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Archive for December, 2012

Survivor - Courtesy CBS

I’m not going to lie, my 3000-word Homeland post and the fact that it’s the last day before Christmas holidays means that I’ve had difficulty getting up the motivation to write about the Survivor finale, even though it was overall pretty good. I think it’s time to break out the bullet points. (If I call them holiday bullet points, does that make them any less lazy? No?)

  • Can the powers that be cut out the terribly boring trudge through the eliminated contestants and just make the finale 1 1/2 hours long instead of 2? Is there anybody who would actually miss it? Not only do I not remember half the people, nobody ever has anything interesting to say about them. “He was a good competitor.” “She was funny.” “I liked him/her, sorry they had to go.” Oh please, just put me out of my misery. This is what DVRs were made for. Start watching a half an hour late and then blaze right through that crap.
  • That was quite the elaborate reward challenge, wasn’t it? I liked the way the puzzle was set up. The reward of help in the immunity challenge seemed huge at the time, but I wonder if also getting a sandwich or something would have helped his hands be more steady.
  • Can’t believe how badly Malcolm performed during that immunity challenge. He seemed to have the weight of the game on his shoulders, but in the reunion, he said that his hands were just always shaky. Might want to get that checked out there, Malcolm.
  • Skupin skating into the final 3 with immunity definitely wasn’t expected, and it made him cocky. Not flattering.
  • Malcolm seemed truly heartbroken (on top of being pissed) to have been voted out just before the finals. I loved his futile vote for Denise. Poor guy. So close and yet so far.
  • Could this have been a more bland final 3? I went into the final tribal council not expecting much. Who could really get up much animosity towards these 3, I thought. Turns out, a lot of people.
  • All 3 final survivors had pretty weak arguments for why they deserved it more than the others – Denise’s was “I’ve been to every tribal council;” Lisa’s was “I started strategizing after my brother came!” and Skupin pretended that he was on the chopping block every time, even though he wasn’t. I wouldn’t have blamed the jury members if they’d left their votes blank.
  • In the end though, despite their anger towards her and her constant “appeasements,” the votes all went to Denise, except for RC, who apparently suffers from Abi-esque delusions of grandeur and claims to have pegged Lisa as a threat from day one and subsequently voted for her, and Carter who hilariously voted for “Skoopin.” I heard him say more words in a row in this episode than he had in the entire season, but I still didn’t get the sense that he had any idea where he was or what he was doing. Oh Carter, never change.
  • WTF were people thinking voting for Lisa as fan favourite? Poor Malcolm, denied again.
  • But don’t worry, next season is fans vs. favourites and Malcolm’s “I might be convinced to come back” was about as cryptic as Carter is the next Einstein. However, judging by his dejected demeanour, I don’t think Malcolm fared too well in the already-shot-season-26. Still, there’s always the chance that he could have a better poker face than I think.

So that’s it, torches out until next season. This year was that rare season where the gimmicks actually work so well that you almost forget there were gimmicks at all. But a returning player and a celebrity both made it to the end, and the 3 tribe experiment added so much drama that you know they’ll be pulling that one out again real soon. Hopefully they can continue their upward swing during the next 25 seasons!

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Homeland - Courtesy Showtime

My first reaction as the lights dimmed on season two: Huh.

Then I realized that this season finale was just a compilation of different types of Holy Shit moments. Let’s break it down:

Holy Shit This is Corny – Carrie and Brody, back together at the infamous cabin from the first season, staring longingly in to each other’s eyes, joking about that time Carrie thought he was a terrorist and he pulled his gun on her and good thing they can all laugh about that now, amirite? And hey, Carrie has a mom! Who walked out on her family! And Brody is the only person she’s ever told! (Now accepting bets on which episode Mrs. Mathison will make an appearance in next season – I’m doubling down on episode 2). And hey, it’s super difficult to be in a relationship with someone with bipolar, but Brody can totally handle it since he’s, you know, the very picture of mental stability. Anyway, it’s not like Carrie is totally delusional. She does realize that dating Brody won’t allow her to continue working for the CIA, which would be a bigger deal if, at this point, there was any reason to believe she would be asked to rejoin the CIA. As far as she knows, she’ll be having to wear an embarrassing yellow visitor’s badge anytime she wants to drop in on Saul. She tells Brody she needs to think about it before making a decision. If only she’d shown the same kind of hesitation when she decided to become complicit in the murder of the Vice President.

Holy Shit Is there a Tim Horton’s on Every Corner in Rural Virginia Too? – Nice to see our northern answer to Starbucks make another brief appearance. No croissants in sight, but hey. Can’t win ’em all I guess.

Holy Shit Quinn Just Pull the Goddamn Trigger Already – Set up in a mirror image cabin across the lake from Carrie and Brody’s Love Cabin, Quinn watched them frolic in the woods for a day, then watched them get down to sexy time, and then chowed down on a delicious can of tuna. In the morning, when Carrie headed out on her Timmy’s run, he somehow sped across the lake, snuck through the woods behind Brody, watched him as he prayed, put his finger on the trigger and . . . nothing. Jesus Quinn, just do it. There’s already been a Jason Bourne. You can’t just stop being a trained assassin because you feel bad about it unless you’re also going to get amnesia and go on a rampage against those who programmed you.

Holy Shit This Is Really Bad Dialogue – Turns out, Quinn upheld a part of that last qualification, showing up super creepily in Estes’ darkened bedroom, gun across his lap, to threaten him in his most Batman-esque voice. Quinn’s job is to kill bad guys and – guess what? He doesn’t think Brody is a bad guy anymore. So suck it, Estes. Not only that though! He thinks killing Brody will also destroy Carrie, and that would be bad since she’s “The best analyst I’ve ever seen.” Uhhh Quinn – aren’t you an ops guy? What exactly makes you qualified to judge analysts? And anyway, if you were watching the same shit that I was this season and deemed Carrie the best, then I’ve got the best oceanfront property in Nebraska to sell you. Sure she was right all the time, but she’s hardly reliable.

