Didn't have a chance to read our daily Watercooler commentary? Our "Best of the Week" column gives you highlights of what you missed all in one spot. And don't forget to give us your opinion on the past week's best show by voting in our poll.

SUNDAY, 3/6

Deadwood
"Welcome to f---in' Deadwood! It can be combative." — Al Swearengen, greeting young William while thisclose to putting a knife in Seth Bullock

Now, ain't that an understatement? Y'know the toughest thing about this series, which I have very sorely missed? The best lines come out of the mouth of Swearengen (Ian McShane). And those are exactly the ones I can't quote without an overkill of dashes that would render this column well nigh unreadable. Nor can I quote the wonderful Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert), who only had one word in the whole hour, for exactly the same reason (though what a word it was),

But has this show learned to stir it up or what? A scant few minutes in, Bullock and Swearengen go off the balcony, locked in a brawl, just as Bullock's wife and Billy the kid show up, and right after he got out of bed with the widow Garrett. Quite a change from last season, when it took several episodes to get things moving. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I like slow pacing.

Gotta like Swearengen's E.B. imitation, too, which is somewhere between the real McCoy and Marvin the Martian. And I've got a feeling that kid William's gonna be a serious factor one way or the other. Overall, however, the greatest truth of the evening belongs to murderous Dan Doherty: "We're joinin' America and it's full of lyin', thievin' c------kers that you can't trust at all."

The man has a point. But ain't that what makes for great TV?— Michael Peck

MONDAY, 3/7

The Contender
Wow, not a bad start for the most anticipated (and most expensive) reality show of the year. Gotta hand it to Mark Burnett, as the godfather of unscripted drama, he has a recipe for reality TV that seems to work every time:

1) Take 16 anonymous citizens hungry for money and/or fame.
2) Divide them into teams based on some predetermined arbitrary criteria (like which side of the country they hail from).
3) Pit the teams against each other in a series of grueling, if not ridiculous, physical competitions.
4) Instruct the losing team to choose a sacrificial lamb.
5) Subject the unlucky victim(s) to a nail-biting elimination ceremony.
6) Accompany the proceedings with a pulse-pounding symphonic score, heavy on the kettledrums.
7) Present the lucky victor with a check for $1 million dollars (and another seven seconds of fame).
8) And capture every moment, no matter how triumphant or tragic, on camera.

Good thing for Stallone and Burnett that Alfonso Gomez turned out to be a lion instead of a lamb. The ass-whooping that &#252berunderdog delivered to undefeated and world-ranked Peter Manfredo Jr. was a downright biblical homage to David and Goliath. Alfonso was the only person in the building who even thought he had a chance. But as the gutsy Mexican said before the fight, "If you imagine it, it can happen."

Manfredo, on the other hand, uttered his own prophetic eulogy before the fight, saying, "I don't know much about him, but I don't know how to lose yet. I'm undefeated." Welcome to the school of hard knocks, Manfredo. As for the producers, methinks they should pony up a hefty bonus to Alfonso. He probably won't make it to the final bout, but he sure made the premiere episode a knockout! — Dan Roberts

Fat Actress
In what appears to be a bizarre blend of The Anna Nicole Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Kirstie Alley bites back at all the tabloids that have been having a field day with her recent growth spurt. The former Cheers star has apparently decided, if you can't beat them, join them. And I've got to give her credit for gamely walking down the hall to meet NBC head honcho Jeff Zucker to the song "Bubble Butt." Plus, she gets bonus points for trying to take down some of those undying Hollywood double standards by lamenting her lack of employment. "Jason Alexander looks like a frickin' bowling ball, and James Gandolfino [sic] — he's like the size of a whale. He's way, way, way fatter than I am." Girl's got a point, but most of America seems to want its sitcoms filled with chubby hubbies and skinny wives, not the opposite. So instead, Alley offers up an antidote to this social disorder with almost as much profanity as a Deadwood episode, a house filled with decidedly un-Pier 1 looking furniture, wicked bulimia jokes, a sex scene that displays her plump body with a slew of Clapper gags and a guest appearance by another comeback kid, John Travolta. God only knows what to expect next week. In the meantime, all the constant eating is making me hungry, so could someone please pass me that box of doughnuts? — Angel Cohn

