Designated Survivor s2 ep 9

*SPOILERS*

It’s “OMG, we really really REALLY want to be the West Wing Three Letter Day” at the Kirkman White House, and PJB has selected, um, three letters from random citizens for his senior staff and pet FBI agent to look into. It’s not entirely clear to me why the National Security Advisor would be one of the people tasked with this, but since he and Emily are on Team Letter One together, I’m initially quite pleased because this has to mean the insane Aamily freeze-out is finally over, right? Wrong. Somehow, despite working together and sharing a number of scenes in the process, Aaron and Emily manage to avoid talking directly to each other throughout the whole episode YET AGAIN. There’s even a remarkable scene where, while SITTING NEXT TO EACH OTHER, they manage to have a “disagreement” entirely by proxy – addressing their respective, opposing arguments to PJB instead of each other, for all the world as if they’re ten year olds giving each other the silent treatment. WTF is going on with these two? Is it all in my head? HELP ME.

Sigh. Team Letter Two, Lyor and Seth, obviously have no such communication issues. In the week’s “comedy” storylines, they have a rip-roaring time investigating something to do with the mass murder of bees, which is mildly entertaining – the story, not the bee murder – but undercut by Seth moping around wondering whether PJB is going to fire him. And to be honest, I really wish PJB would. I loved season one Seth, but the season two version has been doing my head in for weeks. More screentime for a popular character is a great idea if you can write well for him on a larger scale, but if not….. well, you get season two Seth.

Sigh again. Anyway, Seth isn’t fired and he and Emily make up, and I hate this sub-plot, so I’ll move on to Team Letter Three, which has World’s Busiest Lawyer Kendra Daynes teaming up with Agent Q to re-investigate a murder case where the accused is facing imminent execution. This storyline is fine too, I suppose, although it would have been significantly better and braver if the show had had the courage to leave the question of the man’s guilt unanswered and look at the philosophical issues behind the death penalty and questions of due process instead. Plenty of other shows have done it, I know, but turning it into a neat and tidy little episode of Law and Order: DC and tying it all up in a supposedly satisfying bow rather than asking difficult questions about the system as a whole is a complete cop-out, as far as I’m concerned.

Speaking of which… FLOTUS continues to rage against her subpoena and this whole “witch hunt”, by which she means a law enforcement agency as entirely legitimately investigating credible evidence of her and FMILOTUS’s potentially felonious behaviour. Emily and co join in, and have the audacity to try and impugn Reed Diamond’s motives when, frankly, he is the only one doing his actual job right and everyone else can suck it. VOTE FOR REED DIAMOND. It’s worth the several minutes of me yelling at the tv in the end, though, as someone finally – FINALLY – points out what we’ve been saying for weeks. “The point is that your mother committed a federal crime. 30 years ago, maybe, but she committed a crime and there are consequences. I can’t just change the rules because it suits us!” says PJB of all people. THANK GOD, and AT LAST.

Which means we go into next episode’s mid-season finale with the Kirkman marriage on shaky ground and Team White House’s counter-investigation of the truth behind the Icarus allegations pretty much drowning in quicksand. You’d have thought Q would have realised that people in tv drama only announce they’re going to the loo for one of two reasons – either they’re about to be assaulted in some way, or they’re calling to tip somebody off. Good job Chuck’s on the ball, even if nobody else is.

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Scandal s7 ep 4

Once more we’re outside Olivia’s front door, although this time we get to see what happens: predictably, new squeeze Curtis Pryce, faced with the possibility of polite conversation with Fitz, makes a swift exit. But what does Fitz want? Well, he’s discovered that over 200 African American girls are missing, no-one seems to care about them, and he’d like Olivia’s help to find out what’s going on. Olivia suggests, rather snippily, it’s one for QPA rather than her. In fact, I had some difficulty in working out why Liv was so tetchy: last time we saw her and Fitz, were they not making out on the White House lawn in full view of the whole of Planet Earth? Anyway, QPA pick it up, find a poster girl for the cause – missing teenager Zoe Adams – and get the girls’s mother to go public. This is all something of a ruse by Fitz, with Rowan’s help, to remind Olivia of “who she is” and separate her from B-613, but since Olivia is de facto the most powerful woman – perhaps person – in the world it might be that she doesn’t need saving, exactly.

