Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Strange Mystique of Harry Pearce. I Worship His Sirship.

At first I thought it was all about Peter Firth. There is no question that Firth is adorable in interviews, intelligent, self-depreciating, direct and a wonderful actor.  But it is not Peter who is enthralling me and stealing all my free time . . . it is Harry Pearce -- that's Sir Harry, to you. Yes, I've found that I worship his sirship and I'll tell you why.

Its not just those wonderful pouty lips that Harry and Peter Firth share, but rather the expressions and emotions he conveys with them that have me hooked. Here is a guy who is unabashedly able to express how he's feeling. How many heads of British Security Services can you say that about? He shows anger, frustration, grief, anguish, complete and utter contempt and insanely deep love. Sometimes all in the same moment.

Lips aside, I will admit publicly that he may not be the very  handsomest of men. But he has a great warm open and expressive face of the kind you maybe just don't expect from the head of the British Security Services. (Or have I mentioned already that he is Head of the British Security Services?) What makes him so very manly and attractive is his humanity, combined with that serious power and authority he has going for him. Think about the resources at Sir Harry's disposal (status is built right into the name.) He has a staff of amazingly talented and brazen individuals who will do his bidding and follow his orders. But he doesn't tend to abuse that. He makes measured, thoughtful and very difficult decisions all the time and stands behind them with a shocking amount of integrity, with just a touch of "I will do whatever the hell I want" thrown in.

His necktie is a lethal weapon, he can hold out against torment and torture, and he will shatter a glass to gouge his lunch companion if needs be (which also brings out something we don't see often - his very attractive smile).

Though he is unquestionably at a high level in government, he doesn't spend much time hanging around schmoozing people and attending fancy events. He is almost always in his office working. And when he's not, he's home walking his foo-foo dog, rocking the quiz shows on tv, making tea for colleagues or going to the dog races with their kids. No driving around in midlife crisis red convertibles for this one.

He is tough as nails, but he cares about real things and real people. Not superficial, Harry, but deep. And in love.

If he were a character in an American show, he would almost certainly be with many empty-headed young women. Thank heavens he's not. Instead, he is completely besotted with fabulously appealing and intellectual Ruth -- who has more gorgeousness in her eyes than any Hollywood actress can match in her whole body. Yes, I admit Ruth is a much younger woman, but one who, at 40 years old and slightly frumpy in style, is not your typical eye candy. She is a woman of compassion, substance and conviction. And she is brilliant.

I love it when powerful men adore brilliant women.

If he weren't attractive enough for all the reasons above, his unlimited capacity to desire and adore Ruth, despite continuing rejection is enough to secure a place in my heart forever.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Ultimate Spooks-Lovers' Guide to Spy Teams: Seasons 1 through 9.

Which is the best team of Spooks the show has ever had?
I've made my decision. Now you can too. Here is a chart that shows all the different combos of characters that have been together over the run of the show -- Seasons 1 through 9.

*Note: I discovered a mistake in my chart that I am correcting (9-24-11); the mistake involved Season 4. My chart failed to show Fiona and Jo's characters overlapping, which they did for 3 episodes. Sorry if anyone read the earlier version and was mislead.

My Spooksmania is at a peak, given that the final MI-5 Season (Series 10) will be airing soon.  I was trying to decide which is my very favorite team of all time. It is an exceedingly difficult task made harder by the fact that I could not find a definitive list of what teams there have been. (If you want to see my list of the best characters, click here.)

So I made my own. Using IMDB as my data source, I put this chart together.  25 different teams have worked together at MI-5 during the show's 80 episode run so far. What I am calling a team includes the main  characters -- not political figures, bad guys or Americans :) 

This is organized, not by seasons or episodes, but by combinations of characters. So the "T" number at the top is just a way of making reference to these character groups. The seasons and episodes during which the combo appeared is given, and of course the names of the officers. An "X" means that character is now gone. If someone's name is in red font on its last appearance, it means they are (more than likely) dead; if the name is in green font, they left the show more or less alive. The bottom row tells the number of people on that team and how many episodes they appeared in together.

SPOILERS note: I don't have plot spoilers here but by its very nature the whole chart is a spoiler (through season 9) regarding who left and died and when. So please don't look if you don't want to know.  

T1 T2 T3 T4 T5 T6 T7 T8 T9 T10 T11 T12 T13 T14 T15 T16 T17 T18 T19 T20 T21 T22 T23 T24 T25
S1 S1 S1 S2 S2 S3 S3 S3 SS3 S4 S4 S4/5 S5 S5 S5/6 S6 S6 S6 S7 S7 S7 S8 S8 S8 S9
Ep 1 Ep 2 E 3-6 Ep 1 E2-10 E1-2 Ep 3 E4-6 E7-10 E1-4 E5-7 8-10,1 E2-3 E4-5 6-10, 1 E2-6 E7-8 E9-10 Ep 1 E2-7 Ep 8 Ep 1 E2-3 E4-8 E1-8
Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry
Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. Malc. X X X
Tom Tom Tom Tom Tom Tom X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Danny Danny Danny Danny Danny Danny Danny Danny Danny X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Zoe Zoe Zoe Zoe Zoe Zoe Zoe Zoe X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Tessa Tessa Tessa X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Helen Helen X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X

Colin Colin Colin Colin Colin Colin Colin Colin Colin Colin Colin X X X X X X X X X X X X X

Sam Sam Sam Sam Sam Sam X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X

Ruth Ruth Ruth Ruth Ruth Ruth Ruth Ruth Ruth Ruth X X X X X X X Ruth Ruth Ruth Ruth

Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam X X X X X X

Fiona Fiona Fiona Fiona X X X X X X X X X X X X X X

Zafar Zafar Zafar Zafar Zafar Zafar ? ? X X X X X X X X

Jo Jo Jo Jo Jo Jo Jo Jo Jo Jo Jo Jo Jo X X

Ros Ros Ros Ros X Ros Ros Ros Ros Ros Ros X

Connie Connie Connie Connie Connie Connie X X X X
Revised 9-24-11

Ben Ben Ben Ben X X X X X

Lucas Lucas Lucas Lucas Lucas Lucas Lucas

Tariq Tariq Tariq


7 ch 1 ep 8 chr 1 ep 7 chr 4 ep 7 chr 1 ep 8 ch   9 ep 9 chr 2 ep 8 chr 1 ep 9 chr 3 ep 8 char, 4 ep 7 chr 4 ep 8 chr 3 ep 7 ch     4 ep 6 chr 2 ep 7 chr 2 ep 6 char   6 ep 6 chr 5 ep 7 chr 2 ep 6 char 2 ep 8 chr 1 ep 7 chr 6 ep 6 chr 1 ep 6 chr 1 ep 6 chr 2 ep 5 chr 5 ep 6 chr 8 ep

