAWS HIS FUCKING GUN AND SHOOTS LITTLE BEN LINUS.

Sayid shot a child.

An evil child, but a child.

For as piecemeal as I felt the “filling in the background” sections of this episode were, I was deeply impressed by the struggle for Sayid’s soul. And I think it really ties in to the major mindfuck question we’re presented with at the end here. How much of our lives are destiny/fate/island magic/predetermined, and how much do we choose? And what happens if we go against what is predetermined? If we are to believe the basic principle of time travel that you cannot change the past without rewriting the entire future, then Sayid was always supposed to come back in time and kill young Ben Linus, which in turn somehow cosmically ties Sayid to his one-time victim. If this was always how it was supposed to be, then Ben’s gunshot wounds are definitely not the end of Ben Linus. The island, I doubt, is done with him yet. (Either the island magic will save him as it has saved others, or Jacob or Richard Alpert will breathe life into him like God creating Adam.)

But what Sayid doesn’t realize when he pulls that trigger is that very basic principle of time travel. He thinks he will change things and save lives by assassinating Ben before he turns out to be the liar and the great manipulator we’ve come to know and love, but it won’t change a damn thing because it already happened that way and will always happen that way. And I really, really like the idea of Sayid working for Ben in the future being some sort of cosmic debt paid, as though Sayid, who wanted so badly to not be so eager to kill (and even fought back tears when he assassinated Ben), had to make it up to the victim of his crimes who actually lived. (Yes, Ben, like Harry Potter, will be The Boy Who Lived. I also saw Sayid taking pity on dad-beaten Ben as a sort of Sirius Black-type figure. You know, until he shot Ben. That kind of destroyed the whole Harry Potter parallel for me.)

As for the nature of Sayid’s soul, I subscribe to that whole humanist “duality of man” theory, so it’s difficult for me to say that his true nature is that of a killer. However, he is certainly meant for it, skilled at it. But its the ability to resist that basic instinct that makes him so interesting and, I think, compares to the basic conceit in a narrative about werewolves (see one of my favorite Buffy episodes ever, “Wild at Heart,” in which Oz cannot resist his wolf side and breaks poor Willow’s heart, all the while Angel has to learn to be human again when Buffy realizes that he has returned from his stint in hell without an ounce of humanity left in him) as well as any story about a vampire who has chosen not to drink of human blood (Angel, specifically, but also Moonlight‘s Mick St. John, Twilight‘s Edward and other Cullens). All of these are stories about resisting something intrinsic and antithetical to what is deemed socially acceptable. Certainly, the instincts of a killer are something that society, as a whole, have tried to suppress in order to function. But that doesn’t make them any less innately human. I’m glad Naveen Andrews got to play with that here, because I could see that struggle in his eyes in two key scenes:

1. When young Ben returns to him with his glasses broken, and Sayid asks if they broke because of what Roger did to him.

2. As he is about to pull the trigger.

When I think about both of those looks, a part of me wonders if, perhaps, heroics were not the only reason for Sayid to believe it was his destiny to kill Ben. The boy hated Dharmaville and wanted out, and had been abused by his father in front of Sayid. Perhaps, at least in some small part, this was a mercy killing.

The Husband:

BEN IS A ROBOT!

BEN IS A ROBOT!

BEN IS A ROBOT!

BEN IS A ROBOT!

BEN IS A ROBOT!

You heard it here first.


