“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (5.02) “Just Rewards

Below is a look into (5.02) “Just Rewards”, a Season Five episode from “ANGEL”:

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (5.02) “Just Rewards”

Co-written by David Fury and Ben Edlund and directed by James A. Contner, the Season Five episode, (5.02) “Just Rewards”, was an immediate follow-up to the conclusion of the season premiere, (5.01) “Conviction”. The latter ended with Angel receiving a mysterious package that contained the amulet he had given to Buffy Summers in the ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” finale, (7.22) “Chosen”. When the amulet activated, it released Spike’s non-corporeal body.

At the beginning of ”Just Rewards”, Spike explains that he was killed in Sunnydale during the final battle featured in ”Chosen”, while wearing the amulet. He also explains that the amulet he wore brought his non-corporeal spirit to Wolfram & Hart. When Angel learns that a necromancer named Hainsley is buying corpses from Wolfram & Hart to reanimate with demonic essences, he decides to pay him a visit to tell him that they will no longer supply him with bodies. Spike decides to tag along and is offered a body by Hainsley.

First of all, I have to say that the interaction between Angel and Spike were dead on. When the episode had first aired, someone stated that Spike’s character seemed to have regressed. Of course, you have to understand from his point of view that a) he is dealing with Angel; b) his death did not go off as expected, hence his anger and frustration at The Powers to Be; c) despite his “regression” and dislike of Angel, he helped his grandsire overcome the necromancer anyway. James Marsters’ performance was fantastic, although there were moments when he seemed to overdo it a little. However, his last scene with Amy Ackers was superb, as he effectively brought out Spike’s pathos and fear of being permanently stuck in a hell dimension. I am not surprised that a Spike/Fred romance never materialized. They never really struck me as a couple with a potential for romance. However, I was not surprised that they became close friends.

David Boreneanz also gave a great performance. It seemed as if working with Marsters has brought out the best in him. I had no idea that Angel had so many issues regarding Spike. I guess it would have been a lot easier for him to believe that the Bleached Wonder had not changed. It is interesting that he had failed to inform the Angel Investigations team about Spike and Buffy’s relationship, Spike’s soul and the fact that the latter had saved the world. Resentment perhaps? It seemed as if both Angel and Spike had major issues that need to be resolved between them around that time. And the first issue they both had to get over their “rivalry” over Buffy, just as Drusilla had been an issue in the past.

I had also heard people complain that Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, Fred Burkle and Lorne were not seen that much in this episode. I believe they were right. With the exception of the establishment of Spike’s friendship with Fred, she – along with Wes and Lorne – barely made an impact in this episode. However, Charles Gunn did not suffer from a lack of scenes. In fact, I suspect that he was slowly assuming Wes’ role as Angel’s “Prime Minister” around this time.

As for Harmony, she did not bother me one bit. I have always enjoyed Mercedes McNab’s portrayal of Harmony. Quite frankly, she has always been a lot of fun to watch. And I really enjoyed her jealous reaction to the news about Spike’s relationship with Buffy. Poor Harmony. Even after shooting Spike in the back with an arrow and declaring her emotional independence in the ”BUFFY” episode, (5.14) “Crush”, she remained infatuated with him. Victor Raider-Wexler (from AMC-TV’s ”THE LOT”) gave a deliciously creepy performance as the necromancer, Magnus Hainsley. The character seemed to be a powerful magic practitioner. I wonder how he would have done against Willow? I also wonder how many of his previous clients continued to walk the streets of Los Angeles.

All in all, ”Just Rewards” was an entertaining episode. It reminded me of how much I had enjoyed that early period of Season Five.

“NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy Images

Below are images from the “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy – the 1985-1994 adaptation of John Jakes’ 1982-1987 novels:

NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy Images

“KNIVES OUT” (2019) Review

“KNIVES OUT” (2019) Review

Over the past nine years, I have developed something of a mixed opinion of Rian Johnson as a filmmaker. I have only seen three of his films – 2012’s “LOOPER”, the 2017 STAR WARS movie, “STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI” and his recent film, the 2019 Oscar nominated film, “KNIVES OUT”. I became a fan of “LOOPER”. I disliked “THE LAST JEDI”. In fact, I disliked “THE LAST JEDI” so much that I was almost reluctant to see his new film, “KNIVES OUT” in the movie theaters.

