GOT: Game of Thrones Offers an Insight of the Royal Bushes

If you said “Winter is coming” to 100 random people and recorded their expressions, there would be a wide difference in the expressions shown. If you still think this is referring to the season, you, my friend, are from a different planet.

Game of Thrones is a television series that is adapted from a book “The Song of Ice and Fire” written by George R.R. Martin. The pilot episode was aired in April 2011and has never looked back since. It has one of the widest fan bases for a series and rightly so. Every episode has a cliff hanger that makes the audience impatient for the next episode.

Game of Thrones is predominantly based in politics. Set in the fictional land of Westeros, it depicts seven noble families and the immense political struggle between them to capture the title of ‘King of the Seven Kingdoms’. Of course, friction exists between every house that threatens to escalate into a full blown out war at any point. Far out in the north, an ancient entity called The Night King awakens and threatens to destroy the entire realm of men, with only an ancient neglected order called the Night’s Watch fighting against them. Doesn’t seem interesting? I dare you to watch the pilot episode and stay the same way.

Other than the gripping story, the lead characters of the series are an indispensable asset. Sean Bean (Lord Eddard Stark), Lena Hedey (CerseiLannister), NikolajCoster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), MaisieWillaims(Arya Stark), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Emilia Clarke (DaenerysTargaryen), Peter Dinklage (TyrionLannister), Aidan Gillen (PetyrBaelish) and Conleth Hill (Lord Varys) play their characters to different extents of perfection. The portrayal of the characters that it remains in the minds of the viewer for a very long time.

The screenplay and the dialogues are to be noted. Maintaining the same tone and the unrelenting grip for six seasons without compromising on any character is a challenging task. The show does a fabulous job of maintaining the cold yet diplomatic stance right from the start. Since magic is an aspect of the series, the portrayal of dragons, blood magic and other fantasy elements is done in a manner that is appropriate to the situation. The series has its own share of stand-out dialogues (“I am a Khaleesi”, “The Lannisters send their regards”, etc).

The most important aspect of all is how the characters seem to grow in the series. Sansa Stark, DaenerysTargaryen, Jon Snow TyrionLannister and PetyrBarlish are characters who have developed from being irritating or hateful to audience favorites.

All these put together make GoT (after F.R.I.E.N.D.S), perhaps, the most iconic series of all times.

Well, the Downton Abbey finale was last night and they decided to give almost everyone a fairy tale happy ending. It has been a smash hit for PBS during its six seasons and what some would call a cultural phenomenon.

There was a very interesting display a year or so ago at the Dupont Estate, Winterthur that had costumes from Downton Abbey but also talked about what life was like for the ultra-rich in America at the time and how it differed from the English. It was very interesting.

Downstairs and Upstairs Had Equally Happy Endings

It didn’t matter whether it was the servants or the Crawleys, everyone seemed to get a happy ending out of this last episode. But, of course, you had to have some drama.

Thomas Barrow

To start with, Thomas Barrow, tried to commit suicide by cutting his wrist in the bathtub. Luckily, one of the maids suddenly realized this might be the case based on something he said and rushed to find him. He was found just in time and rescued and stitched and bandaged up. The support he received seemed to change him from nasty to nice. However, because of his prior issues, he looked for and found a job with another family. When he got there, it turned out it was a much smaller household and therefore a much smaller staff. He was the butler and there was a cook and a maid. He seemed very unhappy.

Lady Mary

Then Lady Mary told Bertie that Edith had had a child and because Edith hadn’t told him, it put an end to their engagement. Violet (Maggie Smith) comes back from a trip and talks things through with Lady Mary who is very unhappy since the death of her husband in a car racing accident. Violet tells her that it is OK to marry for love and not station which is kind of a shock. So she gets married to Henry in a small ceremony and is happy, but in a way, Henry is not. He had been a top race car driver but since the death of his friend and Mary’s first husband, racing no longer brings him any thrills. He mopes around for a good part of the show trying to figure out what to do with his life and not just depend on his wealthy wife. Finally towards the end it is revealed that he and Tom have teamed up and opened a car dealership selling used cars to start and then looking to move into new cars. Mary is excited for him even though this would have been so inappropriate for someone of this station to be doing at the time when the show first began.

