Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mad Men Season 7 Ep. 11 Recap: “Time and Life”

Photo Credit: AMC
Aw hell Matt Weiner. Just three episodes to go before Mad Men signs off, and you drop this bomb on us. The bomb being McCann-Erikson is absorbing SC&P, essentially dissolving the company and any independent agency, that the well, agency and its partners had.

However. Don't mistake the preceding paragraph for disappointment; that would have been the taste left in my mouth had the hour played out for Don and Co. the way they did back in 1963, when they hatched their grand scheme to start SCDP and escaped the clutches of McCann. This time around though, the powers that be wrapped up the deal before the partners even knew the lease hadn't been paid. They will simply be cogs in a huge machine; extremely well-compensated cogs, but cogs nonetheless. It's a surprising, crushing downer of a twist—and one that absolutely should have happened. As thrilling as it is to see Don shake off the cobwebs and summon up some of the inventive, scheming fire of yore, you just don't escape a huge international corporation like McCann twice, at least not that way. Everyone's luck runs out eventually.

One of the highlights of “Time and Life” is watching news of SC&P's impending demise spread through the agency like a toxic ooze, leaving a stench of uncertainty and fear so strong even Meredith confronts Don because she knows something is up.

And it all starts when Roger calls about the lease notice, and a McCann exec plays coy, telling him to speak to head honcho Jim Hobart. The exec eventually reveals McCann is moving SC&P's physical office into theirs, but Roger smells bullshit and rightly assumes they're dissolving the agency.

Roger informs the other partners, but while Pete characteristically balks, everyone else seems resigned to their fate—though a four-year contract and a non-compete cause will do that to you. The plan is to keep the news mum, but Pete tells Peggy so she'll at least have a leg up when things starts to go down. She offers some small comfort by telling him he'll do well, despite the changing circumstances. It's a nice, short scene, one that mirrors their sofa chats back in the series early seasons. Peggy tells Stan, but for my money the real culprit in spilling the tea is Meredith, who walks in on the tail end of Dawn and Shirley discussing what SC&P's dissolution means for their future.

When Lou calls Don, it appears the news has gone bi coastal. However, after some confusion, Lou reveals he's moving to Tokyo, because some firm—who he claims made Speed Racer—bought his horrible Scout's Honor cartoon. The lucky break has him feeling his oats, as he tells Don to enjoy the rest of his miserable life and hangs up. Good riddance. Don quickly realizes Lou's exit has an upside, that being SC&P's Cali office can be a launch pad for them to take the conflicting business McCann has and use it to maintain their independent status. They just have to convince the clients to come with just like they did in 1963.

Ken's not taking the plunge with Dow Chemical, turning Pete and Roger down after metaphorically dangling them over the roof by their heels. And given what happens next, a yes or no from Mr. Cosgrove really wouldn't matter. When the partners meet with Jim Hobart and run down the California plan, Jim stops Don mid-sentence, asking him to have a seat as he reels off the top-tier business they'll be in charge of under the new arrangement. Buick, Naisco, Coca-Cola and a major pharmaceutical company will all be their new clients he explains, before advising them to take the rest of the day off and pop champagne. The struggle is over.

Or is it? As Joan notes, accounts were listed off for everyone but her, and she is highly skeptical Hobart will keep his word and that anyone will take her seriously. Ted is relieved to let someone else take the wheel, but Don seems unsure and uncomfortable about the whole thing, an expected reaction from a man who's spent decades living by his own personal hobo code.

The post-meeting pow wow does give us what may be the last great Roger-and-Don-alone-in-a-bar scene, as they ruminate over the day's events. For Roger, it's the end of Sterling Cooper, both in company and his bloodline (being an only son with a daughter). Roger expresses admiration for the way Don was always striving for more, with Don reminding Roger he didn't have to (“In another lifetime I would've been your chauffeur,” he says). They also ream each other out over the other's personal history, with Roger reminding Don how hard he was on him when he married his secretary (though Jane wasn't technically his secretary) then turned around and did the same thing with Megan, after revealing his relationship with Marie. It's a conversation rife with references to both the men's tumultuous, long-standing relationship and the show's history.

“You are okay,” Roger tells him as he leaves, echoing Don's Lucky Strike pitch from the pilot. Of course, we've seen enough to know that's not the case. Don's still living at the old apartment (and still hasn't bothered with a least getting a futon for the living room) while his realtor Melanie searches for a new one. When he learns Diana called, he goes looking for her, but finds a gay couple in her apartment instead. No disrespect to the actress, but given we have a minimum of two hours left of Mad Men (unless Weiner is going to gift us with a 90-minute or two-hour finale), I really don't want to spend much, if any of it with newer characters.

But Don's not the only one struggling. Peggy meets with a headhunter after Pete tells her about McCann, but is told her best move is staying where she is and joining McCann. Though like her mentor, Peggy's not all that thrilled about it. On the personal front, working on an account involving kids brings up old demons.
“You hate kids,” Stan tells her, unknowingly striking a nerve. It also explains Peggy's vitriolic response when the girl she and Stan get left babysitting injures herself (stapling her finger) and her mother berates her for it. Hours later, the argument is still weighing on her, and she goes on a diatribe to Stan about a young girl getting “in trouble” for following her heart, saying a woman should be able to make a mistake and move on just like a man can. Stan connects the dots, asking her how she handled her pregnancy, and Peggy says her son is probably with a family somewhere.

“I don't know because I'm not supposed to know. Or you can't go on with your life,” she says. Peggy has certainly made an effort to do the latter. But while she may not ever know the whereabouts of her child, acknowledging that she had one—that, this in fact did happen—to herself, and importantly, those close to her, and embracing it as simply part of her life's story, may help her finally make peace with her decision.

Of course, what no one can deny is happening is times are a changin' at SC&P. Roger breaks the news to all the employees, but folks don't seem convinced everything is fine, and tune him out and start talking over each other. Not even Don can quiet the troops with a great, rousing speech, only getting out “this is the beginning of something” before everyone just walks off.

Aw hell.

