Posted by Zan Romanoff
There are all kinds of careers in reality television. Last night's Top Chef Masters, which pits established chefs against one another in a bid to win money for their favorite charities, saw the return of a runner-up from the original Top Chef, Las Vegas' second place finisher Bryan Voltaggio. Bryan is a married father of two who owns a successful restaurant in Maryland; his return to televised cooking reads as a smart, genial publicity bid, an effort to get his restaurant's name out there and prove that, though he lost to his brother in his season's finale, he's still a world-class chef.
Top Chef Masters is somewhere between pleasant and boring to watch; there's nothing but professional pride at stake, which mean the losses are cringier (how can someone so successful screw up frying oysters??) and the wins aren't exactly thrilling. Still, sometimes it's nice to have that kind of thing on the menu, the sense that reality television can raise up the deserving and talented, that some people are still willing to put their rep on the line and play for charity, maybe even a little bit for fun.
Then there's Project Runway, which is limping into its twelfth season this month, having been jettisoned by Bravo and picked up, none too successfully, by Lifetime in 2009. Like Top Chef, Project Runway has done All Stars seasons, giving former contestants the opportunity for a do-over; for this season, fans were asked to vote someone back into the Parsons workroom for another shot at a Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and sartorial immortality. (Or collaborations with Payless, a la the show's most successful winner, Christian Siriano-- whichever.) Of course the fan favorite was a pretty but apparently prickly girl named Kate. There were the requistite determined statements about proving herself this time around. Mostly it was interesting to see other contestants crowding around her for little pieces of wisdom, a reminder that reality shows run on their own odd sets of rules ("when do we start tomorrow?" one girl asked, and Kate said they'd probably be in the workroom from "6 to 11," which puts a lot of the show in perspective-- a seventeen hour day of sewing would make anyone a little prickly, I think).
But then there's the kind of show that's only marginally skill-based, that's intended mostly to exploit exhaustion and drunkenness and youth. I'm talking, of course, about MTV's The Challenge: Rivals II. I'm not even going to attempt to explain it-- Wikipedia has an exhausting and exhaustive summary-- only to say that it's a marvel to watch for maybe five minutes at a time, which was as long as I could stand it. Mostly what the experience verified was that people who started out making a living being themselves on MTV in the late 90's and early 2000's, which is the last time I watched the channel regularly, are still doing it. I mean, I guess what else are you qualified for, at a certain point? But it was pretty miraculous to witness girls who I watched throw down with one another when I was fourteen or fifteen still doing it now that I'm twenty six (and they must be... in their thirties?)
In some sense it's a job like any other: as reality tv has become codified, the bright young things who get plucked up for fame know that they earn their keep by getting drunk and hooking up, getting in fights, causing drama all night and then moaning about it in the confessional rooms all day. On The Challenge there are labyrinthine rules and grueling physical challenges but the draws are the same: I caught a bit of the after show, which focused ten minutes on two men who'd hooked up their first night in the house, another few on who one of them had hooked up with after, whether the girl he'd kissed counted as hooking up or not. There were, by the end of it, six or eight adults in the room, all of them making money off of the conversation, watching clips of themselves doing things they only blurrily remembered. I changed to channel back to Top Chef Masters. There were no stakes, really, but at least there were skills involved.
10.10.13 at 9:53 am | Stylish, unsettling, ultimately predictable.
10.9.13 at 8:34 am | Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gets boring.
10.8.13 at 6:07 pm | Last week, a certain finale brought an epically. . .
10.8.13 at 9:20 am | HIMYM limps ever closer to its finale with an. . .
10.7.13 at 11:16 am | Diablo Cody, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. . .
10.4.13 at 9:20 am | The show's sixth season doesn't show any signs of. . .
10.8.13 at 9:20 am | HIMYM limps ever closer to its finale with an. . . (6)
8.26.13 at 8:17 am | You'd never expect a show about shopping for. . . (5)
7.18.13 at 2:01 pm | If you like Korean soap operas, this is the one. . . (5)
July 24, 2013 | 2:59 pm
Posted by Zan Romanoff
Twisted seems to have stalled out in the last few weeks; it feels like it's being mired down by the simplicity of its own plot, by a plodding hesitance to reveal anything for fear that anything might lead to everything. Last week we learned that Danny's dead father was sending murdered Regina hush money for keeping quiet about something (while they were both still alive, of course)-- whether it's a possible affair between the two of them or something connected to Danny's five year old murder case and Regina's recent death, we don't know.
