The Husband:

While we, the children of Saint Clare, have found the time to write about many of the biggest shows on television (and even some small ones), there is only so much time and energy we can spend on this site. The truth is, we watch a whole lot more than what ends up on the site, and since I watch most of these on my own and yet never find the ability to write about them, their absence is mostly my fault. But no matter. For those that fall through the cracks, I have here a grab bag of the 30+ shows I watch in addition to whatever ends up on the site. These are the ones that slipped through the cracks. And hell, I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting (and also not even bothering writing about, which tend to fall under instructional/educational stuff like anything on Discovery), so if you think I’ve forgotten something, please let me know. (And no, I don’t watch any CSI or L&O shows, so don’t even try to get all up in my grill.) Here they are, the missing shows of the 2008-2009 television season, in alphabetical order.

24

I really should have written at least some criticism on this season, but work piled up and I simply didn’t have the time. It started off as the most intelligent season with some of the most compelling political questions being thrown around (welcome to the show finally, “debate on torture”), but by the fourth time Tony twisted his alliance and Jack was infected with the disease, I kind of stopped caring. Great first half of the season, though, and I think Renee is the best new character in a very long time.

Adult Swim (Xavier: Renegade Angel / Superjail! / Squidbillies / The Drinky Crow Show / Metalocalypse / Delocated / Robot Chicken / Etc.)

Thank you, young people of Adult Swim (who I have spent some time with, don’t forget) for freaking my mind week after week, and giving alternative comedy a major boost in America. And for freaking out my wife.

A beacon of normalcy in a world of wackiness.

A beacon of normalcy in a world of wackiness.

Better Off Ted

It took me a couple episodes to latch onto the tone, but once I did I simply couldn’t get enough from this latest product of the mad mind of Victor Fresco. Check out some episodes online, then watch Andy Richter Controls the Universe (his previous show), and I guarantee you some of the oddest network comedy in a very long time. I still think Portia DeRossi is trying to hard, though, and should take a page from the book of Fresco mainstay Jonathan Slavin.

Castle

Bring it on, Nathan Fillion. Hypnotize me with your nostrils and your addictive but borderline-stupid mystery writer-cum-detective series. (Although how weird was that Judy Reyes episode? What the hell, Carla Turk?)

The Celebrity Apprentice 2

So sue me, I liked Joan Rivers. And the addition of the phrase “Whore Pit Vipers” to the television lexicon.

Celebrity Rehab (Sober House) with Dr. Drew

So help me, I can’t stop watching. It’s just a disaster. I will say, though, that I like the drama in the rehab far more than the sober house, as the latter seems to exist simply to destroy any progress the celebrities made in rehab. And now having seen all three of his seasons of Taxi, Jeff Conaway’s fall from grace is fishbowl television at its finest.

Dating in the Dark

Really fun, actually. I hope it gets a second season. I also hope that more matches will be made, and that people stop being massive failures.

Dirty Sexy Money

Everything I needed to say about the failure of the second season of this show can be found on this blog, and it ended its truncated run by turning itself inside-out by revealing that the show’s central mystery, who killed Peter Krause’s father, was a bust since he wasn’t dead after all. What the hell, Dirty Sexy Money? Oh well, your cancellation made room in Krause’s schedule for the much anticipated (by me) adaptation of Parenthood coming to NBC mid-season.

The Goode Family

It took a few episodes to find its footing, but by the end of its sped-up summer run, I was a major fan of the latest Mike Judge effort. (R.I.P. King of the Hill.) Vastly misunderstood by viewers who only watched the first episode, it, just like KOTH, found a middle ground between conservative America and liberal America and found the ability to make fun of both without drawing blood, choosing to love instead of hate. Some of the voice cast was misused (why was my beloved Linda Cardellini in the cast?), but as a Berkeley native, I had a blast relishing in mocking the stereotypes of my own people while rediscovering what it is I love so much about them. The bull dykes were also two of the most original characters of the season.

One Earth isn't just a grocery store, it's a way of life.

One Earth isn't just a grocery store, it's a way of life.

The Great American Road Trip

Any show that has two contestants debating over which is more correct, “y’all” or “youse,” gets major points in my book. A nice and forgettable summer trifle after a long, way-too-hot day. Silly, yes, but I can’t say it was bad. And it was a definite improvement over the similar family-based season of The Amazing Race. (I’m sure The Soup is really grateful for this show, too.)

Heroes

Oh god, kill me now. Volume 4 was a marked improvement over #3, for sure, but I just don’t care about anybody anymore. And yet I feel that I need to keep watching. It’s too late to give up now. There was one great episode this season, though, and that was the flashback one surrounding Angela Petrelli’s stint at a mutant internment camp. Why can’t they all be this good?

Howie Do It

Yeah, I watched it. Shut the fuck up. About one-third of it was funny, and as I watched it on Hulu at work, it’s not like I wasted any of my own time. Howie Mandel is savvier than you think, but I wish he would return to his wilder roots.

How’s Your News

This Parker-Stone produced MTV show revolving around reporters who are developmentally delayed confused the hell out of me initially, but once I realized there wasn’t a mean bone in its body it became a warm bit of fun. I want a second season, dammit. These are some of the most joyful television subjects I’ve ever seen.

I Survived a Japanese Game Show

Better than the first season, but I’m still glad I only watch this online while doing something else.

In the Motherhood

Worst opening credit sequence of the year. Some pretty funny material hidden underneath unfunny slapstick. Horatio Sanz got thin. Megan Mullally couldn’t find a rhythm. I still think Cheryl Hines is oddly hot.

Lie to Me

I unfortunately didn’t start watching this until July, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long. While gimmicky to a fault and not nearly as intelligent as it pretends it is, this Tim Roth vehicle about an FBI specialist who studies the subtleties of the face (OF THE FACE) is clever, compelling and well drawn. I’m not sure about the addition of Mekhi Phifer’s character, but we’ll see how it works out next season, especially with Shield creator Shawn Ryan at the helm of season two.

