May 02, 2013 1:10pm EST
Maximiliano Hernandez (better known as the dearly departed Agent Chris Amador) said of The Americans, "The Americans for me is analogue. There's a texture to it, you can hear it." And in Wednesday's Season 1 finale, "The Colonel," all the gears and cogs — of Directorate S, the FBI, and the Jennings' marriage — are laid bare to suspenseful, poignant effect.
The Americans has walked the line between camp and drama all season, using moments of levity (such as chuckle-worthy fashion choices and antiquated — yet period-appropriate — technology) to add lightness to what would be an otherwise very, very dark show. By including just the right amount of kitsch, we are able to continue to root for characters — namely Keri Russell's Elizabeth and Matthew Rhys' Phillip — who rack up quite the body count. And in "The Colonel," when the stakes are higher than ever, your allegiances lie firmly with the Jennings.
The main action of "The Colonel" obviously hinges on the bait-and-switch of the trap the FBI has set for the Directorate S illegals (who we know to be the Jennings). As Elizabeth prepares to meet the colonel — and then when Phillip actually does, after he goes rogue — the audience knows that the real danger lies in picking up the surveillance tapes. And therefore the moments in which Elizabeth approaches the vehicle while Phillip tries to intercept her are the most suspenseful of the episode. Although, the car chase that follows ain't bad, either (I personally loved the vintage feel and old school car stunts).
The emotional high point of the episode, however, is of course the touching final scene between Elizabeth and Phillip. When Elizabeth asks Phillip in Russian to "come home," you feel the cathartic release as a season full of back-and-forth rushes away. It's obvious these two love one another and, after the heartbreaking scene in "Covert War" during which Phillip rebuffs (or is oblivious to) Elizabeth's attempt at reconciliation, this moment of tender forgiveness seems long overdo. And I, for one, can't wait to see how their relationship progresses going forward, especially with the new specter of Phillip/Clark's marriage to Martha haunting them.
Speaking of Martha, the secondary characters really came into their own in the season's final few episodes. Martha, played with incredible earnestness and care by Alison Wright, is pitiful, yes, but you can't help but love her. She's not so blinded by her love for Clark that she fails to exert her own convictions — she was, after all, able to convince Clark to let her tell her parents about their relationship as well as move up the wedding date — and that's appealing. Wright has created a layered, nuanced character where it would be so easy to fall back on caricature. And it was a surprise to all that she was able to survive the season — although I doubt she'll be so lucky in Season 2.
The other big surprise of the season was Nina's (Annet Mahendru) new role as a double agent. Nina transformed from the victim to a force to be reckoned with, and could very well be Stan's (Noah Emmerich) downfall. Stan and Nina are, in a way, foils for one another. As Nina gains strength and grows stronger in her convictions, Stan is reduced to nearly a shell of a man. He lost his partner, he is well on his way to destroying his marriage, and his big professional moment was a bust. Nina has taken control of her fate while Stan has become victim to his — and that makes me want to root for Nina and Directorate S. Team Nina!
So, where do we go from here? When Season 2 begins, we will once again have a unified Jennings family and Directorate S will once again have an upper hand on the FBI (thanks to Nina's double agent status and the colonel's new intel) — but that doesn't mean we have returned to square one. While Elizabeth and Phillip's relationship seems stronger than ever, how will they keep the Martha ruse going? It will surely tear Elizabeth apart to watch Clark return to Martha's (soon to be redecorated) apartment night after night.
Also within the Jennings family, we have Paige's growing suspicion to deal with. Is Paige's curiosity simply reflective of your normal teen rebellion and tendency to delve into one's parents' past? Or will Paige become a real threat to her parents' secret identity? Furthermore, if Paige does discover her parents' true lives, how will she take it?
The other huge question mark is Claudia's (Margo Martindale) fate on the show. In the final episode, the audience was given a look at Claudia's true loyalties — which, contrary to the Jennings' belief — lie firmly with the agents in her care. And yet, Claudia may be out of the picture come Season 2. Unfortunately, Grannie's future on The Americans may be determined by outside forces; she has a starring role in the pilot for Will Arnett's new comedy, which is currently awaiting pickup by CBS. If her new show gets a green light, we might unfortunately lose Claudia. And what a loss it would be.
Bigger picture questions I have going forward involve the spy aspect of the show, rather than the familial one. How long can the FBI and Directorate S continue to play this game of cat and mouse without it wearing thin? And will Phillip and Elizabeth continue to be given one-off missions that don't forward the overall arc of the show? These seem to truncate the action without advancing the characters in noteworthy ways. Furthermore, how do we progress in the Cold War without rewriting history? In order to keep things accurate it seems we have to shy away from big, international moves. They can't actually assassinate Reagan or drastically change the space program... can they?
The show is ripe with possibilities for Nina's advancement as well as the Martha/Clark storyline, and I'd love to learn more about Sandra (Susan Misner), Stan's cuckolded wife with an impressive amount of backbone, so hopefully we see those progressed in a second season. Ultimately, I feel in good hands with Joseph Weisberg and Joel Fields at the helm; I can't wait to see where they take us.
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April 30, 2013 9:29pm EST
Flashback episodes and first-time episodes (as in, when two characters finally give in to mounting tension and have sex for the first time, making 'shippers the world over rejoice) are not exactly virgin territory for sitcoms. While New Girl has done the flashback thing time and time again (often with mixed results), they most certainly haven't had Nick and Jess do it before.
That's right, it finally happened: after weeks and weeks of agonizing teasing, flirting, and longing glaces on confusing first dates, Nick and Jess had sex. And much like any first time, expectations were sky high and left you with feelings of confusion, exhilaration, and — let's be honest with ourselves — a little bit of concerned regret. Was it too soon? But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's slow down and start from the beginning, baby.
The aptly titled "Virgins" found the gang hanging out where they spend far too much time for an attractive group of early thirty-somethings: the bathroom. Jess was helping Cece shave her underarms (I don't know if this is like the pillow fight urban legend, but this does not happen), Winston was talking about getting the chance to hook up with Daisy again (the guy needs something to do on the show, why not have it be a beautiful woman), and Nick was creeping in the stall listening in (like he apparently does more than anyone had known).
