Are You Francophreaking Kidding Me?
ALTERNATE TITLE: Three Fatalities and a Kidnapped Baby
ALTERNATE ALTERNATE TITLE: The Time Mallory's Crush on James Franco Was Clubbed To Death In Front of Her
When Friday's episode of General Hospital ended, I sat for about three minutes, trying to come to terms with what I had just sat through, which was sixty minutes of just...utter wretchedness, and it was the kind of wretchedness that is impossible to attain accidentally. No, this is a case of Bob Guza looking at his perfectly precise whiteboards, assessing the plotlines he'd have going on in the July 23rd episode and musing, "That's all well and good, but how can we make these things even worse?"
Because every thread of this episode was just bad, either in acting, editing or pacing. How is it that an episode about a rampage in a hospital had no dramatic tension? It was seriously just business as usual. And then there was the Franco DISASTER which was a cacophony of everything that could possibly go wrong in an episode of television including horrific, over-the-top acting, embarrassing non-acting and a performer in drag doing a spoken word performance alongside "Mad World".
Since I am unable to repress the memories of this episode, I am going to recap it for those who were lucky enough to miss it, because why should I be the only one who has to suffer?!
The show opens with a frustratingly long look at the setting up of Franco's performance piece in Los Angeles, a plotline that is ludicrous on numerous levels (including: why is the only law enforcement presence Dante, and his hitman foil/sidekick? Like, the FBI has no interest in an unhinged serial killer? I know they probably figure that since Jason is on the case, their services are unnecessary, since Jason always saves the day, but still. Ugh, hate, the worst, etc. And why does the art community not seem to know that Franco is a serial killer? I was also going to complain about how much this location shoot was costing but, as Sara Bibel at Deep Soap notes, James Franco paid for most of it, so that takes one complaint off of my list, which leaves me annoyed about...um, pretty much every other beat of this story). Even the show's attempt at continuity (a lingering closeup on a bowl of red M&Ms) was awful; they can't be bothered to recall the show's history or the events one episode prior, but they can remember Franco's quirks.
Back in Port Charles, Warren strides through General Hospital eerily.
As Mac draws his gun, Warren quickly and calmly shoots him and Ethan, and snarls at Kristina, "Look what you made me do." She cowers, and Michael, like a good big brother, protects her as Warren goes on his fiftieth rant about how Kristina is a lying liar who lies, and since she had to go and tell all of those whoppers about Kiefer, she has to die. As he points the gun at her, a shot is fired...
Which, elsewhere in the hospital, Carly hears. She immediately jumps into protective mother mode and has no patience for Patrick telling her that they can't be sure it was actually gunshots. Again, I have to express concern that this man is allowed to operate on people's heads: you live in Port Charles! It's a safe bet that any sound you hear is gunfire, or people screaming in pain after being disposed of by some other violent means. Carly schools him.
Carly: I was married to Sonny long enough to know what gunfire sounds like.
1.) Ha! 2.) I don't know why she never uses her biggest trump card, "Sonny shot me in the head while I was giving birth", in situations like this. It would give some of her arguments way more credibility.
Nikolas and Lucky watch Franco's ridiculous recording, which Maxie also glimpses. He warns them/us that "logic will not serve you here. Give yourself over to experience". It's presented as a shocking bit of wisdom, but it's totally old hat for us, no? Franco, we're watching the Guza era of GH; logic has been useless to us since the mid-90s.
Back in Los Angeles, cameras are filming Franco's show and the man of the hour is broadcast on a big screen welcoming Jason to Francophrenia.
Franco: Remember to keep your seatbelts unfastened, your hands outside of the car and definitely talk to strangers. And what you see is definitely not what you get, and one among us will definitely not survive. Enjoy!
The people in all of these scenes are completely horrendous, I have to tell you. Not that anybody involved in this story is even passably good, really; Dominic Zamprogna is fine, I guess, but James Franco (who IS a good actor, guys, I swear!) is fully committed these days to being awful, while Steve Burton is thinking, "I think when I go to Starbucks tomorrow, I might try soy milk" or something that has equally little to do with, you know, the job of acting. But the extras actually made me angry.
Most of them are given the truly difficult task of standing upright and looking at things, and they can't even pull that off convincingly. It's a huge faction of people incapable of making normal facial expressions and otherwise looking human. Jason and Dante stare around dumbly at the crowd for a long time, possibly because they are also baffled by how hammy these people are, and Franco laughs an evil laugh.
I have never before been so happy to see the shitty GH credits.
