A Look at “True Blood” Season 7, Episode 6: “Karma”

“Karma.” What an apt episode title name. That or “Irony” would do it. While True Blood, I feel, still hasn’t found its footing this season and still has a scattered plot, this episode had some nice character moments and a few surprises in an episode that shows, in the end, that what goes around, comes around.

Karma- Eric stops fighting to see Pam captured

The episode begins immediately following Eric’s battle with the Yakuza. In fact, he’s still carrying around the face as a souvenir. Through blurred vision, he spots more Yakuza, but deals with them. Before another battle can begin, some Yakuza bring forth Pam, her neck wrapped in silver chains.

Karma- Eric and Pam captured

The two are brought to the Yakamono Headquarters and are placed in a room with a view. A man places a clock counting down how many hours remain until dawn. How about that? All this madness, but Eric and Pam still find time to have their first sunrise together. Very romantic.

Karma- Bill speaks with Jessica before heading out

A few states over, Bill makes a phone call and sets an appointment. Jessica enters the house and overhears Bill state that he’s Hep-V positive, but he’s unaware that she’s returned. When Bill prepares to leave, he simply tells Jessica that he’s fine when asked about his condition.

Karma- James offers his blood to Lettie Mae and Lafayette

Since the good Reverend will be knocked out for some time, Lettie Mae’s shacking at Lafayette’s, as is James. Lettie Mae still believes that Tara is speaking to her and needs some of James’ blood. Surprisingly, James offers it up, but Lafayette, still against this, decides that he will trip alongside Lettie Mae. This is the last time, however, and it’s only for closure.

Karma- Violet sits Jason down

Outside of his home, Jason prepares to face Violet. He heads in and finds lit candles all around. Violet walks out in a very skimpy and sexy outfit- all as a surprise for Jason. But more than that, she wanted to show Jason how much she appreciates him. She came from a different time, but she can adjust to this one just fine. Jason should feel in control. Even though she still knows that Jason is hers, she belongs to him, as well.

Karma- Bill at Kapneck Offices with other infected vampires

Bill drives to Kapneck Law Offices and finds it packed. The clerk, who sounds like he’s been here for quite some time, just tells Bill to take a number and have a seat. The wait is only five to seven hours.

Karma- Eric and Pam speak with Mr. Gus, played by Will Yun Lee

As Eric and Pam await their oncoming death, a man enters the room. This is the North American President of Yakanomo, Mr. Gus, played by Will Yun Lee. Yakanomo is now bankrupt and he needs Pam and Eric’s help to rectify the situation, mainly by providing the location of Sarah Newlin. Eric won’t cough up anything and gets into a prick measuring contest with Gus over who can be the bigger prick and who gets to kill Sarah first.

The heat is literally on as the sun begins to rise. As she and Eric begin to turn red, Pam, rational, lovely Pam, breaks up the argument. While Gus and Eric fight, Sarah Newlin gets the last laugh. If the two don’t make a deal, they’ll all lose. So the deal is Eric will kill her, but Gus gets the body. A deal is reached just before Eric and Pam burn to death. Time to pay Amber a visit.

Karma- Amber throws up blood on Sarah

Sarah beats them to it. After some breaking and entering, Sarah enters the house, but Amber gets the jump on her. This is before she starts vomiting blood and passes out on the ground.

Jessica calls Jason, who slips away to the kitchen- and away from Violet- to talk with her. She needs Jason to find Sookie and bring her as soon as possible, but can’t say why just yet. When Jason leaves, Violet reacts how you’d expect her to: destroying the room.

Karma- Andy after finding Wade and Adilyn having sex

Andy overhears Adilyn and Wade making sweet love. How sweet. He storms into the room, throwing the two into a panic and sending Wade out of the house. Naked. Andy demands that Wade keep away from Adilyn, while Holly comes to her son’s defense. She and Wade leave in a huff.

Karma- Sookie sleeps the episode away

Someone apparently didn’t tell Sookie that the next episode started, because she’s fast asleep like the series had already ended. Jason comes in and wakes her up, but she’s still pretty groggy. Jason tells Sookie to answer her phone, and Sookie should probably tell everyone that she ditched her phone.

Karma- Dream sequence, Lettie Mae and Lafayette take Tara down from cross

In Dreamland, Lettie Mae and Lafayette take Tara down from the cross. She repays them by running off. All right.

Karma- Nicole tells Sam that she intends to leave Bon Temps

Sam comes in as Nicole finishes a conversation over the telephone. Nicole plans to leave and go home because she just doesn’t belong in Bon Temps. Hallelujah. I could not agree any more. However, she also wants Sam to come with him, even though this crazy town is the only place where he’s ever felt safe. That, in and of itself, may be crazy. Anyway, Nicole’s parents will come to get her tomorrow.

Karma- Jessica tells Sookie and Jason about Bill

At Bill’s, Jessica fills Jason and Sookie in on what she heard. Jason still thinks that Bill, given his abilities from last season, should be able to survive. Sookie has a brief flashback to the night Alcide died, when she wound up covered in Hep-V vampire blood, after she’d cut herself to draw the vampires. Sometime after that, Bill did feed on her, so it’s possible that she infected him. However, now she needs to get tested, just to be sure.

Karma- Arlene and Holly arrive at trashed Bellefleur's

Holly and Arlene arrive at Bellfleur’s, which is still trashed from the night Vince’s mob trashed it. Pity that no one bothered to clean it up, but hey, not like Holly and Arlene have anything else to do.

Back at the clinic, Bill listens as other vampires talk of the early stages of Hep-V. He looks down and sees that the virus has quickly spread to his arms.

Karma- Sookie gets tested

Sookie, however, is already being seen. The nurse, played by Mandy Levin, packages Sookie’s blood, which is sitting right along many other vials. Sookie should receive a call later on in the day with the results. When she meets up with Jason, Sookie tells him that she would rather go anywhere but home right now.

Karma- Dream sequence, Tara leads Lettie Mae and Lafayette to old home

Back in Dreamland, Lettie Mae and Lafayette continue to chase Tara, but can never catch her. Not sure why. She’s not moving that fast. They finally stop when they see Tara digging in the yard of a house, the house they used to stay in when Tara was young.

Karma- Reverend Daniels and Lafayette

The dream ends when Reverend Daniels wakes Lettie Mae up. Lafayette breaks up the fight, telling the Reverend that he didn’t believe Lettie Mae either, but after going on the V-trip, he’s convinced that Tara is trying to tell them something. So now they must go to the old house to find out what Tara wants them to know. The Reverend won’t stand for this, so he gives Mae a choice: him or her dead daughter. Mae chooses dead daughter.

Karma- Holly and Andy argue about sex

Andy arrives at Bellfleur’s so he and Holly can argue about those crazy kids and their sex thing. Arlene the Mediator tells them that this is the least of their problems. After all, Adilyn and Wade are at that age.

Karma- Sookie learns she's Hep-V positive

Sookie and Jason have a moment to talk about their past love lives. Despite everything that’s happened, Sookie can still sense Bill’s presence. There’s just something about your first true love. Jason, however, doesn’t feel much when he’s with Violet. In fact, he’s sometimes afraid of her, even though love shouldn’t make you scared of anyone. After all, none of us know how much time we have left, so that time shouldn’t be spent with someone you don’t love. With that, Jason plans to have a talk with Violet.

However, Sookie receives the phone call she’s been waiting for. We don’t hear it, but just based on her reaction and facial expressions alone, it’s not good news.

Karma- Bill meets Madeline Kapneck, played by Kathleen York

After seeing that the virus has spread over his chest, Bill’s turn finally arrives and he meets Madeline Kapneck, played by Kathleen York. Bill gets to the point: he wants to turn over his entire estate to his progeny. The problem is that the state doesn’t recognize vampire progenies. Bill’s will was drafted in 1894, but he was turned in 1865. Technically, Bill was impersonating a human at the time he drafted his will. The only real option would be for Bill to adopt Jessica, but such a process could take five months to a year. Obviously, Bill doesn’t have time for that, so Ms. Kapneck offers to move Bill to the front of the line…for the modest sum of $10 million.

In response to extortion, Bill tries to glamour Ms. Kapneck, but like Eric’s attempt on the Governor last season, it falls flat. The humans are learning, it seems. Kapneck doesn’t see herself in the wrong. Vampires have had centuries at to live as they please. Humans don’t have as much time, so she shouldn’t be at fault for wanting to make some cash.

Karma- Bill kills Madeline Kapneck

Well, since glamouring didn’t work, Bill settles on murder instead. A messier alternative, really.

Karma- Andy and Holly find Rocky

Holly and Andy head back to confront Adilyn and Wade, but the two are missing. I mean, it’s pretty clear from the moment the two don’t get a response that Adilyn and Wade probably aren’t there. They wanted to be alone, so they swore Rocky to secrecy about their location. That works until Holly threatens to gut him, even though they’d never find out if she did that.

Karma- Sarah and Amber argue

Back in Texas, Amber wakes up to find Sarah still there. Sarah needs a place to hide and Amber, of course, is insulted that Sarah had the nerve to show her face after everything she’s done. Sarah has gone spiritual, however. After finding a place where she didn’t exist, Sarah has made peace with herself.

Oh, and there’s an antidote to the Hep-V virus. She drank it all, as we see in a flashback. Hence, she is the antidote.

Karma- Jason finds Violet's letter

Jason is ready to confront Violet, but he won’t have to. Her room is a wreck, but she did at least leave a note, telling him that their relationship just wasn’t working. Jason is excited, to say the least.

Karma- Violet finds Wade and Adilyn

So where is Violet? She’s watching Wade and Adilyn, who are literally sitting in a tree house, not F-U-C-K-I-N-G, but just K-I-S-S-I-N-G. All right, they’re lying down, but close enough.

Violet warns the two about being out so late at night, especially since Adilyn’s fairy scent could be tracked by other vampires. Violet offers her protection, but just to be safe, she has Wade and Adilyn toss their phones so they won’t be traced. Sounds reasonable.

Karma- Amber is healed

Eric, Pam and the Yakuza are all ready to pay Sarah Newlin a visit. What they’re not prepared for is the sight of a now fully healed Amber, which was kind of obvious, given how the camera followed Amber from the back, never showing her face.

The episode comes to a close as Bill enters his home. He’s greeted by the sight of the visibly upset and tear-stained faces of Sookie and Jessica.

Again, this was an aptly named episode. What goes around definitely came around this week. After last week’s mostly focused episode, “Karma” went back to multiple storylines, and I understand that the show needs to wrap up as many threads as possible before the series ends, but the execution is still weak, in my opinion. In fact, most of the subplots felt like filler compared to the larger stories that involved either Eric and Pam or Sookie and Bill dealing with the Hep-V virus.

While I’m not a fan of the multi-story episodes, they do at least build off of what happened at the party last week. The characters tackled the inevitability of life and how to make the most of a shitty situation. Some things you can try to avoid or yell your way out of, as Holly and Andy attempt to do, or you can take the proactive approach with Eric and Pam by trying to fix your problem. We can’t stop the inevitable, but we can sure as hell try. But if you’re too late, the most you can try to do is salvage what’s left while remembering the good times you had, but squandered because you got distracted.

Karma- Sookie and Jessica

So we got a payoff to Sookie being covered in Hep-V blood. Though she told Alcide that she never got any in her mouth, it was still on her body. It’s very possible that the disease would spread through direct contact, but maybe Sookie thought the virus only hit vampires. After all, vampires were the only ones that we saw infected.

And it’s even worse because she’s the cause of bringing pain to the man who has come to know her better than most. I don’t know what Sookie could have done differently, but she at least took the time to get herself tested, rather than just blaming herself on a hunch. Throughout the season, we’ve watched Sookie use others for something that she needed, mainly getting rid of the Hep-V vampires. Now the very sickness that infected vampires is inside of her.

Karma- Sookie and Jason have a moment to talk

I appreciate the moments she got to spend with Jason that didn’t involve any craziness- it was just a brother and sister having conversations, which I like. They could be people for a few moments and not constantly worry about some supernatural threat. And the way they talk of their first loves gave them something to bond over. For once, the characters could reminisce without the use of flashbacks.

Karma- Violet goes down on Jason

So it looks like Jason might want to give things another shot with Jessica. This I’m fine with. I think Jason and Jessica could have potentially worked out the first time, if not for the drama with Hoyt. That said, the man should not be elated over Violet breaking up with him via letter. If her destruction is significant of anything, it’s that she’s not done yet. But I do agree that he doesn’t feel anything for her anymore. Hell, the woman gave him a blowjob and he didn’t even flinch. I said during “Fire in the Hole” that I didn’t understand Violet’s beef with Jessica and that it felt like forced drama. Now Violet actually has a reason to be pissed at Jessica, but I don’t think the writers were being clever or trying to foreshadow this.

Karma- Violet about to destroy room

And really, what are Violet’s intentions? If she wanted to drain Adilyn, she could have just done it. Surely she doesn’t just want Adilyn and Wade to suffer.  I mean, that’d be too easy. And cliché.

Karma- Holly and Andy

As for Andy and Holly, I can’t say I’m all that interested in their arc. It’s not out of character for them to bicker, I just wish it was more interesting than ‘the kids are having sex’ stuff. However, given everything they’ve been through, this is probably the most normal thing to happen to them. Savor this.

Karma- Arlene

Arlene seems to have gone through a complete transformation since her dungeon experience. I almost want to call this shift too sudden, but given how she was on the verge of death, I suppose it’s not too unrealistic that she would actually want to turn her life around, with her being the voice of reason and moral compass when Andy and Holly can’t seem to get along.

Karma- Bye, Nicole

So Nicole wants out. Good. No, really. Good riddance and I hope she doesn’t run into any sort of distraction that would keep here there. I don’t think I’ve disliked a character on this show as much as I do Nicole. She feels like a distraction. She says she doesn’t belong and I can’t really blame her. I wouldn’t have as big of an issue with her as I do if she hadn’t made that comment last season about her grandparents being the ones to kick off the Civil Rights Movement, essentially making her family pioneers in a movement that spanned decades before that.

That’s what made me hate the character, even though that’s just one line. And she can’t leave soon enough for me. While it would be good for Sam to find some normalcy, I hope it’s because he actually wants to, not just because he feels obligated to Nicole and their unborn child. Hell, now that Nicole is with child, she and Sam have even more to lose, should they fail. To give credit where credit is due, she was spot on with her comments during the party: celebrating life during so much chaos is maddening. I just don’t care about her or Sam’s plot, really.

Karma- Lettie Mae and Lafayette trip

The same can be said for Lettie Mae. All right, now she wants to be the good mother? Not until she lost the person most precious to her does she now want to play a role in helping her. Sucks that the Reverend was left out to dry, but he gave her a choice. In the end, Lettie Mae chose family. Dead family, but family. It’s a clear choice for her, but it’s also certainly a late one. The only thing keeping this plot interesting to me is Lafayette’s involvement. The fact that Rutina Wesley’s name still appears in the credits makes it seem as if the writers are going to try and bring her back.

Karma- Bill learns he could adopt Jessica

As for Bill, I like that he’s trying to pass off his legacy to Jessica. It makes sense, given that he’s her maker, but aside from Sookie, Jessica is one of the few people who Bill actually trusts. We’ve watched Bill flash back to his family life during the Civil War to show the importance of family to him. The possibility of losing your current family would be enough to throw someone into a frenzy, but Bill at least tries to salvage what he has.

We could have done without the political context, though. That’s something I feel True Blood has never been able to do right, even when Russell went on live television. We get that vampires are an oppressed people. Don’t beat us over the head with the message that’s pretty obvious. Bill murdering Ms. Kapneck may have been excessive. True, she tried to extort him out of his money, and glamouring didn’t work, but there were other people still at the center. Surely someone saw or heard him, right? Right?

