The Venture Bros: The Lepidopterists

Or, as one might call it, “The Rules of the Game.”hitcounter

As Brock explains it, it seems that the conflict between the Guild of Calamitous Intent and OSI exists as an elaborate game to keep costumed supervillains occupied. The intent, as I understand it, is that if demented freaks like The Monarch were let loose in the real world, they could cause genuine destruction and hurt real people. By sanctioning and directing the malediction of their members against “super scientists”, who can presumably take care of themselves, the Guild and OSI collude to make the world a more orderly place. The Guild-sponsored supervillains attack the OSI-protected superscientists, nobody gets hurt (except for the occasional henchman, and then only for dramatic purposes) and the world, somehow, keeps spinning.

The Monarch’s arc for this season stems from his discomfort with playing this game. Or does it? What, in the end, does The Monarch want? Does he want to kill Rusty Venture? His encounter with poor Dr. Dugong strongly indicates that he does. And yet, when he had the chance to invade the Venture compound, he planted no bomb, installed no secret trap — his vengeance was shocking and obscene, but nowhere near lethal.

Besides, if The Monarch were to kill Rusty, then what would he do with his life? We’ve seen that he’s not happy arching anyone else. What would happen if his ambition were fulfilled, if Rusty was blown to smithereens by The Monarch’s lightning cannon? Would The Monarch then take off his costume, let go his henchmen and live in suburban comfort? Doing what? What is he qualified to do, besides supervillainy? We’ve seen that he steals all his weapons from others, it’s not like he could get a job designing flying cocoons, the market for which seems extremely limited. And would Dr. Mrs. The Monarch stay with him, or would she become, finally, her own supervillain instead of someone else’s sultry sidekick? How could she live without appending a title to her name?

The Monarch, and all the Guild-sanctioned supervillains it seems, are addicted to the game, as surely as the Sea Captain is addicted to tranquilizer darts (and to feigning outrage, but that’s another story). Where does this addiction come from? What is the source of the need for this game? Well, the 60s-era shows and movies that The Venture Bros salutes and parodies were a product of the Cold War, when the US and the USSR were locked in a cat-and-mouse game of one-upsmanship, a game where billions of lives theoretically hung in the balance, but where both sides seemed to understand that any actual fight would be absurd. And so the two nations rattled their sabres and made their childish threats, but the missles stayed resolutely in their silos and the casualties were all peripheral — North Korea and South Vietnam were the “Scott Hall” or “Henchman No 1″s of the Cold War. The US and USSR, it could be argued, never really hated each other, never wanted to destroy each other, but created the Cold War as a safe way to create a set of national identities (just as the Monarch desperately needs his status as a supervillain to create a personal identity) and, yes, to create a permanent military-based economy. Benton Quest and James Bond, GI Joe and their costumed nemeses were cartoon versions of the East vs West conflict, and “The Lepidopterists” suggests that the Cold War’s basis as a meaningless game of cat-and-mouse is reflected in those cultural artifacts. Benton Quest would never kill Dr. Zin, Bond would never kill Blofeld, GI Joe would never defeat Cobra. There could be no “end” to the game — to end the game would be to end the series. And just as the point of the series is to make money for the corporation who owned the network or studio, the point of the Cold War was to make money for the military-industrial complex.

The USSR “lost” the Cold War and the world’s conflicts are quite differently-structured now, which is where The Venture Bros comes in. Rusty has inherited the military-industrial complex created by his father, but the cartoon nemeses of the Cold War (like, you know, Castro) have been downgraded to demented freaks like The Monarch.

We’ve read in recent weeks about how The Joker = Osama, but a more legitimate question might be does Monarch = Osama? The Monarch, we see in “The Lepidopterists,” wants to “play the game” of harmless (if expensive) Guild-sanctioned attacks (he’s outraged when Jonas Jr — gasp! — fights back) but in his heart he is a true cold-blooded killer, a man who truly hates the Ventures and wants to destroy them and everything they stand for. It’s as though Al Qaeda had somehow become a Soviet-sponsored state. OSI (and the Guild, for that matter — although I, for one, won’t be surprised to learn that they are actually the one and the same — they almost say as much in this episode) is at a loss as to dealing with The Monarch — they are both bound by the code of their elaborate “game” and also perfectly willing to crush him like the insect he pretends to be. The Lepidopterists of the title are caught in this bind (if they are, indeed, agents of the OSI) and so, oddly, is Brock. Brock, who helped the Monarch re-build his cocoon this season, and who seems to want the Monarch back in Rusty’s life (to give it some sense of order?) here gets addicted to the game as well, cozy with the Lepidopterists and desperate to shoot off Jonas Jr’s giant laser (boy, try to type that sentence without feeling dirty).

