Firefly Fridays – Episode 13: “Heart of Gold”

The last of the unaired episodes, but not the last produced. Weirdly, it contains the most scenes in the shooting script that were cut from the episode of any episode I’ve seen while following along on this re-watch, and some of them are pretty solid, though unnecessary to the plot. I’ve picked two to mention in the review summary, though I can’t find videos of them online and don’t have my copy of the DVD box set (and don’t remember them being on there).

SUMMARY

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The episode starts at the Heart of Gold brothel in the middle of what appears to be a wasteland. A group of thugs approach on horseback, followed by their leader in a hovercraft. They’re met by Nandi (Melinda Clarke), the madam. The leader, Rance Burgess (Fredric Lehne), says he’s come for what is his. Nandi states that Burgess isn’t welcome, but he ignores her and tells his men to find a girl inside. Nandi says the girl is gone, but Rance’s men drag a girl named Petaline (Tracy Ryan) out of the brothel. Rance says she’s carrying his baby, which Petaline denies. Rance takes a DNA sample and promises to take the baby back, even if he has to cut it out of her, before departing. Nandi tells the other girls that she’s going to call in some help. They state that nobody would help them against Rance.

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First, distract target. Next, block his blind jab, counter with cross to jaw.

Inara approaches Mal in the dining room as he’s cleaning his guns, spooking him in a hilarious manner that I cannot convey properly in words. The closest I have is shocklarious. They talk briefly, with Inara accidentally calling Mal a “petty crook” again, irking him. Wash enters, telling the pair there’s an emergency call, but it’s for Inara.

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Lotta guns, there, Mal.

Inara tells Nandi that she’s confident the crew will help her. Nandi mentions that Inara was ordered by her Companion Guild House to shun her after Nandi left, but Inara says that she never cared about that. Nandi thanks her and signs off. Mal, who was eavesdropping, tells her that it sounds like the Companions on the planet need help, but Inara responds that they’re whores. Mal questions her use of the term, but Inara says that it’s the truth, because they’re independent of the government system. Mal agrees to help out of principle, but Inara tells him that he’s going to be paid, because she wants to keep it professional. This clearly hurts Mal, but he still agrees.

Everyone seems on board with helping except Jayne, who comes around instantly when he finds out that they’d be helping prostitutes. At the whorehouse, Inara introduces Mal to Nandi, who seems to deduce that Mal has a crush on Inara from the way he verbally jabs at her. Jayne immediately enters and starts asking about getting “sexed,” which Mal finds repugnant.

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Jayne is not what you would call “subtle.”

In the shooting script, there’s an additional scene where, after being told that Jayne is great in a fight, Nandi tells one of the girls to show Jayne what a “Palestinian Somersault” is. Much like Jayne, I was confused as to what a “Palestinian Somersault” is, so I checked online and found no definition of this term, even on Urban Dictionary, so I can only assume it’s an act so perverted that humans won’t figure it out for centuries and that couldn’t be referenced on network TV. Either way, Jayne seems excited.

Zoë, Mal, Inara, and Nandi go off to discuss business, leaving the rest of the crew in the bordello. Simon goes to tend to Petaline with River, while Kaylee looks at the male whores and Jayne goes off to get sexed. Wash asks Kaylee if she would actually sleep with a prostitute and Kaylee responds that it’s not like anyone else wants her. Two girls approach Book, which he immediately rejects, but it’s revealed they just want a prayer meeting. Kaylee, seeing this, remarks that everyone has someone, before asking Wash if she’s pretty. Wash responds with one of my favorite Wash lines in the series:

“Were I unwed, I would take you in a manly fashion.”

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“Cuz I’m pretty?” “Cuz you’re pretty.”

Such a weirdly sweet compliment.

Mal asks about the odds of Burgess being the father of Petaline’s baby. Nandi says 50:50, but also that it’s irrelevant, Petaline shouldn’t have to give her baby up. Burgess is revealed to be so wealthy that he could actually independently fund a modern city on the planet, but that he declines to so that he can continue to act like a cowboy. Basically, he owns WestWorld, but with poor people as victims instead of robots. He’s an asshole is pretty much the takeaway. Inara and Mal decide to go meet Burgess that evening at the theatre.

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Her jewelry could buy Serenity.

Mal and Inara meet Burgess in the middle of an anecdote about forcing a boy to marry a woman he slept with, because she was “clean.” Mal uses this to compliment Burgess on his “old-fashioned values” as a way to get into the conversation. Mal inspects Burgess’s laser pistol, which has an auto-targeting correct that isn’t legal for civilians. Mrs. Burgess (Sandy Mulvihill) responds that her husband doesn’t equate legality and morality, something Mal agrees with. Mal and Inara depart, with Mal telling her that his plan is now to get everyone off the moon ASAP. Burgess receives a call and tells his wife that the child is his.

Back at the bordello, Mal tells everyone that they’re going to run. Burgess has too many guns and believes he’s in the right, which means that, even if they were to beat him, he’d just come back with more men until he won. Everyone would die, eventually. Nandi calmly accepts this, then says that she’s not leaving. Mal admires this and the crew agrees to stay. Book offers to help reinforce the windows and doors while Kaylee helps secure a solid water supply for the house. Just then, Petaline goes into labor.

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Everyone prepares for the assault while Simon helps Petaline through her contractions. Much like in the last episode, everyone is dealing with the impending likelihood of death differently. Book reassures the girls that everything will be alright, Jayne accepts that people are going to die and gets laid, and Wash and Zoë discuss having children. Wash doesn’t want kids, due to their lifestyle, but Zoë does.

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His humor and piloting skills, her literally everything else: That kid will conquer the ‘Verse

Later that evening, Mal and Nandi are talking, with Nandi mentioning that Jayne is the only one sleeping with any of the girls. Mal points out that Jayne’s pretty much the only man on the ship that would, since the others are a shepherd, a married man, and Simon. Nandi points out that Mal didn’t mention himself. Mal says that he’ll get around to sex later, but Nandi says that she hasn’t seen Mal looking at any of them. Nandi brings up Inara, implying that Mal is too focused on her to consider the prostitutes. Nandi says that she’s surprised that Inara chose to leave her base planet, since she was focused on being a head priestess.

Simon, Inara, and River are helping Petaline deliver, but Simon determines that it’s going to be a long delivery, due to her not being fully dilated yet. Petaline says she knows it’s time, but the other three prepare to wait. Back in Nandi’s room, she and Mal are drinking and discussing the incident with a dulcimer that caused Nandi to leave the Companion Guild and found the brothel. Her devotion to it came from years of working hard to build it up. Mal calls her remarkable, leading to some heavy flirtation… then some really corny flirtation, then some clever flirtation, then finally some very TV-friendly but sensual fornication.

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In another deleted scene, Book gives a sermon to two prostitutes, who then try to seduce him. Book resists, laughing it off, though he does, apparently, seem to at least consider the offer for a half-second.

Burgess meets with one of the prostitutes, Chari (Kimberly McCullough), who has told him about Mal and the crew being at the brothel. Burgess jokes to his men about calling the assault off, before revealing that his forces number in the dozens. Burgess thanks Chari, before going off on a rant about a “woman’s place” and forcing her to get on her knees to “do some chores.” It’s creepy as hell.

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The next morning, Inara catches Mal leaving Nandi’s room, dressing. Mal tries to cover up, but Inara says she’s happy for them and is not concerned about who Mal sleeps with because unlike him, she’s not Puritanical. Mal seems pleased she’s okay with the situation, until Inara finally digs at him by saying that she’s disappointed in Nandi’s taste, leaving him speechless. We then see her openly crying in a corner. Mal focuses on the fight, calling Wash and Kaylee en route to Serenity, telling them to provide air cover using the ship’s engines. Inara goes to check on Petaline’s progress before Nandi finds her. Inara and Nandi communicate wordlessly, before Nandi realizes her mistake: She’d thought that Mal was in love with Inara, but she didn’t realize that Inara was also in love with Mal. She tries to apologize, but Inara says it’s okay.

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Nandi confronts Mal about not telling her that Inara had feelings for him, but Mal starts to say that he didn’t know what those feelings were, before the bad guys arrive and interrupt. Everyone seems shocked at the number of people and the quality of weapons they’ve brought. Mal calls Wash and Kaylee about air support, but the pair are ambushed by Burgess’s men. Back at Heart of Gold, the bad guys start unleashing hell, but the crew and the hookers unleash it right back.

A firefight ensues, with Burgess’s men bringing in some heavy weapon after another, which the crew deals with using their superior planning and experience. Petaline finally gives birth in the middle of the assault, while Chari lets Burgess into the building through a hidden passage. Back on Serenity, Wash and Kaylee manage to trap the mercenaries in a hallway, but it results in Wash being trapped in the engine room.

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No one nails “comically dawning on him” like Alan Tudyk.

Burgess comes into Petaline’s room to claim his son and grabs the baby. Nandi confronts him, before Inara puts a knife to his throat from behind. Burgess surrenders the child, but then elbows Inara and shoots Nandi, killing her. Mal arrives and grieves for a moment over Nandi’s body with Inara, before running off to kill Burgess. Mal kills a mercenary and steals his horse to pursue Burgess’s hovercraft. He pulls the man off the craft and pistol-whips him rather than killing him.

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Mal drags Burgess back to the Heart of Gold, where Petaline introduces him to his son before shooting him dead. The remainder of his men leave. The Heart of Gold buries Nandi, and Mal and Inara talk onboard. She says she was glad that Mal gave Nandi a night of comfort. Mal says that life’s too short not to act on your feelings, clearly about to tell her how he feels. Inara tells him that she realized from Nandi that when you have a family like the brothel, then you never want to stop being part of it. She then tells him there’s something she should have done long ago and she’s sorry she took so long to say: She’s leaving.

She walks past a stunned Mal.

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END SUMMARY

Well, this was the Mal and Inara episode that we had kind of been waiting for this entire season, except for the part where everything goes to shit.

Well, let’s look at the positives:

First, I love that Mal sees himself in Nandi. In some ways, her refusal to obey the Companion Guild rules is basically a mirror of Mal’s refusal to obey the Alliance. When Inara is describing them, Mal supplies the word “independents.” This really explains why Mal is so eager to help them, aside from his usual charitable nature, and why he bonds so quickly to Nandi. Also, Melinda Clarke’s performance is so powerful you really do find her entrancing even if she’s playing a stock character (the hooker with a heart of gold). The comparison between Mal’s position to Nandi’s is a bit problematic in the sense that this makes the Alliance Companions while the Independents are whores, but I guess that still works.

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The Heart of Gold just wants the freedom to conduct their business as they see fit, while the Companions require a large amount of training and have to obey strict rules. The problem is that the Heart of Gold has no one to turn to when things go wrong except the kindness of strangers, while Companions have a huge amount of punitive authority and legal force to keep them safe. It’s really the best metaphor for libertarianism and authoritarianism on film: Both have their positives and negatives, but in the end, they’re just about screwing people to get money. I assume communism is just a free orgy where everyone starves to death. (Okay, that’s not an accurate representation of Marxism… or really any of them, but I thought it was funny, and it’s my blog).

Rance’s moon sort of supports my theory about the planet from “Jaynestown,” although I maintain that the lack of automation is still dumb. Non-AI robots are a fine servile class, since they, you know, aren’t capable of suffering. Rance intentionally keeps the planet poor so that he can do whatever he wants with it. The episode ends the same way it eventually does for all such people: They get killed by the people they kept trying to screw over.

