Many of you might think of me as the “Glee” Grinch who swoops in weekly to steal away the joy you get from the show. That’s definitely not my intention, and I definitely don’t get a sense of joy at tearing down a particular episode that I dislike. Disliking “Glee” is never, ever my first option: in fact, I think it’s singularly capable of producing as much joy in my too tiny heart as anything on TV right now. So when I leave out my weekly emotional milk and cookies and get television coal in return, well, I get a little angry.
[Full recap of Tuesday's (Dec. 7) "Glee" after the break...]
Well that was an hour of TV! No. Really. Including commercials, Sunday's (Dec. 5) episode of "The Amazing Race" definitely took up an hour of primetime real estate. I say that with all confidence and sincerity.
Robert DeNiro is in the house, y’all, along with Diddy-Dirty Money. Just as God always intended. Will there be more references to the “Godfather” trilogy or the “Fockers” trilogy tonight? Will Bill Hader bust out his Al Pacino impression so we can finally witness “Heat II: Electric Boogaloo”? Will tonight’s episode be on the same level of quality as “Goodfellas” or “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle”?
So many questions, I know! Only one way to answer them: via a sketch-by-sketch recap. That’s just how we do what we do round here. Onto the show, after the break...
Sacrifices. So overrated. Except when trying to sacrifice yourself for the ones you love leads to some very interesting new pairings, which is what happens in this week's episode of “The Vampire Diaries”…
“The Sacrifice” unfolds in fine “TVD” fashion, with dualities galore, new fun facts about witchcraft, new pairings, surprise bad guy revelations, a much-needed undercurrent of sex and just a touch of awesome, bad-ass gore. More importantly, every single love triangle cooking in Mystic Falls heats up, leading to a handful of tantalizing near-smooches as tension builds for all of our beloved characters. With the way things get shaken up this week, next week’s 2010 capper could go in a number of different directions… and we can’t wait to see who ends up with who, what happens during Tyler’s first full moon, and whether or not Klaus will finally show up.
[Full recap of “The Sacrifice” after the break…]
Listening to the latest Firewall & Iceberg podcast, I found myself concurring with my HitFix colleagues when it came to their analysis of this season of â€œFringe.â€ While the back-and-forth between our world and Over There has been fascinating, it also had an inherent shelf life that did not extend to a full season of episodic programming. Thatâ€™s not to say I hope that time spent Over There has completely disappeared: far from it. But the Olivia/Fauxlivia storyline could not have lasted any longer than it did, and tonightâ€™s episode â€œEntradaâ€ ended this particular phase of the saga on a strong note.
The tension in long-form storytelling between potent idea and excellent execution is a tricky one for shows to balance. If it were easy to balance the two, weâ€™d have a lot more of shows like â€œFringeâ€ and a lot less of shows like â€œThe Event.â€ Coming up with a solid premise for a piece of storytelling is difficult enough as it is, but having the insight to realize how MUCH of a piece one has is often a trickier process. Many shows would take the strong switcheroo premise and bleed it beyond dry, poking and prodding it like Alterna-Brandon did to Olivia. In his eyes, she ceased to be human and instead simply served as simple mass given female form.
So credit where credit is due, even if the form of what will ensue is currently up in the air. Ostensibly, if the show possessed the foresight to end this compelling (but narratively limited) arc of the story approximately a third of the way through the season, than it has a sense of where it wants to go from here. In some ways, tonightâ€™s credits (and a few cool transition shots) gave us a hint of where the show plans to go: an ever-growing feeling of fusion between the two worlds, where events that happened only periodically start to happen with greater frequency as well as intensity. At some point, our world may be as aware of whatâ€™s causing these events as the citizens do Over There, although only two versions of the same women have insight into the true nature of the supposed â€œenemy.â€
The Olivia/Fauxlivia had to achieve certain practical things (the ongoing discovery of doomsday device pieces, the development of cortexiphan Over There) necessary to move things along mechanically, but did its most important work in starting to give both sides a clear look into the mindset of the other. Olivia needed to see the pain in Alterna-Broyles eyes as he described the affects of Walterâ€™s crossover; Fauxlivia needed to see that her worldâ€™s antichrist was a broken (albeit brilliant) man with a sweet tooth. The latter had a Lady Gaga-esque poker face after her capture, but the photo booth strip found in her bag showed the type of empathy that Newton warned her about before his death.
Both Olivias are the heroes of their own narratives, but now understand that 1) they do not solely own that mantle, and 2) are not in fact in multiple narratives but in the same one. Recognizing that second fact turns sympathy into empathy, turns foe into potential friend, and represents the â€œother wayâ€ first expressed by Peter in â€œ6955 kHZâ€ and repeated tonight by Olivia to a pre-sliced and diced Alterna-Broyles. Both versions of Walter have sensory deprivation tanks*, but itâ€™s unlikely that this pair can ever work together to avoid the upcoming universal destruction. Neither Peter nor Broyles have a double on the other side. The solution will have to come from the two Olivias, each of whom may return to solving cases of the week but will do so with new context thanks to their crossover experiences.
