The Wife:

Parks and Recreation 1.2 “Canvassing”

After the supremely awkward denouement that was Leslie’s first town hall meeting at the end of this episode, I am definitely warming up to Parks & Recreation. To facilitate that meeting, Leslie et al spent the day canvassing, which my husband can tell you is basically the worst job in the world, during which time idealistic Leslie found out that not everyone likes parks. Sure, pedophiles do, especially if the park is more than the required 1000 feet from their home and extra-especially if there’s going to be a pool in which the kids can swim, but sometimes mothers of children don’t like them because they’re too noisy. And those park haters are exactly the kind of people who show up to voice their opinions at town hall meetings.

Yeah, Im pretty sure I took this internship so I wouldnt have to canvass for Peta and shit.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I took this internship so I wouldn't have to canvass for Peta and shit.

Seeing how poorly that meeting is going, Leslie starts filibustering to run down the clock and avoid a potential park-killing vote. Tactics used? Reciting the history of Pawnee, which involves a good slaughtering of white settlers by the local Native American population, planting Intern April in the audience as the voice of the local pro-park youth and, eventually, reading aloud from The Phantom Tollbooth. Let me just say this: if every episode contains a joke involving the brutal and deadly culture clashes between Native Americans and white settlers, I will be a happy camper. So far, we’ve gotten one in each episode (the score is Natives 1, Settlers 1), and I for some reason think these jokes have been the funniest out of everything. It’s really hard not to find the phrase “until he was twisted to death” funny when you’re me.

Also funny:

  • Leslie and Ann returning to Ann’s home to find her injured boyfriend Andy playing Rock Band with Mike and Intern April . . . who should have been out canvassing.
  • Intern April hiding under a tee-shirt while playing Rock Band, as if it were an invisibility cloak.
  • “I want my daughter to succeed passionately. That’s why I always encourage her to be a wife and mother.” – Leslie’s mom, who is also in local government and is way better at it than her daughter will ever be.
  • “Nikolai, do you want to swim in the dirt?” –Leslie
  • “Fillibuster! Boom!” – Leslie
  • “You know, normally I don’t agree with Leslie about anything, but this book is awesome.” – Tom, holding up The Phantom Tollbooth

30 Rock 3.18 “Jackie Jormp-Jomp”

And so Liz begins her suspension from work, and she cannot wait to get back. In fact, all she does is spend her days annoying the hell out of her building’s various Polish doorpersons by yammering on and on about TGS and the crazy times she has there . . . until she meets an out-of-work Wall Street exec who teaches her how to let go of the work-defined identity she has cultivated and fill her days with booze, facials, shopping and lunch, brunch and dinner dates. It’s basically like living in Sex and the City, and despite her attempts to resist, Liz somehow finds herself completely in love with their culture, per a brilliant sequence where she insists she’s only going to have one drink with them, and suddenly finds that she’s spent the whole day eating, drinking, relaxing and shopping, all before she’s finished telling them she won’t stay. When she completes her sensitivity training and is reinstated at work, she suddenly feels overwhelmed by the prospect of going back to a job-defined existence and quickly sexually harasses Mr. Weinerslav (“It’s pronounced weiner slave.”) in order to return to the safe comfort of her new divorcee friends.

Jack: There is no solace in their luxury, only deep despair.
Liz: How do you know so many Indigo Girls songs?

And, of course, Jack is right, because Liz’s new friends turn out to be a fight club, where one night a week they beat the shit out of each other just to feel alive. They even make Liz fight her way out:

“This is very disappointing!” – Liz

Oh my god . . . Im actually alive, right? RIGHT????

Oh my god . . . I'm actually alive, right? RIGHT????

Meanwhile, with Liz gone from TGS, Pete and Jack are trying to hold things together, especially in light of the new sexual harassment policy and Sheinhart Wig Company’s refusal to release Jenna’s Janis Joplin/Janie Jimplin/Janet Jopler biopic, now known as Sing ‘Dem Blues, White Girl: The Jackie Jormp-Jomp Story. In order to have any hope of reviving Jenna’s career, Jack makes her attend the Kids’ Choice Awards (where she must begrudgingly set aside her feud with Raven-Symoné for one day) and they learn during a hilarious In Memoriam montage that, somehow, the entertainment world thinks Jenna is dead. Jack sees this as an opportunity to revive her career and market the movie, because every studio in the country would clamor to release someone’s final film. He asks Jenna to help him fake her death by staying out of the public eye.

