Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 12 of '12: Mike's 12 Musical Moments of the Year


ML- 2012 had some pretty great musical moments, from songs on TV and movies to those that racked up plays on the radio and views on YouTube. Add some of these gems to your playlist tonight, or just sit back and remember the year that was.

12. Kris Allen's Epic Mash-Up of Girl Pop Anthems 


11. Another Idol alum, 16-year old Jessica Sanchez, TEARING UP "And I Am Telling You" with Jennifer Holliday

10. Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" for Les Mis. It's SO much better in the movie, but can't be overlooked here. 

9. The song that made the 1 episode of Glee I watched this season worth it, "Give Your Heart a Break"


8. Taylor Swift's "All Too Well" 


7. Ke$ha's stripped-down "Deconstructed" version of Die Young


6. A capella sensations Pentatonix performing one of 2012's top hits, "Somebody That I Used to Know"

5. Macklemore had a breakthrough year, but the song "Cowboy Boots" from The Heist really got to me

4. Damien Rice. Live. "The Professor and La Fille Danse." I was there. AMAZING.

3. Megan's "Zou Bisou Bisou" performance on Mad Men. Instant classic TV moment.

2. Frank Ocean's performance of "Bad Religion" on Jimmy Fallon. No words.

1. "Call Me Maybe", as made mega-popular by Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and co.

ADDED BONUS! Daniel Kim's mash-up of 55 hot 2012 tracks! Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

TV Thoughts: Dave's Top 12 TV Shows of 2012


DA- Before we can close up 2012 and start judging the entertainment of 2013 we need to look back on what was so great about 2012. Below is what I believe to be the twelve best shows of 2012. (Possible spoilers below).



12. Veep
Based upon the 2005 BBC series, The Thick of It, comedy up-and-comer Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a vice-president that may even be cooler and funnier than Joe Biden. With episodes like “Frozen Yoghurt” where a terrible but hilarious stomach flu gets the best of her, it is clear why she won this year’s Emmy. While Louis-Dreyfus is the comedy anchor of the show, her coworkers including Tony Hale and Timothy Simons make one great political comedy team. 


11. How I Met Your Mother
After a little bit of lull in the story of how Ted met his wife, HIMYM is back on track with a hopefully clear end date. With another mother flash-forward sighting in the season’s opener “Farhampton” to the latest episode of “The Final Page” where Barney proposes to Robin, the show can still juggle comedy as well induce chills. While recently it was renewed for one more final season, let’s hope we meet the mother at the end of this season and we actually get to see Ted date (and probably break-up, date, break-up, and finally date again) with the future Mrs. Ted Mosby before he marries and the story ends.


10. Dexter
Anything was going to be a step up from the last two seasons but Dexter came back with actual consequences for Dexter and his six seasons of murders. With acting nobody saw coming from Jennifer Carpenter back in season one to a much more interesting villain in Isaak Sirko than Colin Hanks’ Travis Marshall could ever be, I thought this show was completely back on track. While it derailed before the season was out with “Helter Skelter” and Sirko’s death, there was a point that I thought we got the old Dexter back. Hopefully these glimpses back to the past (as we saw in the finale) will continue and this show ends on a higher note like its’ previous seasons.


9. The Walking Dead
For this one we have to include the second half of season two and the first half of season three (which both aired 2012). After an extremely slow first half of season two that even the walkers could out run, Rick shoots zombie Sophia and the series began to pick up again. After the shocking deaths of Shane and Lori and then an intense battle to take over the prison, things are looking up for the AMC juggernaut. Plus with a great villain in the Governor played by David Morrissey this is one series I don’t want to see die.


8. Parks and Recreation
Going into this season I was worried to see how they would work Leslie’s new government job and her boyfriend working in Washington D.C. but the writers know how to “treat” their audience with some swag. While not as strong as season three this consistently funny show has given us a hilarious debate episode written and directed by Amy Poehler, a great guest arc with Paul Rudd, and a sweet proposal between Ben and Leslie. With 30 Rock, The Office, and (probably) Community ending, at least NBC will have one show that will keep us tuned in and laughing to the peacock network. Plus they scored Vice President Biden in a guest spot…winning!


