Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fun With Keywords: Nerdy Dark Sylar Edition

Courtesy of Google Analytics, here are some of the search terms used to find this site in the past month:

sylar (nerdy dark)
Yes to both.

watch this video in a new window bad ass bubbles!!
If anyone were to ever send me a link to a video entitled "Bad Ass Bubbles," I'd be too scared to click on it. There are too many ways that can go horribly wrong.

william shatner 99 luftballoons
I would be deliriously happy to learn Shatner had done some kind of remake of "99 Luftballons," in the spirit of his bravissimo cover of Pulp's "Common People." However, this most likely just refers to the English version of the song, which contains the lyric, "Every man's a superhero, every man's a Captain Kirk."

why doesn't netflix have "space mutiny"?
Netflix does have Space Mutiny! What it doesn't have, for some unfathomable reason, is the brilliant Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff on it. This, granted, is a disappointment. Still, you can at least watch the original terrible movie, albeit without Mike and the bots mocking it right along with you ("Sting, Debbie Reynolds, and God!").

neilmed's sinus rinse double strength good idea?
I'm not qualified in any way to give any kind of medical advice. I'll just say, strictly anecdotally, that I sometimes rinse with two packets of the ionic solution (the blue packets) in eight ounces of water, which makes it the same strength as the hypertonic solution (the green packets). From NeilMed's website:
"What is the difference between Hypertonic (green) and Isotonic (blue) packets?"

This Green colored packet will make a Hypertonic (higher concentration) solution when mixed with 8 oz. (240 ml.) of water. It can also make an isotonic solution, equivalent to our regular blue colored packet, if mixed with 16 oz. (480 ml.) of water. Our regular product, the blue colored packet, makes an isotonic solution in 8 oz. (240 ml.) of water (using our SINUS RINSE(tm) bottle or other measuring devices).

It is strongly recommended to use this Green packet only under the advice of your physician or using your judgment. A few research reports, plus feedback from some physicians and customers have reported additional benefits from using a hypertonic solution. If you experience any intolerable burning or stinging, please discontinue the use of the hypertonic solution. In my opinion, apart from transient, mild burning, it will not cause any permanent damage with a few uses. With time, you will be able to judge as far as what concentration of saline works best for you.

They're not kidding about the burning and stinging, but I kind of dig that sort of thing, so... As the site says, use your best judgment.

in hornblower how would archie manage to starve to death so quickly
Because Archie is just a little more sensitive and delicate than everyone else.

how awesome is miami vice
Totally awesome.

how long was sendhil ramamurthy in ultimate force
One glorious season. Just long enough for his relentlessly prickly and moody character to botch missions, pick fights, and irritate the pants off of everyone on his squad before deciding he was above all this Special Forces nonsense and riding off into the sunset, leaving a trail of chaos in his wake.

"psych" "cheekbones" "indian"
"Sendhil" "Ramamurthy"

should skulky the turtle wonder appear in flashforward
Absolutely! He could replace grouchy old Mark, and I'd be fiennes with it. (Get it? Fiennes? Because Mark is played by Joseph Fien... oh, skip it).

hardy boys charlie's angels disco extravaganza
guide to the hardy boys joe is the only one who manages to keep his clothes on
You have found the right place.

white collar what happened after neal suspected peter of kidnapping kate
Not much. Neal acted sort of pissy and passive-aggressive toward Peter for half an episode, then they finally shouted things out and realized they were still on the same side. Then they saved each other's lives, and everything was cool again.

white collar mozzie alias
Dante Haversham.

denise crosby hairstyle
If we're talking about her 1987 first-season Star Trek: The Next Generation haircut, awesome. I wore that hairstyle until around 1991.

the slammin' salmon only played in big cities
Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Dallas, Austin, Portland and Seattle, to be exact. Comes out on DVD in April.

rachel in glee unlikable
Sort of, yeah. Lea Michele is adorable and talented as all hell, but... Rachel's unlikable. I'll go along with that.

mohinder off heroes?
Well, there’s probably no more Heroes, so the question of who’s on or off it is most likely irrelevant. But yes, in the event that Heroes comes back for another season, Mohinder will not be around -- Sendhil Ramamurthy, lucky boy, got himself cast in a new USA Network series, Covert Affairs, which will be premiering in July. Unless it’s terrible (and not enjoyably terrible), I’ll recap episodes here. He’ll be playing a sexy CIA agent named Jai Wilcox; the “Jai Ho” jokes are going to write themselves.

love honour and obey song bathroom scene
Oasis's "Force of Nature," intercut with Sadie Frost's karaoke performance of "When You are a King." Crap movie, but that particular sequence (Jonny Lee Miller and Rhys Ifans shooting it out in the men's room) is pretty damn effective, and the music choices are great. The soundtrack, by the way, does not have the Oasis song, but it does have a bonus track of Jude Law singing "Rock On," which is a nice consolation prize.

invasion of the preppies?
Any day now. Just as soon as the lacrosse sticks are primed and the bunkers are stockpiled with Perrier and finger sandwiches.

why is the professor reading "pride and prejudice and zombies" in heroes tv show
This is a Zen koan, isn't it? (From an essortment article: "Koans are not rational questions with final linear conclusions. They are especially designed for one purpose; this purpose is to open the mind that has been closed by habitual responses to the world and reality.") Point being, trying to find a deeper meaning to any of the random nonsense that happens on Heroes is like trying to describe the sound of one hand clapping.

what happens to bunting in hornblower?
Stole food, got flogged, and ran away, then got shot and killed for desertion by Horatio, who was presently captaining the Best Damn Plague Ship Ever. Horatio then moped glamorously while wearing a cute straw hat before teaming up with Wedge Antilles to save the Indefatigable from a random Spanish fire ship.

sendhil kristen bell hottub
Ah, yes. Believe me, I know. It's evocative, isn't it? All Sendhil had to do was mention on one Heroes episode commentary that he'd hung out in Kristen Bell's hot tub with Zachary Quinto, and it launched a million optimistic Google searches. Pics or it didn't happen, Ramamurthy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

FlashForward: Blowback

After last week’s fast-paced and interesting installment, it’s disappointing to see how quickly FlashForward has already slid back into its former rut of tedium and bad pacing.

