This week’s The Walking Dead seemed tailor-made to help anyone who has ever bemoaned relationship woes over a pint of microbrew IPA or Chunky Monkey ice cream (i.e., everyone) keep it all in perspective. Sure, who can’t relate to thinking you’ve finally found your soul mate, only to watch him or her degenerate into a ragged, mindless shell of a former human self whose only motivation is the next meal? But imagine all the other challenges of post-zombie-apocalypse dating! Like, after a night of moonlit Supermax cuddling, do you walk your date back to her cellblock and risk seeming over-eager? Or do you play it cool and trust that she won’t fall victim to undead-influenza or the zombified cellmate who vectored it straight into the water supply?
Worst of all, you can make all the right calls and still find your beloved dragged from her quarantine cell and set ablaze like a Southern California hillside by some mysterious psychopath with clever ideas about vermin control. Which is to say, it is with a heavy heart that we bid adieu to Tyreese’s new squeeze, Karen, as we prepare to argue with our bookie about whether putting her on Death Watch last week merits a payout.
But Karen’s story arc this season, though brief, is not meaningless, for it leads to this week’s first of Three Questions.
Warren Buffett, one of American capitalism's own Masters of Coin, is often credited with introducing the phrase "skin in the game." It turns out the Lord of Omaha didn't actually invent the expression, which refers to an individual's assumption of real risk in a chosen undertaking, but it's easy to see why he's become synonymous with it. Despite possessing the wealth of a Lannister and the toughness of an Ironborn, Buffett remains as popular as a Tyrell with the world at large. The reason: The billionaire businessman never makes a move that doesn't involve sticking out his own neck. People tend to trust a guy who trusts himself, and, more likely than not, they'll respect a winner who has personal knowledge of what it feels like to lose.
A toast to the the lucky ladies of Westeros! Yours is a continent teeming with options for the modern woman. Will you choose to be "intelligent" as your king suggests and "do what [you’re] told"? Best-case scenario: You don't hate your chosen husband, and your eventual children don't hate you — Cat Stark had a setup like that for a while, before she wound up widowed and in chains. Sure, she's "an honest woman," as her sworn protector tells the mocking Kingslayer, but a fat lot of good that did her. The minute she starts trying to think for herself, she's left alone sewing solitary dream catchers like a Widespread Panic fan trying to make a buck at Bonnaroo.
Or perhaps you'll take a more independent route, like Ros? She's got a head for business, which means, naturally, she's got to put her body to work, too; it's a glamorous existence doing the bidding of Littlefinger and just plain doing little people like Tyrion. Whoring is an opportunity to get a leg up in the man's world of Game of Thrones — and very often two. So what if it's less Lean In and more Lie Back? At least your average wine-drunk lord comes faster than winter.
My dad was dying to spoil this episode of Survivor for me from his sofa in Eastern Daylight Time, but I wouldn't let him. Though I could intuit this was not going to be a curveball episode, I was still worried about my strange buddy Phillip Sheppard, whose days are clearly numbered. A fellow Grantlander e-mailed a few of us Survivor fans asking us to explain the Special Agent, and while I got into how Sheppard is kind of like David Brent with a Special Ops folder standing in for the lyrics to "Free Love Freeway," someone else succinctly nailed it with "Sure, he's fucking crazy." He is, obviously, and I wouldn't want to share a few cubic feet of island with him or anything, but I couldn't stand to see him go just yet. I was in luck.