Holy Shit Estes is a Pussy – So. After getting threatened by a newly morally-upstanding Quinn, Estes just folds like a cheap hooker who got hit in the stomach by a fat guy with sores on his face (credit: Joey Tribbiani). Why didn’t Estes just say, fair enough Quinn, you won’t kill Brody and you’re going to come into my home and threaten me with hokey superhero movie dialogue? Fine, you’re dead too. I mean, he’s presumably got an arsenal of trained killers on his speed dial, and some of them might actually be better at following orders. But no, instead, Estes calls the whole thing off, releases Saul from his captivity, and even tells him that the damning lie-detector report was in the process of being redacted “as we speak.” So . . . that whole storyline was just a waste of time I guess? No real ramifications? No real point except to make Estes evil, Quinn good, and take Saul out of the action for a few days.

Holy Shit Does Saul Ever Love Peanut Butter – A man after my own heart. Give him some peanut butter, crackers, and an extra carton of milk and he’s good to go.

Holy Shit Saul is the Only Reasonable Person on this Show – His showdown with Carrie in the halls of the CIA was perfect – thanks in large part to Mandy Patinkin. His disbelief at Carrie’s professed love for Brody was exactly what was needed, and I was vigorously nodding along when he told Carrie she was the smartest and dumbest fucking person he’s ever met. Yes Saul! Yes.

Holy Shit You Guys, Walden and Nazir Were the Same – The dual funerals functioned in a couple different ways, but the most blatantly obvious one was to underline the fact that who’s a terrorist and who’s a hero is just a matter of perspective. Nazir gets a respectful but anonymous burial at sea, while Walden gets memorialized in what I’m sure would’ve been a string of services glorifying a career that was essentially built around killing people. The other reason for the simultaneous services was to again show Saul’s sensitive side and make sure there was an iron-clad reason for him to not be at CIA headquarters when shit went down.

Holy Shit, Who Moved Brody’s Truck? – This was, obviously, the turning point of the episode and maybe the show. Brody, apparently miffed at all the glorification of Walden’s drone program, silently motions to Carrie leave the memorial and they have a little lover’s romp through the apparently completely empty CIA complex. Then, just as Carrie tells him that she’s decided to give up her entire life to run off with an avowed (former?) terrorist, Brody looks out the window and notices, holy shit, someone moved my truck. Carrie barely has time to curse before the truck blows everyone at the memorial to smithereens. Was it shocking? Absolutely. Did it provide one of the only legitimately tense moments of the episode when Carrie came to just before Brody and had the presence of mind to grab a gun (that was just sitting loose in a drawer?) and point it at Brody, assuming that he’d played her and that he was behind this whole thing? You betcha. Did it make sense? Well . . . I mean, okay, yes. Technically everything Brody said by way of explanation made sense, even if it was a little awkward and, I don’t know, hitting us over the head with it all. “Don’t you see? He set it up from the beginning! He wanted to get caught! He wanted us to let our guards down!” Thanks for the recap Brody, but we probably could’ve put some of that together ourselves, especially since it didn’t answer the most pertinent question, which is who exactly put the C4 in his truck and moved it into position? The way it just came completely out of nowhere took something away from it for me. I would’ve loved either a shot through the trees watching Brody park (to at least suggest someone watching), or a gloved hand reaching for the trunk, or something. Just something to suggest that something bad was going to happen and give the whole thing a tension leading to the explosion, rather than just going for the shock. I suppose the point is of not doing this was so that we would have fallen in to the same false sense of security as the characters, which I guess I get, but I would’ve just preferred some warning.

Holy Shit Everybody’s Dead – Well, not everyone of course. Our beloved red headed terrorist/congressman/fugitive will naturally live to see another day, but Estes, Mrs. Walden, Finn Walden, and a ton of other nameless CIA agents are all gone. And with that, so is much of the core of this season. It’s like the bomb was a big reset button. Estes proved himself to be a wuss, but the threat of Evil Estes would have always been lurking in the background. Not so much anymore. Now, Saul’s the senior director and they’ll be able to (plausibly) bring Carrie back into the CIA since they’ll be ridiculously short-staffed and need all the help they can get to figure out what the hell happened. I don’t mind this. A lot of what bogged down this season for me involved Estes/the Waldens, so with them out of the picture, there’s a chance the show can get away from the political intrigues and back to straight forward surveillance and intelligence.

Holy Shit, Best Episode of Storage Wars Ever – Carrie, realizing that Brody will be (with reason) suspected of placing the bomb, manages to escape the CIA compound and takes Brody to her storage unit, which, disappointingly is not filled with thousands of valuable newspapers from the day Elvis died. Instead, there’s just a giant case filled with money, guns, and fake IDs. Once again, Jason Bourne would be impressed. Carrie explains that she has a guy (conveniently located along the route between Virginia and Montreal) who is expensive but can make the best fake IDs around. The plan is to go to him, then go up to Montreal, and from there meet up with her friend June who will get them to Newfoundland, where they can board a boat into international waters. There they can . . . I don’t know, broadcast Major League Baseball with implied oral consent instead of expressed written consent (thank you, Simpsons). Anyway, I can get on board with this plan as a short term solution. I’m willing to buy the fact that Carrie has contacts who are able to make this whole thing possible. Plus, Brody definitely can’t stick around and try to clear his name since . . .

