Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 4, Episode 3 of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."
Dear readers and prostitution whores,
Let's switch it up this week and focus on the real reason you watch: all the
love beat downs. Since everyone's at battle, I'll spotlight all the juicy fights and pick a winner each week. The prize? Olive Garden gift certificates and the joy of knowing you've severed yet another tie. Like/hate this format? Let me know in the comments.
Lauren vs. Her Body vs. Her Family
It's hard to lose weight and gain confidence when your brothers are constantly telling you how much of a mutant you are. As Lauren and her beau Vito innocently make "boring grilled chicken," her brother Christopher not-so-quietly calls them a "handsome couple." Here, he is employing a literary term known as "sarcasm" because -- let's just call a space a spade here -- Lauren and Vito aren't the next Brangelina.
Lauren's dad steps in to twist the knife even deeper with a comment about how Laurito's children will beat up all their cousins. "They are gonna be some big ass kids," he says. Caroline is horrified, but her incredulous "What? Are they going to be beasts?!" comment doesn't come out right. Then, to ensure that Lauren feels thoroughly awful, older brother Albie says the future babies will be like "little koala bears that can't control their arms." Lauren admits that she hates the way she looks, and she almost can't believe that Vito dates her. By the time they actually eat dinner, it's a wonder anyone has an appetite.
While the adult "Housewives" are sent into fits of hysteria over a sideways glance or eye roll, Lauren lets an incredible amount of verbal abuse just roll off her shoulders. She doesn't raise her voice or leave the table. She keeps her chins up (I had to!) and knows that revenge is just a few dropped pounds away. Besides, koala babies that can't control their arms sound so cute!
Gia vs. The Utterly Unfair Nature of the Universe
At 9, Teresa's oldest daughter seems very, very tired. She's a little mother hen, ensuring that her siblings stay, oh I don't know, alive while the adults are out partying on a boat. She watches in horror as her baby sister almost gets run down by a car. Then, she makes another save when she finds a sibling dangling from a rod in the closet. A couch is also ripped, but she can't do much about that. Meanwhile, babysitter Rosie (Kathy's sister) curses and threatens to throw them them all "in the lagoon" if they keep acting up. She copes by going outside and mourning her wasted youth. With parenting like this, Gia be picking out her stripper name in no time!
When she bellows "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" at her sibling like a rabid animal, it's obvious that she'll be able to handle pretty much anything the world throws at her.
Tabloid Article vs. Teresa's Life
It's hard to keep up appearances when In Touch magazine has your big, sad eyes and the words "My Life Without Joe" splashed on its cover. In the interview, Teresa's hubby blasts her brother -- and now that they've hit newsstands, she's all flustered. Jacqueline makes a pretty compelling point: We're not talking about fabricated National Enquirer reports here. "She's agreeing to do these articles 'cause she's posing for them ... is she profiting from people's pity, or does she really feel that way?" Jacqueline asks. The article actually brought Teresa and her brother closer -- but during their make up, she accidentally hated on his wife. "Lookin' out for him, I said, 'You better watch her, 'cause like if a guy comes along with more money, she might leave you.'" Oh, that's a comment that will definitely never resurface and potentially end in bloodshed.
Winner: Tabloid Article
'Cause a two-page spread just gave Bravo! enough material for an entire season.
Jacqueline vs. Drinking
I'm just going to cut to the chase and award the win to ...
It gets poor stuck-in-the-middle Jacqueline to talk a mile a minute and to spill details about anyone she's ever come in contact with. How's Ashley? Oh, she's great and learning to use a computer. Caroline? Nothing new there, just a personal struggle with menopause that she didn't tell anyone about but, probably wouldn't mind if everyone discussed. Forgive Jacqueline, God ... for she has Zinned.
Teresa vs. The Meaning of Solstice
Winner: The Meaning of Solstice
It's a two-syllable word, gang. No contest.
Kathy's Sister Rosie vs. Teresa
Rosie is hands-down the best androgynous human on the show. Though I don't fully understand anything about her, she can do no wrong in my eyes -- except when she unnecessarily instigates. She starts all the drama at the summer solstice party and turns a "spiritual" event (there are fairies there for god sake!) into a drama scene. Though her talk with Teresa ends with kiss-kiss fake smiles all around, she turns to the other gals and spews hate.
