The Wife:

We missed out on SLOTAT while we were finding our dream home with a murder basement up in Seattle, and it appears we made the correct decision to not immediately watch the post “having sex will kill your dad in an airplane crash” episode until we had another one to pair it with. “What’s Done Is Done” had three basic plot lines:

1. Grace is mewed up to her heavens (Shakespeare!) and is, like, really fucking angry at everyone because she’s transferring her own self-hate onto others. This show is deep.

2. Every character in the SLOTAT universe has a discussion about whether or not they will/can/should attend Dr. Bowman’s funeral. Like I said, deep.

3. Amy is a tired new mom, coping with changes in her life, which she uses as an excuse to be a total fucking bitch to everyone else.

This is another way of saying that nothing actually happened that moved the story forward. Sometimes SLOTAT gets into these writing ruts where different sets of characters will have the same conversation numerous times, such as the discussion of funeral attendance. Adrian tries to convince Grace that she’s not responsible for her dad’s death (which she fails at doing, even though I think she said Grace’s name about 23 times during this scene, which is how she demonstrated how serious and caring she was being) and asks her to attend her father’s funeral, George helps ex-wife Mrs. Bowman execute Dr. Bowman’s funeral plan, Amy realizes she’s the only one not going to the funeral and acts like a total fucking bitch about it, Madison and Lauren appear for all of two minutes to participate in a totally pointless and frustratingly circular conversation about going to the funeral versus babysitting John versus doing Amy’s job for her so she can go to the funeral, Ben and Ricky fight over which one of them has to cover at the butcher shop so the other can go to the funeral . . . bah! This just kept happening and happening and happening and I don’t understand why! Did we run out of actual plotlines and character development? Is this all we’re left with? Redundant discussions about funeral attendance and debates over the correct terminology for the monstrous catered trays of cheeses and meats available at fine retailers such as Costco and Sam’s Club? I do not care if it’s a cheese tray or a party platter! I just want you to tell me a fucking story!

It takes a lot of makeup to make Megan Park look this un-pretty. (And even then, shes still really cute.)

It takes a lot of makeup to make Megan Park look this un-pretty. (And even then, she's still really cute.)

The following episode, which ended with Dr. Bowman’s delightfully quirky golf course funeral (because doctors LOVE GOLF!!!!) and a Kathy Kinney-led chorus singing “When the Saints Go Marching In” while actually riding on golf carts, was basically just a continuation of Grace’s continued struggle with her intense guilt (and some transference of that guilt onto Adrian, who clearly made sex look so tantalizing that she’s actually the one responsible for Dr. Bowman’s plane crash . . . yes . . . that’s it) and yet more whining and bitching from Amy about how she really wants to go to the funeral and is mad she can’t go because she has to work. Boo! Responsibility and childcare are hard! So hard, in fact, that Amy, very darkly, delivered my favorite line ever uttered on SLOTAT:

“I don’t have time to dream.”

Did she trade identities with Ashley? Christ. That’s almost as heavy as my favorite from Grace in “What’s Done Is Done”:

“He had a horrible death because I had incredible sex.”

SLOTAT suddenly became very, very dark.

“Par for the Course,” which is a golf pun in case you were wondering, concerned whether or not Grace would show her face at her father’s funeral. Some confusing arguments were made, the most perplexing of which came from Jack’s dad, who claimed that while he doesn’t necessarily frown upon premarital sex, he believes sex should occur only within the confines of marriage for the protection of the female partner, so they’re not violated or devalued. That makes no sense to me for two reasons: 1.) There are many places in the world where religious law requires women to be virgins when they are married, which sometimes lead to men marrying very young girls to ensure their virginity. 2.) There are also many marriages in which the female partners are sexually abused by the husbands such an argument claims will protect them. I also raise an eyebrow at that kind of rhetoric that continually frames women as things to be protected.

Taking a minute away from being a douchebag to comfort Kathleen.

Taking a minute away from being a douchebag to comfort Kathleen.

As Ann finds herself in the position Amy was in at the start of the show (although actually pregnant Molly Ringwald is obviously way too pregnant to match her character’s level of pregnant and the production folks at SLOTAT are not nearly as good at masking her as other shows might be), she and George discuss the terms for finalizing their divorce, and she and David maybe, possibly proceed towards marriage, providing George goes through with that whole divorce thing. George actually had a couple of soft moments in this pair of episodes, comforting his ex-wife as she mourned the loss of her husband and telling Ann that, when they divorced, he wouldn’t try to take her house from her as, after 14 years of marriage and two children, “I figured I owed you the house.” That sentiment was probably the nicest thing I’ve ever heard come out of George’s mouth, but even that didn’t last long as about 30 seconds later the two were bickering again.

Almost as much as superbitchmom Amy, who really, really, really does not want to have sex with Ben anytime in the near future, even though he kind of really wants to now. The writers achieved some semblance of character development with this plot, as Ben’s father goes to work with him so Ricky and Kathy Kinney can attend the funeral. Ben perceives this as yet another person who doesn’t think he can do anything (coming on the heels of Amy’s complete belligerence toward his desire to babysit and subsequent perceived failure when he leaves the baby with his father and soon-to-be-stepmom Betty the Escort for five whole minutes), and tells his father as much, storming out of the butcher shop in a fit of anger, echoing the fight Grace and her father had only episodes before. Luckily for Ben, Betty the Escort picked him up and drove him to the funeral, along the way dishing out some unsolicited advice about how he shouldn’t be upset with his father because if he loses his family, he’ll probably end up becoming a male prostitute somewhere along the line. I don’t really know what happened in that scene, but, at the very least, I learned some more about Betty, so that’s a plus.

