Rose Petals: a Newbie and a Veteran Watch The Bachelorette, Week 1

Posted by Kim and Maggie

I’ve been watching The Bachelor franchise since day one. I’ve been there through the times where it genuinely seemed that people were there to try to fall in love and I’ve been there as it’s gotten progressively more and more soapy and blatantly manipulative. BUT YET I STILL WATCH? Why? I have no idea, really. On the other end of the spectrum, we have our fashion blogger, Maggie. Her first season of The Bachelor was Ben’s season, making THIS her first ever season of The Bachelorette. While Maggie is still suspicious of things because it is a reality show, she does bring a slightly less jaded perspective to the proceedings. So when she tweeted me asking if I was watching this season, I immediately decided that we should document our feelings.

So what happens when a Newbie and a Seasoned Veteran team up to watch the latest season of The Bachelorette? Read on to find out!

Maggie: Okay, so, I hated Jojo because she wore that stupid unicorn mask when she got out of the limo and, you know, her name is Jojo, but by the end I really liked her so I was sad for her but also she’s so much better off without Ben, you guys.

Kim: Listen. Ben was boring AF and he and Lauren are ALREADY fighting break-up rumors, so really, who is the winner here?

Maggie: I love how on board these girls are with kissing on the first night.
Kim: Same. Although I DID chuckle a great deal when Jojo asked if they regretted anything and Kaitlin was like YEP. Don’t have sex before the fantasy suites, you guys.
Maggie: Also, I think Jojo looks so much like Isla Fisher, it’s all I think about when I see her face. I really love her gold sparkle gown look.
Kim: She also has the same speaking voice that Isla has when she does an American accent. OH MY GOD IS SHE ACTUALLY ISLA FISHER?
Maggie: BRING ON THE MEN. A firefighter, he likes the idea of saving people, he’s the Liam.
Kim: Every season, the issue of the lack of diversity on The Bachelor franchise comes up. It’s pretty well-known that people of color never get very far (I don’t think one has ever made it to the hometown visits? Someone correct me if I am wrong.) and EVERY SEASON the producers promise to try to do something about it. I look at firefighter Grant and think MAYBE THIS IS THE YEAR A PERSON OF COLOR MAKES THE FINAL FOUR.
Maggie: AARON RODGERS’ LITTLE BROTHER DO YOU THINK HARRY IS WATCHING THIS SEASON?
Kim: Someone call the Dunkirk set and make sure Harry gets a live feed. I’m sure feminist Harry Styles will have an opinion on all this nonsense.
Maggie: I don’t care about this Marine. I’m sorry, America.
Maggie: This superfan is such a derp.
Kim: My first reaction to him was that he wants to be the Bachelor and since they only go through the rejects now rather than the early days when they would do an outside search. I kind of miss those days. REMEMBER HOW THEY WOULD SET UP THEME SEASONS? Prince Lorenzo, Charlie O’Connell, Jesse Palmer.  Look, I get why they do this now, because the fans who believe this show is real get invested in “love stories” but I also am like a good number of these guys don’t give a fuck about the bachelorette, they just want to get far enough to be the bachelor so they can bang all the women. HEY I WARNED YOU I WAS BITTER.
Maggie: “A former pastor who works in erectile dysfunction.”
Kim: Also he has horrible hair? Like it looks like sex criminal hair?
Maggie: SEX CRIMINAL HAIR OMG.
Maggie: I forgot to pay attention to the guy playing the piano. I like the biracial guy but he’s too pure for reality TV.
Kim: There’s always a few guys every season that I am like WHY are you doing this, you are too good for this show. Usually they seem to be pretty confused as to what the hell they are doing on The Bachelorette too.
Maggie: I’m so sick of small towns, you guys. SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR VALUES, NO ONE CARES.
Kim: BUT MAGGIE HE IS POSING PENSIVELY IN FRONT OF A FARMHOUSE.
Maggie: Jordan and Jojo is too cutesy, they can’t end up together, but he seems great so far.
Kim: First guy out of the limo. They are always very strategic with that FIRST GUY. He’s gonna make final four, mark my words.
Maggie: I can’t tell about this guy complimenting her sense of self.
Kim: Was this the guy who went straight for like holding both of her hands and flailing them around and interweaving their fingers? Like, okay, so many of these guys got touchy REAL FAST and I’m like you should wait for the signal that it’s okay to touch.
Maggie: Is this Derek? Do we know? So many white guys with brown hair and I say that as a white person with brown hair, okay.

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“Even the frozen North.” – Penny Dreadful Recap – A Blade of Grass

vanessa mirror

Penny Dreadful Season 3, Episode 4
“A Blade of Grass”
Posted by Sage

Say you’re the showrunner of a period pseudo-literary horror drama in its third season on a premium network and you play your “blood sacrifice orgy” card in episode THREE. Where do you go from there?

In “A Blade of Grass,” Penny Dreadful follows up three plot-heavy episodes with an hour-long character study of Vanessa Ives and the man who becomes Caliban after his death. John Logan did something similar at the same point last season, setting an entire episode in a flashback to Vanessa’s friendship with Joan Clayton, the Cut-Wife. “A Blade of Grass” is a one-act, off-Broadway play with its television hat on, and I was breathless for about 80% of it. Obviously, this is the episode that both Eva Green and Rory Kinnear should submit for awards consideration. If only the Emmys recognized genre shows not produced by Ryan Murphy.

Last week’s episode ended with Dr. Seward acquiescing to Vanessa’s demand to be hypnotized. The Lead Familiar told Vanessa in the Hall of Mirrors that she’d met his master before – in fact, they’d been “bosom companions.” It happened in the white room where time stopped. Dr. Seward warned Vanessa of the danger of messing with the brain’s built-in defense mechanisms and digging up memories that must have been shoved down for good reason. But Vanessa is no stranger to pain; she’d rather be informed than protected. Know thy enemy, and all that.

