Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Blind Ambition" [G] - 1/1

Here is a "Star Trek Voyager" story set during Season Five:


CODE: Kim, P/T
SUMMARY: Harry Kim discovers a few truths about his friends' Starfleet ambitions. Set after S5's "Disease".

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DISCLAIMER: Harry Kim, Tom Paris, B'Elanna Torres and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom and the usual Trek Powers to Be.


Inside Voyager's Mess Hall, the Talaxian cook placed two trays on the table shared by Harry Kim and B'Elanna Torres. "Here we go," Neelix announced with a flourish, "Rikkorian Quiche. Made from Rikkorian ham, mushrooms from the Airpondics Bay and Bacca leaves. I got the recipe from a restaurant chef, during our shore leave on Rikkor."

Both Harry and B'Elanna stared at the dish on their trays. To the former, it strangely reminded him of an ordinary slice of Quiche Lorraine - much to his relief. "This chef was willing to give you his recipe?" he asked, aware of professional chefs' tendency to jealously guard their recipes.

Neelix replied, "Well, I don't think he really minded. Especially since he knew I wouldn't be around to give him any competition. Besides, I gave him my recipe for Wood Nettle Strips."

"I bet he liked that," B'Elanna murmured.

Neelix's mottled face brightened. "Actually, he enjoyed it very much, when I presented him with a sample of my dish, the following day. Which is probably why he wanted the recipe." He paused, while the others continued to stare at their trays. "Anyway, as you Humans say, 'bon appetite'."

"Yeah," Harry slowly replied. He glanced at B'Elanna, who continued to regard the quiche on her tray with dubious eyes. "Well, here I go." Harry took a deep breath, broke off a piece of quiche with his fork and placed it in his mouth. He chewed.

B'Elanna stared at him. "Well?" she asked. "How is it?"

As Harry chewed his food, he discovered something surprising. Neelix's Rikkorian Quiche tasted a lot like Quiche Lorraine from back home. In other words . . . "Delicious," he declared in a surprised tone. Then he smiled at the Talaxian. "My compliments to the chef."

"Why thank you," Neelix replied happily. "Thank you very much. I thought this would be the perfect dish to serve, after all of those heavy meals we've been eating lately. Excuse me, while I prepare more quiche." He returned to the galley.

B'Elanna leaned forward. "Okay Harry, how is the quiche? Really?"

"It's great!" Harry replied enthusiastically. "Just like it's made back home. Try a bite."

The half-Klingon did as Harry had suggested. And like him, she responded to Neelix's newest culinary effort with enthusiasm. "Hmmm, this is delicicious! I ought to get Tom to try it."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Good luck," he replied sarcastically. "You know how Tom is about Neelix's cooking."

B'Elanna dismissed the suggestion with a wave of her hand. "Maybe he was like that a few years ago, but not anymore. Besides, ever since Neelix stopped serving leeola root, Tom's been a lot more tolerant."

"Tolerant of what?" a third voice asked. The two friends glanced up at the tall, fair-haired man standing before their table.

Harry grinned at his other best friend. "Hi Tom! Didn't think you would make it."

Tom Paris heaved a sigh and placed his tray on the table. "Thanks to the Doc, I nearly didn't. There's nothing more boring than conducting an experiment in cellular construction." He then sat in the empty chair, next to B'Elanna's, before planting a light kiss on her mouth. A surge of envy welled within Harry. Tom's kiss brought back memories of his recently aborted romance with the Varro woman, Tal.

The young Operations Chief shook away his dark thoughts. Tal was now in the past. He should be thankful that he had survived the whole Varro incident with nothing more than an official reprimand, instead of a spell in the brig. Or worse, a demotion. Still, the reprimand meant a black mark on what otherwise could have been a . . .

"Hello? Harry?" Tom's voice brought the younger man back into the present. "Hey, are you in another world, or what?"

Shaking his head, Harry replied, "No . . . uh, no. I was just thinking. About the past."

Blue eyes stared at him. "The past? Oh! You mean Tal. You still miss her?"

Harry shrugged. Yeah. But I was also thinking about my Starfleet record. How this latest incident could affect . . . you know, my career."

Tom reluctantly took a bite of Nelix's new dish. His eyes lit up with appreciation. "Hmmm, not bad," he commented.

"Harry and I thought so, too," B'Elanna added.

"As for your record," Tom continued, "I don't think you have anything to worry about. I mean, we're . . . what? At least 40 to 50,000 light years away from Starfleet Command. I don't think you have to worry about them finding out about your not-so-spotless record, Harry. So relax."

Frustration unexpectedly welled within Harry. There were times when he could not understand Tom's cavalier attitude toward a Starfleet career. Yes, he knew that Admiral Paris had been concerned about Tom adhering to the Paris family's tradition of joining the Command track, and later assuming the ranks of captain and admiral. And he knew that his friend valued flying a starship above commanding one. But Harry sometimes wondered how Tom could be so dismissive about anything so serious as a Starfleet career? Was it because the older man knew that any chance of a higher rank had been destroyed by his actions on the Monean homeworld?

"I'm not worried," Harry insisted, struggling to sound truthful.

Tom gave him a shrewd look. "If you say so, buddy."

Harry clamped down another surge of frustration. He hated when Tom saw through him. "Okay, maybe I am a little worried," he said, changing his mind. "Can you blame me? It's not as if we're seventy years away from home, anymore. Hell, within four years, we've already traveled a good thirty or forty-thousand light years." Harry leaned forward. "We may end up reaching home a lot sooner than we had imagined."

"And the purpose of this conversation?" Tom asked, with a touch of condescension.

Harry bit back a sigh. "What I'm trying to say is that we might end up home a lot sooner. Which means I have every reason to be a little . . . concerned about my service record. Especially after what happened with the Varro. And if that makes me seem a little ambitious, so what? We were all ambitious when we first joined Starfleet. Right?"

Instead of answering immediately, both Tom and B'Elanna exchanged wary glances. "What?" Harry demanded. "Didn't you two have ambitions about joining Starfleet?"

"Well," B'Elanna began uneasily, "I did. It's just . . ."

"What?" Harry stared at the Chief Engineer.

B'Elanna took a deep breath. "Well Harry, my main reason for joining Starfleet was to escape from Kessik IV . . . and my mother." She paused briefly. "We, uh . . . you know that we didn't get along very well. And when a Starfleet Academy recruiter had visited my school . . . Let's just say that Starfleet gave me a good reason to finally leave home. And since I happened to be a good engineer, I signed up for the Engineering track."

Harry stared at his friend in stunned silence. "That's why you had joined Starfleet? But you've always seemed . . . I don't know . . . enthusiastic about being a Starfleet officer."

"I am enthusiastic!" B'Elanna protested. "Well, at least I'm serious about being a good officer. I take pride in my work." She paused. "It's just that I don't have the same enthusiasm like I used to. Or your ambition, Harry. I'm just not a diehard Fleeter at heart."

The young ensign diverted his eyes toward the Chief Helmsman. "What about you, Tom? I know you never had any ambitions to be a starship captain, but you've always wanted to join Starfleet, right?" Harry realized that he was regarding his other friend with hopeful eyes.

It did not take the blue-eyed pilot very long to respond. "Sorry Harry," Tom replied in that soft voice of his. "To be honest, I never wanted to join Starfleet.

This time, Harry found himself feeling flabbergasted. "Wha. . . what? I thought you had at least wanted to fly the best ships in the Fleet?"

Tom sighed. Heavily. "Look, Harry, I love to fly. Really, I do. But, I also love the ocean. You know that. And because of that love, I had wanted to join the Federation Naval Patrol."

Harry reeled from shock by Tom's news. "The . . .?"

"Yeah," Tom continued, "the Federation Naval Patrol. But Dad was against the idea. A Paris always joined Starfleet. And I gave in to his demands and joined. End of story." A bitter note had crept into the helmsman's voice.

Still stunned by Tom's admission, Harry shook his head. "I don't . . . I don't get it! You had seemed happy when the Captain first gave you a field command. I thought you were happy to be a Starfleet officer, again."

"I was happy," Tom replied. "To be given a second chance, Harry. To be trusted again." His voice grew even softer. "And although I had nearly threw away that trust again, a part of me doesn't regret it." He exchanged a private smile with B'Elanna.

Harry had no idea what laid behind his friends' smiles. To be honest, he did not care. He was too busy trying to reconcile his feelings with Tom's words. "Does the Captain know? About your plans to join . . .?"

"Yeah, she knows." Tom's gaze cooled slight. "I had told her about two or three days before she demoted me and tossed me into the brig." He sighed. "Sometimes I wonder if I had not told her, would she have simply given me an official reprimand."

A slight scowl darkened B'Elanna's countenance. "That's not hard to imagine," she muttered.

"B'Elanna!" Harry stared at his friend in outrage. "You're talking about the Captain!"

The half-Klingon rolled her eyes in contempt. "C'mon Starfleet! You have to admit that she's been acting pretty erratic, this year. Mind you, we've all been having a difficult year, but the Captain . . ." She shook her head. "Sometimes I think that she hasn't recovered from her depression. At least not yet."

The word "depression" brought back memories of B'Elanna's state, earlier this year. And Seven's emotional state following One's death . . . along with the Doctor's emotional breakdown and Harry's own malaise over Tal. Even a good number of the crew had been in a bleak mood during the trip through the Void. "I know, but . . ." Harry began.

Two pairs of eyes gazed directly at him. Tom said, "I think I know what you're going to say, Harry. That after what I had done on the Monean homeworld, the Captain only did what she thought was right. And I would be the first to agree."

"Would you?" Harry demanded. "Because you seem a little bitter about it all. Is that why you're now so ambivalent about a Starfleet career? Because of what the Captain did to you?"

A long sigh left Tom's mouth. A sigh filled with frustration that made Harry feel even more naïve. And on edge. "First of all, the reason I might still be a little bitter is because so far, I'm the only Senior staff officer who has served time in the brig and been demoted. Everyone else - including you, Chakotay, Tuvok . . ."

"And me," B'Elanna added.