Also in the dark is Danny; Jo and Lacey decide not to tell him what they've discovered for fear that it will upset him. Instead, most of this week's episode is tied up in teenage lovesickness: Jo has a steamy dream about Danny and finally confesses her feelings to herself, and then to (a surely heartbroken) Rico, and finally her mother. It's hard to hear her so earnestly announce that she might be in love-- especially when Lacey shows up on Danny's doorstep in the episode's final minutes to say that she's finally had it with her boyfriend, Archie, and is ready to fall into Danny's possibly-sociopathic arms.
It's a fun thought experiment to imagine how different this show would be if anyone ever told anyone else the truth. If, for instance, Danny continued to keep whatever dark secret justifies his having murdered his aunt, but told the cops immediately when he found Regina's necklace in his locker, if Lacey had given the envelope containing the note and cash directly to the police. I don't think the mystery would be much farther along, but it would make it significantly more believable, more compelling and easier to watch.
It's nice that the show isn't built around mysterious, impenetrable plot twists, but watching people lie to and withhold from one another gets old in its own way. It makes the show frustrating, because characters are working to piece together truths the viewers already know. It's a technique that can work when handled carefully and sparingly-- it's a very different show, of course, but The Wire's bodies in the vacants is a perfect example of this done well-- otherwise, it's hard not to feel like the show's plot is stalling and sputtering. You feel like you can see the hands of the writers at work, trying to spin out the plot to last as many episodes as they're required to deliver.
For what it's worth, though, this was also the first episode in which I felt legitimately creeped out by Danny, and I think that's a good thing. I've never believed that the show would have the guts to make him a serial killer but there was something seriously off about him this week. I want to believe he was framed for poisoning his teammate Cole, but part of my brain insists that there's something more devious going on here: Danny poisoning his teammate and framing himself so obviously in order to gain sympathy from Lacey and Jo, and possibly to convince Jo to leave her boyfriend, Archie, who he blames for the incident. It would be a serious turn for the show to take, and a ballsy move for ABC Family, so I'm not getting my hopes up here-- mostly I'm hoping that this means something darker and more interesting on the horizon for Danny: less stonewalling, more twists and turns ahead.
July 23, 2013 | 9:46 am
Posted by Zan Romanoff
People who need to justify the public's sudden widespread interest in fictional supernatural creatures tend to cast them as metaphors: zombies are the stumbling hordes of viral infection and pandemic. Vampires are the simultaneous threat and promise of penetration, consumption, absorption: they turn sex into death and death into life. Werewolves are our inner beasts, the animals we keep under our skin. It's no accident that all three conditions are transmitted by bite: the fear of mixing fluids is ancient and primal. There is always some kind of violation, some kind of transformation, when skin is broken and blood is revealed.
Having a supernatural body means physical strength and stamina and quite often the ability to heal (zombies are obviously the exception: their power is their illness and the mindless spread of contagions). The flipside of that is losing some measure of control over yourself: turning into a wolf when the moon is full or popping fangs at the scent of human blood. Depending on the myth you turn into a creature or live with one inside you. To be turned, to let someone turn you, gives them power over you, especially in the werewolf world. It's established in the first season of Teen Wolf that an alpha can call and control those he's bitten. The rule of the pack turns family into hierarchy. It's the same play of control and surrender that always governs our relationships to our bodies writ large. That's the real draw of these myths: they are all in some sense about how monstrous and alien the human body can feel even when we're still living inside of our own familiar skin, how terrified we are that our humanity could coexist with-- might like to be consumed by-- something animal and wild.
Teen Wolf does an interesting thing by giving us a hero who never wanted the bite, didn't ask for it and doesn't like it. Scott is a reluctant werewolf (and now a reluctant Born and Magically Deserving Alpha). The narrative never makes as much as I think it should over the issue of Scott's consent, the fact that Peter Hale found him in the woods and turned him because he was a warm body, because he was there. The show's stories are full of similar incidents: Peter tries to turn Lydia and, when she proves immune, uses his connection with her to posess her from beyond the grave, manipulating and seducing her into resurrecting him. As a teenager Derek was raped by a woman who then used her to connection to him to burn down his family's home, killing everyone inside of it. Last week Alpha Kali impaled Derek's packmate, Boyd, on Derek's claws, in effect forcing him to commit murder.
