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Archive for October, 2012

After successfully outrunning Hurricane Sandy back from Boston to the Canadian border, I didn’t even bother to unpack before pressing play on Homeland on my DVR. It’s been a long time since a show not called Breaking Bad has made me feel this anxious to find out what happens next. I haven’t even watched Boardwalk Empire yet. Nucky can wait, Carrie and Brody cannot.

I should probably just start putting a disclaimer at the top of my reviews that every episode of Homeland is excellent, and that my reviews will just be a matter of rating the level of excellence. On that scale, this episode is right at the top, sharing that space with season one’s The Weekend. It’s fitting that both of these episodes feature an extended interrogation between Carrie and Brody. While the interrogation of The Weekend was shocking because we didn’t expect it to occur, this interrogation wasn’t so much shocking as it was heart-pounding, intense, and emotional. After Quinn’s (somewhat predictable) “bad cop” explosion culminated with a knife through Brody’s hand, Carrie quits playing observer and insists only she be allowed in the room with Brody. Quinn tried to pass off his outburst to Saul as an act, but I’m not so sure. He’s a bit of a loose cannon, and Saul would be wise to keep a close eye on him. Regardless of whether it was a plan, once Carrie got into that room with Brody, it was just a matter of time before he cracked. Carrie’s methods were brilliant, first turning off all the cameras (but leaving on the microphones) with a flirtatious “alone at last.” Then, she started systematically breaking Brody down, continuing Quinn’s strategy of exposing all the lies that he’s been telling. Brody can’t admit to Carrie that he was wearing a suicide vest in the bunker, hanging on to that one lie like it’s a life raft in the storm. Carrie switches tack, commiserating with him again about their war experiences, about what he tells people when they ask. Brody finally admits that he just lies and tells people what they want to hear, and Carrie once again latches on to the lies. The lies that will undo them, even when they think they need them to survive. She asks him when he last told the truth, and again he lies and says “about five minutes ago when I said I didn’t wear a bomb.” He’s still not ready. Carrie needs to do more. She appeals to Brody’s humanity by reminding him who Nazir is – he targets women and children, not soldiers. Walden may be terrible, may order drone strikes in areas where he knows that there are children, but they weren’t the target. It’s terrible, but, somehow, intentions matter. Carrie tells Brody that his intentions matter, even if they were the wrong ones at first. He may have worn the vest, but he chose not to detonate it. He chose to let Walden and the others live, because he’s not like Nazir, not when it comes down to it. I loved the moment when she correctly guessed that it was Dana’s phone call that had stopped him – Carrie’s path last season was a downward spiral ending in her being completely discredited. This season, she’s riding a growing wave of success after success. She didn’t even need to remember that she knew about Issa – the CIA put together Brody’s relationship with Nazir’s son and were able to use it to figure out Brody’s mindset.

After an intense, intimate 20 minutes, Brody finally breaks, putting his head on the table, holding Carries hand, and admitting that he was wearing a vest. He also admits, with tears in his eyes, that there is an attack planned, but he doesn’t know what it is. He gives up Roya as his contact, and at this point, it is clear what is going to happen. Given a choice between jail and working for the CIA, Brody chooses the CIA. Carrie promises him that as long as he helps them stop Nazir’s plot, there will be no charges, and when it’s all over, he will be allowed to move anywhere in the country with his family and live out the rest of his days in peace. For Brody, broken down again, curled up in the fetal position on the concrete floor, a life of peace must be an unimaginable goal. When he goes back to his house and tells an angry Jessica that the truth about his absences is that he’s been working for the CIA, you can tell in his eyes that he almost wants to believe it. He seems lighter, even after more than 24 hours of interrogation.

And yet . . . there’s always the possibility that Brody the double agent is really Brody the triple agent. I really want Brody to be helping the CIA (especially since his cover is going to be that he and Carrie are having a real affair), but I’m not willing to buy into it yet. Nazir spent 8 years systematically deconstructing Brody and putting him back together again. Carrie is good, but is she good enough to accomplish the same thing in about a day? Or was the “true” part of Brody not so deeply buried that it didn’t take that much to bring it to the surface, especially when Brody is given a new mission. He’s still a soldier at heart. He followed Nazir’s orders (via Roya) at great cost to his family life, is it really too far fetched to imagine that he’d latch on to the CIA’s orders when they give him the possibility of repairing Nazir’s damage? We’ll have to wait to find out.

