This season, Revenge is clearly not afraid to play with the fire that is the playbook of soap opera standbys. We’ve got the “Trust no one” line; ladies swapping identities; the main character who miraculously (an inexplicably) comes back from the dead; the lover who’s actually a spy (sorry, Daniel); and of course, a mysterious organization on which we can blame any unexplained evil in the lives of the Clarkes and their friends. And this week, the ABC drama slathered on the soapy staples like mayonnaise on a hefty BLT. I didn’t want to bite. But I did. And though I could feel with every fiber of my being that this episode was bad for me in all the worst ways, I let it string me along, because I have faith it will all be worth it.
Being that we’ve got so much to work with this week, why not recount the evening’s salacious ongoings with the help of a few expected soap opera “twists:”
The Woman Who Was Believed to Be Dead Is Also Now Completely Evil
Emily can’t possibly have two saintly parents. It simply wouldn’t make any sense. How else could she muster the capacity to do the things she does? It’s her father’s compassion that kept her from murdering Voldemort last season when she had him right where she wanted him, but it is clearly her mother’s insanity that gives her the drive to push this revenge plot forward in the face of so many personal losses and obstacles.
Of course, Emily’s former lovah Aidan prepares us for this, when he warns her that her mother might not be who Emily thinks she is. He then confirms this when he pays the psych ward escapee a visit at the motel where he found the flight recorder and uses his real accent to tell her he’s working with the FBI. She’s a little tougher than that (also, I don’t remember the FBI being full of guys with British accents, but nice try, hunky British man) and she forces him to pull his gun on her to get her to chat.
She does, and pretends to give him her hard drive full of vital information, when really she’s distracting him with something shiny so she can totally taze you, bro. When he wakes up, she’s tied him up out of fear that he’s working for the Graysons or the Initiative, which makes us think that Voldemort and his little ladyfriend were going rogue (which is probably why the Initiative is so angry about his disappearance). The worst thing about this scene is that she gives Aidan lots of opportunity for him to say he’s working with her daughter (something that might soften her long enough to get at least a little information out of her), but he doesn’t. Maybe he was being smart, or maybe, it just makes the rest of the plot points work better if he just sits there like a bump on a log and lets Cara put black tape on his mouth.
It doesn’t take long for Aidan to wrastle around, break some glass stuff, and use it to blood his manly hands and sever the restraints on his wrists before calling Emily to warn her about her sadistic mother, who’s on the move. It’s okay though, because Emily is discovering it on her own. When she sees Crazy Cara at Amanda’s bedside at the hospital (Crazy Cara listens very closely to the radio, where news about Amanda’s accident was being broadcast), she has a flashback to an afternoon of swimming with her mother.
Only, unlike her other memories of past hangtimes with Mama Clarke, this one must have been repressed. Emily sees herself as a child just as her mother tries to push her head underwater and drown her own daughter. Finally, this breaks Emily. (She can feel!) She flees the hospital, straight into Aidan’s muscular, British arms, which are waiting to intercept her at her beach cottage. Look, having a psychotic mother and remembering it after all you’d been trying to do is find her and be loved by her is just about the worst, but at least in this case, we’ve lost a mushy mother-daughter reunion, and gained a steamy hook-up (we hope!) between Aidan and Emily. (We’re allowed to be superficial right now. This is a prime time soap, after all.)
The Important Character Stuck in a Coma
So, about Amanda needing mommy visits in the hospital... She’s now in a coma, because of course, we can’t have a soap opera without a coma. (If the makers of soaps had laws, putting a character in a coma by Season 2 would be a law.) But, she gets to that hospital bed in a pretty dramatic fashion. Let’s not forget, she’s with child.
After being dumped by Jack, she moves in with Emily, who needs her to do more Victoria Grayson sabotage. Amanda is appropriately apprehensive; after the way Emily’s last favor shook out for Amanda, it certainly looks like the plan all along was to break Jack and Amanda up so Emily could have her playmate all to herself. It turns out, Emily’s got an alibi for everything. She planted the journal because she thought its contents might draw Victoria out and get her to spill the beans about Emilys (fake gasp) totally not dead mother. Amanda gets pulled back in and takes the journals to Victoria’s, where she reads them like a hostage reading the police a note from the Joker. All Victoria will say is that Emily’s mother was David Clarke’s “greatest source of emotional pain” before hiding this summit from Charlotte by declaring plans for an impromptu baby shower for Amanda.
