Friday, August 30, 2013

Friends Friday: Episode 1.23- Season 1 Finale! (Recaps)

Episode 1.23: "The One Where Rachel Finds Out"

Let's get all the tertiary junk out the way, because, let's face it, this episode's title sums up everything we need to know about it.

The episode starts with good continuity from the previous one, where Ben was born. They're all still excited. And, once more, we establish that Ross is pining for Rachel. Besides that, Joey is participating in a fertility study, meaning he cannot consummate his relationship with Melody the Basket Maker (sidenote: what is with this chick and baskets? What a bizarre occupation to give a 20-something woman). Hilarity ensues when he gets (apparently much needed) advice from Monica about how to take care of that situation to Melody's satisfaction. Phoebe has nothing to do in this episode besides annoy the stuffing out of me, and we establish 2 great facts about Chandler: he's a terrible gift-giver and he loves Yasmine Bleeth.

Onto the important stuff: Chandler and Joey are tired of watching their friend futilely pine for a girl when he is never going to nut up and ask her out. Fair enough. They tell him to move on. With his unexpected trip to China to take him away from his crush, Ross resigns himself to never being anything but friends with Rachel. He leaves his birthday present for her with Chandler and takes off for China.

Then Chandler's loose lips sink Ross' secret's ship...









Rachel knows! And she's intrigued...

We spend most of the rest of the episode watching Rachel wrestle with what to do with this new information. She tries to catch him at the airport, but all she succeeds in doing is getting an unsuspecting husband caught in a no-win situation. Eventually, she concludes, very reasonably, that it will be too complicated to pursue a relationship with Ross. There's just too much at stake. Fair enough.

But when she's on a date with Carl, who is just the worst, she imagines what it would be like to give it a chance with Ross. She shares a fiery imaginary kiss with him and realizes that she wants to try to make things work. Ross should send Carl one of Melody's baskets to thank him for being awful enough to make Rachel reconsider. Alas, if only it were that simple...

Rachel goes to the airport to tell Ross she wants to try things with him (remember the Season 10 finale? So much continuity!). And he's there... with another woman!






Dun-dun-DUN! People - how did you ever wait out that long summer between Season 1 and Season 2? I'm glad I was too young to endure this torment. Anyhoo, we end knowing that Rachel is waiting for Ross and Ross is walking towards her with an unidentified romantic partner. Thank God we just have to wait until next Friday to see how things progress...

In sum, this cliff-hanger-y finale can be summed up in Phoebe one good line: "I don't think any of our lives will ever be the same again." Indeed, Phoebe. Indeed.

Joey is "there" for Melody this week: Joey & Melody the Basket Maker.


The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Monica: VIII
Phoebe: VII
Rachel: V
Joey: V
Chandler: III
Ross: I

Ross 'n' Rachel State of the Union
Ross likes Rachel: 22
Rachel like Ross: 0
They like each other but aren't together: 1
They like each other and are together: 0
Nothing's going on: 0

Best line: 

"THERE'S NO RACHEL!" - Wrongly Accused Husband

Aaannndddd, here's the AV Club recap

***

Season 1 has been a pleasant surprise. Yes, it took a solid 10-14 episodes for things to really get cooking. But that's true of most shows. In fact, I'm pretty pleased that it got good as quickly as it did, all things considered. Let's compare it to another one of my all time favorite shows, Gilmore Girls. I know that many die hard GG fans will kill me for saying this, but I don't think that show really took off until the very end of Season 1, and didn't get amazing until well into Season 2. Ditto for another must watch, How I Met Your Mother. 

For me, Friends found its tone by episode 8, when Ross and Monica's grandmother dies. It's not the funniest episode of the season, but it's the first one that strikes the balance between plot, character, and comedy set piece that will characterize the first four seasons of the show. I'll say that my favorite episode of the season is probably episode 17, "The One with All the Poker." It's funny, it builds character, and it furthers the season's arc. It's also not as good as any episode in Season 5, but for a first season, it's pretty darn funny.

