Tuesday, February 18, 2020

State of the #SHEA Part 8: When All is "Unsaid" and Done

I couldn’t help it—I had to get to writing as soon as I could!


+      Lea was EVERYWHERE and I loved it. (More than 2 scenes + talked about in multiple scenes= “everywhere”)

+      The seeds for Lea’s epiphany were sowed (or sowed further, if you count her comforting Shaun in “Friends & Family” as the first big one), and that was encouraging. The cafeteria scenes, the elevator, the karaoke slo-mo.  It was all there.

+      Lea’s boyfriend in the karaoke scene didn’t have any lines… hell, he didn’t even have a NAME! I consider this a plus.

+      I have mixed feelings about the PDA part of the karaoke bar scene. Shaun’s reaction to it being Lea out there making out on the dance floor didn’t seem to be tinged with any sort of jealousy—launching into how “Lea always uses protection” was a hilarious reaction, to be honest. But on the other hand, when Carly declared a need to conduct her own PDA “experiment” and Shaun had trouble focusing, eyes opening and closing throughout—was he having difficulty because Lea was nearby? Or because he saw her approaching out of the corner of his (open) eye? Or was it simply because he’s NOT comfortable with PDA?  Seemed like it could be a mix of things. Or not.
Shaun wiped his lips post-PDA attempt in Lea's presence

+      As for the KARAOKE itself… even before the slo-mo shot started, how could anyone not love that?  Rapid-fire sing/rapping “Super Bass”? Lea and Carly trading verses? Shaun stealing the show from both of them? Shaun mispronouncing Nicki Minaj’s last name? (Wonder if that was a Freddie Highmore error that they decided to go with…?) I hope it was as much fun to execute as it was to watch. One for the ages.
Shaun doing air drums at the very start of the karaoke sequence

+      Now, let’s count the many ways I got my guesses from my previous blog post wrong…
       1) It wasn’t a double-date arranged by Shaun, but a happenstance run-in at the same bar. (Wish we knew whether it was Shaun or Carly who invited Lea and Nameless Guy to join them at the table…)

       2) While Shaun & Lea’s karaoke history surely weighed in on the storyline overall, there was no direct mention of it… and I’m still left wondering if Carly knew anything about their pre-roomie history. (Probably a moot point by now, but still…)


3) Claire’s apparently too busy with her own issues and relationships to even know Lea’s working at St.B, so once again it was Morgan who offered up her two cents—make that two hundred cents—about Lea’s “dominant” nature. (It’s OK, she and Lea got plenty of snarky moments out of it… kind of tough to believe we’d never seen them share screen space until yesterday, but it’s true)

      4) Lea’s Nameless Guy didn’t seem to mind Shaun & Lea’s karaoke moment enough to call her on it… in fact, in maybe the most random moment of the whole show, Nameless Guy was actually shaking up and uncorking champagne as Shaun and Lea spun into their own world up there on the stage. It suddenly felt like Shaun and Lea had won the Daytona 500.

The one thing I predicted that DID work out, though not at all as I expected …"something transpiring on the double date to indicate that spark between Shaun & Lea… whether Carly takes note or not."

     1) Um, yeah… she took note!  (More about the breakup scene from "Unsaid" next time)

Props to TGD director Mike Listo for creating this excellent (though heartbreaking) shot 

 2) My completely #Shea-biased opinion? Whether it was added in by the director of “Unsaid”, or already in the script (most likely the latter, as it was maybe the most crucial part of the story)… by drawing out Shaun and Lea’s lost-in-their-own-world moment with slow motion, with the lights bright, the music fading into the background as an increasingly stunned Carly looked on… they took that spark of #Shea and underlined it, highlighted it, drew a circle around it with a big red Sharpie. And with that, I started to think (for the first time since "Friends &Family")... wow, they just might be on our side after all.

Now, just a little bit ABOUT NEXT WEEK (“Autopsy”), which I will post more about as we get closer to airtime…

The summary copy of the show includes the line When Dr. Shaun Murphy makes an emotional confession, the result may not be as desired. It’s got us all in fits already, and many are bracing for impact with thoughts of Lea crushing him further with a complete inability to feel as he feels. Here’s what I’m doing with this so far:

+  I think the results Shaun “desires” next week are a clear-cut understanding of where to go from here with Lea. (Well I also think he wants things to continue as they have been with Carly, but I REALLY don’t think he’s gonna get that.)

+ That said, I don’t think he’s gonna get clear-cut from Lea. The only way that could happen, MAYBE, is if she had consciously been pining for him this whole year. She hasn’t. But that doesn’t mean she’s gonna pat him on the hand and say Shaun, didn’t we cover this way back when we first became roommates? They’re not where they were then.

+ In fact, since Lea’s clueless enough about Shaun’s love to believe it when Carly told her in the elevator that Shaun doesn’t think of her that way… let’s see, what does she have to work with again?         