We discover Aaron has a prison record for getting into violent bar fights. He’s still hiding his surly, unpleasant, alcoholic daughter Tracy (Genevieve Cortese) from military contractor Jericho, which Tracy believes was behind the attempt to kill her in Afghanistan. Tracy gives a few more details about how she escaped from them: Khamir, the man in Aaron’s flash forward, helped smuggle her out of the country in the cargo hold of a humanitarian relief plane.

Aaron tells Tracy’s friend Corporal Mike Willingham (Mark Famiglietti) that she’s alive and staying at his house. Next thing you know, Tracy gets violently kidnapped by armed thugs. Aaron might not be the brightest guy on this show, but he puts it together that there might be a connection between those two events. He kidnaps Mike and roughs him up. In his guise as a mild-mannered Department of Water & Power worker, Aaron then pays a visit to Jericho’s head honcho, James Erskine (James Remar), whom he threatens in a highly ineffectual manner. Aaron taps Erskine’s phones and discovers Tracy has been taken back to Kandahar. Which we sort of knew would happen, since Aaron finds Tracy in Afghanistan in his flash forward.

Demetri and Zoey: Oh, man, this plotline stinks. Determined to prevent Demetri’s grisly fate, Zoey drops by Mark’s house and grills him as to any possible reasons why he’d maybe want to murder his good buddy and partner in the future. Mark doesn’t really want to play this game -- as far as he can tell, he doesn’t want to murder Demetri -- but Zoey pushes him. He reluctantly mentions the suspected FBI mole -- he knows Demetri isn’t the source of the leak, but if it turned out he was, it might be a reason to kill him. Enraged at this slight against her fiancĂ©’s integrity, Zoey snaps at him to go to hell and flounces out. Words can’t express how much I hate this kind of crap. Look, Zoey: For all of Mark’s faults, he genuinely likes and respects Demetri. You badgered him to come up with a purely theoretical reason, and as soon as he did exactly that, you turned on him. It’s stupid and childish, and it makes me lose all respect for Zoey.

Zoey serves Stan with papers to release information about the Mosaic project to her. She also decides she’s going to represent accused terrorist Alda Herzog (Rachel Roberts) to get access to everything she claims to know about Demetri’s murder. Zoey and Demetri squabble and squabble and squabble about the way she’s disrupting his workplace. They reconcile long enough to decide to destroy the future murder weapon -- Mark’s gun -- but then discover it has disappeared.

Believe it or not, this Demetri-Zoey nonsense is still more interesting than Janis’s plotline, in which she takes prenatal vitamins and browbeats the head of a fertility clinic into helping her get pregnant, even though her obstetrician has warned against it, thanks to her bullet-ridden uterus.

In the episode’s sole mildly-interesting plotline, Mark and Lloyd attempt to walk through the events of Lloyd’s flash forward, which of course include Lloyd lolling around in bed with Mark’s wife. Awkward! Mark shows Lloyd a sketch of D. Gibbons, and Lloyd claims not to have any idea who he is, even though they discussed him in their flash forwards. “I don’t have time to play Pissy Brit with you,” snaps Mark. Oh, Mark, there’s always time to play Pissy Brit. I've squeezed in several rounds of Pissy Brit today already, and it's not even 9 AM yet.

Lloyd remembers that, in his flash forward, Simon texted him a formula, which was also written on the bedroom mirror in lipstick. He also remembers talking on the phone with Mark about something called the QED, which Lloyd figures refers to quantum electrodynamics. Mark finally gets Lloyd to admit he knows D. Gibbons: He’s actually Dyson Frost, a presumed-dead professor at Oxford who stole Lloyd’s research and passed it off as his own.

Mark mentions his daughter Charlie called D. Gibbons a “bad man,” presumably because of something she discovered in her as-yet unrevealed flash forward. Since D. Gibbons is far and away the FBI’s biggest lead as to the cause of the flash forwards, Lloyd thinks it’s damn weird that Mark hasn’t asked Charlie for details about this. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Lloyd, thank you for expressing what the audience has been wondering since September. It is weird. This whole business with Charlie and D. Gibbons was first raised in the second episode and has barely been addressed since, which is sloppy and inexplicable. Mark kind of shrugs it off, saying he and Olivia haven’t wanted to traumatize Charlie further, but… No. There’s no good excuse.

Dyson Frost, it seems, wrote a paper on the mirror test, which concerns recognizing levels of consciousness on animals. Frost worked with crows, which makes Mark think of the dead crows in Somalia in 1991. Which, like Charlie’s connection to D. Gibbons, is another crucial plot development that was addressed early on and then shuffled to the sidelines, though at least the dead crows have been occasionally mentioned since then.