Other Thoughts:

– “Time and Life” gave Alison Brie what's likely her last appearance as Trudy, as she and Pete momentarily unite when Tammy is put on a wait list at Greenwich Country Day, a prep school Pete's family's pumped a lot of money into. A meeting with the headmaster goes horribly wrong, as he cites some ancient feud between his family the McDonalds and the Campbells (apparently Pete's ancestors came and ambushed the dude's family in their sleep) as reason for rejecting Tammy, with Pete punching the guy out in response. Later, Trudy talks about her stagnant social life, explaining how husbands won't leave her alone, but saying sadly in another decade, everyone will leave her alone. Ten years after Helen Bishop, and it's still hard out for there for divorced woman in these suburbs. “You're ageless,” Pete tells her. If this is their last on-screen appearance together, it's a nice send off.

--Joan and Richard are still going strong. When she tells him she got some bad news at work, he immediately books a red eye to New York. He's either really devoted or supremely sprung on what Ms. Holloway's throwing down. Just sayin'. Though her new romance may be influencing the way she treats Roger, quietly but firmly telling him “Don't do that” when he yells for her, or refusing to break the bad news to the other partners for him. Perhaps it's a way of asserting she's no longer a secretary, nor his caretaker. Then again, her putting her head on his shoulder after he initially gets the news proves she's not completely above comforting him.

--Stan: “Real kids are shy. And you have to talk to them like people.”

--Shirley: “My goodness Meredith. We should put a bell on you.”

--“What's in a name?” Don you said a mouthful.

Man Candy

Via Sexy Ass Black Men

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Smoke Break

FYI: Being I have to handle some personal bidness, tomorrow's Mad Men recap will be a bit late. Until then, take in this gif....I don't endorse tagging cancer sticks....but goddamn Jon.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Scandal Season 4 Ep. 20 Recap: “First Lady Sings The Blues'

Photo Credit: ABC
Let the bodies hit the floor! Battle lines have been drawn, and with two episodes left for this season, the epic Pope vs. Pope showdown takes center stage in “First Lady Sings The Blues,” with often thrilling results.

Last week's episode ended with Jake getting shanked and left for dead by a masked assailant revealed to be Russell, who it turns out is not Olivia's hapless, role-playing boo but a mole for Papa Pope. Shonda and Co. wring out the “is he or isn't he?” tension of Jake's fate for all its worth; the camera follows an unsuspecting Quinn as she goes about the normal first person at the office routine, then comes in the conference room to find Jake bloody and unconscious. She freaks the hell out until Huck performs some Pulp Fiction shiznit (but without the syringe), popping Jake in the chest and bringing him back from the dead.

Taking Jake to the hospital isn't an option, as it will create a digital trail that would lead Papa Pope straight to them, and as Olivia says several times, their gruesome deaths. So Charlie calls up his guy, an ex-KGB spy with a knack for patching up agents who find themselves at death's door (hey he got Charlie a new kidney). However he doesn't accept money, but favors—in this case, that they help Black Sable, a notorious agent who puts fear into hearts of even the toughest Russians spies.

If you were expecting Sable's abode to be a dank, inconspicuous hideout or for her to resemble Marc Mero's ex-wife (wrestling geek reference!), you head likely twisted around on both counts. Instead Huck and Liv pull up to a crib straight out of a Disney flick and find Mary Peterson, the cook-baking suburban grandma formally known as Black Sable.

Mary/Black Sable runs down some of her personal history. She grew up Russian poor—meaning her brother died because they literally did not have food—and jumped at the chance when the KGB offered her stability, even if it involved killing folks—to paraphrase her, it was fine, until, as Huck quickly helps her point out, it wasn't. As cold as Mary initially comes off, confessing the ways she's suffered—the KGB killed her mother when she attempted to go home and see her, and her husband and daughter were killed in a crash—softens her chilly facade. By the time she's explaining to Olivia how her family's demise left her alone to think about all the people she killed, you really see why she wants to stay in retirement. However, those days are over now that mother Russia's started the spy game up again, and she receives an order from handler. Huck tracks him down, and Olivia confronts him about letting her go. But the guy, a seemingly innocuous butcher, is unmoved, and threatens that Mary knows what happens to traitors.

Speaking of seemingly innocuous dudes with homicidal tendencies, Papa Pope spends much of the hour off the front lines. He doesn't do any of the dirty work himself, instead preferring to do things like berate Russell for failing to finish Jake off, then shooting him in the arm when flirting with Liv doesn't pull her out of hiding. Liv shows up to his hospital room, but brings Russell to their makeshift hospital via Huck drugging him, still unaware he's working for Eli. However Jake knows, and nearly kills himself by going against doctor's orders to stay still, trying to alert everyone to Russell's true identity.

Olivia makes a bold move, offering the butcher Eli's life in exchange for Mary's continued retirement. But Liv then goes to her house to find her and her grandkids shot dead, and the butcher shot dead and laid out in the trunk. As a coup de grace, Papa Pope leaves a cell phone on his corpse (which of course rings right when Olivia finds the body), and when Liv answers, reminds her “Against me. You'll never win.” You know, Huck may be right about going on the offensive.

The other big story of the night was the backlash against Mellie's senate run. Sally Langston spends an entire segment of her show reading Mellie for filth, calling into question whether it's even legal for her run while still being first lady. Abby, like everyone else on staff, is tasked with dealing with the ensuing fallout, asserting her feminist bonafides to David Rosen that misogyny is responsible for the legality of Mellie's run (since no man ever thought a little first lady would do something like run for office), then tossing them aside by pushing for a man—in this case Cyrus (yes! Showdown!)--to go on Sally's show and discredit her, knowing more people will respond positively, sad and sexist as it is.

Cyrus balks, and can't fanthom that Fitz isn't pushing for Mellie because he actually wants to support his wife, but Fitz makes it clear this is happening and to get on board. Cyrus goes on , and chile, the shade is thick as molasses as these two smize their way through a chess match of barbed comments and thinly-veiled insults. Sally pulls out the big guns when she asserts thinks he should be running for Senate, not Mellie.