      A) Having to leave her great apartment (and bestie/roomie) because he felt that the need to please his girlfriend superseded his relationship with Lea

     B) The knowledge that Shaun and Carly have broken up (I presume she’ll know by next week)… like, JUST broken up.

    C) The awareness that Shaun is dealing with a LOT (for anyone experiencing their first breakup, let alone someone with ASD), and feels lonely, and desperate… maybe even desperate enough to put their friendship on the line for what might feel to her like a rebound romance.

You see where I’m going with that, right?

One more thing for now… Shaun’s realization of his true feelings might come sooner than Lea’s, but not without a fight. Maybe a “fight” along the way with Lea; after all, he may resent her on some level (especially when she doesn’t magically fall into his arms) because he blames her for Carly’s decision. And most definitely he’s still fighting himself on the idea. Remember that he’s been all about compatibility this season with Carly, from the binder of questions he asked on their early dates to he frequent declarations lately of being “very compatible sexually” (Yep, still not gonna ask about that).

So-- even if he can admit love for Lea, he may balk at first (and second, and maybe third) about how “it doesn’t make sense”...

Which, with any luck at all, will lead him to perhaps his best relationship lesson yet.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

State of the #SHEA Part 7: Who's "Influence"-ing Who?

I spent about 15 minutes just now brainstorming at least a dozen possibilities for THE PICTURES.

Which pictures, you ask? (Really? You don’t know?)

The promo pictures from the episode set to air February 24 (“Autopsy”). I’m not posting them here yet because if I do, you’ll be fine tooth-combing them too (instead of reading all this stuff I just posted). I’m also not posting them because there’s still last week to debrief, to say nothing of the coming week (entitled “Unsaid”), and all the karaoke shots from that one… 
Karoake 2.0 is ON like Donkey Kong

to say nothing of the awkward as hell elevator scene with Lea and Carly… 
If these walls could talk...
(with any luck, they won't have to)

in other words, we’ve finally got a lot to unpack here. Let’s not rush it. 

Even though I just did, with the brainstorming and all…c’mon, Kelli. FOCUS.

OK, “Influence”… three key developments for #Shea fans:

+      Lea’s back. (OK, she never really left, but… you know what I mean.)
+      Thanks to Shaun, Lea is now employed by St. Bonaventure—specifically, Dr. Glassman, aka GLASSY.
+      Lea is still most definitely under Carly’s skin… I don’t care how many “parades” she has now experienced with Shaun.

Remember how I broke down scenes and screen time for the“Fractured” episode? I didn’t do a full breakdown this time, but I did track two things: 1) Lea’s on-screen time, and 2) amount of discussion that had something to do with Lea, which surely had to be at a high point for this season at least…

On-Screen Time: 3 minutes 15 seconds (2 scenes)

Talked-About Lea Time: 6 minutes 30 seconds (4 scenes)

Heh. Funny how it worked out to be exactly twice as much. While I’d rather the two numbers be more evenly distributed, I’ll take it. When Lea announced over the lunch with Shaun that she was quitting her job, my heart sank a little because my instinctual reaction was Oh no, they’re gonna send her away and off the show. It doesn’t even make sense at this point if you’ve read ahead AT ALL, but in that moment my head was still stuck on the brutally short “packing” scene from “Mutations.” And when Shaun’s deliberate ice cream headache hit him full force, the entire “I quit” thing was so overshadowed, I didn’t expect to hear about it again anytime soon… much less to become a sort of bargaining chip for Shaun when up against the ropes about the interview he didn’t want to give.

But think about the entire little scene: Shaun made lunch plans with Lea, but was so excited about the possibilities with Kayley The Influencer’s affliction that he almost canceled said plans. THEN he found a way to not only keep his date with Lea, but use the time to get more in touch with patient Kayley’s pain. That’s a genius move already. And then (!) he uses the little technical difficulty in Glassy’s office (not the first computer problem that’s cropped up this season for him, by the way) to pave the way for Lea to come work in the same building he works… sure he was being helpful, given what Lea had just told him about quitting. But how much was helpful, and how much was I miss seeing Lea everyday so this might help me too?

Surely that’s a question weighing heavy on Carly’s mind after “Influence”. Let’s cut right to it—she’s about 1 or 2 episodes away from laying down the it’s-Lea-or-Me ultimatum, isn’t she? (More on this in a minute.) Even though she seemed to heed advice from Morgan (yikes, those words alone spell danger!)… even though the little chat with Shaun about her jealousy issues ended relatively well… even though Shaun opted for Carly’s advice about dealing with the press over Lea’s advice (which I’ll say again did not sound like a fully-fleshed out Lea response, but in this particular instance that might’ve been by design). This episode felt like she won the battle, but hmmm… about that war…

And the fact that both Lea and Shaun appear oblivious to developments between them is, for the moment, as maddening as it is intriguing. As many of us jump ahead to that sequence of Lea/Shaun pics from “Autopsy”, struggling a guess as to what is transpiring—and how it relates to the confession Shaun is reportedly going to make in that episode (described in the press release as both “dramatic” and “emotional”), I start with the thought Shaun needs to be aware of something before he confesses it. And as of the conclusion of “Influence,” his awareness is limited to what’s right in front of him:

1)      He conquered his fears of intimacy with Carly, therefore, he thinks his decision to commit stronger to that relationship was a good one.

