Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Miss You Guys!

I'd rather be blogging, but I'm currently neck-deep in probate and estate details. Since I'm still around quite a bit, please feel free to ask questions or otherwise put in your 2 cents worth in my comments sections.

I hope my Northern Hemisphere readers are enjoying their summers, and I hope my Southern Hemisphere readers are likewise having good times.

Best Wishes,

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hit and Miss Postings

We've had a death in the family recently, so posting will probably be quite light here until things settle down a bit. Take care, and best wishes to everyone out there.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How To Rub Salt In Wounds

OK! Magazine currently has Pretty Little Liars plastered all over the place as background images and featured advertisements in their story about the Denisof family's latest trip to the beach in Malibu. To refresh your memories, Alexis Denisof filmed the pilot for Pretty Little Liars and was replaced by Chad Lowe for the regular series run.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Little Break

Things are all of a sudden quite hectic around here, so I'm not sure when I'll get another blog post up. The next few days? The next few weeks? In the meantime, be sure to cheer for your favorite World Cup soccer/football team.

Take care everyone.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Good Riddance, Google Background; or, Revenge of the Less is More Crowd

Lo and behold, my main Google page is back to normal, showing something close to the nice clean interface I've loved for the last 10 years. About the only difference that I've noticed compared to how the page appeared 24 hours ago is a link in the lower left corner that allows you to "Change background image".

I had a hard time decompressing this morning after I got home from work, so I dragged myself out of bed at 3:30 am, only to be hit full in the face by some visual monstrosity Google decided to unleash upon the world. It looked like something had vomited all over my computer screen. According to the Computerworld link above and this CNET post, apparently Google decided to end the 24-hour background image experiment after only 14 hours due to a bug that prevented a link from appearing on the home page that would have explained what the hell was actually happening.

Ah, yes. One more Google bug to add to my list. I'm sure the fact that "remove google background " showed up as a top search term for a while on Thursday didn't have anything to do with the early demise of the experiment.

I'm not sure if it was tongue-in-cheek or not, but the CNET writer noted that "Apparently many searchers on Google.com Thursday morning missed the company's blog post Wednesday night, and were confused and annoyed at the change....." I think I've looked at Google's official blog site maybe three times in my entire life.

The good folks at PCWorld and InformationWeek condescendingly blew off a "perceived" lag in loading times for the background image. I'm sure even these guys could "perceive" how at one point it took 56 seconds for the top menu bar to appear on my PC after the background image loaded. That result wasn't typical, but I wasn't too surprised when a half hour later I hit my Google home page again, went downstairs to get a glass of ice water, and came back upstairs just in time to witness the tail end of the page load.

I'm actually waiting to read that this experiment was a rip-roaring success, since it got the whole world buzzing about Google. It sort of reminds me of one story that was spun after the New Coke fiasco of the mid-1980's which claimed that the whole event was orchestrated by the marketing department to take Pepsi out of the spotlight for a while. I'm guessing the group-thinky gurus at Google probably figured out that a lot of us white page fanatics are Zen minimalists. Unfortunately, they probably figured we'd be better served if we were allowed to meditate while waiting for images of rocks and Japanese waterfalls to finish loading.

For my next project I'll try to find some forums that are clogged with angry posts where people are complaining that they are forced to click on a separate link in order to get background images to load.

(Now, if I only I could get my top Google menu bar to load quicker....)

Helpful Info. on Removing the Google Background Image

Update 12:49 PM So far, my best advice is to change your home page to http://www.google.com/m/classic. Feel free to poke around the rest of my post for other helpful hints.

(Original Post)

Here are a few links to sites that give suggestions on how to try to get rid of the annoying Google background images. As far as I can tell, we'll be subject to the revolving door of background images for a total of 24 hours. Afterwards, we'll supposedly be able to switch back to the old background. It would have been nice if that information was easily accessible from the Google home page.

We'll see what happens. I just hope we don't have to sign into our Google accounts every time we want to see the old clean image. I rarely ever sign in except for when I'm blogging.

And now for the links.

