Tag Archives: Review

Michael Jackson’s “Behind the Mask” Music Video

Back in December 2010, the first posthumous album featuring all new Michael Jackson songs was released.  The album, named simply Michael, fit quite seamlessly with the narrative associated with the last months of his life: wanting to make a comeback, Michael was planning his “This is It” series of concerts, which was to be one of the most spectacular concert experiences to date.  Not only would it be the culmination of his 40 year long career, this concert was to be the first his children were old enough to see him perform live.

On 16 June 2011, a second posthumous Michael Jackson video clip was released.  “Behind the Mask” features contributions from 1,600 fans living around the world, collected in the span of a couple of months and put together in this montage of a video clip.

Typically, Michael Jackson productions are polished to a full blinding shine worthy of the artist who changed the music video landscape and, consequently, the music industry.  And so, the simplicity of the video to the song “Behind the Mask” comes as a bit of a shocking yet rather refreshing contrast.  Of all the official, marketed tributes paid to the late Michael Jackson, this one is by far the best.  Stripped of the gloss and venure of professional video clips, filled with the sequins, glitter, gloves and fedoras that will be for a very long time associated with him, and ending with exclamations of “We love you, Michael”, this video seems to capture a sense of fun and – dare I say – innocence that seemed lacking in the entertainer’s life.

While it might seem a little disappointing to those who were hoping for something a little more glamorous, it is, in my opinion, not only a tribute to Michael Jackson, but also one to all the fans he managed to bring together and who supported him throughout his career.  Also thrilling for me (pun totally intended) is that one of my friends made it in the video not once, not twice, but thrice (congratulations again, Pedram!).  It makes Michael Jackson’s music all the more “approachable”.

The lyrics of the song come in sharp contrast to the clip; Michael sings about the betrayal of a woman, “a phony girl” who “sit(s) behind the mask” and who “control(s) the world”.  This contrast could have been purposefully created by producers of the video; if reports are to be believed, Michael Jackson was surrounded by phony people who were only looking to advance their own agenda.  Perhaps if he had been able to see behind their mask early on in his lifetime, things would have been very different.

This video relates beautifully to the previously released posthumous Michael Jackson video.  The clip to “Hollywood Tonight” is the story of a talented young girl who comes to Hollywood to make her dreams of fame come true, only to face the usual difficulties associated with the pursuit of fame, including the unfortunate fall from grace.  Throughout the entire clip, the young woman draws strength from the memory of her idol – Michael Jackson.

Ultimately, taken together, these three aspects – the video itself, the lyrics and the video to “Hollwood Tonight” – tell a specific story: behind the public mask of the performer are his fans.  It makes the posthumous narrative behind these videos one of empowerment, that it really is up to us fans to change the landscape of the music industry.

Thankfully, the public’s appetite for all things Michael Jackson will not be whetted anytime soon; and so, I’m fairly certain there are going to be many more posthumous productions that will be released in the upcoming years.  I do hope that a constant reflection on the way Michael Jackson arrived at his untimely demise will create an environment that will receive these creations as an appreciation for art rather than fuel for the same gossip and tabloid junk that have ruined so many artists’ careers.

Review: Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 10: Abandon All Hope

I have to admit that I was dreading watching this episode a little bit for two reasons. First of all, it’s the last episode before the Christmas hiatus, which will last well into January 2010 (how can you do this to us, Kripke?) and second of all, an episode from a TV show covering a war between Heaven and hell that is entitled “Abandon All Hope” doesn’t bode well, wouldn’t you say?

But I finally got over my willies (and had enough spoilers on my Tumblr dashboard) and finally watched this episode. Then it took me quite some time to get my act together and review this episode. It was kind of nice to have “Supernatural review” on my to-do list for an extra two weeks before yielding to the desire to write it up. It’s going to be a hard couple of coming weeks, that’s for sure.

The opening scene was quite intriguing, and builds right into the little bit of precious information Becky (our unlikely informant) gave the boys last episode — that Crawley has the Colt. Speaking of which, Crawley was rather brilliantly portrayed by Mark Sheppard, wouldn’t you say?

It’s obvious that a lot of work has been done by the boys, Jo, Ellen, and Castiel since the last episode, which is great, because this leaves a lot of room open for books going over the action between episodes. And no, I am certainly not talking about fan fiction. I went there once, and I never want to go there again (sorry, guys).

It’s also obvious from the very beginning that, although Supernatural’s typical banter and one-liners are going to be present in this episode just like in any episode, the jokes are over; it’s time for some serious Apocalyptic action.

There were a couple of things that were a little intriguing about this episode, and that make me wonder if, on one side, Supernatural might be running out of steam (I know, I dared), or if the writers are taking us somewhere we are not expecting and these are the foundation blocks of a future that is quite different from what we are expecting.

For one, there was the blatant display of homophobia at the beginning, when Crawley asks the banker to seal the deal with the typical kiss. It seems like the writers are having a bit too much fun with some fans’ obsession with slash fiction. Becky was awesome; last episode’s joke was also funny. But seriously guys, give it a rest. Most Supernatural fans are not into Wincest or slash, and we’d like for some other jokes to be laid on us.

Then came the rather big mistake, and a very atypical one for the Winchesters: the devil’s trap under the rumpled rug. I’m sorry, but that really didn’t fly. I can understand that Sam and Dean are on pins and needles, I can understand that they are more vulnerable to making mistakes, but even I wouldn’t have made that mistake were I a rookie on my first hunt. It was a rather lazy and/or sloppy way for the writers to make sure that Dean and Sam were caught. They should have let Crawley walk into the trap, then the other two demons would have caught the Winchester brothers (that’s a mistake they could have made, i.e. not seen all the sentinels), and then another demon could have come and freed Crawley. That type of mistake on behalf of the Winchester brothers would have made a lot more sense than a rumpled rug. Yes, I’m sneering a little bit here. But Supernatural writers have consistently set the bar high, so any slip – however small – is hard to take.

Despite that blunder, the scene of the Winchester boys with Crawley was interesting in more than one way. On the one hand, there was this little gem of an exchange:

Crawley: Do you know how deep I could have buried this thing (the Colt)? There is no reason you or anyone should know this exists at all. Except that I told you.
Sam, incredulous: You told us.
Crawley: Yes. Rumours. Innuendo. Sent out on the grapevine.

