The Wife:

Another two weeks of SYTYCD auditions, and here are our notable dancers out of Boston, Atlanta and the Big Easy:

Please give this woman an Emmy. Please?

Please give this woman an Emmy. Please?

Teddy Tedhome: He wore plaid pants, and that makes him both funky and awesome. He goes straight to Vegas.

Jean Llauret: He is a good breaker, but I feel like he is stronger than he is interesting in either movement or personality. Still, we’ll see him in Vegas.

Kimara Wood: I would totally cast this long-dreaded dude in a Cajun Country Blues version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Oberon. Believe me, I’ve seen such a production of Midsummer and he is exactly what their Oberon looked like. He goes to Vegas.

Channing Cooke: She is Kherington 2.0, which means Nigel likes her because she is pretty and blonde. She makes it to the choreo round.

Super Tall Ryan Casey: He’s a good tapper, if ungainly due to his height. Though he doesn’t make it to Vegas, I suspect he is somehow related to Conan O’Brien.

Russell Ferguson: Unfortunately, his excellent krump audition was ruined by the producers inserting shots of Tyce DiOrio grooving for no fucking reason. I DO NOT CARE ABOUT TYCE!

Karen and Matthew Haver: If these two dance like this together, what must their marriage bed be like? They both go to Vegas to burn the sheets there. Once again, I had to ask myself why Cat Deeley and the producers are rewriting SYTYCD history. They claimed that Karen and Matthew were the first married couple to make it to Vegas together, but that’s not true! Artem and his wife both made it to Vegas in season one. Artem made the show, his wife didn’t.

K-Bez: His performance was good, but not great, and made me officially announce that I am over any and all Black Eyed Peas summer dance hits. Somehow, he still goes to Vegas.

Gene Burstin: He is a very sexy Russian with a very unsexy name and goes to Vegas.

Billy Bell: He reminds me of Billy Elliot, so we shall call this sprightly male ballet poof Billy Belliot for the duration of his time on the show. (It works on two levels, you see, because the actor who played Billy Elliot is called Jamie Bell.) Billy Belliot here is amazing, and he goes straight to Vegas.

Amber Jackson: I am pretty sure Nigel just threatened violence upon this girl because he liked her dancing, but didn’t think her performance was engaging. I mean, on the one hand, I agree about engaging your audience, especially at an audition, but sometimes, you’re just not dancing that kind of dance, you know?

Victor Smalley: He isn’t Hawaiian, as far as I can tell, but dances like a combination of Mark and Kupono. Good times.

Jessica Jensen: How many times have I begged my readers to get skin checks? Please do, because you do not want to have a sarcoma in your hand and end up like this girl. Although, if you do have to lose a hand, please be like this girl. Jessica here was a good dancer, but not a great one, and I’m glad that the judges didn’t get her a free pass to Vegas simply because of her missing hand. She does, however, have personality for days. I loved her joke about gnawing off her fingers with nervousness, and the shot of her walking out of the theatre with her boyfriend, where he tenderly held the nub where her hand used to be. She’s kind of my hero.

Thomas Hamilton: The world’s most graceful crackbaby gets a ticket to Vegas.

Shelby “Skip” Skipper: One of the most energetic hip-hoppers we’ve seen so far in auditions. Mary was either amazed, or on drugs, or both by the sound of her praise of his work.

Jonathan Litzler: He’s an acrobat, and you know what I don’t need? Another Neil Haskell. I can’t deny his talent (he’s better than Neil), I just think his tumbling overshadowed his dancing. Well, that and the fact that he only wears one sock or shoe while dancing. What’s up with that?

Allison Nance: Her stand-out moment was when she made a pinwheel with her legs over her torso, and yet somehow remained stationary through her core. I do not understand how one achieves such a thing.

Edward Spots: Should be cast in The Lion King. Right now.

Justin Kenny: He is probably the most lithe breakers we’ve ever seen. Some of his moves are a little awkward, but when it works, it’s stellar.

Kimalee Piadad: I have never heard of competition theatre arts dancing, but I assume that’s what you have to call competitive partner dancing that isn’t in a defined ballroom style. She and her partner were really great, achieving lifts I’ve really only seen people do on ice skates and not half so well. Kimalee goes straight to Vegas.

Diana Drexler: She performed a very moving lyrical piece, and it was all the more moving to her after losing her grandfather passed away just before her audition. I’m sorry she didn’t want to be “that girl” (with the story, the package of tragedy), because the producers clearly wanted her to be.

Stray thoughts:

  • I liked watching Cat learn how to do the Stanky Legg. I know how to do that from America’s Best Dance Crew!
  • Even more than this, I enjoyed watching Cat learn the New Orleans bounce.
  • “My salsa looked more like some guacamole.” — Boogie Links, who was having way more fun hitting on girls than he was dancing.
  • Where are the mind-blowing hip-hoppers this season? I haven’t seen nearly as many as I should be seeing.
  • And I missed the girl who fell down and showed her lady bits. Why would you even go to a dance competition without underwear on in the first place? Wouldn’t we have seen all that during her piece, which I’m sure was filled with leg extensions and leaps?

The Husband:

The producers claim that it wasn’t her lady bits, but “a crease in her panties,” which is one of the best press release phrases in quite some time.

Quick hint: it wasn’t “a crease in her panties.” Panties don’t have a furry front patch. At least no panties I know.

And Thomas Hamilton reminded me that I wanted to play this clip. Not that I don’t like him, but even if he makes it into the Top 20 and then starts sucking (neither of which I can foresee, because I’m not a soothsayer), I will have probably forgotten by then that I would want to use this clip when he is kicked off. So here I preemptively give him shit and expose my bad taste, if me talking about furry panties didn’t already tip you off.

The Wife:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stray thoughts and quotes:

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

The Husband:

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

The Wife:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Astrid: That’s sick.

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

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

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

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

The Husband:

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

And now, more haiku.

