The Husband:

It happens every year. Just like the film industry, ideas seem to come in packs of two or three. In 2004, Lost fever infected the networks, and three deep mystery science-fiction shows were unveiled for the 2005-2006 season. Two made it a full season before being unceremoniously canceled (Invasion and Surface) while one didn’t even make it to midseason (Threshold). The quality of these shows are unimportant, because they were created to either capitalize on a trend or a repair a hole missing from the schedule. This works in the film world, too. In 1998, we had both Armageddon and Deep Impact. In the same year, we had both A Bug’s Life and Antz. In 2005 we had both Capote and Infamous (one was pushed back to 2006, can you guess which?). And this is not a new concept in Hollywood. I can trace back to most years started with the studio system and can point out virtually identical films coming out within the same few months. But with television this year, two things happened:

1. CBS tried once again to give us their version of what they think draws people into Grey’s Anatomy, but on their own network. That show is called Three Rivers.

2. After a staggering 15-year run, ER finally came to a close last season, and NBC frantically tried to recreate its medical drama glory. But this time, they decided split the show in two to hedge their bets but take up too much room on a schedule already reeling from one man named Jay Leno.

If you don’t feel like listening to my half-assed television history lesson for the remainder of this article, let me just break it down for you. So far, NBC’s Mercy has aired three episodes, NBC’s Trauma has aired two, and CBS’s Three Rivers has aired one. And how do they rank in terms of quality? The exact order I just put them in, with Mercy almost head-and-shoulders above Trauma and Three Rivers, with only a single episode, drudging the bottom of the lake.

The title is probably ironic.

The title is probably ironic.

So about that splitting ER into two parts. It’s really not at all complicated. Mercy is the character drama, and Trauma is the action show. Put together, these elements apparently made some of the best ER episodes of all time, but on their own, it can be a struggle. So far, however, Mercy is a remarkably competent (big praise, I know) slice-of-life story about the unsung heroes of hospitals — the nurses. This year they have come back in a big way, and while I haven’t seen an episode of similarly themed Nurse Jackie and Hawthorne (two other nurse dramas, unseen because I don’t have Showtime and I avoid networks like TNT and USA like the plague), I can tell you that it’s a refreshing change of pace. Surgeons get all the glory, but nurses are the backbone of any hospital. Taylor Schilling leads the show as former army nurse Veronica Callahan, and she is in the top five best new characters on television this season. Tough and hard-edged but sympathetic, she seems like a real woman doing an unappreciated job, and her quiet energy is such a welcome respite from the outwardly emotional hysterics that populate Seattle Grace and Oceanside Wellness. She is a true find, and her personal life storylines (her troubled marriage, her drunk family, her affair with Men In Trees‘s James Tupper) help the very reality-skewing Jersey City-set show and are handled by the writers with what at least appears to be a great deal of honesty.

I haven’t been able to get a handle of many of the remaining characters, but Guillermo Diaz (he of Weeds and Half Baked) does well playing against type, and while the casting of Michelle Trachtenberg as rookie nurse Chloe Payne brings the wrong kind of tone to the character, casting a lesser known and more sullen actress would have made the character completely unimportant. My favorite element, oddly enough, seems to be the reversal of roles, as James LeGros’s doctor character, Dan Harris, is mostly seen on the outskirts of storylines, much how most nurses are treated on nearly every other hospital drama. (You know how Nurse Olivia was just let go from Seattle Grace at Grey’s Anatomy? It took me a good thirty minutes to remember that she was the one who gave George syphilis after getting it from Karev way back in the early seasons.) And, almost more than anything, I appreciate the fleeting comparisons the show finds between Jersey City and the warzone of Iraq. Both are lost places in their own way, and it’s haunting without being obvious. This is definitely staying on my Season Pass list, and I hope that its unfortunate placement Wednesday at 10 (it belongs later, but thanks to The Jay Leno Show, half of NBC’s schedule seems misplaced.)

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

Trauma, so far, is just a big, slick, expensive version of Emergency!, a spin-off of a spin-off (Dragnet to Adam-12 to…) which ran for several seasons back in the 1970s (six seasons plus a handful of TV movies). From the several episodes I’ve seen of that show (starring a young Kevin Tighe, a.k.a. Locke’s father on Lost), I really can’t see much of a difference between the two programs other than its location and its budget. I complained that I couldn’t get too much of a handle on Mercy‘s characters, but at least I can give you a general impression of their internal monologue. Not so on Trauma, which is as surface-level as one could get outside of a CW primetime soap. New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis is, so far, the only character with any personality (unfortunately, it’s a shitty one) and the rest get lost in the shuffle.

What Trauma has going for it, though, is a whole lot of money behind it, something that could cause it to be canceled very soon. Paired up with the fledgling Heroes, Trauma continues to represent how NBC is hemorrhaging money and viewers, and by not putting the show at a proper 10 p.m. spot, it’s getting crushed by the two CBS Chuck Lorre sitcoms. But oh man, does it ever get saved by its big action sequences. Nothing has been spared in the high-octane situations that structure the show, from the mostly unnecessary season opener that blew up part of a building to what can’t be cheap San Francisco location shooting. But with an HD DVR and a 52″ HD LCD Eco-Series Bravia television, I’ve never missed my old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area more. I’m staying to watch this show just from how much is shot there, how [mostly] accurate the set-ups are, and even its inclusion of mayor Gavin Newsome’s actress wife in the supporting cast. My wife can tell you more about the show’s focus on North Beach, where she worked for two years.

