Thursday, October 30, 2008

Philidelphia Phillies - World Series Champs

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies for becoming the 2008 World Champions. A lot of people wrote the Phillies off (including one jagoff on ESPN who said the Rays would sweep simply because "the AL is better than the NL"), but fans believed. Philadelphia has been a good team for a number of years. They have a chance at three straight MVP winners in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and (possibly) Chase Utley. They have one of the best young pitchers in the league in Cole Hamels. The team isn't packed with superstars, but everyone plays hard and has good baseball smarts.

I'm not a Phillies fan, but I've been watching the team for most of the last decade. It's been a great run the past couple of years and they have the talent to be around the top of the league for years to come.

Again - Congratulations Phillies. You've earned it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Shield: Moving Day

Vic without a badge is a scary thing. He doesn't have the juice he used to, but can still get results by being a brutal so-and-so. Shane and Mara are on the run; swapping cars and laying low until the weekend when the president will be in town. Since their fight had to be sped up after Shane's part in Ronnie's attempted murder was uncovered, Mara forgets Jackson's medicine. Having a sick kid makes them easier for Vic to track.

Meanwhile, Claudette ties Ronnie to his desk, disbands the Strike Team, and puts Julian back on the street with Tina. She wants to know why Shane tried to kill Ronnie, but Ronnie stonewalls her. After a few more threats, Ronnie spills (some of) the beans. He tells Claudette that Shane was involved with the Armenians (true). That he stole a grenade from a raid and killed Lem (true). Ronnie and Vic found out about it, but didn't have evidence to prove it in court (true). He still covers for Vic and himself, but gives Claudette enough to keep him in action without dragging the whole sordid tale out into the open.

On the other fronts, Aceveda is berated by Pezuela in front of his Mexican cartel handler (guest star Francesco Quinn, son of Anthony). As ICE's go-to guy now that Vic is out of the picture, Aceveda is emboldened in a meeting with Olivia and demands credit for any bust and that ICE doesn't treat his mayoral campaign as a chip in their game. Dutch deals with the mother of the kid he suspects is a serial killer and Billings gets a visit from his ex-wife.

Not as high octane as last week, but another solid episode propelling the plot forward to its conclusion ion 4 weeks. Vic is back in "kill everyone" mode and Ronnie is the voice of reason for wanting to spare Shane and Mara's kids. It appears Corinne is now on the side of wanting to bring her husband to justice for all his misdeeds. Shane appears to have a plan, but you can't help but feel it's going to backfire in a violent way.

Next week can't some soon enough.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Shield: Parricide

Definition of parricide: the killing of either or both parents. Perfect title for this episode.

We start out with Shane and Mara practicing an alibi and then switch to Ronnie coming home from a date. As he opens the door, a man in a ski mask (presumably Two Man) comes out firing but missies Ronnie. We then switch to Shane waiting in the shadows for Vic to come home. Just before Vic opens his front door, his phone rings. Ronnie tells him about the shooting and we’re off.

Ronnie is assigned to desk duty (mandatory after an attempt on a cop’s life), Vic has to convince a priest to recommend his parish be closed (so Pezula can get a liquor license in the area), and Shane and Julian are tasked with tracking down Two Man. They go to Two Man’s cousin’s house but come up empty. After returning to The Barn, they find that a rookie grabbed Two Man during a routine traffic stop. Dutch and Billings get tasked with the interrogation, but don’t have anything to go on besides an eyewitness who saw a partial plate and Two Man’s beef with Ronnie.
Dutch and Billings tell Two Man they have the gun, but Two Man calls their bluff. Claudette is about to give Vic and Shane a crack at the interrogation, but Vic has a brilliant idea. He has Dutch pretend two of Two Man’s prostitutes fingered him in Ronnie’s attempted murder. Despite signals from Shane not to buy it (Ronnie sees the signals), Two Man starts spilling the whole thing. In a brilliantly edited sequence, Two Man’s confession is interspersed with shots of Shane leaving The Barn. This time, it feels like it’s for good. After Two Man drops Shane’s name, Vic, Ronnie, and Claudette look around, but can’t find Shane.

We jump to Corinne’s house where Mara shows up. She launches into everything saying Vic killed Terry, the Strike Team pulled off the Money Train heist, and Vic tried to kill Shane. If she doesn’t help Shane and Mara get away, they’re going to tell everybody the truth about everything. Corinne goes to The Barn to confront Vic. She asks him one last time if what Mara said was true and Vic responds "I've done things that I thought I could justify at the time, but are pretty hard to defend right now." Corinne says she’ll help Vic catch Shane then she’s taking the kids and leaving forever. Vic accepts the deal.

Knowing Claudette isn’t going to let him get involved with hunting Shane, Vic walks into her office and turns in his badge. He walks out of The Barn with a new mission, but without a job.

