The week got away from me fast, with Mrs. Teebore watching the Grammys on Sunday, a couple nights away from the TV and the arrival of a new puppy. I know, excuses, excuses. Here's what I did find time to watch.
Once Upon A Time: Skin Deep
A solid episode, which tweaks the Beauty and the Beast story and uses Rumpelstiltskin as the Beast and Emilie de Ravin from Lost as Belle. References to the Disney version of the story, from Belle's dresses to Gaston and even Chip the insufferable teacup kid, abound, but the real charm of the story comes from watching Rumpelstiltskin grapple with his growing feelings for Belle and his desire for power. Per usual, the events in Storybrooke are overshadowed by FTL, though this episode did present a more-unhinged than usual Mr. Gold as he attempted to retrieve the memento of his time with Belle. Which led to one of the show's biggest reveals: like Regina, Mr. Gold remembers FTL. This, in turn, led to an episode-ending cliffhanger that Belle, believed dead by both Rumpelstiltskin and Mr. Gold, is actually alive in Storybrooke, albeit imprisoned in some kind of secret asylum below the hospital run by Regina. That Belle was still around was mildly shocking, only because I assumed her presumed death was a way to not need Emilie de Ravin to come back to reprise the role, but ultimately, Regina's secret prison will probably turn out to be the bigger surprise.
Oh, there was also that tertiary plot about girls night. Pretty lame, but I loved how inept David was at carrying on two relationships at once.
The scene between Regina and Mr. Gold in the jail was an especially good one for Regina, as we got to see her be menacing without being a total bitch.
The whole Stockhold Syndrome-ness of Belle falling in love with her captor has some creepy, uncomfortable implications, that are never really addressed, but this isn't that kind of show and, well, you find that in a lot of fairy tales (even Beauty and the Beast, to some extent).
I wonder who else Regina has locked up in the asylum, and why she didn't just stick David in there when he was in a coma.
I still prefer Emilie de Ravin as a brunette.
Jane Espenson, the writer of the episode, live-tweeted during it; amongst the things I learned:
This episode takes place several hundred years after Rumpelstiltskin took the Dark Ones power; it mentions an Ogre War, but Rumpelstiltskin merely fought in the first Ogres War.
FTL is polytheistic (someone mentions "the gods").
The Disney allusions, in this episode and others, are intentional. The writers feel those are the versions with which most people are familiar, so they tend to use them as a starting point. Also, because this is an ABC/Disney show, they can get away with it rather easily.
In the original, longer cut of the episode, we saw Emma tailing Mr. Gold, to explain how she found his cabin in the woods. It was ultimately cut for time, because they believed it wasn't that important to show how she found him, as most people would just assume she followed him.
The Walking Dead: Nebraska (mid-season premiere)
Oh, Walking Dead. You're just never going to change are you? Much like its last two seasons (or half seasons), this episode started strong (dealing with the aftermath of the barn massacre) and ended strong (Rick's confrontation with the Eastern yokels in the bar), but more or less meandered in the middle. And with the revelation that Fort Benning is a dead end and the looming confrontation with the yokels' people, it seems unlikely this show is ever going to have any kind of narrative momentum, and I'm just going to have to accept it.
That said, most of my issues with this episode dealt with its implications on the series as whole. As an episode, this was solid enough, thanks in large part to that stunning showdown in the bar between Rick, Dave and Tony. It was a fantastic scene that wisely let subtext be subtext. There were the parallels to Rick's own situation with Hershel, left unsaid, and I loved the way the tension built without any obvious signs that those two guys were trouble, just little things (like Tony pissing in the corner) and gradually rising tension. You started to get a bad feeling about it just about when Rick realized they were trouble, then saw Hershel realize it too (I think poor Glenn is still clueless), and pretty soon, you're just waiting for something to happen, and thankfully, Rick is badass enough to shut it down before it gets worse. Well written, acted and directed all around.
For whatever reason, Rick doing the right thing in a bad situation is enjoyable to watch (like putting down Dave and Tony without hesitation), whereas when Shane does it, it's creepy and feels wrong. Probably because Rick actually struggles with those decisions, making his drastic actions seem more reluctant, whereas Shane is just batshit crazy.
