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You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone. By Tanya Pai
Olivia knows how to fire a gun, but Jake is going to help her anyway. Image via ABC.

Finally, in its winter finale, Scandal gave us the thing we all (or at least I) have been waiting for: Olivia chose herself. She said, out loud, to Jake’s face, that she wanted the impossible dream he offered her, and Fitz’s alternative—but that instead of choosing between them, she was just going to ... not. Then again, this declaration was immediately followed by her wanting to do Jake on top of a piano, so I guess she’s in a threeway relationship now? Let’s check in with everyone.

ROWAN

Well, this was a bit anticlimactic. Our Intrepid Trio spent the beginning of the episode freaking out about finding Papa Pope, even letting Maya out of the torture hole to deny she knew anything and reject Olivia’s cry-face—but it turns out all Olivia had to do to find her dad was go home. He was waiting with some wine, her favorite childhood record, and a gun that unfortunately for Il Papa turned out to be not loaded. Joe Morton plays unhinged-by-disappointment so, so well, but after letting Olivia know, again, just how angry he is that she always chooses two white dudes over him, he just disappears without doing much of anything. Given that the show seems to be setting up another Big Bad for the second half of the season, it feels sort of like Rowan is going out with a whimper.

HUCK/QUINN

After last week’s devastatingly poor parenting decisions, Huck is panicked about his son, which doesn’t help his wife think he’s anything less than insane. Meanwhile, he and Quinn are still working on their case of the week, and they find out VP Andrew, Liz, and Kubiak were all at Caitlin’s dad’s law firm the night she died. Quinn uses Kubiak’s severed finger—sans gloves—to get into the law firm, where they find out the meeting was coded Waco. Sadly, this does not signal the return of our favorite Southern-fried businessman Hollis Doyle—it stands for West Angola Commercial Organization, and Caitlin’s dad managed the country’s US assets. Quinn also figures out that Andrew knew his car was going to get blown up; the only piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit is why Olivia was being spied on.

Also happening: Rowan is trying to “clean house,” dispatching people to kill all the remaining B613 agents by giving them playing cards with their mark’s face on it. Quinn tries to warn Charlie, which of course leads to them sleeping together, which of course leads to Quinn finding her kill card in Charlie’s pocket and them beating each other to a bloody pulp. By way of apology (I guess), Charlie offers to deliver some B613 files he saved to Huck’s wife to “un-ruin” his life. Looks like she’s finally going to find out the truth about her husband.

CYRUS

Mr. Beene is now a “gay cliché,” thanks to Liz leaking the photos of him with Michael the prostitute. Olivia concocts a plan wherein he and Michael will get married because everyone loves a love story, but Cyrus says he can’t defile his memory of James with a sham wedding. He instead hands in his resignation and prepares to flee to Europe—but Olivia gives him a pep talk that mostly involves them yelling the phrase “little bitch baby” in each other’s faces, and he decides to marry Michael so he can keep his job and “serve the republic.”

ABBY/DAVID/MELLIE

Cyrus’s indiscretions lead David to subpoena Abby to question her about whether she helped Cyrus cover up evidence about his affair. He’s jovial until he asks her about her alibi for a specific night, forcing her to admit she spent the night at Leo’s house. Even though they have been broken up for, like, ever, David is still mighty upset.

Also upset, though more awesomely so, is Mellie, who finds out (via Olivia, which must sting) that Andrew has been two-timing her with Liz. When Liz comes to visit to put a bug in her ear about El Prez refusing to engage in war in West Angola, Mellie lets on exactly what she knows. Then she tells her she better choose carefully which candidate to back in the next presidential election, “because when I screw you, it’s gonna hurt.” FLOTUS for President!

OLIVIA/JAKE/FITZ

In between efforts to track down Rowan, Jake is trying not to get shot in alleyways and El Prez is getting pressured to send troops to West Angola, which Cyrus advises him against. Olivia, after going head-to-head with first her father (whom she tries to shoot) and then her mother, who tells her she’s just like Rowan, decides to give up: She invites Jake over for Gettysburger and wine and tells him they’re not going to talk about her father anymore. Then she puts on that record her dad gave her and starts dancing like she’s Ian Somerhalder circa season one of The Vampire Diaries. Jake declares his love, she says she chooses herself, and they’re about to have sexy time until Jake goes to get a blanket and comes back to discover she’s gone. Where did she go? Just ask Andrew—who is apparently using her to blackmail Fitz into declaring war on West Angola.

