Community S05E09: “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing”

…an episode showing us all the importance of “a third act apology”

In the year of our Lord 1991, a little video board game called Nightmare hit the shelves and–for the luckiest amongst us–left a deep, enduring impression on our hearts.  I’m not sure how much you know about Nightmare (hint: the correct answer is you know everything about Nightmare  because obvs), so let me regale you.  At its center, the Gatekeeper presided over all, the emcee of a game with seeming never-ending rules and cacophonous jump scares.  He heckled you, you answered  “Yes, My Gatekeeper,” frantic rolling ensued, cards were drawn.  By the end of it, you’re left exhilarated and very likely without a clue as to what transpired over the course of the previous hour.

Now, this might just be the steady diet of freezer-chilled Thin Mints talking, but am I crazy to think that Dan Harmon and company had this little title on their minds when the pen hit the paper for this ninth episode of Community?  Because, you guys, in my world that is exactly what happened and so I loved this episode SO.  MUCH.

But what made this such a great episode is that, even if you are (a godless heathen and ) unfamiliar with the 90s craze of interactive video board games, it didn’t matter.  Can’t we all agree that Rachel’s anniversary gift** to Abed, a copy of the Western-themed Pile of Bullets,  seems like the next television game ripe for a real version, a la New Girl‘s “Young Americans?”

**We non-Abed human beings would consider this a one-month anniversary, but due to his relationship with Rachel being twelve times as efficient as the standard relationship, it equated to one year anniversary.  Makes sense.  God help me, in the world of this character it makes a great deal of sense.

That Annie and Abed decided to settle the argument of who should move in to replace Troy (Anthony, Annie’s brother, or Rachel) through a game of Pile of Bullets was perfect.  Also: Vince Gilligan because everything is better with Vince Gilligan!  (#ScientificFact)  Although it seemed inevitable that their competitive streaks would alienate both Anthony and Rachel seemed obvious, I was so drawn in  by the parallels to Nightmare I think I I broke my face from smiling so hard.  Abed and Annie feverishly trying to roll their “bullet number” before the time winds down?  CLASSIC NIGHTMARE, you guys!  Shouting “Bang”*** as Vince Gilligan chastises you?  We’re talking pages ripped out of the Nightmare playbook.

***Anthony’s unenthused barrage of “bangs” at the screen had me laughing so hard I needed to pause.  Which of course is a big no-no when immersed in the interactive board game experience of Nightmare.

Seriously though, watching Annie’s and Abed’s competitive natures overtake them as they essentially began to play against one another was comedic perfection.  For me, right up there with Danny Pudi’s Nic Cage stuff from earlier in the season in terms of impeccable comedy.  Um, and also wtf with that twister spin?  Hilarious.

What caught me off-guard was the way this episode became yet another echo of Troy’s absence and what an integral role he played in balancing the Annie-Abed dynamic.  With Troy off sailing the high-seas and/or disentangling himself from a piracy situation, these two need to find new ways to connect and redefine their friendship.  That means, of course, posting an ad in Craigslist rather than offering the vacancy to Britta because she would be the worst to live with.  Great stuff, and well-spotted on those unresolved issues there, Anthony.  And yes, you can go poop now.  But only when you’re done peeling those carrots!  Ha! Typical Anthony!

The A plot would have been enough to convince me that this installment was one of the greats, but then Harmon had to go an throw in a B plot about Hickey, Jeff, and Shirley stumbling across a hidden cache of Intro to Chemistry 3rd Edition (*gasp*) textbooks, and this episode soared into the comedy stratosphere for me.

Shirley once again proved her social dominance when in a scenario befitting her particular set of talents, fresh off the MeowMeowBeenz debacle of last week.  I love powerful Shirley.  She’s all about making plays, proposing using her sandwich shop as a front for moving the merch (#SerendipitousAlliteration).  And before you can say, “Hickey has questionable access to rope,” this devolves/evolves into a take on the heist movie.

Friends betray and tie another one up with rope, Britta offers to act as the go-between for a cut of the profits, Chang gets forced to make a video confessional about having stolen the books out of a deep-seated sexual predilection for licking them.  Standard stuff, in other words.****

****Of course, the textbooks are worthless because they’re missing a little thing we in the business of textbook importation call page numbers.  Apparently, pages numbers are critical or something.  (#TheMoreYouKnow)

Oh man, this one was a winner.  Seriously, it’s hands-down my favorite post-Troy episode, and not just because of my (so may say) unusual love for the interactive video board gaming subculture.  Keep these coming, Community, and you’ll be more than en route to that #SixSeasonsAndaMovie.


Quotes from the Refurbished Study Room

– Dean Pelton [after his aggressive freestyle rap]: “I don’t know what that was.  I don’t know what they was.”

– Abed: “You’re putting me on the spot.  I guess my knee-jerk concern would be that he’s a Viking and he might only use our home as a temporary based before moving inland where lumber is more plentiful.”

– Jeff: “Let’s just slow down and have a nice, long chat about possibilities.”

– Shirley [about Chang]: “He can’t leave.”

– Rachel: “I do not like this side of you, and I don’t like that side of VCR technology.  I’m glad it’s a dead medium.  That was creepy.”

Parenthood S05E17: “Limbo”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “abiding by this concept called time.”

When it comes to television, there are few things I prefer more than a Braverman family gathering.  This could come in any form, be it congregating at the courthouse to recognize Victor’s adoption or meeting at The House that Cancer Beams Built for a rollicking Christmas story about the legitimacy of Santa Clause.  Because, here’s the thing of it, folks: each character is so distinctive, well-drawn, and unique (with the exception of Sydney, who continues to tumble down the black hole of brattiness) that the only thing that could possibly enrich said character would be pairing him or her off with someone else.  And we had plenty of that this week, didn’t we?  Btw, that’s a rhetorical questions because obvs yes we did.

As the episode’s title suggests, we caught several Bravemans in a proverbial limbo, sometimes self-imposed and other times a product of outside influence.  Anyhow, let’s get right on it!



Stuck in a relationship limbo, Joel seemed like an obvious choice of character to explore.  Although I wouldn’t say I was initially thrilled with Aida’s baptism forming the basis of the plot (more on that in a second), some very interesting dramatic material spawned from it.

Most notably an excellent scene between Crosby and Joel resulted in which the former must revoke the latter’s previously established title of godfather.  I love how he ends the conversation with a well-intentioned hope for his marriage, telling him how much he means to the family.  Heart-breaking stuff, and the first of two outstanding Joel-centric scenes this episode.

The second one, between Zeek and Joel, found the Braverman patriarch telling his son-in-law to try harder to make his marriage work.  Speaking on behalf of America, Zeek essentially called him a big puss and lay all of the guilt at his feet about him entrusting his daughter to Joel’s care.  Folks, there ain’t no shame party like a Zeek Braverman hosted shame party.  Seriously, Zeek is like your Italian grandmother provided she also served in ‘Nam and goaded lovely pastors about their life callings.

