Hey, this week’s Doom Patrol is probably going to get you to tear up. Or maybe you’re a monster. I don’t know what your deal is. Either way, it’s time for “Frances Patrol”.
We start out in what looks like a flashback, but since there’s no chyron, it’s probably a dream. Larry (in pre-bandage form) wakes up in a motor lodge. Somebody knocks on the door, announcing that they’re military police. He panics, but it’s just John making a joke. Hey, John? Read the room. They kiss and get down to business before we cut to after. They’re enjoying some hoagies and toasting to their relationship. But then John starts asking about the setting, and so now we know for sure it’s a dream. John asks if he’s dead and Larry assures him that he’s not and talks about how he always used to drive past this lodge and thought they’d spend a night together there.
And then Larry wakes up on the floor at the end of “Jane Patrol”. While everybody is talking, Larry asks the Negative Spirit to take him back there. No luck. The next day there’s a news report on the Doom Manor TV about the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man on trial for armed robbery and refusing to testify against the dinosaur head. HA! The next report is a weird news story about a Florida Man getting eaten by an alligator, but in this case, the man was Bump.
Jane looks out the window and hears her other personalities lecturing her about balance. Rita comes up and talks about how she committed herself to a sanitarium at one point because sometimes you have to let your mind rest. Then she demands an apology from Karen, and Jane says she’s trying to stay out of her head. She called a team meeting, but Vic and Larry didn’t show up.
Vic’s running diagnostics on an old CRT – he’s basically put Grid in MS-DOS, so we’ve got green text on a black background. Vic lies to Grid about the situation and says he’s still rebooting. And that’s when he learns that he’s becoming more mechanical. He used to be 41% Cyborg, now he’s 63% Cyborg.
Rita tells Jane and Cliff about the Beard Hunter, Danny, and Flex Mentallo. Jane calls the group the Doom Patrol, and Cliff takes issue with that, and Jane calls Mentallo “The Hero of the Beach” which was one of the big sticking points in the lawsuit. At this point, I have to assume the Atlas Estate settled for a small amount because it’s not like DC was doing anything with the Doom Patrol then. Or they lost so badly that they can make Charles Atlas a Batman villain if they want to.
Cliff decides he needs to see his daughter and asks Flit to take them to Florida. Jane gets mad at the request and Rita has to remind her how Cliff helped her. And for just a second, Flit takes control, teleports them to Florida, and then jumps back. So it’s Cliff and Rita in Florida and we don’t see enough of them as a pair.
They end up outside Bump’s bar. Cliff has an anxiety attack and Rita tries to get him to do some breathing exercises but he doesn’t breath. He tries, though. Inside the bar, Rita claims that Cliff is a friend of Bump’s wearing a costume that Bump made years ago. Then a local hits on Rita and offers her some chicken. She introduces herself as “Gertrude Cramp” and takes him up on his offer.
Back at Doom Manor, Vic cuts into his own arm and finds mechanical parts where there weren’t any before. But not so many that it’s not really gross to look at. Jane knocks at his door to tell him that Flex Mentallo has a wife named Dolores and they’re going to meet her in an hour. Jane admits she needs his help, so Vic pulls himself together.
Rita chats with the friendly local and learns that the gator that ate Bump was a local legend named Frances. And Bump was, in fact, just gator hunting for no clear reason. Then Clara comes in to work and I am surprised that she’s an adult but, you know, based on the timeline, she’s in her thirties. I’m just freaked out that somebody on this show actually aged.
Larry, in his room, asks the Negative Spirit again to take him back to the motel. The Spirit exits his body, but this time Larry’s dream is set in a gay bar. He finds John talking about literature and orgys with a group of dudes. Larry wants to leave but John is enjoying himself. Larry tries to ask the Spirit to take him elsewhere since this isn’t what he wants, but there’s no answer.
Cliff tries to talk to Clara but just as he screws up his courage, she’s asked to stand on a milk crate and say a few words about Bump. Cliff holds out his hand to give her a boost, the same way he used to help her up the stairs. People seem to be taking Cliff’s appearance pretty well, but the cover story notwithstanding, this is set in a world with a Justice League and presumably other heroes. A friendly robot is not outside the bounds of reality.
