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Archive for November, 2012

all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players

November 30, 2012 1 comment

 

In life, and in politics, perception can be everything. Smile the right smile. Have all the right friends. Wear the right dress. Say the right things. It’s all part of the game. How often do people get caught up in dating the right person, landing the right job, and adhering to all the things they’re supposed to do? As if this perceived happiness, or achievement, equals actual happiness? Or, if that’s irrelevant, that the image (not the reality, not the truth) is what matters.

But perception isn’t necessarily reality. And images fade. Smiles crack, dresses wrinkle, and friends can turn to enemies. The truth comes out. All those dirty little secrets scurry out into the light, heralded by circumstances often beyond a single person’s control. In this week’s Scandal (Defiance), we see a lot of decisions based on false fronts and a number of dirty little secrets are exposed.

For starters, Olivia hasn’t really opened up to Edison Davis. He talks about his personal past, people he’s dated, and she is walled off. She gives him nothing, except a professional suggest for his career, which is interesting. Is that Olivia working an angle for her client, or her trying to offer him something in exchange for his intimacy? Almost off-hand, he quips that the guy she dated must’ve really hurt her, and it’s clear that this wounds her, but it’s also clear that he doesn’t pick up on it. Interestingly, he takes the OPPOSITE of Liv’s advice, slams her client (who is resigning as majority leader), and uses that as a political stepping stone. Later, Olivia concedes that this is a brilliant political move, even though the move didn’t help her client at all. Tellingly, he speaks about stepping into the shoes of the majority leader using “we,” but Olivia replies with, “you.” The whole conversation, their entire interaction, doesn’t feel romantic at all. It feels like her advising a friend. And still, she refuses to go to the President’s birthday gala with him. The audience knows that this is for personal reasons, but Olivia presents it as being best for his career.

Elsewhere, James (Cyrus’s, the Chief of Staff, reporter husband) meets with David, who hands over all his research on potential voting fraud, which sends him on a wild hunt for the voting machines in a town called Defiance. A town, that we learn, turned the tide of the entire election. After a lot of digging, he finds the ONE voting machine that has a memory card in it, tests it, and discovers that it is rigged. We are, I suppose, meant to understand that Fitz has no knowledge of it, as he tells the story of Defiance at a birthday dinner party for a few of his friends. Those present who are part of the cabal of five look remarkably as if they’d like to crawl under the table, but they smile and nod in all the right places.

Fitz, newly returned from the G8 conference, looks constantly forlorn. He protested the birthday gala, but Mellie coldly quipped, “We can’t always get what we want.” And, interestingly, Cyrus seemed to be on her side. The only real emotion that Fitz shows is when he’s given surveillance pictures of Olivia, which include Senator Davis. Now, the surveillance was supposed to be stopped, and although rather creepy, this is also the only contact that Fitz has had with Olivia since they broke up in the restaurant. He says he let her go, but he also FROZE when he glimpsed half of her face on tv. But the pictures: I’ve never seen someone so emotionally devastated, flipping through evidence of their own grief. Jealousy, rage, hurt, frustration, and complete sadness are rife in his motions. There’s absolutely no doubting how his heart breaks, seeing what looks like a happy couple, seeing what looks like Liv has moved on. But again: this is perception, not reality. Every time Fitz’s name comes up, heartbreaks is alive and well on her face. These two are in the exact same position – heartbroken and missing each other – but pretending not to be. Later on, in order to ensure that Davis acquires the position he’s seeking, Fitz backs the other candidate – which is meant to signify that he’s totally over Liv. And that’s what she takes from that offered cue, finally relenting and agreeing to go to the gala with Davis.

Throughout the episode, Quinn is peppering Huck with suspicious questions about how to drug a person, how to best transport someone who is unconscious etc. Eventually, she confronts him, saying that either he or someone LIKE him was responsible for what happened to her, and MAN is she pissed. It’s pretty impressive, though, that she is beginning to unravel the loose ends of the story. There’s no telling how that’s going to play out, but it’ll be interesting to finally discover how she figures into the whole Cabal of Five dynamic.

Additionally, as the antithesis of the perception theme, is the case at the center of the episode: a respected CEO seems to have gone crazy, divorcing his wife for a younger woman, riding motorcycles in the house, and building a rollercoaster in the backyard. Everyone thinks he’s crazy and it could jepordize the company going public, which is what his son is trying to protect. In the end, it turns out that the son and the father were simply trying to protect each other – the father just wanted the son to be happy, but the son was running the company. The father say that the spent his whole life building that place, and now is when he finally having his fun. The father is ENJOYING himself, not doing what he is SUPPOSED to be doing. A lot of the characters on the show, I think, would benefit from that.

