I’m not going to lie – this week’s Venture Bros. recap is a weird one. And not in the way that the show is usually weird. This week, our cast is inWashingtonD.C. with the President. And there’s the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, and everybody is wearing different outfits and it’s all very strange. So let’s get to “Guess Who’s Coming to State Dinner”!
BROCK SAMSON: “We were in ‘Nam together.”
DOCTOR VENTURE: “Oh. Wait, you were like ten during Vietnam.”
BROCK: “Well, I didn’t say during the war.”
We open with the space station Gargantua 1, hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere. Anna Baldavich and Colonel Bud Manstrong can’t pull the station out of its dive and it crashes. According to newspaper headlines, Manstrong alone survived the crash and the Gargantua destroyed an underground terror complex when it hit. He’s honored by the President at an official ceremony, where Doctor Venture is irritated at not getting any credit. Brock runs into a Secret Service agent named Hauser with an old grudge against him.
–The Gargantua was built by Jonas Venture, and we last saw it (as well as Anna and Manstrong) in the second episode of the series, “Careers in Science”. The fact that this episode shows a (fictional) President and even has the Ventures in an identifiable city makes this episode seem weird right off the bat.
“Say, Bud… Or is it Budley? Budward? What’s ‘Bud’ short for?” – Dr. Venture
At a state dinner (which Doc, the boys, and Brock are also attending), Manstrong regales people with his daring tale of survival. Doc alludes to a mysterious invention he plans to show the President. Manstrong acts nervous, and we see that he has vague memories of surgeons doing something to his head after the crash. Bud’s mother hits on Brock and mouths off to the President. Doc ask if Bud will put in a good word for him with the President. And then the ghost of Abraham Lincoln appears and takes note of the blinking Band-Aid on the back of Bud’s neck. Only Dean notices the ghost, and then the President calls an end to the dinner.
–Obviously, Bud’s demeanor and his controlling mother are references to The Manchurian Candidate. President Breyer is a weird mix of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, with a little bit of Nixon in the visual. There aren’t a lot of references to Venture continuity in this episode, as it’s out of the usual setting and with the supporting cast entirely missing, so I won’t have as much to say in these breaks. However, if you don’t know the “Johnny Deeper” joke Hank is telling in this scene, then you’ve never been an eleven-year-old boy.
“You have no clue, do you? These aren’t a bunch of fake pirates or dicks in rubber butterfly suits, Docs. We’re talking about the United States Secret Service!” – Brock Samson
Meeting with the President in the Oval Office, a nervous Bud apologizes for his mother. Breyer offers Bud the Vice-Presidency (the current Veep is under indictment), as well as his pick of any woman in the secretarial pool. Bud is appalled by the President’s lecherous statements, and storms out. Cut to the Lincoln Bedroom, where Dean is still freaked out by what he saw. Later, Bud confides in his mother, who tells him to man up and take the position of Vice President. A penny floats out of her purse and watches, alarmed. Nearby, Doc tries to convince Brock to create a diversion so he can sneak into the Oval Office and get some face time with POTUS. Brock’s reluctant, until he realizes that means he can beat up Hauser.
–I had forgotten how blatant they were with the Clinton jokes (the cigar, the blue dress). On the commentary, Doc and Jackson seem kind of embarrassed, but they clearly wanted to balance out the overall Bush-ness of President Breyer. Also, this episode first aired in 2006 – those jokes already had cobwebs then. I actually sort of like the way it adds to the whole thing where it’s never quite clear what year it is on this show, but man, this episode takes a while to warm up.
DEAN: “Hank, wake up! It’s the ghost of Abraham Lincoln!”
Dean can’t sleep, what with Lincoln’s ghost watching him. He finally manifests and demands that the Ventures help save the President. In the Oval Office, Bud and Mrs. Manstrong meet with the President, and then Doc and Brock burst in to make their pitch. Doc unveils the VentureDome just before he’s tackled by Secret Service. Lincoln tries to explain that Bud has been programmed to assassinate the President, but Hank and Dean aren’t getting it.