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Sometimes more literally than others.

Except for, maybe, “The Train Job,” this is the most Western episode of the show, since both episodes are just futuristic interpretations of Western tropes. In this case, it’s the Alamo-style last stand, but with machine guns, air support, and lasers. The part where Mal sizes up the enemy beforehand, but also kind of sees a little bit of himself in him, is also a Western tradition. He and Burgess both don’t tend to obey laws, it’s just that Mal has a seemingly higher moral code than the law, whereas Burgess has a much lower one. The problem is, they could just as easily be the other way around when measured by a different society, something that legality usually ameliorates to an extent (though, history doesn’t look kindly upon fundamental immorality, even when it was legal). This clearly impacts Inara a bit, since, as a Companion and a supporter of Unification, she tends to favor rules and laws.

Wash and Zoë talking about kids is great, especially since they take the opposite points that characters with their emotional profiles usually take. Wash, who is so open and loving, doesn’t want to bring a kid into such a crazy world, but Zoë, who is usually a stoic, wants to have a family with the man she loves. It’s a great juxtaposition that really makes me feel how much they love each other.

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My God, I love them.

Also, everything about Jayne’s interaction with the hookers is hilarious. Literally every line.

Now for the negatives:

Rance, like Womack in the last episode, is just a poorly-written villain. He’s so over-the-top that it basically extends into generic anime bad guy status. When he’s been beaten at the end, he’s still demanding the obedience of the people present, showing no recognition of his position. His statements on the position of women and the “correct behavior of whores” would be backwards in the 1950s, let alone the 2500s. I couldn’t believe anyone would realistically hold those positions, except that there was a guy shouting it in front of the sandwich place near my apartment the day after I finished writing this, so I had to update it. Apparently, God wanted to tell me that Rance isn’t quite as unbelievable as I thought. Still, he’s not a great villain.

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Also, he misses with an auto-targeting laser at 10 feet. Twice.

The sci-fi elements of this episode are… not good. The Heart of Gold looks awful. They justify it as “solar sheeting,” but 1) you have a much bigger surface area nearby to catch the sun and 2) you’re telling me we can’t make aesthetically pleasing solar panels 500 years from now? Also, there are other power sources that seem commonplace that would blow solar out of the water, so why have it? Rance’s hovercraft looks okay for long-distance shots, but in the close-up looks cheap. Also, it can’t outrun a horse. We have interplanetary engines everywhere, but you can’t build a hovercraft faster than a car? The laser, similarly, appears to fail when trying to shoot Mal from like 10 feet, despite having an auto-targeting system. Then, three shots later, we find out that the battery’s dead. That’s not a great weapon, future.

The battle sequence is just too long and too many quick cuts. There are some neat points, but, for the most part, the whole thing just seems to be too much of a stock battle scene to kill time.

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Though they did nail the “Alamo” feel.

Kaylee and Simon continue to be an issue… solely because they just won’t communicate, even though they do actually try a lot. I like that Jewel Staite, who is gorgeous, still portrays someone insecure about her appearance, reminding us that insecurity is not about objective beauty, but about state of mind. On the other hand, my god, just talk to the boy, you know he likes you.

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And he’s so pretty.

I hate what happens with Mal and Inara in this episode, because they basically are just driving each other apart. I realize that it was probably building up to the arc of Inara leaving and some other stuff happening that we never got, but it still feels like she and Mal are just a little too unreasonable to each other in this episode, even compared to others. It’s like watching a pair of kids who like each other acting out on the playground, they’re just hurting each other as a way to avoid confronting their feelings.

When Mal sleeps with Nandi, I can understand Inara being hurt by it, but Inara knows Mal has feelings for her, has told him she won’t sleep with him, doesn’t ever talk about her feelings with him, isn’t in a relationship with him, and she has sex with people all the time for money. She doesn’t exactly have the grounds to get THAT mad at either of them, but it really seems like if Nandi hadn’t died, this would have been a grudge. After Nandi dies, Inara does actually seem to realize what that night together meant: They both just needed someone and they were there for each other. Granted, Mal did know Inara has feelings for him, which does make it a little worse on his part, but, again, she stated she can’t be with him and he doesn’t question that until Nandi’s killed. That’s always sort of the problem with emotions, both in writing and in real life. You can logically justify your actions all you want, even to the point that you think you’re doing the right thing, but if a person you care about is hurt by it, you still feel like an asshole.

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And they look so good together.

The first time I saw this, when Inara says that she’s not Puritanical, I actually had hope that this relationship wasn’t going to run through the clichés that usually accompany this kind of situation, but instead it’s immediately undercut by her insult and breakdown. Other fans I’ve talked to thought that Inara’s crying and emotional honesty was refreshing, but I went the other way. I think it’s just playing into a trope we’ve seen too many times and, frankly, doesn’t fit into the relationship they’ve built here. Inara’s so much stronger than to be so broken by this, and portraying it as just a small wound on her that she doesn’t want to admit is there would have been better than her openly weeping for 3 minutes. Then, it ends with her realizing that if she stays with Mal, she wouldn’t leave, so… she leaves. That doesn’t really speak well for her belief in a future as Mrs. Reynolds and becomes INCREDIBLY frustrating during a scene in the next episode when she is apparently just wanting him to tell her how he feels so she can stay. HE WAS OBVIOUSLY 3 SECONDS FROM DOING THAT, INARA! If we hadn’t gotten the movie Serenity, this sh*t might have bugged me forever.

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Speaking of “Would have a super awesome baby,” though…

And, generally, I almost feel like the episode kind of takes women down a notch. Inara’s completely broken by Mal’s actions, Kaylee needs Wash to tell her she’s pretty, Mrs. Burgess appears not to be anything more than arm candy who doesn’t care that her husband abuses prostitutes, a house full of women who have sex for a living doesn’t have anyone who knows anything about pregnancy, and Chari stabs everyone in the back. Her betrayal seems even dumber because she still goes through with it after he forces her to blow him in front of his men and tells her she’s shit. I mean, damn, this really doesn’t feel as empowering as Nandi’s speech suggested the episode would be. But I might be reading too much into that.

Also, the pun in the title bugs me so much I try to suppress it every time. Yes, the phrase “Hooker with a Heart of Gold” exists and relates to Nandi and most of her girls, but it has no other meaning, so it just ends up feeling like a wink to people who are aware of the phrase. If it were just the title, I’d let it go, but they also name the brothel after it. I can almost hear the author nudging me going “Did you get it? You get it? You got it, right?” Yes, I got it, did you have something else to talk about? No? Then let’s move on.

Ultimately, this is another upside/downside episode, but it’s more downside. Some people seem to really love it, but a lot of it just rubs me the wrong way. Still, a bad episode of a great series is better than a good episode of most, so this is really only a weak episode in comparison to the rest of the series.

Next week, the only episode I’d already done when I started, but I wrote a new review just for you guys.

Score: 1 Firefly (or 1 Hovercraft)

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See you next Friday, Browncoats.

PREVIOUS – 12: The Message

NEXT – 14: Objects in Space

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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The Toxic Avenger: The Musical: The Movie – As Awesome as it Sounds

Let us take a fun trip back in time to the year 1984. Reagan got re-elected, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek made his debut, Purple Rain blew the world’s collective mind, George Orwell was proven only kinda right about his predictions, and the world was introduced to the first superhero from New Jersey, the Toxic Avenger.

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First shown in the movie that gave him his name, the Toxic Avenger was a product of Troma Entertainment, a company famous for making low-budget exploitation films. As a lifelong fan of exploitation films of almost all kinds, I consider Troma to be one of the best sources out there for schlock. However, Toxic Avenger was their magnum opus, eventually becoming the symbol for the studio. It was also their first “horror” film, rather than the raunchy comedies they’d done previously. While it tanked at the box office, it followed the The Rocky Horror Picture Show model and started being a regular midnight movie at independent theaters. The movie was famous for its dark humor and cartoonishly over-the-top-gory ultraviolence. I recommend it to everyone who likes those things.

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Hyper-violent source material, kid friendly adaptation. Ah, the 80s.

Toxic Avenger eventually got two terrible sequels, an amazing Avengers-style crossover sequel with other Troma products like Sgt. Kabukiman, a cartoon series, a video game, and a comic book by Marvel. But no one was prepared for what was coming next: The Toxic Avenger: The Musical!

Okay, you’d naturally assume this was a crazy college project or something, especially since there had already been an amateur production called “Toxic Avenger: The Musikill,” but you couldn’t be more wrong about this particular adaptation. This was made by Joe DiPietro (who wrote I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) and David Bryan (of Bon Jovi), the team that created the Tony Award-winner for Best Musical Memphis. So, after creating a long-running and highly celebrated production, this was the logical next step. And it is beautiful. The video I watched was not of the original production, but instead of the West End run. It hasn’t been performed on Broadway yet, sadly.

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By the way, you should also listen to this soundtrack.

SUMMARY

Quick note before we start: There are only 5 people in this play. One plays The Toxic Avenger, one plays his love interest, one plays his mother/a nun/the villain, and the remaining two play all the other roles.

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Pictured: 90% of the roles, 40% of the cast.

So, the musical starts with the White Dude (Oscar Conlon-Morrey) and the Black Dude (Ché Francis) dumping a bunch of toxic waste from Manhattan in the one place where no one would ever notice: New Jersey. Specifically, a town of the Jersey Turnpike called Tromaville (applause). They’re joined by a nun (Natalie Hope), who decries the state of the state, begging for someone to save them. That person appears on stage as Melvin Ferd the Third (Ben Irish), a scrawny nerd (oh dang, that rhymes). He vows to clean up Tromaville, before getting beaten up by the local bullies and meeting the one person who appreciates the beauty of New Jersey: Blind Sarah (Emma Salvo), the librarian. Oh, and all of this is to song (“Who Will Save New Jersey?”).

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Melvin attempts to woo Sarah at the library, only to get rejected after she feels his face, something even he admitted he knew was going to happen. He settles for reading the town records to find out who is dumping the toxic sludge. The two bullies show up and harass Sarah, leading Melvin to say he loves her, something she mercifully pretends didn’t happen. Melvin discovers that the town Mayor, Babs Belgoody (Hope), is behind the dumping and goes to confront her… right after her supervillain solo explaining that she’s corrupt and taking a ton of bribes to allow dumping (“Jersey Girl”). When confronted with the evidence Melvin’s gathered, the Mayor swears she’s changed and puts Melvin in charge of cleaning up the town… right before telling the bullies, who work for her, to get rid of Melvin.

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A governor taking bribes? Impossible. They take payouts only.

The pair dangle Melvin over a toxic waste dump, but one of them gets confused over being told to “let him go,” and dumps him into the vat of sludge. Sarah, walking nearby, finds the bullies next to the vat. They attempt to sexually assault her, only to be interrupted by a theatre-shaking roar that causes Sarah to feint. Melvin emerges, now transformed into the greatest superhero of the modern era, the Toxic Avenger! He quickly dispatches the pair in a grotesquely brutal manner and in a very straightforward song (“Kick Your Ass”). He then carries Sarah off.

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The Green Knight Rises.

