First, I did not blog on last week's episode, "Cold War." I just didn't have much to say about it. It was fine, I guess. The Ice Warrior was cool enough, and it was basically "Alien" on a nuclear sub. If you were looking for adventure, you got it. (Though the setting nor the time period never felt believable to me - not for a second did those actors read as Cold War-era Russians.) But it was basically a stand-alone episode, and just didn't resonate with me in any real way.
This week's episode, "Hide," did strike a few different chords. It was by no means a perfect episode. In fact, the ending was a giant mess. But I will always applaud an overly ambitious attempt over rote melodrama, and it gave us some new tidbits on the ongoing Clara mystery. Plus, it was by turns creepy and charming. So I'm giving it two sonic screwdrivers up.
The Doctor and Clara arrived at a giant manor in the English countryside in 1974. There the house's current owner, former professor Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott), and his empathic assistant, Emma, were trying to communicate with the Caliburn Ghast, a spirit that has reportedly haunted the property for centuries. The Doctor and Clara joined the pair on their ghost hunt, and after doing some time-span reconnaissance in the TARDIS, The Doctor concluded that the ghost was not in fact a ghost - it was actually a time traveler who had been knocked into a pocket universe, calling out over the centuries for someone to save her as that dimension rapidly dissolved in quantum nothingness. Oh, and something in the pocket universe was stalking her.
I won't deny that the episode was marred with problems. Some of the ghost-hunting sequences made no sense, especially given the ultimate explanation for the "haunting" (how did the stranded time traveler write "Help Me" on the wall of the foyer?). The Doctor broke protocol several times, including explicitly spoiling the future for at least two characters. And I personally hated the touchy-feely - and totally unnecessary - conclusion for the "Dark Tower"-esque monster in the pocket universe. I get it: love conquers all, blah blah blah. But I felt that weird coda weakened the episode. It also left for a disturbing cliffhanger. Are those terrifying creatures just going to hump it out in the second floor of the house for eternity? Will Dougray Scott charge them rent? How do you get monster splooge out of shag carpeting?
But there was a lot to like here. The atmosphere was gloriously 70's, and the ghost-hunting stuff referenced everything from "Scooby-Doo" (loved Emma's Velma Realness) to "Poltergeist." I love when the show offers scientific explanations for paranormal phenomenon, and I thought the whole time-traveler angle was interesting (if fraught with plot holes if you think about it too long). The research and rescue operations were appropriately gonzo (and echoed "The Impossible Planet" more than once). And the reason for the Doctor showing up at that very place, at that very moment, was smart and added to the season-long mystery surrounding Clara.
Because as Emma deduced about 3/4 of the way through the episode, the Doctor was not there for the ghost - he was there for her. The Doctor explained that Emma is one of the most renowned empaths (a kind of psychic who can read emotions, not minds) in history, and he wanted her to get a read on Clara. Emma, slightly offended, said that Clara is exactly who she appears to be: a normal girl, who is more scared than she lets on. That was clearly not the answer the Doctor was expecting, and possibly not the answer he wanted.
But the fact that he even asked to begin with underlines that The Doctor is still very much preoccupied with figuring out what Clara is, and that he does not trust her. I hastened to point out to my viewing group that Emma could have been lying to the Doctor about what she read off of Clara. She and Clara had bonded earlier in the episode, and Emma informed Clara not to trust The Doctor because "he has a sliver of ice deep in his heart." That is an accurate description of The Doctor, particularly Eleven, as was his line that, "Every monster needs a companion."
The Clara mystery also deepened vis-à-vis her dealings with the TARDIS. It's been established that the TARDIS does not like her - that it sometimes refuses to open its doors for her. That happened again this episode, and after The Doctor got stuck in the pocket dimension and Clara went to save him in the TARDIS (I did not understand how this worked, incidentally), it projected a hologram to explain to Clara why it could not go after him. Interestingly, the TARDIS hologram took the form of Clara herself because it searched its catalogue of millions of species/people for the one that Clara would "esteem the most." Of all the beings in the universe, the person Clara esteems the most is Clara?! No way. The show has established several defining qualities for Clara, and self-centered/egotistical is not one of them. My reading on that is that there was nothing for the TARDIS to read, because Clara doesn't exist. She's a cipher.
It dovetails nicely with this episode's focus on ghosts, and Clara's point to The Doctor that everyone and everything is ultimately like a ghost to him - he's seen the end of it all, so why do any of them matter? The Doctor had a very comforting Doctor answer to all that, but the point remains that Clara LITERALLY is a ghost. She's died twice so far, and the entire reason he sought her out as his new companion is because he is trying to figure out who/what/how she is. The entire second half of Season 7 can be seen as The Doctor ghost hunting Clara.
I'm not sure how all of this fits into my previous theory that Clara is somehow related to The Doctor's granddaughter, Susan. But with only a few more episodes to go, and the distinct lack of a Big Bad since the Great Intelligence popped up briefly in "The Snowmen" and "The Bells of Saint John," I suspect our main antagonist will end up being Clara herself.
Next week: "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS"! What will we find there? My guess is nougat.
Welcome back to "Game of Thrones," or as I alternately call it, "Who Are We Burning Today?" I thought this week's episode rocked, including all of the best elements of the show (minus sex, boo). A lot happened so we're just going to jump right into it.
We'll start at the end, as we got a lengthy uninterrupted segment set in Slavers Bay, with Daenerys experiencing one of the most pivotal moments of her life as she traded one of her dragons for thousands of highly skilled slave warriors. We learned a few things here. First, that the budget for this season must have been significantly upped, because that whole sequence looked like something out of a big-budget film, not a show on HBO. From the soldiers to the special effects to Dany's wig, everything looked amazing. Second, the viewers and the slave masters discovered that Daenerys can speak fluent Valyrian, which means she understood every word - and insult - thrown at her the previous three episodes, and didn't so much as flinch. And third, the masters discovered that dragons are no man's slave. Dany did indeed trade her dragon for the Unsullied warriors, but a dragon does what it likes. After a quiet "Dracarys" from Dany, her biggest scaly baby torched the slave master head to heel and Dany led a revolt against all the slave masters of Astapor. After the bloody business Dany then freed all of her slave warriors, and asked which of these now-free men would willingly fight for her cause. They all agreed. So basically, Daenerys Taragryen just became fully awesome, and I suspect we'll all be seeing a lot of queen bitch Dany costumes come Halloween this year.
To underline how kickass the Astapor segment was, Dany and her army marching out the Astapor gates with dragons flying overhead provided the cliffhanger ending to the episode -- not the full-scale rebellion of the Night's Watch that went down at Craster's Keep. I was wondering how long they were going to drag out that arc, but they just got right down to it. The Watch, starving and freezing and shoveling pig shit in Craster's pens, finally had enough of their "host," and several members lost it. One killed Craster. Another killed poor Lord Commander Mormont. And that bullying asshole seems poised to go after Sam, who took the confusion as an opportunity to spirit away Gilly and her newborn son.
Several interesting developments occurred in King's Landing this episode, many of them unique to the show. First, we got a great conversation between Tyrion and Varys. The former wanted proof that his sister was trying to have him killed during the Battle of the Blackwater. The latter used the opportunity to explain to Tyrion how he became a eunuch, and also make a point about the importance of influence. I loved that entire scene -- Conleth Hill as Varys is one of this show's unsung acting heroes -- except the part where Varys opened the crate and revealed what was inside. That was a totally unnecessary and frankly goofy way to make his point. It suggested to me that the show thought it was being clever (it wasn't), or that the writers don't trust the audience (and they should).
Varys was a busy spider, next checking in with Roz about Littlefinger's plans for Sansa (and again bringing up Podrick's baffling success with the whores - is this becoming an actual plot point instead of a humorous side gag?), and then had an outstanding scene with Lady Olenna. Diana Rigg is so fantastic in that role; I desperately hope they find a way to keep her around longer than she appears in the books. And I also want to watch an hour-long crossover with "Downton Abbey" in which the Queen of Thorns and the Dowager Countess just sit in armchairs volleying droll insults. I'd pay-per-view that shit!