(Oh, also, Dana and Finn went on a date, Dana egged Finn to do something “fun,” and Finn took that to mean going on a joyride to lose the Secret Service, culminating in hitting pedestrian who looked distressingly like Roya (according to the Internet, it’s not, but I’ll wait until next week to confirm that for myself). Finn immediately goes into full douche-mode, insisting that they leave their victim there because he’s the VP’s son and his life would be over if anyone found out. Dana is understandably freaked but agrees to it, proving that keeping deep dark secrets is something of a Brody family tradition.)

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Another weekend away means I will not be able to post my Homeland or Boardwalk Empire reviews at the usual time this week. I will, however, try to have a Homeland review up by Tuesday, 10/30. Can’t wait to see Brody in captivity!

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Well, things just got a little more interesting. Oh sure, Kalabaw has replaced Matsing as the pathetic tribe that can’t do anything right (lending credence to my prediction of Denise as bad luck charm), but this week they actually lost a tribe by negotiating a win for it. So that was something new and different.

The reward challenge involved the two teams being pitted against each other to push a giant wicker ball around a muddy field, with the winner being the first team to score 3 goals. For once, it seems like Survivor‘s cracked team of challenge testers – I assume these people exist and frankly, I’d watch a reality show about the creation and testing of Survivor games before I’d watch a lot of other shows out there right now – anyway, it seems like the challenge testers failed to realize that this challenge would devolve into a weird muddy stalemate with people in various compromising positions around the giant ball. After an hour of this (I loved the shot of the other team members slowly deciding to sit down on the sidelines as the boredom set in), Penner and Skupin start talking. Penner brought it up initially, but Skupin was more than happy to latch on – if the Kabalaw tribe is allowed to win and go to the Survivor picnic of sandwiches and brownies, they’ll give the yellow tribe (I’m not going to learn their name until they actually go to tribal council) the rest of their rice. Thanks to a very informative segment at the beginning of the show, the yellow tribe is running dangerously low on rice, partly because Skupin apparently decided that eating it raw would cook it in their stomachs. This guy has obviously had one too many hits on the head, but the other tribe members are just as stupid for going along with it. Probst eventually tells the tribes (I’m sure after some rushed conversations in the producer’s tent) that he’ll allow this strange turn of events as long as all the members of the tribe agree to it. Penner secures Kalabaw’s acquiescence by promising to fish for food (although it’s not clear why they haven’t been eating a ton of fish before now, if he’s so proficient at fishing), but Skupin has a bit more trouble. He finally gets passive aggressive “whatever, do what you want” type answers from Abi and Artis, who both seem to like complaining after the fact than doing something at the time. So, everybody wins! Yellow gets all the rice (which in the end amounts to about one day’s more rice than they already had) and red gets momentary satisfaction but is now completely foodless and screwed going forward. Oh, the reward also includes Letters from Home, which seems kind of early, doesn’t it? The survivors gamely put on their “this is better than any brownie or sustained rice supply could ever be!” faces, but unless they’re going to eat the letters, that’s mostly just empty propaganda.

Back at camp the next day, Penner talks a big game but manages to catch two of the tiniest fish I’ve ever seen. Everyone has a bite of it raw, and Penner annoys everyone by continuing to ramble on about how full he is from that tiny bite. Carter whines about how he’s going to be the first to die if it comes to a starve-off. I can’t totally blame him – having no rice is really stupid, even just because you don’t have that psychological safety net that the rice will always be there if everything else fails. I am personally really happy to see the question of starvation brought back into the game again. I like it better when tribes have to ration their rice and people definitely bring more drama when they’re half-starved. It’s Survivor 101.

The immunity challenge involves one tribe member using a sling shot to shoot the ball where all the other players have to try to catch it with a basket. It’s a Survivor-lacrosse-baseball hybrid, and unsuprisingly, Jeff Kent is really good at it. Unfortunately, they have Katie on their team, who Probst once again points out, is completely useless. Yellow tribe has to sit out a guy and a girl, and Abi again sits. When Probst asks incredulously why she’s only played 2 out of 8 challenges, she says it’s not her fault. I wish they’d show the strategy sessions where they decide she should sit. From my angle, she is just a whiny, annoying girl who prefers to sit out and criticize what other people do than participate and put herself in a position to be criticized. Anyway, none of it really matters because Malcolm is a god among men and runs circles around Carter and, in the deciding point, Jeff Kent. Kalabaw once again goes back to tribal council.

