Not just episode reviews for the week, but shows for the season - I've been fortunate so far in that I haven't really felt the pangs of the strike's effect yet, but that might be changing in the near future since after Grey's and CSI went down the week before, another four shows took their curtain call of the 07-08 season last week.
6x13, "Raising Caine"
WOW. Now that was an hour of intense entertainment. It seemed to fly by, and yet at the same time I kept pausing to try and wrap my brain around how much had happened; the action and plot twists seemed never-ending. Also, character development in great heaping spades. This episode actually delivered everything it promised - and more.
Upon hearing the first spoilers, I came to the conclusion that - well, first I pitched a hissy fit that they'd actually asked Elizabeth Berkley to play this role, so I couldn't even console myself with the idea that she'd blown them away with her audition. To be perfectly honest, I'm a very recent viewer of Saved by the Bell, and I actually recognize her better as the tragic ugly-duckling figure on Without a Trace, the woman who went on a reality/makeover show so she could be pretty enough to be loved. Either way, she seemed entirely too young for the role, and I got a rather unpleasant taste in my mouth trying to imagine her as a past love interest. Although I did work out a theory, based on her passing resemblance to Yelina (well, she used to have curls...), about the chronological context of this relationship - isn't Ray Jr. about 16 by now? So he'd have been jetting around doing undercover work right about the time Ray & Yelina would have been all wrapped up in the early days of their marriage. Maybe there was a reason for that. And...you can see how things might have gone from there.
Then on came the spoilers, and it became significantly harder to cling to the idea that Julia might be in any way a sympathetic character. She left Kyle with her mom, and by the time she got back, he'd been swallowed up by the system? Um, okay. Still operating under the theory that she left Horatio before finding out she was pregnant, I decided to believe that Julia had been a fairly young mother, clearly in over her head, and took off find herself or whatever. I also decided that she'd left no method of contact whatsoever, and that her mom died while she was gone, and she didn't know about/they couldn't find her to tell her, and thus he went into foster care. I thought maybe the episode would explain how it was that she didn't subsequently fight like hell to get him back. As it turns out, the simple answer is that she's mentally unstable and/or evil.
So, let's start off with that "I didn't want to burden you" line. I certainly believe her not feeling equipped to raise a child, but WAIT ONE MINUTE, she deliberately chose not to tell him about the baby? The hell! I know he was undercover, but I didn't know that being undercover required you to come with a personality transplant even while off the clock. What else could possibly explain any woman thinking that this man would turn down an opportunity to Care? I refuse to believe that this a trait acquired with age, either, since this would only have been about ten years before the start of the series, and this would have put him in his 30's already - certainly far enough into adulthood to accept responsibility (financial, if nothing else) and besides, I've always gotten the sense that he's been mature beyond his years since he was at least a teenager. Clearly, the only explanation is that she's crazy.
My favorite part of their entire meeting is when she anxiously asks how Kyle is, and he ever-so-calmly replies "He's in jail." His eyes telegraph the rest, about how she is very clearly, at least in part, to blame for this. You know, like if she'd told him about Kyle/not ditched Kyle forever when he was little/even slightly attempted to provide mothering to her own child at some point. But I also liked the distant expression in his eyes as the scene closes, looking at her as though trying to imagine "This could have been my life." I actually think there is quite a lot of meta to unpack as to what Julia might have been like in the past, and what could possibly have drawn them together. I actually think there is quite a lot of meta to unpack as to what Julia might have been like in the past, and what could possibly have drawn them together. Despite his line of questioning in this scene, I can't believe he's convinced that she's responsible yet. He doesn't know she's evil/crazy; that doesn't fit at all with the sad face and "It was [serious] for me" quote from the season premiere.
Then again, one look at Julia should be enough to see that she's got the Crazy Eyes. The news rags tried to play up the idea of sparks being rekindled between them, but as the episode quickly proved, any such sparks were all in Julia's head. When she attempted her seductive, breathy "Because you still love me," I fell out of my chair laughing at her self-delusions. How are you not reading the distaste-bordering-on-contempt in his expression? And you know, I think only part of it is the suspicion that you've got a taste for murder. Even if you're completely innocent in this mess, I think he's holding quite a large grudge against you for abandoning your son. He has quite a complex about parents and children.
I've reached the conclusion that Rebecca Nevins is nearly as wonderful a nemesis as Stetler on this show. Despite the fact that they were only dating, not married, and I have my suspicions about the depth of said relationship, Horatio v. Rebecca nowadays is like watching the aftermath of the most bitter divorce in the world. And unfortunately, Kyle is collateral damage.
