Friday, March 27, 2015

Scandal Season 4 Ep. 17 Recap: “Put A Ring On It”

Photo Credit:ABC
After dealing with the salacious sexual politics of “It's Good To Be Kink,” this week's “Put A Ring On It,” tackled more traditional territory with a wedding. Then again, when the nuptials in question are the result of one partner getting caught hooking up with a guy at a bar called Down The John, things are anything but traditional.

Such is the pickle Cyrus finds himself in after his arranged engagement with call boy Michael is threatened after the latter is spotted straying from the “love of his life (notice the air quotes).” The ensuing fallout puts things into crisis mode, and causes Liv to suggest a wedding to Michael as the perfect PR fix to put out the fire.

The hour takes us through both of Cyrus' failed marriages. First up, there's Janet, a good Catholic girl whom he weds in part because of the then burgeoning AIDS crisis, and partly because he needs a wife by his side if he's going to climb the ladder from comptroller to congressman. Of course, things fall apart, as the night Fitz wins governor she, now worn out, lonely and bitter, asks for a divorce. Since we already know his union with James was, um, tumultuous—like, Cy nearly ordering the assassination of his own husband tumultuous—the flashbacks pick at the finer points. On his wedding day, Cyrus promises James he won't use or manipulate him or his status as a journalist for his own purposes, a promise he breaks before their honeymoon even begins. And well, we all know what happen once that door was opened.

Cyrus' legal arrangement with Michael, drawn up so he could save political face, doesn't even have the pretense of romance and genuine emotion. And the grand scheme that is their White House wedding is even more disingenuous. After the first plan of obliterating the cheating scandal via a love story goes bust due to the discovery of Michael's side piece Philip Reid, the narrative is cynically changed to depict Cyrus as a jilted lover and him as an amoral whore.

It's not a problem for Cyrus, who doesn't even flinch when Olivia reminds him they're throwing Michael to wolves to save his own skin. He pays even less attention to Michael's objections to inviting his homophobic parents, whose acts of loved included sending their son to camps to “cure” him of being gay. At the most uncomfortable double dinner date in the world, they reveal Elizabeth is paying them off to pretend to be supportive of the marriage, and while we haven't spent much time with Michael, Michael Del Negro does a good job of selling a lifetime of anguish in a short scene. It's enough to touch something in Cyrus' black heart, and one look across the room at Olivia lets her know the wedding is back on.

But lest you think things are about to get all Disney, think again; as Cyrus tells Michael before the ceremony, both of his previous marriages started with lies, so he won't go through the motions the third time around. He tells Michael they won't grow to love each other, but counts it as a good thing, because he won't have the chance to hurt or damage him the way he did Janet or James. Cyrus knows that he is, in his own words, “a filthy monster holding onto his last shred of humanity,”; the great loves of his life have been and likely always will be power and prestige. But that aforementioned shred of humanity does acknowledge Michael's goodness, and promises he's not in this alone.

It's been a while since the show focused on Cyrus or delved into his personal history, and while this is all very entertaining, I'm more than a little curious as to why Scandal is choosing to do it now, at this point in the season. “The Lawn Chair” was a bottle episode, but one that dealt with an extremely topical issue, so it's separation from the rest of the action is understandable. While “Put A Ring On It” does a pretty seamless job of tying Cyrus' marriage into say, Mellie's political ambitions—like say, the way Olivia masterfully pitches to Mellie that throwing her support behind the wedding as a way to define herself separately from Fitz—it really doesn't fit into other plot points like B6:13.

It also looks like the sexual healing Olivia experienced last week has reawakened her feelings for Fitz. As we learn, Vermont isn't just a fantasy the two throw around when reality and good sense conspire to convince them how destructive they are together; they actually were in The Green Mountain State once for Cyrus's second wedding. In the flashback—during which you also realize Liv really has simplified her coifs since that first fixed election--Fitz gives Olivia a ring (whose name translates to“Sweet Baby,” which if you recall, is an Olitz term dating back to season one) that belonged to his grandmother.

After another dream montage showing the highs and lows of their affair, she searches through her apartment and finds the ring, but leaves it off when she goes to see Fitz, instructing him to give Sally Langston, who has risen from the political dead as the host of a right wing talk show, some leverage/quid pro quo so she'll end her witch hunt and cash reward to expose Cyrus' sham wedding. Fitz signs off on putting Sally up for secretary of state, but Sally content, with her new role as talking head, is like chile please. But after Liv threatens to reveal her late, closeted husband was one of Michael's clients, she relents and cancels the interview with Philip Reid.