2)      He and Lea remain strictly platonic friends; neither of them have yet to indicate anything different to the other. To him, Carly’s only upset about Lea because of what happened in Wyoming (as opposed to the entire relationship).

3)      Since he and Carly will “work through her jealousy together” (to paraphrase what he said near the end last week), Shaun believes any lingering issues will be resolved efficiently.

We can talk about the possible contents of Shaun’s confession next week, but for now we’ve gotta talk about what goes down during the double-date that changes things up. You’d think the simple fact that Lea has someone to bring along on a double-date should please Carly, right? As should the fact that Shaun is supportive enough of Lea and the other dude to sit alongside them at a karaoke bar? But a full-blown double date is way too loaded with possibilities to simply provide two minutes or more of window-dressing. And don’t forget about those elevator shots…

And the header YOU CAN’T FIGHT YOUR TRUE FEELINGS found in the ABC press release for the “Unsaid” episode. How many characters are included in those words this week?

Something else to note: Carly is not mentioned in the summary for “Autopsy”, nor is she anywhere to be seen in the promo pics. That, combined with the expected double meaning of the show’s title, are leading many to guess that Carly and Shaun’s relationship is “dead” (or as good as) by the end of “Unsaid”… which might mean that whole “Lea or ME” ultimatum I mentioned earlier is about to go down this Monday night.

But what TGD episode is devoid of red herrings?

AAAUGH!!! What’s gonna happen?
No tequila this time around, but that doesn't guarantee this night will end smoothly

OK, I know y’all got some guesses of your own. Here are mine:

+      Shaun’s going to arrange this double date as a way to help Carly with her insecurities about Lea…
Shaun and his backup singers?

+      But once it comes up that Lea and Shaun have done this before, it’ll lead to a rehash—or maybe an entire revelation—that he and Lea had a thing for each other in the beginning, had a road trip, had a kiss or two… I don’t think he’s told her any of this. Do you? So—big trouble.

+      And since Lea now works at St. B… AND since the PR copy says “despite everyone else’s doubts”… others from the St. B gang might opine on this triangle for a minute. Since Morgan had some input last week, my money is on Claire. (Hey, it’s not like Carly’s tight with either of them. That was clear back at the start of this season, when she gave variations of “leave me & Shaun alone” to both doctors.)

+      Bonus Wish #1 (meaning the writers will not do this, but I really wish they would): something transpiring on the double date to indicate that spark between Shaun & Lea… whether Carly takes note or not.
Penny for your thoughts, Lea? We're willing to pay much, much more, by the way... 

+      Bonus Wish #2 : Lea’s date DOES take note that she seems more interested in her “friend” than him, and tells Lea so.
Potentially pissed that he's not The Good Doctor


1)      Lea coming to Glassy’s aid—professionally speaking—was by far the best thing to come out of “Influence” for Team #Shea. The ramped-up jealousy of Carly I expected. This--! A lovely surprise that not only advanced the narrative nicely, but gave fans a badly-needed vote of confidence about Lea’s future. Until now, she’s sort of been the odd woman out in a cast of doctors and related personnel (even Debbie was connected to St. B as an in-house barista before becoming Glassy’s wife and office manager). This move is inspired for the situations it’ll create for TGD’s original Odd Couple, and anyone else Lea may now be able to come in contact with easily. And yes, for me it’s the start of a path to forgiveness for “Mutations”. Let’s see where TGD goes from here.

2)      Speaking of “Mutations”… I’d guessed early on that if Shaun and Lea separated for Carly’s sake, it would prompt Lea to re-evaluate everything in her life. The main thing, of course, was her relationship with Shaun. Obviously we haven’t seen that happen yet, but as Lea herself said during lunch with Shaun, there definitely IS a re-evaluation taking place…

3)      Oh, and speaking of the lunch! Just a quick technical thing I noted: if you watch the part of the scene where Shaun launches into the medical breakdown of an ice cream headache, you’ll see that they went to an over-the-shoulder shot of Shaun/medium closeup of Lea almost as soon as he started with the 18-syllable words. If you listen hard, you might notice (as I did) what sounds like a tiny audio edit. I suspect that Freddie Highmore had an exceptionally difficult time getting those 18-syllable words out in this particular scene, and they ended up re-dubbing them in post-production (with Highmore repeating the lines in an audio booth).  I could be completely wrong, but that’s what it sounded like to me. 

    For all I know, that kind of thing has to be done all the time on medical dramas! But it reminded me of a time I was working on a pre-recorded TV talk segment in the mid-1990s, when Benjamin Netanyahu had just become Israel’s Prime Minister for the first time. One of the on-camera talents had a terrible time pronouncing his name. He flubbed it so many times, in fact, that we had to edit in just that one word (“Netanyahu”) after he mastered its pronunciation later. The edit sounded AWFUL, but there was no other way to make it work. TV magic?!?! Eh, not so much.

