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:

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 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:

It’s a total delight to be given the final three episodes of Pushing Daisies when there is nearly nothing else on television right now (except for So You Think You Can Dance and, soon, SLOTAT). Having a plethora of farmer’s market strawberries because my mother won’t stop buying them, I spent my Sunday morning baking, like Ned, with live fruit and watching “Window Dressed to Kill.” And while I certainly enjoyed the episode and the pie-baking, there were certainly some bittersweet moments to both experiences. First, the minute this show opened with the narrative about little Olive Snook being ignored at a costume party, I remembered how much I missed seeing this blissfully designed show, but realized I had also forgotten the central decisions made by the characters in “The Norwegians.” Because that was back in December. Before Christmas and holiday baking and drinking and before cooking my noodle on five months of Lost. I had forgotten about the very literal cliffhanger. I had forgotten that Ned had sworn off detective work, and several other things. Secondly, I had a hell of a time getting my crust to come together, at one point spilling little pie crust crumblies all over my freezer. And finally, once I remembered plot points and got my pie crust together, I realized the most bittersweet thing of all: no matter how much of a lovely time I would have watching Pushing Daisies on Sunday mornings over the next three weeks, these would be the last three airings of the show, airings that many people who were only casual viewers might not see because they’re on Saturday nights at 10 p.m. and there was no ABC-sponsored advertisement to remind us about these airings. Seeing Daisies only for a few minutes made me remember everything I love about it, like the smell of a pie cooling on a windowsill. But both pies and Pushing Daisies are finite things, and that makes enjoying them so much just the slightest bit sad. I can always bake another pie, but there’s never going to be another show quite like Pushing Daisies.

After the last episode’s cliffhanger in which Ned told Olive that he didn’t not love her, she spends her time learning about the intricate grammar of the double negative, trying to discern exactly what he meant by that while Ned chooses to retire from detective work, miring himself in his bakeshop to cook with alive-alive fruit for the first time in his life. As Olive asks Ned delicately constructed questions with obscured meaning, he muses on the fact that he can finally eat his own pies and relishes the possibility of getting fat. So when Emerson enters with the case of a dead window dresser for Dicker’s Department Store, Ned politely refuses to help. In his stead, Chuck offers her services suggesting that they, for once, do traditional detective work through which she can become the Alive-Again Avenger.

Relishing the return of that smile.

Relishing the return of that smile.

While Emerson and Chuck head off to investigate the death of window dresser Erin Embry, Olive’s former kidnappers turn up at the Pie Hole, inconveniently ruining Randy Mann’s attempt to court her. But Olive’s former kidnappers turn out to not be as horrible as we thought they were. In fact, they weren’t actually kidnappers at all. They were petty thieves who just happened to steal the car young Olive was hiding from her parents in, hoping that they’d give her the attention she desired if only they missed her for long enough. This was a pretty magical, ingenious twist that I adored, even more so when it lead to the bittersweet realization that Olive’s parents didn’t even want her back and that Jerry and Buster were jailed simply for returning a lost child to the parents that didn’t want her. Over their time in the pen, Olive wrote to them, considering them in some ways to be surrogate dads, and they returned to find her post-jailbreak to solicit her help in getting them safely across the border to Canada.

Olive has told her surrogate kidnapping dads a lot of things, actually – including that Ned loves her and wants to marry her. This comes as a shock to both Ned and Randy, but Ned decides to play along when he realizes that Jerry and Buster’s only happiness is knowing that Olive is happy. So they load the men into Randy’s taxidermy van, and share a very uncomfortable ride with a stuffed rhinoceros up to the border where they find the police waiting for them. Rather than risk Jerry and Buster returning to jail, they turn the van around and head to Lily and Vivian’s house, where Olive hopes they might be able to root through the aunts’ old Darling Mermaid Darlings costumes and find some way to disguise the escapees. While there, Olive’s dads accidentally spill the not-real news about Ned and Olive’s engagement and while Vivian looks for disguises for their houseguests, she digs up the veil she was to wear to her wedding to Charles Charles and presents it to Olive, the very presence of which freaks out Ned so much that Olive finally realizes he definitely doesn’t love her in that way and comes clean about her fake relationship, which her kidnapping dads recognize as yet another one of Olive’s desperately sad pleas for attention.

But there’s barely any time to mope over the dissolution of a fake relationship as the cops have surrounded the aunts’ house, as a suspicious neighbor saw Jerry and Buster smoking on the porch and called them in. Ned, who’s spent the episode “trying on” a normal relationship and a “normal” life in which he can eat pies and not wake the dead and hold the hand of a girl he loves (in some way) realizes, after a long talk with Randy and the events with Olive, that he should be happy being somewhat-super instead of trying to hard to fit in to normalcy, and so he rushes out to Randy’s van and makes the rhinoceros alive-again long enough to disperse the police. This very much embarrasses Randy, who just can’t believe he taxidermied a live animal. But Olive quiets his fears with talk of the convent and he, in turn, quiets hers by suggesting she turn to whomever Mother Superior would turn to in times when one runs out of their own cunning.

Olive talks to the police about letting Buster and Jerry off the hook since they didn’t really commit a crime in the first place, but they seem unmoved. Luckily, as if by some divine plan, Mother Superior and her sisters enter the Pie Hole looking for a pee break, and Olive kindly breaks her “customers only” policy to allow the sisters in, which also allows her to spirit her jailbird dads out in nun’s garb, along with some complimentary pies. You know, in the name of charity. This was a very clever take on deus ex machina, especially because I saw Diana Scarwid’s name in the credits and kept wondering how Mother Superior was going to figure into this episode. In general, I really liked this whole insight into Olive’s desperation for love and attention, especially the flashback to what her childhood kidnapping experience was actually like (better than her life at home) and the moment where she breaks away from her fake-engagement party to sing a few bars of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” Swear to God, Bryan Fuller is almost as good as Ryan Murphy at choosing appropriate music for a scene. I was also very fond of Ned’s Superman/Clark Kent-ish struggle with being ordinary or extraordinary, which also reminded me of how good the first season of Heroes (when Fuller worked on it) compared to subsequent seasons.

The Emerson-and-Chuck mystery was mostly just fluff compared to the emotionally-driven Olive-and-Ned narrative, but it was pretty fluff, which is the best kind of fluff Daises has to offer. Sans their magic finger, they investigate Erin Embry’s murder and realize that the current window at Dicker’s mirrors the crime scene. She’s wearing the same dress as the mannequin and died in the same frozen, wintry fountain. As the police have ruled Erin’s death an accident, Emerson has no one to pay him to investigate. Cleverly, Chuck drums up some funding by whispering into the ears of Erin’s many devotees that she may have been murdered, so after about three minutes of rumor-mongering, Chuck and Emerson are on the case. The suspects are many, particularly Coco Juniper, Erin’s window dressing partner, whom they suspect may have offed Erin to show which of the two had real talent. Only, that theory gets shot to hell when Coco Juniper turns up dead after the unveiling of the Erin Embry Memorial Window, showing a goddess-like woman ascending retail escalators to heaven . . . which means Coco’s corpse is also lodged in an escalator. By poking around the store at night, Chuck and Emerson uncover the fact that neither Erin nor Coco were the creative geniuses behind the Dicker’s windows – it was their biggest fan, Chic-as-Hell Denny. When they suspect he might be murdering everyone at Dicker’s to get credit, they inform store owner Dick (Sex and the City‘s Willie “Stanford Blatch” Garson), who immediately starts to make suspicious inquiries about Denny. Ned returns just in time to help put everything together by waking the two dead designers (so distractingly funny to see Coco wonder where the hell her legs are) who inform them that it was in fact Dick who offed them, meaning Chic-as-Hell Denny would be his next target. You see, Dick hated his family business and wanted out without having to lose his family, so he set about to lose the one thing that brought Dicker’s Department Store so much revenue: its famous windows. Case closed, thanks to Ned’s magic fingers, and Chic-as-Hell Denny went on to get Erin and Coco’s old job all to himself with a new member of the Dicker family running the store.

Favorite outfit of the episode belongs to the black lace cocktail dress worn by Olive’s inattentive mother at the party from which her daughter gets “kidnapped,” which I think was nicely reflected in Coco Juniper’s black lace sheath – two women who could not have cared less about the loss of people they “loved.” I just taught you costume design, bitches.

The Husband:

It may be entirely because of the five-plus-change months between the last episode of Pushing Daisies and this one, but this entry may log as one of my favorites. It could just be because of the sudden rush of nostalgic awe-inspiring goodness of this show (yes, something five months old can be nostalgic), but I was so into this episode and its clever way of working around Ned’s insistence that he would no longer revive dead things, at least for the time being. It somehow ironically livened up the procedural aspect considerably, especially since Emerson and Chuck figured out pretty much everything even before Ned broke his pact with himself and went to the morgue with the two of them.

Instead of ignoring the Darlings, we got just the right amount of screen time from them without resorting to another flashback into their pasts. Instead rehashing old guests stars just for the sake of it, David Arquette and Diana Scarwid were essential plot items used 100% correctly. Instead of pushing Olive to the side as pretty much the entire first season did, she was front-and-center when she needed to be and elsewhere when she wasn’t.

