Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 30, 2010: Lost Recap - "The Package"

When I saw last week's preview that this was a Sun/Jin episode, I wasn't really looking forward to it. As I've mentioned in some of my previous posts, Sun has become a useless character, and Jin has been irrelevant except as a reason to show gory leg wounds. On top of that, to follow up the absolute magic of "Ab Aeterno" last week (which upon further consideration, may actually be the best episode ever), with a Kwon episode seemed like a letdown.

I was confused by the night vision goggles scene to open the show, but then I realized that we were being told that Widmore's people were watching Flocke's camp. As we switched away from night vision, we saw Flocke talking to Jin, whose leg is healing miraculously well. Flocke came across as helpful, telling Jin about the name "Kwon" on the cave wall, but that he was unclear on whether it meant Jin or Sun.

He then went on to say that all of the people on that wall had to leave together if they were going to get off the Island. More rules? If it's not stabbing rules for the Magic Dagger, and that Ben and Charles can't kill each other's daughter...now we have more rules?

Back in the Flash Sideways (which I will refer to as "FS" for the rest of this post since I will be flipping back and forth often), Jin and Sun finally were released from customs, minus the $25,000 that Jin had in his bag. As soon as he mentioned that he had a meeting at "the restaurant", I knew we were going to see Keamy again.

(Note: While I attempted to shield my eyes once again from the guest stars, I wasn't fast enough, and saw Andrew Divoff, which told me that we would be seeing Patchy again. Damn...I love a surprise.)

At the hotel checkin counter, Sun made a point of using her maiden name, and then we learned that in this reality, Jin and Sun were NOT married. At this point, I made a conscious decision that the "Kwon" on Jacob's wall meant Jin. Period. It was a purposeful attempt by the writers to tell us this with this scene.

Back on the Island, as Sayid explained to Flocke that he could no longer feel anything, Flocke told him "Maybe that's best Sayid. It'll help you get through what's coming." It pains me to think of the Black Tank Top Of Death turning on his fellow Lostaways and becoming a killing machine for Flocke.

Immediately after this scene, Jin and Sawyer argued about the deal that Sawyer made with Flocke, and Jin yelled "It doesn't matter who you made a deal with!" I thought that Daniel Dae Kim did a great job of channelling The Rock in this scene.

And then we got the return of the darts. Oh how I've missed the darts. It's been so long since we've seen our Lostaways slap their neck as they are impaled with these tiny unconsciousness-inducing darts. THAT'S the answer I want from Damon and Carlton...what the hell is in those darts!?

Miles: "Unless Alpert's covered in bacon grease, I'm not sure Hurley can track anything." Ok...that was pretty funny.

Jack was explaining to Sun about the Lighthouse, but Sun wasn't hearing any of it. She cut Jack off and made a point of saying that she didn't believe (or care) that they were there for any sort of reason or purpose. Jack tried to explain more, which says to me that he apparently has looked out at the ocean long enough and is now ready to play his part. And with 6 episodes left, let me speak for all of us when I say IT'S ABOUT FRACKING TIME!

Flocke found Sun at her garden, and tempted her with the offer of a reunion with Jin. Sun questioned him on his actions at the Temple, and he launched into a very revealing explanation of how they were "confused." He then offered his hand to Sun (as he did to Kate a couple of episodes back) and Sun refused, as Kate did. There is clearly some sort of response/reaction to being touched by Flocke, just as there was with Jacob.
He then made a very clear point of saying to Sun, "I would never make you do anything against your will", explaining that she had a choice. There we are again with the Free Will subtext we've heard about so often. Does Flocke simply kill those who make the choice he doesn't agree with? Sun made her choice by running...into a tree.

In the FS World, Jin intoned that Sun was only accompanying him on this business trip for her father, as a way to work in a shopping trip. We then got a sultry unbuttoning scene from Sun and learned that while they were not married in this Sideways World, they were indeed engaging in a little Korean nookie. Which says to me that Sun just enjoys banging men that she's not married to! (Remember Jae Lee?)

But it's not just the hookup...Jin and Sun are in love (awwwwww), and just before Sun can reveal something to Jin that he "needs to know" (come on, a blind monkey can see this one coming), there is a knock at the door, and it's Keamy.
Keamy made his way into Sun's room in all of his creepy glory...and can I just say how uttery fantastic Kevin Durand has been in his revitalized role as Lost's ultimate bastard? If there were "Bad Guy Oscars", Durand would have one locked up. But I digress...

Back on the Island, Sun woke up from her George of the Jungle impression with a nice bruise on her head, and speaking Korean. I immediately thought that there has to be a connection between the two worlds when she started speaking in Korean, something I have been reluctant to consider until now. And it happened right after Sun looked in the mirror, which has happened to everyone in the FS World. What is the relevance/importance of the mirror? It's not an accident that we saw Jack smashing mirrors in the Lighthouse...mirrors that allowed Jacob to see them all.

Jin woke up to find himself in an enclosed room, which I recognized (hoped?) as Room 23 on Hydra Island. This was confirmed when we saw Jin pull a switch and see a preview trailer of the movie that Karl was being forced to watch. But then in walks Liz Lemon, oops, I mean Zoe, and the way she was presented to Jin--as a sympathetic doctor-type, smiling and holding a folder--it was an obvious parallel to the way that Jack met Juliet. Relevant? Probably not...but maybe...

The scene between Flocke and Claire-sseau was very interesting. Not for the fact that Flocke confirmed that Kate's name was not on the wall, or that he essentially gave Claire the green light to kill Kate once they got everyone together, but for the fact that he said that he still needed to gather 3 people. Ok, so who are the 3 people? Jack and Hugo are obvious, but who is the third? My guess is that it's Frank, to fly the plane.
Sawyer: "What do you need a boat for? Can't you just turn into smoke and fly your ass over the water?"
Flocke: "Do you think if I could do that, I would still be on this Island?"

I mentioned this exchange between Flocke to point out that it appears that Flocke is now locked...as Locke. (Oooh...I like that one. You heard it here first!) By that I mean that he is trapped in that form and can't act as the Smoke Monster as he used to? But what happened at the Temple, then? Ilana mentioned at one point that the longer he stays in that form, that there are effects. Or maybe it just means that he can't travel across water...which would make sense that an island is his "prison."
Ben: "Why won't you believe me?"
Ilana: "Because you're speaking."

Oh snap...Ilana just told him, didn't she? I have to admit, it was a pretty funny line.

Richard Alpert returned to camp, with Hurley in tow, and did you notice how the scene was lit as he walked back into the camp? With the sun shining prominently on his newly re-found cross, he appeared as the saviour to the Lostaways. And now he had a plan.
"Pack your bags. We're leaving", he told them.

But apparently Sun wasn't interested in Richard's plan, as she gave an utterly useless speech on how she just wanted to find Jin and leave, and not save the world. I say it was useless because it made no sense for her to scoff off "saving the world" just so she could find her husband, AND the fact that she was ranting in Korean that NOBODY COULD UNDERSTAND! She tried to play her trump card, saying she was important because of the name Kwon on the wall, but like I said earlier, I am now convinced it is Jin.

The scene on the beach between Flocke and Widmore was tense, and remiscent of the scene between Ben and Widmore in the bedroom a couple of seasons ago. Widmore told Flocke that he knew he was a "combination of myth, ghost stories, and jungle noises in the night." I can't wait to see the climax of these two facing off. Am I really expected to root for one of them?
Flocke (to Widmore): "A wise man once said that war was coming to this Island. I think it just got here."
This is a line that Charles spoke to Locke after Locke turned the Frozen Donkey Wheel and left the Island. So clearly, Flocke is accessing John Locke's memories, if he's quoting things that were said to John Locke.

