Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Showtime Dexter "Blood is Thicker #705 “Swim Deep”

by Catherine Giordano

Seven seasons and I’m still in love with Dexter. (Too bad I couldn’t say the same about my husband.)  Season 7, episode 5, of Showtime’s “Dexter” is filled with the tension and emotion we have come to expect.

Ever notice how “Dexter” has a high body count every week. This week we had three Columbian drug-gang members and a few exhumed bodies. Along with a few hints about corpses-to-be. Showtime named this episode “Swim Deep”; it’s a fine name but I’m renaming it “Blood is Thicker.” 

For Debra, her love for her brother (adopted, no blood tie, but still the relationship between Deb and Dex is as strong as if he was a blood-relative) is proving to be stronger than her love for the law.  Debra is continuing to protect her brother.

Debra learns about LaGuerta’s secret investigation into the Bay Harbor Butcher killings when Matsuka finds out that LaGuerta has sent the blood slide she found at the site of “The Doomsday Killer’s” murder. Matsuka thinks that LaGuerta went to an outside lab because she intends to fire him. He runs to Debra in a panic.   

Debra goes to LaGuerta with Matsuka’s concerns and learns about LaGuerta’s secret investigation into the Bay Harbor Butcher case. She thinks the “Bay Harbor Butcher may still be alive because he was the only serial killer to use blood slides. Deb, seeing the danger this investigation poses for her brother persuades LaGuerta to bring her into the investigation. This move soon pays off for Debra.

LaGuerta decides to investigate every unsolved missing person case for new clues.  She shows Debra a sheet with the photos of each unsolved case. Debra takes this list to Dexter and demands, “Which ones are yours?” Dexter points out the ones he has killed. Now Debra knows where to focus her intervention into LaGuerta’s investigation.

“The Wedding Photographer” is one of the Dexter’s victims. Debra arranges to interview the family alone, but LaGuerta shows up at the family’s home so they interview the family together. LaGuerta asks to see pictures from the weddings he photographed around the time of his disappearance.  As they look through these photos Debra spots one that shows Dexter in a crowd of people. She slips it to the bottom of the pile and suggests that she take the photos back to the station so she can examine them more carefully. La Guerta agrees. When Debra gets back to the station she takes the incriminating photo and slips it into her pocket.

Later she tells Dexter, “I saved you.” This is a moment of triumph for Debra. As children they would run on the beach, and she could never catch him. In the water, he’d swim deep so she could not catch him. As adults, Dexter has more than once saved her life.  Only a few episodes ago he saved her from Ray Spitzer, a serial killer that Dexter later murdered. Now Debra is so proud. She has saved her brother. Dexter sheepishly admits that this is so as he slowly burns the photograph.

Debra is still troubled by Dexter’s extracurricular activities. She learns that he has sometimes hidden evidence from the police as he did when he found a fingerprint at the scene of the murders committed by Vicktor, part of a Ukrainian mob operating in Miami. This is new insight for her into Dexter’s criminal life—he doesn’t just hunt down and kill the ones who slip through the cracks; he helps them to slip through the cracks so that he can hunt them down and kill them. 

Debra says she doesn’t want to know anything more about his secret life. She can’t handle being complicit. She won’t turn him in, but he has to go back to keeping his killing activities a secret from her. Dexter agrees. Is Dexter glad to have Debra remove herself from his killing or did he like having a “partner in crime.” In season 5, a young woman, Lumen, whom Dexter rescued from a gang of rapists-torturers-killers became an accomplice as she sought revenge on the men who had hurt her. Dexter rather liked having someone to share his killing with. However, when the last of the gang had been killed, Lumen left saying she did not want to become like Dexter. The killing was over for her. Dexter was alone again. Now Debra has said and done pretty much the same thing. This is the “alone-again-naturally” moment of the episode.

Dexter may soon have a new accomplice of sorts. Hanna McCay (played by Yvonne Strabovski) is a young woman who as a teenager was the girlfriend/accomplice of Randall, the prisoner who, in episode 2 of this season. jumped in front of a truck despite being in shackles. He had been allowed out of prison because he had promised to show people where the bodies of his victims were. Now the police have enlisted Hannah, an accomplice who had received immunity because she was thought to be more of a victim than an accomplice, forced by Randall to participate in his crimes. They uncover two bodies (a husband and wife), and Dexter realizes from the evidence that Hannah must have been the killer of the female victim. He does not disclose this evidence to the police. However, he does have a little talk with Hannah, who plays it coy, and neither confirms nor denies. Dexter decides if she had killed that one time, maybe she killed other times as well. Maybe she is still killing. The hunt is on.

Sirko is still after Dexter. Dexter devises a plot to get rid of Sirko. Since Sirko is not from Miami he does not know about gang turf. Dexter tricks Sirko into following him to a bar that is Columbian turf. Since Sirko is the head of a rival gang, hostilities break out. Dexter slips away thinking he has solved his Sirko problem—it’s three to one after all. But Sirko does not die easy. He manages to kill all three of the Columbians. However, his blood is found at the scene, and he is identified and arrested.   

Sirko is pursuing Dexter because it is “personal.”  In some way, Viktor was family to Sirko, maybe not a blood-relative, but as close as if he had been a brother. And now it is personal for Dexter too. Sirko has threatened to kill Debra. When Dexter visits Sirko in jail, Sirko tells Dexter a chilling story about the lengths the men in his family will go to to get revenge. Dexter is going to find a way to kill Sirko because Sirko will continue to be a threat to Dexter and his family.