Am I actually praising this show for simply using its ensemble well, something that would seem to be pretty much was you’re supposed to do with an ensemble show? Yes. Because it doesn’t happen enough on television. It should, but it doesn’t.

I’m so glad to get these aired in some form or another, followed by the leftover episodes of Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money, even if it is at 10 p.m. It’s always a shame to have to wait for the DVDs, usually released midway through the fall, so this is a nice present from the networks who saw the poor ratings for these three good shows and just had to cut them. Stay tuned for the leftover eps of Samantha Who, In The Motherhood and the not-canceled but cut-down first season of Better Off Ted during the rest of the summer. It’s actually quite a lovely idea, even if it is bittersweet.

The Wife:

We don’t usually do news here, but since I’m trying to decide what shows I can and can’t watch next year (thus, can and can’t cover) because of grad school, I figured I’d help you all out by sharing my handy-dandy season schedules for the major networks here at Children of St. Clare.

I’ve listed everything by hour, as most networks are running hour-long shows these days, so two half-hour shows are listed in the same box with the time the latter show starts in between them. If a show runs longer than one hour, I’ve indicated the length and listed it in the hour in which it starts. Asterisks (*) indicate new shows, and I’ll have some snap judgments on those shows following these graphics:

falllineupMTWRF

And here’s the weekend schedule for the fall, which, as you can see, is largely blank:

FallineupSS

In January, the networks will change to their midseason schedules:

midseasonlineupMTWRF

And here’s the weekend midseason schedule

midseasonlineupSS

Now, on the midseason schedule, you may notice some funny little symbols after the network names. Here are those footnotes:

  • # ABC has not yet announced its midseason lineup. The have, however, three new shows on deck: V, Happy Town and The Deep End, as well as returning shows Lost, Wife Swap, True Beauty, The Bachelor, Better Off Ted and Scrubs. Timeslots all to be determined.
  • + CBS has not yet announced its midseason lineup, but has the following shows for midseason replacements: Miami Trauma*, The Bridge*, Undercover Boss*, Arranged Marriage*, Rules of Engagement, Flashpoint
  • = CW’s midseason debut is Parental Discretion Advised, timeslot to be determined.
  • Additionally, Fox has Hell’s Kitchen scheduled for Summer 2010, and has Kitchen Nightmares on deck to fill holes in the schedule.

Now, for my snap judgments . . .

NBC: While we all know by now how I feel about Jay Leno, I can honestly tell you that the only one of their new shows I will definitely watch is Joel McHale’s comedy pilot Community, joining the NBC Thursday comedy block in 30 Rock‘s spot until it returns at midseason. Community has a good premise (McHale finds his college degree is invalid and must go back to community college to make up the credits), and has both McHale and Chevy Chase, who turned in a good performance as the villain at the end of Chuck season 2. I am overjoyed that Chuck is returning at midseason, as I think a 13-episode run will give us only the most super-concentrated awesomeness Chuck has to offer. I do not need another medical show in my life, so I’m declining Trauma and Michelle Trachtenberg’s nursing show, Mercy. 100 Questions looks so much like Friends that it is entirely out of the question for me. But then there’s Day One, which has a nice pedigree of coming from the people who work on Lost, Heroes and Fringe. It could be awesome, or it could be hokey, but I think it’s the only other promising thing NBC has to offer us.

ABC: I am delighted that ABC has given a permanent slot to Castle, allowing Nathan Fillion to prove he is charming, rakish and shouldn’t be a showkiller! He and Adam Baldwin have broken their own curse! Other than that, though, I am extremely concerned at how unimpressive the new shows debuting for fall seem, compared to the stuff ABC has on deck for midseason. Not a single one of the Wednesday night comedy block shows looks palatable. Hank looks downright abysmal, The Middle looks, well, middling, Modern Family falls flat and Cougar Town is trying way too hard. I might DVR Eastwick because I like Rebecca Romjin and Lindsay Price, but I have no emotional ties to either the previous film or the novel upon which it’s based to grab my immediate attention. I watched a clip from The Forgotten and I can tell you right now that I think it’s going to be the most dour procedural on television, and I certainly don’t need that in my life. I am, however, intrigued by Flash Forward because I like both time travel and Joseph Fiennes. But what sounds really interesting are the midseason shows. The Deep End is about law students and, out of all the ABC clips I watched, it certainly has the most character, pizzazz and joy. It also has Tina Majorino, looking the prettiest she’s ever looked. I will give that a shot when it premeires. I will also give hardcore sci-fi reboot V a shot, as we certainly don’t have any shows on network TV currently dealing with alien invasion, and I’m really jazzed on the trailer for Happy Town, which seems like its going to be a slightly more normal Twin Peaks (in that its a small town mystery), only this time, with Amy Acker!

FOX: I’m wary of a fall edition of SYTYCD, but I do see the benefit of it giving FOX a consistent schedule so that things don’t get shitfucked when Idol rolls around at midseason. Perhaps, if this is a success, going forward we’ll have to find a new totally awesome summer reality competition . . . maybe one for actors? OR MAYBE WE CAN MAKE A TRIPLE THREAT SHOW BECAUSE I WOULD TOTALLY WATCH THAT????? (Please, FOX?!!!!) Fox is actually my favorite of the networks so far, actually. I’m happy to see they’ve renewed Dollhouse and paired Bones with Fringe, which makes for a really rockin’ Thursday. Also excited to see Sons of Tucson with Tyler Labine as it looks pretty funny from the promo.  Human Target looks pretty fun, too. And you best fucking bet I will be watching Glee. The only thing I think I’d really pass on, here, is Past Life, and that’s just because I’m not really interested in seeing a show that solves crimes using past life regression (although one of my favorite X-Files episodes has exactly that conceit). So, rock on, FOX. You are my winner for next season.

CBS: I will be skipping pretty much every new show on CBS this year as they continue to build their police procedural empire. However, I will give a try to the new Monday comedy Accidentally on Purpose, even though it’s based on the memoirs of a film critic I don’t like very much, the Contra Costa Times‘ Mary F. Pols, who can’t seem to see the good in anything at all. The show is set in San Francisco, though Pols lives somewhere in the Walnut Creek area in reality, I assume, and Jenna Elfman plays the fictional version of Pols’ film critic who accidentally gets pregnant by a younger, one-night stand and decides to keep the baby, and it’s daddy. I generally like Jenna Elfman and, of course, adore Grant Show, who will be playing her boss. I will also give Three Rivers a shot, because it stars Moonlight‘s Alex O’Laughlin and its about organ donation, so there’s a chance I could see him repeat at least part of his horrifying performance in Feed, a film in which he kidnaps obese women and feeds them their own fat until they die. (How he would repeat part of that performance, I don’t know, but I’d like to see CBS try.)

CW: Will I watch a show produced by Ashton Kutcher about teenage models called The Beautiful Life? Yes, I will. Will I watch a show about teenage vampires called The Vampire Diaries? Indeed, I would probably watch something like that, as long as it sucked in a good way and not a bad way. Melrose Place? I have even less of a connection to that show than to 90210, so I’m not inclined to watch the reboot — especially since Ashlee Simpson’s on it. But, hey, I might need some mind-numbing crap to counterbalance all my grad school reading, so perhaps. I’ll give Melrose Place a perhaps, a perhaps perhaps, even, if I choose to continue watching 90210, making my Tuesday nights just like 1992. I am, however, surprised that CW axed the Gossip Girl spin-off, as even though I didn’t like the backdoor pilot, I did think the show had potential. I’m also surprised they axed Jason Dohring and Minka Kelly’s legal show, Body Politic, if only because I was hoping both former Moonlight vampires would have jobs come fall, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for Josef Kostan nee Logan Echolls.

So, as the curtain on this TV season falls, you can look forward to me actually writing about Mad Men this summer, as well as many, many articles on SYTYCD. After that, I’m going to have to see what my fall schedule is like and compare it to the above fall schedules to see what I can really watch and what I can, in turn, cover.

I’ll make you guys a chart of all that later.

The Wife:

I’d be lying if I said that the pilot of Ryan Murphy’s Glee was perfect. It was far from it, but so much of the show is so winning that it’s easy to overlook its few flaws and fully embrace it. It’s not a silly musical in the slightest. Ryan Murphy has always treated music with much more respect than that, even when he’s being ironic or cheeky during surgeries on Nip/Tuck. On that show, the surgery music is used to dig deeply into something as seemingly superficial as plastic surgery. Sometimes it’s funny (such as the use of Don McLean’s “Vincent” during a surgery in which Rosie O’Donnell as Dawn Budge gets a transplant ear grown on a mouse’s back . . . it’s a long story), and sometimes it’s incredibly moving (to this day, I can’t hear Leo Delibes “Flower Duet” without thinking about conjoined twins Rose and Raven Rosenburg, who died after their separation surgery and asked to be put back together when they were buried).