The strategizing around camp is really well-edited, to the point where it’s actually not clear whether Katie or Penner will be going home. Denise professes to feel vulnerable at tribal, but she was conspicuously absent from all conversations around camp, so I knew it wouldn’t be her. The decision really fell to Jeff Kent and Carter to choose whether to send the useless Katie or the big-talking but equally useless Penner home. They suspect that Penner has the hidden idol and think it might be a good idea to blindside him, or at least flush out the idol. All the talk about blindsides during tribal was really fun, and added to the drama of what was about to happen, since everyone knew someone was going to be blindsided, but no one knew who. I also particularly loved when Probst asked Kent whether he plays any game in the real world that is similar to Survivor in terms of strategy. Kent didn’t take the bait, but I hope he stays around for a long time so Probst can get more obvious with his references to Kent’s baseball past – “Jeff, would you say you hit a figurative home run at the challenge today? Have you ever hit a literal home run at the major league level?”

In the end, Penner only got Katie’s vote (and seemed actually delighted at the possibility of being blindsided), but Katie was the one who was (rightfully) sent home. Penner might have been the idiot who lost them the rice, but Katie is the idiot who has lost them 2 challenges, so you do what you gotta do. Of course, from the previews for next week’s episode, it looks like the merge is immanent, so Kent might have made a strategic error by not eliminating Penner when they had the chance. On the other hand, this season of Survivor has been filled with “twists” that I wouldn’t count anyone out just yet. Plus, yellow tribe has had these simmering issues for so long, that they might go crazy when they get to their first tribal and send home one of their own. After the negotiations in the reward challenge this week, I’m ready for anything.

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Good Lord. I love how committed this show is to subverting expectations, particularly with the timeline. Last season, when Carrie showed her hand during The Weekend, it was episode seven and I remember wondering how they were going to fill another 5 episodes. This season, it’s only episode FOUR and Brody is already in custody. The difference is, now I’m not worried about how the writers are going to deal with this development. I’m just happy to be along for the ride.

I loved that this episode again began with Saul showing up at someone’s house with the Brody confession tape. Estes’ reaction was perfect and his “I was duped” face was almost as vindicating as Carrie’s “I was right” face. Saul convinces him that the best course of action is to leave Brody where he is in the hopes that he’ll lead them to his contacts and reveal what the plan actually is. This plan requires them to implement off-campus surveillance, since they can’t tell Walden in case he changes his behaviour toward Brody. So, with CIA funding and a new CIA overseer, Quinn, Carrie, Virgil, and Saul are back at an under-the-radar surveillance operation against Brody. It was an awesome callback to the beginning of the show. The equipment and the headquarters might be better, but the success still relies on Carrie’s ability to figure out what’s really going on. The team decides that they must force Brody into setting up a meeting with his handlers by arranging for him to “run into” Carrie at CIA headquarters. This first face-to-face was a joy to watch, with Brody getting a glimpse of her through the holes in an art installation outside. Carrie (and Claire Danes) plays it off perfectly, being distant but slightly flirty, emphasizing her wellness and suggesting that she’s back with the CIA. Despite their better equipment, I loved that the CIA isn’t foolproof, and the fact that the cameras don’t yet have sound means that the team misses out on a damning conversation between Brody and Roya that would have proven that their plan worked. After a day of observation, Saul suggests beginning to narrow down the list of possible contacts by skin colour, acknowledging that, as distasteful as it might seem, most al-Qaeda agents are dark-skinned. Notably, Roya escapes this first narrowing down.