In TV land, this reminded me immediately of the ‘African Internet’ that was referred to in The X-Files’ season seven premiere by Amina Ngebe when Scully was surprised at the fact that the secret she asked others to keep made its way seemingly around the continent. In real life, it makes for an even more poignant exchange in a day and age when we, the public, are stuck in what seems to be a massive marketing campaign on a global scale to make us believe certain things that’ll make us act in ways a relatively small group of people want us to act.

The other thing I found interesting in the scene with Crawley is that, rather than being a source of despair, what he said fills me with hope. For the first time, I can see how the tide can be turned. Crawley is turning against Lucifer to ensure his own survival – there can’t be much trust left there. Therefore it’s certain that other demons have had the same thought – that they need to stand up to Lucifer to ensure their survival. There is rancour and disunity within the ranks of hell just as there is within the ranks of heaven – things are starting to even out. Not just that, but perhaps the oddest and unholiest of alliances can be made: everyone against Lucifer, be they humans, demons or angels. Now that would make for some awesome TV.

Unfortunately, it brings me to something I didn’t find that awesome. I found it odd that Castiel would choose his last night on earth to do shots with Ellen (or with anyone else, for that matter). Wasn’t he traumatised enough last time, when, on another night that might have been his last on earth, he followed Dean into what he himself referred to as a ‘den of iniquity’?

Despite this, Castiel is turning out to be one of the most intriguing characters in the series. These blatant contradictions in his character are just as intriguing as they are annoying – perhaps even more so. His faith in God remains firm, despite some major shake-ups, and yet he went to a bordello and now is doing shots.

Quite unsettling, yet, in light of the above mentioned unholy alliance, perhaps it makes sense – that Castiel, who might be starting to understand the various shades of grey and exploring some of the things he previously wouldn’t have, but whose core faith has yet to be breached, could become the figure bringing together seemingly diametrically opposed groups of people.

However if Castiel is going to become such a figure, he really needs to get his facts straight. How did he not know about the Colt not being able to kill Lucifer? For that matter, how come no one knew about this? Weren’t we told previously that no one can kill Lucifer but one of his kind? I’m really going to have to go through previous seasons’ episodes to figure out how this happened.

The scene with the Impala rolling into town followed by Ellen’s truck reminded me a lot – appropriately so, perhaps – of the episode “The End”. I have to admit that this is where my blood pressure (and probably that of thousands of fans) started skyrocketing, especially when it became obvious that the Winchester brothers rolled into town with no weapons in their hands or laps other than their cell phones. Seriously? What are you going to do if you’re attacked, call 911?

And for that matter, why did Dean and Sam only get Ellen and Jo to walk into battle with them? Between Ellen, Dean, and Bobby, I’m sure at least a couple of hunters would have been able to make it to the battle. Time is of the essence, yes, but come on, not even two or three hunters are near the area?

Another mild incongruence that bugged me a lot was when the Winchester brothers chose to separate themselves from Ellen, Jo, and Castiel. You’d think that, just as they are closing in on Lucifer, they would want to keep the troops (and consequently their strength) together. Then again, I’m no hunter.

The scene with the reapers was quite a treat, a perfect, creepy-without-trying moment. The superimposition of the street as Ellen and Jo saw it with the way Castiel was seeing it, filled with immobile Reapers, was something straight out of a B-movie. And while Castiel walked amongst the Reapers that only he could see, I was reminded of that moment in the Matrix when Morpheus is explaining to Neo that life can’t be only about what we see, taste, hear, smell and touch, for if it were so, life would basically be limited to a series of neuroelectric impulses. Doesn’t it make you wonder what reality really is? Doesn’t it make you wonder what there is with you right here, at this very moment, that you can’t see?

You probably do — or you wouldn’t be watching Supernatural!

Castiel walking in on Lucifer in another B-movie worthy moment, when the audience is screaming at the screen “Don’t go there!” but he does anyhow, gave way to another thought-provoking conversation. I find it fascinating and scary how Lucifer manages time and again to turn every truth and every argument to suit his needs in a seemingly logical way. In this case, Lucifer is actually trying to convince Castiel, Mister faithful-to-the-end himself, that they are on the same team. He bases his argument on the fact that they both rebelled against Heaven and therefore are seen in the same way by the other angels. Talk about a lazy and badly built argument, as this conversation is built on a basic yet important flaw in Lucifer’s logic. He mentions Castiel’s self-interest as being the reason why they should join forces. This clearly demonstrated that his logic is based on self-interest rather than on love for humanity, as an angel’s logic is supposed to be based on. Hence his entire logic is terribly undermined right from the beginning.

I can’t possibly finish this review without mentioning Jo’s death. Ah, Jo. Talk about the youngest being the bravest and the wisest:

Jo: Stop. Guys, stop. Can we uh, be realistic about this please? […] I can’t fight. I can’t walk. But I could do something. We’ve got propane, wiring, rock salt, iron nails, everything we need […] To build a bomb…
Ellen: No, I, I won’t let you! [...]
Jo: (smiling) Mom. This might literally be your last chance to treat me like an adult. You might want to take it.
Ellen: (crying) Well, you heard her. Get to work.

So often we focus on the amazing acting skills of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki that we tend to forget the skills of the actors (or in this case, the actresses) portraying some of the recurrent characters. Alona Tal and Samantha Ferris (can I get a w00t w00t, Canada!) did an amazing job, making the entire sequence (from Jo’s mauling by the hellhound to the explosion of the hardware store) poignant without going into the cheesiness and awkwardness that can sometimes permeate these scenes.

It’s also funny (in a I-have-a-tear-in-my-eye kind of way) how mothers are at the same time so strong when it comes to their children and yet so weak, and how well their children know them. In an instant, with only a look, Jo guessed that her mother was planning on staying with her in the hardware store. In retrospect, it’s a good thing, since Jo took her last breath before detonating the bomb. But this was something they couldn’t have predicted, and the question begs to be asked: was Ellen’s sacrifice needed? After all, she’s a hunter and could have continued fighting alongside Dean and Sam.

Perhaps if she was strong enough to live without Jo, it wouldn’t have been needed. But it is probable that after first losing her husband and then her daughter, Ellen’s ensuing grief and possible resentment could have become a liability. So perhaps she didn’t only decide to stay with her daughter because she wasn’t brave enough to live without her; perhaps is was because she was brave enough to sacrifice herself too, since she wouldn’t be able to contribute anything more to the fight.