Lastly, we have President Fitz’s birthday gala. And I have questions. In the limo on the way there, Mellie seems panicky, she seems like she wants to bolt out of the limo, even though it’s still moving. When they pull up to the venue, she repeatedly grabs Fitz’s arm, pleading that she doesn’t want to go. Fitz confesses that Olivia and he broke up, that Mellie “won.” Again, she grabs his arm and says she doesn’t want to go. Just as coldly as Mellie earlier, Fitz replies, “We can’t always get what we want.” Then he exits the limo, with her behind him, waving and smiling like the picture of presidential happiness. He is then, promptly, shot. And I cannot help but wonder if Mellie knew. Because it certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? Then again, things are rarely – if ever – what they seem to be.

Categories: Scandal

S&S: A Few Questions and Thoughts

November 27, 2012 4 comments

Okay, we need to talk about this Simon & Schuster (S&S) news. So, grab your coffee – and your rage – and come sit by me. Because I have thoughts AND questions.

Now, I realize that self-publishing in a valuable endeavor for some people. Hell, I self-pubbed a book of poetry, because I wanted to do it. I had no grand expectations of being on Oprah. I did not expect to turn into Neruda or Plath overnight. I did it, because I wanted to – not because I thought I’d take the publishing world by storm. I had certain (reasonable) expectations.

I know several authors for whom self-publishing is the right choice. They’ve carefully considered their options and jumped in with goals, expectations, and eyes wide open. These are writers who are SMART. They hired editors, people to design their covers, and beta readers out the wazoo. In short, they’re not tossing out grammatically horrendous, typo ridden nonsense, and then imploding when someone decides to play SNAKE with them. (That will always make me laugh. I am not sorry.) In fact, Denise and Trisha? They’re awesome. I’ve had the pleasure of beta reading for Trisha, and I will read her books as often as she writes them. For her, the decision to self-pub was the RIGHT one. To each, her own.

Now, S&S (through a service called Archway Publishing.) has decided to offer self-publishing packages. You pay them a certain amount of money, and they publish your book. Years ago, we would’ve called this a vanity press. With the currently publishing landscape in transition, I’m not entirely sure WHAT to call it. But it feels kind of shady.

Let’s discuss that. For fiction, the cheapest package cost $1,999. Okay, let’s assume that I’ve got two grand kicking around under my mattress. Let’s assume I have a manuscript that is a) ready and b) I don’t want to light on fire. (Hide the matches.) What is the PURPOSE of this package? Well, apparently, it’s for a writer to “share a book with family and friends.”

Um, guys? If I wanted to entertain my family and friends with my words, I’d just print something out at Kinko’s. I remember doing that — IN HIGH SCHOOL. It was called a zine. Or, hell, I’d pull a Little Women and resurrect the Pickwick Club in the attic and all of you would be forced to act out my stories. *ahem* The package seems to include quite a bit (see below), but does it really?

I…have questions. What the heck is editorial assessment? Is that the same thing as editorial service? Nope. “The Editorial Assessment is not a replacement for our editorial services. Rather, it is a preliminary diagnostic tool, examining sections of the manuscript in detail to pinpoint areas in need of improvement.  Reviewers offer examples of items that could be strengthened and give critique and commentary across a range of topics.” So, they’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, but they won’t help you fix it. I don’t know about you, but that’s what a good beta reader does. “Hey, you screwed up over here!” Or “this needs more sex!” “Why is your character speaking in German? He’s not German.” So, that’s not exactly what someone might expect it to be.

For someone who understands publishing, or who has friends to pose questions to, you’d be well aware of the difference between editorial assessment and editorial service. But what about Sally Whatshername, who knows NOTHING about publishing? Picture her, a bright young thing, with a newly polished manuscript and a dream. She sees assessment and thinks differently. She thinks, “Hey, if I fork off $2,000 dollars, S&S will publish my manuscript!”

And then she does, without understanding what goes into a successfully self-publishing career. She has no idea how to cultivate an audience base, or market, or make connections. She is that person on Twitter who goes, “BUY MY BOOK! LOOK WHO PUBLISHED IT!” And it doesn’t have quite the same impact as one might’ve hoped. Because the publisher’s name doesn’t quite mean the same thing, does it? Because once you can buy something, the value of it tends to change.