All fans annoyed with Joel’s behavior over the course of the season, feel free to send Zeek Braverman a cheese basket to thank him for speaking up on behalf of all of us.   Taking the not so subtle hint, Joel shows up at the baptism because Zeek’s confrontation made him poop his pants a little.  Good for you Joel!  I knew you weren’t just a robot with impeccable five o’clock shadow.  There is a beating heart in there somewhere!  I knew it!


Crosby & Jasmine

I don’t want to devolve into hyperbole here, but can’t we agree that Renee is a hell-beast borne of the pits of Tartarus?  Seriously, chica is THE. WORST.  We’re talking Sydney levels of brattiness, except of course for the small distinction that Renee is a grown woman!  Yet, I suppose a lifetime of passive aggressive eye rolls and feigned incredulity have allowed her to hone that tried and true Machiavellian skill known as manipulation.

You see, no one gives your mind an aggressive hump like Renee, whose most recent crusade finds her advocating for nothing less than Aida’s very soul.  (#MartyrComplex)  Renee fears baby Aida is destined for eternal damnation unless Crosby and Jasmine agree to baptize her like STAT.  For real, don’t you know that babies are reputed rascals?  Renee’s all: “Do you want the blood of your child’s mutilated soul on your hands?” Lady is straight-up intense is my point.

Despite personal reservations about organized religion, Crosby suppresses his personal beliefs out of respect for Renee’s (and, to a lesser extent, Jasmine’s) beliefs on the subject.  Fortunately, if I’ve learned one thing from Parenthood, it’s that bottling up emotions is an excellent mechanism for self-preservation.

**Kidding!  I totally fooled you.  It almost never works, you guys!  Duh!

Along the way, Camille hosts a pre-baptism dinner and Renee a post-baptism brunch.  Quick question: do these people ever tire of spending time with one another?  Just saying.  Anyway, I loved how the the pre-baptism dinner devolved into a sibling shouting match: Adam hurt to find out he was Joel’s replacement as godfather after thinking he was the first choice, Julia “apologizing” that she and Joel’s crumbling marriage complicated the day, and Crosby finally venting his animosity for the day in general.  Haha.  Typical Braverman fun times!  Where’s the dance party when you need one?

Of course, the day culminated in a lovely, touching ceremony because the show needs us to feel all the feels all of the times.  And that silently mouthed thank you from Renee?  A perfect capper.  She still sucks, though.


Amber & Drew

Speaking of limbo, Drew is lost.  I mean, the kid’s reading Sartre and is totally that guy quoting him all the time.  Ugh.  But seriously, as if the rantings of a French existentialist weren’t bad enough, Natalie the Great and Terrible had to go and do a whole night’s worth of shirtless hugging with Roberto (#LaxBro).  I mean, Roberto!  And poor, stupid ‘Berto (worst nickname ever, btw) doesn’t get why Drew’s beans are so steamed!  Come on Roberto, wake up and smell the cashew butter already!***  All the shirtless knee slaps in the world won’t get you out of this one, Mr. “I Don’t Have a Sense of Personal Space.”

***I’ve never seen an episode of television devote such time to conversations about cashew butter.  I mean, there might be some symbolism in there, but really it’s probably because cashew butter is damn delicious.  College!

I’ll be honest, this Drew thing has really stretched itself to the breaking point.  I just don’t care about it.  Natalie is the epitome of all stereotypes about millennials, and I hate her.  Go away, Natalie.  No one likes you.  Sorry, that was harsh.  But seriously, go away.

What I do like, however, is the obvious: Drew and Amber are now #WorldsBestRoomies!  That means they can spend so much time talking over one another about their respective exes while attacking some rocky road.  And you know what they say about rocky road: it’s a slippery slope leading to guzzling vodka, getting baked, and showing up to family functions as high as a kite.  But I’m glad they have each other because holy #AsparagusMunchies.


Elsewhere, Hank helps Sarah realize that photography is Max’s life boat in the stormy sea of life, Camille explains putting the house up for sale to Crosby, Julia demands to know why Joel isn’t fighting to save their marriage, and Zeek’s merry band of child slave laborers continue to work on his car.

Another excellent installment of Parenthood, but jettisoning the Drew-Natalie-Roberto-cashew butter quadrangle would certainly be much appreciated.  Just give Ray Romano more screen time.  We’d all be okay with that, right?


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Hank: “Don’t let him run!  He’s fast!”

– Julia: “How are you not fighting for this?  How are you not fighting for me?”

– Drew: “Hell is other people.”

Amber: “What did you just say?”

Drew: “Hell is other people.”

Amber: “What is that?”

Drew: “It’s, uh, Sartre.”

Amber: “Star Trek?”

Drew: “No.  It was a concept from Star Trek, but it’s, um, the book I’ve been reading for school.”

Community S05E08: “App Development and Condiments”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “getting an estimate to add grass to the soccer field.”

My gripes about this post-Troy version of Community have, at this point, had their time in the spotlight, with character inconsistency and lazy subplots chief amongst the more egregious issues.  But I’m pleased to say that I will be taking an express train out of Negative Town and headed for the greener pastures of Liked It-ville!  Hurray progress!

First off, can we all just agree that MeowMeowBeenz sounds like one devilishly addictive social media platform?  That was part of the episode’s genius: taking a plausible idea to its absolute extremity in a way only Community can manage.  I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the British anthology series Black Mirror, but this sure felt like an almost direct homage to it.  That show uses our obsession with technology as the basis for its storytelling (the titular black mirror referring to the screen of any powered-down tablet or phone or computer).  And I’ll be damned if there wasn’t more than a tad of that on display here!  In fact, this reminded me of Black Mirror‘s second episode, “15 Million Merits.”  Seriously, watch the two back-to-back, and I guarantee your appreciation for Community‘s latest installment will grow manyfold.

I’m not going to dissect the plot machinations too much, though it’s worth noting how Community committed so completely (#AccidentalAlliteration) to this idea.  Because, man, things certainly escalated quickly!  Eight days into the beta test for MeowMeowBeenz, Greendale had descended into a futuristic dystopia.  The flourishes of detail–cordoned off sections for 4s and 5s, the costumes, the “inspiring” intercom announcements, the Outlands–coalesced to somehow create an almost fully realized world.  Cool.  Cool.  Cool.**  At the same time, I’m a bit over every episode ending with a #Greendalepocalypse.  Just sayin’.

**Of all the characters, I loved how the dehumanizing nature of the MeowMeowBeenz system allowed Abed to fine-tune the art of small talk.  That made such perfectly contradictory sense.  Loved it.

Let’s face it, this episode was really about Jeff and Shirley.  And Britta smearing mustard on her face because obviously.  But for reals, I loved the way Shirley dominated MeowMeowBeenz.  Her complete transformation from semi-outcast–dinner plans on Tuesday would just never work–to full on queen bee was well played because the episode didn’t shy away from the vindictiveness lurking under the surface.  The chip on Shirley’s shoulder might as well have been the Grand Canyon, as she bullied the likes of Vicky for not doling out the expected five-beenz rating to her just for entering the room.  And holy hell was that Talent Show creepy.

