Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blindspot 2x03 Review: "Hero Fears Imminent Rot" (The Fuzzy Bunny Feels) [Contributor: Jen]


"Hero Fears Imminent Rot" 
Original Airdate: September 28, 2016

There were a lot of the fuzzy bunny feels in "Hero Fears Imminent Rot." Unfortunately, it was less of, "Aww isn't Jeller the cutest?" and more of, "That's absolutely terrifying." Thanks for the imagery and probably nightmares, Blindspot!


CASE OF THE WEEK


Is Jane ever not the case of the week? Eh. Not really.

Confession time: I found it hard to concentrate on the case because I was much more interested in what was happening over at Project Looney Tune (a.k.a. Sandstorm). Everyone on Team Sandstorm is legit unhinged, and it is fun to watch. Every time they cut away, I'm always shouting, "Ah man. Go back! I wanna see what's happening in crazy town!"

Jane's tattoo of an olive branch, oak branch, and torch are images found on a dime. The outline of the tattoo is in the shape of Vieques — a Puerto Rican island the Navy used as a weapons testing site. Two residents of Vieques are understandably upset when their loved ones die from cancer caused by the illegal weapons testing. So, they decide to start blowing up New York City to send a message — using dime bombs. I actually understood this tattoo! I was so happy.

Enter: Team Blindspot to the rescue. Kurt almost talks the suspect down... until Nas puts a bullet in him. (Those two really need to work on their communication skills). Zappata and Reade shoot the crap out of the bomb to stop it from detonating because apparently that's a thing you can do in television. Annnnd... we're done with this storyline. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Sandstorm crazy.

TEAM SANDSTORM


Jane is in trouble.

First, she flunks Mama Sandstorm's test by refusing to assassinate one of their contacts. He failed to produce the microchip that was promised, and Team Sandstorm doesn't do the whole "forgiveness" thing well (or at all). Good to know. Just when it seems like Jane has reasoned her way out of killing this guy, Roman shoots him. Point blank. With no hesitation. It's brutal.

Concerned with her inability to pull the trigger, Roman tells Jane about the bunnies they were given as pets in the Orphanage for Future Assassins. The caretakers ordered the children to kill the bunnies after they grew to love them. Jane was the first to snap her bunny's neck. Eesh.

It brings up a question in Jane: is she a killer? She admits to Dr. Borden that she feels the urge to pull the trigger whenever she holds a gun. Okaaaay... we should probably talk about that more, Jane. She wonders if she's deranged. (Okay. Maybe not you, Jane. Although, I'm starting to wonder about Remi a little...)

Dr. Borden makes the valid point that instinct and conscience work in partnership with each other. Your conscience can override your impulses, and it seems Jane's have — for the most part. The real question though is, who is in the driver's seat? Is it Jane or Remi? Ah, the glorious identity question. Just buckle up friends, because we're not getting an answer on this any time soon. (Spoiler alert: it's obviously going to be Jane.)

Here's the issue — the more Jane overrides her impulses, the more she overrides Remi, and the more danger she's in with Sandstorm. Roman tells Jane what happened to his bunny when he couldn't kill it. The caretakers cut open the belly and let the animal bleed out in front of him. Roman can still hear the screams.

Seriously, I'm never looking at bunnies the same ever again. Thanks a lot, Gero. Not cool! These kids literally grew up in Silence of the Lambs. Who grows up in Silence of the Lambs and turns out remotely normal?! Nobody. That's who.

The silver lining is that there seems to be an off switch to the "killer instinct" programmed into Remi and Roman. For Remi, it's her experiences as Jane (*cough*Weller*cough*). For Roman... it's Remi. After she fails to assassinate her target, Roman covers for her. He tells Shepherd that Jane pulled the trigger, and she's welcomed back into the fold. It's the first time Roman chooses Jane over Sandstorm — over Shepherd — and it's significant.

Jane is Roman's override. He loves his sister, and that is more powerful than the impulse to kill.

TEAM BLINDSPOT


Jane was off her game this week because she was suddenly confronted with the cold reality that she was a killer. While Zappata was snarking about her lack of focus (so much for the thaw), it was Reade who came to her defense. He reminded Zappata of all the times Jane has saved them and how much she's gone through. It's amazing Jane hasn't had an "off day" before.

As I said last week, Reade and Jane will be the start of the Team Blindspot rebuild, and we're seeing it begin now. Out of all the team members, Reade had the least connection with Jane. In fact, he flat-out distrusted her. In some ways, Reade's blindspot last year was to Jane's goodness. However, he was able to see Jane more clearly in ways the other members of the team, especially Weller, couldn't.

It seems like Reade has virtually no blindspot this year when it comes to Jane, which allows him to see both sides clearly. His newfound sympathy toward Jane comes from a deeper understanding of what she's going through — because Reade fears he's going through the same thing.

In a deeply powerful performance, Reade confesses to Zappata that Freddy suggested he testify against the coach as a victim. He admits he's lost time from that period in his life. He doesn't remember it the way he does other moments, and it's terrifying him. It's an absolutely heartbreaking scene and Rob Brown blew me away. Reade knows — on a deeper level — the fear and uncertainty Jane feels. He doesn't know what happened to him, and in some ways, that's forcing Reade to question who he is. As much as Reade loves and trusts Zappata, there's really only one person who can understand. So, Reade softening towards Jane isn't really a surprise to me. And I won't be surprised when he reaches out to her for help either.

It wasn't all doom and gloom though among Team Blindspot this week. Patterson and Borden kissed! This was the subsequent conversation my husband and I had:
Me: Don't be the mole! 
Husband: He's the mole. 
Me: No! 
Husband: Yes! 
Me: ... I find you irritating.
Dr. Borden cannot be the mole because I will cry a thousand tears... which means he probably is the mole. And Nas listening in on the therapy sessions really isn't doing much to bolster my confidence in his innocence either. For now, let us live in blissful ignorance and enjoy the puppies and rainbows that is Dr. Borden and Patterson's adorkable courtship.


KURT AND JANE



Nas was all for Jane taking the shot. Is she wrong? Is one life the cost of doing business to save thousands — perhaps millions — more? Is Jane's morality something to be bargained with? Is that what she signed up for? Nas says yes. Weller says no. Of course they don't agree. These two can't agree which side of the sandwich the peanut butter and the jelly go on.

Personally, I think Jane made the right call. I have to believe Team Blindspot can stop Team Sandstorm without becoming them. Otherwise, what's the difference between the good guys and the bad guys? What are they really fighting for if one life isn't valued? Furthermore, Jane won't stop Sandstorm as Remi. She's going to stop them as Jane and she can't do that if she consistently puts Jane's instincts aside in favor of Remi's.

Kurt tells Jane that she's not Taylor Shaw and that she's not Remi. She's... Jane — whoever that is. The only way to figure out who she is is for Jane to follow her instincts. Her instincts. Not Nas'. Not Mama Sandstorm's. Not Roman's. Not even Kurt's. If Jane doesn't know who to trust, then she has to start by trusting herself. She has to know, in her gut, that she's not a killer. She's a good person.

Kurt Weller says he doesn't know who Jane Doe is. But deep down, he does. He may be angry with Jane. He may feel betrayed. He may not trust her. However, when Kurt steps away from the anger, fear, distrust, and betrayal and views her only with the love in his heart... he sees Jane clearly once again. The blindspots are gone. The goodness in Jane that made Kurt believe she was Taylor Shaw is still there.

I realize we're only a three episodes into season two, but it's rather hysterical to me this is Kurt Weller's level best at being emotionally unattached. Homeboy was nearing DEFCON 3 when he couldn't reach her. For a minute, I thought he was calling in the National Guard to look for Jane. Would we be surprised if he had? Nope. He was willing to blow the entire operation to check on Jane at her safe house. What if she overslept, Weller? I know the urge to bring her coffee, toast, and snuggles is strong, but calm down, dude.

Obviously, she didn't oversleep because she's Jane. Jane doesn't oversleep and she's "in bed" (Ha! Get it?) with the world's most dangerous terrorist organization — also known as "the fam." So I'm not saying Kurt's freak-out is unwarranted. I'm just saying play it a little cooler, my friend. Your fuzzy bunny feels are showing. A lot.

Speaking of bunnies, I'm quite certain Martin Gero doesn't read my Blindspot reviews. So, I'm going to assume the writers are unaware of my near-constant references to Kurt Weller and his "fuzzy bunny feelings" when they chose bunnies to show the psychological torture Remi and Roman experienced in the orphanage. That said, BUNNIES? REALLY? Couldn't you have picked, I don't know, a hamster or something?

Roman leaves Jane with a chilling and terrifying warning: "I can't save you a second time. So if you can't wake up the real Remi on your own, I'm gonna find your rabbit and I'm gonna make him bleed."

Kurt Weller is Jane's bunny. If you are doubting that even for a second, allow Martin Gero's confirmation by retweet to nullify your uncertainty:


(Luke Mitchell, who plays Roman, retweeted as well, so I'd say it's a safe bet Jane's boys are going to face off. And soon.)

