Venture Bros: The Buddy System

What is a father? That’s the question on everyone’s mind in this episode of The Venture Bros.hitcounter

Action Johnny says fathers are “caring, protective men.” Rusty seems to have a different definition: a father, to him, is someone who shirks all responsibility, exploits the weaknesses of children, gripes about the time and effort it takes to guide them, but who will nevertheless clone a new, improved child if one is, by chance, killed in a surprise gorilla attack.

“The Buddy System” is filled with scenes of father/son struggles, whether explicit (Rusty belittling Hank for not having his own TV show), implicit (Pete White acting as a “caring, protective man” to Billy) or cryptic (Brock’s relationship to Dermott).

Rusty, surely one of the most spineless, unlikeable creations in TV history, deeply resents his TV-show childhood, but that doesn’t mean he won’t cynically exploit that childhood for personal gain. This man who cannot stand the company of his own sons decides, for some reason, to open a day camp. And a very poorly-run day-camp it is too: obviously thrown-together at the last minute, with more thought put into the t-shirt design than to scheduling or activities. Presenters are unpaid, their acts are apparently not previewed or vetted, the few scheduled activities offered are, to say the least, ill-considered. The laissez-faire attitude extends to the safety of the attendees: “The Buddy System” is instituted at Rusty’s Day Camp because Rusty is too irresponsible to watch over the children himself. “The Buddy System” is, in fact, just another term for “you’re on your own.”

(The rainbow flag in the background of the opening commercial is a particular puzzler — how could a 21st-century parent see this ad and not assume that Rusty’s Day Camp for Boy Adventurers is not a meeting place for children of gay couples?)

(Although the episode doesn’t push the comparison, Rusty’s Day Camp seems to be run along the same lines as the Bush administration: take everyone’s money, hire incompetents and cronies, conduct no oversight, have no plan, shift all responsibility to the people you’ve been charged with protecting, offer lies and no apologies when something goes wrong. The episode even concludes with an ill-timed military invasion.)

Having Rusty, Action Johnny, Billy Quizboy and the Pirate guy all in one place offers a sharp critique of children’s television. The shows that Billy, Johnny and the Pirate represent (It’s Academic, Jonny Quest and Scooby-Doo) were, after all, designed to be “buddies” to real-life children, companions to adventure on Saturday mornings. As fresh-faced kids gather ’round to obtain advice from these TV “buddies,” they find that their future presents few appealing opportunities indeed: one can become a 35-year-old quiz boy, a man in a pirate costume who teams up with rubber-mask ghosts, or a ranting junkie.

“The Buddy System” has many questions regarding what it takes to be a father, but what does it have to say about being a good son? The sons of “The Buddy System” are all bad sons indeed (my TiVo machine even identifies the episode as “Enter the Bad Seed” for some reason). They gripe about their fathers, they plot against them, they team together to pull their progenitors down. The sons of “The Buddy System” all feel terrible resentment toward their fathers (or father figures) — a sense of victimization that excuses any sort of bad behavior. Rusty himself, of course, is the king of this bad behavior — he has neither truly examined his past nor bothered to try to live in the present, and no doubt when a boy is killed on his watch he will blame his father for the event. (I can hear him now: “Well, my father never told me there were wild gorillas in the E-Den — how was I supposed to know?”)

(It cannot be coincidence that the dome of savage, brutal nature that Rusty sends the campers into is named for the staging grounds of the most primal father-son battle in literary history.)

Rusty is a psychologically stunted, pitiable wretch, and yet, he seems to be a high-functioning normal compared to poor Action Johnny. Spotlighting Johnny in “The Buddy System” reveals a father-son conflict much harsher than the one between Rusty and Jonas Venture. Johnny is capable of supplying a common definition of “father,” but it seems that he’s been a very bad son. Dying for his TV-show scientist-father’s attention, it appears that Johnny, between commercials perhaps, killed the family dog (not Bandit!) and stole one of his father’s precious formulas. Suddenly, all those episodes of Jonny Quest going off on adventures alone seem less like fun and more like child abuse — where the hell was Jonny’s father, not to mention Race Bannon? Why was Jonny along on all his father’s secret missions, and why was he constantly allowed to wander off on his own?