The rest of The Barn seems to be on the cusp of finding out all the crooked stuff the Strike Team was involved with. Shane is on the run with nobody on his side save Mara. Vic has given up everything he fought for for seven years: his family and his badge. A game changing episode if ever there was one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Shield: Bitches Brew

After tensions came to a boil last week, this week’s episode had more of a simmer feel. The main storyline was a hooker (Farrah) from season three comic to Vic for help after a fellow streetwalker was killed. Vic is reluctant to help since Farrah caused all sorts of trouble last time she crossed Vic’s path. Nevertheless he does. The Strike Team track down both her pimp and the pimp’s muscle. You can see in the raids Shane is holding back, not trusting Vic and Ronnie after they tried to kill him. Some of the situations they got in probably made Shane feel it was a set up. Just like how he and Vic set up Terry in the pilot.

In a raid on the pimp’s drug lab, Julian shoots and kills the pimp, seemingly ending the case. However, another prostitute comes to Shane (and Shane only) to tell him it was actually the muscle (Twoman) who killed Farrah’s friend. Shane goes to Twoman’s place, tells him he knows who killed the prostitute, but offers to let him off the hook if Twoman kills someone. Shane doesn’t actually come out and say who he wants killed, but instead says “How’s your jaw?” – a reference to Ronnie beating up Twoman earlier in the ep.

The B story seemed like mostly filler. I could tell who the crook was when he first showed up. That part of the plot was pretty predictable. The crime mostly served as a way to get Dutch and Claudette acting like an old married couple again. Dutch has become increasingly worried about Claudette’s health and has taken several actions this season to protect Claudette. I’m starting to wonder how their storyline will end.

The blackmail box is still pretty much in play. Aceveda and Vic turn it over to ICE. One of the agents (didn’t really catch his name) doesn’t like that they hung onto it for a while before turning it over, so he uses his pull to move Vic’s review board hearing up. Vic goes and the outcome is not good: he now as 10 days left as a cop. Vic tips Pezuela off about an upcoming raid on his construction site. Pezuela doesn’t seem to take the advice and hands Vic an envelope full of money: his severance package. However, Pezuela did take the advice to heart and ICE’s raid comes up empty. Vic then hatches a plan to give Pezula back the box so ICE can get deeper into the Cartel’s business.

We’re at the halfway point of the season and the writers keep adding more questions to the mix. How’s Shane’s hit on Ronnie going to go? What’s going to happen between Dutch and Claudette? It looks like Aceveda pulled a couple files from the blackmail box before turning it over to ICE. Are they to protect people or does he plan on blackmailing his way into the mayor’s office?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Shield: Animal Control

Another amazingly great episode this season. Vic comes up with a plan to deal with Pezuela, the Armenians, and Shane all at the same time. He and Ronnie spend the episode putting it all together only to have it end up falling apart. Vic’s idea is to set up a “buy” for the blackmail box. He’s going to have two Mexican bangers show up and kill both the Armenians and Shane. At one point, Ronnie gets his hands on Shane’s gun and makes sure it will jam during the gunfight, ensuring that there’s no way Shane can survive. As time gets closer, Vic gets cold feet and starts to find ways to rescue Shane. Ronnie, showing a cold-bloodedness this season, refuses to warn Shane or help Vic stop the attack. However, right before the attack, Shane steps out of the building. He sees the Mexicans show up and take out the Armenians. He draws his weapon, but it jams…exactly how Ronnie planned it. Shane now knows his buddies set him up to die.

Former Strike Team member Tavon Garris (Brian J. White) shows up at The Barn asking for Shane’s help on a case he and Vic worked on pre-Strike Team. He has recovered from Shane’s vicious beating and the car crash in season three and is now working in the Hollywood precinct. Shane feels uneasy working with Tavon because of their racially charged altercation, but can get through it because Tavon doesn’t seem to remember much of what happened. After they put the bad guy away, Tavon confronts Shane in the parking lot. It turns out he remembers the night completely. He knows what Shane did and said. He knows Mara hit him in the back of the head with an iron. He knows that he didn’t hit Mara and Lem lied to him about it. He verbally attacks Shane saying he always has someone around to back him up or do his dirty work for him. Powerful scene especially now that we see Shane will have zero backup for the rest of the season.

Claudette is back in the detective mix this week as Billing opts out of a case with Dutch. Responding to an alarm, Tina and an unnamed uni stumble across a naked man covered in someone else’s blood. He claims to be a sleepwalker and can’t remember hurting anyone. Dutch and Claudette uncover some incidents in the man’s past that lead them to believe he’s faking sleepwalking as an alibi. They find a dead girl in a dumpster a mile away and think it’s the girl Naked Guy hurt. Dutch and Claudette try hard to break the guy, but can’t seem to crack him. Later in the episode, they find a young woman whose blood was on Naked Guy. Turns out she slipped, busted her head open on a fire hydrant, and Naked Guy tried to help her out. Claudette goes up to the interrogation room to tell Naked Guy he’s free to go, but finds him dead. Wracked with guilt over possibly killing the dumpster girl, he committed suicide. Claudette is stunned and Dutch is overcome with guilt. He confesses to Billings that he was a better detective with Claudette as a partner and feels he’s slipping (first the teen serial killer, now this).