Later, as Cyrus and Michael go off into post-faux wedding bliss, Fitz sees Olivia with the ring he gave her back on her hand, and she gives a look that says “jam.” Aww hell.

Other Thoughts:

--Cyrus answers Michael's question that he wants to kill him by saying he wouldn't do it himself, as that's an amateur move. Yeah, that's your husband.

--Apparently, in Leo and Abby's world, church and state is code for separating their work life from their relationship, a rule Abby slips up and breaks when she spills some tea to Leo about the war room congregating to pull off the faux love story of the century. Oh Abby, you hypocritical secularist!

--Next week: Jake's gone cray cray. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Looking Season 2 Ep. 10 Recap: “Looking For Home”

Photo Credit: HBO
So we've come to the end of the road for the second season of Looking. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending how you want to read into the murky final scene—for Patrick, his road has a huge fork in the middle of it. While it checks in on Dom, Doris and Agustin, “Looking for Home” belongs largely to Kevin and Patrick, with a move-in day devolving into an all-night argument that lays bare just how fundamentally different their views are on relationships, love and fidelity.

Though the big fight, like most, starts from something small—Patrick seeing Kevin's active Grindr profile at a very white (as no people of color are present) Christmas party/potential orgy they're invited to by new neighbors Jake and Milo—it doesn't come completely out of nowhere. From going public post-Jon and the dinner with Patrick's mother Dana to now moving in together, these two have been going through their relationship at break-neck speed, despite friends' misgivings (Agustin and Dom think the move is too fast) and judgment from family (Megan). Patrick tells Kevin Dana's decision to, as he put it “implode our family,” has liberated him from the pressure of having something to live up to. However, as“Looking For Home” brilliantly illuminates, it doesn't free him or Kevin from having to have important conversations about what they expect from a relationship.

And as you might have guessed, their views don't exactly mesh. Kevin comes from the “it's just sex, I love you,” school of thought, while Patrick is a student of hard line monogamy. Or, to put it another way, Patrick is a romantic and Kevin's a realist. Despite his breezing past the red flags, it's hard not to feel for Patrick when he says Kevin's revelation will make him wonder what he's up to every time he walks out the door; but at the same time, it's hard not to nod in agreement with Kevin as he cites examples--like their affair, or Patrick sleeping with him while he was with Richie or his initial giddiness at what he later dismisses as the “KKK butt orgy”--that show Patrick isn't as straitlaced as he thinks. There is no right or wrong viewpoint in their argument. It is only a question of whether their viewpoints can co-exist to build a lasting relationship.

After the arguing finally dies down, Patrick slinks out of bed and goes through his boxes, finding the scapular Richie once gave him, and visits his shop the next day. He doesn't make any dramatic gestures, but tells Richie he doesn't to talk, and just wants to stop to looking like a middle-aged lesbian and get a hair cut.

“You ready?” Richie asks, clippers in hand. “I'm ready,” he replies, a look of quiet confidence washing over his face. It's an ambiguous ending. Does Patrick mean he's ready to pursue things with Kevin, despite the obstacles involved, or does he want Richie back? What is clear is that after two seasons of flailing, Patrick now seems to know what he wants in a relationship. The rest of us will have to wait until next year to see what that is.

Other Thoughts:

--Dom and Doris made amends this week, but not in a “you're my bestie, let's move back in together” way. Though each apologizes for individual low blows thrown during their fight, both admit their friendship is dysfunctional, and they need to start living more separate lives. Dom turns down Doris' money, saying he needs to open his restaurant on his own. Unlike the recent past though, his request doesn't come from a bratty, insecure place, but from acknowledging that standing on his own is important for his own personal development. The last shot of Dom standing outside his restaurant, its neon lights shining on him as he sips a celebratory beer, is a small moment of triumph.

--Agustin got the least amount of screen time, but since he and Eddie's story pretty much wrapped up last week, it made sense we wouldn't spend much time with him. That said, the short scene where he, obviously happy and content with Eddie, comforts Patrick over the phone after he discovers Kevin's Grindr profile (while dishing to Eddie he may not need to look a new roommate after all), shows just how far the character has come this season.

--Am I the only who got Flotsam and Jetsam vibes from Jake and Milo? I have expected them to say “Poor, sweet, child,” in unison to Patrick at one point in that opening scene.

--“Who doesn't want to know what other homos are lurking in the shadows?”

Monday Man Candy

Via Sexy Ass Black Men

Friday, March 20, 2015

Scandal Season 4 Ep. 16 Recap: “It's Good To Be Kink”

Photo Credit: ABC

“Disgusting!” You can't say Abby's not succinct. The object of her missive is boyfriend Leo Bergen, now known to her—and soon to the world if she doesn't stop it—as the Dust Buster, a pseudonym bestowed upon him by Susan Thomas (Lena Dunham), a 20-something chemistry grad and author about to publish a manuscript detailing her sexual escapades with a multitude of D.C. power players.

