After missing in action for a couple of weeks, we’re back. Here’s a (spoiler-free!) look back at the best and worst of TV in the past week or so (April 23-30), and a peek at what’s coming up next week.

Highlights

1. “Breaking Bad” (AMC). The best series on TV had its best episode of the year. Bits of oddball humor broke up the edge-of-your seat tension as each character reached a momentous turning point. After a slowly simmering first few episodes, I’m getting a feeling things are about to blow up at a breakneck pace.

Snafu and Sledge, in a less bloody moment. (HBO photo)

2. “The Pacific” (HBO). I’m going to go out on a limb and say the battle for Peleliu, which has taken up most of the past three episodes, has been the most harrowing, horrific and heartbreaking combat sequence ever seen on TV. It’s just been stunning. That one scene this past week with Sledge and Snafu (if you saw it, you know which one I mean) drove home the utter savagery of war, and the numbing effects on the men who have experienced so much carnage and loss. It’s not always easy to watch, but damn is it powerful. And we still haven’t gotten to Iwo Jima. Hoooo boy . . . .

3. “Survivor” (CBS). I haven’t watch it regularly for years, and I thought this season would fall apart after Boston Rob was ousted, but these past few episodes have been fantastic, with tons of strategy, scheming and slow-motion train wrecks (I’m looking at you, J.T.). This week’s shifting alliances combined with my burning desire to see Russell voted out made for a pretty compelling, tense episode.

Honorable mention

“Party Down” (Starz) came back strong. Pretty much everything out of Roman and Ron’s mouth is comic gold. “Amazing Race” (CBS) had a good episode, and it dawned on me halfway through that the cowboys, Jet & Cord, are becoming possibly my favorite racers of all time. They’re so humble, cool under fire and appropriately appreciative of their experience that they’re approaching Kris & Jon territory.

Lowlights

Rufus and Lily, dumb enough for each other. (The CW photo)

1. “Gossip Girl” (The CW). This show has officially jumped off the rails. The Jenny subplot? Stupid and annoying (Though Willa had the best line: “Who is that slut?” Totally! Right?). The Dan and Vanessa subplot? Stupid and predictable and I just don’t care. But the Lily-with-cancer subplot? So absolutely, mind-blowingly stupid that it’s insulting to viewers. Her secretive actions and lamer-than-lame excuses are so ridiculous that I don’t even know where to start, I’m just sputtering in disbelief. (BTW, for a Doctors Without Borders guy, Dr. Van der Woodsen is sure a d-bag. And what’s he doing setting up shop in swanky Santorini anyway? Shouldn’t he be off in Darfur or something?) My old roommate used to have a Labradoodle that was smarter than Rufus, Lily and Serena all put together, and that was the dumbest dog I’ve ever met. Sigh, I’ve come this far, so I’ll watch the last few episodes, but after that I might be done with this show.

2. “Top Chef Masters” (Bravo). This season is weak. Case in point: This week, one chef advanced to the final round for winning a fruit salad Quickfire. Sorry, but for this show, you need to show more than a nice fruit salad. I was also bugged by Susur Lee’s highest-ever score, when the judges – unless I missed something – never even mentioned how it tasted. They knocked the extraneous pineapple and the too-spicy chutney, but for a dish that was apparently so extraordinarily delicious, a few comments describing the flavor would have been nice. The editing really failed there. (For that matter, we didn’t get a lot on insight into how he made the dish either. They seem to be instead focusing on personalities this season.) But the real lowlight was Bravo’s teaser commercial about 40 minutes in for next week’s show that blatantly showed this week’s winner, who hadn’t been announced yet. Way to spoil it for viewers.

3. “American Idol” running long. Again. That caused “Glee” to start late and get its ending cut off on millions of DVRs and VCRs across the country. Again. Come on, “Idol.” You’ve had nine seasons to figure out the show’s pacing and timing. Get it right and don’t screw it up for other shows.

Looking forward to . . .

1. “Friday Night Lights” (8 p.m. Friday, May 7, NBC). The looooong-awaited fourth season is about to start. Well, it aired on DirecTV over the winter, but few people were able to see that. Can’t wait to see how Coach Taylor handles things at East Dillon. I love, love, love this series. Watch it.

2. “Lost” (9 p.m. Tuesday, ABC). After an inexplicable week off, the castaways are back. Jack and Locke square off this week in an episode titled “The Candidate,” which you would think will clear up a few questions we have about the candidates. With only a handful of episodes left (three, plus the two-hour finale), I’m expecting the action to start coming fast and furiously.

3. “Saturday Night Live” (11:30 p.m. Saturday, May 8, NBC). Betty White is hosting, thanks to a grassroots Internet campaign. Count me in.