The schism between the us-and-them clarity of the Cold War and the what-the-fuck-are-we-supposed-to-do confusion of the War on Terror is reflected by the b-story comedy of the henchmen. Henchman 1, the only competent henchman we’ve seen so far in the Monarch’s story, represents the super-capable agents of the Cold War, while 21 and 24 represent the modern way of warfare — a couple of incompetent, wise-cracking idiots who, thanks to the construct of “the game,” manage to keep wandering from mission to mission, laughing at the deaths of those who care while they have no clue as to what’s going on.

Meanwhile, Jonas Jr, for a guy who has spent most of his life inside someone else’s abdomenal cavity, seems to be pretty well-adjusted.  He leads a family/team of adventurers damaged even by VB standards and unifies them — I especially like the Ventronic robot, which literally creates a “whole man” from the sum of its parts (well, near enough anyway).  He’s managing the whole “make your family your adventure” thing well — he even takes care to include Ned on his adventures. Indeed, he seems to think more of Ned than he does the Sea Captain — either that or the Sea Captain is simply more sensitive to Jonas Jr’s backhanded geniality. If Jonas Jr and Sally are the “dad” and “mom” of this team of Venture castoffs, Ned and the Sea Captain must be the “children”, with Ned as the “baby” and the Sea Captain as the Rebellious Teen. (This is, of course, a reflection of the Fantastic Four family — Reed is the father, Sue is the mother, Johnny is the rebellious teen, and poor Ben, with his diaper and his tantrums, is the baby of the Richards family.) The Sea Captain seems unhappy with this role, in spite of the fact that he plays into it at every opportunity — he’s sensitive to his “parents'” opinions, and he compensates for his misery by getting addicted to drugs.

Aside from all this metaphorical mumbo-jumbo, I found “The Lepidopterists” to be the most tightly plotted episode of the season so far. As a bonus, the Monarch constructed a plan that, due to the efforts of the one competent henchman on his staff, actually worked.

(Another clue that Brock is working for the Monarch: the “Dark S-7 Maneuver” [or as I like to think of it, “the Speed trick”] affects only the video surveillance of Spider-Skull Island, yet Brock reports that the Monarch’s Cocoon is “twenty miles off” or something while looking atsomething other than a video monitor — why is he helping with the Monarch’s plan, if not to bring the Monarch and Rusty together again?)

Comments

81 Responses to “The Venture Bros: The Lepidopterists”
  1. blake_reitz says:

    Not only do I agree that the conflict between the Guild and OSI exists to keep super-villains from doing real damage, I think it has an additional feature of keeping idealist super-scientists too busy to mess with the “big boy’s” status quo. Makes sense for the government to subsidize the Guild like it does.

    Even the good guys in the past seem addicted to the game, seen in the last episode, where Col. Gentleman tells Action Man to tone it down.

    • Todd says:

      And yet, Team Venture arches Castro in Cuba — you can’t get much more mainstream military-industrial-complex-dominated culture than that.

      • blake_reitz says:

        Maybe in the Ventureverse, Castro was a supervillian? Just like Nixon (I mean, he did get a power tie and all…)

        • kornleaf says:

          you think dr. henry killenger was on his staff?

          • blake_reitz says:

            Well, I think Killenger IS Kissinger. Maybe he recruited Nixon in a similar fashion to Dr. Venture, maybe even forming the Guild. Nixon might be one of those “secret” Guild members, like Bowie, and there might be hosts of other real-world celebrities and politicians who are members of the Guild.

            Lot’s of maybe’s there, but I don’t post on the internet to not speculate on cartoons!

