“JERICHO” Retrospect: (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor”

 

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor”

For the past two to three years, I have always believed that the Season One episode, (1.08) “Rogue River” was the one in which “JERICHO” really came into its own. But after watching (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor”, the episode that first aired a week before “Rogue River”, I think I may have made a mistake. .

In this episode, Gray Anderson’s return to Jericho brought about a great deal of emotions from some of the townspeople. Especially from two people in particular. This all started when Gray had volunteered to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who had left town in (1.03) “Four Horsemen”. They left to search for outside news following the nuclear attacks. Jake had immediately returned with news of a plane crash that involved Emily Sullivan’s missing fiance, Roger Hammond. Another “Horseman”, Shep, disappeared for good, due to guilt over the death of citizen during the fallout in the second episode. I do not recall who the third Horseman was, but Gray remained missing for three episodes before his return in this one.

Gray’s news turned out to be a mixed blessing. He revealed a disturbing tale of the fatal beating of a FEMA driver by drifters outside of Topeka, Kansas – a fate that he managed to avoid. Gray also revealed that the New York Police Department had found a nuclear bomb in a van minutes before it was set to destroy the metropolis. However, both Lawrence, Kansas and Washington D.C. were destroyed. Gray’s experiences on the road eventually led him to suggest to Eric Green that all of Jericho’s recent newcomers – including the Hawkins family – be interrogated, in case they turned out to be threats to the town. Of course Gray’s interrogation of the Hawkins family took place in “Rogue River”. But as I stated earlier, his news affected certain characters.

The news about New York City being spared from destruction, thanks to the NYPD brought a great deal of relief for the sixteen year-old Skylar Stevens, whose parents had been in the Big Apple when the bombs fell. And since Dale Turner – another one of Jericho’s adolescents without any parents – was the one who delivered the good news, the two became closer friends. However, the destruction of Washington D.C. proved to be another matter. IRS agent Mimi Clark originally came from the nation’s capital. When Stanley Richmond, at whose farm she was staying, gave her the news, she realized that she had lost all of her family and close friends. Both Robert and Darcy Hawkins were present when Gray disclosed Washington’s fate and the two eventually told their oldest – Allison. Naturally, Allison discussed the loss of her friends with Robert. She also revealed that Darcy had a boyfriend who also perished.

“Long Live the Mayor” also featured the second appearance of James Remar as Emily’s estranged criminal father, Jonah Prowse. His appearance provided an opportunity for some excellent performances by Remar and actress Ashley Scott, who portrayed Emily. It also included Jake’s only kiss with local schoolteacher Heather Linsinki. I wish I could say that I found their screen kiss impressive. But I would be lying. It seemed apparent to me why producers Jon Turteltaub, Stephen Chbosky, and Carol Barbee did not bother to develop any further romance between the two. However, I am certain there are Jack/Heather shippers who feel otherwise. Also in this episode, Mayor Johnston Greene’s illness finally sends him into septic shock after two episodes. With no drugs available to cure him, April tells the Greene family in a rather tense scene that he needs the antibiotic Cipro within the next 12 hours or he would die. Jake and Eric decide to head for the town of Rogue River, the location of the nearest major hospital, in order to procure the drug for their father.

A great deal of interesting moments and excellent performances filled this episode. But three scenes, featuring three performances really stood out for me. The first performance came from actor Michael Gaston as the opportunist Gray Anderson. In the scene that featured Gray’s revelations about the news outside of Jericho, Gaston portrayed Gray as a man frightened by the horrors he had witnessed and learned during his journey around Kansas. The second performance came from Alicia Coppola, who portrayed Mimi Clark. She gave a superb performance as a Mimi first pretending that she was not shaken by the bad news regarding Washington D.C. and later, releasing her despair in a marvelous rant that should have earned her some kind of acting nomination. Finally, there was April D. Parker, whose Darcy Hawkins faced the triple task of dealing with the destruction of Washington D.C., the death of Doug, her former lover, and Robert’s discovery of said lover. One would think that Darcy would crumble over a series of crisis. Being a strong willed woman, Darcy holds her own. But in a quiet, yet marvelous performance given by Parker, Darcy finally reveals her true feelings about moving to Jericho, Doug, and how Robert’s profession had endangered their marriage and family life. Her outburst culminated in a phrase that perfectly described the Hawkins marriage before their arrival in Jericho – “House of Secrets”. Parker’s performance was another that should have earned an acting nomination.

The episode ended with Heather admitting to Emily that she might be falling Jake, Dale and Skylar becoming closer than ever after she invites him to stay at her house, Stanley trying to help Mimi deal with her grief, Gray determined to investigate the Hawkins family and other newcomers, Emily managing to procure Jake’s old car from Jonah for the trip to Rogue River, and the Hawkins marriage still in a precarious state. The episode also ended with Jake and Eric on the road to Rogue River to find medication for an ailing Johnston. And their journey to Rogue River would end in consequences that will resonate throughout the rest of the series’ television run.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.06) “9:02”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.06) “9:02”

This sixth episode of “JERICHO” picks up at the same moment where the previous episode, (1.05) “Federal Response”left off. In other words, (1.06) “9:02” started with the citizens of Jericho, Kansas witness the presence of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) soaring eastward over the town’s skies, before the time period jumped another two weeks.

Despite this exciting opening, I found myself wondering why the series’ producers and screenwriter Nancy Won used “9:02” as the episode’s title. I realized that it referred to the time in which the ICBMs sent an electromagnetic pulse that disrupted the electronic devices – cellphones, the Internet, television, radios, etc. – throughout the town. But what did it have to do with the episode’s plot overall?

