All posts by Samantha Sobolewski

For just over two years, Samantha Sobolewski was a television critic for TV Guide Canada, where she interviewed the likes of Sophia Bush, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Kevin Smith, Liam Cunningham and many others. You can find her in her final year at Ryerson's School of Journalism, freelancing, watching The West Wing or on Twitter @samsobolewski

Review: Saving Hope tackles competence and consent

You knew it would be a Saving Hope that hit you straight in the feels as soon as the adorable Will was introduced to viewers on Thursday. The man with Down syndrome and his ability to give consent was the real focus of the evening, with the doctors split on whether or not to allow him to be an organ donor for his mother. To make matters even more complicated, Charlie was left acting as the mediator between the in-limbo mother, Will and the living.

It was emotional enough seeing Will react to the accident, his guilt over the car crash spilling all over the place as Charlie was left trying to hold him together. But it was even more emotional seeing his mother, Katie, argue with Charlie that it was “non-negotiable” she survive to continue taking care of her son (which is SUCH a mom thing to say). Of course, being the only one to communicate between Will and his mom in the spirit world meant Charlie was wrangled by the mother to help ease the son, something that could’ve become much messier had Charlie tried to tell the tribunal board it was too dangerous for Will to be an organ donor and ultimately prevented him from going through with the surgery. In the end I’m glad the situation didn’t wind up more complicated than that, and Charlie was able to help the three get through the trauma, acting as a rock for poor Will. If only Katie could remember all that Charlie did for them after waking up.

Speaking of the tribunal board, I thought it was really interesting seeing the storyline focus on whether Will was capable of giving consent for the surgery or not, especially since oftentimes actual legalities are left far away from medical dramas. Props to the Saving Hope writers on that one.

Although the storyline felt a little overacted at times, the best part of the episode was undoubtedly Will’s speech to the tribunal board, listing off all the things he participates in and has accomplished to prove his competence and give consent in donating a piece of his liver. Will’s desire to be more independent was inspiring and sweet, and by the end of the episode it felt almost catharctic to see each character come around and understand how much Will can contribute to society and do on his own.

The lighter side of the night surprisingly revolved around pets … or at least, a pet and a snake let loose throughout the hospital.  The snake was equal parts fun as it was disgusting (unsanitary much?!) and led to some hilarious moments delivered by Zach, who is rightfully afraid of the reptiles. I actually laughed out loud at his terrified statement about the “snake that causes eyes to bleed” roaming the hospital halls, and giggled every time Dawn mentioned the hazardous waste “code brown” every time it was announced.

The final thing that needs to be mentioned about the episode was that kiss between the overly emotional Dawn and Charlie, with Dawn mourning the loss of her guinea pig and Charlie mourning the loss of Alex. I enjoyed how at ease Alex and Charlie seemed to be with each interaction they had, even though it was clearly eating him up inside, so it made sense that by the end he’d be looking for some sort of emotional release. I’m not sure if their connection is going to be something concrete or not in the future, but at the end of the day you can’t really blame two lost people when they find one another.

Saving Hope airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.


Set Visit: Dragons’ Den is Vikram Vij’s new baby

Peering upon the Dragons’ Den chairs is almost like looking at Canada’s equivalent to the Iron Throne. Each of the five seats belongs to some of Canada’s most successful business moguls (including Jim Treliving, Arlene Dickinson and David Chilton), armed with the bank accounts, connections and real-world experience to change the lives of the everyday entrepreneur. With that knowledge, you can almost physically feel the power radiating from each chair.

It’s no surprise then that Vikram Vij, chef, restaurant giant and one of two new dragons joining the den for Season 9 (alongside Michael Wekerle), was too nervous to sleep the night before his first day, regardless of how much prep work he put in.

“I had studied hard, I had really done my homework, I had done so much other stuff to prepare, but it’s a little bit like child bearing,” Vij says. “This experience was like I had just given birth. I needed to go through the pains and the motions of learning how things are going to happen for me.”