  2. Anonymous says:

    This episode made more explicit than ever that 21 and 24 aren’t just comic relief; they’re our POV characters. They understand the “rules” of the VB universe better than even the smartest and most competent characters who take things seriously. The only death they fear is one that would mimic something they found creepy in a video game.

    -Doc Handsome

    • Anonymous says:

      POV characters

      More our Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, especially as they hid in the diorama watching as Brock took out Henchman 1

      • Todd says:

        Re: POV characters

        And they have pointless discussions about cultural trivia.

        However, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, of course, wind up dead.

        • Anonymous says:

          Re: POV characters

          hm….but only in “the play” or did I get my Stoppard wrong

          • Re: POV characters

            I’m 90% sure they die in Stoppard’s play too (at the very least they have knowlege of their inevitable demise that, if removed, the play wouldn’t make sense), and can check the text when I get home.

            yours,
            a lit major drama nerd.

            (I want to say “R&G die because they’re in Hamlet” but it doesn’t sound half as profound as I think it does.)

            • Todd says:

              Re: POV characters

              Rosencranz and Guildenstern die at the end of, um, Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead. In fact, the last line of the play is actually “Rosencranz and Guildenstern are dead.”

              • Anonymous says:

                Re: POV characters

                Not that THAT ever stopped a plot from continuing

              • blake_reitz says:

                Re: POV characters

                I honestly thought they would die this episode. Even the Monarch realizes they just don’t die, and by acknowledging it, they’d jinx it.

                • Anonymous says:

                  Re: POV characters

                  Maybe they’re clones like Hank and Dean, and that’s why they don’t die. (Not that I actually believe this.) At any rate, they’re certainly similar cases of arrested development.
                  –Ed.

                  • Anonymous says:

                    Re: POV characters

                    That line, “Why does no one ever tell me about this (or: these things, devices etc…)!” seems to be the major philosophical question of 24’s life. He is the biggest geek by the way. Still, no idea. A clone might say that. But more likely, he is “charmed” as the Monarch suggests, and too much information would tip the scales towards being “useful” like Henchman 1. What it allows him is longevity, to observe, narrate the tales. And write into Dean’s Venture Newspaper…

                    • Anonymous says:

                      Re: POV characters

                      it’s 21 actually. If you remember back to the shadowman 9 episode the monarch as shadowman 9 talks to 24 who was at the time shadowman 24 and promises to make him his number 2. It seems like a slap in the face that he hangs out with a guy who is a higher rank than him even though he was promised the top spot. done nitpicking now.

                • schwa242 says:

                  Re: POV characters

                  I’ve been anticipating their deaths (not eagerly, mind you) ever since they realized that they were “main characters”.

  3. planettom says:

    I liked when the Sea Captain was hiding in the museum’s life-size recreation of those old 1970s MPC “Pirates of the Caribbean” plastic model dioramas (with ZAP/ACTION!) (as seen here).

  4. manlyart says:

    Man, you’re reviews are awesome.

    To add a couple of observations, did you notice the Ventronic robot is modeled after Jonas? With Ned as the deformed limb, the Sea Captain is his right arm and Sally as the legs acts as the foundation of Jonas’ world.

    Ned is scarred, and pretty useless in a fight, but important to Jonas nonetheless. The Sea Captain is Jonas’ right hand man. He also does a lot of Jonas’ dirty work, hence the arm that wields the robots weapon. Sally acts as the mother to everyone on Spiderskull island. You could probably go a lot deeper with this kind of analysis, but you get the gist of it.

    So, that’s my two cents. Cheers. Oh, also, I thought you might appreciate this… http://manlyart.blogspot.com/2008/08/monarch-dr-mrs-monarch-by-stephen.html

  5. Anonymous says:

    Note that when forming Ventronic, Jonas Jr. is (of course) the head. Sally — and please pardon me if this sounds vulgar — is everything below the waist (ironically appropriate for a woman passed around like a trophy, and quarreled over, but never truly appreciated as an individual, even by J.J.). Meanwhile, the Pirate, ostensibly J.J.’s right-hand man, is the literal right hand. (And gets to bear the brunt of gravitational forces whenever Ventronic swings a fist.)