Carly is in full Momma Bear mode and says she needs to go see if Michael is okay and refuses to buy into Patrick's theory that it was just the police firing warning shots. He finally gives into her and tells her she's not going alone, because he'll be able to help out if they stumble upon bodies which they will because, again, you live in Port Charles. You probably find bodies on your driveway in the morning instead of a newspaper.
In what will go down as one of the most shocking moments on GH this year, MAC was a HERO and shot Warren.
Let me repeat that: MAC SCORPIO, the POLICE commissioner, was a HERO and shot a deranged mad man. That happened! On General Hospital! It was crazy.
Kristina sobs, and Maya has just completely frozen, huddled at the nurses's station.
Matt runs upon the scene and screams for a gurney. Steven and Olivia sprint over and Steve starts to help Ethan, who is bleeding out. He gets no help from Maya, who is stuck in place and can't follow any of his orders. Finally, he has to ask Olivia to come help with chest compressions. I have to say, it's kind of random for Olivia to be shoehorned into the hospital part of General Hospital, but she does seem like the type of person who keeps a cool head in a crisis and would be able to jump in and help. I am in no way comparing her to Joan Holloway, because that would be blasphemy (related: CANNOT WAIT for Mad Men's return tonight!), but it's like when Guy was run over by the lawnmower, and Joan just stepped in like it was second nature, and did a better job than her doctor husband would have been able to; Olivia seems like the same sort of efficient type.
Also, Lisa LoCicero looks incredibly tiny these days, no?
Maxie and Liz have a short, sweet scene in Shirley's room, where Liz informs her that Shirley has died. Maxie offers condolences and says she can see how special Shirley was. Liz ties the entire Shirley story up in a bow, verbalizing the lessons that she's learned from Shirley, like not living your life in fear and not feeling sorry for yourself, and all of the other lessons that you learn from kindly old cancer patients portrayed by matriarchs of long-running television dramas. Maxie informs Liz that Franco is the one who took Aiden, and Liz bolts.
Lucky and Nik are still watching Franco deliver his message; Lucky points out that it's a pre-recorded message, since Franco is in LA, and wonders why he'd take Aiden, since everything Franco does is about Jason. Nik remembers that Aiden's hospital ID has 66 in it.
Francophrenia: Jason and Dante look around for Franco.
In Port Charles, Liz runs around until she finds Nik and Lucky. She gives Nikolas a huge hug while Lucky watches...well, not from afar, probably about a foot away, but afar sounds better. Franco is STILL prattling on.
Franco is also running through his exhibit and he grabs a girl, holding a gun to her head. Jason runs over and tells him to let her go, and asks what Franco wants, which leads to a rehash of Franco's whole mantra about choice, and he tells Jason that someone is going to die tonight. This show's bloodlust has gotten to me, because at this point, I found myself chanting "Shoot her! Shoot her!" because everything about the "actress" Franco grabbed was extremely annoying, from her facial expressions to her voice, and if we have to up the body count this episode, it seems only fair to kill her off.
Steve performs chest compressions on Ethan and tells Olivia that she's doing great. Maya, the actual medical intern, can only watch in terror. Matt informs them that Matt's pulse is weakening and when Steve tells Maya to go to the desk and call for help, she stares at the phone, horrified. He finally orders Michael to run down to the ER and explain the whole thing to them and bring back help; as he leaves, Michael tells his sister not to look at Mr. Bauer. And she tries really hard not to, but can't help it. Carly and Patrick arrive on the scene and Carly sees Kristina crying. As she tentatively asks if she's okay, Warren takes a moment out of his busy dying schedule to tell her that this is all her fault.
After a commercial break, Patrick announces that Warren is dead and, in one of the episode's best moments, Matt doesn't miss a beat.
Matt: Good, because I could use some help here.
It was funny, in a ghoulish way.
As Patrick goes to help, Carly tells Kristina that none of this was her fault. Kristina recaps the whole ordeal to Carly and then hysterically says that Ethan can't die. Olivia tries to reassure her and Steve eventually tells Carly to take Kristina out of there. I think this would have been better, and more in character, if Kristina had gone mute, like she has in the past when she's been traumatized. But I should cut them some slack, they remembered the quip about red M&Ms, I can't actually expect them to remember two things in one show, can I?
