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Known fact: the 2012-2013 TV season has been brutal. Not in the record-low-ratings sense, but in the "I rely on happy, content and stable TV couples in order to feel like love is possible for real people" sense. Drastically scaling back the number of shows (and therefore potential couples) on my plate didn't help, and temporarily ditching the one (Castle) that was guaranteed to have weekly domesticity and cute moments to balance things was clearly a mistake, but having all my basic cornerstones rocked was utterly disorienting.

That's a heads-up that I may be releasing a whole lot of embarrassing pent-up crazy in the first section of this post. It's very late at night and I've been writing for a lot of hours.

The Office, 9x15, "Couples Discount"

Six or seven weeks back, right after my last mega-late Office post and where the Halpert Status Watch still hurt but at least it was in all the best ways, I tried to keep momentum going by watching this and it shattered my heart. I mean, shattered it. The memory was so negative I almost couldn't make myself go back there today, and only managed because I'd forgotten 90% of what else happened and promised myself I could skip over all the bad parts if I wanted.

Upon second viewing, I am not sure why I had such a visceral reaction, but it's still not exactly their best Valentine's Day outing.

When I say shattered, I mean I wound up in hysterical tears because this new fight was just too much on top of Kurt/Blaine and Grissom/Sara (oh and also my dog dying) in the same year.[You know what's really fun? Feeling suicidal as a character. There should be a name for this.]I coped with it the way I've been coping with the first couple in that list -- drummed up a fantasy scenario in which Pam doesn't ask him to stay, she gives up before it can get worse. Leaves the kids in her mother's care and kills herself instead.

Does this make any kind of logical sense? Of course not. But I get triggered by the slightest sense of abandonment, which is magnified a hundred times over with a Tunnel Vision OTP where I've spent large portions of my life thinking about them and as them at all times of the day and night. In that situation, I'd be feeling instantly suicidal. So I transplant my tendencies onto the character I've spent so much time Method-daydreaming, where I can give them access to any tools necessary, and voila. I've actually killed Blaine 3 times since Christmas; it's almost therapeutic.

(FYI, it's just super fun to be a generally happy person who is - for the record - in no way suicidal over a show, and yet out of nowhere simultaneously feel like killing yourself/wishing you were dead because a few months ago your life was perfect and now it's falling in shambles all around you. #seriously is there a name for this condition? #like dissociative character disorder? #acute hyper-empathy syndrome?)


Once I finished crying, I shoved The Office in the Vault and decided to just wait until the series was over, because there was no way I was going to draw out this torture in real time. In the meantime, I wiped all knowledge of this show from memory and sent it to the shadow graveyard with Bones, for shows that are not yet canceled but very much dead to me.

SO LET'S SWITCH GEARS FOR A MOMENT:
The rub is, all the non-Jim/Pam parts of this episode were REALLY funny. 80-90% of this was a REALLY good episode. So before I accidentally set myself into a spiral that I did not experience until I started writing this post after the rewatch, let's go back to the funny and/or super-solid parts. In no particular order --

Dwight mocking Andy's nonsense sing-song vocals. "I really like Andy these days. He's pretend and does exactly what I tell him to."

Pete being suspicious of Erin's motives for giving him one last day like he's a dog about to be put down. And Erin being adorable and suggesting things like playing Frisbee to really drive that point home. SO CUTE! When did I not like her, again?

Literally every TH Erin had

Kevin + "chunky lemon milk" is the first technically-gross thing that's actually made me laugh. (I laugh at the phrasing, yet I actually just think of lemon cookies and see him washing them down with regular milk. It helps that I can't imagine expired milk actually tasting of lemon, because I associate the words "fresh" and "delightful" before "sour")

The nail salon lady cheerfully giggling at/disbelieving in gay men, and Darryl's weirdly aggressive attempt to put her in her place, bwahahaha.

Nellie accidentally breaking my heart in one TH about being unable to maintain even a fake relationship.

Andy trying to force the word "coolio" and then losing their record-setting client in five seconds flat (HI JAN'S VOICE!), while contempt rolls off Dwight in waves and murderous tendencies glow in his eyes.

Andy swaggering about with zero shame while everyone (especially accounting. Especially Angela. Also Dwight.) glares at him with thinly veiled scorn and disgust. And talks about plans to sabotage him behind his back, and then helps put that plan into action. "What did you miss? There was a fire in the warehouse. We sell balloons now. Kathy Ireland is signed on as official spokesbabe. Topless in Europe."

I...sort of liked the look of Andy the Island Hobo (a/k/a Captain Bead Beard), once I got used to it. Not sure if it's actually appealing or I just can't look away.

Andy's awesomely horrible attempt to talk Erin into staying. "You may not be feeling love for me right now, but if you fake it, I won't be able to tell the difference!"

Erin kissing Pete because he just wants her to be happy!
And then running back in to break up with Andy for good.
And then having David Wallace be on speakerphone while that happened, about to demand explantions for this bullshit about "you were gone for 3 months."