Child abuse forms the spine of the plot of “The Buddy System,” although the script, in a clever twist, decides not to tell us that until the last line of the episode. Doughy, dead-eyed Dermott is, it appears, Brock’s son, and sets the plot of the episode rolling by committing to get Brock’s goat. Brock’s goat is, apparently, easily obtained, as his conversation with Dr. Orpheus reveals. “So, anyone who doesn’t immediately give you respect, you murder,” says Dr. O, acting as temporary father to Brock, who responds by acting as a temporary son and deliberately perverts Dr. O’s perfectly sane advice. Brock leaps into action, launching a plot to humble Dermott, hoping to get Hank (to whom Brock has always been more of a father) to beat him up. When Brock can’t locate Hank (who is, as it happens, befriending Dermott at that very moment), he considers using the quasi-child Moppets, then, reluctantly, tries to train Dean to do his dirty work.

(“Where’s your brother?” says Brock to Dean. I would have done a spit-take if Dean had protested that he is not his brother’s keeper. Dean, in this situation, should be experiencing a healthy dose of sibling rivalry. But his hostile response to Dermott seems to have more to do with his fear of Dermott’s size and rudeness, and attendant feelings of unmanliness — the fact that Dermott is stealing Hank, the only friend Dean’s ever had, doesn’t seem to enter into the equation.)

(Dermott hits this episode like a meteorite. He looks about 200% more “real” than the stylized, moon-faced Hank — he almost looks like he’s from a different TV show altogether.)

(The usual twinnings and mirrorings abound in “The Buddy System”: as Dermott attends the day camp to spy on Brock, the Moppets attend to spy on Rusty. The twist is that the teenager, by befriending Hank, gains the access he’s looking for and the professional henchmen come up short. Also, the Monarch uses the Moppets to get to Rusty the same way Brock tries to use them to get to Dermott, before turning to Dean instead.)

Meanwhile, the Monarch reneges on his promises to Dr. Mrs. The Monarch. Dr. Girlfriend has committed to her new identity, why can’t he? But no, he’s back to his old tricks, using his wife’s henchmen to arch Dr. Venture. He’s not ready to be a husband, much less a father — he still wants, essentially, to be a teenager, to dress up in his costume and stalk his boyhood nemesis.

(Brock, apparently, would prefer this as well, for reasons that are unclear to me.)


79 Responses to “Venture Bros: The Buddy System”
  1. sean_tait says:

    Brock would prefer to have the Monarch back because he was justified in his killing rampages when they attacked. The Monarch was really trying to kill Rusty; Sgt. Hatred is just being annoying. Brock winds up apologetic and unsatisfied after every aborted Hatred attack.

    Now wouldn’t it be funny if Hank was Dermott’s father in some convoluted time-travel escapade?

    • Todd says:

      Well it’s funny you mention that, because that was the first thing I thought of as well. It took me a second or two to realize that Brock was the more likely candidate. Which, of course, means nothing in the VB universe.

      • Anonymous says:

        Brock was *too* obvious though. I’m kind of thinking it might be Sgt. Hatred too. Both were in Black Ops, as he mentioned earlier.

        • greyaenigma says:

          That’s pretty much where I ended up — not thinking about Sgt. Hatred, but that Brock seemed too obvious for the father. From the first instant Dermott showed up, I suspected he was Brock’s son, but there were so many hints in that direction, by the end, I decided against it. Besides, he ends up being all talk, which is almost the opposite of Brock.

          • Todd says:

            Which would be perfect for the great father/failure son dynamic of the episode.

            • greyaenigma says:

              Right, but the last scene made me feel like I was being setup for a misdirection.

              The big question remaining — regardless of who the father is, who’s the mother? Anyone we know so far?

              • Anonymous says:

                It might be the knife wielding woman we see brock tackle in the commercial

    • uncacreamy says:

      “Brock winds up apologetic and unsatisfied after every aborted Hatred attack.”

      Like losing a girlfriend who gives really good head, and gaining one who won’t let you get past taking off her bra.

      • Anonymous says:

        “I thought the Cold War was over!”

        … sorry, couldn’t resist.

        — N.A.

  2. I haven’t watched the episode yet, so I haven’t read all your comments, but I saw what was before the cut:

    What is a father? That’s the question on everyone’s mind in this episode of The Venture Bros.

