Let's get in the way-back machine and remember the '90s — when David Letterman teased Oprah Winfrey at the Oscars, hip-hop and Britney Spears topped the charts, and an adorable scamp named Jennifer Love Hewitt stole America's heart on Party of Five. Television this week recalled those heady days. Letterman finally revealed the incident that started his feud with Winfrey. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake crafted a joyous medley tracing the rise and reign of hip-hop. The Glee crew called Spears an "icon." And Hewitt unleashed an unexpectedly bravura performance on Law & Order: SVU. Welcome to Top Moments: Remember the '90s? Edition.
17. Best Post-Game Analysis: During Tribal Council, Jimmy Johnson tells host Jeff Probst that he's one of the weakest players on Survivor: Nicaragua, and he's summarily dismissed for it. At least he's honest.
16. Best Mother-Lion Metaphor: After Weeds' Nancy rescues Shane from Esteban's henchmen, she makes a poignant, unhinged phone call to her treacherous husband to tell him she's moving on. "You can't defeat a mother lion when you threaten her cubs," she tells him, making it clear that all her boys — including little Stevie — will remain in her custody.
15. Best Renovation: On the season premiere of Desperate Housewives, Bree hires Keith (Brian Austin Green) to help her remodel her house. On his first visit to Wisteria Lane, a talk about painting the dining room drips with sexual subtext. "I am open to new ideas," she tells him. "I'd like to try something bold in here," he replies. Look for them to be on top of Bree's hand-carved Scandinavian table by Episode 3.
14. Retcon of the Week: It was difficult to understand (before Leonard Nimoy retired from acting) why Fringekilled off William Bell so quickly. Now it all makes sense. At the reading of Bell's will, we learn that he died so that he could leave Massive Dynamic to his former partner Walter Bishop. One question: Will Jean the cow make the trip to New York as well?
13. Mystery We Most Hope Won't Be Dragged Out for Years: While The Event's second episode is chock-full of clues, perhaps the best tidbit is that the detainees of Inastranka have DNA that differs from humans by less than 1 percent and that they age more slowly. Sure, they could still be aliens, but their humanoid appearance implies that other forces (time travel? hyper-evolution?) could be at work.
12. Best Character Development: No longer the Walker family albatross, Brothers & Sisters' Justin returns from Afghanistan with a surprising maturity. In this week's Walker family argument, he's the voice of reason, making his mother and siblings realize that they are running away from their problems — including Kitty's inability to let Robert go.
11. Judgiest Judge: It wasn't all about Boo-gate this week on Dancing with the Stars. Judge Bruno Tonioli told Michael Bolton that his abysmal, dog-inspired jive was the worst one he has seen in 11 seasons, and gives him a 3. Bruno's critique is so harsh that even cranky Len calls him out on it. But Bruno doesn't apologize for his slam, which leads to Bolton's ouster. Says the crooner: "I think ... Bruno was inappropriate and disrespectful." How is Dancing supposed to live without you?
10. Best Cane Strike Not in a Kung Fu Movie: On Mad Men, Lane Pryce's father visits New York to encourage his son to "put his house in order" following his separation. But Lane, who's found love with his "chocolate bunny," refuses, choosing instead to rub his father's nose in the new relationship. This is a strategy that does not work well on starchy old English dudes. The elder Pryce cracks Lane across the skull with his walking stick, bringing his son to his knees.
9. Most Heartbreaking Decision: We've come to expect blood and testosterone from Sons of Anarchy, but the FX drama's third season hits an emotional peak when Gemma decides to leave her dementia-suffering father, Nate (guest star Hal Holbrook), at a nursing home. Nate begs Gemma to take him home as the doctors lead him inside the facility, but she can't.
8. Sex Scene-as-Explanation Award: After The Good Wife's Peter sees his wife challenge a judge in court, he realizes that her feistiness is... kind of a turn-on. Despite her protestations that she needs to study, Peter unties her robe. "Don't worry; leave it to me," he says. More than just the usual titillating sex scene, it also perfectly captures the dynamic of Alicia and Peter's complicated marriage.
7. Most Moving Win: For a Project Runway challenge inspired by the designers' own lives, Mondo crafts a look that incorporates a plus-sign motif. He then reveals that he has been secretly living with HIV for more than 10 years. The judges like his look enough to give him his third win, but even more impressive is the courage it took to assemble it.
6. Best Origin Story: While interviewing Jon Stewart, David Letterman explained the source of his now-squashed beef with Oprah Winfrey. Many years ago, Letterman said, he and his then-girlfriend were eating in the same restaurant as the talk show queen, and he told the waiter that Winfrey would cover his bill — unbeknownst to her. "And that, my friend, is why I'm not going to Australia," Letterman said, referencing a recent audience trip that is just one example of Winfrey's legendary largesse. "Not everybody likes horseplay."
5. Most Anchored Performance: On this week's Season 5 premiere of Dexter, the usually meticulous Dex grieves by stabbing a smack-talking barfly to death with a small anchor. No plastic-covered room, no tools or blood slides — just raw emotions and blood. He punctuates the killing with an animalistic scream. Spectral dad Harry sums it up best: "That's the most human thing I've seen you do since she died."
4. Best Musical Interpretation, Part I: On a visit to Jimmy Fallon's Late Night, Justin Timberlake recalled the Sugar Hill Gang opening for 'N Sync. The memory served as a scripted segue into Fallon and Timberlake performing an insanely competent duet-medley that traced the history of hip-hop, including snippets of Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, Eminem and Jay-Z. For added credibility, it's all backed by The Roots, Fallon's legendary house band — whose instant classic "The Seed 2.0" also got the Fallon/Timberlake treatment.
3. Best Musical Interpretation, Part II: It's weird that an episode of Glee that showcases Britney Spears and Brittany S. Pierce peaks with a musical number starring... Artie? Kevin McHale's rendition of Spears' "Stronger" beautifully expresses his desire to play football — in his wheelchair — which he sees as his best hope of winning back Tina.
2. What Goes Around Award: During a medieval-themed Roadblock on The Amazing Race, home-shopping host Claire Champlin uses a slingshot to fire watermelons at suit of armor. She's doing great until an errant shot launches a melon right into her face. Fortunately, she's left just with bruises and completes the task, helping her and partner Brook Roberts to a fourth-place finish.
1. Best Performance: On Law & Order: SVU, Jennifer Love Hewitt surprises us with a devastating portrayal of Vicki, a woman who has been raped several times in different cities by the same man over the course of a decade. But because of an administrative backlog on rape kits, there has never been physical evidence to pursue a suspect. Detective Benson convinces her to have another physical examination anyway. As she's poked, prodded, tweezed and swabbed, a bruised and battered Vicki recounts a horrifying litany of details about each incident to Benson. And Hewitt proves she can play haunted without talking to ghosts.
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