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Redrafting Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘E•MO•TION’

08.28.16 at 1:48 pm ET
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Carly Rae Jepsen's leftover songs are killer. (Getty Images)

Carly Rae Jepsen’s leftover songs are killer. (Getty Images)

For an album that’s exceedingly bright, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “E•MO•TION” didn’t have as fun a time as it should have. It was undoubtedly a very strong album, but it barely yielded one Top 40 song as the album failed to take Jepsen back to the heights she had reached with “Call Me Maybe” off of 2012’s “Kiss.”

Still, those who sunk their teeth into the album swore by it, and for good reason. This album was crafted to be a modern-day pop masterpiece, as its producers and co-writers included modern-day hitmakers Sia, Ariel Rechtshaid (Adele, Vampire Weekend, HAIM, Calvin Harris), Shellback (Taylor Swift, Adele, Kesha, Maroon 5) Mattman & Robin (Taylor Swift, Tove Lo, Nick Jonas; they’re also the monsters responsible for “Cake By the Ocean”), Rostam and Dev Hynes. Simply looking at the album’s credits was enough to make a pop fan’s mouth water. Hell, Bieber was an executive producer.

The songs were great, if not too similar to one another. The album was clearly put together with an 80s sound in mind, an area where Rechtshaid in particular excels. Why the album wasn’t a major success may go down as one of modern pop’s great mysteries, but the thinking here from the beginning was that some truly great work was spent on an artist who wasn’t truly great, and that’s coming from a Carly Rae Jepsen fan.

Still, the album’s fate was unfair. Taylor Swift’s success (and that of so many before her) shows that you don’t need to be a powerhouse vocalist to be a star solo artist, and really “1989” wasn’t so much better than “EMOTION” that one deserved Album of the Year while the other failed to even get a single Grammy nomination.

On Friday, Jepson released “E•MO•TION: Side B,” a collection of eight songs that didn’t make the cut for the 12-song LP. The songs very much come from the same world as “E•MO•TION” (the 80s world), but interestingly enough, “Side B” might actually be a better pound-for-pound release than “E•MO•TION” itself. The leadoff track of the leftovers, “First Time” is perhaps one of the five best songs of the entire group of 20.

So, with “Side B” being received warmly (and it’s worth nothing “E•MO•TION” was also a critical darling), it’s worth exploring whether “E•MO•TION” could have been more successful had Interscope kept some of the songs it cut and lost some of the ones that made the album. Sticking with 12 songs (the number on the standard release), here’s one attempt at giving “E•MO•TION” a good ol’ fashioned redrafting:

1. Run Away With Me [E•MO•TION] – The rest of the album isn’t as adult as its leadoff shuffle, making this a standout track.
2. First Time [Side B] – And here we return to vintage Jepsen. Nothing beats good, unapologetically derivative pop. This song isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but rather make the wheel look damn good.
3. Higher [Side B] – A good enough song to overlook rhyming “best” with “rest.”
4. E•MO•TION [E•MO•TION] – Great chorus; would have been a much better choice as a single than the bland “Your Type,” which was released as a single but doesn’t make the cut here.
5. I Really Like You [E•MO•TION] – The only Top 40 song off “E•MO•TION” wasn’t close to her best work on the album, but it appeased the “Call Me Maybe” crowd to a degree.
6. The One [Side B] – Carly Rae Jepsen is nothing without flirty songs. This is one of them.
7. All That [E•MO•TION] – The best song of the 20 and one of Rechtshaid’s finest works. Just a terrific slow jam with a killer bridge.
8. Boy Problems [E•MO•TION] – Jepsen’s songs usually rely on massive choruses; here’s a rare instance where the verse and pre-chorus outshine the hook.
9. Cry [Side B] – The type of song Taylor Swift will hear and be furious she didn’t come up with it first.
10. When I Needed You [E•MO•TION] – Essentially a Sky Ferreira song, which is a great thing.
11. Warm Blood [E•MO•TION] – The most ambitious song of the group, and boy does it work.
12. Roses [Side B] – Now I seriously wish this is what the album was. “Roses” would have been a hell of a closer.

Thinking Out Loud: Bryant basketball team continues tour of Italy after earthquake

08.26.16 at 3:43 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … and wondering whatever happened to Michael Bishop.

— One of those rare occasions happened this week when the real world and the sports world collide — and excuse each other for the intrusion. The Bryant basketball team is touring Italy, situated in Rome, and was supposed to play in the town of Spoleto on Wednesday night — until a 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit central Italy.