As for the Sexysex Hypothesis, there has been a fair amount of monkey business. We end season one with Monica holding onto her lead, with Phoebe hot on her trail and Rachel in third. It is somewhat interesting to me that the girls have registered more sexual partners thus far than the guys. Perhaps this is why my conservative cohort found this show more transgressive than other sitcom fare? Because it was more assertive about women's sexuality? I'm finding this question very difficult to answer in a post Sex and the City world, as that show's influence has made the notion of depicting women enjoying sex pretty quotidian on TV. 

Finally, I have to say that I am surprised at how little the Ross/Rachel plot line plays into Season 1. My memory was that it was the dominating factor of the first season. To the contrary - it gets established early on, but doesn't really start to be the show's engine until the last 1/3 of the season. I used to feel like the show relied too much on that will they/won't they tension early on. Maybe it does. But at the same time, when it establishes multi-episode arcs with that relationship, the show starts to really work. It feels too episodic until they ratchet up the tension between Ross and Rachel. In doing so, they found the last piece to make the show work, besides lovable characters and funny premises: compelling plot through-lines between multiple episodes. 

What do you think of Season 1?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Off To Portland!

Hola amigos!

I'm on vacation this week, so I'll see you next week for more Friends fun. In the meantime, here is a glimpse of the fun that I'm having...



The tattoo ink never does run dry...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Books Like Whoa: The Habit of Being by Flannery O'Connor

Thinking about an amazing collection of letters from one of my favorite authors...



The Habit of Being
by Flannery O'Connor

Procured from the Regent Bookstore

Procured in February 2013

Finished in July 2013

Format: Trade paperback with a beautiful illustration of a phoenix on the cover

Why I gave it a try:  I had this book checked out of the library for months on end for papers I was writing... I eventually bought it because I wanted to write in it, real bad

Summary: This is a curated collection of Flannery O'Connor's letters, spanning from the late 40's through the early 60's. Her dear friend, Sally Fitzgerald, collected and edited them in the 1970's. 

Thoughts: I have now spent two terms thinking about Flannery O'Connor (which is a delightful way to spend one's time) and it only makes me want to spend more time thinking about her. She is an enchanting cipher - so funny yet so harsh, with equal measures of self-deprecation and self-confidence. 

I find much of her fiction quite funny (I know, it's also brutal, but go read "The Enduring Chill" and tell me that she is not a humorist), but her letters are even better. I have spent much library time this year trying to stifle my giggles at her descriptions of people, her wry observations, her hilarious metaphors. I especially enjoy her descriptions of people's wacky responses to her work.

But besides getting a better sense of her warmth as a person, I also have enjoyed seeing her sharp mind at work in literary criticism, the writing process, and philosophy. Flannery was incredibly well read in theology, as well, and she engages in fascinating correspondence on the subject of faith with Christians and non-Christians alike.

My favorite letter on belief was written to a college freshman who heard her speak and sent her a letter asking for advice about whether he should renounce his faith:

