I try to always keep an open mind and my wits about me. Other than that, anything goes! Makes for some unpredictable adventures out there in the real world. I've worked in the publishing industry for 10+ years and have been a member of the FSWA for 5+ years. Go Steelers!
The Leftovers really puzzles me. I still can't figure out (along with everyone else, I'm sure) whether there is any sort-of of twist here (supernatural or otherwise), or if Lindelof and Co. are just winding us along this long road of miserable people and terrible circumstance. Either way, I can't stop watching this show because it keeps surprising me. Yeah, the surprises are mostly of a vicious and sadistic nature.. but hey, they say that art imitates life, right? I can easily see all of these events unfolding in modern-day reality after an event such as one that happens here. Maybe that's the whole point.
Anyway, "Gladys" takes us on a journey that centers around Patty and Laurie after the brutal murder of Gladys by stoning. The opening scene shows Patty nodding to Gladys in her office as if in silent agreement. We know that Gladys seemed to be higher up in the ranks of the Guilty Remnant but the whole order of things is very much left open to interpretation still. In my opinion, this opening scene is trying to make us believe that Gladys was ready for this and/or that Patty is actually behind the whole sequence of events that lead to Gladys's death. There just seems to be a general foreboding in the air and a heaviness to Gladys's nod. In addition, right before she was abducted from in front of the convenience store (they had gone to buy more cigarettes, it seems) Gladys took out a cigarette but hesitated in smoking it.. rapping it against her pad as if waiting for something. I'm not sure that I believe this to be the case, but we're still trying to piece together the motivations of these characters. The one thing that makes me think this could be a false path were Gladys's last words when she was near death in the woods. Spending your last moments begging for your life and breaking the vows of the Guilty Remnant are not the actions of someone who was fully aware of what was about to happen.
Patty takes Laurie out on an unannounced trip where they can be alone and have a private conversation. She allows Laurie to shower, dress in normal clothes, sleep in a comfortable bed, etc and even invites her to speak once more, over a french toast and scrambled egg breakfast. Ultimately, Laurie stays silent and seems to be praised by Patty for doing so. Patty says something memorable toward the end of their conversation, "Remember what you told me to do in the last session, before everything changed?".. this seems to allude to a previous relationship that these women had together. Perhaps Laurie was a therapist of some sort, or otherwise guiding or counseling Patty? Either way, it has something to do with 'Neil' and the doggybag that was delivered (presumably on his doorstep) filled with something (presumably feces?). Yikes. Basically, we learn that Patty may be even more nuts that we give her credit for. Looking forward to more on this.
Back in Mapleton, Kevin is once again faced with a personal crisis. Although we seem to learn that Dean is officially, in fact, a real person and not a figment of Kevin's imagination, the Chief's missing shirts send him into a tailspin at the end of the episode. Kevin actually physically threatens the employee at the laundromat and forces him to look more closely for his shirts. Wow, Kev.. looks like some anger management courses would be advisable. In the end, he does get his shirts back.. or are they actually his? I think we are to assume that they are his shirts. Every time it looks like the Chief may be crazy, he doubles back and reconfirms that he is not. We definitely need to learn more about his father and what happened to their whole family directly after the Sudden Departure. The way this show is going, maybe in The Leftovers Season 3?
We don't learn much, but come away with the same sinking feeling in our stomachs as in the previous episodes. Really.. this show is like eating a really delicious, but really spicy dish. Once you've started you have to see it through but not without some degree of pain and regret. I hope, as always, that in addition to the jarring moments that fill the first several episodes, we can advance the overall story arc a little more next week.
Ahhhh... The Leftovers. It's funny, my previous show of choice on Sunday nights was Game of Thrones and although it is filled with as much or more vigor and violence, it simply can't match the gloomy atmosphere that surrounds Mapleton in a thick fog. In contrast to the previous two, this particular episode, "Two Boats and a Helicopter", is centered around one character - Reverend Matt Jamison (played by Christopher Eccleston). It actually allows us to take a deep breath from all of the goings-on and character development crammed into the first two episodes and follow just one set of footsteps.