Life

This cancellation reallllly hurts. One of the unsung gems from the 2007-2008 television, this, the smartest network cop show in recent memory, took its great season one energy and hit the second season with all it had and came up with a compelling, hilarious, devilishly clever and gleefully violent run that was only marred by a major cast shift during the final few episodes. (I’m looking at you, Gabrielle Union. Your presence was what I like to call a massive failure.) A Zen-obsessed cop recently released from prison after serving over a decade for a murder he did not commit, this show had the best cases of them all. It also gave me one of my favorite hours of television of the year in an episode that revolved around a seductive assassin, fertilizer and pigeon aficionados. And at least the major serialized storyline (who framed Damien Lewis and why) got paid off in a major way thanks to the ever-reliable Garret Dillahunt.

lifeshot

My Boys

Putting PJ and Bobby together was a great idea, but your nine-episode seasons are too short to gain any momentum, and the spring training season finale was a bust.

Nitro Circus

Moronic glee.

Numb3rs

Man, did they put Charlie through the ringer. First, he nearly gets his brother killed with a miscalculation on his part, he questions his own validity as a mathematician and then Amita gets kidnapped just as he decides that he wants to marry her. Otherwise, another fine, if somewhat uneventful, of this show that never captured the glory of its über-nerdy first season. Also, thanks for all the great guest star work, but sometimes it gets laid on a little too thick, such as in “Sneakerhead” which brought together Bruno Campos, Patrick Bauchau, Dr. Edison from Bones and Eve. (And points for making the Liz Warner character actually bearable. I fucking hated her in season 4.

Privileged

So apparently the CW thought that their best idea ever was to get rid of this show, the smartest show on the UPN/WB merger since the Buffyverse, one that was technically pulling in bigger numbers than 90210, one that was a delight to watch and deeply addictive, and make room for what is sure to be one of 2009-2010’s worst new offerings, Melrose Place. I gotta tell ya, this cancellation hurts. While I wrote recaps and reviews of the episodes way into its freshman (and only) season, the looming axe, as well as a more heavily serialized structure, turned me off from writing on the final stretch of episodes, and I told myself that I’d only recap them if the show came back. Lo and behold, another Joanna Garcia vehicle has gone down the tubes. I’ll miss you oh so dearly, Ms. Too-Smart-For-The-CW Palm Beach satirical melodrama known as Privileged.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think Robert Buckley might be a showkiller. And that's sad, because he's so damn pretty.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think Robert Buckley might be a showkiller. And that's sad, because he's so damn pretty.

Rescue Me

I thought it was a great season, and thanks to an extended number of episodes (it didn’t air in 2008 thanks to the writer’s strike), the show was able to focus much of its energy on pages-long dialogue-happy battle-of-wits in nearly episode, which to be is melodrama heaven. Gone is the maudlin tone, returned is all the comic energy, and the stories seem to actually progress instead of just flopping around like a dying fish. Leary and Tolan deserve major praise for bringing the show back up to snuff. And now having seen all of Newsradio, I love any chance I get to watch Maura Tierney, although I’m still not going to watch ER. (I am proud to have only seen three episodes of that show ever, being a Chicago Hope fan.) Special shot-out to the Sean cancer storyline, if only to allow Broadway actor Steven Pasquale (husband of Tony winner Laura Benanti) the opportunity to belt out some songs in a handful of hallucination scenes.

Samantha Who?

One of the biggest upsets of the last two years was the rise and fall of this light-hearted, occasionally gut-busting amnesia sitcom that started off the talk of the town, only to waste away its final episodes after the conclusion of the actual television season. Ending on a shitty cliffhanger (Sam’s parents are getting divorced, so Mom is going to live with you and your formerly-estranged-but-now-love-of-your-life lover), we nevertheless found out who caused the accident that brought about Sam’s amnesia, Jennifer Esposito finally made it with the towel boy, and Melissa McCarthy continued to be one of the brightest stars of the year.

Scrubs

Like Privileged, I hesitated to continue writing due to the threat of its cancellation, but now it’s continuing on into yet another season (albeit with some major changes), so I really have no reason to stop writing about it. But let’s just say that while the hurry-up to conclude its many disparate storylines often felt rushed (those two Bahama episodes felt especially odd), the conclusion to J.D.’s years-in-the-telling tale was a lovely way to conclude the season. (No props for the awful awful Peter Gabriel song that accompanied his final walk down the hallway, as laughably bad as it was when I heard it in the remake of Shall We Dance?)

The Shield

I don’t have to tell you how amazing the final season was. Watch it. Seriously. You owe it to yourself to experience one of the hardest hitting cop shows of all time. Like The Wire, a Greek tragedy hammered into modern-day policework with some of the most finely drawn characters around. And oh man, did those final three episodes pack a major punch. Ouch, indeed.

Southland

Quite a bit like The Shield, really, had it followed Michael Jace’s beat cop instead of the Strike Team. A little too dour at times for me to really give a crap, and the sprawling ensemble needs to be cut down (which is what I hear it’s doing for the second season), but this L.A.-centered procedural has a lot going for it, not least of which its pitch-perfect direction. (I especially dig the long shots, including my favorite, which involved a cabin and a K9 unit bringing down a perp.)

Way better than dating Marissa Cooper.

Way better than dating Marissa Cooper.

Surviving Suburbia

A sitcom in serious need of finding one tone and sticking with it, this sometimes-sweet-sometimes-brutally-cruel suburban comedy worked as well as it did because of Saget as well as G. Hannelius’ performance as the precocious daughter. Still, all the jokes about disabled people, pregnant teenagers and strip clubs really didn’t mesh together with the clichés of the genre.