But let's play catch up first. “It's Good To Be Kink”revolves around Sue's book and the anticipated fallout, but what raises the episode rise above a Scandal spin on Fifty Shades of Grey is the way it manages to both wring humor out of its salacious premise and transcend it, using it as a jump off to cover topics like gender politics, sexuality and women in positions of power.

As was hinted at by her word of choice, Abby has discovered Leo is one of the men immortalized in Sue's tome (a list that includes dudes given such exotic aliases as Agent Orange, Thruster and The Doctor), and goes to Olivia to ask her to put the kibosh on the book.

Olivia goes to Sue's place and unleashes her standard “I will destroy your miserable little life if you don't do what I say because I'm Olivia Pope and I eat basic bitches for breakfast,” speech, and Susan seems like she'll roll over and keep quiet. Of course, you don't have Lena Dunham as a guest star for her to only appear in one scene, so it's not a total surprise when she shows up at OPA's offices. What is surprising—and if I may add, fist pumping (sorry Liv)--is the way she flips Olivia's threats of destruction into examples of how she's lost her essential Popeness. Pouncing on the insinuation she'll be called a whore, Sue criticizes Olivia for wagging her finger at her for airing powerful men's dirty laundry, ignoring the fact Sue's dalliances with these men are not just their stories, but her tales to tell as well.

More than the thrill of telling off a woman who she deemed was once so badass other women got a contact high from being in her vicinity, Sue wants money. And we're talking millions. As she says, “Olivia Pope don't come cheap,” and if whoever is trying to crush her publication glory can retain Liv's services, they damn sure can shell out $3 million in hush money. Most all of the guys are ready pony up, until David Rosen (David Rosen), named The Doctor in Sue's book, pulls rank and says neither he nor other lawmakers will participate in extortion.

The episode also highlights how sex-related scandal affects the perception of men and women in vastly different ways. When Leo mocks Abby for preemptively writing her resignation letter (being that she was personally involved with two men the book, which would--unfairly--call into question her personal choices), he dismisses her concern, saying at worst she'll have to endure a few jokes but will ride it out. In reality, he's talking about what would happen to him if he were in her position. In one of the hour's strongest scenes, Abby reminds him they live in a world and political climate where her weight, clothes, makeup or lack thereof are deemed equally important as evaluating her job performance, where every article written about her trumpets the fact Leo is her boyfriend as proof she can land a man, while she's barely a blip in pieces written about him. “What affects you, affects me,” she says.

But back to Sue. “It's Good To Be Kink,” weaves her one-off story into the ongoing plots, like the B6:13 expose, pretty seamlessly. After it's revealed David's the good doctor, he knows his days as attorney general are numbered, which would mean no full immunity for Huck once he testifies to his many dastardly deeds. And well, you know what happens when Huck starts to angry whisper.

At first, it looks like Huck won't have to unleash the beast to ensure Sue's silence. Picking up on her quip her story was “all she had left,” OPA dig and find Susan was fired from her previous job after reporting sexual harassment by her boss, who pushed for sex after learning of her reputation. Olivia gets a legal case going and secures several job interviews for Susan, and all appears handled. However, after Quinn and Huck rescue her from a knife-wielding lawmaker nearly exposed in her book, Huck, utterly convinced she'll talk, slits her throat.

Later, treating David's “not guilty but guilty” speech like white noise, Huck signs his immunity papers and says he's going home. Hmmm, on one hand I want to feel happy for him, as Huck is clearly a broken man. And his logic's not completely off—it's been 50 years since JFK was killed and there are still having women come forward claiming to have had affairs with him. But I don't know, something about him compartmentalizing slitting someone's throat so he can go home to play happy family man doesn't sit right with me.

Susan blunt attitude towards her sexuality also rubs off on Olivia. Speaking of Liv, I guess my call that she was finding her way back last week was premature. True, she's getting out a little more, as in coming into the office. But her nights consist of poring up glass after glass of wine, the gun she keeps on her at all times sitting beside the bottle. However, getting a mouthful from Susan and reading some of her manuscript seems to inspire her on a quest to get some. She flirts with a handsome stranger (Brian White) at a bar, and is on her way to some good sex, but a resting her hands on the counter of the ladies' room makes her flashback to her time at the torture camp. Scared and shaken out of her wits, she runs off.

