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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Grey’s Anatomy 18x04 Recap: “With a Little Help From My Friends” (The Ultimate Test) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“With a Little Help From My Friends”
Original Airdate: October 21, 2021

If you missed the third episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I highly recommend you watch it before checking out this week’s hour, as it is a direct continuation of the previous stories. New character pairings and teaching methods take center stage again, which helps shake up the show in a good way. Plus, a new medical issue alludes to one doctor sticking around a bit longer than you might have thought. 

BACK IN THE SADDLE

This episode attempts to put equal focus on three storylines, two of which will continue to play out throughout the season. It is officially Richard’s first day as sole director of the residency program, which any Grey’s Anatomy fan should be happy about. Having Richard back in his best role is exactly what this season needs. In an on-call room at Grey Sloan Memorial, Schmitt and Nico enjoy a morning make-out session before being interrupted by Helm banging on the door. She shouts at Schmitt to check his phone, as he missed the text announcing Richard as the residency director yet again and Meredith’s impending trial. The text also says that he was supposed to be in the skills lab fifteen minutes ago, so Schmitt runs out in a panic.

Bailey meets up with Mer in the hospital and quips that she thought Mer would be in Minnesota by now. To say that Bailey is upset by Mer’s career news is an understatement. Mer informs her boss that she is leaving tonight, and both women wonder why their schedules have been cleared for the day. They run into Richard and Catherine, who reveal that they cleared the schedules to have help with a new teaching initiative. The four attendings head to the skills lab, where Richard tells the eager residents that they will get to act as attendings for the day and each perform a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (a.k.a. lap coli, a.k.a. gallbladder removal) on their own. He announces his new hands-on teaching approach as “the Webber method”, which will surely be used over and over throughout the season. Bailey looks Mer in the eyes and deadpans how she can’t leave for Minnesota because Richard has lost his mind.

Since Bailey is very hesitant about the day’s teaching method, Richard speaks to her and Mer privately to explain why he thinks his new idea works best. He feels that by having the residents perform simple surgeries on their own, the hospital’s physician shortage won’t be as much of a strain. Richard discusses how attendings don’t need to be in the OR for the whole lap coli procedure, rather they can pop in for the most important part which only lasts ten minutes. If the attendings only need to rotate in for ten minutes, they will have more time to perform other surgeries. Mer likes the idea and brings up how she keeps saying that they need to get the residents out of the lab and into live ORs. Bailey finally agrees, even though she still isn’t completely on board with the plan.

Right before the surgeries begin, Mer finds Bailey praying at the surgical schedule board. Mer tries to comfort Bailey by telling her it will be okay, but Bailey can’t get past the thought that they are putting patients’ lives in the hands of children. Mer reminds her that they were both young residents once too. The surgeries begin in earnest, and Mer, Richard, and Bailey go from OR to OR when they are needed. They rotate through as Catherine watches from the galleries above. Schmitt and Khan finish their lap coli so quickly that Schmitt asks Richard if he forgot something. Richard is impressed by their work and gives them another lap coli, since they made such good time. 

However, not everyone has good luck. Helm and Chee’s surgery doesn’t go as planned when the surgical field starts filling up with blood. Unsure of what to do, Helm decides to convert to an open surgery and asks a nurse to page an attending for help. Bailey is naturally upset by the complication. She tells Helm that they should have waited to convert to open surgery. Helm assures Bailey that she doesn’t know what went wrong, and Bailey pushes her aside as the patient continues to crash. Back in the other OR, Schmitt and Khan flawlessly complete their second lap coli. Richard is thrilled with the results of the day and deems the lesson a success.

Later on, Richard, Catherine, Bailey, and Mer celebrate the residents’ success. Catherine is happy that Richard conned her into agreeing with his idea, while Mer says that the high bar they set will make the residents expect this all the time. Richard wants to make solo surgeries his primary way of teaching, but Bailey wants to clip the plan. She doesn’t want to celebrate because in her mind, Helm cutting an artery without an attending in the room has ruined the success. Richard tries to remind her that complications can happen to any surgeon, yet Bailey still feels that attendings should always be in the OR. 

Richard explains his belief that they need to teach young doctors properly, otherwise no one will want to become surgeons. Mer seconds Richard’s thoughts by saying that Helm proved the system works because she did ask for help, Bailey showed up, and the patient survived. Bailey begrudgingly joins the toast and agrees that the Webber method is a success. We then see Schmitt pull Nico into a closet to make out. Schmitt is on a high from being a rock star in the OR, and it’s good to see the young doc have some confidence.

As Bailey goes to leave the hospital, she passes Helm sitting on a bench outside. Bailey asks her if she is playing the surgery over and over in her head. Helm asks her how she knows that, to which Bailey replies that she knows the feeling. Bailey sits down next to Helm to offer some advice. She tells the resident how she has made mistakes and so has Mer. Bailey tells Helm that she should feel awful about what happened because she would be in the wrong line of work if she didn’t. She explains that the awfulness sticks with you so you don’t make the same mistake again, which is how one becomes a great surgeon. 

At the end of the episode, we see Mer arrive in Minnesota and pass Nick as they go in opposite directions. They make plans to meet for dinner that night before going their separate ways. Mer is all smiles and super happy, and even just a few seconds of these two sharing the screen is the perfect ending to the episode. 

CIRCLING THE RABBIT HOLE

The second large story of the episode focuses on Addison and Amelia, who we finally get to see share a good chunk of screen time together since 2013. Amelia finds Addison sitting in Tovah’s room. Addison couldn’t leave Seattle because Tovah had a seizure and needed to be put in a medically induced coma. She wants to see the case through and needs Amelia’s help as a neurosurgeon to figure out why Tovah seized. After running a CT scan and blood tests, Amelia informs Addison that everything came back negative. Addison starts to unravel quickly, prompting Amelia to ask if she’s okay. Addison is obsessing over fixing Tovah and doesn’t want the answer to be that she is rejecting her transplanted uterus. Amelia decides to get an MRI, EEG, and rerun some blood panels to make Addison feel better.

The two doctors have a rather frank discussion while waiting for Tovah’s MRI scans. Addison randomly asks Amelia the question we have all been waiting to hear the answer to: Why did she leave Link? Amelia starts by saying that she felt Link was gas lighting her with a proposal. Addison asks if Link has a tendency to gas light her, and Amelia replies no. Addison doesn’t get why Amelia doesn’t think his well-planned proposal wasn’t romantic in that case. Amelia doesn’t really have an answer for that and instead goes into a speech about how she didn’t want what Link wanted. During the pandemic, she was drowning in kids, monotony, and boredom, which led her to think about doing drugs every day. Amelia explains that virtual meetings weren’t the same and didn’t work for her. She hated that she was hanging by a thread and that Link wasn’t. She felt like she couldn’t breathe while Link was thriving, and Amelia reveals she judged herself for that.

She feels that Addison is probably judging her too, so Addison launches into a talk on how she felt very similarly during the pandemic. Addison reveals that she drank so much wine that she thought about checking herself into rehab somewhere. She hated being stuck at home, especially during the initial lockdown. Addison had really dark thoughts like daydreaming about going to sleep and never waking up, which she says comforted her. Amelia hates that Addison went through that and thanks her for sharing, since they had similar feelings.

The scans don’t show any issues with Tovah’s brain, so the doctors feel that the seizure was caused by increased toxicity levels from the anti-rejection medications. With that answer, Addison is ready to go home to her family, and Amelia quips that the Grey Sloan Memorial staff will oversee Tovah for her as long as their names all get on the eventual publication for the trial. Addison tells Amelia that she doesn’t want to let Tovah die because the idea of a uterine transplant was what made her want to get out of bed in the morning. Amelia assures Addison that she isn’t being selfish and is instead doing everything in her power to help Tovah achieve her dream.

Amelia and Addison are in the room when Tovah wakes up after they get her medications under control. Addison gets to tell her patient that she didn’t reject the uterus and will remain in the trial. All three women are very happy, which is a nice ending to the story. After they leave the room, Addison tells Amelia that she almost left her husband during lockdown. She couldn’t stand that her son and husband were bickering about Game of Thrones, so she got in her car and drove off for two hours before realizing that she should go home. Amelia says that she didn’t leave Link when she wanted drugs and that she currently doesn’t feel crazy or want drugs. She knows she doesn’t want a ring or more babies and feels that Link left her, not the other way around. Amelia feels that the sanest thing she could have done was to let him go, no matter how much it hurt her. Addison smiles and says, “Look at you, Amelia Shepherd, all grown up,” before getting in the elevator and leaving. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Addison Montgomery, but they managed to pack in everything you would want from her in two episodes.

FAILING TO HELP

The other continuing story from the past few episodes follows Owen and Noah, who we see meet at a meeting for veterans who want the VA to be exposed for not paying medical bills. Noah’s former colonel, Roy, runs the group and plans to present information in Washington D.C. in a month to help veterans get the support they are owed. Owen wants Roy’s help with Noah’s case, but before he can say much, Roy starts coughing up blood. Winston meets Roy’s ambulance at the hospital, which Owen hitched a ride with. Noah drives to the hospital and meets them to inform the doctors that Roy has pulmonary fibrosis like him. 