While Amanda shows up to the shower late and with her stripper friends in tow, her fun ends there. She’s on a mission to get Victoria’s signature on a check in exchange for David’s journals so that Emily can prove her mother’s hospital’s manifesto was signed by Victoria and not Emily’s invalid Aunt Charlotte. It doesn’t take much work because Victoria slides the check into Amanda’s shower gift, sending the duo into a screaming match that, due to some technical difficulties, is one Grayson conversation Emily won’t be able to play back. Backed into a corner by the truth of her lies about visiting Cara, Victoria decides to tell Amanda the truth: Cara tried to kill her (and of course by her, we mean the real Amanda Clarke, Emily). With that slap in the face out in the open, Victoria and Amanda tussell over the Victoria’s check, in a conspicuously dangerous spot: the balcony over the entryway.
Amanda does a backwards somersault over the railing and lands (almost too prettily) on her back while blood pools around her. But she’s not dead. Emily calls 911 while looking at Victoria with more fear than she ever has before; Victoria thinks Amanda is actually Emily and she just potentially tried to kill her in front of all her friends. She’s clearly more terrifying than we thought.
Next: Is Jack reconsidering his breakup with Amanda?
At the hospital, the doctor makes Amanda, Charlotte, and Jack decide who will survive should it come down to an either/or situation, though technically, none of them get to make the call in this situation, except maybe her “sister” Charlotte, who stays obnoxiously silent. Emily says Amanda asked that the baby be saved, so they should focus on that, and the thought of Amanda dying destroys Jack. He shoulders guilt because he just broke up with her and now she might die. (This means he might just forget that part where he doesn’t actually love her.)
But she doesn’t die, of course. The baby goes into intensive care and the doctors are forced to induce Amanda’s coma to keep her alive. So now, Emily is down a minion and Jack is potentially running right back to that minion’s (currently immovable) arms. And Victoria is more terrifying than ever. Oh yes, and Emily’s mother, who tried to kill her, is back in town thanks to this whole mess. Juicy.
When All Else Fails: Terrorists!
Last season, the Americon Initiative was brought in as the orchestrators of the plane crash that put David Clarke in prison. The surveillance tapes linked Voldemort to this mysterious terrorist organization. Last week, a quick phone call to Conrad established that it is, in fact, run by humans who can pick up the phone and dial. And this week, we met the face of evil: a brown-haired woman who may or may not be auditioning to be a S.H.E.I.L.D. agent in the next Avengers movie. (Why else would she wear those tight, leather sleeves to meet a stodgy, New York businessman she’s trying to scare? Is it common knowledge that female, American terrorists running a secret terror organizations dress like they’re on an episode of Nikita?)
Anyway, Lady Terror wants to scare some sense into Conrad now that her agent, Voldemort, has been accused of kidnapping and torturing Victoria. She still hasn’t found him (and never will on account of the part where Aidan killed him), but she threatens that when she does, she’ll be very interested in his side of the story.
This portion of the episode would pack a lot more of a punch if we didn’t all watch Aidan and Emily poking around Voldemort’s dead body a few episodes ago. This woman isn’t going to hear any “other side” of the story. Revenge, you’re going to have give us another reason to fear this woman. Her knowledge of how to turn swamps into profit and her penchant for sleeves that make your arms sweaty aren’t quite doing it.
The Rich Douchebag Scamming the Poor, Struggling Good Guys With a Plan So Elaborate, It’s Bonkers
Last time we saw Declan, he was making a deal with a rich guy with enormous teeth (a sure sign of his sinister nature). He and Jack agreed that if Declan brought back all the things he and his little pissant rich friend Trey stole, Declan would be safe from donning any orange jumpsuits in the near future. As we suspected, Mr. Big Teeth isn’t so friendly.
When Trey refuses to try to get all the goods back from the lowlife he sold them too, Declan is screwed, and Jack gets into a deal with Mr. Big Teeth that has him paying back the $20k for the Babe Ruth-signed ball and other miscellaneous goods by the end of the month. Of course, that’s going to be difficult with the bar closed due to failing the health inspection. And it gets worse. Jack’s bar fails the second inspection because there’s more mold and the removal will cost $40,000. There goes all hope of paying back Mr. Big Teeth.
But of course, there’s more. Mr. Big Teeth doesn’t need Jack’s money. And he’s not missing any of his precious trinkets. In fact, Trey is sitting under an amber light in a parked car, playing with them. It turns out Trey used Declan in an elaborate scheme that is meant to end with Mr. Big Teeth repossessing Jack’s bar.
It just seems a little nuts, because with the way Jack’s luck with the bar is going, he could have waited a few months and scooped it up, without too many problems. (Of course, the money at the Stowaway doesn’t seem to flow the way regular money does. There is no way that place would still be open in reality.)