My issue, though, is seemingly contradictory. The action is what makes the show work, but it’s a chore sitting through a single episode. It’s fun to yell out “Trauma!” whenever something terrible happens, but in the second episode, we had four separate cases of trauma including the Embarcadero Street Fair getting pummeled by a car piloted by a man having a stroke. This is enough for three episodes on Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s almost a sidenote here. It’s too much action in a show that desperately needs it to survive. But goddamn, does it look expensive. And that expense kind of negates the verité style it’s going for, so I don’t know what to think anymore.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

Three Rivers has only aired one episode, and this is after it was heavily recast (which happened to Alex O’Loughlin’s last show Moonlight as well) as it was decided to air the second episode first. No matter, because the show helped drop CBS to one of its lowest-rated Sunday nights ever, being paired up with Cold Case. (All the family viewers and young professionals pretty much abandon the channel after The Amazing Race is over.) It’s not long for this world, and for good reason. It thinks that we want to be preached to right off the gate, and so this drama about an organ transplant facility in Pittsburgh just doesn’t work. It’s unfair to judge it based on one episode (and one that isn’t the damned pilot), but when a show starts off talking down to us, it’s not a good feeling. ABC’s Grey’s started off as a much frothier show (I would even call it a dramedy) and only later fell into its soapy rhythms, but Three Rivers doesn’t seem to have time for that. A major problem: I understand its decision to include the story about where the organs are coming from in order to humanize the situation, but it’s mostly unnecessary and I hope they abandon it, because it makes the characters back at the facility complete ciphers, just going through the procedural motions. Even O’Loughlin, as famed surgeon Andy Yablonski, isn’t enough to draw me back for much longer, and I once again fear that Alfre Woodard is one of the most misused actresses of her generation. It’s not the worst new drama of the season, nor is it the most obnoxious (so far, that seems to be the tonally misshapen The Forgotten), but if it doesn’t pick up soon, it will be canceled before I even give up on it. (Remember CBS’s hospital drama 3 Lbs.? No? It was on less than five years ago. Still don’t remember it? Exactly. But I watched all three episodes.)

So give Mercy a chance, and I don’t think you’ll regret it. Its cases, while mostly unoriginal, are handled delicately, and the characters feel like actual people. The other two shows? If you’re not into high-definition cinematography of San Francisco or learning about the intricacies of putting new hearts into pregnant women, they probably won’t work for you, either.

The Wife:
I worry about Mercy‘s necessity. Fundamentally, I like the show. And I really didn’t think I would. When NBC was promoting Mercy, they almost entirely glossed over the fact that this show is a narrative about an Iraq war veteran struggling to reintegrate into civilian life, instead using its promo time to make it look like some slick, glossy glorification of nursing (which indeed deserves such glory) and the bonds of female friendship. Case in point: even if Veronica’s background as a soldier was included, what I remember from those promos is the shots of the girls at the bar together, drinking and smiling.

The hurt backpack.

The hurt backpack.

I do think Mercy, as a show about a female Iraq war veteran, an Army nurse not unlike my mother (who once made her non-military living as an OR nurse), is utterly necessary. It is important for us to experience narratives of soldiers returning from conflicts overseas and to understand what it’s like for them to try to carry on with all the horror they’ve experienced. And it’s especially critical that this is a narrative about a female soldier. For all the women who fight for this country, too many artistic renderings of soldiers focus on the men and their experiences. I even applaud the decision to focus this story around the life of an Army medic, a crucial military position I think many forget about. My mother never (thankfully) saw conflict. But when I hear Veronica talk about setting up field hospitals, I can’t help but think of my mother. She knows how to do that, and has done so many times in her life. I’ve seen what those hospitals look like, as we always went to the family day at the end of the Army Reserve’s two-week summer training exercises where her medical unit practiced setting up those hospitals. So this character is perhaps doubly unique to me. I know the women that she is drawn from, my mother and her friends, and that alone makes her utterly real to me.
But although I think Veronica is a starkly unique character and its important for us to have a narrative of a female Iraq war veteran, I do think that gets lost in the way NBC advertised Mercy and its inevitable pigeonhole as just another medical show. I don’t care so much about the cases Veronica deals with, but I care deeply about her inability to share her wartime experiences with her no-longer-estranged husband. Seeing her hold his head in her hands so that he cannot face her when she talks about losing her friend in the field was truly effective, and I hope those of you who watch Mercy continue to tune in for those stunning portraits of a soldier coming home to a world she no longer knows how to navigate.

As for Trauma, the best parts of the show are screaming “Trauma!” when something traumatic happens, and realizing that I probably walked through the set dozens of times when I worked in North Beach. In fact, there was a scene filmed on Green St. between Grant and Broadway in the second episode that I know I’d walked through during tear-down one day when my coworker and I were heading up to North Beach Pizza for lunch. (I was extra impressed that they got a shot of the new location of North Beach Pizza, which only opened in April or May . . . directly across the street from its former location.) This scene happened to feature a homeless drug addict trying to scam the EMTs into giving him morphine, and I frankly wouldn’t be surprised if the show stumbled upon some of North Beach’s actual colorful homeless people. I will keep watching simply to see restaurants I used to frequent and, hopefully, a glimpse of Knifey Knife (a homeless woman who once threatened my friend at the bakery across from my old office with a pumpkin carving knife) and Charlotte (a kindly homeless woman who enjoyed wigs and often sat outside my office, complimenting me on my shoes). Hell, if one of my couriers, Junior, made it into B-roll on Anthony Bourdain’s San Francisco episode of No Reservations, he might even turn up in a long shot, riding his bike down Columbus.

