Monday, August 13, 2012

TV Review: Breaking Bad 5x05: "Dead Freight"

ML- Last week ended with Walt vowing "there's no stopping this train." This week involved Walt and co. literally stopping a train. Is this a commentary on Walt's plans being parasitic and/or self-destructive? Or is it just some blatant Hell on Wheels cross-promotion? I'll have to let you decide, because I'm too busy reminiscing about Friday Night Lights.

It's funny- In the season 2 premiere of FNL, Landry (played by Jesse Plemons, aka Todd the other train robber) killed a man, in what became the show's worst-received storyline in the show's worst-received season. But on Breaking Bad, Todd killing a child makes this episode even better, and continues the streak of awesome episodes this season.

There's on more parallel that stood out that I want to mention before getting to the actual recap- Jesse mentioned their heist was reminiscent of Jesse James. Earlier this season, Mike warned Walt that just because you killed Jesse James (Gus Fring), it doesn't make you Jesse James. So is Walt merely the coward Robert Ford, or is he a genuine Jesse James? And if so, who will be his Robert Ford? According to Wikipedia, Robert Ford was staying in James' home at the time he killed the infamous outlaw. Is that Skyler? Flynn? BABY HOLLY?!?!

Okay, enough pondering without reaching any definite conclusions. The episode began with a cold open of cool POV bike shots as a kid made his way through the desert searching for something. He stopped when he found it- a tarantula, which he let crawl all over his hand before he put it in a jar and took it with him on his way. We'd never seen this kid before, so I was mighty confused as to who he was or what part he played. And, to be honest, I forgot about him in the hustle and bustle that followed, which is exactly what the producers wanted.

Walt visited Hank at his new office, showing off his new watch and throwing Skyler under the bus in an emotional breakdown designed to coerce Hank into leaving the room to comfort him. Once Hank left the room, Walt quickly bugged Hank's computer, as well as a picture of Hank and Marie. Nothing is sacred to Walt, especially family. Hank enters just seconds too late, but comforts Walt that the night is darkest just before the dawn.

I bet Lydia was hoping that was the case for her. Mike, Walt and Jesse cuffed her to a table and forced her to memorize a script and repeat it to Hank without crying, panicking or otherwise warning him of her state of danger. If she does, Mike repeats, he will pull out his pistol and shoot her in the head.

She tells Hank she noticed the GPS tracker on a barrel of methylamine and wondered if he had anything to do with it. Of course, this was so Mike could prove his theory that Lydia herself planted the tracker. Hank didn't know anything about it and told her to keep it quiet.

Mike had heard enough. He was ready to shoot her in the head with his pistol, despite Lydia and Jesse's claims of her innocence. Walt voted with Mike, however, to kill her, after Mike comments that "everyone sounds like Meryl Streep with a gun to their head" (callback to Walt's lie to Jesse last season?).

Fortunately for her, Walt's bug kept working as Hank called the Houston DEA, who confirmed that they had tagged all of the methylamine. This marks another instance where Jesse was right over Walt. Mike still wanted Lydia dead, knowing she'd turn a gun or badge on them the first chance that she got. She had a plan, however, to lead them to an ocean of methylamine. I have a bad feeing for Mike that letting Lydia live so long will in fact lead to his downfall.

Lydia asks Walt to swear on his children that she won't be harmed. I could be wrong, but I didn't hear him make this deal. Instead, she spelled out a hyper-elaborate plan of a train heist:

A freight train with industrial chemicals passes across the country, and when it gets to a remote 3-mile area with no cell service or way for the train's two engineers to contact their home plant, they'd strike, like Jesse James.

How would they know which car was right? Lydia would get the manifest that morning. Also, she'd expect to be paid- something neither Walt nor Mike was down with. How would they deal with witnesses? As Mike points out, there are two types of heists: the ones where you get away, and the ones where you leave witnesses. Jesse had the answer for this one- what if they didn't even know the methylamine was stolen?

This whole plot was well-constructed by the writers but a little too well-constructed to be fully believable, or fully satisfying. More on that later.

Hank and Marie played parents, giving baby Holly boob milk (none of that soy crap) and calling Walter Jr./Flynn "Emo McGee". So, basically, these kids are going to be screwed up no matter who raises them. Flynn hears them talking crap and wants to go home.

But enough about them, let's get to the heist. They bury two tanks in the dirt after measuring the distance to the bridge. One tank Todd fills with water, the other is meant for methylamine. The plan, which is expositionally explained to the unknowing noob of the plot acting as the audience, is to replace the methylamine they take with water, in a proportionally weighted manner so that when the train is weighed at its destination, there will be no way of knowing anything was taken.

Walt and Jesse make it clear to Todd that nobody can ever know about this heist. Nobody. What they intend to be a threat is a deadly contract that comes up again at the end of the episode.

Flynn freaks that he has to leave and wants a reason for being kicked out of his own house. Walt pulls the old "We're your parents and we say so" card, and that is that. He tries to find solace in his decision with Skyler, who wants nothing to do with him. She's a hostage, not his wife, but she will continue to launder his money and be whatever he asks as long as the children aren't there when the evil catches up to them. To this, I think he agrees, and informs her of his lie he told Hank about her shrink.

Then she notices his rolled up sleeves and sand-crusted arms. Burying bodies?, she boldly asks. He responds just as bluntly. Robbing a train.