Next up, I have concerns about the “classic author support.” What’s classic about it, exactly? Is it vintage? Timeless? I’m not really certain of the diction there, but let’s assume this is a person who helps you. Indeed, the website describes it as series of people who will function as your “point of contact” to assist you during the publishing process. So, essentially, a set of publishing guidance counselors. Even after reading the description, I’m really not sure how that person supports you. Do they take your phone calls at 1:00 am, when you can no longer remember what an adverb is? Buy you a drink when you are CONVINCED that everything you’ve written is total shit? Probably not. (Your agent would though, if he/she is a good one. For prime examples, see Brooks Sherman and Janet Reid.) This point of contact changes, depending on the phase of the project, which means you will have to form quick relationships with anonymous strangers in order to complete your project. How acquainted could these people BE with your project? The time frame, from signing with the S&S service to completion is…I don’t actually know. I couldn’t find the answer to that question on their website. I would be curious to know what the turnaround time is, because those in the publishing world are well-aware of the length of time it takes to Bibbity Bobbity Boo a manuscript into a proper book. There are a lot of man hours and hard work that go into it. Things that cannot be properly accomplished in a month.

This seems like a way for a traditional publisher to cash in on the changing landscape of the publishing world. In theory, that isn’t a bad business practice. Adapt or die, as Darwin says. But this isn’t about developing a longer beak to snatch a worm. This is about making art, making literature, and publishing thoughts. There’s something to be said about adapting in a smart, reasonable fashion. Right now, a good editorial assessment might cost you $2,000 alone. A writer might be better off spending the cash on that, making the book as good as it can possibly be, and then going from there. Find an agent. Self-publish on Amazon. You get what you pay for, and while I balked at spending that amount of money for a publishing package, I’m betting that what you actually GET isn’t going to be what you’re hoping for. If fame and fortune and success all came cheap, or was available at Costco, we’d all be rich, pant-less, and frolicking the Caribbean instead of working and eating ramen noodles.

when it’s all too clean

November 20, 2012 2 comments

I have been hiding the bodies
for years; no one bothers
to come looking. No one asks questions.
No one digs. There are no dogs
searching and sniffing. There is no
crime scene tape, no gloved hands,
and no one to witness
the newly disturbed earth.
bleach will whiten a smile
as well as a moment. Consider it
handled.

And yet, I wait for the ghosts to come,
but they do not. I open my eyes
in the middle of the night, but find
nothing. I do not know
what I expect of the dead.
I offer them coins, anyway.
I offer my own voice,
the pin pulled from a grenade,
a heart beating without a single sound.

I dance with the pin in my teeth,
tequila in my smile; my dress (stolen),
my confession
starting where hip meets thigh,
not a diamond, but a staggering belief
of what things mean, of being
thick as thieves, hiding the evidence
with the pick of a lock, the turn of a key,
and finding that there is no door.

eventually, all things
are dug up. All promises collected,
all kisses are taken or given,
all clothing is lost
as love is found. I know
what happens here,
I know what I am willing to give up,
and it’s alright, darling –
I already have the handcuffs.

Categories: Poetry

when honesty is vulnerability

November 19, 2012 4 comments

 

You know, I think I’m having a moment. I put two things out into the universe, both of which give me pause. I always feel, in those instances, in a post-SEND haze, that I’m doing everything wrong. Life takes a lot of courage, sometimes – to share something with the world, to tell the truth, to make a phone call, to ask for what you want. Life, if you’re doing it right, is full of scary things. Like risk and feelings.

A few minutes ago, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’m doing EVERYTHING wrong. And, hang on, where did THAT come from? I’m someone who, fumbling or not, tries. That’s not wrong. That’s not easy, but it’s not wrong. So, that feeling? It’s just insecurity and fear. I know that. I also know that there is often no right decision – only what you do and what you don’t do.

So, in case you’re having this kind of insecure, what the hell am I doing? kind of day – you’re not alone. Be brave, darlings. Make art, and sent it into the word. Create and share. Lather, rinse, repeat. Reach out. And this is important: let people in.

If you like, tell me about the last thing you made. It doesn’t matter what it is. Tell me, too, about the last real risk you took. Do you regret it?

Secret

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

(a bit of flash fiction, born of re-reading Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things)

She waits, as dawn begins to creep over the horizon. It is the day’s first promise, the first lie. She prefers the shadows for a reason. The day offers too many avenues for capture, too many witnesses with prying eyes and busy tongues. The world will swallow anyone without hesitation. She doesn’t hesitation. She merely watches you sleep, counting the marks on your skin – the ink that turned your body into a map. You are the country under her skin, but the routes are less easy to follow.

Everything ends. The knowledge makes her bones ache, as if each kiss is a shovel full of dirt. She knows that she is digging her own grave, and yet she does it anyway. There, in the odd moments where no one will notice, she offers you a choice: her body or the knife. A knife or her body. The knife is an illusion, but the implication is the glint of moonlight on broken glass: a revelation of opportunity. Of the things already ravaged before. Always, you cast the knife aside, but passion wounds in its own way.