I truly believe these two episodes would have been stronger as one entity, although on the other hand, I appreciate the realism of drawing out the aftermath of Dr. Bowman’s death a little longer. SLOTAT just doesn’t have the actual dramatic content to bridge that gap anymore. What’s up with this season and why don’t I care?

Quotes that amused me:

  • “We’re not married. I don’t have to tell you what my plans are.” – Ricky, with a sneer.
  • “Does this look like a baby store? Are we selling babies here?” – Kathy Kinney, to which Ben correctly retorts that they do sell veal.
  • “Don’t glamorize teen pregnancy, okay?” – Mama Ringwald, in the show’s most self-aware moment.
  • “Don’t try distracting me with a whole bunch of questions no one can answer!” – Bitchface Amy, about a bunch of questions that someone actually could answer. I mean, it’s not like Ben asked her about the meaning of life; he just wanted to know if her mom was going to marry her boyfriend!
  • “Even if you killed him, he’s with Jesus now. Mom isn’t.” – Tom, softening the blow a little bit. I think.
  • “Obviously you’re okay with you son having sex because you’re still alive!” – Grace, to Jack’s dad.

The Husband:

While the quote “I don’t have time to dream” is definitely the darkest line the show has ever possessed – it’s something I should say to homeless people begging for money in order to creep them out – the funniest line in SLOTAT’s history was the aforementioned (and re-mentioned here) piece of genius, due to its mixture of sheer inanity and illogical rage:

“Don’t try distracting me with a whole bunch of questions no one can answer!”

And while I agree that this two-episode intense focus on the drama surrounding Grace’s father’s death (didn’t this motherfucker die hard enough on Smallville several seasons back?) went on far too long, I’ve been greatly enjoying something my wife passed over – Adrian’s extremely frank sex talks with her father, which walk the line between earth-shatteringly inappropriate and kind of sweet in a Kevin Smith sort of way.

And I hate to be this guy, but the developmentally delayed actor who plays Tom, Luke Zimmerman, usually portrays a very sweet guy who just has trouble getting words out but is really struggling with some of the more serious dialogue thrown his way, and I try my hardest to stifle a giggle whenever he tries to scream at Grace. I like the kid, but Chris Burke he is not. (Shit, did you know that Corky from Life Goes On is 42 now?)

The Husband:

As I mentioned in my previous update on this long-running WB/CW show, Smallville became the exception to the rule by becoming a better, more focused and more exciting show only after the resignation of its two creators, Millar & Gough, as well as two of its biggest cast members, Kristin Kreuk (Lana Lang) and Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor). By shifting its focus now almost 100% toward Metropolis, the show has grown into something grander while at the same time more intimate. How is this possible?

While I loved the Freak of the Week episodes of the first three seasons, all set in Smallville, they began to pale in comparison to the season-long story arcs (season four’s finale, especially, proved how good that show could be over an extended period of time). But when the FOWs went away, the season arcs suffered too, a result of their stories being far too stretched out and altogether too formulaic. I thought season 7’s major story, about the creation of Isis and its relation to Kara/Supergirl, was piss-poor.

Still strong, after all these years.

Still strong, after all these years.

But with season 8, the great big story arc, a.k.a. the Rise of Doomsday, was mixed in far better with a resurgence in FOWs, but instead of the first three seasons, where the formula was a villain becoming exposed to meteor rocks (i.e. kryptonite) and then discovering their dastardly power, these Metropolis-based villains are true super-villains, those both in control of their powers and aware of their major fuck-with-Clark-Kent plans. All in all, it just worked.

And oh man, did Kristin Kreuk’s exit ever help the show. After what seemed like decades of the Clark-Lana-Lex love triangle, Clark was finally allowed to focus on other tasks, not the least of which saving the world (and, you know, finally doing some heavy flirting with Lois). But Lana did come back periodically throughout the season, and while I would normally cry out “How can we miss you if you won’t go away,” I confess that I found her spring season two-episode arc to be some of the best work this show has seen. The best moment of the season, by far, was her sacrificing her newfound superpower, allowing kryptonite to enter her now-with-alien DNA body from a superbomb atop a Metropolis skyscraper, to save the city, to save the world, and to save Clark. Finally, I felt like she was actually a part of the story and not just the unwitting victim she was for so many years.

As far as VOWs in the second half of the season go (to me, they should now be Villains of the Week, because the show has finally earned that), the best was probably “Infamous,” where Linda Lake (Tori Spelling, not great but serviceable as a silly villain), the nasty gossip reporter who can turn into water, threatens to expose Clark’s true identity as the “Red-Blue Blur” (we’re not up to him being called Superman just yet), and has the story stolen from her as Clark comes clean to the world about his alien origins and superpowers, only to have his life fall apart and him conveniently going back in time thanks to that Legion Ring and setting everything straight again.

As for the best silly episode, that’s a tie between “Hex” – where Chloe wishes she had Lois’ life and ends up actually inhabiting her body – and “Stiletto” where Lois creates her own crime-fighting persona and realizes that it’s really hard to kick ass in stiletto heels. I need an episode like this every once in a while, just for levity’s sake.

(I did not, however, like any episode related to the Legion, sent from Krypton to aid Clark. It was just too on-the-nose and somewhat antithetical to Clark’s true mission to find himself and not just use others for their strengths.)