“Oh, I can play dead. I watched my entire church group get eaten by a bear.” – Jenna

The new sexual harassment policy insists that employees declare relationships with other employees to their superiors, so Kenneth announces to Jack his intentions to marry Daphne, one of the Tracy Jordan dancers. Only Kenneth has never talked to Daphne and he is shocked/heartbroken/terrified to see DotCom turn up at the office, hand-in-hand with Daphne to declare their relationship to Jack. (At least Kenneth got to declare that he was sexually harassed by Meredith Viera, who made him eat an unripened banana in front of her and told him that pretty boys like him don’t need to read things. Man, I love the imagined life of Meredith Viera on this show.) Taking power into his own hands, Tracy puts an end to the feud between DotCom and Kenneth (for no one shall be denied extra mustard on his watch!), he fires Daphne, and the other dancers refuse to come to work in solidarity, leading Tracy to hire a bunch of female impersonators to dance on the show that week, which will be dedicated entirely to the memory of recently deceased Jenna Moroney.

Jenna is thrilled at the prospect of a show dedicated entirely to her, and watched gleefully from the sidelines. That is, until she notices that her real birth year, not the actress year, is listed on her memorial head shot. Unable to bear the thought that people would know she’s actually forty, Jenna sneaks onstage to cover up the year with her hand while singing live, in an Easter-like resurrection miracle. “Sorry, Jack! Totally worth it!” she calls out between soulful notes from her undead vocal chords.

I was very fond of the Jenna and Liz storylines in this episode, but the Tracy-DotCom-Kenneth piece didn’t really add up to anything. But I guess that’s what happens when you put Tracy in charge of something – the pieces just don’t add up. Firing Daphne didn’t really solve anything, and led us to a sight gag that never came to fruition. We should have seen those dancers again, in full force, preferably in a highly choreographed dance number in memoriam of Jenna, but we didn’t. Alas.

“Heavy is the head that eats the crayons.” – Tracy

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.20 “Witch Lady”

After a short break to make sure that Earl doesn’t end its season waaaaaay before it should, Earl comes back onto our Thursday night schedule to take on List Item #186: “Was Mean To The Crazy Witch Lady.”

But who is this crazy witch lady? Well, she’s played by Betty White (+1), her name unfortunately happens to be Griselda Weezmer (+1) and the entire neighborhood is afraid of her, resulting in teenage Earl setting her up to get arrested using altered green face cream and krazee glue in a truly inspired set-up (+3 for how hard I laughed at the end result). But could the entire town just be wrong about her, that she’s just a nice ol’ biddy who has been misunderstood for far too long? Earl goes to her house to apologize and find out the truth, only to be drugged by a batch of roofie tea and tied up in her basement. Seems she’s been suffering at the hands of the folks of Camden for far too long, and it’s time to take revenge on all those who done her wrong.

Somehow, I dont think shes going to tell me a story about growing up in Saint Olaf . . .

Somehow, I don't think she's going to tell me a story about growing up in Saint Olaf . . .

Soon, Randy is thrown into the basement — he once tried to melt her with a bucket of water — along with Kenny and his gay lover Stuart (Stuart once gave her a ticket for the graffiti somebody else did on her house), Joy (who’s been going at it with Darnell over how he can be such a nice person while she’s such a fucking bitch), Darnell (who just once accidentally said “Which lady?” too loudly in Mrs. Weezmer’s presence), Catalina (who tried to steal her tears) and finally Patricia the Hooker, who just happens to be Mrs. Weezmer’s daughter.

“Hookers have moms?!” — Randy

While all chained up in the basement together, each of the characters turn on each other, breaking down the reasons why, after receiving an ultimatum, another person should be the one person Mrs. Weezmer stabs to death.