Mark again asks Stan if he can fly to Somalia, accompanying one of Red Panda’s aid missions. Stan defers to smarmy CIA agent Vogel on this, who decides to send Demetri and Janis instead. He claims it’s because Mark is too valuable, though it’s transparently because he can’t stand Mark and wants to cause him as much grief as possible. I can dig it. Vogel wants Janis and Demetri to access the single mysterious tower around which all the crows died. Simon appears, looking like hell from his various misadventures last episode, and insists he go with them, seeing as how the tower is based upon his original design.

It's too late in the season to waste time on episodes that move this slowly, guys.

Friday, March 19, 2010

FlashForward: Revelation Zero

Hey, remember this show? Started off strong last fall, then ran out of steam, then was pulled off of ABC’s schedule for a super-long break in the middle of the season for some extensive retooling? Then both the showrunners quit in rapid succession, remember? It’s back. Finally.

The two-part episode that aired last night was really pretty terrific. During the long break, the creative staff apparently got together, maybe cracked open a few beers, and had a good, productive chat about what had gone so horribly wrong: “Hey, remember in our first couple of episodes how a lot of really cool stuff happened and how we set up a bunch of really interesting mysteries, like those towers in Somalia and the man who was awake in the stadium during the blackouts? Our ratings were pretty good back then. And then remember how we had a whole bunch of slow-paced episodes that ignored all the interesting mysteries in favor of long, pointless detours like Bryce’s quest to find the woman in his flash forward, and Aaron’s daughter’s drinking problem, and Mark and Olivia’s marital squabbles, and our ratings pretty much flatlined? Maybe we should go back to having fast-paced, interesting episodes, huh? Does that make sense?”

I’m going to get the Nicole-Bryce plotline over with fast, because it was the only draggy part of an otherwise sterling night of television. While volunteering at the hospital, Nicole catches a glimpse of the man she saw drowning her in her flash forward. She also gets involved with a support group called Sanctuary, which is run by a former window washer named Timothy (Gil Bellows) who saw himself as a great religious leader in his flash forward. Timothy and Nicole talk about God’s role in the flash forwards for much too long. She then takes Bryce home to meet her eccentric mother (Lindsay Crouse), who wears angel wings over her bathrobe, sets Bibles on fire, and glues 1989 pennies to the living room wall. A little of this goes an awfully long way.

On to the good stuff: At the FBI headquarters, Stan bawls Mark out for his Hong Kong escapade, Janis and Vreede interview Olivia about Lloyd getting abducted right in front of her, and Simon searches for beer. The MVP award for this episode goes to Dominic Monaghan in a landslide. Coming in a distant second is Michael Ealy, making a repeat appearance as smug, mean, awesome CIA Agent Vogel, who joins up with Demetri, Janis and Simon to locate the men who kidnapped Lloyd.

On Stan’s orders, Mark meets with a department psychiatrist (Paula Newsome) to discuss why he’s been such an incompetent jackass lately. His shrink really doesn’t seem to care about any of that. She notes, as so many have before her, that Mark’s booze-addled memories of the events of his flash forward add up to considerably less than two minutes, and suggests he might be repressing some of his memories. Under the influence of memory-enhancing drugs, Mark remembers more of his flash forward: He was talking on the phone to Lloyd, saying, “I just wish you were standing behind the eight ball when I came crashing through.” He also remembers saying, “The man you know as D. Gibbons lied to you,” and, most dramatically, “There’s going to be another blackout.”

Demetri and Vogel team up to search a train yard, on the trail of the ambulance in which Lloyd was abducted. Vogel gives Demetri a snappy lecture on getting his act together and not hanging out with losers like Mark, so Demetri takes a swing at Vogel, so Vogel wrestles him to the ground and pins him down. Okay, these two are awesome together. May I suggest that Demetri be reassigned as Vogel’s partner permanently? Vogel’s fun. They find the bodies of the ambulance crew stuffed in a train car, along with a phone case, but no phone. They trace the phone signal to the abandoned ambulance, which is wired with a bomb tuned to FBI frequencies. When FBI agents approach it, their radios detonate the bomb.

Janis and Simon search Lloyd’s apartment for his laptop, hoping to find clues to his disappearance. When Simon sends her to find him a beer, Janis gets knocked out by masked men in the kitchen. When she wakes up, Simon is gone.

Simon is taken to an abandoned building, where he’s locked in a room with a disheveled and confused Lloyd (“Good, I found you,” Simon says upon seeing Lloyd). Lloyd and Simon are introduced to their captor, Flosso, who is played by--wait for it--Ricky Jay! Very cool. Flosso lights a cigar and says, “Only villains smoke. We know that, right?” Then he throws the lit cigar in Simon’s face and proceeds to interrogate Lloyd about his search for tachyonic dark matter and his plasma-wakefield acceleration experiments. This pretty much makes it the brainiest interrogation ever. The questions are solely directed at Lloyd, who conducted the experiment on the day of the blackouts on his own: Simon, we discover, was at his dad’s funeral. Flosso drops a bombshell: He knows Lloyd didn’t cause the blackouts -- he just amplified them.

Left alone, Simon tells Lloyd about the events in his flash forward, in which he was strangling a man to death with his bare hands. Lloyd scrawls “Help Us” on the takeout menu for a cheese steak restaurant -- which is one of the pieces of evidence on Mark’s wall -- and slips it out the window. Flosso retrieve the menu and hands it back to him. He threatens to torture Simon, but Lloyd still refuses to tell him anything about his experiments.