A FEW THOUGHTS

“That doesn’t make us friends; it just makes us at risk for the same STDs.” So glad Mellie got to be angry powerful betrayed woman instead of tearful betrayed woman. I really hope we get to see her run for President.

Charlie killed his grandmother, which Quinn finds totally normal and kind of sweet—and somehow these two have one of the more functional relationships on the show. I do feel bad for Quinn’s dentist, though.

What is the point of forcing Fitz to go to war? I assume it has a lot to do with money and also with getting Andrew elected as President.

So Olivia knows how to shoot a gun. With parents like hers, that skill is probably just imprinted in her DNA. But why does she own a piano?

WINNER: Looks like something good might finally happen for Huck, so I'll give it to him.

LOSER: Judging by how well Fitz and Jake have worked together in the past, Olivia is in some very deep trouble.

That’s it for Scandal in 2014! What do you think of the season so far? Sound off in the comments.

Posted at 11:20 AM/ET, 11/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The annual Toys for Tots charity ball, wine and beer parties, and the Speakeasy Shorts film festival. By Jason Koebler
Get to know Beaujolais Nouveau during Art Soiree's party on Thursday. Image via Shutterstock.

Thursday, November 20

VARIETY: Tonight is the last ever (for now) Encyclopedia Show DC. If you aren’t sure what it is yet, I guess it’s time to find out—but if you end up liking it, well, then you’re out of luck. It’s the Fast (Food) Supper, in which comedians, storytellers, poets, and other performer-type people take on all things fast food, hopefully teaching you a little and making you laugh while doing it. Tickets ($8) are available online. 9 PM at Busboys and Poets (Fifth and K streets).

WINE: Beaujolais Nouveau is a type of red wine that gets released on a specific day every year. To celebrate, Art Soiree is throwing a party, in which you’ll sample wines, eat some French food, listen to some French music, and do things of that nature. Tickets ($30) are available online. 9 PM.

Friday, November 21

COMEDY: Black Cat has the formula for selling a comedy night all figured out: Call it something simple and straightforward—such as 8x8—then stick to what you promise. Eight local performers, eight minutes each. Easy. Tickets ($10) are available online. 9:30 PM.

CHRISTMAS: Toys for Tots is throwing its annual charity ball, which means it’s time to start thinking about what presents you’re going to get everyone. Your entry gets you an open bar, dancing, some food, Christmas cheer, and the satisfaction of helping out children who need it. Tickets ($30) are available online. 8 PM.

BEER: Great Lakes makes delicious beer, and Black Squirrel is going to serve it to you at a party to celebrate the launch of the Cleveland brewery’s Christmas Ale. There’ll be Christmas cookies, swag, and lots and lots of Christmas beer. Free. 4 PM until close.

Saturday, November 22

FILM: Speakeasy DC and Dc Shorts have teamed up for Speakeasy Shorts, a film festival that pairs storytellers with filmmakers. The storytellers write a quick, story, the filmmakers film and edit it, and you watch them at the US Navy Memorial. Tickets ($20) are available online. 7:30 PM.

STORYTELLING: Peter Aguero, a host of the very popular storytelling show The Moth, is telling one very long and presumably good story called Daddy Issues at Artisphere. Unsurprisingly, it’s about his complex relationship with his father (and the rest of his family). Tickets ($15) are available online. 8 PM.

BEER: After months of hard work, it’s time to harvest this year’s crop of craft beers at the Washington Convention Center. The Winter Harvest features beers from 75 breweries various seminars, and lots of fellow beer enthusiasts to discuss them with. Tickets ($49) are available online. 2 to 4:30 and 7 to 9:30 PM.

Sunday, November 23

COMEDY: Brooklyn-based comedian and former Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac released a new standup special on Netflix last month, and is now performing it in DC. Read our interview with him about the new stuff, then check him out at Black Cat. Tickets ($20) are available online. 7 PM.

