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Complete Nielsen Rankings: March 31-April 6, 2008

Yeah, no one is surprised to see “American Idol” dominating again. But who would have thought “CSI” would sneak into No. 3 ahead of “Dancing with the Stars”?

Where does your favorite show rank this week?

3 CSI 20580 7.2
6 CSI: MIAMI 15650 5.5
7 WITHOUT A TRACE 15200 5.3
8 TWO AND A HALF MEN 14500 5.1
10 CSI: MIAMI – TUESDAY SP 14230 5.0
12 CSI: NY 12850 4.5
13 CRIMINAL MINDS 12810 4.5
14 OLD CHRISTINE 12570 4.4
15 COLD CASE 11930 4.2
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NBC’s Spring and Fall Plans

Fresh off those happy p.r. presses we have this cheery news to report:

NBC will resume the broadcast of many of its scripted series in April with new original episodes following the settlement of the Writers Guild of America strike, including “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “My Name Is Earl,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” among other programs. And we’ve got official word on the return of two freshman shows in the fall.

NBC has picked up its freshman drama series “Chuck” and “Life” as well as its hit “Heroes” for the 2008-09 season.

All three series will have major re-launch campaigns next year.

“We are thrilled to be bringing back the high-energy dramas ‘Chuck’ and Life’ for next season,” said NBC Entertainment honcho Ben Silverman. “Additionally, we will be saving and re-launching our #1 drama and most successful franchise, ‘Heroes,’ so that it will run in all original episodes in the fourth quarter.”

“These pickups are a sign of our confidence in these quality series and will allow the respective producers to get a head start on their creative arc for next season,” said co-honcho Marc Graboff. “As a result, they give us a lot to build on as we point to next year’s schedule.”

And I’m doing the happy Snoopy dance over the return of “Scrubs” after those terrible rumors that series’ fans might have to wait for the release of the DVD before we could say our fond farewells.

The smiley Zach Braff stars in “Scrubs”

“ER” (Thursdays, 10-11 p.m. ET) also will come back on Thursday, April 10 with new episodes following the complete run of “Lipstick Jungle,” which concludes on March 20.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (Tuesdays, 10-11 p.m. ET) will return with fresh episodes on Tuesday, April 15. “Law & Order” (Wednesdays, 10-11 p.m. ET) resumes with original episodes on Wednesday, April 23. Meanwhile, “Medium” (Mondays, 10-11 p.m. ET) continues in originals.

Specific plans for other NBC scripted series are currently being determined and will be announced later.

The following includes NBC’s new spring broadcast schedule denoting new return dates with original episodes for some of its scripted programs:

“Medium” (Mondays, 10-11 p.m.)
Continues current run

“My Name Is Earl” (Thursdays, 8-8:30 p.m.)
Resumes April 3 with one-hour episode

“30 Rock” (Thursdays, 8:30-9 p.m.)
Resumes April 10

“The Office” (Thursdays, 9-9:30 p.m.)
Resumes April 10

“Scrubs” (Thursdays, 9:30-10 p.m.)
Resumes April 10

“ER” (Thursdays, 10-11 p.m.)
Resumes April 10

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (Tuesdays, 10-11 p.m.)
Resumes April 15

“Law & Order” (Wednesdays, 10-11 p.m.)
Resumes April 23

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NBC Brings Back “Law & Order”

NBC announced Monday “Law & Order” will be back in session on Wednesday nights starting Jan. 2 with a two-hour season opener. The following Wednesday, there will be a double-dose when “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” kicks off the night at 9 p.m. starting Jan. 9.

Joining the “Law & Order” cast for the show’s 18th season are Jeremy Sisto as Detective Cyrus Lupo and Linus Roache as Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter. Cutter reports to Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) who has been promoted to District Attorney, replacing Arthur Branch (Fred Thompson).