Eccleston's portrayal of the Reverend is chilling - he seems to be trying so hard to do the right thing by his wife, by his congregation, by the town, etc but every time something good happens to him it is followed up by something much worse. Inexplicably bad, even. For example, in this episode he is told by the local bank that his church has been purchased by some kind of organization, but that he has a chance to buy it back if he can come up with the money in time. Sparked by some kind of revelation, Matt heads to the casino and turns $20,000 into $160,000. Nice roulette skills.
Unfortunately for him, his niceness and related inability to avoid confrontation get him into trouble. First, after leaving the casino with the money he needs in an envelope, someone who saw his winnings tries to steal it from him but ultimately ends up with his face bashed into the pavement. A surprising turn of events for Matt but he is prepared to do anything it takes at this point in order to preserve what little he still has.
Trusting in the pigeons, Matt? Just before he gets to the casino he sees (for the 3rd time) pigeons.. this time in a group of 3, sitting on top of a flashing red stoplight. He bets 3 times.. on red, at the same table that we earlier saw 2 pigeons on top of. I'm still struggling with the imagery here but it seems that Matt's relationship with Kevin's father (Kevin Garvey, Sr., played by Scott Glen) and the strange things that seem to be happening to both of them must be connected.
Anyway, The Leftovers puts on a happy face and it looks like there might just be a light at the end of the tunnel for at least one character when we get completely shut down. Surprise? Stopping to help one of the Guilty Remnant who were hit in the head with a rock from what appeared to be a group of teenagers driving past in a vehicle, Matt was hit in the head himself and wakes up in the hospital after a series of dreams (visions?) and flashbacks. He rushes to the bank to try and save his church, but when he gets there it is already closed. After speaking to Jim Lewis, whom he previously dealt with, he is informed that he was actually in the hospital for several days.. and the church has already been sold.
The organization that bought the church? Yep, the Guilty Remnant. And we see the powerful image of members of the group painting the stained glass windows stark white. And what about his wife, is she ok after Matt never returned home? Like so many things that have already happened in this series, any small semblance of joy or resolution that a character may try to latch onto is destroyed absolutely. Should we fear Reverend Matt Jamison now? I think so.. there is no telling what holy vengeance he may try to strike down upon the Guilty Remnant and others that get in his way now that he has lost almost everything that he held dear. At least he's got $160,000 and a really strange American accent. Good luck, Matt.
Ok, so a little background: I've been a home cook for years now and have quite a few recipes under my belt that I think (and have been told) are good enough to be served at good restaurants. Of course this includes all sorts of chili recipes.. some that I have put together myself, and some that are riffs of existing recipes from cookbooks or found on the internet. Jason (the co-host of the drinkfive podcast and co-founder of drinkfive.com) has decided to hold an official chili cook-off this year to coincide with opening weekend of the NFL season. Heck yeah! I've decided to post some of my recipes and my thinking as I run through some ideas in the months leading up to the cook-off.
Here are the rules for the competition:
- We will not have the space available to cook on site, so you must bring your chili ready to eat (or at least ready to sit in the crock pot for a while). Since we will not be able to police this, it will have to be a gentleman's agreement that you do not start cooking any part of the chili more than 24 hours before the event starts.
- Your chili must consist of at least the following ingredients: Meat and chili peppers. I'm not going to be strict about this, use whatever meats you want, whatever peppers you want. Beans are optional. Pasta is strictly forbidden - this isn't friggin' Cincinnati.
- Each judge will try each chili and grade them (1-10) based on the following categories: Appearance, Aroma, Consistency, Taste, Aftertaste(the burn). I will provide a sample of the score card ahead of the competition, but remember it's up to the judges to determine what they feel is the best kind of consistency, taste, spice levels, heat levels, etc. Do your best not to provide details at the cookoff that would tip people off as to which chili is yours. The highest cumulative score wins. Ties will be broken by the number of "10"'s on the scorecards, followed by fewest low numbers.
