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Posts Tagged ‘season finale’

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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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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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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How completely typical of Louie to give us a Christmas/New Years’ Eve episode as its September finale. I loved it.

After the triumphal failure of Louie’s attempts to take over the Late Show, this week’s episode opens with a close shot of Louie, shoulders wrapped in a blanket and hovering over a coffee cup. At first it seems as though he might be nursing an epic hangover after a night of yelling at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, but the camera pans back to reveal that it’s Christmas morning and Jane and Lily are enthusiastically ripping open presents from “Santa.” With each one, Louie flashes back to the varying levels of hell that he went through to obtain the presents for them. Struggles with wrapping paper, heated encounters looking for a purple monkey at the mall, and, most hilariously of all, Louie’s repeated and escalating attempts to fix a baby doll whose eyes have creepily fallen back into its head. As Louie saws, drills, glues, scrubs, and paints with melted crayons, his desperation to give his daughters the perfect Christmas seems more and more unlikely to be successful. In the end, though, Lily loves it, but gives the credit again to Santa. When she next opens a book about a duck from China, Louie finally speaks up that it’s from him. He begins to read it to his daughters, the camera panning lovingly across the  hand-drawn pictures, and Lily sighs dreamily that it looks like it would be nice to live on the Yangtze River.

This tender father-daughter moment is interrupted by Louie’s ex-wife and her boyfriend, who are coming to whisk the kids away on an unspecified international trip until the middle of January. Louie has to admit to his ex-wife that the Late Show dream is definitely over, and the shot of the elevator door closing on the foursome emphasizes Louie’s sense of isolation. In typical fashion, Louie spirals into a vortex of darkness and isolation. He immediately rids the apartment of any vestiges of Christmas (culminating int shoving the tree out of the window) and settles in to hibernate in the dark. He’s interrupted by his sister (Amy Poehler) and her Texas husband who call and insist that he join them for New Years in Mexico. They don’t want him to be alone, and the way Amy Poehler’s voice shakes, it’s clear she’s expecting these few weeks without the kids to break Louie. He insists he’s fine, though, and goes back to his sugar-bingeing and sleeping pattern. Then, he has a wonderful dream in which a grown-up Lily and Jane meet, discuss how they’re probably in their twenties, and how one of them has a careery job and the other is doing something arty that’s hopefully going well, and how they both agree that growing up with such a lonely and lethargic dad probably scarred them pretty severely.

It’s this dream that spurs Louie into action. He gets off the couch not for himself, but for his daughters. He tried so hard to give them a perfect Christmas by giving them stuff, but now he realizes that the gift he needs to give him is by being a better (or at least, more active) person. In the middle of the Late Night drama, Louie’s ex-wife told him that his daughters need a role model more than they need his constant presence, but this time, it appears, Louie has reached that conclusion all on his own. He packs a bag, grabs his passport, and hops on a bus for the airport.

And then, on that same bus, is TapeRecorder (Liz). Just as quickly as the thoughts of what a New Year’s Eve with Liz would look like entered my head, they were shoved out when Liz rushes towards Louie, bleeds heavily from her nose, collapses, is taken to the hospital, and dies at 11:59. She leaves Louie with only a hesitant, questioning “Bye?” and he walks out of the room in a daze, surrounded by hospital staff celebrating the New Year. It’s quite the end to one of the strangest characters on TV, but I’m glad that Louie won’t be left to search after her and wonder what might have been.

Louie continues to the airport, but can’t make himself take one of the once-every-5-minutes flights to Mexico City. Instead, his eye falls on Beijing. Once there, he struggles to find the Yangtze River, attempting several different unsuccessful ways of miming the word “river.” Finally, Louie sees a truck full of ducks whose driver appears to understand him, or at least gives him a ride. They end up at something smaller than a creek, which the man seems to insist is the Yangtze. With a rueful laugh, Louie once again wanders around aimlessly until he encounters a woman who invites him into her home for dinner and laughter. For the first time in the episode, Louie seems alive and happy. He’s not detached as he was watching his kids open their Christmas presents. He’s present, trying to make himself understood, trying to learn how to communicate.

In some ways, the struggle to communicate has been the theme for the whole season – he tries to connect with various women, with his daughters, with his ex-wife, with his fellow comedians, and with random strangers. Until this point, he has failed at every turn, but here, in the middle of nowhere in China, Louie is finally connecting with people. It’s a hopeful way to end a season, and I can’t wait to see what happens in season 4.