Tom nodded. ". . . and B'Elanna have all been officially reprimanded. Except for Neelix, who had only spent two weeks cleaning plasma manifolds and Seven, who was force to remain in the cargo bay, when she was not on duty, last year. All I'm saying is that there's a chance that my little admission about my feelings toward Starfleet may have led the Captain to her decision regarding my punishment."

"So, you're saying that this sudden aversion toward a Starfleet career has nothing to do with what happened on Monea?" Harry demanded.

The helmsman gave the younger man a long look. "Harry, my aversion toward Starfleet had began a long time ago. At least a full decade before I had entered the Academy. But like I told you, I gave in to my dad's wishes and joined Starfleet." Tom shrugged. "Aside from my years on Voyager, I've regretted giving in to Dad."

Harry tried not to feel disappointed by Tom's words. Yet, he could not help it. He felt as if he had lost some kind of connection - not only to the sandy-haired pilot, but to the Chief Engineer, as well. Because of this, he felt even more like a third wheel. Who else, aboard Voyager, with whom he could share his feelings about Starfleet? The Captain? She would have understood, but her position and their recent estrangement made her too remote for Harry. He had never been close with Tuvok - aside from their sessions of Kaltoth. And as much as Harry felt comfortable with Chakotay, the latter seemed to regard his ambitions with mild amusement. Both Neelix and Seven, as civilians, would never understand. As for the Doctor - well, Harry had never found the time to form any kind of bond with the EMH. In fact, aside from Tom and B'Elanna, the only other person Harry used to connect with was his old Academy friend, Lyndsay Ballard. And the Hirogen had killed her, last year.

Glancing into his friends' eyes, Harry detected sympathy. And pity. Their expressions made him feel lonelier than ever. It was a feeling that he had grown accustomed to, over the years. Especially during the past year or so. Perhaps Tom had been right. Perhaps he should not concern himself over a Starfleet record, recently tarnished with a reprimand. Especially since four or five decades might pass before Starfleet Command ever laid eyes upon it.

Harry sighed, as he stood up. Tom frowned. "Leaving already, Harry? You haven't even finished your dinner. And for once, it's good."

"I'm almost finished, anyway," Harry replied in a resigned voice. His eyes shifted from the pilot to the engineer. "Besides, I think you two might want to be alone."

B'Elanna responded in her usual acerbic manner, "If we were really that desperate to be alone, Harry, we wouldn't have asked you to join us for dinner." Her voice softened. "But I understand . . . if you need to be alone, right now."

"I don't . . ." Harry hesitated. Then he sighed. Why bother denying the truth? Tom and B'Elanna's revelations had just exacerbated his present moodiness. "Yeah," he finally said. "I guess you're right."

Harry glanced at his two friends, once more. After nearly five years, it still amazed him how both of them seemed to adapt to the Delta Quadrant. Despite all that they had suffered - Tom's alienation from the crew during that first year and his demotion, along with B'Elanna's depression, the Delta Quadrant suited them like water to a duck. Instead of feeling stifled and frustrated like he did, Tom and B'Elanna had flourished. Looking at them now, Harry felt more than ever like a third wheel. He wondered how long this feeling within him would last? During Voyager's entire journey in the Delta Quadrant? And how long will that last?

He bit back a sigh, smiled at his friends and bid them goodnight. As Harry sauntered toward the Mess Hall's doors, Neelix cried out, "Good night, Ensign Kim!" But the twenty-six year-old ensign barely heard him.


Friday, August 27, 2010

"THE OTHER GUYS" (2010) Photo Gallery

Below are photos from the new action comedy, "THE OTHER GUYS". Directed by Adam McKay, the movie stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg:

"THE OTHER GUYS" (2010) Photo Gallery

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top Ten (10) Favorite "MAD MEN" Episodes - Seasons One to Three

Below is a list of my ten favorite episodes that have aired during Seasons One to Three on "MAD MEN":

Top Ten (10) Favorite "MAD MEN" Episodes - Seasons One to Three

1. (2.08) "A Night to Remember" - The Draper marriage show signs of serious trouble when Betty confronts Don about his recent affair with Bobbie Barrett. Father McGill confronts Peggy Olson about her past, while working on a church project with her. And Harry Crane turns to the unlikely help of office manager Joan Holloway, when his department is overloaded with work.

2. (3.11) "The Gypsy and the Hobo" - Don's past finally catches up with him when Betty confronts him about his identity theft. Roger Sterling meets a former client/lover who wishes to rekindle their affair. And Joan discovers that her husband, Greg Harris, has joined the Army after failing to start a medical career in New York.

3. (1.12) "Nixon vs. Kennedy" - On Election Night 1960, the Sterling-Cooper staff hold an all night party to view the election results. Pete Campbell uses his knowledge of Don's past to blackmail him for a higher position. And Don recalls his moment of identity theft during the Korean War.

4. (2.05) "The New Girl" - Joan finds a new secretary for Don, while he is stuck in the middle of personal issues between TV comedian Jimmy Barrett and the latter's wife, Bobbie.

5. (3.12) "The Grown Ups" - The assassination of President John Kennedy serves as the backdrop of the wedding for Roger's daughter and the breakup of the Draper marriage.

6. (1.06) "Babylon" - Peggy proves to be more than a secretary when opportunities as a copywriter are opened to her. Roger and Joan's affair is revealed. And client Rachel Mencken deals with her conflicting feelings for Don.

7. (3.07) "Seven Twenty-Three" - Don's attempts to land the Conrad Hilton account leads to him being blackmailed by Bert Cooper to sign a three-year contract with Sterling Cooper. Peggy begins an affair with former Sterling-Cooper Accounts Head, Duck Phillips. And Betty expresses interest in the Governor's aide, Henry Francis when she becomes involved in civic politics.

8. (2.04) "Three Sundays" - The Sterling-Cooper staff rally to save an attempt to win the American account. Don and Betty clash over the disciplining of their children. Peggy becomes acquainted with a young and attractive priest named Father McGill.

9. (1.03) "The Marriage of Figaro" - After his business relationship with Rachel Mencken takes an unforeseen turn; Don attends his daughter Sally's birthday party, which further illuminates his increasing dissatisfaction with his present life.

10. (2.07) "The Gold Violin" - Art director Sal Romano develops an attraction toward Accounts man Ken Cosgrove and invites the latter over to Sunday dinner. Joan clashes with Don's new secretary, Jane Siegel. And the Drapers are invited to attend a party for TV comedian Jimmy Barrett, who has some news for Betty.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"SALT" (2010) Review

"SALT" (2010) Review

It has been a while since I last saw a movie directed by Philip Noyce. In fact, the last one I can recall was 2002’s "THE QUIET AMERICAN". Imagine my surprise when I discovered he had been chosen to direct Angelina Jolie’s new action thriller called "SALT".

The movie told the story of a CIA agent named Evelyn Salt, who is accused of being a KGB sleeper agent. She eventually goes on the run to try to clear her name. At the order of her supervisor, Ted Winters, Salt interrogates a Russian defector named Orlov, who tells her about an operation organized by a powerful Russian since the Cold War; which will lead to the destruction of the United States. Orlov mentions that at the funeral of the late Vice President in New York City, the visiting Russian President will be killed by Russian spy - Evelyn Salt. Shaken at the accusation, Salt attempts to contact her husband Mike, a German arachnologist, fearing for his safety. Meanwhile, Orlov escapes, which prompts Salt to escape. This causes Winters and a counterintelligence agent named Peabody to believe she is a spy. After finding her husband missing at their apartment, Salt grabs a few essentials and continues her flight. After barely escaping a highway pursuit, Salt takes a bus to New York City to deal with the threat of the Russian president being assassinated.

When I first learned about the plot for "SALT", the first thing that came to mind was that it was a female variation on the recent BOURNE trilogy, starring Matt Damon. And in a way, it is. After all, Jolie portrays a CIA agent, who finds herself pursued by her former colleagues. And her character performs stunts that would make Damon . . . or his stunt man rather proud. However, after the movie’s setting had switched to New York City, Kurt Wimmer and Oscar winner Brian Hegeland’s script took an unexpected turn that left me a little breathless. And if that was not enough, another plot twist awaited, once the movie shifted back to Washington D.C. and a plot to kill the U.S. president. Another aspect of ”SALT” that surprised me was that the movie was released on the heels of news about a real Russian spy ring that was recently discovered in the U.S.

Angelina Jolie has come a long way since her two LARA CROFT movies. In her portrayal of Jennifer Salt, she is more assured and matured. And thankfully, she has also dropped the poseur attitude that slightly marred her performances as Lara Croft. Not only did Jolie do a first-rate job with her action sequences, she skillfully guided the emotional turmoil that her character endures throughout the movie. Adding solid support is Liev Schreiber, who portrayed her supervisor, Ted Winters. Beneath the charm and intelligence, Schreiber did a great job in conveying Ted’s emotional reaction to the possibility that Salt might be a Russian deep-cover mole. And Chiwetel Ejiofor was effective as the intense and determined counterintelligence agent, Peabody, who genuinely believes that Salt is a mole. He managed to convey this without indulging in any hammy acting.

Daniel Olbrychski gave a fascinating performance as the Russian defector, Orlov, who accused Salt of being a Russian agent. August Diehl portrayed Salt’s husband, the soft-spoken arachnologist, Michael Krause. Although he hardly had any lines in the film, he quietly conveyed his role as Salt’s emotional center. I was surprised to see Hunt Block, who portrayed the U.S. president. I have not seen him since the 1980s nighttime drama, "KNOT’S LANDING". I was also surprised to see Andre Braugher in the movie. He portrayed one of the President’s aides, yet he only had one or two lines. At first, I thought his career had really taken a nose dive, until I remembered that he was on the TNT television series called "MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE". So, how did he get stuck in a role that called for only two lines?

Noyce worked well with cinematographer Robert Elswit and film editors Stuart Baird and John Gilroy to create some very interesting action scenes . . . especially the fantastic sequence featuring the attempt to assassinate the Russian president in New York. Jolie contributed to these scenes with some of her own stunt work. Yes, I realize that some of the stunts seemed implausible – especially one that featured a jump by Salt from a Washington D.C. expressway to the top of a moving truck. But I have seen stunts in other movies that I found a lot more implausible. It seemed a pity that the movie was set either during the late fall or the winter. Although the cold season did not take any atmosphere away from the Manhattan sequences, I cannot say the same about the Washington D.C. exterior shots. I have always believed that the capital looked a lot better on film during the spring, summer and early fall seasons.