    Ned’s brightly decorated flying ice cream cone cracked me up. Poor, poor Ned. I get the feeling that subconsciously, J.J.’s only nice to him so that other people will notice and say, “Wow, that J.J., look how nice he’s being to the retarded guy!” Everything J.J. does is meant to reflect back upon himself.

    — N.A.

  6. I get that Doe and Cardholder are fast-talking 40s-style toughs, but does anyone else think they’re specifically based on Deutsch and Mastrionotti?

  7. Anonymous says:

    This episode, though great, felt more like an array of details, and some that I noticed in no particular order:

    Jonas didn’t have any inkling of the whole “arching” thing before (who is OSI??!) but adapted quite quickly, as someone of his intelligence would do so as they start to enjoy a challenge. Did he even say hi to Brock? It was as if he didn’t recognize him officially.

    At one point Monarch called his wife “Dr.Girlfriend” again, right in the heat of passion of his plan going into action. It’s like he forgot he was married even. Wasn’t she even back in her old uniform of pillbox hat etc.? And it was her throne/chair that was the one that tipped over as it was “forgotten” to be fixed in the rush to repair the cocoon.

    Brock goes after the henchman#1 – but if he were in on the whole re-instigating Monarch as arch-enemy, why would he so desperately go after him and pound him to a pulp. In your theory, he knew this subterfuge was going on.

    Finally, it seems in all these past episodes, the screen is the solution, whether Billy’s televisual past, Rusty’s day-camp, the museum’s utilisation of Father Venture on Dick Cavett, and now, the re-routing of “truthful” surveillance into telvisual fiction. Without the television screen, these guys have no way to mediate, dare I say, really form some conciousness.

    • Todd says:

      “Without the television screen, these guys have no way to mediate, dare I say, really form some conciousness.”

      The same could be said, with some fairness, for the creators of The Venture Bros. Rarely have I seen a show where the creators have been so completely steeped in the history of their chosen subject matter.

    • Anonymous says:

      oh and one last, when Dr. Girlfriend is pissed about the lack of rules, and explains the Guild rules to Jonas, explaining the escalation policy quite clearly, and very, very serious in a no-nonsense way explaining the succession that ends up with the logic extending to taking out his family.

    • schwa242 says:

      At one point Monarch called his wife “Dr.Girlfriend” again, right in the heat of passion of his plan going into action. It’s like he forgot he was married even. Wasn’t she even back in her old uniform of pillbox hat etc.? And it was her throne/chair that was the one that tipped over as it was “forgotten” to be fixed in the rush to repair the cocoon.

      I wonder if Dr. Mrs. The Monarch may be trying to assert her individuality, even if it is in an identity the name of which implies being an interchangeable partner. I wonder if she is subconsciously preparing for the day when the Monarch wins and she will have to be her own person, with no villain to be the behind the scenes support for.

      • Todd says:

        An interchangeable partner — with a degree.

        • kornleaf says:

          has it been determined yet, WHERE she got this PHD and what it is for?
          unless she just likes the name “Doctor Girlfriend”
          because it certainly wasn’t for history or political science, missing the Jackie O’ bit at the party at Srgt. Hatred’s…

          • blake_reitz says:

            I assume it was at the same university that was featured in “The Invisible Hand of Fate”. Maybe it’s a science or engineering doctorate, as she did build flying wings for the henchmen, and designed the cocoon (or at least the security system).

            But did the earn the degree, or did she earn the degree, via Phantom Limb?

            • cdthomas says:

              She also did postgraduate work at the Guild….

              they have a curriculum, you know, as seen in Shadowman 9….

              I’d stand her credentials against Dr. Horrible’s in a New York minute. She has both technical and management skillz (hotwiring anything for Truckules? Hello?)

              • blake_reitz says:

                Re: She also did postgraduate work at the Guild….

                Hell, I’d stand her credentials against both J.J.’s and Rusty’s.

                I forgot about them having a curriculum. I wonder if her degree is actually in Evil?

  8. schwa242 says:

    “His name is Scott Hall. His name is Scott Hall.”