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

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

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

The Wife:

In the pre-season buzz articles about Fringe, I’ve been reading a lot about the show embracing its comparison to The X-Files, and was told to watch for one very explicit reference to the iconic series during the season 2 premiere of Fringe. I’ll tell you what that reference was, in case you didn’t catch it, but I’d argue that there’s a larger structure in place meant to mimic the sci-fi juggernaut that caused many an infatuation with David Duchovny.

As Olivia is missing somewhere in another world (and brought back through the window of the car she was driving by some special Walter radio-tampering), the pressure is being brought down on Broyles’ head by the FBI brass. Like its X-labeled predecessor, the Fringe division will be shut down unless some quantifiable results can be delivered.

Officially, this causes some major hiccups in Peter’s rouge investigation to find out just what happened to Olivia, and why agent in charge Jessup keeps finding bodies with three holes in their soft palates. Fortunately, Jessup, piqued to curiosity by Peter’s refusal to discuss his work at the scene of Olivia’s accident, did a little digging and hacked into the Fringe division’s case files. Despite all the weird shit she just witnessed, she’s more than willing to help Peter out while Olivia lies in a vegetative state.

The good news is that she’s not in that vegetative state for very long and bursts out of it in Peter’s presence, muttering in Greek. She has no idea where she was, but she does remember that she was going somewhere to meet with someone, although she can’t recall if that meeting actually took place or what its contents were if it did.

This week’s MOTW, who hit Olivia’s car and fled the scene of the crime, only to steal another man’s appearance, turns up in a curiosity shop to use one of the mirror-portal typewriters they keep in the back, where he learns that his mission to kill Olivia has not gone according to plan. The mirror-typewriter delivers unto him a new mission: interrogate the target, and kill her. (If anyone can find me one of these mirror-typewriter things, I would like one. Totally beats an Ouija board, am I right?)

But nothing says brand new season like a cow in a birthday hat!

But nothing says "brand new season" like a cow in a birthday hat!

Walter, examining one of the cast-off, water-logged bodies the shape-shifting soldier had to electrocute in order to resemble it, finds the three holes in the roof of the corpse’s mouth and remembers something. Back in the day when he and Belly were producing psychotropic drugs that made Timothy Leary jealous, they put together experiments that would cause a subject’s brain to see the divine. When one such subject was being recorded, she uttered a few key phrases regarding how “the three nails go in the mouth” and how, with their machines, “they can look like anyone.”

Because of this, it takes some clever observation on Peter and Agent Jessup’s part to track down any bodies with holes in their palates and follow anyone who looks like that person. Eventually, the suspect makes his way to the hospital where Olivia is under observation. They get the alert from security just as he steals the appearance of Olivia’s attending nurse. With the floor on lockdown, the nurse interrogates Olivia and, when she runs out of information, attempts to suffocate her just as the team arrives, chasing her down into the bowels of the hospital, where Agent Francis eventually kills her . . . or should I say, until she eventually kills Agent Francis and steals his appearance? I should say that, because that’s what happened.

Peter manages to find the shape-shifting machine in the midst of all of this and, although it is broken, he hands it to Broyles as proof that Fringe division does get results. He instructs Broyles to tell the government that this device will allow them to have an army that can look like anyone and that the only way they’re going to be able to develop this alien technology is if they keep Fringe division alive so Walter can find a way to fix the broken tech.

Myth-arc stuff:

  • For once, Walter’s fixation on foods is actually really crucial. As Peter’s birthday is soon approaching, he plans to make a custard for his son. Peter insists he doesn’t like custard and never has, but Walter corrects him and says that he loved custard as a child. This is obviously a disconnect between the Peter we know, who was stolen from the other side, and the boy Walter lost in that car accident.
  • The Greek words Olivia woke up with were something Peter’s mother said to him before bedtime: Be a better man than your father.
  • Agent Jessup notices that all of the events of the Pattern correspond to passages in the “Book of Revelation.” I roll my eyes a little bit at the thought of exploring this hackneyed trope.

Funnies!

  • Astrid stirring custard over a dead body.
  • Walter wanting to eat said custard with bloody glove hands.
  • Gene wearing a birthday hat.
  • Peter: Walter, will you forget about the custard?
    Walter: I refuse!

And The X-Files reference I promised you:

When Peter questions Agent Jessup’s commitment to this case even after seeing the Fringe case files, she quotes Hamlet to him:

“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Scully quoted this line to Mulder once, as well. I believe it was during the third season, but my memory (and the internet) fail me. You’ll also see this phrase crop up in reviews of The X-Files, as a basic philosophy to describe Agent Scully’s dedication to science.

The Husband:

And so I shall continue into this second season of Fringe with how I approached most of last season — with haiku!

Shape-shifting is here.
Heroes
, True Blood, and now this.
Mystique would be proud.

In case you forgot
Walter likes sweet confections.
You must taste his pud!

Where is Mr. Spock?
I’ve questions. He has answers.
Stop jumping through time.

Kirk Acevedo
Has survived worse things than death —
Anal rape on Oz.

The Wife:

Here’s where I make a confession: I love Josh Groban. I have seen him in concert. (With my mom!) I own all of his albums. I used to own a Josh Groban tee shirt. I think his cover of “My December” is way better than Linkin Park’s original. I watched the concert version of Chess, which we all know is a fucking weird musical, because he was in it. I am a member of a Facebook group called, “I Would Have Josh Groban’s Illegitimate Children — FOR FREE!” which was started by my friend Amber, another huge Josh Groban fan. And yet . . . I had no idea he was going to be in this episode. So when I saw his name in the credits, I went like this:

“Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Man, I was already excited enough by the presence of Victor Garber! And in a bowtie, no less! But Josh Groban, too? Surely, the television was being far too kind to me!

But besides my guest star joy, Glee seems to be moving along at a fairly steady pace. At least for the first half of the season, we can be certain that the two overwhelming threats to the Glee club will be Sue Sylvester’s meddling (for no other reason than she wants her budget back at full) and Terri’s “pregnancy,” which draws Will away from his own personal interests. I suspect we’ll see a lot of retreads of situations that make things harder for the Glee kids, as well as things that distract Will’s attention, but as long as the performances keep their luster and the writing keeps its wit, I won’t be bored. It’s hard to move forward quickly during a first season, and few shows can actually achieve that. Glee has to keep reiterating these basic conceits so that it doesn’t feel so serialized that a new viewer would be alienated from this shiny happy world. I do, however, hope the retreads don’t happen for too long. With the pilot available since the spring, I suspect Glee has as many converts as it is likely to get by this point.