Come to think of it . . . aside from all electronic devices in Jericho not working (save one), what was “9:02” about? There seemed to be at least three subplots at work in this episode. One of them involved the town’s citizens failed attempts to assume some form of normalcy, following the ICBMs’ disruption of Jericho’s electronic devices. Kids have been stealing from Gracie’s Market. And so has a new character named Mitchell Cafferty, who happened to be an old friend from Jake Green’s delinquent past. Cafferty’s thefts have put him in the path of Dale Turner, the young shop assistant who managed to stumble across a supply of food for the store. Cafferty has also been stealing horses from various farms and ranches outside of town. When Jake and his mother Gail visit the Green family ranch to feed their horses, the latter is nearly trampled, when Mitch and a fellow thief are in the middle of a heist. This sends Jake on the warpath to take down his former friend. Robert Hawkins becomes aware of the enmity between Jake and Mitch and decides to investigate the pair’s past relationship.

Meanwhile, Stanley Richmond is approached by I.R.S. auditor Mimi Clark for room and board in exchange for her labor on his ranch. During their conversation, Stanley discovers worms that have infested his corn crop. He tries to acquire pesticide from merchant Gracie Leigh. But she is only willing to give Stanley insecticide in exchange for profit from half of his corn crop. Even worse for Stanley, Mayor Green is willing to help him get the insecticide if he is willing to share his corn with the town’s citizens. In the final subplot, Allison Hawkins discovers that her father Robert possesses the only electronic device that is still working. She also discovers that he has a map of the U.S. locations that were bombed . . . and a gun. When Allison confronts her father, he decides to tell her that he is a government agent who knew about the September attacks. He also decides to teach her how to shoot. Father and daughter eventually begin to grow close.

Many of these subplots proved to be interesting. And all of them proved to have an impact on the characters’ relationships, developments and the series’ main narrative. At first I had a hard time believing that the situation with Stanley Richmond’s corn crop had any future impact. But it did. One, Stanley’s desperation for the insecticide led Mimi to hire a few kids to steal it from Gracie’s Market. This act led to a visit to the Richmond farm by Deputy Bill Koehler, who reveals his aggressive nature for the first time in the series. This storyline also marked the first time both Stanley and Mimi display something other than hostility toward each other. And it exposed Gracie Leigh’s penchant for avarice, which proved to have an impact upon her character’s future development. Gracie and Dale’s encounters with Mitch Cafferty not only played a major role in their characters’ arc, it also revealed Jake’s past with the criminal. And this, in turned revealed how dangerous Jake could be – something that Robert Hawkins found very interesting.

All of these subplots – Jake/Mitch Cafferty conflict, Dale/Mitch Cafferty conflict, Robert and Allison Hawkins’ relationship, and Stanley’s corn crop – end up having some kind of impact upon future story and character developments. The question remains . . . what did the episode’s title, which was an indication of when the ICBMs disrupted the town’s electronic devices, had to do with the plot? The lack of electronic devices seemed to have robbed Jericho’s citizens of a sense of normalcy, leading many of them to behave more irrationally or aggressive. But overall, the impact of no electricity seemed more like a metaphor of the disruption in the lives of the town’s citizens, instead of any real impact on the series’ overall narrative. And this is probably why I found the use of “9:02” as the episode’s title a bit weak.

However, “9:02” did provide some interesting moments in the series. The episode featured two interesting conversations – one between Robert and Allison and another between Stanley and Mimi. Both conversations changed the relationships of all involved. “9:02” also featured an exciting action scene in which Jake and his brother Eric had a violent encounter with Mitch that I found rather suspenseful. Not only did I find myself wondering if Jake and Eric would be able to arrest Mitch. I wondered how Jake would react once they made the arrest. Needless to say, I was not disappointed by how that encounter turned out. But my favorite sequence proved to be the montage in which Jericho’s citizens arrived at the Richmond farm to help Stanley save his corn crop. After Jake greeted Robert in the middle of the cornfield, the following exchange occurred between the Hawkins father/daughter duo:

Allison: [in reference to Jake] Is he a good man or a bad man?

Robert: Baby, there is no such thing.

In that one line, Robert Hawkins said more about humanity’s moral ambiguity than any other person – fictional or real – ever has.

Do not get me wrong. I enjoyed “9:02” a good deal. It was interesting to see how the ICBMs’ impact upon the town’s electronic devices affected the citizens. And the episode featured some very good performances, especially from Skeet Ulrich, Pamela Reed, Lennie James, Erik Knudsen, Jazz Raycole, Brad Beyer and Alicia Coppola. But if I must be honest, I wish that someone on the production staff for “JERICHO” had given this episode a better title. This sounds like a shallow criticism. But if one looked at the episode, the ICBMs’ impact upon the town seemed to have a minor impact upon the episode’s narrative, aside from the Robert and Allison Hawkins’ familial relationship.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.05) “Federal Response”

 

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.05) “Federal Response”

After my surprised delight over the narrative for the previous episode, (1.04) “Walls of Jericho”, I wondered if my delight would continued into the next episode. I would not judge (1.05) “Federal Response” to be better than its predecessor. But it proved to be quite surprising . . . from a certain point of view.

I am not stating that I found “Federal Response” disappointing, as I did (1.03) “Four Horsemen”, but I would not view it as one of the better episodes of Season One, let alone its first half. In this episode, the citizens of Jericho deal with mysterious messages from the Department of Homeland Security and several fires caused by a series of power spikes. The episode begins with a handful of Jericho’s citizens playing cards inside Mary Bailey’s Tavern at the break of dawn. The electricity, which had shut down in the previous episode, returns and telephones all over town start ringing. Jericho’s citizens receive a recorded message telling everyone to remain calm and that help is on the way. The Emergency Alert System is put into place as televisions display a message ordering citizens to stand by for further instructions. Also, it seems that someone within the government has ordered the blockage of all computer IP addresses. Even worse, the town becomes plagued by a few power spikes. One of them blows up a transformer on the public library’s roof, setting it ablaze and severing several power lines.