Holy Shit, Terrorists are Good at Framing People – This is one part of the episode that I can truly say I loved. I should’ve known that the terrorists would’ve made copies of Brody’s suicide video, but I didn’t. Releasing it after using his car to blow everyone up was a stroke of genius. Well played, terrorists. Now not even Brody’s own family can deny his culpability. While it displayed questionable mothering instincts for Jessica to force her kids to watch their dad’s own suicide message, it was worth it to see them all realize, a year too late, exactly what Brody was capable of. It’s even more narratively gut-wrenching considering that he didnt’ actually do anything this time! (Or did he? I’ll get to that). Plus, Dana had just gotten Brody to essentially admit that he had been planning on blowing up the VP that fateful night, but that he’d changed his mind and wasn’t like that anymore. So she thought she knew exactly what she was talking about when she insisted to the investigators that her dad couldn’t have done this and then . . . that damn video. Poor Dana. For a moment, I thought she was going to go into the garage and take out Brody’s gun and just end it all there. I mean, could you blame her? She kills someone, has it covered up, realizes that the world is supremely fucked up, realizes that you can never really know anyone, and then her dad, who she thinks she knows, is a terrorist and killed 200+ people right after telling her he wouldn’t. I mean, Jesus. That’s a lot to deal with, and I don’t know if she even knows at this point that Finn is also dead. I predict a lot more angst from Dana next season and this will probably be what pulls Brody back in from whatever fishing boat he’s hiding on.

Holy Shit, Carrie Made a Good Decision! – Together in the woods just south of the Canadian border, Carrie and Brody were at a crossroads. As Brody helpfully pointed out, the woods are always symbolic for these two. In this case, though, instead of bringing them together, it frames their goodbyes as Carrie realizes she can’t give up her life at the CIA. There’s a heartfelt-but-maybe-a-little-too-over-the-top goodbye scene, as Brody and Carrie tearfully promise each other that this isn’t goodbye and that one day, somehow they’ll be together. Okay, so they’re both still delusional, but as Brody disappeared into the woods and Carrie sped home towards her rightful place at Saul’s side, it felt like maybe the writers were on the right path. This entire season has seemed like the writers were just contriving situations to place Brody and Carrie together, to remind everyone that they both love each other so much, and it has felt at times very forced. The greatness of their relationship last season was rooted in its unexpectedness and in its inherently fucked-up nature. Last season, when they were together, they both knew it was doomed. This season, they spent most of their time together talking about how they could actually make this thing work long-term and it just felt too cheesy and unrealistic. So, for me, creating distance between them in season 3 can only bring good things. I’m not naive enough to expect Brody’s absence from the show will last more than, say, half an episode, but as long as he and Carrie aren’t in the same room, I think that some of the narrative tension that was there in season 1 will come back.

Holy Shit, Saul Totally Knows, Right? – The look that Saul gave Carrie at the end said so much. Mandy Patinkin is a master at showing subtle emotions, and to me, when he finally turned and saw Carrie standing there, there was both relief and anger written on his face. Of course he’s happy she’s alive, but at that moment, he had to realize that there was a good chance Brody was too and that she had helped him escape. Where else would she have been for a day? I’m really looking forward to see how this plays out. With Saul effectively in charge, it’ll be a different dynamic than last season when they had Estes to blame when bureaucratic red tape that held up their investigations of Brody. Saul’s also always been the one who was able to break through Carrie’s bullshit and call her out when she needed it. I’m hoping he’ll continue to be able to do that.

Holy Shit, What’s Going to Happen Now? – Well there you go. Season 2 in the books. It was uneven bordering on the absurd, but in the end I think I liked it. I do want to know what happens next. I want to know if Brody had anything to do with the bomb in his truck (my gut says no, but they’ve left the door open just enough that he might have). I want to know who’s the terrorist now. I want to watch Carrie and Saul and Virgil and Max watch people through hidden cameras and long-range lenses. I just have to change the way I watch it all unfold. After the first season, I watched this show expecting it to be like Breaking Bad or The Wire when really, it’s probably more on the level of Sons of Anarchy. It’s not in the upper echelons of TV like I thought it was, but it’s still heads and shoulders above most of the crap out there. While Breaking Bad and The Wire were masters of creating complex characters and slowly building up to outrageous situations so that they somehow still felt grounded in reality, Homeland is more like SOA in that it’s ultimately a soap opera in which a lot of shit goes down every week (seriously, think about the amount of shit that went down this season in either show. It’s crazy the amount of plot they run through). They’re both exciting, they’re fun to watch, and fun to think about. I thought Homeland was going to be more, but really, that’s my own fault for wanting it to be something it didn’t want to be and maybe never was. So, with that, I’m going into next season with excitement. I can’t wait to see how they’re going to bring Brody back after the first episode, I can’t wait to see if it ever comes out that he was involved in Walden’s death, I can’t wait for the inevitable Quinn-Carrie hookup, and ultimately I can’t wait to see what crazy shit the writers will throw at us. 

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Survivor - Courtesy CBS

Really, all that needs to be said about this week’s episode is:

ABI IS GONE! THE WICKED WITCH IS DEAD!!!

Of course, there is a bit more to it than that, but not much. Skupin won the reward challenge and opted to take (obviously) Malcolm and Lisa with him on a boat-and-pizza afternoon. While Skupin got drunk on sugar, Denise was stuck at camp looking for things with which to gouge out her ears to avoid having to listen to Abi talk for one more second. While on the boat, Malcolm apparently solidified his final three, telling Skupin and Lisa that he wanted to go to the end with them. This is probably a good move by Malcolm, but it seems like adding insult to injury to do so when Denise is suffering so badly alone with Abi.