To Alfred Corn
May 30, 1962

"I think that this experience you are having of losing your faith, or as you think, of having lost it, is an experience that in the long run belongs to faith; or at least it can belong to faith if faith is still valuable to you, and it must be or you would not have written me about this.
I don't know how the kind of faith required of a Christian living in the 20th century can be at all if it is not grounded on this experience that you are having right now of unbelief. This may be the case always and not just in the 20th century. Peter said, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."* It is the most natural and most human and most agonizing prayer in the gospels, and I think it is the foundation prayer of faith.
As a freshman in college you are bombarded with new ideas, or rather pieces of idea, new frames of reference, an activation of the intellectual life which is only beginning, but which is already running ahead of your lived experience. After a year of this you think you cannot believe. You are just beginning to realize how difficult it is to have faith and the measure of a commitment to it, but you are too young to decide you don't have faith just because you feel you can't believe. About the only way we know whether we believe or not is by what we do, and I think from your letter that you will not take the path of least resistance in this matter and simply decide that you have lost your faith and that there is nothing you can do about it.
One result of the stimulation of your intellectual life that takes place in college is usually a shrinking of the imaginative life. This sounds like a paradox, but I have often found it to be true. Students get so bound up with difficulties such as reconciling the clashing of so many different faiths such as Buddhism, Mohammedanism, etc., that they cease to look for God in other ways. Bridges once wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins and asked him to tell him how he, Bridges, could believe. He must have expected from Hopkins a long philosophical answer. Hopkins wrote back, "Give alms." He was trying to say to Bridges that God is to be experienced in Charity (in the sense of love for the divine image in human beings). Don't get so entangled with intellectual difficulties that you fail to look for God in this way.
The intellectual difficulties have to be met, however, and you will be meeting them for the rest of your life. When you get a reasonable hold on one, another will come to take its place. At one time, the clash of the different world religions was a difficulty for me. Where you have absolute solutions, however, you have no need of faith. Faith is what you have in the absence of knowledge. The reason this clash doesn't bother me any longer is because I have got, over the years, a sense of the immense sweep of creation, of the evolutionary process in everything, of how incomprehensible God must necessarily be to be the God of Heaven and earth. You can't fit the Almighty into your intellectual categories. I might suggest that you look into some of the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (The Phenomenon of Man et al.). He was a paleontologist- helped discover Peking man- and also a man of God. I don't suggest you go to him for answers but for different questions, for that stretching of the imagination that you need to make you a sceptic in the face of much that you are learning, much of which is new and shocking, but which when boiled down becomes less so and takes it place in the general scheme of things. What kept me a sceptic in college was precisely my Christian faith. It always said: wait, don't bite on this, get a wider picture, continue to read.
If you want your faith, you have to work for it. It is a gift, but for very few is it a gift given without any demand for equal time devoted to its cultivation. For every book you read that is anti-Christian, make it your business to read one that presents the other side of the picture; if one isn't satisfactory read others. Don't think that you have to abandon reason to be a Christian. A book that might help you is The Unity of Philosophical Experience by Etienne Gilson. Another is Newman's The Grammar of Assent. To find out about faith, you have to go to the people who have it and you have to to the most intelligent ones if you are going to stand up intellectually to agnostics and the general run of pagans that you are going to find in the majority of people around you. Much of the criticism of belief that you find today comes from people who are judging it from the standpoint of another and narrower discipline. The Biblical criticism of the 19th century, for instance, was the product of historical disciplines. It has been entirely revamped in the 20th century by apply broader criteria to it, and those people who lost their faith in the 19th century because of it, could better have hung on it blind trust.
Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It's there, even when he can't see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon in college. Learn what you can, but cultivate Christian scepticism. It will keep you free - not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your own intellect or the intellects of those around you.
I don't know if this is the kind of answer that can help you, but any time you care to write me, I can try to do better."

-The Habit of Being, 476-478

I wish that when I was younger, someone had said this to me. I wish that I had had enough self-awareness to ask!

What I love (and the theme I've been meditating on in some of my classes this summer) is O'Connor's comfort with doubt and unbelief. Most of my Christian experiences have responded to doubt as a stain to be removed. Here's the 20-minute scrub in the form of an argument, new exegesis, or apologetic, and voila! Doubt is gone! I'm just not sure that's how faith actually works. I'll be blogging more about some of the other books I read this summer which will tie into this theme, but suffice it to say, I don't think that in the modern world it is possible to have mature faith without undertones of unbelief or doubt. Rereading Flannery, along with Bonhoeffer, Dostoevsky, and many others, makes me long for constructive ways to address doubt as a part of the gift of faith, rather than a disease to be cured.

This is a stellar collection of letters that illuminate much of O'Connor's thoughts on writing, philosophy, literary interpretation, faith, and culture. She is one of America's greatest literary treasures and her letters, I am sure, will continue to amuse and inspire readers for generations to come. 

Rating:

6 - Why are you still reading this review? Go pick this one up NOW

Do you like reading collections of letters?

*Mark 9:24 - I assume she means Peter as the apostle that Mark used as his primary source for this gospel

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friends Friday: Episodes 1.21 and 1.22 (Recaps)

Episode 1.21: "The One with the Ick Factor"

When I first saw this episode as a wee lass, I thought Monica was overreacting. I mean, yeah, Young Ethan was in high school - but he was clearly quite mature for his age and if she waited a few months, he'd be legal. If she didn't mind a 4 year age gap, was a 9 year age gap really that much worse?

