Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lost recap – “The Beginning of the End” airdate 01/31/08 (S4E1)

At long last, what we’ve all been waiting for … a car chase in Los Angeles, being watched on television by a neat and tidy Jack while he drinks a screwdriver for breakfast. This is not yet the heavily bearded, drunken, druggie Jack of last episode’s flash-forwards, so this “present” is located on the Lost timeline after they got off the Island but before Jack seriously downward-spirals. The car finally crashes and the cops surround it, guns drawn. Slowly, Hurley gets out (having lost no weight whatsoever in the interim). He tries to make a break for it but the cops get him. As they cuff him, he pleads, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m one of the Oceanic Six!” Who?

A cop who, as it turns out in the coincidences that this show loves so much, used to be Ana Lucia’s partner, is interrogating Hurley after his arrest. The cop is not impressed by Hurley’s Oceanic Six celebrity and asks why he ran; apparently Hurley was in a quickie-mart, saw something that was not captured by the CCTV, and took off after knocking over a rack of snack foods. That was enough to make the cops chase him? The cop steps out and suddenly Hurley has a vision of glass breaking and water flooding the interrogation room. He starts screaming for help and the cop bursts back in, threatening to toss Hurley in the nut house. “Thank you! Oh, thank you!” cries a relieved Hurley.

Flash-back to the Island: On the beach with the Lostie commando unit that killed Tom and all the bad Others during the last episode (i.e. Sayid, Jin, Sawyer, Juliet and Bernard) Hurley gets the heads-up from Jack (still up in the mountains by the radio antenna) via walkie-talkie that contact has been made with the ship and rescue is coming. There is much rejoicing on the beach until Desmond shows up and tells them that Charlie has died, and that the ship is not in fact here to rescue them. Now everyone’s pretty upset about both things. They grab their guns and head into the jungle to warn off Jack’s Mountain Losties.

Meanwhile, after he hangs up with Hurley, Jack tells Kate to get everyone moving back to the beach. Ben, bloody and tied to a tree, begs Rousseau to take Alex and get far away from Jack’s group, saying that everyone is going to die unless they hide from the ship’s party. The Mountain Losties get another call from the purported rescuers on the sat-phone asking to speak with Naomi. Not wanting to tell the rescuers that their girl got killed by Locke, Jack stalls until he realizes that Naomi has disappeared. She’s not quite dead yet.

Rousseau finds a blood trail and Jack decides he, Rousseau and the captive Ben will follow the trail and collect Naomi. Kate runs up, saying she too found a trail and she thinks they should follow both since Naomi seems to have created a false one, not wanting to be found. Jack pshaws her so Kate hugs him and agrees to take the Mountain Losties back to the beach. Ben is watching this exchange very closely. Me, I’m too quickly remembering how much Jack annoyed me with his self-righteous priggishness.

Flash-forward to the mainland: Hurley is back in the mental hospital he was in before he crashed on the Island. He gets a visit from an Oceanic Airlines attorney who offers to have him transferred to a much nicer facility, at the airline’s expense, “with a view of the ocean.” Hurley does NOT want to see the ocean and, suspicious, asks to see the guy’s business card. When the guy forgot them at home, Hurley gets up from the table. The guy asks, sinisterly, “Are they still alive?” Hurley freaks and the guy slips out the door and disappears.

Flash-back to the Island: It’s now nighttime and the Beach Commando group is trekking through the jungle. Sawyer reaches out to see if Hurley wants to talk about losing Charlie but Hurley isn’t ready for that yet. Sawyer is being awfully nice for Sawyer! Hurley stops to catch his breath for a moment, and then strangely loses sight of the other Beach Commandos. Frightened, he starts running through the jungle, getting more and more lost, until he comes into a clearing and finds himself in front of Jacob’s cabin! Yikes! And there’s a light on and all that freaky whispering. That can’t be good.

The blood trail that Rousseau, Jack and Ben were following ends: Kate was right and Naomi fooled them. Ben smugly points out that Kate took the sat-phone from Jack when she hugged him and has taken matters into her own hands to find Naomi. As usual, Jack looks constipated when he’s wrong. Meanwhile, Kate has found Naomi who drops out of a tree on top of her; Naomi ends up holding Locke’s knife against Kate’s throat. When the sat-phone rings again, Naomi resets the coordinates so her people can lock in to their position. Grunting to tell her sister that she loves her, Naomi dies while Kate looks on, helpless.

Hurley peeks in the window of Jacob’s cabin and sees someone rocking in the rocking chair. When someone (else?) then looks at him back through the window, Hurley runs away, screaming. There’s some spatial strangeness for a bit whereby no matter where Hurley runs, the cabin pops up in front of him. Hurley closes his eyes, willing the cabin to disappear, and then Locke pops up. He’s real, no hallucination this time. Hurley decides to join forces with Locke to convince the Mountain Losties that rescue is not actually here for them. They catch up with the Commando group at the Oceanic 815 fuselage, coming full circle, I suppose. Sayid and Sawyer are not that thrilled to see Locke (“Why’d you blow up that submarine?” Sayid wants to know) but the tension is diffused when the Mountain Losties arrive. Reunions are joyful except that Claire is worried when she can’t find Charlie. Hurley tells her what happened and everyone looks sad.

Flash-forward to the mainland: Hurley is out on the lawn at the mental hospital when another patient tells him that some guy is staring at him. Hurley looks up and it’s Charlie (at this point I’m FURIOUS because bringing Charlie back totally cheapens his death last season). Hurley freaks out, insisting “I may be in a mental institution but I know you’re dead and I’m not having an imaginary conversation with you!” Charlie is agreeable: he is dead, but he’s also here. And now, says Charlie (who is looking quite handsome for a dead hobbit), it’s time for Hurley to do something. Hurley starts to panic again, closing his eyes and counting to five, telling Charlie that he’ll be gone when Hurley opens his eyes again. Charlie warns him, “Don’t do this – they need you. You know they need you!” But it’s too late and Hurley wills Charlie away.

Flash-back to the Island: Finally the gang’s almost all here as Rousseau and Ben join the Losties. Jack sneaks up behind Locke and slugs him, knocking him to the ground and then taking his pistol. “You’re not going to shoot me, Jack,” Locke starts to say … then CLICK! Jack tries to shoot him in the head but nothing happens. Locke is incredulous: “It’s not loaded!” Jack looks really annoyed and a little shaken.

After the commercial, Sawyer and Sayid pull an enraged Jack off Locke. There’s lots of shouting and a big old Jack vs. Locke standoff. Locke insists that he never did anything to hurt any of the Losties. Kate arrives to report that Naomi has died and to hand the sat-phone back to Jack. Locke says that he is not sticking around for the faux-rescuers; he’s going to the Others’ abandoned barracks where there’s still a little bit of security and everyone is welcome to join him. Jack tries to shout him down but Hurley cuts the doctor off, asking “What about Charlie? [who died warning us about the boat]… I’m not listening to you [Jack], I’m listening to my friend.”

At least half the Losties end up with Locke, including Claire and Sawyer; Kate asks Sawyer what he’s doing and he answers her, using no nicknames this time, that he’s surviving, like he always does. Ben makes me giggle when he snarkily says, “With your permission, Jack, I’d like to go with John.” Alex, Karl and Rousseau also go with Locke; Rose, Bernard and Kate stay with Jack. I can’t tell where Sun and Jin are but I’m guessing they’re going with Jack to try to get off the Island so Sun can safely have her baby. It starts to rain (always a sign on this show that something is about to go down) and Locke’s party heads off.

Flash-forward to the mainland: Jack drops by the mental hospital to visit Hurley. It doesn’t take long for Hurley to realize that Jack is worried that he “went nuts and was going to tell.” Jack is uncomfortable when confronted and starts to leave. Hurley says he’s sorry he went with Locke and he should have stayed with Jack. Jack waves it off, saying “Water under the bridge,” but Hurley’s not done. “I don’t think we did the right thing, Jack. I think it wants us to come back. It’s doing everything it can …” Jack shouts, “We’re never going back!” “Never say never, dude,” says Hurley.

Flash back to the Island: Jack and Kate reminisce at the fuselage until a helicopter’s rotors are heard. They run into the jungle to find the parachutist. It’s a guy. “Are you Jack?” he asks. Kate and Jack just stare at him like they’ve been pole axed.

Questions: Who are the Oceanic Six? What did they do that wasn’t the right thing that the Island wants them back? Why does Hurley think he’s safe in the mental institution? Who was that fake Oceanic Airlines attorney and what does the airline have to do with all this? What changes Jack’s mind about needing to go back? When will we get to see Sawyer with his shirt off again?

Next time on Lost.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Deadwood recap - “A Rich Find” (S3E6)

The dropping: This is another transitional episode and not much seems to happen (at least we don't get bogged down with that dying actor). Bullock and Al chase their tails trying to figure out how best to oust Hearst while Hearst, for his part, seems to be hiring reinforcements, all of which means bad things for the campfolk caught in the middle. Alma's opium supply seems to have dried up but not before she clashes with a concerned Trixie over getting back on the dope. There's some stuff going on with Steve and with Aunt Lou and her son but it doesn't seem all that important. And Joanie tries again to help an increasingly sodden Jane.

ONLY TWO F-BOMBS IN THE FOLLOWING RECAP
-- DEFINITELY A SLOW DAY IN DEADWOOD

The next morning, Hearst is fuming in his cell as Charlie struggles to bring in the morning’s mail. Charlie tries to provoke Hearst a bit, first playing dumb as to who he is, then revealing the dead Cornish miner in the cell next to Hearst: “Is that your knife, George Hearst?” Calamity Jane is helping N.G. bury Hostetler, which prompts N.G. to say that such an act won’t endear her to the other whites in camp. Jane scoffs: “[That’s] a question I wake to in the mornin’ and pass out with at night: ‘what’s my popularity with my fellow white people?” Hee hee. She’d rather help a friend, no matter what color he is, plus she owes a visit up to the graveyard anyway.

Al interrupts Bullock and Mrs. Bullock at breakfast. She excuses herself so the menfolk can talk. Al’s position regarding going after Hearst: “Our hour is wrong. Having lost his man Turner, being embarrassed by you, Hearst will be on the muscle. We, his wrath’s object, ought to stay close and confide – our alternative is flight.” Bullock doesn’t want to run either and gets the message.

Dan lurches out of the back room of the Gem, looking terrible. Johnny fills him in on the evening’s events (Bullock twisting Hearst’s ear) and Dan just stares at him, incredulous. Then, blah blah blah – it’s Steve, ranting and raving, and I just don’t care. After walking Martha to school, Bullock goes the freight office and lets Hearst out of the cell. Hearst pulls his knife out of the dead miner, wipes the bloody blade on the banister and walks out, glowering at the sheriff. He then goes to send a message at the telegraph office, snarling at both Blazenoff and Merrick.

