Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BEST OF 2011 TV: Best Episodes

There are certain TV shows that we've always wanted to get into. The problem is if you watch the wrong episode—even if it's the pilot—it might not be the best representation of why the series is awesome. If you've never seen these shows, watch these episodes and you'll know why you should. Some of them are even Emmy-worthy. *Beware Spoilers*
2 Broke Girls 
"And Hoarder Culture"
Max is filled with uncharacteristic giggly glee when she discovers real life hoarders. She nervously kisses Johnny's secret girlfriend, in an attempt to explain why she kissed him right in front of her. And Johnny coyly professes his love for her with graffiti.
Big Bang Theory
"The Good Guy Fluctuation"
Sheldon pathetically spends the entire episode trying to scare everyone, and his ultimate victory, popping out of the seat cushions, is quite gratifying.
"The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition"
Sheldon gets so jealous when Amy goes out with Stuart that he crashes their movie date and negotiates the terms of their exclusive relationship, becoming more territorial than ever before.

How I Met Your Mother 
"Last Words"
Marshall listens to the voicemail his father left him before he died and soaks in his last words.
"Mystery Vs. History"
Ted tries his hardest not to social-network stalk his date before seeing her to avoid visualizing her as a walking Facebook profile of pre-learned personal information. It was a very clever commentary on our current social behavior.
"The Stinson Missile Crisis"
Robin is the narrator for this episode, where she tells a very longwinded story to explain to her therapist why she has court-mandated therapy—so longwinded her therapist has to keep redirecting her back to the original story.
"Symphony of Illumination"
The episode opens with Robyn telling her own kids a story and by the end we discover that not only are those not her kids, but she can't have kids, she never even adopts, and she implies that she spends most of her life focusing on her career, which would suggest that she doesn't marry Barney. Most fakeouts are unappreciated and a waste of time, but this one was just sad. The episode ends with Ted promising Robyn that even if she doesn't have children or get married, she'll always have her friends, especially him, and then he unveils a Christmas lights show that he set up in their apartment.
Person of Interest
Reese and Finch helped a seemingly innocent schoolteacher evade the mob after he witnesses a hit. We inevitably learn that he not only performed the hit, he's the son of an imprisoned mob boss, and he's spent many years getting close to the children of his father's enemies so that he could learn everything about them and take over the town.
The Good Wife
"Executive Order 13224"
Elsbeth Tascioni returned to represent Alicia during an interrogation that involved a sensitive terrorist case. And the new associate Caitlin finds a creative way to figure out what was redacted on the government documents in their case. It was all-around clever lawyering.
"Parenting Made Easy"
Grace accidentally butt-dials Alicia too many times for her to consider it an accident, and in a panicked state, she runs all over the city trying to find her. Without being asked to, Kalinda finds Grace getting baptized in a church by a youtube evangelist, brings her home, and refuses to come in and take credit for it. Worried that such a scare was a punishment for her involvement with Will, Alicia breaks up with him and decides to simplify her life.
"What Went Wrong"
After learning that Kalinda was the one who found Grace, Alicia chews Cary out for gunning for Kalinda and arresting her for harassment, then forces him to release her. They thank each other and have a very quick but poignant moment. And, best of all, we discover that Wendy Scott-Carr did not in fact take Peter's job offer to investigate Lockhart & Gardner and find the judge bribery that he expects Will of, but to basically coerce and/or blackmail Will into helping her collect enough information to take Peter down. I've never wanted to hug a villain more than I did in that scene.
The Mentalist
"Strawberries & Cream"
Grace discovers her fiancee is a Red John plant, he tries to kill Teresa, and Grace is forced to kill him. Meanwhile, Patrick confronts a man he believes to be Red John and murders him in the middle of a mall. It was the most emotionally-driven action the series has seen yet.
"Pink Tops"
The only reason I love this episode is because someone finally made Cho uncomfortable. He's spoken to plenty of criminals who've tried to get a rise out of him before, but the only one who succeeded was a hooker-turned-CI named Summer. She makes him incredibly uncomfortable and I love it.
"Fugue in Red"
Patrick is drowned at a crime scene and wakes up as his former, pre-married, fake psychic, con artist self. He tries to flirt with both Teresa and Grace, toys with Rigsby and Cho, and steals from a crime scene. He's completely disreputable, but that's not what made it one of the best episodes of the year. It was the last two minutes when Teresa decided she needed to shock him back to reality before he reverted to his self-destructive ways. She brings him to his house where his family was murdered and shows him the room with the bloody Red John smiley face smeared on the wall. His shoulders slump and he becomes immobile, and all Teresa can say is "I'm sorry." You could just see the life drain right out of him and the Patrick Jane we're more familiar with returns. I don't think I realized just how broken he was until that moment.
"Remedial Chaos Theory"
During a board game controlled by the roll of dice, we're taken through several alternate realities that show us the different ways one scenario could've happened, and revealing secrets we otherwise wouldn't have known, like the growing affections between Brita & Troy and Jeff & Annie, Pierce's jealousy of Troy moving in with Abed, and Shirley's growing impatience with being ignored.
"Studies in Modern Movement"
The group tries to help Annie move in with Troy and Abed but things go awry when she becomes frustrated by their lifestyle. It isn't until they sit her down so that they can perform a puppet show they wrote just for her that she starts to feel at home. Later on, Annie joins in on the puppet show to reenact it for Brita and Jeff, and they enjoy it a LOT more than you think they would—to the point of crying.
"Clear Skies From Here On Out"
After Alex is cleared of all charges regarding the assault at the kegger he tried to pick Haddie up from, Alex breaks up with her. The best scene isn't when he dumps her or brings her home. It's when he apologizes to her mom Kristina for lying about his criminal background, sincerely laments not being apart of their family anymore, since he doesn't have one of his own, and hugs her goodbye. It was really sad to see him give all of that up, considering how little he has.