7. New Girl
After a rough first half of season one that focused too much on quirky and “adorkable” Jess, the writers turned to see the great ensemble of characters that live with her. Between Nick, Winston, and of course Schmidt the show has learned the strengths of every actor and plays to each one of them every week. Whether it is a crazy game like True American or guest spots from people like Olivia Munn, Parker Posey, Josh Gad, Rob Riggle, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Rob Reiner, I can’t wait to see what adventure the roommates get into next and how Nick will turn lemonade into lemons, which he has been doing since 1981.


6. Mad Men
Even though Mad Men lost what would have been their fifth Emmy in a row, this season did not dip in quality. With strong performances from the whole cast including Jared Harris as Lane and Christina Hendricks as Joan it is shocking Mad Men did not receive even more Emmy love, which it still very much deserves. Don’t believe me? Go back and watch “Far Away Places” or “The Other Woman” which was not only my favorite of the season but also perhaps my favorite of the series. Ever.


5. Louie
Oh Louie! I love how I can go into this show every week and never know what I am about to see. Every episode is Louis C.K. experimenting with what a television series is and should be. With a strangely hilarious Late Show arc that saw David Lynch, Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld enter the world of Louie at the end of this third season, it is going to be extra hard to wait until 2014 to see what Louis tinkers with next.


4. Community
While only airing twelve episodes in 2012 this abused sitcom’s third season which is on and off of NBC’s schedule could only be described as Community at its’ finest. Between a perfect Law & Order parody, a Ken Burns documentary about a pillow and blanket fight, an even better clip show episode, and a video game episode that starred Gus Fring, it is hard to choose a favorite from the bunch. Not to mention there was a season finale that could have worked as a perfect series finale as well. However instead of going crazy and weird like many season two episodes, season three found the perfect blend of being bizarre and yet maintain believable relationships between the characters (even if Chevy Chase thinks we do not want any of this).


3. Girls
Lena Dunham as Hannah as said she think she may be the voice of her generation. Or at least a voice, of a generation. However despite all this uncertainty, Lena Dunham as Lena is definitely the new voice of television we all needed. As creator, director, writer, producer, and star of this hit HBO show, Dunham as not created Sex in the City 2.0 but instead a completely original and funny show that just happens to star four young women trying to figure out life in New York City.


2. Breaking Bad
No, Vince Gilligan you got me! Even after only airing eight episodes this year these eight episodes are television at it’s finest. While I was worried how it could top the explosive season four, Gilligan has set up for a final eight episodes that really will show the (much deserved) downfall for Walter White. While it was a slow build to Hank’s realization, there was still a lot of action packed in between. Whether it is convincing Jesse that it was Gus who poisoned Brock, robbing a train with new guy Todd, or using the power of magnets, it will be interesting to see what’s next for Walter in this last “batch” of episodes.


1. Homeland
While I have already blogged about my future concerns about the show, this season I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. In the first four episodes alone it was as though we were speeding down the highway to “Everybody Talks” and not looking what was in the way. With performances that will sure get more Emmy love from Damian Lewis and of course of Claire Danes, it is going to be just as interesting to see where season three will go especially with the possible absence from Lewis. But again it would not be Homeland if we were not let to sit and wonder what is going to happen next (as long as we know Saul and his beard are not going anywhere).

What shows are in your top 12 of 2012? Leave your list below in the comments or tweet them to me @eastwoodmcfly.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

TV Thoughts: Dexter & Homeland "Hopping the Shark?"



DA- A wise man once said “I'm afraid I prematurely shot my wad on what was supposed to be a dry run if you will, so I'm afraid I have something of a mess on my hands.” If you are not a fan of Arrested Development or the world renowned “analrapist” Tobias FΓΌnke, you may not understand the genius of what he was trying to say. Sometimes people just get too excited and rush into something they are not completely ready for. If only shows like Dexter and Homeland took this into consideration when creating their seasons.

