Survivor: All-Stars and Survivor: All-Stars Reunion SAS: C'mon, now. Did anyone ever really doubt that Rob and Amber were going to be the Final 2? The obvious big question of the night was whether Jenna L. or Rupert was going to be the third one standing (literally, on two posts in a pond), although, in my mind at least, Jenna was the obvious choice to take third place. It was way too risky to let Rupert into the Final 3. He could easily have won the immunity that Jenna carelessly lost — although not as infuriatingly stupidly as Amber — and our "gentle giant" would have taken the money and run. (Run, Rupert, run!)What was more interesting (and I say that with only the tiniest bit of sarcasm) was the final Immunity Challenge standoff between Rob and Amber. Amber beseeched Rob to let her have immunity and he told her to work for it: "Let's fight it out anyway... You're gonna have to beat me." And for the first time, we saw Rob's bravado waver as he realized that what he feared might happen if he didn't win immunity could become a harsh reality. He finally admitted that he knew how many people he had pissed off over the course of 38 days and he was scared. And that's why, girlfriend or not, he had to take Amber with him if he made it all the way. If he took Rupert or Jenna, either one of them could have won, because not only did the jury members despise Rob for all of his double dealings, if he got rid of Amber, that would have been the ultimate betrayal and they would have not voted for him for principle's sake. At least if he took Amber with him as he had promised all along, he had a shot of playing the she "rode his coattails card" — which she totally did — with those who thought that the only strategy Amber employed was being the pretty girl in the stands rooting for her star player — which she totally was. As for the final Tribal Council before the jury of ousters, can anyone say zzzzzzz? Yes, Lex and Kathy and Big Tom, we're all well aware that you're upset with Rob for betraying your "friendship" and stabbing you in the back. And your point is... ? You are playing Survivor, not Candyland. And Shii Ann, Kathy and Alicia, enough with the eye-rolling and lip-pursing. Didn't your mother ever tell you that your face might stick that way forever? Ooops, too late for you, Alicia of the perpetual sourpuss.
SAS Reunion: Right before Amber wins (duh!), Rob proposes to her on national TV. (Did anyone else think she looked like she was frantically scanning Madison Square Garden for the nearest emergency exit?) Are you freaking kidding me?! I thought The Bachelorette was on ABC! I'm sorry, but if 39 days of starvation, physical torture and mental anguish is what it takes to find my "soul mate," then you can count this girl out. I'll stick with the Internet. And the big "twist"? Not Sue's extreme makeover (I actually thought Jenna L. was the one who had work done); not Shii Ann's new car, courtesy of eternal suck-up Amber, who pathetically tried to get her new fiancé to help her with the apparently overwhelming decision; not even Jerri's exodus after being booed by the crowd (give the poor girl a break; wasn't slumming it on The Surreal Life penance enough?). No, America gets to vote via text messages for whom they want(ed) to win and that individual gets an additional $1 million. What is this, American Idol: Survivor All-Stars? So, in one mere hour, the granddaddy of reality shows steals from three of its progeny. Just more evidence that if there isn't any originality in reality TV now, there certainly never will be. Besides, we all know it's going to be Rupert. — Tonight's coverage of the Survivor: All-Star finale was written by Thursday-night Watercooler writer Rebecca Peterson.
King of the Hill
The years of lugging propane have taken their toll on Hank's back. Unable to stand up straight, Arlen's favorite son not only looks like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but his condition forces him to go on worker's compensation until he can once again stand erect. Staying at home all day alone isn't so bad, insists Bill. "Your couch and your TV will become your mother and father," he says. "The couch is the mother." Say what you want about Bill, he knows how to unwittingly motivate people. For Hank, this means entering a yoga class run by self-absorbed, leering contortionist Yogi Victor, voiced with relish by Johnny Depp. Hank hates Victor a lot, but his back does get better — so much so that a snoop from the worker's compensation board (Marg Helgenberger) thinks Hank has been shirking the whole time. But Hank, as usual, has the last word. After Victor introduces himself by pulling his foot up to his ear while standing on one leg, Hank asks the board, "What healthy person would voluntarily spend five minutes with this joker?" Case closed.
Homer recounts his first kiss, not realizing that the girl in question was actually Marge, who ironed her hair because "that's what Leslie Uggams does."
• Milhouse sweet-talks a girl he wants to kiss with "I hope you like the taste of my ringworm medicine."
• "I got the idea from a now-discredited book on child-rearing." Marge, clutching her copy of Spank-tastic, the book that inspired the Simpsons' "Family Court."
• The compliment given to Marge by her girls-camp counselor: "I'd be proud to have you as my husband's mistress."
• Elvis Jagger Abdul-Jabbar ---The name Homer used to introduce himself to Marge, who carves EJA-J + M on a tree.
