30 July, 2014

The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.06: 'Embassy Row'


Jesus H, it's a damn good thing Annie was such a badass spy in last week's ep, because she sure as hell was tripping all over her own two feet a lot of the way through "Embassy Row".  She stumbled and bumbled her way to the finish line after having spent the entire second half of the ep being quite literally physically dragged by one dude or another to places unbeknownst to her until - whoopsie daisy!! - she somehow just, found herself there.

Now, before we continue can I just say, IF WE HAVE TO SPEND ONE MORE "ALMOST THE LAST MINUTE OF THE EPISODE" ON CALDER BONING SYDNEY I AM GOING TO GO BALLISTIC.  O.k. I think I already just did go ballistic.  But I am going to go EVEN MORE BALLISTIC.  And on that front, this may be a record for the longest, most torturous amount of continuous time we have ever spent in an episode of Covert Affairs on storylines that are NOT THE A PLOT.  What the hell was going on here?  I should go back and count the number of minutes it was, if I'm not too lazy.  It was crazy.  I had an extremely stressful and depressing day at work and this episode was just continuing the stress.

I came into this ep expecting another jolly romp with the Annie/McQuaid dynamic duo, and instead what I got was like ... one of those eps of Game of Thrones where they spend the entire ep on all the most boring storylines.  Hahaha uh oh I better be careful with this one, Magnus (Head GeekFurious) is gonna kill me.  But let's just say if you had a hypothetical ep of GoT where 90% of the ep was "Stannis & the Red Woman conduct a lengthy beach ceremony for the Lord of Light" and then maybe the next 9% of it was just one loooonng close-up of Gilly's baby crying.  And then the last 1% of the ep we mercifully got 5 seconds each of Arya and then Tyrion.

O.k. that might be a slight exaggeration.  I'm just saying ... the balance of this ep was weird.  I think that's partly because we had to spend time setting up what we all knew was coming: Hayley continuing her descent into full-on Crayley by starting an investigation on Annie. It's gonna be her who eventually finds out and exposes Annie's myocarditis, right?  It has to be.

And speaking of Crayley, Auggie's trials and tribulations also got a LOT of screentime here.  I was really afraid I was gonna have spend a couple paragraphs complaining about what the hell the writers are doing to Auggie this season, but thankfully it wasn't as bad here as I expected it to be.  Last week, he could blame his ridiculous lady juggling on the idea that he was just working Tash for the mission.  But this week, well, I guess the two ladies just flipped places.  Tash became personal, but luckily, Auggie was upfront with her about Hayley, rather than going the douchey two-timing route I was afraid he would go.  Whew.  But I suppose that his inability to break up with Hayley due to her investigation on Annie was a bit of a convenient turn of events.  Does that mean next week will be a third episode of Auggie's Lady-Juggling Side Show??  I think I've had my fill of that now.

And then we had Arthur and Joan.  Again, just, more screentime than I expected.  It's not that I don't care about them, it's just that I don't care that much about them hahaha.  Noooo o.k. I'm kind of joking, I love these two, don't get me wrong.  Again though, I think the issue was the combination of them + a hell of a lot of screentime given to Calder's dramas with Sydney and her tie to the internal investigation.  It's just, when you cut away from Annie waking up in the trunk of a suspected terrorist's car and immediately cut to so, so, SO MANY CONSECUTIVE MINUTES of people's marriage and girlfriend and office dramas ... it's like you've now just taken ALL your momentum and then very slowly bashed it to a dead bloody pulp.  At a rate of like, one bash per 30 seconds.  And between each swing of the bat you're just sitting there checking your watch going, "When is the next swing?  Is it here yet?  Oh ... No?  How 'bout now?"

Whew.  Some of this might just be my workday talking, guys.  I need to focus my brain to think about exactly what the hell was going on with Annie in this ep.  Because in my defense, I literally could not understand ONE word Ivan was saying.  I had to rewind almost every single line, and even when I rewound it, I still only got about a third of it.  It's one thing to have a thick accent, but add in a serious mumble, and now you've got a problem.  I am going to press "Play" on this episode again right ... now.  Playing.

