“Defense of the Realm” [PG-13] – 1/14



RATING: PG-13 Mild violence and adult language.
SUMMARY: The Elder Council is threatened by enemies from within and beyond. Set after “Reflections II” – AU between S5 and S6.
FEEDBACK: – Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, Darryl Morris and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. The McNeills, Marbus and Natalia Stepanova are thankfully, my creations.



Chapter 1

The man glanced at his watch. It read eleven forty-eight. Which meant that a certain dealer should be in his hotel bedroom about now. Fast asleep. He took a deep breath, opened the side door to the Powell House Hotel and crept inside.

Using the employees’ express elevator, the man made his way to the hotel’s eighth floor. Before the door slid open, he pulled a stocking over his head, to disguise his feature. The man crept along the hotel’s corridor, fearful of encountering another hotel guest or employee. He sighed in relief, upon reaching his destination without any confrontation.

He retrieved a card key he had made by a forger and slid it into the lock. A green lock signaled that the door to Room 805 was unlocked and he surreptiously opened the door.

The room was pitch dark. The man removed a small flashlight from his bag and turned it on. The light revealed doors that led to two bedrooms. According to his employer, Mr. Gregory Liederhoff of New York City should be in the bedroom on the right. The man headed toward the said bedroom and opened the door. As expected, Mr. Liederhoff laid his bed, fast asleep.

The man silently made his way to the corner of the east wall, and the room’s safe. He removed an instrument and clamped it over the safe’s door. After he punched a few buttons, the machine whirled slightly. The man glanced at Liederhoff, who remained fast asleep. A slight click signaled that the safe had been unlocked.

Slowly, the man opened the safe’s door. He winced slightly at the sound of a small creak. As he reached inside for a wide black velvet case, a bright light flooded the room. The man blinked.

“Who are you?” Liederhoff demanded. He stared at the man with anxious eyes. “Oh my God! You’re trying to take the . . .”

The man whipped out a gun with a muffler at the end of the barrel, and shot Liederhoff in the chest. Twice. The dealer’s body fell back upon the bed with a thump.

Quickly, the man snatched the velvet case and opened it. The object in question was inside. He let out a small sigh and quickly closed the safe’s door. As he raced back into the suite’s living room, he saw a yellow light illuminate under the other door. Liederhoff’s assistant. The man dumped the velvet case in his bag and quickly left the room.


Darryl parked his sedan next to a curb on Kearny Street and switched off the engine. He and his red-haired partner glanced at the shop to their right. The sign read ‘Kostopulos’s ANTIQUITIES’.

“Tell me why we’re here again?” Olivia asked, as they climbed out of the car. “I thought we were supposed to investigate the Liederhoff murder.”

Darryl sighed. “Because I’m bored. Or because the bullets found in Liederhoff’s body matched with the bullets found in Stefan Kostopulos’ body.”

“Aren’t Scott and Carlotta supposed to be pouring over the shop’s inventory?”

Darryl did not bother to answer. Instead, a grunt left his mouth, as he and Olivia started toward the shop. The pair ducked under the yellow police tape that barred the front door and entered.

Olivia had to admit that she found the shop’s interior intriguing. The atmosphere reminded her of Vivian Dubois’ shop in New Orleans – a colorful place filled with interesting artifacts and antiquities situated in a slightly slap dash manner. It lacked that cold, museum-like aura that many antique and furniture shops seemed to possess these days.

“Man!” Darryl exclaimed. “What kind of stuff did this dude sell?” He picked up what looked like a jewelry box. But this particular box had strange markings curved on its sides.

Olivia immediately recognized the markings as Celtic Druid language. Furthermore, she knew what they meant. “Uh, if I were you, Darryl, I’d put down that box.”

“Oh? Why?”

With a sigh, Olivia explained. “Because if you open it, you might find yourself transported into another dimension.” Her partner immediately returned the box to the shelf.

“What is this place?” Darryl demanded. “Have you ever seen it before?”

Olivia shook her head. “Nope. I know about this shop in the Haight-Ashbury District. And Cecile’s mom owns one similar to this in the French Quarter. But no, I’ve never been here, before.”

“Hmmm.” Darryl peered through a glass case that held a variety of knives and daggers. “I wonder if Cole knows about this place.”

The moment Darryl mentioned her ex-boyfriend’s name, Olivia stiffened. She had spent the past few days trying to put Cole behind her. “I don’t know,” she said, barely able to keep the chilliness out of her tone. “If he does, I’m sure that Phoebe also knows about it.”

Silence filled the shop. The only noise came from Union Square, outside. Olivia could sense Darryl’s eyes upon her. She tried to ignore him and concentrated her attention on a case filled with pendants and other jewelry. “What?” she finally said, unable to deal with her partner’s silence.

“I wondered if you were ever going to mention Cole’s name, again,” Darryl replied.

Olivia retorted, “I didn’t mention his name. You did.”

Darryl sighed and tapped her shoulder. “Olivia, what happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean . . . what happened between you and Cole? How did he end up with Phoebe . . . again?”

Olivia regarded her partner with feign contempt. “Gee Darryl! Where have you been for the past week-and-a-half? It’s simple. We broke up. I tried to kill him and he went back to Phoebe. End of story.”

“C’mon McNeill! I know it wasn’t that simple,” Darryl shot back. “What really happened? Didn’t Cole realize you had been under a spell?”

Sighing, Olivia replied, “Look, it’s like this. Paul cast a ‘I hate Cole and let’s kill him’ spell on me. I broke up with him. Phoebe had visions of what really happened between him and the Source. They reconciled. While under the spell, I dumped Cole and he turned to Phoebe for comfort. They decided to have a grand reconciliation. Hearts and all. But before Harry and Mom had broken the spell. Then I went to see Cole at his place. I found Phoebe there, and I found out about their reconciliation. I stood there like a dummy for a minute or two and wished them well. And then . . . I got the hell out!”

“Oh.” Darryl paused. “I see. In other words, you simply gave up. Surrendered to Phoebe.”

Olivia stared at Darryl, as if he had lost his mind. “What? What the hell was I supposed to do? Grab Cole’s arm and claim him for . . .?” The sound of rattling trashcans interrupted Olivia. She and Darryl exchanged a brief glance, before they dashed toward the back door and out into the alley.

There, they found a derelict, a shabbily-dressed woman whose face and clothes were stained with dirt. Matted brown hair had been twisted into a chignon. The woman was busy rummaging through a trashcan. She took one look at the two police officers, turned on her heels and tried to make a run for it. Unfortunately, both Olivia and Darryl proved to be faster.

“Hey! Police officers! Hold it!” Darryl grabbed the woman’s arm. “We just want to talk to you.”

Looking terrified, the woman struggled to escape Darryl’s grip. “I didn’t see nothing,” she cried. “Honest!”

“See what?” Olivia gently asked.

The woman’s large brown eyes blinked. “Uh . . . you two robbing the store?”

“Do we look dressed for committing a robbery?”

“Well . . . not like that last . . .” The woman broke off and clapped one grimy hand over her mouth.

Olivia’s eyes narrowed. “Not like the last . . . what? Have you witnessed another robbery . . . what’s your name?”

The woman gave a suspicious sniff. “Huh, what’s yours?”

Pulling out her badge, Olivia declared, “Inspector McNeill of the San Francisco PD.”

“And I’m Lieutenant Morris.” Darryl released the woman’s arm. “Now, who are you?”

The woman nervously tugged at her clothes. “Look, I didn’t see. . .”

“What’s your name?” Darryl insisted. “Of course, we can simply take you in.”

“On what charge?”

Olivia took a step closer to the woman. “Loitering. And since you obviously don’t have a dime to pay for a fine, I’m sure that you’ll end up spending ‘time’ behind bars.”

Another sniff from the woman followed. “So what? I could use a bed and a hot meal for the night.”

“What makes you think you’ll receive either?” Darryl said in a threatening tone.

The woman glared at the two police officers. “Hey! You just can’t . . .” Her outrage quickly dissipated, under the partners’ intimidating gazes. “Okay! All right,” she said, with a defeated air. “My name is Grace Newhan.”

Olivia suppressed a triumphant smile. “Do you hang around here a lot, Grace?”

