Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Tonight Show: Changing of the Guard

This Friday, Jay Leno will have his last show as host of The Tonight Show.

I say this is a good thing. I have always found Leno’s style to be stiff and unfunny. I rarely watched The Tonight Show as it bored me to tears. I never recorded it, either, unlike Late Night With Conan O’Brien, which I used to record frequently. Honestly, I don’t have the time any more for late night TV.

But Leno will still be in our faces in the fall – that is, if you want him to be. As NBC is planning on airing Leno five nights a week in the 10 PM time slot, Leno really won’t be going too far away from his Tonight Show time. What is concerning is that NBC is going to be using mediocre comedian to prop up its prime time 10:00 PM slot. Let’s be honest, NBC hasn’t been able to pull off a new show in that time slot for years. OK, let's be brutal - they haven't pulled off a sustainable hit in prime time at all. Frankly, NBC has done little to promote the shows it has in the 10 PM time slot now, like Law & Order and Law & Order SVU. If it weren’t for fans who keep the L&O franchise alive by sharing every little tidbit of information they can glean from other non-NBC sources, the L&O franchise would have tanked a long time ago.

But now, NBC seems to have run out of ideas for new dramas, and has decided to throw caution, and their network, to the wind by airing Jay Leno at 10:00 PM against shows like CSI Miami and CSI New York, which have been cleaning NBC’s clock for quite some time now. My opinion is that Leno is too bland to be able to consistently draw viewers to the 10 PM slot. I suspect that some may tune in initially just to see what it is like – but only if there is nothing better on the other networks. (Good luck with that, NBC.)

I suspect that Conan O’Brien will have a much better time in his new slot, unless he won’t be able to deliver his usual “unusual” comedy at the slightly earlier hour. I am thrilled that Conan is finally getting into a slot that will get him more exposure.

But, if/when Leno fails at the 10:00 PM time slot, what then for NBC? Is there anyone else or anything else waiting in the wings to replace Leno? I seriously doubt it. I sense NBC is a little too confident about Leno in this new time slot to even be thinking that the show could flop.

I haven’t decided yet if I am going to bother to watch. I think I may wait for the reports to come in for a few weeks to see if it is even worth my time. If I heard good press, I will be happy to give it a look. And if I like it, I will certainly eat my words and admit I was wrong. I don’t suspect the latter will be happening, though.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Skipped American Idol – And Lived To Tell About It

Photo from Fox

I actually did it. I got through the entire season without watching one – NOT ONE – episode of American Idol. And I lived to tell about it.

Our local Fox station provided highlights of each show ad nauseam, so it only took two minutes to get an idea of the contestants’ abilities. In addition, other shows like the morning infotainment shows like the Today Show, Good Morning America, and The View often also provided coverage. Why bother to sit though hours and hours of marginal singing if someone else can just provide a condensed version? There are so many other better shows on television these days that American Idol just doesn’t warrant such an investment of my time.

Of course, when I turned on the news this morning, I heard that Kris Allen won in an upset over Adam Lambert. Since I didn’t spend one second of my valuable time dialing in to vote, or spend any of my valuable money sending text messages to vote, the news didn’t bother me. In fact, I chuckled a little inside at the AI judges who seemed so sure Adam would win as they fawned over him week after week, and at the press that had already provided Adam with his picture on the cover of magazines, apparently crowning him as king somewhat prematurely.

I have to admit that I cringed when our local Fox station played the song, “"No Boundaries” that both contestants had to sing in their final sing-off that AI judge Kara DioGuardi had a hand in writing. Not only was it unlistenable, it apparently was unsingable as it was reported that both contestants sounded awful.

So, I’m glad I missed all of it. It sounds like I didn’t miss much. It’s been reported by many sources that with each year, American Idol continues to lose viewers. I suspect that with each passing year, viewers realize that there really is more to television – and to life – than obsessing about a bunch of wanna-be stars who may or may not be able to carry a tune.

And that’s all I have to say on the subject – until next season, of course!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

“24” Day 7 Season Finale Does Not Disappoint

All photos from Fox

Last night’s 2-hour season finale for ”24” (Fox) delivered the usual action packed close to the season. I admit I was worried when, in the previous week’s episode, that it seemed Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) would be the center of the story. Things that involve Kim with this series have usually not ended well – especially for the viewers. But I have to admit that her storyline in the finale wasn’t as horrible as I expected. Still, it seems to me that the writers need to find another way to interject personal drama into one of Jack’s days without having to bring Kim in to do it.

We also learned that Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) has truly gone over to the dark side, all over the death of his wife, and the big reveal – she was pregnant with his son. His son! Well, I suppose if it would have been a daughter maybe he would not have been so crazed. Still, it seems rather pathetic that they would take Tony and allow such a beloved character to be “resurrected” only to have him turn so bad that the prospect of the death of thousands of people at his hands wouldn’t make him bat an eye. Tony deserved better.

The other main story in the finale was President Allison Taylor’s (Cherry Jones) daughter Olivia (Sprague Grayden), who gets her comeuppance when her wish to have Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight) killed backfires on her. Olivia’s involvement is discovered by the ever-watchful Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce (Glenn Morshower), and later confirmed by the former White House Chief of Staff, Ethan Kanin (Bob Gunton). I figured, though, that Agent Pierce and Kanin would be smart enough to keep the data card safely out of the hands of Olivia, so that aspect of the finale was a bit predictable. I was thrilled when President Taylor makes the hard choice and decided to turn in her daughter Olivia for her involvement in Hodges’ death. Cherry Jones did an excellent job in her role as president, consistently convincing as a person who has the highest respect for her office and for the people of the United States. I hope they find an excuse to bring her back in this role next season.

Agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) finally “gets it” and comes to grips with why Jack Bauer is the way he is. And she looks like she wants a piece of that action, too. Jack can turn even the nicest person over to his “dark side” ways of getting his job done. But, it seems we have a new “evildoer” in Alan Wilson (Will Patton) and I wonder if he will come back to haunt them, that is, if her survives his session with Renee.

It wouldn’t be a finale without Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), and she and Janis (Janeane Garafolo) finally work together as a team, and Chloe actually complements Janis. I think I felt a disturbance in the force.