So this week's story about why Derek is so consumed with pain and always has been-- apparently the part where he was raped and then his rapist murdered his family isn't enough trauma?-- is a particularly odd and tone-deaf one. It turns out that teenage Derek fell in love with a girl named Paige, and evil Peter convinced him to have her turned into a werewolf without, you know, asking her if that was okay with her first. We see this happening in flashbacks, the visual storytelling sometimes at odds with Peter's narration (Stiles gives the world's cringiest expository line about unreliable narrators at the end, as if we might have missed the part where Peter is lying through his teeth). The bite doesn't take; Derek kills her, beileving she's about to die anyway.
There's a lot of background mythology being shoehorned in here, stuff about Celts and druids and emissaries and Nemetons. Paige dies by the roots of a tree that's supposed to protect the surrounding community from fires and plagues, the suggestion being that ten years ago Peter mysteriously manipulated Derek into getting his girlfriend bitten and killing her there, that all of the suffering that's happened in the years since has been a result of that. And it's mythologically interesting, sure, and if they can really pay it off it might be beautiful, plot-wise, but I wish to god the whole thing didn't rest on the murdered body of a teenage girl.
Because the point of this episode is basically: Peter is awful and you can trust him even less than you thought you could. (There's a second story being told by the Argent's patriarch, Gerard, about how Deucalion went from being a peaceable, reasonable guy to the rabid Demon Wolf we've come to know, the moral of which also seems to be that Gerard has always been an evil creep.) Also, Derek has suffered mightily and that's why he's so angsty and guilt-ridden and awful all the time.
But what about Paige? Here's what we know about Paige: she was fifteen and she played the cello. She was tough and self-reliant and, like most teenage girls, suspectible to tease-flirting, a boy who seemed to show his soft side only to her. She knew Derek was a werewolf, she tells him just before she dies. And she loved him anyway.
But the point of her life isn't an end in itself: it's to further all of these men in their plots. She's the blank center on which the rest of the story turns, her body used and then discarded. She's the object upon which the action happens, the stable point from which everything else spins out. She's silenced when Derek doesn't ask her what she wants for herself, and muted when he decides for her. It's an absolutely classic example of fridging, a woman's body being used to fuel a man's pain and a man's plot. There's a lot of complicated consent in Teen Wolf but Paige's story is just the same old rape narrative with no chance for redemption.
The point of using vampires and werewolves and zombies to tell stories is that metaphor gives us space; it allows us to explore aspects of opression and consent, sex and violence and death that are hard to look at--much less talk about--head on. So the greatest failure of the episode, for me, was in the lack of imagination and the failure of that metaphor. The supernatural justification for Paige's death is ultimately superficial: at root, this is about Derek (and perhaps his family) not wanting to lose access to her body, wanting to keep it young and strong and healthy and pretty. Paige isn't bitten out of desperation but out of simple human cravenness. It's not the animal or the monster in anyone who takes her down, in the end. It's the Hales' fear of rejection and discovery, human calculation getting in the way of any kind of animal empathy. It's not a werewolf story at all; it's the most tired kind of myth about bodies: that especially the young female ones are anyone's for the taking, and that whoever survives to tell the tale gets to own her story in the aftermath.
July 22, 2013 | 5:15 pm
Posted by Zan Romanoff
Addiction is a tough thing to talk about on a television show. It's a disease that defies the typical narrative arc: there's a slow start and a long middle, and getting treatment never guarantees that anyone will stay sober. So it tends to be relegated to Very Special Episodes or dealt with sparingly. Nashville's first season did a good job of portraying Deacon's alcoholism, both in sobriety and in relapse; it did the painful but necessary work of reminding viewers that addicts aren't addicts because they aren't loved or supported, necessarily, but because they're people who are sick. A particularly heart-rending late season scene showed his young neice pleading with him to sober up, and Deacon telling his sponsor he that he knew what he'd done and needed to start over, only to sneak off to the shower to drink in private. That's the true, terrible story of addiction in all of its various forms: that it isolates people who are loved and well-supported, that sometimes it makes it impossible for us to love them and support them the way that we want to.
So I was deeply disappointed by one of the storylines on last week's second episode of Camp, which featured one of the senior counselors, Robbie, dealing with his mother's gambling addiction. They don't call it that on the show-- Robbie always refers to his mother's problem, taking great care to minimize it, insisting that it only flares up every now and again. While the rest of the camp competes in a color war she calls him from a local casino asking for a ride, asking him to lend her the rent money she's gambled away and then, when he gets her the money she needs, going back to gamble it, too. That particular day it happens to work out, netting her several thousand dollars that she insists will keep her comfortable for a long time coming. They argue about whether he should go to law school (she thinks he's not smart enough for Stanford) and make up when she buys him a day planner with her winnings, writing a supportive note in the front.