“Well . . . yeah. Mr. Kostopulos always had a meal waiting for me around this time of the day. But ever since he was killed,” Grace heaved a regretful sigh, “it’s been hard finding something to eat.”

Both Olivia and Darryl regarded the homeless woman with sympathetic eyes. “Well, Inspector McNeill and I wouldn’t mind providing you with a free meal,” Darryl said. “That is . . . if you can answer a few questions for us.”

Olivia added, “Like did you see anything, when the shop was robbed nearly two weeks ago?”

Grace hesitated. Fear flickered in her brown eyes, followed by hunger. Her shoulders sagged. “Yeah. I saw the guy. The robber.”

Darryl’s eyes glimmered with excitement. “So, you saw him. Well that’s good! That’s . . . why don’t you join us at the precinct and you can tell us the everything that you saw?” He indicated the shop’s back door with a sweep of his arm.

Grace warily headed toward the door. Before Olivia and Darryl could follow her, the latter added in a sotto voice, “Remind me to ask Morales at the station’s garage, to fumigate the car.” Olivia merely smiled, as she followed her partner into the shop.


“Mathilda Everard, the Whitelighter Council has found you guilty of withholding valuable information from the Council. We have also found you guilty of taking action against Belthazor without our consent. Therefore, we decree that you will no longer serve as an Elder on said Council.”

The Council’s verdict echoed in the former Elder’s mind like a bad song. After 321 years of serving as an Elder, Mathilda had been demoted to a whitelighter. A mere foot soldier for the Army of Good. A minion. She sighed. The humiliation seemed too much to bear.

After the Council had stripped Mathilda of her Elder robe and position, they assigned her to the Realm’s extensive library – the scene of her past triumphs as a researcher and librarian. Only this time, she did not feel any satisfaction at being there. On the desk before her laid a parchment that traced the bloodline of a family of 14th and 15th century witches and warlocks named DeGrasse. Mathilda sighed. Until this day, she never realized how tedious research could be.

“Elder Everard?”

The newly demoted whitelighter glanced up. Before her stood one of her former followers – an Austrian-born whitelighter named Johann Bauer. “Johann,” she commented politely. “What can I do for you?”

“I have learned that the other Elders had dismissed you from the Council,” the brown-haired whitelighter said in a thick, Germanic accent. “How . . . why?”

A faint smirk formed on Mathilda’s lips. “According to the Council, I had made a decision without their consent. And I had also withheld from them, my plans to vanquish Belthazor.” The smirk became a grimace. “Of course, the real reason I have been punished is that my plan had failed. The hypocrites!” She sighed. “If the witch had succeeded in vanquishing Belthazor, the Council would have overlooked . . . my discretion. And I would have become the Head Elder.” The reality of her failure deflated her anger. “But that is no longer possible.”

“Is it?” the other whitelighter commented. Mathilda stared into his violet eyes. “What about your contingency plans?” he added.

Mathilda frowned. “My contingency plans? You mean . . . to replace the Council members? By force?” She shook her head. “I don’t know.”

“Fraulein Everard, the Whitelighters Realm is descending into chaos. The Council lacks the strength and intelligence to deal with it. Only a strong person with the mind and will . . .”

Still staring at Johann, Mathilda exclaimed, “Are you referring to me?”

Hope and faith shone in Johann’s eyes. “Jawol, Fraulein. I am. I realize that this second plan may seem . . . aggressive. And that it could spell the end of your former colleagues’ . . .”

Mathilda ignored the Austrian’s platitudes. Instead, she continued to focus upon his arguments that the Realm needs a new leader to meet the threat of the growing chaos. And Belthazor. “You’re right,” she murmured, interrupting Johann.

The younger whitelighter’s eyes widened. “Pardon?”

“You’re right. About the Council needing a strong hand to guide the Realm. I cannot ignore that – despite my setback.” Mathilda sprang out of her chair. “We’ll do it. We’ll use the contingency plan.” She sighed with regret. “Granted, it might seem violent and excessive. But desperate measures are needed for desperate times.” Her mouth formed a grim line.

A gust of breath escaped from Johann’s lips. “Which members do we target?” he asked.

Mathilda glanced at him. “Draw up a list of the present Council members. All nine of them.”

“Eight,” Johann added. “You have not been replaced.”

“All right. Eight.” Mathilda nodded. “We’ll see which member gets to witness the Whitelighters Realm’s new age. And which one doesn’t.” Then without a moment’s hesitation, she returned to her seat and continued with her assignment.

END OF Chapter 1

“ONCE UPON A TIME” Relationship Mystery – Part II




Nearly two years ago, I had written an article that reported an exchange between Adam Horowitz, one of the showrunners for “ONCE UPON A TIME” and a fan of the show. In this exchange, Horowitz claimed that Regina Mills aka the Evil Queen did not use the heart of Sheriff Graham Humbert to coerce him into having sex with her.

I am referring to the series’ Season One episode, (1.07) “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter”. For two years, I had assumed that Regina did use the Huntsman’s heart to sexually rape him. Then I read that Twitter exchange and found myself feeling confused over the matter. Recently, I watched “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” again. When I viewed the following flashback scene, it added more confusion over what really happened between Regina and Graham:

(The Evil Queen magically sticks her hand through the Huntsman’s chest. When she draws back, his heart is in her hand.)

Huntsman: What… What are you going to do to me?

(She kisses him.)

Evil Queen: You’re now mine, my pet.

(She walks over to the wall of drawers and holds up the heart. A drawer pops out containing a box.)

Evil Queen: And this is your cage. From this moment forward, you will do everything that I say. And if you ever disobey me, if you ever try to run away, all I have to do is squeeze.

(The Evil Queen squeezes the heart in her hand and the Huntsman doubles over in pain.)

Evil Queen: Guards!

(Two guards enter the room and grab the Huntsman by the arms.)

Evil Queen: Your life is now in my hands – forever. Take him to my bedchamber.

(The guards take the Huntsman with them. The Evil Queen puts his heart in the box and closes the drawer.)

Many fans – including myself – had believed that Regina had used Graham’s heart to force him to have sex with her, after she removed his heart for failing to kill Snow White. Many fans still believe this. And Regina did order her guards to take the Huntsman to her bedchamber. So, why am I now even more confused over what really happened? While watching “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter”, I noticed that after Regina had ordered her guards to send the Huntsman to her bedchamber, she placed his heart in a vault where she kept other hearts taken by her and her mother, Cora Mills. Without his heart in her possession, how did Regina manage to coerce the Huntsman to have sex with her?

Episodes like (2.08) “Into the Deep”, (2.17) “Welcome to Storybrooke” and the recent (4.11) “Heroes and Villains” proved that one literally had to hold the victim’s heart in hand in order to manipulate the latter’s speech or movement. Since Regina had placed Graham’s heart in a crypt before joining him in her bedchamber, I have to repeat my question . . . how did she force him to have sex with her?

I hope that Horowitz or his partner, Edward Kitsis, will clear up this matter in a future episode. If actor Jamie Dornan is unavailable for another appearance on the series, the showrunners could at least clear the matter in an interview. After the slew of unanswered mysteries that plagued “LOST”, the series in which both Horowitz and Kitsis wrote for, I have no desire to put up with another television series that leaves its viewers partially in the dark.


Ten Favorite SOUTHERN GOTHIC Movies


Below is a list of my favorite movies with the theme of Southern Gothic:



1 - Written on the Wind

1. “Written on the Wind” (1956) – Douglas Sirk directed this lush adaptation of Robert Wilder’s 1945 novel about the damaging effects of a self-indulgent Texas family whose wealth stems from oil. The movie starred Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack and Oscar winner Dorothy Malone.


2 - The Beguiled

2. “The Beguiled” (1971) – Clint Eastwood starred in this surprisingly effective adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan’s 1966 novel about a Union soldier’s stay at a girl’s school in 1863 Mississippi. Directed by Don Siegel, the movie co-starred Geraldine Page and Elizabeth Hartman.


3 - Eves Bayou

3. “Eve’s Bayou” (1997) – Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield and Debbie Morgan starred in this excellent tale about the affects of a Louisiana doctor’s extramarital affairs upon his family. The movie was written and directed by Kasi Lemmons.


