Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lost episode recap – “The Constant” (S4E5) airdate 02/28/08

Yikes - this recap's quite long. There's a LOT going on and it was fairly confusing. Best part of the episode: very little Jack.

Sayid, Desmond and Frank are in the helicopter, heading for Frank’s boat. Frank has Daniel’s very specific instructions taped to the dashboard and, luckily, the course (I think it’s “40 miles North at 305° 7 K East”, but I don’t have a high-def TV so am not sure) is taking them straight into a huge thunderhead. Frank tries to hold his course, gripping the controls with both hands, but I think he gets off-course a bit (going to 310) because Desmond suddenly jumps.

[Note: I’m going to call these “jumps” and not “flashes” or “flashbacks” because this time-travel is something Desmond is actually jumping around doing in this episode; the flashbacks in all the other episodes are a narrative device. Just want to keep the terms straight.]

He’s in an Army barracks, a soldier with short hair and a shaved face. Mmmmm-mm. He’d been dreaming of the helicopter, he thinks. The mean ol’ drill sergeant orders them all out into the pouring rain for pushups and sit-ups in the mud. He’s not there for long, however, as he quickly flashes back to the ‘copter. He looks around wildly and unbuckles his safety harness. Sayid grabs him and Des shouts, “Who are you?” Oops.

Ooh – Iron Man trailer. Love Robert Downey, Jr.

Back on the Island: Jack is bitching at Dan and Charlotte because no one knows where the ‘copter is. Juliet thinks they know something because they’re not worried about the missing ‘copter. Dan says to Charlotte that maybe they should just tell the Losties. Charlotte thinks that there’s no sense in confusing anyone and then I giggle because Juliet suggests that Dan go ahead, and speak real slow so they’ll be able to follow. “Your perception of how long your friends have been gone, it’s not necessarily how long they’ve actually been gone.” Jack’s all, what now?, and Dan tries to reassure him, saying that it’ll be fine if Frank stays on the coordinates. If he doesn’t, however, there could be “side effects.”

I’ll say there are side effects: Desmond practically throws himself out of the ‘copter before Frank can land it on the freighter. Desmond springs out immediately, frantically looking around him and clutching his Penny picture. Sayid is close behind, having paused to tuck his pistol into his waistband. Several men run up to the landing pad. One of them demands to know why Frank is back and who are these guys he’s brought. Frank says that they’re survivors of 815. Sayid tries to calm Desmond but Des insists that he doesn’t know Sayid. The tallest sailor says they’ll take Desmond to sickbay so the doctor can check him out. As they lead Des away, he shouts, “I’m not supposed to be here!”

Jump: Back to the Scottish army yard where all the soldiers are doing sit-ups in the pouring rain, except for Desmond who is standing up and shouting, “I’m not supposed to be here!” The drill sergeant makes them all run. Afterwards, a buddy asks Des what the hell’s the matter with him. Des tries to explain and sounds totally crazy. Remembering the photo, he decides he’s got to call Penny right then and there and heads for a phone booth. He drops his change and jumps back to the boat, where two of the sailors, Kimi and Omar, lock him in the sick bay. He pounds on the door, shouting, until a crazy-looking dude who is strapped to the bed pipes up, “Hey! It’s happening to you too, isn’t it?”

Sayid looks suspiciously around the boat, observing sees Frank being berated by Kimi. Frank comes down to talk with him. Sayid wants to know what’s happening to Des and why, if they took off from the Island at dusk, they landed in the middle of the day. Frank doesn’t know what happened to Des but says he is trying to help them. He allows Sayid to call his friends back on the Island on the sat phone.

Jack picks up immediately and is so relieved to hear from Sayid. He turns on the speaker and Sayid tells them that something happened on the ‘copter ride so that now Desmond doesn’t recognize him or know where he is. Daniel squinches up his eyes in an “oh shit – I was hoping that wouldn’t happen” expression. “Side effects?” Jack asks him pointedly, eyebrows raised. Dan explains that for some reason, going to or coming from the Island some people can get a little confused. It’s not amnesia.

Back on the boat, the crazy guy zones out for a bit and then comes back, telling Desmond that he was just on a Ferris wheel. Enter the doctor, who is Ecklie from CSI! For the record, he appears to be evil here too. Ecklie sedates the crazy man strapped to the bed and then asks to check Desmond’s eyes, promising to try to help him. He shines a little penlight into Desmond’s baby browns and -

Jump to raining Army Desmond, picking up the coins he dropped in the street. He steps into a phone booth and calls Penny. She does not sound pleased to hear from him. He says he needs help, he’s confused and he wants to see her. She refuses to see him and asks him not to call again.

Jump back to the boat. Frank busts into the sick bay with Sayid hot on his heels. Ecklie is cranky about it and, when Sayid slams him up against the wall, hits an alarm. Frank puts Desmond on the sat phone: it’s Daniel on the other end, on speaker so the Losties can hear. He asks Desmond what year it is for him; Des replies that it’s 1996. Jack looks wildly at Juliet. Daniel asks Des where he is supposed to be right now. Desmond says that he’s with the Royal Scottish Regiment north of Glasgow. Daniel then tells him to get on a train the next time he goes back, and go the physics department at Queens College, Oxford University. Desmond is totally confused now and asks why he needs to go to Oxford. Daniel says, “I need you to find me.”

After the commercial Daniel searches frantically through his bag, looking for his journal, saying otherwise he won’t believe Desmond. He pointedly ignores Jack’s requests for more information. Back on the sat phone, he tells Desmond to tell him in 1996 to “set the device to 2.342 and it must be oscillating at 11 Hz.” Des writes these numbers on his hand with a ballpoint pen. Also, if Desmond needs to convince 1996 Daniel, he should say that he “knows about Eloise.” Their conversation is cut off, however, as Kimi, Omar and Ecklie bust back into the sickbay. Plus, Desmond does his little time-travel thing again.

Jump back to the Army in 1996. Desmond is huddled on the floor of the phone booth. He looks at his hand, but nothing is written there. I bet if he used a Sharpie it would have stuck, even through time. Some time later, a very handsome and on-leave Desmond finds a longhaired and scraggly Daniel at Oxford. Des says that he thinks he’s been to the future and that Future Daniel told him that Present Daniel could help him. Daniel thinks this is a trick so Des rattles off the frequency. Now Daniel gets snotty – “Who told you those numbers?” – until Desmond says he knows about Eloise. This does the trick.

They go into Daniel’s mad-scientist laboratory. Daniel fusses about, putting on a lead apron to protect himself from radiation. Des asks if he gets one but Daniel says that it’s only for prolonged exposure as he himself does this twenty times a day. Des looks at him and asks why he’s got nothing protecting his head. Daniel stares at him for a moment and gives a rueful laugh, the thought obviously never having crossed his mind before.

He grabs a rat, “Eloise,” and flashes some light on her – said light having been set to the frequency Future Daniel told Desmond – and “unsticking her in time.” Afterwards, he lets the rat run through a maze, which she does perfectly. Daniel is beside himself; Des doesn’t care – what’s the big deal? The big deal is that Daniel just built the maze that morning and wasn’t scheduled to teach the rat how to run it until an hour for now. The frequency of light flashes (or whatever – fuzzy science) sent the rat’s consciousness into the future where she learned the route through the maze. So how does that help me? Desmond wants to know.

Jump back to the boat: Everyone is shouting – Frank trying to explain that Daniel just wanted to talk to Desmond to help him. “Faraday can’t even help himself!” barks Ecklie. Kimi, Eckley and the other sailor drag Frank off to talk to the captain, locking Sayid and Desmond back in the sick bay. Des grabs a little penlight and starts flashing it into his own eyes, trying to hit the frequency that will send him back to 1996 Daniel. Just then, the crazy guy strapped to the bed speaks up, “You’re Desmond? … I’m George Minkosky, the communications officer.” He says that before he was strapped to the bed, there was a certain phone line he was told never to answer, even though it buzzed in every now and again. Minkowsky did answer it: it was Penny calling.

Jump to 1996 Oxford University: Desmond wakes up in Daniel’s lab after being catatonic for 75 minutes, according to Daniel’s watch; in his own future, however, he was only gone for five minutes. Daniel observes that the flashes are happening more often and for longer durations: “ … the progression is exponential … each time it gets harder to jump back. I’d be careful crossing the street if I were you.” Nice – 1996 Daniel is cynical! Desmond looks down at Eloise the rat: she’s dead. Daniel thinks that her brain short-circuited, unable to deal with the jumping back and forth with no frame of reference, nothing familiar in both her times, no “constant.” Daniel says that Desmond too needs a “constant,” something to ground himself in both the past and the future, or it’s possible that his brain will short-circuit too. Desmond decides his constant is Penny and tries to call her, but the phone has been disconnected. As he rushes down the stairwell, he passes out and

Jumps to the boat. He tells Sayid and Minkowsky that he’s got to call Penny. Minkowsky says that’s fine, but someone sabotaged the radio equipment. He would have fixed it but he went nuts. Minkowsky’s nose is bleeding and Des gives him a tissue. Sayid thinks he can fix the radios and, luckily enough, someone (Frank? or someone with another ulterior motive, like Ben’s spy?) has opened the door to the sick bay. They head out.

Jump to 1996: We’re at an auction in London, and the current item up for bid is the journal of the first mate of the Black Rock, the ship that was found on the Island, full of dynamite. Penny’s dad is there – I think he’s the high bidder. After the auction is over, Desmond speaks with Penny’s dad who actually gives him her new address.

Jump to the boat. Sayid, Desmond and Minkowsky find the radio room. It’s been trashed. Minkowsky starts to tell them what happened to him: he and another crewmember were bored and took a tender out to see the Island. The other guy started acting crazy so they turned around; now the other guy is dead and now Minkowsky thinks he’s going nuts. Suddenly, he blanks out and collapses. Des picks him up, dabbing at the nosebleed. Sayid gets to work on the radio, muttering that when this is over someone’s going to have to tell him precisely what’s going on. Desmond looks up and notices a calendar: 2004. He is horrified. Sayid looks at him and says “Desmond, your nose.” Des’s nose is bleeding now too, just a little. Minkowsky, on the other hand, starts having massive convulsions. He dies in Desmond’s arms. “What happened to him?” asks Sayid. Desmond says, “The same thing that’s going to happen to me.”