Back in the FS, Sun travelled to the bank with Mikhail (welcome back!) to find that her father had closed her supposedly secret account. Flash to Keamy in the restaurant with Jin, and after he sends Omar to "go pick up the Arab guy" (how cool was it knowing how THAT was going to end?), we learned some very important information...

Apparently the $25,000 that Jin was carrying was payment for Keamy to kill Jin! How cold-hearted is that, for Mr. Paik to arrange a hit on the guy banging his daughter, and then send the guy himself to pay the hitman? Father of the year.

Keamy's delivery was golden as he explained it all in a tone of voice that gave Jin no idea how evil the plan was. So much so that Jin even said "thank you."

On Hydra Island, we learned that Zoe is a geophysicist, and that their goal all along was to get Jin. They weren't going to move on Flocke's camp yet, but since Jin and his gimpy leg were going to make a run for it, they had to grab him.

Then we heard Widmore say to Zoe, "I need you to get the package from the submarine and take it to the infirmary."

Goosebumps. Serious goosebumps.

Then Charles proceeded to give Jin a digital camera, and showed him pictures of Sun and Ji-Yeon, his daughter who he had never seen. This was a very emotional scene (damn you Michael Giacchino and your perfect musical scores!), but I kept asking myself how Jin, who had last seen the "regular" world in 2004, knew how to operate a digital camera so easily? But aside from this continuity error, Widmore then explained that if Flocke got off the Island, everything in the world as they know it, would "cease to be."

Widmore: "Come with me. I think it's time for you to see The Package."
Jin: "What package?"
Widmore: "It's not a what. It's a who."

At this point, I said (out loud), "I swear to God, if we don't see who it is on this episode, I am going to SNAP!"

Back to the FS, as Sayid finds Jin in the kitchen, I didn't think for a second that Sayid would kill him OR let him go, so I thought that the placement of th razor in his hands and a "good luck" was a nice way to resolve that.

And when Jin and Mikhail were about to face off, I was expecting some serious Jackie Chan-type shit to go down, but it just devolved into a shooting contest where Jin fired out Mikhail's eye (hence Patchy!), and also shot Sun in the process. As he carried a bleeding Sun out of the kitchen, she told him the worst-kept secret in this episode, that she was pregnant.

Jack figured out a good way to circumvent Sun's inability to speak English when he gave her a notebook and told her to write. (more on this in a minute) He then showed her a tomato that he had found in her garden, and told her "That's one stubborn tomato. I guess no one told it it was supposed to die." He's clearly not talking about the tomato.

And with that, Jack offered his hand to Sun, and she took it from him...as a sign of trust...the same gesture she was unable to do with Flocke.

In the final scene, as Sayid observed the sub unloading "the package", I had hoped for weeks that I was about to see Desmond come out of that room...and when I saw him, I let out a loud "YES!"

Damn, this just got awesome.

Two quick things:1) I'm not sure that I buy Sun's Korean speaking as a story device. Doesn't seem to make any sense to me unless they're telling us that there is a connection between the Flash Sideways and Island timelines.
2) I will be in Las Vegas for the next few days, so there will be no Survivor or Amazing Race posts this week. Next week's Lost post will still be done, but not until Wednesday night.

Next week: The Return of Desmond...Brutha!

Monday, March 29, 2010

March 29, 2010

Off To The Final Four. Duke Beats Butler to win the South Regional.
(18 years to the day after the Christian Laettner shot to beat Kentucky in the Regional Final.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24, 2010: Survivor Recap

This rare Wednesday night edition of Survivor (thank you NCAA Tournament) was teased all week on CBS as being a battle between Boston Rob and Russell, and for once, the commercials didn't mislead and disappoint. What an episode!

First of all, I have to say how much I absolutely hate episodes where both tribes have to vote someone out. It's a cheap way to get more contestants at the beginning of the game, and it places NO value on winning. Sure, the winning team got hot dogs, soft drinks, and a front row seat of the other team's Tribal Council...but that's not nearly the value of tribal immunity, which is what this phase of the game has always been based on. It's a weak tactic.

And I was not a fan of Jeff Probst mentioning that Tyson, J.T., and Coach competed in it in their season, and that J.T. and Tyson went to the final, AND that Tyson won. Unfair to point that out in the way he did. Come on, Jeff...you're better than that.

Courtney is competing in a challenge? What the hell? Not like she has a chance...
Boston Rob did a great job to win the challenge, as did Candace, but Rob pulled out the win for his team to give them the Tribal Council food advantage.

What the hell was with Colby's speech at the Heroes camp? It was like a concession speech on election night...he just rolled over and gave up. I admired the concept of "let's just enjoy our afternoon, and try to give the Villains as little as possible", but why the hell did he want to protect these idiots? These are the morons who voted Tom out over a crippled James last episode!

And of all the people to point out that James is hobbled by his bad leg, did you expect it to be...James? When talking to Colby, he said to him (and I had to go back and watch to get this fantastic line word for word) "old sleepy ass Colby, you know, that gets beat by a fat man and a cripple."
I'll wait a moment for you to stop laughing and then point out the irony of James berating Colby for losing to the cripple...when HE'S THE CRIPPLE. I'll point out again that James isn't the brightest bulb.

Then we had to watch James get defensive, and participate in the Hero Olympics (vs. a backwards-running J.T.), all to set up the inevitable James vs. Colby debate for Tribal Council.

At camp, Russell's plan to give the idol to Parvati was a good idea, but was headed off at the pass by Rob, who explained to his alliance that splitting the vote was the safe bet, and that nothing could go wrong if they held firm and voted 3 for Parvati and 3 for Russell. They would flush out the idol and get rid of either Parvati or Russell.

Enter Tyson.

With a foolproof plan, Tyson listened to Russell as he weaseled (admirably) his way into Tyson's ear and explained a fake plan that would see Parvati go home. Instead of sticking to the foolproof (FOOLPROOF) plan of the 3-3 split vote, Tyson decided to switch his vote to Parvati.

And then we watched Tyson tell the camera that he couldn't wait to get to Tribal Council so he could "get a hot dog in my mouth." Choose your own joke...that one's just too easy.

Let's give Russell some credit for coming up with the plan, and how he let it all play out at Tribal Council, faking out with the walk up to Jeff, then turning around and giving it to Parvati. It was all too perfect.
So Tyson flopped, and as a result, he was voted out, all due to Russell's master plan. So Rob and Russell squared off in a battle of wits, and while Russell did indeed win...let's make it clear that he did NOT outsmart Rob. Rob saw this coming, and Rob had a plan to avoid it, but Tyson entered the 'Dumbest Survivor Contestants of All-Time" Hall of Fame (move over Erik, make some room, James) with his idiotic flip. This only means good things for the Rob-Russell rivalry.

Again, why don't these two realize that they would be unstoppable together? They are, by far, the two best players the game has ever seen.

Did Jerri just say "Game on!" at Tribal Council? You know my feelings on this. Disqualified!

At the voting section, when Sandra held up her vote for Russell, and spoke to the camera, it sounded like she said "you need to get in the ocean and wash your ass", which made me go WHAT?! But then my girlfriend mentioned that it was "wash your PAST." However, when I went back and watched the scene on Closed Captioned, while it sounded like it could have been "past", the caption on the screen most definitely said "ass".

You decide, "wash your past" or "wash your ass"? And whatever one it was...what the hell does it mean? Because neither makes sense!

After the Villains voted out Tyson (no hot dog for you!), they enjoyed their buffet as the Heroes started their Tribal Council. James decided to taunt them when it started raining, but that didn't hold a lot of water (pardon the pun), because when you're starving in the jungle, wet hot dogs beat no hot dogs 100% of the time.

Why the hell does Amanda always look like she's about to start crying? I keep thinking she's the reincarnation of Haley Joel Osment....who, given, is not dead...but you get the gist of what I'm saying.
Blah blah blah...Superman in a fat suit...blah blah blah...more banana etiquette talk...blah blah blah...just vote out Colby already. There is no drama here.

