Downton Abbey, S05E02: “Episode 2”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “a lively exchange of views.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure how much more my heart can take of the high-stakes storytelling going on right now in this show.  Seriously, Downton, how is a man supposed to keep his ticker pumping with all this talk of getting a “wireless” at the estate?  Allow me to translate for those of you who aren’t fluent in ridiculously archaic British colloquialisms–and you definitely should consider taking night classes to brush up tbh: a wireless is apparently a term for a radio.  A radio, people!  A radio at Downton.   Banish the thought!  What is this, a brothel?

While the saga of the radio admittedly jumped the tracks and headed on a collision course with silliness**, it presented yet another example of the inexorable forward march of progress.  Problem is, I’m not sure we needed this reiterated, but since this plot strand climaxed with the likes of Mrs. Padmore boogeying down, I’ll allow it because reasons.

**It certainly didn’t help that Rose, a character with whom I’m not dying to spend any additional time, stood at the epicenter of this narrative thread.  Turns out, when homegirl’s not handing out arbitrary awards at local schools, she’s straight up repeating herself until Robert gives in rather than murdering her and feeding her to Isis.  Families, am I right?

Robert dubs the radio a waste of time and then, out of nowhere, reveals a deep-seated anger when he snaps at Cora that she wouldn’t understand his feelings because she’s American. Whoa there, pally! Holster those hate pistols and count to ten, would you? Anyhow, Robert concedes to keep the radio around even after he gets one just to hear the king speak, so he is coming around, don’t you see?  It’s a metaphor.  And now I’ve wasted more time than I meant to talking about this plot.  Damn you, Downton, you win again.

Hey, is it hot in here, or is it just Mary’s love triangle kicking the temperature up to 180 degrees?  Ha!  #mathhumor Seriously, you didn’t actually think Downton would make it that easy for our plucky, sexually adventurous heroine, did you?  I mean, sure, last week ended with #Gillinghammer inviting Mary to join him in the no-pants cha-cha, but it was only a matter of time before #BlaketheSnake would burst back onto the scene.  And did he ever!  Faster than you can say plot contrivance, Blake’s slithering his way back to Downton in the company of one Mr. Bricker**, some dude writing a book about a painter whose work happens to be featured in the hallowed halls of our favorite estate.  Um, sure?

**What is it with our characters this year, friends?  I mean, Mr. Bricker’s got a serious case of the hornies, what with his rather obvious eye-humping of Cora from across the room.  I’m not sure what it tells us about Robert when he assumes Bricker’s flirting with Isis and not his wife.  Um…Robbie?  Do I need to be worried about you?  #animalscience

Turns out #BlaketheSnake’s arrival is rather fortuitous, as it occurs days before Mary is meant to depart on her “sketching” trip with “Annabelle Portsmith.”  And when she says sketching, she means “sexing” and when she says Annabelle Portsmith, she means “#Gillinghammer.”  That’s right kids, Mary’s getting straight up duplicitous, and it’s wonderful, though she needs to work on the fine art of the cover story, as this one has Mr. Bates’s suspicions raised as being an uncharacteristically bohemian excursion for her.

Regardless, homegirl has preparations to make, leading her to send Anna on the most awkward errand ever in a great scene that allowed Joanna Froggatt to show off her comedic acting chops**.  You have to give it to #BlaketheSnake (Mary’s not…hey yo!) because he accepts the terms of his defeat with dignity, but not before engaging in a randy fireside chat with Mary on the eve of her departure for Liverpool.  #BlaketheSnake, you rascal!

**Anna should have a subplot this year where she continues to have to purchase prophylactics because that would be life-affirming. Seriously, her quest to buy a diaphragm for Lady Mary, from her awkward body language in the shoppe (#bringingitback) to her hurried exit, played perfectly.  But it was her realization afterward, upon decrying the proprietor’s shaming of her, that the real feminist heft of this thread came into sharp focus.

Speaking of rascals, it’s time for #MoseleyWatch!  Although there wasn’t so much as a drop of hair dye in sight in this second episode, he still remains my favorite sad sack on television.  Carson completely shutting down his inquiry about becoming first footman, all the while Moseley dared to balance pudding and sauce on the same tray, had me chuckling.  However, it was Mrs. Hughes interjecting that footmen weren’t likely long for this new world that sent me into full-on paroxysms of laughter.  Upon hearing her prediction, Moseley’s face contorts in a way not dissimilar to the distortion of features that would result from attempting to pass a whole, uncooked ham through one’s small intestine.  Discomfort is my point.

On top of that truthbomb, Moseley knows that Baxter is keeping secrets from him, and he struggles to keep his frustration tamped down until she reveals her thieving ways to him as he aggressively scrubs shoes for strictly symbolic purposes because those puppies were clean enough to eat off of.  I’m not sure about you, but I’m boarding the USS MosBax because I’m ‘shipping these two hard!

Meanwhile, the dynamo of local politics that is Mr. Carson commences the process of finding a place to build the Great War memorial.  Much to Robert’s incredulity, Carson suggests building it on a cricket pitch, and Robert gets all, “You do realize that if we do this, the terrorists win” which strikes me as ironic given the dog nipping at his heels.  You see, Robert thinks it better to build the memorial not in a place for silent reflection (as Carson says) but in the centre (#Britishspelling) of town where more people can appreciate it.

Enter Mrs. Hughes to break the tie, and she sides with…Robert!  Mr. Carson does not feel warm and fuzzy at the thought of what he initially perceives as betrayal from his favorite hand-holding beach buddy.  A coincidental run-in with a local widow, however, convinces him otherwise, and (ugh) Robert emerges victor of this no-stakes contest.  Finally we can put one in the win column for a white male one percenter.  Phew!

Speaking of percentages, Mrs. Padmore continues to be an utter delight when she arranges to have Ms. Sarah Bunting tutor Daisy with her maths problems.  To top it all off, she even insists on paying Bunting’s modest stipend out of her own pocket.  And how great was Mrs. Padmore’s response to Mrs. Hughes’s compliment about her generosity, wherein she essentially complains about making more work for herself?  Ha!  Classic Padmore.

Elsewhere, Jimmy’s sexcapade with Lady Anstruther leads to his termination from Downton (fare thee well, I guess?), Mr. Drewe asks #SadEdith to be be Marigold’s “sort of godmother” (whatever the hell that means) despite Mrs. Drewe’s palpable displeasure, Isobel discusses diabetes with Dr. Clarkson over tea because Wilford Brimley and then turns around to demand, rather forwardly, a stroll through Dicky Merton’s garden, and emo Thomas wonders why nobody loves him.

With one Mr. Willis arriving at Downton with news of a witness stepping forward to provide fresh insight into Mr. Green’s murder, this episode might as well have ended with a “dum dum dum…” before its fade to black.  Still, episode three will no doubt carry on with the high quality entertainment provided by these first two installments.

Until next time, Downtonites!


Snippets of Intrigue

– Jimmy [to Thomas]: “I’m sad to see the back of you.”

– Carson: “Since you are the only footman, you are first, second, third, and last.  Make what you will of it.”

– Bates: “I know you mean to lead me into further inquiry, but I couldn’t care less what you think, Thomas.  On that subject or any other.”

– Mrs. Hughes: “That’s a nice thing you’re doing.”

Mrs. Padmore: “Is it?  I think I’ve been a damn fool and doubled my workload.”  #padmorewisdom #padmore4president

– Carson: “I don’t like it when we’re not on the same side.”

Mrs. Hughes: “We’re different people, Mr. Carson.  We can’t always agree.”

Carson: “I know, but I don’t like it.”

– Mrs. Padmore [listening to the King on the radio]: “I suppose he can’t hear us.”  She’s a treasure, folks!  A treasure!

Downton Abbey, S05E01: “Episode 1”

an episode reminding us all the importance of “not having the brain of a kipper.”

How have you been, fellow Downtonites? Have you used the hiatus between seasons to rinse the taste of disappointment in your mouth left behind by last year’s middling effort?  Feeling minty fresh?  Well, I hope so because there’s something wonderfully comforting about starting  a new year off with a fresh installment of television’s best soapy satire of British exceptionalism, regardless of last season’s spotty track record.  Besides, it seems like showrunner Julian Fellowes used his time off to commune with the devil or sacrifice virgins or something because holy cow, you guys, I think he might have righted the ship?  I mean, this episode flew by, and I loved every minute of it.

A sense of liberation pervaded this opening hour and imbued the characters we’ve grown to love with a renewed sense of purpose.  Downton has been beating the drums of change for years now, but after seasons of thematic musings on tradition versus modernity, it seems like payoffs are afoot.  If Robert Crawley is to be believed, the bandleader is none other than Labor Party Prime Minister MacDonald, whose shakeup of Britain’s government has trickled down to the humble Downton estate on the eve of Cora and Robert’s thirty-fourth wedding anniversary.  And, while my hopes of an extended montage featuring Mrs. Padmore, dusted in flour, baking an epic cake to the tune of  “Everybody’s Working For the Weekend” were dashed, I still loved this episode’s insistence on change.  Go figure!