Lady Olenna's granddaughter is no slouch in the manipulation department, as Margaery Tyrell cemented her relationship with King Joffrey and the people of King's Landing in a well-written scene in the Great Sept of Baelor (again: looked stunning). Joffrey and Margaery have yet to be POV characters in the books, so this was entirely for the show, and I found it quite effective. Margaery is a fascinating character, full of ambition and teeming with guile, but also smart enough to not be obvious about it (*cough*Cersei*cough*). She's already got Joffrey eating out of her hand, and they're not even married. We never really got that sense in the books. Her follow-up scene with Sansa was also lovely, and showcased Natalie Dormer's sweeter side. They could not have cast a better actress for that role.
Wrapping up the King's Landing subplots, Cersei had an uncomfortable father/daughter sequence with Tywin in which she expressed her concerns about the Tyrells' manipulations, and challenged her father on what she perceived to be his de facto sexism against her. Tywin summed up Cersei's personal failings thusly: his problem with her is not that she's a woman, it's that she's not nearly as smart as she thinks she is. That is precisely how I think we're supposed to view Cersei. After she becomes a narrator in Book 4 we get to better understand her, and her overconfidence in her intelligence is absolutely her fatal flaw as a character. (And boy, does it ever get her in trouble from here on out...)
Speaking of the Lannisters, Jaime wasn't faring too well after getting his hand chopped off at the end of last episode. I think the show has done a poor job explaining to viewers how big a deal this is for Jaime from an identity perspective. He does mention this episode that it was his sword hand, but frankly he didn't fare too poorly in his brief escape attempt. He was simply way outnumbered, and also, you know, dying. The quiet scenes between Jaime and Brienne nicely fortified their growing mutual respect, and I find myself wishing there were more scenes for this particular storyline.
The episode also featured brief snippets of Bran dreaming about climbing a tree to talk to the Three-Eyed Crow, but failing due to an imaginary fight with his mother; Theon Greyjoy once again showing us what a total idiot he is by nattering along mindlessly as his "savior" (this has to be the Bastard of Bolton, right?) returned him to captivity; and Arya getting a tour of the Brotherhood Without Banners' cave hideout, and an introduction to their leader, Beric Dondarrion. Next episode he'll fight the Hound in a trial by combat, and we'll all probably learn a little bit more about Thoros of Myr and his fire god. We'll also check in with Jon Snow and the wildlings north of the Wall, and continue to watch Robb Stark's war campaign crumble like the charred remains of his homestead. Good times!
The first 8 minutes of the show did not tape. So I’m going to assume that the judges wasted time by walking to their seats, Ryan Secrest wasted time by giving us a bunch of useless information, the Top 5 did a group song, and, oh, I don’t know, Lazaro galloped across the stage on a sparkling, glitter-covered unicorn while making excuses for why he was unfairly eliminated last week.
I tuned in with the start of the results. Angie was first, and Jimmy Iovine loved her Pretenders song (I was conflicted about it), but he wasn’t blown away by her Beyonce number (I thought it was terrific). Nikki Minaj agreed with me and said that Jimmy is full of shit. Next it was Candice’s turn. Jimmy remained lukewarm about “Straight Up,” but loved her diva song. Ryan baited Randy Jackson, asking if he’d heard from original co-judge Paula Abdul about her thoughts on Candice’s version of her signature song. Randy couldn’t even convince himself as he did this goofy bit saying he couldn’t reach her, but of course Paula was there, dressed like a sofa, but still looking gorgeous. She babbled a bit to Candice, clapped like a seal (good ol’ Paula!), and eventually took a judge’s chair in between Nikki and Mariah Carey (both of them were very cute with Paula).
After the commercial, Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken came out and talked about all of the humanitarian work he has done in the past decade. That’s great, but looking at a decade’s worth of footage of Clay, I had to wonder: How did none of his gays take him aside at some point and discuss the hair? The clothes? The whole look? Mind boggling. But Clay looks good now, if not a bit…tightened up. He sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Clay has a great Broadway-style voice, but I question how he would fare on this show if he was a contestant nowadays. (Speaking of which, when will we get the inevitable all-stars season?)
Janelle was up for feedback next. Jimmy and I agreed that her first number was sleepy, and he thought she struck out with the Dolly Parton song. But Dolly herself -- DOLLY! -- wrote a nice, funny note to Janelle, and I just love her. Please have her be a judge on this show…
Amber was up next, and Jimmy thought that she took a huge risk singing both Mariah and Barbra Streisand, and that she executed both songs beautifully. As for Kree, I didn’t feel like she had a solid night at all, and Jimmy agreed with me. He thought she made the wrong song choices, and I totally agree. And typically Kree makes brilliant song choices. So I don’t know what was going on there.
And then, Fantasia! The Season 3 winner. The package actually covered all three of the “Three Divas” of S3, Fanny, Jennifer Hudson, and LaToya London. LaToya is trying to relaunch her career, and I hope it happens for her, because she is great. I actually saw her in “The Color of Purple” when it came to Rochester on tour. Fantasia sang her new family, “Lose to Win.” Fantasia looked amazing, and I’ve always loved her voice, so I thought she sounded really good. She certainly was FEELING the performance. The judges were obviously all about it -- Nicki was giving her backsnaps! Yes! I love Tasia.
Then, finally, results: Candice, Angie, and Amber were safe -- even Amber looked totally shocked at that one. That left Kree and Janelle as the B2. First time Kree has EVER been in danger, and that made my Spidey Sense tingle. But it was Janelle who rightfully received the lowest number of votes. For her sing for the Save she did her great version of “Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Smart song choice, and one that really showcases all the best qualities of her voice -- although she sounded better on it the first time around.
As they went to the judges for the decision, Janelle was actually shaking her head no and telling the judges that it was OK. She knew. And Randy said that it was two judges yes, two judges no. I am curious to know who was on which side of that argument. Janelle acquitted herself better in the Top 10 than I assumed she would after her DISASTROUS semi-final performances. Janelle is a performer and she’s very personable. I don’t think she is at the same level of the country singers we’ve had on this show recently. But there’s no denying her charisma. I’ll be curious to see what happens to her.
Well, we're definitely going to have a female winner for the first time in six seasons. For the first time in show history the Final 5 is entirely one gender, and it is also entirely female. You don't have to be a Stonemason to work out that conspiracy. Still, there is a LOT of talent in the competition this year, so nobody is begrudgingly any of these ladies their continued presence on the show.
That said, I was not nearly as enamored of many of the performances Wednesday as the judges seemed to be. Nothing was terrible, but a few of the numbers were over praised (in my opinion), which has been the case pretty much the entire season long. Given the massive slide in ratings and the fact that this panel just isn't working, expect a huge shake-up before next season starts.
We had two themes again: Songs from the year the contestants were born, and diva songs.
Candice Glover was born in 1989, and she did "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul. That is...unexpected. She totally transformed the song into a slow r'n'b/jazz jam with a very cool world-beat vibe. As has become typical for Candice, she kept getting better as the song went on. She had some great little runs and vocal flourishes, but it never felt oversung. Keith Urban said he never realized how good that song is until Candice sang it. That's because the original is pretty cheesy; seriously, I listened to some Paula on Spotify last week and it was not good. I couldn't even make it through "Rush Rush." Nikki Minaj and her breast window liked how Candice put her own spin on the song. Randy Jackson is loving how cool and confident Candice is on stage now - she has improved tremendously on her stage presence since the semis. Mariah Carey said the song choice was genius. Apparently it was Janelle's idea. Then it certainly wasn't genius... Interestingly, Jimmy Iovine thought it was a poor song for Candice because the range was too narrow for Candice's big voice.