Carrie and Quinn prepare to take on the evening shift, and their banter is a lot of fun to watch. I’m glad that Carrie told Virgil to check him out (there’s still a mole in the CIA, after all), but by the end of the episode, I’m willing to buy into the fact that he’s just your typical arrogant/charming guy and that his presence will offer an important foil for Carrie. Saul might be her mentor and her voice of reason, but he also lets Carrie have a lot of space to work out her theories. Quinn won’t be quite so abiding. The promise of a fun night of banter and surveillance is not to be, however, as Brody calls Carrie to meet him at the hotel bar (Jessica is finally sick of his lies and has told him to pack his bags and get out). She tells Quinn that she’s nervous, but he tells her that she’ll be fine because she’s good at what she does. This is different than running into Brody at the CIA, though. This is a date, at Brody’s request and on Brody’s own terms.

At the bar, Carrie is more tense than she was before, and she’s convinced that Brody knows what she’s up to when she flinches for just a second after he asks her about her shock therapy treatments. Saul and Quinn try to convince her otherwise, but she’s positive that Brody’s on his way to “put a wineglass in the window” to signal that the whole thing needs to be called off. Once again, Carrie goes off against orders and runs up to Brody’s room. After charming her way in, she breaks it all down for him. (“It reeks, you know.” “My confusion?” “Your bullshit.”)

Carrie finally gets out all of her anger at Brody – she’s furious at him for becoming a terrorist, for threatening the country she loves, but she’s also mad at his mistreatment of her, that he sold her out to Estes, that he precipitated the breakdown that drove her to the electroshock treatments, that he caused her to question herself and her abilities, and, perhaps most of all, she’s upset that she allowed herself to love him. She calls him a “demented ex-soldier” who gave up everything real for the “mindfuck world of Abu Nazir.” She challenges him to kill her, knowing full well that the CIA is on their way in, but for a moment Brody gets a dangerous look in his eye. In desperation, Brody admits that he “liked” her, and Carrie spits back, “I loved you” just as the backup rushes into the room and throw him down. As Brody has a hood put over his head and is dragged off, Carrie gets her moment of vindication. Finally, the man that she’d been tracking for over a year is caught. But as the camera pans back and the room empties out, Carrie’s face crumples into tears. Perhaps vindication (and, let’s face it, revenge) isn’t quite as sweet as she thought it would be. Perhaps she realizes that her actions might have severely compromised the agency’s chances of figuring out what Abu Nazir’s plan is. Or perhaps she was just emotionally drained after her battle with the man she loved.

(This episode also focused on the growing relationship between Dana and Walden’s son, as well as Lauder and Mike figuring out that Brody must have been working with Tom Walker somehow, although they conclude it must have been some secret CIA operation. Both of these storylines were dwarfed by the last 15 minutes of the show. Hopefully they’ll tie in at some point, but for right now, it’s all about Carrie and Brody.)

Now that Brody is captured, the question isn’t whether Brody will continue to get away with his schemes, but whether he’s going to crack under CIA interrogation, and what the CIA will decide to do with him. With Brody’s family life in tatters, he could be vulnerable enough to be willing to turn against Nazir and start working for the CIA as a way of potentially getting back into their good graces. On the other hand, he could pretend to work for the CIA while still really working for Nazir. The possibilities are endless and the ones I’ve mentioned her are either almost certainly wrong, or sure to be introduced, explored, and wrapped up next week before moving onto something even bigger and better. I can’t wait.

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At the end of last week’s episode, I could hardly wait to see how Gyp Rosetti would exact his revenge for the bloodbath in Tabor Heights. So, when it became clear that Gyp was instead playing the long game and was hiding out, I was a little disappointed. Gillian and Richard Harrow are great and all, but when you’re expecting a crazy freakout of epic proportions, it can take a minute to adjust. This was a quiet episode filled with secondary characters, but there were some great moments filled with what I’m sure will prove to be important foundation-laying events.

As her business continues to struggle, Gillian seems to be on the verge of finally putting Jimmy behind her, going around the house and putting all of his pictures away. I wasn’t sure if this meant she was getting ready to admit that Jimmy was dead so that she could take control of the house (and money) or whether she was just trying to put him out of her mind while she took Lucky Luciano’s advice, but it was all rendered moot when she runs into poor young Roger during a walk on the Boardwalk. Roger, a midwestern innocent, has the same sweet haircut as Jimmy, and it’s not long before Gillian takes him to bed and nicknames him James. She says she’ll help him get a job, so it’s clear we’ll see “James” more in the coming weeks. He doesn’t know what he’s in for.