"Remove the Google Background Image", from OsXDaily. The most helpful piece of advice was to switch to https://www.google.com/, which is their encrypted SSL page.

"How to Remove Google's Background Image", from firstfoundblog. This and many other sites tell us to simply click on the “remove background image link”. I have yet to find such a link, so I'm hoping it magically appears in 24 hours.


"Promotion for Google's Wallpaper Feature", from Google Operating System. It shows how to choose a white background. This also appears in the OsXDaily link mentioned above. Interestingly enough, I tried this a few hours ago and the pop-up page they referenced didn't appear to me. It finally worked for me a few minutes ago. As it turns out, you only get that pop-up page if you're signed into your Google account.

"Remove the new background image(s) from Google.....", Google Help Forum. More of the same from above, but you might find something interesting if you keep poking around this thread.

My Advice So Far - I have https://www.google.com/ set up as my home page for when my family members go to Google without signing in to an existing account. I have the white background set up for the regular http://www.google.com/ page for when I sign in using my Google account. (Rats - a few hours after I typed this, I logged in and found that my home page reverted to https://www.google.com/, which is OK with me. It's working fine. I'm giving up and I won't try fine-tuning anymore.)

I'll add more links if I run across any that offer new information.

How Do I Hate Thee, Google? Let Me Count the Ways

I'm getting a bit tired of being thwarted by Google this past week every time I sit down to work on my regular posts. I've been a (relatively) lifelong supporter of Google and I consider their search engine to be by far the best one around. I was one of the first adopters of the Google search engine and was using it when no one else had even heard of it.

So why has Google been trying to torture me over the last year? Have I done something to offend them? That stupid mandatory background image that comes up on their search page was the last straw that made me type up this post. Here's a Google Help Forum thread showing what a lot of other unhappy campers are saying in their complaints. (You'll need to check out the latest posts.)

It all started about a year ago when I started noticing nagging problems in the Google Blogger platform that just wouldn't go away. I've used Blogger for this blog and other blogs for the last four years or so, and for the most part I've had few complaints. It's free and I understand I get what I pay for. Little bugs would crop up from time to time, but they would always go away within a few days even if I didn't bother to leave a message in their Help forum. But now, problems either don't go away or they just keep coming back.

Here's a list of complaints that I can recall in my current sleep-deprived state.

Search Feature within Blogger/Blogspot. That silly search engine feature at the top of my Blogspot page is almost completely worthless. I can't remember the last time I could find anything in my blog from the search result. I'm better off going into the Google main search engine, and even then it's iffy because I'm finding that some of my older blog posts don't show up in the search results even when I cut and paste key portions of my text. I have to totally rely on my post tags, which doesn't always work since the key word(s) I'm looking for aren't necessarily associated with the post tags. In my prior blogs, the search feature worked just fine.

Updated Editor. Last November I started using the "Updated Editor" feature, which was a new feature at the time. To be honest, I can't even remember what made the "Updated Editor" better than the standard editor. I used if for a few days, then, BLAMMO, I started having all sorts of problems, not the least of which included the fact that it seemed like I lost all control over the appearance of my blog posts. Text started showing up in different fonts and sizes, the spacing went all wacko bizarro, I suffered the complete loss of the Copy and Paste functions, etc. I switched back to Standard editor and eventually my problems started to drift away. However, one problem that never resolved itself was the Copy and Paste functions as described below.

Copy and Paste. Blogger has two ways for us to type our posts: the "Edit Html" mode and the "Compose" mode. The "Compose" mode is the de facto "HTML for Dummies" mode. I fully admit I'm one of those dummies and I use the "Compose" mode almost exclusively.

I follow the kaizen approach to editing, meaning, I'm never happy with my writing and I'm continuously trying to improve my posts. As such, I only stop editing one of my posts when I stop looking at it. A key part of my editing process is that I always find mistakes when I move my draft from one platform to the next. For example, if I email a post to Blogger or move it in from an HTML editor (which I rarely do), or when I look at the Preview mode before publishing, and even after publishing and I'm looking at it as a completed blog post, I always notice errors or see the need to make improvements within every step of the process. The ability to copy and paste text is a crucial part of the editing process for me.

