Monday, April 30, 2007

Fit For Ben Franklin: The Most Shocking Moments on Television

I am currently sitting in National Airport, waiting for my flight to board to Atlanta, my hometown. I’m jetting home for one night to surprise my sister, who is playing Marty in Grease this weekend. Nobody knows I’m on my way home, thanks to some particularly Sydney Bristow-like maneuvers; namely, my neighbor is picking me up at the airport.

In honor of this big surprise, I thought I would recount my favorite television surprises of all time. Here are my ten favorite shockers, in no particular order.

1. Carol and Doug are reunited on ER. My parents let me stay up late to watch Julianna Marguiles’s episode, and it certainly did not disappoint. Being the spoiler whore that I am, I was grateful to Jack Orman for keeping the reunion so under-wraps. It made for maybe the sweetest ER scene ever shown. Next time, though, show us the babies!

2. Jim confesses his love for Pam on The Office. I guess we were all expecting a Jam cliffhanger, but Jim’s teary confession to Pam in the parking lot was more than I ever could have hoped for. And then they kissed and everything I knew about the rules of television were thrown out the window. Until “Gay Witch Hunt,” when they were all reinstated. Still, it was a nice summer of speculation.

3. Rachel is pregnant on Friends. Friends was so stale during the season of Chandler and Monica’s engagement that I often felt like I was the only one watching. The Monica pregnancy storyline was predictable and trite. Sneaking in that cliffhanger, where Phoebe comes to the realization that the pregnancy test was Rachel’s, began a brilliant upswing for the show. The next season (the eighth) was perhaps my favorite ever.

4. Meredith wakes up with Denny in Grey’s limbo. Holy crap, Meg, don’t scare me like that! I think I’ve said it here before, but everybody this side of the Grey’s writing staff knew that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was coming back. We just all assumed it would be in an Izzie-related manner, and that we would think it was stupid. My roommate Lily hated the Denny episodes of season two more than anything in this world and was incredibly dismayed at the news of his resurfacing. However, his return was so smart, so unexpected, so downright terrifying. And then Kyle Chandler was there, too! Good job, Grey’s, at making for the most shocking episode-ender ever.

5. The Others take Walt. Just when rescue seemed imminent—hugging, backslaps, and general bilingual joy—turns out the Others had other plans. When those effers threw that Molotov cocktail, effectively destroying the raft, I was so terrified that I gripped my computer screen like a crazy person. “The Bagel” remains my favorite B-story cliffhanger ever. It was this insanity that kept me waiting for the season premiere.

6. Sydney Bristow is the Prophecy. The first-season episode “The Prophecy” connected Milo Rambaldi and Sydney Bristow for the first time. Probably the first taste of real live Jabrams the world ever got, this reveal set the rest of the series in motion. Terrifying, thought-provoking, and downright shock-inducing, the Sydney-is-The-Chosen-One storyline started with the phrase: “This woman here depicted will possess unseen marks. Signs that she will be the one to bring forth my work...”

7. Josh and Donna kiss. After waiting for six—six!—seasons, one of my favorite couples ever hooked up for the first time in “The Cold,” an episode that marked the beginning of the end for this beloved series and set in motion the wrapping-up of West Wing’s (arguable) only love story. This super-sexy kiss (find the YouTubed version without the Dizzy Gillespie music if you want to hear the breathing) was long overdue, yet in no way anticlimactic.

8. Rory boffs Dean. In a season finale chock-full of surprises, including Luke and Lorelai’s first kiss, nothing was more shocking than the reveal that Rory had given her virginity to the very-married Dean. That ending scene, with Rory breaking down on the front porch, marked the ending of young Rory and the beginning of adult Rory, as the choices she faced in the next season were profoundly the result of her decision to become somebody’s mistress. Not how any girl probably imagines her first time, but it was especially disappointing for super-smart Rory.

9. Michael Vaughn might be evil. I suppose I should have been hesitant to believe that Jabrams really would have let Alias’s fourth season end with Sydney and Vaughn riding off into the Santa Barbara sunset, but I never could have expected what occurred in that beach-bound car. The show had given us many wayward turns throughout the run, but stuck to some guidelines. Sloane is evil. Dixon is pointless. Vaughn is a good guy. Questioning that particular tenet of Alias threw me for a total loop—it took me the entire summer to recover.

10. Ethan Rom is an Other. By far the creepiest shocker, Ethan Rom is probably the scariest villain of any on television. It’s that squinchy-nose thing he’s got going on, added to the fact that he’s got superhuman strength and the creepiest voice inflection maybe ever. And he steals babies. I was so scared in the Season One episode when Hurley finds out Ethan’s not on the flight manifest and then it cuts to Ethan approaching Claire and Charlie. YIKES! (PS—that actor is totally Tom Cruise’s cousin.)

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