The Wife:

You know how The Devil keeps mentioning that he has scads of other children? Well, now we’ve finally met his favorite, Morgan, a preppy looking dude who seems as though he’s come from old money but has a knack for getting arrested a lot. This actor who plays Morgan is the unfortunately named Armie Hammer, who I apparently should know from this one episode of Veronica Mars “Witchita Linebacker,” in which Hammer and Beauty and the Geek‘s Sam Horrigan both played beefy football hunks. (I should note that I do not remember anything about this episode of VMars at all.) While I’m interested by the addition of Morgan and the sibling rivalry between him and Sam, I am not loving Armie Hammer in this role. He reminds me of what would happen if you crossed Chuck‘s Captain Awesome with a low-rent version of Gossip Girl‘s Nate Archibald. He’s bland at best, and somehow manages to adopt Ryan McPartlin’s cadence without any of McPartlin’s grace or depth of delivery. Either Hammer is not a good actor but just looked right for the part (and I can imagine a taller, leaner version of Ray Wise looking like Hammer back in the day), or he’s making a choice to come across with this level of falseness. I really think it’s the former. I guess I can compare when he shows up on Gossip Girl later this season as a love interest for Serena. Here’s hoping he turns out better than Aaron Rose did.

Seriously, this jacket is meant for a man twice his chest size. Its ridiculous.

Seriously, this jacket is meant for a man twice his chest size. It's ridiculous.

I’m also really perturbed by the fact that the wardrobe dept is unable to tailor Hammer’s suit jackets to fit him well. I know he’s 6’5″ and that it’s hard to buy pants for someone that tall without getting a large jacket (if you buy off the rack), but the wardrobe people get paid to tailor things. Seriously, kids. Get this guy a blazer that fits him well.

Sam’s introduction to his newfound half-brother comes when The Devil steals his $1000 winning scratcher to bail Morgan out of jail. Thinking that Sam will be a good influence on Morgan (whom The Devil loves because he’s bad, but is disappointed in because he has no focus or ambition, choosing to live like a reckless party boy instead of Hell’s Right Hand), The Devil sends Morgan to learn the ropes of bounty hunting from his better behaved son. The soul of the week is a greedy, miserly man named Edmund Fitzgerald, who’s spending his escape from hell recollecting all of the things taken from him after his death. To do so, he kills the new owners of those items by releasing some little golden buggits to crawl into their ears and eat their brains. The gang, with Morgan’s help, steals the next item the soul wants back, a self-portrait, and he sends golden buggits after them to retrieve it (which culminates in a funny bit where the guys all smack each other with pans to kill the bugs, and then hide from them huddled together in the shower). Without the portrait, they’ve lost their lead on finding the soul — until Andi suggests that the soul must have a warehouse somewhere in which he keeps all of his stuff.

They eventually track down the correct shipyard, and meet Morgan, who has already taken the initiative to find the soul’s shipping container. They find a nearly completed inventory of all of the soul’s things, the only unchecked item being “Mary Ann,” whom they assume is his beloved wife. Morgan, unable to control his impulses, steals a ring from the soul’s vault. While visiting Fitzgerald’s wife to warn her of his return, she informs them that Mary Ann, the thing he loved most in the world, is actually his boat. As Sam and Morgan head off to find the boat, Sam realizes that his half-brother has stolen the soul’s ring. Sam points to the ring as evidence of why The Devil is disappointed in Morgan, and Morgan kindly informs his brother that he’s only hanging out with Sam to get credit with Daddy and eventually rise to power alongside him. The soul, desiring the return of his ring like Gollum with his precious, sends an army of buggits after them. Sam urges Morgan to return the ring, but its stick on his fat greedy finger. Sam tells Morgan to jump into a nearby pool, which the buggits won’t enter, and Morgan tosses the ring back to Sam, who gets the soul to accept the ring and, as he swallows it, impales him on the nearby vessel. With the soul gone, the buggits turn back into gold coins, which Morgan wants to keep.

The Devil obliges, giving Morgan the coins to appease him, which Sam thinks is totally unfair. The Devil tells Sam that he thinks he’s wrong about Morgan, and that Sam might be the son he should groom as his favorite, but he still has to appease Morgan in the hopes that fatherly attention can set him on the right kind of evil path.