Now before I dive into this, I just want to say Dexter and Homeland are amazing shows and I am really just nitpicking as someone who really loves television. These shows among many others did not necessarily “jump the shark.” They may have just taken a hop into a direction they should have waited a few seasons for.


First up is Dexter. Now our favorite serial killer just wrapped up his seventh season with an arc that had Deb contemplating how to babysit her serial killer brother that she also has a crush on. This season started off well (especially after a lackluster fifth season and a terrible sixth season). However once they got rid of this season’s bad guy Isaak Sirko in episode nine, they gave us a terrible placeholder villain. This guy who lasted an episode or two was an arsonist who as a kid liked to start fires and became an adult who…also likes to start fires. Then we had Quinn dating a stripper who just leaves and dumps him anyways and Batista retiring from a “great” career to open a terrible restaurant.

However the best part of the season involved the least liked character of the series on the heels of Dexter’s dark secret. There were so many flashbacks to season two, which many consider a high point for the series that involved Miami Metro investigating Dexter’s own crimes. Now after a solid first season it seemed like a crazy jump for season two to already find Dexter in hot waters but after this season premiered in 2007, these may be the only hot waters Dexter will ever face. Now every episode once Dexter makes any mistake he can easily get himself out of it. He does not need to worry anymore about murdering a suspect in a busy airport or even tranquilizing the guy that murdered his mother in a sunny park THE SAME DAY HE WAS SUSPECTED TO BE THE BAY HARBOR BUTCHER! 


When James Doakes was framed in season two to be the Bay Harbor Butcher, Miami Metro knew it was some law-enforcement member that was doing these vigilante killings. However now when any evidence may even remotely point to Dexter it is just brushed off as crazy talk. One of my biggest complaints was the blood slide that LaGuerta found at the church in the season seven premiere. This blood slide with Travis Marshall’s blood on it was found years after the Bay Harbor Butcher’s killings. These blood slides was a trait of the killer and was a detail that was never released outside of Miami Metro, thus it is impossible for any copycats outside of Miami Metro. In other words, there is a chance that the BHB is still out there. Sure it is not necessarily Dexter but this means the BHB may not be Doakes. Even though this slide sparked LaGuerta’s doubts, when Matthews finds other possible evidence that the BHB is not Dexter this detail is never brought up again. Is this just a detail the writers decided to gloss over once they realized they had no idea what to do with it?

In the end it does not matter because ever since Dexter explored his own crimes back in season two we will probably never have the blame back on Dexter until the last episode of the series which may be many, many years ahead of us (thanks to last Sunday’s ratings). It is almost like not being able to find out who the mother is on How I Met Your Mother except here we know exactly who Dexter is and we are dying for someone at Miami Metro to open their eyes and realize who he is too.


Immediately following Dexter on Sunday night is Homeland. Now before I dissect this brilliant show I do like how they ended season two. However there were many points this season that I was worried they make have took many leaps in what the audience can believe. Season one was a solid season that climaxed with “Marine One” saying once and for all what side Brody was on. As season two started I loved the first few episodes where Saul and later David Estes figured out that Carrie was not so crazy with her beliefs about Brody. Don’t get me wrong she is still crazy but as Saul said in the season two finale she is the “smartest and the dumbest person” we all know.

However once Carrie breaks her undercover work and they apprehend Brody at the end of “New Car Smell” it was as though somebody took the car from the writers, pressed hard on the gas, turned up Neon Trees’ Everybody Talks, and did not look back to see the people they may hit along the way. Instead of letting the audience stalk Brody for awhile and wonder what side he is on now, the show tried to give us surprises every episode. These include almost killing a U.S. Congressman and possible Vice Presidential candidate in the back of a limo or how the Vice President’s pacemaker can easily be accessed by a serial number which can be found just by sneaking around the VP’s house. (There is not one camera or microphone anywhere in that house?)