Besides a bumper at the end, the entire episode takes place in the white room. Some of it is scored, but some of it isn’t. In the moments after the orderly leaves, for example, Penny Dreadful lets the silence suffocate Vanessa for a while. As 21st century viewers, we’re not used to spending an entire hour in one location when we watch TV. That feeling of light claustrophobia makes Vanessa’s announcement that she spent five full months in that terrible place as disquieting as a conversation with the devil. Did you feel uncomfortable during this episode? Good. That was the point.

I took 1700 words of notes for this recap. And that’s a lot, considering that only a fraction of the episode was plot. The real story is seeing Vanessa at her lowest point and experiencing the kindness that she finds there. When her consciousness buried Vanessa’s traumatic conversation with two fallen angels, it also buried that sliver of hope in the form of a human who is anguished to watch another human suffer. It’s just as important that Vanessa recovered THAT memory. Dracula’s name is useless if she thinks herself unworthy of saving.

Okay, back to what actually happened in Vanessa’s cell in Dr. Banning’s clinic. (Who is this asshole, and will we ever see him?) The orderly has no authority. He brings Vanessa her meals and her bedpan and cleans when necessary. But he’s troubled by her refusal to eat and engages, in spite of what regulations might have to say about that. “You have to eat, miss,” he says, knowing what happens if she doesn’t. “Please eat.” Vanessa wants to die. She’s been abandoned by her god and her family for betraying her friend. But no patient does anything on their own terms in that place, even die. (“They’ll be consequences.”) Finally, she’s force fed, and it’s the orderly who has to do it. And that’s when he decides that something must be done.

Untrained and uneducated, the orderly gives Vanessa the only valuable treatment she receives in that facility. The next time he brings her her meal, he places it on a chair three feet from her. Vanessa is sedentary and perturbed; she demands that he put it on the bed. “I’ll collapse,” she threatens. “No, you won’t,” he answers. Vanessa deflects: “You think I’m a spoiled bitch.” The orderly demures. Maybe he does, but at least she’s displaying some fight finally. After “hydrotherapy” the next day, she sits in the middle of the cell, shivering. The orderly drapes her in a contraband blanket. Later, he comes to retrieve it to keep both of them from getting into trouble. Before he can make it to the heavy door, Vanessa leaps onto his back and scratches at his face. He gets the upper hand quickly – she’s emaciated and weak – and very nearly punches her. Disturbed by his own actions, he leaves without another word.

"I'm surprised they have wooden spoons here."

“I’m surprised they have wooden spoons here.”

Vanessa is in a straight jacket the next morning – it’s the first and last clean garment she wears in the episode. The orderly has to feed her by hand. The intimacy of the act prompts Vanessa to explain herself. “I’m not ill!” Vanessa says. “Then what are you?” he’d like to know.

Orderly: It’s not torture what they’re doing. It’s science. It’s meant to make you better.
Vanessa: It’s meant to make me normal. Like all the other women you know. Compliant, obedient. A cog in an intricate social machine, and no more.
Orderly: I couldn’t say, Miss.
Vanessa: Couldn’t you?
Orderly: Not all the women I know are cogs.
Vanessa: Then they’re freaks.
Orderly: My wife’s not a freak and she’s not a cog. You should think better of your sex.

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here. Vanessa isn’t wrong; women in her day were institutionalized for post-partum depression, stress, infidelity, and even for enjoying sex too much. Check out this nugget from a Daily Mail piece on the diagnosis and treatment of “mental illness” in Victorian times:

Women’s sexuality was a prime focus of male Victorian physicians. Erotomania (hypersexuality) was considered a constant danger in female patients and could accompany hysteria. Physician Thomas Laycock noted that ‘the cold bath, the shower bath, the douche and cold applications to the regions of the uterus have all been employed with advantage’.

Vanessa thinks she’s been locked up because society can’t handle her acquaintance with the devil. But it’s more likely that she’s been imprisoned in a windowless room to shit into a pot and be waterboarded every other day because she slept with another girl’s boyfriend and liked it. The orderly’s comments are well-meant, but his wife doesn’t bear the same type of scrutiny that Vanessa – a wealthy young woman active in a high-profile social circle – does. Still, the orderly has seen insanity and he knows Vanessa is capable of at least appearing better. And she must, he says. Soon. The treatments will become more stringent and frequent if she doesn’t exhibit improvement to Dr. Banning’s specifications. What’s the point of playing the part of the kind of woman Dr. Banning likes when Vanessa is already promised to the devil? The orderly feeds her with a wooden spoon that he brought from home; his son didn’t like the feeling of a metal one. Vanessa asks his son’s name, seeking connection. The orderly can’t tell her, but he does admit to believing her story about Lucifer. His eyes turn black. “After all, I was there. Oh, my dear. We have so much to catch up on, do we not?”

Well, fuck. Dr. Seward materializes in the room to hold Vanessa’s hand through the tough part of this journey. Vanessa is manifesting the demon through the orderly, Dr. Seward says. Or, Lucifer is using Vanessa’s only point of human contact to get his messages to her. Dr. Seward says that she’s been trying to pull Vanessa back to the present, but Vanessa has entered a fugue state. Her brain will not let her leave this place until she retrieves the memories she came for. She has to finish this, but she’s not walking alone. Seward asks Vanessa what Joan Clayton would have said to her if she were there. (Reincarnation or not, Vanessa will draw strength from that.) She repeats that mantra and strokes Vanessa’s hair. “I’m not leaving you for anything in this world.”

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Then Seward is back to her plane, and the orderly is back to himself. The treatments have gotten worse, just as he promised. Vanessa has a ball gag held in her mouth by a metal device. When he delicately removes it, he has to shut her jaw for her by hand. It’s devastating. Lucifer may still be lurking, but human kindness is at work in that room too. The orderly opens a bag that he brought in with him; more “fuck yous” to the regulations. He chooses a hairbrush first, and gently brushes it through Vanessa’s hair. “I’m not good at this,” he apologizes. Vanessa can’t even speak. In fact, she doesn’t speak throughout this entire scene. Hair finished, the orderly reaches into the bag and pulls out his wife’s make-up. “She told me what to do,” he says. “I tell her about you. That’s against regulations too. She said to use a light hand and spare the heavy for the lips.” Vanessa sits obediently while he applies powder and rouge that will have to be wiped off minutes later. “Jobs are scarce, I’ve to feed the family, you understand,” he says. “And I wouldn’t leave you in any case. Not until you’re better. And maybe we’ll walk out of here together. Wouldn’t that be a day?”

