75: A Fistful of Datas (6.08)

Synopsis:  During a recreation of the Ancient West, the holodeck safety guards fail.  In other news, the Enterprise crew have free time and several officers almost die.

Memory Alpha Summary:  And nobody calls Data yellow.

Review:  Does anybody on the ship ever get to enjoy their down time?  Anyway, the holodeck malfunction is very contrived, but fun all the same.  Hearing Data tell Spot, “Vamoose you little varmint!” is hilarious, as are Spiner’s other antics on the show.  Alexander isn’t too annoying, and Worf actually gets to kick some ass for once.  Too silly to be tense, but a nice diversion.

Survivor X: The End

It was a long and exhausting six months.  I won’t post all the comments that came with the final vote, but I’ll mention that Pete defeated me handily, garnering all seven votes from the jury members.  Despite the fact I got second, getting shut out has always been a certain kind of kick in the gut.  At least I couldn’t have lost to a nicer guy.  Well, I could have lost to Gary Carter.  But he wasn’t playing (he said he was busy doing something else).

I now have finished fourth and second in the two seasons I’ve played.  Can’t complain about that.  Now I’m glad to be judging Turbo Survivor, which is decidedly less stressful.

Congratulations, Pete.

Survivor X: Final Plea

The judges asked both me and nibbish to make a plea to the jury of seven as to why they should vote for us.  The jury vote will be announced live by Spooky tonight at Old Chicago in Apple Valley.

“Epilogue”

As the sun sets on the tenth season of Survivor, the lives of those touched by its charm and grace continued unabated.

Jacqueline’s dementia mercifully progressed to the point where she no longer became upset if her mother never showed up to take her out to lunch.

Roger’s perfect streak ended, but he successfully carved out a nice career in monster truck racing.

The kids from Earthbound continued to be confusingly meta and vague.

Tristan’s duel with McDuff continued with cold angst throughout the night, though Tristan emerged victorious as he slapped a shot through McDuff’s open legs (and icy heart).

Conor Clapton invented the guitar, and sixteen years later finally bumped Enya from the charts.

Weather girl Bri decided to try a Milk-Bone, and she liked it! When she was fired from the station, she parlayed her new fetish into a second career in the San Fernando Valley.

Edward King’s life branched out and took several paths, though he was never sure which one was real.

Mr. Toulouse kept the secret of Crocville safe until the Wikipedia was born.

Desiree was granted the greatest wish of all, a happy life for her son.

Martin (The Administrator) was able to prevent World War III, but was later unceremoniously offed after accidentally putting himself into a perpetual sneezing fit.

Dr. Westphal began volunteering, eventually starting a non-profit for children whose families could not afford life-saving surgeries. His eye never twitched again.

Graham quickly milked enough lost souls to pay his dues. He did it so well, in fact, that he soon became Hades’ right-hand man. Charon was never replaced again.

Ray Combs continued for eighteen years, helping suicide victims gain entrance to Heaven. He was replaced by Alex Trebek, who sent many to hell for barely mispronouncing answers.

Jake’s date turned out to be a 400 pound Polish man named Gustav. Justice was slowly and meticulously served that night.

Jack never remembered who his son was, but he remembered who his son became. On Jack’s 90th birthday, they were playing catch in the yard, just like old times, when The Big One came and swallowed them into the ground.

Detective Kautz was fired for fucking up in the wost way a detective has ever fucked up. As of this writing, he is attempting to gain the last ounce of his pleasure in his life via auto-erotic asphyxiation.

Esther never finished her word find (IRIS was well hidden), and she died as miserable as she had always been. She remained Nikki’s favorite until the end.

Years later, Nibbish and Beau raised their glasses in a toast. To memories, to friendship, to the Twins sweeping the Yankees in the ALCS. But most of all, to their happy marriages.

“Guys, get in here! We’re playing Pictionary–girls versus guys! And you bitches are going down!”

“Nice for a change,” Beau grinned. “It’s getting kind of old kicking your ass at everything.”

76: The Neutral Zone (1.26)

Synopsis:  Data unfreezes some backwards 20th century folk and we finally meet up with the Romulans again.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Introduction of the Borg, if not by name.

Review: This episode is weird in that Conspiracy felt like it ended on an appropriate cliffhanger regarding the parasites, while this one also has a cliffhanger regarding the Romulans and some other unknown adversary.  On the other hand, we kind of needed to see the Romulans before season two, especially since the Ferengi have proven to be a buzzkill.

The first three-quarters of the episode are spent talking about rumors and conjecture about the Romulans and how the Enterprise has little information on them.  I find this surprising.  Are we to assume the Romulans have also ignored the Vulcans and Klingons for thirty years?  For such a strong adversary to all three empires, it seems odd that they had contact with nobody, although I suppose they could have spent that whole time in an arms race.