While Owen and Winston take him for an MRI, Roy tells them all about how long he has known Noah for and their backstory. Winston finds a spot of lung cancer on the scans, which he knows will be terminal due to Roy’s pulmonary fibrosis. Noah is sitting with Roy when the doctors go to tell the colonel the bad news, but Roy wants Noah to stay. Owen tells Roy that he has lung cancer and that they can’t perform the lobectomy necessary to remove it because he can’t lose any of his lung due to his condition. Winston says they could do a very risky surgery that they don’t recommend, which would involve attempting to only remove the tumor. Roy wants to do the surgery so he can keep fighting and make it to Washington in a few weeks.

When the doctors return to take Roy to surgery, they find a big group of veterans there to support their friend. Roy is moved that everyone came, and he says he will keep on fighting. In the OR, Owen and Winston prep Roy. Owen assures Roy that they will hold someone responsible for his condition no matter what the outcome of the surgery is. Roy tells Owen that his condition is his own fault because he authorized the missile strike that caused his issues. The damage that the strike caused makes Roy question whether he deserves to live or not, which is a very sad moment.

Owen and Winston begin operating, and Owen is surprised by how damaged Roy’s lungs are. He tells Winston he has never seen tissue so damaged, and Winston says he only saw similar tissue once, in a COVID-19 patient. Owen thanks Winston for helping, and both doctors want to give Roy at least a few more months to make a difference in the world. They hit a little speed bump during the surgery, but quickly fix the problem. They know it won’t be an easy surgery, but Roy winds up surviving. 

After the surgery, Owen tells Noah, who is sitting by the colonel’s bedside, that Roy’s lungs are more scarred than they expected. Roy will have a tough road ahead of him, and Noah thanks Owen for caring, saying he is the first doctor to really care. Owen tells Noah that he is in the fight with all of the veterans. When he turns to leave, Roy starts to crash, so Owen promptly starts CPR. Winston comes running into the room and kicks Noah out. We hear them shock Roy three times before Noah walks away. 

We then see Owen and Winston finding Noah to tell him that Roy died. They explain that Roy’s lungs were too far gone, which put too much stress on his heart. Owen wants to help continue Roy’s work, but Noah doesn’t want his help. He tells Owen he never wanted his help in the first place, and Noah also thinks Owen made everything worse. The impassioned words hit Owen hard. Owen walks in an attendings’ lounge, where Hayes is packing up for the night. He asks Hayes if he would like to join him for a drink at Joe’s, as he needs a minute before going home to Teddy and the kids. Hayes agrees, and poor Owen doesn’t even know the other distressing piece of news from the day yet, but more on that shortly.

A HELPING HAND

Let’s take a break from the more dramatic plots to quickly discuss Jo’s first big OB story, which also lends itself as the humor of the episode. In the morning, Jo tries to get out of her car with Luna in GSM’s parking lot, but Luna won’t stop screaming. Hayes happens to be walking by and asks if everything is okay. Jo states that she is so tired that she might drop dead, so Hayes acknowledges how hard it is to be a single parent. As they are about to walk into the hospital, a car drives up behind them and honks. A man gets out of the driver’s seat and asks for help, as his girlfriend, Niki, is pregnant and going into labor. Jo asks Hayes to take Luna to daycare so she can help her new patient out.

Inside, Jo and Carina tell Niki that she is going to have a baby. The boyfriend is appalled because they have only known each other for four weeks and he wasn’t aware that she was pregnant. Niki’s chest starts hurting, so Carina orders a full vitals check and an EKG. In the hallway, Niki’s boyfriend asks Jo if she can give Niki her cellphone. Jo asks him to stay and hold Niki’s hand for a few hours, but he’s not ready to be a dad. He explains that they met online and that Niki lied to him, so Jo takes the phone.

Jo goes back to Niki’s room and asks her if she is experiencing some anxiety since all the tests came back normal. Niki wonders where her boyfriend is, then realizes that he left. She starts freaking out because she feels she can’t have a baby on her own. Jo assures her that she can do it. Niki tells Jo that her friends think she is crazy for having a baby by herself and that her parents moved across the country when they heard the news. Jo decides that she will hold Niki’s hand to be helpful and Carina can deliver the baby.

Carina comes back to deliver the baby and isn’t happy to see Jo holding Niki’s hand instead of working. Carina wants Jo to deliver the baby while she holds Niki’s hand. Jo gives Niki a pep talk that includes how having a baby “is worth so much more than your fear.” Jo tells Niki to push, and the baby’s shoulder gets stuck. Carina walks Jo through how to solve the issue and the baby is delivered safely. At the end of the night, Jo holds Luna while sitting on a bench outside the hospital. Jo tells her baby that they will go home once she has the energy to get to the car, which might not be until tomorrow.

NOT AGAIN

The last storyline of the episode introduces what is most certainly going to become a recurring plot. Megan Hunt is still in Seattle and helping out at Grey Sloan Memorial. She asks Hayes for a pediatric consult on a fourteen-year-old kid who she has seen playing soccer near her hotel. She has noticed that he has swollen ankles and seems a little out of breath and wants Hayes’ opinion. Hayes can’t give her much help without the examining kid. Megan thought he might say that and quickly walks away.

Shortly afterward, Megan finds Hayes again and tells him the patient is in Exam Room 4. As he goes into the room, Megan introduces the boy as her son Farouk, which you might have figured out from her previous description. After his examination, Hayes tells Megan that Farouk’s EKG shows some abnormalities and that he hears a heart murmur. Megan is slightly relieved to hear that she’s not losing her mind and making up medical conditions for her son. She tells Hayes that Farouk has a history of ear infections and had tuberculosis ten years ago in Iraq. She tells Hayes about how she raised Farouk while she was a prisoner of war, and Hayes replies that he didn’t know Megan served in the military too. With the new information, Hayes wants to do an echo on Farouk. Megan agrees to the test and asks Hayes to keep Farouk’s condition between them. She doesn’t want Owen to know and freak out before she has a diagnosis to tell him.

Later that afternoon, Hayes meets Megan in another room to talk about Farouk’s test results. Hayes informs her that Farouk has restrictive pericarditis, which was most likely caused by the TB. He is sorry that it is not better news, and Megan starts to cry. She apologizes for breaking down, and Hayes tries to comfort her by saying he understands. Hayes needs to consult with the cardio department, but he thinks Farouk will need surgery and wants to admit him. Megan says that Farouk has always been a good kid despite what the world has given him. Hayes promises he will do everything in his power to fix Farouk. Megan wants to process the news before telling Owen, so Hayes leaves to give her some space. With Farouk's heart issue, it appears that Megan will have a reason to stick around in Seattle longer than we may have expected. While the storyline is quite sad, I’m happy we will see more of Megan. Grey’s Anatomy will be taking the next few weeks off and will return on Thursday, November 11 with a big two-hour crossover event with Station 19.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Grey’s Anatomy 18x01 Recap: “Here Comes the Sun” (A Proposition) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Here Comes the Sun”
Original Airdate: September 30, 2021

After a COVID-focused season 17, Grey’s Anatomy is moving into a fictional post-pandemic world to bring some joy and happiness back to the audience. Season eighteen promises to look more like the old Grey’s Anatomy that we all know and love. The fact that this show still manages to bring surprises, like the news that Kate Walsh is returning as Dr. Addison Montgomery this season, and massive “OMG!” moments that you won’t see coming (keep reading to find out the latest one) show the staying power of this series. 

THE OFFER

The season eighteen premiere is split into two distinct parts: one following Meredith, who is in Minnesota, and one following the rest of the doctors in Seattle. The Meredith storyline provides the biggest shockers, so let’s start with her. The episode opens in Grey’s Anatomy post-pandemic world with Mer overlooking her packed, boring OR schedule at Grey Sloan. Mer is happy to be back in the OR, even with a tedious schedule. She walks off to a nearby room to look at a message on her phone and discovers her long-deceased mom, Ellis Grey. In her typical demeaning way, Ellis asks Mer why she survived a pandemic just to perform boring surgeries. Mer wakes up to unsurprisingly reveal the opening to be a dream. However, the content of the dream is very important. Mer is clearly already feeling like she is wasting her second chance on life, and we get our first look at returning recurring guest star Kate Burton as Ellis, who will pop up here and there in a similar capacity.

We then learn that Mer is in Minnesota to meet with Dr. David Hamilton, played by new recurring guest Peter Gallagher, who is dedicating a research library in Ellis’ name. Mer gets a video call from Richard, and he’s worried that he will lose Mer to the Minnesota hospital that she is visiting. She insists that she is not there for a job interview, but Richard isn’t convinced. A little while later, Bailey video calls Mer and proclaims that Mer must give her two years’ notice instead of two weeks’ notice if she decides to leave Grey Sloan Memorial. Mer again insists that there is not a job offer, while Bailey believes Hamilton will con her. Mer hangs up, and right on cue, Hamilton tells her more about the research they are doing in Minnesota. He sweet talks Mer about her past medical research as they approach a door with a sign that reads Grey Center for Medical Research. Mer asks where the library is, and Hamilton tells Mer that this lab is for her if she wants it and the library is down the hall. Mer is stunned at the offer, even though Richard and Bailey called it.