Of course, since “24” has been renewed for another season, Kim comes in and saves the day, offering to participate in a bone marrow transplant to help save her now comatose father who is dying from the biotoxin. They begin to prepare for the operation as the season ends, and we can presume that Jack will live for another season – oops, I mean another DAY.

All in all, a nice, neat close to a very interesting season, with not as many scenarios that strained believability as in the past. Oh sure, there were some - after all, Jack Bauer’s day has to have the element of incredible happenings in it. With the end of every season I wonder how they will be able to top it next season, somehow, with Jack Bauer’s talents, I don’t think they will have any problems finding him something exciting to do.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lost Season Finale “The Incident” A Good vs. Evil Saga?

Photo from ABC

I was going to do a full recap on the season finale for Lost (ABC) “The Incident, Part 1 and 2” but gave up after about 20 minutes and an oncoming migraine (triggered by the show, I am sure). There was just too much to try to keep up on the little details. But don't despair, here are the high points. written in my original “stream of consciousness” mode. It’s hard to write a short sentence describing what happens on this show because everything is so interconnected. Here goes:

The show opens with a man talking with Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) who is frying a fish he just caught on a rock. Jacob is wearing white and the other man is wearing black. A sailing ship approaches the Island and the man in black says it always ends the same – they come, fight, destroy and corrupt. Jacob says it only ends once, anything else that happens before that is just progress. The man in black asks Jacob if he knows how badly he wants to kill him, and Jacob says yes. Man in black says one of these days, sooner or later, says he will find a loophole, and Jacob says when he finds it, he will be waiting her on the Island.

Kate (Evangeline Lilly) convinces Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) to get off the sub and stop Jack (Matthew Fox) from blowing up the Island with the hydrogen bomb, Sawyer (Josh Holloway) doesn’t want to go but Juliet forces the issue when she disables someone on the sub and takes his gun and then Sawyer and Kate and Juliet ask to get off the sub so they can go back. Later, after Sawyer beats Jack to a pulp, Juliet announces she has changed her mind and Jack is right, he has to blow up the Island to put things back where they were supposed to be, and oh by the way women can change their minds.

Jacob has been on the Island a long time but has also directly touched many of the Islander lives in the past: Kate’s, while she was shoplifting as a child; Hurley (Jorge Garcia), while getting out of jail; reviving or resurrecting Locke (Terry O’Quinn) after he falls from a building; being at Sun (Yunjin Kim) and Jin’s (Daniel Day Kim) wedding; asking Sayid (Naveen Andrews) for directions as Sayid’s wife is hit and killed by a car; and Sawyer, when he was at the funeral for his parents. Jacob is on the island but also not on the Island, but when on the Island but did not live in the cabin like Ben thought but it is living in the foot of the four-toed statue that remains from the giant statute.

Locke is alive and yet he is dead (more on this later), but the “alive” Locke tells Ben (Michael Emerson) to kill Jacob because Jacob never ever saw Ben and Jacob would always pass messages to Ben through Richard, never in person, and Ben should be angry about that. Ben gets mad and stabs Jacob.

Richard still keeps his youthful looks but does not seem to have traveled through time to stay this way. He looks like he has been wearing the same "guyliner" for years on his eyes.

Rose and Bernard are still alive and having fun living on the Island under the radar and stealing Dharma food.

Miles’ (Ken Leung) father wants to stop drilling by the Swan location but Radzinsky (Eric Lange) wants to go ahead and he opens up the energy field and everything metal starts getting sucked into the hole. Yet bullets continue to fly and don’t seem to be affected by this phenomenon. Juliet falls into the hole and Sawyer tries to save her but she loves him enough to let him go and she seems to be doomed to die as she seemingly detonates the hydrogen bomb that Jack obtained from “Jughead” just like Faraday told him to and which Sayid rigged before he was shot and started bleeding to death.

Whew! (You know, I actually laughed when I re-read what I wrote above but I swear all of that was really in the show.)

What does it all mean? There are so many theories out there that it could make one dizzy. I for one still have the feeling that someone is making things up as they go along. But seriously, I think the most important scene was the very first segment with Jacob and the man in black. It seems like they are both outlining the classic good vs. evil story, Jacob in white being good, man in black being evil. Everything else that happened on the show seems to indicate that everyone else on the Island are just part of the ongoing battle between good and evil, angels and demons, God and the Devil. Still, I found the 2 hour finale overly confusing and maybe even a little bloated. It was certainly not as tight and elegant, or as surprising, as the season finale for Fringe, one of J.J. Abrams other shows. There was nothing that really took me by surprise during this finale, not even Locke’s dead body dropping out of the container. As soon as they showed an airplane container big enough to hold a body, I knew he was in there. Still, it does beg the question – how can Locke be dead and yet alive and taunting Ben to kill Jacob? Is the “alive” Locke really Locke at all? Does this have anything to do with the “loophole” that the man in black mentioned at the very start of the show? If Juliet really did detonate the hydrogen bomb by hitting it with a rock, where will all the “Lost” people be at the beginning of what is being billed as the final season? Back where they started before the flight, or on the flight, headed to their original destinations? One thing is for sure, despite the fact that this show gives me a headache and makes my head spin, I will be back next season to hopefully get all the answers.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fringe “There’s More Than One Of Everything” Recap & Review Season Finale

All Photos From Fox

The season finale for Fringe (Fox) “There’s More Than One Of Everything” was true to its title. It seems that the alternate universes that Walter Bishop (John Noble) described in the previous week’s episode ”The Road Not Taken” are a reality, and this provides some interesting twists in the story. We also get to meet the elusive Mr. Spock, er, I mean William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) and see what reality he happens to be inhabiting at the time. And it looks very familiar – maybe even disturbing to some.

It seems that William Bell is in an alternate reality in which we have a very much alive former President Kennedy, a “new” White House (what happened to the old one?) and the twin towers of the World Trade Center, still standing. What Olivia and Peter and everyone else doesn’t know -except Walter – is that we also seem to have a Peter Bishop who is likely not the same Peter Bishop that was born into Olivia’s reality. It seems that the original Peter Bishop, who was ill as a child, died as a child, and Walter likely brought back another Peter Bishop from an alternate reality. I think that when Peter visited the gravesite I suspected that was going to be the case, and then when Walter was telling Peter how he had lost something dear to him, I knew that the original Peter was dead. Still, all these little reveals were brilliant, although I can understand if some people who lost friends and family in the very real destruction of the World Trade Center may not be very pleased. For me, who lost three siblings when they were very young, would not be so saddened to think that they would be alive in another reality.