In the end, my curiosity won out and I saw “KNIVES OUT” in the theaters. Also written by Johnson, the movie proved to be an unusual mystery. Let me explain. “KNIVES OUT” begins with the Thrombey family gathering at the Massachusetts home of wealthy mystery novelist, Harlan Thrombey, to celebrate his 85th birthday. The following morning, Harlan’s housekeeper, Fran, finds him dead in his private room, with his throat slit. The local police – Detective Lieutenant Elliot and Trooper Wagner – are convinced that Harlan had committed suicide. But the private detective accompanying them – Benoit Blanc – is convinced that Harlan had been murdered. It seems Blanc had been hired by anonymous party to investigate the novelist’s death. When Blanc, Elliot and Wagner learn that Harlan’s relationships with his family were strained, they find themselves with a list of suspects:

*Linda Thrombey Drysdale – Harlan’s daughter, a real estate mogul who had started her company with his money
*Walter “Walt” Thrombey – Harlan’s only living son, the CEO of his father’s publishing company, whom the novelist wants to fire so that the former can forge his own career
*Richard Drysdale – Linda’s husband, who helps her run her company and who is cheating on her with another woman
*Hugh Ransom Drysdale – Linda and Richard’s son and Harlan’s older grandson; a spoiled playboy whom Harlan had recently disowned
*Joni Thrombey – Harlan’s daughter-in-law, widow of the novelist’s deceased son, and a self-help guru; who has been stealing money from Harlan’s estate
*Megan “Meg” Thrombey – Joni’s daughter and Harlan’s granddaughter, a college student whose education is threatened by the recent conflict between her mother and grandfather
*Donna Thrombey – Walt’s wife and Harlan’s daughter-in-law
*Jacob Thrombey – Walt and Donna’s son and Harlan’s younger grandson, who holds alt-right views

Blanc and the two police officers eventually turn to Marta Cabrera, Harlan’s nurse and caregiver, for information on the family. It seems Marta had a close friendship with Harlan. But more importantly, neither Blanc or the cops are aware that Marta knows the true details behind Harlan’s death and that it involved her accidentally administering him an overdose of morphine instead of his usual medication. Marta spends most of the film struggling to prevent Blanc, Elliot and Wagner from learning the truth behind her role in Harlan’s death . . . unaware that a member of the family had set everything in motion in order to kill Harlan and benefit financially from his death.

“KNIVES OUT” was an interesting movie. And very unusual. Was it unusual in a good way or in a bad way? If I must be honest, I found some aspects of the movie rather questionable – only a few – but I can honestly say that its flaws had nothing to do with the unusual aspects of it. One problem I had with “KNIVES OUT” was its revelation scene of the story’s true villain. I am not claiming that it was implausible. But . . . how can I put this? I found it a bit reaching. Just from looking at Harlan’s toxicology report, Benoit Blanc was able to quickly unravel the mystery leading to the author’s death. That toxicology report almost became a deus ex machina. I more than admire how Johnson used his story to examine the United States’ outlook and treatment of immigrants – especially those from non-European countries. But with characters like Lieutenant Elliot and Fran, Johnson also had the opportunity to examine this country’s attitudes toward race and class. And he never took it. Apparently, like Matthew Weiner and Joss Whedon, Rian Johnson can only deal with one issue at a time, even when he has the opportunity to touch upon more than one. My final problem with “KNIVES OUT” proved to be the status of Benoit Blanc in the story. I get it. He is private detective who was hired by an unknown client to solve the mystery surrounding Harlan Thrombey’s death. My question is why the local police had more or less allowed Blanc to lead this investigation? Worse, the narrative bothered to explain how this happened, considering that no one – including Blanc – knew the identity of his client. According to the movie, Blanc had a high reputation as a private detective. So what? This is no guarantee that he would be allowed to lead the investigation into Harlan’s death.