Vij is no virgin to television gigs, serving as a judge on Recipe to Riches, Chopped and Top Chef Canada in the past. But what Dragons’ Den is giving Vij is an opportunity to show viewers that he’s much more than just a chef and restaurateur.

“I want to get away from the stigma of people thinking I’m a food guy only,” Vij says, listing his investments in computer apps as an example of some of his other business ventures. “At the end of the day I’m a businessman. I’m looking for great deals and I’m going to put money where the great deals are.”

What Recipe to Riches did do to help Vij, however, was give him a pre-established connection to Dragons’ Den through fellow Riches judge Arlene Dickinson, a Dragon since Season 2. Although the veteran gave her friend some tips, Dickinson doesn’t seem to have a problem flexing her seniority over Vij when it comes to the Den.

“She kind of said to me very nicely, ‘Just be yourself. Be silly if you have to be, and do what you need to do and just be yourself.’ Which also meant, ‘I will take you and ring you very nicely if I have to because I am the senior person on this show,'” Vij says with a smile.

“Initially a couple of times when I’m making a pitch or asking questions she will look over at me and say, ‘Really? You asked that question? Why would you ask that question?'” he says. “She comes from the experience like you should already know this.”

After filming a handful of pitches, Vij now refers to himself as more of an underdog rather than simply a rookie. It’s something he knows will continue to change as he discovers his individual place within the show’s pre-existing puzzle.

“I find that sometimes the pitches go automatically towards Arlene because they gravitate towards her, but that’s OK” Vij says. “I’m going to make my mark and keep focused at it.”

Dragons’ Den airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.


Review: Instinct takes over on Saving Hope

You’ve gotta give it up to Saving Hope for keeping Alex’s post-surgery amnesia condensed to one episode. Although a part of me wouldn’t have minded seeing a post-surgery Alex draw her own, fresh conclusions about her feelings for Charlie and Joel, it’s far too often the amnesia trope is introduced and dragged out to an excruciating, mind-numbing length.

In fact, pretty much everything about “Awakenings” was moving at a timely pace, all thanks to a condo explosion as the case-of-the-week that put Hope Zion on high alert. While the doctors were all busy trying to treat patients, Alex was able to do her own thing when it came to her injury and her memory loss, getting the space she needed from an overbearing Charlie. My heart certainly went out to Alex, bombarded by the pressure to remember from colleagues and loved ones when she needed to simply concentrate on her own health. But while she suffered through the majority of the episode, I was pleasantly surprised to see her instinct while helping another patient be what ultimately brought her memories back.

Her memories may have come back by the end of the episode, but we viewers pulling for Alex and Joel were certainly treated to a few heartwarming scenes while they were still gone. The condo explosion forced Charlie and Joel to channel their pissing contest over Alex through competing over ways to perform surgery on a couple of burn victims fused together (serious props to the makeup department for THAT messy looking ordeal). And while Charlie was awarded the surgery by Dawn in the end, it gave Joel a moment to check in with Alex while Charlie was busy, ending in a cute exchange that made Alex smile for the first time since waking up.

Speaking of the burn victims, I found myself particularly invested in the storyline of the duo as we learned more about their relationship as the episode went on. I had to give it up to how calm and sweet Marshall (Republic of Doyle’s Mark O’Brien) was to Anna (Cristina Rosato) even before we knew they had romantic feelings for one another, telling the doctors to peel her out of the binding before him even though he was the one suffering from paralysis. Way to take one for the girl you love, man. By the time Charlie found the box with the ring and we heard the whole story of the couple I couldn’t help hoping the two got a happy ending. Is it too much for the writers to give me a check-in on the couple later on?!

