Monday, May 25, 2009

Season Finale Haiku

"Guys. I know kung fu!"
Happily, not the last words,
We will hear Chuck say.

Not all black and white.
Lots of secrets to Un-Locke.
Kate still fucks it up.

What the hell was that?
Babies, brain tumors and sex?
I want amnesia.

How I Met Your Mother
Mom is in the class?
Don't care since we have Barney,
Robin and Aldrins.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Goodbye, smart sci-fi.
Loved the cast, and this John C,
Won't scream at DP.

American Idol
"Golden Idols" suck,
Homophobia clouds vote,
Kara fun at last.

Only good cuz of Cutthroat.
Hugh still awesome, though.

Wash is a badass.
Love for Adelle knows no bounds.
Bring on season 2.

Battlestar Galactica
All just chess pieces,
Cuz god did it all along.
Where did Starbuck go?

Dimension doorway,
Hey look! It's Spock! Walter rocks.
Peter spry for dead.

Desperate Housewives
Please, Dave, kill Susan.
Did anything fun happen?
Why do I still watch?

The Office
God no! Not babies!
Always kills a show for me.
Picnics are awkward.

Heaven has cold beer.
And burgers. Angels are dicks.
Ruby can't act. Bye!

Kim and no cougar.
Red is hot and goes Jack-side.
Quiet end. Good day.

More lame upon lame.
Put B. Fuller on GOOD show.
Cast can't save plotting.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reconsidered: "Beer Bad"

For more about "Reconsidered," check this out.

"Beer Bad" has long been considered one of the worst, if not THE worst, episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's the 5th episode of season four, an underappreciated season that gets a lot of flack for the "Initiative" storyline, and Buffy's romance with white bread Captain America Riley Finn. Overarching "big bad" aside, S4 was about the transition to college, and "Beer Bad" takes on several college experiences: Buffy's emotional recovery from her experience with love and leave 'em douchebag Parker Abrams, Xander's attempt to fit in with the Scoobies even though he's not attending UC Sunnydale, and, of course, underage drinking.

The plot in a nutshell: Xander becomes a bartender at a local college pub. Four pompous dudes frequent the bar, lecturing everyone about sociological theories while quaffing pitcher after pitcher of their favorite microbew, Black Frost. Turns out, the pub owner has had it up to here with these guys and their dickish behavior, so he casts a spell on the "Black Frost" (his brother is a warlock) which causes all those who consume it to slide down the evolutionary ladder and revert, mentally and physically, to cavemen. The Buffster, seeking some laughs while attempting to get over Parker, has a few brewskis with these guys, and soon, the five of them are "questing for fire" on the campus. Violence and mayhem ensues, culminating in a big blaze in the Grotto (local coffee shop). Buffy, not quite as cro-magnoned as the four asswipes, winds up saving both Willow and Parker, who were there chatting about Parker's treatment of Buffy when the cavemen broke in, from the fire. Message? Beer Bad.

Fans of a show, particularly one as universally well regarded as Buffy, often say "even the worst episode is better than anything else on TV." Is that true here? Kind of. I'd much rather watch "Beer Bad" than Supernanny, 90210, Private Practice or Jon's Wandering Dick and His Famewhoring Wife Exploit Their Children for Fun and Profit. "Beer Bad" is still definitely one of the lesser Buffy episodes, but it's not the all time worst. (There are some season one clunkers, and "Where The Wild Things Are," that easily rate below it).

In fact, there's quite a bit to like about "Beer Bad:"

  • The season four opening credits are first rate.
  • The fight sequence that opens the episode is well done.
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar does a very fine (and funny!) job playing drunk (and playing cavewoman).
  • Some classic Whedony dialogue:
Xander: mon girlfrere. Behold (holds up a fake id) Behold.

Willow: I don't believe this is entirely on the up and up.

Xander: What gives it away?

Willow: looking at it.

Buffy: Maybe I'm in his bubble and then pretty soon he's going to
realize that he wants more than just bubble Buffy and he'll pop me out
and we'll go to dinner and it could happen right?

Willow: Buffy. And as my best friend you need to stop thinking about
Parker. He's no good. There are men, better men, wherein the mind is
stronger than the penis.

Xander: Nothing can defeat the penis! Too loud, very unseemly.

Oz: Hey. You got a table.

Willow: I had to kill a man.

Oz: Well, it's a really good table

Willow: What did you do with Buffy

Buffy: I'm suffering the afterness of a bad night of badness

Willow: You didn't. Not with Parker again.

Buffy: No, with four really smart guys.

Willow: Four? Oh. Ow. Oh Buffy, are you okay? Do you wanna talk about

Buffy: I went to see Xander. Then I saw Parker. Then came beer.

Willow: And then group sex?

Buffy: (Hits her) Gutter face. No! Just lots and lots of beer. It's
nice. Foamy. Comforting. It's just beer.

Giles: I can't believe you served Buffy that beer.

Xander: I didn't know it was evil

Giles: But you knew it was beer

Xander: well excuse Mr. “I spent the sixties in an electric Kool-Aid
funky Satan groove”.
Giles: it was the early seventies and you should know better.
  • One of the four college douchebags was an early role for Kumar, Kutner and Obama staffer, Kal Penn.
  • The beginning of Oz's attraction to the very sexy Veruca was well played here.
  • The revelation of what was behind the devolution was understated and unveiled by the pub owner in such a matter of fact manner, it added to the comedy.
  • Willow is such an empathetic figure, and so well acted by Alyson Hannigan, that you could almost go along with her falling for Parker's bullshit. How nice when she turned the tables and called him on his game (before they were both knocked out by the cavemen).
  • And finally, when Buffy (still quasi-devolved) gets the apology from Parker, she whacks him with a stick. Nice.

However, despite all the reasons to appreciate "Beer Bad," the episode still fails on a macro level because the metaphor is just so heavy handed and simple minded. Buffy is a show that worked in metaphor a great deal, and when it worked (which is often), it worked gloriously ("Suprise" / "Innocence"). But here, the messages -- underage drinking is wrong, y'all! and booze makes you stoopid! -- are so unnuanced and hamfisted that it detracts from the other fun to be had with the episode. The reality of a college campus is that underage drinking goes on all the time, and not everyone becomes Amy Winehouse after their first brewski. It's fine to want to send a message, but surely there are more subtle and effective ways to get the point across without painting in such broad strokes. In fact, "Beer Bad" does more shaded work on other "messages," like the nature of the ego, superego and id (Maggie Walsh's lecture and Parker's games) or socioeconomic class struggles (the four asswipes pre-magic beer juxtaposed with Xander's struggles to fit in).

So, at the end of the day, how is "Beer Bad" once it's Reconsidered? Not as bad as it's made out to be, and definitely worth a watch now and again. C+

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Feature: "Reconsidered"

We all have opinions. We judge something to be "great" or "good" or "awful," and give it grades. A+. C-. 5.5. A perfect 10. Epic FAIL. Awesome, dude. Most of the time, those opinions, once formed, stick with us. Some of us are just stubborn. Some of us are pretty good instant evaluators. Often, we make a snap judgment and just forget about the thing we've evaluated, and that judgment sticks with us. In this day and age of the internets and blogs, it's also pretty easy to take a quick pulse of the critical and popular opinions of a piece of pop culture work.