A concerned Charlie tags along as Bullock walks through the thoroughfare. Bullock bemusedly tells his self-appointed bodyguard that he’s just going to the hardware store. Good, says Charlie, “it’s a little early to start drinkin’.” (I expect an immediate cut to Jane drunk in an alley but am disappointed.) At the hardware store, Sol joins Bullock and Charlie in rehashing the Hearst issue. Charlie thinks that “Hearst is fuckin’ comin’” and that Bullock should strike first, setting up an ambush and working with Al and Cy to destroy Hearst’s men. Sol objects that there’ll be nothing left of the camp. “How much you figure’ll stand once Hearst’s had his fuckin’ say?” retorts Charlie. He’s got a point. Bullock looks thoughtful.

Cy tells Hearst that Alma Garrett-Ellsworth is back on the dope and insinuates that he could have Alma killed by tweaking the quality of the product. Hearst finds this interesting but wishes he’d heard this yesterday – might have saved him the loss of his man and a night in jail. I’m not sure where he’s going with this line of thought but okay. In any event, Hearst tells Cy not to kill Alma yet. On his way out, Cy gives E.B. $200 and tells the innkeeper to keep him posted on Hearst’s activities. If not, the consequence would be for Cy to cut E.B.’s throat. “Oh my,” says E.B. After Cy leaves, E.B. scurries off to let Al know what just transpired. “Save us,” squeaks E.B., “think of something!” Al is lost in thought but murmurs, “When have I not?”

Not knowing that Hearst doesn’t want to kill Alma quite yet, Leon gets really twitchy and goes to the bank. Trixie gets disgusted at the sight of him and goes out for a smoke. Leon tells Alma he’s shutting her off. She’s all snooty and on her high horse – I hate it when she does that, even to icky drug dealers. After Leon leaves, Trixie confronts Alma, saying she knows about her drug habit. Alma gets even snootier and fires Trixie from her bank teller job. Trixie clears off her desk (hee hee!) and leaves. She goes to report in to Al who gives her a pep talk, Swearengen-style.

Aunt Lou’s son Odell has arrived in camp. Great – more new characters. Odell has been in Liberia where his mom sent him to keep him away from Hearst. I have a thought that Hearst is perhaps Odell’s father. Anyhow, Odell has come to speak with Hearst about mining operations in Africa. Aunt Lou thinks this is a bad idea and fears for her son, who seems to possibly be trying to get some sort of revenge on his mother’s employer. It’s vague and confusing and, again, I really don’t care. I want to get back to Al and Dan and Bullock and Charlie and Jane and Sol and E.B. and Doc – where the hell has Doc been? Moving on.

Here we go: Dan comes up to see Al in his office. Dan is a little testy but Al just wants to know if Dan has gotten over killing the Captain. Dan quotes the light going out of the eyes line and Al wryly points out there was only one eye left for it to go out of. Dan looks crestfallen at this and Al leans in, kindly saying, “Better the one of his than both of yours.” Al wants Dan to go to Cheyenne to hire guns for the upcoming battle with Hearst. Dan’s down with that as he’s ready to get out of camp for a while.

More Odell. Plus Steve, drunk and raving. Spare me. Is Steve supposed to be funny? Because he just makes me scream obscenities at the t.v.

Bullock goes to the Gem to talk to Al. He says that perhaps he and Al should strike first against Hearst. Al echoes Sol as he says that if they battle Hearst, the camp will be destroyed. He calls to Dan to hold off leaving for Cheyenne tonight as he and the sheriff call a meeting of the camp elders: “Let’s be baffled among friends.” Hee.

Jane is drunk off her ass and in an alley – I knew it would happen sooner or later, usually after a visit to Bill's grave. Joanie finds her and convinces Jane to come back to Shaunessey’s with her. Jane manages to puke en route but Joanie is sweet and patient with her. Better to puke in the thoroughfare than in the boarding house, I guess.

Next episode/previous episode

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where did you get that book?

Lately* I've had quite a few inquiries as to where I find the books that I review. I hereby proclaim that on subsequent book reviews on this little blog, I will let you all know who tipped me to the volume, be it loan from a friend, recommendation from another blog or a lucky purchase at the sale table. Until then, here is where I found the books that have been reviewed thus far:
* Since I've gotten so goshdarned famous with three book reviews on Boston.com (compliments of Blogcritics.org - thank them very much): in October for A Good Dog, here and, most recently, here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Deadwood recap - “A Two Headed Beast” (S3E5)

The dropping: Alma is not fooling anyone with her newly-resumed opium habit, least of all her husband who moves out of the house after she comes on to him in an altered state. Bullock finally manages to finalize the sale of the livery from Hostetler to that drunk Steve; Steve ends up pushing Hostetler past what the older man can bear, with tragic results. Dan Dority and Captain Turner (Hearst's right hand man) have a brutal battle in the thoroughfare which Dan just barely manages to win. Bullock arrests a drunken and belligerent Hearst and drags him into the jail, an action for which there will surely be serious repercussions.

AS ALWAYS, QUITE A BIT OF WICKED BAD LANGUAGE FOLLOWS:

Oh, yuck. Con Stapleton is playing with a naked Bella Union whore’s boobies. (The yuck is for Con, not the boobies.) I can’t even watch. Cy Tolliver comes in, ostensibly to ask Con to be his go-between for him and George Hearst. Con says he’s too het up sexually to focus on Cy’s schemings and Cy excuses him from service until his excitement passes. The disgust on Cy’s face pretty much equals mine. Gag. Also gag: stupid Steve is bathing (that’s actually a good thing), prior to the signing for the transfer of the livery from Hostetler to him, because Tom Nuttal dumped a spittoon onto him. I’m SO done with Steve and his boring-ass, noisy story line. At a simultaneous countdown, Hostetler and Steve each sign the paperwork and the deed is done. (That’s a little real estate humor for you there.)

Adams is meeting with Hearst. I’m not exactly clear on how the meeting ends up going – and Adams is a bit uneasy about the outcome as well – Hearst is skeptical and sarcastic. Captain Turner tells Adams to tell his [Adams’s] “friend” [Dan] that he [the Captain] knows he’s [Dan] afraid of him [the Captain]. Wanting to be clear about whom the message is to be delivered, Adams asks, “Dority? The big guy?” The Captain: “I guess he looks big to you.” Hee. When Adams reports back to Al et al., Dan is wild about the challenge. Al, on the other hand, doesn’t know what Hearst is up to, allowing the Captain to call Dan out.

At the bank, Alma is clearly high on opium, oddly trimming a houseplant and speaking breathily with Merrick. The newspaperman is not quite sure what’s going on with her but Trixie, keeping a watchful eye from the bank teller’s desk, knows exactly what’s up. Later, while out for their perambulation, Merrick and Blazenoff come across the dumped body of a murdered Cornish miner, knife still stuck in his chest. It’s the third fellow who had been trying to organize the workers. They go to fetch the sheriff who stomps off to tell Al that he doesn’t want to wait any longer to go after Hearst. Adams cautions Bullock to wait just a bit, “You know Al.” Bullock grunts that he has the briefest of other business to attend to (the finalization of the Hostetler/Steve transaction) and heads off to attend to it. Al, on the other hand, goes to his office and confers with the severed head of the Indian that he has stored in a cupboard.

Back at the Bella Union, Cy confronts Leon about the current status of his drug habit and Leon ‘fesses up about dealing to Alma. Cy finds this interesting. E.B. swings by the Gem to see Al – you know, why has E.B. been replaced by that asshole Steve this season? E.B. is hardly ever on this show anymore and while abhorrent, is a way more interesting character than fuckin’ Steve. Anyway, Al does meet with E.B. for a little bit and, while bringing E.B. up to speed as to Hearst’s machinations, reminds us viewers what all is going on. Al still can’t figure out why Hearst would want Dan and the Captain to fight – what’s in it for the big man? His job done, E.B. leaves, straightening his hideous gloves. Finally, Al comes out of his office, saying to Dan: “It’s past me. I cannot figure the fuckin’ angle. Go ahead and fight him.”

Oh crap: more new characters. Two additional actors have arrived in camp to join Jack Langrishe and company: a fat, dying old man and his foppish attendant. I like Jack Langrishe and all, but what the hell is the point of all of this? It’s taking time away from characters I know and love.

Dan is getting ready to battle the Captain, greasing himself so the other man can’t get a good grip. Johnny tells his friend to drop flat if he starts getting the worst of it and he [Johnny] will shoot him dead. Dan snaps at him to stay out of it: this is Dan’s fight and Dan’s fight alone. At Hearst’s place, the Captain is stretching (hee!), warming up for the battle to come. I have a baaaaaaaaaad feeling about this fight.

The two behemoths meet in the thoroughfare, dropping their weapons (knives and pistols) to the boardwalk. They run at each other and crash together. Al and Hearst each come out onto their respective balconies to watch. It is an ugly, brutal, realistic fight and the sound effects are horrific. At one point, the Captain bites into Dan’s face and Dan screams. As Dan tries to crawl away, the Captain shoves his face into a mud puddle and keeps it there, looking up to his boss for approbation. Dan erupts out of the puddle, throwing the Captain to the side. The Captain starts to slam Dan’s head into a rock; Dan reaches up and plucks out the Captain’s left eye. Seriously – it’s dangling there on his cheek. Now the screaming really kicks into high gear … until Dan beats in the Captain’s head with a chunk of stove wood, ending it. All around in the thoroughfare everyone goes on about their business and Dan, looking really bad (how’s that head wound?), staggers back to the Gem. Hearst heaves a sigh and goes back into his room, leaving his man shredded and bloody in the muck.

Blah blah blah – the actors again. I do like Brian Cox but this new old guy is gross and creepy. The fop actor played the adult Eddie Kaspbrak on the t.v. movie It.

Doc Cochran stops by to try to check on Dan but Dan won’t see anyone: he’s sitting in the back room, naked and crying. Doc instructs Johnny and Adams to listen for raspy breathing in the night and to come get him if it happens. Trixie joins Sol for a bit of one-on-one time, first ranting about Alma’s resumption of her dope habit, calling the bank’s owner the “chief officer of air-headed smugness.” Sol doesn’t really know what is going on and when Trixie rolls her eyes and says, “So, do you want to get fucked or not?” he just grins and says “Please!”

