Saturday, June 30, 2007

Deadwood – “Here Was a Man” (S1E4)

Weaselly Jack McCall, looking dirtier than usual, is playing poker with Wild Bill, as is usual, although this time at the Bella Union saloon. Joanie is keeping the waters smooth but Jack is clearly in rough shape and Cy warns him against his bad behavior. I wouldn’t mess with a man with that large a head. Wild Bill gives Jack a dollar and suggests that he go get something to eat. Jack mumbles thanks for the kindness and leaves the table. Later, after the game, Bill stops by the hardware store-in-progress to say hello to the hardware boys. Bullock grins, hard at work in the rafters, “No rest for the wicked.” “So what are you doin’ up?” smiles Bill. Aw – they’re making friends. Bullock lets on that his wife and boy are back home with their people in Michigan; he’s hoping to get established in Deadwood soon so he can bring them out. They chat for a bit until Bill says he’s tired. I think he means more than just right now. Bullock tells him to turn in: “I’ve got it covered,” he says, turning to look out over the still-sleeping camp.

Charlie has been waiting and waiting for Bill to come back to the hotel room and has worked himself into a good lather. Again, Bill alludes to being so tired and asks if Charlie can’t “let [me] go to hell the way I want to?” Stung, Charlie heads off to Cheyenne on his supply run. In the morning, E.B. is with Al when Dan brings the dead Garrett back to town. Alma watches from her window as well, and chugs a big dose of laudanum before going out to the street to see her husband’s corpse. Al instructs E.B. to offer the new widow $20,000 for the gold claim; E.B. thinks it’s odd for Al to want to give up such a sum but he goes to see to “the grieving fucking widow” as directed. He offers to fetch the doctor for her and she takes him up on it, saying she wants Doc to examine the body. From his perch on his scaffolding, Bullock watches E.B. take Garrett’s body off to Doc Cochran. Dan tells Al that he thinks the widow suspects him of foul play but Al is not much worried.

Sol joins Bullock at the job site and is brought up to speed on the morning’s events. Bullock is shirtless. My-oh-my. Doc tells Alma that Garrett’s injuries appear to be the result of a fall, as reported. She asks him if he could discern how said fall came to happen but he says he has no opinion on that. Alma stalks up to Doc, noting that he had plenty of “comprehensive” opinions about giving her drugs earlier, but now he’s awfully quiet. She wonders if an outside influence has anything to do with his present reticence. Doc insists: I do not know how your husband’s skull got caved in. He tells her to go on back to New York and leaves her another full bottle of laudanum. Sobbing, she smashes the bottle against the wall. E.B. picks this fine moment to intrude and she tells him to get her a coffin. Not to be dissuaded, he then offers her $12,000 for the gold claim. Snake – Al told him to offer $20,000! Alma is a smart cookie, however, and her suspicions are immediately aroused; she goes to engage Wild Bill to “advise [her] on [her] current situation.” Jane, guarding the door for a sleeping Bill, is sympathetic and offers to send the ex-Marshal over as just as soon as he’s got his “phlegm situated.” Eew.

The Bella Union folks hire Doc to caretake their whores and offer to pay more than double what Al is paying him. He thinks that he can fit them into his schedule. Joanie looks at him: “Lubricants,” she non-sequiturs. Doc chuckles, “Armed and ready, ma’am.” Just then, Andy Crane waltzes in. The Bella Union management team knows him and scurries to set him up. Cy thinks something looks off with him but Joanie thinks Andy just looks like “he spent three weeks on a wagon.” I guess that would leave anybody looking a little rough. Over at the Gem, E.B. explains to Al how the widow turned him down. This puzzles Al. “You did offer her the whole $20,000?” he asks. “How can you even ask me that?” E.B. tries to look offended but Al didn’t just fall off the turnip truck and sees through him straightaway. Calling the little man “incorrigible,” Al promises E.B. a $2,000 commission if the widow accepts the $12,000 offer.

Alma expresses her concerns to Wild Bill and Jane, saying that she is an accomplice: a wife always feels like she’s responsible for what befalls her husband. Do you think Wild Bill’s circus-managing wife will make an appearance sometime? If so, boys and girls, this would be the technique known as “foreshadowing.” Alma thinks that Al is pulling the strings, prompting Jane to pipe up with “the slimy Limey cocksucker.” Bill is a consummate gentleman and says he’ll take the widow’s case. He strides right over to the Gem and orders himself a whiskey. E.B. slinks in after him. Al pours Bill’s whiskey himself, asking why the famous Wild Bill has not patronized his saloon before now. Bill says laconically, “No poker.” That’s all? Exclaims Al, “Dan, dismantle the titty corner and set up a poker table!” Bill is tired of the small talk and asks Al if he’s behind E.B.’s offer to buy Garrett’s gold claim. Al lays out his side of the story and asserts that he’s concerned about Alma bringing the Pinkertons to camp. Bill says he’ll take Al’s story back to the widow. Al says, “I only hope you’ll show it to her in a favorable fucking light.” Bill gives him a little look and asks what such a favorable light would be worth to Al. “Well, Wild Bill...” intones Al.

Alma is awaiting Bill’s return in Jane and Sophia’s room. When he returns with his report, Jane asks if he managed to put a bullet in between Al’s eyes. Alas, no. Bill offers to ask Bullock to reconnoiter the gold claim for Alma, see what he can dig up. “How’d you leave it with the cocksucker?” asks Jane. “On terms he’d understand,” and with a doff of his hat, Bill takes his leave of the ladies. Ellsworth stops by the saloon and insinuates to Dan that he saw Garrett’s murder, but that he would be happy to leave camp for a bit to prove he could mind his own business, not wanting to be thrown to the pigs and all. Dan takes his meaning. At the quieter saloon, Jack is running his mouth while wearing a fancy new suit. Bill confers with Bullock and Sol at the hardware store site; Bullock agrees to take it on but he’s got to call someone else in to assist since he doesn’t know much about gold claims himself. Sol thinks the widow ought to be looking for a homeward-bound wagon. Trixie advises Dan to do nothing about Ellsworth and let it sort itself out. Al is getting more and more paranoid and says that Hickok has to die even if Al has to do it himself. E.B. tries to calm him down, saying that he doesn’t think that Wild Bill is coming after Al personally. Al needs to blow off some steam – “I need to fuck something …Trixie!” She starts up the stairs towards him and he admonishes her: “hey, hey, hey – bring the bottle.”

Back at the Bella Union, Joanie checks on Andy who is looking rather poorly. Cy and Eddie are buttering up A.W. Merrick (f/k/a Principal Rooney), offering to pay big bucks to advertise in his paper. Joanie reports to Cy that Andy is unwell. Cy is upset, reminding her that he thought Andy didn’t look well in the first place. Bill tells Alma that Bullock will help her, but he too suggests rather strongly that she go back home. Alma, however, is resolute. Jane and Sophia stop by Bill’s room; he is so gentle with Jane, knowing just what to say to her. After they take their leave of him, he finishes writing a letter to his wife and, in a strangely ceremonial way, prepares to go out, wrapping a red sash around his waist. Trixie relieves Al’s stress for him. I like her stripy stockings. The doc checks out a raving Andy. Now he has an opinion: smallpox. Alma reveals to Jane that her marriage to Garrett was arranged in large part to help her father repay his debts. Out on the street, Jack is not having much luck with his lunch (it appears to be full of chicken feet). Bill rejoins his usual poker game and sits with his back to the door. At the poker game, Jack McCall comes up behind Wild Bill and, without hesitating, shoots him in the head. Curious behavior for someone who was previously prescient with regard to avoiding being shot: the fact that Wild Bill doesn’t turn around when he hears the footsteps behind him leads me to think that Bill was not only ready to die but welcomed it.

Joanie stands watch over Andy. Jack runs out of the saloon and is captured in the street. A Mexican rides into camp swinging a decapitated Sioux head, ready to collect the $50 bounty from Al. Bullock looks up at the commotion while Jane, also watching out the window from Alma’s hotel room, runs out. She and Bullock arrive at Bill’s corpse at nearly the same time. Jane’s coping mechanism is to grab a nearby bottle of whiskey and drain it. Bullock’s reaction, because he’s sensitive, is to cry. Manfully, though.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Deadwood – “Reconnoitering the Rim” (S1E3)

Dead Tim’s dog is trying to dig up a woodchuck. Ellsworth (yay!) gives us the play-by-play – apparently the dog has been hanging out with him ever since Tim’s demise. When Dan walks up, the dog whimpers and runs off. Pretty smart dog! Ellsworth notes that Garrett is a no-show and Dan makes a big fuss about having waited around for him. Ellsworth gives the dog a holler after Dan leaves and it rejoins him. I guess it's Ellsworth's dog now. The preacher is holding forth over Tom Mason’s funeral. Principal Rooney is in attendance this time, having a sneezing fit, and attempting to interview Bullock about the shooting. Bullock is all “no comment” as he notices Jane and Charlie bringing the little girl back to camp. I wish they’d give her a name so I can stop calling her “the little girl.” In camp, a rival outfit has just arrived: “Bella Union” complete with whiskey, whores and craps. Al of course prefers to be the only game in town and is furious that a former Deadwood hotel owner, now hurrying out of camp, sold his place on the sly to the new competition. Wild Bill is playing in the never-ending poker game. That young slimy weasel, Jack, is on a streak and he is getting off on pushing Bill’s buttons. The actor who plays Jack looks really familiar. Bill puts his fancy ivory-handled revolvers up as his wager since he’s out of money. He finally wins a hand and when Jack then tries to leave the game, Bill does his damnedest to provoke him, calling him a c--t in some very imaginative ways. Jane and Charlie have brought the little girl back for the doctor to examine because she’s got a slight fever. Doc says she’d do better indoors and Jane and Charlie hatch a plan to get her into the hotel. Jane also takes the opportunity to dig at Charlie’s snoring but he remains unperturbed.