Survivor: Tocantins

I love Survivor, but this was one of the most boring seasons in its ten-year run. I don’t think I gave a shit about one person, and I simply couldn’t find anything compelling to write about. A waste of a good location.

True Beauty

The right person won, the losers got (mostly) schooled in this trick show designed to expose the douchery involved in modeling, Ashton Kutcher made another heroin-like show, and I concern myself for months with how they can pull the trick off a second time in the next season.

The Unusuals

When grading a cop show, I tend to focus on three things — the tone, the characters and the cases. A bizarre, pessimistic yet comedic take on all those wacky cops we’ve seen throughout the years all thrown together (one is deathly afraid of…death, one has a brain tumor, one talks in the third person, one is a closeted socialite, etc.) pushed into some remarkably dark territory, The Unusuals had tone and characters down pat, but suffered at the hands of some DOA storylines. But oh man, did the tone ever make up for most of the show’s shortcomings. Great ensemble cast, too, although I would have recast Eddie Alvarez.

Rather unusual.

Rather unusual.

Worst Week

A breezy and often hilarious slapstick comedy based off of a British hit, it could never regain its momentum after moving away from the initial “week” of the title. Kyle Bornheimer is a true find and made the more unbearable misunderstandings and embarrassing moments of the show (of which there were many) all the more palatable. I’m not the biggest fan of comedy based around humiliations, but this show found a likeable ability to have its characters not completely despise each other at every moment. This was, to say the least, very refreshing. Big points for giving me the biggest network TV laugh of the year (when Bornheimer wakes up his brother-in-law only to be thought a murderer) but major negative points for pushing back a major character-based episode into a weekend spot months after the show had already ended its run.

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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:

I don’t know why, but “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” is the first episode I haven’t been all that jazzed about this season. (I’m not a fan of “The Lie,” either, but that one’s more like a coda to the season premiere, so it functions.) John Locke is one of my favorite characters, actually, and I was initially excited for this episode to flesh out the hows and whys of his collection of the Oceanic Six, but the actual execution of this conceit left a little something to be desired. Maybe it was a lack of a real on-island story, necessary to balance this off-island stuff out. I’m also starting to feel like Lost, in general, is answering a few too many questions or, at the very least, saying things too plainly. Like the scene where Widmore christens John Locke as Jeremy Bentham by explaining who Bentham is and how it’s funny that Locke is reborn as a different philosopher. Most of us knew this already. It didn’t need to be said.

This right here? Mostly just the death part.

This right here? Mostly just the death part.

There is, however, one very valuable thing that I take away from this episode. My allegiance before as to whose side of the impending war would be the right side was in favor of Ben and those of the island, but after seeing Ben’s machinations in this episode and hearing certain pieces of information from Widmore, I no longer know who to trust. As pointed out by EW‘s Doc Jensen, Lost is constantly exploring problems of epistemics: how do w know what we know, and how can we trust that knowledge? I, and possibly some of you, have been willing to believe up to this point Ben’s claims that Widmore is evil and has ill designs for the island and its people should he ever find it. This claim started to be problematized when Locke met Widmore back in 1954, leading us to questions Widmore’s alleged intentions if his association with the island goes back further than Ben’s. It’s even further problematized when Widmore tells Locke in his Tunisian hospital bed (because the Frozen Donkey Wheel always dumps its turners in a Tunisian desert) that wily Ben Linus tricked Widmore into leaving the island, which we know means exile. Until that time, Widmore was the leader of his people. He instructs John that he must go back to the island because “there’s a war coming, John, and if you’re not back on the island when it happens, the wrong side is going to win.”

From there, Widmore rechristens Locke and gives him Matthew Abbadon as a chauffer/assistant. The travel to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where Locke pays a visit to the new-and-improved Habitat for Humanity Sayid, which is drastically different than the assassin-for-hire Sayid. Locke tries to convince Sayid to return to the island, but he refuses, informing Locke that leaving the island allowed him to be with Nadya, until her death, and that he likes building things and doing good for the world. (Did anyone else notice that the school Sayid was building was called “Escuela de Isla,” or “School of the Island?”) From then, Locke and Abbadon head to New York to see WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALT! Walt informs Locke that he’s had some prescient dreams about the island’s impending war and seeing Locke return to the island in a suit, but despite this information, Locke does not ask Walt to join him on the return trip to that mysterious island. Abbadon chides him for this and, in the distance, Ben Linus spies on the conversation. (Man, Ben sure gets around, doesn’t he?)

Next, the Locke and Abbadon road trip heads to Santa Rosa, California, which I always thought was just the name of Hurley’s medical center, but it turns out that it’s so named because it’s actually in Santa Rosa. There’s a bit of levity where Hurley assumes he’s seeing John because he’s crazy, until a nurse confirms that he is, in fact, talking to a bald dude in a wheelchair. Hurley seems alright with the prospect of going back to the island, until he sees Matthew Abbadon watching over their conversation and freaks out, screaming about how he once saw Abbadon at Santa Rosa, claiming to be a representative of Oceanic Airlines. The orderlies take Hurley inside. Locke has struck out on yet another attempt to bring the O6ers back together. With some doubt planted in his mind about Abbadon, he asks the man exactly what he does for Mr. Widmore, to which Abbadon replies:


“I help people get where they need to get to, John. That’s what I do for Mr. Widmore.”


From Santa Rosa, the odd pair of bald men head down to Los Angeles, where Locke fails at getting Kate to come along. Frustrated, Locke demands to be taken to see Helen, his lost love. Abbadon refuses to take him, but eventually caves and shows Locke to her grave. There, Abbadon tells Locke about how he’s helped Locke get where he was supposed to be (suggesting Walkabout, for instance), and asks him if his death, his instruction from Richard Alpert, will be inevitable or a choice. Suddenly, Abbadon is shot and Locke speeds away on his broken leg, landing himself in a massive traffic accident that he miraculously survives under the care of Jack Shepard. Indeed, Abbadon gets people where they need to go.