Mr. Carson

Mr. Carson is as crusty as ever but has started to have problems with shaking of his hands making difficult to pour wine or serve properly. A bit of a problem for a butler. It isn’t noticed much at first and he hides it but becomes more obvious as the show goes on. Carson meets with Lord Grantham and says that he can no longer function at his job because of the palsy and he will tender his resignation. Grantham suggests he could stay in some capacity and Carson said that if he were the person coming in, he would not accept the job on those terms. At the very end Barrow is back from his other job to help out with a Christmas party although oddly it seemed as if he was a guest not a servant. When Carson has problems pouring, he offers to take over the job for him. Lord Grantham has a brainstorm and suggests that Barrow leave the other job and come back as the head butler and Carson would get a cottage and stay around to help and give guidance. Happy ending for all.

Mr. Molesley

Molesley gets to teach a class in a local school and tries to give the kids advantages he didn’t have. Later they expand and want him to come and live at the school in the village and work full time. He agrees to come back and work at Downton Abbey for large functions and parties.

The Hospital Resolved

Lord Grantham is not happy with Lady Grantham’s involvement with the local hospital until a niece brings him to see Lady Grantham at a hospital meeting and he realizes that she is very good at it and loves it. And, at another point Violet tells Lady Grantham that she is doing a wonderful job at the hospital.

Lady Edith

Lady Mary arranges a meeting between Bertie and Lady Edith without Lady Edith knowing it was going to happen. They resume their courtship and plan to get married. Bertie doesn’t want to tell his mother about Edith’s child. So the morning of the party where the marriage will be announced, Lady Edith goes to his mother and tells her all the details. There are some tense moments but everything works out and the marriage goes forward. This means that she now outranks her family in social ranking and also wealth.

Isobel and Lord Merton

 

Then there was Isobel and Lord Merton. Isobel turned him down and then he told her he was dying of anemia and didn’t have long to live. Violet told Isobel their age shouldn’t matter. When she went to see Lord Merton, Merton’s son and daughter in law wouldn’t let her in. They wanted him to die and to inherit the estate and not have her creating complications. Finally Violet goes with her and they barge in and get to see Lord Merton. He tells his son he doesn’t like him and he can have the house but he is going with Isobel. Then he finds out that his anemia isn’t as serious as previously thought and he won’t die soon.

Other Wrap Ups

Anna breaks water in Mary’s room and ends up giving birth to a boy in Mary’s bed with Mr. Bates, Anna’s husband in attendance. Daisy stopped being dim and finally accepted the advances of Andy. Mr. Mason started flirting with Mrs. Patmore and it looked like something was going to happen there.

Oh, and Lady Mary is pregnant. There are probably more things that could be mentioned but there was a lot of feel good stuff they packed in that last episode.

For those of you that don’t know Master Chef, it is a competition where they compete to find the best home cooks in America.  Each week there are winners who get an advantage in the next challenge or a special treat like a limousine ride to a fancy restaurant in whatever town they are filming in. Of course, each week there are losers as well who leave the competition.Continue reading

Now for a twenty something take on So You Think You Can Dance by my daughter. If you can’t tell, we like the show.

So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) is one of my favorite shows. It is the only place you can find an adult version of a dance concert that is not connected with a college or grad school. I love being able to watch all kinds of dance especially ones I’m not familiar with such as Bollywood, Krump etc. Another one of my favorite parts, THE TOUR! It is one thing watching the dancing on the TV and quite another to watch the dancing live. I am a sucker for tap so getting to see that anywhere is always a treat. For the curious ones, SYTYCD Season 12 tour tickets go on sale August 25th. I can’t wait to see this seasons contestants live and in action especially my favorite dances.

Many of my favorite dances this season have included Gabby. She is a tapper originally and I hope she wins. She is in a class all of her own. Virgil and Hailee danced a robot routine that I have classed as the most entertaining routine of the season. They pulled off the characters extremely well not to mention the actual technique. They even stayed in character during the judge’s comments and walking off stage. I want this season’s top 4 to be Gabby, Virgil, Hailee and Jim or Yaya. Which brings me to the choreographers. The caliber of choreographers on this show is insane. I am glad Sonya Tayeh is back for an episode or two this season. Any dance that Travis touches is amazing. A great choreographer cannot only put together the moves but takes into consideration the dancers he or she has and really works to highlight their best side.