It's an easy answer to his antipathy over her campaign, but not an unbelievable one. As a woman, Mellie has barriers to the brass ring, but as an openly gay man in politics, not to mention one working for a Republican president (lord the cognitive dissonance), Cyrus has encountered his own glass ceiling—as he once raged to James, his current position is the highest he's able to climb, and it is what he has to settle for. But ever the political champ/animal/team player, Cyrus plays the Daniel Langston card, asking Sally if she would be so critical if she'd won the presidency and her hubby wanted to work outside the home. And Sally quickly ends the interview. Checkmate Cyrus!

The appearance does some help to Mellie's plight, but many Americans still disagree with her run; Liz suggest they pretend their marriage is on the rocks, to position as a sympathetic single mom with her own views, but Mellie shuts it down, admirably trotting out their partnership.

Fitz calls Liv, convinced Mellie can't win, but wants to support her to make up for what he calls, his “sins of the past.” Liv doesn't take the emo bait her throws out, but eventually tells him to embrace the criticism and make it a selling point. Which Mellie does with aplomb, turning on the Southern gal charm to ten and working magic on Virginia voters with quips about pillow talk with Fitz and having him wrapped around her finger. Abby's all for it, and Fitz doesn't care he's crashing in the polls, but Cyrus points out what may be his real reason for being against this: A win for Mellie means the erasure of Fitz's legacy, as he'll remembered only as a whipped Commander in Chief. It's pretty much a given Mellie's campaign will stretch into next season, so we'll have to wait and see on that.

After finding Mary and her grandkids dead, Olivia calls off the B6:13 war, reminding everyone that if they even flinch to make a move against Eli they are all dead. Or at least she pretends to in front of Russell, who still laid up in the makeshift hospital. Later though, while she turns on the Alex charm for him in bed, she pulls her gun on him, explaining she connected the dots about how Eli knew about her deal with the Russians, and asking what the hell is Operation Foxtail, which she overheard him talking on the phone talking to Eli about.

It ain't over. See ya' in two weeks!

Other Thoughts:

--As great as it was seeing father and daughter go head to head, I don't see how this could end any other way than Papa Pope dying or being put away for life without it all feeling like sound and fury signifying nothing (and even the latter choice feels a bit disappointing, though it would provide a chance to see he and Maya share a cell block),

---Eli on Jake's will to live: “It irritates me to know he's still breathing.”

--Olivia to butcher/agent on her notorious rep: “Some people have bark, some people have bite. I have both.”

--Who else (aside from David Rosen) got a little nervous when Charlie and Quinn announced they're going on a blood run, which with those two, could mean literally accosting and withdrawing blood from hapless victims. However in this case, it meant stealing blood bags from a blood bank. Phew.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mad Men Season 7 Ep. 10 Recap: “The Forecast”

Photo Credit: AMC

What's the meaning of life? What's really important? What will our legacy be beyond what we do for a living, or is work our entire legacy? Mad Men has been asking these questions (along with many others) in one way or another for the past seven seasons. And for the past seven seasons, the man at the center of all this ennui, has, for the most part, been trying avoid answering them for himself, instead finding temporary comfort in booze, women, or his work, which in part involves distracting people from the aforementioned big questions long enough so they'll buy something.

“The Forecast,” finds Don in a contemplative mood, and he spends much of its hour trying to suss out whether he's the only one thinking beyond the next account or level of professional success. Given recent events—learning of Rachel Katz's death, finalizing his divorce from Megan—and the fact he's not responding to them by going on a self-destructive tear, it makes sense Don would be in this head space (one helped along by Roger pawning off writing a big speech for McCann execs on him). He's selling he and Megan's old apartment, not even bothering to replace the furniture Marie had hauled off and arguing with the Realtor over how to best sell the place.

Being that they're both in the business of selling, and that Don can be pretty damn stubborn, it's not surprising he has his own suggestions about how she handle potential buyers. But while Don pushes her to sell fantasy—the previous owner made a million dollars and left in a hurry to live in a castle is one gem—she punctures it with the dreary facts.

“It looks like a sad person lives here,” she says. “It's a $85,000 fixer upper.” Don typically buries himself in work when his personal life falls to pieces, but with the security provided by the McCann deal, things at the office no longer carry the undercurrent of do or die they once did.

Don says as much while talking shop with Ted, before attempting to change the topic to the future. But Ted's biggest desire at the moment is landing a pharmaceutical account. The conversation goes the same with Peggy, whose sights are all set on professional success—becoming the first female creative director, creating a catchphrase and making something of lasting value. Don asks if that's all, subtly pushing her to confront the other things they both know she desires—a husband and children—which makes her bristle.

“I thought this was about my job, not the meaning of life,” Peggy says, and Don being Don (i.e. his own current obsession blinkering him to others' feelings), puts his foot in his mouth when he doesn't pick up on the shift in her tone and body language, and says those two things are not separate.

“Why don't you write a list of your dreams. So I can dump all over them,” she says before walking out.

His interactions with Johnny Mathis—the fictional SC&P employee, not the singer—don't go much better. Mathis goes to Don to ask him to come to a meeting for he drops an F-bomb in front of their peanut butter cookie client. Don refuses, instead offering advice on how to smooth things over with a story about how he embarrassed himself early in his career at a Lucky Strike meeting. Mathis thanks him and leaves, and is it just me, or does it dawn (no pun intended) on you in that very moment just how far Don is removed from the day in, day out artwork-pitching-meeting cycle of SC&P? Lest Matt Weiner has more tricks up his sleeve, the disastrous Hershey's pitch could've been Don's swan song.

Anyway, Mathis tries to make Don's joke at the meeting, and it bombs, getting him pushed off the business. He confronts Don, blaming him and saying he should have just apologized; Don retorts he should have been better at apologizing, with Mathis countering a guy who looks like Don Draper never has to apologize. A valid point, one we've seen Pete Campbell make in one way or another lo these many years; it's true much of Don's abhorrent behavior has been more readily forgivable, than say, Harry Crane's, because his of looks and charisma. But Mathis is barely on Don's level creatively in his current state, let alone the genius we met back in 1960, and the fact he used Don's joke apology instead creating his own is telling. Lee Garner Jr.'s huge crush on Don notwithstanding (which Roger and Mathis cite as the real reason Don's line went over so well), what Mathis realizes too late is trying to be someone else rarely works. You have to accept the truth about yourself in order to succeed, whether professionally or personally.