When Sarah wakes up, Melvin tells her he’s toxic, but she thinks that’s a French name that she pronounces “Toxie.” While Melvin refuses to let her touch his face, she feels his surprisingly toned body and decides she’s super horny for him in song form (“My Big French Boyfriend”). Meanwhile, Melvin sings about how he’s terrified of what would happen if she were to find out what he really looks like (“Thank God She’s Blind”). After returning home, Melvin is discovered by his mother (Hope), who deduces literally everything that happened nonchalantly while offering to make him breakfast. She then sings about how much of a disappointment he is to her while sending him to her doctor (“Big Green Freak”). The doctor refers him to the local mad doctor, Professor Ken (Francis), who cannot cure Melvin, but tells him that the only thing that would kill him is bleach.

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Yet she still wants grandchildren. Moms, Amirite?

“Toxie” goes back to see Sarah, who tries to seduce him. Still insecure, it doesn’t really go well, until he makes literally the worst joke to make to a blind person: How did Stevie Wonder burn his hand? Fortunately, Sarah provides the punch-line (He tried to read the waffle iron) before revealing that she did actually burn herself that way. The pair then finally really connect in a beautiful duet and some tasteful non-boning (“Hot Toxic Love”). If the title of that song sounds like it was sung by Tim Curry in Fergully: The Last Rainforest, it was not. Tim Curry’s song was just “Toxic Love,” and was only hot because Tim Curry was singing it.

Melvin goes to stop the next shipment of toxic waste, confronting the Mayor and the Chief of Police (Francis). The Mayor tells him that she’s going to get rid of him, however, a passing folk singer (Conlon-Morrey) recounts that, as the Toxic Avenger, Melvin quickly becomes a hero to the community, despite the number of times he decapitated and dismembered the bad people (“The Legend of the Toxic Avenger”).

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The Mayor goes to Professor Ken to find out how to get rid of the Toxic Avenger, but Ken refuses… right up until the Mayor offers him sex (“Evil is Hot”). No one blames him. Meanwhile, Melvin’s mother is at the salon with her two stylists, Lorenzo and Lamas, who tell her that the Mayor, revealed to be her oldest enemy, is coming to see her. The Mayor arrives, and what is without a doubt the most impressive performance not only in this musical but also in almost any musical begins. You have to remember that the Mayor and Mother Ferd are both played by the same actress, who now performs both sides of a duet using quick changes and singing in two very distinct voices (“Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore”). Also, the song is pretty damned awesome. Finally, it caps off by having Hope come out dressed as both characters and sing against herself. It reminds me of “Confrontation” from Jekyll and Hyde, but somehow more impressive as a performance, if not as a song.

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I genuinely think they did this just so the audience really understood it was one actress.

Back at Sarah’s place, Sarah has finally finished writing her memoirs and she utters a prayer in song to the highest power she can: Oprah Winfrey (“Choose Me, Oprah!”). She attempts again to seduce “Toxie,” but he still refuses to let her touch his face. The Mayor declares martial law to catch Melvin and breaks into Sarah’s apartment. She tells Sarah that “Toxie” is actually a horrible mutant who has killed multiple people. After the Mayor leaves, Melvin returns and confirms it to be true, but Sarah tells him it’s okay. He finally tells her his secret identity and lets her touch his face, believing her to love him for who he is inside. However, she immediately tells him they need to see other handicapped people.

Melvin, now broken emotionally, goes on an angry rampage in song form (“Everybody Dies!”). However, during this he ends up killing a seemingly harmless old woman for polluting rather than recycling. Don’t f*ck with Captain Planet from Jersey, kids. However, he finally regrets what he’s done and pines for Sarah (“You Tore My Heart Out”). At a café which is named after the musical Hamilton, Sarah is sad about Melvin, but can’t think about taking him back. Melvin’s mother arrives and tells Sarah that she needs to go ahead and accept Melvin for who he is. After all, as they sing, all men are freaks (“All Men Are Freaks”).

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All Men are Freaks, especially the freaky ones.

The Mayor beseeches Tromaville to join together and get rid of Melvin via lynch mob consisting of comically incompetent and mildly inconvenienced townsfolk (“The Chase”). This contains a very Scooby-Doo hallway-esque vibe with people coming off and on stage in ridiculous states. Also, Sarah trips at one point and the entire show stops to attempt to help her get her white cane (the blind walking stick thing), including several bits of what appear to be improv, because they end up sending the cast into fits of seemingly genuine laughter. The Folk Singer even comes out at one point to turn it into another ballad before being silenced by the Mayor. The Mayor and the townspeople eventually catch up with the Toxic Avenger and the Mayor prepares to shoot him with a Super Soaker filled with bleach. Sarah arrives, however, and tells everyone that the old woman Melvin killed was actually a child sex-trafficker who downloaded songs illegally (being a musical, the latter is treated more seriously). Sarah then tries to shoot the Mayor, but, being blind, only shoots the citizens. She finally hits the Mayor, who tries to overact her demise until being executed by the band.

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A blind woman with a gun and a politician motivating murder. Yep, it’s New Jersey in the 80s.

However, the Mayor managed to hit the Toxic Avenger with a shot of bleach, leaving him dying on the ground. Sarah tries to revive him with the Power of Love, but that’s just an 80s song, so it doesn’t do anything. Professor Ken tells her that the only thing that can save him would be the most disgusting liquid on the face of the Earth. Mother Ferd promptly arrives with a glass of water from the Thames in London (the show’s at the West End, originally it was from the Hudson). The Toxic Avenger is revived, punching Sarah in the face by accident, then agreeing to marry her. Toxie recounts that, during his death, he was visited by a higher power, who told him to meet with every politician on Earth and tell them to stop polluting the planet or else murder them violently. The play then skips forward to the next election year where candidate Toxie Ferd the Third wins the governorship of New Jersey under his platform of “be kind and be green or else I will murder you.” He’s accompanied by Sarah and his blind, green baby, who reveal that they’ve moved all toxic waste to Vermont. (“Brand New Day in New Jersey”).

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The new Green Party.

END SUMMARY

It’s true that musical adaptations of films have become much more prolific in the last few decades, they’re usually something that had musical aspects in the original or were at least popular films. Sure, cult classic adaptations like Evil Dead: The Musical exist and are amazing, but those usually are made by relative amateurs. This was written by two guys who won three Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Score.

And it is amazing.

It’s not possible to convey in a review, but the songs in this are all solid and hilarious. My personal favorite song has to be “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore,” but it’s hard to be objective when you’re watching someone really nail a solo duet. They’re all comedy gold. The production looks cheap, to be sure, but that seems to be intentional as it really is in line with the source material. The actors break the fourth wall all the time, but I don’t know if there is even supposed to be a fourth wall in a musical production. They regularly interact with and respond to the audience, sometimes in planned ways and sometimes as spontaneous reactions. There’s a lot of slapstick versions of the gory antics of the original film as well.

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Please do a Sgt. Kabukiman musical.

Look, this isn’t an epic musical like Wicked or Phantom, but it wasn’t supposed to be. They even mock both of those within the show. This is just a fun time bringing back memories of a classic B-movie, but if you haven’t seen the original, this still works great. You can watch it here on Broadway HD, which I think lets you have free trials. Or you can stream the original film on Amazon Prime right now.  Enjoy.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Rick and Mondays – S1 E3 “Anatomy Park”

Welcome to the third episode. Out of all the episodes, this one is third-est. It also counts as the Rick and Morty Christmas episode, I guess.

SUMMARY

So, the episode starts with Jerry getting into the spirit of the season by singing “Last King Christmas,” a version of “Good King Wenceslas” designed for morons. As such, Jerry sings it well. He comes out of the kitchen with a ham to find that his family are all on their electronic devices, something that annoys him as he wants everyone to be a family for his parents, who apparently haven’t visited in years for some reason. It’s implied that Beth doesn’t like them, but it seems weird that they don’t show up for years at a time when they have grandchildren there.

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The spirit of the season

Jerry tries to get his family to celebrate a “human holiday,” but gets ignored until he takes all of their devices. Rick enters, accompanied by a senile, drunken, homeless man dressed as Santa Claus, who Rick introduces as Ruben Ridley (Jess Harnell). Rick says that every year he checks up on Ruben and gives him a medical evaluation, eliciting responses of admiration and suspicion from Beth and Jerry, respectively. Rick takes Ruben into the garage as Jerry’s parents arrive, followed by a young man named Jacob (Echo Kellum).

Jerry’s mother, Joyce (Pat Lentz), explains that Jacob came into their lives after his father, Leonard (Dana “Wait, Dana Carvey? Holy shit, Dana Carvey” Carvey), had a heart attack. She says that the three of them are learning to “live again.” Jacob, unfailingly polite and upbeat, quickly charms most of the family, aside from a still-confused Jerry.

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Guess who’s coming to dinner? And also banging your mom?

Rick re-enters and grabs Morty. In the lab, Ruben is dying on the table, so Rick shrinks Morty down and sends him inside Ruben, where Morty finds himself at the entrance to Anatomy Park, a theme park in Ruben’s body. Rick explains that it’s a business venture he’s been planning in order to earn some sciencin’ money. At first it just appears to be mostly Disneyland-esque rides, including Rick’s problematic personal passion project Pirates of the Pancreas. Yeah, that’s alliteration.

Morty heads to Ruben’s liver, where he’s ambushed by Poncho (Gary Anthony Williams), the park’s head of security, and introduced to: Roger (Jess Harnell), a zookeeper; Annie (Jackie Buscarino), a churro-stand worker; and Dr. Xenon Bloom (John Oliver), who appears to be a sentient amoebic alien from the UK that runs the park. Bloom reveals that Anatomy Park is a collection of the world’s deadliest diseases, which are now running rampant throughout Ruben’s body. Also, they’re monsters, rather than, say, what any disease actually looks like, because that would be boring. The group is attacked by Hepatitis A.

S1E3MortyMeetsTheTeam

Back at the house, the rest of the family is at dinner, where Jerry finally inquires about exactly what relationship Jacob has to his parents. Jacob is revealed to be Joyce’s lover, whom Leonard enjoys watching have sex with his wife, typically while dressed as Superman. Beth is supportive of this, while Jerry is horrified. Summer, still mad at not having her phone, feels some serious Schadenfreude at Jerry’s pain.

Inside Ruben, the group escapes from Hep A, finding themselves in the lungs, which aren’t producing enough air for Ruben’s brain, which apparently shuts down security. Whether this is because the security team lives in Ruben’s brain and are now dead or if Ruben’s brain actually IS the security system is frustratingly never answered. They’re joined by Alexander (Rob Schrab), who is a dog mascot for the park. Morty, trying to impress Annie, climbs up the alveoli in the lungs to check for blockage, but soon finds that there is a swarm of tuberculosis attacking them. During the attack, Poncho shoots Ruben’s lungs, causing him to cough. The team tries to evacuate the lungs, but Alexander is killed when Ruben takes a deep breath, with his corpse being coughed onto Rick’s forehead. Morty tells Rick that Ruben has TB, which Rick says he can cure, before Ruben suddenly dies.

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Somehow, I feel this isn’t the first time Rick has had a corpse spit on him.

