Elementary: Over a Barrel – Statute of Limitations (Review)

Elementary logo

An interesting episode this week on Elementary. “Over a Barrel” starts with a bit of backstory. A father; Jack Brunelle, is convinced that his son was murdered. Initially he approaches Joan Watson and we learn that Connor Brunelle was mugged.

Later, we find that the young man became hooked on pain medication which then segued into heroin addiction. This killed the man’s son and he wants Holmes to look into why he was mugged.

Each time, several of which are shown on the show but according to the storyline much more via written correspondence, etc. Holmes has a more pressing case that he cannot abandon to help the upset father.

Finally, with less than 12 hours till the statute of limitations runs out on his son’s murder, Brunelle takes an entire diner hostage. He demands that Holmes find his son’s murderer or he will start killing patrons.

The irate and now desperate father keeps Watson in the diner with him.  Sherlock works with Detective Bell to track events that occurred back in 2012, when Connor Brunelle was attacked. As time runs out, Holmes finds out a number of interesting things.

Connor was gay, and having an affair, but this was not a factor in his death. It is revealed that smuggling in thousands of barrels of Canadian Maple Syrup was behind the mugging and the young Brunelle’s subsequent death. The gang responsible is said to have been disbanded.

On sidenote: This appears to be dig at the outrageous cost of real maple syrup.  In the episode, both Bell and Holmes feel that the barrels may well be full of cocaine. Later, when they track down the missing barrels, and the men who orchestrated the smuggling operation, they learn that syrup never “goes off.” The implication being that one gang is price fixing the cost of what we put on our pancakes and waffles.

The murderer turns out to be a guy who left the country right after Connor Brunelle was attacked. Ironically he goes to Canada. Holmes, who has missed the 12 hour deadline, realizes that Frank Trimble (the man responsible for the lad’s death) can still be charged due to a loophole in the statute of limitations law.

Rather interestingly, after the series plot thread where Shinwell Johnson is “hired” to aid Holmes and Watson in their capacity as consultants to the NYPD, the ex con has disappeared. He is AWOL and provides no help in this case.

This was an interesting storyline. The  best private detective in New York was presented as not being too sympathetic to a more mundane case.  Although to be fair Holmes’ condition would prevent him from reacting enthusiastically to any case.

It was annoying that Brunelle waited till the last possible moment to play his hole card. Forcing Holmes to look into his son’s death with a 12 hour window was fine for “suspense” but unrealistic even for the brilliant Holmes.

Added to this short turn around time was the action of “tying one hand behind Sherlock’s back” with the removal of Joan as assistant. Still, like most episodes in this series, the episode was quirky and interesting.

Elementary airs Sundays on CBS.

Cast:

Guest starring Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Jack Brunelle, Robert Capron as Mason and  Shuler Hensley as Frank Trimble.

Blindspot: We Fight Deaths on Thick Lone Waters – Change the World (Review)

Blindspot - Season 2

Blindspot this week begins in the middle of a stakeout. Reade and Zapata are watching a woman run from a building where shots were heard. A van explodes and the team run to the stunned female. “We Fight Deaths on Thick Lone Waters” was confusing to start and fell back on a cliché as one of the suspects was questioned.

Before the van blows up, Zapata confesses to Reade that she took the murder weapon from the evidence locker. Nas her team enter building that Burton came out if and they cannot find Kurt or Jane.

We learn that the exploding van was part of an undercover operation set up by Nas and Kurt to capture the FBI’s eighth most wanted criminal, Nico Marconi.

The man who was partly responsible for Mayfair’s death, Assistant US Attorney Mathew Weitz arrives to question the team and to make allegations of ignoring protocol.  No one, least of all Zapata, is pleased to see this douche on two legs.

While the agents question Burton and Doyle separately, Weitz questions Nas and the others. We learn that Patterson set up a sting operation based on the tattoo that lead the FBI to Rich Dotcom and his puppy site.

She sets up a fake website with members of the agency as criminals on hire. Weller and Jane’s profile gets a hit. They then go undercover as criminals for a man named Emile. Emile is the mouthpiece for number eight on the FBI’s most wanted list; Nico Marconi.