Oh, and one of Flosso’s goons cuts off Simon’s pinky with a cigar slicer.

On suspension from the FBI, Mark investigates the clues on his evidence wall from his flash forward on his own. The Red Panda clue leads him to a humanitarian aid society that works in Somalia to supply clean water to the locals. He asks if he could possibly accompany them on one of their trips, but they shoot him down. When he returns to his car, a menu for the cheese steak place is tucked under his windshield. He visits the restaurant and discovers they recently changed locations. He asks for the address of the old place.

When Mark arrives at the abandoned restaurant, the door is locked, but he sees a gigantic eight ball painted on the window. Remembering his cryptic words to Lloyd in his flash forward, he drives straight through the window and has a big gunfight with Flosso’s goons. Simon grabs a gun, chases after one of the goons, says, “Word of advice: Next time, take the trigger finger,” and kills him.

See what I mean about Simon being the MVP? And you haven’t seen anything yet…

Paramedics arrive to transport Simon to the hospital. Flosso pops up in the back of the ambulance to chat with Simon: It turns out they’ve been in this together the whole time, though Simon hadn’t been briefed on the “cutting off fingers with a cigar slicer” part of the plan. Simon claims he’s done being Flosso’s bitch, and Flosso threatens to expose Simon unless he cooperates: Simon was the figure who was up and walking around at Detroit Oxide Super Stadium during the blackout.

Fun fact: “Detroit Oxide Super Stadium” is totally made up for the purposes of the show.

And we see what really happened to Simon during the blackouts: He was at his father’s funeral in Toronto, comforting his kid sister Annabelle. Then his driver whisked him away to a heliport and presented him with a ticket to the division playoffs at the Oxide Super Stadium in Detroit. Having just buried his father, Simon is in no mood for an impromptu baseball game, but the driver kind of insists.

At the stadium, he takes a call from the creepy man known as D. Gibbons, who instructs him to find his seat. There’s a container of popcorn at his seat, with a ring inside it. At D. Gibbons’s urging, Simon puts on the ring. The blackouts occur; Simon remains conscious, thanks to the ring. He walks into a tunnel and finds Flosso, who orders him to follow him.

Present day: Simon’s in the hospital, getting his pinky bandaged. Janis picks him up to keep an eye on him, but he feigns an allergic reaction to penicillin and gives her the slip. He flies to Toronto… and finds Janis waiting for him at the airport. Janis bawls him out for fleeing the country, and Simon quips, “Country is such a loose term. It’s Canada.” He asks for 24 hours in Toronto: His kid sister Annabelle recently ran away from home, and he wants to help his family look for her. Suspecting he’s up to something, Janis agrees. She puts a tracking device on his ankle, which Simon quickly deactivates. He slips away from Janice -- again -- and visits his former particle physics professor/mentor, only to find Janis waiting for him there as well. Because Janis can teleport, apparently.

Under Janis’s close scrutiny, he asks his professor if there’s any way to prevent a flash forward from happening again. His professor is not encouraging.

Janis has dinner with Simon’s family (his mother wonders why a nice girl like Janis hasn’t settled down with a boyfriend yet), which is interrupted by the surprise arrival of Simon’s Uncle Teddy… who turns out to be Flosso.

We see more of Simon’s adventures during the blackouts: Flosso/Teddy tells Simon he had Simon’s father murdered strictly to create Simon’s alibi: He was attending his father’s funeral in Toronto on the morning of blackouts; ergo, he obviously had nothing to do with them. Flosso has arranged for a private plane, unregistered with the FAA, to take Simon back to Toronto before anyone notices he’s been gone. He advises Simon to make up a good story for the events in his flash forward.

As soon as Flosso leaves, Simon murders Flosso's henchman with his bare hands, then later uses that story for his flash forward.

Simon’s missing sister Annabelle calls during dinner, claiming to have run away to New York. While Simon’s greatly relieved mother talks to her, Flosso secretly shows Simon a video of Annabelle held at gunpoint. He takes Simon outside and shows him the body of Simon’s professor, stuffed in the trunk of his car. He says he’ll kill Annabelle if Simon crosses him again. Simon calls his bluff in a spectacular way: He knocks Flosso down and compresses his chest repeatedly, cutting off his oxygen. As Flosso dies, Simon says, “I’m cutting out the middleman.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Life Beyond Thunderdome: Girls Just Want to Have Fun

My column at Forces of Geek is up. This month? A look at 1985's Girls Just Want to Have Fun, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt.

(It's four a.m. We just had a small earthquake. Here's the thing about earthquakes: After the 1994 Northridge quake (aka the "stand in the doorway and listen in the darkness to all of your belongings crashing down around you" quake), even the insignificant ones have sort of a discombobulating effect on me. So I'm going to fix a cup of tea now and have a bit of a cry, if no one has any objections.)

Site news: White Collar and Psych are both done until summer, but FlashForward (hey, remember that show?) starts up again this week, and V returns at the end of the month. So things will start picking up again soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Psych: Mr. Yin Presents

An outrageously clever Psych season finale. Lots of fun. The whole episode was a prolonged Hitchcock homage, and I’m going to be honest: The references were flying fast and furious, and I didn’t catch all of them. Everyone really did a bang-up job with this episode, which was directed and co-written by series star James Roday. Everything from the dramatic music stings to the camera angles seemed authentically Hitchcockian. High marks all around.