This week, Sue’s Cheerio spies put Rachel up to the task of telling Will that he’s not a good enough choreographer for them to be able to beat Vocal Adrenaline at Regionals. The kids want to hire $8,000 star choreographer Dakota Stanley, but they haven’t got that kind of cash, so they host a car wash fundraiser, which serves as the backdrop for Mercedes’ performance of “Bust the Windows” when her crush on flamingly gay Kurt is crushed when he says he doesn’t have feelings for her, but is in love with someone else. (You see, she doesn’t want to think she’s in love with a downlow brother, so she assumes the object of Kurt’s affection is Rachel, not Finn, even though Rachel and Tina warned her about Kurt’s disinterest in vaginas earlier in the episode.) It’s an incidental plot, but it contributes toward the episodes thematic structure, which is all about finding your confidence. By the episode’s end, when Mercedes apologizes for breaking the window of Kurt’s car, he tells her he’s gay, but never had the confidence to say it, just as the rest of the Glee club realizes when they meet the overly frank monster that is Dakota Stanley that they don’t need his fancy, overpriced dance moves at all: as long as they are themselves and perform with confidence, they can win. (Although, he did say what I’ve always thought about Lea Michele’s nose. But she’s right to counter with the fact that Barbara Streisand never did get that nosejob, and she’s a supernova.)

I'll still take you to sing-a-long Sound of Music. Promise!

I'll still take you to sing-a-long Sound of Music. Promise!

Meanwhile, when shop teacher and cough syrup addict Henri loses his thumbs in a freak accident, the rest of the teachers (including substitute shop teacher Sandy, who is not allowed with in 50 feet of children, not teenagers) try to cheer him up and realize that they’d make a totally sweet a capella group. But before I talk about the collaboration between Howard, Ken Tanaka, Will and thumbless Henri, I have to talk about Henri’s thumblessness. Outside of the apt use of music, this scene is one of the most Ryan Murphy things about the show. I adore his macabre humor here: watching Henri be presented with a thumbs-up cake, then trying in vain to use a fork, then raising the plate to his mouth and eating the thumb. Pure genius.

The guys get together and rehearse and Will’s house, which Will thinks really turns Terri on because since he started singing with the Acafellas, their sex life has dramatically improved. He doesn’t realize, of course, that this is actually because she really needs to get pregnant to make good on the news Will told his dad and mom earlier in the episode. I do think, though, that there is something Terri finds attractive about her newly confidant husband. The reaction shots of Terri and Emma to seeing Will et al perform prove that they are both a little star struck by the whole thing. Will, of course, is great, and Acafellas becomes a moderate success.

Will’s Dad: This is huge! We sold all 17 copies of you CD!

Will’s Mom: I didn’t even have to show my bosoms!

Principal Figgins likes the act so much that he invites them to perform at a PTA meeting. Sandy, who was denied a spot in Acafellas, tells everyone that he can get Josh Groban to attend the meeting, which would help the school’s clout, but only if he performs with them. As the meeting nears, Henri is sent to cough syrup rehab and can no longer perform, and Howard drops out of the group, as well. In an effort to save the performance, Will recruits Finn and football star Hank (Ben Bledsoe) lends his voice to Ken Tanaka, but only if hot MILFs will be there. (He is an above-ground pool cleaning gigolo, in addition to being a full-time high school student.) The new Acafellas put on a completely stellar performance of Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up,” which is greatly enjoyed by all, including Josh Groban, who is, indeed, “cute as a buttermilk biscuit.”

Good thing thumbless Henri is downing cough syrup in the audience right now.

Good thing thumbless Henri is downing cough syrup in the audience right now.

Groban, however, was only attending the performance to serve Sandy with a restraining order, as Sandy won’t stop pestering him since Groban accidentally became his friend on MySpace. In my favorite moment of the episode, Josh Groban then seduces Will’s mom because, well, I’ll let him explain it:

“Scads of screaming teenagers don’t do it for Josh Groban. Josh Groban loves a blowsy alcoholic.”

Oh, Josh Groban! I love you!

With the short-lived glory of the Acafellas at a close and Dakota Stanley fired, Will rejoins Glee club and gets right back to work on new music for Regionals. Will’s dad tells him that, because of the confidence his son has on stage, he’s decided he’s going to finally pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer . . . which just cements the fact that this character is what Jordan Weathersby used to be before he became Jordan Weathersby.

Stray thoughts:

  • I absolutely need the floral sweater dress Emma is wearing when she’s gardening in her office. I can’t find anything close to it, but, so help me, I will!
  • “You’re going to have a school full of pansies unless you get some hot wood in those kids’ hands.” — Sandy
  • I dunno, I kind of like Crescendudes . . . Testostratones is also good.
  • “Will, if I don’t get some sleep, I could miscarry.” — Terri
  • It makes sense that Sue used to be in special ops military, doesn’t it?
  • “Yes, if by someone, you mean the tender crook of my elbow.” — Kurt, in re: kissing
  • “Who is Josh Groban? KILL YOURSELF!” –Sandy
  • I like that they made a little in-joke about Kurt wanting to see sing-a-long Sound of Music with Mercedes, as Kurt’s character was named for the fact that the actor played Kurt in a tour of Sound of Music.
  • Sue: I’m revoking your tanning privileges for the rest of the semester.
    Santana: Nooooo! [And she runs out of the room sobbing.]
  • By the way, I’ve seen Rockapella in concert. That’s right, the dudes who sing the theme song to Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? Be jealousssssssssss!

The Wife:

Before I actually talk about the meat of this episode, let me take a minute to be super girly and praise resident beefcake Matthew Morrison, who originated the role of TV dance hunk Link Larkin on Broadway in Hairspray. Dear. Sweet. Mother of all that is holy. That periwinkle cardi! That tie! Those shades! That murse! Morrison looked so superbly hot in this week’s opening scene that I was pretty much beside myself for the rest of the episode. Why wouldn’t Jayma Mays’ Emma be all up on that shit?