I can no longer copy and paste in the "Compose" mode, which all started when I foolishly (and briefly) switched to the Updated Editor back in November of last year. (Actually, copying is no problem - pasting is the big pain in the butt). I honestly don't know if my temporary switch to the Updated Editor is the cause of my current problems, but it's as good as any other cause and effect idea I can come up with. When I have to paste text, I have to switch to the "Edit Html" mode and scroll through all of the code and other weird spacings in order to find the exact spot I want to paste the text into. Bloggers know that the text looks completely different in the "Edit Html" mode than it does in the more finalized "Compose" mode, so it's an excruciatingly slow process to find the correct part of the draft to insert the pasted text.

What's even worse is the attitude of Google aficionados that the answer to everything is to compose everything from an HTML editor and export it into Blogger. That ranks right up with the guy in Spinal Tap who comes up with the brilliant idea to change the choreography so the dancing dwarfs won't trod upon the undersized Stonehenge monument.

Google and AT&T Midwest USA DSL Customers. In both March and May of this year, there were server problems associated with AT&T DSL customers in the Midwest. We could only sporadically access Google pages, YouTube, Blogger pages or other pages that had Google pawprints on them. Seeing as how Google ads appear everywhere, you can imagine the scope of the problem. Who knows if it was a Google problem or an AT&T problem, but these were added headaches.

Comments. I've noticed reader comments sporadically appearing and disappearing from my blog over the last two months. Sometimes the comments will only appear if they are accessed a certain way. For example, the comments will appear if you're looking at my homepage, but they won't appear if you look directly at the archived page. As far as I know, the comments will always correctly appear after a day or so, but it's tough when a reader leaves a comment, then checks back the next day for a possible reply and doesn't even see the comment that he or she left.

Blogger Outage. The Blogger platform was completely unavailable earlier this week for large numbers of users. That meant we couldn't compose, edit, review comments or do anything remotely pertaining to administering our blogs. Google tried to introduce new features without announcing them ahead of time, and everything backfired tremendously when Blogger crashed and burned. Blogger came back only after Google deleted the new features.

Google Background Image - Search Engine Homepage. I hated it several months ago when, for whatever reason, the top menu bar started taking forever to load. Now I have to wait forever for the new Google background image to load. It's like the awful anticipation of sitting there waiting for your nemesis to slap you in the face. As far as I know, there's no way to switch back to the oldie-but-goody clean white background.

Why Don't I Stop Complaining and Switch to Something Else? I would if I could! The problem is that I've never found any alternatives that came remotely close to equalling the quality, ease of use and other great features associated with Google and Blogger/Blogspot. Any suggestions will be helpful.

For the life of me I can't imagine why Google is taking the best features of their products and distorting them into unrecognizable monsters.

Update: Disappearing Edits. AHA! I just thought of one more thing. About a week ago, my edits weren't being saved. If I made some changes to my draft, saved them, then went back to my draft a few hours later or the next day, I found that the edits had disappeared and my draft had reverted back to an earlier version. I then had to make my changes all over again. I know I can copy my draft to another platform, but again, that's another unnecessary added step. Thankfully, the problem went away after a few days.

Another Update: Apparently we'll only be force-fed the Google background images for 24 hours. Here's information on how we can supposedly make our day more bearable.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Test Post for June 2010

There have been all sorts of problems with Google/Blogger since last night. This is the first that I've been able to sign in to actually do anything with my posts today. I'm just seeing if this will publish.

Update: Still suffering from sporadic Blogger outages.

Update 2: Testing.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Getting Hung Up on Reality v Perception

My post about Wesley and Faith's relationship in Season 4 of Angel's "Release" is not as easy to write about as I had hoped. My main challenge is that I'm suffering from a classic "head versus heart" dilemma. Do I write about the messages that I believe the Mutant Enemy production company was trying to get across? Or do I write about what I am personally perceiving and understanding about this episode?