After Jess got a text from some schmo named Teddy who wanted to meet her for drinks, Nick went into a tailspin of jealousy after she revealed the mystery man was actually the one who took her flower. ("He stole a flower from you and you wanna have drinks from you.... Oh, from your wonderful secret garden." Aw, Nick). When Cece butted in and claimed that Jess had the most embarrassing story about losing one's virginity, well, the rest of the gang had to chime in with their own tales of first-time fornication.
While Jess claimed up and down that hers was not only the most embarrassing, but also had the intrigue of murder, her house mates had far worse stories and even more illegal activities. Here, I'll rank the gang's virginity stories from most humiliating to least based on their tales.
Winston: Oh, good god, poor Winnie. This guy can't catch a break. He's nothing more than filler on the show (though he has had some consistently hilarious one-liners over the past few weeks, including last night's masterfully executed and accurate cry of "Oregon sucks!") and now he's the guy with the worst story about losing the V-card. For years Winston was convinced that he wooed the ladies of the night that Nick's dad Walt Miller (Dennis Farina, back from the dead) brought the boys during a visit to New York City. Well, one lady in particular: Mysteria. Apparently that name wasn't a dead enough giveaway that she was a prostitute, and neither was the fact that she laughed in his face when he asked her what she does for a living. Then again, young Winston legitimately didn't know how Titanic was going to end. Even when Nick honored his father's memory by waiting until he was dead to tell Winston the truth (the flashback of their father-son chat was not only sweet, but imperative to the Nick-Jess story line, but more on that in a bit) the guy just didn't want to believe the truth.
Schmidt: In any other group of friends, Schmidt's story of being 200 pounds overweight and using so much lube that he slipped off his bunk bed and on to his roommate would win, but Schmidt clearly isn't humiliated by the story. I mean, why else would he be trying to replicate the escapade with his college girlfriend, Elizabeth? (Sorry Cece, I'm really pulling for these two to wind up together. Schmidt is most himself around her, because she knew him before he was Schmidt). Still, the sequence was a physical comedy gem, between a tripping-on-shrooms Nick "magnetically stuck" to the wall and a Fat "The Sex Haver" Schmidt trying in vain to get up from the floor covered in lube.
Jess: Nice try, Jessica Day. While your story may have started out with your nerdy prom date stabbing himself in the hand with steak knives because he couldn't get you out of your dress and moved to you trying to lose your virginity in a plastic castle on a playground (with a murdered guy on a bench mere feet away) to a handsome fellow (played by Dylan O'Brien) who couldn't get it up and figured out he was probably gay, it still ended with you losing your virginity to a handsome firefighter named — you guessed it — Teddy. Jess' road to losing her virginity at 22 was paved with sewing and social mishaps, including singing Lisa Loeb's "Stay" far too much, but hers ultimately turned out to be pretty great.
Nick: We didn't get a flashback of Nick's story (we did get a taste of Nerd Nick and Hippie Nick, however, in Winston and Schmidt's stories) he did sweetly reveal to Jess that he lost his to a gal named Allison Daniels on a towel in the woods. He cried and she left her bra on. "It was nice," he reflected. Sounds pretty status quo, but by no means terrible.
Cece: Of course. Of course Cece had the best losing her virginity story. She lost it on prom night...but not to Study Hall Steve or Cool Car Johnny, but Mick Jagger. "Game changer!" as Schmidt exclaimed, only to wrongly later exclaim, "Beatlemania!"
But even though she had the best story, Cece wasn't exempt from the more emotionally draining and exhausting land mine that is the sex life of a grown-up. She still hasn't had sex with her groom-to-be, Schmidt was still trying out all his tricks (namely German sex device The Arch Duke, which requires 16 batteries), and Winston still got a little too turned on by Titanic. We might grow up, but deep down we're all still insecure, nervous teenagers.
I mean, just look at Nick and Jess: two grown-ups clearly attracted to each other who continue to dance around each other's feelings and hope the other will make the first move. It's amazing neither of them have passed each other notes under their doors from across the hall. Sure, technically Nick became a man when he had sex with Allison in those woods so many years ago, but he didn't truly become an adult when he took his father's advice to stop over-thinking and take charge of a moment. Which is exactly what he did when he ran after Jess in the elevator, took her in his arms like a damn man, and carried her to the bedroom. "Let's not think about it," he growled to a clearly into-it Jess. (The girl loves her take-charge men).
I will always love Walking Human Disaster Nick (the guy who doesn't know that tuxedos and suits are different things) but I think I love Sexy Smoldering Nick a little bit more. That guy can stay. Well done, Jake Johnson, you have officially set the bar far too high for reasonable expectations.
Back in the bedroom, the two friends looked at each other and then the bed and then back at each other again, knowing this was the point of no return. While we only saw a post-coitus Nick and Jess blissfully going through a range of emotions from surprise to delight to anxiousness right back to delight, all the episodes leading up to this moment have been arguably sexier and you can pretty much just let your imagination run wild as to how hot their session was.
While we'll have to wait to see how these two deal with things post-hookup (I mean, they could barely handle a kiss or a dinner date without freaking out) from the look of things, they seem pretty damn happy about this inevitable rendezvous. He smiled, she smiled, he laughed, she laughed (and snuck in an adorable "Ruh-roh" for good measure) and the episode faded to black. Keeping in line with the theme of virginity, all this did was leave fans wanting more. What a tease!
Here now are the other best lines and moments from "Virgins":
- "Oh, you need help? Where's your Women's Lib now?!" - Schmidt to Jess- "Who cares about the theme, what were you wearing?" - A worked-up Nick to Jess, about her prom- Jess Day in the year 2000: major credit to the New Girl hair and wardrobe team for making the already-youthful Zooey Deschanel actually look like a rosy-cheeked high schooler.- Nick's wrong, desperate claim that girls don't like guys who play guitar. - "David Foster Wallace, where is the sex?" - An annoyed Schmidt to Jess. - Even though College Hippie Nick is as about as lame as College Hippie Ted on HIMYM, I give him the slight edge over Nerdy High School Nick as I too was/still am "a Daver." Plus, he tried to reason with the shroom-induced troll he hallucinated by telling it, "I don't want any trouble; I think you're a remarkable creature." - "She was a nurse! Her nurse hat was in her purse!" - Winston, still in denial about Mysteria. - Fat Schmidt unknowingly hitting on Cece of the Past with lines like "Do you like DVDs?" and "Does this bar have cookies?" - Jess describing her date's erectile dysfunction as a "wind sock on a windless day." - "Let's not think about it." Yeah, I know I mentioned it already, but it deserves a second mention. And bonus points for the use of the very awesome "Anything Could Happen" by Ellie Goulding. Perfection.
