It’s the conclusion to the Morphic Trilogy, and there’s so much to talk about it. Let’s get right into “Arrears in Science”!
We pick up with the PROBLEM console freaking out and this time we see that some people got out of the building – Dean, Sgt. Hatred, Alchemist, and Jefferson all got clear. Doc tries to reason with his father’s head. (“Dad, listen to me. You are not a building.”) Brock calls in from the deck and between the chaos and the Morpho Mobile and the arrival of the Guild, he decides to get involved. Brock grapples down the side of the building while radioing OSI for backup. Hunter says they’re still cleaning up the mess at Dummy Corp. And then Brock’s rope is not quite long enough so he’s still dangling about three-quarters of the way down when the Blue Morpho walks into the Ventech building.
Billy is baffled to see that the Morpho is there, since he thinks it’s still Doc. And then we get a good look at him and that’s just enough to confirm that, yes, it’s Vendata. Oh, hell yes.
Opening sting! (No time for a full theme!)
Flashback to four months ago – it’s the Season Five episode “Bot Seeks Bot”, and it’s the bit where Brock tears Vendata apart in the men’s room. In the actual episode we heard him play some audio about a plane crash, but now we see his memories, including Rusty and the Monarch as children. Much later, he makes his way out of the underground nightclub, remembering only that his home is in Newark. And so he starts walking, finally getting there this morning. When he arrives, the Monarch house is empty but he has images of his wife and the Blue Morpho (Paul F. Tompkins) and he watches the Morpho access the underground lair. Vendata goes down there, watching Morpho and Kano race into action. He follows their lead, only to find that the Morpho’s suit is gone. (The Monarch is wearing it, after all.) Then he has another memory of Jonas telling him he’s the Blue Morpho. And then a memory of the Morpho, all swollen up from beestings, demanding that Enzo the tailor (who appeared in a few Season Seven episodes) make him a new suit for his current swollen proportions. Vendata finds this suit, the “Anaphylaxis Variant”, and then we’re back to the present.
Vendata plugs his finger into the PROBLEM module and suddenly it stops. Brock crashes to the ground and we cut to Vendata finding himself in a simulation of the Venture Compound in the past. Jonas welcomes him, surprised he’s the one who came for him. Vendata says he’s confused and needs Jonas to fix his memory. (He found the Ventech building in the phone book. “Acquiring phone book… was most difficult part.”) “Street Life” plays on the radio and Jonas says it’s the last thing he remembers before the darkness. He doesn’t know how long he was out, but one day he could see and hear and then we cut to “Careers in Science” with Hank and Dean reporting the PROBLEM light – “It’s on!” “It’s off!” “It’s on!” “It’s off!” Jonas says he was trying to communicate with Morse Code before the darkness came for him again and he crashed to Earth. A savior came for him (Jonas Jr.) and he’s spent the last year learning the Ventech systems.
In the real world, Doc demands that Team Venture start explaining things. And, yes, they confirm that when the Blue Morpho’s plane crashed, Jonas resurrected him as Venturion. (That name was referenced in “Bot Seeks Bot”.) Here his face looks more like the Morpho. The other members of Team Venture are horrified by what he’s done. Eventually, Jonas lost interest and Venturion was reduced to walking the dog. At this point, he spots Rusty and has a stray memory of the boy making his son cry, so he attacks him. Kano jumps in and tears off Venturion’s head, which gives us context for Doc identifying Vendata as “the metal murder man from my nightmares” and also Kano’s vow of silence from Season Three’s “ORB” where he finally admits that he took the vow because he killed a great man. I assumed that he meant Jonas Venture, but he was talking about the Blue Morpho. Guys, this is amazing.
Interesting note here – Action Man says, in the present, that “Kano had to put him down. Hasn’t spoken a word since”. Except he has. However, as far as we’ve seen, he’s only talked to Brock. Well played, Kano!
Meanwhile, Brock can’t get inside – one of the big Venture logos smashed up against the door while the building was pulsating and now it’s wedged in there. Phantom Limb, Dr. Z, and Red Mantle/Dragoon show up and demand to be granted access. Dr. Mrs. The Monarch tries to smooth things over and orders her husband and Gary to hang back since they’re still in their Blue Morpho outfits.
The Council demands that he turn over the fugitive Vendata, who they thought was killed in the Sovereign’s purge. Brock accuses them of hitting Dummy Corp, and Phantom Limb doesn’t know anything about that. (Dr. Mrs. and Red Death just try to look casual on that one.) Dean catches Hank up on everything, including that Grandpa’s head is still alive.