One major change in last week’s re-edited pilot was the addition of a romantic foil for Will in gym teacher Ken Tanaka. The re-edit added a few scenes in which he makes his interest in Emma known, as well as her disinterest in him, and I’m glad for those scenes, as I think they help to anchor Emma’s desire for her unattainable beau, who is preparing for the expansion of his family by purchasing a far-too-expensive house simply because Terri wants something shiny and pre-fab, with a $14,000 grand foyer.

“I’ve already did the math, Will. All we have to do is give up Applebee’s and not run the AC for the first couple of summers.” — Terri

Sue continues to rage against the very idea of Glee Club and this week’s methods of sabotage include finding an arcane rule that would required the Glee Club to have at least 12 members in order to show at Regionals, which they presently do not have. (By Sue’s count, it’s only 5 and a half, because of “that cripple in the wheelchair.”) Will’s idea for a membership drive is to show the student body just how awesome Glee Club is by having the kids perform a disco number at an upcoming assembly. Rachel, knowing that this is going to be social suicide for everyone involved (and will likely get her several more slurpees in the face), recruits Finn to help make flyers in lieu of doing the assembly, but gets caught using the Cheerios copy machine, which simply provides more fuel for Sue’s anti-Glee fire. Fortunately, the kids are only asked to pay for the copies they made (much to Sue’s chagrin) and they press on with the assembly.

“Lady Justice wept today.” — Sue

Straight hustlas.

Straight hustlas.

Rachel attends a meeting of Quinn’s celibacy club just to see what all the fuss is about, which, naturally, turns out to be an exercise in complete ridiculousness, replete with dancing against balloons and mantras such as, “Remember, it’s all about the teasing and not about the pleasing.” Rachel can’t stand the hypocrisy of the club, and speaks out against it, which earns her some points with Finn. In fact, the two later share a kiss on a not-so-impromptu indoor picnic during a vocal rehearsal, a scene that, by the way, reminded me very, very much of “Mirror Blue Night” from Spring Awakening.

“I’m still on the fence about this celibacy club. I only joined to get into Quinn Fabray’s pants.” — Finn

So while Will picks up some nighttime janitorial shifts to help pay for the house he and Terri are buying, Rachel devises a plan to change the song for the assembly into something that the student body will actually respond to. Teenagers are horny; they want sex. And so, on assembly day, the Glee Club performs the most hilariously inappropriate song to sing at an assembly . . . ever: “Push It” by Salt n’ Pepa. Frankly, this was a pretty amazing performance, and I think it accurately captured most of the crazy shit we came up with in my high school drama club. (High school friends, that’s accurate, right? I mean . . . right?)

“That was the most inappropriate thing I’ve ever seen in 20 years of teaching, and that includes an elementary school production of Hair.” — Sue

Rachel’s little stunt, rather than getting Glee Club entirely disbanded as Sue would hope, gets them slapped with a list of approved songs, most of which are either about Jesus of balloons. To keep tabs on Glee Club, Sue sends Quinn and a couple of other Cheerios to audition and join the club. I must say, Quinn did give an amazing audition to “Say a Little Prayer for You,” but I feel Rachel’s pain in that her solo in “Don’t Stop Believin’” is given to Quinn. Especially because this means she won’t have anymore alone time with Finn, and her episode-ending performance of Rhianna’s “Take a Bow” was certainly heart-wrenching.

However, nothing in this episode was more heart-wrenching than the scene where Emma helps out Will with his janitorial work, and he confronts her about her OCD, which stems from the time her brother pushed her into the runoff pool on a visit to a dairy farm. Since that day, she hasn’t ever felt clean, nor has she been able to stop smelling that smell. So she lives her life not eating dairy and washing her hands repeatedly and polishing every single grape before she puts it in her mouth. It was sheer beauty to watch Will put a tiny bit of chalk on her nose, and wipe it away after 10 seconds, but incredibly sad to see that Ken Tenaka had witnessed this act, and even sadder when he later confronts her about it, assuring her that he’s really the best that she’ll ever be able to do in their town, and that he’d put up with her crazy if only she’d stop chasing after a married man.

Le sigh.

Stray thoughts:

  • Jayma Mays’ Emma has inherited my Chuck Charles wardrobe envy. I want every single thing this woman wears, and it’s appropriate she should inherit this distinction, as she, too, was on Pushing Daisies.
  • It’s a major plot point, but so emotionally insignificant that I didn’t feel like talking about it: Terri is having a hysterical pregnancy, but rather than tell Will, she’s apparently going to fake a pregnancy. Good news, though. Now they’re not buying that crazy-ass house.
  • I just realized the jock-cheerleader pairing is Quinn and Finn. That’s amazing.
  • Hands down, the funniest part of this episode is Finn’s anti-ejaculation flashback of him hitting someone with his car. HILARIOUS.
  • “They’re gonna throw fruit at us. And I just had a facial.” — Kurt
  • “My dad always said you become a man when you buy your first house. I’m not sure what he meant by that, since he burned ours down after a drunken argument.” — Will
  • “This is where our daughter or gay son will sleep.” — Terri, about a room with a sign reading, “A Princess Sleeps Here”
  • “This banister was made by Ecuadorian children!” — Realtor
  • Every single one of Emma’s guidance pamphlets was hilarious. I can’t decide if my favorite is “Radon: The Silent Killer” or “Wow! There’s Hair Down There!”
  • Rachel: I guess I don’t have a gag reflex.
    Emma: One day, when you’re older, that’ll turn out to be a gift.
  • WANT: Rachel’s horse sweater.

The Husband:

My favorite guidance pamphlet was “My Mom Is Bipolar And She Won’t Stop YELLING.”