MYTHS: It’s not immediately clear to me whether people still watch Mythbusters or not, but it’s probably one of the more informative of the Discovery Channel shows. The guys from it will be at Warner Theatre sharing behind-the-scenes scoops about the various myths they have busted, and might even do some demonstrations on stage. I wouldn’t expect any explosions, however. Tickets ($47 to $67) are available online. 3 PM.

Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at jasontpkoebler@gmail.com, or find him on Twitter at @jason_koebler.

Posted at 11:50 AM/ET, 11/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The exhibit, opening November 25, shares a glimpse into the past of our own continent. By Hallie Golden
Meet Hatcher the Triceratops in the Natural History Museum's new exhibit. Photograph courtesy of the museum.

While “Stan” the Tyrannosaurus rex and “Hatcher” the Triceratops certainly tower above all the other creatures in the National Museum of Natural History’s new exhibition, The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World, they are only the tip of the ecosystem on display. The new exhibit, which opens Tuesday, November 25, seeks to give visitors an in-depth look at not just dinosaurs but all life in that existed in western North America between 66 and 68 million years ago—the years immediately preceding the deadly astroid that wiped out the giant lizards.

“People always think of the dinosaur world as just dinosaurs, but there were lots of other animals,” says Hans-Dieter Sues, curator of vertebrate paleontology and lead exhibition curator. The goal of the exhibit was to explore the whole ecosystem, from the smallest to the largest creature: “We wanted to embed people in the landscape,” he says.

Stan the T. rex. Photograph by Donald E. Hurlbert/Smithsonian Institution.

The result is an exhibit that showcases organisms as seemingly insignificant as leaves alongside creatures as small as salamanders and as large as the Edmontosaurus annectens, the “cow of the Cretaceous.” While this helps illustrate the variety of life millions of years ago, it also serves to show that the world actually wasn’t wildly different from present day. The piece of the exhibit that made this most apparent was a detailed mural by scientific illustrator Mary Parrish depicting a forest transforming from 66 million years ago to the modern age.

The animals and plants on display were discovered in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana, and will likely remain in this second-floor exhibit for the next few years (the main dinosaur hall is closed until 2019 for a $48 million renovation). Dr. Sues worked with a team of specialists to get the Last American Dinosaurs exhibit up and running, including exhibition curator Kay Behrensmeyer and exhibition project manager Sally Love.

Another great find at this exhibit was a retro video game reminiscent of Pacman, which allows you to “see if you have what it takes to become a fossil.” Dr. Sues says it was made in the 1980s and refurbished for use in this exhibit, since the science hasn’t changed. The game is a simple yet effective way for the public to understand just how difficult it is for remains of organisms to become fossilized. “Becoming a fossil is kind of like winning the lottery,” Dr. Sues says.

Perhaps the most memorable element of the exhibit is the windows in which visitors can peer into a working fossil lab, along with signs explaining what it takes to separate the rock from the fossil. When I visited, there were two women behind the glass, and one was working with a high-tech telescope that reflected its images onto a large screen, so everyone could see exactly what she saw—a glimpse of yet another unfamiliar world.

The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World opens November 25 at the National Museum of Natural History. For more information, visit the museum's website.

Posted at 04:45 PM/ET, 11/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Get ready, Nation. By Tanya Pai
Much-decorated comedian Stephen Colbert will host the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors. Photograph by Helga Esteb/Shutterstock.

It’s a big day for comedy announcements in Washington: On the heels of Wednesday’s reveal that SNL’s Cecily Strong will host the upcoming White House Correspondents’ dinner, the Kennedy Center has stated comedian/DC native/soon-to-be Late Show host Stephen Colbert will head this year’s Kennedy Center Honors in December.

In a release, co-producer George Stephens Jr. promised Colbert “will no doubt undo any solemnity that might otherwise attend the occasion,” which this year recognizes Al Green, Tom Hanks, Patricia McBride, Sting, and Lily Tomlin. Colbert, for his part, says, “I am stunned to be receiving a Kennedy Center Honor at such a young age. I thought it would be years before… I’m sorry. I’m being told I am HOSTING the Kennedy Center Honors. Oh...Well, I’m glad. That makes a lot more sense.”

Colbert joins a relatively short list of hosts for the program, which was created in 1978. Walter Cronkite hosted from 1981 to 2002 and in 2004; Caroline Kennedy hosted in 2003 and 2005 through 2012; and Glenn Close helmed the event last year.