Karma- Pam and Eric prepare to share their first sunrise together

It’s becoming repetitive for me to say that Eric and Pam are my favorite part of the episode. Their banter energizes the scenes and the two have been the most consistently entertaining part of the season. I like how exasperated Eric was when he thought he’d have to endure another fight. And like how the virus spread quickly to Bill, we saw a glimpse of it worsening Eric’s condition through his hazy vision.

And for as much as Pam doesn’t give a shit about almost anything, good on her to keep a level head when her maker almost got them burned due to his pig head. There’s no point in everyone fighting each other when Sarah Newlin is their common enemy.

Karma- Sarah tells Amber that she drank the Hep-V antidote

But how ironic is it for Sarah to be the key to the Hep-V virus? I hope this doesn’t just become a repeat of last season, where the vampires fed off of Bill just so they could survive in the sun for a while. Sarah is living in her own world and can’t see things for how they truly are. Amber was correct when she said that Sarah couldn’t just pretend like all of the horrible things she’s done just didn’t happen. With Sarah downing the antidote, I can’t tell if she did it out of desperation, if she’s that clever or just stupid. She had to know that vampires would come after her if they ever learned about this. But this at least guarantees that she won’t die as early as she may have previously thought, now that she’ll be of use.

“Karma” was all right. Not bad or great. Like “Lost Cause,” it had its good and bad moments. This one I’d rank under that because the storylines involving Sam and Nicole, Andy, Arlene and Holly, and to an extent, Lettie Mae, just weren’t as interesting as the other plots. But, again, the Eric and Pam stuff made for more interesting television. There’s a lot of set-up with Sookie now knowing that she may have infected Bill, not to mention Sarah being the ultimate cure. As bad as True Blood is this season, they still find a way to sneak in one or two little bits that keep me interested.

Any questions, comments, concerns, issues, complaints? Would like to hear them, if’n you have any.

A Look at “Masters of Sex” Season 2, Episode 2: “Kyrie Eleison”

This week’s “Kyrie Eleison” dials back the multiple storylines and focuses on how we, as people, should not see ourselves solely by looking at our greatest flaw. Being an outsider or living outside the norm isn’t as horrifying or taboo as some make it seem. The episode is about more than a doctor living up to his code to do no harm or a woman being shut out from almost everyone around her- it’s about realizing that, even though we do need help once in a while, we ultimately have control of our own lives. We make the call and define ourselves. What society thinks is none of our concern. Let’s dig right in.

Kyrie Eleison- Dinner with the Palmateer Family- Anne, played by Melinda Page Hamilton, Rose, played by Ana Valentine Walczak, and Paul, played by Larry Poindexter

The episode begins with dinner at the Palmateer residence. The mother, Anne, played by Melinda Page Hamilton, asks her daughter, Rose, played by Ana Valentine Walczak, about a pair of gloves. Rose, finding blood on her fingers, wishes to be excused, but her mother and father, Paul, played by Larry Poindexter, tell her to sit down and finish her steak. Steak is important to family dinners, don’t you know?

Kyrie Eleison- Virginia and Bill discuss Barton Scully's leave of absence

At the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel, Bill and Virginia discuss Barton Scully’s sudden absence.   Each time Virginia asked about him, the secretary gave a different excuse. Then again, Virginia doesn’t have many friends among the secretaries nowadays, anyway. Bill isn’t getting anywhere with constant phone calls, either.

The two then discuss the upcoming first day at Gateway Memorial Hospital, but Virginia is hesitant to leave Dr. DePaul, who relies on her a lot more these days. She plans to be delicate, but will at least give the good doctor plenty of notice. Problem is that Doug felt that he stuck out his neck enough just to get Bill to continue the study. It’s not possible for Virginia to come work at Gateway right now. Bill’s trying to fix the mistaken impression the board holds that Virginia has no credentials to justify her employment as a research aide. Sure, Virginia’s name is on the study, but Bill mentioned that. Even worse, Virginia can’t even come on as a secretary, as Bill already has one. Virginia’s legitimately upset: she knows the structure of the study and has Dr. Ditmer in need of her intelligence. And she won’t have Bill fighting this battle for her- she will do it herself…by taking the new secretary to lunch.

Kyrie Eleison- Bill meets the new nanny, Coral, played by Keke Palmer

Libby must have had no problem finding a new nanny so quickly, because she finds it in the form of a young, Negro girl named Coral, played by Keke Palmer. Bill, now distracted from looking for his Jay Jacobs shirt, tells Libby that a girl of Coral’s age is too young to be watching a child. But Libby is sure that Coral, already 18 years of age, will do a great job helping her out.

Kyrie Eleison- Gene and Betty run into Bill on his first day of work

First day at Gateway Hospital and Bill runs straight into Gene and Betty. After some small talk, Betty and Bill head inside. Betty has been telling Gene that she’s undergoing fertility treatments, conveniently leaving out that she’s sterile. Bill doesn’t see this as his problem, but if the past is any indication, Betty won’t let him off that easy. Also, Gene did write a pretty big check to get Bill back into a hospital, so he owes Betty. Bill gives her three days, but no dice. Betty will be done when she says she’s done, unless Bill would like to return to the brothel. Um, yes! That’s what I’ve wanted all along!

Kyrie Eleison- Bill's new secretary, Barbara Sanderson, played by Betty Brandt

We’re then introduced to Bill’s new secretary, Barbara Sanderson, played by Betty Brandt. Bill’s office is still filled with unpacked boxes, which Barbara promises to get to eventually.

Kyrie Eleison- Doug tells Bill that he'll be operating on the daughter of a Very Important Donor

Doug is already waiting for Bill in the office. He planned to show Bill around, but there’s some bleeding in the emergency room. At least this way, Bill can get his feet wet by operating on the daughter of a V.I.D.: very important donor. That’s a new one.

Kyrie Eleison- Bill questions Anne Palmateer about her daughter's terminated pregnancy

The daughter in question is the previously introduced Rose, who is in shock while Bill is unable to feel the girl’s uterus. As the girl is rushed away, Bill questions Anne about her daughter’s behavior. Rose didn’t come down for breakfast this morning. Anne is in for a shock when Bill tells her that the blood loss is due to her perforated uterus, and another shock when it’s revealed that she terminated her pregnancy.

Kyrie Eleison- Dr. DePaul is not a fan of makeup

Meanwhile, Dr. DePaul recites a script for an instructional film that will be filmed soon. Virginia, always one to break the good doctor out of her shell, applies some makeup, even if it has nothing to do with medicine. DePaul is still convinced that giving out pamphlets is a good idea, but she’s still ready to give this film a chance.

Kyrie Eleison- Dr. Langham works on Vivian's arm

Dr. Austin Langham works on Vivian Scully, who is sporting a cast on her left arm from a supposed tennis injury. Austin tries to sweeten her story by telling her to say that she hurt herself while trying to rescue an orphan child that was in the middle of traffic. Vivian, not dwelling on that too much, apologizes to Austin about his situation and we learn about his current relationship status: Elise took the kids and moved in with her mother in Alton, Illinois. Crap. Well, at least Elise ended on a high and loud note. More than that, she’s hired the best divorce attorney around. When Vivian asks if what Elise said was true, all Langham can say is that his sister-in-law is a spider and he got caught in her web. If I think really hard into that, that’s a very disgusting image to think of.

Virginia delays her meeting with Dr. Ditmer, as she’s already late for her lunch engagement and PSA shoot with Dr. DePaul.

Kyrie Eleison- Vivian argues with Virginia

But then Virginia’s day takes a turn for the worst when she runs into Vivian. Virginia asks about Barton, which Vivian attributes to a leave of absence to Venice. But Vivian goes on the offensive: first off, she doesn’t want Virginia talking to her like they’re friends. She hasn’t forgotten about Ethan and demands to know why Virginia slept with him. She then accuses Virginia of taking her future away and ruining it. But then, that’s Virginia in a nutshell, isn’t it? She doesn’t see the consequences of what havoc she’ll wreck. And, as Vivian adds, Virginia will do anything to get ahead.

Kyrie Eleison- Bill and Anne grapple over Rose's future

Back at Gateway, Bill explains to Anne that a hysterectomy is an uneasy process. Whoever performed the last one on Rose left a lot of tissue in the uterus, but he was able to remove it. Rose should be back on her feet soon and moving on with her life. Anne questions what kind of life that is, given that Rose is apparently prone to sneaking out to be with boys. At the tender age of 14, she’d already been caught naked with a boy. Anyway, Anne feels the best and only option for Rose is sterilization.

Bill is against this. Rose has the rest of her life ahead of her and should live her life the way she chooses. Even though Bill is new to the hospital, this is still a medical decision, not a parental one. He’s obliged to the patient’s well-being, not bending to the will of the parents. Doug tries to mediate the situation, but tells Anne that Bill will perform the surgery.

Kyrie Eleison- Virginia brings Barbara some files

Virginia arrives at Bill’s office and finds Barbara sorting through random files. Virginia brought her own files, but they’re for Barbara’s use only. In a reverse of fate, Barbara offers to treat Virginia to lunch, as she could use a friend.

Kyrie Eleison- Virginia arrives late for Dr. DePaul's PSA shoot

And after filling in Bill about her run-in with Vivian, Virginia arrives 20 minutes late to the PSA shoot. The director, played by Lucas Dixon, is all ready to shoot, but DePaul isn’t. She won’t say her name on film and flubs words, as if she’s going off-script. The shoot, to put it mildly, is a bust. DePaul storms off in tears.

Back in her office, DePaul and Virginia have a minor face-off, with DePaul noting the clear differences between them: DePaul wanted pamphlets. She wanted simplicity. But Virginia always wanted to shoot bigger. Virginia has her eyes on a bigger prize. However, Virginia won’t let herself get roped into this and tells Dr. DePaul that she wants her to see a doctor- a doctor that isn’t overfilled with pride.

Kyrie Eleison- Bill speaks with Rose

Bill speaks with Rose in private. The bleeding has stopped. To Bill’s surprise, Rose wants the same surgery that her mother wants for her. She thinks it will help, even though Bill believes she just needs protection. But no, Rose says. She has a dark thing inside of her and whenever she thinks of a boy or man, she can’t stop until she has him. Bill tries to appeal to her, saying that if she goes through with this surgery, she’ll never be able to have kids. Rose just doesn’t want to feel ashamed. If this surgery will end her suffering, she wants it done.

Kyrie Eleison- Libby and Coral bond

Coral and Libby compare burns before switching to the subject of men. Coral was taught that hard men do the best doctoring. That’s what drew Libby to Bill in the first place: he wasn’t at all into the small talk. But talking, Libby says, can be essential. As she’s still vague on Bill’s childhood, she doesn’t have much to go off of. Libby thought that having a baby would help Bill open up, but it seems to have cut him off even more, as if Bill was afraid of a baby. Perish the thought.

Kyrie Eleison- Vivian gets surprise visit from Bill

Vivian leaves a class for the evening and gets an unexpected surprise when she finds Dr. Masters waiting for her. Bill can tell straight away that Vivian is lying about her injury, so she admits what happened when she and her mother found Barton hanging by an electrical cord. She couldn’t process what happened. What she does know is that when Bill left, it hit Barton really hard. All Vivian wants is for her father to get better.

Kyrie Eleison- Bill and Betty about to enter hospital

The next day, Betty again goes to make small talk with Bill, but he tells her straight away that he has real patients to deal with. The charade ends today, and if Betty won’t tell Gene, he will. Betty calls Bill’s bluff, saying he won’t tell Gene because he wants to protect his dopey study. Bill defends his work, telling Betty that she has no idea how people suffer.

That gets under Betty’s skin. What she’s seen of suffering would make everything else look like child’s play.

Kyrie Eleison- Doug talks with Bill about Rose's surgery and, then, the sex study

Somehow, the two are still able to get on the elevator and enter Bill’s office together without killing each other. Doug is waiting for Bill and he’s furious with Bill for not performing the agreed upon surgery that Bill never agreed to. Now Doug has a giant mess to clean up, but Bill still believes that Rose deserves a normal life. But what is normal? Acting like a whore? Doug calls Rose’s type a deviant, amoral, a whore, while Bill sees her as someone who falls outside the boundary of normal sexual behavior, but not a lost cause. In Doug’s eyes, Bill is taking a deficiency of character and labeling it a disease. Even if that’s true, it would put the truth center stage, no matter how uncomfortable. In the end, to placate the board, Doug will oversee Bill’s surgeries for a few months until the board is off his back.

Now that things are a bit calmer, Doug brings up the sex study. Bill’s study generated 26 physiological responses to internal and external stimulation to sex. Doug’s read the study, but wants to know about different kinds of sex, as in points of entry. Bill explains that the penis’ position as it enters the vagina can vary, even if, as Doug suggests, people want to do it while hanging from their ankles off MacArthur Bridge. If that example comes from real life experiences, all I can say is bravo. Despite his earlier anger, Doug is satisfied with the study’s direction.

Kyrie Eleison- Virginia hands Ulysses to Dr. Ditmer

Oh, as all this is happening, we also watch Dr. Ditmer get more and more interested in Ulysses. He presses Virginia to explain how women reacted to the phallus, even though he would be using it for gastroenterology. He gets further and further off-topic until he lets out a shudder, as if he suddenly needs a new change of pants.

Kyrie Eleison- Party in Langham's office

Virginia stops by to update Dr. DePaul on her upcoming oncologist appointment before running into Langham. He invites her into his office, where some of the staff is partying. This is how Austin Langham picks himself up after his wife leaves him. But hey, when you lose control of your car, what do you do? You steer into the skid so the car straightens out. For Austin, he and Virginia have just hit a rough patch, but they’ll bounce back. After all, they’re lone wolves, driven from their pack because they refused to conform. Even though they don’t play nice with the pack, lone wolves are unpredictable, so they will be fine.

Kyrie Eleison- Bill won't break his oath just to bring harm to Rose's life

Once again, Bill speaks to Rose in private. Per the Hippocratic Oath and his pledge to do no harm, he couldn’t live with hurting her. He mentions that, four years ago, the polio virus wiped out 1.5 million people each year. Thanks to Dr. Jones Salk, polio will soon be eradicated in their lifetime. He then gives Rose an Intrauterine Device- I.U.D.- which has been in use before, but Dr. Jack Lippes refined it by using thermoplastics, making it the most effective and simple method of birth control. Even though Rose’s mother wouldn’t allow it, Rose is 18 years old and can make her own decisions. This is the first step in solving her problem. Rose still doesn’t think this will stop her from acting like a whore, prompting Bill to pretty much demand that she stop saying that word. He sees so much promise in Rose and while they wait for answers down the road, the least they can do is make sure Rose won’t get pregnant again.

Kyrie Eleison- Libby and Coral struggle with the baby

Libby, meanwhile, probably now wishes she never was pregnant, as she and Coral struggle to quiet her wailing son. As Libby goes to heat up a bottle, Bill arrives later than expected. Soon, the crying stops. Coral knows a thing or two about kids and swaddle, which just needed to be tighter, something that Bill apparently mentioned.

When two are alone, Bill has second thoughts on Coral and now finds her competent. That may be the best compliment she’ll ever get from Bill Masters in a long time.

Kyrie Eleison- Bill tells Betty that he won't discuss his patients with her. Ever

You know, Betty should at least have a magazine on hand while she’s waiting for Bill to arrive. She wants to talk about Rose, but Bill doesn’t plan to discuss his patients. Before Betty can get far, has a run in with a man named Elliot Draper, played by Will Doughty. Elliot recognizes Betty from a previous encounter, but Betty tries to downplay her past. When Bill heads into his office, Betty pulls Rose’s file from Barbara’s desk and begins to read it.

