Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tis the Season?

30 September 2007

People often tell me, "Aren't you glad to be out of Los Angeles, with the pollution and traffic and earthquakes and people of different race and gender identity as you?" And sometimes I say "Yes," sometimes I say "No," often I give a half-hearted answer.

But it's still September, at least according to the calendar, and I always thought that meant Fall was here, with warm days and cool nights, and at least a month or so before the weather gets truly nasty.

I took these yesterday:


Rish "The Heatmiser" Outfield

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (26 September 2007)

We probably won't have a Buffy Wednesday next week, so I am free to be as slow as possible on this post. And I'm already pretty slow.

Somehow, we now watch "Angel" and then "Buffy," instead of the traditional opposite. I imagine we'll have to watch a trio of episodes sometime soon to correct this.

So, first, we had the "Angel" episode "Eternity." It featured the return of one of my favourite "Buffy" characters, and was so solid I think I liked it better than the "Buffy" episode it preceded (in our rotation).

We made it a sort of interactive episode, pausing it and trying to determine the characters' motivations, whether people were telling the truth, or what was going to happen next. It made the episode more fun, and had we seen it in its original broadcast, we'd probably have done the same during the commercials.

In the show, Angel and Wesley attend Cordelia's truly horrendous performance in "A Doll's House," and leaving, they see a big TV star, Rebecca Lowell. She's young, attractive, super-thin, you know the type. She's there with her agent, Oliver, who was in the very first episode of "Angel," where he was much more impressed by Angel than Cordelia. Cordelia, however, is totally startstruck by Rebecca Lowell, who had a long-running hit called "On Her Own" until recently. Suddenly, a car comes screeching down the street, fresh from trying to run over the kid in "I've Got You Under My Skin," and inexplicably heads for Rebecca Lowell. Acting fast, Angel pushes her out of the way, earning her thanks, and then her shock when she realises he doesn't know who she is.

The next day, the story's in the paper, but somehow, Angel wasn't mentioned. Rebecca Lowell shows up at the office, and wants to hire Angel to investigate a stalker who's been sending her creepy letters written in blood. Angel tells her it's not blood and Cordelia fawns over her, but he isn't interested in the case.

Or is he? That night, in Rebecca Lowell's mansion, her stalker shows up again, and Angel bursts through the window to fight him off. The stalker escapes, but not before Rebecca Lowell realises Angel does not cast a reflection. Her response isn't typical: she thinks it's cool that he's a vampire. In fact, she's more drawn to him than before.

When Angel didn't return from Rebecca Lowell(let's see how long I can keep using her full name)'s house, Cordelia is afraid that he had sex with her and turned evil. Wesley tries to clarify a little: back in the first episode I blogged about, "Innocence," it was revealed that Angel's curse causes him to lose his soul after "a moment of perfect happiness" (at least that's how I remember it), not necessarily just by having sex. However, at some point after that episode, the consensus seems to have changed to the theory that Angel loses his soul if he has sex with anyone, including men in prison. Wesley points out that it's bliss, or perfect happiness--not necessarily sex--that triggers his evil change.

Cordelia listens to him like she listens to me and, armed with a cross, goes to Rebecca Lowell's house to check on her. She finds Angel there, still good, and he tells her what happened, and that she's asked him to be her date/bodyguard to a premiere that evening. Impressed, Cordelia starts going through Rebecca Lowell's stuff.*

So, Angel gets all spiffied up in a tuxedo and goes with Rebecca Lowell to the premiere of LOVE AT FIRST SHITE, and almost immediately, the stalker strikes again. Despite his having a gun, Angel manages to thrash him soundly, and he is arrested (the stalker, not Angel), but the stalkee is not happy. You see, Rebecca Lowell (is it getting annoying yet?) recognised her assailant as a stuntman also represented by Oliver the Agent, and it is revealed that the whole stalker scenario was a setup to put her back in the public eye. It seems that "Rebecca Lowell" doesn't mean the same as it used to, and at twenty-four, she's just getting too old for the Hollywood A-list. What's a girl to do?

Get a new best friend? It would seem so, 'cause Rebecca Lowell and Cordelia are now walking down Hollywood Boulevard together (I may have annoyed tyranist by pointing out that that's the last place a big celebrity would do her shopping, especially seven years ago, when it was crawling with trannies and junkies, and Lou Costello's star always stunk of urine), buying stuff, and chatting about Angel. Thrilled with her new link to fame and glamour, Cordelia probably says more than she should have.

That night in his apartment, Rebecca Lowell tells Angel the truth about her stalker, and pours him a glass of champagne. She does the whole accidentally-spilling-on-his-shirt-so-he-has-to-take-it-off trick that Father Patterson our parish priest used to always pull and then tells him she wants to be a sexy, mysterious, eternally-young vampire too. No more will she have to worry about age lines or her fading beauty or eating enough to gain weight, if Angel turns her, she can have it all. To help him along in her decision, she slips some kind of drug into Angel's drink. The drug, it turns out, is one that makes the user blissfully happy . . . and, well, Angelus the Evil Vampire makes a welcome return. First he forces her to drink some of his blood from the refrigerator, then he starts beating her up, enjoying the fact that vampires don't seem romantic anymore, but terrifying. Oh, to see him dance around, growling and starking, it was a thing of beauty.

Rebecca makes it upstairs, where Wesley and Cordelia realise what she's done. Then the lights go out, and Angelus arrives to torment them as well. First, he chides Wesley for being a big weak feminine hygiene product. Then he tells Cordelia that her acting was so bad, it would make Jesus dead again. She appears hurt by this, but grabs a bottle of water from her desk. She reveals that, anticipating his return to Bad Angel ways, she had a priest bless the water, and when she throws it on him, he's gonna look like Edward James Olmos after a lawn mowing accident. Well, Angelus flinches away from the water, and that gives Wesley the opening to drop kick him like Ike Turner on his anniversary. Angelus falls into his elevator shaft** and when he comes to, he's Angel again, and tied to his bed.

They explain that the drug Rebecca Nolastname gave him simulated a blissful state, and it temporarily brough Angelus back to the forefront, and Angel says, "Wait, what? That's just silly. I mean, really." He feels awful about the things that he said and did (which I guess he remembers this time), but his friends forgive him. And Cordelia can rest easy knowing her acting was good enough to convince Angelus that it really was Holy Water.

Okay, I recognise that I did an even worse job than usual recapping this episode, but it really was a good one. Just between you and me, I enjoyed it more than the "Buffy" episode that followed it. And that's saying something. I can't wait for that Season 2 episode when Rebecca Lowell and her Scientology buddies come back to Angel Investigations for revenge. Oh, it will be glorious.

To Be Continued...

*Tyranist found it annoying/odd/upsetting/irritating/infuriating that Cordelia had somehow turned back into the materialistic, self-centered, insensitive bee-otch she was on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," after fifteen or sixteen "Angel"s worth of character development. I, however, was glad to see her back. You see, life's bitterness has somehow turned me into the more misanthropic of the two of us.

**I initially wrote "lift shaft," but a lift shaft sounds really dirty, even for me.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Stupid Thing of the Week

24 September 2007

Compared to my life, there's not really anything stupid or pointless I can think of right now, so I think I'll share this with you.

I went out to eat with my family on Sunday, and I sat next to my brother. We don't talk much, but somehow we started talking about how we got our names and--

Oh yeah, it's because my sister is pregnant and she's been kicking around baby names, so my mom started talking about how we each got our names, and I mentioned my brother's middle name, when he said, "Uh, that's not my middle name." I thought he was joking, or that he didn't like his middle name, or that he'd maybe changed it, but no, he insisted that Reece was not his middle name, in spite of the fact that I KNOW his middle name is Reece. "Come on," I said, "I've known you all your life. It's Reece." I mean, I was at his baptism, his high school graduation, I'd heard it a dozen times when my folks were yelling at him, his middle name is Reece.

So, he pulled out his driver's license, and showed it to me. His middle name there wasn't Reece. He said his birth certificate was the same way.

I ate in stunned silence for a while, thinking back to the times it had come up and pondering the brain damage I must've gotten somewhere along the way.

Then my sister asked me about my middle name. She's known me all my life, but she--and I swear to you this is true--thought it was "Larry." So, I guess I don't feel so bad now.

Rish Outfield

P.S. My middle name is not Larry.

Buffy Wednesday (21 September 2007)

Technically, these are Buffy Fridays* until we can get our schedules rearranged, but they don't call "Saturday Night Live" anything different when it's taped and on a different night.

We had one more "Angel" episode to watch before we'd be caught up and be able to go back to our old pattern, and that episode was called "The Ring." In it, Cordelia is given a mysterious video tape by a frantic woman who wants to hire Angel Investigations, but then drops dead in the most ghastly way imaginable. Despite Wesley's warning otherwise, Cordelia watches the tape and gets an ominous phone call. "Seven days," a dead-sounding voice says.