• Marge kisses Homer and rides through space on Pegasus while Homer sucks the contents of the Hi-C Fruit Punch Pitcher dry, causing it to collapse and die.
• Homer's description of his first kiss with Marge: "I felt like a clusterbomb wiping out a graveyard full of zombies."
• Homer's Baretta lunch pail, his unfinished pen-pal letter to "Osama" and the other half of the heart-shaped rock.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent
This show has curious ties to my sister's family in Boston. First, my brother-in-law went to the same high school as Kathryn Erbe (he knew her "Katy"). More importantly, my 6-year-old nephew can eerily re-create the deranged glare of Vincent D'Onofrio's "Pyle" from Full Metal Jacket. This show is okay, but I keep hoping Erbe's Alex Eames will dominate a case for a change. D'Onofrio's Bobby Goren is starting to suffer from McCoy's Disease — a disorder that often turns a once interesting L&O regular into a self-righteous, scene-hogger who becomes so grating that one is driven to root for the criminals. Even so, I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing Goren toy with Chops, a would-be wiseguy who rubbed out his own uncle to curry favor with a dying mob boss. In his defense, Chops had a rough family life. He was born with natal teeth and his tendency to bite his mother during nursing led her to put him up for adoption. Goren uses this to goad Chops and humiliate the impassive mug in front of his two double-crossing friends. "She found him repulsive and threw him out like a dog," he tells them until Chops finally bites. I knew he'd snap.
Movies in Time: The Lost Battalion
Does anybody remember the World War I veteran? Thanks to Tom Brokaw, Stephen Ambrose, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, World War II veterans are deified. Vietnam veterans have a memorial in Washington, D.C. The lasting popularity of M*A*S*H assures that the Korean War will never be forgotten. Yet there is only a handful of living survivors from the Great War, and virtually all of them are over 100 years old. What are we doing to honor them? The History Channel aired this 2001 fact-based drama about 600 Americans surrounded in the Ardennes by the Kaiser's divisions. Led by Maj. Charles Whittlesey (Rick Schroeder) — a lawyer — this motley collection of Irish, Jewish, Polish and Italian "New York gangsters" repulsed wave after wave of attacks, weathered friendly artillery fire and endured a five-day siege with little food, water and medicine before being relieved. Of the 600 who entered the siege, fewer than 200 emerged unscathed. Schroeder brings a square-jawed innocence to Whittlesey, who clings to his position despite the catastrophic losses to his command. "Life would be a lot simpler if we could choose our duties and obligations," he tells a subordinate. "But we can't and we shouldn't." Whittlesey's devotion cost him dearly. Although he won the Medal of Honor, he committed suicide three years later. (I doubt that sort of thing would go over well on JAG.) My grandfather, Sgt. Frank Donnelly, enlisted in the U.S. Army at 15, and after chasing Pancho Villa into Mexico, "Pap-Pap" fought in the trenches of France, where he earned the Purple Heart. A surgeon wanted to amputate my grandfather's leg, but Pap Pap managed to talk him out of it by pointing his .45 automatic pistol in the man's face. Suffice it to say, the casualties were staggering. "In less than four months," said author John Mosier (The Myth of the Great War), "we lost more men than in the entire Vietnam War." Pap-Pap died before I was born, so in tribute to him and to all the other Great War veterans, I wish to say this: Any talk about a "Greatest Generation" is a crock. As far as I'm concerned, any generation that contains people willing to risk their lives, their happiness and their sanity for a cause greater than themselves is pretty damn great. (Unless of course, you're willing to blow yourself up to kill innocent people, in which case you're simply an ass.)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Aidan, a rich boy, finds out that his girlfriend Shannon is dead. Worse, Shannon had been preggers with their child. Next, Aidan's dad is murdered. Then Aidan learns that his dad also fathered Shannon, meaning his girlfriend was actually his half-sister. This revolting development causes the boy to vomit in Det. Stabler's wastebasket. Aidan's mom (Jane Seymour) fesses up to shooting her husband, who, by the way, had accidentally killed Shannon. Of course, none of this would have happened if Aidan had been man enough to abstain from sex until marriage — although Shannon's suggestive clothes didn't make it easier for him to control his urges. Yes, the world has gone to the pervs since Joe Friday walked a beat. Some blame the Miranda Warning, but deep down, we all know it's because they don't make cops like Friday anymore — the kind of flatfoot who can be aloof to a victim's suffering and yet have the guts to accuse them of being part of the problem. And that's the facts, ma'am.