Kyrie Eleison- Coral irons while Libby smokes

Coral irons while Libby smokes and watches stories. It’s a story that Coral’s familiar with, but doesn’t get to watch as often. Luckily, she occasionally would ax her Aunt if she could watch it at her house. Ahem. Libby corrects Coral’s grammar in a sort of awkward moment, but there’s no malice behind it: Libby’s only doing it because, let’s face it; she and Coral will be the ones taking care of the baby, so it would help if they spoke the same way.

Kyrie Eleison- Lillian and Virginia visit Dr. Lyons, played by Gareth Williams

Virginia and DePaul visit Dr. Lyons, played by Gareth Williams. And DePaul’s cancer situation has not improved. But then, DePaul always knew that metastasis was a possibility. DePaul makes it clear to Virginia that no one must know. Virginia at least knows what she’ll research, and like Dr. DePaul, she’s a fighter. However, as Dr. DePaul tells Virginia, if they’re going to get anywhere first, they’re going to need pizza, which DePaul herself doesn’t even like.

Kyrie Eleison- Betty talks with Rose

Betty snatches a random vase of flowers and heads to Rose’s room under the guise of working with Dr. Masters. After closing the door, Betty shares a sweet tale about her mother, bless her heart. She was once in a hospital after an accident blinded her in one eye. It was so bad the doctors ended up having to remove the eye, so Mom had a glass eye.

Oh, and Betty’s the cause of it. Why? Because one day, she just got tired of her mother making her feel lousy by calling her things like ‘tramp’ or ‘disgrace.’ Turns out that Betty just decided to stop listening to her mother’s opinion, but gave one of her own in the form of a pump to the eye. There’s a life lesson in there, somewhere.

Not a sweet tale, really.

Though Betty’s words are helpful, Rose is still grateful to Dr. Masters for telling her that she isn’t her worst part.

Bill tells Libby that he’ll be late from work, so no need for her to wait up. As he hangs up, he eyes a photo of his wife before heading out.

Kyrie Eleison- Virginia speaks with nanny Pam, played by Kandice Erickson

Elsewhere, Virginia heads off to finish some paperwork and leaves the kids in the hands of nanny Pam, played by Kandice Erickson, before she also leaves.

Soon, Bill and Virginia meet up and head for the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel.

What is it that Virginia’s said, time and time again? The work matters. Despite the craziness of a new job, trouble at home, and losing people close to you, the work perseveres. We’re driven to work as hard as we can, but also to be the best people we can without caring what others think of us. But, the episode asks, is it possible for us to be more than what society paints us as, especially if it’s in a negative light? Are the whores, sluts and immoral really just that, or something much more? Something that has promise. The episode doesn’t try to decide for you, but through the perspective of William Masters, he views these so-called amoral types as real people with real issues, not society’s parasites.

Though I appreciate the premiere taking its time with multiple characters, “Kyrie Eleison” takes things back to basics by focusing on lesser characters and putting most of its attention on Bill and Virginia’s dilemmas and how they inevitably affect the lives of those around them. The series has been reestablished, so it’s time to take these characters forward.

Kyrie Eleison- Doug smokes

While this episode was mostly serious, it had its share of funny moments, the standout being the juxtaposition of Bill’s talk with Doug played against Ditmer speaking with Virginia. And Ditmer’s orgasm followed up by Doug smoking a cigarette? That’s some great editing and imagery.

Whether through Betty’s story about her mother or Rose’s situation, the episode dealt with acceptance- accepting who we are instead of trying to be what others expect of us. What we may perceive as normal and carefree can go south through one action. We see this play through with Barton’s attempted suicide and how it’s affected his family. On the surface level, the Scullys embody the ideal American family: happy wife and husband with a well-mannered kid. Go deeper, and it’s about a man wrestling with his inner demons and trying to be someone that he, at his core, isn’t.

Kyrie Eleison- Rose doesn't want to feel ashamed of herself anymore

This week, Rose tries to be the ideal daughter that obeys her parents’ desires, but she has sex on the brain. Society at this point-and even now- calls her a whore, a deviant, a pervert. Essentially, Rose is going through what some refer to now as ‘slut-shaming.’ Now, I’m not gonna get into the debate over the word ‘slut’ and that whole conversation because I really have no opinion on it, but Rose doesn’t see any solution and believes that she’s a problem. She can’t come to terms with the fact that there are others like her or that she doesn’t have to change her behavior just because society deems her immoral. She sticks out among her otherwise bland family, a family that is so stuck in maintaining its image that they don’t even fully grasp what their daughter is going through.

As Bill mentions, just because someone falls outside the norm of human sexual behavior doesn’t mean they should be labeled as a deviant. Betty certainly doesn’t give a damn about how the world views her, but Rose is still young. Sure, she’s 18, but a child in the eyes of her parents. Their word is law and if they say something is wrong with her, then it must be true. Her scenes with Bill show how conflicted she is with herself, with Walczak giving a good performance as the lost woman who only sees shame in how she behaves.

Bill’s words about how we’re not the worst part of ourselves is applicable for more characters besides Rose. Some want to believe that people are, at their core, good people and only see the positive side of them. However, as we see through Bill’s actions, it’s not impossible to see the good in people despite their flaws.

Kyrie Eleison- Langham tells Vivian that he got caught in Rosemary's web

Langham is someone who acknowledges that he’s very flawed, no doubt, but he also sees himself as a lone wolf. I hope he doesn’t fancy himself a rebel because he slept with family. I do like that he’s not wallowing in his own pity after getting kicked out of the house. Side-note, where is Austin staying now? I mean, if Elise moved back with her mother, why would Austin even be kicked out of the house in the first place? Not like Elise is gonna need it.

But back to Mr. Langham, time doesn’t stop for him just because he cheated on his wife. Again. Cheated on his wife again. You don’t get extra brownie points for feeling sorry for yourself- Langham knows this, so he looks at the positive side. Like Bill and Virginia, he sees himself as someone who refuses to conform. I’m sure there’s a group of people somewhere that wouldn’t see Langham’s behavior as deplorable, but he’s not in that pack. Until then, he’s making the most of his situation by partying- perfectly in character. Austin doesn’t strike me as the type to let life get him down if one woman has shown him the door.

While I’m upset Elise seems to be gone for the moment, it’s certainly no accident that she’s relocated to the same area where Bill and Virginia meet as Mr. And Mrs. Holden. That should be a fun encounter, should we get one.

Kyrie Eleison- Vivian's sort of unjustified anger at Virginia

I don’t understand Vivian’s anger with Virginia. First off, I think this might be the first time these two have directly interacted, so I understand why Vivian would take offense at the idea that the two are friends. All right, fine. But Vivian looked to be over Ethan, so why would she even bring it up? Seemed just convenient to give the two some conflict, when both of them should have been over Ethan Haas a long time ago. She blames Virginia for taking Ethan away from her. Fair enough, given his original reason for breaking up with her was just an excuse to get back to Virginia. But what does she know of Virginia personally that she hasn’t just heard from someone else? It seems unfair to pass judgment on hearsay. At least get to know Virginia before trying to tear her down. I say trying because Virginia wasn’t going to let someone like Vivian tear her down, especially when she already has the hospital staff doing that.

I get why she’d want to stay quiet about her father, same as Margaret when she wouldn’t tell Bill about Barton’s sudden absence. As far as I know, she isn’t as clued in to his homosexuality as Margaret is, so she’s convinced that with a little bit of rest, her father will be fine. Vivian seems to believe that whatever troubles her father can just go away. If only it were that simple. She can’t process what she doesn’t fully understand. Given how she thinks what happened was an accident, I’m not sure she even wants to understand it.

Kyrie Eleison- Lillian under pressure

Dr. DePaul is slowly self-destructing. It could be the cancer or just pent up anger, but she’s beginning to unravel, as we see when she continually flubs the PSA shoot and leaves the room in tears. DePaul knows that her life is on the clock, but combined with the cancer and taking a chance on Virginia’s methods, everything is moving too fast with her. She has a lot of frustration and Nicholson does a great job showing DePaul’s anger, but keeping it in check so she doesn’t lose her cool. For as much as Dr. DePaul believes the world is against her, she’s never once raised her voice or lashed out at anyone. She’s not that kind of woman, she never was. It’s why she’ll never fully comply with Virginia’s approach and why she didn’t even like Virginia when they first met. DePaul likes to take her time. It’s not the practical approach that some would prefer, but as we learned from the doctor last season, it’s honest work. She doesn’t want to become a pioneer- she just wants to get the job done.

Kyrie Eleison- Libby 'Betty Draper' Masters

Libby, however, has one job this week and she’s struggling to get that done. She’s less Libby Masters and more Betty Draper with her command of the household, or attempted command, as she’s unable to quiet the baby or remember where she placed her husband’s shirt.

I like the slow growth of her friendship and partnership with Coral, even if some scenes come off as awkward. Some people have said that Libby came off as condescending when she corrected Coral on her words, but I don’t see it. Coral may be 18, yes, but she’s still prone to errors, regardless of how much she knows about swaddling. Plus, Coral never professed to be an expert speller or master of the English language.

Akeelah and the Bee

Wait…

I hope the writers aren’t trying to make Libby come off as antagonistic, given everything she’s been through. She’s endured a lot and this baby was supposed to be another chance at happiness for her and Bill, yet the two grow further apart. She has no idea how right on the ball she was when she asked how anyone could be afraid of a baby.

Kyrie Eleison- Bill relieved that the baby has stopped crying

Only Bill could be. The first day on the job and the man is already having problems with authority. And yet, I enjoyed it all the same. Really, as entertaining and humorous as the sexual situations on this show can be, I find Bill to be at his best when he’s being a doctor. Though the ‘patient of the week’ scenarios were a bit formulaic in the first season, they each served a purpose that allowed Bill to use his medical expertise to help someone in need. He does the same here, sticking to the Hippocratic Oath, but applies what he’s learned from the study when he tells Rose that there’s so much promise in a young woman that society has labeled a deviant.

Kyrie Eleison- Bill tells Rose to never call herself a whore again

As cold as Bill can be, he genuinely does care about his patients.   We see this when he lashes out at Rose’s mother about not knowing about her daughter’s condition, but also at Rose herself. There was real admonishment in his voice when he told Rose to not call herself a whore, but it wasn’t done out of spite or hate. He actually sees a bright future for Rose and wants her to live her life the way she wants to live it. That can’t happen if she’s constantly looking down on herself, the way the world looks down on her behavior. Bill has already been down this road with Betty. Like back then, he doesn’t see the worst in the people he helps. He’s a doctor first and is about pushing the boundaries, regardless of how society may not be ready for it.

I sort of see Bill as a bringer of life. Yes, he already is that when he’s a doctor, but through his words, he brings out a side of people that they try to bury. Even if Rose saw herself as a lost cause at first, the least Bill could do is help her not get pregnant again.

Bill’s ethical decisions put him at a crossroads with Doug, who is more concerned about donors than a patient’s well-being. I think Doug seems to get where Bill is coming from, but because the Palmateers have money, that’s where his focus lies. Doug is speaking from the perspective of your everyday Americans that would consider sneaking out to sleep with boys a sinful act. Is that the wrong way to see it? That’s for you to decide, but Doug shares the prevalent mindset of most Americans compared to today. It wouldn’t be fair to judge his perspective through the lens of people today who are a bit more accepting and forgiving.

And yet, for all of Bill’s efforts to lend a hand to others, home is not where his heart is. I don’t get why he cares that Libby got a sitter so quickly or that she did it by herself, given how that’s exactly what he wanted. I didn’t think he’d want to play a part in the decision making. He’ll go out of his way to a young woman at the hospital with her problems, but not his own wife and newborn child. It just shows the growing disconnect between Bill and Libby and how there’s little to no emotional attachment between the two, at least from Bill’s perspective.

That said, I do appreciate that he still cares for Barton’s well-being and went out of his way to talk with Vivian about her father. Bill was never on board for Barton’s shock therapy, and to hear that his longtime friend tried to kill himself is painful news, even more painful because Bill knows why Barton tried to do it.

Kyrie Eleison- Betty reads over Rose's file

Betty seems to be filling the shoes of Virginia and Jane for now. Don’t get me wrong, Barbara is a fine lady and it’s unfair to say much after only her first appearance, but she’s no Jane. Anyway, Betty is still hiding her secret from Gene, so she’s tagging along with Bill every day. Luckily, she’s not just there to sit around.

Kyrie Eleison- Betty sits around

All right, she’s kind of here to sit around. She mostly sits in Bill’s office and overhears his conversations, but she serves a purpose. Betty has been down the road that Rose is currently on.

Kyrie Eleison- Betty gets reminder of her past work, run-in with Elliot Draper, played by Will Doughty

In fact, she got an unfortunate reminder of that when she ran into Elliot Draper. The look on her face during that encounter showed that she would prefer to put that part of her life behind her. She’s not denying it, but she’s not openly bragging about it, either. Betty still has a rough life and knows about suffering. To see Rose going through a similar path gave her an opportunity to lift her self-esteem. She had a point about not caring what others thought of her, although I hope stabbing her mother in the eye in retaliation wasn’t the first thing she thought to do. Otherwise, remind me to never piss Betty off. She doesn’t owe anyone an explanation about what she does, and, in her mind, neither should Rose.

Kyrie Eleison- Betty won't be lectured on suffering

As was the case last season, I like the combative relationship between her and Bill. I get that the two may not be fond of one another, with Bill thinking of Betty as a nuisance and Betty thinking of Bill as, well, an asshole. The two at least still appear to have a mutual respect for one another. Bill may be cold, but like in “Standard Deviation,” he cares for Betty. And Betty seemed genuinely glad that Bill had kind words to say to Rose long before she did.

Kyrie Eleison- Virginia learns she won't be joining Bill at Gateway Hospital right now

Virginia, however, doesn’t get any sort of breaks. Whether enduring her own slut-shaming from Vivian, being kept out of the elevator by the other women at the hospital or being chastised by DePaul for thinking bigger, Virginia walks from one unfortunate event to another this week. Hell, she doesn’t even get to join Bill at Gateway yet, and she had a legitimate reason to be upset about that. Her only solace seemed to be at Langham’s party.

Kyrie Eleison- Virginia and Vivian

As was the case last week, she only seems to be at peace when with Bill, as the two complete each other. She’s still seen as someone who uses her feminine wiles to get ahead, as hard as she tries to shatter that notion. In a way, she’s going through the similar sort of treatment that DePaul has had to endure her entire life. Only now, instead of being flanked because she’s a woman, Virginia is being flanked because of her supposed reckless and immoral behavior.

Kyrie Eleison- Ditmer wants to hear more about vaginas

And the one time it appears that she’ll be putting her smarts to good use, it’s only for Ditmer to get himself off. A shame, really, as Ditmer seemed to be genuinely interested in looking to Virginia for advice, but no. The man just wanted to get his rocks off and got too curious about Ulysses.

Sometimes, you need a break away from all of the sex. With less focus on seeing people between the sheets and more time spent on character interactions, “Kyrie Eleison” is a fantastic episode that provided a similar level of enjoyment that I got from “Standard Deviation.” Not saying it’s as good as that one- too soon to tell. But strong performances all around and the focus on not accepting our worst part showed us a more human side to Masters of Sex. You can’t always get that if all of the focus is in the bedroom.

A Look at “True Blood” Season 7, Episode 5: “Lost Cause”

For the people of Bon Temps, what is normal, if not constant attacks and living in fear of the supernatural? This week’s “Lost Cause” has Sookie becoming host to a party that feels very out of the ordinary compared to everything else. This party leads to a series of unfortunate events where almost nothing goes right. Balanced against this is the continuing adventure of Eric and Pam to snuff out Sarah Newlin.