In the end, I enjoyed "SALT" very much. I believe that it is one of the better summer movies this year. Director Philip Noyce did a first-class job with a solid script written by Kurt Wimmer and Brian Hegeland, and skillful performances from a cast led by Angelina Jolie. I noticed that the movie ended on a vague note that I would usually find annoying. But considering rumors that a sequel might follow, I can give it a pass.

Monday, August 23, 2010

"A Wedding in Four Acts" [PG-13] - Epilogue



Paige beamed with joy, as she watched the newly wedded couple linked arms and march down the aisle. Along with the other attendants, Paige followed the couple to a group of small tables standing underneath a large, yellow-and-white striped canopy. Not far from the tables, stood three long ones that held the buffet-style wedding supper.

Feeling famished, Paige sat at a small table and waited for her family to join her. No sooner had they done so, she, Phoebe and Jason headed straight for the buffet tables to fill their plates. "That was a nice wedding," Jason commented. "Although I have no idea what kind of ceremony we had just witnessed. Does anyone have an idea?"

The two sisters exchanged surreptious looks. "I think Barbara is into some kind of New Age religion," Phoebe explained.

"New Age huh?" Jason nodded, as an attendant indicated a steaming chafing dish filled with poached salmon. "What kind of . . . New Age religion? What do you call it?"

Sounding nonchalant, Paige replied, "Beats me. I never bothered to ask Barbara. Besides, this is San Francisco. Probably half of the city's population is into that stuff."

A fourth voice added, "That . . . stuff is called Wicca." The other three whirled around and found Olivia and Cecile standing behind them. Olivia continued, "It's a fairly new religion based on some old Pagan one. Probably from Scotland or Ireland." The two Charmed Ones stared at the redhead, as if she had lost her mind.

Jason, it seemed, did not notice Paige and Phoebe's reaction. "Wicca?" He frowned at Olivia. "It must be very new."

"Not really. Wicca has been around since the early 20th century. There are plenty of books on it." She smiled at the Halliwells. "Isn't that right, ladies?"

Paige sucked in her breath, while Phoebe assumed a panic-stricken expression for a brief second. Jason turned to his girlfriend. "I thought you didn't know anything about the ceremony, Phoebe."

"Huh? I . . . uh . . ." Phoebe's mouth hung open.

Cecile came to Phoebe's rescue. "She probably knows a little. And Paige. We all do. Barbara is always talking about it."

"Always," Paige added weakly. She shot a quick glare at Olivia, whose lips formed a sardonic smile. To her relief, a guest caught Jason's attention and he excused himself. And the Halliwells turned on Olivia. "My God, Olivia . . ." Paige began.

Phoebe angrily interrupted, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

A red brow quirked upward. "Being honest with Jason," Olivia replied in a laconic voice.

"You could of . . . you could have exposed all of us!" Phoebe hissed.

Olivia pointedly replied, "Gee Phoebe, I believe you took that same chance when you brought Jason to the wedding."

For the second time, Phoebe's mouth hung open in silence. Paige spoke up. "What do you mean? Didn't Harry invite Jason to Bruce's bachelor party?"

"To the party, yes," Olivia said. "Not to the wedding. Bruce didn't think Jason would understand the ceremony."

Phoebe protested, "But not everyone here is a witch . . . or priestess or whatever. Including Cole's friend."

Olivia's eyes narrowed at the mention of Cole's date. "No Phoebe, but all of the mortals here - at least the non-magical ones - are either into Pagan religions or know that the family is into one. From what my mother has told me, Ms. Altman was told to expect a different kind of ceremony. So was Sheila Morris. Of course, she doesn't know we're witches. Plus, I see that Paige didn't bring Nat . . ."

"Nate . . ." Paige corrected.

"I see that Paige didn't bring her boyfriend." Olivia's eyes bored into Phoebe. "Why did you bring Jason, if you weren't prepared to explain a Wiccan handfasting ceremony to him?"

Silence greeted the red-haired witch. Until Phoebe found her voice. "I guess I . . ." She sighed. "My mistake."

Olivia nodded. "It's okay. And I'm sorry for bringing up the matter like that. It was rude of me."

"Now that everything is settled . . ." Cecile began.

Piper appeared at the buffet table, looking slightly irritated. "Hey you two!" she growled at her sisters. "When are you going to finish getting your food? Leo and I would like to eat and someone has to keep an eye on Wyatt."

"Sorry," Paige murmured, as she returned her attention to the food before her.

Piper turned to Olivia and Cecile. "By the way, I'm glad that Barbara had decided to continue with the wedding, despite what happened. Sort of reminded me of my own wedding."

"It almost didn't happen," Cecile commented. "Especially since Barbara's wedding gown went up in smoke with that Della Scalla woman. But Cole managed to 'whip up' a new one for her."

A wan smile appeared on Piper's lips. "Huh. How nice. I also noticed that it didn't take you guys very long to get Barbara back. You weren't delayed by the police, because of Nick?"

"Oh we didn't hang around for the police," Cecile stated.

Olivia added, "After Darryl had killed Nick, Cole . . . brought back Claudia's body. Actually both her corpse and one of her . . ."

"Huh?" Paige stared at her friend in disgust.

Piper wrinkled her nose. "Eww! What is this? 'Tales of the Macabre'?"

Olivia continued. "Well, we needed two more corpses. Don't forget that Nick didn't get out of jail on his own. With the other two bodies, the San Mateo Police might realize that Claudia and one of her minions were responsible for his jailbreak . . . which they were. And neither Darryl or I was about to endure another investigation that left no explanations."

"Cole knows how to bring back the body of a magical being from the netherworld?" Paige asked in disbelief.

Cecile added, "He learned it from Andre. Who, by the way, is also a talented necromancer."

Olivia said, "After finding the three bodies, hopefully the San Mateo Police might come to the conclusion that they had shot and killed each other after a quarrel. Darryl and I should be getting the news on Monday. Anyway, after Cole brought back her dead body, we all got the hell out of there before the police could arrive. With the Soma plant, of course."

Paige asked, "Where's the plant?"

"Back in the greenhouse," Cecile replied. "I think that Livy's parents created some kind of mystical barrier around it." She glanced at the buffet table, and a hungry look appeared on her face. "Listen, I'm really hungry right now. And that Chicken Florentine really looks good. I'll catch up with you guys, later." She walked away from the others.

Piper and Phoebe, who also expressed their own hunger, joined Cecile. Which left Paige alone with Olivia. The latter commented, "So, Nate couldn't make it, huh? Why is he always unavailable on weekends?"

"What do you you mean?" Paige demanded.

"I mean, I never see you two together, on weekends," Olivia continued. "Only on weekdays, and not very often."

Feeling a need to defend her boyfriend, Paige retorted, "Nate can't help it if he has to work on weekends. Besides," she nodded at Paul Margolin sitting at one of the dining tables and poking his food in a dejected manner, "why aren't you with your little hunny bunny?"

Olivia glared at the younger woman. "Paul is not my 'hunny bunny'. And I doubt very much that he wants my company, right now."

"Why not?"

The two friends continued filling their plates. "Because," Olivia said with a sigh, "I had turned down his offer for a weekend in Monterey."

Astonished by the news, Paige stared at Olivia. And withdrew her plate the moment one of the attendants was about to place a stuffed turkey roll on it. "What?" she cried. "You're kidding! He's pissed over that?"

Olivia plucked the turkey roll from the table and placed it on Paige's plate. "Actually, Paul is pissed, because I had made it clear that I wasn't interested in any kind of romance with him."

The news struck Paige like a bombshell. "Are you serious? Oh my God!" She glanced around and spotted Cecile with Andre and her sisters. "Oh my God! Wait until Cecile hears about this!"

"Hears about what?" Olivia frowned. "What does Cecile have to do with all of this?"

Paige opened her mouth. A long pause followed before she finally said, "Uh, I think you should talk to Cecile about that. Both you and Cole." On that mysterious note, she returned her attention to filling her plate.


Paige's words preyed on Olivia's mind during the next hour or two. She tried to convince the Charmed One to explain, but the wedding reception made it impossible. Olivia had to endure the wedding supper, a witty speech by the best man, and the dancing that followed. Unfortunately, both Cecile and Paige never seemed to be at a loss for dancing partners.

The opportunity to talk with both of her friends finally arrived three hours later. She had just finishing dancing with Mr. Bowen, when the two women appeared with Cole and asked her to join them for a talk. Minutes later, the four stood inside the drawing-room that overlooked the garden. After Cecile and Paige revealed their news, a deep silence filled the room, despite the music blasting from the hired band, outside.

The confusion in Cole's eyes reflected Olivia's own feelings. "Say that again?" he demanded. "Olivia's going to what?"

Cecile sighed, as Paige spoke up. "Olivia is going to kill you. I mean, Cecile had a premonition of her killing you."

Olivia's eyes remained fixed upon her two friends. Then she stared at Cole, who still looked confused. Finding the revelation absurd, Olivia broke into laughter. "What's so funny?" Cecile demanded in an outraged voice.

"I . . ." Olivia's laughter continued for another minute or two. Once it abated, she took a deep breath. "I'm sorry honey, but . . . I mean, c'mon Cecile! This is just so hard to believe. I'm going to kill Cole? Why? How? Are you trying to tell me that I'm going to strip him of his powers, before killing him?"

Cecile's mouth tightened. "I didn't say you were going to strip him of his powers before killing him. And how you manage to accomplish that is beyond me! Besides, it's only a premonition. There's a good chance it'll never happen."

"Never?" The word came from Cole's mouth.

Both Cecile and Paige exchanged uneasy glances. The latter said, "Well, now that Olivia has made it clear that she's no longer interested . . ."

Sensing what Paige was about to reveal, Olivia immediately cut in. "Could we please skip that?"

"Skip what?" Cole asked.