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This entire season has been about Walt consolidating his power and taking control of his “empire.” In this episode, Walt finally attains the kind of autonomy he could never have dreamed of. With Mike out of the picture (another victim of the tub and acid trick) and Jesse still in retirement, Walt is the only vote left. Walt has the absolute power to order the simultaneous hit of Mike’s 9 guys (plus the flipping lawyer) and he has the power to decide whether to take Lydia up on her Czech Republic offer or to put the ricin in her coffee. Walt’s two decisions result in two of the most visually stunning montages that this show has ever depicted. The prison killings and the global expansion of the Heisenberg empire were both juxtaposed onto light-hearted music (with “Crystal Blue Persuasion” being the quintessential meth-cooking song that I expect show creator Vince Gilligan has been saving up for a long time). Both demonstrated how efficient Walt could be while working on his own. However, hidden within the montage of the crystal going out and the money rolling in was a shot of Walt in an MRI machine. No matter how effectively Walt can control his empire, he can’t control the cancer.

Of course, the real surprise about Walt’s success is how little happiness it brings him. He’s got more money than he’s ever dreamed, more success, more adulation (of course, this adulation is limited to drug dealers, so maybe it’s not enough anymore), and more security, but he still doesn’t have his family. Post-montage, Marie reveals it’s been 3 months since the kids came to live with them, Skyler seems happier now, and so maybe it’s time for the kids to come home. In response, Skyler takes Walt to a storage unit where she’s hiding the giant mound of un-launderable money. It’s coming in so quickly that she’s stopped counting it. Now she just piles it up, keeps it dry, and sprays it so the silver fish don’t wreck it. It’s more than they can spend in 10 lifetimes, she tells Walt. When will it be enough?

Jesse asked Walt the same question a couple of episodes ago, reminding him that when he started, he only wanted to make $737 000. At that point, Walt wouldn’t listen but now, for some reason, he apparently does. Perhaps the cancer forced his hand. Perhaps, as suggested here, now that he’s the boss and things are running smoothly, he’s bored. It’s not fun anymore, and what’s the point in making a ton of money if you’re not having fun and if you don’t even have a family to go home to? For whatever reason, Walt comes home and tells Skyler he’s out. I don’t think that Declan or the Czech buyers would just let their supply leave with no replacement, so I suspect that Todd is remaining on as sole cook, keeping Heisenberg’s pure blue meth on the streets as part of Walt’s legacy. He might have gotten out, but the empire he built lives on. Maybe. We’ll have to wait for next season to find out for sure.

One thing that is certain is that nothing is ever as clean-cut as it seems. Jesse got out before Walt did, and he spends his days getting high and falling asleep on his couch with a lit cigarette between his fingers. Walt goes to visit him and Jesse senses danger lurking below the surface. He gets his gun and opens the door with fear and caution. What does Walt want with him now? It turns out, Walt just wants to reminisce. They talk about their old days in the RV, back when they were a team, figuring things out as they went. Jesse asks why they kept that junky RV after they had enough money to buy a new one, and Walt replies, “intertia.” It’s perhaps an explanation about why it took him so long to get out. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep doing what you’re doing than to try to figure out how to stop. As the awkward exchange fades away, Walt tells Jesse that he left him something on the porch. Still unconvinced of Walt’s innocent intentions, Jesse approaches the bags with trepidation. He clearly worries that he’ll get blown up like Gus, but instead he finds the $5 million that he’s owed. He throws the gun across the room and puts his head in his hands. Jesse may have gotten out, but the shadow of Walt and the horrors they committed together still hangs over Jesse. He may have gotten out, but he isn’t free.

The same shadow lurks on the penultimate scene around the pool, where the Whites and the Schraders make small talk while Walt Jr. pushes Holly around the pool. There’s nothing to suggest that this is anything other than the idyllic family afternoon that it appears to be, but getting out can’t be as easy as Walt made it seem. It turns out, though, that the danger wasn’t coming from the outside but was, like Walt’s cancer, originating from within. Hank uses Walt’s bathroom and stumbles upon the copy of Leaves of Grass that Gale gave to him. Seeing the inscription to his “other favorite W.W.”, Hank immediately flashes back to an earlier conversation, where he found a similar inscription in Gale’s notebooks and pondered with Walt over who that could be referring to. Back then, Walt was able to brush it off with a joking “you got me,” but this time, the look on Hank’s face says it all. All of the inconsistencies in Walt’s behaviour over the past year are coming into sharp focus as Hank sits on the toilet in Walt’s master bathroom. We have to wait for next season to find out exactly what he does with this newfound realization.

I don’t know why I bother making predictions, because this show is so good at twisting everything around, but here goes. Hank might now know that Walt is Heisenberg, but there isn’t one shred of evidence to prove it. The book might connect him to Gale, but I don’t know that it would be admissible in court and it certainly doesn’t prove that they were cooking meth together. Still, like other criminals before him, Walt made one small fatal mistake. He was so concerned with the big picture – with orchestrating the killing of witnesses, with disposing of bodies, with establishing international drug rings, with finding the perfect hiding space for the ever-present vial of ricin – that he overlooked the innocuous book. I’m also not entirely convinced that Walt even know that inscription was in there – the pages seem stuck together and it’s possible he never read it. Also, the book moved from a pride of place on his nightstand to the back of his toilet under some magazines. The Walt who brought that book from the condo to his home was at the height of his pride and his arrogance. That Walt kept the book as a trophy. A little reminder of the man who got in the way of him and his rightful place as the only genius meth cook in town. The new Walt, who has enough money and who just wants to spend time with his family, might have forgotten all about it. He might no longer see it as a trophy but as just an old book that he got in another lifetime. Whatever the reason it was kept, the fact is that Hank knows that the monster he’s been chasing has been under his nose this whole time.