4 - The Long Hot Summer 1985

4. “The Long Hot Summer” (1985) – Don Johnson and Judith Ivey starred in this excellent television remake of the 1958 film about an ambitious drifter’s experiences with a wealthy Mississippi family. Stuart Cooper directed this two-part television movie.


5 - Interview With a Vampire

5. “Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” (1994) – Neil Jordan directed this excellent adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1976 novel about a former Louisiana planter-turned-vampire, who recalls his past history with a young reporter. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt starred.


6 - Heavens Prisoners

6. “Heaven’s Prisoners” (1996) – Alec Baldwin starred in this interesting adaptation of James Lee Burke’s 1988 novel about a former New Orleans detective, who investigates the circumstances behind a mysterious plane crash. Directed by Phil Joanou, the movie co-starred Kelly Lynch, Eric Roberts, Teri Hatcher and Mary Stuart Masterson.


7 - The Story of Temple Drake

7. “The Story of Temple Drake” (1933) – Miriam Hopkins starred in this controversial adaptation of William Faulkner’s 1931 novel, “Sanctuary”; which told the story of a young Southern socialite who falls into the hands of a brutal gangster. Stephen Roberts directed.


8 - The Skeleton Key

8. “The Skeleton Key” (2005) – Kate Hudson starred in this atmospheric thriller about a New Orleans hospice, who becomes entangled in a mystery surrounding an old Louisiana plantation manor and Hoodoo rituals. Directed by Iain Sofley, the movie co-starred Gena Rowland, Peter Sarsgaard and John Hurt.


9 - One False Move

9. “One False Move” (1992) – Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton starred in this fascinating crime thriller about a Arkansas sheriff anticipating the arrival of three violent drug dealers. Directed by Carl Franklin, the movie co-starred Cynda Williams and Michael Beach.


10 - The Long Hot Summer 1958

10. “The Long Hot Summer” (1958) – Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward starred in this original adaptation of three William Faulkner novellas about the experiences of an ambitious drifter with a wealthy Mississippi family. The movie was directed by Martin Ritt.

JANE AUSTEN’s Rogue Gallery


Below is a look at the fictional rogues – male and female – created by Jane Austen in the six published novels written by her. So, without further ado . . .


John Willoughby – “Sense and Sensibility” (1811)

John Willoughby is a handsome young single man with a small estate, but has expectations of inheriting his aunt’s large estate. Also, Willoughby driven by the his own pleasures, whether amusing himself with whatever woman crossed his path, or via marrying in order to obtain wealth to fuel his profligate ways. He does not value emotional connection and is willing to give up Marianne Dashwood, his true love, for more worldly objects. Although not my favorite rogue, I feel that Willoughby is Austen’s most successful rogue, because he was able to feel remorse and regret for his rejection of Marianne by the end of the story. This makes him one of Austen’s most complex rogues. Here are the actors that portrayed John Willoughby:

1. Clive Francis (1971) – I must admit that I did not find him particularly memorable as Willoughby. At first.  In fact, my memories of his performance is very vague.   But upon further viewings, I was impressed by his subtle portrayal of the roguish Willoughby.

2. Peter Woodward (1981) – I first became aware of Woodward during his brief stint on the sci-fi series, “CRUSADE”. He was also slightly memorable as Willoughby, although I did not find his take on the character as particularly roguish. His last scene may have been a bit hammy, but otherwise, I found him tolerable.


3. Greg Wise (1995) – He was the first actor I saw portray Willoughby . . . and he remains my favorite. His Willoughby was both dashing and a little bit cruel. And I loved that he managed to conveyed the character’s regret over rejecting Marianne without any dialogue whatsoever.


4. Dominic Cooper (2008) – Many television critics made a big deal about his portrayal of Willoughby, but I honestly did not see the magic. However, I must admit that he gave a pretty good performance, even if his Willoughby came off as a bit insidious at times.


George Wickham – “Pride and Prejudice” (1813)

George Wickham is an old childhood friend of hero Fitzwilliam Darcy and the son of the Darcy family’s steward, whose dissipate ways estranged the pair. He is introduced into the story as a handsome and superficially charming commissioned militia officer in Meryton, who quickly charms and befriends the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, after learning of her dislike of Darcy. Wickham manages to charm the entire Meryton neighborhood, before they realize that they have a snake in their midst. Elizabeth eventually learns of Wickham’s attempt to elope with the young Georgiana Darcy. Unfortunately, he manages to do the same with her younger sister, Lydia, endangering the Bennet family’s reputation. He could have been the best of Austen’s rogues, if it were not for his stupid decision to elope with Lydia, a young woman whose family would be unable to provide him with a well-endowed dowry. Because I certainly cannot see him choosing him as a traveling bed mate, while he evade creditors. Here are the actors that portrayed George Wickham:

1. Edward Ashley-Cooper (1940) – This Australian actor was surprisingly effective as the smooth talking Wickham. He was handsome, charming, witty and insidious. I am surprised that his portrayal is not that well known.



2. Peter Settelen (1980) – He made a charming Wickham, but his performance came off as a bit too jovial for me to take him seriously as a rogue.


3. Adrian Lukis (1995) – His Wickham is, without a doubt, is my favorite take on the character. He is not as handsome as the other actors who have portrayed the role; but he conveyed all of the character’s attributes with sheer perfection.


4. Rupert Friend (2005) – I think that he was hampered by director Joe Wright’s script and failed to become an effective Wickham. In fact, I found his portrayal almost a waste of time.  And I especially believe that Wright had wasted his time.  For I believe he could have been a first-rate Wickham.



Henry Crawford – “Mansfield Park” (1814)

I think that one of the reasons I have such difficulties in enjoying “MANSFIELD PARK” is that I found Austen’s portrayal of the roguish Henry Crawford rather uneven. He is originally portrayed as a ladies’ man who takes pleasure in seducing women. But after courting heroine Fanny Price, he falls genuinely in love with her and successfully manages to mend his ways. But Fanny’s rejection of him (due to her love of cousin Edmund Bertram) lead him to begin an affair with Edmund’s sister, Maria Rushworth and is labeled permanently by Austen as a reprobate. This entire storyline failed to alienate me toward Henry. I just felt sorry for him, because Fanny was not honest enough to reveal why she had rejected him. Here are the actors that portrayed Henry Crawford:


1. Robert Burbage (1983) – As I had stated in a review of the 1983 miniseries, I thought his take on Henry Crawford reminded me of an earnest schoolboy trying to act like a seducer. Sorry, but I was not impressed.


2. Alessandro Nivola (1999) – In my opinion, his portrayal of Henry was the best. He managed to convey the seductive qualities of the character, his gradual transformation into an earnest lover and the anger he felt at being rejected. Superb performance.

3. Joseph Beattie (2007) – His performance was pretty solid and convincing. However, there were a few moments when his Henry felt more like a stalker than a seducer. But in the end, he gave a pretty good performance.


Mary Crawford – “Mansfield Park” (1814)

Ah yes! Mary Crawford. I never could understand why Jane Austen eventually painted her as a villainess (or semi-villainess) in“MANSFIELD PARK”. As the sister of Henry Crawford, she shared his tastes for urbane airs, tastes, wit (both tasteful and ribald) and an interest in courtship. She also took an unexpected shine to the shy Fanny Price, while falling in love with the likes of Edmund Bertram. However, Edmund planned to become a clergyman, something she could not abide. Mary was not perfect. She could be superficial at times and a bit too manipulative for her own good. If I must be honest, she reminds me too much of Dolly Levi, instead of a woman of low morals. Here are the actresses who portrayed Mary Crawford:


1. Jackie Smith-Wood (1983) – She gave a delightful and complex performance as Mary Crawford. I practically found myself wishing that “MANSFIELD PARK” had been a completely different story, with her as the heroine. Oh well. We cannot have everything.

2. Embeth Davidtz (1999) – Her portrayal of Mary was just as delightful and complex as Smith-Wood. Unfortunately for the actress, writer-director Patricia Rozema wrote a scene that featured a ridiculous and heavy-handed downfall for Mary. Despite that, she was still superb and held her own against Frances O’Connor’s more livelier Fanny.