— That first game in Spoleto, not far from the quake’s epicenter and only about 20 minutes from one of the hardest-hit areas (Amatrice), was canceled. The tremors were felt in Rome, waking coach Tim O’Shea (as he reported via social media), and Bryant’s travel party is safe. But the death toll surpassed 240 late this week as rescue efforts continue in the mountainous central region of the country.

— Sport becomes a complete afterthought when faced with tragedy like this. And it should be. Bryant’s team traveled to Naples late in the week after completing its tour of Rome.

— Sometimes the stress and strain of directing a high major basketball program takes its toll in different ways. To the surprise of many, Providence basketball coach Ed Cooley underwent back surgery for a herniated disc this week. The athletic department reports Cooley’s surgery went well, and he expects to be back in the office next week at some point, with classes starting Aug. 29 — and he certainly expects to be back coaching the team for the start of preseason workouts in October.

— The third annual Providence Basketball Classic will be held Saturday (Aug. 27) at Jorge Alvarez High School in Providence from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eight teams of former pro and college players from New England will compete in a single-elimination tournament, competing for a cash prize, and there will be a high school all-star game as well. Backpack giveaways for the start of school, school supplies and free haircuts are a part of the festivities, and admission is only $3.

— About 1,000 fans attended last year’s event, which is the creation of former Johnson & Wales all-American Lamonte Thomas. Thomas is preparing for his fifth season of playing professionally in Europe. Cool that he continues to give back to the community by hosting this event.

— ICYMI, Tomas Murphy, who hails from Wakefield, Rhode Island, is headed to Northeastern to play his college ball for coach Bill Coen. Coen and Murphy’s dad, Jay, are long-time friends with Boston College connections, and Murphy’s brothers (Erik and Alex) played at Florida under Billy Donovan. Butler, Pittsburgh and Georgia also were in the final mix until the end.

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Friday’s Morning Mashup: Former Red Sox pitcher impressed with Tim Tebow after practice sessions

08.26.16 at 8:36 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Royals at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Orioles at Yankees, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Braves at Giants, 11 p.m. (MLB Network)
NFL preseason: Browns at Buccaneers, 8 p.m. (CBS)
NFL preseason: Packers at 49ers, 10 p.m. (NFL Network)
College football: Hawaii at California, 10 p.m. (ESPN)
WNBA: Liberty at Stars, 8 p.m. (NBA TV)
WNBA: Sparks at Storm, 10 p.m. (NBA TV)
Soccer: Bundesliga, SV Werder Bremen at Bayern Munich, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB:

Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow

— As he closes in on Tuesday’s showcase for major league teams, Tim Tebow has impressed at least one former major leaguer.

David Aardsma, a 34-year-old journeyman reliever who pitched for the Red Sox in 2008 and most recently played for the Blue Jays’ Triple-A team earlier this season, pitched to Tebow twice in practice sessions, and he told the New York Daily News’ Anthony McCarron that he came away believing the former quarterback has a chance with baseball.

“When I walked away, as a pitcher, I was pretty impressed,” said Aardsma, who has been working out at the same Arizona facility as Tebow, hoping to make a return to the majors. “He needs to see a lot more pitching and understand what the pitcher is watching and seeing from him and adjusting. That’s not something you know until you’re in it.

“I’d get him to instructs [instructional league], work his butt and get him to play winter league. Get him on the field every day, facing different pitchers. I would not be surprised if he’s in Double-A next year. I’d put the talent there right now.”

Aardsma said Tebow did a good job of adjusting to the right-hander’s pitches the first time they faced each other. One week later, the two again shared a field Thursday and Tebow further progressed to the point where the 29-year-old ESPN analyst took Aardsma deep.

“It actually really pissed me off,” Aardsma said of Tebow’s success against him, noting that he was throwing low-90s fastballs as well as breaking balls.

Added Aardsma: “He looked like a much different hitter today. He looked like he is midseason. He got tired at the end, but that was after a lot of work and probably 12 at-bats.”

Red Sox president Sam Kennedy acknowledged Wednesday on Ordway, Merloni & Fauria that Boston will be one of the expected 20 or so major league teams at Tuesday’s workout, although he didn’t sound optimistic about it being worthwhile. Aardsma said he can see why some in baseball have doubted Tebow’s chances of succeeding in his career change, but he doesn’t rule it out.

“It’s understandable,” Aardsma said. “If I’m a scout, outside looking in, I’d say no chance. But there’s always exceptions to that rule, some people who have innate talent. What’s the risk?”

— One day after North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora confirmed that Tim Beckman had been serving as a volunteer assistant coach despite being fired from Illinois for allegedly mistreating players, Beckman announced Thursday that he was leaving because he did not want to be a distraction.

