"When Did You First Know You Were a Woman?"

I'm reading Bossypants by Tina Fey and really missing 30 Rock (though Parks and Recreation is good, too), and this question comes up when she talks about writing Mean Girls. And it seems like a lot of the answers to the question have to do with catcalls and men shouting at women, but I don't have any vivid memory of that ever happening. Maybe no one has ever catcalled at me? Or, just as likely, I wasn't paying attention and/or assumed they were shouting at someone else.

So when I thought about this question, I really had to cast my mind back, and the summer of 1989 sprang up almost immediately. I was 13 and in love with Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever and Don Henley's The End of the Innocence. Seems very apropos in retrospect.

Two years before, we'd moved from Georgetown to Lewisville [Texas]. But two of my best friends were still in Georgetown, and I got permission to spend a month down there—two weeks at Emily's, two weeks at Tara's. We went and saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade over and over again, making ourselves sick on hot dogs and Nerds and oversized dill pickles.

Now, Emily is the same age as me, but she was always the more mature one, interested in boys long before I was. But Tara, who is like a sister to me, is four years younger. She and I lived right next door to one another and spent every possible minute together. I was as comfortable in her house as I was my own, and her little brother, when asked who I was, would often answer, "That's just Mandy. She's like my other sister."

This is important because of what happened. I was staying with Tara and her family, and though I was 13 and physically mature, Tara (who was 9) and I were still playing silly kid games. We would play Indiana Jones, and I would be Indy and have to rescue her and so on. We had a game in which the entire goal was to avoid being kissed by the evil Fish Lips. Kid stuff. I was brilliant but a late bloomer in the socio-emotional sense. (Not uncommon for Asperger's, I believe.)

Tara's dad had a friend who would come over. His name was Mike. I didn't think much of it, but after a while I became aware Mike looked at me a lot, in a way that made me uncomfortable, though I wasn't sure why. Then Mike quit coming to visit. And I found out later Tara's dad had given him a thrashing because of some things Mike had said about me. Inappropriate things.

Not long after, my dad's friend Jim came to visit us up in Lewisville. I'd known Jim since I was itty bitty and thought nothing of sitting on his lap, same as I always had. But one day my mom took me aside and told me I couldn't sit on Jim's lap any more. She didn't elaborate, and it took some mulling on my part to understand why.

Putting two and two together, I began to realize I had become interesting to men. That the bodily changes I took for granted were drawing attention. And for reasons I'd rather not go into, I thought this was the worst thing in the world.

I attacked the problem in a variety of ways. 1. I started wearing my dad's t-shirts. They were huge on me and covered everything up. I also started wearing men's hiking boots for some reason; I'm not sure what that was about. 2. I grew a curtain of hair to hide behind. 3. I quit eating. And no one could tell because I became skilled at pushing things around on my plate to make it look like I had eaten, and I had huge clothes on anyway.

Basically, I was trying to disappear in every way possible.

I didn't know that at the time, of course, but looking back it's pretty clear.

So, yeah, that's when I knew I was a woman. And I fought it for as long as I could. Which is probably why I didn't date much in high school. (I had two boyfriends, both very safe church boys.) At some point, I gave in. Cute dresses could no longer be foresworn or something.

Oh, but Tina Fey does also mention buying a white denim suit, and it reminded me of something similar in my life. I was at the mall with a couple friends, and I found a white v-neck sweater at . . . I dunno, Lerner New York & Co, I think it was. It was displayed with all these brightly colored turtlenecks, and my friend Christopher said, "Amanda, you have to buy it. That would look great on you." And flattered that Christopher could be bothered to even think about what might look great on me . . . And also mollified by the fact the sweater was massive and would cover all the things . . . I bought it and a cobalt blue turtle neck. And I wore them as often as Texas weather allowed.

Television: Scorpion, "Going South"

So this show is starting to become a tad rote in that I no longer have to give it my full attention when it's on.

In this episode, Sylvester continues to worry about telling Walter that he (Sylvester) is seeing Walter's sister Megan. Meanwhile, Walter manages to piss everyone off after giving a solo news interview in which he comes out looking stellar but everyone else's names and qualifications get muddled. Walter insists he was only trying to drum up new business for them, but Toby calls him narcissistic.

Then Cabe brings in a wealthy man whose daughter is being held by a Mexican drug cartel. The man has already paid two million dollars in ransom, but the baddies are asking for more. It takes Sylvester all of thirty seconds to figure out where the girl is being held (the town, anyway), and the client is ready to send his own team in to retrieve her, but Walter gets the great idea they should do it.

Pride goeth . . .

The rest of the episode was, as I mentioned, rote and my interest faded. They fought a bit, they did something clever, blah blah blah. They got the girl, of course. End of story.