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Jeremy Sisto as Det. Cyrus Lupo, Jesse L. Martin as Detective Ed Green — NBC Photo: Will Hart

“The last time Rene Balcer was showrunner of ‘Law & Order’ we won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. I am thrilled he is back,” said Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of “Law & Order.” “Jeremy and Linus bring a new energy to the cast and we hope the return to our longtime timeslot of Wednesday at 10 will bring renewed success to the show, not just from our core fans, but from a new generation of viewers as well.”

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Linus Roache as A.D.A. Michael Cutter — NBC Photo: Will Hart

Detective Edward Green (Jesse L. Martin) and his new partner Detective Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) investigate crimes and apprehend suspects under the supervision of their precinct lieutenant, Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson). In the second half-hour, the focus shifts to the criminal courts, as Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) and the Executive Assistant District Attorney Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) work within a complicated justice system to prosecute the accused under the guidance of the newly appointed District Attorney Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston).

“Criminal Intent” will be recycling episodes that aired earlier on USA.

In “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth) and his partner, Detective Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson), make up the Major Case Squad alongside long-time partners Detectives Robert Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe). The two Major Case Squad detective teams split the caseloads week to week. The series takes viewers into the minds of its criminals while following the psychological approaches the Major Case Squad uses to solve the crimes. D’Onofrio (“Men in Black”) stars as Detective Goren, an exceptionally bright homicide investigator with well-honed instincts that match up favorably with his criminal quarry. Likewise, his partner, Detective Eames (Erbe, “Oz”), brings an independence and stylish edge to her work that meshes well with Goren.

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Alicia Witt as Detective Nola Falacci — USA Network Photo: Will Hart

Alicia Witt (“Vanilla Sky”) joins the cast for the first six episodes as Logan’s detective partner while Nicholson is on maternity leave.

Eric Bogosian also plays Captain Ross who was rewarded with the Major Case Squad after heading a successful three-year Joint Task Force on International Money Laundering.

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Eric Bogosian as Captain Danny Ross — USA Network Photo: Will Hart

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“Scrubs” Zach Braff and Bill Lawrence talk final season

“Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence admits he might go through some online withdrawals after his series ends this season.

“I think that I have the potential to be one of those desperate people that was involved in a TV show once that still trying to get people to talk about it years after it’s over,” Bill says during a conference call last week. “Yeah, hey, did you guys remember that episode of Scrubs when…. No. You know what? I’m desperately hoping that I, you know, get to do something again that people are hopefully interest in. “

Bill says he’s had a constant phobia about doing more TV because he’s gotten so lucky twice, once with “Spin City” with Michael J. Fox and then again with “Scrubs.”

“Having such a positive experience again are so slim because there’s so many intangible things that are out of your control,” Bill says. “I’ll probably just continue to be, you know, some desperate guy that surfs the internet under a fake name to see if anybody is talking about stuff that he used to be involved in. And then, you know – I’ll be the guy that types, that Bill Lawrence was a really funny writer. And when someone says, who are you, I’ll immediately exit the internet.”

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Zach Braff as J.D. and Donald Faison as Turk

But for right now, Bill’s just concerned about getting on with the final season of “Scrubs,” which returns at 9:30 p.m. Thursday on NBC.

Bill says he always promised Neil Flynn, who plays The Janitor, that by the end of the show he’d have a name and a girlfriend. On Thursday’s episode, we get a peek at the girlfriend.

“He’s the one character that hasn’t ever had a romantic interest,” Bill says.

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J.D. and The Janitor

In fact, The Janitor began as a figment of J.D.’s imagination.

“I always thought this show was going to last for one season, so `Fight Club’ just happened,” Bill explains. “Then the second year, Neil Flynn’s like, ‘I’d like to talk to some of the other actors.’ All right, whatever.”

Bill says he made a slight miscalculation when he killed off popular character Laverne, the opinionated Christian nurse last season.