The 37th annual Kennedy Center Honors will be held December 7, and will be broadcast on CBS as a two-hour special December 30 beginning at 9. Here’s hoping Colbert has time to check in with his wax likeness at Madame Tussauds in between official hosting duties.

Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 11/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The new Free Will program is aimed at making theater accessible to all. By Tanya Pai
Photograph by Flickr user Daniel Lobo.

Love that warm cultured glow you get from seeing a play but not the cold, hard cash it requires? Shakespeare Theatre Company feels your pain: On Monday, the theater announced the launch of a new Free Will program, in which it will give away 1,000 free tickets for each production in the current season.

Gratis admission is nothing new for STC, which has been offering its Free for All series every year since 1991. Free Will, in addition to boasting an excellently punny name, extends the idea to the whole 2014/15 season beginning with the current run of the Michael Attenborough-directed As You Like It, which goes through December 14 (though excluding the short February run of Dunsinane and special presentations). “With Free Will, we strive to open our doors to those who do not, or feel they cannot, see theatre and therefore grow the number of people who habitually attend performances in the future,” managing director Chris Jennings says in a press release.

The free tickets will be distributed throughout the course of each play’s run, around 150 to 200 tickets a week, spread across as many performances as possible. Each week’s allotment will be available on a first come, first served basis at the box office, online, or over the phone beginning Monday at noon, with a portion set aside for schools, nonprofits, and other community organizations. Once free tickets run out, you can find the usual discounts for seniors, military, and those under 35, plus rush tickets—or just wait and try again the next week. You can go to as many as you’re able to get tickets for, though they’re nontransferable and all seat assignments are final.

Shakespeare Theatre’s season includes The Tempest, directed by Ethan McSweeny and opening December 2; The Metromaniacs, opening February 3; Man of La Mancha, beginning March 13; and Tartuffe, opening June 2, plus the 25th annual Free For All, which is TBA.

For more information, visit Shakespeare Theatre’s website.

Posted at 09:15 AM/ET, 11/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
What we liked—and didn't—about NBC's new CIA drama. By Tanya Pai
Meet Charleston Tucker, CIA briefer extraordinaire. Image via NBC.

Welcome to another television drama centered on a high-powered Washington woman with a stressful job and a complicated personal life. The latest iteration centers on CIA analyst Charleston “Charlie” Tucker, who's responsible for putting together a daily briefing on situations around the globe to advise the President (Alfre Woodard)—who was at one point going to be her mother-in-law, until Charlie’s fiancé, Aaron, was killed in front of her on a trip to Afghanistan. As if that’s not all, Charlie’s temporary boss is out to get her, possibly with the help of a hunky (though kinda old) new member of her team, and Charlie’s got some PTSD-related repression about what really happened the night her fiancé died. Rather than recap the entire plot, I’m just going to break it down into what I liked and what could use some work.


THE GOOD
Alfre Woodard. I would watch her do a dramatic reading of the ingredients in a Twinkie—even without an intermission—so I’m already enjoying all the shades she brings to her “First Customer” Constance Payton. Also good: The show chooses not to get too bogged down in the fact that there is a female President in favor of focusing on her complicated relationship with Katherine Heigl’s Charleston. Plus she wears flats in the Oval Office, which is a nod to practicality that I appreciate.

The team. The pacing could be a bit quicker in the scenes where Charlie and her team put together the PDB, but they’ve got an enjoyable rapport, especially when uniting against new guy/potential rat Lucas.

The violence. It’s gritty and shocking in a way that really conveys the stakes (especially a video of a prisoner being beheaded that shows just enough to be highly uncomfortable). The scene in which JSOC rescues the doctor was pretty elegantly done, too, all night-vision green and eerie score.

The long-term arcs. The pilot sets up two stories with potential for longevity: The CIA’s quest to bring down Abdul Fattah, and a conspiracy plot involving an attempt on her life that her fiancé may or may not have been a part of. I'm interested in finding out more about at least one of those!



THE NEEDS-IMPROVEMENT
Charleston Tucker. I actually liked a fair amount of Katherine Heigl’s performance. She conveys a certain amount of brittle discomfort—laughing too loudly, forcing small talk—that speaks to her damaged psyche, but when she’s supposed to be warm and approachable, it rings a bit false. I much prefer her when she's sassing her superiors and making tough decisions sans hesitation.