Here is the chart as a jpg:

Some of my observations:
  • The longest running team was together for 9 episodes in Season 2. It included Harry, Malcolm, Tom, Danny, Zoe, Colin, Sam, and Ruth. [It is what I am calling T5 on the chart].
  • The largest groups had 9 characters. Units of 9 were assembled just twice, once for 2 episodes in Season 3 (all of the people just listed, plus Adam) [T6] and also in Season 3 (that same group of folks, minus Tom but with the addition of Fiona) [T8].
  • The smallest included just 5 spooks and they were together for 5 whole episodes in Season 8. They were Harry, Ruth, Ros, Lucas, and Tariq. [T24]
  • The character who was a part of the most teams was Harry who has been a part of every one of them. Malcolm is next with 21 squads he sat as part of. Ruth and Adam are tied for third, each a part of 13 different assemblages and Jo rounds out the top 5 with 12 crews she has been on.
  • The spook with the fewest teams appears to be Beth with just one [T25], though that mix was together throughout all of Season 9. The spook with the second fewest crews goes to Helen who, in Season 1 appeared for only 2 episodes, but oddly, this constituted two different groupings due to the addition of Colin in episode 2. Tessa and Fiona were also a part of very few -- each was a part of just 3 units. Tariq, too, has only been on 3 teams, however he is coming back in Season 10 so will pick up at least one more assemblage.
  • There was only one time when two new members joined at the same time: the beginning of Season 9 [T25] -- Dimitri and Beth. There was also only one time when two members' last appearance was at the same time -- Sam and Danny [T9] at the end of Season 3.
Now it is time for my rankings. Although it is tempting to include the brief moments when Adam and Lucas or Tom and Adam were together because those would have obviously made amazing pairings, I don't want to include such transitions. I am thinking of quintessential groups that were together for long enough to gel as a working group.

My top four squads:
  1. Harry, Ruth, Malcolm, Colin, Adam, Zaf and Jo. [T12] These 7 were together for 4 episodes in Season 4 and 5. Their interrelationships are excellent. First there is Harry/Ruth during the best part of their development together and separately. While Harry is always awesome, he is so much more interesting when Ruth is around. Then there is the Malcolm/Colin best friend IT geeks pairing. Spooks is so cool when its techies talk to each other & these two had a great energy. Zaf and Jo are also very appealing newbie friends. I like them and their rapport, willingness and energy. Both look up to Adam and that makes Adam seem so much in control -- even though he is falling apart. And that's another thing about this one...the absence of Fiona. I thought their relationship bogged down the show and that Fiona didn't really have chemistry with the other members. Adam is better alone because he is an amazing leader. Every one of these characters individually is on my all time favorite Spooks list. Some memorable episodes are: #31 The Book, #34 The Russian, and #35 The Sting. I couldn't find a picture of this team together, so I had to make one -- by pasting Malcolm and Colin's heads on top of Ros (who wasn't there yet). Come on, its funny. My fake photo of my favorite team -->

  2. Harry, Connie, Malcolm, Lucas, Ros, Jo, and Ben from Season 7, episodes 2 through 7. [T20] Absolutely loved Jo and Ros together. This is the only pairing that has two women out in the field kicking butt. They are phenomenal together and separately. By the time of this grouping they have hit their stride and trust /like each other. Having Ben and Lucas out there too, makes for one of the richest field forces the show has seen. The office is no slouch either, with the combined great acting of Gemma Jones, Peter Firth and Hugh Simon holding down the fort as Connie, Harry and Malcolm. This is a wonderful mix of characters -- but it ends when one of them kills another one, in a shocker that still brings chills. The final episode of Season 7 (#64 Nuclear Strike) is probably my all time favorite Spooks show. It has this cast assemblage, minus Ben. Here are Ros, Harry and Lucas from that team -->

  3. Harry, Ruth, Malcolm, Colin, Sam, Tom, Danny, Zoe are an 8-character force that took charge early on in the show, Season 2, episodes 2 through 10.  [T5] Tom is one of the best and most realized characters that the show has ever had. He is strong, sharp and cerebral, but he is also very inwardly directed and complete. Played by Mathew MacFadyen with beautiful depth, Tom is one of the most likeable and interesting. Furthermore, though neither Danny nor Zoe were my favorites, I always liked their relationship with each other and with Tom. The office staff feels fresh and fleshed out with Harry, Ruth, Malcolm, Colin and Sam. This may be the most complete office staff the show has had. The best episode from this grouping is #11, I Spy Apocalypse where a training exercise goes haywire. Here is half of that team (Danny, Zoe, Tom and Harry) -->

  4. The tight little group of Harry, Ruth, Tariq, Ros, and Lucas ruled the airwaves throughout most of Season 8. [T24] The only thing better would have been if Jo and Malcolm could have stuck around awhile longer. But these five have great chemistry.  They work together so seamlessly and seem to have the highest level of expertise and professionalism across the board.  Maybe that's why they only needed 5 of 'em. They just step up and get the job done. Period. Acerbic, witty, tough, and almost untouchable, Ros and Lucas have to be about the best one-two punch out in the field the show has ever known. Ros as section chief is a wonderful number one to Harry. Their relationship is perfect. Then, in the office, the calm analytical energy of Harry, Ruth and Tariq completes the picture so well, that really no one else is needed. Episode #70 (that doesn't have a name but involves cool scenes with Lucas planting a bug in a high-level bank office and Ros tormenting bad guys) is amazing. Episodes 71 and 72 are two of the best, with great banter between Ros and Lucas, a wonderful new home secretary, increasing tensions with the "Nightengale" theme, and a very very sad ending. Here's the fab 5 -->

If you are insane enough to like this one (trust me I mean that as a compliment), you might like my post: Ultimate Spooks'-Lovers Harry and Ruth Episode Guide

    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    The Ultimate Spooks-Lovers' Harry and Ruth Episode Guide

    With posts like this one, I feel a bit embarrassed. I know the only people who will care are die-hard Spooks [MI-5] fans, and even many of those will find this a bit over the top. . . . On the other hand, I also know there are those out there salivating at the very thought of a Harry and Ruth episode guide -- and I have one! It would be criminal not to share.

    So here's the deal: if you're not obsessed with Harry and Ruth, do us both a favor and just back away slowly. Maybe I can hold on to some of my dignity. But if you are a fellow groupie, get ready to be very, very happy.