“Wow. I’m so conflicted now. I don’t know who to root for.” — The Devil

This was an okay plot, paired with two other okay plots. Nina was almost underused in this episode to make way for Morgan, but she still got some bright bits. Ben realizes that he may not be satisfying her sexually, a subject she avoids talking about by shoving burgers into her mouth. Not wanting to lose Nina, Ben goes to Gladys for Demon-Human Sex Advice, and she offers to give him a hands-on lesson in how to treat a demon woman, having hands-down one of the most amusing lines of the night:

“I like to make learning fun, so bring along lots of plastic garbage bags.” — Gladys

Ben may be a “Horn Hag” for Nina, but he’s really not into Gladys’ offer, so she suggests that, perhaps, Nina finds his human body sexually repulsive. Ben starts to think that, perhaps, Nina can’t be satisfied when she has sex in her human form, so he offers to have sex with her in her natural body, but only if he has a few drinks first and she doesn’t talk in her demon voice at all during the act. Dismayed, Nina transforms and asks Ben if this is what he wants. As he takes a swig from the bottle, she flies off.

Uh, seriously? Youre telling me you dont want this hotness?

Uh, seriously? You're telling me you don't want this hotness?

Later, Nina shows up at the Work Bench to tell Ben the truth about why she’s been avoiding discussing her sexual satisfaction with him. He’s not her first human. Back when she was an angel, she was part of a host sent to Earth to take human loves and bear human children. After the fall, angels of that host who were cast out of heaven also had their human families smote by God. Though Nina never had children by her human lover, she lost her human lover to God’s wrath and never took another. She hadn’t been fully involved with Ben because she wasn’t ready to completely fall in love with a human again, but she tells Ben that she’s ready now to love him fully.

I liked this storyline because I like Nina a lot, and it was great to see Jenny Wade balance the comedy of eating meat to avoid one’s problems with the sadness Nina feels for the innocent man who died for her sins when she was cast out of Heaven. There’s a great heaviness and sorrow in her monologue, which she delivers in such a way that makes it seem like she’s trying to breeze over it so it doesn’t hurt so much. It’s the kind of thing that almost doesn’t belong on a lighthearted show like Reaper, but I really dug this added insight into Nina. I hope it doesn’t stop here, though. The writers just opened up a whole world of potential by adding in these more arcane elements of Christian mythology to their theological cannon.

And then there’s another battle between Sock and Andi for supremacy at The Work Bench. Sock notices that Ted, unable to truly leave the place that was his home for so long, has been wandering around the parking lot, begging customers to let him carry their parcels to their cars for tips. Sock decides to take advantage of this and subcontract his job to Ted. It begins simply with Sock taking a cut of Ted’s parking lot tips, and then escalates into Sock asking for a ton of shifts, particularly ones that involve unloading deliveries and taking inventory, and farming them out to Ted for 40% of Sock’s pay while he naps and earns extra cash. It doesn’t take long for Andi to catch Ted in the store, and for Ted to subsequently out Sock as his boss. Not wanting to lose his new meal ticket, Sock offers to cut Andi in on 10% of Ted’s profits, but she won’t stand for it and demands that Sock fire Ted. Sock actually does something kind of selfless by appealing to Andi on Ted’s behalf, saying that while he was taking advantage of Ted for his own gain, he was also helping the poor dude, who feels lost without his job at The Work Bench. Andi decides to give both men what they want and calls corporate to hire Ted back on as a trainee for a 6-month trial basis . . . with Sock as his trainer. She’s clever, that Andi.

But clearly, the most important thing in this episode is the ending, which finally gets Reaper back on track to answering the questions posed in last season’s cliffhanger pertaining to the master plot. Sam’s mom orders a giant freezer from The Work Bench, with instructions to simply deliver it to the garage. Part of dating the boss is getting to go on delivery shifts all week, so Sam ends up being the fateful driver who meets his father’s reanimated corpse in the garage. Now he finally knows that his dad is alive, and we’ll all soon find out how that happened.

Now I await the return of Ken Marino!