As I post this, we’re about 24 hours away from getting more clarity on what’s “Unsaid” in Monday’s episode. Got predictions, hopes, daydreams, other things to add? Tag me on Twitter or leave it in the comments!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

STATE OF THE #SHEA Part 6: Surviving the "Parade" talk

Welcome #Shea shippers! If you're new to this series of blog posts, you might be interested in the following:

Introducing STATE OF THE #SHEA...
Part 2: Fracturing up "Fractured"
Part 3: "Love" & the Ultimatum
Part 4: Well it was lovely while it lasted (A rant. I guess.)
Part 5: How I'm facing the "Sex & Death" music

OK, #Shea fans, I know it’s been a couple weeks since it aired… but a show of hands, please: who watched the “Sex and Death” episode of The Good Doctor?

Of those with their hands raised… who only watched it sometime during the week, via DVR or Hulu (or whatever), MAYBE because they couldn’t risk the possibility of the episode wrecking their Monday night/Tuesday morning?

Who watched it with only one eye open, ready to duck and cover if anything related to the “sex” part of the episode’s title proved too difficult to bear?

Who skipped the episode altogether? (If so, brace yourself if you keep reading because we’re talking about it. A LOT.)

As for me, consider my hand raised. And raised, and still raised, and… yeah. 
Actual footage of me watching "Sex and Death"

It wasn’t that the S&D possibilities were horrifically off-putting; it’s just that… well… I was still reeling a bit from “Mutations.” And knowing that Shaun and Carly’s intimacy issues were still front and center—even with all that had taken place in the previous ep—I wasn’t quite sure how I’d react.

At this point in the storyline, I think all #Shea fans kind of feel they’re representing Lea herself when they watch. Would she want to hear Shaun calculating the number of minutes until his and Carly’s next possible tryst? No! Would she have let Shaun out of the apartment in that Highlander kilt (in Shaun’s ill-fated attempt to “create an atmosphere” for Carly’s benefit)? NO! (Or, at least she would have tried to talk him out of it.) Would she want to be in on the conversations about the importance of “parades” (the euphemism for women’s orgasms utilized throughout the episode)? I don’t think so! Would she want to know that Shaun had, um, figured out how to give Carly “the best parade” by the end of the episode? I’d like to think that would be the tipping point (if nothing else was) for Lea; the point where she realizes she can’t be Shaun’s sounding board anymore because she’s too close in all kinds of ways.

Of course Lea was nowhere to be seen in “Sex and Death”; I figured she wouldn’t be, so there was no unforeseen disappointment there. That’s why we all became Lea-by-proxy, right? But you know what else was AWOL? A Shaun/Glassman scene of any length, any kind. Has anyone noticed they have not shared a scene since the super-charged one in the middle of “Fractured” that made us all cry? I suspect that’s about to change with the February 10 episode (“Influence”), but I have to presume this break in their relationship—sort of like the “break” with Lea—was deemed necessary in order to make Shaun’s renewed commitment to Carly all the more serious, and all the more his own personal journey. On the one hand, I guess it’s a relief that we didn’t have to see Shaun trying to discuss G-spots with Glassman over pancakes. On the other… well, I don’t know if there needs to be “another hand”, considering I was already uncomfortable waiting for Glassman’s reaction when Shaun announced he and Lea had slept together (when they, well… you know.)

That brings me to something I should admit before I get any further into “Sex and Death”: I’m perhaps at my absolute shyest when it comes to matters of sex. Especially talking about sex. Especially talking about matters of sex involving a character I feel rather protective of, for whatever reason. Which is why I started wincing back in season 2, when Shaun and Lea were discussing Jake and Shaun tried to confirm that Lea was interested in Jake “for the sex”. (And I know sex came up even earlier, when Lea was discussing reasons they shouldn’t live together, but it was in hypothetical terms at that point. By the time Jake was the subject, it was becoming all too real for Shaun.)

I didn’t think too hard about where TGD was going with #Sharly at the start of season 3, assuming they were going anywhere at all with it. Maybe Shaun would be seen dating Carly throughout the season; maybe he’d try a few different routes for romance. Maybe Lea would be helpful and encouraging; maybe she’d start to feel a little hypocritical in that role as the season wore on. So as #Sharly progressed, haltingly, this past fall, I was already surprised and nervous about what was coming. I mean, even when they showed the promotional shots of Shaun and Carly laying fully-clothed on the bed for the first time I got anxious for Shaun.

So suffice to say, I was relived for more reason than one when Shaun couldn’t get comfortable in Carly’s arms ahead of the “Friends and Family” episode. Post F&F, I didn’t expect a #Sharly breakup (yet) but I DID think they might slow things down a bit. But given how things have gone the extreme opposite (!!), perhaps it was my own discomfort that kept me from seeing it on the horizon… oh, I don’t know. From “I love you, Carly” onward I’ve been a little lost. (OK, a LOT lost.)