It's a lesson Joan had to learn. She's in California to help out at SC&P's Los Angeles office, where Lou's been exiled/transferred. A case of mistaken identity leads to a date with Richard Burghoff, a real estate developer. She takes him back to the hotel afterwards for a good roll in the sheets, but puts off his offer of extending her stay and driving to Malibu. During the pillow talk, Richard reveals he's divorced.

“I built somethings, I built a lot of things. But I put off a lot of things. Now I'm free as a bird,” Richard says of his 22-year marriage. Joan obviously wishes she had the freedom she once wielded back in her steno pool queen bee days, and is anxious for Richard to see her as a single career woman with no baggage. It's probaly why she drops revelations about herself in increments. When Richard pops up in New York, they go on another date, during which she tells him about Kevin. He puts on a happy face about it initially, but his real feelings eventually come out; Richard tells her he's done with that part of his life, and disappointed, she leaves.

“You're ruining my life,” she says to the babysitter Maureen the next morning, a none-too-subtle comment on the ways being a mother is hampering her romantic prospects, since Maureen is holding Kevin when she says it. Richard brings flowers to the office as an apology, and Joan gives the whole truth—that she's living with her mother and twice divorced—and he responds positively, saying he's buying a place in New York and wants her to visit. Hope springs eternal.

Glenn Bishop re-enters the show via a surprise visit to the Francis residence. He still gushes at the sight of Betty, responds in kind and turns flirtatious, an exchange Sally picks up on. Glenn reveals he joined the Army, which angers Sally but earns him respect from Betty. However, like Joan's reluctance to cop to her single motherhood, Glenn hangs his reasons for joining the military on a noble idea--citing the disproportionate number of black kids being sent off to Vietnam compared to white suburbanites like himself—so he can be viewed in a certain way, as a hero rather than the college dropout he really is.

Sally has endure watching her other parent work his seductive magic when Don has dinner with she and her friends before they depart for a cross-country field trip. Sally squirms as Don turn on the charm when one of her friends starts flirting big time; the whole thing carries a extra layer of awkwardness when you consider she's seen the end result of her father's Lothario routine. She calls him on it later, sniping that like Betty, he “oozes” whenever someone shows an interest in them, and vows to become a different person. Don however, lays out a harsh truth: that Sally is like he and Betty, and she'll realize it sooner or later.

“You're a very beautiful girl. It's up to you to be more than that,” he tells her before she boards the bus. Later, he arrives home to find his apartment has sold for the asking price.

“Now we just have to find a place for you,” the Realtor tells him. And with that she closes the door on his old place, leaving him standing in the hallway alone as Roberta Flack's “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” cues ups.

So what's the forecast? Not even Don seems to know the answer.

Other Thoughts:

--According to Roger (who really should hire a ghost writer and put out a second edition of Sterling's Gold), Lee Garner Jr. would require Don to be at every Lucky Strike meeting, and fantasized about jerking him off. I could totally believe that.

--The secretary in Los Angeles says Lou's working on some big—a meeting with Hanna-Barbara—which really sounds like he's taking company time to push his decades-old cartoon ambitions.

--Pete and Peggy spend the episode doing battle over the peanut butter cookie account, and it's worth it just to here Peggy snap at him “You can't fire my men!” when a meeting goes south.

--Meredith: “He's very busy.”
--Peggy: “Stay out of this.” My my, Ms. Olsen, have we forgotten our roots?

--Betty on Sally's anti-war stance: “Don't listen to Jane Fonda over here.”

Monday Man Candy

Friday, April 17, 2015

Scandal Season 4 Ep. 19 Recap: “I'm Just A Bill”

Photo Credit: ABC
“This is what I do. You call me. I save your life. Now you know what I'm about.” “It's always the right time to do the right thing.” Olivia says these two things to Marcus Walker, the neighborhood activist turned mayoral candidate who told her her black card wouldn't be validated when she came to deal with the racially-motivated shooting of Brandon Parker back in “The Lawn Chair.”

The first quote comes while Olivia and her crew are in the midst of handling Marcus' problem—said problem being he hid in the closet while a trio of masked men murdered the mayor's wife. And why was he in the closet at the mayor's house? Because he was having an affair with her. Mmmhmm, yeah. The scene gives Olivia a chance to get a small dig at Marcus for his initial impression of her, but her words also have an extra layer of tension to them. If you recall, Eli paid a visit to Olivia's apartment, asking/threatening her to make the B6:13 investigation go away, and, hitting her where she lives by saying he knows that in the end, her loyalty isn't to her friends or associates, but to the republic, and she will analyze all outcomes and make a decision based on that fact.

What Kerry Washington does so well is put a big question mark on what that decision will be until the very end of the hour. She accomplishes this in subtle ways, like her wavering “Sure” during a meeting with David Rosen about the B6:13 case, or the way her whole body tenses up at the mention of Operation Remington. Olivia's internal battle—between doing what is right and doing what is easy or will further your own personal ambition—spreads over “I'm Just A Bill,” and comes up in the episode's other story lines.

Brandon Parker's death comes back into the proceedings via a bill in his name designed to keep checks on police department practices. The administration gets the votes the usual Scandal way, through blackmail, double-dealing and general chicanery, but after a female politician gets pregnant, the deciding vote comes down to Susan Ross. However, Ross is no pushover, and as we can tell from David Rosen squeamish faces, is bewilderingly intelligent, as she tears apart the bill, pointing out its uselessness line by line. What is she thinking? There's no time actually read the legislation you need to pass to maintain political power!

One by one, Cyrus, Mellie and eventually Fitz try not to, as Cyrus callously put it, “feed the pigeon,” convince her to squash her very valid concerns and simply vote yes for the bill. What they don't realize—well, eventually Fitz does—is Susan is not motivated by a desire to put her feet up in the Oval Office, but to enact policies that actually work and effect people's lives. Once she stands up to Fitz, he rolls up his sleeves and works to make the bill worth something, and placates an exasperated Cyrus by making Mellie's senate run announcement the main story.

