“Lessons in Witchcraft” [PG] – 7/9

 

“LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT”

Chapter 7

Lunch turned out to be a simple affair – chicken salad sandwiches with homemade potato chips and iced tea. Once the meal ended, the Halliwells, Olivia and the half-daemon returned to the living room. Piper also carried a sleeping Wyatt in her arms. He had awakened during lunch, in order to be fed. 

While she rocked the infant in her arms, Piper said to Olivia, “You know, you never did answer my first question, regarding demons.”

“First question?” Olivia frowned.

“About demons being naturally evil. What is the Wiccan view on that?”

Olivia leaned back into the sofa, with a sigh. “Oh yeah. That question. Well, the Wiccan view is . . . they’re not naturally evil.” Her answer drew stares from the three sisters. “What? Did I say something wrong?”

“Uh . . . yeah!” Piper shot back. “What do you mean that demons aren’t evil?”

Cole spoke up. “I think what Olivia is trying to say is that Wiccans don’t believe that any being is inherently good or evil.”

“We believe that all beings have an equal potential for both,” Olivia continued. “And that whatever actions we take, we have to accept responsibility for the consequences. Of course, there are some religions that take a . . . uh, more black-and-white view on the matter. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are just to name a few.”

“So, what you’re saying is that you don’t believe demons are inherently evil,” Paige commented.

Olivia replied, “I’ll take it even further. There are many Wiccans that don’t believe in the existence of demons, period. They especially don’t believe in such beings as Satan or Lucifer. Now many Vodouns believe that demons are not corporeal beings, but purely evil spirits. Unless they have actual experience with daemons like Cecile and Andre. That’s also a view shared by some Christians, and so forth.”

Paige frowned. “I don’t get it. If demons are spirits, what the hell have we been fighting all of these years?”

“Daemons.”

The Halliwells stared at Olivia with confused eyes. “Huh?” Phoebe shook her head. “What are you talking about? It sounds like the same thing.”

Cole explained, “Olivia is talking about daemons. D-A-E-M-O-N-S. They, or I should say . . . we are minor divinities that rank between gods and mortals. We age like mortals, but at a much slower pace. Our age span is a lot longer. But technically, we’re not true immortals. Not really. Now there are some ‘daemons’ that never age. Like vampires. Or whitelighters. That’s because they were originally mortals who transformed into daemons, while on the verge of death. When they became a daemon, their physical growth was arrested.”

“Are you saying that my Leo and Paige’s dad . . . are daemons?” Piper demanded.

The half-daemon nodded. “That’s right. Along with darklighters.”

Comprehension dawned in Paige’s eyes. “Is that why that succubus, Claudia Della Scalla, wanted Barbara’s Soma plant? So she could become an immortal? A goddess?”

Olivia replied, “Yep.”

“But, demons . . . or daemons, or whatever you call ’em, are still evil,” Phoebe insisted. She paused. “And that also means that Leo and Paige’s dad can’t be daemons.”

Talk about stubborn, Olivia retorted silently. She sighed and said to Phoebe, “If that’s what you want to believe, it’s your choice. Many Wiccans, however, believe differently. We believe that in the end, it all depends upon the individual – not the race or the species.”

“What you’re saying is that you don’t believe in Satan,” Piper challenged. “But you believe that my husband is a . . . daemon.”

Olivia gave the oldest Halliwell a tart smile. “That’s right.”

Cole added, “You know, there are Christians who believe that Satan was originally one of God’s angels. A fallen angel.”

“Like a darklighter,” Paige clarified.

Cole hesitated, before he answered, “Uh . . . okay. If you say so. Also, there are those who believe that Satan was never a fallen angel, but one of God’s more ruthless agents.”

Phoebe shook her head. “Now, I find that hard to believe. And even if demons aren’t automatically evil, at least humans have a bigger potential for good. Right?”

Oh God, Olivia thought sardonically, another advocate of the ‘Gene Roddenberry School of Humanity’. She heaved a large sigh and said aloud, “You know, it truly amazes me – the human capacity to pat itself on the back. Why are we like that? Do you ever wonder?”

Looking somewhat offended by Olivia’s response, Phoebe bridled. “What do you mean by that?” she demanded.

Again, Olivia sighed. “Phoebe, I think you’ve been watching too many “STAR TREK” episodes. They really take that whole‘humanity on a pedestal’ thing a bit too far. Humanity’s potential for good and . . . evil, is just about the same as other beings. Trust me. I speak from long experience.”

“Cole doesn’t think so,” Phoebe shot back, glancing at her ex-husband. “Right Cole? Didn’t you once tell Leo and Darryl that very few humans have the same capacity for evil, as demons?”

Olivia stared at her boyfriend, who looked very embarrassed. And deservedly so, as far as she was concerned. He also squirmed with discomfort, under Olivia’s close scrutiny. “Uh . . . well, it was Raynor who told me,” Cole finally mumbled. A derisive snort escaped from Olivia’s mouth. The half-daemon glared at her. “What?”

“Look, I’m sure that Raynor was an intelligent and powerful being . . .” Olivia began.

Cole frowned. “But?”

Olivia continued, “Let me put it this way – I think that your old mentor had not spent enough time among humans. At least not long enough to really know them. I’ve been a cop for nearly nine years, Cole. Trust me, I’ve met plenty of humans who have committed acts just as heinous or even worse than those committed by your most notorious daemon or warlock. The only difference is that nearly all of the latter possess the ability to practice magic. Well, as far as I know.”

Silence enveloped the Halliwell living room. The Charmed Ones and Cole stared at Olivia. Then Piper said, “You really don’t like humans very much, do you?”

“My feelings about humans are the same about everyone else – at best, ambiguous. I’m more interested in individuals. Besides, this isn’t about whether I like humans or not. I’m only telling you what I believe. And what I’ve experienced over the years.” Olivia paused. When no one bothered to respond, she added, “Gee, I hope I didn’t ruin everyone’s mood.”

Wearing a wan smile, Paige piped up, “Well, you may have shaken my world view a bit. Otherwise, I’m fine.”

A quick glance at Paige’s two older sisters told Olivia that they did not share the younger woman’s feelings. On the other hand, Cole looked as if he had experienced an epiphany. Olivia managed a smile. “So . . . does anyone have any questions or comments? About demons, or should I say, daemons?”

Once more, silence reigned free, until Piper broke it. “Well, with no Source ruling the Underworld, along with the Triad and Cole’s old buddies – the Brotherhood of the Whatever, gone . . .”

“Brotherhood of the Thorn,” Cole corrected.

“What?”

The half-daemon repeated, “My old order is called the Brotherhood of the Thorn. And it still exists, by the way.”

A distraught expression appeared on Phoebe’s face. “Oh my God! Is that true? I thought the Brotherhood had been destroyed after you killed Whatshisname, Raynor?”

“Where did you get that idea?” Cole shot back. “A new leader had simply assumed Raynor’s old position. That’s all. Who, I haven’t the foggiest idea.”

Piper regarded her ex-brother-in-law with confusion. “You mean to say that you know that Brotherhood still exists, but you have no idea who is the new leader?”

Cole rolled his eyes in contempt. “Please don’t tell me that you find that hard to believe,” he replied sardonically. “Because that phrase is in danger of becoming redundant.”

“Well, why didn’t you tell us that the Brotherhood still existed?” Piper retorted. “Why did you have us believe that it had been destroyed?”

Confusion marred Cole’s handsome face. “What the hell are you talking about? I never said anything about the Brotherhood being destroyed! I merely told Phoebe that I had killed Raynor. He wasn’t exactly the first daemon to lead the order!”

“Oh.” Piper looked contrite. And disturbed by Cole’s revelation. “Then if your old brotherhood is still around, why hasn’t a new Source emerged?”

Cole shrugged his shoulders. “How the hell would I know? The last I heard, some daemon was trying to gather supporters for his claim as the new Source, but no one seems to know his or her name.”

The news of a possible new Source seemed to have disturbed the Charmed Ones. Olivia, on the other hand, felt rather calmed by the news. She and her family had long realized that the emergence of a new Source was bound to happen.

“A new Source?” Piper heaved a long-suffering sigh. “I guess we have to find out who this new demon is and stop him. Or her.”

Olivia stared at the oldest sister. “Why?” she asked. “Why would you go through all that trouble?”

“To stop a new Source from taking over the Underworld, of course!” Piper replied in a tone that Olivia found patronizing.

Keeping her patience in check, Olivia shot back, “And why do you think that’s necessary?”

Phoebe regarded the redhead with disbelief. “Are you saying that you want a new Source?”

Olivia sighed. “No, I’m not. But I’m trying to understand why you feel it’s necessary to go chasing after any new candidate for the Source’s throne.”

“Hel-lo? Past experience?” Phoebe retorted. “Sometimes, I really don’t understand you, Olivia. If there’s a new Source, he or she will re-organize the Underworld. And probably go after us.”

It was all Olivia could do from openly rolling her eyes in contempt. “And what makes you think that the next Source would be interested in coming after you? Or any of us? Because the last one was?”

“Well . . . I’d give that answer a big yes,” Piper shot back.