For nearly a decade, I had firmly believed that “Federal Response” was mainly about the series of fires that popped up around Jericho. And for the likes of me, I never understood what the fires had to do with the series’ main narrative. Now, the fires did have something of an impact upon one subplot . . . namely the marriage between Eric and April Green. The series had already established that their marriage was strained and Eric’s affair with tavern owner, Mary Bailey. When Eric and April’s home is destroyed by one of the fires, the former discovers that his wife had filed for divorce before the September bombs in the series’ pilot episode. This discovery led April to reveal that she had changed her mind about a divorce and wanted to give their marriage a second chance. So far, Eric has not made up his mind about that situation.

But what did the fires have to do with the series’ main narrative? Not much. But it did drive forward another subplot that proved to be more important. After the Emergency Alert System has been put in place and the IP addresses are blocked, the mysterious Robert Hawkins uses a portable satellite transceiver in his backyard to access his laptop. While Robert works on the latter to send a message, Jake and best friend Stanley Richmond go to the local pumping station to give access to water for the firemen trying to put out the library fire. Once their mission is a success, Jake goes to the roof with Stanley’s rifle scope to search for any other fires. Not only does he spot the fire that will consume Eric and April’s house, he also spots Robert working on the laptop. More importantly, Robert sees Jake watching him. Later, Robert forces Jake to accept his help in trying to save Eric and April’s house in order to ascertain what the latter knows. Later, Robert checks Jake’s background and discovers that the latter has visited a series of countries and now has a flagged passport. In the end, both the Federal “response” and the fires allowed Jake and Robert to realize that neither is what the other seemed to be. And their realizations will eventually drive the pair to develop a future relationship that will have a major impact upon the series’ main narrative.

Aside from the matter regarding Eric and April’s strained marriage, other personal dramas featured in this episode drove the series forward. For the first time, Jake hinted the trauma of his past five years to his father. And for the first time, Johnston Green seemed more than ready to welcome back his recalcitrant son. Robert’s family life remains strained, as he tries to discipline his older offspring Allison about her use of water. The teenager refuses to listen to her father, still resentful of the past. And Robert refuses to listen to his wife Darcy’s warning about how to treat their children, hinting that he might be forced to leave again. Stranded IRS agent Mimi Clark tries to warn Mary Bailey that Eric might not be serious about her. Dale Turner and Skylar Stevens grow even closer, after one of the fires destroy the trailer where Dale lives. And Jake’s reaction to Emily Sullivan getting injured by a fallen power line hints that he still harbors strong feelings for her. Rather surprisingly, all of these small, personal dramas will eventually have some impact upon the series’ future narrative and subplots.

“Federal Response” also featured the usual first-rate performances. The episode featured solid performances from most of the cast. But the performances that really caught my attention came from eight cast members. The messy love triangle between Eric, April and Mary proved to be realistic and complex, thanks to the first-rate performances by Kenneth Mitchell, Darby Stanchfield and Clare Carey. Alicia Coppola gave an interesting and wry performance as the observant and sardonic IRS agent Mimi Clark, who believes she knows how the Eric/Mary affair will end. Both Gerald McRaney and Pamela Reed were excellent as Jake and Eric’s parents, Johnston and Gail Green, in scenes that featured the pair’s separate reactions to Jake’s current presence in Jericho. But my favorite performances came from leads Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James, who did excellent jobs in conveying their characters’ reactions to the current crisis and personal demons. More importantly, for the first time they truly hinted the strong chemistry that will make them one of the better action teams in science-fiction/fantasy television.

As I had stated earlier, “Federal Response” proved to be an interesting episode that managed to contribute to the series’ narrative . . . by a hair’s length. It also featured some solid performances, along with first-rate ones that include both Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James. But there is one thing I forgot to add . . . the episode also ended on an ominous note. The town’s citizens felt a distinct rumble – as if the ground was shaking . . . before they rushed outside and spotted what appeared to be two ballistic missiles soaring through the night sky above Jericho.

Top Five Favorite “MAD MEN” Season One (2007) Episodes

Below is a list of my top five favorite Season One episodes of AMC’s “MAD MEN”:

 

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “MAD MEN” SEASON ONE (2007) Episodes

1 - 1.12 Nixon vs. Kennedy

1. (1.12) “Nixon vs. Kennedy” – In this superb episode, Sterling-Cooper’s employees have an all-night party to watch the results of the 1960 Presidential Election. Also, Pete Campbell discovers that Don Draper’s real name is Dick Whitman, who had been officially declared dead during the Korean War.

2 - 1.10 The Long Weekend

2. (1.10) “The Long Weekend” – During the Labor Day weekend, Roger Sterling decides to cheer up Don over the loss of a client by arranging a double date with twins. During the date, he suffers a heart attack. Meanwhile, Joan Holloway has a double date with her roommate and two out-of-town businessmen.

3 - 1.05 5G

3. (1.05) “5G” – In this poignant episode, Don receives an unwelcome visitor in the form of his half-brother, Adam Whitman, whom he had not seen since the Korean War. And when Ken Cosgrove gets his short story published in a magazine, a jealous Pete asks wife Trudy to convince an old boyfriend to publish his story.

4 - 1.01 Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

4. (1.01) “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – The series’ pilot episode introduces Manhattan advertisement executive Don Draper and his co-workers at the Sterling-Cooper agency, as he struggles to maintain Lucky Strike as a client for the agency.

5 - 1.09 Shoot

5. (1.09) “Shoot” – A larger ad agency tries to lure Don from Sterling-Cooper by hiring wife Betty Draper for a modeling job. Meanwhile, Pete devises a strategy to help the Nixon campaign.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.04) “Walls of Jericho”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.04) “Walls of Jericho”

The previous episode of CBS’s “JERICHO”(1.03) “Four Horsemen” – proved to be something of a disappointment for me. I felt certain that I would feel the same about the next episode, (1.04) “Walls of Jericho”. Thankfully, my assumptions proved to be wrong.

I would never regard “Walls of Jericho” as one of my favorite episodes of the series, let alone the first season. But I have to give credit to screenwriter Ellie Herman for creating one of the stronger narratives among the series’ first batch of episodes. “Walls of Jericho” not only proved to be a very solid episode with a strong and centered narrative, it also contributed a good deal to the series’ overall narrative.