It was distressing to watch the levity with which the show treated the issue, instead making it out to be about affection and attention. His girlfriend Sarah couldn't understand why he didn't want to have to bail his mother out yet again; "she's your mother," Sarah kept saying, essentially guilting Robbie for not caring enough. The episode ends with the two of them laughing in the kitchen together, taking quarters to scratch off lotto tickets. I couldn't help flashing back to earlier in the episode, when Robbie talked about a childhood of living in fear that the electricity would get shut off or the car reposessed, to the scene in which his mother gives him scratchers for his eleventh birthday and then has to use his money on utilities. Everyone has the right to handle the addicts in their lives in their own ways, of course, but it was depressing to see her behavior normalized and accepted, to essentially be told that Robbie would be wrong to cut her off, to witness the notion that addicts just need to be loved to be healed reinforced on-screen.
The rest of the episode wasn't much better, shlocky and heavy-handed, without the fun summer romp vibe that kept the pilot on the move. I'll give the show another week, but my guess is that's it's over for me and Camp-- my first summer fling already fizzling itself out.
July 22, 2013 | 4:56 pm
Posted by Melissa Weller
“Hate-watching” is a recurring theme in The Newsroom conversations, but I think the more accurate label comes from Tim Goodman’s review in Hollywood Reporter when he said “Don’t kid yourself — you were 'disappointment watching.'” The creator, the concept, the cast, all was ripe with hopeful promise. Then Season 1 happened and we were left not with anger, nor a resignation to spend our viewing time more productively elsewhere, but a certain sadness. The mighty hath fallen, and we alone to wander, wondering how, why, when.
Sir Sorkin heard our cries and already we’re seeing a couple of marked improvements. At least the team shows signs of being tethered to their own universe, one with rules, one with lawsuits, as opposed to free falling unscathed through an impossible, hind-sighted version of ours. Will is finally accepting the consequences and responsibilities of his mouth. (“I’m not who I used to be right now.”)
Charlie (Sam Waterston) pulls Will off the September 11 tenth anniversary coverage, citing Will’s recent labeling of the Tea Party as the American Taliban, and the sensitive timing with the even more sensitive issue. “You’ll get the flu around the 9th or 10th.” The silent moments following resemble a funeral march, starring Will as the pallbearer, the priest and the deceased. We learn later that Will’s first night as an anchor was September 11, 2001, adding some needed weight to their conversation and his somber reaction. And after we’re shown his opening footage from that night, a scene delivering arguably the series’ most emotionally heavy moments to date, the scars of last season begin to feel pardonable.
Likely still licking his wounds from last season’s ego-blow in The New Yorker, and now with the boot from the tenth anniversary coverage, Will is starting to show welcome changes to his previously indestructible demeanor. Whether the pendulum will swing too far the other direction remains to be seen, doubtful as it is. (Still, Will 1.0 of last season wouldn’t be affected in the slightest upon finding www.whywehatewillmcavoy.com. Though we’re only able to catch a glimpse of the site, it looks about as foreboding as a Westboro Baptist Church message board.)
But while we’re on the subject, time has passed come for Mackenzie MacHale to take some responsibility of her own. Season 2 deserves recognition for its sizable tape job, but the Mackenzie dilemma is getting more unbearable by the minute. Forget the fluff stuff – her flittering about, the ditzy desperations, the dumping of her Jameson Rocks on Will’s shirt without even a suggestion of ramification. Season 2 has her committing offenses that do more than file her under Sorkin’s Dim-Witted Woman with High-Profile Career folder.
Also, is there one person in America who believes Mackenzie MacHale’s drink of choice is Jameson on rocks?
In last week’s season premiere, Neal (Dev Patel) approaches Mack about chasing the Occupy Wall Street lead and is told to find more concrete, reliable sources, a completely rational, responsible answer given the information available at the time. But after a few short moments, she submits to her maternal and less reliable instincts and gives him the go-ahead to attend the group’s next drum circle. Why? Because Neal made a sad face. She had no choice! But last night’s stunt will prove less forgivable, as seen by Maggie’s traumatic new hair do. Maggie chases Mack down at the gym to beg for a chance to prove herself a vital News Night player. She will accomplish this by reporting from Africa. Specifically Kampala, Uganda, which she believes is the next American military base in the War on Terror. Again, Mackenzie is rightfully hesitant.
