The Venture Bros: ORB

Are we doomed?

hitcounterIn her book Dark Age Ahead, the late Jane Jacobs argues, persuasively, that western culture is headed for a new dark age, and that in this dark age the knowledge and expertise we now possess will be lost. She points to Dark Age Europe, where societies that once thrived suddenly collapsed, the people of those societies forgetting how to maintain the bedrock of their cultures: agriculture, irrigation, education, so forth.

How is such a thing possible? How does a society forget how to plant and care for crops? Well, here’s one way: there is a shift at the top of the society’s power structure, wars are started for the benefit of the ruling class, the society’s economic framework is re-purposed to serve the needs of the power-mad, ignoring the needs and interests of the lower classes, there is a societal shift where the caretakers and practitioners of vital knowledge are driven away, or isolated, or killed as knowledge itself is demonized. And inside of a generation, superstition and ignorance become the norm. Suddenly, the center cannot hold and the society collapses, generally overthrown by the next rising power.

(That’s the one thing Idiocracy left out — the fact that, once the US gets as stupid as it is in the movie, they will have been long-before taken over by, say, China.)

Ah, but certainly that can’t happen to us, can it? We couldn’t possibly lose a generation of knowledge overnight, could we? After all, we have the internet, a vast repository of knowledge available to anyone with a computer. But, as “ORB” reminds us, forcefully, a tool for knowledge is limited to the intelligence of the people using it, and the characters populating “ORB” are, by and large, total fucking idiots.

(Another thing to keep in mind, not directly addressed in “ORB,” is the fact that the internet is controlled by very large corporations who are currently champing at the bit to try to figure out how to pry money out of this bonanza of democratization. Once those corporations seize control of the flow of knowledge, I guarantee you that the internet will contain only information unharmful to those in power — and will be used by a generation of people completely incapable of getting information from books, partly because they have never learned to do so and partly because all the libraries will have been shut down by communities that could not afford to keep them open, since their tax base has been eroded by mass real-estate foreclosures and bank failures.)

But what’s all this then? Isn’t this an awful lot of heaviness to load upon a 22-minute cartoon? Well, when the maguffin of that cartoon is a device of “ultimate power,” I’m going to say no.

So there is this orb. And the orb is some kind of remarkable device. It’s not just that no one knows what it does, it’s that everyone has a different idea of what it does. The Guild (or, as I like to call it, The Guild of Extraordinary Gentlemen) has possession of his device, and is under attack. From Tesla, which, lest the reader forget, is just another way of saying David Bowie. I’m going to go ahead and say that the battle in question is actually being waged because of the orb, that Tesla wants to get his hands on it and the Guild has promised to keep it safe.

(There is some sly social commentary in “ORB” regarding the corruption of societies, in this case secret societies, as the do-good Guild has, somehow between then and now, morphed into the Guild of Calamitous Intent, very much, I’m guessing, as the Republic of Star Wars morphed into the Empire. How exactly this happened is yet unexplored, but it’s worth noting that the main difference between The Guild and the later Guild of Calamitous Intent is that the Guild featured not one but two artists, whereas the GCI consists entirely of power-mad costumed freaks — David Bowie notwithstanding. Or, perhaps, now that I think of it, David Bowie inclusive.)

(And, as long as we’re here, it’s worth noting that the Guild includes a number of real-life people. What would Samuel Clemens and Oscar Wilde have to contribute to this secret society? My guess is that their humanist overview helped to keep the Guild on a moral track — and when they were gone and the Guild co-opted, only the power-mad costumed freaks were left. And I’m guessing that Crowley was not killed when Sandow threw him out of the airship, but rather astral-projected or something and ended up with Tesla’s team. Ah, but this is all mere wild speculation on my part.)

The more aggressive members of the Guild, particularly Fantomas, believe the orb is some kind of ultimate weapon, and they cannot wait to activate it, even though they have no idea what form this weapon will take or what its effects are. The more scientific members of the Guild, namely Col. Venture, believe the orb is a benign, problem-solving agent of good.  So the orb is different things to different people, depending on their point of view.  The only thing Fantomas and Col Venture agree on is that the orb is a device of incredible power.

The issue being skated around here, of course, is that, metaphorically, the orb isn’t a device at all — it is power itself.  The orb (that is, great power) can create or destroy, can educate or kill, can free the masses or enslave them — depending on who possesses it.  This is the crisis of “ORB,” and is, of course, the crisis of our society.  Will the orb be possessed by the emotionally-stunted power-mad freaks, or the “men of hope” in the scientific world?  Or will it be possessed by a total fucking idiot?  Is the orb meant to serve the needs of the people or to serve the whims of the powerful?  Should power reside with the elite, or is it a birthright to all humanity?

“ORB” reveals the soft underbelly of the generally caustic, despairing Venture Bros.  Startling in its lack of irony and cynicism, the script contains genuine (if absurd) mysteries, a genuine comic-thriller plot (or two) and a remarkable sense of possibilities.

The A-story hinges, as many of this season’s do, on Jonas’s relationship with Rusty, and Rusty’s gradual rapprochement with the memory of his father.  Jonas, it seems, knew from the very beginning that Rusty was a useless little idiot, albeit a profitable one, and concocted an elaborate ruse to keep Rusty from ever finding the orb.  That is, the wise father, understanding the importance of the orb, made sure that it would not fall into the hands of those unqualified to use it.

(On the other hand, the wise father also took his son along on international spy adventures, deprived him of a normal childhood, and regularly placed him in situations where he would need to kill other men.  So there’s that.)

(In real life, of course, our father GHW Bush, was never wise and did everything he could to ensure that the orb would be possessed by those unqualified to use it.)

(And, if you’re in the mood for it, the “simple substitution code” on the toilet-paper roll does not spell out “ORB” but “VLJ”, which means what exactly?  And did Kano really kill Jonas, and was it because Jonas got close to wielding the orb?  Is the Venture compound located where it is because Jonas knew the orb was buried there somewhere?  Is that why he designed and built the extensive fallout shelters, to find this orb?  Wheels within wheels.)

