Monday, March 2, 2015

Looking Season 2 Ep. 7 Recap: “Looking For A Plot”

Photo Credit: HBO

After the epic costumed cringe comedy of “Looking For Gordon Freeman,” this week's “Looking For A Plot,” seeks to tug at the heartstrings rather than make stomachs squirm, and it succeeds resoundingly. The backdrop for all this emoting is an event where emoting is a default state: a funeral.

Like “Looking For Truth,” which gave more insight into Richie via a visit back to his old neighborhood, “Looking For A Plot” uses Dom and Doris' return to their hometown of Modesto to attend Doris' father's funeral to round out the characters and their relationship. Doris benefits from this focus the most. While her relationship with Malik has shown a softer side to the character, more often than not she still functions as the stereotypically blunt fag hag, always at the ready with a sarcastic quip.

“Looking For A Plot” reveals the roots of that acerbic humor, which lay in a childhood spent living with an alcoholic mother and experiencing what's insinuated as a combative relationship with her father's sister Sarah, whom Doris reveals suffered abuse from an uncle. Her father meanwhile, was both her protector and biggest supporter, driving her around late at night until her mother passed out, then cheering her on through her stint on the high school swim team and her move to San Francisco.

It's not the least bit shocking that Doris and Dom dated as teenagers or, that she was in love with him at one point; like, say, Will Truman and Grace Adler, Dom and Doris' bond has always had an air of former romance about it (though you get the idea Dom's initial coming out was less torturous for Doris than Will's was for Grace), like in the way Dom promises to take care of Doris, or how they practically function as a married couple at the post-funeral reception.

The pair's age also allows the show to explore a classic small-town-kids-leave-for-the-big-city question: What if I stayed? While Doris has no regrets over getting the hell out of Modesto, Dom expresses some uncertainty, particularly after coming out to an old classmates who's now married with kids and has a successful career. Dom's arc for much the series has been a search to find himself and realize his professional dreams, and “Looking For A Plot” brings this into focus by filling in some blanks on his past. Turns out his dad, who passed away when he was young, also owned a Portuguese restaurant, but it went under and is now home to a donut shop.

We also learn Dom never came to out to his dad while he was alive, and the fact he'll never truly know how he would have taken the news clearly weighs on him all these years later. The scene where he, Doris and Patrick search for his grave starts out sad (they don't find it), but turns darkly funny as he decides to “come out” by loudly announcing his homosexuality to the entire graveyard as they drive away. And then they're side swiped by a truck. At the hospital, Doris quips that she's an orphan, then offers to give Dom the money her father left her so he can start his restaurant.

“There's nobody I'd rather want to invest in more than you. 'Cause you're my family,” she says, and if you weren't tearing up already, here comes Malik, who's been sending “thinking of you” texts, and who drove to hospital to check on her. In that moment, Doris finally gives into her grief and cries in his arms. Lauren Weedman knew this was her half hour to shine and seizes the opportunity, playing Doris with just the right amount of toughness and vulnerability.

And what about our dear Paddy? As he says on the ride to the funeral, he main reason for accompanying Dom and Doris is escape having to deal with his own issues. Despite his less than altruistic motives, Patrick does provide some emotional support--he gives a mean neck massage--but the aforementioned issues follow him to Modesto. While visiting the local gay bar, Patrick projects his own lonely adolescence--one where he snuck out to gay bars clad in his sister's jeans, got drunk, and listened to Evanescence during bouts of depression--onto a guy sitting alone at the bar, a fantasy that bursts when the guy's boyfriend shows up. It he hadn't totally lost his shit last week, it'd probably be inspiration to get wasted; instead, he strolls over to the dance floor and gets down with Doris and Dom.

However, when Sarah reads Walt Whitman's “Clear Midnight,” the same poem Patrick read to Dom in the season premiere, the words open up the floodgates, as all of his pent up emotion comes out in one ugly, loud cry. His outburst gets him branded as the weird guy, but unlike last week's meltdown, this felt more like a much-needed release rather than self-destructive lashing out. He ignores a call from Kevin, but later, comes home to find him outside at his apartment. Turns out he manned up, broke it off with John and wants to start something real with Patrick.