While it was rather obvious from the beginning of the episode that this could not be the time when Lucifer would die (he needs to live another four to six months until the end of the season, after all), I couldn’t help but wonder what this episode would do to Sam and Dean’s still relatively fragile relationship (as compared to what it was pre-Ruby). I think that the boys are definitely on the way to becoming closer than before; Sam has really changed, and Dean is finally letting go (barring the occasional still-bitter one-liner). And although I know Lucifer’s arrogance will be one of the reasons for his downfall, I can’t help but wonder at his supreme confidence:

Sam: [looking at the men standing around] What did you do? What did you do to this town?
Lucifer: Oh, I was very generous with this town. One demon for every able-bodied man.
Sam: And the rest of them?
Lucifer: [gesturing at the pit he's been filling in] In there. I know it’s awful but, these Horsemen are so demanding. So it was women and children first. I know what you must think of me Sam. But I have to do this. I have to. You of all people should understand.
Sam: What’s that supposed to mean?
Lucifer: I was a son. A brother, like you, a younger brother, and I had an older brother who I loved. Idolized, in fact. And one day I went to him, and I begged him to stand with me. And Michael… Michael turned on me. Called me a freak, a monster. And then he beat me down, all because I was different. Because I had a mind of my own. Tell me something Sam, any of this sound familiar?

Just like he was trying to plant the seed of doubt in Castiel’s heart earlier, here he is, trying to do the same with Sam. And I think it’s good that this is happening; just like Castiel is smart enough to see through Lucifer’s convoluted and deeply flawed logic, Sam has acquired a lot of perspective in the last two years and this interaction will cement his newfound mental stability and maturity. Again, another reason to not abandon all hope.

And I must mention that Mark Pellegrino’s Lucifer is an awesomely creepy performance that I am not likely to forget anytime soon.

I don’t know how I feel about the ending. I like that it was solemn and silent, and that not a single word ruined the moment. But I don’t understand why Bobby burned the picture. Wouldn’t you want to keep the last picture of two hunters who courageously died during battle?

On that delightfully cheerful note, I leave you, dear reader, but not without tickling your brain a little further (to make sure you make it all the way until January’s episode for the second half of the season to begin). Let’s ponder the question: do we need to abandon all hope, as this episode’s title seems to want to encourage us to do? While the situation does seem pretty dire, there is a relatively little but extremely important point that, after reflection, is bound to make you do anything but abandon hope.

Lucifer, as Dean and Sam watch, horrified, as the possessed men fall down dead: What? They’re just demons.

This adds on to a point that I made earlier. Crawley’s position shows that there is already disunity within the ranks of the demons, who are turning against their creator – i.e. Lucifer. This point is taken further during Castiel’s conversation with Meg, and driven home with Lucifer’s obvious disregard for the creatures he has created.

It’s going to be so fascinating to see in upcoming episodes the demons having a crisis of faith. Then it’s really going to give Castiel, Bobby, and the boys an edge, because there is nothing worse for an army than disunity. On top of that, I find it highly unlikely that someone as arrogant as Lucifer would ever believe that the demons he’s created would ever dare turn away from him. And that will probably contribute decisively to his demise.

Last point that just might boggle your mind: Satan doesn’t really exist. Satan is an angel gone rogue.

And with that, I bid you farewell until January.

Some great moments:

Castiel: The demon Crawley is sealing a deal. As we’re speaking, it’s… going down.
: Going down? Ok Huggie Bear, just don’t lose him.

Crawley: So, the Hardy Boys finally found me.

Dean: And why exactly would you want the devil dead?
: It’s called survival. But I forgot, you two are at best functioning morons.
: Yeah, well you’re a functioning… morons, moron…

Crawley: To him (Lucifer), you’re just filthy bags of pus.

Crawley: So why don’t you take this and kill the devil.
: OK. Er… You wouldn’t happen to know where the devil is perchance? (…)
Sam points the gun at
Crawley’s head and pulls the trigger – but the gun is empty.
: Oh yeah, right, you’re probably going to need some ammunition.

Dean: Sam Winchester having trust issues with a demon. Well, better late than never.
: Well thank you for your continued support.
: You’re welcome.

Dean: Hey.
: Hey.
: So… dangerous mission tomorrow.
: Mmm.
: Guess it’s time to…eat, drink, and…you know…make merry.
: Are you giving me the “last night on earth” speech?
: What?
: What?
: No.
: No.
: If I was, would, uh…w-would that work?
: No. Sweetheart, if this is our last night on earth, then I’m going to spend it with a little thing I call “self-respect”.
: If you’re into that kind of thing.

Bobby: I’m gonna need something to remember your sorry asses by.
: Always good to have an optimist around.
: Bobby’s right. Tomorrow, we hunt the devil. This is our last night on Earth.

Lucifer: I hear you came in an automobile. How does that feel?
: Um… Slow. Confining.

Dean: This is great. We’ve only been in town for 20 minutes and we’ve already lost the angel up our sleeve.

Bobby: Devil’s in the details, Dean.

Sam: Last words?
Dean: I think I’m good.
Sam: Yeah, me too.
Dean: Here goes nothing.

Lucifer: You’ll have to excuse me. Midnight is calling, and I have a ritual to finish.

Review: Fringe, Season 2, Episode 7: Of Human Action

What at first seems to be a relatively simple corporate espionage kidnapping and extortion scheme turns out to be a brilliantly intricate tale of family deception. Paralleling the lie that Walter Bishop and his son are living, James Carson, a top Massive Dynamic scientist, has been telling his son an alternate version of the truth. And as the episode concludes, we find out that the truth that Tyler thought he had found out was not even close to the real truth — i.e. the Massive Dynamic truth.

Many, including myself, have understood from the beginning that while Fringe held a lot of potential, it had to get over a couple of initial hiccups to become awesome. Some have been dealt with, and others not. I seem to not be the only person very happy to see it blooming wider open with every episode (even if it seems to somewhat stall at times). In my opinion, “Of Human Action” demonstrates how far the show has already come, and gives me great hope for the end of this season.

The opening scene is very reminiscent of yet another X-Files episode, “Pusher” (season three, episode 17). Police officers drive, hellbent, to a parking lot, where three individuals are in a car: two adults and a teenager. The adults are forced outside of the car – and this is where things become a little “Pusher”-ish. One police officer starts walking backwards until he falls off the parking lot’s ledge, and another one shoots her fellow officers before turning the gun on herself.