Parks and Recreation 
"Soul Mates"
Leslie tries an online dating service, but doesn't end up with a stranger as she suspects. Instead she's inexplicably paired off with Tom, who later reveals that he creates profiles for each type of desperate woman so he gets more results. He spends the entire episode pretending to be into Leslie and to get back at him, she kisses him and shuts him up for good.
"The Fight"
Tom debuts his new liquor, SnakeJuice, and gets everyone drunk. Drunk Ann and Leslie have their first argument, and most of it is hilariously nonsensical. Meanwhile, Ron is dancing around like a bobble head and it's probably the funniest drunk impersonation I've ever seen.
"Road Trip"
Leslie struggles to suppress her feelings for Ben when Chris sends them on a road trip together. He pops up to surprise them, and every time they get close, he interrupts. Back at the office, Tom uses his coworkers to try out a new game show to see how well they know each other, and Andy and April do horribly. Meanwhile, Ron educates a young girl on his views of "the importance of government," turning her into a mini version of him.
"The Bubble"
Ben meets Leslie's mother to Leslie's horror, and in the process of trying to introduce himself as Leslie's boyfriend somehow accidentally implies an interest in her and she comes onto him.
"Pawnee Rangers"
Leslie creates an all-girl wilderness group to rival Ron's all-boy wilderness group, and he soon learns that the boys of today are not as rugged as he'd like them to be. In the end, Leslie puts an ad in the paper that describes exactly what Ron is looking for and manages to attract Ron-like children who are game for absolutely no fun. Meanwhile, Tom and Donna try to teach Ben how to relax, resulting in him buying an extremely authentic-looking Batman costume—and putting it on.
"The Trial of Leslie Nope"
Chris takes Leslie to court, accusing her of using her relationship with Ben to bend the law. She fights for her reputation and wins, but ultimately it's determined that one of them will have to quit. Before Leslie can even think of the consequences, she's informed that Ben not only already resigned from his position hours ago, but he declared on the record that he loved her. She then makes the really old court reporter come to his house so that she can say on the record that she loves him too.
"Citizen Knope"
Leslie learns that the campaign duo that approached her last season to run for governor is no longer interested in backing her because her polling numbers are low. Meanwhile, her co-workers spend all day trying to make something for her to repay her for the sincerely thoughtful gifts she's given them over the years. To her delight, they build a gingerbread recreation of the office, and then inform her that they intend on being her campaign team, each with their own position and responsibilities. I haven't been this excited for an election since Obama '08 baby!!!