After watching a revival of Psycho at the local theater, Shawn and Gus head to a diner and meet with the creepy and eccentrically-named Mary Lightly (Jimmi Simpson), who’d helped them out on their Season Three case involving serial killer Mr. Yang (Ally Sheedy). Mr. Yang, currently safely locked away in a mental institution, has published a book about her exploits. Passages in the book have led Mary to believe Mr. Yang worked with an accomplice.

Shortly thereafter, the body of their waitress from the diner is found strangled in the woods, her corpse arranged like a yin-yang symbol.

When they search the diner for clues, Mary finds a yin-yang symbol on a pie with a crossword puzzle hidden inside the meringue. Highlighted clues from the puzzle spell out “Find Me.”

Shawn, Gus and Mary visit Mr. Yang in the asylum, and once again, Ally Sheedy brings the creepy. (I still wish they’d managed to work both Sheedy and Judd Nelson into the same episode. Ah, missed opportunities…) She offers to trade information with them, which leads to this exchange:

Shawn: This isn’t Silence of the Lambs, okay?
Gus: It’s totally Silence of the Lambs.
Shawn: That makes you Frankie Faison.
Gus: I know.
Shawn: Fine.

Heh.

Clues from the crossword puzzle lead Shawn to a specific seat in the theater where he and Gus had watched Psycho, where he finds a taunting note from the killer. Shawn falls asleep in the office and has a thoroughly bonkers Hitchcock-inspired paranoid dream (highlights: Juliet getting stabbed in the shower and Lassiter dressed as Norman Bates in mom-drag), which leads him to deduce that Yang’s accomplice is Mary. He wakes to find an “O” painted on the end of the Psych logo emblazed across their office windows. Nice touch.

Mary produces another clue-laden note chock full of Hitchcock references. While Juliet and Lassiter investigate (more sight gags: At one point, Lassiter gets chased across a field by a low-flying propeller plane, a la Cary Grant in North by Northwest), Shawn and Gus snoop around Mary’s creepy house (which, naturally, is a ringer for Norman Bates’s house from Psycho). They find another note, which appears to be an attempt to lure the killer’s next victim into a trap.

Shawn, Gus, Lassiter and Juliet stake out the place specified in the note. When Mary arrives, they assume he’s the killer… until he gets stabbed and killed, a la Martin Balsam in Psycho, by a shadowy man wearing a fedora.

The killer sends script pages to the police instructing our heroes to go to a deserted building, where they’ll each be cast as an archetypal Hitchcock character: Shawn is James Stewart in Rear Window, Gus is Canada Lee in Lifeboat, Lassiter is Rod Taylor in The Birds, Juliet is Kim Novak in Vertigo, and Henry, lucky fellow, gets to be Sean Connery in Marni. It’s all an elaborate trap, of course, and despite the presence of police snipers, Juliet gets kidnapped. Meanwhile, Shawn’s girlfriend Abigail (Rachael Leigh Cook) arrives for a visit, but also gets nabbed by a shadowy man in a fedora.

Clues left by the killer lead Gus and Lassiter to Juliet, who is bound to a clock tower, while Henry and Shawn find Abigail tied under a pier while the tide comes in. Shawn spots the man in the fedora, but has to let him escape to save Abigail from drowning.

Denouement: Henry accepts the job as police liaison that Chief Vick offered him a couple episodes ago, Shawn and Gus attend Mary’s funeral (dressed in matching blinding white racquetball outfits -- oh, don’t ask) , Lassiter hugs a sobbing Juliet, and Abigail breaks up with Shawn, claiming she’s not cut out for his dangerous life.

A strong end to an uneven season. Good show, Psych.

Pineapple spotting: It didn’t even occur to me to try to look for it.

Lassiter-based awesomeness:
Shawn comes up with their strategy for hunting the killer:
Shawn: We do nothing.
Lassiter: Nothing? How Seinfeldian.

Awesome Eighties references: They didn’t have time to squeeze too many in, what with all the Hitchcock references, but here’s a good one:

After amiable lunkhead Officer McNab figures out the simple crossword-puzzle clue, Mary says, “I think that bailiff from Night Court is right on.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

White Collar: Out of the Box

Season finale time! Neal skips out of an FBI briefing early, claiming that June is throwing a champagne brunch. Neal is probably the only person on the FBI payroll in all of the history of the FBI who could plausibly get his boss’ permission to skip a meeting to attend a champagne brunch. Such is the power of Neal’s charm and cheekbones. Anyway, Neal isn’t actually brunching -- he’s sneakily meeting with Alex to discuss their plans to steal the music box. Naturally enough, this meeting takes place in a swimming pool, and naturally enough, Alex makes Neal strip to the buff and go skinny dipping so that he can prove he’s not wearing a wire. This is a very good show.

(Neal’s tracking device on his ankle remains on and active, however. Apparently those puppies are waterproof. You learn something new every day.)

Naked Alex tells naked Neal the box is in a safe at the Italian consulate. They scheme to crash an upcoming party.

Neal secretly meets with corrupt FBI agent Fowler (Noah Emmerich) and tells him he’ll give him the music box in exchange for Kate. Their meeting takes place in a parking garage. About half of this episode consists of top-secret meetings in shady locations. Not complaining; just observing.

Anyway, Peter, who is not fooled by Neal’s professed penchant for champagne brunches, studies the data from Neal’s tracking device and realizes Neal has been staking out the parking garage. Peter trails Neal and secretly observes his meeting with Fowler.