Some things are pretty easy. Just like most everyone regards "The Constant" as a great episode of Lost, most everyone (including the producers) regards "Stranger in a Strange Land" as a series low point (noted thespian Bai Ling and Jack's tattoos? Really?!). Some things produce a sharp divide. Sopranos finale - open ended work of genius, or confounding cop out? Battlestar Galactica finale - fitting conclusion to one of the best series ever, or "god did it" hackwork nullifying the choices of all the characters? "Stairway to Heaven" - legendary rock song, or overplayed, self indulgent Tolkien acid flashback?

What I want to do is look back at pieces of work (episodes, movies, performances, songs, albums, etc.) that are considered "bad," "poor," "awful," "less than" or "substandard" and reevaluate them. Examine their pros and cons, and see if they deserve their reputation in the pop culture and critical zeitgeist. "Reconsider" them, if you will.

First up, I'll be taking a look at "Beer Bad," an episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's fourth season. A while back, I did a rewatch of the entire series, and assigned a numerical value to each episode. According to that evaluation, "The Pack" was the worst episode for me. Of the 144 episodes, "Beer Bad" was ranked 135th (including ties). But ask just about any Buffy fan you know to name a "bad" eppy, and "Beer Bad" is usually one of the first, if not THE first, eps they mention. So, it will be "reconsidered" in an upcoming post.

Here's a short list of other items I'm thinking about for "Reconsidered:"

  • "Spock's Brain," episode of Star Trek: TOS
  • Riley Finn, character from Buffy
  • "Black Market," episode of Battlestar Galactica
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  • Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), character from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • "Expose," episode of Lost
  • "She," episode of Angel
  • The Matrix Reloaded (or, The Matrix Revolutions)
  • "Heart of Gold," episode of Firefly
Anyone have any preferences on which one to tackle next? Or, do y'all have any suggestions for items that would be fun to "reconsider?"

I'll take potpourri for $6,100, Alex

Good Saturday morning everyone. Grab some java and settle in for a fun grab bag of links and miscellany!

Does anyone know where I can buy some good old fashioned lye? I need to bleach my eyeballs.

In which people refer to Jesus, and yet prove, by their very existence and notoriety, that he can't possibly exist as a figure who has mankind's best interests in mind (from EW):

ABC unveils some fun looking new promos for the fall television season. (Will Jack kill everyone on Wisteria Lane because he misses Kate?)

Speaking of Lost, this t-shirt TV Guide's Matt Mittovich is wearing sums up my feelings quite well:

The 11 Worst College Football Coaching Performances of the 21st Century.

Empire magazine looks at the Best and Worst eppys of each Trek series.

Extensive look (with clips!) of the Best and Worst death scenes from movies.

9 Resons why Dollhouse Season Two is a good thing.

The Daily Beast looks at 14 TV shows they want back.

i09 chats with Supernatural producer/writer Sera Gamble about whether the show, recently focused on an apocalyptic struggle between angels, demons and Lucifer, works for atheists. (Speaking as one, yeah, it does).

Between Lost, Terminator and Trek, there's a whole lotta time travel going on in pop fiction lately. Here's a scientific "primer." Also, Discover Magazine offers "rules" for time travel. How Stuff Works also has some goodies on time travel.

TWOP's Best and Worst of season finales.

Mike Vick to Seattle? Uh, don't think so. But wasn't Jim Mora Vick's coach - and supporter - in Atlanta? Seems he was a little disingenuous about his belief in the dog murdering QB back in the day. Yeah, thanks for that Jim.

Captain Kirk, NOOOOOOO! You're better off making out with a Horta. (although, add a "w" and it's about the same)

Dark UFO has started their season ending polls on all things Lost. Interesting and fun results.

Televisionary reviews (with spoilers, so beware) the pilot of V. Can't frakkin' wait for this to air.

Are these the 10 worst team names?

TV Crunch lists the 25 worst sitcoms ever.

Also, the 25 worst dramas ever. (Not sure I agree with all their choices, and surely there are some more fitting candidates, but I like their venom for the do-goody schmaltz).

LA Times chats with Dan Aykroyd about a potential Ghostbusters 3, with a younger generation picking up the proton packs. Both Eliza Dushku and Alyssa Milano are referenced (though both later denied any knowledge of it via twitter). If they're looking for a younger cast, how about:
  • Alan Tudyk
  • John Krasinski
  • Craig Robinson
  • Ryan Reynolds
  • Alyson Hannigan
  • Anne Hathaway
Any other suggestions?

Oh, professional athletes, how I love your fauxpieocity (faux + piety + hypocricy). Check out this awesome commentary from Deadspin about Dwight Howard:
Dwight Howard. Congratulations to the Magic center for securing himself a solid spot in the alpha dog upper echelon of NBA superstars: His obligatory cash advances from fake-nutritious colored water products are already on the way, I'm sure. Howard's one of those guys who is difficult to figure out. On one hand, he makes a big show of being a devout Christian — going so far as claiming he only listens to gospel music, which I highly, highly doubt — and on the other, he had a baby with a team dancer (seriously, a team dancer) and leaves tickets for porn stars. I have no specific problem with this, of course — who would?! — but when the spotlight focuses on him a little more, you wonder if roaches might sneak around when someone flips the switch. But man, I hope not. Considering the Magic are likely to be down 3-0 by the time the next one of these columns run, I won't stick around long enough to find out, I promise.
A fantastic look at the "moebius" theory of time travel on Lost.

Joss's comments on the Dollhouse renewal.

Trek scribes talk address some of the issues surrounding the plot. Also, they have a nice Q&A with fans at TrekMovie. And they also had a part 2.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Now my bladder has a reason to use the internets

Ran across this item on Lifehacker this morning: there is a website that gives you guidance on when to take a piss break at the movies. You could tell me that a scientist discovered cold fusion, or that the government decided to eliminate taxation, or that researchers cured the common cold, and that news wouldn't be as important.

I love the movie going experience, and I almost always have a few cocktails before I go (or, if it's an early matinee, still have 2 pots of coffee coursing through me) and then settle in with a huge coke and popcorn. I've been "blessed" with a bladder the size juice box, and have to take a leak more frequently than an overhydrated hamster on a three day bender. I can't make it through a movie without making a pit stop, and extra lengthy flicks like The Dark Knight or one of the Lord of the Rings epics usually require multiple trips. Now, some enterprising soul has given you a story and time road map on when exactly to go, and not miss anything particularly crucial.

This is a special time in which we live, y'all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I'll sing along with "Glee"

Quick thoughts on the premiere of last night's FOX show, Glee.

Despite the fact that I had to watch the last few minutes of the climactic, and spectacularly entertaining, showstopper "Don't Stop Believin'" on Hulu today (thanks AGAIN, incompetent fucking Idol producers - we're thisclose to breaking up), the pilot for Glee was a definite winner in my book, and will take its place on the hallowed TiVo season pass list when it returns in the fall.