First, let's talk logic: I can buy the idea that they'd send Annie back to try to work Ivan even though it's a super risky move after last week's drugging, because there's also a decent enough chance that she could be successful with it.  What I don't quite so much buy is the idea that they'd assign a spy whose cover is totally blown in Russia (remember the little Russian prison debacle in ep 3.11?) to a case that so heavily involves Russians.  Well o.k. wait - I was thinking Borz & fam were Russian but I just realized they were Ukrainian.  Or Crimean?  Now we're getting into murky territory.  So I guess Ivan is the first real Russian connection?  Maybe it's not as weird as I thought it was.  Though keeping Annie on the Ivan assignment is still a bit odd.

Also, I gotta say, the scene where Annie overpowers Ivan after he drugs her makes ZERO sense.  The guy is like 6'4 at least, and all Annie has to do is lightly shove his face away from her and he just passes out??  What happened there??  That had to have been written with a specific method for Annie knocking him out, but something seriously failed in the way it was shot.  I rewound it like 4 times and played it in slow motion, and, literally all Annie does is shove his face and he's out like a light.  I think maybe it's supposed to be her elbowing him in the face?  But it just didn't quite work.  Also, the scene where he's chasing her with the gun - Why the hell does he suddenly give up and resort to tackling her?  Does he run out of bullets?  It was unclear to me.

HAHA Annie's reaction upon running into McQuaid at the Embassy party was hilarious.  I liked McQuaid's character development here ... he seems to genuinely care about Annie.  What slightly weirds me out though, is that he's now caught Annie at a couple of her weakest moments of this entire series thus far: The heart explosion at the end of 5.02, and her drugging by Ivan in this ep.  What's to convince him at this point that she's such an amazing spy?  She would have impressed him through the first three quarters of 5.02 and for all of 5.03, I guess.  But still, right now in general, she's shaky at best.  Does he just sense that she's going through some shit at the moment?  At the end where they're sharing a beer, he seems to.

The thing is, Annie's shaky state is right at the (exploding) heart of why season 5 is interesting.  It's something I've been waiting for this show to do for seemingly ever - to turn Annie back into a human being.  She spent the last third of season 3 and all of season 4 as this indestructible spybot ... to the point where on Twitter, we nicknamed her Anndroid.  Finally she's starting to crack, and it's kind of refreshing as hell.  So for all her bumbling and fumbling in this ep, I'm ecstatic that we're seeing the blood start pumping through her veins again.  Real life people go through shit, man.  They have crises.  No human person is gonna go through all the crazy shit Annie has been through since season 3 and NOT hit a rough patch at some point in the aftermath.

Side note: The shot of Annie's head being shoved underwater by Ivan brought me right back to the Alias pilot.  It's not like it's an uncommon occurrence/scene on a TV show, but what with this being a spy show and all, it just instantly reminded me of Syd and the psycho tooth-puller in Taipei.  This one was kind of a fun shot though, with Ivan falling in too as McQuaid shot him.  The rest of my random thoughts:
  • It seems that most of us are in agreement that Tash's hairstyle was ... odd ... last week.  This week, it was a mixture of ... even more strange, mixed with possibly a roaring 20's finger waves hairstyle??  Which is a fun look in general, but it just seems like they didn't quite get all the way there with it.  They didn't fully commit.  You gotta really commit to a look like that.
  • Was the NSA "Mystic" program that can analyze every cell phone call coming out of Paris at a particular time one of those technologies they just conveniently made up for this episode?
  • Watching Kari and Peter G try to say their lines over Baby Mack (a.k.a. Jude the Dude) legit wailing was pretty hilarious.
  • Annie's delivery of the line, "I will set off EVERY. ALARM BELL. THEY HAVE. *DUN DUN DUUNNNN*" kinda made me laugh.
  • Annie's "airhead" laugh that she employs regularly with Ivan is amusing.
  • I was glad to see Team Barber and Hollman back on the job, with their "denial of service attack" drama.
  • HAHA @ ep director Jamie Barber's pic being used for "Michael Oates" (Calder investigation scene).
And for the record, I went back and checked the timing of the "dry spell" of A plot in the ep: It's from minute :33 to minute :44 ... for that entire time there is only ONE quick scene of Annie waking up in the trunk of Ivan's car, and that's IT.  The rest is B plot.  The momentum is supposed to build as the show goes on guys, right??  The second half is supposed to be where the action is!  Or at least that's usually how it works on this show.  Not tonight, ladies and gents.