Rusty begins the episode in possession of his usual greed, laziness and cynicism, but as the mystery deepens and the intrigue takes hold, he finds himself transforming into something else — his younger, more idealistic self.  How much more self-knowledge could Rusty obtain after he has, after his long, ridiculous journey with Billy, taken possession of the orb and then, upon reflection, decided that he is too stupid to activate it?  And yet he does so with great calm.  Rusty, in this episode, has achieved one of the greatest pieces of wisdom one can — he now knows that he does not know anything.  Paradoxically, the wisdom of his ignorance saves his life (his ignorance, of course, extends to him not knowing that his life was in danger to begin with) and, for all we know, saves the world entire.

The Rusty Venture title sequence is, of course, a smash, and alone is worth the price of admission.


109 Responses to “The Venture Bros: ORB”
  1. jeffwik says:

    Rusty’s face turn — I don’t know what else to call it — was what I’d been waiting all season for, since “the Doctor is Sin.”

  2. jdurall says:

    And did Kano really kill Jonas, and was it because Jonas got close to wielding the orb?

    I would say no to both parts of this question. Kano said he took his oath of silence because he’d taken a great man from the world, and he was already silent while adventuring alongside Jonas.

    He also remains, if I recall, silent when asked directly if he killed Jonas. Brock took it for an admission of guilt… but I wonder if there’s not more to that story.

  3. random and off-topic, but it’d funny that i just watched ‘the prestige’ two days aga, for the first time.

    if anyone is into the tesla idea, one should watch the film ‘primer’ from which my last name irl derives.

    (random, sorry)

    • Todd says:

      Primer is never random. Primer applies to everything, everywhere, at all times.

      • You know Primer!? My last name is Emiba, from that film!

        Funny how I meet people online who actually understand things I understand so profoundly.

        Like how I have a long time online friend whose LJ I discovered simply b/c of our shared interest in the “Violent Unknown Event” from Greenaway’s The Falls. Love it.

        • Todd says:

          I’ve seen Primer many times, which is, for me anyway, a slightly different statement from saying I understand it.

        • Violent Unknown Event

          Sorry to interrupt this thought, but if you’re interested in the Violent Unknown Event, may I recommend this guide by the VFI that I have been a contributor to.

          I think I have to start watching Venture Bros. online – I don’t have cable, and generally wait for the full-season DVDs, but the discussions get too spoiler-heavy and at the same time too fascinating to put off. Tesla? Wilde? Clemens? What the hell is going on . .?

          • Re: Violent Unknown Event

            Thank you! How kind – and what fun!

            Venture Bros. is one of the very rare television productions I that I actually enjoy. I suggest watching it chronologically and sticking with it through Season 1’s entirety in order to understand it’s true intellectual nature.

            Season 3’s a knockout, too! I have too much fun.

            Also, I have no access to television – simply a high def flat-screen for video games and films via my PS3. I own the VB DVDs and have viewed Season 3 online with full satisfaction.

            I hope it tickles your fancy, as well.

          • Todd says:

            Re: Violent Unknown Event

            What the hell indeed.

          • Re: Violent Unknown Event

            Oh, and if I just made a massive assumption that you haven’t watch VB yet (which I most likely did . . .), then sorry about that.

            Thanks again for the high quality link. : )

  4. chadu says:

    Intriguing that it doesn’t seem like Colonel Venture took young Jonas along as a boy-adventurer, hmm?

    It does seem that Rusty was/is at his best as a boy-adventurer rather than super-scientist [1]… which is interesting. I’m thinking now “what if Rusty had continued to be an adventurer, rather than pursuing super-science?” Does adventure-over-science (in the VB world) lead to costumed villainy, where science-over-adventure leads to super-science?

    [1] What successes (flawed or not) in super-science has Rusty had?
    * Keeping skinless Scamp alive for a time.
    * The Oooh-Ray.
    * Repairing/Modifying HELPeR (into a dialysis machine)
    * G.U.A.R.D.O.
    * Perfecting/Implementing Jonas’ cloning technique
    * The Joy-Can (orphan’s heart)
    * The Metasonic Locator (calls back the dead)
    * Cure for Goliath Serum? (with Billy and Pete)
    * Fixing the Shrink Ray (with Billy and Pete)
    * Walking Eye
    * Forcefield (not vs. psychically animated materials or club soda)
    * Venturestein
    * Cloning the kid killed in the bio-dome and fixing his genes
    * Boom Broom?

    This list seems much closer to “mad science” than “super-science”… maybe that’s why Killinger targeted him as a possible recruit for supervillainy?


    • mrmihocik says:

      “Intriguing that it doesn’t seem like Colonel Venture took young Jonas along as a boy-adventurer, hmm?”

      It would seem that Col. Venture is Jonas’ grandfather, not father.

      • chadu says:

        Doesn’t Rusty say at some point “My father was a superscientist, and his father was a superscientist, and his father…wait, no, I think he was a milliner.”

        That would make Colonel Venture Jonas’ father/Rusty’s grandfather.

        • Todd says:

          Assuming Col Venture lived into the 1930s, I see no reason why he can’t be Jonas’s father.

          • chadu says:

            Hmmmm… the timing doesn’t seem to work out right, especially it looks like Sandow kills Col. V on the zeppelin.

            Public year of death for notables in “ORB” (not that they couldn’t have faked ’em):

            * Eugen Sandow: 1925
            * Nikola Tesla: 1943
            * Oscar Wilde: 1900
            * Aleister Crowley: 1947
            * Mark Twain: 1910

            (Original Jonny Quest show was ’64-’65 and Jonny is either 10 or 11; Rusty writes a letter to the Herculoids calling them “hippies” for not fighting in Viet Nam, The Herculoids aired ’67-’69; Rusty is an upperclassman in college in the late ’80s/early ’90s — note that White is on Spring Break in Nineteen Ninety-something. Add to the fact that Jonas may have been cloning Rusty much the way Rusty clones Hank and Dean…)

            Asssuming Jonas Sr. is 40 to 50 when Rusty is a 6 or 7 year old boy adventurer in 1969… latest he could have been born is around 1919. That’s almost 20 years too late for Oscar Wilde to be hanging around on a zeppelin.