So I have covered the dancers and choreographers, now on to the judges (said the way Cat Deeley says it on the show). The judges this season are Nigel Lythgoe, Paula Abdul and Jason Derulo. I think Paula has finally found the reality TV show that she can give useful feedback on, She has been an excellent judge. Jason has added a refreshingly different perspective and a very helpful tips for the street performances. When I first heard that this season was Street vs. Stage I was very skeptical but I think it has turned out extremely well and is tons of fun to watch and mixed up the competition. Another plus, we get to see Travis (stage coach and former winner) and Twitch (street coach and former winner) every week, who wouldn’t want that? I can’t wait to see what dances they bring on tour and what spectacular dances are yet to come.

 

 

There are two main dance competition shows on TV, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You can Dance. The level of dance between the two is night and day. In Dancing with the Stars, a Star is paired with a professional dancer. Usually the star is out of the lime light and is looking to make a comeback. So we are talking B and C list actors and actresses.

Everyman Dancers

Some of the stars can actually dance and the few who make it to the finals are pretty good. An example would be the Olympic gold medal ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White. In the Olympics Meryl Davis gave off an aura of toughness. In Dancing with the Stars, she was incredibly lithe and exuded an amazing sexuality. But many of the Stars are not particularly coordinated. They do improve as they continue on the show. The show is popular and the appeal is probably that the Stars come off as an Everyman and we can envision ourselves attempting what they are doing.

The judges are probably more important in this show because they need to carry the performers. They are a show unto themselves in a way and are vital to the flow of the show.

Elite Dancers

So You Think You Can Dance auditions hundreds of dancers and the ones they end up with are amazing. In past years the street dancers were at a disadvantage because they had to dance a wide variety of dances, many of which they had never done and possibly never seen before. The stage dancers did have to do other types of stage dance that weren’t their specialty and had to do street dance forms but it seemed like an easier transition.

This year the competition changed format. Stage and Street were separated and each had to compete at first in their own forms. Later, they started pairing a stage and a street dancer in random styles of dance. That gave the street dancers a bit more lead time to start learning choreography and start learning about other types of dance. It also gave the stage dancers a chance to get down and start working of forms of street dancing.

Some of the stage dancers still look very stiff when trying to do street and the street dancers often don’t have the extension and form and pointed toes and flexibility. But the choreographers work to show off the best of each performer and as in past seasons there have been some amazing performances. It is hard to believe they can move and jump the way that they do.

Judging

The judges are less important on this show because of the talent of the dancers. They are probably more important to the dancers than the audience because of the advice and critiques they give that can help the dancer going forward. It is a relief not to have Mary, the screaming judge, any more, although when she stopped screaming and actually gave advice, it was often good. Her replacement Paula Abdul has been a surprise. Her comments are often insightful and show a great knowledge of dance. It is quite a contrast to her time as a judge on American Idol where she often came off as a ditz and was always the one taking the edge off Simon’s biting comments.

We have friends who do tree work, removing trees, pruning trees, planting trees, you name it, they do it. (www.treeservicesannapolis.com) They turned us on to this great show called Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet.

The person the show revolves around is Pete Nelson. He is very personable but so goofy sometimes it is almost embarrassing. We also wonder about their safety habits. Sometimes one wears a hard hat but most of the time no one does. Other times they have to squeeze or push a piece into place or to get it around a branch and it seems like it wouldn’t take much for it to go horribly wrong.Continue reading

Rizzoli & Isles last week (July 14th) blew my mind. SPOILER ALERT (for the rest of the post). How could they kill off Susie? She was such an interesting character.

For those of you unfamiliar with Rizzoli & Isles, it follows a Boston Detective, Jane Rizzoli, and Medical Examiner, Maura Isles. Susie was a forensic scientist working under Maura. Although, Susie was a minor character she added another dimension to the show. She had an innocent joy for all scientific inquiry that is missing from other crime dramas (except maybe Abby in NCIS).