But all the best drama came from Davis Bloome a.k.a. Doomsday, the EMT with a confused past and a really bad case of turning into an indestructible monster whenever he blacked out or got angry. After he ransacked Chloe’s wedding to Jimmy Olsen, he finally starts up a relationship with her, as he notices that, thanks to her meteor rock-received power of healing, that he doesn’t turn into a destructive force when around her. But this leads to the best episode of the season, “Eternal,” where Davis’ past finally comes into focus. It turns out that he came down with Clark in that meteor shower back in 1989, but was picked up by Lionel Luther, who thought that he was the fabled Traveler who would save the world. (The true Traveler is, of course, Clark.) Once Lionel discovered his mistake, he treated Davis like shit and finally gave him up for adoption, not knowing that Davis would play a major part in the Kryptonian conflict on Earth, because Davis is literally destined to battle Clark.

It’s all rather silly, I know, but Sam Witwer really put a great deal of effort into making Davis a fully sympathetic yet loathsome creature, a troubled man with uncontrollable urges. And even when black kryptonite was finally used to separate his two personalities, Davis and Doomsday, he was still murderous and jealous enough to murder Jimmy Olsen in cold blood. (That final decision, to kill Jimmy, is a bold declaration from this show that we shouldn’t really expect anything anymore, and that the show technically is its own beast and doesn’t have to follow Superman’s comic lore if it doesn’t want to, a welcome respite from all those in-jokes to the lore that got real old real fast.)

Next season, the show will finally move away from its Thursday at 8 p.m. spot, where I’m amazed it lasted so long all those years up against such shows as Friends and Survivor and be placed on Friday nights where it might die a slow death. Then again, the show has always had trouble cracking the Top 100, and if you don’t factor in its youthful audience and its DVD sales it’s simply amazing that the show has lasted this long. But Tom Welling is 32 now and the show needs to end at some point, and I’m hoping that the Zod-centric next season will be its last. Most would say that the show has lost all of its energy, and while I won’t agree with that, I do think it needs an endgame and stick to it.

The Wife:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Husband:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Husband:

I came into Smallville relatively late, and much like The Shield and Scrubs (which both started during the 2001-2002 television season), it was less due to lack of interest than it was that I didn’t actually have a TV that year. (I know, how horrible. But it was my freshman year, and the decision was made in order to help lessen my entertainment distractions so I could focus on my studies.) But also like those shows, I took the time during my first post-university year to Netflix the bejesus out of every one of their available seasons on DVD, and it was Smallville that I watched the quickest. I think I sped through the first four seasons in about a month, which my calculator tells me is 2.83 episodes a day. (I remember the month being March, so that was over 31 days.) While it took me well into the first season, maybe even the second, to really love the show, I figured out fairly quickly that it had a great deal of potential and ambition to rise above my initial reaction, which was to describe it as “basically just The O.C. with superpowers.”

By the time the fourth season rolled around (I had hated much of the beginning of the third season, what with Jonathan temporarily gaining superpowers to save Clark from wasting his life in Metropolis), I was absolutely hooked. I’m aware that this is not an opinion everyone shares, but s4 of Smallville is without question my favorite season of the show, where we not only are introduced to The Flash and Krypto the dog, but Lana gets possessed by her witch ancestor, Lois finally shows up in town (bye Pete), and Clark searches for those crazy-ass knowledge stones that finally allow him access to the Fortress of Solitude. As a matter of fact, the s4 finale, “Commencement,” is still one of my favorite television episodes of all time, what with its epic scope and probably Smallville’s best ever attempt at juggling multiple plots.

Where did this shows quality go?

Where did this show's quality go?

But let’s be honest – season seven sucked. It sucked hard. Everything that was bright and fresh and nostalgic about the show was lost to navel-gazing both figurative (Lex’s final fall into evil as he murdered his innocent child self in a vision) and literal (Laura Vandervoort as Kara/Supergirl, who I will agree is hot but also useless). It went far too deep into its soapy aspects and tried to sustain the Clark-Lana-Lex love triangle, one that had fizzed out seasons earlier, as well as made very awkward Chloe’s transition into a “meteor freak” and Lionel’s final stand before being murdered by Lex. Even James Marsters was wasted as Brainiac, one of the show’s best villains on previous seasons.

But what may have seemed catastrophic to some fans – Lex and Lana both leaving the show right after s7, as well as show creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough – turned out to be what has saved the show from complete boredom and its fall from grace. Now primarily set in Metropolis, the show’s title has unintentionally taken on a new meaning as Clark’s nickname, and somehow losing the show’s creators has revitalized the characters and their personalities. (Besides, Millar and Gough seemed to be barely paying attention, what with their screenwriting career finally taking off.) The show decided to bring back Oliver Queen a.k.a. The Green Arrow, one of the best supporting characters, as well as introduces us to a very strange version of the villain Doomsday, now a paramedic with a blackout problem, a mysterious past and parents of the Zod variety. (While knowing a great deal about comic lore, I am not an avid reader, but I do own The Death Of Superman, which is where Doomsday figures in most heavily in the Superman arc, and I know he is not Zod’s son.)

And god, Lana’s ouster helped the most. I was actually done with Lana right around the middle of s5, and felt that Kristen Kruek’s continued existence on the show was only dragging out every single lame plot bit that didn’t involve her being a French witch. And with Lex gone, we can stop freaking out about the Luthors, as they are all but dead and the crux of the first several seasons – how Clark and Lex went from friends to mortal enemies – had resolved. Now Michael Rosenbaum is free to make Sorority Boys 2: Search For Barry Watson.