On Glee, the music functions as it should in any great musical: it’s intended to give us an insight into the characters, and I can think of no better example of this than Lea Michele’s (Broadway’s Spring Awakening) audition song for the new glee club, “On My Own” from Les Miserables. I hate Les Mis, but to hear Rachel Berry sing it while hearing about her backstory was the most sublime use of that song. You see, despite the fact that Rachel’s two gay dads raised her to be an overachiever and to strive to be known in the world because “being anonymous is worse than being poor,” she’s lambasted by her peers for being talented, for being different. She posts daily MySpace videos of herself singing in her bedroom, all of which receive comments from her peers basically suggesting she should kill herself (cyberbullying that would probably destroy someone with less self-confidence). She also often has things thrown at her, because for as much of a type-A personality as she is, Rachel is, in fact, on her own. She might be a little cocky and a little dogged in her quest to be special, as evidenced by her claim that the former glee club director molested the boy he gave Rachel’s solo to, but there is something in her that deserves to be recognized for who she is. And there is a tremendous sadness in the fact that no one sees her specialness but her . . . and her two gay dads.

Glee: what this show will be filling me with Wednesday nights at 9 in the fall.

Glee: what this show will be filling me with Wednesday nights at 9 in the fall.

So with the former glee club director out of the picture and the club in danger of being shut down, Matthew Morrison’s Spanish teacher Will Shuster decides he should take over. After all, Will sees that these kids need a place where they won’t be bullied, and where they can cultivate their talent. But as usual, the activities in which the popular kids reign get more funding, especially The Cheerios, the cheer team coached by Jane Lynch, which receives the bulk of the school’s budget because they keep winning national competitions and bringing the school a lot of press, which ultimately means more funding. So Will is allowed to operate glee club, recently renamed New Directions (which is weird for me, because that’s the name of a counseling center that a friend I know from high school theatre works for), on a $60 budget, which struck me as incredibly realistic given the dire nature of arts education in America, by which I mean, the lack thereof. But even that $60 budget eventually gets cut and Will is asked to run New Directions with his own $60, something that is, for him, very difficult because he lives off his teaching salary and his wife’s 12-hours-a-week job at Sheets and Stuff.

We meet a lot of characters over the course of this hour-long pilot, but even though there are some of the glee kids we don’t know all that well, I’d say that Jessalyn Gilsig’s Terri is the least well-drawn. Terri is obsessed with an idea of womanhood that allows her to contribute little to her marriage and spend all of her time crafting and decorating. She’s largely just a stand-in for the thing that’s holding Will back from what he really wants from life. But that said, I think Jessalyn Gilsig, as always, turns in a brilliant performance of very little material. I mean, this is a woman who nearly suffocated her own daughter in a cargo hold (on Heroes) and, more importantly, a woman who got fucked off a building (on Nip/Tuck). I am certainly not used to her playing someone demure, and she creates a sort of quiet insanity in Terri that makes her seem both utterly unreal and yet absolutely the kind of woman who thinks her life should be what she sees in magazines. She is deeply shallow, and I think there’s something exceptional about placing a character like that amongst so many other deeply real people. She’s a wonderful contrast.

[Husband Note: Gilsig also did wonders with the quite poorly written role of teacher Lauren “The Nun” Davis on Boston Public, as well an incredible job as the oblivious sister-in-law-party-girl-way-past-her-prime on Friday Night Lights. She’s not the best actor, but she’s a serviceable television performer, and that’s good enough for me.]

Because Terri won’t give Will an extra $60 a month to run glee club (as she’d rather spend it on trinkets from Pottery Barn and crafts), he tries to drum up more membership around the school, taking guidance counselor Emma’s (the lovely and talented Jayma Mays) advice to recruit a few popular kids into glee club, and the rest will follow. He tries to get a few Cheerios in the club, but Jane Lynch’s Sue refuses to give up her girls, setting up a rivalry between the glee kids and the cheerleaders that I’m sure will continue throughout the series. But then, by a stroke of luck, he catches football star Finn singing in the shower, and blackmails him into joining glee club by “planting” some weed from the Chronic Lady (the former glee club director’s new profession: dealing weed) in his locker and telling him that he can spend six weeks in detention (which Will is now running, unpaid, due to budget cuts) which will go on his permanent record, or he can join glee. There was a moment in this scene that I truly loved because it was very representative of how Glee likes to play with cliches from high school movies. Will tells Finn that if he chooses detention, it’ll stay on his permanent record and they’ll take away his football scholarship. Finn asks, incredulously, “I got a football scholarship? To where?” And because that’s just something Will said because he heard it in a movie, he continues on, “You could go places, son.”

With Finn in the club, Will takes New Directions to see the current national show choir champions, and Emma decides to chaperone, as Terri has already turned Will down for some crafting-related outing. Emma, who clearly likes Will, is something of a germaphobe, a trait Jayma Mays does not play up for comic effect, but rather allows into the open with a kind of reserved sadness. In addition to cleaning surfaces in the teacher’s lounge with disposable gloves before she eats off of them, she brings her own food, even to public events, ands he and Will have a conversation about the state of his marriage to Terri over a peanut butter sandwich prior to the choir concert. Over that sandwich, which he says he never gets to eat because Terri is allergic to nuts, he confesses that he’s not entirely happy with his marriage. There’s just something about his relationship with Terri that isn’t working, but he rationalizes that it’s okay because he does love her, and he does want to have children with her, even if they aren’t totally happy. If you want to know why they’re not happy, look at the scene in which Terri makes Will do a puzzle with her in her craft room while she tells him it’s important for him to have a creative outlet, while in the same breath telling him that she doesn’t want him to run glee club because they don’t make enough money with him teaching. She’d rather he be an accountant, the epitome of jobs that lack creativity.

The rival choir puts on a ridiculous performance of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” which is stunningly choreographed and sounds great, but is obviously wildly inappropriate for a high school choir to sing and is incredibly funny if you absolutely don’t ever take your mind off of the lyrics. You just can’t do choreographed lifts when you’re singing a line like, “I’m gonna lose my baby / so I always keep a bottle near me.” (On the other hand, though, I think you absolutely can sing “I Kissed a Girl” for a glee club audition, because that’s just funny.) Clearly, a performance of that caliber is intimidating, but that’s not all of the problems facing New Directions. Finn’s teammates find out that he’s been lying to them about where he had to go when he missed practice. They are not pleased that he pretended his mom was having prostate surgery, and pelt him with paintballs. (“Chicks don’t have prostates. I looked it up.”) Finn eventually stands up to his football teammates when he finds that they’ve locked the wheelchair kid in a port-a-potty, telling them that, like Troy Bolton in High School Musical, he’s not going to choose between being a jock and being a singer. He’s going to do both. “Because you can’t win without me, and neither can they,” he snarls.

And when Terri announces that she’s pregnant, Will quits, following his wife’s suggestion to apply for a job at an accounting firm, leaving his newly formed club without a mentor. Emma tries to talk some sense into him, setting him up with a guidance appointment with her when she catches him filling out an accounting application at H.L. Mencken (oddly, named after a writer and literary critic for the Baltimore Sun who had some interesting ideas on elitism within social classes, rather than a traditional class or race-based social hierarchy . . . I must miss Lost a lot if I’m looking for these kind of references on other shows). Emma shows Will a video of the year the school’s glee club won nationals. It was 1993, and Will was in that choir. And he was happy. She asks him if providing money for his wife and child is really the same thing as providing them happiness, but being a man of his word, he heads off, presumably never to return.

Meanwhile, Rachel and Finn have taken over New Directions and have recruited the jazz band to help them stage their first performance, with Mercedes doing costumes, Rachel choreographing and Finn doing vocal arrangements. As Will heads down the eternal hallway, he hears them singing strains of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” another instance of perfect music choice. Not only does it serve as a ballad for these kids who just want to believe they’re good at something, but for soloists Finn and Rachel, those opening lines serve as portraits of themselves. Never before have I been teary-eyed hearing someone sing, “Just a small town girl / Living in a lonely world” or the phrase “S/he took the midnight train goin’ anywhere” until last night. They took that song, and made it transcendent – enough to make me believe in the beauty, sadness, humor and joy of this little show and enough to convince Will not to leave, but to remain with New Directions.

This is a show about lonely, sad people, trying to find something that actually makes them happy, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t made happy by music. So even for those of you who don’t really like or get musicals, know that Glee is simply about people trying to find happiness, and that happiness is achieved through music. I also take that last song as something of a plea to those of us who watched Glee and everyone at FOX, executives who clearly believe in taking a risk like this enough to promote it now and schedule it for Wednesdays at 9 p.m. throughout next season, picking up on SYTYCD results shows and Idol results shows as a built-in audience. FOX wants us to believe in Glee, and I do. Your Journey-infused plea has not fallen on deaf ears, Ryan Murphy.

I believe, I believe, I believe. Oh, I believe.

Some other notes:

  • “I’m Beyonce! I aint’s no Kelly Rowland.” – Really, Mercedes? Because you seemed so happy to be asked to do costumes later in the episode. Are you sure you don’t want to host The Fashion Show on Bravo?
  • For as much of a monster as I think Jessalyn Gilsig’s Terri is, she’s really funny. Two winners from her: “If my diabetes comes back I can’t get pregnant” and “Don’t go in the Christmas Closet!”
  • I’m told the first episode aired in the fall will be a re-edited pilot. My first edit: eliminating the references to MySpace and replacing it with something more culturally relevant. Like the word, “Facebook.” Or maybe even “YouTube” in some cases.
  • Spring Awakening fans, that last line was for you.