“Awakenings” also gave us a bit of development on Maggie, still suffering physically and emotionally from the miscarriage. As much as I loved Zach’s fake laughing technique to try and help her get her emotions in order, I couldn’t help but feel a little annoyance that Maggie kept her patient on edge about the mystery ailment they found while treating him from the condo incident. Her suffering was sad, but making someone else think they’re about to be told they’re dying is so not cool. That is, until we found out he wasn’t dying, but suffering from, well, a leftover from his “recreational activities.” In all seriousness, I’m glad she was able to write her feelings down to try and deal with her loss and emotions. No more crying in the ER, yeah?

So Alex may be back, and we’re not quite sure where she stands in the love department, but now the big mystery we’ve been delivered is the question of what exactly Alex “left behind” and what that will mean going forward, the mystery I’m assuming will be dragged out rather than the amnesia. Nothing’s ever easy at Hope Zion, is it?

Saving Hope airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.


Review: No love lost for Racers in Paris

They may have been in the city of love, but Tuesday’s installment of The Amazing Race Canada saw a dog fight between vindictive Racers armed with the almighty double U-Turn. Yet despite having to perform a Detour, get through a U-Turn, and survive a Speed Bump, Rob and Ryan pulled off the impossible in Paris, scraping past the originally second-place Michel and Pierre to the finish line and leaving the Québec duo in the dust.

The serious turn of events in the Race standings can be blamed on one thing: the world’s most tedious Road Block. But before they could get to there, the teams were scrambling to make it to the double U-Turn mark. Continuing their hot streak were Natalie and Meaghan as the first duo to soar past the Plat Du Jour Detour challenge, something I perceived to be the easier of the two options. I mean, as Canadians you have to have at least an ounce of proper French food pronunciation in you somewhere, right? However, instead of making enemies, the duo decided to take the diplomatic approach and forgo throwing the first name up for the double U-Turn.

Also breezing past the Detour Du Jour were Pierre and Michel, whose pronunciation of the French food they had to serve was like Parisian music to my ears. But in an entertaining twist of events, the duo decided to separate from their fellow Quebecers, throwing Audrey and Alain under the U-Turn bus. It was bold, gutsy, but most of all hilarious to see Audrey and Alain’s distain, especially since the couple had already lost time switching to the difficult Haute Couture Detour challenge and struggled to recreate a couture dress.

Speaking of lost time, the always chill Mickey and Pete completely salted their game thanks to a miscommunication between their cab driver and the pronunciation of Place Du Canada versus Places Des Canada. Like last week, I was scared my favourite Racers had screwed themselves for time, but luckily their likeability saw them avoid getting U-Turned, saving them in the end. Instead, the other U-Turn honour was bestowed upon Rob and Ryan thanks to Jinder and Sukhi, throwing salt in the boys’ already sore wounds knowing they had a Speed Bump to get through as well. But by some miracle the boys made it through the challenges and learned the world’s worst rendition of “Au Claire De La Lune” on the accordion, keeping them from a sealed fate as losers.

No matter what place the Racers were in, it all really came down to the Road Block of recreating a French piece of art with coloured Mentos, a task that proved to be so tedious it completely halted the Race. Originally it seemed like it paid being in the lead, with Natalie and Meaghan arriving first and being the first to assemble their art. But as teams continued arriving, and as the originally second-place Michel continued to stumble with figuring out what he was replicating wrong, one by one teams managed to get their Mentos aligned and approved before heading off to the Love Locks Bridge to meet Jon Montgomery.

I was in near cardiac arrest as Rob and Ryan even caught up to Pierre and Michel, who had fallen to the back of the pack. Not even Alain’s proposal to Audrey–prompting a change from “dating” to “engaged” in their relationship bio line–really fazed me much thanks to my disbelief over how tight the Race had become. To my utmost shock, it was Rob and Ryan that figured the Mentos art out first. And after more than a six-hour struggle with the Road Block, Pierre and Michel were forced to bid the show au revoir. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Here’s how the teams finished:

  • Natalie and Meaghan
  • Suhki and Jinder
  • Mickey and Pete
  • Alain and Audrey
  • Rob and Ryan

The Amazing Race Canada airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

What did you think of the episode? Comment below!