Oh, and Sylvester did finally tell Walter about Megan. And Walter warned Sylvester that Megan was in decline (for those coming late to the party, she has MS and lives in a care facility), which was something he didn't think Sylvester could handle. But Sylvester assured Walter he could and would.

And that was kind of it. From what I saw.

There is a kind of MacGyver feel to the show—MacGyver always saved the day, too, didn't he? And in clever ways? And I loved MacGyver, but maybe it's that I've grown up, or maybe it's just that the supporting cast (Jack, Pete, and certainly Murdoc) paved the way for far more interesting stories. Yeah. This show needs a Murdoc. Maybe they're setting up Mark Collins to come back and act as that? Of course, assuming Mark is brilliant enough to get out of custody . . .

Television: Broadchurch 2.8

So we get the rather abrupt answer to the Sandbrook mystery, but not before Claire tries to blackmail Alec by suggesting he held her prisoner and abusively raped her. Will that come back to cause trouble?

I'm not sure there's a short answer, but I'll try: Ricky caught Lee with Lisa and killed Lisa but told Lee he'd put it all on him if he didn't help cover it up. Then Claire came home and found out and coerced Lee into suffocating Pippa so she wouldn't say anything . . . But then she convinced Ricky it was his rohypnol-laced alcohol that killed Pippa.

We got all this out of a pendant and two identical receipts for flooring that, truthfully, should have been looked at more closely the first time around.

Do we know why Ricky came home from the wedding, btw? Did I miss that? Was he coming to get the flask so he could drug a bridesmaid? Seems like he would have had it with him . . . Was he coming to hit up Lisa himself?

Whatever. It felt weirdly anticlimactic. (Also, how was it Alec and Ellie could command an interview room? Aren't they both, like, off the force in Broadchurch?)

Meanwhile, Joe is found not guilty. Sort of saw that coming, too, didn't we? Doesn't make for much drama if he gets put away. Better to have him drummed out of town . . . And then will we be investigating his murder in Series 3? Lots of people want him dead. Sounds rather like a game of Cluedo. Hrm.

In other developments, Jocelyn tells Sharon she wants to work with her. Of course Sharon isn't keen. But then Jocelyn offers some insights into possible ways to appeal Jonah's sentence, so . . . Maybe that will work out?

And for whatever reason Beth unbends enough to be friends with Ellie again. So we end with Ellie and her boys, and the Latimers meeting up on the beach to lay flowers where Danny's body had been found. (Apparently Beth and Mark are okay now, too, despite the fact he was the primary reason the defence was able to come up with enough doubt in the minds of the jury.)

Anyway. It's enough of an ending to be somewhat satisfying, though one questions where Alec will go now. Then again, apparently he'll be back in Broadchurch before long since they have said David Tennant will return for Series 3.


Movies: Birdman

This felt less like a movie and more like an argument—or maybe a debate that no one wins. And I say this in the best possible way. Because so many movies these days are brain candy, requiring no thought or work from the audience. Things explode, and it's one action sequence after another. But Birdman skewers those superhero movies just a bit while simultaneously taking on the subject of "celebrity" versus "actor" and what it means to be "legitimate" or "authentic."

Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thompson, once an action-movie star known for the Birdman franchise, now trying to do serious work by adapting a Raymond Carver story for the stage, directing it, and acting in it. He's put everything he has into this version of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, to the point that he's broke. His daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is a recovering drug addict working as his assistant. He's dabbling with one of the female actresses. He's staring down a lawsuit from an injured actor. And he's having to deal with the uppity Mike, the injured actor's replacement.

On top of all this, Riggan hears a voice (just the one) that reminds him of what a great star he once was and how much better he is than everybody else. He also believes he can make things move with his mind, and at times that he can actually fly. So maybe one of the topics under discussion in Birdman is the celebrity ego and how the Hollywood system encourages delusions of grandeur.

I'm generally a big fan of a movie that promotes discussion. And I mean beyond the holes in the plot (which is generally the extent of discussions about superhero movies); I prefer real conversation, the kind of things you can actually spend an evening around a table at a bar talking about. In certain circles, Birdman fits this bill. I mean, I can't envision just anyone wanting to argue the differences in perceptions of class and legitimacy between mega movie stars and Broadway actors, and what the tide of movie stars on Broadway has done to muddle things, but it's the kind of thing I and my friends would probably discuss. (Then again, I work with film and theatre people, and there's nothing any of us like more than to talk about what we do and how important it is or isn't. That's probably why Birdman has done so well in terms of awards—we love movies that elevate what we do and legitimize it as art.)