Meanwhile, Richard Harrow took a break from doing Gillian’s bidding to hang out at his local Legion, where he meets the alcoholic Paul Sagorsky, who apparently gets drunk and into fights on a regular basis. Richard takes an interest in him and his interest is rewarded when his daughter, Julia, comes to pick up her drunken father. Julia doesn’t shy away from him when he talks, and when Paul leaves his jacket at the bar, Richard seizes the opportunity to see Julia again. She won”t let him in the house, saying her father is in one of his moods again, but she agains treats Richard like a real person. I suspect he’ll be spending more time hanging out at the Legion, giving Paul a shoulder to lean on and a ride home to his daughter when he needs one.

Things are heating up in Washington, as the investigation into corruption puts the pressure on the administration to arrest a prominent bootlegger. Nucky correctly infers that he’s the scapegoat. After his attempts to convince Harry Daugherty to arrest George Remus instead fail, Nucky promises that if he goes down, he’s taking everyone down with him. Nucky is promptly arrested at the train station for buying a bottle of booze for the ride home and spends the night in jail. There he meets a self-proclaimed big-time bootlegger named Alby Gold, who runs 5 cases a week from his homemade still and likes mouldy cheese and stale bread. Their conversation is brief, but I expect he’ll make another appearance as the events in Washington take centre stage.

When Nucky’s “case” goes to trial, it’s revealed that this is where Esther Randolph has landed after her epic failure in Atlantic City. The judge refuses to hear any evidence, instead opting to assign everyone the fine of $5 to keep the wheels of justice turning. I loved the moment when Nucky asked the cashier if he could break a hundred. Afterwards, Nucky waits for Esther and convinces her to go out for breakfast with him (“if nothing else, it’ll be interesting”). There, they engage in some delightful banter before Nucky gets to his point – he will give her George Remus and give her a chance to expose her bosses for the hypocrites and real criminals that they are. She might not get Nucky, but she can get the people who made it impossible for her to get him. When she points out that a case against Remus will never get approved by Harding, Nucky confidently says he might have a way around that. Looks like Harding’s secret love child will be making an appearance! When Nucky heads back to New York, he receives a call from Gaston Means, who implies that he might suddenly be willing to help Nucky with his plan to bring Remus and Daugherty down. I’m not sure if he’s trustworthy or whether this is just a trap, but at this point, Nucky doesn’t have much of a choice other than to believe him and see what he has to offer.

Back in Atlantic City, Margaret is alone with the kids when Teddy runs into her room to tell her that the greenhouse is on fire. This creepy kid says he noticed it because he was staring out the window looking for a gypsy man, but he can’t elaborate any further. Both Margaret and Owen seem inclined to write it off as the gypsy’s fault until Margaret’s neighbour comes over and tells her she just caught Teddy in her garage with kerosene and matches. Teddy says he was just looking out for the gypsy man, but Margaret punishes him for setting the fire in any case. So, when Owen shows up and says that the gypsy has been caught and “taken care of,” Margaret doesn’t quite know what to think. I’m inclined to believe that Teddy set the fire and that Owen’s story is only for the benefit of Margaret’s peace of mind. That night, Teddy tells his sister a creepy story about the gypsy who used to be a rabbit before he pulls out a knife from under the pillow and promises that he’ll protect them if it comes to that. Seriously, this kid needs help. He’s going to kill his sister or get killed himself before the season is out, I predict. When Margaret hears a noise in the yard, she shakily retrieves her shotgun and goes out to investigate. There she finds Owen, who says that he’s there at the behest of Nucky, but I think he’s there of his own accord. He gets rewarded when Margaret leads him into the (charred) greenhouse for a little nighttime fun. Silly Margaret, don’t you know that your creepy son loves looking out windows at night?

Of course, Nucky is likely far too busy with keeping himself out of the grasp of the Washington prosecutors to be concerned with his in-name-only wife and his right-hand man. As long as they both do their bidding when required, I can’t see Nucky getting too upset. I’d make predictions about next week, but apparently I’m not very good at it. Suffice it to say I hope that Gyp Rosetti is back with his revenge plot. This week was good, but I need more action!