BOLD BREAKING BAD PREDICTION: Skyler's plan to keep Flynn and Holly safe by leaving them at Hank and Marie's may actually backfire and put them in danger when Hank is targeted by one of Lydia's men and/or Mike.

The plan goes off for a while without a hitch. Lydia calls in the car. An accomplices blocks the tracks. Mike stays on lookout. When the train arrives, Todd climbs to the top and Jesse gets underneath. Walt stays by the tanks to make sure they get their 1,000 gallons. Things go swimmingly for a while.

That's my main problem with this episode- there was never a doubt in my mind that they would succeed. Where is the drama if we don't doubt our main characters will succeed? The arrival of the other car that pushes the broken-down car out of the way was a good "uh-oh" moment, but still, the episode was so well crafted that there was no way it would fail.

That doesn't mean it was all bad. By this point, Walt, Jesse and Mike are pros, and we need to see them  at their prime a bit. I just mean from a storytelling sense, there could have been less certainty in the plan, is all.

But they do succeed, naturally, at the last second. They celebrate with "Yeah, bitch"es and high fives. All until they notice the problem- the kid on the bike from earlier in the episode saw the whole thing.

Here, what I had planned on grading a B+ episode all came together. Todd, under the orders of letting nobody know anything about the heist, pulls out a gun and shoots the kid. Dead.

Children are not safe in this Breaking Bad universe. Flynn and Holly, watch your backs. Do not doubt a mother's instinct.

Episode Grade: A-
Episode MVP: Aaron Paul (not an Emmy-caliber episode for him, but the best he's had thus far)
Original Airdate: 8/12/2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

TV Review: Big Brother 14x13: What a Douchebag

ML- I have two apologies to make before I get started: One, this is extremely delayed, on account of having to travel to Los Angeles for the semester. Two, the Veto episode review was extremely emotionally-charged on account of being so angry at the move.

I truly feel as though I've gone through the 5 stages of grief with the Janelle elimination.

First was Denial: The reports were wrong. Janelle wasn't the target. She wouldn't go home over Frank.

Then Anger: aka the 14x12 review.

Bargaining: The "Save Janelle" campaign and all the pleading to Alison Grodner and the production to save her.

Depression: I was literally in a funk the night of the eviction.

Acceptance: Now, I'd say I've come to terms with it all.

All in all, Danielle made a bad move. She should have put personal feelings aside and formed a 6-person with Dan, Shane, Britney, Ian and Janelle. Frank and Boogie are too strong, too flaky and will not forget her and Dan's earlier betrayals.

Instead, she removed someone from the house who had no allies. Boogie totally took over her HoH, and I have to respect him and Frank for it.

The best part of the episode, which will surely be remembered for years to come, were Janelle's comments to Boogie's obnoxious goodbye message.

"He's such a loser!"

"What a douchebag."

"Screw you, Mike Boogie."

Janie put her backing behind Dan, because she loves him, but felt Boogie was too much of a threat to win it all. I'd put my backing behind both of them, as well as Dr. Will's pick Ian and my original pick (who I shouldn't have strayed from) Frank.

The next HoH competition, Battle of the Bands, was "knockouts"-style where two people would identify the challenge described in the lame original song.

The order of elimination was Jenn, Joe, Wil, Shane, Ashley, Dan, Boogie and Ian, leaving Britney and Frank for the final round. Frank beat Britney, further proving the point that Danielle made a dumb move.

How will Frank's HoH week go? Find out in the next blog, which should be up later tonight!

Pick to Win: Frank

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Janelle Pierzina (Screw You, Mike Boogie)
Original Airdate: 08/09/12

Thursday, August 9, 2012

TV Review: Weeds 8x06: "Allosaurus Crush Castle"

ML- Maybe it's the fact that I'm watching this at a reasonable hour and not after taking notes on BB/True Blood/Breaking Bad before it, but this week's Weeds was a step up from previous weeks, for me.

It's a shame that Justin Kirk has never gotten Emmy love as Andy. I know I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again before the show ends. He handles his meandering lines with expertise, while Kevin Nealon is left with crass, short-but-gut-busting spurts of immaturity. The two of them play off together very well.

I even liked Jennifer Jason-Leigh tonight in the scene where Jill and Andy discussed the possibility of raising a baby together. Probably because she didn't say much and let Andy do all of the scene-stealing. But could pregnancy be a good thing for her now? Give her a boy, she doesn't need another girl.

Nancy was back to her old tricks on the soccer field, getting close to frustrated dad Terry whose son sucks at soccer and ruins Terry's love life. Once Nancy finds out he works for a prescription drug company peddling pills "legally" and can throw her name out there for a job, she agrees to take the monster child in for a sleepover with Stevie.

The kid is a menace and Stevie ends up smacking him with a play castle. Nancy separates the boys and sits Terry's son down for a mature chat about turning your life around. She then passes him off to Shane, whose presence in the episode is smaller, doing the classic "writing someone else's papers for money then getting caught" story, though it had a happy ending. Shane also recorded a funny Occupy Wall Street parody with the young boys that will hopefully have relevance next week, or else it was kind of unnecessary.

Silas found RJ stacking cups in his hospital and tried to get him to go to the stolen weed. Instead, RJ directed him to where it was: his parents' house. Silas showed up in full robber attire expecting nobody to be home, when he walked in on a birthday party that expected him to be the stripper. He got home drunk and talked with Nancy about his issues, then did a "go stripper, go stripper" dance that allowed Hunter Parrish to be a little fun, for once.

