Disclaimer: Part of my lack of enjoyment in this episode may have been due to the fact that I watched it at 2 in the morning when I was supposed to be doing homework, plus I watched it on the CBS online player, where it buffered every 10 seconds and took 75 minutes to get through 42 minutes of episode. Nevertheless.
This is no way, shape, or form felt like a season premiere. Like I said before, last year's penultimate & finale should have been fused into one episode, and *this* episode should have aired as the conclusion. After all, despite some minor closure, there are still questions to be answered. Such as "who killed Grenouille" and "why the hell IS Jen obsessed with him?" She emphatically told Gibbs it wasn't about her father, which was the theory I'd been operating under, and while she could have been lying, there was enough conviction in her voice that I doubt it. My morbid curiosity remains unsatisfied. Besides, if her father's alive, shouldn't she redirect her anger at him? The more I talk about this, the more I think I wasn't paying attention last season and/or forgot all the important plot points over the summer hiatus.
I have to redact one statement from last spring - I guess they DID in fact have a purpose to that stupid, fanfic-ish sideplot in the hospital: making Jeanne suspicious about his skill with a gun. I simply didn't realize it at the time because I was unaware that Jeanne thought he was a college professor. What do you know...nobody was really right about the nature of their relationship, in the end. He *was* dating her as part of a mission, but in the end (probably after Agent Cassidy got killed) he also fell in love with her. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. On one hand, while I expect the S.S. Tiva to drift languidly for quite some time, I am not ready to run it aground, either. On the other hand, I am really impressed with the fact that Tony actually matured enough to fall in love; I couldn't help melting over the "I love you" scene last year and was similarly subdued by the expression of anguish on his face at the end of this one, when Jeanne wrenched her hand away and stalked out of sight. The thing I am struggling to admit is that I actually feel bad for Tony, and might even be sad about the way things turned out.
To speak of actual episode things...go McGee for refusing to give up on the idea that Tony might be alive! I can't really fault Ziva for doing so, as while you could argue that her judgment was a bit clouded, she also comes from a background where bad things not only can but regularly do happen to people in dangerous undercover missions. She's a realist, and if that manifests itself in pessimism, so be it. I did think it was slightly callous for the team's first reaction to be pilfering things from Tony's desk, though. I'm almost positive that after Kate's death, they were busy falling apart. Okay, so that was both confirmed and a lot more visceral, but still.
I liked the comedic relief when Tony stepped out of the elevator to find an arsenal of guns aimed at him, but I also liked the roundtable discussion afterwards, about what the hell went wrong. When Tony rather bitterly said "He blew a lot of things away," my jaw dropped...I really thought he was saying that Grenouille had shot his own daughter (the "why" was irrelevant at that point). As with last spring, I found myself prepared to be unexpectedly sad over this fact, and then later on when I realized she was alive and well and my sympathy immediately vanished...because the idiocy of their relationship cannot end until she's dead. As headstrong and stubborn as she is, I get the impression that Jeanne's overriding character trait is being clingy, and I'm 90% sure she'll be back forgive him, and I'll return to grimacing through their scenes. Is it odd if I'm willing to feel bad for Tony, but not happy?
I think I was mostly disappointed by the lack of team dynamics in this episode. I felt like we focused so much on the Grenouille Gang (Trent Kort included) that we weren't really seeing things from the NCIS team's perspective. Gibbs in particular seemed noticeably absent. I was disappointed in the lack of cute scenes for Gibbs/Abby; the one that should have sufficed, with Abby begging Gibbs to tell her Tony was okay, lacked its usual sense of warmth. I felt like they were just going through the motions. But you know, I didn't like last season's premiere either, and the following week they dropped the heavy plot and went back to Case of the Week format, and that magically fixed everything, so here's hoping that happens again.
2. Survivor: China
In general: This year's theme song remix is one of the best yet. Very pretty. I'm also delighted to see them go back to starting with 16 people, which is a much more manageable number. And Chinese wildlife > island wildlife for the sole reason that they have pandas. I'm liking the China location.