There is really nothing good about Three Rivers.

The Wife:

The final four episodes of this season of House almost made up for Kutner’s random-ass suicide in their inventiveness. Almost. I thoroughly enjoyed the return of Amber as House’s ghostly hallucination and his three-episode quest to discern exactly what’s wrong with him, either way knowing that if he’s crazy, he can’t practice medicine, and if he’s experiencing side effects from his Vicodin addiction, he can’t practice medicine because once he’s clean he’ll be in too much pain. Anne Dudek was delightful has his subconscious manifestation throughout this arc, especially the moment in which she reappears after House thinks he has staved her off by OD’ing on insulin, singing old jazz standards over the microphone at his bar, echoing her first appearance beside his piano. But nothing, really, was more chilling than the final episode, when House realizes he’d hallucinated the entire night he spend kicking Vicodin with Cuddy, ending in the two of them sleeping together. Reliving all of the moments we saw of him flipping coins or examining a tube of lipstick are replayed with Vicodin bottles replacing those objects, suggesting a very powerful drug addiction that has completely taken over House’s life, was pretty brilliant. Frankly, I’d prefer more arcs like this, rather than so many one-off episodes. But what else are you going to do with a 24-episode season? So while everyone else attends Cameron and Chase’s wedding (they spent these past few episodes almost not getting married because a. Cameron kind of got cold feet b. House nearly killed Chase with a stripper covered in strawberry body butter . . . that apparently was made with actual strawberry extract and c. Chase was being a dick to Cameron about keeping her dead husband’s sperm on ice because he took it to mean that she thought they weren’t going to work out, rather than, you know, being the last thing she has to hold on to of her fucking husband), House checks himself in to a mental institution . . . which he will inevitably check himself out of at the beginning of next season because you can do that kind of thing with you are voluntarily committed.

I should have known this was too good to be true . . .

I should have known this was too good to be true . . .

As far as the patients were concerned, I’m often irritated by how precious the conceits are in which every patient is a metaphor for someone on the team, etc. So I totally get why the guy with split brain whose hand was not his hand was necessary for the metaphor of the finale, it was also perhaps added just a tad too much levity, despite how much Thirteen et all tried to tell me it was creepy. The only patient that really got to me out of this bunch was the ballerina who lost her skin. A lot of my research deals with holes in the surface of the body, mitigations of that surface or the abjecta beneath the surface, but I found her skinlessness to actually be quite frightening. Perhaps its because I’ve had skin cancer that I find the idea of losing that much skin so terrifying (which, for the record, makes no sense, because the removal of skin cancers just leaves some awesome scars), but its more likely the fact that, without the mitigation of the surface, the inside is all that much more frightening. We forget that our skin is the largest organ on our bodies, and so it is vital that we take care of it. Losing a little bit when you scrape your elbow or knee is fine, and hardly horrifying, but losing so much that we are exposed so wholly to the world is truly unsettling. And deadly. I shuddered for that poor girl. She’s just damn lucky that Princeton-Plainsboro has so many fresh cadavers from which to harvest grafts. I know the episode wanted us to sympathize more with the possibility that she, a dancer, would have to have her gangrenous hands and feet removed in order to live (Taub managed to revive the tissue, somehow), but the loss of her flesh was something I couldn’t get out of my head. And I doubt I will.

So, damn you, House, you actually got me. Good for you.

Considering how poorly I did at keeping up with House this year, I don’t think I’ll write about it next year. I’ll still be watching, though, storing up dozens of episodes on my DVR to marathon whenever I get a break from my book learnin’.

The Husband:

And so the month of season finales involving hallucinations continue, and between this, Bones, and Grey’s Anatomy, I wonder what else have I not come across? I know how the US version of Life on Mars ends (but since neither my wife nor I have finished watching the second half of the season, I’ll refrain from saying what it is), but what about the shows I’m behind on?

Smallville, of course, always has at least a couple hallucination episodes a season – and more now that they’ve been struggling to find stories in Metropolis, a task that doesn’t actually sound very hard – but will Prison Break get all wonky during its final five-episode run that’s sitting on my DVR? (Michael does have major brain shenanigans last time I checked, so this has potential.)

Does Lie to Me, which we’ve DVRed but haven’t touched yet, turn everything on its head by revealing that Tim Roth is just a figment of our imagination? (Considering he’s been both a futuristic ape and Abomination in The Incredible Hulk, this could be a possibility.)

Is Reaper going to turn out to be an extremely vivid dream concocted by Sock during a very long nap at the Work Bench? Will that explain Andi losing her personality this season?

Is that missing episode of Sit Down, Shut Up an apology to the idiots who didn’t find it funny and complained about the intentionally awkward animation-on-top-of-real-backgrounds?

Motherfucker! Ugly Betty ended in a hallucination, too! What happened here? Is this a veiled backlash against Obama? Did all the showrunners stop taking their medication?