But, as I said, the best part of the episode was Andy, Doug and Jill. Doug suggested getting Jill to go horseback riding and fall in order to abort the baby, but Andy wasn't having it. He vowed to take on the child (which he still isn't sure is actually his, yet, and I'm unfortunately guessing it won't be).

Things were looking up all around for the Botwins. Nancy got a job with Terry's company, as did Shane, in exchange for some more sleepovers. It's all worth it, though, considering the nursery set-up the company has going on in case the government OK's a THC pill. But can Nancy handle not being the big fish at this corporation?

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Justin Kirk
Original Airdate: 08/05/2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

TV Review: Big Brother 14x12: Nasty Southern Belles Go to Hell

ML- There's no point trying to even play like I'm unbiased when it comes to Big Brother. Nobody involved is- Grodner, the players, the fans. So I feel comfortable saying I'm pissed off at how this week's backdoor went down.

If you only watched the episode, it probably made sense. But if you were a live feed viewer, you saw a lot more information that paints the remaining houseguests in a different light.

Like Danielle. If I ever met her I would probably curse her out. She talked so much trash about Janelle this week with people who have talked even more trash about Danielle in the past. She, Britney and Wil are the cattiest of BB players and I can't wait for all of them to get their comeuppance. And, again, when they do and rejoin the Twitterverse, I will be sure to express my discontent with them.

Did Janelle make a blunder worthy of her certainly early eviction? Possibly. If you watch the live feeds, she didn't actually pause for so long and give no response after Boogie threw out the possibility of evicting Joe. She paused, then agreed to lose Joe. However, that would paint Boogie and Dan in a negative light, and the editors need to spin this as positively as possible against Janelle to keep the fans watching. And all I have to say is bullshit.

Many alliances were formed tonight, from the Quack Pack (Danielle/Dan/Britney/Shane/Ian) to the "Avengers"-like Silent Six (Danielle/Dan/Britney/Shane/Boogie/Frank). If you watch the feeds you know another alliance, TiTs, was formed, compsed of Wil/Ashley/Jenn/Joe. It's sad that at this point, with Janelle out of every alliance, my support doesn't go behind her players, but rather the ones who had to fight desperately to keep themselves in against her (read: Mike and Frank.)

I won't comment on the scripted DR session with Frank, Boogie and Ian. All I will say about Danielle is that she;s lucky she positioned herself into a showmance so that Grodner has a reason to portray her positively, because all of the bitter, bitchy, petty, literally CRAZY talk she's shown on the feeds has painted her in the exact opposite light. She doesn't understand how badly everyone, including Shane, has spoken of her in the past. 

I will praise Dan, Boogie and Frank, though. If Janelle can't make it to the end of this game and finally win, I hope one of these three deserving players will do so. Joe, Ashley, Wil and Jenn are four of the most worthless players to enter the house, Britney and Danielle are some of the most personally-affected people to play. Danielle ruined her HoH by adding an unneeded target on herself by saving the life of her main target, who was shown saying how little he thinks of her and will surely win and nominate her down the line, when Janelle had much bigger fish to fry. Danielle overcompensated this week, like she has done in her "relationship" attempts with Shane, in her attempts to feel important, powerful and gain acceptance. She may have done so temporarily with other players in the house, but I guarantee she will never be beloved like Janelle or Jordan, who I compared her to a few weeks ago.

We got to see a rehashed Veto of contestants trading prizes as they are eliminated. In the end, Shane got a veto ticket, Jenn a Maui vacation, Wil $5,000, Ian the life of a dog for 24 hours, Frank a Spirit-tard and Danielle the Veto. Thanks to some carftiness by Boogie and Frank, Danielle agreed to spare her target and nominate Janelle, only after Dan gave her the go-ahead when he felt she couldn't be trusted.

I fully expect Janelle to exit the house tomorrow night. It would be stupid for them to keep her around, obviously, and she has no real allies. Janie represented the pre-Grodner era where competitions could be won without any "help" and twists from America didn't come around at the most convenient times. That being said, Janelle had 3 surviving mentees that showed her no respect, perhaps because they didn't feel they got any from her. Personally, I think they were all ungrateful, Janellous bitches who will  get their asses handed to them by the majority alliance in the coming weeks.

So Viva la Silent Six, though it is no equal to the Sovereign Six of BB6 history (Janelle, Howie, Rachel, James, Sarah and Kaysar, for the forgetful ones out there). You've gotten rid of the biggest threat who had the least amount of allies and solidified yourselves as asses to the fans. Can't wait to see a 12th-place finisher win fan favorite over all of you.

Episode Grade: A- (Editing wise, well done for what they wanted to tell, not for what happened).
Episode MVP: Mike Boogie 
Original Airdate: 08/08/2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

TV Review: True Blood 5x09: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"

ML- We got some closure to a few of the more irritating storylines of the season tonight, but the speed with which they were all resolved felt pretty rushed.

Hopefully, we will never hear the words "ifrit" or "Obama" on this show again.

Let's go story by story to see what worked and what didn't:


1. Terry, Arlene & Patrick: No more ifrit business! Terry told Arlene he would find Patrick and challenge him to a fair fight. She begged him to think about her, Mikey and the kids, and he said (in very Han Solo-esque fashion) that they're the only reason he's fighting at all.