Another nice thing about that bar scene: it established that there are dangers in this world beyond the zombies (considering a lot of the people who survived are probably not the type of people you want to meet in a lawless society), something most post-apocalyptic fiction deals with at one time or another, which Walking Dead had not yet.
Is Lori the world's biggest idiot, or what? Putting aside the whole idea of going off on your own whilst pregnant moments after stupidly giving your husband a hard time for leaving, there was no clear reason for her to go. Rick and Glenn went after Herschel; why does she feel the need to send someone after them? They haven't been gone that long, and chances are bringing Herschel back would take more than a quick, "hey, get in". This was just a terrible case of creating drama for drama's sake.
Loved the scene between Dale and Shane, and how Dale got under his skin despite literally saying or doing nothing.
Liked the line about how they bury they ones they love and burn the rest. When it comes to wartime/post-apocalyptic fiction, I have very little patience for people who are so worried about traditional burial rites that they put themselves at risk; that philosophy, at least, is a little more grounded than "oh my god, we have to do everything for the dead that we did in normal society even though its fairly irrelevant and might risk us dying ourselves".
Also enjoyed the scene between Rick and Glenn in the car, specifically Glenn coming clean about Lori's pregnancy and apologizing. Though his whole struggle with "I love you" was pretty lame. Fictional characters make too big a deal out of it. Just say it back and be done with it. It's not a binding contract.
As much as its implications on the show's ongoing narrative bothered me, I did like the list of "I heard things are better here" places that Dave rattled off.
Yeah, yeah, Otis put Sophia in the barn and died before he could tell Hershel. I still don't quite buy it, but I won't get into that again.
I can't decide if establishing Hershel had a drinking problem before this episode would have been horribly obvious foreshadowing, or necessary foreshadowing.
Hershel's various family members seemed more prominent in this episode than ever before. Heck, I don't think we even knew Beth's name before she collapsed in this episode.
So what are the odds that the confrontation with the friends of the people Rick just killed will stretch out over the remaining five episodes of the season?
How I Met Your Mother: Drunk Train
In general, this was a nice bounce back from last week's form-heavy, humor-light episode. Barney and Ted's antics on the drunk train were, as expected, largely entertaining, and I particularly enjoyed Marshall and Lily's complete inability to keep a secret. But the one thing that everyone is talking about is the ending.
It is, of course, far too early to pass judgment. Who knows where this is heading, after all? I know there are some people who hate any deviations from the "mother plot", and likely view another go round on the Ted/Robin carousel a waste of time in that regard, since we already know she's not the mother. But we've always known that, and some of this show's best episodes involved Ted's romantic interactions with Robin. So long as the writing is sharp and the jokes funny, I don't really care too much about the overarching plot, and if the writers feel like they have more to say about Robin and Ted, so be it (plus, Ted's episode-ending declaration of love wasn't entirely out-of-the-blue (even if it was kind of douchey): Victoria more or less foreshadowed it earlier in the season).
That said, I remain dubious that there is any ground in the Robin/Ted story left worth covering, regardless of how it fits into the show's overarching narrative. They get back together, they break up, Ted and Barney break-up over Robin; this is all old ground. Maybe the writers have something new to say or a new direction to go with it, I just wonder how likely that is. In the end, it will, of course, all come down to execution. If whatever comes next is well written and funny, I'll be fine with it.
The subplot with Barney falling for a girl who can see through his BS (and I believe that character is sticking around for awhile) is fine, though on the surface it feels like a retread of what they did with Nora. Also, I was a bit disappointed that the bumper revealed that she's a stripper who knew all about Barney because she sees him at work all the time.
So long, Kevin! As non-group love interests go, you weren't bad, and certainly got more screen time than most, but I won't miss you terribly. The moment he proposed, I thought, "well, this is Kevin's last episode", though I give the show credit for surprising me in terms of why exactly he left.
Quinn: Sorry, I have I’m Not a Gullible Dumbass Syndrome.
Barney: As a former Surgeon General, I don't think that's a real thing.