As I said, blood is thicker …

by Catherine Giordano

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Monday, October 29, 2012

HBO Real Time with Bill Maher #264 “Vote Democratic: We’re Not Perfect, But They’re Nuts.”

by Catherine Giordano

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” episode 264 (which aired on Friday October 26) did a pretty good job of piling on Romney and the Republicans. Whenever that happens, I call it a good show. 

I think one of the best lines came during “Overtime” Barney Frank, congressman from Massachusetts, gave his idea for a bumper sticker.  I liked the line so much that I am using it as the name for this episode: “Vote Democratic; We’re Not Perfect, But They’re Nuts.” 

Bill got a few shots in during his opening monologue.  He mentioned Halloween describing it as a holiday where we try to fool people into thinking we are someone we are not. “Romney calls it campaigning.” 

Bill discussed the third presidential debate, the one devoted to foreign affairs, where we saw a kinder, gentler, more peace-loving Mitt Romney.  Bill pointed out that Romney’s answer to everything was “What he said, but from a white guy.” Then Bill added that Romney morphed into Obama on the stage that night, so much so that he hugged Micelle at the end of the debate.   

The Frankenstorm also became fodder for a joke. Bill said that the storm was being caused by a cold front from Canada meeting a hurricane from the Caribbean, and then mixing with hot air from Donald Trump.  

Bill did the interview with Barney Frank. I wish Barney had been on the panel because he is good with a quip and he always livens things up. Barney began by saying that “I run my mouth for a living.” (See what I mean.)  

Barney called Romney “the most intellectually dishonest person in history.” Someone had to say it. He said Romney thinks he is “destined to rule.”  (He does indeed give off that vibe. Remember in the 3rd debate when he challenged Obama about whether or not Obama has said “terror” the day after the Benghazi attack. He looked directly at Obama, jutted his chin out, and raised his eyebrows clear up to his scalp. What an imperious disdainful look!  Obama wisely chose not to respond to someone acting more like a school-yard bully than a presidential candidate. But I digress.) 

Barney made one other important point. He said that Romney will say anything. It’s just about impossible to figure out whether Romney believes the rightwing policies or not.  But, Ryan is a true believer, and Ryan will exert influence over Romney if they make it to the White House. My opinion is that it does not matter what Romney believes, he will take his orders from the right wing. 

The panel members were Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York, Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and Chrystia Freeland, a Reuter’s editor.

There was a discussion of the “way-out-there-crazy” Republican views of Joe Walsh (women don’t die in pregnancy), Todd Akin (women don’t get pregnant from rape), and Richard Murdock (God intends pregnancies to result from rape.)  Bill got in another zinger about Romney and abortion.  He said “Picasso could not portray all the sides Romney has on abortion.” Sadly, so true.   

A bit of talk about how McCain and George McGovern were able to work on policies like food stamps a few decades ago and how Republican cooperation on social policies would be impossible now. The Republican party has become the Tea party, and the Democrats have not moved as far to the left as the Republicans have moved to the right.  I think that is an understatement. I think Democrats have actually moved to the Center; (or what used to be the Center); it only looks like it is the left because Republicans have moved so far right.

The mid-show bit this week was about books.  Very funny book titles. Bill cracked up as he read them.  Here’s a few of them. 

Author: Republican Caucus; Title: What I Expect When You are Expecting
Author: Rush Limbaugh; Title: Belittle Women
Authors: Joe Walsh and Richard Murdock; Title: The Vagina Demagogues 

Nate Silver, the election statistics wizard, was the special guest. He’s the founder of and has a new book entitled “The Signal and the Noise.” He says Obama has a 75% chance to win the election. If only it could get to 99%, I could sleep easy. Still it is better than the other way around. He said that the Romney momentum stopped a week ago and that Romney is not close enough to pull ahead. This is the “From-Your-Lips-to-God’s Ear’s” moment of the week. 

The panel discussed race as a factor in this race. Sarah Palin saying Obama is ‘shuck and jive” (disgusting,) and John Sununu saying that former secretary of state to George Bush, Colin Powell, endorsed Obama because they are both black (beyond disgusting), and adding that Obama is stupid and lazy (outrageously disgusting, in that it references stereotypes about black people.)  

On to “New Rules.” The final new rule was called “Rom-Con”. It was so good, I wish I could quote it verbatim.That would make this piece too long, so you’ll just have to watch it. But, here’s taste.  Bill said you can catch a worse disease than Romnesia if Romney becomes president. It’s like they say about STD’s—you are not just sleeping with this one person, you are sleeping with everyone he has ever slept with. The analogy being that you won’t get just Romney, but every right wing nut he has ever pandered to. Remember Terry Schiavo, remember John Ashford throwing a sheet over a statue, remember when the Smithsonian could not mention global warming because the idea that heat melts ice was too radical, remember DOMA, remember stem-cells, remember evolution-is-from-the-pit-of-hell—all of that will be in the White House right alongside Romney. And here’s Bill’s closer. “If you say, ‘Oh don’t worry, Romney will stand up to the right wing crazies,’ there’s one problem with that: ‘Romney’ and ‘stand-up’ in the same sentence.” I have to add, are you certain that Romney himself is not one of the right-wing crazies? 