She loves you, and she is waiting. She offers too much, wondering at what you might take. She dreams of all the wars you don’t know she’s waged. She is a warrior. She fights for fragile things: a glass heart, a four letter word, and an honest story. Her eyes betray none of this. To you, she looks as she always has.

In another lifetime, she would’ve written you a fairytale. She would’ve woken you from your deep sleep, forgetting tradition. Instead, she stands on the edge of everything, hands tied behind her back. There is no fear in her face. She knows exactly what she’s doing, as she steps between you and yourself. This could be the moment the world explodes. This could be the train tracks, the rabid wolves, the bright flash of a silent bomb. Still, she stands there, knowing that she cannot protect herself. Moreover, she does not even try. It is not about her. It is about you.

Some sacrifices are made of money. Others are made of time. Hers are made of her own strength. All things given up, waiting to be gathered. You don’t realize that she is broken. That she stands impossibly straight to avoid detection. Her smile is a victim. And that is another lie among many.

Her intensity cuts through reason like a razor. The rain falls, and she still waits, mud clinging to her footsteps. There’s always a trail, always a way to find her. You will discover this when you wake up to find her gone.

Tomorrow is only ever what you choose.

Categories: prose

the past is a ghost we glimpse

November 16, 2012 1 comment

 

We are, and we are not, our past. The deeds we’ve done, the people we’ve been – there’s facets of who we are. They are not the whole picture. And yet, a recovering alcoholic is always a recovering alcoholic. You carry it with you. There are things that each of us carry with us, too – little red wagons filled with crap. Some red wagons are small. Others are like dump trucks. And yet, again: that’s only part of the story. Our story.

Eventually, in some way, our past has a way of reemerging, of coloring our present, of rattling our cage. Our past isn’t our reflection. It’s the shadow you see out of the corner of your eye, the ghost that’s maybe there or not. You turn, and it vanishes – but that glimpse is enough to remind you.

Last night’s episode of Scandal (Spies like Us) is all about how our past influences our present. Olivia is dating her ex-fiancée, who verbally spar with each other, but it’s more like friends. There’s no passion, no tension. There’s the end of the date and a shut door. Then there’s Huck, who is involved with a regular girl. Out of habit, he wants to run a background check. He doesn’t know what normal is, and Olivia has to talk him down off that ledge. There’s Cyrus, whose husband is back at the White House as a writer, and James makes a serious breach of trust – quoting a conversation that Cyrus and he had in bed together, while not revealing his name. The article is about Hollis, the shady shark of a man who lords his swaggering leverage over the cabal of five (Hollis, Mellie, Liv, Cyrus, and Verna) like a malicious child. This article could be bad for everybody.

Of course, the central issue in this episode is Huck’s past – the group of spook spies he used to work with is being threatened with exposure. At first, to protect Liv, he tries to flee. Instead, Olivia butts heads with him, and says that this is HER wheelhouse. He agrees to let her try to fix it. Cue a bunch of trigger happy, trust-deficient spies showing up to Pope and Associates. I have to admit, I laughed a bit when one turned out to be a soccer mom. It turns out one of the spies is a traitor, selling their identities to a hacker. Huck sends his coworkers home in an effort to find out who it is. One of the assassins is, almost hilariously, the one who Huck went to town on last season – and who killed Amanda Tanner.

Harrison finally confronts Olivia about the emotional mess of a person she’s been since Steven left. He found her staring off into space, as per her current usually, looking wounded and doe-eyed. Her expressions are enough to break your heart. This separation with Fitz is eating away at her. It’s right there in her face. She’s doing the “right” thing, but it’s killing her. “It’s getting weird in here. What do you need?” he asks. That is what Steven used to ask. Harrison goes to bat for Olivia, as her friend. Because he sees her in pain. “Whatever’s it is that’s going on, whatever it is that you’re thinking about when you’re sitting in here by all by yourself, tell me what you need and I will do it, no matter what.” He continues with an impassioned, convincing monologue that resonated with me. Because at someone point, everyone need to hear this, “I am your family. I am your gladiator. And that is not a job to me, that’s who I am. Right now, you need me. So, no questions asked. No matter what. Whatever you need. Gimme some marching orders, Liv.” Olivia tells him that Abby and David Rosen cannot be together anymore. She cannot tell him why. But that Abby’s husband used to beat her, and he should use that angle. Again, this is where the past meets the present like a tide ugly with pollution. Harrison is ruthless, and I think that it takes a toll on him. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s not used to getting his hands dirty. He’s not used to damaging people close to him, even if it’s for the “right” reasons. Abby is led to believe that David beat one of his ex-girlfriends. And, understandably, this sets her off. You don’t get over something like that. She breaks up with David, who is shocked and hurt that she didn’t even give him a chance. Because her past is a healed wound that still aches.