Bullock and the preacher arrive at the hardware tent, ready to start building. Sol tells him that he didn’t feel it was the right time to press Al what with the new gambling outfit just arriving in camp. Bullock is annoyed because he’s already cut all the lumber; Sol reminds him that he told Bullock such a thing might be premature. At the hotel, E.B. is trying to keep Jane out but Bill intercedes and she takes Charlie’s room. Al is getting decked out in his fancy clothes for a visit to the Bella Union. He is cranky because he helped build Deadwood from the ground up and he feels they’re just waltzing into a ready-made situation. Actually, maybe I should just point out when he is NOT cranky. He meets the new management, Cy, Joanie and Eddie, and turns on some of that Swearengen charm, eventually speechifying about Custer’s last stand. Al feels very strongly about Custer’s defeat and I zone out a little. When he apologizes to Joanie for swearing – “Pardon my French” – she gives him a level look and replies, “Oh, I speak French.” Al eyes her speculatively. I like her - she’s sassy. Cy, the giant-headed boss, doesn’t think there will be any problem with overlap between the two establishments, insinuating that their outfit is more high-class while Al’s is more of a “pioneer”-type place. Al bristles at this but can’t legitimately dispute it. Elsewhere, Garrett explains his being swindled to Bill and Charlie but they pretty much tell him that he’s stuck with what he’s got. Charlie also warns him about the imminent danger in crossing the people he’s about to cross (i.e. Al). Garrett brushes aside the warning and sniffs that he’ll just seek a remedy elsewhere. Dryly, Bill says, “I don’t think he took your point, quite.” Charlie sips his coffee, “I think he quite missed it.” Bill: “I believe I’ll pass out, Charlie.” They’re very comfortable together, obviously old friends. As Bill heads out, Charlie suggests that they dine with Bullock and Sol sometime as it might be nice to sit with folks who are neither out to take your money nor shoot you in the head. After solemn consideration, Bill agrees. Al, E.B., Johnny and the dope-head informant are discussing the new competition in Al’s office. Someone squeaks a cheek and Al threatens that their next meeting will be out on the balcony. He then goes on to berate E.B. for parroting back what he says using different words, and then sends the dope-head off to do some reconnaissance at the Bella Union. Garrett tells Alma he is determined to confront Al about the swindle; she gently and easily manipulates him into cooling off a bit before doing so. As she sees him out, she catches Jane peeking at her from another room.

Jack the weasel is badmouthing Wild Bill at the hardware tent. Bullock tells him to can it. Charlie walks up and Jack starts in on him, but before he can get too insulting, Bullock has pitched him headfirst into a mud puddle. “This tent is closed to you,” Bullock glowers. Charlie watches, straight-faced, then remarks to Sol, “I’d be lousy at retail.” Sol looks wryly at his partner, “I’m not sure how much future he has in it.” Charlie offers to fetch back some wares for them when he goes on his next supply run, then invites them to dinner with him and Bill. When Bullock eagerly suggests that very night, Charlie doffs his hat and says he feels like he should have brought flowers. He’s so cute.

Johnny fetches Sol and Bullock to meet again with Al. Al outlines his latest terms, Bullock heroically keeps a tight rein on his temper and they manage to make a deal. Hooray! Unfortunately, Bullock and Sol then take a raincheck on dinner with Charlie and Bill because they want to start building. Charlie’s disappointment is palpable. E.B. wanders into the new saloon: it turns out that he was the one who did all the advance work that allowed Cy, Eddie and Joanie to sneak into camp under Al’s nose. E.B. tells Eddie that he thinks Al is onto him but Eddie doesn’t really care. Garrett starts making a big stink at the Gem about calling in the Pinkertons to investigate the claim he bought: he demands his $20,000 back from Al or else. “I don’t collude and I don’t cohoot,” protests Al. Hee hee. Al then suggests that Garrett go back and “reconnoiter the rim” of his property - if Garrett doesn’t find the source of the gold, Al promises to make full restitution. And I have a bridge in Brooklyn Anyhow, Garrett excitedly wonders if he should bring climbing gear as he rushes off to change his clothes. Al looks at Dan: make it look like an accident. Back at the hotel, Jane and Charlie are bickering about Bill who is passed out in the hallway. “You’re not gonna let me sleep, are you?” says Bill, then suggests that he and Charlie go help the hardware boys with their construction project. Alma thinks Garrett’s reconnoitering is a bad idea – she wants to leave Deadwood and just call it an adventure - but Garrett refuses to leave without his money. He asks his wife about her laudanum habit, actually exhibiting more awareness than he’s shown to date, but she brushes him off.

The Bella Union is about to open, to a waiting crowd, and Al glowers at it from across the street. By the way, the whores at the Bella Union are quite a bit prettier than the Gem girls – cleaner-looking too. Wild Bill has to deal with celebrity-struck passersby while working on the hardware store; he asks Bullock if his patience comes naturally or is consciously cultivated. Bill’s own patience doesn’t hold up well, however, and he eventually heads back to his poker game. Al is incredulous that the hardware boys have no prior connection to Hickock or the new saloon people. E.B. confesses to being the go-between for the Bella Union folks, knees knocking all the while. Surprisingly, Al does not lose his temper but instructs E.B. to stay friendly with them. Out on the claim, Ellsworth greets Dan and Garrett who start climbing up the cliff. At the top, Dan turns on a winded Garrett who, realizing what’s about to transpire, pleads for his life. Dan is unmoved and tosses him off the cliff. When he goes down to check on the crushed and dying man, he finds a huge vein of gold hidden in the rock. After camouflaging the vein, Dan goes back and finishes Garrett off. Ellsworth watches from the underbrush.

The Bella Union is hoppin’ – Wild Bill has even moved his poker game there. Now, here’s an interesting scene: Al is allowing Trixie to shave the calluses off his feet with a straight razor. “Not too fucking deep!” he growls. He goes on to tell her that he doesn’t trust people easily [naw – really?], having had the trust beat out of him young. Dan bursts in to tell his boss that Garrett is now out of the way and that there was, in fact, gold in them thar hills. Al sends Dan back out to retrieve the body, then calls for Trixie again. “You want the other foot?” she asks. “Yes,” Al says, “… please.” Trixie manages to not look too startled at that but I think my chin may have hit the floor.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Deadwood – “Dark Water” (S1E2)

A dog runs along Main Street, following E.B. Farnum as he wheels dead Tim Driscoll to the Chinaman to feed to his pigs. Apparently the dog was Tim’s and now he’s not happy about his master being dead. E.B. suggests that the Chinaman feed the dog to the pigs as well, or, if he is so inclined, eat the dog himself. Yummy! Al Swearingen wakes up next to a naked Trixie and asks about her derringer. She says she bought it for him. Anyone suppose that gun will make another appearance before the end of the season? Al yanks the sheet off her and orders her out. Bullock, shaving, says he’ll meet Sol at the hotel for breakfast and then stalks off toward Doc’s, still without moving his arms. The preacher has built a coffin for Dead Shady Character; Johnny stops by and quizzes the preacher about the identity of the corpse. This dead guy is Ned Mason, brother of one Tom Mason. Johnny knows Tom. E.B. gives Al the morning report about the gun fight at dawn; Al crossly wants to know why Hickok and Bullock even care about the dead family. He is more concerned, however, when E.B. tells him that one of the children lived. "Wouldn’t she have a story to tell?” marvels E.B. Doc wakes Calamity Jane to tell her that the little girl will have a fighting chance if her wounds don’t fester. They observe Bullock walking towards them and Doc tells Jane not to tell him anything about the girl. When Bullock asks after her, Doc replies that he thinks the girl’s chances are not good. Bullock leaves and Jane tells Doc that he’s wrong not to trust the young ex-marshal. Fairly patiently, Doc explains that the little girl will be in danger if she tells anyone who killed her family.

Charlie is singularly unimpressed with the hotel breakfast: “Same damn roach in the same damn biscuit.” Bullock, joining Sol for breakfast, greets Bill and Charlie. Charlie tells the boys they’ll stop by the hardware tent later to purchase prospecting gear for Bill. Bill reprimands Charlie for herding him like a damn steer; Charlie defends himself by saying they need to get Bill a regular source of income, particularly if he’s going to lose all his money playing poker. Over their own coffee, Bullock and Sol discuss how much to offer for the lot they are currently renting. Alma Garrett stops by E.B.’s desk on her way to breakfast and asks him to fetch Doc for her. What a druggie. Wild Bill observes her hand shaking when she reaches for the coffee pot. Out in the stream on Garrett’s claim, Garrett and Dan are hard at work prospecting. Ellsworth (yay!) stops by to introduce himself. He’s already made his day’s quota for “whiskey, pussy and food” while Garrett is discouraged that he hasn’t even found any flakes, much less nuggets. Dan keeps a close eye on Garrett.

Back in Deadwood, Johnny has figured out that the road agents (Ned and Tom Mason, and Persimmon Phil), not the Sioux, must have killed the Norwegian family. Al gets grumpier and sends Johnny off to fetch the doc to “see to the whores.” Bullock and Sol stop by the Gem to talk to Al about buying their lot. Al and Bullock immediately get off on the wrong foot. They are like two dogs taking an immediate and vicious dislike to one another. To his credit, Al even attempts some charm: “I am stupidest when I try to be funny” but Bullock is incapable of reining in his animosity. Realizing that this is perhaps not the best time to negotiate for the real estate, Sol hustles Bullock out of the saloon before the damage is irreparable. As they leave, Tom Mason and Persimmon Phil come in and Al invites them upstairs to talk privately. He asks after Ned but they don’t know where he went. When Tom selects Trixie, Al snaps at him to pick another whore. Out on the street, Bullock grouses that he really doesn’t like Al. Sol chivvies him a little, saying that fortunately he didn’t let Al see it. He suggests to Bullock that they just buy the lot and then give Al a wide berth. The preacher corners the boys and twists their arms into attending to Ned Mason’s funeral. Too bad he doesn’t know Ned’s brother is in town. Wild Bill is still cranky with Charlie for shopping him out to saloonkeepers. Doc Cochran has refilled Alma’s laudanum and tells her that he will “see to [her] requirements whether [she] has symptoms or not.” Alma gets a little snooty about it – unnecessarily, I think.

Al and Phil drink and talk as Tom enthusiastically bangs his whore in the next room. Al asks Phil if he knew about the massacred family. Phil tries to dance around it and Al says “keep lyin’ and I’ll murder you in that chair.” Phil wises up a bit, promising Al that they took care any loose ends. Al, who is by now working himself into a serious simmer, then brings Phil up to speed on two things: the little girl not only survived but is in Deadwood; and Ned came back to camp and was subsequently shot down by Wild Bill Hickok. Phil tries to make up for the mess the road agents made by offering Al all the money they took off the family. Al doesn’t want the money – he wants to smack Phil around. He is so scary. He knocks Phil off his chair and threatens to cut his throat. Just then, a naked and full-frontal Tom, with himself well in hand, opens the door and wonders at what’s going on. Phil says he tipped over in his chair; Al says he’s helping Phil up, and could Tom put his "iron" away. But Tom’s not quite done yet with that poor whore and shuffles back to her. Jeez, he doesn’t even have his pants all the way off. These people.