When Glee was in tune:
  • The show was, for the most part, wonderfully cast. Matthew Morrison was fine as the wistful Glee club coordinator Wil Schuester, Jane Lynch brought her consistent funny, and the underused Jayma Mays shined her doe-eyed appeal as an OCD fellow teacher with an inappropriate crush on our married central figure. But the huge revelation for me was broadway vet Lea Michele as Glee club superstar Rachel Berry, a singing, dancing Tracy Flick with a raging ego and powerhouse pipes. Her narcissism was funny, and somewhat endearing, because DAMN she can sing, and it helps to have her consistently taken down a peg (the smoothie to the face was rewatched about 5 times here). We also had Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned?!) enjoying some medical maryjane, and future episodes promise Victor Garber and Kristin Chenowith, among others.
  • Fantastic musical numbers. Both of last night's numbers, "Rehab" and "Don't Stop Believin'" were performed and shot well. Also, equally important, is that the songs are familiar. I read an interview with producer Ryan Murphy where he indicated that this will be the norm for the show, and that all the songs chosen for the club (and rival clubs) to perform will be tunes that have made their way into the public consciousness. Also, a problem that many folks have with musicals is when characters break the "script" and just start singing. I'm okay with that, if I know what I'm in for (Grease, Chicago, Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Moulin Rouge), or if there's an interesting plot device to make it so (Buffy's "Once More With Feeling"). We didn't see that last night, so it will be interesting to see if the numbers are kept within the confines of the Glee club performances.
  • The little touches, like eschewing musical cues for choral beats, especially between scenes.
  • The dialogue and initial characterizations were pretty funny. Murphy can write some amusing and subversive stuff. For example, take this "greatest hits" of his creation Mary Cherry from Murphy's previous high school show, Popular:

Any chance of Leslie Grossman showing up on Glee? We can only hope.

When Glee wasn't in tune:
  • Was it just me, or was the singing ability of the star jock not "all that?" I mean, he wasn't horrible or anything, but for someone who was supposed to be a backbone or savior of the group, he couldn't hold his own with Rachel, who just blew him off the stage.
  • I love Jessalyn Gilsig, and she was pitch perfect as batshit crazy Gina Russo on on Murphy's other show, Nip/Tuck. But her shrill harpy of a wife on Glee doesn't engender much sympathy, and I'm not sure the format and confines of the show will allow her to be as enjoyably nuts as she was on the former program. After 43 minutes, I wanted Wil to cut her throat and leave her in the "crafts closet," and go have a perfectly de-crusted PB&J with the sweet, adorable germophobic teacher.
  • Between the movies and TV, haven't we mined every possible storyline from high school? I'm sure we can find an interesting way to tread on familiar ground with these characters, but it's definitely a concern.
  • Speaking of concerns, Ryan Murphy's track record is also a bit spotty. I loved the first few seasons of Nip/Tuck, but that show went completely off the rails the older it got, despite the heavy lifting of a talented cast.
Still, Glee was a a welcome wind of something completely different, and I'll be around in the fall to see where they take it. A solid B+ start.

Until then, enjoy it while you can:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In which we hear nothing really new, except the same shitty song. Twice. (Idol Finals)

Well, here we are at the American Idol finals, with low key Kris Allen vs. the bombastic Adam Lambert. I’m happy with the final twosome, really, though I would have personally preferred an Allison / Adam matchup. But since that wasn’t possible, given her ousting in the Final 4, I’m pleased as can be that smug, irritating hack Gokey got booted last week, leaving us with this duo. For most of the season, I’ve enjoyed Adam’s performances more than Kris’s (though I did really dig his “Falling Slowly” and thought his rendition of “Heartless,” from an original artist I can’t stand, was the high point last week), so I guess I’m kind of pulling for him. But I just want an entertaining hour (and yes, Idol Producers, as I’m know you’ve forgotten time and time again, an hour consists of 60 minutes. Not 67, or 64, or 70, you fucking buffoons), free of idiotic judges commentary, and with some variety in the song choices.

So, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Judges introductions. A noticeable lack of applause for Kara. (I know, she’s inane and inconsistent in her commentary. But I keep thinking she’s kinda cute, and is she really any more devoid of thought and logic than Randy or Paula?). Simon has eschewed the formal Hanes for this evening, too. Rules: one performer’s choice of their favorite from this year, one choice from producer Simon Fuller, and a performance of the “winner’s treacly ballad coronation,” this year written by Kara. Great. 33% of the evening just merited a fast forward and/or heavy drinking. And Ryan warns us that tomorrow night is “so packed with great stuff” that the show will RUN OVER THE SCHEDULED TIME AGAIN. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, right? It’s a TWO HOUR SHOW. For what is in essence, a 60 second reveal, and a 3 minute confetti drenched ballad chock full 'o rainbows and moonbeams. What could possibly take up MORE THAN TWO FUCKING HOURS?! At least they are warning audiences in advance of their own towering ineptitude. Sigh.

Kris won the toss, and is electing to defer.

Adam opens with his performance of Tears for Fears (Gary Jules version) “Mad World.” I realize why the show keeps running over time. They’ve gone to a pawn shop, and exchanged all their clocks and watches for a smoke machine and 29 blue light bulbs. Adam does a lovely performance of the song, and though it doesn’t induce chills the way it did when we first heard it and it took us by surprise (or took some of by surprise, since this was one of the shows where his entire performance was past the show’s allotted running time), it really is quite understated vocally, compared to some of his previous vocal gymnastics, and is sung beautifully. The first three judgebots love it, and for some reason, Simon feels compelled (after several interruptions by the howler monkeys throwing poo) to comment on the “theatricality” of the performance. Dude, if you’re just now noticing this about Adam, have a cup of coffee and wake the fuck up. 9

Kris comes up in the bottom of the first at the piano, with “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Good lord, I love this song. The bluesy, plaintive nature of this tune is right in his wheelhouse, and he does a fantastic job with it, giving it a diversity of phrasing that, to use the typical Idol parlance, makes it his own. Really heartfelt, and a very good counter to Adam’s opening number. 9

Round One: Dead Heat. (Simon gives it to Kris).

Fuller picks “Change is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke’s influential tune from the 60s, for Adam. Naturally, he performs it note perfectly, and of course, with lots of bombast. Depending on your appreciation for Adam’s upper register whaling, you probably either loved this or hated it. Though I wish there had been a wee bit more restraint building to the crescendo, it really was quite spectacular vocally. 9.5

For Kris, Fuller picks another classic R&B tune, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On.” A great choice for him. Say what you want about his abysmal time management skills, the song choices have been very solid here, and suited to the artists. Kris does the song with guitar and some bongo accompaniment, and this is exactly what I think of when I think of most of Kris’s performances: vocally competent, interestingly phrased, and exactly what I think I should be hearing when I’m sitting on a deck on a sunny day, after a bit of the hippie lettuce, downing margaritas. I appreciate the calming melody and understatement of that Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson vibe, I just don’t always “seek it out” on the iPod when I “need” something to hear. Your Mileage May Vary. Some folks I know just love that stuff. Jason Castro tried to capitalize on that last year, but he was way less vocally and technically talented than is Kris (not to mention the fact that Jason might have been riding a short bus to school, or have fried his brain with too many white Russians and adventures with the Devil’s parsley). So, yeah, I liked that, it was aiight dawg, and it was smooth and well done. 8

Round Two: Adam

Running Score: Adam 18.5; Kris 17

And now we come to the portion of the program where the contestants perform some saccharine ballad inevitably about hopes and dreams and struggles and truth and frolicking on a beach of dreams and cloudy aspirations and climbing a mountain of pluck while fucking a unicorn in the ass and making a rainbow out of the spunk they pull out of their very own soul. Gah. Has any one of these formless regurgitations of 10th grade poetry EVER been worth a damn? If it HAS to be a stirring intellectual treatise on grasping the golden goddamned ring off the carousel of hope-y dreaminess, couldn’t it at least be an upbeat nugget of pop cotton candy? Has Kara been listening to the incessant promotion for Glee (which I’m actually looking forward to watching) and their use of “Don’t Stop Believin’?” Couldn’t we have something like that?