“Oh no, we’re gonna die! And it’s gonna hurt!” — Randy

Earl, however, finds the lesson even amidst this terrible predicament, that perhaps they should not be so quick to label somebody and to get to know the person underneath a label, instead of calling each other sluts, dummies, hookers, the “gay guys” and, in the case of Earl, a “freakin’ karma zombie.” When Mrs. Weezmer comes down with a knife, Earl apologizes for all of them and hugs her, telling her that they’ve learned their lesson, only to be stabbed in the side. Patricia then knocks her mother out with a shoe, and Catalina jumps up for joy.

“Collect her tears! We can all live forever!” — Catalina

Mrs. Weezmer, now definitely and legally insane, is put in a home to get better, and everybody is a better person as a result of being drugged, kidnapped, and in Earl’s case, stabbed. Even Darnell learns to not always be such a nice guy to Joy, because she has so much trouble living up to somebody who she describes as “Jesus’ nicer brother.”

You know by now that I tend to appreciate the Earl episodes that utilize its ensemble well, so I don’t really have to repeat myself. And I also think Patricia the Hooker gets some of the show’s best lines, and wonder why they don’t use her more often.

Good show, Earl. Maybe the season’s final episodes can have another multi-ep arc? Please? I’m not asking for much.

The Office 5.18 “New Boss”

Finally, we have a replacement for Jan and Ryan, who lost their high-ranking positions due to, respectively, pregnancy/craziness and dugs, and who is that replacement? Why, it’s none other than the stellar Idris Elba, a.k.a. The Wire‘s Stringer Bell, the most badass business school student/drug lord of all time. (I forgive him his one foray into Tyler Perry territory, because Daddy’s Little Girls was waaaay before we realized that Perry was a complete joke.) This new boss, one Charles Minor, isn’t there to dick around, though, and almost immediately he puts down Jim’s pranks on Dwight (this time involving him dressing up in a suit, in a reaction to Dwight’s memo about a proper dress code, and judging everything Dwight says to be “unclassy”) and disbands the ever-working Party Planning Committee due to budget tightening. This last bit, especially, angers Michael, since the PPC has been hard at work putting together a party for Michael’s 15th anniversary with the company.

“He’s like a black George Clooney.” — Meredith (or was it Kelly? I look down to write way too often)

He really is like a black George Clooney.

He really is like a black George Clooney.

Michael immediately tries to reason with David back at Corporate, but to no avail. He’s just simply not getting the respect he deserves.

“To be honest, I think I thrive under a lack of accountability.” — Michael

Finally fed up, Michael drives three hours to New York to confront David face-to-face, and he pleads with him regarding his party, telling him all the sacrifices he has made for Dunder Mifflin. (These would include putting a family on hold, never hang-gliding and never driving her car to the top of Mount Washington.) When David, understanding Michael’s sadness, allows for the party to go through, and promising that he will show up in order to make Michael feel better, Michael realizes his true position at the company now that Minor has shown up, and ends the episode declaring that he quits.

That’s quite a way to set up the final episodes of the season, as Michael will go head-to-head with the powers that be and struggle to find his way in a non-Dunder Mifflin life, and all the shenanigans back at the Scranton branch will come to a screeching halt due to Minor’s interference. It seems the very essence of The Office is being challenged, and that’s definitely a tall order to deal with. It’s upping up the drama nicely, and this, combined with the promised reappearance of Amy Ryan’s Holly, can only mean good things for the remainder of the season.

And I still get a line as great as this:

“Mr. Peanut is not classy!” — Dwight

The Wife:

30 Rock 3.15 “The Bubble”

You know what was the saddest part of this episode? Watching Jon Hamm teeter away on that motorcycle, herking and jerking and crashing into parked cars. Not because my illusion of Dr. Drew (and Liz’s) was shattered, but because I won’t regularly get to see Jon Hamm again until Mad Men‘s third season premieres, whenever that may be. Boo to that.

It shouldnt have ended like this Jon Hamm, shattering the beautiful illusion that you were completely the perfect man.

It shouldn't have ended like this Jon Hamm, shattering the beautiful illusion that you were completely the perfect man.