Think about what Barney Frank said, “Vote Democratic. We’re not perfect, but they’re nuts.”

--by Catherine Giordano

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Showtime Homeland "New Car Smell" #204 "Spy vs. Spy"

Homeland” on Showtime delivers the thrills, the suspense, and the “I-never-saw this-coming” plot twists week after week. Props to the writers—they do a great job every episode. 

Showtime named the season 2, episode 4, of “Homeland “New Car Smell.”  It refers to Brody having his car detailed because it smells of smoke--the terrorist suicide-vest-maker, known as “the Tailor”, who Brody attempted to rescue, but ended up killing in the last episode smoked in the car. But, it could have a deeper meaning, the smell of terrorism clinging to Body, the smell of craziness clinging to Carrie--may be these smells are being replaced with something else. As usual for this season, the new episode shook everything up. 

I’m going to name this episode “Spy vs. Spy” because the two spies, Brody and Carrie, are trying to “play” each other.  Also, Brody’s former best friend, Mike Faber, and some of his former Marine buddies have some suspicions that Brody knows more about the death of another former member of their team, Walker, than he is letting on. (As indeed he does, because Brody killed Walker on Nazir’s orders.) The team have resolved to do a little spying of their own to discover the truth.  

Carrie is back in the game as a spy once again. She is the key person in the operation against Brody. An amazing surveillance system has been put into place as part of the secret off-book operation to discover who Brody’s contacts are and what terrorist plots against the U.S. are being planned. 

Carrie fairly glows, she’s so happy to be back in the game. The CIA “spy-runners”, David Estes, Saul and a new hot-shot, Peter Quinn, have decided that Carrie should have an ‘accidental on-purpose” chance meeting with Brody to arouse his suspicions that the CIA is up to something related to him or to Nazir. The hope is that his suspicion that he is under suspicion will lead him to contact his “handler.”   

By the way, Carrie and Peter, were quite antagonistic to each other when Peter was first brought in. However, there seems to be a slight thaw in their frosty relationship as they get to know each other and start to respect the talents each brings to the game. 

Carrie carries out her mission on this “chance meeting” perfectly.  Brody is concerned about Carrie’s return to the CIA. He speaks with his contact, Roja, a woman who works undercover for the terrorist group as a journalist. The spy team observes this encounter, but since they only have “eyes” and not “ears” on Brody when he is in the halls of the Pentagon building, they don’t hear the conversation and they don’t suspect her. Instead they suspect the other Middle-Easterners Brody has had contact with throughout the day, like the man who is detailing Brody’s car and the taxi driver who drives him back to his office when he has to leave his car at the car-wash.  

Roja tells him to “renew the relationship” so he can find out more about Carrie’s role at the CIA. Brody calls Carrie late at night and invites her to meet him at the hotel bar.  

Brody is staying in a hotel because his wife, Jess, has thrown him out of their house. She asked Brody for some “answers” about his failure to show at the fund-raiser.  All he said was, “I want to explain, but I can’t tell you.” Jess took this to confirm her suspicions that he is cheating on her and she told him to pack a bag and get out.) 

Carrie promises to be at the bar in 20 minutes. They have a drink and Carrie acts a little flirtatious, and a little tipsy, and lets it “slip” that she is closing in on “the man who stole eight years of your life.” She is, of course, referring to Abu Nazir, the man who held Brody a prisoner-of-war for eight years. The conversation ends and Brody pays the bar tab by giving the bartender his room number. He leaves Carrie at the bar.   

Back at “Operation Spy-on-Brody” headquarters, the entire meeting has been observed, eyes and ears. Everyone is elated and Carrie is asked to return to headquarters. In the “who-me?-follow-orders?” moment of the week, Carrie goes rogue again.  We can almost see her brain light up as she calculates her next move. 

She goes to Brody’s room, playing it coy, like she is there to do the “booty” part of the “booty call” they both had firmly insisted neither of them wanted. However, it doesn’t take long for Carrie to blow her cover. She loses it because she is genuinely hurt—she was in love with Brody and he betrayed her. He made her think she was crazy, he complained about her to the CIA causing her to lose her job, and the very worst thing, he broke it off with her. This is the “Hell hast-no-fury-as-a-woman-scorned” moment of the week. Brody now knows that the CIA have his confession video. 

“What are you going to do?” Carrie asks. “Kill me and blame it on rough sex?”
Of course, Carrie can afford to be reckless. She knows the team has eyes and ears on her and Brody. Within minutes, agents break down the door, handcuff Brody, and take him away. Fortunately for Carrie, there were no slip-ups in the surveillance. 

So now what? See what I mean by the totally out-of-the-blue-sky plot twists. 

By Catherine Giordano
This picture from shows Carries and Brody having a drink.
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Showtime Dexter "All In" #704 "Run"

Debra is all in. 

She’s no longer just an accomplice after the fact as she was in the first episode of season 7 when she helped Dexter cover up his murder of “The Doomsday Killer.” She is no longer just a keeper of her brother’s secrets as she was in the second episode when she tried to reform Dexter. She is no longer just an unwilling participant caught up in Dexter’s campaign of vigilantism as she was in third episode of the season when she went mano-a-mano with Ray Speltzer, a serial killer who liked to trap young women in a house transformed into a maze and hunt them down. After the fourth episode, “Run”, she is all in. “Run” is a good name for this episode (I’ll discuss that a little later in this review) but since I like to renamethe episode to reflect a theme that I find in the episode, I’m renaming this episode “All In.” My title reflects a turning point in the lives of Dexter and Debra. 

