28 September 2008

Give up the world, give up your life, cos you cannot fight the television

So, as you may have noticed, I'm quite the (selective) television whore. In this post I outlined what I was planning to watch this season, and in addition I've started watching the British series Merlin. Although I did watch the first episode of Fringe I think that I probably won't carry on watching it, at least for now. I was planning on writing about these shows when their current seasons finished, but I thought about it and decided that I kind of wanted my ramblings to go up as the show is active. Also this way I'm more likely to remember my thoughts (without having to waste time re-watching or reading recaps), and I think it's quite interesting to see impressions episode-to-episode as well as broader thoughts informed by the whole season or series.

I'm going to put all my thoughts on active serialised television shows (not mini-series or one-offs) in this one post so as not to flood the journal, and hopefully not go over the word limit (I still haven't worked out what it is for blogger). I'll update it frequently, and maybe when the respective seasons have finished I'll rejig things and split it up into separate posts. Please feel free to comment here though, and if you are watching these shows/just like reading my ramblings then remember to check back often.

Please do expect spoilers for all aired (US) episodes of: Supernatural, Bones, Gossip Girl, House, Californication and Pushing Daisies; the House season four DVD extras; episode 1 of Fringe and all aired (UK) episodes of Merlin eventually. Beware also of mild spoilers for all of Buffy and Studio 60, but only if you're a major spoilerphobe. So, onwards!

Gossip Girl Season two

Gossip Girl is a breath of fresh air because it’s just a diverting, frothy show- and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Stating that shouldn’t suggest that it isn’t also clever, dramatic and nice to look at plenty of the time though. I can’t help loving the episode titles, they’re all plays on film titles, season two has already included The Dark Night (featuring a black out, oh the hilarity) and The Ex-Files. I suppose it appeals to my sense of humour since I like stealing lyrics and quotes for titles too. I also applaud the choice to have Kristen Bell narrating the show, she has a really nice voice (is this the start of another voicecrush?). Perhaps I should actually get around to watching Veronica Mars one day (in 2099 perhaps), and consider getting sucked into Heroes season three... No, I must stay strong! It's nice to know that I'm not the only one unimpressed with Heroes though.

The first season ended with an abrupt reshuffling of the Gossip Girl couplings: Serena and Dan split up for valid reasons, Nate and Vanessa split up for no real reason other than the fact that their relationship was completely nonsensical from the beginning, and Chuck and Blair split up just to hurt my feelings. (I totally just used an Oxford comma and recognised it. Is it possible that I have some knowledge of English after all?) Lily and Rufus didn’t really split up since they weren’t together, but she decided to spurn his advances and marry Bart instead, and for some reason forgot to run away from the wedding with Rufus and the kids (it might have been a little awkward since their respective first spawn had just broken up, but still), don’t these people TiVo Californication for Chrissakes? The season ended with Chuck and Blair each finding disposable distractions, Nate and Serena flirting with each other and making plans to be alone together, and Dan and Vanessa hanging out together again. It seemed inevitable that the show was going to go down a tacky and stilted route; attempting to seamlessly rejig the characters’ romances since Nate had been pining after Serena for a while (and they’d slept together aeons ago), ditto Vanessa making moony eyes at Dan (although with less sex, thankfully).

So when the second season opened with shots of Nate getting all hot and heavy with a blonde chick I was ready to sigh and roll my eyes at the obviousness of him and Serena getting together. That’s why I was happily shocked when it was revealed that instead Nate’s companion was some randomite called Catherine and not Serena! It even turned out that the sort of faux-spoilers (Gossip Girl blogs that came straight at me via my LJ f'list) illustrated the fact that Serena and Nate were making a pathetic attempt at a fake-relationship in order to hide Nate’s fling with a married older woman and get people off of Serena’s back about getting over Dan. Well-played Gossip Girl, even if you mostly surprised me simply by lowering expectations- Grindhouse made me love it by doing basically the same thing (but also by including a lot of other cool shit too obviously).

I was even happier as soon as Chuck appeared on screen. He didn’t need to do anything at all, just exist. He’s by far my favourite character on the show, mostly because he’s a diabolical genius but his diabolical fashion sense and the fact that he’s played by the incredibly nummy Ed Westwick certainly helps too. The relationship between him and Blair was quite brilliant, they got to be evil and maniacal together, and I was very put out by the break up. Chuck basically called it off because his idiotic (but well-meaning) papa scared him off long-term commitment by making it sound like a death sentence. I forgive Chuck for messing things with Blair up, if only because it has already led to some wonderful angsting from him, and some delicious (often, but not always, sexual) tension between the two of them. Also his attempts to compensate are hilarious, in Summer, Kind of Wonderful (the second season opener), he was frolicking around with some topless ladies on the beach- and there was a lame but perfect moment where the lyrics had something to do with ‘a tattoo on the back’ and the shot managed to capture one of the ladyfriend’s appropriate body art. That kind of terrible humour is, I think, Chuck Bass all over. Kudos, show!

Meanwhile Dan was talking to a girl. In and of itself that seemed strange enough, but it turned out that in Serena’s absence Dan’s actually been talking to more than a few of them. In fact he’s been multi-timing them. I found that difficult to believe, but perhaps Evil Dawn Georgina managed to somehow fool people into believing that he’s attractive before getting carted off to boot camp? Hey, she managed to accidentally lock everyone in the house with her one time, and she made out with a vampire on Hallowe’en and then killed him with a pencil. Stranger things have happened I suppose. All of Dan’s blustering to his author-boss about having almost completed his story made it evident that he had nothing. The revelation of this fact was practically unnecessary. For once his little sister Jenny actually had a point, as soon as he actually started writing he’d probably just end up writing reams and reams about Serena and the end of their relationship. This is why writing is daunting!

Serena gave Chuck a meandering and ridiculous lecture about how he’s unable to look at himself in the mirror because he can’t stand to see himself after hurting Blair. It was total bullshit, but fun nonetheless. Also I’m glad that this season Serena seems to almost be a fan of the Blair/Chuck relationship, rather than being disgusted and appalled. Chuck went off to meet the returning Blair (with roses!) to try to get her to forgive him. However it turned out that she’d picked up a boy toy in Europe, and was clearly delighted that she got to hurt Chuck. I love both Chuck and Blair in almost equal measures, but Chuck just comes out on top. I may love their blatant eyesexin’ even more than him though. The next day Blair and Serena managed to fit in some girly gossiping by the pool (in a scene that looked rather O.C.-ish), in which I adored Blair quite a lot for telling Serena off for acting like she was ‘sitting Shiva for Dan’. From now on, unless canonically proved otherwise, I’m going to assume that Blair’s Jewish. Awesome. Blair kept trying to set Serena up with the cute life guard that she’d mentioned to help her compensate, but I think that Serena must have spent too much time alone that summer because he was seen later in the episode and really wasn’t attractive. More evidence that Serena had forgotten how to interact in society came when it became evident that she absolutely sucked out loud at girly subtlety. I can be a little dense but even I could tell that Blair was trying to impress the listening Chuck with her titbits about her new guy. Also, I was glad that this new guy wasn’t in fact the one that Blair met on the Bass plane, but was instead his friend who she was introduced to. It wasn’t a big deal, but the show even subtly playing with expectations makes me happy. Every subsequent moment of interaction between Blair and Chuck was pure joy, especially her biting comments about his software being upgraded, and his quiet revelation that he can read her like an open book (as apparently her best friend Serena can no longer do, but hermitage can do that to a person) because he knows her tells.

Rufus at least made an appearance early in the second season premiere, even if he wasn’t actually around because his band was off on tour. I love Rufus most of the time, and this episode (with his bitching about Jack Johnson) proved no exception to the norm. Rufus is an excellent father too (in stark contrast to most of the parents depicted in the show, with the possible exception of the entirely awesome Lily), and was even managing to do a good job via phone. Mad skillz. He was trying to offer Jenny support, she was all nervous and stressed about her fashion internship. She desperately wanted to attend ‘The White Party’ (don’t the cool Young Americans call this a cotillion?) and to show off the dress that she’d designed and made. Said garment looked incredibly frumpy and dull when she was attempting to display it, although I’ll concede that it looked a lot better when it was actually on Jenny. Jenny and Eric also finally made up (they had a little spat after Jenny accused Eric of lying about having an affair with her boyfriend, although really I think that she would have had the right to be angry at him for getting off with her boyfriend but for some reason that never came up), and I liked Eric’s bitchiness and the fact that, at least to begin with, this rekindling was basically a friendship of convenience since they didn’t really have anyone else.

Chuck spent a lot of time in this episode wearing an incredibly ugly pastel green suit. Given some of his more extreme sartorial choices I suppose that it hardly bears mentioning, but it was seriously distracting in its foulness. Chuck and Blair also spent far too long having a deeply emotional conversation with tears sparkling in their eyes about a fricking pin. It was ridiculous, but again pretty fun viewing (in a guilty pleasure kind of way). Basically this little heart shaped pin had lived on her ex Nate’s sleeve for the years in which they represented the perfect couple (before everything came crashing down around them). It was heartbreaking that Chuck was asking Blair if she felt the same way for her new boyfriend “James” as she did about Nate, rather than being able to even indirectly refer to her feelings for him. Gossip Girl also developed a wonderful taste for made-up swearwords, Blair referred to Chuck Bass as “motherchucker” and “Chuck Basstard” in quick succession. I kind of hope that these nicknames will become permanent fixtures like the “smeg” of Red Dwarf or the “naff off!” of Porridge (and I’m sure that “shut your crumpet!” would have become common place in Young Americans if it hadn’t been prematurely cancelled, although I think “gossa” was pretty common in the Firefly –verse and that barely outlived Young Americans).

The unjudging Breakfast Club foursome of Chuck’n’Nate and Blair’n’Serena of course ended up running into each other in town, and ended up switching twosomes for a little while so that Serena could hiss at Nate about breaking up with Catherine, and Chuck and Blair could get a little rude to each other. The whole scene was hilariously silly, just the way I like my Gossip Girl. Chuck and Blair got into an argument about what college her new boyfriend was from, and they ended up screeching “Georgetown!” and “Princeton!” at each other for a while, which totally would have had me giggling even if it didn’t remind me of the “London!”/”Essex!” sketches from Monkey Dust. This prompted Chuck to hit up a private investigator, whom he just happened to have on speed dial. That’s a little too awesome, or rather exactly the perfect level of awesomeness I expect from Monsieur Bass.

Nate was forced to reveal to Serena that he hadn’t broken things off with Catherine like he’d said he would. She seemed kind of annoyed that he’d be forcing her to carry on their cover, I’d have thought she wouldn’t want to deal with ending it, since she’d have to deal with questions from everyone as to why they’d broken up (and probably about Dan too). Of course it’s possible that she was just fretting about having to see Dan again soon, and didn’t want him to think that she and Nate were actually involved. Serena’s argument that she might as well help Nate with Catherine on the grounds that she does stupid stuff a lot sounded a leetle lame (and like sloppy writing, not in terms of the actual lines but in terms of the plot) but, um, it also sounds quite a lot like some of my rationalisations so I think that I probably ought to just let it slide. When Catherine saw Nate at The White Party she immediately accused him of trying to ruin her marriage, a reaction which seemed a little over the top since he’d just happened to turn up at a party. Nate pouted a little and asked Serena to get him drunk, which seemed to be setting the scene for a little Nate/Serena naughtiness, perhaps just in time for Dan to catch them since he’d just turned up at Serena’s house and instead just found her grandmother who had suddenly turned nice and decided to help him. (What the ever-loving fuck was up with that character transformation by the by?)

When Nate frowned about wanting to make Catherine jealous Serena totally jumped at the opportunity to mack on him, and they started kissing. They broke away to discover that Dan had just turned up, because that was totally unexpected y’know. I was extremely glad that after all of Dan’s tiresome moralising his past caught up with him for once, and the girls that he’d recently been double-dating turned out to both be at the party (convenient but acceptable given the circumstances), and threw their drinks at him. This allowed Serena to be snarky and aloof towards him for once, instead of it constantly being the other way around- and meant that he didn’t have any right to get pissy about the (fairly innocent) shenanigans going on between Serena and Nate. Not that he’d have any ground really since he broke up with her, but Dan’s kind of a self-righteous, pompous arsehole a lot of the time. Since the girls practically ruined Serena’s grandfather’s suit that Dan was wearing I was really hoping for a return to form for Serena’s grandmother- she could have bitch slapped Dan around for a while perhaps. Alack, that wasn’t to be. The gist of Dan’s “let’s get back together” argument (let’s call that Flogging A Dead Horse) seemed to be: “beloved, I’ve been having lots and lots of sex because I miss you”. I didn’t really feel that it was an effective argument, but Serena seemed to disagree- at least somewhat. They made a complicated plan to meet on the beach for convoluted reasons, which I assumed was merely to set up them fucking up the actual meeting part. However they managed to actually get it together, so perhaps the beach setting was simply so they could look cute together (and they really did), and have the weird morning after situation the next day/in the next episode.

Blair’s boy eventually snapped at her because it became clear to him that she was merely using him to get at Chuck. His impassioned little speech was actually pretty good, and I especially liked that he pointed out to her that she’s exactly like Chuck (although he neglected to point out that that’s why they should stay together forever and ever in cannon). I don’t quite understand why she was so surprised that he snapped after the way that she’d been treating him, especially as she capped it off by telling him that he was boring and rubbish for no real reason. Blair actually apologised to him (fairly uncharacteristically), and he revealed that the reason he’d been lying about which college he attended was because he’s actually a British Lord named Marcus. High-larious, and thoroughly unexpected, reveal- replete with a wonderful expression on Chuck’s face! Marcus added that he enjoyed being told that he was boring because noone else would ever have the guts to tell him something like that. Boy, some people have the strangest kinks. Anyway Lord Marcus and Blair decided to pursue a new and improved honest relationship, which Chuck wasn’t too impressed by. Blair gave him an ultimatum: tell me you love me and I’ll stay with you (although she didn’t phrase it quite like that), but Chuck stumbled over the “I” and she walked away. The whole scene between them was incredibly cheesy and emo that I could barely handle it, and yet it still left me aching for more! Now, that’s what I call an achievement.

The next episode, Never Been Marcused, began by examining the fallout from Serena and Dan’s tryst on the beach. I liked the fact that although Serena had been pining over Dan all summer she didn’t just jump into his arms and agree that they should get back together, since they did break up over very real issues in their relationship. However, although that seemed realistic and sensible to me the way that it was actually written seemed a tad contrived- as if the writers didn’t think that it was the way that Serena would actually respond, but just a way to add dramatic tension. Also Dan and Serena seemed to find waking up together super-awkward, which I would question. They had been an established couple for a while, I would think that they wouldn’t find it that weird. (Also I’d dispute the statement that sex had never been their problem, since it briefly was when they were stressing out about their first time.) You know what might be awkward though? Serena wandering off from the beach only half dressed. She could at least have taken the time to put her clothes on properly!

I loved that Blair had been reading up on Bret’s peerage since she found out about Marcus’ true identity. She’s such a geek! But, you know, totally a cute one (like Sammy or Willow). Also her explanation to Serena of the Marcus situation was wonderfully succinct: It’s Roman Holiday, except I’m Gregory Peck. I don’t understand how Serena could possibly not understand that blurb, even I got it and I’ve never seen it. At least Serena got back into the game a little and called Blair out for her claim that she was already in love with Marcus. Chuck started angling for Marcus’ friendship by pretending to make amends. This merely proved that Chuck is devious, and Marcus is incredibly dumb. Also Chuck used a completely random ploy, demanding that Marcus fulfil his British duty of being civil (if he’d been reading Hokkaido Highway Blues like I was he’d have known that Brits are actually impolitely civil, but Ed Westwick would totally know that anyway cos he’s a Brit- I feel like I should have an appropriate Albion dance for this). Blair hand crafted yet another brilliant insult to toss at Chuck, calling him a ‘Basshole’. Nice.

Nate’s mother revealed to him that they’re, wonderfully, going to become poor because the government is seizing their assets due to his father skipping out on his investigation. Also, FYI, apparently Nate and Blair are completely over each other. Blair didn’t seem concerned when she thought that Serena and Nate were dating, and Nate seemed quite unfazed when listening to Chuck detailing the way he’d lay siege to Blair. (Although Nate was totally amusing in that scene, for once, throwing in “You know it’s love when you start talking like an assassin”. Hee!) I really love Nate and Chuck’s bromance, it’s adorable. The first part of Chuck’s plan involved the whole befriending Marcus thang, which I think was partly an excuse to have Chuck appear in a brilliantly terrible squash outfit (to be fair nobody does look good in goggles). Marcus displayed all the markings of a fool, and fell for Chuck almost immediately, confiding his intimate thoughts before the end of the match/game/torture.

From the very beginning it seemed that there was something going on between Marcus and Catherine (very Cruel Intention’s somehow), although she's his his step-mother. Still, I was convinced! Also, I’m still a bit confused as to how Serena and Nate were in a book group with her all summer but didn’t clock that she was a Duchess. Never mind. Anyway, in an attempt to get Marcus to spend his time with her instead of this Duchess Blair decided to throw a party, and sent an emergency message to her maid Dorota who totally managed to knock together an impressive party. I think I crave Dorota more than Rosario.

Serena and Dan ended up on the same bus back home, and agreed to keep (their hands) to themselves so that they could reflect on their relationship or whatever. The little moments of touching and magazine passing weren’t too ridiculous, but Serena’s molestation of the strawberries was insane. Of course she accidentally ended up landing on his lap in a perfectly choreographed move when she stood up at exactly the moment that the bus swerved (sadly that never worked out so well in The League of Gentlemen). Dan and Serena totally sucked at not making out in this episode. That seemed pretty realistic, after all the old chestnut (or is it still a fruit of indeterminate of nature?) about anything forbidden being more attractive is true enough. I actually thought that they were pretty cute in this episode, until Dan ruined it all again of course. Blair decided that she needed Dan at her party, on the grounds that he’s a football fan and could perhaps entertain Marcus. Gossip Girl did the whole British thing so much better than Bones that it’s almost unreal. Alright, they portrayed the only British character as a Lord, but that fits bit the dynastic and elitist theme of the show anyway, and they threw in lines like “as long as he knows his arse from his Arsenal”. Of course this is in part due to the fact that Blair totally rules at researching, but I don’t think that Brennan in Bones ought to be any worse. Serena totally pronounced the ‘premier’ in ‘Premier League’ as ‘premiere’, but I think that reveals some very nice attention to detail not a mistake. So there. Off on a tangent, I also really liked the detail of Blair’s obvious tan lines when she was in her pretty dress at the party.

Chuck pretended to be selling his beloved club Victrola as part of his bid to impress Blair, but it soon became apparent that actually he was trying to help out Nate and his mother with the money. He tried to do it sneakily without Nate knowing, because Nate predictably overreacted when he found out. It’s probably just pent up rage from not really having anything to do in the show except look pretty. He ought to just dob his Dad in, he’d stop being poor and have an interesting story arc. At least he got to have a nice bit of interaction with (poor, lonely) Vanessa. Also, Rufus is back! And I really didn’t like the suggestion that he’d leave again, at least not before he’d won Lily back. It was nice to see him and Vanessa together as well (although I totally don’t think that there’s any flirtation going on between them- as in none at all). Vanessa was a total sweetie, organising an amazing cafe at the gallery. It’s such a shame about her face though, although actually she has been looking prettier this season. Rufus was convinced that he ought to stay when he took in the fact that Jenny seems to have really matured from the brat that she was last season, and to have grown into the idea of enjoying herself in Proper Wholesome ways. I think Rufus decided that he wanted to be around for her, and to enjoy it. I’m just glad that he’s there.

Chuck, being an evil bastard, ought to have an evil laugh. He could “mwahahaha” with the best of them I’m sure, especially since Ed Westwick pulls the best faces (well not the best, that’s Jensen Ackles obviously, but Ed still does some stellar work). He dragged Catherine to Blair’s party, hoping that she’d hate Blair as much as all of Marcus’ previous girlfriends and thus break up the relationship. Of course Catherine and Nate getting thrown together at the party means that things take a rather different turn. Nate decides to accept Catherine’s offer of money, apparently never having heard the famous adage ‘it’s not a good idea to accept money from a crazy bitch who wants to own you, and instead you should totally accept it from Chuck’. I guess Nate thought that prostituting himself would give him something to do with his time at least. It’s not good for young folk to be cooped up and bored you know. Blair also discovered them rutting on the floor, which gave her a nice bit of leverage over Catherine and forced her to (pretend to) approve of Blair in front of Marcus. Catherine and Blair giving each other evils was perfect. It also meant that Blair got to preen in front of Chuck and show off the fact that she’d won- those two clearly have the best bitchy flirtation of all time. And then, just to cap it all off in Gossip Girl’s summing up at the end of the episode she slipped in the line “I’ll take Manhattan”, which I’m taking as a reference to the Rodgers and Hart song Manhattan, and specifically the Ella Fitzgerald version cos it’s lush.

The next episode, The Dark Night, featured Chuck drinking whiskey for breakfast. I did mention that I love Chuck, right? He was all sad because he doesn’t have Blair, or sex. Serena mused that she sometimes envies his hedonistic lifestyle, although she then took it back on the grounds that he’s disgusting. He confided in her about his impotency anyway, and she told him it’s because he’s in love with Blair (without any mirror commentary this time, thankfully). Marcus and Blair’s discussion of the sex scene in Atonement had me giggling, firstly because I do have a love for pretty much any and all intertextual little references, but also simply because it’s one of the few scenes in the film in which Keira Knightley didn’t seriously annoy me. As a result I also enjoyed Marcus’ Keira-bashing. The main point, though, is that not only are they not having forceful wall-sex, they’re not having any sex at all. C'est terrible!

Meanwhile Vanessa’d been pining over Nate, and turned to Jenny for advice because she doesn’t actually have any friends of her own (asides from Dan, and he’s useless). Jenny advised her to just call Nate, which I thought was pretty bad advice because as I remembered it they’d just decided to part ways amicably because they didn’t have enough there for a real relationship. The show seems to have forgotten that part though, and apparently they still have Chemistry. I figured that any advice from Jenny was supposed to be stupid anyway, especially when she was dropping her phone all over the place. I had assumed that Nate would want to confide in Vanessa, and then want to get back together with her and piss Catherine off. Actually that’s pretty much what happened, but he skipped much quicker to wanting Vanessa (and was even referring to them as an “us” again as soon as she called him) than I thought he would. This all made it seem as if their breakup was simply so he could be conveniently sent off single to the Hamptons with Serena. Sloppy writing, yo.

Serena and Dan had gotten officially back together, and yet were hiding it from everyone around them (Dan kept pretending that his friend ‘Clive’ was calling him) because they (sub)consciously knew that they still had Issues which they hadn't dealt with. Nonetheless they decided to use Blair’s back-to-school party as a ‘coming out’ party, to let everyone know about them being back together. However, they were pipped at the post when someone photographed them together and sent it to Gossip Girl. (By the way, did Dan always have a waistcoat fetish, or is this a reasonably new development?) Blair gave Serena a good telling off about her and Dan not dealing with their problems, and Serena merely stomped off pissily. Blair’s awesome. You know who else was awesome in this episode? The teenybopper Serena and Dan fangirls who stalked them in the park. They were hilarious, although I’m kind of surprised that Dan got a couple and Blair didn't since he’s pretty much a nobody. I’m taking it as a wonderful comment on the Gossip Girl fandom at large, but a fairly tongue in cheek and inoffensive one. It also transpired that Dan had been spending a lot of time reading the Dan/Serena gossip threads online, because he’s lame- but at least also occasionally funny: “Most people think I’m an ass, but a passionate minority think I’m just an idiot”.

Blair and Catherine suddenly became friends, and I was surprised that Blair was up for selling Nate out. Nate initially bought Blair’s bullshit about inviting Vanessa to the party as a nice gesture, but soon realised that she and Catherine were up to something- and honestly his face did look like a light bulb was flicking on as he came to that realisation. Vanessa finally got some decent love advice from one of the Humphreys clan, after Nate told her to stay away from the party Rufus suggested that she just be immature and pretend that she never got the message. Ok, it wasn’t actually good advice in terms of having positive effects but I just love the idea of a parent thinking that “act immature” is a good motto.

I thought that since Jenny made a splash at The White Party her boss Laurel was being a tad nicer to her. Instead she seemed to relish the opportunity to order Jenny to clean the bathrooms. I did like the bulimia reference though (it also worked very well in Pushing Daisies). Not only was Laurel being a complete bitch, but Eleanor Waldorf finally returned- only to fire Jenny on the spot for dissing her designs in front of a model. Poor little J. A blackout struck the city, and Eleanor made a huge fuss about Jenny wandering off into the street by herself, just as Marcus did about Vanessa trying to leave the party. I don’t quite understand what’s so bad about it, and noone cared about Rufus and his date (Rufus has a date!) doing so. Whatevs. Jenny and Eleanor quickly begin bonding, and Jenny somehow developed an ability to give amazing fashion advice so Eleanor relented and allowed her to stick around.

Dan and Serena never made it to the party, because Gossip Girl decided to head butt the world of terrible television clichés, and they got stuck in a lift together (I don’t know if I groaned louder at this or the rooftop scenario in Studio 60). This provides the perfect opportunity for them to, finally, Discuss Very Important Things. Instead of actually having a sensible discussion they mostly just glared a lot and got stroppy. When Dan made a call to maintenance Serena suggested that he ought to have dropped her name, he got really moody about it- although when he eventually did it it worked. It was pretty funny, but also emblematic of their wider problems- he doesn’t like who she is and the fact that she’s privileged, and he never believes her; when she explains that dropping her name is primarily a good idea simply because she lives in the building he merely bristles. So, they end up having their lame, contrived break-up to round off the lame, contrived getting back together. (At least the break up was substantially less stupid than Angela and Hodgins’ in Bones.) One thing I did like was that Serena was basically turning to him for comfort after the break-up, of course she literally had noone else because she was trapped in a lift with him but I also think that it’s difficult to adjust to the idea of not being allowed to be close to the precise person whom you’re so used to being close to.

Chuck decided that what he needs is one last time with Blair to get over his little problem. When he turned on the charm she found it very difficult to resist, especially because she was all sex-starved since Marcus kept treating her like a ‘delicate flower’. Chuck and Blair are seriously hot together. Chuck’s terrible chat-up line, “Have sex with me... just once!”, ruined the mood a little however. I would have thought that she’d be eager to get out of her ugly yellow toga dress (which once again shows her tan lines- I actually really like the aesthetic of such lines, but I thought that the general consensus was that they were ugly and should be hidden...).

Nate finally confided in Vanessa, although he made out as if he had no choice except to become a poor little prostitute. Vanessa actually gave him the benefit of the doubt and listened to him, instead of running away as would have been sensible. At least their conversation (and several of Blair’s comments) highlighted the fact that the show realised that the Mrs Robinson storyline was a little cliché. Blair gave Catherine an impassioned little speech about how she can’t control people or who they fall for, which was wonderfully hypocritical. Catherine and Vanessa finally had their confrontation, and it was easy to predict that Catherine had threatened to turn Nate’s dad in. I’m not entirely sure why Vanessa blabbered this to Dan when they were hanging out together at the end of the episode, united by being lonely in love again, except that it’s a handy little device to make sure that the audience realises how Catherine scared Vanessa into deserting Nate.

When the blackout struck Blair’s party she decided that it created a splendid opportunity for her to finally get some, but Marcus was resistant- claiming that they had to look after the guests. She told him to meet her in her room, but diabolical Chuck overheard, headed upstairs, faked a British accent (I love Brits on American shows “faking”, Hugh Laurie did a wonderful Blackadder-esque one in an episode of House) and they quickly began making out. It seemed ridiculous that Blair wouldn’t realise that it was Chuck, and I’m glad that she revealed that she knew it was him after Marcus saw them and confronted her about it. Marcus and Blair made up in record time, and in fact they ended up making out about two seconds later. Which was actually a little gross when you think about it since she probably still had Chuck-saliva on her lips. It turns out that this dalliance cured Chuck, but he stated that he doesn’t want anyone else except Blair, which makes me a tad confused as to why he can’t admit that he loves her and why he’s still claiming not to have a romantic bone (heh) in his body.

Onwards to The Ex-Files, where I was extremely happy to see Lily back from her honeymoon. I love Lily! I think that she ought to be a bit more concerned about Chuck (and by extension her son Eric) who (probably) has champagne in the limo on the way to school. You’d think that she’d start to believe some of Serena’s complaints about him after he lets things like that slip! In general I think that people who complain about sarcasm simply aren’t funny. I forgave Rufus for telling Dan of for being sarcastic though, because Rufus is awesome and Dan most of the time is... emphatically not. Blair’s project vs. victim interviews cracked me up, as did Chuck trying to work out his dating schedule.

Amanda was an incredibly annoying character, and I took a great dislike to her as soon as she was introduced. She was just so whiny and annoying, and generally stupid- Jenny calling her Hannah Montana was totally warranted. I guess her and Dan seemed like a perfect match during this episode, in which he displayed all the characteristics which made people describe him as an ass or an idiot not so long ago. However, them getting together really threw things off for Serena. Obviously in real life whoever dates first doesn’t win, but that’s totally how it feels. Blair dropping her hockey stick on Amanda’s foot was all kinds of awesome, seriously. A mildly related point: I’m kind of used to Serena’s school skirt being shorter than everyone else’s, but her hockey skirt was also noticeably titchier... is this Serena flashing her style cred, or merely her arse? Either way it is a rather nice one. (Wait, let me check... Hmm, Blake Lively was born in 1987. What is it with people these days?)

Catherine paid a visit to the pining Vanessa (I still don’t really understand when exactly she fell totally head over heels for Nate), and that wasn’t all she paid her, or at least attempted to. Vanessa scoffed at Catherine’s idea that she can buy everyone off- but Catherine had disappeared off before Vanessa could return her generous cheque (or ‘check’ if you’re American...but, just no). When Vanessa went to return the money she stumbled upon Catherine and Marcus making out, and handily thought to snap a picture. While it was gratifying to have confirmation of their almost wacky incest, I don’t think that anyone would have found it that shocking. It made all of Marcus’ fussing about Blair kissing Chuck seem rather hypocritical though.

The next day Chuck woke Serena up by tickling her awake. I adored that scene (and her cries about boundaries), but him revelling in her misery was even better. He was totally a man with a plan- intent on bringing out Serena’s “queenly” manner, and get her ruling the school again. He even sent Dan/Amanda tips to Gossip Girl, purely so he could taunt Serena. I assume that he doesn't have that much of a vested interest in getting Serena back to her old ways (except that presumably she'd be more fun), but that he wanted her to push Blair out of her seat and thus make Blair upset enough to fall into his arms. You know what was even better than that though? There were Lily/Rufus scenes! Lily! And Rufus! Together! While Bart’s away! Not only did they banter, but she pretty much demanded that she take him on a date, to go see Repo Man. Later Lily even turned up at the loft (which I assumed meant that Rufus’ date was hidden somewhere, cos I just know that this show wants to deny me any wonderful Lufus love). She’d apparently developed a Harry Dean Stanton obsession as a result of watching Repo Man, and had been trying to force his films onto Serena too. Too. Fucking. Cute. She also revealed that she had a rather crappy honeymoon, which actually made me a little sad. Rufus refused to be her friend, which made me even sadder. I mean I get that he still has feelings for her and that he’s kind of mad at her for marrying Bart (especially since I don’t think he realised that a large factor in her decision was that Serena didn’t want to become Dan’s step-sister) and that it’d be hard for him to not want more than just friendship... but still, oh why can’t they just be best friends and skip around together watching bad films and drinking his favourite red wine? Also, his girlfriend of course did pop up by the end of the scene, just to make Lily feel worse. Sniffle.

The girlies all eating sushi on the steps was nice. Alright they’re mostly total bitches, but still it reminded me of happy times outside SOAS. I also liked Serena referring to ice cream as ‘gelato’ (unless it’s a brand name in the States, in which case not so much), and even though she did it in a nice way I think her casual dismissal of Amanda (along the lines of “run along and get some ice cream lassie”) was a good hint of what’s to come. I do think that instead of quickly telling Blair off for trying to turn Amanda against Dan by initiating her into the group and then running off to talk to Dan wasn’t the best tactic, surely it would have made more sense to try to have a conversation with Amanda? This leads to Dan being a self-righteous bastard, and completely blaming Serena for Blair trying to leech Amanda away from him. He completely refuses to listen to Serena, just makes up his silly little mind first.

Even Jenny (who seems to have gone back to her Serena fangirl roots) points out that he’s an idiot, that this is hard for Serena (especially because, as Gossip Girl put it, Amanda isn’t just some serf from the Village) and that he ought to apologise to her. Serena tries to steel herself against her emotions, and seriously when she tells Dan in a matter of fact way that they’re both going to end up dating other people you can see the moment that Dan realises that this means that she’s going to date other guys too. Stupid Dan. Meh. I liked her suggestion (more of a demand really) that the three of them go out together so she can get to know Amanda, it was brave and also easy for me to identify with. During this ‘date’ Amanda and Dan are both incredibly bitchy and rude towards Serena, revelling in the fact that they’re both bookish and she isn’t (at least Tuesdays With Morrie got trashed a little). At least Serena got to enjoy the fact that the (somewhat) cute boys that Penelope rounded up were fawning all over her.

I loved it when Serena and Dan finally had some interaction in the bar- Serena broke down and got all weepy, admitting that seeing Dan with Amanda had hurt her. Dan seemed to feel honestly guilty, but after a momentary deliberation he decided not to comfort her but instead to tell her that they ought to avoid each other. If she gets a little catty as a result of that, can she really be blamed? At least there was some nice interaction between Dan and Chuck immediately afterwards:

Dan: You really ought to get a bell.

Chuck: Kinky, I’ll think about it.

I always love people being told to get bells anyway, since it reminds me of Buffy. Also Chuck was wearing a ridiculous purple pimp suit, and I think a bell would have gone wonderfully with it. Chuck tells Dan that he’s about to see the ‘real’, i.e. party girl, Serena who really seems like she’d be a lot more fun than the mopey version. I’d totally hang out with her. Stupid Dan doesn’t like fun though. Penelope took it upon herself to stand up for Serena, in lieu of Blair. I kind of get it, but still it seems a bit weird since Penelope and Serena don’t even really seem to be friends. Penelope’s prank made Amanda’s hair fall out- although it was a little awesome to watch Amanda cry and whine (and tell Dan to leave her alone), it was also incredibly cruel. Penelope is actually a complete bitch- she was so mean to Jenny that she cut class to go help out at the atelier instead (and they bought her nonsense and allowed her to, for some nefarious reason or other).

Vanessa turned to Dan for help with the Catherine problem. Dan suggested that she turn to Blair, and I liked his suggestion that if you googled ‘revenge’ you’d find, and I’m glad that he remembered that she helped him out with Georgina. What Dan didn’t consider was how much this would also hurt Blair, the news seems to really upset her and she hisses that Vanessa and Dan better never breathe a word of it to anyone. This led Vanessa to think that Blair would attempt a cover up instead of helping her, but I don’t think that Blair would pull a Jenny (who hid the fact that her boyfriend was gay). Instead Blair confronted Marcus, and managed to put up a great tough front, not letting him know how upset she was. Vanessa sees them having a meal in a nice restaurant, and assumes that Blair is choosing to play happy families, so she runs off to take matters into her hands. It’s maddening, why couldn’t she have waited to at least talk to Blair again? At least she didn’t fuck things up too much, but she undid Blair’s plan to get Catherine to pay off Nate’s family debts without any strings attached. When Vanessa tried to apologise to Nate he asserted that he didn’t care about the money (lies!), but that he was mad at her for lying to him and being mean to him. I get why he was upset, but he did way worse (and lied plenty) when he was stuck in Catherine’s web so I think that he didn’t need to be so unkind.

The big reveal at the end of the episode made it seem as if Amanda won’t be coming back (can I get a “woohoo!”?), but even better it turned out that all along she’d actually been Chuck’s stooge. I knew that noone could actually be that annoying! Her head scarf thing was really cute too, so the hair loss thing didn’t screw her up too much. Chuck basically got what he wanted, and Serena seems ready to place the Queen Bee crown upon her head, with her commanding presence. I liked the way that she was imitating Blair’s mannerisms, taking her scarf off and tying it around Blair, and then playing with her hair. It was kind of like watching a (crappier) version of the Buffy body swap episodes- there’s even the requisite blonde/brunette dichotomy. It’s totally a fulfilment of what Blair has been fearing since Serena's return- she doesn’t want to be dethroned! Whilst I liked the fact that Serena’s returned to her bitchy ways and that she’s prepared to be mean to Dan who totally deserves it (I totally loved him harassing the freshmen with too much blusher when searching for her by the way), I think that the complete difference in character and mannerisms was a little overblown. Yes, it makes sense that she’d put up a tough front and instinctively return to old forms of behaviour. I can totally see her giving into her naughty side and trying to derive a little pleasure from annoying situation she's stuck in. However, I think that this shouldn’t be pushed too far, especially as it suggests that this represents the “real” Serena, and that most of her behaviour has been uncharacteristic or fake. I think that this can be negotiated successfully since Gossip Girl managed to make Blair likable, and create an intricately layered character out of her, I just hope that instead of playing off of Serena’s transformation in silly ways that they make it into an engaging and believable storyline.

