Thursday, December 18, 2008

Life, "Trapdoor": Russian underground

Spoilers for last night's "Life" coming up just as soon as I get some more pie...

That? That was 44 minutes or so of concentrated awesomeness.

Obviously, you can't do an episode like "Trapdoor" -- one with seismic shifts in virtually every corner of Charlie Crews' world -- every week, but on those occasions when you do make a show like this... damn.

"Trapdoor" is one of those episodes where I have to invoke my "dayeenu"(*) rule, which comes from a traditional Passover song about all the wonderful things God did for the Jewish people during the story of the exodus from Egypt. If God had only freed the slaves, you sing, dayeenu (it would have been enough). If God had only freed the slaves and taken us out of Egypt, dayeenu. If God had only freed the slaves, taken us out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea, dayeenu. Etc., etc.

(*) Pronounced "DIE-ay-noo" for our non-Semitic friends.

I invoke the dayeenu rule for episodes like this because if it had just featured the return of Garret Dillahunt as the pure, concentrated evil that is Roman Nevikov, dayeenu. If it had only featured Reese finally entering Charlie's house, or finally meeting Rachel Seybolt, dayeenu. If it had only had Reese falling off the wagon, dayeenu. If it had only finally introduced us to Crews' dad -- and had Crews accidentally shoot his dad and not feel bad about it -- dayeenu. If Charlie had only gotten shot at the end, dayeenu. Any of those elements on their own would have led to a memorable episode. All of them together? Sweet.

Really, the only thing that could have possibly made the episode better was if Christina Hendricks had actually been one of the many people at the door before Crews got shot and woke up in whatever the Zen equivalent of Limbo is.

One question: is this the first time this year that we've seen the documentary crew? And are you glad to have them back to help glide over expository bits like Stark explaining who Nevikov is, or would you rather not see them again? (Okay, so that's two questions, but they're related.)

What did everybody else think?

50 comments:

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh, also? I'm pretty sure Pavel the dead engineer was played by Eden Gali, who plays Kurt on "Mad Men." Are we on the verge of a contest to see whether "Life" can incorporate more "Deadwood" or "Mad Men" castmembers as guests?

Rachel said...

I thought that looked like Kurt from MM too.

As if I wasn't already pissed off that we have to wait until February for the next episode of Chuck, we now have to wait the same length of time for more Life? And with that ending? Yikes.

Great hour of television. I can't wait to watch it again tonight.

toonsterwu said...

Awesome episode. My one somewhat major issue with Life had always been that the incorporation of the serial elements seemed choppy. Now, you can't, as you note, do this every week, but this episode was awesome as it had a good case and finally brought the serial elements to a more significant position, rather than tagged on at random places.

amysusanne said...

The fact that we have to wait until February for the next episode is just *mean*. Mean, mean, mean.

Still...I suppose it'll be worth it, because that was a great episode. From start to finish, packed full of awesome.

And what an awesome ending. Awesomely acted, awesomely directed, awesomely written, awesomely edited. Just awesome. Word of the day.

The only downside is that the lack of Christina Hendricks in the credits (and the fact that Rachel and Ted were both unavailable *and* have their own keys) meant that after Dani showed up then pretty much anyone else who rang the bell would probably be bad news. So, even though it was still tense it was a little less of a surprise.

amysusanne said...

Oh...and on the subject of the talking heads. We've had a couple of them this season and even though I'd be happy to see them gone forever they aren't as intrusive as they were in season one. And I kind of enjoyed Stark's last night.

toonsterwu said...

btw, love

Nevikov's dirty talk "it won't be a gun and it won't be in her mouth"

Dani wanting to know the truth - bout time.

Tidwell acting like his relationship will fall apart due to Dani lying about the drinking

Dani invoking her superiority to Crews

LOVED the Ted prison scene. You knew it was coming (his bodyguards getting him more food) but it was still awesome.

Anonymous said...

Two things:

1) Crews' father is part of the conspiracy, right? Maybe this was mentioned before here and I missed it but he was the one in the back seat of Jack Reese's car who told him "There were 6, now's there's 5, it could just as easily be 4"

Surprised no one's mentioned this and surprised Crews hasn't figured this out (or has he?), given his father's distinctive voice.