But this is where the similarities end, for where “Pusher” was about an individual with a brain tumour who had acquired the ability to control others, the person to control other’s actions here is courtesy of none other than Massive Dynamics’ scientists. And once again, we realise that Nina Sharp is in on it, far more than she lets on.

I am now convinced that Nina Sharp is using everyone for her own agenda. While it seems that she is only doing it out of loyalty to William Bell, I’m certain she will end up betraying him, too, because while her own agenda is probably intricately linked to that of William Bell’s, it will somehow be different because of some fundamental yet seemingly small difference.

“Of Human Action” really was a great episode. The plot was advanced indirectly, a brilliant ploy making the experience all the more interesting. We don’t know how Peter will react when (if) he finds out he’s from the other world, but we have an idea of how Tyler reacted when he found out about what he thought were his real origins. We don’t know what her role is, but we do know that Nina Sharp is incredibly good at lying and manipulating, even to Broyles, with whom she is romantically involved. We also know that her connection with Bell, who is in the other dimension, isn’t solid; some sort of interference has occurred which makes the messages she sends him all the less certain to reach their destination.

The pacing of the action increased substantially from the previous rather slow ones, and the writers had more than one trick up their sleeves. The visuals were great — from the first shot from above of the police officer and Fringe Division looking down to the shot of Peter and Walter at Massive Dynamics, we were treated to both typical and atypical visuals. One particularly striking scene was that of the FBI agents moving in on the abandoned hangar. We were tuned into what the agents and Fringe Division could hear wearing the headphones, and it lent an air of tension and slight confusion to a scene which was otherwise visually simple.

This episode makes me wonder what else Massive Dynamics is up to, since their blatant lack of respect for human life is made all the more apparent in their creation and use of the Tylers. This particular storyline has great potential for more than one interesting ethical dilemma concerning the needs of the many versus the rights of the few. For example, the Tylers (brief X-Files flashback here – remember when Mulder walked into a room filled with clones in tanks?) had to be created to experiment if mind control would work so as to prepare our side for the imminent invasion promised a couple of episodes ago. Does it warrant such  horrific, lifelong experiments (and necessary lies)?

Of course this episode of Fringe wouldn’t be complete without a couple of Peter/Walter and Walter moments:

Peter: Walter, remember that conversation we had about personal space?
Walter: I’m bored.

Walter [briefing the FBI agents]: Do not remove them under any circumstances. If you do, you may die a gruesome and horrible death. Thank you for your attention, and have a nice day.

Walter: That was quick thinking. You proved to be more resourceful than I give you credit for.
Peter: Is that supposed to be some sort of compliment?

Walter: Don’t be ridiculous. You were abducted. Of course you need crepes.

Review: Fringe, Season 2, Episode 6: Earthling

Fringe is back, and back with quite a bang; a monster-of-the-week episode featuring an entity that will make you watch the episode with your back to a wall, just to make sure nothing creeps up on you. Hey, you never know.

The overarching plot is simple enough. It starts with a Russian cosmonaut who went to space and brought back an entity with him. While the plot is a little reminiscent of The X-Files episode “Space,” Fringe manages to push the idea further (and, dare I say, makes for an overall better episode). Said cosmonaut has been in a coma since being taken over, but that doesn’t stop the entity, as it can project itself anywhere it wants. A black shadow made of smoke, the entity absorbs radiation emitted by the human body by passing through it. The result: victims burn at a temperature so hot that they retain their shape even as their insides have been turned to ash.


In a desperate bid to save him, the cosmonaut’s brother steals him from the Russian military hospital, brings him to the United States (how is a question still up for debate), and starts jumping from hospital to hospital, having his brother admitted into the coma ward and bailing ship when the entity’s shadow starts killing people. The brother is also looking for a way to get rid of the entity, thus allowing his brother to wake up from his coma; he has a formula which needs solving, and until that’s done, he can (sort of) control the shadow’s excursions by applying an electric current to his brother’s comatose body. Delightful.

The opening scene was great, at once touching and consequently heart-wrenching — because you know that, invariably, one or more people in the opening scene are going to die. Randy calls up his wife, Natalie, pretending to be at the airport, about to leave the city on the evening of their wedding anniversary, when in fact he’s at home, preparing a surprise for her. Seriously, talk about toying with the viewer’s emotions.

I especially loved the fact that Natalie’s reaction was so realistic. Women in such a situation are often portrayed as shrill and hysterical, yelling at their husbands for being a killjoy and accusing them of having an affair or some other ridiculous thing. Natalie simply told her husband she was really disappointed (and she sounded really disappointed, too), but that she understood that he had to work. Newsflash: this is usually how real women react!

Perhaps Fringe is also at the cutting edge of social sciences…

The rest of the opening scene was also pretty awesome, what with the second of total silence after the black shadow attacked Randy while the camera panned the empty apartment. Perhaps there was a little Hitchcock inspiration at work here? And then, the cherry on the cake — Natalie comes home to find Randy sitting on the couch, and when she touches his arm, he falls apart in a cloud of ashes.


This scene’s emotional build-up, from a beautiful romantic moment between two people who seem to be in a healthy relationship shattered by a Smokey Black Shadow, seems to have been written on purpose to tug at the emotional heartstrings of the viewers and to ready them to open up to Broyles. Because although the show is a monster-of-the-week, it’s pretty obvious as soon as the credits are over that it’s about Broyles. For the second time in the history of Fringe, we see a more human side to him (the first being when we find out he has a relationship with Nina Sharp). For impenetrable and sometimes overly seriously Broyles is sitting in a restaurant and playing peek-a-boo behind his menu with an adorable little boy. How cute is that?

I like the idea, I really do – but I don’t think this episode did what it set out to do quite as planned. On the one hand, we do find out a little bit about Broyles’ past, and how he had already investigated the Smokey Black Shadow only to see it destroy his marriage. And we see how that left a bitter taste in Broyles’ mouth, and would explain a little bit more about his mostly deadpan façade.

Broyles: I took this job to make the world a safer place for my family. And now, I don’t even have a family.

But just like with Olivia Dunham, I found it hard to connect with Philip Broyles. While Walter Bishop’s discomfort at watching a patient tied down as he was back at St. Claire’s (season two, episode five), I didn’t really feel bad for Broyles having had a divorce as a direct consequence of the Smokey Black  Shadow case. I don’t know if it makes me an insensitive person, but if it does, there are a lot of Fringe viewers who suffer from the same problem.