Patrick snuck up on Arlene and put a gun to her head as she entered Merlottes. When Terry arrived, Patrick ordered him to put down his weapon and get on his knees or else Arlene would pay the price. Terry did so. Turns out Patrick has a pregnant wife who he promised he'd return home to. In a fury he throws Arlene to the side, giving her time to grab something sharp and stab him in the back, potentially hitting an artery.

Terry gets the gun and hesitates. He doesn't want to kill Patrick. The woman he murdered appears, however, and tells him to do what must be done. Without missing a beat he fires two quick shots at Patrick's head. She is satisfied- blood has been repaid with blood- and the ifrit shows itself to eat up Patrick's body.

This worked mostly because of the fine acting by Carrie Preston and Scott Foley, and, well, because it ended a dumb storyline in a satisfying way.

2. Sookie and "The Dragon": Again this worked because it spells the end for the masked Obama klansmen. Sookie started off searching for information on Warlow with Lafayette (who had some great lines tonight, like not being "gmail for dead bitches"). This lead her to Bud Deerborne, who confirmed her parents may have been killed by vampires. Sookie tried reading him for more info, but couldn't get anymore, especially after she was hit in the head by a large woman in a pink dress, the same big fat woman Sam smelled while they rescued Jessica.

The woman, Sweetie Desartes, is Bud's lover, a square-dancing champion and, contrary to Andy and Jason's suspicions the real Dragon (aka lead Klansman). She captured Hoyt and Sookie and wants to rid the world of all supes. Her idea: supes have sent this country to the pigs, so feed the supes to the pigs.

I suppose we should include the Andy/Jason and Sam/Luna stories here. Actually, this is the closest True Blood has come to an overwhelming A-story in quite some time.

Luna wanted REVENGEE for the people who shot at her and her daughter, so she and Sam shifted themselves as flies on the wall after a brief fight that ended in unsuspecting "I love yous" from both sides. It was a well-done way of getting that across without it seeming cheesy.

They eavesdropped on Jason and Andy, who examined the Obama vandals' videos on and noticed the boots of one of the guys matched those given to Bud Deerborne back when he retired. Sam and Luna took off first.

When Sweetie released the pigs on an unconscious Sookie and Hoyt, she didn't expect for one to be Sam, who proceeded to kick some Obama ass, Eastern Promises-style (Read: totally naked). By the time Andy and Jason arrived, Sam had disarmed all but Bud, who was poised to hurl a shovel at him. Andy warned him to put it down, but when Bud exclaimed "Humans Rule!", Andy shot him down. It was sad to see Bud go, but he obviously had turned into a character so far from his old self that it was a necessary loss.

Luna chased down Sweetie and gave her some good punches. I never got too attached to Luna, probably because she's not from the original few seasons and I never expect newer additions to survive too long. After tonight, though, I'm a little more sold on her and her story. When she and Sam were able to finally have some peace, it was a relief.

3. Pam & Tara: These two had plenty of bitchy one-liners to add to their running count. At the end, when a vamp plopped himself in Eric's throne and fed on a human, Pam tried to kick him out. He revealed himself as newly appointed Sheriff under a repealed ban on feeding on humans passed by the Authority. This new story isn't immediately frustrating, so I'm excited to see where it goes.

4. Russell, Steve & The Werewolves: It's fun to see Russell grooming Steve as his new Talbot, and the scene at the end where he gave out his blood and stole young Emma from Martha solidified him as one of the great villains in True Blood history. I half expected him to kill Emma, since she was in dog form and that'd be a lot easier on the audience than to kill her in human form. But instead, he's giving her to Steve as a pet. Even J.D. wasn't too happy about this.


5. Bill/Salome, Eric/Nora: I'm just over this story. Skaarsgard and Moyer are doing fantastic jobs but the interest level is not there. Bill is a traitor now with some mad religious ideals brought upon by Salome's trippy blood, and Eric is the one holding to the moral right. This ethical role-reversal isn't worth the amount of weird religious and political head-beating we go through every week. I don't care about mainstreaming or Sanguinistas. Like Pam, there are two things I stay away from: humans who eat a lot of fish and politics.

To recap anyway, Eric tried getting the tech-savvy girl to break them out, but she needs Salome's blood to open the door out. Eric tries getting Bill to take it from her, which leads to Bill's hallucinogenic sex with Salome/Sookie/Lilith. Eric approaches Nora and plays that he's on her side, but injects her with some silver to knock her out long enough for them to escape. Bill arrives, but not with the blood he promised, with the authority. Eric, the viking who never surrenders, surrenders. And we're back to square one.

6. Alcide: Alcide flashes back to when he first joined the pack, when his packmaster father gave a speech about man and beast to young Alcide and young Debbie Pelt, who looked a lot like Miley Cyrus. Young Alcide joined the pack (duh).

Today's abjured Alcide returned to his father's trailer. The once inspirational man now lies in bed and bets his disability check on the races. Alcide says he's nothing like his old man, but the old man isn't so sure.

In a fairly tight episode story-wise, the Alcide digression just felt out of place. I know it's setting something up for later, but I've had enough Were business to last me two more seasons.

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Alexander Skaarsgard
Original Airdate: 08/05/2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

TV Review: Breaking Bad 5x04: "51"

ML- I think its time we addressed the "Skyler Problem".

In seasons 1 and 2 I hated Skyler White. She was annoying, intrusive and ruining all the fun we wanted Walter to have as he got deeper and deeper into the drug game.

