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 Husband:

Now it seems that we have four shows to write about on Fox Sunday night, and all of them are funny, respectable and worthy of discussion. But I don’t want to overload you or this site with a bunch of black text (what? Me overwrite? Never!) and am sure you’d probably want me to get into the meat of it. But in case you’re wondering up front, I thought Sit Down, Shut Up was extremely funny, so much so that I even rewatched it yesterday on Hulu.

But now, let’s jump right into it.

King Of The Hill 13.14 “Born Again on the Fourth of July”

The Fourth of July celebrations in Arlen, Texas are fast approaching, and Hank and his buddies are in it to win it. Meaning, it’s finally time they showed up the a-holes a few blocks down (a group known for their ridiculously opulent fireworks thanks to their leader being a firefighter) with their own celebration of this country’s birth. Not everyone thinks they can stack up.

“You rednecks are as useless as a bucket of armpits!” – Kahn

But Hank is distracted. Why? Because Bobby has become so lazy, he can’t even muster up the energy to find his dress pants and go to church, choosing instead to take money out of Peggy’s wallet and order a pizza. This simply will not do, and despite some reservations, Hank allows Lucky to bring the misguided young boy to his own particular church.

“A church is a church no matter how much lucky makes it sound like a restaurant.” – Hank

Bobby’s mind is quite spongelike, though, and so he immediately takes to the overwrought spirituality of Lucky’s church, one that takes biblical implications and misreads them without considering the subtleties and changes to be made in our modern society. Bobby especially takes it upon himself to destroy all false idols, including the gigantic papier-mâché Uncle Sam that Hank and his buddies were to use for Independence Day.

As the show draws to a close – ABC hasn’t made any further advancement in buying up the show for next year, so this may be it – KOTH is easily reminding us what is so great, funny and loveable about this show. It’s about real characters with real problems, and while the rest of the Fox Sunday night lineup may be often funnier, its absurdity sometimes distances its viewers emotionally. KOTH has never suffered from that problem, even if its portrayal of conservative Texan life couldn’t be further from my own living experiences. Has anybody come up with a save-our-show campaign for this, even if it’s been on for over a decade?

“If he can see through fire, he can probably see through dark.” – Dale

The Simpsons 20.17 “The Good, The Sad and the Drugly”

When Milhouse takes the blame for a school prank he and Bart concocted (“Take him to the big house…where he lives.”), Bart considers becoming a better person when he falls in love with Jenny (voice of Anne Hathaway), a beautiful and goody-good fifth grader. But by the end, Milhouse finally learns to stand up for himself and Bart finds that he can’t be a good person without lying to those around him.

Meanwhile, Lisa is assigned a project to report on what the world will be like in 50 years, but when she plugs in a few numbers and hypotheticals, she learns that there may not be a world only five decades away. After reporting on her findings, the school decides to put her on a new medication, Ignorital. If you saw our last post on 90210, you’d know that I’m not entirely happy with this general pop culture consensus that taking behavioral medication is completely bad, but at least this episode made it much funnier and took on, specifically, the zombification that is assumed to come with taking something akin to Ritalin. While on Ignorital, everything Lisa sees turns into a smiley face, including blood and puke, and these images alone make up for the show’s own ignorance about behavioral psychiatry.

Other funny stuff from the episode:

  • Where the “Y” was (on Willie’s head)
  • “In 15 years, the vacuum will be quiet and not scary.” – Ralph
  • The fact that Ned is incapable of making devil’s food cake
  • “You can’t bleed through your nose when you have a broken heart.” – Milhouse
  • Lenny’s oddly specific speech to his dead grandma’s grave

Sit Down, Shut Up 1.1 “Pilot”

This show has about an equal amount of fans and detractors, so I was surprised to see how subversive and funny this project actually was. (It’s from Mitch Hurwitz, though, so I should have just expected it to be this way.) Intelligent, off-the-wall, bizarre and pretty damn hilarious, this is a bold slice of non sequitur humor that will no doubt confuse many but delight others.