            Maybe Colonel Venture is RUSTY’s great-grandfather — the one Jonas Sr. didn’t talk about or said he was a milliner… because Colonel Venture was part of the Guild (pre-Calamitous Intent).

            • chadu says:

              Hm… assuming air-date = real date, “20 Years to Midnight” happens in 2006 (which means Jonas Sr. died in 1986), and the device must be activated on may 4th of Rusty’s 44th year… which means that Rusty was born around 1962.

              (Also, on that wikipedia page, the age when Rusty wrote his letter to the Herculoids was ten… which means he wrote it around 1972.)

              I go on vacation tomorrow, and already did a bunch of day-job work.

            • Todd says:

              I forgot for a moment that Sandow kills Col Venture no later than 1900. My bad.

        • misterseth says:

          It’s also interesting to note that Col Venture bears a strong resemblance to Theodore Roosevelt. A president responsible for bringing America into the world stage around the turn of the century, without consideration for consequences down the road. Just like Col. Venture’s feelings toward the Orb.

    • faroffstar says:

      I can’t read the words “walking eye” without hearing it exactly as Urbaniak said it in the episode.

  5. catwalk says:

    i am curious as to who installed the bodyguards, whose ultimate employment is as executioners of their charges who might attempt to activate the ORB.

    also… ZOMG! brock! oh noes!!!1!11!

    • Todd says:

      Or, as I was just thinking, did they install themselves?

      • catwalk says:

        we’ve only got sandow at the end, so far, and it wasn’t 100% clear that kano shuttered jonas sr, only that he ended some great man’s life…
        brock doesn’t seem to have any clue that rusty’s blood might end up on his hands until this ep. the revelation even seems to happen as a result of convoluted machinations, billy’s obsession aside.
        oy. so big. so very much bigger than we’ve imagined…

    • Dialogue

      Can anyone enlighten me: what the hell does Col. Venture’s bodyguard say before he kills Col Venture?

      Col Venture says “Because I…am a man of hope.”

      Bodyguard: “Please, Dr Venture, _______________________.”

      I’m normally quite good with accents, but I replayed it about 25 times and couldn’t figure out what he was saying.

  6. memento_mori says:


    Shoot me an email… yers is bouncing. Rock out.

  7. mattyoung says:

    Does anyone thing we’re actually seeing a differently-aged young Rusty Venture in the “Rusty Venture” cartoon than we have before (with his buck teeth and big hair?) or just a poorly-animated cartoon version of the Venture Bros. reality? (Those elf ears are just disturbing.)

    • misterseth says:

      Or could it be a younger Monarch?

      • piehead says:

        The Monarch, former child actor?

        • catwalk says:

          would this be the monarch’s reason for arching rusty? the monarch’s life destroyed by being type-cast as young rusty venture? still… eyebrows…

          • chadu says:

            My suspicion is that the Monarch is trying to get revenge on Rusty because Rust made fun of his obsession with Monarch butterflies in creative writing class back in college.

            • Being mocked and teased as a kid for looking like Rusty Venture is a suitable reason for the Monarch to by arching his doppelganger.

              Although I suspect that “the Venture Brothers” might also apply to the Monarch considering 1). his physical resemblance, and 2). Jonas’ womanizing ways.

          • Anonymous says:

            Being mocked and teased as a kid for looking like Rusty Venture is a suitable reason for the Monarch to by arching his doppelganger.

            Although I suspect that “the Venture Brothers” might also apply to the Monarch considering 1). his physical resemblance, and 2). Jonas’ womanizing ways.

        • cdthomas says:

          I told you, I told you, I told you….

          well, maybe not here, but it’s my contention the Monarch arches Rusty because he was saddled with playing Rusty on the show.

          • mandrakes says:

            Re: I told you, I told you, I told you….

            By Jove, I think you might be onto something! Maybe it’s the Rusty Venture animation, but they look completely different! And those buck teeth… they struck me as Monarch-esque the moment I saw them…

    • I think he’s in an awkward-slightly-older stage in that episode.

      Have they ever called the show a cartoon? I’ve been assuming it wasn’t, and my big question is how ‘real’ it is. Based on real adventures and filmed later? Or did old Team Venture just haul Rusty and a camera around some of the time?

      • selectnone says:

        Yeah, it’s referred to as a cartoon.

        The animation’s slightly cheaper-looking when they show it – at the start of this episode I was wondering what was up with the lip-sync, but it got better after cutting to Billy 😀

      • faroffstar says:

        I’m pretty sure the old Rusty Venture show was a cartoon. In this episode when Billy is showing the slides, Dr. Venture says something like, “What does this prove, other than you’re way to obsessed with cartoons and I need to call someone regarding those DVD royalties.” I don’t remember the exact quote, but I know he referred to it as a cartoon.

        • cdthomas says:

          I wonder what we’re seeing, though.

          If Rusty’s getting royalties, is he getting them as a performer, owner of copyright, or both?

          That’s why the RVS cartoon design is confusing — the voices are the same as for the ‘real’ people, but the situations go far beyond what a 1970s standards-and-practices network department would approve for a family show, whether shown in daytime or evening.

          A kid character could possibly kill an animal threatening his family; he wouldn’t be allowed to kill another human being, especially in an environment when both his dad and his friend were covered in blood. I remember the 70s cartoons, and there was a crackdown on showing violence the way JONNY QUEST did in the 60s. (That was another reason I questioned why they set the show during that era; it would have been so much easier to justify a freewheeling approach if the show began in the 60s.)

          I know, I know, it’s the VENTURE BROTHERS, but I’m wondering about the logic — and, the cruelty — of Jonas Venture creating a TV show that featured reenactments of the nightmarish adventures he and Rusty had experienced — and then possibly *forced Rusty to play himself during the shows*.

          I just want clarity on how sociopathic Jonas Venture was regarding Rusty’s psyche, whether he was PEEPING TOM strength or what….

          • Todd says:

            Re: I wonder what we’re seeing, though.

            “the situations go far beyond what a 1970s standards-and-practices network department would approve for a family show, whether shown in daytime or evening.”