The Office
"The Search"
An emergency with CeCe forces Jim to abandon Michael at a gas station—without his phone or wallet—and Holly, Erin, and Dwight scour Scranton to find him. It was fun to see how well Holly knew Michael that she could find him so easily.
"Garage Sale"
Michael decides to ask Holly to marry him, and everyone helps him set up a tour of all their romantic moments in the office ending with a heavily candle-lit room that sets off the sprinklers, but nobody moves as they wait for her response. It made Pam & Jim's gas station proposal look as romantic as a bank transaction.
"Goodbye, Michael"
Michael decides to say his goodbyes a day early without telling anyone so that he can avoid the crying and overall drama. The only person who notices is Jim, and...okay now I'm crying...
Dwight bonds with Robert's semi-sociopathic son, and you get the feeling Dwight would make a great dad—to a serial killer, but still.
Up All Night
"First Night Away"
Chris and Reagan attempt a romantic evening away, but it is their first time away from Amy overnight. When their sitter cancels at the last minute, Ava volunteers to step in. They of course don't trust her so they end up spying on her. Ava calls one of the single dads from the emergency contact list that she met while out with Amy after crusty food traps Amy in her highchair. Even though she's distracted by flirting with him, the minute she hears something in the backyard, she flips into protective mode, and proves she can be trusted. For a woman with seemingly no maternal instinct whatsoever, that was pretty sweet.
"The Wire"
Whitney and Alex argue about whether or not Alex uses a condescending tone. Whitney asks Mark for help catching him in the act with a hidden camera. Lily, Roxanne and Neal gather around the TV to watch the drama unfold. Later, Alex's brother Brian visits and Whitney discovers where Alex gets the condescending tone from. The best part is when the others go out to get food, Mark absent-mindedly lets Alex in, and completely forgets to cover the TV which is streaming footage from his apartment. I think I freaked out as much as he did.
"Subject 13"
During a flashback, we learn how resistant Peter was to believing Walter was his father at first, how Walter met Olivia, what kind of childhood she had, and just how strong her connection to Peter was. You get the feeling they're destined, and he had to cross a universe to find her.
William Bell's psyche is fighting to take over Olivia's body, so the actress has to not only act like a man but impersonate SpockLeonard Nimoy. It's a funny sight to see.
"Mash Off"
Finn gets tired of Santana's constant bullying, so he kind of outs her in the hallway. A candidate's daughter overhears, tells her dad, and he uses Santana's connection to Sue to insinuate that Sue is gay too. With his commercial, he'll out Santana to everyone in the city, including her family. After performing one of the best covers of the year, a mashup of Adele's "Rumor Has It" and "Someone Like You," she smacks Finn so hard everyone stops breathing, including the viewers.
"I Kissed a Girl"
Finn tries to make up for what he did and make Santana feel proud of who she is, so it becomes a female-appreciation episode. After a jock makes disgusting sexual advances towards Santana and suggests a three-way, she and Rachel sing Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl." But even though it all seems wrapped up nice and tight, the final blow comes when her grandmother disowns her. Instead of reverting back to her bullying ways though, she and The Trouble Tones agree to make peace with the New Directions, and they sing the beautiful K.D. Lang song "Constant Craving."
"Hold on to Sixteen"
We're treated to two amazing performances: The Trouble Tones's "I Will Survive/Survivor" mashup and the New Directions's Jackson Family tribute that starts with The Jackson 5's "ABC" goes into Janet Jackson's "Control" and ends with Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." It was epic.
"Extraordinary Merry Christmas"
The glee club is asked to create a holiday special for a local PBS station and Artie outdoes himself directing a black and white tribute to old school Christmas specials. The songs aren't that amazing, but the production, taking us back in time and capturing the vibe of the period, was perfect.

New Girl
Jess and Schmidt make Nick self-conscious about his "little pooch where he puts his extra cookies" so he goes to his room and starts dancing to reggae music naked in front of a mirror, in order to pump himself up before a hot date. The music is too loud, so Jess accidentally walks in on him. He spends most of the episode trying to avoid her and the inevitable awkward conversation they'll have, and she spends it trying to apologize. In the end, she resolves to even the score by baring herself to him, but accidentally does so in front of his date.
Jess gets up the nerve to ask a fellow teacher Paul out on a date, and it just so happens to be on Thanksgiving. But the boys were looking forward to a relaxing day watching a football game topped off with Black Friday shopping. So Jess has to force them to get into the spirit of things. Schmidt takes over cooking, Cece tortures him with her unsanitary kitchen habits, Winston bonds with Paul, and Nick tries to avoid him at all costs. When the frozen turkey burns in the dryer (yes, I said dryer) and fills the apartment with smoke, they're forced to relocate to a neighbor's apartment...where they find her dead. Officially topping off the worst date ever.
The chief dies after revealing he was involved in the conspiracy surrounding the death of Beckett's mother, and at the funeral, Beckett is shot. As Castle cradles her, the music swells, everyone's screams drop out, and all you can hear is him repeatedly whisper, I love you Kate.
"Cops and Robbers"
Castle and his mom are being held hostage in a bank robbery, and his daughter Alexis blames Beckett for always putting her dad in danger. Alexis has always been pro-Beckett, so it was interesting to see her turn against her.
Grey's Anatomy
"Dark Was the Night"
Alex and Meredith are involved in a nerve-wracking car accident as they're trying to transport a pre-mature newborn in a highly flammable ambulance during a storm on a winding road. Meanwhile, even more suspense builds as Christina unknowingly operates on Teddy's husband and he dies. Her nonchalant attitude about the surgery and its fatal outcome, and greater interest in it not going on her record, are in stark juxtaposition with Owen and the chief's terrified caution. Once she realizes who the patient was though, she breaks down. Owen has the toughest job of all: keeping Teddy in the dark and lying about her husband's successful surgery until she finishes her tricky procedure.