All that aside, Birdman deserves the praise it's received. It's a beautifully shot movie, too, just very well made. It's been a long time since I've sat through a movie and felt blown away by it in the sense of just having great admiration for what I'm seeing while at the same time being wholly entertained. But Birdman was marvelous on every level.


Television: Elementary, "When Your Number's Up"

A variation in the usual structure as we follow not only Holmes and Watson as they investigate, but also the killer. One assumes this is because the killer is played by Alicia Witt, and the show wanted to get its money's worth. (Har. That's a joke because the episode was about what people are worth in wrongful death compensation lawsuits.)

So . . . yeah. Basically, people are being killed and there is cash on their bodies with a mathematical equation and a quote from the lawyer whose job it is to work out how much each family is paid for the loss of their loved ones. Turns out Alicia Witt's character is running out of money, but she's due for some compensation in her husband's death in a plane crash. In order to maximize the amount she receives, she's killing people and trying to force a flat settlement rather than have her husband's worth calculated. See, he was dying, which means he wouldn't be worth much. And she has a lifestyle to maintain.

A pretty interesting idea, and I did like the change in seeing the killer, though it was way too easy to figure out why she was doing it, so they could have been a bit more clever about that.

Meanwhile, Watson insists she wants to get rid of a lot of her stuff. Holmes suggests she store it in the basement of the brownstone, but she is adamant that she wants it gone. Holmes also does an end run around Watson and rents her apartment . . . Just in case. After all, she's acting out of blind sorrow and may not be thinking clearly. She may yet want that stuff, or that apartment. So Holmes is just making sure Watson doesn't box herself in.

Once she gets over being angry at Holmes for going behind her back on these things, she creates a space of her own in the basement of the brownstone, even going so far as to make sure one has to go outside to access it (she nails shut the inside door). This seems a fair compromise.

In all, a middling episode that didn't hold 100% of my attention. We're off next week, so we'll see what they come back with, though previews suggest Holmes gets arrested . . .


Movies: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Written By: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn from the comic book by Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons
20th Century Fox, 2014
R; 129 minutes
3.75 stars (out of 5)


I knew it was based on a comic series, but I haven't read any of them. Still, knowing that much meant the comic book style violence in this movie didn't faze me; the fact that it was overdone to the point of cartoonish and silly seemed, in fact, fitting.

This is a cute movie with violent spikes. It's like YA that wants to be grown up. Firth plays Harry Hart, aka Galahad, an agent for the titular tailors-turned-spies known as Kingsmen. But while Firth may get top billing, but this is Eggsy's story. Played by Egerton, Eggsy is a miscreant with a heart of gold whose father was killed while training to be a Kingsman. So of course Eggsy gets tapped by Harry to "interview" for a vacant seat when one comes up. (Sorry to say Jack Davenport is barely in this movie. What a waste.)

While Eggsy tries out for the team, a secondary plot involves billionaire mogul Valentine (Jackson) whose goal is to help Mother Nature out by culling the world population. He will save the rich and powerful and drive the rest of mankind into homicidal madness with his powerful SIM cards, which he gives away free. Because, hey, free phone from a rich guy! He couldn't possibly have an ulterior motive!

None of what happens in this movie is at all surprising. The whole thing is hugely predictable. And yet, for all that, I enjoyed it. Maybe because I had almost no expectations for the film to begin with. It's a comic book movie of a somewhat different breed than has been shoved down our throats the past few years. These are not flashy superheroes, and they aren't quite James Bond ("this is not that kind of movie," characters utter), but they inhabit the same space as these—the space of action heroes saving the world.

Plenty of the usual undertones exist here: the mentor/father figure for the young man who never had one; the underdog rising in the face of classism, proving that "class" is not so much in breeding as in behavior; the old guard giving way to newer, younger influences, and this being equated with progress.

Actually, class is viewed through another lens in this film. Valentine implants major world leaders, royalty, and generally rich snobs with devices to protect them from the signal his phones will emit. He likens it to Noah's ark. In that story, the "righteous" are saved while the evil drown. Yet Valentine's implants work two ways: They can be made to heat up and literally blow the heads off those who have them. Is this more "mark of the beast"? By the end of the movie [spoilers], instead of culling the lower classes, the world has lost most of its upper crust instead. Whether the world is better or worse for it remains to be seen.

(And, btw, when the implants were set off, why didn't Gazelle die? We were shown she had the scar that suggests she had an implant.)

In any case, Kingsman mostly feels like a movie for teens that pushes those limits on language and violence that teens like to push. Many of the action scenes feel overly long, and as I've mentioned the violence itself ends up cartoonish though still gory in places. (Exploding heads are shown as fireworks, but we're still treated to headless bodies, to a character being sliced in two, and to an extended bloodbath in a church to the tune of "Freebird." This is that kind of movie.)