I almost feel obligated to write two parallel reviews, which of course I'm not going to do. So, I'm struggling to come up with some sort of synthesis between the "reality" of what the creators were presenting to us and my perceptions in what I'm actually taking away from the episode.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Same Place, Same Time

I've been working on a series of posts (here and here) where I'm trying to figure out what made Faith and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce such an explosive pairing in Season 4 of Angel. It took me about a year to finally see all of their earlier appearances in Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Season 1 of Angel. Although there is a natural progression to their relationship, I always felt I was missing out on some key missing link that helped bridge the gap between their Season 1 and their Season 4 appearances on Angel. This post will focus on the Season 4 episode "Salvage".

Faith's Possible Prison Story. Sometimes the missing link isn't missing at all! It was pretty obvious all along that both Wesley and Faith were seeking redemption, but I guess it didn't fully sink into me how that theme completely colored their overall relationship. Both Wes and Faith had a lot to atone for. Faith was trying to cope with the fact that she murdered the deputy mayor of Sunnydale, tried to help the Mayor take over the world during his Ascension, tortured Wesley, and otherwise ran roughshod over everyone during her days as an undisciplined Slayer. Wesley was trying to redeem himself for being a failed Watcher, for being a failed leader of Angel Investigations, for kidnapping (and losing) baby Connor, and for failing to protect Lilah at the Hyperion Hotel. By the time they met up at the women's prison, both Wes and Faith were very much in the same mental state at the same time and felt that they needed to prove themselves to the world.

In my last post I wrote how Lilah was the surprising main influence on Wesley as he pulled himself out of his deepest misery and became determined to find a way to defeat both Angelus and The Beast. As an aside, although I still maintain she brought out Wesley's best qualities, it was a bit unflattering to Lilah that Wesley owed part of his success to falling so deeply into the darkness while he was with her, the only place left for him to go was up.

We didn't see any sort of buildup for Faith's rehabilitation in prison, but we can make a few semi-educated guesses. She knew that prison would be a tough environment in which to seek redemption. Even women's prisons can be naturally violent places, and it was crucial for Faith to try to avoid that violence while continuing on her road to recovery. Just like in sporting events, in prison it appears that people draw tougher penalties for retaliating than for instigating. Notice how in this scene Faith was quick to point out to one of the prison guards, "Hey, hey, self defense. She attacked me, Eddie" after a fellow inmate tried to kill her. She probably learned pretty quickly that sometimes it's impossible to avoid crossing the line between self-defense and frontal assault when you're trying to protect yourself. Faith may have even ended up in a special lockdown situation for similar incidents in the past.

However, "Eddie" the prison guard countered that, although they had witnessed the whole thing, it still caught the guards by surprise. He correctly finished with "....who'd be crazy enough to try to take you out?"

I'll go into this a little bit later on, but Faith must have developed her leadership skills somewhere, and prison would have been the most likely environment. I didn't see anything in Buffy to show that she could do more than fight on instinct. Faith had a strong personality and would have naturally drawn followers. Although she may have wanted to have avoid violence, it was impossible to avoid prison fights. As brutal an environment as it was for her, prison did offer her a perfect sink-or-swim atmosphere where she would have been able to test her new-found coping skills on a daily basis.

One can't help but think that perhaps Faith was naturally drawn to help out some of the weaker prisoners, and maybe even acted as somewhat of an enforcer. Perhaps the prison administration quickly grew to rely on her to help keep order behind the walls. Eddie and the other guards could have easily hauled Faith away for severely injuring her fellow prisoner even though she was acting in self-defence. I don't think Faith was being coddled in any way, but the fact that she apparently didn't lose any privileges after the prison yard incident probably showed that she had gained the respect of the guards.

"Eddie" clearly knew that Faith wasn't someone to mess around with. Did he or anyone else know or suspect that she was either a Slayer or had some other supernatural abilities? There are hints scattered throughout the Buffyverse that the higher-ups within the criminal justice system were aware of the world of vampires and demons. The fact that Faith could have broken out of prison anytime she felt like it, but chose to remain incarcerated instead, might have impressed quite a few people. She may have even received some decent counseling in prison as well! It was crucial for Faith's rehabilitation that she be treated exactly like all of the other prisoners, so it was probably a good thing that she (as far as we know) wasn't a high-ranking prison trustee. As harsh as it sounds, prison was exactly the right place for her to be in at that time.