The only time I can remember even the slightest bit of consistency across certain shows during season finales was May, 1996 (I had to check Wikipedia for the year, but remember everything else about the following without any aid.) For some reason, three major shows in my life decided to kind of lose their minds and go way too dark for my young teenage brain. With Seinfeld, it was Susan, George’s fiancée, dying as a result of toxic envelope glue, and when the main cast stopped by the hospital, they pretty much felt nothing and went to go get some coffee. On Roseanne, Dan breaks his diet and he and Roseanne get into one of the foulest shouting matches I’ve ever seen on a family sitcom, devolving into back-and-forth screams of “Fatty! Fatty! Fatty!” (Let’s not even mention the final season, which was all a dream.) And, finally, Mad About You challenged Paul and Jamie’s marriage when she kissed the man she was campaigning for and Paul lusted after another woman but didn’t do anything, leading to a quiet, disturbing fight.

It just seemed like, for no discernable reason, sitcoms ended that year wanting us to feel like absolute shit. So I ask, does anybody have an explanation for this madness in dear old 2009?

Don’t get me wrong, I thought everything with Dudek was some of the most compelling minutes House has ever had, and even without her, the final mindfuck, while hard to avoid in the press after the fact, was still eerily effective, thanks in no small part to Hugh Laurie’s continued brilliance on this show. Does he still not have an Emmy? (Now that Boston Legal is gone, Spader’s absence in the category will help considerably. That is, if Jon Hamm’s John Ham doesn’t take it, which would not be a bad thing per se.)

On another note, do any of you out there seriously care about Chase and Cameron? At all? Boooooooring. How about hiring another intern. I’m fine with that. Anything to get away from the dour blondes.

The Wife:

Bones finale, while I enjoyed your silly alternate universe mystery that could have been Booth’s coma or Brennan’s erased fantasy manuscript or both at the same time, you were a weird, weird way to do a season finale. Although, really, how else would you have managed to solve a murder while Booth lay in a four-day post-surgical coma? If I accept the fantasy manuscript as what that story was, then I appreciate that it functioned to subconsciously illustrate Brennan’s feelings for Booth, as she would never be able to say them in real life. And I wonder if the crux of next season will be Brennan dealing with those feelings in light of the fact that Booth, tumor-free, now doesn’t know just quite who this woman he’s spent the last four years of his life with is. Memory loss is a bit of a hoary trope, usually relegated to daytime television, but I have faith that Bones will transform it into something useful next season.

Incidentally, I am 99% percent more likely to go to a bar called The Lab than a bar not called The Lab.

Incidentally, I am 99% percent more likely to go to a bar called The Lab than a bar not called The Lab.

That said, let me talk about things I enjoyed about this weird alternate universe:

  • Excellent use of every intern (save for the woman from the airplane caper and Michael Badalucco), even Zack.
  • Fischer as the chef made me long for Kitchen Confidential, which was better than FOX thought it was.
  • I am sad that Eugene Byrd’s Clark had to play entirely toward type as a hip hop superstar C-Sync, who wants to play at The Lab, the club run by Booth and Brennan.
  • I am, however, happy that Pej Vahdat’s Viziri got to play away from being defined by his religion and got to be a slick rival club owner, which is still kind of a Persian character type, but a much cooler one.
  • Daisy is a sloot in any universe.
  • It is perfect for psychologist Sweets to be a bartender, as bartenders are just as good as listening as shrinks are. And charge less by the hour.
  • Wendell Bray is the perfect bouncer, as I think this kind of 100% street-smart tough guy is exactly what he would be without his medical knowledge.
  • I have never loved Mr. Nigel-Murray more than as an adorable British DJ in this episode. He should always wear a hat in the lab. His best line? “I’m not going to fare well in jail. I’m lovely.” Yes, sweetheart. You rather are.
  • Zack was apparently Brennan’s assistant. I guess a club owner might have an assistant, but it seems like less of a fit than the rest of the characters in this episode.
  • Alternate universe Hodgins is a crime writer, and that’s pretty cool.
  • Alternate universe Angela was basically Angela, but without computer skills. She wore a super cute pink-striped dress at one point though, and I just found it: It’s Marc Jacob’s Crosstown Sleeveless Dress, and it’s at Neiman Marcus for $428. I. Am. Awesome.
  • I loved that Sweets band was called Gormogon, and yet played lovely, sunny pop-rock music. JFD is a fine singer, and I also loved the callback line: “Some people think that I’m Gormogon, but I’m not.”
  • I totally believe that Booth would run a club if he weren’t in law enforcement, because that’s probably what his little brother should be doing now that he isn’t in the military anymore. They switched roles!
Will commence hunting down that dress after I post this!

Found this! It's at Neiman Marcus!

However:

It is completely unbelievable that Brennan would run a club and remain so logical and fastidious. I could see her running a business, yes, but something that makes medical devices or computer parts or something. I do not see her as the kind of person who makes a business of entertainment, and that rang through loud and clear to me as her character said things about how she prides herself on being logical throughout the course of the investigation by Cam and Jared Booth. Everyone in the alternaverse was an alternate version of themselves, except for Booth and Bones. Booth’s transition made sense, Bones’ didn’t. And if she wrote the story, I’m not really sure why she would choose to insert herself into that character, other than to pair herself with Booth as husband and wife.

