May 21, 2016

The X-Files 3.3, D.P.O.: Lightning Crashes

Posted in TV tagged at 1:21 pm by Jenn

"Hey, man, one day I'm going to be in one of the highest-grossing movies of all time." "Cool. I'm gonna play a talking panda"

“Hey, man, one day I’m going to be in one of the highest-grossing movies of all time.” “Cool. I’m gonna play a talking panda”

Summary: A teenage pizza-delivery boy is playing a video game at an arcade. Another teenager, Darin, meekly tries to get him to leave, since he was playing the game first. Darin’s friend Zero backs him up. The pizza boy doesn’t care what they say and threatens to beat up Darin. The power goes out, then comes on enough for a jukebox to turn itself on. The pizza boy decides to leave, and Darin watches through the door as he struggles to start his car. His delivery sign catches on fire and the boy is electrocuted. Darin goes back to his game.

Mulder and Scully travel to Connerville, Oklahoma, to investigate the boy’s death. His heart looks like it was cooked, and he appears to have been electrocuted, though there’s no point of contact. He’s the fifth of a series of kids seemingly killed by lightning, a completely unreasonable statistic. Sheriff John Teller announces that there have only been four deaths. He thinks that since lightning is so hard to understand, it could easily be responsible for so many deaths. He knows – he’s friends with scientists! Also, there’s a lightning observatory nearby, so it could be drawn to the area.

Teller clearly has no patience for Scully, even though she insists that the kids’ autopsies don’t add up. She admits that lightning is the most probable cause of their deaths, since there’s no other explanation. Teller orders her to stick to that story if she ever speaks to the kids’ families. After Teller leaves, Mulder says he thinks something else is going on (of course). Scully hopes he’s not thinking about government conspiracies, since he has those on the mind after “Paper Clip.” Mulder notes that all the victims are around the same age, which is significant.

Mulder and Scully go to the arcade to see where the pizza boy, Jack, died. The car’s electrical system was all shorted out. Mulder thinks he was trying to get away in a hurry. All the stores nearby would have been closed by the time Jack was there, except the arcade, so the agents go inside and chat with Zero, who works there. He claims not to be familiar with Jack. Mulder sees that the high scores on the game Jack was playing all belong to someone with the initials D.P.O. Scully reports that one of the other victims had those initials – Darin Peter Oswald. He’s the only victim who survived, and his scores indicate he was at the arcade the previous night.

Darin’s currently at the garage where he works, trying to strike up a conversation with Sharon, his boss’ wife. Apparently they had a conversation the day before that’s making her uncomfortable now. Her husband, Frank, arrives and tells Darin that the FBI is coming to see him. When the agents question Darin, he claims he was too into his game to notice anything going on outside. Mulder asks if Darin considers himself lucky. Darin says no, despite the fact that he survived getting struck by lightning. Scully sees that Mulder’s pocket is smoking. He pulls out his phone, which has heated up so much it’s smoldering.

At home, Darin’s mother tells him not to change the TV channels, even though she’s the one with the remote. Zero comes by and tells Darin that he talked to the FBI. Darin thinks Zero sent them in his direction. The two of them go out to a pasture, where a tipsy Darin says he’s in the mood for barbecue. “Not the cows again,” Zero pleads. Darin yells for something to come out of the sky and get him. Lightning strikes him, but he’s fine. The same can’t be said for three of the cows, which Teller finds dead the next day. He doesn’t think there’s anything strange to look into there.

Teller shows Mulder and Scully a fulgarite, a glassy substance formed by a lightning strike. Scully thinks Teller’s right about the cows being killed by lightning, but Mulder thinks it’s odd that the fulgarite has a footprint in it. Scully gets an imprint and can tell the tread comes from an 8.5-sized men’s military boot. She also finds something in the print that looks like antifreeze. Mulder’s mind immediately goes to Darin.

Darin’s hanging out at a billboard on a county road where the traffic lights are malfunctioning. Zero joins him and suggests that they go someplace like Las Vegas, where Darin can “do some serious damage.” Darin doesn’t want to go anywhere without Sharon. He wants to let her know how he feels about her. Zero reminds him that she’s married, so Darin suggests that he fry Frank. Zero’s only vote against that is that the FBI are around, not that it would, you know, be murder. He points out that Darin can’t compete with someone who has his own business. But Darin’s determined to show how special he is. First, though, he’ll cause some more car accidents.

Mulder and Scully check out Darin’s bedroom, where Scully confirms that his shoe size is 8.5. Mulder goes for the porn, though this at least leads him to a picture of Sharon. The agents check out a yearbook and see that she’s a reading teacher, Mrs. Kiveat, at Darin’s school. Mulder remembers that Darin works at Kiveat Auto Body. Frank is called to the scene of one of Darin’s accidents, but before he can start clearing the road, he suffers a heart attack. Darin approaches from the side of the road as paramedics scramble to find a working defibrillator. Darin puts his hands on his boss and shocks his heart back into rhythm.

At the hospital, Mulder tries to ask Sharon about Darin, but she’s focused on her husband. Scully shows Mulder a copy of Frank’s EKG, where they can see that his heart was shocked, even though the paramedics didn’t have a charged defibrillator. A paramedic has reported that he saw Darin touching Frank’s chest. The agents look at Darin’s chart and see that he had an electrolyte imbalance the night he was struck by lightning. Mulder wonders if that allows him to manipulate electricity. Scully thinks Mulder means that Darin’s a lightning rod. Mulder corrects her: “He is lightning.”

The agents go back to Darin’s house, finding him tipsy again. He claims he doesn’t know how any of the victims died, and anyway, he’s a hero, since he saved Frank’s life. Scully disagrees, and Darin wonders if Zero told her something else. He sticks to his story that he saved Frank with CPR. Mulder thinks he set the whole thing up and they should run tests on Darin. Scully reminds Mulder that they can only keep Darin in custody for 72 hours. Mulder thinks they should go back to Sharon, who could help them press criminal charges.

Sharon tells the agents that she knows about Darin’s crush on her. She helped him get the job with her husband, partly because she felt sorry for him. She started getting hang-up phone calls and knew they had to be from Darin. After Jack died, Darin told her he had powers of some kind. Sharon thought he was just joking around, but now she’s worried. Scully promises her safety if she’ll testify. But Darin has been released from the sheriff’s office, since Teller doesn’t think he could have anything to do with deaths by lightning strikes. The agents realize that Darin will go straight to Sharon, so they head to the hospital to protect her.

Zero’s back at the arcade, where the power goes out at the jukebox comes on again. He yells to an unseen Darin that he didn’t say anything to the FBI. As storm clouds gather, Zero goes outside, reminding Darin that they’re friends. He’s struck by lightning in the parking lot. At the hospital, the agents find the Kiveats unharmed and ask Sharon to come with them for protection. She refuses to leave her husband, though. The lights go out and the agents run to an elevator that’s approaching their floor. Inside, they find a dead Zero.

Mulder heads off to look for Darin, but Scully’s the one who finds him when he comes looking for Sharon. Darin asks Sharon to come away with him, threatening to hurt Scully if she tries to interfere. Sharon defuses the situation by agreeing to go with Darin. As they leave the hospital, Darin tells Sharon (hey, that rhymes!) that she was the only person who’s ever been nice to him. He offers her any car she wants for their getaway, starting one up with his electrical powers. Teller arrives, distracting Darin long enough to allow Sharon to run away.

Darin runs as well, but Mulder manages to grab Sharon and help her hide. Darin cries, saying he would have given Sharon anything she wanted. Teller catches up to him, asking for some answers. As Darin grows furious, affecting the weather, Mulder warns Teller to get away. He doesn’t listen, and he’s felled by a tree branch struck by lightning. Lightning strikes Darin as well, putting him on the ground. He ends up in a psychiatric hospital. Teller’s death is ruled accidental, and Darin’s test results don’t show anything abnormal. Apparently no one thinks it’s abnormal that he can change TV channels with his mind, but okay.

Thoughts: There are three notable guest stars in this episode:

  • Darin is played by Giovanni Ribisi.
  • Zero is played by Jack Black.
  • Teller is played by Ernie Lively, father of Robyn Lively, who appears in the sixth-season episode “Field Trip,” and Blake Lively, whose husband Ryan Reynolds appears in “Syzygy” later in season 3.

Why weren’t Mulder and Scully called to Connerville until after the sixth victim was struck? Five lightning strikes were reasonable, but the sixth made the situation weird?

I can’t believe Mulder didn’t make a comment about the zapped cows like, “I ordered my burger medium rare, not well done.”

May 17, 2016

SVT #54, The Big Party Weekend: May Day

Posted in books tagged , , , at 5:42 pm by Jenn

That's now how you use a broom, Steven

That’s now how you use a broom, Steven

Summary: Ned and Alice let their kids know in the last book that they’re soon going to be taking a vacation (just the two of them). The kids think that, at 12 and 14, they’re old enough to stay by themselves for a few days. Jessica decides to take advantage of the opportunity to throw a party. Elizabeth is worried about having people over without their parents’ permission, but she promises to keep quiet. Steven also wants to throw a party, so Jess suggests that they organize it together. Having high-schoolers there will make her even cooler anyway.

The kids don’t have any money for party supplies, but they quickly find a way to remedy that. Ned and Alice ask them to clean out the garage, so Steven and Jess ask if they can have a garage sale. They’ll donate half the proceeds to charity and keep the other half to pay for stuff for the party. Steven and the twins are really excited about the prospect of pulling off their plan, and of being allowed to stay home alone for a few days. Of course, Ned and Alice have to ruin everything.

After days of not telling their children who will be watching them – or even whether someone will be there at all – the Wakefields reveal that a woman named May will be looking after them. The kids protest, but for once Ned and Alice have resigned themselves to be good parents and not leave their preteens and high school freshman alone for an extended period of time while they’re out of the country.