    This contains all, or at least most, of the best Harry-Ruth moments over the course of Seasons 1 - 9 of Spooks [MI-5], uncluttered by all the extraneous plot details that have no bearing on their relationship. haha. I haven't included every single interaction they have ever had because that would just be weird.  .  .  .   :)  but these are the ones that have a telling feel -- that are sweet, fun, sexy or just worth watching again. By the way, my time notations are based on Netflix, so I have no idea how that meshes with the dvds.

    A side effect of having done this is that I have come to completely understand their almost-couplehood, and can sum it up for you now with ease. So, if you're not analytically minded (read: "insane") you could make-do quite well with the following:
    Harry was first attracted to Ruth early on. I think he found her not only very pretty, but odd, sweet, bubbly and unlike anyone else around him. Then, Ruth started to develop a crush on him - for his power, personality and untouchableness, and, just maybe, for his lovely pouty lips. Her feelings for him were lurking under the surface as the two got closer as friends. But just as he began to want more than friendship too, she pulled away. She admired him too much to do anything that detracted from his position. Instead she went off on an entirely different tangent, finding a life that in no way resembled what she had as a spook, with a man very different from Harry. She loved that life but it wasn't what she was meant for. When she returned to his circle, Harry was tremendously grateful to have her back, and became almost instantly and completely lost in love for her.  She, however, was simply trying to process all the things that had happened -- all she had done and wanted in life and all the curves that her's had taken.
    As we head into Spooks Series (Season) 10, she may no longer have the girlish crush on him, but she is still attracted and cares deeply for him. I think she is just working on finding that permanent place in her heart for him as a flawed, multifaceted man, rather than an idol. He has long had such a place for her.
    Its a great love story and has captivated better people than I.

    Oh, and I guess it should be clear enough, but this chart is full of spoilers for all the episodes discussed (i.e. through season 9, but not season 10). I would also add, that if you're crazy enough to like this one, you will probably love my Ultimate Spooks-Lovers' Guide to Spy Teams or my new post on the Top Ten Harry and Ruth moments of all time, with clips.