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So. Dmitry is the winner of Project Runway. I liked Dmitry. In fact, he was probably my favourite of the remaining contestants. Well, him and Fabio. They both lacked the dramatics and hysterics of some of the other contestants, but they managed to deliver some delicious zingers in the off-sides. Dmitry’s straight face during a lot of his commentary made it all the more amusing. Of course, the fact that this is a design competition and I’m basing who I like the best on their personalities rather than the clothes speaks volumes about the way the show has changed from its origins. It used to produce actual high-quality, conceptual designs. Now there’s an awful lot of talk about “wearability” and the trend seems to be to give the designers less and less time to make their collections.

Despite all that, this finale actually spent a good deal of time showing how the different designers dealt with the judges’ criticisms from last week. Bolstered by another “surprise” trip to Mood to buy more fabric, pretty much all of the designers improved upon their collections. Melissa listened to Nina’s pleadings and just chopped off the ridiculous cuffs from her white jacket, plus she bought some “blood orange” (aka, according to Christopher “just fucking red”) leather and made a dress out of that to give herself the elusive “colour”. Christopher . . . made a million other things? I think? There was a lot of running around and a lot of sewing and a lot of talk about making more clothes to give himself more options. Fabio spent a lot of time staring at his collection and thinking the word “LUXE” which apparently was enough to make it look more expensive. Actually, he did do something to improve it and up the sophistication, but they didn’t really show us exactly what it was. Dmitry sat around, rearranged the polaroids of his models, and relaxed. He never panicked and he never needed to.

Besides, Christopher panicked enough for everyone. He was running around like a chicken with his head cut off, constantly on the verge of tears, and whining incessantly about how much pressure he was under. I’m not sure what he thought the other designers were under, but he clearly felt he was the most hard done by. Unable to even make a decision about the hair (even with access to all of those fabulous L’Oreal products!), it was clear pretty early on that he was out of the running (and probably should’ve been eliminated last week).

So, on to the runway!

Lifetime put these behind the scenes shots on their website, and I think they’re a pretty insightful way of showing the collection. While I thought the prints worked pretty well when I was watching the episode, in this shot, they just look kind of minimal and un-noteworthy. Plus, this whole thing looks pretty casual and basic. The gown is nice, but it sticks out from the rest of the collection. Plus, after the hack-job he pulled on the hem, it was clear that a lot more work needed to be done to make it “perfect.” Jennifer Hudson loved the leather skirt with the giant slit, but I can’t for the life of me see why.

Melissa’s once black-and-white collection now has pops of colour! A couple of them, anyway! I liked this collection generally, but again, there’s not much exciting to it. And that white tube dress was just an embarrassment going down that runway. I’m really impressed that the model was able to make the two inch-shuffle look somewhat elegant (but perhaps that’s just because my model expectations have been lowered by watching too much ANTM). Anyway, I had to laugh at Melissa’s insistence during fittings that it was just the shoes that were making walking difficult. 

For some reason, The Powers That Be at Lifetime didn’t put a full photo of Fabio’s collection online. Conspiracy theorists, there’s your evidence. While not as egregious as Gretchen winning over Mondo or Anya winning over, well, anyone, the consensus today from the internet commentariat seems to be that Fabio should’ve won. I can’t say I necessarily disagree, although it’s not really my style. It is at least a unique perspective and it looks nothing like the rest of the designers’ work. When I first saw Fabio, I assumed this whole hippy-freegan thing was a schtick, but it became clear throughout the show that this was really him and I kind of love that he stuck with it and was able to translate it into some really interesting pieces on his models.

Whatever the merits of Fabio’s collection, Dmitry ultimately went home with the prize. It’s hard to argue that his collection was the most polished of the bunch. He also had some really interesting pieces, particularly his use of cutouts. I’m not a fan of illusion netting, but he at least used it in interesting ways. The things that the judges praised the most (the jacket with the fringe arms and the dress with the fringe skirt) are not my style, but I can at least see the amount of effort and tailoring that went into them, and that they contain some unique design elements. It’s hard to fault the judges for going with the safe choice and picking the polished and more “commercial” of the two best final collections.