Meanwhile, watching Jeff’s meteoric rise through the Beenz rankings did a great job playing into his well-documented need to control, well, everything.  Along the way, he made some delightful pals named Tinkle and Mulch who seemed like real princes if your idea of royalty is linked with your idea of date rape.  Jeff’s social ladder climbing, of course, culminated in that killer stand-up routine that earned him his fifth beenz at the Shirley-hosted talent show.***  Thanks, Koogler!  You’re a delightful perv.  Don’t ever change!  But seriously, sort of change because you’re on a collision course with a lawsuit.  I’ll still totes watch your movie though.

***Apples, am I right?

After Shirley and Jeff participate in what I can only describe as the single greatest dance sequence ever committed to film (hyperbole warning), they ultimately find themselves banished to the Outlands thanks to Britta galvanizing the downtrodden 2s and 3s to revolt.  Warmed by a nearby trashcan fire, our two beloved study group members acknowledge their own foibles and gain a better appreciation of one another.  It sounds cliche, I know, but maybe it helped that the scene after this had Britta desperately smearing mustard on her face as her dynasty as Mother of Ones came crashing down?  This show!

What a wacky half hour of Community!  Seriously bonkers stuff!  But here’s the thing: when it remembers to ground itself in the character relationships, there really is no limit to the story it can tell.  I’ll follow it anywhere as long as I feel like the characters form its basis.  I certainly felt that way this week, and it didn’t hurt that Community remembered to bring the funny, too.

Also: Hickey committing to his birthday party ruse to maintain a steady influx of Beenz.  Man knows how to GET. IT. DONE.


Conversations from the Refurbished Study Room

– Jeff: “Haul it, ball it, never call it!”

– Dean Pelton: “You know what they say.  Fives have lives, fours have chores, threes have fleas, twos have blues, and ones don’t get a rhyme because they’re garbage!”

– Britta: “I’m a psychology major.  Words are my weapons.”

Security Guard: “I’m a security guard.  Weapons are my weapons.”


All Roads Lead to Mexico: Catching up with Justified S05E07 through S05E09

a series of episodes reminding us all the importance of “being a caller number seven.”

Look, I love my DVR and all, but sometimes the dude’s a real pain in the keister, if you’ll forgive my language.  Talk about pressure!  Originally, the idea to combine several episodes of Justified into one supersized recap spawned from my realization that I’d fallen quite behind on it.  Three episodes behind, in fact.  Because writing for this blog isn’t my full time job, I couldn’t dedicate the time to watching and covering each installment individually, so I thought, “What the hey-ho?” and devoured all three in one sitting.  Consider me tickled pink when I found that if ever a string of episodes warranted a one fell swoop approach (#BillyShakespeare), then these three hours certainly fit the bill.  Win-win!

I mean, we learned a ton during the middle chunk of the season, didn’t we?  For instance, Tim openly admitted–in PUBLIC–that he prefers cribbage to backgammon!  Controversy warning!  But wait, the truth bombs did not stop exploding there.  Kendall also has an interest in bartending!  Not to mention the fact that Dewey Crowe smells like the back end of a summer hog!  And Roscoe, the taciturn former henchman of Dunham, can form Shakespeare quotes into an apt analogy for whatever situation he’s in**!

**Raylan’s reaction to him spouting off about King Lear had me in stitches: “I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I am interested.”  Quick thought: can Raylan play an undercover English professor in an upcoming episode?  Please?

I mean, right?  It was three hours of nonstop discovery is my point.

If you’ll allow me a brief moment of seriousness, then let me confess that–although I love Justified with every fiber of my being–I didn’t love taking Boyd out of Harlan.  One episode I can see, and it worked well enough, with Boyd traveling to Mexico to meet Mr. Yoon (the surly Asian member of the Mexican cartel because sure) alongside his merry band of Crowes and hellbent on putting an end to Johnny.  Even though it was inevitable, I got a kick out of watching Boyd turn the tables on Johnny out in the desert, particularly in that it came after their heart-to-heart about their childhood connection.  Though, come to think of it, that devolved rather quickly, ending with Johnny promising to wait a few weeks after Boyd dies to bed Ava. #OhNoHeDidnt Granted, Boyd did get the last laugh on that front in the form of a bullet to his cousin’s chest.  RIP Johnny.  Your frequent backstabbing proved a narrative delight.  Ye shall be missed, sweet prince.

Fine, I’ll be the bad guy on this, but someone’s got to take a stand, and I guess it’ll be me.  Look, Danny Crowe’s human dog barking I could chalk up to garden variety quirkiness.  I’m even willing to forgive his penchant for pants-less dog training.  I mean, we all have our hobbies.  But remember when he killed a bunch of dudes even after Mr. Yoon politely requested him not to do that on Mexican soil?  Danny totally panicked and mowed them down but good.  Danny Crowe: big on murder, not on pants.  Get a grip, sir.

I’m not sure we needed an entire second episode devoted to Boyd disentangling himself out of such a seeming impossible quagmire, but the way he outsmarted the corrupt Mexican cops who pulled them over en route to Texas felt like vintage Boyd Crowder foresight.  Loved it, but–at the same time–this is just another instance of Boyd flexing his grey matter better than those around him.  We get it.  He’s a smart cookie.  But focusing an entire episode on it seemed  unnecessary.

Yet, in many ways, I’m digging what’s come out of the whole Mexican adventure, particularly the not-a-morsel-of-trust-amongst-them alliance of Boyd, Darryl, and Wyn Duffy.  The power vacuum left in the wake of Hot Rod Dunham’s death needs filling, and it’s clear that neither Jay nor Roscoe (most of all Roscoe, what with the bullet he took and all) are up to the task.  Moving forward, I’m really excited about what this partnership means for Boyd in particular.***

***Aside from, of course, some undoubtedly scintillating conversation punctuated by the occasional reference to the 60s motown scene if Darryl Crowe Jr has a thing or two to say about a thing or two. #ExcellentTasteinMusic

Meanwhile, I can’t seem to force myself to care an iota about The Continuing Deevolution of Ava Crowder.  She’s spearheading a drug operation with Boyd’s help? Sending her husband on errands to kill old men in nursing homes? Going toe-to-toe with the Mother Superior of the female criminal element?  I mean, I get it, Ava’s in a bit of a briny pickle right now, but sorry I don’t care?  While I have absolutely no doubt that Justified will manage to weave this plot more cohesively into the season’s overall vision, this remains the one plot arc that I would not miss for a moment if Graham Yost chose to jettison it right now.  Sorry, but you know I’m right.