Locke tells Jack about his mission, their mission, but Jack is less than receptive. He thinks Locke is delusional and wholly un-special, until Locke tells Jack that he has a message from Christian Shepard. Even then, Jack refuses to believe, and Locke, once discharged from the hospital, returns to his hotel to write that fateful suicide note. He prepares to hang himself with some electrical cords, and I was more than surprised to see that for all the things John Locke knows, he doesn’t know how to tie a noose. That knot he tied wouldn’t hold a human body long enough for it to hang by the neck until dead. Surely, this is something Locke would have learned in Boy Scouts, no?

It doesn’t matter how poorly Locke ties knots, though, because Ben knocks and lets himself in. He reveals that he killed Abbadon to protect Locke and the O6ers from Widmore. He proceeds to contradict the information given to us by Widmore earlier in the episode, claiming Widmore is indeed bad and that Ben moved the island to keep Locke and friends safe from that terrible man. He begs John to let him help collect the O6. Locke breaks down and tells Ben, the man he has trusted as one who groomed him to take his rightful place as leader of the Others, that he is a failure, unable to convince anyone to return with him, and probably because he turned on Jack back in season three. Ben assures him that whatever he’s said to these people is working, because whatever he said to Jack caused Jack to buy a round trip flight to Sydney. All Locke had to do, Ben suggests, is convince that one person. He suggests they go to Sun and start again with her, but Locke tells Ben that he promised Jin he wouldn’t bring Sun back, explaining that he planned to give her Jin’s ring as proof that he was gone. Ben goes to comfort the heartbroken Man of Faith, telling him:


“You can’t die. You’ve got too much work to do.”


But then Locke mentions that he needs to find Eloise Hawking, and the very mention of her name sends Ben into a rage, causing him to strangle John, only to hang his lifeless body from the rafters in an attempt to make it look like John did what he had set out to do. This was the best scene in this whole episode for me, especially the ghastly shadow of Locke’s body looming over the scene as Ben frantically runs about, cleaning his presence of off the hotel room. I like this image not only for its grotesqueness, but because it shows Locke for what he has been constructed as: a puppet, his strings pulled by his considerable faith into many directions by as many masters – Widmore, Richard Alpert, Jacob/Christian Shepard, Jack. He’s a tragic figure, lead into ruin by his faith and believe in what he’s told. The only thing that’s certain about the various problems of epistemics we’ve been presented in this episode is that, whichever side is correct, John Locke had to die. That was always an absolute truth.

But true to Walt’s dream, Locke does return to that island in a suit, brought back to life as he touches that holy ground, much to the confusion of new castaways Ilana and Cesar, who are very confused about this whole situation. It seems they’ve crashed near the Hydra station, and Cesar is looking for something. Ajira did in fact crash, but as Cesar tells Locke, Hurley and two other people (Kate and Jack, presumably) disappeared when the light flashed, and two others (Sayid and Sun, presumably), took off in a catamaran the first chance they could get. Cesar the leads John to inspect the bodies of those who were injured, and among them, is Ben Linus. I like that Locke, reincarnated on the island, has become sort of deity figure, appearing from nowhere and yet being implicitly trusted by those around him. His reaction upon seeing Ben Linus?


“That’s the man who killed me.”


In writing about this right now, I’ve grown to appreciate the episode more than when I started this post. Though I stand by the issues I mentioned at first, the more subtle aspects of this episode really shine through all that, especially the deity Locke on the island and the puppet Locke body hanging from that hotel room ceiling. As always, for every answered question and spelled-out piece of dialogue, the writers throw something new at us: why were only some of the 06 zapped from the plane into time travel land, while others were left behind? Are only some of them necessary for the upcoming war? And why the fuck is Cesar so curious about everything? What made Sayid turn from killer to habitat builder? And why was Locke not supposed to meet Eloise Hawking? I have no theories on any of this. I’m just going to think about the grim spectre of puppet Locke until the next episode.

The Husband:

I’m very big on the Lost episodes that people seem to dislike when it comes to the ones that simply exist as backstory and exposition and not much else. That’s why I like s4’s “Confirmed Dead” more than “The Constant,” not because it was more emotional (that would be the latter), but because I loved how economical the entire story was in our introduction to the Freighties. It was mysterious, it was confusing, and it was informative.

The issue with “The Life And Death Of Jeremy Bentham” is that it simply didn’t pose that many mysteries. I think I like the episode far more than my wife does, especially the implication, via out-of-the-ordinary-for-Lost place cards over black screens, that we’re in the midst of an epic journey, far greater than the episode may indicate. Yes, we followed Locke from his island jump all the way to his death in one single episode – a disappointment, to be sure, to those like myself who wanted that story to last a little longer – but there are little bits and pieces that are going to be filled in later, just like every other damn thing on Lost.

I find, the more I think and read about this episode, that most of my disappointments can be blamed more on my overactive imagination than the show itself, and so I give Lost the benefit out the doubt. For instance, once Locke’s minute-long talk with Walt was over, I thought that it was underwhelming and didn’t really fit with how we see Walt later, talking to Hurley in Santa Rosa. But this morning I popped in that episode from s4, and found that Walt really didn’t really say much to Hurley beyond that Locke saw him briefly, and that Walt’s big conversation piece with Hurley, asking why the O6 were lying, was based on his own objections and not Locke’s.

I give Lost credit for really giving us a slow burn this episode, because we all know that these past few episodes are really revving up to something huge, and that’s okay. The Wire, a show I refer to so much as the great recent example of top-notch quality that I’m surprised our readers still haven’t figured out that they should watch it and tell me how much they like it, was the master of the slow burn, even spending whole seasons building up to something bigger but, if viewing episodes on their own, they may be confusing or even boring.