TUESDAY, 3/8

Gilmore Girls
Don't you just love to hate Emily Gilmore? She's got the sharp wit and magnetic presence of a true Gilmore Girl. Only she uses it to manipulate, offend and hurt everyone around her. First, she arrogantly assumes that her plan to reunite Lorelai and Luke didn't work because Lorelai didn't dutifully show up to the insufferable Friday-night dinner. Then she has the nerve to blame Luke, whom she oh-so-affectionately calls "that filthy diner owner." (So the guy doesn't like to shave. That makes him sexy, not dirty, 'kay?) And could she be more condescending? "Wasn't I clear enough? Did I need to set it to Sesame Street characters? Did I have to sing a song about it?" she screeches at poor Luke, in his diner no less. And if that weren't bad enough, Emily not only firmly believes she knows what's best for her 36-year-old-daughter (a woman who raised a teenager on her own, no less), she also feels it's her god-given right to interfere. Sigh. At least Lorelai is a better mother. (She must have studied hard at the school of Do-the-Exact-Opposite-of-Everything-My-Mother-Did.) So far, so good. She's right on schedule as she struggles to create new boundaries with an independent Rory. And she keeps her mouth shut at the appropriate times, even when she doesn't agree with Rory's new dating strategy. (Huge props to Rory, by the way. That whole let's-date-other-people thing got a jealous Logan eating out of the palm of her dainty little hand.) Emily, it's time you started taking some Lorelai notes. You might learn a thing or two. — Robin Honig

The Amazing Race
Oh, Brian, dude. You and your brother squeaked by, but little did you know that Megan, who came in last place with her roommate, Heidi, had felt "a spark" during that 10-hour bus ride.

The recipe detour seemed deceptively easy and, of course, the catch was the extra loot required. When both Lynn and Alex and Gretchen and Meredith had to get new fish because their first fish (say that three times fast) didn't meet the weight requirement, I thought between the four of them, someone was going to snap. But, unfortunately, there would be no footage of a crazed run through the marketplace with a shoplifted corvina. That would've been so cool. Maybe next time.

And now for the infamous "Boston" Rob:
1) How the hell did he deliver 180 books in just one trip while everyone else was struggling? Is he that good a stacker (he should put that on his resume under "skills," right next to "liar"), or were some of those books smaller since they had first dibs?
2) Yes, he's a cunning player, but slipping money to the security guard and bus driver (and keeping the extra five bucks) was a new low. Actually, that's not true; it was just a different low. Well, one good thing about team Survivor winning this leg was that we didn't have to see Rob's blank-eating grin for the last 25 minutes.

And as a, uh, "footnote," if you ever want your shoes shined, don't ask Susan to do it. Unless you want your socks shined, too. — Danny Spiegel

WEDNESDAY, 3/9

American Idol
First off, Ryan Seacrest deserves to be beaten with tree limbs soaked in Sea Breeze for making poor Carrie and Constantine think they were out like that. He ain't right at all. The Top 12, however, is very right. Along with the aforementioned Seacrest victims, we've got Lindsay, Scott, Mario, Vonzell, Anthony, Bo, Mikalah, Jessica and my future text-messaging fees, Anwar and Nadia. Sure, a few of them may already be short on shelf life — yes, I'm talking about you, Mikalah — but the elimination of Janay more than makes up for losing Amanda, Nikko and Travis. Plus, now I don't have to give up believing in God. Oh, and to those of you up in arms (and nasty e-mails) over my failure to recognize Janay's losing tune as Selena's "Dreaming of You," how about going a little easy? After all, it's impossible to recognize even mediocre songs over the screams as they're being tortured like that, OK? — Damian Holbrook

Alias
How ironic. On the day I take over Alias coverage from my talented colleague Damian Holbrook, there was a character named "Damian" mentioned in tonight's episode (that was Mr. Blackwell's first name, if you didn't catch it).