Janelle Arthur was also born in 1989 and she picked Vince Gill's "When I Call Your Name." This was another one of those songs that Janelle obviously loves, but which is not a good fit for her voice. I'm not sure why she's so obsessed with male country songs (last week it was Garth, this week it's Vince), but the low parts were too low and the high parts were shrill. And the song is a total snoozer - I can see why it put her to sleep when she was a baby. Janelle was emoting throughout, so that's good. But the vocal was not strong. Nikki wants Janelle to go back to her guitar (um, she WAS with her guitar), but she thought the vocal was pretty. Randy thought the song "brought Janelle back." Mariah wants Janelle to keep her confidence. Keith, god bless him, spoke sense. He said that the song is pure emotion when Vince sings it, but he didn't feel anything from Janelle. He said she got all the notes right - um, no she didn't.
Kree Harrison was born in 1990; she picked "She Talked to Angels" by the Black Crows. This was a somewhat unexpected song choice for Kree, and she sounded great on it. In fact I think it's the best she's sounded in a few weeks (not that Kree ever really sounds bad). The weird thing was that Kree seemed to lose a bit of steam as the number went on. Still, it was very good. Randy picked up on the natural soulfulness in Kree's voice. Mariah wisely picked up on the fact that Kree seemed like she was too focused on the performing of this song, and that she didn't get lost in it - but Mariah loved it, too. Nikki put on her British accent to say that she thought it was the best number of the night up to that part. She also thought it was the first current-sounding song of the evening. Then she and Mariah got in a little wig-yanking. It is surprising how well those two have gotten along since the show went live.
Angie Miller was born on 1994, and she was a chunky baby. She did "I'll Stand By You" by The Pretenders. There was a moment of awkward hesitation before Angie dedicated the song to "my home, Boston." I am conflicted about that. Angie performed this while playing the piano. I love this song and I like Angie, but I do not think this was a great fit. Her voice is so bright and thin that I don't think it naturally went together with a Chrissie Hynde song. In fact there were parts that I thought sounded really awkward, while other sections actually worked quite well. All the judges except Nikki gave her a standing ovation. Hm. Praise all around, and all of the judges giving "shout outs" to Boston. I'll concede that I may be the outlier by not loving that.
Amber Holcomb was also born in 1994, and she did Mariah Carey's cover of "Without You." Amber played with the rhythm/tempo here a bit, and I was OK with it. This is a huge song with a massive range and Amber handled it all well. A few slightly flat sections, but there were some tricky key changes in there. Another standing O from all the judges except Nicki. Keith loves the way that Amber opens up the notes at the end. Nicki thought Amber did not compare positively to Mariah's version in the low section; she just seemed off and scared. Randy thought Amber did a damn good job. Mariah said, "Vote for Amber!" She also really liked the changes that Amber made to the melody, and how she took the song higher at the end.
ROUND 2: Diva Songs!
Candice chose "When You Believe" by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. This is not a great song, but it is a BIG song, and according to Jimmy, that's what Candice needed for her second act. When she hit the key change and went into the final chorus there was a great "Idol" moment for her. A standing ovation from all FOUR judges. Nicki said, "That is how you do a Mariah Carey/Whitney Houston song." And she appreciated the bigger message of the song, which Candice delivered. Mariah said that she was trying to avoid breaking down into tears, because she was flashing back to the moments spent with Whitney. I've given Mariah a lot of shit during her judging tenure, but I found her quite endearing during that segment, and for most of the night in general.
Janelle named Dolly Parton as her icon and picked "Dumb Blonde." I'm a huge Dolly fan, but if I had to pick a Dolly diva song, it wouldn't be that one. The vocal was better than the first number and had some fire to it, but the song just isn't particularly catchy. And Janelle did her normal walk-around-the-stage/interact-with-the-crowd bit. The last note was not good. Randy thought it was a fun performance number, but vocally didn't do much for her. Keith was right with me about that song not being high in the Dolly Parton Catalogue. Nicki point blank told Janelle that she's in danger of going home tomorrow, but that she thinks Janelle is lovable and can go far in the real world. I think Janelle is actually one of the least-talented country performers we've had on the show lately.
Kree picked Celine Dion as her icon, which was surprising. She did "Have You Ever Been in Love," which is not a song I'm familiar with. Kree is normally very savvy with her song picks, but this was not great. She still sang impressively, but this did not feel comfortable for her. Mariah thought it was a very smart choice, and liked the key for Kree. She thought the song showed Kree's versatility, since this was distinctly un-Kree. Nicki argued that Kree is not actually country; she's "worldly," she's "iconic." She's Adele, she's Celine, it doesn't matter. The judges all loved it. Again, I will concede to being an outlier on this one. But to me it just felt forced and uncomfortable.
Angie did Beyonce's "Halo." I expected this to be a mess, but I actually ended up liking it. She was definitely channeling Beyonce too much in the vocal, but the singing was still strong, demonstrating great range, control, and Angie looked like a star up there. Standing O from all the judges except Mariah. Keith called it "definitely Top 3." Nicki said that Angie is back, and did Beyonce proud. Randy did his tiresome "in it to win it" line. Mariah loved the clarity in the voice, and thinks Angie is here to stay. I think she's definitely F3 at this point.
Amber thrilled my gay ass by doing Barbra Streisand's "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" First, she looked STUNNING. This was a very old-fashioned, grown-up set up for Amber, but she pulled it off. There were a few moments where the energy dipped, but as soon as Amber shot into her upper register she snatched the song right back. Her vocal control is pretty spectacular, and that was lovely. Standing O from all four judges. Nicki called it "simply perfection." Randy said that it was the most difficult song of the season, and she sang the hell out of it. He called her "young Rihanna with a giant voice." Comparing Amber to Rihanna is an insult to Amber. Mariah thanked her for the performance, and thinks Amber is a massive star in the making.
Recap: Candice was cool and funky in the first number and full-on powerhouse diva in the second; Janelle was easily the weakest of the night; Kree had an odd night but sounded better in the replay than I thought she would; I still didn't care for Angie's vote-baiting first number but responded strongly to her diva song; Amber delivered two giant, complicated songs extremely well.
Prediction: Janelle is almost certainly gone. The only question is who joins her in B2. Candice is the frontrunner at this point and had another good night, and Angie really surged. Kree has been a quiet, consistent presence in the Top 3, but I really felt like she was off with her song choices this week. And of course Amber has continually struggled with votes.
The bottom line is that the Save HAS to be used this week or next. If Janelle's in the bottom this week, they won't use it. If anybody but Janelle is set to go home, the judges will deploy it. My gut says Amber will get the "shock" elimination, and then she'll be saved for another week or two.
Confession: I spoiled myself on the results of tonight’s episode earlier this afternoon after some idiot posted the first 10 minutes of NEXT week’s episode right on the Logo website. I watched it and knew who won tonight’s challenge, who was in the Bottom 2, and who went home. But even if I hadn’t gotten the sneak peek I wouldn’t have been surprised by the outcome. This episode played out exactly as it should have, with the most deserving Final 3 and a fourth-place finisher who arguably shouldn’t have even made it this far.
The Final 4 -- Alaska, Detox, Jinkx Monsoon, and Roxxxy Andrews -- had a “bitch fest” mini-challenge in which they had to make drag puppets of one of their competitors and read them for filth. It was literally the exact same challenge from S4, and I kept waiting for Logo to pimp its bizarre new show “Felt,” in which actual couples-therapy sessions are reenacted via puppets. Alaska won this handily (see what I did there?) with her genuinely funny jabs at Roxxxy, while Roxxxy veered into cruelty with her take on Jinkx. It set the tone for a generally sour Roxxxy for the entire night. Guess with Coco gone the show needed a new villain -- although Roxxxy’s been getting increasingly nasty over the past few weeks, especially when it comes to Jinkx.