And Of Course, The Lying Lover: Doubles Edition
We’ve been very aware of Ashley’s double life, sweet-talking Daniel and then flitting over to Conrad to tell him everything. And let’s not forget, flitting back to Daniel so she can try (and fail miserably) to convince him to do Conrad’s bidding. Finally, Daniel has wised up, but his timing is pretty lousy.
After taking notice of Ashley’s overt interest in his investigation of Grayson Global’s books (which didn’t stop him from telling her everything anyway), Daniel grows suspicious. It only gets worse when Conrad calls Ashley when she is with Daniel and she ignores it. Daniel then pulls an Emily, calls in a claim that Ashley’s car is parked illegally, and listens to her voicemails from Conrad, which instruct her to spy on Daniel. Finally, dum dum.
Now, here’s where it gets a little confusing. Daniel seems to be done with Ashley. Ashley tells Conrad (so, so late in the game) that she’s done being his “little spy.” We then see Daniel and Ashley getting it on in a big way. Did she tell him everything? Or is he really, truly pulling an Emily and keeping this thing with Ashley going so he can beat Conrad at his own game? We’re going to need some explanation of all this next week, Revenge.
But, alas, I promised two lying lovers. The second is the sweet and innocent Padma. She came into Nolan’s life too swiftly and without much provocation. Nolan was gay last season and now, he’s starry eyed over Padma. Sure, we can explain this rather conveniently by simply saying he’s actually bisexual, but that wasn’t the deal last season, writers.
With all these sudden shifts in the Nolan plot, plus the addition of Nolan’s dead father he somehow didn’t realize was dead, it was clear that Padma was added in to be a spy. And with the way she was eyeing that framed note from David Clarke to Nolan, it’s a good bet she’s working with the Initiative. It’s a shame really. They even had that cute little kiss in his dead father’s locker, where the boxes crumbled under the adorable weight of their almost-first-kiss.
Only time will tell if Nolan’s brains will go out the window too. Season 1 Nolan would drop this “friend” as soon as he takes any notice of her snooping around topics involving Amanda Clarke, David Clarke, Grayson Global, and that plane crash. Padma’s going to have be really good to get the goods, or Nolan’s character is going to go down the rabbit hole of plot-generating, incongruous changes.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: ABC (2)]
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As Skylar Laine so excitedly informed the 15 million folks watching American Idol last night: The judges like Joshua Ledet. They really like him. Following his performance of India.Arie's "Ready for Love," the Top 6 contestant received his 12th standing ovation and, as Kate Ward pointed out in her Queen night recap, Ledet’s only performed 11 solos since he got past the semifinals. He’s got more standing o’s than Steven Tyler has ways to tell the contestants how beautiful they are. The issue is, as great as Ledet is, he’s not exactly the second coming of Luther Vandross. He’s a very talented singer, but the judges need to stop standing on their feet like zombies drawn to a warm body every time he opens his mouth.
It’s not that there’s an issue with excessive praise from fans — look at anything I’ve ever written about Phil Phillips (swoon) and you’ll see just how over-the-top this show makes me people. But it's not the judges’ job to transform into fanatics. They’re supposed to guide and build our contestants, not throw roses at their feet and place tiaras inscribed with “Jennifer’s Little Man” on their heads every week. Look, I’m not expecting Jennifer Lopez to go all Ruth Bader Ginsburg on these contestants, but come on, Jenny from the Block. Show a little restraint.
Joshua is hardly J. Lo's only pet — the judge has tried to use the save for every cutie that ever gave her goosies on the show, lamenting from week to week that she'd been (correctly) outvoted. (And that's coming from someone who loves DeAndre Brackensick.) The exciting part of American Idol is that we’re never sure who’s going to get the boot, especially during this most shocking year. The problem is, when the judges stand on their delicate little toesies every time Joshua sings, millions of viewers become instantly manipulated. (Why do I have a strange feeling I'm going to regret not voting for Jessica Sanchez at approximately 8:56 PM ET tonight?) I thought that performance of “Ready for Love” was genuine, and sure, it made my heart flutter to see him sitting calmly on a stool with nothing but his voice and a hat stolen from Bruno Mars’ closet for once, but I assure you that not only did I remain comfortably seated on my couch, but my peppermint tea never left my hands. Was his performance really that earth-shattering? Did someone slip something into my tea? Hey roomie, are my eyes dilated? Why am I not reacting like Joshua just sang the miraculous song that’s going to save us from a music industry that still embraces Ke$ha?