Anyway, they almost got me. I knew there was a major twist coming as the gang was closing in on Sloane in Brussels, but I was totally shocked when I saw Jack sitting there (what's up with those glasses, Clark?) with the reforming Alliance. However, during the commercial break I remembered the pact Jack and Sloane had mentioned, so I immediately figured this was a setup. Nicely done, though.

A long overdue welcome back to Angela "Don't mess with me" Bassett. Was that some coy flirtation between her and the normally stoic Dixon at the end? That would be a kick... well, until she dies tragically or ends up in a coma or something. In romance corner No. 2, we have Nadia and Weiss, who's as subtle as a junior-high dweeb passing a folded note that says "Do you like me? Check the 'Yes' box or the 'No' box."

Eeriest moment that seemed like something out of Lost: Vaughn being told that no nurse named Rosemary was tending to his uncle. Something creepy is obviously going on with Vaughn's not-so-dead daddy. Just please, may we not find out that Vaughn and Sydney are first cousins. — DS

THURSDAY, 3/10

The O.C.
All right, is it just me or did it feel like Josh Schwartz was trying to right a couple wrong turns? I mean, after months of lesbian kisses, hot yard guys and water-polo dullards that went nowhere, we finally got our core quartet back together without all those other incredible-looking interlopers and actually had some fun! Sure it took getting locked in the mall and five not-too-conspicuous Beck tunes, but you know what? Totally worth it, if only for Marissa's confession that she still loves Ryan. Nothing against Alex. As Julie said, she seems nice (and I do like her pants, too), but if the girl can't click with Seth, Ryan or Marissa, maybe it's time to take her out back and shoot her, you know? Oh, and speaking of shooting, who else was ready to put a bullet in Billy Campbell, with his button nose and flirty chatter? KiKi does not need some hotsy-totsy editor to be paying any sort of attention to her so soon after Sandy's li'l Kim Delaney dalliance. But then I realized that Campbell's character may secretly be a Judy Garland fan. Think about it. The bitchy "ex-wife." Those Tales of the City sideburns. The casual usage of the word "cocktail." Trust me, straight guys do not suggest "cocktails." However, he is gonna be around for six episodes and they've already done the "alternative lifestyle" story, so who knows. What I do know is that the dude blackmailing JuJu also played a scumbucket on Guiding Light like 100 years ago and had the same inspirationally cultured stubble. So I'm betting that Newport's own Paris Hilton will be seeing her Porn Identity winding up either in the wrong hands or playing on Orange County screens everywhere very, very soon. Until then, though, I'm more than happy just watching The Fantastic Four become fantastic again. — DH

The Apprentice
John — the Vince Vaughn look-alike — was dismissed by The Donald. I'm guessing he's not really feeling "so money" right now. Perhaps it was his "hipster" wear that led to his downfall. But he should consider himself lucky because with all his chauvinistic remarks I'm surprised that Erin or Stephanie didn't take that wallet chain and choke him with it.

But the real star of tonight's episode was Tana, after she and Craig got traded to team Magna, she became their MVP. She was a self-proclaimed MILF on camera (though I'm not entirely sure she knew what it really stood for — rent American Pie if you don't know). "Mom I'd Like to Fool Around With." Ha! Please tell me she was just being polite for the camera crew. However, she gamely tried to fit in with the hip-hop lingo while checking out Lil Jon's bling — I don't think she knew what crunk stood for either — all the while securing fabulous and over-the-top items for bidding on. And she totally scored a home run by making Carolyn nearly fall over laughing with her "We be talking now" comment. Anyone who can destroy the tough blond's composure is OK in my book. I just hope Tana's two kids are too young to be embarrassed by mom's attempt at being cool. Otherwise school today's going to be awkward. — AC