Meantime Mellie is trying not to fling her tongue down the throat of Bashran’s President Rashad, while working on a nuclear treaty between him and President Nazari of Dakal. “Anything else you need?” she enquires coquettishly of Rashad at the end of one meeting. Olivia, needless to say, can sniff this sort of thing out from a mile off, and tries to keep the boss’s mind on the job. And it’s quite a job: Nazari won’t sign the treaty, and Rashad’s been deposed in a coup; the latter, per Papa Pope, being something that Olivia could have prevented had she been concentrating on B-613 rather than Fitz. “Are you Command”, thunders Rowan, “or are you someone’s girl? You can’t be both”.

By comparison to all of that, the developing relationship between Cyrus and Fenton Glackland (“Fentsie”) feels almost quaint: they play a virtual reality game; they hang out; Cyrus decides that he can keep the Cézanne Fenton gave him if he pays $20 for it. I’m not sure the ethics of that would survive the most cursory scrutiny, but given what Cyrus has done in the past it’s endearingly harmless. All of which gives VPOTUS and POTUS a reason to bond over their love lives: Mellie breathlessly confides that Rashad makes her go “all twitchy inside”, and Cyrus worries that Fenton is “beneath” him. It’ll be interesting to see if the show follows the Cyrus/Fenton relationship through: a romance between two middle-aged men, neither (and I say this with no disrespect to either actor) of whom have conventional movie-star good looks, would actually be quietly radical on a network show.

Anyway. Missing Girl #1 is found alive, with no word (unless I missed it) of where she’s been, whether she’s connected to the other missing girls, and which of the show’s Big Bads (I assume) is behind it. I guess we’ll come back to that. Mellie and Olivia argue about whether to send troops into Bashran to help out Mellie’s crush. Olivia and Fitz kiss, because of course they do. And the final scenes are soundtracked by TLC’s sublime ‘Waterfalls’, nicely rounding off an entertaining if preposterous episode.

Blindspot s3 ep 5

*SPOILERS*

After a delightfully cheery start to the season, Blindspot swings back into default angst mode again this week, with Jane drowning in denial and self-loathing over the whole “secret daughter she gave up and forgot about” situation, Kurt struggling to support her while also keeping schtum about the whole “secretly met the secret daughter” situation and Patterson and Zapata working out that boss Mary Stuart Masterson has “been manipulating the tattoo cases because some of them point to her” which sounds a lot like the whole “previous boss who did that and didn’t survive the season” situation to me.

Reads is either complicit or an idiot, Tasha’s new haircut is very unhappy about it, and the guy who brought Kalinda down is back just to wind everyone up for good measure: with all this fretting and fighting going on, nobody has a lot of time for the Tat of the Week, so it’s all dealt with at lightning speed. Somebody’s firebombing NYPD evidence warehouses! They’re after an ancient, untested rape kit! (Cue quick Law and Order: SVU-style PSA about the appalling rape kit backlog.) It shows that an unassuming NYU student is the secret heir to the throne of a made-up cross between Kazakhstan and Russia! Kurt says something about how the hospital His Majesty and his mum are in is “completely secure” which obviously means an unstoppable hit squad is going to burst in and take it over within seconds! And… that’s about it. Since somebody had to have told the baddies where Weller and co were headed in their getaway car, I’m guessing Weitz sold the team out and we’ll find out about that and whatever Mary Stuart Masterson is really up to later in the season, but for this week, we’ll have to be content with firefights, Molotov cocktails, and Jane over-identifying with and over-emoting at His Majesty who is having none of it. “I know exactly who I am,” he says, “I’m my mother’s son.” And also King of Kazharus (?), but yep, good for you, kid. We’ll see if Avery Doe is as well-adjusted in due course, I’m sure, but in the meantime, can we get back to the jokes, please? I mean, this was fine and Jane and Kurt were indeed badass, but it wasn’t funny. Rich, dude, you out there? Come on back and lighten the mood.