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He holds up a mirror to Vanssa’s face. It’s probably the first time she’s seen herself in months. Her parents have abandoned her, and her god too, per Vanessa. Everything she knows of life is gone. She’s not only lost her possessions but also her routines, her friendships, her quirks. The orderly doesn’t put make-up on Vanessa to make her feel beautiful. He does it so that she’ll look more like herself when he reminds her that she is STILL THERE. Everything else is gone, but she remains. Eva Green is a master of the passive cry. Not many actresses can do what she does here when Vanessa sees what the orderly has done for her – she weeps like you when you’ve been crying so long you hardly notice anymore.

The orderly reads to her then, from the only book his family owns. It’s a poem for children by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s about a child making sense of his shadow; something that is him and is not, at the same time. It follows him everywhere but he struggles to control it. The orderly must know something of Vanessa’s background. She is educated and her family is respected. He mops floors and cleans shit and has probably never read to anyone but his own son. Vanessa’s situation is the ultimate leveler. In another life, she wouldn’t have noticed him passing on the street. Here, he’s her sole link to humanity. He wipes off the makeup when it’s time and musses her hair so the “day people” won’t suspect that someone’s been treating the patient like a person. “I’m sorry,” he says. “One day soon, no one will touch you when you don’t want to be touched.” Shit. Does John Logan get it, or what? The orderly doesn’t feel proud of himself for what he’s done for Vanessa. He’s ashamed of being complicit in his small way. And he’s angry that the only hands she can use are his own unpracticed ones, even though her own are perfectly good. That’s empathy that goes beyond shared sadness. The orderly sees what’s truly wrong about the way this works.

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“My sins are all I have left.” – Outlander Recap – Faith

Outlander Season 2, Episode 7
“Faith”
Posted by Kim

After we both watched “Faith,” Sage and I had brunch and she commented that the episode felt like it was three different episodes all combined into one exceptional gut-punch to the feels. She’s right. “Faith” was a devastating portrait of bone-deep grief. “Faith” was a taut political thriller that had my knuckles going white. “Faith” was a testament to the overwhelming power of love and forgiveness. All of those elements added up to one exceptional hour of television. While the episode was populated by appearances from all the characters we’ve come to love (and hate) over the course of the season, the entire thing rested on Caitriona Balfe’s shoulders. And boy…did she deliver one hell of a performance. PAY ATTENTION AWARDS VOTERS. (Also, Cait, if you DO get that Emmy nod, you know this is your submission episode, right? Right.)

Considering the dramatic end to “Best Laid Schemes,” the opening of “Faith” was the equivalent of having ice water thrown in your face. We have not seen Modern!Claire since the premiere and it’s a sobering reminder that she does indeed honor her promise to Jamie and goes back through the stones. The year is 1954 and Claire is in Boston, looking elegant and polished (that manicure!). By her side is her six-year-old daughter, Brianna (thanks internet), who looks every inch Jamie’s daughter, with her GLORIOUS ginger curls. I wonder how Frank feels about that? It can’t be easy for him to look that hair and see such a stark reminder that he did not father this child. How ARE Frank and Claire? Are they happy? Have they fallen in love again? Or are they living together politely like roommates? Are they funneling all of their love into this little girl instead of each other? My heart hurts.

Claire and Brianna are looking at a picture book when the little girl points out a picture of a “pretty bird”. (FYI, herons symbolize “that it is time to assert our own authority and to follow our own unique path in life. We need to listen to the inner calling of our hearts and not the ideas of others. There may also be a great opportunity coming our way and to grab it quickly when it comes.” How fitting.) When Claire tells her that the pretty bird is called a heron, Brianna asks her mother if she’s ever seen one in real life. After a moment, Claire replies that she has…in Scotland. (How often does she allow herself to think about Scotland? Her hesitance and the way she struggles to compose herself afterwards says not often. UGH.) “When were you in Scotland, mama?” Claire smiles sadly. “A long time ago.”

Well, that’s one way of putting it.

“There are moments that the words don’t reach. There is suffering too terrible to name. You hold your child as tight as you can and push away the unimaginable. The moments when you’re in so deep, it feels easier to just swim down…”

As Claire’s pregnancy progressed over the course of the season and her belly grew more and more prominent, I don’t know WHY I didn’t come to the conclusion that it would end in tragedy. I SAW that she wasn’t showing when she made it back to the 40’s. For some reason, it just didn’t click. Stupid me. One of the things I love most about Outlander is that it loves to play with perspective. We always see things through Claire’s eyes. We saw that last week with Claire observing Jamie and Murtagh and this week we are brought into Claire’s delirium as she delivers her child. Claire is not fully aware of her situation (not to mention the fact that she’s being restrained), so we just get glimpses of the bloody scene going on around her. We see snippets of Monsieur Forez working furiously. We see the panic on the young nun’s face as she assists and prays. We hear Claire calling out for Jamie and her baby. We hear Mother Hildegard soothe her, telling her to be quiet and that she’s HERE. It’s all incredibly unsettling. Claire gives into the pain, drifting into unconsciousness as she sees a vision of a heron.

 

 

When Claire comes to, she asks for her baby. Over and over again. The nurses hover, not wanting to tell her the news. Finally, Mother Hildegard tells her and the abject tenderness and sorrow in her face is devastating. Her daughter was stillborn. Claire continues to cry for her child, pleading that they bring her the baby, refusing to believe what she knows to be true. A nurse tries to comfort her, gesturing to the statue of the Virgin Mary meant to bring her comfort. There is no comfort for Claire in this. She screams and screams for her baby, fighting the nuns as she goes. She knocks the statue to the ground and it shatters. FITTING.