Acting Director Skinner. He’s a caricatured villain whose quest to discredit Charlie lacks even a drop of subtlety. Lucas (Adam Kaufman, a.k.a. Parker from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) makes a much more interesting potential foe, though his lovely blue eyes probably mean he’s headed for Love Interest Land sooner rather than later.

The over-emphasized plot points. State of Affairs seems to be afraid viewers won’t be able to follow what it’s trying to do, so it resorts to having characters echo one another: The captured doctor looks like Aaron! Aaron was Charlie’s fiancé! Aaron was the President’s son! Aaron died in Afghanistan! By the way, Charlie, did you notice that doctor looks like your dead fiancé? Hopefully with more time the show will get out of its own way and let the action speak for itself.




THE DÉJA VÙ
Charlie’s “coping mechanisms.” Southern-fried name aside, you can practically hear the elevator speech about the character: “Think Carrie Mathison—so, like, all the sex and alcohol, but not the medication—with Olivia Pope’s wardrobe.” The show needs to find a more original direction to take the character.

Sid. He may not have a beard, but this character is clearly State of Affairs’ answer to Saul Berenson, available exactly when Charlie needs him and delivering lines like “You owe me, kid” and “We don’t waterboard people, we just drown them.” This character, I can do without.

The conspiracy plot. Yes, I know I said I liked it, but Madam Secretary is doing something at least superficially similar, so right now it feels a bit stale. Further confusing things is the fact that the person who’s been sending Charlie all those text messages turns out to be none other than Matthew Del Negro, who apparently left Cyrus Bean’s bed in the Scandalverse long enough to grow out his hair and scruff and let our heroine know someone tried to have her killed. State of Affairs needs to do something surprising to distinguish this murder mystery from all the others floating around.



What did you think of the State of Affairs pilot? Let us know in the comments.

Posted at 11:00 PM/ET, 11/17/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Carrie breaks a major promise to Saul. By Alison Kitchens
Determined Khan and confused Carrie. Photograph by David Bloomer for Showtime.

Last night was easily the most suspenseful and emotional episode of Homeland this season. After Saul miraculously managed to escape his captors, he was taken again while trying to be rescued. Carrie led him back into the hands of the Taliban, even though she promised otherwise, to save his life. It's getting hard for the characters (and us viewers) to tell what's right and what's wrong anymore, so this week we're only focusing on everyone's best moments.

Saul Berenson

Best moment: Saul was amazing in last night's episode. How do you even pick a lock with a rusty nail? Is that something they teach in CIA school? His escape and the subsequent jokes ("I'm f*cking breathing. I usually walk two blocks to the deli, it's flat.") were definitely his high point. While I'm glad Carrie kept Saul alive, it still feels like a loss. His adamant pleas to be spared from becoming a pawn for the terrorists were so genuine, it's hard not to hurt with him.

Peter Quinn

Best moment: Quinn fulfilled his usual role of supporting Carrie well this episode by reminding her that her condition isn't a weakness.

Carrie Mathison

Best moment: Carrie was finally seeing clearly this week. Her best moment came at the end of the episode when she said, "Nothing good can happen in this f*cked-up world that we've made for ourselves, can it?" (P.S. No, Carrie didn't think about baby Frannie this week, either.)

More important plot lines to note:

  • Thank goodness someone figured out what Dennis Boyd is up to. I'm getting tired of his "I'm doing something sneaky" face.
  • Now that Carrie and Aasar Khan have had a late-night secret meeting to talk, it's pretty much confirmed that some sort of romantic relationship will follow. Let's hope he's as trustworthy as he seems to be so far.
  • Director Lockhart has all of the sudden become pretty likable. His best line: "I was really looking forward to telling those people to go f*ck themselves, but I don't see that happening now."

Would you have led Saul back to the Taliban? Share your thoughts on last night's episode in the comments.

Posted at 03:00 PM/ET, 11/17/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A lot can change in just six months. By Tanya Pai
This week, Bess meets the guy who sabotaged her predecessor's plane. Image via CBS.