Lost Cause- Eric prepares to release Willa

The episode begins with the disposal of the bodies in the aftermath of the battle. Eric and Pam are about to head off, but Willa doesn’t want to go. She’s still pissed at Eric for leaving her, while Tara did a better job helping her adjust to being a vampire. Eric admits he’s been a terrible maker, but he doesn’t regret turning her and he still needs information regarding Sarah’s location.

Willa offers it, but only if Eric releases her. And like that, Eric renounces his dominion over her. Huh. To think, all Willa had to do was ask. Willa spills: Sarah has a sister named Amber, which is not news at all. What is news is that Sarah’s sister is also a vampire. Apparently, Willa overheard Sarah having a phone conversation with Amber at the mansion. Willa couldn’t overhear everything, but she at least knows that Amber called from a Dallas area code. Well, that settles it. Time for a trip to Dallas!

Lost Cause- Ginger doesn't want Eric and Pam to leave

But before that, there’s the matter of Ginger, who doesn’t want Eric and Pam to leave for fear that she’ll never see them again. If Ginger can’t come with them, she at least wants Eric to fuck her. After all, she’s been their loyal slave for so long without getting any from either of them, so it’s the least they can do. And they’re both diseased, so it all balances out!

Lost Cause- Ginger won't take 'No' for an answer

No dice.

Lost Cause- Lafayette sends Sookie to bed

So at Stackhouse Residence, Sookie heads in and finds Alcide’s jacket. She’s not alone, however. James and Lafayette are already there and came by as soon as they heard what happened. Though Sookie wants to do some cleaning, Lafayette orders her to bed.

Lost Cause- Sookie sees the others have prepared a banquet dinner

Time passes and Sookie later heads downstairs, only to find Jackson, his lady friend, James and Lafayette there. The house has been prepped, almost as if Sookie were about to have a party. Guess what? They’re throwing a party for the entire town! What better way to celebrate life after a day of death and sadness?

Oh, and Bill brought flowers because he’s a gentleman.

Lost Cause- Amber Mills, played by Natalie Hall, not sure yet whether she likes Pam

In Dallas, Texas, Eric and Pam find an infected Amber Mills, played by Natalie Hall. She shares her story with them: she has always been the black sheep of the family. After Amber had been turned by her boyfriend, Sarah freaked out. She’s been paying Amber money to stay in a coffin, all while convincing the populace that her sister had just been taken away by vampires. Family, am I right? Amber needs no convincing to help Eric and Pam, especially when she learns that the two plan to kill her. However, it’s been years since the two talked in person. Sarah did recently call, looking for a place in Dallas to stay. Mom and Dad are attending a Bush Gala for Ted Cruz, so Eric and Pam have a location. Amber warns the two: only assholes are invited to this gala. Clearly, this woman has never met Eric Northman and Pam De Beaufort.

Lost Cause- Lettie Mae wants to attend the party

Lettie Mae wants to attend the party. Reverend Daniels says no. While the reverend is conveniently looking away from Lettie Mae and focusing on his food, Lettie Mae spots some allergy medicine. That’s a scene.

The party is in full swing. Bill keeps himself to a corner while Arlene and the rest of the girls celebrate freedom.

Lost Cause- Charles Dupont, played by Matthew Holmes, rouses the men

We flash back to Bill during the lead up to the Civil War. He speaks with a young man named Minus, played by Gilbert Owuor, before heading to the bar. Inside, Charles Dupont, played by Matthew Holmes, gives a rousing speech about all able bodied men serving in this incoming war against the Northern carpetbagger. These fine, Southern gentlemen shall do all they can to maintain their way of life. And, by God, it is their sovereign right, as the good people of the state of Louisiana, to secede from the Union!

“With what?” is the ultimate question that Bill asks. After all, the North is better equipped, so the men of the South will be crushed! The bar doesn’t take kindly to this carpetbagger sympathizing and the bar’s owner, Louis Bodehouse, played by Brian Patrick Mulligan, orders him out.

Lost Cause- Jackon says kind words about Alcide

After Violet awkwardly tries to cheer Sookie up, Jackson says a few words about Alcide. Though the two never got along, Jackson appreciated that his son was happy when with Sookie. You can’t die a hero without having a righteous cause.

Lettie Mae would also like to say a few words, about Tara: Tara was a hero, too. Mae might not have always been there, but she tried her hardest. And when she wasn’t around to help her daughter, Mae could always count on Tara’s friends to help her.

Lost Cause- Jessica refuses to join the party

Not joining in on the festivities is Jessica, who has remained outside while still feeling guilty about Andy’s daughters. Andy comes out and basically tells Jessica that she’s being a buzzkill. Jessica torturing herself keeps the pain alive for Andy, as well. After all that Jessica has done for Adilyn, the least she could do is realize that life’s too short and precious to look back. Yet we’re still seeing flashbacks. Andy needs help from Jessica, specifically a ring to propose to Holly, but Jessica insists that something so precious shouldn’t be done with one of her rings. Why? You’re not exactly using them!

Lost Cause- The ring

Inside, Sookie gives Andy one of her grandmother’s rings- a ring that was originally intended for Jason. Andy kills the music and gets on one knee before Holly. He’s nervous, and it’s made no better by the fact that Holly says ‘Yes’ before Andy gets a chance to pop the question. When he finally does, she kisses him. She didn’t ‘Yes’ that time, though.

James wants to leave the party, but Jessica tells him not to be a wet blanket and enjoy himself. Really, Jessica? You’re telling him that?

Lost Cause- Arlene and Sookie talk about the pain of loss

Upstairs, Sookie and Arlene talk. Sookie’s feeling overwhelmed by all of the festivities and finds it hard to miss someone that she can’t fully believe is dead. Arlene tells her that no matter how much you love someone, death is inevitable. Every night, Arlene puts on Terry’s jacket just to feel his arms around her. Arlene, I swear. Arlene believes that you never get over the loss of a loved one- you just learn to live with it. That should be one of this show’s mantras. All healing comes in due time with tequila. A worthy combination.

Lost Cause- Lafayette and James bond on the porch

Out on the porch, James and Lafayette bond. James isn’t feeling his so-called relationship with Jessica. Lafayette poses a question about James’ former friend, Danny: were the two intimate? James confirms that they were. Things are starting to heat up!

Lost Cause- Eric advances to stage two of the virus

Back in Dallas, Texas, Eric and Pam get ready to infiltrate a “Republicunt” stronghold. You know, in the politically charged world that we live in today, where so many feel they must be one way or the other, I wouldn’t be surprised if the term “Republicunt” didn’t originate from True Blood. But I digress. When Eric removes his shirt, Pam sees the veins making their way all across his body, indicating that he’s advanced to Stage Two of the virus. Not one to stop with the plan, Eric simply tells Pam to cover the marks that would be visible.

Despite just calling him a wet blanket, Jessica asks Arlene about James’ whereabouts. Arlene last saw him step out with Lafayette. You know where this is going. Jessica follows the sounds and…

Lost Cause- Lafayette giving it to James

…whoops! Jessica storms off and won’t listen to either James or Lafayette. James goes off to sulk. Jason even rescinds his invitation.

A now confused and distraught Jessica tells Jason about what happened. Jason isn’t entirely surprised. Given Jessica’s description of James, it seems pretty clear that he’d be gay. Jessica just thinks that James may be confused.

Lost Cause- Lafayette tells off Jessica

In enters Lafayette, one of the last people Jessica wants to see, and she makes it known. The two exchange barbs before Lafayette leaves.

But Lafayette’s not done yet. Even though Jessica caught him and James in a compromising position, Lafayette knows more about James than Jessica does because he actually gave a damn and asked. And if Jessica was honest with herself, she’d see that she and James just do not fit. It’s not a stretch that Lafayette would want some happiness after seeing everyone around him find someone. Nicely done, Lafayette.

Sookie makes her way through the party and overhears the thoughts of citizens that now regret the awful things they said to her before.

Lost Cause- Bill in flashback

Bill thinks back to the time when he, Minus and a group remain hidden from Confederate troops. Just when they think the coast is clear, Charles fires a shot and kills Minus. That shot, Charles tells the group, is a warning to any deserters. All he wants is Bill’s map, but that goes up in smoke.

Back in the present, Sookie thanks Bill for seeing her the way she can’t see herself. As she continues through the party, she hears Lettie Mae’s thoughts, and the lady wants more vampire blood.

Lost Cause- Willa stabbed by Lettie Mae

So Lettie Mae takes a knife and stabs Willa in the shoulder! This causes a ruckus and although Willa’s wound heals in no time, Lettie Mae manages to bring the party to a screeching halt. Mae tells Lafayette that Tara has been contacting her: she’s stuck and the only way out is with Willa’s blood.

For whatever reason, Nicole is the voice of reason and calls out the absurdity of having a party in the middle of so much carnage. All right, I guess. You’re still new to town, lady.

Lost Cause- Jason and Jessica talk

Jason and Jessica have more girl talk. Jason admits that Violet is just a bit off. Also, it really meant a lot that his grandmother meant for her ring to go to him. He’s unsure now whether that ring would have gone to Violet. Then they kiss. They get to the loving later on, which Violet overhears.

At the gala, Eric and Pam split their priorities: Eric will get Sarah’s father alone, while Pam heads for Mom.

Lost Cause- Sarah and her mother, Nancy, played by Bess Armstrong

In the ladies room, Sarah surprises her mother, Nancy, played by Bess Armstrong. Nancy lets her daughter know that the world is looking for her. Sarah knows this and wants some powerful help: Laura Bush! But Laura stopped taking their calls. Well, darn.

Lost Cause- Eric meets Sarah's father, Paul, played by Brett Rice

Eric meets up with Paul, played by Brett Rice, but before the two get a chance to talk for long, the Yakuza pop in to make quick work of the Mills’ parents.

Both Paul and Nancy are killed in the attack. Sarah runs off, but heads straight into Eric. Before Northman can deliver the killing blow, he dispatches some Yakuza.

Lost Cause- Sookie in Alcide's jacket

In Bon Temps, the party is over and everyone is gone. While the people of Bon Temps may have changed their opinions on Sookie for the better, they were still dicks that didn’t bother to help her clean up. Before laying down for bed, she takes a moment to inhale the scent of and put on Alcide’s jacket. Sookie, I swear…

In one final flashback, Bill tells his wife that he doesn’t want to fight. She says not to worry, though. He is her’s.

In the present and after his bath, Bill heads to the mirror and sees that he is also infected with the Hep-V virus.

I wouldn’t call this a bad episode, but it has its fair share of problems. Luckily, the different plotlines were contained this week. We were either at the party or with Eric and Pam. Where the episode suffers, I think, was in characters making predictable and very stupid decisions when they should be smarter than this. More than that, they learn lessons that, given what they’ve been through, should be nothing new to them. At the same time, Eric and Pam’s separate storyline and Bill’s reveal at the end did help make the episode more entertaining.

Lost Cause- Violet tells Sookie about her hundred boyfriends

With True Blood, characters must have come to accept the death and craziness that has plagued Bon Temps, time and time again. What would be out of the ordinary anywhere else turns out to be just another week in good ole’ Louisiana. These people have lost loved ones before, but the grieving process has never been the same, like Terry getting almost an entire episode dedicated to him. The characters can accept death, yes, but they don’t know how to process it.

They’ve been able to come to terms with loss without having a party. It feels like the episode tried to tackle how we grieve after a heavy loss, but I question the execution.

Lost Cause- Toasting to Alcide

When trying to find happiness, something always gets in the way, making it almost impossible to be happy. Additionally, characters don’t realize how good they have it until the one thing they love is gone, whether that’s Lettie Mae grieving Tara or Sookie accepting that Alcide is not coming back. There’s a time and place for everything, and that doesn’t mean just saying something for the sake of saying it.

It’s fine to grieve, but this season has moved so fast with its murders that raising glasses felt like a half-hearted attempt to get us to care about or remember characters that the show was perfectly fine with getting rid of. The death of Vince and his mob, Kenya, Mrs. Fortenberry- none of them are brought up. I’m not saying the episode needed to reference everyone, but if the show is going to kill off characters we’ve known for awhile, there ought to be a payoff. Otherwise, it makes the deaths feel pointless.

The main issues I find with the episode revolve around character decisions, specifically those at Sookie’s party. Who honestly thought having a party to celebrate life was a good idea? What in the world made Jason and Jessica think it was a good idea to bone then and there, with other people in the same house? And why wouldn’t Reverend Daniels think to keep a closer eye on Lettie Mae, who he already knows is unstable?

Lost Cause- Sookie and Bill

Sookie, I feel, mostly existed this week as a background character. Sure, she’s prominently featured throughout the party, but most of what happens has little to do with her. She’s mostly an observer. I’m surprised she was so open to letting Lettie Mae remain at the party, despite Mae blaming her for Tara’s death. Can’t say I buy her sadness for Alcide, given how we know that she didn’t love him with the same affection that he did.

If Jason was so dead set on accepting his grandmother’s ring, why not just accept it and keep it until the time came? I’m glad he showed some backbone to Violet when he told her off about mentioning her many, many boyfriends to Sookie in an attempt to cheer her up. He seems to be at absolute ease when speaking with Jessica.

Lost Cause- Jason and Jessica bone

And really, if he and Jessica wanted to bone, they could have taken it somewhere else. I don’t see Violet taking this lightly. I also don’t understand why he was so quick to rescind James’ invitation, given how what James and Lafayette do really shouldn’t be any of his business.

Lost Cause- Jessica outside, talking with Andy

Speaking of Jessica, I’d like to know why she’s still so upset about what she did. Wasn’t this the entire reason Lafayette came in to have a pep talk with her? And now, it’s as if she’s forgotten all about that. Her emotions are all over the place. First, she doesn’t want to come to the party, and then she chastises James for wanting to leave the same party she didn’t even want to join.

Lost Cause- Jessica after finding James and Lafayette fucking

She freaks out when she finds James with Lafayette, but to be honest, Jessica and James don’t have any sort of chemistry. She wouldn’t even listen to James when he mentioned that she hadn’t fed. Even though we’re supposed to believe that James and Jessica are a couple, they appear very distant.

Lost Cause- Lafayette wants happiness, too

And to be honest, Lafayette has a real point. Throughout the series, he’s watched from the sidelines as others made connections. He was there for support and while he had a relationship before, it didn’t last long. And Lafayette has taken the initiative to get to know James outside of knowing that he’s a vampire. We’ve seen the two interact and grow as a pair, which gives credence to the possibility that the two could form a strong bond.

Lost Cause- Sookie and Arlene speak with Keith

I’m glad that Arlene has made a full recovery and is ready to move forward, but she could have been a little grateful to Keith. She may be right to fear him since, vampire and all, but he did save your life. Some gratitude would be in order.

Lost Cause- Bill sees that he's infected with the Hep-V virus

While Bill’s flashbacks felt like he just longed for the old days, I get the feeling that they’ll connect with the reveal that he’s infected.

Lost Cause- Bill's final flashback of episode

And like Pam and Eric’s flashbacks, we did get to learn some more about his past. It’s a past we’ve seen before, but I hope there’s a payoff to them.

Lost Cause- Pam and Eric stopped by Ginger

And as before, Eric and Pam had the most entertaining part of the episode, with their search for Sarah. Whether it’s Amber and Pam slowly gaining respect for one another, Eric telling Pam that she must accept that he’s going to die or how disgusted they are at the gala, the two make for some great character moments. Plus, I got a laugh when Eric told Amber that he and Pam could definitely be assholes if that meant it would get them into the gala. Even if the two can be major assholes, they clearly care for one another.