Stray Thoughts:
  • Blindspot needs to cool it on the flashbacks from one episode prior. Having a little faith that your audience has the retention of a ten-year-old would be nice.
  • Was Kurt thinking about the ultrasound during his near-death experience supposed to make us believe he wants to be a father now? His thirty other near-death experiences don't count? Sloppy.
  • Someone just needs to yank those headphones from Nas and ask, "Is that the new Beyonce?" I double dare you, Patterson.
  • Little Bro is cray cray! Jaimie Alexander's freaked-out expression communicating as such was priceless.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Younger 3x01 Recap: "A Kiss is Just a Kiss" (Make a Decision) [Guest Poster: Bibi]


“A Kiss is Just A Kiss”
Original Airdate: September 28, 2016

Ahh, the refreshing joy that comes with the return of fall TV. I am so happy to have one of my favorites back from hiatus, Younger. So if you don’t know the premise of the show and are just joining, here’s a quick blurb to bring you up to speed! Liza is a 40-something year old divorced mom of one, who finds herself in dire need of a job to help with her daughter’s college tuition. Being a stay-at-home mom for the past 18 years, her prospects are looking bleak. So Liza she lies about her age on her resume in order to get back into the world of publishing. There are lots of ups, downs, lies, twists, and unexpected turns for her along the way. And then there's the love triangle. Liza has a hot twenty-something tattoo artist on-again, off-again boyfriend, who she never expected to fall for. But there is her age-appropriate divorced boss (technically her boss' boss), equally as handsome, charming, and brilliant. Liza also has a demanding boss named Diana, her blooming friendships with young co-workers and her developed relationship with her longtime friend and roommate Maggie. Liza's life is filled with blackmail, death, and more! Sounds exciting, right?

So "A Kiss is Just a Kiss" picks up right where we left off in the season two finale. Liza’s boss, Charles, had just kissed her and convinced her to come back to her job at the publishing house. Josh, Liza’s kind-of boyfriend, had just decided that he was all in with the real Liza — adult daughter in college, and all. The only problem of course is that he still has to lie to everyone closest to them in order for her to keep her job.

As the premiere opens, it's time for Caitlin to start another year of school — although where, I'm not sure. Is she going back to India, or staying in NYC? I mean, it's probably not important as she is a secondary character, but I'm just curious. As Liza helps to prepare Caitlin for the next year, Josh arrives with donuts proving — once again — that he's all in for their relationship.

So the crew walks Caitlin to the bus and there, Liza meet's Caitlin's new friend Rose and her parents. In an awkward exchange where they clearly assume that Liza and Maggie are Caitlin’s two moms, the parents unexpectedly and unnecessarily try to let them know they're okay with their decision to be a couple. We find out that Rose's parents are art collectors and want Maggie to describe her work to them. She doesn't help their perception of she and Liza as a couple and says that her art is gay. Ha!

At the office, Liza bumps into Charles and you can really see that the kiss opened up her heart to the idea of being with someone new. He is clearly smitten, jovial, and really hopeful of what might come from his relationship with 26-year-old Liza. She loves Josh, of course, but I do believe Liza is struggling with the idea of being with someone her “own” age who also has children.

Per Younger usual, there is some wacky author at Empirical, with the next bestselling book that obviously leads into a life lesson for Liza or one of our other characters. This author, however, I wasn’t too invested in. Her book focuses on setting things free that distract or no longer serve a purpose in your life. Of course with Liza trying to decide between Josh and Charles, this is pretty heavy on her mind and heart. Using this author’s methods, she soon realizes that a romantic relationship may be her downfall.

Kelsey, meanwhile, is still trying to come to grips with Thad’s untimely and unusual death. She went from being a fiancĂ©e to being a “widow.” She tries this horse emotional release therapy that Lauren insists upon. The idea is that you share your deepest feelings with the horse — things that you can’t say to a human. Kelsey confides in this horse and apparently the secret is so juicy that the horse poops. Yup.

Back at the office, Charles propositions Liza and tells her to meet him later at a bar. If she shows ups, then they have a chance to see where this could lead; if she doesn’t, he will understand and will not hold it against her. Right after Charles leaves, Josh asks Liza out via text message. And in her text back to Josh, she tells him that she has to do something for work. So she chooses Charles in that moment! I have to say that I love Liza and Charles together. Josh is great, but there is something so great about Charles and Liza sharing more history and life experiences than they realize that makes them appealing.

Diana, who is always wound way too tight, sees Kelsey late at the office and offers to take her out for a drink. Turns out, Diana is fun and has actually been through a lot in her life. After discovering her husband was gay, she threw herself into her career and hasn’t looked back since. She gets terribly wasted while out with Kelsey, and Kelsey turns to the only responsible person she knows for help: Liza.

While Charles is waiting for Liza at the bar, who does he see? His lawyer and his wife — Charles' great friends — who... also happen to be Rose’s parents. That’s right: Liza’s daughter’s new friend’s parents that she met earlier that day. Charles is so excited about the prospect of a relationship with Liza that he shares his plan with them. But Rose’s dad, as his lawyer, advises against pursuing anything romantic with her. It doesn’t matter, unfortunately anyway, because Liza is so trapped in her lies. Once she sees Charles with Rose’s parents at the bar, she bolts. Why she couldn’t just wait until they left or text Charles suggesting a new locale is beyond me, but such is the drama in Younger. Liza does send Charles a text saying that she has to cancel. And, despite his speech earlier, we know he won’t take this well. Right as she is standing him up, Liza gets an S.O.S. text message from Kelsey.

Dealing with drunk Diana is the worst, but also the best. She is carefree, open, and you can tell that prior to be a workaholic, she did engage in some fun. Her apartment is literally the best one I’ve ever seen in NYC, and I didn’t even step foot in it. Diana has a moment of freedom as she talks with Kelsey and Liza, and then throws her wedding dress out of a window. After they put Diana to bed, Liza and Kelsey have a heart to heart on the way home in which Kelsey shares that she is relieved Thad is dead because now she doesn’t have to marry him. Thad was the worst, and deep down Kelsey knew that marrying him wasn’t the right decision and she would be doing it just to prove to everyone around her that she could make it work with him. Did Thad deserve to die? Nope, but Kelsey should’ve broken up with him ages ago.

The next day, Liza feels terrible for standing Charles up, but it's clear that maintaining her lie and livelihood is more important than a romance with him. She tries to apologize, but he basically shuts her down like we knew he would. Charles is more invested in Liza than she realizes, and likely more than he cares to admit. I hope to see them as more than friends (apologies to the hot, charismatic, kind, heart-on-his-sleeve Josh) at some point this season. I’m conflicted even as I type that because both men have good qualities that mesh well with Liza. But there is something about a shared past with Charles that I would like to see Liza explore in her post-divorce dating life.

So what did you think of the premiere? Is Kelsey ready to move on from Thad? Who will Liza choose? Will we see more of fun Diana?

Share your thoughts below!

How to Get Away With Murder 3x01 Recap: "We're Good People Now" (How Do Any of These People Still Have Jobs?) [Contributor: Jen W.]


"We're Good People Now"
Original Airdate: September 22, 2016

It’s back! The show that needs an extensive, detailed, and regularly updated flowchart has returned and it looks to be as wicked as ever. If you need to catch up on seasons and two... I can’t begin to strive to fit all of the twists and turns and back and forth timelines into this recap, so go here for season one's recap, courtesy of ABC; and check out Bustle's recap of season two to get you all up to speed.

Here’s a highlight reel of my top moments from the first episode of this new season:

1. Annalise is doing a pro-bono clinic.

The Keating 5 are back in Annalise’s class, screwing up, acting out, and generally being terrible. They’re also only in their second year of school. How? How did so much murder happen in their very first year of law school? When are we going to address the excessive malfeasance these children have been put through?

Any way, the group’s first pro-bono case is a deportation one where the group utilizes their questionable skill sets to bring the truth forward... while also rubbing against the line of ethicality. Ahhhh, never change, kids. Never change.

2. Wes has a girlfriend that calls herself Meggie.

I’m not sure whether she spells it Megi, Meggi, or Meggie, but either way she’s adorable. We see her appear at the end of the episode, quickly discover she’s a hugger with a fantastic curly fro, and that Wes has told her all about Laurel. Something terrible is bound to happen to this sweet angel. Run away, Meggie! Run away!

3. The Keating 5 had a somewhat eventful summer.

At the end of last season, Wes met his father — only for the man to be shot in the head while he was standing beside Wes. Everyone believes this is Frank’s doing. It probably is, as Frank is a stone cold killer and prompted Wes to go meet his dad in the first place. Annalise comes to Wes’s aid and tells him it wasn’t her fault — that it was all Frank.

Sure, Annalise.

Annalise bails Michaela out of a drunk driving charge. Laurel confronts Annalise about Frank. Connor acts like an ungrateful jerk to Annalise, and Asher asks for a loan. And that’s what you missed on Glee.

4. Annalise and Nate are... a thing?

Annalise and Nate Lahey (Billy Brown) seem to be getting it on on the regular. I personally am thrilled because Nate should literally always be shirtless.