While Roxxxy was soaking in bitterness, all four of the queens were asked to embrace sweetness for the main challenge, the Sugar Ball. This was again an exact replica of the Final 4 episode from seasons 3 and 4, with the queens tasked with coming up with three looks based around themes. The first look had to be “Super Sweet 16,” so young and bubbly; the second was a take on Executive Realness (I LIVE for Executive Realness and clapped like a monkey when RuPaul said it); the third was Candy Couture. Although the whole challenge ostensibly had a candy theme, only Roxxxy incorporated candy into each of her looks. I found that extremely weird. What exactly is the challenge in walking out in off-the-rack clothing? How does that test anything besides who has the bigger budget?
Here’s how each queen performed, top to bottom (rankings, I mean; I don’t know their lives):
Alaska won the challenge, and I’m frankly not sure how. Her Candy Couture outfit was fantastic, no doubt, and that was even after clumps of the cotton-candy base fell off in the work room. But the other two looks were beyond plain. Her teen look was a basic black prom dress with a cheap bow in her wig -- standard Alaska at this point -- the business outfit was a basic black, fitted suit with some well-deployed props. She sold the looks, I guess, but Alaska has rarely wowed us on the runway this season, and this episode was no exception. That said, I really like her and I’m glad she made F3. I just don’t think she should have won this challenge. The nod should have gone to…
Roxxxy Andrews, who really embraced this challenge and clearly brought a lot of thought and attention to detail to her looks. Some of the judges (including guest judge Bob Mackie!) found her teen outfit to be too risqué, but I didn’t see it. Roxxxy is a naturally sexy queen and that’s going to translate into the outfit. Also, have these people seen 16-year-olds lately? I’m just saying. Roxxxy’s mannerisms were very spazzy teen, and I appreciated the marshmallow details. The business outfit was her weakness, as she once again relied on the tear-away reveal and the outfit underneath wasn’t even remotely professional looking. Still, the gummy bear details were a nice touch. Her rainbow-licorice couture dress was frankly stunning and required a LOT of work on her part, and showed a level of craftsmanship that none of the other queens displayed. She was dinged for the dress not obviously reading as candy, but…is that not the point? Aren’t they supposed to elevate the unconventional materials? Perhaps I’m confusing it with “Project Runway.” Anyway, Roxxxy should have won based on the work presented and overall polish, but I think the producers wanted the F3 queens to all have two wins going into the finale.
Jinkx Monsoon has been getting the underdog edit for weeks now, and poor thing really needed it this episode. As the pageant girls had been saying for a while, Jinkx has been very lucky that there were precious few design-based challenges this season. And that’s true. Jinkx is not a seamstress, and her personal wardrobe is limited and very schticky. That works with the character she has developed, but it’s a tough sell for this kind of challenge. Jinkx weirdly seemed fixated on incorporating a Christmas element to her couture look -- I’m guessing this was because of the candy canes she was using -- but it overshadowed the candy itself. She also wrestled with her narcolepsy as she apparently wrecked the massive hoop skirt she’d been embellishing because she could barely stay conscious while working on it. The end result was Jinkx coming out in a red-and-white reindeer-esque outfit with very little candy, which judge Santino Rice objected to because he wanted to see candy glued all over everything. We know, Santino. We watched you on “Runway.” You love glue! Jinkx’s other looks were very throwback and kitschy, which is perfectly Jinkx, but not in the spirit of the challenge. She was forced to lipsynch for her life to a kooky song that was very much in her wheelhouse, and which she nailed. The fact that THAT song was used for this episode, when Jinkx just HAPPENED to be in trouble, is awfully coincidental to me. Also coincidental that the other three queens named her as the weakest on the runway, when two episodes ago they all considered her their stiffest competition. They saw an opportunity to push a major threat off a cliff, and they tried their damnedest to give her the heave-ho.
But getting her wig snatched wasDetox, who got her third B2 appearance for her output, which was really…not great. She nailed the 80’s power-bitch for Executive Realness, and was obviously going for a “Grease 2” thing for the teen drag. But her couture creation did not read as candy at all, it was ugly, and she could barely walk in it. Not a great strategy when you have literally a 50 percent chance of being in the Bottom 2, performing for your continued presence in this competition. But truly, Detox had very little shot of making it to the finale. RuPaul told her point blank in the work room that the judges had certain expectations of Detox that “have not been met.” Boy, howdy. That’s Detox’s run on this show in a nutshell.
I was thinking about it earlier, and Detox even making Final 6 is a little unfair, much less Final 4. She simply has not turned in a level of work that justifies making it this far -- at least, not that the viewer has seen. Even in the one challenge she won, the kid’s show, other queens made more of an impression -- I can’t even remember what her chicken character did/said. And so much of Detox’s output this season in general has simply been unmemorable. I suspect that six months from now I’ll look back fondly on Jinkx, Alaska, Roxxxy, Alyssa, and even Ivy. I will still seethe with frustration over Coco and even Serena Cha-Cha. But Detox? She was just there. Not bad. Not unlikable. But she simply did not break through, and that makes no sense.
Because on paper, Detox has what this show is looking for: Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent. But for whatever reason none of that was connecting here. Her talking heads were occasionally amusing, but her performances were almost always flat and her runways were routinely slightly off. Her lipsynch, which she is so proud of, was a big bag of nothing. The lip wiggle was old the first time she deployed it and BEYOND tired after the third time out.
I’ve read theories that suggest that Detox was holding back because of her friendship with Roxxxy (doubt it), that Detox didn’t really want the win, just the exposure (certainly plausible), that she was overwhelmed with pre-show expectations (possibly, but the same could be said of Alaska), and that Detox simply isn’t a competitive person and thus a poor fit for a reality-television competition. I suspect that last one is closest to the truth. Detox has a fuck-you attitude; we saw it on the show several times (“I’m over it” is her catchphrase for a reason). I suspect it’s very difficult to have that approach to life and yet operate in a situation where your success depends entirely on what other people think of you.
I think Detox is a great drag queen. I bet she’d be fun to have drinks with. But she was not a great contestant for this show, and I suspect that she and the producers were as surprised to discover that as the rest of us. Because she definitely went in as a pre-show favorite. It just didn’t click. At least, from what we saw. Detox has voiced issues with her edit on social networking. I'm curious to see how she handles herself at the reunion, which I assume is taping next week.
Next: the Final 3, Judge RuPaul, and Gloria Allred! Seek legal representation now.
Welcome back to Westeros! In this week's episode a boy became a man (several times over), a queen haggled for slaves, and Jaime Lannister's personal Applause-o-Meter took a permanent hit. Beware: here there be spoilers.
Let's start with Riverrun, a completely new location for the show, and ancestral home of Catelyn Stark. The show fast-forwarded through a lot of set-up for this new locale (Cat's father was already dead by the time she arrived; in the books they had an opportunity for closure), and just threw viewers into the mix without so much as an introduction to the new players. Those would be Cat's ass-kicking uncle, Brynden "Blackfish" Tully, and I assume the boastful ass was Edmure Tully, Cat's brother. I don't recall Edmure being such an idiot in the books. Not exactly the most competent soldier, perhaps, but here he seems like a willful douche. Not much else happened for the Riverrun crew except for a nice scene with Robb's wife, Talisa, tending to young Lannister prisoners of war. Talisa -- who doesn't exist in the books, but serves the same purpose as a character who will presumably never be introduced in the show -- has not been warmly received by readers of the books, but I thought that little interlude demonstrated that she's got some potential.
Also running around the River Lands are the "Brothers Without Banners," still apparently being led by Thoros of Myr (have they shown us BerricDondarrion since his brief appearance in S1? Or will Thoros just take over all of his parts?) and their quasi-captives, Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie. The show has zipped through Arya's meanderings considerably, and you can argue that's for the best (I certainly hope it does the same with her story arc in the most recent books, which seems to be going nowhere). In this episode she parted ways amicably with her little baker friend and was once again acquainted with The Hound. The Hound only appeared briefly, but it again underlined my feeling that Rory McCann was woefully miscast in that role. The make-up job is bad, but beyond that McCann simply does not exude the menace that the character should. He always seems sad and bedraggled rather than quietly terrifying.