This season has finally answered many viewers’ prayers that the show would finally ease its way back into Superman lore, as now Clark and Lois are both working at the Daily Planet and are finally getting us up to speed to the real Supes stories. (Oh, and Chloe’s there too, but she’s too busy getting married to Jimmy Olsen to realize the intense sexual chemistry between Lois and Clark, which is far more potent than it was for several seasons between Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher.) Their cases are more or less interesting, and watching Clark having to struggle more and more with his two personalities is getting to be a real hoot.

Yes, the series has lost much of its seriousness that got me hooked in the first place, its real interest in its own storylines, but I appreciate the goofy quality of this season as opposed to the murky despair of the last 1.5 seasons. My third favorite episode (“Instinct”) of the season so far has also been its silliest, where an outer space queen named Maxima follows the crystal’s beacon to Earth in order to mate with Clark and his superpenis, but ends up kissing many a wrong man and either putting them into comas or killing them outright.

Likewise, my second favorite episode was “Identity,” where Clark and Oliver flip the script from a previous episode where Lois seems to be sure of Green Arrow’s identity only to be tricked when Clark pretends to be the Robin Hood-inspired hero, this time having Oliver pose as Superman so Jimmy, who got a flash of a picture of Superman (or he calls him, the Good Samaritan), doesn’t discover that Clark and Supes are the same person. That episode also had the first instance I can remember of Chloe using her Rogue-like powers (taking/giving health) for somewhat nefarious purposes, as she puts a meddling reporter into a coma.

On the flipside, I really did not like the final fall episode, “Bride,” a Cloverfield-inspired episode where we jump into the past to see how the strengthened Doomsday wreaks major havoc at the Chloe/Jimmy wedding and kidnaps dear Chloe.

But the best episode of the season has without question been “Abyss,” one of the show’s best ones in a very long time, where it gets all Eternal Sunshine as we jump inside Chloe’s brain and watch her memories quickly fade away (Brainiac has taken control of her mind, but not if Jor-El has anything to say about it). That episode is re-airing this Thursday, and it’s the first episode of this season that I will actually consider rewatching.

I hope that the show can continue down this more varied path, as it has recaptured my faith in its continued presence. (This is season 8, don’t forget. One further than Buffy.) The program has definitely had its ups and downs, but we’re on a pretty formidable upswing and I’m excited for the first time in a couple years for the next new episode midway through next month.

The Wife:

9 Lame Things About This Week’s 90210:

1. Everyone makes Dixon feel bad by suddenly loving Secret Brother Sean. This isn’t a lame plot point or a lame emotional reaction at all. I actually really liked the fact that Dixon took something of an emotional journey in this episode, but it was executed really strangely. He acts out against his dad’s newfound connection with his biological son by fucking up a lacrosse game that his dad happens to be coaching (what with Ryan Matthews out on the lam somewhere), and vaguely talks with the only other black person in WestBev about not knowing his culture. What? Where did that come from? That conversation shows up again in a heartfelt moment between Tristan Wilds and Rob Estes where Papa Wilson oddly tells Dixon that when he adopted Dixon, people kept coming up to him and saying things like “How are you going to teach him about his culture?” and “How will you teach him to shave his black hair?” Oh, I dunno, the same way you shave white hair? Shaving pretty much only works one way . . . I’d be fine with the addition of a storyline where Dixon also struggles with being a black kid in a white family except he’s never seemed to care before and I really don’t think this show has nearly enough depth to deal with issues of racism and cultural heritage. I mean, Navid’s family seems to be Persian for no apparent reason.

I love you, adopted black son who plays lacrosse.

I love you, adopted black son who plays lacrosse.

2. By the way, where the hell is Navid? Shouldn’t that kid have been filming the championship-winning lacrosse game or something?

3. Adriana hanging out with Silver. I am pretty sure they aren’t friends. I don’t care if Adriana was at the sleepover or at Annie’s party. Naomi invited her to the sleepover and Annie’s party, presumably, invited everyone at WestBev. I also don’t care if Adriana is suddenly eating lunch with Silver and Annie. I’ve eaten lunch with plenty of girls that I don’t consider friends. Regardless, social interaction with Silver doesn’t make Adriana Silver’s friend. Let’s keep our relationships straight, shall we?

4. Kelly Taylor’s “girlfriends are like plants” metaphor. I’m pretty sure I can kill both of those things and make them equally disposable, Kelly. You should really think about stuff a little harder before you say it.

5. Cribbing the Mean Girls cafeteria analysis for Silver’s blog. The Blendeds have nothing on The Plastics. The Plastics could totally take The Blendeds, in part because The Blendeds only eat two blended coffees a day. Not a food. Those girls are weak. Rachel McAdams could eat them for dinner. For that matter, so could Lindsay Lohan.

We have one blended for lunch, and one for dinner.

We have one blended for lunch, and one for dinner.

6. Making Naomi into The Blendeds’s bitch. This girl could eat these three girls alive. I know she can. Why is she bowing down to girls who don’t eat food and could be killed with one punch?

7. The entire Brenda-Kelly plot about them being friends again. For the record, I agree with Brenda. Sometimes, we just outgrow our high school friends. Stop clinging to high school, Kelly Taylor. You are the worst guidance counselor ever. Furthermore, you have no right to be angry that Brenda slept with Ryan Matthews. You two weren’t dating. You chose Dylan over him. You know who should be mad that Ryan slept with Brenda? Kim the Cop.

8. Tracy Clark suddenly trying to be supermom to show off to the son she gave up for adoption. I don’t understand the impetus for her to act like this. Is there a reason she should be flaunting her money over the Wilsons? It just doesn’t make any sense. Not even with the revelation at the end of the episode that Secret Brother Sean is a.) up to no good and b.) not from the South.