The Husband:

Something about this season is making me truly love it, even if some of the plots aren’t always coming together as well as they can. It’s another instance of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, I think, because as they are beginning to lessen the importance of the Soul Of The Week in order to make room for some character development — something s1 struggled with sometimes in its pre-strike episodes — we’re getting a more fleshed-out show. For instance, Buffy, a show I didn’t necessarily love while watching the entire series 1.5 years ago, had plenty of bad Demons Of The Week episodes, but it got by on its better story arcs and its insistence that we try to love and respect each and every one of its major characters, and so I in return have respected the show more each time I think about it.

I also think, as aforementioned, that the action/danger scenes are being better-directed, I appreciate how Andi is a much smarter character this season, and, yes, the writers’ realization that Ben could be just as interesting as the goofy Sock is really upping the stakes for the show’s own Scooby Gang.

This is more than likely going to be Reaper‘s final season — I’m surprised it got this one — so I don’t know if I’m just trying to make everything this season seem better than it truly is, or that it really is better. Either way, though, it’s a great time to spend an hour on Tuesday nights. (Or Wednesday if it’s just that hard to schedule around American Idol.)

The Wife:

Wednesday nights are rough enough with Lost alone and are especially rough now that there’s Idol, ANTM and Make Me a Supermodel. It’s a reality show power block, and when faced with models making fools of themselves and wannabe popstars, it’s really difficult to make the decision to watch a procedural. I love Criminal Minds, but it’s just been getting backlogged on my DVR, so with due respect to other fans and to those involved on the show, here’s a catch up on the last four episodes or so.

4.13: “Bloodline”

In Bloodline, the BAU team investigates kidnappings of young blonde girls and discovers that, over the course of about 100 years, there have been other isolated disappearances. Not only do the kidnappers take the daughters, but murder the parents in their sleep so the girl will have no one to return to. The team ties these kidnappings and murders to a Romani (gypsy) family trying to find a wife for their young son. The mother of the Romani boy was once kidnapped herself, and developed a wicked case of Stockholm syndrome.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty cool episode, especially the twist with the boy’s mother and the extra twist at the end as she whispers to her son in Romani: “Don’t tell them about your brothers.”

4.14: “Cold Comfort”

This episode had a semi-Buffy reunion with a quick guest spot from Nick Brendon and Mercedes McNab (Harmony) as the victim, Brooke Lombardini. A string of missing blonde girls (always blondes as the fetish object on this show) prompts BAU involvement when some of the girls start turning up dead and, even more oddly, embalmed, each with double pierced ears and the same haircut.

As Brooke’s mother, Lolita “Catface” Davidovich gets her missing daughter’s necklace out of evidence and takes it to a psychic who believes he can read a person’s aura if he has contact with something of theirs. Rossi is not cool with this for a variety of reasons, citing the spread of false hope and the potential of conning victim’s families. J.J. is less sure, touched by Davidovich’s desperation to find her daughter, and eventually takes a piece of evidence to the psychic. The psychic her that he sees Brooke near a rocky shoreline, which makes J.J. think that their unsub has taken the girls to his parent’s home on Mercer Island. Only Mercer Island doesn’t match with any of the other evidence, including wire transfers from the unsub’s father to support his income for the four years he’s been killing, living off his trust fund and off the map.

A former medical student, the unsub was raised by an au pair from Denmark, a petite blonde named Abby with a bob and double pierced ears, who suddenly died one day when his parents were on vacation. For three days, he stayed curled up next to Abby’s body and has been trying to recreate her ever since. He kidnapped girls and held them until they admitted they were Abby, and then he killed them, dressed them up as her and raped their corpses.

The team catches him just in time in a warehouse, with Rossi boldly proclaiming that he was as far from Mercer Island as he could get . . . until Hotch takes a tarp off the window and reveals a painted mural of a lighthouse on a rocky shoreline.