Thank goodness for Walter Bishop. According to the fan forums and discussion boards, even Astrid summons more empathy and caring that Broyles and Dunham. I don’t know why.

On a more positive note, the cosmonaut’s brother’s devotion is heart-warming, especially when such a thing is fast dwindling as individualism slowly creeps into the hearts of even the most caring of us.

And there was one particularly adorable Walter Bishop moment:

Olivia: Walter, do you have any thoughts?
Walter: Reminds me of Christmas. Like a fire log that burns so hot it remains intact, holding the shape of its former self. You (Peter) used to love that when you were a child, you’d poke the log with your little finger when cold, and you’d draw genitalia on the reindeer decorations.
Peter: Happy memories, Walter. But what I think she meant was having thoughts to what happened to Dusty here.

So just like its plotline, my opinion of Fringe has plateaued once again. It’s an intriguing show with a lot of potential that needs to be worked harder. The writers should perhaps consider taking some advice from Supernatural writers — put more into one episode, advance not only the plotline and one character, but rather the entire cast together within the plot. I would really hate to see a show with so much potential go to waste simply because after a great beginning to the season, it manages to lose the audience’s interest.

Review: Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 9: The Real Ghostbusters

What a blast this week’s episode of Supernatural was. The line between letting the fans in on the joke and making fun of them was fine, and once again the writers were risking being ostracized, but I think it was trod very carefully (albeit still in a deliciously blasphemous, typical Supernatural way). I don’t know if the full effect was appreciated by some if not most of the fans, as those with whom I talked on discussion forums didn’t seem to make the connection between their behaviour and what was going on in the episode.

This is the one thing that makes me sad, for as I have made it quite clear in previous Supernatural reviews, this show isn’t fantastic only because of the quality of its various parts, but rather because of the subtext of the entire series, the fight for good, and how it easily parallels the reality of the world around us and the choices that each one of us must make.

“The Real Ghostbusters”, the ninth episode of Supernatural’s fifth season, was a monster-of-the-week type wrapped in an aura of the show’s mytharc, as we find out, courtesy of our favourite insane Supernatural fan, where the Colt is (hurrah!). Becky gets involved in organizing (or does she start it?) a Supernatural convention and tricks Sam and Dean to attend.

Devious insane little minx. I really like her.

The Supernatural convention was a brilliant idea, and the perfect context for the return of Becky. The various Sam and Dean wannabes were also an amazing touch, as was adding the real Sam and Dean to the mix. Poor Chuck; he probably couldn’t imagine how fiercely those two were going to react to the whole idea.

Then there was the hunt within the hunt. As part of the Supernatural convention experience, a hunt for a ghost was organized, and of course, it finally came to light (pun oh-so-intended) that there were some real ghosts involved, too. Again, a predictable yet brilliant twist that got twisted again when we figure out who the real killer ghost is — or rather, who they are.

I also loved the titles of the two panels that were announced near the beginning of the episode: “Frightened Little Boy: The Secret Life of Dean” and “The Homoerotic Subtext of Supernatural“.

I have to admit that I am still puzzled as to why Sam and Dean stayed at the convention in the first place. I know, I know, if they hadn’t, they wouldn’t have seen the ghosts blah, blah, blah, but they didn’t even make an attempt early on to leave. I would have honestly thought that they wouldn’t have even entered the hotel, and that something would force them enter.

Then again, perhaps I am simply underestimating the strength of one’s curiosity.

A theme that seems a little recurrent in Supernatural’s current season is that of celebrity obsessions. The obsessed-fan theme of this episode culminated with this exchange:

Dean: All right, you know what? That’s it. That is it. [...] What is wrong with you? Why the hell would you choose to be these guys?
Barnes: Because we’re fans. Like you.
Dean: No. I am not a fan, okay? Not fans. In fact, I think that the Dean and Sam story sucks. It is not fun, it’s not entertaining, it is a river of crap that would send most people howling to the nuthouse. So you listen to me. Their pain is not for your amusement. I mean do you think they enjoy being treated like, like circus freaks?
Damien: I don’t think they care, because they’re fictional characters.
Dean: Oh, they care. Believe me. They care a lot.
Sam: He, uh, takes the story really seriously.

This episode is all the more interesting in wake of the passing of Michael Jackson. It’s good to look up to people and be inspired by them. Heck, there are so many people that inspire me (including Michael Jackson, by the way), it would be hypocritical of me to condemn that. But I think it’s gone way too far; for when more people recognise celebrities than they do philanthropists and heads of state, when more people can quote full conversations from their favourite movies and not remember the basic tenets of their country’s constitution, then we have a problem.

The other adverse effect that such an obsession has is that we start taking a sort of perverse pleasure in these people’s suffering. How else can we explain the interest, time, and money we pour into following them as they head straight into the abyss? Rather than respecting their privacy in their darkest moments, we seem to be pushing them even faster and farther into it. How degraded has our society become when we enjoy the pain of others?

But, again, this doesn’t mean that we should scrape away the entire ‘looking up’ to famous people thing; after all, they can be pretty inspiring, and they can make us work hard to become better than what we currently are. And, in the context of Supernatural, perhaps the exchange below will finally allow Dean to get over some of his resentment at not being able to have a normal life, and to appreciate that, even with the mistakes that he made, Sam is a pretty special brother to have:

Damien: No offense, but I don’t think you get what the story is about.
Dean: Is that so?
Damien: In real life, he sells stereo equipment. I fix copiers. Our lives suck. But to be Sam and Dean, to wake up every morning and save the world, to have a brother who would die for you, well who wouldn’t want that?
Dean: Maybe you got a point.

Another nod to the Supernatural fandom was the fact that Barnes and Damien, who were playing Sam and Dean respectively, turned out to be partners. So much for the homoerotic subtext of Supernatural.

Some great lines and moments:

I know that technically this one is from another episode, but still…

Becky: Sam! Is that really you?
Sam: Uh, lady, are you okay?
Becky [touching Sam’s chest]: And you’re so firm!Sam: Oh, uh, Becky?
Becky: Oh. You remembered. You’ve been thinking about me.

Dean: Who gave you the rights to our life’s story?
Chuck: An archangel.

Dean: Great. We got a real ghost and a bunch of people pretending to be us poking at it.