At the immunity challenge, Malcolm stages an amazing “come from behind” victory by being the first to complete the maze even though he fell off the ladder and had to restart. Malcolm’s win seemingly cleared the path for an easy vote, but nothing is ever easy on Survivor, especially with Lisa playing. Abi starts telling her that she’s definitely on the bottom of the final four (probably not all that far off), and Lisa, as she is wont to do, immediately seizes on Abi’s idea of getting rid of Denise while she has the chance. She and Skupin chat it over and apparently decide to take this course of action. The threat to Denise is compounded when she goes to Malcolm and asks him to give her his hidden immunity idol, since it’s the last chance to use it and he doesn’t need it. For some reason (perhaps because he recognizes that Denise is his biggest threat), Malcolm refuses, saying he’s going to bring it home and give it to his mom to put on her mantle. Perhaps Malcolm was hoping that Lisa and Skupin would do his dirty work for him and he could get rid of Lisa without having to actually betray her.

Ultimately, Lisa flipped (or flopped) before tribal council or during Abi’s insanely annoying rant in which she continually called Skupin an idiot and a moron, Abi was finally sent home, and the final four that was agreed on weeks ago came to fruition. Now the real fun begins.

So: Will Malcolm complete his improbable run from worst tribe to sole Survivor? How many more times will Lisa flip-flop? Will either Lisa-Skupin or Malcolm-Denise break up, or will it come down to a 2-2 tie and a fire challenge to decide the final 3? Was Denise bitten by a vampire and how will she use her vampire skills to ensure herself a spot in the final 3?

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Homeland - Courtesy Showtime

Formerly (and more awesomely) known as “The Motherfucker with the Turban.”

Perhaps it’s fitting that this episode changed its name from something shocking (at potentially offensive?) to something a little more standard. The first half picked up right where last week left off, to the point where I was internally writing a eulogy for the Homeland that once was. And then, Abu Nazir died, and things started clicking into place again. It’s just that it’s getting increasingly difficult to put aside the ridiculous stuff and appreciate the acting and the emotional scenes on their own merits.

The beginning of the episode was another 24-ish romp as Carrie withheld significant information from Quinn (that Brody/Nazir are the ones who caused Walden’s pacemaker to malfunction), lied unconvincingly about how, exactly, she managed to escape from Abu Nazir (she got lucky, I guess?), and quickly jumped to the conclusion that Galvez must be the mole who helped Nazir escape since he, you know, just got out of the hospital and everything. This particular leap would be fine for just Carrie and her sleep-deprived brain to make, but they lost me a bit when Quinn leapt off the proverbial cliff with her, concluding that it “made sense” and leading an FBI chase of Galvez who, it turns out, was just going back to the hospital because he’d popped his stitches (or is that just what he wants us to think?!?!).

The one bright spot of the first half was Carrie’s botched interrogation with Roya. Nevermind how absurd it is that Carrie got into the room with her in the first place (she’d gone to wash her face while Estes explicitly told Quinn not to let her in the room, and then, when Quinn got back, Carrie was already in the room). That’s some ninja interrogation shit right there. Anyway, what I liked about it was that, while it seemed at first that we were in for another demonstration of Carrie’s expert interrogation skills, Roya quickly turns the tables on her. She tells Carrie what she wants to hear, feeding her some bullshit about what it’s like to be around someone who you know is bad for you, and who makes you do bad things, but you just can’t help yourself. A single tear falls down Carrie’s battered face, and Roya pounces. She grabs Carrie’s bruised wrists, and spits insults at her in Arabic. It was a powerful moment and would have been made all the more powerful if only there hadn’t been so many leaps necessary to get Carrie in the room in the first place.

Anyway, after Carrie’s failure, Quinn insists that she go home and rest, but for some reason sees it fit for her to drive herself home (in what was presumably a CIA-issued vehicle). However, the drive leads Carrie to realize that when Roya told her that Nazir wouldn’t run, she meant it literally – he had to still be at the abandoned mill (sidenote: I’m pretty sure Nancy Drew and the Abandoned Mill was a book I read in elementary school. Just something to think about for next season, Homeland writers. Maybe move away from the young adult mystery genre). She naturally heads back there against Quinn’s advice, and finds everybody packing up to go. There’s only one tactical team left and, probably just to shut her up already, they agree to go back in for one more sweep. Naturally, again, Carrie is left alone with only one guy (after an explicit conversation earlier in the episode where it was discussed that they always go in pairs), quickly finds a hidden room, and waits in the hallway while the lone operative goes in, finds where Nazir was hiding, and promptly gets his throat cut. The show then shifts from 24 to pure horror movie, as Carrie runs away screaming “HE’S HERE.” She manages to fight Nazir off not once, but twice, before the tactical team can swoop in and shoot him as he kneels on the floor in front of them and reaches into his pocket to pull out what I’m sure will end up being a cell phone.

The parallels between Nazir and bin Laden are fairly obviously drawn, but I especially liked the distinction between the popular reaction to bin Laden’s death (jubilant cheering, U-S-A chants) and Carrie’s quiet realization that she’d succeeded in taking down the person she’d devoted the last 10 years of her life to catching. There was no trace of jubilation on her face, but rather a mixture of satisfaction, relief, exhaustion, and a strange sense of sadness and pity. Abu Nazir was probably the person she knew the best in the world, and now he was lying bloodied on a gurney in front of her, looking like just any other person, not an evil terrorist mastermind.

As I mentioned above, after Nazir’s death, things changed. When Brody is told, his reaction is just as compelling as Carrie’s was. He breaks down weeping before attempting to pass it off as tears of relief to his family. It’s clear though, that Nazir’s death hits him hard. Before, he was lost because he was trying to follow the rules of too many people. Now, he’s killed Walden and Nazir is dead – the only person he has left to answer to is Carrie. Since the terrorist threat is apparently neutralized, the unhappy Brody family is allowed to go home (much to Chris’ chagrin).