    The schism between the us-and-them clarity of the Cold War and the what-the-fuck-are-we-supposed-to-do confusion of the War on Terror is reflected by the b-story comedy of the henchmen. Henchman 1, the only competent henchman we’ve seen so far in the Monarch’s story, represents the super-capable agents of the Cold War, while 21 and 24 represent the modern way of warfare — a couple of incompetent, wise-cracking idiots who, thanks to the construct of “the game,” manage to keep wandering from mission to mission, laughing at the deaths of those who care while they have no clue as to what’s going on.

    I’m starting to see them as commentary on how in business, incompetents sometimes rise to the top on the backbreaking labor of those who know what they are doing and have to work even harder to compensate for others’ incompetency. They aren’t malicious about it, just dumb when it comes to actually doing their job (regardless about how informed their observations are about what’s actually going on). It’s almost as if this episode justifies the need for such personalities in large-scale organizations in order to guarantee the relative success and survival of said organizations.

    Indeed, [Jonas Jr.] seems to think more of Ned than he does the Sea Captain — either that or the Sea Captain is simply more sensitive to Jonas Jr’s backhanded geniality.

    Jonas does speak from experience about letting hatred consume oneself when addressing the Sea Captain about the Monarch. Or did he give this speech completely ignoring his own bitter past?

    • Todd says:

      Re: “His name is Scott Hall. His name is Scott Hall.”

      Oddly, the one time Jonas Jr mentions Rusty in this episode, it’s to compliment him for his ability to negotiate the “game” of super-science/supervillain relations. As if.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: “His name is Scott Hall. His name is Scott Hall.”

        This season began with Rusty rejecting the chance to be a supervillain, arching his own brother. But after this episode, I’m not sure Jonas would have made the same decision, were he in Rusty’s shoes. I mean, he has (and maintains) a fully working death ray, in which he takes great pride, and he’s fairly nasty and ruthless in combat against the Monarch.

        Rusty at least acknowledged the ridiculousness of a man in a butterfly suit piloting a flying cocoon, and while Brock has his fits of bloodlust, he’s just as likely to grudgingly tolerate the Monarch’s henchmen as slaughter them. It’s just a job to Brock. J.J., on the other hand, not only seems avid to find a way to kill the Monarch, but has a nasty little gleam in his eye when he thinks he’s actually done so. How supervillain is that?

        — N.A.

        • Anonymous says:

          Re: “His name is Scott Hall. His name is Scott Hall.”

          What makes Rusty and J.J. brothers to a certain degree is that really in the end of it all, neither are believers in this whole Guild way of life. J.J. takes it on like an exercise, a game he gets good at. Rusty sees it as a nuisance. So neither really follow their father’s footsteps in that regard.

  9. jbacardi says:

    “If that were a woman, I’d marry it.” “And I’d jeopardize our friendship by nailing your hot wife.”

    That line killed me.

    Is it me, or is Dr. Girlfriend becoming more subservient to the Monarch? Either that, or she’s humoring him a lot, but it doesn’t really come across that way.

    • Todd says:

      Gee, I thought the exact opposite — I could see her pulling away from the Monarch’s influence, and taking matters into her own hands a little this episode. On the other hand she left the Moppets at home.

      • jbacardi says:

        I suppose it just seems to me that she goes out of her way to mollify the Monarch sometimes, like [info]helensalterego says below, to keep the relationship going. But there were a couple of occasions (and not just in this episode) when I expected her to go off on him, but instead she just let it go.

        On the other hand, she’s certainly barking out a lot of orders in the control center and subtly correcting Monarch’s goofs…so maybe the writers are subtly bringing her along…

      • kornleaf says:

        yeah, what the hell happened with the Moppets?

        • Todd says:

          There was a whole scene of them getting left behind a few episodes ago. This episode is a continuation of that episode, with “Now Museum” kind of stuck in between.

    • re: Dr. G

      I think she wants the relationship to succeed, so she’s holding off on times when she could tell him off (“Do you trust me?” “…sort of.”). And she likes the game. I think it’s kind of significant that she gave up her butterfly costume and is going by “Dr. Girlfriend” again even though she’s simultaneously “wife.”