- We will provide garnish at the house to use for casual eaters (cheese, sour cream, onions, scallions, chips, crackers). I would prefer to not use these in judging; we certainly will not be giving points for that if we do. I will leave this point up to the judges to decide how they would like to do it. We will decide before the cookoff starts, so if we go no garnish, any of those ingredients you want in your chili will have to go in it before presenting (in the pot, essentially).
So, pretty straightforward.. make the best chili possible including both peppers and meat. Honestly, you could go one of a thousand different directions here including things like white chicken chili, chili verde, vegetarian chili (as if I would consider that one!), etc.. but it basically boils down to the simple choices that you have available to you in several different categories.. let's go through those a bit and break down the options. Although there are certainly many ways to go about this, we're going to keep it simple. As of a few weeks ago I've been constructing some recipes and have fallen into the trap of using too many ingredients and trying to develop overly complex flavors that are difficult to balance. I've decided that the key to a great chili is to use a small amount of simple, high quality ingredients and then throw in one of a few 'secret' ingredients at the end or include a little more of one thing (a particular spice, a few more chile peppers, etc) in order to leave the eater with a memorable impression.
Designing the base of the chili:
Generally chilis are tomato based, either using fresh tomatoes or canned - if I'm using canned I prefer to buy the whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano, if you can find them!) as they tend to have a better flavor then the crushed or diced. Another option is to go with tomatillos (they look like small green tomatoes inside a loose green casing if you've never seen them) which have a stronger, tart flavor.. tomatillos are fantastic and have a flavor that many people have never tasted, but they don't necessarily go along with regular chili ingredients. No, they go much better with southwestern or mexican flavors as in a chili verde. I have recently tried combining the two as a regular chili base but I wasn't too happy with the outcome - the flavors seemed to compete with each other rather than coexisting peacefully.
One of the more successful things that I have done is to grill, broil or roast the peppers and/or tomatoes/tomatillos that I'm using for a recipe along with some onions and garlic cloves. After you get a nice char on these you can throw them in a food processor and pulse until at the desired consistency. Although I usually prefer more of a chunky chili, using this method can develop some strong flavors that are more integrated after having been pulsed together. You can always add some extra diced tomatoes (I prefer the fire-roasted garlic, if using canned) afterwards. Here is a quick recipe for a chili base that works well for any kind of meats and seasonings that you'd like to finish the chili with:
Smokey Poblano Chili Base
(1) Large Onion (Vidalia or Spanish, cut into wedges)
(2) Poblano Chile Peppers (stemmed, seeded, cut in 1/2)
1. Combine the onion, peppers, garlic and tomatoes (if fresh) in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Spread everything out on a large baking pan, skin side up and broil on high for 10-15 minutes, or until visibly charred.
3. Let the peppers cool and then peel the skin from them.
4. Combine all ingredients in a food processor (if using, add the canned tomatoes at this point along with the other ingredients) and pulse until at desired consistency (8-10 times).
Tips: To better balance the acidity of the tomatoes, you may need to add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar to taste. If not using a gas stove with actual flames, you may need to add a few dashes of liquid smoke in order to get the desired smokey flavor.
So, enjoy! Let me know if this worked for you as well as it did for me - add in some meat, beans, vegetables, spices, etc at this point and build your own chili using whatever ingredients that you and your family really like! The most basic additions to this recipe would probably be to add some browned ground beef or turkey along with 1 or 2 cans of beans (traditionally light or dark red kidney beans or pinto beans) and some chili powder and cumin. But go nuts, you're only limited by what your local grocery stores carry on their shelves. :) Next time, we'll go over the different kinds of chile peppers and meats that you could add to your chili and which are the best to use!
After the violent and tension-filled first episode of HBO's The Leftovers set the tone for the season, I certainly didn't expect to get sunshine and rainbows from "Penguin One, Us Zero" and it didn't disappoint in that regard. Show-runner Damon Lindelof's style has always been to feed the viewers bits and pieces of information that don't immediately add up to anything substantial so that the final reveals pack more of a punch when they do arrive and all the pieces make some semblance of sense. This certainly seems to be the case here. We do get some new background information from several main characters and begin to understand slightly more about two groups whose motivations are hard to grasp: the Guilty Remnant and Wayne's Compound. A [dim] light is also beginning to shine on Kevin Garvey's (Justin Theroux) past and present struggles as well as his very sanity.