5. Frank is on the lam.

Frank has disappeared and taken the crazy white boy track of shaving his beard and his head and looking like the guy you avoid eye contact with in the bar. I trust literally nothing about Frank. And we all know what he’s capable of, so this should be both a tedious and annoying arc of finding out what he’s really up to (and if he’s still Annalise’s emissary).

6. Annalise’s chilling photo all over campus.

Someone has hung photos of Annalise all over campus with the word "MURDERER" emblazoned across it with a big red circle around her face. Subtle, tasteful, something you’d probably see in the MOMA. 10/10 would recommend.

7. The dreaded flash forward.

As always, the end of the episode jumps into the future. Someone is dead and being taken away from Annalise’s home which is going up in flames. She sees who it is — the camera does not

And so here we are, friends, on yet another year’s embarkation of the exhausting journey known as How To Get Away With Murder where we will be juggling several mysteries at once.

My gut is telling me to watch out for Megi/Meggi/Meggie, and that everyone who ever crossed Frank needs to have an airtight alibi. We'll see what happens the rest of the season on How To Get Away With Murder, but we know it will be an eventful one!

This Is Us 1x02 Recap: “The Big Three” (Pulling it Together) [Guest Poster: Bibi]


“The Big Three”
Original Airdate: September 27, 2016

So I don’t like to compare TV shows, but we all know that Parenthood (RIP, Braverman clan) has left a gaping hole in my heart and that I had previously shunned NBC for cancelling such an incredible show. This is Us has filled my heart with hope for NBC again, but — like the Braverman family — makes me weep every episode.

This week’s episode titled “The Big Three” didn’t disappoint — they jumped head-first into the family’s issues! We get a glimpse of our titular “big three” as children, as the show jumps ahead ahead eight years, with Jack and Rebecca in the thick of doing life. We see the childhood fights between Kevin and Randall, the beginnings of weight struggles with Kate, and the Jack and Rebecca’s less-than-perfect marriage. A lot of who they are in the present-day can be attributed to how they were raised. Nobody, after all, is perfect.

Speaking of the present-day, Randall’s biological father is still around the home, and Beth doesn’t trust him. She isn’t entirely sure that his motives are pure, and she should be skeptical. Randall — emotionally and impulsively — let this stranger move in. I know he feels a connection to his father because he’s his biological family, but Beth is right to want to protect her husband’s heart. Randall is a pure-hearted and good person, and Beth doesn’t want anything to taint that.

So while Randall doesn’t ask about where he goes with the bus money they lend him, Beth lays all of her cards on the table and asks him point-blank about the money, the late bus rides, the drug use, and the cancer. She gets right down to business! Just when Beth is about to tell William that he has outworn his welcome, Randall stops her. The pair hear him out as he tells how he’s using the money to ride back and forth from his apartment to feed the cat that he owns named Clooney. We really will see, as the show progresses, if William is telling the truth about his life. But for now, we know Randall’s own life is consumed by this new dynamic and major change.

Kevin’s meltdown last week was met with the reality this week that he contractually can’t quit his show. He thought by storming off set he really would finally be free, but that’s not the case. After a meeting with his agent and her team, he is made aware that for the next two years, he’s bound and also that he can’t work for any network or studio for those two years. The agent (played by the wonderful Katey Segal) tells him to suck it up, keep his semi-decent role on his show, and go beg at the studio executive’s feet for his job back. Kevin has a pep talk with Kate where he realizes that he is strong enough to quit. When he arrives at the party to chat with the executive, the man is harsh but honest: Kevin has no way out and if he quits, the studio will ruin his reputation and finances.

Then there is Kate, whose struggle with body image is so much deeper than her new boyfriend realizes. She has struggled since childhood, and while her mother always wanted her to be healthy, Kate still doesn’t see herself as beautiful. She is constantly in a cycle of comparison, and needs to find out how to be happy — she needs to discover what would make her happy. Toby is trying to be as supportive as possible, but they won’t sustain this relationship if Kate can’t find her own peace.

Last, but surely not least, we see flashbacks of Rebecca and Jack. Rebecca is operating much like a single parent. We see Jack out with his best friend Miguel, drinking and getting advice on his life outside of work. Rebecca — working hard to provide a loving and balanced life for the triplets — is awake when an inebriated Jack returns. He comes bearing gifts, but the only thing Rebecca wants is for him to be a present husband, to give up drinking, and be the man she needs him to be for the family.

After a night apart, he agrees to be what she needs, and they start to get back on track. Rebecca accepts the necklace that he buys her as a peace offering and a sign of rebuilding their family. And there I was, happy that Jack had made a commitment to being the best version of himself and turn his life around for the family.

But it can’t be that easy in television, right? We transition back to present day and in another end-of-episode twist that I (again) absolutely didn’t see coming, Randall’s mom, Rebecca, arrives at his home for an impromptu visit. The girls are thrilled that their grandparents are there, and when Randall opens the door, it is indeed his mom… but also Miguel!

Who saw that coming? We thought Miguel was on Jack’s team and supportive of their relationship. So is Jack dead in the present-day? Rebecca vowed to never take the necklace off and the kids (in the present) are always talking about what dad said (past-tense). How am I already heartbroken that a character I have only been emotionally invested in for two episodes could very well be dead? And could Randall’s current drive to know William be fueled by the death of his adoptive father? Or are Rebecca and Jack simply divorced? What happened?!

Share your thoughts below!

New Girl 6x02 Review: "Hubbedy Bubby" (Let's Make Voting Cool Again!)


"Hubbedy Bubby"
Original Airdate: September 27, 2016

In case you all have been asleep for, oh, the last year or so, it’s election season in America. On Monday night, the much-anticipated first presidential debates were held. And while the night ended with me rage-tweeting, the truth is that the presidential race this year is a really difficult one to ignore. So it stands to reason that because this is such a big deal for us watching, it would also be a big deal for our favorite fictional characters. Television shows have been going meta for years — making comments on real-world events almost in real-time is nothing new for the landscape of entertainment. And while most of the time those little meta moments are played as one-liners or jokes, occasionally there are entire episodes of television built around them in order to not only make us laugh (and perhaps more self-aware), but to reveal truths about television characters.

And that's exactly what “Hubbedy Bubby” did, but in a totally unexpected way.

TWO CANVASSING WOMEN WALK INTO A SORORITY HOUSE...


To be honest, I was a little bit worried that New Girl wouldn't be able to pull off a political episode without it feeling out-of-touch for the tone of show (it typically utilizes political figures as one-liners or as a basis for a small story, like the one with Schmidt pretending he is a Romney). Thankfully, I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Not only was this episode’s A-story important in terms of learning more unique life lessons, bringing us a Jess/Cece-centric story (that we haven't really seen since “A Chill Day In”), and commenting on current events, but it was also incredibly funny. Though the story might not have had a great resolution with the sorority house, the important thing was that Cece learned how to have a voice — and she learned that all from Jess.

I love that New Girl chose to flip this life lesson on its head, as it has done with so many other stories before (mostly in regards to Schmidt freaking out about things and events that women usually freak out about). Because the truth is that Jessica Day is typically presented as the meeker of the two women. She’s the one with the bright dresses, sunny disposition, and job around children. By contrast, Cece has usually been depicted as the tough model-turned-bartender who takes no crap from others. In her most vulnerable moments, though, we realize that Cece is strong and independent, but she’s also got a lot more insecurities than she lets people see. She wants the people in her life to be proud of her. And the two people she wants most to never let down? Jess and Schmidt.

The A-story presented in “Hubbedy Bubby” is focused on Jess and Cece trying to get people — particularly younger people, but anyone really — to vote for Hillary. Jess is overzealous, as she always is, and anxious to recruit new people. In a flashback, we see that she’s always been this way: a believer in democracy and giving power to the people. The flashback is adorable, and all of this is totally in-line with what we know to be true about Jessica Day, an overeager, bright, idealistic feminist woman who wants to change the world. It’s nice to see her return to this idealism and activism, and the whole story is a great catalyst for character growth in Cece who is waiting on her college acceptance letter. She’s not as enthusiastic about this letter’s arrival as Schmidt and Jess are, though. And really, they’re more enthusiastic about her future as a collegiate than anyone.

I love that we get the return of indecisive Cece. She says at the end of the episode that she wants both Jess and Schmidt to be proud of her and support her, to which they both agree that they’ll ALWAYS support her. But I commend Cece for finding her voice — she learned that from Jess’ drunk monologue atop a sorority house balcony! — and for gently shutting down Jess and Schmidt’s future plans for her. Those two can be really intense, if you haven’t already noticed. They’re both planners, who are detail-oriented and plan out every move they make. Perhaps that’s why stories between Schmidt and Jess either involve them butting heads or achieving some random goal together.

Cece, by contrast, has always been the woman who makes decisions based on how she feels and what she wants, whether or not that aligns with society’s expectations for her. The decisions aren’t always easy, but they’re always HERS. Cece never lets anyone push her into making a decision that she doesn’t actually want, and I admire that “Hubbedy Bubby” is an episode where Cece is empowered by her female best friend to make a decision, and that her husband is supportive of her — no matter what.