Raylan, Raylan, Raylan.  The man just cannot help himself from doing everything he can to avoid his personal responsibilities, can he?  I find it fascinating that Raylan seems far more invested in repairing his relationship with Art, who remains a bit prickly about his involvement in the Nicky Augustine murder, rather than that of estranged daughter. The scene in which Raylan all but begs for forgiveness from his boss worked beautifully to convey Art’s attitude toward Raylan: resigned to the US Deputy Marshall’s uncanny ability evade consequences.  Is it just me, or might that refer not just to the professional sphere?  (#DoubleMeaning)

Of the plots Raylan found himself embroiled in over the span of these three episodes, tangling with Monroe’s money trail (via online backgammon because yes) and tracking down Jay and Roscoe on their quest to fill the power vacuum left in the wake of Dunham’s murder (beard death is the cruelest death but even more so when it belongs to a trusty informant) both had a more direct impact on the seasonlong narrative and introduced an amazing new character in DEA Agent Alex Miller, but I preferred the tale of him helping Wendy track down Kendall after having been kidnapped his Uncle Jack/dad.****

****Not as creepy as it sounds. Turns out Wendy is Kendall’s mother and Jack his deadbeat dad.  But you know what is creepy? Jack rolling up and using some charming child molester humor to get his son’s attention. Um, what?

This plot caught my attention because, like the season’s earlier episode with Loretta, it found Raylan playing father to another wayward youth that was not his flesh-and-blood.  He and Kendall totes bonded about having straight up the worst dads, which is always a great topic of conversation especially at dinner parties, and then gave him the money he rightfully scammed off a radio station sweepstakes.  Awww!  Raylan, my heart is not your personal fiddle, so stop a-pluckin’ its strings!

It also seems fitting that Raylan’s plans to visit his daughter in Florida found themselves derailed now that he’s begun to formulate an impression of the Crowder-Duffy-Crowe Tower of Power (patent pending).  With his personal life in shambles in Kentucky (Allison broke up with him) and so unknown in Florida, it makes sense that he would choose to dwell in the domain of his life with which he has the most confidence.  Makes sense, yes, but it’s also infuriating and incredibly compelling.  I can’t imagine another actor being able to capture Raylan’s frustrating pathos as well as Timothy Olyphant.

Also, Dewey Crowe’s malfunctioning GPS (not a euphemism) delayed his return trip from Mexico and put him on a literal collision course with Agent Miller.  And by literal I mean he legit ran over both Miller and Danny with a tow truck. And now he’s driving around Kentucky with a vehicle full of heroin!  I can totally relate to this because once I forgot to pay for a cantaloupe from ShopRite and drove around town for hours wondering how I would apologize to the manager.  I get what he’s going through is my point.

In the end, although I wasn’t overly enthused with Justified‘s foray into National Lampoon’s Mexican Vacation territory and am still underwhelmed by Ava’s plot, I am eager for what’s next because the characters are in such interesting places both personally and professionally.  As we near the final stretch, the chess board is set; some pawns have been eliminated, and I cannot wait to see what the next move is.


Harlan Chit Chat

– Tim: “Wait a minute.  How many legs did this guy have again?”

Raylan: “Just the one. Plus the prosthetic he took with.”

Tim: “When he jumped out the window, thus escaping the scene of a murder.”

Raylan: “He was surprisingly fleet.”

– Miller: “You’re on vacation, huh? And you thought you’d come down to Memphis and kick the hornet’s nest?”

Raylan: “That and have some ribs.”

Miller: “And have some ribs.”

– Raylan: “Miller, would you call this a herd, a flock, or a gaggle of assholes?”

Miller: “I’d call this the United Nations of assholes.”

Parenthood S05E16: “The Enchanting Mr. Knight”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “being a dirt connoisseur.”

Let me start off by saying that I am a self-professed sucker for the “theme episode.”  Almost without fail, when a show takes a central idea and refracts it through the lenses of its individual characters, I am right there with it.  What can I say?  I’m a hardcore #MetaphorLover.  But I’m also a hardcore lover of Parenthood, so consider my ivories very much tickled by last week’s installment, which found our beloved characters (or once-beloved and possibly-once-again-beloved, in Joel’s case) grappling with the concept of healing in a way that felt true and distinct to each one of them.

Well enough of this Lit 101 nonsense.  Let’s get to the reviewing!

Drew and Amber

It seems that dropping Amy off at her parents’ house to confront the lingering emotional fallout from last year’s abortion has taken a toll on our favorite Bieber-swooped college student.  For Drew, healing over the decision to kick Amy out (though it benefitted them both) means cuddling up in bed with his favorite emo tunes.  I wonder what that playlist looks like.  Anyhow, I’m glad Parenthood openly acknowledged that Amy’s bizarre tailspin correlated in large part with the traumatic decision to have the abortion.  Very interesting ground to cover.

Amber, in desperate need of healing herself after the tearful dissolution of Ryber earlier in the season, pops by Drew’s dorm.  Thanks to a hot tip about an upcoming frat party from roomie Roberto (#LaxBro), Amber gets Drew to agree to attend, however unwittingly.**  They even forge a make-out pledge to make the night more interesting.  Ew!  Not with each other, pervo.

**Amber’s flummoxed reaction to the party starting at 10:30 pm had me in stitches, a great moment highlighting how college life really is nothing at all like the real world.

Natalie is the worst, the very quintessence of a privileged millennial.  Girl, let me quote the gospel according to JBJ right now: “You give love a bad name.” For serious, her schizoid mind-buggery and transparent passive-aggressiveness make me so glad I’m not in my early twenties anymore.  She shoots down Drew’s invite to the frat party at first, then shows up, then gets cheesed off when she finds about his make-out pact.  Honeybuns, GET. IT. TOGETHER.

I absolutely love watching Amber and Drew interact, and this plot afforded plenty of opportunities for that.  Mae Whitman and Miles Heizer can certainly hold their own against their senior cast members when it comes to depicting authentic sibling relationships.  More please!

Oh, and Roberto put the moves on a very unimpressed Amber, whose reaction reminded me of the scene in The Help when Bryce Dallas Howard realizes what was in that pie she wolfed down.  Epic fail, #LaxBro.  Epic fail.

Sarah & Carl & Hank (oh my)

Sarah, heal thyself!  You guys, I’m so proud of Sarah Braverman! I mean, don’t get me wrong, Carl seems like a pretty decent guy as far as it goes, what with his philanthropic ventures and trips to Zimbabwe to westernize medicine or whatever, but Sarah took a huge step tonight by turning down the chance to travel with him to Africa, thereby leaving Hank in the lurch over the upcoming Surf Sport deadline.

And who would have thought that Hank, spluttering out something he fully intended to sound supportive but ended up resembling an indictment of Sarah’s every life choice, would serve as the catalyst for this change?  Speaking on behalf of America, Hank pointed out Sarah’s tendency to sabotage herself through her relationships with men.***  After all, as that trusty bathroom sticker reminds her, this is #TheYearofSarah.  The time to heal, to grow, to change.  Carl nearly derailed her from that goal.

***Also, Hank: send Max a gift basket filled with many bugs in many jars, and perhaps many photos of bugs.  Because if it weren’t for that little blabbermouth, you wouldn’t have had a chance to rain all over Sarah’s parade!

You go, girl!  Get it!