Jake Green and several other citizens of Jericho are at Bailey’s Tavern, watching three scenes of a news report regarding the bombings over and over again, when the power dies. With no television to watch and no booze left, Mary Bailey orders everyone to leave. After Jake encounters schoolteacher Heather Lisinski on the street, they discover a man inside the local pharmacy, dying from radiation poisoning. With the help of Eric Green, Stanley Richardson and a few others; carry the man to the town’s medical center. With no power for the hospital, Jake’s sister-in-law, Dr. April Green reveals that gas is needed for the generator.

While Jake and his friends scour the community for gasoline, newcomer Robert Hawkins forces his family to rehearse the cover stories he had created for the new identities they have adopted. He is recruited by Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Taylor to help maintain the peace in town. They interrupt a party held by wealthy teenager Skylar Stevens and Robert is unpleasantly surprised to find his daughter Allison there. Jake and the others successfully find enough gas for the hospital. They also discover that the stranger’s name is Victor Miller, who had been driving Shep Cale’s truck when he arrived in Jericho. Shep had been one of the four men who had left town to discover information from the outside. It is believed he had committed suicide. And unbeknownst to Jake and the other Jericho citizens, Robert knows Victor Miller.

My main beef regarding the previous episode, “Four Horsemen” was its narrative. Although it continued the series’ main narrative, it lacked a central plot of its own and the story seemed to be all over the map. I certainly cannot say the same about “Walls of Jericho”. Two incidents contributed a great deal to the episode’s narrative – the power outage and the discovery of Victor Miller. Both incidents led Jake Green and some of Jericho’s other citizens to search for gasoline that could provide power to the local clinic. More importantly, Miller’s presence in Jericho both centered the episode’s plot, but also provided a major contribution to the series’ main narrative – one that will resonate into Season Two. His presence also added another notch to the mystery that surrounded Robert Hawkins. Speaking of the latter, the search for gasoline and Miller’s presence led Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Taylor to recruit Robert to temporarily help him maintain law and order in Jericho. And this act not only led Robert to reconnect with his daughter Allison in a very unexpected way, it will resonate later in the first season. See how everything seem to connect with the Victor Miller character and search for gasoline? This is why I feel that screenwriter Martha Mitchell made “Walls of Jericho” is one of the stronger episodes of Season One’s first half.

The episode also featured some very memorable scenes that featured strong acting. If I must be frank, I was not that impressed by the Green brothers, Stanley Richmond and Heather Lipsinski’s search for gasoline. It seemed like the typical scramble for resources and survival that marked Season One’s early episodes. However, I do admire how the screenwriters allowed this search added to one more notch in the decline of Eric and April Green’s marriage. I thought it was a very subtle move on their part. “Walls of Jericho” did feature some very powerful scenes. One of them proved to be a minor scene between Robert and his young son, Samuel. It was such a minor moment near the end of the episode, yet it revealed just how damaged Robert’s relationship with his family really was. Even more interesting proved to be Robert’s interrogation of Victor Miller, once he found himself alone with the latter. I found it interesting due to Robert’s discovery that a traitor existed within the mysterious group to whom he belonged. Yet, he later discovers that his son harbors very little trust in him.

Another powerful moment featured a debate over whether or not to feed the dying Miller a drug to gather more information from him. Jake, Robert and Eric wanted to use the drug to revive Miller’s consciousness in order to learn more information – even if this act will cause him pain. As a doctor, April opposed this action on the grounds of compassion. The conflict between pragmatism and compassion resonated strongly in this scene. This same conflict also played a part in a scene in which Jake had to shame Jericho’s citizens into helping him search for a group of survivors that also might be dying from radiation poisoning, and in Gracie Leigh’s refusal to contribute gasoline for the town’s power generators. It is interesting how these three scenes featuring pragmatism vs. compassion ended differently. This conflict will prove to have a major impact on Gracie’s story line, later in the season.

I have very few problems with “Walls of Jericho”. Actually, I only have two. If it were not for how it affected Eric and April’s marriage, I found the gasoline search rather unoriginal and a little sophomoric at times. This episode also marked the showrunners’ continuing attempt to create a romance between Jake and Heather – especially in a scene in which she unexpectedly encounters him leaving one of the clinic’s showers. And despite the presence of a half-nude Skeet Ulrich, I still failed to sense any romantic spark between the pair. What can I say? Jake and Heather tend to generate a sibling-like vibe.

Thanks to a strong narrative and interesting subplots, “Walls of Jericho” featured some first-rate performances from members of the cast. I was especially impressed by Kenneth Mitchell and Darby Stanchfield as Eric and April Green, Jazz Raycole as Allison Hawkins, Beth Grant as Gracie Leigh, and Candace Bailey as Skylar Stevens. But I believe the best performances came from Skeet Ulrich – especially in the scene in which Jake shamed the town’s citizens for their lack of compassion; Adam Donshik, who had to portray the dying Victor Miller; and Lennie James, who added more depth to the mysterious aura of Robert Hawkins.

Although “Walls of Jericho” featured an uninspiring potential romance and a search for gasoline that failed to grab me, I must say that it proved to be one of the stronger early episodes of “JERICHO”. I have to credit fine performances from a cast led by Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James and a very strong narrative written by screenwriter Martha Mitchell for making this episode very fascinating . . . at least for me.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.03) “Four Horsemen”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.03) “Four Horsemen”

The last episode of “JERICHO”, (1.02) “Fallout” ended with Jake Green and the citizens of Jericho, Kansas seeking shelter from a rain storm that might possibly be radioactive. This next episode, (1.03) “Four Horsemen”, picks up several minutes later.