After a brief pause, Paige blurted out, "Livy had told Paul that she wasn't interested in spending a weekend with him in Monterey. Or in him, romantically. I don't think he took the news very well." Olivia glared at her. She shrugged. "What? Now that you and Paul won't be as close, there's a good chance you won't kill Cole. Don't forget that Cecile's vision did include Paul."

"She's got a point, Livy," Cecile added. "There's a chance he would have been the cause of what happens between you and Cole. But now that he's no . . ."

Olivia interrupted. "Have you told anyone else? About this vision of yours?"

Cecile hesitated. Glanced at Paige. Olivia began to wonder if these glances were becoming a habit between the two. Cecile finally spoke up. "I . . . uh, I first told Andre about it. On Thursday morning."

"Andre?" Cole's mouth opened wide in disbelief. "He's known all this time?"

Cecile squirmed with discomfort. "Well, yeah. Mama, Olivia's grandmother and Paige eventually found out, last night."

Olivia could not believe her ears. "My God, Cecile! When were you planning to tell me?"

"I didn't mean for Paige to find out! And I didn't know when was the right time to tell you. Or if I ever should tell you. Especially since you were so involved with Paul at the time. Look, what I'm trying to say is that I didn't want you to make a decision regarding him, based on my vision."

"Involved with . . ." Olivia heaved a large sigh. "Cecile, I was never 'involved' with Paul. We were only good friends. Nothing else."

Cecile snorted with derision. "C'mon Livy! That man wanted to be more than friends with you. And you shot him down, when he tried. How else do you explain him acting all mopey, today?"

A brief flash of satisfaction gleamed in Cole's eyes. Olivia shot him a dark look and he glanced away. Then she asked Cecile, "Does anyone else know about the vision?" When Cecile and Paige remained silent, Olivia added bluntly, "C'mon ladies! Who else knows?"

Paige said reluctantly, "Well, I may have accidentally told Phoebe."


Cole groaned aloud. "Oh no!"

Cecile added, "And she also Leo." When Olivia opened her mouth to protest, the former continued, "Hey, I realize that you're probably pissed off that we . . . I didn't tell you, sooner. But I don't regret it, Livy." The Vodoun priestess assumed a defiant stance. "I've said it before and I'll say it again. Sometimes, it's best to keep certain knowledge of the future to yourself. Or at least don't say anything, until the time's right."

Olivia sighed. She knew that Cecile was right. Only the Goddess knew how she would have reacted to Paul, if she had known about that premonition before today. "Okay. Yeah, I understand."

"Good. Now I can return to the party." Cecile flashed a brief smile and returned to the garden and the party, beyond.

An uneasy smile curved Paige's mouth. "Well, I guess I might as well return, also. See ya." She quickly raced after Cecile.

To Olivia's dismay, she found herself alone. With Cole. Oh God. From the corner of her eye, Olivia noticed Cole squirming with discomfort. "What's the matter?" she asked. "Worried about being alone with your future killer?"

Cole rolled his eyes in disgust. "No, I'm not."

"Well, I don't blame you, because the idea of me being able to kill you is ridiculous," Olivia retorted.

With a shrug of his shoulders, Cole replied, "Oh, I don't know. You have the brains, the talent and the will to do it."

"Without stripping you of your powers?" Olivia shook her head. "C'mon Cole! You know I can't do that. No one can. And if I ever do strip your powers, I sure as hell don't plan to kill a defenseless mortal."

Again, silence filled the room. Feeling uncomfortable, Olivia had an urge to quickly leave. Only, Cole beat her to the punch. "Leaving?" she called after him, as he started toward the double doors. "Again?"

Cole paused and slowly turned around. His blue eyes narrowed dangerously. "What did you say?"

"Why does it seem that every time we're alone, lately, you have this urge to flee?" Olivia tartly remarked.

His eyes grew hard as polished stones. "And you don't?" Cole chuckled unpleasantly. "That's a laugh. Tell me Olivia, is this another commentary on my actions at Warren Mitchell's New Year party? Because this topic is becoming a dead horse."

"I haven't spoken about it in months," Olivia retorted. "And if I have to be honest, Cole, no woman can easily forget a guy who kisses her in one minute and runs from her in the next. We have memories like elephants."

Wearing an angry expression, Cole stalked toward her in a threatening manner. Olivia maintained her stance. "Is that so? And what? I'm supposed to feel guilty? At least I didn't resort to making said guy jealous by latching on to the Wiccan Boy Scout!"

Olivia shot back, "That 'Wiccan Boy Scout' happens to be a very nice man! Nor was I . . . trying to make you jealous!"

An ugly laugh escaped from Cole's mouth. "C'mon Olivia! Who are you kidding? You mean to tell me that you were actually interested in a guy who bores you to death after ten minutes in his company? You had made that perfectly clear at Nathalie Gleason's party."

Olivia's mouth formed a tight, angry line. She hated the fact that Cole remembered everything from Nathalie's party . . . and she did not. She glanced out of the room's large bay window and saw something that brought a smile to her lips. "Speaking of dates, are my eyes deceiving me, or is that your friend, Veronica . . . flirting with some guy, outside?" She noted with pleasure the embarrassed expression on Cole's face. "And to think I actually believed you two were an item. Or am I wrong?"

Cole sighed. "Veronica . . ." he began. Then his mouth formed a tight line. "Never mind."

"Never mind . . . what?"

Cole stared at her - long and hard. It took all of Olivia's nerves to keep from crumbling under his intense scrutiny. Then again, he sighed. "What do you want from me, Olivia? What do you want me to say?"

"I couldn't give a rat's ass about anything you have to say!"

His voice dripping with derision, Cole shot back, "Do you have any idea how immature you sound, right now?"

"Immature?" Olivia scoffed. "Now, that's calling the kettle black! Especially from a man who married a woman with the romantic sensibilities of a fifteen year-old!"

Cole retorted, "I don't give a shit about Phoebe's romantic sensitivities or about Phoebe, period! I'm interested in . . ." He paused and continued in a softer tone, "I'm more interested in a cynical redhead, who can't seemed to keep her mouth shut."

Olivia stared at Cole, stunned by his words. "Wha . . . Uh, wait a minute. Are you talking . . .?"

Cole took a step forward, causing her heart to flutter. "Yeah," he replied softly. "I'm talking about you. Olivia, I'm . . ." He sighed for the third time. "I'm in love with you."

Staring deeply into those baby blue eyes, Olivia felt a rush of panic. She saw love in those eyes. And desire. But how long would it last? How many days, weeks or even months will pass before Cole finally lost interest in her? Before Phoebe becomes the object of his desire, again? Shaking her head, Olivia said in an uneasy voice, "Look . . . Cole . . . you might think you're in love with me . . ."

"For crying out loud!" an obviously exasperated Cole declared. "And I thought Phoebe was insecure! Listen to me. I'm in love with you. With you, Olivia. Not Phoebe. Yes, I still love her, but not like I used to. I can't guarantee that my feelings for you will last forever. Anymore than you can guarantee the same for me."

Olivia began, "What makes you think . . .?"

"Because you had said so at Nathalie's party. Now shut up!" Cole spoke his last words in a gentle tone. "The reason I had kept you at arms' length for so long is . . . well, I was afraid. I was afraid of opening my heart to someone, again. And I was afraid that you would eventually leave me. Like Phoebe. I had used my divorce as an excuse to keep my distance. But not anymore, Olivia. I'm tired of being afraid. And I'm tired of being alone. Especially when I know that I don't have to be. Do you understand what I'm saying?" His blue eyes bored deeply into hers.

Speechless and stunned beyond belief, minutes passed before Olivia realized that her mouth was hanging wide open without uttering a sound. She continued to stare at Cole, while astonishment, disbelief and joy mingled within her. Then she finally discovered her voice. "I . . . uh, I don't . . . know . . . I mean . . . oh shit! Never mind! I'm in love with you, too!" And before Cole could respond, she threw her arms around his neck and captured his mouth with hers.

Strong hands gently took hold of Olivia's waist, gently forcing her body to press against Cole's hard one. She reveled in the touch of his warm mouth pressed against hers. Her knees nearly buckled under, as Cole slipped his tongue finally slipped inside her mouth.

The kiss seemed to continue forever and Olivia would not have it any other way. One of Cole's hands slowly slid up her back. As he slid one spaghetti strap from her shoulder, Olivia became vaguely aware of a figure outside, passing by the bay window. Very reluctantly, she pulled her mouth away. "What?" Cole murmured, looking slightly dazed. "What's wrong?"

A breathless Olivia murmured, "The window. Someone . . . uh, . . ." She moaned, as Cole softly kissed the side of her neck. "Oh God!"

"What about . . . someone?" Cole replied, before he planted more kisses on the other side of her neck.

"Huh? Oh, uh . . ." Olivia moaned, while Cole's mouth left her neck and traveled toward her left earlobe, which he began to nibble. "Oh yeah." Taking a deep breath, she gently pulled away from him. "Someone . . . might see us. The window."

Cole glanced at the window, before he returned his gaze to her. "Oh. Okay," he murmured. "Understand. Where can we . . .?"

"By old bedroom," Olivia whispered. "Second floor. Third from the left."

A smile touched Cole's lips. "Okay." Then he drew Olivia back into his arms. As the couple's lips met for another passionate kiss, they disappeared out of the room.


Over five hours had passed since he had proposed the Monterey trip to Olivia and Paul found himself longing for another demonic attack. Anything that would erase the bitterness and humiliation of her rejection. Not only had Olivia rejected his little proposal, she had also made it clear that she was not romantically interested in him. As far as she was concerned, he was a friend and nothing more.

Paul shook his head in attempt to get rid of the bad memories. Didn't help. He considered drinking more alcohol, but he had already consumed three glasses of champagne and one glass of bourbon. A few more drinks and he would be ready to relieve himself. Besides, he seemed to be drifting into a foggy state. What he really needed was water - to be splashed on his face.

He stood up and made his way toward the McNeills' house. Inside, he encountered their servant, a fellow with a Welsh accent, whose name had escaped Paul. The former informed him that bathrooms could be found throughout the second floor. Paul thanked the man and started the climb upstairs.