I would never be the first to say that “KNIVES OUT” was a perfect film. My complaints in the previous paragraph pretty much states otherwise. However, I cannot deny that this was not only a first-rate mystery, but a rather unusual one. Very unusual and very original. And I love originality in a story – especially when it is well written. Before I had even seen the film, I had assumed that its narrative would focus on the Benoit Blanc character investigating Harlan Thrombey’s death. And it did . . . during its first thirty minutes or so. But when the narrative revealed that Harlan had sliced his own throat to save Marta’s nursing career (and prevent her mother from being deported as an undocumented citizen) by hiding that she had accidentally given him the wrong medication, it focused on the latter’s attempt to prevent Blanc and the police from focusing on the real details behind the author’s death. And if I must be frank, I have never encountered such a narrative before. At least one I can recall.

Johnson also did an excellent job in conveying the politics behind Harlan’s suicide and Marta’s efforts to hide the truth behind his death. As I had stated earlier, Harlan feared that if Marta was punished for accidentally giving him the wrong medication, her mother, an illegal immigrant, would suffer by association. This is understandable, considering the strong anti-immigrant stance taken by many countries in recent years. What I found very interesting was Johnson’s portrayal of the Thrombeys’ attitude toward Marta. The older members affectionately call her “kid” and constantly remind her that they regard her as an official member of the family. Some family members like Joni Thrombey and her daughter Meg loudly beat the drum for a liberal, pro-immigrant stance. Richard expresses “admiration” for Marta because he believes her family had entered the United States “legally”, revealing a passive-aggressive racism. Walt never says anything in support or against undocumented workers. He simply treats Marta as “a member of the family”. Only his 16 year-old son Jacob seems openly bigoted. In a way, even Harlan belongs on this list.

Yet, despite the family’s stance that Marta is “one of them”, they do occasionally treat her as a servant – as shown in one moment when Richard automatically hands Marta an empty tea, assuming that she works for the family and not simply as Harlan’s nurse. And not one member of the family cannot remember where Marta was born. As far as the Thrombeys were concerned, she was either from Paraguay, Ecuador and in the case of Ransom – Linda and Richard’s son – Brazil. As for Harlan’s Anglo housekeeper, Fran, she barely exists as far as the family is concerned. I suspect this is due to the fact that Fran is not as close to Harlan as he is to Marta. In the end, their “liberalism” is all about kissing up to Harlan in order to use him as a walking ATM. Speaking of Ransom Drysdale, he proved to be quite the dark horse. The character hardly ever interact with Marta, until the reading of Harlan’s will. Following that incident, he learns about her mistake with Harlan’s medicine and decides to help her deceive Blanc and the police. However, the movie eventually reveals that he does so . . . not from the goodness of his own heart. Despite being closer in personality to the mystery author, Ransom ends up proving that he is still a product of a privileged upbringing.

“KNIVES OUT” provided some very interesting performances. The solid ones came from the likes of Marlene Forte, Riki Lindhome, Edi Patterson, Jaeden Martell, and Shyrley Rodriguez. The movie also featured surprising, yet entertaining appearances from M. Emmett Walsh as Harlan’s aging security guard, Frank Oz as Harlan’s long-suffering attorney, and K Callan, who portrayed Harlan’s centenarian mother with her eyes and one or two words. Katherine Langford did a great job in conveying Meg Thrombey’s ardent liberalism and hypocrisy at the same time. Riki Lindhome gave an effective performance as Walt Thrombey’s brittle wife, Donna. Noah Segan was both funny and enduring as police Trooper Wagner, who happened to be a fan of Harlan’s novels. And Lakeith Stanfield gave a wry, yet humorous performance as the laconic Detective Lieutenant Elliot.

