If you watched too many cartoons in the 80s, this is the Venture Bros. for you! We’re getting into the history of SPHINX, acid magnets, beaver larva, crossbows, and much more. It’s another good one, which should come as no surprise at this point. And after sitting out last week’s episode, we get plenty of Monarch, Gary, Brock, Shore Leave, and even a little bit of Dean this time. Let’s get into “SPHINX Rising”!
“You killed an eight-year-old kid with the corpse of the only guy who knew where Long Division’s secret base was. AHHHH! That’s so Raven!” — Shore Leave
The episode opens with Gary in full SPHINX gear flying a jetpack toward a tractor trailer. With a grappling hook he snares it and knocks out the costumed henchman who’s driving. In the trailer, two more henchman and a young child who seems to be their leader are tossed around. When the truck stops, Gary tossed the dead henchman into the trailer, crushing their child. The other two henchmen yell at him – they’re Brock Samson and Shore Leave, infiltrating Long Division. Gary explains that he’s trying to be a good guy, but he blew a long-running OSI undercover operation. Brock takes his crossbow back, and we head into an abbreviated opening theme.
–We’re off to a good start! We’ve never seen Long Division (or their leader, Short Division) before, but they seem to be one of the many terrorist organizations occupying the Venture universe. I think we’ve got a good balance here of Gary having come a long way from his Henchman 21 days, but he’s still out of the loop so he screws up. Just for different reasons than he did before.
“I’m getting real sick of that ex-henchman being a better bodyguard than the ex-villain I hired. It’s so depressing when you say it out loud.” — Dr. Venture
At the Venture Compound, Doc complains about not having any good cereal. Dean is sullen, and Sgt. Hatred is nowhere to be found. Doc watches the Monarch’s cocoon approach and assumes somebody will be protecting him. Outside, Hatred is waiting with a rifle, watching the cocoon. He and Gary abuse each other for a bit, and then Gary starts giving him tips for dealing with Monarch – he only uses lasers at night. For this daytime attack, he’ll probably use acid or magnets. In the cocoon, the Monarch orders his henchmen to ready the acid magnets. Gary tells Hatred where to shoot in order to blow out a power coupling. Sure enough, he makes the shot and they can’t deploy the acid magnets. As Gary explains, now he’ll make an incredibly bad decision just so the Monarch can say he did something. And with that, the Monarch jettisons the lunchroom onto Venture’s lawn. And that’s the end of the attack.
-Remember when 21 didn’t know what his gear did? Now he knows where the power couplings on the exterior of the cocoon are! Between the acid magnet and the falling lunchroom, I’m already delighted. Note that Gary makes reference to recruiting new members for SPHINX, because that’s the actual plot of this episode. And I love that Monarch calls Dr. Mrs. the Monarch “Dr. My Wife”. It’s adorable. And also it makes me think of Scott Aukerman’s Borat impression.
DR. VENTURE: “Listen to him. He’s like his old man. But he’s too young for someone named Destiny. He should be with a Pam. Or a Pamela.”
SGT. HATRED: “Or a Pammy.”
DR. VENTURE: “Pammy?! The boy’s not ready for a damn Pammy!”
We see a number of people reading an ad on Guildslist – “Ex B guy ISO Good Guys”. It’s Gary’s ad for new SPHINX members. There’s an overweight middle-aged man with a multitude of snakes, an African-American man in a colorful sweater (he clearly has young children, as evidenced by the Fisher Price toys all over his floor), and Hank Venture. They’re all interested in joining SPHINX. Hank calls Gary to talk about it, and in a total Three’s Company moment, Doc and Hatred hear his side of the phone conversation (his excited proclamations about “destiny”) and think Hank has a girlfriend who may or may not be a stripper. Doc asks Hatred to keep an eye on him. Then we see another guy who’s interested in SPHINX, a creepy guy who shouts a lot and seems to be peeping outside an ex-girlfriend’s house. The woman in question comes outside to yell at him.
–Man, I can’t believe they’re doing the “misunderstanding the conversation” bit. But it’s such a small part of the episode and it leads to the amazing conversation in which all women are derivations of Pam, so I’ve got no problem with it. It’s actually pretty clever, as misunderstandings go. In fact, it’s kind of a reach to think Hank is talking about a woman, so the fact that Doc and Hatred go there immediately is funny in and of itself. And we’ve got guest voices! The snake guy is Larry Murphy, best known as Teddy on Bob’s Burgers, while Tim Meadows is the man in the sweater. The guy in the car is not a special guest – it’s Jackson Publick. However, it’s such a good impression (we’ll discuss of who later) that I actually thought it was 80s VO mainstay Chris Latta. Then I looked it up and found out Chris Latta died twenty years ago and felt very sad.