Rick, apparently unable to cure death, tells the group they need to quickly get out of Ruben, before telling Morty to check out Pirates of the Pancreas, because the pirates are realistic and “really rapey.” The group tries to make its way out of the park through the digestive tract to the colon, where there is an emergency enlarging ray. Morty leads the team while still trying to hit on Annie and failing. They board the “It’s A Small, Small Intestine” ride, which is a parody of exactly what you think it is. They then get attacked by Gonorrhea, which is actually less horrifying than the singing dolls. Morty realizes that they’re surrounded by explosive gas and has Poncho ignite it, killing Gonorrhea. This finally gets Annie to really notice Morty.

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I’m so curious about Tummy Fillers! Do they sell food or taxidermy supplies?

Back in the house, the family is in a drum circle having a great time, except for Jerry who is still upset about Jacob. Beth even apologizes to Jerry and tries to get him into the holiday. Ethan (Daniel Benson), Summer’s secret boyfriend shows up, complaining that she hasn’t texted him in a few hours. Ethan snaps at Summer, not really listening to the situation, before Jerry asks if this is her boyfriend. Jacob remarks that Jerry really needs to connect more with his family.

In Ruben’s colon, the group arrives at the enlarging ray. Roger tries to power it up before the sphincter dam breaks and floods the colon with crap, but Morty notices a strange object in Poncho’s backpack. It’s revealed that Poncho has been stealing exhibits of Bubonic Plague to sell as bioweapons. Morty attacks him, allowing Bubonic Plague to get free and bite Poncho, resulting in his death. Then, the dam starts to burst. Roger gets caught trying to flee and ends up killed by the wave of shit.

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It happens.

Inside the living room, Jacob confronts Ethan over his anger, which is revealed to come from being molested by his brother. This emotional revelation is quickly parlayed by Jacob into personal growth for Ethan, which leads to he and Summer proclaiming their love and making out. Jacob and Joyce start making out while Leonard goes into a closet to reveal his Superman outfit. Jerry shouts that he hates this, but everyone else in the house seems to be on-board. Jerry then proclaims that he hates Christmas and leaves for the garage.

At the Anatomy Park theater, Morty and Annie are rounding first base, with Annie giving him the go-ahead to round second, while Dr. Bloom eats ice cream and watches an animatronic Ruben introduce himself. In the garage, Jerry apologizes to Rick for judging him as a crazy relative, which gives Rick an idea. He tells Morty to get to Ruben’s left nipple to get out. Dr. Bloom says that to get there, they need to ride The Bone Train, a monorail system attached to Ruben’s skeleton. Rick grabs a scalpel, Ruben’s corpse, and some dynamite and gets in the car, flying to space. Morty’s group is pursued by E. Coli. Dr. Bloom sacrifices himself to start The Bone Train before realizing there is an autopilot that renders his sacrifice stupid. Morty defends Annie with a fire extinguisher from the legions of E. Coli.

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Oddly, E. Coli is a bacteria, but these look like viruses.

Rick flies Ruben to outer space and enlarges him to gigantic proportions. Newspeople all over the US report, with a fair amount of professional calm, about the giant man floating over America, though they do speculate about the size of Ruben’s penis over the Rocky Mountains. As Annie and Morty get to the end of the track and find the nipple, they are attacked by Hepatitis A again, before Hep A is dispatched by the larger Hepatitis C. The pair exit the nipple hole and are rescued by Rick, who dynamites Ruben’s corpse.

At the Smith house, the family is lamenting Jerry’s attitude when it starts to rain blood. Everyone panics until Jerry comes in with screens for them all, telling them that the media says not to worry. Jerry says they all learned something this Christmas, which Summer immediately denies. In the garage, Rick laments Dr. Bloom’s passing until Annie says that she could create a new Anatomy Park, leading him to shrink her again. Morty complains that Rick took Annie away, but Rick tells him Annie had a puffy vagina. The pair re-enter the house to find everyone on a screen, leading Rick to call them out for not paying attention to the holiday. In the post-credits scene, Rick is building a new Anatomy Park in Ethan, but finds that they are not going to include Pirates of the Pancreas, leading Rick to get pissed off and seemingly quit the project.

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END SUMMARY

Okay, so, this episode is reference-heavy, even by Rick and Morty standards. So, let’s go through some of them.

JOKER’S “DID YOU GET THAT?” REFERENCE CORNER

First, Anatomy Park is a combination of Jurassic Park, Fantastic Voyage, and Disneyland. It’s actually probably closer to the park seen in Jurassic World than in the first Jurassic Park film, since the original park was more akin to a nature safari designed to show off the zoo, whereas there are actually rides and shows in the new park… prior to it getting destroyed. The whole shrinking and entering a body thing is from a lot of sources, but I think the idea of going into a body to fix a problem is most associated with Fantastic Voyage. The Jurassic Park thing is made pretty explicit. Xenon Bloom is clearly designed to look like John Hammond, down to the cane with what appears to be a fetus trapped in amber. Hepatitis A being caught in mid-attack by Heptatitis C who somehow wasn’t noticed until this point is a reference to the T-Rex eating the velociraptor at the end of the original film. Hep C then gives a thumbs-up to Morty and Annie, with Morty asking if they had any relationship with him, to which Annie says “I think they’re just like that.” This seems to be a reference to the fact that T-Rexes often save the heroes during the Jurassic Park films. At one point, Dr. Bloom tells the group that Gonorrhea can’t see them if they don’t move, but then admits he was thinking of a T-Rex, which is about as direct a reference as it gets.

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Haven’t seen Jurassic World 2 yet, but I hope this part is in it.

According to the Rick and Morty wiki, Xenon Bloom’s name is a play on Jeff Goldblum, but with another element in place of gold. I also have seen people speculating that Xenon was chosen based on the fact that it can be used in anesthetics and neuroprotectives, referencing both Bloom’s boring nature and the fact that he works to keep Ruben alive. I myself first thought it was a joke in that Xenon is a noble gas that reacts to basically nothing, while Bloom panics constantly and seeks validation for jokes throughout the episode. However, I now realize that his name is a reference to the Disney Channel film Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, a sci-fi movie which featured the musician Proto Zoa and the band Microbe. This is clearly the intention of the writers and will hear no other explanation. The spelling difference is clearly for legal reasons.

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Cetus Lapetus, this is the greatest reference ever.

There’s also apparently a theory going around that Leopold, Jacob, and Joyce’s relationship is a reference to Ulysses, where Leopold Bloom is cuckolded by his wife, but literally nothing about this matches up except that Leopold is the husband’s name in both, and Joyce sounds like James Joyce, the author of the book. The relationship is completely unrelated to the one in the book, so I’m gonna just say it’s coincidence or the leftovers from a planned reference. Maybe they’ll even use it as one in the future, but it ain’t one here.

LEAVING THE CORNER

So, this isn’t my favorite episode of Rick and Morty, but it’s hard to articulate why. I guess I should say that I think the jokes in this episode are just too easy for a show of Rick and Morty’s caliber. The premise is funny, but it isn’t quite the level of subversion that we usually get from the show. Instead, it’s just “what if Jurassic Park were filled with diseases” and nothing else. Usually, this is the kind of thing that the show would use to show a different angle on the premise.

I also don’t think the jokes quite land as hard as other episodes, pretty much summarized with Bloom’s line “The digestive tract is the evacuation route. Get it?” He has several things like that where he’s attempting to do bad comedy, with Morty even asking him why he’s doing a bit while they’re going to die. Now, don’t get me wrong, this could have been hilarious and, in fact, probably should have been, but it just didn’t ever quite land for me. This is despite the fact that they cast John Oliver, who is a comedian you can absolutely envision saying “I made a joke. Did you get the joke? Oh god, why didn’t you get the joke. I shouldn’t do this. I shouldn’t have been a comedian. I should have been a haberdasher like my mother told me to.” Usually, I’d totally find that funny, but it never quite goes far enough out of the scene to really hit absurd.

S1E3JohnOliver
Perfect casting.

Another joke that usually should have been the gateway to hilarity is Poncho’s rant, but, again, it just felt too easy of a joke. He says he could have sold the Bubonic Plague to “Al Quaeda. North Korea. Republicans! Shriners! Balding men that work out! People on the Internet that are only turned on by cartoons of Japanese teenagers!” I mean, this is just a list of people who society points out are angry bastards. This could be on any show. The humor in Rick and Morty is usually more distinct. It almost seems to get there when Poncho starts to say that it’s all because Bloom gave him an iTunes gift card as a holiday bonus, but that gets cut-off by Morty attacking him. Oh, and Bubonic Plague still exists in the real world, so that’s a stupid thing to try to sell. Could you not find smallpox?

S1E3Poncho.png

Morty’s assertiveness in this episode is a little out of character, even for when Morty is trying to get laid. Usually Rick has to goad him more or pull him along, but since Rick isn’t in most of the episode, the show naturally has to give Morty more to do to move the plot along.

Also, and this one is weird, Rick’s role in the episode bothers me. First, Rick creating a theme park to make money is odd, because I have never understood why exactly Rick seems to constantly need money. He’s the smartest person in the universe, he routinely makes technology that crosses from science-fiction into fantasy, and yet we constantly see him doing things that suggest he’s broke. I honestly think it’s a play on the idea that engineers can’t do marketing as they think it’s pointless, so they can’t sell the great things they make. It also would explain why Jerry is in advertising, since, to Rick, that would be the most useless thing in the universe. Second, when Morty tells Rick that it’s TB, Rick just pulls a needle out of his own coat to inject Ruben, as if he has a TB cure on him. This is the kind of thing where Rick would normally lampshade that they’re on a TV show and that’s why he magically has a cure he couldn’t have used a few minutes ago, but it just plays it straight. Third, why the hell can’t Rick cure death? I know this is early on in the show, but I still find it weird when Rick says he “can’t” do something, since he literally lives to do things that are impossible. And he doesn’t even try to save Ruben by normal methods, let alone his superscience.

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He turned himself into a pickle, for goodness’ sake.

On the other side is the B-plot with the Smith family. This is actually the kind of subversion we usually want out of the show, because it’s taking the typical Christmas show message about the importance of family and instead making it about Jerry being freaked out by his mom and dad’s unorthodox sex life until Jerry finally gives everyone back their devices and allows them to ignore each other. Especially since the family is almost immediately on-board with the human holiday once Jerry’s parents are there, meaning that they learned the lesson from a typical Xmas movie, then immediately unlearn it.

I’m also going to say that I found it difficult to research parts of this episode because I ended up seeing the word “cuck” a lot, and I actually had to agree that this is a rare example of the word actually applying. Jerry’s dad Leopold enjoys watching his wife cuckold him, so he is, according to Urban Dictionary, a “cuck.” So, Jerry’s a “Beta Male” who is the son of a “cuck.” Add in that Ethan was molested by his brother (something that is literally just glossed over in an almost careless way) and I’d be shocked if this episode wasn’t listed on the Red Pill Reddit page as proof of the de-virilization of the media. But I wouldn’t even check for less than $200. Also, do NOT Google Image Search the word “cuck” with SafeSearch off.

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Ultimately, this episode just seems like the crew hadn’t yet hit their stride on the show. Still, it’s got some fun moments in it. I definitely love the moment when Bloom says “Never mind, I wanted to sacrifice myself anyway” after finding out that it was needless and the premise is actually still pretty awesome. But, it definitely got better after this.

Overall, I give this episode a

D

on the Rick and Morty scale.

Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.

PREVIOUS – 2: Lawnmower Dog

NEXT – 4: M. Night Shaym-aliens!