Lucky and Nikolas are trying to work through the kidnapping aloud, and Lucky points out that they can't take anything Franco says at face value. The two of them start listing the 66-labeled things they could search--hospital rooms, lockers, patient charts--and set out to play detective. Liz stares helplessly at Aiden's empty bassinet. Lucky watches from outside the room as Nikolas rubs her shoulder
(I see what you did there, GH! S-U-B-T-L-E) and tells her that she should go sit with Shirley. Liz informs him that Shirley has died, and Nikolas sighs sadly at the angst. "What more can we possibly go through", he probably wonders, not knowing that the GH writers have likely already come up with some new, awful curveball to throw at him and Elizabeth for eight minutes on Monday's episode. Not to mention the fact that Aiden isn't actually his...
Francophrenia: The world's most horrible actress is still being held at gunpoint and dialogue takes a turn down 123 Pornography Lane.
Jason: You want my attention? I'm here.
Franco: And still not one word about the show. I thought you, of all people, would appreciate my vision.
Jason: Let's go somewhere else and talk.
Crowd of "People": ::Loudly chant "Boo", but manage to do it poorly. It's three letters! Crowds of drunken people at sporting events can pull it off with panache!::
Franco: You're starting to bore me, officer. Just whip out your piece. Give the people a thrill. Show the world what made you a legend!
When he tells Jason that he shouldn't worry about witnesses, since they all think it's performance art, the girl makes a "start to realize something's not kosher" face, but does it in a hammy and absurd way. Franco says that if Jason kills him, he'll be back in Pentonville, and Michael won't be there to keep him company and practice dance moves. He then adds that Carter will live on forever in Franco's work, gesturing towards the screen which shows Carter holding Michael's mug shot. God, this show is depraved. When Jason looks, Franco runs.
(SERIOUSLY THOUGH, Michael's prison rape is part of this ludicrous story? The fuck is wrong with this show?)
He makes small talk about his brilliance with the camera man, and a fawning sycophant comes up to give him some over-the-top praise, which amuses him, and only him.
At the hospital, Kristina is still panicking about Ethan, and says again that it's all her fault, Carly reassures her again. Part of me thinks that Warren shooting up the hospital should have gotten the entire hour, or at least the fallout should have since, you know, Mac Scorpio and Luke Spencer's son are fighting for their lives, but the thought of sitting through a full hour of this exact conversation sounds decidedly unentertaining.
Mac and Ethan go into surgery, and Steve wants it known that he wants the hospital's strongest people assisting. Maxie asks if they're going to save Mac, and Matt tells her he'll do his best.
Patrick is telling Robin that Mac is strong, and she says that she can't lose him. As Patrick hugs his wife, Lisa watches and looks like she's going to vomit and/or stab someone in a fit of anger.
Francophrenia: Franco and the camera man are bickering over how far is too far when it comes to performance art and Franco puts him out of his misery by strangling him.
Dante and Jason confer, and notice a girl with bedraggled blonde hair. Jason glimpses Franco, who waves at him, and Jason heads off to confront him.
Lucky calls Dante and fills him in on the kidnapping, theorizing that Franco paid someone to take Aiden. Hilariously, Liz is just running around in the background while Lucky is on the phone. I need to find enjoyment where I can get it, folks, and if unintentional enjoyment is all there is, I'll just have to take it. Lucky reminds Dante that Jason can't kill Franco, and Dante hangs up without saying goodbye, which is something that always irks me in TV and movies. It turns out, by the way, that the girl with the awful blonde hair is Lulu! Dante asks her what the hell she's doing here and makes a confused face, no doubt wondering how the writers managed to shoehorn her into this shithole of a story.
Short answer, Dante? They did it poorly.
Jason heads into a stairwell, drawing his gun and comes across the camera man. He starts to check for a pulse, but Franco taunts him and Jason runs after him, firing his gun.
A note about commercials that aired endlessly on ABC: everybody involved with The Bachelorette annoys me; the woman who does the overly dramatic voiceovers for ABC Soaps In Depth is pretty terrible; I will probably go see Charlie St. Cloud the day it opens, and I will probably cry, and I will probably email Becca about my crush on Zac Efron and she will definitely mock me a whole lot. But between him and Leonardo DiCaprio (who can do no wrong), at least two of my crushes have not let me down this summer.
Lucky, Liz and Nikolas are on a mission to find Aiden, and are running around the hospital looking in rooms. Elizabeth opens the door on a couple with a baby in a pink blanket, who look at her with completely innocent "Nothing to see here, frazzled woman. Just chilling with my baby. Chillaxing if you will. Hahaha, please leave, this is awkward" faces
She meekly apologizes and leaves. Girl, that was probably your baby cleverly disguised in a pink blanket!
Also, BREAKING, NEVER BEFORE SEEN INFORMATION: Kristina feels guilty, but Michael tells her it's not her fault.