Yes, dear readers, it really, really is. Now that I am the same age as Monica in this episode, the whole thing just makes my skin crawl. A 26 year old woman dating a 17 year old boy?!





Monica. Girl. Just...no. 

But luckily she understands the profound ick factor at play here. And I really do feel bad for her - Young Ethan seems like a great guy who really clicks with her. This is yet another instance of Monica choosing wildly inappropriate paramours - Richard? Richard's son? Need I say more? 

This episode is another of my favorites from Season 1, because every plot line is funny and moves the series' plot and character development along. This is a great episode for Chandler, Rachel, and Ross, in different ways.

Chandler is having to confront the fact that he's now the boss at his job and therefore can't be as collegial with his former peers. He doesn't want his relationships to change. He wants to still be the fun young guy whose not taking his job too seriously. Alas, part of growing up is accepting that you are part of the corporate machine. Chandler is now "the man," and Phoebe, with her amazing secretary voice, helps him see and accept that.

Also, we get to see the friends call attention to Chandler's distinctive speech pattern. "Could that report be any later?" "The hills are alive with the sound... of music." Chandler takes it very well.


Chandler also plays a delightful role in Rachel's plotline. She's been having randy dreams about the boys - first Chandler, then Chandler and Joey. 





Ross, of course, is totally miffed about being excluded from the dream sex. He's also being plagued by false labor alarms by his baby pager. His "JIMBO" digits for the beeper are being confused with "JUMBO"- meaning that he gets a lot of calls for a gigolo named Andre. It's pretty amusing to see him just go with the flow after awhile.

Back to his perturbance at Rachel excluding him from the dream sex. At the end of the episode, she finally has a sex dream dream about Ross. Ross sees her experiencing it, to his joy and elation, because, after all, he wuvs her. Her subconscious must be preparing her to date him because when he accidentally wakes her up, they share a sizzling moment of eye contact. It's first time we really see the kind of chemistry they could have...

And it's interrupted by Deus Ex Baby! Sorry Ross. Onto the birth of Ben....

New sexual partners return to Friends! And Monica retakes the lead: Monica & Young Ethan

The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Monica: VIII
Phoebe: VII
Rachel: V
Joey: IIII
Chandler: III
Ross: I

Ross 'n' Rachel State of the Union
Ross likes Rachel: 21
Rachel like Ross: 0
They like each other but aren't together: 0
They like each other and are together: 0
Nothing's going on: 0

Best line:

"A woman is being held - at gun point. And I thought, 'Why do people continue to go there?!'" - Young Ethan

Rachel: "Hey, did you guys check out the new hand dryers in the bathroom?"
Ross: "I thought that was just a rumor!"

"Believe me, sir, judging by his number, I'd be a huge disappointment." - Ross

"I'm sorry, it was a one time thing. I was very drunk and it was some else's subconscious." - Chandler

Episode 1.22: "The One with the Birth"

Here we have the first of several memorable birth episodes on Friends. It's mildly funny, but mostly just sweet and important for building our longterm emotional investment in the characters.

First, let's get the side plots out of the way. Joey gets rooked into helping a single mom give birth, allowing a lovely shade of humanity to come through. This very tender side of Joey gets explored more towards the end of the series, but it's nice to see them setting up his sensitive side this early on in things. Joey is truly a friend in the way the theme song describes these characters' relationship - he will be there for you no matter what.


Rachel is flirting with Carol's OB/GYN, who is totally hot. And also totally inappropriate when he explains his feelings about lady parts in his personal life. Yeesh... We also see some lovely foreshadowing (though the writers didn't yet know it) of Monica and Chandler discussing babies at the hospital. In 7 years, they will decide to try to have a baby at a hospital at the birth of Ross' second child. But we'll get to that.

The main show, though, is Ross having his first child. I find this genuinely moving because, for the first time, Susan expresses some awareness of the situation that Ross is in and therefore stops seeming so heartless. We see that she feels just as insecure about her position in the new baby's life as Ross does and we realize that this is what has been driving her insensitivity towards him. It's a wonderful moment to see Phoebe, the product of a completely broken home, reflecting back to them what is really important. She says that Ben must be the luckiest kid in the world because before he's even born, he has 3 whole parents fighting over who gets to love him the most, whereas she didn't even have enough pieces of parental figures to patch together even one parent. I didn't cry at all during this... not at all...