Alma dopes up at her house – this time it isn’t a clear liquid like the laudanum, but brown and cloudy. She fusses with the bedclothes and then goes to knock on Ellsworth’s door. He’s taking a bath and is startled at the interruption. When he nervously comes out, she advances on him, kissing him. It is so heart-breaking: he would love to love her but he can tell that she’s high and turns her down, saying he’ll move out of the house and live out at the mine. Poor Ellsworth. Alma sucks.

And where has Bullock been this whole time, especially during the Dan vs. the Captain fight? He’s been at the livery with Hostetler, N.G. and Steve, looking for that board on which Hostetler recorded Steve’s sex act with the horse oh so long ago. When they finally find the board, it’s been erased because it was written on with chalk, and Bullock is SO annoyed with this whole pointless thing. Stupid Steve accuses Hostetler of keeping the real board to use against him at a later date. Hostetler takes Steve's abuse for a while, then shouts that he won’t be called a liar and storms out of the barn. A shot is heard. When Bullock peeks around the corner, Hostetler has shot himself in the head rather than deal with Steve’s bullshit any longer. Fuckin’ Steve.

Johnny asks Al to look in on Dan but Al says “some shit’s better walked through alone.” Johnny doesn’t understand, saying that Dan’s killed people before – why is he taking this one so hard? Al gently explains that he and Dan usually try to avoid fair fights since fair fights are different: “You see the light go out of their eyes – it’s just you left, and death.”

Hearst walks into the Bella Union and gets a bottle of whiskey. He’s “just seen to the remains of a friend.” He looks a little shaky. Meanwhile, Bullock has just had enough, Hostetler’s awful suicide having pushed him past all patience, and he stalks into the hotel, demanding if Hearst is in. In a lovely little scene, E.B. frantically tells him out loud that he couldn’t possibly report on the whereabouts of the hotel’s owner, all the while writing “Bella Union” on a slip of paper and handing it to the sheriff. Bullock understands E.B.’s play and stalks back out.

Cy joins Hearst at the Bella Union bar. Hearst seems pretty drunk by now. Oops: now here’s Bullock. The sheriff orders a whiskey and knocks it back quickly, noting that Hearst sounds drunk. Hearst tells him to fuck himself. Gerald McRaney is very scary. Bullock asks, “Did you just tell me ‘fuck myself’?” Hearst answers in the affirmative, adding that if Bullock doesn’t shut up, he’ll quiet the sheriff himself. He says this several times to make sure Bullock gets it. Pulling his gun, Bullock announces that Hearst is under arrest for threatening a peace officer and drags the big man out BY HIS EAR! Outstanding.

Al watches the sheriff leading Hearst to the jail and notes to Johnny that Bullock has just eliminated some of Al’s options. Merrick, observing the sheriff and Hearst walking by, looks up at Al. Al tells him that not a word is to make it into the paper about this and Merrick just nods.

Next episode/previous episode

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Random tidbits

This Grand Jury thing is definitely making me into a full-fledged misanthrope. I almost murdered* one of my fellow jurors today (which is "kinda meta," according to my friend Kevin C. - hee hee) for her amazing display of fatuousness. I'm a pretty patient person but I have a very low tolerance for stupidity. Grrrrrr.

R.I.P. Heath Ledger. What a sad thing. I guess that the theories are tending towards accidental overdose of multiple prescription drugs that he was taking for insomnia, anxiety and assorted other issues. I certainly hope it was accidental. He wasn't the best young actor out there but he was a good one, took on interesting roles and only seemed to be getting better as time went on. It's a real shame. And I need to stop having little crushes on cute, talented, young Aussies because between Ledger and Michael Hutchence, I keep getting my heart broken.

I finished that punctuation book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, a while back. I've found it difficult to come up with enough for a full review on a book about punctuation - imagine - so here are some snapshot thoughts: it's very funny and insightful ... and quite British; and if you have any interest in language at all, I encourage you to pick this one up. It even comes with punctuation mark stickers so you can do your own guerilla corrections on signage at large. (Plus, did you see how many marks I used in this paragraph alone? Brilliant!)

Lost starts back up in ONE WEEK! That means I better hurry up and finish all those Deadwood recaps that are hanging over my head. O.K. - I'm on it!

* Not literally murdered, of course. I'm a misanthrope, not a sociopath.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book review: Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce

The full title of this delightful young adult fantasy novel is Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog. Now, in all honesty, the Red Dog is only tangential to the story, but the rest of it is pretty important.

Flora Nemain Fyrdraaca ov Fyrdraaca or, “Flora Segunda,” since she is the second daughter of the current Fyrdraaca family to bear that name, is the narrator of this tale and the bearer of a weight of woe. Her mother is a high-ranking military officer; her living older sister is on the military fast track as well. Flora’s father, a liberated POW, is mostly insane and housebound, and since her mother is out commanding things most often, Flora has to keep an eye on him. Flora also has to do all the chores around their 11,000-room house: there used to be a supernatural butler who took care of everything but Flora’s mother banished him. And worst of all, Flora is about to turn fourteen, which means she will become an adult in this fantastical world and join the army just like her mother and sister.

Flora doesn’t want to join the army. She wants to be a Ranger, acting “with cunning and with clarity of Will, and absolute focus – and magick.” Flora likes magick and has a predilection towards it; she also has a predilection to adventure, luckily for the reader. The extremely convoluted plot, in the broadest strokes possible, is this: Flora discovers her house’s banished magickal butler, Valefor, and tries to restore him to his former glory, not least so that he will take over mucking out the horse stables so she doesn’t have to do it anymore. She and her best pal, Udo (a budding fashionista with a fair amount of courage in his own right), while attempting to restore Valefor, also attempt to save a pirate by busting him out of military prison – with mixed success. Flora’s attempts to help Valefor result in his vampirishly siphoning off most of her Will and it is only through a showdown with the most powerful wizard in the land that Flora comes back into her own. And then, to top it all off, she’s got to tell her mom that she doesn’t want to join the family business. Trust me: it all comes together wonderfully with plenty of room for sequels.

My best pop culture comparison reference for this novel would be to imagine an early Harry Potter book written by Lemony Snicket. The author (and if “Ysabeau S. Wilce” is not a nom de plume, then I’ve never heard one) revels in words as she speaks to us through her clever-yet-innocent narrator. Flora’s world is rich with magick, warfare and crumbling family honor. There are real life issues present in this child’s world (pressure to meet a parent’s expectations, helplessness in the face of a parent’s decline) as well as fantastical ones (living in a house that has 11,000 rooms but only one functioning toilet … that is often not where you expect it to be). Flora struggles with her life - who she really is versus who her family expects her to be - and this makes her easily identifiable to the reader; that she does so with believable charm and humor makes her a friend to us.

It is my understanding that this is Wilce’s first full-length novel; I hope that it does well enough that she is able to continue to develop a series around these engaging characters as I think there are many stories yet to be told in this world. I was instantly charmed by Flora and I dare anyone else not to be.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cloverfield - mini-review

Note: spoilers ahead.

I went to see Cloverfield at the 1:30 p.m. matinee today, along with about fifteen well-sugared and antsy thirteen-year-olds, most of whom at least remembered to turn off their cellphones before the movie started. (Now, I wouldn't say I'm completely antisocial but that is why I prefer to go to the movies for the early Friday matinees: no people.) But I digress: Cloverfield. Really superfun.

I had tried very hard to remain unspoiled for this flick. I knew it was a monster movie that no one knew very much about other than it was set in NYC and shot with a shaky hand-held camera that induced severe motion sickness in many audiences. I knew that it was written by Buffy/Angel alumnus, Drew Goddard, and produced by J.J. Abrams of Alias and Lost fame. That was all I knew when I went into the theater (with my contraband peanut M&Ms) and sat towards the back; I've only gotten motion sick from sitting too close in a movie once (the Bourne Identity) and having heeded the warnings wasn't eager to experience it again.

Plotwise, there's not a lot to Cloverfield - as I've read several places online, this ain't no Lost in terms of storyline - but there's enough. SPOILER: Monsters attack New York City and a group of very attractive late 20-/early 30-somethings try to escape from the city before the government, unable to stop the monsters, nukes the Big Apple. Everybody dies. END SPOILER. There's not much to say about the acting either; there are no big names on screen and all the actors are fairly unmemorable. Everyone does a lot of screaming and sobbing and running and generally being terrified. I'm pretty sure I'd be screaming and sobbing and running myself, so I bought it. The character "filming" the action, Hud, is hardly ever on the screen (since he's behind the camera) but he gets every funny line and had my audience chuckling out loud several times as a tension-easer.

However, the plot and the acting are less important than the action - the action is paramount in this movie and I caught myself leaning forward in my seat several times. As I mentioned, the entire thing is shot as though one of the character sees the events unfold through his own minicam. The hand-held photography lends to the sense of panic since what the audience sees is often jerky, out of focus or just outside the frame. We can't really tell what's going on. This is also good for the CGI monsters. There's at least one great big one and a bunch of little vicious bug-monsters and since we see them through the minicam, we never get to see them long enough to nitpick any problems with the CGI (a la The Mist where the monsters were clearly the movie's weak spot). That being said, I thought the monsters were well-done and scary although I think the the big one's squealing is the same sound the Lost island smoke monster makes. (J.J. Abrams might want to add a little to his sound effects budget.) There's blood and carnage but the worst of it happens out of our direct line of sight, again allowing the audience's imaginations to help carry the load.

Lesson learned after watching the very entertaining Cloverfield: no matter how fancy the party is that you're going to attend, wear sensible shoes that you can run in just in case you end up getting attacked by monstrous, murderous beasties. No sense dying for fashion.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Greatest of All

Sometimes serendipity strikes: the following is a Japanese folk tale, recounted on the tag of a Folkmanis stuffed animal.

Once, long ago in Japan, a family of mice made their home in the Emperor's palace. Father Mouse was a proud creature with sleek white fur and long whiskers. One day his daughter, Chuko, asked permission to marry. "He is a handsome field mouse. May I, father?" she begged. "My daughter marry a humble field mouse?" he cried. "Never! Your husband must be the greatest of all." And so Father Mouse went to ask the Emperor to marry Chuko, for surely the Emperor was the greatest of all. "Oh, no," said the Emperor, "I am not the greatest, for when Sun beats down, even I must take shade. And when Cloud covers the sky, even Sun must hide his face. And when Wind blows, Cloud must run away. And when Wind hits Wall, Wind is stopped. Go ask Wall, friend mouse, for he must be the greatest." And so Father Mouse went to the ancient wall at the edge of the field. "There is someone even greater than I," said Wall, "who tunnels inside me and one day will bring me down. His name is Ko Nezumi, Field Mouse. You must ask him. He is the greatest of all." And that is just what Father Mouse did.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Book review: The Sport of Schutzhund: a Photographic Essay by BJ and Peter Spanos


I have a dog. Her particular skill set includes inhaling her food, sleeping on the couch, sleeping on the bed, sleeping under the bed (in the event of thunderstorms) and begging. The gorgeous dogs portrayed in the coffee table book, The Sport of Schutzhund: A Photographic Essay, are slightly more ambitious than that.