Lost Cause- Eric rips off Yakuza's face

Unlike last week’s battle at Fangtasia, I thought the battle with the Yakuza was well done and much easier to follow. Eric ripping off the face of one Yakuza reminded me too much of the battle between The Mountain and The Viper on Game of Thrones.

All in all, this was a decent episode. While it had characters doing stupid things and somewhat forced drama- seriously, characters like Lettie Mae and Nicole should be killed off- the character moments from Pam and Eric, as well as Bill’s infection, kept me interested for more.

A Look at “The Walking Dead” #129: “Even Now, They Still Find New Ways to Dispose of the Dead”

The Walking Dead #129 Cover

The Walking Dead #129 pushed Carl’s arc forward and gave us another look at Rick’s growth as a leader, but also his desire for stability and rigidity.

The Walking Dead #129- On the road with Rick and Carl

Things have noticeably slowed down since the events of “All Out War,” and while some may consider this new storyline as moving too slowly, I personally don’t have a problem with it. For me, a slower paced storyline can work if it’s building to something great.

The Walking Dead #129- Rick and Negan Talk

One of the series’ main focuses has been the ethical and rational decisions behind murdering in a post-apocalyptic world. We see this play out with Rick’s decision to leave Negan alive as opposed to killing him. Had this been early on in the series, I’m positive that Rick would have killed Negan. But now that society is beginning to rebuild itself, as far as Rick is concerned, there’s no need to kill Negan. He kept him alive to prove that the people of Alexandria and beyond are better than him and the Saviors.

Rick doesn’t give into Negan’s taunts because he feels that he’s already won, based on how civilization has progressed. Rick’s being a bit too idealistic, something Andrea warned him about earlier. In both the comic book and television series, we’ve seen Cynical Rick and Optimistic Rick. Here, Rick’s optimism may get the better of him, because keeping Negan alive will only come back to bite him in the ass. Morally, would it have been right for Rick to kill Negan? Possibly, but had he done that, Rick would think he’s no better than Negan. He wants to prove that there’s a better way. Despite all of the terrible things that Negan has done, Rick won’t kill him because he’d be showing that he can stoop just as low.

The Walking Dead #129- Rick attacks Benjamin

That’s not to say Rick isn’t prone to violence anymore. Sure, he’s out of practice, but attacking Benjamin proved that he can still kick ass when necessary. Everyone has worked hard to secure the stable life they’ve built for themselves. There have been less roamer attacks because people have taken care of them, ahead of time. When even a few appear, someone screwed up on the job, and no slip-ups can be afforded when it comes to dealing with roamers.

The Walking Dead #129- Carl watches silently while Rick lashes out at Benjamin

Not strange at all is that Carl doesn’t flinch through all of this. He’s used to seeing his father behave this way. He knows that Rick does it because society is reforming itself. In Rick’s mind, sometimes you have to knock a few people around to make a point, especially when it comes to the well-being of his son.

The Walking Dead #129- Carl and Andrea

Though Carl got to say his goodbyes to Andrea, Anna and the like, this issue allowed him and Rick to spend some time together. Most of this involved Rick goading Carl into talking about his “girlfriend,” Anna, but it’s probably one of the most human conversations they’ve had in a long time. That, coupled Carl telling Andrea that he never expected to have enough things to fill two Duffel bags, is an example of characters beginning to have what feel like normal talks instead of fearing for their lives.

The Walking Dead #129- Magna and her survivors meet Negan

So Negan’s not the only one in the jail? Surprise to me, but then, we’ve only seen Negan, so it’s not too far off to think that everyone in Alexandria is a saint. However, Negan has said before that Rick should have killed him. Now that Magna and the others have found him, he can spin whatever B.S. tale just to get them on his side. From the beginning, Magna’s crew hasn’t fully trusted Rick. This wasn’t out of spite. It’s because the people of Alexandria haven’t been completely open about everything. Again, in this world, putting everything out in the open can be disastrous when it can be used against you.

So Carl is moving on up to the Hilltop and Negan may be on the verge of walking out of his cell. Things are getting very interesting.

A Look at “Masters of Sex” Season 2 Premiere: “Parallax”

In hindsight, maybe “Fallout” would have been a better title for this premiere if the name hadn’t already been used. The season premiere to the second season of Masters of Sex, “Parallax,” had a tall task. It had to deal with the aftermath of Bill’s disastrous presentation, as well as his confession to Virginia, advance character storylines and continue exploring the wonders of human sexuality. Credit where it’s due, I think the premiere managed to accomplish all of this by taking its time with its storytelling. It doesn’t just try to reintroduce the characters all at once. It takes what we’ve been given, introduces new issues to tackle, and paves the way for what will be major dilemmas throughout the season.

Parallax- Bill sleeps on the couch

The season begins in the dead of night. Bill Masters watches his television, but remember this is at the point where television actually ended in the evening, so there’s nothing really to watch. As he overhears a baby cry, he settles on the couch, all while remembering the night he spent with Virginia Johnson after his confession.

Parallax- Langham comes in the ladies' room just as Virginia knees Dr. Crane

Speaking of, we then revisit Virginia Johnson, who catches the wandering eye of Dr. Crane, played by Jed Rees. She enters the ladies’ room, but a door is no match for Dr. Crane! He soon follows and corners her, admitting that he can’t stop thinking about her after the presentation. Langham, who has been watching this play out, goes in and tries to be a hero, but Virginia knees Crane in his goody bag before leaving in a huff.

Parallax- Virginia talks about her troubles, Langham proposes that Virginia sell Cal-O-Metric

In the cafeteria, Langham advises Virginia not to take guys like Crane seriously. That’s easy to say, hard to do, as Virginia has been propositioned quite often. Men have left notes on her windshield and she’s even found a dildo on her desk. Though that one she assumes a woman left for her. She never says whether she kept or donated it, but I guess that’s not important. It also doesn’t help that the money Virginia makes from working for Dr. DePaul doesn’t cover essentials. She stands no chance of getting a raise, so she’s in a tight spot.

Langham proposes something called the Cal-O-Metric, a product Elise once tried after she went stir crazy and got tired of junior league and scout mothering. Soon enough, she lost all of the baby fat. Virginia finds it all too surprising that Elise still cares for him. Quite frankly, so do I, but Langham insists that his wife deserves a medal for her for her forgiving heart. She deserves way more than that!

Parallax- Bill watches Barton undergo shock therapy

Elsewhere, Bill accompanies Barton to his first session. The doctors don’t want Barton to drive after the session. Since Margaret doesn’t know that Barton is still having the procedure, he wants Bill to keep this under his hat. Once Barton has his routine set, he’ll be able to handle himself.

With the pain clear on his face, Bill watches as Barton is given shock therapy and convulses.

Afterward, he wakes up, unclear where he is. He even vomits on Bill, who isn’t upset at that. The memory loss and confusion are only temporary.

Parallax- Virginia meets Flo Winters, played by Artemis Pebdani from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Taking Langham’s advice, Virginia meets with Flo Winters, played by Artemis Pebdani from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia! Nice. Flo gives Virginia the lowdown: Virginia sells the product and keeps some of the profit. Some will go to the Headquarters, which is Flo. But because Virginia can’t pay for it, the best Flo can do is give Virginia some pills right now, but the Flo’s cut goes from 20 percent to 50 percent. After all, you can’t make the poor richer by making the rich poorer. Virginia questions the effectiveness, and Flo responds by noting that she was once 198 pounds until she heard about the starving Chinese. Oh, and Virginia will have to go by a script. Even though she prefers to go off the cuff, Virginia has to stick with what she’s given.

Parallax- Bill wants Barton to stop the electroshock therapy

Barton is ready to drive home, but Bill shoots that idea down. He’s still against this form of therapy. Electroshock is unpredictable and the side effects could be permanent. More than that, there’s no hard data proving that this cures homosexuality. All Bill wants Barton to do is think about it.

Parallax- Bill checks into the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel, speaks with Thomas, played by Daniel Rubiano

At the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel, Bill checks in under a Dr. Holden. The clerk, Thomas, played by Daniel Rubiano, confirms the reservation and Bill heads to his room.

Parallax- Flashback, Bill and Virginia talk after sex

During his shower, Bill has another memory and we again flash back to the night they had sex in Virginia’s home. Afterward, Bill actually takes Virginia’s pulse. But since there are no instruments, there’s no clear way to interpret what just happened? Soon, the phone rings. Virginia knows that it’s Ethan, and he’ll keep calling until Virginia decides to pick up. She eventually does and heads to another room to talk. She apologizes and tells him that things have changed.

When Bill emerges from the shower, he sees that Virginia has arrived.

Parallax- Libby takes the baby to see Dr. Begner, played by Chris Conner. Begner demeans Bill

In the present, Libby Masters takes her baby to Dr. Begner, played by Chris Conner. Begner is surprised. Not because Libby has come in for the baby’s first major checkup, three weeks after he was born, but that she dared to even show her face at the hospital after her husband’s presentation. But hey, you never know what you’re in for after you say “I do.” Libby shouldn’t blame herself. She doesn’t, though. In fact, she defends her husband.

Parallax- Virginia tries to sell diet pills to Yvonne, played by Lauren Pritchard

So Virginia isn’t a natural salesman, judging by her shop in the cafeteria. Most of the women give her cold stares, except for one: admissions newcomer Yvonne, played by Lauren Pritchard. Virginia goes by the script, which mentions a baby- something Yvonne hasn’t had. Needless to say, the attempted sale turns into a train wreck and Yvonne leaves Virginia with her pills.

Parallax- Libby offers to let Virginia hold the baby

Luckily, Libby arrives, so the two are able to talk. Libby’s received her fair share of scorn and pity. I’m guessing she hasn’t received any surprise dildos, though. Libby would like nothing more than for Bill to return to work. She asks Virginia for advice on how to go about it, but they agree that trying to force Bill to do anything will backfire. If Virginia were in her shoes, however, she’d care for the baby, then herself.

Parallax- Bill and Libby prepare to leave for gala while Essie watches the baby

At House Masters, Libby prods Bill to attend a gala for the St. Louis Community Chest. Her plan is to get close to Doug Greathouse so she can talk him into giving Bill a job. Greathouse is head of the Obstetrics Department at Memorial Hospital, so it’d be a big deal if they could just talk to him. Luckily, Mama Masters is there to take care of the baby.

Parallax- Dr. Doug Greathouse, played by Danny Huston

At the gathering, Bill drinks in a corner while the man of the evening entertains the crowd. We then meet Dr. Doug Greathouse, played by Danny Huston. They are all gathered, he says, to help eliminate Rubella- German measles. German because they were discovered by a Kraut. But hey, at least the measles weren’t discovered by a Jap. Otherwise, we’d be calling it Fried Rice!

His words, not mine.

Libby is anxious to speak with Doug one-on-one, while Bill would rather be boiled in oil. It’s a tough call, to be sure, but no matter. Bill doesn’t have to talk to Doug.

Parallax- Betty and Gene, Annaleigh Ashford and Greg Grunberg, run into Bill at the gala

He can catch up with Betty and Gene, with Annaleigh Ashford and Greg Grunberg reprising their roles. Gene is there because the hospital loves his money, but Gene would love a family, so he’ll be paying Bill a visit to discuss that. When pressed about his future work, Bill is confident that he’ll be able to work at a hospital more receptive to his study.

Libby, unfortunately, did not talk to Doug one-on-one, but Bill says he’ll call him tomorrow.

Barton takes a look at some nude male figures before heading to his beloved Margaret. To her surprise, Barton wants to stay there, with her. Just to prove it, Barton has Margaret feel his erection. Something is definitely happening down there. The two strip down and get intimate, but things go south when Barton turns Margaret and plants butterfly kisses up and down her back.

Parallax- Margaret tells Barton that he can't pretend she's someone else

Margaret stops this, telling Barton that he can’t pretend that she’s someone else. And that means Barton should be willing to look at her. Only a shred of her feels like a woman and damn it, she won’t let him take that away from her. Barton insists that Margaret let him try things his way. He insists that he can change, but they have to try harder!

Parallax- Virginia and Jane talk about their futures

Virginia catches up with Jane, who is making future travel plans. Lester works as a production assistant for a studio out in California, which means that he’ll be a director very soon. Jane, you don’t go from production assistant to director in a short amount of time, regardless of how well you can capture vaginal walls on film. But anyway, Jane wants to be in pictures- ones where her face can be seen. Oh. She should follow her dream. As should Virginia, who Jane insists should come with her. After all, no kid could turn down a trip to Hollywood.

Jane also knows that Virginia shot down Ethan’s proposal. You know, Ethan needs more guy friends if Jane was his go-to person. To Jane, Ethan offers stability. Virginia won’t get anywhere selling diet pills or working on pap smears with Dr. DePaul. She certainly won’t get anywhere with the study, seeing as she only remained at the hospital because her name is on it. Regardless, Bill Masters is gone. And the study? It’s not real. Not anymore. Virginia can’t pin her hopes on something that can’t be. Buzzkill much, Jane?

Parallax- Flashback, Virginia checks into hotel

We cut to Virginia checking in at the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel as Mrs. Holden.

Parallax- Flashback, Virginia tells Ethan that things have changed

As Virginia enters the elevator, we once again revisit the night Bill arrived at her doorstep. However, when Virginia goes to take Ethan’s call, we stay with her and hear the rest of their conversation. Things have changed, and Ethan guesses that Bill is the reason that Virginia is calling things off. But Ethan promises her the life that she wants. All Bill can offer is work. It just cannot be. But, Virginia says, it is.

Parallax- Dr. Ditmer asks Virginia for advice on his use of cold light illumination for esophageal study

Back in the present, Dr. Ditmer approaches Virginia. Thinking he’s making a move on her, Virginia lashes at him, but turns out that Ditmer isn’t interested in drinks, a quick romp, or dinner, nothing of the sort. Actually, he’s received a grant to use cold light illumination for esophageal study, similar to the technology Bill and Virginia used for their study. Ditmer is just looking for some advice and maybe Virginia could apply her skills to the study. And the study is well-funded, so Ditmer is able to pay Virginia, as well.

Virginia apologizes, and while the offer is enticing and for a good cause, she’s already working for Dr. DePaul. However, Ditmer is willing to accommodate to whatever fits Virginia’s schedule, not his. That’s actually pretty nice of him.

Parallax- Bill buries himself in work while Virginia heads to brunch

Libby prepares to meet with Tatti Greathouse, who included Libby in her Women’s Auxiliary Brunch. It’s important that she go. This means Bill is in charge of Baby James- he has a name, now- while she’s gone. Sounds easy. Plus, Bill is a doctor, so he knows about babies, right? Nothing he can’t handle.

Parallax- Dr. DePaul and Virginia talk about pushing pills and medicine cabinets

Virginia heads to her desk, only to find Dr. DePaul already at it. She was looking for a stapler, yet found Virginia’s desk filled with diet pills, which are really just off-market amphetamines combined with sugar paste or talc. Hey, the pills are just for extra money since Virginia’s salary isn’t enough to support her family. Virginia calls attention to the giant shiner under DePaul’s left eye. DePaul says she ran into a medical cabinet, but Virginia knows better. She also knows that DePaul doesn’t date, so what really happened?

Parallax- Langham rushes into DePaul's office to hide from his wife

No time for that! Langham rushes in like he’s running away from Death.

Parallax- Elise storms in and demands to know where Austin is hiding

She’s not Death, but I guess his wife is close enough. Elise storms in with the kids and demands to know where Austin is hiding. When no one answers, Elise hands Virginia the baby and takes the microphone, which is conveniently right there. On the intercom, she puts out an all points bulletin for Austin Langham, the hospital’s resident philanderer and insufferable cad. This cad spent the last two months fornicating with his sister-in-law, Rosemary, who must have been the last woman Austin didn’t skewer like a pig!