A satire on high school comedies, as well as prime-time cartoons, this remake of an Australian show follows the exploits of several teachers and administrators at Knob Haven High School in Florida. (Even the name Knob Haven makes me giggle.) In the first episode, we learn that Larry Littlejunk (Jason Bateman) is hopelessly in love with the vapid flower child/Christian Miracle Grohe (Kristin Chenoweth), that the Knob Haven High football team is in dire need of a win (especially since, as the characters point out, it’s the pilot), Assistant Principal Stuart Proszakian (Will Forte) is given steroids that actually turn out to be librarian Helen’s female hormone treatment, Acting Principal Sue Sezno (Keenan Thompson) has to fire someone to support the new budget, etc. etc. etc.

Look at those things swing!

Look at those things swing!

The two characters that stand out so far is Ass Principal Stuart (not only because I think Will Forte is hilarious, but simply find his character’s design to be so goofily interesting) and Miracle (Chenoweth, a devout Christian, gets major props for being in on the joke that Fundamental Christianity doesn’t always mix with the public school system). Besides, they’re the two characters who get to say “You man!” in as many funny ways as they can. Happy (Spongebob himself, Tom Kenny), the school custodian, is also nonsensical enough to make me laugh for no real reason.

The fourth-wall breaking didn’t bother me in the slightest, and I was happy at how adult many of the jokes were, showing that there is indeed room for more “mature” humor on network TV. (Suck on it, PTC. Your concept of squeaky-clean television is more offensive to me than any problem you have with Family Guy or Nip/Tuck.) Keep it coming, Hurwitz clan.

Some good lines:

  • “Happy sad!” — Ennis Hofftard
  • “Do you have to dance to my kegel tape?!” – Helen Klench
  • “Why didn’t I sign up for the Internet when I had the chance?!” — Willard Deutschebog
  • “Can’t fire anybody who keeps kids from porno.” — Sezno

Family Guy 7.12 “Episode 420”

A rare mix from post-revival Family Guy, this yes-on-marijuana-legalization episode was both provocative and funny, and even if it’s definitely NOT humorous to nonchalantly stab a cat several times for no good reason, the rest of the ep more than made up for that instance of NOOOOOOOO!

After Peter accidentally kills Quagmire’s new cat, James, Peter gets pulled over, but even though he’s covered in blood, he is let go. Unfortunately, the cops find a baggie on Brian’s person and send him to jail.

“So, Brian, did you do any hard time, or hardly working? … Penis.” – Peter

When he gets out, Brian decides to change Quahog and puts through a petition to legalize marijuana. No matter where you stand on its legalization, certain facts cannot be denied, many of which Brian mentions. (The falsity behind why the herb became illegal in the first place, the propaganda about its untrue dangers, those animated anti-drug ads with the dog are really stupid, etc.) Culminating in FG‘s second musical sequence based on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (following “I Have James Woods”), the town learns that “Everything is Better with a Bag of Weed.”

Truly, everything is better with a bag of weed.

Truly, everything is better with a bag of weed.

But when Carter’s business starts to be affected, he makes Brian a deal he can’t refuse — if he chooses instead to speak out against legal bud, then Carter will publish Brian’s novel. Brian accepts, but then is devastated to learn that his book does not sell one copy.

I think that the closer people get to the hemp/marijuana culture, the more they understand that its dangers pale in comparison to alcohol and tobacco, and that if treated with moderation, there really isn’t anything to worry about. But if that’s not your bag (in the figurative sense), then fine. Live and let live.

Funny bits from the episode:

  • Quagmire showing his kitty the Mary Tyler Moore company logo (a mewing kitten), which I have definitely done with my cats
  • Busting on both Baby Mama and Rocketeer, even though I thought the former was funny and the latter is one of the most awesome movies of the 90s.
  • “No! Those are my Diet Rites!” – Carter
  • Peter’s monologue regarding both Harold & Kumar GotTo White Castle and How I Met Your Mother.

American Dad 4.16 “Delorean Story-An”

Stan and Steve don’t seem to be bonding as much as they probably should, so Stan finally sucks it up and takes Steve on a quest to find the final part of the Delorean Stan has been rebuilding for years now — the passenger door. Going on a cross-country quest, they band together in order to beat another Delorean completist going for the same door.

Not a whole lot to write about, no, but it was a very touching and very funny episode, one of those American Dads I’ve been waiting for this season to show the haters that not only is this show remarkably funny, it also has a great big heart.