Marcus' arc is the most transparent exploration of the “what's right vs. what's easy” dilemma. As Olivia begins to work her fixer mojo, cleaning up the aforementioned crime scene of al evidence and reading corrupt cops—who are not fans of Marcus post-Brandon—for filth when they try to take him in with no cause, Marcus really starts to get what Olivia, and subsequently he, will be about if he continues to go down this road.

“Your career or justice. You can't have both,” she tells him. Marcus takes door number two, spilling the tea about his affair and the mayor's role in his wife's murder—turns out he had a connected hitman do the job and tried to frame Marcus via threatening e-mails—before exiting stage left.

We've watched Olivia attempt have her own version of both for four seasons now, with often devastating results. When Russell wants to end things after his being unknowingly sedated by Papa Pope (which Olivia masterfully tries to play off as them drinking too much a ruse that Russell sees through), she is equal parts vulnerable potential girlfriend and sex kitten.

“My life is very complicated,” Olivia tells him, delivering the understatement of the century. But as she explains, turning on the charm, when she's Alex, the fake name she gave him the night they met, things are simple. And she needs things to be simple. As much as I'm in favor of Liv getting some, the role playing is just another way of compartmentalizing her life and avoiding her inner demons and traumas.

It's what's bubbling just beneath the surface in her speech to Marcus after he tells the truth, and resigns himself to believing his political career is now dead in the water. But, as she explains, being “done” is not deciding to do the right thing, no matter how much it may hurt; being done is taking the easy way out, choosing to lie and compromise your integrity and then rationalizing the reasons why until you become someone you don't recognize.

No doubt Olivia sees her declaration to Eli that she'll see the B6:13 case through—and won't take him on as a client—as a giant step in reclaiming her identity. And it is, as she's willing to sacrifice both Fitz, the man she's spent so energy and put out so many fires for, and her own reputation in order to have the republic function as it should, in the name of justice. Shocking to her (but not that shocking when you really think about it) is Eli's reaction. He does not wring his hands or launch into some diatribe about family and betrayal; instead he expresses admiration his daughter is finally standing in her own truth, even that truth involves destroying him and everything he's dedicated his life to building.

He's also thrilled—and to me this is what truly excites him—Olivia has finally become a worthy adversary, one not motivated by devotion to a person but to uphold an ideal. As Eli says, they are two sides of the same coin. Olivia only shows her naivete when she asks that Papa Pope spill no blood. Or maybe she's not being na├»ve, but speaking as a daughter and not all-powerful D.C. fixer.

Either way, it's a foolish request. Because make no mistake. There will be blood.

Other Thoughts:

--The blood already starts coming when Jake gets attacked by a masked intruder at OPA's offices, later revealed to be Russell, who's working for Eli. Damn, Papa Pope has a long end game. And dammit I bet Olivia is wishing she had Edison's number

--I really have to commend the show for not treating Olivia's PTSD like a headache she can sleep off. When Jake brings up Operation Remington, also known as the B6:13 mission involving Fitz shooting down a plane full of civilians—which for years Olivia included her mother Maya—the way Olivia's hand shakes as she walks down the hall as if she's in a cloud, her mind flashing back to memories of her torture camp, is crushing.

--LOL Moment: The resigned look of “girl go on,” on Olivia's face as she watches Mellie announce her senate run.

--”Why is his name Mickey? Oh, Oh, Oh. 

--If you didn't know the title of the episode was based on a classic School House Rock song, shame on you. And watch it HERE.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mad Men Season 7 Ep. 9 Recap: 'New Business'

Photo Credit: ABC
After last week's mid-season premiere “Severance,” depicted Don, Joan, Peggy and Ken grappling with their past selves while trying to seize control of the present, this week's “New Business” mines similar thematic territory, as several characters struggle to make a new start—and shake the baggage of their current circumstances.

The literal new business comes in the form of Pima Ryan, a powerful female photographer whose reputation really gets under Stan's skin. He's rude when he and Peggy go to meet her one set, but as we learned through his early clashes with Ms. Olsen, his brusqueness is a cover for his own insecurities. And underneath his seeming contempt for Pima is a strong admiration for her artistry. All of which amounts to him freaking out over trying to impress her.

Stan's girlfriend Elaine partly relieves his worry by offering herself as a model. Pima pulls some world class mental jujitsu by seducing Stan in the dark room, doing a masterful job of making him (and us—or at least me) feel as though she genuinely likes his work and is attracted to him. Until she tries to run the same game on Peggy, who after talking with a gleeful Stan, sees what's up and hips him to it, declaring Pima a hustler who she won't hire again.

At first viewing, it's a curious B-story to “New Business,” whose primary focus is on Don dealing with the emotional and financial fallout of his divorce. But then again, this is the same show whose protagonist got his big break by getting his future boss drunk and then “reminding” him he hired him the next day, and where a partner earned her partnership by sleeping with a client, so Pima's actions are hardly beyond the pale. And it fits into the hour's theme; Stan is dissatisfied with his job as an ad agency art director—an oxymoron in his mind—and Pima's presumed interest in him and his work offers a chance to view his creative output in a more legitimate, artistic way. At least until Peggy bursts his bubble.

But back to the main event. After dangling the possibility of a reunion with Rachel Menken in front of our tortured protagonist's face before tragically pulling the rug out from under him, “New Business” shifts focus to Don's tumultuous relationship with another beautiful, dark-haired woman with whom he tried to fulfill his fantasy of running away with: Megan.

Things have gotten tense between these two since we last saw them on screen together. You knew a divorce couldn't end too amicably on Mad Men. Megan thinks he's drawing out the divorce proceedings, while Don says his finances are a mess since the McCann deal.

