Friday, July 8, 2016

Rocket Man



(OPEN ON:  sounds of chaos and destruction. JOR-EL kneels by a small spaceship, cradling a swaddled baby. the chaos fades)

JOR-EL
Alas, alas! Krypton crumbles and our very race lies forsaken. There is nothing we can do. But you, my son, my beautiful Kal-El - you, I can spare this devastation. Though parting from you is to rip my own heart out, I must commend your body to the whims of fate.

(JOR-EL places the baby into the spaceship and stands.)

JOR-EL
Fly safe, my beloved son. I steer you on a course to Earth, full of simple, kind, creatures. In time, they may revere you as a God.

(Spaceship ignition sounds)

JOR-EL
Goodbye, Kal-El. May you become a super man, wherever you land.

(JOR-EL exits. it's revealed that TI-NA and ER-ICK have been watching this soliloquy. ti-na is also cradling a baby. there is a long silence.)
TI-NA
Well, I guess *Jor-el* gets to send his son to safety.

ER-ICK
Really? Are we gonna do this now?

TI-NA
Remember when we went over to the El's house and Jor-El showed us his emergency spaceship-

ER-ICK
Oh c'mon, Tina.

TI-NA
and I said "honey, maybe we should get an emergency spaceship" and you said "No Tina, that's stupid."

ER-ICK
It was stupid! The only reason you'd need an emergency spaceship is if the entire planet was destroyed.

KRYPTONIAN ALERT SYSTEM (V.O.)
Attention citizens of Krypton. Total planetary destruction will commence in 5 minutes. Please proceed calmly to your preferred gravesite.

(beat.)

ER-ICK
Ok, sure, not buying an emergency spaceship looks bad *in hindsight.*

TI-NA
It looks bad now, Er-ick.

ER-ICK
Well I'm sorry I didn't predict the end of the world. Sorry I'm not Mr. Perfect Handsome Scientist like Jor-El.

TI-NA
This is not you versus Jor-El. This is me wanting to invest in the future, and you not wanting to.

ER-ICK
I do too want to invest in the future!

TI-NA
You spent 20,000 Krypton-dollars on a portable stereo.

ER-ICK
No, I spent 20,000 Krypton-dollars on the BEST portable stereo on the market. The sound on this thing is incredi-

TI-NA
Do you know how much emergency spaceships cost?

ER-ICK
I- that's irrelevant.

TI-NA
They cost 20,000 Krypton dollars.

ER-ICK
Plus, uh, storage costs. And upkeep.

TI-NA
Well, I'm so glad we have a portable stereo now that the world's ending. We can put our son in it and send him to safety. No, wait, that was my thing!

ER-ICK
Look, I'm sorry, OK? I'm sorry. But it's not like shooting our son off into space is the optimal plan.

TI-NA
It's better than letting him get incinerated!

ER-ICK
Yes, fair. I'm just saying, that planet - Earth? - I've read about that place and frankly it kind of sucks. The humans there are racist, and they're cruel, and they love karaoke.

TI-NA
What?! They haven't outlawed that interrogation technique?

ER-ICK
They do it for FUN, Ti-na.

TI-NA
But the average human is a terrible singer! What kind of psycho narcissist would subject other people to that?

ER-ICK
They don't care! They love it! That's where Jor-El's kid is headed. To the land of karaoke. 

TI-NA
Woof.

(beat. TI-NA considers the baby. there's more rumbling.)

ER-ICK
I love you, Ti-na. I'm glad we're together, at least.

TI-NA
I love you too. Karaoke, Jesus. You dodged a bullet, little one.

ER-ICK
Hey, the portable stereo still has half its battery left. Want to listen to an Earth song?

TI-NA
Sure. But only if-

ER-ICK
Of course.

TI-NA and ER-ICK
No singing along!

(SFx:: Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time" plays.)

(fade out.)