Modern Family
"See You Next Fall"
It's a heartwarming episode as the whole family gathers for Alex's graduation. Her parents are trying to keep it together emotionally, while Mitchell keeps poking fun at Cameron for falling into a baby pool. Cameron is naturally outraged, but can't help but laugh when he sees Phil and Claire tumble down a hill, eagerly trying to get to the graduation.
"When Good Kids Go Bad"
Lily shows violent, antisocial, and somewhat homicidal signs of not wanting to share her daddies.
"After The Fire"
The family helps another family reacquire life's necessities after their house burns down. The boys wander off to play with the homeless kid's new remote control plane. The girls join Cameron when he volunteers to drive the moving truck, because he's hellbent on proving that gays can do all the same things as straight men. Alex proves she doesn't have to dress or look like Haley to get boys to like her, when she helps the boys get their toy back from nerdy bullies by using her nerdy feminine wiles. And after Jay hurts his back, Phil jumps at the chance to give him a massage. Jay enjoys it so much, he says I love you. Jay freaks out, worried Phil will blow it out of proportion, but doesn't realize that Phil's excitement and eagerness to talk to him is actually about a job offer that would involve him risking the family's financial security. Jay advises him like he would his own son and instills in him the confidence he needs to take a chance on himself.
"Express Christmas"
The family realizes they're all going to separate places for Christmas, so they try to have it early and prepare everything in a short amount of time. Claire and Haley bond at the mall as Haley taps into her impressive shopping skills, even tricking a shopper into giving her the last toy on the shelf. Manny freaks out about getting kidnapped on vacation and accidentally tasers Phil when he takes him to a shady parking lot to meet a baseball card seller. And Luke confesses that sometimes he doesn't understand if Gloria is saying "Luke" or "look" and they have a bit of a "Who's on First?" moment.

This is the episode where the tone is set and it becomes quite clear just how determined and ruthless lead character Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke intends on being.
Rookie Blue
Andy is put in charge of a concert line and as she's chatting with a young girl, a bullet goes through her head. It happens so abruptly that you can sense the level of shock and horror that Andy is feeling. Later, Sam comforts her and they almost kiss.
Tessa begs for George to uphold their Thanksgiving Day Manhattan traditions, but George refuses. Later, she gets Dahlia to take her to the city, she shows her all the fun stuff she can do in the city, and then they catch George making out with an unidentified chick. After she calls him on his anti-nyc bull, he agrees to take her to the city and squeeze in one tradition before the night is over. Earlier that day Lisa refused to dress up as a pilgrim as her mother instructed. In order to punish her, she raised the heat, resulting in her coming downstairs for dinner in the nude and then running outside to be free. Quickly realizing she could be arrested for public indecency, she hides in George's car. So when Tessa and George are driving to New York, she pops up in the backseat and surprises them.
the cw
Gossip Girl
"Empire of the Son"
The climax of Dan and Blair's potential relationship is sealed with a passionate kiss.
"Memoirs of an Invisible Dan"
Dan sits everyone down to tell them about his novel and how he included characters that are somewhat modeled after them. Best of all, the person who is depicted the most lovingly turns out to be Blair not Serena, to Serena's surprise. Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!
The Secret Circle
The circle gets kidnapped and Cassie uses her inexplicably dormant individual power to kill their witch-hunter captor and free them. We get a glimpse of a potentially evil side to her and it's a glimpse of what's to come.