So, what did you think of "Virgins"? Is this the beginning or the end of Nick and Jess, and in turn New Girl? I'd say I can't wait to find out (and I think it's the beginning, as this show is the best comedy on television and will only continue to hold that title), but Taylor Swift appears on the Season 2 finale in two weeks. For now, I'll just bask in this Nick and Jess afterglow.
Follow Aly on Twitter @AlySemigran
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April 19, 2013 11:44am EST
When New Girl fans met Nick Miller's mom Bonnie (Emmy-winner Margo Martindale) for the first time (we've overheard plenty of adorable phone calls in which he reassures his "Ma" he's alright) in the wonderful, bittersweet episode "Chicago," it wasn't under the happiest of circumstances. Her con artist husband Walt (Dennis Farina) passed away and Nick and his pals went to the crazy Miller household to pay their respects at his Elvis-themed funeral.
At the end of the episode, Bonnie — who ultimately warmed to Jess (Zooey Deschanel) when she saw how much she and her son cared about each other — she pleaded with Nick to come home to Chicago more, if only so that she didn't have to only talk to her dopier son Jamie (Nick Kroll). Well, Bonnie and New Girl fans who want more of that crazy Miller brood may get their wish: Martindale told Hollywood.com that she and the New Girl writers are "all talking about" how to bring Bonnie back into the mix. And Walt, too?
Martindale caught up with Hollywood.com on the red carpet at the premiere of her new drama Bluebird at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday and revealed, "We were all talking about it. About maybe Dennis Farina('s character Walt) is not really dead, that he conned his death. And then we could have a meeting of the parents." The Millers meeting the Days (Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner)? We love it already. If only because their meeting would mean Nick and Jess would have a reason for their parents to meet!
Of course, getting to revive her role as Nick's mom on the series (which is already garnering her guest star Emmy buzz) has another pretty sweet incentive: getting to work with Jake Johnson again. "Isn't he cute? In person he's even cuter," Martindale said, adding, "He's such a wonderful actor. That whole cast is insane talent." One big, happy talented New Girl family.
Follow Aly on Twitter @AlySemigran
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March 26, 2013 9:29pm EST
We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of every other sitcom on television trying to compete with New Girl, which is not only firing on all cylinders when it comes to sharp writing, Emmy-primed performances (just give Jake Johnson the damn thing now, he's earned it), and the right balance of heart and wit. We will miss them.
At the start, New Girl wasn't exactly a show that stood on the edge. The Fox comedy has been solid in the ratings from the word go — or, in the case of an ill-advised marketing slogan, "adorkable" — so a premature cancellation was never really in the cards. The show's leading lady Zooey Deschanel and breakout sidekick Max Greenfield both earned nominations from the always-newcomer friendly Golden Globes. Yet, as "safe" as it was, there wasn't enough to convince even the snobbiest of television snubs that a show with a similar premise (attractive twentysomethings living in the city, wading through the sea of bulls**t that is dating, careers, and being broke) was actually doing something really special and downright hilarious.
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Whatever New Girl detractors are left out there, if there are any, you should really be the one in mourning. Fox'sNew Girl isn't just a sexy, shipper-friendly sitcom, it's also the funniest and most hearfelt comedy on television right now. The show has quickly turned its muddled second season (thanks to those pesky anti-feminism themes and that cringe-worthy product placement moment) into a thoughtful and entertaining comedy that finally feels on par with the likes of Parks and Recreation.
A huge part of that success has been the evolution of Johnson's Nick Miller from goofy, likable manchild to a fully fleshed-out character with a continually interesting back story and even more promising future. Plus, he's just so damn dreamy. The ballad of Nick Miller continued last night in "Chicago", a heartbreaker of an ep that explained more about him in 24 minutes than the whole of two seasons.
After receiving a phone call from his mom (played by the great Margo Martindale) Nick has learned that his dad (played by Dennis Farina, who we met a few weeks ago as the con man and learned Nick had a complicated father-son relationship with) had a heart attack and passed away. Now, this is no new sitcom territory: How I Met Your Mother dealt with it brilliantly with Marshall mourning the unexpected loss of his dad, but during a week when something as touching and raw as this comes out, New Girl had its work cut out for it. Still, any episode that starts with friends giving their condolences after huffing helium was on the right track.
The gang flies out with Nick to Chicago (lest you forget from Schmidt's rap "Nick Milla, Nick Milla/From the streets of Chicago/'Cause the players play/Like they do, like they did") to lend their support as Nick not only has to say goodbye, but deal with his crazy, loud brood. While Schmidt and Winston are used to it (or, as Nick's mom referred to them, Fat Schmidt and Winnie), it was all new territory for Jess. Of course, once you can survive the first meeting with the fam, especially one under such extreme circumstances, you can handle pretty much anything.
She was immediately thrust into Miller clan madness, which includes an overbearing mother who doesn't trust her (and thinks she's Spanish) and relies on Nick to put the entire Elvis-themed funeral together in a few days (we learned pretty quickly that Nick ran the show at home as a kid thanks to his unreliable dad), a bonehead brother named Jamie (played to perfection by Nick Kroll), a grandmother (perennial TV and movie grandmother Ellen Albertini Dow) who doesn't trust cops, and a rough-around-the-edges cousin from Boston Bobby (comedian Bill Burr) hell-bent on getting a gold necklace from his dead uncle.
It's a side of Nick we haven't seen before, certainly not one seen by Jess, and it explains a whole lot about Nick. The reason why he's so unfocused and lost is because he had to be the one at home (or that year they lived in a van) to handle all the really grown-up affairs. Now he finally gets to be the teenager he never got to be back home in Chicago. If that doesn't make you fall in love with Nick a little bit more, you're on you're own: it certainly flipped a switch in Jess. Desperate to help him, Jess somehow gets talked into writing his father's eulogy despite having only met him once.