    S Ep time Description - BEST HARRY RUTH MOMENTS
    2 2 5:20 Maybe I read things in because I know where this is going, but, though there are lots of beautiful women on this show, Harry never acts as if he sees them "that way." With Ruth it feels different right from the start -- he seems to notice her and act just slightly nervous. (Ruth: "am I late?" Harry: "you're our intelligence expert, you ought to know" followed by maniacal laughter). She looks so lovely and giddy to be there, and acts so different from everyone else. When she says "bugger the home office", his "mm, if only," is directed to her with an almost sensual relish.
    2 3 4:00, 42:58 Ruth recognizes a bad guy's clue as being from Homer's Odyssey. While she is speaking Harry walks very close behind her in a way that is unusual and noticeable. When he tells her she should go work on that quote, he looks intently into her face. He's piqued by her (though the task is meant to be patronizing); when she leaves the room he says "that woman works for GCHQ!" -- he sees her as an outsider whom he can't trust. But it is because he sees her as an outsider that he can see her as a woman and, in an odd way, someone on equal footing with him, unlike his staff. When she explains the literary illusion later, he can't help but realize how useful she is.
    2 4
    No particular scenes between Ruth and Harry, but in this episode, Tom learns about Ruth's spying for GCHQ. Tom sees her value and gives her a second chance. She admits to really liking working with the spooks, and knows she is great at this job; she desires this new life/job. She also starts looking up to Tom. These heightened feelings of "finding a place" work on her at a deeper level and will ultimately make her start to see Harry in a new light. But for now, this episode just shows that she is the kind of woman who admires and respects power and leadership and maybe idealizes men like Tom (and, eventually Harry).
    2 5 47:12 Ruth sees Harry come out of his office after having faked exposure to chemicals in the lockdown/training exercise and says "you bastard!" But by the time Tom is ok with what has happened, Ruth is smiling too. She is getting her cues on how to act by how her lead guy behaves -- who, at this point is Tom.
    2 6 16:50 In the conference room, Ruth is irritated with the obnoxious Americans that the team must coordinate with, and expressing it openly. Harry offers coffee (tension breaker) but Ruth won't break the tension and insists "tea!" Harry vaguely mirrors "or tea." The scene shows she is not troubled about taking on Harry or putting him in his place. Instead, he seems a bit cowed by her -- in a cute way.
    2 9 19:05, 32:10 Ruth bursts into Harry's office a couple of times. When she does it late in the show, he mentions it, looking rather amused. She's discovered a mole on the grid and is excited about it. He tells her to take a deep breath. It feels like a barrier crossed, as if he's taken her on -- as an interest and a team member. [* see note: 2, 10].
    2 10 24:12 Ruth is so smart, bubbly, and very pretty as she is telling Harry about the American named "Shark" who is dead. Harry is just staring at her for a moment, processing her and the info and then in a brilliant voice says: "Come. Now." and walks off. She follows very readily. They have a park bench chat about Tom - their first? - and the first clear suggestion that she has become a bit of a confidant to him [* note: I moved this vignette here from 2, 9 after viewing a dvd of these episodes. I cannot find a park bench chat in 2, 9 and guess that this is the one I meant. Not sure how I messed that up. oops] At the end, Harry is being carted away on a stretcher and Tom has fled in the sea, Ruth is shown reacting to news and weeping. The loss of Tom and potential loss of Harry would both be great blows. . . wonder which was on her mind?
    3 1 33:05 ?? This should be the episode where Ruth pretends to be pregnant with Harry's child in order to pass a message to him, but I can't find it. Netflix must have cut it out.  Later, Ruth bursts in saying that the person they're looking for is in one the taxis she's been recruiting - his amazement at her resourcefulness and value are apparent.
    3 3 9:24 When Adam compliments Ruth to get her cooperation on something by saying, "Harry tells me you're the soul of discretion", she blushes and looks down, saying "did he?" Then she goes straight to Harry to clear what Adam wants. Harry tells her to do it, and also compliments her, calling her a "senior pro" -- a term which she doesn't seem to like.
    3 4 25:00 Ruth sees that Harry is deeply upset by not knowing what his daughter's involvement in their current mess is, but plows into the topic further saying "there's something else, Harry." "Something else! That's your bloody middle name!" Adam says to Harry that shouting at Ruth won't help, but she says "its OK."
    3 5 16:13 Glimpses into Ruth's loneliness, her developing interest in a guy they're watching; Harry is watching her - spying on her through Sam. At 16:13 there is a cute scene in the hallway with Ruth, Harry and Adam -- Ruth, giving a report, goes from "yes" to "perhaps" on a question. Harry picks up on it and later makes a joke about whether something is a "yes" or "perhaps" - Ruth is miffed and shouts out "its a yes". Harry looks smug. This seems a bit like flirting.
    3 7 38:28, 45:00 A step back? An anomaly? Harry shows no concern over Ruth's absence, "drag her in even if she's got pneumonia", and later insisting she has texted to say she's ill, though others know its absurd because Ruth doesn't text. Harry has to be forced to the conclusion that something is wrong with Ruth. And he is not among the team that goes to save her.
    3 9 9:01, 12:00, 50:00 Harry asks for Ruth's help preparing for a job interview. (Actually, she figures out what he wants, since he's being cagy.) There are great scenes of secrets and eye contact, that depict a developing trust. Ruth is exhilarated by this closeness and covert project. At both the beginning and end of this episode, Ruth is seen putting on lipstick, getting ready to go out. Shortly after each of these moments, Harry comes by and seems to be looking at her closely. He's starting to see her, and she is starting to seek a personal life. As she leaves the office at the end, Harry teases her by calling out "Ruth." "I'm not listening!" she calls back while walking away; this is followed by his maniacal laugh.
    3 10 4:50, 21:30, 50:40 Harry is clearly not a ladies' man - or that's the implication of his pretty dull suggestion that Adam get Fiona chocolates for her birthday. (Adam and Ruth both make fun of it). When Ruth knocks at the office later, Harry jokes that something must be wrong -- because she knocked. However, something is actually wrong and the chocolates discussion is the tip off. Adam uses it ("Fiona loved the chocolates you suggested, Ruth") to convey a message to her. She is adamant with Harry that something is wrong with Adam, though Harry is flabbergasted as to why it would matter whether Adam got chocolates. Ruth insists: "Harry! Please. Take me seriously on this." Harry looks at her a moment before telling her to  "red flash the entire team." He is seeing her and trusting her more and more. And, at the end, Ruth grieving over Danny is heartbreaking and Harry watching her is very powerful as well. For the first time, he wants to take care of her. He very tenderly says: "I have to leave you for a moment, Ruth."
    4 1 3:50, 38:00 At the funeral, Ruth hears the explosion and sees the team leave the church, but wants to grieve for Danny. Harry goes in to get her. When he says "I need you," she nods and follows him. Harry needing her will always do the trick. The introduction of Juliet in this episode is useful in that alluding to her past relationship with Harry shows that we should think of him as a sexual being -- though that side of him hasn't been a big part of his character before. He makes himself laugh when Julia refers to the XY chromosome combo as something she lacks and he says, "oh, those old chestnuts." and spends several moments being amused at his own wit. (Harry has a pathetic sense of humor.)
    4 3 21:10 Harry tells Ruth he's sending her back to GCHQ, "temporarily" he's quick to add; he needs someone he can really trust on the newest endeavor. He moves around to the front of the desk to get close while he's telling her; her eyes are huge saucers. Her big fear is that they wont let her stay at section D; also the notion of field work scares and excites her.
    4 4 4:30 While Ruth is talking, in the conference room, Harry is raptly interested in her, more so than anyone else, leaning forward with interest. He can even be seen smiling.
    4 5 5:50, 6:45, 9:30, 31:40 Cute exchange in the conference room where they are hiring new team members and Harry calls it "joining our brotherhood." Ruth grimaces at the expression and Harry wants to know why. She suggests "clique" or "circle" instead. But he says "nope, I like 'brotherhood. Anyone else have a problem with my way of expressing myself today?" Funny. When Harry learns that a former colleague has (apparently) committed suicide and he is upset about it. Ruth offers to comfort him, saying she's not doing anything later. Without really considering the offer or what it may have or have not meant, he immediately rejects it saying he has phone calls to return. Later, when Ruth calls Harry at the office late at night and tells him she needs him to come over, his reaction is priceless; his mind goes to an unprofessional place for a moment with an odd camera angle and expression. Then confusion, before understanding the need is work related. Lots of deep eye contact in a private conversation later.
    4 6 33:45, 38:00 Ruth is reporting some findings to Harry. He just looks at her and I see longing in his face. When she's done, Harry says "Ruth [long pause]. Close the door." She does so, walks in and stands in front of him. She just says "Harry." There is a willingness that radiates out of her -- I will do whatever you say without question. She is in love. She looks almost the tiniest bit disappointed when he starts talking work. He asks her to sneakily retrieve a file he's not supposed to see. Later when she brings it to him he mutters "do you also turn water into wine?'
    4 8 18:15, 36:00, 37:46 Ruth is letting Adam in on all the aspects of their mission, though Adam is supposed to be recovering from Fiona's death and not working. Adam begs Ruth to talk Harry into letting him back on duty. He knows she is the only one who could do so. He knows that if Ruth says to do it, Harry probably will -- and of course that's what happens.