Lost didn’t pull it off as well as The Wire, and the last two episodes haven’t been the best the show has ever seen, but goddamn if it isn’t leading up to the fucking mother lode.

The Wife:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next time, we should do more experiments!

Next time, we should do more experiments!


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

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

My favorite Walterisms of the night:

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

The Husband:

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

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

The Husband:

I have pricked up my ears, and I have heard the jubilation across the land. Scrubs has returned, finally in the hands of ABC, who has produced the show for eight seasons now, and gone forever is she from the clutches of a confused and untrusting NBC, who shifted the show…did EW last week tell me it changed schedule at least seven times there? Sheesus.

Despite its truncated previous season (and final one on NBC), quite a great deal happened on s7 of Scrubs. Elliot broke up with Keith mere days before their wedding, J.D. became a father and Dr. Kelso, who had been lying about his age, was forced to retire as the chief of medicine at Sacred Heart.

We up to speed? Good.

Who, you may ask, is the new chief of medicine? Well, that would be Dr. Taylor Maddox (Courtney Cox), who smiles so much that it gives Dr. Cox a nosebleed, and yet just like any other chief of medicine is only truly concerned with the bottom line, bleeding money from those patients with great health insurance and immediately “streeting” those without. But while Dr. Cox hates her and her perkiness with every fiber of his being, others have more various approaches of talking to her. J.D., who whenever meeting a new woman can’t help but imagine them with the wind through their hair in super slo-mo, stumbles in their conversations with such awkward gems as when they were discussing their respective children:

“Did you deliver it vaginally?”

Jordan, meanwhile, takes her own unique approach before becoming friends with the chief, declaring that she is “the chief of slag-smacking.”

What the hell is slag-smacking? And how can I possibly be chief of that?

What the hell is slag-smacking? And how can I possibly be chief of that?

Fortunately, Kelso isn’t completely out of the picture, even though he was out of most of the two episodes that aired last night. Not content with simply being retired, he still frequents Sacred Heart’s coffee shop downstairs, enjoying all the drama and madness of his former staff.

But this season the staff has increased yet again, as a new set of interns walk the halls with their own unique quirks. What seems to be a definite decision to ape the show they previously mocked – it’s strange that Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy are now on the same network – they have put a very strong amount of focus on these new interns, presumably so they can continue/spin-off the show when star Zach Braff and creator Bill Lawrence (Spin City, Clone High) leave at the end of this season. (And as the entire season completed filming months ago, they are already technically gone.) Of the interns, the two most detailed are Ed (Aziz Ansari from Human Giant and Flight of the Conchords), a stubborn guy who insists upon his coolness, and Denise (Eliza Coupe from…Flight of the Conchords…), who has earned the nickname of Jo in a reference to The Facts Of Life, has terrible bedside manner and, apparently, headbutts “chubsters.”

In the first of two very refreshing episodes (last season did begin to repeat itself far too much), Dr. Maddox is introduced into the hospital and immediately begins shaking things up, the biggest of which is firing the Janitor (who delightfully became so lazy that he got rid of his keyring and just made one key that opens everything, including Ted’s briefcase, which we find out in this episode contains only a smiley face and a revolver). By the end of the episode, everybody becomes aware that Maddox means business, and that things will never be the same.

In the second episode, Scrubs takes a step back and lowers the zaniness for another one of its “death is tough” episodes, joining the ranks of such gems as “My Old Lady” and “My Screwup,” when J.D. and Turk give up their beloved Steak Night (“It’s steak night/We’re gonna eat it right”) become attached to George, an old African-American man (Glynn Turman from, what else, The Wire) who has days to live but has no family to share it with or indicate in his will. J.D., after revealing how he wants to be remembered when he dies (he wants to be stuffed just like Rowdy and live with Turk and Carla) and how he will spend his first day in heaven (swim in the milkshake pool and watch a “lesbian cloud”), tells George that they mock death only because they deal with it every day, and if they gave over to it, they would be completely defeated as doctors. Meanwhile, Dr. Cox finally admits to J.D. that they are equals as doctors after giving J.D. a pep talk about how one should never abandon one’s interns no matter how ignorant they seem.

Scrubs is a special little show, one I didn’t begin watching until spring 2006 when I started Netflixing/downloading the previous seasons. (Just like Smallville and The Shield, I didn’t get into any of the three of them when they started because, as I’ve mentioned, I didn’t even have a television in the 2001-2002 TV season when they all began.) I’m glad I did, because it holds a special place in my heart and in many others as well, an absurd, sweet, character-driven sitcom unlike any other that easily walks the line between comedy and drama. I even love the misunderstood Elliot, who is just too neurotic to simply brush off as “annoying.”

Due to the lack of both Kelso and the Janitor during the second episode, I can’t say that I 100% loved either one of them – the show’s ensemble is its greatest asset – and I also missed the presence of The Todd, who has yet to show up and make some very lame penis pun, but I have to say that the show has regained much of its former glory, finding its laughs in its characters and not the other way around.

Here are some of the other quotes I wrote down during the two episodes:

  • “Ted: I’m a lawyer.

    Maddox: Of course you are, sweety!”

  • “Stop confusing me by being nice to me and giving me phones.” – Janitor
  • “Dude, internment camps are never funny.” – Turk

And my favorite, which is even funnier out of context:

“Haha! Hot dog pen! Count it, honkey face!” – Turk

The Husband:

Prison Break is an extremely fun show, but sometimes I catch myself getting way more into it than I think the show often deserves. I don’t necessarily know how good of a show it is. The plots make very little sense, the coincidences are too staggering to take seriously, the characters bounce in and out of personalities whenever the story calls for it and even the showrunners and writers seem to constantly write themselves into corners and sometimes fail to ever come out of said corner.