With little help from Jamie (he described his late father as a man who "had a table at every diner in the city, silverware from the finest hotels in the area, a gold chain as thick as floss... thick floss") and even less help from an under-pressure Nick who takes off the night before the funeral, Jess feels, well, helpless. But more than anything, you can tell its killing her that she wants to connect with Nick, to hold his hand during this time, but he won't let her, he can't while he takes care of the latest family crisis. Which, in the Miller family, just so happens to include finding an affordable Elvis Presley impersonator.
Of course, Jess and Nick weren't the only ones dealing with a personal crisis: Winston somehow got relegated, once again, to helping smooth out Schmidt's crazed theories and neurosis. What was capturing a rare fish last week became helping him cope with his fear of death, mainly of seeing a dead body in an open casket. "What's with this open casket thing? I gotta see the carcass? That's crazy! What if his eyes open and then he comes and haunts all of us?" Schmidt cried in a pre-funeral meltdown. (Johnson may be the heart and soul of the show right now, but Greenfield still knows how to go straight for the funny bone).
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Now, I still think the show's writers need to give Winston and actor Lamorne Morris way more to do on the show than play a sidekick to a sidekick (he's literally playing dead here to help out Schmidt get the laughs), but while we're all busy swooning over Nick and Jess, it is fun to watch these two play off of each other. They make a good duo, we just need to build Winston as his own person first for it to be completely effective.
But, neither Winston nor Jess got their job done as both Schmidt was still weary about death ("It's bad luck to see the body before the funeral") and Nick showed up to his father's funeral tanked ("I drank one dozen beers") with a shady Elvis impersonator and a shoddy eulogy (or, as he hilariously slurred, "a giggliography") in tow. While poor Winnie wound up being the one who unraveled come funeral time as Schmidt faced his fear of the dead — quite literally, he touched head's with Nick's dead dad's head as he tried to get the crazy cousin away from the coveted chain — Nick eventually pulled it together, with the help of Jess.
After having a heart-to-heart with Nick as she helped Nick sober up, she not only told him that she simply wanted to be there to hold his hand, but stepped in as the Elvis impersonator as the funeral so richly deserved. Deschanel has always been a gifted comedian as far as I'm concerned (see: The Good Girl and Almost Famous) but watching her sing "In the Ghetto" in full Elvis garb to a room full of mourners took it to another level. Even Schmidt marveled that he felt transported to the ghetto. I think Nick truly fell in love with her in that moment, and no matter how much her bangs might drive you crazy, you'd be made of stone to not fall head over heels for her here, too.
With the boost from Jess, who was willing to make an ass of herself for the sake of him and his family, Nick did what he knew he had to do all along, but kept putting off (it's easier to crunch the numbers on a calculator than it is to find the right words about your parent): he said goodbye to his dad. Nick gave a sweet, honest, and beautiful eulogy about his pop.
Now, I know I keep pushing for Johnson to get an Emmy (he deserves it) but there was a moment that solidified his place as not only an incredibly gifted comic star, but an actor as well. When Nick said in his eulogy that he didn't know whether or not his father Walt was a good or bad guy "he was my dad and im sure gonna miss him." That gut punch of a line was likely from the talented New Girl writers, but in that same moment Nick hands begin to nervously fidget. That could have very well been in the script too, but after having seen the improv-heavy Drinking Buddies at SXSW, which stars Johnson, I wouldn't be surprised if he came up with that key moment on the spot.
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In case that wasn't enough to put a lump in your throat, Nick's mom apologized to him for putting so much pressure on him as a kid (being the good boy that he is, he told her not to worry) and warmed to Jess, even packing her a snack for the road. "I'm glad you have someone who takes care of you," she told her son as they both looked at Jess. He didn't correct her, he only smiled knowingly. These two have a bond deeper than frenzied make-outs, but whether that will lead to love still remains to be seen. They deeply, deeply care about each other for now, and that's okay. Although, here's to hoping that final sequence of Jess singing "Burning Love" is actually just musical foreshadowing.
Check out the lines and best moments from the wonderful "Chicago" (there's more than a few, get ready) here:
- "He loved me more than he loved you, he told me that"- Winston, to Nick about his dad. Nick concurred with, "Yeah he told me that, too, actually."
- "I wanted to look fantastic for your father's funeral, now I have nothing but the schmatta on my back" - Schmidt, putting his Hebrew flair on funeral talk.
- "Don't do the hair pull, it's so intimate" - Nick to his brother Jamie.
- Nick's nicknames (ha!) at home include College and The Iron Jew. Jess' nicknamed was ceremoniously declared Glasses.
- Schmidt's hatred of the "middle class button system": "Look at all these buttons, I look like a remote control!"
- Jamie's theory on being coy about sexual relationships: "She who denied it, supplied it."
- Schmidt calling Winston a "beautiful black butterfly" and "a ghoul" during his fake eulogy for him.
- Schimdt representin': "Long Island, son!" (Runner-up: "All day, son!")
- Bobby representin': "It's all about the gestuh!"
- Drunk Nick crying to Jess, "I'm the stupidest of all the stupid boys!" Hardly.
- "He was very good at gambling, he had a great mustache, he was mean to cabbies in a cool way, he never was scared" - Nick's lovely, tearjerking eulogy to his dad.
Follow Aly on Twitter @AlySemigran
[Photo credit: Jennifer Clasen/Fox]
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January 15, 2013 9:00pm EST
Whoa, nelly. For a show about four young people living in Los Angeles, Tuesday’s episode of New Girl certainly had a lot of talk about horse semen.
The Fox series hasn’t exactly replicated the success of its first season this year, so you’d think that an episode in which the main conflict hinged on selling the fruit of a steed’s loins would be the moment to throw in the towel. Against all odds, it’s actually not. And that’s because after you wade through all the jokes about the white stuff, you get to the right stuff: the genuine, (dare I say it) heartwarming bond between Jess and Nick.
The nonsense starts when Dennis Farina stops by to play the long awaited father to Nick’s aimless wonder. While I was hoping to find Mr. Grumpy Cat Sr. trudging around the quartet’s ridiculous L.A. loft apartment, competing with Nick to see who could gain more frown lines in a single sitting or go hoarse from griping about kid these days, Mr. Miller waltzes in like Willy Wonka, besting Nick at the game I’m totally going to make my friends play next time one of them has had one too many drinks for the night: Feely Cup. (How Nick didn’t get that the mystery item was a tampon wrapped in duct tape dipped in baking powder will forever remain a mystery. Talk about no direction!)