Doc is teaching Jane how to dress the little girl’s bandage. “I expect care for those whores’ business areas is a big damn part of your income,” notes Jane. She looks at peace, tending to her patient. Out in the graveyard, the preacher is really hitting his stride, despite the fact that Bullock and Sol are the only ones at the funeral, and Sol – the Jewish one! – is the only one paying attention to what he’s saying. After the amen, the boys fill in the grave. Upstairs at the Gem, Tom is finally finished with the sex and Al is consoling him for the loss of his brother by pouring huge quantities of whiskey down his throat. When Johnny lets his boss know that the doctor is tending to the whores, Al goes in and grills Doc about the little girl. Doc refuses to give him much of an answer, so Al decides to find out for himself. He bursts into the doc’s hovel and Jane springs up, immediately on the defensive. She starts to bluster at him; he speaks softly and threateningly to her; she sees something in his face and takes a step back, stammering, all her bravado gone. Al pushes right past her and pinches the little girl’s arm. She opens her eyes immediately but doesn’t make a sound. Jane is slobbering and shouting: “Leave her alone! Do it to me if you have to!” Al never once raises his voice. “Why would I do it to you?” he says conversationally, walking out. Jane just lets him go, tears and snot covering her face. On his way home, Doc notices Al leaving and asks if he hurt the girl. Al says no, he didn’t, but she’s better than the doc thought: “Her eyes are open.” Doc runs to his hovel. Jane is sitting on the little girl’s cot, rocking herself back and forth. She whimpers, “I couldn’t take care of the little one. He looked at me and I fell apart.” Doc is kind to her, telling her that it wasn’t her fault, she’s not the first – meaning she’s certainly not the first person who couldn’t stand up to Al. Jane misunderstands him and starts raving. This whole scene is just brutal. Doc manages to calm her down and she apologizes to him. Doc says she has nothing to apologize for and that she did a good job caring for the girl. “Don’t be mean,” she pleads. He is serious, though, and tells her she has a gift. Scrubbing her face with her sleeve, Jane leaves.

Garrett returns to the hotel, despondent over his apparently worthless gold claim, and asks E.B. if he’s still interested in buying it. E.B. demurs, saying he was drunk last night when he made the offer. Garrett doesn’t think E.B. acted drunk last night and becomes suspicious. Al tells Dan to kill the little girl so she can’t tell tales. Dan has the decency to look upset. Al instructs Phil to sober up Tom so he can go murder Wild Bill and then goes downstairs to meet with the hardware boys again about the lot. Sol has a plan: “See if this makes sense, Seth - let me do all the talkin’.” Bullock spits to Al that Sol has his proxy; Al wants to know what Bullock is so mad about all the time. That’s funny. Al expresses concern that Hickok may be an unnamed partner with the hardware boys (Sol insists that he isn’t). He is also worried that they will build a saloon instead of a hardware store, in direct competition with the Gem (Sol insists they won't). They haggle but can’t come to terms. Bullock is simply unable to speak to Al without shouting at him, even when Al is almost polite. Al makes a counteroffer to Bullock’s counteroffer: “Go fuck yourself,” said really angrily. He snarls that someone needs to get Bullock away from him. Bullock, eyes bulging under his brows, stalks off, knocking into Al as he goes. I cannot believe Al doesn’t gut him for it.

In the Garretts’ room, Brom confides to his wife that he thinks he was swindled and wants to enlist Hickok to investigate. Sol continues to work on Bullock, and finally Bullock says he’ll accept Al’s terms if Sol can get them in writing. At the quieter saloon, Wild Bill is drinking whiskey and playing poker; Tom Mason is there too, drinking both whiskey and coffee and building the nerve to go shoot Bill. Sol and Bullock come into the saloon and Bill greets them. He mentions that the fella in the corner (Tom) intends to do him harm and asks Bullock to keep an eye on the fella’s buddy (Phil). Bullock is down with that and recommends that Sol step away from him. Outside, a really drunk Jane comes upon a slightly drunk Charlie and tells him that she’s on her way to kill Al. He stops her and she bursts into tears; Charlie is very sweet as he comforts her. “He scared me, Charlie. I haven’t been scared like that since I was a little girl.” She pulls herself together and “triangulates” herself so she can see Al’s saloon as well as Doc’s hovel. Charlie, resigned (or with nothing better to do), stands there with her.

Tom gets ready to take revenge for his brother and heads towards Bill, crying. Bill doesn’t even look up as Tom approaches but shoots him before Tom’s gun even clears its holster. Bullock insists that Bill acted in self-defense, the onlookers don’t seem to care much, Phil never even stands up and an informant sneaks out the back to report to Al. A conflicted Dan walks by Jane and Charlie (Jane slurs: “Whatchoo starin’ at? Like he’s a fuckin’ Adonis.”) and knocks on Doc’s door. Doc stands up to him. Dan allows himself to be talked out of killing the little girl, but he wants Doc to come with him to make their case to Al. As they walk past Jane and Charlie, Doc gets an idea. At the Gem, Doc and Dan tell Al that the “lunatic that runs with Hickok” just absconded with the little girl – nothing they could do about it. Al calls Phil into his office, asking if he is sure that the girl can’t identify him. Phil admits that he isn’t certain, but suggests that he leave camp for a while just in case. Al chuckles, shakes Phil’s hand good-naturedly, and then stabs Phil in the heart. “No loose ends now,” he grunts. Doc and Dan, upon learning of Phil’s demise, feel a little better about their own lives. And way up in the hills, Jane, Charlie and the girl are in a covered wagon. Jane makes Charlie sing “Row Row Row Your Boat” as a round. They’re not too bad at it.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Deadwood - first episode

After watching this very first episode, I am close-but-not-quite hooked by this show (it will be by the end of the third episode that I am well and truly smitten). The Al Swearingen character however, immediately fascinates me and I think that Ian McShane may be brilliant in his portrayal of him. Al is a bad, bad man. He is the anti-hero to Bullock’s hero and, like most anti-heroes, he is very compelling. Even when I am horrified at what Al is saying or doing, I think I love him. Please note: the swearing in Deadwood is epic. It is positively beyond anything I've ever watched (and I own Reservoir Dogs) and yet it feels organic: I believe that these filthy, raunchy, hard-bitten, flea-bitten people really might have talked like this. In these recaps, therefore, I’m going to have to use some salty terms. To my gentler readers, I apologize. Final note: these Deadwood recaps were moved up the queue by request of my friend, Glenn G., who is so not over the cancellation yet.

Montana, May 1876. A pretty young Marshal writes in his journal as his prisoner, a horse thief, yaps at him from the jail cell. “No law at all in Deadwood, is that true?” asks the thief. It seems that the Marshal and his partner are heading to Deadwood, a gold-mining camp, to start a hardware business. At about 2:54, we get the very first “fuck” – and that is including the credits. The Marshal is polite and only slightly sarcastic, friendly enough to his prisoner, who was also intending on heading to Deadwood. The horse thief offers Marshal Bullock a deal to partner together en route to Deadwood. Bullock says “It don’t appeal to me,” largely because it would entail letting the horse thief go free and he, Bullock, is a righteous man. Sol Star, Bullock’s partner, pops in to let them know that a lynch mob is headed for the jail. The thief is upset at the interruption: “Sir, would you please get the fuck out of here until we have finished our previous conversation?” The mob gathers outside, drunk, unruly and armed. At around 5:54 we hear our first “cocksucker,” from Bullock; this will prove to be Deadwood’s characters’ favorite noun-expletive, seemingly second in frequency only to the many permutations of “fuck.” Bullock announces to the mob that he’ll hang the horse thief himself, “under color of law,” so as not to let the mob lynch the prisoner. The thief seems resigned enough to his fate, but worries that the drop off the stool is not far enough to snap his neck. Bullock promises to help him die quickly. The thief speaks his last words, to which Bullock pays close attention, and then jumps off the stool. He struggles for a little while until Bullock grabs his legs, gives a sharp tug, and breaks the guy’s neck. Lynch mob: “Whoa – this marshal’s a bad ass. Glad he’s leaving for Deadwood.” Bullock looks a little shaken by his assist but recovers enough to write down the thief’s last words. Sol is incredulous that he’s taking the time to do this. Bullock gives the record of the thief’s last words, along with his badge, to a mob member for delivery to the thief's sister. Then, with a final glare at the mob, he climbs up on Sol’s wagon and they leave Montana.

The Black Hills July 1876. A scruffy (oh heck, I need a better adjective: everyone on this show is scruffy) and scowling woman stomps alongside a wagon train to report that a wagon is stuck up ahead. She is reporting to Wild Bill Hickok who is lying hung over in his own wagon. This charming damsel is Calamity Jane and she gives us “ignorant fucking c---s” at 10:05. As the drovers struggle to free their wagon, Jane looks out over the valley into Deadwood. Down in the valley, the valley below, Bullock is driving his wagon into camp. It is disgusting: muddy, filled with nasty looking characters, animals being butchered alongside goods being sold, raggedy tents popping up alongside wooden buildings. Bullock finds Sol, who has rented a lot in a prime location for $20 a day. Their new landlord is Al Swearingen, owner of the Gem Saloon and with a finger in pretty much every pie in Deadwood. We are going to enjoy Al – he is so scary. Al is currently tending bar for a prospector, Ellsworth. I love Ellsworth – he gets some of the best lines: “First one today with this hand,” he says of his drink. (I may have to use that one.). The two of them have some exposition about Al’s “Limey damn accent” (which I don’t think he has) as a way of possibly explaining if McShane’s accent does slip. A gunshot is heard from upstairs: Trixie, a whore, shot a john because he was beating on her. She’s pretty badly bruised and swollen. Doc Cochran is summoned and is impressed that the john managed to live for twenty minutes after being shot in the head. Is Trixie’s gun a derringer (.22 perhaps? the gun is tiny)? Al spins the situation, ensuring that the doc won’t talk, and hauling the whore off to hear her side of it. The doc is Brad Dourif – he’s great. Wild Bill and Charlie Utter head into camp ahead of the wagon trail, leaving Jane to oversee things. Charlie and the volatile Jane butt heads until Bill effortlessly calms her down - she’s clearly got a huge case of hero worship and/or a big crush on him; Charlie wonders what he’d done to get on that woman’s wrong side. They leave, and Jane asks a family of Norwegians who are leaving Deadwood if they know a back way into camp. The family does not – they are getting the heck out of there.