I'm disapointed that they got rid of Chicken right away, because he reminded me a lot of Cao Boi in his potential to be slightly wacky and eccentric, but in a good and thoroughly entertaining way. Plus he seems like a pretty sweet guy. Oh well, gone now. I'm also disappointed that they got rid of Ashley in the second episode, because even though her double lip ring freaked me out a lot, I thought she might grow on me. At least she had a personality, and wasn't completely bland and boring like so many of the other women. I don't have anything to say about episode content yet, partly because I don't pay a lot of attention to the early eps and partly because I am running out of time to write this week's worth of reviews and this one's not important for the majority of my readership. What is important right now, for my personal sense of posterity, is my reaction to the new characters players. So here we go in alphabetical order --
Aaron: The typical boring leader guy. Nothing distinguishing yet.
Amanda: Looks like a sweetheart, even if she is a beauty pageant girl, and I really like her; one of my favorites right now. I just have one question: how can you be running around in a challenge and not even *notice* that your tube top has COMPLETELY FALLEN DOWN?
Courtney: She's not just skinny as a bird, I could swear she's anorexic. I usually don't say that about people, but really - her thighs are scarcely thicker than her calves, and her cheeks are unnaturally hollow. I love how as I'm reading her bio on the website right now, having already formed this judgment, she actually addresses this issue and claims it's all genetics.
Dave: I love how his occupation is "Former Model." No, silly man, you're supposed to tell people your *current* job...not wax nostalgic upon past glories. Anyway, he's bossy and I dislike him intensely.
Denise: Ew. Just ew. The man mullet on the man face causes me physical pain.
Erik: Hasn't said much yet, so it's hard to form an opinion, but as he has curly hair and is a musician and is named Erik, I fully expect to fall in love with him by the season's midpoint.
Frosti: It makes me feel old when there's a Survivor contestant younger than I am. Oh wait, that's because he's 20. Did we ever establish how he got on a show whose age limit is supposed to be 21? (Survivor can waive its eligibility requirements if it feels like it. Literally, that's what they said.) Also, I find him irritating. Not sure why. Perhaps my opinion of him would improve if he showcased his Parkour skills on a more regular basis.
Jaime: Bubbly, blond, and currently bland.
James: "I bury people." That is the greatest line uttered on Survivor in quite some time, and is why Spooky James is my favorite contestant at the moment. He needs to be around for a long, long time. I like the fact that he claims he's not very good at socializing. That's because he's too awesome to talk to these losers.
Jean-Robert: Is a lazy sod. I don't understand why he thinks it's a good strategy to lay around doing nothing, so that later on he can shock them by how much he's improved over the course of the game. Because I would think people would be inclined to vote you out long before you reach the point where you start improving.
Leslie: Oh my God, what a religious weirdo. I refuse to even believe this is all the fault of editing, because she's clearly one of those people who believe that their every step is guided by God's Master Plan, and I find that line of thought irritating beyond belief. But really she lost all credibility when she claimed that God put her on Survivor for a reason. Because, no, God didn't do that. YOU did that. By sending in an application. In fact, given that you were rejected 10 times, if anything God was probably gently trying to tell you you weren't cut out for it.
Peigh-Gee: I feel like I'm eventually going to give up and just write "Peggy" for simplicity's sake. I think I like her, but only if she doesn't end up being unbearably bossy. No, wait, she got a 1580 on her SATs. She is my hero. *reads farther* And then she failed out of college due to excess partying. Okay, I hate her.
Sherea: Seems stereotypically dumb to me. I don't care if she has a master's degree at 26, she seems to be the epitome of the dumb kids at college who major in elementary education.
Todd: I love how Jeff describes him as the "gay Mormon flight attendant." Way to define a person! Alas, he's excessively twitchy and hyperactive, and so I can't stand him. Also, my opinion of him didn't really improve when he was standing around in shorts (possibly swim trunks?) so tight that they left absolutely nothing to the imagination. That's just wrong.