But Maggie can name the president, and she even promises to take her vitamins. Plus she reeeeaalllly wants to go. Clearly these are adequate grounds for permission to travel to a third world country, across the world, to the War on Terror’s next military base. Besides, everyone deserves to be picked first for dodge ball at some point. So off she goes to book her flight, with Mack’s blessing. We don’t know what happened to Maggie, the season is running as a long series of flashbacks, but we know it didn’t end well.
I would forgive every violation The Newsroom has committed thus far if Mackenzie is fired.
Now on to Page 6. Don’s discovery of the YouTube video documenting Maggie’s intoxicated profession about her feelings for Jim was the most unfulfilling breakup scene known to exactly nobody, save for those who hide from their failing relationship behind office patty-cake. Last week’s faux-mantic high fives? Relax. No one does that, not even in Sorkin’s Love Sandbox, USA. Population: everyone. But all’s empty that ends empty, as was their relationship and on-screen chemistry. Seems like we’re in store for a much-needed break from the original triangle (special guest appearances by Sloan Sabbith), with Jim safely tucked away on the Romney campaign bus and Maggie headed for Africa. We will still need to deal with Will and Mackenzie, but even their dynamic seems more tolerable, even if it is simply from less time together on camera. Beggars can’t be choosers.
Despite its structural improvements, the show has a long apology road ahead as evidenced by its paltry two Emmy nods this year. One belongs to Jeff Daniels for Best Actor in a Drama Series, the other to Jane Fonda for her role as AMG owner Leona Lansing. Watch Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on HBO to track the journey.
July 19, 2013 | 11:58 am
Posted by Zan Romanoff
As a rule, I feel like television needs more police procedurals like I need a hole in the head. I've had enough of criminal minds and crime scenes and lab techs etcetera to last me several lifetimes, plus almost no one's ever done it better than Law and Order. (I do mean Original Flavor, though will also accept SVU and some seasons of Criminal Intent.) I started watching Graceland out of sheer idle curiosity; as far as I can tell no one's talking about it, which is a shame because it's totally engaging storytelling featuring a diverse cast of very attractive people. The pilot was medium-shaky and there are still some too-obvious moments, storylines telegraphed too boldly too far in advance, but it seems to me that the show really improves episode to episode; I'm almost sorry I can't wait for a binge-watch at the end of the season, because I'm starting to get impatient for more.
What sets Graceland apart from the rest of the field is partly structural: instead of focusing on a single case from start to finish, it's a show about a handful of undercover agents from several federal agencies (FBI, DEA, Customs) who live in a Venice apartment the government picked up as part of a drug raid some years prior. They slip in on each others' cases-- one of the FBI agents, Jonny, moonlights as a Mexican drug dealer when his roomate, DEA agent and white girl Paige can't pass enough to meet a contact-- which means there's a lot less technical fiddling around and a lot more tense scenes involving improbably quanities of drugs, guns and cash.
The real fun of Graceland is watching a bunch of pros at their tops of their games as they work. The show doesn't mess around with anything remotely trivial, instead keeping things at at least a medium simmer in every scene. It's picked a plot that's interesting without being complicated; it's fun to follow, but there's no threat you'll lose track. You get the satisfying case-per-episode wrap up of a procedural without any grim morgue sequences or monologues about The Dangers of the Internet. (Okay I am looking at you a little bit there, SVU.) It's basically brain candy but it's not embarrassing to watch: like a cold popsicle on a hot day, maybe. Just because it's not necessary doesn't mean you won't enjoy the hell out of it while it's going down.
July 18, 2013 | 2:01 pm
Posted by Zan Romanoff
I wish I had a better explanation for the Boys Over Flowers thing. A friend mentioned it to me last June while we were walking around New York: there's this weird Korean soap opera I've been watching that I think you might like. She talked about the characters and their antics about how ridiculous and over-the-top it was and I smiled politely and said I would watch it without any intention of doing any such thing. But then, as these things happen: a month or or so later when I was hungover and lazing around, trying to figure out what I could watch without overtaxing my brain, I remembered her enthusiasm and thought I might give it a try. (The show is available in its entirety on Netflix.) I spent the rest of the week evangelizing about it with what I now recognize was a slightly insane fervor. I'd go out to dinner or meet someone for coffee and they'd ask me how I was and I would smile very widely and say "I'm great! Have you ever heard of Boys Over Flowers?"