Additionally, Cyrus calls up Olivia for help with James. He tells her what happened, and Olivia tells him how to fix it. I found it really interesting that he sought out her help TWICE recently. Olivia tells him to be ruthless, and Cyrus complies, because he is desperate. He invites James to the Oval office and puts on an act so convincing that there are tears. It is emotional manipulation at its best, because you can only manipulate those closest to you in that manner. Because you know exactly what buttons to push. And, as an audience member, I felt bad for James. While Cyrus is trying to protect pretty much everybody for Hollis, it’s still a shitty thing to do to your husband. It was absolutely CHILLING to see Cyrus snap right out of his emotional display as soon as James left the room. If he can act that well, I wonder what ELSE he hides. As he admitted last week, he is a monster. But damn, if he’s not a monster I’d want on my side. (And let’s face it: who, in this show, isn’t some kind of monster?)

Huck eventually discovers the identity of the traitor spy. He tries to keep the others from killing him, because Huck has changed. Or he’s trying to change. The girl he’s seeing? Is affecting him for the better. But the soccer mom spy shoots the traitor, and in a silent, almost poetic scene – they clean up. They are efficient and methodical. It’d be beautiful, if it weren’t so disturbing.

And, lastly, there’s Olivia, who is trying so hard to be normal. To live a normal life, with a man who fits into it. Edison shows up at her apartment, with all the making of a romantic in-home date. Alcohol, food, and movies. He is all smiles and charm. He keeps talking. Olivia’s silent, her face one step away from broken. She doesn’t say a word, and finally, he sees that she’s upset. It takes him entirely too long to notice. But he asks if she’s okay, and she still says NOTHING. She breaks down. They kiss, and this time, the door shuts again – but Edison Davis is on the other side of it. In that moment, Liv is broken. Her past, her choices, have swelled up to meet her – and she is alone. She is missing her friend Steven, who would’ve seen past all her defenses sooner. But the heart of the matter is that she misses Fitz. And it hurts in a way that is almost incomprehensible. It’s an inexplicable pain, that kind of separation. Sometimes, you just need to feel something. Sometimes, you can’t fix what’s wrong, but you want to forget for a moment. You want to pretend to be normal. Olivia, when she (presumably) decides to sleep with Edison, it’s not about them as a couple. It’s about her and her pain. She’s trying to fix it. But what I think she’ll come to realize is this simple truth: you can’t fix love. You can’t handle love like other problems. You can’t pretend to be normal, when you’re not. And darling, normal is vastly overrated.

Categories: Scandal

our hardships are weeping angels

November 15, 2012 5 comments

 

Sometimes, I forget myself.

I will be watching a tv show, or talking on the phone, and then out of nowhere – a scene guts me without mercy. A remark catches me perfectly off-guard. And I either crumble to pieces or fail to find actual words in any language. The other day, I was on the phone, and someone told me that somebody else (who I don’t know personally) has cancer – in a manner very sensitive to what I’ve been through, mind you. And I fumbled for any kind of sentence that sounded right, failed miserably, and just said, “Shit, I think I am actually speechless.”

And it caught me unaware, because I DO talk about my mom’s illness. I’ve talked to friends whose other friends have cancer. I’ve given advice. I’ve offered a shoulder. So, I don’t exactly know why that particular instance knocked my verbal knees out from under me, but it did. It rendered me inarticulate and momentarily useless.

I don’t like that. I don’t like one of my favorite shows (PARENTHOOD) is like an emotional minefield, because one of the characters has cancer. And she’s getting chemo. And she wears button down clothing to chemo, for medically practical reasons. I find myself explaining how to true to life that is, and how my mother used to wear layers and button down clothing, fuzzy, soft sweaters especially. Because that’s what happens when you are pumping poison into your body. A means to an end, a hope that leaves you hurting. The truest kind of bravery I’ve ever seen. But I digress….

The most recent episode of that show totally gutted me. I realize that the smart, sane thing might be to NOT watch. In fact, after each new episode, I vow that I won’t watch anymore. Turn away from the wreck. Read a book. Put music on. And yet, that is ignoring what cannot be ignored. That is running away. That is not the brave or the strong thing. Because all demons get stronger in the dark, when you turn your back. The monster always slinks closer when you blink. Our struggles, our hardships are weeping angels: when you blink, they make their move.