Really, Austin? I mean, really?

Bill calls Doug and apologizes for not speaking with him, but offers to visit him later that afternoon.

Parallax- Bill unsure how to deal with the baby

Before this, Bill must deal with the matter of his son. The crying continues and Bill can’t bury himself into his work. He approaches the baby’s room, but stops short before heading to the record player. In one of those moments where Masters of Sex is about as subtle as a train wreck, Bill plays The Everly Brothers’ “Bye, Bye Love.” The music does drown out the baby’s crying, but soon, all is silent.

Parallax- Bill tells Essie that he has become his father

Essie got a call from Libby to stop by and check on how Bill faired. Bill’s certain that he did as well as she did when Bill was a young boy. Bill admits that what he makes is intolerable. Essie thinks that Bill is talking about parents and babies, but Bill has nothing to hide from his mother: he’s been having sex with Virginia on a regular basis and has no intention of stopping. Just like real magic, he’s turned into his father. Heck, he’s turned into her as well!

Parallax- Libby returns to find the baby asleep

Libby later returns, astonished at Bill’s baby magic. Bill tells Libby that Essie is returning to Ohio for good. And despite how much Libby depends on Essie, it’s time that she starts looking for a sitter, preferably one that can start as soon as possible. They will speak of Essie no more.

Parallax- Rose McIver returns as Vivian, talks with her mother about college

To my surprise, Rose McIver is back as Vivian. And more than that, she’s having an actual conversation with her mother instead of being limited to a mere mention! So yeah, Vivian talks about going to college, even though her parents want her to stay close. After hearing a thud, Vivian heads downstairs.

Parallax- Margaret and Vivian find Barton trying to hang himself

Upon hearing her daughter scream, Margaret rushes down and finds that Barton is trying to hang himself. Vivian holds onto her father for dear life while Margaret brings over something for him so stand on.

Vivian rushes to find a knife, which Margaret uses to cut Barton down. They all fall to the floor and Margaret breathes breath into her husband’s body until he revives.

Parallax- Bill and Libby have dinner with Doug and Tatti Greathouse

Bill and Libby have dinner with Doug Greathouse and his wife, Tatti, played by Rya Kihlstedt. It’s time for a new beginning. Or, it’s time now, after Gene made a sizable donation to the hospital, with a few strings attached. Libby’s just glad that Bill is going back to work, but she’s equally curious as to whether Virginia will be joining him again. Tatti wants Doug to play no part in this study whatsoever.

So when the ladies go to powder their noses, Doug admits that he let too much information slip. Gene’s donation came with the condition that Bill be allowed to work. He’s very interested on what happens behind closed doors when it comes to Masters’ study, and wants to be kept in the loop.

Later on, Bill heads to the Scully residence to talk with Barton and share the news, but Margaret tells him that Barton is on a long distance call and could be tied up for a while.

Parallax- Dr. DePaul offers Virginia a drink

DePaul is still hard at work, despite Virginia’s advice that she should turn in for the night. So the good doctor’s proposal is alcohol! As the two drink, DePaul finds it sad that no one would ever think her black eye was because of a jealous lover. Hey, you brought that perception on yourself, Doctor. But Lillian DePaul is never reckless. But then, as Virginia notes, it’s not bad to be careful.

Parallax- Flashback, Bill and Virginia talk about how to proceed with their affair

We flash back- first to the end of Virginia’s call with Ethan, and then we cut to the hotel where Bill and Virginia meet to discuss how they’ll move forward after their encounter on the previous night. It’s no surprise that they came to a hotel in Alton, Illinois, a half-hour’s drive outside of town. Virginia is certain that Ethan must be taking the breakup pretty badly, and getting some distance won’t help him make sense of it. Rarely, Virginia says, does a man understand why a woman would choose love over work.

Hey, here’s an idea! The two could have an affair! What they’re doing is completely pedestrian and the story always ends the same. This time, however, it’s much more than that. They have the work. At the apartment, there were no wires. As Virginia noted all along, there are some aspects of sex that are immeasurable. This opens up an entirely new line of inquiry, Bill says. It would be a mistake to end what the two of them have right now. They will continue whatever it is they have, but with terms- Bill doesn’t want Virginia to feel like she’s being led on.

With that, Bill talks to the hotel clerk and wishes to check into a room. He reserves it under the name of Dr. Francis Holden.

There’s a lot to work with in this premiere, and what the show gives us, I think, is handled very well. Out of the gate, the season is taking a much darker turn, but not as in everything looks dreary and unpleasant. Even the first season handled mature subjects with care, but with moments like Barton’s attempted suicide, DePaul drinking and Bill’s home life, the premiere’s tone is noticeably darker and sets the tone for the rest of the season.

Parallax- Barton looks at male figures

Characters are pretending to be people that they aren’t. Like last season, the masks they wear only show that the happiness they want can only be attained outside of their own skin. Living a lie worsens things not just for you, but the people close to you, made very clear through Barton and Austin’s personal lives.

And as before, we see characters struggle with either maintaining the status quo because it provides stability- as Ethan would like Virginia to do- or stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something out of the ordinary. As DePaul and Virginia noted, there’s nothing wrong with being careful. But if careful becomes too routine and ordinary, you want some chaos in your life to help shake things up. This includes going off-script, and we see many a character deal with that. Virginia likes to go off-script because she relates to people better that way, while trying to get Bill off-script is asking for trouble. Some reverse and find the status quo to be preferable, as is the case with Jane, who now favors pictures with her face and a happy future, believing Masters’ work to be over.

Parallax- Elise wishes more women stuck up for each other

The premiere addresses loyalty, or lack thereof, when characters can’t commit to the people they supposedly love. This is mostly for the couples, however, as with Langham and his philandering. Most of the actual unity comes through while talking to members of the same gender. For example, Elise chastised Virginia for not sticking up for women everywhere when she refused to give up Austin’s location. In instances like this, men and women are expected to be there for one another, regardless of how messy the situation. It’s hard to remain loyal when you’re hiding something. And this is further exemplified with DePaul hiding the truth behind her shiner or Doug secretly being interested in the sex study, against his wife’s wishes.

Parallax- Dr. Ditmer benefits from Bill and Virginia's study

For all the negativity still surrounding Bill’s presentation, it was refreshing to see something positive come out of it. Recall that because of Ditmer’s lackluster presentation on diverticulitis last season, Bill realized that he needed something exciting to maintain audience interest. Here, Ditmer is being given a chance to apply the same technology that Bill and Virginia used for something that will also be of some good. More than that, because of Virginia’s intellect, she may be able to make some extra money out of it, should she accept the offer. Even if she doesn’t, I was glad to at least see Ditmer make the offer, despite, Virginia at first, thinking he had ulterior motives.

Michael Apted’s on this episode really allowed us to get inside the character’s heads this week. This has been done before, but from the opening shot of Masters staring blankly as he watches television, Apted takes time with scenes and lets viewers fully take in what we see as opposed to just jumping from scene to scene.

Parallax- Bill takes Virginia's pulse after sex

This also applies to the sex scenes, which are still filmed with the same close-ups we saw last season, but because Bill and Virginia’s session doesn’t have any of the wires or schematics that they’re used to, more focus is put on their facial expressions and reactions. As such, the scene feels more visceral and real. In fact, a lot of focus goes onto facial expressions and we can tell, words or not, exactly what they’re feeling, whether it’s Margaret and Vivian’s shock at finding Barton trying to kill himself, Elise’s rage at her husband’s continued philandering or Masters’ smug grin when he tells his mother that he has become just like his parents.

That’s not to say the episode is completely dark, as there were plenty of comedic moments, the highlight being Elise’s very public summary of her husband’s affairs.

I did like the use of flashbacks. I enjoy nonlinear storytelling when it’s done right. While the flashbacks could have been done in one sequence, showing them from different perspectives added something each time. We didn’t just get the exact same flashback- the episode built on what we’d been shown.

With all that said, let’s dig into the characters.

Parallax- Dr. Austin Langham does his profession proud

Come on, Austin Langham! You’ve learned nothing from the past season. So since Jane is indeed with Lester, it’s clear that Langham won’t be able to pursue her anymore. I like that he’s able to talk with Virginia about dealing with the advances from men at the hospital. And while the plan may not be worthwhile, he does provide Virginia with another opportunity to make some extra money. Clearly he wouldn’t want to put the moves on Virginia since she could, if she wanted to, spill the details about a certain woman named Flora Banks.

But his sister-in-law? How does that even happen? I mean, what happened to the lady from the jewelry store? The man is as much of a dog as he was last season, but there’s one minor difference. Before, Langham went after women without worry of what would happen to him. Now he’s actively hiding from his wife, and for good reason. Not that it mattered since she put his philandering- which most of the staff probably already knew about- on public display for everyone to see.

Parallax- Elise on the war path

Having said that, I’m glad Elise is showing some backbone. When we first met her, she found her husband’s behavior to be typical of his character. She lamented the women who Austin eventually left, but now, enough is enough. And if other women won’t back her, she’ll deal with her cheating husband on her own. Austin played around with family. Literally played around with family. That’s entering HBO territory. As many familial conflicts as we have already, I would actually like to see more of Elise, given this is only her second appearance on the show. And now that she’s on the war path, I’m sure she’ll still be out for Austin’s blood.

Parallax- Jane tells Virginia that Dr. Masters' study isn't real anymore

Jane seems to be on her way out, which, to me, is a good and bad thing. Good in the sense that she’s following her dreams and still has feeling for Lester, but bad in the sense that, you know, Jane is leaving! Along with Allison Janney, Heléne Yorke has been my favorite female actress on the show, and with her leaving, this means we won’t get to hear any more of her great lines. Side-note, I’m not really upset that we don’t actually see Lester since he wouldn’t have had much to add after Jane told us what he’d been up to. Plus, he kind of hit his high point in “Manhigh” when he admitted that Jane had beautiful vaginal walls. I mean, how do you top that?

But moving on, Jane seems to have put the study behind her, which I get. While she was initially interested in the subject matter, it wasn’t until she saw the footage of herself that she concluded that what she did wasn’t sex. She sees that nothing worthwhile can come out of a study that few respect, so may as well do what she loves- where her face can be seen, anyway. Jane is still the same confident woman that she was last season, unafraid to call out Virginia on selling diet pills when she’s capable of so much more. And, from a narrative point of view, I did like her line about not pinning hopes on what can’t be.

Parallax- Betty, Gene and Bill catch up

This leads me into Betty. Before the season premiere, we’d been told that Annaleigh Ashford would be returning to the role. But it doesn’t appear that we’ll be returning to the brothel. That still upsets me, but nothing I can do about it. Betty was the one who told Virginia that women must hitch their wagons to men if they want to get ahead. Since Betty can’t bear children, she’s pinning hopes on what she can’t have: a family with children. She already said she had no intention of telling Gene about her chronic salpingitis, so at this point, she’s still leading him along with the impression that she’ll be able to conceive. Betty does appear to at least be financially secure thanks to Gene’s position and power, so that’s at least something. And despite how she and Bill came off during their run-in, I do hope they maintain the mutual love-hate friendship they developed up through “Standard Deviation.”

Parallax- Dr. DePaul finds it sad that no one thinks her black eye came from a jealous lover

Dr. DePaul seems to have lightened up since last season, and for the better. She’s dripping with sarcasm and open to drinking at work. After hours, anyway. Plus, it was a bit funny for her to feel insulted that absolutely no one would think her shiner came from a lover. I’m sure we’ll get the story behind that later, along with her cancer, but for now, I’m glad she comes off as more personable.

Parallax- Barton and Margaret's attempt at sex doesn't go as planned

And man, did the Scully clan have a horrible couple of days. Every single one of Barton’s scenes were uncomfortable to watch, whether seeing a nun hold him down while he convulses, when he loses his memory and when he tries to convince Margaret that he’s different than what he truly is. The symptoms he shows after the treatment are exactly what Dr. Ellenburg predicted what would happen, and now we’re seeing this play out.

Barton is absolutely desperate to rid himself of his homosexuality. He’s doing this at a point when America didn’t- and to an extent, still doesn’t- fully understand homosexuality. Against Bill and Margaret’s wishes, he undergoes surgery that could potentially kill him, and watching him try to make love to Margaret was just awkward.

Parallax- Scully family all falls down

And the literal image of the Scully family falling to the ground shows that the family is crumbling because of Barton’s behavior. Not his homosexuality, mind you, but his attempts to get rid of it. When Margaret and Vivian find Barton trying to kill himself, there’s real concern not just in their facial expressions, but at how frantic they are when trying to cut him down. They ask no questions. All they know is the man they love wants to end his life, and they’ll be damned if they’re going to let that happen.

Parallax- Rose McIver as Vivian

Allison Janney and Beau Bridges, as always, turn in great performances, but I was more surprised to see Rose McIver return. Last time we saw Vivian, Ethan had broken off the engagement during “Involuntary.” After that, Vivian’s character had been limited to mentions. Now she’s actually having a full, open conversation with her mother. And, you know, helping save her father’s life. I am glad Vivian looks to have put Ethan and the proposal behind her, and good. She deserved better than that.

We already knew the Scully family was headed in a dark direction, but talk about throwing it right at you from the start. At this point, Barton could use a friend, so I’m not sure why Margaret wouldn’t let Bill in, but I guess this is a family matter for now. It’s going to spill out eventually, though.

Parallax- Libby and Virginia talk

Libby should take a page from Elise’s playbook and be more assertive. She shouldn’t have to scrape, beg and plead for Bill to do something that he’s fully capable of. After all, the fallout from Bill’s presentation has affected her, too, as she must endure the scorn directed toward Bill. But to see her drag Bill to a gala is frustrating because she ought to know that this won’t work. She had that moment in the episode where Virginia mentioned that trying to force Bill to do something wouldn’t work. Not saying Libby shouldn’t try at all, but take a different approach.

And be more up front with your husband! Libby already suspected last season that the naked woman in the presentation might have been Virginia and even questioned Bill on it. With Virginia potentially working with Bill again, she has good reason to be curious about the nature of his work relationship with Virginia. Like Vivian and Elise, Libby deserves better than the man she has. She can’t handle the baby by herself and she shouldn’t have to. However, I’m glad Libby at least still has a friendship with Virginia, even if it could be on the verge of ending.

Parallax- Bill in the dark

Then we come to the man himself. Like Martin Freeman’s work on Fargo, I’m surprised at how well Michael Sheen is able to transform into this despicable character. His facial expressions show something deeper than Bill lets on. He’s not entirely a bad person, as he does show concern for Barton during the shock therapy. As a doctor, he’s still trying to rationalize everything with scientific jargon, but that doesn’t apply when it comes to his relationship with his family. He tells Virginia that he’s a happily married man, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Parallax- Bill tells Essie that Baby James isn't Jesus

He seems absolutely disgusted by the baby, as if he doesn’t even want to acknowledge its existence. Trying to drown the crying with music was a nice callback to what Essie did when her husband beat Bill, but also shows how much Bill is becoming just like his parents. It’s disheartening to see, but Sheen’s performance in the scene where he faces off with Essie was well done. The smug grin on his face, how he rambles openly about his affair with Virginia, this is a man with many burdens and his only way to work out his feelings is to cheat on his wife. Granted, Bill doesn’t have a new job yet, but at the same time, he has a decent amount of money, a wife and child. The problem is that he doesn’t fully appreciate them. He probably never will until he suffers another huge loss, as was the case with the miscarriage. He’s as emotionally distant as he was before. Bill sits on a lot of rage and because he has few outlets to express it, he lets his anger build until he explodes.