And I lied; I have ONE thing to say about the episode content: The Most Pixelated Challenge EVER award goes to the one where they're ostensibly fighting to push a ball through the mud and across the opponent's line...but everyone seemed more interested in pulling others' clothes off. I think I actually saw more pixelation than clothing.
And then before I knew it, it was time for the Gladiator Arena. At 7:55 I was seized with a sudden crisis of conscience - Office, CSI, Office, CSI?? Oh God, as much I wanted Jim/Pam cute, I could NOT wait another second to find out if Sara was going to live (especially if it came with a GSR scene)...but I also had Magnavox dutifully recording CBS in perfect clarity, something it could not do for NBC. Besides, my roommate really likes The Office; it's one of about two shows she follows. And so that's what we watched. In retrospect, that was a smart choice, as it was the best hour of the night.
3. The Office - 4.1, Fun Run
Speaking of said cute: I think I could have been content just with the opening scene, and Jim's eyes popping open when hears precisely what crashed Pam's computer. Yay for teasing banter!
"How much did you pay for it?"
"You PAID for it?!"
Then again, that was before I got my payoff shot of them kissing in the car. OMG *SQUEEFWAMBLOWSUP*! That was perfect. I could not have asked for anything better - a quick, eager kiss, skipping over any early awkwardness or fallout from season 3, to the part where they're together and happy. In other words, exactly as they always should have been: still best friends, just now with things like handholds no longer off-limits. Voice thinks I should walk away now, to avoid a repeat of what she's calling the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Incident," but honestly, for once I am not worried (except maybe about the fact that I'm not worried). I know I hold hard and fast to the conviction that all TV relationships are ticking time bombs, but I simply don't believe it about this one. I realized why when I was channel-surfing yesterday and caught an episode of "Scrubs" - Turk and Carla got together pretty early on and have been left alone. I see no reason Puppy Love should be any different.
(Digression: It is RIDICULOUS how many different names this ship has. I'm personally astonished that I neither figured out nor came across the idea of "PB&J" before now - especially given that its fandom was going with "Jam" - but I'm sticking with Puppy Love. Jam reminds me of Jack/Samantha for Without a Trace, and PB&J belongs to Charlie & Claire from Lost, for in-joke reasons. Also, it will be rendered obsolete when she becomes Mrs. Halpert)
Another tiny bit that could have completed my episode was the one secretive smile before Angela interrupts, where Pam's just watching him work...awww. But then again, I loved the camera crew pulling the pair into the conference room and playing the aforementioned car scene for them. Love Jim's completely pathetic attempt to continue denying it, followed by Pam going ahead and blurting it out. They were so bashfully pleased with their relationship, unsuccessfully trying to control huge smiles, that I had a very hard time controlling my ecstatic giggles.
And finally, just in case I did not have enough reasons to die from squee by this point, they tragically fell into last place during the Fun Run so as to walk along hand-in-hand. You have NO idea how high up on the Checklist of Cute that sort of thing is. It was made better by the fact that he reached for her hand, just like he reached for her face in the car...it causes me no end of glee, these gestures he doesn't have to hold back anymore. And them stopping into an estate sale along the way was just the icing on the cake. (I like to imagine they do things like this all the time) It's like the writers picked my brain in order to tailor an episode to my fondest wishes. In fact, the only place they messed up was having Pam claim to be a dog person, because COME ON, I would like to imagine Pam as the sort of person who takes in various types of pets and loves them all equally. But I can rewrite that in my personal canon.
Did other things happen in this episode? Do I have to talk about them? I guess I will. For one, I really thought I was going to have to put up with Karen still hanging around this season, but no, she's outta here with only one brief scene for explanation. The best part about that scene is that Jim still has his onion loaf haircut, which reminds me to say a prayer of thanks that it's gone back to looking attractive again. Of course, ANDY is still here and being much more irritating (and in this ep, particularly disgusting) than Karen could ever be...but it's a step in the right direction.
-The aftermath of Pam walking in on Michael was comedic gold. Iam not entirely sure why Michael needed to change his underwear for therun...and alternatively, please don't tell me he routinely goescommando...but Pam's need for eye bleach was worth it.