Neal, Mozzie and Alex concoct an elaborate plan to party-crash: Mozzie has infiltrated the caterers, Neal is donating a priceless Italian sculpture to the consulate in exchange for a party invitation, and Alex has been cozying up to a Duke with an extra invitation to the event.

Meanwhile, dastardly Agent Fowler, who has been keeping Neal under surveillance, calls his unidentified superior to tell him Peter is on their trail. His superior orders him to take Peter out of the picture.

Neal strolls around his apartment, shirtless and well-oiled, while lovingly sculpting a naked statue of Vulcan to donate to the Italian embassy. I like it when the show gets sort of porny. Alex stops by, and they squabble about their relationship/lack of a relationship for a while, then Neal notices that Fowler has managed to deactivate his ankle bracelet.

Fowler bursts into Elizabeth’s office, searching for contraband. Peter rushes to her assistance, and chaos erupts. Peter punches Fowler, Elizabeth is arrested, and Peter takes a two-week suspension. Worse, all of Elizabeth’s caviar gets confiscated! Is there nothing Fowler won’t stoop to?

Peter secretly meets with Agent Diana Lancing (Marsha Thomason), who appeared in the original White Collar pilot before being replaced by Natalie Morales as Agent Cruz. I don’t know the reason behind the substitution, but I think the show may have erred in switching actresses: Cruz has barely registered as a character in the entire first season (which might be due more to her lack of screentime than to Morales’ performance), whereas Diana seems kind of awesome just in her appearance here: fun and brainy and competent. Anyway, Peter asks Diana to investigate Fowler find something to use against him.

Neal, Alex and Mozzie all crash the consulate party as planned. Everyone at the party, from Alex’s date to the consulate officials to the party guests, is ridiculously attractive, and they all wear fancy clothes and quaff champagne while hanging out in the consulate’s opulent ballroom. It’s pretty fabulous. I like how White Collar presents an incredibly idealized and glamorous version of New York, where everyone has money and great hair and fantastic cheekbones. It’s like Gossip Girl, only skewing to an older demographic. And with fewer twerps. Anyway, Neal commands the floor and makes a toast, where he introduces himself as an internationally-renowned art thief who’s going to rob the place. Points for honesty, Neal. Security grabs him and hustles him away to a back room, where they interrogate him. Because it wouldn’t be White Collar without Neal getting either tied up or roughed up, they manhandle him sexily for a while. The appeal of this show is obvious.

Meanwhile, Alex casually places lipstick cases in all the decorative potted plants in the ballroom. The lipsticks contain cartridges of gas, which explode and spur an evacuation of the party. In the chaos, Mozzie manages to fool the security cameras by use of a digital camera to cover for Neal, who smashes open his counterfeit statue and retrieves the safe-cracking tools hidden inside. He opens the safe and steals the jewelry box… which Alex promptly steals from him before high-tailing it out of the consulate.

Later, however, Alex has a change of heart. She drops by Neal’s apartment, sort of vaguely proclaims her love for him, and gives him the music box. In turn, Neal hands it off to Fowler, who gives him a folder containing a new identity as well as instructions on where to meet Kate.

Neal bids June and Mozzie farewell, then sends flowers and a disposable cell phone to Elizabeth. Elizabeth calls him, and he tells her goodbye as well, though not before Elizabeth, like every single other character in this episode, suggests that Kate might not be the right woman for him.

Diana breaks into Fowler’s office and downloads secret files from his laptop. Fowler catches her in the parking garage, but Peter arrives and shoots him before he can kill her. Fowler, however, was wearing a bulletproof vest, so he lives to annoy Peter and Neal for another season.

Neal, brand-new identity in hand, hurries to meet Kate at an airstrip. Kate waves to him happily from her seat on the plane.

Question: In the history of film and television, has there ever been as scene where someone waves happily from the window of a plane where that plane hasn’t blown up immediately thereafter? Just wondering.

Peter arrives and tries to talk Neal out of flying off with Kate. He asks why Neal said goodbye to everyone except for him; Neal explains it was because Peter’s the only one who’d be able to change his mind, which is sort of sweet. Neal starts to walk toward the plane, then stops and turns back to Peter.

And, yep, the plane explodes.

That’s it for the first season of White Collar. New episodes return in the summer.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Psych: The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Episode

Well, finally! Is it me, or has Psych has been a little off its game since returning from its winter break, with a cluster of episodes that have been somewhat ragged and lackluster and low-energy? Certainly last week’s installment, “Think Tank,” was a bit of a series low. However, it seems to be fully back on track with this week’s fast-paced, plot-light, quip-loaded, Lassiter-heavy homage to Jaws.

Half of an unidentified corpse washes up on the beach, the clear victim of a shark attack. Lassiter, tired of taking a backseat to Shawn and his show-offy psychic antics, decides he needs to be more impulsive and less methodical in his investigative tactics. Above Juliet’s fierce protests, he announces to the reporters gathered on the beach that, while the John Doe was clearly mutilated by a shark, the cause of death was murder: One of the shark bites is actually a stab wound.

The reporters openly mock his preposterous theory and lampoon him in the newspapers. Shawn, however, thinks Lassiter might be on to something. The police coroner (Kurt Fuller) confirms that the suspicious wound could have been inflicted by a serrated knife. He can’t identify the body from dental records, and there are no fingerprints, as the hands were bitten clean off. Thus, to prove his theory, Lassiter must track down the shark to retrieve the man’s hands, and possibly his wallet, from its stomach.

