Ringer s1 ep 22; Covert Affairs s2 ep 16

What with all the twin-confusion fun of the last few weeks I’d completely forgotten about Andrew and Bridget/Siobhan renewing their marriage vows, which is how we open, but with Bodaway on the guest list. Wonder who he brought as his plus-one? Oh, it’s a dream.

Anyway, before the actual renewal B/S decides that she’s going to go through with her demented plan to see if Andrew is so much in love with her that he’s prepared to be, all, “bygones” when he finds out the truth. He isn’t. Who knew? So B/S is on her own, as is Siobhan once Henry finds out that he’s not the babydaddy and that Siobhan is prepared to lie about it.

Although this was by no means the worst episode of Ringer, with the writers still trying to set Ringer up for the second season we now know it probably won’t get, it was in some ways an unsatisfactory ending to the season. In particular, we had no Siobhan-meets-Bridget money-shot, although their paths cross when a confused Bodaway is trying to kill one of them (I forget which one) and is killed by one of them (ditto).

And so we’re just about done with Ringer; although officially no decision has been made public on renewal, it’s about to be killed. (Unless, of course, it’s going to swap places with another drama that looks like it.) A season feels just about right to me, I have to say, although in the unlikely event of renewal I’d totally be there: Ringer was, for the most part, deeply silly, trashy, lip-smacking fun; and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

There used to be a certain amount of snobbery about the whole idea of TV – people boasting of not watching it at all, or, y’know, just for the news and wildlife documentaries. The present golden age of TV drama has just about killed that off, but there’s a new, more subtle variation around, which holds that unless it’s something like The Wire or Breaking Bad or that one about the motorcycle club it’s not worth bothering with. This is, of course, elitist nonsense: I’m not trying here to argue that FlashForward is as good as Mad Men, but surely there’s room for both?

The famously uxorious actor Paul Newman once said, of his long and successful marriage, “Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”. Which kind of misses the point a little: sometime’s a burger’s exactly what you want. I was reminded of Newman’s quote this week when watching the last episode in the second season of the USA network’s Alias-lite spy drama Covert Affairs, of which I’m quite the fan. The plots are just involving enough to be interesting without being too demanding, and the use of locations is moderately innovative – if you’re in Paris, say, you don’t need to have a shootout under the Arc.

On top of that it has a decent ensemble cast – Piper Perabo doesn’t bring too much intensity to the table, and I suspect that Sydney Bristow would kick Annie’s ass, but she’s very watchable. Kari Matchett and Peter Gallagher are engagingly grown-up in support, although once again Sendhil Ramamurthy is marooned in an unlikeable role. The real star, of course,  is Christopher Gorham as the charismatic-yet-slightly-unreachable Auggie: not only is he blind, but he’s in danger of being deafened by the sound of women’s clothes hitting the ground whenever he walks by.

As it happens this episode wasn’t the best: the conceit that Annie’s sister Danielle (Anne Dudek, another very solid team player) could be mistaken for a spy was a good one, but it felt like an idea which could sustain half an episode, and something else was needed to round it off.

Still, never mind. Covert Affairs has been the burger I’ve been craving after some TV steak, and I like it. It returns in July in America, “later in the year” in the UK, and I’ll be watching, particularly as the ensemble is being strengthened by the addition of Sarah ‘Nina Myers’ Clarke.

Ringer s1 ep 21

Well, if you’re going down, you might as well go down with a bit of style, perhaps wielding a paperweight along the way. So Catherine’s been trying to kill Siobhan for a while, and indeed spends most of this week pointing a gun at Bridget/Siobhan without actually firing it. Andrew then Juliet get in the way, but Catherine’s dedicated to her task because… she’s teamed up with Olivia! And they’ve been having an affair! Oh yes, it’s Evil Lesbians time!

Meantime the real Siobhan’s failed to learn her lesson, and tries to help Henry out by coming up with a little plan to get Oksana, the Russian chambermaid who’s the only witness against Henry, deported or something. Except Oksana’s also a cocaine-snorting high-class call girl, who services a client while Siobhan, hiding in a closet, looks on aghast, partly because of all the cocaine-snorting ho’ing, and partly because she, Siobhan, has just gone into labour. Then the hooker dies of, um, cocaine or whatever, because the charlie has been cut with a high concentration of plot device! Oh yes, it’s dead coke-sniffing high-class Russian hooker-cum-chambermaid time!

