Charlie Hunnam on 'Sons of Anarchy'

Need someone to blame, Jax? Look in the mirror.

Credit: FX

'Sons of Anarchy' recap: 'Darthy'

Someone needs to give Jax a time-out

I'm kinda glad there's only one more episode of "Sons of Anarchy" left this season because I need a break. Not a break from the show, necessarily, but definitely a break from Jax Teller.

I've had enough of his smug self-serving schemes, spoiled child-like tantrums, and stubborn refusal to do anything about the constant threat that hangs over the head of everyone he supposedly loves as long as he remains in SAMCRO.

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The Top 8 with Carson Daly.
Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Tuesday - Top 8 Results

Two more are sent home after tonight's results show.

 

It’s time for another elimination episode of “The Voice”, or, as I like to call it, the “Carson Daly Puts Hopefuls Through The Weekly Emotional Ringer” episode. Last week’s unintentional fake-out for Sylvia Yacoub might have been the most awkward moment of the season that didn’t involve the one-hit wonder Cupid, so let’s hope the producers of this show have coached Daly on how NOT to impart information tonight.
 
Two are going home tonight, and last night I predicted those two would be Dez Duron and Terry McDermott. Cassadee Pope and Melanie Martinez enter the episode both still charting in the iTunes Top 10, so mathematically they are all but shoo-ins to continue. (Nicholas David was there for a while, but isn’t there now, which means he’s not eligible for the voting bonus that entails.) We’ll see how this play out over the next hour. Let’s do this, running dairy style. It’s like gangnam style, only with more of a cultural shelf life. 
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<p>Terry McDermott of &quot;The Voice&quot;.</p>

Terry McDermott of "The Voice".

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Monday - Top 8 Perform

The Elite Eight compete for America's vote.

Eight contestants and eight episodes. That’s all that’s left of this cycle of “The Voice”. Without knowing the exact numbers of how the viewing public has voted, it’s impossible to say who is in the driver’s seat at this point. Going off downloads alone, Cassadee Pope and Melanie Martinez seem primed to go deep into the competition. But who knows if people responded to the artists or the simply the songs they performed last week. Guess we’ll have a clearer sense of things after tomorrow night and two more contestants go home.

As always, I’ll be keeping a running diary of the events. I’ll keep things focused on the actual competition and less on any 50 Cent action that might be on display tonight. After all, nothing says “The Voice” like the man who gave us “In Da Club”, right? I understand artists want to use the show’s platform, and I further understand that the show is in a mutually beneficially relationship with those artists. But couldn’t those artists, I don’t know…sing? It seems like a lot to ask, I know. In any case, let’s get this show on the road!
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Kevin McHale and Cory Monteith on "Glee"

Kevin McHale and Cory Monteith on "Glee"

Credit: Fox

'Glee' recap: 'Dynamic Duets'

Not really a Thanksgiving episode, just an episode that airs on Thanksgiving

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'll restrict this week's recap to the things I enjoyed about "Dynamic Duets."

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<p>Abi pouts in &quot;Survivor:&nbsp;Philippines.&quot;</p>

Abi pouts in "Survivor: Philippines."

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Philippines' - 'Whiners are Wieners'

As power shifts in the game, interpersonal dynamics move front and center

Survivor”’s decision to air a new episode on the night before Thanksgiving is an interesting one. While the show has historically chosen to feature a special “recap” episode at this point in the season, the shift to Wednesday has made it possible for them to more safely air a new hour of television during the holidays.

On the one hand, the decision could reflect a desire to maintain the momentum of what has been a really terrific season, one that has me far more invested in the show than at any point in recent years (where I rarely got through an entire season). However, more cynically, one wonders if this episode is airing tonight in part because the result is inevitable. With the numbers shifting last week as a result of Skupin’s change of heart regarding the original Tandang, the surprise factor seems low, and Pete and Abi seem like they’re on their way out.

Could they be airing “Whiners and Wieners” because it reaches an inevitable conclusion, and those who choose to skip the episode won’t miss much when they return from their holiday next week and discover that all has gone according to expectation? Or are they hoping it’s so enthralling that “Survivor” will be all people can talk about at Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow?

Click through for the full recap to find out…

Pre-credit sequence. When the tribe returns to their camp, Abi feels bad for Artis, and thinks they need another game plan. They fell asleep at the wheel, Pete says, and Abi doesn’t understand how it went down. She seems incredulous to the fact that someone might think “Keeping Tandang Strong” isn’t actually a useful strategy.

For the other side, it’s about finding a way to ensure that Pete and Abi go home before they do. Indeed, Skupin and Denise lay out a very basic plan: Abi and Pete are eliminated, and then the final six duke it out from there. It’s an ideal strategy for Malcolm and Denise (who are more closely aligned than some of the players seem to realize), and would probably work out well for a player like Carter (who, despite being incapable of completing a sentence, is very willing to follow a leader like Penner deep into the game). The credits roll with Skupin promising he has big plans for playing this game.

Breaking up is hard to do (even when she disrespects you at every turn). When they return from commercial, though, Lisa isn’t exactly sure she wants to be part of this six. Indeed, she’s sitting on the beach explaining to Abi that she has never wavered from their alliance. Effectively, Lisa sees this as a breakup, and she’s terrible at getting out of relationships. She’s lost her trust in them, and she finds them to be horrible people, and yet she just can’t quit them. Abi is trying to sell her on being at the top of an alliance—that’s a clear minority—but Lisa would rather be able to sleep at night. For her, aligning with the other five will better her time on “Survivor” and the rest of the life. It’s a bold statement, but Lisa’s gameplay has been so rewarding in part because of how much she’s worn her heart on her sleeve. It’s an honest moment, and one that quickly disperses with any notion that Lisa might be willing to stick around with Pete and Abi. The game is now 6 on 2.