I guess the ‘shippery moments were pretty hot, although I find the alterna-Booth and Bones pregnancy discussion less cute than false. I don’t know, gang. This was a weird one. And Mötley Crüe was there. Why? I’m mostly just kind of confused as to how this functions as a season finale.

By the way, my pick for Interns next season would be a rotating schedule of Vincent Nigel-Murray, Colin Fischer and Wendell Bray, because they’re clearly the best. And we’ll get enough of Daisy since she’s all up on Sweets 24/7.

The Husband:

I was going to wrap up my intern-of-the-week for this season by stating my preferences for who should return, but my wife pretty much nailed it. Fischer is great comic relief for a geek like me, but Bray is the best character and Nigel-Murray is the most interesting in terms of sheer knowledge. I would have loved to see Badalucco return, but that Emmy-winning star is just too expensive or busy, I guess.

So I’ll just have to settle on a quick commentary of the final episode. I think it was cute but ultimately disappointing. If this was an attempt at trying to turn into Moonlighting, a show that constantly shifted realities for random episodes just because they could. (One episode starts with a dude reading Shakespeare while watching Moonighting, so the episode had Willis and Shepard solving a case while being characters from The Taming of the Shrew.) But Bones, while often subversive of the modern standard procedural, is still far more serious than that show ever was and still has a reality to maintain, a reality millions of people love. And so, this episode was not nearly as interesting as my new iPhone. (Not a whole lot is, technically, but I make sure to use it as little as possible if I’m watching something I really give a shit about.)

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

I also don’t really care what people have to say about whether or not Brennan and Booth had sex in the real world or in a fantasy, because goddamn it, it’s supposed to be ambiguous. Just like the final sequence on Grey’s Anatomy. We’ll find out this fall. Stop freaking out with your theories, online douchebags.

And hopefully, this fall will also see Zack’s return to the Jeffersonian. I miss that apprentice twerp.

The Husband:

It took me around a week to digest, in addition to wanting to wait to write this until I talked to a few friends/relatives/acquaintances who still haven’t gotten around to it, so here it is, my less-than-100% attempt to wrap up this season of Grey’s Anatomy, or at least to discuss some of the bigger facets of the big honkin’ two-hour finale.

There are two monsters to get to, so let’s run through the “lesser” storylines.

  • Mark asks Lexie to move in with him. I’m surprised as how much I ended up liking them as a couple after crying foul when she first fell into his arms.
  • Owen finally stops having nightmares about Iraq, and he and Cristina finally become a couple once again. It’s a good thing she took down her ceiling fan so as to not incite his wrath and another game of Choke the Cardiothoracic Surgeon. And thus, Kevin McKidd continues rocking the world.
  • Dr. Bailey receives her fellowship in pediatrics, but is faced with a tough decision when her continuing-to-be-a-douchebag husband makes a threat – accept the fellowship and he will divorce her. Realizing that she simply cannot participate in a busy fellowship as a single mother, she turns down the offer and goes back into the surgery path the Chief set out for her, thus making pediatrician Arizona do something we’ve never seen her do before – cry. It feels terrible to see Dr. Bailey give up her dream because Tucker is such a fucking asshole, and I would have really liked to see a new side of Miranda, but the Chief’s plan also makes sense, as we can see Miranda rise in the ranks and end up running the entire hospital. Think Dr. Cox on Scrubs, only less sardonic and more black.
  • Meredith and Derek finally get married, sort of, in the hospital’s locker room, trading cutesy demands on post-it notes, until they both say “I do.” I’m glad we didn’t have to get another weepy, overwrought wedding for them, and I’m also glad the show has deigned themselves worthy to have Meredith and Derek actually act like their characters instead of the pod people they have sometimes become over the last couple seasons.

Okay, the big stuff. Izzie is asked to make a choice between operating on the tumor, which would almost 100% likely destroy her memory (and maybe even her ability to speak), or get the experimental IL2 treatment, which may or may not dissolve the tumor. While everybody fights over what to do, Izzie chooses to go with the IL2 treatment (from Beloved’s Kimberly Elise) until her cancer survivor friend, who is on the IL2 treatment, suddenly collapses, dead, after two years on the stuff. And thus, Izzie has no choice but to go into surgery, but just in case she completely loses who she is or becomes a vegetable, signs a DNR.

Post-surgery, she seems far better than the test Derek performed that temporarily shut off the right half of her brain, but then she starts losing short-term memories, basically ending up having a Memento situation where memories only last mere minutes. And in continuing with the post-its motif, Alex and Cristina put up post-its with reminders to Izzie. (My favorite? “Your memory sucks.”)

After arguing with Alex once again, Izzie asks him to get everything off his chest, and finally he explodes, expressing his disappointment that this is definitely not how the marriage was supposed to go. This would seem a terrible thing, but Izzie manages to remember it later on, proving that she is getting better.

Until her heart stops, and as she goes into surgery (despite her DNR, as Alex completely ignores it), we see inside of her mind, and instead of all the Denny-on-the-beach stuff we’ve been privy to for the entire two-hour block, we see her get off an elevator, wearing what she was wearing when Denny died in her arms, only to see George, in full Army regalia, standing on the other side of the elevator doors.