Winner: Kathy's Sister Rosie
With a few words, she sucked all the positivity out of the room and set the stage for a battle royale -- and though it's not nice, it's kinda impressive.
Melissa vs. Teresa
Now that Melissa knows that Teresa called her a gold digger and a cheater, she's out for blood. She even used the "J" word (jail) in Teresa's presence. (Apparently, you're supposed to say "going away.") With that, Teresa storms out and tries to leave -- but since nobody has filled their shouting quota, she's forced to stay. Finally, Melissa goes to speak with her ... and it gets uglier than Joe Giudice with his shirt off.
"Don't you ever get in between my marriage," Melissa says in scary slow-motion voice. Teresa, ever the wordsmith, hits back with "don't get between MY marriage." Then, they switch from husbands to children (not a big stretch). This time, Melissa starts it. "You insult my kids," she shrieks. But Teresa's got a bigger issue -- presents.
Can you believe that when Melissa gives her nieces gifts, she drops them off at the pre-school? That blows Teresa's mind. Like, she can barely say it without shaking. "Better than the no gifts you give my kids," Melissa counters, alluding to the fact that Teresa forgot/ignored her nephew's birthday because the grown-ups were fighting. Then, Melissa does a ton of finger-spiny things and tells Teresa not to beat around the bush, to which Teresa, always quick with the retorts, says something that sounded like "I'm not reating abound the brush." Then, Teresa tries to leave and Melissa says, "Run away coward," which is a mature way to ensure that a fight never actually ends.
Melissa comes out on top because she's the only one who remains coherent the entire time. Teresa seems hell-bent on ruining a marriage and breaking up a family -- and the only thing worse than stupid is evil. If someone doesn't suck the venom out of her, she's done for.
In Mad Men's eighth episode of Season 5, Peggy is irritated by a secret she has to keep, Pete covers for a friend and Don gets unexpected news. Learn more through these online extras for Episode 8, "Lady Lazarus":
? An open thread for this episode in the Talk Forum (Chat with fellow fans)
Also worth your attention:
? The Mad Men Memo, a weekly newsletter for the show
Here's what's on TV tonight on this Monday night.[...]
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"You can't tame a wild thing. You can't trust a wild thing... Wild creatures have their own rules, their own reasons, and you'll never know them."This week's breathtaking episode of Game of Thrones ("The Old Gods and the New"), written by Vanessa Taylor and directed by David Nutter, is easily my favorite episode of the season to date, not least of which is because it departs significantly from George R.R. Martin's novel. While this may alarm some purists, the ability to inject surprise and shock in even the most knowledgeable readers is something to celebrate here; it raises the stakes significantly and allows writers like Taylor (who, it must be said, is delivering truly fantastic work) and David Benioff and Dan Weiss flexibility when it comes to crafting the story. Too often in adaptations, it's impossible to take meaningful detours on the way to their respective stories' ultimate destinations.Here such detours should be held up and praises, so long as they allow the viewer to evaluate the material in a different way, to experience the story (and the novel's subplots, as well as its many off-screen developments) in a new and interesting way. The Arya (Maisie Williams) and Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) scenes are sensational and reveal elements of both characters in a way that would not be possible other than putting them in a room together. Watching Arya conceal her identity--even when faced by the unexpected arrival of Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen)--and dance...
Read the full article at Televisionary (http://www.televisionarytv.com).
Don't read on unless you've seen Season 2, Episode 6 of "Game of Thrones," entitled "The Old Gods and the New."
The "old gods" of this terrific episode's title probably refers to the deities worshipped by Ned Stark and his family; but to the children in his household, Ned himself was a god. He wasn't just their father (or father figure), he was the lord of all he surveyed and the leader of a whole host of lesser lords and smallfolk. To those who grew up at Winterfell, he was all-powerful; a strong, stubborn, honorable man who tried to wield his power compassionately.
But the young men and women of the Stark household learned the hard way that whatever useful or positive qualities he possessed -- and let's face it, political acumen wasn't one of them -- didn't save him in the end. Now, they're all enduring brutal post-Ned educations, learning heart-wrenching lessons about what they can and can't do.
