<p>Monday's &quot;The Following&quot;</p>

Monday's "The Following"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The Following' - 'Let Me Go'

Carroll tries to get a new home, while Emma and Joey make creepy new friends
So, Joe Carroll is really good at the game he's playing.
 
I am not typically hung up on issues of plausibility in television, but this seems to me to be a particularly convoluted episode of "The Following" -- if also one that became again truly scary, from time to time. Joe's reach, and the power of his cult, apparently knows no bounds. In "Let Me Go" they manage to coerce the prison warden of a maximum security prison into releasing Joe, who shifts from uniformed prisoner to suited murderer in the span of a few moments. He makes short work of his lawyer Olivia, killing her in her own car after she transports him to safety, before running into a mall, rendezvousing with two of his compatriots, and escaping off the roof in a helicopter.
 
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Kevin Hart and Jason Sudeikis on "Saturday Night Live"

Kevin Hart and Jason Sudeikis on "Saturday Night Live"

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Kevin Hart and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

The comedy veteran hosts the show for the first time.

After a two-week hiatus following its strongest episode of the season, “Saturday Night Live” is back with host Kevin Hart. I’ve seen Hart in "Undeclared" as well as in supporting roles in several films, but won’t pretend to be anything remotely related to an expert on his stand-up career. So I’m coming into tonight’s episode with a relatively blank slate. Anything is possible when it comes to this installment, so far as I’m concerned. And that’s a good thing, so near as I can tell. Sometimes the hype can be too much (as will undoubtedly be the case when Justin Timberlake hosts next week), and sometimes negative preconceptions can cripple an episode before it even starts (paging Justin Bieber, who lived down to that hype). 

Tonight? I’m ready to roll with whatever the show has ready to offer. Along for the ride is musical guests Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who will obviously be playing deep cuts from their album “The Heist” and in no way will play “Thrift Store” in either slot. Nope. No way, no how. Oh, who are we kidding? They will probably play it twice, and it will be f#$^ing awesome both times. In five years (or, more likely, five weeks), we’ll look back and wonder why we suddenly all lost our minds and agreed to like this song. But for now, let’s just accept the fact that if we see a broken keyboard, we’re probably going to buy that broken keyboard.
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<p>Natalie Zea on Monday's &quot;The Following&quot;</p>

Natalie Zea on Monday's "The Following"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The Following' - 'The Fall'

Ryan is really interested in the Threesome, while Claire finds a fan
Last week's cliffhanger starts this week's "The Following," in which Ryan unwittingly makes himself the centerpiece of a hostage situation. It's a tense episode that demonstrates a bit of a tonal shift for the show—one that moves a little bit away from Ryan's internal dramas and instead focuses on him as a hero. That's great, because it lets some of the other characters' narratives take up space for a change. Here's the good, bad, and meh:
 
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<p>James Purefoy of &quot;The Following&quot;</p>

James Purefoy of "The Following"

Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX

Recap: 'The Following' - 'The Siege'

Carroll sends a Poe-based message through his old lawyer
The Following is exhaustingly dark, is it not?
 
This week’s episode “Siege” goes in a lot of directions. A few of those angles stick. Others don’t have the emotional impact that you might expect from so much blood and gore. By far the most powerful moment is at the very end, and the story is a little muddled getting all the way there.
 
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Christoph Waltz and Fred Armisen on "Saturday Night Live"

Christoph Waltz and Fred Armisen on "Saturday Night Live"

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Christoph Waltz and Alabama Shakes

How will the "Django Unchained" star fare in Studio 8H?

Let’s face it, “Saturday Night Live” fans: 2013 hasn’t been kind to the show. We’ve had three not-really-that-good-at-all shows thus far, with the pieces never really coming together to produce a solid, nevermind stand-out, episode. Will Christoph Waltz be the unlikely savior? I say “unlikely” not because he isn’t talented, but because I’m sure there are a lot of people tuning in tonight. Those reading this recap will probably know of his recent roles in “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained”, but the average viewer more familiar with the oeuvre of last week’s host Justin Bieber? Hard to say.

 
Then again, the idea of choosing a host based on skill rather than fame is one I applaud. In every major role in an American film (yes, even including “The Green Hornet”), Waltz has brought a comedic edge to his intense performances. For him to end up a great host wouldn’t surprise me in the least, just as it wouldn’t surprise me to see musical guests Alabama Shakes tear the roof off of Studio 8H when they perform tonight. The law of averages states we’re in for a good show tonight. Then again, maybe “SNL” will just troll me and have Waltz play a character named “Ryan” in the latest installment of “The Californians”.
 