In Deadwood, as Bill and Charlie look on, Bullock and Sol are getting hassled while they unload their wagon. Sol is clearly the customer service guy – Bullock is just too hot-tempered. In Al’s office at the Gem, Trixie tries to justify her shooting of the john. Al is almost tender as he surveys her bruises, then suddenly he throws her across the room and tromps on her throat as he asks her what it’s going to be. She chokes out that she’ll be good. Bill and Charlie come into E.B. Farnum’s hotel (Larry of the brothers Darryl); E.B. fawns over Bill, asking many questions, but Bill won’t be drawn out. After they check in, E.B. scurries over to Al make his report about Wild Bill. Al is less than pleased to hear a famous ex-Marshal is in town; he prefers Deadwood without the law in any form. Dan pokes his head in to let Al know that the “New York dude” is sippin’ his whiskey downstairs. Al sends E.B. off to fetch one Tim Driscoll, who is to be drunk and ready to sell his claim when he arrives. By evening Bullock and Sol have their tent set up and their wares ready to sell. Bullock says “bidness” and doesn’t move his arms when he walks. The boys get their first customers. The Gem Saloon is packed. Al chats up the New York dude, Brom Garrett. Garrett is far too clean and refined for Deadwood, and far too naïve – Al prepares Garrett to be scammed into buying Driscoll’s “pinched-out” gold claim. Garrett is such an easy mark. Tim Driscoll shows up, drunk, Irish and barely intelligible. Wild Bill and Charlie enter a smaller and quieter bar, and Bill perks up at the poker game in the back. A dismayed Charlie talks with the barkeep and it comes out that Bill is not so good a poker player anymore, but the barkeep is willing to pay Charlie a little fee if Bill will play in his bar exclusively. Principal Rooney (plus several extra pounds) is the camp’s newspaperman; he is effusive over Bill’s arrival in camp. Back at the Gem, Trixie gives the maid a piece of jewelry to trade for another gun. Al, Tim Driscoll and, later, E.B. swindle Garrett into buying the gold claim for $20,000; Al seems unhappy that the price went that high instead of the original plan of $14,000. There is much spitting into hands – it is amazingly gross, especially given the level of dental hygiene for all involved.

Alma Garrett, as clean as her husband but not nearly so flighty-seeming, is taking a “headache remedy” of laudanum (I believe that’s addictive, Mrs. Garrett). Her husband is beside himself with excitement about his new gold claim. He even demonstrates the hand-spitting. Alma is resigned (but seemingly not too surprised) that Garrett spent all of their money to buy the claim. Al meets with Tim and expresses his displeasure with Tim’s ad-libbing to $20,000. Tim has a really bad accent. He ends up getting a measly $20 and “a piece of fookin’ pussy” out of his percentage; it seems he owes Al some markers already. At the hardware tent, Sol and Bullock have hired an extremely earnest preacher to watch over their goods while they take a break. This introduction offers up some exposition on how Sol and Bullock met each other. The preacher is nice, but I find him annoying almost immediately. On the street, Sol and Bullock meet a shady looking character who tells them that he just saw a white family all hacked and murdered on the road to Spearfish. The preacher guesses that it was the Norwegian family (who Jane saw on their way out of town). Bullock looks at the shady character from under his eyebrows and suggests that he might need a drink. At the quieter saloon, Wild Bill is losing to a disgusting dumbass weasel in the poker game, while Principal Rooney is holding forth about something political. Wild Bill: “Does 'bosom' mean 'tit'?” One of the other poker players confirms, “Same thing.” Bullock, Sol and the shady character come into Bill’s saloon and Sol loudly announces the massacre to the patrons. Wild Bill offers to ride out with Bullock et al. to the kill site, as does Principal Rooney, his “infirmities permitting.” Bullock and Bill do some former-Marshal bonding as they walk to their horses, agreeing that Shady Character’s story does not add up. Al instructs Dan to fool Garrett into believing his claim has some gold, plus Dan needs to “see to” Tim Driscoll. Dan is not happy about that since he’s sort of buddies with Dan. Johnny brings up another informant who lets Al know about the posse from the other bar. Al is irate that Johnny let the informant chatter amongst the saloon patrons before bringing him up to the office: “Nobody’s drinkin’, nobody’s gamblin’, nobody’s chasin’ tail … I have to DEAL with that!” The informant would like some drugs as payment for the information and we learn that Al is a dealer as well as a thug and a whoremonger. Downstairs, Al recommends to the Gem patrons that their posse should perhaps use this evening to get organized, riding out in the morning, not “in darkest night.” He offers a $50 bounty for each Sioux head brought in, starting tomorrow, and then buys a round for the house, offers a prayer for the souls of the family, and announces that “pussy’s half-price for the next fifteen minutes.” Needless to say, none of the patrons seem at all interested in joining the posse, even when Calamity Jane comes into the saloon to recruit folks. Al tells his cronies that he thinks it is road agents killing the white folks on the road, not Sioux. Johnny identifies Jane for Al: “That’s the sewer mouth that follows Hickok around.” That’s just funny, given the vocabulary of who’s talking, whom he’s talking to, and pretty much every other person in camp.

The posse finds the family’s bodies and chases the scavenging wolves away. It’s pretty grisly. Bullock notices two more wolves snuffling around a bush. When he investigates, he finds a little girl, slightly gnawed on and unconscious, but still alive. Wild Bill observes Shady Character looking discomfited at finding the girl alive. On the road back to camp in the morning, the posse meets Jane. Bullock hands her the unconscious girl – because Jane’s a nurturing woman? – under Bill and Charlie’s approving gazes. Back at the hotel, Garrett dons his spiffy new prospecting duds and Alma pretends to still be asleep so she doesn’t have to admire him. I think they’re newly married. Ellsworth is drinking with Trixie at the Gem – her bruises looks worse in the morning light– and offers to pay her a dollar a minute to listen if she needs to talk. What a sweetie. Trixie, watching Al go up to his room, ain’t interested in talking. At the hotel E.B. lets Dan into Tim Driscoll’s room and Dan stabs Tim to death. Luckily, for both the viewers and for Tim, it's quick. Alma watches her husband nearly get trampled in the street as the posse pulls up to Doc’s house with the little girl. Doc seems hung over; given the quantity of whiskey everyone in town drinks and the speed with which they drink it, I am not surprised. Jane draws her pistol as she warns him not take the girl without her; Charlie reassures Doc by saying she doesn’t mean anything, she’s just excitable. Bullock dismounts and walks over to Shady Character who’s looking twitchy. Bill asks Sol how good Bullock is with his gun but Sol does not feel qualified to answer. Bullock suggests to Shady Character that he stick around to see if the little girl lives. Shady Character insists that it was Indians; Bullock replies that there was too much ransacking for it to be Indians – whoever killed those folks was looking for money. Bill joins Bullock and offers his theory that Shady Character came into camp to get a little nookie after such a kill. Feeling cornered, Shady Character goes for his gun. Bullock and Bill both fire, and Shady Character goes down with a bullet in his eye. Bill asks Bullock whose shot it was and Bullock says his money is on Bill. I think we have a little mutual admiration society beginning here. Alma doses herself with more laudanum as Garrett and Dan head for the hills to prospect Garrett’s claim. Al, who was also watching from his room, gets into bed. Trixie comes into his room, puts her tiny new gun on his dresser, takes off her nightgown and gets into bed with him, laying her head on his chest. Al has absolutely no expression on his face whatsoever.

Next episode

Friday, June 22, 2007

1408: When You See It, Don't Go Commando

... because it just might scare your pants off. This movie adaptation of Stephen King's short story stars John Cusack (and, briefly, Samuel L. Jackson). It is the scariest PG-13 movie I've ever seen. I had to peek from between my fingers a couple of times, I'll admit to that, and I'll also admit to some seat-jumping. It's not gory and it's not particularly violent, it's just scary.

John Cusack does a fantastic job anchoring 1408 as Mike Enslin, since for the bulk of the movie he is alone and talking to himself in this "evil fucking room." [I think SLJ must be contractually obligated to drop the f-bomb in each of his movies, no?] This is what other horror movies could be if they starred actors who could act. For me, the first truly frightening moment is when Enslin starts to unravel just a little bit, when he first begins to understand that there really is something wrong in this room; the other super-scary bit is sometime later when Enslin is scrabbling in the minibar - Cusack fully sells it. Enslin is terrified, grieving, outraged, crazed, injured ... and the cynicism that has sustained him for so long has shattered, leaving him vulnerable.

There's a scene that pulls your head out of the movie for a bit, where you just can't believe that they chose to go this particular route; I was slightly spoiled for this movie (my own fault) so I knew to be prepared for such a thing - if I hadn't known what was coming, I would have been annoyed. This guy says it better.

Still, this is definitely one of the better adaptations of King's work. I find it funny that only a handful of his stories have been successfully translated to a visual medium (and when I say successfully translated I mean "well-received by most"): Carrie, The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, and Stand By Me. Misery and The Green Mile were decently done, I thought The Stand started strong 'tho came up lame in the stretch, and I've heard pretty good things about Apt Pupil but I haven't seen it. However, let us never speak of the movie versions of Dreamcatcher, Christine and Pet Sematary, please - I liked all those books.

P.S. As far as the previews are concerned, I can't wait to see Stardust.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

John from Cincinnati (or possibly Uranus)

NOTE: There may be SPOILERS here (as there are in pretty much all my posts. This is a recap site, after all). If you love this show and haven't seen the second episode yet, you should turn off your computer and go see your DVR.

There’s this new show on HBO: John from Cincinnati. It’s supposed to be the heir apparent to Deadwood, a “surf noir,” as it were, written and produced by David Milch. It’s about this completely dysfunctional family of surfing prodigies in SoCal: Mitch, the grandfather, injured his knee a million years ago and has allowed his subsequent bitterness to taint his whole life (plus he has begun to levitate); Butchie, the son – another brilliant surfer – ruined his own career by a smack addiction; and Shaun, the grandson, is potentially the most talented of the three … and by “talented” I mean with regard to surfing, not acting. There’s also a big cast of additional weirdo characters, including Rebecca DeMornay as the tough-on-the-outside grandmother, Luke Perry as someone shady, a Greek chorus over at the fleabag motel Butchie lives in, Al Bundy as a slightly demented ex-cop and the titular John who wears magic pants and only repeats back what people say to him first.