Jump back to 1996: Desmond comes to and heads straight to Penny’s new flat. She is surprised to see him, to say the least. He starts to plead with her to listen to him and something desperate in his voice makes her let him inside. He says, in part, “Eight years from now … I need to call you and I can’t call you if I don’t have your number … if there’s any part of you that still believes in us, just – give me your number.” Penny is crying, wondering why he won’t call tomorrow or next week. Des: “I won’t call for eight years ... 2004 ... I promise.” He begs, and she gives him the number. He repeats it and she sarcastically asks why he won’t write it down. He tells her that she must keep that number until 2004. She’s had enough and throws him out.

Jump back to the boat in 2004: Desmond snaps out of it, muttering the number. “Perfect timing,” notes Sayid, cautioning that the battery won’t last long. Des clutches the phone. It rings for a long time and finally, Penny picks up. She is so happy to hear his voice! There’s a quick cut back to 1996, with Desmond walking away from Penny’s flat, a slow smile growing on his face. Back in 2004, Des tells Penny that he’s on a boat but he’s been on an Island. She tells him that she’s been looking for him for three years. Both of them are crying now. She says that she knows about the Island and then says something about research but those sneaky Lost writers make the phone line go staticky so we viewers don’t know what she says. Des and Penny each say they love each other, and they promise to find each other again, and it’s all quite urgent and sweet. Until the battery dies and they are cut off. Sayid apologizes; Des calls him by name and says that it was enough, he’s fine.

On the Island, Daniel pages through his journal from his Oxford days. He finds a page and breathes in deeply: in 1996 he wrote, “If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant.”

Next time on Lost. Previously on Lost.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Firefly – episode 8 “Out of Gas”

The ship is quiet, drifting in space. And it’s so quiet on board – no one is around, things are scattered on the floor. Suddenly, with a crash, Mal is scattered on the floor, gasping, and there’s a voiceover saying that if you treat this ship proper, “she’ll be with you for the rest of your life.” Which may not be much longer, in Mal’s case.

Way-back flashback: Mal opens the cargo bay doors to show the Firefly to Zoë. “You pay money for this, sir? On purpose?” Zoë is so not impressed but Mal is clearly in love, saying that she won’t win any beauty pageants, but is so “solid she’ll be with you ‘til the day you die.” “That’s because it’s a deathtrap,” says Zoë, and Mal sputters at her, continuing the tour. At this point, the crew is just the two of them: they need a pilot, a mechanic, maybe a cook. Mal is rapt, however, envisioning a home and freedom. He’s already picked out the ship’s new name.

Present: Mal is still lying on the floor. The shot is from below, through a grate, and quite a lot of blood is dripping down. That can’t be good. Where is everyone? He staggers to his feet and grabs some chunk of machinery that he dropped when he fell, then staggers off into the ship.

More recent flashback: our whole Serenity crew is having a roaring good time at dinner, Book telling apparently hilarious stories about his life in the monastery. We pause the hilarity for some exposition that Wash has, under orders, charted a course to their next destination that goes way out of their way into the space-boondocks to avoid Alliance patrols. Meanwhile, since it’s Simon’s birthday, Kaylee has made him a cake, complete with candles. When he goes to blow them out, however, the lights flicker and there’s a HUGE explosion. Zoë pushes Kaylee out of the way and gets thrown across the room by the blast; she’s knocked unconscious and is badly hurt. Mal and Jayne act quickly, closing all the bulkhead doors and then venting the fire out the cargo doors into space.

When the fire is extinguished, they bring Zoë to the infirmary so Simon can help her. Mal send Kaylee to the engine room to figure out what happened. Kaylee is in shock, staring at Zoë: “She ain’t movin’. Serenity ain’t movin.” But she still goes to the engine room. Mal wants Wash on the bridge to help suss out what happened but Wash doesn’t want to leave Zoë’s side. Mal grabs him and slams him into the wall. Wash goes.

Way-back flashback: Wash, with a cheeseball mustache, is checking out the bridge – Mal is hoping to hire him as the new pilot as he comes highly recommended, but Zoë doesn’t like him: “Somethin’ ‘bout him bothers me.” Mal is incredulous: “We finally got ourselves a genius mechanic and now we need someone to fly this thing.” “Genius?” says a decidedly male voice. “No one’s ever called me that before. Shiny!” It’s a decidedly male mechanic, blond haired and bare chested, and so very much not Kaylee!

More recent flashback: Zoë is not doing well and Simon plunges a HUGE needle into her chest (Inara gasps and turns away). It’s pure adrenalin and should jump-start her.

Present: Mal has lurched into the infirmary and found another HUGE needle of adrenalin. He jams it into his OWN heart and starts spasming. Holy yuck.

More recent flashback: Kaylee reports that the catalyzer on the port-compression coil blew, main life support is down because the engine is dead, the explosion wiped out the auxiliary life support, and they vented most of the extant oxygen out into space when they vented the fire. They have a couple hours of air left: “First we’ll start to feel it, then we won’t feel nothin’ at all,” says Kaylee dully.

Simon has stabilized Zoë but she is still unconscious. Inara comes to check on them and Simon starts telling her the clinical description of death by suffocation until she cuts him off. Book prays in his quarters until he is interrupted by River. She notes that he’s afraid they’ll run out of air, and “die gasping.” That won’t happen, she says, and the preacher gets his hopes up briefly until she continues: “We’ll freeze to death first.”

Mal finds Wash on the bridge. The pilot has sent the distress beacon but thinks it’s futile since they’re so far out of range of anyone or anything. They shout at each other until Jayne yells at them: “Hey! What do you two think you’re doin’, fightin’ at a time like this? You’ll use up all the air.” It’s been a while since I said this but boy, do I love Jayne.

Present: An alarm is blaring now, and an automated voice counts down ‘til the oxygen runs out. Mal is painfully and bloodily making his way to the engine room.

Way-back flashback: Mal strides into the engine room, shouting for Lester and asking about what the delay is this time. Lester is busy, having standing-up sex next to the engine. Mal coitus- interrupts; the mechanic explains that engines make this girl hot is why they’re boinking here and not in his bunk. Mal doesn’t care. He wants his bird flying. Lester starts to say that there’s a problem with the grav-boot when the girl cuts in. She’s Kaylee and she says the grav-boot is fine, it’s some other something that’s broken. In no time at all she’s fixed the engine, saying that her daddy says she’s got natural talent – she’s never even been in a Firefly before. Mal immediately offers her a job and she delightedly runs off to tell her folks. Lester shakes his head, “Mal, what do you need two mechanics for?” Mal deadpans, “I really don’t.”

More recent flashback: Kaylee is in the engine room, disconsolate that she can’t fix the engine because of the broken catalyzer. She shows Mal where it’s supposed to fit into the engine. “Sometimes a thing gets broke and can’t be fixed.”

Present: The gadget Mal has in his hand appears to be a new catalyzer. He has managed to get to the engine room but drops the catalyzer when he tries to fasten it in.

More recent flashback: Everyone (except the unconscious Zoë) assembles in the galley and Mal lays out the options. It’s starting to get cold and everyone is wrapped in sweaters and blankets. The two shuttles are available, which have fuel, heat and air; they’re short-range, however, and won’t get them as far as any planet or space station. Even so, Mal says they’ll send the shuttles out in opposite directions to increase the chances that someone somewhere will pick up the signal. When that happens, they can send rescue back. Trouble is, only four people can go in each shuttle and Mal is going down with the ship. Everyone looks sick at the thought but they don’t argue with him. Wash goes to fiddle with something with the beacon so that Mal can call both of the shuttles back to Serenity if rescue comes to him instead of them. Inara pleads with him to come with them but Mal is firm, saying he may have to owe her the security deposit she paid. “You don’t have to die alone,” she says. “Everyone dies alone,” quoth the captain.

Way-back flashback: Inara is checking out the shuttle Mal has available to rent. She has her full snooty on and we see that the head butting between the two of them begins immediately. She informs him that if she leases the shuttle, she will under no circumstances be servicing him or any of his crew. Mal: “I’ll post a sign.”

More recent flashback: The crew loads onto the two shuttles and take off, leaving Mal to go back to the bridge. He seats himself in the pilot’s chair and, shivering, wraps himself in a blanket. Some time later, a transmission comes through – someone has received Serenity’s distress call! Mal, who was not dead but only dozing, can’t believe it. The captain of the other ship is cagey, however, refusing to allow Mal onto his boat in the event the distress call was a trap; he finally agrees to give Mal a spare catalyzer for the compressor coil. Mal opens the cargo doors, breathing in the gust of new air. The captain and a search party board Serenity, guns drawn. That’s not so friendly.

Way-back flashback: On some planet, ruffians are holding Mal and Zoë at gunpoint. Jayne is one of the ruffians, chomping on a big ol’ cigar. The head ruffian asks Mal if they look like reasonable people and Mal shrugs, thinking that looks can be deceiving. “Not as deceivin’ as a low-down, dirty … deceiver,” says Jayne. Mal thinks that was well said. “Had a kind of poetry to it, sir,” says Zoë. After a bit of word bandying, Mal offers Jayne a job, a bigger percentage and his own bunkroom. Jayne shoots his compatriots in the knees, wanting to know how big a room.

More recent flashback: Back in the cargo hold and still at gunpoint, Mal tells the other captain to take whatever of his cargo he thinks is fair in exchange for the catalyzer. Without delay, the captain shoots Mal in the side, saying he’ll take the ship. He starts giving orders until Mal fishes a hidden gun from under something and puts it to the captain’s head. He grabs the catalyzer and waits until they leave the ship, the captain smirking that Mal would have done the same. “You can already see I haven’t,” grunts Mal, before closing the cargo bay doors. He falls to the decking, bringing us to the first scene.

Cut to the engine room where he is attaching the catalyzer, his hands slick with his own blood. The engine immediately starts cranking, life support engaging immediately. The camera takes a slow and unsteady trip down the hallway towards the bridge – Mal’s point of view. He makes it to the bridge but collapses, unable to go any further, just feet from the beacon that will call the shuttles back home.

Mal awakens, voices fluttering in his head. He’s in the infirmary and everyone is there. Zoë is awake; Wash has a tube in his arm, giving Mal a transfusion. Confused, Mal says he thought he ordered everyone off the ship. Apparently Zoë came to and ordered everyone back. “Her decision saved your life,” comments Simon. “Won’t happen again, sir,” Zoë murmurs fondly. “Good, and thanks, I’m grateful,” mumbles Mal. Simon then shoos them all out of the infirmary, saying the captain needs to rest. Mal agrees, and then picks his head up, looking at each of his crewmembers. “You going to be here when I get back?” he says, concerned. Book pats his hand, “We’ll be right here.” “That’s good,” Mal mumbles again, this time dropping off.