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Firefly Fridays – Episode 12: “The Message”

Once again, I don’t have to go through the history of how this aired, because it didn’t. What I can say is that this episode is the only one filmed after Firefly was cancelled, because they axed the show the day after filming began.

SUMMARY

The episode starts in a carnival side show in a space station bazaar, where Simon takes Kaylee to see the “irrefutable proof of alien life,” which Simon immediately points out is just an upside-down cow fetus. Kaylee tries to flirt a little, but Simon naturally shoves his foot deep down his throat to the point of kneeing himself in the uvula. I hope this isn’t a new lesson for anyone, but don’t ever describe your date as “the only option.” It doesn’t end well here or in real life. Kaylee leaves in what is described as a “huff,” and Wash and Zoë show up to mock both Simon and the “alien.”

FireflyEp12CowFetus
Intelligent life? If you’re so smart, why are you in a jar?

Mal and Inara walk through the bazaar, with Mal revealing that he’s been unable to fence the Lassiter since stealing it in the last episode. The gun is just too famous to sell, since no one can display it and everyone knows it’s stolen. Inara offers to help find a buyer, but Mal insists that she stay out of crime. Mal goes to pick up the ship’s mail and is joined by Book, River, and Jayne. Mal receives a package addressed to him and Zoë, while Jayne receives a package from his mom. Jayne’s package is a sweet letter and the greatest hat not worn by Indiana Jones. Zoë and Mal open the package they received to find a corpse inside.

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Flashback to 7 years previously, during the war, where Zoë saves a youth named Tracey (Jonathan M. Woodward) from being killed while he eats. She lectures him on stealth, only for Mal to comically defy her teachings by running into the base screaming and firing wildly. Mal, in his typical style, jokes about wanting Tracey’s beans as he reveals that the Alliance is about to roll through with “every damn thing.” The lieutenant in charge is now suffering from trauma and delusional, so Mal gives the command to retreat and regroup. Tracey declares that it isn’t worth dying for the rock they’re on, but Mal says:

“Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone’s carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn’t even know it. The trick is, die of old age before it finds you.”

A missile hits their hiding place, wounding Mal and Tracey. Mal pulls Tracey up to escape, when it cuts back to the present. Mal and Zoë are told by the mail clerk to take the body out of the bazaar. Back on Serenity, Simon offers to do an autopsy, but Mal declines. Zoë finds a tape recorder with Tracey’s last testament. Tracey apparently crossed the wrong people and expected to be killed. His last request is that Mal and Zoë, the two people who carried him through the war, will take him back to his parents to be buried. The crew agrees to help them take him back.

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Back on the station, an Alliance officer named Lieutenant Womack (Richard Burgi) interrogates and threatens the mail clerk, Amnon (Al Pugliese), about the body that was in the mail earlier. Amnon denies knowing about any body, but does say that a package big enough to house one was picked up by Mal earlier. Womack thanks him, then tells his men to light him on fire. After dousing him with lighter fluid, Womack spares him on the condition that he doesn’t warn Mal.

FireflyEp12Womack
In my next show, I’m gonna be married to Teri Hatcher.

On the ship, Jayne and Book have a conversation on mortality, with Book being solemn, but Jayne stating that death usually leads him to be active and alive. They talk about how everyone handles death differently, only to find River laying on top of the coffin. They try to move her, but she insists she’s “comfortable.”

In the Dining Room, Mal and Zoë are telling stories about Tracey, particularly one about him snipping off a senior officer’s mustache and then wearing it, when an explosion rocks the ship. Womack has caught up to Serenity. Mal’s worried that he wants the Lassiter, but Womack quickly says it’s about the crate. Mal stalls for time so they can figure out what the Alliance is looking for. A search of the crate turns up nothing, so Mal orders an autopsy. When Simon gets him on the table, he notices that Tracey has been cut open before. When he tries to cut him, Tracey wakes up, screaming.

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This is how Dead Space: Browncoat Edition starts.

Tracey attacks Simon but is quickly subdued. Tracey explains that he took a drug to simulate death in order to get away from the people he robbed. Mal asks what he stole, but Simon interrupts to tell Mal that Simon is having a medical emergency. Tracey explains that he isn’t, he’s just carrying some extra organs around. That’s what he stole. The story is that Tracey was supposed to carry an entire body-full of experimental organs to Ariel, where they would be removed and his original organs would be put in. However, he received a better offer, so he decided to take it, only to find out that his former clients killed his new buyer and are now pursuing him. He faked his death, believing that would throw them off the trail. In the meantime, he and Kaylee exchange some glances indicating that they would like to engage in some “organ donation.” That’s the worst metaphor for sex ever, but I refuse to change it.

FireflyEp7BadJoke

Womack fires another warning shot, reminding Mal that he’s nearby. Mal claims that the shot disabled the docking, so he tells Womack that they’ll have to meet on the planet below, St. Albans, where Tracey’s family lives. Kaylee hides Tracey in her bunk, where they clearly show further attraction. The two ships enter atmosphere, but Mal tells Wash not to land. Book notes that Womack didn’t contact the local Alliance authorities when he entered atmosphere, and Wash pilots the ship into some tight canyons, making it difficult for the Alliance ship to follow. In response, Womack’s ship just goes higher, something that Wash somehow didn’t consider.

Womack begins firing at Serenity, but Wash manages to keep her safe. Wash hides the ship in a tunnel, but the Alliance drops explosives to triangulate their position. They appear to be sunk when Book says he knows another way, but it’ll require letting the Alliance board. Mal eventually agrees, trusting Book. Tracey overhears this, however, and pulls a gun on the crew, telling them that they have to run. When Mal tells Wash to radio anyway, Tracy fires at the radio and the ricochet wings Wash, but Zoë uses the opportunity to shoot Tracey in the chest. Wounded, but still very much alive, Tracey takes Kaylee hostage.

FireflyEp12KayleeHostage.png

Mal confronts Tracey, pointing out that Tracey brought all of this on himself. Tracey accuses Mal of being hypocritical, but Mal says that he’s never killed someone who was trying to help him. Tracey mocks Mal and Zoë for their code of honor. The bombing stops, signaling that Wash has told Womack they’re surrendering. Jayne sneaks up behind Tracey and distracts him, resulting in Kaylee getting free and Mal shooting Tracey in the chest again. This time, he’s not going to make it. Mal tells Tracey that Tracey killed himself, Mal just carried the bullet.

Womack boards and finds a dying Tracey. Womack threatens the crew with arrest, but Book appears and tells Womack that he’s aware that Womack isn’t in his jurisdiction. In fact, Womack is quite a distance from his jurisdiction just to avoid any risk of being found out for his illegal activities. So, Book reasons, there’s no reason the Alliance will notice if the crew kills them all. Womack, realizing he’s cornered, backs down and leaves, insulting Jayne’s hat on the way because he’s an asshole.

FireflyEp12Book

Tracey realizes that Mal had planned to save him all along, meaning he’s literally dying from his own stupidity. Tracey asks Mal and Zoë to take him home like he’d originally asked them, so his parents can bury him, before passing away. The crew brings his body to his family, where Kaylee hands them Tracey’s last testament, ending with the line:

“When you can’t run anymore, you crawl, and when you can’t do that, well, yeah, you know the rest…”

Mal remembers how the phrase goes… when you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.

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END SUMMARY

Well, this was the last episode filmed, and the last scene filmed was turning over the body of Tracey to his parents. In some ways, that’s pretty fitting, since it’s a somber moment signifying the wasted potential of someone killed through greed and stupidity. The only difference is that Tracey was killed by his own stupidity, whereas Firefly was killed by someone else’s… and also the tendency for the American viewing audience to not want to watch network stuff on Friday night.

The first thing about this episode is that it solidifies the “alien” question within series, establishing that humanity has not yet found life on other planets. The closest we have is the Reavers, which are just mutant humans. Granted, when you consider that we only inhabit like 5-6 solar systems at this point (per the Map of the ‘Verse) and there are 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone, it’s not like we’ve looked that far. However, I love the reveal that a mutant cow fetus, the same thing people used in sideshows for years to fake as monsters, is still being used on people 500 years in the future. I also love that Simon immediately gets pissed that he’s been scammed, whereas Wash plays along with it because he thinks it’s fun.

FireflyEp12MapOfTheVerse

This definitely is an upside/downside episode, for me. Let’s start with the upsides: Jayne’s hat is amazing, and I love it, and I would never wear it in a million years, but it brings out an entirely new side of Jayne in such a short period. Really, adding the details that he’s providing for his family who loves him adds a nice level to the character, especially since we tend to think of the tough guy types like him to be orphans or loners. Instead, it turns out Jayne’s kind of a mama’s boy and, well, it works for the character.

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The scenes of Mal and Zoë remembering Tracey, either in flashback or in the dining room, really flesh out some of the Unification War’s story, even though they’re short. It’s a lot of show-don’t-tell about how rough the war was and what kind of people were fighting it. It also makes it clear that not every Browncoat really was fighting on principle, some of them were just people who picked a side based on convenience or heritage, like happens in every war. It’s a level of simple reality added to a nebulous background event that makes it more tangible.

Showing how the crew reacts to death makes for a very good series of character moments, from Simon’s clinical detachment to Book’s quiet contemplation to Kaylee’s sentimentality to Mal and Zoë’s fond remembrances, it really kind of shows how they all deal with mortality. River, on the other hand, can hear his dreams of his family, and probably lays on the coffin to listen to the happy thoughts and feelings coming out of his head.

FireflyEp12RiverCoffin
Or she’s entering her Goth phase.

The ending is so well done that it still makes me cry a little. It doesn’t surprise me that Kaylee had a crush on Tracey just from hearing his message, because it’s a powerful message whose meaning changes a little every time we hear it, ranging from sounding like a foolish kid admitting that made bad choices to sounding like a manipulative scumbag. But it’s always the same recording, only the context changes, and that’s such a great device for an episode to use. The last playing, however, is a man regretting what he did to the people he should have treated better. Luckily, Mal and Zoë are the better people and, when Tracey couldn’t crawl, they carried him home. The score to this is possibly the best in the series.

Kaylee’s crush on Tracey also gives her a little bit of a chance to show that she isn’t blindly hung up on Simon. However, ultimately, Tracey betrays that trust. Simon wouldn’t. That’s why he eventually gets to sleep with her… in a few months (or years, in reality).

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This was a really sweet moment.

And that’s a good segue to the downsides, because the Simon/Kaylee thing is only 12 episodes old and it’s starting to get repetitive. One of them needs to learn something. Either Simon needs to work on thinking before he speaks and emotional expression, or Kaylee needs to accept that those aren’t his strong points and Simon cares for her deeply even if he doesn’t express it right. I know that it’s the show’s “will they/won’t they” set-up, but this isn’t a sitcom, you can resolve it through character development and we won’t care as long as it’s natural. Besides, you have a better one going between Mal and Inara, where they actually have reasons not to be together that are logically justified, not farcical.

The villain in this episode is the worst, and not in the sense of “the most evil.” Womack is just barely a real threat at any point. Mal out-maneuvers him for half the episode without really having to do anything but provide lip-service, and he’s ultimately thwarted by Book just pointing out that he’s doing something illegal. Yes, the bad guy is thwarted by someone telling him they know he’s the bad guy. That’s just not a good resolution, I’m sorry. Also, his constant warning shots and waiting kind of stand in contrast to his first action of threatening to burn a man alive. I know he doesn’t want to blow up Tracey’s body, but you cannot portray someone as both ruthless and easily deterred.