Things get more complicated once Megan's family—her mother Marie and her sister Marie-France—enter the picture. If you're familiar with Marie's style of parenting, you know that her helping Megan get the last of her things out of the apartment also includes berating her for allowing Don to treat her like a prostitute (by giving her a check to pay for moving expenses). Marie-France, who is married with kids, and judging from Marie's flippant quip about her going to “cry in church” either very religious, conservative or both, isn't much help either, viewing Megan's divorce as sacrilege. It's late in the game, but showing these family dynamics, particularly with Marie-France, gives a clearer of who Megan is, who she wanted to be and how it ultimately landed her in New York and with Don.

While talking about the divorce, Roger makes a bitter remark to Don about remembering he gave Megan the good life; Don asserts Megan's not Jane, and while that's true, her life obviously got an upgrade when they wed. It's a fact her family picks up on, and expects certain things from her because of it, as when Marie-France pushes her make their girls' night out one full of expensive food and much wine drinking. Her life has Don's fingerprints all over it, and despite her best efforts, she can't seem to wipe them away.

Megan ends up making some of the same charges to Don as Jane did to Roger, accusing him of lying to her and stealing her youth. They're accusations that, at least in my opinion, don't exactly land. Don hasn't been a saint—the affair with Sylvia and basically calling her a whore for kissing on camera are obvious examples—but compared to the massive amount of wool he pulled over Betty's eyes for a full decade, he's been pretty upfront about his past with Megan, and made a real effort to support her dreams of being an actress. And compared to way he reacted to the demise of his first marriage, he's been relatively calm during this second go around. If anything, Megan may be taking out all of the day's slights—Harry proving he's still a colossal a-hole by promising to help her land auditions then making a pass at her, learning of Marie and Roger's affair, dealing with her sister's judgment, facing the prospect of a waning career—on him.

Don waves the white flag and writes Megan a check for $1 million dollars, and they seem to come to some understanding. It could be that Don is, like he says, really tired of fighting. Or maybe his push to resolve things could be because he has another romantic option on standby Or so he thinks.

He continues to pursue Diana, the woman he slept with/projected his feelings of Rachel onto last week, Don's insistent on meeting and getting to know her, inviting her to come to his place.

“I took a cab with six dollars in my pocket to a stranger's apartment. I was hoping it looked like this,” Diana says as she looks around the apartment, slightly in awe. Diana, already tipsy, falls into his arms and they spend the night together. Like many Mad Men hookups, the scene and dialogue play on the thrill and fantasy of a new face or place, then bring things back down to reality when daylight breaks.

We learn Diana is a Wisconsin transplant and recent divorcee with no children. Well not really—it turns out she does have a little girl, but she died of the flu, as the sight of Sally's room reminds her. Later, she tells Don she actually has two daughters, and left the living one with her husband. She asks Don if he wants to why she did it, almost daring him to ask, but he doesn't. Why would he want to? It would spoil the fantasy—much like Betty's psychological issues or Megan's wish not to be his partner in love and advertising did.

Diana says she's not ready for a relationship with him, or to feel anything in general. Don acknowledges his own first post-divorce wreckage, but she's unmoved and he leaves, putting the gift he brought her on the bed. Diana is living a similar life to fourth season Don, drinking heavily, having empty (for her) sexual encounters and coming home to a ramshackle apartment. As Don puts it, she's punishing herself.

This may or may not be the last we see of Diana, but she appears to have taken the same path as Marie—who Marie-France tearfully says has run off with some man (Roger). As Megan tells her sister, their mother was unhappy for a long time, and right or wrong, she did something about it.

On to new business.

Other Thoughts:

--Betty's going back to school for a masters in psychology—since according to her, people seek her out to speak in confidence. If you say so hon.

--Speaking of Betty, the way she turns her complete attention to Henry, Bobby and Gene once Don leaves reinforces she really appears to have moved on. Don on the other hand looks back, getting a glimpse of the happy family he never had with Betty (or anyone for that matter), but imagines or wishes that he did.

--Arnold and Sylvia make an appearance. Arnold, drunk off his ass, enters the elevator with Sylvia, and makes borderline rude comments about Don “bringing the whole restaurant home,” when he sees Diana in her waitress uniform. On some level, he must know about the affair, or maybe he's just jealous of Don's new single life.

--Who else was hoping for a Roger/Burt Peterson reunion on the golf course? Drop dead ya' limey vulture!

--Watching Meredith and Harry interact is like watching two high school kids talk awkwardly in a hall way.

---So Marie's taking off with Roger hmmm? No disrespect to Megan's dad, but if this means more Marie for this last go around, then get it girl.

--One of Jane's claims in her divorce was that Roger“thwarted her career.” Again, if you say so hon.

Monday Man Candy

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mad Men Season 7 Ep. 8 Recap: “Severance”

Photo Credit: AMC
Here we go. The final seven. When we last left this cabal of deeply flawed but fascinating characters, Roger had brokered a deal with their one-time nemesis McCann-Erickson to buy part of SC&P with him serving as president, earning each of the partners a sizable chunk of change and saving the company from the clutches of Jim Cutler, Harry Crane and his computer.

Up first for this last go around is “Severance,” an hour that finds Don, Peggy, Joan and Ken grappling with a familiar Mad Men motif: wrestling with the ghosts of your past, all while struggling to figure out who your future self will be.

Ken faces a literal severance when his father-in-law Ed Baxter's retirement from Dow Corning, on which he's been the account man, leads to him being unceremoniously fired by Ferguson Donnelly, a McCann exec with an ax to grind, and is told to give his accounts to Pete. Ken's always been an anomaly among his admen peers, treating his job like well, a job, instead of the be-all, end-all of his existence, and keeping it separate from his home life. Which explains why Roger, who's expressed irritation at Ken's squeamishness about working with his family, was at his most glib during his dismissal.

At first, Ken seems to want to take the road less traveled, bail out of advertising and take his wife's advice to get back into writing. But, as he's done time and time again, Ken sacrifices his creative aspirations, taking a job at Dow as head of advertising, which makes him Pete and Roger's latest client and boss. Will it lead to a happier, more fulfilling life for Mr. Cosgrove? Probably not. But at the very least, it's payback for that ass.