We also find more annoying behavior among the crew.  There is much more preaching about how silly 20th century humans were.  We are afraid to die, which somehow has been cured in the 24th century.  It’s also a surprise that we somehow survive the 21st century with how stupid we are.  Also, when Ralph Offenhouse is messing around the ship and asks why there aren’t security codes (which is what I’ve been wondering all season), Picard admonishes him by saying that all humans are capable of self-discipline.  Uh, yeah.  Except Wesley, who can’t keep his hands off of com panels, sensor readings, and captain command authorizations.

We’re not done.  Picard is really, really cold to their new guests.  Granted, he’s under stress from being on his way to face the Romulans, so some flippancy can be expected.  But for someone who highly values life, he gets almost angry that Data saved these three cryonically frozen humans.  He does everything short of place them in the brig.  At least he calls Troi in there to get them “under control.”  Speaking of which, Offenhouse is a little over the top, even for a miser, but I do like the dynamic of the three newbies.  It’s too bad nobody mentioned to Sonny that his Braves went on to dominate for 15 years shortly after he died.

Even with all this junk, I love the meeting with the Romulans.  Picard fights off the entire bridge crew’s desire to start a fight, has a tense but highly calculative conversation with the Romulans, and Offenhouse gets a great moment where his business instincts make Riker look like a douche.  “We are back!” is a simple, great line and a solid way to lead us into season two.

77: Lessons (6.19)

Synopsis: A new female officer is under Picard’s…command.

Memory Alpha Summary: And he engages

Review:  It’s nice to see Picard actually fall in love, rather than the infatuations he had with Vashar and Kamala.  I love how the writers brought back his experience on Kataan and weave it into his intimacy with his girlfriend.  Despite the fact that most of this episode is bereft of conflict, it’s still rather touching, thanks to the beautiful scenes where the two of them play music together.  I felt the writers also dealt rather well with the difficulties of intra-ship romances, especially for a captain.  It would have been nice to see Nella Daren in at least one more episode so that she doesn’t seem to be yet another one-episode fling that is forgotten, but alas.

78: The Hunted (3.11)

Synopsis:  A guy is trained to kill, and when the war is over, society doesn’t want him back.  Sound familiar?

Memory Alpha Summary: Good morning, Vietnam

Review:  As far as Star Trek goes, this is fairly well done allegory about we treat our veterans.  It’s a bit hard to believe that this society was able to create a soldier so perfect that it can overtake an entire starship, but the role is played well by McCarthy and the show’s moral is well realized without hitting you over the head with it.

Survivor X, Final Challenge: Harrison Bergeron

The final week, after six months of grueling work, we finally come to the final challenge.  Matt, Nibs, and myself faced off with the following challenge, based off the story Harrison Bergeron.  We were asked that every character in our story completely lose their memory every 250 words (or fewer).  Wowzers.

“Hit me,” he said, simultaneous tapping his fingers on the table.  The dealer was showing an eight, and he a six and a four.  His attention was taken away by a dashing redhead wearing a low-cut dress.  Instinctually, he used his enhanced vision to undress her.  She was just as gorgeous underneath, providing a pleasant distraction from his current losing streak.  These days, thankfully, he no longer felt a pang of regret if he couldn’t have every beauty that passed him by.

The dealer laid the two of spades in front of him.  “Of course,” he sighed.  Another hit yielded a king and busted him.  He watched as the suit to the left of him split his aces and landed two faces.  Normally, this would have irritated him, but if things went well, tonight was going to be a good night.

“Excuse me, sir,” interjected a cocktail waitress, setting a silver jewelry case in front of him.  She was a little pretty, a lot of fake.  “From the woman over there,” she pointed with her eyes.

He looked across the room. He caught a woman sitting at the bar, quickly turning away from him.  From this distance, he couldn’t make her out.

Opening the case revealed a chakra bracelet, inlaid with jade.  Removing it from the case, he slipped it on his left hand.  It fit perfectly.  He looked up, searching out his new friend.  She was gone.  Perplexed, he absentmindedly fiddled with the bracelet.

“Sir?” the dealer beckoned.

“Hit me,” he said, simultaneously tapping his fingers on the table.  His attention was on a voluptuous brunette that was hanging on the arm of a high-roller.  Out of habit he undressed her with his supernatural vision.  While she was a sight to see, he was okay just looking.  At the age of thirty-one, he’d sown his oats long ago.

“Four makes twenty-two,” said the dealer as he gathered up the cards.