And then . . . we have those portraying the senior members of the Thrombey family. Toni Collette was very amusing, yet slightly mannered as Harlan’s daughter-in-law, Joni Thrombey. Listening to her accent, I found myself wondering if her character supposed to be from Southern California. Michael Shannon gave a very subtle, yet intense performance as Harlan’s younger son, Walt, who had become too dependent on his publishing company for success. Don Johnson, on the other hand, was hilarious as Harlan’s unfaithful son-in-law Richard Drysdale, whose sardonic and outgoing personality hid his dependence on his wife and a bigoted streak. Jamie Lee Curtis was wonderful as the blunt, no-nonsense Linda Thrombey Drysdale, who managed to carve a successful business in real estate on her own – with Daddy’s money, of course. Despite her more sympathetic portrayal, Curtis did a great job in proving that she was just as spoiled and over-privileged as the rest of her family. Christopher Plummer was marvelous as the clever, yet warm-hearted Harlan Thrombey, who seemed to have become aware that his success as an author and publisher contrasted with his failure as a family patriarch.

I am certain that many fans of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) would be surprised to see Chris Evans in the role of Harlan’s over privileged grandson, Hugh Ransom Drysdale. What I enjoyed about Evans’ performance was that it was subtle, sardonic and if I must be honest, rather a surprise. At one point it seemed as if his Ransom felt genuine compassion for Marta’s situation . . . until he reveals his willingness to help stemmed more from his desire to get some kind of financial reward from her. I have never heard of Ana de Armas before “KNIVES OUT”, yet she has been an actress for the past fifteen years or so. Many have regarded her role as the movie’s heroine, Marta Cabrera, as a star making performance. In fact, she managed to garner a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical. Did she deserve it? Uh . . . yeah! De Armas gave a superb performance as the kind-hearted, yet besieged Marta who was forced to juggle between her grief over Harlan’s death, the feeling of being overwhelmed by the changes in her circumstances and her struggle to prevent Benoit Blanc and the cops from learning the truth about her patient’s death. The actress’ performance was balanced by a deliberately theatrical performance from Daniel Craig as the story’s main sleuth, Benoit Blanc. Judging from his “Deep South” accent and French name, I can only gather that the detective came from one of the Gulf States – probably Louisiana. Now, I would not call Craig’s Southern accent accurate. And I believe that he would be the first to say so. But for some reason, it matched his character’s overly dramatic personality. I usually do not like theatrical or hammy performances, but there are some occasions when they actually worked. And Craig’s Benoit Blanc worked like spades. With great skill, the actor managed to combine Blanc’s theatrical personality with a talent for observation that would rival Sherlock Holmes. Like his leading lady, Craig managed to earn a much-deserved Golden Globe nomination – for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.

I will be the first to admit that I had a few quibbles about “KNIVES OUT”. But only a few. In the end, Rian Johnson managed to create a first-rate and original mystery that managed to take me by surprise on several occasions. He did this with excellent direction and a superb cast led by Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas.

Five Favorite Episodes of “INDIAN SUMMERS” Season One (2015)

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of the British series, “INDIAN SUMMERS”. Created by Paul Rutman, the series starred Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Nikesh Patel, Jemima West and Julie Waters.

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “INDIAN SUMMERS” SEASON ONE (2015)

1. (1.10) “Episode Ten” – In this season finale, the fate of convicted Indian businessman Ramu Sood is left in the hands of Civil Service official in Simla, Ralph Whelan, after it is discovered that the latter’s servant had killed the woman named Jaya, who was Ralph’s former lover.

2. (1.01) “Episode One” – The series premiere opened with the arrival of many British citizens, their servants and officials of the Indian Civil Service to Simla. The train to Simla is delayed when a boy is found collapsed on the railway tracks, while a mysterious assassin makes his way to the city.

3. (1.08) “Episode Eight” – Simla’s British community turn out in force for Ramu Sood’s murder trial. The latter’s British employee, Ian McCleod, is wracked with guilt about his part in Ramu’s arrest and an employee of the local orphanage, Leena Prasad, is torn apart in the witness box.