Machado’s charging around as well, although what with the evil lezzers and dead crack hos it’s understandably difficult for him to keep pace. And Henry doubts that he’s Siobhan’s babydaddy, so no sooner have the latest set of so-called “twins” been born than he’s arranging a little surreptitious paternity test. Wonder if we’ll find out the results – or, for that matter, actually get to see these “twins” – in next week’s finale? After this week’s delirious nonsense, I’ll totally be there.

Ringer s1 ep 20

Not long to go now, but with the finishing line in sight Ringer’s putting on a bit of a sprint. We can now tell Siobhan and Bridget/Siobhan apart by the former’s baby bump, which seems to have ballooned in the few minutes between episodes, or perhaps I’m imagining it. Anyway, Siobhan thinks she can dig Henry out of trouble for the death of Tyler, but her attempts to bribe the eyewitness go badly wrong. Her suggestion to Henry that he now needs to prove he didn’t do it are met with bemusement, because, of course, he did kill Tyler. And Henry has trouble on other fronts as well – the so-called “twins” have been seized by Children’s Services. To start with I thought this was going to be a little writers’ joke – “how are we going to keep them off camera this week?” – but then the so-called “twins” appear, living with father-in-law Arbogast, who has his own reasons – again justified – for not liking Henry. Adulterer and killer – dude.

But the real baddie this week is, of course, Catherine, who starts with a suicide attempt, then uses that to leverage her way into Andrew and B/S’s apartment, all the better to make another attempt on B/S’s life. At least, I think she did – given the way in which previous episodes of Ringer have explained away cliffhangers, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that B/S will start the next episode by standing up and saying that she just felt a little faint, while Catherine explains away the scattering of empty drug capsules on B/S’s prone body as challenging performance art, or something. Add a dead body in a freezer, and you’ve got yourself a cracker of an episode.

Ringer s1 ep 19

There’s a in medias res opening to ‘Let’s Kill Bridget!’, which I suspect I’m supposed to affect a haughty disdain for, but I’d by lying if I said that I didn’t find it intriguing: Henry getting quizzed on the death of Tyler; Andrew kissing Catherine; Bridget or Siobhan lying, apparently dead, with a bullet wound in the chest. And we’re off: Arbogast dobs Henry in for killing Tyler, presumably annoyed about the whole Martin/Charles business; Andrew pulls off a rather good double-cross to get the Mr C money back from Catherine; and Machado and Bridget/Siobhan come up with a scheme to make it look as if Bridget has been killed. So Bridget, playing Siobhan, requires to pretend that she’s Bridget again. Mm. This is either delightfully meta, or just taking the piss; I’m not sure which.

Anyway, it turns out that both twins, at the same time, are wanted dead. That’s some pretty bad luck, girls, particularly if you’re Bridget; while Siobhan’s under the radar that means that two lots of baddies are after her. Machado’s too busy whaling on suspects to be much use, but eventually he helps out with the fakeout death, which someone (working for Catherine, as it happens) tries to turn into a real one. In the middle of all of this the writers feel obliged to return to the financial crime plot arc. They really shouldn’t bother, although there’s a magnificently dumb moment when Henry searches online for “MARTIN/CHARLES PONZI SCHEME”, presumably hoping that it’ll be all laid out somewhere for him. (Incidentally, I tried it and got over 70,000 hits. Perhaps he’s using the wrong search engine.)

Pretty good fun, but with the end of the season looming I suspect that this isn’t going to play out entirely satisfactorily. There are only three episodes to go, and while cancellation looks likely this hasn’t yet been confirmed, which suggests that the final episode – airing this week in America – will end on the sort of cliffhangers you’d want if you were planning for a second season.

Ringer s1 ep 18

It’s just occurred to me that, what with Henry and his pretend twins, and Siobhan and her in utero twins, they could totally make ‘Ringer – The New Generation’ in like twenty years, although perhaps the next lot won’t be quite as, um, gifted at impersonating each other.

Anyway, this episode was the best for several weeks. Following on from the exposition-heavy episode 17, this one had as its key phrase “I haven’t been telling you the truth”, as characters tripped over each other in a race to unburden themselves. The biggest revelations were Juliet admitting to Bridget/Siobhan about the mom/rape/Tessa/Mr C (am I the only person who immediately thinks of The Shamen?) plot, B/S telling Andrew about the body she hid months ago, which I will concede I had quite forgotten about, and Henry telling Siobhan about the death of Tyler. The other biggie would have been Siobhan telling Andrew “everything”, but Henry stops her just in time.