I am very glad to see the musical aspects of this show open up, because there are still plenty of people out there who are trying to convince the world that this show isn’t a “musical.” Yes it is. It is a musical. It’s a backstage musical, which was a subgenre for much of the first couple decades of the movie musical. A musical is not defined by simply having people break into song without lead-up, otherwise dozens of already determined musicals would cease to be considered musicals. (Seriously, I was involved in a major IMDB message board argument over this shit. I know musicals, bitch.) But unlike the pilot, we got glimpses during Rachel’s rendition of “Take a Bow,” which opened up outside of the auditorium to have her singing it into her hairbrush and, most importantly, in the middle of the school’s hallway as Finn and Quinn flirt nearby. So now the show can have its musical cake and eat it, too, and for that I am grateful.

The Husband:

While we, the children of Saint Clare, have found the time to write about many of the biggest shows on television (and even some small ones), there is only so much time and energy we can spend on this site. The truth is, we watch a whole lot more than what ends up on the site, and since I watch most of these on my own and yet never find the ability to write about them, their absence is mostly my fault. But no matter. For those that fall through the cracks, I have here a grab bag of the 30+ shows I watch in addition to whatever ends up on the site. These are the ones that slipped through the cracks. And hell, I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting (and also not even bothering writing about, which tend to fall under instructional/educational stuff like anything on Discovery), so if you think I’ve forgotten something, please let me know. (And no, I don’t watch any CSI or L&O shows, so don’t even try to get all up in my grill.) Here they are, the missing shows of the 2008-2009 television season, in alphabetical order.

24

I really should have written at least some criticism on this season, but work piled up and I simply didn’t have the time. It started off as the most intelligent season with some of the most compelling political questions being thrown around (welcome to the show finally, “debate on torture”), but by the fourth time Tony twisted his alliance and Jack was infected with the disease, I kind of stopped caring. Great first half of the season, though, and I think Renee is the best new character in a very long time.

Adult Swim (Xavier: Renegade Angel / Superjail! / Squidbillies / The Drinky Crow Show / Metalocalypse / Delocated / Robot Chicken / Etc.)

Thank you, young people of Adult Swim (who I have spent some time with, don’t forget) for freaking my mind week after week, and giving alternative comedy a major boost in America. And for freaking out my wife.

A beacon of normalcy in a world of wackiness.

A beacon of normalcy in a world of wackiness.

Better Off Ted

It took me a couple episodes to latch onto the tone, but once I did I simply couldn’t get enough from this latest product of the mad mind of Victor Fresco. Check out some episodes online, then watch Andy Richter Controls the Universe (his previous show), and I guarantee you some of the oddest network comedy in a very long time. I still think Portia DeRossi is trying to hard, though, and should take a page from the book of Fresco mainstay Jonathan Slavin.

Castle

Bring it on, Nathan Fillion. Hypnotize me with your nostrils and your addictive but borderline-stupid mystery writer-cum-detective series. (Although how weird was that Judy Reyes episode? What the hell, Carla Turk?)

The Celebrity Apprentice 2

So sue me, I liked Joan Rivers. And the addition of the phrase “Whore Pit Vipers” to the television lexicon.

Celebrity Rehab (Sober House) with Dr. Drew

So help me, I can’t stop watching. It’s just a disaster. I will say, though, that I like the drama in the rehab far more than the sober house, as the latter seems to exist simply to destroy any progress the celebrities made in rehab. And now having seen all three of his seasons of Taxi, Jeff Conaway’s fall from grace is fishbowl television at its finest.

Dating in the Dark

Really fun, actually. I hope it gets a second season. I also hope that more matches will be made, and that people stop being massive failures.

Dirty Sexy Money

Everything I needed to say about the failure of the second season of this show can be found on this blog, and it ended its truncated run by turning itself inside-out by revealing that the show’s central mystery, who killed Peter Krause’s father, was a bust since he wasn’t dead after all. What the hell, Dirty Sexy Money? Oh well, your cancellation made room in Krause’s schedule for the much anticipated (by me) adaptation of Parenthood coming to NBC mid-season.

The Goode Family

It took a few episodes to find its footing, but by the end of its sped-up summer run, I was a major fan of the latest Mike Judge effort. (R.I.P. King of the Hill.) Vastly misunderstood by viewers who only watched the first episode, it, just like KOTH, found a middle ground between conservative America and liberal America and found the ability to make fun of both without drawing blood, choosing to love instead of hate. Some of the voice cast was misused (why was my beloved Linda Cardellini in the cast?), but as a Berkeley native, I had a blast relishing in mocking the stereotypes of my own people while rediscovering what it is I love so much about them. The bull dykes were also two of the most original characters of the season.

One Earth isn't just a grocery store, it's a way of life.

One Earth isn't just a grocery store, it's a way of life.

The Great American Road Trip

Any show that has two contestants debating over which is more correct, “y’all” or “youse,” gets major points in my book. A nice and forgettable summer trifle after a long, way-too-hot day. Silly, yes, but I can’t say it was bad. And it was a definite improvement over the similar family-based season of The Amazing Race. (I’m sure The Soup is really grateful for this show, too.)

Heroes

Oh god, kill me now. Volume 4 was a marked improvement over #3, for sure, but I just don’t care about anybody anymore. And yet I feel that I need to keep watching. It’s too late to give up now. There was one great episode this season, though, and that was the flashback one surrounding Angela Petrelli’s stint at a mutant internment camp. Why can’t they all be this good?

Howie Do It

Yeah, I watched it. Shut the fuck up. About one-third of it was funny, and as I watched it on Hulu at work, it’s not like I wasted any of my own time. Howie Mandel is savvier than you think, but I wish he would return to his wilder roots.

How’s Your News

This Parker-Stone produced MTV show revolving around reporters who are developmentally delayed confused the hell out of me initially, but once I realized there wasn’t a mean bone in its body it became a warm bit of fun. I want a second season, dammit. These are some of the most joyful television subjects I’ve ever seen.

I Survived a Japanese Game Show

Better than the first season, but I’m still glad I only watch this online while doing something else.

In the Motherhood

Worst opening credit sequence of the year. Some pretty funny material hidden underneath unfunny slapstick. Horatio Sanz got thin. Megan Mullally couldn’t find a rhythm. I still think Cheryl Hines is oddly hot.