      I didn’t see it as subservient, but it is putting her SO’s goals before her own. Hmm.

      • jbacardi says:

        Re: Dr. G

        I hope so, because out of all the dysfunctional characters in this show, I believe I like Dr. MM the G better than any of them and I hate to see her taking a lot of crap for no good reason!

      • cdthomas says:

        Re: Dr. G, back in pink!

        I think she knew she lost her authority in the Cocoon when she became DMTM and put that flimsy thing on.

        They call it a Power Suit for a reason, and hers is stunning, as is.

        Also, after five kills of protagonists, she’s seeing something isn’t working with The Monarch. Throughout her costume changes, she’s been known to be devoted to her men, as henchgirl and lover. And ain’t it peculiar that she intervened with the Guild to arch a Venture unused to the game — and possessing a death ray that he was obviously itching to use?

        Remember those two weeks in between Dugong and Lepidopterists? I betcha she did recon at the Museum, knew JJ was vulnerable to overreach because of his father and brother envy, and knew she’d get her man back in action through a exacting read of the rulebook.

        She is teh awesome, I tell you what.

        • Todd says:

          Re: Dr. G, back in pink!

          “I think she knew she lost her authority in the Cocoon when she became DMTM and put that flimsy thing on.”

          Depending, of course, on your definition of “power”.

          • Anonymous says:

            Re: Dr. G, back in pink!

            Depending on your definition of power indeed — Dr. Girlfriend revealed a few episodes back she even tried it with another guy for Monarch’s viewing pleasure, just to help Monarch to get it up? How messed up is that logic???

      • catwalk says:

        Re: Dr. G

        she is sooo utterly the woman behind the man and soooo good at it! behind the scenes power, nudging, skewing, facilitating…
        i think as dr. mrs. the monarch, she is starting to come into her own. she now has experience and position. she was brilliant in this ep!

        • Anonymous says:

          Re: Dr. G

          at certain points, she and Monarch even gave the commands in tandemn, same gestures even.

          But…what happened to 24 telling her in last episodes “yes, my love….”

  10. ytoabn says:

    Following in daddy’s footsteps

    Y’know, for everyone who says that J.J. is following in Dr. Venture Sr. footsteps, there’s one little catch, why does he have a woman on his team?

    After all, in the multiple incarnations of Team Venture we’ve seen, there is never a woman involved. Even with Team Venture version 2.0 (Hank/Dean/Brock/Rusty), there is not woman. Venture Sr. has never been seen with a wife, and we can only guess at who Rusty’s mother is.

    Now maybe it’s just J.J. trying to prove that not only can he live up to his father’s name, he can be better. Not only does he have a right hand man (pirate capt.) like his dad, it’s a guy who used to be an arch villain so J.J. is more accepting. Not only does he have a kick-ass girlfriend, he lets her fight as an equal. Not only does he have a strong man, it’s a retarded man, so he’s kinder. Is J.J. in a competition to prove he’s better than his father by trying to run all of these things? How far can a little man stretch himself?

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: Following in daddy’s footsteps

      So the “tumor” who turned out to be the most human? Maybe he at least helped “normalize” all those characters who were earlier shown to be waaaaay off in their respective neuroses. But is it good to be “normalized” in the VB universe? Especially if it seems to require still some kind of authoritarian figure. He might as well be Phantom Limb. Is that an improvement? I prefer the misanthropic, learned (neurotic) Rusty, who can’t really control by authority, but by knowing how it’s always going to go in these situations and lets things flow most of the time.

  11. kornleaf says:

    “no one gets hurt”

    except the gentle cuttle fish.

    by the way… there are tons
    i mean tons
    of phallic references in like, every episode.

    • Anonymous says:

      Which will give Todd Alcott plenty of material to write up every single week of Season four.

  12. zqadams says:

    I’m honestly surprised that you didn’t call attention to the Guild’s insistence on the use of “protagonist” and “antagonist” to describe the players in the game. Why does the Guild (and possibly OSI) exist? To keep the mad geniuses busy (as you and others point out), but more specifically to impose a narrative structure on the world. And in this structure, there’s no room for the idea that the villain is the hero of his own tale, and THAT’S what makes the Monarch dangerous. He feels justified in his pursuit of Rusty.