Adam gives us his take on “No Boundaries.” Will this be a song about someone who constantly invades your personal space? The difficulty in establishing a Palestinian state? College football recruiting? Your stepmom that uncomfortably got undressed in front of you when you were 14? The neighbor whose dog shits in your yard? Well, it wasn’t quite as soft and languorous as I’d anticipated, but it was every bit as expectedly obvious and insipid. How much do you penalize someone for “song choice,” when you have no choice, and the crafter of the tune is sitting right fucking there? Performance wise, it wasn’t one of Adam’s better shows, and on this one, I can see where the “upper register” complainers make their case. Grading on a curve (because they both have do roll with this crap), I’ll give it a 6. (And Cathy Dennis, 80s major hottie and pop hit crafter, co-wrote that with Kara? Wow.

Here we have Kris batting clean up on the same tune. Of course, his take has a more strummy, acoustic bent to it, and I actually enjoyed his version more, though he was far less technically proficient at hitting the notes the song required. Liked more, appreciated less? How about a copout with the same 6.

Round Three: Tie

Running Score: Adam 24.5; Kris 23

So, based on this, I would say that Adam won the night. The good thing is, I would be happy with either guy winning. They are both humble and appreciative and seem to have a genuine camaraderie and respect for each other.

And guess what? FOX has their most important pilot presentation right after this show, and they STILL FUCKING MANAGED TO RUN OVER TIME. (Of course, normally, I would give them the benefit of the doubt for a shrewd marketing move to suck people into watching Glee, but they have been so grossly confuzzled by the ability to understand where the big hand and the little hand are on the face of a fucking clock, that I won’t).

Tomorrow: Lots of fast forwarding with the TiVo and somebody wins! Wheee!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Thursday Traffic Jam and Dollhouse Pickup

Fellow TV Junkies, this is the week when the networks present their "upfronts," outlining their schedules for advertisers. While the schedules often change (FOX is notorious for saying something will be in one slot, only to change it later), it's notable for what shows are actually picked up and which shows aren't.

Geeks (like me) got a lot of great news this weekend, what with Chuck and Dollhouse both picked up for 13 episodes (albeit with reduced budgets). Better Off Ted, a very funny and underrated sitcom, also got a pick up. The sad news is that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, has been terminated.

The Dollhouse pick up, while rewarding, was a bit perplexing, given ratings as skimpy as Eliza Dushku's costumes. From what I've read, the primary reasons seem to be:
  • "Bet on creativity with Joss," according to FOX president Kevin Reilly.
  • DH is produced by Fox Studios, a sister company of the broadcast network. Therefore, all ancillary revenues (such as DVD purchases, like yours truly already pre-ordered) stay "in the family."
  • Whedon fans are incredibly motivated, and did their job with tweets, DVD purchases, phone calls, emails and their usual support.
  • DH had very strong "outside the Nielsen" numbers (DVR, Hulu, Online, iTunes, etc.), and networks are increasingly taking these into consideration (though they're still decidedly "soft" metrics at this stage of an evolving landscape).
  • Financial concessions from Joss and the production studio on the budget.
Will the raw viewing numbers increase next year? Time will tell. DH will be back on Fridays at night, with a sketchy leadin of two sitcoms.

Also, as the "official" schedule has been released (check out a grid here), it looks like the ultra competitive Thursday night has gotten even worse. On Thursdays at 9 PM EST, I watch:
  1. Supernatural
  2. CSI: Original Recipe
  3. The Office / 30 Rock
  4. Fringe (now moved here)
Damn. For some reason, I've wound up with 2 west coast feeds on DirecTV (ABC and CBS), so I usually timeshift CSI to a later airing. Even with dual tuners, that still forces a Sophie's Choice at 9. I'll probably move the NBC comedies to the bedroom TV, as both Supernatural and Fringe deserve the "big TV" treatment. (That's not even counting potential overlap with Burn Notice, which might have part of the season stretch into the network time. At least USA shows multiple repeats).

More TV fun to come this week, I'm sure.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I'll take potpourri for $6,000, Alex

The Lost finale is still cooking my noodle, and I'll have more on that next week. However, here's an overstuffed basket of potpourri for your Saturday morning enjoyment:

Need a quick way to identify which Trek movie you're watching? Here's a handy chart.

How does Spock's mom stay so young looking? Big gulps of water, apparently. (Plus, any chance to indulge my lifelong crush on Winona Ryder is always welcome).

How big is the new Enterprise? Pretty fucking big.

i09's 5 favorite Trek ripoffs (and you really have to click the video for the "Phoenix 5.")

Here's a great podcast about movie scores. You'll find at the top of the list a episode about the music of Trek. Good stuff. Film Score Monthly Online - Film Score Monthly Podcast

More Trek! Here's the wallpaper on my CrackBerry:

io9 has compiled a great collection of Trek Top 10 lists.

More Trek goodies, including a trivia quiz administered by "Q." (Yeah, I scored 20 out of 20).

Great set of annotations to the new Trek movie.

Can you tell that I FLOVED the new Trek film? Okay, on to other things...

This is AWESOME. The "world's three best visual illusions."

Flat screen TV's are now an apparent danger to children. Here's a solution: keep your fucking kids away from the TV. Here's another: get your priorities in line. TVs are much more important; don't spawn in the first place.

One man's take on why Fringe is attracting more viewers than Dollhouse

Speaking of Fringe, how about that fantastic finale? Here's a closeup of a newspaper from the other dimension. JFK is still alive! (Does Oliver Stone have no career in this other dimension?) Len Bias still alive, and leading the Celts to a title! Stock market closed! White House rebuilt!

Michael Emerson chats with the AV Club.

Joss Whedon's "7 Things I Love About Sci-Fi."

io9 posits that Dollhouse is Joss's "greatest work."
(I don't agree, but it's an interesting read nonetheless).

The gorgeous Juliet Landau talks about writing Drusilla for the Buffy comics.

Nathan Fillion Q&A with EW about Castle
(which also got renewed, along with Better Off Ted. Yippee!). More Nathan here.

An oldie but a goodie from PJ O'Rourke, "I agree with me."

This cracks me up: the "history of everything" in timeline form. Which option makes more sense?

Asteroids couldn't have killed the dinosaurs. Wait, all this happened in 6,000 years?

Oh yeah. Marriage equality leads to bestiality, pedophilia and polygamy. Keep talking, Pat. It makes everyone else look smarter.

Thoughts on Joss's script for Alien Resurrection, and what happened as it was translated by the director.

Nice Interview with Jim Beaver, from Supernatural. (And damn, was I glad Bobby lived through that kickass finale).

Wizard Universe lists the "TV Greatest Sci-Fi Shows Ever."

How cool is this? The Tarantino Mixtape:

The Tarantino Mixtape from Eclectic Method on Vimeo.

Today in Idiocy: I watch the Weather Channel occasionally, but didn't realize there was a type of "wind" that would only blow in the direction of nipples, while leaving the hair unmoved.

Friday, May 15, 2009

One day, when I'm a big rock star...

