<p>Anna Torv and Lance Reddick of &quot;Fringe&quot;</p>
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Anna Torv and Lance Reddick of "Fringe"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Fringe' - 'Wallflower'

'Fringe' ends 2011 on the same note it's been playing all season
I’m going to keep this one relatively short, “Fringe” fans. By now, you know how I feel about this season of the show. Very little about those feelings have changed, because very little of the season itself has changed. The producers have gone in a direction they think benefits the show. Many of you agree. Many of you, like me, disagree. This level of disagreement used to provoke passionate anger from yours truly. But here, at the end of all episodes in 2011, I’m just sadly resigned. I stared at most of tonight’s episode, “Wallflower,” without taking my usually furious notes. Why? Because I’m watching a program that’s not just engaging me at the moment.
 
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<p>Laura of &quot;America's Next Top Model&quot;</p>
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Laura of "America's Next Top Model"

Credit: The CW

Recap: 'America's Next Top Model' - 'Exploring Greece'

Nigel Barker shoots the girls in a variety of Olympic poses
Dominique took the cheese in the Greek salad challenge, but it’s a whole new episode now, gurl. Angelea is ready to bring that fire she hasn’t seem to muster for the past three weeks. Laura knows that y’all caint have any doubt in y’alls mind, or y’all are gonna lose! And Lisa just wants Allison to go home already, because she looks, like, “dead.”
 
 Bring it on.
 
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<p>Naya Rivera takes center stage on Wednesday night's &quot;Glee&quot;</p>
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Naya Rivera takes center stage on Wednesday night's "Glee"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Glee' - 'Mash Off'

How five great minutes signal everything wrong with the show
Twitter went and had a collective aneurism during the final five minutes of tonight’s “Glee.” No one could seemingly process what they just witnessed. Here’s my insta-theory as to why that was the case: the last five minutes were solidly crafted, emotionally crippling minutes of television that pulled every layer of crap off the show and demonstrated its powerful, beating heart. It would be like going to see The Wiggles perform in concert, only to have them end the show with a crushing version of “Tears in Heaven.” I mean, how could a normal brain process such a shock to the system?
 
“Glee” really isn’t interested in the types of musical combinations on display in tonight’s episode. “Mash Off” may have been the title, but “Smash Up” would be a more accurate one to describe what the show attempts on a weekly basis. Over on FX, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are simply taking this approach to its logical extreme with “American Horror Story.” But honestly, swap out Rory for Gimp Suit Guy and see if anything makes less sense than half of what goes on in a typical hour of this show…
 
…and yet, Lord, those final five minutes were perfect. When the show deals with the complicated issue of teenage sexuality, it should be at its weakest. And yet, it finds discipline in the thorniest of issues, ostensibly because everything else is window dressing to this central issue. This wouldn’t be a problem, if “Glee” were just about Kurt and Santana with the other breeders along for the ride. I’d watch the hell out of that show, because at least then I’d be watching a program that had emotional investments in its character’s arcs. Contrast the Adele mash up with the Hall & Oates mash up, and you have everything right and wrong with the show in a nutshell. The latter was played for out-of-context laughs. The former went for the jugular and slit your damn throat…
 
…and yet, Lord, those first fifty-five minutes were BRUTAL. It ping-ponged between the Puck/Shelby/Quinn debacle, the Congressional race, the student council contest, the chasm between Rachel/Kurt, and the link between dodgeball and stoning. While I admire those final five minutes, which featured the backlash of Sue’s dirty campaign on Santana’s innocent head, no time spent on this plotline has made a lick of sense. Sue can operate in her own world of weird within the walls of McKinley High and largely get away with it: she’s a big fish in a small pond. But extrapolating that to a state-wide election that views her antics as thought-provoking stretches things too far. It doesn’t help things that Will is apparently Burt’s campaign manager now. What? Does Will map out Burt’s strategy each week by writing “PATRIOTISM” on a white board? I have such a headache…
 