Wait, none of that happened. I don't know what I was confusing this episode with. In this episode, Angel Investigations gets what may be their first male client. He's a middle-aged man named McNamara and he's heard that Angel takes on cases that are out of the ordinary. His brother, Jack, a gambler and ne'er-do-well, was in debt and kidnapped by shady characters (that we recognise as demons), and Angel offers to investigate. He goes to the bookie and threatens him into telling him where these "shady characters" might be. They turn out to be Howler demons, and they tell him Jack had been sold and where to go to find him.

Angel discovers a high-class underground fighting ring where people go to watch demons fight it out to the death. He sees Jack there and follows him into the back, where McNamara is waiting. Angel realises that it was just a set-up to get him there. Big dudes zap him with cattleprods and all goes black. The end.

I thought it was odd for the "Angel" series to end this way, but tyranist explained that the WB never really believed in the show and orchestrated its early cancellation. He then explained that I should consume less alcohol and that the show continued after that point.

Angel has been put in a cage with all sorts of other demons (apparently, this show was nominated for a Best Makeup Emmy), all of whom have a mystic bracelet on their wrists. If they go past a certain point, poof! they get 'sploded. The prisoners are forced to fight, night after night, and if they attain twenty-one victories (i.e. kills), they're given their freedom. This was Merv Griffin's final game show idea before he died.

Meanwhile, Wesley and Cordelia are worried about Angel. They try to reach McNamara and find him unavailable, which seems odd. Wesley goes to the bookie Angel intimidated the night before and impresses us with his crossbow prowess. Armed with Angel's location, he and Cordelia go looking for him.

Despite the other demons being standoffish and unfriendly, Angel says he refuses to kill any of them. A cold-looking woman we later find out is from Wolfram & Heart, the evil L.A. lawfirm (talk about redundant), tells McNamara about Angel having a soul and Jack puts him on the bill to fight a demon with the frightening name "Baker."

Pretending to be undercover cops, Wesdelia confiscate a pair of tickets to the match and go inside. Wesley knows what's going on, and is apparently familiar with the bracelets that disintegrate anyone wearing them if they cross the red line. They see McNamara there, and that he's got one of the bracelets. Then they are surprised when the fighters are announced: Baker and "The Vampire, Angel." Angel tries to stay out of Baker's way, but the demon is playing for keeps, and the audience tires of the one-sided match. McNamara sets down the bracelet and throws Baker a knife, which he cuts Angel with, causing him to vamp out. Almost immediately, Angel wrenches the knife away from his opponent and buries it in his chest.

Cordelia and Wesley get out of there (how they weren't recognised, I'm not sure) and consider going to the police. Wesley figures, though, that McNamara will kill all the prisoners to eliminate the evidence if they do. He wishes he had one of the bracelets so they could figure out a way around them, and Cordelia produces the one she swiped when McNamara put it down. How she did this, I attribute to getting Doyle's katra.

Inside, Angel grabs one of the other demons, a big turtle-headed brute named Trepkos and suggests they fight the guards instead of each other. Trepkos has become institutionalised, though, and goes through with his match as planned. When Jack laughs about Angel's ease at killing, Angel grabs him and tries to get the other demons to help him find a key to their "cuffs." The other demons just stand around like good little prisoners, and McNamara comes in with his guards. Angel offers to swap Jack's life for their freedom, but McNamara pulls out his gun and blows his brother away. I did not see that coming, and the show was better for it. The cattleprodders do their thing on Angel again.

This time, when he wakes up, he is alone in the office of the evil hot lawyer chick. Her name is Lilah Morgan (again, I had to look it up because I'm hoping she turns up again on the series), and she tells Angel that she bought his freedom (though it may be that the lawfirm did the buying, I don't remember, and that's somehow worse). If he never says nothing about the fights and goes about his business, he is free to go. He refuses her offer and is taken back to the cells, where some of the other demons are impressed by his return.

Wesley has studied the bracelet and using some horsehair of Cordelia's (I'm not saying Cordelia looks like a horse, I'm saying she had a horse and provided some of its hair from a bracelet of her own), he manages to short out its mechanism. They rush off to set Angel free.

In that night's fight, Angel has been paired with Trepkos, who doesn't seem like a bad guy, even if his head is odd-shaped. Still, if Trepkos kills Angel, it will be his 21st win, and he gets an all-expense paid trip to a four-star resort on the Isle of Lesbos, along with a suitcase full of cash and prophelactics and such (I mean come on, why would they EVER let these demons go, no matter how safe they felt from them?). So, they fight. It goes on a long time, and Angel is victorious, but doesn't kill Trepkos. Then, Trepkos gets the famous hero-turns-his-back-on-defeated-villain attack, but when he has the chance to kill Angel, he too stays his hand. Well, the crowd doesn't like this and they boo.

Meanwhile, Wesley and Cordelia have snuck down to the prisoner hold to free Angel, but they were too late. To make matters worse, one of the demons swipes Wesley's improvised horsehair key and frees himself, then the others. Wesdelia make it to the arena just in time to see the demons running loose. The crowd panics. McNamara pulls a gun on Wesley, but Cordelia pushes him over the railing and McNamara falls down to where the freed demons are. One of them snaps a bracelet on McNamara's wrist, and he is quickly tossed over the red line, where he disintegrates.

Angel and Trepkos too are freed and congratulate each other on a good fight. Angel thanks Wesley and Cordelia for rescuing him, and they head for home, aware that L.A. now has a bunch more demons running loose than it did before. The end.

Another solid episode, with a bit more focus on the fighting than the talking or scariness. I'm okay with that, though I'm more of a fan of . . . well, everything else on these shows than the fighting. In looking up Howard Gordon, the writer, I found information on two series he and Tim Minear did for Fox ("Strange World" and "The Inside"), both of which were canceled even faster than "Firefly" was. It's funny, but just knowing that Fox quickly axed those shows makes me wonder if they weren't worth watching. Weird.

And that, folks, brings us to the catch-up point with our "Buffy" and "Angel" marathons. Like I said before, I will try to control myself in the future, so this never happens again.

But it will.

We turned on "Buffy" for the first time in weeks, and were immediately confused (or at least I would've been, had my cousin not told me all about this episode back in August): suddenly, Buffy and Company have a new member of their gang, the great and powerful Jonathan (formerly Jonathan the Geek, last seen giving Buffy the Class Protector award in "The Prom"). In fact, Jonathan is smarter, stronger, and better than all of them, hence the group is now known as Jonathan and Company. The episode was called "Superstar," and tyranist and I laughed out loud as the credits ran, and action poses of Jonathan interspersed our usual montage of exciting scenes.

He is the leader of our gang, the mastermind, if you will. And not just of the gang, but of the whole town of Sunnydale, if not the world. The man invented the internet, starred in THE MATRIX, sleeps with identical twin babes, trains Buffy in her fighting routines, and is the idol of men, women, and children everywhere.

It had been so long since we had seen the show that I truly appreciated when the characters provided exposition about what was going on: Adam the cyberdemonguy is still roaming free, Buffy is upset that Riley slept with Faith (which was technically not cheating because he thought she was Buffy), and Willow and Tara are becoming closer by the . . . week, I guess. What's strange is, I don't remember the show doing that before (tyranist tells me that the original broadcasts began with "Previously on BTVS..." to avoid all that), but I figured that there must've been a hiatus between the Faith episode and this one (which tyranist corroborated for me).

So, Buffy is having more problems than usual, since she is having relationship troubles as well as battling evil, and the novel experience of being one-upped by Jonathan the Stud. None of our heroes suspect something is wrong with the universe, but Adam does. He knows the status quo has been changed, and I can't tell if I think Adam is cool, or if I'm really annoyed by him. Can you tell?

Jonathan is busy singing and playing at the Bronze, signing autographs, and helping the Initiative track down Adam, but not too busy to give Buffy advice about her issues with Riley.

I love the internal consistency that Buffy and Riley do not communicate well, or that they communicate best when, as that song goes, they say nothing at all. Jonathan tells her she just expects too much of him, like a supernatural knowledge that the Buffy he was shagging was not the real her, just as she expects too much of herself.

Meanwhile, there's a new demon in town, terrorizing the locals. It comes after Tara, but casts a Hermione Granger-level spell to protect herself. The demon is a scary brown one with a triangular symbol on it . . . the same triangular symbol Jonathan has tattooed on his back. Jonathan is a bit defensive about the demon, clearly unnerved by it, but trying to pretend it's no big deal. This makes Buffy curious, and speaking of curious, instead of Riley, Giles, or even Willow, she goes to Xander to talk about it. How could Jonathan be so perfect, so amazingly talented, and so omnipresent in culture and everyday life?

Oh, and Giles has a Jonathan the Stud swimsuit calendar.

Buffy and Jonathan go underground to find this demon, and he begins to falter in his courage and charm. It turns out that the almighty Jonathan used to be Jonathan the Geek, and that he found a spell in a book that would cause him to be an icon of admiration and adoration. The downside was that it created an opposite number, a Rish Outfield to his Sean Connery. This demon is linked to him, and he is powerless to fight it.

