Every year I welcome the new season of Nashville, while noting with caution that the advance word from America – we’re normally some way behind in the UK – isn’t great. And every year I watch it, review it, and (mostly) adore it. In short, I’m long past the point of pretending that I’m anything other than hopelessly in love with Nashville. This time round the circumstances are a little unusual, though: the show was cancelled by ABC at the end of its fourth season, then picked up by CMT, a Viacom-owned country music channel. (And CMT has just renewed it for a sixth season, so it can’t be doing too badly for them.) I’ve not managed to avoid spoilers quite as successfully as I would have liked, so I’m sort of aware that Something Happens during this run. But you won’t be reading about that on here until it does. Weekly reviews as ever (Thursday, 9pm, Sky Living).
Not so much an episode of President Jack Bauer as an episode of Professor Julia Rombauer this week, as PJB’s old University boss suddenly appears (out of absolutely nowhere) to become the most important person in the show, and possibly in the entire country.
With PJB himself busy with badly-drafted gun control bills and giving Kimble Hookstraten the runaround on the VP post, he’s had to delegate a few things, so – no big – PJRB has apparently chosen the nine new Supreme Court justices, decided on the balance of the court for the foreseeable future and sorted out the constitutional direction of the Republic for decades to come. Or she’s tried to. The Democrats are on board, and PJB would happily have his old pal run the planet if he could but, as usual, the irritating-as-a-rash Senator Bowman decides to get in the way because, as we all know, nothing in life, politics, nor tv is that bloody easy. Of course, I say “as we all know” but “we” doesn’t seem to include Prof Rombauer, who is aghast and affronted at the man’s cheek. “I just can’t believe one man would exploit constitutional crisis for political advancement!” she exclaims. “Er…. can’t you?” replies the bemused viewer who isn’t remotely surprised by anyone exploiting anything for political advancement, but is astonished that for a world-renowned expert in constitutional law, Professor Rombauer doesn’t seem all that bright.
Once PJB mansplains the situation to her, though, she proves a quick study: “So when he claims he wants a balanced court, he just means he wants a court that agrees with him?” she wonders. Yes, Professor. And just in case you weren’t sure, there are twenty-four hours in a day and seven days in a week. Okay?
Anyway, after a quick show of throwing his weight around and getting nowhere, PJB and Emily decide the best way to deal with this is to appoint PJRB herself Chief Justice, on the basis that Senator Bowman can’t possibly object to the President’s bestie getting the job. This in turn prompts me to wonder if PJB and Emily are high, but we’re saved from this insanity by, of all things, PJRB’s Secret Pain, a plot twist (or more a plot slight bend, since we’ve never seen this woman before and have no actual reason to be surprised by her illness) which bizarrely ends up being more about PJB’s crushed feelings than hers. Huh. By way of consolation prize, however, at least PJRB sorts the constitutional crisis out for him before she goes, deciding the way forward is to fold rather than hold, and not appoint a Chief Justice at all. Which seems more weak than winning to me, but it delights everyone else, so whatevs. *shrugs*
While Team PJB is getting excited about appointing some Supremes, however, Team Kimble-and-Aaron are unsettled by a visit from Abe Leonard who’s all up in everybody’s business and all about exonerating Al-Sakar in the small matter of the Capitol bombing. Kimble refuses to comment, Aaron (still Team PJB in his heart, but possibly a bit less Team Aamily after her double-cross this week – FFS, Emily!) tries to reach Agent Q but ends up telling Reed Diamond instead, and even Seth gets drawn in; after his own special audience with Abe, he points out, entirely correctly, to a sceptical Emily that “the last time Leonard ran with a story (Seth) thought was crazy…. POTUS confirmed it.” Well-remembered, Seth. If PJB can’t have PJRB, at least he still has you.