Thanks to Phoebe's perspective, Ross and Susan are able to get their acts together and be there for Carol as she finally gives birth to Ben. Ross' life is changed forever and he begins his journey in fatherhood - can we note that he is one of the few sitcom fathers who is consistently portrayed as loving, responsible, and competent? He is not a full time dad, but he clearly takes that role very seriously and is committed to both the children he has on the show. That is a refreshing take on things- it'd be nice to see more good sitcom dads, a la Dr. Huxtable. 

All around, this is a heart-warming episode that sets things up nicely for the finale, which is coming up next week. 

Everyone was too busy at the hospital to get busy with anyone else. Monica holds her lead into the finale.

The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Monica: VIII
Phoebe: VII
Rachel: V
Joey: IIII
Chandler: III
Ross: I

Ross 'n' Rachel State of the Union
Ross likes Rachel: 22
Rachel like Ross: 0
They like each other but aren't together: 0
They like each other and are together: 0
Nothing's going on: 0

Best line: 

"Every day is Lesbian Lover Day!" - Ross

"Well aren't there times when you come home at the end of the day and you're just like, 'If I see one more cup of coffee...'" - Carol's gyno

"They're tiny and chubby and so sweet to touch, but soon they'll grow up and resent you so much. Now they're yelling at you and you don't know why and you cry and you cry and you cry..." - Phoebe on the joys of parenthood


Monday, August 12, 2013

Books Like Whoa: Winter Term Hodge Podge Edition (Jesus Corner)

During the winter term, I read a lot of books. Like, really. A lot. Some of it was assigned reading for class, some of it was for researching papers. And that doesn't include the all the course readers I consumed that included dozens of articles, book chapters, etc.

I covered several of my research books elsewhere, but I thought I would also talk about the books that were assigned to me for class. I feel rather self-indulgent in talking about this, but I do get asked frequently about what I'm learning and this is a good way to share that. So, without further ado...



Jesus Through the Centuries by Jaroslav Pelikan

This was my favorite non-fiction book that I read for class in Winter term (carried on from the Fall) and well it should be. Rather than trying to provide a blow by blow historical rendering of Christian philosophical development, Pelikan picks a different theme from each historical period and builds out the major ideas and figures of the era from that theme. Like, for Jesus as Liberator he talked about MLK and liberation theology, etc. etc. I really just loved this book. It felt both spiritually and intellectually enriching and provided a great balance of history, philosophy, and invitation for devotional contemplation.

After You Believe by N.T. Wright

I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. It's one of those books that feels like it would have been a really great long article or 100 page mini-book, but as a full length work, it fell a little flat for me. Wright's seed idea is a good one, and one that merits consideration for those concerned with Christian formation: rather than focusing on indoctrinating specific moral strictures, Christian discipleship should instead foster broader virtue instincts that provide actual character transformation, not just blind rule following. Again, good idea, just felt a bit thin for a whole book.

The History of Christian Thought by Jonathan Hill

This wasn't really my favorite. From what I've gathered, this book is assigned more or less because there's not a better version of it around. It gets the job done, I guess, the job being to account for the major thinkers of Christian philosophy. But between the complete homogeneity in his selection of figures to profile (seriously, the main thing you can say about the one woman you feature is that she writes the first account of a female orgasm?) and the constant interjection of humor, it doesn't really succeed for me. It is very readable, though, so one could do worse as a starting point in getting oriented in the subject.

The Story of Christianity (Vol. 1 & 2) by Justo Gonzalez

It's hard to say much about this one other than it is a great introduction to church history. I know that before I came to Regent, I was not sufficiently educated in this aspect of Christian tradition - sure, I knew my Western civ, but really thinking through the history of the church is vital to appreciating why today's Christianity looks the way that it does, evaluating doctrine, understanding tradition, etc. etc. It's not for nothing that I decided to basically do this course over again by being a history TA this year, and Gonzalez provides a clear, highly readable overview of church history.