“I appreciate the opportunity Coach Fedora gave me to stay connected to the sport and be around one of the best staffs in the country,” Beckman said in a statement. “His willingness to help a friend was a benefit both personally and professionally. I do not wish to be a further distraction to the team or University and I will no longer serve as a volunteer at UNC. I wish Larry and the program nothing but success going forward.”

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Read More: David Aardsma, James Harrison, Tim Beckman, Tim Tebow

Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Giants owner John Mara defends signing of K Josh Brown despite domestic violence accusations

08.25.16 at 8:32 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Rays, 1:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Tigers at Twins, 1 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Orioles at Nationals, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Giants at Dodgers, 11 p.m. (MLB Network)
Little League Baseball World Series: South Korea vs. Mexico, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Tennessee vs. Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NFL preseason: Falcons at Dolphins, 8 p.m. (NBC)
NFL preseason: Cowboys at Seahawks, 10 p.m. (NFL Network)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Giants owner John Mara went on the defensive Wednesday after receiving widespread criticism for re-signing Pro Bowl kicker Josh Brown despite his ex-wife’s accusations of domestic abuse.

Brown was arrested in May 2015 after allegedly grabbing his then-wife, Molly, by the throat and holding her down with his knee at their Washington home, one of two incidents on consecutive nights. However, charges of fourth-degree domestic assault were dropped days later due to insufficient evidence, reportedly after Molly Brown decided not to pursue the case.

Brown was suspended by the NFL for the first game of this season — despite the league’s new policy that dictates a six-game ban for such issues — and said that while he was “not OK with the decision, I have to respect it.” It then was revealed that Molly Brown told authorities that he had assaulted her at least 20 times, including once in 1999 while she was pregnant.

“Based on the facts that were placed in front of us, we’re comfortable with our decision to re-sign Josh and the league’s suspension,” Mara told the media Wednesday during Giants practice. “The easiest thing for us to do would be to get a new kicker. We’re trying to be fair to Josh. The easiest thing would be to say, ‘Terminate him, get rid of him.’ We’re trying to do the right thing. It’s not always easy.”

The Giants signed the 37-year-old Brown to a two-year, $4 million contract in the spring despite being aware of the issues, as Mara insisted, “We did our homework here.”

“We’re aware that there were allegations against Josh,” Mara said. “We knew that the NFL would conduct an investigation. We’re well aware that there were other [incidents]. One of the things you learn is that there is a big difference between allegations and convictions. It’s important to sort all those things out. We’re not going to get into the number of conversations we had with a number of people. We will live with the results of the [NFL investigation] and move forward.

“A lot of time, people try to make it black and white,” Mara added. “There are two sides to everything. Very rarely you have a Ray Rice video.”

Brown made 30 of 32 field goals and missed only one of his 45 PAT attempts in scoring a career-high 134 points last season, earning him a berth in the Pro Bowl. Former Jets and Titans kicker Randy Bullock was signed to a one-year deal Monday to fill in, as Brown’s future suddenly is unclear. But Mara said the Giants stand behind him.

“Josh knows what’s expected of him,” Mara said. “He’s been going to counseling. He’s been a good citizen since he’s been here. He’s going to conduct himself in a professional manner. We’re an organization that has always tried to do the right thing. It’s not always easy, but we’re going to stick with our decision.”

— U.S. soccer came down hard on Hope Solo, banning the goalie six months from the national team for calling the Swedish squad “a bunch of cowards” after the Americans’ loss in a penalty shootout at the Rio Olympics.

Solo, who has had her share of off-field issues (including one that led to a 30-day suspension early last year), was frustrated with Sweden’s defensive strategy that proved to be effective as it prevented the U.S. from earning a medal.

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Read More: Dawn Braid, Hope Solo, John Mara, Josh Brown

Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: U.S. Olympic swimmer James Feigen apologizes, details Rio controversy

08.24.16 at 8:26 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Rays, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Indians at Athletics, 3:35 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Giants at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Mexico vs. Australia, 1 p.m (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Iowa vs. Tennessee, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Panama vs. South Korea, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: New York vs. Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
MLS: Revolution at Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m. (CSNNE)
Soccer: Champions League, Manchester City vs. Steaua Bucharest, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: Champions League, Red Bull Salzburg vs. Dinamo Zagreb, 2:30 p.m. (FSN)
Soccer: Champions League, Rostov vs. Ajax, 2:30 p.m. (FS2)

AROUND THE WEB:

James Feigen

James Feigen

— U.S. Olympic swimmer James Feigen apologized Tuesday for his role in the incident at a gas station in Rio de Janeiro earlier this month, and he offered some clarity regarding exactly what happened.