What they don’t know, however, is that Brody’s life is in fact in more imminent danger after Nazir’s death. Saul’s detainment last week was for a lie detector test that Estes will use to blackmail him later, if necessary. I loved the return of the lie detector operator from last season, and equally loved that the actual administrator of the test was a stone-faced Estes henchman. I loved that the questions were framed in such a way as to trap Saul with partial truths (did he technically give Aileen the weapon she used to kill herself? Well yes, but there’s far more to that story, obviously). Saul correctly identifies the motivations behind this line of questioning, telling the operator that the only reason he’s being investigated is because he knows about the plot for the CIA to assassinate a U.S. congressman. This is, of course, left out of the official report. While I will eternally love Mandy Patinkin, this plot seems a little heavy-handed in terms of Estes’ rapid shift from authority figure harshing the main characters’ collective spy buzzes, to actual evil guy involved in blackmail, murder, and all sorts of shady dealings. Last season, Estes controlled Saul by revealing truths to him about the nature of intelligence and the war on terror, this time, he controls him by blackmail? It just seemed like a bit of a leap.

In any case, Estes tells Quinn that the plan is still very much on, and that he needs to kill Brody sooner than later so that they can just blame it on blowback from Nazir’s death (it’s best not to think too hard about exactly how this would work – would they really pretend that there’s another congressman-terrorist on the loose in DC? Exactly how incompetent is the CIA anyway?) Anyway, the spectre of Quinn’s gunshot hung over the final scenes, adding heart-pounding tension especially to Jessica and Brody’s breakup conversation in the car. While their decision to finally divorce was a long time coming, the way it got wrapped up into a neat little bow felt a bit forced. I mean, one day they’re yelling at each other, jealous of each other’s affairs, and the next day, they’re having a quiet conversation about how it can never work between them? I suppose it was set up by Jessica’s assertion at the beginning of the episode that “everything has changed” after Walden’s death. In any case, I thought the fact that Brody went right up to the point of telling Jessica everything before she stopped him by saying she doesn’t want to know was true to character. No matter how much Jessica proclaimed herself to want the truth, she couldn’t handle even the glimpses of the true Brody that she saw. Her realization that the only person he’s ever told the truth to was Carrie and that “you must really love her” was both cheesy and effective.

When a bullet didn’t explode through Brody’s head the minute Jessica exited the vehicle, it was clear that Brody would be going to Carrie’s. I hoped beyond hope that when the doorbell rang it would be Saul or Quinn telling her that Brody had died (because this would have been unexpected) but instead it was Brody, feeding Carrie lines worthy of my guilty pleasure, Days of our Lives. He did what he did to Walden because, if the choice was Walden’s life or Carrie’s, it wasn’t even close? Carrie naturally swallows it up, which I can hopefully attribute to her not having slept for 2 days. Was she really just able to ignore the fact that the whole reason Brody was a terrorist in the first place was because he wanted to kill Walden? Anyway, she tenderly kisses his hand and brings him inside while Quinn watches through the scope.

There’s only one episode left and a hell of a lot to get through. I’m hoping that, in the end, Carrie will realize that Brody is a terrorist and her happily-ever-after fantasies are both unrealistic and pathetic. I hope she’ll be the one to kill him, but no matter who does it, I want him dead. I don’t see how Brody can live and have this series continue to exist under any semblance of plausibility. As it is, I don’t really know how they can continue. Saul is out, Carrie is out (even though she single-handedly took down the world’s number 1 terrorist, I can’t picture control-freak Estes keeping loose-cannon Carrie around and not Saul), the whole Brody clan is out, Nazir is dead, Walden is dead – the whole series is begging for a reboot. Personally, I hope that Carrie, Saul, Virgil, and Max get together and form an elite private investigators’ unit and, through their surveillance of cheating spouses and insurance fraudsters, stumble upon a terrorist plot that’s even bigger than Nazir’s ever was. I just can’t imagine how they’re going to wrap it up next episode though.

In the end, that’s really the difference between this season and last season. Last season, the unpredictability was this show’s greatest asset, and even when it seemed like they’d painted themselves into a corner, they always managed to find their way out, even if it meant jumping through the window. I always trusted that the twists they would take us on would feel earned and would contribute to taking this show to greater heights. This season, when the show has its back against the wall, it fights its way out with explosions when exposition would do, and it takes us on wild goose chases rather than the simple path from A to B. After last week, I don’t trust it to do itself justice anymore, and that’s a real shame. I hope they can redeem themselves next year and the only way they can do that is by killing Brody and starting fresh in season 3.

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Survivor - Courtesy CBS

Let me just go on record as saying that I hate family visit episodes. The hysterical crying, the waxing poetic about how much their family members mean to them, all the talk about how it puts it all into perspective . . . ugh. I want to yell at them all to shut up. Maybe I have a heart made of ice, but I can’t help thinking how ridiculous these people are. It’s been a month since you saw each other and you’re going to be home in a week (not to mention, with the exception of Denise and her husband, I highly doubt that any of these people live with their loved ones still and, if that’s the case, I’d imagine they regularly go a month or more without seeing each other.) So just everybody calm down. Blah blah blah the stress of the game but seriously, you all look crazy. The family visit this time was made exponentially more annoying by the presence of Lisa and her angel of a younger brother, Justice. He didn’t even seem creeped out by her sobbing snotty tears into his t-shirt, so I’m left with the horrible realization that Lisa’s over-dramatic behaviour in the game isn’t quite as far removed from reality as I was hoping.

Anyway, the reward challenge starts up right away, and Malcolm and his goofy younger brother win a day together at camp. As was to be expected, Malcolm gets to choose other people to get to share in this joy and he chooses Lisa and Skupin (whose behaviour towards his namesake son – the “best human being I’ve ever known” – was second only to Lisa for its over-the-topness). I thought he made a mistake by not choosing Denise, but she didn’t seem to upset about it. And Lisa is a wildcard, so Malcolm rightly assumed that having her brother there would help her to avoid a complete meltdown.

