The Normal Heart (2014)

normalheartposterIn the 1980’s, the first case of what would later be known as AIDS was reported in the United States. The Normal Heart is HBO’s TV movie version of Larry Kramer’s Tony-winning play. Mark Ruffalo is Ned Weeks who has had enough. He has been in the closet for most of his adolescence and adult life, as so many of his friends have done. But, when his friends start dying, he becomes angry. This, at the time, unknown disease has to have a voice.

Julia Roberts is Dr. Emma Brookner, who has been submitting research papers to the scientific and medical communities for years. But, because the disease primarily affects gay men, it has been ignored. Emma’s anger is only matched by Ned’s. At times, though, it is a bit too much. Ned seems to alienate everyone, including the gay community. We know, from our side of history, that he is correct. Until the community being affected by the disease finds their voice and starts speaking out, it will be near impossible for change to take place.

In a way, Ned is a prophetic voice. He has a vision of what the world could be like, and that what is (or is not) being done is not working. Though he is not chosen as the president of a group of men, it is his vision that gets it started. It is his vision that pulls these different people together to start an organization that does what other organizations will not do – help gay men who are suffering from a horrible disease.

The early church father, Augustine of Hippo, has said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” This is Ned. He has anger with the way things are, and has courage to do something about it. All led by hope that dwells deep within him.

It is an issue of justice, and Ned reminds us that social justice is more than just offering a hand out. Social justice requires us to get involved and to use our voice. And to be persistent, as the persistent widow in Luke 13 was. Ned also reminds us that it is not easy work. Ned takes to his typewriter, he takes to local TV stations, he attempts to advocate with the Mayor’s office and beyond. He also cares for Felix (Matt Bomer) as the disease takes his life. For Ned this fight for justice is personal.

Filming was put on a whole for a while to give Matt Bomer a chance to lose up to forty pounds to play the AIDS-stricken Felix. The break in filming was worth the effect. Bomer’s performance is heart-wrenchting. Felix is the only character we see dying, and perhaps that is a good thing. It is so powerful and so disturbing at the same time, I don’t think we could handle seeing more than one.

Bomer is not the only one who gives an amazing performance. Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) plays Tommy Boatwright, who works with the organization manning the phones, among other things. Parsons played this role on stage. His monologues are by far the best in the whole film. Parsons is able to take you into Tommy’s feelings and emotions, which at first only seem to be on the surface, but actually run deep and even theological.

Tommy starts a tradition of storing Rolodex cards. When he learns that another man has died from AIDS, he takes their contact card out of his Rolodex and adds it to a stack of others who have died. He is not going to throw them away, because “that seems too final.” Instead, he stores them in his desk drawer. He stores their memory.

The film is telling a historical narrative about the AIDS breakout. It is a history that needs to be remembered. Just as we need to remember the struggle of African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, we need to remember the struggle of the gay community in the 1980’s. The Normal Heart helps us remember how some, like Ned, discovered voices and used them when others could not.

Falling Skies: Season One (2011)

Falling-skies-poster-01In an age of television where zombies (The Walking Dead) and vampire slayers (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) have been the top rated shows, there is Falling Skies. This TNT original series is about an alien-invasion of Earth. But its direction is different from what you might first think. While aliens have invaded, the show does not start with the invasion. In fact, with the first episode of season one, the invasion is old news. We find the characters a few months after the invasion, beginning to learn to cope with a new world.

And that may be what Falling Skies is really about – coping and surviving a new world searching for hope. The main character is Tom Mason, played by the favored ER doctor Noah Wyle. Tom is a tenured American history professor at BU who has lost his wife in the invasion as well as his middle son, Ben. Ben, like so many other children, were kidnapped and harnessed by the aliens. It is unclear why they want the children, which is just one of the aspects of this show that make it watchable. You don’t know any more than the main characters do. You theorize with them about what is going one. You learn with them about the aliens.

Tom is one of the leaders of a group of hundreds of fighters and civilians in a suburb of Boston. The survivors are learning to organize themselves into communities, as well as organize themselves in a revolution against the aliens. The main group the show follows is the 2nd Massachusetts, an obvious reference to the Revolutionary War. Tom, as a history professor, is constantly making references to miliarty history, including the Revolutionary War.

There are multiple references to the Revolutionary War, which makes sense because the setting is in Boston. During the second half of the season, the group is stationed in the former John F. Kennedy High School. In the courtyard there is mural with the faces of many patriotic figures such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. These references and images seem to be communicating a need for and journey towards freedom. Though their bondage is different than the colonies, there is a clear need for freedom.

The commander of the 2nd Mass is Weaver, who is amazingly portrayed by Will Patton. Weaver is a pony-tailed, hard-nosed, Army vet who barks his orders through a clinched jaw. Weaver reluctantly accepts Tom as his second in command. Together, these two men do their best, in the midst of their own brokenness, in leading the fighters and the civilians. We learn that Weaver’s loss in the invasion was just as dramatic and heart-breaking as Tom’s. Weaver loss his wife and his daughter. While in his old neighborhood, Weaver is about to give up on it all, when he finds his wife’s eyeglasses. He swears they were not there before, and the glasses, which he puts in his front pocket, give him hope.