Kristina & Adam

Obviously, Kristina’s plot dealt most directly with the concept of healing, as she awaited the results of her yearly cancer scan.  She and Adam convinced themselves they were both certain the scan would be clean, but that scene in the kitchen near the episode’s end–when Kristina gets the positive news we’re all hoping for–ripped out my heart, used it as a tetherball in a rather aggressive game, stomped on it, and shoved it forcefully back into my chest.  Point is, it ain’t no party like a Peter-Krause-In-An-Emotional-Wreck-Party.

But in order to avoid the seeming unending wait time for results, the parents Braverman took up a crusade against Max’s English teacher, a Mr. Knight, who took away their son’s seat in his classroom.  Initially hellbent on destroying this “troll” of a teacher (Kristina’s word: hell hath no fury like a Kristina scorned) for failing her son on a human level, she finds that Mr. Knight is a PhD student.  He is also an utter, utter delight of a man. He wasn’t picking on Max at all, simply performing an experiment on him!  #WayOutsideTheBox.

But wait!  It might not just have been the tingling in Kristina’s nethers  that drew her to Mr. Knight.  He’s a creative, passionate educator and the perfect person to lead the upcoming Braverman High School.  After an awkward drop-in at Knight’s house, his curiosity is definitely piqued.

Elsewhere, Crosby’s anger over this parents selling their house has not healed and leads him to accuse Camille of selfishness, Sydney’s separation-inspired wounds have not healed and lead to a meltdown in front of her class,**** and Julia’s anger towards Ed heals itself after he helps diffuse the Sydney bomb, accepting a dinner invite. (Ugh.  Just ugh.)

****Oh man oh man.  If Julia had snatched that carrot that tasted like dirt out of her hands and plugged it right up a nostril, my life would have been made.  But nooooo, she caves to the little tyrant over The Case of the Mandatory Pajama Set.

Man, somebody’s been listening to the doctor’s orders because people got so healed this week.  The theme episode worked so well precisely because each of these characters is in the midst of or still recovering from some form of trauma.  But, let’s be honest, for Sarah’s character revelation alone, this felt like an absolutely quintessential hour of Parenthood.


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Karen: “People love floors!”

– Kristina: “You’re stuck with me.” (#CueTheWaterworks)

– Ed: “Oh God, the environment is such a pain in the ass.”

Julia: “It really is.”

Parenthood S05E15: “Just Like Home”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “having an expiration date purge.”

You guys, I loved this episode of Parenthood so much it almost made me forget how much of a fart hammer Joel’s been.  The Olympics-induced hiatus did little to abate my frustration with his character or the way the plot has manipulated him to serve itself.  And yet, having said that, I’m glad that if this is the direction they’re heading in, then at least I give props to Jason Katims and company for embracing it and following this plot down the rabbit hole.  Look, I don’t understand it myself.  Life’s full of contradictions, am I right?

Friends and neighbors, my life has seemed emptier without my weekly dose of Braverman love (#AccidentalInnuendo), so what do you say we just get to it?

Kristina & Adam

It was a big week for the resident Braverman family power couple as they chillaxed during a private weekend getaway.**  We’re talking hot tub shenanigans!  Mud masks!  Hiking!  Two and a half sessions of honest-to-goodness intercourse!  It’s been an atypically plot-heavy season for Kristina and Adam (what with the failed mayoral bid and resulting plan to, ya know, build a school), so I cherished the moments of these two just interacting and being together.

**A “Hurray You Totes Don’t Have Cancer” gift from the Lessings.  Did anyone else find this both utterly charming while also being more than just a tad creepy?  At any point did the Lessings turn to one another as they planned this for Kristina and Adam and say, “Man, I wish we could have a weekend getaway like this.”

So how hard was it for you to choke back tears during Kristina’s heartfelt thanks to her husband for being her rock during the past year?  It felt so real, so authentic, the perfect distillation of everything Parenthood does right: a small moment that speaks volumes.  Also, the mud masks helped temper the emotional wallop with some much needed levity.

But my favorite aspect of this plotline was the way Adam, totally present with his wife, could not shake his big brother urge to protect his younger sister and be there for her during her separation.  He snuck out of the hot tub to give her a quick phone call and to provide Julia the chance to make fun of his swimming trunks (for the record, I’m with Adam on this particularly contentious issue); he even asked his wife to cut their getaway a bit short so he could go be there for her.  That Kristina did not take this as an affront to their marriage but as an expression of his big heart and agreed willingly served as the perfect capper.

Joel, Sidney, and Victor

Apart from the spectral sounds of an unfortunate elevator down the hall, Joel is loving his new single life.  He’s got an X-box, he’s got a pool, he’s got a local pizza joint with pepperoni that JUST. WON’T. QUIT.  Dude is basically ready to send his demo tape to MTV’s Cribs*** and just be done with it already. *Record scratch* Fooled you!  He’s totally wallowing in a pit of despair!  Ha!  Classic Joel!

***Is that show even on anymore?  Because the image of Joel being fast-forwarded around his apartment as he points out the depressing decor of a recently separated man and culminating in him showing off his communal swimming pool with a shirtless eighty-five year old man floating on a raft of pool noodles makes me laugh.  Hard. #MillionDollarIdea

Since they’re going there with the separation, it’s nice to see Joel’s conflicted feelings about the whole thing.  As I remarked in the previous episode, a glimmer of old Joel began to shine through.  The contrast of him acting like the world’s number one dad in front of his kids (BATHING SUITS ON YOUR BEDS) while clearly struggling internally is interesting.  I’ll buy it.

Speaking of buying, guess who just slapped down some cash for an express one-way ticket to AnnoyingAsHellville? That’s right, it’s everyone’s favorite brat #SydneytheTerrible.  Seriously, I’d feel bad for her if she weren’t so manipulative and aggressively whiney.  Look, I’m not in the habit of hating on kids undergoing traumatic family shakeups, but Syd just brings out the worst in me.  I’m sorry I’m not sorry.

But what a cute moment when Victor, freshly wakened by a nightmare and an animalistic elevator, sneaks into Joel’s room, snags his phone, and calls Julia to talk him back to sleep.  A great moment, and–for this viewer–a reminder that the more we can concentrate on how Victor (and not Sydney) will deal with the separation, given his already difficult past, the better.


Julia’s plot line remains, hands down, my favorite of the episode.  And not just because of that ending, though it certainly didn’t hurt (more on that in a second).  I mean, Erika Christensen is killing it now, am I right?  Deft touches highlighted her loneliness: struggling with the deafening silence of an empty home, running out of chores around the house, curling up on Sydney’s bed because the thought of sleeping on her own seemed unthinkable.  Can I be honest?  I hope Julia doesn’t suddenly become an uber-brat after sleeping in her daughter’s bed.  Is brattiness contagious?  Honesty sesh over.

Although I felt her newfound passion for running served as a bit of a ham-fisted metaphor for her inability to outrun her thoughts, this episode changed my opinion on the symbolic functionality of a microwave.  The image of the world’s most lonesome baked potato spinning around endlessly became the perfect microcosm of the shrinking of Julia’s domestic life.  Nifty touch.