Saturday Night Live
How's this for political satire? George W. Bush (Will Forte) kisses Donald Rumsfeld (Darrell Hammond). It was so funny I thought I heard Aidan vomit again. Or was it Garry Trudeau? Luckily, host Snoop Dogg made the rest of the show bearable — especially his ban against Caucasian use of the word "shizzle" (and about bloody time, too) and a sketch about his battle with post-Friends-finale depression — until I remembered that Comedy Central was airing a Chappelle's Show marathon. Click...
With the arguable exceptions of South Park, The Simpsons and The Daily Show, this brilliant sketch comedy offers the biggest belly laughs and sharpest satire on television. Although Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock can lay claims to the title of The Cutting Edge Black Comedian, the true inheritor of Richard Pryor's mantle is Dave Chappelle. No one but Chappelle could have turned a sobering subject like segregation into a sketch about the first black man to use a white toilet. "Little did I know," mused Chappelle's Cyrus Holloway, looking pre-senile in a denim leisure suit, "that that roast beef would change my life." The sight of the helpless Holloway enduring attack dogs and water hoses while sitting in a bathroom stall is as unsettling as it is riotous. Plus, leave it to Chappelle to turn Wayne Brady into a crazed psychotic. Unhinged by the cancellation of his talk show, Wayne dopes Dave with angel dust and leads him on a night of terror that includes a drive-by shooting, the bullying of a hooker ("Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?") and the casual murder of a fan who also happens to be a cop. "You've got a Daytime Emmy!" yells a protesting Dave. "You're not supposed to pull s--- like this!" Hey Dave, I don't mind. Anyone who can make Wayne Brady look dangerous is a talent not to be reckoned with. You make Tina Fey look positively... fey.
The Prussian military theorist Karl von Clausewitz once defined war as the continuation of politics by other means. The one TV show outside of the Fox News Channel that embraces this concept is JAG, the military legal drama about the patriotic selflessness of good-looking, well-educated, upper-middle-class white people. Clausewitz never enjoyed television in his lifetime, but had he been alive on Friday (and understood English), he would have appreciated the show's efforts to turn a serious subject like the impact of a soldier's death on his family into a George W. Bush campaign infomercial. Indeed, the widowed mother seemed to take her son Joe's sudden death in her stride. "I've had my happiness," she insists, although her angry daughter seems to be the only one in the family feeling any real emotion ("Since Joe got killed I can't pray."). Joe's uncle, a Marine general, wonders aloud if his nephew's death was worth it. "It will be," replies fighter-pilot lawyer Harm (David James Elliott), "if we stay the course." The scene then broke for a Bush attack ad that accused John Kerry of not supporting the use of body armor for our troops.
Speaking of politics, the ad for Ortho-Tri-Cyclen-Lo birth-control pills had nothing to do with the upcoming election. Instead, it consisted of happy women prancing among the trees, flowers and waterfalls while a voiceover trumpets the drug's "high effectiveness" and "low hormones." Unfortunately, the pill also increases the risk of heart attack, which is an odd side effect for a medication designed to promote sex as pleasure (perhaps it's political after all). In addition, the ad strongly discourages women from smoking, which is playing with fire as it will leave couples with nothing to do afterward except talk.
The Democratic Response:
"People couldn't believe I didn't have a fountain of ketchup." — Kerry's wife Theresa Heinz Kerry, recalling the time she ran out of condiments during a function she hosted with her late husband, Sen. John Heinz, the heir to the Heinz condiment fortune. The interview was conducted by Barbara Walters. Special effects by Industrial Light and Magic.
Jeffrey Donovan sure looks like he is having fun playing an unhinged FBI agent, and why not? As brain-altered David Creegan, Donovan has a license to be totally obnoxious in the pursuit of justice. That would fill any actor with glee. But what made this episode rock was Vera Farmiga's Branca, whose ill-fated tryst with a disturbed reporter (Sebastian Roche) wrung real emotion out of an otherwise trite plot about a troubled man still carrying a torch. Often, Fermiga doesn't need to speak and lets her blue eyes do the talking, conveying an array of emotions with a single stare. Roche often gets lumbered with sinister parts — here his Stephen Lainey abets a serial killer by supplying the mook with potential victims — but he is skillful enough to communicate a vulnerability that's credible instead of overwrought.
USA Network Promo for Monk and The Dead Zone
During a break at the American Detective Association Convention, obsessive compulsive detective Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) peppers psychic Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall) with questions about the link between his visions and physical contact. "Can't you just poke?" asks Monk. Hall's split second smirk at the camera is priceless — I wonder how many takes it took before he got through one without giggling. "No, otherwise I get 'whoo,'" replies Johnny, waving his hands. "That's probably a good thing," concludes Monk. As Johnny departs down a flight of stairs, Monk stays behind to scour grime off the handrail. Both Monk and The Dead Zone return with new episodes in June, and here's hoping for a crossover tale. — Danny Spiegel is on vacation. Today's column was written by G.J. Donnelly.