Into the West
As much as I enjoy watching this, the difficult part is knowing history and, thus, what's bound to happen to most of these characters, especially the Native Americans. So when Dog Star tells Running Fox he'll trust the Great Spirit to guide him and guard him against the Cheyenne, the Crow and the white man, I can only cringe and wait for him to be proven wrong. Not that those who aren't native to the area have it much easier, as we see Hobbes the preacher/doctor lead Jacob's party in prayer before their wagon train sets out from Independence. They'll need that and more; it's still not enough to save Leah, who drowns in the river, or Rachel, who's hit by a runaway wagon and suffers a compound fracture. (Not to be a wiseass here, but didn't anybody think it was a bad idea to hang out directly in the path of a massive load being lowered down the hill with a make-shift block and tackle built from cut-down trees? And I'll say this now: The worms crawling around in her wounded leg are about the most disgusting things I've seen in some time, though that was nearly outdone by the following scene in which they sawed her leg off and she died.)
"I've always been envious of you, brother. You've always had that spark, that sense of adventure," brother Jethro tells Jacob as Jacob sees him through his bout of cholera. Later, Jacob takes an arrow through the chest while doing more than anyone to defend the group from marauding Cheyenne. So when he must be left behind to heal and takes nearly a year if not more to catch up to his Jethro and Thunder Heart Woman, only to find his wife is now his brother's wife as well as the mother of his new nephew, is it any wonder he leaves a sign behind and takes off? Heartbreaking stuff. And it's not like it's likely to get any happier along the way. Michael PeckSUNDAY
Ignoring the fact that Vince had no idea what Smallville was while house-hunting with Tom Welling's realtor, I'm sending up a huge hurray that our "It" boy wised up and signed to do Aquaman so he could afford Marlon Brando's old pad. Now we can get on with the filming, which should be a hoot. Especially with that Gay Pride-meets-ComiCon costume! Plus, that line in the theme song about being a superhero finally makes sense. And let's also get a woo-woo for the writers who cooked up the idea of Drama being banned from the Playboy Mansion pajama party for freeing Hef's monkeys during a Cuervo-fueled night at the grotto with Ralph Macchio and Pauly Shore. Who knew Pauly was such a friend of PETA? Or that the washed up Karate Kid was such a snob, calling Drama an "ex-evening-soap star," like that's a bad thing? Um, hello, Daniel San? Given the state of your career, you'd be lucky to have Melrose on your IMDb profile, OK? So simma. The rest of Vinnie's posse, you just stay cool. 'Cause I'm thinking things are going to get very hot next week. Damian J. Holbrook
Star Trek: Voyager's Robert Picardo guest-starred as Trent Applebaum, a 4400 with the ability to induce weight-loss. Having discovered his calling, Applebaum did what any patriotic crass American would do in his place market his talent for greenbacks. (Why this surprised Tom, after all his run-ins with Jordan about the latter's 4400 center eluded me.) But poor Trent would pay for his capitalist ways thanks to a side-effect that bore curious parallels to "The Trouble with Tribbles" from the original Trek. In that classic 1967 tale, the Klingons dosed a wheat-like substance with a poison that broke down fat cells faster than the victim could replace them just like Trent's infectious saliva. Not a great way to I die, I grant you, though on one level I envied the couple in the steakhouse. They tore through multiple T-bones like Dobermans, albeit middle-aged Dobermans with a mortgage. It was like boozing, only with meat. Speaking of which, Jordan had a sweaty romp with sexy Chloe, a pop tart he's hoping will attract more patrons to the center. "Celebrities have deep pockets and deeper insecurities," he preens to Shawn, who decides it's high time he let rip with a mild obscenity on basic cable: "You're a manipulative p---k, you know that?" I wish I could say that this distasteful remark acted as a wakeup call for Jordan to change his scandalous ways and become pious like Eric Camden, but knowing me, I'd blow my wishes on stuff like money and the destruction of my enemies. G.J. Donnelly
Six Feet Under
Loretta Smith Sibley, 1908-1953. "It's a stinkin' life," young George's mom tells him in flashback while washing pills down with booze. "You try your hardest; you wear high heels and a girdle; you go to work every day and things just get worse. That's the way it is." Poor George. At last we find out at least part of what's behind his problems, and it only makes me more annoyed at Ruth for being such a harridan. Speaking of pills, though, Billy tells Claire he's a new man because of her, but doesn't tell her he's stopped taking his own meds. That's almost as big a sin as those black briefs he's sporting. Meanwhile, Rico heads to the funeral directors' conference and... good lord it's crazy, scary Angela who proves she's saner than Rico by giving him some pretty fair advice.