I’m not totally convinced that Hank immediately arrests Walt. First, theres the aforementioned lack of evidence. Second, Hank’s boss got fired for not realizing Gus’ involvement, it’s impossible to imagine that Hank wouldn’t get the same treatment once it comes out that his brother-in-law is Heisenberg. Third, Hank and Marie have directly benefitted from Walt’s drug money, since Walt paid for Hank’s physical therapy. Would people really believe that no one else knew what was going on? Fourth, will Hank be willing to blow up his entire family and put both Walt and Skyler (his money launderer) behind bars for good?

All of these questions (and about a million more) will have to wait until next season, which might as well be an eternity away. One thing’s for sure, while this season was about Walt’s rise to power, next season will be about his spectacular fall. The question is, how many people will he take down with him?

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Now THAT’S a season finale!

I could not have enjoyed this episode any more. At one point, I checked the clock during the commercial break and was delighted to find there was still a half an hour left. I was amazed at how much they’d managed to squeeze in in such a short amount of time. Of course, in the harsh light of day,  I realize that not that much actually happened, but still. What a fun way to spend an hour.

This episode did everything a season finale should do: it tied up loose ends and opened several other doors, setting the stage for a compelling second season. Nolan’s “death” at the hands of white-hair was quickly revealed to be a hoax and he was just being held captive by white-hair. Emily chloroforms herself (which was awesome, by the way) to allow herself to be taken to him, then convinces white-hair to leave, frees herself and Nolan, and then lies in wait for white-hair’s return. The image of her sitting on the chair holding a massive axe was awesome, and the fight scene turned her into some kind of martial-arts superhero. Of course, at the last moment she has a change of heart and realizes that her father wouldn’t have wanted her to become a killer, but I didn’t even mind that cop-out. If Emily would have killed white-hair, then the Graysons would have been finished, and there would be nothing left to do for season 2. This way is definitely more interesting, plot-wise.

What was also interesting is how quickly Emily’s kiss with Daniel was revealed. I expected that to hang over their heads for much longer but, nope, just like that Ashley revealed what she saw to Daniel, Emily confessed, and Emily and Daniel are done. Victoria’s gleeful reveal that her engagement present was an empty box was an awesomely bitchy cap on that whole relationship. Now that Emily is outside of the Grayson family, this will provide a change in dynamics for the second season.

One twist that I didn’t see coming was the return of a pregnant Amanda. I assumed that Amanda would return at some point, but I definitely didn’t see the pregnancy coming. And of course, it comes just as Emily is ready to reveal her true identity to Jack. All of Emily’s scheming is finally coming back to her. This also opens up a lot of dramatic possibilities for next season and leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Where was Amanda this whole time? Is the baby actually Jack’s? How, exactly, will Emily deal with this blow to the possibility of her continued hope of ending up with her one true love?

While the storyline with Charlotte was generally uneventful, I did enjoy her explicitly turning into her mother, and her impression of Victoria on the phone was uncanny. It seems that the Grayson children are destined to repeat the sins of their parents.

And speaking of their parents . . . Victoria can’t really be dead, can she? I mean, she definitely got off of that plane, right? I think that Lydia is probably dead, but Victoria convinced her to get on the plane knowing full well that it would blow up. The only question is whether or not she reveals to Conrad that she is alive. I’d like to see a supposedly dead Victoria working on her own revenge plot from behind the scenes. Perhaps her revenge plot will even coincide with Emily’s at some point.

Because, of course, Emily has to have a revenge plot. Just when it looked like Emily had nothing left to work for – she’d lost Jack and the evidence about the Graysons was safely aboard the plane heading for Washington – the plane blows up and changes everything. Once again, Nolan saves the day, presenting Emily with evidence that her mother is – gasp – alive! And is somehow involved in the giant conspiracy that goes “so much higher” than the Graysons. Now, I assumed that Emily’s (or, Amanda’s, I guess) mother was alive, because you can’t have an unseen dead relative in a soap opera without her coming back at some point, but I’m very happy with the way they revealed it. This sets up perfectly the plots for season 2. Instead of seeking revenge for her father’s death, she’ll be trying to find her mother, trying to figure out her mother’s role in all of this, seeking revenge for her father’s death and her mother’s disappearance, plus a bunch of other slights that I’m sure will pop up throughout the course of the season. I, for one, can’t wait!

Oh, and Charlotte might have overdosed on pills, but, let’s be serious, she’s not any more dead than her mother is.

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