    • Todd says:

      Thanks for reminding me. I’ve got the whole “protagonist” thing in my notes, but I got sidetracked by the whole Cold War thing. The question of “protagonist” vs “antagonist” in costumed adventure narratives is a tricky one — is James Bond a protagonist or an antagonist? He never sets the events of the story into motion, that’s the job of the bad guy. Bond and Batman and Superman and the Mystery Gang, yes, Jonny Quest, they’re all antagonists, really, against whatever bad guy is trying to get away with whatever they’re trying to get away with. Which is why I found Jonas Jr’s conversation with the Strangers interesting — “bad guy” is actually a better descriptor of The Monarch.

  13. misterseth says:

    It’s interesting to note, at first JJ was clearly resentful of arching by ‘fake fighting,’ yet he really got into it near the end, when he had the chance to use the death ray. Makes you wonder if the phallic undertones of the battle are the REAL reason for the animosity between GCI and OSI.

    • Todd says:

      Or the real reason for the animosity between anyone and anyone in the Venture universe. And I’ll include Dr. Girlfriend in that.

  14. I didn’t know your expertise entended to lepidopterans, 007…

  15. mattyoung says:

    So when do you think Brock figured out that he’d been played?

    Clearly, when he was a young OSI agent under Hunter and trying to bring down GCI, he had no, um, meta-?cultural? knowledge of how the guild and OSI work. (And I agree it seems pretty clear they’re both the same thing now.)

    During the Trial of the Monarch he says that the Guild is the only organization he can respect, and it must be because at some point he clearly became aware of not only their existence, but their manipulation of himself and Hunter. (Oh, to hear the story of the first time he met Sgt. Hatred and had that “Don’t I know you…” conversation.)

    Yet now he’s not only forgone fighting the Guild, he’s accepted the world they’ve built and works to maintain the status quo. When the show started, Brock seemed like the character who was most able to leave the Venture universe by sheer strength, if nothing else, if he chose. Now look at him…

    PS: Another thought on Brock’s radar-scope vs. the DS-7 “video” maneuver: has he been intentionally sabotaging J.J. and OSI’s efforts in order to maintain the status quo so he doesn’t risk re-assignment and lose “his family”?

    • cdthomas says:

      I think that OSI/GCI are simply extensions

      of the military-industrial complex, regarding R&D.

      *Why* are there death-ray weapons, when conventional weapons are restricted, and NBC weapons are banned by treaty?

      Death-ray weapons and some such exist to *skirt treaties*.

      Since individual countries can’t participate openly in such R&D, they have to narratively define those that do as mad scientists.

      The mad scientist *must* exist, to maintain progress in countries’ destructive abilities… and they must be condemned by those same countries, and set up to be fought by patriotic super-scientists. OSI provides plausible deniability for the government, and the Guild provides a structure where mad scientists can develop their work without being nuked by clueless-yet-sensible authorities (remember their police-bribing through technology? Does the Mob get such privileges to purchase law enforcement openly?)

      Note that Doe and Cardholder immediately responded to the call to OSI “dry cleaning” (a shoutout to the drycleaning front of U.N.C.L.E., n’est pas?), and since transporter tech isn’t perfected in this universe yet, both they and Brock were on their way to Spider Skull Island as soon as someone in the Cocoon reported in that the Monarch was on his way. OSI intervened as referees and enablers. If JJ made the kill without someone saying the Monarch violated the code several times, then GCI and OSI would have an actual war on their hands. The rule of Kanly must be adhered to.

      As it stands, the joke of protagonist/antagonist is the same as the spy game: No one really wants to win, because the game itself is useful to the interests that like to keep their lessers busy. If we really found out who *pays* for all these toys, then we’d really see evil in action….

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: I think that OSI/GCI are simply extensions

        Following the logic of rules and statutes of limitations, etc…maybe there are grandfather clauses operating, after all, that was all about the desire of this antique, a 1960s death-ray, like a pin-up girl in a world of pornographic excess, and so it surely was not going to be doing the same damage as if it had been invented in the current times. Sometimes bureaucracy means letting things slide just for the sexyness of it.