And here’s where we learn that people thought Dr. Z built Vendata. It was back in the seventies and he was partying with Shrill Spector and Scary Nilsson (Hee!) when they got the idea to hassle Jonas Venture. Jonas wasn’t home, but he found the remnants of Venturion and brought him home (“there was a real live guy in there!”). Dr. Z says he loved turning Jonas’ inventions against him, which leads us to a flashback of an army of murderous versions of HELPeR. Z erased Venturion’s memory and reprogrammed him for evil. But then Z was arrested on a drug charge and by the time he got out, the newly rechristened Vendata was gone.
Once he explains that Vendata was the Blue Morpho, Dr. Mrs. realizes what they’re in for. That’s her husband’s robot father in there. Then the cops show up, ordering them to clear out. They’re unimpressed by Brock’s OSI clearance because tomorrow is the Macy’s parade and they have to clean up. Brock, Red Death, and the Council head for a diner. Monarch, who has been hanging back and doesn’t know any of this, tells Gary that they’re going to kill this Blue Morpho and pin all their murders on him.
This show, and I’ve maybe mentioned this already, does a great job of keeping track of who knows what. A lot of shows make the mistake of having every character know as much as the viewer, and here we’re seeing a huge group of character all with different pieces of the puzzle.
Sgt. Hatred realized he was supposed to prepare the Ventech float for the parade and he sets about hastily inflating a Rusty Venture balloon. Hank starts to worry that there’s something wrong with him – the way he keeps assuming new identities and losing track of himself is becoming a problem. He thinks he’s the guy in Split. Dean tells him he has an overactive mind. (“So, like the guy in Split but when he’s the guy in X-Men?” HA!) And then Hank gets distracted and Dean tells him he probably has ADD.
The cops tow the Morpho Mobile, but they let Monarch and Gary get something out of the trunk – their old costumes.
Black and while flashback as Jonas introduces Blue Morpho to Jill St. John and Stella Stevens. We pull back to see they’re watching this on videotape, and Morpho is still upset because Jonas pushed him into cheating on his wife and then used that videotape to blackmail him for years (including the mission to seduce Dr. Z. that we saw last season). Oh, also Morpho talks about he and his wife are trying to have a baby and it’s not working. Jonas assures him it’s never the man’s fault and tells him to have his wife stop by for a thorough examination.
Guys? I think Jonas Venture is also the Monarch’s biological father! Now that I think about it, Monarch and Jonas have the exact same color hair… Oh, this is a whole new thing to deal with. In the present (but still in the simulated compound), we learn that Morpho’s wife had a child within the year and Jonas took Kano as “payment”. Man, Jonas Venture is the worst.
Also, within the simulation, Morpho’s voice has reverted to his real PFT voice. Jonas tells him that means he’s remembering.
Brock and the villains meet up at a Broadway-themed diner. Red Death used to be a regular and then he talks about the villains he used to hang with. Stab Girl, Laugh Riot, Mr. Fahrenheit the Supersonic Man, Hate-Bit, and Vendata. A couple of those are notable. He mentioned Stab Girl’s death last week. Mr. Fahrenheit the Supersonic Man looks like Freddie Mercury and is named from two lines from Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. And we’ve seen Hate-Bit a bunch of times but this is the first time he’s been named. He’s the guy who has a Space Invader head, seemingly projected above his neck. He used to be in villain crowd scenes all the time, especially in the first three seasons. They decide to defy the Sovereign and go to Gargantua-1 and go after Jonas.
Vendata set up the plan because he knew when the crew would all be in one place. Movie Night. We see a clip of paperboy Bud Manstrong announcing the event. Brock calls bullshit on that – there’s no way they were behind the Movie Night Massacre “the night Jonas Venture died”.
Oh, man. One of the big mysteries of the show. And it occurs to me right now that a bunch of characters know the answer already and there just hasn’t been a reason to bring it up. Doc and Brock know. The boys apparently don’t, but they’re not great at remembering stuff. Just hang on, it’s getting crazy.
Brock says it was SPHINX that killed Jonas, but Red Death knows the real story. When the unsanctioned attack went bad, the Sovereign took the form of the SPHINX Commander and claimed credit. That set off the Pyramid Wars between SPHINX and OSI. That’s when Brock joined OSI and they wiped out SPHINX, who was also the Guild’s only competitor. Everybody makes fun of Brock for discovering that his life has been a lie. He just wants to know who did it. Red Death says he has a theory.
We cut to a flashback. Jonas walks in on Vendata tampering with the controls. He’s only trying to broadcast the sex tape Jonas held over his head because he doesn’t know he was the Blue Morpho. Vendata threatens to open the cargo doors, and Jonas says he knows his friend would never do that and invites Vendata to join him for Sharky’s Machine. Modern day Jonas and Morpho appear in the simulation and Jonas accuses him of pulling the lever, but Morpho just seems shocked.