Mind you, back in Season 1 I had the same concerns about the casting of Emilia Clarke as Daenerys. I just didn't know if she would have the presence to pull off some of Dany's more intense scenes, like the ones currently playing out. And Clarke proved again this episode that she is absolutely the right actress for the role, as Dany wrestled with the concept of being a slave owner and haggled with the "great masters" of Astapor. One of the great joys of reading the "Song of Ice and Fire" novels is following Dany's progression from brow-beaten sister to full-fledged dragon queen, and Book 3 contains some incredible moments on her journey. Thus far the show seems to be following that script almost exactly - as it should. I don't know how you develop the character better than what George R.R. Martin wrote in "Storm of Swords." Next week looks like it will deliver one of the defining Dany moments. I cannot wait to watch that play out on screen.
Speaking of defining moments, the fantastic odd-couple storyline that is "Brienne the Beauty and the Kingslayer take Westeros" continued in grim fashion. Brienne and Jaime have been captured by (I think) Roose Bolton and his company (I believe this is a departure from the books, but I could be wrong) and the two of them had an intense discussion about the realities of Brienne's perilous situation, namely being the lone female captive in a back of sex-deprived, and simply depraved, men. In the books this storyline is crucial in helping to redeem Jaime's character after the whole incest/attempted-child-murder thing. In the show it's less important, because Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is so charming that you can't help but like him, no matter how many boys he throws out of windows. But the bond that develops between Brienne and Jaime is essential, and I love watching these two actors work off one another. They also provided another great "Oh, shit!" cliffhanger ending, as (spoiler alert!) Bolton cut off Jaime's sword hand to teach him a lesson about acting superior to his captors. I want to underline this for people who have not read the books: one of the greatest fighters in the land just lost his sword hand.
The two greatest scenes in the episode, however, took place in King's Landing. First, new Hand of the King TywinLannister gathered his Small Council, which engaged in a hilarious silent bit of musical chairs. That entire scene was brilliant, and Peter Dinklage'sTyrion is never better than when he's playing off the characters in that room. Second, newly named Master of Coin Tyrion treated his loyal servant Podrick to a reward for saving his life in the Battle of Blackwater by renting him three or four of Littlefinger's finest ladies of the evening. (Incidentally, I'm fairly sure that Pod died in battle in Book 2, so the fact that he's still here is an intriguing departure for the show.) The introduction of the whores was great, but even better was the scene with Tyrion, Bronn, and Pod discussing how the ladies declined payment after their afternoon with Pod. Kudos to everyone involved in that hilarious sequence.
Less funny were the goings-on in the North, as tortured captive TheonGreyjoy "escaped" from his tormentors only to be hunted down and then "saved" by the Bloody Bastard (this is potentially another interesting departure from the books). Red Priestess Melisandre gave Lord Stannis blue balls after she left Dragonstone to find...something, because his "fires burn low." She mentioned that the Lord of Light demands sacrifice, and others share Stannis' king's blood -- is she gathering more of Robert's bastards, or something else? We have yet to see Stannis's daughter, or her fool (who is himself something of a legendary figure in the books).
Meanwhile, what's left of the Night's Watch returned to Craster's Keep in time for Sam to get body shamed and then watch poor Gilly give birth to a boy, while the rest of the crows bristled under their host's "hospitality" and the inter-group resentments grew. And way in the north ManceRayder, Jon Snow, and the wildings discovered a lovely pinwheel made out of horse carcasses, but none of the corpses of their human riders. Mance gave the order for JormundGiantsbane to take a pack of wildings and attack the Wall. So I guess we're not even bringing up that giant Wall-breaking horn, then, show? Boo. I find those big-ass horns one of the more fascinating aspects of the books, even if that one kind of went nowhere.
Next: DaenerysTargaryen teaches the slave masters of Astapor an important lesson about how responsible dragon ownership.
And finally, our long national nightmare is over.
I’ll keep tonight’s blog short and sweet. Here’s what you need to know:
-Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery was back, singing his incredibly repetitive new song. And frankly he did not sound great. He also still looks 12, which made it all the more uncomfortable when Ryan Seacrest made a low-key pass at him. (“Have you been working out?” Put it away, Ryan.)
-Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson was back to sing her new song, “People Like Us,” and she sounded great even while she was dressed as an extra from Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” video. Then, in one of the most adorable bits on this show since “Puck and Pickler,” Kelly totally geeked out over getting to meet Mariah Carey. She was so sweet and charming -- both of them were, actually. Kelly said that if Mariah was a judge back in Season 1 she would have vomited all over the stage. She also said that she’s glad that Mariah is “nice.” I would deem her “nonsensical,” but whatever. Anyway, Kelly continues to be the gold standard. Not only is she an amazing singer and pop star, but she’s such a delight.
-The Top 6 were separated on stage into three groups: Candice and Kree, Angie and Janelle, and Lazaro and Amber. Obviously Candice and Kree were in the top (and let’s stop for a minute and recognize that Kree is the threat nobody is talking about this season; she’s totally under the radar and yet hugely popular). Janelle could have conceivably been B2, but Angie was unlikely given her excellent second performance on Wednesday. And Amber just cannot get a fan base, while Lazaro is the worst. So unsurprisingly, Lazaro and Amber were the B2.
-I feel terrible for Amber, because she cannot catch a break. Crazy talented but she’s simply getting outshined by Candice, and Candice is pulling all of her votes. I do not feel bad for Lazaro, who never should have made Top 10, and who most CERTAINLY shouldn’t have been the last boy standing. And somewhat surprisingly, it was Lazaro’s turn to go. I honestly expected his massive voting bloc to push him through at least another week, especially after the drubbing he got from the judges Wednesday night. And yet, he was left to warble his way through “Feelin’ Good” in his bid for the Save. The judges were obviously not having that. It didn’t even look like Keith Urban bothered to stay at the podium to deliberate. That was never going to happen.
-That means that we have a guaranteed female winner for the first time on this show since Season 6, and the first all-female finale since Season 3. Many have argued that this is the result of massive producer manipulation, and it’s hard to deny the likelihood of that. Does anyone REALLY think the guys who made it to semi-finals were the best male vocalists in the pool this year? And the fact that the only one with the vocal ability to go far, Curtis Finch Jr., was out at Top 10 with literally everything working against him that week? Nah. Even Lazaro’s ouster this week smacked of producer interference. He went from Top 3 last week to last place this week, after getting savaged in his critique? Either America magically realized that he was terrible or people wised up to what a little monster he was becoming. (Look up the interview he did Wednesday night in which he dismisses basically all the judges’ criticism of him. He was also defensive after he got the news that he was axed, with the talking-over-the-judges thing.) There’s no question that he deserved to go, but looking at the way “Idol” has historically worked, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
-The truth is, for as terrible as he was -- and he really was awful, one of the worst singers to ever make it this far into the competition -- Lazaro will be missed. Wednesday’s episode was good for two reasons. One of them was the legitimately great performances by Candice, Angie, and Kree. The other was the spectacular flameout by Lazaro, and the judges desperately trying to find something to say to the kid. I’ll miss that. He definitely made things interesting, and watching him escape the hangman’s noose again and again was rewarding in its own way. Now we’ve got two weeks in which we eliminate Janelle and Amber (there’s just no way either of them make F2), and judging by the May 16 finale date, one of them WILL be saved next week. I hope it’s Amber, because the save would be totally wasted on Janelle.
Last night's "Idol" featured the highs and the lows of competition. Literally, we had some of the best singing of the season, but also the worst of possibly ANY season. I was hooting and clapping so loudly at my TV screen that I realized: this season has actually somehow become amazing. Largely in spite of itself, but still, I will take it.