I loved that they actually brought back the woman from the premiere, although the scene with Rebecca drilling the outline of her testimony into her head was duly frustrating. It just made me want to shout "FOR GOD'S SAKE, PEOPLE, why are we not remembering that Kyle did none of this under his under his own volition? There, look at that - gun to head. GUN. TO. HEAD." My memory of events is quite fuzzy, but this sounds like he kidnapped her out of fear for his own life; to the best of my recollection he didn't hurt her and I also thought he was reasonably sure that she'd be let go once the ransom was collected.
Obviously, I'm not saying it's okay to go around terrorizing people with abductions, but I do not understand why they can't show a little leniency here given that Kyle's just a poor, stupid kid. And it smacks of personal vendetta that Rebecca would throw out the suggestion that they emphasize how someone else was the puppetmaster and driving force behind the whole case, in favor of throwing the poor teenage kid in jail. It would be one thing if he was a hardened juvenile criminal with an utter lack of apology for his actions, but Kyle sits in the courtroom looking like a scared little lamb.
Moving on: Horatio's pre-trial meeting with Kyle blew me away. He sounded human. He had emotions; not only was he reassuring on a more personal level than his usual "I am God; everything is perfect if I say so" stance, but Kyle said he seemed upset and I actually saw that. As far as his wonderful attempt to sound casual and nonchalant while brushing that concern off, I haven't heard that since at least Marisol.
However, I did not need to hear him call Horatio "Dad." My exact words as I jumped in shock and recoiled from the phrase were "WTF AND NO." Even with half a season to play in, I still fear their every attempt to force a close relationship between these two characters who are essentially strangers, and as usual they've jumped the gun - I don't know what I'd expect Kyle to call him, but right now it just sounds way too weird. The only way this works is if I pull a mental rewind and pretend that Kyle has always existed on the series, and furthermore that Horatio raised him from birth, probably (in light of Julia's evil/crazy traits) by himself. In that case, it's awesome, because he does look like a dad, and if Ray Jr. is any indication, I'm sure he and Kyle would have been very close and my heart would be warmed by the forlorn little face pleading for comfort. But NOT IN THIS CONTEXT. "Dad" does not work in this context, and I need to not hear it ever again.
Much less heartwarming were the positively revolting scenes between Kyle and his mother (I feel like "his mother" should be in quote marks of derision). As jeremybrettfan aptly pointed out a few different ways, she's clearly put him under a spell; his eyes glaze over when she talks to him. His naive trust in this evilly manipulative woman is painful to witness. I cannot fault him for it; I understand his willingness to forgive and give her the benefit of the doubt, but his starry-eyed notions of returning to a happy family life are dearly misplaced, and you just know this is all going to come crashing down around him. Kid's going to need therapy, mark my words...not that that's a surprise, given that he comes from the Caine bloodline (man, "Call a Therapist" is in dire need of continuation, isn't it? If only I had the motivation).
Hey, you know what's an even worse phrase to hear than "Dad"? "Our son." I know it's true and a perfectly logical thing to say, and yet my brain refuses to accept that they produced a child together. It's just wrong, wrong, wrong. And yet, I rather love this scene, as Horatio continues to deliver a remarkably human performance (sad as it is that I have to celebrate this fact), now quite guarded against her clearly unbalanced state of mind, and not giving an inch. "And you failed to mention to the five aliases you've used over fifteen years." I love the fact that he actually faced her head-on and looked her straight in the eye while he said that, rather than turning off to the side or addressing the ground. It's so much more...not threatening, exactly, but a dangerously quiet warning.
"Where's Kathleen?" Oh, the glowering. It is fantastic! I think the word "contempt" is creeping ever-higher in the ranks of vocabulary words to describe his opinion of her. Makes sense that Julia apparently paid her off, though. As soon as she mentioned her financial troubles, I figured SOMEBODY was going to buy her off, although I assumed it would be Horatio, in exchange for declining to testify against Kyle. He's all about the bribes in the name of helping teenagers avoid jail this year, after all.
The question I'd actually like answered, though, is who designed the set of Kathleen's place? It's like it's just one big space with a few partial dividers creating areas (as opposed to actual rooms, so the bed looks like it's in the middle of nowhere), and even that doesn't bother me as much as the random placement of the oranges. One is in a bowl that might arguably be considered a fruit bowl, although it looks pretty shallow...and the other is just sitting on the railing next to it. WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE?