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Aloma Wright as Nurse Laverne

“I would never take work away from an actress that we consider part of the family. We thought last year would be the last season. So when I killed Laverne, it was because we basically said ‘hey, what’s a good, dramatic arc for the end of the year since we’re kind’ve ending up the show,’ ” Bill says.

But then he discovered the studios were giving him one more season.

“So I promised her that she would come back. I don’t want people to get mad at me,” Bill says. “She returns as a nurse name Shirley. She looks slightly different but she still looks like the same actress. But the only thing we’re doing is that only Zach’s character thinks the two of them look alike.”

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Zach Braff and Tom Cavanagh

Also coming back to the show this season areTom Cavanagh, Elizabeth Banks and Scott Foley.

“People that our nerdy fans will care about, you know, are little kind of secondary characters named like Hooch and Dr. Zeltzer. And, you know, all these people that we think have made kind of an imprint on people in the past,” Bill says. “We’re trying to get everybody their last hurrah.”

Zach Braff says he has campaigned every season to have David Cross come on as his “Arrested Development” character Tobias Funke.

Which isn’t going to happen.

This season will, however, have a big musical episode, a fairytale based on “The Princess Bride” and directed by Zach.

“You know, every year we choose one episode to spend a whole lot of money on and try to be our showcase thing,” Bill says. “Zach’s the village idiot and Sarah’s the princess. And, you know, the Janitor is a giant. And Todd is the Fairy Todd Something. So, you know, I think that he will be continue to be ambisexual and never really sure what he is, you know. But will (The Todd) ever find love? I think in Todd’s head he’s very happy – that he has found it.”

What about J.D. and Elliot? Will they end up together?

“If you go on to our fan sites there’s a lot of people that want them together and then there’s a lot of people that say that’s not what this show is about. And so they don’t want them together,” Bill says. “And what I think – I think the answer is right in the middle, which is we pride ourselves – this show was never a will they or won’t they show, you know? It was not Ross and Rachel or, you know, Moonlighting – you know, are these characters ever going to end up?
And I think that if we were to end this series on, you know, Zach going to the airport to keep Rachel – or to keep Elliot, you know, from flying away… everybody would feel cheated, you know, because that’s not, you know, what this show has been about. It’s been about all the relationships. That being said, you know, Zach and Sarah as actor and actress, have made people invested in this.
So I am going to resolve it, but I’m not going to make that the end of the series. I think that it’ll happen before people expect it to happen. I think I put a lot of clues what I’m going to do along the way.”

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Dancing around the issue is Sarah Chalke and Zach Braff as Elliot and J.D.

Zach says if he had to pick acting or directing, he’d pick directing.

“I enjoy acting a lot and I love – there’s nothing that makes me happier in life than making people laugh. But I really like the – I find that directing asks so much more of me because you get to – you have to be a little bit of a writer, a little bit of a photographer, a little bit of a, you know, a set designer,” Zach says. “And I just love working with lots of creative people. So when you direct something, you hire all these really creative people and artists, and actors. And then you’re sort of the conductor to that orchestra. And I really, really love doing that more than anything.

Zach says after he came back from selling his independent film “Garden State” at Sundance, Bill made sure he wasn’t taking himself too seriously.

“(It was) the highlight of my life and Bill wanted to make sure that I hadn’t gotten too cocky. So the first scene back was me in full clown make-up getting sprayed with seltzer bottles by the Janitor,” Zach says. “That’s when I knew I was a success.”

So it’s about time in the conference call when The Question comes up.

What’s on your iPod now, Zach?

“Well I’m obsessed with a guy named William Fitzsimmons, who is kind of breaking out. A woman named Ingrid Michaelson, who is kind of breaking out because she has a song on an Old Navy commercial, but she’s a friend of mine and she’s really great,” Zach says. “And another guy I’m listening to is a guy named Jay Clifford who used to be the lead singer of the band called Jump Little Children and now he has his own solo album. ”

Back to the real questions, like Bill paying back the fans. Like putting out the number for Turk’s phone, which they still answer occasionally.