(And, of course, it can be extremely bizarre, demonstrated this week by the B-story in which Francine, Klaus, Roger and Hayley try way too hard to have an adventure of their own, leading to my favorite line of the night: “Your gibberish got me punched in the boob.” – Francine)

Other good lines from American Dad:

  • “Bet he’s having an affair with one of those self-storage whores.” – Roger
  • “Is that a story? No. It’s an addiction.” – Roger
  • The gas station called Gas of the Mohicans
  • “I like Criss Angel. He freaks my mind!” – Roger
  • Steve: You don’t know how to blow a bubble?
    Stan: Well you don’t know how to make love to a woman!

The Husband:

I wrote that the premiere this NBC action/adventure remake/reimagining was “cheesy, poorly planned, strangely acted and built almost entirely around showing off KITT’s many features,” and that didn’t really change as the season progressed. The quality lessened almost immediately, to the point where the show kind of stopped being a guilty pleasure and started becoming pointless background noise, something to have on Hulu in the corner of your computer screen while you did virtually anything else at the same time.

Michael Knight and his best friend in the whole wide world!

Michael Knight and his best friend in the whole wide world!

Only a few episodes in, the show became somewhat painful to watch, not so much that it was bad or boring, but that it had lost a great deal of its potential in merely a handful of episodes. The worst was when Michael Knight 2.0 and KITT visited Mexico for no real reason other than to get the admittedly hot Deanna Russo into a bikini. The problem wasn’t that the show was base-level, sexist and brainless. Really, that’s its charm and also that of the original. It was simply the question that probably went through everybody’s mind:

How do you screw this idea up?

Come on. It’s a ridiculous hour-long actioner about the relationship between a headstrong man and his virtually invincible, transforming car that can pretty much do anything required by the plot. Give us at least two great car chases an episode, say some techie mumbo jumbo that doesn’t make any logical sense (both shows clearly lacked a technical adviser), have Michael punch a bitch out every now and then, and make some HAL-related jokes in re: KITT’s Val Kilmer-on-downers voice and his inability to grasp human behavior.

I could write this fucking thing in my sleep. In fact, I think I should try that someday. I need to put up or shut up, no?

After the ratings began sinking, Show creator Gary Scott Thompson (an NYU MFA graduate and playwright who also created Las Vegas and the Fast and the Furious franchise) took a good look at the series and then made some major changes. And they were good changes. What bogged down the first several episodes was all the slogging through government tasks and tactics, having Michael track down bombs and take down terrorists Jack Bauer-style in ways incomparable to better shows like 24 and The Unit, all while being yelled at by Bruce Davidson and Yancey Arias. Everything revolved in and around this little station, and way too much time was wasted on serious bullshit instead of the silly that gave the original Hasselhoff vehicle its charm.

So after a short hiatus, KR came back with a not-bad two-parter that not only killed off Davidson and (later) Arias, but also gave Sydney Tamiia Poitier (it’s good to have a unisex name to give to your daughter) career-ending injuries. The cast now down to four (Michael, Sarah and the two tech nerds), the show could finally become what it was always meant to be – a story about a roaming vigilante and his nutbag awesome car going from town-to-town solving people’s problems. That’s it. No government conspiracy hooey, just dumb, quick action.

And so the show improved immensely, so much that I was enjoying myself again. So what if Michael ended up taking down a fight club underneath a rural bar, or helped solve the mystery of a downed plane and a little boy’s knowledge of where a large stash of Bolivian cocaine had been placed (answer: buried quite hastily underneath a very convenient pile of dirt amidst a grassy field), or helped his favorite bar defend itself from millionaires who wanted the valuable minerals in the earth right underneath? It was fun, it was zippy, and it worked.

And it finally regained its sense of humor. Simply behold the final battle between KITT and the villainous KARR, voiced for no real reason by Optimus Prime himself, Peter Cullen. If this doesn’t make you giggle, we can’t be friends. (TURBO BOOST!)

Awesome, right? And compare that to these original series bits about the very same thing, just with much less of a budget.

This one benefits gloriously from its German dub and bizarre editing choices.

Seems like a good time to spend an hour, no? Well, despite it getting better episode-by-episode – shit, I was even starting to like the incredibly wooden Justin Bruening – it was still forced into another hiatus, and if the show gets renewed, the first five eps will be made out of leftover scripts from this season, which never had anything remotely resembling a season/series finale.