Save for her inner circle, no one really seems to grasp just how bad a shape Olivia's in. Or worse, like Cyrus, they really don't seem to care. He acts like a real asshole when Abby submits her resignation letter and fills him in on Susan's book, coldly telling her he'll add it to the list of things he has to get done. Later he meets up with Olivia, filling her in own the latest White House dish (Mellie's senate run, Jake and Fitz becoming BFFs, Ethan's continued uselessness) only in an effort to woo her back, even though Liv says she's moving forward. He appears to have a change of heart about Abby, bringing a suitcase with $3 million dollars in it, presumably so Olivia she can pay off Susan. However when she says it's been taken care of, his true motivation come to light: he wants to know who the men are so he can have dirt on them for down the road.

“This town,” Olivia says, shaking her head and walking away. Later, after learning of Sue's untimely demise, and be sorta lectured by Quinn she has to let sleeping dogs lie since Abby was their client (and essentially got what she wanted) she gets done up and heads out to same bar. There, she meets the same stranger, but this time she takes him home, ordering him to take his clothes off as she sashays to the bedroom, clutching two wine glasses in her hand, flashing a wide, sexy smile as the door closes. Now our girl is finding her way back.

Next week: a gay Republican wedding!

Other Thoughts:

--Lena's Dunham wig was horrendous. That is all.

--Huck on Susan typing up her manuscript on a typewriter “That's old school. Respect.”

--Tens across the board for musical choices this episode, though given the subject matter it'd be hard to screw up.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Looking Season 2 Ep.9 Recap: “Looking For Sanctuary”

Photo Credit: HBO
With just one episode left, it's time for Looking to begin wrapping up the season's various story arcs, and “Looking For Sanctuary,” starts to do just, laying down a few plot twists and hinting at where our three leads will end up once the finale rolls around.

Kevin and Patrick continue to take their relationship at warp speed. Kevin is buying a new apartment, giving he and Patrick the opportunity to do couples things like fantasize about banging up against the front window and bounce on beds while shopping for mattresses. And Patrick takes Kevin to meet his mother Dana (which rhymes with banana) for dinner, which goes very well.

It's not all paradise though. Patrick's sister Megan is not happy with the recent developments in his personal life. Jon is her husband's best friend, and she is definitely team Jon, defriending Kevin on Facebook and refusing to come to the aforementioned dinner. Like any mother, Dana is playing referee to her two squabbling offspring, and asks (more like tells) Patrick to come to the zoo with her and Megan so they can come to an understanding.

Easier said than done. Proving passive aggressiveness is a family trait, Megan is all veiled, barbed comments during their family outing until Patrick calls her out. The two go back and forth over Patrick's recent choices, but like most sibling arguments, it runs much deeper. For Megan, Patrick's homewrecking ways, and their mother's acceptance of his new relationship—along with him not having to worry about providing grandkids, having a career as video game developer and being able to live in San Francisco—is just another example of the special treatment her brother receives due to his sexuality. Of course, we know from watching Patrick ( as well as Agustin and Dom) these past two seasons that Megan's belief that gay equals total frivolous freedom is untrue. Still, it's an opinion not often given voice, and adds a layer of complexity to Megan beyond the judgmental sister.

Dana has a bomb of her own to drop, that being she's been having an emotional affair with a man named Dennis and is thinking of leaving their father/her husband. She says she's going to pursue things with Dennis so she can honor her truth. Megan asks her about honoring the truth of her marriage, to which Dana answers that the longer you are with someone, the more complicated that truth becomes. Patrick's love life has been one big ol' bowl of complicated for as long as we've known him (a fact Dana hits him with by subtly underlining how her current dilemma is similar to the one he just resolved), so when she asks for their support, he falls in line, with Megan quickly following suit. As with recent episodes of GIRLS, which have dealt with the fallout of Hannah's dad Tad's coming out, “Looking For Sanctuary” mines the bewildering, but ultimately maturing experience of realizing your parents aren't perfect automatons, but human beings with their own flaws, fears and problems.

As with attending Doris's dad's funeral a few weeks back, talking to his mother—and importantly, hearing her talk about how her choices, good or bad, have been hers to make—inspires Patrick to leap across another milestone with Kevin, as he agrees to move in and spend Christmas with him. Patrick's story seems to be wrapped up with a big bow, but with one episode left, anything can happen—especially when you consider Patrick is hosting a house warming party next week. Here's hoping there's no tequila.

Agustin moves forward in his personal life this week as well. Eddie is in a bind when an artist he hired for the homeless shelter doesn't show up. After fielding a few far-fetched questions about Truvada (like Agustin asking if the drug will make him go into convulsions), he asks Agustin to pull himself out of his self-imposed artistic sabbatical and create something for the kids.