Schutzhund, from the German for “protection dog” is an international competition by which working dogs prove that they are worthy of the group. As herding trials show what border collies can do, Schutzhund trials put German Shepherds (and, to a lesser extent, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Giant Schnauzers, Belgian Malinois and other large, protective breeds) through their paces. The trials seek out dogs with courage, intelligence and a drive to serve.

There are three parts to a Schutzhund trial: tracking, obedience and protection. Tracking utilizes the dog’s expert nose as a track is laid out with turns over grass, dirt or brush and then “aged” for at least twenty minutes. The dog must – on its own as the handler follows the dog from a specified distance – follow the track and find the target articles that have been hidden along it. Obedience skills include heeling, lying down out of a run, jumping hurdles, scaling walls, retrieving dumbbells and coming when called. The protection test is the most dramatic: the dog must search for and find the hidden target (a person wearing plenty of padding and body armor); hold the target in place by a menacing bark only; and, in various intensities, catching and releasing the target upon command.

The Sport of Schutzhund: A Photographic Essay is a large soft-cover book filled with glossy color photographs, some professionally taken but most, it seems, submitted by Schutzhund enthusiasts who are also amateur photographers. It has some text, enough to explain the sport in broad strokes and to introduce the next group of photographs, which include images of the three trial stages (both training sessions and competition), dogs at play and some wonderful puppy pictures. This is not meant to be a history book or a training manual: the authors are simply hoping to introduce the sport to a broader audience.

A hardcover book would be easier to handle – the large size of the pages makes it a little unwieldy – but since the authors are donating the net proceeds, after expenses, to benefit Schutzhund organizations, I understand the need to keep costs down. The hundreds of photographs are largely wonderful, showing the strength and skill of these animal athletes; the few pictures that are obviously taken by amateurs more than compensate for lack of photographic experience by an abundance of love for their subjects.

Schutzhund trials were introduced to the United States thirty-seven years ago and seems to be slowly gaining ground. This book is an excellent introduction to the sport and will hopefully serve to garner more interest in and accolades for these hard-working canines and the people they protect and serve.

Updated 11/11/09: now available at Amazon.com - click through to buy!


Monday, January 14, 2008

Book review: The Summer of My Greek Taverna: a Memoir by Tom Stone

A long time ago I spent several months in Greece, in Chania on Crete. Many Greeks consider Crete to be the boondocks of the country and Chania, on the western end of the island, is in the boondocks of Crete. It didn’t matter: the old town was lovely and off the beaten tourist path; the locals were decent, hard-working folks; and the simple, fresh food was fantastic. Reading The Summer of My Greek Taverna: a Memoir, by Tom Stone, brought all the good memories of my time on Crete flooding back.

Stone arrived on the island of Patmos, on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, almost by accident, looking for a quiet place to write his novel. The book soon went on the back burner as he fell in love, first with the island and then with a young Frenchwoman who would soon become his wife. Stone wrote and sold his novel, began a family with his wife and renovated an ancient stone farmhouse. After seven years on Patmos, however, money began to get a little thin and they moved to Crete where Stone got a job teaching English in the town of Rethymnon. Suddenly, with no warning, Stone received a phone call from one of their Patmian friends asking if he would be interested in renting and running a taverna for the summer season. With scarcely a second thought, Stone, an eager amateur chef, packed up his family and they all went back to Patmos for the summer.

This memoir details the struggles and adventures involved in Stone’s taverna experience, from dealing with a crooked partner, to obtaining supplies during religious fasts and climatic droughts, to convincing his traditional Patmian neighbors that chili con carne was tasty. He learned the hard way that when your friends become your restaurant’s patrons, you are no longer their friend: they don’t laugh off the fly in the soup when their drachmas are on the line. Stone scarcely saw his wife and two young children from working 14-20 hour days during the summer’s height and soon developed severe varicose veins from being on his feet such long hours. The taverna was ultimately successful – the American Stone’s own recipe for moussaka was definitively preferred over the local versions – but far too demanding, and he gladly gave it up after the one summer.

The Summer of My Greek Taverna is a nice, easily read little book. Stone does a good job of utilizing reminiscences from his earliest seven-year sojourn on Patmos to give the island’s history and to flesh out his characters. In addition to being a memoir, this book is also a cookbook: the author writes lovingly of food and includes nineteen recipes that he put into play in the taverna’s kitchen. Many are traditional Greek dishes, like tzatziki (a yogurt-based cucumber and garlic dip), keftedes (Greek meatballs), and moussaka (sort of an American chop suey style casserole with béchamel sauce); he also includes the chili con carne and a chicken curry that sounds wonderful. [Note: the links in the paragraph above are for different recipes: you gotta get the book to get Tom Stone's versions.]

Memoirs can be difficult to write without getting mawkish. Stone is never overly sentimental and recalls his summer with fairly clear eyes — not hesitating to call himself a fool when foolish — but Greece's islands have a way of romancing the flintiest of hearts. Even after all his blood, sweat, and tears in the taverna, and getting rooked by his purported friend for his trouble, Stone is still enamored with Patmos. His little book is the love letter he'd like us all to read.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Deadwood recap - “Full Faith and Credit” (S3E4)

The dropping: Lots of little transactions happen in this episode but nobody gets killed. Hearst wants Al and Cy to see to his dealings in Deadwood. Doc is dealing with a bad illness of his own. Bullock brokers a deal for Steve to buy the livery. Joanie makes a deal to sell the Chez Amie to Al's dandy friend Jack. Leon deals to Alma.

SWEARING-HARSH LANGUAGE-POTTYMOUTH VOCABULARY

After his weekly survey of the Bella Union whores, Doc checks in on Cy. Doc looks really bad and sounds even worse with his cough. A crowd has gathered in the thoroughfare underneath a sign that has been covered by a cloth: it’s the grand opening of the Bank of Deadwood. Joanie Stubbs is out for a stroll and Jack Langrishe walks with her for a bit. He asks if she’d be willing to sell or rent the Chez Amie building to him so that he could use it to stage his plays. She’s a little taken aback and snaps that it’s a schoolhouse now.

Hearst’s captain delivers another note to Al from his boss. The Captain and Dan growl at each other a little – I predict bloody conflict down the line between those two. Al reads the note, remarking, “Another fuckin’ invite. Hearst must take me for an optimist.” Dan mutters, “I’m going to kill that cocksucker.” Al appeases him with a raised eyebrow and a bemused “All in good time.”

The younger of Langrishe’s chubby female companions strolls into the Bella Union and commences flirting with Con Stapleton. He’s gross and I don’t see the point of any of this scene (or subsequent ones when they screw) so I’m not recapping any of it. Jane receives a telegram from N.G. and takes it to Charlie who reads it for her. N.G. wants to know the state of affairs in the camp as regards the horse that killed Martha Bullock’s son. Charlie and Jane agree that the men would be crazy to try to bring that horse back to camp. Just then, N.G. and Hostetler ride by the freight office, leading the horse. “Aw – fuck!” exclaims Jane. Meanwhile, Steve is at Hostetler’s abandoned livery, caring for the horses. It’s clear that he loves working with them and is much better suited to it than to working with people. He looks up to see Hostetler staring at him from the street, lips quivering with rage. That’s right, snarls Steve, you’ve come back to take it all away from me.

Joanie finds Charlie at the freight office and presents her shall-I-sell-my-place dilemma to him. She doesn’t know what to do and latches onto the concern of displacing the schoolchildren. She says she wishes she could have cared for the little ones just once “instead of doing what I did.” Poor thing – she’s so lost. Steve is storming around in Tom Nuttal’s bar, all bombastic and dropping f-bombs left and right. He goes to the hardware store to tell Bullock that Hostetler’s brung the horse back. Bullock grabs his hat and heads out, grimacing.

Ellsworth has brought his wife an apple on her first day of work. She smiles sweetly, and then unthinkingly asks, “You don’t confuse me with Mrs. Bullock, do you?” He doesn’t appear to pick up on it but she realizes what she’s just said and makes a little face of annoyance at herself. It’s cute. Trixie is now working as a bank teller and needs a little lesson in customer service when dealing with a belligerent depositor. Ellsworth and Alma tag-team to calm things down. A little later, Leon [Cy’s opium-addict faro dealer] opens his bank account. I’m not really paying attention to the text or the subtext here but at one point, Alma gives Leon a strange look.

Bullock finds Hostetler at the livery as Steve rampages out at Nuttal’s bar. Hostetler apologizes for his part in William’s death and lays himself on Bullock’s mercy. The sheriff says he has no intention of going after Hostetler for an accident. Then Bullock asks about Steve: “Any chance to keep hell from breakin’ loose between you?” You know, all the Hostetler vs. Steve scenes in this episode are a pain to recap. What it all boils down to is Bullock hilariously plays go-between trying to arbitrate Steve’s purchase of the livery from Hostetler. It’s comical and gives the sheriff something to do besides fret over Hearst.

Joanie practices her response to Jack Langrishe’s offer in front of Charlie: she’ll sell but she wants him to build a new schoolhouse first. She’s not sure if Mrs. Bullock will like that so Charlie offers to find out for her. Okay, she says, and then she’ll talk with Langrishe. Unfortunately Charlie catches Bullock right in the middle of brokering the livery deal and while he receives a favorable answer to Joanie’s question, Bullock nearly bites his head off in the process. Is Bullock the camp’s first realtor? Heh.

Oh good – it’s time for Al’s latest blowjob monologue. He’s trying to clear his head (ahem) before he meets with Hearst. Dolly the whore is having trouble getting the job done (or perhaps Al is having the trouble) so, during a break in the action he asks her who she’s going to vote for in the election. “Star for mayor and Harry Manning for sheriff,” she says. No, instructs Al: “It’s Star for mayor and Bullock for sheriff.” Dolly shakes her head, “Bullock yells at you.” Aw. Sighing, Al tells her to get out.

Downstairs, Jack catches Al on his way to meet Hearst. He wants to know if Al knows any reason why Joanie Stubbs might not want to sell. “I don’t know, Jack,” says Al, “She’s all right.” Al is fretting a little about seeing Hearst and Jack gallantly offers to accompany him as his second: “My obvious unsuitability might confuse him.” Jack throws some cute little air punches and Al tries not to laugh before going on alone.