The Good Doctor s1 ep 6

The cast is on the graveyard shift at St Bonaventure’s, and is waiting in the ER for mass casualties to come in from a wedding bus crash. (Even the music feels a little ER-ish at this point.) When the patients come in Drs Browne and Murphy freeze a little, although Shaun gets to the point quickly enough and even manages a barked “Stat!” at the end of his instructions to prove that he’s remembered his training, or that he’s watched as many American medical procedurals as I have.

The episode will thereafter revolve around three patients from the crash. Firstly, there’s a young woman who has suffered severe burns, to the point where Dr Kalu – whose bedside manner needs a lot of work, frankly – can’t even bear to look at her, which hardly boosts her confidence. He does redeem himself, sort of, later on, with a bulk purchase of sterile tilapia skins to treat the burns – it’s a thing, apparently – although he kind of compromises his ethical position a little…?

The young woman will live, draped in tilapia. But of the two other Cases of the Week, only one will make it. First up there’s the groom himself, whose leg was shattered in the crash, leaving amputation as apparently the only option to save him. Dr Murphy can’t understand why the groom’s parents and fiancée are so upset at this. “Amputation is good news!” he observes cheerfully, on the basis that at least dude will survive. But Dr Browne has a better idea: what if a titanium fibia, generated by the hospital’s 3D printer, is transplanted into the patient? This has a higher degree of risk, but would – if successful – allow the groom to walk and so on without a prosthetic. The groom’s parents are against the idea, but his fiancée wants to go ahead. So a judge is called in to settle the dispute.

I don’t know much at all about American medical ethics, but it seems to me that there isn’t much of an issue here: the parents should get the final say in the absence of provision otherwise. Even the judge’s transparently story-serving justification for trampling on that and allowing Fiancée to determine that her husband-to-be would want to gamble his life on getting a lump of metal jammed into him hinges on her conclusion that, while his parents knew him as a child, Fiancée knows him as an adult, so there. Well, maybe, although there’s one extremely adult piece of knowledge about him that Fiancée wasn’t aware of at all.

Meantime, a woman recovering in a hospital bed wants to know what happened to her wife, who was also on the bus, and when it becomes clear that she isn’t on the list of casualties Dr Browne concludes that she must still be somewhere at the crash site somewhere. Indeed she is, and she’s recovered and brought back to the hospital so that Glassman and Browne can perform brain surgery on her. Both cases are well-handled by the show: a bit melodramatically, I suppose, but it’s a network medical drama so that’s what you’re going to get, and even the mighty ER wasn’t remotely above that sort of thing, although it also had – at least in its earlier seasons – a bracing nihilism which kept the palate cleansed. (There’s a brief but dazzling cameo from Christina Chang as Dr Lim, an ER attending, who has exactly the sort of attitude the show needs. I hope we see her again.)

Two other things struck me about this episode. Firstly, the extent to which the supporting cast is getting more and more to do: it’s becoming an ensemble show, which is a good thing. And, secondly, the lukewarm critical response to this show suggests that I’m missing something about it. Because not only is it not at all bad, it’s actually quite good.

Designated Survivor s2 ep 8

*SPOILERS*

If last season’s theme was An Armageddon Conspiracy , this season’s appears to be An All-Encompassing Cover-up, as another episode of Designated Survivor means another week of people we’re supposed to like for their honesty trying to hide all the things they’ve lied about.

First up, we have Press Secretary Seth who, having been found with a dealer’s quantity of drugs in his car, calls Kendra (on this show “White House Counsel” translates to “Counsel for everyone who’s ever set foot in the White House”) rather than his boss/girlfriend to bail him out of the slammer, and then tries to weasel his way out of the problem on the QT by having Ms Daynes get the charge kicked out at a secret hearing on the grounds of the search being illegal. Which it probably isn’t, as far as I can tell, but it’s not a Law and Order:DC technical point I’m making here, more a “general flavour of the writing on this show” one, because guess what? They’re not even Seth’s drugs, they’re his shiny “about to go to med school” brother’s, so not only are we sidestepping evidence of a FELONY, we’re lying to our lawyer and our boss/girlfriend about it. Because perish the thought ANYONE on this show or their parasitic family members might actually take responsibility for their own criminal behaviour.

