It’s finally here! Season Seven of The Venture Bros.! It’s been a long time and I’ve missed the Ventures very much. So let’s dive right in to “The Venture Bros. and the Curse of the Haunted Problem”!
Quick recommendation before we start – you might want to go back and watch Season One’s “Careers in Science”. It’s the episode set on the Gargantua-1, it introduces the “PROBLEM” light, and there are some throwaway bits that suddenly seem important.
I think I’m just going to try and recap the episode and at the end dig into the continuity.
We open in the desert, two years. Jonas Jr. and his crew find the crash site of Gargantua-1, the space station built by his father and wrecked by Doc. There’s also a weird demonic statue that belongs in a cursed temple. One of the few pieces of the space station to survive is the panel with the “PROBLEM” light, though it’s surrounded by dead scorpions. Cut to the present, where it’s part of the display in the Venture Building. Sgt. Hatred leads a tour group and explains the Gargantua-1. The history display in the lobby, by the way, is called “A Century of Venture-y”. Hee! After Hatred leads them to the next display (Lloyd Venture’s spacesuit from the real first moon landing), a tendril emerges from the panel and drains the life out of a passing cockroach. And the PROBLEM light starts to glow red.
At midnight, Doc’s alarm goes off, insisting it’s 7 AM. He can’t shut it off or get rid of the holographic JJ. The song “Street Life” starts to play. The same song plays in Dean’s room, where the TV shows images of the demon statue and the desert. Brock’s room starts to freeze. Doc’s TV starts to play an old Rusty Venture episode and a mirror image of the word “PROBLEM” appears on Dean’s stomach as if being pushed through from the inside. And all the while, “Street Life”. A ghostly hand reaches for Brock, HELPeR barfs up live rats. Everybody ends up in what I think is the panic room and Brock notices Hank is missing.
Hank is in Sirena’s bedroom (she’s Wide Wale’s daughter and last time we saw, his sort-of girlfriend), freaking out. But it’s because he’s Hank and they were almost intimate. (Sirena: “I almost got your shirt off that time.”) Rocco bangs on the door and Hank jumps out the window and into his hover car. When Rocco gets the door open, he notices Hank’s pizza delivery cap on the bed.
Several mornings later, Brock, Dean, and Doc are messes. It’s been happening for a week. Doc is sure it’s just a programming glitch, but Brock and Dean think it’s haunted and want to bring in Orpheus. We all want him to bring in Orpheus. Doc mocks Dean’s vegetarianism and encourages him to “eat a bacon”, which makes me laugh really hard. Hank is just fine and believes he’s not being haunted because he’s a good person.
Doc checks with his IT department – Pete White and Billy Quizboy. White can’t make any sense of what the computer is doing, but “Street Life” cues up again, and White knows it from the Sharky’s Machine soundtrack. (Hey, I wasn’t kidding about rewatching “Careers in Science”.) The song isn’t in the computer’s memory, so White assumes they’re being hacked, probably by the Blue Morpho. Billy immediately covers for Doc because he still thinks Doc is the Blue Morpho. Hee! White inserts a zip drive to debug the system but it takes a while to load.
Hank shows up at work and a badly beaten Vincenzo fires him for losing his hat. He keeps telling Hank he’s a good boy, but he can’t work there anymore. A couple of Wide Wale henchmen in their prawn armor look on. Hank leaves, and Vincenzo gives him a heart-shaped pizza. Then Hank finds that his hovercar has been trashed and painted with the message “Stay Away from Sirena”.
Hatred notices a bunch of dead rats and bugs around the PROBLEM panel while Hank comes in, complaining about Wide Wale. Hatred tells him that Princess TinyFeet’s father was a crimefighter named Chief Justice and when he approached him about dating his daughter, they ended up shooting one another. Hank, perhaps unsurprisingly, finds this helpful. Then Orpheus’ astral form appears to announce that the Order of the Triad is on the way. YES!
We really got shortchanged on Orpheus and his friends last season, so it’s great to have him back right away.