On Jess’ side of the story this week, what starts off as a bet to get signatures (if she gets a certain number of them, Schmdit has agreed to vote for Hillary; if she does not, she has to vote for Winston) turns into a lesson in disappointment and ultimately success very reminiscent of “Clavado En Un Bar.”

In that episode, Jess spent time in the bar reflecting on her job as a teacher. When she realizes that one of her students turned out to be a total disaster, she begins to question whether or not she’s even a good teacher. It’s Cece who reassures her that she is — because Jess was the one to tutor her; Cece was her first student, and she was successful.

Similarly, this episode features Jess and Cece trying to get signatures from a sorority house. The ladies end up getting drunk, but acquire a lot of signatures from the house. ... None of which, however, are the girls’ real names. Frustrated at the lack of care, Jess gives a rousing (albeit slightly drunk) speech atop the sorority house balcony where she explains why it’s important that everyone have their own voice and why the election matters. Jess is the kind of character who cares deeply about everyone and everything, no matter whether or not the cause is big or small. So it makes sense that as a staunch feminist and believer in democracy that she would enter canvassing with as much idealism as she did two years ago when trying to stop the delivery of the Chinese restaurant menus to apartment 4D (“Menus”).

And of course, it also makes sense that this optimism would be dashed in some way. I commend New Girl for not only providing us with Jess’ rousing speech, but also with the revelation after she’s inspired a bunch of women that these women are voting for Trump because they really like Ivanka (and her shoes). Jess feels completely and totally defeated — her whole purpose was to empower women for Hillary, but as Cece reminds her, she DID empower those women. Just maybe not in the way she initially hoped. Most important of all though, Jess empowered her best friend to have a voice.

What I really love about New Girl can be summed up in these stories — characters learn so many lessons, but not often the ones they expect to hear or even want to her. Nevertheless, “Hubbedy Bubby” ends with so many characters being changed and empowered. And that’s the best thing I could hope for with a New Girl episode.

And now, bonus points:
  • This episode was downright hilarious, which makes sense because it was the same woman who wrote “A Chill Day” in, which I referenced earlier in the review. Kudos to you, Sarah Tapscott for writing great stories of female empowerment that are also fantastically funny.
  • The B-ish story in the episode was about Nick and Winston dealing with long-distance relationships and Winston teaching Nick how to spice up his love life. It was about as great as you can hope a Winston/Nick story to be, and was also really sweet at the end. The C-ish story of the episode involved Schmidt’s frustration with his roommates’ disorder and his obsessive need to organize. When he goes to the Hillary Clinton volunteer campaign center, he’s mistaken for a volunteer. And for as Republican as Schmidt is, there’s one thing he cannot ignore: disorganization. So he spends the rest of his time organizing envelopes and papers. He just can’t help himself which is hilarious and wonderful to watch. Unfortunately, when he’s asked to man the phones, Schmidt’s Republicanism comes out in full-swing and... well, it’s all downhill from there.
  • Schmidt calls the roommates “railway cats” in this episode and I cackled so hard at that line.
  • In case you thought that because Schmidt is a Republican that he would be voting for Trump, his words were: “Nor am I voting for that flip-flopping helmet-head in a pantsuit.” Schmidt is, however, totally aboard the #PaulRyan2020 train.
  • “Game on, you Republican minx.”
  • The supercut of Nick calling Reagan was HILARIOUS.
  • “Tell Jess I’m not surprised and her whispers are like screams.”
  • “THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE.” Nick has yelled this in episodes before (I’m pretty sure “The 23rd” was one instance), and it will never get less funny.
  • This week marked the return of someone calling Jess “Jessica Damn Day” and I will forever love that it’s a thing between these people to call her that.
  • “I just panic-ordered $200’s worth of Chinese food.” NICK MILLER, EVERYONE.
  • Just some of the gems that Nick wrote to Winston while he was in Latvia: “I screamed your name at the ocean today. Then I ate a sandwich that tasted like your smile,” and “Every moment you’re on this earth is a moment I know where you are.”
  • “Someone just jump the curb and hit me now, please.”
What did you all think of this week’s episode? Would you vote for Winston? Sound off in the comments below!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine 4x02 Recap: “Coral Palms Pt.2” (Greg and Larry Fail The Newlywed Game) [Contributor: Alisa Williams]


“Coral Palms Pt.2”
Original Airdate: September 27, 2016

Last week in the season premiere, Captain Holt and Jake released a video of themselves in the hopes that Figgis would come out of hiding to track them down. The video did what they wanted — it went viral, but now Marshal Haas has called a special meeting to talk with them. They fear she knows about the video. If she does, it would ruin their plan to lure Figgis out and capture him.

Haas meets them in an empty movie theater. Turns out she isn’t aware of the video; she simply needs relationship advice, which both confuses and grosses out Larry. After hearing Greg and Larry’s thoughts, Marshal Haas leaves with her young and muscular lover. Crisis averted.

Meanwhile, in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Amy has just been given permission from Haas to write a one-page letter to Jake. She gathers the team to hear what they’d like Jake to know about life back in the precinct. Boyle wants Amy to tell Jake all about his adopted son, while Rosa simply nods her message and says Jake will know what that means. Gina wants the whole letter to be about how she’s now selfless.

Back in Florida, a man with a thick New Jersey accent called the Funzone where Holt (a.k.a. Greg) is Assistant Manager and asked to meet the guys from the viral video. Convinced it’s Figgis, Holt and Jake put their plan into motion. First, they’ll need guns. Lots of guns. Because they can’t reveal their identities — real or fake — without alerting the Marshals, they decide to bribe the gun shop owner into giving them guns without a background check. Greg has borrowed $3,000 from his walking group friend, Ruth, who is under the impression that Greg has knocked up a woman and needs the cash.

It turns out they needn’t have bothered. When they get to the gun shop, the owner tells them no background check is needed — the federal database is down anyway — and he’ll sell them whatever they want. Jake mutters under his breath that our country is broken, while accepting a huge bucket of bullets from the gun shop owner to go with all their new guns.

The team in New York has their own issues to deal with. A new captain has just been appointed and he’s basically incompetent. Captain CJ shows up in sweatpants and tells them the whole reason he was appointed Captain is because he accidentally walked in on a drug bust and everyone surrendered to him. Gina’s the only one who’s a fan of CJ because he lets her hire her own assistant.

Amy tries unsuccessfully to rally the rest of the team to sign a petition to remove CJ from office but Gina’s onto them and bribes them all to her side by saying CJ will grant whatever their hearts desire. Rosa gets walls around her desk and Boyle gets a treadmill desk. Even Terry gives in eventually when CJ gets him his own yogurt fridge. But Amy doesn’t give up. She gives a moving speech about how Holt would be ashamed of them for this behavior. The team decides to confront CJ and give back all their stuff. They tell him that he doesn’t need to try so hard to make them happy by saying yes to every request, and that being a captain means telling people no sometimes. He agrees.

Unfortunately, things aren’t going so good for Greg and Larry. They blew through a stop sign, got pulled over and subsequently detained due to a car full of guns and that bucket of bullets. The sheriff who arrests them throws them into holding after they fail his Newlywed Game-style interrogation. Running out of time and options, Holt decides to tell the truth to the sheriff. Unfortunately, he doesn’t believe them.

Holt and Jake tell the sheriff to call Marshal Haas and verify their identities but when the sheriff calls, Figgis answers, saying he’s never heard of them. When Jake gets on the phone with him, Figgis says he’s coming for them. Back in holding, Jake and Holt try to stage a jail break by bonding with the other inmates. They create diversions that distract the deputies and then they start fighting in the hopes that the sheriff will open the door and let them out. Unfortunately, the sheriff is perfectly happy letting them continue to punch each other so Jake tries something he knows will freak out the sheriff: he kisses Holt. They keep kissing until the sheriff opens the door and then they push him in and escape.

Back out on the street, Jake finally convinces Holt that it’s time to call in the Nine-Nine to help them out. Holt finally agrees they can’t take down Figgis alone, and then places a call to Terry. Terry is overjoyed to hear from the Captain and rushes to tell the team about the phone call and Holt’s request for assistance. The team is ready to help and goes to Captain CJ to ask if they can leave to rescue their friends. But CJ has taken what the team said to heart and puts his foot down.

The answer is no.