I give Kingsman a 3.75 because I walked away entertained, which is really all I wanted from the movie, and it delivered. That alone is worth a 3.0, but I give a few extra marks for being somewhat better than I expected. Which isn't saying much, since I had few expectations to begin with, but it's still worth something.


Television: Gotham, "The Blind Fortune Teller"

More origin stories. Apparently we're going with Jerome as the Joker's name in this version. Also, every time I see Mark Margolis, I can only think of that ST:TNG episode: "I'm not the fool you take me for!"

We also meet Robin's parents, but unless this show skips ahead by a lot between seasons, we may never get around to meeting Robin (Dick Grayson) himself.

So what do we have? Well, Jim Gordon takes his new squeeze to the circus only to have to intervene when a fight breaks out and a snake dancer named Lila is discovered murdered. We get Mark Margolis as a blind fortune teller named Cicero who claims to be receiving messages from Lila. Jim isn't buying it, but Leslie is keen to investigate. After some roundabout logic, it's determined Cicero is lying to cover for Lila's son Jerome, who, as it turns out, is also Cicero's son. The kid playing Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) does a pretty nice job of flipping the personality switch, but if we were supposed to be surprised by the reveal at the end, well, I wasn't; I called it the moment we met Jerome.

Barbara returns to the penthouse only to find Jim gone and Cat and Ivy hanging out. They give her some fashion advice, and she sets out to win Jim back only to find him liplocked with Leslie. He never even sees Barbara. Which is fine because we don't want to see her either. She's a drip of a character, though I suspect they're building toward something?

And Fish Mooney is rallying her troops against whatever black marketeers are holding her and her new band of misfits prisoner. Her negotiating tactics earn her face time with the manager, which I guess we'll see happen next week.

Penguin's terrible taste in music is brining the nightclub down, so a reprogrammed Butch is installed to help Penguin retune.

Bruce addresses the board at Wayne Enterprises. ::yawn::

All in all a solid enough episode. I do feel like they're stocking the pond a bit much here, though; there are almost too many characters now, and they might have done better to dole them out fewer and farther between.

Television: Broadchurch 2.7

The penultimate episode of series 2 was a bit more in-your-face in tone and had Alec Hardy going full-on Scottish on everyone. He sounds like my great-uncle when he's angry—we all know he's upset but we can't ever figure out why because we can't understand a word of it. So we look at each other and say, "Who set him off?" And to Uncle Robert we're saying, "Can you just point to it? Whatever's bothering you?"

My crazy uncle notwithstanding, here's what happened on Broadchurch:

  • Sharon put Ellie back in the witness box and treated her as "hostile," bringing up the fact she'd given her sister £1000 on the same day her sister gave a statement that she'd seen Joe disposing of clothes the night of Danny's murder. Sharon then reiterated her argument that Ellie wanted Joe out of the way so she could carry on with Alec.
  • Legal arguments concluded and the jury was sent to deliberate.
  • Mark and Beth continued to have drama. We continued not to care all that much.
  • Alec and Ellie chased down Gary Thorpe, son of the man who owned Thorpe Agriservices (aka incinerator place). Turns out young Gary ran the business into the ground. He also went out with Lisa a couple times . . . And stalked her . . . But was in hospital at the time of the disappearances because he'd tried to commit suicide.
  • Alec and Ellie then went to Ricky to ask what he knew about Thorpe, why he'd never mentioned him before, and got the, "didn't seem important" answer. Alec noticed a framed photo of bluebells in Ricky's office, and he and Ellie finally figured out the strange number in Claire's phone was Ricky's. (They have ways to look that shit up, right? Why didn't they?)
  • Alec told Lee Ashworth that Claire had been pregnant. When Lee confronted Claire, she told him she aborted it and that Alec was the one who stayed with her through that time. For once their fight (in the ocean this time) didn't end in a heavy make-out session.
  • Jocelyn finally admitted to Maggie that she loves her. (We all saw that one coming, right?) Most awkward kiss ever.*
  • With the idea that it's over between her and Lee, Claire gave Alec the pendant she stole from Tess's car.
  • The jury returned a verdict, and either my cable went out or . . . Cliffhanger? Sigh.

I had this moment, when Alec was asking Lee about his relationship with Lisa, where I wondered if Lee could be Lisa's estranged father. I have to say, it's pretty strange there's been no contact with Lisa's actual parents. But, I mean, the police can't be that terrible, can they? Lee can't be Lisa's dad because they can't possibly have missed that if he were. Right? But where are Lisa's parents?

And then there was the hint of there being someone in France. Could it be Lisa?