3. Hayley Atwell (2007) – After seeing her performance as Mary, I began to suspect that any actress worth her salt can do wonders with the role. This actress was one of the bright spots in the 2007 lowly regarded version of Austen’s novel. Mind you, her portrayal was a little darker than the other two, but I still enjoyed her portrayal.



Frank Churchill – “Emma” (1815)

Frank Churchill was the son of one of Emma Woodhouse’s neighbors by a previous marriage. He was an amiable young man whom everyone, except Mr. George Knightley, who considered him quite immature. After his mother’s death he was raised by his wealthy aunt and uncle, whose last name he took. Frank may be viewed simply as careless, shallow, and little bit cruel in his mock disregard for his real fiancee, Jane Fairfax. But I find it difficult to view him as a villain. Here are the actors who portrayed Frank Churchill:

1. Robert East (1972) – It is hard to believe that this actor was 39-40 years old, when he portrayed Frank Churchill in this miniseries. He did a pretty good job, but there were a few moments when his performance seemed a bit uneven.

2. Ewan McGregor (1996) – He did a pretty good job, but his performance was hampered by Douglas McGrath’s script, which only focused upon Frank’s efforts to hide his engagement to Jane Fairfax.


3. Raymond Coulthard (1996-97) – In my opinion, he gave the best performance as Frank. The actor captured all of the character’s charm, humor, and perversity on a very subtle level.


4. Rupert Evans (2009) – He was pretty good as Frank, but there were times when his performance became a little heavy-handed, especially in later scenes that featured Frank’s frustrations in hiding his engagement to Jane Fairfax.


John Thorpe – “Northanger Abbey” (1817)

I would view John Thorpe as Jane Austen’s least successful rogue. I do not if I could even call him a rogue. He seemed so coarse, ill-mannered and not very bright. With his flashy wardrobe and penchant for mild profanity, I have doubts that he could attract any female, including one that was desperate for a husband. And his joke on Catherine Moreland seemed so . . . unnecessary. Here are the actors that portrayed John Thorpe:

1. Jonathan Coy (1986) – He basically did a good job with the character he was given. Although there were moments when his John Thorpe seemed more like an abusive stalker than the loser he truly was.


2. William Beck (2007) – I admit that physically, he looks a little creepy. But the actor did a first-rate job in portraying Thorpe as the crude loser he was portrayed in Austen’s novel.


Isabella Thorpe – “Northanger Abbey” (1817)

The lovely Isabella Thorpe was a different kettle of fish than her brother. She had ten times the charms and probably the brains. Her problem was that her libido brought her down the moment she clapped eyes on Captain Frederick Tilney. And this is what ended her friendship with heroine Catherine Moreland, considering that she was engaged to the latter’s brother. Here are the actresses who portrayed Isabella Thorpe:

1. Cassie Stuart (1986) – She did a pretty good job as Isabella, even if there were moments when she came off as a bit . . . well, theatrical. I only wish that the one of the crew had taken it easy with her makeup.

2. Carey Mulligan (2007) – She gave a first-rate performance as Isabella, conveying all of the character’s charm, intelligence and weaknesses. It was a very good performance.



William Elliot – “Persuasion” (1818)

William Elliot is a cousin of heroine Anne Elliot and the heir presumptive of her father, Sir Walter. He became etranged from the family when he wed a woman of much lower social rank, for her fortune. Sir Walter and Elizabeth had hoped William would marry the latter. After becoming a widower, he mended his relationship with the Elliots and attempted to court Anne in the hopes of inheriting the Elliot baronetcy and ensuring that Sir Walter never marries Mrs. Penelope Clay, Elizabeth Elliot’s companion. He was an interesting character, but his agenda regarding Sir Walter’s title and estates struck me as irrelevant. Sir Walter could have easily found another woman to marry and conceive a male heir. “PERSUASION” could have been a better story without a rogue/villain. Here are the actors that portrayed William Elliot:

1. David Savile (1971) – He made a pretty good William Elliot. However, there were times when his character switched from a jovial personality to a seductive one in an uneven manner.

2. Samuel West (1995) – His portrayal of William Elliot is probably the best I have ever seen. He conveyed all aspects of William’s character – both the good and bad – with seamless skill. My only problem with his characterization is that the screenwriter made his William financial broke. And instead of finding another rich wife, this William tries to court Anne to keep a close eye on Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay. Ridiculous.


3. Tobias Menzies (2007) – I found his portrayal of William Elliot to be a mixed affair. There were moments that his performance seemed pretty good. Unfortunately, there were more wooden moments from the actor than decent ones.


Macaroni and Cheese


Below is an article I had written about a famous comfort food dish known as Macaroni and Cheese:


Macaroni and Cheese is a famous dish known throughout Europe and other Western countries, especially the United States. My own memories of the dish date back to my childhood when my parents and grandmother used to serve it to me and my siblings . . . especially from the pre-packaged box form created by the company, Kraft. But I have eaten traditional homemade Macaroni and Cheese every now and then.

Although known today as an American comfort dish, Macaroni and Cheese was a dish made from Parmesan cheese and past that originated in Italy. Pasta and cheese casseroles have been recorded in cookbooks as early as the 14th century’s “Liber de Coquina”, one of the oldest medieval cookbooks. The dish also made its first appearance in England during the same century, in the famous English medieval cookbook titled “Forme of Cury”.

The first modern recipe for Macaroni and Cheese appeared in Elizabeth Raffald’s 1769 book “The Experienced English Housekeeper”. Her recipe called for a Béchamel sauce with Cheddar cheese, which is mixed with macaroni pasta, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and baked. The dish also appeared in the famous Victorian cookbook, “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management” and included two recipes for the dish.

Many would be surprised to learn that the future third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson may have been responsible for the introduction of Macaroni and Cheese to Americans. He first sampled the dish in both in Paris and in northern Italy, and later incorporated the dish at his Virginia home, Monticello. As the country’s third president, Jefferson served Macaroni and Cheese at a State dinner in 1802. Mary Randolph, sister to Jefferon’s son-in-law Thomas Mann Randolph Jr., included a recipe for the dish in her 1824 cookbook, “The Virginia Housewife”.

Below is a recipe for “Macaroni and Cheese” from the MyRecipe website:

Macaroni and Cheese


2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (10-oz.) block extra sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
1/2 (16-oz.) package elbow macaroni, cooked


1. Whisk flour into butter

Preheat oven to 400°. Microwave milk at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes. Melt butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute.

2. Whisk in warm milk

Gradually whisk in warm milk, and cook, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened.

3. Whisk in cheese

Whisk in salt, black pepper, 1 cup shredded cheese, and, if desired, red pepper until smooth; stir in pasta. Spoon pasta mixture into a lightly greased 2-qt. baking dish; top with remaining cheese. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

“Reflections II” [PG-13] – 1/1


RATING: [PG-13] Adult language.
SUMMARY: Friends and family reflect on the latest development between Cole, Olivia and Phoebe. Set after “Spells, Lies and Remorse” – AU between S5 and S6.
FEEDBACK: deerush76@yahoo.com – Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, Darryl Morris and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. The McNeills and Cecile Dubois, are thankfully, my creations.




None of us still can believe it. About Olivia and Cole, I mean. They’ve broken up. Kaput. Over. And all because fucking Leo and his Wiccan boy scout had decided to play havoc with Livy’s mind.

That’s right. It seemed that Leo had learned about some bullshit prophecy that Cole would reorganize the Source’s realm and introduce a new Source. Or become the new Source, himself. Apparently, the whitelighters cannot make up their minds. And due to Cecile Dubois’ premonition about Olivia killing Cole, Leo had decided to make sure that the vision would really happen. In the end, he had recruited that asshole, Paul Margolin, to cast a spell on Livy – one that would give her the incentive to kill Cole.