The twists and turns of the plot revolve around Speltzer makes me feel like I’m on a roller coaster ride. It’s thrilling as the coaster races up and down at great speed.  The roller coaster ride starts when four policemen find Speltzer, take him down in a fight, and arrest him. It’s like the slow climb when the roller coast ride begins.  

Since there is no evidence linking Speltzer to his latest murder, Debra will need to get a confession or Speltzer will walk. Detective Batista sets Speltzer up. He plays to Speltzer’s hatred of women by confiding that he hates working for Debra—she’s such a bitch.  

Batista leaves the interview room and Debra goes in for the kill, so to speak.  She torments Speltzer by talking about his mother, a single woman with lose morals, who evidently had a habit of bringing men home to bed them when Speltzer was a child. She played to Speltzer’s feelings of jealousy and rage. The roller coaster is still climbing higher and higher as the suspense builds.  Suddenly we reach the crest when Seltzer explodes with rage and says, “I should have killed you like I killed that bitch.” Debra smiles with satisfaction; she has her confession. High-fives all around, it’s over. Not quite yet. 

We discover that the Miranda thing was not done properly when Speltzer was arrested. His lawyer gets the confession thrown ou,t and Speltzer is a free man. Dexter is also free, free to hunt him down again. The roller coaster is climbing again. Dexter tracks Speltzer down, but Speltzer is able to fight back. Speltzer wins the fight knocking Dexter unconscious.   

The tables are turned on Dexter. Usually, Dexter brings his intended victims to his “kill-house”, but this time he wakes up to find himself in Speltzer’s kill-house—a maze in an abandoned isolated warehouse.  Speltzer appears wearing a horned bull’s mask.  “Run”, he commands.  We hear Dexter’s thoughts.  “I don’t run.  People run from me.”  More and more, we are seeing Dexter’s need to feel powerful and in control of others.  

This need for power and control arose from Dexter’s experience as a young child when he witnessed the murder of his mother, powerless to do anything, sitting in a pool of her blood for days, helpless, crying, alone.  (I’m getting a little choked up as I imagine this scene, and what a terrible experience it must have been.) 

As Speltzer rushes Dexter, we have the “retreat-is-better-part-of-valor” moment of the week when Dexter decides it might be better to run after all. Dexter runs from room to room up and up and down flights of stairs with Speltzer in pursuit. Throughout this chase, it feels like the roller coaster is twisting and turning as it plunges down its tracks. Finally, Dexter escapes the warehouse.   

The roller coaster climbs again as Dexter pursues Speltzer one last time. He finds him at night at the cemetery where he works. This time Dexter is able to sneak up behind Speltzer and bash him over the head with a shovel.  We next see the two in a crematorium. Speltzer is strapped to a table with strips of plastic sheeting. When Speltzer comes to, Dexter attempts to confront him with his crimes as he usually does before he kills. He usually does this, but not this time. Speltzer utters a howl of rage, prompting Dexter to mimic the howl of rage, run to the table for only a brief moment of lording it over his victim,before impaling Speltzer with the broken end of the shovel handle. Dexter disposes of the body in the flames of the crematorium. The roller coaster ride is over. 

Dexter has departed from his usual M.O. in so many ways.  He knocked his victim unconscious instead of using a needle to sedate him. He used the shovel handle to kill his victim instead of a knife. He expressed rage instead of maintaining his usual calm demeanor. He disposes of the body in the furnance of the creamatorium and not with his usual burial-at-sea.  

But most important, Dexter did not slash the cheek of his victim and take blood for his trophy collection of blood slides. Dexter does one more ominous thing. He takes his entire collection of blood slides, lovingly caresses the slides, and then places them atop Speltzer’s body before setting it on its path to the fire. Dexter has decided it is too dangerous to keep trophies.  From now on, his only trophy will be his memory of the kill.  

In the past, Dexter has occasionally departed from a few aspects of his ritual due to the exigencies of the moment, but this time, almost the entire ritual has been abandoned.  The structure is falling apart; “the code,” once so carefully adhered to, is being abandoned.  Without these self-imposed restraints, Dexter is going to be “all in” with his killing.  

And there is one more departure from the way Dexter usually does things. He does not enjoy the afterglow alone. He calls Debra to his side. They watch the smoke rise from the crematorium together. He tells Debra that the smoke she sees is Speltzer, giving up the ghost, so to speak. Debra sits in silence. She approves.  She is “all in.” 

I’ll just briefly mention some other scenes that advance the plot lines. Sirko forces Alex, a bartender from the strip club he owns, to take the fall for the murder of the stripper in episode one. He goes to the man’s house and starts in with the sweet talk. Sirko being nice to you means you are going to die. Sure enough, he forces the man to write a suicide note confessing to the murder of the stripper and the police detective who was killed when he discovered Viktor, the real killer, with the stripper’s body in the trunk of his car. He doesn’t just shoot Alex and make it look like a suicide, he forces Alex to shoot himself in the head by threatening to kill him and his family if he doesn’t kill himself. This scene is heart-stopping. I felt so much empathy for the doomed Alex.   