The two people being questioned are Lynn Burton and Clive Doyle. Burton, a hacker proves to be the most useful although she is not a voluntary suspect.

Patterson reveals that she found the hacker’s equipment on the van and that the FBI froze the assets of Burton’s off-shore bank account. Doyle is no real help at all. He spins a yarn where he is the kick-a** hero and Kurt and Jane rely upon him to get through the mission.

The scientist and Kurt are auctioned off on the Dark Web while being held by Emile and his goons.

Later in the episode, Weller works out that Emile is Nico. The heist was done at yet another governmental summit meeting. (Crime shows at the moment are full of these “high level” meetings, must the that time of year…) They kidnap a Chinese scientist that Nico is convinced developed a tsunami bomb.

Kurt is purchased by Nas and her team using Burton’s off-shore account money.  Weller manages to kill the two guards with a little help from Dr. Chen. Nas and her people converge on the site to pay for Weller.

She insists that they see what they are buying before handing over the rest of the money.  Nico’s head goon discovers that Weller and Chen are missing.

There is a brief firefight between the two factions and Nas takes on the head goon in hand to hand combat. He finally manages to overpower the NSA agent and begins choking her. Jane knocks him out wth a rifle butt.

Back at FBI headquarters Weitz wants Nas’ head on a platter. He is furious that she “stole” money from Burton’s account and used it to rescue Weller and the Chinese scientist. Nas calls him a bully who uses borrowed power to make others fear him.

Blindspot - Season 2

Nas then gives Patterson access to everything the NSA have on Sandstorm.

The team all get together to celebrate the pregnancy of Weller’s baby momma and Jane appears to be thoughtful and Edgar leaves after learning that Zapata returned Freddie’s knife.

Reade buys his childhood friend a one-way bus ticket and tells him “never come back.” Jane goes home and a disheveled Roman turns up. The mole’s note that his sister is siding with the FBI is bothering him.

Roman tells her that he wants Jane by his side for phase two of the plan. It will, he says, change the world.

The question of the mole is still unanswered. Nas is still the best suspect since giving Patterson access to the NSA Files on Sandstorm. This could well be a set up.  Nas may plan to give Patterson the information so she can frame her as the mole.

Zapata is still, however, running right along side Nas as the prime suspect. She does have prior, after all, and has proven that she is not afraid to ignore the rules. Tasha only put the knife back at Edgar’s insistence.

The comedy in this episode was offered up by Matt Murray’s character Clive Doyle. It was amusing but this schtick has been done before. (Think Andrew on Buffy the Vampire Slayer here.)

Roman being turned by Jane looks very unlikely as the fire burns deep in this man. He may want “sis” by his side for the big bang moment but he could very easily turn on her if she refuses.

Blindspot took a more serious tone after the Rich Dotcom episode, although Murray did qualify for a bit of comic relief.  Dr. Borden was nowhere to be seen and he is still on the list of suspects as the mole.

The series airs Wednesdays on NBC. Tune in and try to figure out who the mole in the FBI office is.

CAST:

Guest starring Daniel J. Watts as Freddy, Aaron Abrams as Weitz, Daniel London as Emile / Nico Marconi, Matt Murray  as Clive Doyle, Mia Vallet as Lynn Burton and Jing Xu as Dr. Mingxia Chen.

Life in the Real Desert: Pilgrim’s Progress

Author photo March 2013
Finishing my first cup of tea and ruminating over the past few days events has left me with an epiphany of sorts. Let me explain: Back in 2012 while I was in Basildon Hospital, in the UK, and recovering from the dual surgery that saved my life, I got a visit from a lovely lady who worked in the medical facility. She warned me that one day, it would all sink in about how close to death I had been. “It is usual for survivors to experience crushing depression,” she said.

Well, it is now over two and a half years since that fateful day; where my universe shrank down to a tiny space of unbelievable pain, and that depression has still not made an appearance. Certainly I do feel down sometimes, these happen at the oddest times as well. Yesterday, for example, had this new desert dweller becoming the recipient of not one, but several acts of kindness. Yet when arriving back home, I was caught up in a blue funk that lasted till sleep.