Since his resurrection and return from the Wasteland, Cole had become very powerful. Almost impossible to kill. I sayalmost, because a) his powers can be stripped from him – which Paige had proven nearly a year ago; and b) he is also susceptible to telepathic powers. In other words, only Gran, Cecile and myself have the power to kill him by giving him a good, old-fashioned brain aneurysm. Other than that, Cole cannot be killed by the usual methods – supernatural or otherwise. That is – until Olivia got her hands on him. Instead of using brute magical force to kill him, she settled on a method that she and Bruce had once devised to kill the Source – a good old-fashioned supernatural virus, combined with an incantation. They never had a chance to use it on the Source, but Olivia used it on Cole. And it would have worked if Bruce, Paige and I had not interfered.

In the end, we had to save Cole. Bruce and I concocted a potion to free Olivia from the spell. And Paul ended up dead. His ass smashed into a million pieces. Paige, Bruce and I had to get rid of all evidence of Paul’s presence at Olivia’s apartment building. We erased his image from the lobby security tape, and teleported his car back to the courthouse parking lot. On the other hand, we could do nothing about Olivia and Cole’s relationship.

They could have salvaged their relationship after Leo and Paul’s little act of perfidy. Unfortunately, Phoebe Halliwell had decided, at that moment, to re-enter Cole’s life. While Olivia was busy plotting Cole’s death, Phoebe had discovered that her previously reviled ex-husband had actually been the victim of demonic possession, thanks to a series of visions she had experienced. She couldn’t trust Paige’s word and Cecile’s visions from last December, mind you. She had to experience her own visions. Cole and Phoebe’s reconciliation could have ended in friendship . . . if Livy had not been under Margolin’s dumbass spell.

The entire incident seemed to have left chaos in its wake. Margolin ended up dead, and is now considered missing by the authorities. Olivia and Cole are no longer together. And Cole is back with an ex-wife that never really understood him. Or bothered to try. Leo has been regulated to the status of dog shit by the McNeills and his sisters-in-law. And poor Piper has to deal with Cole back in Phoebe’s life. What a fucking mess!



What a mess! I can’t . . . I just can’t believe it! Cole is back into Phoebe’s life, again! I mean, hasn’t she learned anything?

Okay, maybe it’s not all Phoebe’s fault. I hate to say it, but Leo, more than anyone else, is responsible for this mess. If he and Paul had not interfered with Cole and Olivia, I would not have to deal with Cole Turner in our lives, for the umpteenth time.

What in the hell was Leo thinking? Putting Olivia McNeill under a spell, so that she could kill Cole? Well . . . a part of me could understand. Leo had learned from some whitelighter seer that Cole might re-organize the Underworld sometime in the near future. Naturally, my former brother-in-law had to be stopped. But . . . how could Leo have used Olivia like that? All because Cecile Dubois had some premonition about Olivia killing Cole? Of course, I thought the whole thing seemed ridiculous. After all, when Barbas had Cole’s powers, we – and I mean the Power of Three – weren’t able to vanquish the bastard, using the same spell we had used on the Source. And Cole was the only one able to use his powers on the day of Wyatt’s birth. He’s that powerful. Yet somehow, Olivia had managed to come close to killing him. I wonder how she did it. I had asked Paige, but she didn’t know. Or maybe she didn’t want to tell me.

As for Leo’s scheme, it bombed. Big time! The McNeill brothers and Paige had managed to stop Olivia from vanquishing Cole. Drat. Paul tried to freeze Paige and ended up frozen, thanks to Bruce. And Olivia accidentally shattered him into tiny pieces. Meanwhile, Phoebe had decided to give her relationship with Cole another chance. Hmmm, I wonder if she has told Jason, yet. I doubt it. I think she wouldn’t have made this decision, if Olivia had not dumped Cole, while under Paul’s spell. Or if Phoebe had never experienced those visions of Cole as the Source.

Oh God! I certainly don’t want to think about that awful time. But I can’t help it. It seemed bad enough, when Paige had dumped that tale on us about Cole being possessed. All because of the Voodoo Queen’s visions. Now, Phoebe is claiming this, as well. Did they really expect me to accept the possibility that I . . . we may have wronged a powerful demon, with a century’s worth of evil deeds in his past? Are they kidding me? I mean, we’re supposed to be the Charmed Ones! We fight evil! We’re not supposed to be the evil ones!

Sigh! God, I wish Prue was still alive. It doesn’t matter anyway. Phoebe and Cole have found closure over the whole Source matter. Apparently, she has decided to forget about Ed Miller – the slumlord that Cole had murdered, last year. When I reminded her about Mr. Miller, Phoebe threw Cole’s own death back in my face. Along with the death of that demon from the Gimle Order or the fact that we had nearly killed Cole’s uncle. Like I should care about a bunch of demons! (Pause) Okay, maybe Phoebe had a point. I mean . . . the Gimle demons ARE the good guys. Protectors of innocents, like us. And we had killed one and nearly killed another. And I can’t dismiss what Leo had done. Granted, the idea of Cole being dead doesn’t bother me. But what Leo and Paul had planned had amounted to plain attempted murder.

But what if Leo and that other whitelighter are right? What if Cole does end up reorganizing the Underworld? The McNeills might see this as a solution to the so-called chaos in the magical world, but I don’t. And I’m sure that neither will Phoebe. If the opportunity ever does arise, will she be able to stop Cole from making this mistake? Or will she end up being hurt by him, again? I wish I could say that Phoebe will have nothing to worry about. But unfortunately, I . . . I can’t.



There are days when I wish I was never a seer. Like now. (Sighs) Several days ago, I had received this phone call from Paige Matthews in San Francisco, and I am still in shock. Can you believe it? Apparently, Olivia had nearly killed her half-daemon boyfriend, Cole. And now he’s back with his ex-wife and Paige’s sister – Phoebe Whatshername. All because of that damn vision I had experienced of Olivia killing Cole, last spring.

I knew even then I should have kept my mouth shut. If I had, Olivia’s old whiteligher would have never found out about the vision. Nor would he have convinced that Margolin witch to cast a spell on Livy, so she could kill Cole.

From what Paige had told me, Livy came pretty close to fulfilling my vision. It took Harry’s telepathy to stop her from killing Cole. Too bad, he wasn’t able to stop her from breaking up with Cole, while she was under that spell. Paige also added that during that time, Cole and Phoebe had finally reconciled. Talk about bad timing. Paige believes that Cole is using Phoebe for rebound, after Olivia had dumped him. I don’t know if this is wishful thinking on her part. Then again, she might be right. Paige had always struck me as a good judge of character. Well, sometimes.

I had finally called Olivia about an hour ago to hear her side of the story. She told me that she didn’t want to talk about it. Then a minute later, she told me everything about what happened inside Cole’s apartment. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that Cole’s ex-wife had taken advantage of the situation to keep her hands on him. Instead of considering the possibility that he might want to go back to Livy, now that she was no longer under that spell. Pretty slick, if I’m right. Knowing Olivia’s insecurity regarding Phoebe, I’m not surprised that she didn’t put up a fight for Cole. But how long will that last? How long will Livy stay away from Cole, until she realizes how badly she really wants him? Something tells me that Phoebe’s little victory isn’t going to last very long.



It’s been a few days since the whole Cole/Olivia/Margolin situation had blown up in our faces, and I still can’t believe that it happened. On second thought, considering Olivia’s mood lately, maybe I can.

I’m still in shock over what Paige and Harry had told me. About what Margolin and Leo had done to Olivia. I never thought a whitelighter would pull something like that. Shit, one might as well call it supernatural rape. If you think about it, Margolin had violated Olivia with that spell. Robbed her of control of her emotions.

Speaking of Paul Margolin, the Department has declared him missing. Especially after he had failed to show up at the DiMatteo sentencing. In the end, the D.A. had to take his place at the courthouse. Olivia told me what really happened to Margolin. Naturally, neither of us could tell the authorities that he had attacked Paige with some freezing power and ended up becoming a popsicle, thanks to Bruce. Or that Olivia had accidentally killed him by knocking him over, when she used her telekinesis on the others. Paige and Harry also told me that they had made sure that any traces of Margolin showing up at Olivia and Cole’s apartment building, had been erased. They had used magic, of course. For once, I didn’t have to take part in any cover-up.