Sirko needed a fall guy for these murders in order to get the police off his case. Sirko’s plan pretty much succeeds, the police consider the murders to be “case-closed.” But Batista is suspicious and he resolves to dig a little deeper. 

Sirko knows that Viktor, his mob underling, is the real murderer, and he also knows that Dexter has killed Viktor. Sirko appears to have had a very close relationship with Viktor --we see him weeping over a photograph of Victor. He is slowly circling in on Dexter.  Sirko is a very dangerous man to have as an enemy (and sometimes even as a friend.)  If I didn’t know that there is going to be an eighth-season of Dexter, I’d be thinking that this could be the end-of-the-line for our serial-killing hero. Sirko is all in with respect to his desire to avenge the death of Viktor. 

And, I am all in on my commitment to this show. 
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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Real Time with Bill Maher #263 "Torrential Downpour"

I live in Orlando, Florida.  In the summer we sometimes have torrential storms.  If I am unlucky enough to be out in the car during one of these storms it is terrifying.  The rain is so loud, I can’t hear anything.  The rain is coming down so hard, I can’t see anything.

I had that feeling last night (Friday October 19, 2012) while watching “Real Time with Bill Maher” Episode 263. It was a torrential downpour of words, so I’m naming this episode “Torrential Downpour.” I’ll do my best to report on this episode—what I could hear of it with everyone talking very loudly and all at the same time.

This is sometimes the problem when there are two conservative guests. The fact that the two conservative guests were both blowhards made it exponentially worse. We had Tweedly Dumb (John Fund, conservative commentator and author of Who’s Counting) and Tweedly Dee (Boris Epshten (former McCain-Palin campaign aide and a columnist  for U.S. News and World Report). Two pasty-faced portly middle-aged men who look somewhat similar, think totally similar, and reminded me of those old balloon dolls—when you pushed them down, they popped right back up. 

The third guest was Goldie Taylor, a MSNBC contributor.  She’s strong and feisty and she wasn’t going to let the two men push her around. She is physically tiny compared to her two adversaries on the panel, but she has a strong loud voice and a determination not to be pushed around. 

A bunch of alpha-personalities and each was determined to yield no ground to anyone else. The commotion got so bad that even Bill, at one point, started shouting and brawling. 

In Bill Maher’s opening monologue, he talked about women’s issues during this presidential campaign season.  Bill said that Obama leads among women (The Tweedles attempted to deny this) except in any state where you can buy a confederate flag in the mall.  

Bill mentioned Joe Walsh, a congressman from Illinois saying abortion to save the life or health of the mother is just a ruse. This is the “what- planet-does-he-live-on” moment of the week. It’s true most pregnancies proceed without any life-threatening complications, but death due to pregnancy and childbirth definitely happens.  Moreover it would happen a lot more if pregnant women with complications could not get an abortion.   

And, of course, they talked about that moment in the town-hall debate when a woman asked about equal pay. Obama spoke about signing the “Lilly Ledbetter Act” into law. Romney dodged the question and spoke about his policy of “affirmative action” for women during his term as governor. (A Republican advocating for affirmative action!) He said all the applicants for positions in his administration were men so he asked women’s groups to find him some qualified women. They came back with binders full of women.  Bill said an anecdote is not a policy. (He could also have said that Romney’s anecdote was just another lie. A women’s group approached both candidates with a binder full of women’s resumes asking the candidates to consider these women for positions in their administration if they got elected.) 

Bill did a funny bit on this topic.  He showed a video clip that he said was of Romney 20 years ago. Actually it was a clip from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Shadow of a Doubt.  The actor Joseph Cotton is on a misogynic rant about “faded, fat, greedy women.” Bill said that the Republican party was to the right of Andrew Dice Clay on women’s issues. (A somewhat dated reference, but it hit the mark.) 

Another subject of discussion was the attack on a consulate in Libby that resulted in the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans. More specifically, they discussed not the attack, but whether or not Obama waited 14 days before calling the attack “terrorism” of not. The argument hinges on semantic hair splitting. The day after the attack Obama said “acts of terror” will not go unpunished.  Republicans claim that this statement doesn’t count because he didn’t specifically say the Benghazi attack was “terrorism.” Never mind that he used the phrase “acts of terror” while discussing the Benghazi attack. This is the “you-got-to-be-kidding-me” moment of the week. Really? That is the Republicans’ entire argument? How desperate can they be to attack Obama? 

When Romney made this accusation during the town-hall debate, Candy Crowley, the moderator, had a spontaneous moment. She said that Obama did in fact call the attack terrorism on the day after the attack. (It’s arguable whether or not a moderator should fact-check in real time, but even if she was not supposed to say anything, the woman is only human. Romney was lying, bullying, being disrespectful to her and to the president, and she had been pushed too far. Candidates take note: If you try to bully and steamroller the moderator, don’t be surprised if she calls you out when you are lying.)  Bill joked that Romney was so mad at Crawley that “he took her right out of his lady binder.”  

Why is this an issue? Why does it matter whether or not Obama called the attack an act of terrorism. If Obama had wanted to hold his fire until there had been an investigation, isn’t that the prudent thing to do? At this point in the investigation, it seems to have been both a planned attack and a peaceful protest of an anti-Islam video. They are not mutually exclusive. 