“Phoebe, the only reason why the old Source went after you,” Olivia continued, ignoring Piper’s caustic remark, “is because someone . . .”

Cole added, “Either the Oracle or the Seer . . .”

“. . . had foreseen the Charmed Ones – namely you – killing him,” the redhead finished. “And the dumb bastard became so paranoid and obsessed over that vision that he ended up destroying himself . . . twice.”

Phoebe replied, “Still, with no Source, the demonic realm will remain in chaos. And witches all over will be safer . . .”

“Safer? Says who?” Olivia demanded. “Leo?” She snorted with derision. “Sometimes, I think that whitelighters have their noses so far up their asses that they don’t really know what the hell is going on. Just because some demonic realm is in chaos, doesn’t mean that we’re all safer. Look at what has happened to all of us in the past year or so.” Olivia paused. “By the way, which demonic realm are you referring to?”

Piper frowned. “What do you mean by ‘which demonic realm’? There’s more than one?”

Olivia regarded the other woman as a mentally challenged child. Penelope Halliwell had certainly done a piss-poor job of preparing her granddaughters for the world of the supernatural. The redhead looked at her boyfriend. “Cole, how many demonic realms are there?”

“I haven’t the foggiest idea,” the half-daemon replied laconically. “Hell, there’s a whole lot of ’em, and the Source had only ruled a handful.”

Piper looked flabbergasted. “Oh my God!” she cried. “I can’t . . . I just can’t believe this!”

Cole rolled his eyes. “What can I say, Piper? Mind you, I’m only familiar with the demonic realms under the Source’s rule and several others.”

“Of course!” Paige exclaimed, startling Olivia. “I remember you saying something similar when we first met Riggerio.”

Olivia added, “As for you going after this new candidate for the Source’s throne, I suggest that you refrain from doing it. It’s irreverent. Unless he or she decides to come after you.”

“But with a new Source gone . . .” Phoebe began.

Olivia stared at her. “Yes?”

Phoebe’s voice dropped to a near whisper. “Well, evil . . .” She paused. “Never mind.”

“What were you about to say?” Olivia asked. “That evil will no longer flourish? Of course it will. It will always exist. You can’t destroy real evil. None of us can. It’s not even corporeal. It’s like a . . . well, a spirit. The spirit of evil that exists within all of us. Some of us give in to it right away . . .”

Piper added, “Like demons and warlocks.”

“And witches,” Olivia said, with a dark look. “Witches and other humans.” Piper rolled her eyes. Olivia continued, “So, you can’t destroy real evil. And despite his title, the Source was never the epitome of real evil. As much as he had probably wished.”

Once more, an uncomfortable silence filled the room. Olivia had lost count on how many times she had managed to shock the sisters into silence. She noticed, however, that it was becoming a habit. Finally, Paige came to the rescue – once more. “By the way,” the younger woman asked, “what’s the difference between a warlock and a de . . . I mean, a daemon? Isn’t the first supposed to be . . . what? An evil witch or a low-level demon?”

Cole explained that warlocks were simply magick practitioners who had perverted witchcraft for dark purposes. “Like the Crozats,” he added. “Warlock is a Scottish word that means ‘oath breaker’.”

“Warlocks also steal witches’ powers,” Piper said. “And they blink when teleporting.”

Olivia stared at the eldest Halliwell. “Actually Piper, any good magick practitioner can steal someone else’s power,” she corrected. “And a warlock’s goal isn’t to steal a witch’s power.”

Phoebe said, “What about the Crozats? They had killed a lot of witches for new powers.”

“They were consolidating power to take over the Source’s Realm,” Olivia explained. “And didn’t they try to steal Cole’s powers, as well? Come to think of it, didn’t you guys once encounter some warlocks trying to do the same to other daemons?”

Cole added, “I remember that. It happened not long after I had lost my powers. When we were trying to help that muse.”

Olivia continued, “Also, warlocks aren’t the only ones who can blink. So can a witch or any other being with that teleportation ability. My mother’s Cousin Anwen can blink. So can Nathalie Green.”

Looking flabbergasted, Phoebe exclaimed, “She can? But how . . . When Prue’s marriage to that warlock had turned all of us into one, we could blink.

Olivia shrugged. “It’s possible that particular ‘wedding ceremony’ had passed the warlock’s teleportation ability to all three of you. From what Leo had told me, the ceremony was rather unusual.”

Paige stared at Phoebe with confusion. “Prue had married a warlock?”

“Long story,” her older sister interjected. “Prue had married him, while under a spell. Besides, even Piper had dated a warlock.”

The oldest Halliwell shuddered slightly. “Oh my God! Jeremy! He was another warlock who was killing witches for their powers around the time we first got our powers. It turned out that I didn’t know he was a warlock, until we had been dating for several months.”

“How did you find out?” Paige asked.

“It happened inside the freight elevator of some old building. When Jeremy went into game face.”

Both Olivia and Cole exchanged startled looks. “Game face?” The half-daemon expressed doubt. “A warlock? This Jeremy sounds more like a vampire.”

“He wasn’t a vampire,” Piper retorted with a touch of asperity. “And yes, he did go into game face.”

A frowning Olivia shook her head. “That’s not possible. Warlocks can’t go into game face. They’re mortals. Like witches.”

“But they can’t be!” Phoebe protested. “A friend of mine once shot a warlock at close range. The warlock didn’t even flinch, let alone drop dead. You all remember Eric, don’t you, Piper? And the two warlocks that were after the Akashic Records?”

Piper nodded. “I remember.”

Heaving an exasperated sigh, Olivia tried to explain. “Let me repeat myself. Warlocks are mortals. I should know. I’ve encountered them before. Including Suzanne Crozat, who had dropped dead from two bullets, thanks to me.”

“So, what are you saying?” Phoebe demanded. “That Jeremy and those two . . . guys were . . .?”

“. . . probably daemons,” Cole finished in a dry tone. He paused, as the others stared at him. “Are they in your Book of Shadows?”

“Uh . . . yeah, I think . . .” Piper turned to her sisters.

Paige immediately went into action and orbed the Halliwells’ Book of Shadows into her hands. She placed it on the coffee table, before her.

Piper leaned down and turned the pages. She stopped at one that featured a drawing of a good-looking man with light brown hair. “Hmmm, color pencils,” Olivia commented. “Nice drawing. Prue?”

“Yeah,” Piper replied. “I guess she was a pretty good artist. Not exactly in Paige’s class, but pretty good.” A pleased expression flitted across the youngest Charmed One’s face. Piper added, “Oh, that’s Jeremy, by the way.”

Cole gazed at the drawing. “Jeremiah,” he corrected.

Piper stared at him. “Huh?”

“His name was Jeremiah,” the half-daemon continued. “A low-level, half-daemon. His mother was a warlock – and not a very good one, at that. I had met him once, nearly ten years ago. His mother had given him a Biblical name. As some kind of joke.”

Horror filled Piper’s dark eyes. “Wait a minute! Are you saying that I had once dated a demon? Had sex with one?” she cried.

Cole’s mouth curled with sardonic amusement. “I wouldn’t worry, Piper. Your little romance happened a few years ago. And at least you and Phoebe are in good company.” The two older Halliwells glared at him.

Then Phoebe sat next to Paige, on the sofa. Olivia watched, as she turned a few pages, before stopping at one that featured two middle-aged men. Both possessed forefingers that resembled pointed sticks. “What about them?” she asked Cole.

The half-daemon glanced down at the page. He nodded. “Yeah, I recognized them. The Collectors. They’re daemons that have the ability to drain information from the minds of others. Like the Seekers. Only the Collectors tend to leave their victims, feeble-minded.” A frown creased Cole’s brow. “Why does the Book have them listed as warlocks?”

“Because they had a blinking . . .” Phoebe broke off with a sigh. “I guess that whoever had added them to the Book, made a mistake.”

“No kidding.” Cole’s remark earned him another glare from his ex-wife.

Olivia, who sat on the other side of Paige, reached out and turned a few pages. She came upon a faint drawing of a female daemon listed as Hecate. She frowned. “This is Hecate? You’ve encountered her, before?”

Piper nodded. “Oh yeah. She was a demon who had tried to marry a mortal – some guy from one of San Francisco’s top families. The Spencers. She wanted to conceive a powerful half-demonic child.”

“Hecate?” Olivia’s voice rang with doubt. “You make her sound like a succubus. And I’ve never known Hecate to be described as one.” She paused. “Are you sure this daemon was Hecate? The real Hecate doesn’t have a reputation for evil.”

“Well, this Hecate was definitely evil,” Piper insisted.

Olivia shook her head. “I’m beginning to suspect that this was not the real Hecate.”

“She’s not,” Cole added.

“What do you know about her?” Paige asked.

Cole explained that the real Hecate was a Titan – a deity that possessed three heads – a lion’s, a dog’s and a mare’s. Hecate was the only Titan who had managed to keep her powers, after Zeus had defeated her father, Cronus. The latter had led a rebellion against the leading god.

“She’s also known as a spirit,” Olivia added. “And her name is usually invoked by other ghosts . . . and witches.”