Lie to Me

I unfortunately didn’t start watching this until July, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long. While gimmicky to a fault and not nearly as intelligent as it pretends it is, this Tim Roth vehicle about an FBI specialist who studies the subtleties of the face (OF THE FACE) is clever, compelling and well drawn. I’m not sure about the addition of Mekhi Phifer’s character, but we’ll see how it works out next season, especially with Shield creator Shawn Ryan at the helm of season two.

Life

This cancellation reallllly hurts. One of the unsung gems from the 2007-2008 television, this, the smartest network cop show in recent memory, took its great season one energy and hit the second season with all it had and came up with a compelling, hilarious, devilishly clever and gleefully violent run that was only marred by a major cast shift during the final few episodes. (I’m looking at you, Gabrielle Union. Your presence was what I like to call a massive failure.) A Zen-obsessed cop recently released from prison after serving over a decade for a murder he did not commit, this show had the best cases of them all. It also gave me one of my favorite hours of television of the year in an episode that revolved around a seductive assassin, fertilizer and pigeon aficionados. And at least the major serialized storyline (who framed Damien Lewis and why) got paid off in a major way thanks to the ever-reliable Garret Dillahunt.

lifeshot

My Boys

Putting PJ and Bobby together was a great idea, but your nine-episode seasons are too short to gain any momentum, and the spring training season finale was a bust.

Nitro Circus

Moronic glee.

Numb3rs

Man, did they put Charlie through the ringer. First, he nearly gets his brother killed with a miscalculation on his part, he questions his own validity as a mathematician and then Amita gets kidnapped just as he decides that he wants to marry her. Otherwise, another fine, if somewhat uneventful, of this show that never captured the glory of its über-nerdy first season. Also, thanks for all the great guest star work, but sometimes it gets laid on a little too thick, such as in “Sneakerhead” which brought together Bruno Campos, Patrick Bauchau, Dr. Edison from Bones and Eve. (And points for making the Liz Warner character actually bearable. I fucking hated her in season 4.

Privileged

So apparently the CW thought that their best idea ever was to get rid of this show, the smartest show on the UPN/WB merger since the Buffyverse, one that was technically pulling in bigger numbers than 90210, one that was a delight to watch and deeply addictive, and make room for what is sure to be one of 2009-2010’s worst new offerings, Melrose Place. I gotta tell ya, this cancellation hurts. While I wrote recaps and reviews of the episodes way into its freshman (and only) season, the looming axe, as well as a more heavily serialized structure, turned me off from writing on the final stretch of episodes, and I told myself that I’d only recap them if the show came back. Lo and behold, another Joanna Garcia vehicle has gone down the tubes. I’ll miss you oh so dearly, Ms. Too-Smart-For-The-CW Palm Beach satirical melodrama known as Privileged.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think Robert Buckley might be a showkiller. And that's sad, because he's so damn pretty.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think Robert Buckley might be a showkiller. And that's sad, because he's so damn pretty.

Rescue Me

I thought it was a great season, and thanks to an extended number of episodes (it didn’t air in 2008 thanks to the writer’s strike), the show was able to focus much of its energy on pages-long dialogue-happy battle-of-wits in nearly episode, which to be is melodrama heaven. Gone is the maudlin tone, returned is all the comic energy, and the stories seem to actually progress instead of just flopping around like a dying fish. Leary and Tolan deserve major praise for bringing the show back up to snuff. And now having seen all of Newsradio, I love any chance I get to watch Maura Tierney, although I’m still not going to watch ER. (I am proud to have only seen three episodes of that show ever, being a Chicago Hope fan.) Special shot-out to the Sean cancer storyline, if only to allow Broadway actor Steven Pasquale (husband of Tony winner Laura Benanti) the opportunity to belt out some songs in a handful of hallucination scenes.

Samantha Who?

One of the biggest upsets of the last two years was the rise and fall of this light-hearted, occasionally gut-busting amnesia sitcom that started off the talk of the town, only to waste away its final episodes after the conclusion of the actual television season. Ending on a shitty cliffhanger (Sam’s parents are getting divorced, so Mom is going to live with you and your formerly-estranged-but-now-love-of-your-life lover), we nevertheless found out who caused the accident that brought about Sam’s amnesia, Jennifer Esposito finally made it with the towel boy, and Melissa McCarthy continued to be one of the brightest stars of the year.

Scrubs

Like Privileged, I hesitated to continue writing due to the threat of its cancellation, but now it’s continuing on into yet another season (albeit with some major changes), so I really have no reason to stop writing about it. But let’s just say that while the hurry-up to conclude its many disparate storylines often felt rushed (those two Bahama episodes felt especially odd), the conclusion to J.D.’s years-in-the-telling tale was a lovely way to conclude the season. (No props for the awful awful Peter Gabriel song that accompanied his final walk down the hallway, as laughably bad as it was when I heard it in the remake of Shall We Dance?)

The Shield

I don’t have to tell you how amazing the final season was. Watch it. Seriously. You owe it to yourself to experience one of the hardest hitting cop shows of all time. Like The Wire, a Greek tragedy hammered into modern-day policework with some of the most finely drawn characters around. And oh man, did those final three episodes pack a major punch. Ouch, indeed.

Southland

Quite a bit like The Shield, really, had it followed Michael Jace’s beat cop instead of the Strike Team. A little too dour at times for me to really give a crap, and the sprawling ensemble needs to be cut down (which is what I hear it’s doing for the second season), but this L.A.-centered procedural has a lot going for it, not least of which its pitch-perfect direction. (I especially dig the long shots, including my favorite, which involved a cabin and a K9 unit bringing down a perp.)

Way better than dating Marissa Cooper.

Way better than dating Marissa Cooper.

Surviving Suburbia

A sitcom in serious need of finding one tone and sticking with it, this sometimes-sweet-sometimes-brutally-cruel suburban comedy worked as well as it did because of Saget as well as G. Hannelius’ performance as the precocious daughter. Still, all the jokes about disabled people, pregnant teenagers and strip clubs really didn’t mesh together with the clichés of the genre.