I couldn't actually work out what film the The Serena Also Rises title was a reference to, apparently an adaptation of a Hemingway novel (ew). I don't think that it had any relation though, just something handy to appropriate for a name- and hey, I'm hardly one to knock that practice. Also Serena certainly got leavened, so it did make sense.

The episode began with Blair scheming to get back on top, and she had a pretty good ploy. Her mother put her in charge of the seating for her show at fashion week, which allowed Blair to hand out primo seats and curry favour. Blair dropping the factoid that her and Serena had a backstage tradition for the show was nice, not only did it provide the grounds for later conflict it's always nice when Blair is shown to be a thoroughly human, insecure character who is scared of change and craves connections with her past. I think that that's even more important for her at the moment what with Marcus betraying her. (Also was I mishearing things or was there a reference to him being booted back to Brighton? As much as I'd adore that, I'd like to point out that the gays live in Brighton. Incestuous folk are mostly in Norfolk. Royal pseudo-incestuous types might not be in Norfolk though, maybe Windsor?)

Dan had apparently sent his crappy story onto some dude called Shapiro, who'd had the bad taste to like it. Also, conveniently, Dan hadn't had an opportunity to tell Jenny because she'd been so busy lately. This clearly explains why he hadn't mentioned it to anyone else either. Of course the fact that it was a completely random plot device that flew in out of nowhere could have had something to do with it perhaps. At least the reference to Jenny's busyness set up the fact that she'd carried on running off to the atelier all the time. It seemed a bit ridiculous that anyone would buy whatever excuse she could come up with, but the episode later showed that she was practically indispensable which explains why they weren't digging further and it seemed that Eleanor truly believed that Jenny had been granted an independent study module. Plus Jenny probably just dazzled them with her stunning legs. Seriously, Taylor Momsen does have gorgeous legs. How is it possible that she's only 15?! I feel like a pervert.

Lily is awesome. I may have mentioned this before, but that doesn't make it any less true. Also, I like her taste in art. I've grown to like her so much, not just as a character but as a parent, which is shocking considering how much I reviled her at the beginning of the first season. I do think that the character's been altered somewhat, but I think her horrible behaviour in the beginning can be ascribed to her freaking out about Eric's suicide attempt combined with Serena's unpredictable ways. She was really laying down the law, and although it wasn't a good strategy it isn't an uncommon one- and clearly her heart was in the right place. She does trust Serena these days, and think that she's turning into a wonderful person, but it still must be hard for Lily as a mother. She's constantly worried that Serena might slip into old patterns of behaviour, and not without reason. Thankfully Serena's Queen Bee behaviour wasn't at all as overblown as it had been in the closing segment of the previous episode, but still without Dan around as a calming (dulling?) influence I'd think that Lily would be concerned. Even with Serena acting perfectly pleasantly it's still got to be a bit weird that she has to assure her mother that she spent the previous night being ladylike, with her new best friend Poppy in tow, and not out of her head. I hardly think that that kind of behaviour is atypical of seventeen year olds (though they can't all afford it on Blair's scale obviously) but still. To be fair though I'd think that Lily would be more concerned about the fact that her son wasn't around for this entire episode. (Nate and Vanessa weren't either, but that's only because they're largely irrelevant.) I suppose Lily was a little busy smirking over the fact that she's the coolest mother in Manhattan, on the grounds that she posed nekkid for photos in her younger days.

Serena seemed unable to avoid drawing the girls at school to her like moths dancing round a flame. There's apparently something about her which just brings out the fangirl element in people. Personally I don't really get it, but maybe that's just because I'd much rather focus on Chuck. Chuck, incidentally, was really pushing Blair's buttons, I guess hoping that she was upset enough about Serena stealing her crown to fall into his oh-so-comforting arms. I love the fact that Chuck's Blair-related scheming has made him a crucial character. In the first season it wasn't unusual for Nate to feature prominently in an episode while Chuck was absent, and now it seems to be the other way around. Blair ragged on Chuck though, telling him that everyone hates him and that he's comparable to Dan Humphreys who at least has the affection of his lame 90s dad (don't be hating on Rufus, he might be 90s-tinged but surprisingly he's infrequently lame, even if he won't be Lily's BFF) because he's human. This neatly set up the Chuck/Dan interaction that was developed in this episode, as well as the Daddy issues angle, which was fun if only because it's such a novelty to see Chuck interacting with someone other than Blair, Serena or Nate.

It was almost as if Blair was giving Dan a backhanded compliment with a favourable comparison to Chuck, so it was nice to have this writer Shapiro being mean to him. He at least attempted to take Dan down a peg or two, saying that his first story had been alright (but he hadn't been overwhelmed) and that everything else is derivative and lame. Ok, I don't think he used those exact words but he was entirely unimpressed by Dan's lack of inspiration. Apparently he'd written a load of stuff about a boy living in Brooklyn with his dad and having girl trouble. Honestly, where do they come up with this kind of thing? I can't believe that Dan needed it explained to him that he needed to spice things up a bit and get the hell out of his comfort zone. I haven't actually read anything by Bukowski, but I still enjoyed Shapiro referring to him because I like alcoholics, people who try to shoot shot glasses of other people's heads, and the Modest Mouse song.

Chuck handily agreed to hang out with Dan so he could get some inspiration. I love Chuck so hard for agreeing to this annoyance purely because he was bored. Also for asking if all of Dan's waffling about getting out of his comfort zone was Dan's way of coming out to him. Dan spent a while babbling about potential insider hang signals for the drunken elite, until Chuck blessedly shut him up. Dan was already freaking out about the idea of having more than one shot (yeah, way to live it up) and Chuck chided him for it saying that he was either in for the full ride, or out. Dan decided that he was in, and seriously if anyone was ever in need of expanding their life experience it's certainly Dan Humphreys. Chuck then foisted a pill on Dan, claiming that the tray of shots is just the chaser, who doesn't put up much objection either because he remembered that he was supposed to be mimicking Bukowski or because of Chuck's awesome Matrix-style rabbit hole analogy. Dan was apparently enjoying himself immensely, in part at least due to Chuck's impressive knowledge of sex clubs and twins (when Dan asked how Chuck knew so many of the later he merely replied "they find me"). Chuck clearly didn't like seeing a babbling idiot so content, so he stole Dan's shoes and chucked (ha) him out of the car. Twas just awesome.

The story that developed from this experience was also derided by Shapiro though. He suggested that Dan ought to write from 'Charlie Trout's' perspective, I laughed out fucking loud at that name, and also at Dan's disgust at the idea. Dan was displaying a level of stupidity in this episode that was strange even for him, and I imagine he must be the world's worst writer. He seemed to have no conception of the idea that fiction doesn't have to follow real life. He might not like Chuck (I know, evidence of a deeply flawed person) but he can obviously see that Chuck has personality elements which translate well into a compelling character, or he wouldn't have written about him, or gone to him in search of inspiration, to begin with.

Dan decided to become Chuck's resident stalker, and overheard him trying to make plans with his father but being shot down. Bart really does seem to be a grade-A wanker. I can understand him being exasperated by Chuck's behaviour, but not him refusing to make time for his son. Lily really needs to start mothering him. Chuck and Bart's relationship seemed to have been improving last season, especially because Chuck was growing up a little. Chuck's voice, oh man, it was just reverberating with manly pain- and it was clear that Chuck was about to get fucked up. He allowed Dan to hang out again, and Dan's lack of subtlety was laughable. He was literally playing a game of twenty questions. Doesn't he know that you'll learn far more about someone from the stuff they don't want to tell you? At least Chuck had a good answer to the question 'when did you start drinking in bars alone?', he began around the time he realised that hot, desperate women did. Also he characterised his father as just like him, except older and meaner.

Chuck got into trouble by assuming the chick at the bar was a prostitute, her boyfriend got mad about it but really it wasn't Chuck's fault that she was dressed like a high class call girl (the trashy gold earrings were a nice touch). Then Dan, the fucking busybody, punched the angry boyfriend out, and Chuck re-heally seemed to like that. He was less impressed by the fact that they ended up in jail though, still he remained full of love for Dan. The object of his affection didn't seem appropriately impressed, he was fussing about screwing up his college chances- which just seems stupid given that he can't even fix his empty little head on where he wants to go- and that his dad might kill him. Chuck just whined that Dan ought to be glad that his dad cares enough, and Dan tried to construct an appalling argument that Bart must care about Chuck a little since it's in his DNA to do so. Um, look around, we see that's not true. (Babies have hats though, if that makes you feel any better.)

Now it was a little hard to tell, but I think that the show might have subtly been trying to suggest that Chuck has some Daddy issues. I mean he kept saying that his father hates him, and then he told Dan (while unbearably solemn music played) that his father blamed him for the fact that his mother died giving birth to him. Do you think the show could have possibly been going somewhere with this, or am I just reading too much into it? It was just so emo, so cliché and so thoroughly overblown that I was kind of hoping that Chuck was just bullshitting Dan. Dan was earnestly proclaiming that it wasn't Chuck's fault that his mother died, to which Chuck swore his father seemed to hold him responsible for the death and that maybe he was right to. Oh noes, say it ain't so! Chuck offered to pull some strings to get Dan out once his lawyer sprung him, and there was studly handshaking.

However Chuck soon found out why Dan's been hanging around when he discovered Dan's notes. These notes were exceptionally lame, along the lines of 'get his secrets, find out what makes him tick'- why did Dan even need to write that down? Needless to say Chuck was not pleased. He confronted Dan about it, and the delivery of the "Noone uses Chuck Bass" line was just perfect, all it was missing was an evil laugh. He also added that the story about his mother was a total lie since she died in a plane crash in the Andes when he was six. I don't know which version I believe though.

Dan ended up calling Shapiro and asking him to bust him out of jail. He didn't seem to mind, since it reminded him of his misspent youth. I actually quite liked Dan at the end of the episode when he told Shapiro that he didn't want to exploit people in order to write. I wish he'd come to the conclusion that he could actually use his imagination instead though. Still his decision to write about an egomaniacal washed-up old writer who likes to manipulate his protégé was pretty damn awesome, and Shapiro's biting response about his Pulitzers wasn't half bad. Mildly redeemed, show!

For a reasonably good fashion designer Eleanor sure has bad taste in clothes. She was wearing a selection of ugly shirts in this episode, but the purple one adorning her in the scene where Laurel tried to discuss the seating chart with her was exceptionally unattractive. Laurel didn't approve of Blair's work at all, since there was a distinct lack of A-listers. Kirsten Dunst was there, but she clearly is so '07. Or so oh I never cared in the first place. Laurel pointed out that her recent stint in rehab hardly got any coverage, well clearly since that was the first I'd heard of it. Blair was feeling all crappy about the rampant Serenaphilia, and tearily told Dorota to never go to high school because all the girls are spoilt and rubbish. Clearly Blair is her mother's daughter because it seems obvious that Dorota is rather too old to decide to go to high school at this point. Jenny really shouldn't have suggested that Eleanor put Serena frontside for the fashion show and utilise her connection to Poppy and other socialite friends to make Eleanor's show better than Marc Jacobs' because it really pissed Blair off.

Blair initially still believed that Serena wouldn't ditch their tradition, that she'd still want to hang out back stage, but when she saw the new seating plan she was understandably upset. Serena did certainly remember their tradition, and she wasn't keen on the idea of ditching because she knew how much it would upset Blair. Poppy, played by Tamara Feldman whose strangely familiar face was maddening for me until I placed her from an episode of Supernatural, urged Serena to enjoy herself up front, and sweetly said that she'd bring Blair along to the Marc Jacobs after party with them. Even if Poppy was a little too earnest and pleasant she was rather endearing, although more in this scene than later in the episode. Blair turned up on the Humphrey's doorstep to saccharinely commiserate about Jenny's recent "illness". Rufus didn't buy her act at all, but Blair was right- it doesn't matter if Rufus doesn't like the messenger, the fact that Jenny's been extensively absent from school is something that he'd definitely want to know. Serena went to Blair to try and make nice and offer the backstage passes as a compromise, but Blair soon got really angry with her. I'd think by now that Serena would understand that Blair quickly moves to screaming and getting defensive, but that she doesn't really mean it. Serena seems to have lost any ability she had to deal with Blair, and instead made the situation a lot worse. I suppose it was inevitable, but I feel that Serena made this break come a lot quicker.

Rufus tracked down Jenny and dragged her away, potentially ruining her chances for a career in fashion. I completely understand where he was coming from, but still I felt kind of bad for her. For some reason there was a really jarring shot of a motel thrown in even though it bore no relevance to the story (unless it was somehow implied that this is where Nate, Vanessa and Eric were), but I soldiered on feeling the sympathy for Jenny. As she pointed out she has sort of found her niche, she honestly is good at this. Also it was nice that she was being careful not to just fuck up, she hadn't been at school but she had been keeping up with her assignments via e-mail. If somebody can juggle all of that, why shouldn't they be allowed to? She shouldn't have lied, but I don't think that Rufus should have treated her so harshly- especially as it clearly isn't a good way to handle her. Jenny demonstrated her stubborn streak, by telling the headmistress that she wouldn't be coming back to school and sneaking off to help out at the fashion show- and looking very pretty while she did it too.

Jenny clearly popped up at precisely the right moment, she managed to stop Blair's attempt to seat Serena in the back far away from Poppy. Eleanor got all huffy and demanded that Blair spare her the dramatics, at least for a day. Hey, Blair ought to be glad that her mother saw past the end of her nose long enough for once to actually notice the dramatics, even if she didn't seem to properly understand why Blair was hurt. Also while it was gratifying to see her fawn all over Jenny it really was a little tactless to do it in front of the recently lectured Blair, but I expect it from Eleanor. Blair decided to go after Jenny's dress in revenge. She didn't actually hurt the clothes (I'd get very upset if someone attacked my favourite items, seriously) but used it to fuck with the show and Jenny.

When Rufus realised that Jenny had buggered off he apparently needed to see an article about fashion week to connect the dots and work out where Jenny was. Now I know that Dan is Rufus' son but I really don't think that Rufus is at Dan's level of foolishness, and I'm pretty sure he could have worked it all out by himself. (I think that Dan probably takes after his mumma in this department, although she at least realised she was a complete dimwit when Lily bopped along last Thanksgiving). Jenny sneakily managed to deny him access though.

Jenny had her own problems though, since Blair had disappeared all the models! She'd told them all that they weren't needed and sent them on home, apparently they really weren't the brightest bulbs. It was pretty shitty of her to sabotage her own mother's fashion show, but I guess Blair really wanted some attention. Plus I suppose she realised that Jenny would grab Serena, Poppy et al to model in their stead, and that's why she stole Jenny's dress. Laurel managed to sell the idea to Eleanor, claiming that 'models lost, socialites save the day' would make for sensational headlines. Anyone else commenting that it was damn handy that society girls are wafer thin would have sounded sarcastic but Eleanor is so deeply clueless that I wouldn't have been surprised if she'd thought it was an excellent coincidence that Serena's pals all had four limbs just like her models. (I'm not a very good judge of these things but Blake Lively doesn't strike me as wafer thin. I wouldn't hesitate to describe her as 'slim', but she does seem to have something going on in the T&A department, and to not have an identical body to Jenny's). At least Blair sort of got what she wanted- Serena and co got the spotlight, but not the front row seats.

Poppy and Serena's huge 80s style hair was hilarious. (I think Serena always looks a little 80s somehow actually.) Serena didn't really want to take part in the show, since she was fretting about it upsetting Blair. Poppy made some decent points in this scene, she essentially argued that Serena worries too much about Blair and her precious little feelings, but she kept throwing in idiotic statements about Serena's "light" and compromising herself by being "less sparkly" so mostly I was just chortling heartily. I've decided that Poppy's nursing a crush on Serena, she was just way too sincere. Blair also encouraged Serena to get up on the catwalk, which really was pretty bitchy because she'd switched the dress that Serena was supposed to be wearing with Jenny's (which was also handily a green silk). Serena did look awesome in it, even if the bright green was a bit too St Patrick's for my taste. Blair evidently wanted to let Jenny take the flack for ruining the show, but really she was treading a fine line- what if she'd inadvertently catapulted Jenny into superstardom?

Jenny finally clocked that all of Blair's acting out was basically about Serena. Poor, pouty Blair was almost in tears. Jenny actually empathised with Blair, she argued that although Blair is far more privileged she's still always worked for everything she's achieved (just like herself) whereas Serena just glides through life having everything handed to her. Jenny claims that this is why she'd been trying so hard to be Blair's friend and that she really wanted Blair to like her. I don't know if I really buy this entirely, I think that Jenny's focus did switch to Blair but initially she was totally enamoured with Serena. Also I think that she was more attracted by the idea of being popular and powerful, and she was a bitch to Blair when she got the opportunity. She might have just been sucking up, but she certainly carried it off very believably if this was the case. She also basically admits (claims?) that she would have been happy to help Blair fuck things up for Serena, and mess with the show. Way harsh, Tai.

Eleanor of course accused Jenny of sneaking her dress in and scheming to mess up the show. However, everyone loved the dress and automatically assumed that it was Eleanor's. This is believable given that Jenny used material from the atelier and adapted an old design, and Jenny was literally begging Eleanor to accept the credit for her design. Blair managed to tip her mother into doing so by pointing out that Jenny was the one who had saved the day by suggesting the socialites as replacements for the models. The fact that Blair jumped to her rescue makes me think that at least some of what Jenny said to her earlier was calculated because she thought that this would happen.

Blair did actually try to make peace with Serena, and admitted that she was hurt by Serena blowing off their backstage tradition. Serena wasn't having any of it though, saying that she was just tired of constantly thinking of Blair first and trying to protect her feelings. She emphasised that it isn't her fault that Blair's so insecure (allowing Blair to bite back that she's sure it isn't Serena's fault that she's so damn conceited). I do think that Serena had a point (just like Wilson in House I guess) but she certainly could have phrased it better. Also I don't think that Serena would really blow off her life-long best friend this easily, at least not forever. Blair was so upset when she saw Serena and Poppy getting all the attention and adoration while posing for the cameras outside. Maybe all of Blair's insecurities stem from the fact that she's so much shorter than her best friend?

Both Eleanor and Blair thanked Jenny, and she received a heartfelt round of applause- just as Rufus walked in. Jenny was adamant that Rufus couldn't make her stop. She pointed out that when he was her age he was focussing on his music and that making her give up fashion would be hypocritical. He tried to explain that he didn't want her to follow his mistakes, and she bitchily told him that if he'd succeeded then it wouldn't be a mistake- and maybe she's just more talented than him. He seemed sincere when he replied that he hoped that she is more talented than him, but still that had to sting. I'm not sure if she'd be able to get away with not going to school, but maybe she can swing it somehow.

Lily found out that someone had already bought the naked picture of her, although it hadn't even gone up for auction yet. I was so sure that the buyer just had to be Rufus that when Bart turned out to be the culprit I still thought that maybe Rufus had randomly bought it under a pseudonym just to be annoying. I really don't get how Lily can be attracted to Bart, and this isn't just because he doesn't look good next to Rufus. He's very weird looking, and the scene where they were kissing honestly creeped me out. She was so excited about her gift, and although she tried to be thankful for the emerald necklace it really didn't mean much to her- she wanted her picture. She was so happy that he'd bought it, assuming that he'd done so as a present for her because he loves and understands her. As it turned out though he'd bought it so that he could hide it, in case anyone ever tried to use it against them him. He'd even hired a PI to investigate her, and had a dossier on her. Lily was somewhat less joyously excited by the end of this scene, and she insisted that she see what he'd got on her. He turned out to have her old love letters from her college boyfriend, or at least that's how she referred to him- Bart seemed a little hung up on the fact that they were from her lecturer. Lily maintained that she's not ashamed of herself and, crucially, that she's decided that she needs to be open and honest with her kids. She was adamant that she wants them to truly know her as a person. Thus, I love Lily. However, Bart also discovered a much darker secret, which seemed to convince Lily to go along with him. Damn I want to know what it is, and it better involve Rufus! Or possibly hookers.

Bones Season four

Ok, Bones is kind of pissing me off, and not just because people keep pronouncing ‘algae’ in an irritating way. It’s probably my least favourite of the shows that I’m watching, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I generally dislike it (and it definitely annoyed me a lot less than Heroes last season). While I find Bones to be an enjoyable show, its episodes are a little too stand alone-y for me to totally fall in love with it. I was initially impressed by it because it clearly wasn’t a run of the mill CSI knock-off, while it does definitely centre on forensics and crime solving it throws in enough anthropology references and jokes to make it much more entertaining for me. The characters of Brennan and Hodgins especially (but the others to a lesser extent too), although far more in the early episodes, threw in plenty of subversive political commentary too- which had me feeling almost as warm inside as Studio 60’s first few episodes did with a similar strategy. The character of Brennan is mostly well constructed (although I think that her character development hasn’t been handled brilliantly), and her partner Booth is very likeable (just like Buffy/Angel alum David Boreanaz who plays him, even if he cannot act), and their interaction provides a lot of humour as well as a springboard for some interesting debate. The supposed sexual tension between them often feels a little forced and ridiculous, but hey it annoys me a hell of a lot less than in The X-Files at least. Most of the other regulars are incredibly endearing- I liked Dr Goodman and miss him (I don’t mind Cam but she’s not particularly amazing) and I simply adore Hodgins, Angela and Zack (even if he turned into a crazed cannibal). Throw in some Firefly references, a little Anne Dudek, T J Thyne’s eyes and ridiculous drunken shenanigans and you’ve got a recipe for a show aimed at me, apparently.

The season three finale got on my nerves a little, and didn’t really bode well for season four. It ended with the revelation that Zack had been manipulated by a cannibalistic murderous cult, and he was eventually carted off to go and become Hannibal Lecter. Obviously this was an interesting twist, but it seemed as if it was decided at the last minute in an attempt to end the season with a big bang after the writers’ strike. I think more television characters died or disappeared that week than ever before! If there had been even some subtle foreshadowing suggesting that Zack was the killer throughout the season I would have been appeased, but really there was nothing. I suppose this can be ascribed to the stand alone nature of the episodes, but still I can’t help feeling unsatisfied. The writers clearly wanted to create a big twist, and having one of the main characters revealed to be The Gormogon’s assistant certainly fulfils that aim. Given Zack’s über-logical attitude and the likelihood that he has Asperger’s he doesn’t seem like a ridiculous choice. I personally would have plumped for Dr Sweets or Cam, simply because they’re the newest additions to the team and thus the least known (and perhaps fit into the group dynamic less well, although this is much more obvious with Sweets). Even if Zack doesn’t seem like the most illogical pick it still doesn’t make the actions in character.

Although something like this does produce dramatic tension it also basically destroys a beloved character, just like with Toby leaking information in season six of The West Wing (which Richard Schiff also considered out of character). I could have coped with Bones doing this better if they honestly decided to deal with the repercussions of this event, but I had my doubts about this happening as soon as I’d finished watching the finale. The fact that the show is very episodic in nature (with a killer of the week rather than the monster of The X-Files and early Buffy) makes long-term emotional arcs a little more difficult to pursue, but by no means impossible. However, the season three finale ended with the characters explicitly “mourning” his loss (in a clear call-back to the beginning of the episode, in which they believed Booth to be dead), literally packing him (via his belongings) away and forgetting him.

Bones is a very popular show. It has the opportunity to play around with its format somewhat, to develop longer story arcs rather than trying to contain a story in a single episode (they did create a season-long story arc in season three with The Gormogon killings but it tended to stay in the background, and it was entirely focused on the work aspect of the show, rather than the characters). The fact that it doesn’t really seem to be doing that in season four, when they have a very real need to in order to deal with the loss of Zack is definitely frustrating me. It’s been suggested that the character may reappear in this season (but not as a series regular), and I hope that if this does happen that it provides much-needed resolution of some of these issues.

The first two episodes of the fourth season, The Yanks in the UK, (which were less a double-parter and more an extended episode, but I’ll ignore that fact in favour of making the numbering system work) were set in England. While that was initially pretty fun for me (especially seeing shots of London, and watching Booth attempt to drive on the left) it quickly got grating. I thought that American television had moved beyond the idea that all Brits are posh toffs, but apparently Buffy and Dead Like Me have lured me into a false sense of security on that count. I do get annoyed by ridiculous stereotypes about Brits on American television; Buffy did drop a couple of with Giles in the early seasons (although I’m adamant that the Bay City Rollers thing was imbued with sarcasm) but most of the time it succeeded. Plus it also provided this wonderful exchange:

Xander: Aren’t you supposed to be drinking tea anyway?

Giles: Tea is soothing. I wish to be tense.

Xander: Okay, but you’re destroying a perfectly good cultural stereotype here.

Booth quickly decided that he hated everything British, and that got a little annoying fast too (although I didn’t mind his complaints about the terrible weak coffee which turned out to actually be tea, simply because I’m not a tea person). All his waffling about coffee in England being terrible was bullshit though. He also went off on a tiresome rant about his need for a gun, and his apparent inability to solve a case without one. Yawn. You don’t need a gun in the UK, end of story. Booth’s screeching about people driving on the left was also ridiculous, and he’s a seriously crappy driver- even I who has never had a lesson could tell that. I can imagine Booth as one of the annoying ex-pats here scratching his head over the fact that people in Korea speak Korean and eat Korean food. No shit, Sherlock. Booth eventually changed his mind and decided that he was a huge fan of England, which all this ranting seemed to be setting up. However the thing which he most approved of was... titles and knighthoods. I don’t know- it just seems archaic, specific and bizarre. He did seem to be enjoying the booze as well though, which at least makes more sense.

At least Brennan’s inability to understand idioms, something which was amusing and understandable to start with but the persistence of it seems to indicate that the writers don’t really have a clear concept of character development, made a kind of sense in another country. Pretty much all Brits understand (most) American idioms and the majority of American English words and phrases in general. It is fun to pretend not to however, if only to rib the North Americans for assuming that anything they say is universally understandable. (The assumption that I have any idea what age middle school pupils are particularly irks me.) Brennan managed to pick up a few Briticisms, which was amusing- and the fact that she managed that makes the fact that she trips over practically every second sentence back home more ridiculous.

I quite liked the character of Dr Wexler (Brennan’s male British counterpart); he was rather lovely, even if he was a complete perv. Booth’s reaction to Dr Wexler, as with many other elements of the episode, made me feel as if there was a neon flashing light on screen proclaiming “HELLO! IT WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE FOR BOOTH AND BRENNAN TO HAVE MORE SEXUAL TENSION THAN THEY DO!”. I get it already. Real people don’t actually act like that, if they did they’d be strangled by their irritated friends. Brennan in fact turned down an evening with this guy (who was by all accounts a sex-guru) on the grounds that it would upset Booth, despite the fact that she agreed with brain surgeon analogy (i.e. one should go to the best for every service). I don’t know- I just find this aspect fairly tiresome, but again much less than the Mully nonsense. Booth’s assertion that Brennan is both special and pretty and Brennan saying that she thinks he’d be good in bed didn’t annoy me, since they seem like reasonable statements. It’s just the fact that their close relationship is sometimes ridiculously overplayed by the writers.

Angela's estranged husband re-emerged, finally bringing the incredibly dragged-out storyline preventing her and Hodgins from tying the knot to an end (of sorts). Grayson/Birimbau/owner of various names apparently, played by Sean Blakemore apparently had magical powers which cause women to swoon over him. He’s clearly good looking but observing him merely on screen didn’t make me weak at the knees, and he was actually kind of annoying too with even more new age nonsense than Angela and a penchant for seeing signs sent directly to him by the universe (this is only whimsical and wonderful when it’s done really well, like in The Alchemist). I don’t really understand why Angela felt the need to physically jump at him and kiss him, and it (as well as Cam sleeping with Grayson) sparked a lot of problems between Angela and Hodgins. Sweets tried to make the situation better by relating a story from his childhood to her, which featured another little boy happily giving up his favourite toy to him. I loved Angela’s straightforward analysis of the situation, “he had a little gay crush on you”, and Sweets, the psychologist, agrees that actually that would explain a lot. I think that Booth and Brennan’s doubts about Sweets professional ability weren’t all that ridiculous. Also, later on Sweets got all excited about touching a human brain (because they’re squishy), this seems like something a psychology major would have already experienced. I know that the American and British experience can differ (and that, Tanky you insufferable idiot, is why I didn’t study the ‘four fields’ of anthropology, and why social anthropology is a real thing), but I got to prod a sheep’s brain in A Level psychology, I’d think Sweets would at least have got to do something along those lines. Sweets then backpedals from his rubbish and insulting allegory, claiming that it was an illustration of his point that men are stupid. Angela rolls her eyes and wanders off, as would we all I imagine.

I don’t think that Angela had the right to be too self-righteous towards Hodgins, and she wasn’t actually that bad. She might have felt that she was giving Grayson a goodbye kiss, but she didn’t exactly make that clear before jumping on him. Grayson eventually agreed to give her the divorce she’d been hankering for, and hearing Angela cheerily say “Thanks for the divorce, I appreciate it” made me giggle. Of course as soon as the roadblock standing in the way of Angela and Hodgins getting married was removed their relationship dissolved. I think this was clearly foreshadowed by the fact that they were deciding between Maine and Jamaica as their honeymoon destination. Maine? I’m sure it’s a perfectly nice place, but to my mind couples planning on starting their lives together in such a place are clearly doomed. It was incredibly obvious that Angela was a bit upset about Grayson and Cam sleeping together, just as it was hardly surprising that Hodgins got a bit jealous over Angela kissing Grayson. There was absolutely no subtlety, and it was almost painful to watch. Neither of these things are shocking, nor are they strange or even ‘bad’ responses.

I really like both Hodgins and Angela as characters, although I have to admit that I have a special affinity for ‘the small angry man’ because he just sucked so wholeheartedly at apologising because he’s just so cranky and awesome. I even loved him after the stupid haircut (although the same was true of Zack too, they’re both just such wonderful characters, and I miss Zack). I didn’t dislike their relationship at all, even though I initially thought that it might be stupid. I was even pretty happy that the show had just let them have a relatively happy relationship instead of bringing the drama purely for drama’s sake. The fact that Angela had already been married introduced a reason why they couldn’t get married, but it was a fairly benign one and didn’t seriously impact their relationship. Therefore I was especially annoyed by their break up because it seemed so forced, and was clearly an attempt to manufacture drama just for the sake of it.

I do like Cam sometimes, her simple statement that “women is an unacceptable generalisation” had me smiling. Also Cam’s whinging, during previous seasons, about Hodgins and Angela being incredibly unprofessional is hella warranted. If they weren’t both brilliant and irreplaceable I’d imagine they’d have been fired a long time ago, they seem to spend half of their time at work either making out or arguing.

Dr Edison, previously seen in season three vying for Zack’s position when he went off to Iraq, took over Zack’s assistant role in this episode. Although the position is much coveted, he was quickly irritated by his crazy colleagues, admittedly the arrival of Grayson sparked a little more drama than usual but they do tend to have overly-exciting lives. I think what he was getting most annoyed by was their unprofessionalism- they kept explaining what was going on to him, and trying to drag him into it. I was glad that he and Hodgins eventually started getting on, although there really needed to be more discussion of Zack. However, by the end of the episode he had quit. He’s a likable character but I’m glad that he hasn’t become Zack’s permanent replacement, it would be far too easy. At least a revolving door of assistants will probably be interesting, and a constant homage to Zack’s memory.

Oh, there were actually a couple of murders in this episode too, replete with even more wacky incest. For a taboo topic incest seems to turn up in an awful lot of contemporary shows. Just saying. It turned out that the murdered girl, Portia, and her boyfriend, Ian were actually brother and sister- and instead of perhaps informing his son the father (or his butler, if you want to believe him) thought that murder would be a better option. Because that totally makes sense. I liked the drawing room scene for the big reveal, and the fact that the Butler (claimed that he) did it, it was a nice homage to the Miss Marple/Poirot murder mystery style. After this mystery was dispensed with Booth and Brennan were about to return home, but Wexler was murdered before they could make a break for it. His flat seemed a little too shabby (with an old school kettle on the hob), I know that his murder revolved around financial issues but he was an Oxford lecturer- you’d think that he could at least afford a few electrical appliances. His students’ overly shocked response to the news of his death was utterly ridiculous and far too overblown. Also the students were far, far too stuffy- even for Oxford students. One of them was even called Cyril.

I got quite excited about the mention of Highgate (and its Gentlemen’s Club), and didn’t particularly mind Booth’s mispronunciation since it seems fairly likely that he would pronounce it a little wrong (besides, the tube lady can’t even say it right). The difference between different characters’ pronunciations of something might seem insignificant, but it can actually add something to the storyline- as with the mispronunciation of ‘Pahrump’ by the Hollywood characters in the Studio 60 episodes that were set there. The boat team that Booth and Brennan interviewed were brilliant, almost making up for the portrayal of all the snobs and students, throwing around wonderful words like ‘bollocks’ and ‘discombobulate’. The anti-American feeling (including the guy eventually head butting Booth) was a little over the top, but since Booth and indeed the episode/s was far too emphatic with the pro-American stance I didn’t really mind. (Also I think that it’s interesting to note that I didn’t mind the implication that all Brits are complete whores, but the stuffy thing got to me.) I have no idea why so many Americans seem to have a problem distinguishing between ‘cheerio’ and ‘cheers’ by the way, Scotland confuses them constantly at work and I think that I might throttle him for it. Anyway Booth and Bones managed to solve the murder, business as usual- and with no more cannibals thankfully. Booth’s attempt at an English accent as they walked off was appalling, and I’m glad the Brennan called him on it- pointing out that it sounded Australian.

I felt that the next episode, The Man in the Outhouse, was substantially better, and perhaps in part that’s because I’d eased back into the murderer-of-the-week format. It started off with a pretty cool scene, firmly back on American soil. Basically an angry trucker attempted to go take a shit in an outside toilet, and lit a cigarette at the same time (which doesn’t seem like the best idea in normal circumstances), and ends up mostly exploded. The guy didn’t actually die (and I think that an interview with him or an update on his condition would have been nice), but the explosion unearthed some other remains that Booth and Brennan began investigation. I think I have an overly-romanticised idea of the trucking industry, after this I still kind of want to be a trucker, or would if I could actually drive. (But then I still wanted to go to Texas after seeing No Country For Old Men, so maybe I really am insane.)

Booth knocking on Brennan’s door singing out “wakey wakey, eggs and bakey” made me laugh because it reminded me of Supernatural. It’s possible that I watch a little too much television. I also do like eggs and bacon a lot though. When Booth discovered her new fuckbuddy, Mark, in the apartment he began grinning maniacally at him. This is probably a result of the fact that David Boreanaz seriously cannot act and only has three facial expressions, but it really made it seem that Booth was checking Mark out. That made it even funnier when he primly told Brennan off in the car for being so sex-obsessed. Booth kept forcing the issue, insisting that there had to be more between her and Mark than just sex, but she merely replied with a shrug and “not really”.

Maybe I hold Brennan to too high a standard, but I found her claim that Booth’s aversion to faecal matter is totally irrational to be somewhat flawed. It’s hardly as if Booth’s, or even the American/Western, aversion is unique, and as it is later pointed out excrement can be a symbol of everything that we hate about ourselves. I like the fact that Brennan's character and the show in general try to subvert accepted ideas (especially Booth’s, and especially his religious ones) but that’s precisely why I want her claims to be sensical. Similarly I agree with Brennan’s rejection of Christian morality, but since she knows that Booth is a devout Catholic I would have thought that she’d have learnt to be a tad more respectful of his beliefs. She was happy to turn down Ian Wexler because it would upset Booth even though it wouldn’t affect Booth (although to be fair enough Brennan does have awful taste in men so it might end up coming back to haunt Booth if Wexler had turned out to be a murderer), but she can’t debate religious truths with him and instead has to just lay down her opinions apparently. I feel that that is a little inconsistent.

Booth got even angrier at Brennan when he discovered that she was dating two guys at the same time, keeping one in the bedroom and taking the other out to do cultural things with. Booth’s waffling was getting old, but his assertion that having two guys at the same time is clearly wrong because that’s why duelling was invented made me laugh (and also reminded me of the excellent swordfight in the Shindig episode of Firefly). Booth decided to interrupt her date (where she actually looked really pretty, I think the eye makeup really suited her) with guy number two, Jason, for nefarious reasons. Booth made a big show of admiring Jason’s tight suit, which really just adds to my theory that Booth is secretly a pervy gay man. I did enjoy him and Sweets deciding that Jason must be a gay man because he professed a liking for Coldplay. I don’t know any gay men who actually like Coldplay, and I don’t like the implicit assumption that ‘weak’ bands are somehow ‘gay’, but I’ll take any and all Coldplay bashing I can get.