Then S.F.T.

Since then, I've seen Skyler in a whole new light, and I think that's because I've grown to love and respect Anna Gunn as an actress. The scene last season where she discussed her "bullet points" with Walt on his fake gambling addiction is one of my favorites the show has ever done. She's knocking it out of the park acting-wise, playing a character who just sucks all of the fun out of the room.

But I don't hate her. I see tweets from people who can't stand her, and try to respond in ways that will help change their minds. She made some bad decisions to follow Walt down this path, sure: remember when she went to the four corners and flipped her coin to decide her fate, then kept flipping when she didn't get what she wanted? She has nobody to blame but herself.

That being said, look at what she's living with. Walter is a jerk to her and a genuine monster of a person. The fight scene, which I think could sell-out theaters as a one-act play, showed just how scared she is and the lengths she will go to protect her children, something Walt vowed to do as well. Yes, she can be annoying and boring and bitchy and hypocritical. But she may be the only hope of bringing down Walter White.

Then again, she may not have to do anything at all. Hank and the DEA made progress sniffing out more Madrigal employees, causing Lydia to panic and call Mike requesting help. Her guy, Ron, is no longer available to drive the trucks. Mike says he'll send a new guy.

The guy was Jesse, who she skeptically lets into the warehouse to grab the methylamine. There's a problem, though- they spot a substance on the bottom of the barrel that Lydia recognizes as a GPS tracker. Jesse reports back to Mike and Walt, empty-handed, but Mike is suspicious that no other barrels were checked and suspects Lydia is pulling the wool over their eyes and trying to dissociate from Mike and their deal. Mike vows to take her out, Jesse votes against it, and Walter refuses to let anything stop them from cooking.

Walt didn't have a very good pre-birthday. It started off fine- he and his son went to get the Pontiac fixed up and decided to lease some hot new sports cars. He and Walter, Jr. pulled up into the driveway in style, but Walter, Jr. wasn't too keen on his car choice. So in a brilliant, wordless scene, the father and son pulled up again, this time Jr. in a different car. It seemed like a dream sequence, which was the perfect feel to give a sense of Walter's reckless, idealistic mindset.

After dinner, Walter explains to Skyler that he only leased the cars in an attempt to cover his tracks. SHe asks if he's back at cooking, and he mentions he has to make up for the $600,000 she gave Ted. She then suggests boarding school for Walter, Jr. The kids, she feels, need a new environment.

Walter disagrees. And that's that. And he wants a big birthday party. With chocolate cake and chocolate frosting.

And life is good. Because he says it is.

The next morning he gets his bacon on his eggs, a White family tradition that confirms the 1-year gap between current events and the flash-forward we saw as the season's teaser. With all of the crap that occurred over these 4.5 seasons fitting into 1 year, it's hard to imagine how much can change within another year.

Hank has been spot on about Gus and his crew every step of the way, and he is offered a promotion to give up his day-to-days (Fring case included) for a better-paying, more political job. he takes it, but I don't think he's done with the Fring case just yet.

Walt leaves Jesse early at work because he expects a big birthday party. He opens the door to the house and his face drops- it's just his son on the couch, not a room full of people praising the ground he walks on. Skyler invited Hank and Marie, cooked some meat and potatoes, and even ordered the chocolate cake. It's hard to believe Walt really expected her to throw anything major together, but again, he is blinded by his idealism and own ego.

The second best scene of the night goes to Marie and Hank in the car as she pulls a classic example of refusing to tell someone a secret while promptly giving everything away. It is a great, funny moment for her character and its nice to see she and Hank bond after all of their animosity last season. It involved infidelity, that's all she was going to say. But not Walt.

As Walt reminisced on his journey and how things have fallen into pace for him, Skyler lingers by the edge of the pool, staring into the water. He asks her to remember his first week of chemo, and she does, painfully. Instead of doing so, she'd rather wade into the cold water and nearly drown herself.

The pool has been a major force in Breaking Bad, after the events of the plane crash in season 2 and the cartel member's death last year (different pool, but still). For our characters, the pools may represent drowning, being enclosed and trapped. It's from the pool that the one-eyed bear is plucked, a symbol of Walt's descent to breaking bad.

Here, Skyler uses the badness as an empowerment opportunity. She has Marie ask Walt if she can take the kids, as it may be better for them than to be around their suicidal mom. Skyler descends and puts herself into danger to protect the kids, just like Walt. And when Walt confronts her, in the best scene of the season thus far, it's clear that the danger she's putting herself through is being with him. He tries claiming there is no danger, Gus was the danger, and she quickly retorts that at one point he proclaimed "I am the danger." To whom is he dangerous to now with Gus gone?

He grills her on her grand scheme here to pick it apart with his own honed skill of finding flaws in plans. She wants the kids away so they don't have to be around the family business of making meth and lying to everyone. She can't have them around while he makes rationalizations and shrugs off dealing drugs and killing people as "shit happens".

She says she'll hurt herself again if she has to so the kids can stay away longer. He counters that he'll put her in a facility where she'll need inpatient care. She says she'll bruise her neck and eye and blame it on Walt beating her after discovering her affair. But does she want to drag Ted deeper into things and paint Walt as a wife beater to their children? Walt is quick to see all of the negative paths her actions take and doesn't give her an ounce of room to think or even breathe.