Came across this item, outlining the "tour rider" (the list of necessities a star contractually demands backstage) for pop princess Kelly Clarkson.

It's really remarkable how simple and unpretentious the list is, and makes me love Kelly even more. For comparison, check out the rider of J-Lo when she had a bit part in a charity video. And of course, we all remember the infamous "no brown M&Ms!" clause from Van Halen back in the day.

So, even though I don't sing in public, and couldn't hit a note if my car/shower singing was filtered through the Hall 9000 version of Autotune, I like to imagine that one day I could be a rock star. (Maybe I shouldn't give up on that dream. After all, look around the Top 40 these days, and that tonal deficiency sure hasn't stopped a lot of successful "artists"). So what would my "rider" look like? Glad you asked.

Upon arrival backstage, the artist should have:
  • 10 bags of crushed ice, preferably the "pellet" ice often found at Sonic or Zaxby's.
  • Ice must be stored in Coleman stainless steel coolers, as found at UGA tailgates, or used by the Dharma Initiative circa 1977.
  • 30 bottles of water. (ice cold) Any brand is fine.
  • Two half gallon bottles of Crown Royal.
  • UGA stadium cups, preferably black. (No white cups).
  • Two airpots fresh ground coffee. One dark roast, one light roast.
  • One half gallon fat free half and half.
  • Coffee travel mugs, preferably stainless steel. Although "STEROFOAM" is okay too, because its impact on the the environment is vastly overstated, and well, I'll be long dead before the planet rots away.
  • One case of diet Coke.
  • Five extra large, extra soft towels, preferably washed in with excessive amount of Snuggle. And the blood of newborns. (last requirement optional).
  • Party platter of Chic-Fil-A nuggets. With Zaxby's sauce.
  • Plasma TV, connected to DVD player.
  • Entire Firefly series on DVD.
  • Wireless internet connection.
  • 42 packs of IceBreakers gum.
  • One large platter of chili cheese fries, with sides of sour cream and ranch. (Waffle, steak, crinkle and other large fries okay. Shoestring NOT).
  • All security guards backstage must be attired in RED Starfleet uniforms. (Reboot uniform design preferable).
  • One large bowl, designed to replicate the Holy Grail in 13x scale, filled with Reese's Pieces.
  • Five cartons of Marlboro Ultra Lights.
  • Five Zippo lighters (fueled).
  • Five large bean bag "chairs."
  • No furnishings, posters, napkins, attire or any visible evidence of the "color" ORANGE must be present at any time. No "jorts." Any employees or concert attendees with the names "Meyer," "Spurrier," "Wuerffel" or "Tebow" must be removed from the arena. And taken out behind the facility and shot. (Quietly. And this clause must be removed from documentation for legal considerations, but ya get the message, right?).
  • One basket of kittens. (Who doesn't love kittens?)
  • A/C must be set to temp below 68 degrees.
  • One box disposable eyeglass cleaning wipes.
  • Keebler cookies, served by real elves (not short people dressed like they're going to a Ren Fair).

That's mine. What would be on your rider?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Heads should roll, and not just from Danny's singing (Idol Top 3)

Before I get to some quick thoughts on the Idol performances last night, can we all just agree on this: the show's producers and director should be FIRED. Or, Fringe style, taken to a portal to another dimension and CUT IN HALF and left for dead. Because really, the consistent incompetence of this season is unparalleled in any dimension. You have the number one show on television, and as talented a group as you've ever had, and week after week the show runs as smoothly and efficiently as the Washington Generals. You've added a fourth judge, who sounded great and credentialed on paper, who ultimately adds nothing except for the occasional insipid, head-scratching comment (Studio 57? "Early" Aerosmith?). Every week the show runs over time, and manages to do LESS with the allotted time than previous incarnations of the show. How is this even possible? Take last night for example. Traditionally, the top 3 have performed 3 songs (their choice, judges choice and Clive Davis choice), and managed to fit in 9 songs. Instead, we had each contestant do 2 songs (their choice, judges choice) for a total of 6 performances, and they not only ran the additional 4 minutes over that my TiVo indicated, but yet another minute after that! All so we could watch MORE of the interminable and content-free squawking between the panel of "judges," 75% of whom can't use the English language with any degree of clarity? REALLY? How the hell can this be happening week after week, without heads rolling down the halls of FOX and 19 Entertainment?


As for the performances themselves, let's just say I was underwhelmed.

The Douchebag didn't melt any brains with his off key shrieking this week, but he did a passable version of Paula's choice of an obscure Terrance Trent D'Arby song, and did a predictable and schmaltzy "You Are So Beautiful."

Kris did what he could with Randara's choice (and then they criticized him for how he performed it) save for a bad falsetto, and actually offered the best performance of the night, an autotuneless version of a Kanye West song (as I twittered last night, how does one interpret Kanye WITHOUT USING ALL CAPS?).

And presumed winner Adam was very solid with Simon's choice of "One," but then disappointingly chose and screamed his way through the "early" Aerosmith song "Crying." There were rumors Simon was going to give Adam Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game," which would have been much, much better. (I would have loved to hear him do "Solitary Man," also from Isaak).

Obviously, the final two should be Adam and Kris, and according to DialIdol this morning, it looks like America agrees by a slight margin.

No matter who the final two are, we have one more "performance" show to cope with next week, and we'll see if they can actually fit in some "singing" (because you know, this is a "singing competition," or so I've heard from the morons at the desk) between the inane banter.

Regardless of who wins, the producers need to do a full housecleaning on the staff in the offseason, and offer a contrite, apologetic mea culpa to the audience for the abject fuckery with which the show has been run this season.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Short takes:

Last week's Lost was a great "set up" eppy for the season finale tomorrow. (Although I wish someone would explain the "origin" of the compass, that seems to be caught in a time loop paradox). I'm completely unspoiled, and have no idea what to expect.

Dollhouse finished STRONG, creatively, although the ratings were down again. I have no faith in Nielsen viewers. If this is it for the show (and I hope it isn't), at least it went out firing on all cylinders.

The new Star Trek movie is all that it's purported to be, and then some. Simply amazing. It gets by on casting, acting, characterization, momentum, score, direction and effects, despite some plot holes you could fly V'Ger through. I'm anxiously awaiting the next installment.

Speaking of which, I fell prey to the "FauxMax" charade. (See more about this from Aziz Ansari here). Was the sound and picture quality outstanding? Yeah. But the screen was about the same size as a "regular" screen. Fortunately, I didn't pay the full ride for the ticket, but I have to admit, I was disappointed once I saw the size of the screen in my supposed "Imax" theatre. I saw various Matrix and LOTR flicks back in GA on a huge Imax set up, and there was no comparison with what I just witnessed. Sad.

Why aren't Better Off Ted and Party Down getting more attention? Damn, these are funny shows.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Darmok and Gokey at the Aerosmith

Remember that classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Darmok," where Picard is stranded on a planet with a member of an alien race, and the universal translator will not work with the alien's language? It's an insightful meditation on interplanetary diplomacy, and more importantly, about "communication," since the language of the alien is made up entirely of metaphor (such as "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra") rather than individual words and phrases.