In the midst of tragedy, the survivors are constantly finding hope. Lourdes, for example, has been described as a teenage priestess. Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) is the only character who prays on a regular basis. During meals and other occasions, Lourdes offers a prayer, despite the stares and comments from others. Lourdes is the first character to show evidence of hope.

Sarah Carter as Margaret
Sarah Carter as Margaret

And speaking of Seychelle Gabriel, she is joined by other great women actors in this show. Moon Bloodgood is the saintly pediatrician Anne Glass. Anne is the moral compass to Tom’s ethical ponderings. Anne secretly does an autopsy on one of the dead alien creatures. She finds a truth about the harnesses that may change everything. And then there is Sarah Carter’s Margaret, the blond, post-traumatic, heroine of the post-apocalyptic alien world. Margaret’s tragedy in her life continued after the invasion. As Margaret is welcomed into the 2nd Mass, she too begins to find hope.

Hope is what drives the characters to survive. In the season finale (“Eight Hours”), Tom and Weaver are greeted by a harnessed teen. She communicates to them for the aliens. “They didn’t expect resistance and they find it interesting. They want to talk.” The final episode ends with Tom walking into the space ship, instead of Ben.

Falling Skies is by far better than you would expect. It is a solid action and adventure show. And perhaps that is because of the duo producing team of Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan and The Patriot) and Steven Spielberg. It does not take long to see the effects of Spielberg’s influence of wonder and consistency. Each episode gets better than the one before it.

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)

Easter BeagleThe 12th animated television special, It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, first aired on April 9, 1974 on CBS.  In this special, Charlie Brown and the gang are preparing for Easter. Peppermint Patty is teaching Marcie how to dye Easter Eggs. Poor Marcie can’t figure how to prepare the eggs to be dyed though. Sally wants new shoes for Easter Sunday. Lucy is preoccupied with getting gifts and hiding eggs.

And, then there is Linus. Linus tells them they are worried too much. None of that stuff matters, because the Easter Beagle is going to bring them Easter eggs. The Easter Beagle is right up there with the Great Pumpkin. The other children try their best to ignore or tolerant Linus’ belief in the Easter Beagle.

Like the Christmas special before it, the Easter special has a message against commercialism. As the children walk into the department store to get their Easter supplies, the store is decorated with Christmas trees and other Christmas items. Banners hang declaring how many days are left before Christmas. Sally cries out, “It’s Easter! And they have Christmas decorations out!?!”

The point is clear. Like Christmas, Easter is not about buying, buying, buying. Easter is about so much more than that. It is about the One who gave life so that we may have new life.

There has been some criticism that this special did have the religious message like its Christmas counter part. If by religious message they are referring to Linus reading from the Bible, than no, there is none of that in this one.

But there are allusions to the Gospel.

In the opening scene as Lucy listens to Schroeder play his toy piano, she talks about Easter being a time of getting gifts. Schroeder corrects her, “It’s a time of renewal,” and later, “All you think about is gimme, gimme, gimme, get, get, get.”

When the kids get to Easter Sunday, they are all sitting around waiting for something special to happen. Peppermint Patty says to Marcie, “You look forward to feeling real happy and something happens to spoil it.” Can you think of better words to describe what those who witnessed the crucifixion must have felt?

Sally is wondering where the Easter Beagle (Christ?) is. Charlie Brown expresses feelings of being alone. Sally tells Linus that he has made a fool out of her. Everyone seems to be sad or confused. Not unlike those who experienced the first Easter morning. But then in the distance a figure emerges. It is the Easter Beagle (of course, it is just Snoopy.) Snoopy dances around giving out Easter eggs that he picked up after Lucy hid them (Lucy: “He gave me my own egg!”).

Ten weeks later, the Easter experience is still hanging around. Lucy is still upset at Snoopy for pretending to be the Easter Beagle and for handing out the eggs that she hid. She goes to Snoopy with the intent of fighting him. Snoopy leans in and kisses her. She responses, “Awww, the Easter Beagle.” Even Lucy came around.

PeanutsEaster02There may not have been any quoting of scripture, but there are things held in common between the first Easter and this Charlie Brown Easter. The feelings of loneliness, of being scared, confused, and uncertain all must have been feelings that the disciples and others experienced. The surprise and awe that followed when Jesus appeared. There were those like Lucy who did not believe until they experienced the grace-filled love of Christ themselves.

Lent reminds us of the tension between looking forward to being happy and the reality of loneliness and despair. The promise of Easter is the gift of resurrection; new life; renewal. In the midst of the darkness of loneliness and despair, joy comes in the morning.

HIMYM 9.22: The End of the Aisle

How I Met Your Mother episode recaps season 9I can’t believe it has taken me a week to watch last week’s episode. Barney and Robin finally make it to the end of the aisle, and for that we are thankful. The episode is well crafted, as well as one of the classic episodes. Before we get to the end of the aisle, Barney is freaking out. Remember how season 9 started? It was with this moment. Barney is freaking out over his choice of tie and Robin is ready to run out of the church.