Unable to handle his interrogation anymore she cracks. She has no brilliant plan. She can't go to the cops and she can't keep him out of the house or even out of her bed. She does have one failsafe, though: wait until his cancer comes back to kill him. Let him self-destruct, as a result of both the cancerous tumors and his darkened soul and bad decisions.

This time metaphor pops up again when Jesse gives Walt a present- a new watch. In the very next scene, a loud ticking can be heard from Skyler's room. Walt's time is running out, and everyone knows it. He tells her that the watch was a gift from someone who just weeks ago wanted him dead, and he can turn Skyler back to his corner. Not seeing Gunn's face for this scene worked well, because we got everything we needed to by her body language. Just lights up a cigarette, as if perhaps some smoke will make its way into his lungs and, if she's lucky, knock the first domino.

Now we're halfway through with the season. It's hard to believe, but 8 episodes goes a lot quicker than 13. Where do you think the show is going in its final episodes? Will Hank make the connections to Walt? Will Mike kill Lydia, and if so will he get caught? Will Skyler go to the cops and report what she knows? And will Jesse finally get an episode where he has a lot to do? Please, writers, give him something to work with! Leave your predictions in the comments.

Episode Grade: A- (4 in a row! I nearly went with an A but there wasn't enough "oomph", aside from the fight.)
Episode MVP: Anna Gunn
Original Airdate: 08/05/2012

TV Review: Big Brother 14x11: Bouncing Checks

ML- Boogie called it last week, as we were reminded at the end of the "Previously on Big Brother" segment- this is Big Brother, you can bounce checks. When the nominations were revealed, one person was upset his key wasn't pulled, and another was upset that his was. Pretty crazy result to one of the craziest twists in BB history.

The endurance challenge (which I live-updated in last Thursday's blog) was a doozy, as they contestants not only had to hold onto bars and stand on planks at an angle, but they had to do so with freezing cold water pouring down on them and seagull poop splattering on their faces.

Historically, women and smaller guys have faired better in this type of challenge, and that proved the same tonight. The order of dropping out went: Boogie (strategic to appear weak), Jenn (too cold for her Puerto Rican blood), Joe, Ashley, Dan (also to appear weak, which Wil didn't buy), Frank, Wil (who made a deal with Danielle for safety), Shane and Janelle. I was surprised Janie didn't hold out longer, but I guess the 8 years since her original season have taken their toll on her.

The last three standing were Britney, Danielle and Ian. Thanks to a coach session from Dan and Britney and Ian's willingness to jump for safety, Danielle outlasted the others, giving us our first female HoH of the summer. Not only did she get a hug from Dan, she also got a big kiss from Shane. Somebody is finally realizing how much it pays to be in a BB showmance.

The targets started popping up quickly, with Boogie, Frank and even Janelle's named being thrown around. Danielle thinks Janelle is threatened by her- I doubt that's true, I think Janelle just has a harder time pretending to like Danielle than the rest of the house (Britney included) who bashed her non-stop on the feeds a few weeks ago.

Boogie and Frank tried stirring things up after Dan, in the heat of the Reset button action, told them Frank was the target in order to gain some favor of Boogie's. This basically backfired, as Boogie didn't trust Dan for not telling him when it would have mattered. Though Britney and tried to deny it, Dan admits to them he messed up and told Boogie the plan.

Dan used his allegiance with Danielle to veer her off the path of nominating coaches and instead thought she should nominate Wil and Frank. She agreed, until Wil reminded her that she promised him he wouldn't go home this week.

So what was she to do? Stick with the plan and get Frank and Wil up? Or honor the deal and send Janelle or Boogie up instead? She bounced her check and nominated Wil as a pawn against Frank, who has narrowly escaped too many evictions this summer already. Can he do it again?

Boogie, meanwhile, was insulted that she didn't nominate him when she had the chance. Don't get too cocky, buddy, there's still a veto to be played for!

If you want to know the veto competition results, keep reading below! If not, go check out some of our other articles.

Episode Grade: B
Episode MVP: Danielle Murphree
Original Airdate: 8/5/2012

The Veto was the yankee swap one done in seasons past, where whoever places higher in a competition can open a box and either keep the prize or trade it for an opened prize.
The prizes went as follows:
Frank got stuck in a "Spirit-tard", a unitard with pom-poms. He hates wearing it and has been lax keeping it on. Could he get a penalty vote?
Wil got $5,000 cash
Jenn got a vacation, which Ian traded away
Ian got a punishment of being dressed like a dog for 24 hours. He has to sleep in a doghouse and have someone holding his leash if he ever goes anywhere.
Shane got a Veto pass, allowing him to play in a future veto
Danielle got the Veto this week

There has been much discussion of backdooring Janelle. Danielle hates her, Brit is sick of her, Boogie and Frank are all for it. However, Dan is still adamant about keeping the target off of the coaches, so as of right now, the veto probably won't be used and Frank will go home. The veto ceremony is tomorrow so things can still change by then!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

TV Review: Louie 3x06: "Barney/Never"

ML- Sometimes I think Louis CK understand the human condition better than anyone else. Definitely better than any comedian.

He gives us characters that we can relate to. We all have a Barney Ross in our lives, that one guy who everybody hates because he's a jerk and he treats you like crap and he steals and bounces checks and invites you to a boat he bought with Robin Williams' money. We also have Nevers, that kid who you can't say "no" to (ironic), raised by the anal-retentive, overbearing mother who thinks he can do what he wants because he's just plain special. As it turns out, being hated by others is no big deal, because somebody out there loves you for who you are. You're really despicable when your fault isn't being hated by others, but too loved by yourself, a problem I don't think Louis CK ever had to face.