Buffy, however, is not, and as she battles the demon, she gets stronger and stronger, while Jonathan gets weaker and . . . you know. In the end, he pushes it into a handy chasm and Buffy pulls him from over the edge. With the demon destroyed, Jonathan becomes a sad, lonely, pathetic person again. Everyone begins to forget the alternate universe ever existed, not really able to reconcile their love for Jonathan anymore.

Soon, even his memory will have faded, but before it does, he seeks out Buffy on campus and tells her that even though he was a sham, his advice about her relationship with Riley was valid, and that she ought to take it. Buffy and Riley do get their act together, closer than they ever were before. Until in the act of passion, Buffy says Jonathan's name, that is. The end.

Yet another great "Buffy" episode, courtesy of Jane Espenson. I really respond to the Jonathan character (since I have years of imagining a fantasy life where I rise above my normal mediocrity and become a champion bull rider, bed hopper, and baby seal basher, among other things), and delighted in the absurity of a world revolving around him. You know, I don't want the show to suck, not ever, but I'm sure it's dull to read how good each show is. And now, "Angel" is becoming better and better too, so I can't even complain about that.

Life just isn't fair.

Rish "Superstar, But He Didn't Get Far" Outfield

*Or even more technically, Angel Fridays, or Buffy/Angel Fridays.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Angel Friday (Part the Second)

19 September 2007

Okay, so the last post seemed a little half-assed. I assure you, however, that I put close to three-quarters of my ass into it. I don't know why it's so much harder for me to review the "Angel" episodes than it is the "Buffy"s. I just remembered that I stated from the beginning that I would be much shorter, much less detailed, and much less diligent about blogging about "Angel," and I guess I forgot about that these past few months.

And the two episodes I have to blog about today, I actually want to talk about. One had a twist that was so excellent and so wonderful that I just . . . well, I never would've thought someone would go there. Maybe that's one of the best compliments you can make to Joss Whedon: he's not afraid to go there.

The first one we watched was called "I've Got You Under My Skin," and I didn't feel it started well. Angel accidentally called Wesley "Doyle" and Cordelia took him to task for it, claiming Angel never mentions Doyle's name.

We cut to some kind of middle American suburban home (I know the show takes place in and is shot in Los Angeles, but where the hell was this supposed to be?) where the two parents are worried about their two darling, bickering children. The father says something ominous, padlocking the kids in their rooms, and instantly, we're supposed to suspect he's a bastard. Why? Well, folks, you know why.

And I won't complain about that here. Instead, I'll focus on the positive: where the show ACTUALLY went.

So, Cordelia has a vision about the family, and Angel and Wesley go out there. As they pull up in the car, they see the young son (name o' Ryan) in his peejays, wandering out into traffic.* Angel moves quickly and snatches the boy from almost certain stitches, and drawing the attention of both his parents. The father yells at the boy while the mother gushes at Angel for being her hero and invites him inside. We find out the family has just moved under unhappy circumstances, and that there's clearly something they're not telling us (or Angel). The father wants Angel to leave, but the mother takes it as a sort of divine omen that their son's guardian protector is named Angel. The mother invites him to dinner the next night (much to the father's disapproval).

Wesley, meanwhile, has been gathering demon mucus from the foundation of the house, which he uses as evidence that one of the family members is possessed by a horrible, murderous Ethros Demon. They bake a powder into a batch of brownies that will make the demon manifest itself, and Angel takes them over for dinner. In the middle of the awkward meal, the son begins twitching and transforming into a freakish Carol Channingesque creature. Angel explains that he's there to help, the mother freaks out about it, but the father actually seems relieved, as he suspected there was something wrong with his son all this time (mysterious "accidents" seemed to follow them around) and now perhaps something can be done to help Ryan.

They take the boy to Angel's bedroom and surround the bed with a circle of protection. They seek the help of an exorcist, only to find he was killed while attending Dakota Fanning's last birthday party. Angel is unable to even hold a cross, so it looks like it's up to Wesley to perform the exorcism. Cordelia, in a scene too hilarious for me to recap, goes to a local magic shop to buy a box to trap the Ethros demon when it is cast out.

Meanwhile, the parents are suffering not being able to comfort the boy-thing, which seems to know the worst thing to say to everybody. For example, Wesley seems to have never been good enough to please his father, Angel is apparently a vampire,** and Rish Outfield once had a broken tallywhacker. The demonboy tries to turn the two men against each other, revealing that Wesley originally came to L.A. to kill Angel, and tries to choke his own mother to death. In the middle of the ritual, it uses its powers to make Wesley stab himself in the neck with his own cross. When everybody retreats to the kitchen, a message appears in marbles on the table. "Save Me," it pleads.

In the next room, the possessed boy taunts Angel by imitating Doyle, who wonders why Angel would have let him die like that. Buoyed up by this, Angel grabs the cross and, hand sizzling, finishes the exorcism, casting the demon out. It smashes right through the box that was supposed to hold it, and disappears, leaving the boy pale and exhausted, but human again.

While Cordelia takes the family home (we didn't actually see this, but it explains why Cordelia isn't there), Angel and Wesley track the Ethros demon to some nearby caves (I am truly grateful it wasn't the sewers again), where it has taken on a weak physical form. They find the demon and have a conversation with it. What occurs next is, in my humble opinion, the second-best moment in the series so far . . . the demon reveals that it was the one who sent the "Save me" message, and that, as cruel and destructive as an Ethros demon is, that was nothing compared to the evil soulessness of Ryan, the little blond haired boy. The Ethros demon was trapped inside the boy, and terrified by what it found there . . . so much so, that it relished the escape that death would bring, hence its walking the boy into traffic. The demon embraces the death that Angel and Wesley offer it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Ryan and company are getting ready for bed, but his sister got more marshmallows in her hot chocolate than he did. So, when all have gone to bed, Ryan locks his parents inside their room, and begins to douse his sister's bedroom with gasoline. Before she can perish in the blaze, Angel arrives and saves her, and the firemen are able to contain the fire.

The police (led by Policewomanofficer Lockley) take the boy away to social services, where I'm sure they will blame the parents and place him in the care of the American ambassador to England, while Angel tries to reassure the family that four was a crowd, but three's company. The end.

Holy hand grenades, this was a great episode. I am scared to death of children, and this felt like sweet justification for all those years of paranoia.
It was written by Jeannine Renshaw, who wrote the greatest episode of the season, "I Will Remember You," and now deserves to be placed on my list of favourite writers (though I checked and it appears she soon left this show to write "Charmed" and "The Ghost Whisperer").

Immediately afterward, still keen to catch up with "Buffy," we watched "Prodigal," which, I was happy to see, revealed more of Angel's backstory. We get to see him when he was Liam in bonnie Ireland, and the conflicts he had with his father, who was a harsh, religious man with nothing but criticism for his layabout son. This was so shockingly familiar to me I would not be at all surprised to find that Liam's father's last name was Outfield.

In modern times, Angel is fighting a demon in the L.A. subway tunnels, where a trainful of commuters was being threatened. As Kate Lockley arrives to investigate, the demon clutches its chest and falls over dead on its own, as tyranist is bound to do someday soon. The chief witness, a delivery guy, describes the attacker as nothing special. Kate doesn't know how to report the incident, and is surprised when her father shows up at the scene. We assume that he was concerned about his daughter and showed up to give her moral support.

Kate finds it difficult to reconcile the world she's used to and the supernatural world Angel lives in, and refuses to call the subway attacker a demon. Angel tells her that particular species of demon is peaceful and female and make really good pasta primavera. He wants to see the list of passengers, suspecting something else was behind it, but she refuses him.

Meanwhile, Cordelia and Wesley are put in charge of disposing of the demon's body. Fun. Angel finds the delivery guy and follows him around, his Angel Sense tingling when he shows up at Kate's father's apartment, picking up a brown package. Angel talks to Mr. Lockley about it, accusing him of removing it from the crime scene that morning. Of course, the old man does not take that lightly, and tells Angel to scram and that he can't understand what it's like to be a father.

We flash back to Angel's youth again, when he decided to pack up and leave his father's house, bidding his mother and little sister goodbye. His father says, "Rish, you don't have an ounce of ambition, no work ethic, no maturity, no reverence, and you think everything is a joke. Also, 'a lot' is two words, not one." Well, maybe Liam's father didn't say those words exactly, but he tells him off and not to come back. Liam goes to the local pub and there he encounters Darla the Vampire, who is the only person in 1753 to speak in modern American. She comes on to him, promising him all sorts of wonders, and takes him to a dark alley. There, she bites him and gives him a drink of her own blood.

Liam's family mourns him at the funeral. That night, Liam crawls out of his grave where Darla awaits him. He sees the cemetery caretaker and transforms, leaping upon him hungrily. Thus, it begins.