Should NBC renew this show? No. Now that douchebag NBC and douchebag Leno are taking away five full hours of primetime away from other shows, this is not something I would put at the top of the list to save. Not even close. Too bad Lipstick Jungle was officially canceled last week, otherwise I’d put that on the top of the hypothetical list and really get started on a save-the-show campaign. But now that the cast has already dispersed to such other projects as the Witches Of Eastwick series as well as the Gossip Girl spin-off.

But would I like this on another network, like USA or Sci-Fi? (Excuse me, SyFy, the network dedicated to syphilis narratives.) Absolutely. I don’t know how much Ford pays the show to sponsor their brand – and let’s be honest, the show is basically one giant commercial, with honking clown horns and streamers ablaze whenever KITT is in any of its many forms, which inexplicably includes a four-wheel drive truck – but it must cover at least half the goddamn budget. If not, NBC fucked up on that contract.

But if this is the end, I bid you adieu, Knight Rider. You just got cool a little too late. But hey, the Bionic Woman remake didn’t even make it that far. It was a dud for its entire run. And it didn’t have Val Kilmer literally phoning in his role. That was worth many a good laugh.

The Wife:

I can’t possibly be the only person who found the butterfly attack in this episode’s cold opening to be extremely funny, right? While I’m sure getting attacked by hundreds of butterflies with razor-sharp wings would actually be quite terrifying to experience, watching it happen to someone just looks funny. All I could think of is that the lacerations from razor-sharp butterflies must be akin to being covered in thousands of tiny papercuts. This scene stopped being funny, of course, when the victim, Mark Young, threw himself out the window of Massive Dynamic’s New York high rise and fell down to his doom in a state of suspended animation through a rain of glass and butterflies. This shot was so powerful, so beautiful, that it made me feel really terrible for laughing about the butterfly attack as Young drifts down before plummeting full force into a car.

This accident interrupts Olivia’s plans to go to a surprise party with her friends, whom we didn’t know she had at all. As she wipes off her lipgloss to return to work, I wondered about how out of character this attempt to humanize Olivia seemed. I know that she needs this breath of life, and that we do need to see her as someone outside of the cold-hearted bitch FBI suit she puts on every day. But this scene didn’t really tell me much about her other than that she seems to constantly have to put her social life on hold to do her work, which we already know from hundreds of other FBI shows is just an occupational hazard. I suppose the one insight it did give us is that Olivia is the kind of person who feels that she can’t wear lipgloss to the field. I’m not sure why, but I’ll assume that this detail combined with her earlier story about her drunken stepfather means that she thinks showing any signs of femininity equates a visible weakness in her work. If I knew more about Olivia, this scene would have made more sense overall as an illustration of the kinds of sacrifices she makes for her job and her country, but as she’s not the most fully-realized character on the show, it seemed a bit clunky to me.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter, as Olivia has to give up her plans in order to go to NYC and investigate. When surveying the accident site, she sees John Scott in the crowd, which jolts her. Walter notices that there are two kinds of lacerations on Mark Young’s corpse: deep cuts from the glass, and some other, shallower cuts that appear to have happened from the inside out. Walter takes the body back to the lab, and Olivia goes to discuss the accident with Nina Sharp, who doesn’t seem to have much information for Olivia other than to simply state that working on crazy science sometimes makes people go crazy. When Olivia and Charlie Francis search the victim’s house, they notice that he had recently booked a flight to Kansas on Oceanic airlines (which I can’t believe flies to Kansas – I thought they only flew the Pacific Coast route), indicating that his apparent suicide was not a planned event. Olivia is struck by Young’s butterfly collection, which appears to move before her very eyes, and notices the word “MONARCH” written in Young’s day planner.

Please get me some coffee yogurt so I can examine this mans numerous tiny papercuts.

Please get me some coffee yogurt so I can examine this man's numerous tiny papercuts.

Back at the lab, Walter determines that the shallower lacerations were indeed made from the inside of the body when he finds a synthetic psychotropic compound present in Mark Young’s brain. However, he has no idea what this means until John Scott ghost hacks Olivia’s computer as she researches the meaning of the term “MONARCH” (pulling up various images from California’s state butterfly to Queen Elizabeth – sadly, The Monarch from The Venture Brothers was not present in her search results). Scott sends her an email with the address 1312 Labrador Lane, which she immediately heads off to. The building is yet another of Scott’s dingy basement haunts in which Olivia finds some thumping containers of . . . frogs, another one of our Fringe symbols. After this discovery, she goes to Francis to ask for a bereavement leave, telling him that he was right all along about how Scott’s death would affect her, admitting that she’s still seeing him. Francis is about to grant her request when Astrid calls to tell her that Walter may have found a link between the frogs and Mark Young’s death.