While I was still excited to tune in every week it reminded me a lot of the show 24 which actually had Homeland’s creators’ Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa on staff. Now this is not necessarily a bad comparison. I enjoyed the first few seasons of 24 myself and how crazy it was to find a mole inside an intelligence organization (even if it did feel like there was a mole every season). But The A.V. Club's Todd VanDerWerff said it best in his Homeland "Broken Hearts" review. By saying Homeland is acting like 24, people are “not bashing 24, which was a good show, but [it was] a very different kind of show.” Different is right. For me to believe there was a POW that was turned against his country did not take much disbelief for me for a television show, but after the events mid way this season I had to suspend my disbelief even more than I should for this "realistic" universe Gordon and Gansa created.

Though it created interesting television what worries me is it becoming 24, a show that had to rely on crazy tricks and reveals when it got into later seasons. Did we have to cover so much ground in season two that the only thing that seemed possible for the show was for it to “clean house” and kill Brody so they can start working on other terrorist plots? No. We had the time to kill (just ask Dexter) but it is clear sometimes we can just get too excited and rush through storylines like we have barrels full of them (Glee season one I am looking at you next!) Let’s just hope that these next few seasons of Dexter and Homeland (hopefully just one more for the former) don’t leave too much of a mess on any of the show runners or writers' hands. If not, they may just be mumbling how “they blue themselves” too early.

Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below in the comments or send me a tweet @eastwoodmcfly.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

TV Catch-Up: Survivor Philippines: Fate of the Final Four

image courtesy of survivoroz
ML- We have our final four! I think this is one of the best final fours in recent memory. It's also the final four I predicted back at the merge! Here's a note: If they focus on a final four/three pact positively, they most likely make it to the end (stretching back to Tagi, Colby/Tina/Keith, Boran, V/Neleh/Kathy/Pappy/Sean, Chuay Ghan, Romber, Aitu, Todd/Amanda, Black Widow Brigade, JT/Stephen, Foa Foa Foursome, Boston Rob + The Rob Zombies, Upolu, Kim/Chelsea). Alliances shown negatively can generally be deciphered by their music cues- think about the Four Horsemen of FIji or even Yau/Penner/Ami/Eliza in Micronesia. Flourishing music - endgame, sporadic frumpy tones = bumbling idiots filling up the jury. Anyway, I'd say everyone has a decent shot of swaying enough jurors with the right Final Tribal speech. But what should each person say to make his/her case?

The jury so far consists of RC, Jeff Kent, Artis, Pete, Penner, Carter and now Abi-Maria. That's 4 former Tandang members and 3 former Kalabal, with at least one more to join. According to Dalton Ross at Entertainment Weekly, there's only one more person joining the jury and a Final 3. That's surprising, as only two seasons out of the past 24 have done that: Australia, which added 3 extra days, and China, for reasons I don't remember. That being said, it's not unprecedented.

One school of thought is that there was too much story to tell that they decided to split things up differently in editing. Or, perhaps something happens at Final 4 that takes a bit of time. It would make sense for there to be a tie vote, seeing as how its 2 Tandang vs. 2 Matsing left, and a fire-making challenge would be an epic precursor to the finale. Please, Survivor gods, let Skupin be subjected to a fire-making challenge AND WIN. That would be such poetic justice, the man finally conquering fire that took him out of the game over 10 years ago.

As a metric for determining who has the best chances, I'll rank the likelihood of each juror voting for each contestant if he/she makes it to the final 3. If its the person a juror is most likely to vote for, that person gets a 4, while least likely gets a 1. Make sense? Let's start with Skupin.


image courtesy of survivor fever.net
Mike Skupin is a returning player, and all we've seen this season is animosity towards returning players. On his tribe, he's been regarded most positively by RC, the first juror. He's also gotten positivity from Lisa and Penner, but the favor with the latter man seems to have turned. Contestants in the opposing Tandang faction of Abi-Maria, Artis and Pete have all spoke ill of him, especially Abi last night calling him an idiot and a moron. Survivor doesn't like to show us winners who are stupid, unless it's funny like Fabio. Fabio even got confessionals where he alluded to his goofiness being a ploy to lay low in the game. Skupin is getting a redemption story, but one that seems more personally satisfying than indicative of Survivor glory.