Otherwise, this was a great sendoff for that character, as it turns out that Dr. Drew is so attractive that he lives in “The Bubble,” a special world in which people will do anything for him simply because he’s attractive. He gets compliments from strangers, has his parking tickets torn up, is regularly asked by Calvin Klein to walk in his fashion shows and can always order off-menu. He also somehow got to become a doctor simply by being attractive, because it wasn’t due to his smarts. He doesn’t even know the Heimlich maneuver. He also cooks with Gatorade, can’t draw and thinks he’s really good at tennis — unfortunately, he isn’t actually good at any of these things, but thinks he is because he’s been living in the bubble his whole life. Liz wants to tell him the truth, and eventually bursts Drew’s bubble. He really does not like being a regular person, however, and decides to speed away on that motorcycle he doesn’t know how to ride, safely back inside the bubble, a place Liz cannot join him.

Meanwhile, Tracy’s contract is almost up, and when Jack offers to renew it at his current rate, pointing out that Tracy really doesn’t need any more money, Tracy decides to quit. No one had ever pointed out to him that he doesn’t need to work for money anymore. Jack spends the rest of the episode trying to woo Tracy back, resorting to such tactics as having impersonators of black television icons call him and praise his work on the show. He makes the mistake, however, of having someone call as Bill Crosby, who apparently did something very untoward to one of Tracy’s aunts back in the early 90s and never called her again. Jack is forced to take over the wooing with his Billy Dee Williams impression. Unmoved, Tracy remains at home, devoting time to annoying the hell out of his children and trying to establish himself as a musician. Tracy Jr., who is oh so much more eloquent than his father, begs Jack to get Tracy back on TGS, claiming that Jack has turned Tracy Jr. and his siblings into just another set of black kids with an unemployed father.

“Are you trying to turn us into stereotypes?” — Tracy Jr.

Jack finds out that Kenneth has continued to do work for Tracy after his departure from TGS, so Jack asks Kenneth to cut Tracy off in order to lure him back. This is very hard for Kenneth, who pretends to be a different page, one with a Cockney accent, whenever Tracy calls in order to avoid contact. Without Kenneth, Tracy is completely lost.

“Family? Who’s in charge of my thirst?” — Tracy, saying a line that I am pretty sure came directly from Tina Fey’s baby Alice’s mouth:

Eventually, Tracy returns to NBC to ask Kenneth why he’s been avoiding him, and Kenneth apologizes to Tracy. With all this attention being paid to Tracy’s expiring contract and Jack’s attempts to woo him back to the show, Jenna comes up with a crazy publicity scheme in which she plans to cut her hair live on The Today Show for Merkins of Peace (Loves of Love wouldn’t take it because it was too processed), a scheme she quickly stops when Meredith Viera points out that, without Tracy, Jenna is the only star left on TGS. Jack decides to fire Kenneth, as there is no need for him to work at TGS with Tracy gone. Not wanting Kenneth to lose his job, Tracy decides to return to the show, making everyone happy, except for Jenna.

Other funny things:

  • Not giving a cutaway of Tracy’s crazy antics when Liz and Jack discuss them, instead choosing to let the two stars stare off in thought for a few seconds? Brilliant.
  • “Sorry it took me so long to answer — I was thinking about how weird it is that we eat birds.” — Tracy
  • Kenneth’s inability to not talk like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel when he gets upset and the transition from smooth Kenneth to unable-to-talk Kenneth.

The Wife:

This episode’s pre-challenge footage introduced us to some of the drama in the Top Chef loft. Alex misses Richard already and doesn’t have his head in the game because he’s getting married in 20 days. (I can only imagine how insane his bride-to-be must feel without him around to help her with wedding plans.) Leah hates Jamie, and I can’t imagine why, other than the fact that Leah feels threatened by Jamie’s culinary prowess. Because it’s not like Jamie is going to steal that stud Hosea away from Leah, because Jamie’s gay. So, that right there gave us a clue as to what would be going on in the final bits of this episode. Thanks, reality TV editors!

For the Quickfire challenge, guest judge chef-lebrity Rocco DiSpirito showed up demanding that the chefs prepare for him a breakfast amuse-bouche. (I guess it really was, as Hosea called out, time to make the donuts.) Leah got all uppity with the other contestants for making amuses that were more than one bit, especially Jamie, who made an amuse that had to be eaten in two bites. While Leah technically is correct that amuses should be bite-sized, she was only picking on Jamie because she hates her. Two bites is not a sin in amuse-bouche world. More than two, though, and that’s no longer an amuse-bouche — that’s an appetizer. Fabio got a lot of attention in this challenge, chatting about Rocco DiSpirito and the not-very-authentic-Italian-food that Rocco makes, but then changing his opinion and saying that it doesn’t matter that Rocco’s food isn’t authentic because it tastes good and that’s what matters.