What Malcolm didn’t necessarily count on is that Lisa’s brother would try and convince her to revive her earlier idea about blindsiding Malcolm. They bring the two Michael Skupins over to further discuss this idea, and then they form a surreal prayer circle to ask God to bless their blindside. Even though Lisa later said in a talking head that she doesn’t really think that God has the time to care about the outcome of a reality TV show, it’s pretty clear from their prayers and subsequent discussions that they think there’s a pretty good chance that he’s at least tuning in. They then have a surreal discussion about what Jesus would be like if he played Survivor, concluding he’d look like Malcolm and play like Carter, which is pretty weird if you ask me. Jesus could be a pretty harsh dude when he wanted to be.

Anywho, all these machinations turn out to be for naught when Malcolm wins immunity (Lisa/Skupin decide that God obviously has bigger plans with them in the final four). It was made especially sweeter by the fact that Malcolm didn’t even know he was in danger, and with his subsequent glee at realizing that he still has the hidden idol (which he’ll play next week) and is therefore guaranteed a spot in the final four. With Malcolm’s win, Lisa and Skupin abandon all thought of breaking up the decided-upon final four and discussion turns to whether they should get rid of Abi (who is still playing her fake “hidden immunity idol” for all its worth) or Carter. Although Carter makes a semi-coherent argument that if they get rid of him, they’d be going against their stated belief in keeping people around who actually deserve to be there, the four ultimately decide that Carter’s too much of a threat and vote him out. It probably wasn’t a bad move, really, since Carter almost won this immunity challenge and, as I’ve said before, had the potential to sneak in the back door of the final four by winning out. Still (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before) I HATE ABI and I WANT HER GONE, so I can’t totally get behind this move. At this rate, I’m worried that something really weird is going to happen and Abi’s going to be sitting at that final tribal council. While I know that she would have no chance at winning, I don’t think I could stomach the sight of Abi trying to explain why she’s deserving of the million.

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Boardwalk Empire - Courtesy HBO

Well, they might not have lived up to last week’s heights, but it certainly ensured that season 3 went out with a bang. Many bangs, in fact. From the beginning montage where Al and Chalky terrorized Atlantic City over the mayor’s futile assertions that he runs Atlantic City, it was clear that it was just a matter of time before things went very badly for old Gyp Rosetti. Indeed, his men quickly realize their days are numbered, and so opt to spend their final moments of life getting drunk at the now-abandoned Artemis Club. Masseria comes to visit Rosetti to inquire as to what exactly has been gained as a result of this bloodshed, but Gyp doesn’t have any satisfactory answers and Masseria leaves in a bad mood, ripe for flipping.

When they’re not fixing cars and reminiscing about the old days, Nucky and Eli hatch a plan. Well, Nucky is the one who hatches the plan, but Eli gives him the push he needs. When Nucky begins to lose hope that anything can ever go back to the way it was, Eli reminds him to search for all the angles. And there Nucky hits upon a plan – he gets Mickey Doyle to call up Arnold Rothstein and let him know that Nucky’s running Mellon’s distillery. Meanwhile, it turns out that the cops that arrested Luciano and beat him into turning over 50 lbs of heroin were on the payroll of Rothstein, who now has said 50 lbs of heroin and is using it as a bargaining chip to get Masseria to pull out of Atlantic City in exchange for 99% of Nucky’s distillery. I think that’s about the gist of it anyway – things got pretty complicated pretty quickly. In the end, of course, Nucky ultimately beats even the normally cautious Rothstein by calling up Gaston Means who whispers to Mellon to tell Esther Randolph to arrest none other than Arnold Rothstein for his illegal takeover of his distillery.

So there’s the whole federal law thing sorted out, mostly thanks to his own ingenuity and the ability to call in favours at the most opportune moments. In terms of the actual violence, Nucky also relies on the help of his friends, both known and unknown. Capone and Chalky’s men might scuffle in the lumberyard, but they’re willing to do battle when it counts and they do the heavy lifting in the war for Atlantic City. However, Nucky also receives some help from a couple of unlikely sources – Gillian and Richard Harrow.

Treated exceptionally cruelly by Gyp’s men and rejected by Tommy (when she even brought him Oreos!) Gillian comes to the much belated realization that perhaps the Artemis Club isn’t the best place for Tommy after all. The problem is, Gyp won’t let her walk out, and Gillian uses her only skill set (her ability to zero in on men’s sexual desires) to figure out that Gyp would very much like to be choked with a belt. Why she doesn’t just choke him until he passes out is beyond me, but she reaches for a syringe full of heroin just a moment too soon and is caught by Gyp, who injects her with it instead. This gives Gyp just enough time to hear Masseria’s men abandoning him and he rushes downstairs to find out what’s going on when — BANG.

Richard Harrow enters. In one of the most fist pump-worthy scenes of the entire series, Richard enters the Artemis Club with about a dozen guns strapped to his person. He takes out the remainder of Gyp’s men, with only Gyp and his lieutenant surviving. When he finds Tommy being held hostage by a nameless Rosetti goon, Richard even thoughtfully tells Tommy to close his eyes before shooting the man in the head. Following the massacre, a bloodstained Richard takes Tommy to Julia’s house. Julia is understandably shaken at the sight of Richard’s bloodied face (perhaps she’s wondering how one cleans a face-mask such as his), and her for-once sober dad tells her to take Tommy upstairs to his dead son’s room. He doesn’t ask questions, but seems to understand that Richard’s been through a war. He tells him that a real soldier wouldn’t come home without cleaning up first, but Richard replies that as long as Tommy’s safe, that’s all  that matters. We don’t yet find out Richard’s fate, although I’d imagine it’s about 50-50 that he’s heading off to the woods to finish what he started so long ago. I hope that he reconsiders and at least ends up working for the new, improved Nucky Thompson. Anything to make sure Richard stays in our lives.