And just like Bill to try and tell Virginia that it would be a mistake to end their affair. Always the doctor, aren’t you, William Masters? He’s a little condescending when he tells Virginia that he doesn’t want her to think he’s leading her on, but he has to know that this affair is having a negative impact on her life. When Bill overhears Virginia talking with Ethan, there’s real regret on his face, as if he knows that his involvement is keeping Virginia away from Ethan. More than that, when the two have sex, Bill has nothing but absolute relief on his face, as if he’d been working up to this moment and Virginia needs to be there with him.

Parallax- Virginia talks with Dr. DePaul

So that leaves Ms. Johnson herself, who has her own personal problems to deal with. Luckily, like last season, Virginia has never let her problems weigh her down and get the best of her. She still walks and talks with complete confidence like a woman ahead of her time- a testament to Lizzy Caplan’s performance.

Despite the propositions, a meager income and affair, Virginia isn’t about to let the world get the best of her. Like Dr. DePaul, she wants to get ahead on her own steam. She’s managed to do it and still has open opportunities, as we see with Ditmer’s offer to use her background to help with his project.

Parallax- Virginia fails at selling diet pills

Completely opposite from Bill, Virginia is not one to do things by the book. Heck, that’s what made men like Bill and George so interested in the first place. She thinks outside the box and plays by her rules, not society’s. This is nothing new, but we see here what happens when she’s forced to conform, when she tries to advertise the diet pills. Disastrous results abound, but only because she did what she’d been told to do, not what she wanted.

And at the end of the day, they still have the work. Virginia still talks with Bill like the two have been a couple for years and she shows a playful side around him that we’ve never seen her show around Ethan. It’s funny how open Virginia is about the idea of her and Bill having an affair. To an extent, she’s right: the stories surrounding affairs usually end the same, but most probably don’t involve coworkers who have partaken in their own study of human sexuality and showed their coworkers some footage of a naked woman masturbating. It’s the little things that matter.

Parallax- Virginia talks about affairs

It would be easy for Virginia to hitch her wagon to Ethan because he offers the status quo. Bill keeps things interesting, when he’s not being an absolute prick. But it’s his dedication to the work that draws Virginia to him. And as we’ve seen, Virginia shares that passion of doing work for the good of science, so in a sense, the two are perfect for each other.

“Parallax” is a strong start to the second season of Masters of Sex. It continues the storylines from the first season, builds on them and paces its storytelling so we’re able to fully grasp what we’re shown. It introduced new characters without feeling forced, made good use of already established characters and gave them something to do instead of just shoving them on screen. This episode set the stage for this season to make a darker turn as these already complex characters prepare to deal with more problems. I can’t wait.

A Look at “True Blood” Season 7, Episode 4: “Death is Not the End”

And here’s the episode where apparently no one cared. We dug some more into Pam and Eric’s past, while everything else occurs with no real sense of tension or surprise. What should have been big moments were brushed aside like any side plot from any episode of Power Rangers. Most of them, anyway, but that’s another conversation. The show still manages to squeeze in too many characters for its own good. As a result, “Death is Not the End” feels very muddled with only a few pockets of entertainment.

Death is Not the End- Jackson learns that Alcide is dead

The episode begins in Jackson, Mississippi, where Jackson receives word from Sookie that Alcide has died. Jackson tells Sookie that, while he and Alcide didn’t talk much, he spoke fondly of her. Sookie advises Jackson not to come at night.

Death is Not the End- Hoyt learns that his mother has been killed by a vampire

At the same time, in Anchorage, Alaska, Hoyt hears from Deputy Jason Stackhouse that his mother was killed by a vampire.

When the Stackhouse siblings finish their respective bad news calls, Jason isn’t ready to move on. However, as Sookie points out, people are looking to him because he’s the law.   Sookie, what people? Those people are the very ones that think he shouldn’t be in charge anymore! But anyway, Sam enters. Everyone’s ready.

Death is Not the End- Pam and Eric en route to Louisiana

Pam and Eric are en route to Louisiana. Pam feeds on a flight attendant named Victoria, played by Christine Pitre, and her reward for being a good woman is she now has Hepatitis-V. Congratulations, you’re so screwed! They’re taking a slight detour to Shreveport, much to Pam’s displeasure. Eric just wants to see Willa again, despite abandoning her. Doesn’t matter if Willa hates him, Eric just wants to see her one more time before he dies.

Death is Not the End- Zeljko Ivanek as The Magister, showing Eric and Pam the video store

We then flash back to 1986 and get a brief reappearance of Zeljko Ivanek as The Magister as he shows Pam and Eric a shitty looking video store. But not just any video store: it has the largest collection of adult videos in Northern Louisiana. Enticing indeed. There’s even a tunnel that dates back to the Civil War. The Magister makes it clear that not only is Eric the new sheriff- because the Authority doesn’t trust him and wants to keep an eye on him- but he and Pam are to turn this dump into an operational business. Though Pam and Eric would rather die, they aren’t really given much of a choice. And they’re being watched day and night, so better watch your step.

Death is Not the End- Sookie visits Coby and Lisa

For some reason, Sookie pays a visit to Coby and Lisa to talk about their mother. Everyone else talks to them like they have no idea what’s going on, but Sookie won’t. She knows that Arlene is still alive and will do all she can to make sure she returns to her kids. Promise.

Death is Not the End- Sookie tries to get Holly to remember

The only lead to Arlene is Holly, who is in no condition to talk whatsoever, given the hell she’s been through this on sloppy season- I mean, the horrors she went through in that dungeon. Andy insists that Sookie leave Holly be, but Sookie made a promise! Yeah, Andy, weren’t you listening to the last scene? Sookie made a promise, damn the mental consequences!

Last thing Holly remembers is the mixer and then meeting Sookie in the woods. Everything else is a blur, so the two join hands and Holly begins to relive the memories. She clearly doesn’t want to remember, but Sookie tells her that she’s doing great! Sookie eventually figures out that the others are held at Fangtasia. With this information, she, Sam and Jason leave, while Andy must contend with a still fragile Holly.

I have a huge problem with this scene, but I’ll get into that later.

Death is Not the End- Jason and Sam argue

While Sookie goes to meet with Bill, Sam intends to drive straight to Fangtasia. Jason implores that Sam stop since rushing into Fangtasia without a plan would be suicide. Sam is tired of waiting, however, and keeps on driving…

…until Jason puts his gun to Sam’s head and demand that he stop. Soon enough, Sam brings his truck to a halt. He won’t go to Fangtasia, but he won’t drive, either. He wants Jason to take the wheel. That way, Sam won’t have to say that he’s the one who drove away. Right.

Death is Not the End- James and Jessica in bed, Jessica won't feed

In what I think is their first extended scene on-screen together, we actually get a moment between James and Jessica, whose wound is still not healing. The reason? She hasn’t fed in quite some time, as she still feels guilty about what she did to the fairies. Since Jessica won’t listen to James, he brings Bill instead. But even that does no good.

Death is Not the End- Sookie doesn't give a shit about Jessica's problems

Sookie arrives to the rescue and tells the boys to leave so she and Jessica can have some hard talk, woman to woman. This talk? Sookie just doesn’t give a shit about why Jessica isn’t eating. She doesn’t care about what Jessica did or any of her personal problems. Right now, Sookie needs all the vampire help she can get. This is the strangest girl talk I’ve ever heard.

Death is Not the End- Flashback, Ginger visits the video store

We flash back to 1996. The video store is up and running. In walks a very young Ginger, yet Tara Buck doesn’t look any younger. In fact, she just looks like a female version of Garth from Wayne’s World. Anyway, Ginger is really into vampire cinema.

She’s then in awe at the sight of a clean looking Eric walking in slow motion. Instantly, Ginger wants to apply for a job.

Death is Not the End- Sam and Jason tell Rosie that Kevin is dead

Sam and Jason pay Rosie a visit to tell her about Kevin. She’s distraught, but still isn’t above calling Sam a freak. To be honest, this scene wasn’t necessary, especially given what happens later.

Bill admits that his side will be greatly outnumbered when they converge on Fangtasia, but he’s doing this for Sookie because he owes her. Well, isn’t that special?

Death is Not the End- Lafayette talks with Jessica

Since no one else could help Jessica, they decide to bring in the big guns: Lafayette. He gets right to it- he won’t pretend to know what Jessica is going through. Jessica fights back. She may be a vampire, but Lafayette has no idea what it’s like to kill an innocent person. Except Lafayette does. He never forgave himself for it, but he accepts that he’s flawed. And even though Jessica is technically dead, she can still be worse than she is right now.

Death is Not the End- Flashback, Ginger brings Pam a shitty looking chair

We then flash back to 2006, where Ginger is dressed like Harley Quinn from Batman: Arkham City. Not Asylum, but City. There’s a difference. In Asylum, she’s dressed more like a nurse, but in City, she-oh, never mind. I’m getting off track. Anyway, she brings in a shitty looking chair and has quite the proposal for Pam: the space is theirs, so why not just turn it into whatever they want?

When Pam continues to listen, Ginger pretty much describes the bar we will soon come to know as Fangtasia. And since Eric Northman embodies sex, he can sit on the shitty chair like a king. It’s still a shitty chair, Ginger. Pam likes the description and Ginger’s suggestion for a name. In fact, she likes it so much that she glamours Ginger and decides to take the idea for herself.

In the present, Eric’s impressed that Pam would do such a thing. Nothing less from his progeny.

Death is Not the End- Assembling before the attack on Fangtasia

The time for attack has come. Bill called all the unaffected vampires he could, but only managed a few. No word from Willa yet, but she does suddenly sense something and leaves the human she’s feeding on.

Death is Not the End- Pam and Eric arrive

A knock at the door later, Pam and Eric arrive. That was fast. Sookie speaks to Eric alone and embraces him. Sookie doesn’t want him to die on her. Since they last saw each other, Eric has had quite the life: he triggered an avalanche, went to South America, all over the world until he ended up in France.

Death is Not the End- Willa confronts Eric

Suddenly, Willa enters and demands to know why her maker left her in such a huff. She doesn’t give a shit about what Sookie’s going through- she just wants an answer. Eric tells Willa that, as his maker, they will talk about it later. Well, I guess that settles that.

Death is Not the End- Sam finds the hostages

Sam enters the dungeon as a rat and informs the ladies that help is on the way. But they still need to trust the vampires.

Death is Not the End- Hep-V vampires feed on Arlene

As he leaves, however, one of the Hep-V vampires comes down and seizes Arlene. She’s taken upstairs, where the others begin to feed on her.

They stop when they hear a knock at the door. Eric tells the vampires that he is in need of help and even has a savory human along with him. Before the vampires can feed on Sookie, Eric’s reinforcements attack.

But just as this happens, Vince and what’s left of his ragtag mob- directed by Rosie- throw Molotov cocktails into Fangtasia and fire into the bar.

So things get a little crazy, the vampires fight and Arlene needs clean blood. She’s at death’s door to the point that she’s hearing and seeing Terry. Just as she’s ready to cross onto the other side, one of the vampires, Keith, played by Riley Smith, gives Arlene some of his blood. She lives.

Meanwhile, the good vampires apparently won and the mob looks to be all but dead.

All right, I guess. This final season really seems like it wants to wrap up as many loose ends as possible, but almost as soon as they begin. The Hep-V vampires are crumbling, as is Vince’s mob, and Alcide’s death is all but forgotten by the end of the episode. The trouble is that the season is moving too fast for its own good and we can’t fully take in what we’re given. It’s like the writers aren’t interested in telling a cohesive story. If the writers want to introduce multiple story arcs and bring in as many as characters to fit into an episode, they’d better do something meaningful with them instead of trying to force an emotional response from the audience.

That’s not to say this episode didn’t have some positives. Eric and Pam’s flashbacks did help flesh out their pasts and showed how Fangtasia came to be the bar we know it as. And Pam taking the idea seems like something she would do without hesitation. Jason had a funny moment where he compared the upcoming attack on Fangtasia to storming the beaches at Normandy, only for Bill to point out that said battle lead to 200,000 casualties. And though I never liked the Hep-V vampires, I’m glad their arc seems to be over.

So while there are elements of this episode that I liked, where the episode suffered for me was in the writing and characterization. Not that what we saw was out of character, but selfishness was evident in the amount of characters who didn’t give a shit about anything except their problems.

Death is Not the End- Sookie makes Holly relive nightmares

Let’s start with Sookie and return to her scene with Holly. She knew that Holly was broken and didn’t want to relive the horrors of the Fangtasia dungeon, but she used her anyway. Making her relive a nightmare just to get the location of a place you should have suspected in the first place is unnecessary. And what’s worse is that Sookie doesn’t seem the least bit remorseful by what she did. She just leaves with her information, but at the cost of Holly’s already fragile psyche. Sam and Jason don’t even say anything about it.

And then she doesn’t give a shit about Jessica’s situation. Fine, since the two haven’t interacted much, anyway, but this was only because Sookie had a use for Jessica. After everything that’s happened, with Sookie pleading the town to let her help, she just starts demanding whatever she wants? It’s not a stretch that Sookie would be this selfish, though.

Death is Not the End- Sookie and Eric embrace

I don’t personally care who Sookie ends up with when this is all over, but I just hope we avoid another love triangle between her, Eric and Bill. Pam even tells Bill that nothing would come of him and Sookie. We’ve seen this play out many times.

Also, there was no reason to show Sookie talking with Arlene’s kids. Could have just gone straight to Holly.

Death is Not the End- Arlene on the verge of death

Speaking of, if Arlene had died, I wouldn’t really complain. Heck, I probably would have welcomed it, even though I’m a fan of redheads. The scene where she almost died looked like it was supposed to be tense, but it wasn’t. We got a very unnecessary cameo by Todd Lowe as Terry, just to give us one last look after he got almost an entire episode dedicated to him. Really, if the show wants to kill off anyone, just axe Nicole. That’s all I want.

Death is Not the End- Sam and Jason

Sam and Jason mostly play tag-along, but they have their moments. I thought it was nice of Jason to call Hoyt to deliver the news, while also trying to pretend that the two never met.

Death is Not the End- Jason pulls a gun on Sam

But what in the world was up with him putting a gun to Sam’s head? And even worse, what made Sam think Jason would have pulled the trigger? That sort of reckless behavior would only get them killed faster.

Death is Not the End- Jessica argues with Lafayette

Here’s another question: when did Jessica decide to stop feeding? We never got any sort of indication that something was wrong with her before. At all. Now, all of a sudden, she doesn’t want to feed because she feels bad about what she did? She’s had chances to talk with Adilyn and the two appear to have a connection, so why not share it with her? If, in fact, Jessica has felt guilty, I refuse to believe she’d just keep quiet about it. But hey, I guess it’s a good thing she got shot. Otherwise, we never would have known her problem. Or, follow me on this, it would all too convenient. And Lafayette’s reduced to being the magical sage Negro that gets her to bare her fangs. And really, Jessica couldn’t have been all that useful to Sookie since she almost got killed.

Death is Not the End- Pam and Eric in flashback

With Eric and Pam active again, they were, by far, the most enjoyable part of the episode. Not just because of their chemistry, Eric and Pam are just more fun to watch interact. If this is Eric’s last hurrah, hopefully he’ll be a lot more involved outside of his search for Sarah. And, again, I did enjoy seeing how their dump of a video store became Fangtasia.  Hopefully Eric and Willa resolve their mess, though.

And at the end of the day, a bunch of people and presumably vampires die during that awkward final fight scene. Vince is gone, so the mob won’t last much longer. Who else died? No idea. And who cares?