I'm glad that the charges against Kyle were finally dropped. Although it would have been good to point out that the dismissal is made permanent due to double jeopardy; once the case is declared closed, it doesn't matter whether Kathleen turns up now or not. Is it wrong if I'm secretly a little bit proud of Julia for removing the one serious obstacle to her son's freedom? Not that I'm endorsing the whole pushing-her-car-into-a-lake-with-her-in-i
And so then Kyle has to choose who gets custody, and even though it's easy to say he's stupid for choosing Julia over Horatio,
Or maybe she just bought his love with the promise of millions of dollars, a Porsche, and a private island. Either way, really. I feel bad for how sad Horatio looked at the end there, though. Per his nature, he doesn't intervene, but just accepts the lots dealt to him. Possibly this is because he can see the cards laid out and know that Julia's destined for jail in the near future, thus reversing the situation anyway, but then he can't even do more than STRONGLY IMPLY which choice might be smarter for Kyle to make. Which the kid of course ignores, albeit as politely as possible. This is just going to end badly for everyone.
"You loved her once, right?" OH, KYLE, STOP SAYING THINGS. I'm going to assume that even in your current state of enchantment, you have no delusions of going back to a happy two-parent home, but I would still prefer you not use such blunt language that brings unwanted images to my head. ...even though I have been asking myself that question all night, and in fact am now intrigued by the fact that Horatio refuses to answer the question. Were you lying to Yelina, then? (this would make a good bit of the fandom happy, actually, if it proved that you are capable of emotionally unattached flings) Or are love and seriousness not synonyms in your head? Or are you simply so appalled by her now that you can't bring yourself to admit ever having once been charmed by her? My money's on the last one.
I cannot wait to see this play out! Eventually. Someday in the dark and distant future, this might actually be a worthwhile storyline after all. Because as much as it pains me to admit this, Elizabeth Berkley was fantastic at portraying the piece of work that is Julia ManySurnames. I stumbled over a TV Guide "jeers" section that bashed her "glassy-eyed" acting as "stiff and artificial," but I kind of thought that was the point. This is a woman who sends chills up your spine without even doing anything. Her calm and demeanor is eerily detached from reality; her every turn of phrase is made all the more unnerving by the fact that she seems to have an answer for everything. And even though she very clearly has The Crazy Eyes, you can't actually point your finger towards anything that incriminates her . That's why she skips off scot-free on the murder, and gets both inheritance and custody without question. I find this fascinating.
It surprises me that I didn't think I was going to be able to stand her for even one episode, and now I'm suddenly excited for her multi-episode arc. I'm stubbornly ignoring the part where said arc is months away from being written, and perhaps no longer strictly guaranteed. Eventually they will pick up this storyline again, and we can all be amused by Crazy Julia's failed adventures in parenting (part II) that will inevitably lead to her losing custody forever. If we're lucky she might even lose her life in the process (just wishful thinkig on my part).
Whew, okay, now that I've worked my way through the main story arc of the episode, let me briefly mention the remainder of my scattered thoughts. For example, while Horatio managed to come up with a beautiful display of depth and human emotion this episode, he seems to have robbed all the other characters of it - especially Natalia & Calleigh in their opening scene. Their whole exchange was so agonizingly fake that I could barely sit through it without wanting to rip out my hair. Let me see if I can roughly demonstrate what I heard:
"Did you hear, Alexx got in a car accident!"
"Weird, Horatio found his recently-discovered son's long-lost mother!"
THIS IS SO TERRIBLE I CANNOT BEAR IT. This is literally like, this is like a soap opera. Not in terms of the plot, although looking at the above lines it's getting there, but I mean in terms of the delivery, where nothing you do can make the lines sound sincere or even remotely realistic. It's really, really frustrating to watch. Natalia going "So that poor woman got bad news about her husband and her son in the same day?" was a perfect example of this, too - why is that a question?? Calleigh literally just said that, in no ambiguous terms, so there was no need to recap or clarify. Try phrasing that as a commentary statement instead, perhaps something like "That's a lot to hit a person in one day."
And now for bullet points:
* "Bendy" the dummy! HEE. Eric doth amuse me muchly.
* The music in this episode was unequivocally fantastic. From the opening song to the almost film-noir music during Julia's flashback to finding the annulment papers, not one moment of it made
* Stupid Editing Tricks were at a minimum in the episode! As a matter of pure principle, I cannot actually prasie the honeycomb effect, but it was fifty thousand times better than stuff like the gray screen freeze. It honestly didn't bother me at all.
* Oh, Biscayne courthouse. I love you and your funny glass walls, no discretion whatsoever...
* WELL, THAT SEEMS AN EVEN TRADE. Killing someone versus being kicked out of the finer things club, yes, I can certainly see how the former is unavoidable in that situation. Except not.
*FECKING CLIFFHANGERS I HATE YOU WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME? Okay, it's not *the* most suspenseful cliffhanger in the world, but it's enough to tick me off a little.