So, Margolin is dead, Olivia is in a state of funk, and Cole is back with Phoebe. Man! I never thought I would see those two together, again. Especially after the divorce. I guess that true love does conquer all. Or does it? I realize that Phoebe has now accepted that Cole had been a victim of the Source, but does that mean she’s willing to accept Cole as himself? I wonder if she’s going to demand that he become completely human, again.

And what about Cole? Is he really happy to be back with Phoebe? Neither Paige nor Harry seemed to think so. They believe that Cole had rebounded with Phoebe, while Olivia was under Margolin’s spell. And that he’s now trapped in some kind of promise to stay with Phoebe. I don’t know. Doesn’t sound like true love to me.

Olivia, on the other hand, has been making a great effort to act as if nothing has happened. She still talks to the others at the station. Does her job. But every now and then, I would catch her staring at her computer screen, with a miserable expression on her face. Nor will she tell me about what happened between her, Cole and Phoebe. That’s Olivia for you. Suppressing her emotions in true style. Man, I really feel sorry for her. I really do.



Looks like Phoebe has another date with Cole, tonight. This is the fourth one, since they had officially become a couple, again. I guess after a year and three months apart, they have a lot to make up. Only . . . they haven’t had sex since they got back together. That’s right. No sex. At least according to Phoebe.

It seems that Cole is trying to take it easy with their relationship, this time, and not rush into things. Maybe he simply wants to be friends with Phoebe, first. Like he had been with Olivia. Needless to say, my big sister seemed to find his attitude a little frustrating. Piper and I found “her” attitude a little ironic, considering how long she had waited before having sex with Jason. Maybe Phoebe simply wanted to pick up where she and Cole had left off. Before they were married.

Personally, I suspect that Cole didn’t have this kind of reconciliation in mind, when he and Phoebe first made their peace over the whole “Source” situation. I’ve noticed that not only has he seemed uncomfortable about being inside the hallowed walls of the manor, but also over Phoebe’s intimate manner. This is certainly not like the old Cole, who would not have minded having Phoebe’s hands all over him. Honestly? I think that Cole is still in love with Olivia and wants her back. Which leads me to believe that he’s using Phoebe as rebound. How else can one explain why he had forgiven her so easily over the whole Source mess? Hell, not even I was forgiven that easily. Worst of all, I think that Phoebe knows she’s being used as rebound. But she wants Cole back so badly that she’s willing to put up with it.

Of course, I don’t dare mention this to Phoebe. She’s going to have to figure this out for herself. Or Cole will finally have to admit his true feelings. Both Piper and Leo believe that Cole’s feelings for Phoebe haven’t changed. Which is why both aren’t exactly thrilled that Phoebe and Cole are an item, again. But neither has said a word to Phoebe. Piper seemed very reluctant to start another family feud. And Phoebe has been giving Leo the cold shoulder, lately.

Poor Leo. His life has been a world of shit, lately. The McNeills – especially Olivia and Bruce – have refused to talk to him. Cole pretends that Leo doesn’t exist, whenever he visits Phoebe. My dad has told me that the Whitelighters Council are disappointed that Leo and Elder Mathilda (or whatever her name is) had failed to inform them about the plan, in the first place. Most importantly, the Council is disappointed that the plan had failed. Bastards.

At least Leo’s bruises from Olivia’s attack are finally healing. It’s strange. Neither I, my dad or anyone else from the Whitelighter Realm were able to heal them. One would think that since Olivia had struck Leo in anger, his bruises would be magically healed. I guess . . . I don’t know. Maybe this is Fate’s way of saying that Leo got what he had deserved. (Pauses) I certainly think so.



Poor Livy. My poor Livy. I’m not really surprised by what has happened between her and Cole. Well, Leo’s scheme to kill Cole did surprise me. All of us, really. But Cole’s reconciliation with Phoebe? Definitely not a surprise. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea that a spell and Phoebe’s visions of the past would be the catalyst that would lead Cole to a romantic reconciliation with her. But I suspected they would eventually reconciled. Especially with the matter regarding the Source remaining unresolved between them. And they did. Poor Livy.

I finally had the chance to visit her fla . . . uh, apartment, about a week after the breakup with Cole. What can I say? I had expected to find her . . . and the apartment a complete mess. Clothes and other objects, strewn about. Instead, the apartment looked completely clean. Spotless. Every piece of clothing, furniture and object all in order and put in its proper place. However, I found Livy rather shabbily dressed in an undershirt and sweatpants.

She managed to maintain a polite façade. At least for a while. I chided her for failing to appear at the family’s last Sunday brunch. Or the fact that no one – aside from her fellow police officers – has seen neither hide or hair of her during the past several days. At first, Olivia made excuses about being busy with no time available for socializing. Yet, I when I pointed out that she obviously had plenty of time to make her flat cleaner than the Fairmont Hotel’s lobby, she finally broke down.

Olivia told me everything about her last visit to Cole’s penthouse. The surprise at finding Phoebe there. Learning about the premonitions about Cole’s problems with the Source. But the real shocker – at least for Livy – came when Phoebe had revealed her and Cole’s decision to give their romance a second chance. The moment Livy told me that little tidbit, she broke down in tears.

I wish I could feel anger and outrage at Cole for breaking my little girl’s heart. But I knew this entire mess would have never occurred if Paul Margolin had not cast that spell on her. Bloody git! And by the time Cole had learned about the spell, it was too late for him to back out of whatever agreement he and Phoebe may have formed.

There was another reason why I could not feel any anger toward Cole. His breakup with Olivia reminded me of a similar situation I had experienced with Jack and his former girlfriend – Pamela Davidoff. I told Livy about her father’s romance with Pamela, some thirty-seven years ago, the breakup over Marbus, our romance and Jack’s brief reconciliation with Pamela. In all, their reconciliation had been a difficult period for me.

My story led Livy to tearfully ask if I thought Cole and Phoebe’s reconciliation would remain permanent. I wish I could have said no. That Cole would be unable to recapture the past. But to be perfectly honest, I had no idea what the future would bring. Instead, I stroked Olivia’s hair and suggested that she be patient. (Sighs) My poor Livy.


The Major Problems of “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” (1986)



In the eyes of many fans of the trilogy of miniseries based upon John Jakes’ saga, ”The NORTH AND SOUTH Trilogy”, the only miniseries not worthy of the entire saga is the third one – ”HEAVEN AND HELL: North and South Book III”. I wish I could agree with them. After all, the production values for ”BOOK III” had not been as impressive as the other two. And of the three miniseries, ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” had the best costume designs. But looking at the three miniseries from the prospective of a writer, I have finally come to the conclusion that it was ”BOOK II” (set during the Civil War), and not ”BOOK III” that ended up being a lot more disappointing to me.

None of the three miniseries were exact copies of the novels from which they had been adapted. Changes were made in all three. Despite some flaws, I had no problems with most of the changes in “BOOK I” and “BOOK III”. But I found some of the changes in ”BOOK II” to be very questionable. In fact, some of these changes really did nothing to serve the miniseries’ story, except pad it unnecessarily in order to ensure that it would last six episodes.

Below are some examples of the questionable plotlines I found in “BOOK II”:

*Around the end of Episode I, Brett Main Hazard (Genie Francis) – a South Carolina belle who had recently married Pennsylvania-born army officer, Billy Hazard (Parker Stevenson) – and her maid, Semiramis (Erica Gimpel), had left Washington D.C. just before the Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861). The former had received a written note about Madeline LaMotte (Lesley Anne Down)’s kidnapping by her estranged husband (David Carradine) and the injuries that Brett’s mother – Clarissa Main (Jean Simmons) – had suffered following a barn fire at the Main’s South Carolina plantation, Mont Royal. Brett and Semiramis finally reached Mont Royal in November 1861. I have a lot of problems with this.

1) Why was the message about Clarissa and Madeline sent to Brett in Washington D.C. and not to Brett’s older brother, General Orry Main (Patrick Swayze) in Richmond? It would have been easier to reach him, since Richmond was inside Confederate territory.

2) Would it have been easier for Brett and Semiramis to remain in Richmond and wait for Orry to depart for South Carolina? What was the point of them leaving him a message and continuing their journey south? They would have reached Mont Royal a lot sooner.