A ten thousand dollar reward is offered for the shark. The coast is mobbed by fortune hunters, including Shawn’s dad Henry. Henry denies he’s after the money and insists he’s merely going on one of his usual fishing trips, which leads to this delirious exchange:

Henry: We’re going to hunt some marlin.
Shawn: Wayans? Well, it’s about time. Get out there, quick, before they make another White Chicks.
Gus: (filled with icy contempt and blistering scorn) White Chicks was hilarious, Shawn.

See? See? This is why I watch Psych!

Henry, naturally, catches the shark. He stores it on ice, but someone breaks into his storage locker and swipes it. Gus uses his legendary super-sniffer to follow the scent of the dead shark. He finds it sliced open and the contents of its stomach removed.

Dr. Kimberly Phoenix (Jeri Ryan), a professor of shark studies at the local university, arrives on the scene. She and Henry flirt with each other outrageously, then she announces that Henry’s shark couldn’t have been responsible for the attack -- the one that killed Lassiter’s John Doe would have to be much larger. Thus, the killer shark is still at large.

A man’s severed leg washes up on the beach. While its DNA is a match for the corpse, there’s some tissue from a second set of DNA embedded in the bite marks, which possibly indicates the shark attacked someone else as well. The victim is identified as Dante Pavan, a prominent environmental activist and the founder of an influential group campaigning for more ecologically-sound fishing practices.

Chastened by all the bad press, Lassiter gives up on his murder theory. Shawn and Gus decide to investigate further -- after all, if it wasn’t murder, then why did someone steal the contents of the other shark’s stomach? In need of a boat, Shawn addresses a group of assembled fishermen and fortune-hunters. He launches into the speech from Jaws (“You all know where I stand. You know how I make my living”), which segues into a long, rambling rant about all the past cases he and Gus have solved. By the end of his speech, there’s only one fisherman left in the room: crusty old Tanner, who is played by Michael Hogan, best known as Battlestar Galactica’s resident incompetent drunk/one-eyed Cylon, Colonel Tigh. So that’s sort of awesome.

Tanner takes Shawn and Gus out on the water to find the killer shark. Below deck, Shawn discovers letters to Tanner from Dante Pavan warning him about various fishing violations, plus a jagged knife. Shawn concludes that Tanner killed Pavan, then fed his body to the shark. Tanner also has a bandaged wound on his wrist, which Shawn deduces is from where the shark bit him, thus explaining the second set of DNA. Tanner attacks Shawn, but Gus knocks him unconscious.

Henry continues to romance pretty Dr. Phoenix, though it’s entirely possible he’s just using her for her knowledge of the best fishing spots in the area. After Shawn and Gus receive all the accolades for solving the case, Shawn tells a disgruntled Lassiter if he’d trusted his initial instincts, he could be the one showered with glory.

Pineapple spotting: No. I give up.

Lassiter-based awesomeness: The episode is fair teeming with bon mots from Lassiter, but here’s the pick of the crop:
(Juliet discovers that the shark attack victim penned a letter to the editor of the local paper about the various fishing violations. Lassiter refuses to read it, on account of the bad press he’s been receiving.)
Juliet: So you’re going to ignore a clue just because you don’t like a reporter?
Lassiter: Hate. Hate is the word, O’Hara. And yes, no good can be found in that paper, except maybe the obituary of reporter Chad Gorsuch. An untimely death, self-inflicted and painful, later to be referred to as Gorsuching yourself.

Awesome Eighties references:
Considering how this whole episode is basically one big messy Valentine to the original Jaws (1975) and its sequels, there are surprisingly few Eighties references. Here’s what I found:

Shawn: Stranger things have happened. Michelle Pfeiffer dated Fisher Stevens.
Gus: And then?
Shawn: He actually cheated on her.

Shawn (to Gus): Don’t be Leon from the “Like a Prayer” video.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

White Collar: Front Man

Neal tells his gorgeous former cohort Alex (Gloria Votsis) that he’s willing to steal the music box and give it to her… after he’s done with it. Alex, suspecting the box won’t be worth a plumb nickel after Neal gets his beautiful grubby fingers all over it, insists they split the proceeds fifty-fifty. Alex is a smart lady. It’s a moot point at the moment anyway, since she refuses to do business with him until he demonstrates he can get the FBI tracking device on his ankle off whenever he needs to.

At FBI headquarters, Neal and Peter meet with Agent Kimberly Rice (Law & Order: SVU’s Diane Neal) of the Kidnapping and Missing Persons division, who wants to borrow Neal to help her with a new case. The young daughter of Stuart Gless, the CEO of the company whose bonds Neal was convicted of forging, has been kidnapped by Ryan Wilkes (Charles Malik Whitfield), the head of a brutal crime syndicate and one of Neal’s former partners; Rice thinks Neal’s insights into the way Wilkes operates will help them track down the missing girl, Lindsey.

(I love how every other guest star on this show turns out to be either one of Neal’s old partners or a former nemesis -- or both at once, as in the case of Wilkes here. For plot purposes, may the well of vengeance-driven adversaries never dry up.)

Stuart Gless claims Wilkes has made contact with him, but has not yet given him any ransom demands. When Neal tries to question Gless about the kidnapping, Agent Rice gets prickly with him. Waxing metaphorically, she compares Neal to a tool in her belt and orders him to wait in the car. None of this endears her to Neal.