    4 9 10:15, 24:20, 30:10, 36:00, 50:31 Great episode for Harry/Ruth. This is the one where Harry makes a "bad" decision to release someone the Americans wanted to extradite and gets removed from his job because of it. It is great for both the viewer and for Harry, to get away from Thames House, in his home watching quiz shows, wearing casual clothes and walking his dog. Of course he can't really stay out of the spooks business and finds ways to insert himself into the goings on. But the rest and emotional distance allow him to seem more like a man, a person, than ever before. And that makes this one of their best episodes ever. In an early scene, at 10:15 I like how Ruth tells the rest of the team what Harry would have done -- asserting that she knows him. At 24:20 Adam asks Ruth to secretly copy the file; when he says "its for Harry" she is willing, happy, and a tiny bit embarrassed. The bus scene is at 30:10. He is seeking her out -- did he know she would have the files? or did he just want to see her? He says he knew she took the bus because he passed her in the rain one day and "to his shame and now regret," didn't stop. It is nighttime, calm and conducive to more. When she slips him the zip drive, his touch lingers on her fingers. She leaves her arm draping over the seat. But he can't follow through. He changes the subject, she wilts, he leaves. Later, when Juliet announces that Harry has gone missing, Ruth has a little smile. But, by the end, he's back in the office, and though he seems excited to see Ruth alone at first, he quickly switches back to work mode. He tells her not to work too late. When she says she'll take the last bus, he pauses for a moment then walks off. He's a boss again and maybe distancing himself from that "regret" he had for not pursuing her.
    4 10 34:57, 42:48 Ruth and Adam confront Harry about evidence that he helped plan Diana's death; Harry is playing along and Ruth is losing respect for him by the moment. When she realizes there's more to it, and that he's stringing them along, she looks so relieved and more in love than ever. Later, after Ruth saves the day by weaving a story for Angela, Harry tells Ruth "well done," but she is upset and sarcastic with him. He grabs her by the arm and pulls her back and against the wall saying with great passion: "you think I'm a limited man! that I don't understand the emotional side. Self-control, self-denial. These are the things that keep us together in this job." There is so much to love about this exchange. Harry really needs Ruth to see him as a man, and to understand that he holds himself back all the time, including with her. Here he is telling her about self-denial yet coming closest to animal passion himself. Even though it is not a romantic moment, it's intense and very sexy because it is all about his interest in her. With anyone else this would have felt inappropriate and over the boss/employee line. With her, it's perfection. Their faces are so close and, for a moment, when he tells her she's a "born spook", he glances toward her mouth and it really seems as if he will kiss her.
    5 1 31:38, 56:52 The team is talking about Colin's death. Several things appeal to me in this great scene of tension and emotion; first that Harry is sitting next to Ruth with his arm casually slung around the pillows of the sectional, toward her, his hand near her shoulder and their knees almost touching. When Malcolm tears into Harry, Ruth looks anxiously at Harry -- worried for him. And later, when Zaf, Adam and Malcolm are all on their feet with intensity, Harry and Ruth don't move from their position of closeness; they are comforting each other by being near each other on the sofa. At the end when Malcolm bursts in, saying they are getting reports that one of the cars has been blown up, Ruth's worry is all for Harry.
    5 2 25:26, 56:14 Adam can see that Ruth is very upset about the danger Harry is in. Ruth wants only to find and save Harry, not stop the coup. And, of course, the awesome scene where Juliet asks Harry if he is in love with Ruth. Harry won't answer, but says Ruth has "many wonderful qualities." "Well, she's in love with you." "Is that so?" "Yes." "Well, that's one to ponder."
    5 3 6:15, 12:19, 31:58, 36:28, 54:13 In their opening meeting, 6:15, Ruth is adamant about the inhumanity of the weapon they are tracking down; she seems at odds with everyone. While talking about it later on the rooftop, Ruth insists she is not naive. Harry swiftly segues into asking her to dinner. Everything about that dinner invitation scene is precious. Later, I love it when Jo and Adam are talking about Harry and Ruth's upcoming dinner date and their budding interest. Then, --  the wonderful dinner date with Harry talking about the big trip he'd like to take with the right person and starts naming all those great Ruth qualities (including someone who is not naive). Malcolm's unfortunate teasing of Ruth at 36:28 which gives Ruth cold feet about having any relationship with Harry. At 54:13 she tells him she can't have dinner with him anymore because people are laughing and it undermines him. He is so plaintive and earnest in not caring about that, but she breezes out.
    5 4 8:40, 15:10, 42:50, 55:13 There's a bit of emotional distance, after Ruth's rejection of him, but Harry tells her he's glad she is at the hotel where the operation is going down. He feels the need to tell her she'll have her own room. They both look a bit embarrassed. At 15:10 another irresistible Harry moment in the hotel floor lobby when they both come out of their rooms due to the loud music. It is so hard to understand what is holding Ruth back. Harry notices that neither of them was sleeping and keeps stepping closer to her with a great look of longing. But she steps away saying "goodnight Harry". At 42:50 Ruth is alone in the ops room at the hotel looking at the cctv of Harry sitting alone having a drink, and almost deciding to call him, but not doing it. Later, after Ros yells at Harry for not going to bat for her dad and says his own life is a disaster, Ruth comes in at 55:13 and kindly looks deep into his face and tells him its not his fault; she squeezes his arm.
    5 5 2:15, 11:24, 21:24, 28:11, 31:17, 43:07, 46:40, 54:12, 55:25 Ruth brings Harry over to her flat after seeing a man commit suicide; he puts his hand briefly and tentatively on her shoulder, then makes her tea. The whole episode is all about them and their love, so it is hard to pull out scenes, but the one at 11:24 when they are simply lost in each others' gaze and Jo comes in interrupting them is wonderful. Not to mention that the dialog is hilarious. Harry telling her not to leave an official trail of what happened. "Even Adam?" "You can tell Adam." "I don't have to." "Its up to you; I'm not saying you should keep things from other members of the team, I'm just saying. . ." "Don't. Tell anyone." "Yes. I mean No." At 21:24, Ruth is sure that they're missing something and Harry says he's worried about her and wants to give her a ride home. He calls her a stubborn old mule, which she obviously objects to. At 28:11 everything starts to fall apart and Harry melts down to a bystander ("do not address me!"). Harry attempts to take the fall for Ruth, in a great scene at the restaurant (43:07), but then Ruth trumps him. At 46:40 she makes a total sacrifice of her life as she knows it for Harry's career and freedom and convinces Zaf and Adam to help her - "if I can save him, then I will." She is so brave, certain and selfless. It makes me sad that neither Adam nor Zaf will ever see her again. At 54:12, Harry alone, miserable in his office, receives the phone call that Ruth is "dead" and places the receiver over his heart. Love that Harry. The grief is real - though he knows she's not dead, he knows she's leaving him. And, of course, finally, their best moment of all - their goodbye, their kiss, at 55:25.
    6 3
    When Harry is under a routine psychological examination and the psychologist is giving a word association test to him, she asks him what is missing from his life. He says "something" vaguely, then more clearly and definitely follows it with "someone". At that moment Connie comes in with news and no follow up happens. It is clear (to me anyway) that he is still thinking about Ruth.
    8 1 14:50, 23:11, 33:56, 37:00, 40:20, 45:09, 55:08 The Russians have kidnapped Harry, then terrorists from India have stolen him from the Russians. They want uranium and Harry knows where it is; they also think Ruth knows, so they go after her. Harry's interrogator makes the first allusion to Ruth at 14:50 and it clearly affects him. Meanwhile Ruth, who is now married with a step child and living in Cyprus, manages to flee with her family and get to the grid for help.  She asks Malcolm how "he" (meaning Harry) is, but of course, he's in terrible danger. She supplies as much info as she can before the bad guys get her and her family. Harry conveys so much emotion as the door opens at 33:56 and he perceives Ruth being brought in. The interrogator speculates about their relationship crudely, Harry says its "probably a bit beyond your vulgar little mind." At 37:00, captive together, he says to her "you got married out there." Ruth describes her simple and elegant life that she loved. Harry presses: "and George?" Ruth: "he's a good and kind man." Harry bravely asks "do you love him?" She won't answer him: "He doesn't deserve to be in danger and I'm not going to start discussing my feelings about him. Not with you." Then, at 40:20, the interrogators use Ruth's family to get her to talk, but, though she tells what she knows, her knowledge is now worthless and they shoot her husband anyway. Her reaction is moving, intense and probably the most difficult thing Harry has ever had to bear. At 45:09 they threaten the child. Ruth is begging Harry to tell where the uranium is: "if you have any feelings at all. If you have any feelings for me." But he won't budge. "You heartless bastard" she says. The rest of the team save the day, and Harry, Ruth and the boy live. Harry acknowledges it at the end and hopes aloud that Ruth will someday, too. Malcolm curtly sums it up with: "Ruth's angry with you." "I know."
    8 2 0:01, 31:54, 33:44 Harry and Ruth are walking together. At least they're talking-- about George and Nico.  She says: "you would've let him die". Harry says he's not asking for forgiveness but wants to help sort things out. She says "you have a knighthood, Harry and I'm dead. There's our status." Plaintive again, he says "I'm trying. With all my limitations which you know better than anybody." But she's unmoved and sarcastic, "well thanks for that. Thanks for trying." Jo comes to talk to Ruth later. Ruth wonders if Harry is OK, but Jo says he's not himself. She begs Ruth to talk to him because he's hurting. Jo says "he did the right thing under intolerable pressure" and tells her "we've missed you, Ruth, but no one more than Harry." At 33:44, she does go talk to him. He almost looks as if he's going to cry when he sees her walking to him. She is sorry she blamed him for what happened - it wasn't fair. And he is truly sorry "about everything."