As Matt goes to scrub in for Mac's surgery, Maxie attempts to run up behind him.
Maxie: Save him.
Matt: I'll do my best.
Maxie: Mac is the only family I have left. Seriously, he's always been there for me no matter what awful thing I've done to him and that says a lot. I haven't been half the daughter he deserves, but he loves me no matter what, and I love him more than anything. So don't just save him for me, save him for Robin, because she needs him just as much as I do. So, please, do better than your best.
Matt puts a reassuring hand on her shoulder and heads off. Simple, nice scene.
Robin, meanwhile, is listing all of the worst case scenarios for Mac's surgery, and Patrick tells her that if something goes wrong, Matt will fix it. Next comes some heavy-handed irony, as Robin says, "There's no on that I trust more than you and Matt", which is, of course, HILARIOUS (not really) because Patrick just cheated on her! Anyway, she's trying to be strong, but her voice catches a little and Lisa gives them the death glare, because she's a crazy stalker now.
Olivia asks if Ethan's going to be okay and starts to collapse before Steven catches her. They banter a little bit, which doesn't seem to be the best use of his time, but whatever. After he leaves, Maya comes over to thank Olivia for stepping in when Maya couldn't. Olivia guesses that she's seen someone else get shot. Well, wow--we already know that Sonny can look into someone's eyes and see their whole history, and it turns out that Olivia can do the same? With parents like that, Dante must be a mind-reader. I wonder if he starts to get sick when he reads Lulu's mind, since all he hears is his name on a constant loop, and I think that would be sick-making for anybody.
Speaking of, back at Francophrenia, Lulu tries to explain why the hell she's there, arguing that she's trying to protect Dante from Jason.
Dante: So what was your plan? You show up, Jason takes aim, you step in front of the gun?
Lulu: If I had to.
Lulu: Jason is not going to do anything while I'm here. Not when he has to answer to Carly.
It's highly amusing to me that Lulu thinks so highly of Carly's fondness for her, since even before Lulu "turned her back on her family" and "chose a man over her own blood", I don't think Carly would have ever considered taking her side over Jason's.
I also can't get over how badly Julie Berman needs a haircut.
Jason is still running up the stairs to find Franco, and he tells Franco that he crossed the line. Franco counters that he actually destroyed the line and theorizes that Jason is being held back by emotion, emotion for Michael, in particular, and we get to hear a condensed version of The Ballad of Jason and Michael.
Back at the hospital, Robin and Maxie are both telling themselves that Mac is going to be fine. Maxie thinks they should send him to a resort, and Robin says that Alexis should go, too, since she hasn't given up the idea of them as a couple. Robin, the writers gave up on that idea months ago, and if you think they're going to revisit that when they could be focusing on Jason, Brenda or Jason and Brenda coming up? You're an adorable little fool.
Maxie: I've been so selfish. I've only argued with Mac, or taken him for granted.
Robin: Mac knows how much we love him.
Maxie: Well, lately I've only been around when I needed something. I've been so caught up with myself that i hardly see what's in front of me.
Robin: Between Emma and work, I hardly see him anymore.
Maxie: Well, I'm praying that Matt is as brilliant as he says he is, and we will have the chance to show Mac how much we care about him.
Then they clasp hands, and it's very cute, and I again feel that we're getting shafted here, because this is the kind of story that should play out over a week. I also take issue with Maxie's belief that she is caught up with herself; if she were merely selfish, that would be one thing, but the fact of the matter is that she even puts Spinelli and Jason ahead of her, which is just tragic. Maybe Mac's near death experience will change her outlook? Yeah, I don't think there's much of a chance of that, either.
In another cute, brief scene, Patrick scrubs in to assist Matt and asks what Matt needs from him. He needs to find out where Mac is losing blood from, by the way, because Mac is a total mess.
Francophrenia: this has taken a turn for the worse. How is it possible to be even worse than it was for the bulk of the episode? I don't know, but they managed it. It was like ludicrous on speed. Kalup Linzy performs the aforementioned spoken word performance of "Mad World" while dressed in drag, and everything about it is terrible.
Dante and Lulu watch, while Jason runs around chasing Franco and while the extras are horrendous. On top of the roof, Franco shouts for Jason not to kill him, because he knows where the baby is, and all of a sudden, he (or, more likely, a double) falls off the roof. While Franco/"Franco"'s body lies in a pool of blood, Dante glares up at Jason for effing things up, hardcore.
Jason thinks to himself, "That probably could have gone better. Let me go casually exit stage left, pretending that nothing is wrong."
OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO DESERVE THIS?