I'm in a bit of a quandary about what grade to give this one.  I found the McQuaid/Annie relationship-development to be very entertaining, and some of the twists and turns with Ivan were fun and suspenseful.  But the crazy weird pacing and some of the odd direction choices threw me the hell off and made the episode more torturous and confusing than it should have been.  And Calder's storyline seems to tie into nothing at all this season, though I'm sure it eventually will, and I hope they don't go a totally predictable route with that.  Hmm.

GRADE: 84/100

Knock me out with a gentle face-shove in the comments.

The Plopper

Recent reviews by the writer, below:
23 July, 2014
The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.05: 'Elevate Me Later'
16 July, 2014
The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.04: 'Silence Kit'
09 July, 2014
The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.03: 'Unseen Power of the Picket Fence' 

14 comments:

  1. I liked this one more than you. Story wise, it was a solid piece of telling. I mean, for a post-season 3 episode of COVERT AFFAIRS. It felt like the kind of thing that has kept me watching up to this point. The aesthetic issues be damned, they told this story well and that's always a victory!

    I'd have given it a higher score but I'm not the one putting myself out there with a review. ;)

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    1. Ha how funny for some reason I thought you were going to have issues with this one. Yeah story-wise I think it was good, it was really just those odd direction choices that threw me off. With this show it's rough though because they film a lot of the scenes on location, so if anything gets messed up with those particular scenes I'm assuming they can't just easily go back and fix it.

      But the key reason I was so ranty last night was really just the pacing and the balance of storylines. One of my biggest TV pet peeves is when I find myself in those crucial last 20 minutes of an episode, just counting down the minutes that they are NOT spending on the exciting storyline that everyone wants to see. I wanted to get every second I possibly could out of Annie & Ivan & McQuaid but instead I kept getting Calder's dating troubles and Joan's marital concerns and Hayley bitching and Sydney moaning and groaning like a freak hahaha. It felt like pure torture. If you ever need to torture me for information, now you know how to do it.

      It's not a big concern overall though; I really like what they are doing with Annie & McQuaid this season and I'm not quite sure what they're doing with Auggie yet ... but hopefully that'll lead somewhere exciting eventually. And Calder/Syd BETTER lead somewhere good because it feels totally disjointed right now. Next week looks like more McWalker so I can't wait for that. It better not be an entire ep of Mack wailing and Hayley flailing.

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  2. The plot this year just seems aimless to me. I'm not really happy with the development of any of the characters. It was interesting that you mentioned Anndroid. I'd not heard that before, but I agree that Annie is more machine than person these days and I miss who she used to be. Hopefully they will restore some of her compassionate and really passionate aspects of her personality. And, of course, I hope she will end up with Auggie.

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  3. I'm going to inject a little personal life experience into my comments, because this whole Auggie subplot really hits home for me.

    It's never fun to be used. It's especially not fun when you don't know you're being used and the guy you've really fallen for has gone and diddled with someone else. So, in that respect, I'm starting to get the feels for Hayley. Yeah, maybe she's "taking aim at one of [their] own" as Joan puts it, and she's annoying as hell, but she's still a person with feelings and it's not fair to her. That being said, since this is a TV show and not Kate's Personal Boy Drama, I understand the logic behind Auggie keeping her close. Also, as much as I hate all of Auggie's simpering whiny girlfriends, it is kinda refreshing from a TV standpoint to not have True Love Conquer All..... my point is, at least it's not a choice between Annie and some other girl, and I'm surprisingly ok with that.

    That being said..... Nic Bishop is a fantastic addition to this show. Enough said on that.

    A totally underutilized fantastic addition to this show is, of course, Hill Harper. He's acting less like the Sheriff of Medellin and more like the Sheriff of Rottingham from Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I'm sure Stephanie/Sydney/Gives It Away For Expensive Stuff will tie into the plot somehow, as all these random beautiful women always do. Question is, why should I care? I'm not convinced that I do.