“First and foremost I would like to apologize for the serious distractions from the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro, and Team USA,” Feigen said in a statement released through his legal representation, The Hull Firm of Austin, Texas. “It was never my intent to draw attention away from the tradition of athletic competition and the symbolic cooperation of countries participating in the Olympic games.”

Added Feigen: “I am so sorry for the drama this has caused in everyone’s lives. I am very thankful to be home in the United States with my family and that this ordeal has come to an end.”

Feigen, who won a gold medal as part of the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, was with teammates Ryan Lochte, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger when they were returning to the Olympic village after a night of partying. Around 5 a.m., their taxi stopped at a gas station so the swimmers could use the bathroom. Feigen explained that when they found the door was locked, they urinated on the grass behind the building. Lochte then pulled a framed poster off a wall. Feigen denied that he or his teammates damaged the bathroom door or entered the bathroom at all.

When the swimmers returned to their taxi, armed security guards made them get out of the cab and sit on the ground, accusing them of vandalizing the bathroom and ordering them to pay for the damage.

“This was the first time I have ever had a gun pointed at me and I was terrified,” Feigen said in his apology, adding: “It became apparent that the man with the gun was telling us to pay, and I was unsure if they were affiliated with the gas station. Gunnar Bentz and I gave the man some money.”

When Lochte started telling people the swimmers were robbed at gunpoint, local police showed up and took a statement. Feigen said he did not tell authorities that the swimmers urinated on the ground or that Lochte pulled down the poster.

“I realize that I made a mistake for omitting these facts,” Feigen said. “I was trying to protect my teammates and for this I apologize.”

Feigen’s passport later was seized and he was taken to a Brazilian court, where he was given the option of remaining in Brazil for at least a month while the investigation continued, or paying a fine of $31,250 and performing 15 days of community service. Eventually a deal was struck in which Feigen paid a $10,800 fine and was allowed to fly home.

— Josh Hamilton’s return to the Rangers ended with a thud Tuesday as the team placed the injured outfielder on unconditional release waivers. However, the move was made with the hope that Hamilton will attend spring training and attempt to regain a roster spot. As per MLB rules, Hamilton had to be waived by the end of August or else he would not be eligible to play for Texas until after May 15 next season.

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Billy Butler, Danny Valencia fined by Athletics after clubhouse altercation leaves Butler on concussion list

08.23.16 at 11:16 am ET
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The Athletics fined third baseman Danny Valencia and designated hitter Billy Butler after a reported clubhouse fight between the two that forced Butler to the seven-day concussion list.

According to John Shea and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, two witnesses said the altercation was over an endorsement contract that Valencia lost due to Butler. The incident happened before batting practice on Friday, when an equipment rep questioned Valencia regarding off-brand spikes in his locker. Valencia said he only used those cleats during batting practice and pregame workouts, and Butler jumped in and said Valencia was lying, often wearing the off-brand cleats in games.

After the rep left, witnesses said Valencia confronted Butler and said, “Don’t you ever loud-talk me in front of a rep. That was wrong.” Butler said, “I can say whatever I want, and your [expletive] isn’t going to do anything about it.”

The sources said that the men bumped heads and began pushing one another, with Valencia drilling Butler in the temple. Butler has not played since the incident, and Valencia sat out Saturday’s game.

“There was an altercation in the clubhouse, we’re aware of it, both players have been disciplined and fined and we’re moving past it,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “That’s it. From the organization’s standpoint, it’s resolved and we’re moving past it.”

Said Valencia: “You’d like to handle things differently, but we’re handling it in here. As with anyone in the game, you have to overcome obstacles. We all have to persevere in here.”

A’s outfielder Coco Crisp and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, a former teammate of both Valencia and Butler, tweeted out their support for Valencia on Sunday.

 

Read More: Billy Butler, danny valencia, Oakland A's,

Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: Dwight Gooden lashes out at former Mets teammate Darryl Strawberry, denies being deathly ill due to drug abuse

08.23.16 at 8:07 am ET
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Welcome to Tuesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

TUESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Rays, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Nationals at Orioles, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Yankees at Mariners, 10:10 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Japan vs Texas, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Canada vs. Mexico, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Iowa vs. Rhode Island, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Australia vs. Curacao, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Tennessee vs. California, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Soccer: Champions League, Hapoel Be’er-Sheva vs. Celtic, 2:30 p.m. (FSN)
Soccer: Champions League, Moncao vs. Villarreal, 2:30 p.m. (FS2)
Soccer: Champions League, Roma vs. Porto, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB:

NY Daily News 8-23-16— Dwight Gooden insists he has not used cocaine in years and lashed out at Darryl Strawberry following his former Mets teammate’s comments that he is “a complete junkie-addict” whose life is danger. However, Strawberry responded by insisting, “Everyone knows that I’m telling the truth.”