            The Rusty Venture clip pushes the envelope for the purposes of satire, but in fact one of the original complaints about Jonny Quest was that it was far too violent, constantly put children at the center of violent scenes, and had Jonny handling lethal weapons.

            • cdthomas says:

              Re: I wonder what we’re seeing, though.


              Still wondering whether everyone played themselves, or did they get actors as voiceover talent?

              ( for.Monarch’’s.ass.macro)

  8. selectnone says:

    Rusty’s about-face seems a little too off to me… I reckon there’s something more to this than first appears, and he knows more than he’s letting on.

    I mean, come on, they left that ending farmore open than usual, so there’s at least another episode’s-worth of plot-development waiting there 😀

    The fact that the clue was a URL is a big clue that Something Is Up there, something timey-wimey is afoot.
    (I wonder if the fake Jonas Venture from “20 Years To Midnight” actually turns out to have been Jonas after all?)

    Rusty’s non-matching ORB substitution-code, followed by “oh look, an orb!” suggests that maybe he had an idea what he was looking for after all.
    He said something along the lines of “just a paperweight, my ass” apropos to nothing seen in that episode, I’m guessing that’s an excuse his father gave him at some earlier point.

    Has anyone else been looking for Sekrit Codes in this episode?
    I’m sure something is going to be in there, but I’m a bit busy to get my tin-foil cryptonumerology hat out and SOLVE the ORB.

    I noticed Hank appeared to have a letter “K” in dirt on his cheek when he was digging, there’s doubtless other letters to be found…
    That “VLJ” (or whatever those numbers represents) probably fits in there too…

    • mattyoung says:

      I can’t bring up the end of the episode right now, but is there any reason to believe that the orb in the safe in his father’s office is not a different orb than the one in the museum?

      And could that orb in his Dad’s office been the “paperweight” in question?

    • cdthomas says:

      the code matches, boo:

      As was explicated at Mantis Eye:

      #121 – haux – Aug. 11, 2008 (1:50pm EST)
      “In Minuet’s bargain
      sits house that coke built…”

      22nd letter is O
      12th letter is R
      10th letter is B

      nice use of meta-coding

    • cdthomas says:

      {obligatory “Blink” comment}

      but seriously, the ‘timey-wimey’ time loop implied by a URL in a box buried at least 17 years ago has got to mean something….

  9. Anonymous says:

    The infirred off-screen drama goes further if you know that Samuel Clemens and Nikola Tesla were, in reality, very close friends. Was Clemens a mole in the Guild? Was there a grand falling out and disagreement over the ORB? Was Tesla a defecting Guild member? It would seem to make more sense to me that Tesla (a real life super-scientist) would hold a place amongst the fledgling Guild rather than Mark Twain. Or were Doc and Jackson simply just unaware of their connection?

    • cdthomas says:

      You know we’ll have to have a Venture Bros. comic book

      after this… the boys have stepped to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen level, with going wide on the level of stories they have yet to tell.

      Nope, 26 more episodes won’t do, nosireebob, so they’d better get cracking on how they want to go about making the VB empire the right way….

  10. kornleaf says:

    so, i have been commenting here for a while.
    I want to pursue writing and film and this has been loads of help to that end (i.e. i now always think about the desires of the characters and how they come into conflict rather than always attempting to inject conflict)
    however, that is not my main role. For the majority of my “professional” life, i have worked in politics; campaigning, policy making, policy and trend analysis etc. Mainly on a local level but yes. I want to chime in here.

    How is such a thing possible? How does a society forget how to plant and care for crops? Well, here’s one way: there is a shift at the top of the society’s power structure, wars are started for the benefit of the ruling class, the society’s economic framework is re-purposed to serve the needs of the power-mad, ignoring the needs and interests of the lower classes, there is a societal shift where the caretakers and practitioners of vital knowledge are driven away, or isolated, or killed as knowledge itself is demonized. And inside of a generation, superstition and ignorance become the norm. Suddenly, the center cannot hold and the society collapses, generally overthrown by the next rising power.”

    I will partially agree with this. It cross cuts with concepts such as eternal return. If you look at the trends of the major powers in the world, this always happens; the fall of Babylon, the decline of Rome, Dark Age Europe. There are always waxes and wains of societies. I see the current trends of America possibly going towards something else; decentralization.

    As many factors start falling into place like a Rube Goldberg Machine it becomes way too clear that there are other possibilities, other ways for the pressure to become alleviated. As gas prices and federal interstate taxes rise it becomes painfully clear that transportation and interstate commerce will start to decline. The focus will be more on intrastate, local community goods and trade and the “localvore” movement will rise.

    Now, because all this money will stop going directly to the Federal System and will, instead, travel to the state’s coffers, the States will ultimately rise in power compared to the Federal Government. Federal Programs will continue to fail and the State Systems will, in turn have to pick up the slack. The Federal Government, fearing the loss of power and money, will attempt to find annother way of squeezing the states. The more they try, the more upset the States will become.

    Had this hypothetical trend started 5 years earlier, and reached it’s zenith under the current administration, I could have believed mass movements toward cessation. This falls partially with the “forgetting to maintain the bedrock of our culture” in the aspect that we forget how to minister.

    This is just one theoretical model without any data-set to back it up, but it is fun to pretend!

    The main problem for me is that I have not seen any promising and bright happy positive models of the future of the US being put out there. They have run the gambit from “total downfall of US economy and society where there are local warlords taking control of the streets” to “we won’t be the world’s number one superpower any more” (pretty safe bet for at least a while). Needless to say, none of it looks good.

    • Todd says:

      This is one of my reasons for moving to California. When the inevitable Second Civil War happens, we’ve got the best shot at being one of the healthier economies of the northern hemisphere. And the weird thing is, I’m only half-joking.

      • kornleaf says:

        may i call you Todd?

        Todd, there are some things that make me positive that i could survive anything from the total collapse of the World Economy, to a Civil War, to a Zombie Apocalypse. Among those things are the skills I have learned from living near and in woods, from my hard pressed blue collar texas heritage, and, most importantly, my group of friends who also possess certain skills and supplies (camping and rafting guides, survivalists and aeronautical engineers).