I mean, take Lady Mary, for instance.  Girl, you makin’ me clutch my pearls and blush like a hot-house tomato with your dirty mind!***  Turns out, in light of her recent love triangle she’s been sharing with #BlaketheSnake and #Gillinghammer, the little lady’s been turning to Lady Cunnard for tips.  Like no pants dance tips that induced near fainting.  After a pleasant stroll through the Downton estate during which Mary admits to loving #Gillinghammer in her own cold, unfeeling way (her words, not mine, but preach!), he flouts with convention, busts up into her room after hours and straight up proposes fireside sexin’ like the horn dog he is, and Mary’s all, “Gillinghammer my nails, Bob Villa!”  Girl, you bad!

***To be fair, Mary alone cannot shoulder the burden of randiness.  Mr. Bates, ever the saucy rascal, just comes out and tells Anna he wouldn’t mind making kids the old-fashioned way.  Meanwhile, Jimmy takes an express train to Cougar Town, next stop Lady Anstruther, caving into his carnal needs in a move that seems like it will spell his exit from the show, but more on that later.  My goodness, is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?  Oh, no, never mind–Moseley just set a tablecloth on fire.  Classic Moseley!

Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite curmudgeonly traditionalist, Mr. Carson, finds himself unwittingly caught up in the tidal wave of change when a committee planning to construct a memorial to local soldiers killed in the Great War elects him as chairman.  Flummoxed, the head butler cannot fathom a world in which he would be selected over Robert Crawley (Or should I call him Donk?), but even the Earl concedes that change is coming whether they like it or not, and the answer for both is not.  Definitely not.  For Robert, it’s enough tumult to make a man wax poetic about the simpler times when people relied on and needed Grandpappy Crawley***; still it’s tough toenails for the two, and Carson uses his new authority to manipulate the committee into giving Robert a position as patron.  You learn quickly, Mr. Carson.  Next stop Parliament?  (Oh God, please let that be Carson’s arc next season…)

***For a brief, awkward moment, I swore Mary’s sex-addled brain had caused irreversible damage when she leaned in to comfort Robert and said, “I want you.” *Insert record scratch.* Um, girl?  You and I need to have a quick li’l chat on the importance of phrasing, okay? 

If there’s one character free to do whatever the hell she wants, then it’s Violet Crawley, and she was a hoot this episode, and not just because she throws what is, without hyperbole, the GREATEST. LUNCHEON. EVER.  Dicky Merton still has the hots for Isobel Crawley, though she refuses to pay him any mind.  Enter the Dowager, who invites the eternally-on-the-prowl Lady Shackleton and Dr. Clarkson, the erstwhile unrequited love puppet of Isobel, to shake things up because she’s jealous of Isobel’s possible happiness?  Threatened?  Bored?   Regardless, there ain’t no party like a Crawley tea party, and things get off to a spicy start when Lady Shackleton walks up to Merton to ask him how his lovely garden is doing, which I frankly found a bit forward.  But maybe Violet’s machinations are backfiring because, though pleased with the social smoke bomb at first, didn’t I detect a whiff of jealousy baking off Isobel later on?

Okay, okay.  Enough is enough.  I’ve managed to contain my excitement, but I no longer can.  Grab your hair dye because it’s time for #MoseleyWatch.  You guys, I loved this plot so much my heart feels like it’s going to explode.  Seriously, has anything greater happened in your life than watching Moseley dye his hair black and strut around to see how many people would notice?  (Though, if we’re being honest with each other, I think the only person he hopes will notice is Ms. Baxter.)  From Robert insisting Moseley is looking “very Latin all of a sudden” to Carson’s put-upon look of disdain as he stares at Moseley’s dome, this was Downton at its comedic best, featuring an all-time classic punchline: Robert demanding Moseley be stripped of his serving duties and kept downstairs until his hair stops turning blue.  I laughed, I cried, I thanked all the deities in the heavens for bestowing the gloriousness of this plotline upon us.  More of this always forever.

Speaking of the inability to outrun the person you truly are, Branson is still around apparently and doing his Branson thing of talking to Robert about how much life at Downton has changed him and making us yawn and check our watches (do people still wear watches?) in the meantime.  Seriously, this plot hasn’t advanced since Sybil’s death, and I’m growing tired of it.  Fortunately, hope seems to have appeared on the narrative horizon!  After Rose conspires to invite his #hotforteacher crush, Sarah Bunting, to Cora and Robert’s anniversary celebration, the teacher’s presence at dinner makes for an epic clashing of belief systems.***

***Fortunately, before dinner, #Gillinghammer, atwitter with incomprehensible excitement, inquires Mary and Branson about the status of the pigs.  Seriously, Downton? Is this bizarre fetishizing of pig farming just never going to disappear from this show?  Because I’m starting to feel like we’re in it for the long haul with this one…

Following Robert’s unexpectedly genuine toast of Cora, Sarah, uncomfortable with the opulence of Downton and not shy about expressing it, climbs atop her soapbox and begins spouting off about the pointlessness of war.  You know, perfect getting-to-know you conversation starters.  Well, this really chaps Robert’s rump, but Isobel intervenes and gets all crunchy-granola about the conviction of youth, which just further pickles Robert’s onions, and let’s just say things got…weird.  Salud!  Family dinners, am I right?

All this talk of freedom makes me think of the one character still confined by the societal norms of the time.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, cue the sad trombone because it’s time to catch up with #SadEdith.  We first meet up with the saddest sack of Crawley pedaling over to the Drewe’s house to go creeping on her daughter, Marigold.  Apparently, she’s been coming around a hell of a lot lately to spread her sad-sack misery all over, leading Mrs. Drewe to suspect Edith has designs on her husband.  Mr. Drewe wants to assuage his wife’s suspicions while also allowing Edith to see Marigold regularly, so he devises a plan, the particulars of which, it seems (if the Next On segment proves an indication), we’ll learn next week.

But the trials and tribulations of #SadEdith do not end there.  Early on in the episode, Edith receives a copy of a book from the possibly-beaten-to-death-by-a-group-of-Nazis Mr. Gregson.  In a fit of despondency that even has Mary telling Edith to cheer up (thanks, girl!), she does what any rational person would do: toss the book into a fireplace and send the place up in flames.  Ha!  Typical Edith…

Thomas, skulking around to serve as Jimmy’s lookout while he’s doing naked cha-cha with Lady Anstruther, rushes in to save Edith from the conflagration.***  Robert rushes from room to room, barging in on Jimmy, who should be, ya know, helping his employers in this time of crisis, mid-thrust at other business.  The confluence of the episode’s many overlapping plotlines during this well staged sequence was a great button on the end of the episode, replete with #sillyfiremen in ridiculous hats, and I don’t just mean any old ridiculous hats but THE most ridiculous hats.  You’ll be in awe of them is my point. #hatpuns

***A fortunate turning of events for our beloved lecherous footman, as his threatening of Baxter backfires (he’s still trying to get to the bottom of the Bates/Anna situation, just ugh) when she confesses to her crime of stealing to Lady Cora, who directs her rage more at Thomas than Baxter for his recommendation to hire her.  However, nothing helps clear up a kerfuffle in the workplace like saving one’s daughter from burning to death in a fire, so live and let live, sayeth Lady Cora!

But wait, the surprises don’t end there!  Turns out Mr. Drewe ain’t just your average farmer but a jack-of-all-trades; yup, that’s him lurking under one of those majestic hats, and he has news for Edith: an idea to secure her place in Marigold’s life while not upsetting his marriage.  But before he can reveal the deets, Mrs. Hughes, keeper of all Downton’s secrets, stumbles into the conversation.  Oh snap! Looks like when homegirl’s not sipping sherry with Mr. Carson and the person on the planet I most want to get drunk with, Mrs. Padmore, she’s blowing up truthbombs all over the Downton estate.

Elsewhere, Daisy explores her options post-Downton by sneaking maths problems at the kitchen table, Bates prods #Gillinghammer, who still needs a new not-dead valet, about the late Mr. Green, Rose hands out awards at a school assembly because reasons, and Isis continues to have the most unfortunate name of any pet on television.

Until next time, Downtonites!


Snippets of Intrigue

– Violet: “There’s nothing simpler than avoiding people you don’t like.  It’s avoiding one’s friends that’s the true test.”

– Carson: “If you can both tear yourselves away from your smutty deliberations, you’re needed upstairs.”

– Carson: “I feel a shaking of the ground I stand on.”

– Carson: “The nature of life is not permanence but flux.”

– Robert: “Moseley, you’re looking very Latin all of a sudden.”