Because the show MUST be two hours, even with only six singers, each Idol sang two numbers last night. The first song had to be from the Burt Bacharach/Hal David Songbook (very topical!), and the second theme was "Songs the Idols Wish They Had Written." That's actually a great theme, and it allows these kids to really show us what they can do/how they want to sound.
Angie Miller opened the show with "Anyone Who Had a Heart." It is by nature a fairly tepid song, and Angie didn't really come alive on it until the last chorus. That sounded good, but up until then even Angie seemed bored by it. Keith Urban said that Angie has a great voice, but she needs to actually feel the songs - there was no passion there. She has repeatedly gotten that note from the judges. Nicki Minaj agreed, and called it old-fashioned. It's a Burt Bacharach song. That is an unfair critique. Of course it's going to sound old-fashioned. Randy Jackson picked up on Angie being better on the second part of the song, but Mariah Carey gave her the dreaded "too perfect" note about the vocal. To her credit, Angie took the critiques in the spirit in which they were given.
Amber Holcomb did the Dionne Warwick classic, "I Say a Little Prayer for You." The low notes were a bit too low for Amber, but she sounded terrific in the upper register. This was a very straight cover of the song, aside from some good runs here and there. There seemed to be a weird disconnect in the bridge, and Amber needs to watch her face when she sings because she looks like she's in pain sometimes. Randy said that the competition started with Amber. Mariah blathered on about how impressive it was that she did that in just one take. Mariah, dear - they all do that! Keith said that he loves that Amber never overperforms, and that the whole thing seemed easy. Then Ryan Seacrest did his gross thing where he talked about the personal lives of the contestants, asking Amber about her boyfriend (which, admittedly, Nicki brought up). She said it was Curtis, presumably a reference to the first axed member of the Top 10. I sure hope she and Curtis aren't dating, because that's not going to end well for either of them. Later they suggested it was Burnell. I would suggest that this entire line of questioning is gross and pointless.
LazaroArbo did "Close to You," and holy cats, it was terrible. WAY, WAY too low for him. The pitch was astonishingly off. This wasn't even a high-school talent show. This wasn't even karaoke. This was painfully bad in parts. The back-up singers and the band even seemed embarrassed. Randy said, "I'm actually kinda speechless." He said that he thinks that Lazaro as a person is inspiring, but as a singer, it was "horrible." He said this was the worst performance he's ever seen on the show. Mariah actually laughed, and then said ON CAMERA that the producers have "reprimanded" her for being too nice, and that she needs to judge. She said that on camera! She said that Lazaro continued singing in the wrong key after the key change, and if Lazaro can't hear that, "it's kind of a big deal." Her entire critique was a reality-television gem. It was like a coyote trying to chew off its arm. Nicki was literally looking at her watch while Keith was giving his critique and then just totally abstained from comment. And then Ryan went to Lazaro, and predictably, Lazaro had an excuse: "We kind of changed the keys a lot, low and high." This fucking kid.Worst.Performance.In "Idol" history. And I won't even discuss the horribly racist caricature they put into his "personality package."
Kree Harrison did "What the World Needs Now is Love," and she started out singing entirely a cappella. Smart choice, as it allowed us to hear the beautiful timbre of Kree's voice. Kree seemed to struggle a bit with the lyrics or the see-saw rhythm of the song up until the big chorus. I also had a bit of an issue with the "lilt" she added to the ends of the lines, but overall it was very good. I have no idea what Mariah was trying to say. She was truly at the top of her blathering idiot game tonight. Nikki said that next year Kree will be performing at the Country Music Awards, because she's ready. I think that's probably true. Randy took the opportunity to shit on Lazaro again, and also yell at America to stop voting for him. Good luck with that!
Janelle Arthur did "I'll Never Fall in Love Again." She sounded better on this than I expected. She still has a tendency to go flat, especially on the low parts. Her folksy performance thing somehow comes off as endearingly cheesy instead of annoying. On the whole, though, I thought she delivered her best vocal in recent weeks. Keith likes that Janelle shows different sides as a performer each week. Nikki said that Janelle is commercially viable, but found the number super boring. Randy said that Janelle found some really nice moments in the song, but she has to be more consistent. Mariah was blessedly cut off by the band. She and Nigel Lythgoe are going to have a really uncomfortable discussion...
Candice Glover sang "Don't Make Me Over." It started out good, but it became amazing as it went along. There was nothing that I didn't love about this, and Candice sang it like a m-f'er. She got a standing ovation from everyone except Mariah Carey. I just assume Mariah has people to do her standing for her, "dahling." Nikki said that it sounded like a new r'n'b song on the radio, and Candice's commitment and conviction made her want to have "a women's revival." Randy said that it was the best vocal of Round 1, and praised the simplicity with which she approached the beginning, and the intensity Candice unleashed at the end.
For Round 2, Angie performed "Love Came Down" by Kari Jobe, a fairly obscure song. She was back at the piano, which the judges have been telling her to do for weeks. And for once the judges were right, because this was Angie's best performance in months by a wide margin. She didn't seem to be overthinking, she seemed attached to the song (though obviously she would be, since it's a song with personal meaning to her). This is exactly how I want Angie to perform every week, because she really CAN be amazing, just like that. Randy and Keith gave her a standing O. The girls did not. Hm. Keith and Randy both said that Angie just seems more connected to a song when she's at the piano. Nikki gave her a very impassioned lecture, saying that that performance was exactly why they love her, and she doesn't know why Angie keeps running from what she's good at. Because when she's at the piano, she's doing something the other girls can't do. True.
Amber picked "Love on Top" by Beyonce, and it was a mess up until the first chorus. After that it got much better and I can totally see Amber recording this type of song in her post-show career. It was fun and bubbly and I immediately added it to my Spotify playlist. She had some pitch issues in there, and the beginning was rough, but overall it was fun. Mariah said it wasn't her favorite vocal from Amber, but Keith thought it was really cute, and Nikki said that Beyonce needs to watch out.
Lazaro went with "Angels" by Robbie Williams. I believe that Lazaro sang this song on the show before, but I could be wrong. It was dreadful. Dirge-like. The lyrics were completely unintelligible. He just waded through the verse before putting some gas into the chorus. And that was...fine. But it's amateur hour compared to every other contestants still in this competition. Keith said there were elements of the song that reminded them why they liked Lazaro, but he said that compared to the girls it's still clear who is an artist and who is on a talent show. Nikki again abstained - she has totally given up on Lazaro. Randy just said "it's a girl's race." Mariah said that Lazaro redeemed himself slightly from earlier. That is damning with faint praise.
Kree picked Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make it Through the Night." It's not a song I'm familiar with, a very pretty, slow country ballad. Kree's soulfulness was the star here, and it was a good showcase for her voice. She does have some off notes here and there, but the notes she really hits she hits beautifully. It was a bit sleepy for me, though. It was...pleasant. I want more than pleasant at this stage. The judges all loved it, and Keith predicted that Kree will someday sing at the Grand Ole Opry, saying that her voice is a real throwback to REAL country, and a reminder of why that music is so special.
Janelle went with Garth Brooks's "The Dance," which at age 11 introduced her to the concept of "layers." That's...sad to me. This was not great. The pitch went way off in spots, and the song just didn't fit her voice well. The whole thing felt forced to me. Sometimes we can love songs, but they aren't a good fit for our individual voices. That is true for basically every Adele song ever for anyone who is not Adele. There's no doubt that Janelle was feeling the song, but the vocal was not on point. Randy said it was not her best vocal, but he appreciated her commitment. Mariah had never heard the song before, but found Janelle's performance true. Keith wished that Janelle had performed the song with just a guitar and no backing band. Nikki oddly thought that Janelle stepped it up vocally here, but she also thought Janelle was still trailing the rest of the girls.
