Nashville Recap: 4×12 “How Does It Feel to Be Free”

Previously on Nashville: Erin and Gunnar were casual and announced this fact ad nauseam. Rayna signed Maddie and Daphne to Highway 65. Luke owed the government forty million dollars, which was secretly a positive development for him because it caused Gabriella to dump him and stop sucking away all of his moral and spiritual life force. Colt saw Jeff saving Juliette and told Layla that was what killed him. Layla got the Crazy Eyes and asked Glenn to be her manager and made him ask Avery to produce for her. And Avery didn’t want to lie for Juliette anymore.

Oh, and Rayna and Deacon got married after what looked like it might be a serious problem (both Maddie and Tandy’s legitimate concerns about Deacon’s demons, and Daphne’s even more legitimate concern that no one actually cares about her) but ended with the cheapest, fastest resolution ever, in which Rayna sat her kids down for about four seconds, promised them there was nothing to worry about, and convinced them, presumably with the power of her hair, to shut up. We’ll be recapping that one, but we fell behind, so just trust us if you haven’t seen it… it was absurd, and the previouslys wisely don’t bother going into it.

Avery busts into the treatment center and asks for Juliette with a look of barely controlled passion. Any relation? asks the receptionist. “I’m her husband,” he announces dramatically.

Continue reading →

The Good Wife Recap: 7×17 “Shoot”



The episode opens with a shamelessly sentimental montage of a father and daughter as the daughter, Yesha, grows up: playing on the rug, going to her first day of school, planning on her education, going to prom. The father is played by Blair Underwood, who is not going to get a whole lot to do in the rest of this episode. After the prom, the little girl, now almost grown, shares a glass of chocolate milk with her father in the kitchen.

A car screeches outside, and the father leaps to the ground—but Yesha is shot in the neck. He yells to his wife to call 911 as he gathers her in his arms, both crying.

Continue reading →

Hilary Mantel’s Characters

A commotion at the door. It is Christophe. He cannot enter in the ordinary way; he treats doors as his foe.

When it became de rigueur a few years back for every book club to sweat over the first two installments of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy and its dense prose about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII, I had no interest in joining the crowd. (This was mostly due to a general lack of interest in history about which I should probably feel more guilty than I, in fact, do.) But an article in the NYRB excerpting Hilary Mantel’s directions to the actors in the stage adaptation changed my mind.

Continue reading →

“Faustine” by Algernon Charles Swinburne

You have the face that suits a woman
      For her soul’s screen —
The sort of beauty that’s called human

      In hell, Faustine.

The meaning of the name Faustine is “made of the stuff of Faust,” just as Eve was made from the rib of Adam and Pandora at the hands of Hephaestus. By Swinburne’s own admission, Faustine’s unearthly beauty signals a missed opportunity for exaltation, a gift she squanders “to waste the loves and ruin the lives of men.”
The poem is concerned with one central idea, he says:

“…the transmigration of a single soul, doomed as though by accident from the first to all evil and no good, through many ages and forms, but clad always in the same type of fleshly beauty.”

And she has taken many forms through the ages, both in mythology and in literature. The gorgeous Faustine who is caressed by dishonest serpents and receives “flower of kisses without fruit of love”–she could be Daisy Buchanan, or Rosamond Vincy, or even Lily Bart. The awareness that beautiful, hollow monsters are made, not born, varies in each of these works, but there is virtually none in Swinburne’s (otherwise quite moving) poem.
You seem a thing that hinges hold,
      A love-machine
With clockwork joints of supple gold —
      No more, Faustine.

A family-piece

A great moment from Jane Austen’s Persuasion:

Immediately surrounding Mrs Musgrove were the little Harvilles, whom she was sedulously guarding from the tyranny of the two children from the Cottage, expressly arrived to amuse them. On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise of the others. Charles and Mary also came in, of course, during their visit, and Mr Musgrove made a point of paying his respects to Lady Russell, and sat down close to her for ten minutes, talking with a very raised voice, but from the clamour of the children on his knees, generally in vain. It was a fine family-piece.

In noticing what a lovely scene the family makes, the narrator steps back to a frame of observation that parallels ours as readers—admiring the artistry with which the scene was assembled—such that the statement can’t quite be distinguished from Austen reflecting approvingly on herself. It’d be insufferable, of course, if the scene weren’t perfect, but it is, and the flourish sits gently on top: “a fine family-piece.”