Now maybe I'm becoming the cranky old man I always feared, but I get more than a little joy out of Claire being cut off from Nathaniel's money because she's not in school. Sorry, kid, but those are called rules, which you already knew, and it doesn't matter how many tantrums you throw. It also doesn't matter if you think your mom's a "controlling bitch" or that you claim you're learning from life. This is life's lesson, especially since you seem to think your existence should be one big VW commercial, with more drugs and boozing... and no VW. Now, what's up with Nate meeting Maggie and sparks flying? In the biz, that's called a plot complication. In life, it's a plain old complication. And this week's guess at who'll end up dead at the end of the season? Claire. (Remember, this will change often, and I'll pretend I was right all along, even if no one dies at all. I'm a big cheater that way.) MP
What is up with Bradin? Last week he was smart enough to know when he was being hosed by that two-faced business manager. This week he can't even see that his new surfing buddies are totally playing him? Nice little game they had going, too. First, they boosted his ego by telling him what a great surfer he was. Then they acted like they were watching his back after they encouraged him to hit on a girl who just so happened to have a very jealous boyfriend. Finally, they turned him against Jay after he disciplined Bradin for dropping seven grand on a flat-screen TV. All so that they can fleece him for free meals and a cool place to crash. And we're supposed to believe that if Ava were there instead of traipsing around Europe trying to (gasp!) launch a successful business, he never would have fallen in with the wrong crowd, right? Hard to say. Jay did a great job watching over Bradin. Loved when he demanded that Bradin apologize to Erica for telling his so-called friends he'd shagged her. And Johnny was doing just fine taking care of the kids on his own, especially the way he handled Nikki when she got drunk before the poetry contest. (Her poem wasn't quite "Anne Sexton meets Queen Latifah" but it did speak nicely to the strong ties this new family has managed to weave together.) Guess Ava's not the only one who's grown up in the past year. (Didja notice she now calls them her kids!) And that's a good thing. Cause it takes a beach house (not quite a village) to raise this crazy family. Robin Honig
I'm really glad that there's not an overload of product placement on this show. Instead we get interesting trivia about New York City's high-society landmarks. While the two teams learn "how to be etiquette" (I forget who says this, but will there be a grammar lesson, too?), Madison's ranch hand Jabe and Park's construction worker JW are released into the wild to find a gift for their hostess. If Jabe weren't so adorable, I really would have loved it if the store clerk, who couldn't bother to give him a freakin' card to go with $100 worth of chocolates, had misspelled Kathy's name. Then it was pretty painful to watch Jabe and JW attend dinner acting as their teams' etiquette puppets while the others screamed directions through their earpiece. So did the Hiltons, Ted Allen, Billy Bush and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia have to eat dinner twice to do this test?
Elimination is definitely not the highlight of this show. They're all sitting uncomfortably on the couch while Kathy looks like someone's mom scolding them. Oh, no, Anne's singing again! And Kathy? At least you should know what "fracas" means. How embarrassing that a British showgirl has a better vocabulary than you. Alain is totally the scapegoat. But he seemed too nice to be very entertaining, so here's to the fracases to come! Sabrina Rojas Weiss
As regular fans know, the title of this show applies even more to Tommy than it does to the people he and his cohorts pull out of burning buildings. But "rescue" is a relative term, and it depends pretty heavily on how your friends decide to go about it. When I was a younger and more out-of-control lad hanging with people even more out of control than myself, we had a basic guy understanding: If you act like an ass and refuse to change your ways no matter how many warning signals your buddies send your way, one of them may just take it upon himself to punch you. Hard. In the face. And it usually does the trick, especially once you've had the time to let the pain work its magic and reflect on why someone who ostensibly likes you would go that route.