I think part of the problem is that I still want to be me. I still want to be the person people come to with their problems, even if the problem hits to close to home. I still want to watch the same shows I’ve always loved and do the same things. Yes, there’s a gaping hole in my life. And no, there’s no Time Lord with a TARDIS to fix it. But that’s okay. That means there’s no Band-Aid covering a bullet hole. For a physical wound to heal properly, it heals from the outside in. For an emotional one, it’s the opposite. It’s easy to fool with a smile or a joke. You have to heal the other way, from the inside out.

Sometimes, I am softer than I expect myself to be. Sometimes, I don’t want to admit that. I don’t think they’ll ever be a time where I’m unaffected by things. But I know that I’m still me. I’m still the person who wants to lend an ear. I don’t turn away from the things that hurt, because that doesn’t make the feeling go away. It just means I’m too scared to face reality.

And that isn’t who I am.

In Nomine Amoris*

November 13, 2012 4 comments

 

this religion is ours.
there is no temple,
no chalice, no holy book.
we are what we worship,
all fingers and skin,
a kiss made of prayers,
drunk on wine
and each other,
a covenant between bodies
seeking salvation.

your hands
are a psalm, and my hips
are a rosary – this dance
a perfect call and response,
a Sunday morning
in the middle of a week, a letter
from the gospel according
to us.

my heart is a cross
and you are nailed to it,
as I am to yours. At times,
faith feels like a question,
a favor asked to an empty sky,
but we are our own
resurrection
again and again and again.

my prayers are never silent,
my peace is never weak,
and no matter the confession,
the obsession, the candle
lit in perfect dark –
we are what we worship.
we are the love we seek.

*latin: in the name of love

Categories: Poetry

Once Upon a Time: A Storyteller’s Thoughts on Being the Monster

November 12, 2012 6 comments

There are parts of ourselves that we all wish we could hide, that we all try to hide. The less shiny, less perfect secrets, the shades of our reflection that we are afraid of. The things that we, sometimes, simply cannot control. An instinct. An old habit. “Beowulf” was written to tell a story about the titular hero slaying a monster, Grendel. Years later, John Gardener wrote Grendel, a novel from the famed monster’s point of view. Why? Why tell the villains? Why humanize the creature that goes bump in the night? Because sometimes, everyone feels like a monster.

Take Ruby in last night’s episode of Once Upon a Time (Child of the Moon). Ruby’s story turns the tale of Little Red Riding Hood on its head. She is the wolf. She has no way to control her changes, except for a magical red cloak from her Granny. Of course, there was a time where she had no idea who she was. She killed people, including the love of her life, Peter.

With the landscape of magic shifting and changing in Storybrooke, Ruby (Red) has begun to regain some of her more wolfish qualities. A few weeks ago she admitted to having a heightened sense of smell and used it to locate the lost Belle. Once she realizes that she cannot find her cloak, and it’s the first full moon since the curse was broken/magic was restored, Ruby locks herself in the freezer at Granny’s.

Decker, aka the Evil King who was Charming’s fake father in Fairytale Land, is hellbent on evil and mayhem. He sets Ruby up for a murder she didn’t commit, killing Billy (who is actually GusGus from Cinderella). Ruby, realizing her worst fears have come true, has a truly poignant emotional meltdown, blaming herself for the harm she believes she’s inadvertently caused. Decker has whipped the townsfolk into an honest-to-fairies MOB – complete with pitchforks and torches – in an effort to make David/Charming’s life into a nightmare. (More on nightmares in a minute.)

However, in a Fairytale Land flashback, we find Snow and Red running away from the royal guard. Red’s cloak is torn, and she insists they split up for the night, for Snow’s sake. Red is discovered by a pack of wolves just like her, including the mother that she was led to believe in dead. Her mother has a bit of Crazy Eyes, but she teaches Red how to give in to the wolf, to be the wolf, so that she’s in control – and doesn’t have any more blackouts. This is the first time Red embraces her nature, not as a monster – but as a lesson to us all, which is not to fight who we are. It is when we fear ourselves and are untrue to who we are that bad things happen.

Of course, Red’s mother thinks that humans are horrible and they are the monsters by default. When Snow stumbles upon their den, looking for Red, she is welcomed at first – and then one of the palace guards kills a member of the pack. Crazy Eyes Mom goes full-on Lord of the Flies, decreeing that they must EAT Snow, including Red. Red, to protect her friend, fights her mother – who dies and calls her a traitor to her kind. Talk about needing therapy there, Mommy Dearest. Red, beautifully played by Meghan Ory, says that she wasn’t betraying her family – she was protecting it. This reminds us that family isn’t always blood, and blood isn’t always right.