But I dig it. I really, really dig it. I have never had a problem with suspending my disbelief, because I can get into premises quite easily with nary a care. Each movie, each play, each show is allowed to create its own world, even if that world looks a good deal like ours. I’ll never understand Herc over at AICN, who easily accepts the vampires and demons world of Buffy The Vampire Slayer but can’t get over the fact that at the beginning of Prison Break, when Michael Scofield held up a bank just to get sent to prison and thus try to free his brother from death row, he just happens to get sent to the correct prison where his brother is incarcerated instead of the many other prisons in the Chicago area.

Get over it. It’s entertainment. It can do whatever the hell it wants.

Oh, and those of you who have issue with the title of the show itself, how it’s called Prison Break and yet after season 1 they were already broken out of prison, get over that too. It doesn’t matter to me one lick. I don’t get pissed when The Office moves outside of the office set and into other locations, so it really shouldn’t matter that in s2 Michael, Lincoln and the gang are racing across the country to get to a big pile of money, or in s4 that they are working with a Homeland Security agent to recover several missing pieces of a big information hub known as Scylla (which, while a badass name, has seemingly nothing to do with its ancient namesake).

Hell, the show could be called Dingy Ring A Dong Bong Sloops and I wouldn’t really care. (Well, I’d care just a little bit. That’s a sweet-ass name.) In other words, get over it. The show is still the show.

I’m going to be one of the few exceptions to popular opinion, but I thought that s3 of Dingy Ring A Dong Bong Sloops (formerly known as Prison Break) was pretty fucking awesome, and far better than s2. While s2 very slyly worked several disparate storylines as they bounced in and out of each other’s trajectories and upped the stakes, especially in regards to Lincoln’s frame job regarding the death of the Vice President’s brother, as well as Patricia Wettig’s rise to power as the President of the United States, some of the magic of the first season forget to break out with the gang. By the end, though, everything had become so intense that it was almost overwhelming, including the death or capture of at least six major characters.

We aint mopey, okay? You have a full-body tattoo lasered off and you tell me how it feels.

We ain't mopey, okay? You have a full-body tattoo lasered off and you tell me how it feels.

In the highly underrated third season, Michael, T-Bag, Bellick and Mahone end up stuck in a Panamanian prison (why? I was never completely certain), which acted as a sort of tropical Oz (as in that HBO prison show with all the race wars and the buttfucking, not that Judy Garland movie with all the race wars and the buttfucking). In this overheated hellhole, Bellick lost all power he ever had as a prison guard, Mahone nearly lost his soul after unintentionally weaning himself off of his crazy pills, T-Bag nearly became the lord of the prison and Michael…well…Michael has pretty much been the same character for four seasons now. But the political power struggle within the walls of the prison was top-notch thriller television, thanks especially to The Wire’s Robert Wisdom as the villainous Lechero (which sounds like the best villain name ever until you realize it means “milkman”). And the stuff on the outside was just as good, as Lincoln and Sucre battle Susan/Gretchen and her blackmail scheme to get her own man, Whistler, out of the same prison on a very strict deadline. It was a great mini-season, and it further proves the idea that more American television should limit their seasons to 10-13 episodes and then let another show take its spot in their opposite season (i.e. fall/spring and vice versa).

When s4 rolled around this year, however, I really wasn’t into it. The show had listened to the fans more than they listened to their brains and brought back Dr. Sara Tancredi as a love interest for Michael, even though she got her head cut off midway through s3. (The show’s explanation? Kind of lame.) It also decided, after some spectacular and out-of-the-ordinary location shooting for the first three seasons (the majority of the first three seasons were shot in the Chicago and Dallas areas as well as some extra Florida shooting), to finally film the show in and around Los Angeles, thus rendering the show a little bit less special.

I’ll be honest. For about five episodes I was surprised to find myself not having any interest in the team nor their task. While I like Michael Rapaport and still do, I found his Homeland Security agent Donald Self to exist completely outside of the PB universe and felt the actor wasn’t taking it seriously. I also, after years of defending the show’s out-there plot contrivances (as you have seen in this post), was not really accepting T-Bag’s personality shift as he takes on a false identity and begins working for a mysterious company that seems to have actually very little purpose. (How did he get this new identity? He followed the clues in Whistler’s bird book, which I also cannot entirely explain.) And no, I was not feeling the Michael/Sara romance.

But as the season progressed, and Gretchen was basically resurrected from the dead, I found myself once again a victim to the ticking clock thrills of this show, the inane plot twists, the remarkable amount of violence and the completely unbelievable amount of technological knowledge Michael seems to possess. Suddenly I didn’t care that Mahone had gone from a completely fucked-in-the-brain FBI agent and murderer to righteous mercenary, that Bellick had become a good guy, that Lincoln had suddenly grown a brain, and that T-Bag really was ready to become a better person. Frankly, it didn’t matter, because really cool shit was happening onscreen.

I think that’s how I can honestly describe most great episodes of PB – really cool shit happening onscreen. Self’s sudden shift from Homeland Security agent to traitorous dickbag? Cool shit happening onscreen. The team’s final break-in to retrieve the Scylla hub? Cool shit happening onscreen. Michael’s sudden brain disease that went unmentioned until this season? Well…not so cool.

Now that the fall season is done, what will happen next? I know the show is suffering in its ratings, and I feel that it can definitely and organically finish itself off this season, but I damn well want to know what’s going to happen to Michael and his recently-under-surgery brain, his thought-dead mother’s involvement with the mysterious Company, and if Lincoln is ever going to see his son again.

Dingy Ring A Dong Bong Sloops, you make me giggle with your absurdity. Why can’t people understand my love for you? I know Stephen King does as evidenced in an Entertainment Weekly column this year, and he too has a great deal of trouble explaining the show at times. Whatever. A thrill is a thrill, and if some logic is going to be lost to reach that thrill, then I’m all for it.

But please, make Michael just slightly less mopey. Please?