So it goes with Tommy, who doesn't get punched enough. (At least not yet.) But before things go that far, we get to see Kenny jump into Tommy's truck to give him an update, which turns into an obscenity-filled tirade. A classic scene. Then it's on to Tommy's new cursing-free Staten Island firehouse (until he gets there, anyway), which I have a hard time swallowing since Staten Island's still a New York borough after all, not some God-fearing hickville, and if you live within the city limits and don't cut loose with a good F-bomb now and then, they seriously consider making you move. It's, like, a rule. But again, I like this show, so I don't care. Anyway, it's a funny story point, and Tommy's mega-vs.-ultra slap-fight scene in the diner with Johnny and cousin Eddie redeems it. Which is where my aforementioned face-punching rule comes into play. When Johnny finally knocks Tommy around and cuts him off, I can't blame him. Nor can I blame Sheila for getting mad at him for drinking while they're messing around. Or for kneeing him in the groin. Or for exposing his illegal sublet. Matter of fact, I can't blame anyone for putting a hurting on Tommy, especially since they can't begin to match the job he does on himself. Gonna be a good season, kids. MPWEDNESDAY
Dancing with the Stars
How many Muppets had to die to make Rachel's and Charlotte's samba ensembles? 20? And either Kelly Monaco is actually getting better or I'm just feeling generous because the poor girl nearly fell out of her top after a pesky strap broke. I was so worried about that last samba move where she slid in between her partner's legs; there was almost another Nipplegate! I guess that's the danger of live TV. While I do think she's improving, I just want her to smile once in a while. Come on, I know she can do it! On the other end of the spectrum, I'm wondering if John O'Hurley suffered in the voting and almost got eliminated because of Charlotte's threats that he would wear a Speedo if he lost five more pounds. That scary thought might be enough to send the smooth stepper home. I felt just terrible that Rachel was eliminated. I hate this whole voting-out procedure, everyone seems to have stepped up their game. This week Ms. Hunter and her partner were clearly more compelling than Joey McIntyre and the adorable Ashly, but because the audience tally was for last week's jump-jiving Joey, the supermodel got bumped off. Then again, I almost think Rachel deserved it after commenting that she feels like a goofball. If this tall, lanky beauty is gawky, then what hope do the rest of us have? And Joey, next week I'd advise practicing more instead of traveling home to visit your family or to New York for Celebrity Charades no matter how cute your dad is. Did anyone else get dizzy watching the Viennese waltz? I'm guessing that Kelly got over her whole equilibrium issue; either that or she's taking a ton of Dramamine. Also, I'd like to make a personal request that host Tom Bergeron lay off the lame one-liners about Tom and Katie, a dance that was like helicopter landing signal at the Playboy mansion and performing the Foxtrot to Ludacris. His off-the-cuff material is about as awful as the still-cheesy band. Angel Cohn
Hit Me Baby One More Time
Go, Thelma! The disco diva was slammin' on that Alicia Keyes tune and totally deserved the prize this week, and I'm not just saying that because she was one of the nicest people I have ever interviewed. But she really rocked the house, unlike last week's performance by Irene Cara, which was just so-so. Thankfully the savvy online audience made the right choice last week and voted for the deserving Howard Jones, who did a beautiful cover of a Dido song. Which was sadly forced out of my mind by Club Nouveau's ho-hum rendition of Dido's "Thank You." I can't say that's entirely their fault; every time I hear that song I keep waiting for Eminem to pop in with "Dear Stan." I was a bit worried for Thelma when I heard Greg Kihn's cover of Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which started out all mellow and then turned really rockin'. Though I have to admit that while I knew every word to his big hit really every word, not just the "unh, unh, unh, unh, unh, unh, unh, ah" part I had no idea it was called "The Breakup Song." To me the real breakup song is the heart-wrenching "At This Moment" that Billy Vera revived so well along with all my memories of stupid boys who weren't worth my time. His voice is still golden, and he did quite an acceptable job of performing that Ryan Cabrera song without making me think of Ashlee Simpson. Oh wait, darn it, I really can't hear "True" without her popping into my head. That song gets demerits just for that. And Glass Tiger also lost a few points when the lead singer wore the T-shirt of his own band for their second performance. That's a cardinal rock don't, at least according to Can't Hardly Wait. AC