I chuckled a bit to myself in the scene where Olivia asks for all the files they have on all kinds of scientific and unusual events – I wondered if Mulder’s X-Files were in there?

One thing worth noting is the seemingly innocent near miss with Olivia and the other car as she drove to her meeting with Nina. If one carries the alternate reality even further, Olivia could have been killed in that accident in William Bell’s alternate reality. It gives you something to think about – not like you don’t have enough already. This episode was simply brilliant, and it was a perfect end to the first season of probably the most interesting show of the season.

In case you missed it – here’s what happened:
The episode opens with Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) being rushed to the hospital after being shot. It seems that a critical component is missing from her mechanical arm and hand. They find that the shooting was orchestrated by David Robert Jones (Jared Harris) and he also stole the part from Nina. He needs it in order to complete the mechanism to open the window to one of the alternate universes – more on this later.

Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) now thinks she has enough to bring in William Bell, and when she tries to oversell the idea to Broyles (Lance Reddick) he tells her she’s overselling herself and she is assuming he doesn’t agree. He is on the same page as Olivia.

Meanwhile, Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) come to the realization that they have no idea where Walter has gone. We see Walter (John Noble) visiting a grave with The Observer (Michael Cerveris) “observes.” But we don’t see the name on the headstone.

When Nina wakes up, her mechanical hand isn’t working right as a vital component had been stolen. She asks Broyles, who is at her bedside, to speak with Olivia. When Olivia arrives, specialists from Massive Dynamics are working on her arm. Concurrently, Jones is setting up shop in the middle of a busy street, his face covered with bandages. Nina tells Olivia that Jones worked for William Bell years ago but Bell fired him and Jones remained bitter about it. After Jones got out of prison, he attempted to contact Bell several times. Broyles suspects Jones wants to kill Bell, but Nina insists she does not know where Bell is located, she only is in contact with him via email and she hasn’t actually seen him in months. She knows Olivia wants desperately to speak to Bell and says if Olivia can stop Jones, she will make sure she gets her meeting with William Bell. She also tells Olivia that the item stolen from her arm was a very powerful energy cell that Bell hid there.

We then see Jones taken out a small device from a case and putting it into the machine he is setting up in the street. His face looks like it is disintegrating under the bandages. When he activates the machine, it emits a very high-pitched tone, and people on the street react by covering their ears. When he turns up the energy field, a sort of wavy window begins to appear – an energy field is being established. But the field can’t be held open, and as it shuts, a truck materializes and drives through the field, the back half shearing off as the window of the energy field shut. Jones says it is “too thick here” and it seems they have the wrong coordinates to properly establish the field.

Elsewhere, The Observer and Walter are walking on a beach. The Observer asks Walter if he recognizes a coin he's holding, and Walter asks him how he got it. Walter comments that it looks similar to one Walter is thinking of, but it's different. The Observer adds "There's more than one of everything." He asks Walter if the house they're standing in front of looks familiar and if he remembers what he has to find. He says there isn't much time.

Back at Walter’s lab at Harvard, Broyles brings Nina to the lab. They ask Astrid if Walter talked to anyone strange lately. Peter overhears, and Nina tells him that Jones has something Walter might know about. Peter says he hadn’t seen him since last night, and Nina immediately gets on the phone to call someone to do a grid search for Walter.

At the scene of the damaged truck, witnesses describe the curtain-like window that appeared and from which the truck came through. One also describes a man whose face is covered in bandages. They later find that the VIN and serial numbers on the truck simply aren’t registered anywhere and technically the truck just does not exist.

Later, Nina shows Peter train security footage of Walter near a beach house that Peter identifies as one they owned. He thinks Walter headed there as he’s had a rough couple days and he needed to help things makes sense. Peter wants to go there himself to get Walter. When he gets to the beach house, he finds a very distraught Walter teaching the place apart looking for something but he can’t recall what. He is repeatedly turning over a coin in his hand. When Peter recounts a story of how Walter used to come there and make Peter whale shaped pancakes,

Elsewhere, Olivia asks Nina where the truck came from and she asks where Bell is, telling Nina to stop playing games or she'll turn this world over looking for him. Nina says that's the problem, he's not in this world.

Meanwhile, in Providence, Rhode Island a black van pulls up to a kid's soccer game, and Jones exits.

Olivia, with Broyles and Nina assisting, explain the alternate reality theory to Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo), saying this is where the truck likely came from. She thinks Jones is using the energy cell to cross over to get to Bell who is also in the alternate reality. Their phones all begin to ring

Back at the beach house, Peter tried to help Walter focus. He recounts a story of how Walter used to come there and make Peter shaped pancakes, and this triggers Walter’s memory. He knows what he is looking for and where to find it.

At the soccer field, witnesses have described what seem like a transparent window that shimmered and then collapsed. There is a body there – cut cleanly in half. Charlie can’t believe it but now he is buying into the alternate reality theory. He and Olivia wonder why Jones picked this location. Back at the office, Olivia asks for every file that mentions science, biology or unexplained phenomena. She maps them out using pushpins. She thinks she has found a connection and tells Broyles they need to get Nina involved.

Back at the beach house, Walter found a small metal box in a trunk, a coin on top of it looking like the one The Observer gave him. The box is locked and Peter picks the lock to open it, and they find an object that fits in the hand. He comments when he and William were young they took copious amounts of LSD and were convinced they could experience alternate realities. They believe some children could see these alternate realities naturally and may be able to travel to alternate worlds. Around the time the came to this theory, Walter says he lost something very dear to him, and he thought he could find it over there in the other reality.

Back at the office, Olivia goes over the pattern the pushpins made with Nina and Broyles and indicate the spots where Jones used his device. The other locations radiate out from those spots. Nina explains that finding the right place to cross over is the key. William Bell proposed that our world has "soft spots," which are areas where the speed of light and protons have begun to decay and where it is easier to cross over. She cites the Bermuda Triangle as an example. Over the years, the increase in technology has increased the soft spots and she thinks Jones is looking for those.