    Isn’t that the question on everyone’s mind more or less in every episode of the Venture Bros.?

  3. ndgmtlcd says:

    After you asked “What is a father” I immediately started thinking about Dr. Jonas Venture. I went on thinking about him as I was reading through. I was expecting more on him.

    • Todd says:

      Jonas isn’t really dealt with much directly in this episode, only the shadow he casts on Rusty, or I should say the shadow in which Rusty insists upon standing.

      • sheherazahde says:

        Jonas isn’t really dealt with

        I was really struck by what Rusty said when one of the kids asked why the E-Den was so dirty

        “My father died before he taught me to care.”

        Not before he taught Rusty how to take care of the E-den, but for he taught Rusty to care about anything at all.

        • Todd says:

          Re: Jonas isn’t really dealt with

          It’s a key line in the episode and a typical example of Rusty laying his faults at the feet of his father. Any character flaw he has, he has no trouble saying that it’s all his father’s fault.

  4. autodidactic says:

    I had this horrible idea that maybe Hank and Dermott were actually the same thing: children of Myra (who I suspect picked him up at the end of the show) and Rusty. It’s possible that they really did have a kid together, just not in the way previously imagined. I understand that this is a far out theory that will probably get disproven in time, but I thought it important enough to note.

    I also found it interesting that, though he was responsible for the death of that one kid through criminal neglect, he still gave the parents back a half-baked clone version (an improved version without the cancer that blighted the “original design”), which of course makes it all squarezies in Rusty’s head, no doubt.

    • Todd says:

      Well my goodness, think of what that clone must have cost him in time and materials, cooking it up to order like that. What more could the boy’s parents expect him to do?

    • Another horrid thought: What if Dermott’s dad is Sgt. Hatred?

    • sheherazahde says:


      I don’t have cable so I watched the online feed. And the second half of the second segment wouldn’t show, so maybe I missed something important.

      But when Dermott says he met his dad I just assumed he was the son of Rusty and Rusty’s previous body guard (Myra?).

    • ayrn says:

      I assumed that Hank and Dermott were actually the same person, with Dermott being the original non-cloned Hank raised by Myra.
      Would love to see Dermott as Brock and Myra’s love child, though.

  5. “I can’t even watch. This is worse than seeing you with another man!”
    “Hey, that was not my idea!”
    “I thought it would turn me on. But it was just double the embarrassment.”

    I think this may very well be my favorite exchange in the series to date.

  6. Mothers and daughters are important, too. Not only do they (the three women in this episode being Dr. Mrs. The Monarch, Dermott’s mother, and Triana) show themselves to be infinitely more mature and caring than the men, the men are trying to impress them as sons and lovers while trying to kill each other.

    Dermott wants to be a good son by meeting his father; Dean wants to be a good boyfriend by defending Triana’s honor; and the moppets…well…they want to be a sort of creepy amalgam of both.

    (On an unrelated note, we got a Turgenev reference, a D.H. Lawrence reference, and almost an Elizabeth Gaskell reference.)

    • Todd says:

      And I suppose The Monarch is trying to be a good husband to Dr. Mrs. The Monarch as well, at least as far as “saying the right thing about your wife’s new outfit” goes.

      • Was that /sarcasm_on or /sarcasm_off?

        • Todd says:

          Well, it takes him a minute to recover his bearings from “gah!” and criticizing her wing-length, but then he does offer to reassure her that she’s still attractive to him, which is what Esquire probably advised him to do in these situations. I did specify that he’s trying.

          • Anonymous says:

            But she mentions that the idea of her having another male lover was HIS idea, and he responds it didn’t turn him on it just embarassed him. Further. That was a real “aside” reference.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is something I’ve noticed, too. The women on the show are very adept at being responsible, mature adults without the crutches of attention-whoring victimization. Even Myra strikes me a sympathetic now–who wouldn’t go insane after dating Dr. Venture? But the men are usually in a constant state of struggle to prove their masculinity or self-worth. Brock seemed the exception, but this season has slowly unraveled that. Now Hatred seems to be the most content, but the details suggest otherwise. The men only seemed completely masculine when in control or violent.