…and yet, I didn’t need aspirin watching Santana connect deeply with “Someone Like You.” Adele is so ubiquitous a presence on the radio right now that it’s hard to feel there’s anything intimate about her music. Last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” poked fun about the way in which her music seemingly makes everyone cry, but it’s almost as if we’ve collectively decided Adele is the pathway towards crocodile tears. Thus, emotional response to her music is almost Pavlovian at this point, rather than truly earned. Still, what Nya Rivera did in her half of the mash up was revelatory, combining with the show’s arrangement of the song to truly make the song feel fresh again. Until now, Season 1’s “Somebody to Love” might have been my favorite performance in the show’s history. But this made a strong case to dethrone the champ, even if it involved Troubletones that seemingly multiply like Gremlins between each scene…
 
….and yet, there I go again, dwelling on the simple things that “Glee” refuses to do in order to produce an episode that at least pretends to fit together as a cohesive whole. Were I to give the show any type of benefit of the doubt, I’d throw together a defense of the show as a modern-day example of Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre. Brecht said of this style that it should primarily avoid a staple of most theatre, “the engendering of illusion." Brecht came up with this approach as a revolt against naturalism in theatre, which he felt produced complacency in the audience. Epic theatre was confrontational, alienating, and called attention to its artifice in order to wake the audience up from its stupor in order to convey the importance of what was being presented. Brecht went so far as to tell a director of one of his plays that, “Each scene, and each section within a scene, must be perfected and played as rigorously and with as much discipline as if it were a short play, complete in itself.” That’s freakin’ “Glee” in a nutshell, people, with its rigorous resistance to any form of connective tissue between one scene and the next, constantly calling attention to its existence as a pre-produced product being beamed through your television…
 
…and yet, the most powerful moments in the show push past that and work their way into our hearts all the same. Quinn calling Shelby a “cash whore” was the show at its worst, but Puck’s horny yet earnest pleas to be part of Beth’s life worked. While Quinn’s actions seemed intended to shock, Puck’s actions seemed like those of a clumsy man- child tiptoeing towards maturity. Santana’s riff on Finn’s weight smacked both of body dysmorphic disorder and grand larceny (since she lifted the monologue wholesale from Sue, seemingly), but it all stems from a defense mechanism surrounding her sexuality. Finn’s retort seems like an attack to her, but it functions from his perspective like a wake-up call. “Glee” gets really focused when it feels like doing so, and manages to produce complex emotions from unlikely sources as a result…
 
…and yet, it’s clear that the show only does so when it’s interested in the character in question. The show has handled Rachel reasonably well this season, making her naked ambition something it admonishes as much as adores. But her dropping out of the student council race marks the second time already this season she’s stepped aside in order to make way for someone who may or may not have earned the slot she vacated. In the case of “West Side Story,” the issue is admittedly more complicated. While in real life the competition between Lea Michele and Amber Riley would be a landslide, in “Glee” world they represent equally strong yet wildly different performing styles. But her decision to cede the student council race to Kurt bespeaks not friendship but straight up condescension. Now, Lord knows “Glee” would show us as much of the student council race as it would the rehearsals for the school musical, but still, “Mash Off” packed in pretty much the entire race into one episode. It introduced some jock into the mix, told us Brittany hates tornadoes (but loves Topless Tuesdays), and that Kurt ran the only honest campaign. Had the Hummels’ attempts at running a clean campaign been the focus of the hour, with both led into temptation to appeal to their darker sides, maybe this would have been a worthy plot. But it was thrown in because the show couldn’t wait to unburden itself from another long-running storyline. And rather than have Kurt madder than ever at Rachel for another selfish move that insulted him, the two are once again besties on the potential way to NYC in the Fall…
 
…and yet, should I care? Other than briefly worrying about Kurt’s health when he first appeared wearing a hat that wouldn’t have been out of place on Campbell Scott’s head in “Dying Young,” I didn’t feel anything for Kurt this episode. Last week’s episode ended on what should have been a monumental moment for him with Blaine. And yet neither that pair nor Rachel/Finn seemed to acknowledge it happened. Maybe that’s a bold statement meant to convey that life after sex simply moves on, but I’m chalking this up to what I’ll subsequently call Epic (Fail) Theatre henceforth. I didn’t need the four spooning all episode to make the point, but all Blaine did this hour was get passed over by Finn for a solo after using a mic stand as a phallic symbol in “Hot for Teacher.” The only character I currently care about is Santana, because that’s the only character the show currently cares about. Everyone else is an iTunes delivery system, and little else…
 