– Violet: “Principles are like prayers: noble, of course, but awkward at a party.”

– Carson: “Is everything all right, my lord?”

Robert: “No, it certainly isn’t.  And can you please keep Moseley in the kitchen until his hair stops turning blue?”

Parenthood S05E22: “The Pontiac”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “addressing the big tomato in the room.”

Let’s face it: Parenthood is a perennial bubble show.  Thankfully, its creator, Jason Katims, goes out of his way to wrap up each season with tangible closure; after all, its solid-but-unspectacular ratings could have spelled cancellation on any number of occasions.   The fact that Katims treats each season finale as a potential series finale leaves  us with a sense that–should this be the end–we would feel satisfied.  Sure, dangling plot threads tantalize for future seasons, but each year, we find the majority of the ongoing narratives at least intimating at some kind of definitive resolution.

Fortunately for us, this year proved no different because this ep had it all.  Couples reunited!  Huge life changes transpired!  Crosby and Adam mattress-tobogined down some stairs!  Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love everything about the finale (Joel had to stick it to me one last time before the credits rolled, didn’t he?), but the episode’s clear intention, leaving its loyal audience satisfied, helped me overlook some of the more problematic developments.  After all, Parenthood remains my TV blind spot; I’ll never not love this damn show.  I’m sorry I’m not sorry: it just makes me feel all of the feels!

Well what do you say, shall we dive in one final time, for old time’s sake?


Haddie and Lauren

Fantastic news!  Haddie did not fall down a well, meet a clan of CHUDs, and run for mayor of their underground society never to be heard from again!  Actually, she’s been at college this whole time.  Ha!  Classic Haddie!  Turns out, she vanished from the face of the earth because she’s been struggling with her sexuality.  I’m not sure about you, but this was not such a surprising development; I’m no sleuth, but even I was all, “Wait a tick, Missy” when she introduced the delightful young lady clambering out of the taxi as her “good friend” Lauren.

But then even for those of us denser than Adam,** the truth likely became evident when Haddie and Lauren proceeded to make mouth noises with each other while sitting on Haddie’s bed.  “Oh, they’re together!” you likely exclaimed, reality finally dawning on you.  Of course Max is the one to barge in on this intimate moment and essentially out his sister to Kristina while suit shopping because, as Barney Stinson knows, there ain’t no truth telling party like a custom-tailored truth telling party.

**How sweetly pathetic was Haddie’s attempt to come out to her father in the kitchen?  Dude couldn’t see past his own nose for real, just kept droning on about how college friends are the best kind of lifelong friends, blah blah blah.  Such a great, understated scene.  Kitchens were important for Adam throughout this process because it finally occurs to him what Lauren really means when she tells him how much she loves Haddie.  It gave Adam some real food for thought, huh? (#CulinaryPuns)

Inevitably, of course, Haddie’s “very Berkley” parents are supportive and wonderful when she finally does tell them that she is in love with Lauren, and as an added treat we get a vintage Kristina-Haddie bedroom chit chat.  On the one hand, this felt like a fairly abrupt character development for someone who’s been MIA for awhile now.  Even though I do like how Haddie’s coming out wasn’t the “big event” of the episode, I still can’t shake the feeling that this could have been handled with a tad more subtlety and patience.

Still, that brief adorable moment between Haddie and Lauren hanging up lights, followed by Kristina’s happy-my-daughter’s-happy smile?  Perfect.


Hank and Sarah 

It’s time to address the tomato in the room: Hank is totes the best!  I mean, he even stayed overnight in San Diego just to make sure Sarah and Amber were hanging in there.  Aww, shucks, Hank, you big softie you.  It seems perfect that what finally draws Sarah back to him, despite her initial admitted recalcitrance,*** stems from his interaction with Amber; for Sarah, it makes sense that a man who takes an interest in her kids would turn her crank.  She’s totally DILFing all over the place, right?

***What a real, honest conversation during Hank’s car ride home with Sarah, am I right?  How refreshing to see adults acting like adults on television.  You listening, every Chuck Lorre show ever?

I’m not sure anyone found themselves hornswoggled (#BringingItBack) by this turn of events, but YAY!  Not much else to report, but kudos to Parenthood for making Sarah’s journey back to Hank last for the duration of the season; it felt neither rushed nor contrived, thanks to a pair of utterly spectacular performances from Lauren Graham and Ray Romano.  On the heels of that iconic kiss in the photography studio, I’m just going to throw it out there: the thought of Hank becoming a full-fledged member of the Braverman clan delights me to my very core.  Oh man, I think I’m coming down with something…I hope I’m not catching…The fever!

Cue “Burning Down the House” and grab your dancing shoes, Hank.  I love where this is headed!


Julia and Joel

Parenthood has a unique skill: it can sell implausibility with aplomb by encasing it in heart-melting emotions.  Last year, Max defied logic by becoming Student Council President, but who cared?  I was too busy bawling my eyes out to question it.  This time, the unlikely turn of events had a similar emotional heft: Victor wins an essay contest.  Never mind that the boy could barely read early in the season, but sure because aww.  If you didn’t melt into a watery puddle of tears when Victor read his essay about the metaphorical significance of building the Pontiac with Zeek, then you sir or madam have no heart and should donate your heartless body to science.  So there!

Despite this considerable narrative leap, I dug how Victor’s academic success brings Joel and Julia closer together, a nice circular touch since the issue of holding him back was one of the first wedges in their marriage earlier in the season.

After a day of sugar comas and near-normalcy, however, Sydney is not ready to say goodbye to Joel and asks him to stay.  In true Sydney fashion, this initial request soon devolves into bratty caterwauling and arm pulling, leaving Joel with little choice but to acquiesce to his daughter’s emotional manipulation.  Ugh.  The.  Worst.  Joel not only sticks around but also creates the lower bun of a Sydney sandwich: lying in bed with his wife and daughter, he recounts the epic tale of Sydney’s birth, or The Day That Joy Died as its known in some Satanist circles.  It becomes clear, however, that such an account means more to him than the power to order Zeek out of the delivery room–as hinted at previously, Joel’s love for his family defines him.

From a storytelling standpoint, I like that the episode refused to end with a huge declaration of recommitment on Joel’s part.**** On the other hand, the fact that he didn’t means that this aggravating storyline could bleed over into next year.  For a show that takes pride in its self-contained seasons, why–for all that is holy–does this plot still linger?  If next season doesn’t find Joel and Julia working toward making their marriage work, I’ll be so mad, you guys.

****Though, admit it, you wanted him to make an eleventh hour appearance at the family dinner, cliches be damned, didn’t you? 

Let’s put this problematic plot behind us, shall we?  You know I love you Parenthood, but one season of this tried my patience.  But a second season?  I might have to pull a Sydney.  And no one wants that.


Elsewhere, Zeek and Camille move out of The Braverman Homestead but not before sharing a sun-dappled dance through their empty home, Crosby comes clean about a grade school birdhouse, Amber buys a pregnancy test (ahem, immaculate conception much?), Ryan plans to return with his mother to the Wyoming town he abhors, and Drew inherits Zeek’s Pontiac***** and drives to Oregon to reciprocate Natalie’s declaration of love .

*****An absolutely excellent resolution for Zeek to pass it on to his grandson, even if he’s the worst mover of the lot.  Maybe now Drew can drive himself to a barber shop and get an actual haircut.  Sorry, Drew, but #ToughLove.

It’s been a mostly excellent season of Parenthood, wouldn’t you say?  Certainly not perfect, but then again what family is?  Even when Sydney makes me want to punch a puppy or Joel acts decidedly un-Joel, this remains one of the best network dramas for a simple reason: even when the bigger overarching plots don’t fully work, there’s no other show on television that depicts the nuanced minutia of life as well as Parenthood. 

If nothing else, that’s got to land us a sixth season.  Thanks for reading!


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Hank: “Here’s some coffee.”

Sarah: “Thanks.”

Hank: “It tastes like pepper and soap.”

– Adam: “Why are you so uncomfortable with your soft side?  It’s a beautiful birdhouse.  Very feminine.”

– Ryan: “This isn’t for you to fix, okay?”

– Hank: “Yeah, I’m sticking around.”   #BestInLawEver

Community S05E13: “Basic Sandwich”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “pick axing and electric zapping.”

For most of Community‘s run, Jeff Winger’s disdainful attitude toward Greendale often set him at (admittedly temporary) odds with his friends.  He refused to accept the fact that, like it or not, being both a student and now professor at Greendale is part of his DNA.  Given recent Internet speculation, there’s a possibility that “Basic Sandwich” could serve as a series finale to this underdog comedy, and if that’s the case, Jeff embracing this crazy place with pride feels like an excellent way to conclude his arc.  As the old saying goes: it ain’t perfect, but it’s home.