J.J. apologizes to Rossi for bringing in the physic and potentially leading them down the wrong path. As a new mother, all she could see was a mother losing her child and she wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Rossi tells her that those feelings are valid and that believing in psychics is fine, as long as J.J. always remembers that she should believe foremost in what they do at the BAU.

Thats my son with Abby. I always knew he harbored a weird oedipal crush on her.

That's my son with Abby. I always knew he harbored a weird oedipal crush on her.

Cybill Shepard was also in this episode as the unsub’s mother, basically playing her character on The L Word as a powerful woman who constantly belittles her husband. (This character, too, was probably going to have an affair with Alice Piezecki and leave him.) It was a guest star-a-palooza, and a decent episode with a nice tension between faith and fact.

4.15: “Zoe’s Reprise”

In the Cleveland leg of his book tour, Rossi meets a young criminology student who tells him she believes there’s a serial killer in Cleveland due to the increased homicide rate. When she tells Rossi of the facts of the case, he says that he currently doesn’t see any serial involvement (as each murder location and type and victimology are wildly different), but tells Zoe to continue her studies, contact him for any career advice she might need and tells her to never stop until she’s got the answers she’s looking for.

When Zoe turns up dead at one of the previous crime scenes, Rossi blames himself, believing she never would have gone investigating if he hadn’t encouraged her to be so intrepid. Her mother doesn’t want anything to do with Rossi, and is incensed when she finds out that a guilty Rossi decided to take care of the funeral.

As for the serial killer, it took Zoe’s murder for people to realize that she was correct the whole time. He started as a copycat killer, unsure of his style, which is why all the murders prior to Zoe’s were so different. He killed first as Cleveland’s own Butcher of Kingsbury Park (who picked up dudes at gay clubs, killed them and left their bodies in the park), as the Son of Sam (shooting couples in cars), as BTK and even as Jack the Ripper, until, with Zoe, he finally found his signature: strangulation, sealed with a tender kiss to the forehead, wiped away with alcohol. The team doesn’t discover the bit about the kiss until two victims after Zoe, and Rossi has to ask Zoe’s mother to return her body to the morgue so they can examine her forehead and see if there’s a kiss. Zoe’s kiss wasn’t wiped away with alcohol, so from her body they are able to get the name of her killer and track him down.

They catch him in what they believe is an act of murder, only to find out he was just trying to have sex in public with his girlfriend – something he does often because it’s the only way he can get off. With him and the girlfriend in custody, Prentiss discovers that he took Linda to every single one of his crime scenes to have sex. The unsub tells Rossi that there are more bodies, which Reid is easily able to locate by comparing the sex list to the framed images on the unsub’s wall. It wasn’t enough for him to simply visit the crime scenes. He had to look at them every day in order to relive the experience.

Also a fan of Rossi’s work, the unsub tells him that he hopes Rossi can write a chapter on him in one of his books someday. Still guilt-ridden, Rossi returns to lay flowers on Zoe’s grave and runs into her mother, who asks if Zoe’s killer was captured and jailed. Rossi assures her that he is, and she tells Rossi that Zoe would be proud of that fact. Rossi goes on to cancel his book tour, and J.J. tells him that he was the reason she joined the BAU. Fresh out of Georgetown, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, but after hearing him speak, she applied to the FBI.

I enjoyed the sentimentality of this episode, as Rossi can sometimes play a little too gruff, but the murders themselves were no big mystery. The minute I saw them, I called copycat. (Thanks to my husband for showing me the film of the same name a couple months ago.) For people who study serial killers, it was most surprising to see the BAU team try to argue other methods of explanation such as escalation of violence or escalation of intimacy to explain the differences between the crimes, rather than seeing the obvious that, at the very least, the murdered couple shot to death in their car looked like Son of Sam and the strangled prostitute looked like Jack the Ripper.

4.16: “Pleasure Is My Business”

In this episode about a high-class call girl who kills her wealthy clients, I learned a couple of valuable pieces of information.