So, if I ever met a Tamarian, and wanted to communicate the idea of "off key screeching that causes insidious pain to the human ear," I might use something like this:

"Gokey and Aerosmith at the Rock Night"

Or, if I was trying to get the alien to understand the concept of "contemptible, smug, self-satisfied, asshatted, douchbaggery," I might say something along the lines of:

"Gokey with Ryan before the Judges Table."

I think y'all speak the language I'm putting down, right?

PLEASE, America, do the right thing tonight.

Nothin but a "Whole Lotta Love" for Adam (Idol Top 4)

Welcome to Rock Night. Slash is the guest mentor.

There are rumors that Idol will shake things up tonight, and have the Idolettes perform duets with each other. On the surface, this seems kind of interesting. How will they choose a song that complements both voices and styles? Who will be paired up? How will they flash the phone numbers? How will the judges evaluate the performances? However, as I think about it, it seems less like an “interesting idea,” and more like the producers just throwing up their arms and saying “fuck it. We can’t bring a show in on time anymore, so we’re going to short shrift the performers.” For example, last week, in the Top 5, we only had one performance each, when historically, the Top 5 has had a chance to do two songs each. Because of their gross incompetence, TPTB decided to cut that down to one song each, and inexplicably found a way to run over the allotted time. Now, with only 4 performers, they STILL can’t find a way to fit in 8 songs? SHAMEFUL. Can’t they make the judges be succinct? Or just eliminate anything Randy says? Cut Ryan’s preshow blabber? Nix the sitting on the chair pre-clip, pre-performance banter? This is the biggest show on television, and now it runs with the operational efficiency of a post office staffed by lethargic zombies? The blood boils.

I guess we'll see how it all works. On with the show.

Adam bats leadoff with "Whole Lotta Love". How did they clear that? What a great choice for him. What range. Few people can credibly pull off Robert Plant in full wailing, swaggering Rock God mode, and damned if he doesn’t do it. He fucking kills it. One of the few performances I’ve gone back and rewound a few times. Perfect. 10

Allison is up next with "Cry Baby". Another good choice, going with Janis. (I guess she doesn't have the same problems getting rights as Jenna Maroni). Allison is wonderful and this is right in her wheelhouse, but how can anything be something other than a tiny bit of a letdown after Adam? Still, this is very, very good, and limited only by the nature of the song. (And she gets a little adorably feisty with Simon too, bless her). Her other choice was "Somebody to Love". Simon was thinking of the Queen version, which would have been a good selection, but Allison was considering the Jefferson Airplane tune, which I wish she would have done, actually. 8.5

Here's our first duet with Kris and Danny doing "Renegade". Great songs tonight. Did they fuck up the lyrics? All in all, not a bad rendition, but neither one of these guys has a natural connection to swaggering 70s classic rock. Danny is a little better here, but in the big scheme of things, does it matter? No phone numbers are flashed, and this is just entertaining filler at this point. Speaking of which, if you want to see a good use of this song, check out this video, which is the last scene of the Supernatural episode “Nightshifters:”

Kris is up third with "Come Together". Good choice of band for Kris. But he's no Lennon or McCartney. He's just in that Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson coffeehouse niche and that's his thing. Plus, I still have fond memories of Carly Smithson doing a much better job with the same song last year. Not bad. 6

Danny does the last of the solos with "Dream On". Danny sounds on key and restrained during the opening, quiet parts of the song. Slash said it would come down to “the scream,” and he was right. Danny is no Steven Tyler. Or Adam Lambert. Or based on that scream, no bucketful of cutlery dropped into a blender. Ye gods, that was awful. And then, he has the fucking temerity to get a little haughty with the judges? Are you kidding me? I wasn’t crazy about Kris’s performance, but based on this, it is GO for Gokey time. 4

Second tangential video of the day, an ESPN piece they produced at the turn of the century set to the same song. If you’re a sports fan, and this doesn’t give you chillbumps, I don’t know what will.

Now for the duet I've been waiting for, Adam and Allison doing…..Foghat? Really? Not the most inspired choice of songs, but they absolutely kill it. They are so sweet together, and the chemistry and generosity between them stands in stark contrast to the Kris / Danny performance from earlier. Hopefully, when the voting opens, fans will remember Allison here, and realize she deserves to continue.

I enjoyed rock night, but fuck me with a chainsaw, they ran over time AGAIN. Not with 10 songs, or even 8 songs. With 6 fucking songs (and two that were "superfluous" to the voting), and I still managed to miss (for the time being – thanks FOX on demand!) a pivotal ending scene on Fringe. Take the producers out behind a shed, along with Danny, and shoot them.

The most obvious rankings EVER:

TNRLM Top 2: Adam, Allison

TNRLM Bottom 2: Danny, Kris

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I'll take potpourri for $5,900, Alex

Happy Birthday, Christina Hendricks!

109 has a look at sci-fi time loops.

Wil Wheaton remembers the Atari. God, I loved that machine. I tried a few times to get into a Nintendo, Sega or X-Box, but there are just too many damned buttons. Joystick and red button, and blow shit up. That's the ticket.

Banning comic sans, the ugliest and most overused font EVER.

Has Chuck been saved? Hey, I bought my $5 footlong! More Chuck, please!

Gillian Anderson on Doctor Who? Swoon.

Swine Flu panic? Let the movies show you how to handle it.

Lostpedia interviews Darlton.

A Lost "in memoriam."

Favorite TV hangouts.

Holier than thou gasbag Sean Hannity calls Kim Kardashian a "role model" for girls. A. I don't think he does much research, and B. when his daughter is getting fucked on camera for a porn tape, maybe he might want to revisit that statement.

Galactica Sitrep found these odd little videos, with animated characters bitching about BSG to a clown standing for Ron Moore.

If this is the case, I should be the least lonely person alive.

E! talks to Dollhouse's Topher.

Paleyfest report on Fringe.

Fake tits, "real" marriage and empty heads.

Anna Faris will start in a new comedy about that age old relationship irritant: What's Your Number? Apparently, her character sets a limit on the number of dudes she can bang in her lifetime: 20. If one of my exes had done that, she'd have hung up her panties during recess.

Speaking of which, I find it odd that this headline was from Columbus Ohio.

Yep, that's my home state. Forget the fish, bread and eternal life. Nothing says benevolent mythological deity like an affordable Korean car.

Like a lot of sci-fi fans, I enjoyed Ender's Game. But the author is a whackjob, and just joined the NOM, to "declare war on the government" if they recognize marriage equality. I guess giant space insects are bigots, too.

Another good interview with Darlton, from Variety.

Televisionary talks with Caprica showrunner (and writer of Friday's AWESOME Dollhouse ep, "Briar Rose") Jane Espenson. BTW, I saw Caprica on DVD, and it was terrific. Highly recommended.

Atlanta sports fans rejoice
. Our long national nightmare is over: Terence Moore leaves the AJC. (Typical column: bad owners, race, Aaron, Braves suck, race, bad sentence, race, Big Red Machine, race. Oh, and race).

Good look at UGA from Tony Barnhart.

The 5 Hardest Things to do in Acting. I guess "read dialogue in a George Lucas movie" or "convey emotion in a Michael Bay movie" just missed the cut.

Friday, May 1, 2009

My Mother is an Other and My Constant is my Brother (in law)

After a week off (thanks pedantic clip show!), Lost returned with yet another stellar episode, "The Variable." By virtue of the title, and the comments of the producers, "The Variable" is intended as a sort of companion piece or bookend to one of the best, if not the best, episodes in Lost's history, last season's "The Constant." While there are some thematic touchstones (lost love, time travel, free will, Oxford), "The Variable" isn't as much a sequel to that much lauded previous episode as it is an accelerant to this season's endgame.