Claire slips into a fever and Hildegard (and Bouton) never leave her side. She tells Claire that she baptized the child, naming her Faith. (The name, while beautiful, almost feels like a slap in the face, no?) She did this despite the fact that baptisms are only supposed to be done on the living. “I wanted her to be buried in hallowed ground,” Hildegard says kindly. “This is between you, me, and God.” As Claire’s condition worsens, a priest is brought in to prepare for her last rites. Claire desperately asks for Jamie but there’s been no word. She is utterly and completely alone. You actually SEE Claire start to give up. Death would surely be more peaceful than this pain.

Under the cover of night, Raymond comes to Claire’s bedside. He moves with urgency, knowing that he must not be discovered because the King is on the warpath. (Bouton, bless this magical dog, seems to KNOW Raymond is there to help and LETS HIM.) He asks Claire what she sees. “Wings. Blue wings.” The color of healing, Raymond acknowledges. “The wings will carry your pain away, if you let them.” He holds his hands over her body and he urges Claire to call out to Jamie. Through whatever witchcraft or wizardry he practices, Raymond heals her. “Be well, Madonna,” he says as he prepares to leave. Claire counters that he should not call her Madonna…she no longer has a child. “I didn’t call you Madonna because you were with child, my dear. Everyone has a color about them, all around them like a cloud. Yours is blue. Like the Virgin’s cloak. Like my own.” For what it’s worth, blue auras are “intuitive, visionary, reveal psychic power, magical,  and artistic”. (I am learning SO MUCH in this recap.) That suits Claire to a tee, no? As she comes out of her fever, she realizes just how big of a risk Raymond has taken by coming here. When she admonishes that he should not have come, he repeats their refrain. “These are things you do for your friends.” He assures Claire that they will see each other again and then steals away, no one the wiser as to how Claire was miraculously healed. Well, except for Bouton of course.

Now that Claire is out of the woods health-wise, she turns her attentions towards her situation with Jamie. He is in the Bastille, imprisoned at the pleasure of the King, for dueling with Randall. Hildegard comments that he is lucky Randall lived, because he would be even more screwed if he had died. THAT’S RIGHT. Not even a sword to the dick can kill Blackjack Randall. Claire takes a mild comfort in the knowledge that Frank’s future is secured. (HOW? Does Blackjack’s dick still have the capacity to function. Did he merely lose one of his balls? Inquiring minds need to know.) Then, her feelings turn to anger. Jamie broke his promise to her. “He BETRAYED me, Mother. Revenge mattered more to him than me or his child.” It’s pretty easy to understand why Claire chooses to direct all her anger at the world to Jamie. It prevents her from dealing with her loss (THEIR loss) if she has someone to blame.”God says we must revel in mercy,” Hildegard warns. “Tread sins underfoot and hurl iniquities into the sea.” “I’m not sure there’s a sea deep enough,” Claire says bitterly.

 

 

Claire stays in the hospital for weeks, long past the time needed for her body to heal. It’s her soul that’s broken. She is deeply depressed and she completely withdraws from the world. She’s lost her baby. She’s been abandoned by her husband. Every effort they have made to stop the rebellion has been thwarted. What does she have to live for? Finally, Fergus shows up at the hospital (bearing flowers) to remind her that she DOES have a reason to get out of bed. She has him. He takes her home and his hand never leaves hers. The servants greet the carriage, their heartbreak for Claire evident on their faces. Caitriona Balfe is so amazing in this scene because while she doesn’t speak, you see that EVERY STEP she takes is literally taking everything she has. It’s like she is reminding herself to put one foot in front of the other, telling herself that her bed is waiting for her at the end of this journey. Suzette sobs and kisses Claire’s hand. The two women share a moment of connection but Claire’s face says “I see your sorrow but I literally don’t have anything to give to you right now.” Finally, she reaches Magnus. Magnus, who made sure she got to the hospital. Magnus, who saved her life. “Welcome home, Milady,” he says, bowing, his eyes brimming with tears. “Thank you, Magnus,” Claire says, BOWING BACK. She may be depressed as all get out, but she is still grateful to alive. Her “thank you” encompasses all of those emotions. (Did anyone else get flashes of Aragorn saying “My friends! You bow to no one” to the Hobbits at the end of Return of the King? That’s where my mind immediately went.)

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“So, this is life again.” – Penny Dreadful Recap – Good & Evil Braided Be

vanessa ives

Penny Dreadful Season 3, Episode 3
“Good & Evil Braided Be”
Posted by Sage

There are two competing recruiting efforts taking shape in Penny Dreadful’s London. Victor should like to form a “choir of angels,” devoid of greed and cruelty. Dorian and Lily are taking applications for their army of fallen women to bring the men of that city to their knees. The overlap in that Venn diagram is Lily herself. She’s Victor’s entire motivation for taking Henry’s work to the next level, but also the brains and gall behind the war against London’s epidemic of toxic masculinity. Does Victor have one solitary clue what kind of hell is going to rain down on him if he tries to get in his beloved’s way? Unless he had a nanny cam streaming that blood threesome, I’mma say “hell no.”

blood threesome 2 blood threesome
THE BLOOD THREESOME. I’m sorry, I cannot go any further in this recap until it has been thoroughly covered. Covered like Dorian, Justine, and Lily were in Justine’s former slavemaster’s blood when they consummated their covenant of FUCKING SHIT UP. Sex and power are inextricably linked in Penny Dreadful, and this scene was no exception. But allow me to back up for a moment.

Early in the episode, Justine and Lily are dressed as ladies ought to be and having tea at an outside cafe. A man leers at them from another table, ignorant of the fact that they are casually discussing the destruction of his entire sex. Lily expresses something like pity for men. They are “slaves to their own desire,” and society perpetuates their disproportional focus on their own physical needs. But neither of these ladies is shedding a tear for them, considering that they’ve both been the second-tier victims of this obsession. At birth, they submitted to the terms of a contract that they were not allowed to look over before they signed. As women, they are objects of sexual thought and action, at all times (like during a civilized afternoon tea) and with no consent necessary. “I’ve never met a man who didn’t want to beat me or fuck me,” Justine sneers. Two actions that are born of the same impulse: to control, to dominate, to humiliate. Well, the tables are about to turn, Lily says, and the men of this town had better watch out. (Other than Ethan, if he returns, since Lily confirms her memory of his humane and loving treatment of Brona. Baby.)