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<p>Kevin Bacon on &nbsp;Monday's &quot;The Following&quot;</p>

Kevin Bacon on  Monday's "The Following"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The Following' - 'Mad Love'

Jacob admits a secret, while the cult strikes close to Ryan
"Mad Love" doesn’t advance any plotlines significantly, which feels a little frustrating after three episodes that are essentially action-packed. Instead we are immersed into backstory for most of the episode, and though we do learn some interesting information about Ryan’s family--and his fraught relationship with Claire--overall the episode feels stagnant, with none of the pulp and gore that drove last week’s "Poet’s Fire." That’s fine, and it’s somewhat interesting in terms of building character, but this is not going to be anyone’s favorite episode of the show. The wacky stuff gets pushed to the outskirts, to the murder-cult house with little Joey, while Ryan’s storyline takes on pretty normal dramatic strokes. The tonal shift is frankly kind of confusing after three episodes of crazy.
 
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Justin Bieber and Kenan Thompson on 'Saturday Night Live'

Justin Bieber and Kenan Thompson on 'Saturday Night Live'

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Justin Bieber

Does the teen pop heartthrob have what it takes to host 'SNL'?

This is going to be terrible. Unless it’s awesome. Then again, it could be mediocre. 

Look, there’s an intense amount of hype about tonight’s Justin Bieber-hosted “Saturday Night Live”. But predicting the overall quality based on any host is a fool’s game. We’ve seen sure-fire selections fizzle under the lights of live television, and those that seemed destined for failure rise up and exceed expectations. The metrics that went into select Bieber himself may be suspect (come on, this is about ratings above all else), but there’s no reason to think this will be any better or worse than anything else we’ve seen thus far this season.
 
Indications that Bieber will or will not be a good host should be evident early on. Does the show bust out a host of other celebrities to surround/protect him? Will Bieber play himself in the majority of the sketches? Will he be OK with putting his carefully calibrated image upon the comedic chopping block? Ultimately, this isn’t really about Bieber being a good host so much as a game one. So long as he’s one or the other, it’s a success for him. The success for “SNL” will be putting forth its first good episode of 2013. That somewhat rests of Bieber’s shoulders, but more on the strength of the sketches themselves.
 
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<p>Monday's &quot;The Following&quot;</p>

Monday's "The Following"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The Following' - 'The Poet's Fire'

Amidst flashbacks, things get tense for the kidnapping trio
This is such a traumatic show.
 
Tonight's episode features a sexual-assault-turned-kidnapping, a suicide by gauze, three murders, oh and the continued presence of a killer cult that seems to worship death. Awesome! Ginger, get the popcorn.
 
One of the most intriguing elements of "The Following" is its pacing. This is a show that feels like a movie thriller. Twists and turns happen so fast that you get the idea the writers absolutely do know where this sick game is ending. That's rare enough, on network television, that seeing it play out is engaging. It's thrilling and horrifying at every turn, and even if those thrills aren't the most cerebral, I find myself strangely enthralled by what I'm watching.
 
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<p>Bobby Moynihan and Adam Levine</p>

Bobby Moynihan and Adam Levine

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Adam Levine And Kendrick Lamar

How did the Maroon 5 singer/"The Voice" coach fare in sketch comedy?

Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night! Also live from New York? Me! I’m here working on some upcoming projects, but I’m still reporting for duty (albeit with frigid fingers) here in the City That Never Sleeps. On deck tonight: host Adam “Moves Like Jagger” Levine and musical guest Kendrick Lamar. Levine was a semi-controversial choice as host in some circles, but if Bruno Mars taught us anything this year, it’s that someone used to performing in front of live audiences often is a great choice to host “SNL”. Levine’s musical persona is fairly cocky, so let’s see how much he pokes fun at himself tonight. My expectations aren’t terrifically on that front, but who knows? (My expectations for at least two of the three other coaches from “The Voice” to appear tonight? Exponentially higher.)

 
Since I’m not at home, we’ll forgo the liveblog in favor of a running diary posted once the episode ends. But as always, I’ll be offering up grades for each segment that will be used against me in a court of law at a date to be named later.
 
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Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Lawrence

Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Lawrence

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Jennifer Lawrence and The Lumineers

What will be deadlier: the arena from "The Hunger Games" or Studio 8H?

After over a month off, “Saturday Night Live” is back with recent Golden Globes winner Jennifer Lawrence as 2013’s first host. That month hopefully recharged the batteries of all involved in this show. In greater likelihood, it gave the writers the opportunity to craft the longest version of “The Californians” in history. Along for the ride tonight is musical act The Lumineers, whose song “Ho Hey” I heard no less than five times in my car today. It’s possible that I’ve been incepted by the neo-folk pop music scene, is all I’m saying.

Let’s keep track of that throughout tonight’s proceedings. As always, I’ll be live blogging the show, giving grades to each individual sketch along the way. As always, you’ll take any difference of opinion from your own as a slight that can be only answered via a pistol duel at dawn. Why should 2013 be any different from 2012?
 
Come back starting at 11:30 p.m. EST, and we’ll get this party started.
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