3) Why did it take them three to four months to reach South Carolina? It took them at least less than a week to travel from Washington D.C. to Richmond, Virginia – despite being delayed by Union troops. They were on horseback. So why did it take them an additional three-and-a-half months to reach Mont Royal in South Carolina?

*Episode I revealed that both George Hazard and Orry Main served as military aides for their respective political leaders – Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Between Episode I and early Episode III, George provided information to Lincoln on battle results and on the President’s behalf, interviewed General Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee, to see if the latter was the right man to take over the Army of the Potomoc in Virginia. George became a field commander right before the Battle of Gettysburg. Orry not only provided battle results and other information to Davis, he also served as some kind of quartermaster and investigator of corruption within the Confederacy. He became a field commander right before the Battle of Fort Steadman in Episode Six. I had a lot of problems with this.

1) Although both George and Orry had graduated from West Point’s Class of 1846 and served in the Mexican-American War, they only served for a duration of at least eighteen months. Both men, due to personal reasons, had left the Army by the late winter/early spring of 1848. How on earth did both managed to acquire such high positions – militarily and politically – at the start of the Civil War, thirteen years later? Even the younger members in their families – Billy Hazard and Charles Main – had more military experience before the war – nearly five years apiece.

2) Neither George or Orry had acquired any further military experiences or participated in any political movements or organizations in their respective home states of Pennsylvania and South Carolina, during those thirteen years between 1848 and 1861.

3) Although George primarily served as an adviser for Lincoln before becoming a field commander, Orry served in a confusing mixture of duties that included military adviser, quartermaster, and investigator. What the hell? It almost seemed as if the screenwriters could not make up their minds on what capacity Orry had served in the Confederate Army, before becoming a field commander during the war’s final month.

4) In the early summer of 1863, George became an artillery commander in the Army of the Potomoc. I am aware that he had graduated from West Point near the top of class, ranking sixth. But in 1846, George had decided to choose the Infantry in which to serve. His only previous military experience before the Battle of Gettysburg was fifteen months as a junior infantry officer during the Mexican-American War. How on earth did he end up in artillery, with no previous experience in that particular field?

George and Orry’s military experiences during the war smacked of a great deal of bad continuity, lack of logic and confusion in this production. I will further explore the

*In Episode Three, despondent over being unable to see Brett for two years, Billy decides to go AWOL following the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) and head south to South Carolina to see his wife Brett. Upon his arrival at Mont Royal, he stays there less than 24 hours and leaves to return to the Army. He returned to duty in Hiram Burdam (Kurtwood Smith)’s Sharpshooter regiment in late April/early May 1864, in time to participate in the Battle of the Wilderness. And I had problems with this.

1) It took Billy less than a month to travel from Southern Pennsylvania (Gettysburg) to Mont Royal in South Carolina. Yet, it took him at least eight to nine months to rejoin his regiment, who were back in Virginia by the time of his arrival. Why did it take him longer to travel from South Carolina to Virginia, than it did for him to travel from Southern Pennsylvania to South Carolina? He was on horseback.

2) Billy had been AWOL from the Army for at least nine to ten months (July 1863 – late April/early May 1864). Why did Colonel Burdan fail to punish him for abandoning his post without permission . . . for so long? In the spring of 1864, the Union Army was not exactly desperate for an increase in manpower, unlike the Confederate Army. In fact, Billy never even faced a court martial or trial of any kind for his actions. His only punishments were a stern lecture from Burdan and being passed over for a promotion to the rank of captain. This is illogical . . . even for a fictional story.

*Charles Main (Lewis Smith) and Augusta Barclay (Kate McNeil) first met each other while the former was on a scouting mission for the Confederacy and the latter was smuggling medicine in July 1861. They met again, the following year, when Charles appeared at her farm, wounded. In the spring of 1864, following the Battle of the Wilderness, they began a love affair that lasted until they said good-bye for the last time in February 1865. Two months later, following the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox, Charles returned to Barclay Farm and learned that Augusta had died while giving birth to his son, Augustus Charles. Charles learned that Augusta’s South Carolina relatives had taken custody of Charles Augustus Main and returned to Charleston. There, Charles took custody of his son for the first time. I have a problem.

1) Charles and Augusta saw each other for the last time in February 1865. When Charles returned to her farm, two months later, her former servant – Washington (John Nixon) – informed him that she had recently died from giving birth to Charles’ son. Yet, Augusta certainly did not look pregnant, during Charles’ last visit two months ago – when the unborn baby should have been at least six to seven months old. And she was wearing a corset.

2) Following his discovery that he was a father, it did not take Charles very long to return to South Carolina and claim his child. Yet, the recently born Charles Augustus Main looked at least between one to two years old. If that had been the child’s real age, Charles and Augusta’s son would have been born a year earlier – before they had consummated their relationship in May 1864.

*After being driven from Mont Royal by the discovery of a family secret by Ashton Main Huntoon (Terri Garber), Madeline Main (Lesley Anne-Down) settles in Charleston around July-September 1863. The following spring in May 1864, she meets a former slave/refugee named Jim (Bumper Robinson) and his sick mother. Because of this meeting, Madeline decides to offer aid to many of Charleston’s war refugees – whether they are ex-slaves or poor whites. She also learns about Jim and his mother’s personal history. Apparently, they were Tennessee slaves who were freed upon the arrival of Union troops at their former master’s plantation, who decided to make their way to Charleston.

1) WHAT IN THE HELL IS THIS? Why on earth would recently emancipated slaves make their way deep into Confederate territory? Did the writers of the miniseries honestly believe that slaves were that stupid? Jim and his mother were from Tennessee. They could have easily made their way to any of the following cities:

*Nashville, Tennessee – which fell to Union troops in February 1862
*Memphis, Tennessee – captured by the Union in June 1862
*New Orleans, Louisiana – fell to Union troops in April 1862
*Louisville, Kentucky – which remained in the Union throughout the war

*Vicksburg, Mississippi – which fell to Union forces in July 1863

Any of the above cities were closer to the plantation owned by Michael’s former owner and could have provided safe refuge for him and his mother. Certainly not Charleston, South Carolina, which was too far and still Confederate territory by the spring of 1864.

2) The writers could have written Michael and his mother as South Carolina slaves. And yet . . . they would have been wiser to head for Hilton Head, the only safe haven for runaway slaves in South Carolina, until February 1865.

As I had stated earlier, the flaws mentioned in this article are merely samples of many I had spotted in “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II”. Do not get me wrong. I do not dislike the 1986 miniseries. But it featured flaws in its screenplay that makes me doubt the prevailing view among the saga’s fans that it is superior to the last chapter in John Jakes’ tale. Mind you, “HEAVEN AND HELL: NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK III” is far from perfect. But the flaws featured in “BOOK II”makes it easy for me to regard it as my least favorite chapter in the trilogy.

“THE GOLDEN BOWL” (2000) Review


“THE GOLDEN BOWL” (2000) Review

I have never read any of Henry James’ literary works. Never. However, I have seen a few adaptations of his works. Some of them had been adapted by the production team of Ishmail Merchant and James Ivory. Aside from E.M. Forster, they must have been diehard fans of James. They had produced three adaptations of James’ novels, including the 2000 film, “THE GOLDEN BOWL”.

Based upon James’ 1904 novel, “THE GOLDEN BOWL” is a character study of an adulterous affair between an impoverished Italian prince named Amerigo and Charlotte Stant, an equally impoverished American young woman. The movie explores their affair and its impact upon their lives and the lives of their spouses – a father-and-daughter pair named Adam and Maggie Verver. The movie begins with Amerigo’s recent engagement to Maggie in London, July 1903. Amerigo and Charlotte, who were past lovers, visit A.R. Jarvis’ antique store in order for Charlotte to purchase a wedding gift for Maggie, who is an old school friend. Jarvis shows them an ancient bowl, carved from a single piece of crystal and embroidered with gold, he asserts is flawless. Charlotte is indecisive about buying it, and Jarvis offers to set it aside until she can make up her mind. Although Maggie’s aunt, Mrs. Fanny Assingham, is well aware of Amerigo and Charlotte’s past relationship, she suggests to Maggie that Charlotte would make the perfect second wife for Adam Verver some two years later. Concerned about her father’s possible loneliness, Maggie supports Fanny’s idea and eventually, Charlotte becomes her stepmother. Due to their irritation over the unusually close relationship between Maggie and Adam, Charlotte and Amerigo rekindle their affair at a country house party three years later. Although Fanny and her husband Bob Assingham become aware of the affair, they decide to main silence in order to protect Maggie from any personal pain. However, in the end, their efforts prove to be in vain.