Next week we'll have the verdict on Joe. Unclear what we'll have in terms of Sandbrook. If Claire is ready to spill the truth . . . But then again, she has a history of lying and would suffer for it on the stand, if it ever came to that. Will there even be a third series? It's a brilliant show, but is it sustainable?

*I have nothing against two women kissing, but the actresses appeared really reluctant or, at best, uncertain about the whole thing.


iPhone 6

I've had an iPhone 6 for a couple weeks now. Not the 6+ because I had to draw the line somewhere, and I like having a phone that will fit in my back pocket. Even then, I resisted the 6 because of the size. It's thinner than my 5, yes, but in terms of surface area it's much bigger.

I also wasn't sold on the white face around the screen. Like, the "color" options were silver, gold, or space grey or something like that. I, of course, chose silver. But no one sees the silver because I have a purple Body Glove case on the thing (which is a great case, btw, more on that later), and only the back is silver. The front is white. Meh.

But I'm used to it now. And I have to say I do actually like that the 6 is larger than the 5. I find it easier to type (though I'm still adjusting and keep hitting "e" when I want "w") and much, much easier to read email on the larger screen.

The camera is better, too. Or maybe I'm getting better at taking pictures . . . Either way, I find far fewer of them are blurry.

As for my Body Glove case, the one issue I have with it is that it's too thick to allow for my car adapter when I want to listen to my music in the car. Aside from that, it's perfect.

Bottom line is, I had my doubts about the iPhone 6. But so far I really like it.

Television: Elementary, "The Female of the Species"

. . . "is deadlier than the male"? Isn't that the saying?

Story line A: Holmes and Detective Bell team up to find two pregnant zebras taken from the Bronx Zoo.

Story line B: Watson knows Elana March (from way back at the start of the season) is behind the attempt on her life that resulted in Andrew's death. But since March is already in prison, there's less a question of her paying for her misdeeds and more a question of how and when she'll try again to kill Watson.

A plot: Zebras found, sans babies. Also, a dead veterinarian.

B plot: Watson under protection, Holmes bringing her food.

A + B: Holmes does some work at Watson's apartment, and Watson points out an abandoned farm within the search radius that might be good for hiding baby zebras.

A plot: A baby . . . quagga? Supposedly extinct, but someone at the zoo evidently doctored the wombs of the zebras. Meanwhile, where is baby #2?

B plot: Watson receives scary mail. Also, Andrew's father returns stuff that had been hers that he found in Andrew's apartment. He tells Watson he wishes she'd taken the threat of Elana March more seriously before his son died. Having all that police protection now is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. (Well, except maybe it keeps the second horse in?)

A plot: Holmes and Bell identify which zoo worker is the culprit. Basically he wanted to sell the quagga to help pay his PhD debts. But the guy gets away.

B plot: Watson comes to the conclusion that, due to her occupation, she will never be able to have a "normal" life. After all, a boyfriend is a vulnerability right? Someone will always be out to get her, and a boyfriend is a good way to get to her. Better to just dedicate herself fully to her work as a detective.

A plot: Holmes is severely disappointed in Bell. I think it's because Bell wasn't willing to pull an all-nighter? And so Holmes ended up setting up the sting that catches the baddie all on his own.

B plot: Watson receives a letter from Jamie Moriarty that promises to have Elana March taken care of (and we see Elana dead in her cell). Watson isn't sure if this is better or worse than having March after her. Also, Watson tells Holmes she wants to move back into the brownstone.

Roll credits.

A pretty decent episode on the whole, if a tad rote. I do like that they don't write Holmes as not having any feelings, but as someone who is a bit awkward when dealing with those feelings. He is sincere, and he knows what's expected of a friend, but it still doesn't come entirely naturally. On the other hand, I'm not sure I buy Watson's behavior. I mean, I understand the logic in it, hypothetically, but . . . There is just some tiny thing "off" about it to me. We'll have to see how it plays out.


Television: Gotham, "The Scarecrow"

Gordon struggles to maintain work-life balance when Leigh comes in as the new medical examiner and insists on kissing.

Bruce goes for a hike. Alone. Which goes about as well as can be expected.

Fish Mooney fights her way to the top of a less elite band of outlaws.

And Penguin redecorates a nightclub but has lousy taste in music.

Oh, and then there's the whole Scarecrow thing in which Dr. Crane is killing people and cutting out their adrenal glands in order to create a kind of vaccine against fear. Has something to do with the fact his wife died in a house fire, and Crane has lingering guilt over not saving her—he was too afraid to go upstairs and rescue her, and now she haunts him . . . But only when he injects himself with this drug he's developing. Wouldn't that make you stop injecting the drug? I dunno. There's no accounting for crazy.