I was hoping Madam Secretary would follow up on last week’s dive into the conspiracy plot, and I wasn’t disappointed. Okay, I was a little disappointed in the lack of flashback hair, though I suppose it’s not necessary when we’re only going back six months. Let’s recap.

Finally, we get to put a face to Secretary Marsh’s name: He's played by Brian Stokes Mitchell, who IMDB tells me appeared in seven episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. We go back to the day Marsh died, six months earlier: He’s been having Matt secretly write speeches that contradict POTUS’s stances, and he cancels a planned romantic weekend with Nadine by telling her he has to check on his family’s old cattle ranch in Caracas. Next, we see the ill-fated airplane trip—as the plane begins to shake violently, Marsh wrenches open the cockpit door to ask the pilot what’s happening. The pilot tells him they’ve suffered mechanical failure and he can’t keep the plane in the air. “And so it goes,” Marsh says—though not before he manages one final dramatic removal of his glasses.

Bess, Henry, and Isabelle have obtained the black-box recording and the NTSB report about the crash, which says a screw in the tail was responsible, and decide to investigate the five technicians who worked on the plane. They also figure out another plane crashed from the same reason—a plane that happened to be carrying Iran’s leading nuclear scientist. In another flashback, we see a bow-tied President Dalton, then the CIA director, ask Bess whether she thought Mossad could have had something to do with the crash. In the present, Bess brings in the Israeli delegation for a fluffy speech, mainly so she can ask one of the delegates about the other plane crash and whether the CIA was involved, which he doesn’t deny. Meanwhile, all five technicians turn up clean, so Henry theorizes that it was actually a different part of the plane that was sabotaged, leading to the screw failure and causing the pilot to think turbulence caused it. Isabelle finds out that the fuel technician was paid $500,000 to a secret bank account the day before the crash. Bess decides they have to question him, so she concocts a risky plan: She gets Isabelle to bring him in for a fake job interview and lures him to a hotel room to meet “the boss.” She also provides herself a solid alibi by making a splashy, Secret Service-surrounded appearance at Allie’s soccer quarterfinals, then leaves at halftime to ambush the fuel technician. He admits he sabotaged the plane because “they” (a distorted voice over the phone) threatened his four-year-old daughter. Bess tells him as long as he stays quiet about the meeting, she can protect him, ensuring her investigation stays a secret.

While all this is going on, Matt is getting secret calls from Russell Jackson, who meets him under a bridge and asks him for dirt on Bess. “I never agreed to spy on Secretary McCord,” says Matt, and Jackson dangles the promise of an office in the West Wing over his head. But it’s not enough for Matt, who goes to Bess and confesses that he used to spy on Marsh for Jackson. He repeats what we already knew—that Marsh was planning to run against Dalton for President—and then tells her about a time he overheard a conversation between Marsh and Jackson, in which Jackson used the phrase in the episode title, the last thing Marsh said before he died. Not letting on the significance, Bess instead guilts Matt into being a double agent, pretending to spy on her for Jackson but reporting to her instead. This seems like an extremely tall order for a guy who used to “pop antacids like Tic Tacs” and is about as good at lying as he is at covering up his affair with Daisy—which is to say, really, really bad. Bess tells Henry what she finds out, and they conclude POTUS might have been behind the crash and tapped Bess as Secretary of State so he could keep tabs on her. Something tells me Madam Secretary will not be as forgiving of its President being a murderer as some other shows (coughcoughScandal).

A few thoughts:

This week in What Are the McCord Kids Up To?: Allie’s playing soccer, Stevie has a date with “the cutest boy in the world,” Jason is really wishing he had brothers instead. Also how embarrassing is Bess as parental sports spectator? She calls Allie “noodle” in front of everyone!

Nadine gets romanced by a cheesily charming NASA scientist (sample pickup line: “I don’t need a telescope to see your radiance”). Though she insists she’s still hung up on Marsh, she seemed to at least consider a date. Also, Blake is apparently a romantic at heart.

How hilarious was the bridge scene between Matt and Russell? The camera angle emphasized the fact that Geoffrey Arend has a good eight inches on Zeljko Ivanek—though Jackson is still surprisingly intimidating.

Speaking of which: Russell knows Bess asked the head of the NTSB whether the ground crew of Marsh’s flight was polygraphed. She refuses to be bullied by him, but seems like she might want to tread more carefully from now on.