    Annie's vulnerability is indeed an interesting character development, perhaps the only one we've seen thus far. Everyone else has stayed well within their comfort zone character wise.

    Anyone else starting to worry that the cast is getting a little large? We're spending a lot of time, as the Plopper mentioned, on B plot, because no one seems to fit into A plot anymore, what with Calder and McQuaid and Arthur and Joan. I'm not suggesting getting rid of anyone, I love them all, but it might be a good idea to tie some of these storylines together rather than "Annie goes off on an adventure" vs. "Everyone else back in DC does their own, totally unrelated things".

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    1. Yeah I totally see what you mean about Hayley, I actually found myself feeling bad for her too, like right at the end of the ep. Her behavior this time could legitimately be just her doing her job, though I suspect it will turn into legit "Crayley" mode soon hahah.

      "Anyone else starting to worry that the cast is getting a little large?" ... "it might be a good idea to tie some of these storylines together rather than 'Annie goes off on an adventure' vs. 'Everyone else back in DC does their own, totally unrelated things.'" YES totally!! I think Arthur's stuff being separate this season has added to that issue too. Thank god he's working for McQuaid at least. And next week it looks like they'll *finally* all be working together towards the same goal (mission-wise) ... I think/hope ...

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  4. As always, I had fun reading your review! I was surprised by your score; thought it would be lower. This episode did not get up and go for me...I kept waiting for the climax and then "oh wait, what's Annie doing in trunk!?" And then it was over. I did find myself thinking, " Annie sure does get in to a lot of trouble in Russia, wait she's not in she's not in Russia. Why did they send her to Russia with her history...Paris, Not Russia!!" Anyway, I totally enjoyed the Annie/McQuaid meeting at the "Russian!" Embassy. Awkward !

    What happened to Calder? I miss his previous persona. I mean, I know he's human, but can we just see it small blips. The sheriff needs to come back to town!

    Then there's Hayley. I agree with Kattressa; I don't particularly like her, but I feel bad for her. Tash could totally kick her butt!

    Hands down, baby Mac was the star of the show! "Just hand me to my momma!" Poor baby and poor Arthur/P. Gallagher!

    Waiting with bated breath for the thickening of "plots" in next weeks Covert Affairs and your review of them!!!

    Thanks for another entertaining review:-)

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  5. Hands down, agree that plot a and b is clear. Like Annie's vulnerability this season and mcQuade is there to help. Auggie's and calder's love affairs has to stop with mor story lines intertwined in the CIA story and Annie. Think the writers re giving some glimpses to Stephanie, Caitlyn ( she may be the mole to set Arthur up), and Hayley out to get Annie but the sex scenes are getting old. Love tash is back,I like her new look, trendy. Do like Annie getting better with her dress and appearance from her dark side.

    What I do not get is where is her sister Danielle, does she know Annie is alive, what is it with Annie's apartment , no real furniture, yet she must have her clothes back, what happened to her SUV she had before going dark???

    Lastly , love Joan Arthur and of course baby Mack is truly the best addition, with mcQuade second. I need eyeL back to give plot a more of a storyline we Re used too. The separate stories are so boring

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  6. I like how Annie went back in as Martine, but this ep had some serious gaps.

    #1- Annie had the perfect opportunity to get out of the Embassay party and she didn't take it... Even though she is blown in Russia

    #2 her taking pics of Ivan in the Embassay is obvious!!!

    #3 yes Annie knocking Ivan out was so I believeable!! Would have been easier for Ryan to just see what was happening than make it a bit deal and all.

    #4love auggies development with the girls and love that he's being turthful to Natasha. Him going to Joan and asking what he should do makes him seem like a better person kinda...

    #5 not as much action as I hope for but nice closing to a story so that a new one can open.

    #6 loved Arthur and Joan as always they are amaZing!! Great that she found a way for them to work together. Hope they can fully resolve the space that seems to e coming between them again. It's something that they should have discussed the last season I think

    #7 I like how they are making the missions separate like one mission take up about 2 ep but I hope they can tie them together in some way later on in the season. I think it's more like season 1 and 2. It's not soooo long and drawn out like season 4 was.