Assorted Awesome Quotes
Oscar: Darryl -- everyone seems to be pairing off. Do you want to pretend to be a couple so we can get the...?
Darryl: NO. *sees camera* YES. Yes. Why wouldn't I...want to pretend to be gay.

Queen Nellie Decrees: Clark, you will be my fake boyfriend so I can get the discount.
Clark: It's what I do.

On Meredith's more-than-plenty list of names she's been called --
Pete: Why does no one stop her?

Andy: You and me, we have a future. There is a lot of love here.
Erin: I just said there isn't love.

Pam: I made us a lunch reservation at State Street Grill.
Jim: Oh my god, that's so romantic.
Pam: It's with Brian and Alyssa.
Jim: Oh my god, that's less romantic.
~~~~~~~~
All right, let's face the sad music.

Lone good part: I really liked Jim's rapport with Brian, and his (short lived) scorn-shaming of the rest of the crew for firing him.

Then:
Me: ...I haven't even met Alyssa yet and I am going to be so mad if their marriage is in trouble.
Brian: We're splitting up.
Me: I will end your life.
Me a few minutes later: Remember when Brian and Alyssa splitting up was the worst thing to happen in this episode?

The talk about marriages ending was...worrisome, and nerve-wracking, but at least at that point I could still brush it off and focus on just being sad for Brian. Who is totally not going to try and make a play for Pam, nope. Brian is definitely Not That Guy. (BE COOL, BRIAN, BE COOL).

I liked Jim's reaction to hearing about her crying, but I wanted that to be him realizing he made her cry, not for him to get immediately suspicious of emotional cheating. Or at least put the wrath on the potential homewrecker where it belongs, not your wife, god.

"I didn't tell you about the crying because I didn't want you to know how upset I was." (or to add to his stress) OK, right there? A good response. Already more rational than I would have been at this point. I was poised to bite Jim's head off and turn this ugly, if I didn't spontaneously cry again first. Jim responds dickishly.

And I still wasn't crushed at this point. This was doable. But in the end, with him ready to walk away -- like he's been walking away all year -- after he'd just been explicitly warned about how non-communication is what fails marriages -- I don't know. I snapped. That's not the person I've come to rely on as the symbol of everything a good partner should be and exactly the kind of person you want to marry. Jim is the one whose determination and optimism always gets them through anything. The last time he gave up hope it was The Darkest Timeline.

And because I identify with the left-behind partner, my wrath over Dickhead Jim doesn't really last more than two seconds before I conclude that there are only helpless victims in this situation and there's no point in blaming anyone. Sometimes things die and there's nothing you can do about it. (man, that has been the most relevant quote this year. Thanks, Grey's!)

On rewatch, I think we were supposed to take something optimistic away from that last scene - Pam nervous but bravely holding her ground, something about the glimmer of determination in her eyes reminding Jim of the old days. All hope is not lost. Still a storm about to go down, and a hell of an ugly one, but maybe the cleansing kind. I mean, we were supposed to take the use of "Beesley" as a good sign, right?

I literally don't think I saw any of that the first time, though. Just the words "I feel like we're gonna fight" and then it was LIGHTS OUT IN THE SADNESS CAVE.

And that's the sense of anger I've been alluding to in other posts for the past couple of months -- this is an untouchable couple exempt from normal TV rules and I should always be able to take their happy ending for granted, yet for the first time after eight and a half (or at least five) years, I actually worried. I shouldn't ever feel like there is a scenario in which they even theoretically can fall apart, grow apart, or even temporarily separate, and I felt that. I saw a world where Jim just stays indefinitely in Philadelphia for a while, the step of getting his own place already conveniently taken care of and making it that much easier.

Hopefully nothing like that (or worse) actually happens, but that's not the story people need. That's not realism for this situation, and it has absolutely no place here, even as mere speculation. That's as clear and simple to me as the existence of God is to a devout nun.

[edit: I probably should have found a way to siphon some of the more hysterical parts here into a friends-locked post. Oh well, too late now.]

~~~~~~~~~
Okay, I think I'm all ranted out on that one. For once, I have not jumped ahead to the next episode already. I'm afraid that if I try it'll throw me off for another month. I was thinking about temporarily switching the order and watching "The Farm" first, because isn't that one basically a standalone filmed way earlier, or will I miss any references to storyline advancement they added in later?

Meantime, I've switched gears over to CSI: NY. Mostly because Mac has a girlfriend over there, and I don't know how often she appears this year, but I've got infinite hope for ship moments based on season 8. This might be an unforeseen reason I don't go back to The Office for a month.

Previously on CSI: NY: Jo was horrible and season 8 was generally the worst thing to hit crime drama since season 6 of Without A Trace, but then the premiere blew me away so hard I couldn't even wrap my head around it, and subsequently tucked the show away for safekeeping until I could appreciate it. In related news, Mac/Christine is one of my Top 10 Current Ships.

Previously on The Idealistic Daydream (rainbowstevie.livejournal.com): RS had ditched all her procedurals except NCIS, which barely left an impression on her brain, but then adopted a veteran crime show named Criminal Minds, and over the last several months became thoroughly entrenched in a new team, format, and particular style of crime-solving.