What? They voted out James?

So, let me get this straight. Last time, when it was a decision between able-bodied Tom who was begging to stay, and immobolized James, these idiots chose to keep James. And now, faced with a decision between James, whose leg is healing, and Colby, who has SUCKED in everything he has done so far...and has told them he has essentially given up...NOW you vote out James?

This is the dumbest tribe ever.

Next week: The Villains camp should be awesome with the fallout from Russell's move.

Please Note two things: a) that Survivor is back on Thursday next week, and b) that there will be no Survivor recap here next week since I will be in Las Vegas.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 23, 2010: Lost "Ab Aeterno"...A Legendary Episode

KABOOM! That is the sound of my mind blowing from tonight's episode of Lost. As soon as it ended, I rewatched the entire episode again to try and get my head around what I just watched. I have a multitude of thoughts, which I will get to momentarily, but first I want to direct your attention to Jeff Jensen's column from last week at EW.com, which contained a very interesting theory on the identity of Flocke/The Smoke Monster (skip ahead to page 7 of the article). I'm not sure I buy it, but it's definitely worth considering. Now, on to this week's episode, "Ab Aeterno"...

The opening featured an extended scene of Jacob visiting Ilana. We had seen the basis of this scene before, but now we got to see Jacob explaining what he wanted from Ilana, which was to protect the remaining six candidates. It all seemed like a way to lead into the fact that Richard was to instruct Ilana what to do at one point, but the conversation between Jacob and Ilana was very telling:

Ilana: "After I've brought them to the Temple, what do I do?"
Jacob: "Ask Ricardos. He'll know what to do next."

Now aside from the fact that Richard's exaggerated giggle upon hearing this was laugh-out-loud awesome, let's examine that conversation. If Jacob is instructing Ilana to take the candidates to the Temple, then does he know that he's going to die? The only reason they ended up going there was after Jacob's death. How much does Jacob know ifhe knows that Ilana needs to take them to the Temple at this point? Something just doesn't add up.

Ben: "If it's any consolation, it's not exactly Locke." What a great line, which I couldn't fully enjoy since it immediately cut to Hurley randomly speaking Spanish on the beach, and then telling Doctor Fix-It-All, "Sorry Jack, but this has nothing to do with you."

As Richard was sharing his "secret" that they all were dead and that this was Hell, I didn't believe it for a second...and I knew his back story was going to be fantastic.

Cut to what we are told is Tenerife, Canary Islands, 1867, in as far as I can remember is the ONLY time in the history of this show that we, the viewers, have been explicitly told what time period we are watching. I enjoyed the storyline of Richard and his sick wife/doctor/medicine/murder, but I was struck by how long it was. Were we in for a full-on flashback episode that stayed in the past. I was hoping so...and I'm glad it was. It was indeed heartbreaking...on two fronts...watching Richard lose his wife, and then watching the preist coldly refuse to absolve him. If Richard wasn't a sympathetic character before, he certainly was now.
Purchased as a slave by Captain Magnus Hanso (sound familiar?) and given a spot on the Black Rock, Richard's life was spared. We saw him at sea in a storm amidst other slaves (none of whom spoke English, so why was it an issue when he was being purchased?), as they approached the Island. As one of his slave-mate cried upon seeing the statue, "The Island is guarded by the Devil!" Could this line mean more that just what was meant by this soon-to-be-murdered rower? Man in Black? Jacob?

I like that the destruction of the statue, and the location of The Black Rock in th Jungle were both explained in one fell swoop. Yes, the CGI of the boat crashing through the statue was less than spectacular, and I have to think that it was one hell of a tsunami wave to get the boat THAT high if we could still see the full statue beforehand...but I'm willing to suspend my disbelief and recognize that Damon and Carlton are trying to answer the questions we want answered. We may not always like the answers, but at least they're coming.
I also thought back to last season's finale, as the Man in Black and Jacob sat on the beach watching a ship come in. We all assumed it was The Black Rock, but after seeing this footage of the Black Rock crashing at night in a storm, it must have been a different ship. We were never told explicitly that ship was the Black Rock.

As the slaves lay battered in the ship's hold after the shipwreck, you could hear a crew member say "Sir, Captain Hanso is dead." before Whitfield came down and started slaughtering the slaves. That's the only word I can use..slaughter...and it was a graphic scene, not easy to watch. As a Lost fan, can you remember a time (other than when Smokey got Keamy's crew) that you were flat out excited to hear that tik-a-tik sound that meant someone was about to get Smoke Monstered? Even though you knew Richard wasn't going to get stabbed, it was still a moment to savour.

Why did Smokey randomly kill all of those people? We have been led to believe that he never acts without a reason. What was the reason? What was the reason for the Oceanic 815 Pilot in the first episode?

I loved the scene as he 'scanned' Richard, which we've seen before with Eko, Ben, and others. Obviously, this is accessing the memories and thoughts of the person, so that Smokey/MIB can figure out what form to take to be able to manipulate them...which form can act as the 'trigger'. For Eko it was Yemi, for Ben it was Alex, and for Richard, it was obviously Isabella.

The progression of Richard's efforts to break free was well-done, from the nail to the boar to the appearance of Isabella. When that hand appeared on his shoulder, I didn't for a second believe that it was Jacob, and fully expected to once again see Titus Welliver as the Man in Black.
As Richard meets him and talks to him, we learn again his powers of manipulation. While eventually being honest about being the Black Smoke (we've learned he is generally quite honest), he still lies to Richard about: a) the Island being Hell, b) Isabella, and c) Jacob being the Devil. He is trying to corrupt Richard, as we would learn later, is his primary goal. And even though you 100% know that the line is coming...

"It's good to see you out of those chains."

Still chilling. Although it is a tad more meaningful when not followed by a throat punch. And I have to say, Nestor Carbonell was fantastic in this episode, and in this scene in particular.

What is with all the rules for the Magic Dagger? Act fast...don't let him talk...click your heels three times and say "There's no place like home." Are these going to be explained? I hope so.

MIB to Richard: "You and I can talk all day long about what's right or wrong. But the question before you remains the same. Do you ever want to see your wife again." Calling upon the greatest tool of conjurers and liars...distraction...MIB once again is able to manipulate.

(By the way, could there have been any more commercials for the return of V next week???)

When Richard approached the statue to look for Jacob, I realized (thanks to Jenn) that he was about to be faced with the same choice Ben had in the Season 5 finale: kill Jacob, or hear him out...he had to choose.
The fight scene between Jacob and Richard was entertaining solely due to the method that Jacob used to show Richard he wasn't dead...repeatedly dunking his head into the ocean. Very funny.

Jacob: "No one comes in unless I invite them in." Was he talking about the statue, or the Island? He flat out told Richard he brought the Black Rock to the Island, and then tried to explain exactly who/what the Man in Black is. Hell/Malevolence/Evil/Darkness...it has many names, but he is unable to get out, and the Island serves as a "cork"(great analogy and visual with the bottle of wine). "It's the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs."
Jacob explained the purpose, that MIB was attempting to corrupt all people since he believed it is in their nature to sin, and that Jacob was bringing people to the Island to prove him wrong. And that once they got here, their past didn't matter.

Richard: "Before you brought my ship, there were others?"
Jacob: "Yes. Many."
Richard: "What happened to them?"
Jacob: "They're all dead."

Um...ok. So maybe Jacob's plan isn't working so well after all. But this led to another great conversation where Jacob explained that he wouldn't interfere, that it had to be done without him forcing them, otherwise it would be meaningless. And with that, he offered Richard "a job", and Richard's purpose was defined...as he made the choice that Ben could not. And we learned how Richard became the Ageless Wonder.

As Richard returned to MIB with the white stone, he still attempted his seductive persuasive ways, promising Richard that his offer would stand, no matter how long it took. And to prove the point that he was still "working" Richard, he gave him Isabella's chain in the hopes that it would eventually lead him to trust his evil ways at one point in the future.

