There's no laugh like an unexpected laugh. But this week was filled with them, as such unlikely sources as unhappy employees, CSPAN, and a debate about the Fourth Amendment provided doses of mordant comedy. Of course, we also got our usual, predictably solid joy from Cougar Town and a celebrity sing-along — plus a shockingly poignant moment from... The Hills? We can hardly believe it ourselves. Welcome to Top Moments: Ode to Joy Edition.
12. Most Oddly Specific Joke: In a Saturday Night Live sketch about an awards show for lazy public employees, featured player Bobby Moynihan plays a schlubby courthouse gofer who delivers a monotonous monologue about a supervisor who expects him — in clear violation of his union contract — to pick up files from another story of the building. "How could you, supervisor?" the schlub asks indignantly, phoning in his dramatic reading the same way he does his job.
11. Best Spoilsport: Sharon Stone pops up on this week's episode of Law & Order: SVU as tough-talkin' ADA Jo Marlowe, who also used to be Stabler's partner. When Marlowe meets Benson, her first question is this: "Have you two done it yet?" When Benson protests that Elliot is married, Marlowe laughs it off. "So?" she replies. What is she trying to say about her history with Stabler?
10. Oddest Reaction: On 90210, when Annie overhears her mom and dad fighting over her mom kissing another man, Annie's reaction is not to punch a pillow or smash something. Instead, she heads out to frolic in a public fountain, Friends-style. We'll add "illogical insanity" to the list of reasons we can't stand Annie.
9. Most Enlightening Character Development: On House, Taub and his wife decide to open up their marriage to Thursday-night affairs. But before Operation Infidelity can get under way, Rachel has second thoughts and calls the whole thing off. Taub seems relieved, but the next night he bumps into nurse Maya in the parking garage, where they kiss and head off for a secret rendezvous. Scumbag.
8. Most Frustrating: Let's put aside for a minute how little sense it makes that Chloe is running 24's CTU these days. We hoped that with such a prestigious promotion, she'd stop acting like such a nervous nelly, put her game face on, and become the power player we always knew she could be. But no, her slavish devotion to Jack continues — as we learn when she explicitly disobeys President Taylor by telling Jack that they're moving Dana to a secure location. Her betrayal sets into motion a series of events that extend the swan-song season by at least a couple of hours.
7. Best Bumper: At the close of the TV Land Awards Sunday, the cheeky netlet assembles a motley-crew chorus of familiar TV faces — including Marla Gibbs, Todd Bridges, Joyce DeWitt, Fred Willard, and Marion Ross, with David Hasselhoff and Marilu Henner right up front — to sing a Glee-ful version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." It's bizarre, hilarious and heartwarming. What can't this song do?
6. The Sh-- Heard 'Round the World Award: Michigan Sen. Carl Levin repeatedly says the word "sh--ty" during a financial regulation hearing on C-SPAN, quoting a Goldman Sachs internal memo. He does it to argue that the company knowingly pushed investments it knew to be "sh--ty" on its customers. But really it's all part of his campaign to someday be vice president. (Later, in the week, Meredith Vieira also says the S-word on live TV.)
5. Most Shocking Reveal: Jeez, vampires are complicated. This week's episode of The Vampire Diaries reveals that Stefan was the first of the Salvatore brothers to turn, and that he then convinced his brother to jump on the vampwagon. Damon's 150-year-long grudge makes a lot more sense now.
4. Funniest Apron Strings: On Cougar Town, Travis is accepted by two colleges — one 20 minutes away and one in California. Jules' creepiest maternal instinct kicks in as she tries to convince him to stay close to home. "Let's not get weird," Travis begs. "If I could, I would have them shrink me down so small so I could live in your blood," Jules replies. Not weird at all, says my mom.
3. Best Experiment: As part of Fox Rocks week, Fringe offers up an odd musical-noir hybrid episode. It's a stretch for this spooky show known for its gross-out moments. But somehow, when the freshly autopsied cadavers in Walter's lab bolt upright and start singing the cheery refrain of "Candy Man," it all kind of works.
2. Closest Call: This week's episode of Breaking Bad finds both Walt and his DEA agent brother-in-law at the top of their games: Walt is finally making meth with near-impunity in a super-secret lab, while Hank's lone-wolf campaign to find the source of Walt's crystal finally brings him to the door of Walt's RV — the one where he first started cooking. The bad news: Walt is on the other side of that door. The entire series could have ended here, with Hank making the most shocking arrest of his career. Instead, we're treated to a hilariously unexpected debate about search and seizure that manages to envelop half the show's supporting cast. When's the last time a discussion of Constitutional law had you biting your nails and stomping on the floor?
1. Realest Plastic Surgery Moment: In the season opener of The Hills, Heidi Montag Pratt flies to Colorado to unveil her post-plastic surgery face and body to her family. Her dumbstruck mom is mostly wordless, and when she does speak her voice catches as she stifles her sobs. "Are you telling me I don't look good?" Heidi asks pointedly. Her mom stammers a bit, but ultimately admits that she thinks she looked fresher, younger and more beautiful before the surgery.
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