*My copy of the episode this week had an annoying habit of jumping forward in places that forced me to manually rewind, and so I apparently missed a few scenes in there. I do not feel like expending the extra effort required to synthesize this one into my previously-written essay, but I'd like to say that I really liked the custody-filing scene between Frank and Horatio. Even if the latter flatly refused to elaborate on who Julia was, passing off with a cheap flashback instead.
Notes from the Fashion Show
We'll be kicking off this week with a demonstration of orange and green. Notice how the majority of Julia's guests seemed to be wearing one of these two colors, and her dead husband's tie was green as well.
Calleigh: While it was very pretty, I fell over in shock at how VIVIDLY GREEN her sweater was. It was actually a fairly standard green, not the obnoxious lime that Ryan's fond of or anything, but I'm so used to seeing her wrapped in black that this bold display of color was almost too intense to handle.
Eric: Sporting the pale orange paisley-pattern he's so fond of wearing.
Natalia: Similarly pale orange stripes on her otherwise average sleeveless top.
Kyle: In addition to the orange-striped shirt he wore in court (I'm not even counting his prison jumpsuit), I would like to use this space to point out that his tie was perhaps the ugliest one in this show's existence. Dark blue with orange...spots, like elongated polka dots. I don't even know.
Frank: NICE TIE. I'm not being sarcastic. It was this gorgeous gold pattern. We should clearly have sent Frank to buy Kyle's tie.
Ryan: In an odd turn of events, he rather than Calleigh sat on the sidelines with Horatio this week, demonstrating a suit that looked appealingly cream-colored at the beginning, but strangely yellow towards the end. I don't know what that's about.
'NCIS, 5x11, "Tribes"
The previous episode aired in November, and then we get this one random one thrown out in the middle of January to close the season? I can't be the only one feeling some serious disconnect. I had to go look up my old reviews to even remember where we left things last time. Unfortunately, there was nothing particularly special about this one at all.
I feel like we've done a lot with terrorism on this show lately. And while it's more logical here than, say, CSI: Miami, it also has a tendency to get a little boring, especially with what feels like the umpteenth rehashing of American/Muslim conflicts. The plot was boring, but there was a decent smattering of things to pull out
*There was some really pretty Arabic music in the background at the beginning
*MCGEE'S GIANT COFFEE MUG. LOL.
*Ziva in film studies - priceless! While it lasted, anyway. A little disappointing to find out she'd been using a book instead of actually enrolling in a class, but she matched Tony step for step all day. That's not easy to do.
*Am I the only one who loved Gibbs' seafoam-green shirt? I loved everyone's wardrobe tonight, actually, especially Abby's. The white shirt with dark pink patterning seemed suspiciously non-Gothy for her, until I was able to scrutinize a paused frame and determine that it was sporting a pink skull motif. That's better.
*I wondered how long it was going to take Ducky to figure out a way of doing a virtual autopsy. It seems like other crime shows are always doing this.
*"If you find anything..." "You'll be the last to know." I love Jen. Such a deadly sweet smile.
*LABBY! (or would that be Labbby?) What a cute name for "Lab of Abby." I loved her taking care of the machines, and whispering "You're my favorite" to the nearest one...mostly because Gibbs mirrored the action later, stopping just short of a cheek kiss to instead tell her what we all know. Still cute to hear him say it like that, though, because even in jest he so very clearly meant it.
*"The needle was like, really old! It was like, from the 70's! ...not that that's...that's not old." LOL, Abby was channeling Tony's talent for desperate backtracking right there. Gibbs' eyebrows go way, way up, but he still looks faintly amused by her fluster. Have I mentioned how much I love Mark Harmon's talent for subtle emotion?
But those brief moments of glee made up only a small proportion of the episode, so I have to say that it was a disappointing way to close the season.
So this is life after Abby? Wow. It kind of sucks. It's funny how the loss of one character, when you like so few, can make such a detrimental difference, but the show suddenly rang hollow with only Neela and Tony to keep me interested.
The dull patient cases didn't help either. I really like the actress playing the boy's mother - I think she was in Without a Trace's "At Rest," and I commented on her gorgeous hair there too - but I couldn't stand the guy playing the prison doc. His watery eyes, UGH. His only useful role was raging at Chaplain Julia for being a phony New Age fraud, which was pretty awesome. He had a serious point - she utterly fails when it comes to offering true religious guidance. Which I realize is not necessarily her role, and if the guy was that freaked out he might have called a priest, but still...it reminded me of all the reasons I can't stand her.