Bill said it was stupid to try to blame Obama for the attack. Bill tsaid “Do they think that we live in a world where nothing ever goes wrong and the White House should micro-manage everything?” (I seem to remember a little thing went wrong during the G.W. Bush administration. We call it “9/11.” Bush pretty much got a pass on taking responsibility for his failures on that and they were legion.) 

Bill did another funny bit during the conversation.  He showed a parody of a Five-Hour- Energy commercial about a mock product called “90-minute Energy.”  It used an Obama impersonator talking about 90-Minute Energy curing the “late October feeling” for when “you absolutely, positively have to look like you give a damn.”  A very funny bit, but I’m not laughing. I am so angry at Obama. Romney was on the ropes, the debate could have been the knock-out punch, and instead Obama “doesn’t lay a glove on him,” and Romney is a contender once again. So for the next few weeks I have to live with the terrifying feeling that Romney might become president. 

The special guest was Matt Taibbi, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, and the author of Griftopia. We got some more straight talk about Romney, this time about his role at Bain Capital. Matt said Romney once spoke of a “prairie fire of debt”, but all Romney has ever done was create debt. He gave the example of K. B. Toys, a company that Bain destroyed. Bain bought it for 5% down and then the debt became K.B.’s debt. Adding insult to injury, K. B. had to pay management fees to Bain. K.B. went bankrupt. Bain didn’t care. They made millions. 

This story reminded me about the Sensata plant in Iowa. Bain is closing the highly profitable plant, and 170 people are losing their jobs. The jobs are going to China where Chinese workers will work 12-hour shifts for $1 an hour.  Adding insult to injury the American workers had to train the Chinese workers. 

Matt went on to discuss the difference between Mitt Romney and his father George Romney.  George Romney wanted to make money, but he also cared for community.  Matt said that Romney feels no “noblesse oblige”; Romney’s role model is Gordon Gekko from the 1987 film “Wall Street”, the “greed is good” ethos.”   

The interview this week was with Gary Hirshberg, the founder of Stonyfield Farms and the author of Label it Now. California has a ballot initiative to force companies to label their products to tell consumers if genetically modified foods are used in the making of that product. He explained how crops are being grown from genetically modified seeds.  The seeds are modified to be resistant to pesticides, so that means that agribusiness can use even more pesticide than before.  An excellent interview--I learned something that I did not know before. 

New Rules ended with a riff on Republicans and pizza. Bill mentioned Domino’s Pizza, sold to Bain Capital, founded by Tom Monaghan a religious extremist who would like to see America turned into a theocracy.  He mentioned Godfather’s Pizza, a company that hired Herman Cain as president and CEO. Finally he mentioned Papa John’s, where CEO John Schnatter opposes providing health care to his employees because it might add 15-cents to the cost of a pizza. Bill then did a very funny bit about how when people order a pizza, they don’t care about 15 cents. I’m not going to describe it—you have to see it.  

Bill suggested that instead of buying your pizza from these chains, you should buy it from a neighborhood store. [My son works at a local family owned pizzeria and Italian restaurant, Gina’s in Oveido. They make all their pizza by hand on the premises. It’s very good pizza.)  

Bill concluded talking about Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire who made his fortune on Las Vegas casinos who feels put upon and over-taxed.  Adelson’s net worth has actually increased under Obama, yet he is spending millions (over 20 million so far) to support Romney’s campaign. Why? Bill thinks it is because he knows he has not earned his money, no one earns 25 billion dollars. He knows he is a fraud and this feeds his self-pity and self-hatred. 

With that, I will end my own torrent of words.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Showtime Dexter "Necessary, Greater, and Lesser Evils" #703 "Buck the System"

Dexter and Debra are in turmoil in episode 3 of season 2 of Showtime’s “Dexter”.  The episode is entitled “Buck the System”, but I like to rename the episode to reflect what I think is the dominant theme. Therefore, I am renaming this episode, “Necessary, Greater, and Lesser Evils.”

The episode opens with a voice-over of Dexter saying that he feels “like a caged animal” and “an animal is never more dangerous than when it is backed into a corner.”  Dexter is having violent fantasies of slashing the throats of random strangers and co-workers alike. He is sent to take a DNA sample from a prisoner; the man gets mouthy, Dexter nearly chokes him to death. Dexter is losing control. He knows that he can’t go on living by Deb’s rules—he will snap if he does. He convinces Deb to let him return to his own home, telling her he won’t kill.  

Dexter is still determined to get even with Louis. I thought Louis’s obsession with getting even with Dexter was going to be dangerous for Dexter. Quite the opposite. It gets Louis killed. Dexter pursues his grudge against Louis by mailing the Ice-Killer arm to the police department. Inside the package is a letter that appears to have been written by someone who bought the arm online and the letter states that Louis was the seller.  Matsuka, who was responsible for the arm going missing in the first place, believes that Louis was the one who took it, and he fires him.  Mission One accomplished for Dexter.  Louis is gone from the police department.

Mission Two for Dexter was to end Louis’ relationship with Jamie, his babysitter. He found a video of Louis that shows him in the company of a prostitute. He mails it anonymously to Jamie. She breaks it off with Louis. Mission two accomplished.

But now Louis is on a mission of revenge of his own. A mission that gets him killed. He goes to the pier with a drill to sink Dexter’s boat. Unfortunately, ViKtor’s mob friends have traced Viktor to the boat. It seems that the stripper he murdered was wearing a bracelet with a GPS chip in it that was used to trace the movements of drug “mules.”  Viktor removed the bracelet and had it on his person when Dexter murdered him. The mob guys were able to trace Viktor’s movements to the boat.  