The shabby purple folk of Bikal return to their camp a little depleted after losing Longbeard. They'll miss Longbeard, particularly Michael, who shared a special floating alliance bond with him. Forgotten Julia mentions that she "nearly peed [her]self" at tribal council, but then evaporates, leaving only a puddle in her wake. Corinne, mad about gays, continues to heap love on Michael as they converse over the fire in plain view of Sheppard, who grows paranoid. He grabs Cochran and breathes down his neck, whispering that he wants Corinne gone before they merge. Cochran says that it may send the wrong message to Gota if they turn on their alliance so quickly, but he's become super-adept at dealing with Sheppard and remains diplomatic enough that Sheppard leaves the conversation satisfied, while Cochran smirks to the camera, presumably covered in little droplets of Special Agent sweat. The following morning, Dawn reads a tree-mail that mentions the strong carrying the weak in the rewards challenge. While the rest of the tribe hopes against hope that this challenge will somehow allow their collective weakness a chance to shine, Phillip is excited to show off the superhuman strength of his "upper body, upper back [and] shoulders." His strength is "deceptive." The pecs are undercover, but they're in there, coiled and ready to spring out of his chest. To prove this, he challenges Cochran to an arm wrasslin' match, which Sheppard dominates (obviously). He supports Cochran's entire body weight, probably 20 pounds or so, and then rolls over, exhausted and exalted, an even more overconfident man. His asset is his "will of a lion and determination of a gorilla" (see arm tats), and bolstered by this show of strength, he struts into the immunity challenge like a rhino with a trio of falcons riding on its back waving little American flags.
Just when you think American Horror Story: Asylum can’t possibly get more Baroque, it shimmies up a gilded spire and tosses a zillion putti at your head until you beg for mercy. We’ve been raped by the devil a lot this season. Our hair is very tousled and we’re all round and gravid with aliens. Don’t get me wrong; I’m in the “bring it on, Ryan Murphy” camp, but good grief. There are some gaping plot holes that can’t just be forcibly stuffed with penises. Put some answers in our orifices.
Right up there with buzzkill spouses and eager-to-cuckold best friends, the overstuffed tack board has become one of the premier television clichés of our time. From the steady nobility of Lester Freamon to the neon inanity of Beauty & the Beast, committed characters on all ends of the dial use pushpins, twine, and intuition to puzzle out their show's greatest mysteries. (Just last week on Twitter The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum suggested a show wholly devoted to the Pinterests of just such a manic protagonist.) The reigning queen of both mania and office supplies is Carrie Mathison, whose color-coded meltdown last season made for great television and a spike in Magic Marker sales.
There's a tack board in the CIA's special off-site surveillance dungeon this year, too. It's a staid and forlorn affair, unencumbered by bipolar rainbows or much of anything, really. For awhile there were photos of the immigrant cab drivers and car-wash attendants unlucky enough to cross Brody's path, but they were taken down soon enough. As we head into the final quarter of Homeland's rollicking second season, I'd wager the only things remaining on the board are photos of Abu Nazir, Roya Hamad, and perhaps one of Carrie's "Buy 9, Get 3 Free" coupons from the local Wine Depot.
Last week, the remaining chefs were subjected to the “foodie flash mob” picnic Dîner en Blanc and its attendant mimes and critics. Cosentino’s terrine scored him the win, while Patricia’s high-concept beefy jam–and–flatbread combo got her sent home. And then there were three: Lorena, Cosentino, and Kerry.
As soon as the triumvirate walks into the kitchen and sees the partitions, psychic Cosentino knows the score. Yes, it’s “cooking through the wall” time, a communication-testing Quickfire during which the chefs must instruct a mystery teammate on the other side of the partition on how to make a dish that they simultaneously cook themselves. Kerry chimes in that it pays to be nice in this one, and we are treated to a flashback to Season 3 to see Naomi Pomeroy tearing her mystery partner a new one as she screams for him to taste the mushrooms, TASTE THE MUSHROOMS, and then discovers that her partner was her dad. After 20 minutes, the teams will be judged on how well their dishes resemble one another and the overall quality of the result. This time, the mystery teammates are the judges, Reichl, Oseland, and Lam. I would both love and hate to be a mystery teammate on this challenge — I’ve never seen any of these judges cook, and it’s probably tough to be a critic put to the test against the final three Top Chef Masters. I’d be so afraid to show my ignorance after judging these people all season. I’d probably throw up into my demi-glace.
Last week's episode of Top Chef Masters marked the departure of Art Smith and a farewell to his many variations on biscuits and dressing. It also was the point at which the enamel started to crack on the Le Creuset casserole of inter-chef relationships: Kerry and Patricia sparred during service and Art and Lorena's credentials were called into question when the chefs were split up for their ceremonial van rides to the grocery store. With only five chefs left in the competition (Chris, Lorena, Takashi, Kerry, and Patricia), we have reached the ego trip stage. Everyone is tired and cranky and, according to Patricia, aware of who’s on top and who's — well, Lorena.