    #8 why is Calder even in the show???? I don't understand any of that!! Only thing I can think of is... He's not suppose to be with the chick he likes... Maybe she plays a part in this season somehow.

    #9 Annie hasn't had a full blown episode of whatever in 3 eps I think, but looks like she almost had one this time. And with Hayley digging it's only a matter of time b4 the CIA knows.

    #10 anyone notice how none of Annie's missions have gone quite accord to plan since she came back.?? Eyals right her secret definatly makes her a weaker spy. Hopefully she can learn trust again(trust by christina perri) is what I think of when it comes to Annie's trust problems. And I still don't want Ryan and her dating they make great friends, I hope it doesn't develop into anything more.

    So far I like the seasons progression, but it's still a little slow and not lineing up to well

    Season 3 was def my fav and so far season 5 hasn't changed that, but still love the show the hour goes by soo fast it feels like 2 seconds.




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  7. UPDATE: I re-watched the couple scenes I was confused about on Amazon last night (via my computer), and ... O.k. well first off, I always notice how the sound mix sounds completely different when I watch on Amazon vs. the live broadcast on my TV. On my TV, the background music/songs are louder and the voices are quieter. On Amazon it's the opposite - the soundtrack/songs are quiet and the dialogue and sound effects (punches, gunshots, etc.) are WAY louder. That allowed me to learn two things:

    1) When Annie overpowers Ivan after he drugs her, I *think* maybe it's with a knee to the head ... *maybe*. The visuals are obviously still vague and confusing, but there was a sound effect in a particular spot that made it at least a tad bit more understandable.

    2) When Ivan is chasing/shooting at Annie and then he gives up and just tackles her, I could VERY clearly hear the clicks indicating that he ran out of bullets when I watched it on Amazon. It's clear as a bell. It's so odd how it's so loud there but I hear almost nothing on my TV.

    OH and one last thing I just remembered, #3 - Ivan's mumbling is much less of a problem on Amazon, though there is still one line right after he pulls Annie out of the trunk that I can't understand.

    So I now officially forgive Covert Affairs for #2. ;-) #1 is still funky, but it's becoming clear how essential the sound mix is for ... well ... everything.

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  8. What I liked about this episode, I really liked. What I didn’t like about this episode, I really didn’t like. It’s frustrating because the individual ingredients this season are interesting, but to borrow another Top Chef analogy, the way they’ve been put together don’t make sense. The longer the season goes on, the less coherent the different plot threads seem to be. I thought this episode in particular was kind of a mess.

    You’re absolutely right that the plot threads should all meet in some way. I would take it a step further and say that they should all meet at Annie, since technically she’s the focal character. She should be the one whose actions and decisions have a ripple effect on everything else. I wish she would drive the plot instead of the plot just dragging her around.

    I did like that Ivan was onto her from the start. One of my personal pet peeves is when characters get to a point where they stop growing but still manage to save the day, because while they haven’t developed in years, their foes have conveniently gotten more stupid. On that note, I would really, really, like to see Annie get her ass kicked in an epic way. At the risk of comparing Covert Affairs to Alias, which is an unfair thing to do, one of my favorite things about Alias was when Sidney blanched at the thought of going up against Anna Espinosa. On the one hand, she had a score to settle. On the other, Anna was responsible for a spectacular kicking of Sid’s ass. I would love to see that dichotomy of fear and purpose in Annie, rather than her going around like a spybot.

    Auggie and his women. You know, if one of them doesn’t kill him, I might. This is probably my least favorite aspect of the show this year, because a) It’s Auggie, and Auggie is sacred, b) all involved are just morons who have what’s coming to them coming to them; c) the writers are just making shit up as they go along. When it started, Hayley and Auggie were just a one-night stand. Then they’re fuckbuddies. Then he conveniently has feelings for her. Then he conveniently has feelings for Tash. Then Hayley’s conveniently researching Annie. I think that’s probably what bothers me most, because it’s like the writers are saying, “You don’t understand, viewers! He has to bone these women! For Annie!” It’s right up there with #walkersoninparis for me: Look, shippers! Your favorite couple are in the most romantic city in the world! Screwing other people!