Inside one of the bathrooms, Paul washed his hands before splashing water on his face. As he glanced into the mirror above the basin, he found himself facing a stone-faced man, whose brown eyes reflected deep bitterness. The expression took him by surprise.

What in the hell was wrong with him? How could he allow himself to slide into a depression over a woman with whom he shared nothing in common? Paul's grandmother believed in the old adage about opposite attraction. But she had also believed that even opposites needed to share some kind of semblance of common interests. Looking back over his month-long relationship with Olivia, Paul realized that he and the redhead had three things in common - they were witches, both shared Leo as their whitelighter - or used to - and both had studied the law.

Paul also realized that he could write a lengthy essay on the differences between him and Olivia. The most glaring difference would be their philosophy regarding witchcraft, along with good and evil. Paul followed the strict philosophy of Leo and his grandparents - good was good, evil was evil; and never the twain shall meet. Olivia did not harbor such bi-polar beliefs. She did not believe in inherent good or evil. She believed that all beings - including humans, witches, warlocks, demons, etc., had the capacity for both. And that it all depended up the choices one made in life. Too ambiguous for Paul's taste.

Heaving a sigh, Paul came to the conclusion that no matter whatever he and Olivia harbored, he was still in love with her. And no rational argument or thought could eradicate his feelings. He had a long way to go before he could finally recover from this latest heartache.

Paul dried his hands with a towel, glanced around and became aware of two doors leading out of the bathroom. Strange, he had not noticed this before. He muttered a quiet oath and opened one of the doors. The sight that greeted his eyes, left him in a frozen state of shock.

Instead of the hallway, Paul found himself facing a private bedroom. One that seemed to be occupied by two people - engaged in a passionate bout of sex. Paul's heart immediately sank, as he recognized the couple - Olivia and Belthazor.

He did not know whether to be fascinated or disgusted. Actually, he felt a little of both. On one hand, Paul could not help but admire the way their bodies melded perfectly together, as they moved in sensual rhythm. At the same time, he was disgusted by what he saw as an unholy union between a witch - a protector of the innocent - having wild and abandoned sex with a half-demon. A half-demon with a notorious history of evil.

Unable to deal with the sight before him and the moans coming from the couple, Paul immediately shut the door. He leaned against the bathroom wall and sighed. The memory of Olivia and Belthazor continued whirl in his mind. Disgusted, he realized that he could no longer stand by and allow Olivia to sink into a relationship with the half-demon. He had to stop her. Help her understand what was right and wrong. And do anything to possess her for himself.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: As hinted in the story's finale, this is not the last we will hear of Cecile Dubois' premonition about Cole, Olivia and Paul. It will play an important part in a future story.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"COLD MOUNTAIN" - The Charlie Rose Interviews

For fans of "COLD MOUNTAIN" - both Charles Fraizer’s 1997 novel and Anthony Minghella’s 2003 film adaptation, here are two video clips featuring interviews conducted by Charlie Rose with the author, the director and two of the movie’s stars – Nicole Kidman and Jude Law:

"COLD MOUNTAIN" - The Charlie Rose Interviews

Charlie Rose Interview with Author Charles Fraizer, Author of the 1997 novel "COLD MOUNTAIN"

Charlie Rose Interview with Director Anthony Minghella, Actors Nicole Kidman and Jude Law For the 2003 Movie "COLD MOUNTAIN"

Saturday, August 21, 2010



There have been numerous adaptations of Jane Austen’s celebrated 1813 novel, ”Pride and Prejudice” over the past decades. Two of these versions happened to be BBC miniseries that aired in 1980 and 1995. It has been a long time since I have viewed the 1980 miniseries. However, I recently saw the 1995 miniseries for the umpteenth time and decided to finally write a review of it. Adapted by screenwriter Andrew Davies, the miniseries was produced by Sue Birtwistle and directed by Simon Langton.

Austen’s story centered around one Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five daughters of a country gentleman living in Regency England and the efforts of her parents (or should I say of her mother) to find eligible husbands for her and her four other sisters. Two of these men happened to be the wealthy Charles Bingley, who has moved into the Bennets’ Hertfordshire neighborhood; and his wealthier friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy. The cheerful Mr. Bingley has managed to easily win the favor of the Bennets and their neighbors. He has also fallen in love with Elizabeth’s older sister, the even-tempered Jane. On the other hand, the more reticent Mr. Darcy not only managed to alienate Elizabeth, the other Bennets and the entire neighborhood with his aloof manner, but also fall in love with Elizabeth. ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”, more than anything, focused upon the volatile love story between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

Like nearly every other work of art in existence, ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” has its share of flaws. Years after I first saw this miniseries, I still find myself wincing at actress Alison Steadman’s portrayal of the boorish Mrs. Bennet. I realize that the character possessed a wince-inducing personality. But there seemed to be a shrill note in Steadman’s performance during the miniseries’ first episode that made her portrayal of Mrs. Bennet seemed over-the-top. Another complaint I have about the miniseries is the lack of complexity in supporting characters like Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle – Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner (Tim Wylton and Joanna David) – and Darcy’s sister, Georgiana (Emilia Fox). I found all three very likeable, but also slightly boring. They were the only characters that seemed to indulge in banal conversation that complimented everyone and everything.

I have two problems regarding the crisis over Lydia Bennet’s elopement with George Wickham, Darcy’s boyhood companion. One, I never understood why a calculating scoundrel like Wickham would bother to leave Brighton with Lydia in tow, on the promise of elopement. He knew that her family did not have the funds to buy him off. And I have read excuses, which explained that Wickham left Brighton because he had accumulated a good deal of debt during his regiment’s stay. I have also read that he took Lydia with him as an excuse to get out of town. With the promise of elopement? That does not sound right. Wickham was not a fool. It was bad enough that he had accumulated debts and had to get out of Brighton. But to drag Lydia in this mess did not strike me as logical. All he had to do was leave town in the middle of the night. Whether he was with Lydia or by himself, he ended up being absent without leave. I cannot help but wonder if Austen ever thought this through when she wrote her novel. The elopement crisis also forced Elizabeth to end her summer tour of Derbyshire with the Gardiners and return to her family at Longbourn. For the next twenty minutes or so, ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” grounded to a halt, while the Bennets received a series of correspondence and visitors. This sequence featured two scenes of a bored Lydia and an anxious, yet frustrated Lydia sharing a rented room in London, and two featuring Darcy’s search for the pair. This sequence also featured a meaningless visit from Mr. Collins in which he smirked over the family’s possible ruination for less than five minutes. These little scenes failed to help the sequence move at a faster pace.

Before one starts to assume that I do not like ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”, let me make it clear that I enjoyed it very much. In fact, I absolutely adore it. Not only is it one of my favorite Jane Austen adaptations of all time, it is one of my top ten favorite miniseries of all time. Yes, it has its flaws. Even some of the best movies and television productions have flaws. And as I have pointed out, I do believe that the 1995 miniseries is no exception. But its virtues definitely outweighed the flaws. The miniseries’ five-and-a-half hours running time proved to be more of a virtue than a hindrance. But the miniseries format allowed viewers to enjoy this adaptation at a more leisurely pace than is allowed in a movie adaptation and the rich details of the story. I have seen at least five versions of Austen’s ”Pride and Prejudice”. I have noticed that the plots for two of the movie versions went into great detail of the novel’s first half – from the Bingleys and Darcy’s arrival in Hertfordshire to Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth in Kent. But after that first proposal, the movie versions seemed to zoom ahead to Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s visit to Longbourn. I cannot say the same for the two television versions I have seen – especially the 1995 version. Aside from the tedious “search for Lydia” sequence, the story’s second half proved to be quite entertaining – especially Elizabeth’s visit to Derbyshire, Lydia and Wickham’s visit to Longbourn as a married couple, along with Darcy and Bingley’s efforts to renew their pursuits of the two elder Bennet sisters.

It could be understandable that the movie adaptations seemed to focus more on the novel’s first half. After all, many consider it to be the best part. The Bennets’ encounters with Darcy and the Bingleys crackled with energy and great humor. The series of fascinating verbal duels between the two lead characters possessed that same energy, along with a great deal of sexual tension. And when one throws the obsequious and ridiculous Mr. Collins into the mix, one has the feeling of watching a comedy-romantic masterpiece. All of this humor, energy and romance, mixed in with an elegant setting seemed to be at an apex in the Netherfield ball sequence. Personally, I consider the dance shared warily between Elizabeth and Darcy to be one of the best written and filmed scenes in the entire miniseries. Another scene that many consider to be one of the best, featured Darcy’s first marriage proposal to Elizabeth, during her visit to Charlotte and Mr. Collins at Hunsford Lodge, in Kent. That particular scene has to be one of the most wince-inducing moments in the entire story. Why? Because I found it hard to watch Elizabeth receive that extra-ordinary marriage proposal laced with passion . . . and slightly insulting remarks about her family background on her mother’s side. And because I found it difficult to watch Darcy endure Elizabeth’s heart stomping rejection. Both Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth performed the hell out of that scene.

Speaking of performances, one of the miniseries’ greatest assets was its cast. Jane Austen wrote a novel filled with some rich supporting characters. Director Simon Langton and screenwriter Andrew Davies utilized them very well. And so did the cast. Now, I cannot take back my complaints regarding Alison Steadman’s performance as Mrs. Bennet in the first hour. Yet shrill or not, she managed to capture her character’s personality perfectly. And so did Benjamin Whitrow, who portrayed the sardonic and long suffering Mr. Bennet. Some fans of Austen’s novel have complained about David Bamber’s buffoonish take on Mr. Collins, the Bennet’s obsequious cousin fated to inherit Longbourn upon Mr. Bennet’s death. But my memories of the literary Mr. Collins were that of a buffoonish man. However, Bamber gave his Mr. Collins a brief, poignant moment when Elizabeth took pity on his efforts to hide his slightly damaged pride with a tour of Hunsford. Julia Sawalha did a superb job in her portrayal of the youngest Bennet sibling – the thoughtless and self-centered Lydia. In fact, Sawalha managed to give one of the funniest performances in the entire miniseries.