Which brings us back to Storybrooke, where there’s an Angry Mob chasing after Ruby, who is so convinced that she’s a monster who deserves to die, that she goes out to meet them as the wolf. Her friends (David, Granny, and Belle) believe in her. They see the good in her, when she is at her worst and can only see herself as a monster. Belle, in a wonderful quip, calls herself an ‘expert on rehabilitation,’ which seems to imply her relationship with Gold has continued, though we have yet to see them interact for a while. Still: large cheer!

Ruby, thinking of all her past mistakes, so easily blames herself. It is so easy to internalize guilt, thinking of our worst decisions, our worst failings. David tells the crowd (who are one step away from shouting RUTABAGA! which is a common shout in mob scenes) the truth about Decker, who pretty much oozes vitriol and spite. He, taking a risk, walks toward Ruby with her rediscover cape, talking to her about seeing who she is, about knowing her for who she is. David reminds Ruby of herself, and Ruby thus gains control over her own nature. That moment is very touching, because what person doesn’t need that kind of reminder, sometimes? When we are down on ourselves, when we think we are the monster? Everyone is Grendel, sometimes. But if we are lucky, there is someone to hold up a true mirror, instead of a distorted funhouse one.

Of course, not all’s well that ends well. Decker’s endgame was to destroy the Hatter’s hat, which he does with glee – leading David to nearly shoot him. Ruby talks him down, but for a moment, I wished she hadn’t. Because Decker is an asshole. Where are his redeeming qualities? We know from his backstory that his wife was barren. That he suffered. Each character in Once is layered – even the Evil Queen has her roots and her reasons. I’m curious about Decker’s.

We cannot forget Henry in all this. He and Sleeping Beauty have been having the same nightmare, a side-effect of the Sleeping Curse. Regina, upon discovering that the nightmare has very real implications (the dream flames burn Henry), she calls Gold. He cannot stop the nightmares, but he gives Henry a necklace to wear that will allow him to control the dream, thus giving him a link to Fairytale Land through Sleeping Beauty. This is a pretty clever turn of events, and I’m curious to see how it’s used to unravel and shape the storylines. Also, when Regina asks about the price for Gold’s services, he snarks that she couldn’t afford it, BUT since it’s for Henry, it’s on him. I wonder, then, if he’s truly acting benevolent – or if he has some other kind of plan for Henry. Since we know that Henry can leave Storybrooke without a problem (that IS how he fetched Emma), I wonder if he might bring Baelfire to Gold, assuming he can discover where his son is.

This episode exemplifies an overarching theme of the show: no one is a hero or a monster; everyone is both. David, with a gun in his hand, may nearly kill someone. Ruby, thinking the worst of herself, may attempt penance through sacrificing her own life. And yet, everyone is saved or redeemed. In the end, a person must choose to save him/herself — to do the right thing. A friend can hold up a mirror. Someone who cares for you may stay by your side. But in the end, you have to choose to see the truth in your own reflection. In the end, you have to allow someone to be there for you.

Categories: Once Upon a Time

All Roads

November 9, 2012 Leave a comment

 

In life, it often seems like perception is everything. The image of someone is more important than who they are, because that image is mistaken for who they are. Everything has a PR spin from the first time you sneak in your parents’ house at dawn to why, exactly, there’s a strange hair in your husband’s car. Perception is everything. The truth is messy. There is no truth that is truly pretty, truly polished. All the gleam in an illusion, a last line of defense.

In last night’s episode of Scandal, Olivia takes on a client who was Fitz’s competitor in the election. Initially, the story is he walked in on his wife being raped and shot the guy. As the episode progresses, it then comes out that she was having an affair with the man, a builder working on their house. Tearfully, the governor’s wife falls on her Roman sword, reflecting on how her husband changed after losing the election – a election that was basically won by Olivia, because she knows how to set the perfect stage. She is, despite her love of truth, full of dirty little secrets. The governor lost that election, because she launched some kind of perception-based misdirect, proposing that the Governor was soft of guns. The irony now being, of course, that he SHOT a man with just such a gun. Both the Governor and his wife lay blame at Olivia’s feet for changing the course of their history, by getting Fitz elected. As the episode is so aptly titled, all roads lead to Fitz, after all.

The kicker is not the wife’s affair, or the fact that her husband became a different man after suffering the political loss that he did. It is that he knew his wife was having an affair. His murder was premeditated. In fact, he intended to kill his wife, her lover, and himself – until, that is, she cried rape. (A plot point which I kind of hate, because it complicates the idea of a rape victim – which is a difficult enough position in this country. But that’s another story for another time.) The governor, being a ruthlessly clever man, let his wife take the blame for a murder her intended to commit. Not only that, he used it to his political advantage. You see, the gun-happy governor isn’t soft on guns, anymore. Olivia, as she complains on her couch to Cyrus (who came to visit her, because he’s mad at his husband – which is both hilarious and perfectly played), doesn’t it like it when the bad guy gets away. Neither does the audience. Cyrus (the wonderful Jeff Perry) quips that she shouldn’t have come to DC.