–Yeah, now things are picking up. I love that Hank actually doesn’t know who Lincoln is. (And Dean’s response “Didn’t you learn anything in bed?”) Also, they get away with using the plot of Manchurian Candidate by havingLincoln point out that this is exactly what’s happening.
“Sorry, Sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I was just a bit overwhelmed! I mena, I have a body again. All those hormones!” – Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost
Hauser tries to take Doc into custody, but discovers that the VentureDome is an invisible force field, through which not even sound can escape, and the Oval Office is sealed inside it. And because Hauser smashed the remote control, Doc can’t turn it off. Hauser communicates with the Secret Service agents on the outside by writing on Post-It notes and instructs them to call Jonas Venture, Jr. Lincoln possesses Dean to help him save the President, and the first thing he does is kiss Hank.
–Hey, it’s Jonas, Jr.! And in this episode, we learn that Sally and Ned Impossible have come to live with him on Spider-Skull Island. (After they met in “Twenty Years to Midnight”.) I also love the bit with possessed Dean. I talked about it on the Secret Lover podcast and everything!
“How? How? What are you, an owl?” – Hank Venture
J.J. arrives at the White House to try and cancel the force field. Then, Dean rushes into the field and knocks himself out. But the impact launches a possessed penny through the field, letting the ghost of Lincoln enter the Oval Office. Lincoln realizes that he can manipulate objects that bear his image – so he can get the penny through the force field, but he can’t do anything once he’s there because he’s in a penny. So he comes up with a plan, but Hank and Dean have to collect all the five dollar bills they can find. There’s a montage of the boys getting fives from everybody, including the Army and Secret Service.
–The montage is pretty adorable, and I love how exasperate Abe is with Hank at this point. (“We build a gun made out of pennies!”) Also, General Manhowers appears here. He doesn’t do much here, but he’ll pop up again in Season Three. He actually first appeared in the non-canonical demo pilot, “The Terrible Secret of Turtle Bay”, but this is his first in-continuity appearance.
“Am I the only one who cares about perimeters? ‘Cause I’m starting to think I am. And I don’t like it.” – Hauser
In the Oval Office, they’re getting increasingly desperate. Brock tries to make amends with Bud, but he’s not having it. He finally snaps when a drunken Mrs. Manstrong passes out in Brock’s lap. Just before they fight, Abe Lincoln charges in, wearing a paper-maiche shell made of five dollar bills. Lincoln wrestles Bud to the ground and rips off the bandage to show the microchip. Mrs. Manstrong takes Hauser’s gun and shoots Lincoln in the head. At that point, Doc recognizes Bud’s implant – it’s the motherboard from Gargantua 1, and he can access it to show the last moments of the space station. That’s when they learn Bud didn’t heroically try to save the station in its final moments – he just blacked out while getting a handjob. In the tag, as Lincoln makes fun of Doc for his youthful indiscretions in the Lincoln Bedroom, a cleaning lady removes the VentureDome with club soda.
–Yeah, the plotting on this is nuts. I like that Manstrong was never actually programmed to kill the President, but it’s weird to end on masturbation jokes like that. I feel like it would work better if a more established character was the butt of the joke, but Manstrong is such a fringe character that it plays as more mean than if it had been, say, 21 or Pete White. And the tag is just Jackson and guest plotter (and Tick creator) Ben Edlund pulling something out of their ass at the last minute. I wish there’d been less of the Presidential stuff and more of Brock’s history with Hauser – he’s a funny character who didn’t get much to do. That said, this episode still entertains me. It’s not a favorite (though the Lincoln stuff is pretty inspired), but the jokes are still really good. The plotting is weird, and the themes and setting don’t really fit the show,
Next week, we get back to the Venture Compound and bring in a fan favorite character. Also, it’s an episode that is partially responsible for me getting dumped years ago. Find out next time how “I Know Why the Caged Bird Kills” ended a relationship!