I can’t figure out if the actress who played Susie decided to leave the show or if the writers decided to kill her off.  If she made the decision herself it seems odd that the episode she was killed off in seemed very thought out and scripted. It wasn’t quite a traditional two-parter, where the first episode ends in a cliff-hanger and the second (or third) episode resolves all of the remaining questions. I have watched many overt two part episodes with cliff-hangers that make you want to skip ahead in time to figure out what happens, this was the first subtle two-part episode I have seen done extremely well. All of the ingredients were there, intrigue (Susie was suspected of being dirty), emotional turmoil (a close friend and college was murdered), climax (Maura was suspended), a twist (the aspiring Politician did it) and a resolution (Susie is cleared and the murderer is caught). I can’t wait to see what the writers come up with next, hopefully without killing off any other characters. How will the remaining characters handle Susie’s death? Who will be coming in to replace her?

Recap

In the last episode, it was determined that a new group calling itself “The Calling” was responsible for recruiting children for jihadist purposes. It looked for kids who were loners, who were unhappy. But oddly, it was led by a young British guy named Daniel Budd with died blond hair who looked very European. But because of his recruiting kids, they refer to him as a twisted Peter Pan, hence the Neverland title to the episode.

They had been buying S bombs on the black market and had set some off in a hotel in Cairo Egypt that had killed agent Dorneget. But they found that was just a test run and the group was planning coordinated attacks around the world.

It turns out Dorneget didn’t want anyone to know that his parents had important government jobs. Now Gibbs is pushed to break one of his rules and let Dorneget’s mother (Joanna Teague) to work on the case. She is an operative for the CIA in the Middle East.

Gibbs Mental State

One thing that isn’t clear is about Gibbs’ state of mind. At the end of the last episode, as Dorneget’s body was brought out of the plane, Gibbs saw Dorneget and other killed agents standing there watching. Fine, that seemed like a nice tribute to them. But in this episode it is like Gibbs has schizophrenia or something because he is seeing and talking to dead people all the time, especially Mike Franks who is giving him grief about his decisions.

Luke in Protective Custody

So to start, they are protecting Luke, whose “friends” killed his adoptive parents when they thought he was turning on them. Joanna tries to buddy up to him since she lost her son and Luke lost his parents.

Luke opens up a little but both the ghost of Mike Franks and Joanna at different times tell Gibbs that Luke is playing him.

Somewhere in here McGee discovers that The Calling is sending songs to all its followers. Luke still had his mp3 player and Gibbs didn’t bother to take it from him. Why? Maybe he felt bad for Luke? Not like Gibbs.

Luke Snatched

Somehow an older kid who has been tasked by Sadiq Samar, the local honcho of The Calling, to find Luke manages to find Gibbs house and take Luke. The person who was guarding Luke was knocked out. But she was hit in the back of the head. By Luke? At some point video was found of the killing of Luke’s parents. Everyone seems horrified, but we never find out who did it. Luke?

Coded Songs

Then Abby discovered that the songs being sent out had messages in Morse code in the base notes of the music. That seemed far fetched to us. You never see Luke carefully writing down things, just listening to music. All these kids are so talented that they can listen to a base line and translate the Morse Code in it? Seems dubious. In any case, Gibbs should have taken the mp3 player.

It turns out that Daniel Budd was a popular DJ in Britain who was popular no longer. Somehow he got kids to follow him and started using them in small crimes. This escalated. It is not clear exactly what Budd is looking to accomplish now.

Enhanced Interrogation

So Gibbs and the team try to find Luke before anything happens to him. They are looking for Sadiq but can’t find him at first. Then there is a scene where Joanna has used her sources to find him and has him tied up in his trailer and is beating him and interrogating him. She gets some information about where Luke is. There is a knock at the door and you think Joanna is screwed, that some of Sadiq’s people are going to get her. It turns out to be Gibbs.

Gibbs is not happy that Joanna went behind the team’s back, after all they bent the rules to have her take part and he was definitely not happy with her questioning techniques.

Trip to Iraq

They find that they were not able to stop a plane from taking off in time and that Luke was on that plane heading for Iraq. So the team heads for Iraq.