The promo for next week’s episode doesn’t include anything about Bess’s investigation—here’s hoping the show keeps its forward momentum.

Posted at 02:00 PM/ET, 11/17/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The National Press Club’s book fair and holiday crafts with NPR. By Jason Koebler
Stock up on books and meet the authors at the National Press Club's Book Fair. Image via Shutterstock.

Monday, November 17

TRIVIA: Get your brain juices flowing with Chief Ike’s trivia night, in which the prizes are actually worthwhile: Winners get $50 off their tab, second place gets $25, and third gets $10. There are also raffles for sports and concert tickets, and your tab will probably be pretty low in the first place, considering the bar offers $10 pitchers, $3 beers, and $5 burgers all night. Free. 8 PM.

Tuesday, November 18

BOOKS: The National Press Club’s Book Fair, its biggest book event of the year, is open to the public and worth checking out. Not all the books are of journalistic origin, but some of them are, and authors (several dozen of them, including Matt Taibbi, Gene Weingarten, Cokie Roberts, Bill Nye, and Ralph Nader) will be around to talk about and sign their books for fans. The event, cosponsored by Politics & Prose, benefits the National Press Club Journalism Institute, which provides college scholarships and training for mid-career journos*. Tickets ($10) are available online. 5:30 PM.

Wednesday, November 19

BEER: New Belgium Brewery will be at Laughing Man Tavern with all new brews—and all your old favorites—for “Ranger Games.” There’ll be standbys like shuffleboard and darts, but you can also try to toss some hoops on reindeer antlers to win various prizes from the brewery. If you’re good enough, you’ll get admission to a New Belgium party in early December. Free. 6:30 PM.

Thursday, November 20

CRAFTS: Check out NPR’s still-newish headquarters and get ready for the holidays at All Crafts Considered, which features more than 50 artisans from DC, Baltimore, New York City, and Philadelphia. There’ll be live music and food and drink, and it will no doubt be very NPR-y. Free. 3 to 8 PM.

Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at jasontpkoebler@gmail.com, or find him on Twitter at @jason_koebler.

*This post has been updated from a previous version.

Posted at 10:20 AM/ET, 11/17/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
No hard feelings. By Tanya Pai
The Bunker of Love is only big enough for one of Olivia's boyfriends. Photograph via ABC.

I’ve been watching Scandal since its pilot, and the fascinating thing to me is that every week when I tune in, I never have any idea what to expect. Some of that has to do with the crazy plot twists, sure—but it’s even more about the characters’ constantly spinning moral compasses. Every character believes so strongly, feels so passionately, cares so deeply; it’s just that what they believe and feel and care about changes from week to week. So when Rowan gives Olivia a speech about how he always puts her first, he might think it’s true; Olivia’s distressed expression says she might agree; but it seems more to be something he believes than something there’s actual evidence of. There’s a lot of telling, rather than showing, to put it in writer-speak. Despite that, this episode did some smart things to tie in OPA’s current case with the action at the White House—and had some genuinely surprising twists. Let’s recap.

ANDREW

Yes, the long-forgotten VP Nichols is back—and gets considerably more screen time than baby Ella, who at least finally gets a name check. After leaving a speech condemning the “West Angolan liberation front,” Nichols lingers outside the hotel to greet the staff, delaying getting into his car just long enough for it to blow up without taking him along with it. A panicked Mellie rushes into his office, where he’s being checked out, then asks for the room and immediately jumps on his face. Later, he comes to see her and reminds her that he hasn’t existed for her (or for the audience) for months, and she gives him a sad little speech about how he gave her up for the vice presidency, and so she erased him—and then erased herself after Gerry’s death. She begs for another chance, and he kisses her tenderly. But this being Scandal, everyone has a dark secret, and Andrew’s happens to be that he’s having an affair with Lizzie Bear and her power mullet—and both are somehow in cahoots with the teenage-girl-murdering Kubiak.