Way-back flashback: We’re at a used spaceship lot and the salesman is giving Mal the hard sell, “You buy this ship, treat her proper, and she’ll be with you for the rest of your life.” But Mal isn’t looking at the ship the salesman is trying to sell him – he’s already in love, gazing at the beat-up Firefly perched in the back of the lot.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Movie review: Smokin' Aces

I can't believe Mr. Mouse and I just wasted two hours of our lives on this movie, although I guess it could have been worse - I could have paid for a movie ticket. I don't know: big, loud, violent, complicated where it didn't need to be, funny at the beginning and dark-dark-dark at the end - this movie just didn't have a focus. I thought I'd read good things about it but I guess I either misremembered what I'd read or else need to find something else to read. Smokin' Aces: this mouse is not a fan.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lost episode recap – “Eggtown ” (S4E4) airdate 02/21/08

Locke brings Ben breakfast: two eggs and some melon. Ben plays some mind games with him per usual, saying that Locke is lost and doesn’t know what to do. Locke puts on a good face but takes the breakfast tray away before Ben can eat more than a couple of bites of melon. On his way down the hall, Locke heaves the tray into the cinder block wall in a fit of temper. Mr. Mouse points out that the wall actually moves when the tray hits it! Guess it’s not actual cinder block, huh. Plus, Ben hears the crash from inside his cell and knows he’s gotten to Locke.

Claire and Kate enjoy some coffee on their cabin’s porch when Sawyer stops by. He wants Kate to move into his cabin with him and when she says she won’t, he suspects a hidden agenda. He thinks it’s because she thinks she might be pregnant. She sends him away, not wanting to talk about it.

Flash-forward: Kate, in trendy movie star sunglasses, is escorted through a throng of reporters by a handsome man in a suit. I think he’s her lawyer and I’m right: she’s on trial for all the shit she pulled before the crash - murder, grand theft auto, larceny, fraud, assault on a federal officer, etc., etc. She pleads not guilty. The DA asks for Kate to be remanded into federal custody throughout the trial; Kate’s lawyer is ineffective and the feds slap the cuffs on Kate.

Back on the Island: Jin is practicing his new English by picking out places in the U.S. for him and Sun to raise their baby, but Sun wants to go home to Seoul. Jack and Juliet bring Dan and Charlotte back to the beach and introduce them to the Losties. Sun wants to know where Kate is and Jack mopily tells her that Kate stayed with Locke at the Others’ barracks.

At the barracks, Kate wants to talk with Miles but Locke won’t tell her where he’s got the little guy stashed. Locke points out that this group is not a democracy and that he gets to make the rules. Kate sulks, “That means this is a dictatorship.” Locke points out, in a pleasant tone of voice, that if he were a dictator, he’d just shoot her and get on with his day. Kate next finds Hurley walking with another breakfast tray and deduces that this tray is for Miles. She tricks Hurley into spilling Miles’s location and takes the tray to him herself.

Miles is being held in a new set, the boathouse. Kate wants to know what Miles knows about her and what she did pre-Island. Miles says he’ll tell her but he wants something in return. When Kate tells him she won’t set him free, he says he’s right where he wants to be – what he wants is to speak with Ben just for one minute, and if she can arrange that, he’ll tell her everything she wants to know.

Flash-forward: Kate’s lawyer wants her to cut a deal – his best guess for her is a 15-year sentence, 7 to serve. No way, says Kate. Problem is, Kate’s mom is the DA’s star witness and is planning to testify that Kate confessed the murder of her father (I thought he was her stepfather) to her. The lawyer, Duncan Forrester, thinks they’re pretty screwed and wants to bring “him” into the courtroom to generate sympathy. Kate says, “You are not using my son.” Hm. Didn’t see that one coming.

Back on the Island: Kate and Claire are hanging up laundry. Aaron is fussing and Claire asks Kate to pick him up as her arms are full of wet sheets. Kate hems and haws, saying that she’s not any good with babies. Claire picks him up herself and Kate gives them a funny, half-longing look. Hm.

At Kate’s trial, her attorney calls Jack as a character witness, needing the big guns since he got spanked by the DA in the opening – sadly, this spanking was figurative. A clean-shaven (for him), sober (seeming) Jack testifies that he did not know Kate until their plane crashed. The official story according to Jack is this: eight people survived the crash and then two of the eight died of injuries afterwards – thus, those remaining are the Oceanic 6. Jack goes on about how Kate gave everyone first aid, water, she’s a life-saver, blah blah blah, until Kate can’t stand the lie they’re telling and stands up. She says that this is her trial and she doesn’t want Jack to have to say any more. That’s fine, until the DA gets up for her cross-examination with only one question for Jack: “Do you love Kate Austin?” Kate gets all quivery but Jack manages to reply, “No, not any more.”

Back on the Island: Kate drops by Sawyer and Hurley’s cabin. Hurley has found a tape of Xanadu – hee hee. Kate and Sawyer have some Dharma boxed wine and he taunts her, telling her she should just be woman enough to admit that she wants to use him for something. Caught, she says: “I want to use you for something.” Mee-owr! But it’s not what Sawyer expects as she wants him to help her bust Ben out of Locke’s prison.

After the commercial, Sawyer drops by Locke’s for a game of backgammon. Locke strangely doesn’t suspect anything from the professional con man and, in fact, asks if Sawyer thinks Locke is doing the right thing. Sawyer says that he’d feel a lot less secure if he was on the beach. Locke asks what the rest of the folks think and Sawyer baas at him, reassuring him that the sheep are fine. Except for Kate. Sawyer tells Locke that she approached him about busting Ben out to go chat with Miles. Locke is quite distressed by this news and grabs his knife and his gun. He and Sawyer run to the boathouse but they are too late: Miles is gone.

This is because Kate has brought the mountain to Mohammed: she has Miles, at gun point and with his hands still tied, on the porch of Locke’s cabin. Breaking a window, she gains entry and she and Miles go down to the basement where Ben is being held. When confronted by the padlock on the door, she shoots it and with one shot destroys the lock (which any Mythbusters fan can tell you is bullshit).

Miles has one minute to speak with Ben, who is a little stunned and unhappy to see him. Ben knows who Miles is, and whom Miles works for, and how much trouble Miles’s boss has gone through to find Ben. What Ben doesn’t know is that Miles is willing to tell his boss that Ben is dead – all he wants is $3.2 million from Ben. I want to know where he got that figure, $3.2? Ben has the same question – why not $3.3 million? – but Miles seems set on that number as though he knows for certain that Ben has that amount. Ben points out that his current circumstances are a little restricted, what with being imprisoned in a basement and all, so Miles gives him one week to straighten things out.

His one minute up, Miles tells Kate that he knows everything about her fugitive status – “If I were you, I’d stay right here on the Island.” They head out but Locke and Sawyer catch them coming up the stairs. Locke sends Kate back to her cabin; she goes with no fuss, seeing a subtle headshake from Sawyer, leaving Miles in Locke’s control once more. Later, Locke stops by Kate and Claire’s cabin to talk with Kate. He says he doesn’t care why she did it, but he needs to know what Miles and Ben said to each other. She tells him about the $3.2 million deal. Locke goes hmm, then tells Kate that she’s not welcome at the barracks anymore. He wants her gone by morning. She looks gobsmacked.

Flash-forward: Kate’s lawyer brings Kate’s mom, in a wheelchair and on oxygen, to speak with his client. Kate is pretty prickly, understandably, but her mom reaches out. She’s been given 6 months to live for the last four years so she really doesn’t know how much time she has, and she doesn’t want to testify against her only daughter. Also, she wants to meet her grandson. This means that Kate’s son is a post-crash baby. (FM’s theory: Kate’s son is Aaron because Claire didn’t make it off the Island.) Kate doesn’t want her mother anywhere near her son and cuts the reunion short.

Back on-Island: Kate goes to Sawyer’s and tells him that Locke has banished her from the barracks. Sawyer says he unbanishes her and she can stay right here with him. He takes off her boots and she giggles. Then he sweetly tells her that he’ll keep her safe and the next thing you know … sweaty Kate and Sawyer snugglebunnies!

On the beach, Dan is practicing some sort of memory game with Charlotte by a beachside campfire. Although Charlotte tries to be encouraging (“That’s better,” she says), Dan can only remember 2 out of 3 playing cards and is frustrated – what the hell kind of progress is that? Jack and Juliet interrupt them, waving the sat-phone and bitching that although they’ve been calling all day (don’t kill the battery, you dumbasses!), no one on the boat will pick up. Charlotte ‘fesses up that there is another number that they are only supposed to use for emergencies. Juliet gets in her face: “It’s an emergency.” Charlotte dials, using the speakerphone per Jack’s instruction, and Regina answers, wondering why she’s using this number. Charlotte explains that the Losties want to talk to their friends. Regina: “What friends?” Um, the friends that Frank flew to the ship on the helicopter. Regina: “I thought the helicopter was with you.” Uh-oh. Everyone looks very concerned. Jack even paces a little.

In the morning, Locke pays a visit to Miles who is back in the boathouse, this time, standing with his hands tied to a rafter. Locke takes a grenade (!) out of his bag, stuffs it in Miles’s mouth and pulls the pin – Miles has to bite down on the trigger to keep from exploding. “No use having rules if there’s no punishment for breaking them.” And then Locke, having reasserted his bad-assery, leaves. Nice!

Sawyer tries to take advantage of the morning wood but Kate’s not having any hot breakfast today. He thinks it because she thinks she’s pregnant but she tells him that she isn’t. He is super-relieved (“What would we have done with a baby?”) and Kate is actually a little sad at his reaction. She tells him she’s going back to the beach. Sawyer is ticked and says that she’ll just bounce back up here to him when she gets in her next argument with Jack. Kate slaps him but looks slightly repentant after doing so. She leaves.