      In the case of the The Monarch saying the right thing… I don’t think he’s turned to Esquire for marital advice. (I disagree with this idea also because he’s in a fucking butterfly costume and Esquire caters to metrosexuals/English majors/upper middle class white ppl. Generally not someone as dorky as The Monarch, unless the read the political commentary, if there still is any.) I think he genuinely gets off on his wife. So when she asks him what he thinks of her ass (recall ep. 1–it’s the ass that gave him wings) he can’t help but like it. He can’t even force himself to think of anything mean to say just to say it. That’s not Esquire telling The Monarch what to do, that’s him giving an inch of his perceived control over her, or anything/one he considers his, away. Otherwise he’s completely at home criticizing her outfit with the same venom he’d criticize his henchmen, the suburban neighborhood, or anything really. Because, as is well established, Monarch truly comes alive when he’s hateful or angry. He only lets his guard down for Dr. Girlfriend (cause without her ass where would he be?)…before resuming his normal, bitter adolescent act. Like Rusty, he can’t leave the comfortable blanket of hate he’s wrapped himself in. Which could mean he can’t love his wife without, at least superficially, hating her too.

      • Even Myra strikes me a sympathetic now

        Well, she’s certainly no worse a parent than the boys’ father.

        • Todd says:

          Oh yeah? And if Hank and Dean got their heads blown off by a crazy henchman, would Myra think to have a room full of half-baked clones standing by to take their places? I think not.

        • Anonymous says:

          The problem is we don’t know what she was like as a parent, although an accurate guess might be that she’d smother them too much. All the flashbacks make her seem relatively normal as far as the Venture-verse goes. The insane bitch of 2nd season was her post-Rusty. And after “Dr. Quymn,” it’s pretty obvious Rusty destroys and damages everyone around him (like his father before him?), but stays lost in his own narcissism.

          But you’re probably right that including Myra in the thesis of “women on this show are more mature than men” was a silly idea (especially after seeing this week’s episode–though the implication is that the men ultimately are responsible for the fucked-uppedness). Anyway, my point wasn’t about Myra (Christ, I spent more thought on Monarch and his weird objectification of his wife), but that I agree that Triana and Dr. Girlfriend showed more maturity. (I don’t think we saw enough of McDermontt’s mom to reach any definite conclusion about her.)

          • Dr. Quymn,” it’s pretty obvious Rusty destroys and damages everyone around him

            Dr. Quymn has two kids; a bodyguard; is a scientist with red hair, and her presumed mother had an affair with Rusty’s dad–I feel dirty writing this, but I got the implication that Quymn is Rusty’s sister; if that’s the case, maybe the whole Venture family is just damned from the get-go.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Young People’s Day Camp for Young Adventureres

    The opening commercial is a direct spoof of the classic “Young People’s Day Camp” commercials broadcast in the NY / NJ area for a day camp in Westchester.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This episode offered further evidence that Dean is a ticking time bomb of psychosis — a really interesting thread they’ve been developing since the season 2 finale. While I’m glad that he asserted his masculinity — albeit in the most hilariously girly way possible — and seems to be inexplicably winning over Triana, I’ve really gotta worry about what’s going on in that kid’s brain, and what’s going to happen when he snaps completely.

    — N.A.

    • and seems to be inexplicably winning over Triana

      Not really that inexplicable. It’s been established that Triana likes the Venture Bros. as friends and that Dean is “cute”. Also, consider the Triana would probably appreciate a person whose life is even more bizarre and fucked up than her own — Dean is one of the few people her age that would be able to appreciate what an insane existence she has without blinking, and vice versa. Finally, Triana is a goth, so we can safely assume that her previous experience included narcissistic, pretentious, manipulative jackholes. An unassuming, sweet, guileless Dean Venture would be an attractive change of pace.

      Regardless, he beat the shit out of another guy for her benefit. It’s a time-honored way of telling a girl “I dig you.” Dean’s stock has certainly gone up.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You mention the metaphor for Bush, but the Monarch in his B-Plot had the most obvious connections to Bush when he send the Moppets on a pre-emptive strike. Dr. Girlfriend then asks him if a pre-emptive strike isn’t just a normal strike.

    • Todd says:

      He also sends his troops in ill-equipped and ill-matched to the task at hand, all to gather intelligence for a war he’s decided to conduct whether it’s warranted or not. And talk about father issues.