Thing is, Crane insists on "inoculating" his son Jonathan too, but the result is that Jonathan is now trapped in a neverending hallucination of evil scarecrows. So, you know, that sucks.

Whatever. It was an okay episode, very even in tone, nothing great and nothing awful, just kind of there. I feel like this series should really be called Batman: Origins because that seems to be what it is: a collection of origin stories for all these characters we already know from the comics and movies.


Television: Scorpion, "Love Boat"

A weak episode. It barely held my attention, and it didn't even need to because I could follow the story even without giving it much thought.

Some rockets get stolen and put on a cruise ship, so Sylvester, Paige, Walter, and Cabe masquerade as passengers. And then things go Captain Phillips when the baddies take over the ship. And then the captain turns out to be the chief bad guy anyway. Whatever. The good guys win.

Meanwhile, Happy and Toby are on Ralph duty, coaching the kid through a crush. This part of the show was only marginally better than the main plot.

And in the end, Paige encourages Sylvester in his pursuit of Walter's sister Megan. Walter cancels a "work dinner" with Paige that would have taken place in a fancy restaurant on Valentine's Day . . . And gives the reservation to Sylvester, not knowing Sylvester plans to ask Megan out.

This change in plans on Walter's part is apparently precipitated by feedback from an ex-girlfriend who just happened to be on the cruise with her fiancé. When Walter asks her how he can do better in relationships, she points out that he got bored with her as a girlfriend; his quick-moving brain loses interest too easily. Walter's goal, then, is to find someone who will keep him on his toes or someone he'll at least never get bored with.

We also find out Drew is spending a month in Maine with the Sea Dogs.

On the whole, just kind of a blah episode.

Television: Broadchurch 2.6

Tom goes into the witness box to testify on behalf of his dad. Unfortunately, he's willing to lie a little while there. He says Mark told him he [Mark] was guilty of Danny's murder. Of course, on cross examination by Jocelyn, Tom is forced to admit Mark only said he felt guilty, not that he'd actually murdered his son.

Mark is then forced to testify, and Sharon paints a nasty picture of him being the one to kill Danny and then calling Nigel to dispose of the body. I'm still not sure how she gets away with such speculation, particularly in saying Danny "could have seen you with Becca Fisher." Um, there's no way to prove that Danny did see anything (he's not alive to give witness), so the judge really should have shut down that line of inquiry. But the deed is done, the seed planted in the jury's minds that this alternative line of events is a possibility.

Also, Mark is cornered into admitting he'd gone and written a "goodbye" letter to Beth that night with the idea their marriage was over and he wanted to be with Becca. This feels like a bit much, a really trite effort to extend the drama in Mark and Beth's relationship for the sake of an audience that doesn't care as much about them as it did last season.

Sharon asks the judge to dismiss the case, but Jocelyn proves Joe can still get a fair trial, and so we move on. Jocelyn also reveals to Ben what we pretty much already knew, that her eyesight is failing.

And Paul visits Joe again, though one wonders why. Apparently only to reinforce the idea that Paul hopes Joe will repent and tell the truth, put an end to the trial. I do feel this may be where things head, that in the end the writers are setting Joe up to finally do the right thing.

Meanwhile, Alec and Ellie visit the Gillespies again and discover the door in the fence that connects the two gardens, allowing easy access. Ellie tells Alec to put pressure on Claire, so he calls and tells her their deal is off and he won't protect her any more. Claire asks Ellie for help, and Ellie says she will only talk to Alec on her behalf if she finally tells the whole truth. Claire promises and offers to do Ellie's hair besides, which leads to Ellie looking through Claire's portfolio and finding a picture of Claire wearing Pippa's pendant. We later see a flashback of Claire breaking into Tess' car and taking the pendant.

We also see Lee tell Claire they need a plan, and Claire tell him, "We had a plan!" So are they in it together? And maybe also with the Gillespies? It's a very fucked-up situation, and it's difficult to tell where the truth lies. But maybe that was the plan all along: Make it impossible to conclusively prove who did it. A hair here, a necklace there . . .

Alec is due for his pacemaker, and Tess turns up to take care of him. Jocelyn's mother dies (which solves having to keep paying for her care, I suppose, and anyway the woman was ancient). And Ellie—finally!—takes on being a proper mother again and tells Tom he will come home and they will be a family again. Good.

Only a couple more episodes this season. I will be sad when the show is over.


Television: Elementary, "Hemlock"

Hmm. I used hemlock as a poison in "A Society of Martlets."