Survivor: Tocantins

I love Survivor, but this was one of the most boring seasons in its ten-year run. I don’t think I gave a shit about one person, and I simply couldn’t find anything compelling to write about. A waste of a good location.

True Beauty

The right person won, the losers got (mostly) schooled in this trick show designed to expose the douchery involved in modeling, Ashton Kutcher made another heroin-like show, and I concern myself for months with how they can pull the trick off a second time in the next season.

The Unusuals

When grading a cop show, I tend to focus on three things — the tone, the characters and the cases. A bizarre, pessimistic yet comedic take on all those wacky cops we’ve seen throughout the years all thrown together (one is deathly afraid of…death, one has a brain tumor, one talks in the third person, one is a closeted socialite, etc.) pushed into some remarkably dark territory, The Unusuals had tone and characters down pat, but suffered at the hands of some DOA storylines. But oh man, did the tone ever make up for most of the show’s shortcomings. Great ensemble cast, too, although I would have recast Eddie Alvarez.

Rather unusual.

Rather unusual.

Worst Week

A breezy and often hilarious slapstick comedy based off of a British hit, it could never regain its momentum after moving away from the initial “week” of the title. Kyle Bornheimer is a true find and made the more unbearable misunderstandings and embarrassing moments of the show (of which there were many) all the more palatable. I’m not the biggest fan of comedy based around humiliations, but this show found a likeable ability to have its characters not completely despise each other at every moment. This was, to say the least, very refreshing. Big points for giving me the biggest network TV laugh of the year (when Bornheimer wakes up his brother-in-law only to be thought a murderer) but major negative points for pushing back a major character-based episode into a weekend spot months after the show had already ended its run.

The Wife:

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

“Unaired Pilot”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The house that Echo built.

The house that Echo built.

“Epitaph One”

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

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

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

The Husband:

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

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

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

Lost is Sophocles. You heard it here first.

The Husband:

Well, here it is – the final part of the batshit crazy story that was Fox’s Prison Break. This is it. There will be no comic book continuation. There will be no more episodes. There will be no more TV movies. It’s over. And I’ve finally been able to get my hands on a legal copy of this straight-to-DVD movie. I emphasize the legality of it because, while this 90-minute feature has already aired in other countries such as Israel and the UK (during our honeymoon in Spain, my wife and I were baffled to experience the enormous popularity of this show in Europe, and were amazed to find that people completely unrelated to the show’s production were even making highly popular music videos as an homage to the program), it never aired in the United States. Why? Because much like the unaired Dollhouse finale (which sounds more and more insane the more I hear about this), the money was put up to make this episode, but Fox never had it in their contract that they had to give up two hours of their summer schedule to air a wrap-up of what had become a low-rated show. But the American DVD comes out tomorrow, so consider this a legal review for a legal product. I’m particular about these kinds of things.

I will say this – this was not the movie I was expecting. And that’s fine. I like to be surprised. Last we checked in on the Fox River gang five years in the future, where all the good guys were having good lives, and all the bad guys were either dead, in prison or in the electric chair. But there was a catch – while Sara gave birth to Michael Scofield’s son, the final episode ends on Michael’s grave, sitting near a Costa Rican beach. What the hell happened?

I assumed in my last review the following:

There’s a final straight-to-DVD Prison Break film coming out this summer, so it’s pretty clear that Michael isn’t actually dead but is thought to be for some ridiculous reason or another. Maybe he’s hiding from everyone he affected during his stint in and after Fox River, a plan that backfired so many times and involved so many others that Michael and Lincoln have basically directly or indirectly caused the death of hundreds of people. That’d be a pretty big weight on my conscience.

So, clearly, I expected the movie to take place post-coda, where Michael’s presumed faked suicide would play out and we’d get one final middle finger to the system and the dreaded Company.

So color me surprised when the movie picked the story up mere weeks after the dissolution of the Company and the exoneration of all the main characters. Just as Michael and a pregnant Sara are getting married, the Feds come in with an arrest warrant. But this time, it’s for one Sara Tancredi. Why? Remember when she fatally shot Michael and Lincoln’s mother (Kathleen Quinlan), who was one of the leaders of the Company? Yeah, that’s being seen as murder, considering it’s hard to prove that the Company exists. And so her and her pregnant belly are thrown into the women’s side of a maximum security prison in Florida, and Michael makes it his mission to do one final prison break to save the woman he loves.

Man, why do I feel this compulsive need to escape from stuff?

Man, why do I feel this compulsive need to escape from stuff?

But things are, of course, more complicated than that. In the men’s section of the prison, General Krantz, now horribly scarred from that nasty acid burn during the final bit of season four, wants nothing more than to see Sara dead, and so he puts a bounty on her head. And who’s in there with Krantz but the deliciously evil T-Bag himself. When it becomes quite clear to Sara that she is as good as dead (her food is poisoned within the first couple days), she decides that she needs protection (even the guards want to beat the shit out of her for her participation in the Fox River breakout), and the only way to do that is to join the prison gang known as the Family, led by Daddy (Tank Girl’s Lori Petty, who has made a career out of highly bizarre, very mush-mouthed and oddly brilliant performances). But oh no! It’s even more complicated than that, because who’s in the women’s prison also? Susan B. Anthony/Gretchen Morgan, who has done her share of fucking everything up for the Fox River gang starting with all that season 3 nonsense. But is it finally her time to make up for all her misdeeds? And will T-Bag ever really change, or is his unpredictability becoming entirely predictable? And will Mahone, desperate to return to working at the FBI, turn on his foes-turned-friends?

Yes, it’s a little cheap that they would decide to end the show with yet another prison break, but it’s also somewhat warm and familiar. It’s great to bring the show back to its bare essentials, and only this time the tables are turned, with Michael, Linc and the gang on the outside and Sara on the inside. And revisiting prison politics (Daddy is without question the film’s best character, echoing the menace of Peter Stormare’s Abruzzi from s1 and s2 but giving it an eerie kind ness) brings to focus some of s1’s best qualities. (The knife fight in the shower room has one of the most shocking moments I can remember on Prison Break.) And while the breakout itself does leave a little to be desired from a technical standpoint – even from the beginning, the show was always extremely clever about how far they were willing to go to get its audience to suspend their disbelief – its emotional content is only matched by the Fox River breakout process.