  1. Should I ever want to become a Madame, real estate makes a good cover with flexible hours.
  2. FinderSpyder has become the fiction search-engine du jour, officially outliving the last show it appeared on, Journeyman, in which I thought it was supposed to be LexisNexis. (If it is intended to be LexisNexis, the killer hooker in question has a background in journalism, time traveling, or time traveling journalism.)

(Husband Note: I too started to notice the widespread use of the fictional Finder-Spyder, a mixture of LexisNexis and Google, last television season when it showed up not only on Journeyman, but also on Moonlight. Now I see that there’s a Wikipedia page detailing its appearances, including two I should have already caught (on Prison Break and the guilty pleasure Hidden Palms). The link is here.)
When wealthy Dallas businessmen with a $10K hooker habit start turning up dead, the Dallas cops call in only Hotch, hoping to keep this as under wraps as possible. Hotch requests his team when it appears that there is a single serial killing prostitute, but he has to fight with the corporate lawyers working to cover these murders up as natural deaths for the entirety of the investigation.

The call girl, Megan, kills men who walked out on their families only because her father abandoned her family for a pro. For a female serial killer, the goal is only to kill, never to find some kind of sexual release. She contacts Hotchner when she hears from a client that the FBI plans to cooperate with the corporate lawyers to cover the whole thing up, desperately pleading with him to expose these men, and that she hoped he’d come and catch her because the men she killed were bad men who needed to be punished for leaving their families. She eventually lures her own father to come to her, and he tries to get her to give over her client list so that none of the men he works with will be exposed when she’s arrested. She hands over her Blackberry, but removes the SIM card. By the time Hotcher arrives, she’s poisoned herself, but as she waits to die, she hands the SIM card to him, telling him to stay with her until she succumbs to death.

Of these four episodes (and clearly, I watched “Bloodline” long before I watched the others, given how little I was able to say about it), “Pleasure Is My Business” was probably my least favorite. It tried to be one of the episodes that gives a good psychological portrait of the killer, but it mostly seemed to toss out information about the nature of high-class sex work. I find that information valuable, but I found the characterization of this killer weak. Glad to see a female serial killer, of course, as they’re unusual in the world and the world of this show, but there have been better storylines involving women. Any storyline, for instance, involving a mother who murders or kidnaps children is instantly more harrowing than a prostitute murdering her johns to teach them a lesson. There can be a nice reversal of power in that kind of story, as there is in Monster, but it just wasn’t here.

I’ll try to do these bad boys two at a time in the future, because writing up four is really daunting.

The Wife:

So here’s the thing about Dollhouse: the concept is really, really cool (a group of blank humans that can upload new personalities and become anything you want them to be, hookers or heroes, depending on the situation), but the concept itself might be what ends up holding this show back. Let me explain.

Happy to see that the mannequins from Nip/Tuck's opening sequence are getting work.

Happy to see that the mannequins from Nip/Tuck's opening sequence are getting work.

I found the pilot to be very intriguing, although perhaps not a total wow. We learn enough about Echo to know that she is essentially a blank slate. She wound up working for the Dollhouse because she did something bad (I’m just assuming that this is what happened to Faith after she broke out of jail and helped Wesley save the world from Angelus), and now she’s not that person anymore. We first see her being some dude’s fantasy birthday date: the kind of girl who will kick his ass in a motorcycle race (or let him win because it’s his birthday), and then light up the dance floor. But then she gets called back to her handler and has that memory entirely erased, zapped out of her head. For Echo, this feels just like she’s fallen asleep, and she wakes up devoid of personality. Eliza Dushku, who I really only know as Faith, does a good job of creating a blank stare to represent the personality-less doll version of Echo, coupled with line readings that remind of what it must be like for a child to experience something new and confusing. (When she sees a new Active being blanked out, she remarks, confused that the girl seems to be in pain, “She’s not sleeping.”)