Hamilton brings Mer into her research center and makes his best sales pitch to sell her on joining. He explains that the purpose of the lab is to develop an experimental surgery for Parkinson’s disease patients to potentially create a cure. He needs a surgeon on board to help him get the FDA approval he needs to start a trial. Mer inquires why Hamilton himself isn’t the surgeon involved, which prompts Hamilton to reveal that he is the patient. After the pitch, Mer gets a video call from Hayes, who asks if she has been offered a job yet. Hayes tells Mer that whatever she was offered she can’t take because he can’t keep doing interviews to fill open spots at Grey Sloan (but more on that later). She changes the topic by asking about his kids, which is a clear indication that these two have gotten a lot closer in between seasons. Hayes ends the call by asking Mer not to move to Minnesota.

THE BIG TWIST

Later on, Mer and Hamilton go to a fancy restaurant for dinner and more schmoozing. They have a thorough discussion about Parkinson’s and the upcoming trial. Hamilton tells Mer that when people see her name on something, they know it is cutting edge and take notice. He asks her if she wants to save him and plunges into the details of how the study would work. His final pitch is a pretty good one: Hamilton says Mer would be the public face to a possible cure for a disease that has devastated millions, which would be pretty hard to turn down. Mer responds by saying that she isn’t a neurosurgeon, but Hamilton knows she will attract the best. 

If you’re wondering when that big twist comes into play, then look no further! In the background of the restaurant, Mer and the camera catch a glimpse of a couple on a date. It’s a very brief shot, which might have you doing a double take. You might not be completely sure who you just saw until Mer goes to leave the restaurant and is stopped by an employee telling her that someone is waiting for her at the bar. Mer walks into the next room and is shown to a table where Dr. Nick Marsh is sitting. In case you have forgotten, traveling transplant surgeon Nick Marsh was played by Scott Speedman in a single episode three and a half years ago. He was an instant fan favorite due to his instant chemistry with Mer, who wound up performing a life-saving liver transplant on him. I never thought we would see him again, let alone as another surprise visit that will turn into him being a series regular this season.

Mer sits down at the table and immediately says that she didn’t think he saw her at the restaurant. Nick replies that Mer is hard to miss. Mer asks how his date was, and he goes on about how bad it was. The chemistry is instant and palpable again to both the audience and the two characters, prompting Mer to say that she is seeing someone. She says it’s not serious, then says that she actually isn’t seeing someone and isn’t sure why she lied. Mer continues to say that she was seeing someone, but his son had a hard time with it and now they aren’t dating. Yes, Mer is talking about dating Hayes, and it is not fair that their short-lived dates were not shown on-screen. Mer continues to say that she isn’t going to sleep with Nick and admits that he is easy to talk to. Nick reveals that his daughter went off to college, and he misses her and the noise. Mer opens up about nearly dying from COVID, and Nick says that she is a miracle like him. He feels that there is a little pressure to being a miracle because you have to figure out what you are going to do with it. Mer laughs and tells him that that has been haunting her dreams.

After their discussion, Nick walks Mer back to her hotel room and asks her how long she is in town for. She replies that she is there for a few more days and that she won’t let him into her room. He knows she won’t and walks away after saying goodnight. We all know, including Mer, that this will not be the last she sees of Nick Marsh on this trip or in general, which is cemented by his surprise series regular appointment. Will Mer stay in Minnesota for the Parkinson’s trial, to be with Nick, or both? Better yet, are we on the path to another classic Grey’s Anatomy love triangle between Mer, Nick, and Hayes? Time will tell, but this is clearly the story to watch this season.

MEANWHILE, IN SEATTLE...

The rest of this recap will follow the storylines in Seattle. Winston and Maggie are back from their honeymoon, which tells us this episode doesn’t take place too long after the previous season’s finale. They are stuck in surgery due to Seattle’s Phoenix Fair, which caused lots of havoc on Station 19. Maggie has injured her wrist during the honeymoon and doesn’t want to do surgery for a few days. We then see Link and Amelia in what appears to be a therapy session. Amelia talks about feeling ambushed by Link’s ill-fated marriage proposal and thinks that marriage is his only option for a relationship with her. It’s then revealed that they are actually at Scout’s one-year pediatrician appointment, which gave me a good laugh.

Over at Grey Sloan Memorial, Hayes finds Bailey and asks to talk to her for a minute. He invites Bailey, Ben, and their kids to come over to his house for dinner with him and his boys. Hayes reveals that his sons are struggling and need friends, which has prompted his invitation. Bailey is non-committal, so Hayes says that he is sorry he asked. 

The action changes over to a nearby park where Owen, Allison, and Leo meet up with Owen’s mother, his sister Megan, and her adopted son. It had previously been announced that Abigail Spencer would return as Megan Hunt this season, and it really is lovely to see her again. Teddy then arrives in a dress, carrying flowers. It turns out that they are about to stage a private wedding for Owen and Teddy! It’s just the seven of them because Megan reveals that Nathan Riggs is overseas and couldn’t be there. The causal wedding begins when the priest shows up. Right as the priest is about to officially marry the couple, a bunch of bikers from the Phoenix Fair’s underwear bike race crash in front of them, halting the ceremony.

Some comic relief comes in the form of Schmitt, dressed as a phoenix, knocking on Jo’s door. He is startled to see her out-of-control blonde hair when she opens the door. Jo is freaking out because she can’t study and take care of Luna at the same time. She wanted to do something different for her first day back to work and attempted to dye her hair, which went horribly wrong. Jo called Schmitt for help, and it’s entertaining to see the struggles of new parenthood.

Back at the hospital, Maggie sees Link and Amelia walk into the hospital and says hi to Scout. Link takes Scout to daycare, leaving the sisters to chat. Amelia tells Maggie how they turned Scout’s doctor appointment into couple’s therapy before changing her tune to say how happy she is for Maggie and Winston. She spots the brace on Maggie’s wrist and chuckles when she assumes Maggie has a sex injury. Elsewhere, Richard and Helm are waiting for an ambulance to arrive and are very surprised to see Owen and Teddy pop out of the ambulance with the patient, who turns out to be the priest. Owen explains that they were getting married in the park when the priest got run over by bicyclists, and Richard gets mad that they didn’t tell him about the wedding.

Link and Nico are called for a consult on one of the incoming traumas, and Link is in the worst mood he’s ever been in on the show. He fails to understand why Amelia won’t marry him and why his life is blowing up in his face. They arrive to help a woman with a lot of fractures from the bike accident. The patient and her wife were riding a tandem bike and crashed into the priest. They are worried that she might have potentially injured her autonomic nervous system. Link goes to check on the wife and finds Amelia treating her too, much to his chagrin.

We get a break from the tension by seeing Bailey, Maggie, and Hayes conducting interviews to fill GSM’s open surgeon jobs left behind by Jackson, Koracick, Jo, DeLuca, and other doctors who have quit due to pandemic burnout. The first doctor they interview is a pediatric surgeon. They like him until they find out he is not interested in taking part in the pro bono pediatric surgery program because he doesn’t believe in doing surgeries for free. That charmer is the first in a long line of comically unsuccessful interviews seen via a montage a little while later. The comedy continues with Jo and Schmitt arriving to work late. Schmitt goes running into the hospital, while Jo struggles to juggle her and Luna’s things. Jo can’t seem to function and drops an armful of items in frustration.

In the ER, Owen, Teddy, and Helm treat the priest. He begins to crash and has no pulse. They wind up having to operate immediately in the ER to fix his cardiac tamponade. Things continue to stay medically interesting in the imaging suite, where Link and Nico are waiting for their patient’s scans to come up. Winston walks in and asks them to look at his rotator cuff because he thinks he tweaked it. Nico says with a chuckle that rotator cuff soreness is common after a honeymoon. They immediately get serious when the scan reveals several spinal fractures, which upsets Link since they will need to get a neuro consult.

Amelia joins Link in the patient’s hospital room to discuss with her and her wife how the surgery will work to fix her spine. The wives fight and argue until the one with the spinal injury loses feeling in her legs. Link and Amelia rush her off for emergency surgery. Before we see that surgery, we get a peek at Teddy, Owen, Megan, and Helm operating on the priest. Teddy was under the impression that this priest was Owen’s mother’s favorite priest, but Owen reveals that priest wasn’t available so he had to hire a different priest. Teddy asks Owen when he asked the priest to marry them and isn’t happy to find out that Owen waited until two days prior. 

We then very briefly see the “crossover” part of this episode when Schmitt starts treating the guy who blew part of his face off with fireworks from Station 19. In the other OR, Link and Amelia are operating together frostily with Nico stuck in the middle. Their bitterness toward one another nearly causes their patient to become paralyzed, which causes them to snap out of it and get back to helping each other.

Before we see the rest of the surgeries, we get another interview with Bailey, Maggie, and Hayes! They finally have a solid candidate, Dr. Lin, and she is interested in becoming the chief of the plastics department. Lin gives some great answers, including that she knows they need her due to the doctor shortage. Richard busts in and interrupts the interview to grant Lin privileges to get her help with the firework patient. 