The news seemed to stun the Halliwells, especially Piper and Phoebe. “But that doesn’t sound like the Hecate we had met,” Phoebe protested. “So, who was the demon we had vanquished, five years ago?”

No one – not even Cole – had an answer to Phoebe’s question. Olivia’s mouth became parched. She needed a drink. Badly. She glanced at the manor’s grandfather clock, when it struck three o’clock. “Why don’t we call it a day?” she suggested. “I think that we’ve covered all we could.”

“Um, could we hold off on the lessons for a while?” Phoebe asked. The others looked at her. “I’m going to be out of town for a week. In Chicago.”

Olivia nodded. “Sure.” She glanced at Cole, who seemed to be frowning at the Book of Shadows. “Cole, is there something wrong?”

At that moment, Cole grabbed the Book, generating gasps from the Charmed Ones. “How did you . . .?” Piper began, looking shocked.

“What?” Cole glanced at the book in his hands. He began flipping back through the pages. “Oh. Relax. I won’t . . . infect your book,” he added sardonically. “Besides, I’ve handled Olivia’s Book of Shadows, a number of times. And my intent is sincere.”

Piper retorted caustically, “Oh, that makes me feel a whole lot better.”

“I’m sure that it’s a feeling that won’t last,” Cole shot back.

“Meaning?”

He pointed at a page featured opposite the Collector demons. “I found another mistake in your Book. The Order of Gimle. It says here that it’s a demonic order. For evil.”

Phoebe eyed Cole warily. “Well, isn’t it?”

Closing the Book, Cole sighed. “It’s a demonic order, all right.” He paused. “Only, the Gimle daemons don’t serve evil. They’re usually on the other side of the fence.” He smiled and handed the Book of Shadows back to a stunned Piper.

END OF CHAPTER 7

“THE EUROPEANS” (1979) Review

Europeans1

 

“THE EUROPEANS” (1979) Review

Merchant-Ivory Productions first began as a production company in 1961. Formed by Ishmail Merchant and James Ivory, the film company produced and released a series of movies, usually written by German-born screenwriter,
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. A few years before Merchant-Ivory entered its artistic heyday of the 1980s and 90s, it released “THE EUROPEANS”, an adaptation of Henry James’ 1878 short novel, “The Europeans: A Sketch”

Set in antebellum Massachusetts in either 1849 or 1850, “THE EUROPEANS” begins with the arrival of an European visitor named Felix Young, who is in the United States to visit his American cousins, the Wentworths. The first member of the family he meets is Gertrude Wentworth, who is shirking attendance at church. Felix eventually meets the rest of the family – patriarch Mr. Wentworth, Charlotte and the youngest member, Clifford. He also meets Mr. Brand, the local minister who hopes to marry Gertrude. Felix’s sister, Eugenia Munster, arrives the next day. Not only does she meet the Wentworths and Mr. Brand; but also Robert and Lizzie Acton, a brother and sister who happen to be neighbors of the Wentworths.

It is apparent that Gertrude has not only become enamored of her European cousins’ lifestyle, but especially Felix. Meanwhile, Eugenia and Robert have grown increasingly attracted to one another. However, Eugenia is reluctant to sign the divorce papers that would signal the end of her morganatic marriage to Prince Adolf of Silberstadt-Schreckenstein, whose family wants the marriage to end for political reasons. Despite Eugenia’s marriage and her obvious dislike of her cousins’ Unitarian society, she managed to become attracted to Robert . . . much to his sister Lizzie’s distaste. As for Felix, he and Gertrude become romantically involved. Unfortunately, the Wentworths are not thrilled by this new development between the distant cousins. All of them expect Gertrude to marry Mr. Brand – including Charlotte, who happens to be in love with the minister. The story ends up as a clash between 19th century European and American sensibilities and culture; and also a series of love stories or subplots that feature family disapproval, procrastination and bad communication.

I might as well say it. “THE EUROPEANS” is not exactly an example of the Merchant Ivory team at its cinematic best. Mind you, the movie is visually lovely. And thanks to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s screenplay, it does featuring some amusing wit. But there is something archaic, almost static about this film. I get the feeling that Ishmail Merchant and James Ivory were either overwhelmed by the film’s period setting. Or else they, along with Prawer Jhabvala, were determined to indulged in some cliched view of stoic 19th century New England. There were times when “THE EUROPEANS” struck me as a bit too slow, almost bloodless. This pristine, yet chilly style even permeated the movie’s production designs managed by Joyce Herlihy.

But there were plenty of aspects of “THE EUROPEANS” that I enjoyed. Cinematographer Larry Pizer beautifully captured the New England locations of the film. Although Henry James’ story was set during the spring, Merchant, Ivory and their production team were so dazzled by the region’s beauty during the fall season that they decided to change the story’s period. I was also very impressed by Judy Moorcroft’s costume designs. Not only did I find her costumes beautiful, but I was also impressed by Moorcroft’s successful attempt to make her costumes a near re-creation of 1849-1850 fashions in Western countries. A good example is the following outfit worn by Lee Remick:

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Despite my complaints about the movie’s staid adaptation of James’ novel, I must admit that I still managed to enjoy the story. What I found surprising about the movie’s plot is that the so-called battle between the cultures did not result in any real winners. Did American or European culture win? My answer is “neither”. But individuals won, especially three particular characters – Felix Young and the two Wentworth sisters, Gertrude and Charlotte. The romance . . . or flirtation between Eugenia Munster and Robert Acton proved to be a bit more complicated. Despite their flirtations and battles of will, I came away with the particular feeling that neither really triumphed in the end. Yet at the same time, I found it equally hard to believe that either of them had suffered a sound defeat. The Eugenia-Robert romance proved to be one of the most complex literary relationships I have ever encountered. Most of the performances in “THE EUROPEANS” proved to be solid, especially those from Tim Woodward, Lisa Eichhorn, Robert Addy and Norman Snow. But the two performances that really impressed me came from Lee Remick and Robin Ellis, who did a marvelous job in conveying the complicated Eugenia-Robert romance.

As I had stated earlier, I would never consider “THE EUROPEANS” as one of the best movies produced by the Merchant-Ivory team. I found it a bit slow and at times, bloodless. It lacked the earthy humor and drama of some of the production company’s bigger successes in the 1980s and 90s. On the other hand, I must admit that it looked beautiful and still featured some complex characterizations, thanks to a solid cast led by Lee Remick and Robin Ellis. With patience, one could overlook the movie’s flaws and still manage to enjoy Henry James’ tale.

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (1.17) “. . . In Translation”

 

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (1.17) “. . . In Translation”

Before I commence upon this article, I should reveal that the “LOST” Season One episode, (1.17) “. . . In Translation” is one of my all time favorites from the series. I will try to be as biased as possible regarding the episode, but do not expect me to succeed. 

To understand “. . . In Translation”, one has to watch the previous episode, (1.06) “The House of the Rising Sun”. The flashbacks in that episode revealed the backstory of the marriage between Jin-Soo Kwon and Sun-Hwa Kwon (née Paik) before they had ended up stranded on the island via Oceanic Flight 815. Told from Sun’s point of view, the flashbacks revealed that Jin had to take a job working for Mr. Paik, Sun’s father, for her hand in marriage. The couple became increasingly estranged, as Jin began spending more time doing his father-in-law’s bidding than with his wife. One night, after they are married, Jin returned home covered in someone else’s blood. Fearing that her husband might be a dangerous killer, Sun secretly plotted to leave Jin (hence the secret English lessons); but changed her mind while on route to Los Angeles, via Sydney. “The House of the Rising Sun” also revealed the growing animosity between Jin and fellow castaway Michael Dawson, when the former attacked the latter for wearing Sun’s father’s watch – something that Michael had discovered on the beach.

“. . . In Translation” continued the revelation of the Kwon marriage, only from Jin’s point-of-view. The flashbacks revealed the circumstances behind Jin asking Sun’s father her hand in marriage, the bargain he made to work for the older man, Jin’s growing awareness of Sun’s frustration with his duties and more importantly the real circumstances surrounding the infamous blood on his hands that Sun had spotted. Sun saw a man who may have committed a brutal murder. What really happened is that Jin prevented a government official – who had refused to re-open one of Mr. Paik’s factories – from being murdered by one of his father-in-law’s henchmen by convincing the man to cooperate with a severe beating. Realizing that he was in danger of losing Sun, Jin decided to take his fisherman father’s advice to use a business trip to leave South Korea and stay in the U.S. for good. Only the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 intervened. Following the events of (1.14) “Special”, Michael Dawson decided to build a raft in order to get his ten year-old son away from the dangers of the island. The hostility between Michael and Jin finally come to a head when someone mysteriously set fire to the raft. Believing that Jin had set the fire, Michael attacked the former. Sun’s desperate cries for Michael to stop revealed her knowledge of English to Jin and the other castaways. The revelation not only led to a rift between the South Korean couple, but also to the beginning of a friendship between Jin and Michael, as they proceeded to rebuild the raft.