If you’re reading this, you already know what George is doing there. It’s because he was John Doe, the patient who had, in trying to save a woman from certain doom, gotten hit by a bus and dragged down the block, rendering him unidentifiable.

If this were Nip/Tuck, theyd be playing Bowies Eyes Without a Face over this scene.

If this were Nip/Tuck, they'd be playing Idol's "Eyes Without a Face" over this scene.

As I’ve mentioned, I tend to steer clear of spoilers, but I do read what is reported as actual news, and this includes Michael Ausiello’s weekly write-ups in Entertainment Weekly. Since it was unclear (and still is) whether or not T.R. Knight was coming back for another season, I knew that they were leaving his story open-ended, with him joining the Army and getting injured. But oh, Shonda Rhimes and the rest of her GA writers pulled a fast one on us, using the press to both inform and mislead, and I have to give them a lot of credit for this. Just as it was reported that Brennan and Booth were going to finally hook up on Bones, only to be ambiguous about it in the dream state season finale (and, from my understanding, something similar happens on House, although my wife and I still have two episodes left but some things are just hard to avoid on television blogs), we were completely thrown for a loop. Yes, George did technically join the Army, and he did get injured, but not in the way that anybody expected.

And no, I knew just about as much as Meredith did, which would be the fact that I had no idea that John Doe was George until the moment he traced “007,” his nickname, on her palm. And it was the moment that this show has been aching to have for its entire season, something buzzworthy in addition to being emotional, and playing with our heads without being assholes about it. I was dumbstruck.

Are Izzie and George dead? Well, just like, say, the end of The Sopranos or the final moments of the movie Limbo (to give only two examples), the point is that it’s ambiguous and there’s no way of knowing if they’re going to live or going to die, and to cite evidence to prove one side or the other is simply your emotional perspective and not the actual truth. It’s the Schrödinger’s Cat finale, where they are both alive and dead. And if you think you have the answer because of some bullshit, you’re only going to disappoint yourself and look a fool to others.

Overall, I really ended up liking this season, and while I can understand it simply doesn’t live up to the memories people had about the first two seasons (and some of the third), I would prefer that people live in the moment and enjoy it for what it is now – something a little more grown up, something a little more bitter, and something a little more depressing. (But not as depressing as it was in a good deal of s3.) But, then again, I’ve never been 100% involved in this series and have always considered it a guilty pleasure with a lot of fluctuating quality. But the big stories really paid off (even Ghost Denny), the three-week events were completely addictive (both the Eric Stoltz story and the Archer Montgomery craziness) and I’m finally happy with where Meredith and Derek ended up, even if Derek turned into a major fucknut a few months ago.

So good job, Grey’s Anatomy. I really enjoy a lot of what you’re doing right now, and I hope others feel the same way. And goddamn, did you do a good job of making me love Karev after years of hoping he’d quit the show.

The Husband:

Tonight is the two-hour fifth season finale of Grey’s Anatomy, so while I don’t have much to say about last week’s episode, I suppose I should say something.

You know what? I’ve had some issues with this season, and while I wasn’t an outright hater of the Ghost Denny story, I thought it overstayed its welcome. And so when he showed up once again, which would indicate that there’s still a bit of cancer in Izzie’s brain, I kind of groaned inside. However, I do respect it as a portent of doom instead of that pseudo-spirituality they inferred near the beginning of this season, and that it really upped the drama during an episode revolving around Meredith and Derek’s wedding.

Im glad she didnt walk down the aisle hooked up to that IV. Awks.

I'm glad she didn't walk down the aisle hooked up to that IV. Awks.

But no matter what I thought, the ending got me. Damn you, Shonda Rhimes, you got me. As I don’t put a whole lot of forethought or speculation in the show, I 100% did not expect that, as a result of the tiny and most likely inoperable tumor in Izzie’s noggin, Meredith and Derek stepped back and allowed Izzie and Alex to take their places on the altar. And not only did I tear up when we first see Alex in his tux, nothing could prepare me for their return to Izzie’s hospital room, and as she takes off her beautiful hairpin, a chunk of her hair comes out with it.

Heartbreaking.

And I totally could have done without Callie’s meltdown by being treated to dinner by her lover Arizona. It just felt too soon after being disowned by her father, and pretty inauthentic. I hope she can mature a bit in tonight’s finale.

The Husband:

Blah blah blah Desperate Housewives. What really mattered last night was the season finale of Brothers & Sisters.

Because, honestly, whatever happened last night on DH is pretty much just filler until the two-hour finale this coming Sunday. But what happened?

  • Gaby discovered that one of her old friends is now homeless after losing all of her money once she became a widow, which in turn shows Gaby a valuable lesson about life. And what’s that lesson, Headbanger’s Ball and Daisy Of Love’s Riki Rachtman? IT’S NOT A GAME!
  • Lynnette doesn’t want Tom to get plastic surgery, because it would result in them not looking like they belong together. Because as any DH viewer knows, Lynnette and Tom belong together.
  • After using her divorce lawyer’s advice, Bree breaks into her own house, only to discover that Orson still loves her unconditionally, and that she’s a horrible person for wanting to divorce him.
  • Susan and Jackson throw an engagement party, but Susan finds that she is hesitant to get married as it would cancel Mike’s regular alimony payments. But through a series of messages (actually Kathryn posing as Mike), he “agrees” to keep paying. But the marriage may not happen anyway, since Creepy Dave knows the truth behind the marriage and calls immigration on Jackson.
Damn you, Creepy Dave! Damn you!