Back in the OR, Teddy is mad that she and Owen aren’t fully married and that they only got through half the ceremony. Owen seems to think that it counts, but he wises up by the end of the episode. To distract them, Megan blurts out that she and Riggs broke up. She calls their relationship a pandemic casualty and says that he rejoined the Army again and left. The priest starts to crash again before anyone can say they are sorry for her. Next door, Link, Amelia, and Nico can’t seem to find any bleeding in their patient’s spinal cord. Nico is unsure if there is any bleeding, but Amelia and Link find it and remove the clot to save their patient. In the third OR, Lin and Schmitt operate on the patient with the firework injury with Bailey, Richard, Hayes, and Maggie watching. They decide to continue the interview, and Lin tells them about her history while operating. She even keeps tabs on Schmitt the whole time, which impresses everyone.

A little while later, we see Teddy, Owen, and Megan informing the priest’s niece that her uncle died. The niece is glad that he at least died doing the thing he loved most in the world: performing a marriage. Teddy tries to hold back tears and runs off. Owen asks Megan what it means that a priest died on their table on their wedding day, as he is probably thinking their relationship is doomed again. Amelia and Link tell their patient’s wife that the priest died, but that her wife will make a full recovery. Unfortunately, she already thinks that her wife hates her and now won’t ever forgive her. Link clearly hates the conversation that is being had due to the negative comments about marriage.

The firework guy also survived and will be okay in the long run after more surgeries. Richard urges Bailey to formally offer Lin the chief of plastics position. Lin is flattered by the offer, so Richard wants to know what the “but” is. Lin says that she relies heavily on residents. She teaches by doing and can’t waste time in the OR by going through each step of a surgery in detail. She doesn’t feel that the residents at Grey Sloan Memorial are where they need to be in their training to work with her due to what she saw with Schmitt that day. Richard counters that the pandemic took a year of surgeries out of the residents’ hands. He gives her his word that he will make the residents better at their jobs, so Lin says she will consider the offer. 

After a hard day of work, Teddy and Owen go across the street to Joe’s bar, where the whole staff is waiting to surprise them. Owen tells everyone that they are going to celebrate the priest’s memory and get married now. Teddy isn’t sure about the plan, but Megan has already gotten ordained to marry them in ten minutes in the attendings lounge. Owen’s mom and the three kids are there too, which causes Teddy to cave. Owen apologizes to everyone for the last minute invitations and says it wouldn’t be the same without all of them. Megan picks up the ceremony where the priest left off, Teddy gives a nice speech about how much she loves Owen, and they officially get married this time as everyone cheers. The celebration is just what we need to nail the joy theme.

Link and Amelia are still at the hospital and didn’t attend the impromptu wedding, so Link takes the opportunity to talk to his love. He starts by saying that he knows that marriage is a faulty institution, but he wants to do it right for Scout and himself. Amelia says she can’t, so Link asks if she’s sure. Amelia responds, “I can, but I don’t want to.” She knows he used to want to be with her without being married. Link reveals he got through the last year because of her and learned that he wants a lifetime with her. Amelia says that she loves him and Scout. They share a kiss, and Link asks Amelia to marry him. She turns him down again, and Link walks away without another word.

Back at the bar, Hayes is sitting at the counter by himself, so Bailey walks over and asks what is happening with his youngest son. Hayes’ son is having panic attacks, which started when he found out Hayes was starting to date again. Hayes tells Bailey that he stopped as soon as he saw what was happening to his son, who is still very anxious. He has no idea what to do to help him. Bailey says that Hayes and the boys should come for dinner on Sunday, and Hayes thanks her.

Link finds Jo sitting in her car in the dark parking lot at Grey Sloan Memorial. She reveals that she never went inside the building and couldn’t take Luna into daycare. She couldn’t leave Luna’s side because she was abandoned and doesn’t want to abandon her daughter. Jo makes a joke about her hair, and Link laughs at her to lighten the mood. He tells her that she will feel guilty every time she walks out the door, which means Luna is number one in her mind. Link then says that he thinks it’s really over with Amelia. Jo doesn’t believe him and thinks it might still work out even though he is currently crashing on her couch. With one relationship cemented by marriage, one potentially torn apart by the thought of marriage, and maybe a new one on the horizon, there’s a lot to look forward to on this season of Grey’s Anatomy

Friday, August 20, 2021

Ted Lasso, Rom-Coms, and Emotional Vulnerability on TV [Contributor: Jenn]

One of the first things you’ll learn about me is that I love romantic comedies or, as they’re more commonly known, “rom-coms.” For a while, I rarely watched any other genre of movie. Whether it was How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Wedding Planner, The Proposal, or recents like Set It Up and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I find comfort, familiarity, and joy from watching them.

But if you’re familiar at all with the rom-com or romance genre, you might also be familiar with the discourse that surrounds these films. They’re stigmatized as “feminine” and are often demeaned and given the title of “guilty pleasure” instead of being seen as something of value. People who consider themselves to be high-brow critics (more often than not these are critics who identify as men) enjoy diminishing romance. And this extends beyond the realm of film as well. I’ve seen way too many Twitter threads from bitter male TV showrunners bemoaning the fact that people “ship” characters on their television shows. They insist that “shipping” isn’t the point of watching television — as if romance and love weren’t fundamental aspects of human society and somehow occupied a secondary space or necessity on television.

People aren’t always this blatant in their criticism of rom-coms and romance, however, and I think that’s actually where more of the trouble exists. Even in shows that I wholeheartedly adore and are often well-meaning like New Girl, when men are presented with traditionally “feminine” things like romantic comedies, they balk at the idea of enjoying them. These characters feel the need to qualify their masculinity and to supplement the enjoyment of “feminine” or “girly” activities with the enjoyment of something traditionally “masculine” (which is usually synonymous with toxic masculinity but that is a whole other thing). 

Let me give you a quick example: In New Girl, there’s an episode where the three main male characters — Nick, Winston, and Schmidt — are home alone for the evening without their female roommate, Jess. Their “guys night” is going to initially consist of things they can’t do when Jess is around. Schmidt decides to make sangria, which the other two men scoff at, seemingly because it’s viewed as a “feminine” drink (I guess? What makes it a feminine drink? Because it has fruit? I am still so confused by this), but eventually the night becomes a time where the men drink sangria and share their emotions about love and relationships while blasting “I Want to Know What Love Is.” So New Girl turns the trope on its head.


Almost.

When Jess returns, she asks the men what they did and they cover their emotional vulnerability with lies, scattering beer bottles throughout the apartment and even making their voices gruffer. So even though New Girl allowed their male characters to be emotionally vulnerable and said they reject the notion that being emotional is an exclusively female trait, the moment still didn’t land the execution. Emotional vulnerability for men was still the punchline.

And I’m sure you all can think of numerous scenes in television shows and movies where male characters are watching rom-coms, enjoying themselves and/or having an emotional response to the film, and then hastily begin to act hyper-masculine in an attempt to deflect from their enjoyment of the rom-com. It’s weird, isn’t it? That you likely thought of at least one moment where you’ve seen that kind of behavior exemplified. But as my friend and podcast editor Chels and I have often discussed, media tends to punch down on things that they shouldn’t. They make unlikable characters say horrible things or make jokes at the expense of marginalized people, then shrug and tell us we’re not supposed to like the character who’s making the joke anyway. So it’s okay! It’s a way for a show or film to partake in controversial discourse by still trying to cover it up. This happens, of course, with romance and rom-coms too. They often become the punchlines of television jokes.

As a brief aside, that in and of itself is odd to me, since part of the “criticism” I see of rom-coms from people is that they’re filled with tropes. Which, the last time I checked, every film was. Some films just have more CGI and budget to conceal those tropes and play around with them than others. (Rom-coms not having big budgets the way that other films do is a conversation I will direct to some of my more film-minded friends.) But the the truth is that the story beats across these films are all pretty similar. Rom-coms have their own set of tropes and story beats, but every other film does too!

Have you ever watched Star Wars, Harry Potter (forget about its god-awful author for a second), or Lord of the Rings? They’re all based on a blueprint called the Hero’s Journey, and the only difference between them is that they execute different portions of that journey differently. One is set in space, the other two in fictional, magical worlds. But the concept is the same. And yet, you don’t see people criticize the enjoyment of those films nearly as much as they do rom-coms.

There’s also the obvious misogyny involved with the bashing of rom-coms and romance movies, series, or books. Anything that has an audience geared toward women or features female main characters tends to get more vocal criticism. Don’t believe me? I’ll point you in the direction of the internet where Twitter “critics” like to take aim at Captain Marvel, Rose from Star Wars, and pretty much anything female-fronted that ever comes out. (Men make lots of excuses for why they do not enjoy these things, but really you can boil it down to sexism most of the time). For some reason, romance is seen as a genre that is less important, necessary, or “good” (which is subjective anyway!) than something that would win an Academy Award simply because a majority, though not all, of its demographic is women. 

And even well-meaning shows like New Girl and others that succeed in breaking down and subverting tropes often fall into the trap of having to qualify the enjoyment of these things. Liking rom-coms or romance doesn’t suddenly erase a traditional and frankly problematic view of masculinity and it’s really weird that we, as a society, think so. (But it also explains a lot about our society and we just don’t have the time to go into all of that at the moment.)