As we anticipated from last week’s bonkers set-up episode, the discovery of the treasure map led our gang to the depths of Randall Borchert’s secret lair of computer love-making.**  This wasn’t the zaniest half hour Community has put together, but I’m sort of glad; at times this season, in his zeal to reestablish the Community of old, Harmon overextended himself.  Sometimes the gimmick worked; sometimes it didn’t.  I’m glad he reined it in a bit here without sacrificing the funny because boy did this episode (like its predecessor) crack me up, and let’s be honest–even with its relative restraint–this still felt like no other comedy on television.

**Chris Elliot btw, donning the grossest beard this side of Duck Dynasty, absolutely killed it.  The man seductively licked his computer lover, Racquel (excellent name), for crying out loud!  That’s commitment!

Along the way, though, Community treated us to some hilarious sequences, didn’t it?  Professor Duncan’s electrocution and subsequent hallucination of doves (though not enough to mark the wedding of Britta and Jeff, obvi), Dean Pelton choking on an action figure’s rocket (not a euphemism), Abed’s fourth-wall shattering wink to the audience, what I can only describe as a prolonged “shush” off, and School Board Richie’s “mind robbery” of Hickey (“You’ll find a hang-glider!”) all stood as vintage moments for this show–call them canon.  Pelton was right: a one hour episode of The Office this was not.  When it comes down to it, we’re watching this show to laugh, and–if you have a pulse and a sense of humor–you undoubtedly did so.  Also, Community  answered a burning question, and Jeff and Pelton agree on its answer: Donald Sutherland.  ‘Nuff said.

But, in the tradition of the best installments of this show, the comedy had some real heft to hang its hat on.  In addition to Jeff’s aforementioned pride in Greendale, we also had some great news for those shipping the U.S.S. JeffNie.  After the school board guys and Chang*** follow our group down to Borchert’s lab and break Racquel (damn pesky pickle magnets!), our favorite computer humping scientist realizes he needs more emotion than that generated by the erotic teasing of his own nipples.  And, lo and behold, Jeff of all people volunteers to jumpstart Borchert’s disturbing sex object/miracle of technology.

***Chang, please try to rip your face off in alternating episodes from now on because that will never not be funny.

Throughout the episode, Annie struggled with the news of Jeff’s proposal to Britta,**** clearly unable to move past her own feelings for him.  So JeffNie shippers no doubt rejoiced when it was a season one callback that rebooted Racquel (“M’lord”/”M’lady.”)  Aww!  So cute, you guys.  Thanks to Jeff’s newfound font of what the pleebs call “emotions,” the group escapes and interrupts Subway’s press conference/purchase of Greendale with an announcement of Borchert’s status as ongoing stakeholder in the college.

****Though fortunately by show’s end, the novelty of the joke wears off, leading them to drop the schtick.  Phew.  Even for Community, that got weird.

Greendale saved!  Sorry, evil conglomerate.  You might have wanted to turn Greendale into a parking lot because you don’t believe in it, but as Pelton retorts, that’s just a Wednesday: Greendale is a family used to being overlooked, undervalued, and dismissed out of hand.  At this point, such scorn has lost its impact because being the underdog is all they know.  Pretty poetic, eh?

If this is the end–really, truly, the end of Community–I have to admit, I would be satisfied.  I guess it just Depends On What Fails, am I right?  Ha!  Great stinger!  Sure, I would follow these characters and their zany antics to the end of time and hope desperately that it returns to fulfill its #sixseasonsandamovie promise, but this two-part finale reminded us what makes this show so special.  Season five didn’t completely absolve its fourth season self of its myriad issues (had quite a few on its own, actually), but television is just a better place with Greendale on the map.

I hope to write another thirteen such reviews for the show, but for now, let’s not lament the possibility of cancellation but celebrate a story well-told and loaded with laughs.  Because, at its best, Community soared to mind-boggling creative heights the likes of which a network sitcom has never seen.  That’s got to mean something, right NBC?

That’s your cue, Starburns!  Fire up the DMB!


Quotes from the Refurbished Study Room

– Pelton: “Some people said he hid his money using a portal to another dimension.  Those people were on LSD.  Everyone else said he had a secret vault in his office.”

– Pelton: “Oh, look!  It’s Jeff Winger Fun Police!  He’s here to pull over our smiles because our mouths have tinted windows!”

– Duncan [recently electrocuted]: “Married?  Well then you’re going to need way more doves that this.”

– Abed: “Let me rip off the band-aid.  Dennis Hopper is dead; TV shows leave no room for theme songs anymore; Woody Allen supplied the voice of a cartoon ant.” Ha!  Excellent recap of pop culture for Borchert!

– Abed: “We’ll definitely be here next year.  If not, it’s because an asteroid has destroyed all of human civilization.  And that’s canon.” [Smiles into camera]

Justified S05E13: “Restitution”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “not getting between family.”

Now that the curtains gave gone up on this fifth season of Justified, we can just dispense with the euphemisms and speak the truth, right?  You know it; I know it: season five will not go down as the strongest in the show’s cannon, and the finale–despite its promise–did little to, well, uh…justify some of the bumpier plot machinations.  Look, I still enjoyed the show and eagerly look forward to what the next and final string of episodes will bring, but it’s clear from the resolution of this year’s story, Graham Yost and company want it over with as much as we do.

Because season five was really little more than a set-up?  Really?  While I Iook forward to seeing how things will play out next year, I take issue when an entire season’s purpose ultimately reduces to filler of no real consequence.  We watched thirteen stepping-stones that carried us to the end game; sure, they were mostly fun and of a great quality, but it’s as if Justified forgot this season should also stand on its own.  Because I’m not sure that happened this year.

But before we get to the real purpose of this inconsistent season, we did receive quite a bit of closure on the majority of the season’s narratives.  Darryl Crowe is dead** but not before Wendy catches him on tape confessing to Art’s shooting!  Kendall and Wendy–ever the dysfunctional mother-son team–retreat to the warmer climes of Florida once charges against the youngest Crowe are dropped!  Art makes a (seemingly) full recovery!  Rachel’s promotion to Interim Chief a few weeks ago now wins the title of Most Useless Plot Development because it didn’t change one iota of her criminally-underdeveloped character!  Ava gets the prison release she needs, and viewers everywhere shrug with apathy!

**Dammit!  Note to self: do not schedule family vacations anywhere within one hundred miles of Harlan County first of all because duh it’s the armpit of the universe.  But also tons of Crowes died!  Dilly!  Danny!  Darryl!  An unfortunate turn of events for the alliterative trio.

We knew that we would get to watch Boyd outsmart Mr. Yoon’s goons (#HilariousBandName), and boy did we ever!  I mean, yeah, Alberto executed Jimmy, which seemed to steam Boyd’s beans, but our favorite thesaurus-loving hoodlum channeled that anger into a veritable “gotcha” moment.  First, though, he tried to convince Alberto’s henchmen to defect against their boss and go party in Vegas Crowder-style.  They were all like, “Yup.  Bring on the $5 all you can eat lobster.”  Psych!  They totally tricked Boyd into thinking they would sell out Alberto but were totes joshing all along.  Haha!  Classic cartel/frat boy behavior!  Those guys!

Alberto then dons his professor’s tweed jacket, grabs his murderizing kit, and thoughtfully gives Boyd a very detailed lecture on the fine art of animal skinning.  Now, I don’t want to read too much into things, but I think Alberto might have been intimating that he would do the same to Boyd?  I’m telling you, Alberto has this skin fetish weirdness that also–hear me out–leads me to believe he might not be the congenial cartel hit man he seems to be.  Dude’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery is my point.  Layers.

Fortunately, Boyd does not receive the business end of Alberto’s human skin peeler because his phone rings just in time. Somebody call Professor Belding because homeboy is saved by the bell, er…vibrating cell phone.  Really, filleting Boyd was just a benefit, the cherry on top.  Alberto’s real business is with Darryl Crowe for his tomfoolery in the Mexican desert.  Turns out he agrees to meet at Ava’s country house, so Boyd and his three disturbingly violent captors head out.  Except it’s not Darryl Crowe who pulls up; it’s Rachel and Tim,*** who expertly kill Alberto and one of his goons before Boyd kills the other.  Well played Boyd!  And so very thoughtful of you to keep Darryl out of it so that Raylan has enough time to clear Kendall’s name.  What a prince!

***Kudos to these two for giving Ava’s house a much-needed upgrade vis a vis riddling its facade with bullet holes and shattering its crappy windows.  Girl, you ever heard of curb appeal?  I know you’ve been languishing in prison, but that ain’t no excuse for letting your family home go to pot.  Send those marshals a gourmet cheese basket for jumpstarting the demolition process.  Get it together, girl!