The Wife:

While I am perfectly happy to accept Fringe as a very Monster-of-the-Week-y show, I know many people (my husband included) are not. I’d also be perfectly happy to accept Fringe as something that vacillates between Mytharc-laden episodes and MOTW episodes, because that’s basically the structure of my favorite show of all time, The X-Files. I’m also happy to accept an entirely Mytharc driven show, and I was certainly happy with Fringe‘s completely Mytharc-based episode last night. Fringe detractors can shut the fuck up now, because last night’s episode wove together a bunch of plot threads we’d seen earlier in the season and it appears that the show is building toward a steady stream of true greatness coming this January.

The cold open introduced us to the same kind of technology we saw at the end of “The Equation,” which, by the way, appears to create a high-pitched laser emission that disrupts the structural integrity of matter so that solid matter can pass through it. (This is an approximation of the kind of “matter transference device” I thought this would turn out to be.) This device is really handy for robbing banks, which is exactly what a group of ex-military men are using it to do. They can now steal things from safety deposit boxes without setting off alarm systems by tampering with locks. In the best cases, they leave no evidence of the robbery. In the worst cases, like the one we are witness to, someone gets out of the safe too late and gets stuck in the wall when then window for transference expires. This, of course, means that your cronies have no choice but to shoot you in the head so you can’t reveal anything about the robbery when you are inevitably found.

This is not what I expected when I asked to have a head mounted to my wall.

This is not what I expected when I asked to have a head mounted to my wall.

When the Bishop Boys and Dunham are called in to investigate this strangeness, Olivia recognizes the man in the wall: Raul Luogo, with whom she served in the Marines. Olivia goes to Raul’s old house, remembering a time that she had dinner there, to tell his wife about his death. The wife reveals that she left Raul two years ago, when he started acting incredibly strange. The wife claims she doesn’t recognize Olivia, and Olivia is surprised that she wouldn’t remember, as they met on a very important day in Raul’s life. Olivia goes on to describe the room they’re standing in as it was several years ago and recounts the events of that evening. The wife insists that she remembers the event perfectly, only the person at that dinner wasn’t the pretty blonde standing before her: it was John Scott.

It seems that since her last dip in the LSD-laced memory tank, John Scott’s memories are all the more deeply ingrained in Olivia’s mind, so much so that she can no longer tell the difference between the two streams of memory. Now, this makes an off-hand remark of Olivia’s in the opening of this episode make a little more sense to me. When they approach the crime scene, Peter asks Olivia about her best friend. She replies that she doesn’t have one and asks if a sister counts. So, if this was Olivia answering, then she was talking to her sister on the phone in last week’s opening. But if this was an answer culled from John Scott’s memory, then we still don’t know precisely whom Olivia was talking to. I’m not sure it really matters, but I wonder if the fusion of memory also colors other facts about Olivia’s life. She now remembers serving in the Marines, which as far as we know she actually didn’t. I don’t know if we can view her as a reliable guide into this world anymore, as her own presentation of self is now somewhat falsified. I’ll have to watch closely for little Olivia inconsistencies from now on, and try to parse out which ones seem to belong more to John Scott and which to her.

While Olivia visits the Luogo house, Peter and Walter go shopping for saws with which to cut through human flesh, and have a little tiff about Walter’s low opinion of Peter’s rootless existence, which Walter feels has kept his son from amounting to his potential. Meanwhile, in a German prison, Mr. Jones reveals to his lawyer that he is responsible for certain bank robberies taking place in American cities across the Eastern seaboard. He requests that his lawyer bring him Dramamine and suntan lotion on his next visit, and to send “his people” on another job.

“Are you tripping, Agent Dunham?” — Walter Bishop

Olivia tells the Bishops about her fused memories, which delights Walter to no end. In the lab, he reveals to everyone exactly how he believes the matter transference semiconductor works — by sinking toys into rice (which appears solid) with the help of radioactive high-frequency vibrations. In the basement lab at Massive Dynamic, Nina Sharp’s team of scientists have almost completed their John Scott reconstruction, except for one thing: no one can seem to reconstruct his pesky memories.

Olivia, it seems, is not terribly interested in learning how the crooks got through walls unnoticed but is more interested in how a former Marine could be recruited for nefarious purposes. She decides to head out to a bar in Cambridge to dig up some information on Luogo from a former friend who now works as a bartender. Peter decides to tag along with her due to the promise of alcohol.

“Did I just hear ‘bar in Cambridge’?” — Peter Bishop

At the bar, Olivia presses the barkeep for information, pretending to be an old friend of Susan’s who met the barkeep years ago at Raul and Susan’s wedding (“I never forget a face”). He tells her that Raul started getting sick a couple of years ago and that he was institutionalized. He had never really been the same since he came back from the Gulf War, but the PTSD only started getting back recently. She calls Broyles to get him to dig up some information on Raul’s service record and mental health records, and he tells her that the contents of the safety deposit box from the beginning of the episode was only a map of Germany. (This is where the lightbulb in my head went off to alert me that this episode would culminate in Jones’ escape from his German prison.)

She’s ready to leave and get back to work, but Peter convinces her to stay and drink a bit longer, knowing that she can down a double scotch in about two seconds. The two spend some time showing off card tricks, which impresses Peter because “girls never know card tricks.” She then shows him that she can count cards and has been able to do so her whole life. She remembers numbers easily, including the numbers of the robbed safety deposit boxes: 233, 377 and 610. Peter realizes he’s heard these numbers before and races home to ask Walter about this sequence he’s been repeating in his sleep. Walter tells them that it’s a simple Fibonacci sequence (which everyone ought to know), and then he realizes that those numbers mean something to him, too: the safety deposit boxes are his. Unfortunately, Walter can’t seem to recall what he was hiding in them or why.