4. (1.03) “Episode Three” – While Simla prepares for the Sipi Fair, the only time when the Indian community is allowed on the grounds of the British Club; Indian nationalist Sooni Dalal is arrested at a pro-independence rally. Meanwhile, her brother Aafrin Dalal is targeted for a promotion within the Civil Service by his boss, Ralph, who wants him to keep quiet about a mysterious assassin.

5. (1.07) “Episode Seven” – While the British community prepares for the social club’s annual amateur dramatic production, a murder victim who turns out to be Jaya, is found in a nearby river.

“EL DORADO WEST” [PG] – Chapter Eight

The following is Chapter Eight of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849:

Chapter Eight – New Franklin, Missouri

April 23, 1849
Two weeks have passed since our departure from St. Louis. Five days have passed since our encounter with the slave catchers. Despite failing to find a fugitive slave, Mr. Whiskers continued to follow our wagon company. I am beginning to realize that he might be a very stubborn and determined man.

“Ignore him,” Alice advised. “He is only trying to rattle us. He has failed to find his prisoner and needs something to bolster his self-esteem.” Deep contempt rang in her voice.

I wish that I possessed her nerve. But a running fear continued to nag at the back of my mind that sooner or later, the fugitive will appear. And our bewhiskered lurker will have an excuse to toss us – especially Alice and myself – into the nearest county jail. We nearly met that fate upon our arrival in New Franklin.

According to Mr. James, the old Franklin used to be the first jump-off site of the Santa Fe Trail, the first of many overland roads that led west of the Mississippi River. This lasted from 1821 – when a freight driver from Virginia named William Becknell led the first wagon caravan to Santa Fe – to 1828, when the flooding Missouri River finally engulfed it in 1828. The residents resettled their town on higher ground and renamed it New Franklin. I must say that the latter is a very pleasant community with numerous schools, churches and even an attorney’s office.

Alice, myself, Mr. James, the Robbinses and our two Pennsylvania families did not have much time to enjoy New Franklin. No sooner had we arrived, the law appeared with Mr. Whiskers in tow. They demanded to search our wagons. By now, I began to suspect that Alice had been right. Mr. Whiskers’ failure to find his fugitive slave had turned into harassment against our wagon company. Mr. James and Mr. Robbins insisted that we were not harboring a fugitive slave. But the lawmen insisted – backed by a show of force – upon searching our wagons. Again, we had no choice but to comply. And like before, no fugitive slave was found.

Our wagon company had intended to linger in New Franklin and purchase a few supplies. But the ladies, led by Mrs. Robbins, felt affronted by the community’s greeting and demanded that we continue our journey. Understanding how the women felt, the rest of us agreed and the company quietly left New Franklin.

May 2, 1849
Tonight is our last night before our arrival at Independence, tomorrow. Finally! I have had enough of Missouri to last me a lifetime. It is a beautiful state. But I would have enjoyed it more if did not have slavery within its borders.

Mr. Whiskers had continued to trail us, following our departure from New Franklin. Then two days later, he suddenly disappeared. Perhaps he had finally realized the futility of the chase.

Mr. James informed us that many wagon trains should be organizing in Independence by now. Surprisingly, Independence was not the only jump-off spot for the western trails. Rival sites had form in both nearby St. Joseph and Council Bluffs in Iowa. Both towns were easily approachable by a Missouri River steamboat. And an emigrant would save four days on the trail by departing from either town, since both were north of Independence. Despite all of this, our company voted to head for Independence.

Our little caravan has just received a late night visitor. His name is Elias Wendell, formerly of Baltimore, Maryland. He is on his way to Westport. And he is also a fellow Negro. At first, I wonder if he was the fugitive slave that half of Missouri had been searching for. In the end, I dismissed the idea for Mr. James seemed quite familiar with him. And yet . . . this Mr. Wendell happened to be wearing Mr. Whiskers’ royal blue waistcoat. Or something similar. Interesting.