Colonel Gentleman, Action Man, and Kano arrive at the station just in time to see all the frozen corpses. (Red Death and Hate-Bit would have survived because they needed full spacesuits to conceal their appearance.) Back at the Ventech Building, Team Venture is telling the same story and Doc wants to know why his dad is just a head if he froze to death in space. Cut to the team trying to get him to the PROBLEM module. When they open the door, the little plastic cowboy Rusty left behind falls out. Colonel Gentleman slips and they drop Jonas, shattering him. They don’t tell Doc that part and just agree that they found him like that.
Action Man starts sweating and then screams out “Toast” before collapsing. Billy wonders if he’s having a heart attack and Orpheus casually answers “a stroke”. Hey, remember Season One’s “Past Tense” when Orpheus tells Action Man “Two years, seventeen days. From a stroke”? That was Orpheus predicting his death. It’s also a good timeline for how much time has elapsed within the series. They can’t get him to the hospital because they’re trapped inside. Pete White finally snaps out of his catatonia with a plan. He grabs a high-tech vacuum (The Boom Broom, invented in Season Three’s “Tears of a Sea Cow”.), but that’s just to give us recappers an extra step because he uses it to smash the glass case holding the shrink ray that shrunk Dr. Entemann. Monarch and Gary watch from outside and none of it makes any sense to them. Monarch thinks Blue Morpho is a robot, and Gary thinks maybe he made Life Model Decoys of himself, like Nick Fury.
Back at the diner, they hammer out an agreement. OSI and the Guild will take joint custody of Vendata and he’ll be disassembled for the murder of Jonas Venture and the crimes of Blue Morpho.
A tiny Team Venture get out of the building through a crack. Pete fires another shot through the crack to grow them again. The first shot misses, but the second one is dead on. They ask a cop for help, but he runs away when he sees the giant beetle that Pete grew when he missed. Orpheus uses his powers to tame the bug and the guys get right on. (White: “They didn’t even hesitate. Like they’ve done that before.”) Jonas transmits his mind into Doc’s watch to confirm they’re one heck of a team. Then he asks Billy if he can transplant his brain into Vendata, but Billy refuses to kill one brain to transplant another. Also, Jonas keeps calling him “Little boy”. And then the Monarch shows up, demanding everybody step away from the Life Model Decoy. Then… “is that your dad”?
Back in the simulation, Morpho insists he couldn’t have opened the cargo doors but he notices Jonas is distracted and that leads to him returning to the real world to see what’s going on. Vendata scans Monarch and identifies him as “Malcom Fitzcarraldo” (I believe the first name should actually be “Malcolm”, but we’ll let that go. Also, “Fitzcarraldo” is probably a reference to the Werner Herzog film, and you need to read up on that because it’s wild. Finally, I would have advised against every revealing the Monarch’s name, but since it turned out to be “Malcolm Fitzcarraldo”, I withdraw my objection.)
This causes Vendata to flash back to the plane crash. While he’s distracted, Jonas lashes out with wiring to tie him up, and Vendata brings the PROBLEM module down on top of him (and Doc). The whole mess slides down the stairs and the Monarch rides it down, demanding answers. In the simulation, Doc and Morpho fight and then Vendata deploys his boot jets, which launch all of them out of the building and when the jets sputter out, they fall. Doc and the Monarch grab one another on the way down and they land mostly safely on the Rusty Venture balloon. The module and Vendata crash to the ground and just as Monarch reaches them, Vendata dies. Which is right when the Council returns and it looks to them like Monarch killed the Blue Morpho. Jonas’ head is also looking pretty dead, so Monarch takes credit for that, too.
The tag is set the next day, during the parade. Doc and his friends watch the parade from the top of the building. Jonas is confirmed to be dead, his head in a cooler. Brock asks if OSI can have the head, but we don’t see the answer. Colonel Gentleman assures Rose that Action Man will pull through. (“It’s not his first rodeo. Or his first coma.”) The Triad finds a nearby property they can afford (“It’s got a Doctor Strange window!”) which hopefully means more of them this season. On the ground, Sgt. Hatred loses control of the Rusty Venture balloon and it flies right at the deck of the Ventech Building while everybody scatters.
The Titmouse chirp is Action Man yelling “Toast!”
–Holy smokes, right? This episode was this amazing info dump but it still remained fun. There are so many moving parts in this episode and it gets so much information across in interesting ways. I predict this is going to be one of the all-time favorite episodes once people have been able to process it.