And he would have Agent Q, I suppose, except that she and Jason Atwood seem to have taken up a semi-permanent move to downtown Conspiracy Town. What with the warehouse full of branded explosives – why would a secret terrorist group personalise their explosives? Is there a recommended font? – just lying there in the hands of the most dangerous people on the planet, poor Reed Diamond is desperate to send SWAT, Superman, anybody to round them up, but Q (taking a leaf out of PJRB’s book and running the whole show) is having none of it. She prefers a more get-up-close-and-make-yourself-as-conspicuous-as-possible method of “surveillance” that is both hilarious and stupid, and should have got her and Atwood killed a couple of times over, but hey ho. I don’t love this show for its commitment to realism. Not that I really loved this episode at all, truth be told. The White House stuff is basic and naive, the Conspiracy investigation has stalled a bit, and twist at the end is just silly, which means that while the ep is mildly entertaining, that’s about the best that can be said for it.
So Ibrahim bin Khalid, Jihadi Sr., is alive after all, albeit now rocking some Elephant Man-esque makeup. But there’s barely time for a touching father/son reunion with Jadalla; they’ve got Senator John Donovan, and they need to use him. Jr. contacts Rebecca and offers to trade her husband for her. She thinks about it a little too long, if you ask me, but eventually agrees. Rebecca also reaches out to Henry, who – with his son’s life on the line – finally gives up some information about his links to the terrorists; specifically, that it was all handled by his man Luis. He tries to get Luis to sit tight and wait for CTU, but instead Luis smashes him on the head with some sort of kitchen implement – a juicer, maybe? – and runs.
Rebecca then heads off to meet Jadalla, and takes Eric Carter with her. Behind everyone’s backs, of course. Because she has a plan – use herself as bait, get John released, draw Sr. and Jr. out, and kill them. Eric’s up for that, although his increasingly tedious wife Nicole has discovered that, before all this kicked off, he was planning to leave his private security job and work for CTU anyway. Inevitably, Isaac is there to offer her a better life as a drug dealer’s moll.
Meantime, with only two more episodes to go, what looks like the final piece in the conspiracy jigsaw drops into place, as Stiles and the Department of National Intelligence move front and centre. Jennifer, last week’s captive/leverage, remembers overhearing a mysterious phrase being used by her captors, which Andy traces to a DNI computer. And Stiles does what he can to thwart Rebecca and Carter, although sending a couple of ordinary sheriff’s deputies after them really isn’t going to work, is it? No. No it isn’t. Jr. gets killed, Rebecca looks as if she’s going to be on the receiving end of an unnecessarily elaborate death but isn’t, and all in all it’s pretty good. We need more Almeida, though: he’s only on screen for a few seconds this week, passing up a paying gig to help CTU find Rebecca, and royally pissing off his current squeeze by doing so.
In what might be the worst episode of Spin yet – this is a genuinely terrible hour of television – les writers, having made it abundantly clear that they’re going spend this season focusing on the mal parts of the show, distinguish themselves by doubling down on each and every one of them, and somehow managing to make everything that was already bad, much, much worse.
On the Kapita front, Simon’s in therapy in a scene which I’d say was lifted directly from The West Wing, but that would be defamatory. To The West Wing. After all, Josh Lyman never threw a bundle of cash onto his therapist’s desk like he wasn’t happy with the wine list and decided to take it out on the waiter.
Between woozy spells and inexcusable rudeness to medical professionals, however, Simon’s portfolio now seems to extend to running every aspect of Le Président’s life, be it personal or political. It’s Simon who decides how they’ll steal the PM’s thunder (not all that hard to do, in fairness); Simon who decides how they’re to deal with Madame Marjorie after last week’s International Rescue debacle; Simon who aborts that strategy and decides on another one when Madame Marjorie becomes (dear Dieu) some sort of Internet heroine and starts inexplicably quoting poetry en anglais; and Simon who decides what Le Prés himself is allowed to say about it. Or at least it’s Simon who tries to. A puréed cabbage might make a more convincing leader than Monsieur Marjorie, but it’s still something of a relief when he finally remembers who’s supposed to be in charge, and tells Simon to step off. Even if immediately following that up with “Are you coming?” somewhat dilutes the message.