The two run into Frank of all people while looking over a rough draft of Agustin's handiwork, and things get suitably awkward. Agustin brings up his work with homeless trans kids, though Frank still eyes him suspiciously, almost squinting to see if this same man he made the mistake of moving in with. Eddie admirably backs up Agustin's claims of turning over a new leaf, and though he still doesn't appear convinced, Frank offers to meet up sometime before leaving.

Frank's not only one taking the new Agustin with a grain of salt. Charm and a great sense of humor aside, Eddie has been keeping Agustin at arms' length, skeptical of the depth of his feelings. Later, Eddie brings up the fact Agustin introduced him as a friend, but Agustin correctly counters that Eddie was the one who didn't want to label their relationship.

“I want to be your boyfriend,” Agustin says. “What do I have to do?” Eddie finally gives in, and the two kiss.

Not so good at bonding this week are Dom and Doris. The latter comes to the former's chicken window with some bad news: her uncle is contesting her father's will, which means the money she promised him will be on hold for at least few months. True to form, Dom lashes out at the hand who tries to help him, even scoffing when Doris reminds him her father just passed. Later, he brings some Fro-Yo to their apartment as a peace offering, but for her the argument has illuminated the dysfunctions in their friendship.

“We're a codependent mess,” she tells him while packing her things to leave, and hearing her confess to feeling guilty about prioritizing Dom over Malik, it's hard to disagree. To draw on the episode's title, Doris needs sanctuary, and at the moment that is her boyfriend's place.

Dom wanted to realize his dream on his own. Sadly, it looks like he's gotten his wish.

--Other Thoughts:

--No Richie this week, but given the larger role Kevin now occupies in Patrick's life, it makes sense we'd see less of him. Hmm, perhaps we'll see him at the Kevin and Patrick's house warming party next week? If the two did hookup, it'd be nice reversal of the season one finale, though it would undo a lot of the work of establishing Kevin as an integral part of the show.

--“Fuck you! Hope all your dreams come true!” Doris is priceless.

--Dana: “Did you want a Xanax honey? 'Cause I got some.” Spoken like a true WASP.

Monday Man Candy

Friday, March 13, 2015

Scandal Season 4 Ep. 15 Recap: “The Testimony of Diego Munoz”

Photo: ABC
After the emotional powerhouse that was “The Lawn Chair,” this week's “The Testimony of Diego Munoz,” was a welcome palette cleanser. Although this hour didn't skimp on the emo quotient, but it did so within the framework of Scandal's fictional universe, jumping back into the proceedings after last week's bottle episode and going about the business of moving the seasonal arcs forward.

First up is Susan Ross' confirmation for vice president. As we've seen--and as she herself has acknowledged--Susan is not a natural born politician, so Abby has been vetting her for her public debut. She manages to get through a rudimentary press conference with flying colors; at least until she freezes up and unleashes a laugh so cringe-worthy I can't really describe it--on second thought, yes I can. It is the sound of someone losing their shit. Before you can whip up a “Susan Ross Be Like...” meme, the clip goes viral, causing Abby and Cyrus to bring in the black magician, a.k.a. Leo Bergen, who whips her to shape.

Susan proves a quick study, yukking it up on Jimmy Kimmel about her Howard Dean tribute, then turning serious for a in-depth interview where she plays to the wing nut base by towing the party line on gay marriage and naming-checking the Bible. Everything's smooth sailing, at least until the relentless Bergen weighs her down until she quits. Olivia manages her to talk her into enduring the vetting process in a way that doesn't involve selling her soul, and the Fitz administration and possibly the Mellie presidency are back on track. While Susan's is the most transparent, the basic arc of all the stories in “The Testimony of Diego Munoz” is watching characters reject labels foisted on them--whether by others, themselves, or both--to stake out a more honest path.

It's certainly the journey Huck (whose real name is in the episode) goes on. After his wife Kim goes to David Rosen's office with the stack of B6:13 files he left her with--you know, to explain his penchant for talking in whispers and his general shell-of-a-man demeanor--he meets up with Jake and David for a pow wow. Jake, trigger happy lark that he is, suggests taking out this Diego Munoz, at until Huck reveals he is Diego. After some intense whispering and staring down, Huck agrees to lie in his testimony, knowing it will likely end his relationship with Kim and Javi but ultimately save their lives.