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Also, after all the evasion, you walk into the ship with only 2 guys and pistols?

Tracey is too stupid to live and even the fact that he dies from it doesn’t make me feel better. Even in the flashbacks, Tracey only survives because Mal and Zoë save him from his own stupidity, and he expects that again during a deal gone wrong that was always going to go wrong. Look, the idea of finding a better buyer is a time-honored tradition among smugglers, but that idea needs to go to the wayside when you need your buyer to PUT YOUR F*CKING ORGANS BACK IN. You take the offer you have, since they have your small intestine. Then, when his new buyer is dead, he decides to go on the run, but Simon implies that the organs cannot stay in him forever (he’s only an incubator), so, how’s he going to get the organs out and get new ones that work? Then, he chooses to hold the ship hostage rather than listen to the plan, only for the plan to work perfectly. I also don’t like that Mal shoots him, because Mal doesn’t really try to explain the plan well to Tracey, which might have defused the situation. Oh, and Tracey’s accent sucks.

FireflyEp12Tracey
I’m not a fan.

The theme of the episode, that you need someone to carry on after you die, is great. Really, it’s a great idea that’s portrayed simultaneously literally and metaphorically in the episode, but the fact that I just kind of feel like Tracey was a shitwiggen, which is a word I think I made up just now, lessens any desire I have to see his memory carried. He held Kaylee hostage, for goodness’ sake, he deserves to be dumped out an airlock and a kind lie to be told to his family so they might think he was less of a f*ckbucket. I think it really does speak to the quality of the writing of the message that it still makes me empathize with him during the last scene, even though I don’t think he deserves it.

Ultimately, this episode, for me, is in the bottom-tier. It’s just so hard to recover from a bad villain and an unsympathetic emotional focus of the episode. Again, it’s not bad compared to most of television, it’s just bad compared to the good episodes of this series.

Score: 2 Fireflies (or 1 Cow Fetus in Wash’s Eyes)

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See you next Friday, Browncoats.

PREVIOUS – 11: Trash

NEXT – 13: Heart of Gold

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Reader Request: Resumes and Jamiroquai’s Dad (My Brother, My Brother, and Me)

UPDATE: LISTEN TO THE ADVENTURE ZONE. NOW!

So, most of the people who remember when radio shows first started getting adapted to television are probably dead by now, but we have the next best thing: People getting TV adaptations of their podcasts! But, unlike scripted radio shows that translated pretty naturally to television, most podcasts are just two or three people talking at each other, usually spontaneously, that have been edited to sound more coherent. Prior to this entry, I think the only adaptations I’d seen were either documentaries or semi-educational, not particularly talk-based. So, this was a very different experience. Not necessarily better or worse, just… different. It’s like watching a round-table news show, except that it’s funny, everyone knows it’s a little ridiculous, and no one is yelling about what Jesus would want to pay in taxes.

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I enjoyed the heck out of Lore, which is another podcast adaptation.

I knew of Griffin McElroy before this show started, since he’s the founder of Polygon, the gaming arm of Vox media and his name sounds like he should be a linebacker. I didn’t know anything about either of his brothers, Justin and Travis McElroy, but upon first glance I immediately know that Travis is the superior brother, because he has the beard of a Viking that died from an overworked pelvis. The fact that he has the exact tattoo I was going to get (Hylian Crest to cover a port scar) and that the opening to his profile is “Travis has killed before, and he will kill again” confirms this.

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Mancrush achieved.

The premise of the podcast, and therefore the TV show, is that the three brothers humorously answer questions that are either submitted to them by the audience or that they found on Yahoo! Answers. The main difference is that they actually have to do things in the TV show versus the podcast where they generally just have to describe doing things. They also appear to be drunk or high for most of it, but I’m beginning to believe that’s just their natural state. Not that they’re drunk or high all the time, just that a law enforcement officer would think it from their appearance. I’m sure most of you have at least one acquaintance who’s like that.

Update: Nope, pretty sure they’re really f*ckin’ high. Which works, because I am pretty drunk. And moderately handsome sober.

This is the second episode and was the one requested. I watched the first to get a feel for the series, but I didn’t feel the need to review it. It has clowns in it, and I can only stand so many clowns. “So many” being one, if it’s dying. Let’s do this.

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From Left to Right: Justin, Travis, Griffin

SUMMARY

The show starts with the disclaimer:

The McElroy brothers are not experts and their advice should never be followed. They’re just 3 brothers that created a podcast, and they’ve returned to their hometown to tape a TV show. Also, this show isn’t for kids, which I only mention so all you babies out there know how cool you are for watching. What’s up, you cool baby?

It then uses a song by “The Long Winters” as the theme, which I definitely approve of. Apparently, it’s the same theme from the podcast. Since John Roderick from the band hosts a podcast I listen to, Omnibus with him and Ken Jennings, this is even more fitting to me.

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I’m giving a lot of free promotion in this post. I’d be a very bad prostitute.

The brothers introduce themselves, reminding me once again that Travis is the best, by the way he calls himself the “Middlest” brother. I can only assume he’s just finished woodworking and preparing Lattes for an Indie Rock group, given the state of his glorious beard. They falsely introduce the show as Shark Tank, with Justin and Travis listening to Griffin’s great idea: Pornography for birds.

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Fortunately, we’re spared any details when they decide to go to the question they’ll be answering for the episode: Is it okay to lie on a resumé if you know you can do everything demanded of you?

Now, this is actually a pretty old question with a lot of arguments on both sides. None of those arguments will be made here, in favor of some wacky hijinks. Right up front, they declare that resumés are just bullshit and recount old jobs they’ve had and lost. It turns out that one of Griffin’s former employers, who fired him, is Justin’s father-in-law. Griffin says that they’d absolutely hire him back now, so Justin calls him and they all three pledge to interview for the job that Griffin lost.

Now, Justin and Travis decide to wear “business” clothes, which are fairly normal outfits. Griffin complains that he has no business clothes, so they tell him they have an outfit for him, which ends up being… well, I’m just putting the picture below, no reason to describe it.

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But no monocle. No wonder he was fired.

The three decide to “pad their resumes” by taking extremely temporary jobs, about 30 minutes each, ranging from sweeper boy to cupcake decorator to decorative bow designer. Oddly, while most of their employers say they were terrible, one of them says she would hire Travis. Again, he is the best.

The brothers then visit the office of the town mayor, Steve Williams, to ask him to be allowed to be the mayor of the town so they can put it on their resumes. All three are made Mayor for a minute, which they attempt to use to put hits on their enemies and pass such resolutions as “the state bird is abolished” and “the sister city is the moon.”

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The three join their father, Clint, a radio DJ, to get another job on their resume. Justin attempts to DJ for a minute and gets nothing right, including naming Tim McGraw “McGruff,” which, let’s be honest, would be a great duet. They could sing “Live Like You Were Dying (In Jail).”

They go to the Chief of Police to ask for a similar arrangement to the one with the Mayor, but he declines, until they ask to be the chiefs of “Safetytown” the fake roadway they use to teach driver’s ed. They divide it into three zones. Travis names his “New Duckburg” and populates it with fake Vikings because, again, he’s the best. And, to be clear, I wrote the Viking thing at the beginning before seeing this, so I feel so vindicated right now. His wife, Teresa, is there also.

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Life is like a hurricane, here in New Duckburg. Axes, Vikings, Open vests, it’s a Duck-blur.

Griffin names his portion “Chilladelphia,” and brings his wife, Rachel, and his friend Emily. He’s happy because he’s monopolized all of the “resources” in Safetytown, by claiming the water fountain, the bathrooms, and the fake gas station containing go-karts.

Justin, remembering that the episode is about getting a job from his father-in-law, names his town “Chad Pennington,” after his father-in-law’s favorite football player. He’s populated it with his in-laws.

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Travis’s Vikings quickly start raiding the other towns, mostly “Chilladelphia,” taking cars and batteries, resulting in a go-kart chase and some other shenanigans until, apparently, the police force them to stop filming due to their behavior. I don’t know if it’s real, but they say it’s not a bit and they seem serious. Either way, it ends the Safetytown segment.

It cuts back to the main set, where they go over their resumes, giving such tips as “write it on fly paper and stick it to the boss” and “put in a coupon.” Griffin then puts his resume on a scrolling LED board, which is one of the funniest sequences in the episode, including his resume skill entry “Oh Shit, this thing does other colors.”

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They go into the final interview with Justin’s father-in-law Tommy Smirl. First, Justin brings in a resume hand-written on butcher’s paper rolls and basically threatens to stop feeding his family. Travis comes in, sticks his resume on Tommy, and states that he is not at all qualified, then fails the test when Tommy offers him a beer. Griffin bribes Tommy with $6. Tommy calls in Griffin’s former supervisor Dwight, who mentions that Griffin, on his first week of employment, asked for a paid vacation to go to Bonnaroo. He leaves the electronic resume in the room as “part of the bribe” as he slinks off. None of them get the job, because the system is broken, clearly.

The three relax in a hot tub, fully clothed, while they try to remember the original question. They answer it with “people will give you any job you want if you bring a film crew.” As of this writing, I’m trying to find a new job, so this might be good advice.

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END SUMMARY

Well, it’s definitely different. It feels like a combination of scripted and unscripted, because that’s what it is. The guys aren’t that used to being on television, which is kind of obvious by the way they slightly avoid the cameras more than most TV hosts. Still, being brothers, they have a natural relatability to each other which carries through to the audience. They aren’t the funniest hosts I’ve ever seen, but they seem more real, which gives the show an earnestness even though it’s a farce.

The premise of the episode is pretty much perfect. Everyone has had to deal with resumé issues, and this just provides a fun parody of all the ridiculous ways people exaggerate it. I think the Safetytown sequence is probably the best, because pretending to be lords of tiny communities is pretty much what these guys were made for. Sad that they had to cut it short. Also, I may actually steal Griffin’s sexual-innuendo filled resumé, as I, too, am horny for teamwork.

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Or Justin’s, which has “Can Run 2 Miles Per Diem.”

I enjoyed this show. It’s not gonna win any awards, but I love the idea of just taking a prompt and running with it. It’s kind of like a Q&A Jackass. The point isn’t that they’re going to answer it, it’s just seeing the weird stream-of-consciousness stuff that they come up with going off of the idea.

I’m probably going to prefer their D&D Podcast “The Adventure Zone,” if I ever get around to listening to it (Update: NOTHING IS BETTER THAN THIS), because watching drunk people try to roleplay is usually hilarious and watching families play games is usually hilarious, so this should be some sort of exponential hilarity. The show’s on VRV and you can sign up for a free trial to avoid paying for it (VRV’s not paying for me, I don’t care if you get free content from them).

Also, Travis is the best.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Firefly Fridays – Episode 11: “Trash”

Hey, I don’t have to say anything about this episode’s airing order, because it didn’t ever air during the original run. Yay?

SUMMARY

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I considered making this all the images in this post. Really.

The episode opens with a naked Mal sitting on a rock in the desert saying “yeah, that went well.” It then flashes back to three days earlier where Mal is meeting up with a former comrade-in-arms and current smuggling buddy Monty (Franc Ross). Monty and Mal chat before Monty reveals he’s just gotten married and wants Mal to meet his wife, Bridget. When Bridget arrives, she and Mal immediately pull guns on each other, because she’s Mal’s ex-“wife” Saffron (Christina Hendricks) from “Our Mrs. Reynolds.” Monty separates the pair and Mal explains. Saffron denies Mal’s story, but accidentally (or not, she’s really clever) uses Mal’s full name, resulting in Monty abandoning her on the planet with Mal.