When they arrive at the boat they believe that Louis is the owner of the boat. This is the "If-you-go-where-you-are-not-supposed-to-go-and-do-what-you-are-not-supposed-to-do,-bad-things-wil-happen" moment of the week. (It's what I always told my son when he was a teenager.) They threaten to put his eyes out with the drill, and Louis tells them that Dexter Morgan is the owner of the boat. (Really, all they had to do was ask nicely; Louis would have been glad to tell them.) They lower the drill and it looks like Louis will live to seek his revenge on Dexter another day. Then the mob leader, Sirko, suddenly shoots him between the eyes. 

Sirko is a very scary and evil person. He looks refined, talks gently, and then suddenly, like a cobra, strikes.  Whenever I see him talking real nice and gentle to someone, I fear for that person. Like the striper Nadia, a friend of the woman Viktor killed. Nadia has begun a relationship with Quinn, one of the police detectives. The mob boss encourages this because he wants her to cozy up to Quinn and get information for them. Nadia confesses her mission to Quinn saying he has to give her something. If she doesn’t come back with info, things will go badly for her. Quinn says that they can help each other and trade information.  

Dexter is convinced that a man named Speltzer is a serial killer who will kill again. Debra insists that a hunch is not good enough; he must find proof so that she can work within the law. Dexter breaks into a mausoleum at the cemetery where Speltzer works as a caretaker. The mausoleum is being used as a trophy room. He finds and photographs the earring worn by one of the women Speltzer killed.   

Because of Dexter’s suspicions, Deb has assigned a patrol car to shadow Speltzer on the QT. When they get another call, she tells them to leave Speltzer and take the call.  She then decides to drive by Speltzer’s house just to be sure everythink is alright. Unbeknownst to her, Speltzer has a “date” (or should I say victim) at the house. Deb is about to leave when she notices some flashing lights inside the darkened house. She goes to investigate and hears the girl’s screams. She breaks into the house. 

Speltzer has rigged the house up as a maze. He likes to play cat-and-mouse games with his victims. Speltzer catches Deb before she can capture him. Lucky for Deb, she had sent Dexter a text that she was going to go by Speltzer’s house. There was no cell reception in the mausoleum so Dexter did not get the message right away. 

Dexter rushes over to Speltzer’s house, arriving just in time to rescue his sister.  However, he is too late to rescue the young woman. She was murdered. In the darkness and confusion, Speltzer escapes. I expect Dexter will have a cat-and-mouse game of his own to play with Speltzer. 

And maybe Dexter will take care of Sirko also. (Here I am rooting for a serial killer again.) But between Sirko and Dexter—no contest—Sirko is definitely the greater evil.  And now Sirko is after Morgan. So it’s self-defense.  

Dexter had been trying to persuade Deb that what he does is “a necessary evil.” He explains that it takes one t catch one.  He has hunches that often lead to helpful leads for the police department. But even more often, Dexter is thwarting the police department investigations because he wants to get to the killer first.   

By the end of the episode, Debra is starting to see things Dexter’s way. She resisted his entreaties to let him do what he does, and a young woman is murdered because she did. The murder of the young woman has precipitated a crisis of conscience for Debra: Is Dexter and his vigilante killings the lesser evil? If she hadn’t stopped Dexter from killing Speltzer, the young woman would still be alive.  And a serial killer would not be on the loose.  

Is Dexter’s evilness starting to seem reasonable to Deb?  Will she continue to try to reform Dexter, will she turn a blind eye to Dexter’s vigilantism, or will she become a full-blown accomplice? 
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Showtime Homeland "Wired" #203 "State of Independence"

Homeland continues to deliver suspense, heart, and “I-never-saw-this-coming” plot twists. Episode 3 of Season 2 is named “State of Independence.”  I’m going to rename it, just because that is what I do, “Wired.” The adrenaline is pumping in this episode. 

The episode begins with Carrie in her room at her father’s house at 3 am in the morning working on her debriefing report of her mission in Beirut. Her father warns her that her health is still precarious and she needs her sleep. “I’m fine,” Carrie says. “No”, her father says, “You are wired.”  He’s right, Carrie is strung out.

Carrie is told to come to Langley the next day. She expects to attend the debriefing session, but when she gets there she finds that it is already in progress. She crashes the meeting. Her boss at the CIA, David Estes, escorts her out of the meeting and speaks to her in the hall. Estes tells her that she was “pretty damn impressive ”in the field.”  This lifts Carrie’s spirits. Then he adds, explaining why Carrie can’t be in the meeting, “You didn’t expect to get your job back did you?”  Carrie’s spirits crash. Estes asks Carrie to wait so he can speak to her after the meeting. Carrie flees the building, breaking down in the elevator in anguished tears. She’s wired, and her fragile recovery is like walking a tightrope wire.

Carrie returns home and tells her father that she wants to return to her own home. She says that she can’t recover with him hovering over her. At her own apartment, she enters her closet, spies a sequined mini-dress and puts it on. She puts on makeup. Is she going out?  No, she most definitely staying in. She empties her pill bottles and downs the pills. She lies down on her bed; her breathing is ragged, and she soon falls asleep.