Being the busiest lawyer in Washington, meanwhile, Kendra is also on point to sort out the insufferable Lyor’s crimes and misdemeanours: he’s apparently secretly married which, fine, would be his business, except he’s lied about it to the IRS for six years, which makes it very much their business too. The solution, then, is to persuade Mrs Lyor to agree to an annulment, and persuade the IRS to treat the marriage rather than Lyor’s tax returns as a sham, because, again: NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANYTHING.

Oddly, however, it turns out that Lyor is married to the Good Witch’s cousin, and even more oddly, that she still wants to be married to him, even though they’ve never lived together and he plays online computer games in his White House office instead of doing his actual job. Anyway, whatever, Mrs Lyor’s reasons, this means Kendra’s plan is slightly scuppered and I have to confess I’m not entirely sure how this storyline ended, but I don’t care because it’s stupid and my point is already made. Unless Lyor just decided to pay all his back taxes, in which case, well… good.

There is one secret I do have sympathy with this week, though, and that’s PJB “going dark” because he thinks he’s still in 24 to visit troops in Afghanistan. As well as being a handy excuse for some cheesy “Hell, yeah, hi-fives to the troops!” type scenes, PJB is apparently there to conduct an Apprentice-type interview for the role of America’s Next Top Warlord, with the added incentive being that if he picks the right one, he can avoid a massive terror attack on US soil. If he picks the wrong one, though…. bad times.

Leaving aside the likelihood of the President meeting warlords in bunkers to make this sort of decision purely on instinct because the intelligence services can’t make up their minds who to pick (despite the fact it’s blatantly obvious who the Bad Warlord, as opposed to the Good one, is), PJB has Aaron the National Security Advisor with him to look handsome in shades and a very nice jacket – tasks which Aaron accomplishes with aplomb, I should say – and Agent Q of the FBI to assist because she used to be in the CIA? I think? Did she? Oh God, I don’t know.

Anyway, never mind Q taking on Search for a Warlord liaison duties, there’s a bomb attack on a market several miles away to contend with. This would be terrible in its own right – and merits significantly more concern for the presumably Afghan casualties than the show bothers to give – but everyone is extra concerned because “Kevin Dean” is missing, and no doubt this would ordinarily be very worrying for me too, except that I’m not 100% sure who “Kevin Dean” is.

He must be a very special guy, though, because Q insists on going to look for him, and Aaron insists she take Mike with her, even though, this is really NOT part of the Secret Service role. Still, it means Q and Mike get to make up – he’s in a mood with Q this week for no reason other than “time to give Mike something to do” – and Q gets to wear a headscarf as a “disguise” which might work better were she not teaming it up with US army regulation clothes and a bullet-proof vest, but hey ho. Q finds “Kevin Dean”, who may or may not be the intelligence guy she introduced to PJB when he arrived at the base, but I don’t suppose we’ll ever see him again, so no matter. Good luck with your future endeavours, “Kevin Dean”, all the best.

With all that sorted, however, PJB still has to pick his pet Warlord, and there’s a randomly hilarious moment where he tries to do it by way of, er, company law. Dramatically waving a sheaf of papers about while shouting “Which these articles of incorporation prove!” is not Kiefer’s best look, and sure enough, he immediately switches to his “We will HUNT YOU DOWN!” comfort zone, and everyone moves very quickly on. The Bad Warlord is, of course, rumbled, and shouted at – he’s not escaping responsibility for anything – and PJB flies home, with fire in his belly and warmth in his heart, having rousted an enemy, made a friend, and persuaded a very nice Army chef to go home and see his estranged daughter because, although it’s going to be difficult and painful, sometimes you just have to face up to things. Unless you work for the Kirkman administration, in which case, meh, no need to bother.

