Hi, all. Due to a bizarre snafu with my cable box, I missed the middle seven minutes or so of tonight's episode--which, judging by what I did see, was a pretty important seven minutes. Your friend and mine Leonard Pierce will be taking over once again with a full review, but not until sometime tomorrow. Apologies, and please use this space to talk about the episode, cast aspersions on my lineage, etc.
Hello, all! I'm taking the helm again this week, because Zack had "TiVo problems", which I'm sure we can all relate to, am I right, fellas?
This was a particularly momentous episode in a lot of ways, especially after last week, which found everyone more or less treading water. The creators have been determined to push this show forward since Season 1; people age, they get married, they die. They may not succeed, but they aren't just running in place, as is the case with even a lot of modern, sophisticated sitcoms, in which big changes seem to happen, but are just hooks to draw you in while you wait for the inevitable reset that will bring everything back to normal. Not so with The Venture Bros.; in fact, this is a show that built itself a fail-safe reboot machine/consequence remover in the form of Hank and Dean's many clones, and then went out of its way to get rid of it.
So milestones, however awkward, are the order of the day, from the departure of Triana Orpheus to the removal of Brock Samson as surrogate father figure to the boys' 'graduation', however meaningless, from their learning pods. In "Everybody Comes To Hank's", there's a couple of big ones: Dean, dressed in one of his father's castoff leisure suits, heads off for his first real job (well, internship), and Hank marks the biggest teenage milestone of all: he loses his virginity.
Wha-a-at? Our little Henry Allen Venture, who only a year ago was calling his father a honky, has become a man? How did this happen? Well, let's back up a bit. Before setting off to NYC, Dr. Venture insists that Hank join Dean in the ranks of the gainfully employed, which Hank interprets as a green light to open a mini-mall in the X-1 hangar selling used remotes, Doc's old shoes, notary services -- and himself as an apple-juice-swilling private detective (complete with whip). Promising to solve the 'mystery' of Dermott needing a ride home, he finds himself instead, in an extended black & white sequence, drawn to the long-festering question: is Dermott really Brock's son? Enter the dame.
Her name is Vikki, she's Dermott's sister, and like most women in noir, she's not all that she seems. You can tell there's something amiss with her right away, if for no other reason than she's an attractive woman who's interested in Hank. And according to inside man Billy Quizboy, she's at the center of the whole question of young master Fictel's parentage -- a question that leads to a dead end when Brock tells Hank that he never slept with Dermott's mom, because "I've never been that drunk and I've never been that desperate."
Determined to learn the truth, Hank visits all the usual suspects (including the strip club frequented by SPHINX, which sort of puts the lie to Brock's claim) and, after paying a visit to the Fictel trailer, ends up bedding the seductive Vikki. But not for the Venture clan is the easy road of consequence-free adolescent sex with a hot girl: while Hank was having his roll in the hay, Al was discovering what he inadvertently reveals to Hank: Vikki is actually Dermott's mother, the result of a teenage romp with none other than the fecund Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture. The woman posing has Dermott's mother is actually his grandmother, Vikki is a woman with a serious truth problem and a weakness for boy adventurers, and Hank has unintentionally gotten sloppy seconds off of his dad.
So maybe some things do stay the same after all: the clones may be gone, but the memory wipe machine remains, and even the delightful hallmark of getting some for the first time isn't enough to make Hank want to retain the memory of this familial clusterfuck. It's like no one ever says: Plus ça change, cherchez la femme.
This may have been my favorite episode of the season so far, not only because it gave the usually hapless Hank a chance to shine, and made advances in getting full use of its ensemble cast by teaming him up with Al, but also because I'm a sucker for anything noir-tainted. And while, in the end, everything was sort of back to normal, the memory-wipe machine only works on one person, so while Hank's memory may be gone, Brock still knows everything, as does Vikki, and, most importantly of all, so do we. That's another lesson of The Venture Bros.: no matter how many super-gadgets you build to get around them, actions always have consequences. But sometimes, if you're very clever, those same super-gadgets can give you a little joy, despite those consequences.
- "Oh, yeah. I'm jealous that I don't get to go to New York dressed as the Jamaican flag to work for no pay."
- Maybe it's just because I'm not especially fond of the character, but Sgt. Hatred seemed especially clownish this episode. It's like they responded to complaints that they were leaning too heavily on the pedophile stuff, and realized that without it, there wasn't much to him.
- "Remember when you wife used to screw you without paperwork?"
- The hat gag absolutely killed me. (That is, the joke that everything reverts to color when he takes it off, not the scene were he gags into his hat.)
- "All right, Hank, I'm in. I'll be your partner until we solve the case or I get completely bored doing it!"
- For the second week in a row, we get a lot of thematic reference to a classic movie: this time, it's Chinatown, from the obvious bit at the end to the way the Alchemist was dressed like Roman Polanski's knife-wielding thug.
- "Come on! I've been eating scrambled eggs and ketchup all day so I could do this!"
- "Because of SEX!"
- To address something that's been brought up a lot in comments, I think it's going a bit too far to call Doc Venture a rapist in anything but the strictest legal sense. No one really comes across well in this scenario -- Doc is a creep, Vikki is a liar, and her mom is a blackmailer -- but he did seem genuinely surprised she was underage, and definitely tried to do the right thing in the end. Is what he did morally suspect? Absolutely. Is it worse than many of of the other things he's done, including powering a machine with an orphan's heart and experimenting on human corpses? Probably not.
- Man, what a killer post-credits bumper! Great, clever out by Hank, an intriguing summer story forthcoming from Dean, and Super-Rusty in Jonas Sr. drag. I haven't been this excited for a next-time-on for quite a while.