2) Talking about season 1 staples, what's happened to Crews' lawyer and now assistant DA? I expect her to be a bigger part of the second half as Crews steps up his efforts to track down those responsible for his incarceration and now assassination attempt. It's already been made clear that she's perhaps been compromised when she denied the Seybolts' killer's confession to Crews.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh, and I completely forgot about my vow to include a William Atherton movie quote in every post about an episode where he appeared, so here's this week's, from "Die Hard 2," with Atherton as Richard Thornburg and Bonnie Bedelia as Holly Gennaro McClane:

Holly McClane: Listen Dick. That is your name? Dick. If you're gonna continue to get this close do you think you might consider switching aftershaves?
Richard Thornburg: Anything else?
Holly McClane: Stronger mouthwash would be nice.

HollyMartins said...

Good episode overall, for sure, but so many plot elements seemed to come out of nowhere that for a while I was convinced I must have missed an episode. Ted back in jail for parole violations -- how and when did that happen? And I suppose I just may have missed it, but I didn't feel like there was a lot of groundwork for Dani falling off the wagon -- why now?

Still, those are fairly minor points given how fun the episode was. And the end was great, despite (or because of) the fact that it was a total Twin Peaks steal... or hey, let's call it an homage. Crewes has always had a little Agent Cooper in him, now that I think about it.

pdf said...

>Ted back in jail for parole violations -- how and when did that happen?

The black Fed (can't remember his name) planted coke and a gun in Ted's car last week.

toonsterwu said...

dani fell off the wagon b/c roman hinted at the issues crews had with jack.

HollyMartins said...

I caught Roman's comments to Dani (the vodka still felt sudden to me) but I must have missed the Ted-being-set-up portion of last week's show -- my own attempts at multitasking are definitely to blame there, then. Criticism revoked!

Idiotjed said...

Who's the actress playing the dead engineer's girlfriend?

She looks so familiar. I must know.

amysusanne said...

Tessa Thompson from, at least in my little world, "Veronica Mars". Fortunately her acting seems to have improved a bit since those days.

Anonymous said...

I wondered if Dani's fall had anything to do with finding Rachel at Charlie's house. He didn't tell Dani who she was or why she was there. Rachel also had an odd reaction to Dani's last name. We don't know much about why Dani hates her father except that it a part of the reason she is an addict. I wondered if seeing a very young girl with an older man upset her to the point that she needed to drink to deal with it. I don't mean to imply that she thought that Charlie and Rachel had an inappropriate relationship but that seeing the 2 of them together was a problem for her. Just a thought.

Chris said...

Can I volunteer Ted's prison scenes as a semi-dayeenu?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh, those certainly qualify for a full dayeenu. Ditto Reese finally asking Charlie what's up with the conspiracy and her dad, or Charlie sending Rachel out of the country, or any number of things in this dayeenu-packed hour.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The only downside is that the lack of Christina Hendricks in the credits (and the fact that Rachel and Ted were both unavailable *and* have their own keys) meant that after Dani showed up then pretty much anyone else who rang the bell would probably be bad news. So, even though it was still tense it was a little less of a surprise.

I have made it a habit to stop paying attention to guest credits for this very reason. There was a part of me that was excited at the possibility of seeing Hendricks, even for a few seconds, and so was doubly surprised by the gunshot.

I know SAG rules require the guest actors to be listed early in the episode, but these days I try my best to ignore them.

Jon Delfin said...

But then there's also the end credits (where you would have seen Eden Gali's name, by the way).

Alan Sepinwall said...

Again, that's a union issue. Pavel was a small enough part, played by a relatively low-profile actor, that he could be listed after the episode finished. Hendricks would get a better credit.

TC said...

I never understood people who pay such close attention to the credits then complain when they're spoiled from it. They're not hard to ignore.

Anyway, I loved the episode and am still reeling a bit from that ending.

drake lelane said...

I guess it's no coincidence that Dani started drinking around the same time of the LA shootout (at age twelve). Seeing Rachel first, and then hearing what Roman whispered in her ear had to trigger some repressed memories.

Besides finding out "who shot C.C.," I guess we'll be also finally be getting more of Dani's back story. (And, hopefully, more Roman/Dillahunt, who seems to be chock full of the kind of info Crews hungers for).

Emily said...

Anonymous of 1:04pm--Crews's dad was part of the conspiracy?!? WHAT? Pardon my yelling and ridiculous punctuation, but I sure didn't put that together before, and that blows me away. Wow! Anyone else notice that, or want to dispute that?

I agree that the whole episode was a "dayeenu", especially (for me) Ted in prison. I was so worried about him, and now he's got buddies! And a little dayeenu all by itself--Crews having mentored Triple Homicide Man in Zen. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Why did Olivia shoot Crews?

marenamoo said...