Flash-forward: The DA has a problem – Kate’s mom won’t testify. Kate, her lawyer and the DA meet. The DA’s first offer is 4 years of jail time which Kate flatly refuses. Her lawyer points out to the DA that his client is a hero and no jury would ever give her actual jail time. Revised offer: time served, plus 10 years probation and the condition that she doesn’t leave the state. Kate jumps on the new offer, just wanting this to be over. After she is released, there’s a taxi waiting for her in the courthouse parking garage so she can avoid the crowds; Jack is waiting for her there too. She tells him that she’s heard him give the story of the crash so many times that she’s starting to think he believes it. He tells her that he didn’t mean what he said in there, meaning he still loves her.

Touched, she asks him to follow her home for a visit, but he hedges and asks if they could maybe have coffee some time instead. Kate stiffens a bit, saying that she understands why he doesn’t want to see the baby (addition to FM’s theory: because he’s guilty for failed to save Claire from the Island and thus Kate’s son is really dead Claire’s son) but until he gets over that, there isn’t going to be any going for coffee together. Jack looks as though he would rather have a leg amputated without anesthesia than go see that child so Kate leaves in her taxi.

The taxi drops Kate off at a huge gorgeous home on some California hillside – Kate got a big settlement check from Oceanic Airlines too! The nanny greets her warmly, saying she just put “him” down for a nap. Kate goes upstairs and the little blond boy awakens enough to hug her and say, “Hi, Mommy.” Last line of the episode proves my genius theory as Kate says, “Hi, Aaron.”

Update on the Oceanic 6: Jack, Hurley, Sayid, Kate ... and not Claire, most likely. I did read somewhere that by the end of this season, one of the original Flight 815 Losties will be killed - which also lends credence to my not-Claire hypothesis. Also, we get to hear a little more of what the Oceanic 6's official crash story is and I think Kate's right: Jack is talking himself into believing that's what really happened, at least at this episode's place in the timeline.

Next time on Lost. Previously on Lost.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Next time, on Friend Mouse ... ?

I'm at a bit of a loss these days: this was initially conceived of as a television recap blog, and yet there's very little television out there to recap right now. I still have Lost, thankfully, but Heroes isn't coming back until the fall, from what I hear.

This is what I've been able to glean as far as post-writers' strike new episodes with regard to the shows Mr. Mouse and I watch (there's a more comprehensive list here):
  • How I Met Your Mother - returns March 17
  • CSI: Las Vegas - April 3
  • My Name Is Earl - April 3
  • The Office - April 10
  • Scrubs - April 10

As I mentioned above, Heroes is gone until Fall 2008, as are Pushing Daisies and Chuck. Friday Night Lights is seemingly done as well, but the bad news there is that NBC has not committed to renewing it for the fall season. Lost is switching back to its later time in late April: Thursdays at 10 p.m. Eastern time (boo! hiss! I already stay up too late to get those recaps posted!). Battlestar Galactica is due to come back soon but I haven't seen Season 3 yet and don't want to get ahead of myself.

In the meanwhile, all the television shows out there on DVD will be my salvation. I'll finish up Firefly because that's a quick and easy job; I have Veronica Mars S3 sitting in the cupboard - still wrapped in its cellophane! - and I'd like to finish what I started there, way back when it was actually airing.

Other than those, I'd be more than happy to listen to requests from folks - I only did Deadwood because my friend Glenn insisted that I would love it and should move it up my rental queue posthaste (thanks again, Glenn!). I've been hearing good things about The Wire but don't know anything about it. So tell me, what else will I love?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Deadwood recap - “Tell Him Something Pretty” (S3E12)

The dropping: It's the end, my friends. Hearst gets everything he ever wanted but Bullock loses his job, Alma loses her gold, Cy loses his mind, Jen and Leon lose their lives and I lose my faith in HBO for having pulled the plug on this show with so many stories left to tell.

Satan’s younger brother, George Hearst, is lying on the floor of his bedroom when someone pounds on his door. It’s Charlie Utter, telling him that a casket (containing the remains of Aunt Lou’s son, no doubt) with Hearst’s name on it has arrived at the freight office. They threaten and bluster at each other for a bit before Hearst slams the door in Charlie’s face. Over at the theater, Jack Langrishe is upset because of the delay of the opening of his theater due to the goings-on in camp and seems to be contemplating “takin’ steps of his fuckin’ own” to ensure that the theater does open on time. I think he’s considerin’ gettin’ involved.

Johnny and Adams are fetching some meat from Wu’s cold storage, Adams explaining why they left IOUs for Wu even though Wu can’t really read them: “When he ain’t lyin’, Al’s the most honorable man you’ll ever meet,” says Adams. He sees a derelict-looking Hawkeye in the thoroughfare and sends Johnny back to the Gem so he can clean up his friend before presenting him to Al. Hawkeye has managed to bring some men back, even against Al’s predictions of failure.

Alma brushes Sophia’s hair, explaining to her ward (and to us) her present options: if she wants to keep her gold claim, she’ll have to leave camp so that the thugs that she hires to defend the claim from Hearst’s thugs can do so without being distracted by having to protect her too. Instead, so she can remain in camp, she is going to sell her claim to Hearst and she is just sick at the thought of allowing that evil man to get what he wants. I don’t know, I think I’d leave, although I guess she likes the freedom and power that she has gotten for herself out here in the uncivilized territories – back East, she’d be subject to society’s rules and mores and have to live a much more restricted life. Downstairs, Bullock and Sol are waiting to take Alma to meet with Hearst; Calamity Jane is there to baby-sit during the interval.

The closing at Hearst’s rooms is pretty tense. Hearst is his usual smug self but Alma has her full-snooty on for armor and for once I don’t begrudge her. As they sign the paperwork, she snarls at him, “I recognize the pretense to civility in a man so brutally vicious as vapid and grotesque.” Hearst gets all prickly at having his character thus impugned – what a hypocrite! he recognizes his own misanthropy but can’t tolerate anyone else calling him on it – and it looks as though things might turn ugly for a bit. But they all manage to part ways physically intact, Bullock keeping as tight a rein on his temper as he is able. As Alma and the hardware boys leave, Hearst does allude to the fact that he doesn’t mind if Sol wins the mayoral election but that since the sheriff’s race is countywide, he’s just waiting to see the results come in.

Joanie stops by the Ellsworth house to see if Jane needs anything from “the center” [of camp]. Jane flirts awkwardly with her but Joanie doesn’t respond as well as Jane would like. I don’t like this scene, and I don’t like the one that comes later on, when a drunk and jealous Jane is sulking in their room because Joanie wouldn’t flirt back. This jealousy just doesn’t ring true for me and I feel like it cheapens the characters. I don’t disbelieve that these two damaged women might find solace in each other, but I don’t like the pouting. A little later, Joanie stops by the Bella Union to reach out to Cy, telling him that she has finally found some happiness in her life and she is grateful to him for having kept her alive long enough to have found it – she would have died years ago without his protection. (And by “protection” I mean abuse and forcing her into prostitution, so yeah, he’s a real fuckin’ saint.) Cy is his usual charming self, of course.

E.B. stops by Hearst’s room and the big man gives him a message to deliver to Al. E.B. takes it to the Gem with some trepidation. Al reads the note that says that Hearst expects that the whore who shot him will be killed in punishment for her deed. Al is pissed off but says Hearst will have his answer in an hour. He calls Johnny in and, pouring them both drinks, tells him that Jen (Johnny’s favorite whore, a pretty and sweet blonde) is going to have to be killed. They need a body in the coffin and Al figures Hearst probably only paid attention to “Trixie’s tits and snatch, so Jen’ll adequately pass.” Johnny is so upset – “She’s a nice girl! She’s learnin’ to read!” – but says he’ll do it because Jen is afraid of Al. He takes Al’s big knife and leaves, blurting “Fuckin’ Trixie!” as he goes. “Don’t get me fuckin’ started,” commiserates Al.

At Sol’s house, fuckin’ Trixie is a wreck. First she says she’s going to give away blowjobs for everyone who votes for Sol for mayor, then she shouts that she doesn’t care what happens to her, she just can’t hide inside any longer. Sol gets angry with her and accuses her of not being afraid to die, only being scared of living there with him. He throws her out of the house but then relents, letting her back in and taking her into his arms, both of them crying.

Johnny stops by the Gem whores’ ready-room, saying he wants to talk; Jen turns around and bends over, raising her skirts. Johnny shouts no, it’s actual conversation he’s after! He puts his arms around her, trying work up the nerve to murder her, but he can’t do it. I’m glad – Johnny is too sweet for this. He goes back out and stands up to Al, saying it ain’t fair and he won’t tell Al into the room to kill her himself. He’s willing to die in her stead but is “preferrin’ [Al] handle things different.” Al lets him be for the moment, taking Dan aside and telling him to let Johnny cool down and then knock him out. Al’s got to go look for another fuckin’ knife.

Out in the thoroughfare, the Pinkertons are giving free booze to everyone who votes against Bullock; they also try to pick a fight with the N.G. as he’s in line to vote but Charlie sticks up for him and keeps the voting moving along.

Sol goes to see Al, saying that Trixie fears that Swearengen will kill one of the other whores in her place. Al says he’s already done it (liar). He then tell Sol to (a) relay to Hearst he can come see his would-be assassin’s body at the Gem, (b) fetch Bullock over to the Gem before Hearst shows up, and (c) tell Trixie to stop being such a drama queen and get over it already. Adams and Hawkeye report to Al that Hawkeye has brought “almost eighteen” men for him. Al wants to know what that means; Adams explains that there are seventeen normal-sized men and “a short one that’s hell with a knife.” “Turn me loose,” snarks Dan as Al rolls his eyes.

Al goes to his office to collect himself, have some of the good whiskey and give one last rant to the boxed Indian’s head. He explains to the head (and to us) that he is not about to kill Trixie because she took care of him when he was sick and also took more than her share of beatings. He wishes that he’d learned to use a gun but, since he never did, up close and personal is what it’s got to be. He comes out of his office and sees Jen just finishing up with a paying customer. Gently (for Al), he asks her to come here and closes the door so we don’t have see the deed being done.

Charlie checks in with Bullock, letting him know how the voting is going, when Sol bursts in, saying everything is wrong. That’ll keep the sheriff calm. At the hotel, Jack Langrishe is conversing with Hearst. It starts pleasantly enough, Jack opining that while he sees Swearengen and Bullock (the latter “less possessing his character than being possessed by it” – heh) as little men whose stories will be entirely contained here in camp, Hearst is a bigger personage who will move on to greater glory. He even invokes Hearst’s magical words, saying “… the earth entertaining some large purpose to be told you [Hearst] elsewhere and at another time.” Hearst gets very intense and slightly agitated, hearing someone else pick up on what he has always believed – that the earth speaks to him. Jack gets a bit nervous at the other man’s increased intensity but probes further until Hearst reveals that he is definitely leaving camp for Montana, although not until he gets the election results and sees the dead body of the whore who tried to kill him.