Cy is waiting in the hotel lobby and he and Al go up to Hearst’s rooms together. “I think Cochran’s a lunger,” says Cy conversationally. “Bit motley ourselves,” observes Al, gesturing to Cy’s belly wound with his own maimed hand. [I think “lunger” refers to someone afflicted with tuberculosis. Crap. I don’t want them to kill off Doc!] In the meeting, Cy is sycophantic and Al is cranky. Hearst says he’ll be coming and going a lot, as staying in Deadwood doesn’t suit his temperament, and insinuates that he’ll be hiring Al and Cy to see to his interests in the camp. Al wants to know whom Hearst wants killed and how much he’ll get for it but Hearst wants to drag things out. Al has had enough dancing around and snaps that once Hearst and Cy have decided on names and numbers they should tell fuckin’ Adams and he’ll be go-between for Swearengen. “Him and me,” hisses Al, pointing at Hearst, “We’ve had our last word.” Al leaves and Cy looks thoughtful.

At the hotel’s dining room, Joanie has made her stipulations of sale to Langrishe and they reach an agreement, shaking hands.

Adams finally shows up for Al’s bidding. Swearengen is very angry that Adams was looking for his friend Hawkeye and not readily at his beck and call. (Can anyone tell me why Al hates Hawkeye so much? I honestly have no idea.) He tells Adams that he’s to be the go-between. Adams, noting Dan stomping to the back of the Gem, asks how Dan will take Al not choosing him for this job. “That’s my problem,” says Al and sends Adams off. Langrishe arrives with news of his real estate purchase. Al buys him a drink and congratulates him, then excuses himself to “go have [his] ear pissed in.” He finds Dan, sulking in a corner: “You know you hurt my feelings.” Hee hee hee – pouty Dan! Dan insists his loyalty to Al should never be in question. Al sighs. “You’d never go against me,” he explains. “Fuckin’ point is Tolliver knows. I need someone he don’t know that about.” Dan is appeased and admits that he doesn’t think Adams would go against Al either. They sit a moment, and then Al tells Dan that word in the camp is that Doc is a lunger. Dan shakes his head dolefully, “Jesus Christ. It’s just one fuckin’ thing after another.”

A-ha, this is what the look Alma gave Leon at the bank was all about: in the evening, as she stands looking out her window as she so often does, Alma sees Leon out in the thoroughfare. He sees her too, and doffs his hat; she excuses herself from Ellsworth and Sofia, saying she’s going to take some air. Junkie-lady’s off to get herself a fix. I totally called it.

Joanie tells Jane that even though she’s selling the Chez Amie, Jane is still welcome to go wherever Joanie ends up. Jane asks if Mose is invited too, because Joanie might have to widen the doorways. They stand companionably, looking around at the room. “Where would the stage be?” wonders Jane. “I don’t know,” replies Joanie. “Yeah, I don’t know either.” Their timing is really good in this little scene. Aw – the Bullocks are lying in bed, fully clothed, holding hands. Bullock is telling her about the livery sale he’s been trying to broker. She asks him to please see that no harm comes to the horse.

Al and Dolly are trying again. It’s still not working. Al is pretty wound up, saying that he did not shame himself in there with Hearst; the captain held him down and when you’re held down, you can’t defend yourself. He gives himself a chill thinking about it; a memory of being held down as a child after his mother (?) left him at the orphanage comes rushing in. Poor damaged Al. Dolly pipes up that she doesn’t like being held down either. Al is gentle as he says, “I guess I do that, huh, with your fuckin’ hair.” Dolly can’t speak against her boss and says no. “No?” repeats Al, “Well, bless you for a fuckin’ fibber.”

Next episode/previous episode

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Deadwood recap - “True Colors” (S3E3)

Al, his injured hand wrapped in a bandage, is looking a little worse for wear. Trixie comes into his office to give him the latest news – including Alma Garrett-Ellsworth’s meeting with Hearst today, at Alma’s suggestion – and to badger him about turning into a recluse. Did Hearst get to him, she wants to know. Their argument is interrupted when the stagecoach rolls in, bearing a suited Mr. Wu, closely followed by a private wagon train. An British gentleman in fairly fancy clothes looks right up at Al and tells him, “I am barely speakin’ to you!” Al rolls his eyes as Trixie wonders who the new arrival is. He’s in the company of a fat, pretty woman (the mama hooch dancer from Carnivale) and an older fat woman – they must be show people of some sort. Hearst comes running out of his hotel to hug a fat black woman, also arrived on the stagecoach; “Hearst’s meals are about to improve,” mutters Trixie. Al sends her away with orders to keep reporting to him. She leaves, satisfied.

Alma is wrapping up a physical check-up with Doc Cochran. They are both thrilled with her rapid recovery but her mood changes from glee to paranoia much faster than usual. When he asks if she’s taking the medicine he left for her, she defensively insists that she poured it out. I think she’s lying. I think she’s using the laudanum again to dull the pain of losing the baby. We’re going to see Addict Alma again, mark my words.

Heart’s newly arrived cook is Aunt Lou, and she gives him a world of grief over his living conditions. They reminisce about how much they liked Missouri but, when he tells her that these hills may hold the richest find he’s ever seen, she figures she’ll do just fine here. Wu checks in with Al: he’s been to San Francisco collecting Chinese mineworkers for Hearst. Wu and Al strategize a bit and confirm their alliance.

At the Ellsworth house, Ellsworth and Alma are fighting because of her upcoming meeting with Hearst. He doesn’t like the idea at all, but if she’s going to go through with it, he says she should just set her price and be done with it: Hearst does not appreciate his partners trying to set terms. Ellsworth is referring to the contract Alma painstakingly drawn up. She won’t be dissuaded from meeting with Hearst, however, and her husband insists on accompanying her. This won’t go that well.

Jack Langrishe is the fancy British fellow who arrived this morning. He knew Al from back in Virginia but Al is still pretty cagey around him in front of other people. This cast isn’t big enough that they need to add more? Still, he seems like he may prove entertaining. The actor is so familiar looking – it’s driving me crazy. [Ah, yes: IMDB tells me he’s Brian Cox from only eight million movies (Rob Roy, Braveheart, Rushmore, Super Troupers, X2, The Bourne Identity etc., Red Eye, Zodiac )... no wonder he’s so familiar.]

Alma and Ellsworth arrive for their Hearst meeting. Hearst is charming, Alma is gracious and Ellsworth is tense, rude and scarcely able to control his anger. Things deteriorate quickly as Ellsworth starts to unravel. Alma reschedules. Down in the thoroughfare, Ellsworth tries to forbid her from meeting again with Hearst. Her spine goes ramrod-stiff and she brings her full snooty against poor Ellsworth. He doesn’t have a chance – she’s not about to let a man tell her what to do. I bet even Bullock wouldn’t have been able to.

Speaking of Bullock - he is interviewing two crying Cornishmen at Charlie’s freight office/jail: a friend of theirs fell into a mineshaft and died, having his legs cut off (I think – it’s tough to tell with their accents and it looks as though Bullock is having nearly as much difficulty as I am). The dead Cornishman was trying to organize the workers and these two fellows think Hearst’s men killed him on purpose. Bullock starts to make some connections: first the Cornish murder in the Gem, now this. He goes to the hardware store, slowly working himself into a fine temper about Hearst’s arrogance, and decides to put him on notice (whatever that means) for all the Cornish deaths. Bad idea, Bullock.

Trixie is at Doc’s and he questions her about Alma’s unusually changeable moods. He can’t finish the conversation, however, because he has a coughing fit and ends up spitting something nasty into his cupped hands. Trixie seems equally horrified, concerned and disgusted, but he sends her away. Upset, she goes to the hardware store and tries to explain her worries about Doc’s health. She can’t articulate her anxiety, however, and ends up snapping at the hapless Sol.

Al is giving Jack Langrishe the walking tour of the camp. When they get to the new part of town, Al points out Alma’s place as the residence of the second richest strike in camp. Jack wonders what kind of plays she favors (show people – told you!) and Al smacks himself on the forehead, “Christ, she told me and I fucking forgot.” He goes on to editorialize a little: “Goes through her men like Sherman to the fucking sea.” This makes both Mr. Mouse and me laugh and Jack raise an eyebrow. As they circle around, Al starts to get worked up about Hearst, ranting and railing about his nemesis. Jack stops him, pointing out all the staring campfolk, and gently says that this is not the initial impression he would like to make. Al bites his tongue and they part company.

Bullock’s meeting with Hearst is not going all that well. Hearst gets defensive quickly and Bullock gets all up in his face. Both these men have terrible tempers but Hearst just seethes with power. Bullock knows he isn’t going to get any further here and leaves; Hearst just turns his back and ignores him. Some time later, Hearst pays a visit to Cy who is apparently still too incapacitated to leave the Bella Union. Cy is really no longer actually scary but only obsequious. Hearst has complete control of their encounter and makes Cy his bitch in short order. I actually feel a little sorry for Tolliver and that makes me angry. I don’t want to feel sorry for him. Yuck.

At the Gem, Dan and Johnny try to pump Al for information about his “dandy” buddy, Jack. Bullock stomps up in full glower and grumps that Wu needs to let him have access to the dead body in the meat locker. Al asks if the sheriff tried to gain admittance; Bullock replies, “He just said ‘Swedgin’ [in a dead-on impersonation of Wu] and barred my way.” Al wonders, “Do you have eyes to make your own cut?” And Bullock glares at him, “Are you gonna fuck with me?” The camera cuts to Dan who is trying to keep from grinning. I wonder if that little smile was scripted. They move on and Bullock mentions the latest death in Hearst’s mine. Al doesn’t want to make a move on Hearst now but Bullock reminds him, “Now is when he’s killing people.” “Oh, you think he’ll leave off soon?” Al snarks. Bullock is steadfast, insisting, “Tactics and timin’ ain’t the issue.” “The hell you say,” grunts Al. I love-love-love Bullock and Al as allies.

Oh shit. Alma is headed to her meeting with Hearst. She apologizes for the earlier “awkwardness” between her husband and Hearst. He is charming … for about three seconds until she reads her offer to him. She offers him a 49% interest in her mine in exchange for a 5% interest in his. There’s a lot more to it but I can’t pay attention because Hearst’s visage has undergone a horrific change; he actually seems to grow bigger. He is furious and offended and begins to raise his voice to her. He is a minority partner to no one – it is not in his nature. He shouts that he will name a price to buy her claim outright but she stands, brave or foolish or both, and says she will not hear it. Actually, she’s pretty frigging amazing right now, to be opposing him at all. He is very scary. Hearst looms over her, threatening her. He drops his voice to a whisper and she almost breaks, but then he steps back and she skedaddles from his room. Outside, Bullock sees her in the thoroughfare. She looks stricken and stares at the sheriff, but says nothing and runs – actually runs – away.