They are walking through the market place and notice a girl with bright tennis shoes and figure she has been brought from the US as well. They follow her and then they find Luke. Gibbs starts talking to him and DiNozzo gets a phone call. It turns out to be Daniel Budd who is watching from a room above. At this point Luke pulls out a gun and shoots Gibbs three times. Not rapidly, but slowly and methodically.

Cliffhanger?

So will Gibbs die? If it had been Duckie it might have you wondering, but many people feel it isn’t much of a cliff hanger because Gibbs is so central to the show.

 

 

This episode is called Lost Boys. At the end of the last episode, Troll, a boy named Brad blows himself up on a bus.

Bishop and McGee feel horrible because if they had caught Brad at his house instead of him giving them the slip, he would still be alive. Gibbs sees a boy who runs and Gibbs gives chase but can’t catch him. Ducky sees  what looks like a tattoo on Brad’s arm that looks sort of familiar.

Dorneget MTAC and The Calling

At HQ, Dorneget is about to lead his firs MTAC briefing and Tony and McGee are messing with him and trying to get him nervous. But, they fail. Dorneget has found that adopting another persona helps combat nervousness. His is named Gilroy Libbs. Amusing.

Dorneget found that a group named The Calling was using recruiters to target kids. They used chat rooms, cartoons and video games. He likened it to Peter Pan and a twisted band of “Lost Boys”.
S-Mines
They get a call from Paris and Commissioner Girard says there is a guy named Matthew Rousseau involved with the calling in France. They have intercepted and deciphered some messages and The Calling is looking to buy S-mines. These are WWII German mines that when detonated, jump up and spray shrapnel and nails, etc. when they explode, to kill and maim as many people as possible.
There is a guy named Agah  Bayar who Gibbs knows who apparently is not the most savory character. Gibbs asks him to find out who is looking for the S-mines and he will be paid whatever the DIA normally pays him.
A Lead – Sadiq Samar
The “tattoo” on Brad which was actually permanent marker was like one a radicalized US soldier and planned to kill an imam. One person from the plot is still alive, Sarah Goode. Surprisingly she is very willing to help because she believes the original purpose of the group has been twisted and she wants the kids saved that are being recruited.
She points them to Sadiq Samar who is an engineer and unfortunately a US citizen and a skilled recruiter. She asks that they kill him when they find him.
Dorneget and McGee get sent to Cairo to an Interpol meeting. At the same time, Gibbs finds out that DIA has quashed his deal with Bayar.
Luke Harris
Bishop finds a building that Samar has bought with an alias. She, Gibbs and Tony go and find the bayonet that killed Wilt. They also find the boy who ran from the scene at the bus. Gibbs convinces him to give up the gun that he has. His name is Luke Harris and is Iraqi but adopted by American parents. He has been bullied at school because of his Middle Eastern backgroung.
Abby can’t give a report due to working on something else and it is read by Tony. He imitates her and it is priceless. Apparently the chat rooms are opened and closed quickly and can’t be traced.
The building Samar bought has a bunker attached and Abby asks to go see it along with Tony and Bishop. In the next scene McGee and Dorneget find out Rousseau is captured and McGee flies out to the aircraft carrier where he is being held to question him.