After the commercial Jefferson Twilight’s Cadillac pulls up. The license plate says “BLD VSSL”, and on the front is a big cross with a Black Power fist on top. It’s amazing. Jefferson, the Alchemist, and Orpheus’ inert body emerge and head for the Venture Building. Meanwhile on the roof, Hank trains what I thought was a sniper rifle but seems to be a parabolic microphone on Wide Wale’s building. We learn that he’s having his goons wield Sirena’s windows shut. She thinks it’s because of Hank, but he insists it’s to protect her from the Blue Morpho. (The current cover feature in Modern Enemy magazine.) We also see Brock camping outside by the pool.
Inside, Dean explains to Orpheus’ spirit what’s going on and says Brock refuses to come in. (“That’s how serious this is. It’s scare-a-Brock spooky!”) Doc is irritated to find out that Dean called Orpheus, but he’s pretty sure they can fix it. The other guys show up and Orpheus rejoins his body. Orpheus says the place is possessed. In the IT department, White keeps typing as he and Billy talk about how real-life hacking is way more boring than the movies. Then the screen shows some disturbing images and the computer launches the zip drive, which pinballs around the room and ruptures a pipe – the place starts filling with some kind of fog. Billy panics and leaves and the HELPeR sneaks up on White and knocks him out.
The doorbell rings at Wide Wale’s building – it’s Hank with a pizza. He asks for an audience with the boss and presents Rocco with a pizza as a gift. Rocco kicks him out but keeps the pizza. Orpheus begins a mystic ritual in the lobby of the Venture Building, warning everybody that the demonic presence will use their thoughts against them. Al is distracted by an old-fashioned robot, and Jefferson wants to know if the demon will bring up what happened to his mother. Orpheus: “Well, it will now.” HA! The incantation begins and the lights start to flicker. Spectral entities swirl around.
Back at Billy’s house, his mom and Action Man have Colonel Gentleman (and his dog) and Kano over for dinner. Billy arrives and they offer him the last Dim Sung. He talks about the hacker and says the “computer went nuts and started blasting the theme from Sharky’s Machine“. This means something to the former members of Team Venture. Colonel Gentleman shoots Billy’s mother with a tranquilizer dart and sends Action Man to get an Uber. He asks Billy “How long has Rusty had the problem?” And the pronunciation of “problem” as proh-blem seems appropriately Scottish, but just you wait.
The spectral images take shape, with angry tribesmen demanding the return of their mask (another memento Jonas snapped up). There’s the ghost of the first dog to die on the moon, and the flaming victims of the great Venture Millinery Fire of 19-ought-Seven. Hatred can identify all these ghosts because he’s been leading through the tour. Orpheus commands the spirits to disperse and let their true enemy show himself. The ghosts disappear and then the PROBLEM panel comes to life. The red light clicks on and “Street Life” starts up again.
Wale’s henchmen enjoy their pizza and then there’s a sound and they hit the floor. I thing the pizza was drugged, but it’s not super clear. Wale hears the commotion and gets his gun, sending Sirena to her room. He thinks it’s the Blue Morpho but… it’s Hank. He’s clad in his white suit and using the Enrico Matassa alias from the bank robbery in Season Five’s “Momma’s Boys”. Hank says he can be useful and wants to work for Wide Wale. It seems like Wale doesn’t recognize him, but I’m not sure he’s ever shared a scene with Hank for more than a couple of seconds.
The Order of the Triad advances on the PROBLEM panel but HELPeR stands to protect it, activating his weapons. Doc shuts him down and Orpheus pries the door open. Team Venture arrives to stop him, but they’re too late. Inside the console is… Jonas Venture’s head, spine, and nervous system! Colonel Gentleman helpfully tells him “it’s your pop-pop”.
Wide Wale makes Hank an offer. He gives him a gun and leads him out to the pool/ Strapped to chair is a badly beaten Monarch (in his Blue Morpho suit). Wale just needs Hank to do one thing – “Kill this asshole”. I’m pretty sure Wale knows that’s the Monarch, since he’s unmasked and Wale’s earlier dialogue indicates several times that the Blue Morpho is still out there.