I noted most of the references to past episodes in the recap and this is already extremely long, so I’ll try to keep this bit short. We finally know how Jonas Venture died, and it turns out we learned about this events in one of the very earliest episodes of the series. Seriously, who could have guessed that Bud Manstrong’s ghost story in the first act of the second episode would have such a huge payoff all these years later?
Also, Manstrong was really an a-hole to bring that up right in front of Doc, right? I feel less bad about the things that happened to him in “Careers in Science” and “Guess Who’s Coming to State Dinner”.
And now that we have all the information, we know that when the PROBLEM light came on, that was Jonas’ consciousness activating. The instructions, after all, said that they were to contact his son if the light ever came on. I have no way of knowing if Jackson and Doc knew that Jonas’ head was inside that console all those years ago, but the instructions were so perfectly worded. There’s never an actual indication that there is, in fact, a problem. Yes, it goes off once Doc pulls the melted cowboy out, but you could also see that as Jonas giving up. (And the blinking was Morse Code! That’s awesome!)
Boy, this episode was so good. Blue Morpho/Vendata got such a satisfying arc and it pulled together so many threads. This felt like a season finale, but I actually think it worked better to delay the ending of last season’s Blue Morpho arc. Let us stew on it for a while. Besides that, I don’t know that a continuity dump works in an actual season finale. These guys know what they’re doing, basically.
One of the series’ biggest unanswered questions is resolved. We also found out what happened on Movie Night (which wasn’t really a question until recently), why Kano took his vow of silence, and got the payoff for that long forgotten “two years, seventeen days”. As for that, it seems crazy that so many real time years have passed and only two years have elapsed on the show, but it works. That’s about how much Hank and Dean have aged since then, and while this makes for two very busy years, that speaks to the frenetic pace of their lives. All the new arches and missions and changes of venue and shifting alliances – that’s been two years. And I’m of the opinion that a fairly long time passed between Seasons Three and Four, so they’ve really packed it in.
I hope this doesn’t mean Action Man dies, though. I mean, that’s what Orpheus indicated, but he got involved to help him get to the hospital, so maybe that changes things. I’ve just come to love that angry old cuss.
I’ve theorized at length about Vendata being the Monarch’s father, so I’m feeling validated. It seems I was wrong about Jonas raising the Monarch alongside Rusty – this makes it clear that he was in the plane crash and apparently the “raised by butterflies” backstory from “Dia de Los Dangerous” is still in effect. I’m still convinced they didn’t intend the Monarch to be an important character and it’s nuts that they had to reconcile a gag from fifteen years ago with an increasingly complex continuity.
Now we have the possibility, nay, the likelihood that Jonas is the Monarch’s biological father. What we still don’t know is who Doc’s mother is (Jonas never references a wife in any of the flashbacks), or who Hank and Dean’s mother is for that matter. Jonas slept around a lot, so almost anybody could have left him with a kid. We also now have to wonder who opened the cargo doors. There isn’t a story reason for Vendata to deny it unless it really wasn’t him. At this point, we know three people who survived Movie Night, and the Red Death says it wasn’t him. Probably wasn’t Hate-Bit either. Did young Bud Manstrong do it by accident? This is not a pressing question, but I’d like it answered eventually.
Another question that I care about more than most people. If Manstrong was a kid when Jonas died, who is the last person in the picture of the Team Venture Boys Brigade? The picture we saw was taken in 1966 (though references to years get fuzzier as the series gets farther and farther from real time), and it included young versions of Phantom Limb, Richard Impossible, and the Alchemist, plus a strapping guy in a “V” sweater. At the time, people figured it was either Manstrong or Sgt. Hatred. We know it’s not Manstrong because he was much younger than he was in the picture when Jonas died. Hatred seems less and less likely as time goes on because it feels like something he’d mention. (Thought he does like putting letters on things.) I don’t know who it is. General Manhowers maybe? Or it could be somebody we haven’t met yet, or even somebody who didn’t go on to figure into Venture history beyond that picture. Oh! Hey, I’m going to put this out as my official guess – It’s Chuck Scarsale, Captain Sunshine! I’m going to go with that so I don’t keep fretting about it. Everybody OK?
I feel obligated to note that Vendata confusing past and present and watching his past self move through the same space that he currently occupies would be a dead on Westworld reference except that this would have been in production before Season Two aired.
Finally, I should have mentioned this last week, but the statue that JJ finds in the desert in part one is Pazuzu from The Exorcist. I missed that because I’m bad at horror references, but OJ McDoogle had my back, so he gets this week’s bonus points!
Next week, Dean goes to college! I suspect that one will be easier to recap.