Bullets on the Bulletin Board:
  • “You want me to write that you nodded slightly?” “He’ll know what it means.”
  • “I would like you to tell Jacob that I’m thinking about him and hoping that he’s safe. ... What? Meet the new Gina, who always puts others before herself. Can you make the whole letter about me doing that?” “Yeah... I’ll just tell him that everything is exactly the same.” 
  • “Can I help you?” “Oh, no thanks, just browsing. But you know what, since I’m here, why don’t I grab like eight handguns, a couple of shotguns, and, I don’t know, three more handguns.”
  • “Didn’t you have to pass the exams? Wasn’t there an interview where they met you... and heard you speak...?” “Presumably.” 
  • “Never been arrested before. I mean, I was ‘detained’ once by Taylor Swift’s security team. But it was a misunderstanding. She’s probably going to write a song about me.”
  • “Everything I know about interrogation I learned from The Newlywed Game.”
  • “We’re sitting ducks. That’s the worst kind of duck!” “Tell that to the Dutch Hook Bill.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Once Upon A Time 6x01 Review: “The Savior” (Welcome Back to Storybrooke) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“The Savior” 
Original Airdate: September 25, 2016

Well Oncers, we had another eventful season premiere of our favorite fairytale conglomerate. After a few seasons away from Storybrooke, it looks like we are finally home for a while! Instead of fighting battles elsewhere, the heroes will now have to defend their own turf from the many mysterious folks who have come from the Land of Untold Stories. It looks like we are in for another surprising season, but it wouldn’t be Once Upon A Time without the continual surprises and twists.


SAVIORS 


There are many stories happening simultaneously as always, but three stand out the most. So this review will be dedicated to those three storylines. The first is our favorite savior, Emma, who is experiencing PTSD-like symptoms upon returning to Storybrooke. It appears that she is triggered by any clanging sounds or moments where she has to be a savior. Instead of being able to act, she suffers from visions and hand tremors. In typical Emma fashion, she won’t tell anyone what’s going on, even though literally everyone sees that there is something wrong.

She does eventually confide in Archie, who is sent to find Emma by Snow and Charming. Emma is confused by not only her weird symptoms, but also a lovely exchange with our newest villain, Mr. Hyde. Upon being imprisoned, Mr. Hyde reveals to Emma that he knows exactly what is happening to her. She decides to visit him in his prison cell, where we learn that he may be very powerful and somehow knows pretty much everything that is going on. He tells her to find “the red bird” for answers — which may be where our other savior comes in.

So, the beginning of the episode introduced us to the new Jafar, Aladdin, and some mystery girl, who we will talk about soon. Jafar refers to Aladdin as the savior, so there’s definitely some good stories to come soon. Back to the present, Emma goes in search of the red bird (which has to be Iago because what other red bird is there?) and finds the mysterious girl from the beginning of the episode. The girl says that Emma is experiencing visions of her future, in which we all learn that Emma is going to battle an unknown enemy and be killed.

Here’s where things get weirder: the girl says she is an oracle and that Emma’s future is sealed. However, there are hints from both the girl and Mr. Hyde that it is possible to rewrite what hasn’t happened yet. My prediction is that Emma will have to befriend Aladdin, learn how to be even more of a savior, overcome all her remaining fears, and destroy this unknown archnemesis.

SISTERLY BONDING 


Our second important storyline is Regina and Zelena’s ever-growing relationship. Now that they have accepted each other as sisters, Zelena has turned over a new leaf (for now). She wants to be there for Regina in her tough time — as she is still emotionally unstable from losing Robin — but can’t quite figure out how to reach Regina. Zelena doesn’t help her case when she misplaces the feather that Roland gave her to give to Regina to remember Robin by.

After several failed attempts to help Regina, Zelena is finally rejected for good when Regina reveals that she blames Zelena for Robin’s death. That’s going to be a hard one to get over. The relationship has been damaged, and it’s going to be a long road back again. To make matters worse, the end of the episode features the Evil Queen paying Zelena a visit. My best guess is that these two will have some fun together, as Zelena told Regina that she ripped the part of her out that related closest to her.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 


Finally, the best story of the night goes to Rumple and Belle. Rumple follows Mr. Hyde’s instructions to go to a place where he can reach Belle in her dreams. He is met by the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus, and is able to get inside Belle’s dreams. Rumple’s goal is to get Belle to fall in love with him all over again so he can break the sleeping curse. What appeared to be a tricky task became a series of beautiful, emotional, tear-jerking scenes that mirrored earlier episodes and one of my favorite movies, Beauty and the Beast.

Like earlier episodes, Rumple gets Belle to fall in love with him in the exact way Belle and the Beast fall in love in the original film. Belle wears the gold dress, the song “Beauty and the Beast” plays in the background, and Rumple and Belle dance as they rekindle their love. I wish we had more scenes like this because they did an excellent job of recreating one of Disney’s most iconic fairytales.

Eventually, Belle realizes that all this has happened before and knows she’s being tricked. Rumple tells her the truth, when Morpheus pops back in. He tells Belle that he has been testing her and needed to make sure she wouldn’t fall for Rumple’s lies again. Morpheus turns out to be their unborn child, so things got weird and don’t make any sense. Rumple wants to go back to Storybrooke with Belle, but she refuses to have a life that includes him.


HAPPILY EVER AFTER? 


The biggest question to come out of the premiere is: will any character have a happy ending by the end of the season? Too many questions have come up again with no previous ones being answered. It will be another interesting, exciting, and confusing season of Once Upon A Time. Yet again, I have little idea of what’s happening or where it is going, but I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Gotham 3x01 Recap: "Better to Reign in Hell..." (A Different Vigilante) [Contributor: Jon]



“Better to Reign in Hell…” 
Original Airdate: September 19, 2016

Gotham has had an interesting transition over the past three seasons. While the show first began as a standard cop procedural, it has wonderfully embraced its pulpy comic roots and is now one of the wackiest and most entertaining shows on TV. Out of all the comic shows on right now, this might be one of the most underrated ones.

The show has not been afraid to embrace a weird, madcap world. Since the introduction of Hugo Strange and his experiments at Indian Hill, Gotham has since made a transition into the more fantastical, which has made it much more interesting to watch.

The show picks up six months after the Indian Hill breakout, where things are not going well for our main protagonist.

FOR THE MONEY


After a brief interlude with Gordon, we discover that Lee has already moved on, and currently has found love with someone else. This comes across as surprising, as I was a bit worried that the season would spend time prolonging the romance (as charming as it is) between the two. Cutting this subplot within the first minute was an excellent move and gave rise to by far the most intriguing aspect of this season.

Six months later, Gordon is no longer a cop in the GCPD and acts as a bounty hunter, collecting criminals for cash. He spends his nights alone, drinking in bars. He also utilizes his skills hunting down the monsters that have broken free from Indian Hill, which leads to some rather amusing one-liners during the fight.

This character change might be the best aspect of the episode of the premiere, hands down. For the past three seasons, we’ve seen Jim become more and more cynical as things have progressively gotten worse around him. The only thing Jim’s ever held onto is his morals, and how he has to stay the good path.

This season finds him at the complete opposite end of that spectrum. Jim now takes the law into his own hands, instead of waiting for the bureaucracy. Jim has essentially become a vigilante, and that has the possibility of making him dangerous. We know that Jim doesn’t become the BIG vigilante in Gotham City, but seeing him in a different light is an intriguing prospect.

Later on, we see Jim get intel from plucky and nosy reporter Valerie Vale (relation to Vicki?) that leads him to approach Ethel Peabody, who was released from jail after testifying against Strange. Mooney’s monsters find them and one of them attacks Jim in broad daylight, revealing massive bat wings (possibly our first look at this world’s take on Man Bat).

The next part comes as a bit of a surprise, as Peabody is later captured and murdered by Mooney and her merry band of monsters (though the way that Peabody went, aging rapidly, is a bit of inspired creativity). The death was surprising as I knew she wouldn’t be in the season too much, but I wasn’t expecting her to... well, die.

ALL ABOARD THE TRAIN TO CRAZYTOWN


One of the strongest aspects of Gotham is its villains. While the show originally focused a lot on going, “HEY LOOK, VILLAINS FROM THE BATMAN UNIVERSE! WE’RE SETTING UP BATMAN’S WORLD. WE LOVE THE BATMAN UNIVERSE!... BATMAN,” it has since allowed the villains to have taken on a life of its own, allowing for some truly fascinating character arcs.

One villain who has been consistently engaging since the first season has been Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. The Penguin. When we last saw him, he had been perhaps the slightest bit shocked that his former boss was alive and kicking. Cobblepot makes a surprise appearance at the GCPD with his partner, Butch, and announces the return of Fish Mooney as the leader of the monsters.

Part of what makes Cobblepot and Butch so much fun to watch is the camaraderie between the main actors. Both Robin Lord Taylor and Drew Powell have such an enjoyable chemistry together that it brings a smile to your face. The two come across as an incredibly psychotic Laurel and Hardy.

This kind of comic timing is demonstrated when both of them show up at the latest nightclub owned by Barbara and Tabitha. While Oswald offers them protection under his business, Butch starts blabbering like an idiot until Oswald tells him to go wait in the corner. This comes off as a silly, yet kind of darkly funny moment for the two. It balances the contrast for the characters.

Afterwards, we get an interaction between the Penguin and another wonderfully developed character: Edward Nygma, a.k.a., the Riddler. Nygma has also had a wonderful character arc for the past three years, as he’s grown from meek forensic scientist to complete madman. Cory Michael Smith and Robin Lord Taylor also have great chemistry, as they bond through their madness when Penguin seeks helps on how to deal with Mooney (this also gives way to the show’s best line: “Penguin. Eat. Fish”).