Still, believe it or not there was a lot to like in “Sex and Death”. Away from #Sharly matters, there was a rare Morgan-centric “A” case at St. Bonaventure (I’m still trying to figure out if this was the “sex” part or the “death” part, LOL)… there was another small link in the chain that might become #Melendaire, if you’re into that pairing (me, I’m on the fence for now)… there was Oliver, the terminal, yellow suit-wearing, bucket-list “B” case of the episode that became an even sadder story once he was shown to be in remission. And without Shaun on his immediate mind for the last 2 episodes, Glassman has found himself re-challenged by his brain surgeon “roots”… an interesting, though perhaps inevitable, part of his own remission story.

As for the promised “new level of intimacy” with #Sharly—may it please, please be the last elevation on this particular mountain—here was the good and bad, as objectively as I could possibly see it…

--GOOD: An absence of “direct contact” scenes (see “Mutations”)
--BAD:  It was a shame they had to start Carly’s first appearance of the episode almost right out of the gate with a variation on “I’m glad you’re (sexually) satisfied… but what about me?” It would have been kind of sweet if she was, instead, still with him in the celebration of this momentous step in their relationship, to say NOTHING of the breakthrough this is for Shaun personally. But this episode was a tale of continued “progress”, so the victory lap was limited to Shaun’s giddy opening moments with Morgan, in the hallways of the hospital.
And, for those who grow exponentially more upset with Carly in particular, I know all this feeds right into the notion that she only gets more selfish and demanding as the season wears on. The next two episodes, based on the info provided thus far, might shed a lot more light on the possibility of this dynamic overtaking the relationship. (More about that in future posts.)

--GOOD: All the “assistance” Shaun received from his St. B buds. Park provided the all-important euphemism of a “parade” as I mentioned earlier, but it was Claire, Morgan and (especially) Dr. Lim that provided the best #Sharly-related scenes of the episode, in my opinion.  (And Claire finally appears to be back in Shaun’s regular line of foot traffic, so that’s rewarding in itself.)
--BAD: Remember what I said early on about my discomfort with sex talk? That was the tradeoff with this episode: a lot less action, but a lot more… conversations. Ugh. At least the talk wasn’t as much between Shaun and Carly themselves as it was the inhabitants of the doctors’ lounge/breakroom. While all the “parade” talk was very well-written, I was more than ready to leave it behind by episode’s end.

--GOOD: Love it or hate it, but I’m going to think positive and say the “satisfied” shot of Carly at the very end of the episode—a shot that neatly paralleled Shaun’s look at the end of the “Mutations” episode—was a good thing. As in, OK, great… Shaun’s happy, Carly’s happy… we can move on now, right???

I actually can’t think of a BAD counterpart to that one because I’m still thinking about that last line. The three episodes that we’ve seen since the start of the new year have been difficult (UNDERSTATEMENT) for #Shea shippers, and part of that is due to this #Sharly acceleration. But the two-week break that followed “Sex and Death” seems appropriate—it was a relatively light episode in terms of the titular character’s recurring drama. The calm before the storm. Or, if you prefer, the dark hour just before the dawn. However you see it, “Influence” looks to up the dramatic ante as Shaun unwittingly becomes an online viral sensation… and with lines in the synopsis suggesting Carly is still unhappy with Shaun and Lea’s relationship (the exact words:  Dr. Carly Lever’s efforts to separate Shaun from Lea are challenged), I guess we’re in for something interesting.

For fear of jinxing it, I’m just gonna leave it at that.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships: on Team Selections & Number-Crunching

Down in Greensboro, NC a couple weekends ago, somewhere alongside coaches that are currently under investigation, sponsors with a purpose that seemed more outrageously inappropriate than ever before… and a USFS executive director going on record to tell Christine Brennan that figure skating didn’t have any more of a culture of sexual abuse than any other sport… (SIGH)… there was another exciting edition of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships taking place. Let’s see if any of my “remarkables” equated with yours. (Having gone only 5-for-16 on my medal predictions, I suspect you may have seen things differently… with better results!)
Since there’s a lot of discussion—especially for a non-Olympic year—regarding the Selection Committee choices for the remainder of the season, I’m going to incorporate some of those choices into my Nats comments…