RC: 4 (Loves Skupin)
Jeff Kent: 1 (Hates returning players)
Artis: 1 (Hates Skupin, according to post-show interviews)
Pete: 1 (Bitter against Skupin/Lisa)
Penner: 2 (Betrayed by Skupin, may respect his game)
Carter: 1 (Bitter against Skupin/Lisa)
Abi-Maria: 2 (Called him and idiot and a moron)
Juror Tally: 12

What he needs to stress in his final speech:
-Despite the target on returning players, he made it to the Final 3.
-Survival experience benefitted Tandang tribe, who never went to Tribal pre-merge
-Underdog in his alliance, made moves to better his position

Things he should avoid:
-Holier-than-thou attitude. Don't call Pete, Abi or Artis "bad people", even though they were.
-The reward challenge where he made the rice trade. While arguably a good move, it pissed off all of his tribe mates.
-"Need". Skupin has a big family but is well-off.

Prediction: He'll only win if he: stays humble, pledges allegiance to Tandang yellow, owns his moves as self-preservation and is sitting next to both Malcolm and Denise. He needs Lisa on the jury to help garner favor for him, which probably isn't a likely outcome. With so much contempt for him and his gameplay, I don't think he'll be able to persuade any haters.

image courtesy of survivor dean
Malcolm is charismatic, athletic and a fan of the show. Mike and Lisa's decision to keep Denise in an attempt to beat Malcolm was terribly risky. On one hand, she definitely has a better shot of defeating Malcolm. But that also guarantees at least one of the original Matsing members is in the Final 3, if not both of them. Wouldn't you rather take your chances up against Malcolm knowing you'd have a better shot at Final 3 vs. Abi? Everyone is worried about Malcolm, as they should be. His edit has been very positive but not stellar. He comes off as cocky, something very few winners are shown as -- mainly the villainous ones like Hatch and Heidik, and Malcolm is no villain. His decision to turn on Denise could come back to bite him if word gets back to her that he was wishy-washy.

RC: 2 (Would more likely vote Skupin or Lisa, her Tandang brethren)
Kent: 3 (Physical threat, but he spent more time with Denise)
Artis: 4 (Not voting for Skupin, probably respects physicality)
Pete: 4 (More bitter towards Skupin/Lisa, probably respects physicality)
Penner: 1 (Did you see him flip off Malcolm at TC?)
Carter: 4 (Betrayed by Skupin/Lisa)
Abi-Maria:4 (I'd like to put definite, but nobody knows where Abi's head will be at. Her voting Skupin doesn't make sense and she hates Denise. It's either Lisa or Malcolm)
Juror Tally: 22

What he needs to stress in his final speech:
-So far, he's won the most immunities. The past 4 winners have all been the person to go into Final Tribal with the most Immunity Challenges under their belt (overall, the person in the FTC who won the most ICs has won the game 12 times and lost 11. In Panama, Aras and Danielle each had 1 IC win). Skupin/Denise could still possibly tie him. (Another fun fact- the final IC winner has only won the game 10/24 times, 4 of those being the last 4 winners Kim, Sophie, Rob and Fabio).
-Super underdog. He was on a sinking ship at Matsing, made it to Tandang and proved himself physically adept.
-Found HII and never had to play it
-Work his charm

Prediction: If he makes the Final Tribal Council he's a force to be reckoned with. However, he's not getting the hero edit most young male winners get. If he wins, he's being shown more like Aras, which was an anomaly because of bigger characters Cirie and Terry. My guess is Lisa's plan to keep Denise to defeat Malcolm will pay off and he'll head to the jury. If I'm wrong, he wins it all.

image courtesy of thegazette.com
Denise is the biggest underdog in the game. She's been to every Tribal Council of the season, yet she hasn't been edited as a cancer bringing the team down. Instead, her regard has been almost unanimously positive, except from Abi-Maria, the villain. It's unfortunate that her edit has been centered around just Abi bashing the past few weeks, as a well-rounded winner needs more oomph. Then again, Coach had all the oomph and Sophie pulled out the win.