Sweets once again displayed an uncharacteristic idiocy when dealing with emotional issues. Throughout the third season he seemed to be a bumbling idiot, but to be good at his profession (except for a weird relationship with his girlfriend). Here he asserted that it was impossible for Jason and Brennan to have romantic relationship without sex, which is ridiculous and stupid (especially when you consider that they didn’t even seem to have been going out for a long time). He then seems to add a caveat to this, it’s impossible because Brennan’s hot. Right that isn’t reductionist and insulting at all. Oh wait. Brennan continued to be adamant that Mark was keeping her perfectly sated sexually, to which Angela replied ‘you really need to learn some girl talk, sweetie’. That is a reasonable point, all of Sweets waffling wasn’t.

I was very excited about the new girl, Daisy. First of all it emphasised the shift from primarily a boys’ club of an institution to one in which Hodgins is basically the only bloke (Sweets and Booth don’t really work in the lab) working amongst a load of women- including his ex-fiancé. Incidentally Sweets still seems to be a peripheral character what with being young, silly and often useless – and him sneezing inside his hazmat suit was incredibly gross. Anyway, even more exciting was the fact that Daisy was portrayed by Carla Gallo (who played Libby in Carnivale)! I was seriously so happy that she’d shown up in Bones. I was really hoping that she’d stay on (and become Hodgins’ new friend, rather than getting scared off by all the poo. The other characters seemed to find her pretty annoying, but they really needed to stop hating- Daisy was fun, and very smart. I think that everyone was too angry in this episode (asides from Hodgins who is allowed to be). And besides, Carla Gallo may have just become my new Anne Dudek. I think that if they’d cast her as a series regular I might just have moved towards forgiving them for getting rid of Zack, at least a little. Also Daisy couldn’t understand what’s good about accordions. She’s clearly awesome! I really loved Daisy flailing about and fangirling all over Brennan (I think that fangirls and boys are turning out to be a theme across the board this season). I don’t really think that she was indulging in hero-worshipping much more than Zack did, and Brennan was really pretty harsh to her (which I won’t mind if there’s some indication that Brennan is taking her feelings about lack of Zack out on the assistants).

The victim (amongst all the very random things that can apparently be discovered in outhouse sludge) turned out to be named Bill O’Rourke. This name confused me because I thought that that was the name of a famous American politician, but googling didn’t provide me with appropriate proof. I’m going to assume that it’s the name of a West Wing character, or perhaps more than one. Bones’ O’Rourke was the host of a reality television show that entrapped and exposed married men. I like Brennan’s angry rant about the prurient morality that shows like ‘Busted by Bill’ enforce. I’d like to add that I simply detest reality TV shows, and that enforcing ‘morality’ through fear is a pretty terrible method. His body was revealed to have a wound infected with iron and saliva, and for once I got to the conclusion before Hodgins. Watching too much television has made me smart! Or maybe I’m only intelligent when the situation somehow refers back to me as it turned out that it was caused by Holly’s infected tongue piercing. I’m going to assume that she was wearing stainless steel jewellery instead of titanium for some reason, and that the show isn’t trying to suggest that piercing jewellery is made of iron.

The interaction between Sweets and Daisy was wonderful, and Daisy was so enamoured of Brennan that she very determinedly went in to try and upend Sweets when asked. Sadly Sweets put a stop to that, I think it would have a brilliant scene! They ended up mildly flirting over psychology (which really ought to come with all kinds of terrible implications I’d think), and I think there was a slight shift to her hero-worshipping, or at least greatly admiring Sweets. That worked out a lot better, because he seemed to genuinely like and respect her (unlike Brennan and the others).

Mark and Jason finally got to meet, because although Brennan’s a genius she apparently doesn’t know how to schedule at all. They got very jealous of each other, Mark was whining about Jason getting to go out with Brennan, to which Jason just raised an eyebrow- clearly incredulous that the guy who gets to have sex with her in this situation is the one complaining. Brennan seemed completely oblivious to the fact that she was part of a complicated love triangle, and that everyone was annoyed at her. All of her rationalisations were completely fine, but I would have expected her to be honest with both Mark and Jason. It’s possible that her blinkered vision of the world meant that she assumed they would share her opinions, but really I feel that this episode was filled with a few too many bizarre assumptions and examples of skewed logic from Brennan.

Booth is such a cheesy romantic, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing- he’s very sweet. However I don’t like the fact that both Booth and Bones seem to be trying to (and may be succeeding) move Brennan towards a monogamous stance on relationships. She always maintained the ‘rational’ opinions of an anthropologist, and having her change them seems ridiculous. Also I’m pretty certain this foray into multiple partners wasn’t her first, and even if it was it clearly backfired because she was dishonest, not because monogamy is inherently better. I did quite like the analysis of Booth and Brennan’s surrogate relationship (it is such a rip-off of Mulder and Scully’s clearly), and the fact that they refused to let Sweets come along with them for dinner. I think if the show wants to give me a cutesy couple (and is denying me the Hodgins/Angela fun) then Sweets and (the sadly fired) Daisy ought to get together. He called her after Booth and Brennan deserted him, and she seemed to get outrageously happy about the fact that he plays a little bass (and not the accordion). Clearly a match made in heaven.

The next episode, The Finger in the Nest, upped the annoyance quota again. It started off well enough, with Booth and his son Parker being all cute (it’s nice to see Booth actually meaningfully interact with somebody other than Bones, and now I’d like to see him to do it with someone who isn’t a small child). I adored Parker getting all excited about finding a finger in a bird’s nest, he’s clearly going to grow up to be a magpie. Booth then totally went into over-protective father mode, fretting that Parker might be suffering from PTSD amongst other things. In part he’s just freaking out about the fact that Parker will probably tell his mother about his discovery, which is hardly going to reflect well on Booth. Brennan reveals that she found a dead body when she was five years old and she’s alright, so Parker ought to be too. Booth points out that she does spend all her time with dead people though. This is added to later by Brennan revealing that after she discovered that dead body she kept staging her own death. I really hope that this wasn’t supposed to be an indication (and that it won’t be pursued as such) of why she became a forensic anthropologist, it’s already cannon that she did so in order to help people who suffered as she did when her parents went missing when she was a teenager.

There was yet another new assistant, and while I don’t think that Zack is replaceable I think that this constant stream of new characters is going to start getting tiring fast. It kind of reminds me of the reality show style competition to be on the new team in House, but that was done so much better. If Carla Gallo’s character could only last a week it’s quite clear that noone else is likely to either. This one was pissing Hodgins off hardcore. I can see why, he kept going around dropping trivia- but not in a fun and entertaining way, in the way that directly translates into “I have sooo much experience, I’m so wonderful, meh meh meh”. Hodgins also reveals that he doesn’t want to crown anybody ‘King of the Lab’ because it depresses him. It’s nice to be able to snatch little references to Zack and his absence, but I want so much more than I’m getting.

Sweets decided to take on Brennan’s role in this episode for a while and discussed religion as a ‘fake’; as a coping strategy. This obviously pissed Booth off a little. Since Sweets was Booth’s therapist I’d think that he’d know about Booth’s religious convictions, and also would have a little sensitivity. This adds to my feelings that Sweets has turned into a complete idiot this season (has he been brainwashed by a serial killer too now?), and that he’s a useless character a lot of the time so the writers are fishing for things for him to say or do- thus giving him a line which smacks of being Brennan’s.

Sweets also managed to annoy Hodgins a lot in this episode by hanging about being “supportive”. He spent a lot of time staring at Hodgins, but that’s alright cos so would I- T.J. Thyne is somewhat gorgeous. It transpired that Sweets was worried because Hodgins had abandoned his conspiracy theories and apparently stopped paying as much attention to his personal appearance. Hodgins bites back by pointing out that being less paranoid and vain shouldn’t be seen as bad things. He then calls Cam over for no real reason, and she gets understandably confused. When he reveals matter of factly that he only did it to make Sweets go away she snaps “not an appropriate use of your boss!”. Cam is often a fun character, she’s just a bit too much of the straight woman to resonate that much as a likeable character. Angela and Hodgins got a little awkward around each other in this episode, after apparently falling back into old habits a little and calling each other ‘a genius’ (I wish that the plural of ‘genius’ was genii, I mean it sort of is, but not really).

Brennan scaring the (o)possum away from the remains was hilarious as well as pathetic (“shoo shoo shoo!”) but it also seemed rather dumb. As she points out soon after it could well contain evidence, and she then sends Booth after it anyway. The squints found a clue, freeze dried bull penis, which pointed to the fact that the victim was a vet, identified as Dr Elliot. People saying “freeze dried bull penis” a lot was randomly amusing, and reminded me of “There’s Indians in the lobby!” and other West Wing gems.

Booth not being able to tell the difference between ugly fluffy dogs and cats when they broke the news to the victim’s ex-wife made me laugh. I hate those teeny fluffy dogs. Brennan asking if she could hold the dog while the bereaved woman cried was funny too (Emily Deschanel manages to deliver most of Brennan’s lines brilliantly, I like Deschanels), as was her squealing over the dog’s compact size. Brennan seriously doesn’t know how to interact properly with people, which is in character and therefore fine and dandy, but it needs to not be played on (for laughs) too much because it can easily slip into being stupid and annoying.

Brennan also told off Karen, Dr Elliot’s very upset assistant, for misusing the word ‘enervating’ (apparently a lot of people think it means ‘energising’ because trying to understand etymology is a dangerous business- as with me on the ‘grateful’ question). I’m not sure how much medical/biological training a vet’s assistant is supposed to have, but I’d think that she’d be able to guess the general usage of the word from the medical definition, surely. I don’t mind too much because I like “that word doesn’t mean what you think it means” style trivia, because sometimes I learn things, and it tends to remind me of The West Wing. I liked Brennan’s assertion that she doesn’t care about tone, just results. Damn skippy. I’m fed up with people putting a premium on (faux) politeness. There’s a difference between being a caring, considerate human being and being prim and proper.

The vet’s cause of death is determined to be: dog. Booth apparently doesn’t have a clue as to what canis lupus familiaris might be, which is ridiculous since he’s not actually a complete idiot and in fact has developed a lexicon of far more complicated scientific terms. I feel that death by dog is pretty lame too (unless it’s a hellhound like in Supernatural natch, or as part of an elaborate cover up like in Pushing Daisies).

It turns out that someone had stolen ketamine from the veterinary surgery. Honestly what is the world coming to, people getting fucked up on horse tranqs? Tut. This led to them investigating Tucker, the drug dealer who came with a handy huge dog. He was a pretty fun character, for example when Booth pointed out that he didn’t seem very lucky Tucker merely responded that booth ought to see the stuff that they didn’t get him on with a grin. He also seemed pretty sensible, he straightforwardly pointed out that since he’s a drug dealer if he got caught with a gun on him he’d go to prison for a really long time, so a dog made a much better choice of weapon. Also his “You’ve got a search warrant for my dog? That’s cold!” was delivered well and made me laugh.

Booth and Brennan headed out to interview Don Timmons, and Booth insisted that they ought to stay in the car out of politeness (because things are different in the country), but it was clear that he was scared of the dogs. Booth continued to freak out about Parker finding the initial finger, because he had a nightmare about a frog (is this possibly a Willow reference?), which is clearly related. Brennan, who doesn’t set much stock by psychology, doesn’t think that it’s much to worry about- and argues that a dream about a banana is just a dream about a banana. When Booth asks her if she dreams about bananas a lot she evades the question, and since bananas are clearly a phallic symbol and Brennan is never shy about sex I’m a little worried that the show is trying to somehow turn her into a prude (or maybe a prune with all the symbolic fruit, but that might be a bit weird).

I got a little snippet of the Bones I love, with Don’s little rant about putting his son, Robbie, on his medical insurance because the system doesn’t care about people like them so they have to play the system a little. However Brennan clearly seemed to think that this was wrong, I know that she’s generally very law abiding, but I’d expect her to be more sympathetic given her past actions. Also Robbie, played by Devon Graye (who also plays young Dexter in, uh, Dexter) is rather pretty. Erp, he was born in 1987. That’s not entirely appalling at least.

The main thing which got on my nerves about this episode was Brennan’s reaction to the dogs and the concept of dog fighting. I’ve actually always thought that Brennan being a vegetarian didn’t fit very well with her character, and it seems to be have been inserted simply because Emily Deschanel is a vegetarian and outspoken supporter of animal rights. Brennan’s anger about the evidence of dog fighting found on Dr Elliot’s phone and then in Don’s barn to be over the top and a little out of character, but her and Angela’s claim that animal fighting is only due to men and their lack of appreciation for the lives of animals was utterly preposterous. I could not believe that Brennan would subscribe to such a blatantly sexist and nonsensical attitude. She at least makes a cursory anthropological point about animal fighting (and it’s always nice to picture someone else being forced to read Geertz) but it seems to be an implicitly disparaging argument about the unstable and almost primitive nature of societies that enjoy it. I know that Brennan sometimes finds social situations difficult, but she clearly believes in the sanctity of human life. She might find animals comforting, but I believe that she’s never indicated that she considers their lives to be of equal importance as humans’, and so I think her behaviour in this opinion was very out of character. All her fluffy feelings about them don’t fit with her self-professed rationality.

Also, who the fuck was this dog whisperer dude? Is this a real thing? And why? Brennan’s inability to interact with dogs becomes established as soon as he’s on the scene. I don’t understand why she suddenly became an idiot, even if she was acting very strangely about the dogs in this episode she still knows that saying “Excuse me, can I see your teeth please?” to a dog is unlikely to work. The murder weapon, Ripley the dog, was eventually discovered. Brennan then gave Ripley free range, and later decided that she was going to adopt him, which seemed like a stupid idea.

Booth’s worries about Parker lead him to turn to Sweets, at least giving him something to do in this episode. When Booth wants to talk about Parker while he’s in the room he gets the obedient little boy to cover his ears and hum. Surely that’s going to give him more issues than finding digits in nests? Sweets is at least sensible enough to deny that he can ‘cure’ Parker, and points out that giving a child therapy for no reason could lead to actual psychological issues. However, this relegates him to just playing babysitter, which doesn’t give him a whole lot to do. At least he got to reveal that Parker was somewhat traumatised, but not by the finger. In fact arms were the problem, a fat girl at school apparently had been enjoying herself by picking him up and carrying him around under her arm. The phrase ‘like a monkey’ was used several times. In fact he was upset that he hadn’t been allowed to keep the finger and scare her with it. It was adorable that he hadn’t hit her because Booth had told him never to hit girls (and I loved Booth a little for breaking in and adding that he’d told him to never hit anybody unless it was in self-defence) or run away because his daddy never ran away from anything.

Hodgins started talking a little about both Zack and Hodgins to this week’s assistant, who reveals that he’s disappearing off super soon (but of course). It was nice that he opened up a little, but I agree it was definitely to the wrong person. At least this Dr Starret stopped being quite so annoying and tried to cheer him up by pretending not to know things so Hodgins got a chance to dispense knowledge again. He eventually caved and decided to rant to Sweets (all of Sweets’ Christmases came at once in that moment), starting with “Mostly on my mind is, I hate everyone” and when prodded “To varying degrees, but yeah everyone”. Man, I love Hodgins. His reasons are understandable too: Angela because they had a wonderful relationship which is now nothing (dude, take that up with the writers), Zack for being weak enough to be seduced away by a cannibalistic cult (ditto this one), Brennan for bringing them all together, Booth for bringing them cases and giving them a purpose, Cam for making them efficient (I’d like to take that one up with the writers for being a little lame), Sweets for picking and prodding at him... at this point Sweets said that he didn’t need to go on, but I have no doubt that Hodgins could have with a thousand invalidly valid reasons. Sweets’ response is to tell him that he’s doing just fine. This sounds like further evidence of the fact that Sweets is a crappy psychologist, but I kind of liked his reasoning so hear him out! He argues that Hodgins’ extensive hatred is a new (and sadly temporary) coping technique, and that Hodgins is actively seeking out other people when he doesn’t need to (he is rich enough to not need to work) instead of collapsing. While I will no doubt miss Hodgins’ paranoia, the misanthropy which he displayed in this episode was quite lovely. I hope that Sweets’ theory is fallible, and that he doesn’t replace this misanthropy with anything ‘nicer’ (at least not anytime soon).

Booth has to reveal to Brennan that Ripley the dog was put down. I don’t know why she’s so surprised, I would have thought that she knew that it was protocol. I did feel kind of sorry for Brennan, but I don’t understand how she’d had enough time to get a ‘Ripley Brennan’ tag made for the dog. She then had a proper funeral for Ripley, which really did seem over the top. At least Booth and Brennan got to have a nice conversation about Parker. Brennan, perhaps still affected by the whole Ripley situation, is adamant that Booth ought to tell Parker to always walk away, and Booth replies that he told Parker to walk away if it’s for himself, but to stand up and fight if it’s for someone else. He seems a little awkward, saying that he wasn’t sure it was the right thing to say. Brennan can’t reply with anything other than a heartfelt, “You’re a very good father”.

At least the scene of Ripley’s funeral afforded some light hearted interaction between Booth and Brennan. Booth started to get tetchy when Brennan seemed to be addressing her speech towards him (for the record I don’t really think she was doing so, at least not consciously, he was just the only other person there- so I think this illustrates his guilt more than anything else). He encouraged Brennan to talk to the universe, God or Ripley, and when she points out that she doesn’t believe in God he grasped proudly onto the fact that ‘dog’ is ‘God’ spelt backwards. I don’t know what the relevance of that is supposed to be (other than that Booth spends too much time with small children?) but it made me snort. Brennan then points out that Ripley was a dog and thus had limited vocabulary, before making her big speech. Since Brennan can clearly get her head around the idea that dogs communicate differently to (and understand less than) humans it makes the earlier scenes with her attempting to make requests of the dogs politely seem even stupider.

The first song that came on after I watched this episode was I Wanna Fuck a Dog in the Ass (on International Talk Like A Pirate Day, of all days!), I kid you not. At least it provided some sort of an antidote to all the (for Brennan) strange canophilia.

The next episode, The Perfect Pieces in the Purple Pond, gave me what I've been hankering for. No, not puddles of purple piss or even body parts which magically appear at the most importune moments. What I'd been craving was simply Zack's presence, and I got it in spades even if he (and therefore I) had to put up with Sweets a good deal of the time. Sweets was trying to convince Zack that he ought to feel remorse for killing a man, and that a sane person would regret murder more than a lack of logic. Stupid Sweets. I think my grumbling is justified, how are the way one ranks their regrets anything to do with a psychologist? Besides, surely having one's worldview profoundly shaken is fundamentally more jarring than whatever actions were perpetrated as a result of following flawed belief or logic, no matter how horrific. I did find it interesting that this scene was contrasting Sweets behaviour with Zack's though, and I hope that it was an intentional comment on the questionable nature of definitions of in/sanity. After all Sweets displayed a tendency towards obsession not that different from Zack's with his unnecessarily long list of synonyms for 'crap'. I also think that Zack was right when he claimed that he was wrong but not delusional, and I don't understand why Sweets can't see the difference. Certainly Zack was wrong, and he was deluded; brainwashed; lied to. There was a flaw in Zack's rationalisations, but he didn't believe anything outlandish. Also, Sweets is aware that Zack's not actually insane, in The Pain in the Heart he argued against Caroline's suggestion that Zack would be found non compos mentis precisely because of this.

Brennan was called in to take a look at the body parts found in the pond (if it was a pond, it looked more like a large water storage thingy to me) to identify the victim. I feel as if I have very little to say about the interaction between Brennan and Booth in this episode. They bantered, they argued, maybe they flirted. I don't know it all just feels so standard and uninteresting when characters interact in basically exactly the same way again and again and don't ever change and develop.

There was another new assistant, this one was called Wendell Bray, and was actually quite cute. (He's played by an actor called Michael Terry, mildly amusing/disturbing since I had a Physics teacher with that name who was also friends with my grandparents.) IMDb doesn't even have his age though so I'm just going to shut up. The whole hard working blond boy on a scholarship thing kind of reminded me of Ryan from The O.C., but his head doesn't look like a boulder like Ben McKenzie's. Wendell didn't seem to understand sarcasm though, but maybe he would have learnt to appreciate it if he'd spent as much time with Seth as Ryan did. I loved Seth.

It turned out that the victim had been wearing size 11 kid's shoes (I guess that's a UK size 9 or so?) which helped in tracking down the fact that he was called Jared. Heh. Noone seemed to find it odd that Hodgins randomly happened to know the average flow of urine for men under 25 so maybe it isn't unusual knowledge after all and I'm the freak for not having that trivia to hand. What I'm certain was odd was all of Cam's waffling about Hodgins moving into Zack's space at work. Why would it matter? And how would Zack even know about it? I think it's supposed to suggest that Wendell might be a more permanent addition to the team, which I don't particularly mind since he was alright. I also wouldn't mind it if Hodgins hung about blowing up gloves more often. Him getting all snippy towards Cam is also pretty fun, although I think that her tellings off finally sunk in sadly so he might be doing less of that.

Since Booth was suffering from some back pain he allowed Brennan to drive the car. That happens like once a season, unless they're in a foreign country. Brennan is basically Bones' Sammy: she's the main character and yet her emotional life remains fairly opaque, she's a genius and yet intensely stupid, she's tall, she never gets to drive and she has some weird tension going on with her partner. Booth and Brennan even spend a fair amount of time in a diner. Has anyone looked into this? Booth revealed that he knows her tells (much as Dean does, hey I'm just sayin'); that he could tell that she had a new intern because she was being even more precise than usual. He must pay far more attention to her than I do because I certainly don't really notice her precision levels fluctuating due to anything other than sloppy writing and lazy character continuity most of the time.

When they investigated Jared's room they saw that he had like another thirty (actually just eleven) identical pairs of shoes, as well as lots of other identical sets of objects. Apparently it took Sweets' help for them to work out that he was probably OCD. I'm not saying that a psychologist's analysis and input wouldn't be useful (even if it was one as sporadically useless as Sweets) but I'd think that they might be able to reach that simple conclusion without help. Jared sounded like quite a cool character, it's almost a pity we didn't get to see him alive. He was a mildly crazy sci-fi writer, in fact a lying one who had a fake-Jared pretending to be him because he couldn't cope with fans and so on due to his extreme OCD. One thing that Sweets was good for in this episode was to at least normalise OCD to an extent (although maybe he was invested in making Jared seem normal since he was busy drooling all over his action figures) and to tell Booth off for referring to him as a crazy boy.

Brennan and Booth were both pretty rude to Sweets. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but instead of mocking him for being an idiot they were all "Oh you lived with a woman, huh? Was she your mom? *gigglesnort*" which is immature even for them. Sweets was getting a little rude about Brennan being "wicked literal". Although, as Booth pointed out, that's just her thought process and Sweets should definitely know that by know from being her therapist and colleague it was a fairly reasonable response and wasn't particularly offensive. I found it difficult to have much sympathy for him though, he got incredibly interested in the fact that Booth kept trying to protect his partner and that she mostly found it irritating. He was treating this as if it was some new manner of behaviour when it's clearly not, and he's dealt with it plenty in the past. Ugh, Sweets is very forgetful and extra stupid in this episode. Sweets did send them on a hunt for Jared's masturbatory aids so that they could track down his girlfriend, and Booth quickly suggested the shoes. Lo and behold the clue was nestled there, prompting Brennan to ask if all boys keep their masturbatory aids (there's a phrase you really don't hear often enough) in their shoes, but sadly Booth was evasive on this point, as was Sweets.

The girlfriend turned out to be played by Debra Christofferson, it really is Carnivale alums a-go-go this season I think. She was significantly older than the victim, which prompted Brennan to ask Wendell (after complimenting him on providing useful information about boxing injuries and repeating that she doesn't expect him to live up to Zack and probably giving him a complex about it in the process) if he'd ever had a sexual relationship with a woman more than twenty years older than himself. Even to the audience who are far more familiar with Brennan's idiosyncrasies than poor Wendell it sounded like a come-on, even though (as Wendell pointed out) Brennan is hardly twenty+ years his senior. She seemed genuinely confused as to how her age was relevant to the discussion, and clearly was simply asking out of curiosity. Wendell couldn't help feeling somewhat confused about this exchange though.

It was great to see Hodgins visiting Zack, and it was definitely suggested that this was something he did semi-regularly. Instead of grapes he brought him a formula which he felt certain that Zack wouldn't be able to solve making Hodgins "King of the-". Hodgins really didn't want to complete that depressing sentence and tried to save it with "that makes me King", but poor Zack's troubled face in response showed that he clearly caught the reference to happier times. Hodgins tried to cheer him up by promising that they'd get Zack out of there, to which Zack blandly responded that he knew that Hodgins wasn't trying to be hurtful. Hodgins decided to feed Zack the latest case, as much to keep his brain busy as harvest his insights I think. Definitely Zack's presentation in this scene, and in the episode in general, suggested that the show is really trying to present him as much more of an obsessive crazy genius who simply can't interact with the world in general. This isn't so far away from much of Zack's previous characterisation that it's completely absurd, it's just that it presents a handy cop-out for writing Zack out. Zack cracked the formula and smilingly declared himself King of the loony bin. Wow, I missed Eric Millegan so much. I love his ability to smile so sadly, and TJ Thyne was doing an admirable job of emulating him- it was so bittersweet to watch Zack and Hodgins trying to smile cheerily at each other. Zack also truly seemed to mean it when he said that he was sorry that things weren't going well for Hodgins, and couldn't understand why Hodgins broke into sardonic laughter at that.

Booth and Brennan followed a lead about the behaviour modification seminar Jared attended at a hotel. The scene with the semi-naked OCD people being forced to play with mud was entertaining, but to me also seemed like a fairly benign form of aversion-therapy. The guy running the seminar had a black eye, which Brennan helpfully pointed out to Booth is called a "shiner" even though he clearly already knew that, so they began by suspecting him. Him shouting "Who's in charge, you or the OCD?" made me giggle because he stressed his syllables enough that to start with it sounded like he was asking if The O.C. was in charge. I quickly decided that he was a wanker though, cos apparently he'd been trying to "cure" OCD by making the sufferers eat mints from the toilet and lick the floor. That's not a cure, that's torture. They're subtly different I know. However another of the subjects, Ralph, confessed to Jared's murder and begged them to sterilize their handcuffs before applying them.

For some reason best known to himself Booth allowed Sweets to conduct Ralph's preliminary interview. He didn't actually make a hash of it though. Ralph claimed that if he doesn't eat at precisely the right time someone dies as a result. It wasn't initially clear if he meant that he flies into a rage and kills the nearest person or not, but he seemed to be suggesting that it was something that just happened so while he felt guilty for Jared's death he had no reason to. He even said that if they were to imprison him they better either let him keep his watch so that he could eat on schedule, or only put him near very bad people who deserved to die. I liked that Brennan and Booth were winding up Sweets by talking into the microphone when he was trying to conduct his interview, as he'd been doing it to Booth while he was trying to interview Jared's ladyfriend. Ralph did give them a clue though, he pointed them in the direction of a local coffee shop. I totally loved the pissy, very Italian sounding, barista (played by Ronobir Lahiri) he was hilarious especially when he was going on about the "OCDC people".

Wendell went to Angela with his concerns about Brennan, and his face when she assumed that he was worried that he'd get fired if he couldn't satisfy Brennan was priceless. She also told him off for referring to Zack as a psycho because "crazy as it sounds we all still love him". Yes, yes we do. When he tried to explain that he was pretty sure that she'd come on to him, Angela dismissed him as crazy suggesting that he'd misinterpreted it and if that wasn't possible he ought to just assume that he was insane. I can understand where she was coming from really, since it did seem pretty weird and he'd leapt to the assumption that Brennan was sleeping with both Zack and Booth during the conversation. Wendell was very worried about the possibility of losing this job and possibly fucking up his education as he owed money to people, so I thought that he was going to attempt to lie back and think of England, probably turning up naked in Brennan's office. Sadly that didn't happen, but the fact that he owed money to people bothered Angela a little. She went to Sweets to report that Wendell was possibly crazy, and that he clearly owed money to the Mafia. I think she also just wanted to blame him for breaking up her and Hodgins, which was awesome. Sweets for once provided a useful explanation, and told Angela about Jared's much older girlfriend which prompted Brennan to ask Wendell if he'd had similar experiences (except that she didn't have the sense to explain it like that). Sweets sent her off to make amends and apologise to Wendell for being so mean.

Booth and Brennan interviewed Jared's former publisher and Booth ended up giving him a good telling off over calling Brennan 'a chick'. Brennan actually let him act as her knight in shining armour for once, but I think that it was more because he'd said that her writing was merely serviceable and that people only like her books because she's hot.

From this episode I learnt that flies look gross when they hatch. Shocking, I know. Still, the type of fly suggested that it could be from the nursery which Jared's significant other ran. Booth thought that Brennan was being a complete freak when she sampled the fertiliser, but he quickly tried some itself when it turned out to be coffee and kelp. Brennan apparently still doesn't know the rules governing warrants (although at least at the end of the episode she insisted that she was merely clarifying and not clueless), and her tests apparently can't distinguish between potato proteins and blood. Weird.

Meanwhile Angela was telling Wendell of for smoking because he's smart. That seemed a little reductionist, but anyway the cigarette that he was holding was unlit. Obviously he wasn't part of Cosa Nostra, he owed money to his whole neighbourhood because they'd all ponied up to send him to college. They're good people you see. Also he revealed that he definitely doesn't smoke, and that his father died of lung cancer. He still associated holding a cigarette with his father though, and doing so helped him to think through things as his father would have. Angela obviously felt embarrassed by her assumptions, and helped him out a little by explaining to him why Brennan had been asking such questions. Wendell made it clear that he did want to stick around and carry on working at the Jeffersonian, although they're all very weird. Angela told him that he could either answer Brennan's weird questions like Angela or Zack, or tell her that they were inappropriate like Cam or Booth and that either would be fine. Their interaction was really sweet, and I wonder if the show is trying to foreshadow something developing between them. Angela even stood up for Wendell when Hodgins was a little disparaging towards him.

As soon as Booth pointed out the "obvious", that Zack wouldn't be coming back any time soon, he was proved wrong. Zack had randomly turned up in the lab! He seemed concerned that nobody was happy to see him, and Booth claimed that they weren't. Once again Booth was talking nonsense, because certainly Brennan, Hodgins and Angela were over the moon to see him. When Zack said that Sweets had helped him Angela decided to change her opinion on Sweets, but I decided to wisely reserve judgement as it turned out that Sweets wasn't exactly aware of his role. Zack helped them solve the case by pointing out that Jared's belongings had all been in sets of twelve, Brennan and Booth jinxed by kicking themselves at not noticing it. Even the gardening things were in sets of twelve (although I don't think that absolutely everything was, it looked like there was only about four chairs) which made no sense since Jared was previously terrified of germs. It transpired that Jared's mother also had OCD and her son's cure was playing havoc with her so she murdered him and hid his head under the one sundial in the garden.

Sweets didn't cotton on to the fact that Zack used his card to escape very quickly, even though it was foreshadowed at the beginning of the episode. Dude, pay attention. Instead of speedily returning to the institute with Sweets Zack went to hang out in the diner with Cam, Hodgins and Angela. I really didn't want the show to take my Zack away again, he looked so happy just to be with his friends. Not that I particularly wanted to lose Wendell either you understand, I'd actually grown quite attached to him. Sadly Zack decided that he had to acquiesce and let Sweets sneak him back in. Booth really seemed to not want to deal with Zack at all, and he even made him promise not to escape again (why oh why?!). I did like the fact that Zack's word is good enough for Booth, Zack promised not to kill Sweets and Booth seemed to trust him... although it's also highly possible that Booth just doesn't care about Sweets at all. At least it got Booth out of the way so that Zack could make a big confession to Sweets: he didn't actually kill that guy. Sure he figuratively killed him by revealing his location to The Master and he believed that he would have done it, but as Sweets points out Zack cannot be totally sure that he would have and anyway he didn't.

Well no wonder that Zack wasn't acting guilty enough for Sweets. Sweets was understandably gleeful over the fact that everything made sense and that Zack wasn't a killer, but Zack forbade him from spreading the secret. This also explained why the fact that Zack wasn't actually a murder had never come up in their sessions. Zack emphasises the fact that Sweets is his doctor and therefore ethically can't divulge this information, especially since there's no point as the real murderer had already been killed. Perpetrating this lie allowed Zack, who was still an accessory to murder, to avoid prison. I'm not sure if this is something that the writers always intended or if, more probably I feel, this is in response to fan outrage about the mistreatment of Zack's character. I don't know how long this secret will be maintained though, since I can kind of imagine Sweets cracking under the pressure of Brennan or Booth looking at him askance for about three seconds. I think that he'd feel compelled to protect Zack though, simply because he's such a sweetheart and truly strove to keep Sweets out of trouble.

Brennan seemed more concerned about herself than Zack though. She erased her book from her hard drive and was in the process of throwing out the paper copy when Booth found her. She claimed that she didn't want to be a writer anymore, possibly affected by what had happened to fellow author Jared but mostly just pissed off at the publisher's "sexy science chick" characterisation of her. Booth gently chided her, telling her that it was like him saying that he doesn't want to be a sexy FBI agent, one can't change who they are- especially if they're narcissistic apparently. He pulled her story out of the trash for her, even though it gave his back twinges of pain. Aww. He also revealed that he'd memorised her reviews, which she apparently didn't find creepy, and had read her books. He then informed her that Angela could scan the pages back into the computer, which was very clever of him- although I'm not sure why he thinks that Angela's the only one who can work a scanner.

He explained that he'd kept the fact that he read her books a secret because he's all over her real life, and so she probably wouldn't want him in her fantasy world too. That kind of made sense in a twisted way, although I have a feeling that the line was mostly included as an excuse to have Booth talking about Brennan's fantasies. I think that he might have been trying to explain that her knowing that he read about her character that was clearly based on him could be awkward for her, since that character clearly shows that Booth has permeated her imaginary world too. They had quite a cutesy argument about who explains more to each other, with Brennan claiming that her things are more important than his. He told her that what he appreciated about her was that she allowed him to just be a guy, to fix things and thus be at one with the universe. Although it was done a little clunkily it was nice to have Brennan fixing his back as he waffled on this subject. I don't mind if that ability officially makes her a guy, I just want her to come here and fix my back too now. Ouch.

Californication season two

I really enjoyed the first season of Californication, so I was happy to see its return (before it officially happened in fact, cos I am hella sneaky). If you haven’t seen the show it’s basically Sex and the City (way more than The L Word ever was), except with a little more equal opportunities- David Duchovny plays the lead character, Hank Moody, who is kind of a Carrie/Samantha hybrid, except less annoying- and drugs. They’ve even got Evan Handler in one of the lead roles. Season one ended (a little too cheesily) with Hank finally being reunited with his ex Karen (who is the most annoying of the four main characters, maybe she’s Carrie- not the Stephen King one...although actually that could be sort of cool now that I think about it) at her wedding to another guy. (Actually that guy happens to be the father of the teenage Mia who Hank slept with, without knowing her connection to Karen or her age, and she later stole his manuscript on the topic. I'd imagine that that's coming back to bite him on the arse at some point.) They drove off into the sunset with their 12 year old daughter Becca (who, by the way, is all kinds of awesome- maybe she’s Stanford?). This ending presented a couple of problems- not only was it so saccharine that I wanted to gag a little it made a second season seem a little redundant. This was how I felt about Heroes too- if everything can be neatly wrapped up in one season does there really need to be a second one? With Californication it was difficult to think of there being any subject matter for a second season unless it was either a happily ever after (boring) or a destruction of Hank and Karen’s relationship (painful and too Dawson’s).

Thus far season two has been pretty enjoyable, although I’m a little worried that it’s setting up another Hank/Karen break up. In and of itself that wouldn’t necessarily be awful, because Karen is really fucking annoying, but I think if they’re constantly making up to break up I’ll get bored fast. The opening scene with Hank in bed by himself made me wonder if perhaps the end of the first season finale was just a dream or something, but luckily there was no such cop out. Karen and Hank were actually pretty cute (though not too cutesy together), and Karen wasn’t being too annoying. She seemed to have got Hank (which by the way is a stupid name and doesn’t suit him at all, although Moody is an awesome surname so I guess it’s a trade off) to quit smoking, but luckily that didn’t last long- although the image of him waking up and groping for a nicotine patch was pretty snicker-worthy.