Ordinarily you would think this means the kids can’t throw their party, but Jessica Wakefield has never been accused of being ordinary. She’s determined to throw the party, babysitter or no babysitter. The twins don’t mention the babysitter to their friends, thinking it makes them seem immature. I just hope their friends haven’t told their parents that the Wakefields are leaving the country and letting their kids stay by themselves.

May arrives for babysitting duties, and things are immediately off to a horrible start. She’s basically a drill sergeant, with a long list of rules and no patience for the Wakefield kids. There will be no cookies, no backtalk, and no complaining. Instead, there will be proper manners and lots of vegetables. The kids quickly throw their manners out the window (which is the same thing Steven does with his vegetable-filled dinner) and don’t both hiding their disdain for May the dictator.

Jessica gets some revenge by putting purple dye in May’s shampoo and hiding her clothes. May yells at her and her siblings that their parents have raised them horribly, and since they’ve obviously never been disciplined, May will just have to whip them into shape. The kids just pull more pranks, waking May with an alarm at 3:45 and putting tabasco and a bunch of spices in her coffee. They hope she’ll get fed up enough to ditch them, but instead she bans them from talking on the phone. It’s Jessica’s worst nightmare!

The kids have their garage sale, and Elizabeth meets Amy’s new boyfriend, an eighth-grader named Rob. Amy is obviously thrilled to be dating an older guy, especially since her longtime crush, Ken, doesn’t seem to want to take their relationship beyond friendship. Too bad Rob is a total jerk, and Amy’s the only person (possibly in the whole world) who can tolerate him. Knowing what we know about future Amy, I’m not really surprised she’s okay with dating a jerk, as long as he pays attention to her.

The garage sale is kind of a bust, at least until a man asks to buy a carved wooden rose for $50. When Jessica hesitates, shocked by the amount of money, he ups his offer to $75. Of course, Jess makes the sale, daydreaming about all the junk food the kids will be able to buy for the party. She also comes up with the idea to get May to drive somewhere the night of the party so she’s not around.

But when Liz learns that Jess sold the rose, she’s upset – that rose belonged to Alice Larson and shouldn’t have been at the garage sale. Liz knows that their mother will be devastated to lose something with such sentimental value. The twins are unable to chase down the buyer, and Jessica doesn’t really care that much anyway. Why worry about her mother’s feelings when she has a party to plan? Once again, Elizabeth is left to clean up Jessica’s mess, so she goes to antique shops all over town, hoping someone sold the rose. Apparently there are a lot of antique shops in and around Sweet Valley. But Liz has no luck.

The night of the party, Steven blows up at May in a very angsty-teenager way, then storms out of the house with some of his things. The twins tell May that Steven has run away before – all the way to L.A. – but he’ll be back. May is genuinely worried that one of her charges has split. Steven calls, pretending he ran off to a town a couple of hours away, and asks May to come pick him up. May is nicer than I would be and agrees, instead of telling him to panhandle for bus fare and find his own way home.

As soon as May is gone, Steven comes home with groceries, and the kids get ready for their party. Things get off to a good start, except for the fact that Rob is there and everyone hates him. Amy admits to Elizabeth that she doesn’t actually like him. She was worried that Liz would start spending a lot of time with Todd and forget about her best friend, so she figured she should get her own boyfriend. Elizabeth promises Amy that she’ll always make time for her. So now Amy can feel free to ditch her hateful BF.

Because this is a book aimed at kids, the party can’t just go off without any problems. People show up uninvited, turn up the music, and make a huge mess. If this were an SVH book, someone would bring a keg. Instead, there’s a food fight, which is ridiculous. People start leaving (probably because the middle-schoolers have early curfews), but the kids can’t get the troublemakers to go.

Ken busts Rob trying to steal some of Jessica’s CDs, so Rob announces he’s leaving. Amy finally gets a backbone and refuses to go with him. Enjoy the backbone now, because it won’t last. She asks Ken to walk her home, and honestly, he doesn’t seem that excited, but whatever. All of the Wakefields’ friends leave, which is kind of crappy of them; it would be nice if they’d offered to help clean up. Now everyone left at the party is a troublemaker, and the Wakefields don’t know any of them.

After the kids make a few efforts to get everyone to leave, May returns home. She storms upstairs and starts packing her things. The twins and Steven are suddenly very remorseful, apologizing for sending her away. She kicks out the partygoers, though I’m surprised they didn’t leave as soon as an adult showed up. Then she apologizes for being so hard on the Wakefield kids – she’s not used to looking after teenagers, and she wanted to get them in line before they could cause trouble. The kids nicely clean up the whole house by themselves.

In the morning, May reveals that she’s managed to find the wooden rose. Apparently she saw Elizabeth searching antique stores and secretly decided to help her out. She had to buy it back, which sucks, and I hope Jessica reimbursed her (since Jess was the one who sold the rose in the first place and just got her butt saved). When Ned and Alice come home, May pretends that everything went great and no one threw any parties. The kids name her their honorary grandmother. If I were May, I’d get the heck out of there and never look back.

Thoughts: “We haven’t had a baby-sitter for at least five years.” You haven’t had a sitter since you were seven? Really, Jessica? Really?

“Honestly, I don’t know why you have to look so much alike.” Well, it’s not like they planned it. Blame nature.

Who has a yard sale during the week?

Steven: “Do you think it’ll work?” Jessica: “It worked on Days of Turmoil.” From now on, I’m testing ideas based on how successful they were on soap operas. First up: using the dagger used to kill my wife’s mother to stab a guy who could testify against me. (Enjoy Hell, Carlos Rivera.)

Todd thinks the rose could turn up at another garage sale. Why would someone buy it just to sell it at another yard sale? He’s certainly not going to be able to resell it for a profit there. Shh, Todd.

May 14, 2016

The X-Files 3.2, Paper Clip: Let’s Make a Deal

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , , , , at 1:36 pm by Jenn

"That's not the Uber I ordered..."

“That’s not the Uber I ordered…”

Summary: Hosteen is voicing over again, this time about animals being symbolic to the Navajo. Mulder’s recovery reminded them of the Gila monster, which healed a man by putting his parts back together. Lightning and thunder brought him back to life. After Mulder was better, the Navajo learned from other tribes that something big had happened. He tells the story of White Buffalo Woman, who taught Native Americans how to live virtuously and pray. Then she turned into a white buffalo and returned to the heavens. The day Mulder was healed, a white buffalo was born, an omen that big changes are coming.

Back in Mulder’s apartment, Scully and Skinner are still facing off. He insists that he’s trying to help her, but he’s not about to put down his weapon. Fortunately, Mulder arrives to serve as Scully’s backup. Skinner finally gives up his gun, and Scully explains that she was warned that someone she trusted would try to kill her. Skinner shows them the recording, which Mulder says CSM killed Bill over. Mulder says, “I was a dead man. Now I’m back,” which would be a great tagline for a probably bad movie.

Mulder explains what’s on the cassette, then tries to make Skinner give it to Scully. Skinner points out that it’s the only leverage they have against the conspirators, so they need to protect it. Mulder backs down and takes Scully away to search out more truths. She tells him that she assured Teena that he would be okay, even though she had no proof she was right. She just knew. Meanwhile, Maggie arrives at the hospital where she thinks Scully has been brought in. She’s shocked to hear that Melissa’s the daughter who was shot. She’s in an induced coma, and the doctors can’t do anything more for her except monitor her.

Scully and Mulder take the picture of Bill and the conspirators to the Lone Gunmen. Byers brings up Operation Paper Clip, a World War II agreement with Nazi war criminals that gave America access to their scientific knowledge. Langly IDs a man in the picture as one of those war criminals, Victor Klemper. He experimented on Jewish people, and some of his tests led to space travel. Byers notes that the picture was taken in 1973, but Operation Paper Clip was supposed to have ended in the 1950s, which means there’s yet another secret the American government has been keeping. Langly reports that Klemper is alive and still living in the U.S.

Frohike arrives, happy to see Mulder alive. He gives Scully the news that Melissa’s in the hospital, and she immediately realizes that her sister’s shooting was meant for her. Mulder talks her into staying away from the hospital. CSM and his Syndicate have realized their mistake (well, Krycek’s mistake), and WMM wants to know who will fix it. He warns that Scully believes that Mulder is still alive. CSM is sure he’s not, and still has his buddies snowed that he has the cassette. They question that, asking to see the tape. CSM claims it’s someplace safe, but he’ll bring it to them tomorrow.

Mulder and Scully find Klemper in a greenhouse, and after some blathering about history, he’s all, “We did good work! So what if innocent people died?” Mulder thinks Klemper knows why Bill was killed. Klemper replies that it was probably in their best interest. Mulder shows him the picture, but Klemper hesitates to reveal any more truths. The only help he’ll give is asking if Scully knows the formula for Napier’s Constant, then revealing that the photo was taken outside the Strughold Mining Company in West Virginia. They’re on their own for the rest.

As soon as the agents leave, Klemper calls WMM to tell him that Mulder visited, but Klemper didn’t tell him anything. Now the Syndicate knows that Mulder is alive. Maggie spots a man in a suit outside Melissa’s hospital room, then gets a visit from Hosteen. Scully sent him to comfort Maggie in her place. Maggie allows him to pray for her daughter, who she thinks is getting better. Mulder and Scully head to the now-abandoned Strughold facility, which holds a bunch of doors that can only be opened by keypad codes. Napier’s Constant, 27828, opens one of the doors. Before Mulder goes through it, Scully wants him to think about the possibility that they might discover something bad about Bill.

Skinner summons CSM to the FBI building to report that he may have found the tape. However, it could have fallen into other hands. CSM isn’t interested in making a deal. He gets more and more frustrated as Skinner stays calm, saying they’ll talk again. Skinner, basically: “I know you do bad things.” CSM, basically: “Then maybe I’ll do bad things to you.” Mulder and Scully go underground, finding a tunnel full of file cabinets. The files all seem to be medical, and are helpfully stored in alphabetical order. In each one, Scully finds a birth certificate, smallpox vaccination certificate, and old tissue collection cassette.

Mulder asks what year Scully was born, then looks up her file. The tissue sample is recent, judging from the plastic container used. Mulder then looks for Samantha’s file, discovering that the label with her name has been placed over a label with his name – the file was originally his. The lights suddenly go out, and Mulder runs out of the tunnel to the front of the building. The windows are full of lights. In the tunnel, Scully sees something alien-like skittering around. As she runs away from it, Mulder runs out the back of the building in time to see a large spacecraft flying over it. Scully sees another alien in the tunnel, standing in front of more light.

Cars approach the building, so Mulder goes back in to retrieve Scully. He dodges bullets on his way back to the tunnel and reunites with his partner. She’s found a way out, and they’re able to escape the building undetected. In the morning, Skinner meets them at a diner in Craiger, Maryland, and tells them he has a plan to protect them: He’ll turn over the tape and get them reinstated at the FBI. Mulder refuses to give up the cassette even if it means saving his own life. He thinks the tape holds an explanation for the records they found.

Skinner wonders what Mulder’s hoping to find. Mulder replies that he wants to know why Bill was killed, what happened to Samantha, and why Scully was targeted. Scully, however, is on Skinner’s side – she would rather be safe and see Melissa than get answers that only Mulder wants. Since Skinner hasn’t been able to copy the tape, they’ll have to hand over the only version they have. Skinner promises to turn state’s evidence if his deal isn’t honored. Mulder lets Scully have the final vote in the matter. She tells Skinner to make the deal but not hand over the tape until Mulder okays it.

The agents leave the diner together as Hosteen voices over that he prayed for Melissa for two days. She improved, but Hosteen learned that the white buffalo calf stopped nursing. Then the mother buffalo died. Hosteen knows that sometimes, one creature must be sacrificed so another can live. Skinner arrives at the hospital with a message from Scully so her mother knows she’s all right. The man in the suit is still outside Melissa’s room, and Skinner decides to find out why. He chases him to a stairwell, where he and the man engage in some hand-to-hand combat. Krycek joins in, beats on Skinner a little, and steals the cassette.

Krycek and his criminal buddies then stop at a convenience store in D.C. to get some drinks. Krycek’s left alone in the car, growing suspicious when the other guys stop to look at him from the store’s doorway. He notices that the dashboard clock is flashing 12:00. Unlike on a VCR, where this meant that you didn’t know how to set the clock, Krycek realizes that this means his life is in danger. He takes off running as the car explodes. His buddies should be a lot more worried about how they’re going to explain this to CSM.

Mulder and Scully return to Klemper’s greenhouse, but instead encounter WMM. Klemper’s dead, and Mulder knows it wasn’t due to a bad heart. He recognizes WMM from the photo. WMM tells them about the spacecraft found in New Mexico in 1947 and the body retrieved from it. Mulder puts together his talk of Joseph Mengele with his mention that Klemper made flower hybrids to figure out that Klemper was trying to create a human-alien hybrid. The bodies in the boxcar in the desert were his failed human test subjects.

Scully denies that the technology was available; DNA wasn’t even identified until 1944. WMM says that Bill was in charge of collecting genetic data on Americans in case they needed to be identified in the event of nuclear holocaust. Mulder realizes that, due to the DNA samples collected from people who received smallpox vaccinations, Klemper had access to every person’s record from 1950 forward. Scully thinks WMM is just making stuff up, but WMM says he has no reason to lie. Scully, basically: “Whatever, Nazi.” Mulder notes that Scully’s file was in the mine – the records are of abductees.

Mulder asks WMM why Samantha was taken. WMM explains that Bill threatened to expose the project, so Samantha was taken as insurance. Mulder wants to know why he wasn’t taken. WMM can’t say, but he warns that Mulder’s still in danger for threatening to expose the project: “You have become your father.” Mulder wonders why WMM has told him all this. WMM replies that Mulder wanted to know it, didn’t he? He says there’s still more – more than Mulder will ever know.

Krycek calls CSM to report that he’s alive and has the cassette, but CSM will never find him. CSM reports to the Syndicate that Krycek is dead and the cassette was destroyed in the car explosion. He’s still going to meet with the FBI, even though there’s no deal to make. Mulder goes back to his mother’s house to find out if Bill ever asked her if she had a favorite child. Teena says she couldn’t choose – it was Bill’s choice. She always hated him for it, and still does, even after his death.

CSM meets Skinner in his office, hiding his amusement when Skinner bluffs that he has the cassette. Skinner promises to hand it over after Mulder and Scully are reinstated. CSM knows Skinner can’t make the deal, so he suggests a few ways Skinner’s life might end. Skinner calls in Hosteen and announces that there’s a new deal: If anything happens to Mulder or Scully, Hosteen will reveal everything on the tape, which he’s memorized. (He’s also, in the Navajo storytelling tradition, told it to 20 more Navajo.) “Welcome to the wonderful world of high technology,” Skinner gloats.

But we don’t get a happy ending: Scully finally made it to Melissa, but the damage from her shooting was too extensive and Melissa didn’t survive surgery. Scully laments that her sister died for her. She now agrees with Mulder that there’s no justice, though Mulder thinks they’re dealing with something bigger: fate. They’ve both been reinstated at the FBI, and though they’ve both suffered recent losses, they want to go back to work. Mulder thinks they can still find truth through the X-Files. Scully tells him she’s heard the truth – now she wants answers.

Thoughts: I guess I should call CSM and his buddies the Consortium, but apparently the Syndicate is used a lot. Also, it’s just easier to type.

I tried to look up Napier’s Constant, but I found a bunch of math and it made my head hurt and I had to take a nap.

For the record, Samantha’s tissue cassette is plastic, which means the sample was taken more recently. Make if that what you will.

May 10, 2016

SVU #56, Dropping Out: Todd Is Sooooooo Grown Up Now

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:28 pm by Jenn

Why is there hay? There's no hay in this book!

Why is there hay? There’s no hay in this book!

Summary: Todd is living the glamorous life in Sweet Valley, doing such grown-up things as working part-time at a bar and paying rent. He thinks that since he’s an adult, he should stop taking his parents’ money and pay his own way. I guarantee he’ll regret that when he’s 25 and living on ramen. Note to Todd: You’re 19. It’s okay to let your parents pay for stuff while you get your degree. It’s even recommended. But no, Todd wants to be a big boy and navigate his own way in the world. Too bad he sucks at it and can barely make it to class on time. Even when he does make it to class, his grades aren’t very good. And on top of that, his car needs repairs.

After making a date with a classmate named Jodi, Todd gets a ride home from Elizabeth. He confides that he’s thinking of taking the rest of the semester off, and possibly the next one, so he can just work at the bar and enjoy being a grown-up. Elizabeth tells him he’s crazy. They get into a fight and he ends up walking home because he doesn’t want to have to listen to her anymore. I feel you, Todd.

Things start looking up for our boy when his boss offers him a promotion – he’ll become an assistant manager and make $10.50 an hour. Todd’s eyes are briefly replaced with dollar signs. He thinks $10.50 an hour is a huge amount. Doesn’t he drive a BMW? $10.50 should be nothing to him. Todd wants the promotion, but the drawback is that it’s a full-time position. He’ll have to bite the bullet and drop out for the semester. After some consideration, mostly about all the stuff he’ll be able to buy with his new riches, Todd accepts the job. He immediately realizes that a couple of his co-workers aren’t happy for him, but he doesn’t know why.

Todd drops his classes but doesn’t bother telling his parents (which is ridiculous, because THEY PAID HIS TUITION). When they find out, they’re furious. His father orders him to reenroll at SVU, and when Todd doesn’t, they close his bank account and take back his car. So Todd is finally doing what he’s been wanting – paying his own way. It’s just bad timing, since Todd will have to take the bus to meet Jodi for their date. But hey, he’s a rich man now, so he might as well wine and dine her.

After dinner, Todd takes Jodi by his bar to show her where he works. She hates it. She also hates that he’s no longer taking classes and is just a bartender. When she agreed to a date, she thought she was dating a student. Todd’s bummed, but when he runs into Sam later, and Sam talks up how awesome it is being single, Todd decides he’s better off.

Soon, Todd discovers that his new work responsibilities come with a lot of…well, responsibilities. He doesn’t get to just do the fun stuff anymore. He has to be in charge and make sure things are running smoothly. This is especially difficult when some of his co-workers are still cold to him. He finally learns that it’s because bartender named Cathy was hoping to be made assistant manager. She thinks she can handle the new tasks, and she would have liked the raise in pay. I was waiting for her to mention that Todd doesn’t need a higher-paying job since he has rich parents.

Todd suggests that he and Cathy split the job and work different shifts as assistant manager. They’ll work together one night a week to make sure they’re on the same page. It’s a good idea on paper, but in practice, it doesn’t go well. Cathy ends up ditching the promotion and going back to being just a bartender. And though Todd is getting a whole $10.50 an hour now, he realizes that it’s expensive to be a grown-up, especially without his nest egg to fall back on. He manages to get a little money selling back his textbooks, but it’s going to be a struggle.

He runs into Lila and Alex, who think he’s cool for dropping out, but clearly they don’t get what it’s like to have to work for a living and support yourself and do mature things like pay for utilities and car repairs. They just think he’s cool because he doesn’t have to worry about midterms. Fortunately, Todd’s attitude has started to change, as he realizes he should worry about getting a new car instead of the motorcycle he’s been wanting. Unfortunately, he’s still a friendless college dropout working in a bar, making his parents mad.

In SVU plots involving people who actually still attend SVU, Elizabeth is trying to deal with her break-up. She runs into Finn, who’s a jerk to her, and ends up fleeing a coffee shop in tears. Sam sees her and lays into Finn. He buys Liz a journal and a Bugs Bunny pencil to cheer her up, and she realizes he’s not the total clod she thought he was. When Finn accuses Liz of sending Sam after him, she stands up to him, pretty much calling him a slut and saying he sleeps around because he feels inadequate. Go, Liz!

To thank him for his presents, Elizabeth gets Sam a baseball cap (apparently he collects them). At home, they’re awkward around each other, and she misses an opportunity to give him the hat. When she goes to his room later, she hears him talking to a girl and chickens out. Sam has been wrestling with his feelings for Liz, but he doesn’t want to date her because he knows he’ll end up letting her down.

Elizabeth tries to stalk Sam in his room, I guess to see if he has another girl over again. At the end of another awkward chat, she goes to kiss him on the cheek but accidentally kisses his lips instead. Suddenly Liz is in love with Sam and can’t stop thinking about him. She leaves his present in his room, but never hears back from him about it. That’s because Sam starts avoiding the duplex, thinking he won’t be able to control himself around Liz. Buddy, I don’t think she wants you to control yourself. They spend the rest of the book apart.

After all of her late-night partying, Nina’s realized that her grades are suffering. But she can’t resist spending time with her new guy Xavier. She wants to know if they’re a couple, but he tells her he doesn’t like labels. Pssst, Nina: That means he’s just fooling around with you until he finds someone hotter. Get out now. She tries to have an actual conversation with him, but he clearly isn’t interested. He just wants to make out and flirt.

Nina isn’t the only one Xavier’s making out with, and when she goes to visit him one day, she finds him with another girl. Later, he goes to see her and tries to get her to come out with him. Nina just closes the door in his face. Unfortunately, her backbone is only there temporarily, as she decides to go see him again and give him the chance to explain himself and apologize. Instead, she finds him with yet another girl.

Nina finally realizes that Xavier is the wrong guy for her. She’s much more suited to a guy named Josh, who she meets in the library. She decides it’s time to stop partying so much, get her grades back up, and go back to her old self. Nina and Josh go on a date and start getting closer, though she’s worried that he’ll turn out to be just like Xavier. I’d say she has a good chance of ending up happy, though, since Josh seems to be genuinely interested in her, and not just in making out.

There’s a teeny side plot with Jessica and Neil that doesn’t really go anywhere, and mostly happens off-screen, so to speak. They both met a guy named Jason, and Neil asked him to study together. He thinks it’s a date, but Jessica thinks Jason is straight and actually wants to study. In fact, she thinks Jason doesn’t know Neil is gay, and was really flirting with her. Neil points out that a) everyone at SVU knows he’s gay, thanks to his ultimately unsuccessful run for president, and b) Jason got Neil’s phone number, not Jessica’s, so he must not like her.

Neil hits it off with Jason, though he’s still not sure if Jason wants to be more than friends. Jessica tries to settle things by asking Jason out, wanting to prove he’s straight. Neil gets angry, since, straight or not, Jessica shouldn’t be moving in on a guy her best friend likes. Fair enough. Elizabeth suggests that the two of them actually ask Jason his preferences, but they don’t want to listen to her logic. Neil’s upset that Jessica has betrayed him. I’m upset that this plot is almost exactly like an episode of Will and Grace.

Thoughts: Elizabeth says “dammit.” I AM SCANDALIZED.

Xavier: “We’re communicating on a metaphysical plane where no words are truly needed.” Translating: “We’re just going to band until I get tired of you.” Seriously, Nina, get out of there now.

“If it were physically possible for a person’s head to burst free from his neck, Sam would have been decapitated by a wave of disgust.” Beautiful.

Neil, re: Jessica: “How, in the name of all that is good and holy, have you lived with that girl for nineteen years?” Elizabeth: “I have an incredibly high tolerance for shrieks and pouting.” Hee.

May 7, 2016

The X-Files 3.1, The Blessing Way: In Space, No One Can Hear You Blather

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:20 pm by Jenn

I've seen pretentious college plays just like this

I’ve seen pretentious college plays just like this

Summary: As the fire burns in the boxcar in the New Mexico desert, Hosteen voices over that there’s an old Navajo saying about how something only lives as long as the last person who remembers it. That means trusting memory over history. “History serves only those who seek to control it,” and we should beware people who want to put out the flame of memory: “Their false memory is written in the blood of those who may remember, and of those who seek the truth.”

CSM sends his minions into the Hosteens’ house to hold them at gunpoint while he demands to know where Mulder is. Hosteen says he’s out of luck. Later, Scully arrives, after the others have left, and Hosteen and Eric (who’s been beaten up) send her to the smoldering boxcar. She yells Mulder’s name, but there’s no response.

Scully leaves the reservation, followed by a helicopter that stops her on the road. CSM’s minions detain her and ask for the M.J. documents. She lets them take the files, but they want a digital recording, too, which Scully says Mulder has. When she returns to FBI headquarters, she’s suspended for insubordination. She turns in her badge and gun but won’t answer any more questions. As far as she knows, Mulder is dead.

Skinner pretends this has been difficult for him, too. Scully’s upset that the people who killed Bill and probably killed Mulder are going to get away with it. Skinner argues that the FBI is just following protocol. Scully goes straight to Mulder’s desk and retrieves a cassette case hidden there. It’s supposed to contain the digital recording, but the box is empty.

In New York, a group of shady men meets to discuss whether their 40 years of secret-keeping have been disturbed. CSM arrives to announce that they’re still in control, though there’s still a problem that needs to be handled. Mulder’s dead, and no one will ever find his body. The stolen files have been recovered, and anyone working on their super-top-secret projects can keep working.

Scully goes to her mother’s house for comfort, worrying that she’s made a mistake and her father would be ashamed of her. Hosteen voices over that some boys came by to tell Eric that they saw buzzards in the quarry near the boxcar. Hosteen says that either means something has died or that death is close. A group goes out to look, finding Mulder buried under a pile of rocks, still alive thanks to being underground.

Mulder is taken to a hogan and people are summoned for a ceremony called the Blessing Way Chant. Hosteen says this is the only way Mulder’s life can be saved. Meanwhile, a drunk Frohike visits Scully to pay his respects. He thinks Scully will continue Mulder’s work, but she doesn’t think she can do so once she’s pushed out of her job. Frohike shows her a news article about the Thinker’s “execution-style” murder. Scully notes that he was killed after Mulder disappeared.

In the hogan, the ceremony is underway, though Hosteen worries that Mulder’s body will give up before they can heal him. Mulder’s…spirit, I guess, floats in space, surrounded by men in shadows. Deep Throat appears and says some flowery stuff about truth, then tells Mulder not to look into the abyss. We see a smoke bomb being dropped into the boxcar sometime in the past, and the aliens inside running for cover.

Next up at Mulder’s space funeral: Bill, who’s unhappy that he had to lie to his son for so long. Now his lies have put Mulder’s life at risk. Mulder is the memory, and it lives in him, so if he dies, the truth will, too. Mulder asks if Samantha is there. Bill says no, then continues that Mulder needs to keep seeking the truth.

Scully goes back to FBI headquarters, entering with a tour group instead of through the employees’ entrance. A security guard thinks she’s set off the metal detector because of something like a shirt pin, not for any sketchy reasons. Scully meets with Skinner, telling him that she thinks the Thinker’s death is connected to Mulder’s disappearance. She’d like to find out if the ballistics match the bullet that killed Bill. If so, Mulder didn’t kill his father.

Skinner says that the police who investigated the Thinker’s murder would have said something if their tests had turned up anything the FBI needed to know. Scully says she’s trying to cooperate with the investigation, but Skinner thinks she’s trying to earn her way back from suspension. He’s unhappy that he’s supposed to find the cassette, wondering if it was worth Mulder’s life. If Scully really wants to help with the investigation, she’ll find the recording.

After Scully leaves the office, CSM enters from the next room and asks if Skinner talked to Scully about the tape. Skinner says Scully claims not to have it. CSM says that’s “unfortunate.” As Scully leaves the building, she decides to go back through the metal detector to see why she set it off. When the security guard runs a wand over her, it goes off at the back off her neck.

Scully runs to a bureau doctor and gets an x-ray that shows something small in her neck. There’s also a small scar over the area. The doctor thinks she was probably hit with buckshot in the line of duty and didn’t realize it. After three days of unconsciousness, Mulder wakes up and starts to recover his strength.

The doctor removes what looks like a computer chip from Scully’s neck. She takes it to her sister, Melissa, who thinks she’s repressed the memory of where it came from. Melissa suggests that Scully see someone who could help her remember, but Scully refuses. Melissa’s upset that her sister never sees the world any way but scientifically. Her grief keeps her from accessing her true feelings. Melissa asks Scully to do this for her.

So Scully goes to see Dr. Mark Pomerantz, a psychiatrist who wants to hypnotize her so she can access her memories. She remembers being afraid that she would die, but Pomerantz thinks someone took care of her. Scully recalls lights and loud sounds, but not the details of whatever procedure she underwent. Her captors seemed concerned about her well-being.

Pomerantz wonders if someone from the FBI was there. “I had to trust them,” Scully says. She couldn’t resist them. Pomerantz accidentally brings Scully out of her hypnotic state, and she decides it’s not working. She heads home, spotting Skinner leaving her building.

On the reservation, Hosteen tells Mulder that he’s okay to leave, but he can’t bathe or change clothes for a few days. Mulder jokes that his social life will be affected. He asked for sunflower seeds while he was sick, so someone has brought him some. Hosteen tells him that he was dreaming, but also visiting the origins of the reservation. He wipes out a sand drawing and declares the ceremony over.

Scully calls Skinner to ask why he went by her place, but he denies being there. That’s because CSM is in his office. Mulder voices over about being on the bridge between two worlds and seeking truth. Now he’s back, but he’s afraid he’s too late. Scully has been dreaming this just before Bill’s funeral in Massachusetts. She tells Teena that she has a strong feeling that Mulder is still alive and will be found.

One of CSM’s buddies is also at the funeral, and he listens in as Scully tells Teena she’ll keep her updated. The man, who is often called the Well-Manicured Man (WMM from here on out), then pulls Scully aside to ask about Mulder. He says he’s part of a “global consortium” that’s very interested in the recording – interested enough to commit murder over it. He’s sure Mulder’s dead, and he wants to warn Scully that her life could soon end, too.

Scully starts to walk away, but WMM continues that she’ll be killed in one of two ways. Either she’ll be killed in her own home with an unregistered weapon that will be left behind, or she’ll be asked to meet with someone she trusts who’s luring her into a trap. She’d be wise to stay somewhere else right now.

Scully wonders why she’s a target. “You want something they don’t – justice,” WMM replies. She wants to know why he’s helping her. He says his colleagues are being impulsive, and her death would draw “unnecessary attention” to the consortium. Scully says he’s really protecting himself. WMM says the consortium predicts the future, “and the best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Teena comes home from her husband’s funeral to find her not-dead-after-all son in her house. He shows her some pictures of Bill from 1972 and asks who the men are with him. Teena doesn’t remember their names, but one is Deep Throat and one is WMM. Mulder thinks they have something to do with what happened to Samantha.

Scully gets home as Melissa calls to find out what happened with Pomerantz. Scully says something weird happened, then tells Melissa she can come over. As soon as end their conversation, someone else calls, then immediately hangs up. Scully calls Melissa to say she’ll come to Melissa’s instead, but her sister’s already on her way over.

As Scully leaves her building, Skinner arrives and tells her to get in his car. Remembering what WMM said, Scully’s wary about going anywhere with someone she trusts, but she has a gun with her, so she gets in the car. They go to Mulder’s apartment, where Scully pulls her weapon and says she knows what’s going on. She asks who sent Skinner after her, but he doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Melissa arrives at Scully’s apartment, which two men have broken into. She’s immediately shot…by Krycek. He realizes he shot the wrong sister and leaves. At Mulder’s, Skinner tells Scully he’s not going to kill her – he wants to give her the recording. He took it from Mulder’s desk before she could. They hear someone outside the door, and the distraction allows Skinner to pull his own gun for a stand-off with Scully. To be continued (again)…

Thoughts: “Okay, David, in this episode, you’re going to lie around half-naked under tree branches while men chant over you and dead people tell you not to go into the light. Also, sometimes you’re in space. Action!”

Deep Throat, are you getting paid by the word? Just say, “It’s not your time yet.” There’s no need to be so dramatic.

Skinner needs some sort of code to use with Mulder and Scully that means, “I’m going to say I’m not helping you, but I really am.”

May 3, 2016

SVT #53, The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley: It’s Ironic That Leslie Has Stage Fright About a Horror Movie

Posted in books tagged , at 5:09 pm by Jenn

Elizabeth is right to be this amused

Elizabeth is right to be this amused

Summary: The sixth-graders have reached that point in the school year where they just can’t handle the thought of doing more work. When I was in college, we called that October. Mr. Bowman, everyone’s favorite English teacher, agrees to let them do something different. A girl named Leslie Forsythe thinks they should make a movie – writing the script would fit in with their English curriculum, and the whole experience would be educational. Mr. Bowman and the rest of the class think this is a great idea.

Jessica and Lila both want to play the lead. Never mind that the movie doesn’t even have a plot yet. Leslie is somehow friends with a woman named Deirdre who works at a video store and studied acting in college, so Leslie takes a few classmates to meet her after school. Leslie secretly wants to be an actress, too, but is too shy to fulfill her dreams. Deirdre thinks Leslie should work on that and get over it, since her own acting career was derailed by stage fright, and she doesn’t want Leslie to face the same fate.

The guys want to do a horror movie, but the girls want a romance. Elizabeth comes up with a kind of compromise: a horror spoof with a love triangle. The students then write down which three jobs they’d like on the movie. Jess and Lila only want to act. Leslie does, too, but pretends it’s just because she can’t think of another job she wants. Liz and Amy end up thinking up a plot everyone likes: A boy grows cucumbers in his basement, one becomes infested with some kind of slime, and the slime gets into a love triangle with the boy and his girlfriend. This is more creative than 85% of what gets made in Hollywood.

Even though the plot hasn’t been finalized and there’s no script, auditions are held. There are only a handful of characters – in addition to the three mains, there’s the boy’s grandmother and sister, as well as an English teacher. The principal kindly agrees to play himself and get eaten by the Slime. That’s pretty awesome. Two of the boys auditioning for the male lead are Winston and resident nerd Randy Mason. Jess and Lila are horrified that they have to read with these guys, though both boys prove to be good actors. Lila’s audition sucks, but Jessica’s is good.

Leslie’s supposed to audition last, but she overhears Lila and Ellen talking trash about her. They think she’s a loser and could never land the female lead. Even though Elizabeth and Amy were supportive, Leslie decides it’s not worth the risk to audition – she could screw up in front of everyone and embarrass herself. Plus, she would have to read with Randy, and face her huge crush on him. Awww, nerdy love. I’m going to picture Leslie as Alex from Modern Family.

Since Leslie didn’t audition, Jessica has little competition and lands the female lead. She’ll be acting opposite Randy as the male lead. Mr. Bowman first picks Lila to play the Slime (I thought her audition was horrible?), but there’s no way Lila Fowler is going to do something like that, so Winston gets the part and Lila is put in charge of clean-up. Ha! Lila assigns herself the job of camera operator, since her father just got an expensive new camcorder and she’s the only one allowed to use it.

Lila’s new interest in making movies drives her friends crazy. She takes the camcorder on a trip to the mall and films the Unicorns embarrassing themselves. I have a feeling there’s a lot of footage of Ellen doing stupid things. Meanwhile, the movie’s screenwriters – Elizabeth, Amy, Leslie, and Maria – come up with a plot point that will also embarrass Jessica. They think her character, Sherri, should kiss the Slime.

When Jess reads the script, she’s outraged. She’ll have to kiss both Randy and Winston on screen. Plus, rehearsals start next week, so Jessica needs to pucker up pretty soon. Jess finds ways to delay the kiss at rehearsals, being enough of a diva that they run out of time fulfilling her needs, then faking a cold. Lila invites Jess over to teach her about stage kissing, but it’s really just an excuse for Lila to film Jessica while she makes a fool out of herself.

Leslie watches a movie with her new buddies Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria, and when the sound goes out, Leslie acts out the ending. The other girls gush over what a great actress she is. Leslie admits that she was too shy to audition for the movie, and was afraid to have to speak full sentences in front of her crush. Maria, who’s been through this herself, gives Leslie some encouragement.

Lila shows a bunch of people the embarrassing footage she’s gotten of her friends, including Jessica’s fake make-out session with a pillow. She points out that if Jess is humiliated by it, she’ll be even more humiliated when she has to kiss Randy and Winston on camera. Jess agrees and drops out of the movie. Now that Leslie has the courage to audition, she nails it and gets Jessica’s role.

The rest of the filmmaking goes smoothly, and after just a couple weeks, the final product is ready to be screened. Jessica puts together a fake film for the coming attractions, starring Lila doing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet opposite a mop, while wearing curlers and an oatmeal face mask. This is her payback for embarrassing all her friends. Looks good on you, Li. Why are they all friends with her, anyway?

So I guess the final movie is spectacular and Leslie is a star. She inspires Deirdre to go back to acting. Of course. And after all the talk of her crush, Leslie disappears and we never hear about her and Randy becoming a couple. Oh, well.

Thoughts: Ellen: “It’s worse than dumb. It’s stupid.” Well, Ellen would know.

Caroline: “How do you audition for the part of a Slime victim?” Mr. Bowman: “Just be yourself, Caroline.” I know that was supposed to be innocent, but it reminded me of an exchange from Addams Family Values: “I’ll be the victim!” “All your life.”

The Unicorns have a weird pajama contest at a sleepover: “Belinda’s weird pajamas turned out to be an old Ranger T-shirt and a pair of baseball pants.” Belinda, are you even trying? Then again, Lila just wears a long shirt with a unicorn on it, which is nowhere near weird.

April 30, 2016

The X-Files 2.25, Anasazi: Kill Bill

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:38 pm by Jenn

This is just how the first season of "Lost" ended

This is just how the first season of “Lost” ended

Summary: It’s April 9th, and on a Navajo reservation in Two Grey Hills, New Mexico, a young man is woken in the middle of the night by an earthquake. In the morning, the man’s grandfather tells him to leave the snakes alone when he goes out riding. The grandfather, Albert Hosteen, thinks the earth has something to say. The grandson, Eric, rides his motorcycle to some red rocks and sees something white underground where the dirt has been displaced. Eric brings his family out to see what he’s brought home, but Albert says it should be returned: “They will be coming.” The thing Eric found is a skeleton, and if I had to guess, I’d say it belonged to an alien.

In Dover, Delaware, a man is ready a book about conspiracy theories while his computer does some hacking. In the United Nations building in New York, an Italian man learns that the “MJ documents” have been breached. Japanese and German men confer, then speak to CSM. He tells some minions that he’s gotten the phone call he never wanted to receive. While masked men break into the hacker’s apartment, Mulder gets a visit from the Lone Gunmen, who are trying to dodge a killer named Garnet who’s after the hacker, Kenneth Soona. He’s the “Thinker” they’ve worked with before. The Gunmen think Soona will try to contact Mulder.

A shot is fired nearby, and Mulder runs to an apartment in another hallway where a woman has just shot her husband of 30 years. The Gunmen decide this is too weird for them and leave. Mulder goes to the U.S. Botanic Garden and meets with Soona, who thinks he’s found the Defense Department’s original files about aliens. This means he has information on Roswell and MJ-12. He didn’t think he’d be successful in the hack, so he didn’t take any precautions with his identity. Soona gives all his downloaded info to Mulder, asking him to promise to make the conspirators answer to the people.

Mulder takes the information (on a cassette – awwww, remember cassettes?) to his office the next day, telling Scully he’s about to uncover “the biggest lie of all.” He’s found the Holy Grail of the DOD’s secrets. Too bad it’s all encrypted and Mulder can’t read it. Scully thinks it’s written in Navajo, telling Mulder that the Allies used the language in World War II and the Japanese couldn’t interpret it. Mulder tells her to find someone who can. Scully’s worried about him since he hasn’t been sleeping. Mulder goes to see Skinner, who wants to know if the rumor’s true that Mulder has received sensitive files. Mulder says no, then tries to leave. When Skinner tries to make him stay, they get into a fistfight.

Scully’s summoned to Skinner’s office the next day for a meeting about Mulder and Skinner’s fight. She doesn’t know why Mulder’s acting so weird, since he only said he’s not sleeping well. One of the attendees wonders if Scully would lie to protect her partner – the partner she was originally supposed to discredit. She’s warned that she could be fired if she tries to protect Mulder. Scully doesn’t seem too worried.

Up in Martha’s Vineyard, Bill Mulder gets a visit from CSM, who was never supposed to contact him again. Bill’s annoyed that the MJ documents weren’t destroyed decades ago. CSM confirms that Mulder has them, as Soona has come forward. Bill’s name is in the files, and he doesn’t want Mulder to know. CSM thinks the encryption will protect him. Bill wonders if Mulder will also be protected. CSM urges Bill to deny everything if his involvement is ever revealed.

Scully finds Mulder napping in his apartment, trying to sleep off a fever. She tells him she covered for him at work and warns that Skinner’s looking for a reason to punish him. She’d like to know what she’s lying to keep secret. She wants to know if the cassette is worth Mulder risking everything. Mulder angrily says he’ll tell her more when the encryption is broken. Scully says she’s meeting someone soon, but she needs assurance that she’s doing the right thing. Mulder doesn’t answer as he puts a masking-tape X on his window. She asks why he attacked Skinner, but Mulder doesn’t know.

Scully meets with someone from the Navajo Nation who can only recognize a few words (“goods/merchandise” and “vaccination”). She says they stand out because they’re modern words. She has someone in mind who can help with the rest. Bill calls Mulder to summon him to the family home, though leaving D.C. will mean Mulder can’t meet with Mr. X. Scully goes back to Mulder’s apartment, where a shot is fired through the window that still has an X on it.

Up at the Mulder compound, Bill tells his son that back when he had to make choices, they were complicated; now they’re clear. He’s proud that Mulder has never joined up with people who might change his doctrines. Once Mulder hears the words, he’ll understand. Mulder asks for details, and Bill clarifies that the word is “merchandise.” He goes to the bathroom to take some medication, not realizing that our old buddy Krycek is lying in wait in the bathtub. Mulder hears a shot and runs to check on his father, who uses his dying breath to ask for forgiveness.

Mulder calls Scully to report that Bill has been killed. Scully wonders if Mulder’s responsible, and when he says he isn’t, she tells him to run away. Mulder’s worried about that making him look guilty. Scully points out that he’ll look guilty no matter what – he’s being set up. Mulder wants to meet her at his apartment, but Scully knows that’s not safe, considering the shot that came through the window while she was there. Instead, the agents reconvene at her place, and Scully realizes that Mulder’s condition is worsening.

In the morning, Mulder (whose personal doctor helpfully removed his clothes during the night) wakes up alone and finds his gun missing. Scully’s taken it to the FBI’s firearms unit to see if it was used to kill Bill. Mulder thinks Scully still suspects that he killed his father. Scully says she wants to be able to give Skinner answers. Mulder yells at her for making reports on him over the past two years. “You have my files and you have my gun,” he says. “Don’t ask me for my trust.”

Scully retrieves the bullet that was fired through Mulder’s window, spotting a man wheeling what looks like an oxygen tank to a van outside. Whatever the tank actually holds, a new one has been hooked up in the building’s boiler room. That night, Mulder spots someone outside his building and chases him. It’s Krycek, who manages to lose a fight to Mulder despite the fact that Krycek’s the only one armed and Mulder has a fever. Krycek won’t admit to killing Bill, but Mulder beats him up anyway.

Scully arrives and orders Mulder to drop Krycek’s gun. Mulder refuses, even though Scully has her own gun trained on Krycek, so Scully shoots Mulder in the shoulder, allowing Krycek to get away. When Scully wakes up on April 16th (to a “Mulder, it’s me”), Hosteen is there with Scully. Mulder’s understandably upset that his partner shot him, but Scully knows that if Mulder had shot Krycek, they would never be able to prove that Mulder didn’t kill Bill. For the first time, Scully’s able to tell Mulder that she’s sorry his father is dead.

Scully explains that when she went to get the bullet from Mulder’s apartment, she saw someone taking out the tank. She found a dialysis filter in the new one and guesses it was used to transmit LSD or dopamine into Mulder’s building. That explains Mulder’s weird behavior and the random shooting in the building. Scully thinks their enemies are trying to turn people against Mulder. She knocked him out for a couple of days to make sure the side effects of the psychosis are gone. They’re now in Farmington, New Mexico.

Hosteen was a Navajo code-talker in World War II, and he’s been working on translating the MJ documents. He says he got an omen last week that let him know Mulder would be coming. Scully tells Mulder that the reservation holds some more evidence of the conspiracy, and Mulder will be able to go see them. Scully has skipped a meeting with Skinner, so now she’s put her job on the line, but she’s obviously more concerned about Mulder. He thanks her for taking care of him. Scully reveals that her name is in the files, along with Duane Barry’s – something having to do with a test. She asks Mulder to find out what it all means.

Mulder and Hosteen head to Hosteen’s house, talking about how secrets “push their way up through the sands of deception” so people can learn them. Hosteen asks Mulder to confirm that he’s ready to put his life on the line to learn the truth. More than 600 years ago, the Anasazi tribe lived on the reservation; now, there’s no evidence of their existence. People claim they never existed because they’re not willing to sacrifice themselves to learn the truth. Hosteen, however, doesn’t believe that anything can disappear without a trace. He thinks the Anasazi were abducted “by visitors who come here still.”

Eric takes Mulder out to the red rocks to see the thing he uncovered in the dirt. CSM calls to ask Mulder’s location, which, of course, Mulder isn’t going to disclose (he says he’s at the Betty Ford Center). CSM warns Mulder not to listen to anything Bill told him. He authorized something and couldn’t live with it. CSM claims he had nothing to do with Bill’s murder. Mulder threatens to expose the “black-lunged son of a b%$@#,” but CSM replies that doing so would also expose Bill. After they hang up, CSM gets in a military helicopter and heads off to find Mulder.

Eric tells Mulder that he thinks the thing buried under the dirt is a boxcar. They find a hatch in the roof and open it. Mulder calls Scully from inside the boxcar to tell her it’s full of bodies. She tells him that the MJ documents mention experiments performed by Axis scientists who were granted immunity after the war. They were testing on humans, AKA “merchandise.” But the bodies in the boxcar look more alien than human. One seems to have a smallpox vaccination scar.

As the agents start to put things together, the boxcar hatch closes. Eric has spotted CSM’s helicopter. Soldiers emerge and CSM tries to question Eric, who won’t talk to him. They can’t find Mulder in the boxcar, telling CSM that if he was there, “he’s vanished without a trace.” CSM, like Hosteen, denies that that’s possible. He orders them to burn the boxcar. As they take Eric with them on the helicopter, a bomb detonates on the boxcar and it goes up in flames. To be continued…

Thoughts: David Duchovny co-write this episode.

My captions in one scene: “speaking native language.” Well, the Hosteens are Navajo, so do you think Albert might have been speaking…Navajo? Just a guess.

Mulder gets cell reception inside a boxcare in a desert quarry but my parents have to leave their building to get a signal. Thanks, technology!

And just like that, I’m done with season 2! On to Jack Black and Clyde Bruckman.

April 26, 2016

SVU #55, The First Time: Finn-timacy Issues

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:12 pm by Jenn

This is so "Beverly Hills, 90210"

This is so “Beverly Hills, 90210”

Summary: Sam is out at Todd’s bar, Frankie’s, when he spots Elizabeth’s boyfriend Finn with a woman who is definitely not Elizabeth. And let’s just say the woman can’t be mistaken for Finn’s sister or cousin or some other woman he’s not romantically involved with. Elizabeth actually has a date with Finn planned for later and has no idea that her man currently has another blonde draped all over him. Sam lets her know, but she doesn’t believe him, and not just because Finn would never go to Frankie’s, or any other townie bar. Apparently SVU students are very against mingling with non-SVU students.

On their date, Finn professes his undying affection for Elizabeth and asks to date exclusively. When she says yes, he decides it’s time for the sex to happen. Elizabeth has been thinking about this lot – though, for Elizabeth, even ten seconds of thinking about sex is a lot – and is edging closer to being ready to lose her virginity. She gets turned off, though, when Finn wants to get it on in his car in the parking lot. Fair enough. Finn invites her over to watch movies, though he can’t find any when they get to his place. SUSPICIOUS. They’re about to get horizontal when Elizabeth finds High Noon. Finn gets blocked by Gary Cooper.

Eventually Finn tries to undress Liz again, but she finally tells him she’s a virgin and wants to take things slowly. He assures her that they’ll move at her pace…as long as her pace leads them to the bedroom in the next five minutes. Elizabeth admits that she’s scared about her first time, which Finn says is very high school of her. What a compassionate, caring guy you’ve chosen here, Liz! She ends up running home, crying. Yeah, you’re not ready for this Liz.

On campus, Elizabeth sees Finn talking to another undergrad and thinks he’s getting her phone number. She realizes she doesn’t want to lose him to another girl. Yeah, that would be such a horrible loss. Finn thinks they should work through their sex anxiety by visualizing everything going well. Finn, if you want to picture your girlfriend naked, it’s not like she can stop you. They agree to finally do the deed on Saturday, after a party at the duplex.

Liz is still nervous but not backing out. She gets birth-control pills (a HUGE step for our girl), then wonders if they should also use a condom. Considering Finn’s popularity with the ladies, YES. She calls Finn to chat, but he’s busy with a supposed study group, which sounds suspiciously like just one woman. Poor, naïve Liz.

At the duplex party, Sam tries again to get Elizabeth to see that her boyfriend is a jerk. He brings up seeing Finn at Frankie’s, even getting Todd to confirm that he was there with another girl. Finn just calmly pleads innocent, and of course, Liz buys it. After spending some time at the party, they go to his place for their big night together. Only this time Elizabeth finally realizes for sure that she’s not ready.

Finn, of course, doesn’t react well. He calls Liz out for being a tease, and tells her she’s lucky he chose her since he can have any girl he wants. Then he calls up one of his other conquests and invites her over while Elizabeth is still standing right there. Liz tries to call Jessica to come get her, but she reaches Sam instead. He brings her home and manages to not say “I told you so” about what a jerk Finn turned out to be.

Sam, by the way, has spent the book being an idiot. He wants to show Elizabeth how much of a jerk he is so she’ll see how bad Finn is, too. I don’t get his logic. Anyway, he enlists an ex named Anna to pretend they’re hooking up just so he can toss her out the next morning and make Elizabeth think that guys are dogs, I guess. Since Elizabeth is dumb, it works. I don’t know how it’s going to make Liz want Sam, though.

In the last book, Chloe and her new friend Val were accepted as Theta pledges, and now they’re facing some hazing. A couple of Theta mean girls make the pledges do humiliating things like kiss sorority guys on command and give the sisters massages. In the cafeteria one day, Val is ordered to fat-shame her roommate, Deena. Val has started to grow tired of the Thetas’ shenanigans, and this is the last straw for her. She doesn’t want to be a part of a group that’s so mean to other people. She announces that she’s dropping out.

Chloe is given the task next, and she seriously considers doing it. After all, being a Theta is all she’s ever wanted (for the last two books). But she realizes that Val and Deena have become good friends of hers, and she’d rather spend time with them than with the Theta snobs. She ditches the task as well and quits the pledge process.

But! Denise and Jessica learn about the hazing and reprimand the sisters behind it for being so cruel. They don’t want Theta participating in demeaning activities, and they hope the pledges don’t hold the hazing against the rest of the sisters. They’ve decided that anyone who dropped out of the pledging can be reinstated. Val doesn’t really care, but Chloe’s thrilled. After spending some more time with Val and Deena, she goes to the party at the duplex and hangs out with a semi-nerd named Martin. She judges him harshly at first, then decides to take pity on him because he’s not as bad as she thought. Martin, run away!

Todd spends the whole book working and becoming more and more of a townie, because it makes him feel grown-up. He’s determined not to live off of his parents’ money, though he doesn’t mention to them that he’s dropped a few classes and therefore doesn’t need as much for tuition as they’ve been paying. Todd is annoying so I really don’t care about him anymore.

Nina’s been going out more, and has a crush on Xavier, a singer with a band called Wired. He seems really into her, but then he doesn’t call her after he says he would, and he brushes her off the next time they see each other. Nina’s fooled herself into thinking they’re dating, despite the fact that they’ve talked, like, twice and he would rather flirt with groupies. At the duplex party, guys keep talking to Nina, who’s suddenly a hot commodity. She only has eyes for Xavier, though, and by the end of the book, they’re about to head to bed together. P.S. It’s Elizabeth’s bed. So at least that piece of furniture is going to see some action.

Thoughts: For a med student, Finn sure has a lot of free time to go on dates, and a lot of money to spend at expensive restaurants.

“‘Girls like that don’t have one-night stands. So a guy’s gotta put on a little show. It’s not like I’m the only one who does it. All guys do.’ Not all guys, she corrected mentally.” You know, Liz, it’s usually the guy who says “not all men.”

The ghostwriter needs to NEVER write another sex scene. I want a promise in writing.

The ghostwriter also needs to stop thinking that college students call each other “darling.”

April 23, 2016

The X-Files 2.24, Our Town: Tastes Like Chicken

Posted in TV tagged at 1:36 pm by Jenn

"You said we were going for a bite to eat! ...Oh, I get it now"

“You said we were going for a bite to eat! …Oh, I get it now”

Summary: A man and woman pull over to neck on the side of a county road in Dudley, Arkansas. They’re a little too old for parking, but the woman doesn’t want to go to a motel; someone might see them. The woman gets out of the car, but the man, George, doesn’t follow for a minute. First, he has to have some sort of spasm and take a pill. Then the woman, Paula, wants to be chased before they hook up. George loses track of her in the woods, which aren’t so much romantic as creepy. He sees lights approaching, then gets hit with an axe wielded by someone wearing a mask. Night-night, George.

Ten weeks later, Scully tells Mulder that the case of George’s disappearance is just a wild goose chase. Mulder corrects that it’s a “chicken case,” since George is a federal poultry inspector for Chaco Chicken. Scully argues that the bureau is trying to undermine Mulder’s work. But Mulder’s intrigued by a witness’ story about seeing “strange fire” in the field where George disappeared. Scully mocks the woman’s claim of seeing a “foxfire spirit.” Mulder elaborates on the legend of people being taken away by foxfire. This time, there’s a huge burn mark the agents can check out.

In college, Mulder saw a 1960s documentary about an asylum, featuring a patient who says fire demons abducted him. He refused to be taken or killed, because that would prevent him from getting into Heaven. Mulder says the patient, Creighton, disappeared for a few days and was so shaken when he returned that he had to be committed. Police found his car in Dudley. So the agents head down to Arkansas to check out the field, finding a fork and something called a witch’s peg, which is supposed to keep evil spirits away.

Sheriff Tom Arens meets the agents, and though he’s willing to help, he doesn’t think there’s anything special about the circumstances of George’s disappearance. No one mentioned the witch’s peg to the FBI because there are tons of them in the town, placed there by superstitious “hill people.” Arens thinks the scorch mark comes from illegal trash burning. Foxfire doesn’t exist; it’s just swamp gas. Scully likes this guy. Arens continues that George arrived in town a few months ago and never connected with anyone, except the women he cheated on his wife with. He probably followed one of those women out of town.

The agents and Arens interview George’s wife, Doris, who also believed that her husband just took off with another woman. She’s not too broken up about it. Mulder thinks it’s suspicious that George disappeared the day before he was going to recommend that Chaco’s plant be shut down. Doris reports that he got some suspicious hang-up phone calls, but she figured they were from girlfriends. The agents and Arens then go to the Chaco plant, where a shaken Paula is employed. She takes some sort of pill before starting her shift.

Arens introduces the agents to the floor manager, Jess Harold, who says George had been trying to shut down the plant since he came to town. Paula eavesdrops, and when the agents leave the floor, she starts exhibiting behavior similar to the spasms George had. She pauses, watching chickens go by on an assembly line. She sees one of them as George’s head and throws it to the ground. Elsewhere, Harold shows the agents to George’s area, saying he was the only person who ever had a problem with the plant. Then again, George had a problem with everything. He claimed the job was giving him headaches and even filed a lawsuit with the government, which was dismissed).

Harold lets the agents see what the chickens are fed – an unappetizing mixture of grains and other chickens. Aww, poor little cannibal chickens. Scully still thinks this is a dumb case – whether George left town or was killed, there was no need to call in the FBI. But as they’re leaving, Paula takes Harold hostage, holding a knife to his throat. Scully attempts to talk her down, but when Paula doesn’t let Harold go, Arens shoots her. Her body falls into the chicken/grain mixture. Tonight, the chickens will dine on soylent green!

Harold’s fine, and he has no idea why Paula snapped like she did. The plant’s doctor, Randolph, tells the agents that Paula told him the week before that she was having headaches. She had some tests done but nothing came up, so Randolph thought she was just under stress. He admits that Paula and George exhibited similar symptoms, possibly due to the repetitive nature of their jobs. They were both given codeine, which explains why they both popped pills. Scully wants to do an autopsy on Paula, but Randolph says she’ll have to talk to the man in charge, Chaco – who happens to be Paula’s grandfather and legal guardian.

The agents go to Chaco’s mansion, which has some chickens on the premises. Chaco waxes poetic about how awesome and “useful” chickens are, since they provide both food and feathers for humans. He questions Scully’s desire to perform an autopsy on Paula; didn’t the agents come to town to look into George’s disappearance? Chaco had no patience for George, since he was trying to tear down what Chaco worked so hard to create. But his interest in what happened to Paula wins out, and he okays the autopsy.

Scully does her work and discovers that Paula had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare degenerative disorder that causes dementia and seizures. She only had a few months left to live. Mulder reveals that Paula wasn’t as young as they thought (and definitely not as young as she looked) – she was 47. They decide to look for her birth certificate at the county courthouse to confirm. Mulder notes that the case is turning into something much more interesting than foxfire.

On the way to the courthouse, Scully says that there’s an extremely low chance that Paula and George both had Creutzfeldt-Jakob (which can be inherited but isn’t communicable). But Mulder thinks it’s more likely than Paula being 47, so there’s that. They almost crash into a truck that’s serving all over the road. Mulder’s able to pull to the side, but the truck goes into a river, spilling crates of chickens. When the driver is ID’d, Scully learns from Randolph that he had the same symptoms Paula and George displayed. Scully worries that someone killed George, put his body in the chickens’ feed, and spread Creutzfeldt-Jakob to anyone who ate Chaco chickens.

When Arens arrives, Mulder asks him why the water in the river is brown. Arens blames run-off from the Chaco plant. Well, great, that probably has Creutzfeldt-Jakob in it, too! Mulder asks to have the river dragged for George’s body, though he doesn’t want to say specifically that that’s what he’s looking for. The river is searched, and a bunch of bones are found – a lot more bones than just the ones from George’s body. Scully thinks some could be as much as 20-30 years old. No skulls were found, and all the bones look buffed. Since the river was pretty calm, it’s weird that they look almost polished.

Arens calls in Doris to tell her that George’s remains were found. She gets upset and runs off. At the Chaco plant, Randolph pulls Harold aside to tell him that a man named Clayton Walsh is showing Creutzfeldt-Jakob symptoms. Chaco knows what’s going on but won’t do anything. Harold decides to try to talk to him. Scully meets up with Mulder (bringing him a bucket of chicken) to look into missing people from the area. Over the past 50 years, 87 people have disappeared. Mulder thinks the poor, innocent people of Dudley, Arkansas, “have been eating more than just chicken.”

The missing people’s bones were boiled, a practice familiar to the cannibalistic Anasazi tribe of New Mexico. Since some cannibalistic rituals are performed to extend people’s lives, Paula may look younger than 47 because she eats people. Mulder decides they should look into the ages of other people in Dudley. Scully tags along, since it’s not like she can sit down and enjoy her chicken dinner.

Over at Chaco’s mansion, Chaco tells Harold he’ll take care of things. Doris arrives, distressed over having to lie about what’s going on. She’s afraid the agents will discover that she helped kill her husband. Chaco reminds her that that was the price she had to pay. He promises that everything will be fine, and they’ll take care of her. After she leaves, Harold worries about Doris’ mental stability, but Chaco says she’s part of their town now. They can’t turn on each other – that would make them no better than animals. The FBI is the real problem.

At the courthouse, Mulder and Scully find that the birth records have been torched recently. Doris calls Mulder, telling him she’s worried Chaco is going to kill her. Mulder sends Scully over while he finds and arrests Chaco. But it’s too late – the masked guy who killed George is in Doris’ house with a knife. While Scully searches the house for her, Mulder sees photos and artifacts of the Anasazi tribe in Chaco’s house. He asks a maid to open a cabinet so he can see inside, but she doesn’t have a key. Mulder smashes the lock and finds the heads of the missing people inside.

Mulder calls Scully to tell her that Chaco’s not at home. He thinks Chaco kidnapped Doris, but he’s in Doris’ house. Chaco knocks out Scully, who’s probably going to end up on the menu at some sort of gathering Harold and Randolph are overseeing in the field where George was killed. Chaco’s upset that the men took Doris after he told them not to turn on their own. Harold reminds him that he brought in an outsider who made everyone sick. Chaco notes that once they turn on their own, everyone’s vulnerable.

Harold tells Chaco he won’t need to worry about that – the masked man is going to kill him next. Scully’s appropriately freaked out about what this means for her. She watches helplessly as the masked man decapitates Chaco with his trusty axe. At least the group’s fire (most likely responsible for the scorch mark in the field) makes it easy for Mulder to figure out where his partner’s being held. She’s next up on the chopping block (sorry), and of course, he’s able to stop the masked man before he can kill Scully. Everyone else at the ritual runs away, accidentally trampling Harold before he can get his gun and shoot Mulder.

Mulder checks on Scully before pulling off the masked man’s disguise to reveal…Arens. Well, of course. The agents see what people probably think is foxfire, but it looks more like people running away with torches. The next day, the Chaco plant is closed down by the USDA. While no tainted chickens have been found, 27 people from the ceremony have Creutzfeldt-Jakob. In 1944, Chaco’s plane was shot down in New Guinea, and he spent some time with a cannibalistic tribe. He was in his 90s when he died (and didn’t look a day over 70). As someone feeds the chickens at the plant, Scully reports that Chaco’s remains haven’t been found.

Thoughts: Arens is played by Gary Grubbs.

I wonder if Doris Kearns was named after the writer Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Well, crap. I love chicken. How can I ever eat it again?

Mulder, in a nutshell: “Did anyone search the river after George disappeared?” Arens: “No.” Mulder: “Well, let’s search it now.” Arens: “Why?” WHY DO YOU THINK?

This episode is a good (though extreme) example of why white people shouldn’t appropriate other cultures.

April 19, 2016

SVT #52, Booster Boycott: Male Cheerleaders? Who Ever Heard of Such a Thing?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:03 pm by Jenn

The girl on the right looks way older than middle school-age

The girl on the right looks way older than middle school-age

Summary: Apparently Winston is a really good gymnast, and he wants to showcase his talents by joining the Boosters. The Boosters – well, the Boosters who are also Unicorns, which is all of them except Amy and Grace – are less than pleased. I mean, they already lowered themselves to socialize with Amy. What more can we expect from them? But Winston, Amy, and Grace think they could do a lot more stunts with a guy on the squad, and they need that boost since the Southern California Middle School Cheering Championship is coming up in three weeks.

The Unicorns put their feet down, following Janet’s lead, and Winston complains about discrimination. The girls deny the possibility of discriminating against a boy. The idea of these girls thinking they know anything about gender discrimination makes me roll my eyes so hard they fall out of my head. Elizabeth thinks a lot of other SVMS students will be on Winston’s side, so he starts a petition to get support. Grace wants to sign, but the Unicorns keep her in line.

Annoyed that anyone in the school would want to be on Winston’s side, the Unicorns get to work trying to get him to back off. Lila and Jessica tell a girl named Leslie that they’ll be friends with her if she doesn’t sign the petition, because that’s supposed to be a reward. Leslie’s not interested, and points out that at SVMS, nerds outnumber Unicorns, so Winston’s petition will be a success.

She’s right, as Winston gets more than 100 signatures, including Mandy, Belinda, and Grace’s. Uh-oh, there’s dissention in the Unicorn ranks! Janet gets her hands on the petition and tears it up, but Winston was smart enough to make a copy, which he’s already given to Mrs. Langberg, the Boosters’ completely useless faculty supervisor. Mrs. Langberg tells the girls that they have to let Winston try out. She should have said something before the petition, since I doubt they could have kept him out anyway.

A bunch of people show up to Winston’s tryout, because this is the only interesting thing going on at SVMS right now. I can’t believe Elizabeth isn’t dedicating an entire Sixers edition to it. The Unicorns basically turn the tryout into Missy’s audition from Bring It On, asking Winston to do all sorts of stunts that I doubt they themselves can even do. Winston aces everything, even throwing in an unrehearsed partner move with Grace.

The Unicorns have no choice but to let Winston on the squad…but that doesn’t mean they have to be happy about it. They try to get him to quit by decorating his locker all girly-like, because being a cheerleader means being a girl, of course. Winston ends up with a black eye from bully Charlie Cashman, but he’s able to laugh off everyone else’s teasing. At Winston’s first practice, Ellen puts glue on his seat in the bleachers, Kimberly puts a doll in his bag (not sure what that was supposed to accomplish), and Lila puts peanut butter in his shoes. These girls need some better dirty tricks.

Winston becomes a much better leader than Janet, whipping the girls into pyramid-formation shape and resolving disputes about how much they should practice. Grace is smitten and wants Elizabeth to put a cartoon she drew of Winston as a cheerleader in the paper. Since the cartoon depicts Winston wearing a cheerleading skirt, he’s embarrassed, thinking Grace only sees him as a joke. He decides he should quit the squad, telling Elizabeth the main reason he joined in the first place was because he has a crush on Grace.

After Elizabeth assures Winston that Grace doesn’t think he’s a joke – and, in fact, likes him back – Winston tries to rejoin the squad. Janet says no, since they’re finally rid of him. But when the cheerleading competition comes around, the girls can barely keep it together. They admit that they miss Winston, whose absence means they can’t do their best stunts. Winston happens to be hanging around the school during the competition, so the girls invite him to cheer with them. Of course, he helps them do a perfect routine and come in second in the competition. And then I guess Winston and Grace go kiss chastely behind the bleachers, though I don’t remember her popping up more than once or twice in the rest of the series.

The B-plot sees Todd getting jealous of the time Elizabeth has been spending with Winston. Ah, yes, this is the Todd we know and…well, not love. Tolerate. Elizabeth teaches Todd a lesson by setting him up to be caught helping Amy with a science project, so she can pretend to be jealous and Todd will get a taste of his own medicine. It works. Yawn.

Thoughts: Trivia: Winston’s middle name is Xavier.

Do the Boosters really think a guy who can do a no-handed cartwheel can’t do a handspring?

But really, I don’t get the point of the girls putting a doll in Winston’s bag.

Has Grace always been a Unicorn? I don’t remember that being mentioned in The Big Camp Secret. I thought Jessica, Lila, and Ellen were the only sixth-grade Unicorns before Belinda and Mandy joined.

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