The Writings of the New Testament by Luke Timothy Johnson

This provides a solid overview/introduction to each book of the New Testament - history, criticism, themes, etc. Pretty dry, truth be told, but he does have interesting insights, especially for the epistles.

The New Testament and the People of God by N.T. Wright

I'll say this was runner up for my favorite book of the semester. It also was by far the most difficult to get through, mostly because it inspired so many tangential thoughts that I moved through it at the glacial pace. It's one of those books where you read a page, pause for a few minutes to bask in multitude of thoughts that those few paragraphs inspire, and then keep going. In other words, this is a sipper, not a slurpper. It's mission is to provide foundational historical, cultural, social background for the New Testament to make its contents more intelligible - mission accomplished, Dr. Wright, at least for me. Here's one of the many quotes I wrote "yes!" next to in the margins:

"Part of the difficulty has been, I think, that the heirs of the Enlightenment have been too shrill in their denunciation of traditional Christianity, and that Christianity has often been too unshakably arrogant in resisting any new questions, let alone new answers, in its stubborn defense of... what? Christians have often imagined that they were defending Christianity when resisting the Enlightenment's attacks; but it is equally plausible to suggest that what would be orthodox Christianity was defending was often the pre-Enlightenment worldview, which was itself no more specifically 'Christian' than any other."


If I were to recommend two books from this last semester for your reading pleasure, it was definitely be Jesus Through the Centuries and The New Testament and the People of God. Pelikan's devotional approach to the history of Christianity's perception of the person of Jesus is approachable and important, not only for Christians' individual spirituality, but for enhancing ecumenical discussion and understanding. Wright's seminal work is crucial for a better understanding of the earliest Christians and the formation of the New Testament canon. He is not heavily pushing his atonement ideas here (which I know concern some folks), so this ought to be standard reading for all Christians who want to take Scriptural interpretation seriously. Which I hope is all of them.

What was the best book you've read in the last 6 months?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friends Friday: Episodes 1.19 and 1.20 (Recaps)

Episode 1.19: "The One With The Evil Orthodontist"

For me, this is kind of a snooze of an episode. Most of the energy is focused towards resolving the ridiculous obstacle thrown up between Ross and Rachel - the eponymous orthodontist. Really?


I have little patience for this at this point in the season. I mean, yeah, it's fun to see Jennifer Grey guest as Mindy and yeah, I guess it's fun to see Rachel have some more closure about the Barry thing (which I assume is how they justified the Deus Ex Barry that came in the last episode). But really? This isn't funny or dramatically compelling. The only thing that this further creates curiosity in my mind is how the $%*# Barry gets these women to sleep with him?!

Other than that, the only other highlight is Chandler obsessing about calling/receiving a call from a girl he likes. First, he doesn't want to call her too soon so that she doesn't think he's needy...


Then after he does, he tortures himself waiting for her to call him back. Hilarity ensues and this episode (barely) justifies its existence.

Oh yeah, and there's another Gunther sighting. Can we take a moment and grieve the fact that it's taking this long to make him a recurring side character? I just love that bleached blond coffee god...

No new sex this week - though I guess we're supposed to be judging Rachel for sleeping with Barry, so take a moment and do that. *Pause* Mmkay, moving on...


The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Phoebe: VII
Monica: VII
Rachel: V
Joey: IIII
Chandler: III
Ross: I

Ross 'n' Rachel State of the Union
Ross likes Rachel: 19
Rachel like Ross: 0
They like each other but aren't together: 0
They like each other and are together: 0
Nothing's going on: 0

Best line:

"So basically, that's how a bill becomes a law!" - Chandler in the first of many fake conversations

"God, I miss just being needy..." - Chandler on being needy and rejected

Episode 1.20: "The One With The Fake Monica"

The clouds have parted! The fog has lifted! Meaning and order have returned to the cosmos!

Marcel is outta here - hallelujah! Though, of course, the friends have to make a show of being sad about this completely un-sad/amazing turn of events...


It was seriously about time that Marcel made his exit. Again, I think that these episodes are mostly about clearing the necessary space for Ross and Rachel to get together. In the last show, we saw Rachel definitively close the door her ex. In this show, we see Ross forced to move on from his codependent girlfriend-replacement pet when Marcel reaches sexual maturity (Ross, maybe you'd care to join him and ask Rachel out?!).