This episode was aptly named “. . . In Translation”, a take on Sofia Coppola’s 2003 movie. If anything, it focused upon the main problem that surrounded the Kwon marriage – namely the bad communication that existed between the couple before and after the crash of Oceanic 815. For some time, Sun believed that Jin might be a murderer on her father’s behalf, due to the blood she had spotted on his hand. This would explain why she had continuously declared to people like Michael and fellow castaway Kate Austen about Jin’s dangerous nature and how “he was capable of anything”. And this would explain why she took the trouble to learn English and not tell Jin. However, Jin was also guilty of keeping secrets from Sun. He never told Sun the details behind the blood on his hands, believing that it was not her place to know. More importantly, he lied about his father, Mr. Kwon, telling both Sun and her father that the latter was dead. Which is ironic, considering he left Sun after learning that she spoke English. Even more ironic is the fact that Sun knows that his father is alive . . . but never bothered to reveal this to Jin. Some viewers translated that last shot of Sun revealing her bikini without Jin hovering about, as a sign of her “freedom”. Whatever ”=”bondage”that Sun found during her marriage, had been created by bad communication between her and Jin. For me, Sun’s removal of her wrap struck me as a hollow and irrelevant gesture. Her “freedom” came at the cost of losing – at least for a while – the very man that she would always love more than anyone else.

On a minor level, a lack of communications also continued to exist between Michael and Walt. Most fans tend to blame Michael for this by accusing him of being a poor parent. Although there were moments when Michael became forgetful of Walt. And there were other times when Michael’s jealousy of Walt’s friendship with castaway John Locke got in the way. However, many of these fans failed to recall that Walt was just as responsible as Michael, due to his residual resentment toward the major changes in his life – losing his mother and gaining a long lost father. Because of this resentment, Walt had a bad habit of disobeying his father when he should have done the opposite. As far as these fans are concerned, Locke would have made a better parent than Michael. Personally, I disagree. Locke was adept at being a friend to Walt. Being a friend did not necessarily mean one is a good parent. The latter has to be an effective disciplinarian, as well. Unfortunately, being a disciplinarian does not jibe with the early 21st ideal of parenthood.

A third storyline centered on the triangle that existed between Shannon Rutherford, Sayid Jarrah and Shannon’s stepbrother, Boone Carlyle. But I barely paid attention. In a nutshell, Sayid declared his intentions to court Shannon to Boone. The latter decided to stir up trouble by hinting to Sayid that Shannon likes to use older men for her own benefit. Needless to say, Shannon set things to right and resumed her romance with Sayid after receiving sound advice from Locke.

Screenwriters Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Leonard Dick really did a great job in continuing the revelations behind the Kwon marriage in this very emotional episode. The island incidents balanced very well against Jin’s flashbacks regarding his marriage. And this episode really worked, due to the outstanding performances from Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim. Also Harold Perrineau (Michael Dawson), Bryan Chung (Mr. Paik), and John Shin (Mr. Kwon) gave excellent support.

Some of my favorite scenes in the episode included Jin’s successful attempts to save the life of the South Korean government official, his marriage proposal to Mr. Paik and especially the poignant conversation he has with his father, Mr. Kwon, about his marriage. I also enjoyed the scenes that featured Michael’s two attempts to bond with ten year-old Walt – the second being more successful. I also enjoyed Locke’s revelation that Walt was responsible for burning the raft. But my favorite scene featured the moment when Jin discovered that Sun spoke English. Director Tucker Gates did an excellent job in conveying Jin’s confusion with spinning camera work and muffled babble, as the the South Korean castaway tried to understand the English words that swirled around him. The only dark spot in this episode was Sawyer’s attempt to form a lynch mob for Jin, after the raft caught on fire. It was an unpleasant reminder that Mr. Ford’s penchant for resorting to violent retribution remained with him until the last season
.
Some time ago, I had created a LIST of my ten favorite episodes from “LOST”“. . . In Translation” ranked at number six on my list. After my recent viewing of the episode, that ranking still stands.

“THE BUTLER” (2013) Review

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“THE BUTLER” (2013) Review

When I first saw the trailer for “THE BUTLER”, I resisted the urge to see it. I have nothing against films about the African-American experience. I could not wait to see Quentin Tarantino’s pre-Civil War opus, “DJANGO UNCHAINED”. But there was something about the trailer for “THE BUTLER” that turned me off. It had that dignified, pretentious aura that marred “THE KING’S SPEECH”and “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” for me. I was determined to avoid it. But thanks to my family, I could not avoid it in the end. 

Directed by Lee Daniels and written by Danny Strong, “THE BUTLER” was loosely inspired by the life of former White House butler, Eugene Alley. Now, when I say “loosely inspired”, I meant it. Contrary to what many have claimed, the movie was not based upon Allen’s life. Actor-turned-screenwriter Danny Strong read an article in the The Washington Post called “A Butler Well Served by This Election” by Will Haygood. Inspired by Allen’s 34 years as a White House butler, Strong created the character of Georgia-born Cecil Gaines, who witnessed the murder of his sharecropper father by the plantation owner who also raped his mother. The estate owner’s elderly mother reassigns Cecil to being a house servant. Another decade pass before Cecil decides its time to leave the cotton plantation. He makes his way for parts unknown, but the Great Depression in the form of hunger and unemployment leads him to break into a pastry shop for food. The shop’s servant, Maynard, helps him get a job and later, recommends him for a job at a Washington D.C. hotel. During his two decades at the hotel, Cecil marries a woman named Gloria and they conceive two sons, Louis and Charlie. Then in 1957, Cecil is hired for a butler position at the White House and spends the next three decades working there. His job not only gives Cecil the opportunity to meet seven U.S. presidents, but also threatens his marriage to Gloria and creates tension between him and his activist older son, Louis.

In the end, I am glad that I saw “THE BUTLER”. It turned out to be a lot better than I had assumed. I have to give kudos to Danny Strong for creating a fascinating story that mingled history with personal drama. And Lee Daniels did a fabulous job of transforming Strong’s tale to the screen. More importantly, “THE BUTLER” managed to avoid that annoying and pretentious air that have tainted a good number of historical dramas in the past. Except in perhaps two scenes. Watching “THE BUTLER” reminded me of an old NBC miniseries that aired back in 1979 called “BACKSTAIRS AT THE WHITE HOUSE”, which told the story of a mother/daughter pair named Margaret Rogers and Lillian Rogers Parks, who worked as White House housemaids between 1909 and 1961.

What really impressed me about the plot for “THE BUTLER” is how Cecil’s past and profession had such an impact upon his adult life. Witnessing his mother’s rape and his father’s death seemed to have an impact upon Cecil’s psyche. In a way, these events led him to develop an obsequious personality that served him well,professionally. But his obsequiousness also led him to fear and oppose his son Louis’ participation in the Civil Rights movement for many years. I must admit that those sequences featuring Louis’ involvement with the Freedom Riders during the early and mid 1960s struck me as both fascinating and harrowing. Cecil and Louis’ estrangement deepened when younger son Charlie was killed during the Vietnam War . . . and Louis failed to appear at the funeral for personal reasons. And as I had earlier pointed out, Cecil’s job also had an impact on his marriage to Gloria. She resented how his profession kept him away for long hours, leading her to contemplate an adulterous affair with a neighbor.

As much as Daniels and Strong emphasized the impact of Cecil’s job upon his private life, they allowed the audiences glimpses of his interactions with not only the presidents who occupied the White House during his tenure, but also with his fellow servants – especially Carter Wilson and James Holloway. The movie featured interactions between Cecil and five U.S. presidents – Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan. If I had to select my favorite presidential segment, it would have to be Cecil’s interactions with Johnson, whose penchant for the occasional racial slur I had learned about, years ago. I found those scenes hilarious and sardonic – especially Carter’s sarcastic reaction to Johnson’s announcement about the Civil Rights bills. There were three scenes I found particularly interesting – Cecil’s eavesdropping of Reagan’s discussion with GOP politicians regarding South Africa’s apartheid policy, Kennedy’s revelation of his knowledge regarding Louis’ arrests and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement; and Nixon’s appearance (when he was Vice-President) in the servants’ work room in an effort to recruit their votes during the 1960 Presidential Election. I also enjoyed the private moments between Cecil and his two colleagues that eventually spread to his home, when they began spending off hours with him and his family.

Production-wise, “THE BUTLER” is a beautiful movie to behold. Andrew Dunn’s photography provided sharp and colorful images of Cecil’s life throughout the 20th century. Tim Galvin’s production designs certainly benefited from Dunn’s work. Then again, Galvin did a superb job in recapturing those 80-odd years of Cecil’s life with great accuracy. This was especially apparent in the period featuring Cecil’s first decade as a butler for the White House – between the late 1950s and early 1970s. I can also say the same about Ruth E. Carter’s work as the film’s costume designer. Not only were they beautiful to look at, I was also impressed by how she recaptured the fashion styles of each period featured in the movie. Here are a few examples of Carter’s designs:

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As much as I had enjoyed “THE BUTLER”, I cannot deny that it had its share of flaws. Earlier, I had complimented the movie for its lack of pretentiousness – except in two scenes. One of those scenes that seemed to reek of pretentiousness featured Cecil’s interaction with President Eisenhower. The scene began with Eisenhower ordering the U.S. Army troops to protect the lives and rights of a group of African-American high students integrating a Little Rock, Arkansas high school. The scene eventually segued into Eisenhower reminiscing about his late father to Cecil. And although the scene’s drama was portrayed in a straightforward manner by Forest Whitaker and Robin Williams, it seemed to reek of sentimentality and pretentiousness that I found annoying. Another scene that I found off-putting proved to be Cecil’s encounter with President Nixon in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. The entire scene seemed to have come straight from Cinematic Nixon 101. It featured a slightly drunk Nixon, lounging on a White House sofa, while spouting self doubts about his political abilities and integrity. I found the scene boring, pretentious and very unoriginal. In fact, I would swear I had seen similar views of Nixon in at least two other films.