A great deal happened in this third episode of “JERICHO”. And much of it proved to have consequences in later episodes. The episode began with farmer Stanley Richmond arriving at his farm during the rainstorm, only to find his sister Bonnie, Jake Green, Emily Sullivan, Sheriff Deputy Jimmy Taylor and Sheriff Deputy Bill Kohler seeking shelter inside his basement from the rain. Jake contacts his sister-in-law Dr. April Green via walkie talkie on what to do about Stanley, who may have been exposed to radiation. Meanwhile, Jericho’s latest newcomer, Robert Hawkins, dons a Hazmat suit and goes outside to move a large metal container from his truck to a storage locker on his property. In one scene that went no further than this episode, some of Jericho’s citizens briefly witnessed a Chinese media broadcast inside Mary Bailey’s bar, before the broadcast went dead.

Once the rain stops, Jake contacts his brother Eric, who is at the town’s only fallout shelter, to see about releasing those citizens who are stuck inside the town’s only salt mine. Later, Jake convinces his father to send a group of volunteers to search for news throughout the Kansas countryside. Those volunteers include local businessman Gray Anderson, who has ambitions to become Jericho’s next mayor. Jake becomes another volunteer. He manages to stumble across a plane filled with dead passengers that was forced to make an emergency landing and its flight recorder. Jake returns to Jericho with the flight recorder and finds evidence that the plane carrying Emily’s missing fiancé had landed with all passengers alive.

As I had earlier stated, a great deal happened in “Four Horsemen”. One important scene featured Robert moving the mysterious container to his property. This container, which nearly played a part in the apocalyptic disaster that struck the nation at the beginning of the series, would have an important impact upon Robert’s family before the end of the first season and an even bigger impact upon the series’ narrative by the end of Season Two. Jake’s discovery that Emily’s missing fiancé may have survived the bombings ended up being played out before Season One ended. Gray Anderson made another attempt to broadcast his intentions to become Jericho’s next mayor will end up having consequences down the road. After his boss, storekeeper Gracie Leigh, donated a good deal of her supplies for a town square picnic; Dale Turner stumbled across a stalled freight train with a large supply of undelivered goods that will provide conflict among Jericho’s citizens and other characters. And the road trip that led Jake to the downed plane also sent Gray across the Kansas countryside. The results of Gray’s trip would alert Jericho’s citizens on just how catastrophic the bombings proved to be for the country. But despite all of the action that filled the episode, I found it disappointing after the last scene faded from my television screen.

I certainly had no complaints regarding the performances in this episode. Both Skeet Ulrich and Ashley Scott continued the skillfully acted tension between the Jake Green and Emily Sullivan characters in one scene in which the former tried to convince the latter to join him on the road. Another pair of performances that caught my attention came from Lennie James and April D. Parker, who did an excellent job in conveying the emotional tension between Robert and Darcy Hawkins. Tension between characters seemed to be the hallmark in this episode. Gerald McRaney and Michael Gaston had a fascinating scene together in which the latter’s Gray Anderson openly chastised McRaney’s Mayor Johnston Green for the lack of more than one fallout shelter in Jericho. On the other hand, Brad Beyer definitely provided a great deal of sharp humor in his portrayal of local farmer, Stanley Richmond.

But the despite the action that pervaded this episode, along with the tension between several characters and the continuation of various story arcs; “Four Horsemen” failed to completely satisfy me in the end. What was the problem? Despite the many story lines that filled the episode, it had no main narrative. “Four Horsemen” started out focusing on Jericho’s citizens waiting out the rain (which may or may not have been radioactive) and ended with the so-called “four horsemen” hitting the roads of Kansas. In other words, the narrative or narratives in “Four Horsemen” simply sprawled all over the episode. The rain story line, in my opinion, should have began and ended in the previous episode, (1.02) “Fallout”. And I also believe that screenwriters Dan O’Shannon and Dan Shotz should have focused this episode on the citizens’ need to learn more news about the bombings – leading to the departure of the “Four Horsemen” near the end.

I suppose there is nothing else I can say about “Four Horsemen”. It featured a good number of story arcs that proved to be relevant for the main narrative of “JERICHO”. And it also featured fine performances from a cast led by Skeet Ulrich. But the lack of a strong or centered story line in this episode led to a good deal of disappointment for me.

“MAD MEN”: “Wanted or Not – An ‘Emancipated’ Divorcee”

I wrote this article not long after the end of Season Three of “MAD MEN”:
“MAD MEN”: “Wanted or Not – An ‘Emancipated’ Divorcee”

One of the events of the Season Three finale of ”MAD MEN”(3.13) “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” turned out to be Betty Draper’s decision to file a divorce from the series’ main protagonist, Don Draper. Acting as Betty’s main supporter throughout this upheaval was her almost paramour Henry Francis.

Betty had first met the aide to New York’s Republican governor, Nelson Rockefeller, in the third episode, (3.03) “My Old Kentucky Home”. In the episode, Henry he had asked to touched her belly, while she was still pregnant with young Eugene. Betty gave him permission and a silent spark of attraction ignited between the two. They met for the second time in (3.07) “Seven Twenty-Three”, when Betty was asked by her colleagues in her local Junior League to seek his help in preventing the installation of a huge water tank that will drain the scenic local reservoir and mar the landscape. Henry managed to briefly come to her aid in the following episode, (3.08) “Souvenirs”. By the ninth episode, (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”, the pair was ready to have an affair. Until Betty realized that she did not want to engage in a tawdry affair that involved sex in hotel rooms or behind the closed doors of Henry’s office. When they had met at the wedding reception for Roger Sterling’s daughter, Margaret, in (3.12) “The Grown Ups”; it was apparent that the two had remained attracted with one another.

