Eldrazi Obligator

“Manadeprived.com is proud to present Top 8 Magic podcast with Michael J. Flores and Brian David-Marshall

“Brought to your ears by FaceToFaceGames.com.”

The four hundred twenty-first episode of Top 8 Magic, “New Year’s Resolutions: Oath of the Gatewatch 1” is a mixed bag. MichaelJ and BDM return after a too-long spell to chat about some of their actual New Year’s Resolutions… But more importantly what cards might resolve (in what formats) in the upcoming Oath of the Gatewatch.

Our heroes focus on the white cards this time (because they spend the first fourteen minutes or so just catching up after a long layover)… But it really gets going when Mike chooses his favorite [off-color] card in Oath of the Gatewach so far: Eldrazi Obligator

Eldrazi Obligator looks awesome, right?

Here is a card that at three mana can do a pretty good Boggart Ram-Gang impression…

Boggart Ram-Gang

… But at five mana can do a pretty good Zealous Conscripts impression!

Zealous Conscripts

No, Eldrazi Obligator isn’t quite the three drop that Boggart Ram-Gang was (two fewer toughness, no wither mechanic)… But the fact that it has a second mode is awesome.

At five mana Eldrazi Obligator is slightly less powerful than Zealous Conscripts (can’t steal an Ultimate Planeswalker, for example)… But that extra flexibility really does come in handy here. Not only do you have two modes to choose from, but the additional 1<> sets up an Eldrazi trigger, not Not NOT an “enters the battlefield” trigger. That means that even if an opponent can discard a correctly-costed spell to his Kozilek, the Great Distortion you will still get the trigger to steal his 12/12 (and presumably kill him with it).

There is over an hour-twenty Magic chatter, old and brand new, as well as a tidy bit of love for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Force Awakens near the end.

Top 8 Magic resolves to be back in 2016!

Listen to “New Year’s Resolutions: Oath of the Gatewatch 1” right here:

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“New Year’s Resolutions: Oath of the Gatewatch 1” on ManaDeprived

[For Transparent “Mee Maw” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

Amazon.com Summary:
Mee Maw Maura re-imagines her past, Colton’s adoptive family visits, Josh faces a tough decision, and Sarah tries to change.

Season two of Transparent engages episode after episode of “this changes everything” events and none more so that this game changer: “Mee Maw”. We’re right in the middle of the season and the Pfeffermans are going through major changes. Sarah and Ali head down a collision course with comical characters, including each other. Meanwhile Maura and Josh confront their deepest fears and end up with life-altering choices. The story ends up in a completely altered world from where it began with an unknown road ahead.

The episode opens as Ali and Sarah get nude massages at a spa and talk about what it means to be a lesbian. The convo ends when Ali says she can’t have emotional intimacy with someone who hasn’t suffered under patriarchy and Sarah concludes Ali must be a lesbian because she herself couldn’t care less about patriarchy. So, Sarah’s clearly questioning whether she’s gay at this point. Later in the episode she says, “What does it mean to be gay, really?” so this is where her mind circles through the episode. In the next scene Colton awakens Josh and Raquel to tell them his adoptive parents are driving their mobile home here to meet them, in fact, they’ll be arriving today, in fact real soon. They can call his father Pastor Gene and his mother’s name is Blossie. Nervous tizzified Josh has Raquel wear a Pfefferman family heirloom ring as a place-holder for the upcoming engagement ring because, “these are conservative people,” and although Raquel hates the idea, she finally acquiesces to cool his jets. She also, rightly so, says why should we care what they think of us? “we’re good people and he’s lucky to stay with us”. Josh retorts that he thinks she means they’re lucky to have Colton. But both things can be true – no? It seems like a fight but doesn’t have to be.