While I have successfully bummed myself out in the first half of this article, I want to pivot and talk about the inspiration for writing it in the first place: Ted Lasso. From its inception, this Apple TV+ series flipped tropes over on their heads and tossed some out altogether. Our titular Ted is an emotional, loving person and the show doesn’t try to undercut that by telling him that his kindness and care is weakness. Other characters try to diminish him, sure, but that is story and conflict. There are moments when Ted’s enthusiasm overruns what he knows needs to be done (see season one’s “All Apologies” when Coach Beard snaps at Ted in the pub) and is actually a blatant weakness. But that’s not the show telling the audience that emotion is weakness — it’s saying that being a good and kind person with an easygoing demeanor isn’t an excuse for not making the hard decision. Ted knew what needed to be done but he didn’t want to do it. That was his problem, not his love for others or compassion for Roy Kent.

Throughout the first season of Ted Lasso, we get the chance to see men become emotionally vulnerable with each other, and it’s never really the punchline. They don’t immediately pretend to be gruff and macho after admitting to weaknesses or crying. And if they do, they learn how to change and grow! We see men bonding, and though initially they’re confused by Ted’s methods, they begin to embrace them and the man behind them. In the world of Ted Lasso, emotions simply exist and some men like Ted are more comfortable with emotions while men like Roy aren’t. And some women are more comfortable with emotions, like Keeley, while some women like Rebecca aren’t! And the show tells us that this is okay; what is not okay is to stay stuck where you are and refuse to grow. Men who are not emotionally vulnerable learn how to be in the show, and men who are emotionally vulnerable learn how to grow in applying that emotion in healthy ways.

This week, Ted Lasso continued to impress me when they dropped an episode called “Rainbow.” Written by Bill Wrubel and directed by Erica Dunton, this was the most thorough and fun rom-com homage I’ve watched since Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (a show everyone should watch and study honestly) did “I’m Almost Over You.” While that episode of the CW’s musical comedy was a love letter to rom-coms from a satirical lens (it lovingly poked fun of the holes in the tropes that rom-coms employ), Ted Lasso’s homage intrigued me more because the show centers mostly around men. 

When Ted brings up “Rom-Communism,” a philosophy of his, he begins to rattle off rom-com stars like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Rather than have the team of young men stare blankly at Ted, the show enthusiastically has the men name other famous rom-com stars. And the only joke in the scene isn’t at the expense of the genre — it’s because Dani participates in the conversation with “Jennifer Lopez” a minute or two too late. I was surprised and refreshed to see a scene where a bunch of men know the rom-com genre and the writers don’t immediately punch down and have them pretend they don’t! They are all in agreement throughout the conversation about the best rom-com leading women and men.

The rest of “Rainbow” is an absolute delight, making direct references to so many rom-coms. Ted quotes When Harry Met Sally, Jerry Maguire, Notting Hill, and The Princess Bride. The way the episode is shot is an incredible nod to rom-coms, complete with Roy running to the match at the end of the episode. There are some nods to You’ve Got Mail and Love, Actually too (a running-to-get-somewhere-in-time trope is present in so many rom-coms but I really did get some big Love, Actually energy from Roy trying to get to the match. 

But perhaps the most significant moment is when Roy Kent, the guy we’re conditioned to believe is the gruffest, grumpiest man says to Ted: “Shut up. You had me at ‘Coach,’” making a direct reference to Jerry Maguire. (Coach Beard’s little gasp in that moment is hilarious and also indicative of all of us.) He had been so insistent that Ted not quote rom-coms to him, but it had nothing to do with disliking or being unfamiliar with the genre. It was about not wanting to be a coach like Ted wanted him to be. At the end of the episode, Roy was chasing down the thing he loved to tell it how much he loved it. Classic rom-com staple right there.

I love that the show had Roy Kent quote a famous romantic movie line to Ted, but I’m not surprised either. The show constantly reminds us that while Roy is gruff and grumpy and Keeley is sunshine, he’s not going to apologize for or diminish the significance of feeling emotions. When he learns that him being emotional is actually a turn-on for Keeley, he immediately balks at the revelation but then learns the significance of emotional vulnerability and prioritizes it. The show doesn’t say that Roy is “less of a man” because he cries or feels things. It doesn’t say he’s less of a man because he can quote a romantic movie. It doesn’t say that any of these men are less capable soccer players, coaches, or men because they love rom-coms. 

The men on the team have their own personalities and journeys with emotional vulnerability — almost all of them enthusiastically met with Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, a sports psychologist, this season — and Ted Lasso’s writers never diminish them for pursuing emotional or mental wellbeing. The journey for these men is just that: a journey. They aren’t often taught to open up to one another, but that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of it. What is especially important is that no one in this episode is portrayed as being “wrong” for loving rom-coms or romance, and no one tries to excuse or explain away their knowledge of the genre. No one is depicted as “wrong” either for crying, feeling emotions, opening up to others, or pursuing therapy. I love that, deeply.

Honestly, Ted Lasso continues to impress. And I cannot tell you how many times I watch this show just wishing more shows would portray male characters the way they do, prioritize emotional vulnerability and empathy the way they do, and craft meaningful characterization the way they do. I am here for all of it. And if it comes with more rom-com homages, even better!

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Flash 7x18 Review: "Heart of the Matter, Part 2" (So Long Season Seven) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Heart of the Matter, Part 2”
Original Airdate: July 20, 2021

Who’s ready for a season finale? The Flash is ready for a season finale! We’ve got everything you need to close out a season of a superhero show: villain monologues! A city in danger! A surprise appearance from a character no one expected! And, to round it all out, a wedding! Well, a vow renewal, but close enough. Actually, this finale was so neatly wrapped up (there wasn’t even a dramatic cliffhanger!) and cheerful by the end of it I felt like it would’ve made a pretty good series finale to send everyone off with. Alas, we will return next season.

NO BUT SERIOUSLY WHY DOES SPEED MAKE PEOPLE EVIL?

Nora starts the episode freaking out about Bart, Central City, the future, and her father. Her father, meanwhile, is inside August Heart’s head and listening to the man villain-monologue about being a “living god of speed” or whatever. In seven years of this show being on the air, they have never managed to adequately explain why so many people go evil over being able to run fast. Or why people get so obsessed with running fast. Godspeed is already at the point of being able to run so fast he can travel back in time, so what more does he want?

Well, it turns out he wants “organic speed” instead of the synthetic stuff he invented and gave to himself. Throughout this episode, all chatter about “organic speed” and “synthetic speed” really makes it sound like everyone’s talking about amphetamines, which is kinda funny. But yeah, Godspeed thinks Barry can make the organic speed thing happen and, if he does, Godspeed will absorb his clones and stop the war. Barry refuses to give Godspeed what he wants and Godspeed threatens to destroy the city, blah blah blah. The usual.

Godspeed shouts Barry out of his head. With the connection broken, August Heart asks if Barry made any progress and questions what the “real” August Heart said. Everyone awkwardly looks at each other for way too long because neither Barry nor Cecile know how to tactfully explain to poor August Heart that his real self is a jerk and he’s genuinely more interesting as an amnesiac.

Later, Barry asks the team what they should do about Godspeed’s ultimatum. Nora says they need to give him the organic speed that he wants because everything as it is is completely hopeless. Nora, you’re being a real buzzkill right now. While Barry and the others contemplate potentially empowering a villain, Cecile is trying to comfort the sad, empty shell of said villain. August Heart is terrified of becoming a monster “obsessed with taking speed and ruling the world” — see? Amphetamines. Cecile insists that August is good deep down. Oh poor, poor naive Cecile.

Speed Force Nora shows up to boost everyone’s morale and also their speed, including Iris (I guess she’s like a latent speedster because of that one time she got speed powers?) and Bart, whose power surge gets him to wake up from his coma. Bart has a brief moment with “Uncle Jay” and, with the whole crew all together, Barry declares that they’re going to “end this civil war, once and for all.”

Bart shows up to get the Godspeeds’ attention, then the rest of the Flash family lines up alongside him. The Godspeeds have finally moved from “kill the adversary” to “kill the adversary and his allies,” so the divide-and-conquer strategy that failed last week finally has a chance. Each of the hero speedsters takes on a group of villain speedsters (except for Barry and Iris, who take on their group of Godspeeds together because #CoupleGoals). It seems pretty easy-going, until everyone gathers back together and they all watch as the Godspeeds they knocked out stand back up again. Speed Force Nora realizes they’re feeding off her the same way they fed off her in the Speed Force (realm), so Barry tells her she has to go.

With the Speed Force gone, the Flash Family is left to deal with repowered Godspeeds on their own even though nothing they do ever seems to work against them. Thankfully, Chester has pep-talked Allegra into throwing UV light again and she shows up with a charged SEE device that knocks the Godspeeds out. Everyone returns to S.T.A.R. Labs only to discover more Godspeeds on the move, except now Team Flash has no Speed Force Nora and no SEE device to help them.

Since they’re all out of options, Barry has changed his mind about the giving-the-villain-more-power deal and hooks August Heart up to a device that will likely give him organic speed. Before the device is powered up, August says he hopes whatever Barry does works out for the both of them. Unfortunately, speed makes August Heart evil. Why does speed make people evil? Investigate that mystery, Team Flash.