Most of that was from being overly tired. My only mechanical mode of transport was out of commision for a few days, requiring a back inner tube, so it was two days of attempting to patch said tube and one day of angrily marching a total of 3.5 miles only to realize that by the time I got to the store it would be closed. It was then a much slower trip home as the anger was spent and I was tired, after all the wasted adrenaline drained away.

That walk, although not too hot according to the thermometer, beat the hell out of me and for the next two days I hurt everywhere. Lesson learned: Do not storm off on a moderately hot day in a foul mood.

This pilgrim’s progress has been slow and not just to adjusting to life in the desert here in the southwestern state of Arizona. The reason for this slow acclimation to things since that August day where I should have died not once, but twice, came to me this morning after an odd dream in the wee hours just as the sun was peeping over the mountains in the east.

Sleeping fitfully, I moved between dozing and wakefulness, I thought, all night. As the sky began to light up, I was laying on my left side, half-awake and grumpily cursing the doves and their annoying nest noises; they stomp on the brittle twigs making a sound like people walking on gravel which is very disconcerting when half-asleep.

As the birds settled down and began to make their cooing noises, I felt the cover beside me move. Four little feet made their way to my back and a small warm body then lay carefully next to my upper back. I could “feel” a bushy tail move up near my neck and could “smell” a fusty fur smell. I instantly relaxed, although in the back of my head was the awareness that there are no animals in the place, and felt totally at peace as sleep reclaimed me.

That this was a dream became apparent later when I had an amusing thought that I could well have a wild skunk lying right on top of me and I turned to see what was snuggled against me. I found a rag doll in the shape of pointy nose elf-like creature with a sewn on striped cone hat. We conversed, as one does, with no words but in our heads.

I did actually wake up at that point and found that I was alone and pondered the doll thing that my mind had dredged up. It made no sense, after all why would a two-legged doll walk on all fours to get across my cover. It was a surreal moment and the realization that it was so brought on my epiphany.

Speaking to someone a few days ago, I mentioned the forecast of massive depression from the medical lady in the hospital and said that I was still waiting for that shoe to drop. My “light-bulb” moment this morning was that this will not occur. What has happened instead is a constant state of surrealness, if you will.

I left Basildon Hospital (the cardiac section) four days after one of the most invasive surgeries one can endure, the first surgery should have been so routine that it was boring, and everything, it seems stems from that time. My second surgery took a long time, during which I was “technically dead.”

A machine kept my blood pumping and my lungs breathing while the doc’s stopped my heart to perform the aortic dissection and bypass, this after they whipped a vein out of my right leg, and the estimated time I was “dead” was around eight or more hours. Now, if you had asked me after I recovered from this procedure how long I was “out” or how long I was “dead” no answer would have been available. A lot of remembering had to happen before I could recall and this only happened after I asked my daughter, who had to live through all this.

The point being that from the moment I was moved from ICU to the recovery ward, everything has seemed surreal. You could even argue that my waking up during the first surgery, when they discovered that my aortic arch had been perforated and most of my aorta was split open, and managing to talk around the tube in my throat started the whole thing. This also is the reason, I believe, for the “gravel” in my voice since the surgery.

Sidenote: To the family who were staying in Basildon Hospital with their own medical emergency, “Thank you for the kindness you showed my child who had to deal with all this on her own.”

The epiphany this morning has been that I have never really gotten over the surreal stage of this whole heart attack malarkey. My brain seems to be operating in a sort of fugue state of semi-awareness with small moments of clarity. At times I can almost react to things normally but there is still that feeling of unreality flitting around the edges.

I find myself unable to function properly in social settings. The actor in me puts on a good show, but basic things like exchanging phone numbers while interacting with another person who has just asked for mine go by the wayside. Just trying to remember to thank someone for a good deed or act of kindness is also fraught with inactivity or at least poor responses.

Anyone who has known me well can tell you that I have a radar that can tell when a person is on the level or not to be trusted almost seconds after meeting them. That ability seems to have been left on the operating table along with some of my common sense. How else can I explain being taken in by a con artist so completely that I moved in with the bugger, and his wife, and only woke up after it seemed I was about to be made a patsy? (And upon learning that he was a “wanted” felon.)