As they talk, a suffragette demonstration is carried out in front of them. The band of women are roughly brought to their knees and arrested. Justine suggests that those crusaders might be their soul sisters. No, Lily says. She has little sympathy for political rabblerousers, partially because of their loud and ineffective methods. (“How do you accomplish anything in this life? By craft, by stealth, by poison, by the throat quietly slit in the dead of the night, by the careful and silent humiliation of power.”) But also because their goals are not the same. If not equality, Justine asks, then what’s the prize? “Mastery,” Lily smirks. Where do I send this check?

justine justine 2
Lily and Dorian gift Justine with the opportunity for revenge, but they only feign to acknowledge her free will. The man who bought and used her as a child, rented her out to strangers, and then offered her life as some after-dinner entertainment to anyone with ten pounds is tied naked to a chair in front of her. Dorian puts a dagger in Justine’s hand, then he and Lily offer up feeble reasons why she might not want to slit the man’s throat. What does Justine care for the approval of god and society? What have god and society ever done for her? Her participation is orchestrated by her new sponsors but in a way that makes Justine FEEL like she is in control for the first time in her life.

The murder was the hazing ritual; the bloody orgy is Justine’s induction into this secret society. She belongs to Dorian and Lily as much as she’s belonged to anyone else, but they don’t treat her like a slave. Why would they? What’s the point in breaking the spirit of someone who doesn’t want to leave? Instead, they communicate through a language that Justine knows well: sex. I’d bet everything I own that Dorian and Lily are the first partners who ever catered to Justine’s pleasure; after a life of abuse and debasement, no wonder she’d walk into hell for them. And when she does, they tell her, she won’t be alone. Justine will be their emissary to the “whores” of London – all those the victims with a lifetime of rage and an unhealthy addiction to people-pleasing. The ideal cadets.

bury ugly things bury ugly
Victor and Henry are working with a different subset of the powerless. At Henry’s Steampunk Hogwarts Fleet Street lab, Victor interviews the deranged Bedlam patient turned lucid by Henry’s chemical cocktail. Mr. Balfour can’t remember much from state to state, he reports sadly. (“Like a ghost walked through the room.”) “Sit back, old man,” Henry warns Victor. Half a minute later, Mr. Balfour is back his to old self, gnashing his teeth and pulling at his restraints. Henry grows frustrated that despite his unyielding belief in the inherent duality of the soul, all men in their right minds have to pick a side, eventually. (“In the end, we must be that thing the world demands of us.”) But what if the feeling of incompleteness and of denying your true nature were taken away? Victor brags that he can make Henry’s incredible transformations permanent with the power of his old pal, electricity. The success of this work could alter the human concept of morality, make religion obsolete, and end crime, mental illness, and all types of war, but in Victor’s eyes, it’s allllll about getting Lily back to the way he likes her. Lest Henry think for half a second that Victor is undertaking this project to be a good friend. “One in particular.” WE GOT IT, VICTOR. We got it. Victor is that friend in high school who’d always make you take the long way home – the one that went past his ex’s house.

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Ethan Chandler and Sir Malcolm are both traveling with companions neither of them would describe as friends. It’s an awkward morning after for Ethan and Hecate since they spent their evening slaying all the staff and patrons of the Cascabel trading post. Hecate is smiling like the cat that’s got the canary, since she got to see her preferred version of Ethan in action the night before. Ethan doesn’t really know what to do with a werewolf groupie, so he tries to leave her behind. “Has my loyalty not be amply demonstrated?” Hecate asks. “I would follow you to hell. I’d lead the way.”

Begrudgingly, Ethan realizes he has a better chance of surviving the desert trek to his father’s in the company of a devil-servant willing to kill anyone or anything who so much as looks at him sideways, even if she reminds him keenly and constantly of the worst part of himself. Hecate dares to say that she’s better equipped for the job than the “the melancholy Miss Ives” and Ethan is NOT having that. He rounds on her. “Don’t you speak her name.” The consequences might have been worse if the Marshall’s men hadn’t begun shooting at them at that exact moment.

Kaetenay knows that Ethan is with Hecate (“a woman and a demon” – true enough) and considers their alliance a ticking time bomb. If he and sir Malcolm can’t reach him fast enough, Ethan will be lost forever and Hecate will have her new master. They reach the ranch Ethan and Hecate stole their horses from and find two corpses bearing what is obviously Hecate’s handiwork. Ethan hasn’t given himself over to his darkest nature yet (what would Dr. Jekyll give to get his hands on this guy?), but killing his father might be the push that he needs. What will Kaetenay and Malcolm do when they catch up with him? Again, I don’t think that Malcolm knows everything that his companion is capable of, especially considering the cold fear Ethan experienced when he saw him in his dream state.

vanessa sweet vanessa sweet 2
Two sides of Vanessa’s personality reach an impasse this week. Things are progressing with Dr. Sweet, who’s given himself the most desirable characteristic of all single men over 40 with eHarmony profiles: a dead wife. He’s continuing to appeal to Vanessa’s sophistication and tendency towards nurturing. He misses his wife (aw); Vanessa reminds him of his poor dead wife’s wishes for her widower (double aw); and they can begin tentative re-entry into the land of the living as a pair. (They’re a Victorian eHarmony commercial, basically.) They visit a carnival together and Dr. Sweet has the wherewithal to avoid any activity that might expose his supernatural leanings. Instead, the would-be lovers head into a hall of mirrors and laugh at the surfaces that distort their perfectly benign images into monstrous ones. In a moment, Vanessa is left alone. Alone until the older of the two vampires who have been lately stalking her shows up – the Lead Familiar.

vanessa mirror vanessa mirror 2
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“Bad things tend to happen when we’re apart.” – Outlander Recap – Best Laid Schemes

Outlander Season 2, Episode 6
“Best Laid Schemes”
Posted by Kim

Well that happened.

