Retro Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Season 3, Episode 17) – One More Pallbearer

Over the five seasons of his anthology series The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling never failed to deliver cautionary tales. Oftentimes he would remind the viewers that despite all the luxuries and distinctions that wealth and power could bring…deep down, every one of us is human, and who we choose to be, can be an incredibly important choice.

With the Season 3 episode One Last Pallbearer, Serling once again chose to enter into the mind of a wealthy eccentric, with some particular plans of his own design.

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As the camera fades in, we see Mr Paul Radin (Joseph Wiseman), taking an elevator to a bomb shelter in the basement of his personal office building. Speaking with an electrician, he is assured that the installation of a large projection-screen television and sound system, have just been completed.

pallbearer-1Radin then tests the system. As we see a large metropolitan city disintegrated in a few moments by an atomic blast on the screen, the sound of the explosion reverberates off the walls. He then tells the curious electrician, that the installation is for “three special guests,” who will be visiting him on this very night.

After their exchange, we see the elevator doors open, revealing Rod Serling. He then delivers his opening monologue:

What you have just looked at takes place three hundred feet underground, beneath the basement of a New York City skyscraper. It’s owned and lived in by one Paul Radin. Mr. Radin is rich, eccentric and single-minded. How rich we can already perceive, how eccentric and single-minded we shall see in a moment, because all of you have just entered…The Twilight Zone.

 

When the show continues, we see that Radin’s guests have arrived via elevator, curious as to being summoned urgently to this place. Radin does not meet them personally, but addresses them via an intercom system. As the heavy metal door of the bomb shelter opens “theatrically,” they enter into the special room. The door closes behind them, and Radin is revealed, sitting placidly before them.

pallbearer-2He then identifies his guests by name:

–  Colonel Hawthorne (Trevor Bardette), whose command Radin once served under while in Africa

– Mrs Langsford (Katherine Squire), who was one of Radin’s high school teachers

– Reverend Hughes (Gage Clarke), who one can assume was probably associated with a church Paul attended as a young man

Starting with Hawthorne, Radin jogs the Colonel’s memory, when he reminds him how he (Radin) was court-martialed after serving under his command.

Hawthorne recalls, and explains it was because Radin refused to follow a direct order to lead an assault charge, which could have cost the lives of a number of men under the Colonel’s charge. The court-martial that followed, saw Radin “dishonorably discharged.” However, the Colonel claims that if it was up to him, Radin would have been shot for his insubordination.

pallbearer-3Radin next turns his attention to Mrs Langsford, claiming that when he was her student, she flunked and humiliated him in front of her class. However, the teacher tells the others that there were reasons behind her actions.

She explains how Paul was caught cheating, and rather than take responsibility for his actions, he tried to frame another student in her class. She then called him out before the entire class regarding his actions. Given what she has seen so far, she still considers Paul “a devious, dishonest troublemaker.”

The Reverend Hughes is finally addressed, with Radin claiming the holy man placed a scandal over his head, which destroyed his reputation. Hughes claims it was due to Radin’s actions causing a girl to commit suicide, and his feelings that the young Mr Radin did not hold honor in high regard.

This final blow against his character causes Radin to angrily retort that his guests can “go to the devil,” claiming none of them showed him the compassion or understanding that he feels was owed to him in these past situations.

It is then that Radin tells his guests about the room they are in: a specially-designed fallout shelter that has generators, electricity, and a warehouse full of food and supplies. Being a man of high importance and knowing people in powerful places, he claims that tonight, an overseas power is planning to attack the country, which will set off a nuclear war. Unseen by the group, he presses a button.

pallbearer-4A few moments later, air raid sirens are heard over the speakers, and an announcer’s voice tells people to take shelter. Radin smugly smiles at the worried looks on his guest’s faces and mocks them, asking for words of comfort or wisdom.

He then offers them a deal: they may stay in his elaborate shelter to survive the coming attack…on the condition that they beg his forgiveness, and get down on their hands and knees to do so.

“Pretty please with sugar on it,” says Mrs Langsford, only the request is not to beg for Radin’s forgiveness, but to open the door, claiming she’d rather spend her last moments with total strangers above-ground.

pallbearer-5Hawthorne and Hughes also demand to leave the shelter, and Radin’s smug expression falters, realizing his scheme is not bearing the fruit he had expected to pluck.

“All you have to do is to say a sentence,” he says, a trembling in his voice. “Just a string of silly stupid words like a command, Colonel, or like a lesson, Teacher, or like a prayer, Reverend. All you have to say is you’re sorry!”

But there comes only silence, leading Radin to give in to their demands and open the metal door, but loudly proclaiming that they’ll be back soon enough.

As the three board the elevator, Radin desperately rushes at it’s door, claiming they’re throwing their lives away if they leave.

“Life is very dear, Mr Radin,” says the Reverend Hughes, “infinitely valuable. But there are other things that come even higher. Honor is one of them…perhaps the most expensive of them all.”

“Amen,” says the Colonel, quietly backing up the holy man’s words.

pallbearer-6Mrs Langsford attempts to offer some form of help to the desperate man, telling Paul to counter the loneliness in the shelter by putting up mirrors.

“Then you’ll have the company of a world full of Radins,” she promises. “It’ll be a fantasy of course, but then, your whole life has been a fantasy: a parade of illusions. Illusions about what people have done to you, illusions about what justice is, illusions about what is the dignity of even the lowest of us. A fantasy, Mr Radin…and now you can have it all to yourself.”

No it’s not a fantasy!!” Radin bellows as the doors close…when suddenly, the sirens and defense announcer’s voice ring out, but not by his pushing of a button! As he wanders back into the main room, the shelter’s large screen shows the city, rocked by a nuclear explosion!

pallbearer-7“THAT’S QUITE ENOUGH!!” he yells, smashing the speakers and destroying the screen. However, a few moments later, he panics and rushes outside.

Emerging from the building, his eyes go wide with shock as around him, his building and the city have been reduced to rubble!