There are a long list of things that all point to my mind still existing in this surreal state. A place where my subconscious is attempting to get round surviving back in 2012 and despite my resolute marching forward to this new beat of the drum, I am struggling. Not desperately, but just enough that my thinking is affected.

Everything happens for a reason. I firmly believe this, just as I believe that my “pilgrim’s progress” here in the desert is needed at the point in time. A step back from busy society and a chance for me to get my soldiers back in step. This quiet time is needed to help me get back on an even keel, or at least recognize that moving back to the foreign country I left so long ago is either my new “normality” or just another turn of the screw in my current directionless journey.

Time will tell and at least now I can realize where my “head is at.” Even if it took a two-legged dream doll to point me in the right direction.

19 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

The Dating House

Big Brother Logo
Big Brother Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a dream last night that has really stuck in my head. In the world of my dream, the noxious and odious television show Big Brother had finally been cancelled. “Hooray!” I hear you cheer. But don’t celebrate too much. In my dream Big Brother was replaced with (drum roll, please)…The Dating House.

I know, it’s not too overly imaginative, but that’s what it was called in the dream.

Okay?

The rules were simple. Young people in their twenties were chosen from nightclubs and discos from around the country to come and audition for the new show. Once you had gotten past the first stages of audition you then had to ‘walk the gauntlet’ which consisted of walking miles through a main city street and hope that someone had sponsored you to the house.

The way you found out you’d been sponsored was a group of very pretty Asian girls (dressed like the Gangnam dancers in PSY’s video) called out the name on the sticky backed name tag  they had been given. If your name was called, you had been chosen to go in the house. By the time the potential contestants walked through the city, the numbers would dwindle as names were not called or folks just got tired of waiting.

After reaching the outskirts of the city the contestants who received a name tag, with a number, would be called to verify their identity and to get their ‘official’ name tag. You were then given keys to your room in the house. Once you had received these two important items you were led to a huge party area where the contestants were greeted and introduced to one another.

All this was televised and you could, at any given moment, see yourself in these huge television monitors that were set up around the area. After the long introductory party the contestants are led to the house and the first hurdle of The Dating House would commence. If your room key did not also open the entrance door to the Dating House, you were not allowed in.

The numbers dwindled further after this sly key trick. Now there were only ten men and ten women. You each had your own room and you were expected to take part in all the group activities. If you were late to an activity or decided that you did not want to partake in that particular one, you were out of the house.

They way you won the Dating House was to get paired up with a girl or guy via public vote. The public would vote at the end of each episode for the contestants they thought should be together. If you did not get enough votes, or weren’t voted on at all, you were ejected from the house.

Just like the current series of Big Brother, cameras were everywhere in the house. The show, in my dream, was wildly popular and young people fought to be on it.

Now in my dream, I’d somehow managed to get into the house. I not sure how, because I was still in my 50’s. I do know it was some sort of mistake. I had lied about my age when asked in the nightclub (I said I was 51) and apparently I looked a lot younger as well.

In the dream my activities were not overly viewed. The dream centered around the long walk to get in, the politics behind the scenes (amongst the contestants) and the end voting results.

I was (amazingly) voted to be paired up with an adorable brunette in her late twenties. I say adorable, because when she learned of the voting results she came and knocked on my door. When I opened it, she stood there in tears and said, “I like you a lot, Mike, but I love Simmy. I’m sorry.” She then stumbled down the hallway, presumably to find Simmy and tell him or her the bad news. Either way, it was adorable that she’d personally come to ‘let me down’ and in tears yet.

After leaving the house, I was once again in a nightclub and then magically I was once again walking the long walk to get into the Dating House.

And that’s the dream.

Now what is interesting  and downright weird about me having this particular dream is as follows:

I don’t dance. Well not very well and not for years. Back in the day,  I had to be pretty damn lubricated with alcohol to even attempt it.

I don’t go to Nightclubs or discos for essentially the same reason as mentioned above.

I don’t lie about my age. I’m fairly proud that I’ve reached 54 years of life without too much trauma. (well, compared to most folks)

hate reality television shows like Big Brother and I would most definitely hate The Dating House.