Candice picked "Love Song" by The Cure, which was such a cool song choice for her. She interpreted it as a languorous jazzy number backed only by a piano. It was FABULOUS and so goddamned sexy. Absolutely perfect performance, and combined with her first number, a total home run for Candice tonight. Absolutely killed both numbers. Standing ovation! Mariah came up on stage and threw SOMETHING at Candice - glitter, I think - and Candice could not retain her composure and burst into tears. I am falling in love with Candice! It is happening! I've liked all the girls up until this point, but Candice has captured my heart (and my votes). Randy called it one of the greatest performances in the 12-year history of the show.
Recap: Angie was meh on the first number and fantastic on the second; Amber was bright and bubbly on both; Lazaro turned in a disastrous first number and barely hit passable on the second; Kree was lovely on the first and soulful but sleepy on the second; Janelle sounded worse in the playback on both songs; Candice is a superstar already. Give her all of the prizes.
Prediction: It's obvious who SHOULD go home. Lazaro. But will he? I am dubious. His fans will absolutely rally for him after the drubbing he got after the first number. I'm betting Janelle and Amber in the B2, with Amber going home (Janelle will get a boost after her B2 appearance last week). Interesting to note that the judges HAVE to use the Save this week or next, as the number of episodes to get to the finale have a non-elimination episode built in.
With just five queens remaining it was time for the annual makeover challenge. This time the task was to turn gay veterans of the United States military into drag queens for a day. These vets ranged from fairly young to of-a-certain-age, from stick-figure twinks to bears. It may have been the most mixed bag of makeover candidates the show has ever seen. But all of the vets were game for the experience, and it did give the show an opportunity to discuss the realities of being gay in the military before, during, and after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Personally I like it when the show ventures into gay politics/history, because these are things that need to get passed on through the generations.
The episode began with a silly calisthenics mini-challenge that was good for only two reasons. First, we got to see the Pit Crew again after what seemed like weeks of absence. Second, we had a fairly cute personal trainer putting the queens through their steps. Spindly Alaska won and was given the opportunity to assign the vets to the competing queens. Ever the diplomat, Alaska merely paired up the military men with the queens who happened to be standing opposite them. If Alaska doesn’t win Miss Congeniality this season I’ll be floored. The only other two possibilities would be Jinkx or Alyssa (not because she’s nice, but because she’s a freaking hoot).
In addition to transforming these dudes into ladies, the queens also had to choreograph a color-guard routine for themselves and their partners. We saw only snippets of these. The show regularly throws a performance curveball like this into these kind of transformation challenges, but rarely shows us all of the finished products. It’s a little odd.
Here’s how everyone stacked up, best to worst:
Roxxxy Andrews nabbed her second win of the competition, and she really needed it. Roxxxy has been struggling for weeks now, and been all but begging for a look-based challenge. This fit that bill, but she had to transform her (very cute) bear companion Izzy into Isabella Andrews. Not easy, but the two of them totally pulled it out. They really did look like drag sisters, and Roxxxy’s make-up and padding jobs on Isabella were well done. They both seemed at ease with one another and had fun with the project.
Jinkx Monsoon had arguably the toughest transformation with her veteran, Dave, an older gentleman with significant physical limitations. Dave also seemed to have an air of drama about him, but it’s understandable -- the guy has apparently been through a LOT. The two of them seemed to mostly work well together (my friend said that she was glad the two of them were paired together, because she doubted any of the other queens would have been as understanding as Jinkx). Jinkx played very heavily toward camp here, doing a Liza/Judy thing for herself and her drag mother, Fortuna Monsoon. (Dave actually claimed to have possibly killed Judy Garland, which spawned the amazing Twitter hashtag, #IKilledJudyGarland.) The whole shtick worked. I also noticed that Jinkx’s make-up has improved significantly over the past few episodes. She is taking the criticisms to heart.
Alaska inadvertently screwed herself by picking the young, skinny pretty boy as her partner. The gent who became known as Nebraska had to make serious changes to his clunky high-heeled walk, and the two of them biffed the color-guard challenge. But the real issue here was that Nebraska ended up outshining Alaska. I think part of that is because Alaska’s aesthetic is always slightly off -- that is a deliberate styling choice on her part. But Nebraska simply looked flawless on the runway, a truly gorgeous queen, and as one of the guest judges put it, she was more intriguing than the actual contestant. (I did like the cat-burglar theme Alaska had going for the two of them.)
Detoxended up in the bottom for the second time, and if editing is to be believed, it’s because she spent so much time fawning over her vet. Detox’s veteran was indeed cute, and probably the most…naturally inclined to this challenge. (I am thoroughly unconvinced that he had never worn heels prior to filming this episode; dude was panthering the room in seconds flat.) Detox and Alaska probably had the most to work with, and so expectations were naturally higher for their transformations. I didn’t care for the looks worn by either Detox or Beth Adone (high marks for the name, though). Their ambitious flag routine was a disaster. And Detox looked miserable on the runway. That dour expression has become fairly standard for Detox, and honestly I just don’t think she’s enjoying this experience in any way. I’m also going to just say it: Detox hugely overestimates her lipsynching abilities. She seems to think the jaw waggle is the be-all and end-all. It was old the first time we saw it weeks ago, and it was beyond tired here. She busted out some dance moves that made her look the fool. But no way did she actually win that LSFYL.
Coco Montreseoutperformed her, but with her fourth appearance in the Bottom 2 (and third straight B3 appearance) there was basically no way she was sticking around. She performed well in that lipsynch -- and I can’t stand Coco, so please understand that it takes me a lot to stick up for her -- but she basically bombed that challenge, as she has many others over the course of the competition. Her partner, Steve (Horchata Montrese), seemed like he was trying, but there was nothing he could do to overcome the tacky styling and tragic make-up Coco put on him. Coco admitted in the work room that she doesn’t paint other people’s faces. Steve looked rough on that stage -- the eyes looked practically Picasso-esque. And Coco didn’t look much better. The hilarious thing is that Coco's been bitching for weeks that the challenges have favored the comedy queens; that she needed a look-based challenge to really shine. And still: pfffft. And then she had the audacity to get tight-lipped and pissy on stage, and throw an actual temper tantrum backstage for being criticized. Goodbye, Coco! I am absolutely thrilled that you are gone. You stand out as one of the most infuriating queens to ever appear on this show. Enjoy your delusions, dear.
That leaves us with one more elimination before the finale. Detox got a lot of character development this episode, with the discussion of her family and the awful-sounding car accident that she survived. It was a very humanizing episode for her -- which makes me think she’s out next week. It appears to be another look-based challenge, which favors Roxxxy and puts both Alaska and Jinkx at risk. Although it’s worth pointing out: neither Alaska nor Jinkx have yet lipsynched for their lives, which is rare at this stage in the competition.
Allons-y, Alonso! The City Entertainment Blog is going to take a crack at reviewing non-reality shows, starting with “Doctor Who.” Before we jump into this week’s new episode, a bit about your humble blogger. I’m a fairly recent “Who” convert, having devoured almost all of the reboot episodes in the past three months (I missed a Christmas special or two). I’m now going back and watching as much of the classic stuff as I can find. I love the show and its mythology, but admittedly I’m nowhere close to an expert.
However, I have my own “companions,” a viewing party that includes several die-hard fans of the Doctor. Between them they have a fairly encyclopediac knowledge of the series. I mean, Anna dressed up as a full-sized Dalek for Comic-Con. That’s dedication.
Anyway, on to “The Rings of Akhaten,” in which our dashing, bowtied hero tried to discover more about The Impossible Girl, his new companion, Clara Oswald. The beginning of the episode answered at least one mystery surrounding The Girl Twice Dead, as the Doctor went back in time to watch Clara’s parents meet thanks to the serendipitous arrival of a lone leaf. It’s the same leaf that became “page 1” of Clara’s travel book, which we saw last episode.