As he breaks down in heavy sobs, the scene dissolves to what has really happened: Radin’s grip on reality has snapped, and the world has not been obliterated…just in his mind.

pallbearer-8As he sobs at the fountain outside of his building, an officer tries to help him, but Radin’s mind is trapped in it’s own world of desolation, and he doesn’t hear the officer or the people around him.

“I didn’t want it this way,” he babbles. “Anybody, won’t somebody listen to me?”

It is then that we hear Serling’s voice over the closing scene:

Mr Paul Radin, a dealer in fantasy who sits in the rubble of his own making and imagines that he’s the last man on earth. Doomed to a perdition of unutterable loneliness, because a practical joke has turned into a nightmare. Mr. Paul Radin, pallbearer at a funeral that he manufactured himself…in The Twilight Zone.

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Written by Serling, One More Pallbearer is probably not one of his stronger episodes, but there is something intriguing to me about the characters within it.

Broadcast on January 12, 1962, it would be the second episode during the show’s third season, to utilize a fallout shelter. However, unlike that episode where desperate neighbors turned hostile to get into a shelter, the people in Pallbearer are desperate to get out of one, and willing to risk death if it will bring them some form of human compassion above-ground.

pallbearer-9Joseph Wiseman’s portrayal of Paul Radin would come just months before he would be seen as an eccentric villain in the first James Bond film, Dr No. Wiseman’s voice and demeanor definitely give the air of a pompous businessman who feels he can have anything, and make anyone do anything. However, it shows just how twisted Radin is that he tries to “scare” an apology out of these three people. Then again, one wonders if this plan had succeeded…maybe there would be others he would have attempted to scare as well?

Given how Radin shrugs off not following orders, cheating, and even driving a woman to suicide as being nothing more than character assassination, Serling shows us how twisted the man is. This is someone with an inflated sense of self-entitlement, and most importantly, one who has been unable to mature and move beyond thinking of these people that he feels have wronged him (or even felt the need to better or improve himself after these events).

It is rather satisfying to watch Radin’s demeanor crack, and we get to see what a pathetic little man he really is when his plans fall apart. He tries to mock and bully his guests into staying, even claiming that just saying they are sorry would be nothing more than “silly stupid words,” when in truth they’re fool’s gold to pay off his desperate ego.

In the end, the guests prove to be much stronger than their host. The Reverend Hughes tells how important honor is, while Mrs Langsford seems to try and offer a shred of pity to Radin, though it sounds like she doesn’t hold out much hope that he can be saved from what he has become. They may not chew the scenery as much as Wiseman’s character, but their resolve holds in the face of their captor’s demands.

pallbearer-10When Paul snaps and actually believes in the illusion he’s created, this is where I feel the episode gets a little “wobbly.” Given that the final scene takes us back inside Radin’s mind, I can’t help but feel this was a late addition to drive home just what he was seeing in his head, maybe revealing to the viewer why he isn’t acknowledging the people crowding around him in reality.

Once again, One More Pallbearer is definitely food-for-thought when it comes to some episodes of The Twilight Zone that don’t crack the shows’s Top 10 best episodes lists, but still have something important to say.

It’s lessons about sticking to integrity and basic moral principles, are important takeaways to remember in this day and age.

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Movie Review: Welcome to Marwen

Growing up in the 1980’s, one director who rose to prominence in my eyes was Robert Zemeckis. After entrancing me with Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit in my youth, I soon considered him to be one of my favorite directors beyond the norms of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

Over the course of his film career, Zemeckis has never shied away from wanting to push the boundaries of storytelling and technology. This was evident in several of his films like Forrest Gump, Contact, and The Polar Express.

In recent years, Zemeckis has pushed into biographical territory, notably with his 2015 film, The Walk. With Welcome to Marwen, he is attempting to once again tell the story of a real-life figure, with special effects to enhance the tale.

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Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carrell)’s life changed one evening, when he became the victim of a hate-crime. The results of these brutal events left him with memory loss, post-traumatic stress, and the inability to walk.

After regaining most of his faculties, Mark took refuge in the construction of a miniature village that he named Marwen. The village is the residence of a WWII pilot named Hogie (Mark’s alter-ego), and five women (each one based on a woman in Mark’s own life who inspired him). However, the quiet of the village (and Hogie’s life), is often disrupted by a small group of Nazi’s (based on the men who victimized Mark), leading Mark to take photographs detailing the stories of how Hogie and the women of Marwen fight back against their tormentors.

Marwen-1

Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carrell)

Mark finds unexpected fame when interest in his photography, leads to a number of requested exhibitions of his work. However, as his latest exhibition is about to begin, he is faced with two daunting situations.

The first is the upcoming sentencing of the men who assaulted him, leading Mark to grapple with the ghosts of his past.

The other situation concerns a new neighbor named Nicol (Leslie Mann), who has moved in across the street. As she grows interested in Marwen, Mark soon believes a new “recruit” may be moving in to the village.

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With his latest film, Zemeckis was given the opportunity to show a man struggling to emerge from a terrible event, through the powers of creativity. Stories like this I am often willing to get behind if done properly. Unfortunately, Marwen’s story seems unsure of just how to tell itself.

At times, it feels like we are meant to see the world in a disjointed way, as if we were inside Hogancamp’s head as he struggles to keep himself functioning. A few times, we get jarring scenes revolving around Mark’s PTSD, and are left to figure out just what happened.

Zemeckis has done films before where he trusts his audience to piece together what’s happening, but it feels like some important pieces to the story are missing.

Marwen-2

The Women of Marwen. L to R: GI Julie (Janelle Monae), Suzette (Leslie Zemeckis), Nicol (Leslie Mann), Carlala (Eliza Gonzalez), Roberta (Merritt Weaver), Anna (Gwendoline Christie)

Most notable is in regards to the women who inspired the dolls living in Marwen. One would assume that we’d get a little more backstory about them and how they helped Mark, but only a few of their real-world counterparts even get the chance to be on-screen.