“What?” he cried.  “I had a hard ten!”

The dealer showed him the queen of spades and the eight of clubs.  “I thought you did, too.  Sorry, man.”

He looked at them, confused.  “I could have sworn…” he thought out loud.

The suit to the left of him patted his shoulder.  “Gutsy play, hero.  You almost had ‘em.”

“Uh huh,” he said, picking up his chips.  “Good luck everyone.  I’ve got a date with destiny.”

“So that’s her name?” the suit quipped. “But seriously, dude, what’s with the get-up?”

He ignored the suit and headed for the cashier.  Winding through endless slot machines, he covered his mouth.  The smoke was oppressive.  He was tempted to use super speed, but he didn’t want to risk getting noticed.  Mostly, though, he was growing tired of coasting through life.  It left him wanting.

Turning the corner, he was stopped dead in his tracks.  A gun jammed into his abdomen.

“Lex…”

“Bingo,” his adversary replied.

He swung for Lex’s head with his left arm.  Lex caught it.

“Hit me,” he said nonchalantly.

“Wha?” replied Lex, confused.

“Well,” he said.  “It appears you have a gun, and I’m at a disadvantage.”

“Oh, right,” said Lex.  “And it has kryptonite bullets.  Nice knowin’ ya.”

Click!

Lex looked down to a completely mangled gun.

“Too late,” he said, pushing Lex to the casino floor.

A little shaken–more from the apparent memory loss than his encounter with Lex–he stumbled towards the elevator.  He pushed 17, wanting to get to their hotel room and lie down.  Lex said his gun had kryptonite bullets.  Did that cause his amnesia?  Maybe it was stress.  Perry White had sent them here for a convention, but he had other plans.  Tonight was going to be a big night.

Reaching into his pocket, he was grateful to discover he hadn’t lost his key in all the hoopla.  Entering the room, he was surprised to find her back so soon.  “Uh, hi Lois!”

“Hey there.  Wasn’t expecting you!”

He looked at her, puzzled, until he realized.  He looked down at the big S on his chest.

Lois strutted towards him.  “How did you know what room I was in, Superman?”  She raised her eyebrows, awaiting an answer.

“Look,” he said..  “You might as well know the truth.”  He held her hands.  She held back.

“Hit me,” he said.

“Sometimes I’d love to.”

He looked around, then looked at her.  “When did I get here?”

“Honestly?” she replied.  “I don’t know.  I can’t remember, either.”

He took a sharp breath.

“But I do know why.  Remove the bracelet, but don’t touch the jewel.”  He did as she asked.  “This,” she said, walking the bracelet over to the fireplace, “is what wiped out our memories.”  She dropped it into the fire.

“How do you know?”

“Silly Superman.  I’m the one who gave it to you.”

“You…”

“Lex was after you.  I knew even with kryptonite bullets he’d have to be on top of you to hit you.  I figure if he got too close, this would wipe out his memory as well, giving you a chance to escape.  You’re here, so I assume you did.”

“Superman needs Lois, eh?”

“It appears so.”

He sat down on the bed.  She joined him.

“Thank you.  But I have to let you know something.”

She raised her eyebrows again.

He slowly took off his cape.  “Lois, my life’s been pretty amazing so far.  My natural abilities have given me many advantages.”   He took off his belt.  “I really thought at times that it couldn’t get better.  Then I met you.”

She tried not to blush.  He took off his tights.  She blushed.

“You really have changed my life.  Being Superman is fun sometimes, but that man can’t do the thing he most wants to do.  And that’s be with you.”

Finally, he put on his glasses.  “Recognize this guy?”

“Oh Beau, of course I do!” she said, giving him a hug.  “I’ve known for a long time.”

“You have?”

“I’ve just been waiting for you to take off the costume.”

He gulped.  “So…in that case, I just have one question.”

“Anything.”

“Will you marry me?”

Spooky: Huh. Well…okay. I don’t know why someone would go so meta so strongly at the end here when by now they know me, but here we are. What kills me is that the character is well-defined early on (yes, he’s an existing character, but I loved the explanation of his boredom with his abilities). I get the feeling that this Survivor based this piece around the ending, and upon writing the other stuff just to get there, stumbled upon a better idea that really should have changed the concept.
Characters: 3
Creativity of reason for Forgettings: 3
Overall Story Effectiveness: 3

DK: This is tough. The first section is excellent – the tone and atmosphere, the characterization of this superhero who is bored with the abilities he has (and I get the sense that this initial boredom is meant to resonate more because of the way the relationship aspect comes together at the end) but the pace and effectiveness of both the plot and the characters started falling off around Lex’s entrance, and couldn’t really come back for me by the time we get to the (presumably) author’s self-insertion (although it wouldn’t be any different if this is someone else writing about Beau as if he’s Superman).
Character: 4
Creativity of Reason for Forgettings: 4
Overall Story Effectiveness: 3

20/30

While neither judge seemed to realize that my self insertion was entirely because this entry was a marriage proposal, I don’t disagree with their critiques of the actual writing.  As it were, I took third place.  Nibbish took the top prize and voted out Matt.  Later this week the jury will decide who should win the tenth season of Survivor.  It will be announced live on Saturday, as the judges and the players will all miraculously be in once place.

