Top Moments: Mistaken Identities on House, Letterman and Sesame Street
House, Katy Perry
This week, TV had a case of mistaken identity. On Law & Order: SVU, Joan Cusack played a grieving mother who of course also appeared to be the suspect. Cougar Town's Jules found a new therapist with serious truth issues. Olivia's evil twin made a pass at her unrequited love on Fringe. Sesame Street forgot that Katy Perry is a scantily clad pop star. Joaquin Phoenix revealed that he is, in fact, an actor and not the subject of a documentary. And the cranky doc on House let it slip that he's actually a big old softie. Welcome to Top Moments: Mistaken Identity Edition.
15. Best Breakfast: While staying at Don's apartment after running away from home, Mad Men's Sally tries to get in her dad's good graces by making him French toast. Don is impressed, until he realizes that the "Mrs. Butterworth's" she poured over the plate is actually rum. Then he's even more impressed.
14. Best Twist: On the season-opener of Law & Order: SVU, Joan Cusack plays a woman whose child went missing 10 years prior. Cusack's creepy performance is a textbook SVU "the mom did it" gambit, but in a surprising twist, her daughter is found alive and living as the wife of her kidnapper.
13. Best Kind of Crazy: Cougar Town's Jules (Courteney Cox) is having a hard time dealing with son Travis' impending departure for college. So it's a good thing she has Glenn (Jennifer Aniston), her new therapist, with whom she bonds over their shared parenting experiences. That is, until Jules finds out that the "Gabriel" who Glenn talks about with such pride (one story involved his First Communion) is not her son but her dog.
12. Best Introduction: HBO's Prohibition-era drama Boardwalk Empire creates a fully formed vision of 1920s Atlantic City, but the show's creators are careful to anchor their candy-colored New Jersey with some historical context. The best example: Jimmy waits outside in the cold while Nucky meets with his associates from New York and Chicago, airing his grievances to a baby-faced driver. When the two low men on the totem pole finally shake hands, we learn that Johnny Torrio's hotheaded chauffeur is some guy named Al Capone.
11. Worst First Impression: We're only two episodes into Survivor: Nicaragua and we're ready to name Shannon Elkins the season's archvillain. During this week's Tribal Council, Shannon abruptly asks Sash if he is gay (Sash had already said he was straight), after Sash questions him repeatedly about his integrity. Shannon claims he was edited unfairly, and that he was making a point about honesty rather than sexuality. But his behavior ruffles enough feathers to secure his ouster. Any way we can disinvite him to the reunion show?
10. Best Introduction: It was a fun idea to have Mr. Schu and Sue Sylvester join forces to bring down Shannon Beiste (Dot Jones), Glee's new female football coach. But when the pair's practical jokes reduce the hulking woman to tears in the locker room, we realize there's more to The Beiste than meets the eye.
9. Best Song and Dance: The seventh season of The Office begins with a Dunder-Mifflin Lip Dub of The Human Beinz's 1960s garage hit "Nobody But Me." It's a little corny, but it's a fun way to incorporate the large ensemble cast. A particular highlight: the word "nobody" written on Meredith's untoned stomach. No-no-no, nuh-no...
8. Best New Mystery: After seeing her ankle back in January, we finally get another piece of the How I Met Your Mother mother puzzle: Ted meets her at a wedding, where it starts raining. (Yellow umbrella, remember?) He's the best man at these nuptials, so now the question is: Whose wedding is it?
7. Best Dose of Reality: After years of getting away with her illicit activities, Weeds' always-in-motion Nancy Botwin suffers a chilling setback when her son Shane is apprehended by Mexican gangsters. The news renders her motionless, and she uncharacteristically collapses on to the motel-bathroom floor in a weeping, disheveled mess of a pile.
6. Strangest Kiss: After spending an entire episode "over there" with Olivia as she struggles to escape from the Machiavellian grasp of Walternate, Fringe brings us back over here just long enough to reveal that Bolivia is doing a very good impression of her doppelganger, a fact they demonstrate by showing Peter kissing her.
5. Best Self-Parody: Sarah Palin doesn't show for daughter Bristol's Dancing with the Stars' debut, but the self-described "public advocate for teen pregnancy prevention" makes sure Mom's there in spirit. Cheekily dancing to the Three Dog Night tune "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" — which she says symbolizes her relationship with Levi Johnston — Palin dresses up like her mom in a suit before ripping it off to reveal a fringed cha-cha dress underneath. A stunt for votes? You betcha.
4. Best Potshot: NBC's Community wittily dings CBS' Twitter-based $#*! My Dad Says when Troy begins tweeting Pierce's foolhardy sayings under the handle Old White Man Says. "Are you saying 600,000 people read about what I say on Twitter?" says Pierce. "We gotta cash in on that. How about Old White Man Says the TV show?" His friends respond with a unanimous no. "Who would watch that?" Troy adds. It's a timely suggestion that viewers not switch channels, since $#*! My Dad Says airs on CBS in the time slot immediately following Community.
3. Weirdest Follow-Up: Joaquin Phoenix returns to Late Show with David Letterman to confess that his documentary project I'm Still Here — which includes a scene of a bearded Phoenix's bizarre, rambling visit to the show 18 months prior — is actually a ruse, a comment on the sad state of celebrity and the media. When Letterman learns that the project is fiction, he wants to be remunerated for his appearance in the film. "You owe me a million dollars," he tells a sheepish Phoenix, and now we honestly can't tell if he's telling the truth.
2. Most Vivid Image: In the final seconds of the first episode of The Event, just as a hijacked jet is about to crash into President Martinez's Florida compound, a liquid-metallic rift opens in the sky and swallows the plane, which disappears into thin air. "They saved us," Sophia says. We have no idea who they are, but now we're definitely curious.
1. Best Sexual Healing: The cranky doc of House isn't one to wear his heart on his sleeve, but a long-overdue sex scene between him and Cuddy reveals a surprisingly vulnerability. What starts out somewhat aggressive (Cuddy rips off House's pants) turns tender when Cuddy kisses the gnarly scar on his bum leg. "It's OK. I love you," she says.
Honorable Mention for ... The Best Moment That Never Aired: Sesame Street pulls a clip of Katy Perry's duet of "Hot and Cold" with Elmo because of complaints that her dress showed too much cleavage. The outfit's less revealing than a typical Dancing with the Stars costume, but it does lend itself to jokes about the segment being "brought to you by the letters DD."