Then the shit hits the fan fast when Pastor Gene and Blossie find out the Pfeffermans are Jewish. The condescending bite of their pathetic attempt at a polite reaction creates an uncrossable canyon right there in the living room between the two families. Blossie and Gene are each incredibly, unknowingly offensive in their own special way. But the crevasse just keeps getting bigger with the Pfeffermans as they then learn about Raquel’s pregnancy, insist that Rita be deeply involved in Colton’s life, and then accuse Josh of abandoning Colton. At this critical moment Maura (the Mee Maw referred to in this episode’s title) interrupts to confess that she and Shelly did indeed know about Rita’s pregnancy and, in fact, made a large donation to Pastor Gene’s church to pay Rita’s medical bills. Josh, having just found out about Colton a few weeks ago, dives into tailspin territory with Raquel in a back bedroom. He rants about how everything would be different in his life if only his parents hadn’t lied to him and Raquel responds that everything would have been different if Rita hadn’t molested him. This sets Josh off the rocker completely and he shrieks at her that he was in love with Rita and thus it wasn’t molestation. Again, he can’t see how both things could be true. He could have loved Rita AND the fact that he was a child at the time also made it molestation – which is the truth of the matter. But Raquel doesn’t have time to address this because Colton is at the door with a mind blowing question for Josh. It seems Pastor Gene and Blossie have fired up the Winnebago and want Colton to come back with them. So, he asks if he should go with them or stay. Josh’s tailspin now spirals into the Tazmanian Devil zone. He doesn’t know what to do. Colton gives him a moment to think it through and he asks Raquel what to do. She says this whole thing stresses her out and these feelings can’t be good for the baby.

Meanwhile Sarah attends the life coach session she won at the school gala auction in the “Cherry Blossoms” episode. But the flaky coach fills the session with irritating catchphrases and phony sincerity that bend the experience into an annoyance rather than inspiration for Sarah. So, afterward she calls up Josh’s pot dealer/doctor guy and gets some joints – like ya do. The doc has the hots for her and wants to get a drink with Sarah, even if she’s gay like Josh says but Sarah turns him down. Instead she gets high and eats a burger in her car, completely ignoring his advice about candles, pillows and listening to Sade in lotus position. Funny part is that the pot dealer doc probably helped and inspired Sarah about a hundred times more than the life coach ever could. Ali and Syd have playful and funny banter while Ali wears a strap-on, then they attend a Full Moon Ritual evening hosted by Leslie Mackinaw and her followers. Young ladies hang all over Leslie, blissed-out from toes to eyeballs. At one point Syd asks Leslie what she’s teaching and she says, “Well I don’t really teach. I talk about things that matter to me with people who are ready,” classic grad school non-hierarchical power structure rhetoric. But it doesn’t make it OK to sleep with your students, Leslie. No matter how much you believe your own BS.

As “Mee Maw” winds down Maura goes back to tell Shelly that she told Josh everything about Rita and the money they gave to the church seventeen years ago. Then when Shelly tries to turn it into the two of them bonding over schnapps and coffee Maura says she’s gotta go. “This isn’t working. We’re broken. You know that,” so, Shelly’s pissed about being rejected yet again. But no matter; Maura packs her stuff and goes.

Speaking of going, Colton stands by the Winnebago in the dark because it’s night now and asks Josh if he’s certain he really wants him to leave. “If you want me to stay just say so,” and everything in Colton’s eyes begs Josh to say so. It’s even clear Josh wants to say it. But the heartbreak wave peaks between them when Josh glances at Raquel in desperation and she merely looks down, immovable. Colton’s brother and sister sing a haunting hymn from inside the Winnebago –Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and he shall lift you up… higher and higher… and he shall lift you up and the song fills the story, replacing dialogue between Josh and Raquel and revealing how truly humbled they are in that moment. Standing there in the dark is their goodbye to a whole life they’d been planning for a family that included beloved Colton. The poignance of this scene points to how all of us are at the mercy of circumstances and timing. Some things are out of our control no matter how hard we try. We see it in how no matter how good and generous and kind Colton was, it just wasn’t going to work. And the same holds true for Shelly and Maura. Shelly yells at Maura for making her feel like she’s not good enough but that’s not really the issue. No matter how wonderful Shelly was, it just wasn’t going to work out. Maura just realized it first is all. Look forward to more laughs in the next episode and hopefully you’ve got some tissues on hand in the meantime.

–Katherine Recap

[For Transparent “Cherry Blossoms” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

Amazon.com Summary:
Cherry Blossoms Josh bonds with Colton; Sarah feels more like an outsider; Ali and Syd visit Grandma Rose; Maura seeks autonomy.