    8 3 7:02, 7:57, 55:00 She walks in to the grid, saying to Harry, "you're all flustered". "Well that happens sometimes…" he answers in a slight double entendre, then immediately starts talking about the newest situation they're working on. At 7:57, he's back in old form: "You. Come with me" -- which she (still) naturally does. "I'm gonna need you today Ruth." "Damn well hope so" she answers. At the end, Harry sends Jo in to fix the situation; she does fix it, but is then killed. The final scene between he and Ruth is devastating. He cannot believe he has brought her back into this life. They are both so distraught about Jo, but trapped inside themselves. And Ruth ends up weeping alone on the other side of the wall to his office.
    8 4 4:15 Park bench chat -- Ruth tells Harry that Jo convinced her to come back. He then asks "was she the only reason you returned?" "What do you mean?" "You know what I mean". But she changes the subject, wanting to know why he asked her there. He says he wanted to talk about Jo. She says, "but there was something else". "There'll always be something else, Ruth."
    8 6 45:00, 56:54 When Ruth uncovers a money trail to the home secretary, there is a nice bit of secrecy between Harry and Ruth; he has brought her completely close and inside again - the only one he can completely trust. After the home secretary is ousted, she is worried for Harry. She asks him if he wants to get a drink. It takes a moment to sink in, then he practically springs to his feet saying: "yes, I think I do Ruth" ... but its not to be; Tariq announces more bad news.
    8 7 16:40
    Ruth can't accept that a 17 year old boy has to risk his life to save the country. "I've forgotten what its like here," she says, "its nothing." "Its not nothing, Ruth, and I'm glad you’re here to remind us. To remind me." Such a tender voice from Harry. Several other gazes and meaningful moments, including at 35:30 a talk in Harry's office, where Ruth tells him he's making the right call and as she leaves brushes her fingers across his.
    8 8 17:40, 38:50 Ruth is telling Harry to keep an open mind, that this new home secretary may not be bad afterall But Harry is suspicious of him, and says that no one else has raised an issue with his assessment. She replies that they may be reluctant to challenge their leader's obvious conviction. He leans forward, looks into her face with a sly grin and says "no such reluctance with you, eh Ruth?" As they are on the roof later talking about the mission, he changes tack abruptly and asks whether she still sings. They quote the song 'all men are brothers under gentle wings' which brings him to tears. She touches his arm tenderly.
    9 1 2:15, 22:45, 31:15, 42:00, 53:13 The proposal scene at Ros' funeral. Gorgeous and heartbreaking. She turns him down looking almost as sad as he is. He says "we move on from this." But at 23:12 Harry gets bad news about his officers on a mission on a ship. Ruth says "it'll be alright Harry." He dismisses her quickly: "that will be all Ruth." At 31:15 she tries again, telling him not to worry about Dimitri. He asks "does it ever stop?" At 42:00, Ruth comes to him (again) and Harry tells her he's handed in his resignation -- he's tired of all the death and his "negligible difference." She wants to discuss it, saying "this isn't you talking". But he says: "that's enough Ruth," sending her away. He is trying hard to salvage his dignity. It is going to be very hard to be close to her now after she rejected him that way. She looks terrible for having broken his heart. But Ruth, at 53:13, comes to him yet again telling him he's saved thousands. "Is it all just maths Ruth?" "I think sometimes it is." Ruth brings up the proposal, she says it would be "a lie" to live in a little house in Sussex, that they've forfeited the chance for that kind of life. "Here we can face all that in the open." "We couldn't be more, together, than we are right now." I think she managed to say the right thing and they are "friends" again.
    9 2 18:06 Late night phone call from Ruth to Harry. He says "given what you said, re: what I said, I don't think we should be sharing late at night tet a tets." But Ruth says: "its work" -- to which Harry replies "good." Still, when they're done with the work part, he says "anything else" full of longing; she has a long pause before quietly saying "no," hanging up and swigging some wine.
    9 3 6:20, 13:44, 15:00, 40:02, 54:36 While Lucas is on a mission, Harry makes a decision to let a guy go without alerting Lucas about it. Ruth tries to talk to him: "Harry. Harry. Are you sure about this? "Doubting my judgment?" He asks, getting in her face. She says no. When this decision bites him in the rear later, he says "go ahead Ruth, I know you want to say it. I told you so." She wants to strategize with him, but he says "I don't need you to fight my battles." He's trying to close her out and seal up his wounds but his heart is far too open. At 15:00 he's angry and rude to her about having gone to advise the home secretary without telling him. She sighs: "this is ridiculous; we have to work together." "We are working together. This is what it looks like." Ruth wilts. (Maybe realizing how much she'll miss it if she stops being his number one confidant?) But he can't do it; he can't cut her out. At 40:02, Harry feels terrible about their mission - that he's allowed them to be played; Ruth comforts him saying it was a "mistake of judgment, maybe, but not of decency." They share a long look. He just can't steel himself against her. All it takes is one loving kind comment like this and he's putty again. So at 54:36, when she wonders whether they can trust the scientist he told the truth to, he replies, "he won't talk. He's an honorable man." How can he know that, she wonders, and Harry poignantly says "sometimes you have to give a man a chance, Ruth, to show you who he really is." She watches him walk away.
    9 4 27:56, 32:04, 53:50, 54:05 Ruth is undercover and when she gets snagged by the CIA; Harry talks her through what to say to them. Ruth gets hurt as they are nabbing the scientist she is trying to protect. At 32:04, he leans in very close and whispers "I'm sorry about your lip." Later, Ruth is talking to the scientist, telling her she doesn't want to hand her over like a piece of meat; but the scientist says "I'm a commodity; if you're valuable enough to someone you can never be free." Ruth looks as if this deeper meaning strikes a chord. The scientist talks about her child and asks whether Ruth has children. Ruth answers "no" -- maybe thinking of Nico and wondering if she could have or would have if she hadn't rejected that kind of life. Funny little moment near the end when Ruth bursts in and Harry says: "if you don't start knocking, I'll have to have you fitted with a cowbell." But she convinces Harry not to hand people over like this; Harry capitulates, for her.
    9 6 7:50, 55:15 When the grid is compromised, Ruth trying to sneakily convey info to Harry uses their past relationship as the means -- she seizes his hand, secretly slipping him a note; she makes it seem as if the conversation is about their relationship, when she is really trying to convey that they are being watched. It is effective. But she apologizes later about having to "bring up … well, you know". He says don't give it a thought, but I think he was surprised and maybe bruised by it. Shortly after, Harry learns that Ruth is suspicious of Lucas. But he doesn't believe her.
    9 7 6:44, 12:47, 46:45, 54:55 Harry brings up logistic issues with regard to Ruth's stepson and house in Cyprus; he knows it is very painful for her. Later, when he asks her to collate some info, she wants to know why he just wants her to collate and not analyze it. He doesn't trust her judgment and that "our personal history does not mean you can question everything I do." "But it doesn't mean you can freeze me out either." He closes the door for a heart to heart. He declares: "neither of us are what you would call emotionally forthright." Harry has concluded that Ruth still blames him for what happened to George and Nico, that she thinks he would have let her die too, and that he's protecting Lucas in a way he failed to protect her.  But he counters that he'd protect her too - "a thousand times over." ... "And you'd be wrong" she replies. As the plot unfolds, Ruth is in real danger. Harry's been interrogating Lucas and doesn't know what's going on. When they piece it together at 46:45, Harry's never driven so fast in his life; poor Ruth fighting for her life while Harry's desperately trying to call her. When he gets to the apartment, Ruth has just shot the bad guy. She sees Harry and weakly just hands him the gun. Its one of my favorites - she's still just like a child looking up to him in some ways. In the last scene, Ruth is in the hospital, about to leave; Harry is there too, looking very rumpled. He probably checked in with her and hasn't left. Ruth's speech to Harry about being strong, not weak, with no chance of mourning our loved ones -- is one of the most powerful moments in the show. "You think I haven't forgiven you for George, but the truth is much worse... that I'm fine."
    9 8 16:40, 23:20, 24:08, 30:00, 45:28, 46:36, 49:00, 55:27 Lucas captures Ruth, to get a file he needs from Harry. Harry says "don't you dare hurt her". Harry explains to his team that Lucas found out that Harry knows where the file is and Dimitri concludes that "Ruth is his leverage over you." Dimitri and Beth know that Harry will probably give up the file for Ruth, so he tells them to come along (to keep him honest). At 23:20, even with them along, he takes the file and runs off with it to make the exchange with Lucas. Meanwhile, Lucas and Ruth are talking while he holds her captive. At 24:08, she tells Lucas that Harry asked her to marry him, but she said no.  "Why. you love him don't you." Ruth is silent and Lucas tells her to be selfish for once and say yes. Ruth later tells him "Harry's never going to give you Albany" and Lucas tells her she's always underestimated herself. Lucas is right in this case, because Harry is hightailing it over to give up that file. When Lucas gets the file, he says at 33:55, "Harry Pearce giving up a state secret. Committing treason for just one life." "Not just any life". Later, Harry learns where Ruth is and rushes in to save her. Then at 45:28 as she is coming round she tells Harry "thanks for coming for me. Hope you didn't pay too high a price." He looks like he could cry. Or throw up. Or both. But at 46:36, Ruth is not flattered that Harry gave up the  file to secure her release. She's angry. She is not worth more than all the others (presumably all the agents who've died); she says it was "her turn" and that at the moment he handed over Albany, it was "unfair of you to love me." He doesn't get to respond - Dimitri bursts in. Then, at 49:00 when Harry is going to meet Lucas, all assuming that Lucas will kill Harry, Ruth just says "Harry." He looks at her a long moment and says "its my turn." At the end, Ruth is horrified and relieved with the apparent death of Lucas and Harry's safety.

