Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 1/20/09

Well, the holiday means we have a lot to catch up on, and, since we’ve inaugurated a new president today on a “change” platform, I will try to change and be uncharacteristically brief. Well, with each show, at least.

GOSSIP GIRL opened with a GILMORE GIRLS shout-out from Blair (who scoffed that she was more suited for Yale than Rory), then segued into Bass Boys, as Chuck and Uncle Jack faced off in final battle. Chuck enlisted Lily, who found an unorthodox way to help him: adopt him, thereby cutting Jack out of the equation. But my favorite moment of the night came when Blair was justifying pulling a dirty trick on a teacher: “I can’t not act out against people,” she lamented.

24 viewers no doubt recognized Tonya Pinkins (ex-Livia, ALL MY CHILDREN) as Alama Matobo, and spotted Mark Derwin (ex-Ben, ONE LIFE TO LIVE) as Secretary of State Stevens. But the real story was Walker’s continued descent into Jack’s world. She wanted to keep doing whatever was necessary and worry about the consequences later. Walker appears to be the-powers-that-be’s way of commenting on the previous six seasons of the series. Jack was an inveterate rule-breaker who was tolerated because he got results. But torture looks different when Walker is doing it, because she’s a (relative) stranger. She’s not out pal the way Jack is. We the viewers turn a blind eye to the inhumanity because we know Jack is the hero of a TV show. We don’t feel the same way about Walker. However, lest one fear 24 has gone all soft and liberal, the Attorney General’s office, which wants Walker to answer for torturing Tanner, is depicted as wanting to stand on ceremony and follow abstract rules at the expense of American lives and national security. So take that, President Obama, they seem to be saying. However, Walker appeared to be facing a terrible fate as Jack – after avoiding shooting Walker in the head — and Tony were forced to bury her. It was creepy to watch the guys toss dirt on her bleeding, plastic-covered “body.” That final point-of-view shot was the capper.

After all that heavy thinking and philosophizing, it was time for some mindless garbage. And nothing is more mindlessly trashy than MOMMA’S BOYS. Mercifully, last night was the season finale, which saw the boys going on their final dates with the hopefuls their momma’s selected for them. Except for Jojo, who ended up on a “date” with Khalood. The only date that was even remotely interesting was Michael taking Erica on the yacht, because she was weighed down by her “horrible” secret. Finally, she could take it no more and tearfully confessed, “I am the current Penthouse Pet of the Year. I’m sorry.” He reacted with an angry glare, and then said, “Oh, my God. I need a drink,” and went off on her, going so far as to curse at the poor girl! “I feel completely lied to,” he fumed, leaving her alone and sobbing. Back at port, Erica took Lorraine to the beach for “privacy” (on a TV show). Shockingly, Lorraine was very understanding, and refused to turn her back on Erica. Then it was time for the boys to make their final selections. Rob listened to his mother (“Mommy knows best,” Esther reminded) and picked Lauren, but Camilla was sure he would be calling her someday. Michael picked Amanda, ultimately choosing his connection with her over his mother’s connection with Erica (who lamented her Penthouse past was a factor). In the last selection, Mindy spoke up and told Jojo to go home with his mother until he’s ready for a real relationship. That struck a chord with him, and compelled him to stand up for himself and ask Mindy to “give it a shot.” Momma Khalood (who insisted “none of these girls are good enough for you”) was so angry that she didn’t want to talk to the camera crew.

One of my favorite British imports, SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL, is back with its second season, and Billie Piper’s Belle greeted fans with a fun “Welcome back, I’ve missed you,” addressing the viewers directly, as she so often does. This season, our favorite strong women was back on her heels, reacting instead of acting: She was cornered by a tabloid “journalist” who wanted to pay her for her story of a tryst with a politician running for prime minister, and she mistook an innocent stranger for a client. Both of these cases illustrated her professional life infringing on her carefully constructed professional life. The journo had photos of Belle attending the christening of Hannah’s nephew; and Hannah gave Alex her personal mobile (cell phone) number, even though she met him as “Belle.” The christening was a fun riff on the climax of The Godfather, with Hannah’s flashbacks to Belle’s experience with the politician substituting for Michael Corleone settling all family business, LOL. Just to complicate matters, a young woman named Ashley seems to have attached herself to Belle, forcing her to act as a sort of de facto mentor. That cannot be good…

The final batch of new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA episodes debuted with jaw-dropping revelations and surprises, the chief being the identity of the enigmatic last member of the Final Five: Ellen Tigh. Oops! If only Saul hadn’t killed her back in season three! Now what? The other shockers: The burned-out, radioactive husk of Earth was, indeed, once populated by the lost 13th tribe of Kobol – but it was a tribe of Cylons (and the Final Five lived there)! Kara apparently discovered her own corpse on Earth! And, finally, Dualla abruptly killed herself in a truly shocking twist.

When last seen in the summer finale, the rag-tag fleet of human survivors and their renegade Cylon allies were left standing on the radioactive sands of a blasted planet called Earth, which had been nuked about 2,000 years ago. This return was equally devastating. What are we viewers to make of the Kara Thrace situation? As she herself asked an incredulous Leoben, “What am I?” Well, we’re starting to believe she really is the harbinger of death, as the Hybrid prophesied. It’s possible that Roslin and Adama feel like they have led the human race to its doom. Roslin almost went catatonic (“I was wrong about everything,” she groaned.), and Bill crawled back into a bottle, emerging only to once again cry over the corpse of one of his female officers (remember his grief over Sharon?) And, since everyone thinks Cally killed herself (when she was actually flushed out a launch tube by Tory); he must wonder what’s up with all the suicides? “I let you down,” the admiral sobbed. “I let everybody down.” Then Saul let Bill down by refusing to be provoked into killing his friend.

When Kara was determined to search the ruins of Earth for answers, Leoben cautioned her, “You might not like what you find,” which reminded me of Dr. Zaius’ warning to Taylor in when he wanted to search the Forbidden Zone for answers in Planet of the Apes. Well, I for one want her to follow the trail wherever it leads. There was a creepy, nervous energy to the episode that keeps it moving at a great clip and feeling momentous. Katee Sackhoff (Kara) was quoted as saying that this episode would have been the series finale if the writers’ strike had gone on longer. Luckily it didn’t, because there are a frak-load of questions to be answered.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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