But even I take second place, I’ve still won.

79: The Offspring (3.16)

Synopsis: Data has a child without sin, though this one dies sooner than Jesus.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Also, Data makes a Mondrian, which is slightly less impressive than making a positronic brain.

Review:  This episode had to happen, and I’m glad it did.  Watching Data learn the ins and outs of parenting is a sight to see, and Spiner knocks it out of the park.  What didn’t need to happen was a retread of the whole ‘Does Data have rights?’ plot from just last season.  I find it hard to believe that after a court ruling made just a year ago that essentially awarded Data all the rights of other life forms that he’d have to fight for them again, but I guess making the Starfleet top brass a bunch of insufferable jerks provides upward conflict for Picard and Co.

I’m also a bit bothered by the notion that Lal has to choose from one of two sexes.  Not only do many organisms have something other than two sexes, but gender qualities are completely ignored.  Then Troi counsels her that the look she chooses will affect how people relate to her and then practically pushes her to select a visually attractive human.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t do the same thing in her shoes, but it spits in the face of the “we’re above 20th century superficiality” we had beat into us in season one.

Finally, for the one and only time I’m going to talk about Data’s inability to use contractions.  It’s stupid.  Next season, Data can integrate lying into his program because it’s necessary for him to do so.  But he can’t make a fucking contraction.  Lal being able to do so should not be a major accomplishment.

On a brighter note, Riker accidentally hitting on Data’s daughter is priceless.

80: Coming of Age (1.19)

Synopsis:  Wesley takes the Starfleet exam, while Starfleet is on the Enterprise, interrogating everyone to try to see if Picard is unfit to lead.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Also, more kids get access to key systems.

Review:  I find it hilarious that they criticize Picard for bringing the Edo girl up to see her God but fail to criticize him for landing on the planet in the first place (also, is it insightful or embarrassing that the show is more or less criticizing itself so early in the series?).  The interrogation subplot, though, is mainly Remmick being as over-the-top as possible in his snide treatment of the crew, which is more laughable than intimidating.  However, it does a decent job setting up some dramatics for the end of season one.

Meanwhile, Wesley is given even more terrible lines as he’s made out to be a self-important, pouty douchebag as he passive-aggressively plays down his talents and then pouts when he loses.  One of the girls tells Wesley that if he weren’t so cute he’d be obnoxious.  Ha!  Afterwards, Wes tells Picard “I failed you and I failed the Enterprise.”  It takes all Picard can do to not slap the boy, but he does what he usually does, and tells him in a very polite, reaffirming way to man up.  You know, despite what he said at Farpoint, Picard seems to handle children pretty damn well.

I have to say I love the Starfleet exam. Wesley has to perform two tests that are spontaneous and not even acknowledged as part of the test.  What bugs me, though, is that they predetermine before the exam begins that only one out of four students will pass the exam, even if they are all qualified.  This doesn’t make sense.  Starfleet would seem to need an indefinite supply of members, as it’s the only military outfit in the Federation.  I understand wanting high standards, but they should be competing against a baseline, not each other.

This episode may be higher on the list for being significantly better than most everything else in season one, though it’s certainly watchable.  But how do kids on the Enterprise keep getting access to key systems?

81: The Nth Degree (4.19)

Synopsis: Barclay’s fantasies come true, even the gross ones.

Memory Alpha Summary: No word if he can beat Data Troi at chess.

Review:  Barclay’s transformation into a supremely intelligent being is quite fun to watch as Schultz is an awesome actor.  His arguments with the computer (because the computer isn’t smart enough) are great science-fiction.  I was also impressed with Troi for turning down Barclay’s romancing in a professional manner…and then later she says “fuck ethics” and goes on a date with him anyway.  Ugh.

The other thing that bothers me is that Barclay shows at the end, despite the return of his IQ to normal, that he has retained grandmaster chess intelligence.  If he can retain memories from his time as the supreme being, why can’t he remember how to make the Enterprise travel beyond warp?  Even if it can be explained, I am further annoyed by the fact that none of the amazing science the Enterprise takes back with them is ever mentioned again.