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HE SHAVED HIS BEARD FOR YOU, DEVIL WOMAN!!!

Saffron attempts to seduce Mal, but he rebuffs her. She begs him for a ride, saying that she’ll die if she’s left on the lifeless planet they’re on now. Mal seems less than concerned about that eventuality. Then, Saffron tells him she had a heist planned with Monty that is worth a lot of money and she’ll let Mal in on it. Mal pulls a gun on her as Serenity lands on the planet.

Back on the ship, Mal is taciturn, confusing the crew. Inara invites him to her shuttle, which makes him suspicious that she’s trying to manipulate him for some reason. It’s revealed that the conversation is based around the fact that Inara hasn’t had any clients in weeks because Mal keeps picking jobs on planets too poor to afford her. She asks Mal if there’s a reason, but he denies it, then says that he’ll find her a planet full of “Lonely Rich yet appropriately Hygienic” men. She tries to ask him about a middle ground, but Mal, having had a bad day, quickly tells her that he’ll stay out of her “whorin’” if she stays out of his “theivin’.” Inara points out that Mal’s recent jobs haven’t made any money, then accidentally calls him a petty thief. Mal tries to disagree, but the point has been made: Mal’s been small-time lately. Mal starts to say that he could get a big job immediately but stops short. He leaves and goes to a crate in the cargo bay. Inside is Saffron. Mal tells her he’s willing to listen to her about her heist.

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It’s like a spider who knows how to unzip flies.

Mal and Saffron join the crew for dinner, where Saffron explains the job: steal an artifact called “The Lassiter” from a rich guy named Durran Haymer (Dwier Brown). The Lassiter is the first hand-held laser ever made and is basically priceless… except in the sense that people would pay a fortune for it. Saffron states that Haymer made his fortune off of making bio-weapons for the Alliance during the war, which allowed him to steal from rich neighborhoods by gassing them and taking their valuables. Saffron has Haymer’s schedule, security codes, and a layout of his compound, so it should be an easy job to walk in, grab the gun, and leave.

Wash asks Mal why Saffron is even on the ship, but Mal deflects. Jayne asks why Saffron doesn’t just do it herself, but Saffron admits that while she found a way IN to the compound, she hasn’t found a way out. Inara enters and tells Mal that Saffron cannot be trusted, but Mal rebuffs her. Zoe points out that Inara is right, but Mal says that he’ll be watching her the whole time. Zoe agrees to help, then punches Saffron in the face.

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This smile is unique to people who are about to punch someone in the face.

Mal sends Jayne to tell Simon and River to stay hidden so that Saffron won’t figure out they have a bounty on their heads. River hints again that she knows Jayne betrayed them, this time by saying things with female pronouns so that they could apply to Saffron, but then saying “Jayne is a girl’s name.” After Jayne leaves, River says that he’s “afraid we’ll know.” Simon takes this seriously.

Inara tells Zoe she’s going to be off the ship while they’re on the heist planet, Bellerophon. She warns Zoe not to let Mal alone with Saffron. As the heist plays out, the scene flashes back and forth between the planning and the execution. Mal and Saffron go in through a backdoor, blending in with help hired for a party at the estate. The plan is that, after they get the Lassiter, they will dump the gun in the trash, which is automatically removed by drone. Kaylee will hijack the drone to bring the trash bin to the middle of the desert, where they will retrieve it. However, in the process of reprogramming it, Jayne gets electrocuted and knocked unconscious.

Mal and Saffron make their way to the gun, only for Haymer to walk in on them. Rather than being furious or suspicious, he’s thrilled to find out that his wife is back. Yolanda, as Saffron is known by Haymer, has apparently been missing for 6 years. The entire time, Haymer has been looking for her, clearly worried for her safety and still in love with her. Saffron concocts a story about having been sold into slavery, saying that Mal was a good Samaritan who gave her a ride back. After Haymer steps out, the pair finish the theft while Mal observes that this is the only husband Saffron has that she actually seems to care about. Saffron restates that Haymer is a monster, but Mal doesn’t seem to buy it.

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HE’S A HUG MONSTER.

He says that Haymer is her actual husband, leading her to pull a gun on him just as Haymer returns. Saffron tries to cover, but Mal quickly confesses. Saffron ends up aiming the gun at Haymer, upset at the fact that he now knows who she is. Mal draws his own hidden weapon, forcing her to drop her gun. She asks Haymer if he really thought she would stay with him in his private castle. He says he hoped, which she calls foolish. He says he pities her, which she mocks, until he reveals he called the police the moment he found them, saying “I love you, Yolanda, but I couldn’t think for a second that you actually came here for me.” On cue, the police approach the house. Saffron knocks Haymer out.

Mal and Saffron escape from the police, either using the security system to buy time or through brute force, until they make it back to the shuttle. On the ship, Mal and Saffron talk. Mal points out the Saffron could have stolen the Lassiter any time in the last 6 years but cared enough about Haymer not to until she had no choice. Saffron admits that she did try to make it work with Haymer, but ultimately couldn’t. Mal remarks that he’d seen her without clothing but had never seen her naked before. He tries to comfort her, only for her to pull his gun out of his holster. She forces him to strip, telling him she’s going to leave him in the desert.

Back on Serenity, it’s revealed that Saffron sabotaged the ship’s steering, meaning that they can’t make the rendezvous. Saffron abandons Mal in the middle of the desert, naked, before going to the drop site for the Lassiter. There, she digs through the trash dump until Inara ambushes her. Inara reveals that she and Mal had planned for Saffron’s betrayal, knowing that she would believe Inara’s anger at Mal would be genuine. She traps Saffron in the trash bin, then leaves.

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In Serenity’s infirmary, Jayne awakens to find out that he’s paralyzed from the neck down. Simon explains that he knocked out Jayne’s motor functions to keep Jayne from exacerbating the spinal damage from when he was knocked out. Jayne asks if his spine will be okay, but Simon doesn’t answer, instead asking how much he got for selling them out on Ariel. Jayne denies it and calls for help, but the only one nearby is River. Simon leans in and, in one of the most oddly badass moments in the series, tells Jayne that he will never, ever, harm Jayne. Simon says that he doesn’t know if Jayne’s going to betray them again, but Simon is going to trust him and Jayne should do the same. It’s an amazing moment that really drives home how unusual Simon is as a protagonist, having someone who betrayed him completely at his mercy and just forgiving him.

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River, on the other hand, helpfully reminds Jayne that, if he tries it again, she could kill him with her brain. It’s never addressed as to whether or not she can actually do that, but since she kills a man with a pen in the R. Tam Sessions without blinking and kills a room full of Reavers without taking a hit in Serenity, it’s probably a moot point. If she can’t give Jayne an embolism, she could probably just rip his organs out in alphabetical order with a pair of scissors.

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Back in the desert, Mal repeats the opening scene, saying “that went well,” but it’s revealed that he’s talking to Inara. She questions if it really went well but Mal says that they got the loot, so it’s a win. Inara points out that her intervention was the failsafe, but Mal jokingly asks her how sad she’d be if she hadn’t gotten to play her part. Inara responds “heartbroken.” Mal walks back to the ship naked, acting as if nothing is out of the ordinary, evoking reactions from Kaylee, Zoe, and Wash. He ends up smiling at the desert as they take off.

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END SUMMARY

It’s hard to say it, but this is a solidly bottom-tier episode for me. It’s still a pretty enjoyable hour of television, but it just isn’t as great as other hours of this show.

One big drawback is the Inara reveal. It just… it makes sense, but it also really doesn’t make sense. Based on the dialogue at the end, Inara had been in on the heist since before Mal took Saffron out of the crate, since they told the crew about it before they saw her. But, how exactly did that conversation play out? Inara calls him out for being a petty thief, and Mal goes “what a coincidence, I picked up Saffron and she might have a big heist that she’s definitely going to screw us on if it’s real. Want to bail me out if she manages to outfox all of us?” It just seems like there was no way for Inara to be so far ahead of the game based on the conversation they were having before the heist.

Another is that this is the third heist episode, but it’s not as fresh as “The Train Job” or as fun as “Ariel.” I mean, yes, they’re thieves, so there were going to be heists, but that means you need to lean harder into the other aspects of the show to keep it fresh, and this episode doesn’t really play to Firefly’s strengths. The dialogue is great, as is the acting, but this is judging Firefly in reference to itself, so those were pretty much gimmes from the beginning and don’t count for much.

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Not enough of the blend of Western and Sci-fi that we find in the others.

What really bothers me, though, is Saffron. In “Our Mrs. Reynolds,” Saffron has everything about her plan in place well before she’s onboard, down to her smallest actions designed to sow discord or create arousal. The only mistakes she makes are underestimating Wash’s love for Zoe and not being able to improvise perfectly when she runs into Inara, and her plan STILL goes off mostly without a hitch if Jayne can’t pull off a perfect series of shots while flying through space. She’s about 3 minutes from taking out the entire crew, even with the troubles.

But, in this episode, she screws up by calling Mal by his name right off the bat. Now, if this was part of her plan to get on Mal’s ship, that’s one thing, but it never feels like that. Instead, it comes off as Arsène Lupin tripping over his own feet. (If you didn’t get that reference 1: read the Lupin books by Maurice Leblanc, they’re amazing, I promise, and 2: think of it as Carmen Sandiego being blinded by her own hat and running into a wall). At that point, she’s almost abandoned in the desert to die because she’s left alone with a guy who she openly tried to murder. Then, despite supposedly having Haymer’s schedule, she picks a time he’s at home for the heist and, when busted, she doesn’t realize that Haymer’s not buying her cover, allowing him to call the police. She’s just nowhere near the amazing level of antagonist she was in her debut.

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Which is why she relies more on guns in this episode.

Part of this is because they really wanted to go into her background, and the only way to really do that in this setup is to have them get caught. The revelation that she had an actual husband and dreams of normalcy is a lot to add to the character, and a great decision, but the episode kind of over-indulges in it by having Mal and Saffron have the same kind of talk about it two or three times. And, again, while it fleshes out the character, the WAY in which it is done reduces the amazing image of her as someone who is both independent and almost completely in control from “Our Mrs. Reynolds.”

Now, counter to all of this is the fact that Christina Hendricks’s portrayal of Saffron is still amazing and, even if they might make her a little less competent, she’s a great character who manages to almost succeed except for Inara’s intervention. So, overall, she’s still a plus to the episode.

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The rather large portion of the episode dedicated to reprogramming the trash unit is intense, but it also takes longer than it probably should. The show has action in it, but the strength of Firefly has always been the characters, and we don’t get much of that from those scenes.

Simon’s scene with Jayne remains one of my favorite moments in the TV show, because it really brings home how powerful it is to forgive an enemy, but moreso when you have them completely at your mercy and tell them that you won’t hurt them. Since humanity has a tendency to turn towards revenge and selfishness first (as Jayne did), it was great to see someone go the other way. Simon proves he’s the bigger man.