Speaking of Raylan, I’m glad Wendy could salvage his plan to ensure Kendall’s release because waxing poetic on the nostalgic memories of one’s first animal murder was not cutting it.  Man, this guy is going to come up with just the BEST bedtime stories for his daughter. (That is, if he ever gets his responsibility-dodging keister down to Florida!)  In the end, Wendy–spying through the mirror during this unsuccessful interview–realizes Kendall is innocent, gets Darryl to confess on tape to shooting Art, then shoots the self-appointed Crowe patriarch in the neck!  But even better, Raylan watches him squirm and slowly die, basically blowing raspberries at him and saying “Nanny, nanny poo poo” as Darryl slips into the cold embrace of sweet oblivion. (#GivensJustice)

With the Crowe kerfuffle wrapped up, Art rejoining the land of the conscious, and a transfer to Florida in the works, it seems like Raylan finally runs out of excuses.  Time to man up and be a papa!  He even Skypes with Winona, who basically devolves into a hysterical mess at the thought of a nap.  But wait!  Rachel and Vasquez ask Raylan to stay on a little longer to help them with their real target, the man at the epicenter of most of the cases that have crossed Raylan’s desk over the years: Boyd Crowder.  Oh snap!  Looks like pesky distractions such as being an emotional support to the frazzled mother of your child as well as an actual present father will have to wait!  Justice calls!  Excellent set-up, and a great plot for the final season.  But also: any excuse, ain’t that right, Raylan?

Then Ava gets released from prison when witnesses start recanting their testimonies.  Um, sure.  Given how sloppily handled this strand of the narrative has been, I briefly considered the possibility of Justified just flipping us off and caving to some deus ex machina.  But then it hit me because duh: she’s working with the Marshal’s office.  And of course she is.  She even meets Raylan in the middle of Sketchy Meetings Bridge!  Ava’s a turncoat!  (#BringingItBack)  Looks like what Boyd perceived as a heartwarming homecoming and possibility of rekindling a broken relationship is actually a duplicitous attempt to provide intel on a pending RICO investigation.  Relationships, am I right?

It might not have been my favorite season of Justified, but I’ve got to admit I’m stoked for next year.  Let’s face it: even a mediocre string of episodes of this show dwarfs the quality of most others on the air; Justified has set the bar very high for itself, and it couldn’t clear it consistently this year.  But that’s okay because the collision of Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder has, of course, resided at the heart of this mostly-excellent series, so bringing that back around as the final narrative makes sense and will provide the perfect closure.  Also it will provide lots of bullet casings and quips because, um, is this Justified or is this Justified?

Until next year, friends!  Yon git outta here now, ya hear?


Harlan Chit-Chat

– Tim [to Darryl]: “While I appreciate your concern, this here, this might as well be a slow night in the champagne room for how comfortably erect I’m gonna be watching your bitch ass squirm about.”

– Alberto: “Wyn Duffy told me he executed you.”

Boyd: “Well, maybe I took a page from the Book of Mark and have risen.”

– Raylan [seeing Wendy holding a gun to Darryl’s genitals]: “Uh, what did I miss?”

– Raylan [to a dying Darryl]: “Didn’t I tell you you’d wish I’d kill you?  Well, don’t you?”

– Raylan: “And you want me to help you?”

Rachel: “Before you go, yeah.”

Raylan: “Why didn’t you just say so?”

Community S05E12: “Basic Story”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “your ass getting appraised, insurance style!”

Now that’s more like it, Community!  This was one bonkers episode, and I loved every minute of it.  I mean, who better than Broken Lizard’s Jay Chandrasekhar to step up as director and steer the bizarre comedic sensibilities interwoven throughout?  From Dean Pelton attempting to commit suicide by vending machine to hardcore buried treasure twerking, I laughed raucously for the duration.

I consider this an even more impressive feat when considering that “Basic Story” amounted, essentially, to a set-up episode.  I mean, for crying out loud, Abed’s B-story involved him running around Greendale in a desperate attempt to manufacture some form of narrative, unaccustomed as he is to a sense of normalcy on campus.  As far as I could discern, the meta-commentary that resulted from this seemed to speak to Community‘s penchant for the wacky, to situational comedies in general that require some kind of incident to jumpstart the episode’s plot, and to “Basic Story” serving as an obvious set up.  Some great sight gags resulted from Abed’s attempt to unearth a narrative from the mundane goings-on of a “normal” day at Greendale: the pan over to a student slurping down chicken soup, a rather lengthy shot of students rifling through the library stacks, the steady cam shot tracing Abed’s frantic search for…well, for, anything.  It was all so bizarre (um, hey there, Abed with a beard, what up?), but in the world of Community, it worked.  It worked better than it should have.

Of course, Abed’s quest for some kind of story came about due to the unequivocal success of the Save Greendale Committee.  The demonologist has exorcised the gymnasium of malevolent spirits!  Vending machines are no longer death traps!  The soccer field has grass!  What else is there to do?  In other words, Annie’s bulletin board of success stories is all filled up, so all the Committee can do is savor the atypical feelings of contentment and accomplishment.

That is, until the drunk school board guys decide to try to sell Greendale off to the highest bidder.  Enter an insurance appraiser, armed with a flashy new briefcase and a rather loose definition of “dog”, and we have a story!  Unfortunately, the appraiser cannot find too many flaws with Greendale because of the Committee’s success, so Greendale actually has value!  Yay!  Unfortunately, that means it’s going to be sold to Subway for a profit and become a sandwich university!  Boo!**

**I loved that Subway would be the company to take over Greendale and not just because the library’s been renamed “Subwayary” because yes.  Subway has a unique relationship with cult NBC shows (oh hey, Chuck, how you doin’?), so it worked, again, better than it should have.

Of course, all this is back story for the true narrative we’ll get next week.  As Dean Pelton finishes crying on the floor in his tighty-whities and packing up his office (not necessarily in that order), he, Annie, and Abed find a treasure map behind the portrait of Russell Borchard, infamous maker of love to various pieces of technology and a surprising dead ringer for Chris Elliot–hey, wait a minute!  This, clearly, was the episode’s goal: put the treasure map in the hands of our beloved characters and let the hunt begin…next week.

Along the way, Jeff proposes marriage to Britta…*Dramatic tire squeal* Yeah, I know.  It’s random.  Let’s see what happens next week because, as much as I thought this episode delivered the comedic goods consistently, we sort of have to.  “Basic Story” couldn’t really stand on its own story-wise, which is fine because this is definitely one of the most entertaining (and unapologetically obvious) set-up episodes I’ve seen.

So grab your map and your Subway undershirt, and get ready!  We’ll see you next week.


Quotes from the Refurbished Study Room

– Shirley: “I got a problem.  I don’t like Abed’s problem with our lack of problems.”

– Hickey: “I’ve seen insurance appraisers bleed.  Their blood is different.  Darker.”

– Jeff: “This inspection is going to be the most boring thing to happen to Greendale since Britta dated Troy.”  Zing!

– Hickey: “If I have to come over there, there’s going to be two sounds: me hitting you…twice.”

– Dean Pelton [trying to pull vending machine on top of himself]: “Let me be one of the six this year!”

Parenthood S05E21: “I’m Still Here”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “mold free living at its finest.”

I’m going to go on whatever official record there is right now and admit it, right out loud: this episode ranks amongst my all time favorite Parenthood installments.  I mean, this puppy had it all.  Fantastic character pairings!  An awkward Braverman selfie!  Sweet and sour ham balls!  What else could you want from a television episode?  Well if your answer is “quite a bit more than a recipe for sweet and sour ham balls” I don’t blame you, and “I’m Still Here” would respond in kind by providing one emotional gut-punch after another.  Seriously, Parenthood, leave my fragile heart alone.  It is not your personal punching bag.

Well, ladle yourself a bowl of Julia’s harvest stew and pull up a chair.  Let’s get to it!


Hank and Amber

Parenthood doesn’t have to work any harder to convince us that Hank would be an excellent addition to the Braverman clan bc it’s totes obvi already, but this week devoted a considerable amount of its time showing us  how truly indispensable he has become.  I mean, let’s just say it: the man speaks Max.  When he comes bursting into the studio with a frantic Amber chasing after him, vehemently spouting off about her sudden change to his stringent schedule, it’s clear Sarah’s eldest, for all her patience, feels overwhelmed and frustrated.  One overturned lamp later, Hank talks Max down and gets him to do his homework.  If you didn’t go “awwww” and smile, then you–sir or madam–need to see a doctor bc I fear your heart has atrophied and you may or may not be dead.  For me, this scene spelled #HeartMelting.

But Hank would prove himself even more valuable to Amber later on in the episode.  After dropping off Max for another scheduled photography session the next day, she receives a phone call and, outside of his studio, collapses onto the ground.  Rushing to her aid, Hank learns the contents of the phone call: Ryan has been in an accident and languishes in critical condition at a San Diego hospital.  Amber insists on clambering into the car and driving herself, but Hank offers to drive her, seeing she is in no condition to do so herself**.  Now, I’m no cartographer, but traveling from the Bay Area to San Diego ain’t no hop, skip, and a jump away.  Mark this #HeartMelting incident, number two, shall we?