Robin kinda had hoped that Barney would have found her missing locket. The locket becomes a symbol of true love for Robin. Ted has it in his pocket, but he gives it to Barney and tells him he needs to give it to Robin and that Barney found it. Robin knows that Barney didn’t really find it. She knows it was Ted. When Ted comes back to her room, she asks him about it. “You always go big for me,” she says to Ted.

Robin is already questioning if marrying Barney is the right thing. Has he really changed? And now with Ted going all Indiana Jones and finding the locket, she is wondering if she should be with Ted.

Robin: Maybe I should be marrying you.

These are words that Ted has been longing to hear for the longest time! And in this moment, things could go in one of two ways. Ted could run away with her to Chicago, or he could be the better man, and affirm Robin’s relationship with Barney. He does the latter.

Ted: I’m not that guy.

entertainment weekly
entertainment weekly

In the meantime, Barney is still working on his vows. Lily and Barney try to help me. But Barney reveals to them that they haven’t kept their wedding vows. Story after story, Marshall and Lily come to terms that the vows they made to each other on that faithful day, were no longer true.

Marshall takes Lily into the sanctuary. “We are different people than we were in 2007,” he says to Lily, “maybe we need to update our vows.” And that is what they do. In the church, with the cross at the center of the frame, they update their promises to each other.

Marshall: One set of vows cannot cover a lifetime of growing and changing with you.

Barney is in the back of the church, watching. He quietly walks out of the sanctuary. In the meantime, Robin has locked Ted in her room, and runs through the church. She trips and lands into the Mother. Robin admits to the Mother that she is having second thoughts. The Mother, proving yet again to a wisdom guide, tells Robin to take some deep breaths.

The Mother: Sometimes three deep breaths can change everything.

Robin turns around, and there is Barney. “I’ve decided to only make one vow to you,” Barney says, clearly influenced by what he witnessed in the sanctuary. “From this day forward,” he tells Robin, “I will only be honest with you, because I love you.” And oh, by the way, Ted found the locket. Robin, knowing that he is telling the truth, kisses Barney. Ted stumbles in, sees them kissing, and quietly walks away.

This leads us to one minute before the wedding – finally! Barney starts to freak out about his tie again, Marshall slaps him, the last slap. A bear comes down the aisle as the ring bearer. But we get to the end of the aisle. And that is what is important here. Barney and Robin are going to make the commitment to one another out of love.

Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS
Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS

While in the room with Robin, Ted tells her, “Love doesn’t make sense.” What struck me about this was during this scene, as in scenes with Barney in his room, the scenes are shot to include a portrait of Jesus – Jesus as the Good Shepherd; Jesus praying in the Garden; Jesus and the Last Supper. I know that the wedding is happening in a church, but they did not have include so much Jesus. But they did. And talk about a love that doesn’t make sense!

Jesus faced so much criticism because he not only expressed love, but was love in action, to so many people who society said did not deserve that love. The blind man. The bleeding woman. The little children. The woman at the well. And the list can go on and on. This love does not make sense. And yet, that is the same love that is extended to us as well. A love that does not make sense.

As the episode comes to a close, future Ted in his voice over narration says some pretty profound things about the weekend, but also about marriage and relationships. Here are a few of them.

It was a long weekend – more ups and downs – long twisty road that lead to the end of the aisle – not everything was perfect – none of us can vow to be perfect – in the end we only promise to love each other with everything we got. Because love is the best thing we do.

The best thing we do is love. But, marriage is hard work. No matter how long you have been married, marriage is hard work. And sometimes the promises we make to one another need to change, because life changes. Perhaps that is why Barney and Robin had cold feet and freaked out a little bit. Marshall and Lily had a huge fight in this season, showing us that marriage is hard work. The bold move that Marshall and Lily make in informally making new vows to each other is a perfect example of instead of rekindling what was in the relationship, kindling the future they will have together.

Love doesn’t make sense, but love is what we do best.

“And it was legendary.”

HIMYM 9.21: Gary Blauman

This week’s episode brings us closer to the end of the series. And we are reminded of the overarching theme this show: friendship.

A quote by Amanda McRae has been floating around Facebook recently about friendship:

from Facebook
from Facebook

The quote is a good summary of HIMYM but also of this episode, embodied by Gary Blauman. Gary is that guy who shows up every now and then, but has significant impact on the group. We last saw him in season 5 being played by Taran Killam (SNL), the real-life husband of Cobie Smulders (Robin).

Gary stopped Lily, after a break up with Marshall, from getting a tattoo of Sugar Ray. He was the guy Ted thought he was in combination with in flirting with a woman at a party. Gary was the guy who didn’t order anything at MacLaren’s, but stole fries – including the coveted accidental curly – from Barney. And last, but not least, he was the guy James had an affair with resulting in the break up with his husband.