After cutting Jen’s throat, Al comes downstairs and instructs Dan to box her in his office, leaving the blood there on the floor for Hearst to see. “Later, if we’re all still alive, I’ll clean up my own fuckin’ mess,” he says when Dan asks if Jewel should scrub the floor afterwards. Trixie is up there, crying and dressing Jen’s body in the dress she wore when she shot Hearst. Bullock arrives at the Gem and Al asks him how he thinks he might enjoy private life, as the results are in from Sturgis: “970 votes for Harry Manning, 68 for Mr. Bullock,” according to Blazenoff. Al’s plan is this: they all stand united in the saloon when Hearst arrives but Al will go up alone with Hearst when he views the body. If it gets ugly up there, Al will try to knife Hearst and, if that doesn’t work, the rest is up to them.

A Pinkerton has delivered another message to Cy from Hearst: Hearst has selected him to oversee the Hearst interests in camp. Cy can’t say no, obviously, but is pretty tired of being a puppet for men with real power. He goes out on the balcony, the new whore and Leon with him. They observe Wu’s newly arrived Chinese being outfitted with guns, Al’s crew of 17.5 gunmen hanging around outside the hardware store, and Hearst’s small army of Pinkertons loitering in the thoroughfare. The situation looks to be getting pretty tense and Cy, unhinged lunatic that he is, stabs Leon in the upper thigh just because he can, leaving the junkie to bleed out.

Hearst arrives at the Gem and starts making cracks about Bullock’s imminent ouster as sheriff. In turn, Bullock accuses him of buying “Yankton’s whore” and padding the vote with repeaters and soldiers. Al has no patience for this political bullshit and asks if Hearst isn’t here to “verify a croaker.” Hearst confirms that he is, and brings several of his Pinkertons into Al’s office as back-up; Al says he thinks he’ll just come in alone. He opens the coffin. Hearst reaches in and EEEWW! actually feels poor Jen’s neck to be sure that her throat was truly cut. Satisfied, he and his goons leave. Bullock asks Al if the dead whore has family that should be notified and Al grouches that he doesn’t notify fuckin’ family. “I guess especially not hers,” says Bullock, but without any edge to it. Al tells him that Jen has a sister who whores at the Yellow Bird in Gunnison, if Bullock wants to write her a letter. Then he tells Dan that he’ll take that scrub brush now.

Out in the thoroughfare, Hearst climbs up on a wagon, preparing to leave camp. Up on his balcony, Cy drags out a pistol, aiming it at Hearst until Bullock stomps out for one last dig at the mining magnate. Hearst is content, however, having accomplished enough evil for now, and drives out of Deadwood with no further bloodshed. Charlie tells Bullock that he did good; Bullock shakes his head, “I did nothin’.” He says he’s going to go home and try to tell himself that he wasn’t a sucker, then pats his deputy on the shoulder and heads back to his house.

Al scrubs his floor, cleaning up the blood. Johnny pauses in the doorway and, not looking at his boss, asks if Jen suffered. Al says that he was as gentle as he was able and that they’ll not speak of this again. Johnny moves on and Al looks at the girl’s coffin. “Wants me to tell him something pretty,” Al mutters and goes back to his scrubbing. And that is the end of that.

Mr. Mouse and I are convinced that the Deadwood producers did not know that this was going to be it when these last episodes were written. If so, I'm sure there would have been much more bloodshed - maybe not Hearst since he's historical but certainly more than tertiary junkie and whore characters. If it's a series finale, you might as well kill off some important characters (just ask BtVS or Angel). And why else would there have been so much time spent on Jack Langrishe and his actors if the writers didn't think there would be a S4? I wish we knew how Al and Dan met, and what Al and Jack's history is. Now we'll never know if Doc survives or if Sol manages to make an honest woman out of Trixie. I regret not having watched this show when it was on but, in retrospect, I think my heart is broken just a little less having fallen in love with Deadwood knowing it was already dead. R.I.P., you fuckin' amazing show - it's been a pleasure and an honor.

Previous episode

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Zombies and Motorcycles

Just a quick couple of movie niblets here - and the films couldn't be more different!

Last night Mr. Mouse and I watched The World's Fastest Indian. Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, this little movie is the true(-ish) story of how Burt Munro, a 68-year old New Zealand motorcycle enthusiast, took his c. 1920s Indian Scout motorcycle to the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967 in an attempt to break the land speed record for his type bike. Without it being too much of a spoiler, he managed to break the record, clocking in at over 201 mph. After his triumph, Burt went back to Bonneville for the next fifteen years; some of his records still hold. This was a sweet, innocuous movie: no violence, no swearing, no explicit sex - just a man following his dream and, in the meantime, charming every single person his path crosses. It was a little light-weight for my taste, as I prefer my movies to have oodles of plot, but it was entertaining and had you rooting for the old Kiwi coot all the way.

On the other end of the spectrum entirely is the movie I watched this afternoon* when we got back from skiing/drinking beer: the 1968 George Romero classic, Night of the Living Dead. This past October many of the film blogs and web sites that I read were doing horror movie lists and every single one of them decreed NotLD as a seminal movie, the one that spawned the zombie genre as we know it today. Since I like to pretend I know a little bit about movies, I needed to see it. Unfortunately, the DVD I had rented had the main feature as colorized and the original black and white version hidden away in the Special Features menu: it would have been quite a bit scarier in the original B&W. In addition, I grew up in the 1980s watching slasher and Freddy flicks; more recently, I have scared myself silly watching The Descent (the British ending was WAY better than the candyass American one), so Romero's slow-moving zombies are not quite the stuff of nightmares (although I do not want to be trapped in my house with a bunch of them lurching around outside - let's just be clear about that). Nevertheless, I can appreciate how scary and horrifying NotLD must have been to the unsuspecting audience. I'm planning on seeing the next two in the series fairly soon, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, to round out my Romero experience.

* It should be pointed out that Mr. Mouse did not watch Night of the Living Dead with me this afternoon. Not only does he not like horror movies at all, he was busy napping at the time.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Deadwood recap - “The Catbird Seat” (S3E11)

The dropping: According to wikipedia, sitting in the "catbird seat" means having "an enviable position, often in terms of having the upper hand or greater advantage in all types of dealings among parties." Well, it seems like Hearst has that here: he's got way more gunmen than Al does; he's got ringers in to fix the sheriff vote against Bullock; and he's intimidating the hell out of Alma to get her to sell her gold claim to him. Al hopes the 150 secret Chinese laborers Wu has up his sleeve will help even the odds a little. And Trixie uses every weapon in her arsenal (and I do mean every) to avenge a friend.

LANGUAGE, LANGUAGE - BUT NOT AS BAD AS SOMETIMES

Bullock is meeting with Sol and Charlie (and Trixie) at the hardware store to lay out the requirements for summoning him back from Sturgis, where he and Harry are shortly headed for campaigning – apparently Deadwood is a county and not just a camp? Al, having just arisen from his bed of fornication with Dolly, sees this assemblage of persons and is outraged that Bullock et al. would meet without him. He heads over to the hardware, sniping at the whore: “Just because I like you hefty doesn’t mean you couldn’t lose a few pounds.” Merrick accosts him en route with a new article to read: the article insinuates that Hearst was behind the attempt on Alma Garrett-Ellsworth’s life. While he is perusing the article, Al gets a telegram from Blazenoff, the subject of which pisses him off even further: the telegram is from Hawkeye, claiming to have already hired 23 guns who are on their way to the camp. Al doesn’t believe that enough time has passed for that incompetent Hawkeye to do such a thing.

At the hotel, E.B., still in his back room, finally wipes Hearst’s spittle off his face and vows to fuck Hearst up. And then, ugh - why are they wasting my time with these actors when this is the penultimate episode? I can’t be bothered with any of it.

Al and Jack Langrishe meet each other in the thoroughfare and Jack accompanies his friend to the hardware store. The group decides that any sort of further Hearst shenanigans will be enough to summon Bullock’s return. Uneasy, Bullock rides off to Sturgis. In the meantime, a new Pinkerton rides in to let Hearst know that his second batch of “bricks” has arrived. Hearst asks if the Pinkerton knows where to find the tent of “the man [he wants] killed first.” The man answers in the affirmative and heads off to do the boss’s bidding.

Aw, it’s Ellsworth and his dog! Ellsworth feeds the dog as he tries to figure out how to continue his dealings with Alma and Sophia. They are so cute (Ellsworth and the dog, I mean, not Alma and Sophia). I must say, however, that I DO NOT LIKE HOW OMINOUSLY THEY ARE FRAMED IN THE TENT OPENING. This show is amazing with story, rich dialogue and great characters, but subtle it ain’t. The dog hears something and looks to the back of the tent. Ellsworth looks too: it’s the goddamn Pinkerton, aiming a gun right at him. Ellsworth takes a deep breath (as do I), knowing what’s coming (as do I), and the goddamn Pinkerton shoots him in the head. Ellsworth falls to the ground, dead, and my heart is broken.

At the Gem, Al is trying to read the rest of the morning paper in peace but Merrick is hovering, hoping for more feedback on his article. Annoyed, Al tells him the article is plenty good and will do the job of irritating Hearst until he can figure out whom to shoot at next. Merrick asks if Al has any idea who that might be and Al says no, but he guesses they’ll all find out soon.

The folks are gathering in Sturgis, awaiting the sheriff candidates’ speeches. Jarry is there, keeping an eye on things. Harry makes note of all soldiers who are bivouacked in town; Bullock hears him, and goes to speak with one of the soldiers loitering about. It’s Sark from Alias/Adam from Heroes! So darn cute! Bullock asks him why the soldiers are here since there are no Sioux about. Sark/Adam asks if he should go find some and bring them back with him. Bullock is annoyed at not getting a straight answer and snarls, again: “Why are you here?” Another soldier (not so cute) pipes up: “We’re here to vote. Gonna exercise a franchise.” Bullock figures it out quickly: “They told you yet who you’re going to vote for?” Nope, not yet.

