This week it's Dollhouse, Survivor, 24 & The Bad Girls Club.Dollhouse: "Epitaph Two: Return" by Matthew J. Brady
When it comes to endings, this is more like it. Sure, it's a rushed conclusion, but that's unavoidable at this stage, and it kind of works as a "fuck you" to Fox, showing off more of the ideas and developments that could have been. It's ten years later, and Echo and pals are hiding out in the wilderness, fighting the good fight against the hordes of doll-zombies and evil warlords ruling over what's left of the world. She apparently teamed up with Alpha at some point, so that means Alan Tudyk gets to cameo, but in a neutered, good-guy version of himself rather than the deliciously villainous wacko we all came to love over his previous two appearances. And other stuff happened, like Sierra/Priya and Victor/Tony having a kid, but not a happy marriage, since he decided to go off and lead a band of high-tech Road Warrior types instead of devoting himself to his fatherly responsibilities. What else...Topher's still crazy, and in the forced employ of the aforementioned ex-corporate warlords, tasked with creating more evil technologies, but secretly coming up with a plan to fix everything by sending out a signal that somehow reverts everybody to their correct personalities. Hey, why not, it's not like this show hewed anywhere close to reality anyway.
So that means we get a return trip to the Dollhouse, some forced conflict, abrupt death (hint: everybody's least-favorite character (or at least mine), shot in the forehead), another cameo by Summer Glau (if Patton Oswalt had somehow been worked in, they could have hit the guest-star trifecta), some mostly decent acting, and plot resolution, finally. What we don't get: any indication that these characters have aged in ten years, aside from a bit of gray painted on Eliza Dushku's hair. The budget must have been used on silly costumes rather than any aging makeup.
Nitpicking may be unavoidable, but at least there's some closure here. It's certainly a shame that the show was cut off just when it was starting to develop into something good, but at least we got a glimpse of what would have been waiting in the wings, and an actual resolution. That's something, right? Now instead of imagining what would have happened post-cancellation, we can construct mental versions of the missing seasons worth of material that were implied to have happened. Take that, Fox!
24: "9:00PM-10:00PM" by Tucker Stone
Bad portions of 24 aren't anything new--season two had the cougar trap, the evil Robocop season had too many James Cromwells, and it wasn't so long ago that the domestic scenes featured Powers Booth attempting to convince the audience he had recently gotten laid and was capable of crying. But when the best part of a 24 episode is Freddie Prinze Jr. sniping people, you know you're really fucked. There's just no mean violence to point to, the bad guys are another lesson in great casting gone wasted, and Cherry Jones still hasn't learned to shake the musical theater intonations she injects into every one of her lines. ("You've got everything to cheer you up, right at the end of your ankles!" That's one of Cherry's famous musical lines, and if you listen closely, you can hear it lurking on the edge of her lips every minute she's on screen. Of course, you really shouldn't listen closely to her scenes, because then you're stuck wondering why the fuck a bunch of political leaders are complaining about the way some duly elected official handles high-level treason in his own country. Isn't this 24? In the history of 24, nothing--not the killing of a pregnant woman, attempted genocide, nuclear war--has ever been as consistently despised as treason. Hell, Tony Almaeda's entire run on the show was built on the foundation of the way he hissed the line "howza it gonna feel when he finds out his mother was a traitor". Some president wants to tear apart traitors in his own country? Bang the fucking can, string 'em up. As soon as due process becomes an interesting portion of an action fantasy, it gets a vote. Otherwise: that's why God invented frying pans.)
Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains - Preview, Pt. 2 (The Heroes) by Martin Brown
- a dude whose first move in his initial season was to steal and sell all of the opposing team's shoes
- a dude who took advantage of a (now retired) rule that players could each bring a personal item by bringing an American flag, which he used as shelter
- the only player to make it to the end of the game twice
- a dude who basically hypnotized a couple of his competitors into playing for him
- a gravedigger that's stacked like a brick shithouse
- the only player left standing after her tribe was decimated by 8 straight immunity losses
- one of the most dominant winners in the history of the game
- and a forty-year old mother-of-three who is somehow the biggest target out of everyone.
Ignoring a couple of placeholders (Survivor reportedly has trouble casting women for All-Stars seasons), the Heroes tribe is a tribe of badasses. They have the villains licked by a mile in terms of both sheer strength and strategic play. Plus, the Heroes tribe is a team of gamers; whereas the Villains consist mostly of people more interested in playing to the camera.