Vampire Diaries
"As I Lay Dying"
A lot of people die and almost die in this episode. It's the most high stakes of the series yet, and nothing unfolds as you expect it to.
"The End of the Affair"
There's a flashback to the 1920s to explain how Stefan as The Ripper met Klaus and his sister, and why Klaus has yet to kill him. Elena learns just how many people The Ripper has killed, and just how sadistic he was. And we learn that Caroline's dad is so hellbent on de-demonizing his vampire daughter that he would go so far as to torture her.

usa network
We're introduced to the impressive con artist that is Mike Ross, who finagles his way into a law firm after nearly getting nicked for a drug deal.
"Play the Man"
Mike has to go toe-to-toe with a fellow associate in a mock trial and in order to win he has to take down Rachel on the witness stand by playing on her insecurities, but instead of doing that, he spares her and essentially forfeits the mock trial.

"The Girls' Night Out Job" & "The Boys' Night Out Job"
Both episodes start the same way, but the girls lead all the action in one and the boys lead all the action in the other. But at the same time, each episode hints at the other group's job as if both episodes were happening at the same time. It was very well choreographed.

abc family
Switched at Birth
"The Stag Hunt"
Desperate to communicate his interest in Bay, Emmett decides to just kiss her.
"Pandora's Box"
Bay yells at Emmett for possibly using her to get back at Daphne, and Emmett responds by just kissing her. As they spend more time together, Bay pushes him to speak instead of sign, and he refuses. Then after seeing a shrine to Daphne on his bedroom wall, she realizes how in love he was/is with her.
"The Homecoming"
Daphne finally tells Emmett how she feels and so he has to choose between her and Bay. After an argument where Bay realizes he knows how Daphne feels, Emmett speaks for the first time and professes his love to her.

Boardwalk Empire
"Ourselves Alone"
Margaret reveals just how devious her nature can be when she tricks agents into letting her into Nucky's office when he gets arrested, and manages to steal his incriminating ledger. Jimmy murders two mafia thugs after they jump him in New York. And Chalky shows how much power he has over the African American community when his cellmates spontaneously turn on another prisoner after hours of animosity and tension between them.
"Under God's Power She Flourishes"
Jimmy mourns Angela's death by getting high on heroine in a hotel room, and has a flashback that explains the incestuous reason he went to war and why he has such a disturbing relationship with his mother. When he returns, he finally stands up to her. And when the Commodore catches him trying to choke her to death, Jimmy kills him.
"To the Lost"
Jimmy subtly says goodbye to everyone. It's so subtle you don't realize it till the last five minutes when he tells Harrow to promise him he'll try harder to be happy. And then he voluntarily goes to his execution, knowing that Nucky's forgiveness was all talk. Everything we learned about Jimmy in the last two episodes—his reasons for enlisting, his damaged youth, and his insatiable desire for a father figure—gave us closure once his heart stopped beating. It was time he rested and be freed from his mother's death grip. (This is probably wishful thinking, but I hope Harrow kills the son of a bitch who murdered Angela and lured Jimmy out, and I hope he kidnaps Jimmy's kid and teaches him how to be an assassin, preferably with a time jump. I'd rather watch that than see that pathetic, disgusting, enterprising witch Gillian fatten yet another child for slaughter. She makes Lucy look like Mother of the Year.)

"One Last Shot"
Vince tries to give a producer a second chance, discovers he's still an addict and tries to get him to turn his life around, only to witness his suicide. It's extremely intense for the series, but it was quite the cliffhanger.

"Frank Gallagher: Loving Husband, Devoted Father"
Ian confronts Mickey after he steals Kash's gun, and discovers mid-brawl that Mickey has a major crush on him and they have sex. My favorite part is when he tries to kiss him goodbye and Mickey says, "Kiss me and I'll cut your fucking tongue out." Ever the romantic. (In a later episode, he says something similarly funny when Liam visits him in jail and tries to put his hand on the glass like they do in the movies: "Take your hand off the glass.")
"Nana Gallagher Had an Affair"
The kids fight to keep Liam in their family and each one's heart is broken as they confront their mother and her failures. And Karen's mom finally confronts her husband and has the courage to go outside just to kick him out.
"Father Frank, Full of Grace"
Lip has sex with Karen, tells her that he loves her mid-coitus, and then tries to take it back when she dumps him, swearing he didn't mean it. Then he discovers that she dumped him because she had sex with his dad and he flips out. He tries to run his dad over and kicks his ass, and only forgives him after making up with Karen and after Frank lets him pee on him. Given that Lip is usually quite passive, this much volatile emotion in one episode was very jarring.

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