I'll grant the writers this - at least this episode's arc mechanics are played out in a much more entertaining light than "The One with the Evil Orthodontist." It's endearing to see Ross stressing about which zoo he can send Marcel to, a la the college admissions process. And it's delightfully creepy to see Harry Shearer as an animal fight booker - his offer to set Marcel up against a blind rabbit and give Ross 20% of the gate is played to horrifying greatness.

The A plot line of the episode is the Fake Monica of the title. Monica has her identity stolen and, when she goes to confront her thief, realizes that the fake version of her life seems much more appealing than the real version of it. Fake Monica is basically a Manic Pixie Dream Girl but without the romantic overtones (who, BTW, hates Dead Poet's Society - is she dead inside?), and she opens Real Monica up to a different side of her. This story seems surprisingly poignant to me... now that I'm Monica's age, I can understand what it feels like to have doubts from time to time about the path you're on. For Monica, she is feeling the burden of her own uptightness and need for control. Though we know from the word go that she can't keep this up forever, by the end of the episode, we find ourselves hopeful that this experience will actually inspire her to loosen up a little bit. Or maybe not.

Finally, let's just take a minute to revel in the brilliant C beat of the show: Joey has to come up with a new stage name and Chandler convinces him to make it Joseph Stalin. HILARIOUS. His eventual alternative, Holden McGroin, is equally inspired. This is the first episode that fully commits to Joey's dim-wittedness and it gives Chandler a chance to shine.

Oh, and also, turns out that Rachel is weirdly good at tap dancing. Nice to know....

Y'all, I think these two weeks have conclusively killed the Sexysex Hypothesis. Yes, there has been some sex, but no new partners. I guess we just need to wait for Joey to fully channel the power of his master pick up line: "How you doin'?"


The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Phoebe: VII
Monica: VII
Rachel: V
Joey: IIII
Chandler: III
Ross: I

Ross 'n' Rachel State of the Union
Ross likes Rachel: 20
Rachel like Ross: 0
They like each other but aren't together: 0
They like each other and are together: 0
Nothing's going on: 0

Best line:

"Let's just say that my Curious George doll is no longer curious." - Rachel

"Joseph Stalin is the Fiddler on the Roof!" - Chandler

And with the AV Club recaps...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Books Like Whoa: Jane Austen Ten Pound Note

The Brits seem to be all about defining their cultural legacy these days! Their latest move to remind the world that, besides all the imperialism and whatnot that people grouse about in history class, they have been major providers of cultural awesomeness in the last 250 years is...



Putting Jane Austen on their 10 pound note! 

I have to say, I'm both ecstatic and a little disappointed. I mean, based on the LSD-esque opening ceremonies we witnessed last summer, I was hoping that Voldemort and a hundred Mary Poppinses would be featured.


But this is a very acceptable runner up. Why Jane Austen? That's a question I've considered before. In a lot of ways, I think she embodies what the British want to project as their cultural image. Smart, witty, classy, self-aware, and self-depreciating. And considering that a single novel of hers has spawned an entire genre of film and book that people keep finding interesting things to do with...






And that her brand of humor has become what the rest of the world expects from British comedy, she's a pretty apt choice. 

I've heard a lot of chatter about how she's too obvious or that there are other female British notable figures who should have been considered. I'll stay out of that debate. But I can say that Jane Austen is truly a national treasure that the UK should rightly be proud of and celebrate. 

So here's to you, Miss Austen. May we have ever more reasons to remember and rejoice in your fiction. In honor of Miss Austen, may I offer you the first installment of my favorite modern update of her work:




Friday, August 2, 2013

Friends Friday: Episodes 1.17 and 1.18 (Recaps)

Episode 1.17: "The One with All the Poker"

This is another of my favorite episodes of Season 1. It's basically hilarious from top to bottom. The premise is pretty simple: the boys have a poker night and the girls want in. Rachel wants a new job. And Marcel can't stop listening to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which leads to one of the only good things that he ever brought to the show:


Most of the fun comes from the girls moving from being predictably (and stereotypically) awful at poker to having a real neck 'n' neck to see who will win. The first session of the girls learning makes me laugh out loud every time...