The Breakfast Amuse-Bouches

  • Melissa: French toast with eggs, strawberries and bacon
  • Stefan: huevos rancheros served inside an eggshell
  • Radhika: a potato cake with egg and hollandaise sauce (so, a potato cake benedict?)
  • Daniel: a cornflake-crusted zucchini flower stuffed with mushrooms (this dish wins the award for most resembling fecal matter)
  • Ariane: stuffed French toast with chives
  • Jamie: a BLT breakfast sammie
  • Leah: bacon, quail egg and cheese with peppers on grilled bread
  • Fabio: a brioche with bruléed banana and an espresso shot
  • Jeff: a twice-baked potato with a yogurt sorbet
Seriously, how unappetizing is this? I love fried zucchini blossoms and I do not want to put this in my mouth.

Seriously, how unappetizing is this? I love fried zucchini blossoms and I do not want to put this in my mouth.

Rocco deemed Daniel’s zucchini turd to be too sweet because of the cornflake crust (my husband asked me here if I could classify cornflakes as sweet, to which I responded that corn is inherently a sweet food — that’s why its in your soda pop) and also didn’t like Fabio’s brioche because it was too desserty for breakfast. Rocco’s three favorites were Stefan’s beautifully plated huevos rancheros, Leah’s breakfast sammie and Jamie’s rival breakfast sammie. Both Rocco and Padma praised Leah’s adherence to the “perfect size” of an amuse-bouche and awarded her the win, which garnered her immunity in the Elimination Challenge and a sparkly new copy of Rocco’s new book Rocco Gets Real! Whoooooo!

For the Elimination Challenge, the cheftestants were instructed to cook a dish for a two and a half minute cooking demonstration as though they were going to present it on television. They had a pick a dish that they would normally cook in an hour, but could show the basics of in two and a half minutes with the judges crowding around them asking them questions about preparation methods . . . just as you might on a cooking segment of a popular morning news/lifestyle program filmed in 30 Rockefeller Plaza that may and or may not be mentioned in the title of this episode.

At Whole Foods, Fabio, Eugene and Hosea had a hyper-masculine butchery showdown when all three men asked if they could get behind the counter and cut their chosen meat fillets themselves. I really enjoyed that ballsyness because if there’s one thing this vegetarian can really respect, it’s hardcore butchery. Those dudes were hardcore. Alex, on the other hand, decided he wanted to make a crème brûlée which I just knew wasn’t going to work out for him in the long run. (I hope every other person in America who has ever tried to make a creme brulee thought that, too.)

Creme Brulee Fail.

Creme Brulee Fail.

There’s simply not enough time to demonstrate on one burner in 2.5 minutes how to properly prepare the crème, have your beauty plate actually set properly in the hour of pre-show prep time you have and then allow your guests to eat some of your brûlée. The numbers just don’t add up, there.

The Elimination Cooking Demonstration Dishes

  • Ariane: a Jersey beefsteak tomato salad with basil oil and watermelon
  • Jamie: a bitter green salad with fried duck egg and caviar
  • Alex: that ill-fated rose-infused crème brûlée
  • Jeff: a shrimp maloof roll with malhuramora sauce (I do not know what any of that is.)
  • Fabio: sesame-crusted tuna with a salad of roasted carrots and asparagus
  • Daniel: skirt steak with ginger-soy sauce and a cabbage salad
  • Stefan: minestrone soup with pancetta
  • Hosea: crispy ahi roll with crunchy peas
  • Eugene: tuna sashimi
  • Melissa: blackened habanero shrimp
  • Carla: tortilla soup
  • Radhika: sweet shrimp and cucumber salad
  • Leah: duck breast with corn and blueberry mash

Carla, Radhika and Leah all ran out of time and I am frankly stunned that essentially failing the challenge didn’t land the two of these girls who didn’t have immunity in the bottom three. Instead, the judges criticized Jamie for serving a slightly raw duck egg, Leah for having absolutely no self-confidence for this challenge, Alex for making a really stupid food choice in the brûlée, Carla for her nervous energy, Daniel’s poor kitchen skills that made for a sloppy demo, Stefan’s lack of personality and Melissa’s spicy shrimp that actually burned Padma’s mouth. They liked Jeff’s speediness and skill in his presentation, Ariane’s comfortable demeanor and Fabio’s ever-so-endearing Italianness. For the bottom three, they chose Melissa and her demon shrimp, Alex and his dumb-ass brûlée and Jamie’s raw egg. The top three were Jeff, Ariane and Fabio.