In charge or not, though, Simon’s services are likely to be in even more demand next week, now that the cloud of e-cigarette smoke swirling around the Spin Secret Flat (the occupants and the illicit purpose may change every season, but I swear the flat is the same) has now parted to reveal Le Président in flagrante with none other than the object of Simon’s affections, Clemence Parodi. Scandale!
The awkward, clumsy Président-Parodi embrace is not a particularly jolie sight, but I suppose l should be thankful for their ungainly amourousness, since it at least gives Ludo something to do; delivering the photographic evidence to the very excited (and who can blame her? Gregory Fitoussi’s in her office!) femme at Flashmag is one of his two tasks this week, the other being ten-second seatwarmer for… Oh, who gives a French fondant? The only reason I’m still watching this show has about 90 seconds of screen time, during which he’s reduced to either courier or cushion. FFS. There have to be better ways of using the show’s meilleur asset, you guys. Come the eff on.
Especially since, to add insult to utterly baffling injury, while Ludo’s gone in a couple of blinks, nothing short of a blindfold and ear plugs for the entire episode is going to rid us of the unspeakable Elisabeth, or fellow “difficult wife” character Appolline. In fairness, the writing for women on this show might be sexist and awful, but it’s not lacking in screen time, is it? Elisabeth is in Every. Second. Scene, and as for Appolline…. Who could forget season one’s tiresome conspiracy field trip to Mali to investigate the “STATE FALSEHOOD”? The writers, apparently; they’ve now recycled the storyline and sent tv’s most irritating journalist (no, Simon, not la femme from Flashmag) to Lebanon to investigate the “PARODI FALSEHOOD”, a scoop which somehow manages to get both less interesting and less comprehensible the more we hear about it. And since Appolline’s source is très chatty, and the whole thing also seems to involve Palissy Junior – because now that we’re free of the wretched Juliette and her insanely creepy, pseudo-incestuous scenes with her dad, we really do need someone else’s appalling offspring to jump right in – we hear about it a LOT.
Malheureusement for moi, the turgid writing and ennui that overwhelms me any time anyone even mentions this plotline mean I have no idea what Parodi and/or Palissy Junior are actually supposed to have done but, given the show’s apparent fascination with the story, it seems the rest of the audience and I may be doomed to find out. Whether that will be in time to stop the new, utterly superfluous Palissy-Beaugendre alliance of evil is another matter, but, either way, I do wonder who will fight crime now Palissy de Justice is doing every other job in the government, and some of the opposition’s jobs too.
Sigh. What an episode. What a show. What am I doing with my life? There had better be beaucoup de Ludo in next week’s episode or I don’t think I’m going to make it to la fin.
Possible spoilers. I’ve done my best.
Person of Interest long ago passed the point at which the casual viewer could drop in and watch an episode. Nonetheless, ‘Sotto Voce’ provides something of a masterclass in weaving together an apparently straightforward Case of the Week and an increasingly complicated backstory. The Number is Terry Easton, a locksmith, who is first seen by Reese breaking into an investment company. Terry’s wife is being held captive, as a result of which he’s doing the bidding of a master criminal known only as The Voice, who we’ve seen – heard? – before. It turns out that The Voice’s plan is to get Terry into Reese and Fusco’s police building, where members of the Templarios gang are being held, so that Terry can use his locksmithing skills to get them out.
In the middle of this, Person of Interest finds yet another way of manipulating its cast in interesting ways: Finch asks Elias for help in tracing The Voice, and Elias – presumably wanting some fresh air – agrees, as long as he can go into the field, which means that we get the two of them working as a partnership. Nor is this merely entertaining: the Case of the Week is resolved by Elias in a way which Finch would undoubtedly not have countenanced, but doesn’t entirely regret.