        I invite you to join our enclave when the inevitable happens.

      • schwa242 says:

        Part of why my wife and I are trying to sell our damn house in Colorado and move to San Francisco. And no-one’s biting.

    • noskilz says:

      Sounds like you would really enjoy James Burke’s Connections and this Ars Technica DRM piece.

      I’m not sure any DRM method has ever stood up to determined attack, but if one wanted to float the notion of some kind of massive collapse, it might be easier to relearn deciphering hieroglyphs than encrypted hard drives and optical media. On the bright side, it’s quite remarkable how much in the way of material , documentation, and home enthusiast-hobbyists there are.

  11. mandrakes says:

    Go Team Venture

    I didn’t see Rusty putting the orb aside as an admission of his own shortcomings; rather, he displays his first real intelligence since the start of the series. He knows when to put it down. Jonas, as brilliant and famous as he was, didn’t know when to do that. Neither did Col. Venture, who (I’m assuming) was one of the original, bona fide “good guys”– sorry, “protagonist.” Onlyunhappy, pathetic, and greedy Rusty Venture sees the bigger picture. Only he is able to deny the power of the orb.

    This show is, superficially, about one very unhappy, failed super-scientist, but I think it is (or will be, ultimately) about an unlucky man who finds his humanity through his own messed-up family. There have been lots of little indicators that there is more to Venture than meets the eye, and this episode highlights this dichotomy. Yes, he clones the little boy who gets killed by the gorilla so he doesn’t get sued, but he also takes the time to clear up the cancer. He saves his little misshapen brother, even after JJ tries (and comes awfully close) to killing him (wow, that sentence didn’t work out). And he keeps on cloning the boys! I remember, Todd, you asking why Venture keeps on cloning Hank and Dean when it’s so obvious that he doesn’t want to be a father. I don’t have a particularly astute solution, but I think that the fact that he does keep cloning them says novels. This fact (along with the one time he stepped between Hank and Professor Impossible’s pistol) gives me hope that The Venture Bros will end on a note of hope for the old super-scientist. ORB helps me to cement this faith. When Venture says, “I’m starting to feel it again,” something in his voice changed, and the man we saw in the rest of the episode was different. He actually said “Go Team Venture!” for the first (and probably the final) time. Absolution is afoot!

    God, could I sound any more like a fanatic? I’m not usually like this. I blame it on my allergies.

    I think Season 4 will be even better than Season 3 (if that’s possible) because the dense, tangled battle of its predecessor will have passed, and it can concentrate on sorting itself out. A lot of questions have been raised, and I think we can look forward to some startling and exciting answers.

    What an absolutely amazing show.
    And when IS Phantom Limb coming back???

    • devophill says:

      Re: Go Team Venture

      No one cares two years later, but the sentence you wrote that didn’t work out works if you remove the word “to”.

      • devophill says:

        Re: Go Team Venture

        Not to say what you wrote isn’t awesome (it is), I just mean no one cares about my little suggestion at this late date. 🙂

  12. cdthomas says:

    No one’s saying squat about the other face turn: Brock?

    I mean, we now know what was only implied before, that Brock doesn’t guard Rusty’s life for its own sake — he protects the tech that somehow is keyed to Rusty personally? Brock, like the other bodyguards before him, had little hesitation in killing a Venture, so we know that was their job, like the guards ready to kill Navajo codetalkers during WWII.

    So the Ventures aren’t important as superscientists; they are important as the key to the Orb. If Rusty, as ignorant of his own power of the Orb as he is, is still important to OSI, then how can he use the Orb — and why must he die, before that happens?

    If OSI could have used the Orb on their own, they would have. If GCI could have killed the Ventures and taken it, they could have decades ago, when Jonas died and Rusty was still at college. So somehow if OSI or the Guild wants to use the ORB, they must have a living Venture around. The question is *how* the Ventures matter to the ORB — is it only superscience capabilities that can unlock it, or would it be blood/DNA decryption at work?

    With Crowley involved, and the magick strength shown on the other side via Dr. Killinger, it’s possible that all the factions we’ve seen over the past few years — Orpheus, Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend (dint the Venture Home News mention that her father is magic? hmmm…. Miss Sheila Crowley, perhaps?), even the lovable Alchemist, all have a stake in staying close to our Doctor without degree, because *they* know what he’s got under his skin?

    Points to ponder… but I’m glad I stuck with this season. It’s been better on all levels than LOST, HEROES or (dare I say it? Dare, *Dare*!) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. It’s been on a straight but wide arrow path, and soon it will hit the home of awesomeness.

    • piehead says:

      Re: No one’s saying squat about the other face turn: Brock?

      Saying something is better than BG requires a dare?

    • mandrakes says:

      Re: No one’s saying squat about the other face turn: Brock?

      In The Venture newspaper, Dean compares G Viceroy’s predicament to his own, and through his lengthy, convoluted answer, he eventually jumbles together Dr Girlfriend and Triana. When he says her dad is magic, he is referring to Dr Orpheus. I think.

  13. jbacardi says:

    Has it ever been ruled out that Rusty may have been cloned at some point? And you know, the Monarch bears a strong resemblance, eyebrows aside…

    Just idly speculating.

    Did anybody else think of this show when all the ORB business was introduced?

    • strangemuses says:

      I was reminded of Briscoe County, Jr, too, but when Tesla and Mark Twain were both mentioned, I immediately thought of Matt Fraction’s “Five Fists of Science.”

  14. Anonymous says:

    On the subject of Tesla and Twain, have you read the 5 Fists of Science?

    – Sean Witzke

    • strangemuses says:

      Oh, snap! I just mentioned that same thing in a comment, above. Awesome comic. Mash-up the “Five Fists of Science” with the “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and you could easily end up with the Guild of Calamitous Intent.

    • Todd says:

      Five Fists, LXG and The Guild are all ripping off Larry Cohen.

      • jbacardi says:

        Well fuck me sideways- the same Larry Cohen that did Q, Black Ceasar, and the 1974 It’s Alive!