The Husband:

I honestly thought we were going to wait to review this show until the fall, but as it stands, here it is.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to find many parallels, mostly in tone and narration, between Glee and Alexander Payne’s biting 1999 high school satire Election. Not only do we get some wonderfully insightful yet overly self-centered internal monologues from our main characters at only the most opportune times, and also revel in both the show’s insistence on clichés and its subversion of them, but Cory Montheith, the actor who plays Finn, bears a striking resemblance to a young Chris Klein. (You know, before Chris Klein started sucking.)

This is quite a show, just from the pilot, what with its heightened emotions, its parody of high school affectations, its very focused jokes and, of course, the usage of Journey. True, there were some considerable lulls, and I thought the Finn transformation happened way too early, but there is definitely something special about this show. A dramedy of the highest order, I hope it helps brings even more respect to the musical form.

And on that, some might argue this isn’t a musical. Yes it is. It’s just not a “traditional musical.” People don’t have to break out into song, but simply have the music define much of the piece itself. And Ryan Murphy, as my wife pointed out, is very specific about his song choices, so “Don’t Stop Believin’” as sung by Finn and Rachel, knowing what we know about them, defines who they are, amplifies their backstory, and fits perfectly into this world. Sounds like a musical to me. Definitely as much of a musical as Cabaret.

The Wife:

The Dollhouse season/series finale (and I’m betting it’s the latter) was certainly some of the series’ finest work, confirming my Dr. Saunders-is-a-doll theory and engaging in some interesting cyberpunk conceits. As a finale, I think this episode admirably wrapped up the season and, since the central arc was essentially completed, could serve to wrap up the series, as well. But, as any good season finale-that-might-be-a-series-finale should be, there are open doors through which to proceed should FOX get Dollhouse a greenlight for 12 more episodes. (Or 13. Depending.)

When Alpha abducted Echo from the Dollhouse, he stole all of her former imprints, and destroyed the backup copy of her original “Caroline” personality. Topher struggles to find out which of her imprints he would have uploaded into her before absconding, and discovers that it was never one of Echo’s imprints at all, but one of Whiskey’s.

A tall glass of Whiskey.

A tall glass of Whiskey.

Three or so years ago, Whiskey and Alpha were sent out on a paired engagement, basically playing Mickey and Mallory from Natural Born Killers in some dude’s totally weird torture/porn fantasy. Alpha, programmed with a personality prone to paranoid delusions, started to take things too far, which in turn called in the handlers to break things up, but not, of course, until after the reveal that the silhouetted woman he was working with wasn’t Echo at all, but Whiskey . . . and after Whiskey and Alpha proceeded to have some totally hot foreplay with their captive. (This is, I guess, the only reason one should ever want to be kidnapped by Mickey and Mallory, because otherwise that’s a pretty fucking terrible idea!)

And here’s where I take a moment to thank Joss Whedon for giving us Amy Acker in stripper clothes. She’s so much more beautiful and has so much more range than Eliza Dushku that I’d rather watch a spin-off prequel about her character. I mean, really, Dushku has basically only been Faith for most of this series, whereas Acker has been someone completely different than Fred. And we already know she’s a great actress. Let’s all take a moment to shudder in remembrance of the Ilyria arc on Angel.

But as to the Mickey-and-Mallory imprints, it seems Alpha chose them in part because his Mickey personality was dominant at the time, and in part because it was the most convenient way to go on a kidnapping spree. He and Echo-as-Mallory, only minutes out of the Dollhouse, kidnap a young girl named Wendy and drag her back to Alpha’s lair. He was astute enough to call in a bomb threat to the building and lock everyone else inside the Dollhouse so they’d have greater difficulty finding him, and Paul Ballard (who also doesn’t have a whole lot of range or characterization, thanks to Tahmoh Penikett) puts himself in charge of reconstructing what happened on the day Alpha went rogue.

It seems Alpha was obsessed with Echo from the day Caroline strode into the Dollhouse for her pre-Activation tour. Caroline makes a comment about how the Dolls all seem like zombies waiting for tasty brains, which I thought was a pretty cute, sly nod to her Hulu commercial, as well as an accurate assessment of living without a personality. Per the Mickey-and-Mallory flashback, it seems Alpha was routinely paired with Whiskey on engagements, as she was, at the time, the Dollhouse’s most requested Active. And because of his fascination with Echo, he one day took a pair of scissors to Whiskey’s face during art class, eerily demanding, “Whiskey, let Echo be number one.” And so Whiskey was broken, and Alpha was to be given a full diagnostic, wiped and then sent to the Attic (despite his protestations that “I was making art”). During the diagnostic, though, he resists, creating that famous composite event where all of his former imprints uploaded into his brain, causing him to not have multiple personalities, but to be multiple personalities, as other brains shifted, randomly, into his own consciousness at any given moment. And so that killing spree occurred, in which he preserved the one person he thought was different and special: Echo.

At his power plant lair, Alpha uploads Caroline’s brain into poor unsuspecting Wendy with his own version of Topher’s chair, and forces “Caroline” to confront her own body. This was absolutely my favorite part of the series so far, as I felt it finally engaged in some commentary on theories of consciousness and embodiment rather than just bringing something up through a moral lense (such as the show’s constant dialogue about slavery and freedom, which also is brought up in the most eye-rolling way possible during this otherwise great scene). Alpha shows “Caroline” her body and chastises her for abandoning it, making a strange bid to privilege the corporeal and temporal over permanent, ethereal cyber-consciousness. I found this bid to punish Caroline’s mind for abandoning her body especially strange in light of Alpha’s next assertion that, if he makes Echo like him, they can be supreme beings, gods or supermen (or, literally, the Alpha and Omega), because they are not one person with multiple personalities, but one body comprised of many people, able to shift in and out of consciousnesses at any minute.

To make her into Omega, Alpha uploads all of Echo’s imprints into her, hoping that she will do as he did when he emerged from his composite event and destroy her original consciousness. In this case, to kill “Caroline.” But Echo as Omega seems to have a slightly better grip on reality and juggling multiple consciousnesses than Alpha does, and realizes it’s pretty insane to destroy one’s primary consciousness, so she instead swings at him. She disagrees with his theories on the übermensch, because even though they may be everybody, in the sense that they are many people, they still aren’t someone without their original personalities.

That notion of being “someone,” I think, is what Alpha’s addled brain is rallying against by destroying his own original brain and asking Echo to destroy hers. To Alpha, a body with just one brain in it, one consciousness, is to be “someone,” which is to be less than “everyone,” privileging a multiple consciousness, an ever-shifting collective over the singular, individual consciousness. I really like this conceit as it subverts the notion of what it means to be an “everyman” in narratives. This whole time, we’ve looked at the Dolls as “everymen,” capable of having attributes projected onto them, but now we’re asked to read Alpha and Omega’s composite personalities as “everymen” in a literal sense, which renders them godlike, in Alpha’s conception, and, therefore, utterly singular. Uniqueness here is achieved by subverting the traditional notion of an “everyman,” and that’s pretty clever.

Barring that reading, I would find it very odd for Alpha to spend time punishing Caroline’s brain for abandoning her body, when he went on to destroy his own. Especially when he utters the most cyperpunk line in the entire series as he uploads Caroline into Wendy: “A body’s just a body. They’re all pretty much the same.” And he’s right: bodies aren’t special, but consciousness is. This show’s entire conceit has privileged the consciousness over the corporeal, uploading new people into blanked out bodies and sending them off to do the extraordinary or the ordinary. A body is only meat and flesh and organs, something that can be marked, scarred, broken or destroyed while the consciousness, especially the kind that is downloaded or uploaded at will, that lives on. And I couldn’t be happier that Dollhouse finally made it to a point where it engaged in its own conceits. (Props to you, Tim Minear!)

Thus ends our brief, poorly-executed literary theory section of this post. I promise only summary/brief commentary from now on.

While Alpha, Wendy/Caroline and Echo/Omega are having theoretical fun in his lair of doom, Ballard manages to get the bomb threat called off so he and others can go hunt down Alpha and their missing Doll. Sierra and November are imprinted as thieves, for some reason, in the one plot thread that never actually goes anywhere, which I think was added just to make Ballard uncomfortable at seeing the woman he kind of cared for uploaded with a new personality. He also discovers that Alpha and some of the other original dolls were taken from a prison population, and that, as a convict, Carl Craft (later known as Alpha) was also prone to carving up people’s faces and kidnapping. (So perhaps one never leaves one’s original consciousness behind, even when erased?)