Since he happened to be Mr. James’ old friend, our party welcomed him into our camp. I noticed that Alice exerted good deal of energy to prepare a plate of beans, roast quail and cornbread for our guest. Elias Wendell had been the apprentice of one of Mr. James’ old colleagues – one Thomas Ford. The name struck a familiar note.

Minutes passed before I realized that Mr. Whitman had once mentioned this Ford fellow. Apparently, the latter had been killed in a barroom brawl in St. Charles, a year ago. Since then, Elias had been roaming the state working at odd jobs. When he had learned about the gold found in California, he decided to try his luck and get himself hired to a wagon company.

His story seemed above board. Yet . . . why was Mr. Wendell wearing a waistcoat similar to Mr. Whiskers’? I decided to remain silent. Why create any suspicions that he might be the runaway Mr. Whiskers had been searching for? I had no desire to bring trouble upon his head. Apparently, neither did anyone else. After all, if I had noticed his waistcoat, surely some of the others had.

End of Chapter Eight

L.A. Noir III (1994-2000)

Below is the third set of images from some famous film noir movies set in Los Angeles:

L.A. Noir III (1994-2000)

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“Pulp Fiction” (1994)

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“Devil in the Blue Dress” (1995)

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“Heat” (1995)

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“L.A. Confidential” (1997)

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“Jackie Brown” (1997)

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“The Big Lebowski” (1998)

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“Memento” (2000)

“THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” (2008) Review

“THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” (2008) Review

Set in present day South Boston and Ancient China, “THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” is a martial-arts/fantasy film that was directed by Rob Minkoff. The movie also co-starred two of the most famous names in the martial-arts genre – Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The movie is basically about a South Boston teenage fan of Hong Kong kung fu films, who is transported back in time to Ancient China via a magical staff. There, he must undertake a quest to free the fabled warrior Sun Wukong aka “The Monkey King”.

In a nutshell, “THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” is an entertaining action film with strong fantasy and comedy elements. Our two martial arts stars portray Lu Yan – the Drunken Immortal (Jackie Chan) and The Silent Monk (Jet Li), who help Boston teenager Jason Williams (Michael Angarano) free Sun Wukong (also Jet Li) from the clutches of an evil immortal called the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou).

“THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” is not perfect. To be frank, I only two complaints about the movie. One, the editing by Eric Strand seemed rather choppy. There were moments when the movie lacked a smooth segue from one scene to another. And two, I found the backstory for Jason’s character rather clichéd. It seemed straight out of the rule book for typical teen angst films that started with 1979’s “MY BODYGUARD”. You know what I am referring to – shy geeky adolescent who is terrorized by the local bully, has profound experiences before successfully confronting bully in the last reel. Come to think of it, I saw something similar in the fantasy-comedy, “STARDUST”.

Despite the above-mentioned flaws, “THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” is an entertaining movie. Jackie Chan and Jet Li proved that despite their different styles and approaches to the martial arts genre, they could generate screen chemistry together. Michael Angarano is perfectly disarming and funny as the Boston teen who finds himself in an unfamiliar world. Portraying his potential love interest is Liu Yi Fei as Golden Sparrow, a young female orphan who seeks vengeance against the main villain. Speaking of villains, both Collin Chou (the Jade Warlord) and Li Bingbing (Ni-Chang, the White-Haired Assassin) provided a solid villainous challenge to the four heroes.

On the surface, “THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” provides solid entertainment and martial arts action. However, I must commend on two matters. One, I really enjoyed the superb fight sequence between the two martial arts stars – Chan and Li. Whatever expectation I had about their fight, the two stars and fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping more than fulfilled it. I have not enjoyed such a fight scene since Jet Li’s fight with Donnie Yen in “HERO” or the two Michelle Yeoh/Zhang Yi fight sequences in “CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON”. I would also like to point out the film’s cinematography shot by Peter Pau. The various landscapes of Ancient China, whether the characters are in the tropics, the forests, the desert or in the mountain regions, are exquisite.