On the other hand, if history is any indication, the two Heroes who stand to do the best are the two that nobody really cares about--Sugar, the pin-up from Toncantins; and Candace, who nobody even remembers. Women who fly under the radar tend to do exceedingly well in All-Stars seasons. The winners of All-Stars and Fans vs. Favorites were both those types of players in their original seasons (though Parvati more than made up for it with her gameplay in Fans vs. Favorites.)
It could play out either way--the dominant players could dominate or take each other out first--but in order to start getting prepped, let's take a look at each of the heroes.
Amanda, like most of the people on the heroes tribe, has the advantage of being an incredible competitor that might get overlooked as a threat. She's athletic and strategic, and she came in 2nd on each of her two prior seasons--but that might actually work to her advantage, in that people might feel fine keeping her around because she never won, and because she's not dominant. She's also one of the most disarming women playing, and that's saying something. Plus, one other thing that might work to her advantage: there are rumors of a pre-game alliance between her, Parvati and James. However, people will likely target Parvati as a former winner and James as a physical threat before they target Amanda. My prediction: She'll go out in 7th place.
Candace is going to win this thing, because nobody's paying attention to her. Nobody even knows who she is.
According to Entertainment Weekly's Survivor guy, Dalton Ross, Cirie gets mentioned as a first target more than anyone else in the game. So it's possible that she'll go out first. I don't think that's going to happen though, because it's going to take a while before the heroes lose an immunity challenge, giving no one an opportunity to vote her out until well after she's had a chance to establish her social game. I'm guessing she'll ally herself with Amanda after Parvati and James get tossed, and they'll go out in succession, Cirie first.
Colby's unique because he was once the young dude, breakout star of season 2; and now he's a grizzled veteran. He stands a pretty good chance to run shit. If he's on his game, he could be an alpha-male among alpha-males. Plus, if he locks up an alliance with, say, Tom and Rupert, he could go deep--until everybody gets onto him. I'm thinking he goes out in 9th place, probably after being blindsided by Cirie and Amanda.
In the original All-Stars season, the former winners got sniped early on, which makes J.T. a huge target, right off the bat. It also doesn't help that he's young and a dude. They'll get rid of him the second they feel they don't need him to help win challenges, probably around 15th place.
James is probably the strongest dude in the entire game, and he's supposedly coming in with an alliance already in place. So, he's ripe for getting voted off early. On the other hand, he's never gone too far in the game--he's gone out around 7th in his two prior seasons. Plus, he's an extremely likable guy. He'll fly under the radar until it's convenient and easy to get rid of him: 12th place.
Rupert pretty much invented the term "one of the most popular players in Survivor history" before there was a real Survivor history, and he did it by playing hard and smart. His season being pirate-themed, he played with a strong sense of ethics--but they were pirate ethics. So, he was easy to root for and fun to watch. What with him being one of the older guys, and coming from an earlier season, he probably won't have as big a target on him as he should. There's no reason he couldn't go deep again. I'm calling him in 4th place.
Stephanie's tough as nails. Dramaturgically speaking, she played the hero her first season, and a villain her second. That second time, she ran the game and came in second. So, she's not to be underestimated. However, she's at a big disadvantage, because she's reportedly entering the game with a dislocated shoulder right off the bat. That'll probably make her easy to vote off the first time the heroes lose. 18th place.
Sugar is pretty much worthless in Survivor terms. Nobody likes her, and she doesn't even seem to want to play. Plus, there's plenty of other players to use for votes, so she probably won't fly under the radar, either. I'm thinking she's canon-fodder in 16th place.
Of all the former winners, Tom will go the farthest. He'll make it past the first couple of votes by winning immunity, bond quickly with people on his team, and then get the boot when the numbers start to whittle down--11th place.
Next week: Villains.
The Bad Girls Club: Sex, Lies & Bigfoot
(Keeping things numbered this time, as nothing much happened.)
1. Annie begins pranking Kate this episode--putting melted butter into Kate's egg whites, mixing her protein powder with sugar and salt--making Annie the first person in recent Bad Girls history to do something that's totally bitchy while delaying herself immediate gratification. Kate will find out eventually, of course. But for now, Annie seems content to placidly watch as Kate talks about the amazing taste of what she believes to be healthy, non-fattening food. It's a veritable masterclass in Machiavellian sorority behavior.