Meanwhile Dr. Saunders tends to Victor, whose lovely face will now be scarred worse than her own. She’s actually not very kind to him, reminding him that he will never, ever be able to be his best again, that he’ll basically suffer the fate she suffered: being uploaded with a new personality for the remainder of his contract with the Dollhouse and working on the inside, as a Doll with scars is a broken Doll. (I’ll spare you more theory/analysis on bodily marking, abjecta and the horrific powers of scars, even though I assure you I really, really, really want to say something about it.) You see, once Whiskey was broken by Alpha, and he killed the original Dr. Saunders (who was an old dude who liked lollipops), they made her useful by uploading his skillset and temperament into her body. I feel so badly for Victor, whose life will never be normal again. He won’t notice it now, but when his contract is up, he will. Maybe Topher can make one of the Dolls into a plastic surgeon and fix most of Victor’s scars. He’s almost too valuable to lose as a Doll.

Why couldn't she climb to the top of the ratings? She can do practically everything else.

Why couldn't she climb to the top of the ratings? She can do practically everything else.

Back in the power plant, Echo agrees that she won’t kill her own consciousness (after the world’s most eye-rollingly on-the-nose speech about how she has 37 different brains in her head and not a one of them thinks you can sign a contract to be a slave, especially when there’s a black president), Alpha threatens to break Wendy’s personality so that she can never have it back, revealing his plan to basically live out his days kidnapping people, and putting Echo’s consciousness into them so that she can repeatedly kill herself (and yet never kill herself . . . which is where his argument descends into crazyville). She chases him outside to save Wendy’s consciousness and literally goes out on a limb for the girl, crawling on a construction beam to get to the wedge. Conveniently, Boyd and Ballard have figured out where Alpha’s lair is by this point and Ballard manages to position himself right under Echo, catching the wedge as it falls and saving the girl. Alpha escapes (thus setting up the chase to continue should there be a next season).

Back at the Dollhouse, Ballard agrees to contract for DeWitt to help track down Alpha, but only if November’s contract is voided and she gets to return to her own life, which was pretty sweet and unexpected of Ballard to do, and proves that, in some small way, he did care about Mellie, even though she was never real. And Echo? She gets wiped clean, at least for the foreseeable future.

I’d be surprised if Fox gives Dollhouse a second season, but with such a strong sweep (save for “Haunted”) heading into the finale, they’d be remiss not to. It’s not the smartest show on TV, but it tries hard enough to be. And I’d rather watch something with which I can engage than something that doesn’t ask me to at all.

The Husband:

Hell, I can ignore about half of the Dollhouse episodes and still be confident enough with the other half, especially the last two and the Rashomon episode, to demand a second season. Just like Buffy and Angel, it took its time to get its intelligence and cleverness past the network and finally become a true Whedon show, one of big ideas, big laughs and big action. While I felt the first handful of episodes really talked down to its viewers (something that FOX surprisingly does not do very often with its dramas, and far less so than the #1 network, CBS), it finally started asking us to put the pieces together, and play along with the show as it progressed through its actual mytharc.

As I didn’t really give a crap about this show for a few weeks, I was surprised at how emotional I felt during this finale, especially during the Alpha flashbacks. This may have a great deal to do with how much I have grown to love Amy Acker over the last nine months while I watched Angel, but also my extreme amount of respect for Alan Tudyk as an actor ever since I saw him in A Knight’s Tale. (It took me another three years to discover that he wasn’t British.) The moment he slashed up Whiskey’s face was probably the series’ best moment, one of both great despair and, in a really fucked up way, love. I’m so glad I called the fact that Whiskey only became Dr. Saunders after she was slashed up, and that she wasn’t necessarily the second Doll, and that it in turn gave me a reason as to why Dr. Saunders would be afraid of Alpha, even if she wouldn’t have remembered him as an activated active and not as Whiskey.

While my wife geeks out on cyberpunk, I’m more interested in the broader concept of a soul, or in this case, how despite being a superpersonality, Alpha original form, Carl Craft, tends to dominate and thus fucks up the rest of the Dollhouse by basically being Jack the Ripper. It explains away some of the contradictions in Alpha’s “quest” versus his own killer instinct, the highbrow and lowbrow of what’s going down in that fried brizzain.

Ballard still sucks, though, but now that he’s in cahoots with the Dollhouse, maybe he can redeem himself as a character if the show gets renewed.

Which brings me to the renewal question. I wholeheartedly think that had FOX not dumped it on Friday nights, pairing it with the sinking second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, it would have definitely earned a second season. Can you imagine how Fringe would do on such a shitty night with such a shitty pairing? Why not put Dollhouse on Mondays after either House or Bones (the ever-shifting hits of different proportions)? I think going up against Heroes, which some might consider stupid, would actually be a great concept. Heroes is hemorrhaging viewers each week, viewers who’d do better with the similar-but-better Dollhouse, so FOX could easily snag those viewers away, viewers who’d perhaps prefer something a bit more rewarding. And at 9, it could basically take all of those viewers who love Chuck at 8 but ignore Heroes (…as I raise my hand…), because Chuck was designed for Whedonites, the smart nerdy crowd who’d follow Adam Baldwin anywhere. It’s a dirty tactic, sure, but it’s not a new concept.

Come on. Even if many great shows have failed ratings-wise this season, at least they were given a second chance after the WGA strike. Money is money, so wouldn’t you love to capture the intelligent 18-34 bracket who are smart enough to have a disposable income? Because those people are called Whedonites.

The Wife:

For those of you who aren’t entirely aware of the situation going on at the networks right now, Chuck is in danger of being canceled. And it’s not entirely because the show doesn’t have viewership. It’s because of Jay Leno. It took me a bit to come to anger about NBC’s decision to give Leno the 10 p.m. slot five nights a week. At first, I just thought it was sad that there would be five pilots that wouldn’t be seen, and that it really sucked for Conan O’Brien who would still be in Leno’s shadow. But then I realized that in addition to those five pilots that wouldn’t be seen (which, of course, means thousands of people who, because of Jay Leno, will not have jobs), the few shows that are currently succeeding in NBC’s desolate 10 p.m. hour would have to be shifted forward into the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. timeslots. NBC has three editions of Law & Order, a very successful franchise that will most certainly be given 9 p.m. timeslots. Heroes has been renewed, even though I’m not watching it anymore, which will either keep its 9 p.m. slot or be shifted to 8 p.m. Medium and Southland are doing well enough that they might be shifted to 9 p.m. timeslots. What that basically means is that four shows that currently have a 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. timeslot will have to be canceled to shift the 10 p.m. shows into the schedule. Chuck is in severe danger as an “on the bubble” show of succumbing to this fate. (Technically, Medium and Southland are also “on the bubble,” but I have a feeling NBC will end up renewing those over Chuck. I’ve heard good buzz about Southland, and I think people watch Medium, although I have no idea who those people would be.) If Chuck gets canceled, it’s not because it isn’t a good show. It’s purely Jay Leno’s fault.

And, to reiterate, because of Jay Leno, five pilots will not air, which means that thousands of new jobs won’t be created. Because of Jay Leno, four shows will likely be canceled, which means thousands of jobs will also be lost. It’s a pretty bleak economy, and NBC has just made it worse for those who earn their bread and butter as PAs, grips, wardrobers, gaffers, makeup artists, writers and set dressers. This is not a good thing to happen to the television industry, after so many were out of work for months during last year’s pre-economic downturn writer’s strike. Just think about that before you contemplate catching Leno before Conan. Support NBC’s other programs. And, while it’s still here, support Chuck. Because the past two episodes have been totally fucking amazing.

The two-part search to find where Fulcrum has stashed Scott Bakula begins with Chuck’s earnest plea to do whatever it takes to find his dad, even if that means removing Jill from custody to get close to her uncle Bernie (whose nutsack you have seen in Borat, by the way). To do this, Chuck and Jill fake an engagement and, when gangster Bernie realizes something is very not right about the situation, he threatens to kill the couple in the attic (after an amazing chase scene set to Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf”) . . . until he has a heart attack and dies on the spot, earning Chuck his titular “first kill.”

Uh, is this where the GRE Subject test is being held?

Uh, is this where the GRE Subject test is being held?

Unfortunately, Bernie dies without giving over the information they’d need, so Sarah is ready to send Jill back to jail, but Chuck, on advice from Morgan to trust the person you trust the least, lobbies to keep his end of the deal he struck with her. This proves especially useful when Bernie’s cell phone rings and Chuck answers, finding out that Fulcrum has plans to move Orion. Jill says she recognizes the address and Sarah begrudgingly agrees to let her go with them. It’s Fulcrum’s recruitment center, so Chuck and Casey pose as potential Fulcrum agents and try to bypass security to get to the 8th floor where Orion is being held, but to no avail. They walk through Fulcrum’s propagandized halls and are forced to take the aptitude test, which Fulcrum uses to separate Chuck from Casey. Realizing this, Sarah and Jill break in and start raining hellfire down on the Fulcrum agents that surround them while Casey, dressed as a window washer, shoots through the windows of the high rise to save Chuck. Jill escapes in the ensuing melee and catches up with Chuck who, after accidentally pushing Fulcrum’s head of recruitment out the window is also dangling precariously in an attempt to save him. Jill pulls back Chuck, causing him to drop the Fulcrum agent, bringing his kill tally to a total of two.