I’ve watched the first two episodes and, I gotta tell ya, I am supremely ambivalent about it. I find it difficult to identify with any of the characters (although Butchie has some small charm to him). The story is unbelievably nonsensical (and not in a this-looks-to-be-heading-somewhere-like-Twin Peaks way) and yet, at the same time, manages to be unsuspenseful: I could not have been less surprised when Shaun awakened from his coma, such event having been completely telegraphed in the previous episode. I have to scoff at the idea that any of these reprobates would be at all nice to a guy as bizarre as John. And, seriously, can someone explain to me what’s with the nasty focus on defecation? Does Milch have toilet-training issues or what?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Firefly - episode 6 "Our Mrs. Reynolds"

This is a Joss-episode: simply hilarious with fantastic dialogue, but a nightmare to recap. I won’t do it justice: do yourselves a favor and watch it again. Giggling is good for you.

A covered wagon crosses a river; someone lurks in the underbrush. Suddenly, the wagon is surrounded and robbers attempt to take the goods onboard. Their dastardly plan is foiled, however, because it’s Jayne and Mal driving the wagon – the latter disguised in a pretty floral bonnet – and Zoë hiding in the back. The crew has been hired by a local settlement to safeguard their goods during transport; they get to be on the up and up for a change. Of course, there’s a gun battle, but the crew wins out. We know they win out because the next scene is a big ol’ party with bonfires and dancing – yeehaw! Jayne is getting hammered; a pretty redheaded girl puts flowers on Mal’s head and dances with him; Wash and Zoë snuggle up together and smile; Book performs a ritual over the dead robbers. The next morning, Serenity takes off and Mal is tidying up the cargo hold when he is surprised by the pretty redhead who is hiding in a corner. He demands to know why she has stowed away on his boat. She looks confused and asks if the elders didn’t talk to him. Mal is having difficulty controlling his temper: “Who are you?” The reply: “I’m your wife.” Now he’s having trouble breathing.

Apparently she was the settlement’s thank-you gift for saving the goods from the robbers. At Zoë and Jayne’s arrival in the hold, Mal asks Zoë how he ended up with a wife. Jayne snorts, “All I got is that dumbass stick sounds like it’s rainin’ – how come you got a wife?” Wickedly, Zoë calls the entire crew into the cargo bay to meet “Mrs. Reynolds.” Everyone’s response is perfectly in line with their characters: Kaylee gasps and giggles, Simon is befuddled with a touch of outrage, Inara is silently appalled, and Wash just makes me laugh. Mal is not pleased and states that this woman is not his wife, she’s no one. Kaylee shoots Mal a nasty look and comforts the redhead, telling her that he makes everyone cry. Mal wants to go back to her planet to return her but because of some plot contrivance they are unable to do so. Book refers to Simon’s online encyclopedia and, to everyone’s consternation, announces that Mal may in fact be married. Mal whispers to Jayne, “How drunk was I last night?” “I dunno,” replies Jayne, “I passed out.” Mal is thunderstruck and asks Book about getting divorced; the redhead gasps and runs away. Mal goes after her, finding her crying in the engine room. She asks if, since he’s displeased with her, he’s going to kill her. Mal wants to know what kind of crappy planet she came from and instructs her, “If anyone tries to kill you, you kill them right back.” They talk some more, and he is gentle with her, promising to drop her off on Beaumont when they get there in a week’s time. She tries to convince him that she’d be a good wife and goes to cook him some dinner. Her name, by the way, is Saffron. As she heads to the kitchen [should I call it the galley?], Book pops up to say that divorce is possible but not as easy as the marriage was. He goes on to promise Mal that if he takes sexual advantage of Saffron, he will go to “that special level of hell that is reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.” Ron Glass is fantastic in this scene.

Wash follows his nose to the kitchen; Zoë wants to know if Mal is enjoying his own nubile little slave girl. Saffron is very attentive to her husband and she has enormous breasts. Mal runs away to the bridge as soon as he can. Except that he goes to Inara’s shuttle to, as he says, hide. Inara is not in the mood. He asks her if she is “tetchy because I got myself a bride or because I don’t plan to keep her?” Inara snarls that she finds the whole thing disgusting and throws him out of the shuttle. As Mal stumbles down the steps, he calls back over his shoulder that he wasn’t looking for a fight … and turns to face Jayne, loading a really big gun. Jayne advances on him, demanding to be taken seriously. He explains that a whole bunch of men came to kill him once and he took this big gun off the best of them. Jayne stops in front of Mal, hefts the gun, and offers it to him, stating, “This is my very favorite gun.” Mal, again, is gob smacked: “You’re expecting me to trade?” Jayne snorts that Mal would be getting the better deal seeing how this is the best gun ever made and all. Plus, it’s got extreme sentimental value to him: he named it “Vera.” “Well, my days of not takin you seriously are definitely comin to a middle,” mutters Mal. A little later Saffron finds Mal and says that she would rather not be wed to “the large one” and she’ll take his offer to be dropped on Beaumont. She continues to draw him out, which Mal notes as unusual, but smiles as he says it. Elsewhere in space, some unsavory characters seem to be planning to hijack Serenity. Back on Serenity, Zoë and Wash argue about Saffron: Wash feels badly for her but Zoë thinks she’s trouble. Mal is shortly to discover the same as he goes to his bunk – he finds Saffron there, naked and having “made [herself] ready for him.” She quotes some pretty racy Scripture about plows and furrows; Mal: “Whoa - some Bible.” He tries to be strong, admitting that “it’s been a long while since anyone but me took a-hold of my plow, so don’t think I ain’t interested,” but Saffron is not taking no for an answer. “I’m going to go to the special hell,” Mal moans as she kisses him. They mack in earnest until Mal staggers back, stares at her and passes out. She looks down at him with no trace of innocence left on her face: “G’night, sweetie.”

Wash is up on the bridge and Saffron walks in. My god, her boobs are huge. She tries her wiles on him too but finds it too much work and ends up just kicking him in the head to knock him out. After tapping on some buttons and ripping out some wires, she seals the doors to the bridge. Saffron goes next to the shuttles and finds Inara there. Inara snarkily wonders that Saffron is not off taking care of her new husband; Saffron, back in character, confesses that he’ll have none of her, and that she’d rather learn of love with someone like Inara. Bosoms heave. Inara leans in and invites Saffron to her shuttle, just as an alarm goes off. The spell broken, Saffron steps back: “You’re good.” Inara is even more impressed with her, “You’re amazing! Who are you?” “Malcolm Reynolds’s widow,” is the reply. Saffron takes a swing, which Inara ducks easily, and the redhead scampers off to the other shuttle to make her getaway. Inara rushes to Mal’s quarters and finds him lying there. She falls on her knees beside him and when he groans, she kisses him full on the lips. Regaining her head a bit, she calls for Simon to help Mal and then staggers, touching her lips. “Ugh, you stupid son of a …” she manages before fainting. When Mal comes to, Simon explains that the toxin Saffron had on her lips was called the “goodnight kiss” and he saw it used on a lot of robbery victims back in his ER. “So,” says Zoë, “you were kissin’?” Book raises an eyebrow, “Isn’t that … special.” Hee.

The crew finally gets back into the bridge and Kaylee and Wash are amazed at the damage Saffron has done. When Mal tries to hurry them along, Kaylee points out that it was his big make-out session that put them in this predicament. “I was drugged,” protests Mal. Over in the corner, Jayne offers, “That’s why I never kiss ‘em on the mouth.” Collective eye-roll from everyone. Inara tells the crew that Saffron has had Companion Academy training and Mal feels a little vindicated since he clearly had no chance against a professional. The scruffy guys in the ship-trap notice Serenity approaching and praise Saffron as a marvel for sending them such a ship to salvage. Serenity’s crew sees the trap – which will likely kill them all – and come up with plan B in case Wash and Kaylee can’t fix the steering in time. Jayne fetches Vera and, just before the net snares them, manages to shoot out a technical something-or-other, disrupting the net and killing all the scruffy guys. Kaylee feels badly that she wasn’t able to fix Serenity faster; Mal reassures her and kisses her on the forehead. Wash says, “Captain, don’t you know that kissing girls makes you sleepy?” “Sometimes I can’t help myself,” says Mal, and directs them to find Saffron.

Which they do, hiding out on some snowy planet. She’s dressed in a leather top that only just restrains those bosoms. Mal drops in uninvited and they smack each other around a little – she more than holds her own. It turns out he feels much more comfortable talking to her while holding a gun to her head (can’t say that I blame him much). Mal asks her if she did it just for the money, but she dances around the question a bit, saying sometimes the payoff isn’t the point. Back on Serenity, Mal stops by Inara’s shuttle to let her know that they’ll be back on schedule soon. He notes that Inara is a very graceful woman, and wonders how it was that she just tripped and knocked herself out. Inara is taken aback, but rises to the challenge, admitting that no, she didn’t trip. She steps closer to him, lifting her face to his. “I knew it,” Mal crows, “I knew you let her kiss you!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fortunetelling, Mouse Guard ... and Stephen King

Everything's coming up mouses today!

Myomancy: Divination by means of mice. This Balderdash-worthy word comes to you compliments of my friend Kevin C., who recycles old page-a-day calendars for note paper and found it on a page from a Forgotten English calendar. Wikipedia seems to think it had something to do with the little buggers chewing on things; I prefer that to digging around in mus mus entrails.

One of the pop culture sites I check into on a regular basis mentioned Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, a hardcover collection of the Mouse Guard comics. I am new to the world of comics/graphic novels, but there's a good local store and so I picked up a copy today. I haven't started it yet but it looks gorgeous! Pluswhich, it's all about tough little mice fighting evil snakes with swords ... how can I lose?