-As for the Sprinkles storyline...WOW. Let's just say that I have never loved Angela and/or hated Dwight more.
While I heartily approve of injuring Dwight at any time for any purpose, I felt especially vindicated while Angela was violently hip-checking him into filing cabinets and repeatedly bashing him with her desk chair. I'm sorry, but there is just nothing even remotely amusing about a cat being frozen to death. The poor ill cat certainly did sound like it was on the verge of needing euthanasia (I am not even going to ask why Angela believes that would bar it from Cat Heaven), and if Dwight had just given it an overdose I probably could have lived with it, but...having it wake up later in the freezer and die a prolonged death was just sick and in incredibly poor taste. Not amused, Office. Not amused. All the Puppy Love Squee in the world cannot make up for Dead Cat - SHUT UP, NO IT CAN'T. I am now sending Angela several steps up on Totem Pole of Favorite Characters. In fact, after that adorable/heartbreaking Halloween picture of "a couple of kitties out on the town," I think I'm locking her in at #5 after Jim/Pam, Kelly, Ryan, and Toby.
Voice: So what you're saying is, this storyline was worth it because it got you to warm up to Angela?
-Which reminds me, while I do not approve of Ryan's scraggly scruff, neither do I approve of his minimal screentime. Either demote him, or increase the camera time allotted to Corporate!
-Toby won the race! Aww, Toby.
-Overall, I'm very happy with the 1-hour format. I wish they could all be an hour long. It doesn't matter how much extra footage of Michael I have to put up with, if it provides me with even five extra seconds of Jim/Pam. But that might also be because I downed 50+ episodes (with deleted scenes instead of commercials) in the space of about 5 days, and I am not entirely sure how I'm going to adjust to half-hour increments once a week at best.
Now, by this point I was coming up on 26 hours without sleep, and what I really wanted to do was curl up in bed and declare myself dead to the world. But since God only knows where I can find this show for viewing online, I propped my eyes open a little longer.
Admittedly, this is the first ER premiere I've ever seen on its actual premiere date, but I thought it was a fantastic, high-stakes episode. Of COURSE I let myself get attached to one patient - just one! - and it ends up being the one who dies. And talk about a senseless tragedy - some idiot kid sets off some firecrackers, and causes a stampeding panic that results in serious and/or fatal injury?! I'm not entirely sure I blamed Gates for going postal and screaming at him in the crowded ER. I realize it was entirely unprofessional, and have to agree that he deserves his "reflection time" banishment to the ICU, but it was also deeply gratifying.
Actually, I'm sad to say that I was more concerned about that teenager with all the broken ribs than I was over Neela's injuries. Obviously there was no suspense over whether she'd live or die, but I didn't have a problem with that...I just felt, I dunno, that there wasn't enough emotional investment for Neela. Which is funny, because the idea was supposed to be that there was too *much* investment, but while Pratt and Morris might have worried, back in the day when the cast was rich and full those two didn't exactly hang out with her, and Gates' and Dubenko's attachments are quite recent. The only emotion I REALLY bought was Abby's. Those two have been through so much, and even though they've been so busy with their own lives in recent years that they've drifted apart, they really do have a solid bond underneath it all. I loved how Moretti attempted to direct things and order her around until she finally more or less told him to shut up and do it himself, because she was not leaving the room again. Mrs. Kovac? This is one of the many reasons why I love you.
That's not to say that I didn't squee over Tony's endearing reassurances to "Mayday" that she'd be all right. If I made a highlight reel of all the best things about season 13, the creation of that nickname would be among them. Every time I start to lose interest in this ship, one utterance makes me come running right back. On the other hand, I couldn't help being touched by Dubenko's look of despair upon seeing her. Because AW! He cares about her so much that it really kind of kills me.
Although I appreciated the lack of Hope in this episode, I still can't stand Moretti. The sight of him makes me twitch...I just hate his smug sense of self-superiority (alliteration whee!), particularly the way in which it frequently falls apart and he suddenly seems to have no idea what he's doing. Yeah, great leadership there. It almost - ALMOST - makes me want Kerry Weaver back. Quick, someone give me an old episode so I remember why I'm glad she's gone.