Peggy and Joan have a client crisis when Topaz is starting to feel the heat from Hane's L'Eggs, which offers an inferior design but is selling like gangbusters thanks a superior marketing campaign. On advice from Don, they work a connection within McCann to see if they can get some department store muscle behind Topaz, which leads to a meeting where a table full of douche bags make sexist comments about how easily panties come off and suggest Joan should have gone into the brassiere business.

Unfortunately, Joan and Peggy turn on each other in the elevator post-meeting, as Peggy obliviously blames the guys' misogynistic reaction on her wardrobe, and dismisses Joan's anger by saying it likely wasn't the first time she's heard those kind of remarks. Peggy says the men didn't her seriously either, but she's unknowingly rubbing salt in a very deep wound, and gets a vicious Joan read for her trouble.

“So you're saying I don't dress the way you do, because I don't look like you. And thats very true,” joan seethes. Peggy snaps back that Joan's filthy rich, and therefore doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to before stomping off. Both women have likely had to suffer idiots like these guys their entire lives—Joan for meeting a certain standard of beauty, Peggy for not—but sadly, they couldn't see the forest for the trees and forge some sisterly solidarity. Joan shakes off the negativity with a shopping spree at the store where she once worked, buying clothes that compliment her figure and dismissing the sales girl's suggestion she use her employee discount. What was she thinking? Joan doesn't want to be thought of as a secretary, let alone a sales girl.

Peggy had better luck forging a bond with Stevie, the blind date she was set up with by co-worker Johnny Mathis, his brother-in-law. Things appear to be going south at first Stevie gets the wrong dinner order, which he worries will make her think he's weak if he doesn't send it back, or a prima donna if he does. Yet things perk up when the guy says Johnny told her she was funny and fearless.

“You know I love veal,” Peggy says as she switches plates, and a few drinks later, all is well as they knock back drinks and like reasonable human beings, make fun of Johnny Mathis' having the misfortune of being named Johnny Mathis and not being a famous singer. Peggy takes Stevie home, but doesn't sleep with him; after breaking tradition with Abe, she's trying a more old fashioned approach this time around. It's so rare to see Peggy let her guard down—and have a good time on a date--that seeing her face break out into a wide, girlish smile as he leaves is sublime.

Unsurprisingly, the character facing the darkest severance is Don Draper. On the surface, it looks like he's carefree and living it up post-Megan, auditioning models at work, inviting women up to his bachelor pad at home and hitting the town with a mustached Roger. He's also gotten pretty comfortable using his impoverished childhood as a flirtation device, regaling a table full of pretty young things about a toaster his Uncle Mac used to trip over in the whorehouse he grew up in—though he may or may not have mentioned the whorehouse.

This being Mad Men, a seemingly happy existence can't stay that way for long. Don has dream where his old flame Rachel Menken Katz is one of the girls auditioning in the Chinchilla fur and heels. However, the boom is lowered when Meredith tells him Rachel stepped down from her company a few months before and died a week ago. Don goes to the shiva for her, and meets her sister, who of course knows all about Don. Their exchange is tense on the verge of being hostile (at least on Rachel's sister's end). She essentially asks him what he hoped to accomplish by coming, and he answers he wanted to see what her life was like.

“She lived the life she wanted to live,” she says, fitting the theme of going for yours that seems to be running through the episode. Like the death of Anna back in season four, Rachel's passing hits Don particularly hard, because like the woman whose husband's identity he claimed for his own, she was one of the few people in the world whom he felt knew and understood him. Her death also represents the end of a dream, of a fantasy of what their life may have been like had she run away with him a decade ago (though judging by how things turned out with Megan, another fantasy Don dove headlong into, it wouldn't ended all that great). Don acts out the emotions stirred up by dream and the somber reality via a stranger he swears he knows at the restaurant where he and Roger eat.

Later, Don revisits the restaurant to talk to the waitress named Di, whose also a sex worker; she takes a cigarette break, which leads to some back alley way hanky panky. “You got your hundred dollars worth,” she says, referring to the generous tips Roger left at their first meeting, before going to tend to the other customers. She's really just a stand-in for Rachael—and not a very good one in my opinion, as the back alley felt a little gratuitous. But she offers some simple, good advice, saying “When someone dies, you want to make sense of out if, but you just can't.” Hopefully Don will take those words to heart, and spare himself another downward spiral.

---Other Thoughts:

--“Is That All There Is,” bookends the hour, but strikes two distinct emotional tones; as a sort of simple, uncomplicated ode to the sexy, Lothario existence Don appears to be living out as he ogles and orders around an aspiring model, and at the end, a melancholy accompaniment to his sense of ennui as he tries cope with Rachel's death.

--In Don's dream, Rachel tells him he missed his flight. Of course, Rachel is the same woman he once desperately made an attempt to run away with. Coincidentally, Peggy drunkenly attempts a run off to Paris with Stevie, but can't find a her passport. Also, didn't Don once try to whisk Midge off to Paris, before seeing she and one of her bohemian friends were in love? Hmmm...

--“Severance” obviously refers to money, and from Ken referring to Pete's millions to Peggy spitting “you're filthy rich” to Joan during their elevator confrontation, the payday from McCann seems to have created a subtle us vs them vibe between the partners and everyone else in the office. It'll be interesting to see if this dynamic is explored more.

Monday Man Candy

Friday, April 3, 2015

Scandal Season 4 Ep. 18 Recap: “Honor Thy Father”

Photo Credit: ABC
It's on. Like Donkey Kong. After focusing on Cyrus Bean's dysfunctional nuptial history in last week's delightful distraction “Put A Ring On It,” this week's episode “Honor Thy Father” focuses most of its attention on the gladiators' quest to expose B6:13.

At first it looks as if Jake, who started this ball rolling by giving the infamous files to David Rosen, has gone AWOL. Or to use the popular slang of the day, cray cray. After literally being strong-armed and threatened by Jake, David Rosen enlists Quinn and Huck to rally the troops—the troops being ex-B6:13 agents Max Butler, Margo and Simon—to testify and use their confessions to put pressure on Jake. But Jake's two steps ahead, hearing their whole plan via wiretap, and presumably using his intel to murderous ends. Charlie bounds into the secret agent hideout only to find his comrades in torture dead, and a wiry, unhinged Jake lunging for him.