Gary shows up at the Inn for Robin and Barney’s wedding, but there was no RSVP from Gary. Which means there is no seat for him! Marshall, the self-proclaimed seating chart expert takes on the task.

Meanwhile, the Wednesday after the wedding, we see Ted and the Mother on the first date. It is a pretty typical Ted Mosby date, complete with epic story telling. Until, the Mother spots her ex-boyfriend, the you know the way that proposed to her and she turned down? What happens is the “I’m not ready for a relationship yet” conversation. Ted, sursipely does not give up, and even though they get to the Mother’s apartment, they end up still walking around telling stories.

The heart of the episode is about three minutes, and it reminds us how good this show really is. And we almost forgive the shaky beginning of this season. In these three minutes we see the endings for some of the most memorable guest characters. Ranjit gets wealthily  after winning big in the stocks. Carl’s sons work with him at MacLaren’s. Patrice gets her own radio show. Scooter marries Stripper Lily. Jeanette get arrested and meets Kevin in court-appointed therapy. Blah Blah’s name is Carol. And James and his husband, Tom, get back together.

These were all characters who, though they didn’t become permeant fixtures to the gang, they kept track of them. They are considered a part of the circle of friends. Future Ted says, “You will be shocked, kids, how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever. That’s why when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it.”

And those are our real friends.

HIMYM 9.20: Daisy

How I Met Your Mother episode recaps season 9We finally find out where Lily went when she left the Inn. She and Marshall had just had a huge fight after he accepted a judgeship without talking to her. She stormed off, called someone, got in a car, and left.

Who did she call?

The Captain. Yep, the captain. She made a stop along the way at a convince store. Ted, while the guys are at the Captain’s place in the Farhampton, thinks he has figured it out. Ted unravels recent events that led to Lily’s disappearance, including gum chewing Lily, the anxious car ride with Ted, and the daisy pot in the Captain’s bathroom, with the conclusion being that Lily is smoking again. (Remember season 5’s “Last Cigarette Ever”?) But, that’s not the case.

Far from it.

Lily left the Inn for the Captain’s to take a pregnancy test. And there, buried in the dirt of the daisy pot is the little blue plus sign. Right away, without missing a beat, Marshall tells Lily that they have to move to Italy so Lily can live her dream, because he is living his again!

A year later, we see them in Italy debating in Italian about the eating of Funyuns. Lily’s dad is there. Marvin is there. And so is baby Daisy.

Other Stuff:

  • Linus is still putting drinks in Lily’s hands, but they are non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Tracey Ullman as Robin’s mom = why didn’t we have this sooner!
  • Robin gets scared that she’s marrying her father while listening to her mom.
  • Lily finally gets to tell the gang that she can indeed keep a secret.

HIMYM 9.19: Vesuvius

How I Met Your Mother episode recaps season 9It’s 2024 and Ted and the Mother are at the Farhampton Inn for a romanic weekend. They are both trying to come up with stories that the other one has not heard. Finally Ted tells the story about how Robin broke the lamp.

Its Robin and Barney’s wedding day. Robin is playing hockey with her sister in her room, which is how the lamp breaks. Lily made a scrapbook, but Robin would rather watch a really bad romantic comedy based on Ted’s relationship with Stella: Wedding Bride Too.

Ted is helping Barney pick out a suit from a two rooms full of suits. Lily and Robin get in a fight because Lily thinks Robin should be more concerned about getting ready for her day than about what happens in the movie. Lily brought her wedding dress so that she and Marshall can retake their wedding photos using Robin’s photographer, since Marshall took a razor to his head.

Ted convinces Barney to wear the suit that Tim Gunn made him. “It feels weird,” Barney says. Ted explains to him that its new and it holds no memories yet. All of its memories are ahead of it.

Lily finally drops the bomb with why this day is so important. They don’t know when they will all be together again. Sometimes it is best to leave the awkwardness unspoken and spend time with each other.

As Robin goes to get more ice, her mom shows up. The Mother says, “Of course she shows up, a mother wouldn’t miss her daughter’s wedding.” Ted cries when she says this. What does this mean? What secret does it hold?

What is clear is that the writers are setting up for the last few episodes. As is their nature, HIMYM will have a life lesson attaches to it. And as we float from present to future and back again, it will unravel.

Follow Friday: The Golden Girls Reviewed By

I write as a hobby. And from time-to-time, I write about television. And as such, I read blogs about television. I like to read what others think about TV shows that I watch or shows that I’m not watching that I might want to try out. About once a week before I go to bed, I use my iPad to read and search blogs. In one of the weekly rituals, I stumbled upon a blog about the now classic television show The Golden Girls. Yep, the original you got a friend in me Golden Girls.

The blog is called The Golden Girls Reviewed By. Each post is about a different episode of The Golden Girls, reviewed by a particular kind of person. Like a theatre critic, Jane Austen, or the Smoke Monster from Lost. If you are going to recap episodes of The Golden Girls, this is the way to do it. It is written by Robin Hardwick, who graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me about her blog.