However, they’re not the only ones with the best moments in the premiere. Bruce Wayne also gets his own chance to shine.

THE KIDS ARE (KIND OF?) ALRIGHT


Bruce Wayne and Alfred’s arc has slowly become one of the more interesting parts of this show. As mentioned before, Gotham really never focuses on the rise of Batman, which means less time seems to be spent with Bruce Wayne. This actually works better than one would think, as having Bruce appear in doses every now and then works well.

It works even better for David Mazouz as he gets to play two different versions of the character: billionaire child Bruce Wayne, and long-haired emo Bruce Wayne, a clone released from Indian Hill. It’ll be interesting to see Mazouz play two different characters this season.

After going into hiding following the events of last season, Bruce, along with Alfred, heads back to Wayne Enterprises for a meeting with the board members. Wayne issues an ultimatum: if the board does not contact him within 24 hours, he will reveal everything about the company’s connection to the Court of Owls. This displeases the court, and they send an assassin known as a Talon to capture Bruce.

In an excellent and well-choreographed fight sequence, we see Alfred valiantly fight off the Talon, but get knocked out by the assassin. The assassin then proceeds to take Bruce to an unknown location.

Elsewhere, Selina — who’s been working for Mooney — secretly passes on information about Mooney’s next move to Vale, who in turn relays it to Gordon. After Selina meets with Bruce (who warns her to be careful), Selina’s friend Ivy has an encounter with Emo Bruce and runs, thinking it’s the real Wayne (I genuinely can’t wait to see where this doppelgänger story goes and if it’ll be something like the character Hush).

Finally, Mooney catches Ivy following Selina, thinking Ivy may be a spy. In reality, Ivy simply wanted to see where Selina kept disappearing to.

After an elongated chase, Ivy is backed up against a hole in the floor that leads to the sewer. As she falls, the aging power monster that killed Peabody briefly touches Ivy’s arm before she disappears over the side.

We will see what happens to Ivy later in the season, since actress Maggie Geha will be playing an older version of the character and was promoted to series regular. It’s more than likely that Ivy’s transformation from the monster will be shown VERY soon, and that we’ll begin to see Ivy’s path to becoming Poison Ivy begin.

Gotham continues to be one of the most pulpy and delightfully macabre shows on TV. With this season immediately hitting the ground running, it’s going to be one crazy ride.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Quantico Is Back, But That Doesn't Mean It's Better

(Photo credit: ABC)

Last season, Quantico was one of the most compelling pilots I had seen. It was filled with soapy drama, but not over-the-top about it. It had shocks and secrets and even a little bit of comedy. The interactions between the cast members and their respective characters were engaging and interesting, and the pilot gave us just enough to have us wanting more. Flash-forward, however, about half-way through the first season and the show began to suffer in terms of quality and storytelling. Soon, most of the things that had made the show interesting faded or were relegated to the background. The show became much soapier in terms of romantic drama, most of the character pairings that were interesting didn't get a lot of screentime, and the overarching mystery dragged on until the final reveal, which felt wholly unsatisfying.

So I didn't have high hopes for the second season when I went into it and — unfortunately — those low expectations were met. A lot of what made Quantico great in its early days last year was the fact that it was unlike any other show on television. It focused on a large mystery, which is customary for pretty much every other show on television, but its strength was that it focused on bridging the past with the present-day and allowing us to see two different versions of the same character. The NATs were inexperienced, but they were all in it together. And that made the show a bit special.

But Quantico's return feels like a disappointing re-tread of everything we already went through in the first season. Time jumps? Yup. There are about five or six within the first half hour of the episode alone, as if the show needs to constantly remind us that it's still up to its old tricks. Oh, and do we have a vague-but-dangerous-conspiracy in the season premiere? Yup. We don't know why apparently this new rebel group within the CIA is demanding presidential pardons, but of course, Alex Parrish is the only one who can stop them. Do we have unnecessary and vague couple-y drama that involves lying? Of course! The show really wanted to hammer this one into the ground. As we saw at the end of last season, Alex tentatively accepted a job with the CIA. We see her in that role, and Booth in... well, we actually don't know. We just know that he's doing SOMETHING.

And as it turns out, the two are in a committed relationship which is just starting to get back to a "good place" (Alex's words, constantly throughout the premiere). So of course the show would reveal that Alex isn't working for the CIA — she's working as an FBI informant, spying on the CIA. And guess what? Booth is doing the same thing! What could possibly go wrong with them having to spend time in the CIA pretending that they don't know/have a relationship with one another?! The two don't make it out of their mission without destroying their relationship — in the flashbacks, Booth is about to propose to Alex before they get the call that they're both recruited to a special task force within the CIA. And in the present-day, we see Alex give Booth the ring back.

Honestly, Booth/Alex was grating on my nerves toward the end of last season, with their constant betrayals and fights and will-they-won't-they of it all. Now, it seems like we'll have to suffer through yet another season of them being couple-y in the past and cold toward one another in the present. Essentially, we're going to get to watch the demolition of their relationship. Again. Fuuuuuun.

(Photo credit: ABC)

Speaking of the CIA, of course Booth and Alex get recruited to a special task force within it that no one knows about and of course there's a whole host of new recruits and faces and OF COURSE one of them — a nerdy author wearing glasses — turns out to probably be a bad guy in the present. Remind you of anyone? Maybe Simon? Yeah, apart from a few name drops and brief appearances by Shelby and Raina, the rest of our lovable NATs have vanished. Shelby and Booth and Alex rattle off their names and what they're currently doing in one scene, as if the writers were reminded that they probably needed to excuse all of those absences. And that doesn't mean that our original NATs won't return at some point, but for right now, they're not really important. And while it's true that some of the new recruits are interesting, mostly they feel like the same archetypes we saw last season — as if the writers trying to fill the voids left by our original NATs (one character is a ladies man and drips sarcasm, and if that doesn't scream "Caleb" than I don't know what does).

I didn't feel particularly attached to any of the new recruits, except for Lydia. And — spoiler alert — it turns out that she's not even a recruit! So we're back to square one. Quantico pretty much decided to stick to its formula in season two: the recruits have to learn lessons in the flashbacks that will apply to what they're doing in the present; the writers dangle vague connections and threads ("I killed him," says Alex in the present-day when she sees character we meet in the flashbacks) in hopes that we'll continue to tune in to learn more about this conspiracy and watch the recruits save the day again.

But frankly, I'm not interested in much of anything that this season of Quantico has to offer, except perhaps exploring Booth's character and his ability to lie, and Alex's complex feelings about being called a hero by everyone. Because the truth is that watching Alex run around New York City trying to solve a terrorist plot while, in the flashbacks, she learns things about characters who will be vital to solving this puzzle doesn't do anything for me. I mean, I watched THAT show last year.

And sadly, it doesn't seem like this season of Quantico will be much different than the last.

EPISODE GRADE: C-

Series: This Week's TV MVPs -- Week 41

Image result for yay gif

WE'RE BAAAAAAAAAAAACK!

The return of fall television has finally arrived and even though where I currently live it doesn't feel much like fall (hello, 90-degree afternoons), new shows have debuted and old shows have made their triumphant returns. Over the next few weeks, shows will continue to debut which means that we'll continue to talk about all of the incredible performers in them. This week, a lot of new comedies kicked off (while old ones settled back into those familiar timeslots). But television isn't just funny again — it's dramatic again, too, with new series focusing on everything from family dynamics to new presidents to baseball.

Jen joins me this week as we discuss who made our TV MVP lists and why. Read on, friends!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Superstore 2x01 Recap: “Strike” (Amy and Jonah Fight for Their Rights) [Contributor: Alisa Williams]


“Strike”
Original Airdate: September 22, 2016

In the season opener, Superstore picks up right where it left off last season: Glenn’s been fired for giving Cheyenne paid maternity leave, and the majority of the Cloud 9 employees have walked out in protest. Dina has finally seized the reins of power and fired them all.

Each of the employees is reacting to the protest and subsequent firing in their own way. Glenn can’t help his compulsion to assist customers despite the fact that he’s been fired. Mateo is panicking and regrets his decision to walk out. Amy and Jonah argue over semantics — Jonah says they’re on “strike” but Amy thinks that sounds too official.

Meanwhile, the Cloud 9 District Manager, Jeff Sutton, shows up to negotiate. Before meeting with Jeff, Amy and Jonah ask the other employees what their demands are. This probably wasn’t the greatest idea as most of the demands are obscure and unattainable (allowed to vape in the store, physically move the store to be closer to an elderly employee’s house, etc.). In the end, they decide their only demand will be that Glenn gets his job back.

On the way to the meeting with Jeff, Amy and Jonah walk by Cloud 9’s “Dress for Success” display and decide to up their game with some tasteful professional wear. Unfortunately, the only thing in Amy’s size is a hot pink skirt suit. Meanwhile, Jonah ends up looking like a cheap gangster, complete with fedora. But it’s the best they’ve got.