    Another thing is that I find it hard to believe that Auggie would be ready to move on to a new relationship so soon. Screwing anything with a pulse? Sure. That’s true to his character. But after he went through with Annie and Helesa—more Helesa than Annie, honestly; that seemed to really mess him up last season—it rings false that he would jump into a relationship with anyone, let alone clingy mcclingerson Hayley and oh-that’s-right-i-did-date-you-didn’t-i Tash.

    Something else that hit me this episode? One of the bad things about the writers pretending like Walkerson didn’t happen last season is that they can’t exploit it as a vulnerability for either character. Auggie doing to Annie what he did to Tash (sleeping with her to get/keep her away from information) would have been brilliant. I would have hated him and loved every minute of it.

    And then there’s McQuaid. Hey, didn’t Henry Wilcox have a private security company last year? Nothing ever came of it. It was in one scene in one episode and then poof gone. How great would it have been if McQuaid had worked with that security company? It would have added another dimension to the should-we-trust him angle. Wear what you’ve got, Covert Affairs writers, before you go buy something new! Same for if we had actually seen him leave Annie there when she collapsed into him. It’s nice that we got an explanation, but I feel like the time spent sharing our feelings with Joan and Arthur could have been better utilized by expounding on McQuaid leaving Annie in the hallway, turning her over to Ivan.

    I’m not even going to touch the Calder stuff because I honestly don’t care.

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    1. "Another thing is that I find it hard to believe that Auggie would be ready to move on to a new relationship so soon. Screwing anything with a pulse? Sure. That’s true to his character. But after he went through with Annie and Helesa—more Helesa than Annie, honestly; that seemed to really mess him up last season".

      This. Totally this, I couldn't agree more. He was so incredibly vulnerable last season, he had to deal with a roller coaster of emotions, just at the peak of trying to open up more and letting Annie in. I totally get why he slept with Helen (familiarity, wanted to hang on to something in the middle of all that mess, etc) and I totally get why he didn't push Annie when she officially broke it off for good in 401. I don't mind the sex fest (tho it's getting tiresome), but him jumping into a relationship is kinda hard to understand from just the writing.

      The thing with Auggie is that what you see in not fully what you get; there's at least half of that character that transpires just through acting and CG does a very, VERY well job of making sure we kinda know the on screen stuff is just a wall (if, you know, you like Augs and are willing to pay attention. For the rest, he's a man whore and that's it, lol). So I'll go with relationship Auggie explaining to myself that he just takes things as they are, without fully committing. It's like I can see him taking just one day at a time, relationship wise.

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  9. Great insight into Annie. Reading your reviews, she's starting to warm up to me, because you actually take the time to understand her; I don't have that patience, LOL. But yeah, Anndroid needs to leave NOW; i love Piper when she's playful and in full spy mode (like, the real spy stuff - working assets, convincing the FBI to play nice, etc) and she's always done an amazing work with this character. But this season feels so off that I'm starting to wonder if it's really all in the writing or PP is getting tired a bit. Have no idea. Until further proof, I'll just go with the writing, because it means there's a bigger scheme of things and it's all part of the story.

    I also found myself feeling sorry for Hayley; she's done absolutely nothing wrong - it's her job to investigate them and her advice to Auggie, to distance himself from Annie, felt sincere and without hidden agenda. As much as I love both Auggie and Joan, I kinda hope this will come back to bite them hard and turn in another 'colossal shit storm'. Not cool.

    On another note, ever since I found out about Tash, I was really looking forward to her eps. I really liked her history with Auggie and loved her in season one. I get that she's stuck in his apartment, etc, but she's annoying; she comes off as bratty tween and I just want this storyline to end.

    Couldn't agree more on Calder stuff.

    Great review, btw, as always :)

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    1. Thanks!! Glad I could help with the Annie stuff hahah.

      And yeah it's unfortunate how grating Tash has become in these eps, because she was really fun in season 1, and in what (admittedly little) I saw of the webisodes last year. There are scenes with her that I'm o.k. with (I thought she was o.k. in the last couple scenes in this ep) but some others where I just want to punch her in the face (the first scene where she startles Auggie and then demands a fancier laptop and whines about being bored). UGGH Tash you have suddenly overstayed your welcome. Time to move on.

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