Damn you, Creepy Dave! Damn you!

Blerghy blerghy blergh.

But how’d the Walker family fare? Was their trip to Mexico fruitful and exciting? Actually, kind of not. Choosing instead to follow its own path of actual reality, Brothers & Sisters ended not with wild drama, massive cliffhangers and people acting out of character (coughDesperateHousewivesandGrey’sAnatomycough), but with a neat (if underdeveloped) wrap-up of the show’s third and best season.

First Nora, then the remainder of the family, cross the border and find something that not only surprised them, but surprised me as well. I guess that since Tommy has always been such a jerk, I just assumed he took the clichéd way out and just went to Mexico to chill on beaches, drink a lot and bang hookers, but in fact he had joined a semi-cultist meditation society, one that pretty much strips away all your earthly possessions and first world problems and allows you to reassess who you are as a person. In other words, he’s a hippie who builds houses and fixes plumbing for the less fortunate, and eats meals in a room where talking is banned.

In fact, once this discovery was made, the Walkers weren’t left much to do other than smile at each other and update everybody on their current life events. But at least the show found a funny way to do such a ho-hum scene, done entirely in pantomime as they were still at the meditation society’s mess hall. In fact, it was so funny that it kind of overshadowed Kitty’s real problems that followed her to Mexico via Robert and a helicopter, culminating in her running after his departing chopper only to realize it’s too late and that their marriage is pretty much over.

Maybe now wasnt the best time to adopt?

Maybe now wasn't the best time to adopt?

But hey, Justin is going to become a doctor, and he and Rebecca are going to get married. Everything’s okay, right?

Not entirely. Ryan the Missing Walker still had one bit of usage left in him, which unexpectedly involved the underused Saul. So yes, it is technically true that Ryan’s dead mother was affected by William breaking up with her, and that may have caused her to kill herself by wrapping her car around a tree. But (what a tweeeest!) it turns out that William never went to Reno to break up with Ryan’s dead mother – he had Saul do it instead. And so Saul, refusing to hand Ryan the Missing Walker a send-off deal from Ojai that would make a CEO blush, demands from Holly that he return to Ojai Foods. Basically, I’m fine with more Ron Rifkin (having seen him in two shows, the pre-Broadway run of Wrong Mountain, as well as the Cabaret 90s revival at Studio 54), so I’m glad that he may actually return to being a character next season, and not just the gay Jewish comic relief.

I am so glad that I reinvested in this show after giving up on its halfway through its first season, because it is honestly one of the best written shows on network television, written by people who get the concept that big emotion doesn’t have to equal histrionic bullshit. It earns its laughs and tears by being a character show first and a plot show second. Even with such a non-event of a finale, it still feels right, as they start a new chapter with a new season. How will Justin and Rebecca’s marriage go? How will Nora’s charity center fare? Are Kitty and Robert really done?

All we really know is that Balthazar Getty has been demoted from main cast to a sporadically recurring guest role, so Tommy is going to be off-camera “finding himself” for most of next season.

The Husband:

Whenever Grey’s Anatomy is in doubt, it always returns to one theme — family. In a lot of ways it’s the basis of this show, and it’s incredibly smart as a backup in case things get a little too wild at Seattle Grace. Because, with very few exceptions, those who become doctors are usually either following in their parents’ footsteps or they’re pressured into the field by the same people, and especially in the case of these residents, they often cannot escape their parents’ shadows no matter how hard they try.

While Callie deals with last week’s visit from her dad and his ultimatum that she either leave Seattle and her gay lover and move back to Miami or lose her trust, that parent hole is filled not once, not twice but thrice this week in various forms.

You still get breast implants, even if youre dying of skin cancer!

You still get breast implants, even if you're dying of skin cancer!

First up is Sharon Lawrence, done ruining everybody’s life over on Privileged (I swear I’ll get to a wrap-up on that show one day, especially if it gets renewed), showing up in all her crazy glory as Izzie’s ignorant trailer park mother. She’s completely baffled that she had to come all the way up to metropolitan Washington just to hear that he daughter simply has skin cancer — which she mistakenly equates as “just a mole” and not at all fatal like breast cancer — until Izzie lets her in on a few pretty well-known facts about tumors, the fact that the skin is indeed an organ, and that cancer spreads. To get her off Izzie’s back, Bailey comes in and tells the both of them that the cancer is disappearing, but once Ms. Lawrence is gone, informs Izzie that no matter how hard they try, this cancer doesn’t seem to be going away. The show did a good job of making Sharon Lawrence just annoying enough so that we appreciated her appearance but probably never want to see her again.

Meredith and Lexi, meanwhile, have some major family damage control ahead of them as their father, now out of rehab and dealing with his alcoholism, is trying to ask their forgiveness for all the horrible things he has done to both of them and their respective dead mothers. But this is too tough for Meredith, and so she takes out her aggression on the Case of the Week.

