The "Downton Abbey" Christmas specials are a funny thing.
First of all, they're billed as the season finale in America, when, in the U.K., they really aren't. Instead they, you guessed it, air on Christmas day.
As a consequence, many of the penultimate season episodes comes across as finales in America.
In the next-to-last episodes, there are often cliffhangers (ex from this season: Anna's arrest or, in Season 2, Bates arrested for his ex-wife's death) or pleasant plot resolutions (Mary discovering that she can now have children in Season 3).
The Christmas special can sometimes feel like an afterthought — pleasant enough at best, anticlimactic at worst.
This year's season finale/Christmas Special was a bit of both — meandering through the first hour or so, but triumphant in the final 30 minutes.
But there were -- and sorry to be cheesy about this -- quite a few heartwarming moments. And, sorry to be even more cheesy, there were a few moments that gave me the most British-related warm...Read more
Gavin calls Doug on all of his phones, telling him that Rachel is still alive, because why can't this storyline just end?
Gavin sends Doug some images that he's captured the last few months and says he knows exactly where Rachel is and he always has. He promises to tell him where, if he gets Gavin's friend the same hall pass that he got him.
Doug snaps and smashes his computer in the sink, throwing his phones in, too.
He stops himself on his way out to buy some alcohol. Has Doug finally gotten over Rachel?
A pit bull and a president
Frank and Jackie go over their strategy for the upcoming debate with Heather Dunbar. Jackie feels uncomfortable with trying to paint Heather as sexist, and also disagrees with Frank's suggestion that they make her kids attending private school a focal point.
Jackie's step-kids go to private school, after all. Frank is persuasive, though, and Jackie comes around. "I'll play the pit bull, Mr. President," she says.
But whose side is Jackie on? She meets with...Read more
Frank's campaign continues in Iowa, but the only topic that interests participants in town hall meetings there is the Jordan Valley.
Frank doesn't want to do the town halls if he's only going to face questions he can't answer, so he'll continue to campaign there but only do his stump speech. He asks Remy to work on getting the upcoming debate there postponed, as well.
Claire is dealing with the chaos in the Jordan Valley as well, meeting with representatives from Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She is pushing for an end to Israeli and Palestinian violence there, and wants Russia to draw down some of their troops there as well.
Israel institutes a no-fly zone over the region, threatening to shoot down any Russian aircraft that would enter the airspace, even supply planes, meaning that this situation is coming to a boil.
"Keep your no-fly zone," President Petrov says, addressing Israel. "I will be flying through it, nevertheless. Shoot me down, if you wish, because nothing can stop me from...Read more
Frank's campaign is underway in Iowa. Tom and Kate Baldwin are there as well, but they're spending their time in cheap motels, getting to know each other in the biblical sense, while Frank stumps.
Frank is speaking to an assembly when Claire interrupts, telling him that eight Russian troops have been killed in the Jordan Valley. This is crucial because the Russians had just finally gotten on board with the peacekeeping mission and now their troops are dying there. This is trouble.
Gavin meets with Doug, and he has some bad news. He's found a Jane Doe dead in Tucson whose prints match Rachel's. Doug calls Seth, and leaves him a voice mail, demanding to speak to Frank. After, he falls off the wagon and almost gets into a fight in a bar.
Russia's troops were killed by an IED, but Russian investigators won't allow U.N. representatives near the blast site to investigate it themselves. Frank speaks to Petrov on the phone, attempting to smooth things over. "Let's show...
The best thing about this week's episode of HBO's "Looking" was that it gave viewers more insight into Doris' family history and past -- and Dom's as well, by extension.
We go to their home town. We see the people who surrounded them as they grew up. And we learn about their past together -- namely that they used to be just as inseparable as they are now, but also used to make out and have sex.
I've been waiting for a Doris-centric episode. I thought it would be more happy-go-lucky, but this still worked (even if it did limit all the Patrick-wallowing I was looking forward to).
At least the episode starts off just as I imagined it would, with Patrick holding his head in his hands in shame as his friends all give him the "you were a mess last night" look that we've all seen or given around mid-morning brunch tables after big nights out.
I thought, OK, here we go. Patrick's going to spend the rest of the episode crawling around the city making awkward apologies to Richie and Kevin and...Read more
There's a storm coming, Mr. President.
After raiding FEMA's disaster fund to finance America Works, Frank finds himself in trouble when a massive hurricane threatens 12 states. In response, Congress offers to replenish the fund, and then some, but as long as Frank won't use the funds for America Works purposes again.
Frank is reluctant to sign what would probably be his pet program's death warrant. He asks his cabinet to try to scrape together some funding from their departments, but if they can't he will accept Congress' offer, even if it means the end of America Works.
Meanwhile, in Iowa
Heather Dunbar is on the campaign trail promising to raise the minimum wage, among other things, and her campaign seems to be gaining steam. Doug suggests that she meet with Jackie Sharp to discuss a plan for what to do when the storm makes landfall.
Heather suggests suspending their campaigns and encouraging donations to the Red Cross. She suggests making a joint announcement and appeals to Jackie's...Read more