SUNDAY

Deadwood
The toughest part about being evil: You don't attract the best help, and karma finds you either way. I have no idea if there's an afterlife, but Al Swearengen's already got his Hell on Earth in the form of gleets (don't know exactly what those are, but I've got guesses — and all of them burn), sprung ribs, a knucklehead who tries to air out Al's recently cleaned suit on the dust-blown balcony and an innkeeper who annoys the crap out of him with nearly every uttered word. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, though, huh?

But character's displayed in the face of adversity. Despite her position in life, Trixie's no dummy. How many Old West prostitutes do you think threw around the term "self-deluding"? And what do you want to bet she can hit whatever she aims that rifle at?

And who'd have figured murderous Dan Dority for a daddy-needing crybaby? Brilliant stroke.

Best line of the hour was Swearengen saying this to Adams: "Over time your quickness with a cocky rejoinder must've gotten you many punches in the face." Few shows manage such a mix of brutality, laughs and poignancy on a weekly basis. And this one just keeps getting better and better. — Michael Peck

Jake in Progress
If I'm not mistaken, TV already has one incredibly slick, insanely good-looking, smooth-talking ladies' man who can charm the tightest pair of Seven jeans off the savviest of women. Though Jake does have one thing over Two and a Half Men's Charlie Harper: Did you get a look at that hot bod when he took his shirt off at the office? (Good thing you're not in NYC, Chuck. Otherwise you'd be faced with some seriously rock-hard, firm, smooth, solid... uh... what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, competition.) Jake's faux pas seemed a little too familiar. Didn't Charlie also date someone he'd already slept with, but hadn't remembered? Though I have to give Jake credit: unlike Charlie, he wants to reform his ways. "How many vapid, thong-wearing, tantric-sex-loving models with fake tans and butterfly tattoos on the small of their back can I date?" (Hmmmm. A shot at his real-life model ex, Rebecca Romijn?) I'm willing to see if he means it, so I tune in for the second ep. And while he's hasn't given up beautiful women, Jake does seem more motivated by what's in his heart than what's in his... well, you know. Sure, he deserves a small pat on the back for choosing to help Patrick instead of spending the night with Allison. But the best part of this ep had nothing to do with Jake's quest to be a better man. Turns out Jake's public relations job is more interesting than he is. (I laughed out loud when one of The Three Gaymigos, a hilarious take on Queer Eye's Fab Five, turned out to be straight.) Maybe he's just too smooth for his own good. How about a less fake Jake? Now that would be progress. — Robin Honig

MONDAY

24
Who else thought that Tony was heading upstairs to freak out on Michelle? And how much would she have deserved it? She completely disregarded Tony's plan to save Jack and Paul, effectively putting their lives and crucial evidence at risk. Not only didn't he call her on it, he offered to walk away from the job. What happened to the old Tony we used to know and love? Good thing Audrey helped Michelle realize how valuable Tony is, though I'm not quite sure when anyone had the time to brief her on their torrid past. Meanwhile, I was happy to finally see a positive portrayal of Arab Americans. How cool were those sporting-goods store owners who were willing to die to rid this country of terrorism? But wasn't it just a little weird that two regular guys would be so good with automatic weapons? (Hello, stereotyping?) I kinda felt for Jack, though. He had to get through that gun fight with three civilians behind him. And what about Marwan? While their best agent almost dies protecting evidence, CTU's got their second-best guy on a wild-goose chase for Marwan's associates? Kinda makes me miss old Driscoll, and she's only been gone, for what, an hour? Time to step up, Michelle, and fast. — RH

TUESDAY

The Amazing Race
Considering that ocean-loving Debbie was one of only four players to totally chomp down the mounds of meat, I really think, for that alone, she and Bianca should've been allowed to keep racing. After that long, long day she actually put away four lbs. of pork and blood sausage, cow rib, intestine, udder, kidney and saliva gland. And so did poor Patrick. Imagine eating that load on top of the pressure of competing with another team, knowing you are dangerously close to elimination. My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

That sly editing in which it appeared as if Uchenna and Joyce would come in first was just devious. And it's not like their second-place standing really matters since each leg of the race is designed to basically reset all the players. Yes, strangely enough, the businesses that serve as starting points almost always seem to have operating hours that accommodate everyone catching up to each other. But that's just smart planning on the producers' part; otherwise, plane trips and such would be nearly impossible to coordinate.