At the beach house, Walter continues this explanation, saying that opening the hole could let things from there cross over to here, which could be dangerous. The object he is holding is plug that he built, more like a patch to close the hole. He knows where the hole is: Reiden Lake, and he has to plug it.

Meanwhile, looking at all the data, Olivia, Nina and Broyles come to the same conclusion – Reiden Lake. Jones and his crew are already there, setting up.

Peter is driving Walter to the lake, which is close to the location of the beach house. Walter tells Peter to hurry but can’t explain why. He also tells Peter about the bald man that visited him, and Peter realizes that was The Observer - the man who once attacked him in the woods. Walter says he probably had a good reason. Walter suddenly tells him to stop. Peter asks, “Now what?” Walter pulls out the plug/patch, and the coin. Walter then recounts a story that he says Peter probably does not remember, but when he was a kid and very sick and dying that Peter took to collecting coins, and he gives Peter the one he was holding, saying it was Peter’s favorite. But Peter doesn’t remember any of that; Walter says he does.

Suddenly, their car doors are opened and they are pulled out. But we then hear Olivia yelling that Walter and Peter are with her. They realize they are all there for the same reason – to plug the hole and/or stop Jones. As they see a bright light forming in the area, they race over to see Jones with his machine up and running. Walter gives Peter the patch to close the hole, and as a shoot out ensues, Jones continues to try to open the hole. Olivia threatens to shoot Jones as he approaches the hole, and when he continues to move closer, she takes a shot. He says that the teleporter maybe killing him but it is meaningless, it made him special – bullets can pass through him. He continues to walk to the opening, and Peter approaches, holding the patch. As Jones begins to step into the window to the alternate reality, Peter aims the patch at it, cutting off the window and causing Jones to be sheared in half.

Back at headquarters, Broyles tells Olivia that Nina is thankful for her efforts but they have been told by powers higher up that cannot be challenged that they must cease and desist their investigation into William Bell.

Astrid and Peter return to the lab, and find a note from Walter, along with a roll of Necco Wafers. The note to Peter says "Stepping out for a bit, don't worry about me son, I know where I'm going." Peter is happy and unworried, as this is the first time Walter has left a note. Meanwhile, we see Walter standing at the gravesite he was visiting earlier when he was with The Observer. Walter leaves the coin on top of the headstone, the headstone marked with "Peter Bishop, 1978-1985." Walter cries.

Back at Olivia’s home, her phone rings. It’s Nina, and she tells her to come to a hotel in Manhattan, she is planning to hold up her end of the bargain, but not to tell anyone. On her way to the location, Olivia is nearly hit by a car. She makes it to the hotel as planned. She waits in the restaurant until it seems everyone else has left. She calls for Nina and is told Nina is out of the country. Clearly annoyed, Olivia leaves the restaurant. She steps into an elevator and presses the button for the first floor. A man is also in the elevator with her, and exits on the 18th floor. She continues to ride the elevator down, and nearing the 15th floor she suddenly sees a flash of light and sees flashes of more people in the elevator – and then she is alone again. The elevator doors open to a very sterile, white hallway, and a woman greets her and shows her into an office. As Olivia enters, we see a large bell on a table, and the New York Post, dated May 17, 2009, with the headlines “Obama’s Set To Move Into New White House” , “Former President Kennedy to Address UN” , ‘Stock Markets Remain Closed – 21 days and counting” and “Celtics Sweep - Len Bias Wins MVP.” There is also a small oxygen tank.

A man enters and says to Olivia "I've been waiting quite a long time for this" and she asks where she is and who he is. He says the first part is complicated but the second is easy: He's William Bell. Olivia turns and looks out the window. As the camera pulls away, we see she is now on one of the top floors of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center building, clearly in one piece and still standing.

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Fringe Season Finale Ending Scene

Fringe Promo For Season 2

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

House “Both Sides Now” This Is Your Brain On Drugs

Photos from Fox

I knew it. I said it last week in my review of House episode “Under My Skin” where I said “Still, I found myself wondering if House could have detoxed so easily considering the amount of Vicodin he had been taking? I would have suspected that he would have become quickly dehydrated and would have likely required IV fluids. Something about his detox just seemed a little too tame.” Something in my gut just told me the whole detox thing felt wrong. And it this week’s episode of House(Fox) titled ‘Both Sides Now” we find that it never really happened.

After this episode was over, I wondered how to cover it. At the end of the episode, it seems House was hallucinating everything from the time he initially went into Cuddy’s (Lisa Edelstein) office in last week’s episode “Under My Skin” to tell her he quit and that he was hallucinating. I would think that this would mean the patient of the week – the man with the hand that had a mind of his own, didn’t really happen. Are we also to assume that the whole dialog between Cameron and Chase about her destroying her first husband’s sperm and him telling her to keep it never happened? Is the old man, Eugene Schwartz (Carl Reiner) who turns out to have a pancreas problem also not real? This is what I don’t like about episodes that use dreams or hallucinations in the story. It makes it very hard for viewers to determine what has or hadn’t really occurred. I assume those things did not happen.

One of the early clues that something is off – besides the quick detox of the week before – was when House woke up he had no lipstick on his face that I could see, and then suddenly when he sees himself in the mirror, he sees lipstick is on his cheek. He finds a tube of lipstick in his bathroom, presumably from Cuddy and their wild fling the night before. He carries it around with him all day, and it is an annoying clue to House. When he can’t rationalize why Cuddy’s coffee cup had no lipstick on it, he later realizes it because the lipstick was never there to begin with. The lipstick tube he had been turning over in his head – and turning over in his hand – was his Vicodin bottle.

House has also become obsessed with trying to make Cuddy get angry. She seems far to calm and collected when he tries to push her usual buttons. She only becomes crazed when he stands up on an upper level and shouts down into the lobby to all that were there that he slept with her. She fires him, which of course, this later revealed to also not to be real.