Alma makes it back to her home and by then has collected herself. She recounts her experience but is all bravado. Ellsworth is beside himself. They argue – it’s awful to watch because he cares about her so much – and he mutters, “I only wanted to protect you.” She snarls back at him, “You can’t.” Emphasis on the “you.” Bitch. Ellsworth leaves, so upset. I just know he’s going to go after Hearst and I just know that when he does, Hearst is going to kill him.

The Bullocks are having another awkward dinner with Charlie and Sol. Bullock is concerned that Hearst will make a farce of the elections. Charlie asks what the sheriff is thinking to keep that from happening. “Laws,” Bullock begins, and Charlie interrupts, exclaiming “Christ!” He don’t want no stinkin’ laws.

This time, Cy goes to the hotel to meet with Hearst. Hearst is horrible to him, but does for some reason confess that his own temper today almost brought him to “murdering the sheriff and raping Mrs. Ellsworth.” He looks pensive and ALMOST a little sorry about it, but perhaps it’s just the lighting in the room. Hearst says that he knows that making himself feel better in the short term [raping and murdering folk] is harmful to his long-term interests [gouging lots of gold out of the earth]. Cy sucks up to him and it’s really disgusting. You know, this may be the role of Gerald McRaney's life: he is evil like he has never been before.

Al and Jack take an evening drink on Al’s balcony, Al staring balefully at Hearst’s rooms across the way. He tells his friend that he wonders about himself, why he hasn’t made a play to slit Hearst’s throat yet. When he goes on to claim to have no ambitions for himself, Jack cries bullshit and says that Al would work to keep the camp, his own creation, from ruin or “in cinders.” Al turns back to watch the thoroughfare, saying, “I will if I have to. Avoidin’ it, if I could.”

Next episode/previous episode

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Courthouse Mouse

I have been empanelled as a Grand Juror for the U.S. District Court. Not a regular old trial jury, mind you: the Grand Jury. Grand Juries don’t decide guilt or innocence, nor do they find if the prosecution has proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Grand Juries hear the evidence and decide if there is reasonable probability enough to merit a trial, and then hand out indictments so the trial can commence. I can’t tell you anything about our specific cases – which in federal court include firearms violations, drug violations, mail fraud/theft, bank robberies, money laundering, tax evasion, child pornography, immigrations violations, customs violations, identity theft and falsified documents – but I guess I can tell you all about the administrative goings-on.

I’d been sent a brief questionnaire that asked about occupation, level of education, had I (or a family member) ever been convicted of a crime, etc., which I completed and mailed back ahead of time. I was then summoned to appear at 8:00 a.m. on January 8th (my birthday, coincidentally) at the U.S. District Court. After passing through a metal detector and bag scanner very much like at the airport (and manned by aged and husky security guards whom I’m pretty sure I could have outrun), I was sent to Courtroom #1. This was a huge and beautiful room with a vaulted ceiling, Corinthian columns and dark wood furniture. Even the gallery benches were comfortable, padded with nice thick cushions; unfortunately my feet were left hanging about five inches from the floor and my legs soon fell asleep.

There were around forty prospective jurors assembled, a true mix of ages and socioeconomic backgrounds; I think I was in the younger half age-wise and in the 90th percentile education-wise. We were all Caucasian, however, because this is Maine. Scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m., at 7:54 a.m. we were told, “If you’re selected [as a Grand Juror], you’ll be here all day.” Great. I quickly snarfed down a Clif Bar for my breakfast – just moments before someone else was smacked down for having food in the courtroom. This is apparently verboten – who knew.

At 8:11 a.m. we were shown a forty-five minute-long video, circa 1970 and rife with Afros and double-knit suits, which dramatized what it means to be a Grand Jury, “The People’s Panel.” It was narrated by the venerable John Houseman and featured a brief speech by now deceased Chief Justice Warren Burger; the overarching message was that to serve on a Grand Jury is an honor, a civic duty and a means to protect the rights of all Americans. In short, blah blah blah.

After the video, Sue the Jury Administrator spoke to us. She’s been doing this job for over seventeen years and amazingly has still retained a sense of humor. She gave us all the opportunity to present to her any excuses as to why we just couldn’t serve. Around fifteen people went up to speak with Sue; she asked several of them to write down their rationales; at 9:20 a.m. she excused six of them outright. Lucky duckies. Then Sue read off thirty names, including mine: twenty-four regular Grand Jurors and six alternates. I was selected as a regular, which means that I have to report for Grand Jury duty four days each month for a year. That’s forty-eight days – my boss is wigging out. The alternates only get to play if a regular juror gets permanently excused. My feelings were these: dread, annoyance, frustration, impatience, boredom. Forty-eight days. I could see outside through the tall windows, all bright blue and unseasonably warm temperatures. Sigh.

We were given a short break and then some Judge (all rise!) arrived to swear in the juror pool. He then gave us an interminable civics lesson [see above re: needing only to find sufficient evidence to justify an accusation and determine probable cause]. At this point I was getting hungry and wasn’t paying attention. There was no way I was going to remember everything the Judge said (he ended up speaking to us for nearly half an hour) – I wondered why didn’t we get handouts. We were told that sixteen Grand Jurors must be present to hear evidence and constitute a quorum (hence the large pool of twenty-four in case more than one someone calls in sick or is on vacation) and twelve votes are required for an indictment.

The Judge then very sternly instructed us on the permanent secrecy required by a Grand Jury. We can’t tell anyone anything ever. This is to (a) safeguard the reputations of folks under investigation who are ultimately not indicted (protecting the innocent), (b) protect the witnesses who testify against the target of an investigation and (c) keep from warning the targets that they are under investigation so they don’t flee. Finally, at 10:23 a.m., a Jury Foreman and Deputy Foreman were selected. Not me, thankfully: I counted that as a birthday present. I immediately became calmer and realized that all I have to do is sit in the back of the room, listen to the evidence and vote. I can do that.

We then were shown upstairs to the Grand Jury suite. We have a break room, complete with a minifridge and the world’s oldest and smallest microwave. Our courtroom is small, modern and has no windows. We were introduced to an assistant U.S. attorney and the paralegal that will serve as liaison between the U.S. attorney’s office and us. The AUSA [great acronym, no?] gave us more of the honor/duty/blah blah spiel and then told us to leave behind all preconceived notions a la Law and Order. He told us about the types of cases we’ll see and the various agencies we’ll hear from: ATF, FBI, DEA, IRS, USPIS, etc. I was so hungry at this point that my stomach was audibly growling and I was horrified that the juror sitting next to me would hear it. If he did, he was polite about it.

We were instructed that hearsay is perfectly admissible and common for Grand Juries, as long as we find the source credible. We were told that some of the witnesses would not be very nice people: many would be in orange jumpsuits and manacles, brought in by U.S. marshals. Unlike a trial jury, the Grand Jury is allowed to ask questions of the witnesses as long as they are without prejudice (e.g. you can’t ask about prior convictions) and do not involve speculation or legal conclusions; our questions would be prescreened by the AUSAs and asked by them on our behalf.

It was explained that the federal prosecutors are not out to “nail ‘em to the wall” [that’s a direct quote] but rather use the Grand Jury as a sounding board to gauge how a trial jury might respond to a particular case, presenting damaging evidence as well as the good stuff. We learned that there is no plea-bargaining allowed in federal cases: it’s either plead guilty to the most serious charges contained in the indictment or go to trial. That being said, one-third to one-half of the most serious cases won’t even get to indictment because the target of the investigation will plead guilty by virtue of the information. They’ll still get hit with the charges that would have been in the indictment, but they’ll avoid the trial.

The AUSA finally paused at 11:49 a.m., which was good because I was incredibly hungry and restless. I’d been seated on a hard wooden bench (no cushion this time) and my butt and my knees were killing me … although at least my feet were touching the floor this time. We broke for lunch but were instructed to be back a little before 1:00 p.m. as we were going to start hearing cases. No easing into it for a Grand Jury!

Hear cases we did, two yesterday and four today, and I’ve found the subject matter all much more interesting than I ever expected. We’ve also met four of the AUSAs from the Portland office – also more interesting than I expected, ranging from unsmiling, focused and quick-talking; to soft-spoken yet intense; to a Scorsese extra in another lifetime; to a vivaciously-filled wrap dress with knee boots (that’s the firearms prosecutor and she is one hot ticket). My fellow jurors do challenge my patience and tolerance a bit, but I think I can manage to keep the eye rolling to a minimum, plus no one will see if I’m sitting in the back. It’s going to be a wild ride. And if an upcoming post here is ever entitled “Jailhouse Mouse,” you’ll know that I know what I’m in for.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Children of Men - mini-review

This movie has been on my list of to-see-movies ever since AICN was raving about it last fall. It was on an HBO channel last night and I just devoured it, perched on the edge of my chair for much of the film. You gotta see it; it's bleak, it's science-fiction, and it's terribly well done.

Children of Men is not your usual sci-fi fare. It's a subgenre that doesn't get too much celluloid attention, the Mad Max trilogy notwithstanding: a post-apocalyptic not-too-far-from-our-future future. There are no aliens or spaceships. What there is is a shattered Earth in which all women have been infertile for twenty-seven years. The human race is dying - there are no new babies and the grown-ups are tearing themselves apart. Clive Owen plays Theo, a former activist who is enlisted by his ex, played by Julianne Moore, to help smuggle a refugee girl out of London. Kee, the refugee girl, is pregnant - by some unexplained miracle - and the fear is that everyone (militant nationalist revolutionaries, the militant national government) will want to use her baby to further their own agenda.

Clive Owen does a very good job as the reluctant hero, dragged out of the relative safety of his life to aid in the possible salvation of all life on the planet. Michael Caine, Theo's elderly pot-growing subversive friend, steals every scene he's in - and lives in a way-cool house.

Children of Men is adapted from [screenplay co-written by director Alfonso Cuarón] the 1992 novel of the same name by P.D. James, whom I have long loved for her Adam Dagliesh murder mysteries. No one - not the characters, not the audience - knows why there are no more babies; the thing is, the world has become so terrible we're not sure anyone would want to bring any children into it even if they could. The movie is dark, violent and without very much hope for the fate of the world. There is ambiguity at the end, however, and the possibility that humankind may be saved after all. Whether they deserve it is another story altogether.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Deadwood recap - “I Am Not The Fine Man You Take Me For” (S3E2)

The dropping: Mr. Wu is out of town and the bodies begin to stack up in his absence. Sol becomes a homeowner. Alma does not become a mother. Everybody's giving speeches but Calamity Jane's is the best-received. Al gives Hearst the finger - just not the way he had intended.

BAD LANGUAGE, WILL ROBINSON, WARNING! WARNING!