To Godspeed’s credit, he does keep his promise of absorbing all his clones so at least Central City doesn’t have to deal with the constant barrage of costumed speedsters wrecking all their stuff anymore. I feel like it would’ve been advantageous to his villainous plan if he hadn’t done that, but it makes him more powerful or something so I guess that’s the explanation. Either way, the focus has entirely moved to killing Barry and taking his speed. Thankfully, Barry says he has a plan.

And what was Barry’s plan? Calling in a bigger, badder evil speedster! In the middle of the fight between Barry and Godspeed, Eobard Thawne appears — still looking like Harrison Wells, which… has the show completely forgotten he used to have a different face? — and knocks Godspeed away. It’s unclear why Thawne would be any more effective than any other speedster has been so far against Godspeed, but all three of them summon Definitely Not Lightsabers and start a three-way sword battle that ends with Godspeed getting stabbed in the gut by Thawne. He doesn’t die from it, though. Somehow.

With Godspeed out of commission, Thawne turns on Barry. I’d forgotten that Tom Cavanagh delivers all his lines as Thawne in a whisper. It’s really annoying. Thawne takes a swing at Barry, but Barry zips away from him and tells him he “got faster” when Thawne asks how. Then Thawne runs off. Why can’t Speed Force Nora just take evil speedsters’ powers away, anyhow? She can grant more power to the people she likes, why can’t she also take away power from the people she doesn’t?

Now that the war is over, Barry offers to buy everyone dinner to celebrate (restaurants were open while Godspeeds were running amok?) and then gets down on one knee in front of Iris and proposes they renew their vows. 

We next see everyone a week later at the vow renewal ceremony, during which Bart sings a song for his not-yet parents, Cisco officiates, and Barry and Iris say wonderfully romantic things to each other. Like I said up top, it’s kind of so perfect an ending that it feels like it would’ve made a great series finale. As it is, it does make for a lovely way to head out of the occasionally rocky season 7 on an upbeat note.

Other Things:

  • Once again relegated to the Other Things bullets: it turns out Kramer’s a meta (duh-doy) and her power is the power of convenience. Seriously, she develops superpowers based on whatever she needs at any given moment.
  • Jay: “You look a whole lot like someone very close to me.” Speed Force Nora, whose actress plays three people on this show: “I get that a lot.”
  • Frost and Caitlin show up for the vow renewal together and I’m slightly amused that Caitlin’s wearing blue and Frost is wearing red.
  • “That was crash.” “No, no, no no.” “That’s how you say it.” “That’s how I say it, but you say it weird.” Barry being an uncool dad is hilarious.
  • “Do you, Iris... Bartholomew...” I love every time we’re reminded that Barry’s first name is actually Bartholomew.
  • Whew! Another season done. What will next season bring?

A Summer of Mythic Quest on The Community Rewatch Podcast!

This summer, we had the pleasure of talking about Mythic Quest, Apple TV+'s gem of a television show on our podcast, The Community Rewatch Podcast. Check out our Summer School Series if you haven't yet, and be sure to watch the show. A few memorable episodes this summer were:

  • Episode 58, which is our interview with Charlotte Nicdao (Poppy) and Ashly Burch (Rachel). We had an absolute blast with them. We talk about how they got their roles, what makes Mythic Quest so special, and why female representation matters.
  • Episode 66 is where we talk to Jessie Ennis (Jo). She shares how she got hired on Mythic Quest, what she loves about playing Jo, and what she's learned on her Learning Lots podcast with BFF, Brie Larson.
  • Our discussion of the pilot with Mythic Quest showrunner and writer, Megan Ganz, in episode 67. She's always a treasure but we especially love hearing about how shows and episodes come to be!
  • Episode 60 where Jenn and Chels talk about "Everlight."
We had so much fun talking about the series that we're planning to return to talk all about season 2 in the winter of 2021! If you're a Community fan but haven't yet checked out the series, we encourage you to do just that! Not only is Mythic Quest full of humor from pratfalls to laugh-out-loud dialogue and line deliveries, but it also contains immense heart. The characters are fully-realized people with their own quirks and flaws, and they get the chance to grow over the course of two seasons. Mythic Quest also remains one of the only shows with a flawless episode about the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was shot entirely on iPhones in quarantine.

The Community Rewatch Podcast is returning in the fall to break down all the highs and lows of season 4 of the show, so catch up on our backlog of episodes until then!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Flash 7x17 Review: "Heart of the Matter, Part 1" (Hey Kids) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Heart of the Matter, Part 1”
Original Airdate: July 13, 2021

Previously on The Flash: Nora and her heretofore unknown brother arrived from the future, just in time to stop Barry on his downward “Iris is in a temporal crisis, Godspeed might have messed up the future, there’s a chance I’ll never be a father” spiral. So now Team Flash has two bonus speedsters to help out with the Godspeed war going on in Central City, Barry probably feels a little bit better about the future of his children, and we get to know newcomer Bart. 

All in all, it promises an interesting start to the two-part season finale that I had no idea was the first part of a two-part season finale, since I’m used to the 20+ episode slog this show usually foists upon me. Also, “Heart of the Matter, Part 1” is the 150th episode of the show, so it’s extra special!

NOT THE TORNADO TWINS BUT CLOSE ENOUGH

The episode starts in 2049, with Nora as XS lightning-lassoing Original Flavor Godspeed. He’s not terribly fazed by it, but then Bart — superhero name Impulse — phases through him (ha!) and it knocks him out. Even though her enemy is primed for arrest, Nora gets distracted by yelling at her brother for the risky phasing-through-a-speedster move and Godspeed escapes. He heads to the Flash museum, then through time to 2021.

Which brings us to the present, where Nora and Bart are getting to know the past versions of the people they grew up knowing. I get that weird stuff is a given in their lives, but they’re remarkably blasĂ© about this whole time travel thing. Considering that they have a family rule about protecting the timeline at all costs, I guess they travel through time a lot? Also, I was briefly proud of Barry apparently growing enough as a person to set such a strict non-interference rule for his time traveling brood, but that pride evaporated when he immediately decided Bart and Nora could ignore the rule and help out with the Godspeeds. It’s always special circumstances with you, huh, Barry?

Chester has developed a “solar encryption engine” from his father’s blueprints in order to help drain the Godspeed clones of their energy and get them out of the way. I’d explain how it’s supposed to work, but every time I listen to the technobabble on this show it sounds like when adults talk in Charlie Brown cartoons. Just know that “machine does thing to stop Godspeeds, but machine needs battery charge to work” and we can move forward. Some UV light from Allegra would really help Chester out with the SEE device, but Allegra has been MIA to Team Flash. So I guess they don’t know her cousin’s dead.

Barry and the kids go out to stop a Godspeed attack and then split off, hoping to break the Godspeed packs down to more manageable chunks for each of them to fight. But all the Godspeeds follow Bart instead, repeating the phrase “kill the adversary” while they go. Hmm, that’s probably important.

After they escape and are back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry asks his son what’s up with the whole “kill the adversary” situation and Bart loses his temper over the interrogation. He finally just yells that, in the future, Godspeed is “[his] Thawne.” Bart doesn’t go into details, but suffice to say that Godspeed kills someone Bart loves in the future and they’ve been nemeses ever since. Wait, so then why was Bart so casual when he and Nora were fighting Godspeed in 2049? Shouldn’t he have been single-mindedly focused on throwing Godspeed in jail instead of cheerfully bickering with his sister?

As Barry is consulting with Gideon about other speedsters to call for help with the Godspeeds (he’s trying to get into contact with Wally, who’s apparently too busy meditating) Iris appears, good as new despite her dire temporal situation last episode. She also knows everything that’s been happening with Barry while she was gone, and she’s taking the sudden arrival of her adult children in stride. I guess if it happens once, it’s hard to be surprised the second time around.

Next we see that Jay Garrick still exists, which I’m pretty sure he shouldn’t if there’s no multiverse. Not only that, but he’s on Barry’s Earth and he’s such a part of the West-Allen family in the future that it turns out his death is what turns Godspeed into Bart’s arch-enemy. This is why the Godspeeds end up kidnapping Jay, so they can lure Bart out and finally deal with “the adversary.”

Chester has finally tracked down a sullen Allegra and pulled her in to help charge the SEE device, but Allegra’s failing to get the battery past ten percent. Barry is in a hurry to get rid of a bunch of Godspeeds, so when he comes in to check on the SEE progress and Chester tells him it’s not ready, Barry blasts it with lightning to charge it up. This turns out to be a bad idea because the energy from speed lighting just powers the Godspeeds when Team Flash later uses the SEE on them, giving them a chance to blast our heroes with cartoonish white spirals. Nora gets knocked out in the fight, which leads Barry to banning her from fighting anymore Godspeeds.

The kidnapping of Jay Garrick comes back into play when the Godspeeds announce who they’ve captured to Team Flash. Of course, Bart goes after his uncle and is immediately captured by Godspeeds, who hold him up in the air with their cartoonish white spirals while he screams the whole time. Barry and Nora show up and, despite hearing the screams of their beloved family member, just stare dumbly at the Godspeeds and Bart for like... way too long. You guys know you have super speed, right? Your reaction time should be significantly faster than this. 