Wes and Faith - Looking Good. So, Wesley and Faith were roughly in the same place, redemption-wise, when they met up with each other at the prison. In this scene, Faith noted that she never expected to see Wesley, the man she brutally tortured in Season 1, to come visit her. He informed her that a lot had happened since then. Faith continued on "Whatever it is suits you. I mean, you're looking... [impressed] good."

I can't pretend to hide the fact that there was an enormous amount of sexual tension swirling around both Wes and Faith in these Season 4 episodes of "Salvage" and "Release". I had written in an earlier post that "Although there was nothing remotely overt going on between the two of them, there certainly was an erotic electrical discharge taking place." I had also written in a different post that:
In these two episodes, Wesley was at the height of his bad-ass days. He was positively dripping with sex! Add an equally bad-ass Faith with her always in-your-face sexuality, and you get explosive results. These two never kissed, never almost kissed and never even thought about almost-kissing. They didn't have to. Their scenes were hot enough as they were. Anything else would have been overkill.
This might not be a close analogy, but I somewhat compare Wes' relationship with Faith as being similar to his relationship with Justine, in that there was a heavy element of eroticism (albeit there didn't appear to be anything really going on between Wesley and Justine). I even thought last year that there was a possibility that Faith changed her mind and agreed to become acquiescent to Wesley simply because he looked hot and she was impressed by his new bad-ass demeanor. Alas, I think things might be a bit more complicated than that.

Regardless, although no doubt Wesley could appreciate Faith's beauty and her sexuality, he was totally focused on the mission. When required, Wes could be extremely professional. We all know that Faith wore her sexuality as a badge of honor, but we could tell that she was somewhat keeping herself in check with Wes. "You're looking - good" was pretty mild by Faith's standards. We also know that there was always a lesbian subtext with Faith, and it's possible she was having relations with some of the female inmates. However, I honestly can't think of a better libido-killer than prison. I just don't get the vibe that sex was a big thing for Faith at that time. In other words, I don't think she was in danger of jumping Wes simply because he was the first available man she had met in a while.

I also felt that with Faith, rather than being a true nymphomaniac, may have been using sex as a substitute for the intimacy she might have craved but seemed unable to achieve. Also, kind of like a wandering brigand, there was also an undisciplined element of "live for the moment" surrounding Faith since she was fully aware that she could literally die at any time. Dialing down her blatant "in-your-face" sexuality may have been a by-product of becoming more disciplined, starting to look toward the long-term, and learning to control her impulses.

I'm not saying that Faith would have, under different circumstances, jumped on Wesley in the SUV while they were on their way to Los Angeles. I'm not even sure if Wesley would have done the same with Faith if he would have caught up with her during his darkest moments. However, they both definitely knew there was a time and place for everything. They also knew that a little bit of interplay was healthy and perhaps even necessary. It was even possible to engage in some of this sexual interplay without even remotely being in danger of crossing over the line. For example, while Wesley was telling her what had been happening over the last several months, Faith was changing out of her prison clothes in the back seat. Not once did we see Wes glance back at Faith while she was changing. However, later in that same scene, when Wesley stopped the vehicle so she could test herself against a few vampires, they had this wonderful dialogue exchange):
WESLEY: Thought you could use a little release. Feel natural?

FAITH: (shrugs) Ah, it's like riding a biker.
Wes was thoroughly appreciating behavior from Faith that would have thoroughly shocked him back in Sunnydale. This provided yet one more instance of how Wes was actually loosening up and becoming more like Faith. At the same time, Faith was more disciplined and becoming more like Wesley. As a result, they were remarkably close to each other in the middle when they paired up in Season 4.