I enjoy procedurals and have watched NCIS and Numbr3s since the beginning. I even watch The Mentalist which I find so very boring compared to the brilliance that is Life. Complex, quirky, well acted combined into a fruit Zen souffle - one of the most satisfying hours of TV each week. And I cry because it will be canceled because of poor ratings, and The Mentalist will be on for ten years. I am not one who gets that upset by cancellations but this one just grabs me because it has been so poorly scheduled by NBC.

Anonymous said...

Just think, if NBC hadn't given the OK for the back 9, THIS would have been the final final episode! How frustrating/scary/awesome would that have been?

Re Charlie's dad being the guy in the car with Reese... I'll have to go back and watch that ep again, but surely Charlie would have recognised the voice, and gone straight after him without going near Rayborn? I DID recognise the dad, but that was cos he's been in Dexter over the last 3 seasons!

Anonymous said...

@ Emily: Go back to episode 2.3 and compare the voice (and bald spot if you need visual evidence) to Crews' father in the latest episode. I can't find the ep online anymore but it's there.

I recognized the voice when I first heard it and was waiting for him to pop up somewhere on the show.

amysusanne said...

It does seem like Charlie would recognize his own father's voice. I know they're estranged and have been for years, but wasn't Dad leaving messages for him back in season one, in the episodes before we met the fiance? Even if you could forget the sound of your own father's voice (which seems unlikely, especially with someone like Charlie) it shouldn't have been that long since he last heard it. I would think that the hair on the back of his neck would stand up if he heard Dad talking to one of the conspirators.

Inigo said...

Charlie may not have made the connection between the voice and his father for two reasons I can think of: context and the distortion of recording equipment. I always had the sense that Charlie didn't listen to his father's messages either. Add to all that the fact that he hasn't spoken directly to his father for thirteen years, and it's credible.

I've gone back and re-watched "The Business of Miracles" and my money is on it being his father too.

Anonymous said...

@amysusanne: Call it a gaping plothole if you like, but the guy in the back of Jack Reese's car is indisputably Crews' father. As for me, I'll wait for the writers to explain it. Perhaps Crews knows but doesn't want to reach out to his father just yet with this knowledge? Maybe he went to Mickey Rayborn first because he wants to make sure that his father's in on it. He doesn't see him in Reese's car, after all. He only hears him. We as viewers get to see him, but only from behind. You hide his face b/c there's going to be a huge reveal down the line. Crews also doesn't add people to his board until he knows their culpability in the conspiracy and/or relationship to others on the board. Even if he recognized his father's voice, he's obviously not sure of the role he plays in all of this.

Anonymous said...

@Inigo: another possibility is that, whatever the circumstances of their relationship, people generally don't want to believe that their father is in some way responsible for framing them for murder. It is easy to disregard key information in such a situation. Hasn't anyone here seen "Memento"?

amysusanne said...

Dude. I didn't do anything close to calling it a "gaping plot hole", I was simply replying to anonymous7:12. It seems weird to me that Charlie, a guy with Daddy issues, wouldn't feel a shiver down his spine when heard his father's voice somewhere, no matter how long it's been. I'm not saying it's *not* his Dad, only that at this point it seems weird to me and I'd prefer to have it explained further.

Wrt the idea that Charlie might know it's him and just not be ready (or whatever) to talk to him about it, I wouldn't have expected to see either of them talking about it last night. My surprise over the idea that it would be his father (and I'm going to dig up a copy later to hear it myself, since multiple posts have been in agreement) isn't that there was no mention of it but that I would expect a reaction from Charlie. We see realization wash over his face all the time, so I wouldn't expect him to come to such a huge realization without giving something away to the audience. If it's him in the back, then I'm assuming that, for whatever reason, Charlie doesn't know it. As unlikely as that seems to me, I find it more believable than him having it in his pocket for nine episodes with still no payoff.

mindmat said...

Charlie's father is being played by Geoffrey Pierson, and will be a recurring character. But Jack Reese's passenger in The Business of Miracles was played by Michael Shamus Wiles, according to imdb.com. So that indicates to me that the voice on the tape is not Charlie's father.

amysusanne said...

Btw, just looked at the ep and this is the guy in the car, both his body and his voice:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0928795/

Initially I was just questioning how Charlie wouldn't know his father's voice rather than shooting down the theory, but now I think I'm disputing it. It's not Geoff Pierson's voice, so I'm not sure I can make the leap that the guy is supposed to be him. Before they were just going to have to explain it to me, but now they'd have to do a little more to convince me.

amysusanne said...