Eventually they do react, with Nora going for Bart and Barry going for the main Godspeed. Barry phases through him the same way Bart does in the future, which knocks Godspeed out and releases Bart. The Godspeeds all spring back up, surrounding the West-Allen family and Jay, who declares that they should “give [the Godspeeds] heck” because he’s a product of 1940 and he doesn’t gosh-darn swear. 

It looks like it’s going to be a losing battle for the non-evil speedsters until a surprise guest appears: Cisco! He provides just enough of a distraction to get everyone out of danger and they manage to cart Bart’s still-unconscious body back to S.T.A.R. Labs for further examination. It turns out that Bart is in a coma and severely low on speed; the only reason why he’s not dead is because what little speed he has left is keeping him alive.

The team sets up what they’ll be doing when the season finale airs next week: Chester will keep working on the SEE, Cisco will try to make a synthetic replacement for the temporal trap that was broken last week, and Barry wants to climb into August Heart’s mind to figure out a way to stop him from becoming an evil speedster in the first place. You know. Normal stuff!

At the end of the episode, Barry is hooking himself up to a still-docile August Heart while Cecile plays brain wave conductor and sends his consciousness over. When Barry finds himself in Heart’s mind, it consists of a cathedral and an obelisk throne and August Heart making broadly villainous statements about how cool he is. Man, I really was right about Godspeed being a tool.

Other Things:

  • Kramer’s lack of death in that failed mission is indeed important, since Joe mentions it to her during their little micro-plot this episode.
  • Did I miss something about Jay Garrick being around? He’s definitely supposed to be on another Earth, right? And the multiverse isn’t supposed to exist anymore? Although, I caught a little bit of Superman and Lois after this episode and there’s someone from a different Earth on there, too, so two questions: 1) is anyone going to explain this? And 2) how much of it is Barry’s fault? 

Monday, July 12, 2021

And Now… Your 6th Annual Golden Trio Award Winners!

Each year, we love honoring our favorite actors, actresses, and shows in our Golden Trio Awards. What started as a fun social media game (#Top3) by our assistant editor, Chelsea, turned into a yearly ceremony where you choose the three winners in each category. Even if your favorite show or performer doesn't get nominated for an Emmy this year, they’re still worth celebrating. Never stop loving what you love!

So without further ado, let's get to your 2021 winners!

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES

Your votes for the top two were neck-and-neck until the very end, proving you all really love Apple TV+ ensemble comedies.

GOLD: 

Mythic Quest

SILVER: 

Ted Lasso

BRONZE: 

A Black Lady Sketch Show

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

Between intense character studies in chess and solving mysteries, these shows brought all the drama in 2021 – and you loved them too!

GOLD: 

The Queen’s Gambit

SILVER: 

I May Destroy You

BRONZE:

Mare of Easttown

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

What does an optimistic coach, a video game creative director, and a morning show host have in common? They’re your favorite funny men this year!

GOLD: 

Jason Sudeikis (Ted Lasso)

SILVER:

Rob McElhenney (Mythic Quest)

BRONZE: 

Kenan Thompson (Kenan)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

They broke your hearts and they brought all the drama this year… these are your top three winners for leads in a drama!

GOLD: 

Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian)

SILVER: 

Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton)

BRONZE: 

Chris Evans (Defending Jacob)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

You all showed up for these funny leading ladies, and we couldn’t have been prouder of all the nominees. In an ideal world, everyone would walk away with a medal but this year you chose three incredible women as your favorites!

GOLD: 

Charlotte Nicdao (Mythic Quest)

SILVER: 

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Never Have I Ever)

BRONZE: 

Robin Thede (A Black Lady Sketch Show)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

So many women gave nuanced, powerful performances in dramas and limited series this past year. But only three of them could win, so let’s celebrate them!

GOLD: 

Kate Winslet (Mare of Easttown)

SILVER: 

Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit)

BRONZE: 

Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

When we narrowed down this category, we knew it would be difficult to choose our favorite! But you all showed up in the polls for your favorite comedic performers in streaming and network shows (and Danny Pudi stans really showed up)!

GOLD: 

Danny Pudi (Mythic Quest)

SILVER: 

Alex Newell (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist)

BRONZE: 

William Jackson Harper (The Good Place)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

They were battling the supernatural, teaching chess, and fighting literal and physical bad guys this year. Here are your picks for outstanding supporting drama actors!

GOLD: 

Bill Camp (The Queen’s Gambit)

SILVER: 

Michael K. Williams (Lovecraft Country)

BRONZE: 

Chase W. Dillon (The Underground Railroad)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Each and every woman listed here is so talented and made us laugh this year. Whether it was a sketch show, an ensemble comedy, or a show about love and friendship, we adore these supporting comedic actresses – and you do too! (Also, who still has “Agatha All Along” stuck in their heads? Anybody?)

GOLD: 

Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso)

SILVER: 

Kathryn Hahn (WandaVision)

BRONZE: 

D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Each woman in this category made us feel deeply this year, delivered standout performances, and we are honored to crown them with internet awards!

GOLD: 

Julianne Nicholson (Mare of Easttown)

SILVER:

Reign Edwards (The Wilds)

BRONZE: 

Mae Whitman (Good Girls)

OTP OF THE YEAR

When it comes to winning polls, Julie and the Phantoms fans are already seasoned veterans, and this category was no exception! Everyone else battled it out for the second and third spots and we’re happy to see just how much you all love... well, love!

GOLD: 

Luke/Julie (Julie and the Phantoms)

SILVER: 

Roy/Keely (Ted Lasso)

BRONZE: 

David/Patrick (Schitt’s Creek)

BEST NEW SERIES 

We’d say this one was close, but the Julie and the Phantoms fans really dominated this category! But the truth is that each of these new shows have captivated and entertained us all.

GOLD: 

Julie and the Phantoms

SILVER: 

WandaVision

BRONZE: 

We Are Lady Parts

GUILT-LESS TV PLEASURE

Around here, we don't believe that you should feel guilty for loving the things you love. Not everything you watch has to be Emmy-nominated television... and that should be celebrated! And you honored these guilt-less TV pleasures well.

GOLD: 

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

SILVER: 

Teenage Bounty Hunters

BRONZE: 

Nailed It!

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE

TV shows wouldn't work without the strength of their ensembles. And these shows demonstrated that (hello, Bridgerton and your array of complex characters!) and shone in 2021.

GOLD: 

Bridgerton

SILVER: 

Outer Banks

BRONZE: 

Ted Lasso

Well, there you have it everyone! Thanks so much for contributing to this year's Golden Trio Awards this year and we can’t wait to return again in the summer of 2022 for another celebration! :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Flash 7x16 Review: "P.O.W." (Something About Jammed Signals) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“P.O.W.”
Original Airdate: July 6, 2021

This week on The Flash: more Godspeeds! So many Godspeeds! I’ve never seen a show go for quantity over quality quite so spectacularly as The Flash is with their multiple Godspeeds. Seriously, I know I harp on this but... this character is nothing. It’s a nothing character full of nothing. Godspeed has no menace, no compelling history... he’s got mystery, I’ll give him that. But it’s the “what’s the point of all this?” kind of mystery and not the “What will happen next?” kind of mystery. In its own way, the show’s stubborn refusal to add anything of weight to Godspeed and his many, many alternative selves — whether they be robot duplicates or clones — is bizarrely fascinating.

LONG TIME NO DIGGLE

The episode starts with Barry dreaming of Nora again, but unlike his last dream she’s bearing bad news and dire warnings instead of comforting words about how everything’s going to be okay. When Barry wakes up, the city is trapped in the middle of the Godspeed war, which has the added wrinkle of making Central City into a kind of Faraday cage. No communications can go in or out of the city. We learn this when Cecile asks the team if anyone’s heard from Joe, who was last seen in an exploding car with Kristen Kramer.

(Joe and Kramer are having their own little adventure, also with jammed cell phone signals and limited communication. They’re being hunted, “The Most Dangerous Game”-style, by Kramer’s old friend-turned-sociopathic mercenary, Adam. Once again, their plotline is small and virtually insignificant and they manage to get the upper hand on Adam by the end of the episode, but I felt really sorry for repeatedly cutting them out of the main review so I’m giving them a little aside paragraph. Also, Adam seems to believe the explosion that killed Kramer’s whole team should have killed Kramer as well, implying that her survival was miraculous bordering on impossible. That’s at least a little intriguing.)

So no one can call for help, Barry’s so outgunned he’s essentially limited to just evacuating civilians and hoping for the best, and Team Flash has no ideas. What could possibly help them? Why, John Diggle bearing a technical doohickey from none other than Cisco Ramon, of course! That’s right, this episode is a very special guest star kind of episode.

The technical doohickey from Cisco is an entropy trap, which Dig personally volunteered to deliver so that he could do his part helping Central City through their most recent metahuman crisis. Chester is overjoyed because he’s apparently a Team Arrow fanboy, but also because the entropy trap is cutting-edge technology that literally freezes time. The team wants to capture one of the Godspeeds and Barry wants to find a way for them to communicate so he can ask what they want. After Barry makes his plan, Dig briefly makes an expression like a Victorian governess about to die of consumption.