As I said, perception is everything. Lest we forget the ominous meeting of the Five at the beginning of the episode, it appears that Olivia, Mellie, Cyrus, Hollis Doyle, and Senator Verna Thorton are involved in some kind of cover-up having to do with the whole Quinn Perkins debacle. In exchange for their help in that situation, everybody got something. The only stopping point at the moment is David (Joshua Malina), who is seeking the truth like a rabid, crazy dog with a bone. They offer him a misdirect and his job back, unbeknownst to him at who is pulling the strings, and it almost worked – until Abby discovered that Olivia orchestrated it all. Honestly, I have huge problems believing that Huck would be so careless as to leave that evidence on his computer screen. But, willing suspension of disbelief… (I also am not sure I buy that Abby would be working against Olivia, but we shall see.)

One of my favorite parts of this episode, however, has to do with Cyrus and Mellie (how amazing is Bellamy Young?). You see, Mellie has gotten used to wearing the pants. She has gotten used to making demands, pushing Fitz around, and even circumventing proper channels and methods when it suits her. She doesn’t like having her hands dirty and she attempts to strong-arm Cy, who is just about to burst with rage, since his husband (who wants a baby) has come back to work as part of the White House Press Corp. Possibly the most awkward position to be in when one is the President’s Chief of Staff. Cyrus calls Mellie a “terrifying political animal,” before point out the menacing fact that he is much, much worse.


Cyrus isn’t fooled by smoke and mirrors. He knows exactly who people are, where they stand, and what they are capable of. That is, perhaps, how he knew he needed Olivia on Fitz’s campaign all those years ago. I like the scene with Cyrus and Olivia, having wine on her couch. I like the idea of these two having a history and a friendship. And yet, given last season, I don’t trust Cyrus. I want to, but I don’t. Because the audience has seen him get his hands bloody, and not in a for the of others Huck kind of way. He is a monster, but he’s also the monster you want on YOUR side.

But speaking of Huck (Guillermo Diaz), Huck as a date with a girl from his AA group. And honestly? It is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. He, too, is worried about perception and appearance. What should he wear? Where should they go? He is about as lost as lost gets. He takes her to a restaurant where neither of them can pronounce the food, and he doesn’t look at ease – or like himself – until he shows her what he likes to do for fun. Which is…spy on people. But AA girl doesn’t seem daunted by this, and they kiss. And I awwww’d. But one has to wonder: would she feel the same if she really saw Huck for who he is? Not a recovering alcoholic, but a recovering assassin/murderer? This is a ramped up quandary that happens in all relationships: will you still like me when my hair’s a mess, the makeup’s gone, and I’m wearing an old tshirt? When the glitz, glamour, smoke and mirrors are gone – and I’m just me? One wonders. One hopes. Even, it seems, Huck.

Lastly, we’re going to talk about Olivia. Senator Edison Davis is pursuing her, hardcore. He even goes so far as to point out that she may be saying no, but she’s not telling him to go away. Olivia claims she isn’t ready to date, which leads us (the audience) to perceive that she’s genuinely interested in her ex-finacee. And yet, when Cyrus brings up the subject, Olivia freezes. She looks like she wants to crawl in her wine glass, because Olivia is broken. Olivia, I think, wants to seem like she’s moving on. Perhaps she wants that idea to snake its way back to the President. Because all roads lead to Fitz. That is perfect phrasing, by the way, because it has so many layers of meaning. Everything reflects on Fitz, since he’s attending the G8 conference. If someone in his circle does something to detract from his presence there, that also affects his image. For Olivia, though, even though she tries to walk away – all roads lead back to Fitz, eventually. Because you can’t walk away from your own heart. Fitz is center. He’s the middle of a maze. He’s where so many things began for Olivia: her heart, her career. So, she may be toying with the idea of Senator Davis (even letting her employees/friends overhear), but it feels like a hollow charade. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not so much about Davis himself – but about the attention. About feeling wanting. There’s a certain thrill in realizing that your ex, even after all these years, still carries one hell of a torch for you. And after a bad breakup, who doesn’t want to feel wanted?

I’m curious to see how it all plays out — when the dirty secrets are revealed, what will the fallout be? Rest assured, as the tagline says, dirty little secrets always come out. Maybe the secrets themselves don’t matter as much. Maybe the trick is that it’s all in the way they are presented.