I would even go as far to say that the movie’s main weakness seemed to be its portrayals of the U.S. Presidents featured. For some reason, most of the actors who portrayed those presidents in the movie seemed to be miscast. I had nothing against Robin Williams’ performance as Dwight D. Eisenhower. But I took one look at him and was reminded of the character’s predecessor – Harry S. Truman. Really. Liev Schreiber struck me as being at least ten to fifteen years too young to be portraying Lyndon B. Johnson. And yet . . . he did such as great job as Johnson that I am willing to allow the issue of his age to slide. John Cusak was not only too young, but also too slender for his role as Richard M. Nixon. In my opinion, he was definitely the wrong actor for the job. As for Alan Rickman . . . hmmm. Well, if I must be honest, I found his portrayal of Ronald Reagan very effective in a subtle way. The only other piece of casting that seemed to be spot on proved to be James Marsden as John F. Kennedy. Not only did he give a pretty good performance, but his Boston accent seemed decent. “THE BUTLER” also featured the appearances of two First Ladies – Minka Kelly as Jacqueline Kennedy and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan. Kelly did a solid job as Jackie Kennedy, especially in one scene that featured the First Lady’s return to the White House after the death of her husband. And Fonda gave a very entertaining performance as the ambitious and slightly controlling Nancy Reagan.

Since I am on the subject of acting, I might as express my views on those performances by the main cast. “THE BUTLER”featured some solid work from cast members such as Colman Domingo, who portrayed the White House maitre d that hired Cecil in a rather funny scene; Clarence Williams III, who gave a poignant portrayal of an elderly man who first trained Cecil to become a professional waiter; Yaya DaCosta, who did an excellent job of developing the character of Carol Hammie (Louis’ girlfriend) from a college student to a hardened activist; Vanessa Redgrave, who gave a brief, yet memorable performance as the elderly mother of the elderly plantation owner who caused havoc within the Gaines family during the 1920s; Alex Pettyfer, as the temperamental landowner, who managed to be effectively scary with very little dialogue; and Mariah Carey, who was surprisingly effective as Cecil’s victimized mother. It was great to see Cuba Gooding Jr., who gave a very entertaining performance as the fast-talking White House head butler Carter Wilson, who becomes a long-time friend of Cecil’s. Lenny Kravitz gave a subtle performance as Cecil’s other White House colleague, the more educated James Holloway. And Terrence Howard gave an excellent performance as the Gaines’ somewhat sleazy neighbor, Howard, who becomes interested in Gloria. He was especially brilliant in one scene in which his attempts to seduce Gloria into having an affair with him.

But in my opinion, the best performances came from the movie’s three leads – Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo. This is the third or fourth time I have seen British-born Oyelowo portray an American character. And I am still amazed at his grasp of an American accent. More importantly, he did a wonderful job in his portrayal of Louis Gaines, Cecil’s older son who becomes hardcore activist over the years, aging from 17 years old to a man in his late 60s. While watching “THE BUTLER”, I found myself wondering how many years have passed since Oprah Winfrey had a major role in a movie. The last major role I could recall was her performance in the 1998 drama, “BELOVED”. Watching her portray Cecil’s strong-minded wife, Gloria, reminded me how much of a superb actress she really is. There were two scenes that reminded me how skillful she really is – her bedroom rant against the demands of Cecil’s job and her angry response to Louis and Carol’s derogatory comments about actor Sidney Poitier. I really do not know what to say about Forest Whitaker’s performance in the title role. Personally, I feel that if went on about Whitaker’s performance in this movie, this article would stretch even longer. The man was brilliant. He really was. Whitaker did a superb job in developing Cecil from the 35-40 something obsequious butler to the 90 year-old man, looking back on his life and career. And I believe that Cecil Gaines is one of the best roles of his career. It would be a crime if he never receive an Academy Award for his performance.

I have noticed that “THE BUTLER” has received some mixed reviews from the movie critics. And most of these reviews seemed to be in the extreme from high praise to accusations of clumsy direction from Lee Daniels or equally clumsy writing from Danny Strong. I am not going to pretend that “THE BUTLER” is a perfect movie. It has its flaws. But I feel that its virtues more than outweighed its flaws. And thanks to Daniels’ direction, Strong’s screenplay and a superb cast led by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, I feel that “THE BUTLER” is one of the best historical dramas I have seen in years.

“AT BERTRAM’S HOTEL” (1987) Review

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“AT BERTRAM’S HOTEL” (1987) Review

Agatha Christie’s 1965 novel is a bit of a conundrum for me. It strikes me as one of the most unusual novels she has ever written. When I first saw the television adaptation for it, I found myself wondering how the director and the screenwriter would handle it. 

“AT BERTRAM’S HOTEL” beings with Miss Jane Marple arriving in London to spend a holiday at Bertram’s Hotel, a place she used to stay during her youth. Her first reaction to Bertram’s is sheer rapture, as she realizes that the hotel has retained its late Victorian/Edwardian atmosphere after many decades. The plumbing and communication system may have been modernize. Otherwise, the hotel’s atmosphere, interior designs, the food and the style of the hotel’s staff has not changed a whit. But it does not take Miss Marple long to realize that the hotel’s lack of change seemed unusual, considering that most long-standing hotels tend to change over the years. And thanks to an encounter with an old friend named Lady Selina Hazy, Miss Marple also becomes aware of a family drama being played out inside Bertram’s, between an adolescent girl of good family named Elvira Blake and her estranged mother, a famous adventuress and socialite named Bess, Lady Sedgwick. Their relationship seems to be tangled with two men – a Polish-born race car driver named Ladislaus Malinowski, who seemed to be romancing both women; and Bertram’s commissionaire, an Irishman named Michael “Micky” Gorman, whose conversation with Lady Sedgwick is overheard by both Elvira and Miss Marple. Everything comes to a head when one of the hotel guests, a forgetful clergyman named Canon Pennyfeather, disappears on the night the Irish Mail train was robbed; and on the following night, Bertram’s commissionaire, Michael “Micky” Gorman, is shot dead in front of the hotel.

I might as well say it. “AT BERTRAM’S HOTEL” does not feature one of the best murder mysteries written by Christie. When I first read the novel, it did not take me long to figure out Michael Gorman’s killer. Even worse, the murder does not occur until the last third of the movie. However, one must remember that the title of this particular tale centers around Bertram’s Hotel. If one really wants to enjoy a good mystery in this tale, it can be found in the mysteries that surround the hotel itself – the “old-fashioned” atmosphere, the presence of freewheeling types like Lady Sedgwick and Malinowski in such an archaic establishment, and the sightings of hotel guests like Canon Pennyfeather at recent robbery scenes. The hotel itself proves to be the real mystery that not only captures Miss Marple’s attention, but also the attention of Scotland Yard’s Chief-Inspector Fred “Father” Davy.

I have to give director Mary McMurray credit for exploring the movie’s rich atmosphere of 1950s London and Bertram’s itself. There were other factors in the movie that contributed to its atmosphere, including Jill Hyem’s screenplay, Judy Pepperdine’s costume designs, and especially Paul Munting’s production designs. However, “AT BERTRAM’S HOTEL” has its flaws. Aside from a lackluster murder mystery, the movie also suffered from faded coloring. Looking at the movie, I get the feeling that the actual television movie had been shot with inferior film. And as much as I liked the mystery surrounding the hotel itself, “AT BERTRAM’S HOTEL” also suffered from a slow pacing, thanks to McMurray’s direction. But that seems to be the case for many of the Miss Marple films that starred Joan Hickson.

The strongest virtues of “AT BERTRAM’S HOTEL” seemed to be its cast. Joan Hickson was marvelous as always as intelligent and observant Miss Marple. Joan Greenwood gave an entertaining portrayal of Miss Marple’s more elegantly dressed, yet gossipy friend, Lady Selina Hazy. I really enjoyed George Baker’s warm, yet colorful performance as Chief Inspector Fred Davy, who not only proves to be just as intelligent as Miss Marple, but also appreciative of her sleuthing skills and a solid afternoon tea. Robert Reynolds’ portrayal of Ladislaus Malinowski seemed like a cliche of Eastern Europeans, despite the sexy overtones. Brian McGrath practically oozed of Irish charm (of a slightly seedy nature) in his performance as murder victim Michael Gorman. Preston Lockwood gave a charming performance as the sweet, yet befuddled Canon Pennyfeather. But the two best performances – in my opinion – came from Caroline Blakiston and Helena Michell as mother and daughter, Lady Sedgwick and Elivra Blake. Lady Sedgwick has always struck me as one of the most colorful characters created by Christie, and Blakiston made the character even richer in her superb performance. And Michell did an excellent job in combining the two contrasting traits of Elivra’s personality makeup – her passionate feelings for Malinowski and her cool, yet conniving ability to manipulate others for her own personal gain.