Speaking of the dolls, this seems to be where the film spends most of it’s time, as a number of imaginary scenarios that play out in Mark’s head, are animated through motion-capture technology. Zemeckis tries to weave seriousness and whimsy together in some of these scenes, but the numerous attempts to animate what Hogancamp envisions, feels a bit like CGI-overkill.

For most of the film, Steve Carell is front-and-center as Hogancamp (and his alter-ego, Hogie). He does his best to try and make us believe in Mark’s plight, but the story zig-zags so much that by the time it all ends, it feels more like we’ve been on a long car trip, rather than actually learned something from the experience.

Marwen-3

L to R: GI Julie (Janelle Monae), Nicol (Leslie Mann), Hogie (Steve Carell), Anna (Gwendoline Christie)

Aside from Hogancamp, his neighbor Nicol feels like the only other “real” character that is given much screen-time. She seems to be our window into understanding Mark and his world, but there are some times she seems a bit too innocent. A good example is when she doesn’t see anything strange when Mark suddenly claims he’s added a new doll to Marwen…a redhead named Nicol.

That also is a fine line that the film seems hard-pressed to balance along. We’re meant to find some of Mark’s actions to be endearing and believe that it is okay to be different, but it feels like we’re never given enough time to be comfortable understanding him. This seems to be a major hump the film is unable to get over, and makes some scenes that are meant to be emotional, come off as a little unsettling or questionable.

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I went into this film hoping to see beyond a lot of the negative talk I was hearing, but it feels like Welcome to Marwen falls into the lower areas of Robert Zemeckis’ filmography. He’s shown himself many times to be a competent and capable storyteller, but many of the decisions he makes regarding Mark Hogancamp’s story, makes the whole experience feel incredibly disjointed.

I think when it comes to learning more about Hogancamp and his work, it might be best to consider the 2010 documentary Marwencol. I know after I saw Zemeckis’ film, I did wonder if that documentary could shed some more light on helping me understand more about who this man (really) is.

Final Grade: C-

Retro Recaps: Alvin and the Chipmunks – (Season 6, Episode 20, Segment 1) The Wall

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of cartoon characters make a comeback.

In the 1980’s, Ross Bagdasarian Jr, ushered in a revival of his father’s creation, The Chipmunks. Starting in 1983, RBJ would bring Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, into the 1980’s,  placing them and their father Dave Seville, into the California lifestyle. Along with singing Chipmunk versions of famous hits, the boys would get into a number of adventures.

Watching Alvin and the Chipmunks was a staple of my Saturday Mornings growing up. After the show went off the air, several cable channels picked up the episodes, and I soon found myself watching them in re-runs. Out of many of the episodes I remembered, there was one from the sixth season, that I always kept an eye out for.

An episode called: The Wall.

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As the show starts, the boys are awoken by Dave, who informs them that they have been invited to play at the Wall of Iron Concert.

Alvin (naturally) is excited at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with plenty of big-name acts there, but Dave puts things in perspective, telling him that the concert is very important.

Soon they are flying over the host city, and view a long span of wall. It is here that Dave tells the boys (and us) that the wall was built after a war divided the country. The concert the Chipmunks will play at, is set up so that those on the concert side, can send the music across the wall to those on the other side, where a number of freedoms are encroached upon…including the ability to listen to our play rock music (which shocks the heck out of Alvin).

After landing in the (nondescript) city, Dave checks on the staging area, while the boys head over to check out the wall.

They soon encounter a little girl named Caterina, who is waiting for her brother Erik to send a message over the wall.

Chipmunks-1The message comes taped to a soccer ball, along with some drawings he did. The boys agree to take some pictures with Caterina to send back over the wall…and only after taking the pictures, does she recognize them(?). Her brother is a big fan of rock and roll (as well as the Chipmunks), but when the family was forced to flee, her brother did not make it to their side of the city.

Wanting to help reunite the siblings, Alvin attempts to use his star-power to try and reason with the guards on the other side of the wall’s entry-point. However, they assume the three boys are there to ‘defect,’ and one guard orders that the trio be taken to ‘the rock pile.’

Dave hears their cries for help, but is unable to get to them in time. He then attempts to scale the wall, but before he can make it over, Erik’s soccer ball hits him, and he falls back down.

Caterina intercepts the ball, which has a note saying that Erik has seen the Chipmunks being carried off, and is going to try to help them escape during the concert that night. Naturally, Dave takes Caterina’s word to wait (instead of going to the US Embassy to try and get the boys released).

Erik ends up infiltrating the boy’s room as a bellboy(?), and brings along some towels to tie together, allowing them to escape out the nearby window. He then takes them to a tailor, who disguises the boys. Before they leave, the old man gives them some items to give to his granddaughter, who is also on the other side of the wall.

However, the group doesn’t get far, when the boys are recognized, leading to them being recaptured, along with Erik.

As night falls, the boys are led to ‘the rock pile,’ with Alvin emotionally trying to drag out his expected death.

“Give him, ‘the ax,” says the man in charge.

Alvin braces for the worst…but is surprised when he is handed an electric guitar! Simon and Theodore are also surprised, when they are also given instruments.

It is then, that the commanding officer reveals that he and his men (who I guess have chosen to defect against their superiors!), want the boys to play rock and roll!

“Show our people, it should not be forbidden any longer,” he says.

Chipmunks-3On the other side of the wall, Dave has waited long enough, when he suddenly hears Alvin’s voice, singing a song that carries over the wall.

Soon, people on both sides of the wall are listening to the song. As they join in the chorus, the wall begins to form cracks, and soon a portion of it crumbles to the ground! Once the song ends, Caterina is reunited with Erik, the tailor with his granddaughter, and Dave with the Chipmunks.

The image then wavers, and we see Alvin and his brothers, asleep on an airplane. It is at this point that Dave wakes them up, and points out the wall through the plane’s window.

“It was just a dream,” says Alvin, “But it doesn’t have to be.”

As the episode ends, we get one more image of Caterina and Erik, standing next to the open wall.

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While Alvin and the Chipmunks did have some emotional episodes, something about The Wall always stuck with me. It was when I went looking around online for more information on it some time ago, that I was surprised to find others also had fond memories of the storyline as well!