Back in Deadwood, a wagon is bringing Ellsworth’s body through the camp to Doc Cochran. Alma sees it and gasps, crying. She drags Charlie over to see; Al, on his balcony, also sees the wagon go by. Ian McShane’s expression here is just lovely: anger, concern and sadness, all in a split second. Across the way, a smug Hearst is noticing everyone’s reactions. Al hurries downstairs and tells his boys that Hearst has let his dogs loose - time to wire the sheriff. Charlie brings the sobbing Alma back into the Gem; she shouts that she wants her child and he runs off to fetch Sophia. “Oh, what did I do to him?” she cries, “What have I done to that poor man?” Al thinks they should go upstairs and get her a drink, saying, not unkindly, “You didn’t fuckin’ shoot him. And don’t be goin’ off into fuckin’ hysterics, okay?” This cuts through Alma’s shock and she is able to take his arm to go upstairs. I really like how Al and Alma interact together.

Outside, Trixie sees the wagon with Ellsworth’s body go by, her face screwing up with rage and sorrow. E.B. observes her from the hotel. She pulls her little derringer from her stocking and rips open her bodice. Breasts bared, she storms into the hotel and E.B. totally redeems himself for all his past weaseling. He absolutely gets what Trixie is doing: he understands that her breasts are bare so people won’t notice her face or the gun in her hand. He starts to make a fuss of his own, distracting Hearst’s men in the lobby so Trixie can get by them unnoticed.

Upstairs, Trixie pounds on the door, calling for Hearst. When he opens the door, she’s got her skirt hiked up and he can’t help but stare at her nekkid lady parts. As he’s distracted, she shoots him with her tiny gun, but only hits him in the shoulder – not the eye, as I’d been hoping. He’s still hurt and slams the door in her face. Upon hearing the gunshot, the Hearst lackeys rush upstairs as she comes down, unimpeded. E.B. continues his show, calling out, “Did someone interrupt your rendezvous? Did someone else attack him?” and Trixie gives him a grateful look. As she leaves the hotel, however, E.B. can’t quite help himself: “Cover those things!” Hee. She does cover up and drops her derringer into a water trough so CSI: Deadwood can’t find it. Crying again, Trixie goes straight to the hardware store where she insists that Sol kill her, saying she shot Hearst but she doesn’t think she killed him: “If you don’t kill me, he’ll do for us all.” Sol hustles her over to Al’s by the back way.

In Sturgis, the telegram makes its way to Bullock. He stops mid-speech, reads it, and heads out, barely pausing to snarl at Jarry on his way by.

E.B. runs into the Gem, shouting that Hearst is dead! or at least shot by Trixie’s hand! Al doesn’t for a minute allow himself to believe that Hearst has been killed. Indeed that man is not: he is walking wounded down the sidewalk, heading to Doc’s. Al and E.B. see him go by and E.B. says, “I’m a dead man.” “You ain’t gonna be alone,” says Al. Sol finds Al and tells him that Trixie is in the back room of the saloon. “Your idea, bringin’ her here?” asks Al. “My idea, after she did what she did. Was that your idea?” barks an anxious Sol. Al nods pacifyingly, “All right,” and goes back to see Trixie, greeting her with an affectionate obscenity. (Folks, now we’ve come full-circle because in the very first episode of this brilliant show, we were introduced to Trixie after she has shot a man with her little derringer and Al has to fix it. That time he fixed it with a boot on her neck, but I think he’s experienced a little personal growth since then.) Charlie rushes into the Gem with Sophia in his arms. As he takes her up to her mother, everyone follows him up. Soon there is quite an enormous crowd in Al’s office, watching Alma and Sophia cry.

Joanie and Jane checking in over at the school, but Martha can’t tell them anything other than Charlie came to collect Sophia. They decide to stand guard over the schoolchildren, just in case. At Doc’s, Ellsworth’s body lies there as Doc attempts to dig the bullet out of Hearst’s shoulder. Hearst is toughing it out with a bottle, wishing Doc would use a little less enthusiasm. Hearst tells Doc that he had no ill will toward Ellsworth (liar!) and that he suspected that the bare-breasted woman who shot him was likely some “baud” with an affection for Ellsworth who suspected him (Hearst) of murdering her favorite john. Seems like Trixie’s “distract ‘em with nekkid lady bits” ploy worked. When Doc finally retrieves the bullet, he recognizes it as one from Trixie’s gun – because, remember, he dug her bullet out of the head of the fellow she shot in S1E1.

Al is translating the situation for us. If Alma wishes to keep her gold claim, she’ll have to leave camp for her own protection (N.B. her near shooting and Ellsworth’s murder). However, if she wishes to stay in camp, she’ll have to sell her gold claim to Hearst so as not to incur further losses to family and friends. Then Bullock comes in and Al quickly brings him up to speed. Bullock rushes up the stairs to Alma, Al snarkily reminding him twice that the child is with her (“I fuckin’ heard you,” grunts Bullock). Jack asks Al if the sheriff mightn’t offer a reason to Alma to sell her claim to stay in camp. Al replies that “reason ain’t his long suit” and the two cronies have a drink. In Al’s office, Bullock gives both Alma and Sophia a big hug. Doc comes to report on Hearst’s take on what happened to him. He wants to talk with Alma so Al interrupts the tender scene in his office and Alma comes out. She sits with Doc and it’s a long scene that I don’t really understand in which they discuss about the purported circumstances under which Sophia was found. The gist is that Doc wants Sophia to be able to say goodbye to Ellsworth and Alma finally agrees.

Everyone else just hangs out in the saloon, then, waiting for whatever will happen next. Charlie doesn’t know what to do with himself and hovers uncomfortably on the stairs for a while until Jack makes an overture, offering him some whiskey. Charlie then sits at a table with Dan and Adams. They offer him a drink and tease each other a little, and thus bridges are built. Too late, of course, because this damn show is almost over.

As Alma, Sophia and Bullock come downstairs, Al’s brain is still churning. He reasons that if Hearst really wanted Alma dead, she’d be dead. Since her husband has been killed to try to force her to sell, for the time being – until she refuses Hearst again - both she and Sophia are probably safe. Alma comes up and shakes Al’s hand, thanking him. He’s a little discomfited but still gracious. He sends Bullock off to keep watch over Alma, saying that he thinks her life is safe but that Hearst will try to get her to sell. Also, he warns the sheriff against jeopardizing the “tranquility of [his] own hearth.” God, I hope Bullock listens. I hate the way he gets all moony over Alma.

Jack compliments Al on the dexterity of his machinations but Al says he wishes he had Hearst’s superiority at arms. In his hotel room, Hearst is watching out the window, noting that the camp is galvanized for action. He muses that he “ought not to work in these places. [He] was not meant to crush his own kind,” only to crush the color out of the earth. Well then, asshole, stop it! I am totally holding a grudge for Ellsworth. I loved Ellsworth.

A-ha! Mr. Wu has arrived to speak with Al. Al tells him that he wants Wu to go to Custer City and bring back the 150 Chinese men stashed there back to Deadwood. Wu is upset that Al has made him wait so long – he’s been ready for action for ten days. Al apologizes (!!) and promises to give Wu’s Chinese men guns so they can fight against Hearst. Wu thinks this is fantastic and heads off to Custer City, saying “Wu big man,” under his breath as he goes. The episode ends with a close-up of Al, having a drink at his bar, gazing out into the thoroughfare and pondering the battle to come.

Next episode/previous episode

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lost episode recap – “The Economist” (S4E3) airdate 02/14/08

It’s a Sayid-centric episode with only minimal Jack! Yahoo!!

As Miles argues with Jack, Juliet and Kate about rescuing Charlotte from Locke, Sayid goes over to Naomi’s body. He closes her eyes and covers her face with a blanket, then notices a bracelet on her wrist. It’s engraved with “N. I’ll always be with you. R.G.” He looks thoughtful and pockets the bracelet. Sayid then interrupts the argument and says that if Frank will fly him off the Island back to the boat, he will bring Charlotte back safely. Frank says it’s a deal.

Flash (which turns out to be forward - nice call, Mr. Mouse): Sayid, with straightened hair, is golfing in the Seychelles. Some big guy with an accent comes up; they chat, and make a wager over the next shot. It comes up that Sayid is one of the Oceanic Six and the other man gets very nervous, saying uh, he read all about that. But he’s not nervous for long because Sayid pulls out a gun and shoots him dead. The golf course sprinklers come on (just like the event-heralding rain on the Island!) and Sayid walks off.

Flash slightly forward: Wintertime in Berlin. Sayid chats up a blonde woman, Elsa, in a café. She says she works for a famous economist; she carries a beeper and has to meet her boss immediately whenever he pages her … luckily he’s only in Berlin a couple of times a year. For his part, Sayid says he’s a headhunter, clarifying “Corporate recruiting.” Elsa totally checks him out as he sips his espresso (he said “expresso” when he ordered – that chaps my hide) and they make plans for dinner later. Sayid leaves and makes a phone call: “I’ve made contact.” He drops the cell phone into a trashcan after the call and keeps walking.

On Island: Sayid and Miles (and Kate, after checking in with Jack) head off after Locke; Jack himself is not allowed to go on this mission, says Sayid, because he’s liable to try to shoot Locke again. (I’m going to have to go back and remind myself just when and why Jack’s animosity toward Locke got so overwhelming. Also overwhelming lately: Kate’s hair.) Juliet goes back to the beach to fetch Desmond to see if he knows anything about the boat folks, seeing how Naomi had that photograph of Des and Penny in her backpack. Meanwhile, Locke and his band are trekking (Sawyer calls Ben “Gizmo” – Gremlins shout-out!), looking for Jacob’s cabin. It’s not where Locke thinks it should be and Ben sasses him, saying that Locke is looking for someone to tell him what to do next. Frustrated, Locke says they’ll just go on to the barracks as planned. Everyone is, however, a little concerned that Jack’s group will try to ambush them at the barracks.

Sayid, Kate and Miles head off through the jungle to rescue Charlotte. Miles wants to know what happened that Locke split the Losties in two. Sayid tells him that half the group thought the boat was here to rescue them and the other half thought the boat was here to kill them. Miles wants to know which side Sayid is on. “I’ll let you know when I decide," smirks Sayid.