        It is as the Disney attraction says- a small world after all.

  15. I don’t know if you’re at all familiar with Fat Guy Stuck in Internet but it was on shortly after Venture Bros. and the entire episode was based on making fun of Labyrinth. I thought it a funny coincidence given your recent… uh, discussion of the movie. I’m not generally a fan of the show but the episode is a pretty funny parody the film.

  16. What strikes me is the the television show about failure had an episode featuring unequivocal successes. Not only does Rusty solve the mystery, begin to find himself, and provide the proper answer to the conundrum of the ORB, Quizboy Billy finally — *finally* — achieves his lifelong dream of going on adventure with his childhood hero Rusty Venture, Boy Adventurer (right down to the “Go Team Venture!” salute). Billy can pretty much die with no regrets now. Hell, I was half expecting to see Dean nailing Trianna in the post-credits sequence considering all the victories on display.

    Of course, now that our heroes are on a high, we can expect the world to come crashing down around their ears any second now.

    Oh, and isn’t it just apropos that Steven Rattazzi also does the voice for Aleister Crowley? But then again, that might be a clue.

    • “Hell, I was half expecting to see Dean nailing Trianna in the post-credits sequence…”

      Thanks. You made me laugh out loud and now my co-workers want to know what’s so funny. 😀

    • cdthomas says:

      On the other side of this….

      a explanation from the something awful forum:

      I think it’s quite possibly that Billy, who was held by OSI, was brainwashed by someone there to “find” the hints in the old Rusty show that would lead to the Maplook URL. He unconsciously makes up the hints that lead to the location that the person in OSI knows is either the hiding place of the ORB or directions on how to find it.

      To me, this is more believable than it actually existing as a real code in the old episodes.


  17. noskilz says:

    It was a neat episode, although so much new stuff was thrown into play it often made me wonder where they would be going with some of those details in coming episodes. There’s no question it was nifty, but the exact degree of niftiness hinges on yet to be revealed material.

    Maybe it’s just my pessimistic bent, but the notion that struck me was that there were all these factions willing to plot and kill for something that none of them could even pretend they understood. Based on its history, the characters we meet are convinced the orb has to be of great importance, but it just drags them along in its macguffiny orbit, untested. It’s like a perpetual motion machine fueled obsession, ambition and wasted effort.

    Oddly – probably I’m just a rationalizing goon – Rusty’s decision to be responsible with the orb didn’t seem that strange. Knowing when one is totally out of one’s depth sounds like a vital skill for a boy adventurer. It’s a rarer trait than one might think: in my IT flunkie days, many of the more unpleasant problems the IT department had to clean up involved non-IT staff deciding to fix computer issues on their own. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t expecting the post-credit scene to be Venture fishing the orb out of the safe, because I certainly was(he seems to be better than he’s often given credit for, but iron resolve isn’t really what springs to mind when thinking of Thaddeus Venture.)

  18. Anonymous says:

    Shit, Feces, Poop, whatever you want to call it

    The Guild is shown up in the air, the supposed arbirators of some high culture of scientists, artists extraordinaire, spokespersons for all great thinkers or so on… (the University-approved crit list) and it is shown already as the ideal childhood psyche, there splitting into mirror images of one self – the Guild is managed because the Guild is the same self, just two sides – “calamitous intent” or “whatever super science is”. One side or the other, it doesn’t matter – what matters is the split now operates as one dialog forever, it must be managed. The orb is this contribution they claim each “genius” in his field of culture mainly, contributed to. Which is surely the frustration of trying to get some puzzle solved as to ideals themselves, up in the air, left outside of any place, site, society, culture, world…

    Meanwhile down below as if to balance out the clouds and the splitting of this ideal into two, is “the body” itself, the security implied is a lie there too, and one can discover it always in the shit that is propelling out profoundly throughout this episode, let alone this season.

    In another category are the bodyguards – one can ouline something like imaginary, symbolic and the real, but why bother when it’s so fun to show this so carefully immersed in nothing but poopchute references throughout.

    It just invades this season, more so than even sex and gender, which had it’s way in the last season (certainly considering Brock’s old commander)

    The codes is all about toilet paper rolls since a few episodes back (the Billy one). So we have Billy there in the opening scene, frustrated, turns his back on White, robe upturned exposing his underweared ass to viewers/White, just asks if he discovers pornography… all puzzles (of the past) are apparently then solved with Billy’s excited choice for reading the toilet rolls…When Orpheus astral projects the VBoys throw toilet paper all over his temporary presence so when he returns he is TPed,… they enlist the only out and out homosexual in the group to ACTUALLY solve the cludes – digging in the earth discovers not only the bodies of dead pets (past security) but finally tears down the safe-zone of Brocks domain, erupts like the proverbial poop chute down right into Brock’s perfectly contained-off “safe room”; everything is there, fetishes, vices, and bodies of course. Brock just keeps saying “GET OUT!” The DESIRED clue-solving leads to (false) solutions that manage to keep Rusty and Billy in bathrooms, toilet rolls, etc.. the bathroom of the infamous mis-guessed studio 54, the site there being the fold-down tray table where one changes the babies diaper, which Rusty (dressed for no logical reason in his boy-Rusty costume) has to convince a guard Billy is his child, and has to go on to “change the diaper”, to which Billy mentions a reference to George Michael trouble begins there. Billy finally sees the orb as Rusty figures it out, and himself spells it out when Rusty says no to trying it “out” : POOP.

    I mean the list is incredibly dense with the characters chosen, the whole Oscar Wilde and “behind” the painting of that character for Dorian Grey and on and on… but it really is a kind of astounding beauty in that way, because between the idealists in the clouds (who never were ideal, and thus split and must remain in this analyst-management relation) and the “shit” below. The connecting fabric between, one imaginary – “orb” – and one “bodyguard” who makes sure it never is allowed to fall too far into the extreme, that is, activated to overtake the other parts. This intricate balance, this economy, a sum of the parts is the name of a false security – “Operation Rusty’s Blanket” – that might as well be human psyche at work, and in this mix, which this season’s focus therefore needed to be on Rusty.