Clara talks about Bump, who she calls “my dad”. She talks about a gold watch she got as part of an inheritance, and when Bump adopted her, she had it inscribed “To Dad, You’re My Hero” and gave it to him. She’s frustrated that he died doing something stupid and took that watch with him, but she loves him for taking him in. It’s very sweet.
Cliff leaves and Rita is frustrated that he didn’t talk to Clara. Instead, Cliff is going to go out and find Frances the Gator. That seems like a Cliff move.
John finds Larry at the bar and drags him out to dance. John tells him to appreciate what they have in this dream world and makes a reference to Erie, PA. He’s frustrated that, even in a dream, Larry is still worried about what people think. Larry wants them to be alone but John just wants them to be together. He says the world changed and Larry stayed the same. Larry promises to change but John says he won’t spend his last days this way.
Larry wakes up, baffled. He wants answers from the Negative Spirit and then realizes that the Spirit spelled out “ERIE” in post-it notes. Combined with John’s reference, Larry figures he has to go there.
Cliff reaches the swamp and Rita is still trying to talk him out of this. She says she used her real name at the bar because she’s not running from who she is anymore, and Cliff is literally running away. We find out the watch was originally his – he won it at the Dallas Speedway in 1976, and he desperately wants to get it back to Clara. Cliff wades into the swamp and Rita follows in a rowboat.
Larry gets out of a taxi in Erie, at a home with “Bowers” on the mailbox. A woman greets him at the door and realizes he must be Larry Trainor. She invites him in and brings him to John’s room. She tells Larry that John keeps talking about him as he drifts in and out. John wakes up at that point and is happy to see him. Larry takes his hand as John talks about what’s been happening, and it’s clear that they’re sharing dreams. John had the same dream of the motel and the hoagie – the Negative Spirit has been bonding them! John suggests going out to the porch and Larry very sweetly carries him.
I have to say, even though both characters are being played by actors who haven’t played them in their scenes together, there’s still this real tenderness coming through. It’s very good.
Larry sets John up in a chair and John apologizes for snapping at him in the bar dream, but Larry admits the bar dream was the reason he came.
Vic and Jane arrive at their meeting place, but there’s no sign of Dolores. With the downtime, Vic tells Jane about his malfunctions and shutting down Grid. They bond over having something inside of them trying to seize control, but Jane says he’s the one who can call his dad for help. Also, that painting where he seems to have killed everybody? That’s a vision she had when she was inside a donkey. This is a good point. Then they spot an altercation – a couple seems to be fighting and the man is getting belligerent. Jane heads out to stop them. An old woman approaches Vic, and he assumes she’s Dolores. She tells him to look at her elbow and a device flashes. The guy tries to do the same thing to Jane, but she beats him up while we get a good look at his Bureau of Normalcy pin. But they manage to get Vic and drive off.
In the swamp, they still haven’t found Frances. Cliff is getting angrier and Rita is getting nowhere trying to convince him to just talk to Clara. Finally, he just kind of gives up but tells Rita to turn back and he’ll find her later. Once she’s gone, he tries her breathing exercises again and then a giant alligator jumps out of the water to attack him.
John and Larry talk and John is sad that Larry hasn’t had anybody special in his life. We learn that his wife died in 1989 and his kids don’t know he’s alive. He admits he hasn’t lived much. “You were my last real thing, and I still feel bad about sending you away”. John tells him that he needs to move on and live life. Larry tells John he loves him, and then explains an important relationship in his life. Yeah, he tries to explain the Negative Spirit. As the sun rises, John seemingly passes away. It’s possible that he fell asleep but we see them together in a dream again and John backs away and eventually disappears. Larry clutches his chest where the Spirit has started to glow and says “thank you”. And I’m crying.
A soaking wet Cliff returns to the bar. Clara says she’ll be with him in a second but he just puts the watch on a table and leaves.
And in the last scene, Vic wakes up in the Bureau of Normalcy, a prisoner of Darren Jones. Oh, man. Who knew the second biggest antagonist of the season would be a guy named “Darren”?