QUINN/HUCK

Quinn spends most of the episode watching Kubiak give himself diabetes in his apartment and contemplate how nice her eyeshadow looks. Huck is a bit busier: In between investigating who bugged Lizzie’s phone (it was Cyrus) and questioning Olivia’s ethical choices after she asks Huck to find out what dirt Lizzie has and then lies about the bug, he hangs out with his son at OPA, who wants to know all about his life as a private detective, which is “like a cop,” as Javi thinks. When Olivia runs into them, Huck tells Javi to leave, but after bugging Lizzie’s secret apartment, he extremely ill-advisedly invites Javi along on the stakeout.

Lizzie arrives with a man, and Huck sends Javi for ice cream, but then Quinn shows up, because their stakeouts have unexpectedly converged, as the man is Kubiak. As they watch the video feed, Lizzie asks Kubiak about Catherine’s husband shooting himself; but things get really interesting when a knock at the door turns out to be Nichols. He sends Kubiak away so he and Lizzie can make out, which gives Kubiak the chance to discover the spies outside. Huck struggles with him and manages to stab him, right in front of Javi, who’s just returned with an ice cream cone drizzled with disillusionment. Maybe don’t bring this up at the parent-teacher conference, Huck.

CYRUS

On top of remembering he has a daughter, Cyrus this week is focused on finding out what dirt Lizzie has on him and Michael. And she has a lot—but Huck also digs up that Michael only fed her relatively inconsequential intel, though he could have given her much more. A hooker with a heart of gold? Maybe, but was anyone else a little concerned that Huck was maybe going to actually murder him rather than just subject him to angry sex?

OLIVIA/FITZ & JAKE

Il Papa’s two paramours spend the entire episode swinging their you-know-whats around El Prez’s secret bunker as they try to figure out the best strategy to take down Rowan. Each wants to plan the operation his own way, mostly so Olivia will look at whoever’s successful as the conquering hero, which is gross on a lot of levels. Jake tells them about the storage locker of B613 files, and they rope in David Rosen to plan a military tribunal so they can try Rowan in secret, using the files as evidence. (Both Jake and David pretend David knew nothing about the files prior.) Fitz manages to corner Olivia in the hallway and mansplains to her that she doesn’t know how she feels, whether she’s being disloyal to him for wanting Jake or vice versa. Then he convinces her to make out with him, and after she leaves he smiles in—triumph? lust?—I don’t know, but it was terrifying.

Jake, meanwhile, just wants to get out of the damn bunker, although he still assumes Olivia is definitely going to choose Fitz. That is, until she tells him, “Don’t ever talk about me standing in the sun with another man again.” Kerry Washington’s performance is so opaque, I honestly have no idea how she feels about either Fitz or Jake at this point, or whether she’s just thinking about whether she’s going to make it to the Wine Emporium in time to stock up before it closes.

OLIVIA/ROWAN

After their big blowout, Rowan is back to pretending he is the Emily to Olivia’s Lorelai, calling to ask why she skipped their weekly dinner. He reminds her that they’re family, and that even those “these boys” may love her, eventually they’ll move on to other conquests. Olivia later uses this to manipulate him, phoning him tearfully to say he was right and luring him to dinner, where a SWAT team will apprehend him.

But Rowan being Rowan, he’s seven steps ahead of everyone; as they sit in the restaurant and he monologues about how everything he’s ever done has been for her, someone shoots all the agents outside, and David and his team flip through the B613 files to discover they’re all blank. “Those people you’ve chosen over me—you don’t see what they want, or how they see you,” Rowan says. “If you think this world is so bad with me in it, imagine what it’s like without me.”

A FEW THOUGHTS:

“That’s one of our catchphrases.” Jake trying to needle Fitz was both childish and funny, though apparently Fitz isn’t down with referring to him as Captain Ballard.

When Mellie first started making out with Andrew, for a second I wondered if the episode was being aired out of the original order. What could he be up to with Lizzie, and how is it tied to Kubiak? And does this finally mean someone other than Quinn will take an interest in the case?

Either Olivia is an Oscar-worthy actress, or she recognized at least a kernel of truth in Rowan’s claims about Jake and Fitz. Still, how should one react to one’s father saying, “I damaged you”?

This show has included plenty of disturbing things, but Huck trying to explain the birds and the bees might be toward the top of the list.

WINNER: Andrew, who managed to both score an actual plot and, you know, score. Twice.

LOSER: Huck, why would you bring your son on a stakeout, why? Especially just to make him watch the boring parts?

Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 11/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()