And finally, I just read Stephen King's newest novella, The Gingerbread Girl, available only in the July issue of Esquire (the one with a mostly naked Angelina Jolie on the cover). I read it really quickly (I have a bad habit of rushing through reading materials that I'm excited about - I just can't wait to see what happens) and I'll go back and read it again in the next day or so; it's a thriller rather than a horror story since the monster is a man with nothing supernatural about him. I did notice one peculiar thing, however: the bad guy's name is "Pickering" which is fine ... except that in King's novel Insomnia, one of the bad guys' names is also "Pickering." There's no alt-verse crossover between the novel and the new novella, so these are two separate individuals. I don't mean to cast aspersions on SK - I love his stuff and have dozens of his books - but surely he could have come up with a new name. Ah well, recycling is all the rage these days, I guess.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Firefly – episode 5 “Safe”

Flashback: we open in a swanky mansion and are told “Tam Estate – Eleven Years Ago.” Young Simon is studiously doing his homework. He looks like a tightly wound child – wonder how he’ll turn out. Little River is there too, demonstrating imagination and intellect as well as being a cute little girl. It is obvious that the siblings adore each other. Back on Serenity, River is much less cute and having a bit of a temper tantrum. Mal would prefer that she rein it in a bit so as not to stampede the cattle (remember the cattle from the end of the last episode?). Mal insists that Simon get control of his sister until after the trading is done. As the ship lands on-planet, some rough characters watch with greed in their eyes – and apparently little enough in their bellies judging from the scrawny rabbit they’re skinning for their dinner.

The crew has set up a makeshift corral to hold the cattle ‘til the buyers show up. Book mentions that he is a Shepherd only in the figurative sense of the word. Zoë thinks that the next time they choose to smuggle live cargo they might want to go with something smaller; Wash suggests “black market beagles” might be the way to go. Mal sends Simon and River on a walk, “someplace … away” until his deal is done, so the Tams go to the village with Kaylee and Inara. Inara is wearing a lot of makeup today. Kaylee wants to buy a present for Simon; her crush on him is painful to observe. Obliviously, he manages to insult her, the crew and Serenity and, because of who she is, she takes first offense at the demeaning of her ship. Inara shoots him a look as she follows Kaylee back to Serenity. In the meantime, River has wandered off and Simon chases after her. Mal’s cattle trading is not going all that well as a posse surprises them and attempts to arrest the buyers. The next scene is fantastic: quick cuts between the three-way gun fight at the Serenity corral and River dancing joyously at a festival in town. I love the music (a pennywhistle?) and Summer Glau, a classically trained ballerina, is clearly having a hoot. The dance ends abruptly as a bag is pulled over Simon’s head. River spins, terrified, searching for her brother. Back at the corral, the lawmen drag their prisoners away while Jayne and Mal discover find that Book has been shot. “I think I might be needing a preacher,” Book murmurs. “That’s good,” replies Mal, “You just lie there and be ironical.” Now, where’s that pesky Dr. Simon gone?

The crew brings Book to the infirmary (cool stretcher!) and prepares for some field surgery. Mal sends Wash to town to find Simon; Zoë cuts off Book’s shirt as the preacher starts to convulse. Flashback: grown-up Simon is trying to convince his parents that River is in trouble at the government “academy.” His parents refuse to believe that anything is wrong but Simon is wearing his resolve-face. Back on the planet, the scruffy hill-people have dragged the Tam siblings into the woods. Wash returns to the ship to report that Simon and River have probably been snatched. Mal says that he’s not losing a third person today and orders Wash to take off. Simon and River are stricken as they see Serenity leave them behind. Book regains consciousness for a couple of minutes and Zoë reassures him that he will be fine. Wash and Mal are trying to figure out where they can go to get medical attention for Book but all the possible planets are too far away. Inara barges onto the bridge and reminds them that they are overlooking an obvious solution with very good medical facilities: a nearby Alliance cruiser. Mal thinks that is a really bad idea. The hill-folk bring River and Simon to their village and everyone crowds around, giving thanks for the arrival of a real doctor; River gazes at the sickly people with wonder and compassion. On Serenity, Jayne is rummaging through Simon’s belongings (while wearing his stethoscope): “Dear diary, today I was pompous and my sister was crazy. Today we were kidnapped by hill-folk, never to be seen again. It was the best day ever.” Say it with me: I love Jayne. Kaylee and Zoë sit with Book while he is still unconscious. Kaylee hopes that they’re headed for help. Zoë tells her that the captain will come up with a plan. Kaylee: “Well, that’s good, right?” Zoë: “It’s possible you’re not recallin’ some of his previous plans.” Kaylee gives her a sad little smile. Inara has won out and Wash docks Serenity on the Alliance cruiser; Mal is quite anxious. In the village, Simon and River are taken to the “hospital” and Simon gets right to work. The nurse (?) is kind to both of them.

Zoë asks Mal if he is sanguine about the reception they’re about to receive on the Alliance cruiser. Yes, absolutely he is, but he doesn’t know what that means. She tells him: “Hopeful … plus, point of interest, it also means bloody.” “Pretty much covers all the options, don’t it?” grunts Mal as they let the troopers onto Serenity. The Alliance officers aren’t inclined to help until Book wakes up a little and hands them his ID card; they scan it and whisk him off to the infirmary immediately. Zoë and Mal trade “what the frack?” looks with each other. Simon gets a little testy with the nurse as they treat the sick people; River communes with a little mute girl. When River reads the little mute girl’s mind – Simon tries to pass it off as intuition but he’s shocked himself - the nurse screeches that she is a witch.

Flashback: Simon’s dad bails him out of jail for trying to spring River from the Alliance lab/academy. Dad is not pleased and says that he will not come to Simon’s aid again. On-planet, the nurse arouses the entire town with her witch accusations. River digs herself in deeper by some more mind reading and the townspeople decide to burn her at the stake. As Serenity is allowed to depart from the cruiser, Mal questions Book about why it is the Alliance was so eager to help him. Book demurs, insisting that he is just a preacher, but maybe someday he’ll explain. [Sorry: I’ve seen how this series ends, and we never do find out. It might have been interesting too.] The crew gets a summons from Badger who is antsy for his share of the money from the cattle deal. Jayne suggests that they don’t bother going back for the Tams and Mal admits that life would be easier without them. Simon tries to fight the mob but there are too many of them; resigned to martyrdom, he climbs up next to his sister, puts his arms around her, and tells the crowd to light the pyre. Just then, Serenity appears, hovering over the village with Jayne aiming a really big gun at the mob. Mal and Zoë stride up, also with guns. “Looks like we got here in the nick of time,” crows Mal, “What does that make us?” “Big damn heroes, sir,” says Zoë. Mal suggests that the townspeople let River go and not piss a cranky Jayne off any further. “She’s a witch,” protests one of them. “Yeah, but she’s our witch,” replies Mal.

Once everyone is aboard and Book has been checked on, Simon asks Mal why he came back for the siblings. “You’re on my crew,” says Mal. “Yeah, but you don’t even like me,” Simon points out, “so why’d you come back?” Mal all but rolls his eyes: “You’re on my crew. Why we still talkin’ about this?” [“Dumbass” is implied.] And we close with the Tam siblings sitting down with the crew for dinner, everyone at last safe at home.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bar Harbor, Maine

One of these days I'm actually going to take an actual vacation. You know, four+ days off from work in a row. But until I do, I am going to enjoy my weekends - like this last one: a girls' weekend in Bar Harbor [the cast of characters: me, my mom, my sister-in-law and a family friend]. My brother and sister-in-law had a baby last August, and my sister-in-law had been craving some non-diaper time. Since three of the four of us live in Maine, and the true tourist season has not yet descended upon our state, we thought a weekend in Bar Harbor would be just right. As soon as our friend drove up from Connecticut, we loaded my car with many bottles of wine and headed north on Route 1 Friday afternoon. The forecast was for low 60s and raining - typical Maine weather in June - but we saw nary a cloud all weekend and the mosquitos weren't bad either (another early summer in Maine concern!) so the gods clearly were smiling on us.

We stayed at the Aurora Inn, a little motel just ten minutes' walk from the center of downvillage Bar Harbor; the bathroom was teeny, but the room had plenty of space for the four of us, a mini-fridge and coffeemaker, and a porch with plenty of benches on which to enjoy before-dinner drinks. After checking in, we wandered into town and strolled the Shore Path before seating ourselves at the Lompoc Cafe. I had a locally brewed Coal Porter and my mom tried the seasonal Island Ginger summer ale; my thin and crispy pizza was laden with locally made goat cheese with red peppers, tomatoes, red onion and mozzarella; elsewhere on our table was a tasty poblano and corn chowder. Since we were on holiday, we shared a creme brulee which turned out to be the weakest part of the meal: it was warm all the way through, not cool on the bottom. We managed to get it all down even so.

On Saturday we breakfasted at a nearby diner, Jordan's: wild Maine blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, bacon and eggs, and a fantastic, funny waitress. Thus fortified, we packed a little picnic and our maps, and headed off to explore Acadia National Park. Acadia is just stunning and we were, as I mentioned, fortunate enough to be ahead of the tourists, so we had it to ourselves more often than not. We hiked the Great Head Loop, then walked along the shore to Thunder Hole. After coming out of the park to explore the exquisite Asticou Azalea Gardens (in Northeast Harbor), we nibbled our picnic lunch and did a 3.9 mile loop (along the Hadlock ponds) on the Carriage Roads. We were then running a little short on time so we drove (I know, I know) to the summit of Cadillac Mountain where the 360-degree views were simply amazing. After our descent, we paused for strawberries and wine on our motel's porch, then supped at the Thirsty Whale Tavern (chunk-meat-only lobster rolls and clam chowder for all) while the filly won the Belmont. Girl power! We felt that all the walking we'd done justified a little ice cream and a little shopping, and then we toddled back to our room for a little more wine before bed.

Sunday morning, after a blueberry turnover and a big old coffee and slightly more shopping, we packed up the car and headed home. By "heading home" I mean taking the long way and exploring the "quiet side" of Mount Desert Island, including driving through Southwest Harbor, walking to the Wonder Land beach, checking out the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and pausing for a doe to stroll across the road in Pretty Marsh.

It was well into the afternoon at this point, so - reluctantly, because it was such a beautiful day - we cruised back down Route 1, stopping outside of Belfast to pick up some homemade blueberry pie for my friend to bring back to Connecticut with her. I finally arrived back home to both a laconic (husband) and frantic (dog) welcome, a little bit sunburned and a lotta bit happy with my weekend.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Firefly – episode 4 “Shindig”

Ooh – a Jane Espenson-penned episode! She’s one of my favorites – super funny!