Worlds Team: Nathan Chen, Jason Brown, Vincent Zhou
4CC Team: Jason Brown, Tomoki Hiwatashi, Camden Pulkinen
Nationals Top 10:
1) Chen
2) Brown
3) Hiwatashi
4) Zhou
5) Andrew Torgashev (picked for Jr. Worlds)
6) Alexei Krasnozhon
8)Dinh Tran
9)Sean Rabbitt
10)Yaroslav Paniot
+ What about… Choosing Zhou over Hiwatashi for Worlds? I didn’t hear much about this in terms of Twitter Outrage, which may have been because it’s tough to deny a reigning World Bronze Medalist the third spot on a team for which he helped create three spots... On second thought, that argument won’t work so well when we get to the choices for Pairs. Let’s leave it at Zhou’s efforts in his last 3 major appearances heading into 2020 Nats: 2nd at 2019 Nats, 3rd at 2019 4CCs, and 3rd at 2019 Worlds. (The fact that he was able to compete as well as he did, with only about four weeks of training, probably didn’t hurt.) Meanwhile, Hiwatashi-- who did well at 2019 Nats (4th) and won Junior Worlds-- finished 5th and 10th at his first-ever Senior Grand Prix assignments.
+ What about Choosing Pulkinen over Krasnozhon for 4CC? I didn’t hear ANY debate about this one, maybe because it’s 4CC and people aren’t as concerned about it. Considering that these two finished 6th and 7th, it might be surprising that either one was chosen. But with Chen focusing on retaining his World title, Zhou just getting back into the competitive swing of things, and Torgashev heading to Jr. Worlds, USFS opted for Pulkinen (4th and 8th in the GP)over Krasnozhon (10th and 9th).
+ Elsewhere in the event… while I was pretty bummed to see veteran competitor Emmanuel Savary withdraw at the last minute (he cited chronic ankle injuries on his Instagram account), first-time senior Dinh Tran (2nd in Juniors last year)was a pleasant surprise! Hopefully his 8th place finish will allow him to snag a GP assignment next season.

Worlds Team: Mariah Bell, Bradie Tennell
4CC Team: Tennell, Karen Chen, Amber Glenn
Nationals Top 10:
Alysa Liu (Chosen for Jr. Worlds)
Starr Andrews (chosen for Jr. Worlds)
Sierra Venetta
Courtney Hicks
Gabriella Izzo
Rene Ikenishi
Since the women were much more a by-the-numbers selection-- including the fact that Liu remains too young to compete at any Worlds besides the Junior variety-- I’ll bring up some slightly different issues:
+ Triple axels vs. artistry… well, here we are again with the 2nd-shoulds-been-1st debate. But the comparison of 23 year-old Bell’s best-ever Nationals free skate to 14 year-old Liu’s performance, fueled this year with triple axels and a quad lutz attempt (it was deemed underrotated), also raises the question of age eligibility. Not so much the “why can’t 14 year-olds compete at Worlds?” question, but the one that seems to precede that… “Why are age-ineligible skaters competing at the senior level?”
I wish I had a clue. All I can wonder is if the Alysa Liu situation-- one that has come up twice so far, and may rear its head a third time next year-- might be enough to prompt a rule change. On the other hand (I wonder), what’s a phenom like Liu supposed to do, smash the competition repeatedly on the junior level?
(Um, sure, why not?)
+ In studying the protocols of both Tennell and Bell, here’s what I found:
Bell: Free Skate jumps totaled 52.51, spins 13.09, step sequence 5.52, choreo sequence 5.5, and PCS (components score) of 75.37, which included a 9.71 for music interpretation.
Tennell: Free Skate jumps totaled 43.81 (including a fall on a triple loop), spins 13.31, step sequence 5.40, choreo sequence 5.0, and PCS(components) of 71.28, including an 8.75 for transitions.
SP Jumps:
Combo jump: Tennell 12.38  Bell 11.32
Triple jump: Bell 8.51   Tennell 7.72  
Double axel: Bell 4.43, Tennell 4.34     
Jumps Total: Tennell 24.44  Bell 24.26
Also noteworthy in the SP was that Bell lost a couple of points for the "freak fall" mistake in her step sequence... and Tennell garnered a higher PCS mark in the SP than Bell.  
In short, they were VERY well matched at Nationals.
Last year at Worlds, Bradie finished around 5 points ahead of Mariah to come in 7th place (while Mariah was 9th). They would need to do a little better placement-wise-- say, 6th/7th or 5th/8th- to earn a third ladies spot back for the U.S. at Worlds. The U.S. last had the 3rd spot in 2018.

Worlds Team: Knierim/Knierim, Cain-Gribble/LeDuc
4CC Team: Knierim/Knierim, Calalang/Johnson, Kayne/O’Shea
Top 6:
+ The most debated Worlds Team choice starts with the one-two finish of the veteran Knierims (partnered since 2012) and the still rising Calalang/Johnson (partnered since 2018). The silver medal earned by Cal/John was a significant jump from the 5th place they earned in their first turn together at Nats, but many on Twitter- including Tai Babilonia (of the 1979 World Champion pairs team Tai Babilonia/Randy Gardner, a.k.a. The only U.S. team in the past 50 years to win Worlds gold), were dismayed that they didn’t finish up at the top of the podium, and/or get chosen for the World team.