RC: 1 (I don't remember any interaction between the two, she'd vote Mike/Malcolm first)
Kent: 4 (Only member of the Final Four he aligned with & spoke highly of)
Artis: 3 (Bitter against Skupin/Lisa)
Pete: 3 (Bitter against Skupin/Lisa)
Penner: 3 (Aligned with her on Kalabaw)
Carter: 3 (Aligned with her on Kalabaw)
Abi-Maria: 1 (Rivalry with Denise)
Juror Tally: 18

What she needs to stress in her final speech:
-Went to EVERY TRIBAL COUNCIL and emerged unscathed.
-Loves to bring out Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. She's done all 3 very well
-Very articulate and concise when it comes to feelings, can probably use that to sway folks
-Loyalty
-Need of the $$

I think Denise has a great shot at winning, even against Malcolm. She is well-spoken and needs to emphasize her story. Play on the bitterness of the Tandang and appeal to the Kalabaw. Her edit, like Malcolm's, leaves me with some concern. They're both being overshadowed by someone, who doesn't deserve the win but may just eek it out.

image courtesy of haveuheard.net
Lisa. She's gotten so much focus in this game. Is she merely a great narrator on a personal journey, or can this woman, who has proclaimed over and over again how bad she is at this game, really win?

RC: 3 (Close with Skupin/Lisa)
Kent: 2 (She didn't flip on him but they weren't allies)
Artis: 2 (Tandang loyalty but in opposite alliances)
Pete: 2 (Tandang loyalty but in opposite alliances)
Penner: 4 (Shown connecting with her the most. I think he will win this or lose this for her, like Erik did to Natalie in Samoa)
Carter: 2 (Still betrayed)
Abi-Maria: 3 (Always placated by Lisa)
Juror Tally: 18

She's tied with Denise, making the ranking:
Malcolm 22
Denise/Lisa 18
Skupin 12

Which seems about right. Malcolm should win, but his edit isn't a runaway so I don't think he will. Skupin won't win, and we know that because everyone keeps saying that. So Denise and Lisa are evenly matched. Lisa has the editors on her side. She's been shown coming around to the game, especially with the help of her brother, Justice, who needs to be on my dream Family season (the cast of which I'll post below, for those interested).

As bitter as people are, I think Lisa will sway them. She did a great job of mentioning Tandang's winning streak, pleasing Pete and Artis. Previously, I thought she'd get 4th place with a Holly Hoffman redemption edit, but this seems bigger than that.

My biggest problem is that she hasn't made any moves. She's talked a big game but done nothing. She never had to vote until the merge. It was Michael who jumped at the opportunity to drop Artis, not her. She's screwed up with Malcolm's idol and shouldn't have told Penner he was going. Her post-Justice plan to axe Malcolm also didn't pan out over the course of two weeks. She should be getting torn apart by the jury, but the edit is treating her as if simply trying is good enough in Survivor. Its not.

My gut tells me Denise will win. The editing points to Lisa. The stats at this point say Malcolm has the best chance, but it's not a runaway and he needs that Immunity. I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see how this all shakes out. Who do you think will score the most jury votes and enter the Survivor winner's circle? Who will win Fan Favorite? My guess -- Malcolm. And how many people will get asked 0 questions at the finale? I'm thinking Roxy, Katie, Artis and Carter are all getting the shaft.

Leave some love below! Follow me on Twitter @miketvladue where I'll be live-tweeting the finale this Sunday at 8:00 EST! Check back next week, where I'll probably be trying to rationalize a Mike Skupin win. I'll also give an updated ranking of the winners and probably make a bunch of references to seasons you don't remember. It'll be a blast! Thanks for reading, happy finale!!