One of the memorable performances in the miniseries came from actress Anna Chancellor, who portrayed one of Charles Bingley’s annoying and snobbish sister, Caroline. Chancellor managed to convey not only Caroline’s pretentious and spiteful sense of humor very well, but also the character’s desperate attempts to woo an uninterested Mr. Darcy. I believe that Crispin Bonham-Carter did a good job in infusing his character, Charles Bingley, with a good deal of bohemian warmth and cheerfulness. Yet, he had a tendency to read his lines in a broad manner that struck me as a bit too theatrical at times. I must admit that he could be very subtle in conveying Bingley’s attempts to suppress negative reactions to certain members of the Bennet family and his two sisters. Superficially, Susannah Harker’s performance as Jane Bennet seemed solid . . . almost dull. But a closer look at the actress’s performance made me realize that her she did a much better job in the role than most people were willing to give her credit for. She was excellent in conveying Jane’s heartbreak over the separation from Mr. Bingley. And she had one truly hilarious moment during the Netherfield Ball, when her character anxiously pointed out Mr. Collins’ intentions to speak to Mr. Darcy. But more importantly, Harker’s Jane seemed more like an older sister than the performances of the other actresses who had portrayed the role.

If I have to cite what I consider to be the three best performances in ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”, they would be Adrian Lukis as George Wickham, Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet. In my opinion, Lukis’ portrayal of the charming and devious wastrel, George Wickham, is the best I have seen by any actor who has portrayed the role. I would not claim that he was the best looking Wickham. But Lukis conveyed a seamless charm that hinted a heady mixture of warmth, false honesty, and intimacy that could make anyone forget that his Wickham was a man one could not trust. And the actor achieved this with a subtle skill that made the other Wickhams look like amateurs.

Many fans and critics have labeled Colin Firth’s portrayal of Fitzwilliam Darcy as “smoldering” or “sexy” . . . worthy of a sex symbol. I do not know if I would agree with that assessment. What many saw as “smoldering”, I saw a performance in which the actor utilized his eyes to convey his character’s emotional responses. Whether Firth’s Darcy expressed contempt toward others, growing love and desire for Elizabeth Bennet, anxiety, wariness or any other emotion; Firth uses his eyes and facial expressions with great skill. Some fans have complained that his Darcy appeared in too many scenes in the last third of the series. I consider this nothing more than an exaggeration. Personally, I enjoyed those little sequences in which Firth revealed Darcy’s struggles to deal with Elizabeth’s rejection. While several others drooled over Firth in a wet shirt and breeches, I enjoyed the awkwardness in the reunion between his Darcy and Elizabeth. Firth earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of the complex and reserved Mr. Darcy. And as far as I am concerned, he certainly deserved it . . . and a lot more.

Jennifer Ehle won a BAFTA award for her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet, the vivacious leading lady of ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”. And it was a well deserved award, as far as I am concerned. Ehle not only formed a sizzling screen chemistry with Colin Firth, but with Adrian Lukis, as well. And like the two actors, she put her own stamp on her role. Ehle perfectly captured the aspects of Elizabeth’s character that many fans have admired – her liveliness, intelligence, warmth and sharp wit. Elizabeth’s habit of forming and maintain first opinions of others have been well-documented, which Ehle managed to capture. She also conveyed another disturbing aspect of Elizabeth’s personality – namely her arrogance. In some ways, Ehle’s Elizabeth could be just as arrogant as Mr. Darcy. She seemed to harbor a lack of tolerance toward those she viewed as flawed individuals. And thanks to Ehle’s skillful performance, this arrogance seemed in Elizabeth’s wit, barely suppressed rudeness and unwillingness to listen to good advice about making fast judgment about others from two people she highly admired – her sister Jane and her good friend, Charlotte Lucas.

The most important thing I can say about both Ehle and Firth is that the pair managed to form a sizzling screen chemistry. In other words, their Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy crackled with a great deal of energy, subtle sexuality and sharp wit. Their screen chemistry seemed stronger than any of the other screen couples who have portrayed the two characters. Surprisingly, I do have one problem with the two leads in the miniseries. And I have to place all of the blame on Andrew Davies, when he decided to faithfully adapt one scene in which the newly engaged Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy discussed the development of their relationship. Unfortunately, they came off sounding cold and clinical – like two psychoanalysts examining the genesis of their romance.

There is no doubt that producer Sue Birtwistle, director Simon Langton and the production team did a superb job with the miniseries’ overall production design. Mind you, I feel that the overall credit belonged to production designer Gerry Scott and art designers John Collins and Mark Kebby. They did a top notch job in capturing Austen’s tone from the novel by giving the miniseries a light and natural look to its setting. I could say the same for cinematographer John Kenway’s photography. I am not claiming to be an expert on the fashions of Regency Britain. Yet, from what I have read in other articles, many believed that Dinah Collin’s costumes closely recaptured the fashion and styles of the period when the novel was first published. I could not make final statement about that. But I must admit that the fashions perfectly captured the tone of the story and the production designs. If there is one other aspect of the miniseries that reflected its look and tone, I believe it would have to be Carl Davis’ score. Either he or Birtwistle made the right choice in hiring pianist Melvyn Tan to perform the score for the series’ opening credit.

In the end, ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” became one of the most acclaimed miniseries on both sides of the Atlantic. Even after fifteen years, it is still highly regarded. And rightly so. Despite a few flaws, I believe it deserves its accolades. As far as I am concerned, the 1995 miniseries remains to be the best adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel. I also believe it is one of the best adaptations of any Austen novel, period.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"HOW THE WEST WAS WON" (1962) Photo Gallery

Below are images from the 1962 blockbuster, "HOW THE WEST WAS WON". Directed by four directors, the movie starred Debbie Reynolds, George Peppard and Carroll Baker:

"HOW THE WEST WAS WON" (1962) Photo Gallery

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"A Wedding in Four Acts" [PG-13] - Act 4 (Part 2)


Act IV - Part 2

In the McNeill garden, Andre sat amongst other wedding guests, waiting for the bridal procession to begin. The seats were formed in an unusual manner - a half circle that partially surrounded the altar. Although the houngan possessed great patience, it seemed to have been stretched to the breaking point, thanks to the jabbering woman who sat next to him. At this moment, he was seriously contemplating on practicing dark magic in order to shut her mouth.

". . .known Barbara for nearly seven years," his neighbor continued. "Ever since I first became an accountant. Around that time, she had just opened a tea shop and café on Powell Street. But it didn't last long. Only four months. Poor Barbara. She really wasn't a very good businesswoman, back then. I certainly didn't think Ostera . . . her new shop . . . would last this long. But it did. For about . . . oh, I don't know. Do you know long its been opened?"

Stunned by the brief silence, Andre stared at his neighbor. "Huh? I mean, excuse me?"

"Barbara's new shop. How long has it been opened?" Andre's tormentor stared at him with pale blue eyes. She was a mildly attractive woman in her late thirties, whose placid looks contrasted with her exuberant persona.

Andre hesitated. He tried to recall what Olivia had first told him and Cecile about the herbal shop, before answering, "Oh . . . uh, nearly a year. I think."

Nodding, the woman continued, "I'm not that surprised. Ostera has been in the black since last November. This time, Barbara had the good sense to open her shop in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. It's an excellent commercial . . ." And on she rambled.

If only the damn ceremony would start and rescue him from this female chatterbox. Or if someone would appear out of the blue. Relief finally did appear - in the form of Mrs. Dubois. She leaned over to tap his shoulder and indicated with a nod to follow him. Andre stood up and followed the older woman away from the other seats. "Something wrong?" he asked with a frown.

"I'm not sure," Mrs. Dubois replied. "I think there's . . ." She paused and glanced past his shoulder. Andre turned around and saw the wedding procession emerge from the French double-doors. Cecile's mother grabbed and led him further away. "Andre, I need you to go and find Cecile. Something's wrong."

His eyes still on the procession, Andre saw his girlfriend walking down the aisle, next to Cole. He blinked. "Uh, Cecile is over there. In the procession."

"That's not Cecile!" Mrs. Dubois hissed. "That's . . ."

A voice called Andre's name and caught him off-guard. "Andre! Can you hear me?" The Vodoun houngan stared at Mrs. Dubois, who remained tight-lipped. What the hell? "Andre, it's me. Cecile! I'm talking to you, telepathically. We've done it before."

"Cecile?" Andre said out loud. Cecile's mother stared at him. "What . . .?"

His girlfriend's voice interrupted. "Not now, Andre! Listen to me. I'm on my way to the garden. I was locked inside the greenhouse by some daemon. You've got to stop the wedding. Barbara . . ."

"If you're on your way to the garden, who is this . . . other you?" Andre frowned at the bridesmaids.

"Andre! That's not me!" Cecile retorted. "It's an imposter! A shape shifter. And Barbara is another. In fact, I think she's that succubus, Claudia Della Scalla. Either the real Barbara is dead, or stashed somewhere. And they have the Soma plant! Now listen up!" The Vodoun priestess paused briefly. "You've got to stop the wedding, or Bruce will end up married to that succubus. Get hold of Piper Halliwell and tell her to freeze everyone. She's the sister with the long, dark hair. Remember?"

Andre stared at the altar, where the bridal procession had stopped. Both Harry and Olivia helped the bride and groom into their ceremonial robes. The Wiccan high priest and priestess were also robed. The high priest began to drone, "Let the four directions be honored that power and radiance might enter our circle for the good of all beings. Caller of the North: with the blessing of the deep and fruitful earth, we call upon the powers of the North."

Cecile's voice cut into Andre's thoughts. "Andre! Did you hear me? Stop the wedding!"

"Yeah, I heard you. Just get here as fast as you can," he replied. Taking Mrs. Dubois by surprise, Andre murmured, "I think you better get ready for some trouble."

"What?" she whispered back.

But Andre barely heard. He made his way over to the remaining Charmed Ones, who sat with Olivia's former whitelighter. Leaning toward the eldest Halliwell, he whispered, "Hey Piper, remember me? Andre?"

Piper nodded. "Yeah. Uh, is there something wrong?"

"Look, something's about to go down, here," Andre continued. "When I give the word, I want you to . . . freeze everyone."

"But I can't freeze witches."