Returning to this show was at once both jarring and familiar. Jarring in the sense that it was instantly glitzier, more high-tech, and perhaps just little shallower and less serious for all the flash -- but familiar in the sense that a rush of love for these detectives came flooding back, bringing with it the pang of its recent cancellation. The problems of last year are forgotten -- this is one of the strongest sets of characters on any ensemble. Ahead of the original CSI, at this point, with all its sore thumbs. They're richly developed, they play well off one another, and they don't shy away from delving into personal lives. I can't believe how much I'm gonna miss them when they're gone.

Fortunately, for me, our final journey is just getting started.

9x02, "Where There's Smoke":
"It's the events in our life that shape us, but it's our choices that define us."
--Remind me to store that for next time I need to lash back at idiots. (also, I can has Criminal Minds opening quote??)

That first death was the most grotesque body I've ever seen on a crime show, much more disturbing (if less stomach-churning) than liquid bodies. Broiled alive and posed in a position reminiscent of Pompeii victims, "her death was anything but quick and painless." Never mind the basic nightmare fuel of being trapped in an elevator with flames roaring across the ceiling. And I haven't even started on how someone can apparently put something in your food that, when followed by consumption of water, ignites a fire in your stomach. Like I don't know whether to high five the creativity of the behind-the-scenes staff here, or just go fetal.

But wow, what a way to come back. I was a little worried I'd over-blown the hype of the premiere in my memory, but part II absolutely held up. Rob Morrow continued to be incredible, making me consciously think about his acting skills and how completely he disappeared into this role (I would actually like to nominate him for an Outstanding Guest Star Emmy). I'm not usually one for videocam monologues from prison, but something about these held my interest. Maybe it was just the contrast to "Angels and Devils" when Rob Morrow was the one watching videocam monologues from prison.

And the final scene left you feeling perfectly unsettled despite how relatively innocuous it was (future reference: using his glasses + the sun to start a small fire in the pages of a book in his cell, before calmly extinguishing it with an enigmatic smile). I also tip my hat to the director, who made excellent use of techniques I probably don't know the name of, but I took notice. Especially the shots of the saint and stag statues, or the reflection of the flames in flashbacks.

Only flaw in the entire episode was the incredibly hamfisted catch-up dialogue at Flack's desk -- "look at the name. Jennifer...Jen! Why, that explains the mysterious name on the necklace!" I swear, show/CBS/whoever is responsible for that note, the audience is nawt that dumb.

Finally: hey there, Dt. Jamie Lovato. I'd heard chatter that Flack got himself a new lady-detective love interest this season, and I was All Systems Go prepared for skepticism. But before I could even suspect this was her, she strolled in and kicked ass, and I was making Flack-like impressed faces before I knew what hit me. Please add me to the club of people who like her - she's no Jess, but I am totally OK with making them kinda similar. Two scenes with Flack and I'm already bubbling over with delighted feelings about their snappy banter. Not shipper feelings yet! Just...interest-stirring feelings.


9x03, "2,918 Miles"
Not a bad storyline -- a little hard to follow, but when I compare it to the snoozefest I remember all the cases in season 8 being, I feel like this is on fire. I'm always up for a little change of scenery, so if you want to randomly set half your case in San Francisco, sure be my guest. The Detectives Messer had a few cute moments mentioning Lucy and working together to advance the case. I enjoyed the dissonance of hearing people talk about how "Eppes is bad news" RIGHT after Rob Morrow left the screen, and the happy "hero" ending was a nice touch. That said, remember that part a few minutes in where we first leave the case behind?

First thought: Ho hum, yawn, do you think you two randoms could finish groping each other soon so we can get to the dead body or murder or whatever the point is?
Second thought: Wait, we're well into the episode. And at least one of these voices sounds familiar...
Third thought: OHAUGH GOD MY EYES, WHY, JO, WHY. (I mean better than any other team member having to take this hit, but WHY AT ALL, is my point)
Fourth thought: well, and there we have our first sour note of the season. Took longer than I thought it would, really.

1.5 minutes later: Skippin' the rest of the Jo scenes, bye. I'm determined to view this as The Best Season Since Stella Left, and in order to make that happen, I will suffer no fools who might throw me off.

So with that gone, the rest of my focus is free to focus on the Flack and Lovato Show, where the two of them are smirking and bantering and giving each other crap over baseball loyalties every time you turn around. IT IS THE BEST. And I'm realizing we're now getting like 3 solid minutes of character development time at the end, not counting whatever we saw earlier, which is like Castle territory. Very impressed.

Random note -- one of the evidence-processing montages was set to Lykke Li's "I Follow Rivers," which I was super excited to recognize after thinking it sounded maddeningly familiar, until I heard "river running hot / running deep, run wild" and yelped NOW I REMEMBER! GLEE TRAINING STRIKES AGAIN. I'd forgotten they did that song, and even though it's sung by a favorite character on that show, I never looked up the full version and now I've gotten pretty attached to the original as I play it on loop. The arrangement seems cooler.

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