Ultimately, while this was one of the better Project Runway seasons in awhile, I was left feeling a little flat. I’m not sure what could be done in order to spice it up next time. I mean, sure, they could give the designers more time to complete the garments so that it once again becomes more than just a fast-sewing competition, but I can’t see them giving up the easy drama in favour of the possibility of the designers actually creating better garments. They could also cast people for their design talents rather then their personalities, but once again, I don’t see that happening. Such is the way of reality TV. This season might have not provided quite the excitement of seasons’ past, but I’ll keep watching in hopes that it can return to its former glory. Next week, Project Runway All-Stars starts another season. Without an obvious choice for a make-up win this time around, it should be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

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Well, it was inevitable I suppose. Despite how much I would have liked it if the Survivor gods could have figured out a way to let poor, pathetic Matsing continue on as a tribe of two (and I especially liked the comically tiny mat they had at the beginning of the reward challenge), it just wasn’t to be, and they were absorbed into the red and yellow tribes (whose names I suppose I will now have to learn). What’s disappointing is that this alliance that Malcolm and Denise have forged is now probably irrelevant, since it’s unlikely they’ll both make it back to the merge, and even if they do, they’ll probably have found new loyalties by then (although if Malcolm manages to hang on to the hidden immunity idol, a whole bunch of possibilities remain open). Anyway, now the game is basically starting fresh, the three-tribe experiment being an unfortunate failure.

Both Malcolm’s yellow tribe and Denise’s red tribe welcome them with open arms. Both are immediately approached to become the swing vote in an alliance, and both smartly (and eagerly) accept. Anything to keep them in the game another week. It’s surprising how no one was shown as planning on voting them out the first chance they got. There’s no such thing as tribal loyalty in this season, I guess. I loved how much Malcolm was revelling in being the popular kid. He seemed re-energized, and his performance in both of the challenges showed just how much of a threat he could be when surrounded by a competent tribe. At this point, he’s definitely my favourite.

With the merge of the tribes came the separation of the reward and immunity challenges. The reward challenge was cool, as players from opposite tribes had to knock the idols off of their opponent’s balancing thingy (that was the technical term I think). Skupin figured out the strategy (throwing your own idol high in the air and then knocking your distracted opponents off ensuring his hits the ground before yours) and it was then copied by everyone else until the yellow tribe won reward (cookies and muffins). Malcolm’s giddiness was contrasted with Denise’s continued dejection. Back at camp, things got even worse for Denise’s new red tribe, as Dana takes ill and decides to leave the game even though, as Jeff Probst noted time and again, she wasn’t sick enough to be forced out yet. Jeff also got a little handsy during the whole thing, taking off her coat and rubbing her back, shoulders, and legs. I know he was trying to be comforting but it was a little much.

Anyway, Dana’s departure was a problem for the red tribe’s female alliance, and someone named Katie and someone named Dawson seemed to be in the crosshairs to be eliminated, especially since, despite Katie’s happiness at having Denise there to help out their female numbers, she never seemed to actually approach Denise with this idea. Instead, Denise was squarely on Jeff Kent’s side.

The immunity challenge (of the obstacle course/puzzle variety) was close, but Katie’s pathetic inability to get across the first obstacle seemed to have been the deciding factor in cementing their loss (as Jeff Probst so helpfully pointed out again and again and again). Back at camp, discussion turned to whether to vote out Dawson or Katie. For the first time since the first episode, we actually got to see more of Dawson. She’s the only one who knows Jeff Kent’s true identity, and it seems her strategy for using this information is to make subtle remarks about how much baseball sucks. This doesn’t seem to accomplish much more than annoying Jeff and making everyone else wonder why the hell this girl talks about baseball so much if she hates it, but her inane rambling might have been one of the reasons the tribe ultimately decides to vote her out instead of the useless Katie. After Jeff Probst snuffed her torch, Dawson stopped and I thought for a glorious second she was going to reveal Jeff Kent’s true identity. Instead, in possibly one of the weirdest moments in tribal council history, she gave Jeff Probst a longing gaze, leaned in for a hug and an awkward kiss on the cheek.

So, that’s that. It’s hard to see how Malcolm’s stacked yellow tribe will ever lose a challenge, particularly if they keep getting to sit Abi (I love that Jeff Probst pointed out that she’s only played 2 challenges so far – hopefully that will make her the first to go if they ever arrive at tribal. There’s crazy and then there’s batshit crazy and I think she’s the latter). Wouldn’t it be funny if the red tribe also got down to 2 people? At what point would you have to identify Denise as a bad luck charm and not just an unfortunate bystander?

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