Flashforward to Berlin: Sayid meets Elsa to go to the opera, giving her a damn hot kiss. Apparently they’ve been seeing quite a lot of each other. Sayid is staying in Berlin longer than his initial plan of one week because the job he’s on is proving more difficult to accomplish than he thought; Elsa was hoping it was because of her. She thinks she’ll leave her beeper at her flat and if her employer, The Economist, buzzes, he’ll just be out of luck. Sayid, however, chivalrously offers to carry it for her, not wanting her to get fired because of him. Of course, we all know that he’s here to kill her boss. We all figured that out in the café scene.

While Jack and Frank shoot the shit, waiting for Sayid et al. and Juliet et al. to return, Dan fidgets around, setting up an experiment. He borrows the sat phone from Frank to call the boat, arranging with “Regina” to launch the payload, locking in on his beacon’s signal. Before handing over the phone, Frank cautions him to hang up immediately if Minkowski gets on the line. (There are too many characters and names to keep track of!) Dan is a total spaz. Regina launches the “payload” and does a countdown, but whatever it is that Dan is expecting to arrive never shows up. “That’s weird,” says Regina via the sat phone. “It’s far more than weird,” breathes Dan. Quite some time later, a little rocket hits the ground next to Dan’s beacon. He opens it to find a clock reading 2:45:03, but Dan’s own clock has recorded 3:16:23, a 31-minute difference. “Oh no, oh no,” moans Dan.

Sayid, Kate and Miles arrive at the Others’ barracks but it seems as though Locke’s troupe has not gotten there yet. They hear a noise and, upon investigating, find Hurley tied up and stuffed in a closet. After they release him, he says that Locke and his group are gone, leaving him behind without telling them where they were headed. Miles is rude to him, calling him “Tubby” and Hurley snarks, “Oh, awesome. The ship sent us another Sawyer.” They decide to check out Ben’s house. Sayid finds a hidden room filled with suits, many different kinds of currency and dozens of passports, each with Ben’s picture. Kate, on the other hand, finds Sawyer, who’s looking good these days. And Sayid turns around to find Locke pointing a gun at his head; Rousseau has Miles under control. Hurley shambles up, looking hangdog. “Sorry, dude,” he says to Sayid.

Rousseau locks Sayid in the rec room (where Kate had been held last season). Ben is already there, bemoaning the fact that he lost a dollar, having bet Locke that Sayid wouldn’t be dumb enough to fall for Hurley as bait. “What do you know about friendship?” growls Sayid. “I know it’s no use having friends you can’t trust,” Ben opines. Locke stops by and there’s some back and forth. Sayid agrees that the boat people are liars and not here to rescue the Losties. He goes on to say that if Locke gives him Charlotte, the boat folks will take him to their ship and he’ll do some recon. Locke says that Ben already has a spy on board. Sayid all but rolls his eyes, “The day I start trusting him is the day I sell my soul.” I think those words may haunt you, my friend. Sayid suggests a trade for Charlotte: I think Locke is going to get to keep Miles. Fun!

Back in Ben’s house, Kate and Sawyer are catching up. When Kate says she thinks Jack can get them off the Island, Sawyer says he isn’t interested in leaving since there’s nothing back home for him. He points out that she doesn’t have a whole lot other than handcuffs waiting for her off-Island. Kate wants to know how long he thinks they could play house. And Sawyer plays it sweet, saying, “Why don’t we find out.”

Flashforward to Berlin: Sayid and Elsa are in bed, post-snugglebunnies. She is sad because she says she’s falling in love with him and doesn’t know anything about him. She says that she understands that he doesn’t want to talk about the crash, about what happened to him, but she wants to know about his life now. He looks intently at her and relents, asking what she wants to know. Just then, her beeper goes off. She says she has to go right now, her employer is in town! She scampers out of bed and gets dressed (no shower? but you just had snugglebunnies! Ick!). Sayid says that she needs to leave Berlin, that people will soon be asking about what happened to her boss and she shouldn’t be around to answer questions. Elsa gets upset, asking if Sayid used her to get to her boss, if he is going to kill him, asking for whom Sayid is working. He says her boss is on a list he has and he’s not an economist; he does not tell her his own boss’s name. Then, Elsa spins and shoots him! She picks up the phone, ostensibly calling the economist, and says that she shot Sayid but he’s not talking. When she’s not paying attention, Sayid grabs his own gun and shoots her twice, killing her. He drags himself over to her and closes her eyes. He is crying a little. When he touches her wrist, we see that she’s wearing the same sort of bracelet that Naomi was wearing. Hmm.

On Island: Desmond demands to know if Frank knows anything about Penny. Frank and Dan exchange glances and Desmond gets huffy, saying that he’s going on the ‘copter to the ship to get his own answers since they won’t be honest with him. Just then, Sayid arrives with Charlotte. He tells Jack that Kate decided to stay behind; Jack gets all sad and for some reason the camera bounces around enough to make me a little motion sick. Or maybe it’s just having to watch Jack try to emote. Frank asks what happened to Miles and Sayid says he traded him for Charlotte. Frank’s okay with this as Miles was a pain in his ass. It is decided that Frank will take Sayid, Desmond and Naomi’s body back to the boat. Dan reminds Frank that he must follow the exact same bearing they came in on to get back to the boat – very important. They load up the chopper and take off to big sweeping music.

Flashforward: A bloodied Sayid staggers into a veterinary clinic. He takes off his shirt (yay!) and sits down. His boss is there, cleaning Sayid’s wound and asking questions. Sayid says that Elsa wanted to know about whom Sayid works for. “Of course she did,” is the reply and of course it’s Ben, looking very stern. “These people don’t deserve our sympathies,” Ben goes on, “Need I remind you what happened the last time you fought with your heart instead of your gun?” Then they each say a line I can’t get, after rewinding multiple times. Sayid: “You used that […] to kill him for you.” Ben: “[….] protect your friends or not, Sayid.” I think these lines are important but I can’t decipher what they’re saying. Did anyone else catch it? Ben goes on, “I have another name for you.” Sayid points out that “they” know he’s after them now. The camera zooms in on Ben’s face: “Good.”

So, of the Oceanic Six, we know Hurley, Jack, Kate and now Sayid. Whoever shall be revealed next? Who is post-Island Sayid killing: Oceanic people, Dharma people? And just when exactly did Sayid sell his soul to Ben Linus? Most importantly, though, when do we get to see Sawyer take his shirt off?

Next time on Lost. Previously on Lost.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Book review: Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower by Cynthia Cooper, Former Vice President, WorldCom

How brave are you? Are you brave enough to stand up for what you know is right even when what is right is not what is popular? Would you have the stones to confront your employer after you discovered inappropriate business practices, even if your employer was an aggressive, multi-billion dollar telecommunications company? Cynthia Cooper had the stones. She’s the woman who blew the whistle in 2000 and ultimately brought down MCI/WorldCom for fraudulent accounting. This is her story in her own words.

A Mississippi native and lifelong Southerner, Cooper was already making her family proud: the first to go to college; getting an undergraduate degree in accounting from Mississippi State, a Master’s in accounting at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and passing the CPA exam. Her first job was as an auditor for Price Waterhouse in Atlanta; after a stint at another prominent public accounting firm and then with a private client, she moved back to Mississippi in the early 1990s and, after some time, got a position at the company that will become WorldCom in just a few years. She quickly moved up the corporate ladder, adding to her credentials and building the Internal Audit department for the company.

Meanwhile, WorldCom was growing like crazy during this time. During its heyday, the company employed around 100,000 people, a good number of them in employment-sparse Mississippi. Lots of people owned a lot of stock in WorldCom; lots of WorldCom employees placed the bulk of their savings into the company’s retirement plan; and the WorldCom executives made oodles of money. Cooper says that when she started there in 1996 annual revenues were around $1.5 billion; in 2000, annual revenues “[were] tracking toward $40 billion.” Unfortunately for all involved, this was also when the trouble started. The government nixed the WorldCom/Sprint merger, the stock price took a tumble and Cynthia Cooper, in a seemingly routine internal audit investigation into the company’s capital expenditures, found a trail of numbers that led her and her team to discover approximately $3.8 billion worth of fraud, covered by revenue inflation and the underreporting of line costs.

WorldCom’s CFO, Scott Sullivan, and layers of management below him threw as many roadblocks in Cooper’s way as they could: refusing to cooperate with the internal audit, withholding documents, intimidation. Supportive family fortunately surrounded Cooper and she hired a good team of lawyers to protect herself. Finally, in late 2002, succumbing to the massive investigation initiated by Cooper and then taken over by multiple agencies (the FBI, the Justice Department, the SEC, a congressional committee), WorldCom filed for bankruptcy. Its stock price had fallen to $0.83 from a high of $64. However, as Cooper notes, “[n]either the fraud nor the discovery of the fraud caused the downfall of WorldCom … Deregulation, Internet mania, conflicts of interest, delusions of quick riches, and low interest rates created the perfect storm.” She was just there as the ship went down.

The case that the government took against WorldCom was directed at Bernie Ebbers, saying that he knew of and orchestrated the fraud between 2000 and 2002. Ultimately, the lower level accountants and managers implicated in the case received nominal sentences for their cooperation; even Scott Sullivan, the CFO whom the judge describes as the “architect” of the fraud, got only five years for his invaluable testimony against his boss. Ebbers, who was 63 years old at the time, received a sentence of 25 years and ends up being incarcerated in a medium-security prison. Cooper spends a long time detailing WorldCom’s origins and impressive development under Ebbers. It’s clear that she liked him, even after the whistle was blown. I got the sense that she feels he got screwed over a bit, that the man behind the curtain, Sullivan, got off more lightly than he should have.

For her part, Cooper was named one of Time’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002, along with the other Whistleblowers, Coleen Rowley of the FBI and Sherron Watkins from Enron. She resigned from MCI in 2004 and now travels, speaking to corporations, students and other groups about her experiences.

Extraordinary Circumstances is an absorbing and entertaining book. Being a straightforward narrative, it’s a fairly quick read. Cooper even does a decent job explaining all the accounting principles involved so that those parts - which are necessary to explain the fraud - kept my focus. Less interesting were the anecdotal bits about her home life, childhood, etc.: you’re a good Southern girl; we get it, move on. What it all comes down to, however, is that it took an enormous amount of courage and strength of character for Cooper to have taken on the corporate Goliath she did. “Extraordinary circumstances” indeed – pretty extraordinary woman.