“There’s a weird thing going on right now in which the show has become very big overseas and, you know, one time a group of Europeans came here and they were taking pictures of the set. And I let them on the set, you know, just to wander around and see the actors,” Bill says. “And somehow online they got it around that hey, if you’re visiting America from a foreign country, the Scrubs set will take you around and let you meet all the famous people.
So there’s odd packs of Europeans asking me weird questions about the show here on a daily basis.”

Bill loves it when someone asks questions like, when did Ted lose his hair?
(He started losing it in eighth grade.)

But as much as he loves everything to do with “Scrubs,” don’t expect a reunion show down the road.

“We’ll do a reunions in real life, you know, because we actually enjoy each other’s time and seeing each other and hanging around,” Bill says. “But I don’t have the need to get everybody back on television again.”

Zach says this series has changed his life.

“It’s like winning the lottery in more ways obviously financially, but I mean – what I mean is like getting to be on a television show for seven years where you really respect what you’re doing and you respect who work with and you’re laughing a lot,” Zach says. “I’m going to dinner on Friday night with Donald and Sarah. I mean we all hang out. We’re all really close. I think that when it’s over, it’s really going to hit us hard.”

So, I’ve got to ask since both his mom and brother live in the SF Bay area if he’ll be coming up here soon for any special projects.

Zach: “If you invite me for dinner, I’ll be there.”

Me: “Really?”

Zach: “I am not averse to accepting a free meal from a stranger.”

You’re on, Zach.

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“Heroes: Fight or Flight”

Seeing Kristen Bell on “Heroes” tonight was electrifying.

OK, that was cheap thrill, but discovering K-Bell’s special power allows her to shoot bolts of electricity through her hands was, as she said in an interview last week, pretty cool.

Her character’s got some problems distinguishing right from wrong. Here’s a primer: helping people is good, frying them is bad. She just had to cook the truth out of Peter’s pal. And it was all for nothing, because “daddy” called her home before she could seal the deal with Peter.

So who do you think “daddy” is? It couldn’t be HRG. Or could it?

At least we won’t have to listen to those obnoxiously bad Irish accents any more now that Peter’s on his way to Montreal to find out more about his past.

Talk about Daddy Dearest. Welcome to your worst nightmare: That your papa is a real boogeyman out to trap you in your own mind.

Luckily, Matt Parkman inherited his old man’s mind power, but not his Satan-worthy evil twist. Makes Sylar look like just a nasty bully in comparison. Parkman’s pops tried trapping his own son in a field of nightmares, but Parkman was able to wake up _ and roust Nathan as well.

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Greg Grunberg as Matt Parkman

So if Parkman can make Nathan snap out of it, why can’t he rescue little Molly from her nocturnal prison? Guess we’ll have to wait until next week.

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Kbell Joins Heroes, Others evicted

“Heroes” is getting dangerously overpopulated _ and creator Tim Kring says he’s well aware of the problem.

“On a show like this, you have to be able to fold people in and fold people out,” Kring says. “So the audience should fully expect to see characters leave, soon.”

One person not leaving any time soon is new character Ella, played by “Veronica Mars” star Kristen Bell.

“It’s been so much fun,” Kristen says. “She (doesn’t have) the brightest and shiniest of intentions. She’s so conflicted and comes across as such a vixen. She’s so much fun to play with.”

Kristen says she can’t reveal her secret powers, “but it’s a very cool power.” She has ties to HRG and Claire and to Suresh.

“(She’s) a little messed up in the head, manipulative, out to get what she wants. She doesn’t have many boundaries,” Kristen says. “All first season about good natured people, conflicted about how to deal with them. Elle enjoys her power and the power she gives over other people.”

Tim says they are tying Elle to The Company that HRG was involved in.

“Elle was actually raised within The Company,” Tim says. “It’s a cautionary tale about how (the other heroes) would have been if they lived with The Company their whole life.”