She then convinced him to get a vasectomy, which will probably last longer (although luckily his best friend Charlie turned up to scare him that it might not, how could he not know that- doesn’t he watch any medical dramas or even Scrubs? Sheesh.). The pervy nurse or assistant or whatever from the vasectomy hitting on him afterwards was ridiculous (with a capital ‘ridic'). I understand that he’s supposed to be a charming guy and so forth, but I think the idea that random women continually throw themselves at him for no reason (at least during season one he was actively chasing them) is a bit...erm, did I say ridiculous enough times yet? I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t think that David Duchovny is particularly attractive (I developed a bit of a fixation on his teeth when I was watching The X-Files, but that’s just cos I have a total oral fetish, and anyway Mulder spent all his time talking anyway), asides from his awesome back dimples. I’m also getting ready to get pissed off, because I think that the writers are trying to take Hank in the direction of being a whore (or wanting to be one) when he’s with Karen, which is an idea that just needs to go fuck off. Their relationship ended when she cheated on him (and acted like a 12 year old about it), and he pointed out several times that he never acted like that when he was with her. His life style was supposed to have been affected by the dissolution of their relationship, and it makes sense that he’d have changed somewhat during that time but if he ends up cheating on her (in an intentional way, not in a Gossip Girl-esque switcheroo which led to the season two premiere being entitled Slip of the Tongue in which it was so painfully obvious that Hank was going down on the wrong chick) I will be pissed off.

I love Marcy (Charlie’s wifey). I think she might be my favourite character on the show, except that that probably is Hank. She isn’t as obnoxious and smug as he is, but then she’s on screen a lot less than him so it evens out. Even so I don’t think I loved anything Hank’s done in season two this far as much as I loved Marcy’s petulant whining that she wanted the coke. How the hell is Marcy not officially a main character, and how the hell is Pamela Adlon not famous for much except voice acting (even if she does have an awesome voice)?

The first episode ended with Hank getting stopped by a cop who just a total bastard. Karen, as per usual, was absolutely no help. She even pointed out to the officer that Hank had been drinking and so he ought to be excused for acting like a twat. Brava. I’d think that whacking a guy in the balls just after he got a vasectomy could cause some serious damage. Wouldn’t Hank be able to sue or something? Instead he ended up in jail. Karen, who was being relatively sympathetic and clearly on his side at the end of Slip of the Tongue, at some point before the beginning of the second episode, The Great Ashby, decided that he ought to stew for a while. I can understand why she was annoyed at him (less for his mistake and more for his blasé attitude), but that seemed unnecessarily cruel. Whatever, he got out via his own devices, in fact wandering off into the big bad world at exactly the same time as Mia had convinced Karen to go bail him out. He was helped out by some dude named Ashby (see what they did there?) who wants Hank to write his biog, and for some reason to watch him getting blowjobs under the table. Some people have the strangest kinks.

I think my favourite relationship in this show is the one between Hank and his daughter Becca. Now I’ve just got to work out if this was always my favourite relationship or if it’s just become that since I moved continent. I do miss my Dad a little. Either way they had a really nice scene together in this episode, and I think that Becca is a shockingly well-adjusted kid considering that one of her parents is a hedonistic narcissist and the other is intensenly irritating. No prizes for guessing which is which unfortunately.

I love Marcy. Did I mention that? I love Charlie too. You know who else I love? Carla Gallo. So the scene in which she appeared as a porn star whom Charlie tried to give a pep talk to was all kinds of awesome, and it was only enhanced by Marcy’s rant about finding your niche. Charlie later got chased out of his comfortable job by his somewhat psychotic ex-assistant Dani Caifornia (also his and Marcy’s ex-lover). His wanking videos were absolutely priceless, but I don’t know that they really presented a fireable offence- unless it was the fact that it took away precious work time? He and Marcy ended up coked out of their heads talking complete fucking bollocks, in a scene that was absolutely priceless. He spent a lot of time screaming that she never listens to him, and she eventually had to call Hank round to try to mediate while she carried on doing lines. In fact I loved every bit of interaction between Hank, Charlie and Marcy. Does Karen really need to be in this show? Sigh.

Basically I think my opinion of season two of Californication can be summed up pretty easily, but I enjoy being verbose. It’s probably unnecessary and it’s mostly just silly, fluffy fun- but watching the first two episodes had me giggling more than anything else had for a while so two big (and utterly ridiculous) thumbs up!

House season five (and season four DVD extras)

Season four of House also ended with a big bang in the form of a two-parter, much of which was set in House’s mind (although it made a lot more sense than the season two finale which was also mainly set in that locale). He was fine after a bus crash, but it transpired that he’d been accompanied by his best friend Wilson’s girlfriend (played by the wonderful Anne Dudek), but noone had noticed her absence until he remembered that she was with him. House had to try to piece together his memories of the drunken shenanigans that had preceded the bus journey, and eventually realised that she’d come to meet him after he’d attempted to get Wilson to come pick him up. In general the two-part finale was quite well done, although obviously I didn’t want Amber to die since she was one of my favourite characters from the fourth season. Whilst the technique used to wake her up to say her goodbyes was interesting, I did feel that it was gratuitous and cruel. Having a look at the season four DVD extras I was a little surprised to see all the cast and crew gushing so effusively over these episodes. While they did present an interesting twist and were (mostly) well constructed I think that the series, and indeed the season, has produced much better offerings. Probably having a better Buffy alum would have helped improve proceedings, the episodes with Michelle Trachtenberg and Marc Blucas were pretty good (even if Marc Blucas annoys me), whereas Ivana Milicevic just isn’t all that exciting. I do have to say that the way that the bus crash scene was filmed looked really cool though. They basically built a bus, stuck a load of (stunt) people in it and then tipped them all 360 degrees. I want a go!

The season four extras were plentiful and detailed, I don’t know how they stack up in comparison to previous seasons, but by all accounts the extras for the third season of Supernatural were pretty sucky (except the gag reel obviously). I would have thought that shows would have had a lot of opportunity and inclination to create the goods in the wake of the writers’ strike last season. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the House DVD extras before, or interviews with the cast so I found it quite interesting to peruse these. Something which I hadn’t known, but found very interesting, was that throughout House’s “game show” to find a new team in season four the writers and actors honestly had no idea who would be picked. The poor actors were just as stressed as the characters they played. It seemed a little brutal, but I expect nothing less from this show really! It also turned out that they were only planning on adding two new members to them team (as well as brining Foreman back, which they did). I can’t help wondering why they were so set on Taub, since I don’t find his character particularly interesting. At least his presence means that one third of the (burgeoning) ensemble is still Jewish. (Actually it’s entirely plausible that Kutner’s Jewish too, thus tipping the scales even further!)

Olivia Wilde seemed really endearing, especially on the subject of medical jargon. It was nice (although almost disorientating) to hear Hugh Laurie talking in his real accent. Maybe I’m just getting overly sentimental about any and all British accents these days though. He was pretty funny too, especially his emphathic stating of “I’m not House. I’m an actor who plays House”. (Just in case you were confused.) When he was asked about his favourite episode he blustered, “My long term memory has rotted away to nothing”. I’m really worrying that I might be suffering from premature hypochondria dementia, my memory is totally disappearing. Don’t blame the alcohol, it never did nuffink. Hugh made a nice save though, just about keeping a straight face when he decided that he loves all the episodes equally, for they are all his children. Anne Dudek was, of course, really sweet too- and she seemed so genuinely pleased about the fact that she’d been asked to come back onto the show. She told a really funny story about how she was so happy when she got the news that she almost fell over, I always enjoy other people’s stories about falling over because they make me feel like slightly less of a klutzy maniac. Also the fact that Katie Jacobs kept referring to her as ‘Annie’ just seemed really adorable somehow. Lisa Edelstein and Robert Sean Leonard had some really nice chemistry, and Lisa’s tongue in cheek comments about the most interesting thing that happened to her character all season was stripping in House’s dream were great. I do hope that Cuddy gets to do things other than say “no” to House in season five. Robert’s pained reaction to her use of the word “panties” was priceless too. Although they joked about spending a lot of time lazing around and annoying the writers Robert seemed to really mean it- he really does seem to not want to work and to just sleep. He should consider getting a job with my company, I spend less than half of the working day awake most days, the time that I do spend awake is mostly spent curling up with a good book on the sofa. Kal Penn (who is, in fact, now that I think about it a Buffy alum, and he played a different character in Angel, ooh and he played an annoying med student in Tru Calling!) is apparently the set prankster, I just hope he doesn’t set things on fire as much as Kutner.

I was glad that Hugh Laurie, as well as the writers later, acknowledged that it isn’t a perfect show. Although it’s certainly one that I enjoy I think that it’s always nice to know that the creators and actors are aware of the flaws. Watching the interviews with the hyper-excited writers has rekindled my desire to write for television somewhat I think... Writing for a show like House also sounds like it has a lot of fringe benefits, one of the guys explained that when he’s rude at parties his wife just tells everyone that he works for House and he’s excused and perhaps even lauded. It was also nice to have the writers discussing the fact that lupus has always been the go-to illness for House, although they said that amaloydosis might have become the new lupus in season four. If so I totally didn’t notice. I’m a bad fan and must hang my head in shame.

Over the hiatus I’d almost completely forgotten how much I loved the interaction between House, Wilson and Amber so it was nice to get a quick glimpse at some of the best clips, especially House’s assertion that Wilson dating Amber was akin to sleeping with House. It made me even more annoyed that Amber had been killed off, because that’s a trio I could have definitely gotten used to seeing. I don’t have a problem with them killing of her character per se because I can see why they did it- to force a change in House and Wilson’s relationship, and to get Robert Sean Leonard back to what he does best: puppy dog eyes and pouty lips. This is kind of similar to Tara’s death in Buffy (more Willow getting addicted to magic and going Dark Side, but there were was a good bit of weeping too)- the characters’ deaths do seem cruel and possibly upsetting but they have a point in terms of moving the story along. I’m also somehow glad that the writers brought Amber’s character back (as Wilson’s girlfriend) with the specific plan of killing her off. That may sound a little harsh, but I’m just happy that they had a planned story arc since it bodes well for interesting character development in season five, and also means that her death wasn’t a spur of the moment random decision (like Zack’s murderous tendencies in Bones) made in the wake of the writers’ strike in an effort to create a dramatic, unforgettable finale.

David Shore and the writers en masse intimated that a large part of season five will be dealing with the relationship between House and Wilson in the aftermath of Amber’s death, which I’m excited about. Quite frankly their relationship is the most interesting one in the show, and I’m partial to a little angst with my coffee anyway. Even Jesse Spencer (whom I absolutely and totally adore in everything he’s ever been in, from Neighbours to Lorna Doone to House, and I refuse to believe that he’s ever been in anything else no matter what lies IMDb tries to spread) was happily waffling away about how important the House/Wilson relationship is. Man, I love Jesse Spencer- he’s one of the few Australians who doesn’t make me want to throw things at him. He looked ridiculously cute dressed in his green scrubs, and the effect was added to by the fact that, like me, he apparently can’t sit normally in a chair and instead had his legs tucked up for the entire interview. Plus I still haven’t really gotten over the shock at seeing Billy Kennedy in a popular American television show, it still makes me giggle.

I’d also forgotten how good the guest stars last season were. Janel Moloney! Mira Sorvino! Anne Dudek! Possibly exciting people who aren’t beautiful blonde women! Well, there was Fred Durst who definitely isn’t any of those things, but he also wasn’t at all exciting. (I still don’t understand why he was cast, it was just so random.) Oh, Jason Lewis turning up was pretty good (he be Smith from Sex and the City, but he also be not as hot as people make out) as the actor from House’s favourite soap ‘Prescription Passion’. The excerpts from this soap on the DVD were hilariously appalling, especially Rico with his hook hands!

There was also a segment on the visual effects, and I was again glad that it was mentioned that in the past these effects (particularly the ones zooming in inside the body) had perhaps been over-used. The graphics are certainly well done, but often they’re unnecessary and can take away from the scene- especially as when they’re combined with dramatic music it seems as if the effects are being used to create tension and suspense which hardly ever works. It seems as if a lot of work goes into creating those special effects, but personally I really don’t care all that much about them and I don’t pay much attention to them since I don’t think they add that much to the show and the stories most of the time. However the other effects that the team provide are really cool, in part simply because they’re done so subtly that it isn’t obvious that there was CGV involved at all. Some great examples included the exploding building in Alone, and the South Pole station in Frozen- as well as drilling open Mira Sorvino’s head in that same episode.

The season five premiere, named (perhaps a little tritely) Dying Changes Everything, had a lot to live up to- it had to deliver an interesting case, continue to juggle a gaggle of main characters and deal with the aftermath of Amber’s death and the coma that House fell into due to his attempts to regain his memories and thus perhaps somehow help Amber. It managed to achieve all that, and had me happily giggling away- and not just for using the word ‘spelunking’.

However, I did think that the medical storyline had a few flaws. I don’t know all that much about medicine and have no useful qualifications (unless one counts my Biology AS level from many moons ago, and I suggest that it would be a bad idea to do so), but I do watch a lot of television. That’s why as soon as Lou was given a B-12 shot I was convinced that she was pregnant, B-12 shots were used as a plot device in the episode of Studio 60 in which Jordan’s pregnancy was revealed (and also inspired some on-topic bantering between Matt and Danny). In Studio 60 it is repeated several times (well it was a Sorkin show, after all) that its unsafe to get a B-12 shot when pregnant, so I figured that this was where House was going with this. I was pretty puzzled by the fact that this issue wasn’t raised by anyone when they later got a positive result from her pregnancy test. Also the fact that none of the team even considered that Lou might have an ectopic pregnancy seemed utterly ridiculous to me. Even I immediately considered it as a possibility, and it’s not that rare that they wouldn’t think of it (Wikipedia informs me that ectopic pregnancies account for around 1% of pregnancies, so there you go). I don’t buy that amaloydosis was ever the new lupus; I think that MS was the lupus of season four, and looks set to carry on being fashionable in season five. Problem was that even I could tell that it was a ridiculously crappy fit in this case (from watching The West Wing, natch).

Lou was an absurdly polite patient, for example “Oh my God, I just made a bowel movement”. Wow, bodies are gross. I kind of hate them. Bring on all the Cartesian duality you wish, I say. Thirteen (I know she has a name now, but it just feels wrong to call her by it) for some ill-explained reason decided to over-identify with this patient quite a lot. I was really glad that Lou called her out (gently) over “explaining” away Lou’s multiple sexual partners. It didn’t need justification. Besides it’s not like Thirteen can get judgey, she was pretty whoreish herself on the O.C. Thirteen kind of annoyed me a lot in this episode, even her introduction of House as “too brilliant for introductions” seemed stilted and grating. Thirteen kept getting up in Lou’s business and whinging about Lou’s bosses “mistreatment” of her (wow, projecting your own issues much? The subtext was definitely rapidly becoming the text) which was entirely yawn-worthy. I did like the fact that this apparently terrible boss was called Patty, although it kept making me think of Lou as Marcie. Ooh, at least there is a Lucy in Peanuts... Is there any proof that ‘Lou’ wasn’t short for Lucy? I shall deny any and all evidence to the contrary anyway, Lou-cy she is! (I think I do just miss Studio 60, it made nice Peanuts jokes for me. Yes, just for me.)

Thirteen attempted to give Lou-cy a stirring speech, demanding “What kind of Feminist are you?” on the grounds that we women can have anything now. Gee, thanks for the memo; I’ll be sure to get on that. Lou-cy actually had a brilliant response, “No, we can’t, we can aspire to anything”. Thirteen opening up to Lou-cy about having Huntingdon’s disease wasn't as irritating as I'd thought it would be, it was even kind of sweet, but I still think that it was stupid and unprofessional for Thirteen to do so. Lou-cy being (even briefly) inspired by Thirteen to get a better job was incredibly trite and made me want to throw things a little. It was revealed that Lou-cy didn’t have cancer, and one assumes that the treatment that she’d had hadn’t damaged her much (this is the kind of thing I feel that someone ought to raise), what she actually had was a prettifying form of leprosy that makes your skin look good. I love the fact that it’s a real thing! However, once the impressive Dr House correctly diagnosed her, she decided to stick with Patty and be “just another employee” on the grounds that Patty just wasn’t that bad. I understand the idea of drawing a parallel between House and Patty as brilliant but demanding/unorthodox bosses, but after being pseudo-inspired by Thirteen it was a little uncomfortable to have Lou-cy revert to type because a man had proved to be better. It would have all been fine if Thirteen hadn’t gone around injecting all her nonsense.

I loved Chase in this episode (as I generally do), mostly just because he told Taub to shut up. What can I say? I’m easily pleased. (Except not on days that end with ‘y’, so Christmas is a whole different matter.) I also adored Cuddy, because she was just so deliciously childish. Maybe holding House’s hand and hanging around him while he was comatose led to her picking up some of his behaviour [atterms, because cutting the cable, hiding the remote and sealing Wilson’s records all seemed like typical House ploys rather than Cuddy’s usual behaviour. She was an entirely sucky mediator, but I liked her at least attempting to bring House and Wilson together, “Welcome to couple’s counselling!”, and it’s always nice to get this trio on screen together. I loved House’s line about repression gaining a lot of fans, too. Dealing with your issues is totally for the weak.

People who make claims about the Feminist ‘war’ (or whatever) being over generally piss me the fuck off. Take a look around, genius. But I forgive House for doing so, since I’m assuming that he was doing it in a fairly tongue in cheek way (with all his waffling about empowered sluts), plus it’s House and I’ll allow him quite a lot if he keeps brining the stubble and snark. Wilson (possibly my favourite character on the show) seemed less able to forgive though, for once. He was a bit more concerned about his girlfriend’s death and House’s behaviour but I have no doubt that if he’d heard the conversation about feminism he would have lectured House about that too. I found it a little difficult at first to believe that House would be quite that awful towards Wilson, he is an insensitive ass but he does love Wilson and he does understand the concept of grief. (House’s comment about Wilson moving on to burnt sienna made me giggle, although I think he was confusing amber and umber, again I’m bringing the forgiveness; cos I’m just that nice). However it did make sense that really his behaviour was kind of a defence mechanism because he didn’t want to deal with his guilt about Amber’s death. All angstily fine and dandy.

That’s what I like about Amber’s death, even if it means no more Anne Dudek on the show (and apparently she’s off being pregnant, so Carla Gallo really is going to have to become this season’s Annie- she better turn up in House soon) it serves a wonderful purpose. This episode was simply bursting with awesome House/Wilson interaction. I loved House’s straightforward admission “Your friendship means more to me than this patient”, and by extension Wilson matters to him more than any patient. House seriously has an obsession with Wilson (akin to something fostered by a Winchester I’d say), and was certainly bludgeoning Wilson with guilt (again, very Winchester-y). I did think that it was kind of hypocritical of House to tell Wilson off for jeopardizing his career when House was surely doing that to by endangering a patient. But, again, I’m all about the forgiveness. Since I love Wilson like whoa I obviously don’t support the idea of him leaving. I was kind of surprised that everyone was so against it though since it wasn’t necessarily a bad idea in and of itself and could provide a constructive way for him to cope with his turbulent emotions. At least Foreman was being decent and supportive. I suppose that Cameron was also being vaguely supportive too, but I was too distracted by the horrifically smug look upon her face to really pay attention.

Wilson did decide to leave, and admitted (or perhaps claimed?) that it wasn’t because of his grief, or even because he held House responsible for Amber’s death. The reason he gave for leaving was that he was simply tired of enabling House’s behaviour, and he made out as if this behaviour had finally chased him away. He told House that they were no longer friends, and wondered out loud if they ever had been. Oh the main pain was almost unbearable! It was a low blow, and I don’t think that Wilson could actually doubt the existence of their friendship, or the fact that House cares about him in his own messed up way. It was especially harsh because all this followed House spilling his guts to Wilson and admitting that he did feel guilty about Amber’s death. While I enjoy pretty much all flavours of man pain I went all wide eyed and pouty over the idea that the show was about to take my Wilson fix away. At least I can trust this show to have him working in the ER or surgery soon, right? Right?

The next episode, Not Cancer, seemed to be wearing its heart on its sleeve a little with that title. It began with a seemingly standard cold open, which was odd in itself because the start of an episode of House very rarely feels run of the mill. Normally someone exhibits some very bizarre symptoms that make no sense, and often tension is derived from the fact that the audience knows that someone in the scene will prove to be ill, but they're unsure as to whom. This is a technique borrowed from Six Feet Under in which someone would usually die in the episode teaser, usually in relatively bizarre circumstances. Not Cancer began with a woman collapsing during a game of tennis, which seemed positively dull by usual House standards. However, this was subverted by the fact that soon everything turned into absolute chaos, with several different people experiencing different kinds of attacks. When Thirteen cornered Apple, a teacher, in her classroom and explained to her that she was at risk too because she received a cornea transplant from the same donor whose organs were transplanted into the other casualties I finally saw (ha!) what was going on. Especially awesome things about the patients who’d received the transplants included the fact that one of them was called Tybalt, and that Apple (who sadly didn’t take on the name Tybalt after he expired) was played by Felicia Day (of Buffy and Dr Horrible), who is quite simply fantabulous.

House was more concerned with his Wilson problem then with Apple’s imminent death, probably because he’d assume that Wilson would turn up in the ER too and was puzzled by Wilson’s inability to perform as expected. He was musing “What did Wilson do for me? Oh sure he made me laugh, made me see the colours on a rainy day...” and carried on waffling, to which Kutner snippily replied that Wilson paid for House’s lunch, liked monster trucks and acted as House’s conscience. House, throughout this episode, was really displaying the fact that he’s obsessed with Wilson. This point was emphasised by the fact that he was determined that Apple was suffering from cancer, just so he’d have an excuse to contact Wilson. I really wish that noone had made this point explicitly though, because it was obvious without being explained. House decided to hit up another doctor (who was rumoured to have a penchant for monster trucks), O’Shea, for lunch and see if he could function as a replacement for Wilson. Clearly Wilson is irreplaceable so I don’t know what House was thinking, but I’ll assume that he was blinded by sadness at Wilson-lack, and also by quite a lot of drugs. O’Shea clearly realised that House was in the market for a new Wilson, but all the gay jokes and his “Are you checking me out?” made it seem as if House and Wilson were (possibly) canonically considered to be a gay couple by some, many or fewer in the hospital. Given the weird nature of Wilson and Amber’s relationship I suppose I could buy people thinking that she was a beard, but she wasn’t; she was a House-replacement. Duh. I think it would be a little tiresome breaking in a new Wilson, O’Shea gasped at House’s pill-popping, although he didn’t seem to have too big a problem with it- prompting House to declare himself in love. (Although he didn’t actually say with O’Shea, so it’s entirely conceivable that he was talking about Wilson. Mm-hmm.) I always love the way that Hugh Laurie grins as House, he just always seems so delighted, and slightly evil. It reminds me of the way that Joshua Jackson grins, I don’t know exactly what it is- mischievous; twinkling; impish? Whatever, it’s appealing. Also, House saying that Wilson’s whinging often made him reconsider his madcap plans even though he’d never admit it was sugar and spice and all things nice.

Apple hallucinating House attacking her with a cleaver was pretty disturbing. I don’t think that anyone should run around wielding a cleaver unless they’re Naomi, it just feels wrong.

I really loved the PI in this episode, he was a fun character (although trying to work out where I recognised Michael Weston from bugged me for a little while, it turned out to be Scrubs, I think the hospital setting threw me off). First of all I liked his self-righteous attitude when he was pretending to be fixing the coffee machine, along the lines of: "What? The guy doing manual labour can’t have a medical opinion? I could be a genius!". At first it seemed that he must be a craptastic PI, but it turned out that he just sucked at lying- his investigation skills were awesome. This means that probably that was his real sneeze, and it sounded like a little cute giggle. Due to the fact that I’m self-obsessed I like people with back dimples and people with weird sneezes. I’ve been told many times that I sneeze like a ridiculacute anime character, but I really can’t help it. Maybe it’s from all mah mucus. (Ruby admitted to me that she’s tried to emulate my sneezing but she sadly couldn’t manage it. I have sneezing fans, how cool am I?) Really House ought to hire a PI all the time, I suppose it would get expensive but he was way better at finding stuff out about the organ donor’s life than House’s team. It was a slightly different situation to normal though, since he’d been dead for several years the team couldn’t bust into the house and nose around like they normally do.

Asides from Apple only one of the people who’d received an organ from the same donor was still alive, an old guy called Frank who was comatose and seemed to be on the brink of death. The team decided that biopsying Frank’s brain would probably hold the key to saving Apple, but when Taub asked for permission to do it Frank’s wife refused. Apple appealed to her directly, a little odd for patients on House (I was almost expecting her to simper that she respected this opinion, or to suggest that the biopsy be performed on her). She added that she had a family and a little daughter, but Frank’s wife immediately called her a liar, which in fact she was. A bitter hate-filled shouting match between the two women ensued, and it was awesomely raw and if not quite realistic then at least potentially so. House was going to send Foreman in, on the grounds that old people are scared of black people, but Frank had already died. The brain didn’t provide any leads, and Kutner suggested that a bacterial infection of the intestine could have spread through the blood and thus affected all the disparate organs, so House suggested a colonoscopy on the donor’s illegitimate daughter since she would share his DNA. The child playing this daughter looked far too large to be four years old, maybe that’s part of why the mother allowed the procedure to go ahead. It also seemed that Thirteen has pressured her into it by threatening to reveal to the child’s paternity. Uncool.

I think that the PI would have made a much better new best friend for House than O’Shea, they seemed to get along well and the PI inspired him to solve the case. I loved that House came along while the PI was checking out a guy who was having an affair with his own sister. There’s always some wonderful wacky incest, although House already tackled the subject in a kind of hit-and-miss way in Fools for Love. The PI even straight up told House that O’Shea’s not right for him, and it was hilarious that even this random guy could tell that House was pining away over Wilson. Of course he actually was a pretty good private investigator, and totally reminded me of Gaffney from Closing Time.

I love Kutner. He decided to stick a high-pressure water jet into the late Frank’s colon. It was just so utterly random, even for Kutner and House. I knew that Frank was going to end up getting exploded, but it was exceptionally gross for poor Foreman who ended up with extremely nasty gunk all over him. Foul, foul bodies.

The random harassed nurse who House was bugging was pretty funny, and her first scene made me really crave some peppermint tea. Since I have peppermint tea and a kettle there isn’t really a huge problem, although I would like some honey too. House then managed to convince Apple to sign the consent form for chemotherapy on the grounds that it would give her a positive placebo effect, but that he couldn’t precisely tell her that. His talking around the point was pretty amusing, and Felicia Day can pull of trusting naivety very well. House and Apple (what’s with these no(u)n-names?) being bitter together was pretty fun too, and seeing House’s confused look at Apple telling him that she gave up a career in architecture after getting her sight would probably make a cornea transplant worth it all by itself.

Mildly freaky PI turned out to like stalking pretty women, at least he’s in vaguely the right line of work. I liked this one’s response though, she was all no-nonsense and “stop following me, you’re making me uncomfortable”. He also totally enabled House’s stalking of Wilson, he practically is the next-gen Wilson already. His revelation that Wilson and Cameron sit around talking about death a lot made Wilson’s life without House certainly sound like a blast. I reckon that if House had just sat tight and waited Wilson would have come running back to him in no time.

Once the chemo started having an effect and everyone agreed that Apple did have cancer House quickly changed his mind and argued that it wasn't cancer. All this back and forth on the point was giving me a headache. At least it gave House an excuse to visit Wilson- where he demanded that Wilson facilitate an epiphany, and uttered the magical words “I need you!”. I did think that House’s stalking of Wilson was a little heavy-handed in this episode. I can believe that House might investigate Wilson, and certainly that he wouldn’t turn down learning the information that the PI had when he offered. I also think that House does need Wilson, but I don’t think that he desperately needs him all the time, I don’t think that Wilson is really House’s only friend or connection to the world (c’mon, give Cuddy a little credit) and I think that House is a little too proud to pour out all his woes to the random PI or to beg Wilson for attention. Wilson seemed to think that House was acting a little out of character too, so he shut the door on him and told him to go away and not come back. (Obviously he meant don’t come back until you’re acting more like yourself, that part was totally implied). Oh, there was man pain aplenty! Wilson really seemed to be trying to move on from House (and their big gay love), whereas House was actually getting jealous about the fact that Wilson was talking to people other than him and tried to blackmail him into helping with the patient, and thus talking to House.

Cuddy ended up posting guards outside Apple’s room to prevent House doing anything to worsen her condition so that his theory that she had, like the others, received cancerous stem cells from the transplant would seem proved. I found the music, I think Dave Matthews, a little distracting in the scene where House did pretty much nothing. What is with the show’s obsession with Dave Matthews? House utilised the PI (identified by his argyle socks, and I still don’t really understand why people were making such a fuss about them), and got him to switch Apple’s medicine. It seemed like a bit of a dodgy plan, and I was glad that the PI got stressed out about when he realised what House had gotten him to do- although I don’t know what the hell he thought he was doing otherwise. Man, the PI really needs a name... was it revealed at some point that I missed? I’m going to go ahead and dub him Deuce X. Machina (hey, Deuce is a cool name for a detective) since although he was a fun character he was far too convenient. I could have bought him just providing useful information on the patient, and maybe even on Wilson too- but the addition of him counselling House on how to act regarding Wilson as well as running House’s medical errands just seemed a little too much. Thus I am a little worried about the fact that House put him on a retainer at the end of the episode, suggesting that he’ll be popping up again. At least the fact that Deuce swapped Apple’s medicine meant that House’s theory was proved correct and she was cured. Also I liked the idea that when she’d received her sight it hadn’t been quite right, and that now she could see “properly”- it’s a neat little illustration of the fact that we can never truly know how anyone else perceives anything. Nicely done, show.

The third episode, Adverse Events, was sadly a little meh-worthy all round. I wouldn't call it a dud episode exactly, it just didn't really do anything. Breckin Meyer (of Roadtrip and, er, other things I'm sure) guest starred as a painter, and I spent about as much time trying to work out if he was in fact Breckin Meyer as I spent squinting confusedly at Genevieve Cortese's second scene in the season four premiere of Supernatural. The episode opened with him painting a portrait of a distinctly MILF-like Sarah Knowlton, while her rather sweet husband looked on. The way that the camera refused to settle on the portrait indicated that it would probably reveal this his perception was messed up, and that that would be a symptom of his illness. It was a little obvious for a House teaser (especially after the giddy romp of the last episode's opener) and I was almost expecting it to be a fake-out. Still I can acknowledge that it was a neat idea to use, so I don't really mind. I also quite liked the idea that modern art could be a symptom of illness (I bet you could get the Stuckists to back that point) and the later reference to van Gough and his syphilis.

Deuce was back again! Although for some reason he was going by the name Lucas, probably it's part of a clever disguise. Truly it did seem like it might turn into a good day, especially with him revealing that he has a shoe fetish and a desire to stalk Cuddy. House argued that he actually had a thing for Cuddy's legs not her shoes, and while that might sound 'less creepy', it's 'more gay'. Deuce's response that that's actually his company's motto sadly got a bit lost. 'Less creepy, more gay ought to be Supernatural's motto.

I was glad to hear House vow to never reveal anyone's superpowers, but he didn't seem to have a problem revealing that he thinks Thirteen is dumb. I can't imagine why, oh no wait... I just remembered the last couple of episode and suddenly I'm on board. After spilling dull facts about her spending habits he let drop that Kutner once crawled 20 miles and is a record breaker (!), and that he had something on Taub's wife. Ooh. Well I guess he never did say that it was anything interesting. Later on in the episode he tried to embarrass Thirteen with the revelation that she'd paid for a gym membership that she rarely used. Isn't that incredibly common? Tevs. I quite liked Daddy Foreman in this scene giving House a telling off. Also for some reason House telling the team to check the guy's house made me giggle, even though he's probably uttered a similar line hundreds of times already.

I was glad that Deuce couldn't go investigating patient's houses anymore because House had set him on a Very Important Task. It meant that my fears about this new character being set to handily sort out anything that cropped up in an episode had been somewhat assuaged. Kutner's waffling about working out if Taub's wife was cheating on him by using formula he'd perfected in college was pretty amusing. I can imagine Kutner as a lame but enthusiastic student, plus it reminded me of Kal Penn's portrayal of smug students in both Buffy and Tru Calling.

I liked House saying that he especially wanted to pooh-pooh Thirteen's suggestion that the patient's condition was caused by drugs since it gave him a good opportunity to segue into calling her an idiot. I'm a traditionalist, I still believe in deconstructing segues (even if I also believe in having at least twelve conversations at once). Also good was House's definition of a hot woman, 'curvy and perky', and Thirteen's biting response that the patient's girlfriend was indeed hot so it would be good news for everyone if he died almost made me like her again. Marika Dominczyk who played the girlfriend is indeed something of a hottie, but she's a terrible, terrible actress. Seriously, you could chop her up and make some pretty decent pine furniture out of her I'm sure.

At least Brandon didn't develop a case of death during a routine test (shocking really, since that's the usual protocol), thus leaving anyone open to Marika Dominczyk's terrible acting as the character fended off suitors. Is it possible that Thirteen was actually hired as a pageboy and not as a fellow? This could explain why she's often struck by extreme idiocy, and why it's apparently her job to wander around introducing House to people.

It turned out that Brandon had been on at least three drug trials as a way to make money, since nobody wanted to buy his distorted ugly paintings. Why didn't he just fake his own death like a normal person? I don't know, it seemed obvious that those drugs could potentially interact and cause a problem- although I am glad that Foreman eventually made that point explicit. Are people allowed to be on multiple medical trials if this is the case, and if so why? And if not, why didn't anyone chide him for being a twat? Then we got a bit of an anti-drug trial rant care of Kutner (although House was adding to it a little), which felt a little bit shoehorned and/or that it belonged in an early episode of Bones but it wasn't terrible.

Brandon had been keeping these medical trials a secret from Heather because he wanted to think of him as a successful artist. And then we got the Patient = Doctor Analogy rammed down our throats, possibly even more than in Dying Changing Everything. House revealed to Taub that his wife had a secret bank account with lots of money squirreled away, and Taub pretended that he knew about it and that it was for furniture (Taub getting pissy about use of articles was fabulous, although maybe I wouldn't have found it so amusing before I started this job), but very badly. Taub went on and on about how lying isn't a big deal if it isn't about something serious, and how therefore Brandon didn't need to tell his girlfriend the truth. If this season doesn't tone down the whole doctor/patient mirroring with the storylines I'm going to be pissed off. I did like Taub's whole "I don't do storybook romance, I do real life" stance though.

Deuce carried on his role as House's counsellor and assistant, although he wasn't doing so much of the detecting. They were communicating via secret radios, which was entirely conspicuous as it made them look like crazy people- although I suppose you can blend in as such in a hospital and phone's aren't usually allowed, and Deuce accused House of enjoying driving people away. House's little glance around the empty lift was, I guess, a little sad but mostly this whole angle seems to be too heavy-handed. I feel like this season has suffered from that in general, subtlety remains an unseen virtue. There's certainly a place for emotional storylines and big angsty despair, but it doesn't need to pervade everything. I feel like House risks changing from being an interesting show about a grouchy but brilliant doctor to becoming mostly about House and his team's emotional problems. I think that the pivot for this wasn't necessarily the end of season four, I'd blame it on the moment in One Day, One Room where House's hatred of his father was explained as having originated in an abusive relationship. It just seemed to give House's character far too much of an explanation, and I don't like the idea that he needed to be explained away anyway. I think that this shift was underscored in this episode by the fact that the medical storyline really seemed to be playing second fiddle, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the season. I've also got my worries about Supernatural going down this route, since it's switched from a show that debarred 'chick flick moments' to one where the boys seem to spend an awful lot of time whinging about their emotional pain and sniffling, but I think that it works a lot better in the context of Supernatural than House.

Deuce seemed to have learnt to lie a little, maybe thanks to hanging out with House. He'd already arguably lied to Cuddy about liking her shoes, and I thought that he told House that he was at the track- but I'm going to assume that either he was joking or I misheard because that makes no sense given the context. I actually really liked this exchange:

House: Stop saying a truth, there's only one truth.

Deuce: That may be true for you.

I do seem to have this new appreciation for jokes about articles, and apparently the House writers are happy to oblige me in that area- if in nothing else. Cuddy saw Deuce hanging around, and later went to shout at him but accidentally ended up harassing the wrong guy- mostly because Deuce had equipped him with his paper and cap so he could go snooping in Cuddy's office.