But what is this case of the week? Well, imagine a three-person family. Now imagine the father continually beating the mother and sometimes the under-ten-years-of-age daughter. Now imagine the daughter getting cut on the face and also watching her father break her mother’s arm, and then proceeding to grab his gun and shooting him 17 times. At the hospital, it doesn’t take long to figure out that the shooting wasn’t an accident, but the wife is such a pushover that she tries to get the daughter to apologize to the [slowly] recovering dad for her reaction, when she was just defending herself. Meredith can’t have this, not another woman in her life getting bullied around, and so she berates the mother for not standing up to the abuse and setting a good example for her daughter. Finally, the mother gathers the courage to say goodbye to the father forever, and that they would be too far away once he recovered for him to find them.

But Meredith’s outburst has consequences, and the Chief gets on her case for being unprofessional and getting her feelings involved in something that doesn’t concern her. This nearly leads to Meredith’s firing, but Derek has a one-on-one with the Chief and makes him painfully aware that he is treating Meredith not like an employee but as a daughter, as the Chief had a decades-long affair with Meredith’s mother, one that didn’t really lead to anything but confusion and emotional messiness.

I like how this episode dealt with the old GA notion of family. Not that it was great, because it was just a-okay. But at least it wasn’t like season 3 when it seemed that everybody’s parent was dying, first Meredith’s crazy mother, then Lexi’s mother, then George’s father, until it just seemed like cheap soap opera tactics. Unfortunately, the familial focus pushed the Owen-Cristina drama to the side to a point where even their emotional conversation at episode’s end, where Owen reveals that he’s been seeing a shrink to get to a place where he could be the right man for Cristina, didn’t really hold a lot of weight. Oh well, only two episodes to go, and it’s pretty damn clear that it’s all going to be about the Meredith-Derek wedding and Izzie’s cancer. Who knows if anything will get solved other than those two things. And who knows if George is going to be given any figment of a story this season.

But it’s season finale time on Private Practice, and they’ve got a doozy of a Moral Quandary with which to contend. (My wife is right; this show should absolutely be renamed Moral Quandary.) When two women have their embryos planted, Naomi makes the horrible discovery that they’re carrying each other’s babies, which at the very least is no good for the struggling practice. But even worse is that the embryo that belongs in Robin Weigert’s belly is her last egg and the last bit of sperm from her dead husband, and the woman carrying this last effort baby wants to terminate it as it doesn’t feel right, and doesn’t want Robin Weigert carrying her baby. For once, I’m with the decision to actually keep the damn babies where they are and not terminate, because they’re both going to come out anyway, and they’ll still be the baby you, non-Robin Weigert, wanted as a result of your money and your effort with this in vitro fertilization. You’ll still get the experience, you’ll still get the genetic connection, and you won’t fuck with Robin Weigert’s poor brain. Fortunately, the non-Robin Weigert finally comes to her senses and realizes how ridiculous she and her husband are being.

But this is the season finale, and you want to know how it ended, right? I’ll make it easy for you.

Dell: His baby mama comes back into town with their daughter demanding $10,000 for the child, but even when Sam gives Dell the money, Dell takes his child and shames the mother into not taking the money, something that would just wreck her drug-addled brain even more. And finally forgiven for his attitude over the past few weeks (and the mistake that led to the embryo switch), he is absolved and given back his patients and his midwivery.

Addison: Still trying not to get it on with Dr. Swingtown despite her attraction to him, she convinces him to stay with his wife, but right before his wife is to give birth, they have a near-fucking until both their pagers ring. As far as I could tell, their relationship is still up in the air, which is difficult especially now that his wife is starting to grow suspicious.

Pete: Finally wins Violet’s heart as she chooses him over Sheldon as her man, despite Sheldon’s marriage proposal.

Sam: Declares that he is still in love with Naomi.

Naomi: After much inner debating, she takes the job as director of Pacific Wellcare.

Charlotte: Is fired as director of Pacific Wellcare for, basically, not having a heart, which finally breaks this very strong woman.

Cooper: Is about to take care of a ready-to-burst Violet, when he gets the call from Charlotte that she desperately needs him now. He is unaware of the horror that is about to occur on the other side of that door to Violet’s house.

DOOM AWAITS YOU!!!!!

DOOM AWAITS YOU!!!!!

Violet: And what horror? It seems that that bit of insane psychology I bitched about a few weeks ago in re: Amanda Foreman’s character, the crazy lady who tried to continue on with her pregnancy despite the baby being dead inside of her, finally returned to bite everyone in the ass, as Ms. Foreman comes to Violet’s door, knocks her out with a quick syringe to the arm, and then proceeds to tell Violet that she stole her baby out of her and was gestating it herself. In short, Amanda Foreman gon’ cut that baby out of Violet. Violet, realizing that she is finally trapped at without question at the end of her life, tells Ms. Foreman how to give a C-section correctly, which while killing Violet, would save the child. And as the scalpel is about to cut into skin, the season ends.

Ahhhhh Private Practice. How shameless you are. And how shameless and fascinating and sad of a cliffhanger to go out on. We have at least four months to figure out what’s going to happen — I’m just gonna guess that come September, Pete or Sheldon is going to bust through that door and knock that bitch out, but it seems that you never know with Shonda Rhimes. I never grew tired of PP this year (while I did at least three times with GA), so that bodes well for this addictive trifle of a primetime soap. Do I realize that this show is pretty ridiculous and probably bad for my brain? Yes. But will I apologize for watching, nay, enjoying it? Hell naw.

Oh Shonda Rhimes, how will you try to hurt me next season?