  10. sheherazahde says:

    he’s from a different TV show altogether

    yeah, Metalocalypse

    • greyaenigma says:

      Re: he’s from a different TV show altogether

      Further evidence that he’s from the future — half an hour into the future!!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Two things bugged me about this overall amazing episode:

    1) Doesn’t Turner and therefore Cartoon Network own the rights to Jonny Quest? So why is he Action Jonny all of a sudden? Didn’t they refer to Race Bannon by name in a couple of episodes?

    2) How in the hell do contemporary kids around age 10-13 (or whatever they were supposed to be) know/enjoy/care about a cartoon that was presumably airing during the 60’s? And I don’t think simply it’s due to reruns. I understand its necessary for the whole story of Doc Venture has kids over for a day camp themed around his cartoon persona but closer to reality would be a bunch o’ nerdy guys in their 40’s.

    • piehead says:

      That #2 really bugged me; they remember the old cartoon but wouldn’t think that he’s all grown up? The heck?

    • fireriven says:

      They’ve called Race by his name, but never by his last name, I don’t think…?

      • selectnone says:

        *checks video*
        Brock: “Race Bannon… those bastards killed him!”

        Looks like they did use his full name 🙂

        They might’ve called him Action Johnny because that’s what his show was called in the Ventureverse, if he even had a show there…

        Even if the Astrobase bods are allowed to use the Jonny Quest properties, I think it’d be just a bit too blatant to out-and-out just say his name – it works better as an in-joke for the people who can spot the details.

    • schwa242 says:

      1) Doesn’t Turner and therefore Cartoon Network own the rights to Jonny Quest? So why is he Action Jonny all of a sudden? Didn’t they refer to Race Bannon by name in a couple of episodes?

      I would place money that this has something to do with it.

      Not much money though. I took another beating in stocks because people just don’t invest in bakelite like they used to.

      2) How in the hell do contemporary kids around age 10-13 (or whatever they were supposed to be) know/enjoy/care about a cartoon that was presumably airing during the 60’s? And I don’t think simply it’s due to reruns. I understand its necessary for the whole story of Doc Venture has kids over for a day camp themed around his cartoon persona but closer to reality would be a bunch o’ nerdy guys in their 40’s.

      Maybe there was a revival movie in the late 90s or early 2000s a la Scooby Doo that Rusty won’t let the boys talk about because he signed the rights away to it during desperate times when money was short (which would be any time) and he’s still bitter.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah. When the season three trailer was up, I had visions of Rusty as guest of honor at sad comics/Star Trek convention, surrounded by people who were kids when he was.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah. When the season three trailer was up, I had visions of Rusty as guest of honor at some sad comics-esque/Star Trek sorta convention – running into the guy who was the pterodactyl puppeteer…

      • Todd says:

        I have a feeling that much of the detail in “The Buddy System” comes from Messers Publick and Hammer’s visit to a con.

  12. fireriven says:

    Just a note, I’m pretty sure he tried and gave up on training Dean before he turned to the Murderous Moppets.

  13. Another thing that bugged me:

    Why is the daycamp only for *boy* adventurers?

  14. ytoabn says:

    Boy Adventurers and Rusty Venture Show

    The Rusty Venture Show could be seen equivalent to the Adventures of Johnny Quest, yes? Well then, Cartoon Network ran reruns of Johnny Quest for a long time, maybe they did the same for Rusty Venture show. Also note that about 15 kids showed up, despite what appeared to be an ad appearing on TV. It’s possible parents saw the ad, showed the episodes to their kids, then sent them off.

    Johnny Quest becoming Action Johnny could be an attempt for him to “re-invent” himself. This whole episode is about fathers and sons, yes? Well Johnny is so shattered by the loss of his father, he doesn’t even want to be called Quest anymore.

    The camp has the word Boy Adventurers because that’s how people refer to kids who are having adventures on TV shows. Just like arching becomes a well defined art with rules, it’s now acceptable in this universe to refer to any boy who travels the world as a “boy adventurer”. It’s considered a profession practically (making the kid who said he’d “grow up” to be a boy adventurer all the more ironic).

    • Todd says:

      Re: Boy Adventurers and Rusty Venture Show

      Which explains the Peter Pan reference (or, rather, the Hook reference) in this week’s episode.