But when the time comes, Huck, flashing back to his happy pre-torture life with Kim (a sly move on the show's part, making it unclear whether this was inspiring him to tell to the actual truth or double down on the lie) goes left, and gives a soul-scraping speech detailing all the ways he kept some semblance of sanity while in the hole. He knows he's put himself and everyone he loves in danger, but the genuine smile that lingers on his face after he drops Kim off at home suggests at least part of him feels it was worth it. Whether inspired or haunted (probably both) by Huck's confession, David tells Jake he's moving forward with Kim's complaint and exposing B6:13, shaking off Jake's notion that they are the bad guys he plans to take down. Not sure if Joe Morton's got any more guest spots this season, but if Eli gets a whiff of this tea, there's going to be some literal rolling of heads.

The person who seems to be having the most trouble moving forward is Olivia Pope. After pulling herself together enough to deal with Clarence Parker and the contentious, racially-motivated police shooting of his son Brandon, she's been reduced to chugging wine while squatting on the floor of her apartment, which is framed to appear large and sparse, a metaphorical prison where a wine-soaked couch seat reminds her of the moment her life was shattered.

Aside from getting Susan Ross together, Olivia also gives Fitz some tough love council when the senate threatens to kill her nomination, explaining his haphazard handling of the war in Angola was a mockery of democracy. He forgets Cy and Abby exists for a moment and goes for his trademark close contact, telling her she knows why he did what he did. She falters for a second, but gets her bearings and tells him to go to the senate and beg for forgiveness, which he does with positive results.

In the end though, neither helping Susan or Fitz pulls Olivia back from the brink, but helping Rose (Marla Gibbs) find Lois. After dispensing some legal advice to Rose so she could fend off an aggressive landlord from taking over her friend's (and who Liv later correctly guesses is her girlfriend) apartment, Olivia promises to help her find out what happened. Of course, both we the audience and she know all too well what really happened to Lois--it's partly to blame for her current fragile state--and on some level Rose knows her partner is gone. However, after Quinn and Huck locate her body, and Lois asks how she passed, Liv reaches for a lie. Flashing back to her sun-kissed days as Julia, she tells Rose Lois had an aneurysm, a quick death with no pain. Like being out in the sun.

Giving Rose closure allows Olivia to begin to move on herself. She puts the wine-stained seat in a trash bag outside her place, fixes herself a glass of wine and a bowl of popcorn, a steely look of resolve on her face. Our girl's finding her way back.

Other Thoughts:

--Liv's traumatized state also gives her and Abby a chance to reconnect, even though ol' girl did come with the ulterior motive of asking Liv to pull her out of the fire and save Sarah's VP nomination. Though despite her more self-serving reasons, Abby does have a point about Sarah being an actual good person and therefore a necessary antidote in this toxic environment.

--As with Marcus and Olivia's confrontation over the status of the latter's “black card,” her and Rose's short but meaningful exchange about the difficulties of being black and gay in the not-too-distant past, as well as Rose's backstory and being in a same-sex relationship late in life were spot on.

---Sarah being asked what her favorite book is? Shades of '08 Sarah Palin anyone?

--Oh No You Didn't Moment: Cyrus throwing shade at Abby dating Leo. People in arranged marriage to prostitute houses shouldn't throw stones hon. At least Abby actually likes the man she's with.
--Quinn and Charlie hook up occasionally, particularly when someone's been drinking. Guess you gotta get it how you live and all that, but the two of them together still makes me go ew.

--Apparently, one of David Rosen's thankless tasks is fielding inquiries from crazies, like a guy who believes the moon is a hologram or that aliens run the treasury.

--Huck and Quinn practically spring to life when Olivia first enters the office. FYI: if Huck is treating you with kid gloves, you got problems.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Looking Season 2 Ep. 8 Recap: “Looking For Glory”

Photo Credit: HBO

So here we are. Jon is out of the picture, Patrick's ready for love, and he and Kevin are together and committed. And a kinda annoying. Maybe it because it's two weeks in (according to rise n' shade Agustin's serves up to Patrick) and their engaging in activities like Patrick wearing Kevin's atrocious dog sweater and comparing their love triangle to Brad, Angelina and Jennifer Aniston's.

“Oh god, you don't think people are going to be team Jon do you?” Patrick muses to Kevin over cereal as they talk of letting an appropriate amount of time pass--a.k.a the courtesy gap--before informing people they're now a legit couple. Don't get me wrong; Kevin and Patrick definitely have genuine chemistry and a real connection. But from their co-workers (one of whom worries the corporate environment will become hostile to heterosexuals) to Richie and Brady, their assertion of being booed up carries with it an undercurrent of aggression. It's like they're saying “We're together. Now deal with it.”

That said, “Looking For Glory,” does lays out a few of the challenges these two face. The bit about several employees calling HR was played for laughs; however, the possibility Patrick may have to bear the brunt of his co-workers' distrust, resentment or outright hostility (including work buddy Owen) is very real. So is the chance his sister--who thought Jon walked on water--may never forgive him. And Agustin doesn't seem all that enamored with Kevin, a reasonable reaction given all the tears he's had to help mop up up to this point.