…and yet, I’ll keep watching, because what happened in those five minutes happen enough in the course of “Glee” that even if this weren’t my gig to cover each week here at HitFix, I keep hoping those that produce the show actually watch their own episodes occasionally and see how freakin’ good this show could be if they stopped trying to be epic and started trying to be intimate. I want them to see Mike Chang dancing alone. I want them to see Santana’s naked emotion in tonight’s finale. I want them to fulfill the promise inherent in this show’s premise. And until this show goes off the air, I’ll be waiting for them to fufill it.
 
What did you think of “Mash Off”? Did those final five minutes floor you or bore you? Is the show burning through story too quickly or is story something that doesn’t concern you? Will Sue’s contrition last or will the congressional storyline continue? Sound off below!
 
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<p>A scene from Monday's &quot;Terra Nova&quot;</p>
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A scene from Monday's "Terra Nova"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Terra Nova' - 'Proof'

A weak central story weighs down some decent material on the periphery
A few weeks ago, I wrote that “Terra Nova” took place in the least interesting time possible in the show’s timeline. Tonight’s episode “Proof” reinforced that. No, tonight’s episode wasn’t about a genius female mathematician who may or may not have inherited her father’s capacity for both equations and madness. It was about a whole lot of separate plot strands unspooling at once, but only one really registered as something potentially interesting. More than over, I wish this show had been “Cast Away with Dinosaurs,” set in the time when Taylor had to fend for himself as the sole member of the first pilgrimage. Too arty for television? More than likely. But it sure would have been a compelling ratings disaster all the same.
 
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<p>Emma Stone and Coldplay with Bill Hader of &quot;Saturday Night Live&quot;</p>
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Emma Stone and Coldplay with Bill Hader of "Saturday Night Live"

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Emma Stone and Coldplay

Some solid second-half sketches highlight a typically uneven show
OK, apologies up front everyone: I’m on the road for family obligations this weekend. So instead of writing up tonight’s “Saturday Night Live” in my man cave, I’m doing this from the nation’s capital. Live from Washington D.C.: it’s Ryan McGee! I have the show in my hotel room, but without the beauty of DVR, I may miss a little more than usual in tonight’s recap. I ask that you are patient with me this week as Emma Stone and Coldplay both return to Studio 8-H. Coldplay is here to promote their new record “Mylo Xyloto,” while Stone doesn’t have anything she’s here to push, other than maybe the DVD release of “Crazy, Stupid, Love”. That’s fine, since she was a game host last year. Biggest question of the night: how will “SNL” handle this week’s Oscars’ debacle? Will they go after Brett Ratner and former “SNL” alum Eddie Murphy in a meaningful way, or just relegate their pot shots to “Weekend Update” jokes?
 
Only one way to find out. Onto the recap!
 
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<p>&nbsp;Romy Rosemont and Stephen Root of &quot;Fringe&quot;</p>
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 Romy Rosemont and Stephen Root of "Fringe"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Fringe' - 'And Those We've Left Behind'

Two stunning guest performances serve as a Rosetta stone for the season's problems
I’ve said this before, but I think it’s worth repeating in light of tonight’s episode of “Fringe.” In writing about the works either inspired by or directly overseen by J.J. Abrams, certain “patterns,” if you will, have emerged. These patterns extend to both the abstract and the concrete. The former is marked by having mysteries, time travel, and near operatic family issues. The latter is marked by a recurrence of certain objects (red balls, Slusho) and numbers. I think the red balls and fictional drinks are amusing Easter Eggs, but I think the numbers speak to something else at the heart of what I call “Earth-J.J.”: there are things in this world that are unimportant until certain people pour importance into them. Both “Alias” and “Lost” used certain numbers as a way to signify connections between events, but ultimately revealed the connection inherent in those numbers to be people. In humanizing the abstract, Earth-J.J. shows just how interconnected we all are.
 