This adaptation of James’ novel was not as well received as the 1972 BBC miniseries. Many critics claimed that the movie was not only inferior to the television production, but not as faithful to James’ novel. As I have stated in other reviews, complete faithfulness to a literary source is not needed for a successful film, television or stage adaptation. If the changes help a particular production, then I will have no problems with said changes. The problem with “THE GOLDEN BOWL” is that I have never read James’ novel. So, I cannot decide whether any changes made by screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala either improved or worsened James’ novel. How do I feel about the movie? Well . . . I rather liked it. Most of it. The older I get, the more I find it difficult to view adultery in fiction with any single-minded disapproval. I have to give credit to Jhabvala for portraying Charlotte and Amerigo’s affair with a good deal of maturity and complexity. Jhabvala made sure that audiences understood the couple’s passion for each other . . . well, Charlotte’s passion. The screenplay also conveyed the couple’s irritation with the Ververs’ close relationship and tendency to spend more time with each other, instead of their respective spouses. On the other hand, Jhabvala’s screenplay does not hesitate to express the negative aspects of the couple’s adultery – especially their careless behavior later in the story and the pain it causes Maggie when she becomes aware of it.

“THE GOLDEN BOWL” is a very beautiful looking film. I cannot deny this. The movie was filmed in both England and Italy. Tony Pierce-Roberts made good use of the locations, thanks to his sharp and colorful photography. But despite the movie’s lush color, I did not walk away feeling dazzled by his work. I believe my feelings stem from Pierce-Roberts’ limited use of exterior shots. On the other hand, I felt very impressed by Andrew Sanders’ production designs, which ably re-created the upper-class worlds of Edwardian Britain and Italy. He was able to achieve this effect with the help of Lucy Richardson’s art direction and Anna Pinnock’s set decorations. However, it was John Bright’s costume designs that really blew me away:



And yet . . . there are aspects of “THE GOLDEN BOWL” that either did not appeal to me or rubbed me the wrong way. These negative feelings regarding the movie did not pop up until its last 20 to 30 minutes. In the movie, director James Ivory included brief scenes of a turn-of-the-century American city as a visual symbol of the Ververs’ hometown, “American City”. These brief scenes were also used to reflect Charlotte’s distaste for the United States and her fear of returning there. The problem is that I found these scenes very unnecessary and a rather heavy-handed literary device for American living during that period. The look on Uma Thurman’s face whenever someone mentioned the idea of her character returning to States seemed enough to me.

My real problem with “THE GOLDEN BOWL” is the strong hint of misogyny that seemed to mark the consequences that both Amerigo and Charlotte faced for their infidelity. It was bad enough that Fanny Assingham dumped most of the blame for the affair on Charlotte’s shoulders. But apparently, so did Henry James. In the end, Amerigo failed to suffer any consequences for his faithlessness. On the other hand, Charlotte did. She not only lost Amerigo, but Maggie convinced her husband (and Maggie’s father) to return to the United States to build his museum, taking Charlotte along, as well. One could say that Amerigo and Charlotte’s fates were the result of Maggie’s selfish desire to keep her husband. But when Amerigo failed to inform Charlotte that they had been found out and expressed contempt toward her failure to realize that Maggie knew about their affair, I became completely disgusted. Some claim that the latter never happened in James’ novel. Actually, it did. And I can never forgive James’ for his hypocrisy and obvious sexism. This struck me as a clear case of society blaming the woman for an adulterous affair.

“THE GOLDEN BOWL” featured some pretty solid performances and a few that really impressed me. Madeline Potter (an old Merchant-Ivory veteran), Peter Eyre, and Nicholas Day all gave solid performances. Although I would not regard their portrayals of the Assinghams as among their best, both Anjelica Huston and James Fox gave entertaining performances as the pair who seemed aware of the adulterous affair in this story. The chemistry between them struck me as surprisingly effective. Jeremy Northam gave a smooth and complex portrayal of the adulterous Italian prince torn between two American women. And I felt relief that his Italian accent – even if not genuine – did not bordered on the extreme. Kate Beckinsale’s handling of an American accent struck me as a little more genuine . . . but just a little. Her performance for most of the film seemed pretty solid. But once her character became aware of the affair, Beckinsale’s performance became more nuanced and skillful. Uma Thurman was excellent as the passionate, yet shallow Charlotte Stant Verver. Her Charlotte could have easily dissolved into a one-dimensional villainess. But thanks to Thurman’s performance, I saw a passionate woman, whose flaws proved to be her undoing. However, I believe that Nick Nolte gave the best performance in the film as Charlotte’s husband and Maggie’s father, Adam Verver. Superficially, Nolte portrayed the millionaire as a soft-spoken, yet friendly man with a knack of making people feel at home. But there were times – especially in the movie’s second half – in which Nolte kept audiences guessing on whether or not his character knew about the affair between Charlotte and Amerigo.

I would not regard “THE GOLDEN BOWL” as one of my favorite Ismail Merchant-James Ivory productions. But unlike some others, I certainly do not regard it as their worst. My one major complaint about the film was the ending of the Amerigo-Charlotte affair, which seemed to smack of sexism. And frankly, I blame Henry James. However, thanks to a first-rate cast, lush visuals and decent direction by Ivory, I thought it was a pretty decent and interesting film.

Favorite Films Set in the 1950s


Below is a list of my favorite movies set in the decade of the 1950s:




1. L.A. Confidential (1997) – Curtis Hanson directed this outstanding adaptation of James Ellroy’s 1990 novel about three Los Angeles police detectives drawn into a case involving a diner massacre. Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce and Oscar winner Kim Basinger starred.


2. “Grease” (1978) – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John starred in this entertaining adaptation of the 1971 Broadway musical about a pair of teenage star-crossed lovers in the 1950s. Randal Kleiser directed.


3. “The Godfather, Part II” (1974) – Francis Ford Coppola directed his Oscar winning sequel to the 1972 Oscar winning adaptation of Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel. Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall and Oscar winner Robert De Niro starred.


4. “Quiz Show” (1994) – Robert Redford directed this intriguing adaptation of Richard Goodwin’s 1968 memoir, “Remembering America: A Voice From the Sixties”, about the game show scandals of the late 1950s. Ralph Fiennes, Rob Morrow and John Tuturro starred.


5. “The Mirror Crack’d (1980) – Angela Landsbury starred as Miss Jane Marple in this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1962 novel. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie also starred Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and Edward Fox.


6. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls” (2008) – Harrison Ford returned for the fourth time as Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones in this adventurous tale in which he is drawn into the search for artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie was produced by him and George Lucas.


7. “Champagne For One: A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001)” – Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin starred as Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe in this television adaptation of Rex Stout’s 1958 novel. The two-part movie was part of A&E Channel’s “A NERO WOLFE MYSTERY” series.


8. “Hollywoodland” (2006) – Adrien Brody, Diane Lane and Ben Affleck starred in this intriguing tale about a private detective’s investigation into the life and death of actor George Reeves. Allen Coulter.


9. “My Week With Marilyn” (2011) – Oscar nominee Michelle Williams starred as Marilyn Monroe in this adaptation of Colin Clark’s two books about his brief relationship with the actress. Directed by Simon Curtis, the movie co-starred Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Redmayne as Clark.


10. “Boycott” (2001) – Jeffrey Wright starred as Dr. Martin Luther King in this television adaptation of Stewart Burns’ book,“Daybreak of Freedom”, about the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. Directed by Clark Johnson, the movie co-starred Terrence Howard and C.C.H. Pounder.



Honorable Mention: “Mulholland Falls” (1996) – Nick Nolte starred in this entertaining noir drama about a married Los Angeles Police detective investigating the murder of a high-priced prostitute, with whom he had an affair. The movie was directed by Lee Tamahori.