Broyles finds out that no visitors came to see Raul Luogo in the mental hospital, which shoots a hole in Olivia’s theory, until she posits that perhaps Raul was recruited not by an outside person, but by another inmate. She goes to the hospital to get access to Raul’s medical records, but the chief of staff won’t grant her access. Fortunately, another staffer approaches her and tells her that Raul liked to hang out with a group of other men and play chess. Everyone in the facility called them The Chess Club.

Olivia then gets word that the next bank hit will go down in Providence, RI. She asks Walter why, but he cannot remember, until Peter asks him what bank he would use to rent a safety deposit box in Providence, which gets him to the answer almost immediately. By the time Dunham and Francis get to the bank, box number 987 has been burgled, but the agents are able to track the robbers quickly by following the sewer lines in the building and manage to capture a straggler.

In Massive Dynamic’s lab, Nina Sharp’s team realize that the key to finding John Scott’s memories lies in Olivia Dunham’s mind by extracting the final imagine from Scott’s retina, which is of Olivia in the tank from their last fused-consciousness experiment.

In Germany, Jones’ lawyer has brought him the things he requested and tells Mr. Cole to get a new suit and work on his appeal papers. He also instructs Cole to have “his people” bring him one final thing: Olivia Dunham.

Olivia tries to interrogate the captured bank robber, but can’t get any information out of him. Peter notices his shaking hands and asks her to let him try his hand at interrogation, an act which Agent Francis didn’t realize Peter knew anything about. You know what he does know about, though? Poker tells. I bet that knowledge would indeed come in handy in an interrogation room. Peter realizes that the robber’s shaking hands aren’t because he’s nervous, but because he has radiation poisoning.

“You violated the laws of physics, Mr. Eastwick. And Mother Nature’s a bitch.” — Peter Bishop

Eastwick admits that he never had any idea what they were stealing or the name of the person they were stealing for. All he knows is that there is a field in Westbridge that all of the pieces would be assembled at: an old Army airstrip called Little Hill. Olivia races off to the destination, but is apprehended by thugs on her way there. We do not know if they belong to Nina’s people or to Jones’, but my money would be on Jones’. (I think Nina would be much more subtle about all this.)

In trying to figure out what he was storing in the safety deposit boxes, Walter remembers that Peter almost died when he was a little boy. (Yet more about Peter’s spotty medical history. I’m still not officially ruling out that he’s a clone, though.) Walter developed a device that could cross the space-time continuum so that he could travel to 1936 and bring back the one person who had successfully cured a patient of Peter’s illness. While Walter never got to use that device because his son started getting better just as the device was completed, he believes that its components are stored in the safety deposit boxes and that whoever is robbing said boxes wants to use the device to transport matter through space and time. (Which would be a step-up from simply allowing matter to pass through solid matter.)

When Mr. Cole brings Jones his appeal papers, Jones chastises him for not visiting a proper tailor and then snaps the man’s neck, trading his prison garb for the shabby suit. He takes some Dramamine and lathers the sunscreen on his face and neck, and then huddles in the corner of the room where he shortly becomes surrounded by light and is transported to the field in Little Hill via Walter’s time-travel device in what amounts to the best ending to an episode of Fringe I’ve seen so far.

So, now we know what the equation was used for, we know why Jones needed to know about Little Hill (it was code for his travel destination, which I assume he already knew and needed to confirm to assure he was in fact talking to the right people in “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”), the fused memory storyline continues to develop and we continue to learn more about Peter’s shadowy past/medical history. For the long run, we’re set up to learn which side has possession of Olivia and now have two rival villains, both of whom are arguably major players in the events of The Pattern. I think Fringe has finally culminated its stories in a really satisfying way with this episode, and I hope this launches us into numerous continued Mytharc episodes come January.

Also: Smoke Monster, Frog, Leaf, Apple, Apple

A quick note: Apparently, the actor who plays Mitchell Loeb (Chance Kelly) is so unrecognizable to me that I didn’t really notice him among the bank robbers, nor did I realize that, before we saw him fall ill in “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones,” he was the person to whom Joanne Ostler delivered “The Equation” to in that episode. It makes sense, really. Dude is up to some serious shit.

The Husband:

It’s not that I’m opposed to MOTW stories on shows. It’s that I think Fringe had the intelligence to capably rise above a non-serialized structure. When you promise a big honking Mytharc, be prepared to get into it, or why should I be watching this show instead of the top-20 CBS concoction The Eleventh Hour? (Oh, that’s right. Because I think The Eleventh Hour is horrible, thus continuing my hypothesis that America goes out of their way to watch shit.)

I will admit that the recent transition on Fringe from MOTW to its current Mytharc was a little choppy, as if the writers had the concept of the serialized story but wanted it to take place over a longer period of time, until they realized that there was no guarantee of a second season and then decided to shift it earlier in time. Or they just really thought why should they bother to be an X-Files rip off when they have the ability to be their own unique show?

The good news is, they finally have their unique show. Considering how many questions I had for my wife during the episode last night, added to the need to be reminded of small items in episodes past that were creeping back into the show, I realized that I simply wasn’t paying enough attention to the show (which is hard when you’re trying to keep track of roughly 40 other shows) and now really needed to hunker down and devote as much thought and energy into it as I would for, say, The Wire or Lost. The show is worth it now. (It is, however, difficult to really set the brain right for the show after House, which is a program dedicated to explaining every relevant mystery to you by episode’s end.)

I did have a thought last night that made me really turn onto this here Fringe in relation to The X-Files. It was that unlike many of the X-Files episodes, Fringe is 100% science-driven. This may not seem a shocker nor that big of a deal, but to find mainstream science-fiction that actually deals in science (no matter how far-fetched) in this day and age is a pretty rare thing. Mysteries are actually explained on this show, related to bits and pieces of all those things we remember from high school and college, in addition to all those little fringe things we pick up from other out-of-the-ordinary TV shows, and it’s entirely fascinating.

Those few weeks leading up to the show’s return in January may feel long, but the wait will be worth it.

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