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<p>The &quot;America's Next Top Model&quot; models go to Greece</p>
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The "America's Next Top Model" models go to Greece

Credit: The CW

Recap: 'America's Next Top Model' - 'Nikos Papadopoulos'

The models head to Greece and an underwear shoot causes controversy

Now that Alexandria has been eliminated, It’s time to get out of the country before she exacts her revenge. So where will we be headed? As we learned last episode, it’s gonna be Greece, but before we can reach for the spanakopita (assuming any of these girls really eat) we have to meet with Andre Leon Talley! He arrives in his straw Chinese boatman hat with two plate-breaking waiters to announce the new overseas trip.

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<p>Darren Criss and Lea Michele on Tuesday's &quot;Glee&quot;</p>
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Darren Criss and Lea Michele on Tuesday's "Glee"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Glee' - 'The First Time'

What could have been a complete disaster turns instead into a series highlight

Watching “Glee” on a weekly basis is like playing a high-stakes poker game in a Vegas casino. The show is the house, and the house almost always wins. “Winning” in this case means that the show takes not only your chips, but also your heart and soul as well. But every once in a while, the player beats the house, and their efforts are rewarded. After one of the worst episodes in the show’s history, “Glee” bounced back something fierce with “The First Time,” an episode that should have gone completely off the rails but managed to stay on the tracks and build confidence throughout the hour.

Look: it wasn’t perfect. No episode of “Glee” ever was nor ever will be. You could pick nits in nearly every scene. But the episodes of the show make you stop looking at the flaws and appreciate the emotional responses it can elicit when everything aligns correctly. No more ginger supremacists, leprechauns, or student/teacher trysts. (Unless you count that awful number inside Dalton Academy which, like the second season of “Friday Night Lights,” we’ll all agree never happened.) Instead, we got two things that generally make for a stellar episode of “Glee”: thematic resonance between various storylines, and musical performances that actually comment upon those resonances. This sounds like an easy thing to do. The sum total of “Glee” to date suggests the opposite. So let’s celebrate when it gets things right.

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<p>Stephen Lang and Jason O'Mara of &quot;Terra Nova&quot;</p>
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Stephen Lang and Jason O'Mara of "Terra Nova"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Terra Nova' - 'Nightfall'

Some pulpy fun, finally...but was it by design or accident?

I’ve been plenty hard on “Terra Nova” these past few months. I don’t regret it, but I’m running out of finding new ways to tell you the same reasons it doesn’t work. Because by and large, each episode is a variation on one of the systemic problems that keep this show from at least being entertaining. (I’m not sure it will ever get to “good,” but the masochist in me keeps hope alive.) No show with time travel, dinosaurs, and conspiracies that cross both centuries and realities should be this pedestrian. Yet, here we are. “Nightfall” was probably the best episode since the pilot, but saying that is damning it with faint praise.

But rather than have me tell you why it’s faint praise, I chose to follow the lead of the show and lean on my inside man to tell you what went down tonight. That’s right: it’s not only the Sixers that have a double agent in their midst. Me? I got my buddy Nyko on the scene to give you all the insider perspective. Who is Nyko? He’s a nykoraptor, of course: a fictional dinosaur made up for the show in case any remaining velociraptors might sue for defamation. (OK, fine: that’s probably not the real reason. But I like the idea of velociraptors and cavemen hanging out, both complaining about stereotypes perpetrated against them by modern pop culture.)
 
I asked Nyko to give me an up close and personal view of life in his homeland since Taylor and Company burst through the portal and set up camp. Take it away, Nyko!
 
***
 
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<p>Charlie Day and Maroon 5</p>
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Charlie Day and Maroon 5

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Charlie Day and Maroon 5

A middle-of-the-road return for the show, which kept host Charlie Day boxed in all night
“Saturday Night Live” is back, after a much-needed two-week hiatus. On tap tonight: Charlie Day, best known for his work on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, and Maroon 5, best known for having its lead singer be one of the judges on “The Voice.” I kid! Day also has plenty of recent cinematic experience with one Jason Sudeikis, so look for a lot of pairings between them. Then again, there was very little interaction between Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig a few weeks back, so anything is possible. What’s a definite: if “SNL” attempts a dumbed-down “Sunny” sketch, I might hurl my laptop at the screen. Hopefully there’s something in my HitFix contract that states they will reimburse me if that happens.
 
Onto the recap!
 
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