Who knew that choice would take roughly 140 years as Richard dug up the chain he buried so long ago? (That was some pretty loose earth for that long!) But cue the unexpected as Hurley emerged from the forest, telling Richard "your wife sent me"...and then, all of a sudden, the earlier Spanish babbling on the beach made sense.
What followed was perhaps the most poignant and emotional scene in the history of Lost, save for Desmond and Penny's phone call in The Constant (not sure that can ever be topped.) I don't even want to ruin the scene by analyzing it.
In the final scene, as the Man in Black sat there looking out at the mountains, I thought to myself, "If Flocke walks in and I have to try and figure out how they are in the same place at the same time, my head may actually explode." Thankfully it was just Jacob, and we were treated to another scene between these two mythological figures. Too much to absorb...no more theorizing...my ears are starting to bleed.

Here's the preview for next week's episode, "The Package."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March, 21, 2010

This week's episode of The Amazing Race was entitled "Cathy Drone", which you will understand if you saw the episode, but if I were naming the episodes on this show, I would have gone with Dumb and Dumber Get Dumber and Dumberer. (It makes sense if you can wrap your head around the grammatical incorrect-ness)

So we're back to watching every team rip open their clues at the Pit Stop again? Yawn. I thought last week was a sign of things to come, but alas, it's the same old same old again this week. Perhaps it was just a way to watch every team butcher the word 'Riems." And Jeff, do you seriously have to say "Let's Dance!" every time you start off a leg or a challenge? I would love to see the irony of them actually having to dance...and him not saying it.

We're learning more about the Handlebar Brothers every week (and stop emailing me, I know they're not actually brothers), especially how their jobs help them in the race. We heard more of that this week as they explained that "staying up late and driving all hours of the day" (isn't that a Kiss song?) would come easy to them since they're used to it, and that they are "professional car followers." Seriously...Rhode Island sounds more awesome every week.

When I saw that the challenge had to do with Champagne, I thought "Oh great, another alcohol-related challenge", but it actually ended up being pretty cool for once this season. I mean, as far as interesting challenges go, I'll take rapelling into a cave under a building, searching the cellar, and sabering a bottle over finding eggs in a chicken coop. It was all very Indiana Jones, wasn't it?

The only thing that was kind of alarming was that when the teams were being lowered into the opening, they were being lowered by this weird Grizzly Adams-esque character who was sitting on the edge, and lowering you down before riding down with you. But as he was sitting there and lowering you through this tiny opening to go down the shaft to the cellar, he had to lower you so that your face was only inches away from his crotch!
I got called out in the Comments section last week for not mentioning Jordan's innuendo-laced statement that he "likes swords", so I'll make sure to point out the deliciousness of him actually getting to use a sword this week as he sabered the champagne. Although with regards to the sabering, he did say that he was excited that "we get to cut it." Because obviously Jordan really enjoys things that are cut. (Oh SNAP...I went there...yes I did!)

Not one but TWO teams got Joan of Arc and Noah's Ark confused. Want to guess which two?

Now aside from still calling each other "baby" all the time, Louie and Michael have also worked in "monkey" to their pet name repertoire? These two make me more and more uncomfortable every episode. They remind me of these two from Saturday Night Live.

Although I do give credit to Louie for praying to St. Anthony to help them on the Race. Clearly St. Anthony is one of the "less-busy" deities to pray to...or maybe just the patron saint of finding grapes?

Caite and Brent sure got along well this episode, didn't they? Model tantrums! Woo-hoo! The beautiful are petty, too! I loved how Brent asked her the innocent question of if she wanted to ask someone for directions, and she poutily said no. Brent, why are you even asking? Just do it. And Caite, why are you saying no? You two need a scorecard for your points against each other.

Did you notice that Jet and Cord went to the wrong city TWICE in one episode, and still stayed completely calm and composed? Whereas Carol and Brandi kept referring to everything as "insane" and "the worst ever". Cowboys = cool. Lesbians = drama queens. (not all cowboys and not all lesbians...just these specific ones.)

During the grape Detour, Michael mad an alarming statement when he spotted the correct bundle of grapes, and labelled himself "Eagle Eyes." He said...and this is verbatim..."if I can find crack in someone's rear end, I can find some grapes in a grapeyard." First of all, let's ignore the word "grapeyard", and focus on hwo troubling this statement is...from an imagery standpoint, and from logic.

I'm no detective, but I have to think that if you're finding crack in someone's rear end, you're sure as hell looking for it instead of just stumbling across it, so "Eagle Eyes" probably isn't the most appropriate nickname. And unlike looking through a square kilometre of grape vines, looking for crack in someone's rear end is a pretty isolated search, isn't it? It's not a wide search area, is it? It's pretty much...just the rear end, right? I don't think that a full-on grid search is necessary. Just when I think these two can't make me more uncomfortable...they do.

Brent and Caite showed up at the Put Stop Mat for the THIRD time in this race without completing all the tasks. Remember once again that their focus is Details. Dumbest team ever. And to vent her anger, Caite declared that she hated the "stupid lesbians." Stay classy.

(actual conversation between my son and I when we saw the mime at the Pit Stop)
Lucas: Dad, that guy looks like the Joker.
Sean: Only scarier.
Brent and Caite failing at the champagne tower was anti-climactic, since they showed it on the preview last week, but it did allow for Brent to actually come up with the only entertaining line he has produced since the show began. "We probably would have found the grapes by now, but I would have had my ear chewed off for an hour and twenty minutes."

And in their interview at the end, when Caite was getting all Valley-Girl-Whatever and talking about how she wanted to win the race...did you see Brent's face? He honestly looked like he wanted to shoot his own head off.

So Jeff and Jordan got eliminated, thus making the Race 16% smarter for next week's episode. They didn't seem fazed, but would you be considering Jordan won $500K on Big Brother last year?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 20, 2010

March Madness is awesome, as always. The games have been great so far, and after going 13 for 16 on Day One, Lucas definitely has bracket fever.

But on the bracket-note, as promised, here is the first of a number of brackets to occupy your time over the next couple of weeks. Today's bracket is a Fast Food Bracket. While it is American-based, and most Canadian readers will not be used to In-N-Out Burger or Sonic or Chick Fil-A, work with it and see what you get. Put your championship matchup in the Comments section. Have fun. (click the bracket to enlarge the image)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16, 2010

This week's Lost recap will likely be shorter and less in-depth than usual...primarily because I didn't really enjoy this episode. There was some good, some bad, and some confusing, but based on what we've seen so far this season, it was by far the weakest episode yet.

First I want to mention something from last week that I noticed when I was re-watching the enhanced episode tonight. In the scene between Ben and Ilana, which ends with her saying "I'll have you", aside from Michael Emerson's heart-wrenching performance, the music that accommpanied the scene was fantastic. I had to make note of it after watching it again.
The opening scene in the Flash-Sideways was a carbon copy of the con scene with Cassidy when we first learned that Sawyer was a con man. As it turned around on him and the femme fatale drew a gun on him in an apparent attempt to rob him, it looked like a game of Con and Re-Con as they each tried to one-up the other. Did you believe him when he said he was a police officer? I did. I even wrote "I believe" and showed it to my viewing mates after the scene. With one secret word..."LaFleur" (hey, maybe he was just a big 70s hockey fan)...and the reveal of Miles as his partner, we were introduced to a Sawyer we never thought we'd see.

I still get creeped out when I see Claire-sseau's freaky skull doll, or whatever it is. I don't think we'll be seeing those on the Lost website for sale anytime soon.

I found it interesting that Flocke was a comfort to the children, attempting to ease their fears, while at the same time saying "the black smoke killed" the people in the temple. Quite an about-face...honesty,sympathy, compassion? Or all an act?