Tim says once again this season will be filled with plenty of answers.

“We actually are not a shot that tries to keep answers away from the audience,” Tim says. “No answer so precious we can’t tell the audience what it is. But something to be said for drawing out interest.”

Questions are answered by Episode 11, which Tim says ends the second “volume.”

“Last season was all one volume, so at the end of the year, we were dragging out a lot of story so expectations were so high, it was hard to meet,” Tim says. “This (season has) multiple volumes. Every question raised (in the first volume_ will be answered, then the next (set of questions) swings us into another volume. People say they want answers, but like the twists and turns.”

Kristen is signed on for 13 episodes, but says it is up to the discretion of the producers as to how many episodes she’ll actually appear in.

“I start in Episode 5, I’m not in episodes 6 or 7, then episodes 8 and 9 expose a lot of Elle,” Kristen says. “At the end of 13, we’ll have a pow wow and see if it makes sense for me to continue.”

Kristen says she’d love to stay on “Heroes.” So what about a “Veronica Mars” movie or animated series?

“If (creator) Rob (Thomas) asks me to mow his lawn, I would do that,” Kristen says.

Actually, we’re hoping he opts to do more “VM” with Kristen.


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“Heroes” Heating up

OK, it’s just a week away from Veronica Mars, er, Kristen Bell, coming on “Heroes.” But first, we must deal with tonight’s episode.

I have to admit I wasn’t blown away by the first, or even the second, episode of “Heroes.” Things didn’t start getting interesting for me until last week. This week, things really started percolating.

Spooky Sylar hooked up with the Troublemint Twins, a coincidence that makes you suspend your disbelief by epic proportions. But just like a bad horror flick, I started screaming at the screen: Shut UP Maya. Yet, she didn’t, and now Sylar’s heading to New York with the double sibs to find Suresh.

But the big news of the night is THE PHOTO. The photo shows the 12 who are related to some of the Heroes, like Hiro’s deceased dad and Peter and Nathan’s parents. We discover tonight that one of the men in the photo is Suresh’s new boss and more importantly, another man in the photo is Parkman’s estranged dad.

Parkman tells Suresh that dad deserted him when he was 12, gave him $125 and a pat on the head before dashing out of Dodge.

Worse news. Parkman’s deadbeat dad is the Nightmare Man who has been haunting Parkman’s charge Molly.


So Parkman gets Molly to confront her worst nightmare and seek out evil dad. What were you thinking, Parkman??? Now we know where daddy dearest is, but at what cost to poor little Molly?

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Sendhil Ramamurthy as Mohinder Suresh, Adair Tishler as Molly, Greg Grunberg as Matt Parkman — NBC Photo: Chris Haston

Next week, Kristen Bell, who looked deliciously wicked in the previews. “Heroes” is back on the can’t wait for the next episode list.

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Kristen Bell as Elle — NBC Photo: Chris Haston

Oh, and the Big Showdown with Nightmare Man is just three weeks away. Here’s the blurb:

Nov. 5 episode:

WHILE SEVERAL HEROES FACE OFF AGAINST THE “NIGHTMARE MAN,” PETER LEARNS JUST HOW DEADLY THE VIRUS CAN BE — When one of his forgotten abilities suddenly manifests, Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) and Caitlin (Katie Carr) get thrown into a crisis situation, and learn first-hand just how deadly the mysterious virus striking people with abilities can be. Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), Matt (Greg Grunberg), Nathan (Adrian Pasdar), Niki (Ali Larter) and Bob (guest star Stephen Tobolowsky) band together to fend off the “nightmare man’s” attack. Despite Claire’s (Hayden Panettiere) best efforts to keep them apart, West (Nick D’Agosto) learns that the man who kidnapped him as a child is her father (Jack Coleman). Meanwhile, in feudal Japan, Hiro (Masi Oka) and Kensei’s (David Anders) legendary journey takes a dramatic, final turn. Kristen Bell, Noah Gray-Cabey, Dana Davis, James Kyson Lee, Zachary Quinto and Dania Ramirez also star. Alan Blumenfeld, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Shalim Ortiz, Eriko Tamura and Adair Tishler guest star.