“Disguise? I’m a supervillain. All I have is my sweet ass costume…. I have a bathrobe, foul weather gear, and a winter coat. Oh, and some gag t-shirts from my bachelor party, maybe?” — The Monarch
In his bedroom, the Monarch reads the SPHINX ad and makes fun of it. (He doesn’t realize that it’s Gary.) Also, the Monarch now has the head of an older bald man, and it’s too large for his body. He’s wearing a sophisticated mask as part of a disguise, and then Dr. Mrs. comes out of the bathroom in a trucker cap and full beard. They’re going to get onto the Venture Compound to plant explosives, only the Monarch doesn’t really have any other clothes.
–I just have to say that I thought I’d gone insane when the Monarch had somebody else’s head. Like, I wondered if everybody else saw that too. It’s a good thing I don’t use drugs, because I would be freaking out all the time.
“They’re not warriors! We’ll be the ticks on their dogs, the lint in their dryer, and the crust in the corner of their eyes!” — Hunter Gathers
We cut between Hunter Gathers’ speech to the new members of OSI and Gary’s speech to the SPHINX recruits. Hunter is much better at it. The SPHINX guys pick code names – Sweater guy is “Wind Song”, Snake guy is “Diamond Backdraft”, and the creepy guy wants to be “SPHINX Commander”, but settles for “Daddy Warlord”. Hank picks “Destiny”.
–First, “Diamond Backdraft” is a fantastic name. Second, these guys seem to know a lot about SPHINX. Finally, it’s another reference to “push” as a term for a bowel movement. Everybody but Gary finds it gross. It’s kind of his thing!
“Joke? Look, pal. Beavers are destroying your home. So you just keep laughing while they build a dam with what used to be your basement.” — Dr. Mrs. The Monarch
Monarch and Dr. Mrs. show up at the Compound in their disguises. The Monarch’s way too warm in his winter coat, so he takes it off just as Doc comes to the door. That means Doc sees him wearing a t-shirt that says “Beaver Inspector”, and so that becomes their cover story. They’re checking for beavers. Doc’s not convinced, but it’s less hassle to just let them do their beaver inspection. Over at SPHINX headquarters, Hatred and Gary are arguing again. Hatred really just wants to talk to Hank about the whole “Destiny” situation, but since that’s his codename now, Gary completely misinterprets it. So, he brings out Destiny. It’s Hank wearing sexy lady armor. It’s got breasts and everything. The other SPHINX members have elaborate costumes, too. Once again, Gary is out of the loop.
–HA! Hank in lady armor is brilliant. And since it seems to be powered by servo motors, it even makes him walk like a sexy lady. (“I am a golden goddess”.) At this point, it should be clear what’s happening with SPHINX, but just in case you didn’t watch as many toy-based cartoons in the 80s as I did, I’ll hold off.
MONARCH: “Once you see them, it’s too late…. you gotta get ‘em at the larval stage.”
DR. VENTURE: “Beaver larva?”
DR. MRS. THE MONARCH: “Well, it’s a baby. Like a baby, but a baby beaver. Little baby beaver.”
At OSI, Hunter chews out Brock and Shore Leave for bungling the Long Division operation. Brock explains who this “Gary” is, and Hunter demands that they close down SPHINX permanently. At SPHINX, Gary gets suspicious as to why the new guys know so much about SPHINX equipment. And underneath the Venture Compound, Doc shows his disguised enemies around. The Monarch plants bombs all around with the explanation that they’re beaver deterrents. Sgt. Hatred rush into Dean’s room and asks him for advice – he’s in over his head. The explosive detector is going off, Hank is dating a stripper, there’s a militia in the yard, and he thinks Dean is cutting. He’s only right about some of those things. And then, the SPHINX airship takes off.
–No lie, I would watch a regular series of the Monarchs going undercover and ad-libbing. The bit about the Paper Beaver kills me.
“Listen, I’m an old hand at kicking addictions, Dean. Little boys, obsessive relationships, booze, nail biting, I’ve kicked them all.” — Sgt. Hatred
Aboard the ship, the new guys all start addressing the creepy guy as SPHINX Commander. Turns out, they are the actual original SPHINX high command, from back when they were villains. Also, SPHINX Commander thinks Hank is his ex. Hatred and Dean track down the bombs in the basement, but Hatred assumes Gary’s the one who left them. Brock and Shore Leave head for the SPHINX airship on a jet fighter, also assuming that Gary is behind this.