Absent ongoing adult guidance, in many cases, they're learning what compromises they can make and which ones they can't, who they can trust and how much they need to fend for themselves, outside the protective realm of Winterfell. In "The Old Gods," these children -- none of whom are children any more, aside from poor little Rickon -- are trying to figure out why everything has fallen apart and how to survive in a brutal, confusing world.
Say what you will about Ned, though -- when he swung the sword, he swung it hard and true. Theon hasn't learned that lesson, and Jon learned he simply couldn't behead someone. Not this time, anyway. Of the two outsiders in the Stark households, Jon is still figuring out what kind of man he is. But Theon finally knows.
After filming wrapped on "Game of Thrones" Season 2, executive producer/director Alan Taylor went off to helm "Thor 2," and the loss of his outstanding services made me sad for "Game of Thrones." (Though I'm certainly more intrigued by "Thor 2" now.) The good news is, the show still has a deep bench of very good directors, and David Nutter made a strong impression with his first episode of the show. (Correction: The original version of this story said that David Petrarca directed this episode. That was incorrect; Petrarca directed the last two episodes. Apologies for the mistake).
The first eight minutes of "The Old Gods" was a masterfully choreographed sequence of tension, chaos and dawning horror, which involved not just the nightmare of Ser Rodrik Cassel's brutal death, but Theon's realization that he was the kind of man who would -- who could -- behead a trusted family retainer in public, in front of children. (Who's the most traumatized child on television -- Rickon Stark or Sally Draper? Discuss.)
The entire sequence was shot through with a genuine sense of menace and dread; we didn't see the taking of Winterfell, but we didn't need to, because we saw its aftereffects on the resident's faces, their grim worry and sickening fear. Kudos to the editor of the episode as well, for the fluid, judicious pacing of this sequence, which, amid all the chaos, took time for a quiet yet powerful scene between Bran and Theon, and later, intercut a series of shots that perfectly illustrated Theon's rapidly shifting emotions about killing Cassel.
What drives Theon, and what we heard in his boastful, showy speeches yet again, is a need to trumpet not just his importance, but his existence. As the hostage/guest in the large, busy household of a lord with many other children, and as the son his father all but forgot, Theon always feels the need to assert himself, as if the world was constantly trying to forget about him (which, given his prickly personality, it probably was). His words and actions are all about trying to convince others that he matters -- and trying to convince himself too.
But you could see that he really didn't want to execute Cassel: Killing men in combat was one thing, but this was a very different affair. But he was in an impossible position, which you could see by the look on his face. He risked alienating his own men with one choice and the people of Winterfell with the other. That's to say nothing of the chunk of his soul that's been carved away by turning on the house he grew up in. He didn't always hate them, one surmises, which is why he couldn't answer Bran's question. The tragedy of Theon is that he's never had a safe place to put his love -- not with his family, not with his foster family -- and so his need for affection and attention slowly curdled into resentment and a tendency to bully.
"You are truly lost," Cassel says with a sneer, and even though Theon manages to eventually separate the old man's head from his body, Theon does look lost in that moment. There's no triumph in what he's done; his customary swagger is gone. He's torn between the Stark code he grew up with and the iron price his father demands. The old gods and the new give will him no peace, and thus he will retreat further behind a wall of brutality and posturing.
Ironically enough, he proves himself to be about as politically savvy as Ned Stark. Sure, his father might take notice of him once Balon learns Theon has take Winterfell -- but like so many other characters in this world, the younger man hasn't quite thought things through. Theon's hold on Winterfell has to be shaky -- he took the castle with a very small force, but keeping it will probably be quite another matter, and he's awfully sure he'll get reinforcements soon. Theon's pretty trusting for someone in a very precarious position: He believes that more Iron Men will come (despite his status as an outcast there as well), and he lets down his guard enough to let Osha spend the night in his bed.
His grip on power isn't really all that firm, but that's one of the things this season has explored pretty well: where power comes from, how it is used and how it its kept. In this game of thrones, people keep declaring themselves kings and saying they have power. But saying you have power and actually having and wielding power -- as these kings are learning -- are very different things, and they sometimes mean that you don't get to do whatever you want, a lesson Joffrey refuses to learn.