One reason the episode stuck in my head, was probably due to the song that Alvin and the boys sing.

For much of their career, the Chipmunks have mostly sung their renditions of popular songs. In the case of this episode, the song that was sung was an original piece of music (just who wrote it, I have no clue).

While there have been a number of albums of Chipmunk music released over the years, this song still has never had a proper release. Of course, if you look around Youtube, you’ll find audio copies people have gotten off the episode.

At the time, episodes of The Chipmunks usually consisted of two 10-12 minute stories. The Wall was the first part of the episode, that aired on December 17, 1988. However, some believe it’s story may have been inspired by several events.

During the late 1980’s, there was already growing resentment towards the Berlin Wall, that had divided East and West Berlin since 1961. In 1987, former President Ronald Reagan had given a speech, in which he had requested that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, “tear down the wall.”

The Wall of Iron concert in the episode, may have been inspired by several artists who played near the Berlin Wall. In 1987, David Bowie performed there during his Glass Spider Tour, and in 1988, Bruce Springsteen and his band followed suit (which could explain Alvin’s Springsteen-like vocals!).

And then, on November 9th, 1989, the unthinkable happened.

It was on this day, that the gates separating East and West Germany were thrown open. I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but I can still recall NBC News footage with reporter Tom Brokaw in the foreground, reporting on the event. Plus, word is that the weekend after the event, NBC re-aired The Chipmunks episode featuring The Wall in it.

Cartoons have often found ways to insert real-world notions or thoughts. Most of the time, they go over the heads of their younger audiences.. In the case of The Wall however, there was just something about it’s message about unifying families who had been separated under horrible circumstances, that I think stuck with many who saw it…and still see the episode today.

Retro Recaps: E.R. (Season 5, Episode 8), “The Good Fight”

Growing up in the 1990’s, I still remember when NBC ruled Thursday nights, with their Must-See-TV lineup.

Thanks to the involvement of Jurassic Park alumni Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg, I soon had another show to watch along with Seinfeld and Frasier, when E.R. debuted in 1995.

Like millions across the country, I was soon deeply engrossed in the interconnected lives of the staff of County General Hospital, in Chicago, Illinois. The constantly-roving cameras, along with the hyper-kinetic scenes when the doctors would have to contend with emergency situations, soon had me sucked in.

All these years later, there’s been a few episodes that I can still recall parts of from memory. One of them came out twenty years ago this week, and I thought it fitting to do a Retro Recap on it.

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As the episode starts, we find John Carter (Noah Wyle) and several of the E.R. staff, working on a little girl named Corinna Nelson (Nicolette Little). While her father Sawyer (John Thaddeus) only has a gash on his forehead from the vehicular accident they were involved in, Corinna has a ruptured spleen. Med student Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) takes Sawyer to be stitched up, before returning to Corinna.

ER-TGF-6Doctors Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) and Peter Benton (Eriq LaSalle) soon enter the room to examine the little girl, when her eyes close and her blood pressure spikes! A blood transfusion has been set up, but her body does not seem to be taking it. Lucy is sent to ask Sawyer if his daughter has any special conditions, but upon checking on him, she finds he has disappeared.

Sawyer had given Lucy some information, including the phone number for Corinna’s mother. Upon calling her, Lucy is given some shocking news: Sawyer’s name is actually Keith, and he kidnapped his daughter a few weeks prior!

ER-TGF-7Things don’t get better when they find out that Corinna has a very uncommon blood type, and the blood draw taken from Keith after the accident, confirms a match with his daughter. Carter inquires to the nearest blood banks, but finds nothing. Meanwhile, Lucy’s shift ends, and she attempts to follow the street address Keith gave her, even though Carter feels he just gave her false information.

Carter is soon relieved by Dr Greene, and takes off with a woman he knows named Roxanne Please (Julie Bowen). However, he also is informed by a member of the Chicago Police Department, that they found Keith’s totaled car came from a dealership in the Chicagoland area.

Carter attempts to spend the afternoon with Roxanne, but his mind is still on Corinna, and he heads off for the dealership, hoping to find information on Keith. There he finds out that Keith is a bookie, and the salesman tells Carter to check with a Bellhop at the Delaware Hotel downtown for more information.

ER-TGF-8Carter does so, and is surprised to find that Lucy is already there. The address Keith gave her was a former place he lived, and some locals in the area directed her to the hotel. A bellhop tells them that a guy named Toby knows Keith, and recommends they check out a meat-packing plant.

Back at the hospital, Corinna’s mother has arrived, but her daughter’s condition has worsened. With the lack of blood (her mother’s blood type does not match), her kidneys are in danger of shutting down.

It is then that Dr Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) gives the team some hope. The rare donor program has found some frozen units of Corinna’s blood type in Nashville. The blood is soon on the way, and Corinna is prepped for surgery for her ruptured spleen.

ER-TGF-9Meanwhile, Carter and Lucy have gone from the meat-packing plant, to a dilapidated neighborhood looking for Toby. Lucy manages to find a relation who says he may be at a market nearby. However, as she glances up at the nearby El train platform, she sees Keith on it!

Carter quickly rushes across the street and jumps the turnstile. Unfortunately, he is accosted for not paying the fare, and he watches as the train leaves with Keith on it. Carter and Lucy then find Toby, who claims he doesn’t have Keith’s contact information, but suggests talking to a guy named Uncle Joey at Soldier Field.

Back at County General, the blood has been received, but there’s bad news. Several small holes have been found in the bag, which could mean the contents may have been exposed to bacteria. This leads to Dr Benton and the others to performing a “blood-less surgery,” attempting to repair the girl’s spleen, while trying to keep her from losing what little blood she has left.

ER-TGF-10Taking Uncle Joey’s advice, Carter and Lucy head to another address on the south side of Chicago. As they wander around some dilapidated buildings, they both begin to question each other’s motives in looking for Keith. Carter claims he went looking because he wanted to help. Lucy on the other hand, feels responsible since Keith walked away when her back was turned (which Carter had berated her for earlier).