    Mr. Still Looking for Name

    • Anonymous says:


      Oh I just have to add conspicuos consumption and shit do go together, and whether coal, coke or cooking shows. Such as after the discussion of between bodyguards (You watch “Top Chef”?) Brock listens to the earlier bodyguard who confesses on the killing of his Dr.Venture, and when he asks what happens after the confession, he is told the rest of the cylinder is apparently just him reciting – what else – chocolate recipes…which the guard keeps because he “likes to bake”.

      I mean, in some ways, it seems VB are intent on establishing an operating psyche for this brave new world, such that it includes the Crowleys, Twains, Wildes, Teslas and Avon ladies? and so on of real characters that exist as real characters drafted into the fiction, yet it is precisely a world as if Freud had never existed – or apparently was highly ranked.

    • Todd says:

      Re: Shit, Feces, Poop, whatever you want to call it

      And don’t forget, earlier in the season, Billy’s journey into awakening began when he was reaching for the toilet paper.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Shit, Feces, Poop, whatever you want to call it

        One other nice touch, the written”word” vs “google”/internet – Orpheus astral projects to come back with the one character of his team, who as he is configured as a “man of the cloth” I assume belongs to the days of Scriptures, the written word, the scribe, professing to one angle or another of Magick. Yet he is no Luddite, just that Internet searching for him, as we learn later, is not for “information” or the word, but for MySpace, at best, sexual relations, spamming, social networks etc. Not serious information. It’s odd his character, the out and out homosexual, mystical and yet most open, everyday character, is the one needed to rationally solve the clues by knowing some history, without the slanted, biased projections of desired clues which is what Billy / White’s version was.

        • cdthomas says:

          You know, this could just as easily be Billy’s dream

          … as he was knocked out the second time, just after he remembered the abuses he’d suffered in THE INVISIBLE HAND OF FATE.

          Just remembered another fateful orb… the Tommy Westphall snowglobe from ST ELSEWHERE…. but that would be too cruel, wouldn’t it, to have all this plot progression not exist and Doc be the same he always is?

  19. Thanks to the preview to this Sunday’s episode, we know that Brock is still alive. Though who is the blonde fellow he’s playing chicken with?

  20. Anonymous says:

    Calamitous or Not?

    “There is some sly social commentary in “ORB” regarding the corruption of societies, in this case secret societies, as the do-good Guild has, somehow between then and now, morphed into the Guild of Calamitous Intent, very much, I’m guessing, as the Republic of Star Wars morphed into the Empire. How exactly this happened is yet unexplored, but it’s worth noting that the main difference between The Guild and the later Guild of Calamitous Intent is that the Guild featured not one but two artists, whereas the GCI consists entirely of power-mad costumed freaks — David Bowie notwithstanding. Or, perhaps, now that I think of it, David Bowie inclusive.”

    Long time reader, first time commenter…

    Some friends and I read with rapt attention your desconstructions but I got the feeling after reading the quoted text that you might be missing a logical leap, Mr. Alcott. Has the GCI truly been corrupted into a perversion of the Guild of Extraordinary Gentleman, as you put it, or does it simply appear that way from the perspective of the viewer, not truly knowing what the Council of 13’s intentions are?

    What I’m getting at is this: We know that O.S.I. has been infiltrated by the Guild (although not necessarily to what extent) due to Sgt. Hatred’s having worked there. O.S.I. and the Guild are, in fact, basically the same entity working toward the same end; My theory follows that O.S.I. and the Guild exist in their current incarnations as hoaxes on the grandest of scales, built to keep both super villains and super scientists busy.

    Can you imagine if Werner Underbheit or King Gorilla got ahold of ORB? Disastrous. But, as you have pointed out, ORB is power, and it would be no less dangerous in the hands of JJ or any other super scientist with the know-how and convictions to use it. It stands to reason, then, that we’ve been given a glimpse of the whole reason d’etre for the “backers” of both sides (antagonists and protagonists, indeed, since both ultimately work for the same “side”) and the whole arching thing is simply a way to keep the most dangerous minds occupied with something other than finding out that ORB is out there.


    • mimitabu says:

      Re: Calamitous or Not?

      perhaps jackson and doc are, with the venture bros., pointing out that much of what people do (orchestrated by social influences like television) is a distraction, provided by elites, to keep people from realizing how systematically these elites are disempowering them. maybe the message is: from the mindset of the elite, power must be kept from common people, and the stuff you fill your life with exists primarily in service of that ideal. of course, posting on livejournal or making a cartoon would be such a distraction.

    • Todd says:

      Re: Calamitous or Not?

      The Strangers’ offense at being labeled “bad guys” in “The Lepidopterists,” I think, points to what you’re getting at here, which is that the “antagonists” and the “protagonists” of the Ventureverse are all part of one big shadow-show of bullshit. What the end of that logic is I don’t know; it’s all I can do to make it through the Chinese-box narratives of individual episodes.

      Also, I don’t think it’s too soon to suppose that the orb might end up being a big fake-out, a maguffin in the purest sense, a meaningless object around which the narrative revolves.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’m not surprised at Rusty’s acumen at puzzle-solving, nor that it (wonderfully) brings out the best in him for some brief, shining moment. Back in “Escape from the House of Mummies Part II,” it’s established that while Rusty is a crappy superscientist, he was a great boy adventurer — just like Jonas Sr. was a crappy father, but a great scientist.

    All the unhappiness in the Venture family stems from people trying to be what their dads were, instead of what they are. Rusty’s trying to be a scientist, when he’s best at adventuring (however traumatic it may have been for him). Hank and Dean are trying to be adventurers, and it’s making them miserable, borderline psychotic (in Dean’s case), and occasionally, dead.

    Knowing this show, I fully expect the ORB to be utterly useless — it’s all about failure, right?

    … And did anyone notice that Orpheus and Crowley’s little shoulder-cape things bear very similar patterns? Perhaps Orpheus is part of the same line of necromancers that Crowley inhabited; considerably more moral decency, same tendency toward histrionics.

    — N.A.