Patrick, no doubt affected by recent events, agrees.

Next week: Patrick and Kevin wear matching outfits (ick) and get mistaken from brothers!

Other Thoughts:

--The episode starts the morning after last week's disastrous Halloween party, during which Patrick curses tequila while Agustin and Dom offer up a highlight reel of his other antics--ike throwing up on a hobbit's (Eddie's) shoes, and calling Brady a “Truvada whore.” As Dom succinctly puts it “You were a mess girl.”

--Like most small towns, Modesto has it own rainbow-plastered hole-in-the-wall in the form of the Brave Bull, a gay bar where they play fantastic 80's pop like “Walking On Sunshine,” and host drag queens named Kitty Leukemia, who apparently does a wicked Lady Gaga set.

--Patrick: “In high school I came to a place like this [the donut shop] every afternoon and sat in a booth alone with a box of glaze, and read an Out magazine tucked inside a Sports Illustrated.” Dayum that is bleak.

--Agustin: “Actually I'm really looking forward to the drag queen reenactment of your epic speech at The Castro.” Save for that opening scene, Agustin was MIA this episode, though next week's preview implies a self-inflicted bump in the road in he and Eddie's relationship.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Stem Cell Breakthrough May Mean Biological Children for Gay Couples

This is interesting. A breakthrough in stem cell research by scientists at Cambridge University and the Weizmann Institute in Israel has found human sperm and eggs can be created from stem cells derived from adult skin, regardless of the donor's gender. Which also means it would be also be possible for same-sex couples to have their own biological children.

Lgbtqnation, citing Medical Daily and the journal Cell, reports that "While this breakthrough could help men and women who have been rendered infertile by disease, gay groups have also expressed hope that this project will eventually lead to the creation of children made from stem cells derived from same-sex parents.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Cell earlier this week, stressing that it’s early days for this type of research.

Dr. Jacob Hanna, an investigator with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, told ABC News that the team will now attempt to complete the process by creating fully developed artificial sperm and eggs, either in a dish or by implanting them in a rodent."

According to Dr. Hanna, creating a baby using these methods could be possible in as little as two years.

Obviously it'd be wonderful if gay couples could have biological children of our own. But this will also need to be extremely well regulated to avoid ethical and safety issues. Imagine some greedy lab worker selling sperm and eggs to the highest bidder? Or unstable person snatching the skin of some famous athlete or musician to create sperm so they can technically have a baby by them and subsequently get paid (it probably doesn't help that I'm knee deep in a Law and Order: SVU marathon as I post this).

What do you think?

WATCH: Phantom Roadmap to LGBT Discrimination

They're getting craftier.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Looking Season 2 Ep. 6 Recap: “Looking For Gordon Freeman”

Photo Credit: HBO

Oh Paddy. Paddy, Paddy, Paddy.  After seemingly starting the process of getting his shit together last week, Patrick spends much, if not all of “Looking For Gordon Freeman,” losing said shit. That his half-hour unraveling plays out over the course of a Halloween night is apt, because Patrick plus alcohol plus a karoke mic equals hella scary.

Then again, his decision to go as Gordon Freeman should have been a clue all was not right. According to Patrick, Freeman--the most popular video game character of all time (I guess he never heard of that slacker Mario)--revolutionized first-person shooters because he blended in so well it made it easier for players to imagine themselves in the action. Um, yeah (and I say that as a pretty accomplished gamer). Agustin's response better hits the psychological mark: “So your idea of a fun gay is a character with so little personality he's basically nothing.” It'd be a stretch to say Patrick has no personality; however, he is someone who cares deeply what others think, to the point where he often suppresses his true feelings in an attempt to project a certain image.