Meanwhile, Peter gets a call from an old flame, Tess, who has heard that he’s back in town and says she urgently needs to meet with him. He meets her at a cafe and urges him to get out of town because if she can find him, then the wrong people certainly can find him. As he takes her hand, he realizes her wrist has been badly bruised. Michael is beating her again, which makes Peter incredibly angry.

I was thrown off by the presence of actress Susan Misner in this role, as I know her best from Gossip Girl where she plays estranged wife and mother Alison Humphrey. I now envision an alternate storyline for Alison where she leaves Rufus not to paint and fall in love with an artist in upstate New York, but to go to Boston and become Peter Bishop’s lover and partner-in-crime, which is a lot seedier. But I just realized now in looking her up on IMDB that I know her from one other show: the failed immortal cop drama New Amsterdam, which didn’t suck nearly as much as I thought it would. Misner played Amsterdam’s boss, Sergeant Callie Burnett, and she was basically a hard-ass every week. Misner is a beautiful woman, but I was shocked to see how old the makeup folks on Fringe made her look. The actress herself is only 37, and I had guessed last night that her character Tess might have been a hard-looking 38, which is to say she looked more like she was 48. Either way, I’m assuming that both Olivia and Peter are in their early 30s, so I was really thrown off to see Peter involved with a much older-looking woman. Even if Tess is also in her early 30s, she certainly doesn’t look it. I hope it was their intention to take a lovely woman and make her look way too old for her character, because otherwise, that’s just a really weird choice.

The substance found in Mark Young’s brain is the same substance found in the skin of the toads Agent Scott led Olivia to. Walter had (naturally) previously experimented with this substance, which causes people to experience hallucinations so vivid that their minds actually create the damage to their bodies that they think they are experiencing. So, if Mark Young hallucinated butterflies lacerating his flesh, his body manifested the lacerations. Moreover, the amount of this substance found in Young’s body was 30 times the normal amount a person would take, leading Walter to believe that this is a clear case of murder.

Olivia: You have to put me back in the tank.

Walter: You’re asking me to push the boundaries of all that is real and possible. Like roasting a turkey.

Olivia asks Walter to go back in the tank to help her purge John Scott’s memories from her mind and, also, to help her uncover anything Scott may have known about the substance he led her to. Walter is a bit reluctant to do so, fearing the damage he could cause to Olivia, but he goes ahead with the procedure. In the chamber, hopped up on LSD, Olivia goes through the door of a restaurant and sees herself and John Scott on their first date. (A scene which told me more about her character than the earlier scene of her on the phone with her friend did.) When her memory self leaves the table, she sits down and tries to talk to John, who she believes can see her, even though Walter assures her he cannot. She then finds John with Mark Young and two other men having a secret conference. Once the deal has been made, she watches John shank one of the guys as Young and a Latino man walk away. This scene disturbs her so much that Peter has to bust in and drag her out of the tank.

Olivia gets Astrid to digitally render a sketch of the Latino man she saw in John’s memory and asks Broyles to help her get full disclosure from Nina Sharp about every project Mark Young ever worked on at Massive Dynamic. Thinking about how to reach this man, whose name, by the way, is George, Olivia tries dialing the digits that correspond with the word “MONARCH.” When she does, she reaches George, whose cell phone is traced to the Lincoln Tunnel. Dunham and Francis immediately head to New York where they chase George through NYC traffic until he gets hit by a cab. Olivia grills him in his hospital bed, where he demands complete protection from Massive Dynamic in exchange for his cooperation, claiming that if they killed Mark Young, they’d kill him, too. He suggests that MD offed Young as a warning to other employees and tells Olivia that The Pattern is just a smokescreen created by Massive Dynamic so that they can do whatever they want and get away with it. (Honestly, The Pattern being a giant corporate conspiracy was not news to us, right? We all saw that answer coming together pretty neatly, right?)