Henry notices, meantime, that Andrew’s family unit is working rather better with someone impersonating Siobhan than it did with the actual Siobhan. This is the latest development that should give him pause about how suited Siobhan is to a LTR, but after splitting up with her once or twice he seems to be back with her by the end.

In Machado news, a “gamy” corpse (ew) has been found. It’s not Malcolm, who is still Schrodinger’s junkie – alive or dead, who knows? – but it’s one of Bodaway’s thugs, who might be the person who tried to shoot B/S, the person B/S killed, or someone else entirely. And he’s tracked a tarot card found on a would-be killer to a dry cleaner, which, I promise, makes little more sense even if you actually saw the episode. Within its own terms, though, this was classic Ringer: silly, trashy fun.

Ringer s1 ep 17

Writers to focus group: “Are you following what’s going on in Ringer?” Focus group: “Not really, dudes. Could you help us out a bit? Oh, and you’ve only got a few episodes to resolve the whole thing, so you might want to get cracking…”.

Cue a very odd episode, which had so many flashbacks – some of events we’ve seen, some of new backstory – that it almost felt like a highlights show. Except not with highlights. The effect was to leave us very little further forward by the end. Andrew continues to vacillate between evil (for anyone not picking up the cues from the script, when he might be bad he’s filmed in shadow and at odd angles) and good. Bizarrely, Solomon-the-chauffeur has worked out that it’s Bridget he’s been driving around the city, not Siobhan. Now, if he’s worked this out just by having her in the car for a few minutes, why hasn’t Andrew, who’s been living (and sleeping) with B/S for months? Unless, of course, Andrew has worked it out, and has decided he prefers this wife to the previous two.

Machado’s in this week, so to keep the talent budget down Malcolm’s out, and the question of whether he’s alive or dead is still in play. One thing I will say for Ringer – it’s already shown an impressive willingness to kill key characters off, so it’s not something we can be entirely sure about. Machado, meantime, is taunting Bodaway – if he’s as badass as we’ve been told, is that altogether wise?

As for Siobhan herself – we do get to her (apparent) reasoning for wanting to swap with Bridget and get her killed, and it’s not entirely convincing. Not only does it depend on a massive gamble – Bridget taking the opportunity to assume Siobhan’s identity; you’d need to be deluded to think you could get away with that, eh writers? – it also depends on a motive which doesn’t really hang together, because as we’ve seen Bridget didn’t actually kill Siobhan’s son, and you’d need to be off-the-scale demented to seek that level of revenge for it. Still, perhaps she is. And there’s a shooting at the end, which at least holds out the promise of a better episode next week.

Ringer s1 ep 16

Ringer can’t afford to be dull. It can – indeed, should – be as trashy and stupid as possible, but it really can’t allow itself to be dull, and for the first two-thirds or so of this episode it sat on the launch pad, stubbornly refusing to take off. Bridget/Siobhan’s all uppity about Andrew’s Ponzi scheme, until Malcolm points out that, well, she’s really in no position to point the finger at anyone about deception. I’ve been complaining for some time that we really need to know more about what Machado’s at, and we get an update and backstory this week; it is, at least, an attempt to humanise him, but unfortunately it doesn’t make him or this storyline any more interesting. And there’s some byplay with Tyler, Siobhan, and Olivia, and a fair amount of cross-cutting between America and Paris (the onscreen titles make it clear that, once again, it’s Paris, France, for anyone not picking up on the other helpful visual cues) – people go to Paris, people are ordered back from Paris, and it feels like nothing more than rearranging the cast a little.

Then, though, it all kicks off – Tyler’s back, B/S has decided that Andrew might not be a good guy after all; Siobhan, pretending to be Bridget, tells Malcolm to take his want-to-get-into-your-pants-by-being-a-decent-guy sympathy elsewhere; Malcolm decides to testify against Bodaway; and there’s a significant death. Given that Ringer now looks very unlikely to be renewed past the end of this season the writers can now afford, I suppose, to kill one or two characters off, but I didn’t expect it, which always gets my attention. Presumably we’re being steered the wrong way by the closing scene (soundtracked, equally unexpectedly but exhilaratingly, by the terrific Sharon Van Etten’sSerpents‘) but at this stage who knows? Not that it’s going to make any difference as to whether I watch the rest of the season, but I’d like more than one-third of a good episode next time.