Back in the present (or the present seven years ago), Wesley discovers that the subway demon had been hooked on some kind of drug and didn't attack under its own free will. Kate's father tells her that her "new boyfriend Angel" is an alright guy and she changes her mind and gives Angel the list of subway passengers.**

Also changing their mind are the bad guys Kate's father has been dealing with. Two of them go to his apartment and ask if he's told his daughter about any of it. When he says no, they reveal themselves to be vampires and attack him. Angel arrives just in time . . . but can't enter the apartment without being invited. The vampires kill Mr. Lockley. As soon as he's dead, Angel can enter the place, and he kills one, but the other gets away. Kate arrives at that moment, and I was sure she would think Angel had killed her father, but she doesn't. Instead, she and Angel go to the where the escaped vampire hangs out and kill all those behind the shady business, including their demon boss. Kate is distraught, having lost her father, something she thinks Angel could never understand.

We flash back one more time to two hundred years plus ago. Vampire Liam has gone home, where his sister and mother lie dead on the floor, having invited him in. He tells his father that they thought he had returned from the dead an angel. He then kills his father, boasting that he's proved him wrong by finally making something of himself. The end.

Wow, very nice show. Despite my inability to buy Julie Benz as a vampire, or even an actress, this was quite a solid episode. You'd have thought that a mythology episode this big would've been written by Joss (or at least David Greenwalt), but it was penned by Tim Minear. Its director was Bruce Seth Green, who's directed quite a few of these, but creeps me out that his name is so close to the guy who played Oz. It was like when the first HARRY POTTER film came out and one of its producers was named Mark Radcliffe, inspiring people to say, "Well, we know how the kid got the part." Apparently, there's no relation in either case.

With these two episodes, tyranist and I are one "Angel" behind, after which, we can go back to the old switching off schedule. As fun as it was to do the "Buffy" marathon, I hope we never do that again, since it's been difficult to catch up. Part of the reason for this is my new, unpleasant schedule at work, and the fact that we've been (in keeping with the vampire theme) trying to watch all the Hammer Dracula films before Halloween.

So, if all goes well, when next we meet, it'll be Buffy Wednesday again.

Rish Angelus Outfield

*You know, the speeding-for-no-reason traffic that happens on television where a car nearly hits someone and then never, ever stops to make things right.

**I can't really remember what this accomplishes, but it seemed like an important plotpoint at the time.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Angel Friday (14 September 2007)

We've had to reschedule our Buffy Wednesdays the last few weeks so that tyranist can torture political prisoners (one of his day jobs), but I wonder if I should keep calling them "Buffy Wednesdays," especially if we watch no "Buffy."

Like yesterday's. We were six episodes behind on "Angel" (I tried to convince tyranist that we were actually seven episodes behind, but he convinced me I was an imbecile), so as much as I wanted to find out what was going on in Sunnydale, that'll have to wait a couple of weeks.

I'm still hesitant to embrace "Angel." I don't know how long it will take me to get over it (if ever), but I just don't seem capable of enjoying it as much as its sister show.* Part of it is the ensemble nature of "Buffy," and the affection I have for those characters, but in "Angel"'s defence, I have to admit that "I Will Remember You" was better than any "Buffy" episode this season.

The first episode we watched was called "Somnabulist," and was written by "Firefly"-co-exec Tim Minear, and was directed by Winrich Kolbe, who used to direct all the "Star Trek"s. The episode now features Alexis Denisof instead of Glenn Quinn in the opening titles, and was notable for shedding a bit more light on Angel's past, as we get to see him back in his Angelus days in a couple of flashbacks.

There's a wave of murders happening in L.A., and the victims are not only drained of blood, but a cross is cut into their cheek as a sort of calling card.** Worse, Angel's been having dreams about them, in which he is the killer. When he goes to see Policewomanofficer Kate Lockley, he sees photos of the victims that are all too familiar. Kate's profile on the killer seems to match the head of Angel Investigations exactly.

Wesley too reads about the murders and in doing a little research, begins to suspect Angel. He comes to AI HQ with a stake, but Angel disarms him (really easily) and tells him and Cordelia about the dreams he's been having, and that he may be committing the murders in his sleep. So, they tie him to the bed and Wesley keeps guard that night.

Now wait, Angel sleeps at night? That's news to me. It doesn't make a lot of sense, since he shouldn't be able to do a lot during the day, but . . . Hmmm.

Anyway, another murder does occur, and Angel says he's responsible. How? Well, a couple hundred years back, Angelus sired a little sidekick by the name of Penn. Angelus took him under his wing and showed him the ropes and pick your cliche and helped Penn get back at his Puritan father by killing his entire family. In a new twist, vampires have some kind of psychic connection to the vamps they sire, and Angel knows Penn is in Los Angeles, doing his thing.
Angel goes to see Kate again at the police station and asking if she trusts him, gives her a sketch of what the killer looks like. I was reminded that Angel can, indeed, draw very well (way back when he became Angelus again and terrorised Buffy and Company, one of the things he did was sketch them and leave the drawings nearby). Figuring that Penn is re-enacting the murder of his family, he tells Kate that the next victim will be a teenage boy and where to find him.

Sure enough, that night, the cops rescue a kid from his would-be murderer and Penn flees into an abandoned building. Kate goes after him, alone for some reason, and shoots Penn several times. It doesn't kill him, though, and he pops right back up. Luckily, Angel bursts in to save her. Penn seems happy to see Angel, who disappeared on him years ago when the gypsies cursed him, and is disappointed when Angel tells him he's there to kill him. They fight.

Penn seems young, scrawny, and slightly effeminate, and I suppose that was intentional, though I'm not sure why. Though I'm no fan, one of the things they scored with in the casting of David Boreanaz is that super-hunky or no, when he's vamped-out, he's really intimidating.

Kate watches them fight, doing all sorts of neato undead acrobatics and such. Just in case she missed that detail, when Penn flees, she sees Angel with his vampire face on. She seems more confused than terrified, and the next time we see her, she's doing research, not only on similar killings in the past, but on vampires.

The next day, Cordelia welcomes a new client who's asking an awful lot about Angel and Kate Lockley. She realises about halfway through who she's talking to, and Angel shows up to threaten him, then Wesley shows up to get threatened by him, and Penn escapes.

When Angel goes to talk to Kate, she won't invite him in her apartment.*** Having found out that he's a rather famous vampire, all her trust in him has vanished. Angel, Wesley, and Cordelia do a little research on their own, discovering a hotel that's common to several years worth of killings. When they go to Penn's hideout, they find notes he's written about killing a bunch of children on a schoolbus (you have to wonder, though, how he would've managed this, since children typically don't ride the bus when the sun is down).

Penn's real plan, however, is to kidnap Kate, which he does in the middle of one of her police briefings. He takes her underground, where Angel catches up to him. Penn is very disappointed at what Angel's become, since Angel is ostensibly his father. They have another one of those trademarked epic battles, until Penn catches Angel in a headlock. Kate grabs a piece of wood and, rather cleverly, jams it through Angel's stomach and out his back, into Penn's heart. He turns to dust.

Later, Angel is on the roof, being all introspective, and Cordelia goes up there and has a heart-to-heart with him, telling him it's not who he used to be, but who he is now, and that the man he is now is a good man. She also tells him that if he ever turns again to the dark side, she'll strike him down with all of her hatred. He thanks her for that. The end.

This was a good episode, but not a great one. My favourite parts were definitely the glimpses at Angel's past, and as I discussed with tyranist afterward, I just couldn't buy Cordelia's peptalk at the end. She's just an eighteen or nineteen year old former cheerleader/bitch, and she's telling Angel about all of the twisted paths he's taken in his life. It felt very much like a speech written for Doyle, or some other kind of contemporary of Angel's, someone who'd had similar struggles, or at least the weight of a few years under their belt. I've found it really hard to accept the wildly inconsistent nature of Cordelia's character (especially based on what we saw in three seasons of "Buffy"), and it seems to me that if we had a couple more characters on the show, they wouldn't keep forcing the three they've got into so many different roles. A pity Doyle had to die, since he and Wesley could've co-existed quite entertainingly.

I found out today that Glenn Quinn who played Doyle died in 2002 of a drug overdose. I have to wonder if there were troubles that led to his character's way-untimely death on the show, and if he might have come back had he still been around to come back. Life is cruel.

And Kate Lockley seems almost to be a regular character, but they don't have business for her to do each week. It's too bad; she has grown on me quite a bit.

Next up was a Cordelia episode. It was called "Expecting," and we're back, at least at first, to the happy-go-lucky self-absorbed party girl Cordelia we know and l-- well . . . Apparently, she's been seeing this L.A. photographer dude, and has a couple of shallow and babetastic friends that think Angel is "all that."**** When Cordelia gets a vision, we got an entertaining moment when Angel and Wesley had to cover for her.

Later, Cordelia brings this new boyfriend, name o' Christopher, home, and despite her ghostly flatmate Dennis, they manage to copulate quite successfully. When she awakens the next morning in her bed alone, we think Christopher has "pulled a Buffy" on her, but it turns out to be much worse: Cordelia is somehow very very pregnant.