Here’s the score breakout for both teams:
Short programs 
K/K elements: 43.33 PCS: 33.73  
C/J elements 37.68 (he fell on downgraded triple Sal)... PCS: 29.88
Free skate SBS jumps: K/K 2.10 (-2.1 GOE on 3Toes) + 1.49 (2sal)= 3.59 total……….. C/J 6.28 + 4.79= 11.07
Free skate Throw jumps: K/K 7.14 (3Lo) + 7.19 (3Lz)= 14.33……………… C/J 5.91 (3Sal) + 6.59 (3Lz)= 12.5 
Free Skate triple twists: K/K 8.55……… C/J 8.39
Free Skate Lifts:K/K 9.15 + 7.14 (group 3 lift) + 9.5= 25.79………… C/J 7.36 (group 3 lift) + 10 + 10.4= 27.76
Free Skate spin & D.Spiral: K/K 6.36 + 6.65= 13.01…………….5.98 + 5.71= 11.69
Free Skate Choreo seq: K/K 4.93  C/J 5.0
Free Skate components: K/K 69.89 C/J 69.60

So part of the answer to the question lies in the numbers-- in this case, the 8+ point lead the Knierims had over Cal/John in the SP was enough to keep them ahead, even though the latter won the free skate by almost 7 points. 
But why did the USFS Selection Committee name 4th place finishers Cain-Gribble/LeDuc to the World Team (with the Knierims) rather than Calalang/Johnson? I suppose it had to do with the “criteria” used in such decisions… CGLD were able to participate in 2019 4CC (finshing 4th) as well as last year’s Worlds (finishing 9th, thereby earning the 2nd spot for Worlds). The two teams fared pretty similarly on the GP circuit this past fall (placements ranging from 4th to 6th), but CGLD can also claim two victories in smaller events (U.S. Classic and Golden Spin) while C/J can only claim one (Warsaw Cup). 
So the choices made, using the criteria they currently use, seem to make sense. But given how lights-out Calalang/Johnson performed just a couple weeks ago, I can’t help but see a small shadow of the Ross Miner/2018 Nationals situation. Obviously, there was no Olympic spot at stake this time, but it still robs an up-and-coming team of valuable Worlds experience. 
Instead, Cal/John will try and capitalize on their Nationals success at Four Continents (4CC), which happens this week. I won’t be getting any predictions out, but might post a recap next week.
(Oh, and since this post is so long already... I'll just add that the ice dance selections for both 4CC and Worlds are the same: Chock/Bates, Hubbell/Donohue, and Hawayek/Baker. Yes, I was wrong about Hawayek/Baker losing their podium spot; yes, I was very pleased with my error in judgment.)

Monday, January 27, 2020

STATE OF THE #SHEA Part 5: How I'm facing the "Sex & Death" Music

First up, a correction to my comments on MANY a Tweet about #SHEA over the past week… I’ve been calling the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it (and in fact, some people did!) scene between Shaun and Lea 45 seconds long. But now that I have cooled my heels about “Mutations” enough to sit and watch it again, I got my timer out and clocked just that one scene. And… I was wrong.

It was closer to FIFTY seconds.

My apologies. (Insert the eyeroll emoji here)

And in case you can’t bear to watch it again yourself, here are the lines exchanged in the scene that should have been so, so different (and/or so many more scenes):

LEA: (carrying a box, sees SHAUN prepping dinner plates to be packed) Those are yours.
SHAUN: We bought them together.
LEA: Because you found the pattern soothing.
SHAUN: (Considers her statement; returns the plate he’s holding to the cabinet)
LEA: I’m gonna miss you, Shaun.
SHAUN: (Still facing the cabinet) I love Carly.
LEA: And that’s great. I am SO happy for you.
SHAUN: (swinging by LEA with more packing material; starts wrapping cups) Now you can hang the toilet paper incorrectly anytime you want, and Carly and I can go back to the way things were before our fight.
LEA: (after a beat) Sometimes couples need a little time to recover…
SHAUN:  (almost cutting her off) We won’t. Carly asked for you to move out; you are moving out. (Gives a little nod as if to say “and that’s that”.)
Shot ends with Lea watching him wrap cups with a knowing look on her face.

In response to one of my angry tweets about this scene, someone said—with a fair dose of snark, it seemed – I bet you didn’t predict that! To be honest, the “scene opens on Lea & Shaun packing boxes; any conversation about this HUGE change in their living situation has already been had” was on my list of possibilities… but to find it, you had to look under Worst-Case Scenarios. And to have it be Lea that did the moving out? No… my brain didn’t even allow it to register.

The main reason for that might be a tad dated now… I’m thinking back to season 1, where Shaun was first living independently and Dr. Glassman became increasingly concerned with Shaun’s ability to do so. Which led to him trying to find assistance for Shaun, which led to Shaun “running away” briefly via his road trip with then-neighbor Lea. Glassman ultimately backed off of all this for the remainder of the season, and when Shaun & Lea became roommates/besties, it became a non-issue. I made the suggestion that if Shaun had to move out for Carly’s sake, his sometimes friend/confidante Dr, Park would be a good roommate choice—at least temporarily—because it would solve the problem of Shaun living alone. Well, that was one of the reasons, anyway.