–Poor Gary! Hatred points out that the Monarch used to steal his gear and repaint it, which was established way back in Season One, before we ever even saw Sgt. Hatred. SPHINX Commander is clearly modeled on GI Joe’s Cobra Commander, and Wind Song is Storm Shadow. Diamond Backdraft is really just one of the million gimmicky Cobra operatives (He has two gimmicks! Snakes and flames!) And Hank is wearing the uniform of “The Countess”, who’s their version of the Baroness, though I don’t think she ever had armor.
“Look! It’s a molecular redistributor, and I’m sitting on it like a horse! Brock just had to get the camera.” — Dr. Venture
Doc hangs out in the living room with the Beaver Inspectors and shows them some old family photos. Hatred bursts in and tries to be subtle about the fact that he found a bunch of bombs and asks to speak to Doc privately. Dr. Mrs. picks up on his meaning, but the Monarch is oblivious. He keeps going through the album, until he finds a photo that freaks him out. The villains leave, but the Monarch takes the picture with him. Aboard the SPHINX airship, Gary and Hank are locked up in the brig. Wind Song explains that all the old operatives had a cyanide chip implanted in their brains to ensure loyalty. But those chips are degrading, so they have maybe a year left to live. Gary provided them with their last chance to go out in a blaze of glory, with one last attack on OSI. At this point, Hank remembers he’s wearing a strength suit and breaks them out. They split up – Hank heads for the bridge and Gary goes for the engine room.
–I am loving all the GI Joe stuff in this episode. That’s all I have to say at this time. Also that you should be very curious about that picture.
“All right, weirdo. The game is over! Knock this crap off or I will go… karate bananas on you.” — Hank Venture
At the Compound, Sgt. Hatred tries to figure out what’s wrong with Dean. He uses the example of “masturbating with a Furby”, which doesn’t help anybody. Dean doesn’t want to talk about it, but it’s the fact that he knows he’s a clone that’s upsetting him. He seems to appreciate Hatred’s help, though. They leave all the bombs outside the SPHINX building and head back home. In the cocoon, Dr. Mrs. prepares for an attack, but the Monarch can’t get past the picture. It’s an old photo of him playing with Rusty. And Jonas Sr. is in the background, talking to the Monarch’s parents. He doesn’t remember any of that happening ever. Brock and Shore Leave board the airship. Hank tries to attach SPHINX Commander, who’s just excited to see his true love again.
–I don’t think Hatred intends to blow Gary up — I think he’s just leaving the bombs there to indicate that he’s on to him. More importantly, that picture! Remember, we don’t know why the Monarch hates Doc, but it began during or before college. There’s never been any indication that they knew each other as children, and neither of them seems to be aware that this could have happened. Also, the Monarch’s parents being around casts some doubt on the origin he gave way back in the very first episode (“Dia de los Dangerous”). At this point, there’s no way they can hold back on finally giving us this backstory.
BROCK: “Hank, uh, can you close your eyes?”
HANK: “Of course.”
BROCK: “Then do it.” (Shoots SPHINX Commander in the head.)
HANK: “I can’t open them yet, can I?”
Shore Leave takes out Diamond Backdraft pretty easily. Gary finds him and lets him in on the SPHINX plan. Brock gets to the bridge, where Hank is snuggled on the Commander’s lap — turns out, he can override the strength suit. Once Brock realizes that the Countess is Hank, he just asks him to close his eyes and then shoots SPHINX Commander in the face with a crossbow. Later, OSI arrests the other SPHINX guys, and Brock gives a dejected Gary his crossbow. (“You work it like a Wookie”.) This takes us to the end credits. In the tag, Hunter prepares to blast the SPHINX airship out of the sky, while the Monarch counts down the timer on the bombs. At the same moment, the ship blows up and SPHINX headquarters also explodes. Hunter’s excited, Monarch is confused, and Gary is dejected.
–Once again, poor Gary! I’m curious to see where this leaves him. Is he going to end up with OSI, or will he be out on the street? For longtime fans, it’s really gratifying to see his interactions with Brock here – even though he’s kind of a dope, he gets some respect from Brock. That just doesn’t seem like something that would have been possible before. For most of the series, he wasn’t even important enough for Brock to bother killing. It’s great to see how everybody has evolved over the seasons.
I have to cut my final thoughts short, since I’m having computer problems and I wrote this recap twice already. So don’t let my relatively short comments lead you astray – I really liked this episode, but real life is kind of putting me under the gun here. I promise to be more verbose next week as Doctor Venture goes on vacation.