Jayne and Mal are playing pool in a dive bar; Inara is watching from a barstool, sipping something pink. Mal suggests that she leave before things get ugly: “Seems there’s a thief about,” he says as he hands her the wad of cash he pickpocketed. Sure enough a bar fight erupts; Jayne doesn’t even break a sweat as he thrashes his hapless foes. “Great place, can’t wait to tell my friends,” snarks Inara as Mal hustles her out.

Wash and Zoë are looking forward to a little planet-bound time on Persephone as Serenity heads in for refueling, resupplying, etc. “Planet’s coming up a mite fast,” notes Zoë. Wash: “That’s because I’m going down too quick. Likely crash and kill us all.” “Well, if that happens, let me know,” says Mal absently. In her shuttle, Inara is contracting with her next client. Atherton Wing is charming, rich, pretty. I don’t like him. Mal drops by to let her know when they’ll be landing, and he’s quite interested in her upcoming business. Inara allows that Atherton is taking her to a ball; Mal asks if all the guests will be paying for their dates, or just the young rich ones with stamina. She sniffs that it’s a little more sophisticated than the places he frequents. In town, Kaylee is window-shopping. Zoë disagrees with the fluffy one Kaylee likes, saying if she’s going to wear a dress, she wants one with some slink. Wash immediately asks Mal for some money to buy his wife a slinky dress; Jayne offers to chip in. “I can hurt you,” grins Zoë. Mal is short-tempered and hurts Kaylee’s feelings. “What, is she mad or somethin’?” asks Jayne. Badger shows up and insists Mal have a little palaver with him. It seems he wants Mal contact a local bigwig … a “quality gent” who will be attending the same ball Inara is. Badger thinks Mal can acquit himself well enough at the party to meet this guy, Warrick.

The ball is full of fancy, snooty people, none of them as lovely as Inara - although I think her dress is too bulky. Atherton is such a slime, managing to both flatter and insult her in the same breath. He then reiterates his offer to make her his personal Companion on Persephone. Kaylee is welding in the engine room when Mal says he has a job for her: the job is to put on the dress she’d admired (and he bought for her) and be his escort to the ball. That dress is the most amazing thing. Jane Espenson is a damn genius for thinking up that dress. At the ball, Kaylee is grinning ear to ear; Mal is worried that his pants may be too tight. I’m sorry, I’m just sitting here giggling at Kaylee’s dress. Back on Serenity, Book, Simon and Jayne pass the time by playing cards for chores (Jayne is cheating – surprise, surprise). Wash and Zoë have decided to forego shore leave for sex. Gina Torres is a really beautiful woman. At first, Kaylee is unsuccessful with the party small talk, but a kindly older gentleman rescues her from a group of snotty rich-bitches. She soon has a crowd of men around her, laughing at her stories. Mal is also unsuccessful in his first attempt to contact Warrick. He takes a break to dance with Inara; Atherton is wildly jealous and he and Mal end up brawling. “Turns out this is my kind of party!” chirps Mal gleefully.

Unfortunately, Mal’s hitting Atherton results in a duel. Warrick agrees to serve as Mal’s second in the duel; Mal hopes that, if he doesn’t get killed, maybe he and Warrick will be able to do business after all. Badger and his boys decide to occupy Serenity with the crew until the duel is over. That night Inara stops by Mal’s (hotel?) room to convince him to escape. It’s not a bad idea: Mal is a terrible swordsman. He refuses to run off, however: he thought he was defending her honor. On Serenity, the crew tries to come up with a plan to overcome Badger’s crew. Jayne thinks they need a diversion: “I say Zoë gets nekkid.” Wash: “No.” Jayne: “I could get nekkid.” Wash: “NO!” Just then, River wanders in. The crew holds their collective breath, but she’s got everything under control. Badger comes over to talk with her and she charms him. IN Mal's room, the swordfighting lessons are not going well at all.

The next morning it’s a lovely day for a duel: bright and sunny, birds chirping. It doesn’t take long for Mal to find out just how outmatched he is. Atherton toys with him, inflicting little cuts here and there, and then a fairly substantial stab in the side. “Well,” says Warrick to Inara, “this isn’t going to take long, is it?” In desperation, Inara accepts Atherton’s offer to be his personal Companion in exchange for Mal’s life. Mal takes advantage of Atherton’s momentary distraction to land a punch, knocking his opponent down. As Atherton lies there, panting, with Mal holding him at sword-point, Warrick tells Mal to finish it, to end Atherton’s humiliation. Mal refuses, saying that mercy is the mark of a great man. Then he jabs Atherton a little with the sword: “I guess I’m jut a good man.” Another poke: “Well, I’m all right.” HAHAHAHA! Furious, Atherton accuses Inara of setting him up, “after I bought and paid for you. I should have uglied you up … I’ll see to it that you never work again.” Mal, leaning on Inara’s shoulder, points out, “See how I’m not punching him? I think I’ve grown.” Inara interrupts Atherton’s rant, saying that she is going to blacklist him in the Companion Directory and no Companion will ever accept him as a client again, ever. Warrick thinks this is all great fun and agrees to work with Mal and Badger. “Mighty fine shindig,” decides Mal.

Inara brings Mal back to Serenity where Jayne tells Mal they were just about to execute their complicate rescue op. Wash nods, “I was going to watch. It was very exciting.” A little later, Mal and Inara share some wine, toasting Kaylee and her “inter-engine fermentation system.” Mal admits that fancy parties are not his favorite thing. Inara thanks him for the “ill-conceived and high-handed attempt to defend [her] honor, even though [she] didn’t want him to. She goes on to say, “I wasn't going to take his offer. Why would I ever want to leave Serenity?” “Can’t think of a reason,” agrees Mal, and they drink, gazing out over Warrick’s cargo – a herd of live cattle – milling about in the cargo hold.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bluetini

I think this is my new favorite summer drink: Stoli Blueberi, club soda (or unflavored seltzer) and frozen wild blueberries. Super-refreshing (i.e., not sweet) and the berry flavor comes right through. Very, very tasty (altho' expensive). It's not exactly a Bluetini as detailed in the Stoli recipes, but it's dang close.

Firefly – episode 3 “Bushwhacked"

It’s ESPN 8 (“The Ocho”) and some sort of space basketball! You would definitely want Jayne on your team, what with him being 9 feet tall and everything. River is avidly watching the game (trying to figure out the rules, I think) as Inara and Simon chat about how River is doing. A proximity alert sounds. “We’re all doomed … who’s flying this thing? Oh, that would be me,” exclaims Wash. He goes up to the bridge to find Serenity approaching a derelict ship; a dead body is floating out in space and bounced off the window gruesomely. Everyone wonders what the ship is. River murmurs: “It’s a ghost.”

Actually, the ship is a converted cargo hauler, retrofitted to carry passengers to the outer planets. Book wonders if they should report the incident and when the crew is reluctant to get involved, he brings up the Good Samaritan story. Mal reconsiders, thinking there might be available salvage. Jayne: “Uh, yeah, someone might be hurt.” Have I mentioned lately that I love Jayne? Unseen underneath, CGI tentacles attach to Serenity from the derelict. That can't be good. At first, Simon offers to join the away team but he rethinks things when he sees Mal and Zoë getting into their spacesuits. Jayne notices his discomfort and is more than happy to fan its flames. Mal and Zoë explore the other ship: the emergency power is on; full plates were left in the kitchen as though folks got up in the middle of their meal; all the computers were left on; there is no sign of struggle. “They’re just gone.”

River wakes up in her room from a nightmare, sobbing. When Simon tends to her, she says she can’t sleep, there’s too much screaming [in her head]. Jayne stops by to tell Simon to get suited up and meet him over on the other ship. With great trepidation – and his helmet on crooked! – Simon enters the derelict, panting with fear. He finds the crew already there, sans suits, as there is plenty of life support available. Jayne laughs as Simon calls him a sadist; they all split up to gather salvage and Kaylee kindly tells Simon that he had fastened his helmet incorrectly. Ha. Kaylee wonders what happened to all the people: she can find nothing mechanically wrong with this ship. Mal and Zoë find the cargo hold and unhappily note that all the settlers’ supplies are still onboard – no one would abandoned this ship without their supplies. Zoë reasons, “Sir, even if they’d escaped on a lifeboat, they would have had room for some of this stuff.” Mal says grimly, “Nobody escaped,” as they point their flashlights at the ceiling and find all the settlers strung up there, dead. Jayne, pillaging the galley, is attacked from behind. He reports that his attacker was “Big tho’, strong. I think I might have hit him.” “You did,” says Mal, following a trail of blood to where a small and frightened man is hiding in a crawl space. “Ah yes,” snarks Simon, “He’s a real beast. It’s a wonder you’re still alive.” “Looked bigger when I couldn’t see him,” replies Jayne reasonably.

Back on Serenity, the crew discusses the survivor. Jayne thinks he’s the one who killed the other settlers. Zoë says that the captain wouldn’t have brought him onboard were that the case. The survivor is ranting, “no mercy, cattle for the slaughter, open them up, see what’s inside,” so Mal tells Simon to dope him, although he posits it would be better to just shoot him and put him out of his misery. That upsets everyone. Mal states that after what this guy’s seen, there’s no hope for him: his ship was hit by Reavers. Everyone is very much more upset about this.

Mal goes on: “Don’t matter we took him off that boat, it’s a place he’s going to live forever.” Book spouts some platitudes about hope and faith [hey! That’s nearly a BTVS episode!]; Mal says the Reavers might take issue with that philosophy, if they have time for philosophy while they're gnawing at your insides. Jayne wants to get gone post-haste but Mal says there’s work still to be done on the derelict boat. When Jayne says he’s not going back over there with those mutilated bodies, Simon volunteers to go help cut them down. Book says he’ll help put them to rest: “How we treat our dead is what makes us different from those who did the slaughtering.” Mal okays this plan, sending a reluctant Jayne with them. As the funeral detail heads off, he brings Kaylee, Wash and Zoë up to speed with the booby trap tentacles that have latched onto Serenity. Mal wants to know if “little Kaylee” can fix it; Kaylee says yes … and if she can’t, it’s not as if he’ll be able to yell at her. That’s the spirit! Next is a brief montage of Jayne, Book and Simon cutting down the bodies, Kaylee fiddling with the workings of the ship while Mal, Zoë and Wash look on, the survivor waking up in the infirmary and River shrieking. Kaylee takes care of the booby trap; the away team returns with the last of the salvage; and uh oh! an Alliance cruiser has cornered Serenity and ordered them to prepare to be boarded.