Peter, who: a) is suspicious of Rice’s intentions in using Neal for this operation, b) doesn’t much like Rice, and c) wants Neal all to himself again, party-crashes Rice's investigation and helps Neal snoop around outside Gless's apartment. They (conveniently) find a coat-check stub for an underground casino, presumably left by one of Wilkes’s accomplices. Rice orders Neal to go undercover in the casino to try to find out what Wilkes is up to. She agrees to let Neal remove his anklet for this purpose. Neal, who has been kind of bummed about this whole operation, perks up at this.

Mozzie is incredulous that Neal would let himself be used as bait to trap Wilkes -- Neal, naughty boy that he is, screwed Wilkes out of half a million dollars during their last scheme together (Neal piously claims he did it because he objected to Wilkes's use of violence), and Wilkes has been very clear about wanting to settle the score.

Back at FBI headquarters, Peter talks to Stuart Gless, who inadvertently tips him off to Wilkes’s demands: Wilkes asked the FBI to give him Neal in exchange for Lindsay, a bit of information that Agent Rice neglected to mention to Peter. Peter calls Neal to warn him, but Wilkes sneaks up on Neal, tasers him unconscious, and tosses him in the back of a van.

New rule: Any episode where Neal gets manhandled or tied up is automatically a good episode. Funny how that works.

Wilkes roughs up Neal and orders him to charm the receptionist at a travel agency into giving him the itinerary and travel plans for a man named Thomas Loze. When his charm and dimples (surprisingly) fail to work on the receptionist, Neal resorts to guilt-tripping the information out of her. He also gets her to send a text message about the travel agency’s rewards program to Mozzie.

Irked at the way Rice mishandled the situation, Hughes puts Peter in charge of finding Neal and Lindsey. Peter examines a DVD sent to Gless featuring Lindsey holding up a current newspaper while pleading with her father to obey the kidnappers’ demands. From the (overly convenient) foghorn noises in the background and the crumbling wall behind Lindsey, he deduces she’s being held in an old building by the waterfront.

(Look: I’m flexible here. I’m willing to assume the kidnappers left behind the coat-check stub deliberately to lure Neal into their trap, even though apparently Agent Rice already knew about the casino, since that’s where she was supposed to hand Neal over to them. But… posing their hostage in front of distinctive architecture? With foghorn noises in the background? Sloppy, Wilkes. Sloppy!)

Neal refuses to go along with Wilkes’s scheme any further until he has proof Lindsey is still alive, so Wilkes knocks him unconscious again and takes him to where Lindsey is being held. Neal reassures Lindsey the FBI is actively looking for her, then agrees to help Wilkes in Round Two of his plan.

Wilkes orders Neal to pose as a limo driver, meet Mr. Loze at the airport when his flight arrives from Sydney, steal his titanium briefcase, and hand it off to Wilkes at a specified location at four o’clock. If he does all this, Wilkes promises to release Lindsey. Wilkes leaves Neal to his own devices during all this, apparently trusting Neal to follow his instructions and not try to contact the FBI for help. Oh, Wilkes. Not much of an arch-nemesis, are you?

Peter comes home to find Mozzie having tea with Elizabeth (hi, Elizabeth! We haven’t seen much of you these past few episodes!). Mozzie tells him about the travel agency text message, which he suspects is a distress call from Neal. Peter discovers from the agency that Neal was asking about Loze’s travel plans. Loze turns out to be the alias of Edward Reilly, a highly dangerous trafficker of stolen goods.

Following Reilly’s itinerary, Peter and Agent Rice intercept Neal at the airport while he’s waiting to meet Reilly’s flight. Neal tells them he doesn’t know exactly where Lindsey is being held, but he gives them the name of the Chinese restaurant from which one of Wilkes’s henchmen had ordered takeout, which should help them pinpoint the location.

After Peter and Rice leave, Mozzie approaches Neal. You know, what with all of Neal’s surprise visitors in this scene, Wilkes probably should have reconsidered his decision not to keep an eye on Neal at the airport. Upon hearing that Neal is planning on robbing notorious criminal Reilly, who is known for killing people with his bare hands, Mozzie tries to talk him out of it. Neal convinces Mozzie to help him run a scam on Reilly (Mozzie makes a big deal of getting into character by taking off his glasses and replacing them with an identical pair, which is sort of hilarious and makes me lose my heart to Mozzie, just a bit, in this episode).

Neal and Mozzie pose as Customs agents and intercept Loze at baggage claim. They rifle through his titanium briefcase and find hundreds of fully-loaded high-limit credit cards (when Neal opens the case, it shines gold up onto his face, a la Pulp Fiction). Neal and Mozzie hint around broadly that they’d be perfectly amenable to being bribed, and Loze, who seems pretty laid-back and cooperative for a vicious criminal, cheerfully gives them the case in exchange for his freedom.

Neal, case in hand, meets Wilkes by the waterfront as arranged. Wilkes gives the order for his men to kill Lindsey, then prepares to shoot Neal. Peter rescues Lindsey, the rest of the FBI swoop in and arrest Wilkes, Peter and Agent Rice exchange congratulations, and in all the chaos, Neal strolls off without his tracking device.

Neal meets with Alex and shows her his unfettered ankle. In exchange, she gives him an origami flower with the location of the music box written on it.

When Neal returns to FBI headquarters, he claims he simply forgot he was no longer wearing the tracking device. Peter is not fooled. He knows Neal met with Alex, and he knows Neal is planning on stealing the music box. He gives him a lecture on doing the right thing and helping people and not stealing stuff, which goes in one of Neal’s beautiful ears and out the other.

Next week: Season finale!