**In the midst of trying to help Amber, Hank never lost track of Max’s needs.  I loved his insistence that Max get himself home, which spoke both to his affinity for the boy as well as his genuine affection, God help him, for all things Braverman.  Just grab your dancing shoes and join the party already, would ya Hank?  I’d love to see his moves at a Spontaneous Braverman Sibling Dance Off.  Please let the happen.

At the hospital, Hank stays with Amber until Sarah arrives.  He stands in such a beautiful contrast to Seth, functioning as a human pillow for Amber while he himself needs to urinate like a prized race horse.  I laughed so hard when Hank tries to flip a magazine up to himself with his foot so as not to wake Amber.  Classic Hank!  Man’s a saint, let’s just say it.  And, from those googly eyes Sarah tossed in Hank’s direction, I ain’t the only who thinking as much.

Despite her conversation with Adam earlier in the episode about the Spectrum standing in the way of a real relationship with Hank, Sarah clearly sees a different side to this lovable curmudgeon.  Look, I’m just saying that if this were middle school, we’d totally be singing “Hank and Sarah sitting in a tree…”


Joel and Crosby

Great use of Joel this week.  Back when the mold plotline began, I didn’t consider that it would serve as the catalyst for Joel’s reintegration into the Braverman clan.  I mean, we’re still not one hundred percent sure that’s where they’re going, but it seems pretty likely.

Last week, Crosby learned that the mold had spread throughout his house and floorboards needed ripping up, so Joel bops by to offer a second opinion.  It turns out Crosby not only has standing water in his crawlspace (not a euphemism) but also a bad case of “getting ripped off.”  Joel suggests Crosby make like a man and hit up the manliest of man stores, Home Depot, and just #DIY already.  Crosby tries to enlist Joel’s help, but he politely declines.

That Pete is the one to remind Joel that he is a family man felt earned and well-played.  She says there’s a reason he spurned her flirtations over the past several months, and it’s because his family means the most to him.  Thanks, Pete!  You’re still sort of the worst, but, ya know, progress!  Before you can say character revitalization, Joel grabs his tool bag, drops by Crosby’s house, and starts bandying about the pronoun “we” in terms of how to fix the floor.  Joel, you’re back!  You’re a human being again!  We’ve missed you so!

In no time, Joel assists in the removal of Crosby’s spores (not a euphemism), and the two are bonding with a beer and cell phone of family videos.  Crosby openly admits to missing Joel, and it’s clear Joel misses this too.  I mean, he asks after Julia for the first time in, like, a dog’s age.  Hurray for common human decency!  In fact, after leaving Crosby’s, Joel drops by his own home and offers to fix the broken dishwasher.  (#Symbolism) Julia took care of that already, but Joel takes the opportunity to ask how she’s feeling about the impending sale of The Braverman Homestead.

They talk like adults.  Joel doesn’t bring up Ed.  It’s a delight.  There seems to be light at the end of this narrative tunnel, and thank God.  Now I only sort of kind of want to knee Joel in the jellybeans!


Kristina and Gwen

With the recently obtained charter in their pockets, Adam, Kristina, Evan, and Julia congregate to look at a possible space for their school.  Talk about an awkward hug between Julia and Evan, am I right?  Very smooth, you two.  Ray Charles could see something going on between them.  Anyway, Kristina falls in love with the place, but there’s a small problem: the city owns the lease.

Evan suggests calling their school The Braverman Academy, but Adam and Kristina don’t want the name going to Max’s head (ha!) so they table that discussion for a later time.

In an episode filled with heart-crushing phone calls, this one takes the cake: Gwen’s sister calls Kristina to insist she come visit her sick friend.  The implications of that are clear; Gwen is dying.  At her bedside and with tears choking her every word, Kristina tells Gwen about the potential new facility.  Gwen’s eyes flutter open, and the two lock stares.  It’s a beautiful moment.

This also strengthens Kristina’s resolve to obtain the lease for that building, as if she’s doing this for Gwen, so she goes to Bob Little (ugh) and tells him to hand it over not because it’s a financially smart thing to do but, for once, it’s the right thing.  Again, a great scene and Monica Potter nailed it.

Later in the episode, Kristina receives another phone call: Gwen has died.  Wracked with severe survivor’s guilt, Kristina breaks down to Adam, wondering if she was alone?  Scared?  She wonders why Gwen had to die when she herself grew healthier and stronger.  It’s a devastating scene that these two pull off masterfully.

But wait.  I hope you’re not out of tears because the waterworks have no intention of stopping just yet!  Kristina later receives a posthumous package from Gwen.  Inside is a symbolic oak tree sapling and a massive endowment for Kristina’s school venture.  And just like that, the school has a name: Gwen Chambers.



Elsewhere, Drew and Natalie finally get together at some kind of Primal Scream event (oh college), Julia confesses to Sarah about sleeping with Evan***, Zeek and Camille continue packing up their home and lives, and Julia and Evan end things before they really start.

***When was the last time you confessed to boinking a PhD student amidst a chit-chat concerning the nuanced preparation of Harvest Stew and Sweet and Sour Ham Balls?  The answer is every Sunday because duh.

This episode accomplished a great deal in Parenthood’s trademark emotional manner.  A wonderful hour of television and a brilliant set-up for what will no doubt prove an excellent season finale next week.  I don’t look forward to a Braverman-less summer, but I can’t wait to see how this mostly fantastic season wraps up.


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Kristina: “I wanna say thank you. I don’t think I could have done any of this without your help.  I don’t want to let you go.  I love you.”

– Joel: “Watching you hold a saw like that offends me.”

– Crosby: “You ever want to record an album, you come see me.  It’s on the house.”

Joel: “Finally.”

– Joel: “Zeek Braverman is selling his house.”

Crosby: “Yeah.  It’s like the foreshadowing of the apocalypse.  Raining frogs or the Cubs winning the World Series.  It’s scary.”

You Can’t Go Home Again: Catching Up with Justified Part II, S05E10 through S05E12

…a series of episodes reminding us all the importance of “sitting high in the fabled catbird seat.”

Do you mind if I cut right to the quick?  Look, Justified is one of TV’s best shows (which is why, of the several dozen I watch on a weekly basis, I opted to cover it), but I think we can all agree that this season hasn’t been as tightly plotted as its earlier installments might have suggested.  A great deal transpired in the back third here, but not all of it is working.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tackle this recap in a slightly different way than normal.  Would that be okay with you?  That’s a rhetorical question btw bc I’m totally going to do it anyway.  Let’s wade through the four characters central to the ongoing narratives in this string of episodes: Raylan, Boyd, Darryl Crowe, and (ugh) Ava.

Well, what’re we waiting for?  Those cigarette packs aren’t going to explode themselves!  Right, Mr. Picker?


Raylan, or “Sad Mr. Angry Pants”

Man, this show loves putting US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens through the proverbial ringer, doesn’t it?  And I’m not just talking about the downright cruel nicknames the flotsam and jetsam of Harlan County have been doling out behind his back: Officer Buzzkill, Pastor Raylan, and Mr. Insensitivity.  Ouch, you guys!  (#Sticks&Stones)

Seriously, though, where to begin?  Let’s start with the obvious: Allison broke up with Raylan at the end of last week’s episode, and the breakup stuck.  *Sad trombone noise* And even though she has taken herself out of Raylan’s orbit, she finds herself still very much caught within the gravitational field of Planet Crowe.  I mean, Kendall’s dropping by her house like it ain’t no thang, spouting off romanticized nonsense about running away together.  Um, gross?

But just because Raylan isn’t doing the horizontal mambo with Allison any more doesn’t mean he has stopped caring about her.  In fact, he thinks the Crowes are going to go after her because they’re, ya know, nuts and stuff, so he brings it to Art’s attention.  Mr. Mullen, if you recall, cannot move past his not-so-dormant rage toward Raylan for his involvement with Nicky Augustine’s murder, and so he dismissively agrees to take care of it himself…

…and ends up getting shot in the stomach several times in an effort to protect Allison.

If there’s one thing you should know, it’s that Raylan doesn’t deal with his emotions very well.  At his own admission, Art’s one of the people in the world he cares about, so homeboy wants to go all clandestine ninja warrior and start cracking heads.  Hm.  I must have missed that step of the grieving process.

Art–comatose but not dead–is the father Arlo never could be; Raylan would never admit that aloud, but now faced with his surrogate father’s possible mortality, it seems as clear to us as it is to him.  That clarity comes into even crisper focus during Raylan’s car ride to the hospital with Art’s wife, wherein she condemns him for his absence.  He should have been there.  Where was he? she demands.  It’s a great, deeply metaphorical conversation.  As Raylan realizes the life of his father-figure remains in dire jeopardy, Mrs. Mullen’s words illuminate a second evident truth: his palpable absence from the life of his daughter in Florida could also yield catastrophic results.  Ouch.