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bachelorette Episode 5 recap - In Which My Hopes Are Ripped Into Confetti For The Bro Parade

Baseball’s 162-game slate means the highs and lows of individual games are hammered smooth on the anvil of relative scale - no match can mean that much in the grand scheme of things and all emotional outlying eventually regresses toward the mean. Football, however, is concentrated into 16 do-or-die agonizing jolts of adrenaline. The fortunes of a team are made or dashed over 60 minutes and a season can be lost irreparably to one or two plays.

(You can read the other episode recaps here:)
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5 - you're here already! Great job!

The Bachelorette tends much more toward the latter in stakes, and nowhere was this more apparent than this week, when JoJo abandoned her habit of doling out pity roses and tacked hard toward the bronze charmers of the show. In short, she jettisoned Wells and Derek, my favorite contestants and two-thirds of the remaining intellectual contingent, leaving only James Taylor to dance uncertainly on the brink of elimination next to a bevy of unblinking Abercrombie models with “kajillion watt smiles”. But let us set the stage for this geek tragedy.

Tears are the body's way of letting you know you failed real bad.
Photo from ABC.

The episode’s new locale is Buenos Aires, Argentina, giving the boys a second chance to garble the native language. Hearing that JoJo has opted for a second 2-on-1 date (unprecedented, apparently, in Bachelor history) one of the suitors grumbles that these high-stakes dates are “no mas, no good.” As the men check into their usual opulent hotel, Chris takes a moment to check in with JoJo. She admits to feeling confused and conflicted, which is another producer mandate: it wouldn’t make for good television if she had shrugged and said “nah, I’m pretty much locked in at this point. No uncertainty for me, Chris.” Chris notes that if she, like her predecessor Ben Higgins, were to fall for two men, “the irony would be pretty thick,” reminding us that this show doesn’t have the best command of English, either.

In Which We See Wells Run Dry

The 1-on-1 date this week goes to Wells, and he uses his time in the spotlight to drop a bombshell: he is the only contestant left who has not kissed our bachelorette. The date card, which normally offers, as Derek puts it, a “cryptic” clue (vocal alert!), simply reads “Besame, Besame muchacho” - “kiss me, kiss me muchacho.” Wells girds himself for the date, changing into his coolest leather jacket and taking a few calming breaths. He confesses to the camera that he’s been waiting for the perfect moment.

The jock clique, for whom any moment is acceptable for smooching, razzes him on his way out the door, but it appears the producers are rooting for Wells - the date is a quasi-erotic, avant-garde piece of performance art. While “avant garde performance art” may not suggest romance, the show’s directors quickly strip our couple down to their skivvies and get them sloshing around in a sort of glass-bottomed kiddie pool.

"You guys gotta be out of here in 10, the butchers need their slaughtering tarp back."
Photo from ABC.

This sultry petri dish proves a worthy breeding ground for lust, and JoJo and Wells share a kiss. “You did it, Wells!” JoJo crows, and this teasing flirtation is the cutest moment in the show to date. They have an easy chemistry in their relationship and the smooch seems as though it has opened the floodgates for a torrid passion.

Imagine our surprise, then, when Wells gets the boot after a terse, unpleasant dinner. The two begin talking about past relationships, and Wells’ cynicism about love unnerves JoJo enough that she withholds the rose. Wells leaves disappointed but dry-eyed - at least he still has his cool jacket.

In Which James Pairs Whine With Cheesiness

The night’s upheaval is burned away in the morning light, and the next day sees everyone but Derek and Chase depart for the group date. Having blown the budget on the bizarre Argentine drama, this day’s outing seems to amount to wandering the streets and bothering locals. James huffs alongside his handsomer counterparts and continues his season-long soliloquy about how unworthy he is to be present. The cameras underscore his insecurity with shots of Rodger Rodgers flashing cheesecake shots of his abs and Robby muscling JoJo into the air.

The tension mounts as the date concludes with a street-soccer penalty shot contest. James, the gawky underdog, is the only one to doink the ball into the goal and win the kiss from JoJo. We’re meant to root for him but instead we’re all waiting for the other cleat to drop: it takes more than a total lack of confidence and mediocre looks to win this show, and it feels as though James’ hourglass should have run dry by now.