On the Alliance cruiser, Matt Fielding from Melrose Place is not only looking for the stolen salvage from the derelict, but also recognizes that Serenity has been flagged for possibly harboring the fugitive Tam siblings. On Serenity, Simon is wigging out as Mal tells him to fetch River, thinking they’re about to be turned in; Book admonishes him, “Don’t be a fool, son.” When the feds board Serenity, the crew (and Book) is waiting for them in the hold; the Alliance soldiers discover the survivor in the infirmary. Matt suspects that Mal is hiding the Tams and takes the crew back to the cruiser for interrogation; Kaylee takes great offense when Matt calls Serenity a “junker.” Matt questions each crewmember separately – it’s largely hilarious. He notes that Zoë fought with Mal in the war. Zoë: “Fought with a lot of people in the war.” Matt: “And your husband?” Zoë: “Sometimes fight with him too.” When he asks her why she is reluctant to talk about her marriage, she puts him off with a “we’re very private people.” Cut immediately to Wash chuckling: “The legs, definitely the legs, you can put that down … and right where her legs meet her back. Actually, that whole area. And right above it.” Kaylee defends Serenity with a torrent of mechanical gibberish; Jayne just stares menacingly without speaking. The soldiers continue to tear the ship apart looking for the Tams [under the placemats?!]; the camera pulls back to show Simon and River, wearing spacesuits and clinging to the outside of the ship. Simon is terrified but his sister is joyfully gazing at the star-filled ‘verse above them.

I notice that during Matt’s interrogation of Mal, the hand-held camera is extra shaky. I’m not sure why Joss chose to do this … or if it’s perhaps the effect of the tasty rum and tonic I’ve just finished. No matter. Matt observes that Mal fought on the “wrong side” of the Unification War; Mal corrects him, saying, “maybe it was the losing side, but I’m not convinced it was the wrong side.” Matt then arrests Mal and the crew for allegedly slaughtering all the settlers on the ship. When Mal suggests he ask the sole survivor what really happened, Matt says the survivor won’t be able to talk with his tongue split in two. Mal swears softly, horror and realization creeping over his face. Cut to an Alliance operating room with the survivor on the table: his hand reaches out, grabbing a surgical tool. Blood splashes in a great arc across the wall.

Mal insists to Matt that Reavers killed those people and that the survivor was made to watch. “A man comes up against that kind of will has no choice but to become it.” Mal predicts that the “poor bastard” will first cut on himself, making himself look like a Reaver, and then he’ll start to act like one. Yeesh. Simon and River let themselves back into Serenity to hunker down until the coast is clear. The “survivor,” a/k/a the Reaver-in-training, escapes from the Alliance cruiser and also goes back to Serenity; Mal, Matt and some soldiers track him, following the trail of dead bodies. River is acting squirrelly. Just as the feds are about to come upon the Tam siblings, the wannabe-Reaver jumps out, killing a soldier and attacking Matt. The wannabe has cut his face and generally looks as though he’s taken a correspondence course in facial piercing ... with the lights off. Yuck-o. Mal manages to get his handcuffs around the guy’s neck, snapping it and saving Matt’s life. Perhaps gratefully, Matt releases Serenity and her crew, but not before he confiscates the cargo they’ve salvaged. “Couldn’t let us profit,” grumbles Mal.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Firefly – episode 2 “The Train Job”

In a bar, Mal and Zoë are playing Chinese checkers while Jayne watches, bored or drunk, or maybe a little of both; Zoë is winning. A drunken lout makes a toast to Unification Day – the “asspicious” day when the Alliance put down the Independence. Jayne is confused: “ ‘Suspicious?’ What day is it? What month is it?” Mal eyes the toasted toaster and goes to get another drink. The drunk notices his brown coat and starts to pick a fight; Mal willingly rises to the bait. Mal is noticeably less dark than he was in the first episode, despite the fighting. Ever the good wingman, Zoë sneaks up and knocks out the drunk. However, the rest of the bar is apparently also on the federal side of things and a big bar brawl kicks into gear. Jayne at first declines to participate – “I didn’t fight in the war.” I love Jayne. He finally does join in and the three of them manage to hold their own for a bit against the mob, until they get backed up again a cliff that drops away into nothing. Mal notes, “This is why we lost the war – superior numbers.” “Thanks for the reenactment, sir”, says Zoë dryly, “Funny how you find yourself in an Alliance-friendly bar on every Unification Day.” Wash flies Serenity up just in time and they escape. The trip was not entirely unsuccessful, however, as Mal has made a contact: they have a job they can do.

River, her hair clean and fluffy, is having flashbacks to being experimented upon; Simon tries to calm her. Boy, she’s skinny. And I like her motorcycle boots. Mal visits the infirmary to disinfect his post-brawl scrapes. Simon is worried that the bar fight may have attracted Alliance attention and in reassuring him, Mal actually smiles several times – he is less dark for sure! Mal then goes looking for Kaylee and finds the engine room a wreck: “Were there terrifying space monkeys?” He finds her having a little girl time, getting her hair brushed by Inara. Inara gives some exposition about Companions for the viewing audience’s edification: they are not common prostitutes but are trained and licensed by a guild, allowed to hand-select their own clients, etc. When Mal sends Kaylee back to the engine room, he and Inara are alternately snarky, defensive and almost considerate to each other. Hmm. Mal, Zoë and Jayne go to meet with Adelai Niska on Niska’s space station; they’re a little nervous since, according to Mal, Niska’s a pretty tough customer. Niska wants them to rob a train for him; he also manages to impress his tough-guy rep upon them by revealing a man being tortured in the back room. (Well, the man used to be tortured, but now he’s just dead.) They are duly impressed. Later, on the train, Zoë and Mal make their way through the passenger cars and come upon a car full of Alliance officers – yikes! They weren’t expecting that.

Back on Serenity, Book asks Inara about the crew, and mentions that he feels a little useless. Inara suggests that he perhaps pray for the crew’s current caper to be successful. “I don’t think the captain would appreciate it,” Book replies. “Don’t tell him,” she then says, “I never do.” On the train, Zoë is not pleased about the fed squad on the train, but Mal thinks it just makes the job more fun! Zoë snarks that she thinks he has a problem with his brain being missing. She wants to know if she can have his share of the pay. No. “If you die, can I have your share?” “Yes.” Kaylee, Simon and Jayne are getting ready for the heist in the ship’s cargo bay. Jayne is not particularly friendly to Simon, and tells Kaylee that he thinks Mal is planning on turning Simon and River in for the reward. Kaylee is concerned and skeptical, as is par for the course when listening to Jayne. Zoë and Mal break into the train car, bundle up the cargo, and open the hatch in the roof; Serenity flies overhead and Jayne is lowered down on a cable. Wash has nice arms. The feds discover them in the train car and manage to shoot Jayne in the leg before he and the stolen cargo are airlifted back up to Serenity. Zoë and Mal covertly blend back in with the rest of the passengers. The train is stopped at a small mining town, Paradiso. Gregg Henry (that guy from Slither) is the sheriff; Zoë and Mal overhear him fret that the stolen cargo contained the town’s medicines and supplies. Mal is upset.

Jayne wants to rendezvous with Niska and hand over the booty but Wash refuses to leave without Zoë and Mal. River interrupts with a little bit of crazy: “Two by two, hands of blue.” Jayne, in pain from his leg wound, grumps that he’s in charge; Simon gives him a shot for the pain. Book points out that Niska will probably want to meet with Mal himself since Mal was the one with whom the deal was made. Sitting around in Paradiso, Mal mutters that this is a nightmare. Zoë says, “Nothing points to us.” “That’s not what I meant,” he says, glumly looking around at all the poor and sick people. As the sheriff interrogates them, they pretend to be a newly married couple (hee hee!) looking for work in the Paradiso mines. There is some exposition about the town needing the stolen medicine in order to treat a degenerative disease caused by the mines. The sheriff is a bit suspicious of the two of them, but remains friendly enough. On board Serenity, Jayne insists that the crew leave Zoë and Mal behind. When Wash objects, Jayne snarls, “You know what the chain of command is? It’s the chain I go get and beat you with until you understand who’s in ruttin’ charge here.” Then, as I giggle, he paws at the air and collapses. Wash is confused: “Did he just go crazy and fall asleep?” Simon mentions that he did tell Jayne to lie down, and that he thought the painkiller would have kicked in a little sooner. “I didn’t feel comfortable with him in charge,” says Simon. The crew discusses how to best rescue Zoë and Mal; Book thinks that someone respectable enough could probably waltz right in and whisk them away. Since the woman who has sex for money is clearly the most respectable of this bunch, Inara takes her shuttle to Paradiso. She explains to the sheriff that the two in question are her runaway servants – hence their slightly shady story; the sheriff is impressed enough with meeting a registered Companion that he releases Zoë and Mal. Back on Serenity, Mal announces that they’re taking the medicines back to the townspeople, and that they’ll just give Niska his money back. Jayne, still dopey and slumped on the stairway, says “What? Taking it back? I waited for you!” Wash announces that they can probably give the money back right then and there since Niska’s men have found them.

Mal tells Krull, Niska’s scary tattooed henchman, that they’ve changed their minds: the deal is off and they’ll give the money back. Krull replies that there is no mind-changing allowed and then stabs Mal in the shoulder with a really big knife. There’s a fight and Zoë kicks all kinds of ass while Krull pretty much pummels Mal, until Jayne manages to shoot Krull in the leg. “I was aiming for his head,” he grumps. Zoë and Mal drive the medicines back towards the town. The sheriff ambushes them with a heavily armed posse, but lets them hand over the medications without incident. Upon their return to Serenity, Mal returns Niska’s money to Krull. Krull says he won’t take the money; instead he’ll chase them around the 'verse and kill them. So Mal kicks him into the revving engines. Splat. The remaining flunky eagerly agrees to take the money back to Mr. Niska, agreeing that it’ll really be best for everyone this way. As Simon stitches Mal’s stab wound, the captain notes that Simon probably didn’t make a lifetime friend by doping Jayne like that, but that Simon looks like he can take care of himself. Simon is worried about River, however; he doesn’t know what’s wrong with her. River is in her room, crouched in the corner, again muttering “two by two, hands of blue.” Cut to the Alliance cruiser where two creepy blue-begloved guys (one of whom is that Council flunky from BTVS and Angel), tell the Alliance officer that they are after River. Guess she’s not so crazy after all.