In short, “THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” is an entertaining film filled with solid action, drama, comedy, and great cinematography. As long as you are not expecting another “CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON” or “HOUSE OF THE FLYING DAGGERS”, you will not be disappointed.

A Few Observations of “MAD MEN”: (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”

After a recent viewing of the Season Three episode of “MAD MEN” called (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”, I came up with the following observations:

A FEW OBSERVATIONS OF “MAD MEN”: (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”

*Ever since his affair with Suzanne Farrell began in (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”, Don Draper had been increasingly dismissive of Betty’s presence. In some ways, he seemed to be in a great hurry to get her and the kids out of the house. And that is understandable, considering that he had proposed to Suzanne; a trip to Mystic, Connecticut during Betty’s absence in order to continue their romantic interlude.

*The scene in which Betty asked Don for more money before her departure reminded me at how women were (and probably still are) regarded as children by their husband. I could not help but wonder if the $200 dollars in Betty’s bank account was regarded as nothing more than allowance by both of them.

*Annabelle Mathis seemed to be the first woman since Mona Sterling who had to have a real romantic connection to Roger Sterling. She must have hurt him a great deal when she dumped him to marry another man to run her father’s dog food company, Caldecott Farms. Some fans had suggested that Annabelle’s earlier rejection of Roger may have led to his cavalier attitude toward women. I have no answer in regard to that suggestion. But I could sense that the attraction between them had remained strong.

*Like many of the series’ fans and Don in (3.03) “My Kentucky Home”, Annabelle seemed dismissive of Roger’s second marriage to the 20-something Jane. And they were right to be dismissive. However, Don ended up making a similar mistake. Judging from his conversation with Joan Harris over her request to find additional work, it was obvious that Roger had continued to harbor feelings for the red-haired former office manager. But he had rejected Annabelle’s overtures on Jane’s behalf.

*I am still a little confused over the situation regarding Gene Hofstadt’s house. Correct me if I am wrong, but did he give 50/50 ownership of the house to both Betty and William? What were the exact terms regarding the inheritance? Does anyone know?

*I never had any idea that the divorce laws for New York State were so stringent that the Hofstadts’ attorney, Milton Lowell, would advise Betty to remain married to Don. Was this only the case for women? Or did men who longed for a divorce from their wives also faced difficulties? Are these laws still on the books for the State of New York? Or have they become less stringent?

*I find it interesting that Annabelle Mathis seemed very reluctant to follow Don and Roger’s advice about changing the brand name of her product. Were they right? After all, Caldecott Farms was one of the companies reeling from the horse meat/dog food expose. If Don had been the only one advising Annabelle to do this, I would have sympathized more with her. I might as well be honest. Don had a history of not only following this advice himself – a tactic he had used to escape from Korea – but he had advised Peggy to forget the reason why she had ended up in the hospital and pregnant back in the Season One finale. Perhaps Don’s past history in this particular area may have led me to be a little prejudiced against his advice. But Roger had offered the same advice. And considering that the topic is dog food, I really do not see why Annabelle would have ignored such advice.

*How did Joan Harris’ husband, Greg, expect to transfer from the field of medical surgery to psychiatry so easily? Would that have required his return to school . . . even in 1963?

*After Joan’s encounter with Sally Draper in Season Two’s (2.04) “Three Sundays”, I had believed that she was not the maternal type. I changed my mind. Having her own child proved that she could be maternal. But I had first changed my mind after watching Joan help Greg practice with his job interview. I now realized that she could be the maternal type . . . not only with children, but also with grown men.

*I might as well be frank. I found nothing to cheer about Joan’s assault upon Greg. I found it childish and violent. I realize Joan was weary of Greg’s self-pity act and childish whining. But Joan proved that she could be just as violent and childish as her husband, when she struck him on the head with that vase, out of her own frustration and anger. And Greg’s reaction to Joan’s assault was similar to Joan’s reaction to Greg’s rape. Greg caved in and begged her forgiveness for being whiny. I found it just as disgusting, as I had found Joan’s decision to go ahead with their marriage back in late Season Two. But what really disgusted me was how many fans had condoned Joan’s violent act.