Meantime, Root has a number of her own: Matthew Stone, a radio engineer. And Shaw is back in NYC, hunting down Samaritan agents one by one. And Fusco has a taxi driver in custody, accused of possessing a firearm which – much to his suspect’s surprise – has been used in an unsolved homicide. The storylines pile up, but it never feels forced or crowded. It’s the sort of episode, in fact, where you kind of know that there’s a twist coming which will connect some of the threads. Even allowing for that, though, I didn’t anticipate the one we got: either the Person of Interest writers and actors are remarkably skilled at misdirection, or I’m unusually gullible, because in all likelihood every other viewer saw this one coming.
By the end, though, Root and Shaw have reconciled, Fusco has been read in to the whole Machine/Samaritan thing, and Team Machine is back together; a haunting final shot (soundtracked by The National’s majestic ‘Fake Empire’) makes a point of highlighting just how vulnerable the five of them are considering the forces arrayed against them. It’s a terrific episode.
This week on The Good Fight, Diane and Lucca went to bat for a client trying to recover her long-lost eggs; Mike Kresteva returned to wind everyone right up; and perpetual victim Maia was the subject of a particularly nasty, virulent strain of social media harrassment. All of which added up to a terrific episode, and a wildly entertaining one at that.
As far as the case of the week goes, I don’t know whether they were entirely correct on the law throughout and the shady director of the fertility practice got off way too easily, but overall, the story was intriguingly complicated, sensitively-handled, and leavened with a great deal of humour, as the best ones are; the judge – “Oh God, I HATE this.” Hee! – was a grumpy delight; and the gradual but unmistakable thawing of Barbara’s relationship with Diane genuinely heartening to see.
The Mike Kresteva side of things was slightly trickier to pull off, since he can be very funny, but also very annoying, and a couple of years ago I would have been saying “there’s no way someone in politics can lie so often and so brazenly, and keep getting away with it.” Real life over the past year has taught us I was wildly wrong about that, though, and the writers did keep the Kresteva story just the right side of infuriating, this week, at any rate – his scene in Diane’s office was great fun, even if the Grand Jury business seemed a tad unlikely (for now). Still, it tied in beautifully with Maia’s story and one of the main themes of the week (and of 21st century life) – the abuse of the Internet and social media to create fake news and destroy people with it. Maia’s ex-boyfriend is obviously a reptile, and what he did unconscionable, but it’s notable that, yet again, Maia was entirely dependent on the rest of the cast to fix her problem for her – a problem that she didn’t even know she had, in fact, till, yes, somebody else explained it to her. But no matter. It was an absolute joy seeing Marissa, Jay and Ayesha help her give the ex what was coming to him, and as for the awesome Adrian channelling Will Gardner and stepping in during the confrontation by the lifts – well. I love love love this show now, and that single scene was the highlight of my week.
We start at a nightclub, where a thirtysomething dude’s appalling chat-up lines are getting much more attention than they deserve from a blonde babe in a revealing dress. They adjourn outside to make out, and next morning dude – Jeremy, a Palo Alto software developer – is found murdered, and the blonde is nowhere to be seen. Jeremy was on Oahu to attend a conference on The Method, a technique which is being pushed as a foolproof way of picking up women by its creepy originator Blake Stone.
The investigation is left to Kono, Chin, and Lou this week, because it’s Valentine’s Day and Steve has taken Lynn on a romantic break… to Hawaii. Yes, he’s gone a mile or so down the road and booked a suite at a well-known Honolulu resort hotel. And who should be in the next room? Danny, of course, with Melissa, so that the four of them can hang out. In fairness to the women, it’s courageous of them to attempt to compete with Steve and Danny’s true loves (each other); a task which becomes even more difficult when Danny becomes rather disturbingly fixated on a teenage boy at the resort, who might or might not have stolen his $20 sunglasses.
Meantime, in the Case of the Week, it turns out that Stone has been paying escorts to flirt with his students so that they will think his asinine methods are actually working, which means that the blonde in the revealing dress is now the main suspect in the murder of Jeremy. But is she the culprit? It’s about as traditional an episode of H50 as it’s possible to imagine, and it’s diverting, but no more than that.
This episode was brought to you by: well, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, of course, which gets more screen time than any of the characters.