    • laminator_x says:

      Re: Boy Adventurers and Rusty Venture Show

      Reminds me of my favorite line from Dean (and apropos to this episode as well),

      “I am a Boy Science Adventurer, like my father before me!”

      Dean is at his best in those rare moments of (desperate) assertiveness.

  15. greyaenigma says:

    A couple things I noted on re-watching:

    The pirate captain guy said “the voice of Inspector Gadget” not “the guy from Get Smart” — naturally references both would have been too old for his audience, but it gives some insight into his cultural frame of reference.

    Wilhelm scream!

    The “you’re such a racist” scene reminded me of someone I’d met defending his anti-semitism by explaining that the jews were not a race.

    The Dean/Dermott conflict would fit into the overall paternal conflict theme as well (given time travel theories), although the profile in the car would seem to mean the mother isn’t future Triana. (Whew.)

    • Todd says:

      If I’m not mistaken, The Wilhelm shows up twice in this episode.

      I sat and puzzled over the “voice of Inspector Gadget” reference. The Pirate, in his presentation, is talking about The New Scooby Doo Movies, which featured many down-slope celebrities like Don Knotts and The Three Stooges (Cher and Don Adams appeared, as themselves, in 1973’s landmark episode “Scooby-Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters”, which no doubt had a strong influence on Stanley Kubrick as he prepared to shoot The Shining). But The New Scooby-Doo Movies aired in 1972 and Inspector Gadget wasn’t until 1986. So that baffled me a little bit.

      • greyaenigma says:

        My theory was that the captain was actually young enough that he’d only seen Scooby Doo in reruns (which ran for an awfully long time) and then the first run of Inspector Gadget. I remember all that stuff myself. I would have sworn Don Adams was in a different one than Cher, but memory’s a funny thing. (Also the Wikipedia entry says Inspector Gadget ran from 1983-86, which makes a little more sense.)

        I could easily have missed a Wilhelm. But I got a bonus one from Batman Returns earlier in the evening.

        • Todd says:

          In the opening commercial for Rusty’s Day Camp, Action Johnny’s logo is accompanied by Mr. Wilhelm’s utterance.

  16. Todd says:

    I was thinking more of his casting of Scatman Crothers, but I see your point.

  17. Anonymous says:

    “(Although the episode doesn’t push the comparison, Rusty’s Day Camp seems to be run along the same lines as the Bush administration: take everyone’s money, hire incompetents and cronies, conduct no oversight, have no plan, shift all responsibility to the people you’ve been charged with protecting, offer lies and no apologies when something goes wrong. The episode even concludes with an ill-timed military invasion.)”

    And Sgt. Hatred says that particular and negligible arch action is “the Burning Bush” and I believe he uses Moses in name as well…

  18. Dying for his TV-show scientist-father’s attention, it appears that Johnny, between commercials perhaps, killed the family dog.

    I don’t know if it matters or not, but just a point to be made:

    Doug Wildley, the creator of Johnny Quest, hated Bandit, and it’s inclusion to the show Johnny Quest was the result of arm-twisting on the part of Hanna-Barbera, not by the creator of the show’s design.

  19. Greetings! New LJ “friend of” here.

    I have one, non-vital theory about “The Buddy System.” I believe that Sgt. Hatred did not actually confuse his appointment time for p.m. instead of a.m. I feel that he fabricated an excuse to see the sexy little children, but with a convenient lie. Just my philosophy here.

    On another topic, I rarely find people who like Michael Nyman, and I noticed he’s on your interests list. Very neat.

    • Todd says:

      I have everything Nyman’s ever released. He’s my second-favorite living composer after Philip Glass. If you don’t know it, I recommend tracking down a copy of Nyman’s chamber opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.