The entropy trap is immediately successful, which tells us that the main plot of the episode will not be about finding and trapping a Godspeed. With a silent Godspeed locked in one of the S.T.A.R. Labs cells, they try to figure out how to talk to him while Allegra somehow uses her UV light powers to jam his communication to the Godspeed hive mind. That’s three references to jammed communications in this episode now — am I missing a metaphor?

If I am, I suspect it’s something about limited communications being overcome by good planning, because the Godspeed that Team Flash has captured is clearly not bothered by his inability to talk to his brethren. In fact, Team Flash gets some information out of him — the Godspeeds are looking for the original Godspeed, August Heart, who is from the future but in the past — but he escapes when Barry’s unwillingness to kill August Heart in order to stop the Godspeed war makes him an enemy of the captured Godspeed. Which, since the other half of the warring Godspeeds wants to steal Barry’s speed and the “good” half just wanted to keep them from doing it, means Barry’s now on the wrong side of both Godspeed factions. This is somehow very confusing and very uninteresting all at the same time.

Also, Barry really needs to learn some subterfuge. He could have very easily agreed to help the Godspeeds without agreeing to kill August Heart, then worked on pushing them away from the killing plan over the course of their truce. So on the list of things Barry Allen sucks at, let’s add “strategy” in there right after “teaching” and “not destroying the universe via time travel.”

So Team Flash wants to find August Heart, who has been displaced in time, before the Godspeeds can kill him. Barry’s angry because he’s worried about his future-daughter Nora, who’s from the same year as August Heart. Yeah, it’s not so fun when people play around with time travel and your kid’s existence is on the line, huh, Barry? Speaking of which: does Dig know you briefly erased his daughter? I guess no harm, no foul, but that was kinda messed up.

Barry wants to go forward in time (what metaphorical Faraday cage blocks the signal between Barry Allen’s brain and the concept of “do not time travel”?) to check on Nora, but when he attempts the run through the Speed Force his way is blocked by a Red Rover line of Godspeeds. Boy, I sure wish there were a row of Godspeeds waiting to clothesline Barry every other time he’s attempted time travel. 

He gets knocked into nowhere, where Deon finds him and shares some bad news: the Godspeeds are running amok, “feeding on pure speed force energy,” and the Speed Force is having a real time keeping them at bay. Deon’s worn thin as well, but not because of the Godspeeds. It turns out, Iris is suffering from some sort of destabilization that keeps her jumping through timelines. Deon’s putting everything he has into keeping her stable, but he has no concrete way of stopping it. Before Barry can say much to Iris, Deon has to snap her to some other timeline.

Frost, Dig, and Cecile have found a location associated with August Heart. Cecile senses a scared person nearby and they find a guy huddled by a dumpster. They ask for his name and he says he doesn’t know, then he says that the location he’s at is important. Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Caitlin manages to get the guy to confirm his name is August but his memory is too fried for anything else. Also, Dig has spent this whole episode experiencing the sci-fi version of the Victorian consumption cough (i.e., screaming headaches of portentous Green Lantern-ing to come) and decides to deal with that once he leaves Central City.

At the end of the episode, just when Barry’s feeling real down about everything going on and needs a pep talk from Cecile, Nora suddenly appears to show Barry she’s fine and dandy. Also, she now has a brother.

Other Things:

  • The plot relegated to the bullet points of afterthought this week: Ultraviolet’s new lease on life is short-lived, as she immediately goes out to hunt Black Hole and dies. Allegra holds her as she dies (and inexplicably burns to ashes) and regrets sticking to her Team Flash family instead of Esperanza, her “real” family. This show’s inability to square away the found family vs. blood family argument continues.
  • Why is Nora able to get through the Godspeeds lurking in the Speed Force?

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Flash 7x15 Review: "Enemy at the Gates" (Gotta Get Godspeed) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Enemy at the Gates”
Original Airdate: June 29, 2021

We welcome back Godspeed on this week’s episode, and by “welcome back,” I mean whatever the opposite of that would be. Last time he was on the show, I think I called him something along the lines of — paraphrasing, here — “a forgettable tool with terrible taste in catchphrases.” He’s only scoring two out of three on that front this week because he doesn’t actually say anything all episode, just screams like he’s possessed by dial-up internet. It’s not an improvement.

SPEEDING THROUGH THIS STORY

At the start of the episode, Barry is having a dream: Nora (the daughter from the future, not the mother or the Speed Force mother lookalike — boy, they sure get a lot of mileage out of that name, huh?) visits him and tells him everything is going to be okay. They hug, and Barry wakes up with the revelation that Iris must be pregnant, because why else would he have a dream like that? Certainly couldn’t be because the future-daughter he wants has been on his mind a lot. Barry, I know your life is full of a lot of weird, but I’m pretty sure prophetic pregnancy dreams aren’t on the list.

But Barry is full-tilt into “we’re gonna have a baby” mode and tells Iris (who — speaking of weird — is not on screen this entire episode, even when people talk to her) he’s going to do the tests to prove it himself. Barry’s bizarre behavior catches the attention of everyone who sees him, which means the secret of Iris possibly being pregnant is out in no time at all. Thanks to her empathy powers, Cecile is the first to figure it out but her excitement is interrupted by an explosion in the lab where Barry is working.

The explosion turns out to be caused by the arrival of Godspeed. Funnily enough, even the characters have a general vibe of “we don’t know who this villain is or where they came from or what we’re supposed to do about him even though he’s shown up multiple times now — and also, remember those robot clones of him? That was odd.” It doesn’t give me a lot of hope for this storyline evolving into something compelling or interesting.

After a bit of a chase with multiple Godspeed, Barry ends up back at S.T.A.R. Labs with a forcefield up to keep the Godspeeds out. The Godspeeds are trying to punch their way into the lab, which sends shockwaves through the whole building. This is bad because Caitlin happens to have scheduled Ultraviolet’s throat surgery during the Godspeed invasion just so there’s a bit more tension in the episode than generic speedster villains punching things.

Despite the attempt at adding tension with Ultraviolet’s surgery during an evil speedster attack, there’s only one moment of potential danger and it’s because Ultraviolet’s anesthesia starts wearing off, not because the building is about to fall down around them. This tension doesn’t even last a whole scene, as Cecile steps in to calm Ultraviolet with her empathy powers. There’s a lot in this episode that feels like it was written on the fly.

Chester has the idea to play the Godspeed modem sound over the speaker system in order to confuse them, then Barry could take them all out one by one. Before they can really enact this plan, though, the forcefield goes down and the Godspeeds enter the building. Everyone has fight duty (including Frost and that bartender love interest of hers, whose name I just remembered is Mark) except Chester, who runs to the Time Vault-turned-panic room for cover.

In the Time Vault, Chester asks Gideon for ideas on what to do next, and Gideon offers to go through with his initial plan by playing the Godspeed noise through the intercom system of S.T.A.R. Labs. Thankfully, the show plays “Diesel Power” by The Prodigy instead of the screeching modem noise for the duration of the fight sequence that follows. Unfortunately, one Godspeed finds the source of the sound and breaks into the Time Vault, which I assumed was impossible but okay, fine. The Godspeed destroys the console playing the sound and postures in a way that says Chester is about to die. Just as a side note: the coolness of Godspeed’s costume is seriously wasted on this nothingburger of a character.

Barry launches himself at a few of the Godspeeds and runs out so they’ll follow him and leave everyone else in S.T.A.R. Labs alone. He speeds through the city but gets stopped and is about to be set upon by some Godspeeds when they suddenly start fighting each other. Barry is confused, as am I. Remember what I wrote about how a lot of this episode feels like it was written on the fly? This sort of thing is what I meant.

Later, Barry theorizes that the Godspeeds weren’t compelled to fight each other by any outside force but were just fighting each other to fight each other. Everyone looks around in shock and dismay at the prospect of “speedsters against speedsters” as if this hasn’t been the modus operandi for every speedster Barry has ever encountered who wasn’t related to him in some way. It’s remarkable we’ve had yet another Godspeed episode on this show in which we learn nothing about him, his motivations beyond stealing speed (which, again, is pretty much what every evil speedster wants), or why he had robot duplicates that one time.

By the end of the episode we learn that Ultraviolet has survived her surgery (maybe I should start calling her Esperanza?) and Barry learns that the pregnancy test he’s been waiting all episode to perform turns out negative. He proves he’s not just a literal speedster but also an emotional one, as this single negative result in light of his seemingly prophetic dream sends him into a “Iris and I will never, ever be parents” funk faster than the speed of light. Barry, stop being so dramatic.

Other Things:

  • Will Joe and Kramer’s subplot ever be significant enough to get a spot in the main review? Well, since their car got exploded at the end of this episode, I suppose there’s a chance.
  • Frost and her bartender non-boyfriend are still boring. I wonder if I’d like this storyline better if Mark weren’t such a bad boy cliche. I liked him more when he first showed up and was pretending to be nice.
  • I know it’s silly of me to try and keep track of what the scientists in this show can do, but I swear Caitlin was a bio-engineer and not a surgeon, so why is she doing surgery on Ultraviolet? Also, why is she doing surgery without any assistance whatsoever?
  • Next week: More Godspeeds. Did someone spill a box of “Oops! All Godspeeds” on the back half of this season?