This is an episode in which the last couple minutes overshadows the rest, which is a shame because the main plot of the episode isn't half bad. We see Holmes at loose ends and how crazy that makes him. And so when a woman asks him to find her missing husband—she's convinced he's cheating on her and wants evidence—Holmes takes the case.

Our missing husband is a lawyer with a prestigious firm, or so his wife believes; it turns out he was let go some six months prior but was paying a secretary to continue answering his phone line as if he were still employed. A stain on the payment envelope leads Holmes and Watson to the location of the man's new business: a debt collection agency, which the man had started when he bought a "packet" of debts.

The important clue at the scene, however, is a missing fire extinguisher and carpet runner, shattered glass, and a bit of brain matter that DNA later shows belongs to our AWOL husband.

Through various twists and turns it is discovered the husband wasn't made for debt collecting; he was too kind and ended up forgiving a debt that cost investors quite a lot in that they were out to get his house and land for a winter sports complex. Things loop back around to one of the partners at the law firm, and (perhaps taking a page from "The Golden Pince-Nez") his glasses.

Fine, whatever. It's a strong enough story, but other interesting things show it up, like Watson meeting Andrew's father for the first time. Holmes had previously postulated that Watson wasn't into settling down for any length of time, but she insisted she was perfectly happy in her steady relationship with Andrew. Alas, it becomes increasingly clear that Watson isn't up to settling down; the father thing freaks her out, largely because (a) Andrew is a great guy, (b) his dad is also awesome, and yet (c) Watson isn't feeling what she "should" be feeling. She's enjoying the relationship, but she's not in love.

Feeling like things are moving faster than she wants, and realizing that it isn't fair to Andrew to keep his hopes afloat under false pretenses, Watson meets him for coffee. She bumps into someone at the bar—or someone bumps her. And then she accidentally gives Andrew her coffee, which he realizes after taking a sip.

And then he dies.

The titular hemlock.

Meant for Watson, but why? And from whom?

It's an interesting way of doing Doyle without being obvious about it. In the canon, Watson gets married and moves away from 221B, and then his wife dies. Here they've had Watson move out, get into a serious relationship, and then have that love interest die. It's not quite the same considering Watson was breaking up with the guy anyway, and his death was intended to be hers, but it certainly adds spice. We see in previews that Watson lobbies to move back into the brownstone next week. We know Holmes does better with [human] company:

Watson: "Why are you making Clyde [the turtle] paint?"
Holmes: "He enjoys it."


Food: Virgil's Cream Soda

I think we've established my love of soda, and sweets, and cream soda in particular. Sure, an A&W or I.B.C. will do in a pinch, but I'm always on the lookout for something that goes above and beyond.

The last new cream soda I tried was Henry Weinhard's last November. I really like that one. Very thick and foamy head on it, great vanilla taste without being too heavy. In fact, there are times one almost wishes it were a tad stronger.

Not too long ago I came across another cream soda I hadn't tried: Virgil's. They have a line of sodas, but so far I've only tried the straight-up cream. And I really like it, too. It's a smidge stronger than Weinhard's but doesn't have the draught-style head. In fact, the one big drawback I've discovered to Virgil's is its tendency to spew when you open the bottle. Even if you've only taken the bottle out of the cupboard, apparently it doesn't take much to cause what should only happen when you really shake the thing.

While Weinhard's is more butterscotch in flavor, Virgil's is a definite vanilla. It's darker in color, too. I'd place it as a step up from A&W or I.B.C. and on par with—though different from—Weinhard's. And I'm curious enough to try some of the other flavors they make. Black cherry cream soda? Yeah, I'll taste test that. Stay tuned.

Television: Broadchurch 2.5

Well, now, where are we? Susan Wright gets decimated by Jocelyn during testimony. But still, the element of doubt has been introduced, hasn't it?

Ellie goes on a tear investigating Sandbrook. She sorts out that Lisa took money out of her account before going to babysit Pippa, and that she made one last phone call to her mother that afternoon, but then Lisa's phone was off for 18 hours before pinging a tower in Portsmouth. Who or what is in Portsmouth? Some agriservices firm . . . with a big incinerator.

So Ellie's theory that Lisa killed Pippa and then went on the run and is still alive goes up in smoke, so to speak.

But I think she had something there, given that the flashbacks show Lisa looking pretty put out about the bond between Pippa and Lee. And Ricky has said Lisa had a difficult relationship with her father, which probably extends to a messed up relationship with men in general.

There were all kinds of things going on, it seems. Lee and Cate, for one thing. And weird games of hide and seek between Lee, Ricky, Pippa, and Lisa? And Claire doing Pippa's hair, too, so we know they were all pretty tight. Partner swapping? Meanwhile, the wedding alibi for Ricky goes out the window when the bridesmaid says she rejected him. Yet Ricky was MIA for about two hours at the wedding . . . And carrying a flask that probably had rohypnol in it; Lee tells Alec he'd used it once and gotten it from Ricky, who made trips to Amsterdam and brought back all kinds of drugs.