Chuck learns that Fulcrum has moved his father to an outpost in Barstow, CA called the Black Rock (and yes, the potential for a time travel-induced Lost crossover did enter my mind), and he allows Jill to escape by letting her keep the very expensive engagement ring provided to her by the government so that she can get away and have money to live off of with no paper trail. Although Chuck wants to rescue his father, the General fears that because the asset has been exposed to Fulcrum for what it really is, the project has to be shut down, with Chuck kept in lockdown in Washington, D.C. until the storm passes. Sarah is sent to the Buy More to catch the unsuspecting Chuck, and in a moment where we’re sure that Sarah is going to betray our hero, she turns around and whispers to him that she was sent to take him to lockdown, but that they’re going to the Black Rock, as she casts off his watch.

I wrote at the end of my notes that this episode was a total game-changer, and with the subsequent episode, I can tell you that Chuck is riding so high right now that, if it does succumb to cancellation, it will at least go out on an excellent end-of-season/series arc because “Chuck vs. the Colonel” was even more game-changing than “Chuck vs. the First Kill.” With Sarah and Chuck gone AWOL, the General sends Casey after them with the enticement that, as this will be his last mission with the Intersect project, he will have his pick of missions thereafter and will be promoted to Colonel. (It’s pretty difficult to make Colonel. In fact, let me take a minute to be extremely impressed that General Beckman is a woman. Women almost never make General or Admiral. There are, I believe, only 57 women of that rank in the United States.) Casey starts his search by looking for clues at Chuck’s home, only to be confronted by Ellie and Awesome, at which time he panics and tells the fretting bride that her brother hasn’t shown up for work and he was just looking for clues to see where Chuck would be. And then very inauspiciously exits through Chuck’s window.

This raises Awesome’s suspicions about Casey, and he heads to the Buy More to ask Lester and Jeff what they know about Casey. Despite the store being in the throes of the takeover by Emmett Milbarge (who tricked Morgan into helping him usurp Big Mike’s position by pretending that the performance review was to get Emmett promoted to store manager at another store) Lester and Jeff are eager to break into Casey’s store locker and show Awesome the contents of Casey’s secret locker, which contains not only a photo of President Reagan, but also a Chuck diary, in which Casey has recorded Chuck’s every bathroom break in the two years he’s worked at the Buy More.

Sarah and Chuck find the Black Rock, which is sadly not an old slaver on a mysterious island, but a desolate drive-in, under which the base is located. They check in to a nearby motel and wake up cuddling, which quickly turns into something more, and would have turned into every Chuck and Sarah ‘shippers dream had Morgan not stolen Chuck’s only condom and replaced it with an IOU. (I appreciate that Chuck practices safe sex, but am surprised that someone smart enough to go to Stanford keeps a condom in his wallet.) As Chuck heads out to buy another condom, Casey catches up to him and is prepared to also capture Sarah, but she’s already set up a Casey trap in their room so they can escape. After knocking Casey out, she chains him to the radiator. As they’re about to takeoff, they realize that Fulcrum’s around, and Chuck insists on heading back for Casey . . . who has already torn the radiator off the wall and hopped in the car moments after Sarah leaves to get him. She is captured by Fulcrum and the two agents battle it out with the Fulcrum captors (Casey using his radiator as both a shield and an accessory), eventually landing Chuck and Sarah in Casey’s backseat as they make their way back to Burbank. The drive-in flashes a “12AMTRON” sign on their way out of the Black Rock – a message from Papa Bartowski – but Casey won’t turn back.

Youre out of ammo, Walker. And I could still beat you with a radiator.

You're out of ammo, Walker. And I could still beat you with a radiator.

Awesome breaks into Casey’s apartment and gets locked in by his absurdly secure security system, while Lester and Jeff stage an attempt to make Emmett look bad by shutting down the power at the Buy More with some explosives they found in Casey’s locker. They end up blowing out the power for a few large blocks of Burbank, shutting down the power in the Castle just long enough for Sarah and Chuck to escape their holding cell and get to Casey’s apartment in time to break up the brawl between two such awesome men. At a loss for words to explain the situation, Chuck tells Awesome he’s a spy and hands him his own spy mission to keep Ellie calm and not let her in on the situation until the wedding. As cool as Awesome thinks it is that Chuck is a spy, he has a really hard time not spilling the beans to Ellie. Man, it’s a lot of pressure to be that awesome, I guess.

Sarah and Chuck head out to the drive-in again to try and find the Black Rock at the site, but General Beckman wants to annihilate the site. Casey catches up to Sarah and Chuck and tells them about Beckman’s plan, as well as his own intention to follow through with his word to help save Chuck’s father.


“One more step it’ll be your last. No hugs!” – Casey


The trio pulls up to the drive-in to see dozens of sports cars robotically peeling back their convertible lids with besuited men inside them, all positioned for the midnight screening. Roark, happy that Papa Bartowski has completed his Intersect, stands atop the screen and announces his plan to create an army of human intersects in pretty much the fucking coolest use of an old drive-in ever. Chuck heads off to the projection room to stop the showing and walks right into Roark’s trap. He’s unable to stop the show, but demands that everyone in the room who doesn’t want to succumb to his fate close their eyes. Papa Bartowski tells Chuck that it’s okay for him to look because he made this Intersect for Chuck . . . to erase the one that’s already in his head. Roark is furious that Bartowski outwitted him but Beckman’s airstrike hits the drive-in before Roark can get his hands on either Bartowski. Scott Bakula grabs his Intersect-eraser and his son and piles into Casey’s car, where Chuck wakes and realizes that his life can finally be normal again – in every way possible. He is free.

Seriously, how creepy is this image? Never before has someone made me think a drive-in is creepy. Its usually where I go to watch terrible movies and eat Chinese take-out in my car.

Seriously, how creepy is this image? Never before has someone made me think a drive-in is creepy. It's usually where I go to watch terrible movies and eat Chinese take-out in my car.

Morgan also realizes he can be free of the life he’s been trapped in during the Emmett vs. Big Mike battle for control of the Buy More, and strips off his assman chains (as assistant manager) and declares that he will go to Hawaii to study the ancient art of hibachi and fulfill his dream of becoming a Benihana chef. And he’s taking Anna with him. Both Bartowski men make it home in time for Ellie’s rehearsal dinner, and she couldn’t be happier to have her brother and her father at her side. Even though Casey has no ties to Chuck anymore, Chuck invites him to Ellie’s rehearsal dinner as a friend, and he accepts, which just goes to show that even the heart of a cold-hearted killing machine can be warmed over by the prospect of an open bar. And Sarah is finally free to attend the event as Chuck’s real girlfriend. Even though it’s not said, the smile on her face as she takes his hand in the courtyard says it all. But I doubt this idyll will last long, as Roark has somehow survived the air strike and is hitching his way to Burbank to crash Ellie’s wedding as we speak. (Husband Note: He presumably had a safety bunker underneath the playground rocking horse he taps knowingly.)

These two episodes were filled with excellent spy work, humor and, in the case of “Chuck vs. the Colonel,” truly dizzying action sequences which, I think, were the strongest of the whole series. Although I truly hate the fact that Chuck might not come back next fall, I feel that if the series does end, it will feel like a complete story has been told, and I can be happy with that. Although, truthfully, I’d miss watching Adam Baldwin grunt. I’d miss that a lot.

The Husband:

It’s true. Chuck will very likely not be back next season, and it’s a goddamn shame. This shit’s really stepped up its game this season, and as I keep reiterating, it has found the perfect balance between goofy comedy and bomb action/adventure spy thrills. It has an incredible roster of recurring day players, most with stellar backstories and believable intentions (both good and bad), plus a geek’s encyclopedic love of mostly 80s-based pop culture. Why the fuck aren’t you watching?

Next week is promised to be a true gamechanger, which of course includes at least one wedding, and also the fact that a major character is going to die. I don’t have an answer for certain as to the identity of said dying character, but I do have slightly more information than just a random fan through a series of acquaintances, but I’ll hold onto that info until the series ends, as I’m not big on spoiling things for anybody. Especially me. Hell, maybe I just won’t say it at all. That’s how anti-spoiler I am.

The Wife:

I noted a couple of things right away about this week‘s episode of Fringe.


1. This was the most X-Files-y cold open yet. It was old school, too. Like a cold open from seasons two and three.
2. As soon as I heard that ill-fated kid listening to The Killers’ new single “Spaceman,” I knew that someone on the Fringe production team finally got some money. This theory was confirmed when, in the very next scene at Olivia’s house, she and her sister and niece are listening to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” really loudly FOR NO GOOD REASON AT ALL. I’m glad you guys have money for incidental music not composed by Michael “The Little Ice Cube” Giacchino, but let’s use it judiciously. A kid listening to The Killers in the background of his scene? Good. That makes sense, because the music is coming from his computer and he’s talking to his friend on the phone over it. That thing with “Single Ladies”? Bad. That’s not how we do incidental music on this show. This is not a show where you can just play a pop song over the scene because you want to.