To compound Raylan’s grief, it seems as if Darryl sets up Kendall (the one Crowe for whom Raylan seemed to take a bit of a shine to in earlier episodes) to take the fall for Art’s shooting.  Smelling a steaming poo pie, our favorite US Deputy Marshall tries to force Darryl into a confession; with the help of Vasquez, the Marshall’s office opts to try Kendall as an adult.  Wendy, crushed, later admits to Raylan in heart-breaking fashion that she failed Kendall as a mother.  We can see this, too, hits close to home for Raylan, failing spectacularly as a parent in his own right.

Talk about an express train to Bummersville!  And what’s worse, his journey to track down Dewey Crowe lands him face-to-face with the rascaliest of rascals: Dickie Bennett.  Yes, the same Dickie Bennett who strung up Raylan and treated him like a human piñata back in season two.  It’s hard out there for a US Marshall.  Still, what an amazing scene, particularly Bennett’s hilarious monologue, which I’ve painstakingly recreated below.  You’re totes welcome, obvi.

All things told, I’m loving the Raylan angle to all of this, exposing his insecurities about familial responsibility and well-guarded vulnerability when it comes to those he cares bout.  I’m looking forward to watching Raylan Givens handle all this come the finale!


Boyd, or “The Human Exploder”

Fun fact: drug cartels aren’t the biggest fans of partners who misplace massive drug shipments!  (#TheMoreYouKnow)  But, ever the most articulate of human cockroaches, Boyd’s not going to let a little international business feud keep him down.  No way, Jose!  Plus, he’s evidently been taking night classes at the Walter White Academy because kablooie, am I right?

Mr. Picker and Mr. Duffy, whose lives are also on the line, are none too pleased with Boyd’s case of the whoopsie-daisies.  At their first of two sit-downs, Mr. Picker has a rather, shall we say, aggressive solution to their problem: decapitate Boyd and send his noggin first class express mail to the exotic climes of Meh-he-co.  Well, gosh darn it, that course of action doesn’t sit well with Mr. Crowder or Mr. Picker, whose soft spot for Boyd is well documented.

We’ve been down this road before, but it was a hoot watching Boyd weasel his way out of this jam.  In one of Justified‘s most gruesome deaths, Mr. Picker literally explodes when Boyd tosses him a rigged cigarette packet.  Owie.  Talk about a messy clean up!  Poor Mikey.  Dude’s picking up pieces of the late Mr. Picker well into the wee hours of the morn.

Boyd then decides to assist the Marshall’s office in the takedown of Darryl Crowe as a means of evading Mr. Yoon’s goons (#HilariousBandName), who continue to close in with each passing hour.  Also, they want to go all Buffalo Bill and use his skin as a coat or something, so yeah.  Things are tense right now.**  So tense, in fact, that he even agrees to wear a wire in an attempt to record Darryl confessing to Art’s attempted murder!  Aww!  Isn’t that sweet of him?

**Poor Jimmy.  Looks like his last phone call on earth will be to Boyd Crowder.  Scintillating conversationalist though Boyd is, I can understand Jimmy’s disappointment: being a Crowder underling must just suck big time.

I’m looking forward to Boyd out-stmarting Mr. Yoon’s goons in the finale, but I do admit we need to have Boyd do more than that.  He’s a richly complex character, and I’d like to see the other facets of his personality developed in next year’s final season, particularly now that he ostensibly no longer has Ava to ground him.


The Crowe Clan, or “Bad Luck and No Brains”

The Crowes are dropping like flies these days, aren’t they?  Kendall’s in juvie on an attempted murder charge he likely did not commit; Dewie’s*** in jail after admitting on tape (thanks Boyd!) that he not only wants heroin to sell for a profit but also that he plugged Wade Messer full of holes.  I sincerely hope someone on the inside can give him a crash course in rudimentary linguistics and explain the difference between “anus” and “onus.”  That had me hysterical.  But back to misfortune!  Danny Crowe fell on his own knife and stabbed himself in the throat!  Classic Danny!  Hell, even Chelsea the pooch kicked it.  Someone send the surviving Crowes a bountiful cheese and wine basket because families, am I right?

***The finish line for Dewey Crowe seems a far cry from where he started out the season: claiming a settlement, buying pool, and generally living it up.  His destination seemed inevitable though, what with his mush for brains. My two favorite Dewey moments were when he let his car full of heroin coast down a hill, and the old lady interrupting him siphoning her gas.  Apparently, she has a different understanding of what comprises a warm meal: shotgun shells!  Watching her chase him off his property and cursing at him had to be a highlight for us because it felt like the lowest of lows for Mr. Crowe.

And then there were two: Wendy and Darryl.

Homegirl seems like a shell of her former self now that Kendall’s seemingly taken the fall for Darryl.  Those damn Seminole Indian blood oaths really put the youngest Crowe into a bit of a pickle, wouldn’t you say?  I almost don’t want Danny to get his comeuppance yet so we can have a little bit more of him next year.  Michael Rappaport has been crushing it as Darryl this year.

Wendy finds herself in a pit of despair, having been knocked around literally by Darryl and metaphorically by her realization that she is #WorldsWorstMom.  Pop that on a coffee mug!  Alicia Witt is a fine performer, but I’m not sure the show has done enough to make me care about her plight here because Wendy is sort of the worst?  However, her last minute act of defiance–refusing to do Darryl’s dirty work of obtaining Boyd’s hidden heroin–portends possible involvement next week in bringing her brother down.  I wouldn’t mind that one little bit!

Just don’t kill off Darryl!  That’s all I ask.  He’s too amazing.


Ava, or “Queen Sh*t of ***k Mountain”

For me, the amount of time we’re spending on Ava’s plot line is really a problem for Justified.  Not only is it so obviously disconnected from the rest of the serialized narrative, but it also happens to be a real yawner.

Ava kills Judith.  Ava pulls a Lady MacBeth and scrubs out the blood.  Ava fills the power vacuum.  Some female inmates give her the gift of ice cream as thanks because limited resources.  Ava electioneers in the prison yard for the role of  Judith’s replacement.  Some non-ice-cream-donating prisoners dislike Ava’s style of governance and plot to take her down.  Penny gets stabbed (aw, poor Penny).  Ava wants out of prison but missed her chance to help Raylan find Danny because prison has hardened her.

Just kill her off already, please.

This show’s main asset has been its almost unparalleled ability to weave a complex, intertwined narrative with efficiency and ruthless narrative momentum.  In my estimation, Ava’s plot single-handedly undermines this strength.  I haven’t cared all season, and the longer this goes on, the less I care.  Her ascent to the apex of the prison drug trade?  Shrug.  And how cliche can we get in allowing her stint in the big house to strip away Ava’s old self?

Ugh.  Justified can do so much better than this.  I’m not angry, just disappointed.


I’m looking forward to the season finale, and I am enjoying it overall, but can’t we all agree that this season hasn’t been quite up to the standards of two, three, or four?  I’m sorry, but someone’s got to tell the cold, harsh truth.  But don’t worry: I still love you, Justified.

Chit Chat Around Harlan

– Raylan: “That’s a lot of confidence for a man who wears shorts with combat boots.”

– Art: “If I were to admit hitting [Raylan], could you call it child abuse and take custody of him for me?”

Allison: “I like you.”

– Duffy: “Alberto was it?  Alberto, I’m not one to niggle over management styles, but let’s say you would let me know you were coming, I could have preserved some proof for you.  A head, say.  Or a set of teeth.”

– Raylan: “I’d quit speaking in the third person.”

Dewey: “Third person?  Who?  Him?  What’re you talking about, Raylan?”

– Dickie Bennett: “Go to a Gas N Gulp or whatever and get yourself a map of Kentucky.  Follow Route 9 southbound all the way down with your finger; follow it way, way down until you’re pointing right at your asshole.  Then what you’re gonna do is take your hand and just go ahead and cram it right up inside.  You gotta make sure, Raylan, that you do it in a way so that the rest of you just keeps on following your hand right up your ass, right up inside all that shit that you’re so full of, Raylan.  And then what you’re gonna do is *whistling noise* just wink out of existence forever.”

Community S05E11: “G.I. Jeff”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of being “unable to hear when you’re covered in rocks.”

Earlier in this fifth season, Community used Troy’s impending departure to formulate the basis of its brilliant Mad Max send-up episode “Geothermal Escapism.”  Remember that one?  Abed, unable to cope with the inevitable loss of his friend, constructed an altered reality wherein the college-wide game of Hot Lava became an activity of necessity because the floor had transformed, in Abed’s head, to real lava.  That was some hefty psychoanalytical lifting for a twenty-three minute situational comedy to take on, but the results proved outstanding.  It remains one of Community‘s best episodes.