I mean a LOT of stuff happened on this week’s episode of Outlander. Jamie finally told Murtagh the truth about Claire. The Frasers did a LOT of sexy spy stuff, sabotaging St. Germain and The Prince’s wine shipment. Claire went into premature labor. BUT OH YES…JAMIE DUELED BLACKJACK RANDALL AND STABBED HIM IN THE DICK. (It was a bad week for dicks on television between this and Adam shooting Doug in the dick on The Family. But both characters were sexual predators and very much deserved it. I am HERE for victims taking their own brand of justice against their attackers.) What does this mean for the continued existence of Frank Randall in the future? Also I am SUPER confused because Claire is pregnant in the future and not even showing…so is she pregnant with a second baby? This is probably where having read the books would come in handy. ANYWAY. I’ve gotten way ahead of myself, so let us go back to the beginning shall we?

Murtagh is still gung-ho for Jamie to duel Randall. He tells Jamie that Randall has been released from the Bastille and moves forward with the plans, saying he’ll talk to Randall’s second and set up the terms. Jamie reluctantly puts the brakes on everything, telling Murtagh that he’s already sent word that he’s withdrawing his challenge. “I ken I’m a simple man,” Murtagh says. “But strive for an explanation.” Jamie merely says he has a good reason for canceling because “My wife ordered me not to duel my arch-nemesis because I’d be killing her husband in the future” is a bit heavy for breakfast conversation.

Meanwhile at the hospital, Claire has a very pointed conversation with the King’s executioner, a fellow volunteer. He is off to do his day job, i.e. execute some people. Who are these criminals? Practitioners of the dark arts. He takes great pleasure in describing how the King wants them to be drawn and quartered (GULP) and then looks at her and says that perhaps she would find better company in Master Raymond (DOUBLE GULP). Look, I’m not saying that all of these rumors about Claire being a witch could be coming to a head but that’s exactly what I’m saying. This can’t be a coincidence. Later that day, Claire goes to Raymond and tells him to get the heck out of dodge. She doesn’t think Louis is joking around this time. “If it is as you say,” Raymond says. “Then you shouldn’t have come here. You’ve put yourself at grave risk. But I’m touched by your concern for my welfare.” Claire brushes off his gratitude because this is what friends are for. Raymond promises to flee but not before saying they will meet again, “in this life or another,” which just adds fuel to my “Raymond is not of this time” feeling.

In my recap last week, I expressed my concern that Claire’s request for Jamie to spare Randall’s life for the time being had irrevocably broken something between them. For now, it seems my concerns were for naught as we see Jamie giving Claire a foot massage that night as they sit by the fire. (GOD HOW IS HE SO PERFECT? IT’S JUST RUDE.) Not that Jamie has forgotten about their confrontation, mind you, it just seems that some of his initial anger has abated. “I’ve been thinking that…remember you said I owed you a life, because you saved mine? Well, I’ve saved yours as well, at least as often. Seems to me we’re even. I dinna give you Randall’s life in payment of a debt. I owe Frank nothin’. You had a free choice between us and you chose me. The fact you did shouldna entitle him to any particular consideration.” Jamie’s reasoning is correct. Claire chose HIM the moment she turned down the chance to go back through the stones. Claire made her choice and now she’s wanting to have her cake and eat it too. Jamie and Randall, to quote Streetcar Named Desire, have had this date from the beginning. Be it from the rape or be it from the flogging that marred his back, they’ve always been destined to meet on the dueling grounds. “What Randall did to me was worse than death. What lies between him and me can only be settled when one of us is dead.”

 

 

So why did he agree to Claire’s request? The Prince. Jamie is a smart man. He knows that despite all of their efforts to thwart him, Charles has managed to come up with a new way to fund his rebellion every time. They are fighting a losing battle and Jamie knows it. He agreed to Claire’s request because he knows, that if it comes down to it, he would rather Claire go back through the stones and have a man who loves her and will take care of her waiting on the other side. “Now it’s my turn to ask you for a promise. Promise be that if the time should come that you will go back through the stones. Back to Frank.” Welp. That’s how we get to the first scene of the season. I KNEW he had Jack Dawson-ed her.

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“Follow this, bitches.” – In Appreciation of Cher, on her 70th Birthday

Posted by Sarah

It’s not like I asked for this; it just kind of fell into my lap and, eighteen years later, it still refuses to go away. It was 1998, and I was an impressionable eight-year-old, content to follow whatever music was popular on the one good radio station in my hometown. It had served me well so far, so why mess with a good thing? Then one day, as I settled into the normal routine, this happened:

And I was never the same.

My lovely friend (and HOF contributor) Maggie once told me that everyone has a diva, that one celebrity you love openly and unconditionally with your whole heart. And Cher is, without a doubt, my queen diva. The second I heard “Believe,” I was absorbed in the music, and it wasn’t long before I dove head first into everything she had done in her career and never looked back. Personally, I have a lot to love about her. She served as a pretty badass role model in my formative years. Her music gave me a safe haven to feel whatever emotions I had at any given time. And thanks to “Dov’è L’Amore,” she taught me the only Italian I will probably ever know in my life. But this doesn’t even begin to cover all the things that make her a force to be reckoned with.

In honor of Cher’s 70th birthday, I thought I’d highlight some of the things that make her my diva. I feel like I’m only scratching the surface here, because this is a woman who has reigned supreme for over fifty years, and there is so much to celebrate. But if you were to stop and ask me why I love her so much, these are some of the answers I would have at the ready. Her body of work has given me so much joy over the years, and I know I’m only one in the sea of people who feel the same way. This is an icon. This is a legend.

This is Cher.

She changed popular music in four minutes.

It’s no secret that “Believe” is Cher’s biggest hit to date; it was literally everywhere when it was first released. And one of the reasons it exploded was because people couldn’t figure out that thing she was doing with her voice; you know what thing I’m talking about. At this point, we all know what Auto-Tune is, but back in 1998, everyone lost their damn mind because no one did that before, and it quickly became known as “The Cher Effect.” Now, Auto-Tune has been done to death because we know it’s there and therefore we will use it for everything, but for a glorious period in the late-‘90s, “Believe” completely challenged the boundaries of what the public thought was possible in popular music.