9. By far the lamest part of tonight: the absolutely blatant product placement for the T-Mobile Sidekick, which is so 2 years ago, first of all, and also so not cool. Please don’t do a 15-second lingering shot on a phone and the company’s logo during my show. I’ll forgive a lot of product placement, but not that.

The Husband:

I will basically put up with any kind of product placement after seeing its lowest low on scripted television on last season’s Smallville, one that revolved entirely around Kryptonite-laden Stride Gum. Hopelessly blatant and ridiculously bizarre.

So it looks like this is the last 9fneh episode until January, to which I say, “Dammit, writers. That is not a worthy cliffhanger ending to hold us over for six weeks, especially on a show as lackluster as this one where I don’t really care that much anyway.”

But will I keep watching? *sigh* Yes.

The Wife:

It’s the eve of Blair’s 18th Birthday Soiree at Chez Waldorf and she needs everything to be perfect, including her mother’s new boyfriend. Unfortunately for Blair, her mom’s new prince turns out, inconceivably, to be Wallace Shawn, a man of short stature who comes complete with a catch phrase and is altogether rather less than Blair had desired for her mother.

“I was expecting Cary Grant and I got Danny DeVito!”

Blair tries her best to keep her clam about this scenario, hoping to come of age with dignity and class like her idol, Grace Kelly, but when Cyrus starts to question the exorbitant cost for Blair’s party, she has to try incredibly hard to keep her cool, chanting:

“I am Grace Kelly. Grace Kelly is me.”

Eventually, the thought of being with a short little man who once played Vizzini is too much for Blair to bear, and she sets up a lunch date to pump him for weaknesses to exploit, in typical Blair fashion. On her date with Cyrus, she learns that when he was in Vietnam, he cheated on his wife with a Vietnamese girl he truly loved, Kim-Li. He planned to bring Kim-Li back home to America, but had to divorce his wife first. Just as he filed the papers, he learned that the love of his life, Km-Li, was killed in a raid on her village. While Blair at first seems to respond positively to this story, she later tells her mother that Cyrus is, in fact, just like her father (for being a cheater) and is thus not the kind of man Eleanor thinks he is. Eleanor doesn’t quite know what to do with the news, but chooses to confront Cyrus about it at Blair’s birthday party. When he admits to cheating, she throws him out of the party.

Cyndi Lauper! Youre from Brooklyn! GET OUT!

Cyndi Lauper! You're from Queens! GET OUT!

And then Cyndi Lauper shows up to play Blair’s party and informs Blair that Cyrus had bought out all of the tickets at her upcoming Joe’s Pub gig (that Blair and her mother had wanted to attend) so she could play Blair’s party instead. Blair, seeing that Cyrus had done something nice for her/played her just as she was playing him, runs out to tell Cyrus that she respects his game and that she would be delighted to continue having wars with him for as long as her mother wanted to have him in her life. I see there being many more Cyrus-Blair wars in the future, considering how displeased Blair is to hear the news that her mother has asked Cyrus to move in to Chez Waldorf with them.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, the Humphrey kids are both being severe disappointments to Daddy Rufus. I’ll start with Dan. Noah Shapiro loved the Charlie Trout story so much that he agrees to write Dan a letter of recommendation for Yale. When Dan goes to meet with him, Shapiro introduces him to an editor at New York Magazine who liked the Charlie Trout piece so much that he wants to offer Dan the chance to write an expose on Bart Bass. Knowing Chuck Bass, evidently, is enough to get you an offer to write a journalistic expose even though you have no journalistic experience whatsoever. I used to work in publishing, and I find it extremely odd that a high-powered magazine editor would take a chance on giving a cub fiction writer what could be the expose of the century. (At least, that’s how he’s painting it.) First of all, just because someone writes good fiction, doesn’t mean they’ll be a good reporter. It’s a different sensibility and a different manner of storytelling. There are indeed people who can write both ways, but I doubt Dan Humphrey, at 17, has the skills to make that transition. I don’t know why the editor wouldn’t simply, I don’t know, pay his best investigative reporter on staff to do the piece. It would probably be a lot better. But anyway, we need Dan to do it so that we can have conflict, so he agrees, despite his father’s protestations.

Dan goes to meet with Bart Bass to see if he can shadow the man a few days a week, pretending to be interested in construction. This makes Chuck Bass extremely unhappy, as Bart begins to show more interest in young Humphrey than he ever has in his own son. Chuck had previously gifted Bart with season tickets and a private box to enjoy his favorite hockey team, and is infuriated to find out that Bart has chosen to take Dan to the game instead of his own son, who bought the tickets specifically to spend time with his father and get to know him better through reliving his childhood passion of hockey. Chuck then starts a little investigation of his own to parallel Dan’s and find out just what young Humphrey’s angle is. Dan discovers that Bart’s real estate empire is based on an insurance scam he ran back in ’87 when he committed arson on one of his own buildings in order to collect the fire insurance. Just as Dan gets this juicy tidbit, Chuck uncovers from a contact at New York Magazine that Dan is indeed trying to get close to his father to write an expose. When Dan asks Bart about the fire, he admits that someone died inside the building and Chuck races in to stop his father from saying to much to a reporter. Bart Bass offers Dan hush money to kill the story, but Dan refuses to accept the bribe. As he storms out of the Bass Der Woodsen apartment, Chuck begs him not to write the story, knowing full well that it will not only destroy Bass Industries, but also Chuck, Lily, Eric and Dan’s former paramour Serena, echoing the warning Daddy Rufus had set out earlier.