“AT BERTRAM’S HOTEL” is not exactly one of the best Miss Marple films I have ever seen. Then again, it is based on one of the oddest Christie novels ever. But if a viewer can overlook the movie’s flaws – especially the disappointing murder mystery – that person might end up enjoying the movie’s atmosphere, the mystery surrounding the hotel itself and especially the performances from an excellent cast led by Joan Hickson.

“Lessons in Witchcraft” [PG] – 6/9

 

“LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT”

Chapter 6

NOTE: In the previous chapter, Olivia instructed the Halliwells on meditation methods and color magic. The story picks with Olivia trying to recruit Cole to help her with the lessons. 

————

Cole sat inside his penthouse living room, two days later while he listened to Olivia unfold a proposition to him. The moment she finished, Cole promptly replied, “No.”

“What?” Olivia pouted. “Why not? You know more about this subject than any of us.”

“The answer is still no.”

Olivia resorted to another tactic. She begged. “C’mon Cole! Please?” She gave him the full blast of her green eyes. “I really need your help on this one.”

Cole merely gave her a cool stare and said, “Too bad.”

“Cole!” An idea came to Olivia. “If this is about Phoebe . . .”

The half-daemon contemptuously rolled his eyes. “Trust me, it’s not.”

“Then why . . .?”

He sighed. “Piper. She can be a real pain in the ass. I don’t exactly look forward to spending an afternoon . . .”

“Morning and afternoon,” Olivia corrected.

Cole stared at her. “In that case, the answer is definitely no.”

Surprised by Cole’s stubborn refusal to help her, Olivia desperately added, “Look, I know that Piper can be difficult. Who isn’t? I certainly am. Besides, since when did you have so much trouble with her? I mean I know that she’s not particularly fond of me . . .”

“Trust me,” Cole growled. “Her feelings for you are practically benign, in compare to how she feels about me. The only times she had ever really treated me as a member of the family, was after Prue’s death. When they needed the extra firepower and when I had lost my powers and was deemed safe. Hell, she and Leo had once tried to vanquish me with that damn potion, when Phoebe was a banshee. And all I had to do was show up and be annoying.”

Olivia gave Cole a shrewd look. “My, we are bitter, aren’t we?”

Cole’s eyes penetrated hers. “Comments like that won’t get you anywhere.”

“You mean you’ve changed your mind?”

“No. I’m just pointing out a certain fact of life.”

It took all of Olivia’s will power not to throw the nearest object at her very stubborn boyfriend in a fit of anger. Anger – she finally realized after her temper had cooled down – that would not serve her purpose. Instead, she tried one last tactic. Surrender.

Olivia stared at Cole, wearing a downtrodden expression on her face. She sighed. “Okay, I give up. You don’t . . . I guess I can understand why you don’t want to help me with this next lesson.” Another listless sigh left her mouth. “I guess I’ll have to endure Doubting Piper by myself, again.” She paused dramatically. “Alone.”

Exasperation mingled with self-disgust in Cole’s blue eyes. “Oh God! All right! I’ll . . . I’ll help. Shit! I’m really not looking forward to next Saturday.” He gave Olivia a dark look, worthy of his reputation. “You know, someone will have to compensate me for this.”

Olivia pressed her body against Cole’s, and slid a hand underneath his shirt. Giving him her most sultry look, she murmured, “Well, we can start by heading for your bedroom.”

“Forget it.” The half-daemon coolly removed Olivia’s hand. “You’d enjoy it, too much. I’m talking about something that will make you suffer . . . just as I will, next Saturday.”

Apprehension gripped Olivia. She eyed Cole warily. “Like what?”

Cole hesitated. “Well . . . Harold Carter’s weekly Friday night dinner is coming up. And I’ve been given a command to attend.” He paused stared directly at Olivia. “Guess who will be joining me?”

Olivia’s eyes widened with horror. She recalled the last time she had attended one of Carter’s dinner parties. It had been an exercise in boredom – at least for her. The quality of the food had not helped. “Why can’t you ask your old buddy, Veronica?” she immediately asked.

“Because Veronica hasn’t asked me to spend half of Saturday, giving lessons on magical beings to my dreaded ex-sister-in-law,” Cole shot back. He continued to stare at her. “Well?”

A long suffering sigh escaped from Olivia’s mouth. Until this moment, she had not realized what a lowlife bastard Cole could be. “All right,” she grumbled. “It’s a deal.” Cole merely smiled coolly and remained silent. Shit!

——–

Heavy gray clouds hovered in the skies above San Francisco on the following Saturday morning. The doorbell rang and Paige raced to the front door to answer it. She greeted Olivia with a cheerful smile. “Hey Olivia! Back for more les . . .?” Her eyes grew wide at the second figure standing behind the red-haired witch. “Cole? Hey!”

Cole smiled warmly at the Charmed One. “Morning Paige. How are . . .?”

“What in the hell is HE doing here?” The outburst came from Piper, who had appeared behind the younger sister.

Paige stepped aside and allowed the two visitors to enter the house. Olivia glanced at the oldest Halliwell, who regarded Cole with hostility. “And how are you, Piper? Ready for more lessons?”

But Piper refused to be distracted. She continued to rant over the unexpected guest. “What is Cole doing here? I don’t recall you saying that he would be joining you. Nor did I invite him.”

Olivia shot Cole an uneasy glance before she replied “I brought Cole here, because I thought it would be best for him to assist me, today. Considering the topic I plan to discuss.”

Phoebe appeared in the foyer. “Is that Olivia? I guess the lessons are about to . . .” She stopped short, at the sight of her ex-husband. “Cole! What are . . . what are you doing here?”

The half-daemon rolled his eyes. “Ask Olivia,” he replied brusquely. “She was the one who dragged me over here.”

Olivia deliberately stepped on the edge of Cole’s right foot, warning him to behave. “He’s here to help me with today’s lesson,” she said. “We’re basically going to discuss a few magical beings – including daemons. On which, by the way, he’s an expert.” She smiled at the sisters. “So, shall we begin?”

Both Piper and Phoebe exchanged uneasy glances, but said nothing further. Soon, everyone was seated either on the sofa, or in various chairs in the living room. Olivia began, “Does anyone have a question, first?” Piper opened her mouth. “Other than why Cole is here?”

Shooting the redhead a dark look, Piper hesitated before she glanced at Cole and asked, “Okay, here’s a question. Why do all demons seem to be naturally evil?”

“Who said they were?” Olivia shot back, garnering a surprised look from the oldest Halliwell. “But before we go any further into that subject, let’s talk about something else.”

Piper demanded, “Why?”

A heavy pause followed, as tension filled the room. Olivia regard Piper with hard, cold eyes. Cole seemed amused by the entire confrontation. “Because I’m giving this lesson.” Olivia added in a deadly whisper, “Piper, if you have a problem with Cole being her, both he and I will both leave and today’s lesson will end – right now.” She paused. “Do you have a problem?”

Everyone else seemed to wait breathlessly for Piper’s next move. Bodies sagged with relief, when Piper murmured, “No. I don’t.”

“Okay,” Olivia continued with forced cheerfulness. “Let’s move on. We’ll start with fairies.”

Phoebe said, “Oh, we know all about them. Piper, Prue and I had met one of them, a few years ago. They’re . . .”

Cole burst into a loud chuckle, catching everyone else by surprise. “What’s so funny?” Olivia demanded.

Shaking his head, the half-daemon replied between laughter, “Oh, uh it’s nothing. I just . . . When Phoebe brought up meeting a fairy, I . . . uh, I found myself remembering how she and Prue were uh . . . affected by the fairy dust.” More chuckles followed. Aware of the others staring at him, Cole’s laughter finally died down. “Sorry.” His mouth twitched slightly.

“As I was saying,” Phoebe continued, glaring at her ex-husband, “Fairies are basically these little magical beings with wings and magic dust. Only children can see them.” A small burst of laughter from Cole followed. In a tight voice, Phoebe finished, “And they reside in the in-between places.”

Barely keeping his laughter suppressed, Cole added, “You mean the veil between the worlds.”

“Huh?”

Cole continued, “That term you used – ‘in-between places’ – is used by children.” He snickered briefly. “The correct phrase is ‘the veil between the worlds’.”

Olivia added, “Also Phoebe, you don’t have to be a child or act like one to . . .” Another snicker escaped from Cole’s mouth. Olivia glared at him. “Cole, honey,” she said sweetly, “get it under control.”

“Sorry,” he murmured.

The redhead continued, “Like I was saying, you don’t have to be a child to see fairies. There are plenty of adults who have seen them. In fact, didn’t you guys have to save a little girl and a fairy from some trolls, without using a spell or fairy dust?”