When he finds himself “back” in Cuddy’s office, he is now seeing both Amber (Anne Dudek) and Kutner (Kal Penn) who tell him he’s created a nice story for himself and too bad it’s not real. When House tells Cuddy he is not OK, Cuddy takes him to Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) who proceeds to take him to Mayfield Psychiatric. I assume this is not just because they think he is having a psychotic break, but also to get him to detox. After all, I thought in the previous week that Wilson told him if he had to go on anti-psych meds he could not practice medicine again. It also doesn’t feel quite right to me that both Cuddy and Wilson would check him in to a place like that right away without running other tests to rule out any other physical problems. Sure, his Vicodin addiction is the likely culprit, but I would have liked to see more of an effort for their own medical facility to verify that there wasn’t some sort of other physical or organic cause for his brain meltdown.

The last few minutes of the episode – where House realizes he has a serious problem – was probably one of the best acted scenes on television this season. Hugh Laurie’s portrayal of a man who is almost in love with his medication maybe even more so than anything or anyone else in his life, was both gripping and unsettling.

The only other thing that I assume was real in this episode was Chase and Cameron’s wedding, which seemed to be taking place while Wilson was taking House to the psychiatric facility. Hopefully now that they are married that we will get a lot less of their boring personal drama as I remain uninterested in both of them.

While dream or hallucination scenarios are overused plot contrivances, it seemed to make sense for this series considering the main character has such a severe drug problem that it was only a matter of time that something would go wrong in his head. Hopefully, he will get the needed detox in the psychiatric facility so he can return to his job, as I don’t think the medical show can survive without its lead diagnostician being able to practice medicine. A crazy House could be too big of a change for a medical show.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Southland – Worth A “Bleeping” Try

All Photos from NBC

I started watching Southland (NBC) a few weeks ago. I missed the first episode or two. I’m sorry that I did, because this show is one of the more interesting “cop” shows that I’ve seen in a while. It focuses on the LAPD, but unlike NBC’s failed series “Boomtown” of a few years ago, Southland doesn’t have a glitzy stylized look to it. Southland is much more realistic and down to earth, at times it’s like being on a ride-along with a reality show like “Cops.” Unlike “Cops”, Southland overlays some background stories for its main cast.

The cast is a blend of people from all walks of life. Two that stand out for me are Detective Lydia Adams (Regina King) and Detective Russell Clarke (Tom Everett Scott). Regina King plays a detective who is grounded in reality, but also seems to have a heart and strives to do the right thing. Tom Everett Scott looks like he is looking for something more in his life, likely in his marriage if not other things. Frankly, it’s good to see him in this series and not in his role as Governor Shalvoy on Law & Order, a role that did not fit him one bit and was almost laughable. This role seems much better suited for his acting ability and his boyish looks. But there are plenty more on this cast that give the show in which almost everyone can develop and interest.

Some drawbacks though. The lead police and detective ranks don’t seem to be very racially balanced and I don’t know if this reflects the true make up of the LA force, so the show may not be as realistic as it wants viewers to believe. But by far the biggest detractor is the “bleeps” that they insert in order to cover the expletives. It’s likely some of these words would get by if aired on cable, and I think the show is attempting to be edgy by showing that these words do come out of people’s mouths in a course of a given day, the bleeps being their way of saying, “Yes, we can say these words too like other real people but we’re just not allowed to on network TV.” Personally, I find it highly annoying. I would rather that they find other words to use than to continue to hear that bleeping all the time.

So while I haven’t watched enough of the show to really understand or care about all the characters, I think the show has possibilities. I think they can get rid of the bleeping expletives and find other ways to make the show edgy. This may be a difficult task, though, seeing that NBC’s decision to move Jay Leno into the 10 PM time slot daily next fall will mean that their prime time shows may have to be sanitized even further. But, I’m glad that NBC has renewed this series because I plan on watching it a while longer.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Bones “ The Critic in the Cabernet” Lobotomizes Viewers

It seems that hallucination week continues this week in Fox on ”Bones” (Fox) in the episode ‘The Critic in the Cabernet.” This time, it’s Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) who is seeing things.

The episode involved a body that was found in a wine barrel. Since the show seems to work very hard in making dead bodies seem as gross as they can, this one was no exception, as it was in a wine barrel, the wine turning to vinegar and the remaining bones turning rubbery.

In a completely clichéd case, the murder victim is a wine critic, murdered by a wine maker who was discovered by the critic using his cheap wine to create counterfeits of a more pricey wine. The case could not have been more obvious or more boring.

The show attempts to bring the relationship of Booth and Dr. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan (Emily Deschanel) to another level by interjecting Bones sudden wish to have a baby. This all happens while they are in a session with Dr. Sweets (John Francis Daley). I find myself wondering why these two continue to need to see Sweets, coming up with the answer that is only gives the show an excuse to bring out new scenarios for Booth and Bones to explore. It is not only getting too predictable, it is getting boring.

This brings me back to Booth’s hallucinations. It seems that once Bones suggested that Booth be her sperm donor and the father of this baby she suddenly wants, he starts to have concerns. This seems to cause him to have hallucinations of the animated character Stewie from “Family Guy”, of course, a Fox show. But when he sees Stewie during the interrogation of the murder suspect, Bones realizes that something is wrong. She mentions other hallucinations that Booth has had – but for some reason I can’t recall any previous mention of hallucinations in any previous episodes with Booth. Maybe I just forgot about them, but it still is a surprise to me. It is possible that the show has become so dull that I fell asleep during some of the episodes. She rushes Booth to the hospital, and of course he has a brain tumor that requires immediate surgery. (Maybe they will have the same surgeons as Michael Scofield on Fox’s “Prison Break” who had no evidence on his head at all after his surgery.)

The other thing with this series that is becoming very annoying is that there is a different lab assistant each week. I am not sure why they seem to have such trouble picking someone to replace Zak. Speaking of which, they mentioned Zak appearing in next week’s episode, and I find that as I had no interest in Zak to begin with, the announcement of his return does not bring any excitement.

If you like a crime show that doesn’t tax your brain, Bones is the show for you. It is predictable, it is trite, and it is all about the “dance” between Booth and Bones. And after a while, that dance becomes old and repetitive. This may be one series that I may pass on next season.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fringe “The Road Not Taken” Things Heat Up

All photos from Fox
Things are really starting to heat up on Fringe (Fox) and in the case of this episode ‘The Road Not Taken” you could take that literally. And it must be hallucination week on Fox, because besides House having hallucinations (in the episode “Under My Skin”), now Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is having some of her own.