Dan decides not to write the story, but sees a chance to help Chuck Bass reconnect with his father, and so sends Bart Bass a copy of the Charlie Trout story as an apology. (I notice that all of Dan’s stories simply have dates as titles. That’s gonna get old real fast.) The story moves Bart to recognize the distance between himself and his son and he apologizes to Chuck for this transgression. He also tells his son that he never blamed him for his mother’s death, and offers to take him up on those Rangers season tickets after all. I’m so pleased that Dan has chosen to use his art for good, and I’m sure Daddy Rufus is proud of him too. Chuck and Bart needed a catalyst to mend their damaged relationship, and Dan Humphrey is that catalyst. (By the way, that framed photo of Chuck’s mom looks just like Ed Westwick. I wonder if it is actually the actor’s mother.)

As for Little J, she apparently dragged her magical suitcase all the way to (I assume) the Lower East Side to live with Agnes. Agnes’ mother is involved enough with her wild child daughter’s life to phone up Rufus and inform him that she’s gone through the exact same things with Agnes but that the girls will take care of each other. The two girls head around town to meet with various business managers in order to get “their line” off the ground. Unfortunately, Jenny and Agnes don’t seem to meet eye to eye on anything at these meetings, with Jenny representing someone who has really through about the name and image of her brand and has a clear picture of what she wants to make and who she wants to sell it to, and Agnes attempting to jump in on her glory and claim Jenny’s ideas as her own. Later, Jenny starts to realize that Agnes’ unorganized lifestyle (filled with weekday hangovers) is costing her time and potential money, so she takes responsibility into her own hands and meets with a business manager behind Agnes’ back, who says he’d love to work with her alone and admits that Agnes was the problem with Jenny getting representation all along.

When Agnes gets Jenny’s contract call by mistake, all hell breaks loose. When Jenny returns to the apartment, Agnes is ready to declare war, hurrying across the street with Jenny’s dresses in hand, which she promptly shoves into a trashcan and lights on fire, despite Jenny’s protestations. Frankly, Jenny, that’s a point where you have to make a call. If a psycho bitch has your entire life’s work in her hands and is dousing it with lighter fluid and holding up a lit matchbook, you have to make a choice: do you grab the matchbook out of her hand and suffer a burn on your palm as you put out the flame, or do you cry about it and let your entire collection go up in flames? I would have chosen the burn, but Jenny instead chose the couture bonfire. Bad call, Little J. Frankly, instead of crying about it and screaming at Agnes, the best move would have probably been to punch Agnes right in the moneymaker. Hurt her as much as she hurt you, J.

So despite watching her entire collection go up in smoke, J returns home to Daddy Rufus with the parental consent forms she needs to start her business. When Rufus refuses to sign it, Jenny runs away again and meets with her business manager, who tells her that the only other way to get in business with him if her parents won’t give consent is to take them to court and sue to become emancipated. Please don’t do it, Little J! Then you’ll really be Little Jenny Orphan and you can’t be because that name belongs to someone else and I invented it! I hope Daddy Rufus will take his son’s advice and get J back by signing the papers, because it would really suck to lose our miniature fashionista.

Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

Nate and Vanessa were not in this episode at all, so our final plot belongs to Serena, and I left it for last because it is my least favorite. She’s still seeing Aaron Rose the Artist who sends her all over the city via GPS to see his favorite places, unfortunately, she takes this to mean that they are exclusive, when he believes in strictly the opposite. Per Blair’s quips:

“Sure, he starts out in his blue period and it’s all great, but it’s only a matter of time until he’s all into Cubism and it’s some other girl’s eye coming out of her forehead.”

Serena gets jealous of Aaron’s other girlfriends and breaks up with him, even though he’s Cyrus’ son, which would have been a cool story thread to follow.

“You believe in long hair, peasant skirts and sandals. But you in an open relationship? I don’t think so.” – Blair

If it weren’t for Blair’s quips about this plot, I would have been totally bored because Serena without the other characters to interact with is the worst kind of ennui for me.

The Husband:

This was a great episode. Like, season 1 pre-WGA strike good. It’s fascinating, especially, that in this particular episode Little J was far more heartless than Blair. Just like last season when she usurped Blair’s position as the Queen Bee of Constance-St. Jude’s, she’s a fascinating character when she decides to ignore her soul, only to regain it right before she loses it altogether, forever. (Like Blair’s friends, who are daywalking vampires as far as I’m concerned, especially mini-Blair Hazel.) But going all Jena Malone and emancipating herself from her parents, that’s not going to get her anywhere as a designer, as by the time the case gets to court and she wins (which she won’t), her guerrilla fashion show will have become irrelevant and her clothing will no longer be cutting edge. Seriously, haven’t you seen that Drew Barrymore movie Irreconcilable Differences?

And seeing Blair go through a complete 180 within mere minutes is always very fun, as this manic-depressive rich girl – one afraid of being mistaken as “upper-middle class” – finally meets her match in stubby little Wallace Shawn. For once, it’s going to be a happy back-and-forth war, something this show has yet to do. Sure, earlier wars on the show were happy and fun for us as viewers, but, of course, the characters involved in said wars ended up anywhere but in happy places. (I like to imagine that Georgina is floating somewhere in space, trapped in the Phantom Zone.)