Musical gripes aside, the cold open set me up for an episode that turned out to be very different in tone than I have previously experienced with Fringe. On the whole, it was a lot . . . lighter than anything else we’ve seen before. I said the cold open reminded me of The X-Files in seasons one and two, but the rest of the episode turned out to be more like a TXF episode from seasons four and five, when the show lightened up on the Syndicate conspiracy and started letting Glenn Morgan and James Wong write as many cool, fanciful MOTW episodes as they wanted. I really didn’t expect Fringe to produce something so very like those Morgan and Wong episodes, but they did. This episode didn’t feel like Fringe at all, but I enjoyed it. But I also don’t know if this sudden change in tone is necessarily a good thing.

In the cold open, a teenager suddenly becomes mesmerized by a series of hypnotic images that pop up on his computer screen. I made a lot of Chuck-related comments about the Intersect until the kid started tearing up uncontrollably and a hand reached out of his computer screen to, uh, melt his brain. It is generally bad when anything reaches out of your computer screen, by the way. Due to the brain liquefaction, Olivia gets called in to investigate and brings the computer’s hard drive back to the lab for Astrid to play with. Slowly, the show is making Astrid into an actual character with helpful skills, and I appreciate that. She’s a linguist with a minor in computer science. I really don’t know what gets hotter than that. As labrats Walter and Astrid work on finding out what happened to the hard drive of both the victim and his computer, another victim turns up at a car dealership. His brain and computer are destroyed in exactly the same way. Astrid is unable to work with the hard drives because they are so corrupted, but she does discover that both computers downloaded a very large file before blowing up.

I'm pretty sure I didn't go to college for this.

I'm pretty sure I didn't go to college for this.

In order to find out what that file is, Peter pays a visit to one of his old criminal friends, a gambler who owns a computer repair shop. For a couple of very rare, shiny gold coins, Peter buys the man’s help. Even he can’t figure out where the “virus” is coming from due to advanced source coding on the file, but he is able to figure out where it’s headed to next: Olivia’s apartment. Olivia is busy getting ultimatums from Harris about taking the case. He’s unhappy that she’s decided to work on something that he feels rightfully belongs to the CDC. Although she can prove that there’s no pathological component at either crime scene, Harris, like Skinner in the first three seasons of The X-Files, gives her twelve hours to solve the case before he takes it away from her. When Peter calls her to tell her that the virus is headed to her apartment, she immediately fears for Rachel and Ella’s safety. While Rachel cooks in the kitchen, Ella picks up a nearby laptop to play Paint-A-Pony, a game I wish I had at work. In the middle of her pony-painting extravaganza, Ella sees the same images we saw in the cold open, but luckily, Aunt Liv comes home before the evil computer hand of doom can stretch its way out of the screen and melt Ella’s brain.

It takes a few minutes for Ella to come out of her hypnotic trance, but a doctor’s visit reveals that she’s absolutely fine. She describes a “weird, scary, glowy hand” coming out of her computer screen, which her mother writes off as a result of making too many visits to Aunt Liv’s house. Has Olivia actually told her sister the kind of cases she works? I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do when you work on top secret stuff. I can’t even chalk this up to a predilection Olivia might have for the weird and the strange because, as far as we know, she doesn’t. I mean, she’s not Spooky Fox Mulder. She’s just a regular old FBI agent who used to be a lawyer and whose lover was involved in a massive global conspiracy to do weird and strange shit. And I assume that’s all stuff Rachel shouldn’t know.

Olivia thinks that whoever sent the virus was watching the recipients through the computer, a conclusion she draws by noticing that Ella’s computer camera was turned on, even though the little girl doesn’t know how to use it. (That’s hardly evidence. I’m sure Ella is extremely computer-literate, given that she was born after 2000. And, even assuming she doesn’t know how to use the camera function, there are umpteen ways she could have accidentally turned it on.) Peter is willing to buy the fact that someone is killing people with a computer virus, but he is baffled by why someone would do that. The answer to that question doesn’t really become clear until a third victim shows up in Evanston, IL. He turns out to be the stepfather of Luke Dempsey, whose best friend died in the cold open. Luke’s father and the first victim’s father once worked together, until Luke’s father got laid off. Based on this information, Olivia brings Luke in for questioning to get at his father. After telling Luke about his father’s potential crimes, Olivia lets the kid go, hoping that he will lead her right to his father. Being 19, he does.

So off Olivia goes to follow Luke to the warehouse, without any supervision or assistance. She arrives just as Luke is grilling his dad about killing people, and the murder admits that he’s merely trying to leave his mark on the world, in traditional mad scientist jargon. He’s intentionally hurting the loved ones of people who hurt him, although there’s still no word on how the car salesman fits into this at all. When his alarm is triggered, Dempsey sends his son to try to ward off Olivia, but she evades him easily, and then gets ambushed by Dempsey himself. He sent the virus to his own computer when he heard her come in, hoping to trick his would-be assailant into melting her own brain, but Olivia is wise enough to look away. Dempsey, however, holds a gun to his head after confronting Olivia and stares at his row of screens, eventually ending his life by pulling the trigger in a trance-like state.

A disapproving Harris is waiting outside when Peter, who rushed in at the sound of gunfire, and Olivia bring Luke out. Peter can’t understand why Luke would try to protect a murderer, but Olivia simply replies that Luke did it because the murderer in question was his father. This really hits home for Peter, who throughout this episode has been struggling with his urge to protect his father when Mary Beth Piel starts contacting him. Mary Beth plays the mother of the lab assistant, Carla Warren, who died during one of Walter’s experiments 20 years ago. Mary Beth contacts Peter, hoping to talk to Walter about her daughter. Finally, Peter relents and allows MBP to visit the lab and talk to Walter. She comes not with accusations, but only with a desire to remember her daughter. She asks Walter to tell her about Carla, and he goes on to lucidly explain that he remembers Carla’s beautiful smile, and leads MBP off to share their memories of the dead girl. Realizing that Olivia was right all along, he heads over to her house to apologize.

The things that really worked for this episode were the humanizing moments about how Olivia and Peter relate to their families. Both of them are in the position of protector, but the things they need to protect are different. Here, Olivia’s relatives are actually put to good use when their lives – or, at the very least, Ella’s brain – are put at risk by her work. I’m beginning to see this other side to Olivia as natural, although I still maintain my questions from last week about whether or not Rachel was affected by drunk stepdaddy in the same way Olivia was. Peter, on the other hand, is Walter’s legal guardian, and despite his begrudging earlier in the season, he has actually grown to love knowing his father. Mary Beth Piel is a threat to that relationship and Peter can’t handle the thought of losing his father again. I’m into these plots. Fringe really needs these humanizing elements to keep the stories and the characters grounded.

Next time, we should do more experiments!

Next time, we should do more experiments!


But as for the rest of this episode, I think it got a little too light. The policework and the science work in this episode were pretty shoddy, and, I believe, this is the first case in Fringe history that hasn’t had anything to do with one of Walter’s old experiments. (If he knew how to melt brains, I’d be very scared of him. I like wacky Walter better, with his love of car seats that warm your ass and his overwhelming concern with safe sex. I’m really glad that his eccentricities are starting to become running gags.) I also don’t know how I feel about this episode being completely outside The Pattern, either. I can get down with a MOTW, but I thought Fringe was going to have every MOTW be part of The Pattern, like my good friend and favorite Fringe villain so far Joseph Meegar. It just feels weird to have an episode I don’t really have to think about (you know, a no-brainer . . . heh . . . yes, I said that), even though I will always find things with melted brains to be amusing. It’s just such a drastic change in tone that I’m not entirely sure how to handle it.

Don’t get me wrong. I like many of the more fanciful MOTWs from seasons three and four of The X-Files. But I like them when they were on that show, and the MOTWs outweighed the mytharc episodes. I just don’t know if I like them on this show. You know, this show that is not, in fact, The X-Files.

My favorite Walterisms of the night:

  • Upon seeing the liquefied brain, Walter immediately assumes the first victim has really advanced syphillis.
  • “I hope she doesn’t notice the two thousand dollars for baboon seminal fluid I ordered.” –Walter, on Olivia requiring expense reports from the lab

The Husband:

I can’t entirely explain why, but this may be my favorite non-Pattern-related episode of Fringe yet. The villain wasn’t in it enough, but I dug the technological implications, and got a good mix of two of my favorite underseen silly supernatural horror movies – Brainscan and Hideaway, which both just happen to be written by Seven’s Andrew Kevin Walker.

I was also happy to get another unofficial TV reunion of several actors from the glorious HBO social drama The Wire, although none of the actors appeared in the same scene as far as I can remember. There is, of course, Broyles (Lance Reddick played Lt. Daniels), as well as computer hacker Akim (Gbenga Akinnagbe played high-level drug dealer Chris Partlow) and Brian Dempsey (Chris Bauer played Frank Sobotka, the focus of season 2’s dockworkers union scandal). There were so many people on The Wire that I’m surprised I don’t see more of them banded up together on television, but I’m happy enough to simply spy one every once in a while, even if it’s on the flailing Heroes.