2. Flo's minor ankle injury puts her in the position of most hated cast member, as her behavior at "the club" embarrasses the girls. Whether it's her ungainly physical bouncing on the edge of couches, the gauche choice of Converse All Stars for her uncast foot, or loudly responding "some crazy bitch i lived with fucking pushed me" whenever a curious onlooker asks for a damage report, Flo's toxic behavior alienates her so much from the other girls that her only real friend--Natalie--ends up lying to her face so that she, Kendra, Kate & Kate's nude model friend can have a night out without the resident loudmouth. Flo's reaction to the abandonment consists of over the top screaming, to which all of the castmates respond with a universal agreement that said "bitch" is "crazy".
3. In the first of two sex scenes, Natalie decides to seal the deal with Rogdrick, who plays some type of professional basketball in some type of European country. While she hasn't officially ended things with her boyfriend Olamide, a later phone conversation between the two reveals that they haven't spoken in weeks, a situation that Olamide seems to be relishing. The phone call ends ambiguously, although Natalie refers to it as a definitive break-up that leaves her free to pursue a future with Rogdrick. Earlier in the episode, Natalie rants about her various suitability's as a human being, a rant which ends with her repeating the phrase "wife me up, right now."
3A. During the period of time when Natalie and Rogdrick are having intercourse, Flo crawls around the hallway outside the bedroom on her hands and knees, intermittently yelling things like "harder!" and "do it Natalie", as well as various yelps. In one excellent piece of shot selection, the camera catches Flo's gnawing desperation with a near Bergman-level of cinematography. A camera, placed at the end of the hall. Flo, on her hands and knees, her mouth slightly agape as she watches two people have sex. Her hurt ankle--only a few inches off the ground--lowers slowly. Moaning is heard. Flo is alone, pathetic. Superb.
4. Kate and her nude model friend have two moments of touchy-feely-makey-playey, one of which ends up being treated as sex by the other girls, as well as being referred to as "fucking" during Kate's drunken conversation with her Iraq veteran boyfriend Paul. (For extra scandal, Paul and Kate have a very specific rule, which is that cheating is cheating, regardless of whether it is with a guy or girl. Now, unless Paul is a very, very good liar, it seems unlikely this rule was created out of a mutual concern he might someday start knocking boots with a fellow male soldier, and more likely it's worded that way because Kate is a bi-curious woman with a history of infidelity.) The first time Kate and her friend screw around, it's in the hot tub, and involves lots of making out and a soap-each-other up shower. Here's Annie's take on two girls making out when one of the girls is in a committed relationship: "If you're doing it for a free drink, sorority style, that's fine. But they weren't. No drinks around." Later on in the episode, the girls dance and grope each other, and then go home and get in bed and continue down the path they've paved with kisses. Later, when Kate drunkenly calls Paul and mumbles about "fucking" amidst a lot of giggling, she is referring to whatever happened after the bedplay began. (See number 6 for Paul's response.)
5. Natalie picks an argument with a bartender after the bartender tells her that a drink she received was not paid for by the gentleman she claims. While arguing with the bartender--who she attempts to intimidate by threatening never to return--a nearby women, either an employee or irritated patron, tells her something along the lines of "good riddance." Natalie throws something at her, behavior which Rogdrick refers to as indicative of "problems". (This is prior to their sexual encounter, so the "problems" were probably dealt with offscreen. One would imagine.)
6. The day following Kate's late night "fucked" phone call to Paul, Paul calls Kate back. After telling her he's given it a lot of thought, he soberly informs her that he "can't take this relationship seriously", and he responds to her denials (she now claims she didn't do anything untoward in bed, shower or hot tub) by telling her that he doesn't believe her. Kate's response is a pretty standard "don't dump me" ramble, filled with over the top cliches ("I would throw myself in front of a train for you") as well as manipulative reminders of a shared past ("I love your family and my family loves you!"). Throughout, Paul remains firm, going so far as to admit that he may just not be hip enough for Kate's style of relationship. As he bluntly puts it near the end of the phonecall, "I feel embarrassed by you. I know I'm old school, but this just isn't working." While it isn't the first time a reality show cast member has ended up losing a prior relationship due to their behavior on the show, Paul's behavior remains somewhat unique. Cutting right through the fundamental weirdness of the show--that it has no goal, no contest to win, that it exists solely to depict a debauched window into make-me-a-celebrity culture--Paul doesn't seem to fit. A young military veteran; boring and shy, he and Kate wouldn't have worked out anyway. But here, with the show's environment as its gasoline, what would have happened someday happened much, much sooner. In a small, insignificant fashion, this show just might have saved a life.
(You know, because Paul never had the chance to fuck up and get this girl pregnant. That would have been awful.)
-Matthew J. Brady, Martin Brown & Tucker Stone, 2010