When Nucky and Eli observe the carnage at the Artemis Club, it’s with a mixture of horror at the sight and disbelief at their dumb luck. They stumble across a high Gillian, who’s made it out in to the hallway and tragically seems to be reliving her past, when Nucky sent a 13-year-old Gillian up to the Commodore’s room. To add to the pathos of it all, she seemed to think that Nucky had actually come to check up on her and make sure she was alright. Last week, I wanted Gillian dead almost as much as I wanted Gyp to die, but after that scene, I think I’m okay with her living for awhile longer. As long as she leaves Tommy with Julia.

Nucky and Eli find Gyp’s lieutenant hiding in the closet and send him to dispatch his not-so-beloved leader, who is ranting on the beach with two other fortunate-to-be-breathing followers. Gyp brushes off his crushing defeat, saying “you can’t lose what you never had” and insisting they’ll just go to another town and start again. Can’t be that hard right? And then, as he takes a piss while singing “Barney Google,” his lieutenant stabs him, at the orders of Nucky and as payback for his dearly departed cousin whose head had been bashed in by Gyp’s shovel not so long ago. Nucky and Eli send the lieutenant back to Masseria with the message that this can be the end of their troubles or the beginning – Nucky’s read to oblige him either way.

And just like that, most everything that happened since Gyp Rosetti rolled into town is voided. Sure, there have been some casualties along the way, but order is finally restored. Things aren’t the way they were but there is, as Oprah would say, a new normal emerging. Chalky will get his club on the boardwalk. Eli is back into the fold as Nucky drastically scales down both his ambitions and his operations. He only wants people they can trust around them, he says. Margaret is living in a hovel in Brooklyn and goes to see an abortion doctor to have her love child with Owen “taken care of.” When Nucky goes to see her, she stares at him as if he’s a stranger, and when he offers her money, she scoffs. Nucky doesn’t understand why she’d choose the life that she’s living once she’s experienced the luxury, but he doesn’t realize that it was the luxury that was the outlier for Margaret. Poverty, she knows. She lived it for most of her life. The last couple years of riches have brought nothing but pain. Perhaps she’s just finding comfort reverting to the status quo. Or perhaps, when some time has passed, she’ll return to Atlantic City and try to find Nucky again. She might have more difficulty than she had in the past, as he won’t be wearing his signature flower. No longer wanting to be the toast of the town, Nucky seeks anonymity. I can’t wait to find out how the new Nucky survives in the new city he’s going to build for himself.

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Homeland - Courtesy Showtime

Well, fuck you, Homeland. You suckered me in last season with a daring and innovative take on the spy/surveillance drama by mixing in a forbidden love affair and a realistic take on the consequences of mental illness. You gave me twists that I both didn’t see coming and yet fit entirely within the realm of plausibility. You gave me an anti-hero in Nicholas Brody, the maybe-terrorist who didn’t reveal exactly what he was thinking until the very end and even still remained clearly at war with himself over his own decisions. You gave me all that, you made me look forward to Homeland more than any other show since Breaking Bad, and then, you basically undermine it all with an episode like this one. 

This whole season, Homeland has been toeing the line between plausibility and implausibility and I’ve been forgiving it. I didn’t really mind when Brody texted Nazir from inside the Pentagon, or when he chased after the tailor and killed him in the woods and then rinsed the blood off of himself in a carwash, or when there was a terrorist attack on the CIA agents in Gettysburg in broad daylight. I also could buy that Nazir would get Brody to break into Estes’ office (Even though he apparently has a mole in the CIA that tells him everything) and even that Nazir would be able to sneak into the States by shaving his beard. I sure as hell wouldn’t have recognized Osama Bin Laden without the beard. I could even accept Brody being whisked away by Roya into a helicopter that the CIA were watching but still couldn’t figure out where it went. All of that, I was willing to put aside because everything else was so strong. But this episode, they finally went a step too far for me. To borrow a phrase from Joey Tribbiani, they went so far past the line, the line is a dot to them.