“Actually, we used a spell,” Phoebe replied.

“Oh. Too bad, considering that anyone can see a fairy. As long as you believe in them.” Olivia paused. “It’s just that children are more likely to believe in fairies – especially pixies – unlike the average adult.”

Realization struck Paige. “Oh! Like Tinkerbell in PETER PAN.”

Olivia nodded. “Something like that. Besides, I believe you guys had another encounter with fairies.”

The three sisters frowned and exchanged confused looks. Paige shook her head. “I don’t think so. I haven’t seen a fairy.”

“Actually, you have Paige,” Olivia calmly replied. “Remember the leprechaun or leprechauns you had to save from that daemon, last spring?”

“Leprechauns are fairies?” Disbelief rang in Phoebe’s voice.

Smiling, Olivia said, “Yep. And so are elves.”

“What about nymphs?” Piper asked.

Cole spoke up. “Goddesses. Minor nature goddesses that live in rivers, mountains and trees. I’ve encountered one or two. Very beautiful. They’re usually pursued by satyrs.”

“And what are satyrs?” Paige asked.

“They’re also nature gods. Only . . .”

Phoebe interrupted. “You mean they’re not evil?”

The half-daemon frowned at his ex-wife. “Why would you think that?”

“Have you seen the way they look?” Phoebe continued. “They almost look demonic.”

A sigh left Cole’s mouth, while Olivia answered, “Trust me, Phoebe, satyrs are not evil. They’re simply randy creatures that like to party and chase after nymphs and other females, to indulge in their lust. They have this tendency to look rather . . . uh, corrupt. Or degenerate. Like over-aged rock stars, only they’re shaped like half-men/half-goats.”

“Hmmm, be still my heart,” Paige murmured sarcastically. Then she asked, “What about dwarves? Are they also fairies? Like elves?”

Cole replied, “Mortals. Dwarves are any kind of life form – animal or plant – that was stunted in growth. So, those seven dwarves in SNOW WHITE? Mortals, like the rest of you.”

Olivia let out a gust of breath. “Well, shall we move on to another subject? Vampires.”

“Ugh!” Paige exclaimed with displeasure. Olivia recalled Paige mentioning her brief stint as a vampire, over a year ago. “Do we have to talk about them? Especially since Cole had managed to destroy them all, when he was the Source?”

“Hmmm.” Olivia fell silent, as she glanced around. “Are you sure about that?”

Apprehension flashed in Paige’s eyes. “You mean to say that more vampires still exist? I thought that when Cole . . . uh, the Source had killed the Queen of the Vampires . . .”

Olivia’s green eyes widened with confusion. “Huh?”

“Alaria,” Cole grumbled. “The ‘self-styled’ Queen of the Vampires. Actually Paige, she was only one of many heads of powerful vampire orders. There are others that still exist. The only reason that you didn’t permanently remain a vampire is that Alaria and her minions, the ones that sired you, were killed before you got a chance to feed from someone.”

“Great,” Paige said with forced lightness, “it’s nice to know there are other vampire orders around.”

Olivia shrugged. “True. Uh, just to let you know, there is another species of vampires. One that doesn’t turn into a bat. They’re a little closer to the human species than your old bat-morphing friends. And if you kill the head of their order, the other members will remain alive. I mean . . . undead.”

“Gee, that’s good to know.”

Piper spoke up. “I have a question,” she said to Olivia. “About your staff. The one you got from Scotland.”

“What about it?” Olivia asked.

“Why is the staff’s knob shaped like a dragon? Aren’t dragons supposed to be evil?”

A long-suffering expression appeared on Olivia’s face. A smirk curved Cole’s mouth, which Phoebe seemed to noticed. “What’s so funny?” the latter demanded.

It was Olivia who answered. “Are you guys in the habit of labeling every being as either ‘good’ or ‘evil’?” A slight touch of contempt had crept into her voice before she could control herself. “It sounds so simplistic.”

Piper coolly replied, “How else can we tell the bad guys from the good guys?” She shot a dark look at Cole.

“If I were you, Piper, I’d be careful of that kind of reasoning. Sometimes, the ‘bad guy’ might turn out to be a powerful ally for good.” Olivia paused, as her eyes turned a deeper shade of green. “Or the ‘good guy’ might end up doing something completely despicable, bringing out his or her darker nature. It’s like my grandfather once told me – nothing in this world is certain.”

The oldest Halliwell continued, “So, are you saying that dragons aren’t evil?”

Olivia’s mouth tightened into an impatient line. “Well . . . it depends.”

“On what?”

The redhead stared at Piper. “It depends upon the dragon.”

“But aren’t dragons supposed to be serpents with wings? That breaths fire?” Phoebe asked. “We were taught that serpents are . . .”

“Evil?” Olivia finished. “According to whom?”

Piper spoke up. “How about the Bible? Remember the snake in the Garden of Evil? The one who had tempted Eve with the apple?”

“I have heard of it,” Olivia replied. “But don’t forget – I’m not a Christian. I was never raised as one. Remember? And that’s why I don’t consider serpents or dragons as inherently evil. That’s a concept widely believed in Western society, and only after the arrival of Christianity. Fire is regarded in the same manner. Why, I don’t know, considering that it’s a natural element like air or water. But . . . if you prefer to maintain this belief, it’s your prerogative.”

The Charmed Ones remained silent. At least until Paige spoke up. “I guess that’s why so many dragons are shown as evil in the movies.”

“True, but I’ve seen a few recent movies in which dragons aren’t portrayed as evil.”

Paige frowned. “You’re not talking about the latest LORD OF THE RINGS movie, are you?”

Olivia shook her head. “No. I doubt that very much. No, I’m talking of movies like DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS andDRAGONHEART.”

“Speaking of a dragon’s heart,” Cole added, “did you know that they used to be sought as a source of power? I think Raynor or the Source went after one for that very reason. I’m beginning to wonder if that was the real reason why so many dragons – at least here in the West – were hunted down.”

“How observant of you,” Piper replied sarcastically.

Then Paige asked Olivia if the staff had originally belonged to her ancestor, Niaghall. The redhead replied, “Yes. It was made specifically for him, by his father.”

“The one who was a demon?”

Olivia nodded. “That’s right, an incubus. That’s why Niaghall was a wizard. He was an adamitici – the offspring of a mortal and an incubus. Or a succubus.”

Paige’s frown deepened. “But shouldn’t Cole be considered a wizard, since he’s half-demon, half-mortal?”

“Mother isn’t a succubus,” Cole corrected.

Concern flared in Phoebe’s eyes. “Isn’t? You mean she’s still alive? I thought she was dead.”

Blue eyes bored into the Charmed One’s dark ones. “I never said that my mother was dead.”

“Oh, I . . .” Phoebe broke off, shaking her head. “Never mind.”

Piper commented, “So, all wizards are the offspring of these . . . incu . . . uh, seduction demons and mortals?”

Olivia shook her head. “No, not all wizards. Some are merely mortals, who have learned the arts of wizardry. The thing about wizards is that they are simply magick practitioners, like us. But their magick is rooted in what you would call“ceremonial” practices. Rituals from ancient cultures like the Enochians, Goetic, and ancient Egyptians. Also, their magick comes from ancient practices from which present-day cultures like Arabic and Cobbelistic are . . .”

“Huh?” Paige frowned at her friend.

“Hebrew,” Cole corrected. “Ancient Hebrew. Present day Judaism and Islam are based upon these ancient cultures. Unlike Wiccans, many of these wizards have been known to accept Judeo-Christianity and Islamic religious beliefs. Especially in regard to angels and daemons. However, there are wizards whose beliefs are rooted, like I said, from other ancient cultures.”

Piper regarded Cole with disbelief. “Wizards are religious?”

Sighing, Olivia replied, “Like other beings, it depends upon the individual. Niaghall, by the way, had never really accepted Judeo-Christianity. He was a Druid, like his mother. Who was a witch, by the way.”

“What about sorcerers?” Paige asked. “Or mages?”

“They’re also magick practitioners. Wizards. And witches.” Olivia paused. “Although sorcerers, for some reason, are considered evil. Wizards who are into the ‘dark arts’. Which really means that they practice magick for unpleasant purposes. I don’t know how on earth they managed to acquire this reputation.”

Paige added, “Dark wizard, huh? Like the wizard Phoebe had killed.” From the corner of her eye, she saw Cole stiffened. Phoebe merely looked away.

Oblivious to Cole and Phoebe’s reactions from Paige’s words, Cole continued, “Another type of wizard is the necromancer. I believe Andre Morrell used to be one. Or still is one. You guys remember him from Bruce’s wedding, right?”

“Cecile’s boyfriend?” Phoebe looked confused. “But I thought he was a priest – a Voo . . . uh, I mean, a Vodoun priest?”

Cole smiled with mild derision. “Andre likes to refer to himself as a priest, or a hougan. But he still has the skills of a necromancer. A wizard. Trust me.”

“And a necromancer,” Olivia added, “is someone who practices the art of raising the spirit of the dead to commune with them. In order to see the future.”

Piper did not look very impressed. “What’s the big deal? We all can communicate with the spirit of the dead. Or ghosts.”