But what really revved my engine (dramatically speaking) was the Braverman siblings collectively descending on Casa de Graham, sporting any number of wine varietals and an assortment of Asian cuisine.  Turns out Sarah, Crosby, and Adam (arriving fashionably late because the dude loves making an entrance) didn’t really believe Julia’s insistence on being fine.

ALSO SPONTANEOUS BRAVERMAN DANCE PARTY!  In television terms, when one or more Bravermans catch “the fever” (this time to Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House”), you’re guaranteed to grin from ear to ear while simultaneously pondering how the joyous, sloppy, and free-spirited dance moves speak perfectly to the quad’s relationship dynamics.  Excellent television.

Elsewhere, Crosby dislikes the new realtor hired to sell the Braverman family homestead, Carl tells Sarah how he feels, Drew still needs both a haircut and some space from Amy, and Hank takes Dr. Pelican’s advice to apologize to Sarah for editing a taco truck out of a Surf Sport photo.****

****Dear Ray Romano: Your performance makes me feel all the feels.  Please don’t ever change.  Thanks a bundle, overstuffeddvr

The elucidation of Joel’s inner struggle, topped off with some beautiful character moments and a Braverman sibling dance party, proved that Parenthood really is one of televisions’s absolute best dramatic hours.


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

-Adam: “I’ve had these trunks forever.  I love these trunks!  Don’t be dissing my trunks!”

– Crosby: “Dad, Dad, Dad. Don’t worry about my wife’s fuel supply.”

– Crosby: “What’re you listening to?  Is this The Kill Yourselves?”

In Memoriam: “Raising Hope”

“Raising Hope”


In the midst of life, we are in death.  After bestowing season renewals to its shows The Mindy ProjectNew Girl, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine and thereby extending their lives, Fox put to rest the family comedy after four seasons.  In many ways, we’ve had time to prepare for this passing; the decision to air Raising Hope on Fridays did not bode well for its future health, and the new time slot proved detrimental.  Raising Hope‘s decline had been slow but, unfortunately, steady.

While Raising Hope never achieved must-watch TV status for the public at large, the Chance family (Burt, Virginia, Maw Maw, Jimmy, Sabrina, and–of course–Hope) never failed to brighten our days with their antics.  Who could forget Sabrina donning stockings over her head to keep the spiders way?  Remember Jimmy’s phase as super-goth Drakar Noir?  Or  Virginia’s unintentional mangling of the English language with such gems as “dramastically” and “philostrophical?”  How about Burt kicking a Warner Brothers paige in the crotch after blaming him for Earl‘s cancellation?  And Hope’s stint on the incredibly annoying show Yo Zappa Do?  Even with all these sweet memories, that’s to say nothing of Maw Maw’s trips into and back out of lucidity.  Or Frank being an absolute creeper.

While this show’s madcap comic sensibilities will of course stay in our hearts, Raising Hope also leaves behind a legacy of taking the working-class family and spotlighting them–warts and all–without ever talking down to or mocking the characters.  In fact, wouldn’t we all be a little better off if our families were like the Chances?  Content with what we have in life.  Bonded unconditionally.  Looking for reasons to find life satisfying rather than disappointing even in the face of challenges.  That Raising Hope managed to do all of these things while also parading Cloris Leachman’s Maw Maw in a bra and having Jimmy father Hope in the back of a van with a serial killer (oh, that delightful pilot…) only added to its charm.

You will be missed, Raising Hope.  You’ll be missed dearly.

Public funeral services are scheduled for Friday, April 4th as Fox airs two back-to-back episodes to function as a series finale.  Showrunner Greg Garcia will deliver the eulogy (with added lamentations for his dearly departed former series, the also-four-seasons-long My Name Is Earl). Following the service, please remain for a brief concert: Burt will perform “Rock the Torah” over the show’s closed casket, followed by Jimmy bringing down the house with his rendition of “Hard to Handle.”

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Howdy’s Market.  Barney needs us now more than ever.

How “True Detective” Changed the Game

Thanks for the elevated blood pressure, True Detective!  If last night’s finale didn’t send you to the precipice of hyperventilation or, at the very least, quicken your pulse, then I hate to be the one to tell you this, but I think you might be dead?  Seriously, the episode’s middle section, with Rust and Marty descending upon the Childress house, served as an intense centerpiece to an already excellent final hour.  I’m not surprised that True Detective stuck its landing, but what did surprise me was the way in which the show delivered such a stunning and satisfying conclusion.

It was clear from the outset that True Detective meant to subvert our expectations not just of the cop drama but of drama period.  Its masterful manipulation of cross-cutting between and amongst several narrative timelines had us questioning not just the reliability of Rust and Marty but the plot as a whole.  The internet exploded with speculation for eight weeks, as each subsequent episode challenged us and forced us to revisit our previous theories.  The most engaging part of this show was that we could never quite get our hands on the damn thing; just when we thought we figured it out, it slipped through our fingers like sand.  I, for one, swore halfway through the season that Marty was involved somehow, but–as the season wore on–that became increasingly unlikely.  But this didn’t frustrate me in the least; instead, it lured me deeper.

It’s precisely because True Detective refused to pander to its audience that it achieved such instant devotion from a legion of fans and critics.  But when the show began dipping its toe into the realm of weird fiction by peppering literary allusions to Chambers’ “The Yellow King” and Bierce’s city of Carcosa throughout, the depth of the analysis and debate reached greater heights still.  Rather than concretize and clarify an already opaque story as the season progressed,  True Detective gleefully made it murkier.

A great deal has been said about the show’s title; with two detectives at its center, the decision to apply the descriptor “true” to just one of them seemed an intentional choice.  (For me, this detail simply added to my theory that we would somehow find Marty culpable.)  But, now that the credits have rolled on the season, the true meaning behind the title seems even more clever.  It’s not Marty or Rust or Gilbrough or Papania who are the true detectives.  All along, the audience–you and I–have been the true detective, the participatory viewer whose myriad theories and memes have fueled and deepened a show that was, at its inception, already deep.  We attached string between seeming disconnected people; we speculated; we questioned.  True Detective presented a bleak, almost impenetrable mystery and we, as the true detective, willingly followed its plunge down the rabbit hole.

And follow it we did.

For those of us who watched in slack-jawed suspense as the eighth episode enfolded, it became clear that True Detective had a final trick up its sleeve.  Since the pilot, dread permeated the narrative, a palpably disturbing tone that refused to shed light into its darkness.  Having acclimated to this vision of unrelenting despair, I entered last night’s finale with the expectation that Rust or Marty (or, more likely, both) would die at the hands of Errol Childress.  As Childress stabbed Rust in the gut and flung a hatchet at Marty’s chest, my worst predictions seemed on the verge of actualizing.  But True Detective‘s  final plot twist was more disarming: it provided us with a completely earnest and well-earned hopeful ending.