Billy confirms that Jonas’ remains are hardwired to the entire building. Also, it’s pronounced PRO-BLEM and it’s an acronym for PROgressive Biological Life Extension Module. Jonas ordered the Team to put this remains in the module in the event of his death. That was all they had left of him, and they never expected the light to come on. Dean tries to point out that the light came on a couple years back, and Doc shuts him up. Then Jonas’ eyes open and he calls out “Rusty”. And then a crazed White runs in with an axe and severs Jonas’ spine. The blast of feedback throws everybody across the room and shakes the building. As the energy builds, Orpheus realizes what’s going on and tells everybody to “RUN AWAY”.
No tag this week because it’s TO BE CONTINUED. The Titmouse chirp is Sirena shouting “What!”
The ad for part two looks a lot more villain-centric with the Monarch, the Red Death, and the Council.
Oh yeah, we’re back.
–So, let’s open this up with a lengthy quote from “Careers in Science” when Bud Manstrong tries to scare the boys with a story that…. might actually be true.
“When it gets cold like this, I always remember back when I was a paperboy on this station. I musta been about your age. And on a night just like this, one of the crew just suddenly… cracked. He gathered everyone in the hangar for what he called ‘Movie Night’. And under the flickering light of Burt Reynolds’ Sharky’s Machine, he opened the bay doors! Almost the whole crew was there! Sharky’s Machine. Yup, they say his phantom spirit still roams these corridors.”
So, that was seemingly just a weird joke to sell the idea that Manstrong was kind of broken, but it appears that was gospel truth. Not only did the PROBLEM console play the theme from Sharky’s Machine, but a reference to the movie was enough to mobilize Team Venture. Clearly, this is something that happened and the question is – who was the crew member and who are the survivors. We definitely know characters who were there. I mean, that might be how Ook Ook died – he’s never appeared in the present, after all. Now that they’ve put this big old meatball out there, I think they’re going to have to tell that story. For the record, this season’s fourth episode is titled “Arrears in Science”, which sounds like a follow-up to “Careers…” to me.
I don’t think that’s how Jonas died, though we now know the way he died was horrific. That sort of ruins the idea that Kano killed him because of the ORB protocol. He would have gone for a neck snap, not a complete dismemberment. Regardless, I don’t think Jonas died on Movie Night, if only because the timeline doesn’t quite work. At this point, with the long gaps between seasons, it’s futile to try and peg things to any kind of real world timeline. That said, we know that Jonas died while Rusty was in college. And based on the picture of the Boys Brigade, Manstrong would seem to be at least a few years older than Doc, and Movie Night happened when Manstrong was a child. There’s some wiggle room there, though. They could establish that Manstrong had been a freakishly large child or that he was much too old to be a paperboy.
Either way, that event was important enough to Jonas that the theme from Sharky’s Machine plays from the PROBLEM console. Maybe it was his fault, maybe he blames himself for not preventing it (unlikely given Jonas’ ability to bury his failures). Tough to say right now, but I can’t stop thinking about it.
Jonas built a machine meant to keep a dead person technically alive. From what we’ve seen, the robot Vendata was a mobile version of that same idea. Jonas really wanted to keep somebody alive.
As a refresher, my theory is that the Monarch’s parents really did die in a plane crash and Jonas build Vendata to keep his father alive. Meanwhile, he raised Rusty and little Monarch side by side (that’s why there are two learning beds), only exiling Monarch and Vendata after the robot tried to kill Rusty. (“It’s the metal murder man from my nightmares!”) Jonas implanted the “raised by butterflies” memories, but Monarch knows something is wrong and it causes his hatred for Doc.
The fact that Vendata doesn’t look much like the Blue Morpho is worrying in terms of this theory, but maybe you have to stretch out a face to fit it on a robot.
Finally, and since this is explicitly a two-parter I’m not deep-diving as much as I usually would, in “Careers in Science”, Doc has a long conversation with a hallucination of his father after he hits his head. Right next to the PROBLEM console. What if that wasn’t a hallucination and it was actually Jonas reaching out? I mean, it doesn’t really change anything, but it’s a cool idea.
See you soon for part two and hopefully some answers!