Ted: Last week I went out with a girl whose favorite band was Glee
Saturday Night Live: Zooey Deschanel & Karmin
In general, I really enjoyed this episode. While few sketches were without a fault of some kind, most of them provided at least a few big laughs, and there were few out-and-out stinkers. Zooey Deschanel, though clearly nervous and guilty of a few line flubbings, acquitted herself well and even showed a sense of humor about herself (if forced to choose between liking and disliking the somewhat-polarizing actress, I'd fall on the "like" side of the line; that said, I'm impressed that she does have a sense of humor about herself, as she strikes me as someone who wouldn't). All in all, while not flawless, it was a step in the right direction after a couple of weak outings.
Cold Open: The now-standard Romney fare, though I'm curious how much of the "dog barks Romney off stage" ending was planned. Was there more to the bit that Sudeikeis had to cut when the dog wouldn't stop barking, or was that how it it was supposed to play out?
Monologue: Not surprising, given her part in the folk pop duo She & Him, Zooey sang a song, which was fine. At least she has a reason to be singing.
Clint Eastwood Ads: I would have liked to see these spaced out throughout the show, instead of all three being crammed into the first half, but that aside, they were pretty damn funny. Hader's Eastwood impression is spot-on, loved the gag about how high his pants were, and appreciated the way each subsequent one escalated into bigger laughs and more zany situations, climaxing with "I'm Batman!"
Piers Morgan Tonight: One of those sketches with a funny central idea (the offended mom) and a lot of stuff on the margins that didn't quite work (I've seen very little of Piers Morgan, so maybe Taran Killiam's was a hilarious send-up, but it did little for me). But the band that wraps around your fingers to prevent Satan from taking control of your middle finger got a huge laugh from me, in the "funny cuz I'm surprised no one's tried to push that yet" department.
Les Jeunes Des Paris: I generally enjoy this sketch, though I'm never quite sure why. Maybe it's because it reminds me of crazy European TV shows I watched in German class, or because it has a different energy from most other SNL sketches, or just because goofy dancing makes me laugh. I was also surprised to see this sketch so early in the evening. That said, this was probably my least favorite of the three (?) we've had so far, and only the surprise appearance by Jean Dujardin really put it over the top. I enjoy the sketch, but wouldn't want to see if pop up more than once or twice a season.
Old Timey Newspaper: A funny central idea (someone is baffled by the fast talking slang of newspapermen circa the 1940s) was undercut a bit by a confused setup: was it taking place in the 40s or today? Was Zooey playing an atypical 40s reporter or were the reporters atypical modern day reporters? I laughed quite a bit, but I still spent a lot of the sketch wondering those things.
Weekend Update: The highlight here, and really of the night, was Nicholas Cage appearing alongside Andy Samberg-as-Nicholas Cage for "In the Cage". Hilarious and surreal, it was nice to see that Nicholas Cage also has a sense of humor about himself, and worth it just to hear Cage himself say he was off to have a threesome with the Declaration of Independence.
Bein' Quirky: Another "actor plays against someone impersonating them" faceoff that pretty much covered all the requisite Zooey Deschanel ground. It was a tad long (one fewer "and now it's time for..." bits would have helped) and neither Mary-Kate Olsen nor Bjork are very zeitgeist-y at the moment, but I really enjoyed this, for Abby Elliot's Zooey and Zooey's Mary-Kate ("I'm a billionare), and Killam's Michael Cera.
Verizon 4G Ad: A great mockup of the Verizon commercials specifically and of cell phone companies in general. Definitely "funny cuz it's true".
Crab Dinner: Then we got the worst sketch of the night. We all knew there was going to be no crab at the end, and when the ending arrived, it did nothing to make that predictability worthwhile. And Wiig was typically grating throughout.
"We're Going to Make Technology Hump": I was ecstatic to see this back, one of my favorite new sketches of the season, but was disappointed that it was exactly the same as last time, right down to the fan letter requesting more humping and less soap opera. I still enjoyed the hell out of it, but hopefully they shake it up a little next time.
Letter Writing: An okay sketch that was neither weird enough to belong at the end nor mainstream enough to be placed anywhere else. A few good visual gags, but a pretty lifeless end to a solid episode.
Favorite Sketch: "In the Cage", unless I need to pick an actual sketch, in which case "Bein' Quirky".
Mitt Romeny: People just have a problem connecting with you as a person. That’s not a problem I have. Point thumb at self.
Nicholas Cage on Ghost Rider 2: Number one, all the dialogue is either whispered or screamed. And of course, number two, everything in the movie is on fire.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 4/14
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 6/14