“Necromancers can do more than commune with the spirits of the dead,” Cole continued. “They can also bring the dead back to life. And trust me, that is a rare talent. Very rare.”

“We can do that,” Phoebe added. “Piper, Prue and I once brought our ancestor, Melinda Warren, back from the dead.”

Cole gave his ex-wife a challenging stare. “Permanently?”

Phoebe hesitated. “No. Only temporary.”

“A necromancer can bring someone back from the dead . . . permanently,” the half-daemon explained. “They have . . . special spells or ceremonies to achieve this.”

Olivia added, “And you have one last type of wizard – an alchemist. There are many magick practitioners who are capable of practicing alchemy – including witches. Including my parents.”

“What does an alchemist do?” Paige asked.

“An alchemist uses archaic practices – spiritual and chemical – to refine or purify his spirit and extend his life. He . . . or she can also change base metals into gold. Basically, an alchemist has the power of transmutation.”

One of Piper’s brows quirked upward. “She?”

Olivia explained, “There is such a thing as a female wizard. But for some reason, they’re rarely regarded by that title.”

“Hmmmm, sexism.”

“Before you start bandying that word around,” Olivia continued, “may I remind you that a good number of Wiccan groups refuse to regard or accept men as witches.” She paused. “I think your grandmother had once belonged to such a group. Well . . . once.” She saw Paige squirm with discomfort. Olivia wondered if the youngest Charmed One had recalled Penelope Halliwell’s reaction to having a male as her first-born grandchild. “So,” Olivia added, “anymore questions before we move on?” Paige raised her hand. “Yeah Paige?”

The youngest Charmed One turned to her former brother-in-law. “Cole, what exactly is the Tuatha Dé Dannan? And is it true that you’re descended from them?” Her question produced confused looks from her older sisters.

“The Tuatha what?” Piper demanded. “Paige, what are you talking about?”

Cole sighed. “She’s talking about the Tuatha Dé Dannan. They’re a race of magical people from the Goddess Dann, who had arrived in Ireland from Lochlann or the Islands of the North, thousands of years ago. The Danu people, as they were called, arrived in Ireland bearing with them their Stone of Destiny called the Lia Fail, which they placed on the mound of Tara and ever after, the rightful kings of Ireland were chosen when it called out. They also brought the Spear of Lugh, which ensured victory to whoever wielded it; the Sword of Nuada from whom none could escape; and the Cauldron of the Dagda, from which none would go unsatisfied. First, they clashed with the Fir Bolg, otherwise known as the men of the bags or the pot-bellied ones in the first battle of Magh Tuiredh. And then they helped the Irish people break free from the Fomorians.”

“Who?” Phoebe asked.

Cole continued, “The Fomorians were a race of evil giants who oppressed the Irish. They had demanded that the Irish sacrifice two-thirds of the corn crops, milk, and the first-born of each family.”

Paige wrinkled her nose. “Ugh! I don’t even want to know what they did to those poor kids.”

“Don’t worry,” Cole said, “it all ended badly for the Fomorians. They had first tried to prevent the Danu people from arriving. There’s a story they came to Ireland in flying ships but could not land as the Fomorians had set up a great energy field that they could not penetrate. So the Danu people had to circle Ireland nine times before finding a breach in the energy field and setting down on Sliabh an Iarainn – the Iron Mountain – in County Leitrim. The Tuatha Dé Dannanfinally got rid of the Fomorians, when they defeated the latter’s great warrior, Balor, at the second battle of Magh Tuiredh. And the Milesians at Teltown eventually defeated the Danu people. Since the latter was a magical race, they had decided to go underground into another dimension of space and time. There are many entrances to their dimension at sites around Ireland. One of the most famous being Brugh na Boinne, also called Newgrande.”

Olivia added, “By the way, the second battle of Magh Tuiredh took place on Samhain, which is a Wiccan holiday.”

“Before the Danu people were driven underground,” Cole continued,”one of them had conceived a child with a Milesian or Gael woman. That child turned out to be one of my ancestors, on my mother’s side. The Milesians are supposed to be ancestors of the Sidhe, or the People of the Mounds. You know, there are witches that are part of the Sidhe, today.”

Piper shook her head, frowning. “Are you trying to tell us that you’re descended from protectors of the innocents? On your mother’s side?”

Rolling his eyes, Cole grumbled, “I never said that the Tuatha Dé Dannan or the Milesians were ‘protectors of the innocents’. And as for me being descended from them, it’s true. I’ve taken Olivia to the Danu people’s dimension, many times.”

Both Piper and Phoebe stared at Olivia, who nodded. “We still go there, now and then. For more training on my pyrokinesis. With their permission, of course.” She paused and glanced at her watch. “Listen, it’s almost time for lunch. Do you want to go ahead with the next topic, or take a break?”

“Lunch,” Paige immediately replied. “I’m hungry. My stomach has been rumbling for the past half hour.”

Nodding, Olivia said, “Okay, we break for lunch.” Both she and Cole stood up.

Paige stared at them. “Where are you going?”

“Out to lunch.”

Cole added, shooting Piper a cool look, “Unless Piper doesn’t mind preparing lunch for me . . .”

“I don’t mind,” Piper retorted. The others stared at her. She glared back. “What? He might as well stay.”

The half-daemon and the red-haired witch slowly returned to their seats. Olivia commented, “It’s too bad we’re not at my place. I would have suggested that Cole prepare lunch. He’s quite the chef.”

“Cole can cook?” Phoebe’s eyes widened with surprise.

Piper grunted. “Humph, I guess those “JOY OF COOKING” books I gave you for your birthday, worked out, after all.”

“Actually, I use them as reference books,” Cole replied coolly. “I already know how to cook.”

“Huh?”

Olivia nodded. “Oh yes! He was trained as a chef at the famous Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris, during the 1920s. Isn’t that right, Cole?” The half-daemon merely nodded. Stunned by the revelation, the three sisters stared at him. A smile stretched Olivia’s lips.

END OF CHAPTER 6

Top 10 Favorite Episodes of the “STAR TREK” Television Franchise

five-star-trek-captains-unite

Below is a list of my ten favorite episodes from all five “STAR TREK” television series: 

 

TOP 10 FAVORITE EPISODES OF THE “STAR TREK” TELEVISION FRANCHISE

1 - 5.12 The Bride of Chaotica VOY

1. (5.12 VOY) “The Bride of Chaotica!” – Ensign Tom Paris’ latest holodeck adventure, “The Adventures of Captain Proton”, takes an unexpected turn when the U.S.S. Voyager gets stuck in an interdimensional reef in this hilarious and imaginative episode.

 

2 - 4.18-4.19 In a Mirror Darkly ENT

2. (4.18-4.19 ENT) “In a Mirror, Darkly” – This surprisingly entertaining two-part episode features the back-stabbing antics of Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise crew in the saga’s Mirror Universe.

 

3 - 3.16 Blood Fever VOY

3. (3.16 VOY) “Blood Fever” – While enduring pon farr, a lovesick Ensign Vorik unexpectedly passes it to Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres, affecting her relationship with Tom Paris during an Away mission.

 

4 - 4.10 Our Man Bashir DS9

4. (4.10 DS9) “Our Man Bashir” – While playing a 1960s secret agent inside one of Deep Space Nine’s holosuites, Chief Medical Officer Julian Bashir is forced to make life and death decisions for those crew members, whose transporter patterns are stored in the program during an emergency in this wildly entertaining episode.

 

5 - 4.07 Scientific Method VOY

5. (4.07 VOY) “Scientific Method” – Unseen alien intruders used Voyager’s crew as specimens for series of experiments that affect their physical and mental health in this weird and spooky episode.

 

6 - 6.19 In the Pale Moonlight DS9

6. (6.19 DS9) “In the Pale Moonlight” – This fascinating episode depicted Captain Benjamin Sisko and former Cardassian spy Elim Garak’s efforts to manipulate the Romulans into joining the Federation in its war against the Dominion.

 

7 - 1.28 City on the Edge of Forever TOS

7. (1.28 TOS) “City on the Edge of Forever” – In this Hugo Award winning episode, Captain James Kirk and Commander Spock are forced to go back in time to the early 1930s to prevent Dr. Leonard McCoy from changing time, when the latter accidentally disappears through a time portal, while heavily drugged.

 

8 - 5.10 Rapture DS9

8. (5.10 DS9) “Rapture” – An accident causes Captain Sisko to have prophetic visions involving the Bajorans’ religious beliefs and their future with the Federation.

 

9 - 5.18 Cause and Effect TNG

9. (5.18 TNG) “Cause and Effect” – The U.S.S. Enterprise-D becomes stuck in a time loop involving another Starfleet ship, but the crew manages to retain some memories of previous instances.

 

10 - 7.24 Pre-emptive Strike

10. (7.24 TNG) “Pre-emptive Strike” – In this bittersweet episode, helmsman Lieutenant Ro Laren graduates from Starfleet’s advance tactical training and is eventually ordered by Captain Jean-Luc Picard to infiltrate the Maquis and lure its members into a trap set by Starfleet.