Let’s try to puzzle it out, shall we? Okay – Abu Nazir was apparently the one driving the SUV that t-boned Carrie. Why would he put himself in harm’s way like that? The only explanation could be that he is now completely on his own, since Roya and the TV crew were captured last episode. But for a terrorist mastermind as careful as Nazir is supposed to be, would he really let all of his crew on American soil be in the same place at the same time, ready for capture? But whatever, let’s say that he does. Would he then really show up at a gas station when he has to know that the entire CIA is still out looking for him? And alright, fine, maybe he felt it was a risk worth taking in part of his plot to . . . capture Carrie? And then once he captures Carrie, he calls her on his GOVERNMENT ISSUED BLACKBERRY and without first checking to see if he’s alone or, you know, with the entire CIA, Nazir pops his face up on the screen, points a gun at Carrie, and tells Brody that he needs him to do something for him. Forget the inherent implausibility of Skype working that smoothly on a Blackberry (I’m apparently willing to overlook all manner of cell phone-related sins), are we really to believe that the CIA would just quit monitoring Brody’s phone? At the end of last episode, they were desperately seeking Nazir, and now they’re gloating over the arrest of his minions and Carrie is talking to Brody about resigning from Congress as if he’s actually going to be able to just walk away? But, okay, FINE. No one thinks that it’s possible that Nazir might try to reach out to the one person he still has a connection with in America. Fine. The CIA has done stupid things before. But then Brody goes into another empty CIA apartment, shouts Nazir’s name about a billion times, then rushes out and says he needs to go to the VP’s house immediately, and no one bats an eye. And then he gets there, is more jittery than Carrie ever was in the midst of her mental breakdown, and is allowed to just wander around the house. The whole idea that a pacemaker’s serial number can somehow be used by a random terrorist hacker to induce a heart attack is pretty Bond villian-ish, but again, I’m willing to overlook that (see how generous I am?). I don’t even really take issue with the idea that Brody was able to find it (and a magnifying glass) and read it in the nick of time. No, what I have an issue with is that killing Walden to make it look like an accident would ever be Nazir’s Plan B. We’ve been told over and over and over again that Nazir strikes for maximum emotional impact. This has zero emotional impact on a wider scale. The general public will not be shaken to its core when it finds out that Walden is dead, because they will never know that it was anything other than natural causes (save, of course, the requisite conspiracy theorists who will be promptly ignored). Still, this was almost saved by the scene where Walden comes in to talk to Brody and Brody stares him down, waiting for him to have a heart attack. The moment where Walden reaches for the phone to call a doctor and Brody pushes him away could’ve been very powerful. Indeed, Brody lets down his guard in Walden’s final moments, telling him that he is, in fact, actually killing him. What should have been a moment of emotional punch was undercut for me by two things: 1) Why weren’t there any Secret Service agents standing outside the door? and 2) I spent most of the scene flashing back to a much better death-by-inaction scene in Breaking Bad, where Walter White stood by and watched as Jesse’s girlfriend choked to death on her own vomit while in a drug induced haze. Think, for a moment, how much more powerful it would’ve been if Brody had just happened to be around Walden when he has a heart attack and then seizes that moment to finally get revenge for Issa’s death. If that had happened, instead of it being the result of some behind-the-scenes string pulling by Nazir and a nameless hacker, it would have been the result of Brody’s own emotional truth. As it stands now, we don’t know if Brody let Walden die because he truly wants to help Nazir, or because he just wants to save Carrie’s life.

Oh, that’s the other thing – this whole plot by Nazir hinged on the fact that Nazir thinks that he’ll be able to manipulate Carrie and Brody’s “love” for each other. The worst part is, he seems to have been right. Brody risks everything to ensure that Carrie was able to run away, and, when Carrie finally gets a cell phone and calls the CIA to tell him where Nazir is, she conveniently leaves out the detail that the Vice President is likely being murdered by pacemaker hacking at this very moment. The only reason I can think of to omit this information is to protect Brody. And if Carrie’s love for Brody is going to go to the extent that she forget all about stopping terrorist attacks that has been her life’s calling then . . . I really don’t know what to think anymore. Is Carrie really deluded enough to believe that she and Brody will just be able to run off into the sunset together? Why does she even want to run off into the sunset with a terrorist? What happened to the Carrie of earlier this season, who fairly spat at Brody when he was captured in the hotel room after she tried to seduce him? Who venomously told him that he was both a traitor and a terrorist, and now he was going to have to pay for that? Now she’s just willing to overlook everything to live some kind of domestic fantasy? Last season, Carrie’s erratic behaviour could be partially explained by the fact that she was quickly spiralling downward into a state of mania. This season – what? Carrie’s lovesick? Is that her mental illness? I hope I’m wrong and there’s some other explanation given for her behaviour.

Meanwhile, Saul’s continued inquiries into the real identity of Peter Quinn lead him to have a delightfully understated conversation with Dar Adal in a waffle shop, followed by an overt confrontation with Estes in the hallway of the CIA, and finally by being prevented from leaving CIA headquarters to capture Abu Nazir. Instead, he’s dragged downstairs to some kind of interrogation. Oh also, Galvez is back. Remember Galvez? Last seen shot up in the tailor shop in Gettysburg and apparently not expected to make it? Well, now he has his arm in a sling but he’s back and ready to take out Nazir! Or, perhaps, live up to his mole-y ways. In any case, it seems more and more clear (and the previews all but confirm) that the series is moving closer towards revealing who the “leak” in the CIA is and I’d like to just go on record as saying that if Saul turns out to be the mole, not only will I never watch again, but you will see the kind of impotent rage not aimed towards a TV show since the season one finale of The Killing threw in a twist that both undermined a character they’d spent a season establishing and didn’t even answer the fucking question of who killed Rosie Larsen. If Galvez turns out to be the mole, I’ll be annoyed at his clumsy re-introduction but at least they won’t have destroyed one of the remaining sympathetic characters on the show. My only question is – if Nazir still has a mole in the CIA, why didn’t this mole just, oh I don’t know, call Carrie and tell him to meet him somewhere so that Nazir could abduct her from there. Or talk to Brody and tell him about the pacemaker plot, or any other number of things that could’ve been accomplished much easier if Nazir actually had someone in the CIA.

Anyway. I think the reason this has gotten me so riled up is because I thought this show was something else. I thought it was an intelligent, subtle, character-driven drama that just happened to have bouts of heart-pounding action and suspense. Now, it’s morphed into an action movie that is more focused on shock value than character development and that makes me sad. Maybe the final two episodes of the season can find a way to redeem themselves. I really hope so, because I really don’t like feeling duped.

P.S. Memo to Jessica and Brody: Neither of you gets to play the jealous spouse card. Jessica, you banged Brody’s best friend the first chance you got, and with your children in the next room no less. If that wasn’t enough, the next morning, you had a little post-coital gloat-and-makeout session in the middle of your echo-y safehouse again with your children in the next room. And Brody, you banged Carrie in a motel room with the entire CIA listening in and tell her every chance you get that you love talking to her and just want to be together. The fact that either of you has the audacity to act pissy towards the other about Mike/Carrie is ridiculous. Your marriage is a complete sham, quit wasting your energy.

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