12/12/12 Episode grade: B+
Episode MVP: Malcolm

~Survivor: Family Edition Dream Cast~
1. Greg Buis' Sister, who left the creepy video message
2. Colby's Mom Gaye, who slept in the Aztek with him
3. Big Tom's son Bucky Bo, the craziest kid around
4. Kathy's son Patrick, who was just so apathetic about everything Survivor
5. Brian's stripper wife, because why not
6. Fairplay's friend Thunder D, because "she died, dude"
7. Rupert's wife Laura, because she got slobbery kisses all over her
8. Jenn's sister, because it would mean something
9. Shane's son Boston Powers, because he's probably old enough
10. Cirie's husband Honey Bunny, because she wouldn't marry a dud, right?
11. Terry's wife, because she seemed like a gamebot
12. Russell's wife Melanie, because who could marry him?
13. Amanda's sister, because she made all the bird calls
14. Matty's girlfriend, because she got proposed to
15. Taj's husband Eddie George, because famous
16. Colby's brother Reid, because COME ON, REID!!!
17. Fabio's mom, because Dayum
18. Kat's cousin Robby, because he was super weird
19. Lisa's brother Justice, because he rocked
20. Coach's assistant Coach, because WTF



Monday, December 10, 2012

TV Catch-Up: Homeland: How Will Season 2 End?

photo courtesy of screencrush.com

ML- To preface, many apologies for the overall lack of effort on my part in staying up-to-date with reviews. Just returned home from a whirlwind semester in Los Angeles and had barely had time to watch all my TV, let alone organize my thoughts.

A lot has happened since I last blogged about the show. Six episodes, to be exact, have aired, and over the course of that time I've noticed the critical response to the show pull a near-180. A major complaint has been that the manic pacing and plot twists galore have worsened the show, rendering it more familiar to Howard Gordon/Alex Gansa's last hit, 24. From what I've heard 24 is a good show, but not the example of high art the Homeland proved it could be with tight, concise storytelling and well-developed characters last season. Instead, 24 took more liberties with believability and danced with absurdity too often, until it became Kiefer Sutherland running around shooting people and yelling "dammit!"

Right now, I'm afraid Homeland could become Claire Danes running back into places she absolutely should not run into and yelling "fuck!", because this is pay cable, after all. When she went back for the bag containing Brody's confession video in Lebanon, I complained that it stretched my suspension of disbelief. It turns out, that was to set a precedent of Carrie going back when everything otherwise says bail, as she did with Nazir in the mill. I'm frustrated that both times ended up paying off for her, as there was no sense of real accomplishment when she succeeded this time.

I guess that's not true and I can't go that far. Carrie got Nazir, her white whale. I'm disappointed the extent of their scenes together was limited to her emotional torture last week and a poorly-lit battle before his death. Carrie was obsessed with this man -- like enough to construct color-coded timelines and travel the globe hunting for clues to his whereabouts. Seeing her over his dead body didn't feel like a victory because in many ways, to Carrie, it wasn't. What happens to you when you're stripped of the thing you care most passionately about? You have to move on and fill that void with something new.

Which brings us to Brody. Brody loved Nazir like a father, we can assume, and Damian Lewis did a great job of glazing himself over in the subsequent scenes. I loved his mini-breakdown once he found out about Nazir's death. I also loved his near-confession to Jess in the car, and I loved how she stopped him from saying it, because she already knew. I'm worried what implications this has for Jess and the Brody family in the future -- but I'll get to predictions later.

Saul had a great episode too, sticking it to the man by giving the most entertaining polygraph outside of daytime TV. "Do people call you The Bear?" "I sure fucking hope not." Estes realized Saul knows too much and is canning him, but hopefully Saul is about to get all grizzly on some bitches to stay around. I'm glad the writers found a way to include him more in the action this season by adding him to the Quinn story, and Patinkin always nails what he's given.

Speaking of Peter Quinn (not his real name, as we've learned), I like him. I think we're supposed to like him. Sure, he's been plotting to kill off everyone's favorite anti-hero (or is it protaga-villain?) but he's made an impact in only a handful of episodes, a real unpredictable jolt to the storytelling. When he nearly shot Brody in the limo I finally grasped what a badass dude he is.