“I shouldn’t have made you feel that way,” admits Carter. “Truth is, you’re the only med student I had that showed any promise.”

Things don’t get better when Carter ends up taking a fall, and dislocating his shoulder. The two decide to leave, but find that someone has torched Carter’s Jeep!

They then take off on foot, and soon come to a payphone. Lucy decides to call Toby back to see if he can provide more information, but Carter feels that they’ve reached a dead-end.

ER-TGF-11Surprisingly, Toby comes through, and provides them with an address that leads them to a small wooden shack along some train tracks. They find evidence that Keith and Corinna had been living in the shack, along with a phone message.

Playing back the message, they hear Keith’s voice telling someone named Inga that he’s across the street, and to check on Corinna at the hospital.

This sends Lucy and Carter headed back to the hospital to look for Inga, when Lucy thinks of Keith saying the words, “across the street.”

ER-TGF-12The two end up rushing into a restaurant called Doc Magoo’s across from County General, and sure enough…Keith is there!

Keith is quickly rushed over to the hospital, where Lucy draws his blood. He’s then wheeled into the room with his daughter and ex-wife, but it is then that Dr Greene explains Corinna’s condition. The spleen surgery came out successfully, but given how much time has elapsed since she first needed the blood transfusion, Corinna has slipped into a coma. She’s had multiple seizures, and her kidneys have shut down.

“But his blood will make her better, right?” asks Corinna’s Mom.

“A lot of damage has been done,” says Dr Green, quietly.

ER-TGF-13After getting his arm in a sling, Carter goes up on the roof, and finds Lucy there. While they were able to get Corinna the blood she needed, Lucy is upset that they couldn’t have saved her from her current condition.

“Some patients get to you more than others,” says Carter, sitting down next to her. “I know. But when you do everything that you can…sometimes, even more than you though you could, you got to walk away knowing you fought the good fight. You fought the good fight, Lucy. Tomorrow, you’ll fight another one.”

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When it came to E.R., the general format for an episode, usually involved weaving multiple stories together like a hospital-based soap opera. Sometimes however, the show writers would give their multiple plot-threads a break, and focus on a singular event like this one.

In the E.R., the fight to save Corinna ends up being an event that touches almost every regular character on the show (even George Clooney’s Dr Doug Ross shows up for a few minutes). However, it feels almost like the secondary story arc, with the main focus being on John Carter and Lucy Knight’s quest to find Corinna’s father.

For the show’s fifth season, Lucy Knight was a newcomer to the hospital staff: a third-year medical student, but one that had some difficulty asking questions and getting a handle on certain elements. This led to a series of mishaps that soon ended up with her and John Carter at odds with each other.

With this episode, we both got to see each of them being strong-willed and caring people, who just want to help. The storyline isn’t too different from those we’ve seen before, where two characters who don’t get along, are forced to find common ground to achieve a goal.

The episode also had the two sharing some personal information about themselves. At one point when the topic turns to Keith “abandoning” his daughter, John and Lucy begin to divulge a bit about their own fathers. Carter admits that a father should stick around for his kids, only to find out from Lucy that her father wasn’t around when she was young.

The episode worked to bridge the communication gap between them, and going forward, the two ended up becoming a fan-favorite “pairing” that is still talked about to this day.

Looking back on the episode now, the storyline of the two looking for Keith Nelson seems a bit ridiculous. I doubt any medical drama today would use such a storytelling device, but the concept of doing whatever it takes to try and save someone definitely spoke to me. There’s even an added “emergency beat” when Carter comes across a woman in a housing complex, who is suffering from tuberculosis.

The final moment with John and Lucy taking a beat after their adventure, is still one of my favorite moments from the series. Carter’s speech about “fighting the good fight,” is one that I sometimes think about in my quieter moments.

Movie Review : Fantastic Beasts- The Crimes of Grindelwald

Rated PG-13, for some sequences of fantasy action

After the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I was more than content to say goodbye to the world that J.K. Rowling had created, having enjoyed the grand adventure. Much like when George Lucas’ Star Wars Trilogy ended however, there were many that wanted to still play in the sandbox the author had created.

And so, Rowling revisited the Wizarding World, centering a new film series around the character of Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne). Newt’s adventures took place during the late 1920’s, and his first film showcased an adventure among witches and wizards in America.

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Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne)

In the Fantastic Beasts sequel, the action returns to Europe, as dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes confinement. At the insistence of Albus Dumbledore (played this time by Jude Law), Newt is asked to help in apprehending Grindelwald.

When it comes to sequels, many people eagerly anticipate seeing their favorite characters again. For this film, you do get Newt’s American friends returning (including Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski), but for the most part, the film doesn’t really seem to be about them.

Instead, we’re introduced to a large group of ancillary characters (including a few from the first film), and are given several mysteries to unravel. Unfortunately, the film just doesn’t give us enough time or development to care, as we’re throttled along from one new set-piece after another.

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Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) 

 

Unlike the first film, this one really seems to be trying hard to throw out little asides to those who are fans of the series. We get a few familiar name-drops, and if you’ve seen the trailers, a (brief) return to Hogwarts Castle.

I couldn’t help but wonder about the film’s writing process, given that this is Rowling’s second screenplay (after the first Beasts film). There are a number of times I couldn’t help but feel the screenplay could have benefited from some rewrites, to narrow the focus and make us care more about what was going on. At times, the film felt as overloaded with material, as Rowling’s fifth Harry Potter novel, The Order of the Phoenix.

Where the film does succeed, is in captivating us with even more magical creatures that Newt encounters. While fan-favorite Niffler is back, the film gives us some intriguing new animals, including a Chinese creature called a Zouwu. Sadly, the new menagerie isn’t enough to save the film.

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Newt encounters a Zouwu.

This is going to sound like a major film-bash, but I can’t help but feel The Crimes of Grindelwald, could be this series’ The Last Jedi. I think a lot of people are going to go into this film with a certain set of expectations, and find they’ve wandered into a different film entirely.