Winston is ecstatic, until Schmidt reminds him that Mr. Miller is a con man who brought his kid and his best friend a box of hats that read “Chica Go Bills” (you mean you don’t remember cheering for Michael Jordan to lead the Chica Go Bills basketball team to victory?). But Winston didn’t have a dad growing up, so he clung to Walt Miller and ignored his obvious scheming, but that storyline is over now because Winston is the worst and this episode is all about Nick. Gosh, Winston.
Walt takes the whole crew, minus Schmidt who’s on a mission to save Cece from a blind date (but more on that in a minute), to the race tracks. Between ‘supping various extras from The Sopranos all day at the tracks, Walt convinces Jess that he’s here to make things right with Nick, and he gets her to pitch in to buy Nick the horse “he always wanted,” but surprise! It’s all a ruse so Walt can get into the horse semen black market. Oh, of course. That thing that’s totally real. (It’s very real. The phrase “selling horse semen” is now a permanent mark on my Google record. You’re welcome.)
The episode gets sweet, and far weirder than I could have imagined, when Nick insists on accompanying his father to the drop so he can make sure Jess gets her investment back (Winston, however, is stuck never seeing a dime of that $1100 Walt owes him.) When the Russian gangsters show up to buy the horse for his grade-A product (“He makes the white?”), Nick is determined to make the sale, no matter how much his Pinoccio’s nose of a perspiration problem gets in the way. He tells his first lie with his face scrunched up like a pug’s face on a ShrinkyDink: “You’ll get a bunch of horse semen.” It’s enough to make Nick’s body erupt in a shiny layer of sweat, which glistens enough in the headlights of the Russians’ car that they assume he’s wearing a wire. If all the talk of semen wasn’t weird enough, the Russians make Nick get naked and dance, but luckily, before it gets weird Nick turns the dance into a spastic Nick Miller ballet. Sweat Lake, perhaps? In all the excitement, Nick admits that he’s lying, which makes a lead pipe magically appear in the gangsters’ hands. Nick saves he and his father from a savage beating by playing his childhood game, Sugar Ray: pretend to be going into diabetic shock so the mean men don’t want to kill Daddy.
When the men speed off in confusion, so does Jess, cackling that she totally “conned” them into talk to each other. Jess, if you weren’t some weird hybrid of a human and cartoon character, you’d be steering your impossible to drive pickup truck right into Winston territory. But, while Jess makes the world’s worst 87-point turn at the edge of the abandoned loading docks where the horse sale was supposed to go down, Nick has something of a moment with his conniving old dad. And there’s more nakedness. And also suggestive conversation surrounding the horse, who ends up nosing Walt’s pants. Beyond that, Nick blames his dad for the way he is, you know, devoid of nutrition from vegetables. Also, that part where he has no direction. That too.
After Walt seems to get it, promising to make it up to Nick, Jess catches him sneaking out the next morning and before he leaves, he can’t even muster the sentence “Tell Nick I love him.” And that’s when the real magic begins. Nick finds Jess “angry-fixing” the sink (his usual reaction to his dad’s nonsense), and the tingly heart nonsense begins. Nick tells Jess to stop (another protective measure) and tries to tell her what he learned from his dad: broken people stay broken, like Walt, and Nick is broken. The response Jess gives is, in and of itself, a total justification for all the infuriatingly twee things Jess does: “I don’t know how you made it out, but you’re good.” Despite the missteps this season, the core friendship (even without all the shipper hope attached) is still very much alive and grounding all the nonsense.
Of course, that couldn’t stop Schmidt and Robbie this week, who teamed up to sabotage Cece’s blind date with her mother’s chosen industry titan of Indian descent. While it provided for a few fantastic lines, the story basically involved the duo stalking Cece while Schmidt played on the fact that Robbie is apparently a complete dolt. (Though you have to admire Robbie’s creative thinking. You could eat an elephant one bite at a time, as the saying says, but why do that when you can make him into tacos?)
Their planning comes to a head when the duo crashes what they think is Cece’s first date with her new beau, but after throwing a series of sexualized Indian movie titles at her (the sucker in me got a kick out of Slum-doggy-style Millionaire), Schmidt and Robbie barrel into a meeting of families aimed at determining the could-be couple’s compatibility. Cece’s not messing around. This also means, these shenanigans are probably going to continue for at least a little while longer, but hey, at least they have nothing to do with the reproductive functions of large farm animals. God knows there’s too much of that on television these days.
Now, before we part ways, can we just talk about some of these moments and one-liners?
- Jess, pretending to appraise a horse: “This haircut is totally wrong for his face.”
- We couldn’t have gotten through the episode without this one: “There’s more to a father’s love than just semen!” -Jess - Nick, justifying protecting Jess from breaking the sink: “Your eyes are twice the size of normal eyes.” - The fact that Nick’s reconnection with his father is set to the screeching soundtrack of Jess’s inability to turn the pick-up truck and trailer around. - Nick, who’s angry-fixing the sink after his father arrives: “I have the blood pressure of a humming bird!” - All the things that are wrong with this sentence in Schmidt’s plan to get Cece back: “I only dread the day we defeat all the Indians and face each other in a duel to the death. We’re like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid except only one of us dies in the end.” - Schmidt’s much better, final, “genius” plan to get Cece back: The three-man canoe with Robbie, Schmidt, and an open seat for Cece. Lord knows the ladies just love empty canoe benches. Foolproof, amirite? Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler [Photo Credit: Fox] More: 'New Girl' Recap: A Cabin in the Hoods 'New Girl' Is Back: Where We Left Off With the Gang 'New Girl' Star Max Greenfield: Is There Hope For Schmidt and Cece?
October 24, 2012 1:52pm EST
Dick Wolf knows his way around a crime procedural. For 13 years and counting, the writer/producer's beloved NBC crime procedural Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has provided faithful entertainment to both the network viewers and addicts of cable syndication. And with its 300th episode airing tonight, SVU stands only as Wolf's second-longest running series, losing out to the original Law & Order (and by seven years at that!). Wolf, who recently spoke to the press about this forthcoming milestone, knows that it's not just dumb luck that has given SVU its staying power.
“It has served a defined social benefit that has been acknowledged for years," Wolf said of his powerhouse series. Since SVU went on the air, it has been a really profoundly influential show in terms of the reporting of sex crimes, in terms of the reporting of both child abuse and elder abuse, a whole range of topics." Wolf added, "The actual percent in increase, in the early years of the show, of reported sexual crimes astounded police. It took away the curse of silence.”