Given all this scrutiny and skepticism, it's understandable Patrick would want to press fast forward on things, prodding Kevin to take their relationship out of he and Agustin's apartment and into the world. But is that the right move? Further blending their work and personal business, they decide to take their app One Up Him to GaymerX, a gay-centric, San Francisco-based conference where techies come to debut new apps liked Glorified--a hookup app that lets its users find the nearest glory holes--and attend the after party prom. Patrick and Kevin meet their latest tribunal when Richie and Brady, there so the latter can write a possible feature story, spot them and Kevin, one-upping an apprehensive Patrick, outs them as a couple and suggests a dinner double date.

Later, while Kevin escorts a drunk Brady to the bathroom, Patrick tells Richie (who I might add came off particularly judgmental this week) that the combination of losing it at Doris' dad's funeral and having the last guy (i.e. Richie) who showed up at his doorstep tell him he wasn't ready to fall in love inspired him to take a chance.

But Patrick seems to have forgotten that part of the reason Richie came to this conclusion was because he tried to push their relationship to places it wasn't ready to go to yet--like his sister's wedding. In short, he moved too fast, and his “I love you” to Kevin (who reciprocates) notwithstanding, there's a sense both of them are racing to raise the stakes, to prove to everyone and themselves this is real deal. Again, there's a genuine foundation for a lasting relationship here. But like their not-quite-ready app, they may have gone public too soon.

This week was Agustin's turn to get swept up into a AIDS panic, as getting, how shall we say, splashed in the eye by Eddie during sex, sends him running to the bathroom to check his pupils for infection and to Dom for advice. Dom, not exactly in the mood to suffer fools or freakouts, reminds him it's 2015, not 1994, and to chill out and look into a Truvada prescription. Eddie, having come to this juncture more than once, starts to write him off as another hypocritical, closed-minded queen until Agustin promises to deal with his issues. So it's back to smooth sailing, for now.
Meanwhile, Dom is heading straight for a confrontation with Doris. He's thrown himself into renovating his chicken window space, quitting his job and maxing out his credit cards while waiting on the money Doris promised, which has been slow to arrive. Normally she'd help him do things like put in the water filter, but now that's she in a couple, it's off to attend a birthday party for one of Malik's relatives. Dom's been pretty mature and supportive about Doris' diminished presence in his life so far; but judging from the message he leaves--probably not the first one--while standing in front of his restaurant alone, his patience is wearing thin.

Other Thoughts:

--Next week seems to promise a family showdown between Patrick and his sister, with their mother playing referee. It's been a minute since we've seen Patrick interact with his family, so this ought to be good.

--After presenting him as a successful, got-it-together gay, particularly in contrast to Patrick in “Looking for Gordon Freeman,” “Looking For Glory,” took some of the shine off Brady via a--you guessed it--drunken rant. Well really, Brady was so blasted he didn't so much rant as lose the ability to censor and quiet himself. Along with calling out his boyfriend's judgmental nature, he confesses he no longer believes a few things he and Richie said about Patrick and Kevin; that being the former is “A 13-year-old girl, scared of his vagina,” and that the two of them represented everything wrong with the gay community. Not that Patrick didn't have a more than a little of that coming, but Brady may want to practice moderation in the future.

--“This isn't the Devil Wears Dog shirt.”

--So far, the reaction to One Up Him isn't good. Its first reviewer gave it one star, charging it with encouraging stereotypes. Guess everyone doesn't see the fun in otters vs. bears.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Scandal Season 4 Ep. 14 Recap: “The Lawn Chair”

Photo Credit:ABC

Goodness, that was heavy. After “No More Blood,” wrapped up Olivia's time at a pseudo torture camp and her subsequent sale on the black market, this week offers “The Lawn Chair,” an unexpected stop in the overall season arc that will likely go down as one of the series most emotionally-charged episodes.

The hour centers around Olivia being called to a scene where a young black teen named Brandon Parker, suspected of robbery, was shot dead by Jeffery Newton, a white officer. The boy's father, Clarence, shows up with a shotgun demanding to see the officer who killed his son. Olivia starts to work her usual fixer magic, telling Clarence she'll get David Rosen to personally come to the scene and oversee the investigation. He appears to soften until Marcus Walker, a neighborhood activist, comes in and brings up the fact Olivia was hired by the police to handle the situation and talks him into staying, bringing him a chair he then places over his son Brandon's body.