Dean: Give me the map, Chuckles.
Damien as Dean: No. You’re the chuckles, Chuckles.

Dean: A little gratitude would be nice once in awhile.

Dean: Just give her the puppy dog thing.

Damien as Dean: How come Dean always lights this thing on the first frigging try?

Becky: Will you be okay?
Sam: I’ll find a way to live, I guess.

Sam: Hey Chuck, look, if you really want to publish more books, I guess that’s okay with us.
Chuck: Wow, really?
Sam: No, not really. We have guns and we’ll find you.

Review: Fringe, Season 2, Episode 5: Dream Logic

I’m liking Fringe more and more. And no, it’s not a case of me trying to delude myself into making the task of reviewing it less tedious. Quite the contrary in fact — reviewing Fringe is becoming more and more fun.

Wouldn’t Walter be proud. I have to admit that, during the first minute or so of this particular episode, my jaw dropped open and I wasn’t really happy; for a moment, I seriously thought this episode was going to be a ripoff of an X-Files episode, “Folie à Deux.” The beginning of the story seemed quite similar, in that a man was seeing people around him at work as monsters, of which he had to kill the head monster. But then the story took a turn — and it was definitely not for the worse.

Fringe Division’s Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop, and Walter Bishop are sent to Seattle to investigate a case involving a man who attacked his boss. You might think that not so abnormal, considering how many terrible bosses are out there, but no, it didn’t really have anything to do with that kind of boss killing. The poor man seemed to be having hallucinations that made him think that many people in the office were creatures with insect-like heads, and that his boss, a horned creature leader of sorts, was an evil he had to rid the world of.

Sound familiar, fellow X-philes?

But, like I said, that’s about all this episode had in common with “Folie à Deux.” During the subsequent autopsy of said man, Walter discovers a microchip embedded in his thalamus, the part of the brain which, among other things, controls sleeping patterns, including REM sleep during which dreams happen, and also controls motor activity.

While the potential to use such a device for mind control is great, and this was Walter Bishop’s initial theory, it soon comes to light that the doctor who pioneered this chip had developed an addiction to his subjects’ dreams. He would access his subject’s consciousness at various times of the day and download the dreams into his brain, causing a sort of high state akin to that achieved with hallucinogenic drugs.

The plot is delicately twisted a little more when we find out that the doctor has a double personality. The kind doctor who truly wants to help his sleepless in Seattle patients (oh, the joy of puns) and the Jekyll-ish personality who is addicted to dreams.

This is the part that gets a little bit muddy. Somehow, the kind doctor figures it out – and although his Jekyll-ish personality threatens him, he helps Olivia and Peter with their investigation. Then he sets a sort of trap for himself, leaving a threatening message on his own answering machine. Then he sets himself up for a huge dose of dreams from a particular subject, and died from an overdose.

This episode saw the return of Sam Weiss, who seems to have a knack for developing therapy techniques that seemingly make no sense yet get the job done. Olivia is having a hard time accepting Charlie’s death (then again, so am I), and so she turns back to Sam in the hope of being ‘fixed’ again. I really hope this becomes a reoccurring pattern, ensuring that Sam comes back again and again – and hopefully not only when Olivia needs fixing, but also when she needs a sympathetic ear.

I touched on the following topic a couple of times in past Fringe reviews, and would like to touch on it again to bring yet another perspective: ethics of medical research on human subjects. I think we can all agree that what Walter did to agent Cashner was wrong – funny, but wrong. But what about people like Rebecca, from last week’s episode, who were willing to have experiments done on them? Where do you draw the line, if the subject is willing to go very far? Let’s face it – if the subject is willing to go very far, we might get some amazing data that could help carry forward the medical establishment without the moral dilemma of doing something to the subject that might harm them, as subject accepts (or even embraces) the possibility of being harmed.

What if we were to consider the body as a temple to the soul, the interface of which creates the human being? Then the way we treat the body will be very different from the way we would treat it were we to consider it as simply a flesh and bone machine. With such a premise, treating the human body with respect becomes the aim of both researcher and the subject. While the question of how far the experiments can go before the human body is being disrespected still remains, with such a premise, a personal thing, it becomes one with standard much higher that currently exist.

And who knows? Trying to figure out how to answer a certain scientific question without disrespecting the human body might be challenging enough that a few, if not all the questions will be answered.

A great moment came at the very end. Peter has a nightmare, in which he, as a young boy, is sleeping in his bed, only to be awakened by his father. Little Peter asks his father if everything is okay, only to start screaming – at which point Peter wakes up (for real this time). Walter is watching him, looking distraught – he has heard Peter talking in his sleep, and most probably fears that the truth of what happened to him is emerging.

The question is this: Is Peter remembering a past he suppressed, or is the placement of this particular scene in this specific episode meant to hint that Peter’s dreams are also being stolen? And also, if this Walter stole the Peter from the alternate world, why hasn’t alternate Walter come to this world to fetch him back?

Note: As of January 2010, any review I write will be posted on Sahar’s Reviews; Sahar’s Blog will be reserved for random thoughts and musings instead.

Review: Fringe, Season 2, Episode 2: A Night of Desirable Objects

A promising TV show throughout season one, Fringe is definitely becoming better, slowly unfolding to deliver its full potential. Season two is already better than season one, and the second episode is better than the first.

On the one hand, like I noted last week, the acting is a lot better (except for John Noble, whose Walter Bishop was always amazing) and we can finally connect to Olivia Dunham (although her portrayal is sometimes a little erratic; why would a woman normally under such control freak out so easily, trauma or no trauma?). The speed is also picking up; a lot more things happened in episode two relative to the season premiere.

I was wondering if season two would only be about The Pattern, but it seems that the writers have found a way of adding another dimension to the story: the Monster of the Week. This week, we feature a lupus-resistant foetus that has grown to become quite the difficult teenager, to put it mildly.

While Fringe has numerous times drawn comments about its resemblance to The X-Files, this episode in particular is the one that, to date, bears the most resemblance to the cult series. From the monster to the dark shots, the people disappearing into the ground, and the tension between the male and female lead, all these elements contributed to the X-Files-ity of the episode, delightfully topped off by many great moments such as:

Peter [examining Olivia’s cane]: I’m looking for the hidden ninja sword.
Olivia: That one wasn’t covered by insurance.

Peter: How’s it going, Walter?
Walter: I’m planning to urinate in 23 minutes.
Peter: Good to know.