Dina self-appoints herself to sit in on the negotiation, despite Jeff’s protests. Dina’s not interested in negotiating, but Jeff is happy to give Glenn his job back with one condition: Amy and Jonah must apologize in writing to corporate for the disruption they’ve caused. Amy refuses, reminding Jeff that not only was Glenn fired for treating an employee fairly, but corporate has never done anything for them. They’re denied paid overtime, health insurance, and vaping in the store. As Jonah points out, that last issue is a little lower on their priority list but they’ve made their point. Jeff, however, calls them out for being amateurs with no plan, and tells them to just sign the apology letter and go back to work. Their response is to go on strike — “officially” this time.

The next day the employees reassemble. They have “Boycott Cloud 9” T-shirts and signs now. In addition to the employees, several random people have shown up to help protest, thanks to Jonah’s tweeting about the strike to his 1,506 Twitter followers. One of these new protestors includes a very attractive woman that Garrett has his eye on. He goes over to talk to her and they bond over video games, but unfortunately he soon realizes that she is actually pretty much a bigot. Meanwhile, Mateo sneaks back into the store so that Jeff sees him working like a good employee instead of protesting.

Dina decides to take matters into her own hands to disperse the protestors. She turns a garden hose on them, but this only generates a pleasant mist that cools them off in the hot sun. After this failed attempt, she retreats back inside to strategize.

Meanwhile, a news crew has shown up to interview the protestors. When Amy starts to explain that they’re protesting for fair treatment of employees, a woman commandeers the interview and says they’re protesting against transgender bathroom rights. Then another man jumps in saying they’re protesting to gain statehood for Puerto Rico. Apparently, Jonah’s Twitter proclamations were a little unclear on what the protest was actually about. Things go from bad to worse when the inflatable rat they bought (to signify that Cloud 9 is a “dirty, filthy rat”) turns out to be a giant, adorable teddy bear.

Amidst the chaos, Dina shows up again, this time with a pressure washer. She manages to break several car windows and cause the protestors to scatter. Amy and Jonah aren’t out of ideas yet, though. They decide to reconvene inside the store this time and cause a little pandemonium. Garrett gets on the intercom system to tell customers the store is infested with everything from spiders to raccoons. Another employee opens all the doors in the freezer section, while another pretends to have the plague. Amy gives a semi-inspirational speech to the customers about boycotting Cloud 9, which one customer responds to. But just as it seems they’re starting to shift the protest in their favor, employees from another Cloud 9 branch show up to replace them.

It seems Jeff and Dina have won. Jeff informs everyone that anyone who’s willing to come in and sign the apology letter by the end of the day will get their old job back, including Glenn. But no other demands will be met. Anyone who doesn’t sign will be replaced permanently by the employees from the other branch. Amy and Jonah immediately lose half of the protesting employees back to the store. By the end of the day, Amy and Jonah are the only two left protesting. Finally, they decide to give up — for now. They’ll put their protest on hold and go back to work, but the fight for better rights is not over.

Laughable Lines:
  • “You photograph terribly. Never model.”
  • “Will you please take off that stupid fedora?” “It completes the look!” “You look like Carmen Sandiego.”
  • “We do not negotiate with terrorists!” “Who’s the terrorist in this scenario, Dina?” “That suit you’re wearing.”
  • “Corporate says we’re in over our heads? I think we’re in under our heads!” “Just go with it, guys. She’s goin,’ she’s flowin,’ she’s dressed like Barbara Bush.”
  • “We just want to end this peacefully. We don’t want to trample on anybody’s civil rights.” “Oooh, but that sounds so good to me.”
  • “Attention Cloud 9 shoppers, the spider infestation in produce has been 80% contained, so we will be focusing our attention on the bed bug infestation in the mattress section. Meanwhile, we are down to only one raccoon left in the store. Unfortunately, that raccoon has grown powerful beyond our wildest fears.”

Grey’s Anatomy 13x01 Recap: “Undo” (Grownups) [Contributor Julia Siegel]


“Undo” 
Original Airdate: September 22, 2016

After an eventful twelfth season and the start of an even more promising thirteenth season, Grey’s Anatomy is still going incredibly strong. With ethical and criminal issues amuck, you might be wondering how we got here. Here’s a quick recap of the drama-filled end to last season: when we left our favorite TV doctors, Dr. Alex Karev had nearly beaten Dr. Andrew DeLuca to death after mistakenly thinking he stumbled in on his girlfriend — Dr. Jo Wilson — and DeLuca having intimate relations on the night of Drs. Owen Hunt and Amelia Shepherd’s wedding. On the same day, Dr. Ben Warren was forced to perform an emergency C-section on Dr. April Kepner in Dr. Meredith Grey’s house. Dr. Nathan Riggs and Meredith also secretly hooked up, which is a problem due to her sister, Dr. Maggie Pierce, having a major crush on Riggs. So, if that wasn’t enough drama, then you’re in luck — because that’s only the beginning of the season premiere.

OFF TO THE RACES


The season premiere begins just hours after the May finale. We see scenes of a severely beaten DeLuca arriving to Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital via ambulance, with Alex at his side, while the rest of the doctors are enjoying Owen and Amelia’s wedding reception. Just when everyone thought they could have a happy moment, calls start coming in that DeLuca was brought to the hospital in awful condition. Meredith receives a call from a hysterical Jo and rushes to her apartment. Jo, who is still drunk, isn’t quite sure what happened, but knows enough for Meredith to realize what happened after she sees that the place is a disaster with blood splattered across the floor.

Meredith immediately leaves for the hospital to confront Alex about what she hopes isn’t true. Alex reveals his side of the story and asks for Meredith’s help. While teetering on the line of her professional and personal obligations, Meredith is faced with one of the toughest dilemmas the show has seen. She is obligated to tell Dr. Miranda Bailey, chief of surgery, that Alex is responsible for assaulting DeLuca. However, with her bond with Alex stronger than ever, Meredith is unsure of how to protect her best friend from himself, the police, and the impending downfall of his career.

IT'S TIME TO GROW UP


Grey’s Anatomy is known for having its episodes revolve around specific themes. The premiere showed us a theme that isn’t typically used but couldn’t be more appropriate. Over the years, we have been able to watch the doctors grow as people, and in their careers, through endless trials and tribulations. They started on the shows as mere medical school graduates and have blossomed into attendings, hospital owners, and parents. Every character has had their arc grow and grow, but none more than Alex.

When we met Alex in the series premiere, he was an arrogant, cocky boy who thought he ruled the world. He has grown into a talented, kind-hearted, caring man who thinks more of others than himself. His work as a pediatric surgeon definitely changed him for the better, but he reverted to his old, aggressive self by attacking DeLuca. Meredith tells Alex several times throughout the episode that they can’t run away from their problems anymore and that they need to tell the truth and accept the consequences like adults. She aptly says that it’s time to grow up, which is a theme that may last for a good chunk of the season.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? 


By the end of the episode, Alex turns himself into the police for aggravated assault as Meredith tells Bailey the truth. Both characters have grown up a bit, even though it undoubtedly will lead to consequences for them. The biggest questions revolve around what will happen to Alex. Will he be found guilty of assault? Will he lose his medical license? If found not guilty, will Bailey fire him? It’s unlikely that everything will be revealed in one episode. This is a storyline that could easily be dragged out for a while in typical Grey’s fashion. Nevertheless, it will be extremely interesting and emotional ride.

Alex isn’t the only character that should bring questions to your mind. Meredith has been caught in a web of lies by the viewers, which the characters will certainly learn of soon enough. It appears that Meredith is only trying to protect everyone from the harmful truths that emerge, but she’s only going to hurt herself and her reputation in the long run.

What did you think of the season premiere? Sound off in the comments below!

Happy 5th Birthday, Just About Write!

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It's hard for me to even know where to begin with this post. And the funny thing is that I pretty much say the exact same thing every year. This year, however, the fifth birthday of my little website seemed to sneak up on me. Between my work life, personal life, freelancing, and running the website, I've been busier than ever this year — in a good way! I feel extremely blessed to work alongside an immensely talented staff who grows larger with each passing year. Currently, we have 28 people who are either full-time, part-time, or guest contributors. That is absolutely mind-blowing to me, considering when this blog adventure began, I wasn't even sure I'd have 28 views on a post, let alone people writing for me! Our site cannot continue without these incredible people, as well as the people who will join us in the future.

And though every single writer has been instrumental in this website's success over the past five years, I have to give a special thank-you to Rae, who — in addition to her full-time job — serves as our site's managing editor. That means that Rae formats articles, steps in as an editor when necessary, and works hard whenever I'm out of town to ensure that Just About Write keeps running and bringing you great content. She stepped up this year and has been totally invaluable to me. I'm grateful for her help, but also for her as a person.

In the continued spirit of celebration, I thought that this time around, I would talk about five of the biggest and most important things to me that have happened to Just About Write over the past five years. Some of these might be familiar to you, and some of them are just silly little things that I've loved. So sit back, grab some birthday cake (it's our birthday, after all, and you're entitled to cake!) and let's talk about some highlights of the last five years.

Some of the staff at SDCC this year!