Other things I can't stand: Tony/Sam. I spent the whole episode cringing in horrible anticipation of when The Moment might be, and just when I was starting to think maybe the previews had been making up lies again, she kissed him. Aaaand, that needs to never to happen again, because they have no chemistry at all. Blech. You know, I've been watching it build, and yet it still seems to have come from nowhere - I cannot fathom where their weird friendship, never mind anything more, suddenly sprang from. Did she even talk to him last season? And now they're BFFs with future benefits. What is this.
On a related note, though, I want a Tony of my own to be adorable and randomly fix my car. Not that I have a car, but, in principle.
Also, I cannot remember the last time I was as disappointed in a character as I have been with Skye. When she's not doing horrible, dirty things with Dubenko (speaking of which, I couldn't even try to tough it out this week: I got as far as her stripping off her shirt with him in the tub, and slapped the skip-forward), she's saying stupid things about how it apparently takes "courage" to reject the idea of marriage and the concept of forever-monogamous love. *lip twitch* She's still not as bad as Moretti, but she's getting there.
File under 'things I don't care about': Pratt and Pratt-related storylines, including but not limited to Bettina, his gay paramedic brother, and his apparently official title of Wise and Benevolent Dispenser of Reassurance.
In fact, the only part of the episode that was really any good at all - which was surprising, since I thought I'd hate it - was the hockey game. Okay, the locker room was gross, but after that it was just HILARIOUS. I loved "They are such drama queens," and Morris as the ringer, and everyone mocking and taunting Neela only to have their asses handed to them on a plate as she skated circles around them (GO NEELA).
Really, I could not stop laughing. I loved Dubenko being weirdly adorable with his bad hair hidden, all proud of himself as he skated up to the center line at the beginning, and the violent checking, and when Morris/Neela had their first faceoff, you could just tell that the actors were having a blast trash-talking each other. Plus, ice hockey is one of the few sports I enjoy watching - the fast-paced action forces you to pay attention, and it doesn't hurt that my high school hockey teams were pretty darn good, so they took our pep band to all kinds of playoff games.
The physical riot in the ER later was a little dumb, but I did love the way the surgeons were still yelling insults at one another from their respective beds around the room. Especially when Harold's final contribution is one out-of-place "Bee-yotch!", and everyone just kind of looks at him.
Gates: Who are you yelling at, Harold?
Harold: ...I don't really know.
Wow, that was a lot of paragraphs after all. And thus does ER fold its wings, with rather more of a sluggish mutter than the contended sigh so many shows have been able to close with in this midseason shutdown, but at least I have plenty of reruns to content me for the interim.
'Without a Trace - 6x12, "Article 32"
Why do I even bother writing about this show? Sometimes I wonder if I should just knock it back to non-awesome-sitcom status, where I watch it for something to do but don't consider it part of the regular writing queue unless there's something particularly outstanding. Because this episode was TERRIBLY DULL.
I only watched it because I thought I was promised a tense bomb scene, possibly with accompanying explosion. Instead that was practically a throwaway moment in the middle of the episode, and I was bored to tears for the rest of it. Not even the super-pretty missing woman, my beloved "it's for the aliens!" lady from CSI: NY, could rescue the story from its suffocating dullness. They couldn't even be interesting by way of controversy - there might have been something to debate about war supporters vs. protestors, but all I felt was "Meh."
I'll grant you a single moment of win: after almost an entire season apart, Danny and Elena got to share multiple scenes, including an interrogation where they got to not only look at each other, but carry on a conversation with their expressions, moving from faint smirking as they prodded their tweaked-out suspect for information, to Panic Mode upon realizing that their MP had been collecting material useful for building bombs. Sure, then Elena promptly went back to partering with Jack, but for a brief moment in time they were allowed to acknowledge one another's existence! How shocking!
Oh yeah, and there was something about Viv interviewing new people to join her task force. Did...did that really need to be there? Couldn't we have left that on the cutting room floor and replaced it with a line of exposition? THIS STORYLINE HAS SO MUCH POTENTIAL TO BE INTERESTING, and yet it fails almost every single time they address it.
Show is now over for the season. I don't care at all, aside from doing a little happy dance in the corner that I no longer have to feel compelled to sit through the snore fest every week. WaT and I could definitely use a good long break from each other.
In other news, I still cannot seem to sleep normally. LOOK AT THIS PATTERN OF NONSENSE:
Tuesday night: 1-9 AM. Starts out pretty normal, right, AND THEN.
Wednesday: no sleep
Thursday: 7 PM-9 AM
Friday: no sleep
Saturday: 1:30-6:30 PM
Sunday: 6 AM-noon, and am skipping sleep tonight because I am just not tired. Possibly I will take a long nap this afternoon, but still.