She doesn’t sleep for long. She suddenly awakes, rushes to the bathroom and puts her fingers down her throat to induce vomiting. Her will to live has triumphed over her despair. 

Meanwhile the Brody’s are walking a wire of their own. Nick Brody (who is always called just Brody on the show, so I’ll refer to him that way also) has prepared a speech to give at the fund-raiser that Jessica is doing with Vice President Walden’s wife.  Jessica finds a copy of the speech in the kitchen and begins to read it. Brody wrote very movingly about his emotional state as a prisoner of war. “I prepared to die,” he wrote.

Jessica is very touched by the speech. She says, “I did not know that this is how you felt. She begins kissing her husband, and soon things heat up. She takes his hand apparently to lead him to the bedroom, but he grabs her roughly and lifts her onto the counter. Things heat up further, but Jessica wants more than sex. She wants intimacy.  She stops her husband and tells him, “Look at me.”  He does, and they resume foreplay, love and lust intermingled.
Just then Dana, the Brody’s teenaged daughter returns home. School has let out early.  The couple quickly break apart and try to look as if nothing was going on. Dana knows exactly what was going on. She has a weird expression on her face as she leaves the kitchen. As I suspected last week, there is something going on with Dana. She wants to usurp her mother when it comes to the affections of her father.  

Brody is walking also on a tightrope wire trying to navigate the perils of his double life.  He gets a call from his handler, Roja. “Move the tailor,” she tells him. “The tailor” is the middle-eastern man who made the suicide vest tor Brody. The tailor’s identity has been discovered, perhaps from the papers Carrie collected at the Abbas home, and the CIA is on the way to pick him up.  Roja insists that Brody is the only one who can get “the tailor” to the safe house because he knows Brody and will therefore trust him. 

Brody reluctantly agrees. However, Bassel, the tailor, does not trust Brody. He is suspicious and thinks that he will be killed. Things go from bad to worse when Brody’s car gets a flat. Brody discovers that there is no jack in the car. He goes into the woods that are adjacent to the highway and comes back with some logs. He uses the logs to jack up the car. We can see that Bassel is thinking about killing Brody first by running him over with the car and then by bashing him over the head with a lug wrench while Brody is busy fixing the flat. Bassel can’t quite get up the nerve to attack Brody.   

The flat tire is fixed and Brody stops for gas. Bassel says he needs to use the rest room. Brody says they are only five minutes away from the safe house, so he can “tie a knot in it” which I took to mean, he can hold it. Then Bassel says he needs tobacco. Brody goes into the convenience store to get it. When he returns, Bassel is gone. (One small question:  If they were only five minutes away from the safe house, why didn’t Brody drop Bassel off and get gas on his way back?) (One more small question: Brody insists that Bassel stay in the car which makes me think that Brody is concerned that he might run, but then he leaves Bassel alone in the car which makes me think that he is not concerned that Bassel might run.)   

Brody goes into the woods and tracks Bassel down. He finds him and there is a tussle.  Bassel falls and is impaled by a root or something. He is bleeding profusely and Body is trying to stop the bleeding. Bassel begs to be taken to the hospital. Brody says he can’t do that.Just then he gets a call from his wife who wants to know where he is. He tells her he had to go to a union meeting and he had a flat tire. Bassel is moaning and Jessica can hear him. Brody tries to stifle the moans with his hands, but he cannot, so he breaks Bassel’s neck to silence him. We hear the sickening crunch of the bones breaking.   

Brody calms Jessica’s suspicions about who he might be with and ends the phone conversation. He digs a hole with his bare hands and buries Bassel. All of this has taken hours and Brody is caked in blood and dirt. He goes to a car wash and hoses himself down. He evidently had some sweats in his car because he is wearing them when next we see him.

Brody never made it to the fundraiser. Jessica bravely stepped up and gave a speech in his stead. She talked about how hard it is for the families when their loved one suffers the trauma of war. She pleaded for support for the families. She got a standing ovation.  Her political star is rising.

After the fundraiser, Jessica is driven home by Mike, Brody’s best friend before the war.  Mike and Jessica had begun a secret relationship in Brody’s absence. They both believed that Brody is dead and they had just decided to get engaged and go public when Brody returned.  (One small question: Why didn’t Jessica drive herself to and from the fundraiser?  She had broken off her relationship with Mike when Brody returned, so why put herself in close proximity to him?) 

Jessica does more than just put herself in close proximity. She invites him in for a nightcap. Mike turns down the invitation. Jessica is wired about Brody being a no-show at the fundraiser. She suspects that he is engaging in some extra-marital activities. She tells Mike, in a spontaneous outburst, that her husband had an affair and disappeared for a weekend with that “CIA bitch.”  Mike now agrees to come in for the nightcap; they are both walking towards the door of the house when Brody shows up.  Mike leaves. 

Jessica confronts Brody about her suspicions as to why he missed the fundraiser and she pointedly enters the bedroom and slams the door shut. Not too hard, but enough to give Brody the message.   

Finally, at the end of the episode we get to the “I’ve-been-waiting-for- this-all-week” moment of the show. Saul arrives at Carries house early the next morning after her aborted suicide attempt, and gives her the SD chip. He tells her no one else knows about this chip—he wanted her to be the first to see it.  

Carrie watches Brody’s confession in amazement.  “I was right,” she cries.
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