The episode “Cherry Blossoms” blooms with Pfefferman shenanigans. They’re all crankypants McGees by its end and for good reason, there’s a lot awry in the Pfefferman world and it’s even starting to feel haunted. Josh and Raquel now must contend with Rita – a loony witchy ghost from Josh’s past. Sarah’s got Len and Tammy in her haunted house, and the ghost of Maura’s marriage is all up in her business every flipping minute. The episode’s title refers to a scientific study regarding ghosts in DNA. Recently the NY Times, and other publications, ran an article about a study done with rabbits who were shocked while smelling cherry blossoms. It turned out that they passed on that trauma to their children through DNA. The children and grandchildren of those shocked bunnies were all terrified of cherry blossoms even though they never experienced any shocks firsthand and weren’t even born yet when their forefather bunnies did. This area of study is called Epigenetics and was later shown to apply to the descendants of Holocaust survivors, which the Pfeffermans are. Thus, the real Pfefferman ghosts are deep within and when you think about it… that’s not even a little bit surprising.

Just like in the last episode, “Cherry Blossoms” begins with Maura awakening and though she’s not hungover this time, there’s still plenty of crankass to go around. Shelly is all up in Maura’s buttcrack from the millisecond she arises with a zillion questions and the, “Don’t think I don’t notice you coming… going… out all night,” too. She sets off bitchy nagging wife alarm bells all over that elderly condo development. Then at drop off Sarah deals with similar feelings of familial burden when school spirit week wreaks its ugly head upon her along with the gala, happening that very night. Meanwhile at Josh and Raquel’s Colton mentions to them that he’s a little worried about Rita because “lately something hasn’t been sitting right”. So, Pfefferman danger signals are blaring loud in several incarnations as the episode begins.

Next we see Maura discuss future plans for her body with a doctor who immediately starts her on a low dose testosterone blocker and then the intriguing questions arise. Sexually active? Yes, though more would be better. Top or bottom? Ummmm… why? Then the doctor says Testosterone blockers can hinder erections, a setback in the conversational flow but Maura forges forth as the doc asks the next one. Does she want breasts? “Two please,” replies Maura. Gender reassignment surgery? But this last one’s a real stumper and Maura will have to get back to the doctor on it later.

Ali and Syd visit Grandma Rose in the elderly home and although a bit out of it, Rose seems happy to see Ali. She keeps saying “Gershon” to her, as if Ali is this person and later in the episode we find out that Gershon was Rose’s trans brother from her life in 1930s Berlin. It was Gershon who we saw in the first episode, like a ghost in a glorious red dress behind Ali on the terrace. Ali doesn’t look that much like Gershon but she does have the same enthusiastic zest for life and they both have a buoyant bubble of joy about them. This must be what Rose recognizes. Unfortunately, Ali hasn’t yet discovered Gershon at this point in the story and initially just attributes Rose’s comment to dementia.

Next we see Josh and Colton surf and bond like bros at the beach where Josh offers to have Rita over for dinner in order to appease Colton’s worries about his birthmother. Sarah turns to Rabbi Raquel for advice about her frayed nerves at school and after easing her mind a bit, Raquel confides that she’s worried about Rita imposing into her family life. Sarah understands and they bond in empathy for each other. But the next time we see Sarah she’s at the school gala again spiraling down a toilet of misgivings. Len and his lovely, sweet, and gorgeous girlfriend Melanie ask Sarah about the shadow palette she destroyed and Len mentions that it was $485. Sarah begs off after making note that Melanie has beautiful eyes and it must be “because she has all the colors”. Adorned with a bucket of raffle tickets to sell, Sarah’s not the best saleswomen and ends up buying nineteen of them to make the requisite goal. Right after this Tammy finds her and drags her to a classroom to make out. Just as Sarah puts an end to the smooches, enraging Tammy, they call her name as raffle winner. She wins a ginormous TV and then a life coach session that she’s terrifically resistant to accept as Tammy shrieks about how the raffle is “SO fixed” in her drunken, rejected outrage. So, Sarah ends up reluctantly taking the life coach session and exiting, head-down-defeated. In the last scene she microwaves a frozen dinner naked in her sad and tiny new apartment. Sarah eats her frozen dinner off a paper towel leaned against the kitchen counter totally nude. It’s the ultimate image of loneliness, the adult version of a child in the fetal position.