Obviously something supernatural is going on, and Angel heads off to check out the "father," while Wesley takes Cordelia to the baby doctor. I know there's a word for it, not gynecologist, is it obstetrician? Or is it a--ah screw it, the baby doctor does an ultrasound and finds seven heartbeats. He also finds that the fluid from her belly is some kind of acid, which eats through the floor when it's spilled. Ouch.

Angel goes to talk to Cordelia's hot friend, and finds that she too, is in a family way. Turns out there was a group of guys--all friends--who managed to get Cordelia and pals into bed, and now they're all incubators for slimy demon offspring! Having gone to a couple of L.A. nightclubs, I can bear witness that this sort of thing does happen, and explains why the dating scene and the freeway traffic are so bad.

Cordelia starts feeling her fetus' influence, first causing her to drink a carton of blood from Angel's refrigerator, then encouraging her to watch reality shows on VH1, then drawing her to where the creatures' true father, a Haxil demon, lives. The many brides gather there to give birth in a big vat of mung, and Wesley and Angel arrive just in time. Not much can harm the big old Haxil demon, but Angel throws a tank of liquid nitrogen at it and Wesley shoots it with a pistol, freezing the demon colder than Walt Disney's head in Hillary Clinton's lap. Instantly, the women are no longer pregnant, and Cordelia shatters the demoncicle, somehow resisting the urge to say, "Hasta la vista, baby's daddy." She is embarrassed at what's happened, but glad she has two friends as loyal as them. The end.

I don't know, this was a pretty light episode. It wasn't necessarily played for laughs, as would've been my inclination, but we get a lot of silly stuff, like the premise. I mean, nobody's ever found themselves impregnated by a seemingly-decent guy only to find that he was no good and what's growing inside you is threatening to destroy your world. Okay, maybe not NOBODY . . .

The last episode I'll blog about (though it wasn't the last one we've watched), was called "She," which reminded me that it's about time tyranist and I watch the Ursula Andress SHE that Hammer did. In this "She," Angel meets a mysterious woman played by Bai Ling from another dimension. It would seem that the women in their world are kept docile/subservient by removing the Klingon-like ridges from their upper spines. Bai Ling's character has brought some of the females of her species to our dimension to keep them safe, but she is being pursued by a group of males who want to take them back (and take their independence too).

You know, I thought they were aliens, but I guess they were actually demons. Furthermore, I don't remember any of their names. This is why they don't pay me to do this. At first, we think Bai Ling's character is evil, as she is described as being filled with rage, and has the ability to burn people with her mere presence. I think it was Jeera or something, and maybe I'll look it up now.

Okay, maybe they should pay me to do these things; it was Jheira, and she and Angel forge a tentative alliance when she realises he is a vampire who helps people and he realises she's a freedom fighter protecting refugees. Oh yeah, she is also, apparently, hyper-sexual (maybe all of her "uncut" species are), and Angel finds himself very much attracted to her.

Jheira is very independent, and resists accepting Angel's help (whether it's because he's not from her dimension, because he's a vampire, or because he's male, we have to figure out on her own). Even so, Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley, all struggle to help her and her girls against the bad bad men who would turn them into Stepford Demons, even when Jheira would willingly sacrifice Cordelia and Wesley to achieve her honourable goals.

In the end, Angel fends off the villainous males long enough for Jheira to get her girls to safety, and threatens them into staying out of our dimension. Jheira comes back long enough to thank Angel in her way, and for a moment there, it looks as though they might get it on. Then she walks out, and neither of them are left satisfied.

This was, in my eyes, a fairly weak episode. It had its moments, such as Angel pretending to be a guide at an art museum and Wesley slipping on coffee beans. We got an amusing scene where Cordelia threw a party and Angel and Wesley have difficulty mingling (Angel actually turns out to be the more socially awkward of the two of them). Also, Angel officially hires Wesley on as an employee (we are informed that Angel Investigations doesn't offer a dental plan). But I wasn't thrilled with it.

It was written by Marti Noxon and David Greenwalt, and, I don't know, I suppose it was doing what "Star Trek" used to do, where it talked about a social issue of the day by veiling it in a Sci-Fi disguise. It's a thin disguise, however, but I suppose it's at home with the semi-didactic morals episodes like "Beer Bad, "Premarital Sex Naughty" (the last episode), "Abuse Not Cool," (the working title for "Beauty and the Beasts"), and the fifth-season episode "Eating Meat Is An Abomination."

But hey, what is one man's cup of tea is another man's . . . the opposite of a cup of tea. What is the opposite of tea? I nearly made a really bad T & A joke which would have brilliantly played on the pun of "tea" and "T," but I restrained myself.

I really ought to do that more often.

Rish "Iron Will" Outfield

*Or is "Buffy" its mother show, since "Angel" was spawned from it?

**My own calling card during my own murder spree a few years ago was to leave a doll on the body of one of the characters from "Welcome To Pooh Corner," usually Eeyore or Roo. The Topeka Police Chief called it, "One of the sickest things I've ever seen in my nineteen years on the force."

***I really, really enjoy the concept of a vampire not being able to enter where he is uninvited, and later in our marathon, they'll use the rule to its furthest extent.

****I had a friend who would often use the saying "All that and a bag of chips." He's dead now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

good news

It looks as though I have a new job, starting tomorrow. "And the heavens did open, and Elisha Cuthbert did descend, and among the masses the rejoicing was exceedingly sweaty."

Also, tyranist took issue with a statement I made in yesterday's post. No, not the part about him being a horse's pizzle (that he was fine with), he disagreed that Ricardo Montalban is the world's coolest Mexican. What of Danny Trejo, who portrayed (among other things), Machete in MACHETE?

Well, for once, I can pretend to be the expert here. I have met and conversed with both these men, and I have to say that SeƱor Montalban is the greater Mexican.

For now.

Rish "The Half-Mexican" Outfield

Monday, September 10, 2007

Buffy Marathon (Part Deux)

I went camping this past weekend, and my cousin was there. Turns out, he's a huge fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." And by huge, I mean, he knew who The Gentlemen were and the names of episodes and what happened in them. I was impressed, especially by how passionate he was about the show, and I feel it brought us closer as friends . . . if I can ever get past the "So, you're gonna be real bummed out when ____ dies in the ____ episode" parts of what he said to me. Arrrgh.

Which reminds me, I guess I should've put some kind of spoiler warning on these posts, since I do tend to give the whole plot away to each episode I see. After all, I'd hate for you to find out that Miss Calendar died the way that I did (ie, someone writing about it on the internet).

So, where were we on the marathon recap? Oh yes, I had just called tyranist a horse's pizzle. And then we did battle. With the immortal soul of Luciano Pavarotti hanging in the balance. Did I not tell you about this?

After that, we took in "Goodbye Iowa," which I interpreted as either the complete destruction of that Midwestern state, or the last appearance of one Riley Finn. Interesting how it actually turned out.

So, at Giles's place, Buffy tells the gang about Professor Walsh's attempt on her life. Riley comes in (I don't believe people knock anymore) and despite what he saw in the last episode, has difficulty believing she was up to no good. It doesn't help things when he sees Spike hanging around there, who he knows to be a) a vampire and b) an evil bastard. When he leaves, the gang decides to relocate to a safer location . . . Xander's basement.

Meanwhile, the Initiative boys discover Professor Walsh stabbed to death in her top secret workroom. Forrest, the cool black dude from "Heroes," thinks it was Buffy that did it. No mention is made of Adam, who has escaped the facility (somehow, undetected?), and is now wandering around Sunnydale, which in this episode, does NOT look like the Fox lot in L.A.. Adam is a bit puzzled by who and what he is, and speaks in a cool vibrato voice. He comes across a little kid and decides to examine him further. Later, on the news, they report that the little boy was mutilated.

When Forrest catches up with Riley, he tells him that Professor Walsh has been murdered (but her wound seems more consistent with the Polgara demon's spike than Buffy's stake). Riley begins to get a little paranoid and confronts Buffy at the demon bar she used to go to asking for leads, accusing her of doing whiskey shots with the denizens of the Mos Eisley Cantina. You see, without his daily Initiative drug, Riley is freaking out: sweating, twitching, scratching at himself, and basically acting like one of the Olsen Twins in the middle of a Sunday Mass. He is taken to Xander's basement to rest.

Willow comes up with the idea of casting a spell to show her where all the demons in Sunnydale are. There are multicoloured sprinkles that will fall on a makeshift map to show where and what kind they are. I was really interested in seeing this, as we could definitively see how many demons live in Sunnydale at one time, and I might be rewarded for finding out what Polgara, Brachen, Mohra, Fyarl, Mok'tagar, and Kungai Demons are. Instead of going to Giles for the spell, she hooks up with Tara again, and during the spell, Tara sabotages it for some reason, and it doesn't work.

Despite my cousin's best attempts, I don't know why this happened.

Buffy decides to go to Initiative Headquarters to find answers to what's happening with Riley. Because Xander "has military experience," he gets to come along. Also, she puts on a lab coat and glasses, and it is quite attractive. They enter the facility using Buffy's new clearance, and despite Xander's insistence that they do the old "pretend to make out" so nobody notices them, nobody notices them anyway. Awfully conveniently, a couple of Initiative scientists walk by, talking about Riley and Company going through withdrawl from the drug they'd been secretly given.