Ugh, the Authority. We've been trapped in this stupid, sleek, modernist basement set all season. It's like being stuck at the airport. It almost makes me miss last season's evil Wiccan feminist bookstore (almost). Bill is lured into the temple of doom by Lilith's inviting voice. She instructs him to chug the vial of her fluids and become the clan leader. Bill somehow resists her goth, topless, tomato-sauce charms and flees. She leaves a bloody handprint on the glass to remember her by.
Fun fact: That time-lapse clip of a decomposing fox from the True Blood credit sequence is stock footage in the public domain. It has also been used in Adaptation, The Hunger, a Nine Inch Nails video ("Hurt"), a Katy Perry video ("E.T."), a Linkin Park video ("The Catalyst"), and an episode of Wonder Showzen. It's my favorite part of the opening credits. Here is the creepy/awesome/informative clip in its entirety.
When Sookie Stackhouse stops getting laid she turns into a murderer. Her single-girl Sunday-night meal of Chinese takeout in pajamas is interrupted by a rude late knock from Mike the coroner, who turned into a vampire sometime during the season he spent offscreen. Sookie unsuccessfully shoots him, and then stabs him with a chopstick so that he collapses into a pile of carmine goo. Sure, it's self-defense — but it's also second nature to the increasingly criminal Sook, who ought to head southwest and give Walter White a run for his meth money (or at least a competitive rate on fairy blood).
A yellow-eyed werewolf drags B.D.W.R. down a hospital corridor as two others go in for The Scarecrow (Bill) and The Tin Man (Eric). A reconstituted Russell wearing dirty blue striped linen pajamas tries to make Sookie part with more of her precious fairy blood. Sookie shoots a burst of Spidey-Stackhouse energy from her palms, which maims Russell long enough for Bill and Eric to get the jump on him. They are discussing torture layout options when a group of officials with red laser beams tell them to freeze.
Tara puts Jessica through a bathroom wall defending herself in their Fangtasia catfight over guylinered Hoyt. Pam lets them scrap for a minute before stepping in to assist Tara. Jessica, not used to losing, swallows her ginger pride and limps off in anger. Pam gives Tara a compliment followed swiftly by a neg, because Pam is a world-class player. Terry and Noel from Felicity are making a run for it but get stopped in their tracks by the nefarious Ifrit demon, who throws a few posts of fire in their way. I guess bad luck will follow you out of Bon Temps all the way to the Sunnydale Hellmouth.
Before getting into the episode, let's not gloss over the fact that this episode is called "That Girl Is Poison," which has to be a Bell Biv DeVoe reference, right? Right? If so, that's awesome. Will there, perhaps, be a cameo? Dance break? Donald Faison reprise, maybe? I'm excited.
Tara's attempted suicide by tanning bed comes to a swift and predictable halt at Pam's black latex gloved hands. Pam hears out Tara's self-pitying excuses but she is NHFT. Tara's light-abraded pizza face makes her look like Freddie Krueger. Even if Bon Temps has a good dermatologist, they'll probably turn out to be a gorgon.
Sookie yells a half-assed "Sorry for murdering your soul mate!" at Alcide as his truck pulls out of the lot at Merlotte's. Sookie sure has a weird way of flirting. She's on her fairy blood period tonight. Lafayette reminds Sook that he could've sold her "peach-pie ass out so many times" but abstained out of dumb friendship loyalty. Fair enough, Lala!
Tara wakes up in a supernatural forest whose filter effects are shockingly similar to those of last season's fairy world. She stares at her hand, which is usually what people do in a fictional situation to establish that they are on psychedelic drugs. Considering how horrible Tara's story lines usually are, it seems like things can only get better.
As the episode begins, we join three of the Liars in class — taught by Aria's mom — being typical uninterested seniors. As sober Emily digs into her big purse, presumably for a writing utensil, she instead finds a strange necklace. It's strange in the sense that it doesn't appear to be hers, but mainly because it contains a threatening message. Oh, and it's made out of human teeth.