In the present, the Doctor took Clara for her first official spin in the TARDIS. She wanted to see something amazing. He gave it to her: the Rings of Akhaten, the celestial satellites spinning around a massive red star (presumably Akhaten, although I don’t know if that was ever explicitly stated). The Doctor explained that the two of them were there for a specific reason: the people of the seven planets that orbit the star believe that this is the birthplace of all life in the universe, and that every thousand years they gather for a ceremony honoring their god, which sleeps in a gleaming pyramid on one of the asteroids circling the star.
The two of them end up in a bazaar full of all manner of aliens -- I feel like we haven’t had a fun menagerie scene like that in a while -- and two intriguing narrative nuggets were casually dropped. First, the Doctor mentioned to Clara that he once brought his granddaughter to this place. Second, Clara again evaded discussing her past when the Doctor asked her for something of personal/emotional value, which is used as currency at the bazaar.
Looking back at the three iterations of Clara that we have met thus far (the one in the future from “Asylum of the Daleks,” the one from the past from “The Snowmen,” and this current present version), every one of them has shown an impulse to redirect the conversation as soon as the Doctor starts inquiring about her past. Typically this is done via Clara flirting and subsequently befuddling the Doctor. Given that we learned this episode that Clara’s mother died young, it may simply be a defense mechanism on her part. But I remain highly dubious of Clara’s alleged origins.
At the bazaar Clara ran into a little girl, Merry, Queen of Years, who was trying to hide. Merry explained that she had a big part to play in the upcoming ceremony, and was terrified that she would get it wrong. Clara assured her that she would do great. But when the ceremony started, with Merry singing to the pyramid that supposedly contained their sleeping god, called Grandfather, something went wrong -- Merry messed up. Suddenly Grandfather started to wake up and Merry was snatched in an energy field and dragged toward the pyramid. The Doctor and Clara grabbed a space motorcycle (lots of motorcycles in the second part of S7; my friends suspect Steven Moffat’s going through a mid-life crisis) and zipped to her rescue.
In the pyramid our heroes discovered a few things. 1) That Grandfather is essentially a parasite that feeds on other beings’ stories/life experiences; 2) That Merry was in fact always going to be sacrificed, whether she screwed up or not; 3) That Grandfather is not the mummy alien in the pyramid. That’s Grandfather’s “alarm clock.” Grandfather is in fact the star at the center of the rings, or possibly some sentient force that dwells within it.
That last part raised a few interesting questions with me. The Doctor said that the people that live on the seven planets in the rings of Akhaten believe the location to be the starting place for all life in the universe. Clara asked if that’s true, and the Doctor shrugged; what matters is that they believe it. But several things said throughout the episode suggest that there may be something to that belief. Merry made a few references to the fact that once the entity inside the star gets angry, it expands and consumes everything in its path. That sounds an awful lot like the Big Bang to me. And the Doctor specifically referenced the Big Bang when explaining that Merry (and everything else in existence) was created out of the stuff that launched out of that cosmic event at the dawn of time. Ultimately I don’t think it matters, but I did think it interesting that that idea was floated and then vaguely supported throughout the episode.
Ultimately the Doctor tried to stop Grandfather by force feeding him all of the stories and experiences he’s consumed over the thousand-plus years he’s lived as a Time Lord. But it wasn’t enough. Clara came in and offered up her leaf as an offering -- the leaf that brought her parents together, and which symbolizes not only the experiences her mother lived, but all of the possible experiences she COULD have had, had she not died. The leaf apparently did the trick, and Grandfather -- the entire star at the center of the rings of Akhaten -- folded in on itself and collapsed into nothing. The Doctor speculated that all of those possible realities represented in that leaf were simply too much for the parasite to digest.
A few thoughts on this. First and foremost, when the star collapsed in on itself my initial reaction was, “Um, what is going to happen to the various planets/asteroids orbiting that star?” Clearly there was a complicated gravity system at work there, and now the center of it is just…gone. Secondly, stars are kind of important for light and energy. There were seven planets with species living on them in that system. They are now living without any source of light. And possibly drifting out into space. The physics of that conclusion terrify me.
Beyond that, I’m not convinced that the Doctor’s explanation about what stopped Grandfather was what actually happened. Why that one leaf? Surely there had been other mementos offered by the crowd at various ceremonies that belonged to people who died unexpectedly. It just doesn’t make sense.
I am still totally unconvinced that the version of Clara currently traveling with the Doctor is who she says she is, and that her history is what is being presented to us. This is the third version of this exact same person that the Doctor has encountered in time. Who knows, there may be other versions of her out that he hasn’t yet encountered. She can’t be some normal girl. Something is going on there, and the Doctor knows it. It’s obvious that he likes Clara, is drawn to her. But he is also distrustful of her, as evidenced by him investigating her origins this episode. He is curious at best, suspicious at worst, and I think he has every reason to be.
So what is Clara? That is the big mystery surrounding this second half of the season. There are countless theories, of course. Our little band of viewers is collecting our observations. Disagree? Have something to add? Let us have it in the comments!
-The dates that are popping up around Clara line up way too closely to “Who” lore to be coincidental. According to Clara’s tombstone at the end of “The Snowmen” she was born on November 23. That’s the date the first episode of “Doctor Who” premiered in 1963. According to this episode, Clara’s mother died on March 5, 2005 -- the date that Rose Tyler left with the Ninth Doctor in Season 1 of the reboot. Character endings surrounding Clara are lining up very closely with beginnings for this show. It’s either a very subtle nod to fans or a deliberate trail of breadcrumbs.
-The TARDIS does not like Clara; it would not open its doors for her this episode. (I also notice that the Doctor keeps leaving the doors to it open since Clara has shown up, and it drives me NUTS.) For whatever reason it is reacting more negatively to her than it has with any other companion I’ve ever seen.
-Clara has repeatedly shown, in all of her incarnations, several defining characteristics. 1. She is drawn to the Doctor and actively follows him (or, in the case of Oswin, guides him). 2. She has mother/child issues. 3. She has a strong desire to travel and see the world. 4. She is a very quick learner.
-This is the first episode in recent memory that the Doctor has brought up Susan, the granddaughter the First Doctor traveled with during the first season of the show. The Doctor left Susan in the future to get married, and said he would come back for her. So far as we know, that has never happened. And Susan has been barely referenced since she departed in the original Season 2, in 1964. There was absolutely no reason for the Doctor to mention Susan here, because as far as I know, the adventure with Susan on Akhaten was never shown or mentioned previously. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) This is a classic case of a gun showing up in the first act. Expect it to go off in the third.
-The rumor is that everything in the second half of this season leads up to the 50th anniversary special on November 23 of this year. Given that there are only six episodes left before that, it’s highly unlikely that the Clara mystery won’t somehow tie into that. My guess is that Clara either is Susan regenerated, or possibly her offspring.
- If nothing else, I bet she’s related to the Time Lords. Notice that the Doctor is wearing his fob watch again (it was dangling from his vest this episode). The last time I remember prominently seeing that watch was when the Master came back during the Tenth Doctor’s run. Those watches carry the personality/memories of a Time Lord for safekeeping. We don’t know that Susan was biologically a Time Lord, or adopted, or mixed species, or what. But the fact that the pocket watch just pops back up just as this new character joins the Doctor… Again, too many “coincidences.”
-There are some interesting things happening with numbers. The number 11 keeps appearing. We learned this episode that Clara’s mother was born on September 11. Last episode Clara told the child she was nannying that Chapter 11 in Amy Pond’s book would make her cry. And, of course, she’s running around with Eleventh Doctor. There are other interesting number things going on. Ages 16 and 23 were missing from Clara’s book, as shown in the last episode. That’s a difference of seven. Sevens have been popping up (such as the seven planets in orbit around the sun in this episode, or the number first shown on the cubes during the Slow Invasion in “The Power of Three”). This may be a lot of hooey, and certainly the least concrete of our observations. But it sure is fun to think about.
Next: Submarines! DavosSeaworth! Underwater intrigue!