A drunken hooplehead climbs up the empty stage in the thoroughfare and gives his own speech, waking up Al. Then the hoople falls off, landing on his head and breaking his neck with an audible crunch. Al goes back to sleep ‘til the morning light when he, a shirtless Dan (yikes) and a union-suited Johnny (back-flap wide open) find and collect the corpse. In his rooms, Hearst is solemnly marking something on a piece of paper while the captain watches. Bullock teases Mrs. B about the weakness of the tea she’s made him; he smiles at her genuinely but she’s a little annoyed that he hadn’t brought it up earlier. Then he runs his hand down her spine and it’s very sexy, corsets and clothing notwithstanding. Having finished his examination, Doc tells Alma that she’s not doing as well as he hoped and that she will probably lose the baby. She is bleeding and he wishes to abort the fetus to save her life. Unhappily, she sends Doc off to make his arrangements while she takes care of her own.

At the Gem, Dan and the boys want to know why they don’t strike first if they know Hearst will be coming for them. Al cautions patience. The captain appears to deliver a message to Al from Hearst; Al receives it with a quizzical eyebrow. Joanie visits Cy again. He’s still proclaiming his newfound faith. She, however, is panicky and tells him that she thought of killing herself. Cy gets angry, saying that what brings on those thoughts is a lack of purposeful occupation and being useful to others. He wants her to come back to run his whores but she really doesn’t want to. Outside, Lila is in a bad way, doped to the gills. Joanie grabs onto her and makes her start walking – she just can’t keep from helping. Calamity Jane asks Mose to help her lug in water as she is going to take a bath. “Camp get up a petition?” snarks Mose, but he helps anyway and asks if he listen in on the talk she gives to the school children.

Dan, Adams and Johnny are completely befuddled as to the diagram Hearst has sent to Al. The boss explains that it’s a sketch of the Gem’s bar with Hearst’s murderers in specific locations. Okay, but that’s still not so clear. E.B. practices his speech while Richardson tends to his wounds – the speech is, as expected, ridiculous. Back at the Gem, Al is tending bar for four of Hearst’s men, two of whom killed the Cornishman, all of whom are in the diagrammed positions. Suddenly and in concert, Al and Dan slit the throats of the two murderers and Al sends the other two lackeys back to Hearst, telling them that the speeches are back on for tonight. Charlie stops in, looks at the carnage and heads back out, saying, “I’ll drink after I’ve et.” Adams is not involved in these throat-slittings because he is at the hardware store, signing over his house to Sol.

Trixie sits with Alma who is giving an oral last will and testament: all pre-marriage properties she and Ellsworth had remain separate and unencumbered (as they had apparently decided upon previously – they had a prenup!); Sophia is to be her sole heir; and there are to be no changes to the guardianship or stewardship of Sophia’s interests. Poor Ellsworth’s feelings are hurt because this means Bullock. Trixie gives him a sympathetic look.

Jane, clean and shiny, comes to school to give her talk. She seems relaxed and manages to tell her tale without any cuss words – amazing! Bullock and Charlie reconvene at the hotel restaurant where Hearst is at his lunch. “Two of his men with throats cut and he picks the fish!” marvels Charlie. Bullock asks why Charlie thinks the men are Hearst’s but they are interrupted when Ellsworth appears, saying his wife would like to see the sheriff. Off goes Bullock. He promises Alma that he will take care of Sophia. There are some lengthy, longing gazes between the two of them (“I regret nothing,” she says breathily) before he can’t stand it anymore and leaves. Ellsworth goes back up to his wife where she asks him to remind Sophia that the full moon is in a couple of days. She holds his hand and promises that all three of them will watch it together. Sol stops by the Ellsworth house to tell Trixie that he’s bought Adams’s place. He’s very cute and excited about it and she smiles as she turns away.

Dan and Johnny clean up the Gem’s latest corpses as Dan explains that Hearst set this scenario to square things with Al. (I think – I’m feeling as dim as Johnny right about here.) Upstairs, Adams is a little hurt that he wasn’t involved with the throat cutting – everyone’s so sensitive these days. “You have no idea how badly you’re fucking boring me,” growls Al. The captain walks in with another message from Hearst. Al reads it and, without a word, walks out of his saloon. The three boys follow him, Adams grumping that “if he were trailing water, we might get mistook for ducklings.” Heh. Across the thoroughfare, Hearst is knocking a hole in the hotel wall so he can walk out on the porch roof. His message to Al: “Come watch the speeches with me from my veranda.”

At the freight office, Charlie is still struggling with all the mail he’s expected to move, bags of letters this time: “People should try keeping their thoughts to themselves.” Bullock comes in to ask Charlie if he will stand outside the Ellsworth house tonight to find out how Alma gets through the procedure. Charlie is glad to do it and Bullock gives him a warm and grateful look.

Ugh: Harry the bartender practicing his speech. I’m bored. Ugh again: Cy, clutching his Bible. The stabber, Rev. Andy Cramed, arrives to visit with his stabbee. Cy grants him an audience and almost gets the chance to shoot him with a hidden pistol. Leon and Con interrupt them, however, and Andy makes his escape. What was the point of that far too lengthy scene? We all know Cy is no good and treacherous to boot.

Trixie tries to comfort Alma: “Seven times through and I’m healthy as a fucking horse.” She gives Alma some chloroform and Doc starts the D&C. He yells at Trixie to follow his instructions exactly – everyone is very tense, including Ellsworth, hovering on the porch. Bullock is also tense. Mrs. B promises to watch Sophia while he gives his speech and says that they’ll both pray for Mrs. Ellsworth to come through. At the Gem, Al instructs Dan, Johnny and Adams to wait for him: he’s going to see Hearst alone. Dan is not happy about this at all. Al goes to Hearst’s room at the hotel and they climb out onto the porch to watch the speeches.

Joanie spies Charlie standing outside the Ellsworth house. She is fragile and freaking out. Charlie calms her down, telling her not to be judge, jury and executioner on herself, that other people think she’s a good person. I think she hears him. He reaches out and holds her hand. It’s very sweet.

Oh good lord – the speeches. Cleverly, however, we don’t have to sit through much of them, despite the build-up they’ve been given. E.B is insulting to Sol in his, of course. Sol tells folks that he’s here for the long haul, having just bought a house. Bullock speaks briefly and, hilariously the crowd starts to disperse before dim old Harry can even get up on the platform. No one listens to him at all. It’s great.

On the porch roof, Al and Hearst slowly start verbally sparring, poking at suspected vulnerable spots. Hearst wants to “consolidate” his and Al’s interests but Al knows that Hearst means to be in charge and won’t have it. The captain steps up behind Al, out of knife range and with a gun drawn. The three men go back into Hearst’s room and the captain shoots a nasty smile across the thoroughfare at Al’s lackeys. This can’t be good. Hearst is angry, wanting Al to accept him as the power in the camp. He pours a drink for Al and spills it all across the table. When he tells Al to drink it, Swearengen refuses. The captain pistol-whips Al and pins his hand on the table as Hearst rises, rock-hammer in hand. God, you can just see it coming. Al is dizzy, wounded. Hearst demands to know how to get Alma to sell her claim. Al suggests that he “act averse to nasty language and partial to fruity tea.” Awesome – and likely true. Hearst is furious and hits Al’s hand with the rock-hammer. Al passes out and the captain drops him to the floor. I’m guessing he just lost a finger there.

Soon Al comes out of the hotel into the thoroughfare, left hand tucked into his jacket. Bullock sees him and goes straight over to him. Dan et al. also see their boss and Dan recognizes that the look on Al’s face is the one he gets when he’s badly hurt. Al greets Bullock effusively, complimenting him on his speech. He leans on the sheriff a little and warns him not to look up at Hearst who has come back out onto the porch roof. Bullock asks Al if he wants him to go up after Hearst – he wants to go get the cocksucker now. But Al barks to “Stay the fuck away from him. I’m having mine served cold.” As in revenge. He collects his boys and they head back to the Gem. Bullock glares at Hearst out of the corner of his eye and strides off to gird his loins.

It’s going to be ugly, isn’t it. Hearst is, thus far, living up to his Season 2 reputation. Yikes again.

Next episode/previous episode

Friday, January 4, 2008

Deadwood recap - “Tell Your God to be Ready for Blood” (S3E1)

The dropping: The upcoming elections have everyone in a tizzy. Alma's pregnancy is causing complications. Bullock looks to E.B. as an outlet for his violent tendencies. Hearst and Al begin to circle each other warily.

A healthy-looking Al has returned to form after the hiatus, observing the early morning thoroughfare from his balcony. Down below, some hoopleheads are building a platform from which the political candidates will speak before the elections. Dan warily walks into the Gem, nodding to a nervous Johnny and closely watching the patrons. There are three Cornishmen at the bar, speaking intensely to each other in Cornish. A better-dressed man sitting at the table behind them mocks their incomprehensible language until one approaches him. The better-dressed man shoots the Cornishman, a similarly-dressed buddy backing him up. There’s a cut to Hearst in his room, hearing the shots and looking self-satisfied. Enraged, Dan throws the Cornishmen out the back and the aggressors out the front. Al tells Johnny to store the corpse in the icehouse until Wu comes back.

Over at the sheriff’s house, Bullock nervously asks his wife to look over his speech and to improve it for him. She gathers her school supplies and they leave for work together. Just a few houses down at the Ellsworth mansion (when the frick did that get built?), Alma is making Ellsworth move furniture hither and yon until it’s finally time for Sophia to go to school. Alma watches them go from the window and then faints. Ellsworth catches up to Bullock, noting that the sheriff is “heavily scheduled” – including tonight’s speeches – and asks a favor: during Bullock’s meeting with Hearst, “if the chance comes up natural, stomp on the cocksucker’s foot.” I love Ellsworth.

Calamity Jane and Mose Manuel watch Joanie Stubbs leave the Chez Amie, ostensibly heading towards the Bella Union to check on Cy’s belly wound. The Chez Amie building is being used as the camp’s schoolhouse during the day and Jane warns Mose not to frighten the students. Annoyed, he tells her to go get her load on. Jane shrieks: “Do not instruct me how to spend my day – or to itemize for you my crowded itinerary!” Hee hee - I love Jane. Of course, after she has stomped around the corner out of his line of sight, she sadly pulls a bottle from its hiding place and starts to guzzle it down.