And of course, in the end, Neela's going to be all right. I liked Dubenko selfishly stealing a last moment with her alone (hand touch!) as much as I liked Gates and the small, sad remnants of The Good Years (and it deeply PAINS ME to count Morris among them) waiting together outside for her to wake up.
5. CSI, 8.1, "Dead Doll"
ER credits rolled, and instead of doing the sensible thing and going to sleep, I trundled into the living to find out what happened to Sara. This was so much better than part 1, I could hardly believe it. And I feel like it deserves a much better review out of me, but I was tired while watching it and I'm tired while typing it, so it is what it is.
I still would have preferred that this had aired as a finale, but unlike NCIS (or, as you'll see below, Without a Trace), it actually worked pretty well as a premiere too. Even though both Warrick and Greg got incredibly shafted as far as helping out on the search,
I've come to expect that they always get the shaft, and it was made up for by the fact that although Grissom and Catherine took the lead (naturally, and I'm not even being sarcastic), Nick had a prominent role in putting together clues. I LOVED the flashback to "Gum Drops," because words cannot express how much I love that episode, although I think there's something ironic about its importance here given that it was originally slated to be Grissom-centric. For purposes of this episode, though, the rewrite certainly served it well. I will come back to this later.
I thought the pacing throughout this one was perfect, intercutting between Sara and the search; the only parts I thought were a little awkward were all the flashbacks to her trying to escape from Natalie. Maybe it's just because Lost soured me on all flashback scenes of any type, but I thought that broke up the flow of action too much, and of course they lost any sense of tension when you knew she was just going to end up under the car anyway. Although, props for getting the tasering scene back in there, I was disappointed with its lack of inclusion last spring. Once she was out in the desert alone...the flash floods were a little worrisome, because if she drowned at the midway point, they could still have her body be washed away and thus not reveal her fate until the end...but the coyotes were not worrisome at all. Honestly, coyotes? My knowledge of animals has largely fled my mind, but I'm pretty sure they're not big and tough enough to attack humans, not even trapped humans. She wasn't THAT close to death. I was almost thinking the coyote was going to do something to help her. What? I have faith in wildlife miracles. And it would have been fitting since she's a vegetarian and presumably likes animals.
And then when she was wandering around in the desert, all dirty and scraped up, with her self-made sling and bandanna around her head...that, to me, spoke volumes more about her scrappiness and will to live than all the speaker-cutting, Natalie-grabbing action ever could. It was heartbreaking when she tumbled down the hill, and when she thought she'd found a way out only to be confronted with more empty space, and even *more* heartbreaking when she was reciting multiplication tables to keep herself alert...when she collapsed that final time, dammit I was FREAKING OUT. I think my exact words were something like "Oh, HELL no. You are not going to make us go through all that, the two victorious escapes and the two false finds and the hours of torture in the desert, only to have her body give out at the very last second. ...oh my God, you ARE! Cruel and twisted!" Although I must say that I was impressed with the spinning, blurry camera work as she wavered and fell. Nice touch.
I freely admit that I forgot to pay attention to the clock, and thus fell for the dead-body-that-wasn't-Sara. Grissom's "Oh no" reaction was perfect, understated and fighting back dread until forced to believe the worst.
Words cannot express how happy I am that Nick found her. I got plenty out of Grissom's reactions to satisfy me the first two times; I didn't need to see it again. But Nick, running so fast to get to her that he literally flings himself down in the dirt to reach her side, had the rawest and most visceral reaction possible. The desperation with which he was pouring water to cool her down, begging her to respond, about broke my heart. I don't know if I mention often enough how much I love Nick & Sara's bond, but they have this perfect sibling-like friendship. It hasn't gotten a lot of attention since the advent of GSR, but I'm glad to see it's still there.