He did actually admit that that his aim, and he argued that it wasn't spying so much as research. He actually almost succeeded in putting a romantic spin on it, which is disturbing in and of itself. Cuddy argued that no matter how he talked around it it was 'more creepy, less caring' which really did have to be an explicit Shins reference, yes? Of course Cuddy gives money to Amnesty International, she's a well off Jewish woman. I actually quite like the idea of Deuce and Cuddy getting together, mostly because it would lead to jealous, bitter House which always goes well. Deuce begging Cuddy to be allowed to hang out with her, and to be employed by her to spy on House, was adorkable. I mean it was kind of obvious that this was all one of House's ploys, but still. Deuce was quick to offer to work for whatever low wage the hospital could afford, and I liked his summation that if Cuddy paid him for the opportunity to perv on her it would all be acceptable. He'd also got her flowers, and she was puzzled as to how he knew she liked roses. His answer that he'd been in her house the previous night was hilarious, although tactless. Luckily he saved it by telling her he was kidding, and that everyone likes roses. Seriously, they do though. Strangely stupid Cuddy moment.

Brandon hadn't gotten over whatever he was suffering from, in fact his eyes ended up all puffy and deformed- much like in his painting. Is it possible that karma was coming to bite him on the ass after screwing up that poor woman's portrait?

Taub's wife, and indeed his life, seemed rather dull. Certainly they didn't have a storybook romance, in fact they didn't seem to have much of interest. At least until she revealed that she'd saved $83,000 in the secret bank account to buy him his dream car. $83,000 is a lot of money! How much do you think a '67 Chevy Impala sells for? A purely academic question, obviously, especially since you'd probably have to spend a fortune on getting and keeping it running. All this talk about expensive cars and poor artists had me wondering about how people like Brandon afford House's treatment. Do they have medical insurance which covers it? I feel like it ought to have been raised in this episode at least.

Brandon's hormones were going haywire, and he ended up dragging Thirteen onto the bed with him and trying to grope her. Maybe this was his revenge on her for perving on his girlfriend, who knows. Anyway she punched him in the nose, which seemed like a slightly extreme reaction but mostly was just awesome. Maybe there's hope for her after all.

When House went home that night he found Deuce hiding in his closet fondling his shoes. I'm not even sure if I ought to bother making a gay joke here. Deuce was right that it's odd that House owns so many sneakers given that he can't run, but sadly I can never take anyone seriously when they use the word 'sneakers'. Damn Americanisms again.

It turned out that Deuce still sucks at lying, and really looking back on his conversation with Cuddy he didn't lie to her all that much. Sure he implied things quite a bit, and made out that his overarching aim was to help her rather than House but most of what he said to her wasn't dishonest. He seemed to really like Cuddy, and apparently not just to fuck. Aww, how sweet. The idea of Deuce and House in competition over Cuddy seems kind of amusing. Deuce is the new Wilson! Which wouldn't be that bad, except I don't want a new one- I liked the old one. Also, utilising Deuce to stalk Wilson didn't really work out for House so I don't really see why he thought that getting him to target Cuddy would be a good idea.

Taub kept going on and on to poor Brandon about the benefits of lying was really getting old. He argued that telling the truth would only hurt the girlfriend, and thus would be selfish rather than a good thing. I get it, really. This was refuted by later events anyway. I don't care for these rationalisations anyway- I don't believe in lying. Except when it suits me of course. At least Kutner got to play with the defibrillators, although weirdly he didn't set anything on fire and he even told House to clear out of the way. There was a really crappy dying/dyeing "pun" when House noticed that Brandon's hair was changing colour, and it was kind of funny to have red hair being a symptom of illness (although not really, because my hair is totally going ginger in streaks at the back). House then launched into an entirely random and not particularly fitting analogy involving Pete Best. Possibly this was only included as a reference to Hugh Laurie's Britishness, because seriously is Pete Best featured in a lot of American history books? At least Kutner seemed to understand what was going on.

Deuce had wrangled a lunch date with Cuddy, and was regaling her with pictures of House as a cheerleader. The image of him playing lacrosse was hilarious enough, but a cheerleading House just cracks me up. (Much as the idea of Jensen Ackles cheerleading does, and that's even better because it's truly true.) I actually really liked Deuce's babbling about liking Cuddy cos she's smart and hot, I dunno I guess I'm just easily pleased. He quickly clocked that she knew that it was just a game, but the whole scene was pretty awesome in general. She was being almost as adorkable as him when he realised that she must be playing along because she liked him too, but that was actually a little disturbing because the way she was smiling at him seemed rather more maternal than anything else.

I don't like people referring to Thirteen as Hadley. I mean I get that it's her name, but I'm used to thinking of her as Thirteen. You can't go around changing these things! Similarly people really ought to stop referring to Deuce as 'Lucas'. I quite liked Brandon's delusions where he was seeing fake Thirteen and Taub with weird voices. It reminded me a lot of Dead Like Me in which the Reapers' true faces couldn't be seen by most, although this wasn't completely consistent. Not seeing Callum Blue's actual face would suck though. Taub theorised that Brandon's intermittent symptoms could be a result of the drugs being stored up in his fat cells, which wasn't ridiculous. However the way in which he tried to ask Brandon where his unsold paintings were sold so he could chart the progress of these delusions was so unsubtle and stupid that Brandon was practically forced to tell his girlfriend the truth about not selling any paintings. Perhaps Taub subconsciously wanted to force Brandon to tell the truth because he's not as much of a fan of lies as he makes out.

Good thing too, because despite some appalling acting the girlfriend managed to convey that this wasn't the small lie that Brandon and Taub seemed to think it was. It was a lie about his whole way of life to start with, not just about how much he was earning. More importantly though it was a judgemental lie, it assumed that she was the sort of person who wouldn't want to be with him if he wasn't a success. Furthermore whether or not the actual subject of a lie matters, it's just the fact that you have to re-examine everything in the wake of discovery (and frankly who can be bothered?) and that someone wanted to lie to you which are the real problems.

Taub discovered that a lot of Brandon's paintings were of melty faces, no wonder they weren't selling well. Basically his perception was only fucked up during the months when he was on all three trial drugs. I feel that he ought to have had a look at his paintings when his perception wasn't messed up, and also that checking out the proof documented by his art was a really good plan and something that should have been done initially.

When Chase was informed that Dr House was on the phone he initially assumed that Brandon's surgery had been cancelled, because some random theory had been developed. Instead though Chase was being asked to perform a completely different surgery (albeit one not well explained) to remove a bezoar. I totally laughed out loud at that because Harry Potter taught me that a bezoar is a stone from a goat's stomach with curative properties. What I didn't learn from Potions is that it's basically a mass of undigested stuff stuck in the digestive tract. Ew. I can't believe Harry fed one to Ron. The CGI was rather gross, and once again I felt that it wasn't particularly necessary. Chase muttered something about not letting Cameron get a cat, which indicates that they're still together. Kind of sucks for Jesse Spencer and Jennifer Morrison, cos I think that they're not anymore. (What is it with people getting engaged in Paris and then reneging these days?) After the surgery Taub still hadn't shut up, asking Brandon if he felt glad after telling his girlfriend the truth, but then nastily adding a tag question- hadn't he felt better before doing it though? When Taub's wife presented her with the car he got all serious and said they needed to talk, either he's going to come clean about his adulterous ways or it's the wrong car and he was after a Chevy in reality.

Once again when House went home Deuce-as was waiting for him. This time he carried on playing piano pointedly at House, and I wouldn't say definitively that there was eyesexin', but certainly there may have been some smouldering going on. Also they were jamming together by the end, which was kind of cute. Nonetheless Deuce is pretty dumb, he doesn't seem to understand the difference between 'took a trip' and 'researched'. Come to Sinchon my child, I shall teach you well. The result of this research was that Deuce discovered that House truly was a cheerleader, and that it wasn't a doctored (ha) photo. No wonder House has grown accustomed to his cane, he probably doesn't actually need it after the ketamine treatment he just doesn't want to be attacked by the physical memories of cheering. I liked House grumbling that 'people hate people who have theories about people', and that Deuce said that he wouldn't back off of Cuddy even if House wanted him to, especially since he barely knows House (that earned him another awesome grin). I do think that they have decent chemistry, but I want me some Wilson. He didn't feature in this episode at all. Then again Cameron wasn't around either, and that was all kinds of awesome so I suppose that it balanced out alright all things considered.

Supernatural season four

The mere fact that there is a season four of Supernatural is enough to make me incredibly happy. I mean I literally got chills from the “The Road So Far” segment at the beginning of the first episode of season four, Lazarus Rising, which was basically a recap. But it was a good recap! And it featured AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long, so really what’s not to love? (Asides from the fact that I kind of wanted to hear Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas, but I’ve successfully requested it at a number of places here in Seoul so I’m pretty sated.) I only watched the season three finale once when it first aired, and I don't remember seeing vids, caps etc of it particularly- and yet even I watching the quick cuts of the recap caught that those weren’t the exact same shots as the ones used in the season three finale. I think that in the last couple of years I’ve started to watch television (at least good television) a lot more closely and pay attention to little things like that, but still I think that it must have been pretty obvious for it to strike me. Also I notice that the use of the Lazarus allusion in the title was done by The X-Files, but that probably isn’t relevant. Let's just call it a fun fact then, because apparently everybody likes fun. Who knew?

From the first minute of this episode I was filled with so much appreciation for Jensen Ackles. Yes, he is extremely pretty (although his name? Not so much.) but he’s a seriously awesome actor too. True fact. And this episode was shot so well. I loved that instead of getting to see Hell much there were just little flashes of horror. It was done so well and so tersely, that it conveyed the idea so much better than anything else would have done. I also think that these little flashes were done a lot better than they were in the (big budget) pilot of Fringe (which I was pretty disappointed with in general). These flashes were repeated later in the episode too, to great effect.

Very quickly, however, Dean was out of hell and stuck in a coffin. I loved that Dean’s voice was all hoarse and worn, and it made total sense. The idea of him having to claw his way out of his (barely marked) grave did obviously remind me a lot of Buffy doing the same thing at the beginning of season six. This was reinforced in fact by the detail of Dean’s dirty little fingers, similar to Buffy’s bleeding ones- but I quite liked that it was just a casual detail that was seen but wasn’t commented upon. Dean quickly went into survival mode: breaking into a shop and stealing water, food and money instead of freaking out about the fact that he’d just come back to life and there was a big circle of dead trees around him when he finally got out of the grave. Dean physically stealing without compunction seemed a little different to his usual MO of hustling and scamming credit cards, but hardly out of character. He quickly found a newspaper and discovered that it was now September (yes, yes it is) and decided to check out the fact that he suddenly had his body back (believe me, he wasn’t the only one happy about this fact). He had clear memories about being ripped apart by a hellhound, and yet he was whole again- and decided to flash his chest (complete with the anti-possession tattoo that he and Sam revealed in Jus in Bello that may well have been the best part of that episode). He also discovered a weird handprint scar on his arm though. His face when he found the ‘Busty Asians Beauty’ magazine was...well, I guess it summed up why I love this show.

When Dean tried to call Bobby (after he discovered that Sam’s phone had been disconnected), Bobby hung up on him and told him he’d kill him if he called again, assuming that this person was pranking by pretending to be Dean. The shot when Dean clawed his way out of the ground and was surrounded by those trees in the impossibly bright light made me think that it was a ploy, and that Dean was still in Hell (perhaps a Hell masquerading as a pleasant place, like the Holding Dimension in Angel) but when Bobby had this extreme reaction to Dean calling I wondered if perhaps Dean had turned up in someone else’s body, but that we were seeing Jensen (not only for contractual reasons, this trick was pulled in The X-Files). Although Dean’s voice was still a little hoarse I would have thought that Bobby could have recognised it, so it followed that Dean being stuck in a different body would make that make sense because he'd have a different voice. Dean drove to Bobby’s in a stolen car, and Bobby’s moment of hesitation when Dean was standing there really made me think that perhaps Dean was inhabiting another body. It would make sense since, uh, his body was ripped apart but I suppose that would make him seem rather demonic, and also it would just postpone the problem of getting Dean back into Jensen’s body (although it was done alright with ghost Dean in In My Time of Dying). However this is all a moot point since Bobby did recognise Dean, which led to him trying to stab Dean. Twice. Bobby thought that Dean was a revenant or something equally evil, and Dean stabbed himself with the silver knife to prove that he wasn’t. I loved his little pause and grimace before he cut his arm, surely he’s had enough pain after being ripped apart and then tortured in Hell for the last few months? And then Bobby finally seemed to accept that it really was 100% Dean, and hugged him, with his breath hitching in a way that sounded suspiciously like he was sobbing. But then he still splashed a load of holy water over Dean, just to be on the safe side- and to provide a brilliant visual. I feel like I ought to start capping episodes of Supernatural just so I can share the pretty appropriately. (But maybe you’d just get 100 pictures of Jensen’s lips.)

It took eleven minutes for Dean to mention Sam. (I’ll admit that when Bobby had finished splashing Dean I took VLC out of full screen mode just because I could feel that a Sammy mention was coming, and I wanted to clock it precisely). I know that Dean did initially try to call Sam (and I love that he knows both Sam and Bobby’s numbers off by heart, and am now concerned because I no longer have anyone's mobile numbers memorised), and that he didn’t really have a chance to talk about Sam with Bobby what will all the attempted stabbing, but still eleven minutes seems like an awfully long time. Dean died for Sam; I’d expect his first reaction upon coming back to life would be exactly the same as his first reaction to turning up in Hell- screaming Sam’s name as loud as he could. As soon as Bobby told Dean that Sam had disappeared off and cut contact with Bobby I assumed that he’d been off honing his (possibly evil) powers. Well, everyone’s got to have a hobby. (And/or a Bobby.) I was very glad that Dean was automatically honest with Bobby- he told him about the circle of dead trees, the hand mark on him and the fact that there had been a demonic presence in the shop he’d broken into- that manifested by breaking windows and creating static. Presumably the otherworldly force didn’t have a Bobby and thus needed two hobbies to make up for it.

Bobby and Dean brainstormed, and came up with the suggestion that Sam might have made a deal with a demon, or that a demon might have ridden Dean out of Hell. Mmm...Riding Dean...I liked that idea for other reasons too, firstly it kind of made sense, and secondly it’s what happened when Buffy was resurrected. I loved Dean’s logic too; he’s so sure that Sam must have made a deal with a demon because that’s what he would do to get his brother back (well it is what he did to get his brother back). This suggests that he knows just how much Sam loves him, and that he has no faith that his “don’t be a Winchester martyr, please Sammy” speech worked. Dean is so confident that he knows absolutely everything about Sam (can he really call Sam a “kid”?), and in that moment when he reveals his knowledge of Sam’s pseudonyms and their social security numbers he has a reason to be smug.

However when Bobby and Dean find Sam, he has a girl in his room. A girl. In his room. And she’s not even all that dressed. I can’t work out if this is more or less surprising than Dan Humphreys double dating in Gossip Girl, but it was pretty shocking anyway. It was a nice poke in the eye for Dean, proving that he really doesn’t know everything about his younger brother. The idea that Sam has been picking up random chicks suggests that he was trying to emulate Dean as a way of dealing with his loss, whereas Bobby was just drinking a lot. I loved the way that Dean confronted Bobby about all the empty bottles of booze, instead of just snapping at Dean to shut up Bobby simply admitted that it had been rough for him without Dean. I don’t know how to respond to someone admitting that lack of me caused them to self-destruct, so I can understand Dean's uncomfortableness. At least Sam didn’t look like he was on the point of destruction, at least until Dean showed up. Then Sam looked like a deer stuck in headlights, and seemed as if he was completely going to fall to pieces. He pulled himself together, and... tried to stab Dean. It really wasn’t a good day for Dean- well except for the coming back from Hell thing, that seemed pretty good. The fact that Sam thought that Dean wasn’t the real Dean pretty much proves to me that Sam had nothing to do with Dean’s resurrection (although it could always be a clever fake out I guess, but although Sam’s a genius his plans don’t generally seem to be amazing).

But then when he finally believed that this is really his brother, inexplicably back from Hell there was hugging. A good, long hug. I think possibly longer than the hug from Mystery Spot (in which Sam was stuck in a time loop and had to witness Dean dying again and again in various ways), although it’s hard to tell. This led the random girl to think that they were “like...together”, to which Sam replies with a beam that Dean’s his brother- while staring at Dean not her. (Sadly he didn’t start singing The Hollies. I cannot explain this bizarre lack of judgement.) I’m not surprised that this girl would make that assumption, and not just because of all the Wincest fanfiction that she might have stumbled across. Since Sam can’t really explain about the whole “I got ‘napped and taken to a ghost town to take part in a Special Kid edition of Celebrity Death Match where the winner got to lead the armies of Hell, but I got stabbed so my brother sold his soul to get my life back, and he settled for a year instead of the full ten because he has serious self-esteem issues and an instilled need to protect me, even if it means bringing me back to life for no reason other than company which he was then happy to deprive me of, and even though I searched desperately for a way to save him I couldn’t and had to watch the person I love most in the world get ripped apart in front of me only to realise immediately afterwards that my innate demonic powers might have allowed me to save him since they allowed me to save myself, but I’ve been unable to save him since” thing the fact that he’s so fixated on his brother might seem a little odd. Wow, that may be my longest sentence yet. Plus, he then throws her out of the room pretty quickly so he can frolic with Dean. At that point, the Wincest fanfiction can have free reign.

Sam was apparently all dark and broody while Dean was gone. He tried to make deals with demons, and even tried opening the Devil’s Gate- which, can anyone say hella bad idea? However pretty much as soon as Dean turned up (well, once the lecturing part was done with anyway) he cheered up in a big way and was quickly making crappy jokes. Obviously I think that Sam would have been over the moon that Dean was back, but he seemed to move into chilled out and accepting mode rather speedily. I feel like either Sam should have been overjoyed for longer, with lots of bouncing around and “Dude, I can’t believe this! Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean!” (because Sam totally has a kink for saying his brother’s name, no really it’s true) or the audience should have been gifted with more of the fact that Sam had to deal without his brother for months. Even though he’s back now I’d think that Sam would have developed some issues, and that they might shine through. The fact that Sam went off by himself and totally cut Bobby out leads me to believe that he’d kind of turned into the cold, precise Sam that we saw in Mystery Spot, very similar to their regimented, hard father. Except that he had boobs to entertain him in this version. Sam did seem very concerned about what Hell was like for Dean, and I’m not saying that that’s necessarily an odd thing- but I think that either it was supposed to niggle or the line was just shoehorned in/the delivery was bad. It might have just been so that Sam got to say “thank God for that” in response to Dean saying that he didn’t remember much of Hell, and also to establish that Dean didn’t remember (though I think that that was obvious due to the flashes and his relatively buoyant mood). It made me think that perhaps Sam was somehow involved in bringing Dean back, because it almost sounded as if he’d done something to make sure that Dean didn’t remember Hell. Of course it’s possible that Sam cast a wide-net spell to ensure that Dean wasn’t traumatised by his experiences if ever he was brought back, but that doesn’t seem likely.

I would assume that since Sam had taken to shagging random women (although possibly not, but let’s just pretend please) and wearing Dean’s amulet (I feel that I ought to make an emulating pun here but can’t quite be bothered) that he’d also have developed a taste for mullet rock. There aren’t really many other ways to ape Dean, they already dress the same and he’d obviously inherited the Impala (hey anyone ever wonder if maybe Sam engineered his own death just so he’d get a chance to drive the car?). The only other things he could have done would be get a haircut (which might have been a good idea, I’m all about the fluffy puppy thing but Sam’s hair looked kind of weird in this episode) and start eating a lot. I thought that the music thing would make sense, Sam clearly only pretends to hate Dean’s taste in music and/or has a revulsion to it because it reminds him of his disciplinarian daddy. He was happy enough to sing along to Bon Jovi when it was practically Dean’s dying wish (yeah, forget the whole “don’t use your powers" thing, Dean was clearly focussing on the music). You know what, so would I- even though Bon Jovi does not rock. No, not even on occasion Dean- but it’s ok you were on the brink of Hell, anyone would get stressed and insane. So while the joke about Sam sticking an iPod in the Impala and listening to college boy alt rock (kind of an in-joke, since the song that Dean so reviled was actually one by Jason Manns who is one of Jensen’s friends, and Jensen even sang on Crazy Love with him) worked, especially with Dean’s disgusted faces, I would have kind of preferred it if Sam had been embracing his sorrow with Zeppelin. Even if the show can’t afford music anymore, and could never afford Zeppelin anyway. Hey, that’s what fanfic’s for, right?

So the boys headed off, avec Bobby, to visit his friend Pamela and try to conjure up whatever had been harassing Dean. There was something wonderfully ridiculous about Sam and Dean attending a séance in the middle of the day, although possibly not as entertaining as them playing with the Ouija board in In My Time Of Dying when Dean was briefly a ghosty. For a “good” hunter Dean sure does die a lot. The scene in which Sam joined in Dean’s perving over Pamela and her tattoo was great, it made Sam seem as if he’s less of a prude now (after trying to be New Dean: get’s your whites whiter than white) and also that he was simply joyously content to revel in pretty much anything Dean did at this point. Sam actually talking about sex (albeit vaguely and briefly) made him seem a little like a grown up mature person, although given that that’s possibly a result of screwing around with a possessed body, that’s all kinds of disturbing. Pamela was certainly flirting with Dean, and soon took an opportunity to grope him, but also invited ‘Grumpy’ along. Not that Sam was actually being at all grumpy at the time, but she’s a psychic she can clearly tell that normally he’s more emo than a Taking Back Sunday fan’s blog. Plus there’s definitely something inherently amusing about giving a 6’4 man a dwarfish nickname. Dean quickly cancelled his little brother’s invite to the boudoir, but not even that seemed to have the power to stop Sammy smiling at this point. The séance got him to stop as he had to focus on pitching his face up and forwards, and try to look soulful. How Dean managed to not burst out laughing is a mystery to me, since he clearly clocked it as he utterly sucked at keeping his eyes closed (possibly a result of being tortured in Hell for months, who knows). Maybe there was an appropriate sense of foreboding in the air keeping him in check, because the force that Dean had experienced ended up burning Pamela’s eyes out. At least Sam’s frantic running around in the background managed to keep me amused.

Next the boys head to the local diner, and demand pie, because that’s what they do. Quickly though, a load of demons turn up and annoy the boys- being as that’s what they do. These ones seemed pretty lame though, and for some reason one of them was called Flo. At least they got Dean talking about his perky nipples. (I’ve never really thought that he had particularly perky nipples, although I suppose the show would need to present the viewers with some good shots so I could do some objective analysis. I don’t even particularly like overly-perky nipples; Usher’s in the Confession Part II video just seemed like they were angry, but maybe it was just very cold. Actually since Dean was in Hell I’d imagine that his nipples would have no business being taut. I’m going to stop talking about hypothetical nipple situations now, I’m making even myself uncomfortable at this point.) Dean then decided to punch the demon-infested waitress for no particular reason, other than the fact that this demon had been a bit mean to him and proved that it had no way to follow through on its threats. I don’t have a problem with the boys beating on demon’s meat sacks when they have to (and I’m glad that they’re not as prissy about killing people as Buffy) but there was no need for Dean to hit her. It was just an ineffectual little action, and it made me a little uncomfortable because this show really doesn’t need more images of the two male leads (but especially Dean) verbally and physically attacking women. I don’t think that the show or the characters are intentionally anti-women, but they don’t have the get-out that Buffy did with most of the demons looking non-human. The visual of a man slapping a woman around is a problematic one, I don’t think that the show ought to shy away from it, but maybe they shouldn’t throw it in quite so gratuitously. Also less of the calling women “sluts” when what you mean is “bitch”. They’re subtly different, thank you. Dean’s slap-happy behaviour might have been worth it though, because when he stood up from the table he did it in this really weird but intensely pissy way which involved him sticking his arse in the air for a while. Maybe Jensen just wanted to out-wiggle Jared for once.

Dean decided that there was no point trying to deal with the demons since they had bigger fish to fry (eye-frying fish in fact). It seemed rather uncharacteristic of someone who mostly wanted to “kill some evil sons of bitches and raise a little hell”, but it did show that he was thinking clearly. He’d decided to try to be very organised and focus on one thing at a time, perhaps more so than in the past because now the fact that he could fuck up and die must seem a lot more real. Also I imagine that Dean might not be able to muster up as much hate for demons as he did previously, since he knows that demons are what tortured souls become when they’re stripped of their humanity. There but for the grace of God, indeed.

Sam, Prince of the insomniacs, decided to stand in for Dean on the killing some evil sons of bitches front, and snuck off to tackle them while Dean was snoozing. Dean didn’t get to sleep (on his little sofa bed) for very long though, since the Spirit of Crappy Electronics seemed to have shown up again, and Dean was treated to the heady agony of static. That spirit apparently brought along a friend, the Spirit of Breaking Glass And Smashing Mirrors While You Gaze At Them In Horror Symbolising Your Cracked Identity. That one’s friends probably gave it a nickname. I did like the fact that Dean was panicked and staring into a ceiling mirror, firstly it shows the class of accommodation the Winchesters favour and secondly a symbol of scumminess and commodified sex (for I have decided that that is what ceiling mirrors are, and verily it is so) cracking because an angel was trying to communicate with the recently saved poster boy for at least two of the cardinal sins just seemed kind of awesome.

Bobby managed to save Dean from death by shards of glass and/or introspection, and Dean called Sam to check on his whereabouts. Sam gave a completely unconvincing explanation about craving a burger which Dean bought for absolutely no reason. For someone who claims to know everything about Sam Dean seems to be pretty clueless. Hasn’t he realised that Sam barely ever eats? And doesn’t he remember that things pretty much always go badly when the two of them split up? Dean also got rather snippy with Sam for taking the Impala cos it’s his. He practically seems to consider his soul and life as belonging in part to Sam, and yet he gets all possessive about the car. I mean I would too, and I know that John gave it expressly to him, but still I’d think that Dean might confer a little bit of ownership to Sam too. Maybe Dean did realise that Sam was blatantly lying, because he decided to dabble in a few untruths of his own and told him that he was off to catch a beer with Bobby. Sam clearly wasn’t paying attention, cos he bought that crap. Dean convinced Bobby to try summoning the Spirit of Crappy Electronics and its good friend with the overly long name, mostly by calling him ‘baby’. Please don’t rec Dean/Bobby fic, I think I’d have to bleach my brain. Bobby was acting like a teenager from the 80s for some reason, advocating that they ‘choose life’. What does that even mean? Seriously. He also, inexplicably, seemed to think that it would be a bad idea for Dean to get caught with his pants down, but he didn’t explain why and frankly I’m puzzled.

Meanwhile Sam was getting attacked by Flo in the diner. At first I thought that she was just taking all the anger that she felt at Dean out on him now that he was alone, and I’d get to make a self-righteous point about how Dean shouldn’t go around hitting people for no reason. Alas, it turned out that mostly she was just pissed about ‘The End’ burning her eyes out. Some people are so unreasonable. Sam used his suddenly honed Special Powers to exorcise the demon. I loved his little peeved expression when he went to check on the (ex-)host’s body and discovered that she was dead. I think it was meant to suggest that Sam hasn’t got a firm grip on his powers and that he accidentally kills the people he tries to save often, but if there’s any way, any way at all, that I can make Dean’s weak little slaps the culprit I’ll totally plump for that explanation. I don’t care how far-fetched it is, I’ll even accept any of Kutner’s weird theories. Also I really don’t understand why demons in this show insist on saying trite things like “go to Hell!” without any irony. There’s clearly only one Winchester response they’re ever going to get, minor variations on the theme of “not if I see you there first!”. Riveting.

Although it seems that Sam is certainly using his (demon-gotten) powers for the benevolent family business of saving people the problem is that he’s lying to Dean about it. He even forcefully promised Dean that he’d refrained from going down that path since it had practically been Dean’s dying wish. Then Ruby turned up, illustrating exactly why he didn’t confide in Dean I’d imagine. It transpired that he’d been honing his powers under her tutelage, and here’s the kicker: she was in the form of the girl from Sam’s motel room! It isn’t quite clear whether or not the girl was possessed at the time, and also even though it seemed as if she and Sam had been up to something it could have been quite innocent-ish. (I mean she might have just been lounging around under-dressed without anything going on between them, but she’s still stealing someone else’s body and parading around in it). If Sam has been having sex with “Ruby” then I hope the show is ready to deal with the consequences of the rape storyline. It was really difficult for me to clock that it was the same actress; I kept squinting at the screen going “Is that..? No. No, wait is that...? No, that wouldn’t make sense. But...” for a while, so I was kind of distracted and didn’t really take in the fact that Ruby’s suddenly lost her balls and started simpering and being dull. I don’t know if she’s supposed to be acting this way or if Genevieve Cortese simply doesn’t understand the character, but at least she’s pretty (and so is her name). The way that they were discussing keeping their little project secret from Dean really sounded as if they were discussing a secret relationship, which adds credence to the theory that they are having a secret relationship too. Ruby even said that she didn’t want to come between Sam and Dean, which just seemed incredibly out of character. I hope there’s an explanation for this odd turn of events.

In preparation for the summoning ritual Bobby had, very speedily, completely graffitied their surroundings with a wide vary of talismans and protective sigils from just about every religion and culture. I have to say that a graffed Star of David somehow doesn’t look very sacred though. Dean and Bobby had to cool their heels waiting for the thing to show up, and when it finally did it turned out to be neither a demon nor a pretty lady. I was pretty shocked, what other kind of characters are there? Instead he was a cold, aloof invulnerable angel. Who Dean quickly tried stabbing with Ruby’s knife, I guess things had kind of gone full circle: after a day of Dean’s loved ones continually trying to stab him he succeeded in stabbing his saviour, the one who gripped him tight and raised him from perdition. I think I may be a little bit in love with Misha {string of Russian sounding middle names} Collins for somehow being able to deliver those lines. Incidentally this angel is named Castiel, who turns out to be the angel of Thursdays. Want to guess what day Supernatural airs on in the States? I love the idea of cold, impersonal angels who aren’t particularly concerned with humans- maybe this idea is particularly captivating for me at the moment since I only recently read Neverwhere.

I think that exploring, broadly, Judeo-Christian notions of religion could be interesting and is pretty brave, and I definitely think that widening the Supernatural universe should be interesting. I am intrigued by the notion of angels, and think that there’s some great potential there. However, I’m also pretty worried by it too. I don’t want a God (in the singular form) in my fandom. What I quite liked about the mythology of Supernatural was this with the monsters of the week the boys would be able to find examples of the type of manifestation from different cultures around the world, and wouldn’t give priority to Christian mythology. Religion was tackled explicitly in both Faith and Houses of the Holy, in both instances the miracles were shown to be “fake”, or rather not truly brought about by God. While the show clearly exists in a broadly (Judeo-)Christian world (just like Buffy), it never explicitly grappled with that. Introducing angels, and The God, seems to be leading the show down a slippery slope. I just really hope that these “truths” aren’t shoehorned in and just accepted, because I think that if the “fact” of God's existence is accepted it’s almost certainly going to be a Christian God... and really I could live without that. This is the kind of storyline which I'd feel much more comfortable with if someone like Joss Whedon was in control of, purely because he's an atheist.

I did find it interesting that Dean couldn’t see Castiel’s true form, although I thought that that was supposed to apply to God not angels. (I mostly base my knowledge of theology on things like Dogma though so maybe you shouldn't trust me on that. I always thought that the thing about people not being able to cope with God's true voice was emphasised in that film just to ensure that Alanis Morisette didn't sing anyway.) Maybe Castiel is secretly God! Dun, dun, dun! Castiel was rather puzzled by the fact that Dean hadn’t been able to do so. To me this suggests one of two possibilities: either Castiel expects that anyone he saves is innately special and doesn’t understand why he’s been told to save Dean (suggesting that Dean needed to be save solely to he could sort Sam out), or because of something to do with Dean’s family. Either is interesting, and personally I’m hoping for a kickass combo. I’m pretty sure that Sam’s demon blood and special abilities would render him able to see Castiel’s in his true glory, and that’s why he was conspicuously absent every time Castiel popped up bringing static and explosions. I’m thinking that maybe Castiel knows something about the boys’ mother, Mary, and maybe that could explain why Mary and Sam were targeted by Azazel. I think that this could lead to some interesting revelations, but I’m hoping that it doesn’t turn out that Mary was an angel or something. Carnivale was good show, but I don’t need avatars of light and dark popping up all over the place in Supernatural, it’s a completely different world. At least for the moment I can trust in Dean’s scepticism, he even told Castiel to “go to Hell”, although sadly Castiel didn’t seem to want to join in with the “not if I see you first!” style camaraderie. Ah well, it was only his first episode. Dean did seem entirely incredulous about the whole thing, and demanded to know why an angel would rescue him from Hell. It’s definitely a good question but I kind of wish that he hadn’t hit the “angel” bit (although it does suggest that he was having a hard time believing that angels exist), and had instead hit the “why”. Surely if angels do exist then pulling people out of Hell would be in their job description? I also really liked the fact that Castiel was inhabiting a human body, just like a demon, it made him seem so much more ambiguous. One thing I do like a lot about the introduction of this new religious angle is that Dean can now walk around with shades on claiming that he’s on a mission from God with a straight face. I don’t know why he didn’t make that reference, so I’m just going to entertain myself remembering his face when he fought to not say “but you didn't shoot the deputy” when Hendrickson shouted “I shot the sheriff!”. Good times.

I think that a large part of what I enjoy, and find comforting, about Supernatural is that no matter how much it messes with these two guys and often forcibly wrenches them apart I can (just about) trust the show to always return to the basic concept. That concept being, deceptively simply, these two brothers on the road together trying to save people. In Lazarus Rising the boys returned to this pretty quickly (perhaps too fast?) although they were pulled away from each other again, to an extent, by the end of the episode. Still, I just don’t really buy the idea of the Sam vs. Dean storyline- although it’s possible that I’ll come around to it as time goes by. I think that they’re probably going to veer off onto different paths, perhaps continuing to lie to each other or perhaps just setting off in a direction in which the other cannot follow. I think that they’ll come back to each other again, as they always do: from college; from death; from Hell. I think that by the end of the season one, or preferably both of them, will have saved the other- yet again. I don't want it to end in any way other than the two of them together, perhaps a little worse for wear, perhaps entirely wracked by guilt for perpetrating unspeakable evils, perhaps worrying if it's the rocks or the fall that'll kill them. I don't mind, as long as they're together.

The next episode was called Are You There God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester. No, I’m being serious. I laughed my arse off at that, and I don’t even particularly like Judy Blume. I think that the episodes are getting longer (and better) recaps nowadays to make up for the lack of credits, not that the title cards aren’t fun and all. I quite liked this little summing up, if only because it featured Meg. I was missing Meg y’see. Now what I really want to know is why it featured Mr and Mrs Pagan God in addition to the characters that did turn up in this episode. I’m hoping that it was some small reference to the fact that there are many Gods in the Supernatural universe, not just the Judeo-Christian deity. Please be supporting this bizarre assumption of mine. I was just really, really hoping that this episode wouldn’t disappoint after the wonderfully exciting premiere, and that there’d be some encouraging answers to all the theological questions that it had raised.

This episode did answer a few questions and provide some exposition, but mostly I guess it was a filler episode. This isn’t a bad thing though, it was nice to have a solid monster of the week episode and just to languorously revel in the fact that Supernatural is already back to being Sam and Dean on the road together trying to save people. As soon as the episode opened with a new character it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t going to focus on the questions raised by Castiel, and as soon as this character, Olivia, started emitting suspiciously cold breath I thought of Buffy. That type of visual had been used twice, in Living Conditions in which Buffy’s college roommate Kathy turns out to be a demon who was sucking her soul out through her mouth and in Hush when the truly creepy Gentlemen stole everyone’s voices so they wouldn’t be able to scream when they went around cutting out hearts. I rather liked Olivia, at least in the brief chance we got to know her. I think maybe I was just excited at getting to see a female hunter, I seriously miss Ellen (who wasn’t exactly a hunter, but she was close enough). Plus Bobby seemed to like her a lot, which suggests some good credentials. All the gratuitous crotch shots were a little annoying though. It turned out that the spirit haunting Olivia wasn’t after her soul or her speech (I’m very glad it wasn’t the latter, I think any other show trying to take on a Hush-like plot would feel utterly ridiculous and flop) but, in the spirit of alliteration, let’s call what he was after her sins. As soon as the beat up boy appeared and she apologised to him I knew that she was being haunted by the ghosts of people that she couldn’t save, but the fact that I realised that almost immediately didn’t make it a bad storyline. Anyway I still didn’t clock right away that Sam and Dean were about to be haunted by some of the wonderful people from the recap, cos sometimes I’m slow like that. And listen up peeps, cos I’m not going to say this often: I think that Supernatural tackled this idea a lot better than Buffy did- in the season seven episode, Lessons. It was a solid episode, and it was nice to see Sam and Dean confronting people whose deaths meant something to them, rather than Buffy fighting with spirits who meant very little to her and had been raised by some random talisman, although I will concede that Buffy did deal with this idea well in other episodes like in Conversations with Dead People but without the interesting twist of vengeful spirits.