Riley shows up, still tweaking, and hey, so does Adam, all monstery and who-am-I? Luckily, he has a disk drive built into his stomach with which he can load the data he needs (about Professor Walsh, about Riley, and, oddly, about Ricardo Montalban, the greatest Mexican to ever walk the earth), after which, he gets all violent, kills the head Initiative scientist, and nearly kills Riley with his stinger-poker thing. In the ensuing chaos, Adam escapes.

The soldiers take Riley away to a military hospital (we presume) to treat his wounds and drug-withdrawl, but he still has Buffy's scarf to remind him of her. The end.

This too felt like a weaker show than most this season, and especially weaker than all previous Marti Noxon-penned episodes. It may be that all shows hit a period of fatigue three-quarters of the way through a season, before everybody ramps things up for the end.

I pretty much figured this was it for Riley on the show (or at least this season), but he didn't die and he didn't leave. In fact, he's back again in the very next show, "This Year's Girl." It was written by Douglas Petrie, who wrote the excellent Gwendolyn Post episode "Revelations" and the Spike and Oz "Angel" "In the Dark."

Faith the Vampire Slayer is having a friendly dream about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She looks down and realises Buffy has stuck a knife in her stomach (a familiar-looking knife, if you're like me and last season was weeks instead of months ago). We see that Faith is still in her coma, in a hospital somewhere*, and no threat to anybody anytime soon.

A bigger threat, however, is Adam the Cyborgdemon, who is running loose and uncaptured in Sunnydale, making demons (and probably more kindergartners) into modern art. Buffy hasn't been able to locate him, and is stressed out because she hasn't seen Riley in some time either. At least some of that stress is relieved when Riley, mostly recovered, leaves his hospital room and comes to Xander's basement, where our gang is still congregating.

Also recovering, though, is our gal Faith. After a dream in which Buffy interrupts her picnic with Mayor Wilkins with bloodshed (Buffy Summers has become a sort of boogeyman in her subconscious, much like Estelle Getty is in mine), Faith awakens from her coma. Wandering through the hospital's grimy halls, she encounters a girl and asks her if she's missed the graduation ceremony.

When we next see Faith, she's wearing the girl's clothes, who the hospital staff find beaten and stripped.** Faith wanders around Sunnydale, seeing the ruins of the high school, and eventually going to Giles's house, where she peeks in the window at the gang, talking about Adam the Cyborgdemon. The telephone rings, and Buffy is told that Faith is up and about. As she tells the others, they kick around suggestions as to what to do about her. Buffy says that maybe she's sorry for her transgressions last season and they can be friends again (at that, I'm quite surprised that tyranist didn't throw something at the TV set, but he is able to control himself a lot better than I am).

The next day on campus, Buffy and Willow are talking about Faith and bump right into her. She and Buffy do battle, Faith calls her "B," the police arrive, and Faith heads for the hills. The Watchers Council has also been called in to capture Faith, so she may well be in more trouble than Spike at this point (I failed to mention that the demon community heard he was doing a bit of slaying, and that there's a "No Changeling has EVER harmed another" line he had crossed, making him a target now).

Later, Faith runs into a demon that recognises her and has a package for her. It turns out to be a video taped message from Mayor Wilkins (it appears he made it right before his Ascension, as it refers to her being in a coma). In it, the Mayor tells her how special she is and what a shame it is that he is dead, and that he's got one last gift for her . . . some sort of device she wears on her hand.

Buffy warns Riley about Faith, thinking she might try to get at her through the people she cares about. Sure enough, back at Joyce's house (wow, we haven't seen Buffy's mother in a monkey's age), the doorbell rings, revealing Faith and a mean left hook. Faith thinks Buffy will arrive to rescue Joyce, but when she sees a stack of mail with Buffy's name on it, she guesses that Buffy don't come round no more, and taunts Joyce about it.

But Buffy does arrive, bursting through the window, and she and Faith do battle. Joyce calls the police, and right before they arrive, Faith produces the device the Mayor gave her. In a flash of light, something happens that seems to surprise Faith, and Buffy takes her chance to deck Faith and destroy the device. As the cops come in, Buffy smiles, and we realise that she is no longer Buffy. "To Be Continued" comes on screen, and in February of 2000, millions of fans shriek in excitement and agonised frustration.

Damn, this was good stuff. It's truly surprising how happy I was to see Faith return. And the Mayor too, if only in dreams and beyond-the-grave messages. This episode was riveting, really, and when it ended with a big ole cliffhanger, there was no stopping us from plowing on to find out how it ended.

And it ended in "Who Are You," three words I'm unable to say without singing due to "CSI." The episode, written and directed by Joss, picks up right where the last one left off. Faith has switched bodies with Buffy, and Faith's unconscious body is being wheeled out by authorities. Tyranist pointed out, 'cause I missed it, that the credits listed "Eliza Dushku as Buffy," and that was darn cool. Even cooler, however, was Sarah Michelle Gellar's performance as Faith, as she acted, talked, even moved the way Faith does. Really impressive, fun stuff.

So, "Buffy" and her mother talk about the confrontation, and "Buffy" doesn't really know how to act around her. She goes and takes a bath, very much enjoying her new body, and practices saying, "Don't do that, because it's wrong" in the mirror. She snags her mother's credit card and goes out to hang out with the gang.

Tyranist and I tried to guess who would be the first to recognise that it wasn't Buffy who was hanging around them. Would it be her mother, who's known her the longest? Would it be Willow, who's her best friend? Would it be Giles, who Watches her so closely? Would it be Riley, who's making ye olde beast with two backs with her? Would it be Xander, maybe, who knows Faith so semi-intimately? Or would it be Harmony . . . who does not appear in this episode?

Well, nobody seems to notice the change at first, despite "Buffy" not knowing Anya's name. "Buffy" goes to the Bronze and runs into Spike (will it be Spike, who has a more supernatural view of Buffy?), who she at first doesn't recognise, and then calls William the Bloody, and tries to seduce, and then pushes away. This infuriates Spike and . . . look, ladies, this infuriates all men everywhere, both vampire and human.

The Watchers Council steals "Faith" away from the cops, sticking her in a van and prepare to take her back to England. She tries to explain to them that she is not Faith, but they are most unkind to her. While waiting for their tickets home, "Faith" grabs one of them, taking him hostage, but the other two tell her to go ahead and kill him, because he is a wanker. "Faith" can't do so, and is stuck where she was before. Even more so, since now they think they'll have to kill her rather than take her back.

In the Bronze, Willow introduces Tara to "Buffy," and when Willow goes to get them drinks, "Buffy" laughs at how Willow went onto the other team, despite how much she was in love with good old Oz. I found myself displeased by this, because Tara strikes me as a tender lesbian flower. Willow comes back, pointing out a vampire leading a girl out the door. "Buffy" reluctantly goes out to slay the creature, and when she does, the would-be victim is REMARKABLY grateful. I mean, so much so that it makes us (and Faith) question the whole People Are No Damn Good philosophy.***

Tara tells Willow that "Buffy" was giving off some might bad juju, and that it wasn't really her friend in there. Instead of calling Professor Dumbledore, Harry and Hermione decide to make up a spell to fix things on their own.

Meanwhile, "Buffy" runs into Riley, and decides to make that aforementioned beast with him. You know, the one with two backs. I was gratified (though that may be an inappropriate word) to see that Riley was still sore from the Adam encounter, so the amorous acrobatics that Faith's used to weren't really an option. Even so, the sex is had, and afterward, Riley tells her that he loves her.

Wrong answer. Those three little words ruin Faith's mood faster than when my friend Ian's wife cried out "Skippy from Family Ties!" during lovemaking. She is out of there.

Also out of there is Buffy, who--oh crap, I just realised that I've stopped referring to them as who they are outside, but who they are inside. Dammit.

Also out of there is "Faith," who does manage to escape the Council and steal the van she was being held in (guess she can drive okay after all). She goes to Giles's place and before he can call the police on her, she manages to convince him that she is really Buffy (she mentions that she was the one who recognised him when he was turned into a demon and also that he nailed her mother that one time). Willow and Tara show up with Spock's katra (I kid you not, they really called it a katra!), and now all they have to do is find "Buffy."

"Buffy" goes to the airport to get the hell outta Dodge, and sees a news report about a group of vampires holding a bunch of churchgoers hostage (though the reporter might have called the vampires "Chinamen"). In a subplot I neglected to tell you about, Adam got a bunch of vampire followers and told them to confront their greatest fears, since that would make them, I don't know, cooler. Seeing what's happening, and knowing that she is the Slayer, "Buffy" goes to the church to stop them.

Riley arrives, claiming he was just on his way to church (which, for some reason, caused only me to laugh), and "Buffy" tells him he's too injured to take them on. She goes inside, and tells the vampires not to kill all the people. Why? "Because it's wrong." When they don't listen, she gives the vampires a mighty thrashing, allowing all the parishioners to escape. "Faith" shows up, killing the last of the vampires, and she and "Buffy" do mighty battle once again.