Astrid: We’ve been at this for five hours.
Walter: Science is patience!
Astrid: It’s also slimy.

What Mr. Hughes did deserved a bit of attention. In short, he and his wife wanted a child. His wife, suffering from lupus, couldn’t conceive and so Mr. Hughes – or rather, Dr. Hughes, tinkered with some animal DNA (including scorpion DNA) to produce a foetus who would be able to resist the in utero attack his mother’s immune system would wage on it.

The desire to have a child is one that is understandable; no childless couple should ever be told such insensitive things as “you’ll have more fun without kids” and “stop complaining, it’s not like its all fun and games” (I personally overheard those two comments). Today, there are a lot of things a couple can do to have kids; there is, obviously, the most obvious way (wife + husband = babies), but for those for whom this formula doesn’t work, there currently are: fertility treatments, in-vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, and adoption. And, as technology advances, there are probably a lot more options that are going to open up to such couples.

The question is, where do we draw the line? When does having a child become a selfish act, rather than a selfless one? These are tough questions that cannot be adequately addressed in this review; however, I’d only like to mention that the ends do not always justify or condemn the means. It isn’t because Baby Boy Hughes turned into a terrible creature that what Dr. Hughes did was wrong; conversely, had Baby Boy Hughes turned out normal, it wouldn’t have justified what Dr. Hughes did as right.

Olivia is undergoing an interesting physical transformation. While we have only witnessed the acute hearing, according to Sam, there is a lot more awaiting our fearless heroine. Speaking of which, wasn’t that quite the Sylar moment, when she started hearing all the sounds from around her apartment? Thankfully though, she didn’t go all megalo-Sylar on us and start slicing people’s heads open.

Another point of interest, which wasn’t directly addressed, is the relationship between our above mentioned heroine and Peter. The two had a bit of a moment at the beginning of the episode, when Peter came to pick her up upon her discharge from the hospital (begging the question, why Peter?), and another indirect one when Peter covered for Olivia for almost shooting him. Speaking of which: a) she’s an amazing shot, and b) Peter’s face was priceless.

Just one last little question: when they are in the Hughes’ house, knowing that a mutant of sorts lives in it, why did Olivia and Peter separate, when one doesn’t have a gun and the other doesn’t have full use of her leg yet?

Okay, just two little questions: how did child-Peter from this universe die? Is Walter at fault, possibly for not being present, and does it have anything to do with fishing and/or drowning?

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Review: Fringe, Season 2, Episode 1: ‘A New Day in the Old Town’

I love Fringe, but I have to admit there are a lot of details in the plot that I don’t understand. I’m certain that during the coming season, I will click as to the real significance of a previous occurrence and feel totally ridiculous because of how long it took me to get it. Such are the trials and tribulations of a confused blogger.

Paradoxically, it’s the reason I started reviewing Fringe; the way I figure it, if I have to sit down and discuss its finer points each week, I will not only have questions, but be forced to systematically address them and, perhaps, understand things a little bit before the ‘Oh my God I’m so stupid’ moment.

And comments from readers are definitely going to help.

As those of you who have been following my personal blog know or those who have read my first two reviews of Supernatural for Blogcritics have probably guessed, I’m quite the avid X-Files fan. Supernatural filled some of the void, but there was still something missing — government conspiracies. Which is the rest of the void Fringe helps to fill up.

But where The X-Files took its time getting us into the conspiracy (only five of The X-Files’ season one episodes had to do with the alien government conspiracy mytharc), Fringe revels in it; the paranormal all comes in to support it, rather than to distract us from it. It’s also interesting to note the use of ‘fringe science’ in Fringe, as opposed to The X-Files, where most of the mysteries were explainable through paranormal science.

Fringe’s first season finished on the pretty incredible scene of Olivia Dunham meeting William Bell. It wasn’t the fact that William Bell is played by Leonard Nimoy that is pretty incredible (although it’s always exciting to see Leonard Nimoy). It was the fact that Olivia Dunham met him… in the World Trade Center. Yes, you read that right – the Twin Towers were not destroyed in the parallel universe where William Bell lives.

You’d expect season two of Fringe to open up with a startled Olivia Dunham looking at William Bell and demanding answers — but if you did, it means you don’t quite get the nature of this show yet. No, my friends, season two opens with a car accident — the responsible party runs away, find his way into an apartment, kills the owner, smashes his face in, and connects himself to the victim whose facial features he then acquires. Not quite the elegant way the Alien Bounty Hunter used to morph in The X-Files, but still, pretty scary (considering this guy, by all accounts, is human).

Speaking of which, kudos to The X-Files homage in this episode; check out the screen cap at right.

We quickly learn that the other person in the car crash was Olivia Dunham, at which point we realise that it’s not going to be easy, finding out what happened during that meeting with William Bell. Talk about being a tease.

Peter Bishop and Walter Bishop make their appearance in season two grocery shopping, with the usually eccentric Walter Bishop intent on making custard for his son who doesn’t even like it (any more), before being called to the scene of the accident. Curiously, Olivia Dunham isn’t anywhere to be found, although all signs point to her not having left her car after the accident. But the mystery doesn’t last for long, as our heroine makes a season premiere-worthy entrance — by smashing through the windshield of her car.

Unfortunately, the crash (if you can call it that) has left Agent Dunham in a deep coma from which doctors don’t think she’ll recover.

But they obviously haven’t been trained in fringe medicine, because Olivia Dunham mysteriously wakes up from her ‘fatal’ coma, pronouncing a sentence in Greek we come to find out is what Peter Bishop’s mother used to tell him each night while tucking him into bed.

Weird enough for you yet?

While the episode was really good, its rhythm was really slow, compared to some of the more action-packed episodes from last season and especially compared to the action-packed into each episode of Supernatural (nope, still not over the 10 pages of notes I took while watching “Good God Y’All”). The actors have obviously grown into their characters (except perhaps for John Noble, for whom Walter Bishop’s character seems to have been written), the story is advancing (perhaps in a confusing fashion) and characters are getting killed off. (Why did it have to be Charlie? Why?)
More X-Files bells were rung with the following line:

Phillip Broyles: I’ve been called to Washington tomorrow. The efficacy of the division is being questions. I’ve been informed that our failure to deliver any usable results is unacceptable.

The addition of Amy Jessup to the Fringe Division – albeit unofficially – is going to be very interesting. Her open-mindedness is refreshing,although despite it she is still bound to have more than one shock.