Scandal s7 ep 3

So what has Fitz been up to all this time, apart from turning up uninvited at Olivia’s door at the end of last week’s episode? Well, on day 1 of his second life he headed off to Dunrulin’, Vermont, now both a former President and a single man with a lot of time on his hands, which means he can start – haltingly – to adjust to post-Oval life. But he’s bored and a little twitchy, so he ropes Marcus in to start work on his Presidential Library, and to have someone to listen to him when he frets about how his presidency will be defined: will he be remembered for the good things he did, or for #Olitz? Marcus sagely observes that being thought of only in the context of your partner is a problem which has plagued women since for ever.

But there’s more: Fitz has sacked his house staff, but the difficulty is that he’s used to having, well, servants around him, and to having his every wish catered to, and I suppose that’s a hard habit to get out of. Which inevitably means that he starts to treat Marcus as the hired hand, and since Marcus isn’t putting up with that sort of shit they come to blows. Marcus quits and calls Mellie, who essentially tells him to suck it up, because she knows that while Fitz can be high-maintenance he’s worth it.

Once Fitz and Marcus have made up there’s a nice sequence in which Fitz gives visible support to a young African American man who has been campaigning to have a statute of the appropriately-named slave-owning General Cyst removed. I was less keen on Rowan’s appearance, oddly out of sync with an otherwise medium-paced episode, in which he lets himself into Dunrulin’ in order to tell Fitz that Olivia needs to be stopped: she’s now Command and, essentially, running America and therefore the world. Fitz might reasonably wonder what that has to do with him; but on his 101st day out of office he helicopters back to Washington, D.C., in order to be standing outside Olivia’s apartment when she stumbles out of the lift entwined around Curtis Pryce. Not a wholly successful episode, but I liked quite a lot of it.

Blindspot s3 ep 4

*SPOILERS*

Time for a little dip in the hilarity and high jinks: the Tat of the Week “points to a bomber who’s been dead for twenty years,” except that he isn’t, of course, and he’s also about to strike again. Uh-oh. Luckily(?), Roman has spent the last couple of years working out this fellow’s code and communication system and all sorts, which I’m sure is both helpful for Team Tat and totes entertaining for Roman, but does make me feel that this show is now beginning to treat Roman as both omnipotent and omnipresent – dude has not only amassed decades worth of long-buried, explosive information, but he’s also acquired the smarts to design all these fiendishly complicated new tattoos to hint towards them, while simultaneously working out everyone’s deepest, darkest secrets AND crashing Kurt and Jane’s wedding video booth? Um….really? I know we met him last year when he wasn’t at his best but, frankly, dude has never seemed quite that bright.

Anyway, never mind the logistics, feel the stakes. With the bomber’s daughter and Jack Malone’s old boss a figure from Jane’s past (and another BIG SECRET) located, a very near-miss with a decoy bomb – although did anyone really think Jane was going to die mid-episode? – and a slimy suit from State combine to utterly exhaust Mary Stuart Masterson’s patience. Already the butt of some sports joke which goes right over my head – no need to fill me in, I’m good – she has had more than enough of the shadowy hints and cryptic clues. “We need something to chase and we need it fast!” MSM announces and Patterson, of course, obliges. Ta-da! The bomber is done for, the bomb is disarmed (although “Down to zero. We’re not dead.” is cutting it a little fine, guys) and the day is saved, once again. Hurrah! Albeit nobody should relax quite yet, because putting together the slimy suit, a prisoner escape and a missing text message from Poor Stuart means that “The task force is compromised!” What, again? FFS. Has the task force ever been anything but?

Oh, well. No season of Blindspot would be complete without a mole of some sort, hey? And although this episode isn’t quite as funny or fabulous as the previous three (and Rich isn’t in it) it still has plenty of humour and excitement to keep things trucking along nicely, while setting up some potentially MASSIVE stuff for the rest of the season. I enjoyed it a lot.