When Betty finally decided to seek a divorce from Don in the season finale, many noticed that Henry was by her side when she visited a divorce lawyer and when she flew to Reno, Nevada for a divorce. The hostility toward Henry’s presence was strong amongst the fans. It was not long before assumptions about the relationship between Betty and Henry appeared on various blogs and message boards about ”MAD MEN”. Many fans insulted Henry with a variety of names. Others insulted Betty. Fans expressed belief that Henry would end up treating her as a trophy wife, just as Don had during the past decade. More importantly, many accused Betty of being nothing more than a spoiled Daddy’s girl who turned to Henry, because she needed a ”father figure” to dictate her life. The fact that Henry had been seen at her side during a meeting with a divorce lawyer, and during the flight to Reno seemed to be solid evidence to them. And Henry’s advice that Betty dismiss any divorce settlement from Don in order to keep him out her life was another piece of evidence in their eyes. But I wonder. Do any of these fans really know what Betty wants? Or were they merely expressing their disappointment that she had failed to follow a path that they had desired? Is their hostility based upon their disappointment that she did not become a single divorcee like Helen Bishop . . . or that she had failed to reconcile with Don and try to repair their heavily damaged marriage?

I find it interesting that fans had heaped a great deal of disappointment and hostility upon Betty for failing to become the epitome of the new “independent” woman. No one had complained when Joan Hollway had married her doctor fiancé, Greg Harris, after he had raped her in (2.12) “The Mountain King”. Nor did they bash Joan’s character when she finally left Sterling Cooper to become a wife only in (3.06) “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” The ironic thing is that Joan had expressed a desire for a life with kids and a husband in the suburbs since the series began. She wanted to be a pampered housewife adored by her husband. Instead, she ended up with Greg Harris, who turned out to be a less than talented surgeon. Worse, he was incapable of kick starting a career in psychiatry after failing a job interview. Now, Joan is now forced to become a career woman, again. In (2.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”, Greg had decided to continue his career in surgery . . . as a U.S. Army officer. And there is a chance that he might end up in Vietnam. Although Joan expressed relief that she managed to find a permanent job again, with the newly formed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Agency, I cannot help but wonder how she feels about her failure to become a suburban housewife of a successful careerist. Perhaps deep down, Joan had always wanted to remain a career woman. But she had allowed society to dictate her wants, just as Betty has. What will the future bring for Joan? Will she still desire the life that Betty had with Don? Or will she finally wise up and realize that that living the Suburban Dream was never really for her . . . with any man?

And what about Betty? It seemed unrealistic to expect her to become the “liberated” woman so soon after her breakup with Don. Considering Betty’s upper class background and non-conformist personality, I do not see that happening this soon in the series. After all, Season Three has just ended. Personally, I suspect that Betty might still be too scared to consider a life independent of men, or have a man in her life and at the same time, create her own lifestyle. Perhaps it will take the Women’s Movement in the 1970s for Betty to become that woman. Perhaps she will end up as another Betty Ford, an activist who managed to have a lasting marriage with a Republican politician. Then again, I do not even know if Betty will ever become the type of “liberated” woman that many seem to demand that she become. But I refuse to make any assumption on how Betty’s life will turn out. That would take a great deal of arrogance or hope on my part.

And I believe there is nothing wrong with wanting another man in one’s life. Of all the divorced or separated female characters on the show managed to move on with new men in their lives. Helen Bishop’s new paramour ended up creating resentment within her son, Glen. Mona Sterling had already found someone new by (3.02) “Love Among the Ruins”. Last season’s (2.06) “Maidenform” revealed that Duck Phillips’ ex-wife was about to remarry.

That Betty would hook up with Henry Francis does not seem all that surprising, considering their history in Season Three. The question remains on whether Henry will prove to be another Don Draper who ends up treating her as a trophy wife. Some fans seem to assume that will happen. Frankly, I have no idea. In some ways, Henry seems a lot like Don. In other ways, he seems different from Don. In the end, I believe that only Matt Weiner knows how this relationship will turn out.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.02) “Fallout”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.02) “Fallout”

It just occurred to me that this second episode of the CBS television series, “JERICHO” was aptly named. In a way (1.02) “Fallout” perfectly described the situation from the series’ first episode, (1.01) “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours”.

The previous episode ended with the western Kansas community shaken by the sight of an atomic mushroom and news that two U.S. cities had been devastated by nuclear explosions . . . and their sheriff and one of the deputies murdered by two escaped convicts on their way to prison. “Fallout” picks up the following morning with Jericho schoolteacher Emily Sullivan trying to hitchhike her way back to Jericho, when her stalled SUV prevents her from reaching the airport to pick up her fiance. She finally receives a ride from a police cruiser being driven by two deputy sheriffs. With the car low on gas, Emily suggests they seek gasoline at the farm of Stanley and Bonnie Richmond. By the time they reach their destination, she realizes that her two saviors are not lawmen, but possibly dangerous criminals.

Back in Jericho, the town’s new resident, Robert Hawkins, hints of the possibility of radioactive fallout from the Denver bombing, in the incoming rainstorm threatening Jericho. He suggests that the citizens might have to either seek shelter in their homes or the town’s two fallout shelters. While the Greens, Hawkins and businessman Gray Anderson struggle to help the citizens seek shelter; Emily tries to alert the deaf Bonnie that the new visitors are criminals. She also manages to sneak outside the Richmond house in order to send a message to Jericho, via the cruiser’s radio.

After watching this episode, it occurred to me that the first three episodes of “JERICHO” might have been a three-part story depicting Jericho’s initial reactions to the Denver bombing and its aftermath. I came to this conclusion after noticing that “Fallout” ended the story arc about the escaped prisoners, but failed to do the same for the “radioactive rain” story arc. The episode ended with the prisoners dead, but the citizens of Jericho inside shelters, basements and in the case for many, a salt mine. Not only did the rain continue to fall, but one of the community’s citizens, Stanley Richardson, was no where to be found. Also, a new story arc regarding Mayor Johnston Green’s illness began in this episode. And this story arc will have far reaching impact on the series that will last into Season Two. I now have the deepest suspicion that the series’ creators must have planned their story with greater detail than I had originally imagined.