And when a Dollhouse client’s daughter is kidnapped, Echo is recruited to become Eleanor, a hostage negotiator – stern and scholarly and all-business. As Eleanor, Echo does everything by the book. She neatly arranges a trade of money for the little girl, but something goes wrong at the dock when she sees a man she knows, which causes her to have an asthmatic reaction that ends up getting the client shot, causing her handler, Boyd, to intervene by taking out the shooter. And why did Echo know this man? Because Eleanor did. The personalities imprinted on the Actives, it seems, are composites from real people, and real strengths come with real weaknesses. Boyd didn’t understand why Topher, the Dollhouse’s chief imprinter/eraser, would program the Actives, who should be superhuman, with any flaws at all. It is our flaws, Topher argues, that drive us to succeed. We make up for those shortcomings. Eleanor, then, is nearsighted (which he can program Echo to experience) and asthmatic, both things that ultimately drove her to become a successful negotiator. But there’s one part of her personality that really drove Eleanor, or at least one of the people “Eleanor” was composited from, to become a good hostage negotiator is exactly the thing that crippled her on the docks: as a child, she was abducted by one of the men who abducted Davina.

Clearly, Faith's life has taken a very drastic turn for the better.

Clearly, Faith's life has taken a very drastic turn for the better.

The folks at the Dollhouse want Echo to be blanked immediately, considering the mission to protect the client botched, but Boyd, who is just as personality-less as blank Echo and seems to exist merely to point out issues in the narrative, insists that they should continue their mission and help the client by getting his daughter back. Instead of erasing Echo, Topher merely upgrades her and Boyd and Echo-as-Eleanor go on to rescue little Davina with the help of newly recruited Active Sierra, who Echo saw being blanked out earlier in the episode and who entered the mission in the role of a SWAT team leader. After all of this, both Echo and Sierra are blanked out and return to sleep in their Zen little floor coffins, thinking, I presume, of nothing at all because they have no personalities.

Throughout all of this, some badass government agent is looking for the Dollhouse and Olivia Williams and Reed Diamond are busy trying to protect their clients so that the Dollhouse can continue to operate, as it would surely be destroyed should badass government agent man ever find it. Someone other than that badass government agent man might be looking for the Dollhouse, too, if that shot at the end of some mysterious murderous figure watching Echo’s video yearbook from back when she was Caroline College Girl is any indication.

Amy Acker is also around as the Dollhouse’s staff doctor, who definitely has something going on given that she looks very suspicious in every shot. She’s either a spy, or maybe an Active herself, as she is oddly fascinated with the blanking room. Or maybe she’s just like Boyd, and feels a little uncomfortable with the company she’s chosen to work for. I can’t quite tell. Just like how I can’t quite tell yet if Dollhouse will succeed or not.

As cool as Dollhouse is in concept, there is a problem with its main character actually not being a character at all. Joss Whedon is a smart guy, and I realize that this is his exact intent, to fuck with conventional storytelling and present something fresh and unique, like a show where the main character actually doesn’t have a personality at all, for instance. I want to have faith that Whedon will pull this off, but I am a little skeptical at this point. I’ve heard that Echo starts remembering things, but so far, we’ve only seen her remember what she should remember when she’s got another person’s personality. Without Echo having some of her own Echo/Caroline memories surface, she will be very difficult to relate to because we won’t know who she is. I’m sure Joss will break her out of this soon, so I’ll definitely hang in to wait and see a little longer with Dollhouse. But until Caroline starts to break though, to whom am I supposed to relate? Boyd? Amy Acker? I’m inclined to lean towards Amy Acker, because I like Fred so much, but alas, she’s only a guest star, so I doubt she’ll be around for too long.