Flipping a coin is harder than it looks. The Reward Challenge, however, is 4 on 4. With a spa day on the line—which yields excitement from Malcolm upon learning he could win a chance to wash his hair—the teams compete in a game of chaos and strategy: the teams each have three large medallions in the sand (with one of each in three circles), and their task is to—as individuals in a multi-round setup—flip your team’s medallions onto their proper side while also flipping back those from the other team. It’s the Red Team (Abi, Carter, Malcolm and Pete) against the Yellow Team (Skupin, Lisa, Penner, and Denise), which is very much divided along age lines. Unfortunately for the older team, this really is a game of speed: although Penner is great at strategizing in these kinds of challenges—think back to last week’s reward—Carter is simply faster, winning the first point based purely on foot speed between medallions.

However, as the next two rounds reveals, this is also a game that requires you to understand how it works. Despite Carter’s dead-eyed existence, it’s Malcolm and Abi who makes the mistakes: Malcolm forgets to flip the Yellow team’s medallion back over (giving Skupin an easy chance to get a point), while Abi proves why she’s sat out the majority of challenges when she flips over Lisa’s third medallion for her (“No, not really,” she says when Jeff asks her if she gets what is happening). Malcolm’s mental lapse and Abi’s fundamental misunderstanding of the game at hand give the Yellow team a lead until Pete outraces Denise to set up a rematch between Malcolm and Skupin in which Skupin “Pulls an Abi” and flips over the Red tile. With that, the young win a spa getaway, and the narrative shifts from naiveté to senility (if one can honestly make such a narrative as a group of incredibly tired people in extenuating circumstances race around flipping stuff in the sand).

Jimmy Smits on 'Sons of Anarchy'

Jimmy Smits in full-on badass mode on "Sons of Anarchy"

Credit: FX

'Sons of Anarchy' recap: 'To Thine Own Self'

So much revenge, so little time

I'm never really sure if the neverending cycle of revenge and retaliation on "Sons of Anarchy" is a legitimate thematic concern the show wants to explore, or just another example of its repetitive storytelling.

Assuming the goal is the former, "To Thine Own Self" is a strong -- at times even rich -- piece of work. Here's an episode that tackles the darkside of retaliation in two interesting ways only marginally related to the core cast, and one that gets to the very heart of the show's long term arc.

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Trevin Hunte

Trevin Hunte performs on "The Voice".

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Tuesday - Top 10 Results

Which two did America eliminate?

 

After a stellar episode last night, it’s time for America to send two more contestants off of “The Voice”. Last night, I predicted Sylvia Yacoub and Cody Belew would go home, but it’s really a toss-up at this point. Even if the journey to this point has been overcrowded and sometimes confusing, it’s hard to argue with the talent on display at this point in the show. I worry that this means the next cycle will yield teams of 24, but let’s worry about that in 2013. For now, let’s get through tonight’s padded results episode.
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"The Voice"

Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton perform tonight on "The Voice".

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Monday - Top 10 Perform

The Top 10 help the show deliver the strongest episode of the season.

 

We’re down to ten finalists on “The Voice”, with all contestants singing tonight to avoid being in the bottom two. I’m assuming this pattern will hold until we’re in the Final Four, but it’s also possible that NBC stretches this out until the Super Bowl. But let’s not worry about the show asymptotically approaching the finish line. Let’s see which would-be superstars make their mark this week.
 
As always, I’ll be jotting down my thoughts in running diary format. As always, Christina Aguilera will wear something that will make me question her state of mind. As always, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine will lob adorable insults at each other. And, as always, CeeLo Green will wear something that straddles the line between “fashion statement” and “visual assault”. It’s how we roll in this neck of the musical competition woods.
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"Saturday Night Live"

Jeremy Renner and Kenan Thompson.

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Jeremy Renner and Maroon 5

A mixed episode features some high points but some season lows as well.

Well, we’re probably in for one of two things tonight with Jeremy Renner hosting “Saturday Night Live”. Either we’re in for a nice surprise (fingers crossed) or a Daniel Craig-like disaster. I still say that Craig as a choice for a host was a sound one. It was only the execution that hurt the episode. Renner is known for a similar onscreen intensity as Craig, and his comedic parameters are unknown at this point. If the show steers into the curve of his intense charisma, then maybe we’ll see something fun tonight. But if we see any construction workers, start heading for the hills. Along for the ride will be musical guest Maroon 5, which is the band Adam Levine fronts when not flirting with Blake Shelton on “The Voice”.

As always, I’ll be grading each sketch as they air, with no retrospective analysis coloring my opinions. As always, you will see certain grades and attempt to shoot me with an arrow while looking in the opposite direction. Let’s get to it.
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The "Fringe" teams looks for another clue.
Credit: FOX

'Fringe' Recap - 'Five-Twenty-Ten'

The show makes things personal, even while Peter's personality starts to disappear.
One thing I’ve never gotten about the spoiler culture surrounding television is why it’s so important to know what’s going to happen before episodes air. “Spoiler culture” is a vague term, one that incorporates different things for different people. Short of simply unplugging from all forms of media, it’s extremely difficult to stay truly unaware. For instance, “Fringe” and FOX hyped up the return of Nina Sharpe tonight, removing any and all surprise that would have ensued for people just turning on tonight’s episode “Five-Twenty-Ten” without any knowledge of such casting news. The “why” was kept under wraps, and there’s the not-small matter of journeys being more important than destinations when it comes to television. But still: why strain to look ahead when there’s a great view right outside your window?
 
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