    Sometimes you have to give a man a chance, Ruth.

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    The Significance of the Albany File to Harry and Ruth.

    Harry's act of giving up the Albany file at the end of season 9 of Spooks (MI-5) is powerful and significant and does prove his love for Ruth, even though Albany was worthless as a weapon. (Beware of Spoilers for Season 9, episode 8).

    If watching this show has taught me anything it is that what people believe to be true should not be underestimated as a political and strategic tool. Almost everyone who knew of its existence, even the very highest ranking officials, believed Albany to be a dangerous blueprint for a sociopathic genetic weapon. That belief was itself a poker chip keeping various world power struggles in check.

    In 9.8 when Harry gives up Albany to the Chinese (in order to secure Ruth's release), the reality of what he is handing over is not a weapon but rather, knowledge. He knows that the Chinese will discover that Albany is not a workable plan, and that very real information will change the way it interacts with England and with other countries who know of Albany. (Like in Clue, what your opponent doesn't reveal about her hand is just as valuable as what she does.)

    And this twist it is a brilliant ploy by the writers of MI-5 to give Harry a way to prove his love for Ruth without actually needing to decide whether he valued her life more highly than the millions of other lives that would be cruelly and racistly snuffed out if the weapon were real, not to mention allowing us to sidestep the question of whether he would treat her more preciously than all the other agents who have died in the line of duty. And that's good. Because Harry loving her that much would not have made Ruth love him more.

    Instead, Harry gets to give up something that might. Just. Something far more personal -- his stability in his career. Because there is no way Harry can come away unblemished from this act. To the extent that the fiction is preserved that Albany is a real genetic weapon, Harry is going to be blamed for handing it over; to the extent that the truth about Albany is exposed, then Harry is responsible for any political or diplomatic fallout that may occur due to that knowledge. Either way, Harry's choice to dredge up Albany and give it to Lucas was Big.