Or, what mindmat said. Sorry about that.

floretbroccoli said...

When the prison bodyguard told Ted that Charlie had sent him, all I could think of was those two guys in season four of The Wire telling Omar that Butchie had sent them. (Wasn't one of them the real-life Omar?)

toonsterwu said...

Honestly, it won't happen, but wouldn't it be awesome if they kept Ted Early, who they seem to jerk around as a character at times and seems a bit directionless as a character at times (Oh, let's have him pine for his roomie's dad's new fiance! Oh, let's have him teach a class! remember the whole thing in the hand episode for him?), wouldn't be it funny and awesome if Ted Early became the big shot in prison, controlling his own gang, for lack of a better word.

No touching said...

dani fell off the wagon b/c roman hinted at the issues crews had with jack.--

That's likely, but additionally it seemed to me that all Tidwell's talk about love and introducing her to his father was the "trigger" that set her off. Can't say as I blame her.

So January is to be Lifeless as well as Chuckles? Sheesh, I may have to go back to actually working at night.

At first I thought the ep was sort of dull, without any zen, humor, or fruit, probably because I'm exhausted, so I'm glad I came here to get a different perspective and will watch it again.

Triple Homicide Guy reminded me of White Power Bill. I was so worried about Ted, too! "Give him your bun."

Art Fleming said...

Btw. what happened to Roman Nevikov? Are they goiing to arrest him for that basement?

Inigo said...

Charlie's father is being played by Geoffrey Pierson, and will be a recurring character. But Jack Reese's passenger in The Business of Miracles was played by Michael Shamus Wiles, according to imdb.com. So that indicates to me that the voice on the tape is not Charlie's father.

This is why it is to the benefit of justice that I have never observed a crime and been required to be a witness. Sheesh.

Inigo said...

Charlie's father is being played by Geoffrey Pierson, and will be a recurring character. But Jack Reese's passenger in The Business of Miracles was played by Michael Shamus Wiles, according to imdb.com. So that indicates to me that the voice on the tape is not Charlie's father.

This is why it is to the benefit of justice that I have never observed a crime and been required to be a witness. Sheesh.

Nicole said...

Oh my goodness! How awesome was this episode? I cannot believe that I will have to wait until February for this and Chuck! Everything about this episode was great. I loved the way that Charlie didn't allow the FBI jerk to cow him, and in fact got extra Zen.

Jailed!Ted is the most interesting this character has been lately, and while initially I was really worried for him and wanted a speedy release, I ended up not minding that he had his own posse. I always knew that Charlie was a great friend, and the way he was able to help Ted just proves it. I was a little afraid that the would-be bullies would somehow find a way to get back at Ted, and I'm glad this wasn't the case.

I held off on buying season 1 until this show was picked up for a whole season 2, so now I think that I'm going to head off to compare prices on dvds...

Anonymous said...

I'm still not convinced that Crews' dad's not a part of the conspiracy. All I'll say is go back and watch episode 2.3. If IMDB says its a different guy, fine. But whoever he is he's an amazing facsimile of Crews' dad.

amysusanne said...

The show itself says it's a different actor.

WWWeaves said...

I thought the guy in Jack Reese's car might be the Lt's husband. Wait and see. This episode rocked. I had hoped that probable cancellation would focus them for the back nine. It looks hopeful.

Spydey said...

February? No wonder NBC sucks.

Unbelievable episode. I was speechless at the end. Did not see Crews getting shot coming...kinda like his 'kidnapping' at the end of the ep a few weeks ago.

I really like this show. They better not cancel it.

grand-sophy said...

The show seems to have regained the momentum it lost with the writers' strike, and my hopes for a third season have been boosted considerably by the AFI choosing it as an official selection on their list of top ten best television shows of 2008. This is a happy week for Life fans.

Anonymous said...

I've just started watching this show this season. Alan and others were raving about it. I agree it's fantastic, but I must admit to being a bit baffled by the conspiracy arc involving the frame-up of Charlie, his house guest, and apparently the Russian mob. If anyone could give me a brief synopsis of what we're supposed to know up to this point, it would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I could provide a brief synopsis, Anonymous. I recommend renting or buying the season 1 DVD. There are only 11 episodes in season 1, so it won't take you that long to catch up. I think that would be more helpful (and more interesting) to you than any attempt to summarize. A lot happened. All the episodes are great, but #11 is fantastic.

Dazy said...

I enjoyed the part with Ted in prison, that was really smart of Charlie getting body guards for Ted like that. I felt really bad for Rachel thought having to disappear like that.