The Sandbrook stuff has become more interesting than the Broadchurch trial. The writers are trying to keep Beth and Mark relevant by having Beth start a charity in Danny's name. Thing is (a) Mark isn't interested, and (b) Paul is encouraging Beth to have the charity help child sex offenders, which is something she's having trouble stomaching. Makes sense, but it's really hard to care about this particular plot line.

Tom, meanwhile, continues to be a brat by refusing to move back with his mother. Instead, he approaches his dad's defence team and asks to give evidence. Ugh.

And speaking of sons, Sharon's son is given a black eye in prison, and Sharon gets mad at Jocelyn because Jocelyn wouldn't take his case way back when, which is why he's serving time.  We still don't have the whole story, but we do know whatever Jonah did, a man died as the result of it.

Sharon also asks Paul to testify as a character witness on Joe's behalf. When Paul tells Becca—and admits he'd been visiting Joe in prison—Becca offers no comfort. Instead she complains she feels like Paul has dragged her into it by telling her. What a rotten girlfriend.

There's a lot going on, to be sure. The show continues to be well crafted and compelling. I'll be sad when I have to wait again for more. That day is coming too soon for my taste.


Television: Gotham, "The Fearsome Dr. Crane"

Julian Sands!

He plays Gerald Crane, father of Jonathan Crane, who will become The Scarecrow. (Not incidentally, also the title of the next episode.)

This was a pretty good episode. Crane Sr. abducted people from a phobia support group and forced them to "face their fears" by putting them in the exact situation they most dreaded. Then he would cut out their adrenal glands—you know, the stuff that creates the adrenaline that pumps through you in fight-or-flight situations. Why does he want them? Remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Bullock got sweet on a woman connected to the phobia group, who was then of course abducted.

In another story line, Ed was suspended for encroaching on the medical examiner's territory. So he got his revenge by filling the examiner's locker with severed body parts. Now the examiner is under investigation, and the writers have added another reason for Ed to start turning dark: resentment.

Jim Gordon continues to juggle a new romance and his work, plus the fact Barbara still hasn't surfaced. (Worst. Parents' Weekend. Ever.) He does find Cat staying in the penthouse, and she tells him what she told Bruce Wayne: that she was lying and didn't really see who killed the Waynes. That's probably the lie, but Bruce believes her and releases Jim from his promise to find the murderer. "I'll take care of it myself," he says (or something to that effect). Um, he has lots of money, right? Can't he hire a private investigator or something? Someone whose only job would be to find the murderer? (As opposed to Jim, whose workload is fluid.)

A lot of moving parts, though I still can't much care about Bruce or Cat. I do think the Scarecrow plot next week should be interesting, though.


Candles: My Latest Yankee Crop

Ran low on a lot of my favorite candles, so I went to the Yankee Outlet. I'm sorry to say they no longer had my Willow Breeze, which had become one of my favorites. (And I'm still a bit miffed at the lack of Sheer Gardenia as well.)

But! Yankee is clearly trying to redeem themselves by reintroducing Hydrangea! This is my all-time favorite scent, so here's hoping it doesn't disappear again. Damn, I probably should have bought extra . . .

Aside from the Hydrangea, I opted for all new-to-me fragrances. Right now I'm burning Sandalwood, which is a smell I've always loved. So far the candle is not particularly strong, but it hasn't been burning very long. We'll see how it does.

The sales associate recommended Seaside as a replacement for my Willow Breeze. It does have a lovely, light scent similar to the Willow, but not as perfumy, and there's definitely more of a beach smell to it than the Willow. I think I will enjoy it, but not as much as the Willow Breeze, though I accept that I have a personal bias—I grew up with a beautiful willow tree in our yard, and the candle reminds me of a happy childhood.

Because I often feel I go for too many blue candles, I smelled but didn't by Blue Jean, though I was tempted. It sounds like a strange scent for a candle, but it really just smells like denim fresh from the dryer.

Instead of blue this trip, I veered monochromatic from Starry Sky to Hearth to Moonlight. Starry Sky is a pale grey and has a slightly sugary smell to it. Hearth is a darker grey and somewhat musky but still sweet. Moonlight is black (or nearly black) and much stronger with more of a traditional perfume scent. I'm looking forward to trying all of these.

A short list of my favorite Yankee Candles: [Blue] Hydrangea, Willow Breeze, Sheer Gardenia, Autumn Sky

We'll see if any of these can make my list.