Andre said, "That's okay. Just try not to freeze Cole."

"Yeah, but . . ."

Before the witch could finish, Andre straightened up. In the middle of the high priestess' sermon, he cried out, "Stop! Stop the wedding!" Everyone stared at him. Andre ignored the stares and barked at Piper, "Now! Freeze 'em!" The Charmed One automatically threw out her hands and nearly everyone froze - including the bride, Cecile, and the whitelighter. The baby wiggled in the latter's arms.

"What the hell?" Bruce angrily demanded. "What's going on?"

Shocked at the sight of both Barbara and Cecile in a frozen state, Andre declared, "That's not Barbara! Or Cecile! They're frozen!"

"Of course they are," Piper said. "They're not witches. Well, Barbara isn't a witch like . . ." She paused and stared at Andre. "Why aren't you frozen?"

The other sister - Phoebe - pointed out, "Uh Piper, Barbara's dad didn't freeze. Nor did Cecile's mom."

Frowning, Piper stared at the people in question. "I don't get it. Why didn't . . .?"

Jack McNeill interrupted. "You can't freeze witches, Piper. That includes witches like Barbara and Phil. Nor can you freeze Vodoun priests and priestess, who are like us. However . . ." He glanced around, looking confused. "I still don't know what the hell is going on."

"And why is Barbara frozen?" Mr. Bowen demanded.

Mrs. Dubois answered, "It's like Andre said, that's not Barbara."

At that moment, the fake Barbara slowly regained her movement. Piper let out a loud gasp. The impersonator coolly glanced at the others. "Well, it seems that I have been found out." The blond, blue-eyed woman, quickly transformed into a statuesque woman with long, curly dark hair and hypnotic sherry-brown eyes.

"Oh my God!" Bruce cried. "Portia! Or . . . wait a minute! She's dead! This must be . . ."

The real Cecile rushed out of the house, shouting, "That's not Barbara! It's Portia's sister - Claudia!"

"So, you've heard of me," Claudia sneered in a spiteful tone. "How clever. And if you believe you have won, you are mistaken." She took a deep breath and cried out, "Oh Corvus! Call upon the Congrega de Della Scalla and summon them to my side!" Men and women immediately materialized in the garden, taking Andre by surprise. He realized with a sickening feeling that he and his friends had a battle on their hands with the succubus' entire coven.


Still reeling in shock from Barbara transforming into the Amazon-like succubus, Paige's eyes widened even further at the sight of demons appearing in the McNeills' garden. The fake Cecile slowly unfroze and transformed into a dark-haired incubus.

The "bride" cried out, "Kill them! All of them!" And the succubus' minions commenced their attack.

Before she could deal with the nearest minion, Paige saw the Morrises, Jason, Cole's date and other innocents disappeared from the garden. Cole must have sent them out of harm's way. One demon teleported beside Paige and tried to stab her with a stiletto. She blocked his thrust with her left arm and punched his jaw with a right cross. The demon fell upon the ground. Surprised by the blow, he glared at Paige and threw the stiletto at her. Paige teleported the weapon into her hand, and sent it deep into the incubus' forehead, killing him instantly.

Paige glanced around to see how the others fared against the attack. She saw Paul Margolin turn one demon into an ice-crusted statue. Cool. Cecile - the real one - faced down another demon, brandishing a knife. The Vodoun priestess merely stared at the demon, causing the latter to scream in pain before dropping dead. Paige's eyes then focused upon Gweneth McNeill and Andre Morrell killing a few of the succubus' minions with balls of electricity. That surprised her. She knew that the younger Mrs. McNeill possessed electrokinesis, but the energy balls came as a surprise. As did Mr. McNeill's power. Like Piper, he possessed the power of molecular combustion - blowing up demons who dared crossed his path.

The two older Halliwells seemed to be doing well. Phoebe levitated above an incubus and a succubus, and knocked both of them out with well-placed kicks to the head. Just as the middle Charmed One settled upon the ground, one demon raised her hand, as lightning bolts crackled from her fingers. Paige cried out, "Phoebe!" Fortunately, someone else had noticed Phoebe's danger. A stream of fire left Olivia's hand and incinerated the demon within an instant.

Phoebe and Piper stared at the red-haired witch in shock. And both failed to notice the demons that threatened from behind. Before Claudia's minions could attack, Mr. Bowen came from behind and slit the throat of the minion that threatened Phoebe. Bruce McNeill ripped apart the other minion's body with his aerokinesis.

Paige sighed with relief and turned away. She found herself facing another minion. The chestnut-haired woman's eyes glowed red. Before Paige could do anything, a pair of hands grabbed hold of the demon's head and neck, and broke the latter. The succubus sank to the ground, revealing Harry.

"Are you okay?" the youngest McNeill sibling asked with a concerned expression.

Paige nodded, as relief surged through her. "Yeah. I'm fine. Boy, that was close!" She glanced around. "Where's Claudia Whatshername?"

Harry's eyes scanned the altar. He pointed at the succubus, fighting Cole. "Over there. She and Cole seemed to be giving each other trouble."

The redhead had not exaggerated. Claudia seemed to be teleporting all around the half-demon, avoiding the latter's fireballs. Her energy balls merely bounced off Cole's chest. Then the succubus stared at Cole, as if trying to hypnotize him. Aware of the half-demon's susceptibility to telepathic powers, Paige feared the worst. Harry made an attempt to go to Cole's aid, when the unbelievable happened. Instead of succumbing to Claudia's power, the half-demon waved a hand before her face. The succubus clutched her head, screaming and disappeared from sight.

"Harry!" Elise McNeill's sharp cry took the young pair by surprise. Carla Bianchi followed closely behind. "I see that Paige is with you. Good." She grabbed her grandson's hand. "I have the spell to vanquish our little visitors. I need you and Paige's help."

Paige glanced at Mrs. Bianchi. "Would you be able to . . .?"

"Anyone can use this spell," the Strega said. "My grandfather once used it in Venice, years ago."

Harry asked, "What's the spell?"

Mrs. McNeill handed Paige and Harry, each a piece of paper with words scrawled on it. It looked like a banishment spell to Paige's eyes. Then the Strega revealed another piece of paper that had the words, 'Congrega de Della Scalla'. Mrs. McNeill sprinkled salt and water on it, while Harry drew a circle around all four witches with a stick. Mrs. Bianchi lit up a black candle in her hand and set the flame to the piece of paper. And then they began to chant:

"Blazing force of cleansing fire, help me in this rite. By air and earth, water and fire, so you be bound with this rite. Your power takes flight, sky and sea, cleanse us and keep harm from us. Cord go round, power be bound, your negativity will no longer come my way. From hence forth, the power of all incubi and succubae over us be banished. So mote it be!"

Screams filled the air, as members of the Della Scalla coven vanquished - one by one - into bursts of flames and energy. By the time the four witches had finished, all incubi and succubae had been destroyed. "Now that is what I call a timely intervention!" Andre crowed.

Piper added, "Would close call be a better term? Exactly how many demons were in that coven?"

Carla Bianchi replied soberly, "At least forty or fifty. It took Signorina Della Scalla nearly two centuries to create her own coven."

A gurgle caught the attention of everyone. The sound came from a figure sprawled near Vivian Dubois' feet. "Hmmm, looks like my boy is still kicking."

"How is that possible?" Paul asked. "The spell was strong enough to kill the others."

Both Cole and Bruce knelt beside the injured incubus. The half-demon ripped open the demon's shirt, revealing an amulet laying upon the latter's pale chest. An amulet with strange markings. "What's that?" Paige asked.

Cole said, "Looks like a protection amulet. Those markings are Etruscan. So much for protection." He removed the amulet from the demon's neck and slapped the latter's face. "Hey! Wake up!"

Another groan left the incubus' mouth. His dark eyes blinked open and stared at the others in fear. "Eh? Wha . . .?"

"Where is she?" Bruce demanded brusquely. "Where's Barbara? And that bitch you call your mistress?"

The incubus' eyes fluttered. "I . . ."

"I guess I hit him a bit too hard, huh?" Mrs. Dubois asked.

"Where is she?" Bruce continued to demand. "Where's Barbara?" He began shaking the incubus' arm.

Mr. McNeill grabbed his son's arm. "Hey! C'mon Bruce. Take it easy!"

The incubus opened his mouth. Another gurgle came out, before his body stiffened. Then he disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

"Shit!" Mr. Bowen cried out in frustration. "Now what are we going to do?"

Mr. McNeill sighed. "Well, we can always scry or try a locator spell. Or maybe we . . ."

"It's not necessary," Harry said, interrupting his father. "I know where Barbara is. She's at 933 . . ."

Cecile finished, ". . .Oceanview Avenue. In San Mateo." Harry stared at her. "I also read his thoughts before he died."

Bruce sprung to his feet. "Right! Olivia, Cole, let's go." He turned to his sister. "Livy, you might as well bring Darryl with us. Especially if Nick is there."

"Wait a minute, Bruce!" Olivia protested. "We're going to need a telepath. You're talking about a succubus, here. We don't even know how many other demons there are."

Cecile spoke up immediately. "I'll come with you." She glanced at Harry. "If you don't mind." The redhead responded with a silent shrug.

Cole waved his hand and both Darryl and Leo, who held Wyatt, reappeared. The former blinked and glanced around with confused eyes. "What the hell . . .? Where is everyone?"

"What happened?" Leo added.

Paige promptly replied, "Demon attack. Bruce almost married Portia Della Scalla's sister. Who was disguised as Barbara."

Cecile added, "They also have the Soma plant." Everyone stared at her. "I found two of them in the greenhouse. And whoever knocked me out, took the plant.

"Looks like I had missed all of the excitement," Darryl said in his usual, wry voice.

Leo asked, "Where are the other guests?"

Cole answered, "Safe. In another dimension. But right now, we need Darryl's help." He said to the police lieutenant, "We know where the real Barbara is. And possibly Nick Marcano."

"Oh." Darryl glanced around. "Uh . . . my gun. I think I'll need . . ." A Glock pistol materialized in his hand. One also appeared in Olivia's hand. "Okay. I guess we can leave."

