MAD MEN 4.6: Waldorf Stories

On the night that MAD MEN won its third consecutive Emmy as outstanding drama series, the episode dealt with Don winning a Cleo award for his Glow Coat campaign — and celebrating just a little too hard.

Don (Jon Hamm) and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) began by interviewing Danny (Danny Strong, “superstar” Jonathan from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), a punk with no resume, no skill (all his ads were variations “The cure for the common…”) and no prospects — except that he’s Jane’s cousin, which put Roger (John Slattery) in his corner. When Don laughed about how unqualified the kid was, it prompted Roger to flash back to his first meeting with Don. Roger was buying a fur coat for Joan (Christina Hendricks) at a place called Heller’s, and Don was the salesman! Don also handled the advertising for the shop, and wanted to get in the game for real. Roger was dismissive, so Don slipped his portfolio into the box. Roger was disgusted when he found it.
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BURN NOTICE 4.12: Guilty as Charged

BURN NOTICE finales are always heavy on game-changing plot developments (consider last summer’s capper), and this one was no different – which was good and bad. Good because it was exciting and fast-paced, with a number of great character bits; but bad because once again the goal posts were moved, making a lot of what Michael accomplished this season moot.

Picking up from last week, Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) arranged to get ostensible big bad John Barrett (Robert Patrick) to Miami, but before he could confront the villain with Simon’s book-code bible, Jesse (Coby Bell) discovered that Michael was responsible for burning him in the season premiere. Michael wanted to continue to pursue Barrett, reasoning that taking out the man behind all the strife in the world might get Jesse back in the good graces of his bosses. Not to mention getting Michael back in the game (officially).
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ROYAL PAINS 2.12: Open Up Your Yenta Mouth and Say Ah

For my money, the summer finale of ROYAL PAINS came at just the right time, interrupting a series that has been suffering a bit of sophomore slump.

It feels to me like this show needed a break. It has been meandering along, good-naturedly enough, but also kind of aimlessly. The recurring presence of Henry Winkler as Hank (Mark Feuerstein) and Evan’s (Paulo Costanzo) shady daddy, Eddie R., lent the illusion that there was an ongoing umbrella story for the season, but it’s been more like an on-again, off-again distraction. Initially, Eddie was just a pure tease; it’s only recently that much of his story was larded on. I have to admit that I did not foresee Eddie turning out to be a government informer targeting Boris (Campbell Scott). Top marks for that little inversion of audience expectations.
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COVERT AFFAIRS 1.7: Communication Breakdown

Auggie took the spotlight this week, as COVERT AFFAIRS viewers got a long look at him on a mission as a field agent. The problem with the episode was, while Auggie is a unique character, the plot they gave him was strikingly rote: Bring in a former flame. Oh, gee, where do Auggie’s loyalties lie?

There was a cyber criminal on the loose, one who demonstrated her power by bringing down the electrical grid in Washington, D.C. The No. 1 suspect was Auggie’s (Chris Gorham) former girlfriend, Natasha Petrovna (Liane Balaban). He was assigned to revive his old cover and visit DataTech, a sort of Comic-Con for true nerds. Annie (Piper Perabo) was assigned to go along as Auggie’s “eyes.” But first, Auggie had to get out of bed with his current flame: TV reporter Liza Hearn (Emmanuelle Vaugier). As they bantered, he fretted about being put on trial for espionage. She hinted that Auggie is not the only person at CIA she is sleeping with.
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RESCUE ME 6.9: Good-bye

RESCUE ME engaged in a classic piece of misdirection: with the audience distracted by Lou’s failing health, the-powers-that-be sucker-punched Damian – and viewers. This episode is called “Good-bye” for a reason!

The action picked up moments after last week’s cliff-hanger, with Mickey (Robert John Burke) having dinner with Tommy (Denis Leary) and family. Mickey made small talk about Sheila (Callie Thorne) moving into a new place, and pointedly asking Tommy whether he’d ever been there. Tommy pretended to be eating his spaghetti, and finally faked a huge choking fit to avoid answering. As Mickey tried a particularly hostile Heimlich, Sheila arrived, misinterpreted and panicked, shouting, “We didn’t do anything!” Finally, Mickey said he caught Tommy and Sheila on top of each other, with her dress off. Tommy couldn’t explain, so Sheila jumped in and described how Tommy grabbed her from behind and kissed her and ripped her dress off! Well, he admitted he kissed her. But he blamed her “vixeny” look. They were angry and swept up in the moment and kissed, but realized it was stupid, and tried to stop, but fell. Tommy claimed he “cared deeply” for Sheila, but only really loves Janet. Sheila of course claimed he loved her for five years, and Sheila broke off the relationship because she’s in love with Mickey.
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There’s no better way to describe this week’s MAKE IT OR BREAK IT than to call it a tear-jerker – because there was a lot of crying going on.