Speaking of lonely, Maura goes out on her own to a tapas bar in an attempt at autonomy and hits on a cute lawyer who sits down near her at the bar. They’re friendly and it’s rolling along like Donkey Kong until Ms. Hot Lawyer notices that Maura’s transgender. Then she gets awkward, wriggly and turned off; thus refusing Maura’s offer to share some tapas. Lawyer lady says she needs to move to a table where she can spread out and work. Offended Maura leaves and makes a point to let the lawyer know that she’s aware that it was her transgender identity that turned her off. She heads home where Maura knows she’ll be accepted but knows it’s not really where she belongs.

Then Rita shows up for dinnertime with Josh, Raquel and Colton. She introduces herself with, “I would have brought a bottle but I was too busy,” and we’ve got a hint into the nature of Rita. A woman who complains of black mold at her crusty hippie house and insists that Josh must come look at it. He says it sounds like Rita needs a professional for a job like that but she, “can’t have strangers in the house because then I’ll have to clean it,” Whoah, Rita. Sounds like you’re struggling with something a bit more serious than imaginary black mold. But then things get super duper disturbing when Rita mumbles the lyrics to Sly and the Family Stone’s It’s a Family Affair and then sings in a tinny off key nightmare of shrill that sets one’s teeth into grind mode. It’s creeptacular. Josh demands that Rita stop and then offers dessert as he and Raquel rise from the table in horrified unison. As they exit the dining room, oblivious Rita says she’ll take the leftover pizza home thanks, “just box it up”. In the kitchen and now out of earshot, Josh promises Raquel she’ll never have to go through this again. It was just this one time visit with Rita – for Colton.

Then finally we take a brilliant trip to the past that’s only been a glimmer of a tease in the previous three episodes. Grandma Rose (as a child) visits her brother, Gershon at the Institute for Sexual Research in 1933 Berlin where he works and lives as a woman. Here Gershon uses the name Gittel, seems completely comfortable and happy. The institute serves as safe haven for LGBTs as well as a research facility and hospital. Rose welcomes Gittel’s offer of chocolate and sits down with her to eat and chat. She tells Gittel the family needs money. Their father abandoned them and moved to the US with no word of his location or intentions. So, their mother insists they get visas and take the trip to hunt him down.

After this scene Ali does research for her graduate school application essay at the library with Syd. She learns about inherited trauma DNA research – the “Cherry Blossoms” study. Ali tells Syd about the Epigenetics as we start to see that there’s the connection to their family and this inherited trauma DNA. Their Jewish family lived in Berlin at the onset of the Nazi rise to power with a transgender patriarchal family member. It’s a haunting portrait of Epigenetics in action.

Next we see Maura and Shelly sit down after dinner for a little TV on a couch that feels more like irritation alley. Maura snarks at Shelly to stop asking what channel she wants and, “make yourself happy”. It’s evident that Maura’s annoyed because she doesn’t want Shelly or this marriage anymore. Just like how Sarah got pissy at the Gala because she didn’t want Tammy. Maura and Sarah both want a change but aren’t sure exactly what needs to change or even how to figure that out. The one thing they both know for certain is they can’t stand being with each of their last lesbian partners, Shelly and Tammy respectively. Perhaps this is how inherited trauma plays out for the Pfeffermans. They know what makes them uncomfortable but finding sustainable comfort is more challenging. Of course plenty of things give them comfort in the short term, like Sarah’s affair with Tammy, but the prospect of a lifetime with her was terrifying rather than any kind of comfort. The challenging part is that unlike ghosts, Shelly and Tammy are right here right now and in their faces. They question, they demand and they won’t shut up or back down. Maura and Sarah have to find the ghostbusters deep within to extract themselves from these haunted relationships. One thing we know about the Pfeffermans, they’re survivors and they’ll find a way to get through this. We’re the lucky ones who get to watch as it all unfolds and past meets present in the evolving Pfefferman family.

–Katherine Recap