Strawberry and Gooden — back in the spotlight following the release of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary “Doc & Darryl” that detailed their accomplishments as well as their fall from grace due to substance abuse — were scheduled to make a public appearance together last week, but Gooden failed to show.

Strawberry then told the New York Daily News that Gooden’s son called to ask for help before the former Cy Young winner dies.

Said Strawberry: “He’s a complete junkie-addict. I’ve been trying behind the scenes to talk to him and get him to go for help, but he won’t listen.”

Gooden responded Monday in multiple interviews — including one with the Daily News outside his Jersey City apartment in which appeared gaunt — and later in a statement, criticizing Strawberry for making “our differences personal, going back to our days with the Mets.”

Said Gooden: “I forgave him for a lot of stuff. I never threw him under the bus, never said anything about him publicly. For him to say that stuff, you have to draw a line somewhere and I guess do a better choice of picking friends.”

Strawberry stood firm later Monday, saying in an ESPN Radio interview: “I just felt like I needed to do this. And regardless what anybody else thinks or they can call me whatever they want to call me. As long I’ve known in my heart that I stepped up to do the right thing to help this man try to save his life, maybe just one day if he gets there and gets a recovery and realizes how good he is, he can come back and say, ‘Thank you, you helped save my life.’ ”

Added Strawberry: “He’s very good at BS-ing, he’s very good at blowing smoke up people’s behinds and telling them what he wants them to hear. If he wants to get well he’s going to have to get real. Because this is crunch time for him. This is public for him. Everyone knows that I’m telling the truth.”

— Disgraced Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte was dropped by four sponsors on Monday following his false accusation of a robbery at the Rio Olympics.

Speedo, Ralph Lauren, skin-care company Syneron-Candela and mattress maker airweave announced their sponsorships were ending.

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Read More: Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Ryan Lochte, Todd Marinovich

Solving ‘The Night Of': ‘Ordinary Death’ delivers a mountain of evidence and a bigger mountain of questions

08.22.16 at 1:35 am ET
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Detective Box is having second thoughts about just about everything. (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

Detective Box is having second thoughts about just about everything. (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

It took seven episodes, but we have finally reached our most procedural chapter in “The Night Of.” “Ordinary Death” gave us everything we’ve been clamoring for: examination of the evidence, revisiting our list of suspects, and a look at the true nature of our principal characters. Next week’s finale, “The Call of the Wild,” will be an extended episode that should give us plenty to chew on.  

“Ordinary Death” delivered big time by serving not only as a gripping hour of television furthering the penultimate-episode-is-the-best-episode trend, but as a great review of the important parts of the show we’ve been obsessing about this summer.

Heading into Episode 7:

  • Where does Det. Box stand on the case? Does he actually think Naz did it?
  • Is stepdad Don Taylor the prime suspect? If Stone and Chandra were the prosecution would they be going after him?
  • Is Naz going to continue to unravel in prison?  
  • Are we going to get some clues or what?

“Ordinary Death” dealt with the repercussions of the murder for all of our characters in “The Night Of” — one of the “real questions” posed in this limited series. How everyone other than Naz is processing the fallout from Andrea Cornish’s murder has been used only as scene painting until this point. As the focus of the penultimate episode, we learned — as suspected — it is not good. For anyone.

Understandably, Naz’s parents are feeling it the most. Naz’s father is being hamstrung by his former business partners into selling his share of the taxi medallion for a fraction of its worth, his mother is questioning if somehow she was to blame for raising Naz into someone who could have committed such a heinous crime, they both are being forced to sell anything of value to pay just to survive and the greater Muslim community of New York being victimized as the case gains more notoriety. As the case has drawn on and those closest to him have taken on more and more of the burden, Naz is becoming more and more myopic in his actions. Obviously, the case is having a profound effect on him, but it is almost as if he is sitting through court as a formality and waiting to get back to his life at Rikers. Is that kind of acceptance of the situation and realization of his true nature the whole point of the series?  

Since his transformation began, collectively we’ve been hoping and praying it was just a defense mechanism, but we’re starting to understand who Naz truly is and what exactly he is capable of.  The revelation that he sent not one but two kids to the hospital and was regularly selling Adderall to classmates was shocking.  Not the actions themselves — we’ve already seen and dissected how Naz deals with stress — but his reactions to these things being brought up in court in front of his defense team, his parents, and the jury. He sat in unflinching silence staring stone-faced at whomever was on the witness stand, not ashamed, not angry, not even surprised that these new details were being brought up. He looked at his former basketball coach, the medical examiner, and his friend/client, in the same way a predator looks at its prey. Who is this guy, and why am I still asking this question with only one episode left to go?  