Meanwhile Dean was still very grouchy about the whole angel deal, and was refusing to believe Castiel’s spiel. Sam, who at least he’d stopped lying to, was totally on the side of the angels and seemed very ready to believe everything that he was only hearing second hand. The fact that Dean was so ready to share this information with Sam suggested to me that the fact that they split up in the previous episode was mostly plot-driven, so that Sam wouldn’t be around when Castiel appeared and exhibit an ability to see true angelic forms. I’m hoping that Sam might admit the truth of what he’s been doing to Dean soon too, especially as it might prove useful in a fight and possibly Ruby’s buggered off for a while now. The boys didn’t spend all that much time apart in this episode, and continually came to each other’s rescue which also gives me some hope. On the subject of religion I can buy that Sam would believe what Castiel was saying, and that Dean wouldn’t since the show has established that Dean doesn’t believe in God whereas Sam has struggled to maintain some faith. Sam’s insta-belief was a little jarring, but then again maybe he was just really desperate to believe that Dean was brought back by something good and to have some proof of a supreme being. I’m inclined to believe in one too, simply because it’s amazing that this show systematically manages to make the 6’0+ Jensen Ackles appear short. It’s got to be magic of some kind.

Sam was practically bouncing off the walls when Bobby sort of “proved” that Castiel must be an angel, since there isn’t any other explanation. He was beaming and proclaimed that this was definitely good news, and didn’t seem to understand why Dean’s response was an incredulous “How?!”. Dean was steadfastly refusing to believe in angels and a God, as well as kindly trying to answer as many of the fans questions about all this in a very short period of time, and I love him a lot for it. He continued his disbelieving tone, and carried on pulling faces, when asking if this somehow proved that there is a God. Bobby replied that the Vegas money’s on “yeah”, but I’ll forgive anyone who deadpans like Bobby. I love Bobby a lot, but I feel that the show’s in danger of relying on him a little too much. It’s supposed to be about two guys on a road trip, not two guys hanging out in their pseudo-uncle’s car dealership and giant house. Also it offers too much of a crux when the boys do split up, and I don’t want that. If they’re apart I want them pouting and whining and being in agony by themselves dammit.

Dean managed to stick to his (Winchester) guns, arguing that the idea that there’s a God out there who cares personally about him is preposterous. This whole “why me?” thing was a perfectly good argument, as it doesn’t really add up, but it turned a little into Let’s Remind the Viewer that Dean is Deep and Secretly Has Low Self-Esteem. He agreed that he’s saved some people, but he just figured that that put him in the plus column after all his (kind of pathetic) sinning, which mostly involved stealing and ditching chicks. He also added that he was creeped out by the idea of being singled out by God, or even at birthday parties. I don’t know that I buy that, he’s an exhibitionist and likes attention. I’d agree that he wouldn’t like being singled out at birthday parties though- when he stumbled across one in The Kid’s Are Alright he had to deal with the fact that he might have a son and the “birthday party” in Ghostfacer’s involved getting attacked by spirits and having Sam kidnapped from right under his nose. Given that Sam spent a fair bit of that episode tied to a chair (again) and wearing a pink party hat I found it hilarious that at this juncture Sam told him to strap on his party hat and get on the God train. I found most of this exchange really amusing, but I wish that it didn’t illustrate that the show is heading towards Dean accepting the idea of a nominally Christian God. Throughout this whole scene I had Pavlov’s Daughter by Regina Spektor stuck in my head:

“If I hear another song about angels,

If I see another feather on the dumb-box,

I’m gonna go to Babylon and get me some whiskey,

Oh get me some whiskey, get me some whiskey, get me some whiskey now...”

It seemed intensely appropriate.

Obviously while Dean was doing his Regina impression Sam decided to give him space and obeyed Dean’s order to get him some pie. Dean even called him to remind him about the pie, which I think I’ve actually done to PJ too. What? Pie is tasty. I want pie now. Anyway Sam responded in a tired voice, “When have I ever forgotten the pie?” as if he’s an obedient younger sibling who didn’t get kidnapped and eventually killed in All Hell Breaks Loose when all Dean asked him to do was get some food including extra onion rings and pie. Damn, being an older sibling is hard. Sam ran into Ruby who was hanging around the food joint because her meat sack was obviously craving some dee-licious pie too. She decided to get out of Dodge post-hastey because she’s scared of angels, reminding me a little of Anya in Graduation Day, a former demon who was terrified enough of the big snake true-demon that the Mayor would become to want to get as far away as possible. Anya tried to convince Xander to leave with her, and although Ruby didn’t exactly come out and say it she seemed to think that Sam ought to be just as scared as her of angels. This new extremely sympathetic version of Ruby has gotten extremely grating fast. I mean I understand that if she and Sam had been travelling together for a while now they might have developed a pleasant equilibrium, and she was always a bit nicer to him than to Dean, and if Sam’s going to manifest his Boy King destiny then she probably wants him to remember her in a good light. However her personality shifting so much from a badass to a simpering girl-next-door makes no sense, and at present it seems to be the result of the new actress. I do like the fact that this is a show in which characters can change body, which is why there so needs to be a Sam-and-Dean-body swap episode, and/or a Sam-and-Dean-turn-into-girls plot. With all this chit-chat Sam forgot the pie, and I thought that Dean would make a bigger deal of it, and possibly magically realise what had distracted Sam.

However, Bobby quickly demanded that they all head off to go and work out why Olivia hadn’t been answering her phone. Whatever happened to the concept of privacy? When I don’t answer my phone I get some concerned emails before people jump on a plane at least. When they found Olivia’s body brutally ripped apart in her home Bobby seemed to find it difficult to look at and walked out, which the boys seemed to find odd. This is because they’ve forgotten what it’s like to care about anyone but each other (and Bobby). It was nice have ghosts for the boys to fight, I’d missed flickering spirits and rock salt in season three. Bobby tried calling some other local hunters, because apparently there are a lot of them in one-state-away-from-Bobby-land and it transpired that a whole load of other hunters had died in similar circumstances. The number of hunters in Supernatural has grown larger than the original “one Starbuck” town of Sunnydale in Buffy, which by the end of season four had a university. There was staticy televisions at every scene too, which I thought was possibly supposed to make me blame Castiel and have a little hope that all wasn’t as it seemed, but it’s also sadly typical ghost activity. To be honest, asides from Olivia’s death, Sam, Dean and Bobby didn’t seem all that affected by all these hunters dying, which is because they were completely superfluous to the plot. One or two people who the boys could identify with (and knew that Bobby cared about) would be affecting, 20+ unimportant deaths mean nothing. I did love that Dean could just make a gesture to Sam and convey that Bobby was telling him about more deaths though, rather than needing to actually explain it.

In the bathroom of a gas station (or rather in the toilet of a petrol station, fuck all these Americanisms I’m absorbing), Sam was hit by extremely icy breath, obscuring his reflection, and was presented with a vision of, ohyayohyayohyayohyay!, Hendrickson. In response to being haunted Sam was just looking unbearable sweet, knitting his brows and looking all sad. Even though Dean was fast asleep in the car he somehow knew that Sam was in trouble, and busted in to save him. This leads me to, erroneously I’m sure, hope that Dean’s attuned enough to Sammy to realise that he’s been hanging out with Ruby. When Bobby got a taste of the cold breath too I was really hoping that Nicki Aycox, she that played Meg, would turn up. (She's also in the new X-Files film, although I assume not playing the same character she played in the Rush episode which I actually really liked). Instead two creepy little girls turned up to haunt him, I was hoping that they’d turn out to be his daughters or something but no such luck. They were really pretty dull characters who ought to have been interesting. Instead of making an effort to yank out his heart quickly they decided to hide him in a car. What? And why? And what?

Sam and Dean luckily decided to head back to Bobby’s, and therefore be around to save him from any and all creepy little girl ghosts who might happen to be around. Dean was exhibiting some concern over Sam, although didn’t seem to understand that the whole “How many fingers am I holding up?” thing doesn’t work so well if you aren’t holding any up. It was nice to get a glimpse of classic Sammy, wracked by guilt over the death of Hendrickson, and the others in the police station. When they arrived back at Bobby’s Dean went around mutter-shouting for a while, and I really seem to like his muttering- it’s pretty weird because I normally hate people who mutter because I can’t hear them properly and it frustrates me but I guess that he enunciates very well. Finally Nicki Aycox turned up! While Dean was investigating he stumbled across her, and she explained away her completely different hairstyle and outfit by claiming that this is what she looked like before the demon cut off her hair and dressed her like a slut. I’m choosing to take the use of the verb ‘dressed’ in a very loose way, i.e. the demon made her act like a sex kitten, because Meg mostly dressed in jeans (albeit tight I guess) and jackets. The hair thing seemed a bit ridiculous, I mean her outfit and hair did totally serve to make her seem like an innocent little girl and separate her from the character of the Meg-demon but I find it hard to believe that a demon would inhabit a body and then get a dye job. Maybe she thought that she’d appeal to Sam more that way, so there’s a small window of plausibility- but it’s teeny. I did like the fact that the show allowed Meg (or any female character) to be important and not be playing on her sexuality for once in this sequence though.

Meg was totally mad at the boys for dropping her out of a window, and really fair enough. I think that I’d be pretty pissed too. Dean didn’t seem capable of putting up much of a fight against her, and it was nice to not have the visual of him hitting a distraught woman for once, plus it allowed her to shout at him for a while and paint the parallels between them nicely. She demanded if he had any idea what it was like to be ridden by pure evil for months while your family worried desperately about you, and he couldn’t really respond because yes he’d lived through that in Hell, it’s just that he has no access to those memories and probably doesn’t want them. Meg also revealed that she had a devoted little sister, explicitly pointing out that this made her similar to Dean, and that her little sister killed herself as a result of Meg’s death. She berated Dean with a stream of guilt, pointing out that all the Winchesters were thinking about was their family and their revenge, and that the blood’s on their hands and Dean merely agreed with her. At least he eventually got around to dropping an iron chandelier(?) on her and making her disappear though.

Sam, meanwhile, had managed to find Bobby and the little not-Shining girls, and was totally getting beaten up by them. That visual was pretty damn funny. He and Bobby managed to escape though, and the three of them had a quick parlay, in which I’m pretty sure Bobby called Sam an eedjit. Bobby quickly dragged them all off to his demon-proof panic room, which for some reason he’d never mentioned. Maybe he had nicknamed the hideout Deuce X. Machina too, but really there’s so many things in Supernatural which probably deserve such a name that it would seem a little mean to single out the panic room. At least Sam also displayed some confusion about where it had randomly sprung up from, and Bobby was just all “I had a weekend off”. Sam and Dean were completely delighted by the room and Bobby’s quiet, understated introduction of it. I believe that Dean summed it up with his “you’re awesome!” explanation. Although Dean was also surprisingly disturbed by Bobby’s poster of, I think, Bo Derek.

Completely without introduction Dean randomly launched into, “See, this is why I can’t get behind God”, basically bemoaning the fact that bad things happen to good people for no reason, but inserting the phrase “rhyme and reason” in to his rant which I loved him for, and not just because it reminded me of Any Old Wind That Blows by Johnny Cash. Sam looked to Bobby for help, but Bobby sensibly refused to touch that theological debate. Bobby was wonderfully grumpy in this episode in general, when he wasn’t being terrified of small children anyway. Bobby then revealed that there was a prophecy about all this. A prophecy! In Supernatural! I really felt as if I was watching an early episode of Buffy, especially with the texts in cuneiform. He said that it was a prophecy akin to the Book of Revelations, and interestingly claimed that said book was merely for the tourists. This suggests to me that even if the show is intent on claiming that (a Judeo-Christian) God exists, that it isn’t going to claim that the Bible is accurate. Of course the last book of the Bible is called the Book of Revelation, so it’s always possible that this Book of Revelations that Bobby referred to comes from a completely different mythology, although I doubt it- especially with Castiel’s reference to seals. Personally I’ve always felt that the last book of the Bible was directed more towards the hallucinating than to the touring. There is something about a lamb scrambling around caves opening scrolls that seems like it might make a good DS game though. Bobby claimed that the hunters deaths were a sign, “a sign of what?” asked the boys in perfect unison (“Jinx!”, I may or may not have shouted at the screen). I held my breath really hoping that Bobby would do his best Giles impression, and then he did telling them gravely that it was a sign of The Apocalypse. Whee! Sam just did his classic pursed bitchface in response to the news, but I suppose it’s a fair answer. Dean, however, just got more and more incredulous; and when Sam asked what they ought to do he semi-joked that it was time for a road trip. As per usual he suggested the Grand Canyon, but this time also threw in the Star Trek experience and the bunny mansion.

Due to the fact that Bobby for some reason didn’t decide to put a fireplace in the panic room (it would have made things far too easy) they had to run up to the fireplace in the library to perform the requisite spell to put the angry spirits to rest. I know that there aren’t any fireplaces in Cluedo, but still the frantic muttering made it sound like something a Cluedo detective would declare. Isn’t there a secret passageway to the library in the game? Bobby should totally get one of them, and a lead pipe if he doesn’t have one lying around outside. Bobby also gave them a hell of a lot of advice, along the lines of: cover each other; aim carefully; don’t run out of ammo until I’m done. It all seemed fairly redundant seeing as they’re not rookies and have been doing this for a while. They then ran into Ronald’s spirit. The flashbacks were really beginning to bug me at this point. Perhaps they were necessary for Ronald since he was only in one episode, but both Hendrickson and Meg were in enough episodes to be recognisable and a casual viewer could work out roughly their place in the story without needing to a flashback to tell them that Sam and Dean had met them previously. Bobby quickly shot at Ronald, since he thought that Dean was taking way too longer over it and shouldn’t have been talking to him. Bobby didn’t seem all that invested in Dean’s attempts to make amends, but then again I guess he was able to believe more in the idea that these spirits weren’t acting as they’d wish but had been woken up and were basically ‘rabid’. I just wish he’d been more eager to shoot the kiddiwinkles, or at least explain them.

Once they got to the library (and the fact that a guy like Bobby even has a room that he calls to the library just seems kind of off) Bobby sent Sam and Dean off to get crucial ingredients for the spell. Despite the urgency Dean simply had to stop and quibble over the fact that Bobby was demanding opium. Hey, he was probably worried that Bobby had developed a substance abuse problem after all his boozing. Meanwhile Sam was upstairs opening doors (reminding me of both Alice in Wonderland and Yellow Submarine) trying to find the cupboard with the hex box inside. I swear in one shot his stance looked practically bowlegged, just more evidence that he’s been focusing on emulating Dean. Meg quickly cornered him up there, and bawled him out for hanging out with Ruby who apparently has a habit of burning through bodies (but not Bobbies I hope), and Sam seemed to get very angry about this reprimand. He was able to dispel Meg far quicker than Dean had done after she raised his ire about Ruby. I liked the fact that Sam and Dean seemed almost interchangeable to the spirits, Meg visited them both and so did Hendrickson.

Hendrickson revealed to Dean that noone in the police station had died instantaneously; they’d suffered 45 minutes of Lilith’s torture. I’m sure that she managed to fit in a lot of brutality (Hendrickson specifically mentioned that Nancy the sweet little virgin had been flayed alive), but 45 minutes just doesn’t sound that awful, especially when you consider that Dean spent his last few months in Hell. I find it a little weird that both Meg and Hendrickson bitched at him over things that he’d experienced, but worse. Maybe it was supposed to illustrate his compassion, I don’t know. Hendrickson then tried to pull Dean’s heart out, and there was a very good use of sound, with Dean’s audible heartbeat, that just leant the scene so much more terror. Luckily Sam was on Dean-watch now (because they are completely interchangeable) and came to his aid. When Sam asked if he was alright, Dean just replied “No!”.

Bobby quickly got to work on the spell, and the boys set to protecting him while he did by fending off the spirits. Dean seemed overly-surprised when Ronald disappeared from in front of him, given that he’s a spirit and Dean’s fully aware that they can do that. I’m pretty sure that Bobby was chanting in Hebrew for the spell, but I could have been wrong. (ETA: Aramaic! Even better, reminds me of my hair dresser back home who chats in English, Yiddish and Aramaic interchangably.) One thing that I really loved about this scene was that it showed that the boys don’t need to tell each other things to communicate, they can just shout and point, and convey their meaning. Sam was attacked and squished under furniture, and I thought that perhaps he’d have to reveal his demonic powers in order to get out and be of use. Meg gave him a calculating look, and I thought that she might have been trying to work out if he’d use his powers. She then went after Bobby and his heart, but Dean was able to catch the bowl that Bobby dropped, and complete the ritual by thrusting it into the fire. I liked that Dean’s first concern was completing the ritual not going to Bobby’s aid, but I wish that that had been emphasised a little more.

Dean awoke during the night, to discover Castiel in the kitchen. He immediately looked to Sam, but he was fast asleep (again conveniently avoiding contact with Castiel). Dean launched immediately into his anger, whereas Castiel was just as chilly as before. Dean went off on a fairly stupid tangent pretty quickly though, claiming that he thought angels were fluffy and pleasant, to which Castiel gave a sensible and succinct response “Read the Bible”. Wordy McWordison. I loved that Dean carried on being self-righteous and refused to be convinced about this whole God spiel, and I was glad that he brought up a couple of examples of bad things happening that weren’t directly related to his experiences, such as genocide. Castiel started to reply with “The Lord works-” and Dean responded with “If you say ‘in mysterious ways’ so help me, I will kick your ass”. Damn, I loved that. Castiel did explain that Lilith was breaking the 66 seals (that seemed rather Book of Revelation-y to me, although I’m not sure about the significance of the number) and that Lilith was breaking them. The rising of the Witnesses (the vengeful spirits) was the first one, and the reason that other hunters had been targeted was that so they’d go and attack the Winchesters (and Bobby) for failing to save them. He also revealed that when all the seals were broken Lucifer would rise, which is kind of the opposite of the Biblical story. Formerly the existence of Lucifer had been considered apocryphal, so it’s interesting to see that the existence of angels has upped the ante on both counts- in Heaven as in Hell.

Castiel continued that that was why the angels had turned up now and presumably why Dean had been rescued. I liked that Castiel referred to the other angels as his ‘brothers’, it may be typical soldier talk but I think that such languages helped make Dean sit up and take notice of the fact that angels were dying in this fight. He also hissed that Dean needs to understand that there’s a bigger picture, and that angels such as him had far more important things to do than perch on Dean’s shoulder and protect him. I love the character of Castiel, and that makes me feel more hopeful about the theological twist of the shows fourth season. His delivery of “I dragged you out of Hell, I can throw you back in” was chillingly brilliant. And then... Dean woke up. It is just about possible that we was alone talking to himself, and so crazy with post-Hell stress that he started hallucinating an angel. (Come on, say it with me: “So it was all a dream!”/ “No dear this is the dream, you’re still in the cell”.) That would be an awesome twist.

I absolutely love the fact that Sam was squished on the sofa and Dean was sleeping on the floor (surely after months of Hell you get to pull rank and demand the sofa?) even though Bobby’s house seems to have a bazillion rooms. Also the sight of Sam’s scuffed up jeans and dumb hair (looking much better in this episode) is always lovely. Dean showed that he wasn’t going to lie to Sam, which gives me hope, as he quickly set about confiding the information he had gleaned from Castiel. Since Sam is capable of believing in angels and God, Dean wanted to know if he had as much belief in Lucifer. I’m intrigued to see where they go with this Lucifer angle, I tried to come up with a scenario in which new-Ruby is secretly Lucifer but I don’t think that I managed to sell it to myself. There’s always the potential that Lucifer is somehow locked in or tied to Sam though which, if handled well, could be be brilliant.

In The Beginning, the next episode, seemed as if it would answer some of the burning questions- especially since there were gratuitous shots of the Weechesters and a summary of their family history in the recap. Even if it hadn't who could resist another Biblically inspired title in this touched-by-an-angel season, especially since that made a holy sandwich around the Judy Blume reference.

The episode started with sleepy Dean, and stressed out Sam exhibiting his pinched worried face. Or rather, it started classically. I actually always kind of figured Dean as a light sleeper with cat-like reflexes, and I'm sure he was initially characterised as such even with Sam's insomnia meaning that he was at least portrayed as the one who did sleep, but I'm not sure that it's entirely accurate. I suppose it makes sense that he would have learnt to snatch sleep whenever he could, and I quite like the idea that as the series as progressed he's been able to relax more when he feels safe because Sam's around. Dean seems so trusting, and yes cute but in the sense that he's innocent, in his sleep. It seemed as if he'd drifted off rather than planned to go to sleep since he was asleep under his jacket rather than under the covers (although that might have just been so he'd conveniently have the jacket with him later), but it did make me wonder if maybe Sam had drugged him. Sam leaving him alone like this, when he looked so vulnerable seemed dangerous- it reminded me of the disregard they seemed to have for their bodies in Mystery Spot when they entered a dreamworld and just left their bodies sprawled out carelessly in a motel room. Sam sneaking out to be with Ruby really did seem like a teenager furtively leaving for a date, and I'm a little frustrated that there's still not been any clarification of what's going on with them. I know that there wasn't any space to deal with this in the episode, hell there wasn't any space for Sam, but I hope that it's coming soon.

Dean was apparently dreaming about Hell, I'm not sure if that was to suggest that he's going to regain his memories of Hell eventually or if it was just his subconscious' reaction to Castiel's presence. Dean wasn't happy to wake up and find an angel staring at him, and demanded "You get your freak on by watching other people sleep?". Also nice to note that he's referring to Castiel as a person, he's still wary of this angel idea. Castiel didn't confirm or deny this accusation, maybe the writers are enjoying the surge of Dean/Castiel fic because there's something less inherently sinful about an angel abusing a man's body to have sex with it than fraternal incest? I figured that Castiel was turning up to dutifully deliver some exposition as per usual, but instead he just told Dean that he had to stop 'it', didn't bother to explain what he was referring to and bounced Dean somewhere entirely different- where he was sleeping on a bench under his coat in the harsh light of day.

Now normally I hate it when characters don't provide useful information simply so they (and the plot) can maintain some mystery. I was irked at Castiel for not explaining things to Dean, just as I was annoyed at Angel in early Buffy sometimes- but probably the most in Teacher's Pet. However given the ending of this episode I've forgiven him, and I'll get to why then.

Dean was obviously pretty confused about where he was and how he'd gotten there. Of course he had no phone signal either. It was difficult for me to actually believe that it was an episode, because in many ways it seemed so much like fic, and not just because of Dean time-travelling (cos yeah that's what he did). The Tab advert on his bench was supposed to indicate that he was in the past, but to me it suggests the early 90s, which is when Tab clear was (briefly) sold in the UK. I miss Tab, even though I don't think that it tasted that good. The idea that he'd been sent back to the past suggested that what he'd been sent to stop was the Yellow Eyed Demon feeding Sam his demon blood and setting in motion the events that led to Sam's death and Dean's deal.

When Dean wandered into a diner and found out that he was in Lawrence, Kansas that added to the theory- although he hadn't yet worked out that he was in a different decade. The guy in the diner befriended him, and that didn't seem odd. Dean seems like the kind of guys that other guys would like, at least on the surface. And apparently also the kind of guy who guys like making Star Trek references too. This helped Dean clock, finally, that he was actually stuck in the 1970s, and it was pretty funny that he was able to fit in so well thanks to his daddy's leather jacket. Well maybe that was only funny once you realised that his new friend (and bestower of coffee) was in fact the young John Winchester! (That could explain why Dean's apparently a Trek fan too.) I actually thought that Matt Cohen who played young John looked a little like Misha Collins, and wow they have the same initials that can't possibly be coincidence! (Lookit, the four main actors of Supernatural all have names that start with 'J'. Try refuting that one.) Dean seemed so confused by all of this, not least by the fact that his father was being just so pleasant and friendly. I think it was weird for Dean to think of his father as a young man, as a man with his own parents, because he'd just always been this irrefutably strong but damaged presence in Sam and Dean's lives.

Luckily Castiel popped up to provide some sort of explanation, and an opportunity for Dean to make Back to the Future jokes (oh come on, you knew it was coming- I'm just puzzled by the continued lack of Blues Brothers ones). Castiel tells him that time is fluid, that it isn't easy to mess with it but it can be done. If you're an angel anyway. Which really is pretty handy. Dean automatically assumes that he's been sent back to protect John from something that's after him in the past, which really just seemed a little dumb. I can buy it though, since Dean is super-protective of his family, there's no Sammy who needs coddling at this point and I think that it's clear that he relishes an opportunity to somehow save his father since he couldn't stop him from trading away his life for Dean's in In My Time of Dying and in Long Distance Call he irrationally grasped at straws to try to make it real that it was really their father's spirit on the phone. Castiel manages to sneakily disappear instead, prompting Dean to shout out "You allergic to answers, you son of a bitch?". No reply.

Dean carried on stalking his father, to a car dealership. It seemed that he'd get to just enjoy observing John buying the Impala, but instead his father was set on buying a VW van. Eww. Can you imagine? Dean of course steps in and tells him to buy the Impala, and luckily John wasn't averse to its charms, or Dean van Halen's. At least Dean had the sense to use a pseudonym (him and Sam could totally join our Zudonym crew), he's sort of selectively brilliant at lying on his feet, but sometimes he just really doesn't pay attention. Names he's good with though, after all he's used to introducing himself under various aliases and using credit cards under plenty of names. Here's a good example of his lack of subtlety (although I don't think it's out of character, him and Sam both do this quite often- and sometimes there's no other way to do it): he risks alienating John completely with his weird questions about cattle mutilation, cold spots and sulphurous smells. I think that it was a little difficult for Dean to readjust to the idea of pre-hunting John, and also maybe he was trying to check out if maybe John did have some knowledge of the supernatural before Mary's death which wasn't necessarily a stupid idea, John's tricksy. The way that Dean told his father, currently much younger than him instead of dead, to look after himself was just so poignant somehow.

Luckily John choosing the cherry Impala over the VW didn't screw things up with his girlfriend, Mary. Yes, that Mary. I figured that Dean had probably done his duty by ensuring that John picked the right vehicle, but instead of going back to the present Dean trailed John in a truly crappy car (I giggled, I know I'm a bad person) . He got to see his mumma again, whose outfit kind of reminded me of the way Laurie dressed in Hallowe'en. But Mary's awesome, I can see her dressing five years ahead of the time. He followed them to a diner, and finally mentioned Sam- you'd think that he might have been worrying about his brother during all of this. The line didn't really convey all that much concern, "Sammy, wherever you are, Mom is a babe. I'm going to Hell. Again." (Probably he meant to say that he's going to the special Hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theatre, he just mangled it a little. It's ok Dean, I forgive you). Obviously we've all got to cheer at the Wincesty overtones, but really what's wrong with thinking that your mother is pretty? Aren't we all supposed to think that? I always offer it to my students when they squirm with embarrassment at the "Who is the most attractive person you know?" prompt question. I hardly think that Dean was overcome with sexual desire for his mother, I think it speaks more to the fact that he associates pretty women with sex and therefore sin, and that he sees himself as dirtybadwrong. Also I suppose that Dean certainly grew up with the spectre of this perfect mother, canonized in death, who would be even more difficult to envisage in youth than John. Certainly he idolized her, and couldn't understand Sam's lack of adulation in the Pilot. Probably there's something deeply Oedipal going on there too, but I don't like psychology so I'll leave that theorising for somebody else.

John revealed that he was a mechanic from a family of mechanics, which begs the question why he was about to buy a VW, but also kind of explains why he was so quickly won over by Dean's arguments about the Impala. Maybe that's also why he got on so well with Bobby, and why Dean finds such peace when he tinkers under the hood. After all Dean got his jacket and taste in music from John too- unless maybe he's the one who planted those inspirations for John too. In which case Dean is the most original person ever. Mary stepped out of the diner though because she realised that someone was following them, and she kicked Dean's ass. Dean realised that she was a hunter, and his face was priceless. I feel that this moment began the parallels between Sam and Mary, because it was as if she, like Sam, could have saved the beloved blonde from being burnt. Sam could have saved Jessica from the demon if he'd told her about his prophetic dreams, but maybe Mary had the tools to save herself since she was a competent hunter and not a clueless suburban mom. Dean didn't tell her that he was her son from the future, she probably wouldn't have bought it, but he wrangled an invitation to meet her parents since they're all hunters and that makes him practically family.

Obviously it was exciting for Dean to hang out with Mary and her immediate family, and not just because it offered a glimpse into who she was as a person. Family has always been the most important thing in Dean's life, it took on an inescapable resonance when baby Sam was thrust into his four year old arms and he was told to look after his brother and just run out of their burning house. Family for Dean primarily meant Sam, John and the image of Mary (more maternal than virginal, but with a nice white robe nonetheless), although it's increasingly started to include others too- perhaps Jo and Ellen, and certainly Bobby. He only really has Sam in his life most of the time, although as I said Bobby's become more of a permanent fixture. It's not good for Dean to be so heavily focussed on this one individual, especially when you consider that although Sam had grown to love his brother just as much he is the one who consistently dreamed of a life beyond hunting, beyond their family, beyond their homosociality. He's also the one who's been bald facedly lying to Dean ever since he came back. Dean is someone who revels in family, and even if he can't tell these people that he's their grandson he can still be one.

I'm always kind of annoyed when characters like Sam and Dean have their lack of family emphasised, only to have some randomly family members shoehorned in the back door. I don't mind it here because it's utilising time travel and the end of the episode showed why these grandparents weren't around for Sam and Dean (although I'd still like to know what happened to John's family). I never understood why Harry Potter never asked what happened to his grandparents, especially since in the Mirror of Erised he didn't just see his parents, he saw a sprawling, extended family. You'd think that Petunia might have mentioned something about her parents at some point, and although Sirius brings up Harry's paternal grandparents no explanation is ever given for their absence. Given that they were of the magical persuasion they'd have been expected to have a much longer life span than the human average, and if they'd been killed by Voldermort you'd think that someone would have brought it up at some point. I'm a little grouchy about the fact that Mary's brother wasn't mentioned at all in this episode, but maybe he'd abandoned the family business to become a drag queen or something, and that's why he wasn't spoken about and why Samuel was so determined that Mary would continue to be a hunter.

Anyway, Dean's grandfather was pretty awesome. And not just because he was a grumpy guy called Samuel (because it wouldn't be an episode of Supernatural without one) but because he was played by Mitch Pileggi. Now, I don't actually know if Mitch Pileggi is actually that awesome since I'm pretty sure I haven't seen him in anything except The X-Files, but there he played my favourite character, Skinner. He was pretty much the only thing that didn't suck outright about the new film too. Having him play pissy, untrusting Samuel Campbell was great, but still it was hard to shake off the idea of him as Skinner. Mary got to be all proud of her new friend Dean, who passed her father's trivia test, and even though Samuel professed to not trusting other hunters (just like John and Dean really) Dean got invited to dinner by Mary' mother. Incidentally she was called Deanna. Wow, Mary really wasn't very inventive when it came to naming her kids- I bet she would have got on splendidly with Harry and Ginny. At least this explains why Dean was the only member of the family not to have a Biblical name- I like that he doesn't though, it makes the angelic connection all the more incongruous. Although Deanna didn't have a big part in this episode she was pretty cool, and clearly took no nonsense from her husband. She seemed to take a shine to Dean too, maybe they bonded over their matching names. It's possible that baby Dean was actually named for grown-up Dean (as well as Deanna) although I kind of actually doubt that any of this time-travel thing "happened" (more on that later), so I believe that Mary named her eldest son after her mother rather than her father and I quite like that idea.

Samuel agreed that John's a nice guy, but he didn't think he was the right guy for Mary since he's just a naive civilian (civilian in this case being non-hunty not non-military I assume). While that was a fair enough description of the young John we saw in this episode, it's jarring because we, like Dean, know what a badass John becomes. Mary bit back that certainly noone would rather she be with someone like Dean, and everyone agreed heartily. Also kroki refur is right, Dean does say "dee-monic" instead of "demonic", and now I can't stop finding it funny every time he uses the word. It's like when Carnie pointed out that Beyoncé sings "diamonds are a girl's best fwiend" in that advert.

Dean muscled in on Samuel's case, because that's his MO. Even when Sam Winchester isn't around this show is still very much about Sam and Dean working a case. Dean obviously really hadn't adjusted to the idea of being in the past, and asked Samuel what he'd found on the web- because he's so used to asking his partner that. He managed to save it by pretending that he was asking about "the web...of information, that you gathered". Samuel nonetheless refused to partner up with him.

The next day Samuel dressed up as a priest and went to the house of the family he was investigating because the father had died in suspicious circumstances. Samuel emphasised to Mary that this is their family business, and thus she can just like it or lump it. Of course he was unconsciously echoing Dean from Wendigo talking about "saving people, hunting things...the family business". He asked her, "What, you'd rather be waving pompoms at a bunch of dumb jocks?" and when he was out of sight she just beamed. I think that it was in part a smile of familiarity like "Oh Dad, you're the same as ever", but also that although she wanted out of this way of life she, just like Sam, still kind of liked the fact that she wasn't quite like everybody else. They both (loudly) expressed a desire to be free to choose their own path, a desire to have a normal life, but I think that they were both in part glad of the skills and knowledge that being brought up by hunters gave them. Plus I think she liked the suggestion that she's superior to generic vapid cheerleaders, and she knows it. She doesn't want to be a typical kid necessarily, she just wants to get out of this lifestyle and have her happily-ever-after with John.

When Samuel knocked on the door he discovered that Dean had already gotten there, and was decked out as a priest too. I should care that it's a bit fishy that Dean managed to find a priest outfit in his size lying around (hey maybe sometimes Mary or Deanna pose as very camp priests) but I don't care. The exchange was played so well, and Jensen always looks so awesome in the outfit, that I was just in fits of giggles. Mary called them over to talk to the son, Charlie, because she thought she'd found the key. Dean seemed kind of offended at being described as a 'Bible-thumper' which makes me happy given the religious slant of this season, but does emphasise that he's not very good at getting into character since he was dressed as one. It seemed that Charlie had made a ten-year deal with a yellow eyed demon to simply make his dad stop beating his mother, and interestingly while there's a lot of demonic red tape Azazel didn't need to be very explicit about the contract. Also Charlie gave no sign that the demon had kissed him, and the importance of this for sealing a deal seems to fluctuate. Now it might just be that demons like messing with people and claim that a kiss is necessary when the whim strikes them, Charlie could have been embarrassed even though he was hella scared (this being Kansas in the '70s it's not all that unlikely), but I'm going to assume that he had a tendency to make out with boys and that's why he wasn't a big fan of the churchfolk.

At least the description of the guy he'd made this deal with as a 5'10 average looking guy meant that Sam hadn't somehow popped into the past and become Azazel's host or something, which was a relief. I knew that it was unreasonable but I really hoped that Fred Lehne would pop up in this episode being Azazel, I'd pin him at around 5'10 or basically "somewhere under 6'0 because I'm pretty sure he's shorter than Jensen". Dean got understandably angry about the yellow eyed demon, he'd already killed it (in the future) but this is the thing that contaminated his baby brother and killed his parents. He claimed that this demon "killed his family", which is true in the sense that it killed both his parents (and it's even more true than he thinks at this point), led to the (brief) death of his brother and that it destroyed the comfy family life of his early childhood. However, not all Dean's family are gone: he still has a Sammy (and really where was Dean's trademark concern for his baby brother?) plus he had family standing shoulder to shoulder with him in that moment.

Dean decided to go after the Colt as a way to kill the demon, which made everyone very suspicious that he was insane because they thought it was a myth. He also showed them John's journal to try to work out where the demon would strike next, which didn't really make him seem any saner because of course the journal refers to plenty of events which happened after '73. Dean really needs to get his brain in gear sometimes, it was obvious that it was an artefact from the future, and thus needed to not be waved under the noses of hunters. He managed to cover it up though by claiming that John could see the future though. I did like Samuel and Deanna's little signals to each other, just like the next gen Sam and Dean they can communicate competently without words.

Dean managed to have a serious conversation with Mary before he took off after the Colt. He wasn't his usual (Oedipal?) self gathering her into hugs in this episode like in What Is and What Should Never Be but that's because she is and isn't his mother. That is to say that although he understands that she's the woman who'll become his mother (though not for a few years yet) he's not getting a chance to be reunited with his dead mother, he's seeing a slice of her life before he was a part of it- and she can't reciprocate because she doesn't know who he is and she can't yet. He did try to bestow some advice though, he told her that it didn't matter what her dad said John was a good man. He added that he sensed they were meant to be (hell, he was depending on it), and after all this praise neatly segued into asking what John was actually like. Apparently not noticing the paradox here Mary explained that he was sweet, kind and optimistic, even after the war, and essentially everything that a hunter isn't. Dean could understand all that, not so much because he craved it for himself but because he's wanted normality for Sam because Sam had been so adamant that it was what he needed. All she wanted was to be safe, to be normal, to have a family- and she said that the worst thing she could imagine would be for her children to be raised into the life that she was. My heart was breaking for Dean in this scene, not only because it was clear that his mother cherished her family so much yet she'd been snatched away from them, but because unwittingly he'd disappointed his mother. Dean's a hunter and he's good at it, he likes being able to help people, to stop evil, to work out his frustration and anger. Now he's got to go ever onwards with the knowledge that he's not necessarily honouring his mother's memory the way she would have wanted him to.