Robin mentions that The Golden Girls can suck you in. You forget how good the show was. And having watched a few episodes in my time, I have found it to be true. And if you have ever caught a Golden Girls marathon on television, you know what we’re talking about. Robin’s creativity shines as she reviews/remembers these episodes, one season at a time.

Where did you get the idea for the blog?  How did you come to it?

Golden Girls was in my pop culture lexicon as a classic, but I never watched it in its heyday. As a pop culture enthusiast, I was a bit embarrassed it was something I had never seen.

When I was home sick one day I decided to give it a spin. I watched about sixteen episodes in a row that first day. I know everyone loves it for the nostalgia factor, but I didn’t realize it was legitimately funny. Not corny, but seriously hilarious. There has never been something like it since- a sitcom centered on women’s lives and of that age.

Then there’s the fashion. Oh, the fashion. The eighties was a wonderful and perplexing time for clothing.

What’s your process like?

It’s pretty simple. I take screenshots as I watch each episode and then think about how I want to structure the review. I knew I didn’t want to just recap the events of the show. Most fans have seen every episode multiple times, so they don’t need a play-by-play. I wanted a way to highlight the amazing, ludicrous or unbelievable parts of each episode so it would appeal to someone’s memory of that episode but with a different way of interpreting it.

How do you discern from what perspective you will review the episode?

I try to not over-think it. I have a bank of ‘personalities’ I’d like to use at some time, but I try to see what comes to mind after watching the episode. I also use some things that are relevant to current events that happen around the time I am writing it. It’s a good exercise for me to try out some different ideas and ways of writing that is pretty free-flowing, many of which are more abstract then the typical writing I do.

You can reach Robin on Twitter at @robinhardwick or her “real” blog Robin Hardwick where she writes about television and movies and stuff.

HIMYM 9.18: Rally

How I Met Your Mother episode recaps season 9It has been three weeks since we’ve had a new HIMYM episode. Barney got wasted, and on his wedding day has a huge hang over. He can’t open his eyes and is non-responsive. The gang tries various different things to help Barney. They have family photos in two hours to get Barney too.

Throughout the episode, each friend makes a vow never to get as drunk as Barney is, but then in flash forward scenes, we see that each of them breaks that vow. Marshall, in 2020, gets Barney-like-drunk when he assumes that he has lost the New York State Supreme Court election. But, he does win, and has to make a statement drunk, where he talks about protecting Gothem City and using the Bat Signal more often. Robin gets drunk in Buenos Aires in 2016. She and Barney are jared awake by the crying of a baby. Robin picks her up, and then the baby’s mother comes into the room yelling at Robin and Barney that their room is across the hall. Lily gets this drunk after they drop Marvin off at Wesleyan in 2030. After giving him the “No under age drinking,” speech, they bump into each other at the local bar.

Ted does not make that vow.

The gang is trying to figure out what the secret ingredient is to Stinson’s Fixer Hangover Elixir. It is a drink that all of them have been given by Barney when they were at their worst. They learn that the whole thing was a lie that Barney created to give his friends strength during their worst hangovers. The worst being that they were hungover after the worst thing could have happened in their lives. Marshall didn’t bass the bar and Ted was left at the alter. “He lied,” Robin observes, “so we’d be okay.”

And so the gang returns the favor. They lie to Barney that they pulled off Weekend at Barney’s. They didn’t of course, they told Robin’s dad that they couldn’t do the family photos, and while Barney thinks that his future father-in-law is okay with him, in truth, he is pissed.

The best part of this episode was having the five actors play off each other like old comedic vets. This is each of them at their best! And this is what we will miss the most when the show bows off the air. It also reenforces what the show is about, friendship above all else. It was an epiphany moment for the gang to realize that Barney lied to them about a hangover fix to help them through their worst life-moments. And it did it because he loved them. And so did they.

Worth Mentioning:

  • The episode begins and ends with scenes of the Mother before and after an epic New Year’s Eve party.
  • Marshall’s future hair is lacking.
  • Ted grew up thinking that he was allergic to bacon. He eats bacon for the first, and last, time. It is heaven!

Scandal 2.22: White Hat’s Back On

Ponderings - Scandal Season 2 recapsWith the knowledge that Billy Chambers, the Vice President’s former chief of staff, is the mole, Huck admits that he “hired out” the killing of Chambers to Charlie.

Huck: If you want someone killed right, you have to do it yourself

In flashbacks, we learn that Chambers made a deal with Charlie, and Charlie has been Chambers’ guy too.

Olivia, Mellie, Cyrus, and Hollis get together in the kitchen of the White House to discuss Defiance and Billy Chambers. Chambers is the new problem. Olivia puts the focus on Defiance as the problem, not Chambers. If they get the Cytron card back, they neuter Billy, case closed. The twist in this scene is that Fitz shows up, taking Verna’s place at the table. Mellie can’t handle being in the same room as Fitz and Olivia. She storms off with Cyrus who attempts to convince her that Fitz will come back. At the same time Fitz is working on convincing Olivia to use her skills as a “fixer” to fix the American public into hating Mellie and loving her. Fixing, after all, is her superpower.