The characters in The Shield once again feel like they’re playing a high-stakes game of Jenga. They keep building a rickety tower of lies and betrayal that always seems like it’s about to collapse. The Strike Team storyline felt like Shield of old. Shane realizes his buddies are lying to him and want him dead. He took the $100k that was supposed to be used to buy back the blackmail box and is keeping it for himself. Is he going to take it and Mara and start a new life? Or, is he going to stash it and try to get revenge on his former friends?

The scene in the car with Vic, Ronnie, and Julian was one of the tensest in the history of the show. Vic and Ronnie are speaking almost in code while Julian drives. Vic keeps dropping hints hoping Ronnie will pick up on them and direct Julian to where Shane is. Ronnie knows was Vic is doing but doesn’t take the bait. Vic is emotional and feels like everything is falling apart, but Ronnie is cold and ruthless. Great acting by those two.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Soapbox: Humor and Politics

A dark cloud is descending across our great nation. I’m not talking about the economic slowdown or the possibility of an Obama/McCain presidency (take your pick). What I’m talking about is the death of humor. When did we as a nation become so serious? When did we stop being able to laugh at ourselves?
Is it another divide between right and left? Is it the fact that for the past 8 years political humor has become nothing but a series of “Bush is dumb” jokes?

Since this is just me opining, here’s some anecdotal evidence.*
Example 1:
Recently, I posted some pictures on this blog and here are the reactions I got:
Photobucket Democrats liked it because it was a funny picture of a fat old white guy sleeping. And everybody knows Republicans are all fat old white guys.

Republicans liked it because it was a funny picture of a fat old white guy sleeping. Plus, it captured perfectly the (pre-Palin) lack of enthusiasm in the Republican base about McCain as their nominee.

Republicans liked it because it plays into the stereotype of liberals wanting to raise taxes on everything. They also appreciated the wordplay on Obama’s campaign slogans of “hope” and “change”.
Democrats……pointed me to campaign websites that explain Obama’s tax proposals.
Example 2:
I as at a comedy club about a month ago. The comedian told a stock “Bush is dumb” joke. Everyone laughed. He followed it up with a decent Obama joke. Crickets. More Texas/Bush jokes. More laughs. A Hilary joke. More crickets.

Example 3:
After Palin’s nomination, Democrats pounded away at the fact Alaska is one of the least populous states in the nation. One of the GOP candidates (I forget which one) jokes that Palin got more votes for governor than Biden did in the primaries. Democrats and “fact checkers” in the main stream media pounced on the joke and produced numbers that show in number of votes tallied that Biden got more votes than Palin. What they didn’t recognize was that it was a joke used to deflect criticism of Alaska’s size and draw attention to Palin’s popularity and Biden’s relative unpopularity.

Granted, these are not the funniest jokes in the world. But, do we really need to “fact check” jokes? Have we forgotten how to recognize a joke?

Apparently, I’m not the only one who notices the lack of real humor in political discourse. When I first started thinking of this post, I came across this Forbes article by Peter Robinson about the lack of humor from the Obama campaign.

What do you think? Have we lost the ability to laugh at ourselves?

* These anecdotes point more toward Democrats’ loss of humor probably because I live on the east coast and are surrounded by them all the time so I get to see it in action.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What Just Happened?

A powerful new ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Shield: Game Face

Vic and crew are dealing with the fallout that their new ICE contact is in Pezuela's blackmail box. At the same time, Agent Murray (the ICE contact) brings the guys a case. The daughter of one of the drug lords she's trying to get close to has been kidnapped. The gang have to rescue her without letting on they're cops.

Kleavon Gardner, a serial killer Dutch and Claudette arrested last season, is back and is acting as his own attorney. He wants to take a deposition from Claudette and tries to bring out the fact that she has Lupus. This forces the DA to make a deal and take the death penalty off the table.

Dutch is back on serial killer hunt again with the teenage boy from last week. He still feels the kid has the makings of a serial killer, so he brings in a consultant. The consultant isn't sure the kid is a killer, but he feels something is definitely off. Dutch then turns to Kleavon who says the kid is a killer. Is Kleavon telling the truth? Or is he just telling Dutch what he wants to hear?

Shane has his heart-to-heart with Ronnie and tells him they can end the Armenian threat if Vic just gives up the blackmail box. Ronnie then goes to Vic. Instead of playing Vic, he comes straight at him saying it was Shane's idea, but it makes sense. Vic, ever trusting of Ronnie, tells him that he doesn't have the box anymore. Aceveda took it away.

Another great episode this season. It didn't focus much on the overriding arc, but it didn't feel like a one-off distraction like week 2.