But, before I talk about the episode, I have to relay one thing I just can’t get out of my mind with this show. It’s Astrid. It has been bugging me every week that she just looks so familiar, and that she reminds me of someone but I could never put my finger on it. I finally mentioned it to my husband the other day, and he says, “She looks like Victoria Principal when she was in the 1970s movie Earthquake.” I realized he was correct. Victoria had that funny afro-like wig in that movie, and Astrid looks just like her. Now every time I see Astrid, I laugh. I may never get that image out of my mind. I do really like Astrid though. She just very quietly goes about and does her work, and does it well.

OK, now about the episode. It opens with Agent Broyles (Lance Reddick) briefing his whole team on ZFT, the terrorist group responsible for several biological attacks, and whose manifesto lists their ideology is destruction by the advancement of technology and attempting to prepare for or provoke a war. But the question is – war with who?

Meanwhile, a woman, who got on a bus and then seemed to be getting hotter and hotter, demands to be let off, and soon after she gets off, she literally explodes into a fireball.
Back at the lab, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) is paging through an old, typed copy of the manifesto, titled “Destruction Through Technological Progress” and when seeing a fault in the typing of the letter ‘y” he realizes the manifesto was typed on an old typewriter in the lab that belong to William Bell. When he tells this to Peter (Joshua Jackson), Peter asks him if he realizes he is saying that not only is Bell funding ZFT, but he also wrote the manifesto and is responsible for everything that is happening. But Walter disagrees, saying that William Bell would have never done the things that were stated in the manifesto. He believes there are pages missing. Walter adds that Bell wrote it in the lab and is convinced the original is still there somewhere. Astrid (Jasika Nicole) comes in and tells them that it is Olivia calling.

Next, we see the Fringe team at the scene of the badly charred body of the woman. Despite the fact that Olivia sees two burned bodies there, everyone else – Walter, Peter, and Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo) see only one.

Back at headquarters, Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) pays a visit to Broyles, protesting their investigation of William Bell. She says he is not a terrorist. But Bell can’s say so in person as he it out of town.

Back at the lab, Walter wants to examine the charred remains with the electron microscope, but is told that Peter cannibalized it for some parts for a project of his own. This does not please Walter.

Olivia, meanwhile, goes to Broyles office and comments to him about him rearranging it. He looks at her oddly. He shows her the picture of the victims and she sees two of them again. Then, her vision returns to normal and it is clear that she was seeing things when she saw two bodies in the photo and seeing Broyles office furniture moved. But she doesn’t have much time to think about it, as Sanford Harris (Michael Gaston) storms in, giving them hell about checking into William Bell. He tells them to drop it and he storms out. Olivia asks Broyles if they are going to drop it, and he tells her to get more evidence.

Back at the lab, Walter is cutting up parts of the charred body, and hands Astrid what must be the woman’s teeth, as Astrid makes a comment about how the woman should have flossed more. She gets a quick hit on the dental records – the woman is Susan Pratt. Walter also thinks about using his Geiger counter to help find his manifesto – he likes the noise it makes – and is perturbed when Astrid tells him that Peter used parts from it for his project.

When Charlie and Olivia check out Susan's apartment, they find a $300,000 check from an Isaac Winters and that her bathroom is also heavily charred. But Peter has returned to the lab with various boxes of sugary cereals, but Walter is dismayed that Frankenberry is not one of them. Walter thought eating that cereal would jog his memory about the location of the original manifesto. When Olivia returns and tells them of what they found at Susan’s apartment, Walter thinks it could be pyrokinesis, a word, Peter says, that was coined by Stephen King in his book “Firestarter.” But Walter said King may have come up with the word, but pyrokinesis has been talked about for long before that and that it is not fictional. He suspects that Susan has this power and can’t control it, and stress could make her blow.

When Charlie gets an address for Isaac Winters, he and Olivia head over there, and when Olivia picks the lock to get in, they find his office looking like someone left in a hurry. She listens to the messages on his answering machine and there are several frantic messages from Susan on it, wondering what is happening to her. As they leave the building, Olivia momentarily sees the city in what looks like ruins. But Charlie snaps her back to reality.

Back at the lab, Olivia has told Walter and Peter of her hallucinations and Walter asks her if she is taking any hallucinogens. Of course she is not. Walter says she is not losing her mind, and explains she is having a sort of déjà vu that allows her to glimpse into various realities. She wonders if it’s from the drug Cortexaphan that she was given during Bells’ drug trials when she was a child. Walter is not sure, but thinks there are reasons for her visions.

Astrid, still working hard, finds another person that seems to match what happened to Susan and she found it on a web site run by Emmanuel Grayson. Olivia and Peter meet with him, and he speaks about William Bell and Massive Dynamic’s involvement. He says the dead man is one of Bell’s test subjects and thinks Bell is trying to activate these subjects. He adds that Bell is creating super soldiers. And then, when Grayson begins to use names from Star Trek, Peter thinks he is a little nutty in the head and makes the Mr. Spock hand sign and tells him to live long and prosper.

Elsewhere. Nina is on the phone with a prime minister and puts him on hold to take another call. She tells the caller not to do something.

Back at headquarters, while Olivia contemplates the parts of Grayson’s story that make sense, Harris comes in and gives Olivia a new assignment. It’s a psych exam. She is livid, and tells him she won't let him undermine her ability to do her job. He says it's a direct order.

A phone rings nearby, and the room changes. She is holding a file and she can see not one but two pictures of Susan Pratt in it. She asks Charlie about the Pratt case and he responds that half of Boston under lock down and s why she's worried about a pair of charred twins? When she gets back to reality, she realizes that Susan may have a twin. They check this out and it is true, she does have a twin named Nancy, and she lives in town. But when they try to get to her at the apartment, Isaac Winters has already been there and taken her. When Olivia gets to the apartment, it looks in disarray and the window glass is melted. Peter has an idea, and cuts out a round piece of the melted glass. He later brings the equipment from his “project” to the apartment that he originally created so Walter could restore his water-damaged records. Peter wanted to use it now to help translate the microscopic groves that the heat Nancy generated that melted the glass to reconstruct the sounds from when she was taken so they can find who kidnapped her. And he has success – they can hear the sounds of Nancy being kidnapped and a man talking. They can also hear the tones from the man’s phone as he dialed someone else, and Olivia’s cell phone is able to dial the number from those tones. It rings – and Harris answers the phone.