Mystery Man, whom we now know is in charge of B613, meets with Ballard and wants a meeting with Olivia. Ballard asks questions, which apparently is frowned upon, and Mystery Man basically tells him that if Ballard doesn’t produce, he knows where they stand – which I’m guessing isn’t a good place. As Mystery Man leaves, a woman leaves behind him, she was part of the “Take Down Charlie” operation that failed. She is also the person who tries to break into Olivia’s apartment before breaking it down, gun drawn. But, Ballard happens to be in the apartment and kills the woman. After getting Olivia to her office, telling her she should stay there for a while, he tells her about B613. It takes a few moments for Olivia to process that. She knows about B613, mostly from Huck. The next time we see Ballard is at the end of the episode, when he is being shoved into the same dark hole in the ground that Huck was in. And we know what well that turned out for Huck.

James is mad at Cyrus for keeping him in the dark about Mellie and Fitz. Cyrus finally leaks to him that the President is seeing a pastor for counseling and prayer. James goes on television and reports that. Mellie is watching, and hears James report that the President’s approval ratings are up, but the First Lady’s are not.

The Gladiators in Suits figure out that Chambers is going to need someone credible to unleash Defiance on the American public. They soon realize that it is going to be Governor Reston, who lost the election because of Defiance. They have a lot in common, as they both are murderers. Reston goes to the President to demand to be put on his re-election ticket as the “Unity Ticket” or he will reveal Defiance. The President acts like he doesn’t know what Reston is talking about. Olivia, later, in Cyrus’ hospital room (oh yeah, Cyrus has a heart attack) tells Fitz to play along with Reston to see if Reston really has the Cytron card. She meets with Reston and plants the bug. Huck traces Reston’s phone in order to track down Chambers.

White Hat's Back OnSo, when Olivia calls to tell Cyrus about Reston being involved, Cyrus finally has the heart attack we all saw coming. After Mellie watches the news report about her approval ratings, she makes a visit to Cyrus’ hospital room. She hopes to leave hand-in-hand with Fitz, making the 6pm news cycle. Fitz, however, rattles off in Olivia style Olivia’s plan for getting America to love her and hate Mellie. Mellie still cannot believe that Fitz is going through with this. Cyrus, on the other hand, is impressed, but with his visions of Mystery Man he knows he has to do something.

Cyrus and Mystery Man keep meeting (Cyrus has a dream of Mystery Man in his room while at the hospital, or was Mystery Man really there?). Mystery Man wants Cyrus to release the Olivia/Ballard sex tape, but Cyrus doesn’t want to hurt his friend – Olivia.

David Rosen is the one with the Cytron card. During a meeting Chambers tries to convince David to hand it over. David tells him it stays with him until it is needed – maybe he picked up a few things while he was hanging out with Olivia Pope and Associates. Chambers, trying to convince David, tells David that Olivia is not his friend and that he murdered the CIA director Osbourne, Wendy (framing David) and Molly. David goes ahead and slides the card across the table.

Huck and Quinn go to Chambers’ residence. They don’t find the card anywhere. When Chambers comes home, he sees them and runs. Huck catches him, ties him up in duct tape and is preparing to torture to get answers. But he can’t do it. He freezes up. Quinn lives into her nickname of Baby Huck when she takes his drill and uses it on Chambers. She gets the location, calls Abby, Abby gets it and they go to use it only to find out it’s not the card. It’s blank.

It is then that they realize that David is in control of this game. David played them. He used his time in their office to try out every possible combination to Olivia’s safe, until he found the right one. Abby goes through David’s stuff in the office looking for the real deal and finds a box marked, “For Olivia.” When Huck and Quinn return, she is super excited about what happened. Huck, on the other hand, goes to his space, into the corner, and sits as he has done before.

Cyrus gets himself out of the hospital to take care of the Olivia-Fitz problem. He got worried when Olivia didn’t answer her phone, and sent Secret Service to check on her, who found the door broken in and blood on the ground. He is not happy that someone tried to kill Olivia, but knows that B613 won’t stop until they get what they want. He gets more angry when she won’t see that. She still thinks that she and Fitz getting back together is the best thing. In a fit of anger (calm down, Cy, you JUST had a heart attack) he tells her that Fitz killed Verna Thornton. Olivia is in shock.

Cyrus goes to the White House and does the same thing. He does what Mystery Man wanted, kind of, he shows the President the sex tape of Olivia and Jake Ballard. Fitz is in shock.

Now that they know that David Rosen has been pulling all the strings, Hollis, Olivia, Mellie, Cyrus, and now the President meet again in the White House kitchen. David Rosen is now the problem (sound familiar?) Cyrus gets a text that David is in his office. David hands over the real Cytron card in exchange for something else. The something else is fulfilled when the President makes a public announcement thanking David for his work of justice and names him the US Attorney for District of Columbia. Cyrus destroys the card with his little Abe Lincoln bust.