And the image he wants to project in “Looking For Gordon Freeman,” is a totally together fun gay who  throws fantastic Halloween parties. The last bit is true, as everyone appears to be having a good time. Except Patrick that is. True to form, he simply can't relax and enjoy himself, micro-managing the party playlist and karoke sign up sheet and repeating ad nauseum that it's “fun gay party.” What makes the episode both great and so excruciating is watching Patrick slowly but surely dig a hole for himself with practically everyone he encounters. He ignores James, a potential rebound Eddie brings to the party, then drunkenly tries to kiss him after watching Agustin and Eddie and Richie and Brady cuddle. He further embarrasses himself by trying to debate Brady on his upcoming piece on Truvada without even bothering to have read the article.

But the real coup de grace is when he spots Kevin and John all hugged up on the dancefloor. He lights into Kevin for showing up (a fair thing to be upset about; even though he did invite him, it was more as a social gesture), stops the music, grabs the the mike and proceeds to utterly and completely show his ass, summoning his best WASP nice nastiness to throw everyone he cares about under the bus. Taking up an offering for Dom's “chicken window?” Check. Putting Agustin's lack of income and drug exploits on front street? Check. Mocking Richie and Brady's-- or  Patrick calls him, ”the gay Dr. Ruth”--relationship? Well, you get the picture. Things continue to spiral downward until he starts in on Kevin and their affair, as Dom and Agustin prove they're really good friends by snatching the mic away and saving Patrick from himself.

Agustin definitely proves he's turned over a new leaf by sitting with Patrick after his breakdown. The old Agustin probably would've unleashed a vicious passive-aggressive read or let Patrick hang himself by revealing his affair with Kevin. But having been the self-destructive asshole, he sees Patrick is flailing and offers support instead. Kevin comes outside, and Patrick tells him he doesn't he want things to be weird or for him to move back to Seattle. Once John comes out though,  Kevin jumps up from Patrick like he has Ebola and flips back into boyfriend mode. I'm surprised he isn't bleeding to death from the daggers Patrick shoots at him.

“Good luck in Seattle. I hope everything works out the way you want,” he says as Kevin makes a hasty retreat. It's likely their last interaction, and underscores the nature of their relationship; Patrick lays his feelings bare, Kevin appears to be open, but shuts down once John enters the picture. As the party winds down, the remaining guests boogie to a remix of “The Monster Mash,” while Patrick rests in the arms of Dom, a.k.a. He-Man, while Richie stares at him with a look that says “You're incredible,” in both the best and worst sense of the word. Happy Halloween Gordon Freeman.

Other Thoughts:

--Aside from stopping Patrick from completely blowing up his life, Agustin continues to pursue Eddie, who in turn continues to playfully brush off his attempts to take their relationship to the next level. Underneath all the good humor, Eddie is clearly wary of entering into a new romance, and it'll be interesting to see how long he'll hold out, or how patient Agustin will be until he lays down the gauntlet.

--Doris is unsurprisingly freaked out by her relationship with Malik, who has no problem playing the Cher to her Sonny or throwing out the “L” word. For a woman who applies sarcasm like moisturizer, being with a man so emotionally available is understandably going to throw her for a loop. Hopefully she'll heed Dom's advice and let him in.

--Johnathan Groff was on his absolute A-game this whole episode, and his epic meltdown speech was the cherry on top. You knew from the second Patrick climbed on top of that chair and slipped into his “gay voice,” that shit was about to get real.

--“I only believe in three things--that's Rupaul, Hilary Clinton and you kids.”

--“What's not fun and gay about being a Golden Ghoul?”

=Agustin: “You dressin' up tonight?” Eddie: “Does a bottom howl at the moon?”

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Scandal Season 4 Ep. 13 Recap: 'No More Blood'

Photo Credit: ABC

No more blood. That's the promise Huck makes to Quinn, still shaken after hearing about his latest torture excursion, and after she had to listen to him describe in graphic detail how whoever buys Olivia in the black market auction would literally use her body as a bargaining tool--piece by piece.