Much like my tuna, I am fresh from the boat.

Much like my tuna, I am fresh from the boat.

Back at the house, Alex gets all defensive and calls all the chefs who made salads pussies. (Ordinarily, I would too, but for this challenge, the salads were actually the smartest way to go. I’ll explain more about that in a bit.) He then explains that maybe his head isn’t in the game anymore because he’s too busy thinking about his wedding. At 2 a.m., Tom comes to wake up Ariane, Jeff and Fabio and whisk them away to the Today Show where they will prepare their dishes for the shrews of The Today Show‘s fourth hour where said ladies will choose the winner on live television. I think Jeff summed up my feelings on this exactly:

“I’m gonna be serving a Middle Eastern roll to a bunch of ladies with unsophisticated palates. And it’s six in the morning. And I’m pissed off.”

The other chefs woke to find their housemates were missing and were told to gather around the television in the living room to find out who won the challenge. Thanks to this challenge, I now know that Meredith Viera hates watermelon. (Why? It doesn’t taste like much. How can you possibly hate something that’s light, sweet and 90 percent water?) The other ladies seemed to enjoy Ariane’s dish, however. Almost no comments were made about Fabio’s dish and everyone seemed to like Jeff’s dish except for Kathie Lee Gifford, who must have the least sophisticated palate of them all because she felt the need to spit it out on national television. These harpies all huddled around each other and reported to the good-natured Tom Colicchio that they had chosen Ariane’s salad as the winner.

Proof positive that the ladies of the Today Show actually have no taste. (Although, in fairness to this salad, I bet it actually is really refreshing.)

Proof positive that the ladies of the Today Show actually have no taste. (Although, in fairness to this salad, I bet it actually is really refreshing.)

So about that salad. I would normally agree with Alex that salads are the lamest thing you can possibly make on Top Chef because the only real culinary skill they require is the ability to combine flavors and — maybe — make an emulsion, reduction or vinaigrette. These are all basic skills not worthy of Top Cheffians. However, for a two-and-a-half minute cooking demonstration, one that is clearly designed to appeal to the palates of a vast number of television viewers and also be easy to make in the home kitchen, a salad is a great way to go. Also good? A soup. Soups and salads are hearty, flavorful dishes every home cook should know how to make and the more a home cook learns about flavor combinations from those two simple items, the better their overall cooking repertoire will be. I will grant that the chefs had no idea that they were going to be cooking for The Today Show, and might not have considered the limited palates of their audience. But I can guarantee that each of these cheftestants has watched enough Food Network to know that the kind of demonstrations they were supposed to be emulating were more Robin Miller and Rachel Ray than those of Mario Batali, Giada DeLaurentiis or that great stalwart Emeril Lagasse. A soup or a salad were the smartest possible choices.

Back at Judge’s Table, Rocco awarded Ariane with a case of his favorite culinary tools and told her that she would be presenting her recipe in a Today Show cooking segment the day after the episode aired. (So, today, actually.) The judges then called forth their three least favorites and grilled them about their choices and their performance. Rocco was very disappointed that Jamie recoiled when she realized she had served a raw duck egg, which made for bad showmanship. Rocco also told Melissa that she must be insane if she thought that the amount of spice on her shrimp was anywhere near fit for human consumption. He also told Alex that making a brûlée was very stupid because if Alex had did simple math, he would have known that the times didn’t add up right.

Alex: The whole point of this competition is to push yourself.

Tom: The whole point of this competition is to win.

Not surprisingly, Alex is told to pack his knives and go get married. I don’t think the brûlée was quite as stupid a move as the ostrich egg quiche, but it was pretty boneheaded. I’m pretty sure about one thing, though: Alex won’t be serving crème brûlée at his wedding.