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Is Ryan of “The Office” Evil?

Has Ryan the temp-now-corporate-honcho-with-a-beard turned evil?

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Ryan (B.J. Novak) hitting on Pam (Jenna Fischer)

Angela Kinsey, who plays frosty Angela in accounting, says no, not really.

“He’s not evil,” says Angela. “He’s just this hot shot in New York, and as we say in Texas, he thinks his poop don’t stink.”

On last night’s show, Michael told a little story about a foreign exchange student he called his brother took Michael’s blue jeans with him when he left to go back home.

Which meant that poor Michael spent the winter wearing shorts in the snow. And that’s how Ryan is now.

“He’s a fake brother who steals your blue jeans,” Michael says.

Pam and Jim are now outed as an office romance, which means things can only go bad from here.

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Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) share a moment in the Oct. 18 episode where the two go to Dwight’s family farm,which is now a bed and breakfast. NBC Photo: Justin Lubin

And how much did you love Angela and Dwight deciding to go to dinner at a public place, only to have the ghost of Sprinkles rise up from the freezer?

Speaking of that freezer, when talking to Angela last week, she says she was a little disturbed by the line in last week’s episode when Dwight said he put the dead cat in the freezer and she wondered why there were claw marks in the frozen french fries.

“It’s bad enough that he did that, but what was Angela doing with frozen french fries in her freezer?” Angela asks.

Good question.

You can read the article I wrote for the Bay Area News Group about Jennie (officetally) and Angela, or check out the vodcast

Also, you were directed to a site at the end of last night’s episode, if you missed it here it is: dundermifflininfinity.

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Angela shares a moment with Andy (Ed Helms) in next week’s episode.

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Friday Night Lights still working?

I couldn’t wait to watch all three of the new episodes sent out for review, and I love the show.

But I’m a little concerned about this new twist involving Landry and Tyra and I think the producers were a little quick to shut down the romance between Matt and Julie.

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Pictured: (l-r) Adrianne Palicki as Tyra Collette, Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen, Jesse Plemons as Landry Clarke — NBC Photo: Bill Records

But what do you think?

In the meantime, here’s the SueTube vodcast I did with sports writer Dennis Miller, who gives his opinion on why people may not be watching the show.

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Heroes Go Rogue

Guess what? Claire got a car. A Rogue. From Nissan. That didn’t take anyone out of the moment, now did it?

Still, it was a decent episode even though anyone who had been to YouTube had already seen about the first quarter of it. And yes, I admit to contributing to that let-down by posting those trailers. Still, it took a while for anything to feel fresh tonight.

Claire and H.R.G. are feeling a little fenced in California, where they are supposed to be keeping a low profile. Then perhaps Claire should NOT have tried to set fire to her hand during science class when new found pal West was watching.

West, we soon discover, has a little something extra like Claire. We also discover that managers of Big Box stores shouldn’t mess with H.R.G., especially during his coffee break.

And Nathan and Peter are back, although looking pretty darn shabby. Nathan, we’re assuming, lost the race. He’s now got a scruffy beard when he isn’t looking at his ground-beef face in the mirror. Has he healed a little, or is it an optical illusion?

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And Peter? He’s trussed up in a cargo box in Ireland. With amnesia. And getting grilled by people with the worst Irish accent I’ve ever heard.

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But by far the most interesting parts had Hiro catching up with his personal hero Takezo Kensei during a 1671 Shogun showdown. Turns out, Takezo’s more Han Solo than Luke Skywalker. Hiro is disappointed, but we’re more interested than ever in this guy.

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So what did you think of the episode? Up to expectations or disappointing?

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