Wesley the Watcher. Wes correctly knew what motivated Faith and how she operated. She loved to Slay, and he knew that the adrenalin rush she felt while dusting vampires would have felt an awful lot like sexual release. Trying to deny that would have been fruitless. The Old Wesley in Sunnydale would have tried to boss her around with tired old platitudes. The New Wesley wasn't quite as tied to old traditions. Although Wesley was good-naturedly working with her natural tendencies, he was far from working with her personal best interests at heart. Wes always did whatever it took to get the job done, regardless of the possible negative consequences. To date, Wesley was grimly embarking on his Finest Hour as a Watcher.

Although the theme of this post is that Wesley and Faith were in the same mental time and place when they met up at prison (with both of them seeking redemption and being eager to prove themselves to the world), that's only true to a certain extent. Wesley was charged and ready to go into action. Although her surroundings weren't pleasant, Faith was actually operating within a safe and sheltered environment. She wanted to show others that she had changed, but she wasn't yet ready to go out and face the world. Of course with Faith, facing her world was a lot different than what most people could have imagined. She was not only called upon to face the world, but to also save the world. Wesley ripped her from one environment where she was learning that there were peaceful alternatives to violence, to an environment where violence was the only way.

During their prison conversation in the early part of "Salvage", Faith acted extremely reluctant to leave what had now become her home. "It's Armageddon again. I dig. The last thing you need's me in the mix. Besides, Angel'll come shining through in the end like he always does."

There was only one thing that could change Faith's mind, and Wesley was fully aware of it. "Angel's gone, Faith. Angelus is back" Wesley informed her.

At that point, actress Eliza Dushku gave us one of the most dramatic moments of the entire series, where she lowered the phone and looked off to the side with that stricken look on her face. You could tell her mind was going a million miles per minute at that point. Finally, she simply said "Step away from the glass." I'm curious to find out how many takes it took to get that fantastic look on her face. Anyways, to continue on with one of the most dramatic scenes in the series, she crashed through the glass, beat up at least three guards without too many problems, grabbed Wesley, crashed through the glass windows and fell about two or three stories before landing on some cars below. "You OK?" Faith asked. Smiling, Wes answered with her patented "Five by five".

I wish the Season 4 DVD had additional commentary for "Salvage" since I really would have liked to have heard about the filming of this episode. I unfortunately have to wait until "Orpheus" to hear some commentary. I wrote "unfortunately" because it's my least-favorite episode of the Season 4 Faith trilogy. Regardless, I loved how Wesley just stood there and watched while she not only took out the guards, but also while she took out the vampires and even Connor in later scenes. It must be very difficult to act like you're doing nothing without looking really unnatural. Alexis Denisof is probably one of the best actors around at doing nothing and watching!

Who's In Charge? Similar to how I loved the almost continuous power play fluctuations going on between Wesley and Lilah, I also enjoyed watching something similar going on between Wesley and Faith. As the wonderful Wes/Faith fanfics love to point out, Faith could beat up Wesley at any time. However, whereas Faith refused to answer to Wesley in Sunnydale and Season 1 of Angel, she was perfectly willing to put herself under his control in Season 4 of Angel. Wesley had obviously toughened himself considerably in the meantime, as Faith couldn't help but notice. However, the act of leadership is a two-way street. You have to command respect, but the follower also has to put personal considerations aside and fall in line behind the leader. The most skillful general in the world will look like a buffoon if he's commanding a bunch of low-lifes.

By deciding to follow Wesley's lead, Faith was not only responding to his new-found self-assurance, she was also performing her own act of atonement for rebelling against him in earlier seasons. Wes probably took advantage of the situation, but he still had an obligation to act responsibly and not betray her trust.

As a matter of fact, the leadership angle was one of the more puzzling aspects of their Season 4 appearances. I have not seen all of her Buffy the Vampire Slayer appearances, but there's nothing I've seen or read that indicated that Faith was capable of taking charge in the Hyperion Hotel and planning an attack. Up to that point, we saw Faith as being pretty impetuous as she attacked first and thought about the consequences later. The obvious implication, as I stated above, was that she developed some leadership skills in prison. However, Buffy must have been an undeniable influence as well, leading us to think that during quiet times of self-reflection, Faith must have been thinking, "How can I be more like Buffy?"