With this news, Olivia heads off to MD headquarters to question Nina Sharp about everything she isn’t telling Olivia and Agent Broyles about the goings on at MD. She accuses Nina of protecting the shadowy William Bell, MD’s CEO, by killing off employees who threaten to expose his dealings. Meanwhile, in George’s hospital room, John Scott appears, his skin glittering like Edward Cullen’s vampire skin in the sunlight. Scott wordlessly and violently kills George by slitting his throat. After her uninformative interrogation of Nina Sharp, Olivia calls Broyles to tell him that she’s being suspiciously obsfucative, to which he responds that she needs to lay off Massive Dynamic because a nurse just saw George’s throat slit itself from the inside-out.

Peter has been off continuing his own misadventures throughout all of this, beating the shit out of Michael, who later reports to his cronies that Peter Bishop is back in town. Other than the gambling debts we do know about, I’m interested to find out more about Peter’s checkered past. I’m also pretty sure that Tess getting in touch with him may have been a set-up to expose him, because until now, he’s done a pretty good job of laying low and keeping away from the folks he’s on the bad side of. I’ll see you again, Alison Humphrey, I’m sure.

Olivia begs Walter to put her back in the tank so she can further access John Scott’s memories, but Walter refuses, fearing the worst if Olivia tries the procedure again so soon after completing it. That night, as she struggles to sleep, John Scott ghost hacks her computer again to email:

I SAW YOU. IN THE RESTAURANT.

This leads me to believe that the clone/android John Scott Nina Sharp has in her big ol’ basement back at Massive Dynamic might have a fully-working consciousness that is able to do any number of awesome technokinetic things. I also think that his actual consciousness can interact with his memories, although I’ll leave that up to Walter to explain if it turns out to be true.

Finally, the Massive Dynamic phone number (1-877-8-MSSDYN) is a real number, according to the Fringe boards, although I’ve not yet called it myself. Nor have I tried calling MONARCH, because I don’t know what area code I should append to it and I don’t want to accidentally piss someone off.

Also: Six-Fingered Hand, Butterfly, Daisy, Apple, Apple

The Husband:

Here’s the big section of the George/Olivia hospital-set conversation. I post it because not only it is important to get every word to sink in, I just also think it’s very cool and represents a major turning point in the series.

George: I didn’t kill anybody. Why would I? That guy was a treasure trove of unbelievable things. Massive Dynamic killed him.

Olivia: Massive Dynamic killed Mark Young?

George: That’s right.

Olivia: Why would they?

George: Maybe as a warning to any employee who’s thinking of doing the same thing.

Olivia: Maybe? I think it’s easy to invent a story that you think I want to hear.

George: Really? Did I invent ZFT? Flight 627? The Northwoods Group? John Scott? The Pattern? The whole thing is a hoax. It’s all a smokescreen so Massive Dynamic can do whatever it wants to whoever it wants. Do you understand that? Massive Dynamic is hell, and its founder, William Bell, is the devil. And I can prove all of it, but only if I get protection.

Olivia: So why me? Why do I get the privilege of your cooperation?

George: Because I know I can trust you.

Olivia: You don’t even know me.

George: John Scott told me about you. Immunity and complete protection, and I will tell you everything I know.

This conversation helps further along what I suggested last week in our Fringe write-up, that more of the show’s various elements needed to tie together. I’m happy that they may be going the route of a more serialized structure, having used the first handful of episodes to set up singular crises, and now we’re watching them connect right before our eyes.

As for it being obvious that The Pattern is just a big smokescreen, technically there could have been alternative suggestions, that maybe Massive Dynamic simply noticed something akin to The Pattern and used it to their advantage, as opposed to fabricating it entirely. So no, it was not new news per se, but it was definitely enlightening.

And the fact that Olivia can now harness John Scott’s memories that are hidden somewhere in her brain due to the activity in the show’s pilot? That’s extremely helpful, to say that least.

Quick note: If you, like us, had the episode of Fringe cut off at 10 p.m. due to a combination of House running long (as planned) and Fox not communicating to our collective DVRs and TiVos that Fringe was going to run over as a result, it’s easily accessible at Hulu. Just click at minute 42 and it’s a nice lead-up to those seven minutes that you actually did miss had you Tivo’ed/DVRed it.

Here’s the link.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/46404/fringe-the-dreamscape