*When the Suzanne Farrell character had first appeared, I did not like her. I did not like the idea of Sally Draper’s teacher having an affair with Don. Mind you, my dislike of Suzanne had ended by late Season Three. Actually, I felt rather sorry for her. Despite her past experience with married man, meeting Don had led her to drop her guard and risk encountering further heartache. Watching her climb out of Don’s car and slink away from the Draper residence was rather sad.

*On the other hand, I never felt that Jon Hamm (who portrayed Don) and Abigail Spencer (who portrayed Suzanne) had any screen chemistry. I simply failed to see the magic. Perhaps that was the main reason I found it difficult to buy the Don/Suzanne affair.

*The expression on Don’s face when he realized that Sally, Bobby and Betty had returned from Philadelphia earlier than expected was priceless. He looked as if someone had pulled a rug from underneath him. Actually, this is exactly what Betty was about to do.

*Jon Hamm and January Jones gave superb performances in this episode. Honestly. Both did an excellent job of conveying this moment of truth in the Draper marriage. Watching Hamm convey Don’s transformation from “Master of the Universe” Don Draper to the frightened Dick Whitman was amazing. The man not only deserved an Emmy nomination, he deserved to win the award. It took me a while to get over the Emmys’ failure to nominate January Jones for a Best Actress award for Season Two. After her performance in this episode, I thought it was downright criminal that she was not nominated for this episode alone. At least she managed to garner an Emmy nomination for the following season.

*There was an episode in late Season One that featured a scene of Betty visiting her psychiatrist, Dr. Wayne. He had said something that obviously annoyed her. And she reacted by sitting up and giving him a dark look. That look told me that regardless of any personality flaws that she possessed, Betty could be a formidable woman when a person crossed the line with her. Kicking Don out of the house at the end (2.08) “A Night to Remember” and her confrontation with him in this episode has proven me right.

*So . . . Greg upped and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a surgeon/officer. He claimed that becoming a captain, Joan would not have to work. Regardless of whether he was right or not, Joan never struck me as the type to sit around the apartment and collect Greg’s checks. And Matthew Weiner proved me correct. Some fans had seen Greg’s entry into the Army as an opportunity for his character to end up in Vietnam . . . and dead. And a widowed Joan will be able to seek solace with Roger Sterling. Hmmm. Last year, many had assumed that Joan would not go ahead with her marriage to Greg after the rape. Weiner proved them wrong. And he proved them wrong again – not only in the manner in how the Harris marriage ended, but also with Joan’s post-marriage fate.

*I was relieved that Don finally told Betty the truth about his background. However, I was surprised that he had described his stepfather – Uncle Mac – as being kind to him. Yet, in (1.10) “The Long Weekend”, Don had described his stepfather to Rachel Mencken in a different way:

””You told me your mother died in childbirth. Mine did too. She was a prostitute. I don’t know what my father paid her, but when she died they brought me to him, and his wife. And when I was ten years old he died. He was a drunk who got kicked in the face by a horse. She buried him and took up with some other man, and I was raised by…those two sorry people.”

Don did not have any kind words to say about his father Archie, his stepmother Abigail or his stepfather Mac. Yet in last Sunday’s episode, he had kind words for Mac. To whom had he told the truth – Rachel or Betty?

*Speaking of Don’s half-truths, I noticed that he had put a twist on his story about how he had left Korea. Audiences know that Dick Whitman had killed the real Don Draper by accidentally dropping a lit match into a puddle of gasoline. Audiences also know that he had deliberately switched dog tags with the officer. Yet, he told Betty that that the real Draper was simply killed and that the Army had mistakenly switched their identities. Even in confession, Don Draper aka Dick Whitman proved incapable of being completely truthful.