Sawyer first tells Jin he's with Locke, then tells Kate he's with no one? Which one is it?

Sawyer won't trust Miles in the Flash-Sideways, even as his partner is pleading with him to tell the truth, while at the same time being told by Flocke on the Island that he's "the best liar I know."

Flocke - "I'm the smoke thing." How blunt.

He then went on to say that "it's either kill or be killed. And I don't want to be killed." Say what you want about Flocke, but I can't find a time (yet) where he hasn't been honest in what he has said.
Back in the Flash-Sideways, Sawyer has a blind date with Charlotte, who is now super-hot. (Again, I'm glad I'm blocking the guest credits at the beginning...that would have been spoiled) Charlotte emplores him to "tell the truth" (are you sensing a theme?), and Sawyer responds by telling her he hit a fork in the road where he had to decide to become a criminal or cop...

...and then he nailed her.

Because after all, Sawyer nails everyone, doesn't he? Kate, Juliet, Ana Lucia, Cassidy, Charlotte...I'm waiting for a flashback to find him and Rose doing the nasty. ("Bernard, I thought you were dead!")

So Sawyer goes from grieving Juliet only days earlier, to now reminiscing about Kate after finding their love-cage again on Hydra Island? And her dress is still there? I almost expected there to be a Mariah Carey ballad as Sawyer lovingly cradled a fish biscuit and looked back on that night as a single tear fell down his cheek.

SCREEEEEEECH! That wouldn't happen, because at his core, Sawyer is a douchebag.

I was confused by the Flocke-Claire-Kate scene. At first it seemed like a staged good cop/bad cop thing to try and gain Kate's trust, but the Flocke slapped Claire and it just got all weird. And Sayid just sat there and watched. Creepy.
What the hell is with all of those dead bodies on Hydra Island? Oh man, now we have new characters to learn? Who the hell is Zoe? I'll tell you this much...if they introduced us to Dogen and Lennon and then killed them, Zoe lasts 3 episodes, tops. And on a freak-you-out tip, as one of Zoe's thugs called out "drop it!" to Sawyer, I immediately recognized him as Chip, the kid from Kate and Allie. Don't believe me? Check it out. Although to be fair, I also watched him more recently on Oz as Vern Schillinger's son, Andrew.

Every Flash-Sideways character has paused to look at themselves in the mirror at some point, although Sawyer is the only one to smash it.

We learned a lot from Flocke in two separate conversations with Kate. First, that an enemy "needs someone to hate", and while he was applying it to Claire and Kate, I think this was clearly a reference to his relationship with Jacob. Did you notice how Kate didn't accept Flocke's hand as she stood up to walk with him?
In the second conversation, on the beach, Flocke says "I am not a dead man", and goes on to say how he had a mother who was crazy...a disturbed woman...which led to a lot of problems. This made me gasp, "Oh my God, it's Aaron", but as he then compared himself to Aaron, I wasn't so sure. I think this is a big message to tell us more about who he really is.

I did enjoy Sawyer's flip-flop on whether he was siding with Widmore or Flocke...but it only raised more questions. Are we to believe that Widmore is on the "good" side? Widmore, who ordered Ben to kill Alex as a baby? I doubt it. But are we supposed to view Flocke as "good" then? Highly unlikely. So is their battle one of "bad" vs "bad", or are they BOTH playing Sawyer, and are on the same side?

Other questions:
Why build a sonic fence when you can just spread a little ash?
What was behind the locked door in the sub?
How is Widmore aware of what has been happening on the Island?
Why did Sawyer allow Kate to escape at the airport if he's a cop?

Quick things that made me smile in this episode:
- the glimpse of Sawyer's books on the dresser.
- Charlie's brother at the police station.
- Charlotte's response to Sawyer at her door with a sunflower and beer: "You have GOT to be kidding me!"
- the reveal of Kate at the end of the Flash-Sideways in the alley...although I was expecting it to be Juliet.
I really didn't like this episode, and maybe my pre-disposition to dislike Sawyer's character played a big part in that, although I came around a lot on him after last season's turn as LaFleur.

The one good thing coming out of this episode, however, is the preview for next week's episode, when we get the long-awaited (and I mean LONG-awaited) backstory on Richard Alpert. I got goosebumps watching the preview (see below) for next week's episode, entitled "Ab Aeterno", which is Latin for "since the beginning of time" or "since a very long time ago."

March 16, 2010

Break out the brackets and get your highlighters ready...March Madness is upon us, as the 2010 NCAA Tournament starts tonight.This is my favourite time of year from a sporting standpoint, considering there's no other event I enjoy as much as this tournament.

Yes, the days are gone when I would spend time down in the Carolinas enjoying the first couple of rounds of the tournament. As are the days where I would book off the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament, and just sit in my recliner and watch all of the first round games. But my passion for the tournament hasn't waned at all...I still devour every minute of basketball in March; I still run the bracket pool at work; I still live and die my my beloved Duke Blue Devils.

Now, this time of year, as the brackets are out, there are usually a multitude of OTHER bracket competitions hat come out from various publications and websites. Brackets to determine the best teams, TV shows, songs, hottest women, hottest men, etc... all become popular this time of year. So, having said that, what I'm going to try and do for the duration of the tournament, is to feature a number of different bracket competitions. If I can find enough entertaining ones to do it daily, I will...but I would expect there to be a new one every couple of days. I hope you'll all participate when I post one, and list your results in the Comments section.

Now, with regards to the 2010 NCAA Tournament, if you haven't already filled out a bracket, print this off and fill it out. Then, head to the Comments section and tell me your Final Four. I don't want your winner. I don't want your 12-seed beating a 5-seed. I just want the four teams you have making the Final Four. Whoever gets the most will win a prize. I will take submissions until Thursday at noon.

Also, in an exciting first for me, Lucas and I are filling out our brackets together tonight. Lucas will be filling out his first bracket on his own, without any help from me. I will be explaining the seeds and what they mean, but it's all up to him. I'll list both of our Final Fours in the Comments section.

Let the Madness begin! And if you're a college basketball maniac like me, enjoy the clip below.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March 15, 2010

If you haven't seen it yet, just watch it. Unforgettable.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 14, 2010

This week on the Amazing Race we were treated to the teams being ferried by bus from Germany to France before the race leg even started. And when it did, starting with the Handlebar Brothers opening their first clue, who knew that a baguette was going to be such a source of entertainment?

Between people not being sure of what it was, to others pronouncing it wrong (Bag-wette?), to Caite declaring that she was going “eat the crap out of it”, the baguette was definitely the star of the first part of the show. My favourite part, however, was the exchange between Steve and Allie in the car, when Steve asked Allie if she knew what it was. Allie replied that she did, and then realized that Steve had asked because he had no idea. But when she asked him, Steve replied that he DID know, but was just testing her.

This is one of those characteristics that just drives me nuts, the person who won’t admit when they don’t know something. There would have been no problem with Steve admitting to his daughter that he didn’t know what a baguette was, but he instead had to come up with a lame cover story. I’m sure he’s also the type of person who says something, then realizes that his comment didn’t go over as he intended, so he uncomfortably says ‘Just joking”, even though you know he wasn’t.

I had to laugh at the irony of a military challenge taking place in France. At first I thought the challenge would be to belly crawl under the barbed wire and then see how fast you could run a white flag up a flagpole. And when Phil was explaining the challenge, he actually used the phrase “fiercely defended by the French”, which may have been the first time that those words had ever been spoken.

While Michael and Louie were getting ready for the challenge, and changing into their military clothes, Louie said “I feel like the Hulk and I’m ready to burst out of this.” That’s certainly an optimistic spin on that situation, isn’t it? My description may have included the word “sausage” and the phrase “ready to explode.” They then declared that it was “like storming the beach at Normandy”, which made no sense with no water…and no beach.