By the looks of where the story is headed now, the Fantastic Beasts title seems almost like an afterthought. With three more films scheduled to follow, one wonders how much longer Newt’s life-long obsession with magical creatures will last on-screen, as he and his friends are pulled into a story that wants to be just as big as the one we saw in Rowling’s Harry Potter series?

Final Grade: C

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Retro Recaps: My Top 5 Favorite “Got Milk” ads

For those of us who grew up in the 1990’s, there was one commercial ad campaign that you couldn’t ignore.

Beginning on October 27th, 1993, the Got Milk ad campaign officially began showing up on TV. Soon it would be in print magazines, on billboards, and many other places.

For many like myself who watched a lot of television in the mid-1990’s, there are many commercials that were made for the campaign, that are still stuck in my head. There were so many, that I decided to compile my (personal) Top 5 favorites from the Got Milk ad campaign (hint: most of them are from the early days of the campaign).

And so, here’s my little stroll down memory lane.

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5. Trix

A nervous man enters a convenience store, and picks up three boxes of cereal, including Trix. At the register, the old woman chastises him for this.

“Don’t you know Trix are for kids?” she laughs, ringing him up, as he bolts out the door.

Once returns to his apartment, the man empties the cereal into a bowl, before suddenly, unzipping his skin(!), revealing that he is the Trix rabbit in disguise!

The rabbit is finally about to enjoy his cereal, when he realizes…that he’s out of milk!

Over the years, the Got Milk campaign would often bring some star-power into their commercials. After all, how else to get the kids’ attention, than to use characters and icons they were familiar with? Additional iconic characters used over the years, included The Powerpuff Girls, and Mario from Nintendo.

Personally, I felt that the Trix rabbit commercial was the stronger of these concepts, given that it played with the topic of desperation, and then trips up the main character right before he can achieve his goal…which was often a staple of many different Got Milk commercials.

Of course, if one looked at the commercial logically, the rabbit could simply eat the cereal without milk (plus, four years before this commercial came out, a promotional campaign had let kids across America, vote to let him eat the cereal during a Trix commercial).

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4. Yum-Yum Time

As the clock strikes six, an old woman prepares to feed her cats. Unfortunately, she quickly realizes she’s all out of milk.

Looking for a substitute, she finds some non-dairy creamer in a cupboard.

“Oh look,” she says to herself. “Just like milk.”

Mixing the creamer with water, she then proceeds to feed the cats…but one lick, and they turn on her.

Next thing we see, are paws closing the blinds, locking the doors…and turning off the power to the house!

This was one of those commercials where someone tries to get out of a bad situation, but as we soon see, their fate is sealed.

Most likely thanks to a number of Stephen King-based films, we know that when you mess with cats, things aren’t going to turn out well. Though as the commercial begins, I don’t think anyone expected the final outcome, making the final moments both humorous…and a little uncomfortable.

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3. Heaven

As the commercial starts, we see a businessman firing someone over his cellular phone…before nonchalantly walking out into the middle of a street, and getting hit by a truck!

Next, we see him in an all-white world.

“Welcome, to eternity,” a female voice says, as the man notices a pile of huge chocolate-chip cookies on a table.

“Heaven,” he murmurs, taking some bites, before going to the nearby fridge, and finding it filled with milk cartons.

However, as he picks one up, he finds it empty. Pretty soon, he realizes that all of the cartons are empty!

“Wait a minute,” he murmurs, “where am I?”

Growing up, I often felt that Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone had some important lessons. The most important lesson of all? Don’t be a jerk!

The businessman and his joy over someone less-fortunate than himself, seems very much in line with Twilight Zone characters who realize too late, what their selfishness has wrought upon themselves.

The kicker for this commercial, is we don’t even need to be told where this guy is spending “eternity.” It’s spelled out for us in the Got Milk logo we see at the end of the commercial…which is on fire!

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2. Oreo Kane

In a boardroom, we see a number of men sitting around a large table, trying to name a familiar black-and-white sandwich cookie.

As the men dunk their cookies in milk and play with them, all sorts of names are thrown out, from “twist-o-cookie,” to “choco-lama.”

The head of the company (named C.W.), doesn’t feel any of these names are winners.

“What do you think, Hurley?” he asks, to a man with his mouth full of cookie.

At this point, Hurley attempts to pour himself a glass of milk, but finds the carton empty. Addressing the boss, he shrugs his shoulders, and mutters through his mouthful of cookie: “Or-eo (aka ‘I don’t know’).”

“Hurley,” say C.W., his eyes opening wide, “you’re a genius.”

I’ve always been a fan of word-puns, and the way the writers come up with the punchline for this commercial, has always been one of my favorites! It’s still funny to see Hurley’s “accidental genius” moment.

While we have seen other cookie-related Got Milk commercials, the Oreo sandwich cookie has often prided itself on being an accessory to milk. This was one of the few times where we had a food product referenced by name in one of the commercials, rather than the nondescript chocolate-chip cookies in a number of them.

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1. Aaron Burr

As the commercial opens, we see a man sitting at a table, making a peanut-butter sandwich. As he stuffs the sandwich into his mouth, the radio program he’s listening to, begins it’s daily contest.

“For $10,000,” says the announcer, “who shot Alexander Hamilton, in that famous duel?”

The young man’s eyes go wide…as he’s sitting amongst all sorts of Hamilton-related historical items! 

Just then, the phone rings. The man picks it up, and hears the announcer’s voice!

However, his mouth is still crammed full of sandwich, and he is unable to clearly say, “Aaron Burr.”

Grabbing the carton of milk nearby, he finds it to be empty…just as the radio announcer says his time has run out, and the phone-line goes dead!

I don’t think it’s any surprise that this, the first Got Milk commercial, ended up being my favorite.

What is surprising to a lot of people, is when they find out who directed this commercial: Michael Bay!

Bay’s kinetic filming and editing style is on display here, as the scenes cut fast-and-furiously all around the room. We get all sorts of information that the guy in the commercial is a huge fan of Hamilton and Burr, though when one stops to question things a bit more, it can make your head hurt (as most of Bay’s feature films have done).