There's something about this show. I mean, the number of versions of the story that exist attest to its weird enchanting power: Boys Over Flowers was originally a Japanese manga, and has since been adapted into various movies and television series in Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea. The Korean version is the most famous one; it's the one I watched, and I think it's justifiably known. It's just... I don't know, man, it's just great.
It's ostensibly the story of a lower class girl named Guem Jan-di, the daughter of a dry cleaner, who, through a series of mishaps, ends up a student at Seoul's most exclusive private school. There she catches the eyes and the ire of a group of popular boys who call themselves F4, the sons and heirs of the most important corporations in the country. It's a lot of fantasy wish fulfillment-- and a lot of montage makeover scenes-- replete with lavish vacations and luxurious parties. There are dramaticly evil villains and a lot of really intense emotions. It's definitely cartoony-- you can see its roots as manga all over the place.
What saves it from being cheesy is that it's just so weird. And weird without trying, I think, surreal because it cares so much more about creating story and heightening dramatic tension than it does about any kind of realism or believeability. There's no point (and, more importantly no fun) in trying to watch the show on any terms but its own: it demands that you just believe in it, full stop. It's fantasy without being fantasy, a world almost like our own and then not just, not quite. One of the boys of F4 helps Jan-di's best friend get revenge on a nasty ex by playing a song on the saxaphone for her. At a dance club. He's the only one of the boys who's not an heir; he's rich and famous because he makes beautiful pottery, pottery so good, apparently, that it makes women swoon. The show is earnest in its outrageousness. It plays its surrealism incredibly straight. There's none of the self-consciousness or snark that American shows sometimes try to leverage into lighter fare-- Boys Over Flowers makes no apologies for what it is and what it's doing. I love it for that. Perhaps, um, unsurprisingly, given my taste for the genre.
July 17, 2013 | 11:34 am
Posted by Zan Romanoff
It's weird how hard it is to work technology into stories. We spend all day texting and tweeting, getting updates, making calls, but for some reason it looks awkward on-screen, both when teens text do u want 2 go out l8er and when adults send the same. It just always feels forced and awkward, like product placement even when it isn't. Apparently this happened when telephones first became common, too. It only took like a hundred years for them to work their way from our homes into our narratives.
There's also the matter of how boring it can make things-- think of how many classic plots are obviated by the existence of the cell phone. (Romeo and Juliet, I am looking at you.) I'm pretty sure the Sex and the City movie was one of the first to just take a character's mobile out of the equation (a little girl puts Carrie's in her purse, preventing Big from reaching her for reassurance on their wedding day so that he ends up abandonding her at the altar) but it's now become industry standard: the phone can be stolen or lost or running out of battery just as long as characters can't use them for anything. It's how we're dealing in the mean time.
What was puzzling about last night's Twisted is that no one ever suggested using Google instead of taking a long road trip that all three characters had to lie to their parents about, that took Danny across state lines in violation of his parole, and that had a really extraordinarily scant chance of working in the first place. They trio head to Connecticut, following the trail of a return address on an envelope sent to the murdered Regina just before she died. It contained hundreds of dollars in exchange for a promise that Regina keep her mouth shut about something; it's not a hard leap to take to imagine that the kids are now on the trail of her killer. They seem pretty blithetly unconcerned about that, though, about what they'll say when they meet him, whether he might put them in danger.
Instead the episode is mostly about working out the tensions between Lacey and Jo, whose once-strong friendship fell apart after Danny killed his aunt when they were twelve. On the one hand, of course it's believable that two truamatized middle schoolers wouldn't be able to stick together; on the other, it's a tired version of the same old girlight: one got goth, the other went popular, they stabbed one another in the back. The trailer for next week's episode promises more romantic entanglements, and I'm sure their tentative truce will fall apart again when they realize they're both pining after handsome, mysterious, still-possibly-a-killer Danny. My kingdom for two teenage girls who have real, strong on-screen friendships, who choose one another over boys, who don't even have to make that choice because they have different taste in men-- however unimaginable that might seem.
Of course I'm sure it won't work out that way-- they're setting us up for Jo to realize at some point that she's always loved her geeky best-friend-in-the-interim, Rico, who's pretty obviously got a huge thing for her. But I can't help reading it like a consolation prize: just once it would be nice not to tell the dorky, awkward, sullen girl that she just doesn't know what she wants yet, that what she wants is the shy puppy love of someone who's never interested her before.