And what was up with Michael and Louie constantly explaining that they had an advantage because “we’re used to this” in their jobs. First they said that working on very little sleep and wearing dirty clothes came naturally to them. I’m not sure if that was due to their jobs as undercover detectives on the mean streets of Rhode Island, or because they are just slobs. They also said that the bombs going off around them were something they were used to. I try to keep up on World news, but I can't remember hearing about any bombings in downtown Providence.

I love the concept of the U-Turn, but it always drives me crazy when teams complain that it’s dirty and unethical to use it. It is a tool in the game, within the rules, that teams have an option to use to try and help them gain an advantage and win a game. It’s no different than stealing a base in baseball. Did anyone ever accuse Rickey Henderson of being unethical for stealing bases? No. So I hate to see Amazing Race contestants complaining when it gets used against them. If I was on the race, I would use it in a heartbeat without a second thought.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised to see no complaints from Joe and Heidi upon being U-Turned. They stated that they realized it was just a part of the game, and I credit them for that. I also like the concept of the Blind U-Turn, where the team that uses it is kept hidden. That was kind of redundant in this episode since Joe and Heidi knew there were only two teams in front of them since they had just seen them.

After all the talk of how bad Joe’s knee was on the last leg, and on this one, why did Joe think it was a good idea to crawl under the barbed wire on all fours, Horsey-style? Didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Brent (upon seeing planes): “Oh baby, look. They’re up in some sort of flying things.” Tell us again how you and Caite are trying to dispel the myth that you’re stupid. I dare you. And how many times can these two rocket scientists mess up something based on not paying attention to details, which was supposed to be their focal point?

I loved how they had to bike back along the trail (4 kilometres!) to get the clue they had missed, and then were shocked to hear Phil tell them that they were still in 6th place. If you just have to go back along one route, and you don’t pass anyone going back the other way, then no one has passed you yet!

The fake French moustaches were pretty cheesy, but were actually an improvement for Michael and Louie! Don’t you think? I think they should shave those beasts off if they’re going to keep finishing high in the race. That…and stop calling each other “baby”. Still so awkward.

Next week: Brent and Caite crash and burn.

Friday, March 12, 2010

March 12, 2010

I know that normally I try to get my weekly Survivor recaps posted immediately following the episode, but this week I had a prior commitment on Thursday night, so my apologies to those of you waiting for this post. This week’s episode was the first one since J.T. orchestrated the first blindside of this season, as Cirie was booted last week. At the time, I maintained that it was a smart move for J.T. to get rid of her and align with Tom, as he and Tom had both identified that they needed each other as two former winners. Turns out that J.T. was only concerned with Cirie as the moment he got back to camp, he did an about face and insisted that Tom was next. That logic didn’t make much sense to me, and he seemed to be talking in circles, which Amanda immediately identified. Her response…”Game On.”

Ok, I’ve talked about this in some of my recaps before for this show and others (Amazing Race, Big Brother), but anybody who uses reality TV show clichés like “Game On” needs to be forcibly removed from the game. It is by far, the most idiotic thing that a contestant can say…as if the game wasn’t already ‘on’ the second they arrived. Take someone like Coach, who in his season, was telepathically communicating with his teammates with ONLY HIS EYES before they ever even spoke to each other. Other comments that would result in a mandatory disqualification would include (but not be limited to) “It is what it is”, “Throw them under the bus”, “It’s just a game”, and “Let’s do this!”
Coach led the Villains in his own creation, Dragon Slayer Chi, which looked like normal Tai Chi to me. Other than the fact that it involved Courtney actually participating in something (she sat out yet ANOTHER challenge tonight), what was the difference? I kept waiting for Coach to explain, “And this is the motion you would use to raise your shield to protect yourself from the Dragon’s fiery breath…and then slowly bring your other hand over the top to plunge your sword into the armoured beast’s head.”

But while the Villains were focusing (snickering) at Coach’s lesson, Russell was ostracizing himself even further from the group as he continued to look for the hidden immunity idol. I guess if you have to isolate yourself like that, it’s a pretty good thing to actually find the idol, as Russell did (for the fourth time!). Jeff Probst made a great point in his weekly blog after last week’s episode when he said “let’s be clear – we put the idol in the show because we want it to be found…and we would like it to be played. Preferably many times.”

Credit to Russell for finding it again, but he continued his confusing strategy of TELLING anyone he can that he has it! First he told Parvati, and then he told Coach. Now, say what you will about Coach, as he is one of the most delusional douchebags to ever play the game, but I will point out that he is extremely faithful and loyal to those who he makes an alliance with, so it’s a good strategy to align with him. And when things invariably turn sour later in the game, Coach will have gotten on everyone’s nerves, so as long as he’s around, theoretically you would be option #2 to vote out after Coach.
What was with Colby being all pissy at the reward challenge? Didn’t make much sense to me to refuse the chocolate and then insist that it was because it was time to focus…and then he ended up sitting out of the challenge! Way to show how hard you can focus…from the bench. And with all the fantastic rewards they get in this show, I personally don’t think a chocolate feast is that great of a prize…can you say gut rot? Remember in Survivor Africa when Ethan and Lex won a challenge and ate a giant plate of fries, and paid the price with a significant amount of…ahem… gastrointestinal discomfort? Can you imagine what happened after a chocolate buffet? Although I have to say, the swimming hole was pretty cool.

The challenge itself was a repeat from last season when we saw Ben get kicked out of the challenge, and Mike Borassi removed by the medical team at the end. And now we see James go down in the same challenge? This thing is kryptonite for the contestants! I have to say, I was really disappointed with the way the whole James injury played out. Last week on the preview, we saw Jeff calling for the medics, but we didn’t see who was injured. Then, all week, CBS showed us on every commercial that it was James, which can only ensure that he is not removed…they would never show it on the commercial if he was actually removed due to the injury. It was a very weak strategy by CBS, and if they wouldn’t have shown us that it was James in the commercials, then there actually would have been some drama.
There was almost a 4th incident, as Rupert slammed Jerri face first into the wall. I have a bone to pick with the way that this was edited. Yes, it seemed a little out of line for Rupert to be SO aggressive with Jerri, but they made it look like Rupert tossed her after a point was scored. If you go back and look at the footage, there was still balls flying all over the place, so it obviously happened mid-point, and was edited to look like Rupert acted late and threw her after the point. Rupert didn’t need to act so aggressively, but they also didn’t need to edit it to look worse. I knew Jerri was going to score the winning basket as soon as I saw that. And did you notice J.T.’s full-on body slam on Coach? Ouch!

Getting back to the scene where Russell told Coach about the idol, I had to laugh at the scene where Russell the King “knighted” Coach and welcomed him into the group. Not because of the utter dorkiness of the knighting ceremony, but because Russell was wearing a ridiculous orange and yellow neon striped towel wrapped around his waist. Seriously…it looked like a Right Said Fred video.
Did Russell just say "Let's do this"? Disqualified! (see above)

In the immunity challenge (which Courtney participated in!), James’ injury meant that he was relegated to being the caller for the Heroes, which seemed appropriate since he’s a big proponent of the “One Voice” strategy. James did his part getting his team in a position to win the challenge, but the Heroes fell apart at the puzzle phase of the challenge yet again, and Boston Rob punctuated a Villains win by stomping the final piece in place.

So this led to the big decision for the Heroes tribe: Tom, the master strategist and former million-dollar winner, or James, the roid-raging muscle monster who can’t even walk.

I thought for sure that J.T. and Candace were going to see the light and align with Tom and Colby, which would have resulted in a) James being sent home, and b) creating a numbers advantage of 4 to 2 over Rupert and Amanda. I just don’t see the point of keeping James around, strictly due to the fact that this team can’t win challenges…and now you’re going to keep a guy with only ONE LEG and insist he is stronger than Tom, and will help you more than Tom?