This theme of actively escaping one’s problems through meticulously rendered psychotic breaks carried over in this week’s animated ep “G.I. Jeff.”  I quite liked most of it, but–unlike “Geothermal Escapism”–the attempt to connect it to Jeff’s psyche didn’t work for me.  Apparently, Mr. Winger consumed a fifth of scotch and took some Korean anti-aging pills rather than cope with the reality of his fortieth birthday.  *Gasp!*    Say it ain’t so!  Turns out, his little bender ended up requiring a brief hospitalization, during which time he imagined life as a G.I. Joe  cartoon ostensibly in a subconscious attempt to cling to his youth.


Putting aside the problems resulting from trying to rationalize this episode,** it certainly still had its moments.  But part of me wishes there hadn’t been such a clumsy effort to connect it to the Greendale reality.  I mean, right?   Wouldn’t it have been so Community just to toss this off as an unexplained standalone episode?  Now that would’ve been something!

**I don’t believe this part of Jeff’s character for a minute.  These animated installments have been Abed’s terrain for awhile now, and–while I appreciate the desire not to lay all of these “gimmick” episodes  at Abed’s feet due to his tenuous grip on reality–Jeff just seemed like an odd choice of a character to pick up that particular mantle.

But, damn, this episode cracked me up consistently throughout.  From its faux-scratches peppering the screen as a tribute to the film quality of the 80s to the poor lip synchronization, the attention to detail (something I’ve commented on before) really shined here.  Plus, what a gallery of cartoon dopplegangers!  Wingman!  Buzzkill!  Fourth Wall!  Three Kids (all the lol @ every time Shirley cried out, “I’ve got three kids!”)! Overkill! Vice Cobra Assistant Commander!  Brilliant.

I also loved the affectionate, little nods to the G.I. Joe of yesteryear.  The credits!  That theme song!  When bullets shredded Dethstro’s parachute and plummeted him to his death, I laughed.  When the camera held on the shocked faces of fellow G.I.s, I howled.  For all the bullets that flew in the original show, they never landed, and our heroes and villains of Cobra lived to fight another day.  Cobra henchmen couldn’t grasp the nuances of a finely written eulogy here because, well, no one has ever died on the show.  Until Wingman, that is!  The running gag about the characters never killing each other just didn’t get old for me, and kudos for turning suppressive fire into a Cobra massacre.  A hilarious, macabre touch.

I suppose no review of this episode would be complete without a mention of those lovingly created live-action commercials that appeared each time Wingman had a seizure at the mention of Greendale because, again, sure. The arc for the TV advertisements was great, too.  Jeff’s increasingly active control of the toys, culminating in crashing a helicopter into the little boy’s head, served as a nice coda.***

***Speaking of codas, I had hoped for a PSA, and who better to serve it in that stinger than Buzzkill?  She Britta’ed it but good, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Look, I can completely see where you’re coming from if you thought this episode little more than an extended Robot Chicken sketch.  I’d never defend this as one of Community‘s finest half-hours (I wouldn’t put it near the top twenty-five, actually), but it was funny and entertaining enough, and at least Harmon and company went for broke with it.  But from Community, would we expect anything less?


Quotes from the Refurbished (and Animated!) Study Room

– Wingman: “Your outfit is three layers of racist!”

– Wingman: “I keep having these visions…about little boys.”

Three Kids: “And are these visions something we should be sharing with the authorities?”

– Abed: “Imaginary Britta is right.  And only imaginary Britta.”

– Shirley: “This is Korean.”

Chang: “What am I?”

Shirley: “You’re Chinese!”

Chang: “I swear to God, I feel Korean.”

Community S05E10: “Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “the dingleberry smash.”

Throughout its run, the brilliance of Community has stemmed from its fearless originality.  No niche, it seemed, was too esoteric; Dan Harmon and company mined comedic gold from whichever flight of fancy they desired.  So, when a show with such boundless creativity opts to revisit an earlier conceit, it had better bring it.  Look, it might not be fair, but was there ever a point when you weren’t actively comparing this installment against the vastly superior entry from the mind-bogglingly outstanding second season?  What can I say?  It’s the nature of Human Beings.

And, in light of that inevitable comparison, I couldn’t shake the fact that this episode was just…unnecessary?  In fact, it managed to encapsulate my initial reticence upon the announcement of Harmon’s return.  Would he, to quote the Boss, relish in the glory days as a way to prove to his audience what a mess the much-maligned fourth season truly was?  Clearly, after this episode, the answer seems a categorical yes.

Now, just wait a tick.  Before you start mailing me the desiccated corpses of sky spiders in utter outrage, hear me out.  Trust me, it’s Community, so I laughed.  I laughed a whole lot.  But let’s just pause for a second and place this episode within the show’s broader context.  If this had aired last year, wouldn’t most of us have slammed it for trying too hard to recapture the comedic heights of yesteryear?  Don’t try to dodge the question because the answer is obviously yes.  We would have.  But weren’t you, deep down, trying to convince yourself you liked it more than you did?  After all, it’s Dan Harmon!

I appreciated the fact that this go-around of “D&D” centered around Buzz Hickey and applaud the desire to deepen his character’s relationship with his other son, Hank,** and Hank’s son, Sebastian.  Jonathan Banks is amazing (always has been and always will be), and I’ve enjoyed what he’s brought to this character, but the emotional core this time didn’t resound as potently here as it did in season two when playing the game meant saving Neil’s life.   We dealt with the dad issue with Jeff last season–fairly well, I thought, despite the naysaying of detractors–so what we’re left with is a recycled idea with a recycled undercurrent.  Hence my unshakeable feeling of it being unnecessary.  Plus, I’ll just say it: is Hickey worthy of our sympathy?  The guy’s funny with his insistence on punching people and hobgoblins (but no ladies bc duh) in the heart, but is he really a good dad?  I’m not so sure.

**Not the gay one.  Him he gets.  Love it.

Of course, David Cross playing Buzz’s son Hank earned this episode a few extra points because the man can do no wrong; only he could sell that sepia-toned, artistically out of focus musical number that felt like something pulled out of a cut scene from The Hobbit.  So, again, at least the episode brought the funny.  After all, with Hector the Well-Endowed reprising his role and Annie spraying down enemies with his massively imaginary ding dong, how bad can the episode really be?

As with most episodes of Community, recounting the plot machinations saps the joy out of it, so you won’t find me doing that here.  But a special shout out needs to go out to Dean Pelton.  My stomach hurt from laughing at the site of him rubbing the hilt of his sword to a picture of Jeff propped up on the windowsill.  Typing this, I’m laughing again.  And how about his positively phallic death when he forces himself on Jeff’s drawn sword?  Amazing.  That Pelton’s character is also Jeff’s character’s son only adds to the awkward Oedipal hilarity of it all.

Abed is a cruel Dungeon Master and his tightly orchestrated quest finds the gang (Crouton, Dingleberry, and Fibrosis amongst them) making their way to the Black Tower (#StephenKingReference) to defeat the dreaded Necromancer.  Along the way, Abed peppers the journey with symbolic intent: most notably, Hank literally burns a bridge that plunges the group into a river current.  The dude’s got control issues.  But rest assured, Hickey uses his own brand of acumen to get his team back on track.***  Just to reinforce the Abed’s penchant for the symbolic, both Hank and Buzz arrive at the Black Tower but their bickering provides the Necromancer with an opportunity to escape down a rear hatch.  The intention is clear: father and son are willfully blocking one another from being able to come together.  As Abed said, if they could just get their crap together, Buzz and Hank might be able to do something about their dysfunctional relationship.

***I’m going on official record to decree it the single best hobgoblin interrogation/waterboarding scene of all time.  Danny Pudi’s dual Gollum-esque performance only added to it.  Funniest scene of the episode for me, hands down.

In the end, this episode didn’t tickle my fancy to the extent that last week’s brilliant installment did.  It had its moment, but there seemed a fundamental miscalculation here; we love Community because it continues to push the envelope and surprise us.  While the mention of a “D&D” revisit sounded initially appealing, its inconsistent delivery only reinforced that aforementioned strength.  But, hey, sometimes we need to be reminded about the things right in front of our faces.  Even when those things include the massive members of Hector the Well-Endowed.


Quotes from the Refurbished Study Room 

-Chang: “Too cool for street insurance?  Excuse me…”

– Pelton: “Okay, it’s short notice, but I think it’ll be good for me.”

– Pelton [gasping for air]: “FATHER!”

– Jeff: “Go find a name that’s not just another creature’s name plus hob!”

– Hickey: “I’ve punched about a thousand hearts in my life.  I never, never missed.”

Abed: “Have you ever been a three foot tall halfling running through two foot vines trying to punch a seven foot monster?”

– Hank: “You know where he was on most of my birthdays?  I little place that rhymes with not there.”

Chang: “Times Square?”