02/22/08 - NEW: PLEASE CHECK OUT THE COMMENTS FOR A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Deadwood recap - “A Constant Throb” (S3E10)

The dropping: Someone shoots at Alma and everyone in the camp who we like rushes to her aid (by which I mean practically every character except Cy, E.B. and Hearst). Al figures out that the shooting was never intended as murder but instead as intimidation tactics and a scheme to flush two of Hearst's particular enemies - Ellsworth and Bullock - into the open. A message is sent to Cheyenne to hire some guns to try to even the odds. Best of all, we get to see the old Al again, the Al of action and not just puppet-master Al, as he ruins yet another carpet in his office while opening the throat of one of Hearst's Pinkertons.

THAT'S RIGHT, FOLKS: IT'S DEADWOOD TIME,
SWEARWORD CENTRAL!

Doc is tending to a petulant Cy, pissed off because Cy broke open his wound again when it was healing. Cy says he was examining himself for pus; Doc calls bullshit and I think it happened when he was intimidating Joanie Stubbs the other night. Jack Langrishe swings by Shaunessey’s boarding house looking for the woman who danced like a gypsy at his Amateur Night. He hires her into his theater company. Again, why are we wasting time with these actors with only two episodes left after this one? As it turns out, this other woman, Mary (Langrishe’s lover? another member of the theater troupe?) whom we’ve seen occasionally around camp, does not like that he’s hired this new girl and she decides to leave camp, upsetting Langrishe. Also, the other two women in the theater company don’t like the new hire much either. Who cares? Aunt Lou serves a meal to Hearst and Jarry; Hearst tells her he’ll let her know when the freight office has received Odell’s remains. Aunt Lou sort of grunts at him.

Meanwhile, Alma Garrett-Ellsworth is walking down the thoroughfare to open the bank for the day when suddenly she is shot at! One bullet hits in front of her and another hits the wall behind her. Both Charlie and Al rush to her aid, scooping her up and into safety at the Gem, telling her to “keep her fuckin’ head down.” Al orders Adams to stand guard at the schoolhouse in case someone tries for Sophia. He tells him to send Trixie to the Gem too. Hearst, Jarry and E.B. stroll out onto the boardwalk to take in the excitement. Looking over his shoulder at Hearst, Al assures him that Alma is fine and that this is not out of the ordinary – and Hearst himself is perfectly safe.

Al sits a gasping Alma in a chair inside the Gem and barks more orders: Charlie is to send a telegram to Bullock (who is off campaigning outside of camp?) asking him to return at once, but to use generalities otherwise “that maniac will come back shootin’.” Johnny shows Charlie the back way to the telegraph office. Al asks Alma if they might review the recent events in his office out of the interested eyes of the topless Gem whores (and anyone else who might be snooping around). Unable to catch her breath, Alma says that she needs to remove her corset. Al, with a gesture to said topless whore, says no one in his joint will mind that sort of thing. Alma visibly stiffens her spine and goes upstairs with Al.

Al pulls out the good whiskey and pours both of them a shot, hoping to snap the shocked Alma out of her daze. It works. Trixie arrives, looking absolutely gorgeous for a change – sleeping with Sol must agree with her - and Al leaves Alma in her capable hands. He sends someone to fetch Tom Nuttal and tells Dan, “Cheyenne’s off!” Dan is pissed (“Pack, unpack, re-pack!”): he’s all gotten decked out in his best clothes for the trip. Placatingly, Al tells him to send money to bring whomever he was going to fuck [in Cheyenne] here. Dan grumbles that “who I was going to fuck won’t come by coach – makes her puke.” Aw – does Dan have a girlfriend? Next, Al sends Dan to fetch Ellsworth, knocking him out and dragging him here unconscious if that’s what it takes to make him come quietly. Al doesn’t want Hearst (assuming that’s who had Alma shot at) to know that the attempted shooting had any effect on anyone.

In Hearst’s rooms, Jarry (ugh) is rambling on and annoying Hearst to no end with his weaselly sucking-up. At one point, Hearst even thinks Jarry is hitting on him – which doesn’t go over well at all. All this yammering is boring. I think Jarry is pretty much just saying that Yankton will back Hearst’s play. Hearst says fine, now go the hell back to Yankton and make sure the elections go the way I want. Hopefully that will be the last we ever see of that twit Jarry.

Joanie watches as Charlie relieves Adams in the guarding of the schoolhouse. She likes seeing him there better than Adams. After a bit, she and Jane go and relieve Charlie in case he’s needed elsewhere. They’re very cute, standing there with Jane’s rifle and Joanie’s little derringer. Richardson shows up at the Gem with a note pinned to his shoulder: E.B. wants to know what’s going on. Al tells the messenger to tell his boss “nothing’s going on.” Richardson thinks he can remember that. When Tom Nuttal arrives, Al says he figures they’ll all just hunker down for a while and pours Tom a shot.

Hearst is giving Barrett his orders: take Ellsworth out when he shows up all outraged at the attempt on his wife’s life, but keep the main force in reserve for Bullock when he shows up all outraged at the attempt on his former mistress’s life. Barrett says okay and leaves.

Back at the Gem, the fellas are brainstorming. Al thinks that this near-shooting of Alma was the same thing as Hearst setting Captain Turner to fight Dan: to scare people because if he’d meant to lay waste to the camp with his amassed forces, he’d have done so already. Dan thinks that this means perhaps he should actually go to Cheyenne to hire back-up. Al says no, he doesn’t want to fight 25 v. 4, Dan being his fifth and worth ten of any of Hearst’s men. The sheriff is “no fuckin’ slouch [with a gun] either, if he ever gets back.” They finally decide to send a telegram to Hawkeye (Al’s unreasonable distaste for Adams’s friend notwithstanding) to hire the Cheyenne guns. Al then decides that Alma should complete her walk to the bank to show Hearst she is not intimidated.

Ellsworth finally comes to in the Gem’s back room from where Dan put him, knocked on the head, unconscious and tied up: “What the fuck’d you hit me for?” Dan tells him the story, starting with, “Well, there was some completely no fuckin’ damage done gunfire taken at Miz Ellsworth, fore and aft.” Ellsworth freaks out, shouting that he’ll kill that cocksucker Hearst. Dan calms him, pointing out that Hearst’s shooter missed Alma on purpose to bring Ellsworth (and probably Bullock) running so’s Alma’s two men could be killed. As Al will put it shortly: Alma was bait, not quarry. I am impressed that Ellsworth can calm down enough to see the logic in this.

Al proffers his finish-your-walk idea to Alma. She is at first terrified at the prospect, but then comprehends Al’s point. I may not like Alma very much but she’s pretty fearless when it comes right down to it, I’ll give her that. She meets Ellsworth downstairs at the Gem as she gets ready to finish her walk. She requests that her husband join her later at the bank, asking him not to go after Hearst. Once again, he is no match for her. She walks out, head held high. Al and Ellsworth watch her from the Gem’s front door; Hearst watches her from his perch on the porch; the Pinkertons watch her from the boardwalk. As she makes her way down the thoroughfare, she is slightly comforted seeing Adams, Dan, Johnny, Charlie and Tom Nuttal all keeping an eye on her too from various vantage points in the camp. She makes it to the bank uneventfully.

Hearst is pouty about this and sends Barrett to Al with a note. The note basically says, in fairly innocuous language, that Hearst thanks Al for his rescue of Alma and he offers some of his men to help guard her until the sheriff gets back. After reading the note, Al invites Barrett up to his office while he composes a response. Dan and Adams trade teensy little smiles as Barrett goes upstairs.

They chat a bit, Al even bringing out the good whiskey. Barrett tells Al that he’s not afraid of him and that Al “don’t seem halfway like a halfway bad fuckin’ person.” But he still doesn’t want to talk about his employer. Fair enough, says Al. And, in retaliation for being called a halfway nice guy, Al proceeds to kick Barrett many, many times in the balls and stomps on his ribcage a whole bunch for good measure. Actually, it’s in retaliation for shooting at Alma, beating up Merrick and harassing Wu in the thoroughfare. Barrett becomes less than a bad ass very quickly once Al starts beating him: he tells Al that Hearst has wired for still more Pinkertons.

Then, for some reason, we have to see Cy “interview” and hire a new Bella Union whore. She’s fancy-looking and he is, as expected, extremely unpleasant to her. Why even bother with this scene? Let’s get back to Al!

Ah, now that’s better. Barrett is lying on the floor, whimpering, while Al has a drink. Barrett says that Hearst already has twenty-five Pinkertons here, twenty-five more are coming, and there are about 100 men up at Hearst’s mining operations, ready to move on the camp. “Before or after the elections?” queries Al but Barrett says he doesn’t know. Al places Barrett’s pistol on a chair next to the injured man and walks out onto his balcony, observing Hearst across the way on his own balcony, looking impatient. Al goes back inside and slaps Barrett’s reaching hand away from the pistol. He calls for Dan and Johnny and then, without ceremony, he cuts Barrett’s throat – lots of bloody and gargle-y sound effects (Mr. Mouse has to look away). Al goes back out onto his balcony and cannot resist poking at an agitated Hearst, telling the other man that Barrett had delivered his message to Al and then scurried out the back of the Gem, heading to Bismarck. Al puts it on a little thick and I think Hearst, not a stupid man, figures out what happened to his man. Al walks back inside, points at Barrett’s body and grunts, “Wu.” Dan and Johnny are wrapping the body in the carpet it is lying on, Johnny noting that “This is the longest a rug has lasted so far.” Hee. And no kidding: Al hasn’t done a spot of decent violence since S3E2.

Bullock comes galloping back into camp and finds Charlie working on the packages at his freight office. The sheriff wants to know what is going on; Charlie looks like he’s not quite sure how to tell him.

Oh lord. Normally I like Jane and Joanie together but now there is a nearly FOUR minute scene whereby Jane rambles and rambles about some stupid dream she had. I can’t even begin to tell you anything about the dream because I am so bored with it. Focus, Milch!

Sol has joined the Bullocks for dinner. While Martha serves, it looks as though the sheriff is having some sort of a fit. He is twitching and bulging out his eyes (more than usual), clenching and pounding his fists on the table, making little grunts and moans. Clearly, he’s trying to keep a grip on his temper over what happened to Alma. Sol again demonstrates his genius at managing his friend: he starts telling him about some reordering and restocking scheme he’s come up with for the hardware store. It does the trick, distracting Bullock and bringing him out of his fugue of temper. Martha looks gratefully at Sol then folds her hands, saying to both of them, “Let’s give thanks.” Bullock stares at her briefly before bowing his head.

Next episode/previous episode