Regardless of Naz’s actions being brought to light, both Chandra and Stone are still at it trying to drum up as much plausible deniability as possible. Presumably, their key witness, the hilariously named Dr. Katz (THE CAT THEORY LIVES) gave the audience what we’ve been waiting for for two months: explanations for every single piece of evidence we’ve seen. Through his testimony, we learned that the knife that killed Andrea is not necessarily the knife that they have in evidence. We learned that breaking into Andrea’s house on the night in question would have been easy to do — the lock on the gate is broken, the basement door was unlocked, and the scalable tree outside in front of her house lead directly to her open bedroom window. We also learned that if someone did break into her house through either the window or the basement door, they wouldn’t have necessarily seen Naz passed out in the kitchen or the kitchen itself. None of this testimony exonerates Naz, but it does — no pun intended — hold the door open for a shadow of a doubt to creep in.  

The final sequence of “Ordinary Death,” a chilling juxtaposition of both Naz’s and Det. Box’s acceptance of the next phase of their respective lives, put a bow on the gift that has been this show.  After finding out that Petey — the son of Freddy’s drug mule — has committed suicide, Naz comes clean to Freddy about what had been going on between him and Victor. Brilliantly edited against Det. Box’s retirement party, we see Freddy and Naz run a misdirection that allows Freddy to murder Victor in cold blood in plain view while at the same time Det. Box is reconsidering the events of the case and his retirement. Naz — really putting his myopic vision superpowers to good use — has now eliminated any buffer between himself and the most ruthless man in Rikers.  There is no one else for Freddy to lean on now, and I have a hard time believing that even if proven innocent, he will let Naz leave prison easily if at all. He’s in too deep. The same can be said for Det. Box; while we all assumed he was going to play a much bigger role in this series, the doubt he has about the events surrounding Andrea’s murder is casting a pretty big shadow of its own.  

The Notepad

The Red Herring Checklist – SUSPECTS

  • Duane Reed: In the wind and being joked about in court. If we do see him again, I doubt it’s in the back of a squad car.
  • Mr. Day: The looming specter of death is here, but he isn’t the culprit.
  • Stepdad Don Taylor: THE ONLY CHARACTER WITH MOTIVE IN THE ENTIRE SHOW.  WHY IS JOHN STONE THE ONLY GUY GOING AFTER HIM?
  • Scumbag waiter/dealer: Man this dude is twitchy, but it’s doubtful he did it.  

The Red Herring Checklist – EVIDENCE

  • Broken back gate: Theory confirmed; the gate was open.
  • Unlocked basement door: Theory confirmed; the door was open.
  • Multiple ways to get into the house: Naz doesn’t necessarily need to have done it because, in theory, he’s not the only person with access.
  • The murder weapon might not be the murder weapon: The knife in evidence isn’t necessarily the knife that was used; one of the set was missing, even though there are a million reasons why it is missing.  
  • Shout out to Dr. Katz, the best character on this show by far. “If The Night Of” turns from limited series to anthology series, I hope he is the through-line character. I could watch him discuss his crime scene analysis for at least eight hours.

THEORY HEAT CHECK

  • The Cat Theory: The cat as a stand in for the truth holds true. As John Stone has redeemed himself, he has become more and more accepting of the cat. At the beginning of the series, he didn’t care about the truth; he cared about what the defense could prove. This is no longer the case – Stone is now a cat owner and a truth seeker. Not as fun as the time traveling cat version of this theory, but it’s poetic as hell.
  • The Motive Theory: Don Taylor is the only person with motive for killing Andrea, but he is the least likely to have done it according to his M.O. He’s a bankruptcy claiming, white collar, grey lady chasing kind of creep; not a knife wielding psychopath kind of creep. Even though the motive makes sense, it is only in a “Law and Order: SVU” kind of way.
  • Occam’s Razor: To summarize, when there are many options, the simplest answer is the truth. At this point, Naz is still the person closest to the murder scene and the only known person to be in the house at the time of the murder. I doubt he did it, but who else could have?  What other options to the jury have to consider?  
  • The Padraic O’Connor TV Sleuther Theory: We are not going to see who actually killed Andrea Cornish. We may “see him/her” but they aren’t getting hauled in. This show isn’t about a murder; it’s about what happens after.

The Night Of deep dive: Swimming with the red herrings

08.20.16 at 1:46 pm ET
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Does the whodunnit of "The Night Of" matter? (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

Does the whodunnit of “The Night Of” matter? (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

“The Night Of” is not what I thought it was going to be.  After seeing the trailers for the series during the most recent season of “Game of Thrones” and doing some digging into the IMBD pages of show creators Steve Zaillian and Richard Price, I thought I had come up with a pretty decent composite sketch of what to expect: a tragic event and the solving of a mystery — pretty formulaic whodunnit procedural TV performed at the highest level because it’s not TV… It’s HBO.  