  16. ukuhawa says:

    Who knew it could do that?

    Something which I’m only now compelled to ask about, after an episode focusing so heavily on #21 and #24: what do you make of the recurring theme of the henchmen (mostly #21, as I recall) having no idea what their costumes and equipment are capable of, right up until such time as it becomes especially useful? Off the top of my head I can think of the wings actually functioning as wings for the battle with Phantom Limb (which nobody knew about), and then, in the space of one episode, the chute underneath the Monarch’s chair, the wings on the Monarch-Mobile, and the night-vision goggles. At first, it just reminded me of an old Simpsons line, after Skinner throws a couple of dangerous lizards off the top of a building —

    Lisa: Wow, did you know they had those webbed flaps for gliding?
    Skinner: Yes, but I was hoping they didn’t know that.

    — but the more it shows up, the more I can’t help but think about it in terms of self-discovery in life itself. The costumes, much like our bodies, obviously don’t come with any sort of instruction manual… puberty seems almost too obvious a reference point, but it fits very nicely with #21’s ever-breaking voice, plus the fact that he was kidnapped and forced to join the horde at the age of 15. He’s presumably been whining about the uncomfortable and unwieldy uniform ever since, not even considering the possibility that there may actually be a few incredibly nifty features that he didn’t have at his disposal before…

    • Todd says:

      Re: Who knew it could do that?

      I honestly think that’s just Jackson and Doc having some fun with the genre. There is fun to be had in The Venture Bros, you know.

      • ukuhawa says:

        Re: Who knew it could do that?

        Heh, yeah, I might’ve pulled on my analytical hat a little too tight before coming in here. It’s just one of my favourites in a long list of instantly recognisable human themes in a show so (on the absolute surface) distant from reality. Nice work heading the discussion of all the others, looking forward to the rest of it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: Who knew it could do that?

      Like the fact the Monarch in that one early episode he was jailed, had to escape prison, insisting first he imitates his Monarch-costume out of toiletpaper and the like, as if that makes him again a “leader”, tells you something about the belief in that second-skin. Without it they are identities of no meaning apparently, without “power”.

      I never could recall the difference between #21 and #24 (as I learn I used to say #24 for #21 here) but one is surely, that #24 always knows the functions are of his uniform, and the weapons, the rules (they only give us tranquilizer darts he tells #21) and so on, while the collector-geek #21…doesn’t.

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: Who knew it could do that?

      “…it fits very nicely with #21’s ever-breaking voice, plus the fact that he was kidnapped and forced to join the horde at the age of 15.”

      Uh, WHAT?!?!

      When did this come out?

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Who knew it could do that?

        1st season, when the Monarch’s team and Underbheits team met up outside the compound.
        They were all trading stories of how they got there. One told the story of how after the mill was closed there was no other work for him (couldn’t tell if this was 24 or just nameless henchmen), then that clear squeaky voice from good ol’ 21 came up out of no where and said, “you guys kidnapped me when I was 15”. It was a throw away joke, meant to just be random henchmen banter. But since 21 is so recognizable, it was remembered.

  17. noskilz says:

    It seemed like the Lepidopterists were presenting themselves as being helpful, while actually making everything worse. If JJ had taken their initial advice – kill the Monarch – it would have escalated matters(interesting that the guy they bring in as the expert, Brock, contradicts their position immediately.) And what about what their supposedly harmless darts do to the Captain? Granted, if that tie-off he was sporting in the meeting room is any guide – as opposed to a one-off visual gag – the darting at the door wasn’t his first brush with mind-altering substances, but the poor guy just can’t seem to get enough of whatever is in those things.

  18. chadu says:

    Of possible interest… musically. (I just swept through Wikipedia looking for all songs in VB referenced in dialogue and visually):

    http://chadu.livejournal.com/652313.html

  19. teamwak says:

    Not much from me on this – other than to say it is one of the funniest episodes ever. Every frame was a pure joy, and just too many quotable zingers. But the Monarchs exclaimation of “what the fuck was that?” when the robot formed (complete with ice cream cone arm!” was just pure class, and required me to give the TV a round of applause. lol