Even the show's cast has taken on progressive efforts towards solving the problems highlighted onscreen: "Obviously, Mariska [Hargitay] has really devoted her life, way beyond the show, in terms of the Joyful Heart Foundation, which is dedicated to helping the victims of sexual abuse," said Wolf. "I don’t know any other show that’s ever done anything remotely close to those. But I’m very prejudiced.”
The creator weighed in on what we might expect in the 300th installment of the program, hinting at how the story for the new episode stands out among its brethren: "It was an opportunity to do some things creatively that the show has really never done before, which is using the lifespan of the show as a story point in a landmark episode … Six months ago, we said, ‘Oh, this is the 300th.'" He even mentioned a few guest, including Tom Sizemore — “It’s an interesting role. It’s not a major part, but it is an important part of the episode. He is an expert at this type of character.” — and stars from days of yore: "“There are a bunch of people from the first episode. Mili Avital was the mother. The guy who was a convenience store owner… who was a Sikh cabdriver… there were three actors."
Of course, celebrity guest appearances are a staple of the Law & Order franchise. You might be surprised by someone Wolf is particularly interested in having on the show: Jimmy Fallon. "I talked to him, and he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I’d love to do that!’," Wolf affirmed. "First of all, he’s a very good actor. Second of all, I think he’d have a lot of fun. And it’s way inside the NBC family. I think it’d be fun to do … In passing, I said, ‘Do you want to do the show?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely.’”
But Wolf is not entirely on board with the idea of any Law & Order reunions. “It’s a six person ensemble, and 26 actors were in it. So which cast do you bring back? You’re talking about something that would be creatively not only very difficult to pull off, but also frustrating to a lot of the fans. ‘What do you mean they don’t have Dennis Farina in the show?’ … I wouldn’t really know how to do a reunion show.”
Obviously, when talking Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the topic of Chris Meloni is bound to come up. The actor portrayed Elliot Stabler from start of the series until the 2010-'11 series; his departure led many to question whether SVU could go on without him. “There were a lot of people who said the show can’t survive Chris Meloni leaving," Wolf stated. "I never believed that … the writing is the most important element of long-term success. Mariska is obviously a very integral part of the show … I’m hopeful that she’ll be here for as long as the show is.”
He was confident thanks to experience with Michael Moriarty's departure from Law & Order in 1994. “I got an hysterical phone call from Warren Littlefield [former president of NBC] at 7 in the morning," Wolf recalled. "He said, ‘What are we going to do? He’s the entire soul of the show? He’s the moral raison_d'être.’ And I said, ‘I’ve got two words for you: Sam Waterston.’ He went, ‘Oh. Okay.’”
But there was another reason that Wolf was confident in the replacement of Elliot Stabler: “I learned the myth of necessity of anybody when I was 16 and, unfortunately, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. That night, there was Lyndon Johnson taking the oath of office, and he was president. The horrifying fact of human is, nobody’s indispensable. In television, it’s just part and parcel.”
Wolf's series has subsisted as one of NBC's tent-pole figures for 300 episodes, and as far as he's concerned, can live for many more: “You’ll think I’m insane, but the next goal would be to go 21 years and beat Law & Order,” Wolf laughed. Stranger things have happened.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's 300th episode airs tonight at 9 PM on NBC.
[Photo Credit: Michael Parmelee/NBC]
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March 17, 2012 6:15am EST
Show star John Ortiz organised the get together two days after the series creators, David Milch and Michael Mann, and HBO TV executives decided to cease production following the death of a horse on Tuesday morning (13Mar12)
The tragedy marked the third time a horse has been put down at the racetrack, where the series is filmed, during shooting.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that more than 60 cast members came together to say farewell over breakfast on Friday morning.
The show's big names - Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte and Dennis Farina - did not attend the final cast meeting.
Hoffman, who is also a producer of the show, Milch and Mann reportedly organised a 'wake' for the show on Friday evening in Hollywood.
February 26, 2012 10:42pm EST
S1E5: This episode of Luck is for the emotional cripples in all of us—the sort of figure that is becoming more and more clearly the very cornerstone of this series. The fifth episode of the season is dedicated to the idea of compulsively pushing people away, which is something of which many of these characters are guilty: Ace, Marcus, Joey, Ms. Lachay, the list goes on.
“I’m being identified as “gonzo” and “flipped” by a guy who keeps a diary like a twelve year-old.” – Marcus
The rapid evolution of the Marcus/Jerry/Renzo/Lonnie crew continues. As much as I’d be interested in seeing this route taken more slowly—the predictable route—this unprecedented immediate escalation into a genuine and open camaraderie does lend to some pressing and fun questions. We wonder where the show is actually going with these four men. Why make them friends so quickly if not to tear these friendships apart just as rapidly?
Fueling that, or some unforeseen result is the truly dense relationship the two alpha males of the group have formed. Marcus has no understanding of his concern for Jerry. He immediately dubs himself gay for caring about another man in any way. A slightly more open-minded (though still somewhat homophobic) Jerry explains to Marcus that he’s simply not used to caring about another human being, but that his feelings are not at all sexual.
“Do you have someone you can talk to?” – Doctor
“A horse?” – Marcus
“That’s not bad.” – Doctor
Marcus gets more and more interesting each week. He bounces from bitter, callous and scathing to actively considerate and marginally warm (to some degree), depending, so it seems, on his level of vulnerability. Jerry is also an interesting character, mostly because we haven’t really learned much about him beyond his addiction. In fact, this week’s conversation between Jerry and Marcus might be his most terse bit of dialogue yet.
Their relationship is, and proves to continue to be, the best thing going on on this series. Marcus and Jerry are stuck with one another—and stuck with a pair of well-meaning fools to boot. They are charged with keeping each other, and their two fools, out of trouble, for the good of the pack. They all take care of each other. Last week, they wrangled Jerry out of a detrimental card game. This week, they take Marcus to the hospital. We learn in a hospital scene that the man has come to a point where he understands his approaching mortality…but, naturally, is still none too comfortable with that. More insights into Marcus are valuable—he might well be the show’s most vibrant character, and the more we learn about him, the better it has been so far.