Convinced he's gone off the deep end, Charlie says Jake's gotta go, and after Huck whisper-confirms via a short soliloquy about Jake being in survival mode Quinn reluctantly agrees. They track Jake to Olivia's place, when he's actually moved across the hall; he tells Huck and Quinn Olivia is safe, before insinuating bodily harm will come her way if they don't leave well enough alone.

The big reveal is Jake hasn't gone cray cray after all, but that Holly, David Rosen's assistant, was secretly a B6:13 operative and responsible for all the murdering and mayhem (Now that I think about it, you never did see Holly and Jake or Huck in a room together. Smart Shonda. Very smart). Jake pops a cap in her dome, and informs Rosen that he always on the good side, but in this fight, knowing who's the good guy won't always be easy to tell.

It's a clever ruse, setting up Jake as a potential big bad to obscure the real monster lurking in the shadows. An even better slight of hand is the camera pulling from Jake eavesdropping on David to reveal Liv also listening to his scheming. After which she reads Huck for filth over trying to keep their Jake under wraps, reminding him of the number one rule when dealing with Olivia Pope: don't lie.

After imparting that lesson in being a boss biznatch, Olivia gets a knock at the door, smiles and opens the door for Franklin. But—surprise!--Papa Pope, the aforementioned monster, also come for a visit!Dayum, Olivia can't even get some on the side without Eli destroying her bliss. He appears behind Olivia Franklin when she answers the door in the episode's final scene. He might as well be Jason Voorhies wearing a hockey mask and carrying a machete, given her reaction.

But I digress. Up until that point, Olivia was continuing her journey back from the brink and returning to something a resembling a normal—well, as normal an existence as one can hope to have when they operate in this world. She's taken on a new client, Congressman Nick Reed (whom Entourage fans may know as Adam Davies), whose father George Reed is on death row for confessing to murdering his late daughter's teacher Dan Hoffman after the girl committed suicide over their illicit (and might I add illegal) affair. George dismisses Olivia and his son's belief he didn't do it, but Liv lets George know she's proving his innocence whether he likes it or not.

OPA digs and finds other victims, and suspects his wife Lisa may have pulled the trigger, but when Liv goes to her home, her sister says she died a few weeks ago. Olivia asks Quinn and Huck to go search Lisa's home for any clues that she may have killed Dan. They find a gun, and decide to call in an anonymous tip so the cops can put it into evidence and possibly prove George's innocence. Though ballistics points the finger at Lisa, Olivia puts the pieces together—the gun has no rust on it, even though it supposedly sat in a basement for 15 years (Liv knows her firearms)—and knows the congressman pulled the trigger, not his father.

George points to his son's status as proof taking the fall for him an making him lie about was worth it. However, Olivia counters his son's life is empty, despite his professional success. She could also be talking about herself and the way her existence has been molded by her own father's desire to protect her. Recent booty calls aside, Liv has no real friends (aside from Abby), no significant other and her life revolves around her job, one she is preternaturally good at. The dilemma Olivia faces now is will she rid herself of Eli, or continue to “honor” him despite the havoc he wreaks? It's a question the show has asked before, but one Shonda and Co. now seem ready to answer.

Mellie's run for Virginia senator continues to plow ahead, though this week it encountered a major roadblock in the form of Harmony (Holly from True Blood! Hey girl!), Mellie's half-sister. From the time we first met her, being vetted by Elizabeth, it's clear Harmony is not here for her big sis, repeatedly telling Elizabeth to pass word to Mellie that she's “got her back,” passive aggressiveness dripping on every word. As you might have guessed, Mellie's not a big fan of Harmony either, but Elizabeth talks sense into her by reminding her Harmony's discontent could be a political disaster if she's doesn't nip it in the bud. Cyrus practically creams at the thought of watching Mellie squirm as she welcomes Holly into the White House—Abby compares his glee to a tornado chaser pressing his face up against a window watching a twister in action.

As Cyrus predicted, Fitz is none too pleased with the effect Holly's presence is having on Mellie, and reasonably wonders how she'll weather a presidential campaign if she can't make it through a contentious family visit and dinner. I guess after you've had to suffered under the craw of borderline sociopath like Big Jerry, dealing with a half sister whose mother you blame for breaking up your family is a cake walk.

One the episode's more interesting exchanges take place after the dinner. In a delicious role reversal, Fitz and Mellie try to hip the other to what their responsibilities are. Fitz brings up the fact that being Commander in Chief often involves deciding between a bad choice and horrible, with everyone hating you as the end result, while Mellie criticizes his lack of First Lady tact in working to deflate any tension or uncomfortable moments between her and Harmony,

Fitz take the advice to heart, and the next day tells Harmony the reason why Mellie treats her like crap is because she's still hurting over her father leaving her mother, and cites it as the reason for Mellie's bottomless drive and ambition. He might be saying this primarily to get Harmony off the warpath, but dammit if that's not true.

Eli's back. Fitz and Mellie are united. And David Rosen's feeling so righteous you'll have to pry the white hat from his cold dead hands. Like I said, it's on.

Other Thoughts:

---Cyrus on Holly's wardrobe: “You look....festive.”

--Love that Abby and Liv dish the dirt over the phone, while Liv also mentions she's about to make the administration look hella bad to exonerate George Reed.

--Drunk Mellie made a cameo appearance, telling Fitz after her disastrous Holly dinner to“Go, let me enjoy my hooch.” Even in brief scenes, Drunk Mellie rules.

--Turns out Franklin (Brian White), the handsome stranger Liv picked up at the bar back in “It's Good To Be Kink,” appears to be sticking around, though Liv politely but assertively says their one night stand is the extent of their relationship. Then again, Huck and Quinn did find Franklin laid up in Liv's place, and there was that whole business with Papa Pope, so you put it together.

--Holly's hobbies include making soap out of dead animal fat. Just thought that should be documented.

--LOL Moment: the look of confusion and disappointment on Cyrus' face as Fitz and Mellie commit to making her president. I swear I was waiting for Cy to mumble “Curses!” under his breath.

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