I told myself I wouldn't Rob-bash this week, so I'll just let that cab-stealing fiasco speak for itself. (Debbie and Bianca must've loved seeing that footage.) He's a clever player, but I have to wonder what sweet, innocent Amber thinks of his less-than-fair play. It's hard to tell whether she's totally in agreement with his conniving tricks or if she somehow feels she's blameless because he executes everything. — Danny Spiegel

Project Greenlight
It is the Ides of March, which doesn't bode well for this disasterpiece in the making. Sure, both Stolen Summer and The Battle of Shaker Heights bombed at the box office, so it makes sense that the documentary series would actually want to make a profit off the chosen film this time around. But watching this ep seems like rubbernecking at an accident. Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Wes Craven argue with the Dimension Films execs over picking a quality script instead of a mediocre but marketable one, but the Beantown boys and the horror guru are shot down. The same fight arises over picking a director, and after much deliberation, they end up winning, but they pick a wedding videographer who seems too socially inept to helm a $2 million film. What were they thinking? They may be making Feast, but it already seems like box-office poison in the making. Check, please! — Angel Cohn

The Shield
I can't believe it. I was all ready to take Shawn Ryan to task for casting Glenn Close as Aceveda's replacement. I had a full paragraph of scathing critique prepared about how you cannot take Lady Macbeth out of the 11th century and plop her down on the gang-infested streets of Farmington with the likes of Vic Mackey! But you know something? Dammit, I like green eggs and ham, and I like Glenn Close as Monica Rawling, Sam-I-Am!

Hardly the ball-buster I'd expected; the new captain is so totally chill she's downright affable. Maybe it's because she hasn't formally taken over yet. She's still on vacation, right? Just popping in to the Barn to have a look around and meet the troops. Now I don't know about you, but "vacation" to me conjures up images of white sand beaches, drinking rum from a coconut and stealing glances at the lovelies in their string bikinis — not shaking down gang members while investigating a quadruple homicide and sharing a laugh over a mute pit bull with a bullet in its head — but that's just me.

Not sure what Shane was doing pulling a pager off Vic's dead informant in that last scene, but the tension between the former best buddies was downright enticing:

Vic: "Why are you here? Who did this?"Shane: "You wanna smell my gun?"

Ahhhh, now that's what's been missing from my television diet. — Dan Roberts WEDNESDAY

Survivor
Between Lost and Survivor, I think I'm catching island fever tonight. Oh, wait, it's just this nagging cold I can't kick. But seriously, this was one of the best episodes of the reality show in a really long time. First the downtrodden Ulong tribe wandered aimlessly in the woods trying to find a nearby cave. Then they were defeated in yet another challenge by the dominant Koror tribe. I'm starting to wonder if Ulong is a cursed name in Palau. But there is the little bit of schadenfreude that kicks in when I see their losing streak continue while I'm all cozy on my couch. It just makes me wonder what merciless torture Jeff Probst and Co. will inflict on them next. Tonight he made the losers watch while the Kororians feasted on stew and biscuits and got a peek inside the infrastructure of the Ulong tribe. Turns out that there is no infrastructure. They never found a leader, they have low morale and they haven't been vocal about creating any alliances. Aside from wistfully hoping for a merge, an idea which the smug Probst laughingly shot down, they have no game plan. And not only did the Koror crew get the aforementioned reward, they were also allowed to grant one of the Ulongers immunity, which they gave to Ibrehem, who was facing certain torch snuffing. And now he'll owe them big-time. Steph, Bobby J. and Mush-Mouth James, take note: This is how the game is played. Not by being so disorganized that you cause a tie between two strong players while skinny little James sits there all ignored and tattooed Angie gets sent home.

Meanwhile, the winners still had to oust someone as well, because with nine players, their tribe would have been twice as big as Ulong. So they evicted weak-link Willard from their Home Depot shack, which was not surprising since he wasn't much help at this season's truly tough physical challenges. And his departure meant Coby finally got some pants, which was a welcome relief for my poor eyes. — AC

American Idol
You know, it says a lot about a show when it can get 24 million viewers to accept the horror that is now our weekly group sing-along. What the hell was that? Other than nightmare fuel. Yikes. Just as scary was the shot of Ruben Studdard sitting there, as my bud Joe pointed out, like Suge Knight, only sweatier. Then again, even my temperature rose after the bottom three were announced and Nikko Smith was still sitting down. Jessica Sierra? Come on. Mikalah Gordon and inaugural ouster Lindsey Cardinale, sure. But not Jess. Not until we weed out some real dogs. Speaking of, Pepito the Wonder Chihuahua would like to say hello to 'cooler reader Andre. Not sure how they know one another, but it's a sad day when my pet gets fan mail and I get bashed by two of Scott Savol's saltier female fans. Nice, ladies. You kiss your parole officers with those mouths? — Damian Holbrook