* Iâ€™m trying to come up with a good reason, in-story, why Olivia didnâ€™t bounce back Over There after this particular trip. Maybe concentrated cortexiphan + sensory tank = Olivia sticking the landing?
Thatâ€™s not to say that the Bishop Boys canâ€™t help. I hope they do help, because although he did employ some neat trickery in ascertaining Fauxliviaâ€™s true nature (via the phrase she spoke upon waking up after her first trip Over There) and that Fauxlivia was using a shapeshifter to elude capture in Penn Station, Peter didnâ€™t do a whole lot but stew on his inability to realize that he had been sleeping with the enemy. (That Peter NEVER ONCE got suspicious after returning is one of the few sour notes sounded all season. Especially given the â€œSons of Anarchyâ€ twist in this weekâ€™s season finale, having Peterâ€™s actions this season not be a long con was just disappointing.) Walter didnâ€™t take the news particularly well, either, which gave both Bishops a dark, menacing energy throughout the hour but didnâ€™t acquit them as people with the brains and scientific know-how to match minds with their increasingly equipped foe.
But perhaps Peterâ€™s anger over his mistake will fuel this second leg of the third season. Perhaps an attempt to overcompensate will cause recklessness in assembling the doomsday device. Perhaps it will drive him away from Olivia, who will constantly remind him that he canâ€™t trust his own eyes. There are ways to redeem Peter from simple love interest to Olivia (to paraphrase Fienbergâ€™s phrase in the aforementioned podcast) back to a street-savvy, semi-seedy genius that just so happens to have the correct DNA to unlock a device built by pre-humans that may or may not wipe out an entire universe. (That last sentence should be atop Peterâ€™s Match.com profile should he decide to branch out from women that look like Anna Torv.)
A few harmonic bullets about tonightâ€™s episodeâ€¦
*** â€œFringeâ€ has shown some pretty terrible things onscreen, but Iâ€™m not sure anything has disturbed me as much as seeing Oliviaâ€™s body covered in magic marker, as if a butcher was prepping his cuts of meat. Torv sold the living HELL out of her scene with Alterna-Broyles while covered in these marks, making it one of her single strongest scenes in her time on the show.
*** We didnâ€™t get to play a lot of â€œSpot the Difference Over There!â€ this week, but the barâ€™s quiet reaction to a wormhole in the Hudson River spoke volumes about the psyche of the world over there. They arenâ€™t panicked per se, but thereâ€™s a quiet fear that hangs over them, the type of fear easily manipulated by someone like Walternate in order to sacrifice personal freedoms in the name of greater security.
*** Iâ€™m guessing that the owner of the typewriter repair shop has polio. The idea that shapeshifters will use medical advances in order to bribe people over here to do their work feels way too â€œVâ€ for my liking.
*** I wonder if Broyles seeing his own corpse will send him down the mental river a bit. Lance Reddick did some of his best work in this hour, and between this and last weekâ€™s outing, Iâ€™m hoping the show finally realizes that heâ€™s been woefully underused over the course of the entire series.
*** Walterâ€™s line about Fauxliviaâ€™s insidious â€œvagendasâ€ was the greatest one that â€œCougar Townâ€ never wrote.
*** Alterna-Astridâ€™s childlike worry over her boss broke my freakinâ€™ heart.
*** Iâ€™ll confess that the Doomsday Device to me right now is a 5,000 puzzle piece MacGuffin. Until everythingâ€™s assembled and the pictureâ€™s clearer, Iâ€™ll just chalk it up to a plot device to move the story along until Gob Bluth appears on the scene playing Europeâ€™s â€œThe Final Countdownâ€ near the fully constructed device.
What did you think of â€œEntradaâ€? Did the Olivia/Fauxlivia storyline end too quickly for your tastes? Have we seen the last of Over There for a while? Leave your thoughts below!
I don’t think it’s possible to be too excited about “Top Chef: All-Stars,” which promises to be a smorgasbord of fabulous food, long-simmering hostilities and chefs melting down faster than a block of Velveeta on microwave nachos. Like on any reality all-stars competition, the returning competitors know exactly what to expect (more or less) and who they’re up against (at least if they’ve been watching the show), so we get to skip over some of the more boring “getting to know you” episodes and cut right to the chase. Likewise, let’s get to it!
I realize that what I expect from most shows is not what I should expect from “Glee.” That doesn’t mean that I will stop trying to expect it, but I understand on a rational level that I set myself up for disappointment for expecting things like “general cohesion” and “relatively consistent characterization” to enter into my nightly television entertainment. In no way do I think (or want) the show to operate under the principles of “Terriers” or “Sons of Anarchy,” two shows that I love but operate under separate rules (even from each other). But not expecting those in particular doesn’t mean I expect nothing from the show at all, either.