“You make things possible, and I’ve been afraid of things being possible.” – Lachay
Ace and Ms. Lachay are guilty of the same kind of distancing of themselves from people. Ms. Lachay openly admits to fearing change, and thus keeping herself from achieving it (even if it seems to be positive, as is the business transaction she is entering with Ace).
Ace, too, has his share of emotional tics. He has admitted to trusting, and alluded to liking, no one—both with the exception of Gus. To some degree, anyway. And although he is clearly infatuated with Ms. Lachay, he is incapable of admitting his attracting to this, or any, woman. What is it about this horse track that makes its men and women so opposed to investing themselves in one another?
“What, Joey?” – Bartender
“Nothing. Just feeling sorry for myself.” – JoeyThe most damaged character on the show might be Joey, whose anxieties and personality disorders are front and center from the get-go. We learn this week that Joey seems to be divorced—it is hardly difficult to understand why.
Everyone with whom Joey has major interaction, he accosts, lashes out at, blames for his stress, and generally abuses with as much unpleasantness as possible. Joey is not a vindictive man. He is in constant agony. Lashing out is sort of like releasing the pressure valve on Joey, loosening whatever it is inside him, if only temporarily. The man has the least amount of understanding of how to interact with people—his jockeys especially, and apparently his ex-wife—out of every nut and louse on this series. And seeing more of Joey’s personal life will prove valuable, as will seeing more between Marcus and Jerry.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Which characters are most compelling to you? What do you make of Marcus’ and Jerry’s friendship? Let us know in the comments section, or on Twitter @Hollywood.com and @MichaelArbeiter.
February 20, 2012 12:16am EST
S1E4: For an episode so early on in the show’s run, this week’s Luck doesn’t really work with a lot that we haven’t seen yet. Instead, it works to strengthen ideas already established. It might seem strange to praise a dramatic series for diminishing its delivery of plot. But Luck’s strengths, as we’ve seen them, exist almost entirely in its characters; its plot angles—the various offshoots machinated to authentically reproduce the gambling world—leave me dissatisfied weekly. The fourth episode of the series is more or less devoid of any new external developments, keeping the show’s focus where it belongs: in the fractured hearts and minds of all of the people who have nothing beyond this Santa Anita Racetrack.
“I hope [your grandson] appreciates what you did for him.” – Mike
“Don’t talk about him anymore.” – Ace
The infamous Mike is finally introduced. A very cavalier Michael Gambon plays the man for whose legal transgressions Ace Bernstein took the rap, sending our protagonist to jail for three years. Bygones being bygones and all that, Ace is still willing to do business with Mike, who is none too grateful for his friend’s actions, accusing him of using this new business proposal (the purchase of the racetrack) to “get back at” some of the people whom Ace deems responsible for his time in prison. As we’ve seen, Ace is quick to temper—yet he manages to keep his cool to a relative degree even when dealt these insults from the man for whom he went to bat.
Of course, this might very well be because there is some truth to Mike’s words. While we’re not entirely certain what Ace will be using Nathan Israel for—we see the young man again this week, and are still as in the dark as ever about his utility to Ace’s plan…but it is interesting to watch Ace and Gus gradually break the presumptuous kid—we know that there’s something innately deceitful about the whole ordeal. Mystery does breed that kind of suspicion, after all.
The Story So Far
“I’ve been confused about my behavior for some time now, I’ll tell you that.” – Ace
Last week, we met Claire Lachay (Joan Allen): a woman not so cagily pursuing Ace Bernstein with some kind of a business opportunity. This week, we come to understand the nature of her business: Lachay is representing a program to rehabilitate convicted criminals by having them work with and care for racehorses. Lachay wants Ace to fund the program, which he effortlessly agrees to do. Although (or, perhaps, because) Ace adamantly denies it, we begin to suspect that he has some kind of an attraction to the earnest and intelligent Ms. Lachay—a fact that would likely fuel his actions.
Although Ace announces this with certainty, he also admits while lying in bed and slowly losing his smile and vigor, that he no longer feels secure with himself—he isn’t sure who he is anymore, and seems particularly uncomfortable with that. And this is what I think we’ll be seeing the show devote itself to primarily: the crumbling of a mighty man. Ace is not among the ranks of today’s television antiheroes—Nucky Thompson, Dexter Morgan, Walter White—he is an honest and decent character. Ace’s undoing doesn’t seem to be his unraveling morality, but his unraveling mind and identity. The betrayal from his friend and partner, and the resultant three years in jail, have disturbed him intensely. He no longer has the sort of control over himself he, as a younger and more capable man, enjoyed. Where or how far the show takes this is yet to be seen, but it’s an exciting aspect of Luck.
Ep. 4: Behind the Scenes - Women in Racing
“Both hands on the wheel, girl!” – Walter
Walter might as well exist in a classic English poem. The man is pure romance—his entire character is the appreciation of and devotion to the beauty that is a gallant horse. Walter is tortured by the memories of his old horse’s death, and cannot look at his new champion—that horse’s son—without reviving that pain. To make matters worse, his new champion is sick—bleeding from the nose. Walter shatters, unsure if he can take another heartbreak.
The show proves again that its glory is in its pure emotionality: the race in which Rosie rides Walter’s horse to victory after a shoddy start, accompanied by classical string music, is magic. Despite its heavy-handedness, the scene does not feel overdone. It just feels like a triumph in the capture of what this track and this world and these horses and races mean to all of these people. Nick Nolte actually tears up, assuring the audience that no amount of our investment is supposed to lie in the win or loss of money. Money is almost irrelevant to this series, actually. These people and this racetrack coexist in an extremely powerful way, and Walter’s character might represent that better than any other.
“What are you, a communist?” – Marcus
“Absolutely not.” – Renzo
“I’m the farthest thing from it.” – Lonnie
My favorite part of the show, week by week, is the foursome of Marcus, Jerry, Renzo and Lonnie. It’s partially because I’m a sucker for good comic relief, but it’s largely because I love a good stuck-with-you story. This one has advanced pretty rapidly to overcome a lot of the hostility evident in the pilot, but there’s still that air that these people wouldn’t be among one another if they had any other choice. But they don’t. And they’re coming to embrace that. After Walter’s horse finishes first, Marcus pioneers a plan to drag Jerry—a high-level cards addict—out of a poker game at the quarters of the nefarious Chan, seeing as how (as is my understanding) they just missed out on winning the money Jerry would need to afford the leviathan of idiotic bets Marcus knows he is making.