Amy Jessup [about Walter]: Is he crazy?
Peter: Oh yeah. Definitely.

Her personal religious point of view she has already started to bring to the events the group has been investigating is also bound to make things even more interesting. Perhaps she is the Scully to the division’s Mulder? Or is the Apocalypse touching Supernatural also affecting the world of Fringe? Now that would be a pretty intense yet potentially amusing cross-over, wouldn’t it?

Another fringe science question fans are hoping to find out more about this season is the evolution of Olivia and Peter’s relationship. Yes, because romance is definitely part of fringe science; I’m sure Walter Bishop would agree. In any case, how is Olivia’s relationship with Peter going to evolve now that Olivia’s sister Rachel spread the beans about her feelings to Peter? If anything is going to happen, it couldn’t have happened before now; Olivia is far too calm and self-contained to allow any man to approach her – until now. Her state of mind after her emergence from the coma was shockingly vulnerable; and, at her most vulnerable (yet), the person she asked for was Peter.

 />One of the seemingly big inconsistencies in the last season that has carried on in this season of <i>Fringe</i> is the relationship between Walter and Peter. I find it rather intriguing that Peter went from angry son to accepting, loving one in the space of one year only. And, while people change, I also find it intriguing that Walter has gone from an absentee father to one creeping in on his son in the middle of the night to make sure he’s still breathing (oh, Walter, I could just hug you!).<br /><br />The relationship between Walter and Peter, from the latter’s point of view, could be summed up in the following exchange:<br /><blockquote> <b>Amy Jessup</b>: What are we doing here?</blockquote><blockquote><b>Peter</b>: As I’m sure you’re probably already aware of, my father was a scientist.<b>Amy Jessup</b>: Who was sent to St-Clares. </blockquote><blockquote> <b>Peter</b>: A mental institution, yes. But there is more. Worse. And some good, too. It’s complicated. But for right now, all you really need to know is that this building is where he used to work. </blockquote><br /><br />Which brings forth an interesting question: are these inconsistencies related to the fact that the Peter Bishop that we know is not the one meant to be in this world, since that one passed away when he was only 8 years old? It definitely would make a lot of sense as to why Peter liked custard when he was a kid but doesn’t anymore as an adult. <br /><br /><img style=This review would be incomplete without the mention of the pretty nifty old school yet new school fringe science messaging system used by the killer to get his orders. Of course, I didn’t like the less than nifty message it gave the killer, but hey, any technology can be used for good or evil, right?

The only thing missing from Fringe at the moment are memorable lines and memorable moments. In fact, other than the occasional Walter Bishop line/moment, there isn’t much to be repeated, making my Tumblr account quite useless. So to Fringe writers: please add more like the following gems to each episode:

Walter: I need four Bunsen burners, eight metal bowls, and a freezer.
Astrid: The bowls need to be sterilised?
Walter: It’s not for the autopsy; it’s for the custard, for Peter’s birthday.
Peter: Walter, will you forget about the custard?
Walter: I refuse. Also, rib cutters, forceps, and a bone saw. For the autopsy. It would be gross otherwise.

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Review: Ugly Betty, Season 3, Episode 21: The Born Identity

Waiting for Season 4 to begin – especially since Ugly Betty has been moved to the Friday Night Death Slot – has become a good time to indulge in watching some of the past season’s episodes. And, since I didn’t review all of them, it’s also a great time to go over some of the episodes I didn’t blog about.

This was a great episode, where Baby Williams’ true identity finally comes out; while Christina might have had her suspicions for awhile, while she couldn’t think of any other way to get her child back, and, in all honesty, I can understand why she cracked, I don’t think it makes what she did any less bad.

Then again, it did make for good television.

I loved the fiasco of Hilda’s announcement; while she’s trying to announce Archie’s candidacy and that she will be in the television spot, Ignacio’s guesses are nowhere near that. First, he joyfully thinks the two are getting married (awwwwwwwwkward!) then gets desperate when he think Hilda is about to announce that she’s pregnant (even more awwwwwwwwkward!). The result is, of course, hilarious – especially when contrasted with his less than enthusiastic response to the actual announcement. Poor Archie.

The main question raised by this episode’s plot is the extent to which one should go to help a friend. At what point does ‘helping a friend’ become the contrary? It reminds me a little bit of the joke: ‘A good friend will bail you out of jail after a wild night; a great friend will be sitting in the cell with you and chuckling over what you did.’ I don’t know if that is how I would define friendship.

In the same vein, I was a little uncomfortable with Archie encouraging Betty to be ‘creative’. Is there really a difference between that and playing dirty?


Notable fashion moments:


There are always amazing fashions on Ugly Betty, and two of the characters are noted for their style: Wilhelmina and Amanda. While I LOVE Wilhelmina’s black dress in the opening scene (which designer is it from?), I was a little put off by what Amanda was wearing, which looked like, well, an umbrella. I know things are dark and gloomy at Mode these days, but seriously, wearing an umbrella won’t help.

And while she doesn’t put them together in a way I – or probably, most other people – would, Betty does wear some really nice pieces. SeenON! makes their case by pointing out the gorgeous tweed jacket Betty is seen wearing in this episode; check it out here.


Favourite lines:


Hilda: The camera adds 10 years, right?
Betty: Ten pounds, Hilda.
Hilda: Oh God, I have a lot of work to do.


Wilhelmina, taking about a baby’s effect on adult: It’s nature. Put one in your arms and you turn into a grinning idiot – like that (points at Daniel who is baby talking to William).


Wilhelmina: Mark, put on your game face.
Mark does the Blue Steel look with a squint.
Wilhelmina: Not your gay face, Mark, your game face.
Mark: But they’re the same!


Wilhelmina: You like babies?
Hartley: I always have. Maybe because they don’t ask me for money.


Suzuki St-Pierre: Today’s colour: amber, as in Amber alert.


Amanda: I’ll only speak on the condition of unanimity.
Suzuki: Do you mean anonymity?
Amanda: Exactly.
Suzuki: But you’re on TV – everyone can see you.
Amanda: I know.


Claire: Kidnapping is not my MO.
Daniel: It bothers me that my mother has an MO


Amanda: Betty, when I marry Hartley, I’ll be your Mom.


By the way, Canada’s very own Great Big Sea was featured in the opening scene of this episode. If you don’t remember, check it out: