Ringer Episode Ten: Recap liveblog liverecapblog

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Episode Ten: “That’s What You Get For Trying To Kill Me”

In honor of our probably not watching Ringer beyond this week, the recap of Episode Ten will be done in the form of the “liveblog”, which is was so popular nowadays before the invention of Twitter. Here at the Ascetic Guy Mansion we’re fully stocked up on the “Fruit & Seed Crunch” Ryvita that’s only available from the supermarket near home, not the supermarket near work, and we’re drinking egg nog from an Apollo Theater mug.

2 – Opening credits, she says something to Agent Machado, then says something to the audience, not breaking stride.

3 – Ah, that was Charlie’s cell phone Malcolm picked up in the kitchen. I thought it might have just been his own.

Candles! Petals! He looks so silly. Suspenders? Blue shirt with white collar? Is this a Kevin Spacey character? Even in a seduction scene the person talking to Bridget/Siobhan has to tell her something about herself. “I know white roses are your favorite.”

5- Who is this bleating voice? I can’t even search for the lyrics. All the vowels sound like eeee’s. One good thing about network TV shows is that the nudity is always going to be brief.

6 – “Big sister’s watching you.” – Good line from Juliet about the big white face. Yet another split second of suspense, instantly resolved. Juliet is now entirely a good girl w.r.t. her new stepmother.

9 – I refer to Jill as the woman with the great gums. This kid in the ad for … Powerpoint?… is quite charismatic – I like how he shrugs embarrassedly at the more animated moments of his presentation.

10 – Siobhan’s sunglasses are expanding to immense dimensions. Oh, we didn’t need to SEE her faking the black eye. Hey, Tyler realizes that she’s been manipulating him. “I did … at first. But then something happened. I started to have feelings for you. The other stuff doesn’t matter anymore.” Did I write that before or after she said it?

13 – Charlie had GEMMA’s phone. And why would you lock your basement if you didn’t have Gemma in it? Oh, she’s there.

14 – Detective Towers and Detective Saldano show up at John’s place. Apparently John has been using the name Charlie. Of course, it’s Narcotics Anonymous! And he has a secret identity. Of course, he leaves Malcolm at his new place and often goes back to his mother’s old place! Oh, and John is ex-NYPD. And Malcolm was spotted in reality, not in John’s accurate imagination, breaking into his house.

17 – “If Gemma wasn’t in the basement [when they searched his pad], he must have moved her.” Or killed her! Couldn’t she finally be dead? Wow, look at Bridget’s shoes [as the doors close].

18 – John is very upset on the phone with Siobhan right now. He calls Malcolm a “dip”. They have a testy negotiation and she puts up halfhearted resistance to the idea of killing her only friend.

19 – Pantene captures the potential of kasha. Not even the power of kasha, just the potential. And the bottle is made of up to 59% plant-based material. Wow, that could be as much as 59%! Or 0.059%! Might as well say “up to 59% or more”.

21 – Owls dream of Britney Spears in a forest on a ballet stage.

24 – She’s dead! Gemma’s finally dead! But how are all these cops here so fast? Oh, this is another flashback. To the death of the last stripper-informant Agent Carbonell employed. Containing its own flashbacks to when she was alive. She has a much more old-west-hooker look. Big face, Tousled hair the same color as Gemma’s.

26 – Bridget/Siobhan tells Henry she made a mistake by trusting Charlie. Henry points out that the suspects in Gemma’s disappearance are Bridget, whom “Siobhan” brought into their lives, and Charlie, whom “Siobhan” brought into their lives. She tells him she’s also brought a mysterious drug addict named Malcolm into their lives. He points out that none of her detective work is helping. And he has not slept in weeks. Weeks? No sleep? Polaha’s reading of “My kids miss their mom like crazy” somehow makes me believe the kids DON’T miss their mom. Why is he all dressed up?

28 – Mr. C is so hot. He wears ties, and he’s like a thousand. Ties are sexy, and he’s only 30. Anyway, Juliet seems to have found a friend at the public school. Very glamorous African-American girl, great hair.

29 – Charlie came over to visit! Andrew really likes him. Andrew leaves. “Trust me. You’re gonna want me to run these errands.” What are the anniversary presents? The non-negotiable world-class beaches mentioned last week? He starts ordering her around before Andrew’s elevator descends one floor. No messing around, that’s nice. His line now is that this is a ransom situation. And just leaves. Ball in the air loses some of its tension.

32 – Andrew catches her counting up the ransom. She breaks down. Wow that’s a big ring! Looks like a pie crust!

33 – Hart of Dixie looks like fun. Who is this guy with the horrible hair giving all the bald children wigs? I had to mute it.

36 – Suddenly the kidnapping idea seems like what they should have presumed all along. How long has she been missing with no message from the kidnappers? Why did the kidnapper go to Siobhan and Andrew for ransom, and not Tim Arbogast?

37 – Oh, just go away, high school seduction plot. Thank goodness it turns into a confrontation quickly. No, don’t shut the door! Why did you tell Andrea to leave you alone? so you can have a private conversation? Never shut the door when alone with a student! Whose friend just saw her flirting with you! Oh, this isn’t going away.

41 – Charlie uses an excuse [there are cops near the money-handing-over spot, and he warned her not to call the cops – obviously you would expect there to be zero cops in Grand Central Station] to kill Gemma. There’s that pie-crust ring again.

44 – Nexxus Salon Hair Care sure makes Pantene look like a pile of puke. Infinitely gorgeous hair! High concentrations of premium ingredients. Can’t get too many of those!

47 – Henry: “I didn’t know what to do. So I freaked out, and I called the cops.” He sounds like he’s justifying his simple down-to-earth reasoning skills.

48 – Agent Machado and his friend, some other cop, are in Wyoming investigating “the Matador”, the cop who’s on Bodaway’s payroll. The other cop keeps walking behind him. I think he’s going to hit Machado over the head. They keep talking. Oh, instead the other cop points a gun at him. Good thing two other agents appear to neutralize the threat. Scene ends as Machado asks him what really happened when Bridget Kelly ran away.

50 – Juliet is lounging in the middle of her bed like Montgomery Burns when Homer calls him to hang out. Video chat with Andrea. OK, I don’t like that look on her face. She moves her face back and forth preparing to deliver her story. “He forced himself on me.” Instead of Juliet being conniving, I want to see Siobhan being conniving. Please!

52 – Gemma is alive in the trunk. Hits him with a shovel. “You’ve got bad aim.” Oh, now he shoots her again for real. Just after telling her that Siobhan is still alive. Bridget shows up! He thinks she’s Siobhan. He keeps thinking that. She takes his gun. She acts very hard. “You’re not a killer, Siobhan.” Interestingly he says this despite basically being afraid of her. Bridget, meanwhile, may not be scary but she has in fact used a gun before. She finds herself shooting him. Good dynamics of this scene. And now she has to keep a DIFFERENT secret. And Charlie reminds “Siobhan” of yet another thing she should already know – that she is trying to frame Bridget. Could have just gotten rid of her by shooting her! Charlie doesn’t understand the machiavellian scheme either.

56 – On the balcony. Andrew gets a call, Charlie has been found dead, suspected suicide. Gemma also found dead. I thought maybe Bridget was trying to frame the mythical still-on-the-lam Bridget for killing Charlie, much as she framed herself for Gemma’s murder that ended up having not happened, by touching that vase. Whte happened to that?

60 – Over in Paris, Siobhan leaves Tyler, for who knows how long, and with the impression that he’s impregnated her. Bridget now starts believing Siobhan is alive, so that’s the focus of clue-gathering for now. Ends with split-screen on both their faces and Adele’s “Rumour Has It”. One of the most upbeat songs the show has used so far, something of an odd choice.

Conclusion: Many things happened in this episode! Many things! Some strands of plot have finally been resolved! Some people have moved from trying to do one thing, to trying to do something else! Great episode. Still won’t d0 any more recaps, though. If I’m going to watch the rest of the season, or at least watch to see what Siobhan is going to do without Charlie, I need the freedom to totally ignore Juliet. Thank you for your time, everyone. Jalen Rose’s suit.

“I have to remind you, Sully. This is my weak arm.”

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Boy, Bennett, you need to relax. Let off some steam.

Commando [Mark L. Lester, 1985] has many elements that could be seen as ironic and at least 11% intentionally funny. There’s the ice-cream-licking, baby-deer-petting montage. There’s the glee on Alyssa Milano’s 12-year-old face as she cheers her father’s brutal rampage of vengeance, including a cut right from “let off some steam, Bennett” to her looking like she just saw an adorable dolphin hit a game-winning home run. There’s the lack of any suggestion that she has a mother.

There’s the protracted suspense of Rae Dawn Chong being hit on, then stalked by the creepy Sully [David Patrick Kelly], all the way through a deserted parking garage [albeit at midday], and then Schwarzenegger appears out of nowhere to commandeer her car. He knows the creep is stalking her. He is, in fact, saving her from him. But for all she knows, Schwarzenegger is an exponentially more threatening creep. And he doesn’t bother to tell her othewise. He rips out her passenger seat with his bare hands. This style of forcible guardianship makes Bruce Willis’s running gag of injecting Mary-Louise Parker with knockout dropsseem like a quaint neighborly favor. It’s not until after the shootout with dozens of mall cops that she gets any idea of what’s going on.

Not that one

There’s the all-star team of freelance terrorists, featuring a sadistic hair-trigger Napoleon complex [DPK], a huge Caribbean guy with a silly hat and confused demeanor [Charles Meshack], a stonefaced emotionless baldhead [Bill Duke], the sneering loudmouth who explains that the hostage situation is strictly business [Gary Cervantes], several Che Guevara impersonators, and Bennett [Vernon Wells]. There’s the fact that Schwarzenegger’s character is named “John Matrix”.

But the best part is the unabashed uselessness of Schwarzenegger’s massive physique [more superhuman than in any other film, I think]. Yes, the wonderful steel drums of the soundtrack kick in as soon as we see for the first time, not our hero, but his bicep. But at least two big plot points call attention to how those biceps, delts, lats, pecs, and as Tom Wolfe likes to say, sternocledomastoids, are irrelevant to the jobs he has to do. Swamp survival know-how – muscles don’t help. Ability to rip the passenger seat out of a roadster? He could have squeezed into it, that was for show. Imperviousness to bullets? He clearly has that, but there’s no suggestion that his musculature literally serves as body armor.

1) One of the iconic images of Commando is Arnold carrying  a rocket launcher. But in the movie, a more memorable scene shows Rae Dawn Chong displaying no difficulty in hoisting that same item. Although IMFDB admiringly points out things like “Schwarzenegger is probably one of the only actors who can comfortably hold the M60E3 [machine gun] in one hand”, the plot of Commando never needs him to have any special lifting ability, except for holding Sully over the cliff.

2) Bennett is described as the next best thing to John Matrix. He’s no match head-to-head, of course, but he’s a smart guy who realizes that. His disgraced retirement was the result of being too grudgeful and too willing to kill, not incompetence. And there’s a line to the effect that Bennett and Matrix would be the greatest fighting duo ever. So you’d expect Bennett to be played by … Dolph Lundgren? Lou Ferrigno?  In fact, he’s an Australian actor named Vernon Wells, who is certainly big and imposing, but not a physical specimen and not particularly agile. He doesn’t even have a Ron Marchini level of muscle tone. And yet he’s depicted as, not a pale shadow of John Matrix, not an order of magnitude less awesome, but maybe 30% less awesome. So what’s the big deal about Matrix’s bulging, ripped torso? It provides him with a persona, distinguishing him from rival tough guys. That’s about it.

Could the average joe pick up one of these things one-handed? Phew.

Ringer Episode Nine: Why all the masterminding? What’s the point?

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Episode Nine: “Shut Up and Eat Your Bologna”

This week we have three developments. One is the introduction of another new character who knew Siobhan well and helpfully tells Bridget-as-Siobhan how she should be behaving. [That hasn’t happened in a few weeks.] The second is the welcome appearance of a suspenseful sequence that lasts more than five seconds. The third is OH MY GOD GEMMA IS TIED UP IN CHARLIE’S BASEMENT.

* * *

Bridget finds out that Siobhan was visiting a therapist, so she makes an appointment. Dr. Anabel Morris [Merle Dandridge] kicks it off by saying “Now, before we begin, I just have to ask – why are you calling yourself Siobhan Martin?” Commercial break! It turns out that Siobhan normally uses the same pseudonym here that she’s using with her boy-toy in Paris. Over the course of their hour, Dr. Anabel Morris tells her “You usually sit in the armchair,” “You never use your real name,” “Discretion has always been very important to you,” and “Siobhan. You know I didn’t prescribe those anti-depressants for depression.” All this while showing no curiosity about her patient’s apparent amnesia.

Later she catches Bridget sneaking back into the office to look for clues to who might be trying to kill Siobhan. REMEMBER THAT? The guy who tried to shoot Bridget early in her impersonating career? And the tall blond guy who followed her around menacingly for a bit? What happened to him? Bridget reminds Malcolm, and us, that the real reason she’s kept up living Siobhan’s life is to figure out what these assassination attempts are all about.

* * *

"Wouldn't be rehab without an 8-cup-a-day habit."

Malcolm’s been busy thinking. There are clues that Charlie and his apartment are not what they seem. The fact that he has alcohol-containing Listerine in the house means it’s probably a Potemkin house and/or he’s not a real recovering alcoholic. Malcolm presumably thinks Charlie is in with Bodaway because otherwise these suspicions would be quite paranoid. [Paranoia is what Siobhan was getting the medicine for, BTW.] Apparently Charlie gets mail at this address [9600 Colonial Road, Brooklyn] addressed to a John Delario, who also lives at 8440 Louise Terrace, Brooklyn. Bridget goes to The Rectory, a bar where Charlie might be, and he’s there.

Charlie: I haven’t had a drink in 5 days. Stop judging, and start pouring.
Barmaid: Anything you say, John.

Zounds! She asks another employee “Have you ever seen him here with … me?” I like that line. “No. He’s always drinking whiskey, he’s always on his cell.” Charlie gets back in touch with Siobhan to say that Malcolm’s under control for now and doesn’t have to be TIED UP IN THE BASEMENT LIKE GEMMA HOLY CRAP.

It would be hard to hit us faster than this with these Charlie/John discoveries. But what does take a little while to develop is Malcolm poking around Charlie’s other place to try to retrieve Bridget’s gun. Gemma is in the basement and detects that someone other than C/J might be upstairs. She thrashes around. Malcolm walks through the kitchen at five inches per minute, almost unlocks the basement, and leaves with nothing in particular. But Bridget didn’t warn him soon enough. Charlie knows he was there.

* * *

Finally, the marriage and family.

Marriage: Andrew is becoming an old softy [“I guess I want to be the man she thinks I am”], and Olivia doesn’t like it. She doesn’t believe now is the wrong time to hit up Gemma’s old man Arbogast for his millions of investable monies. She rips up Henry’s dividend reinvestment thing and goes to his house to have a chat and make him sign some other thing. This might be Ringer‘s first scene in which two of Siobhan’s longtime associates talk ABOUT Bridget/Siobhan. Henry ducks out to check on the kids, and Olivia snoops into his cell phone. I assumed she was looking for Arbogast’s contact info, and maybe she is, but she gets distracted by a photo of Henry and Siobhan in love. She hadn’t suspected that. And just when Andrew is losing his edge and screwing up Olivia’s business by falling for Siobhan’s womanly distractions. This is valuable knowledge.

Family: We see Henry and Gemma’s kids! They exist! Two adorable redheaded boys. Does this mean we’re to believe Gemma’s hair is naturally that color? Dear lord. We don’t see Juliet or her hot English teacher at all this week.

Let’s take a step back and assess Ringer in general. Frankly I don’t look forward to the episodes, despite the fine musical selections [this week The Raveonettes, “Apparitions” and Adeline, “Stereo”] and the show’s ability to keep multiple balls in the air without seeming frantic. And I don’t think I’ll stick with it in the new year. Why is this?

Maybe it’s that the show isn’t melodramatic enough. The characters spend very little time arguing. And there’s a heavy emphasis on presenting a realistic and nuanced portrait of drug addiction, which intersects with everything else, meaning everything else has to be somewhat grounded and reflective.  The ridiculousness of the Gemma disappearance has now been resolved. The ridiculous fun-ness of the body-switch plot is made un-ridiculous by the fact that Bridget, Siobhan, and Bridget-as-Siobhan look, talk, and act the same. Back in the fall we were looking forward to Ringer and Revenge as equally likely to be trashy, fascinating entertainments. It’s clear now that only Revenge qualifies.

And the characters aren’t plausible enough for us to be satisfied by watching them in these non-ridiculous situations. Major plot elements are ignored for week after week — it’s not just that they don’t figure in the plot, they pass out of the characters’ heads completely. And the biggest one of all – what is Siobhan doing? Why is she manipulating everyone? Who is she TRYING to manipulate, and who just happened to stumble into the web? This is all a mystery. But the thing is, it’s just as much of a mystery now as when we first realized Siobhan was alive. No potential motives have been suggested.  Are we ever going to see her for more than a minute per episode? Is Gellar ever going to get a chance to make Siobhan a separate character from Bridget? I’ll give them one more chance.

Ringer Episode Eight: Everybody Loves Malcolm

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Episode Eight: “Maybe We Can Get a Dog Instead”

Three things happen in this episode.

  • The pregnancy is finally addressed.
  • Malcolm comes face-to-face with Bridget, and then Charlie.
  • Juliet starts trying to seduce her teacher.

How much drama is brought about? It should be an emotional workout, especially with Malcolm’s wrenching descent into addiction [brought about by Bodaway’s thugs injecting him with the pure stuff, remember]. But the lead actors each have a default facial expression that mutes the importance of everything. Sarah Michelle Gellar looks confused as Bridget and knowing as Siobhan. Kristoffer Polaha looks hurt. Zoey Deutch looks hurt. Tara Summers looked hearty and optimistic before she found out about the affair, then she looked miserable. Mike Colter looks grimly determined. There are only two whose face, in my mental image of them, is not frozen into a single expression. Ioan Gruffudd and Billy Miller.

Good for Billy, since he first appeared in Episode Five and already I can imagine him smiling, frowning, frustrated, confident, nervous, determined. He’s my one hope that the show will be saved from a morass of carefully-congealing plot developments forecast hours in advance. As for Ioan Gruffudd, he’s a film actor. Maybe I just don’t like TV drama acting. Maybe it requires different skills, maybe maintaining an immediately recognizable persona, including mood, is essential for the story to maintain coherence from month to month. But it’s making Ringer hard to approach with any prospect of excitement.

* * *

So, Episode Seven ended with Bridget-as-Siobhan about to get a sonogram after her memorial-architectual-exhibition fainting spell. She’ll be revealed as not really pregnant, thus not really Siobhan! Now we see the results … nothing. Oh no. Awk.ward! Actually, all that ensues are outpourings of sympathy for a presumed ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. Everyone is shattered. It’s only been … three weeks since the pregnancy test? Even Juliet offers her some tea. And Bridget makes a real blooper by telling Andrew she doesn’t want to try again for a child soon — “just want to go back to the way things were.”

Andrew starts behaving like a jerk, pointing out that that’s the way things were. She cheers him up by arriving unexpected to his business lunch with … Tyler! Remember Tyler, the sculpted-torsoed youngster Siobhan’s been using for companionship and company secrets, over in Paris? Andrew’s going to promote him to replace the guy Andrew blames for losing the company secrets that Tyler lost. So, Bridget sits next to him. Imagine his confusion, especially since the few neurons in his skull seem entirely occupied by women and classy nightlife. Really, imagine the conversation. Bridget-as-Siobhan talks about the things she’s been doing lately, as Tyler gapes at her apparent skill at lying … Tyler tries to talk about Paris, and Andrew and Olivia are perplexed at why he won’t believe she hasn’t been there. It could be an interesting complication to the familiar switched-identity business. We don’t see that — we just see Tyler whisper to her that he didn’t realize he was sleeping with the boss’s wife. Tension fizzles, yet again.

* * *

Malcolm’s story gathers momentum. Just in this episode Agent Machado finds Malcolm and forces Bridget-as-Siobhan to talk to him; she shrewdly and bravely passes Malcolm a note revealing her true identity; she cleverly gets mad at Machado after the aborted conversation [“What the hell was that? You didn’t tell me Bridget’s friend was a drug addict!”]; she brings Malcolm to meet Andrew; she mentions to Charlie that her old sponsor is in town; she tells Charlie his name [uh-oh]; and she brings Malcolm to meet Charlie. And stay with him. This story is racing forward. Something suspenseful could have happened in the period when Charlie knew her sponsor was in town, but knew nothing else. But that period lasted less than a minute.

Will there be Native American drug lords, George?

Anyway, Malcolm’s now at Charlie’s apartment and mercy. How long is Charlie going to keep doing what Siobhan wants? When will we find out what’s in it for him, with all this crazy criminality and betrayal? And what’s her plan?

* * *

Juliet is very much in the background of Episode Eight, despite uttering the title once again. At the beginning she’s feeling betrayed by Mr. C’s recommendation to have her transferred to another class. She suggests that they should get together and watch “Of Mice and Men, the original with Burgess Meredith”. Which he owns on DVD. Truly, a “smart” character in a TV show can’t be smarter than the writers, and a character who supposedly owns old movies on DVD can’t have a better notion than the writers do of what old movies people watch. Then at the end she barges in on his “Young Samaritans Club” meeting. It would be really nice if we saw any other teachers at this school so we’d have some context for this obsession of hers. Is he a diamond in the rough, a gem in an ocean of slugs, a flower in a pot of dirt?

* * *

Ancillary note: No noticeable songs until right at the end, when this quite nice High Highs song plays over the Malcolm-being-welcomed-by-all montage. Any other music was overshadowed by the Miss Dior ads featuring “Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus”. That song may be important and unique but it’s almost impossible to actually sit there and listen to. And to listen to thirty seconds of it five times in five unskippable commercial breaks? Please, bring back Audrina Patridge and her porkpie hat.