There are about 847 versions of her, and all of them are amazing.

Cher is a goddamn chameleon. She’s switched up her musical style countless times over the years to adapt to the changing tides in popular music; if you go through her catalog chronologically, it sounds so effortless. And there’s a Cher for every mood! Want something more on the electronic side? There’s a Cher for that. Feeling nostalgic for disco? There’s a Cher for that. Maybe you’re craving that ‘70s classic rock sound. Yep, you guessed it…there’s a Cher for that. Sensitive singer/songwriter? What have I been telling you?

My personal favorite, though, would have to be ‘80s Rocker Cher. It’s not only because of the music, although the music is a big part of it; I mean, come on…”I Found Someone“? “We All Sleep Alone“? The revamped “Bang Bang?” “If I Could Turn Back Time?” Yes to all of it. But I love the music videos that came out of this decade, because she did some amazing things in them. My favorite is the “I Found Someone” video, where she slipped into some chain mail to go to the club and make her boyfriend jealous via a guy who looked exactly like him, and then sang on some train tracks for a second because why not.

The video for “We All Sleep Alone,” which has a solid place in my top five favorite songs of all time, is basically a make out session in what I can only assume is an abandoned construction site? Unless you prefer the alternate version, in which case, I have questions: who are all these people, why are so many things on fire, and WHAT IS ALL THIS DANCING? Seriously, I didn’t know until very recently that there were two versions of this video, and I’m completely mesmerized by it; I need the official story ASAP. And then there’s the infamous video for “If I Could Turn Back Time” where she wore an outfit controversial enough to make it relegated strictly to late night viewing on MTV (it’s called a butt, you guys…everybody has one), then spawned a legion of fans showing up to concerts in sailor hats and a ban on filming anything on any naval ship ever again.

Bad. Ass. Woman.

“I am a fucking Oscar winner.”

 

In the past, I’ve written about Moonstruck and Mermaids, and I don’t want to repeat myself. But of course I have to talk about her acting skills. Because not only does she have skills, she has Academy Award-winning skills. People were reluctant to see her as a legitimate actress at first. In her autobiography, The First Time, Cher recalls a story of being in a movie theater as the trailer for Silkwood was shown. The audience reacted positively to seeing Meryl Streep and Kurt Russell’s names projected on the screen. But once her name was shown, the audience started laughing (she had some of the most poignant scenes in that movie; who were these assholes?).

Needless to say, she showed them.

(Can we appreciate how Meryl Streep is so genuinely excited for Cher that she jumped out of her seat and cheered, even though she was up for the same damn award? Bless your light, Meryl.)

In addition to the Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win for Silkwood, Cher racked up Golden Globe nominations for Come back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and Mask, culminating in Globe and Oscar wins for Moonstruck in 1988. There’s a definite stigma when it comes to famous performers in one medium crossing over to another. It happens a lot and it fails a lot, but it’s a shame that when it fails, it completely detracts from the successes. And I think it’s fair to say that Cher is a resounding success. Can we just look at her range for a second? She proved she could do comedy with Moonstruck, Mermaids, and The Witches of Eastwick (I could watch the “You have no taste, a lousy sense of humor, and you smell” speech all day). Silkwood, Mask, and Tea with Mussolini round out a pretty phenomenal dramatic turn. She seamlessly straddled the line between comedy and drama in Come back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. She crushed the whole suspense thing with Suspect. She even took a turn in the director’s chair, with the third segment of 1996’s If These Walls Could Talk. You know…in addition to having a small role in it. And did I hear you say you wanted a movie musical? I thought so. Welcome to Burlesque, bitches:

And while it’s not part of her cinematic career, her variety show days should not go unrecognized. In both the show she did with Sonny and her solo show, her comedic timing is so on point, and she serves up so many laughs. Not to mention she created one of the most hysterical recurring characters ever with the gum chewing, clashingly clad, raspy-voiced Laverne. Is there anything she can’t do?

She might actually be a higher power?

 

Leave it to Will & Grace to expose everything.

Cher had two spectacular guest appearances on this show; I will never be over Jack McFarland mistaking her for a drag queen and trying to out-Cher her. But it’s the second appearance that decided to just completely go there, and portrayed her as God in Jack’s dream. And let’s be real: if Cher’s going to whip out sage advice and spontaneously perform songs from her latest album, then I am totally fine with this version of heaven. Of course, now I can’t hear “A Different Kind of Love Song” without also hearing Jack in the back of my mind (“YOU’RE HAWKING YOUR ALBUM DURING MY DREAM?!”). But I’m fine with it, so long as she keeps singing and telling people to follow their bliss.

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You’re Gonna Need a Right Hand Man – Scandal Gif-Cap – That’s My Girl

Scandal Season 5, Episode 21
“That’s My Girl”
Posted by Sage

I’ve spent the last six months telling people who quit the show during the endless loop of Olitz that Scandal is THE REALNESS again. A season finale with zero deaths? No bombs? Negative extra-marital affairs? YEP. And it was still one of the best Scandal bows ever. Because as the real world is currently reminding us, elections are WACKADOO. Let’s to the gifs.

“My father wanted a grandson.” Jake is having a friendly after-dinner drink with his new father-in-law discussing Vanessa’s grandfather being kind of a dick.

“You’re the son I never thought I wanted.” 

“I’m sorry sir, I’m sorry you think of me as a son, but there’s another man who thinks of me as his son too.” Jake poisons his new dad for his old one (but not the old-OLD one, who he murdered last week – try to keep up) so that Vanessa (and Jake) will get her inheritance faster.

“It’s only a few more seconds…almost there.” And he’s dead.

Tom tells Cyrus that he found Michael in Virginia with Ella. Cyrus would rather pick a VP than talk about his child.

“The man-child who’s been soiling his pants at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the past eight years.” The Liberty Report is at the GNC shading Fitz and it is beautiful.

Cyrus asks David to be Frankie’s running mate and tells him that Frankie is an “honest, across the aisle soldier.”