When the group retires to one of these nondescript parlors to hang out (seriously, I’ve never seen these weird drawing rooms anywhere but on this show - they have a purgatorial vibe), James decides to take a leaf from Evan’s book and uses his alone time to gripe about Rodger Rodgers. His complaint is that Jordan is…entitled? but the only evidence he submits to the court is a quarrel about the rules of a poker game, and James manages to sputter on about it for minutes without providing any additional detail. It’s agonizing watching a grown man blunder on about another man being mean at a card game - eventually Amy can’t take it and shouts “this is so STUPID!”

Eventually his anger will manifest in a chin cleft.
Photo from ABC.

But the show hangs on to this non-issue with dogged resignation. After James finishes his coup d’eblah, JoJo pulls Rodger Rodgers aside, who has to defend himself against a vague assault on his general character, and does so as best as he can. For the record, I dislike Rodger Rodgers as much as anybody, but this kangaroo court made me righteously indignant on his behalf. He does his best to assuage JoJo’s nerves that he is…entitled? and stalks back to the waiting room to sit silently next to his accuser. With doubts lingering about the football star, and disgust at the whininess of the futbol star, JoJo gives the group date rose to Luke, who wisely chose to use his mouth for smooching rather than baseless personal attacks.

In Which We See Chase 'n Waterfalls

The week’s final date is a dual (duel?) tango between the two most taciturn candidates remaining: Derek, the brains, and Chase, the brawn. JoJo meets the men outside in a skin-tight red dress. Since ABC is in the habit of releasing deleted scenes, they might consider a super-cut of all the street harassment JoJo must endure walking to date venues in her revealing attire.* She takes Derek and Chase upstairs to a dance studio, where they are greeted by an instructor equally skilled in tango and d├ęcolletage. She guides the three through a few moves and leaves JoJo to act out a dance of pantomimed competition. Derek is clearly the superior dancer, and his comfort in his body allows him to focus on JoJo rather than his own feet while moving to the music. His uncertainty from the previous week seems to have vanished - in confessionals, he asserts confidently that he expects the rose tonight. Alas, as the show’s editors love to remind us, pride goeth before the fall.

Dancing is followed with dinner, and each man takes JoJo aside for a relationship assessment. Derek’s relaxation is juxtaposed with Chase’s unease, and JoJo must coax the latter into admitting his feelings for her. Some untapped well of understanding spouts up in Chase’s brain and he realizes the peril of staying silent. He burps out a few pleasantries to placate JoJo, but has nowhere near the showing of Derek. But I am no expert in the ways of romance, and so had to collect my jaw from the floor when JoJo picks Chase over Derek. Derek, for whom I have inordinate and unfounded fondness, is as blindsided as I, and leaves dinner in tears. He cries at length in his limo, and ABC twists the knife by cutting his tearful goodbye with a concert where a singer belts out “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.” Chase and JoJo snuggle and listen, blissfully unaware of the irony.

he's whispering sweet nothings in her ear. That is, he's whispering nothing but the word "sweet."
Photo from ABC.
At this point, I’ve abandoned all hope and resign myself to playing out the string of this season watching JoJo choose between the Gold’sGym Variations. With Wells and Derek ousted, it seems only natural that she’d complete the trifecta and drop James like an average-looking potato. Indeed, the final rose comes down to him or Alex, the Small Soldier. But JoJo dekes us yet again, producing one rose for each man. James is as relieved as Alex is peeved - he views this as a prolonging of the inevitable. James is just happy to be here, and I’m happy to have him. He adds a little spice to the stew, a changeup to the diet of high heat. And as the contestants assume the Spanish say, “Que Michael Cera, Michael Cera.”

*Amy wants me to remind the readers that street harassment does not depend on outfits or attractiveness and is based instead on men's desire to stake claims in the public space of women.