The commercial went on to win several awards, and in 2015, was parodied in a promotional commercial, related to the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton.

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Over the years, the Got Milk slogan would also end up being mentioned in a number of shows and films, cementing it’s place in America’s pop-culture. It would also be used in a number of other slogans (such as Got Jesus).

The campaign also branched out into advertising for chocolate milk, and even had a Hispanic outreach with the slogan, Familia, Amor y Leche (“Family, Love and Milk”).

In 2014, there was an attempt to change the Got Milk slogan to Milk Life. However, in the Summer of 2018, Got Milk officially returned, to try and give the dairy products a boost, in the face of 21st century offerings like almond and soy milk. Plus, just like the big to-do over the years regarding the health benefits/risks of “the incredible edible egg,” dairy-based milk may not be the be-all/end-all to strong bones, and prevention of osteoporosis.

It’s interesting to think about what has happened to the world of milk-based products over the past 25 years, and if the current attempts to steer people back towards the dairy aisle, will work as well in the early 21st century, as it did on people’s consumer tastes in the late 20th century.

Retro Recaps: The Simpsons (Season 6, Episode 5) – Sideshow Bob Roberts

Along with it’s introspection and sometimes humorous observations on topics like religion over the years, The Simpsons’ writers also had no problems skewering a common, everyday thing that many adults often find themselves wrapped up in: Politics.

Whether it was aliens Kang and Kodos invading Earth during an election year, or Homer rallying Springfield’s brainless slobs with a bunch of crazy promises, they often found ways to think up the most ridiculous political concepts that today, seem to have become (terrifyingly) prescient!

Most often say that when it comes to political figures, they want someone that is honest, has integrity, and will lead by good example. Sadly, that doesn’t usually happen to be the case most of the time. In the season 6 episode Sideshow Bob Roberts, the writers not only brought back an entertaining supporting character, but spun a story about how the manipulation of facts and truth, could make people vote for a man against their basic principles.

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As the show opens, we find Homer and a number of other people in Springfield, listening to Conservative talk show host, Birch Barlow.

SideshowBob-1Barlow quickly begins checking off a number of constants that Springfield seems unable to do anything about, including it’s 6-term Mayor, Diamond Joe Quimby.

Barlow claims that a bunch of ‘tie-dyed tree-huggers’ are to blame for the town’s ‘Quimby Quagmire,’ and that the time supporting the Mayor, could be better spent ‘locking up the homeless.’

Later on that day, Homer and Lisa are out for a drive and listening to Barlow (mainly at the insistence of Homer). Barlow soon begins taking calls, and a man named Bob calls in.

“Thanks for putting the ‘public’ back in the Republican Party,” cites Bob. “It’s time people realized we conservatives aren’t all Johnny Hatemongers and Charlie Bible-Thumps or even, God forbid, George Bushes.”

The deep tone of the caller’s voice suddenly hits Lisa, and she realizes that Birch is talking to Sideshow Bob!SideshowBob-2

Sometime afterward, we see Mayor Quimby visiting the Springfield Retirement Castle, trying to get the Seniors there (including Grandpa Simpson) to support his new expressway plan. Naturally, the Seniors won’t support such a proposal, unless there’s something in it for them. Upon hearing about what they like, the Mayor suggests calling it The Matlock Expressway, and the Seniors quickly warm to the proposal.

We then hear Bob call back to Birch’s show, and claim that he was falsely imprisoned (“‘attempted murder,'” sneers Bob over the phone, “now honestly, did they ever give anyone a Nobel prize for ‘attempted chemistry?'”).

Barlow claims that this is another example of liberal bias against intelligent conservatives, and incites a number of his local listeners to protest for Bob’s release.

Mayor Quimby is soon overwhelmed by protesters, and wanting to avoid further negativity from his constituents, fully pardons Bob.

SideshowBob-3We then cut to a meeting at the Republican Party Headquarters (held in an ancient castle!). With the Springfield mayoral election coming up, a number of the party’s local members (including Mr Burns, Birch Barlow, and even actor Ramier Wolfcastle!), are seeking a proper opponent for Quimby.

“We need a candidate with name-recognition and media savvy,” says Mr Burns. “A true leader…who will do exactly as he’s told!”

It is then that Birch introduces everyone to Bob, with Ramier Wolfcastle claiming that he ‘likes the human touch’ that Bob brings to the group.

After Bob is confirmed as a viable candidate, he and Mayor Quimby do a press appearance with the kids at Springfield Elementary, concerning education. However, Bob puts on a show attempting to make Quimby look incompetent, and most of the kids just eat up his act.

Bart and Lisa attempt to steer attention towards Quimby, claiming they heard him say that ‘kids are the most important natural resource we have.’

“Even more important than coal?” questions news-anchor Kent Brockman.

SideshowBob-4Seconds after the ‘publicity stunt,’ Bart is thrown into a limo with Bob and some henchmen, and whisked away.

“Oh, that was a big mistake, Bart,” growls Bob. “No children have ever meddled with the Republican Party and lived to tell about it.”

It looks like Bob may have Bart eliminated right then-and-there, but his men simply put ‘Vote Bob’ paraphernalia on him, and return him to the Simpsons’ home.

Even with the threat of Bob possibly coming after him, Bart works with Lisa to help Mayor Quimby’s election, despite Quimby’s own rickety track-record.

“This time, he’s the lesser of two evils,” says Lisa, as they attempt to hand out bumper stickers and pins.

Just like Quimby, Bob also attempts to win over the Seniors at the Retirement Castle. He sweetens the Matlock Expressway deal, promising to build it, AND, spend the afternoon listening to the Seniors’ ‘interminable anecdotes’ (a move he quickly regrets).

SideshowBob-5Next, Bob and Quimby have a televised debate. While Bob seems confident, Quimby has caught a cold and has taken medication to combat it. However, his unkempt appearance and drowsy demeanor, makes the effervescent Bob quickly win over the audience.

When it comes time to vote on the candidates, some are willing to forgive some of Bob’s more glaring crimes.