Olivia goes to the White House, tells the President she knows about Verna, and he tells her he knows about Jake. She tells him that he is the one who can start fresh. The rest of them are too damaged. They’ve gone to a dark place, and she’s not sure if they can go back. But Fitz can. And he should start his new beginning with Mellie at his side. She can’t leave her team. “They need me. I’m their Gladiator.” Fitz goes back to Mellie, like a dog with his tail between his legs.

And just when you think you can take a sigh of relief in this season finale, there’s more! Olivia wakes up the next morning, gets ready to go for a jog listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” Everything about this is slow – slow for Scandal – which means they really, really want us to catch what is about to happen. Olivia gets into the elevator. She walks through her lobby, smiling at people. She opens the door to go outside, and there is a mob of reporters and cameras asking if it is true that she is having an affair with the president! Shocked, she tries to get back inside the building, but some guys guide her to a limo where Mystery Man is sitting. And Olivia says, “Dad!?!?”

Mystery Man who runs B613 is Daddy Pope?? So many questions, not enough words.

Scandal 2.21: Any Questions?

Ponderings - Scandal Season 2 recapsUsing the backdrop of Cyrus giving a press conference on Mellie’s unveiling of Fitz’ private life, this episode takes us on another wild ride with Fitz and Olivia and learning who the mole is.

The President stayed the night at Olivia’s. Cyrus has to bark his way into Olivia’s apartment, walks in on the two of them, and yells, “Get up!” Cyrus is in fix-it mode. As Olivia and Fitz get dressed, Olivia offers to help fix it. Fitz tells her no, “stand down.” If the relationship is going to work, they have to take out the business part of it.

Olivia comes into the office learning that the good news is that Cyrus is not the mole, but whoever the mole is knows about Defiance. Olivia quickly goes to the safe to make sure the Cytron memory card is still in there. David is present, he claims to be a Gladiator.

Mellie is interviewing a new fixer. He’s not quite Olivia Pope, but he knows how to find things in the trash. He manages to get a copy of the President’s speech for Mellie to look at. Mellie refuses to give up Olivia’s name, even to the fixer. She knows Fitz, and she knows he’ll do the right thing.

Fitz’ solution, which is what his speech will be about, is to not run for reelection. Cyrus sees him throwing away his legacy. “I’m in love with a woman,” Fitz says, “who is not my wife.”

Jake Ballard meets Mystery Man in the park again. Mystery Man is not happy with Ballard. They met the night before and Ballard did not share with Mystery Man that the President was with Olivia Pope. The job is simple, keep an eye on Olivia. Ballard shows Mystery Man a picture of Charlie. We know from the Huck flash backs that Mystery Man knows Charlie. But here, he doesn’t let Ballard know that he knows. Mystery Man tells Ballard to bring him the tape of he and Olivia having sex and to find Charlie and bring him in.

When Ballard asks Mystery Man about Cyrus, Mystery Man replies, “I’ll take care of Cyrus.”

Sally Langston makes an appearance, mostly to make us consider that she might be the mole. She and Cyrus are walking down the hall of the White House together:

Sally: You know what the Bible says, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Cyrus: That’s not in the Bible. Not everything is from the Bible.

teach_5986cCyrus is right. The line actually comes from a play written by a guy named William Congreve. Go figure. But the quick dialogue does show how quickly tradition regarding what the Bible says overpowers what the Bible actually says. There is no better way to know what the Bible says than to read it. . . . .for yourself. I know a preacher to teaches preachers not to say, “The Bible says,” without citing where it says it in the Bible. I think that is a good practice.

Harrison thinks Olivia should be his client, because he knows that it won’t be long before her name is associated with the President’s affair. Olivia reminds him that she can take care of herself and that he needs to focus on the task at hand. Cyrus and James have a fight over James’ interview with the First Lady. Finally, Cyrus realizes what happened. James was naive and was used by Mellie. Mellie made it happen for James to get that job at BNC, and requested him to do the interview to get back at Cyrus as much as getting back at the President.

Cyrus and Olivia meet in a park outside the White House. Cyrus tries to convince her to talk sense into Fitz, to make this thing go away. But Olivia is standing down, as she said she would. As Olivia walks away, Mystery Man shows up – more and more all of a sudden. He tells Cyrus that he should have shut down the Fitz-Olivia thing a long time ago. It is clear that these two not only know each other, but have an understanding about not messing with each other’s turf. Mystery Man tells him that his boy Charlie was one of his, and that Cyrus will have nothing to do with anymore.

Ballard, following orders from Mystery Man, tries to take down Charlie. But Charlie is too quick and dodges him. He ends up at Olivia’s office. Everyone has taken an hour to clear their ends, but David Rosen who stayed behind. When everyone returns, Charlie has a gun to David’s head. Charlie wants to be a client. He knows that once he is caught they will kill him. He wants what Huck has. Huck asks Olivia to take care of it, “My world. My rules.”