In defiance of science and medicine, Rust survives his wound.  But that in and of itself does not supply the flickers of light into this dark world; it seems that his near-death experience has reconnected Rust with his deceased daughter.  Previously hiding behind a mask of contempt and cynicism, Rust confesses to Marty underneath a blanket of stars (in one of the finest end-of-season codas I can ever remember encountering) that, as death approached him, the warmth of his daughter’s love imbued his spirit.  Once a sworn pessimist, a renewed Rust even corrects Marty’s opinion of the night sky’s overwhelming blackness with a retort that “Once there was only darkness.  Ask me, light’s winning.”

Has a television show ever used its well-established tone to surprise its audience later on?  Has a television show ever invited an audience into its dense and dark mystery so well?  Has a television show ever shown the true redemption of two deeply-flawed anti-heroes?  Perhaps there have been other shows with which I am unaware, but it certainly feels like True Detective changed the game in a big way.

I can understand if some saw the resolution too simplistic after such a setup, but isn’t that the point?  Isn’t it easier to see the encroaching darkness on all sides and give ourselves over to it?  Won’t the Tuttles of the world continue to corrupt and destroy without consequence?  Of course it is, and of course they will, but that is why–as further layers of evil unfurled across these eight episodes–this became the simple story of not letting such bleak inevitability define us.  Marty and Rust nearly lost themselves to it; Errol Childress certainly did.  His seamless movement from one accent to the next as he stomped through his filthy family home showed us a man who relinquished his identity because he gave himself over to the world True Detective so painstakingly–and chillingly–presented and refused to see that the light was winning.

People far more insightful than I will no doubt wow with the depth of their analysis, but this is my take-away from True Detective, a television masterclass that changed the game by refusing to lose itself in the darkness.

Needless to say, I will miss this show deeply during its hiatus.  But, time being a flat circle, I suppose I have already seen it in some other life, so I’ll take some comfort in that.  Isn’t that right, Rust?

Community S05E07: “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of having “all bones removed from the football field.”

While Troy Barnes sails the smooth waters the world over** as Levar Burton’s right-hand man, Community itself flounders in some choppy waters these days. (#NauticalAnalogy) While this week’s installment certainly improved over the previous one by presenting plots that were at least marginally more amusing, it’s clear that Community wants to redefine itself in these post-Troy days.  Its fully realized transformation hasn’t manifested yet–far from it–but I’m pleased to see Harmon making those first hesitant baby steps.

**Well, if episode six’s Easter egg is to be believed, maybe the waters aren’t quite as smooth as indicated, but you get the point.  Pirates, am I right?

The best thing, hands down, about this episode of Community  is that it remained true to its characters.  I griped about Britta’s bout of uncharacteristic cruelty last time, and I am relieved to report that no such nonsense rears its ugly head for this go-around.  In fact, the show went out of its way to deepen its characters–three in particular–in a way that felt honest and true.  Unfortunately, the journey wasn’t all that funny.

Take Abed, for instance.  In light of the theatrical release of the Robocop remake, having Abed don his very own Kickpuncher outfit for a Kickpuncher remake felt just about right.  The shot of him laboring at the study table by himself and muttering a clipped “Cool, cool, cool” upon completion of his outfit served as a great assurance to the audience that Troy’s absence continues to haunt Abed.  In many ways, this week’s episode stems from Abed’s loneliness and confusion that resulted from his friend’s departure. Pitting curmudgeonly cartoonist Buzz Hickey with Abed worked well for both characters.  Chained to Hickey’s filing cabinet, Abed forces Hickey to confront the fact that his insecurities prevent his duck-centric comic book from retaining any soul.*** As the man enforcing a consequence on Abed for spraying his sketches with foam from his surprisingly functional Kickpuncher outfit, Hickey forces Abed to confront an inner rage he’s more comfortable channeling into missing a movie premiere than in processing the loss of his friend. Great stuff character-wise, but a few more jokes wouldn’t have hurt.  Just saying. However, the thought of the two of them as writing partners makes me giddy. Also, Police Justice is an excellent name.

***But, guys, publishers are interested!

Other than a much-warranted slam on Dane Cook, Jeff’s plotline had even less to chuckle at aside from the initial set up: Professor Duncan’s attempted courtship of Britta under Jeff’s tutelage.  First off, eww.  Second, I appreciated the revisitation of Jeff’s not-so-dormant feelings for Britta, particularly when he sees her as a hot commodity at the barrels-of-laughs Starving Children with Cleft Palates fundraiser (they should have extra food, not less; please donate responsibly).  It seemed a foregone conclusion that Duncan would fail to woo her, but I liked that this became the story of male friends reconnecting rather than competing for Britta’s affections. It turns out Duncan just wanted to get to third base with Jeff.  What’s so wrong with that?  Humor-wise, Duncan had a line or two that amused me (stupid American steering wheels), but nothing would land in the upper echelon of  great Community quotes.

Meanwhile, Shirley and Annie spent nearly the entire episode at McDonald’s.  Did I just write that?  Ugh.  What a waste.***

***The meta-joke near the end of the episode about both of them having enough screen time earlier in the season felt like a “so-close” joke; it probably read better on the page but certainly didn’t make up for them being sidelined.

Fortunately, Chang delivered the comedy goods this week with his throw-away plotline about delivering a one-man show to a crowd of ghosts.  Or was the janitor the ghost?  Or was Chang the ghost? The madcap absurdity of this fell in stark contrast to the slower character-based beats of the rest of the episode, but maybe that’s why it came across funnier than it might have otherwise been?  I don’t know, but regardless, the button on the end of the episode: a mocking allusion to the closing shot of The Shining, with Chang in a black and white posed picture for the Old Timey Photo Club closed out the episode with a laugh from me.  Plus, I could watch Chang stumble into a room, confused and irritated, over and over again.

Diverting enough, this episode didn’t wow me with its comedy but added interesting flourishes to a handful of characters.  Now that we’re back in tune with these characters after last week’s hiccup, let’s just add more humor to the formula, shake, and serve.  I meanthis is Community, after all.  If nothing else, it deserves our patience as it irons out the kinks of a world without Troy.


Quotes from the Refurbished Study Room

– Duncan: “You know how you’ve come to respect me?”

Jeff: “Sure.”

Duncan: “Well prepare to stop.”

– Abed: “If you were a post-apocalyptic survivor…”

Hickey: “…I would raise goats, horde cinnamon, and travel only at night.”

– Britta: “I will Banksy that mother!”

– Chang: “Do you guys believe in ghosts? And if you do, do you believe what those ghosts tell you about other ghosts?”

Justified S05E06: “Kill the Messenger”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “Greek New Years and Chinese Easter.”

Over the years, Justified has cultivated a singular strength that sets it apart from the majority of television’s dramatic series: finding ways to dovetail seemingly disparate plots and disconnected characters that hew to the show’s carefully constructed internal logic while simultaneously surprising its audience.  While I wouldn’t go so far as to put this episode up there with the best of its installments, this strength played out excellently this time around and allowed me to forgive the notable lack of Raylan as Justified scrambles to recover from some unexpected behind-the-scenes casting shakeups.