5. GETTING TO ATTEND CONS AS PRESS

The first con that I attended as press for Just About Write was LeakyCon when it came to Orlando, Florida a few years ago. I was so excited to get my badge, to be able to attend the Open at the Close party, held in the newly-opened Diagon Alley, and to meet my friend Audrey. The convention was small-ish, but boasted big names like Maureen Johnson and John Green. It was also the first chance I got to interview someone in the press room — actually, multiple people. My first interview as press was with the cast of the hit web series Emma Approved. Absolute delights, we had the entire room to ourselves and got to sit and chat about characters and plot and romantic comedies. LeakyCon was pretty calm, and set the bar high for the cons I would attend in the future.

(But it wasn't just at cons where I got the chance to interview people. We've participated in roundtables with Jake Johnson, interviewed Tara Subkoff, and talked with A Bigger Splash's screenwriter David Kajganich.)

Speaking of the cons I would attend, I've now had the chance to attend Comic-Con twice. My first year was in 2015 when I unexpectedly (my acceptance was sent out extremely late) got the chance to attend the convention as press. It was an incredible experience, and one that is so difficult to put into words for those who have never attended. SDCC is fast. It's a few days jam-packed with panels and parties and little to no sleep for some people. You stand in long lines, eat greasy fast food, and hope that you get incredible scoop from your favorite movie and television stars.

The first year I attended, I was only in one press room: the CBS one. But that meant I talked to a few different casts, including those from Zoo, Limitless, and Scorpion. It was an incredible, large-scale press experience for me, made better by the fact that my table was filled with people who asked really interesting questions. I hung out with friends from 4 Your Excitement for most of the weekend, and attended the MTV Fandom Awards, as well as various panels with them. I vowed that I would return the following year, and I did.

But this time, I brought reinforcements. Blessedly, SDCC let me take three other staff members with me to the con this year, so I brought along Maddie, Chelsea, and Jen K. Laura, one of our other writers, also hung out with us while we were there, and we got the chance to meet up with a few of our other writers and friends (like Lizzie, Connie, and Isabella) as well. It was an amazing weekend, made even more amazing by the array of scoop that we got from casts of new shows like Time After Time, Frequency, and returning casts like Wynonna Earp. I loved every moment of it (okay, minus the whole being sick thing), and am thankful that I was surrounded by such an incredible, supportive group of women the entire weekend.

These women have taught me more this year than most friendships have. The ladies and men on staff have taught me how to stand up for myself, how to be a better writer, how not to invalidate my feelings, and how to listen. The women — and men, too! — that I have beside me are all so unique in personalities and writing styles, and that's honestly all I ever dreamt about when this website began. I couldn't be more grateful to have them beside me.

Oh, and one more bonus from SDCC this year? We got to attend a rooftop party, hosted by NBC. That was the moment I finally went: "Yeah. We made it."

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4. THE COMMENTS SECTION

It's pretty much a hard and fast rule of the Internet that you don't read the comments section. Nothing good can happen there, after all. People belittle one another, badger one another, and generally criticize everything. But one of my hopes in starting this site was that it would be a place where people could expand the conversation regarding their favorite ships, shows, and movies. And, to my happy surprise, it really HAS been that place. The Suits fandom in particular has taken to the comments section with glee, discussing plot points and ships with one another and speculating future episodes. In fact, our most-commented posts is a Suits review! The comments section was how I really got to know Connie and Becca, two women with extremely intelligent insight into characters and writing.

I'm hopeful that unlike most of the Internet, the comments section at Just About Write will continue to be a place that fosters the spirit of inclusion and good conversation.

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3. THE PASSION OF FANDOM

This whole blogging adventure began with the Community fandom — one of the toughest, most resilient fandoms I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of. It's been over 13 years now since I've been involved in fandoms online, and that means I've seen a lot. I've seen the best and the worst of humanity, I can tell you that. I've seen people given death threats over their love for a fictional character, and I've seen people rally around Internet friends who are grieving the loss of someone close to them. I've seen it all, for the most part, and though it's really easy for me to slip into cynicism and bitterness because of that, I constantly still cling to the hope that fandom provides.

It's what has kept this and every other site out there dedicated to television afloat. You're the reason we can keep doing this, day after day. I would write even if I was the only person writing, but you all are my cheerleaders. You encourage my team, you provide your input, and you genuinely — most importantly — care about the characters you watch on television. Though Community was a tiny show by Nielsen standards, it ruled Twitter for the brief flicker of time that it was on NBC (and then Yahoo!), which — in actuality — was six years. We latched onto the hashtag #SixSeasonsAndAMovie, and it became our rallying cry whenever we were on the brink of cancellation. We found creative ways to drive support for the show, including tweeting the advertisers we saw during commercial breaks. We came up with a Community fanart show which drew the attention and attendance of some of the cast and crew, and one of our own created and planned a convention strictly for Community fans. That fandom gave me so much life, and continues to do so, as it has brought incredible people and friends to me.

Arrow's fanbase is incredibly passionate, and they really fell in love with our character appreciation piece on Felicity Smoak. The determination and drive that consumes the fandom, especially the shippers, can — at its worst — be toxic. But, again, whenever I recognize the pure joy that they get from the show and the way that they care, it's incredible and overwhelming and impressive. Suits has a passionate fanbase, as do many of the shows that we cover here. We've been incredibly blessed to have gotten the chance to know so many amazing people in fandom (including people like Jen K. and Anne who were and continue to be mouthpieces for the shows they love), and look forward to getting to know more of you!

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2. THE CELEBRITY RESPONSE

If I tried to list all of the celebrities who have ever replied to our posts over the years, we would be here for the next five years in celebration. And though I don't fangirl every time someone with a blue verified check mark favorites or retweets our posts, there are some people whose responses have impacted me because of how genuine and down-to-earth they are. So let me just briefly discuss some of the highlights:

  • Of course, Dan Harmon was the first celebrity to respond to me almost five years ago.
  • The Community cast was extremely supportive of our reviews and the site, but specifically Yvette Nicole Brown and Danny Pudi. Writer Megan Ganz was also a supporter in the early days.
  • Grant Gustin's tweet about our TV MVP Series post will forever be one of the most important things that has happened to me.
  • The response from the Lizzie Bennet Diaries cast when I wrote their goodbye letter was extremely positive and, to this day, fills me with warm fuzzies.
  • John Stamos recently retweeted one of our posts, and the child in me jumped around screaming, "UNCLE JESSE READ OUR POST. UNCLE JESSE READ OUR POST." Because, you know, professionalism and all that.
  • Gina Rodriguez is always such a sweetheart and has read and commented on many of our posts. Her co-star Jaime Camil is incredibly sweet and humble as well.
  • Krysten Ritter recently promoted our 2nd Annual Golden Trio Awards, and even gave a shout-out to winner Shiri Appleby. Aya Cash's tweet in response to her win is probably my favorite.
  • Speaking of, the UnReal cast has been absolutely delightful in their responses to the posts, specifically Constance Zimmer and Shiri.
  • The cast of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been warm and welcoming to us and responsive to our articles as well.
  • And last but not least, Patti Murin who is an incredible human being, singer, and actress recently joined our team to discuss the Bachelor franchise. We love Patti almost more than we love puppy GIFs (and we REALLY love puppy GIFs).
I could list more, but these incredible human beings — as well as numerous others — took the time out of their busy schedules to read something that we wrote here. And that will forever earn them my respect and gratitude.

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1. THE STAFF

Haven't I talked enough about them? No?

I don't make money doing this job. I freelance on the side and work full-time as a writer, but Just About Write is my non-moneymaking hobby. And I still can't believe that almost 30 people are willing to write for me even when I can't pay them. As I've said before, there are so many different people who work for us — college students and recent post-grads, young professionals, moms, and people who even live outside of the United States. One of the biggest blessings in my life over the past five years has been THEM.

I started out doing Just About Write alone. And if it was just me still running it, it would be extremely difficult to even keep up with everything that's happening. Heck, even if it was just two people, it would be difficult. My dream, in starting this site, was that someday I would be able to sit back and let the staff take over. They'll tell you that I've done that more and more over the years (Jaime, who has been with me since the beginning, knows how much I've loosened my grip on the site since then). I want people to come alongside me on this journey, and my ultimate hope is that this will be a place where they can make friends, find community, and become better writers. Everyone here is passionate about what they do and what they love. I could not ask for anything more.

My staff — or my squad, if you prefer — is so important to me, and every day they continue to impress me with their devotion to Just About Write and with the way they live their lives. They're the reason that we have over 1.3 million pageviews as of today! So if you happen to see someone's name in the title of a piece you really like, or find that you're drawn to a certain reviewer's pieces, please let them know you appreciate them. They hear it from me all of the time, but I know they would love to hear it from you all too.

Most of all, I want to thank every single one of you who supports and has continued to support this site. I hope that in five more years, I'll have an office somewhere in our headquarters and I'll actually be able to pay for my staff to write for the site. Until then, we'll continue to bring you great, quality content about the shows, movies, and books you love.

Thank you for caring about us.

We care so deeply for you!