It’s strange, though, that Gossip Girl and Privileged, in the last week, have both dealt with secrets uncovered via budding writers trying their hand at journalism/biography, secrets of the rich and famous doing very naughty things, and then having the secret-keeping rich person offer massive amounts of money to the writer. Yeah, on Privileged it was that Laurel Limoges got pregnant with her daughter while her husband was still in Vietnam, which isn’t nearly as bad as committing arson, but both are career-destroying secrets, secrets now known by ambitious but confuzzled young persons. Is this going to be a running thing on The CW? At least on Smallville whenever Chloe would discover some terrible secret about Lex or Lionel, they would threaten to kill her, and then everything would just kind of go away by episode’s end.

Fuck, is this going to happen on Everybody Hates Chris, too? Is he going to find out something about his boss at the grocery store? I mean, he and his siblings have plenty on Mr. Omar, but I don’t think that widow-stalking Lothario gives a fuck what they have.

The Wife:

Over the course of our week-long stay in New York, my husband and I watched the entire first season of Gossip Girl. That’s right, kids. I have now seen every episode of Gossip Girl. I recanted a few weeks ago about my former opinion of the show, because the first season does not totally suck. It’s really just the first episode that’s not very endearing, but it sure takes off running from that point forward. Because it’s not fair of me to try to summarize the entirety of the first season and my thoughts about it in favor of the current episode, I will say the following:

  • I love Chuck Bass and kind of want to be him. (I’m thinking about changing my grad school entrance essay to read simply: “I’m Chuck Bass.”)
  • Blair Waldorf is extremely entertaining.
  • I hate Serena Van Der Woodsen. Actually, my issue is not with Serena as a character or anything she does, but solely with Blake Lively, whom I believe is the reason Jimmy Caar made the following joke in a recent appearance on Conan O’Brien, I paraphrase:

    “You know how they make dogs in commercials look like they’re talking? They put peanut butter on the roof of their mouths and when they try to lick it off, it looks like they’re talking. Coincidentally, that’s also how they make Gossip Girl.”

If you watch Blake Lively’s attempts at acting closely enough, you’ll notice that her mouth does not move in a way a normal person’s mouth would to form words. This is perhaps why everything she says sounds like she’s slushing it around in her mouth. It’s far too silibant. You’ll also notice that she cannot open her eyes any wider than they are naturally, which is not very wide at all. They’re like slits in her face. Now, after seeing the first season, all of those things are exactly why they cast Blake Lively for this role. Serena has been drunk for a good portion of her life, and Blake Lively does indeed always look (and sound) a little drunk. But my problem is this: Serena’s sober now. As such, Lively’s limited acting skills just make Serena come off as incredibly boring. She’s very boring to watch. Compare her to Leighton Meester in any scene they have together and I think you’ll begin to see how much more interesting to watch one girl is over the other.

So, with that said, I’m sure you can see that my thoughts are similar to Blair’s about Serena starring as the desired end-product Eliza Doolittle in Blair’s My Fair Lady dream sequence. I love Blair’s little old Hollywood dreams. I wish I had more dream sequences like that, but not with Serena Van Der Woodsen stealing my starring role in them. Clearly, the writers are aware that Leighton Meester can act circles around Blake Lively. Even if their characters are in constant competition for the spotlight, the actresses certainly are not.

This episode revolved around everyone’s adventures at Yale College Visit Weekend, a phenomenon which I will never understand wherein prospective applicants from wealthy and legacy families are invited to schmooze Ivy League deans for pre-acceptance into the school. I suppose that’s how our stately current president got into Yale, so it must really be true. Blair, Chuck and Nate all go hoping to gain early acceptance. Blair has always had her sights set on Yale and will stop at nothing to make her dream come true. Nate turns toward Yale because he no longer has to follow his father’s footsteps to Dartmouth, but has evidently given up on getting into USC like he wanted to last season. Chuck Bass, of course, chooses his colleges based on their secret societies and thus wants to be a part of the Skull and Bones.

Skull and Bones? Its Chuck Bass calling. I fucking own you.

Skull and Bones? It's Chuck Bass calling. I fucking own you.

Brown-bound Serena receives a handwritten invite to the Yale Weekend from the Dean, but only accepts to spite Blair after Blair says something untoward to her about it. Dan, who had also been interested in Dartmouth until recently, longs to join the Yale English Department, which he claims is the best in the country. (Technically, according to the 2001 rankings, it is tied for the number one spot with Harvard, Stanford and UC Berkeley. However, Yale is number one if you want to specialize in 18th to 20th Century British Literature.) Personally, since Dan is so into creative writing, I’d have expected him to go to Purdue or NYU. But I guess since everyone else is Yale bound, Dan might as well be, too, right?

It’s lucky for Chuck Bass and Nate Archibald that Dan Humphrey joined them at Yale so that Nate, reeling from his father’s various embezzlement schemes that cost a number of Yalies their trust funds, could pretend to be Dan and not get his ass beaten by every trust fund baby he came across, as well as score some hot English Department TA tail. (BTW, the Marquez book she’s holding up is way too thick to be Love in the Time of Cholera. It had to have been 100 Years of Solitude, which is the better of the two anyway, in my opinion.) The real Dan Humphrey set the record straight when he caught Nate in bed with the TA, pretending to be Dan Humphrey, but that didn’t stop Chuck Bass from bringing his new Skull and Bones buddies a Dan instead of the Nate Archibald they intended to humiliate. After Nate frees a denuded Dan from the Yale courtyard statue (with the help of the hot TA and several implied jokes about the knot-tying skills of the Yale Regatta), Nate starts a bar fight with the Skull and Bones boys in Dan’s honor, and declares that he hopes to continue beating them up next year. Angry, the Skull and Bonesers try to take out vengeance on Chuck Bass, but Chuck Bass is prepared to blackmail them with photos from the hookercams he installed on the hookers he had previously brought to the secret society. Really, Chuck Bass thinks of everything. I think he needs business cards that read: “Chuck Bass, Champion of the Lost Weekend.”