What is Estes' main goal using Quinn to off Brody? Can't merely be in the name of national security, as Estes has been shown as much more selfish than that. With Walden now dead (in a questionable scene that actually featured the line "I'm killing you!") Estes is going to be trying to find a way to profit off of the late veep's misfortune. Try to parlay this conquest into political credit? Makes the most sense, but there could be something deeper.

Oh, right, Dana. Ugh at the entire hit-and-run story that has taken things NOWHERE, considering Walden is now dead so boyfriend will probably be out of the picture. It was just killing time, wasn't it? I would have rather watched Chris and Brody play Hearts. At least that would have given him something to do!


photo courtesy of IGN.com

So, how does this clusterfuck of a season end? I've got some predictions, formulated by myself and my similarly Homeland-obsessed mother who has a knack for predicting season finales. To me, what we came up with makes perfect sense. Is that what the writers are going for? Sense? Or shock? We'll see:

When Quinn looked in on Carrie and Brody he didn't have the face of a heartless killer. He was torn, finally giving a damn about his cohort and her emotional struggles with a "terrorist". He knows that if he kills Brody, he's killing Carrie, too. Does he really want to ruin her life? No, he doesn't. He won't end up going through with the kill. And maybe, he'll report to a higher-up that Estes ordered a hit on a congressman, ruining his career or at least forcing him to step down. Best man to take Estes' place? The Bear himself!

We'll get a flashback to Brody's mysterious 12 hours with Abu Nazir and discover a shocking revelation: everything is going to plan. Brody knew Carrie would be kidnapped, and he would only kill Walden under the circumstance she knew his alibi. That way, she can attest he did it for her. Nazir himself knew he'd be killed, and sacrificed himself so that everyone's guard would be lowered. Carrie said it herself -- Nazir doesn't care about people dying along the way. The greatest trick Nazir will ever pull is convincing the world he's gone, when really, his disciple is all the more hell-bent on terrorism.

Brody's conflict last season, the reason why he didn't set off the bomb, was his love for Issa conflicting with his love for Dana, Chris and Jess. Now, he doesn't have to worry about them. They're better off without him. He let them go, and now there's nothing holding him back from getting revenge.

But what is his revenge act? This, I don't know. Walden is dead. The only other person we know who collaborated with Walden is Estes. Is he in Brody's crosshairs? Or could it be Carrie? I highly doubt he actually loves her like he claims he does. The man who destroyed his one love, Issa, is gone; is he going after the woman who destroyed his family? So many questions.

The last question: Will Brody die? I think he will. The Brody story has run its course. Everyone and their mother knows what he was planning to do. His political career is dead, as is his mentor. And how many times can he and Carrie break up/get back together before this becomes one of the bad relationships on Glee?

So Brody dies. Jess, Dana and Chris will get a final scene with Mike comforting them, establishing his role as rightful caretaker. Carrie is traumatized, only giving her more verve to hunt down these terrorists. The only downside to Brody's death would be the loss of Damian Lewis from the show (and, I suppose, Morena Baccarin).

Once he dies, the show is free to pick up on a new tangent. Start over, basically, with a new big bad in a new location and return to the pacing of season 1. Maybe establish a pattern, as if every 2 seasons a major story is dealt with and completed? If The Killing had said upfront Rosie's murder would be solved by the end of season 2, I might have stuck around.

Whether he lives or dies, this season of Homeland, for me, will be remembered fondly for the risks the show took. Did it get outlandish, unbelievable and sometimes stupid? Yes, but it was fun, and the acting was amazing, and there were moments of brilliance sprinkled within every episode. I think The Walking Dead is doing almost the same thing this season, except with worse acting and less fun and brilliance but also zombies. As long as the Homeland writers don't turn into zombies and start churning out crap for the sake of cheap thrills and water-cooler WTFs, I'd say the show will continue to find success.

Share your predictions below so you can rub it in my face when you're right and I'm wrong!

Catch-Up Episode Grades:
2x06: B
2x07: B+
2x08: B+
2x09: A-
2x10: B+

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Damian Lewis
Original Airdate: 12/09/2012