Vincent Van Gogh’s “Long Grass with Butterflies”


“Long Grass with Butterflies” was painted at the end of Van Gogh’s stay at the Saint-Paul Asylum, since renamed the Clinique Van Gogh. In his letters, he described the “abandoned gardens” depicted in the painting, in which “the grass grows tall and unkempt, mixed with all kinds of weeds.”

We cannot speculate about his mental or emotional state, but the fact that these “abandoned” gardens are behind an asylum is poignant and telling in itself. Van Gogh’s characteristically vibrant colors are underscored with a discordant black, and the eponymous black-outlined butterflies are beautiful when found, but are nearly lost in the chaotic, kinetic landscape.

The viewer of the garden is looking downwards, limited to a perspective that is quite literally depressed. Beyond the long, untended grass we can see a thin, faraway footpath with an unseen destination, as well as the beginnings of trees that are abruptly cut off. The world has become very small, this tells us–small and loud with tantalizing signs of an expansive elsewhere just outside of our field of vision.

Nashville Recap: 4×10 “We’ve Got Nothing But Love to Prove”


Previously on Nashville: Scarlett and Caleb fought because of their long-distance woes; Colt ran away from Luke because he was done pretending; Wade Cole told Will his fans didn’t like Will’s lifestyle; Rayna told Markus that Deacon was her guy (because Deacon was being a huge fucking baby) and signed Maddie and Daphne; Avery got full custody of Cadence; and Juliette went to rehab, but Emily didn’t tell Avery.

At a big field, setup is underway for a concert while Rayna and Bucky pedeconference. Bucky’s a bit worried about Markus ending up with a half-empty lawn. A young woman with a headset comes up to tell them that even though Rayna sent Markus off to get wired for sound, he never showed. “What?” Rayna says, utterly shocked that Markus would not show up somewhere he was expected to show up, because she has learned nothing in the past three months.

Continue reading →

Retro Recap: Keeping up with the Kardashians

So, it is probably fairly obvious if you follow this blog that Keeping up with the Kardashians is not the kind of show that any of us at Adversion would normally be watching. But my friend S. is turning twenty-nine tomorrow, so I am—at her request—writing a recap of an episode of her favorite show. Funnily enough, in this episode, being twenty-nine is a huge plot point—and I honestly had no idea until I’d started watching it.

Well, here goes. Happy birthday, S.!

Continue reading →

The Americans: America as the “Evil Empire”

The third season finale of The Americans, aptly titled “March 8, 1983,” ends with a quietly seething Elizabeth watching Reagan’s famed “Evil Empire” speech, which took a hard line against the Soviet Union’s nuclear missile installation and almost single-handedly escalated the Cold War. The episode included only a few of the most recognizable lines, ending on the fear-mongering mic drop: “…they are the focus of evil in the modern world.” But when reading the speech in full, it becomes clear that the meaning of its inclusion is multi-layered, as it precisely reflects the ideological conflict–and implicit critique of American culture–that is central to the show.

Continue reading →

The Good Wife Recap: 7×16 “Hearing”

Y’all probably know if you’ve read our other recaps that I will wholeheartedly approve of anything that involves Stockard Channing. She’s back in this episode—and so is our long-lost Owen! Hi, Owen—and I have to admit, all the shenanigans made me laugh as hard as I ever have at this show.

But were there, perhaps, too many shenanigans and not enough actual stuff? (Objection: leading question.)

 Previously on The Good Wife: Alicia and Jason made out. Cary and David Lee started running around like chickens with their heads cut off because they had developed a group hallucination that there was such a thing as an “all-female firm” and that Diane wanted to be that thing. Peter was in legal trouble, and it probably had to do with a rich donor, not with his vote-rigging, and thenceforth became boring to me. Elsbeth was brilliant yet unhinged and had an equally brilliant yet unhinged ex-husband. Oh, and there was this guy named Will Gardner who we have to try not to think about, in order to take seriously Alicia’s attraction to Jason. (By the way, I SAW JOSH CHARLES ON THE STREET THE OTHER DAY. It was everything.)

Continue reading →