Ballard failed to get Charlie, but he did give Mystery Man a copy of the tape of him and Olivia. When asked how it was going to be used, Mystery Man basically told Ballard it was non of his business. Cyrus reluctantly accepts that the President is not going to seek a second term. When he goes to ask a staff person to retrieve the candidacy papers, the staff person says she cannot because they were never filed. Turns out they are still on Fitz’ desk.

Cyrus goes to Olivia. Olivia goes to the White House. She talks to him, telling him that he doesn’t want to run because of their relationship, then she will support him. But if decided months ago not to quick because of Defiance, that he shouldn’t give up.

The actions of others affected Fitz and how he understands himself. This pep talk from Olivia is giving him the empowerment and encouragement he needs. At the press conference, he announces he will be seeking a second term.

Huck has Charlie duck taped to a chair, gets a name from him as to who the mole is, and prepares to kill him. Then Quinn comes in, and convinces him that he shouldn’t kill. They let Charlie go. When they get back to the office, Harrison discovers that the Cytron card is gone. Everyone knows at that moment that the Charlie thing was a set-up. He has the card. And who is the mole? Billy Chambers!

But the one giving him the Cytron card is not Charlie, it is David Rosen!

Scandal 2.20: A Woman Scorned

Ponderings - Scandal Season 2 recapsThis week’s episode was crafted perfectly for Olivia and Mellie to show off. Or, rather Kerry Washington as Olivia and Bellamy Young as Mellie show off some acting chops. The two are adversaries in this episode like never before. Together they got Fitz in the White House, but against one another, they are bringing Washington to her knees.

Fitz, who cannot seem to make up his mind, wants Olivia back now. After seeing in her the hospital bed, it seemed to wake him up to his true feelings for Olivia. Mellie has moved to Blair House giving Fitz a limited amount of time to figure out what he is going to do, choose Olivia or choose his family.

Jake Ballard, in plain clothes, is babysitting Olivia for the President. Olivia calls the President and tells him to call off his puppy, but Fitz won’t budge. And Jake won’t either.

Cyrus and James are still fighting, but when James gets a job at BNC (“I could be the next Anderson Cooper”), all is forgiven.

The Gladiators are trying to figure out who Baseball Cap guy is. Huck offers to help, and right away he identifies Baseball Cap as Charlie. When asked how he can tell, he answers, “That’s Charlie’s ear.” Huck is the one who tells Olivia it is “Cyrus’ Charlie.” Which makes Cyrus appear to be Albatros, which is what all of us were already thinking, right? Charlie in the meantime is at Jake Ballard’s place digging up dirt on him and Olivia. Charlie finds video of the two having sex, which is saved in case Cyrus needs to use it.

Olivia does not want to bounce on Cyrus as Albatros until they are certain.

This is one of my best friends. . . . We have to be sure.

The Gladiators are given the task to investigate Charlie and see what other clients he has. They find out that he goes to the same bakery shop every Thursday, and he attends a book club on Thursdays where he started dating a girl named Tammy. Olivia also gives the green light to have them look into Cyrus’ phone records.

In the middle of all of this, the President wants to see Olivia, which throws her into an intense moment of yelling at the President: “You do not summon me!” and “Stop getting my hopes up.” and the best line, “You want me? Earn me!”

Cyrus is going back and forth between Mellie and Fitz. Neither are giving in. Mellie has made arrangements with BNC to do a prime-time interview, where she will spill the beans about his affair with Olivia if he does not choose family. He takes a deal to Mellie that offers her a bright, political future. Mellie rejects it. Finally, Cyrus gets an idea. “What if,” he says to Mellie, “I could get rid of Olivia Pope.”

In the meantime, Huck has come clean with Olivia about Charlie. Charlie was one who killed Amanda Tanner. “I didn’t say anything because there is a code.” Charlie has been Cyrus’ guy for at least two years. Cyrus isn’t looking good right now.

Now, with the whole Albatros thing, this makes us wander what Cyrus has up his sleeve. He has the President’s secretary call Jake Ballard to the White House. Cyrus goes to Olivia’s, but Jake is still there, guarding the door. He is a good puppy, only leaves with the President tells him to. Afterwards, Jake tells Olivia he thinks Cyrus is the mole (red flag, people.) Olivia still cannot wrap her head around it. Cyrus would never be disloyal to Fitz.

The Gladiators interview Tammy and find out, eventually, that she was the court reporter for David’s grand jury on Defiance. Her laptop, where she transcribed everything, was stolen. Guess by who? Charlie! All the pieces fall into place, which means that Cyrus is not the mole. Someone else is using the gifts and talents of Charlie, but who?

Perhaps it is Mystery Man that Jake keeps meeting in DC parks. Jake tells Mystery Man that Cyrus is getting too close. Mystery Man does not give him permission to look into it, just to take care of it. Which leaves us wandering, who is going to die next?

Mellie hand picks James, Cyrus’ husband, to do the interview, surely to piss off Cyrus. Mellie tells James and the rest of America that the President had an affair. And where is the President?

Scandal gold.