*Just for posterity, I will go on record as stating the I hate all reality tv. Britain’s Got Talent, The X-Factor, et al. I think the people who dream these damned things up and the participants should all be lined up against a wall and shot. Repeatedly.*

Lastly, I am not ready to date…anyone. I can solemnly put my hand over my heart and say that if I never date again, it would not bother me. I’ve been married twice, I think I’ve fought long enough in the wars.

Gangnam Style

So I cannot really figure out why I had the dream. I can understand the Asian girls dressed Gangnam Style, I am a huge PSY fan and love the video. But none of the rest of it makes any sense.

Unless…

I wonder (at the risk of taking myself out and lining up against a wall to be shot) if I’ve not been given a germ of an idea for a new television reality dating show.

No, it would never work. Where on earth would you find that many young people with noxious and odious enough personalities to fill the house?

Hmmmm.

Dreamscape (1984): Inceptions Pappa

Cover of "Dreamscape"
Cover of Dreamscape

Directed by Joseph Ruben (The StepfatherThe ForgottenDreamscape  is about dreaming, going into someone else’s dream and controlling it.

If the plot sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The concept has been used to great effect in two other films. The Cell (2000) and Inception (2010) both utilized the plot device of entering another person’s dreams and either controlling or changing them. All three films are very different from Dreamscape, but it is obviously this film that spawned the latter two.

Starring a young Dennis Quaid (Pandorum, Legion), younger Max von Sydow (Shutter IslandMinority Report), Christopher Plummer (Up, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Kate Capshaw (Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomSpaceCamp) and Eddie Albert  (The Longest Yard, Escape to Witch Mountain) the film delivers an entertaining punch.

Dreamscape deals with entering dreams via psychic powers and a little help from machinery that lets the psychic know when the target has started the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) that shows they have started dreaming.

The film opens with a woman running from what looks like a nuclear blast. The whole scene is surrealistic and the colours run together in a psychedelic fashion. We are watching the United States President (Eddie Albert) have a nightmare. It turns out that he has nuclear nightmares on a regular basis.

We then see Alex Gardiner (Dennis Quaid) at the race track. Using his precognitive skills, he successfully picks a long shot to win. When he goes to collect his winnings a gang of crooks try to take his money and make him work for them. Alex evades the crooks and goes home.

Once he is there, he gets a phone call from old friend and mentor Doctor Paul Novotny (Max Von Sydow) who wants him to participate in his new dream experiments. To escape the crooks,who have found out where Alex lives, he decides to take up the offer.

Once there he talks to his mentor and meets his assistant Jane DeVries (Kate Capshaw). He decides to give the experimental programme a go after he meets the man who runs it, Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer)

It turns out that only two of the psychics in the group are skilled enough to really change someone else’s dreams. Alex and a psychotic psychic named  Tommy Ray Glatman (David Patrick Kelly).

We find out two things about Tommy Ray. We learn that he killed his own father and that he has known Bob Blair a long time.

The film moves at a leisurely pace. This does not distract, however, as the action on the screen is still interesting even if it’s not fast paced. At one point Alex enters a young boys dream to help him defeat a “snake-man” who keeps trying to harm him. Alex enables the boy to face his personal monster in the dream and kill it

The overall FX of the film have not aged well. The monster was from the Ray Harryhausen school of stop motion. It did not convince at any time. It looked so much like  The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, that I reverted to childhood for a brief moment. But apart from feeling nostalgic, I did not get anything from the snake-man.

The film features a romance between Quaid and Capshaw. The villain, as portrayed by Christopher Plummer, along with his henchman Tommy Ray  makes us want to hiss and boo each time we see him on screen.

The film’s plot was entertaining and interesting enough that the dated FX did not spoil it at all. Unfortunately, as I have seen The Cell and Inception recently, I could not help but compare the three films.

The Cell dealt more with the technological aspect of entering dreams. Anyone could be hooked up to a machine which would enable them to enter another persons dream. Inception required that both people received injections to make them sleep deep enough that they could enter the trance-like state necessary to enter another’s dreams.

I would say that this film is definitely worth watching. If for no other reason than to see what started the whole dream mechanic utilized in the other two films. It’s also got a sterling cast of seasoned actors who deliver solid performances.

Dreamscape won’t give you nightmares, but it will entertain you.