Another aspect of “Fallout” that I found particularly curious was that it seemed like a mixture of a television crime drama and a disaster movie. In fact, I was hard put to see the connection between the escaped convicts story arc and the plot regarding the nuclear fallout rain. The episode ended before the two story arcs could really mesh together. Not even Jake Green’s rush from the salt mine shelter to the Richmond farm, following Emily’s radio message, could really bridge the two stories. I think the reason is that none of the characters involved in the plot regarding the escaped convicts – especially Emily Sullivan and Bonnie Richmond – had no real knowledge of the approaching rain storm possibly containing a nuclear fallout. In fact, the two women will learn of the fallout in the next episode, thanks to Jake. Perhaps this is why it is best to view “Fallout” as a second chapter in the story arc about the initial response to the bombings, instead of a stand alone episode. However, despite my acceptance that “Fallout” might not be a stand alone episode, I do have one major complaint about it. In one scene, Emily found two Jericho deputy sheriffs – Jimmy Taylor and Bill Kohler – gagged, bound and in their underwear inside the police cruiser’s trunk. If these same two convicts were willing to murder the sheriff and one of the deputies, why did they refrain from killing Jimmy and Bill? I never understood this, especially after they forced the two deputies to hand over their uniforms.

Although I could not seriously consider “Fallout” as a stand alone episode, I must admit that I still found it fascinating to watch. I have to credit Stephen Chbosky for writing a very taut episode. Between the danger surrounding the two escaped convicts and Jericho’s citizens to seek shelter from a potentially dangerous rain storm, the episode was filled with tension, action and drama. I would not consider it particularly memorable or original if it had not been for that last scene. This episode marked the first episode that featured Robert Hawkins’ new home and family – wife Darcy and young son Samuel. His daughter Allison appeared in the following episode. More importantly, the episode also featured the first hint that he knew the real truth behind the bombings. One scene featured him inside the sheriff’s station, using a ham radio to receive information unknown to the audience. By the end of the episode, the audience learned what Robert knew – namely some of other U.S. locations that suffered a nuclear blast.

I certainly have no complaints about the performances in “Fallout”. Skeet Ulrich continued his exuberant performance as lead character Jake Green. And Lennie James proved to be just as unfathomable as the mysterious Robert Hawkins. The episode also featured excellent work from Bob Stephenson, Richard Speight Jr., Gerald McRaney, Beth Grant, Pamela Reed, Michael Gaston, Sprague Grayden, Shoshannah Stern, Clare Carey and the two actors that portrayed the convicts – Jonno Roberts and Aaron Hendry. The episode also featured the first appearances of April D. Parker as Darcy Hawkins and Darby Stanchfield as April Green, Jake’s sister-in-law. Like the others, they gave solid performances. But there were four performances that really impressed me. Two of them came from Erik Knudsen and Candace Bailey as teenage outcast Dale Turner and rich girl Skylar Stevens. The two actors did an excellent job in setting up the emotional and complex relationship between the superficially mismatched pair. Kenneth Mitchell, who portrayed Jake’s younger brother Eric Green, shined in one particular scene in which the mayor’s younger son resorted to scare tactics to convince a group of stubborn beer guzzlers at the local tavern to seek shelter from the radioactive rain. But the woman of the hour proved to be Ashley Scott, who did a marvelous job in conveying the ordeal that Emily Sullivan endured in this episode. I was impressed at how she managed to dominate the episode without resorting to any theatrical acting.

If I must be honest, I found this episode’s handling of the two deputy sheriffs’ fates rather illogical. And it is obvious that “Fallout” cannot really hold up as a stand alone episode. But thanks to Stephen Chbosky’s transcript, Jon Turteltaub’ taut direction and a standout performance by Ashley Scott, “Fallout” proved to be an interesting episode filled with tension, solid action and good drama.

Top Ten Favorite “HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER” (2005-2014) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top ten (10) favorite episodes of the CBS series, “HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER” (2005-2014). Created by Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, the series starred Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan:

 

TOP TEN FAVORITE “HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER” (2005-2014) EPISODES

1- 5.22 Robots vs. Wrestlers

1. (5.22) “Robots vs. Wrestlers” – This hilarious episode features Ted Mosby at his most pretentious, when he and his friends crash a high-society party. Later, the others attend a Robots vs. Wrestlers event.

 

 

2 - 2.09 Slap Bet

2. (2.09) “Slap Bet” – Barney Stinson discovers Robin Scherbatsky’s secret behind her aversion to malls. His discovery leads to the infamous slap bet between him and Marshall Eriksen.

 

 

3 - 4.09 The Naked Man

3. (4.09) “The Naked Man” – Ted walks into the apartment he shares with Robin and finds her date naked on the couch. The date reveals a new dating technique that may revolutionize dating for the group.

 

 

4 - 2.05 The Greatest Couple

4. (2.05) “The Greatest Couple” – Lily Aldrin moves into Barney’s apartment, when he uses her to drive away needy dates.

 

 

5 - 7.03 Ducky Tie

5. (7.03) “Ducky Tie” – Ted encounters his old girlfriend Victoria and tries to make amends with her. Meanwhile, Marshall and Lily make a bet with Barney that could force him to wear Marshall’s ducky tie.

 

 

6- 3.08 Spoiler Alert

6. (3.08) “Spoiler Alert” – An annoying habit in Ted’s new girlfriend causes the group to point out their own bad habits, previously unnoticed by them.

 

 

7 - 2.21 Something Borrowed

7. (2.21) “Something Borrowed” – Nothing goes as planned when Lily and Marshall’s wedding day finally arrives.

 

 

8 - 1.22 Come On

8. (1.22) “Come On” – Ted decides to seriously pursue Robin, instead of a date arranged for him by a matchmaking service. Meanwhile, Marshall is stunned by Lily’s decision to leave him for an art fellowship in San Francisco.

 

 

9 - 6.04 Subway Wars

9. (6.04) “Subway Wars” – The group race each other through the streets of New York to a restaurant where Woody Allen was spotted by a friend.

 

 

10 - 8.23 Something Old

10. (8.23) “Something Old” – Robin desperately tries to locate the antique locket that she had buried in Central Park at the age of 15, to wear as her “Something Old” for her wedding to Barney.