The Wife:

I’m writing this post the day after ABC made its announcement to not order any more episodes of Pushing Daisies, which means we fans will only get to indulge (overindulge?) on seven more episodes of this delicious little show before it goes away to never been seen or heard from again. Showrunner Bryan Fuller has spoken about the idea of continuing the show in a comic book (like Joss Whedon does with Buffy), and I would certainly consider that being a viable format for the wonder that is Daisies. Now, I don’t believe that shows should go on forever. In fact, it’s pretty clear when some shows outlive their usefulness and lose their freshness (like Bryan Fuller’s other show he once wrote/produced, Heroes, to which he has said he would return if Daises, well, lived up to its name). However, Pushing Daises deserved three full seasons. I also realize that none of Bryan Fuller’s other creations (Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me), have lasted more than two seasons, so letting Daises go belly up after two just seems par for the course. What can you do? Those of us who recognize Fuller’s greatness get it and love it and want to hold on to it forever, but most people don’t, and when a show gets low ratings and isn’t making money it has to go. But I wish more people loved Bryan Fuller’s work the way I do. I wish more people could get into witty, thematic, quirky, awe-inspiring, zany, punny, beautifully art directed, well-written and altogether delightful television, but it really must be hard to do that when you can just tune in to any number of CSI or Law & Order variations, enjoy it for an hour, and then not have to think about it again.

Another thing that makes me think that Daises‘ (non)cancellation is a little premature is the article by Benjamin Svetkey I was reading in this week’s Entertainment Weekly about what will happen to pop culture in an Obama presidency. Svetkey discussed popular culture under several presidencies, indicating a surge of feel-good programming under the Kennedy administration (whom he likened to Obama), a culture of excess during the Reagan years and a rise in narratives about government conspiracies and crimes during the Nixon and Bush years. Both Bush presidencies had negative storytelling under their watch, but Svetkey writes that W’s term gave us some of the darkest things we’ve seen, including director Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman series based on Frank Miller’s comics. Svetkey posits that we may see a drastic change in popular culture during Obama’s presidency of hope, and a possible renaissance of the kind of programming we saw in the 1960’s (The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gilligan’s Island). I wonder: had Pushing Daises waited two more years to put out its pilot, would Svetkey’s theory be correct? Would an Obama presidency save Pushing Daises? When you really look at it, Pushing Daises asks us to believe in camp, in fun and in whimsy and to hope against all hope that the star-crossed lovers Ned and Chuck can someday overcome their physical limitations and embrace. If that’s not the audacity of hope, I don’t know what is. While I would never call Barack Obama campy or whimsical, I can’t help but wonder if Pushing Daises would have faired better under his presidency than it did under the presidency of George W. Bush.

Would this show have survived better under Obama? It shall remain a mystery to be solved by Emerson Cod and Co.

Would this show have survived better under Obama? It shall remain a mystery to be solved by Emerson Cod and Co.

That aside, I liked “Oh Oh Oh . . . It’s Magic” more than I liked “Dim Sum, Lose Some.” There is one very good reason for this and his name is Paul F. Tompkins. Tompkins is the new host of Best Week Ever (in its new, Soupier format), and I respond very positively to his style of comedy. Paul likes to riff on the slightly headier parts of pop culture, and show people how to properly drink four beers in the course of a 45-minute comedy set without getting hammered. He also wears a mean suit and argues well in the court of Lewis Black’s The Root of All Evil. In short, I want to be his friend.

The Pie Hole gang headed off to see Ned’s half-brothers’ magic show, adorably titled Two for the Road. Maurice and Ralston have taken after their deadbeat magician father, it seems, and, with the help of their surrogate magic dad The Great Hermann (Fred Willard) have done well enough to have their own act. Ned, due to the severe emotional scars received when his father abandoned him, gets terrible acid reflux at the mere mention of magic. But Olive and Chuck are so enthralled with Ned’s younger brothers that they drag him and Emerson along to Two for the Road.


“What they’re pulling out of their hats isn’t a rabbit, it’s my childhood trauma and they’re putting a cape on it and taking it to the stage.” – Ned


At the show, they meet The Geek (Paul F. Tompkins), Alexandria the Assistant (The State‘s Kerry Kinney-Silver) and, of course, The Great Hermann, who tries to get Ned to take Maurice and Ralston off of his magic dad hands. Hermann asks Emerson, whom he sensed was “a great investigator of things unsolved, named after a poet and a fish,” to help find out who’s been killing all of his assistants: a pair of doves, a rabbit and a monkey. The gang realizes that the animals were not killed intentionally, but were the unintentional victims of failed murder attempts on Hermann, who shortly after this revelation does not escape from his famed Cementia escape trick.

Meanwhile, Dwight Dixon (Stephen Root) is up to no good, dropping in on the Aunts and stirring up Lily’s secret pot. Dixon was a military buddy of Chuck and Ned’s fathers from back in their UN Peacekeeper days. All three had engraved pocketwatches and Dwight wants to know if he could have the watch that belonged to Charles Charles. Flattered by the way Dwight speaks of her long-dead fiancé, Vivian sets up a date with Dwight at the Pie Hole, where he almost spills Lily’s secret in an effort to find the watch, until Olive interrupts and saves face for Vivian. (Not without her overhearing that Chuck is dead, though. I wonder if Olive interprets this as corroborating her story that Chuck faked her own death, or if it changes her mind to think that Chuck really is dead. We’ve got seven episodes to find out.) Dwight gets all the information he needs from Vivian, though, when he finds out that Charles’ watch was buried with his daughter. Dwight races off to the grave to dig up Chuck’s body, and is dismayed to find an empty casket.


“It’s all very confusing. There’s murdered magic dads and the promise of tasty pate with tuna sauce.” – Ned


This used to be a tasty pate, but now its just a scarf.

This used to be a tasty pate, but now it's just a scarf.

Back at the Pushing Daisies equivalent of The Magic Castle, the gang starts questioning everyone about their relationship with Hermann to find motive for the man’s murder. When they go to check out the cement block he was supposedly buried in, they discover that the blocks have been switched and the real block containing the Hermann they need to make un-dead for 60 seconds is hidden somewhere in the magic castle. They find his body buried under the floorboards in the basement where he would normally make his Cementia escape and when they wake him from death, he reveals “magic man to magic man” that the secret to escaping Cementia is the magnets in his shoes, which were stolen, thus sealing his fate. Ah, and who would know to steal the magnets? The person who ate some magnets earlier that drew Chuck’s necklace to his stomach: The Geek.

When Ned and Chuck go to find The Geek, they find him dead on the floor, which throws them off the trail and makes them wonder if someone else was involved. The Geek is not dead, of course, because he’s also a Blockhead, and the railroad spike jammed up his nose is just part of his act, not his death warrant. He holds Olive against her will and confesses that he killed Hermann because he used to be like a son to Hermann, until the great magician took in Maurice and Ralston and turned his affections toward them, shunning The Geek to a life of far less magical tricks.

This is what a Blockhead does, not a Geek.

This is what a Blockhead does, not a Geek.

Here’s where I have to break for a second and discuss the first gripe I have ever had with Pushing Daisies. Ever. While it is possible for Blockheads to also be Geeks, it is unlikely and, more than that, odd. There’s a hierarchy to the circus, and even more of one to the sideshow, which is where you’d see Blockheads and Geeks. (I suggest, for a great exploration of this, that you watch The X-Files episode “Humbug.”) Blockheads are people who train their bodies to withstand great amounts of pain, and many of them believe that this art is close to shamanistic practices, thus, it puts them far above the level of Geeks, who are considered base creatures in the world of the sideshow, the kind of people whose bread is won by basically eating anything that won’t kill them. (In “Humbug,” Dr. Blockhead is played by Jim Rose, a modern circus pioneer and actual Blockhead, and his lesser companion The Conundrum is played by The Enigma, an actual Geek.) My issue is that the Daisies writers have assumed that Blockheads and Geeks serve the same function: that is, doing weird shit to their bodies. But this is not true. They’re very different circus performers and one of them is considered more skilled than the other. Anyone can be a Geek if they don’t have a gag reflex, but being a Blockhead takes a lot of training. That said, I’m happy to see Paul F. Tompkins play either. For me, either way is pretty hot.

In the end, Hermann bequeathed his Magic Book of Magic to Maurice and Ralston, who decided to share said secrets with Alexandria. With that book, Alexandria was finally able to get her own act after eight years as an assistant. Ned made peace with his brothers, and managed to curb his acid reflux.


“We’re two grown men with dad-related body fluid issues. I can’t suck lozenges for the rest of my life. And you can’t wear adult diapers.” – Ned, to Maurice and Ralston


As a gift for magic-loving Chuck, Ned and Olive found a way for her to communicate with her mother and hear Aunt Lily admit to the fact for herself. Olive pays a visit to the Aunts while wearing the bee-shaped bug from “Bzzzzzzzz!” Chuck speaks to Olive through a wire, and Olive is able to ask Lily all the questions Chuck has ever had about her birth, leading to a bittersweet ending in which our two protagonists resolve some of their deep-seated family issues.

More olives, Olive.

More olives, Olive.

Now, Chuck only had two outfits in this episode, and I loved them both, but I’d like to give a very special shout out to her gown for the magic show, this amazing gold number with a flamenco skirt and fitted scalloped layers edged with black up the bust. I squeed. I want it. What am I going to do with only seven more episodes of Chuck Wardrobe Envy?