“I don’t approve of his Bart-killing policy,” notes Homer. “But I do approve of his Selma-killing policy.”

“Well, he framed me for armed robbery,” thinks Krusty, “But man, I’m achin’ for that upper-class tax cut.”

Final election results are soon released on the local news, showing Bob winning 99% of the votes, and Quimby just 1% (“and we remind you there is a one-percent margin of error,” adds Kent Brockman).SideshowBob-6

After he wins, Bob makes good on (quickly) fulfilling his promise to build the Matlock Expressway…which is re-routed to go right through where the Simpsons’ house is, with Bob giving the family 72 hours to vacate.

Bart is also affected by the election, when Bob has him sent back to kindergarten (much to the delight of Mrs Krabappel).

As the family faces the loss of their home, Lisa begins to question the final election results.

“I can’t believe a convicted felon would get so many votes, and another convicted felon would get so few,” she thinks aloud.

Going to the Hall of Records, Lisa pores over the election results, but soon falls asleep. When she wakes up, she finds a letter telling her to go to a parking garage that evening.

Lisa brings Bart along, and the two come across a shadowy figure, who refuses to reveal who he is….until Homer turns on the car’s headlights, revealing the secret informant to be Mr Smithers!

SideshowBob-7The Simpsons then drive Smithers home. On the way, he mentions his misgiving about some of Sideshow Bob’s ‘ultra-conservative views,’ claiming they ‘clash with his choice of lifestyle.’

Wanting to help, he tells them to look for the name, Edgar Neubauer.

The kids check the phone books and the public library, but find no trace of Edgar. However, they are soon surprised when Bart sees the name on a tombstone in the local cemetery.

“Oh my God,” he exclaims. “The dead have risen and are voting Republican!”

Lisa tells Bart that in truth, Bob most likely solidified his win by rigging the election, and having a number of dead persons vote for him.SideshowBob-9

The list even uses names from the local Pet Cemetery…including Lisa’s dead cat, Snowball 1!

“Alright Bob,” she angrily cries out. “Now it’s personal!”

“Hey! He did try to kill me,” notes Bart.

With the information the two have obtained, Bob is put on trial, but attorney Lionel Hutz seems unable to get Bob to confess.

Lisa and Bart then step forward. Playing to Bob’s ego, Lisa claims that Bob was nothing more than a pawn in a scheme, run by Birch Barlow.

Bob’s hubris gets the better of him, and his calm demeanor breaks! He confesses to not only rigging the election, but also provides documents (that he conveniently carried in with him!) that tell of his plans.

“But why?” asks the judge, looking over the files.

SideshowBob-8“Because you need me, Springfield,” says Bob, grandstanding before the jury and the rest of the courtroom. “Your guilty conscience may tell you to vote Democratic…but deep down, you long for a hard-nosed Republican to raise taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king. That’s why I did it: to save you from yourselves! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a city to run.”

However, Bob’s verbal outrage is enough to have him placed under arrest, and Quimby wins the election by default.

This also means construction on the Matlock Expressway is halted, sparing the Simpsons’ home (but angering the seniors at the Retirement Castle). Bart is also returned to the fourth grade.

As Bob reads the headlines, he vows to escape from his prison…which should be relatively easy, since he’s been placed in the Springfield Minimum Security Prison. Unlike a regular prison, it has no no fences, and it’s own rowing team of Ivy League educated prisoners.

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Sideshow Bob Roberts marked Bob’s third major appearance on the show, and seemed to cement him as a constant thorn in Bart Simpson’s side, as each new season was rolled out.

Given the political nature of the episode, the show writers really play around with the absurdity of campaigns. In one television ad, a narrator tells how Mayor Quimby let Sideshow Bob out of prison, before telling the viewers to vote for Bob.

Even back in the early 1990’s, I and a lot of other people were often surprised when the show would poke fun at it’s own network.

This comes across during a debate, hosted by Larry King (voicing himself).

“Even though we’re being broadcast on…Fox,” he grumbles, “there’s no need for obnoxious hooting and hollering.”

And just like telling a child ‘not to do something,’ the audience takes the warning and just completely ignores it.

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The top scene from All the President’s Men, inspired the homage in The Simpsons.

The Simpsons was often known for making film and pop-culture references in their episodes, and with this one, they also made reference to a real-world event.

The investigation into Bob’s rigging of the system, is largely inspired by the Watergate Scandal, which was exposed by Washington Post writers Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Lisa even mentions them by name in the episode). Their work was shown in the film All the President’s Men, and several scenes in the episode mimic ones from that film. Even two of Bob’s henchmen that are constantly seen by his side, are based on Nixon staff members at the time: John Ehrlichman, and H.R. Haldeman.

The episode’s title is also a reference to a film from 1992, titled Bob Roberts.

SideshowBob-11Tim Robbins wrote, directed, and starred as that film’s title character: a conservative who sings folk songs, and attempts to run for public office in Pennsylvania. However, he seems to be hiding a number of political secrets, let alone trying to slip subversive messages into his numerous public song performances. At one point, he even goes on a popular late-night television show, and goes off-script to deliver his own message.

There are also references to Citizen Kane, A Few Good Men, the Kennedy/Nixon debate of 1960, and strangest of all: Archie Comics!

The Archie reference really has nothing to do with the overall political scope of the episode. We first see several of the characters dump Homer on the front lawn, and warning him toSideshowBob-12 “stay out of Riverdale.” This is later followed by a scene of Homer angrily reading an issue of Archie, while Bart and Lisa meet their mysterious informant.

Why the writers included this reference in the story…I’ve never been able to figure out.

Word was at the time of the episode’s release in October of 1994, a number of Conservative persons felt the show was painting them in a very negative light. Even so, it is noted on the audio commentary included on the Season 6 DVD, that the writers claim that the episode pokes fun at many across the political spectrum.

It is notable that at the time of the commentary recording in 2005, several of the writers felt certain elements of the episode seemed to feel very similar to the political climate at that time.

I guess it’s the sad truth about politics: As much as people want things to change, it’s a neverending struggle to make things better for people.

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