 

 

HM - 9.16 How Your Mother Met Me

Honorable Mentioned: (9.16) “How Your Mother Met Me” – This poignant episode recounted the eight years in the life of Tracy McConnell aka “The Mother”, before she met Ted at Farhampton.

“MAD MEN” RETROSPECT: (1.07) “Red in the Face”

“MAD MEN” RETROSPECT: (1.07) “Red in the Face”

Due to some sense of nostalgia, I decided to break out my “MAD MEN” Season One DVD set and watch an episode. The episode in question turned out to be the seventh one, (1.07) “Red in the Face”

After watching “Red in the Face”, it occurred to me that its main theme centered around some of the main characters’ childish behavior. I say “some of the characters”, because only a few managed to refrain from such behavior – Sterling Cooper’s co-owner Bert Cooper; Office Manager Joan Holloway; and Helen Bishop, a divorcée that happens to be a neighbor of the Drapers. I do not recall Cooper behaving childishly during the series’ last four seasons. Helen Bishop merely reacted as any neighbor would when faced with a situation regarding her nine year-old son and a neighbor. As for Joan, she had displayed her own brand of childishness (of the vindictive nature) in episodes before and after “Red in the Face”. But in this episode, she managed to refrain herself.

I cannot deny that I found this episode entertaining. And I believe it was mainly due John Slattery’s performance as Roger Sterling, Sterling-Cooper’s other owner. In scene after scene, Slattery conveyed Roger’s penchant for childishness – proposing an illicit weekend to Joan, resentment toward the female attention that Don Draper managed to attract at a Manhattan bar, making snipes at the younger man’s background during an impromptu dinner with the Drapers, making sexual advances at Betty Draper, and gorging on a very unhealthy lunch. That is a lot for one episode. Roger’s behavior served to convey a middle-aged man stuck in personal stagnation. Even worse, he has remained in this situation up to the latest season. And Slattery managed to convey these tragic aspects of Roger’s character with his usual fine skills.

Jon Hamm fared just as well with another first-rate performance as the series’ protagonist, Don Draper. In “Red in the Face”, Hamm revealed Don’s immature and bullying nature behind his usual smooth, charismatic and secretive personality. This was especially apparent in a scene that Hamm shared with January Jones, in which Don accused his wife Betty of flirting with Roger. And Don’s less admirable nature was also apparent in the joke that he pulled on Roger in the episode’s final scenes. Speaking of Betty, January Jones also did a top-notch job in those scenes with Hamm. She also gave an excellent performance in Betty’s confrontation with Don, following the dinner with Roger; and her conversation with neighbor Francine about her desire to attract attention. I have noticed that most of the series’ fans seemed to regard Betty as a child in a woman’s body. Granted, Betty had her childish moments in the episode – especially during her confrontation with neighbor Helen Bishop at a local grocery store. But I have always harbored the opinion that she is no more or less childish than the other main characters. This episode seemed to prove it. One last performance that stood out came from Vincent Kartheiser as the young Accounts executive Pete Campbell. To this day, I do not understand why he is the only major cast member who has never received an acting nomination for an Emmy or Golden Globe. Because Kartheiser does such a terrific job as the ambiguous Pete. His complexity seemed apparent in “Red in the Face”. In one scene, he tried to exchange a rather ugly wedding gift for something more dear to his heart – a rifle. His attempt to exchange the gift seemed to feature Pete as his most childish. Yet, he also seemed to be the only Sterling Cooper executive who understood the advertising value of John F. Kennedy’s youthful persona during the 1960 Presidential election.

Earlier, I had commented on how screenwriter Bridget Bedard’s use of childish behavior by some of the main characters as a major theme for “Red in the Face”. I have noticed that once this behavior is apparent; Roger, Don, Betty and Pete are left humiliated or “red in the face” after being exposed. Betty’s decision to give a lock of hair to Helen Bishop’s nine year-old son in (1.04) “New Amsterdam” led to a confrontation between the two women at a grocery store and a slap delivered by Betty after being humiliated by Helen. If I had been Betty, I would have admitted that giving young Glen a lock of her hair was a mistake, before pointing out Glen’s habit of entering a private bathroom already in use. And Pete’s decision to trade the ugly-looking chip-and-dip for a rifle led to being berated over the telephone by his new wife, Trudy. Only a conversation with Peggy Olson, Don’s secretary, about his fantasies as a hunter could alleviate his humiliation. During the Drapers’ dinner party with Roger, the latter noted that Don’s habit of slipping his “Gs” indicated a rural upbringing – a revelation that left Don feeling slightly humiliated. And after accusing Betty of flirting with Roger, she retaliated with a snide comment about his masculinity. Don tried to retaliate by calling her a child, but Betty’s stoic lack of response only fed his humiliation even more. However, he did get even with Roger by setting up the latter with a cruel practical joke that involved a falsely inoperative elevator and a heavy lunch that included oysters and cheesecake. Although the joke left Don feeling smug and vindicated, I was left more convinced than ever of his penchant for childish behavior. Aside from feeling humiliated by a pair of young females’ attention toward Don, Roger managed to coast through most of the episode without paying a price for his behavior. In the end, he suffered the biggest humiliation via his reaction to Don’s joke – by vomiting in front of prospective clients.

“Red in the Face” featured many scenes that I found entertaining – especially the impromptu dinner party given by the Drapers for Roger Sterling. But if I must be honest, I did not find it particularly impressive. Although “Red in the Face” offered viewers a negative aspects of four of the main characters, I do not believe it did nothing to advance any of the stories that began at the beginning of the season. I must also add that Betty’s confrontation with Helen Bishop seemed out of place in this episode. While watching it, I had the distinct impression that this scene, along with Betty and Francine’s conversation, should have been added near the end of “New Amsterdam”. By including it in “Red in the Face”, it almost seemed out of place.

I could never regard “Red in the Face” as one of the best episodes of Season One or the series. But I cannot deny that thanks to performances by John Slattery, Jon Hamm, January Jones and Vincent Kartheiser, I found it entertaining.