Like I said, heavy. Of course, it is impossible to watch this and not think of Michael Brown and the controversy and protests that erupted after his death; the subject matter is even more pertinent, given the news Darren Wilson won't face civil charges in Brown's death, and the DOJ's damning report about the Ferguson's police department treatment of its black residents both came out this week. The episode itself plays out like an attempt at catharsis, to heal real-life wounds through art. In Scandal, Brandon's killing is unjustified, and Clarence's image of his son is vindicated, both men victims of a miscarriage of justice nearly covered up by police corruption.

On a pure, punch-to-the-gut level, “The Lawn Chair” more than rose to the occasion. I teared up while watching it more than once. That said, I'm conflicted about certain aspects of the episode. Take Newton's character for instance. When the truth comes out about the circumstances of Brandon's death, he trots out the tired “What about black on black crime?” argument (as if rational human beings aren't capable of thinking about two issues that impact their lives at the same time) and blames Brandon's death on his lack of respect for authority. It's a disgusting diatribe, and while I don't doubt there are people out there who hold similar views, the speech reminded of the last moments of a Law and Order: SVU episode, where the suspect inevitably yanks off his human mask to reveal the unrepentant monster underneath.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Susan Ross, a senator who empathizes deeply with Clarence's loss, saying she'd die if something similar happened to her daughter. Both the words and the actress' performance feel honest; and yet it was almost as she was there to serve as a counterpoint to Newton, to show how “good white people” react to stories like these. In the middle is Chief Connor, who doesn't seem to hold Newton's views yet, refers to Marcus as a troublemaker and the outraged residents as a mob. Maybe the point is to show all these attitudes exist. However, Newton came off not so much as a man who made a horrible decision out of his own deep-seated prejudices than as a villain waiting for his chance to put one of “those people” in their place. Maybe I'll feel differently about the characterization later, but for now that was what I took away from it.

Olivia herself comes under scrutiny in “The Lawn Chair.” Marcus is none too impressed with Ms. Pope, castigating her for taking a pay check from the police, and citing her Prada bag and role in getting Fitz elected twice as evidence she's out of touch with the city's black population. Scandal so rarely tackles the subject of race, more specifically as it relates to Olivia. But when it does, as with Eli's speech about being twice as good to go half as far, it rings with cutting honesty. Olivia's experiences and status--being educated in top schools, having the attorney general on speed dial--are miles away from the lives of the black residents in this community, and Marcus makes her confront this fact.

As she realizes the authorities are conspiring to disperse what the crowd via a media blackout and by calling in SWAT, she goes behind the police line and starts chanting with them. Olivia's recent ordeal works itself into both the story line and her emotional state of mind, despite her best attempts to put on a brave face. She is clearly suffering from a form of PTSD, as her walking away with shaky hands after Clarence pulls his shotgun on her and Marcus proves.

However, the persona trauma adds an extra charge to her usual go getter drive. Her speech about living in fear everyday while in captivity, and relating that same to fear to the people in Clarence, Marcus and Brandon's neighborhood gets David Rosen to fully throw himself into the case. It also helps her relate to Clarence, who is in the middle of dealing with his own tragedy.

And in the end, it is the human tragedy--a promising young life cut short, and a father left behind to mourn--that takes center stage. After OPA proves Brandon had a cell phone receipt in his hand, not the knife planted on him when he was shot, Newton is taken into custody and Rosen promises an investigation will be launched into the police department. Yet what brings it home is when Clarence meets Fitz in the Oval Office and they embrace. There, he finally allows himself to cry as the two men bond, one grieving father to another.

Other Thoughts:

--Despite her diarrhea of the mouth, Susan Ross is self-aware enough to know she wouldn't make a good VP, and truthfully doesn't want the gig, since she possess a quality rare among politicians, that being a desire to get shit done. Though her uncensored honesty and earnestness is its own form of charisma.

--While Clarence and Brandon's story takes center stage, Shonda and Co. push Fitz and Mellie's arc forward. With Andrew incapacitated, Cyrus pushes for him to choose a viable vice president to move the party forward, despite the promise he made to Mellie to clear a path to the presidency for her. Fitz shows he's on Mellie's side by leaking some dirt on potential contender Roslyn Mendez. It wasn't just for Mellie though; after Sally Langston and Andrew's Machiavellian tactics, he sees her timely public support of Clarence as shameless power move and wants none of that mess.

--Clarence saw his standoff only playing out in two ways, either being in jail or dead. A rare case when a Scandal character's words can't not be brushed off as dramatic hyperbole.

--Liv has many skills, but she's not the best fake yawner.

---“Talk faster or say less.”
---“Take genital warts.” Mellie: “Let's not.”

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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