The storyline I am most invested in is the Payson (Ayla Kell)/Sasha (Neil Jackson) relationship, and last week ended with her impulsively kissing him and running off in shame. He’s 35 years old and she is 16, so naturally things were awkward between them. She couldn’t help noticing how he was hesitant to even touch her during practice. “I’ve ruined everything,” she growled in frustration. Sasha finally decided to confront the elephant in the room by talking about the normally complex relationship between coach and athlete. He explained that his father was actually disappointed that Sasha won the gold because he was competing for England, not Romania. So he split with his father – who was also his coach: the legendary Boris Belov. But Sasha praised his replacement coach, because he “made me an Olympian.” (He even admitted that had his coach been female, he probably would have kissed her!) The most important aspects of the coach/athlete relationship are trust and communication. “I trust you,” she declared. “You didn’t ruin anything,” he smiled.
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DOCTOR WHO’s August Christmas Gift

The BBC’s official Web site this week released the first image from the filming of the 2010 DOCTOR WHO Christmas special. I am thrilled and relieved to see that Matt Smith will be wearing essentially the same costume, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him don a festive bow tie! Click the pic to see it in its hi-rez glory.

In case you missed it last month, the BBC issued a statement in which show-runner Steven Moffat did his best to tease and torment fans (but in an affectionate way): “Oh, we’re going for broke with this one. It’s all your favourite Christmas movies at once, in an hour, with monsters. And the Doctor. And a honeymoon. And … oh, you’ll see. I’ve honestly never been so excited about writing anything. I was laughing madly as I typed along to Christmas songs in April. My neighbours loved it so much they all moved away and set up a website demanding my execution. But I’m fairly sure they did it ironically!”

This is what we know about the special for certain:
-Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill return as the Doctor, Amy and Rory, respectively.
Sir Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies) will be a guest star, as will a Welsh opera singer named Katherine Jenkins.
-It will be an hour long.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already impatient for Christmas! I loved loved loved Smith’s interpretation of the 11th Doctor, and I’m dying to see more…! Is it Christmas yet? Is it?

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MAD MEN 4.5: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

In an episode that hinged on preconceptions, prejudices, stigmas and more World War II references than you can cram into an expense account, Don pinned the agency’s future on a “Crazy Ivan” wildcard maneuver straight out of a Tom Clancy movie.

The first moment Don (Jon Hamm) realized he had a challenger came when a New York Times reporter asked him for a comment about his self-anointed rival named Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) who claimed to be constantly in Don’s rearview. “Never heard of him,” Don sniffed. At the ensuing partners’ meeting, Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) announced he had an inside track on Japanese motorcycle maker Honda – which held over 50 percent of the U.S. market. But Roger (John Slattery) put his foot down, refusing to do business with Pete’s “new yellow buddies.” Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) of all people, tried to remind Roger that the war was over, but Roger stormed out. Don wanted to pursue Honda, and Bert advised keeping Roger out of the loop.
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BURN NOTICE 4.11: Blind Spot

No matter what else went on in this week’s BURN NOTICE – no matter how entertaining it was – the only thing that really mattered was that Jesse Found Out. He knows Michael burned him. Not good. Very, very not good.

The episode began like any other: with Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) and Sam (Bruce Campbell) lying to Jesse (Coby Bell) to get him to do their bidding. Now, granted, their objective also moved Jesse closer to his ultimate goal of stopping the Big Bad, but Jess also has that subsidiary goal of uncovering who burned him. And it was just convenience that pointing Jesse toward John Barrett (Robert Patrick) helped obfuscate Michael’s culpability. Michael and Sam faked up a report citing Barrett as the man behind all the world’s troubles – the man Jesse has been hunting for three years. The trio decided the best approach was a straightforward approach (*snerk*): They called Barrett and offered him the Bible. They knew he would send someone to check it out, so they set up a convincing booby trap using a 55-gallon oil drum, a portable defibrillator and Skype. They caught an errand boy – who turned out to be an active-duty U.S. Army officer. So Barrett was definitely connected!
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MAKE IT OR BREAK IT 2.8: Rock Bottom

Some characters may have bottomed out this week on MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, but it wasn’t for lack of aspiration on Payson’s part and, like all good bad girls, Lauren proved she is never without a plan.

Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) was beyond furious at dad Steve (Anthony Starke). So was Emily (Chelsea Hobbs), who brought him a big chunk of change and vowed to pay back every penny of the rest. Meanwhile, Chloe (Susan Ward) told Lauren she will not keep her and Carter having sex a secret, so either Lauren comes clean, or Chloe will. Cornered, Lauren turned to Carter (Zachary Burr Abel), who resolved to tell her father together. But Lauren always has something up her sleeve: She told Summer (Candice Cameron Bure) that she needs to marry Steve and be her stepmother. Thanks to her determination to pay back Steve, Emily was literally searching the couch cushions for change to pay for the bus. Which was kind of the last straw for her. She railed about carrying the family on her back, and demanded that her mother get another job. Chloe managed to get a word in edgewise to announce that she already secured one. (But we don’t know what it is… hmmm.)
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