    Harry, who is smarter than all of us, acted as stressed as he did about this decision because he could see those implications. This was a massive act based on his love for Ruth. Though she may not know it.

    "The Significance of the Albany File to Harry and Ruth." LostinBritishTV

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    What Do Clean Floors, Spooks and Life Have in Common

    I had two big accomplishments today. The first being the semi-annual cleaning of my adobe floors. Why so often?, you might be thinking... But it's very important to clean one's floors. Because mine are made of baked mud, which cannot help but dissolve a bit on scrubbing and because cleaning anything with a solution of muddy water does not generally get it clean looking, I guess my idea of often might vary from yours.  But today I did clean them which led to lots of wonderful things.

    First of all, vacuuming is a really good thing to do. You get a chance to find all the spiders and you get the benefits of a totally encompassing job. It uses both arms, legs, your back and even demands your ears and eyes. You can really do nothing else but think while you're vacuuming. I have noticed that the best thinking comes when the ability to multitask is taken away and you are stuck with a fairly mindless but body-consuming task. And I had a lot to think about, owing to my second big accomplishment of the day.

    I finally finished watching all 80 episodes of Spooks!

    Maybe that sounds like a silly achievement. But for someone who writes about this series a lot, it is a very nice advantage to have actually watched all of it.  In addition to not having seen all the episodes before today, part of my problem has been seeing the ones I have seen out of proper order. [I started with seasons 7 & 8, and then, because 9 was not out yet, started over with 1 through 5. However, before I got to season 6,  9 came out on dvd and I watched it. What a mess.] So I am just now ironing out the flow of how this series has actually unfolded all along. And for some reason this all reminds me of life ... and floors. Just wait, it will all come together.

    One of the best parts of season 6 was to see the introduction of Ben as a spooks team member.  I already knew Ben. He was one of my favorites from the first season I ever watched. And I know what happens to him. It is funny now, watching his scenes with Connie, I think: "did either of these actors have any idea what was coming up for their characters?" I doubt it. That's part of the "real" appeal of the show -- they keep the actors on a need to know basis.

    Just like vacuuming. and life.

    Now that I know what has happened before and what comes after, I can watch an earlier show with all the context and retrospect that add poignancy, but without the stress of uncertainty. Now I know where all the bad things are. Examining the past, while knowing what's coming and with some emotional distance, a viewer can focus on lots of little details missed the first time being too nervous.

    Like when I look at old pictures or memorabilia. The smiling people in those photos have no idea what is coming. But I do. You may not get a chance to re-live your life a second time, but you do get to review it any time you want, usually with clarity and less emotion once you've identified where all the major things happen. It's like pausing time, getting off the racetrack of stressful events playing out on a daily basis, and seeing the whole course and details that emerge in those snippets, receipts, photos, trip diaries and letters, more clearly.

    With life, you can use your review of the past to think about what is important and help inform where you want to go. With TV shows, you obviously don't get any say on what happens in future episodes based on your review of the past or there are certainly things I would insist happen in season 10! But you do get a benefit of a clearer and more complete view, when your eyes aren't clouded with stress.

    And today I cleaned my floors with introspection. Eliminating debris that muddied my vision. I flooded the floor with soapy water and then took the time to really remove that slurry. Pausing from all the things that keep us mired and taking that second look allows you to see the beauty of the substrate and feel fresh and renewed.

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    What Men Call Each Other -- Lionel and Bertie of The King's Speech.

    Everyone is of course aware of this remarkable film which is a story of many things, perhaps the most remarkable being, how a movie that represents the quiet inward struggles of a man and climaxes with the giving of a speech can be so spellbindingly interesting.

    I was expecting to be entertained by this movie, being both a fan of period dramas about British royalty and of Colin Firth. But I was not expecting to be on the edge of my seat with anticipation and rapt interest.  Nor was I expecting my movie companions, both my children, nor the entire rest of this country to be as captivated as I.

    It is hard to write a post on this film because, while there is a great deal to appreciate, there is little that has not already been said. (Writing on an extremely well-canvased topic is a hardship I rarely get to experience.) But I think I can dispense with a summary of the plot, point and characters and just stick with what interests me most about the film: the male bonding. Of the many things the movie encompasses in its reach (overcoming obstacles, childhood mistreatment, the traumas of war, the stress of ruling, the indentured servitude that is royalty) there is nothing better than the first-rate male bonding going on here.

    Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist Lionel Logue have a tremendous amount of chemistry.  Their exchanges are hilarious and delivered with fabulous timing.
    Logue: "I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you."
    Bertie:  "My physicians say it relaxes the throat."
    Logue: "They're idiots."
    Bertie: "They've all been knighted."
    Logue: "Makes it official then."
    The relationship between the man who is about to be king and his therapist, who becomes his only friend, is the heart of this story and comes to a climax just after the King makes his speech.

    Throughout the movie, Logue has called the King "Bertie" in a very intentional attempt to bridge the great social and power distance between the two of them and to stand as equals. Logue has spent the movie insisting on collegiality, if not quite friendship, between them. "Bertie" does not reciprocate this address, preferring instead to address the doctor as "Logue." He has spent the movie trying to distance himself from any relationship with Logue, wanting only Logue's speech treatment, none of Logue himself.

    Logue is relaxed with the idea of human contact and wishes to know this man who seeks his help. Not only does he wish to know him, he believes it is necessary to know him in order to help him. In the end, he is right. But Bertie is also right -- that he, as royalty, deserves respect and some deference. Eventually each man gets what he needs. After struggling to find a relationship and a place of comfort with each other, and after that position of closeness allows the King to succeed, Logue, in a lovely scene, congratulates the King, calling him "your majesty" for the first time.  Touched, Bertie reciprocates the gesture and thanks Logue by calling him "friend."

    While watching this scene, my recent thoughts on another male bonding pair, Nicholas Higgins and John Thornton of North and South, came to mind. A similar "name calling"  incident happens near the climax of that film as well, to a pair of equally improbable men: Higgins the factory worker and Thornton the boss. After a sustained labor conflict between them throughout much of the movie that mellows into a slightly hostile working relationship, grudgingly giving way to respect and finally friendship -- Nicholas calls the boss "Thornton" instead of "master." And the viewer knows, by this naming, that an important step is made. Higgins has used a title of respect "master," all along to a man he not only didn't care about but felt ill will toward. By the end, he feels deep admiration and respect for that man, but, ironically, expresses it with "well, Thornton, I bid you good day." A smile and handshake show that this is not lost on Thornton.

    What men call each other can provide a poignant glimpse into the subtleties of their rank, care, interest and familiarity. I think it is why it seems to be a key piece in the puzzle that is male bonding.