Ringer s1 ep 15

No shortage of incident this week, but somehow it all felt rather tired, which is the problem if you’re delivering a drama relying on ever more spectatular twists and turns. Siobhan’s expecting twins, and Henry might not be the father – of course. I’m only surprised it’s not triplets. Mr C and Juliet’s mom are having an affair – of course they are. Perhaps next week Machado will join them for a threesome. And I’m assuming that Bodaway will be involved in some way either with the pummelling of Tessa, the mysterious Xerxes, or the appalling Olivia. Most worrying is that evil, manipulative Juliet is now going all nice; it’s invariably a danger sign when characters on TV shows change from week to week to fit in with whatever the storyline happens to be.

Also a busy week for Bridget/Siobhan: Andrew wants to “marry” her “again”, prompting all sorts of internal agonies about how she wants Andrew to fall in love with her qua Bridget. If she thinks about it, though, she’ll surely realise that Andrew’s big confession at the end of the episode offers her an open door. Andrew: “I’m a crook who’s been running a Ponzi scheme. Can you ever forgive me?” B/S: “Well, I’m not actually your wife, but your wife’s junkie twin sister. Call it quits?”

Ringer s1 ep 14

Siobhan doesn’t really feature this week, except in flashback. I didn’t pick up a reason for this; there was some talk a couple of weeks ago about her having to go back to Paris, so maybe she did. No Machado either. It does, however, mean a big welcome back to Malcolm, who has undergone yet another metamorphosis: lecturer at the start, then abducted and tortured by Bodaway, then back on the junk, and now, delightfully and absurdly, he’s suited up and working (apparently full time) for Andrew as his tech guy. As a fervent believer in rehabilitation, I have to congratulate Malcolm on turning his life around so swiftly.

The flashbacks fill in the Sean backstory, something which was trailed in the very first episode. And, in fairness, I’d have to concede that the writers did a much, much better job than I was expecting: it turns out that Sean died because of something which was a little bit Bridget’s fault, but not so much that it was entirely her fault (needle hanging out of arm while Sean sipped at the Jack Daniels, that sort of thing).

More Juliet this week, and as it turns out I was being too hasty in concluding that I’d called the rapey teacher story wrongly: my original suspicion was correct, and on top of that Tessa is indeed the weak link, what with her ostentatious 4×4 at the school gate. Still, why beat her up and leave her for dead? Why not just kill her? Meantime Andrew and B/S are telling each other what good parents they are, as a sort of substitute for actually being good parents.

And, finally, B/S’s hidden Bridget is starting to come to the fore again, like in those shapeshifting episodes of Heroes when some dude went into another dude’s body, but then the second dude started to reassert himself. (I could provide more details, but that would involve going back and reading up on Heroes again, which I am so not doing. I’m sure that it involved someone being resurrected. Or maybe Sylar. Enough.) Anyway, Bridget’s about to heave a brick through someone’s window, all old-skool Bridge, until Malcolm stops her, then she reveals that, in essence, she wants everyone to like her as Bridget, not B/S. Yes, she wants Andrew to fall in love with the real her; yes, she’s stupid.

But this was actually pretty good; not the utterly demented roller-coaster ride of some of the most enjoyable episodes of Ringer, but an unusually solid piece of work, with more than enough silliness as well.

Ringer s1 ep 13

This week’s major development is a great big twist in the rapey teacher story. In fairness, I have to concede that it gets the writers out of the difficult position I thought they were in; on the other hand, it did all look a bit rushed and perfunctory. Not even a single court scene? Or perhaps I’m just annoyed because I thought I’d called it halfway through the episode: when Juliet’s mother was encouraging everyone to settle, I thought the last scene would be her and Mr C sharing a bottle of champagne. Mind you, it still has a way to go, I think, with Tessa now looking like the weak link.

Otherwise the episode consisted of a fair amount of wheel-spinning; more or less literally in the case of Bridget/Siobhan, who gets driven around all of Siobhan’s old haunts by the mysterious chauffeur from last week. This includes stop-offs at Siobhan’s top-secret office (for why did Siobhan need an office? Scheduling her infidelity?) and a cafe which houses a table-shaped plot device into which patrons insert pieces of papers with their wishes scribbled on them. I’m never out of cafes like that, me. Poor old Malcolm now seems to be on full-time exposition duties without even being in the episode – B/S phones his voicemail every now and again to outline plot points. With no Machado or Bodaway either this week the field is clear for Olivia to come back and blackmail Henry into persuading his father-in-law to give his business to Martin/Charles. This may be a bad move, for reasons which as yet remain unclear. Plenty of effort going on, but ultimately a less-than-satisfactory episode.