For starters, how about that stunning, dialogue-free cold open?  Art, after having ostensibly conversed with Raylan about his involvement with the whole Nicky Augustine murder, sits at a bar. (We never get to see that conversation, though from the way the scene plays out, I don’t think Art took it well?)  It’s raining outside both to reinforce Art’s foul mood (#Symbolism) and to provide an excellent opportunity for the camera to frame US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens’s silhouette against the torrential downpour because we never tire of watching him be an effortless bad ass.  Seriously, the man can wear a hat.  Anyhow, Raylan walks in and, before he can ask for a plate of pork sliders from the barkeep, Art gives him a complementary knuckle sandwich.  Now, I’m no psychologist, but I don’t think these two are seeing eye-to-eye right now.  Thoughts?

Here I go again poking the hornet’s nest of controversy.  But, you guys, can I be honest with you?  I’m not entirely sure, but maybe the Crowe family is dysfunctional?  Hear me out!  I mean, sure, Danny’s got the whole pants-less dog training thing down pat and is the very epitome of class, but Allison the social worker might be onto something when she claims Kendall growing up in the House that Human Dog Barking Built might not be great, strictly from moral and hygiene perspectives.  I mean, yeah, Wendy lied to Allison when she promised to take Kendall to Miami because of an excellent real estate opportunity–and by opportunity I mean the Crowes straight up manipulated the Christian charity of a delightful entrepreneur named Mike, running his store and living in his house while Mike sits in the basement fiddling with his wood (not a euphemism). But that’s not even the worst.

After concluding an illuminating Social Services Visit on Kendall’s behalf, Allison leaves the house after declining Wendy’s hors d’ouevres** and brushing off Danny’s human dog barking.  Seriously, wtf Danny Crowe?  You’re a weirdo.  Get a job.  But then, just as Allison is rolling a doob to decompress, some van runs her off the road!  At first, I figured it might be a very passionate anti-decriminalization activist, but no, the human dog barking told me the culprit: Danny Crowe.  Classic Danny!  Anywho, this might surprise you, but this did not tickle Raylan pink.

**Um, quick question for Wendy: her hors d’ouevres seemed to consist of celery and potato chips.  What is this, a discarded Top Chef challenge?  OMG, is Wendy a closet molecular gastronomist? #Spinoff

Rather than confront his simmering issues with Art, Raylan and Rachel begin their anti-Crowe crusade through Harlan. As Allison put it, Raylan’s heroism stands as one of his more admirable qualities, but he uses it to avoid his own issues.  He’s likely to start a fire just to run in and save the people inside.  Woo!  Girl’s got Raylan’s number but remains really deficient as far as pre- and post-coital convos go.  Seriously, it’s all “he was tied to the radiator” this and “you hide behind your heroism” that.  #MoodKiller  Cutting a swath through hillbilly backcountry, our dynamic duo almost bond during a car ride Hart-Cohle style, but ultimately Raylan rebuffs Rachel’s offer of #Besties.  Sigh.  Don’t give up on him, Rach!

But this very Crowe-centric hour did not just limit itself to human dog barking and Social Services evasion.  Oh no!  For one, Dewey Crowe sells his bullet-riddled pool for a cool $20.  Man’s a gifted salesman when it comes to strung out tweakers (why that dude wants Dewey’s deflated pool is anyone’s guess and frankly disturbs me just to think about), but not so much with other criminal riffraff.  Take his encounter with Boyd’s henchmen Carl, a follow-up to a previous tete-a-tete over the issue of recompense for Audrey’s, that devolves into some sloppy fisticuffs.  The long and the short of it? Carl gets Crowe-napped, and Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber plan to use him as ransom.

Unfortunately, this never comes to pass.  After Dewey answers a phone call from one of Boyd’s lackeys looking for Carl and dropping various other calls due to poor service (damn AT&T), Rachel and Raylan bust in to find Carl tied to a chair and Danny eager to inflict pain.  But faster than you can say “conceptual*** love-making,” Carl spins a yarn of illicit and clandestine sex acts to disperse the law.

***Danny Crowe, you veritable wordsmith/unapologetic dumb ass.  Don’t ever change!

As it turns out, Boyd had problems than the Crowes to contend with. Concerned over Ava’s recent relocation to the State Penn****, he seeks the assistance of Gunnar Smith, a hulking aristocrat from Boyd’s white supremacist days.  Gunnar’s sister Gretchen is also serving time there and, with a little moola to grease the wheels, Boyd buys his betrothed protection.  Except no.  Gretchen shows her alarmingly inadequate beautician skills when she gives Ava a sudden and–dare I say?–tad aggressive hair cut in the prison yard.  I have to admit, this completely changed my perspective of prison life.  My visions of competitive tetherball tournaments just went right out the window and shattered my sense of reality.  Thanks, Justified!

****I can totally understand Boyd’s concern.  I mean, Orange is the New Black this show isn’t.  Those mean inmates kept flipping Ava’s hair.  We’re talking aggressively sexual hair flipping.  Patrice, one of the ringleaders, has a bit of a filthy mind, just between the two of us, because I think she had…designs…on Ava and might have even wanted to play together in her sandbox?

Gunnar, apparently, didn’t care for Boyd’s spotty attendance as far as recent hate rallies and he even called Boyd a race traitor.  You take it back, Boyd proclaimed!  Never, Gunnar retorted.  And then, just when we thought a Crowe-Crowder showdown would take place and Carl would stop blowing air-kisses at Danny Crowe (please, never again, it made me feel icky), Boyd hires the Crowes to beat the stuffing out of Gunnar and even get a refund for their efforts!  Ain’t capitalism grand?  Boyd found himself so pleased with the Crowe’s exceptional service that, after filling out a glowing customer comment card, he even hired them to kill cousin Johnny!  #AwkwardFamilyReunion

Elsewhere, Dunham’s disloyal henchmen seem intent on foiling his heroin importation deal with Boyd, Wendy wants the Crowes to leave Kentucky, and Ava’s charming bunk buddy with a healthy sense of boundaries (no used Maxi Pads or drugs lying around thank you very much) gives her the tools to even out her haircut.

While the noticeable lack of Raylan disturbed me to my core, I enjoyed how Allison fit into the larger puzzle here, as well as the unexpected (but, I suppose, inevitable) Crowe-Crowder powerhouse.  The roiling animosity between Art and Raylan promises to erupt soon enough, and I eagerly await the fallout.

Harlan Chit-Chat

– Tim: “Are we seriously not going to talk about it?”

Rachel: “About what?  Your Bin Laden joke?  Not your best.”

Tim: “About Raylan’s eye.  What’d you slip in Art’s shower?  That’s how Art hurt his hand.”

– Boyd: “I’ve read a lot of books about slavery.”

Wyn Duffy: “He’s a history buff.”

– Wendy: “So why would Danny bark?”

Raylan: “Well, your brother’s a world-class dumb ass, no offense, so I hesitate trying to analyze what goes on in his head.  But if I had to guess, I’d say it was his way of trying to call me out.”