Louie attended a funeral for a fellow comedian, Barney Ross, and the only other person in attendance (aside from Curb Your Enthusiasm's J.B. Smoove in the tag) was none other than Robin Williams. Louie and Robin had lunch and shared stories about Barney, who was Robin's ex-brother in law. It was  a relief when both could talk openly about how much they despised the man, listing the grievances he had caused over the years. This scene was fantastic and reminded me so much of the conversations in Good Will Hunting, one of my all-time favorite movies. Robin Williams just has an effortless conversational ability that doesn't even come across as "acting". I'm so glad he decided to do this show, and I'm glad news of his appearance didn't leak out.

Anyway, Louie and Robin reminisced about Barney's attempts to lure them to a strip club called Sweet Charity. Neither man ever went, nor knew someone who had gone, but in that moment they decided to see what the place was like. It was your run-of-the-mill strip joint, but Louie and Robin weren't there to participate, just observe. When Louie told them they were there in honor of the deceased Barney Ross, what followed was storytelling perfection. The strippers began to cry, and when the DJ heard the news he blared "Sister Christian" in honor of the "good, generous man Barney Ross."

Louie and Robin left, then laughed in unison. Were they wrong about Barney? No, how could they be. But were the strippers and company wrong? No, that doesn't make sense either. Everyone wears different masks for different people. Who the real Barney was, we'll never know, and neither will Louie. But that guy you think is the most disgusting piece of garbage may have a loving support group of people down at the strip joint.

The next vignette was nowhere near as perfect as the first, but still had its moments. Louie and his daughter planned on some one-on-one time without the younger sister, until a bizarre mother of one of Lilly's equally bizarre classmates asked Louie to help her out so she can go to her emergency elective vagina removal. Yes you read that right. So Louie took the kid, "Never", under his wing against Lilly's wishes, but didn't expect his needs- you cannot tell him "no", and you cannot feed him anything with carbon. Also, you can't leave him unattended for more than a few seconds, as he'll get into all sorts of trouble- like pushing a stroller into traffic or throwing your rug out of a window. Or worse.

Louie tries finding food for him- peanut butter will kill him. Apples will kill him. He doesn't like carrots. He is accustomed to raw meat in a bowl, though. These eccentricities (or, as Robin Williams' character in Good Will Hunting would say, "idiosyncrasies" that only those we let get close know about) make Never a larger-than-life character, but the kid pulls it off. The show has flirted with the limits of willing suspension of disbelief in regards to the realness of its characters, but never quite crossed it (Parker Posey was close last week). Maybe it's just because he was a chubby little kid that I forgave the craziness.

Louie got a call from his teenage agent, who booked him a phone call with a radio station in Kansas City, right as Louie was putting Never into a bath (Never's idea, not Louie's). Louie had bad experiences in Kansas City before and this phone call would help increase his ticket sales. Louie shut the door on Never and took the call.

This was the weakest part of the episode, for me. They needed to get Louie away from the bathroom long enough for The Incident to occur, but making fun of shock jocks has been done on everything from Family Guy to Parks and Recreation's "Crazy Ira and The Douche". I'm sure we all saw Louie's joke not being taken the right way by the immature Kansas City folk. Whatever, it filled the time and was entertaining, but not all that original is all.

By the time that the call ended, Lilly arrived to tell Louie she smelled something nasty coming from the bathroom. Of course, our minds jump to the Mad Men expectation, but what we got was way, way worse:

"I diarrhead in the tub."

Louie uses some of the most subtle humor out there, but he isn't too highbrow to steer away from poop jokes (see "Pregnant", the episode he submitted for Comedy Writing at the Emmys). He brought it all home in the end with the conversation between Louie and Never. Louie tries to say that he can be there to talk, knowing how crazy his mother is. Never complains that Lilly doesn't like him, and Louie notes that as long as he does weird stuff, nobody will ever like him.

His response is classic: his mom tells him that "any choice he makes is okay because he loves himself". There we go- the vignette was a stab at this generation of touchy-feely, everyone is special, participation award, elective vagina removal crazies. Loving yourself, CK shows us, is not necessarily a good thing. It's okay for Louie, though, because we love him.

Episode Grade: A-
Episode MVP: Louis CK
Original Airdate: 08/02/2012

TV Review: Big Brother 14x10: Tears of Ploy

ML- I didn't expect to be shocked by the decision tonight, but boy, am I surprised.

It all started off with Shane making either the biggest or the stupidest move of the game in nominating Frank. Britney said it was the only move that would keep Frank from winning the half-a-million bucks. It was smart of him, no doubt, and he was even smarter to play it as if he had no intention of eliminating Frank.

Boogie had a great line after Ian justified not committing to Britney- "This is Big Brother. You can bounce checks." Actually, all the coaches (minus Britney, who barely counted in the first place) had some good advice to future Big Brother contestants everywhere- don't let your emotions get in the way of your game.

Janelle was shown to be an amazing gamebot, never sad, never happy, always in game mode. She shed that to deal with the Wil situation- as she gave him some advice for the endurance competition, Wil took it as her condescending him. Basically, he came off as totally bitchy and ungrateful for her giving him safety this week. She should have traded him to Dan and been done with it.