Alias
Well, that was different. If your audience has possibly become so numb to the dangers your main characters face each week, it's time to remind them that being a CIA agent isn't exactly a walk in the park (unless you typically dodge gunfire and enemy agents while walking your dog). Sam the civilian's evening started by flirting with those irresistible dimples and ended with a killer chopper, gun shots and a bullet wound that could've been fatal if it had been six inches to the right. I was all tensed up for the first time in a while — I knew Sydney was going to make it, but I wasn't too sure about this poor schlub.

Quite a character turn for old man Jack, eh? With no immediate threat to his life, he decided to just go ahead and strangle his former associate. And then lie to his daughter about it. And then head out to dinner with her. Oh wait, that last part's OK. Syd's dear old dad has always been a (relatively) good guy courtesy of the "by any means necessary" doctrine, but this goes into a whole new area of darkness.

Lastly, for some reason, as I watched the flashing title cards during this episode, I thought it would be pretty cool if some other random ABC show used those graphics as an inside wink to Alias viewers. Like, you're watching Wife Swap, and as they cut to the next scene, you suddenly see the words "Nauseatingly Filthy Bathroom" come flying toward you. — DS

THURSDAY

The O.C.
Is it weird that I take comfort in the idea of Marissa and Ryan reuniting? Even if they were the Sid and Nancy of Newport the first time around, Broody McWifebeater himself said, "Last year was better because it was all new." And it can be new again, right? I mean, now that Alex went off into the horizon, Coop is newly hasbian (a failed gay) and Ryan's newly... shaggy. Seriously, Ben, get a trim. Anyway, these two should get to hooking up and moving her back into Caleb's compound, pronto. They may have missed a makeout chance at the obviously insured-out-the-wazoo Harbor School's bonfire extravaganza, but with that skeezy, Scorpions-listening Lance one set of overpumped delts away from leaking Julie's porno, it's only right that Marissa be sharing the same cage with Ginger Lynn Jr. in time for the fireworks. I think there are still some deck chairs that need to be tossed into the pool. Oh, and I've got to say, that this pit stop on Sappho Isle? The best thing to happen to Mischa Barton since that first-season Marc Jacobs dress. She's finally holding her own with Adam Brody, as proven by the growing number of scenes they've been given lately, and her bits with the increasingly adorable Rachel Bilson seem like the two of them may actually be friends. It's quite nice. Unlike, say, the fact that Kirsten's been spending more time with this Carter character than with her own Cohen. Trust me, I understand the allure of a Husker D&#252 fan in faded Diesels, OK? But the dude could barely handle Sela Ward and Shane West — hell, he hasn't even noticed that Marissa made out Evan Rachel Wood back in the day! You really think he could deal with Seth? Get home and get your schmear on with Sandy before it's too late! — DH

NCAA Basketball
Survivor got bumped for a bunch of sweaty college kids? While I grew up surrounded by basketball — my dad is a coach and a referee — the whole March Madness thing is still a little overwhelming to me. But I was so excited that I had a team to root for this year in Maryland; their forward Nik Caner-Medley could often be found shooting hoops in the front yard with my dad back when he was my height. But since the Terps' invite to the Big Dance got lost in the mail or something and they are hanging out at the NIT spring fling instead, I had to find another team to cheer on. So being a Jersey transplant and someone who likes the underdogs — heck, I'm a Mets fan — I decided to send my good wishes to the Fairleigh Dickinson University Knights. Tonight they took on the No. 1 team in the nation, Illinois, and there was a teeny chance that this could be one of those big upsets and it would mess up all those people who think they've got bracketology down to a science.

Too bad that after a hopeful first half, they lost 55 to 67. Better luck next year. There were a ton of other games on, with scores conveniently running at the top of the screen, but one was all I could handle. For more NCAA highlights and listings of upcoming games, visit our sports section. In my case, though, I think I'd still rather watch people on an island being deceptive to win, instead of these nail-biting games between young kids, where I find myself uncontrollably yelling at the TV. Besides, having watched St. Patrick's Day revelers in New York City today, I already got my fill of some real March Madness. — AC