Speaking of endgames: Daniel is dead.


Let's just stop for a moment and raise a Dharma beer in honor of the quirky physicist who gave a face (and a brain) to Lost's convoluted time travel theory, and who brought an unexpected pathos to his love for fellow doomed frieghtie, Charlotte. Jeremy Davies gives all his roles an agitated, jittery spin that makes them eminently watchable, and his performance here as Daniel Faraday won over many a fan who might have been skeptical at first. On Lost, as we know, even when you're "dead," you can pop up in future episodes, what with the flashbacks, flashforwards and quantum shenanigans, but if this is the last we've seen of Dan, Davies went out on a high note. See ya in anutha life, brutha.

So what happened on "The Variable?" Well....

Penny is at the hospital with young Charlie, as Des struggles to recover from Ben's gunshot at the marina. Then, Eloise Hawking shows up without so much as a get well balloon. From this encounter, we learn a few things: Penny doesn't know Hawking at all. Hawking thinks she's responsible for putting things into motion that resulted in Ben shooting Des. Penny is still gorgeous. And groceries aren't bulletproof.

Back in 1977, Dan arrives in Dharmaville, and is not rich from having invented the DVD. (Again, another funny reminder that Hurley surely doesn't subscribe to the "can't change the future" theory of time travel). He returned from Ann Arbor, where he was doing further research (with the DeGroots?) because of a fax that arrived of the infamous "Dharma recruits photo" that featured our out of chronology Losites. Yes, I looked it up, and there were rudimentary fax machines around in the late 70s, and for a group bent on harnessing the power of time and space, it's not a stretch to think that Dharma would have them. But who exactly SENT the fax to Dan, prompting this return trip? It has to be someone from the DI in 1977, who would find that picture curious or of note. (Wild ass guess? Juliet, who always seems to know and do a little more than she lets on). Dan is freaked out that the Losties are there, back in the 70s, and sounds the destiny alarm for Jack when told Hawking was the one responsible for prodding them to come back:

“Well, I got some bad news for you Jack. You don’t belong here at all. She was wrong.”

We flash back to Dan's past, as mom is trying to dissuade him from playing the piano, and focus on his mind and his studies:

“Destiny means that if one has a special gift, that it must be nurtured.”

If that's similar to Navin Johnson's "special purpose," I'm glad we skip over that part of the backstory. She also refers to her mothering and development of this gift, haltingly, as "her...job." Interesting. It's here that we also start to see the beginning of many Daniel references to "time." He keeps track of the metronome. And he also enigmatically says:

“I can MAKE TIME.”
To which she responds, “If only you could.”

We're back in Dharmaville, and I can't be the only one who noticed Juliet in a red shirt. Despite my love of the color, I know the affection the producers have for Star Trek, and this does not make me happy. (Or, it could be just a simple color choice, which looks great on Juliet). Faraday runs off with Miles, and leaves another cryptic comment with Jack: "I just--I just have an errand to run. Be right back!" Jack goes to visit Sawyer, and tell him about Dan's return, and meets the latest guest at Casa LaFleur: " Phil, Jack. Jack... Phil."

Miles and Dan get to the Swan construction, where Dan waits (precisely) on Chang. "Right on time." (Another Dan "time" reference, and also, how does Dan know these things? Consulting his notebook? Has he "been" to this time and these events previously, perhaps via his "consciousness time traveling" experiments?). We see a further exploration of the season's opening scene, with Dan in the pit where the DI will eventually drill too far and cause the "incident" and the release of all the electromagnetic energy underneath the Orchid. Of course, we get this winking line:

“Did you hear that? Time travel. How stupid does that guy think we are?”

Dan finds Chang, and explains the dire nature of the situation, and calls for an evacuation. He does this calmly, rationaly and without equivocation, citing multiple references and scientific reasons why the calamity will eventually happen. He uses his knowledge of 30 years hence to tell Chang things only he could know to make his point. OR, NO HE DOESN'T. He's typical spaz-Dan, and his closing line is "I'm from the future."

Yes, we giggle, but if you're going to make a solid case that A. you are indeed from the future, and that B. the dude should listen to you, Dan's approach falls somewhere between "can't be taken seriously" and "destined to fail."

Perhaps that's the point of it all, since Dan is kinda "destined to fail." At least in the sense that he doesn't make it out of these 44 minutes alive, and live to see Charlotte safe, Jughead exploded and Oceanic 815 arriving at its destination in 2004.

Anyhoo, Dan joins Hurley's Miles and Chang Reunion Club, only to have the good doctor dismiss it, and Miles deny it. Once he heard about dad's fondness for country music, maybe there's just no going back.

Or is there a method to Dan's madness? After all, he tells Miles that, “I’m just making sure your father does what he’s supposed to do.” So did he never intend to honestly convince Chang to evacuate the island? This quote is loaded, since he speaks from a position of foreknowledge of Chang's actions. Which we, the audience, assume leads to the "incident" and the events that we've always seen play out. So if Dan is pushing people to take the actions they are "supposed to," what exactly is his plan? And how would Chang doing what he's "supposed to" fit with Dan's later plan to blow up Jughead?

We have another Dan flashback, where we learn:
  • Theresa was Dan's Oxford girlfriend, before he swiss cheesed her brain in time travel experiments and left her in a coma.
  • He got a $1.5 million research grant from Charles Widmore (which Eloise looks shocked to know). I'm not sure if this was the actor, or how I read it, but this was strange, since at this point, Eloise knows full well what Widmore is up to, and knows what Dan's fate will eventually be.
  • Eloise gives shitty graduation gifts. Graduate from Oxford, top of class, and get a huge research grant, despite looking like Charles Manson, and all you get is a crappy journal?
Back to Dharmaville, where Phil still hasn't come to grips with his sexuality. Sawyer retakes Island Comedy Crown from Miles and Hurley:

“What am I supposed to say, my fist slipped?”
“Welcome to the meeting, Twitchy. Good to see ya again. Pound cake's in the kitchen. Help yourself to the punch.”

Dan casually inquires about the location of "the hostiles," and says he needs his mom in order for all of them to get back "to where we belong."

Flashback to Dan crying watching the 815 at the bottom of the sea footage, and he receives a visit from Widmore. Charles finally settles the question of how the fake plane got there (it was him. So does this also settle the motives of the dead guy Miles "read" when he was with Naomi? He had "evidence" about the fake, right, and Widmore's team took him out? So was he one of Bram's crew, intent on proving Widmore's fakery?) Dan's memory is shot, presumably from the same time travel experiments that got him kicked out of Oxford and turned his girlfriend into a rutabaga. But, as Charles points out (and Locke, Rose, Mikhael and many others know -- well, except Charlie, Boone, Naomi, Shannon, Libby, Ana Lucia, Ethan, Frogurt and....) the island has healing properties. This also explains the "flash card" games Charlotte and Dan were playing, since his memory and mind were slowly returning to him by then. (Wow, that boat ride TO the island with Dan must have been a blast).

From there, we're back in Dharmaville with the Losties debating their next course of action.