“No, I mean, whom do I have to kill for you? Or imprison for you? What does the Dark Lord Master Cyrus Beene want in return for this?” David knows the drill.

“You two are cut from the same cloth.” Cyrus is really laying it on thick about Frankie’s goodness, hoping to appeal to that part of David Rosen that still thinks he’s wearing the white hat.

“Male, married, and military.” There are three possibilities for Mellie’s running mate who tick all the necessary boxes.

One of them got caught selling expired condoms.

“I was a coke dealer.” Governor Bill Wagner of Missouri is the only one who comes clean about his past, which makes it possible for OPA to scrub it down for him.

“He’s perfect.” Mellie is sitting next to Marcus on the conference room table, by the way. Their thighs are touching.

Edison comes to visit, tells Olivia what Jake said. Why Edison CARES is unclear. Didn’t Jake threaten his whole life and family and everything he stands for?

“I’m not asking you if you understand, I’m asking you what you’re gonna do about it.”

“Your father is building a war chest…you need to save him.” Huck is on Liv about climbing up Jake’s hair and rescuing him from Rowan’s tower too. But…isn’t Jake a grown-ass man?

“Mr. Beene, Eli Pope.” Rowan is at Vargas for President headquarters and he’s going to give the campaign $30 million. Cyrus is like:

“If I only went where I was welcome, I’d never leave the house.” Rowan threatens to tell Frankie what Cyrus did in Harrisburg. He wants Jake on the ticket.

Doug Morton, aka Wagner’s old coke dealing buddy, is getting moved to Albuquerque with a new ID and a nice chunk of change. So forget you saw anything.

Mellie wants Fitz to speak on opening night instead of closing night, because this sniz is about her, goddammit.

“Who knows? Maybe I’ll even end up in Vermont.” Abby looks HORRIFIED.

“My take is that…he’s a soulless dead-eyed monster who murdered the love of my life in cold blood.” Cyrus dreams about saying this to Frankie when he asks what Cyrus thinks of Jake as a VP. *blows a kiss to the sky* For James Novak.

“I think he’d be great.” GREAT. SO GREAT. Everything’s fine, we’re all fine here….how are you?

evans salad

 

Lizzie and David do a Bartlet White House walk and talk!

“I knew it! This is great.” “Is it?” “Well, not for the country, but for you.” Lizzie is flying high about David and Frankie, because it puts her back in the game. David, she’s not so confidant about.

“I’m gonna vote for Frankie Vargas and I have a golden retriever at home named Barry Goldwater.”

David blames Lizzie for him losing Susan. “I cried. Multiple times. Tears. In my eyes.” TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN SHITTY ACTIONS, ROSEN.

“Well, I don’t want to either, but this is where we are.”

Fitz is in Abby’s office reading Liv’s medical records. I’d be shocked that a representative of the US government is spying on one of its citizens, but. Also HER BODY IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS.

“You’re a big boy Cyrus, just say no.” Cyrus tells Olivia about what he did in Harrisburg and that Rowan has it over him.

“You set that up?” “Pretty good, right?” “They were martyred for Jesus! For Political Jesus!” Cyrus is really torn up about it.

“This election should be you and me competing for the Oval.” HEAD TO HEAD. The student vs the master.

“It’s an 8,000 word love letter to himself.” Fitz’s speech for Mellie is all about Fitz. I’m about to have a heart attack and die of not-surprise.

Marcus walks Mellie to the stage to confront Fitz about it and gives her advice. KISS.

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Beating the Season Finale Blues: Five Freshman Shows to Binge Watch

Posted by Jaime

It’s that time again: TV finale time, when many shows close up shop for the season, leaving fans to another summer of watching reruns. It’s both my favorite and least favorite time of year: I get all of the crescendos, conclusions, and cliffhangers that I’ve been waiting for, and at the same time, May heralds another several months of waiting for new episodes.

It’s also the time of year when I go back and dig through all the new shows I could have been watching, to see if there are any that deserve regular rotation in my DVR. (As you can imagine, I end up sifting through a lot of bad TV. I even try to give shows a fighting chance of several episodes—Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life had such promise!) So if you’re looking for a new show to keep you sated over the summer, here are five that have been renewed and are definitely worth digging into.

Superstore

A lot of people I love and respect would consider these fighting words, but here goes: Superstore is the only heir apparent to Community. It’s true! Aside from the fact that many people from the Greendale production crew migrated to Superstore, the show brings a diversity of characters, surprising heart, and biting wit that just isn’t present on any other sitcom currently airing.

With its ensemble cast, Superstore takes aim at how retail corporations treat their workers and their customers, without going over the top or condescending to anyone. The diversity of the characters is almost beside the point—there are gay, black, Asian, poor, thin, heavy, old, disabled, and even straight white male characters—because they all live within corporate culture. The ensemble in Superstore is united by the common experience of having to turn over their identities and become box store workers. While the blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em jokes and tight plot lines are hilarious, the season-long arc is a commentary on the culture of Walmart, Target, CostCo, et al, and puts some relevant questions in front of its audience, like “Are those low prices worth it, if it means denying working class people health care?”

That’s a big deal, and one that shows that Superstore has promise for seasons to come.

The Real O’Neals

As a huge fan of show co-creator (and “Savage Love” podcaster) Dan Savage, I was very wary of this one—how would an idea from my favorite sex advisor translate to broadcast TV? It was hard to see his brand making it past the censors; my Spidey-sense just couldn’t see prime time being very welcoming of discussions of pegging, orgies, or…really, anything Dan regularly talks about.

Despite Savage himself explaining that the show “went in a different direction” than he initially conceived, The Real O’Neals is able to get away with quite a bit, and ABC is surprisingly embracing of the show’s premise of a gay teenager’s life after coming out to his conservative Catholic family.

Social politics aside, The Real O’Neals is easily one of the funniest new shows this year, largely in part due to the acting of series leads Noah Galvin and Martha Plimpton. In a time when other ensemble shows have become bland and predictable (cough cough, Modern Family), The Real O’Neals is full of surprises every episode, and laugh-out-loud gags.

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