Because the judges are drinking their own Kool-Aid. They want Joshua to win (Jennifer even admitted it outright) and their mindless — and practically prerequisite at this point — reaction to every song Joshua ever sings is their way of sending voters a subtle message. It goes like this: VOTE FOR JOSHUA. HE’S THE BEST SINGER EVER. But here’s my plea, judges: Stop messing with our heads. Save your energy for grinding up on William Levy in your next music video and let us decide who’s in it to win it. Your ubiquitous standing ovations mean nothing. At this point, Steven Tyler’s tongue would have to roll out of his ginormous mouth and slap the floor like a cartoon wolf chasing a Copacabana dancer for their reactions to hold any weight.
Do you think Joshua deserved all 12 standing o’s? Why do you think Joshua gets so many when Jessica Sanchez is arguably just as talented?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.
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Billed as "a (mostly) true story," "Cradle Will Rock" is an interesting and vibrant look at American theater and art worlds facing adversity in 1930s New York played out as a cautionary tale against artistic censorship.
With an imaginative and informative original screenplay that seamlessly harmonizes true-life events and characters with fictionalized ones and acted with a labor-of-love energy by a cast of over a dozen well-respected actors from both film and stage, Tim Robbins' third directorial and writing effort employs a style that can be described as being both Altmanesque in scope and Sturgeslike in pacing and tone.
Although taking all this in can be a little too frantic and overpowering at times, "Cradle Will Rock" authentically re-creates the look and feel of the period admirably. With a highly charged theatricality that incorporates music and wit, viewing the film almost seems like experiencing live Broadway musical theater (that fact, combined with the subject matter at hand, should make the film a rare delight for theater aficionados yet a bit daunting for some mainstream moviegoers).
At the heart of the story is a production led by a young Orson Welles (Angus MacFadyen, a bit out of control). The production is a controversial musical piece about unionism by a little-known composer named Marc Blitzstein (an intense Hank Azaria). Under the auspices of the government's Works Progress Administration, Welles and his partner, John Houseman (captured with an amusing pretentiousness by Cary Elwes), lead a unit under the Federal Theatre Project (a Depression-era relief agency) headed by purposeful Hallie Flanagan (Tony winner Cherry Jones). Headed for trouble because of its supposedly inflammatory content, the play is eventually shut down by the federal government right before the first performance.
Also dealing with the concept of censorship is renowned Mexican artist Diego Rivera (spiritedly played by Ruben Blades), whose freedom of expression is denied after being commissioned by a controlling 24-year-old Nelson Rockefeller (a capable John Cusack) to paint a mural for the new Rockefeller Center.
Other figures of both the elite class, and struggling ones, are effectively played by diverse actors such as Joan Cusack, John Turturro, Emily Watson, Susan Sarandon, Jack Black, Paul Giamatti, John Carpenter and Bob Balaban.
Especially noteworthy are featured side stories involving Bill Murray as an alcoholic has-been ventriloquist and a breezy Kay Thompsonish performance by a delightful Vanessa Redgrave as the bohemian-spirited socialite wife of a fictional industrialist portrayed by the prolific Philip Baker Hall.
The coming together of all these tales is the climax of the piece, where the troupe of the ill-fated "The Cradle Will Rock" rally behind Welles, Houseman and Blitzstein to persevere in a show-must-go-on fashion (reminiscent of a popular theme in many musicals of the same time period). Extremely well-staged, this rousing finale captures an exciting yet fairly obscure moment in American musical-theater history and revels in it as a symbol of free expression triumphing over small-minded artistic oppression.
Outstanding technical expertise includes the work of esteemed French cinematographer Jean Yves Escoffier, frequent Altman editor Geraldine Peroni and Robbins' regular production designer, 1999 Tony Award winner Richard Hoover. Production is greatly served by the detailed work of costume designer Ruth Meyers (whose period work in 'L.A. Confidential' also left an impressive mark) and the team of hair and makeup artists headed, respectively, by Kathe Swanson and Linda Grimes.
* MPAA rating: R, for some language and sexuality.
"Cradle Will Rock"
Hank Azaria: Marc Blitzstein Angus MacFadyen: Orson Welles John Cusack: Nelson Rockefeller Cary Elwes: John Houseman Susan Sarandon: Margherita Sarfatti Emily Watson: Olive Stanton Joan Cusack: Hazel Huffman John Turturro: Aldo Silvano
A Buena Vista presentation. Director Tim Robbins. Screenplay Tim Robbins. Producers Tim Robbins, Jon Kilik and Lydia Dean Pilcher. Director of photography Jean Yves Escoffier. Editor Geraldine Peroni. Music David Robbins. Production designer Richard Hoover. Costume designer Ruth Myers. Art directors Troy Sizemore and Peter Rogers. Set decorator Deborah Schutt. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.