My favorite scene of the week - and on the short list for scene of the year - came on this week's episode of Political Animals on USA.
The president (Adrian Pasdar) and his cabinet, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are anxiously gathered in the White House Situation Room, in a tableau intended to remind you of the Obama administration awaiting word of the Osama bin Laden mission.
They're engaged in a breathless bit of brinksmanship with the People's Republic of China. A Chinese nuclear submarine has foundered off the coast of San Diego. We want to rescue the scores of sailors on board. China vows to set off the nuclear reactor on the sub before allowing it to fall into American hands.
The president informs the Chinese leaders that he would consider such a disastrous alternative an act of war. He sends in the rescue mission without any assurance the Chinese will stand down.
A naval commander on the scene talks the White House through the next few tension-filled moments. The grappling hooks are on. We are lifting the sub. There is no explosion. Relieved cheers all around the room.
But what's this? The commander reports, "We're getting a pulse code from the Chinese nuclear sub. But it makes no sense. [Pause.] It says X . . . I . . . E . . . X . . . I . . . E."
"What is it, a code?" barks the vice president (Dylan Baker). I neglected to mention that he's holding an ice pack to his swelling eye socket because a couple of minutes before, the former president of the United States (Ciarán Hinds) coldcocked him in the Oval Office. Bare-knuckle politics.
Luckily, the secretary of state (Sigourney Weaver) is there to make sense of this occult gibberish.
"It means xie xie," she says. "Xie xie. Thank you."
Are you serious, Madam Secretary? You mean these people have created a language of their own? How fiendishly clever!
Eighty-sixed. This was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for Chad Johnson, the NFL player who once legally changed his name to his jersey number, Ochocinco.
First he was arrested on domestic-abuse charges, for head-butting his wife of five weeks, Evelyn Lozada, a former straw that frothed the drink on the reality show Basketball Wives.
Then he was cut by the Miami Dolphins, which meant no more face time on his NFL reality show, Hard Knocks. Then his marital reality show, Ev and Ocho, which was to debut in three weeks on VH1, was pulled. Then (reality TV is a harsh mistress) he was shown being dumped by the Dolphins on HBO.
Then Evelyn filed for divorce. And I really thought these crazy kids would make a go of it. After all, Chad proposed - I kid you not - while playing Call of Duty on his Xbox.
Jessie who? Did you enjoy the Olympic closing ceremony on NBC? I found it a little strange myself. Was George Michael auditioning for Sons of Anarchy? Who is the biggest singing star in the annals of British pop music? Apparently, it's some Pussycat Dolls reject named Jessie J. Who knew? And NBC had time for comedian Russell Brand to butcher the Beatles at some length, but bumped The Who to bring us a sitcom with a monkey? Please tell me I dreamed all that.
Making noise. My second-favorite scene of the week was on HBO's The Newsroom. Charlie (Sam Waterston) finally meets his Deep Throat, a whistle-blower from the NSA (Stephen McKinley Henderson). Where do they arrange their summit? In the reading room at the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, where they conduct a long, often passionate discussion about 10 feet from the circulation desk.
Forget for a minute that their top-secret talk can be heard in Teaneck, or rather don't forget it, because that's my point. The whole time they're haranguing each other, not one person complains, none of the patrons, not even the librarian.
Are you kidding me? I get yelled at on the quiet car of my train if my iPod buds so much as hiss.