While her request is understandable, it also feels like one diametrically opposed to Scandal's mission statement. When has Scandal or its characters ever exercised restraint? True, much of this season has been a kind of course correction, a rebuilding of the show's world after the turned up to 11, off-the-rails insanity of season three. But this by and large is still a series driven by unbridled desire--for power, for revenge, justice, sex, love--and an almost compulsive disregard for the consequences of pursuing these things. Huck does keep his promise not to spill blood, albeit in a fingers-crossed sort of way,. Later, we see him injecting a shirtless, saran-wrapped Andrew with a liquid makes him pass out and develop symptoms resembling a stroke after Elizabeth visits OPA's offices and pushes him to make him pay.

Huck's actions could be viewed as a slippery slope on the way down to being possessed by the inner beast Jake refers to (who sets off plenty of alarm bells himself with his rhapsodizing of warm blood on his hands and breaking bones in just the right spot). But taken in the context of the episode, they could also be looked at through the lens of one of the series' favorite themes: individual freedom vs. the greater good of the nation. Elizabeth (and Mellie) clearly wanted revenge, but their retribution against Andrew is also a reminder that no one abuses the good will of the American people for purely selfish gain and gets away Scott-free. Lie? Blackmail? Fix an election? Sure, but in better be in service of the republic.

“No More Blood” hammers this point home by having every character accept this fact on some level and act accordingly. Everyone that is, except Fitz, who is still utterly convinced he can save Olivia, blinkering himself to the idea he might have to order her death if she's turned over into enemy hands. Not deluding himself is Cyrus, who meets with the CIA behind the president's back to talk about “neutralizing” Olivia. Abby puts two and two together and calls him out on it, but Cyrus quickly reminds her job description entails putting the political before the personal.

As Liv gets transported to the drop off point, Cyrus and the CIA director (who you might recall played Otis Williams' mother in The Temptations TV movie back in the day. Ain't nobody coming to see you Otis!) go back and forth over whether to launch a missile that will blow Liv and everyone else to smithereens. Cyrus recognizes one of the men in the Russian group that Gus gave Olivia over to, and oh snap! It's Stephen Finch. Yea, season one Stephen Finch. Definitely the last person you'd expect to come to Olivia's rescue. Thank Abby, who kept in touch after Stephen took off. In an uber boss move, she manages to protect both her friend and her country.

However, if things had gone the other way, she would've bit the bullet the same way Cyrus was prepared to. It's a concept Olivia believes in as well, even when it comes to herself. The emotional barn burner that is the final scene uses that belief to turn her and Fitz's dynamic on its head. As soon as Olivia is alone in her apartment, Fitz is at her door. It's a scene that has played out over and over again throughout series. But rather than collapse into his arms or tumble into bed for some “thank god I'm alive” gratitude sex, Olivia lights into Fitz in a way we've never seen. It's Cyrus' daydream rant come to waking life; she invokes herself and the names of people--Mellie, Cyrus, Jerry Jr.--who have sacrificed everything for his legacy, only to have him make the wrong choice by declaring war and sending young men and women to die instead of sacrificing her.

It's a stunning end to the episode, one that leaves the audience, like Fitz, shell-shocked. Vermont and jam never seemed so far away.

Other Thoughts:

--After Huck, Jake and Quinn bid the whole kit and kaboodle for Olivia but come up empty, Jake goes to see Maya and she instructs him to go to Prescott Lake, where Papa Pope is currently residing. Jake expects to find some compassion and a plan of action, but instead gets a shady extended metaphor/sermonette about fishing and why it's more reliable than expect Jake and Co. to keep Olivia safe and sound. I guess Liv truly is on her own.

--Liv's idea to snatch a pair of keys off the table and tries to make a run for it, before (literally) being smacked down by Gus wasn't exactly her best plan, though her desperation to escape was understandable.

--Jake: “This isn't a high school soccer match. There are no ties.”
--“You're not a person Liv. You're a small country.”