Why dont you tell them about that guy you kind of murdered and how youre totally cribbing that dress from Robin Scherbatsky, S?

Why don't you tell them about that guy you kind of murdered and how you're totally cribbing that dress from Robin Scherbatsky, Serena? She has that dress in grey, white and yellow and it looks way hotter on her.

Serena and Blair battle it out for the Dean’s affections and poor Blair is crushed when she doesn’t receive an invite to the private reception at the Dean’s house. Instead, she buys her way in by bribing the porcelain cat-loving Delores Umbridge of a secretary to the Dean with some precious Victorian kitty statues, a bribery tactic I will be using in my own life from now on. At the party, everyone is expected to answer the Dean’s hypothetical question: “If you could have dinner with any person, real or imaginary, whom would it be and why?” Blair had come prepared to answer George Sand, which I think is a good answer because George Sand is hella tight and also because she happens to be the Dean’s favorite writer. Chuck gives Serena Blair’s answer, so Blair switches Serena’s answer without her knowing: revealing the name of Pete, the drug addict Serena inadvertently killed. Serena handles the embarrassing situation rather well while Blair chides her on and the two step outside to handle their issue like real ladies: in a dress-ripping, hair-pulling catfight on the patio. Ultimately, the two call a truce, realize that they’re being totally retarded and become friends again. Serena gets a call from the Dean at the end, hinting at offering her early acceptance, but she refuses on principle unless Blair gets in, too. How sweet. Frankly, I hope Serena does get into Brown like she wanted to so she can have that blonde mane dreadlocked, per Blair’s suggestion. (Although, really, aren’t dreadlocks a little more UC Berkeley? Or UC Santa Cruz? Or my alma mater, UC Santa Barbara, for that matter?)

This is Blairs George Sand dream sequence, wherein shes equally fabulous and loves a hot cloche.

This is Blair's George Sand dream sequence, wherein she's equally fabulous and loves a hot cloche.

Back in Brooklyn, Little J tries to convince Daddy Rufus to let her be homeschooled, with help from Vanessa to prove that one can work full-time and get an education in other ways than attending Constance. I’m glad that this plot explained V’s school situation to me, because I just assumed she had already gotten her GED or something. But nope, V homeschools herself and has her sights set on NYU. After shadowing J on the job and hearing how good she is from both Eleanor Waldorf, her employer, and love-of-Rufus’ life and J’s client Lily Van Der Woodsen, Daddy Rufus decides that Little J doesn’t have to give up her dream and she can homeschool herself. After all, being 15 isn’t stopping Kira Pastinina from being a fashion superstar, and it’s certainly not a good reason to stop Little J.

The Husband:

Haha! I win! By streamlining the first season over a week was the best way to get my wife fully into the world of GG, and it’s even easier when both of us are sick on vacation and bedridden for a full day. Success! It is a GG house now, muthafucka!

Since my wife so thoroughly covered the episode — I’m still at home, by the way, recovering from said vacation illness — I’d just like to say a few things regarding what I dug about this episode.

For one, I liked everyone’s take on Yale, as it was a great bit of information about how each of the characters really think (after all those Hamptons episodes where nobody really acted the way they were originally written to be).

  • Nate considered Yale to be his backup school. Now that’s some kind of a world I simply don’t understand.
  • Serena referred to it as “full of the Blairs of the world,” explaining to her mother that Brown really would be the answer for her. (Since when is Brown a school anybody should frown upon? What a strange show. It does remind me, however, of a Family Guy episode when they visited the school and Chris loudly declared, “Brown’s the color of poo!” to which Brian calmly replied, “Yes, Chris. Yes it is.”)
  • Dan basically thinks of it as “a place for presidents, not Humphreys,” without expressly mentioning the fact that, yes, he wasn’t interested in Yale during s1, and didn’t even mention being a writer other than one passing plot device regarding Vanessa and a short story he once wrote.
  • Of course, Blair has been all about Yale for the entirety of her life, her father having gone there and her doing all the research necessary to ensure a place at his Alma Mater. Unfortunately, going into your interview with an essay titled “On Being Blair” is not the way to make yourself an actual person, nor is saying, “Everything worth knowing about me is in that folder.” Ouch, Blair. Ouch. It’s hard to, as you put it, always be the Darth Vader next to Serena’s Sunshine Barbie, but legacy or not, I doubt any real school wants somebody that acts like a rich robot.

Hopefully, Gossip Girl can deal with the college situation better than Josh Schwartz’s last teen show, The O.C. At one point, both Marissa and Ryan had gotten into UC Berkeley, Summer into Brown and Seth pretty much nowhere. Not everything went according to plan, though, since…well…Marissa died in a car accident, and out of grief Ryan chose to drop UC Berkeley to become a cagefighter. (Seriously, what the fuck, O.C.? I was the biggest show apologist for the longest time, but that was really dumb.) Then Seth stalked Summer for a while and it just got awkward. If GG knows what’s good for it, it can learn from these lessons and deal with college stuff with more tact. After all, Yale isn’t that far from the Upper East Side, and Harvard is only a four-hour drive. (And Dartmouth and Princeton aren’t far off, either.) It can be like Metropolis on Smallville — even if there are characters in both places, it’d be entirely feasible to have them all meet every couple episodes and act like every location is just next door. I don’t mind.