They figure Luke is in danger so they use Gibbs house as a safe house and Gibbs tries to bond with him. Ducky meanwhile is going over Luke’s belongings to profile him and finds instructions to destroy anyone close to them unless they are also a believer of The Calling.
Back in the bunker, not good. Samar has been testing S-mines and figuring out how to get multiple mines to detonate at the same time.
Blackmail
Despite not being allowed to talk to Bayar, Gibbs send Tony and Bishop to talk to him anyway and to blackmail him into helping by bringing Bayar’s mother into it and possibly deporting her. Bayar is not happy and wants to meet with Gibbs. He also far prefers Bishop to Tony. In the end he tells them he would have done it anyway without blackmail and without money because kids should not be used this way.
Ducky found a letter Luke wrote to his parents that was horrible but he never completed it which Ducky finds somewhat hopeful. Gibbs confronts Luke and he breaks and asks if he can see his parents if he gives information about Samar. They go to Luke’s house and find his parents have been murdered.
Cairo Bombing
On the aircraft carrier, McGee interrogates Rousseau who plays dumb but tells McGee that it is too bad he is missing the party in Cairo. McGee runs to get a phone and calls Dorneget and tells him to evacuate the hotel.
Dorneget quickly gets people to evacuate and as this is happening he notices a guy with bleached blond hair watching. He sets the trigger a laser beam comes on and Dorneget sees a guy running toward it and tries to stop him but can’t. The S-mines pop up and all hell breaks lose and Dorneget falls to the ground, riddled with shrapnel. A little bit later the team finds out that he died.
Bayar Shot and a Plot
Bayar makes contact and requests to speak with Bishop. Don’t know why they didn’t just say it over the phone. They meet in some dark, out of the way place and Bayar tells them that multiple people are looking to buy the mines for a coordinated attack worldwide. They were just running a test in Cairo. A car comes by and opens fire and despite Tony pushing Bayar down, he is hit but they get him to the hospital and should survive.
Since Dorneget’s only family is his mother and she is abroad, Gibbs tells Vance that the whole team will be there to meet the plane bringing Dorneget back. As Gibbs looks at the casket as it is taken out of the plane he sees Dorneget, Mike Franks and other dead former cast members standing on the runway. He looks again and they are gone.
Vengeance
Just then a car drives up and Dorneget’s mother gets out. It turns out she is with the CIA and her name is Joanna Teague. She says she appreciates them being there, but if they are there, they aren’t catching Dorneget’s killers and lets hop to it. She is out for blood.

Three weeks ago I thought the story line was good but was frustrated that is was a To be continued… So I figured it would all be wrapped up the following week. But last week, once again, To be continued… So I figured they would wrap it up for the season finale. How stupid of me.

Troll

It starts with the Troll episode. Bishop’s husband Jake turns out to be talking to Gibbs on a regular basis. The team is then called to a murder scene. Surprise, surprise.  The woman was Navy Ensign Janine Wilt who had her neck slashed. The team can’t find much about her because everything about her seems to be classified.

They find out Wilt volunteered with a girls’ basketball team. McGee finds out she was working in Cyber Warfare. He commander tells the team that she was an expert in code breaking and was working on a Columbian drug ring Sword of Satan. But he says they are all in jail because of her so that couldn’t be it. Gibbs doesn’t buy it.
Drug Cartel?

McGee is having trouble cracking the firewalls in Wilt’s computer. Ned Dorneget of NCIS Cyber is sent over to help. Dorneget thinks the likely culprit is Alfredo Montez, who is out on parole for drug trafficking. He created the cartel’s secure messaging system.

They find Montez who thinks they are going to kill him. It turns out that someone backdoored his computer and Montez wasn’t involved.
Turkish Businessman?
Dorneget finds that Wilt gained access to a home computer from her laptop, so they go pay the person a visit. The guy’s name is Korkmaz and says his computer is only for business and won’t let them in. And they can’t get a warrant. Not enough reason.
They get help from a source at NSA, quite likely Jake. Leads to an argument between Bishop and Jake.
Jake shows up the next morning and refuses access to Korkmas’ computer and Gibbs gives him grief in typical Gibbs style. Jake breaks and agrees to do it and suffer any consequences within the NSA.

No, his daughter – sort of
Korkmas denies being in the chat room but recognizes the email of his daughter. It turns out she used her father’s computer without permission. She got really weirded out by the people in this chat room and left. It turns out she played basketball and knew Wilt and Wilt was trying to help and was tracking down who controlled the chat room. She  also blocked the chat room for the daughter because they were telling her she needed to follow her true calling. She tells them Helbent427 was the screen name of the person who got her to join the chat.
Loner kid
Because of Abby finding a Vietnam era bayonet probably was the weapon used and Dorneget finds the same last name as the owner of Hellbent427. They go to pay a visit and the boy Brad splits. He has a 3D printing device and has made a bomb.

Brad is on a bus with the bomb when it is surrounded by the team. Gibbs gets him to let the passengers off. He has just about convinced him to put the bomb down when the police show up sirens blazing and Brad runs back into the bus and blows himself up.