He emphasised that she had to remember the date of November 2nd 1983, and no matter what happened, what she saw or heard, she wasn't to get of bed- because then everything would be alright. (I'm not sure what kind of alright Dean was thinking of, true Mary wouldn't be killed and their family wouldn't be destroyed but only because Azazel would be left in peace to feed Sam his demonic blood and he'd still grow up to be the Boy King. Maybe with Mary and her parents in tow they'd be able to deal with it a little better at least.) Mary even promised to heed this warning, but clearly she forgot. Well what mother would be able to ignore signs of an intruder if she had two little kids? Also, like I said, I'm not convinced that this all "happened", that Dean actually went back in time and altered anything, so maybe she never got this warning. It would explain her apology to Sam in Home, but that could also be explained by the events at the end of the episode in themselves. By the end of this conversation Dean was crying, just a single manly tear. Sniffle.

I loved Dean's little shudder when Castiel turned up in the car beside him, and his snarky comment about God being his co-pilot. He finally raised the "where is Sam?" question I'd been waiting for, although he seemed more perturbed that Sam was missing out on the experience than worried about what he might be getting himself into. Castiel didn't explain, but it's fairly obvious that Sam was off doing dodgy things with Ruby, and that Sam and Castiel can't come into contact yet because it'll risk revealing something far too early in the season. Dean carried on, asking if Castiel wasn't concerned that Sam was tearing up the future (or is it the present?) looking for him, and Castiel merely responded by saying that Sam's not looking for him. Now this could be because Sam's busy becoming the Anti-Christ, but also it could be (at least in part) because Dean's not "gone". Whether or not the time travel actually occurred, there's no reason to believe that he was gone for the same length of time. I'm still plumping for the idea that Dean's insane (whether in or out of Hell) and that's why Castiel comes and goes randomly. It'd be like a whole season Normal Again-athon! The unqualified information that Sam's not looking for him seems to defeat Dean, and he asks if him stopping the YED will mean that his family gets to have a normal life (then Sammy would love him properly).

He just wants his parents to have their idealised life, white picket fence and all, and he betrays a desire that's rarely seen from Dean- for him and Sam to just have a normal life and to grow up oblivious to all of this. Of course they might not have grown up without learning some of it, because their mother was a hunter, and so were her parents, but even Mary's hunter existence that she was desperate to escape is a far cry from a somewhat broken family living on the road. Perhaps the expression of this latent desire was brought up by Mary's admission that she would never want this for her children- Dean is nothing if he's not capable of doing just about anything to gain his parents' (and Sam's?) love and approval. Castiel merely pointed out that if that happened all the people that the Winchesters saved would be dead. Dean seemed angered by Castiel's suggestion that he wouldn't care about that, he'd care deeply. It's just that these are his parents- and more than that they're the carefree parents of yesteryear who he desperately wants to have the happy life they desire, and the possibility that that represents for him and Sam. There's no way he'd let anything happen to them, not if he could help it.

Dean tried to steal the Colt from Elkins. Elkins was less than pleased with this turn of events. Dean explained that he was doing it to save his family, and that Elkins would have to kill him to stop him. Elkins was way too trusting, even if Dean was quite convincing. Also, if Elkins was willing to give up the gun just like that why didn't Dean just explain the situation in the first place and ask for it? I mean, he didn't even suspect Dean of being a demon or anything. How did Elkins ever survive? Also instead of agreeing to bring the gun back Dean just gave him directions to pick it up from Mary's family. All in all this added to my idea that either Dean didn't actually travel back in time and/or he's imagining it all and for some reason imagined Elkins as a fool.

Samuel revealed to Mary that Dean was heading to Liddy Walsh's to save her from the YED and then couldn't understand why Mary suddenly wanted to hunt, wondering if this was a "female, time of the month thing". Yes clearly that's what it was, it couldn't be the fact that Liddy's her friend, and that she might be a bit concerned about Dean fighting the demon off by himself since she did seem to quite like him. In a big-brother kind of way, cos otherwise...eww. That's the bad kind of Campbell-Wincest. Azazel took a shine to Mary straight away, and it's interesting that he seemed to like simply because of her 'purity' not because she had any psychic ability or anything. Dean saved Mary from the demon, with a little help from her, and off they went assuming that Liddy had been saved and thus that events were changeable (but I'm pretty sure that Azazel snuck back in in the next body he inhabited and killed her).

Samuel seemed to be strangely conciliatory, and was complimenting Dean when they got back. Initially I found the fact that he asked Dean if he was psychic interesting, because it seemed to carry no negative association. In Dean's present the word 'psychic' is often pronounced with a capital 'P' (well actually a capital 'S', but you know what I mean), as if it conveys the assocaitions of bad!evil!demonic! whereas I'd say that it's usually a benign word- and sometimes prophetic powers are seen as a good thing as with Missouri and Pamela- so it's a little odd. I took this to mean that it only developed this meaning for Dean because he didn't quite know how to term Sam and the other Special Kid's abilities, and that Samuel wouldn't use the word in this way. Although that might be true, Samuel was currently inhabited by Azazel and therefore not in charge. Luckily although Dean was explaining who he is to Samuel he didn't tell him anything about Sam, because if he really had gone back into the past he would have given Azazel ammunition by doing so. Samuel believed Dean for no reason really, and Dean wasn't initially suspicious but when he asked to have a look at the Colt this reminded him of the time John was possessed and he cottoned on.

It was weird to see Mitch Pileggi playing Azazel, I've never seen him as an evil character before, and still it was hard to shake off the idea that Skinner was behaving terribly out of character. I don't think that he did badly, but I don't think he was as good an Azazel as Fred Lehne. I think this whole conversation probably made Azazel even more determined to go after Mary after all, and she'd just run off to John and begged him to take her away. Azazel got all excited about the fact that Dean might be one of his psychic kids, but when he sniffed Dean he was disappointed to realize that he's not one. He was really invading Dean's personal space, prompting an excellent ew-face from Dean. He explained the basics of his plan: that he was after the kids of perfect breeders, not their souls. He refused to give Dean some useful details about his 'endgame' though, I'm wondering if it involved Lucifer perhaps.

Deanna was hiding and listening to all of this, and I figured that she'd go all momma wolf and fuck up anyone who was threatening her daughter. Then again, it wasn't certain that she knew that this wasn't Samuel- she wouldn't necessarily have had that much knowledge of demons. At least Dean got to take refuge in the fact that he knows that he actually killed (or will kill...) Azazel, but it probably wasn't a wise move letting that slip. The fact that Azazel didn't kill him quickly makes me think that this didn't ever happen, although it is possible that Dean was always guarded by some Heavenly forces (perhaps engineered by Mary after all of this). Long shot though it is it could explain why the demons were so eager to get him into Hell, and quickly. Azazel took instant revenge anyway, stabbing Samuel and thus killing him. Deanna just couldn't hold back her screams of horror, which revealed her presence and meant that Azazel killed her too. Meanwhile Dean was forced to watch all this, and watch Azazel get away yet again.

Mary was trying to explain to John that there were things about her that he didn't know before she accepted his proposal. It's weird to think of a time/place in which being an unmarried couple travelling or living together would have been weird. I don't think the 70s would have been that bad, but they both clearly had the idea that getting married (very young) would be the normal and right thing to do. John didn't need to know these things apparently. Haven't these people ever read Tess of the D'Urbervilles? You have to spill your secrets right at the beginning or else it'll all go very badly! I bet John regretted not letting her tell him when she burnt to death on the ceiling, or I suppose he would have if he'd known what the secret was... I'd kind of like to think that Mary did eventually tell John a little about hunting, and that they mutually decided to not engage with that lifestyle. It might explain why John was so ready to believe that Mary was killed by something supernatural, and where he got some of his information and contacts from. It's puzzling that he never told the boys that, but she was adamant that she didn't want her children to know that kind of world so I don't think it would be too much of a stretch.

Azazel went after Mary, still in Samuel's body so it wasn't that weird when he dragged her out of the car. John tried to stand up to him, and got killed for his pain. I was not impressed with that, because if John was dead that'd mean no Dean and Sam and I'm not cool with that. Unless Mary randomly found another guy called John Winchester with a thing for Impalas, which seemed unlikely. Azazel offered her a deal though- he'd bring John back to life if she just let him turn up in ten years for unspecified purposes. Mary wasn't an idiot, she knew that she was making a bad deal and that everything wouldn't be peachy (although to be fair they might have been peachier if she'd heeded Dean and Azazel's warnings and not interrupted the proceedings). Turns out, though, that mommy wasn't all that different from Dean after all- she was willing to make this deal to sacrifice something big to bring back the person she loves most in her life, and also the symbol of all her dreams and ideals. For Mary this was her boyfriend, her future husband, the father of her children. For Dean it was a different kind of partner. You really can see where the Wincest vibe comes from right? So it seems that Dean inherited that sacrificial streak (and a tendency to make dee-monic deals) from both his parents, no wonder he's into it. I assume that John never knew that she made this deal, just as Dean tried to hide it from Sam. Mary had to kiss Azazel (rather intimately) to make this deal, whether or not it was actually necessarily.

Poor Dean had to see this sight, and acknowledge that he's too late to change anything. He's also too late to leave the Colt with his grandparents clearly, but maybe he left a note for Mary about it before rushing out to save her from Azazel. I bet he regrets taking the time to do that now. Castiel, who really ought to have given him more information if he actually wanted anything changed, popped up and spirited him back to bed. Castiel informs him that he wasn't actually supposed to change anything since destiny can't be altered. This is why I think that Dean went back to a simulation of the past, not the real past, and really there's nothing that he did that refutes this theory. The only reason Dean had been sent back was so that he could know the truth about what had happened, sure Castiel could have told him it but that probably wouldn't have take 43~ minutes and this way was way more fun. Castiel emphasised that Dean was going to have to stop the (still conspicuously absent) Sam, because he was up to something mysterious and dangerous, probably involving Azazel's plan, but noone knew what.

Dean took off after Sam, after Castiel handily provided him with his whereabouts. Angels can apparently know exactly where people are, but have no idea what they're doing or why. Something reserved only for humans perhaps, no wonder Lucifer rebelled. Now, I didn't mind that this episode was incredibly Dean-centric. I guess that maybe I am a bit more of a Deangirl than a Samgirl, but I've actually always thought of Sam as slightly more of the main character in the show. They're fairly equal so I suppose there doesn't really need to be a main character, but this is mostly about Sam's story. Dean doesn't change all that much, even though he keeps dying and even had a stint in Hell. Sam's life is the one that changes and gets fucked with by external forces- his mother died in a fire over his crib; his girlfriend died in a fire over his bed and his wonderful life was ruined; he finds a sort of peace in the 'family business' with his brother only to develop demonic powers which eventually lead to his death; his brother trades away his soul for his life. I'm thinking that the next episode is going to have to be fairly Sam-centric to balance things out, especially as this episode ended with a "To Be Continued...", even though it didn't feel as if it ended with anything more cliffhanger-y than usual. The fourth episode of the season seems a little early for a brother vs. brother smackdown, but at least Sam's recent actions will probably get explained and Dean will have a chance to react to them.

Oh man, I am pissed as hell. I wrote such a good (and long!) response to the next episode, and just as I was feeling all proud about completing it blogger decided to eat it and for some reason not save the draft. I'm going to try to recreate it but I doubt that I'll be particularly successful. Oh well, here goes nothin'.

So. Earlier this year my sister and I found a book called How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read in an Italian airport, and were about to buy it for a giggle. However when we flicked through we discovered that it actually was a guide for talking about books that you've not read. First of all, how lame can you be? And secondly, I'm actually up on my literary allusions, thanks. So even though I've never read anything by Kafka I could be reasonable sure that an episode entitled Metamorphosis would be about a nominally 'good' man transforming into some kind of beasty. Alright, Jack turned into a rugaru- but the transformation was even likened to a maggot becoming a blow fly. So there.

Once again my excitement was piqued by the recap. Now I know that that sounds a leetle lame, but I think that I was just happy that after last week's, admittedly awesome, Dean-fest that Sam would be back front and centre where he belongs. I think that revelling in the recaps is kind of a double edged sword though, because the fact that it consisted of a brief guide to the Winchesters and included the shot of Azazel bleeding onto baby Sam set up the direction of the episode very precisely. Therefore let me rephrase the introduction in a non-spoilery way: Sam! Sam! Baby Sam! Big pretty Sam!

Big pretty Sam was currently hiding out with Ruby, trying to bully the location of Lilith out of a demon they'd captured. Sam seemed to like the demon calling him a big hero (doesn't he watch Firefly? Zoe called it, she said that a hero is someone who gets people killed), but he was rather less happy about being told off for doing naughty things in the dark with Ruby. Well nobody likes being called a slut, right? I think that that might have encouraged him to get on with the exorcism, like how in Are You There God? It's Me, Dean Winchester he quickly blasted Meg when she brought up Ruby. I really hope the show isn't going to go down the Sam/Ruby route, I refuse to believe that the writers are unaware of the rape implications, and really I find it difficult to believe that she is Ruby since she's behaving so strangely out of character. Unless Sam is using his Jedi mind powers to control her. Sam has Ruby under his thrall! Sam is Dracula! That would explain so mu...nothing.

Dean was engaging in a little spot of voyeurism, observing this scene from outside. I always love Dean sneaking around in the shadows watching Sam, even when he isn't breaking in in search of a beer. It really emphasised how disconnected Dean felt too, he'd suddenly become an outsider to Sam's life. Sam was so sweetly pleased that he was able to exorcise the demon without any pesky side effects (like migraines, or killing the human host), and he just looked so innocently happy, and of course rather like a puppy. That was only until Dean angrily burst in, at which point he looked an awful lot more like a deer caught in headlights. I can completely understand Dean's ire- Sam seemed to be embracing evil, he was lying to Dean and, worst of all, he seemed to be turning his back on his family- because he doesn't need Dean anymore. To be honest I actually thought that Dean would go completely apeshit, whereas at least he seemed vaguely inclined to let Sam give whatever paltry explanation that he could come up with before going insane. That is, until he realised who Sam's companion happened to be. "Is that Ruby?" he screeched incredulously, and I just wanted to shout "I know right! I don't believe it either!" because Genevieve Cortese is really not selling Ruby to me. No doubt the character has been toned down, for reasons that better become apparent soon, but she really could put some cockiness and swagger back into the character. It's not clear whether or not he recognised Ruby/Christy from Sam's motel room, but if so it would add to his feeling of betrayal, Sam had (probably) been lying to him from the very moment of their tender reunion.

Dean and Sam ended up having this fairly ridiculous slap-happy fight. I think it's a testament to the actors that I actually believe that Dean could intimidate and lay the smackdown on Sam. Just looking at Jensen and Jared physically it doesn't seem that likely, plus the show seems to always (possibly magically) make Dean look teeny. Part of that is of course that although Jensen's around 6'0 he spends an awful lot of time next to his 6'4 and now suddenly lushly built co-star, who would dwarf just about anyone. It isn't just that though, if I think of his solo scenes in his hospital pyjamas in In My Time of Dying he just seems so tiny. Despite that, and despite the fact that Sam is certainly physical too and more than capable in a fight, I can imagine Dean triumphing here. In part that's because of his bravado and anger, and also because of the way Jared plays Sam- as someone uncomfortable with his size and strength; someone who hunches up and tries to tread lightly. I'm also certain that Sam at this point realised that he'd hurt Dean more than enough. Him taking Dean's side over Ruby was obviously awesome, although it still leaves the puzzler of why Ruby's become such an obedient little bitch. The idea of her trying to save people and taking the injured man to the ER seem so excessively uncharacteristic that I can actually feel my mind boggling.

I loved the way that when Ruby and the hurt victim were gone Dean just tiredly leaned against the wall and gave Sam this extremely irritated sort of half-eyeroll. It just seemed so familially familiar, like although Dean was unbelievably hurt that in some ways this was just equitable with his mischievous little brother acting up. He then stormed off though. Next we saw Sam patiently sitting in the motel room reading, and I'm certain that he'd waited up all night for Dean to return. It would have been nice to see his agitation, maybe some tapping or fidgeting, but I suppose that Sam's really learnt to control his emotions (think of Mystery Spot). Also I can recognise that "I am focussing on this page, and I am ignoring the feeling in the pit of my belly, I am, I am, I am!" stance. The fact that he was like a coiled spring was evident in the way that he leapt up as soon as Dean walked into the motel room. I have a feeling that Sam was hoping that Dean had fought, fucked and/or drunk the anger out of himself, but I couldn't see any evidence that he had. Then again getting drunk before an emotional confrontation is kind of Sam's MO, and right now maybe Dean would want to shy away from Sam-like actions. He also apparently wanted to shy away from Sam, no sooner had he burst in the room than he was packing all his stuff up.

Sam tried to engage him in conversation, and Dean just reeled on him and let his anger reign. He tried to convey to Sam that what he was doing was clearly wrong, and that it was a breach of trust. He really couldn't stand the idea of his brother sneaking around behind his back, and he even gave voice to his fear that Sam wouldn't need him now that he has his demonic protectress to buddy up with. He ended up punching Sam, twice. Dean getting violent towards Sam is extreme, but not unprecedented, and I definitely don't think that it was out of character in this instance. He was acting on his hunter's instincts, while being backed into a corner full of anger and fear. He just reacted and did the only thing he could to express these emotions, and to somehow, desperately, stop Sam. Whereas Sam just took it. Dean wasn't only using violence, he was also appealing to Sam's emotions/reason- arguing that what he's doing isn't normal, isn't human, simply isn't ok. But he did it all while grabbing at Sam's shirt! Man, I cannot express how much I loved this whole scene.

The fact that Sam was trying to convince Dean that he isn't going to let this go too far just emphasises the fact that it would be possible to slip-slide towards something. Also Sam didn't give any inkling that he had any idea of what Ruby's purpose in helping him was. Had he even asked her? If he could come up with some plausible explanation he might be able to allay some of Dean's fears (and more importantly mine) about the use of his powers. While his argument that his exorcisms were of the good because they allowed him to save far more people than Ruby's knife because he could avoid killing the human hosts was reasonable, at least on utilitarian grounds, it just didn't resonate- especially in the face of Dean's heartfelt emotions. Now I think that this is at least as much about good storytelling as it is about morality, but the Winchesters violence is sanctioned, in much the same way as Buffy's, because they're these neo-romantic/gothic heroes who are battling on the small-scale because they have to. They aren't outright declaring war on their enemies, and they aren't fighting with the aim of ever winning out against all the evil in the world (arguably Buffy and pals were sort of doing that when up against the First in season seven, but still they were a raggedy band of girls against the armies of Hell). Sam wanting to impersonally and numerically at least potentially take on all the demons shifts that paradigm. It aligns him with the technocratic Initiative of season four of Buffy- even though they ostensibly had the same aims as Buffy they ended up fighting on opposite sides because they refused to understand her worldview. Hunters (like Slayers) have a fixed place in this world, and although Dean would never articulate it, maybe wouldn't even think it, Sam trying to break from that is worrying and problematic. The fact that he wants to do it via tapping into demon powers cannot be ignored, they have to police the boundaries of the human vigorously. Again there's a parallel with Buffy, who discovered that her Slayer power originally came from a demon, but refused to take on more demonic power even if it would give her greater strength.

Actually I think that in this scene Dean was the one who was really embodying the idea of going too far- not only was he physically and verbally attacking Sam, he was literally smashing up the room. Sam on the other hand was miserably but calmly taking it. I find it an interesting idea that those most invested in rigorously maintaining 'humanity' (or perhaps 'goodness') are those whose own is most threatened. Certainly there are elements of this for Buffy, she knows 'the darkness', and she comes from a long line of broadly demonic warriors. With any solitary-ish hero facing off against the darkness they have to give up elements of their nice, normal, safe human existence. It's the price they pay, and it's very rarely acknowledged or even known. Basically Buffy is Aragorn, and Dean certainly has a touch of this too. Buffy wasn't so rigorous in policing that boundary I think, simply because Buffy allowed more fluidity in terms of concepts of morality and identity, and because her circle of friends was peppered with vampires and werewolves. Nonetheless she certainly craved normality, and often had difficulty reconciling her Slayer-ness with the rest of her identity. I like the idea that it's because she has a greater knowledge of that 'darkness', because it's bubbling under the surface somewhere, that she has a greater commitment to fighting it- illustrated quite well in Buffy vs. Dracula where she can only derive peace and satisfaction from hunting. This idea's been applied to Firefly too, with the idea that Jayne is so petrified by the Reavers because he's the one who's most similar to them- he's the most violent and the one most in touch with his basic sensory feelings and urges.

Oh right, I might have been talking about Supernatural at some point there. Dean really managed to hurt Sam by telling him that if he didn't know him he'd want to hunt him, and so would other hunters. Well that's always been a bit of a problem, but still bringing it up did cut to the quick for poor old Sammy. I'm torn between ascribing it to the inherent wrongness of Sam's actions or to the misinformation and bigotry of the majority of hunters. If I go with the latter that kind of makes them the Initiative figures of my now hopelessly convoluted analogy. C'est la vie. Sam knows it, he has to. That's why he was so freaked out by his psychic powers when they first manifested, he didn't want to have weird supernatural abilities setting him apart from even his family and their niche outside of mainstream society. This is precisely why he was lying to Dean about it. If Dean hadn't died I don't think that he would have pursued his powers, and he says just as much when he tried to appeal to Dean by explaining that Dean was gone and he had to go on fighting all alone. There was noone left to hate him (except himself) for dabbling with his demonic powers, and so why not? They probably made him feel strong and powerful, and brought a welcome distraction from his grief. And once he'd started and not spontaneously turned into a demon, and instead had found a way of saving people, he wasn't going to stop. However Dean had the best argument for why doing this was wrong, God's messenger had personally told him that he had to stop Sam (and Dean referring to him as 'Cas' would have made me giggle even if Cass wasn't a popular brand of beer here), apparently happy to pragmatically embrace religion if it'll serve his save-Sammy purpose.

Sam was obviously shocked by this revelation, but he still decided to answer his phone when it rang. Uncool! I know that they know about voicemail, and really he could have waited to talk to Travis (who?) when he wasn't debating theology with his big brother. Travis, another hunter who I don't think has ever even been mentioned, was asking for their help on a case down in Carthage, Missouri because he was a little short-handed after breaking his arm. Geddit? Oh, the hilarity. So off the boys went, where they were supposed to be investigating a guy called Jack who was stuffing so much food into his mouth that his wife semi-seriously had to check if he was stoned. Nyeah, I so want to get stoned now. She thought that it might be tapeworm-y, I was plumping for werewolf-y, but either way the scene where his spine was trying to pop out through his back was gross.

During the drive over Sam and Dean were being surprisingly pleasant to each other, maybe they'd made a pact to put it all behind them for the duration of the case. It also gave Dean an opportunity to fill Sam in on his bout of time-travelling, because he's honest and lovely. Relatively anyway. Sam was obviously shocked that their mother had been a hunter, but still managed to throw in a question about how she'd looked. Maybe I ought to suck it up and write something about the Oedipal nature of the boys, because really there's enough fodder. The fact that Azazel had murdered Sam's parents and grandparents in an effort to make him his heir ought to make Sam wary about using the powers that he got from him, I feel. Sam also let slip the information that Azazel had fed his blood to him when he was a baby, probably just when Dean was about to tell him that. Sam is quite, quite stupid. Withholding this information certainly doesn't make him appear more trustworthy to the already peeved Dean. Sam might be vaguely demonic and potentially evil, but he does at least apologise very politely. Dean just shut down though, with the screaming subtext of "you don't love me, you don't need me, I might as well go and eat worms- or be eaten by them as the case may be". Oh Dean. And oh Sam.

And yet, they could still be relatively pleasant to each other when they were stalking Jack from the car with binoculars, brining the petulant banter. See, just indulge their voyeuristic streak and suddenly they're golden. Dean was bored out his mind by Jack's apparent normality, at least until they caught an eyeful of Jack stuffing himself on uncooked meat. This episode didn't quite have the demonic eating disorder thrust of the X-Files episode Hungry (which, by the way, entirely rocked my socks), but I think that it definitely included elements of that idea. The image of Jack binging in an attempt to somehow gain control of his life which was spiralling away from him is an interesting one. Well no wonder Dean thought this guy was normal, that's kind of his thing. I loved the way that Dean later referred to this as Jack eating a burger that he'd forgotten to cook, as if that's something that one might accidentally do. I can just imagine eight year old Momma-Dean doing something like that, maybe forcing Sam to eat it as an alternative to Lucky Charms too.

I didn't particularly like the character of Travis, but I'm glad that he was there in this episode. First of all the boys really did need someone else there, and secondly just because I'm glad that it wasn't Bobby. Much as I love Bobby he's far too much of a crutch, and anyway I don't think that he'd be able to provide an image of the generic hunter because he's bonded far too much with them both and hasn't judged the Winchesters too much (asides for being idiots) for trading away their souls for each other. Travis provided this model of "What Would Hunters Do?" to prove Dean's points, but also to raise questions about them. Plus it's always nice to have someone interacting with the boys, in a well-lit setting, just enjoying the fact that Sam's tall, that he's still a mathlete (even if he tries to deny it) and that although they're all growed up now they're still thick and thieves because nothing's more important than family. Even though it did kind of sting in the wake of their arguing and dissonance, it's still a statement that holds truth- Sam might have been lying to Dean and Dean might be incredibly angry about it but they're still together, and willing to help this randomite on his hunt. So Travis explained that Jack was turning into a rugaru, and I loved that Dean found it difficult to believe that that was a real name for anything. He also got very intrigued by the fact that 'long pig' is a term for human flesh, hey you learn something new every day. Dean might mock Sam for his geekiness (and being a walking encyclopaedia of weird) but really he does like to absorb and dispense knowledge, as this episode showed.

Dean just so desperately seeks the approval of others. On matters pertaining to Sammy he's generally crystal clear, but at other times he sometimes possesses this almost childlike belief that someone might be able to give him the right answer. That's what comes of being Daddy's perfect little solider I guess. Seriously, he really does remind me of Buffy a lot. There are two scenes in particular which spring to mind for me, in both cases Buffy was finding parallels in the actions of others to chastise herself for her (sexual) actions and desires- identifying with James in I Only Have Eyes For You and naughty Willow in Wrecked. She took on others failings as a way of convincing herself that she had done wrong, simultaneously punishing herself and forcing herself to move on. Now this isn't quite what Dean was doing, but I think it represents the same mental processes somehow- not so much in the aspiration to almost puritanical morals but in the almost militant desire for the approval of others, especially parental stand-ins.

Jack was finding it very difficult to fight his instincts, when his wife cut her finger he had to run away from the blood. I'm not sure why she was whinging about needing stitches, it looked like a pretty small cut to me. That's cos I'm big and tough though, or possibly just a bit too used to accidentally slicing myself open. He ran off to a nearby bar, but when an annoying pervy guy started harassing a solo girl he couldn't restrain his anger. I don't think that she was particularly appreciative of Jack's attention, but I conclude that it's acceptable to eat annoying skanky men like that- especially if they insist on calling you 'guy'. Jack merely hurt him though, but certainly the theme that one can't escape their urges and their true nature was being emphasised.

Meanwhile Sam was managing to piss off Travis by sticking his fingers in his ears and singing "Well maybe Jack won't hulk out! Lalalalala!". This was annoying not just because Sam isn't the world's best singer (as seen in No Rest For The Wicked and A Very Supernatural Christmas) and he'd rather hear Dean sing (especially if he's bullying Sam in the process), but also because he was unwittengly insulting Travis' research. Sam had found some evidence of practically vegan rugarus (if that is the correct plural form), who never succumbed to their desire for human meat and thus never actually turned. Despite the fact that Sam's the one who went off to college, was in a long-term relationship and is the preferred brother of psychics and the grieving everywhere, he sometimes really seems to lack basic social skills. I think that he can generally identify with the shaken and mourning people that they tend to meet on cases better than Dean can, and certainly this was evident in season one especially when he was fresh from the loss of Jessica and his world hadn't shrunk to being focussed almost entirely on Dean to the point that his ability to care about others has waned. I think that he's capitalised on this now, it's less that he truly identifies with or cares about the people they meet, it's just that he knows how to turn on the puppy dog eyes and listening expression to gain information. This is a ploy that works a lot better than Dean's glib charm in most cases, although Dean's bravado certainly has a place too. Sam doesn't seem to know how to interact with Travis though, but Dean is the one who can smooth it over. Sam's a geek, Sam's a mathlete, Sam loves research- he's not like regular guys.

This makes Travis relax, because he can understand why Sam would want to believe in this. I think that he saw them, especially Sam, as relatively green if competent and enthusiastic. I doubt that he knows about what they've gone through in the past couple of years, or the depth of their expertise and close interaction with evil forces. I also seriously loved the fact that nobody found Dean's joke about Sam's handy lube funny. Sam really did latch onto the idea that Jack might not go evil so hard, and Dean seemed to find it attractive too. However, Travis pooh-poohed, asking them if they'd ever been really hungry, the kind of starving that you are after not eating for days, because that's the kind of all-encompassing craving that Jack would be contending with. The matter of fact way that Dean answered in the affirmative goes a way to explaining Dean's almost orgasmic appreciation of food. I think that he'd learnt to snatch any opportunity to eat or sleep (or to fuck or hustle for that matter) whenever they appeared. Also the fact that Sam didn't respond makes me wonder if perhaps some of that hunger came from when they were kids and Dean was in charge of looking after and feeding Sam on a tight budget when their father was away.

Sam was adamant that they weren't going to kill Jack until he did something worth being killed for. This 'innocent until proven guilty' kind of vibe was fair enough in its way, but Sam was taking it a little far. Jack was clearly a danger to others, but it sounded a bit like Jack's first killing was inevitable but had to be waited for. I mean I get that Sam was over-identifying with a man who'd unwittingly been given demon blood as an infant and couldn't shake off the consequences, but really it was a bit too much. What I would have liked is if Sam had at least mentioned Madison. Not only is the lore about werewolves and rugarus similar, but he could have argued that neither of them had considered her evil (especially when Sam was rolling around with her in bed while the muscles in his shoulders were all...nyeah) and had mourned her death. It could also have partially explained away his incredible levels of over-identification (on par with the recent episodes of House). I feel that Dean kind of shut down because of Sam's recent actions and reverted to his "humans = good; anything vaguely demonic = evil and killable" stance, but despite his black and white morality he's allowed shades of grey and nuances to effect the way that he sees the world. He didn't want to kill Madison for example, and he was shocked enough by Tara Lenore and her band of vampires who only fed on animals in Dead Man's Blood to greatly question if blindly killing the supernatural was right. Sam could have availed himself of these arguments, and instead he just thrust his jaw out stubbornly. The thing about Sam feeling like a freak because of his powers, and worrying that Dean would want to distance himself from him, has been done already. Like for the whole of season two. I'm not saying that it doesn't need to be brought up, it's just that its already a part of the fabric of the show and their relationship and it didn't need to be over-emphasised to this degree. At least Dean's tired "don't get me started" to Travis' question about what was wrong with Sam did, after all that, still seem ever so brotherly.

I did find Sam's choice of words interesting though. He didn't say we're going to wait for Jack to kill someone (most likely his wife), he said we're not going to kill him unless he does something worth killing him for. Obviously this could mean him attempting to kill- but really making sure that they'd be able to jump in and stop him just before that happened would be pretty damn problematic. What I took it to mean was "unless he tries to kill someone, or if he so much as looks at Dean wrong". They're Winchesters, they're insane about their family. I think that if Sam had thought that Jack might specifically go after Dean, he would have jumped all over the flaming bandwagon at the first opportunity. Given how the episode ended I think that it's significant.

Jack had gone home to apologise to his wifey, and they made up and started making out. There was thigh! That's practically risqué for Supernatural. We only get like, what, one sex scene a season? Not even? And Dean's supposed to be a whore. Pfft. In this case though Jack was getting way too forceful, and his wife pushed him off screaming that he was a "son of a bitch", cos in Supernatural everyone (no matter how unlikely) seems to say it a lot. American network television really just needs to let people scream 'cunt' when it's appropriate. Jack's appetites for food and sex were definitely being tied together, the point being that he was becoming more animalistic and losing control. Also to make Dean out to be a gluttonous ho, natch. (See this is why he's so intent on policing that boundary, he's pretty much as close to a demonic something-or-other as one can be, yet Sam who is the "demonic" one is pretty staid and controlled- at least most of the time).

Dean was prepared to try out Sam's "let's just talk to him and see if that magically solves the problem" theory, but (reasonably enough) he just wanted to know that if push came, Sam would shove. (See that's the kind of playing with language that I like even if it is simple, at least it makes sense unlike the 'dropping eaves' of Pushing Daisies). At least Dean called him on seeing himself in Jack, getting to play exposition man in Castiel's absence. I buy that Sam probably cares more about, and generally identifies more with, the people whom they meet and help on cases than Dean. Dean tends to hold himself a little aloof, he's not a mere civilian, unless he happens to develop a rapport with someone in which case he's quickly sucked into being their white knight (as long as it doesn't interfere with being Sammy's). I just don't think that Sam spends all his time worrying about the fate of everyone, and his excessive concern over Jack was grating. That soon didn't matter though, because Sam shouted at Dean to stop the car, or he would. I don't know if he meant that he'd do it physically or psychically, but either way rock on Sammy.

And then there was a shouty roadside scene! Just like the one in Hunted when Dean blurted out that their father had charged him with killing Sam if he couldn't be saved. As a result I loved it. Sam was angrily explaining that he can't stand Dean seeing him as a freak, or worse as an idiot who doesn't know the difference between right and wrong. He wasn't embracing his demonic side, he saw the powers as a disease (an interesting metaphor), as a curse, as something terrible- but he wanted to turn it around and make something positive out of it. He seemed to have achieved this, he'd found a way to use his powers to attack demons, and to basically atone for his existence (or at least the tragedy that his existence had created). So while this heavy handed Jack/Sam analogy kind of made me want to go "jeez, I get it already" it also made me want to just go "aww, boys", so that's ok. I loved Sam's despair here, and Dean taking on his big brother role with gusto as per usual. He couldn't really do anything to make the situation better, but at least he could indulge Sam a little by agreeing to talk to Jack instead of shooting first and asking questions later.

So off they went to visit Grandma Jack, mostly just so that Dean could talk about Hungry Hungry Hippos and throw in a Hungry Jack reference which I'm pretty sure that he (and maybe the writers too, who knows) was oblivious about. The fact that they introduced themselves as Sam and Dean who know a little something about something, rather than pretending to be rangers or priests, demonstrated that they were both committed to trying to help Jack rather than just scoping out the situation. Dean was full of glee at getting to be the voice of wisdom, he authoritatively told Jack that although 'rugaru' sounds made up it isn't, and even threw in a long pig reference. Really he's as geeky as they come. I found it interesting that Sam referred to Jack's biological father as his 'real' father, of course it could have merely been a slip of the tongue but I think that Sam is generally quite careful about his use of language- see him ragging on Dean for his use of 'Siamese twins' in Tall Tales (and yes, I'm aware of how that sentence could read thank you very much). I think that it just emphasised the importance of blood, both in this episode and in the show's understanding of family.

Obviously family is incredibly important to the Winchesters, and to the show. For Sam and Dean that concept has shrunk smaller and smaller, to mostly just mean each other- as well as the memories of their parents. Even though Sam can't remember their mother, and they both have mixed memories of their father, their deaths have inspired the boys to keep on fighting and hunting monsters even after they'd had their revenge on Azazel. Sure, they've bonded closely with Bobby, but he's the one who had to point out that family doesn't end with blood. Plus I don't think that would have happened if they didn't have an idea of hunters as a sort of 'extended family' on the fringe, and if they hadn't grown up with Bobby because he was John's friend. He's the closest external link that they have to their childhood, so of course they would cling to it. I think that their close bond with Bobby does jar a little though, and it wouldn't have happened if Bobby didn't also function as a useful device for the writers. Everything in this episode was tied together by blood- both Sam and Jack can't escape their destinies implicit in theirs. It's a reductionist idea, but it was interesting- especially tied in with Sam's understanding of his demonic powers as a 'disease' and the inherited nature of the rugaru condition (unlike any other creature in the Supernatural universe I think).