Later, Olivia and Charlie watch Harris go into a warehouse and they follow. They break the padlock and enter, guns drawn. Harris has entered a room that also has a another room with a glass window for observation, and Nancy is strapped to a table. Harris tells Isaac he is losing his patience and to get it done. Olivia has found another room with all kinds of photos of people involved in cases they have investigated – and her picture is also included. She hears a shot, and one of the agents is down. Olivia shoots back and incapacitates the shooter. She also finds Isaac and shoots him as well. She moves to get Nancy freed, but is dismayed when the door to the room is suddenly locked and she is stuck in there with Nancy, Harris looking on from the other side of the glass. Olivia shoots at him through the glass but it is bulletproof. Harris won't let Olivia out and says if Nancy can't control her fire she'll explode and solve two problems. Nancy is becoming overheated, and Harris calls someone and tells the person that she is active.

Olivia attempts to calm Nancy and tells her she can control it. Lucky for Olivia, Nancy puts her thoughts on Harris and her fire goes to him beyond the glass, engulfing him in flames. (I cheer.)

Afterwards, Peter and Walter are at dinner, and when Peter steps away to go to the restroom, Olivia comes in and asks Walter "What the hell did you people do to us?" She is very agitated. Walter says they meant no harm they were only trying to prepare them to become capable. He tells her ominously that something terrible is coming, but he doesn't know what. As he breaks down in tears, he tells her he can’t remember. Olivia leaves him, and Peter returns, wondering what has happened to Walter to cause him to be crying and be so distressed.

Elsewhere Nina rings Broyles' doorbell and when he answers she hands him a file. It has photos of The Observer, all taken in the last 24 hours. She says he knows what happened the last time he appeared so many times and they need to talk.

Back at the lab, while Walter is listening to one of his old records, he digs through his collection to find another and stumbles on the original manuscript of the manifesto. He hears the door open and he thinks its Astrid, so he says that he found it and it has all the original pages. He reads a line that says "Our children are our greatest resource. We must nurture them and protect them. We must prepare them so they can one day protect us." But when he turns around he sees The Observer who says "Hello Walter.” Walter quietly says hello and The Observer says “It's time to go." Walter asks "Is it time?” After looking around, somewhat sadly, Walter says, “I'll get my coat." The Observer walks out of the lab and Walter follows.

Meanwhile, Nina walks into an apartment lobby and gets into an elevator. When she gets off she's greeted by two masked men. One is holding a gun of sorts that looks like it has a silencer. He shoots her and Nina drop to the ground.

“Fringe” continues to build every week on the mystery surrounding Massive Dynamic, William Bell, and Olivia’s past. With each week, this show intrigues me more and I think this is one of the best shows on television – if not the best – this season. I continue to warm up more to Peter – Joshua Jackson – and I think that he and Walter have much more chemistry than he and Olivia. Of course, John Noble brings such life to the character of Walter that he can even make even a box of cereal look good.

I was glad to see Harris go up into a ball of flames. I tired of him long ago and have to admit that it seemed obvious that he was working for the other side.

If you haven’t started watching Fringe, it may be hard to pick up the show now as it is wrapping up the season, but hopefully Fox will re-run it in the summer. If they do, do not miss it. By the way, Fringe has been renewed for another season, so use the reruns as a time to get caught up. The mysteries can only get deeper.

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Clip from "Fringe - The Road Not Taken"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

“Under My Skin” House Loses Vicodin Monkey, Cuddy His Prize

Photo from Fox

In last night’s episode of House(Fox) “Under My Skin” we find House (Hugh Laurie) in a major tailspin. He is still hallucinating and seeing Amber (Anne Dudek), who despite being dead looks very much alive to him. That’s just his drug-addled brain talking.

But first, before we talk about House, let’s get the Patient Of The Week out of the way. After all, the show is called “House M.D.”, not “Patient Of The Week.” The case involves a ballerina who, during practice, is dropped from a lift by her partner and finds that she is unable to breathe afterwards. When House, clearly distracted by his inner brain in the form of Amber giving him possible diagnoses, he incorrectly treats her for am infection. This causes a huge side effect that Taub (Peter Jacobson) finds by accident – her skin is falling off. (Ick.) But as House continues to become more preoccupied with his hallucinations and unsure of his diagnostic skills in this state, he gets Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) involved, and Wilson eventually pulls House off the case. This leaves his staff to solve her problem, and they do – to a point. They had discovered an abscess on her heart, and thanks to input from House, realize it was caused by gonorrhea. The side effect from their treatment to resolve the abscess was gangrene. (I found myself wondering if gangrene can really happen as fast as they made it look.) Lucky for them, Taub finds a way to restore circulation to the tissue in the ballerina’s hands and feet, and she is cured.

But the real patient in this episode is Greg House himself. It seems that his hallucinations of Amber are only getting stronger and more demanding. He is concerned that his hallucination almost caused Chase’s death (in last week’s episode ”House Divided”). He tries hard to ignore her presence and she says he’s not being rational. When Foreman (Omar Epps) comes to House’s home and tells him Cuddy is ordering him into work or else he’ll be fired, he first tells Foreman he’s talking a personal day, but has second thoughts and decides to go to work.

At Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, they review the patient with House but he is clearly distracted by comments from the imagined Amber. He later barges in to Wilson’s office, interrupting Wilson giving a own patient news about cancer, and House tells Wilson he is hallucinating. He tells him he is seeing Kutner, and doesn’t let on to Wilson who he really is seeing. House wants Wilson to sit in on his differentials. He also undergoes a sleep test, but still sees Amber afterwards.