Actually, I had reached a point where I started thinking that I could accept this ending. I mean, I'd have to spend a week or so sobbing - I was already tearing up when she was lying there all crumpled, without a pulse - but at she least she would have gone out fighting, on her own terms. It would still be murder, but it wouldn't be *precisely* at the hands of Natalie and her sick little doll scene. Furthermore, it would have been interesting to see Grissom handle life without her, and...well, it was really poignant, in the good way that leaves you raw and aching because you care about the character so much, to see her taken down after such a hard-fought struggle. I'd have counted it as a proper send-off, certainly much better than if she'd simply vanished at the end of "Living Doll" and Jorja Fox had never come back to work.
None of the above prevented me from whimpering "Oh please, Sara, breathe, breathe, breathe!" I was on the edge of my seat by this point, hands clasped, exhaustion forgotten. There are no words to accurately describe the expression on Grissom's face in the helicopter, although "how can anyone possibly still deny the significance of GSR?" come to mind because seriously. His face. And then there was the tentative handhold, which caused audible gasps of glee, and then...her eyes opened! I LOVE that the first thing she saw was his name on the vest. There is excited squeeing on my end, while Grissom appears to be on the verge of crying in relief, which just adds to the squeeing. They have this beautiful, extended moment with the piano notes and the Meaningful Strings where the various paramedics and equipment in the scene seem to fade away, as if only the two of them exist, and it doesn't even matter that she's immobile and battered because they're together and she's alive...and BAM, all of a sudden it's over.
The hell? That's my GSR payoff after worrying for months about the state of Jorja's contract - a tiny handhold and facial expressions, no hospital scene? Damn it, the Checklist of Cute is highly innocent in nature, but it still demands some physical contact. Hugs. Hair stroking. Things of a lips-to-skin nature. Sometimes I think my frustration over the subtlety of this pair may actually kill me.
Overall, though, I am very pleased that she lived. I think. I was all set to squee over the preview ($10 says the smiley scene is the teaser, or at least part of it), especially as - and I mentioned this in a comment, because it seemed obvious to me - the discrepancy in the timeline of their relationship is clearly because Grissom has taken "intimate" to a whole new level of meaning, probably whenever he felt they had their first intellectual connection. No matter how much Voice wants to speculate that they had a fling in San Francisco, she is dead wrong. K, that's the last paragraph before I mention the contract spoilers, so if you're avoiding that sort of thing, now is when you should skip to the next line of bold text.
And then about half an hour later I went online and there was the horrible 7-episode contract news of doom, which obliterated the last trace of my happy feelings and has tipped me back to wishing she'd died in the premiere after all. Somehow I feel like that would be less heartbreaking than her voluntarily (or involuntarily, however it turns out) leaving the team to work elsewhere.
Having just been (I felt) gypped on proper GSR squee, I was coming down off my temporary adrenaline high but still desperate to see my Danny/Elena resolution. So I hit the fast-forward button, thinking I'd watch this show in full later, after I saw the cute scenes. Guess what? There weren't any.
Um, SHOW? Do you *remember* that you left last season on a "to be continued"? Do you remember how Carlos was out on parole (and threatening Jack), and Elena was asking Danny to come over for her and Sophie, and the last time we saw Danny he was in a pissy mood at Jack and possibly an unstable frame of mind over the fact that he hadn't killed Carlos when he had the chance? WHY WAS THERE NO FOLLOW-UP TO ANY OF THESE THINGS?
True, I didn't actually stop at any point to listen to the dialogue, but it's not like my VCR goes all that fast. I would certainly have been able to see if Carlos showed up at any point, and/or if Danny & Elena had their cute home scene, WHICH THEY DID NOT. They didn't have any shared scenes at all, except one in the middle when they were reviewing tape footage, I think, and not only was some other member of the team with them, they didn't even look at each other. Annoyed over this, I am feeling disinclined to go back and actually watch the episode. I read the spoilers at YTDAW (before they got irritating and imposed a 50-post minimum to see the thread), and that's really enough plot knowledge for me. Now I remember why I don't like this show very much anymore - it's grown deathly dull.
What I learned from this week is that this 6-shows-on-Thursday business is officially ridiculous, and I still haven't even seen Grey's Anatomy.