I love how supportive the girls are of each other! They want each other to succeed - I know that makes for terrible game play, but it's so sweet spirited that I can't help but love it.



Besides all the poker (which is awesome), this is also the week that the Ross/Rachel pining gets kicked up a notch. Which has inspired me to add another metric to the weekly count.* Ross just wuvs Rachel so much and it's killing him. But he tries to act all tough in the game to conceal his feelings, leading to some epic banter ("Ooo, I'm a man- Ooo, I have a penis- Ooo, I have win money to exert my power over women.")("Your money is mine, Green." "Your fly is open, Geller."). Alas, he cannot help but very sweetly let Rachel win after she doesn't get her dream job.

So by the end of this week, Rachel is still at Central Perk. The girls have learned to play poker. And the stakes between Ross and Rachel have been ratcheted up five fold. Everyone wins!

No hookin' up in this episode.

The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Phoebe: VII
Monica: VII
Rachel: V
Joey: IIII
Chandler: III
Ross: I

Ross 'n' Rachel State of the Union
Ross likes Rachel: 17
Rachel like Ross: 0
They like each other but aren't together: 0
They like each other and are together: 0
Nothing's going on: 0

Best line:

"The fifth dentist caved and now they're all recommending Trident?" - Chandler

"Are you sure? Because Phoebe just threw away 2 jacks because they didn't look happy." - Ross

Episode 1.18: "The One Where the Monkey Gets Away"

This is another great episode... maybe we've officially passed the awkward Season 1 slump that every show has and things will really be cooking from here on in. Here's hoping!

Okay, so Ross is finally going to nut up and tell Rachel that he wuvs her. This is after she finds out that Barry and Mindy are getting married and asks him if he thinks she'll ever find the one. "Someone who's like your best friend but who also makes your toes curl." Honey, you just described your future relationship with the man you're talking to. But we'll get to that. 

Ross' move? Have her babysit his romantic-partner-substitute/child pet monkey and then woo her over some vino. Sounds like a great plan - Chandler agrees.



If only it were that simple, Ross! We need you guys to stay apart until the season finale. Just hang in there.

While watching Marcel, Rachel accidentally lets him get out (she was distracted by the fact that he had pooped in Monica's shoes, which, I'm sorry Monica, really are hideous and should just be thrown out) and then calls animal control to help them find him. What follows is a series of very satisfying hijinks as the friends roam the building searching for Marcel. Loyal Joey, resisting the lure of sweaty women! Loyal Phoebe, taking a dart in the butt to let Marcel get away! Loyal Mr. Heckles, demanding restitution for his Belgian waffle!

Luisa the Monkey Catcher ends up being pretty bitchy about her high school grievances, but in the end, we see Rachel really fighting for her friendship with Ross, which is lovely. For the first time, we can see how much Ross really does mean to her, which makes us root all the more when he finally gets her alone in the dark with some wine...

Until Deus Ex Barry shows up and keeps them apart yet again! Duh, dun, DUNNNN! Stay tuned til next week, folks... 

This is officially a sex-free week. Everyone is holding steady in the numbers, with Phoebe and Monica tied in the lead. 

The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Phoebe: VII
Monica: VII
Rachel: V
Joey: IIII
Chandler: III
Ross: I

Ross 'n' Rachel State of the Union
Ross likes Rachel: 18
Rachel like Ross: 0
They like each other but aren't together: 0
They like each other and are together: 0
Nothing's going on: 0

Best line:

"Eeeh, you were fat. You had your own problems." - Luisa the Monkey Catcher

"Barry, who you almost...? Mindy, you're maid of...?" - Monica

*I'm going to keep track of how many episodes have Ross pining for Rachel, Rachel pining for Ross, etc. etc. It's such an underlying driver of the entire series that it'll be interesting to see how many episodes have zero role in the Ross/Rachel ongoing saga. I'll color the current emotion state in purple, along with the tallies.

Here are the recaps from AV Club on this one... it looks like you have to pick a side. You can be right and side with me and Joe, or you can be wrong and go with Sonia. Your choice.