Another back story to all this is a rather uninteresting problem that develops between Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) and Chase (Jesse Spencer) where Cameron tells Chase that she still has her dead husband’s sperm and she can’t bring herself to get rid of it. Chase takes this to mean that she wants a pre-nup, in liquid form. Toward the end of the episode, Chase tells Cameron he doesn't have any doubts about them and she thinks that's naive. She wants to spend the rest of her life with him, but doesn't know for sure. He says he'll wait until she does. And that’s the last I hope we hear on the subject as I find I no longer have any interest in these two.

Problems ensue when House diagnosis of an infection isn’t correct and the treatment causes the patient's skin to fall off while she is undergoing yet another test. Later, he tells Wilson he feels guilty for prescribing the antibiotics that apparently caused such a bad reaction, and he suspects guilt is a symptom of MS – and the MS is causing his hallucinations. House seems unwilling to admit that it is his Vicodin addiction because he knows that getting off the drug means pain. House does something very uncharacteristic for him – he apologizes to the patient for the wrong treatment which caused her skin to fall off. The ballerina and her danseur boyfriend seem surprised. But House realizes since he felt nothing during the apology, it rules out MS as the cause of his hallucinations.

Foreman, meanwhile, is having some serious doubts about House, as Wilson is sitting in on the differentials, as if Cuddy is making him do so, or as if House doubts himself. When he calls House on this, House orders Wilson to leave, despite the fact that Amber continues to harp at him incessantly. Her pushiness gets so bad that she sits down at the table and slices her arm open, blood pouring out. House is beginning to realize that his problem is either mental illness or Vicodin, the former meaning he could not practice medicine, without the latter, he would be in pain. But the arm slicing signals to House that Amber is trying to tell him to kill the patient – that is, to stop her heart long enough to do an MRI.

When he goes back to discuss the latest with Wilson, he slips and refers to his hallucination as a “her,” and when Wilson calls him on it, he admits he is really seeing Amber. Wilson is stunned, asking, "Your subconscious picked my dead girlfriend?" Wilson calls House’s heart stopping suggestion as being on the upper end of his normal radical scale. Wilson also tells House he had his blood level checked for Vicodin use and it's too high. House wants his problem to be schizophrenia that he can treat with electroshock. But Wilson reminds him of the possible side effects, including the one that would matter to House the most - losing his rational mind.

Later, while the patient is undergoing the heart stopping MRI, House calls Wilson and tells him he is going to try putting himself in insulin shock rather than go to rehab. When Wilson indicates this is crazy, and tells House he’ll be up to talk to him in a few minutes, House tells him to make it two minutes because he is about to inject himself now. He does so, and Amber seems to fade off as House collapses. Wilson comes in just in time to order glucose, stat. Later, when Wilson paces next to a recovering House, House comes to and doesn’t see Amber. He seems OK and goes back to work. Later, he has the gonorrhea epiphany as it relates to an abcess on her heart. Afterwards goes out for a beer and some onion rings. His celebrating is short lived as he sees Amber singing and she is looking a little too happy, almost crazy herself. House calls Wilson to come get him.

Wilson, at House’s place, tells him he knows of a good place for rehab, and when Foreman calls on House’s cell phone, Wilson answers and tells Foreman that House is off the case. House wonders why he is not scared; if this doesn’t work he doesn’t know what other options he has. House returns to the hospital and enters Cuddy’s office, and tells her he is quitting. She thinks it is just another one of his bluffs, and continues to ready herself to leave for the day. When House tells her to go "suckle your bastard child if it makes you feel better” she gets very angry and begins to leave. He tells her he's hallucinating, and this stops her. Amber counters; telling him Cuddy is not his keeper. He tells Cuddy he needs her. She calls her babysitter and makes plans to help House.

Back at House’s place, he is vomiting and Cuddy is there to support him. She has gone through his place looking for his stash and has taken care of removing all of it. When she asks where the rest of it is, he tells her of his super secret place, and Amber says, "It's like I don't even know who you are anymore." Later in the bathroom as the vomiting and pain continues, Cuddy is there to support him, and brings him some ginger ale. But House sees one lone pill on the bathroom floor, and finds an excuse to get Cuddy out of the room so he can grab it. Luckily she returns in time and flushes it, as House claws, unsucessfully, at the inside of the toilet bowl to catch it.

The next morning, House seems much better, and he asks Cuddy why she is there, assuming it’s because she protecting the hospital’s biggest asset. But she says no, and she wants to make a confession. She tells him she wasn't IN his endocrinology class; she AUDITED it, as she thought he was "an interesting lunatic, even then." She's not there protecting hospital property. House looks around and announces they're alone – it seems that Amber is really gone. When Cuddy readies to leave, he thanks her, moving in close. "You want to kiss me, don't you?" she asks, and he answers, "I always want to kiss you." They have a very passionate and heated kiss, and he removes her coat. Things get very hot and heated…and we hear in the preview for next week’s episode that yes, they did go “all the way.”

I found this episode to be surprisingly good. Based on the previews, I was expecting another episode where I was going to be moaning and groaning about Cuddy throwing herself at House. I found that this was the first time in a long time that I felt that Cuddy was actually more than tolerable. She showed her devotion to House not by her too tight clothes or her constant batting of her eyelashes at him. This time she was a good friend who helped him through a very painful detox process. I thought the lead up to their big kiss was done very well, although I found myself hoping that House wiped all the vomit off of himself and washed his face and brushed his teeth before they shared a kiss. Still, I found myself wondering if House could have detoxed so easily considering the amount of Vicodin he had been taking? I would have suspected that he would have become quickly dehydrated and would have likely required IV fluids. Something about his detox just seemed a little too tame.

As I mentioned earlier, the whole sperm discussion with Cameron and Chase really added nothing. Personally, I almost wish that those two characters were just gone from the show as I don’t think they add much to the story any more and I have completely lost interest in them. Foreman seems to be the only one of House’s original team who continues to be interesting, and I am very glad in this episode that we got no relationship drama with him and Thirteen (Olivia Wilde). Taub seems to be excelling now that Kutner is dead, not that Kutner held him back, I just think that Taub is becoming more confident of himself.

While the patient was in there somewhere, she was only needed to further House’s hallucinations and to highlight his need to kick his addiction. She served her purpose well.

All in all “Under My Skin” was a great episode, and makes me even more interested to see what happens in the season finale next week!

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