The five people joined hands. Before Paige could blink for the umpteenth time, they disappeared. Piper sighed. "And once again, it's the Charmed Ones 'not' to the rescue. You know, it's becoming a habit with this bunch."

Realizing the truth when she heard it, Paige could only respond with a wry smile.


The moment Claudia teleported to the middle of her living room, she called for her surviving minions. Her heart nearly broke when only seven appeared, including her personal maid - Flauvia. "This is it?" she bemoaned. "Only seven of you have survived?"

Flauvia replied, "I have been here all day, Padronessa." Her dark eyes brimmed with resentment, as she gingerly touched the back of her head. "Because of that witch." Claudia looked at her questioningly. "She tried to escape."

A sigh left Claudia's mouth. "As much as I would like to kill her, I need the witch alive for now. To lure her fiancé to me. Meanwhile, bring the Streghone to . . ."

Before Claudia could finish her command, Nick Marcano burst into the room. "You're back!" He glanced around in confusion. "Why are you here, so soon? Where's Bruce? Is he dead?" Hope replaced his confusion.

Anger welled within the succubus. This Streghone . . . this idiot had cost her a lot. "No! Signor McNeill is still alive." Disappointment flitted across Nick's face. "Nor am I married. Someone had exposed me before wedding vows could be exchanged. I had to summon my coven to help me. Unfortunately, most of them are dead." Claudia's voice hardened. "Thanks to you."

"Me?" Nick shook his head in disbelief. "I wasn't even at the wedding! Why blame me?"

"Because you were the one who started this . . . this guaio!" Claudia spat out in anger. "By summoning my sister in the first place!"

Fear crept into the Streghone's eyes. "But . . . but I . . . I didn't force her or anything like . . ."

"Everything I have held dear is gone!" Claudia continued. "My coven and my sister. All because of your infatuation with that Wiccan bitch!"

The Streghone inhaled sharply. The man was obviously trying to keep from wetting his pants. Instead, he said in a wavering voice, "Look, things may not have turned out as we had expected. But you still have one thing."


Nick continued, "The Soma plant. Didn't one of . . . your helpers bring it here?"

"He is right, Padronessa," Flauvia added. "Giancarlo had left it in the library for . . ." Her voice faded under Claudia's hard stare.

With an air of desperation, Nick said, "With the plant, you can achieve invincibility. And get revenge on the others. Not even Belthazor would be a match for you."

Claudia shuddered at the memory of the handsome half-daemon. He had managed to easily repel her attacks - telepathic or otherwise. The succubus realized that she had been fortunate to escape with her life. And the Soma plant would certainly be useful in her present situation. She turned to her servant. "Flauvia, go to the dining-room and . . ."

Five people suddenly materialized in the room, drawing stares from Claudia and the others. The succubus' heart sank when she realized that one of the newcomers happened to be Belthazor.


The moment they had materialized in the middle of Claudia Della Scalla's living room, Cole and his companions went on the offensive. The half-daemon destroyed one incubus with an energy ball the moment the latter had lifted an arm.

The others seemed to be doing fine. One daemon - a dark-haired female with a slender face - transformed into some horned creature, who pounced upon Olivia. The latter stopped the daemon in mid-air using telekinesis and flung her against the wall. She returned to human form and grabbed a knife from a nearby table and threw it at Olivia. The witch deflected the knife and forced the pointed edge to be buried into the demon's forehead. The latter disintegrated into dust.

Cole glanced to his right and saw Cecile facing two daemons - a tall, fair-haired man with gray eyes and a middle-aged woman. Her lips moved, as if reciting a chant and both demons disappeared into bursts of light.

A gust of wind from behind attracted Cole's attention. He turned around and witnessed Bruce disposing an incubus with aerokinesis. Then the older McNeill sibling cried, "Cole! To your left!"

The half-daemon whirled around and spotted a fireball hurtling toward him. He lifted one hand and easily deflected the fireball back to his attacker, destroying the latter in the process. Olivia killed a second daemon - another incubus - with a stream of fire, before turning to Cole. "Where is she?" she demanded in an anxious voice. "Claudia Whatshername?"

Glancing around, Cole realized that he had forgotten about the succubus. "I don't . . . I don't know. And I thought I had seen Nick in here." His eyes returned to Olivia. "Where's Darryl?"

"Oh my God!" Olivia's eyes widened in horror. "You don't think . . .?" She did not bother to finish her question. Instead, she rushed toward the doorway. Cole quickly followed at her heels.


Upon entering the foyer, the couple found themselves unable to decide whether to check the other rooms on the first floor or the second floor. Just as Olivia had suggested that she search upstairs, a slight cry emitted from another room. He and Olivia exchanged glances and rushed toward the source of the noise.

They found Claudia Della Scalla inside what looked like a library. The succubus seemed to be gushing over a bush planted inside a large clay pot. The legendary Soma plant. She spotted the newcomers and immediately flung an energy ball at Olivia. The latter easily deflected it back. Unfortunately, the succubus teleported out of the line of fire, avoiding energy ball. Cole waved his hand and a surprised-looking daemon reappeared. "Wha . . .?" she began.

Then the succubus disappeared. Again. She reappeared beside Cole, taking him by surprise. "Cole," a soft voice whispered in his ear. A voice that strongly resembled Olivia's. "Cole, it's . . ."

"Stop!" the half-daemon cried out loud. Then he fought back with his own telepathic powers. "Blazing force of cleansing fire, help me in this rite. By air and earth, water and fire, So you be bound with this rite. Your power takes flight, sky and sea, cleanse me and keep harm from me. Cord go round, power be bound, your negativity will no longer come my way. From hence forth, the power of Claudia Della Scalla over me be banished. So mote it be!" He held his palm out and a flame of fire appear.

Claudia let out a scream. "No!" But Cole chanted the spell again, refusing to stop. The succubus release one last agonizing scream, before she finally disintegrated into a ball of fire. Cole stared at Olivia. "Is she . . .?"

"Gone." Olivia nodded. "Yeah. What did you say to her?"

Cole shrugged. As he opened his mouth to respond, two gunshots rang out. The couple exchanged anxious looks. The shots came from upstairs. Cole grabbed Olivia's arm and beamed her out of the room.


Fifteen minutes earlier, Barbara sat inside the bedroom/cell, brooding over her foiled escape. She glanced at the clock and her gloom deepened. It read five mintues after three. Which meant that Bruce was now married to that succubus bitch.

Barbara realized that all was not lost. Even though Claudia Della Scalla and Bruce might be married, hours would pass before the honeymoon began. This left plenty of time for the McNeills or anyone else to figure out that the bride was an imposter. And hopefully, this would provide Barbara with another opportunity to escape. If only she could find . . .

A loud, commanding voice interrupted Barbara's thoughts. It came from downstairs. And it sounded as if it belonged to the Della Scalla succubus. What was she doing here?

A few minutes passed and the bedroom door burst open. Nick marched inside and grabbed Barbara's arm. "What the hell?" she demanded angrily. The Streghone lifted her from the bed and dragged her toward the doorway. "Nick, what the hell are you doing?"

"We're getting out of here," Nick growled. "Now." He continued to drag Barbara.

"What? Why?"

Nick's grip on her arm tightened. "I'll tell you later."

Barbara wrenched her arm from his grip. "No! You tell me now! What's going on?"

A second later, Barbara found herself looking down the barrel of Nick's .38 revolver. "I'll tell you later," he shot back in a menacing tone. "Now move!"

A figure appeared in the doorway, also brandishing a weapon. Barbara sighed with relief. It was Darryl Morris. "Put the gun down, Nick," he said cautiously. "Put it down."

Taking Barbara by unawares, Nick grabbed her arm and drew her close to his body. "No! You put your gun down! Or she's dead!"

"C'mon Nick! What's the point?" Darryl replied in a cool voice. "If Barbara dies, you're not getting out of here, alive. Even if you take her, we'll get you. Besides, I know you don't want her dead."

With Nick's gun pressed to her temple, Barbara could not see his expression. But she did notice that Darryl refused to lower his gun. She realized that she was in the middle of a standoff between the two men. And neither seemed willing to yield. Recalling similar situations in many television shows and movies, an idea came to Barbara. One that any sane person would consider idiotic.

Barbara took a deep breath and elbowed Nick in the gut. Hard. He let out a grunt and released his grip on her arm, allowing her to escape. Nick cried out, "No!" and aimed his gun at Barbara. Two shots rang out and the Streghone dropped to the floor. Dead.

Seconds later, Both Cole and Olivia appeared in the room. Olivia stopped short at the sight of Nick's inert body on the floor. "Oh my God," she murmured. "Poor Nick."

"I'm sorry," Darryl explained, "but he was about to shoot Barbara."

Her eyes on the corpse, Barbara murmured, "Yeah." She and the others continued to stare at Nick's body. Remembering her rescuer, she added, "By the way Darryl, thanks for saving my life."

"Hey, no problem," Darryl replied. "Just returning the favor from three weeks ago." His eyes filled with compassion at the sight of Nick's body. "Man, I sure don't look forward to telling his folks."

Footsteps thumped in the hallway, outside. Bruce, followed by Cecile, burst inside. The former spared the Streghone a quick glance, before he rushed toward his fiancée. "Barbara! Are you okay?" He enveloped her into a bear hug.

Barbara nodded. Between Nick's death and seeing Bruce again, she felt too emotional to say anything. Then she recalled something else. "By the way, did anyone find the Soma plant? I heard it was brought here."

"It's in the library, downstairs," Cole murmured.

Cecile added, "Now that Barbara is safe and we have the plant back, I guess we can return and start the wedding again."

"We have a few problems," Barbara said. She glanced at her blouse and pants. "One, if that Claudia woman is dead, I think my wedding dress may have went up in smoke. Two . . ." Outside, police sirens wailed in the distance. "We have a body to explain."

A smile touched Olivia's lips. "Darryl and I will handle the police. And maybe Cole . . ." she glanced at the half-daemon, "can do something about another body. I'm sure that the police would like to see who was responsible for Nick's escape. As for your dress, I'm sure there are a few stores still opened. And then you can have your wedding."

END OF ACT IV - Part 2