    • Todd says:

      I, personally, see no reason why Orpheus and Crowley cannot be the same person.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, except that Crowley was (historically and in the cartoon), a real jackass, and Orpheus is perhaps the most goodhearted character in the series.

        — N.A.

      • Anonymous says:

        Also, just for fun, Google “Crowley” and “Bush.” Wild rumors persist that Crowley may have fathered Barbara Bush, which would make him Dubya’s true grandfather. I’m not saying I believe this — only that it would make a lot of sense, in a schadenfreude-tastic sort of way.

        — N.A.

    • Anonymous says:


      The conscience of the world is so guilty that it always assumes that people who investigate heresies must be heretics; just as if a doctor who studies leprosy must be a leper. Indeed, it is only recently that science has been allowed to study anything without reproach. -Aleister Crowley, author (1875-1947)

      (along with a selected word and such, you get one of these “thoughts” and such daily from wordsmith – this was todays. Thought it apt)

  22. robjmiller says:


    When speculating about the Venture Bros. you have to keep in consideration the over-arching theme of failure. In light of this theme, while the orb may represent power, it is incredibly unlikely to actual contain any power. In fact, it is more likely to be completely worthless, which leads to the conclusion that GCI and OSI have wasted a century protecting nothing and have simply become anachronistic behemoths (although this does parallel your Cold War analogy).

    The fact that Tesla is pursuing the orb leads me to believe it is going to be something like a Van der Graaf generator or a radio, or perhaps something like a microwave oven because it sounds like a better punchline. After the discovery of what the orb truly is it will undoubtedly be covered up so GCI and OSI can continue to ooperate and pull in its guild dues and taxes, respectively.

  23. Anonymous says:


    I found it key that we see him standing in NYC with Billy, asking the central and unanswered question “Why did I let you convince me to dress up in my old clothes?” (to paraphrase.) He’s there due to an acolyte/fan (the one who desires to an extreme to identify completely with the TV show Venture Boy) who seems to be fulfilling his role as a guide, to the point, Rusty even manages to go and wear his old uniform, the clothes that really don’t fit him anymore – at least, physically, although mentally he seems to be both fitting and then outgrowing them as we see in the end.

    From this season, Rusty keeps having to re-live and rediscover parts of his boyhood adventure, IN SPITE of his driving interests to apparently do something else in the opposite direction (he wants to run a science day camp to make money, he wants to get the Venture Compound going to make money, he wants to discover this for the treasure, financial value etc..) And in the end, like with analysis, he comes to terms with something of his past, and that allows him to also go on to rediscover “team venture” anew.

    The next phase seems to be Brock’s termination, the removal from his “position”. Even his own beloved car isn’t “his” – it turns on him, if that man can’t trust his own personal muscle (car), what’s left.
    His safe-space has been invaded, and it’s time to remove him from this old commands, but I’m assuming in order to reinstall him anew.

    This season seems to provide backs-tories as clues to a way out, a more human way out of just working with what appeared to be an unbroken cycle of father ventures, bodyguards, Team ventures, and sons and absent/present mothers. Rusty started to catch on in this episode, and Billy fulfilled his role as his guide in a way. Now it seems Brock’s turn, and so on.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Good Father or Not?

    Rusty’s admission that Jonas was a bad father but a great scientist got me thinking: what is Rusty’s role, a father or a scientist?
    I feel that he’s actually a good father, believe it or not. While Jonas dragged Rusty into adventures, Rusty seemed to want to distance himself from that life but was dragged into it by antagonists. He complains about this most notably to Dr. Orpheus in “Tag Sale-You’re It”. It doesn’t seem that Rusty wants to involve Dean and Hank with his “capers” like telling them to stay on the X1 in the Brisby episode, but they always seem to get into Rusty said best: “death prone children”.
    Could it be that Rusty cloning his sons repeatedly means that he actually loves them? although he doesn’t admit it but rather how much he dislikes them, why doesn’t he just leave them dead? It seems like he wants to give them a different life, but his antagonists and his own legacy inherited from his dad have ruined it.

    And as a scientist, the deprave, moral-bending inventions/experiments that Rusty had done throughout the series seemed to be more out of necessity, mostly money. Reviving the dead, working for Mr. Impossible, and creating the “joy-can” were all out of the need to make cash to pay off his bills. Is that really that inhuman, or is it just American? Recloning the kid killed by the gorilla prevented him from losing even more money from the guaranteed lawsuit that would of followed.

    Rusty’s admission with the orb just reminded me how human he is, and how well this show is at creating the human protagonists and antagonists, something that is so hard to do.


    • Todd says:

      Re: Good Father or Not?

      “something that is so hard to do.”

      Especially on [adult swim].

    • cdthomas says:

      I was going to label this post, ‘sweetie, are you high?’

      until I sat back and reflected that Rusty could have done much worse with his life.

      All Rusty Venture has is a cringe-worthy tv show that documented the worst part of his life, and his father’s dangerous toys. He doesn’t have a legit degree, no real career to speak of, not even a legacy of raising two sons well — any mistakes he makes he edits out of their sleep tape/memory reinforcements, or reclones them after a particularly bad patch.

      All he has is his damage, and his refusal to either kill his brother or use the ORB is the first sign that he’s willing to live with himself as he is.

  25. Here’s something: Was Myra ever aware of her true assignment? Might that be part of reason for her breakdown?

    I’m rooting for a Molotov/Myra smackdown in the finale.

    • cdthomas says:

      She wouldn’t get the assignment unless she knew of ORB

      Even though Brock knew about the cylinders, and was supposed to guard the clue that *Rusty was supposed to follow* (else why didn’t OSI destroy the clue, since they knew where it was all along?), he didn’t know about the assassination guideline, did he? That was unclear to me.

      Since Myra came on so soon after Jonas’ death, and during the time where no one at OSI knew what type of scientist he’d be, it’s conceivable she was fully briefed on ORB and her full mission. If she was crazy enough to fall in love with Rusty, she would be crazy enough to pretend she’d never have to kill him, and that they’d live a happy life with their kids.

      As I said: Crazy.

    • Anonymous says:

      Damn! That’s a good point! What *about* Myra?!