And James even taunted them to vote him out if they honestly thought they were stronger with Tom. This only proves my assessment that James (while lovable) is the dumbest contestant in Survivor history…and that stupidity has rubbed off on his tribe, who decided they were stronger with his one leg, than with Tom’s two legs. I’m sure this will come back on them. Let’s also remember that James was voted out of the game on his first season while holding not one…but TWO hidden immunity idols!
Next week (but not really next week): The confrontation of the two Alpha Males that everyone has been waiting for…Rob vs. Russell.

Note: Survivor will not be on next week due to the first round of the NCAA Tournament (Go Blue Devils!), and the following week it will be shown on Wednesday night, March 24th. Keep in mind that traditionally during this two-week hiatus for basketball, the Wednesday night episode is usually a recap show that shows new scenes and recaps, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for a new episode until April 1st.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March 9, 2010

The last few episodes of Lost have been great, but significantly lacking in the presence of arguably the greatest character in the history of the show, Ben Linus. Tonight's episode was entitled 'Dr. Linus', so I'm sure you can figure out who the focal point was.

Let's start in the opening scene of the Flash-Sideways, with Ben teaching his history class about Napoleon. This was an incredibly well-written scene, as every line Ben was explaining about Napoleon, applied to Island Ben as well. "Without any power, he might as well have been dead", he told his class.

How great was it to see William Atherton as Principal Reynolds? If you want Ben Linus to seem sympathetic in any light, you pretty much have to hire the character actor who plays exclusively assholes on film and TV (remember Die Hard?).
John Locke of all people suggests to Ben that he should be the Principal..."It just sounds like you care about this place, and if the man in charge doesn't, then maybe it's time for a change." What a great line.

Back on the Island, we learn why Ilana took the ash from the pit where Jacob burned, to give to Miles so he could reveal what really happened. I'm disappointed I didn't figure that out. And when Miles told Ilana that it was Ben that killed Jacob, and Ben denied it, Miles called back to the earlier line, "He was standing over his dead body with a bloody dagger, so, yeah, I'm sure."

Another fantastic cold opening. This season has seen the best opening scenes of all 6 seasons.

Once the episode started after the first break, I continued my weekly tradition of holding something up to block the list of guest actors so I don't ruin any upcoming surprises. Last week's reveal of Keamy would have been blown for me, and a number of faces this episode would have been spoiled as well...including Jon Gries (Uncle Rico!) as Ben's dad.

Roger Linus was still alive, but frail and using an oxygen tank. He and Ben ate TV dinners as Roger thought back to what may have been if they had stayed in the Dharma Initiative. So there we have the first concrete proof that they actually were on the Island, but chose to leave. Roger opined, "Imagine how different our lives could have been if we'd stayed? Who knows what you would have become?" Chilling words considering we know that Ben killed his own father in that scenario.
Ben opens the door to find...Alex??? Whoa! What the hell? She's part of his history club??? This is all moving way too fast for me to take it all in. A very weird scene...made me wonder what Alex's backstory was. But later we heard her refer to her mom working two jobs, and saw that her last name was Rousseau, so everything pretty much seemed the same, except that she found some styling mousse in the Flash Sideways world.

When Ilana said that Jacob was like a father to him, it made me think that there was a parallel between Jacob/Ilana and Ben/Alex. That came to light later in the episode. (More further down)

Again, Sun is just another useless character who asks questions so that people can explain things to the viewers. She got the whole "candidates" story from Ilana, proving that the 6 people corresponding to the numbers is indeed true, and was know to Ilana via Jacob. And I just don't buy Sun's insistence that every thing needs to stop because "she needs to find her husband". I mean, she just saw the Smoke Monster kill everyone in the Temple, and was spared because she was hiding in a wall...but finding Jin is still priority #1 right now?
Ageless Richard shows up to Jack and Hurley, and the questions start:

Jack: "Where did you come from?"
Richard: "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Jack: "Try me."
(Sean is freaking out thinking we're about to finally get the answer!)
Richard: "Not yet."
Damn you Richard, you're such a tease!

When Alex was telling Ben about Principal Reynold being "a perv", Ben promised that he wouldn't tell, and when Alex asked again, Ben responded that "a promise is a promise." Last season, in The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham, remember this exchange between Locke and Ben

Locke: No, I promised Jin that I wouldn't bring her back.
Ben: Jin is alive?
Locke: Yeah, but he didn't want her to know, he wanted me to tell her that his body washed up on the beach. And, uh, he gave me his wedding ring to prove it.
Ben: Alright. A promise is a promise.

Say what you want about Ben, but he keeps his promises.

Miles: "Why would I need your money when there's a couple of jabronis named Nikki and Paolo who got buried alive over there with eight million dollars worth of diamonds on top of them?" Ah...the return of Nikki and Paolo and the diamonds!
While the reference was funny, the important thing coming out of this scene was Miles revealing to Ben what Jacob was thinking right before Ben killed him. "Right until the second the knife went through his heart, he was hoping he was wrong about you." The first seeds of redemptive awareness for Ben?

Hurley: "Is this like a Terminator thing? Are you a cyborg?"
Richard: "No, I'm not a cyborg."
Hurley: "A vampire?"
Richard: "Jacob gave me a gift."

Finally some answers from Richard, but still not everything. We can assume with all the talk of the Black Rock, Flocke's reference to Richard being in 'those chains", and his pensive examination of the shackles in this episode, as well as his assessment that this was his first time back to the ship, that Richard indeed did arrive on the Black Rock as we suspected. But he explained that Jacob gave him a gift by touching him, and that was why he didn't age...and couldn't die. Does this mean that the others that were touched by Jacob can't die? What about Locke?
I know I've been gushing a lot about this season and how great it has been, but I had a big problem with the scene between Jack and Richard. Jack, you have no levergae once you light the fuse! Tell him you want answers before you light it. It just made no sense to me that Jack would first light the fuse, then start to ask questions, and insist that the dynamite wouldn't blow up. Seemed like a pretty pissy way to prove you're right...and a lame scene that was out of place in an otherwise great episode.

Flocke sure knows how to make an entrance, huh? First last week with Sayid in the woods, and now with Ben as he's digging his own grave. I thought it was a great cross-reference to have Flocke tell Ben he was leaving him in charge of the Island...in essence, becoming The Principal.

Back in the Flash-Sideways world, as Ben was trying to indeed become the principal by blackmailing Reynolds, he was faced with the same choice he had on the Island. Sacrifice Alex...or gain power for himself. What would he choose? I was seriously DYING of anticipation in the commercial break after he was given that choice.

After that scene, we got the confirmation of what I suspected earlier, a comparitive relationship between Ben/Alex and Ilana/Jacob. As Ben tearfully explained his poor decision-making when it came to Alex and Keamy, was it the second stage of Ben's redemptive awareness? I was shocked when Ilana told Ben she would have him. Once again, Ben is faced with a choice, as he was with Alex, and with Jacob. Would he join Ilana...or Flocke? And was this all a test from Jacob through Ilana? I think it may have been.
We learn back at school that Ben didn't follow through in his blackmail plan, Alex got her recommendation to Yale, Arzt got Dr. Linus's parking spot (selfless Ben?), and all seemed right in the world. It will be interesting to see if that's really the case.

The beach reunion was long-coming, but remember that Sun was furious at Jack for leaving Jin behind...and now she's running up and hugging him like he's her long-lost brother? Have the writers forgotten what they built up with her over 5 seasons?

Mind-blowing reveal in the final scene...Widmore has found the Island and is back! Is this the one Jacob referred to when he said someone was coming? Or is this independent of that? Is someone else on the sub with Widmore...maybe Desmond?

Can't wait to find out...

Next week: Sawyer and Kate re-connect. And Sean pukes.