Monday, February 16, 2015

Looking Season 2 Ep. 5 Recap: 'Looking For Truth'

Photo Credit: HBO

“People get pissed when you keep them waiting.” Richie definitely has a knack for hitting the nail on the head, doesn't he? Last week's “Looking Down The Road,” ended with Patrick and Dom as single men, after a willingness to confront the truth about their relationships with Lynn and Kevin led them to walk away from increasingly toxic situations. “Looking For Truth” continues to explore the concept of honesty, as the episode shows Patrick and Agustin allow themselves to be vulnerable and open to new possibilities, both platonic and romantic.

Part of what makes “Looking For Truth” intriguing, aside the deeper look we get into Richie's world, is the way it teases at conventional romantic comedy twists but flouts them in the name of realism. After Patrick gives Kevin the cold shoulder at a work function celebrating the success of a new game (where there's t-shirt making and beer), Kevin sits alone in his office playing the Top Trump cards he and Patrick bonded over, and calls up John. You assume he's about to do what he couldn't last week--confess his affair and break up with John. A purely dramatic move would be for Kevin to somehow find Patrick, who uses the rest of his work day to help Richie pickup an ice cream truck in his old neighborhood, and make an impassioned plea to take him back, despite the fact he would have no way of knowing where Patrick went after he left the office.

Instead, John comes to the office and Kevin chickens out again (assuming he ever even intended to attempt to tell John this time) and snaps back into doting boyfriend mode. It'd also be easy to have Richie take in the day spent with Patrick--in which he takes Patrick to meet his hilariously blunt cousin Ceci, plays water tag while washing the truck, learns the affair with Kevin is over  and receives sincere advice on dealing with his estranged father--and somehow take it as a sign they should get back together. But to go that route ignores the fact his relationship with Patrick has made Richie wary of  getting carried with his feelings, especially when it comes to Patrick.

The general good vibes threaten to get squashed when Patrick reveals he and Kevin slept together the night he and Richie broke up. It's genuinely tense moment, as things could go either way. In the end though, Richie decides he wants Patrick in his life, despite his faults. Patrick has made much ado about being friends with Richie, and much of it has felt like a smoke screen for a desire to rekindle their romance. But his willingness to tell the hard, ugly truth and let the chips fall where they may opens a new door for them both, and suddenly the idea of these two being buddies doesn't seem so forced.

Agustin continues to be on his best behavior, bringing Eddie some soup after he visits the shelter and hears he's taken a sick day. Turns out Eddie is playing hooky, so they settle in for a day of toking on joints and dancing. Agustin asks how Eddie contracted HIV, and after some charming shade (is that an oxymoron?) about how he should stop trying to replace Barbara Walters, Eddie says he got the disease serving as a courtesy bottom while high on meth during a dungeon sex party. True to his acerbic style, he pulls the rug from Agustin, and reveals he actually became positive after sleeping with a guy who said he was negative but wasn't. While he was kidding, the fact he got it from having sex with a boyfriend rather than during a drug-fueled orgy fits into the episode's (and Looking's) choice to forgo shock and awe and portray life as it usually happens.

Later, while shaking their aforementioned groove thangs to Cece Peniston's “Finally,” Agustin plants a kiss on Eddie, who playfully punks him again before returning the favor. Even though Eddie made it clear their hookup didn't make them a couple, it doesn't change the fact that, like Patrick, Agustin was willing to put himself out there and risk being rejected. And like his best friend, his risk was rewarded.

Other Thoughts:

--No Dom this week, which was probably for the best. I say this not because I find his story lacking, but between Richie and Patrick, Kevin and John and Agustin and Eddie (who we honestly needed to spend more time with), the episode would have been overstuffed with characters.

--Love that the writers acknowledged the cultural differences between Richie and Patrick and how it impacts their relationships with their families, but ultimately had them connect over the universal desire to be their true selves around the people they love.

--“It's like if the Addams Family had an ice cream truck. And were pedophiles. Although Uncle Fester was definitely a pedophile.”

--Patrick: “I'm sorry, but isn't that a little bit racist?”  Ceci: “Which part?”  More Ceci please.

-- “You chose John. That's it. End of story. We're both grownups. We don't have to make a big deal about it.” A thick skin looks good on Paddy.
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