Sawyer continues the funny: "Your mother was an Other?"
But Hurley chimes in with “You guys were in 1954? Like ‘Fonzie times?’”
Sawyer will not led the Comedy title go without a fight: “Whatever her reason is, helpin’ HG Welles talk to his mommy ain’t got nothing to do with it.”

More debate ensues, Sawyer casually calls Kate "Freckles," and the reaction that Elizabeth Mitchell gives Juliet in a nanosecond is a heartbreaking masterwork of acting. Juliet gives up the code to the sonic fence, adding "It's over here for us anyway," (which is laced with duality) and the group breaks up to get ready for their various journeys: some back to the beach with Sawyer, and Kate and Jack with Dan to Hostiletown. (Another thought on my wild ass guess about the fax - if indeed it was Jules that sent it, her reaction here would also make sense, in that her concerns about the O6's return, which caused her to send the fax to Dan, are indeed manifesting themselves).

Dan finds young Charlotte on a swing, and what follows is more heartbreak, as he tries to convince the young girl to leave the island with her mom. (Also, this girl appears to be 8 - 10 in 1977. So that would make her close to 40 in our time. Is this part of the whole snafu over the age discrepancy between actress Rebecca Mader and the character Charlotte?) Charlotte tells Dan that "I'm not allowed to have chocolate before dinner," which sadly, were also her last words when she died from time sickness. Sniff.

Jack, Kate and Dan are gearing up, and fortunately for them, Dharma likes to make sure that all the guns are polished, so Jack the Janitor has a key to the weapons locker. What follows is a wonderfully directed action sequence, that leaves Dan shot in the neck (a graze), and the Dharma folks dealing with a compound explosion.

This is followed by a misty-eyed scene in which adult, addled Dan is encouraged by Mommy Dearest to take Widmore's offer. Davies really excels at conveying Dan's hope and vulnerability here.

We go back to the jungles of 1977, and at the fence, Dan utters something that seems simple on the surface, yet is laced with time travel conundrums:

"You gotta understand, Jack, this is our present. When we met, did I have a scar on my neck? No. 'Cause I hadn't been shot yet. We can't be so naive as to think nothing can happen to us. Any one of us can die, Jack. "

That's the question (?) we've been facing all season. This is the "present" and ongoing timeline for the individuals who have been transported into the past, and they can die. Yet, at the same time, if Lost's theory of time mechanics is as we think, then all the events where the Losties interacted with the past have already happened, and the future has already unfolded with them having been there. We've seen Dan vacillate on exactly how much he thinks events can be changed. Is it his hope that he can change the past, or a valid theory?

Sawyer and Juliet have a moment, well played by both Mitchell and Holloway, where they ask if the other "has my back." They're interrupted by consistent douchenozzle Radzinsky, who amusingly screams he was "just shot by a physicist!" They hear Phil (still in the closet), and it appears their jig is up.

We then cut to a conversation with Jack, Kate and Dan, where Dan lays it all out for them:

"In about four hours, the DHARMA folks at the swan work site--they're gonna--gonna drill into the ground and accidentally tap into a massive pocket of energy. The result of the release of this energy would be catastrophic. So in order to contain it, they're gonna have to cement the entire area in, like Chernobyl. And this containment--the place they built over it--I believe you called it "the Hatch." The Swan hatch? Because of this one accident, these people are gonna spend the next 20 years keeping that energy at bay... by pressing a button... a button that your friend Desmond will one day fail to push, and that will cause your plane--Oceanic 815--to crash on this island. And because your plane crashed, a freighter will be sent to this Island--a freighter I was on and Charlotte was on and so forth. This entire chain of events--it's gonna start happening this afternoon. But... we can change that. I studied relativistic physics my entire life. One thing emerged over and over--can't change the past. Can't do it. Whatever happened, happened. All right? But then I finally realized... I had been spending so much time focused on the constants, I forgot about the variables. Do you know what the variables in these equations are, Jack?"

Did the "20 years" part strike anyone else as strange? If we take this at face value, knowing that Oceanic 815 crashed in 2004, that would mean the button pushing started in 1984, which is 7 years from the time where the Losties are currently. Does this mean that the event that happens in 4 hours will take 7 years to "handle?" That it will take 7 years to concrete in the site and enact the button protocol? Hmmmm.

Dan offers that "we" (meaning people) are "the variable." We have free will and control over our destinies. So he wants to detonate Jughead, to stop the Swan from being built, which will negate the need for the button, which means 815 will land in LA. Under this theory, what will happen to the Losties currently ON the island? Does this mean they will continue to live out their lives, while "duplicates" continue on in another parallel strand of time? Or will there be a "flash" which takes them from this location and this timeline forward and onto the plane, with no memory of what has transpired on the island? Dan never makes that clear.

Back to Penny and Hawking chatting in the hospital:
  • Hawking says that as of this moment, she's, for the first time in a long time, unsure of what's going to happen next. Could this be because her foreknowledge of events has come from Dan's journal (which she might have obtained back on the island in 1977), essentially "stopped" chronologically off island when he sent Des to go find her?
  • Penny inexplicably leaves little Charlie with a nurse, while she goes to see Des. Look, I'm not a parent, but if a bug eyed lunatic shows up at my boat to shoot my husband and me, the last thing I'm going to do is leave my son with a random nurse.
Outside the hospital, Hawking is met by Widmore, where we learn that Dan was not only Hawking's son, but her son WITH WIDMORE. So...
  • Penny and Dan are at least half-siblings (we don't yet know who is Penny's mom).
  • How many other people know this? It doesn't appear that Dan even knows this. We know that Darlton are fans of Star Wars, so at least there wasn't an early scene with Dan and Penny kissing.
  • Was Eloise pregnant with Dan when Widmore was exiled from the island by Ben?
This brings us to the climax, where Dan walks into the camp of the Others. Dan, who admittedly was a "beginner" with guns, is still carrying a pistol. He wants to speak with Eloise, whom Richard says is not there. Richard asks the same question of Dan that he did with Sawyer/LaFleur, "do we know each other?" (Remember that they briefly met back in the 50s, when Jughead was just "hanging around.") Dan gets increasingly twitchy, and starts to countdown from 3, in yet another allusion to a ticking clock, before GETTING SHOT IN THE BACK AND KILLED BY HIS MOM, ELOISE. As Dan collapses, dying, the realization tragically comes to him that:

"Eloise. You knew. You always knew. You knew this was gonna happen. You sent me here anyway."

1977 Eloise doesn't realize until then that she just shot her son. But now she does, and all her actions from 1977 forward will be with the knowledge that she will keep Dan on his path of scientific discovery and development, only to have him time travel back to the island to get shot and killed by her hand in this moment (in his linear timeline).

So the question becomes, does Eloise choose the path she does for Daniel in order to preserve this chain of events, in order to "make it so?" Or, does she choose the path she does for Daniel with the hopes that he can use his smarts and capabilities to prevent this moment from happening?

It's heady, tragic and ironic stuff here, and we don't yet know enough about Eloise's affiliations and motives to discern. It's so well written, and so well played, because we can believe that Hawking is a pure, hardcore follower of time continuity that she steeled up and set her son on a path to his doom -- at her own hand! Or, that she believes in the "variability" of the timelines, and all her actions were to actually avoid this moment, and sadly, those actions were in vain and "whatever happened, happened." Either way, it makes for great drama and poses even more questions, which is the great thing about Lost, after all.

RIP, Twitchy.