Joffrey got a terrifying lesson regarding the effectiveness of fear, greed and intimidation in the long term: They don't actually work, at least not the way he's doing things. The problem with sharing nothing with your people is that they're likely to do anything, because they have nothing to lose. Joffrey's a sadistic sociopath, but that's not even his biggest flaw as a ruler: It's that he inherited his mother's willingness to be blind to any facts that don't suit his purpose. He's not just a cruel king, as Tyrion said, he's an idiotic one.
Robb gets a much more friendly reception in one of his army's camps, but what would the mood be there if the Young Wolf's army had suffered a series of defeats instead of victories? But the fact is, the men around him have freely given him their loyalty, and he's led them well. That kind of give-and-take is not in evidence in King's Landing, where Tyrion is the only one aware that the Lannisters are one bread riot away from a full-blown revolution. Unlike Joffrey, Robb has learned a king can't just take or do what he wants. In some ways, they have more restrictions on them than commoners. He can't run back to Winterfell and defend his family and home; he can't choose the person he loves. Being a king isn't about having unlimited power: It's often about knowing when to pick your battles and having a really good battle plan in place when shit gets real.
In recent weeks, I've written about how the show has done a good job of paralleling Arya and Dany's journeys. But this week, Arya and Sansa had more in common, as women who aren't quite clear on how the game is played. Sheltered Sansa thinks the angry mob had something against her personally, or that a crust of bread from her table would make a difference; life in a cage has left her unaware that her status as a member of Westeros' one percent makes her a target. Also failing to see the bigger picture is Dany, who is reminded by a couple of other characters that she has not offered anything in trade for what she wants. As several characters have observed this season, purity of ideals and nobility of intention are nice, but pragmatism has to figure somewhere in the mix. By the end of the hour, Dany didn't even have the three bargaining chips she refused to use.
All these ideas about the use of power and and the nature of oppression were explored with economy and intelligence, but what really made this hour fly by were that major things happened to almost every character. In last week's Talking TV podcast, Ryan McGee talked about how much of what happened on the show felt like a prelude to something else, and I've had that feeling at times as well: an awareness, as I'm watching, of how all the moving parts are connecting, building on each other and aligning. That awareness is often present when I'm watching TV, but certain episodes of this show are more focused on structure and set-up than others; I don't necessarily enjoy the feeling that a carefully worked-out outline is looming over the whole affair.
What I like to feel is immersed in the characters' situations, emotions and dilemmas: I like that sensation to come first, ahead of anything that could be put under an analytical microscope. Vanessa Taylor's script did that well. It's interesting to note that Season 1 took a great leap forward in its sixth episode; perhaps that will be a pattern for future seasons -- a great deal of setup (this season more elegantly handled) followed by a half season of crunch-time dilemmas and excruciatingly tense and emotional scenes.
It's not as if nothing happened in the first half of the season, it's just that crunch time in a big way arrived for so many characters and places: Winterfell fell; Jon met his match in Ygritte; King's Landing trembled on the edge of a savage rebellion; Sansa went through an awful ordeal; Theon chose his path as a remorseless Iron Man; Arya embraced her self-chosen role as a spy and an arranger of well-timed executions.
Danger, dilemmas, death: All Ned's former children and the Mother of Dragons contended with these things, completely uncertain of how things would turn out. And here's where I'm glad about my fairly terrible long-term memory: I read the books a few years ago, and I've honestly forgotten how quite a few of these things turn out. I'm on the edge of my seat, as you probably are.
A few final notes:
Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee tell THR which qualities their characters possess that make them best suited to star in "Bombshell."
Michele Amabile Angermiller
Nigel Lythgoe, the show's executive producer, revealed the final 4's next challenge on Twitter.
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Sophie A. Schillaci
The HBO broadcast was revised in the 11th hour to commemorate the death of Adam Yauch.
"Saturday Night Live" skewers the mom, accused of taking her 6-year-old daughter into a tanning bed; meanwhile Krentcil fires back at Snooki after the 'Jersey Shore' tan mom-to-be called her 'crazy.'