Wil talked to Joe who talked to Ashley who talked to Janelle who talked to Wil about it, and cried some fake tears to get Wil to trust her again. He followed suit, calling her bluff but telling the camera he still didn't trust her. She's going to have to watch her back if she wants to make it by unscathed.

Dan, too, told his player Danielle to be cutthroat and leave all things Shane out of the picture. I don't think she's going to be able to do that, which makes it good for Dan that this twist came about when it did. I also have to applaud Dan for lying so low in the grass these past few weeks. There truly are some great, diversified players among the coaches.

The segment spent on Frank's daddy issues with who appeared to be Mickey Rourke's inspiration for The Ram in The Wrestler didn't offer much insight, but set the stage for a Celebrity Big Brother if they ever come calling. Imagine the fight between Sid Vicious and Russell Hantz? Ratings gold.

Finally, twist time. We all knew "America" would be inviting the coaches to enter the game, and obviously at least one of them would press the "Reset" button. But the rest of the ramifications came out like a ton of bricks. If nobody pressed reset, some sequestered houseguests would be given the opportunity to return to the game. If anybody did, there would be no vote, and Joe, Frank, Shane, all the coaches and the rest of the bunch could play in the endurance HoH.

America was in. Britney was in. Dan and Janie were in. It didn't matter that Boogie passed it up, he knew at least one of the others would subscribe. And just like that, Frank was spared another week.

Now we're left with 12 players in the beginning of Week 4, and I couldn't be more excited. All the coaches are in it to win it, as are Frank, Shane and Ian. Wil has potential, but after his diva-like antics tonight, he's not making any friends. Danielle is trying, but she can only pull a Jordan-like win, and she's nowhere near as likable as Jordan. Jenn is a non-entity.

Was this whole coach scenario an excuse to give some of the favorites a few weeks of safety before entering the house? Absolutely. Do I care? Not one bit. It turned the game way more strategic, and will make things even more complicated now that coaches and players are all in the same league. I can't wait to see how it all plays out!

Winner Prediction: Janelle (she's got a huge target, but if anyone can overcome it, it's my Jedi Janie)
Next Evicted Prediction: Mike Boogie

I'll update the Live Feed section for a little while longer tonight then post the endurance winner tomorrow. As of 11:30, only three people have dropped off. This could be a long night, folks.

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Janelle Pierzina
Original Airdate: 08/02/2012


By 11:00 PM, Jenn, Boogie and Joe were all out of the competition. Everyone else is still hanging in there. I'll update until I fall asleep!
11:42PM Ashley falls out
11:44PM Dan gives up and leaps off
12:07AM Frank falls off after much struggling
12:36AM Shane and Wil jump off together. How cute.
12:40AM Janelle is out
1:08AM Ian drops, guaranteed safety from Danielle and Brit
1:09AM Britney drops, guaranteed safety from Danielle

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

TV Review: Big Brother 14x09: Keep Calm and Kiss Ass

ML- Britney and Shane mocked Janelle's players and couldn't wait to kick one of them out of the house. By the end of the episode, it seems as though all of them will survive into next week. How'd they manage to pull that one off?

Much of their success can be attributed to Ian, whose inability to commit to saving Shane next week sent Britney into a frenzy and turned the target back onto Frank. But Janie and Joe did their own share of the work, the former offering her wedding ring and Chanel earrings as collateral, the latter making weird metaphors to rock climbers and the president.

Joe was not happy to be up basically only because he's Janelle's player, though his personality obviously didn't help his case. Janelle wouldn't let her people freak out, nor would she let them give Shane or Britney an ounce of breathing room during the week. Ass kissing, though embarrassing, is a good strategy in Big Brother. Wil claimed he doesn't want to be known as an ass kisser, and there is absolutely no joke to be made there. Joe tried his best, but obviously, gentle tones and smooth deliveries are not his strong suits.

The Veto was similar to one in BB13, except this time instead of Greek gods and goddesses, the contestants were dressed in clown suits. They had to run to keep two balls off the ground as they rolled  up slanted paths. Once you dropped a ball, you were out.

The competition went pretty quickly tonight, as Wil, Joe, Frank and Danielle fell out, leaving only Shane and Ashley. Shane defeated the klutzy Ashley to score his third straight veto, probably sending past all-time veto champs Janelle and James Rhine into panic mode. Is he the Michael Phelps of Vetoes?

It was then do or die time for Joe and Team Janelle, as they made as many offers as possible to get Boogie and his people out of the house. I've got to hand it to Janelle, she really does hustle to get her way in the house. Along with Ian's slip up, Shane and Brit decided to explain the backdoor to Frank in a way he might not expect to go home. It didn't work 100% as planned, but at least there wasn't a big blow-up- yet.

Britney likened Boogie and Frank to a dragon and its head- are we getting some more Survivor cross-over here with Coach? Is this all one big elaborate ploy to get Big Brother fans used to hearing "coach" and "dragon" so next season they can do a BB/Survivor mash-up? I'd truly dig that.

Tomorrow night we'll see if the coaches enter the game (they probably will) and who goes home, Frank or Joe (if they're smart it'll be Frank, but I can't stand listening to Joe's confessionals anymore). If Frank does go home, I'll be looking for a new Winner Pick. Leave me your suggestions in the comments below!

Episode Grade: B
Episode MVP: Janelle Pierzina & Shane Meaney
Original Airdate: 8/1/2012