That is, until Willow uses her katra thing to switch their bodies back. A brunette once again, Faith flees, leaving town and feeling more alone than ever (I feel a little like Faith right now, but just way much less hot).**** Buffy is frustrated that this happened, and even more so when she finds out Riley had sex with her. Her being Faith, not Buffy. But really Buffy, not Faith. It really should be alright, actually. But of course, it's not.

And that's the end of the episode. Sadly, I may have to rethink the whole best episode of the season now that I've seen this one. It was more fun and much, much better than how I have described it (this show is sort of the opposite of "Saturday Night Live," which is always better when you retell it), and though I am years late, I want to tell Joss and SMG and Dushku how excellent their work was here. When I was an extra, I never got a chance to work on a Whedon show, or with any of the cast of the show (save Anthony Stewart Head, though he was fairly unrecognisable), so I don't know how I could've pulled it off. Chalk it up as another missed opportunity, just to be sure.

I have so little going right in my life right now, "Buffy" is literally one of the only things to look forward to and get me out of bed in the morn . . . okay, afternoon. Thanks, Joss and company.

Rish "The Vampire Viewer" Outfield

*I didn't get why the hospital was so run-down and crappy. I wracked my brain for some kind of explanation, but I still don't know what it was.

**I too would like to encounter Faith in this way.

***I wouldn't be surprised if this girl were on the Give Buffy Summers An Umbrella committee in high school.

****Yeah, I meant to say way much less hot. It was originally "way much less hotter."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Buffy Marathon (Part 1)

The other day, I was watching "Spaced," and it looked as though things were going to go Tim's way for once. He goes into his room, kneels, and closing his eyes says, "I'm not really a praying man, but if you could please let this work out for me, I promise I'll be very grateful."

When he stands up, we discover his prayer was to a poster . . . of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

8 September 2007

So, Tyranist and I just got done with an unprecedented amount of "Buffy" watching, eclipsing our previous record of four episodes with an epic six show marathon.

I thought it would be wiser to split this into two entries, so that they'd see the light of publishing while Al Gore was still President. With that in mind, I'd better get started.

The first episode was called "Doomed," and it picked up precisely where "Hush" left off. Basically, Riley and Buffy have their big talk about who they are and what they do at night. Oddly, Riley's never heard of The Slayer, but he's pretty much the only one. An earthquake strikes while they're in mid-conversation, and Buffy begins to fear that it portents something very bad (the last time there was an earthquake was when the Hellmouth opened--the first time--and she briefly died).

Meanwhile, Spike is still living with Xander, and he is quite miserable about it (even forced to wear Xander's clothes when he accidentally shrinks his own).

Willow goes to a frat party and discovers the body of a student, with a mysterious symbol (an eye in a triangle) carved in his chest. Buffy discovers this same symbol on a crypt in the cemetery, and finds a demon, in the process of gathering objects to bring about the end of the world.

Spike is feeling particularly useless, and tries to kill himself by jumping on a stake. He fails. To cheer him up, Willow and Xander take him along on their patrol. When they run into a demon, Spike discovers he can attack it without feeling any pain: his conditioning only works with regards to humans.

Buffy fears the worst about her relationship with Riley and attempts to break up with him (a couple times, actually). He's bloody persistent, though, and insists that she try and find some positive in life and that the two of them were made for each other, considering the line of work they're in.

Giles has one of the objects and the demons beat him up and steal it. The demons' plan is to reopen the Hellmouth (under the burned-out remains of Sunnydale High School) by tossing in their gathered objects and then tossing themselves in. Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Spike battle them, and ultimately, Riley shows up and helps save the day. It looks like he and Bufanda are unbroken-up, but now the gang knows he's part of the Initiative.

Spike comes out of this with a new lease on life, discovering that he can fight--and kill--demons to get the thrill he used to get out of hunting human beings. Somehow this is less encouraging to Xander and Willow, but if everybody gets along, we have no more fun.

Despite being written by Marti Noxon, David Fury, and Jane Espenson, this wasn't the tightest or most amusing episode of the season. I wonder if that had something to do with the three different writers. It was interesting to see the change in Riley Finn here as more confident around Buffy and less awkward and stammery (which I found endearing, like I think I said). It marked Marc Blucas's addition to the opening titles (as Riley), and prompted tyranist to say, "Blucas!" every time he saw it.

The episode ended, and we made the mistake of watching the special features on that disc (we being tyranist). It spoiled a bit of what was to come, but even more, it teased it to the point where we couldn't do our usual transition to the "Angel" episode that originally followed it. Nope, we popped in the next "Buffy" disc and went right on through.

First of those was "A New Man," what may be our first Giles-centric episode. It starts with Buffy's nineteenth birthday party, where she introduces Riley to everyone as her boyfriend. Giles feels out of place at the party, and only feels worse when Buffy mentions that Professor Walsh is the smartest person she knows.

Speaking of Professor Walsh (boo! hiss!), she discovers that Buffy is the Slayer and brings her in for a little Welcome To The Initiative interview. Riley is daunted when he reveals that he's had seventeen kills in his career and discovers Buffy had more kills than that between season three and making CRUEL INTENTIONS. He is even more intimidated when they do a little practice sparring and she practically kicks him across the room (I believe it was in this episode that he referred to her as strong as Spider-man).

Giles meets with Professor Walsh and finds her incredibly rude. She claims Buffy's recklessness is due to the lack of a positive male role model. She also hates fuzzy ducklings, never quiets her cellphone, and was glad when "Firefly" was cancelled. Giles didn't know that Riley was in the Initiative, and is even more unhappy when Xander and Willow tell him that Walsh is its leader.

To make matters worse, he runs into Ethan Rayne, the mischievous baddie behind "Halloween" (the episode, not the movie . . . or movies now) and "Band Candy." Rayne takes Giles to a bar where they get drunk and talk about all manner of things, including how afraid demons are of the Initiative and of something there called 314. For a moment, Rayne claims to have poisoned Giles's drink, but that turns out to be a joke.

What isn't a joke, though, is the state Giles wakes up in: Oklahoma. No, actually, it's almost as bad: he's been transformed into a big, unrecognisable, horned demon. He's so strong he's unable to use the telephone or put a shirt on, and when he goes over to Xander's, Xander thinks he's being attacked by the demon and throws things at him. Giles can only communicate in demon language, and is forced to flee. He finds Spike, who is moving into a crypt in the cemetery, and Spike immediately recognises him, also speaking that language (Giles is a Fyarl Demon, apparently, and Spike used to hang out with a couple). In return for money, Spike says he will help Giles find Ethan Rayne and return to human form.

Buffy and Company, meanwhile, think that this demon has attacked Giles before it went after Xander. And Buffy and Company now includes Riley.

Giles is feeling more and more demonish, and when he happens to see Professor Walsh walking down the street, he takes the opportunity to leap out at her, causing her much fright and me much delight. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to hate Maggie Walsh as much as I do, but I was glad that tyranist felt that way too.

Giles and Spike track Ethan Rayne down to his motel room. Around that same time, Buffy and Riley figure out he's in town and where he's staying. Unable to control his rage, Demon Giles attacks Rayne, and might indeed have torn his head off and shat down his neck, had Buffy not arrived to stop him. She immediately begins battling the demon, and has the chance to kill him, but stops.

Awesomely, Buffy only needed to look in Giles's eyes to know it was him. Ethan Rayne is forced to change Giles back, and Riley uses his contacts in the government to have him arrested and made to participate in naked human pyramids and such. Buffy and Giles have a nice moment where she promises to keep him in the loop, and he warns her that there's something about Professor Walsh he doesn't trust.

Back at Initiative headquarters, Walsh debriefs Riley before disappearing behind a door number 314. The end.

This episode was a lot of fun. Jane Espenson wrote this one, and it's outstanding that there are so many writers (not just Joss and Marti Noxon) who produce great scripts. Giles is one of my fav'ritest characters and it was good to see him lumber around as a big horny demon. I will miss him when he's gone. Heck, I will miss them all when they're gone.

Part of what kept us burning through the Buffy-sodes was the momentum this Initiative/Riley/Professor Walsh/Spike intrigue brought us. We really should've watched "Angel," but I can't quite explain the madness that overtook us.

The third episode we saw was "The I In Team." In it, Buffy is welcomed into the Initiative, impressing Professor Walsh with her athletic abilities. She gets to go on a tour of the facilities, but is unlike the rest of the soldiers in that she asks a lot of questions. And wears pink. Riley's buddy Forrest--who I'm sure I've not previously mentioned, but he went on to play D.L. in "Heroes"--is getting less and less thrilled with Riley's growing affection for Buffy, and the fact that she's on her way to being his new second-in-command.