With this episode, it’s like the writers of True Blood are actively trying to make me dislike the characters or the storyline. The episode moved at breakneck speed with questionable character motivations, particularly from Sookie. If the final season wants to wrap up every single thread, then fine, but do it with care. The final season isn’t an excuse to shove as much into the show as possible. No amount of funny moments can overshadow that. We heard a lot of characters not giving a shit this week. Right now, I have to wonder if the writers even do anymore.

A Look at “Begin Again”

Begin Again poster

Begin Again is a film about second chances. It tells a very familiar, traditional storyline that we’ve seen before, but is still fun to watch as we watch characters find a nontraditional way to produce a music album. In an age where the entertainment industry puts so much emphasis on appearance, the film is also a satire of the music industry by looking at music that some deem authentic, put up against catchy tunes that are made for the dance floor. The movie asks why we make music: is it for the love of the craft or to sell albums? The movie isn’t a full-fledged attack on the entertainment industry. It’s about finding inspiration when you reach a low point, whether in your professional or personal life. But it also makes the point of saying that nothing is wrong with letting go. Again, while not an original concept, Begin Again is still an enjoyable watch.

The film begins at a New York club. A man named Steve, played by James Corden, entertains the crowd briefly before suggesting that the audience give listen to some music by his friend.

Begin Again- Keira Knightley sings

To his left is Greta, played by Keira Knightley, who doesn’t want to come up and sing, but eventually makes her way to the stage. Her song is for anyone who has ever been alone in the city. While it’s hard to gauge the audience’s reaction, her song has a lasting effect on one patron.

We then flash back to earlier that day and are introduced to Dan Mulligan, played by Mark Ruffalo. Dan is a bit of a sad sack. He sleeps the day away and rejects every prospective musical talent he listens to on his way to work. It’s all too derivative and lacks the heart.

Dan heads to pick up his daughter, Violet played by Hailee Steinfeld, before heading to a meeting that he thinks he has.

Begin Again- Dave and Saul, played by Mos Def, argue

At said meeting, we also meet Dan’s longtime business partner, Saul, played by Mos Def, and we see the growing friction between the two not because of broken bonds, but differing opinions of the music industry. More to the point, Dan believes that modern musicians are mostly monosyllabic teenagers with nothing to say. He’s not completely wrong, really. But Dan and Saul used to beat the top of their game for their independent record company, Distressed Records. Dan believes that music needs a vision, not gimmicks. While there may be some truth to that, times have changed and it’s time for Dan to go.

Begin Again- Dan's daughter, Violet, played by Hailee Steinfeld

If Dan’s professional woes weren’t enough, he later learns from Violet that her mother thinks he is a loser. More than that, Violet knows little about her father. It’s to the point that she has a psychiatrist.

We later meet Dan’s estranged spouse, Miriam, played by Catherine Keener. We see the strains of their relationship when Miriam brings up the fact that Dan, despite wanting to bond with Violet, only shows up every now and then to spend time with her.

Depressed and dejected, Dan heads to a bar. As he drinks his sorrows away, he overhears a young woman sing a song targeted toward anyone who has ever felt alone in the city. The beat and lyrics speak to Dan to the point that he visualizes the instruments behind the woman playing by themselves.

After the young woman, Greta, finishes her song, she heads to the bar, where Dan tells her that he’s in. He wants to sign her. Trouble is that Greta writes for her own pleasure. She isn’t a performer. Dan lays it all out: he was just about to kill himself just before he heard her song. Nice save, I guess. Dan feels that his label has lost faith in him. The trouble is that people are too interested in image as opposed to authenticity. After some prodding by this man she’s just met, Greta promises to at least think about it. After all, what’s one more day in New York?

There’s an Avengers joke in here, somewhere.

Begin Again- Greta and boyfriend Dave, played by Adam Levine, in flashback

Never mind. Anyway, Greta heads home and she watches a video of her with her boyfriend, Dave Cohl, played by Adam Levine himself.

The film them flashes back to show us Greta and Dave’s time together before things went south. Dave is a well known musician and his music has made its way into a motion picture that is selling out fast. When a record label wants to produce a soundtrack, it only wants the music from the film, even though Dave wants to include Greta on the album.

What happens is Greta is reduced to the role of intern: fetching coffee for the producers and listening in on recordings. What’s worse, Dave will be heading to Los Angeles to meet with a director. Only Dave.

As a result, Greta spends some time on her own and even runs into her old friend, Steve, who plays music near a subway station.

Begin Again- Greta singing her Christmas gift to Dave

Greta watches a video she and Dave made of them recording a song, and the film then flashes back within the flashback to show the two recording music. The song in question is Greta’s Christmas gift to Dave.

Back within the first flashback, however, Dave returns from Los Angeles to present a song he made while in California. After listening to the song for just a few seconds, Greta gets the hint and hits Dave, hard. The song is for someone else, a woman that Dave met in Los Angeles. Things just happened, he says, and he has to see it through.

So Greta packs her things and moves in with Steve. While there, she’s in the middle of purchasing a plane ticket to go back home across the pond, but Steve will have none of that. In fact, he thinks that Greta should come with him to the bar.

She does, though she’s in for a surprise when Steve calls her on stage to sing for the audience. Though initially reluctant, she eventually sings her song.

Begin Again- Dan talks with Greta

Sometime later, Dan gets a call from Greta and the two meet. Though Greta still insists that she writes for pleasure, Dan sees potential in her.

Saul isn’t bowled over when he hears Greta play, but she’s given a chance if she can produce a demo.

How do Dan and Greta plan to do this? Well, going by what Dan says, they don’t need to rent a studio. They’ll just record outside and have each song based in a different location as a tribute to New York. Damn the consequences and if the police come a-knocking, they just keep on moving. The plan is to play everywhere at anytime!

Time to make an album

Again, the plot to Begin Again isn’t all that original. In fact, from what I’ve read in other reviews, this film is very similar to a 2006 film also directed by John Carney called Once. Me personally, I have never seen Once, so any similarities to that film aren’t all that important to me.

Twerking

While the storyline isn’t novel, I did appreciate the film’s commentary on the modern music industry. We live in an age where events like Miley Cyrus twerking and Justin Bieber egging a house are considered major events. Scandalous stories surrounding the rich and famous are nothing new, but the idols for prepubescent boys and girls are getting younger and younger. They sell out concerts not necessarily because of their musical prowess- though that’s one person’s opinion- but because their image sells. They don’t come off as genuine because they’re constantly saying and doing things that will keep them in the public light. Not to imply that the aforementioned examples were because Cyrus and Bieber were in danger of fading out of the public spotlight, though.

Begin Again- Recording album

The point is, in Dan’s mind, that the new guard of music is more style than substance. We see this play out through Dave’s rise, but also in the dialogue itself. At one point, Dan asks Greta to name one consistently authentic artist. At first, she picks Bob Dylan, but Dan shoots him down on the grounds that Dylan constantly reinvents himself. Who do they agree on? Randy Newman. Given how much emphasis is put on the artist instead of their art, it’s easy to see why Dan has become so disillusioned with the same label he had a hand in creating. People aren’t interested in music that means something- they just want something that they can dance to and the music can be as gimmicky as possible. At the same time, though, I wonder if the inclusion of artists like Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine was done to draw in viewers or because the writers felt they could bring something to the storyline, but I digress.

Begin Again- Trouble Gum, played by Cee Lo Green

This movie isn’t about longing for the old days so much as it is trying to reinvigorate what made those days so special. Dan gets a glimpse of that when he hears Greta perform. Though Greta isn’t interested in the deal, we at least tell that both of them are more interested in the craft of making music than the end result. Much like a Kickstarter, the film is a love letter to those who want to make art on their own steam. Greta and Dan don’t fully do this on their own, as Cee Lo Green’s character, Trouble Gum, has enough connections to help the two get their project off the ground. However, Gum is just there to help out a bit and the two don’t rely on him every time they need help.

Begin Again- Greta and Dave reunite

However, while the film isn’t a nostalgia trip, it does highlight- particularly through Dave’s musical journey- how the spark we once had while creating art can suddenly vanish if we get caught up in fame and fortune. At one point, Dave has Greta listen to a new recording. She calls it stadium pop and says that Dave’s song is lost. And this is her immediate reaction, without having to mull it over. You can’t have all the fame and fortune without losing some of the creative magic that got you there in the first place. I’m reminded of a scene from the show Extras, where Ricky Gervais’ character, Andy, wants to be in great projects, but also just wants to remain in the public light. He’s given a choice: he can either be rich and famous or have integrity and respect. Andy wants both, but he’s told that only a handful of people in the world get to have both, and he’ll never be one of them.

The point I’m trying to make is, without doing any sort of research, the artists, actors, musicians and entertainers that we look up to change all of the time to keep up with the times. Sometimes you’ll have people, who don’t change who they are at all, and that’s perfectly fine, but others just adapt on the grounds that doing so will keep them relevant. This movie would probably be better for me to analyze if I was a walking music encyclopedia, but because I’m not, I can only base this off of what little I know about the ever-changing music industry. But it did appeal to me when it spoke of doing what you love not because you want to get noticed, but because you appreciate the craft. I’m a journalism major and want to break into the field, but I’m not only blogging because I want to get noticed. I do it because I enjoy writing, but also because I enjoy mediums like comic books, television and movies.

Begin Again- Dan talks with Saul

Redemption is one of the film’s bigger themes, with Dan being so cynical with modern music and his life to the point where he wanted to kill himself. Only after hearing Greta did he find light at the end of his tunnel. Cliché, yes, but I enjoyed it all the same. He became inspired to turn his life around and prove that people still like authenticity in their music. More than that, he decides to strengthen the weak bond with his wife and daughter, to his eventual success.

Begin Again- Dan and Greta

And Greta has a chance at happiness after Dave leaves her for another woman. She could have just written depressing songs all day and play them to her cat, as we know she did at one point, but she moves forward with her music. Despite the deep bond she and Dave had over their music, she realizes that it’s not the end of the world and there’s still a reason to keep doing what she loves. Despite having no social media presence, no demo, and no sort of sponsorship, Greta is taking on what seems like an impossible task.

Begin Again- Dan tells Greta about his past

I like the way the film is shot. Like Obvious Child, this film shows New York as very vibrant and an active nightlife. In addition, we see how big a role music plays in the city with Dan’s idea to play anywhere at any time, eventually drawing in random citizens to stop and listen.

Begin Again- Party scene

The movie is fun to watch, the songs are catchy and there are plenty of comedic moments. One highlight, something I actually want to use at some point, is a party scene where Steve has everyone freeze in place while he plays music that is near impossible to not dance to.

At times, the film’s storyline is presented out of sequence. I’m personally a big fan of nonlinear storytelling and telling a narrative from different perspectives if it’s done correctly. We see the opening scene of Greta performing three different times, all from different perspectives, but each time we revisit the scene, it’s to fill in blanks that were left out of the original scene. It didn’t feel out of place and it explained the circumstances that brought the characters to the bar in the first place.

Begin Again- Dan at work

From his first appearance, we would think Dan as an unlikable, sad excuse for a man: he sleeps around the house, doesn’t have a close relationship with his daughter and spends his time yearning for the good old days. He’s stuck in the past. However, as the film progresses, we learn that Maggie had an affair, which led to his nervous breakdown. That, coupled with Violet not thinking much of him and losing his job paint him as a broken man. However, he’s not a deadbeat. He makes a concerted effort to become a better man, and this comes through in Mark Ruffalo’s performance. We know that Dan is sitting on a lot of rage, but he manages to keep it all in check and never has a big blowout scene where he completely falls apart. Even the scene where he’s fired, he doesn’t just fall to pieces.

Film Review Begin Again

And despite how frustrating his family life is, they aren’t at each other’s necks. Ruffalo has good chemistry with both Keener and Steinfeld and all three have very warm moments together. There’s a scene where Dan goes to Miriam’s place to freshen up, while also on the lookout for other men who may be around. There weren’t, but Miriam would have told him that. That’s probably the best news Dan could have ever received.

Begin Again, Greta, Violet and Dan eating ice cream

Not to mention that including Violet in the band gave Dan a chance to bond with his daughter, even if Greta was the linchpin that made it happen. Dan really does come off like a father who is just trying to find some common ground with his daughter, but still acts like the dad who chastises his daughter for wearing a suggestive skirt. Granted, Dan doesn’t go through some huge transformation by the end of the film, but he does still help Greta produce an album, given his knowledge of and connections to the music industry.

Begin Again- Greta singing in bar

And I never would have expected Keira Knightley to have such a great singing voice. Knightley almost appears to be making fun of herself in the role, when she admits that Brits can be a bit snobbish. Not interested in fame, Greta is more focused on maintaining her dignity and respect. She doesn’t care about making money. That doesn’t mean she’s not knowledgeable about the entertainment industry. She has a great moment where she asks why Saul receives so much of the profits made from album sales when she’s the one who did the singing. Clearly, Greta is meant to be the sticking up for the little guy…er, little gal, in this case. She would be happy if everyone heard her music for as little cost as possible.

Begin Again- Flashback of Dave and Greta

And Greta, to me, never came off as overconfident or cocky. Her relationship with Dave exposed her to the greater musical world, but as Dave’s popularity grew, she became second fiddle. I loved the scene where she figures out that Dave has been cheating on her. It’s all just done through facial expressions and her reaction to his song. And when she records her own song and plays it to his voice mail, there’s real anger in her voice for how she’s been fooled by him.

Begin Again- Dan and Greta listen to music together

She forms and has great relationships with the others, though. She and Steve talk like they’ve been friends for years and they have playful banter that shows how far their friendship stretches. And her relationship with Dan remains professional. There are glimpses of moments where it seems like they could develop feelings for each other, but the film doesn’t allow that to happen. We don’t get any sort of awkward love triangle. Greta, as I mentioned, helps Dan strengthen his relationship with his family by giving Violet advice and suggesting that she also play in the band.

Begin Again- Dave recording album in studio

I don’t have much to say about Adam Levine, though. He plays the part well and is representative of the artist who gets swept up by fame and doesn’t realize how good his relationship with Greta was until she sang him her song.

I do have a few negatives, though. As mentioned, the film’s plot is nothing new and while there are a few elements that went against my expectations, some of the beats are very predictable.

Begin Again- Recording in the water

For starters, I have to wonder how plausible it actually is to record music in random locations throughout New York without much prior notice. I mean, noise disturbances much? But then, the film addresses this by having citizens for and against the random music.

Begin Again- Band recording

And the musicians that Dave recruits- they all appear to be aspiring artists.  I question whether people would realistically drop everything they’re doing to create an album for a producer that just randomly approached them and couldn’t even pay them.

Toward the end, the film feels the need to tackle online distribution and Greta’s decision on what to do with her album. Now I won’t say what she chooses to do, but ultimately, I feel the ultimate achievement came from her and Dan’s success at making the album at all. They tried and succeeded when the odds were heavily against them. That’s all we needed to see. The film didn’t need to bookend the journey because, all this time, it didn’t seem realistic that they could pull off creating the album. Just leave it at that and let the audience assume the end result.

Begin Again- Recording album in an alley

Despite my criticisms, Begin Again is still an uplifting movie that provides great commentary on the state of the music industry. It questions whether authenticity can still matter in an age where image is increasingly becoming what sells albums. Do we seek fame and money or remain the tortured artist that creates beautiful works? While the plot is very familiar and may be too cliché for some, I still enjoyed the movie and the songs, more than once, managed to put a smile on my face. Helped by some great chemistry through the lead performances of Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, Begin Again is a film I’d recommend. It’s not for everyone, but I think it’s worth a watch.

Also, you can learn a lot about a person based on their Ipod playlist. Something to remember.