In the sprawling suburban Guilt Remnant complex, this episode focuses on Meg's (Liv Tyler) initiation into the organization. Kevin Garvey's wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) has the responsibility of showing Meg the ins and outs and trying to coax her into becoming a member herself. She does this by trying to get Meg to realize that things are out of control for her and that she needs to give up control in order to regain some emotional stability. First, she takes Meg out to the woods with an axe and has her try to chop down a tree. This results in tears and frustration which builds up later to the point of Meg almost wanting to leave and go back to her regular life. Later, Laurie sees that Meg needs to connect to things on a more emotional level and when Meg realizes that although Laurie may still have friends and family on the outside she has surrendered to the Guilty Remnant's way of life, it begins to dawn on her that this may be the only way to bury her intense feelings about the event and how it has affected her life afterward. Later in the episode it's revealed that Meg has left in the middle of the night and Laurie has a look of disappointment on her face. She shouldn't - Meg is out chopping down that tree.. it appears she may be ready to surrender herself and become a part of the Guilty Remnant.
Wayne's compound is raided by the FBI based on statutory rape charges from years ago - it looks like Wayne's weakness is young girls. Surely we'll learn more about this going forward but for now the story may be centered around Tom Garvey (Kevin's son) and Christine (the girl to whom Tom showed affection but looks to be in love with Wayne). After Wayne escapes from the compound raid, he gives Christine over to Tom with instructions to keep her safe and then leaves. It looks like Tom has finally had enough of the path he has been on as he almost called his Dad on the phone and as soon as he and Christine were alone in the car he lets out a blood-curdling scream of desperation and rage just like he had in the compound's pool back in the first episode. Yikes. We'll either see him saved or he will become a force of destruction and misery in this series. Either way the build-up should be a good one as it unfolds.
Kevin Garvey's story gets more interesting by the minute, as it becomes more and more hard to tell for him (and to the viewer) what is real and what is not. Reality itself seems to be playing tricks on him and that is best shown in the scene where the Mayor is having a conversation with him at the police station and the bagels that he had just put into the toaster completely disappear. Fortunately for Kevin, this episode seems to be more about showing that the things he thought could be hallucinations (mostly because of doubt introduced by other characters) are real. Dean, the "mystery man" that we have seen previously, first parks his truck at Kevin's house and then actually shows up at his door. We might think that his is all just more flights of fancy from Kevin's overactive imagination, but Dean actual hands his daughter Jill a 6-pack of beer to take inside and she asks who the man at the door was afterward. Well, looks like he is definitely real.. unless it runs in the family (a real possibility). Kevin later opens up the toaster at the police station and discovers the bagels have fallen behind some sort of mechanism inside. We do meet Kevin's father in a mental institution earlier in the episode and he seems to be a very intelligent and well-spoken man.. at least until symptoms of schizophrenia seem to wander into the conversation. It's obviously going to be a focal point here.. is there something different about the Garveys? Or could it be just a history of mental illness in the family. Does any of this have to do with the reason why Wayne seems to have everyone figured out except for Tom? Surely there is more to the story here.
There is a little more levity here than in the first episode, which I certainly appreciate. We see some teenagers goofing off, bagels disappearing and then reappearing, and blow-up penguins. I think in order for this show to work on a week-to-week basis it needs to continue down this path and separate the seriously murky emotional overtones and physical violence with more penguins and jelly beans. Hats off, Damon - I'm still a little confused about where the Guilty Remnant is going but I will no doubt be tuning in for at least the next few weeks to find out. Also, the next episode appears to center around Christopher Eccleston's character, Matt, who is a preacher that has been handing out flyers suggesting that the people that disappeared were not in any way 'special'. I'm inclined to agree with you, Matt, especially when Gary Busey was among those taken. Although that might depend on your definition of 'special'.