  20. mcbrennan says:

    My favorite live-action TV show right now, for all its faults, is Lost. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it and Venture Bros share a tremendous amount in common. Both are centered on characters with overwhelming “father issues”, both share a withering focus on the death of the romantic “future” and the failure of technology, both feature a heated rivalry between science and mysticism, profound questions of identity and morality and multilayered references to art, literature and history, and both subtly acknowledge their debt to Watchmen. They also share a lot in terms of episode structure and use of flashback, focusing on one seemingly tangential character to elucidate huge truths about everyone else in the story. “The Invisible Hand Of Fate” was probably the best example, but this one somehow felt even more like a Lost episode, and it was a very good thing. The most overt connection was when Rusty opened the hatch on that Utopian geodesic dome, only to find someone literally crucified inside–and crucifixion! Talk about father issues. Lost‘s Dharma Initiative used similar hatches and met a similar fate, and I’m very curious as to what–or whom–is still lurking in E-Den. Then again, it could just be a homage to that Pauly Shore movie. (Which was, as I recall, crucified by the critics!) But Dermott appears (and tilts the storyline) like a character right out of Lost, and I’m eager to see what his story reveals about Brock, Hank, SoulBot or whoever the lucky father is.

    I was touched by Johnny’s desperate attempt to help Dean “escape”, and I was especially struck by Rusty’s line “My father died before he taught me to care.” That line for me pretty much sums up the failure of the 20th century in general and of romantic futurism in particular. Despite all its brilliant cultural, artistic and scientific achievements, there was no investment in the emotional or spiritual health of our generation (and Rusty’s). Nobody’s been taught to care for a very long time now, and it shows. The sweeping cuts in education funding in the stagflation ’70s–and the accompanying troubles (and shameless self-absorption) of so many members of our parents’ generation in the 70s and 80s–meant a lot of us had to fend for ourselves, like the unfortunate kids in this episode. I think it was that great utopian futurist Lee Iacocca who said “Passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have.” Rusty’s too absorbed by his own sense of being wronged by his father to take notice of the fact that he’s doing the same thing to his own sons, ensuring that in another 20 years, Hank and Dean will likely be popping pills and bitterly cursing their own father’s neglect, and/or exploiting their own misspent time on a cartoon called The Venture Brothers. There’s a flash-forward I’d like to see. I can only hope we all do better with our own kids.

    I don’t think there’s much doubt why Rusty (and Brock) misses the Monarch. Besides the fact that he wasn’t a creepy pedophile, the Monarch played the game right. And as silly as it is, the game gave them their identity and meaning in a life that too often lacks both. You could reasonably say that they should all grow up, grow beyond cosplay and get jobs, get marriages and mortgages and be mature, but does anyone in the VB universe operate that way? Is there a “normal” world somewhere we haven’t seen yet? Everyone (from Triana’s friend at the bar to the tots in Rusty’s camp) seems to take it for granted that superscience and supervillainy exist and are the bee’s knees. Is it even possible to walk away? All I know is, Sgt. Hatred isn’t even trying. He’s just going through the motions, and he’s ruining the game! This is the part where I start quoting that Peter Gabriel song Games Without Frontiers and we’ll all be whistling till next Thursday so I’ll just go to bed hoping that Billy’s wayward superscience hand doesn’t fall into the wrong…um, yeah.

    • Anonymous says:

      First Time Poster…

      Just wanted to say I enjoy this place immensely, and agree with your comments on why Brock at least misses the Mighty Monarch. (Doc seems to have given up caring about the “game” for the most part.)

      Actually, regarding the marriage issue–Dr. Mrs. the Monarch is giving up her old name and costume and taking up new ones. The Monarch is giving up his raison d’etre, and the accompanying virtues of passion, conviction and sincerity–at least part of what drew her to him in the first place–so that he can arch whoever the Guild hands him. And I’m certain some voice in the back of his head is saying–“Ya know, arching a guy you hate dressed like a butterfly is kinda crazy. But arching some randomly assigned stranger dressed like a butterfly–that’s just freakin’ insane.”

  21. One unresolved question Dr. Mrs. The Monarch chastised her husband for using her moppets to arch, yet in the post-credit sequence, she praised the moppets for doing exactly what they were told to do.

    So what were they told to do?

    • Anonymous says:

      My guess is that Dr. Mrs. The Monarch knew The Monarch would use her moppets to spy on Dr. Venture and told them beforehand to intentionally fail at it.

  22. Anonymous says:

    It’s Academic

    Hi Todd,
    Is your reference to It’s Academic to mean the NBC long running high school quiz show based out of Washington, DC?

    • Todd says:

      Re: It’s Academic

      That’s the one I remember from my childhood. Although Mr. Publick might be referring to Quizkids, which is from quite a bit earlier.