Dean was conveying his whole "Be strong! Just say no to long pig!" Nancy Reagan -esque speech rather convincingly, while Sam got to be the threatening one for once. He tried to impress upon Jack that if he didn't withstand his desires they'd put a stop to him. However this led to Jack clocking on that his father had been dealt with in the same way, and he screamed at them to get off of his property. Cutting off this only link to protecting his wife from himself probably wasn't very smart, but I reckon that deep down the Winchesters can understand where he's coming from. After all in In The Beginning Dean would have done just about anything to protect his parents. Even though he was fuming (and still freaking out about Sam) Dean remembered to throw in a snarky, "good talk" as they walked off. Stay bitchy Dean, vive la resistance!

Jack decided to stalk the chick from the bar, because since Carthage has only got around 12,000 people that'd be pretty easy to do. At least I assume that she was the same girl, it was kind of hard for me to tell- it was the Ruby conundrum from Lazarus Rising all over again. Plus she actually kind of looked like his wife to me- but maybe that was just the hair. Supernatural really needs to start casting blonde women again, I'm getting all confused. It's actually possible that Genevieve Cortese is playing all the female roles at the moment and I just haven't noticed (except for young Mary and Deanna, obviously) but I think it's quite unlikely since that would suggest that she can actually act. Jack was being quite disturbing, watching her get half-naked in front of the window before closing the curtains. Oh crap, does this mean that I deserve to be eaten too? I'm always getting changed in front of windows, especially because I'm used to living high up and/or facing a load of trees. Sam didn't seem to appreciate the view of a semi-nekkid hot chick, he was mostly just pissed off about Jack slip-sliding away. The boys busted straight into the room, which probably wasn't the best idea because Jack had fought it off and run away instead of attacking her. I loved the moment when the boys suddenly realised that they definitely weren't helping, and the way that they legged it pretty sharpish.

Travis decided to go after Jack solo, obviously assuming that the boys with their caring sharing approach wouldn't get the job done. Despite the fact that he couldn't face the idea of hunting down and killing Jack for having the rugaru gene when he was a kid, he decided that the best thing to do would be to kill Jack's pregnant wife too. (Oh yeah, because she hadn't bothered to mention it to her husband but thought that she ought to bring it up with a murderous stranger.) I've decided that this was a comment on the idiocy of pro-lifers, because the idea that the only way to get rid of a problematic pregnancy is by killing the mother certainly earns you the "stupid son of a bitch" analysis from Sam. Also I could have done without the lame interior rugaru shots, it was like the special effects on House but significantly more intrusive and obviously cheaper. I am not at all surprised that Jack got rather pissed off at Travis' plan, broke free and then broke his arm (I did wince at the sound) and eventually embraced his demonic identity by killing Travis.

I adored the way that Sam and Dean entered Jack's house, they were walking in time and clutching their fire engine red home-made flamethrowers in front of them like talismans. They looked, somehow, so much like little kids heading off to school with their lunchboxes. They're just so innocent despite everything, it's heartbreaking. Sam at least had the decency to admit that Dean had been right about Jack all along, and he was clearly happy to kill anyone to protect Dean. He didn't get a chance to though, and instead woke up stuck inside a closet alone. Now this was clearly a reference to Nightmare in which Sam used his telekinesis to bust out of a closet and save Dean, but I think that there's something in the visual joke of having Sam in the closet (alone) that works too. Heh. At least he got his threats in, because quite certainly if Jack tried to hurt Dean Sam wouldn't hold himself back at all.

I think that Jack's craziness was conveyed really well, and of course he initially blamed them for Travis' actions- thinking that they were in league with him. When he realised that they didn't know though, he sensibly covered up his wife's pregnancy. (Although of course she could have just been lying in an attempt to protect herself from the crazy murderer, but I think she would have rescinded if that were true.) It was a bid to protect his family, and I think the knowledge that the boys would have no reason to go after her made him a little less desperate. I strongly doubt that they'd want to kill Michelle even if they'd known. Perhaps they'd encourage her to have an abortion (which might not be that difficult given what she'd seen and her reactions), but I think if she'd wanted to keep the child they would have tried to help her to raise it with the ability to control the rugaru instincts. I bet Bobby could have found a way to do it! Though I believe that if the child couldn't control those urges they would have stepped in, as they did with Jack.

Sam of course had a wealth of wire hangers in the closet with him. Just because he was going insane and evil doesn't mean that Jack would forget the basic social niceties. Sam tried to engage him in conversation, perhaps to detract attention from the scrapey noises he was making with the hanger in the lock. He tried to convince Jack that he understood, and that it doesn't matter what he is, it's what he does that counts. That might be more convincing if there was any evidence that Sam was applying this theory to his own life. Jack was meanwhile watching Dean sleep, and he looked ridiculously innocent and childlike- perhaps a reminder that Jack was a father figure. Hey, Mary was right about angels watching over Dean, maybe she used to tell him that rugarus were too and that's why he thought that both were made up? Dean woke up to the mildly worrying sight of Sam setting Jack on fire. Even when Sam's killing demons and giving a Winchester "I love you" to Dean he comes across as a little scarily intense. In the end though he did the right thing, rather than run around skipping and frolicking with rugaru-Jack as Dean seemed to worry that he would.

The episode ended with the boys talking in the car. Dean admitted that Sam's powers freak him out, which is hardly a revelation. It's been stated before, with Dean allying himself with his freak brother and firmly rejecting the idea that he ought to stand against him as a hunter. I know that Sam's been lying to him, but I don't think that that would ever change. Dean is angry and feeling betrayed, but nothing (not even Sam) can distract him from his mission to protect Sam. At least it was nice to have Dean attempt to apologise, and to honestly explain his fear to Sam. Sam was all pouty and dismally claiming that it was fine and that he didn't want to talk about. This shocked Dean something fierce- the idea that Sam didn't want to talk it to death. Really though Sam's always encouraging Dean to talk to him about his issues he can be pretty reticent about how he's feeling. He's sneaky like that, he does put up a facade a lot of the time. Dean might abhor chick flick moments (or so he claims, he should stop being so resolutely dramatic and emo really in that case) when he finally spills he tends to plumb hidden depths. Sam probably does need to talk about it really, since he does have to deal with it- but not alone. As usual that's the key point.

Sam claimed that using his powers was like playing with fire, something he'd know about after burning Jack up, so he was giving them up. Dean was supremely happy about that, apparently believing that just being gruff with Sam had somehow restored equilibrium to the world. Because things really are that simple. Sam was adamant that this was his choice, that he wasn't doing this for Dean, the angels or God (referred to as 'anybody', I don't think that Sam really has as much faith as he professes to), but clearly some of Dean's arguments had at least gotten through. Even if Sam can be trusted and won't be sneaking around with Ruby behind Dean's back anymore, I seriously doubt that he can just decide to pop these abilities back on the shelf without consequences. They may start to operate or affect him outside of his control, and even if they don't surely their presence must relate somehow to Lucifer's plans. I'm pretty sure that investigating these powers further might provide some answers, and it's always possible that Sam was right and that they could be harnessed for 'good'. I'm interested to see where the show goes with it anyway, and I'm glad to see that Sam's behaviour doesn't seem to have driven a permanent wedge between him and Dean.

I am very annoyed that some of what I originally wrote is on the tip of my fingers but inaccesible. Maybe it'll come to me in a dream. This doesn't seem too bad anyway.


I really thought that I'd like Fringe more than I did. It's a big-budget genre show created by J.J. Abrams inspired by The X-Files with Joshua Jackson knocking around, and yet I felt that the pilot was pretty disappointing. I never got into Alias or Lost much, the latter seems stupid to me but the former certainly potentially had my interest. My impression from both these shows was always that J.J. Abrams was probably a good writer and director, but that his style isn't something that really suits me. I can appreciate a love of twisty storylines, but I don't like it when the twists exist just for the sake of it. Call me old fashioned but I like story-arcs which make sense, and I want some subtle foreshadowing. I don't like the idea of writers going "hey, here's a neat idea!" and just chucking it in. Still, I was prepared to give Fringe a chance, especially since there's been so much positive buzz about it.

First off, I think the pilot was too long. I was bored and squirmy by the time it finished. Secondly, it was way too X-Files. I have some small gripes with The X-Files (and some huge ones with the new film, but I think I ought to leave that rant for another time) but it did its thing well. As in did it already. I don't really get what the point of Fringe is; it basically seemed like The X-Files with a larger budget, more annoying characters and stupider ideas. Joy. I mean even the name Fringe was derived from a marginalised government project. Sounds familiar? I was annoyed by the title sequence, the names of several supposedly fringe theories, such as 'dark matter'; 'psychokinesis'; 'artificial intelligence'; 'precognition' etc, float around in block capitals. Not only did it seem like a desperate attempt to over-emphasise the point that this is an über-cool science-fiction/genre show that you're really gonna love, it seriously looked like a (slightly prettier and less cheap) rip off of The X-Files' opening credits. Also I noticed that consistently throughout the episode the humour didn't quite work, it was as if the pacing was somehow a little off all the time.

The pilot began with a really gross scene involving the passengers of a flight being afflicted by some plague or something. Asides from the fact that having a pilot episode start with a plane pilot's troubles is a little amusing it mostly just annoyed me. I'm just not the biggest sci-fi fan I guess. I like the genre sometimes, mostly when it's either just plain awesome (as with Sliders) or where it's being utilised in a semi-allegorical way (like with Firefly or Dune). I'll tolerate science fiction and its elements most of the time, but I do vastly prefer fantasy series. While The X-Files had the whole alien obsession thang, at least they embraced a lot of stock fantasy series elements, which I somehow can't see Fringe doing.

The main character, Olivia, was pretty annoying. I'm not sure how much that was just the actress though. Olivia is played by Anna Torv, who could almost be the lovechild of Blake Lively and Ellen Pompeo i.e. strangely attractive, blonde, a terrible actress and somewhat irritating. Possibly I found her especially grating simply because she's Australian. I find it kind of strange that an actress from The Secret Life of Us got cast in the main role. Now I'm not saying that trashy Australian soaps don't have their place, they gave the world Jesse Spencer and thus gave House Dr Chase, and even The Secret Life of Us was ocasionally amusing (did Evan and Alex ever get together?). Comparatively Brookside gave us Anna Friel, and some cheesy Mexican telenovela or other launched Salma Hayek's career. Nonetheless I find the choice to cast the unknown Anna Torv in the lead role puzzling, since her acting was vexingly bad. Certainly Olivia's overly-pissy attitude at just about everything didn't help her case, and neither did the really lame romance with her co-worker, John, she was having fun with at the start of the episode. The way that she randomly brought up the fact that he'd said that he loves her all proud and beaming turned me off, and the cliché nature of her "I was so bad at relationships until you" simper-athon made me adamant that if John wasn't killed off in the first episode I wouldn't be sticking around. Luckily I was also pretty sure that he would be killed off post haste, but did they really need to make it so obvious?

Kirk Alcevedo turning up was awesome though, and not only because I have a strange affection for the way that he says 'liaison'. I really liked him in Oz, which is a show that I must get around to finishing one day. I'm seeing alums around the place quite often these days, Lauren Vélez is in Dexter and J.K. Simmons turns up in pretty much everything these days (including Juno) and mostly as sympathetic characters which always throws me off because I can't shake the feeling that he really is a terrifying neo-Nazi. If I wasn't certain that Lost would definitely annoy the shit out of me, since it seems utterly stupid especially as the writers are apparently just making it up as they go along, I would be seriously tempted to watch it just because of Harold Perrineau.

Olivia and John were sent off to a storage facility after a tip-off that they place might reveal something about the plane catastrophe. For some reason FBI agents on television don't always question whether it's alright if they bust into locked property, or in this case a locked garage. In fact they often only bother to when stalling would be a handy plot device. In some cases this seems in character, I pretty much buy Mulder doing it and one thing that I think that Bones does pretty well is have Booth fretting about playing by the rules, but still attempting to protect his non-FBI partner Brennan when she willingly flouts them- thus she doesn't fuss about warrants and so on all that much and so he gets dragged along in her wake. Olivia then spent quite a lot of time running about chasing a suspect and later trying to avoid being exploded. During this relatively short time I was irked by: her long hair flapping about everywhere instead of being tied up, the fact that she perpetually seemed somehow frail and had a deeply concerned expression on her face most of the time, and the fact that she runs like a girl. Give me Scully any day.

John being a victim of the explosion was kind of cool, at least it meant less of the staring into each other's eyes soulfully. I think that the hospital scene was shot well, and I did like the technique of having the flashes rather than showing things in detail. However, I think that Supernatural did put this to better effect in Lazarus Rising, and without spending $10 million.

I found the revelation that Olivia had previously basically been in charge of defending the pure, innocent women against the big bad men in the Old Boy's Club of the FBI/military rather tiresome. It's not that I think that that's a bad idea, but this characterisation just seemed so bland and so done already. She just seemed so righteous, and that of course grated. I don't know how women are treated in the military and in other branches of government, but I find the idea that they're belittled and treated as patronisingly as Fringe seemed to be ramming down my throat to be worrying. Olivia was referred to as uninventive endearments like 'honey' and 'sweetheart' more than by her name or title I think. Give me Scully and The X-Files any day, actually fuck that: give me CJ and The West Wing, stat.

Similarly the fact that Peter Bishop, son of the crazy Dr Bishop who Olivia somewhat randomly decided might be able to save John, was living in Baghdad (and ooh could speak Farsi, how magnificent and impressive!) was delivered with a pause for the audience to be wowed. I wasn't particularly shocked though. People live and work in Iraq, people (not me, but other people sure) learn languages, the world outside of the US exists. I don't really get where the surprise was. Nonetheless I think that Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop had the potential to save the show for me. I would totally have run off with him to the Caribbean in the True Love boat too. He was almost as wonderfully snarky in Fringe as in his Dawson's days, and that did bring a smile to my face.

Dr Bishop, when Olivia got access to him after forcing Peter back to the US, looked nice 'n' (properly) crazy. Which made Olivia's plan to hit him up for useful information to save her lover-boy seem pretty stupid. Also Olivia was pretty much a completely immoral bitch- and yet I still didn't like her. Curiouser and curiouser. Maybe it's because she was directing all this sociopathy towards Peter, who had already proved far more likable than her. She blackmailed him into helping her, and after a rubbish cursory attempt at explaining why she wanted his help she didn't really delve into garnering sympathy. She didn't even promise him compensation for his time, effort and emotional trauma. The interaction between Peter and his father was handled quite nicely I think, although Dr Bishop's characterisation got tiring quickly, especially the twitching and shaking. I did understand his obsession with ginger ale, and having him develop a taste for SpongeBob later was a nice, humanising, touch.

Olivia decided to resolutely pursue her theory that Dr Bishop would be able to save John's life, thus letting this psychopath wield a scalpel at the prone body of the man she claimed to love. Of course I understand that she was desperate and willing to try anything, but that desperation didn't come through. If anything Olivia just seemed to be stubbornly trying to prove that she was right. There was no reasoning to her belief that pursuing, and freeing, Dr Bishop would help so she just seemed stupid. The fact that she was being such an idiot made Peter's condescension and misogyny enjoyable and appealing, which was kind of annoying. I don't want to be on the side of the pompous man talking down to the silly little woman and yet I am. No wonder really, since Olivia then decided to agree to being drugged (with LSD amongst other things), by a crazy man, strip and then have a probe inserted in her head. Brilliant way to grieve probably, not an excellent tactic for saving lives.

Furthermore Olivia and Peter suddenly developed this weird sexual tension as if from nowhere. She was utilising him and his father in a desperate attempt to save another man, and yet suddenly there were lingering touches and heated glances. That's something which had the potential to have been played really well, Olivia could have been confused and conflicted about it. Instead it just served to highlight the fact that John would clearly be dead by the end of the episode and that the show wanted to shoehorn in as much tension as possible between the leads because that's standard fare. Just from an aesthetic point of view there's something really incongruous about the faces of Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson, they honestly look weird on screen together. Their looks seem to belong to different worlds or at least to different genres of shows- which really is odd because Dawson's Creek and The Secret Life of Us aren't exactly worlds apart. Some faces just don't go together somehow, it would be like Ellen Pompeo and Ed Westwick getting cast opposite each other. Or a better example that's currently eluding my tired mind.

Olivia's face annoyed me especially when she didn't look nearly as half dead as Peter did, or as she should. This wouldn't have mattered so much if she hadn't been going on about how tired she was, and if she hadn't been told that she looked like crap because she hadn't slept. This isn't something that only Fringe is guilty of, television and film characters are always going around looking perfectly put together when they shouldn't, but with explicit references to her exhaustion I think that there really ought to be some indicators of it. That's part of why I love Janel Moloney in The West Wing ep entitled In The Shadow of Two Gunmen playing the scene in which her character, Donna, rushed to the hospital upon hearing that the President had been shot only to be devastated by the discovery that Josh had been wounded far more seriously with ungroomed hair and no make-up.

At least Olivia looked pretty in her (of course) matching underwear, and her impending coma-like state promised blessed silence. The fact that an FBI liaison was bootlegging smack in a basement was pretty amusing. I think that that scene was shot pretty well, and I liked the dreamscape in which she "met" John, it looked almost like a comic book. I ought to have just watched this scene on mute, at least then I wouldn't have been irritated by the bullshit dialogue.

The choice to title locations in large letters as if they were part of the place was a little jarring. It was nice to see a show trying to do something interesting instead of just subtitling at the bottom of the screen, but it quickly got annoying. If it wasn't so uniform, and almost obsessive, it could have been alright. It seems like this device excuses unclear writing which doesn't make it obvious what's going on in a scene, or where it is, too.

I did like the character of Nina Sharp, she honestly seemed interesting and compelling. I think that Blair Brown played her wonderfully. She was almost inhuman with her prosthetic arm and her mocking grin, but she was being genuinely kind to Olivia. I had a feeling that she would be revealed to have a hidden connection to Olivia at some point, possibly even turning out to be her mother or something. Olivia's gasping and wide eyes throughout that scene only served to frustrate me further. I feel that this whole fear of what science can create and the advancement of technology has already been done so many times, and Fringe's incarnation just seems so '90s. The whole "blah blah blah, freaky things are happening a lot lately, there's A Pattern" thing was entirely yawn-worthy.

When Olivia managed to track down Steig, the guy responsible for the virus/plague/whatever that was affecting John, there was an excessive amount of people leaping off of buildings. It was cool in terms of the way it was shot, but it hardly seemed like a sensible thing to do. At least a nice, tense sequence was created with the chase and then the interrogation. Steig seemed like a cyborg or something, and the interrogation somehow seemed reminiscent of Blade Runner. However I think he was supposed to be a run of the mill human, unless that's something that'll be revisited in later episodes. Peter got a chance to display his awesomeness, he sneaked into the restricted area to threaten Steig with physical violence if he didn't provide them with the information necessary for saving John. Here Peter benefitted from much the same thing as Brennan in Bones, having been conferred some authority by association with the FBI but not being an agent and therefore not being prevented by the same rules. Olivia busted in to stop him, and Peter explicitly argued that though she couldn't do it, he's a nobody and can therefore get away with it. Mostly I really liked Peter, even if he was a bit too much of a genius. I'm not just jealous of his retention of information now that my memory is failing me in my old age, not at all...

Finally, at the end of the episode, came a somewhat decent twist. It transpired that Steig (well actually there were two because they were identical twins, how utterly wacky, the one on the plane and the probably-not-cyborg one they captured) had been forced into releasing the plaguey thing by someone from Olivia's very own office. The bad guy was... John! So going through all that hassle to save him wasn't really worth it, I bet Olivia felt pretty damn dumb after kicking up that much fuss. Maybe that's why she got embroiled in a car chase with him, which led to him crashing his car and dying after all. Ruh-roh.

I feel that Fringe redeemed itself slightly with that ending, especially as John's body was dragged off to Massive Dynamics (where Nina hails from, and where Steig had worked) to be questioned as he'd been dead for less than six hours, and Dr Bishop had handily set up the fact that people can be communicated with and even reanimated before that threshold is reached. It did seem that Fringe was getting ready to perhaps veer off in a different direction, and not be quite as obvious as I thought it would be. Still the last five minutes didn't make up for the rest of this pilot. I think that if I hear really good things about this series (preferably from people who aren't Lost fans) then I might be willing to check out more of it, but the first episode really didn't grip or enthral me anywhere near as much as I'd expected it to and so I'm not really motivated to watch more.



Pushing Daisies

The recap at the beginning of Bzzzzzzzzz! (the first episode of the second season) did nothing for me. In fact it kind of bored me. Contrasting that with Supernatural is interesting, because the 'The Road So Far' segment of Lazarus Rising practically had me squealing with joy. Now in part that's probably because Supernatural is by nature a much more exciting show, that's not to say that Pushing Daisies isn't entertaining- it is, but in a much more sedate way. At heart it's just this tragic romance- Chuck and Ned love each other so very much, but they can never touch because if they do she'll die. Thing is, while I think that this central story is well-crafted and well-handled, it doesn't really leave the show many places to go. That's hidden quite well by the episodic nature of the cases, and by the cast of quirky sidekicks, but really it seems as if there's a finite level, which the show cannot move beyond. The idea of family is important- Emerson's daughter; Ned's father; Chuck's aunts- but I don't think that that can take up the whole show unless it transpires that Ned inherited his powers from his father in which case everything gets a bit too Carnivale and serious.

Mostly I'm willing to suspend these nagging thoughts, just settle back and let the joy that is Pushing Daisies waft over me. Especially when French Stewart is involved, as well as the trademark lame slogans; like bee-lieve. One thing that I did really like about the recap was that it mentioned Aunt Lily's "maternal" feelings for the orphaned Chuck, a subtle callback to her drugged admission to Olive that she was actually Chuck's biological mother. This seemed to promise to reveal that tangled mess, and hopefully set a storyarc in motion which might allow the show to move along somewhere.

Chuck and Ned's ballet of avoidance was played really well (and reminded me of people jumping around from seat to seat on packed buses to fight for a window seat), especially with the bell-slippers, but really it just emphasised how much of a bad plan them living together (especially in a relatively small apartment) is. Ned fondling her with the fake hand he uses to stroke Digby was insanely cute. Them standing around together on the roof garden in their 'silky intimates' was also precious, and I'd like to believe that they hang about doing the "look but don't touch" thing, despite the fact that it didn't seem like it. I do love Lee Pace. I really want to watch Soldier Girl actually, but I'll settle for the (rather different) sight of his ridiculously long body lounging around in nothing but boxers while he pulls stupid faces. It turned out that he was hanging around half-nekkid outside so that Chuck could drop all her dead bees on him for him to bring them back to life, and possibly cause the death of some pests to balance things out, and she was in her underwear too for moral support. I think I'd need quite a lot of moral support to get to the point where I let someone chuck a load of bees all over me, I don't mind bees (they make honey, they like flowers, they aren't wasps) but I'd rather not take the chance to be stung. Not that I'd notice since I have hardly any skin unsullied by mosquito bites nowadays. Ned and Chuck just are very sweet, in a way that would be sickening if it wasn't for the fact that they're over-compensating. It was nice to see Chuck gently pleading for a chance to talk to her father for even sixty seconds if Ned brought him back, but not forcing the issue at all and seemingly not being upset by his refusal.

Emerson with his L'il Gum Shoe pop-up book was just awesome. I'm glad that they've retained that little obsession of his and that it's possibly going to take on a new significance. I also loved his rapid-fire rant at Ned about how he can't just 'undead the dead'. Props for abusing the English language in a useful way, and also just for Chi McBride being able to handle the speedy dialogue. I feel like I could have a mile a minute conversation quite happily with the guy. He was interrupted by some supposedly cuckolded randomite rushing into the Pie Hole to announce the death of his wife. He was sure that she was going to leave him or possibly the other guy, but he couldn't tell which because 'she wasn't using proper nouns'. What? I mean proper nouns could work in that sentence, but surely it'd make much more sense to say 'names'? That line just really irked me because it could have been presented well, and instead it was just confusing.

The gang went to check out his wife, Kentucky, in the morgue. It was nice to have the return of grumpy morgue guy, he's excellent. It turned out there was definitely a honey/bee theme to the episode, Kentucky had worked for Betty's Bees- a company which produced honey and related products. She'd been swarmed, and thus stung to death. Which, ouch, supports my feeling that being doused in bees isn't the best idea ever. When Ned brought her back for her sixty seconds she quickly realised that she was dead, and that she was stung literally all over (Ned seemed to get a horrifying eyeful). One thing that I thought was stupid was her referring to the bees stinging her eyes, since they were the one part of her that evidently weren't swollen, and indeed her eye make-up was still perfect. I was entertaining the idea that maybe Kentucky's death was a result of Ned and Chuck bringing their swarm back to life, and thought that they might at least consider it. No such luck, but maybe they were distracted by Emerson mocking Kentucky's accent. Didn't anyone ever tell him not to get rude about the dead?

Instead of worrying about the consequences of his actions for others Ned was totally wrapped up in himself- but for valid reasons I guess. He was freaking out about the possibility that he could have been swarmed on the roof, while he was in nothing but his underwear. Emerson bitched at him for trying to put images like that into his head, because Emerson's fabulous. While they were trying to crack the case Olive subtly made it obvious that she still isn't impressed with Chuck's behaviour, and refused to provide her with pie. Harsh times. Chuck theorised that Kentucky's killer could have been a man made entirely of bees, and that would explain why he had no face. I think that maybe she was a bit delusional due to lack of food, or maybe had been watching the What's My Line episodes of Buffy with the bug man (koo koo ka choo [*]). Also, as Ned points out, she's probably just enamoured with the idea of making her swarm into a bee man. While the 'dropping eaves' comment was cute, I'm certain that it's incorrect. I'm not going anywhere with that, I just want to pretend that I can speak English.

Suddenly Chuck was bee-ing undercover at Betty's Bees, with a nom de plume and everything. She could totally join our crew. She quickly met Woolsey (who I've decided was named, but not spelt, for the Cardinal), played wonderfully by French Stewart- especially when he was talking about furry behinds. The Betty Bee HQ was designed to look like a giant hive with a lattice work pattern for the walls, but it unfortunately looked like The (ugly and phallic) Gherkin to me from the outside. Chuck wasn't particularly subtle with her investigation, but Woolsey didn't seem too perturbed. He revealed to her that Kentucky was poised to become the new face of Betty's Bees since Betty was too old- 38, which rounds up to 40, which rounds up to 50, which rounds up to old. Chuck's horrified face as he explained this theory was priceless. (How old is Chuck meant to be anyway? Anna Friel's 32, so I guess somewhere around then.) And Chuck had a mic hidden in her bee brooch! I really liked that little touch (the bee brooch, not the mic- although it was useful too).

When Chuck went to snoop further she found Betty hiding in her closet. And yet no appropriate jokes were made, it was like Adverse Events all over again. Missi Pyle, who played Betty, looked damn familiar- I eventually tracked her down with a little help from IMDb, she was in Heroes back in season one when it wasn't crappy. Betty snippily explained to Chuck that she was in the closet as part of her cognitive therapy for claustrophobia, which I suppose is less weird than going through someone's shoes. (Also it kind of reminded me of Josh's weird wall therapy in The West Wing, and if you can't laugh at people getting doors slammed into them then you're just not trying hard enough.) It was suggested that Chuck become the new face of the company since nobody wants to think about death when they're buying their honey-infused lip balm. Word.

Thankfully Olive didn't hear Emerson saying that it always hurts to be replaced by someone younger and better looking, or she might have pitched a fit. She did hear them discussing the case and helpfully suggested that it sounded like Kentucky and Betty were having a lesbian affair. Clearly this was Olive trying to express the fact that she's secretly in love with Chuck, and that all this pining after Ned is just a smokescreen. Ned said, rather forcefully, that he'd already ruled out office romance- which hurt Olive a little. Chuck simpered that she hadn't completely ruled it out while eyeing Ned up. Emerson went off on one about people always falling for the wrong people, which Olive seemed to heartily agree with. I've decided that Ned was worried about the idea of Chuck giving Betty the shakedown cos he'd realised that all the women involved are actually lesbians. Yay! Meanwhile Emerson was adamant that Chuck ought to pursue the case, he even called her his 'inside man', I think that Emerson's actually starting to like Chuck a little despite his best efforts.

Suddenly aunts Lily and Vivian arrived, decked out completely in animal print. Lily calling out "I told you she wasn't dead!" freaked Ned out because he thought they'd discovered his Chuck-shaped secret, but it was obvious that it referred to Olive. Chuck sensibly ran and hid very quickly though. Vivian was extremely glad to see Olive, she'd begun to take everyone dying rather personally, but she was still upset that Olive had stopped popping by to deliver pies and hang out. Olive desperately tried to come up with a reason that didn't involve her admitting that Lily had forbid her from coming back ever since she accidentally let slip to Olive that she was Chuck's mother, and came up with "...I'm really flakey?". Lily was triumphant, as apparently that was what she'd been trying to convince Vivian of anyway.

The scene in which Chuck and Olive were snapping at each other, both hiding behind Emerson's bulk, was hilarious. Once again Olive couldn't exactly admit why she'd stopped visiting Chuck's aunts so she pretended to be very judgemental about Chuck's choice to douse their pies with homeopathic mood enhancers. There was something about this whole people rubbishly trying to cover something up that specifically reminded me of The West Wing, maybe it's just the Kristen Chenoweth connection though. Instead of spilling her buckshot of secrets (oh what a wonderful line by the way, and it somehow needs to get shoehorned into Supernatural) she started screaming all her stress out, and then tried to explain that she was a gun full of hidden information (but thankfully she didn't have a pistol). She then quit the Pie Hole, which is a rubbish idea! I think they've created an interesting twist with Olive leaving, and it's going to help us to find out more about Lily, but for all that this scene was funny as hell it did feel rather contrived- just a way to get Olive out basically. I also think that the lack of Olive in the Pie Hole will be a sad thing, especially because I like the relationship between her and Chuck.

Ned didn't want her to leave either, as he pointed out it really is her home. She was adamant that it was time for her to go out into the cold, hard reality- a nice comment on the whimsical, warm world that Pushing Daisies has created. Lily decided to take charge and deposit Olive somewhere sensible- although it didn't seem particularly cold, hard or even real if it comes to that. She was off being alive with the sound of music at a convent, wearing an ugly green nun outfit and being told to shut up a lot. Olive's apartment (above the shop, next to Ned's) was apparently paid up for a year, and she told them that she might come back and claim it then, or not. Meep. I don't want her to be away from them for (most of) the entire season, even if she still is in the show. It was nice that this all caused Chuck to admit to Ned that she'd been spiking her aunts' pie crusts, and she seemed to genuinely feel bad that she'd hurt Olive by using her as a drug mule.

Chuck decided to move into Olive's apartment, which wasn't really a bad idea. It meant that her and Ned would be less stressed about avoiding contact, although sadly it would also mean that she'd be less likely to walk in on him doing things he doesn't want her to know he's doing (she blatantly 'forgot' her slippers just so she could sneak up on him). Initially her claim that it would be romantic seemed rather stupid, and as Ned pointed out her moving out combined with her getting a non-pie job made him seem a little redundant. However she actually managed to swing it by describing the apartments as Parisian his and her matching suites, that they could enjoy with coy midnight knocks on the door. I was swayed, even if Ned wasn't impressed by the idea of knocking (you'd think he would be after his whinging about her walking in on him).

Back at work Betty explained to Chuck that her bees had all been attacked my mites when Woolsey made a hostile takeover of the company. Again I thought that these mites might somehow be related to the tiny water mites that Ned thought reviving the bees might kill. I mean not necessarily in a sensical way, but I feel that the repetition of bugs in this episode might have been a bit of a red herring as well as a thematic thing. Betty said that her bees dying when her company did would "almost be poetic... if it didn't suck so much". Amen. Chuck was really impressed by the fact that Betty had lived with bees in her room as a kid, and her explanation that her mother was a Methodist and her daddy was a Pragmatist so it was decided that God must have put them there for a reason was darling. Also the joke about Kentucky sabotaging the company with might not mite was awesome (I love homonyms, I do, I do).

The gang got to tell Kentucky's husband that she wasn't cheating on him, that she was trying to sabotage her work instead. He got all sniffly and Emerson told him that it's not ok for a grown man to cry in public- at least not when there's happy families in the vicinity enjoying their pie. Emerson insisted that he run off to the toilet and cry in private like a man. This left Emerson and Chuck to bond by ganging up on Ned and accusing him of squawking. Heh, he kind of does.

He got an opportunity to squawk at Vivian a little when she turned up desperate for company. Lily had now disappeared (off to hang out with Olive, but neither knew that) and Vivian was getting very tired of people leaving her. Poor thing. Ned got very interested in the fact that they'd left Chuck's room exactly as it was, with pride of place given to her favourite pillow which had been her father's. Sniff. I do think that Ned is quite self-involved, instead of comforting the visibly upset Vivian he was scheming on how to make sure Chuck appreciated him, and he seemed to think that Chuck moving out of his apartment to go next door (for good reasons) was as bad as Vivian dealing with her apparent death.

Olive was quite a rubbish nun, you can't really imagine her doing well with poverty or silence of course, and damn I'd get pissed off too if nuns started giving all my stuff away to the poor. The idea of a nunnery is quite an attractive one- just in terms of the seclusion. I can understand why Buffy considered joining one in Triangle after she saved a nun, although I think this conversation explained why she didn't:

Buffy: So, um, a-about being a nun... (They begin to walk along together) you know, um, with the whole ... abjuring the company of men ... you know, how's that working for you? The... abjuring.
Nun: (confused) Um ... good.
Buffy: Yeah, do you, do you have to be like super-religious?
Nun: Well, uh...
Buffy: How's the food?

These nuns had also assumed that Olive must have retreated to their sanctuary because she was pregnant, which was pretty funny, until it was revealed that this is where Lily hid to have Chuck. (Also it got the Joni Mitchell song The Magdalene Laundries stuck in my head, and it's substantially sadder: "most girls come here pregnant, some by their own fathers, Bridget got that belly from her parish priest".)

Ned got a job as the new receptionist at Betty's Bees, clearly inspired by Chuck he 'pruned' the former receptionist's pie and then intercepted the demand for a temp. Ned is kind of evil, and as Emerson screeched he's blatantly stalker material, but Chuck just found his actions sweet and romantic. Women, on any given day there's really no way of predicting what they're going to care about. At least Chuck admitted that she'd be a hypocrite if she judged him for spiking pie, but I'm still not quite sure what about it was so chivalrous.

Chuck discovered that there was a beeman, not only that but Chuck even briefly became said beeman! Woolsey had the queen bee in a small sealed box in his mouth, which caused the bees to completely swarm around him. He spat the queen at Chuck so that the bees would attack her, but instead she semi-swallowed the container and got herself perceived as a benign nest not a threat. Ned managed to save the day by opening the window, hey it's a hard job, and interestingly his fretting revealed that Chuck and Digby can be re-deaded by ordinary means. Chuck ended up giving Emerson a huge hug at the end of this escapade, which was lovely.

Lily was lurking around the nunnery, hiding in the confessional. I'm glad that I'm not Catholic, I'd never, ever go to confession. I think about 1 in 10 times is there actually a priest in there- at least in films and television and if they aren't an accurate representation of real life then what is? Olive started ranting away about having awkward silences with God, but Lily tried to convince her to stay and clear her head as she could pine away desperately there just as well as anywhere (and not just because Lily didn't want Olive shooting her mouth off, oh no). I loved Olive's description of what Lily was doing in the nunnery the first time round: finding a baby in your cabbage patch, and 'by cabbage patch I mean your...lady parts'. I love Swoozy Kurtz and Kristen Chenoweth a little too much I think. Olive was very pie-ous, and not impressed when Lily let slip another secret- that Chuck's father was Vivian's fiancé whom she filched.

The collapse of Betsy's hive had been a hoax, she and Kentucky had stolen the bees and hidden them. Woolsey had killed Kennedy because she didn't love him, and was on Betsy's side. With that solved the team got Betsy to help them, and protected her by not exposing her scheme to the police. Now that's fucking teamwork. The bee theme continued, with the narrator explaining that Ned realised that his and Chuck's hive hadn't collapsed but expanded. He managed to get her books, furniture and special pillow from Vivian (probably under pretence of helpfully removing them) to welcome her home. The show emphasised the idea that home is where you feel you belong, and for Chuck home is wherever Ned is (and apparently where his father mysteriously is hanging around, which is either going to be an interesting twist or a very annoying distraction). For Emerson I guess home would ideally be wherever his daughter was, it turned out he was making his pop-up book as a guide because he couldn't find his daughter so he hoped that she'd find him. And for Olive home is currently as far away from Ned as she could make it, but she was obviously still thinking of him when she named her new friend Pig-by.


[*] Not an accurate rendition of the 'lyric', but I think it is what Xander says.


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