Al hails the commuting Bullocks and asks the sheriff to stop by before his meeting with Hearst. Bullock is noncommittal but you know he’s going to do it. Charlie runs up to tell Bullock about the morning’s Cornish incident and Bullock says he’ll look into it later. At the hotel, E.B. promises Richardson that his speech as incumbent mayor will be brief, although he’s a little nervous about the “Jew merchant” competition. When Joanie gets to the Bella Union, she stops into the whores’ room, waving her hand in front of her face at the stink – remember, these supposed to be the high-class whores. Joanie grills one of the whores, insisting that the girls keep themselves clean, the whoring rooms clean, and their own room clean. Lila, Cy’s favorite from last season, is slumped in a corner, completely high and nearly incoherent. Joanie throws her out and, upset, goes to see Cy. He’s playing a new game, managing to mention his new, close and personal relationship with God. Joanie either doesn’t believe it or doesn’t hear him and leaves. Cy tosses aside the Bible.

In Al’s office, Adams is complaining about the splinters he’s gotten from cleaning rain gutters for the past month: Adams is a homeowner, per Al’s machinations. Adams is told to go to the bank and have Sol Starr assume the mortgage because Adams can’t make the payments. For some reason, Al is insistent that Sol owns this house. I marvel at this man’s mind. Al notices Jewel struggling to clean the bloodstain from this morning’s murder; he sends her off to make him some breakfast and gets down on his own knees to scrub. Al tells his boys that Hearst was the one who ordered the murder of the Cornishman (who worked in Hearst’s mine and were trying to organize a union) and that Bullock’s meeting with Hearst this morning will be so that Hearst can try to manipulate Bullock if the sheriff wants Hearst’s backing in the elections.

Adams is getting nominated for an Oscar over at the hardware store, ranting and raving and begging Sol to take the house off his hands. Trixie doesn’t buy his act for a minute and chases after Adams. He explains that Al wants Sol to have the house although he doesn’t know why. Trixie goes to see Al who explains that Sol, being a candidate for public office, should no longer be screwing Trixie in the back of the hardware store. Adams’s house abuts Shaunnessey’s rooming house, and Al plans to install Trixie there, with a passageway cut through the walls, so she and Sol can screw away from prying eyes. Al is so thoughtful! Trixie storms back to the hardware store/bank and angrily explains the situation to Sol who, to his credit, seems to think the scheme sensible.

Joanie is renting a room from said Shaunessey. He is insufferable and very mean to her and when she gets into the room, she just sits on the bed and rocks back and forth. She’s a mess and pulls her little gun out, putting it to her temple. In the meantime, Ellsworth returns home to find his wife on the floor. [Now, Mr. Mouse and I have a difference of opinion here. He doesn’t like Joanie’s character, finding her pathetic and wimpy. I, on the other hand, like Joanie and don’t like Alma. Alma is petulant and manipulative. She complains of being constricted by a woman’s role in this society, where men have all the freedom and power, and yet here she is, fabulously wealthy by fortune’s whim and lacking for nothing ... and still whining. But Joanie, who has actually been horribly mistreated by men, has had to fight for everything she has. She doesn’t want to run whores anymore, but she doesn’t know anything else plus she’s really good at it. She’s confused and conflicted and has every reason to be. Alma is just spoiled and needs to get over herself.]

Bullock stops in at the Gem, wanting to know about the Cornish murder. Al suggests that the sheriff portray himself as a blank slate in his meeting with Hearst so as to collect as much information as possible. He tells Bullock that the Cornishmen were trying to organize the mineworkers and Hearst arranged the murder to stop it. Al goes on to recommend Bullock tread lightly and keep a lid on his temper. Bullock nods, understanding, then says – making me giggle – “Has the body been eaten? … Don’t let it get eaten.” What? Is this going to be CSI: Deadwood? I'd watch that.

Bullock goes to see an initially jovial Hearst. After some pleasantries (strained on Bullock’s part as he so valiantly tries to keep himself in control), Hearst asks the sheriff to tell Alma Garrett-Ellsworth that he’d be interested in buying her mine. Bullock’s now demonstrating a tell, gripping and rubbing his nose so noticeably that Hearst asks if he needs a hankie. Hearst asks the sheriff what he knows about the shootout at the Gem and what he’s going to do about it. Bullock calmly says that he would want to try to speak with the parties involved and discover the complaint. Hearst then wishes to speak of Bullock’s own ambitions, but the sheriff demurs. Hearst presses on, offering to support him in exchange for Bullock delivering his message to Alma. Bullock’s self-control is strained to the breaking point – he really does have a short fuse, as Hearst has been fairly pleasant up until now – and he snarls that he did not promise to deliver the message and that Hearst should stay out of “[their] fucking affairs.” Hearst smiles evilly, leaning in: “Affairs of that sort are not my interest, Mr. Bullock. My only passion is the color.”

Bullock escapes from the room and hurries down the stairs and E.B. stupidly chirps at him, “How’d you like Mr. Hearst?” The sheriff, in full rage, reaches over the hotel counter, seizes E.B. by the lapels, and slams him onto the lobby floor. “How have I given offense?” whimpers E.B. as Bullock starts pounding the shit out of him. Richardson runs to the Gem and tells Al that “the sheriff is killing the mayor.” Al rushes to the hotel, telling Dan and Johnny to wait in the thoroughfare in case he needs them. Hearst comes onto the balcony to observe the commotion and Al, seeing him as he reaches the hotel, reins himself in. “Bullock! Beating Farnum in Mr. Hearst’s hotel? [then to Hearst] How are you, sir?” Bullock backs off, although still in full temper, and lets Al clean up his mess. Al has his boys take E.B. away and asks Hearst if they might speak briefly later. Hearst acquiesces, Al stops Bullock from giving E.B. a sharp kick in the kidneys, and they all leave the hotel, Al muttering to Richardson, “You saw fucking nothing.”

Back at the Gem, Al is talking Bullock down. I just love their relationship - it’s one of the most fascinating in all of television. Bullock wants to withdraw from the sheriff’s race, worried by what Hearst knows about him and Alma. Al scoffs: “Oh, best to leave the camp as penance for having a prick.” Bullock confirms that Al was right about the Cornish killing. Okay, says Al, “No grand gestures, fucking Bullock, ‘til I’ve had my talk with Hearst. Do not withdraw and no more beating up on Farnum who has to run against Starr.” Bullock leaves and Al goes to figure out how to deal with Hearst, concerned that Bullock has tipped Hearst to more information than Al would have him know.

Doc Cochran is at the Ellsworths’ house. He wants Alma to take some laudanum for the pain she’s having; she resists at first, fearing a relapse into her addiction, but he insists that it will help her to carry this baby to term. She takes it. At the Chez Amie, Mose and Jane take turns peeking in the window at the ongoing school. Doc tells Ellsworth that Alma must stay in bed to be able to carry the baby to term, and she must take the medicine he’s given her. Doc promises to fetch Trixie to help the Ellsworths.

Bullock goes to the freight station/jail and finds Charlie overwhelmed by packages: “Who are all these fucking people?” Bullock sits down in the cell and ‘fesses up about his beating of E.B. since he thought E.B. had told Hearst “bidness of mine.” Bullock muses that he may have been mistaken but Charlie waves it off, saying “Fuck Farnum anyway.” Hee hee. I love Charlie. Bullock goes on to wonder if maybe his hot temper gets in the way of his sheriffing duties. Charlie asks, “Maybe you just don’t want to speak tonight?” Bullock smiles, “I know I don’t want to speak.” Charlie continues that having a hot-tempered sheriff with loads of law experience is way better than the dimwitted competition, Harry, the bartender at Tom Nuttal’s bar. Dude, you are so right.

Cut to dimwitted Harry, Tom and Steve at Tom’s bar. Blah blah blah. Steve talks a lot about how mistreated he always is, and Harry is stupid, and Tom rolls his eyes at the company he has to keep. Moving on.

Mrs. Bullock catches Jane peeking into the school and asks her about scouting for Custer. Jane has to ask her to speak up several times – “Do ye speak this low when you’re teachin’ the children?” - Mrs. B gets the point, asking Jane to give a talk about her experiences. Jane is flattered but now nervous and asks if Mose scares the children. No, he doesn’t. “I expect he pisses you off.” No, Jane. “Well, he irritates the hell out of me!” Hee hee. Bullock interrupts and Jane runs off, babbling about a bottle she’s looking for. When Mrs. B asks about her husband’s meeting with Hearst, he grabs his nose again. Hee hee hee!

Ellsworth and Sophia play checkers and worry about Alma. Trixie asks Alma if she really, truly wants to keep the baby. Alma says yes and Trixie tells her to then lie down and be good and stop trying to prove what all she can do until she’s “popped out this kid.” E.B. is still recuperating in Al’s bed and Al interrupts his bombast to ask if E.B. told Hearst about Bullock and Alma, threatening to profane his remains if he fibs. “Not my remains, Al!” whines E.B., and insists that he never said anything to Hearst. Al is satisfied and sends E.B. home. E.B. looks quite bad. Al goes downstairs and tells Merrick that tonight’s speeches have been postponed, offering booze and whores on the house as solace. Poor Merrick.

Ah, the meeting between Al and Hearst, titans. It starts amicably enough, Al in his charming, obsequious mode, concerned that the morning’s Cornish murder might be part of a larger plot against Hearst. Hearst doesn’t think so and is entertained by Al for a bit. Al says that he doesn’t care anything about Cornishmen nor even about union organizers. But he doesn’t like bloodletting in his joint: he has cancelled tonight’s speeches and, if the incident goes unsatisfied, he may cancel the elections entirely and work to overturn the agreement with Yankton, thus returning the camp to its unstable and less viable state. Hearst’s demeanor immediately changes as he likes commerce and stability. He now perceives Al as dangerous to his interests. Al does not back down and gets a little cocky. Hearst lets him go and tells his captain that the fellows who killed the Cornish may wish to return to the Gem.

Charlie and Sol are having dinner with the Bullocks, everyone nervously practicing their speeches. It’s funny. Sol mentions Adams’s default on his house and Mrs. B thinks it’s a lovely home, “very spacious.” There’s a knock on the door: “It’s Albert Swearengen.” Sol lets him in and Al announces that the speeches are postponed, to everyone’s relief. Joanie finds Jane dozing in a puddle of her own pee at the former Chez Amie. When Jane says she’s been asked to tell the schoolchildren of her Custer experience, Joanie says she’d like to hear that story too. Jane asks if Joanie is going to go back to the Bella Union as a place of residence and employment. Joanie worries that those girls need looking after but Jane wonders who would look out for Joanie then, with that “gut-shot cocksucker weavin’ schemes from his comin’ to Jesus.” Good question, Jane.

Finally, on the Bullocks’ porch, Al fills Bullock in on his meeting with Hearst and prophesies the upcoming battle. Bullock asks Al if he should go back to camp now with him, just to be safe. Al says it won’t happen just yet but “you stay in hailing distance.”

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