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And River… is River

Also, just on a side note, this is one of the few episodes where the characters invoke the fact that they sometimes speak random Chinese. When Inara calls Mal petty, she corrects herself to 琐细, which Mal says is “Chinese for petty.” The Chinese language drops throughout the series have always been a great touch, since it points out that it’s not just America that survives into the future and it makes sense that the other major power (based on predictions from 2002) would be China, since it had the population and the manufacturing ability to migrate to space if pushed.

And, finally, I’m going to give credit for naming the planet Haymer lives on “Bellerophon.” In Greek Mythology, Bellerophon is the man who slays the Lycian Chimera, a monster which is three animals combined into one (Typically, a dragon/snake, a goat, and a lion). Saffron is a woman who is notable for being a combination of many different female characters she plays, leading to Mal referring to her as YoSaffBridge at one point just to drive it home. Haymer is the only man who ever got her to care about him. Just like Bellerophon, Haymer took the Chimera’s heart. Whether that was intentional or not, I still think it works as a reference.

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Plus it looks like Bespin.

Overall, I just never liked this episode that much, but it’s still better than most of the stuff on television. I’d probably like it more if I really appreciated a naked Nathan Fillion, but, alas, I don’t.

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Still, fair’s fair.

Update: Also, he was wearing a picture of Joss Whedon to cover his junk. Just figured people should know that.

Score: 1.5 Fireflies (or 1 Lassiter)

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See you next Friday, Browncoats.

PREVIOUS – 10: War Stories

NEXT – 12: The Message

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf: Truth in Advertising and a Modernist Poem

In the pantheon of vs. media, this movie will always hold a special place, for much like Jem, this film is truly, truly outrageous. Unlike Freddy vs. Jason or Alien vs. Predator, this movie doesn’t waste time with “set-ups” or “emotions” or “logical character arcs,” it just shows us what we came here for: A Sharktopus fighting a Whalewolf.

BACKGROUND

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So majestic.

So, this is the third Sharktopus movie. In the first movie, the government asked a mad scientist (Eric Roberts) to build a bio-weapon. He combined a shark and an octopus to create it, making a monster which can walk on land or swim through the sea, and also has spines and sharp clawed tentacles for reasons I can’t remember and don’t want to look up. The movie ended with them blowing up the monster.

The second movie, Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda, involved a scientist finding Sharktopus’s egg and regrowing it, while another mad scientist (Robert Carradine) combines a pterodactyl and barracuda DNA to create another monster. At the end of the movie, Sharktopus makes its way into the Caribbean.

Sharktopus3Pteracuda

SUMMARY

10 seconds into the movie, Captain Ray Brady (Casper Van Dien VI) shows up to a funeral, on his own boat, that he is too drunk to attend or remember agreeing to host. Within 30 seconds, Sharktopus attacks the boat. It is now clear that this movie doesn’t believe in foreplay. It’s here for the f*ckin’, so grab the back of the couch and get ready for a ride. Sharktopus eats the coffin for the funeral, then the widow, resulting in Ray asking if they already paid.

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He’s now 49 years old. Really.

It then cuts to Ray in jail for boating while intoxicated and losing the widow at sea. Apparently, the police in the Dominican Republic don’t accept the “Sharktopus got her” excuse after the last three guys made it. Of course, the arresting officer is his ex-girlfriend, Nita (Akari “I played a completely different character in the last movie and no one cares” Endo), who is immediately tasked with tracking down a doctor who has been conducting illegal experiments in the Dominican Republic, Doctor Reinhart (Catherine “I’m literally a princess” Oxenberg). We see Reinhart and her assistant, Nurse Betty (Jennifer Wenger), performing procedures which really seem to be overboard for the Dominican Republic. Hell, they seem overboard for Chechnya in the early 90s. The only person to turn her down is an aging baseball player named Felix Rosa (Mario Arturo Hernandez).

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Rosa goes to a bar to hit on two young women but gets shot down and humiliated, leading to him drunkenly returning to Reinhart for her experimental procedure to make him great again. Unfortunately for him, the doctor is, in fact, a mad scientist (which happens a lot in this universe), who decides to mutate his DNA. After the first treatment, Rosa feels great, but quickly demands another, giving himself a blast of radiation, seemingly killing him. Meanwhile, the two young women run into Nita, who watches them get killed by Sharktopus, because that thing can appear out of nowhere.

Ray is bailed out by his first mate, Pablo (Jorge Eduardo De Los Santos), who borrowed the money from a voodoo priest named Tiny (Tony Almont). It turns out that Tiny wants the Sharktopus’s heart in repayment, not because it contains any mystical powers, but because the Sharktopus is trending on social media and Tiny thinks he could absorb its popularity to get laid. Yes, this is an actual thing in a movie that exists and was said by an actor who was paid to say it.

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You did a great job, man. Cash that check proudly.

Reinhart kicks Rosa’s dead body into the water, where Rosa begins to mutate. Reinhart takes him back to her lab, where his body is now decayed-looking, having claws with flipper-like webbing instead of hands. Reinhart realizes that the mutation needs another stimulus and, being a mad scientist, decides that it’s the full moon. She exposes him to the full moon, but we don’t see the result.

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It’s this. And also, so majestic.

Ray and Pablo are preparing to kill Sharktopus, but they’re joined by Nita, who forces her way onto the expedition. Back at the lab, Nurse Betty returns to find Reinhart passed out on the couch. Reinhart then reveals that she gave Rosa some blood, but that he needs more, specifically Betty. Rosa appears, now a combination of a killer whale, a gray wolf, and a man, a Whalewolf, and chases Betty through the town and into the ocean, where he eats her. Ray, Pablo, and Nita find the Sharktopus and attack it with a harpoon gun, but this just annoys Sharktopus. It attacks, knocking Nita into the water. When it attempts to kill Nita, however, it runs into Whalewolf, briefly skirmishing, allowing the crew to get away.

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Goodbye, Betty. You were the breast.

Ray returns to the dock to treat Nita and fix the engine that they blew in the escape. The group watches a parody of The Bachelor which is hilariously poorly scripted, and ultimately attacked by Sharktopus, which eats the winning girl. Nita heads to the show’s filming site. At Reinhart’s lab, the doctor tries to housebreak the now lupine-brained Whalewolf, but finds it impossible, so she releases it into the city. At a nearby Rec Center, two gangs are fighting, but are interrupted by Sharktopus and Whalewolf, who start eating the gang members and brawling until Nita and another officer detonate random gas tanks nearby, engulfing them in explosions.

Ray and Pablo are trying to avoid fixing the boat and finding Sharktopus, but Tiny uses his voodoo to force them to go back to work. They apparently try to build a weapon out of household objects, but find that they’re too incompetent to make anything useful. Meanwhile, the Bachelor parody has started filming again, miles away from the last site, but neither of the remaining girls wants to win, based on what happened to the last girl. They believe the winning flowers are cursed. The director grabs the flowers and lectures the girls about being foolish, but is eaten by Whalewolf. Whalewolf returns to the lab, where Reinhart says she’s leaving, because her experiment was to create the perfect human, and Whalewolf isn’t human.

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The movie dares to portray The Bachelor as tasteless.

Nita and her partner decide to investigate Reinhart, who is trying to flee the country. She tries to have the local animal shelter adopt Whalewolf, but Whalewolf realizes what’s happening and attacks her. Nita arrives to find a dying Reinhart before being attacked by Whalewolf. Ray gets attacked by Sharktopus and Pablo saves him by cutting off one of Sharktopus’s tentacles. They bring the tentacle to Tiny, hoping that it will suffice, but Tiny instead banishes them from the town, which I guess he can do.

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He’s Casper Van Dying to meet you. Yes, that was the best joke I had.

Ray calls Nita to say goodbye, but finds Nita wounded on the other end of the line. They head to the clinic and rescue her from Whalewolf, but it pursues them in a loose Jurassic Park parody. Eventually, they run into Sharktopus as well, resulting in the two monsters battling again, destroying property and killing crowds of people. Nita and Ray make it to the hospital, where they start to look for a way to get rid of the monsters. It’s revealed that Tiny might be able to gain some level of control over Sharktopus using the tentacle which Ray brought, so Ray plans on having Tiny get the two to fight, but it turns out Tiny plans on controlling both of them to take over the island. Tiny tries to have Ray killed, but Ray steals the Sharktopus voodoo doll and escapes using his “Drunken Nut Punch Kung Fu Juju,” which is exactly what it sounds like, if you think it sounds like pretending to be in a martial arts movie and hitting people in the balls.

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Surprisingly effective.

Nita realizes that, since Whalewolf used to be a baseball player, he’s going to head to the baseball diamond, where she and Pablo set up a giant electrified net and call in a airplane bombing run. Tiny pursues Ray, until Sharktopus arrives and eats Tiny. Thinking he’s controlling Sharktopus, Ray tries to befriend it, but it turns out that he hasn’t figured out how to work the idol and is attacked by the monster, who for some reason is now acting like a cartoon hunter pursuing wabbits rather than the unstoppable killing machine from earlier. It chases Ray to the baseball stadium. Meanwhile, Nita finds Whalewolf drinking out of the stadium toilets and lures it onto the field. The two fight, resulting in Whalewolf throwing Sharktopus into the net, killing it. Ray distracts Whalewolf with a pitching machine until the jets arrive and blow up Whalewolf. Ray and Nita kiss because they can. The last shot is of another voodoo priestess resurrecting Sharktopus from its leftover tentacle.

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END SUMMARY

This movie doesn’t mess around. From start to finish, almost every scene is Sharktopus or Whalewolf killing someone or trying to. Most monster movies believe in a slow build-up, but not this movie. One minute in, it’s got a Sharktopus, 15 minutes in, it’s got a Whalewolf, and they fight for the first time 10 minutes later. The rest of the movie is just humorous set-ups for the two to fight or murder random people.

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It reminds me of one of those trends in modernist poetry -or maybe post-modernist- where the poem has all of the extraneous words removed from the lines, causing it to jump directly from image to image. This movie just goes straight to the next scene, often with a jump-cut, and doesn’t try to do establishing shots or anything to give the audience time to adjust. While that doesn’t make the movie very emotional or give any stakes to the scenes, it tries to keep the interest by just keeping almost every scene intense throughout the movie, basically, there’s no rise and fall, since all the scenes that don’t feature the monsters are too short to really allow the audience to relax.

Sharktopus3EzraPound
Can’t remember the poetic style, but it’s similar to verbless.

This doesn’t really work as well in film as it does on the page, but it still is at least a pretty interesting way to go about it. Honestly, it might work if the movie was, well, better than Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf. I think it’d be a very interesting structure for one of the more over-used horror models, like an alien invasion or a kaiju attack, but keeping the monsters constantly on the offensive from minute one would be really expensive if you don’t want them to look like crap.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s a reference, but Casper Van Dien’s character is named Ray Brady, which sounds like a play off of ROY Scheider as Martin BRODY from Jaws. Also also, despite the fact that they’re never on-screen together, Van Dien and Oxenberg were married at the time of filming, but got divorced after it aired, which I just find interesting. It wasn’t THAT bad, you two.

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Look, this isn’t poetry, and it isn’t even quite as good as Sharknado or Lavalantula, but it still has its good points. Plus, it has Casper Van Dien cockshotting 6 guys in sequence, which is the natural follow-up to playing Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers (kidding, I love that movie). I won’t say it’s worth your time, but if you enjoy SYFY movies, this is definitely one of the more entertaining ones.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.