Over the weeks and episodes since “The Night Of” premiered, this show has evolved into something much more than I expected, or rather revealed itself to be something more than I expected. It’s a show about a murder, but not really; we have not revisited the murder since we discovered the body. It’s a show about proving the prime suspect is guilty of a crime, but not really; we haven’t watched any character discover new evidence or piece together the chain of events that would lead us to a conclusion. It’s a show about a character persevering against unbelievable odds, but not really; Naz is morphing from the caterpillar we hope doesn’t get squished to the sinister moth from “Silence of the Lambs.” 

With only two episodes left in this limited series, we may not get all the threads tied up into the bow we’ve come to expect from crime drama, and that just might be fine. We’ve known since the first episode what the show could have been; it was either going to be the Case Against Nasir Khan, the Redemption of John Stone, or the Murder of Andrea Cornish. We checked all of those boxes in first 75 minutes. What has happened since is something completely different, and in the 2016 TV landscape, that in itself is more refreshing than if somehow Detective Box cracked the case on his last day before retirement.  We’re venturing beyond troupe right now and I’m fine with it.  So sure — “The Night Of” both is and isn’t well-executed crime fiction drama. Ultimately there is a gift somewhere buried underneath the mountains of pretty, genre-pushing wrapping paper and the fun part of getting any type of present is in the unwrapping.  

I haven’t had as much fun dissecting lead from red herring since “LOST” hit its apex in 2006.  There were a lot of red herrings in “LOST” — arguably too many — and for all the sleight-of-hand TV tricks showrunners Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse played on the audience, they ultimately answered the questions the audience should have been asking all along. In that way alone, “The Night Of” and “LOST” are on the same page. The answers we will get in the penultimate and super-sized final episode will be focusing their attentions solely on the question we should have been asking and why we should have been asking them.

In my first recap of this series, I posed the question, “Guaranteed all the clues we need to solve this mystery have already been shown to us. Did you see them?” The answer is, “yes, we did,” although we’re still sorting out what exactly we saw and their order of importance. In last few episodes, we’ve revisited two of the leading “suspects” and in both instances they’re produced way more smoke than fire — the quiet “friend” from the sidewalk — revealed to be the comically named Duane Reed (not the pharmacy), and the angel of death driving a hearse, Mr. Day. While both threads seem to still be dangling out there as possibilities, I think both have served their intended purposes; Duane Reed was the character we spent the least amount of time with and due to the lack of clues, seemed like he could be the missing piece to the puzzle. I’m just an amateur TV sleuth, but I am pretty sure that the reason we last saw him he was sprinting through a maze of alleys means he’s in the wind and that lead is literally not worth chasing.

Episode 5, “The Season of the Witch,” ended with John Stone chasing Duane Reed after assuring Chandra he wasn’t going to do anything stupid.  Episode 6, “Samson and Delilah,” began in the same fashion with Chandra tracking down Mr. Day, whom had encountered the couple at the gas station hours before the murder took place. For what these interactions lacked in establishing actual suspects in the crime, they added new layers to the prosecution team; both John and Chandra leveled up big time — John got his first taste in a long time of what it meant to really care about a case and Chandra ventured out beyond her high-priced firms day to day activities to try and get her hands dirty. These two specific leads were explored to show the heroic journey of the underdog lawyers, which arguably is just as important to the overall story as it would be to stumble into a confession when cornering a potential suspect.  

Mr. Day, on the other hand, provided a completely different advancement of the narrative which unfortunately for the legions of detectives looking to wrap this thing up before the finale, had nothing to do with the murder at the center of the limited series.  This dude… is not a good dude.  To paraphrase the Ringer’s Chris Ryan on his podcast “The Watch,” Chandra went to question potentially the last person to see Andrea alive and wound up confronting the Zodiac Killer. In addition to a million other creepy things that transpired between Day and Chandra, we got a pretty good view of Day’s look at humanity through his telling of — in his opinion — the only Bible verse we need to understand: Judges 16; the story of Samson and Delilah. While Day’s spewing of biblical literature about how women are put on earth to ruin men (all told while Day is painting the fingernails of a corpse), would certainly put a big red exclamation point over his head to signify that this guy is the person we should be looking at for the murder, this too is a giant, glaring red herring.  He’s a big boss level creep, but he is not the psychopath we are looking for.  