Some random observations:


  • I do not know what the fuck was up with Badass Government Agent Guy’s Raging Bull sequence, but he was fighting Toa from American Gladiators, and that’s wicked cool. Toa, by the way, is The Rock’s cousin and stunt double.
  • I really hope we learn about some of the male Actives, and I hope that the male Actives are hired for sex missions just as often as the female Actives are.
  • I’m glad that every Active is named in accordance with the military alphabet according to when they arrived at the Dollhouse. We know there’s an Alpha, an Echo and a Sierra (the 19th, and therefore, newest member), so I also assume there’s a Bravo, a Charlie, a Delta, a Foxtrot, a Golf and so on. The twentieth Active will be Tango, and that’ll be a totally sweet name.
  • Even though Echo is just Echo because she was the fifth Active to join the Dollhouse, I like that her name also holds an expectation that she will indeed experience some echoes of her former life. I also like the mythological implication that she’s merely doomed to parrot back information that people supply to her, devoid of her own thoughts and feelings. Joss Whedon is so smart.

The Husband:

I think I’m coming down on the show in the same way. I think it’s much better than the half-assed critical drubbing it got last week, but I have to chalk a good deal of that up to people so used to the perversely quippy glee of Buffy or the remarkably deep mythology of Angel that nobody was really going to be sated. Hell, I know several Buffy fans who outright do not like Firefly.

But here’s the thing. I think in its half-season, Firefly is an overall better show than either Buffy or Angel. No, it wasn’t allowed the depth of either of those two, but had it continued into seven seasons (like Buffy) or even five (like Angel), we would be worshipping at the altar of the Browncoats.

My relationship with Whedon is strange. I fully admit that I might like Firefly the most because it was my true introduction into the Whedonverse. Sure, I had seen an occasional episode of Buffy throughout the years (once I heard “musical episode” when I was in college without a TV, you better believe I Limewired that shit immediately), but it never hooked me, and it wasn’t even until two years after it was canceled that my cousin Gabe handed me the Firefly boxset, watched the first two episodes with me, and let me pretty much mainline it for the following week. I’m also far more into sci-fi than fantasy/monster stuff, so that worked against me, too.

Finally, I watched all of Buffy over the course of a year, some with my wife and some without. It took me a long time to really dig it, because it had been so hyped as one of the greatest shows ever, and it’s hard to live up to that. But I nearly hated the first season, and feel that s2 has some major issues and is saved mostly by the presence of Spike, still the best Buffyverse character by a mile. Something just wasn’t working. Even now, after seven seasons, I don’t think it’s brilliant. I’m sorry. I didn’t care about the ascension, I didn’t care about the Lindsay Crouse experiments, and I really didn’t care about Tara.

However, when the show is on, it is fucking amazing, but there are far too many lame/boring/outright terrible episodes to truly classify it as one of the greats. It has so many flaws, but in the end the mythology is so immersive and the characters so focused that I now admire the show like hell. It just isn’t all there for me. But that’s the price you have to pay when you have 144 episodes. Some of them are just going to be bad.

My wife and I are not done with Angel, but we only have one full season left to go, and so I can say that while Angel takes itself far more seriously than Buffy (something that always bothered me about the more female-driven show), I think it sometimes gets up its own ass in all of its mytharcs that it forgets to be enjoyable. But I appreciate that the show is different enough from Buffy that I can enjoy aspects of each.

But Firefly speaks to me. It shows a matured Whedon, a more economical storyteller, somebody with a better understanding of when to tone down the comedy and when to really up the pathos, and a better director. And yes, I fucking love Serenity. That may be one of the purest science-fiction films since A New Hope.

Dollhouse, I fully understand, is a bit of a compromise between Whedon and the network, and technically, this is okay. People underestimate the usefulness of a savvy producer, one who knows how to draw in bigger audiences, but I’m also surprised with how mysterious everything still seemed even with the re-shot pilot. Did I understand everything that was going on? No. It needs a bigger injection of energy (that’s not saying it desperately needs comedy, because I’d rather the show have its own personality), but I’m extremely intrigued, and, like always, I try not to judge a show until at least six episodes in.

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