And while I do not want to spoil anything, we do get a definite answer of what led to Michael Scofield’s tombstone just a few years down the line. But I’ll leave you Prison Break fans to discover what happened, because while it may not completely shock anybody, it makes perfect sense in the grand scheme of things.

So check it out starting tomorrow from Netflix or whatever service you use, and I hope you enjoy what closure it’s able to bring to those such as myself who already miss that crazy show.

The Wife:

Thank you, Wade and Amanda Robson. That opening number is exactly how you stage a fucking show, ya’ll. And probably the most dynamic use of the dancers we’ve seen so far this year. I’m embedding it below so you all can watch it, because it was almost too awesome for words.

I really liked the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon elements where Jeanine “wirewalks” over the backs of the male dancers. (At least, I think the white geisha was Jeanine, based on height and hairstyle. Jeanette and Randi were in black, while Kayla and Melissa were in red. I think.) And I was totally impressed with how well that number covered that stage, drawing the eye to each part of it at different times, relying on isolated segments from pairs of dancers before coming together as a whole. In some ways, and maybe this was just the Asian theme, it reminded me a little bit of a Cirque du Soleil piece. If there were a terrestrially-based dance piece in Ka, for instance, this one might be it.

When Cat emerged from the Ang Lee dance sea, she and her sparkly sack of a dress followed my lead and kicked things off by congratulating the Emmy-nominated choreographers. I’m really, really happy that the producers put together a package recapping these dances. Admittedly, when I was reading yesterday morning’s nominations (and I went straight to the Choreography category just to write this article, only later reading all the way through and emailing my husband a completely incoherent “live blog” style mess of my reactions to things), I had to struggle to remember the piece Dmitry Chaplin choreographed. In fact, I only recognized it when I saw the clip of it last night, and my husband reminded me of my reaction upon first seeing it because there is a section with a chair tipping that literally defies gravity. It even took a minute to remember Tyce’s piece, and that’s only because I didn’t remember what the music was. So if any of you also have some trouble remembering and don’t feel like looking things up on YouTube on your own, below are the four Emmy-nominated dances:

Mia Michaels, “Mercy,” performed by Stephen “Twitch” Boss and Katee Shean

Tyce DiOrio, “Silence” (Adam and Eve), performed by Jessica King and William Wingfield

Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo, “Bleeding Love,” performed by Chelsie Hightower and Mark Kanemura

Dmitry Chaplin, “A Los Amigos,” performed by Joshua Allen and Chelsie Hightower

Now that the onus of eliminating dancers has fallen on the voting American public, Nigel took the night off to fly back to Bedfordshire, England where the University of Bedfordshire saw fit to award the dancer/choreographer/very wealthy television producer with an honorary Doctorate of Arts. I’m all for recognizing people’s achievements and such, but there’s something about an honorary doctorate that makes me ever so slightly miffed at the fact that I’m going to have to work very, very hard to earn mine. This is not to say that Nigel hasn’t done his fair share of work outside of academia, because he obviously has, but I still crinkle my nose just a little bit. I guess I’ll just have to consider the Dizzy Feet Foundation his honorary dissertation.

Cat assembled all the female dancers to reveal America’s votes, which sent Randi and Melissa to the silver stools of doom (borrowed from American Idol a few soundstages down!) along with Kupono and Ade from the boys’ side. Randi and Kupono I expected (and wanted) to see in the bottom two this week, but Melissa and Ade? What? Why did this former partnership find its way to the silver stools of doom? Is there some residual hatred from Melissa I don’t know about? Or did Brandon just upstage her during their trippy hippie number on Wednesday night? And Ade? That just baffles me. He nearly died for your entertainment, America! What’s wrong with you?!

As the bottom four dancers went off to prepare for their totally unnecessary solos, Cat told us that next week, PTL, Ellen Degeneres will be joining the judging panel and that the results show will bring back dancers from past seasons to perform some of our favorite routines including Travis and Heidi’s “Bench” routine, Hok and Jessi’s “Hummingbird,” and, even more important than the Katie! Katie! Katie! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! piece from Tyce DiOrio, Wade Robson’s “Rama Lama Bang Bang.” YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! RAMALAMALAMALAMALAMALAMA! Zombie Dance! PTL! OMG! My favorite dance ever! No, really. This is my favorite dance ever. The first time I saw it, it filled me with such joy that ever since, Magen and I will sometimes greet each other by holding our hands like zombies and saying “Ramalamalamalamalama” in a terribly annoying high-pitched voice. Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss! So excited!

Randi, Kupono, Melissa and Ade came out to perform their solos again, and Randi and Kupono decided to do so in different outfits. Neither of these new outfits could change the results, but I have to say that I enjoyed Kupono’s dance ever so slightly more when he was dressed as an arctic genie rather than a gay zombie. (I may not be into neon foxtails as epaulettes, but I’m kind of into wearing a wing as one. If he’d worn that wing as a hat, it’d have made the late Isabella Blow very proud indeed.) Still, arctic genies and gay zombies aside, America had decided it was time for both Randi and Kupono to go home, and all was right with the world. Fox still hasn’t mentioned Kupono’s furniture collection, but I have to say that I was very happy they chose his sneer in the addiction piece as the final shot of his farewell package, which was fittingly his best work on the show.

The Black Eyed Peas also performed their single “I Gotta Feeling” which is infectious and lovely, even if parts of the performance didn’t totally make sense. A. Why was Fergie carrying a sex toy? B. What was the point of having that girl in yellow pop out just to take her top off? C. Where did all those back-up dancers come from? D. Why wasn’t this the first single off The E.N.D. rather than “Boom Boom Pow”? Much like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know the answers to these questions.

The Husband:

Is it just me, or does Kupono look like Dhalsim from Street Fighter during his solo?


Answer: only in his arctic genie outfit.

Answer: only in his arctic genie outfit.