There’s camaraderie here. Honestly, I’d have preferred it if we had earned this more gradually. But the subplot works: Marcus fakes illness as Renzo and Lonnie bust into Chan’s poker game and provoke Jerry to leave the table and tend to their ailing partner. There is a lot of time devoted to Jerry’s addiction in this episode—honestly, this is not very interesting to me. For a show about the gambling world, there isn’t a lot of flavor to the story about the most frenzied gambling addict. There is a strong element of desperation, which is a plus, but I find myself just waiting for these scenes to end.
A Day at the Races
“You either make weight or you don’t. You’re on the horse or you’re not.” – Joey
A character who we haven’t seen much examination of before this week is Joey: as both of his jockeys let him down, we see Joey losing it a bit. The character is perpetually on edge, so when all things go wrong, we see that he is barely able to keep himself afloat. I’m looking forward to more of Joey’s downward spiral. On this token, I’m also looking forward to seeing the downward spirals of his jockeys: the depressed, drug-addicted Ronnie Jenkins and the working-himself-to-death Leon…who, by the way, is sleeping with Rosie. Horse tracks are romantic places.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Whose story are you most invested in? What do you think Ace is up to with Nathan and Mike? Let us know in the comments section, or on Twitter @Hollywood.com and @MichaelArbeiter.
February 12, 2012 7:18pm EST
S1E3: I’m sure that the people who work on Luck love gambling, but not remotely as much as they love horses. In fact, it seems as though all of the gambling material depicted onscreen is primarily for utility purposes. The characters rattle off jargon in Aaron Sorkin-paced conversations but without the flare that the West Wing characters seemed to have for global affairs.
Maybe it’s the nature of the subject matter: the characters ensconced in Luck’s world of gambling are almost by definition fractured people. Nobody, save slightly for Ace Bernstein, has anything going on in his life outside of the racetrack or the casino. But beyond this, I think the show is at its weakest when it is projecting the ins and outs of the gambling universe, and is at its strongest when examining Bernstein's dwindling mind, Walter Smith's sunken heart, or the at-odds-with-the-world-and-everything-in-it sensation that overtakes the four man band of Marcus, Jerry, Renzo and Lonnie. Luckily, we get plenty of that—we (and the writers) just have to wade through the betting talk to get there.
“Can’t be straight-forward. More important to him that you see he’s intelligent.” – Ace
Every other line spoken by Ace Bernstein so far reflects the man’s going mind and, more broadly, his palpable ascension in years. Clearly, his three years in prison took a lot out of him—the disloyalty from his former partner has left a cold fissure in his heart, and his mind is worse for the wear. So the introduction of Nathan Israel—a man who represents youth in all conceivable ways—is an interesting method for the show, and Ace, to take in terms of the master plan against the nefarious Mike.
Israel is present at Ace’s board meeting during a discussion about the racetrack purchase. The young man is extremely intelligent, but is cocky beyond belief. He is masterful at doubletalk but does not seem to be weathered in the world of business, through which men like Ace traversed to reach their acclaim. Despite (or maybe because of) this, Ace chooses Israel as a piece of the master plan…to which we’re still not entirely privy.
Israel is invited to Ace’s penthouse to “interview” with him and Gus. They test the young man with mind games. They don’t say a word to him on the way up to the room, they counter everything he says with critique (Ace’s mind may be going, but that’s hardly evident in scenes like this); ultimately, however, Ace seems interested with Israel as a vehicle for his devices. Gus, on the other hand, looks to carry a bit of distaste for the kid.
Ep.3 Clip - Ace Meets with the Board “Guy asks me about a girl I used to see. Maybe I still got eyes for her. I tell him she’s got crabs.” – Jerry
Lonnie is recovering reasonably well from the beating he took last week. While Marcus and an eager Renzo take care of their business partner, Jerry is in charge of overseeing the deal to purchase Escalante’s racehorse claimed by the cowboy Mulligan. Jerry manages a deal with both Mulligan and Escalante, earning the boys ownership of the horse in question. What we’re served when the foursome visit Escalante to finalize the ownership and meet their new horse in person is a very strange, particularly interesting, and kind of beautiful scene. These four men—a miserly misanthrope, a shady gambling addict, an airhead and a lustful bore—are all entranced by the majesty of the animal to which they’ve just been assigned ownership. They’re all stricken silent with mouths agape at the sight of their horse, which, at this moment, seems to transcend the state of being from financial asset to something much grander. In the scenes from the first two episodes wherein Walter Smith professes his adoration for horses, he seems a bit like the outlier. But when these men, whose combined discernible depth is microscopic, gaze in awe at the mighty racehorse, it seems as though the show—not just the characters— is exemplifying its worship of the species.
Ep.3 Clip - Crowded Elevator “Your ma says you have to learn to land differently.” – Joey The pilot episode showed us the dangers that horses undergo in the track races. But this week, we see that it’s no picnic for jockeys either. The young Cajun racer Leon passes out early on in the episode from a lack of food. Keeping low weight as a jockey is demanding enough to make the kid faint. And hazards are plentiful on the track as well. Smith’s racer Ronnie Jenkins is tossed from his horse mid-race thanks to some rough riding by competitors and he is substantially injured. This leaves Smith’s horse without a jockey—a fate he might have avoided if he hadn’t let Rosie go a week prior. Smith considers phoning Rosie and asking her to assume the role of his jockey, if only temporarily. We get good insight into the character: alone in his home, Smith juggles what he might say to Rosie before calling her, stammering unevenly and eventually erupting into a nearly mad spell of self-directed lashing out. Ace Bernstein might profess openly his “going mind,” but he’s not the one whose sanity we have to worry about on this show. The broken man that is Walter Smith seems to have a lot in store in the realm of emotional spiraling—the moment we met him, he was already heading downward with militant speeds. We also get to see a brief glimpse into the person life of the mysterious, contentious Escalante: apparently, he and inspector Jo have maintained something of a romance amid their hostile work relationship. What did you think of this week’s episode? Do you find the show does better in its romanticizing of the relationships and the horses, as opposed to the mechanics of the gambling world? What do you think Ace has in store for Israel? Let us know in the comments section, or on Twitter (@MichaelArbeiter).