I suppose TGD writers consider my reason “dated” for sure, since the whole idea at the moment is for Shaun to consummate his relationship with Carly… to have the place to himself, where Lea’s not in the way anymore (at least not physically), where he can leave his clothes in a trail to his bedroom like Jack Tripper might have done on Three’s Company back in the day, giddy with anticipation for what’s about to happen after many stops and starts.

I realize, as I read this back, that I sound annoyed (at best) by the Carly/Shaun relationship progression in “Mutations”. Or maybe that I’m channeling Lea… were we to ever to get a hint that things were moving the way most #Shea ‘shippers are rooting for, that is. Despite how it sounds, I don’t really fault them for giving Shaun some happiness in that department. Did I want Lea to be “his first”, like I’ve seen many fans lament this week? Yes, I guess I did. But if (and I know, that’s still a big IF right now) Shaun and Lea are destined by the show to be long-term… and they see Carly as “his first” as a means to that destination… then I’m willing to come along for the ride.

But as of “Mutations”, I’m not feeling as confident that will be the case. And that makes the Shaun/Carly bedroom scenes difficult to take now, especially when I’ve come to expect the progression of their physicality in small increments and what transpired last week felt like the equivalent of being tickled with a steamroller… difficult to execute, and impossible to enjoy. I mean, we were clobbered these past 2 episodes with the notion that lingering feelings for Lea may have kept him from full intimacy with Carly. Then in the space of half an episode, they’re fully undressed and under the covers? And another ½ hour later they’re at it again… or, were… cue Shaun’s oh-so-happy face?

After a full hour of searching, in vain, for Lea to get a second scene (or for Shaun & Glassman to have ANY scenes together), I only felt the knot in my stomach tighten beyond resolution. Shaun, my dear, I’d say I’m happy for you but dammit, I’m just NOT.

As I’ve said before—for me, it’s not about disliking the character of Carly. I know that’s not the case for some of you (Boy, do I know!). I know that the more some see her interact with Shaun, interact with others, become more fleshed out as a part of TGD, and say Ugh. She just irritates me. She’s so insecure. She doesn’t treat Shaun like an equal. Or worse. 

But to the writers’ credit, I think we need that from a love interest for Shaun (that isn’t Lea). We need to see someone multi-dimensional, perhaps with significant flaws that reveal themselves gradually, so that if/when Shaun and Carly are no longer an item it makes sense. We don’t want Carly to simply be branded as KIND and PATIENT, do we? We need the two of them to have difficulties that stem from human foibles. neurotypical and otherwise, so that fans pulling for long-term “Sharly” can see what’s coming… and maybe, just maybe, be more accepting of an eventual future with Lea.

The women in charge of writing “Mutations” surely did so with a lot of “humanizing Carly” in mind; in addition to further it’s-not-you-it’s-me behavior with Shaun, we saw her nervous, uncertain, even downright sad at work when all we’d really seen before was varying does of attitude, depending on the speed at which someone was requesting test results. In watching the show a second time, I think they did a pretty good job in that regard. (I mean, they found a way for Shaun to both comfort her and call her “beautiful”, in very Shaun-esque ways... no easy feat). Unfortunately, the unbalanced—or dare I say, lop-sided—love triangle was so very out of kilter with this episode, I just couldn’t enjoy any aspect of said episode. Not the Fault-in-Our-Stars kids, not Claire & Melendez, not Morgan’s RA medication issues, not Glassman back in the OR, not even the brief scene we got—finally—with Shaun and Claire.

(OK, I’ll allow that I was impressed with the power of that brief catch-up conversation, but I also couldn’t help but wish it was longer. Maybe if Shaun wasn’t going to announce his new living arrangement to Glassman, he could’ve told Claire. And SHE could ask the bare minimum questions: How are you going to suddenly be able to afford that place on your own? How could you kick Lea out with almost no notice? Where did she go? Is she okay? Are you really so focused on Carly you didn’t have any of these questions yourself?... oh, if only.)

Maybe some of this will be addressed tonight with the “Sex and Death” episode we’ve heard about and/or dreaded for at least a week or two. Maybe Lea will turn up for two minutes instead of one. Maybe as Shaun crows about his new “status” to anyone who will listen (as I suspect will be the running joke, based on what I’ve seen), Glassman will take some of our concerns/frustrations and run with them in some fashion. Maybe this is a sort of honeymoon episode for “Sharly”; I suppose they’ve got at least one of those coming to them if drama is supposed to rear its ugly(??) head as season 3 moves forward…

I won’t know any of this until later in the week, because I’m not watching it in real-time tonight. I just can’t. I’ll probably keep an eye on Twitter again, sometime after the show’s over, to see if there are any signs of #Shea hope in this particular episode. There may not be. There may not even be in the promos for “Influence”, the episode airing two weeks from tonight, but I’ll try not to let that get me down too much as only the front-burner story tends to get that 15-second plug.

I don’t need #Shea to be front-burner anytime soon in order to keep the faith. I just need it to stay on the damn stove. Know what I mean?