His bastardized retelling of Samson and Delilah is worth examining for very different reasons.  In case it’s been awhile since you sat through catechism, I’ll summarize. Samson, a hero of the Israelites and the most powerful man in all the land after receiving old testament super powers from God, gets seduced by a women in league with his enemies, Delilah. By confiding in her the source of his power — his hair — she is able to tell the opposing army — the Philistines — how to defeat him.  He is then bound, tortured, blinded, and defeated. Day tells this story in a way that would make his hatred of women seem like a motive for killing Andrea.

If this were “Law and Order,” Det. Benson would have had the cuffs on him already, but because it’s not 10PM on NBC (or any time day or night on basic cable — shouts to the longevity and watchability of any and all Dick Wolf productions), this story is not an admission of guilt — it’s another ghost for the audience to chase down an alley.  Its placement in “The Night Of” is more about the evils of seduction and the perils of allowing oneself to be seduced, which is the what Naz is facing in prison the longer he is there.

Many of the challenges Naz has faced in Rikers to date have been out of his control — he didn’t burn his own bed, he didn’t douse himself with scalding hot baby oil, and he didn’t slice his own arm standing in line to be re-admitted into prison. These challenges are what lead Naz into his partnership with Freddy. What has happened to Naz since have been his own choices, albeit heavily influenced by those around him.  Getting tattoos — “SIN” and “BAD” on his knuckles (a stylized choice of SINBAD — a middle eastern folk hero) a howling wolf on his upper arm (Naz answering the call of the wild) — getting high on his own supply, accepting a cell phone to start his own prison business, etc., are all examples of Naz allowing himself to be seduced by the spoils of prison life.  

This shift in behavior for Naz is coming from somewhere, and just like John Stone’s pre-visit to Dr. Yi feet, is the manifestation of guilt. Something is eating away at him although we don’t know exactly what. You would think it would take more than a month for Naz to go from the honor roll to prison tattoos and freebasing cocaine through a Bic pen, but something inside him is pushing him along.  I doubt it is the knowledge that he killed Andrea and is more likely the fear that he and those around him — his parents, his brother, his lawyers, and his city — think he is capable of such a crime.

That fear, that is as plain on his face as the ink on his knuckles, might as well be a target for his seducers. Freddy lays it out pretty easily for him by whispering in his ear, asking if he really liked his life on the outside and if he knows how to get everything he could need in his current environment. I would posit that Freddy could have been behind all of Naz’s troubles at Rikers in order to reel him into his boat. Like Samson to the Philistines, Naz is a trophy for Freddy, no different than the TV, books, news clippings, and magazine covers that he has displayed in his cell.

This is why the Samson and Delilah allegory makes sense in the greater dissection of “The Night Of.” Naz is allowing himself to be seduced by his new environment and unknowingly he’s binding himself to it for eternity. He’s blinded by what his life has become, not what he could get back if he is found innocent. This was never just a whodunnit and at this point, and I’m not sure who-actually-dunn-it is important. Answering the questions of how this affects those caught up in the riptide of this murder and what happens next is a much more compelling story to tell.  

Thinking Out Loud: Success widespread for RI youth baseball teams

08.19.16 at 9:06 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Jack Hamilton.

— It must be the water, right? Or, maybe the coaching has caught on. Whatever it is, Rhode Island Little League Baseball has had an unprecedented run of success, spread over multiple cities and organizations. Warwick North’s appearance in the LLWS marks the third straight year for the Rhode Island champion to win the New England Regional in Bristol, Connecticut, and advance to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

— Since 1980, Cranston (Western), Cumberland (American), Lincoln and Pawtucket (Darlington American) have represented Rhode Island and the New England Region at the World Series.

— Having once coached in the Rhode Island Little League ranks (20 years in the East Bay District 2, in Rumford), I have long thought that for every coach/dad who favors his star/son on one team, or pushes kids past their normal limitations, there are dozens of other supportive parents and coach/dads who try to do things a different way and have success.

— Success is relative, anyway. You don’t need to have coached a team that reaches a World Series to know you’ve made a difference in the life of a young athlete.

— Everyone makes mistakes. The truly successful coaches are the people who learn from those mistakes. There have been, and still are, some really good coaches in Lil’ Rhody.

— And let us not forget the Washington Park Cal Ripken team from Providence, which advanced to the Ripken Major/60 World Series in Ocala, Florida. The Rhode Islanders ended the tournament tied for third overall.

— Not to be left out, the American Legion team from Lincoln, Rhode Island (Upper Deck Post 86/14) reached the American Legion World Series held in North Carolina. The UD team was the first from Rhode Island to win the Northeast Regional and earn a Series berth since 1980, and finished its season with a 34-6 record.

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