March 9, 2010

Yes, it's almost 10 minutes long, but it gets progressively funnier as it goes on. Trust me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

March 8, 2010

Having worked in retail though high school, university, and after…I’m big on customer service. Yes, I’ve heard the adage that bad customer service results in that person telling 10 people, while good customer service only results in the story being shared 1 out of 10 times. I try to break the norm and share stories of good customer service, as you may have read about previously in this post, or in this one. Today, I have to share a story of something that happened last week.

My girlfriend and I went out for lunch last Sunday to a local restaurant that we both enjoy. I won’t mention the name, but it’s a popular Greek restaurant in the city where we grew up. When we walked in, the place wasn’t that busy, and there were two servers working, a tall young man in his early twenties, and another man, who was probably about 30 years old. We were seated in a nice booth in the upper section of the restaurant, and everything seemed just fine.

That’s where the good times ended.

Our server came by to take our drink order, and as we’re ordering, he wasn’t even looking at us. He was just kind of dazed, looking around as he was talking to us. My girlfriend asked for a Diet Coke, and I ordered a Coke. Right after I said the word “Coke”, me mumbled under his breath, “Ok…cola”, and wandered off. Now, as many of you will already know, I’m big on the difference between Coke and Pepsi, or any other cola for that matter. I tend to not drink Pepsi, if at all possible…but if I’m in a restaurant and I order a Coke, and they don’t serve it, the obvious standard procedure is to ask if Pepsi is ok. Depending on my mood, I may just go with the Pepsi, but quite often I’ll just order something else. Whatever the situation, it’s a courtesy to ask…and to be fair, that’s generally what happens.

But this guy wanders off mumbling “cola” and I know that he’s just too lazy to even ask. I was in a good mood, and I wasn’t going to make a deal out of it, or even ask…but when he dropped our drinks off at the table, my girlfriend asked if it was Coke or Pepsi, and he responded condescendingly, ‘It’s Pepsi…a cola”, as if to say “That’s what you ordered, stupid”, and then just walked away. We were in a good mood, and having a good day so far, so we just kind of laughed it off, even though we were pretty shocked with his demeanor.

Then it came time to order, and I asked him if I could replace the Greek salad that came with my meal to a soup instead. He said, “Yes, but there will be a small surcharge.” I said that it was no problem, and while I was finishing my order, my girlfriend opened her menu to check something and he actually reached over and closed her menu, then snatched it out of her hand. Now I was annoyed.

The food came, and it was great (as always), but no soup came with mine. I didn’t think it was a big deal because we had both underestimated the size of our meals and appetizers, and were filling up pretty quickly. I just figured that the “surcharge” would be left off the bill. We were almost finished our meal, when he brought out the soup. I just laughed and said to my girlfriend that I would ask for it to be packed up with the rest of our meal, since we were going to have significant leftovers. So he comes back and sees our leftover food and appetizer and soup, and points at the food and appetizer and says “Do you want these wrapped up to go?” I said, “We’d like it all wrapped up to go, please”, indicating the soup as well.

“Maybe”, he said dismissively.

“Maybe?”, I asked, and he said “Well, I don’t know if we have a container or not. We’ll see”, and left with the food before I could even respond. I had decided by this point that he wasn’t getting a tip at all, and depending on whether the soup came out in a take-out container or not, it was going to be a lot more verbally aggressive than not just leaving a tip.

When he brought the leftovers out, he brought the soup in a take-out container, and although it was about 1/3 the size of the bowl of soup itself, I wasn’t going to be petty enough to complain about that with all the other things this guy had done. He brought the bill, and when I looked it over, I saw that the “small surcharge” to replace the salad with soup was $3.00. I found that pretty comical since a bowl of soup on it’s own cost $2.95. So essentially, I didn’t “replace” my salad with soup…I just ordered the soup, lost the salad, and still got overcharged.

Now I was furious. So I got up to go and grab a menu to make sure I had remembered the price of the soup correctly. As I was walking over to get the menu, he comes out of the kitchen and cuts me off on the way. “What do you need?”, he asked me. I responded (sickeningly politely) that I just wanted to take a look at the menu. He said he would bring it over.

Then, as a child who had just been caught doing something wrong, he grabbed the menu, started to walk towards our table, then stopped behind a small wall to look inside the menu. I laughed to myself because I know he knew why I was asking, and that he was now caught trying to screw us on the bill. He closes the menu, then walks over to our table…DROPS it in front of me, and walks back to the till where he prints off the bill, and started punching things in. He was obviously printing off a new bill, even though at this point, I hadn’t said anything to him other than asking for the menu.
So I look in the menu, and sure enough the soup is $2.95, and then he storms over to our table and actually slams down the new bill in front of me, and says “Here!” I looked at him, and said “Excuse me?”, and he started mumbling some incoherent babbling “He told me to charge you $3.00…whatever.” I looked at the bill, and see that this classy piece of work has simply reduced the $3.00 to $2.00. I said “After all of this, you’re still going to charge me $2.00 for this fiasco?”, to which he responded “What do you want me to do?!” throwing his arms out, and then walking away.

Well, to make a long story only slightly shorter, I ended up calling the manager and speaking to him later that day. He was not impressed, to say the least, and invited us back to attempt to treat us a little better next time. The food is always good, and this jackass isn’t going to ruin that for us, so we will definitely go back.

But here’s the beautiful irony of this story. Less than a week later, this past Friday, we were in Toronto for the Raptors game, and we went for dinner before the game at the Lone Star Café on Front Street. At the Lone Star Café, the wait staff always has some sort of nickname like Diablo, or Longhorn, or something…and our server was a guy who was called T-Rex. He seemed like a personable guy when he came to take our drink order, but with the sun reflecting off of a building and into my girlfriend’s eyes, she was squinting at the brightness when she ordered. He noted that he was sorry he couldn’t do anything about it since there were no blinds on the windows, but on the upper ledge of the booth behind me, he propped up a menu to block the sun. It looked silly, but it worked.
So, over the course of the meal, T-Rex sat down in our booth, learned our names, asked what we were doing that night, and was generally a very friendly server…and person in general. We asked for some extra chips and salsa while we were waiting, and he brought us some fresh chips and a huge bowl of salsa. We enjoyed our meal, and every time he walked by, he would stop to chat. We talked about the Raptors game that we were going to, and how it was Italian Night at the Air Canada Centre. He mentioned he was Italian, and we showed him that we were bringing an Italian flag to the game, since we were both Italian as well.

So, at the end of the night, we had finished our meal, no leftovers…but there were still some chips and salsa left. Since they drop them off with every meal like a bread bowl at a regular restaurant, you normally don’t take the chips and salsa home. But the chips and salsa are so good there that I have on occasion just purchased a large container of salsa to take home, and you get a small bag of chips with it. When T-Rex was clearing our table, I half-jokingly/half-seriously asked him, “How would you feel about packaging up that salsa for us?”, indicating the large bowl he had brought us earlier, that still had most left in it. He said “I feel just fine about that”, and came back with a large plastic container with even MORE salsa in it, and a plastic bag filled with fresh chips. He put them both in a larger gift bag-sized bag for us, and we were pretty happy.

And then, to top it all off, just before we left, he brought us a couple of shots from the bar that he had made. "This is the best I could do to make an Italian flag", he said. We looked, and he had layered a green liqueur on the bottom, a raspberry liqueur at the top, and a small white ice cube floating in the middle. It was pretty impressive.

Needless, to say, T-Rex got a pretty nice tip, and we’ve already told a number of people about the great service we got there. It’s just an interesting juxtaposition to go from such a ridiculous experience a week earlier, to a meal where you can talk once again about great customer service.

So, that leads me to ask…have you ever had an experience as good or bad as the ones above? Or if you work in a job that involves customer service, and dealing directly with customers…do you have horror stories of your own? Let’s hear from you in the Comments Section.

And next time you’re at the Lone Star Café on Front Street in Toronto, make sure you ask for T-Rex.