Although I believe Wesley must have told everyone about Faith ahead of time (if he did so, it took place off-camera right after this scene), it was still interesting to see everyone's reaction to her the first time she walked into the hotel. The men were actually much more receptive to Faith than the ladies. Gunn appreciated her finer qualities right away (the feeling was mutual, as Faith thought it was too bad that Gunn was forced to "hold his own"), and I can't help but think that the fact that Gunn was a free agent now that he and Fred were no longer a couple helped him appreciate Faith even more. Connor out-and-out lusted after Faith! And the more she asserted her authority with him, the more he was taken with her.

Poor Fred! Not too much earlier, she saw Wesley walk through the front door of the Hotel with the luscious-but-evil Lilah, and in a deja vu moment she saw Wesley walk through the front door with the equally luscious Faith the Slayer! Although we know nothing ever happened between Wesley and Faith, the thought undoubtedly crossed Fred's mind that they might have had something going on, particularly after Faith informed Fred that Wesley had already given her "the skinny" on Fred. Cordelia as Cordelia predictably acted quite hostile to rogue-turned-murderer Slayer Faith being sprung from prison, while Cordelia as Jasmine was equally as concerned about a woman who was threatening to overturn all of her carefully laid evil plans.

Getting back to the leadership aspect, Wesley quickly receded into background as Faith took over in the Hyperion. Again, we have all of those lovely layers of control: Faith could take on Wes at any time; Wes took control over Faith; Faith allowed Wes to take control over her; and Wes allowed Faith to take control at the Hyperion and while on the hunt for The Beast and Angelus. There was also yet one more aspect that I really enjoyed while it simultaneously confused me, in that Faith and Wesley effortlessly switched their active leadership roles back and forth without a hitch, as though they had been working together as a team for many years. As far as we know, Wesley had never had the opportunity to act like a real Watcher out in the field, and obviously Faith had never been in a similar situation with Wes. I can only put this down to how the two of them had become so similar, they always instinctively knew what the other person was thinking and doing.

As much as I loved this scene in the alleyway where Faith kicked Connor's butt (and Connor didn't seem to mind), I was saddened that Gunn was prematurely taken out of the picture in this episode when he volunteered to take Connor back to the hotel. As great as it was to see Faith and Wesley on the prowl together, it would have been even more fantastic to see Faith, Wesley and Gunn work as a team. Wesley was positively beaming with pride as Faith made short order out of Connor, while an appreciative Gunn seemed to be indicating to Wesley that he made a great decision to bring Faith into town. I had always given Wesley credit for allowing and challenging women to work to the best of their abilities (with a minimal amount of condescension), but in these episodes I could see a difference in Charles' demeanor. While Gunn was protective of Fred (probably with good reason), he was wonderfully impressed with Faith's ability to kick ass in a male-dominated world. Gunn knew Faith could take him on at any time. However, Gunn seemed a lot happier without having another alpha male around like Angel. Quite frankly, Gunn might have been better off being in a trio with Faith and Wesley rather than with Angel and Wesley.

With the group finally whittled down to Wesley and Faith, they seemed to continue to work quite well with one another, with Faith leading the way while Wesley was quietly in control in the background. However, unfortunately for me, they quickly split up, with Wesley having his hands full with Angelus' vampire cohorts while Faith took on Angelus and The Beast. At this point we were reminded that Faith's Season 4 appearances with Wesley were simply leading up to her final showdowns with Angelus.

Closing Thoughts - I guess I'm too lazy to work this into my main post, but I thought this was a particularly powerful exchange between Wes and Faith, when Faith informed Wesley:
FAITH: I'm not gonna kill him, Wesley. Angelus. I don't care what you thought you sprung me for. Angel's the only one in my life who's never given up on me. There's no way I'm giving up on—

WESLEY: I know. That's why it had to be you....
This was just one example of how these two people were perfectly suited to work together to take on such a difficult mission.

We know that Faith had already worked with another Watcher before she hit Sunnydale. Did she draw on any of those past experiences while working as Watcher/Slayer with Wesley?