Giles goes to Spike's crypt to give him the money he owes him (from last episode), but Spike is very antisocial, reminding him (and us) that he is evil and doesn't want to be part of the Scooby Gang. Willow's new friend, Tara, does seem interested in joining the group, or joining Willow, anyhow. She and Willow have been getting together to practice magic, and I'm not altogether sure how obvious it is that Tara has romantic interest in her. If I were just a typical January 2000 viewer, would I have picked up on it right away, or just had my suspicions, or would I have been clueless, like I was about all the ex-girlfriends tyranist had that became lesbians?

In this episode, we find out what's behind door number 314. There's some kind of Frankensteinian patchwork of human/demon/computer there, a huge man-creature that Professor Walsh calls Adam.

They are given a mission to capture something called a Polgara demon without harming its stinger-like wrist spikes, so the Initiative can study them. Buffy and Riley easily take the demon down, and afterward, they carry on their adventure to the bedroom. Disturbingly, Professor Walsh watches their coupling via a hidden camera in Riley's bedroom.

In the morning, Riley reveals that he takes some kind of vitamin supplement every day, and Buffy reveals that local demons are scared of something the Initiative's up to called 314. Buffy gets a call from Professor Walsh, who sends her on a mission by herself. To help, she gives her a nifty electricity-shooting weapon and camera and heart monitor to wear.

In another part of the Fox Lot, the Initiative discovers Spike and shoot him with a tracking device. Spike goes crawling back to Giles to have the device removed, giving him what's left of the money as a sort of trade-off. Riley and Forrest almost track Spike down, but Xander flushes the transmitter down the loo before they find it.

Meanwhile, Buffy goes into the sewers after her quarry, which turn out to be two big demons with battle-axes. When she fires her weapon, it not only doesn't work, but a gate drops down, trapping her with the demons. They attack her, and the heart monitor drops to zero.

When Riley gets back to Initiative Headquarters, Professor Walsh tells him the bad news: Buffy rushed off on her own, and the poor, stupid girl foolishly got herself killed. You mustn't blame yourself, darling, now come be evil with me. I could be your mommy, you know. Life would be oh so much better if you'd just forget about that silly girl. Now let me get you out of those wet clothes.

Unfortunately for Walsh, Buffy picks up the fallen camera and heart monitor after dispatching the demons and tells the Professor that she's going to kick her arse so hard she'll even be wincing in reruns. The stunned Riley sees this and storms out, despite Walsh's ordering him to stop and give her twenty.

Professor Walsh enters her secret lab behind door 314 and we see that Adam is now complete. They've sewn the Polgara demon arm with the retractable spike onto him, and the first thing he uses it for is to kill Professor Walsh, who he refers to as his mother. The end.

For most people, three "Buffy"s would be an active, productive night. But as I found out when confronting Christianne Morris about being willing to make out with most of the people in our apartment complex, I am not most people.

To Be Continued . . .

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Audition (not the Takashi Miike film)

5 September 2007

Before I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be an actor. I've been paid a heck of a lot more for my acting than my writing, but most of the time I feel I barely qualify for either one.

I don't go to a lot of auditions, in part due to the fact that I'm so unattractive John Merrick once did a spit-take when he saw me, and in part due to my lack of confidence.

Last night, I heard there was an audition I might be right for for a low budget film. I got the character breakdown, a couple of sides, and the first fifteen pages of the script.

This morning, I read it all through. It wasn't terribly well-written (for example, the main character, Brian, briefly gets referred to as Sean), had the kind of typos I should be paid to catch and correct, and I couldn't tell what the genre was. Because Horror is my thing, I kept interpreting what I was reading as ominous, putting a sinister spin on lines that would be innocuous in a Romance or Screwball Comedy or Coming of Age story, any of which this script might have been.

I had nothing better to do, though, so I figured I'd at least consider going to the audition. I had lunch with tyranist and told him about it (and the fifteen pages I had read). He told me to go for it (though by the time I told him about it I had decided I was going to go unless he told me not to), since I have very little left to lose.

During the drive to the audition, though, I got a wee bit nervous. An audition is like a blind date, in a way. You don't have to be Nostradamus to predict that I'm not much good at those either.

I got to the audition and found only three people in the waiting room with me. One was a very young-looking girl, one was a woman I barely saw because she went in to read just as I got there, and another was there to welcome us and give us the sides if we didn't already have them. After a while, a fat kid and a twenty-something, handsome guy showed up. I put my name down on the check-in list, and sat waiting, reading over the pages I had read over several times on the drive over.

After a minute, I asked the girl if she was reading for Hillary (she was), since the sides I had most scrutinised was a scene between Brian and Hillary. She was, and I asked her if she wanted to run through it with me. We got one line read (hers), and the director came out and said he was ready for us. He asked us if we wanted to read together (which would've been lucky had we gotten a chance to do the scene in the waiting room beforehand; I guess I should've moved faster), and we did.

The writer/director was a young dude, the kind of guy who would've mentored me in high school, telling me why a Sega Genesis was better than a Nintendo, explaining what a clitoris is, and giving his theory that Batman is actually crazier than the villains he fights. He asked if we had any questions, and I told him, "Yeah, I wonder what happens after page fifteen and if I was meant to be afraid when I read it."

He answered our questions (the girl had a couple of good ones). I was happy to hear the plot of the story and to find that it was indeed Horror.* He had a camera set up in the room, as well as a couch (presumably for when pretty girls auditioned on their own), and asked us to say our names, give our representation (if any), and the part we were reading for.

The girl had brought a head-shot and resume, and apologised that the photo didn't look at all like her. I didn't bring a head-shot and resume (yeah, I've gone to that many auditions), and apologised that my (non-existent) photo REALLY didn't look like me. Then we went through the scene.

We did it twice, and he gave her all the direction (either I was that great or he knew just on seeing me that I wouldn't be getting the part), and well . . . I don't think I sucked, but I certainly didn't nail anything. It wasn't even nerves, really, since it was just the director and a video camera on a tripod in the room, and he seemed like a friendly, unassuming guy.

As I walked out, I told him I hoped he had a bit part for me, since I really wanted to know how the story came out (I don't really care, to be honest, but it seemed like a productive thing to say), then hit the bricks. The girl stuck around to read with the Twentysomething Stud, so I couldn't even talk to her about it. I had spent more time walking from the parking lot to the building than I did performing the scene, but that's longer than my last audition in Los Angeles lasted.

I've been an actor for a long time, but I don't audition well. And I certainly don't know whether I've got things or not, walking out. The last audition I went on, I had a pretty strong feeling I'd gotten the job. And then never heard from them.

On this one, I'd bet Steven Spielberg's favourite hat that I didn't get the part. And I'd bet his eighth-favourite hat that I don't get called for any supporting parts either. That's too bad; I really miss movie sets.

Oh yeah, and money.

Rish "Master Thespian" Outfield

*Though you would probably call it a Thriller. And then you'd be calling your mommy to tell her about what I said to you.

Stupid Thing of the Week

I am the world's oldest ten year old. My family went camping this past weekend at a cabin by the lake, and one of the things I try to do every trip is hunt for frogs (and occasionally salamanders) with my six year old niece. I wish I could say she is the instigator on these little outings, but I try not to lie on my weekly blog.

On yesterday afternoon, my niece wanted to ride my brother's four-wheeler (I'm not sure what the technical term for the vehicle is, they just call it a four-wheeler), and while my cousin drove her around, I decided to go frog hunting by myself.

I walked about a mile and a half, off onto the other side of the lake, since we tend to find frogs far from where people fish, walk, or camp. There was a mucky, swampy area there, where, from the sound of it, amphibians like to party, and I took a few steps into it. There was little water at the surface (guess it was underneath somewhere), and the mud was worse than it looked. I went into it, and it quickly sucked me down. After another grunting step, my leg sank past my knee. I found myself thigh-deep in thick, cold mud and realised I couldn't pull myself out.

I laughed at first, 'cause it was an absurd situation. The more I tugged on one foot, the more the other one sank into the depths. I thought, "What if I couldn't get out at all? What if I had to spend the night here? What if I sank further down than I did? What if I was wrong and everybody else is right and TRANSFORMERS was the best movie of the summer?"

Finally, I wriggled around, allowing my feet to slip from my shoes, and clawed myself out of the mud that way. Then I crawled back (only my knees and hands sinking this time) and dug through the deep muddy holes I'd made until I could somehow pry my shoes from their subterranean hiding places.

I hobbled out of the swamp and walked shoeless to the nearest rock and sat down and put my shoes back on. I headed toward the lake, and actually did see a few frogs in the grass on my way. At the water's edge, I just walked in until it was up to my crotch. I tried to wash the mud from my legs and arms and feet, and after a while, I managed it pretty well (my shoes were still filthy and my once-white socks were now permanently brown, but ah well).

I meandered for a while and eventually wandered back to the cabin and my family, where nobody noticed I had gone or was left. If the above paragraphs weren't enough to qualify for a Stupid Thing of the Week, I told them about what had happened.

I am the world's oldest six year old.

Rish "I Brought The Frogs Home And They Got Loose In The Night Somehow And My Uncle Found One In His Bathroom This Afternoon" Outfield