The Venture Bros: The Family that Slays Together, Stays Together part 1

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One of the most propulsive, dynamic scripts in the series, “The Family that Slays Together” is also one of the most sincere and thematically coherent. Its action scenes rise to a new level of excitement and there is palpable dramatic tension, which makes the bent humor pop that much more.

The twin themes of love and murder are repeated over and over, in increasingly profound and complex ways. The episode begins with Brock killing his car, which, we gather from his emotional state, was his one real true love. As soon as he’s done that, his “family” shows up — Rusty, Hank, Dean and, yes, Helper. This brings up the question of whether Brock “loves” the Venture clan, which the plot will come around to addressing later.

But first, Molotov and her Blackhearts attack. Molotov, it seems, has come to warn Brock of his impending assassination by OSI. She does not try to kill him herself, but rather says she doesn’t want to “share” his assassination with the other OSI assassins. Her love/hate for Brock, and her jealousy for his other “suitors,” will save him — for now.

Brock is on the run with his life in danger, but he’s saddled with the responsibility of family, as the Monarch pursues his love, arching Rusty, while saddled with the responsibility of his family, the Moppets, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch and his henchmen, all of whom behave on this trip as a family — the Moppets are the misbehaving children, Dr. MTM (hey! MTM! And she even has Mary Tyler Moore’s haircut!) is the wayward spouse, the henchmen are the bored, easily-distracted teenagers. Which raises the question of The Monarch’s love for Dr. MTM — is she a stabilizing influence in his life, or is she just another burden that keeps him from his true love, Rusty?

The three assassins sent for Brock have their own love issues. Herr Trigger has a dangerously perverse love for his firearms (I kept expecting him to burn his tongue on one of his just-fired weapons), Go-Fish has his love of the sea and La Tueur develops a brief affair with Hank over their mutual love of Batman.

Brock goes to see Hunter to obtain safe passage. Hunter is, of course, a self-contained love/murder contradiction, a hermaphoditic stripper who gives Brock the tools he needs while giving him a lap dance, a pretend-love ritual which which Brock is deeply uncomfortable. Hunter’s and Brock’s obvious love for each other has, paradoxically, hit a barrier due to Hunter’s sex change. Brock once loved Hunter as a man, but now that he’s a woman there will always be a wall between them.

Under attack from Trigger, Brock orders the Ventures into the X-1. To get them to go, he barks that he never loved them. Hank interprets this as “the Lassie trick,” but I’m not so sure — I could still go either way on Brock’s love of the Ventures. He neither agrees nor disagrees with Hank’s interpretation, but goes to extraordinary lengths to protect Hank anyway (even though Rusty could, theoretically anyway, clone Hank again if he needed to).

(Brock then calls the X-1 to tell Rusty that he forgot his son, and Rusty says “no, Dean’s right here,” fuelling my pet theory that Dean is Rusty’s son and Hank is Brock’s.)

The Monarch finds his love conquest foiled — there’s nobody home at the Venture compound. He shoots his darts into empty rooms — no symbolism intended there, certainly — while Dr MTM prepares herself for an evening of seduction that never occurs. Instead, there is a different love crisis — a heartbroken Sgt Hatred sobbing in the bathroom. Sgt Hatred’s love/murder problem is that his wife Princess Tinyfeet has left him, and he has decided to commit suicide-by-arch by hiding out in the Venture compound and waiting for Rusty to get home.

(And, since Rusty is unlikely to kill Hatred by himself, it’s really Brock Hatred needs to come home. Sgt Hatred’s desire hinges on Brock’s love for the Ventures — if Brock does not love the Ventures, he will solve his OSI problems and, theoretically anyway, no longer have an obligation toward them.)

Even Helper has a love/murder problem in this episode! When Brock kills his car, Helper interprets the act as a salvo in a human/machine war. Once the problem is cleared up, Helper enthusiastically embraces his would-be killer and, later, bravely proves his loyalty to his family by acting as landing gear for the X-1. (The Venture clan, true to form, forget all about him, leaving him, apparently, to the predations of The Monarch in his flying coccoon.)

“The Family that Slays Together,” in its relentless drive to include every love/murder combination possible, includes a pair of ex-OSI agents who have become born-again Christians (or, rather, they have transformed/perverted their love for each other into a love of a deity). When pressed into action, these Jesus-lovers are happy to take up weapons to kill — although they seem to be more in love with the rituals of religious belief than in any kind of reality-based action (fair enough, if you ask me). They futz around with their trappings of holy devotion while Brock, the man of action, saves himself from Go-Fish. (Hey, wait — Jesus-loving agents, a fish-centric assassin…hmmm…)

(Two other things about the Brock/Go-Fish encounter: either Brock, somehow, shaves his head in order to fake-out Go-Fish, or else he’s actually bald and wears the mullet as a wig. Either way, there is a Biblical reference in the idea of “Samson” losing his hair, and thus his power — Brock loses his hair and it gives him more power. And, once the fight is done, he shows that he’s no slouch at Bible study — the implication being that he could keep up with the Soul Mates in the God-love thing, he’s just more firmly rooted in the world of action.)

Rusty, having inadvertently turned The Monarch’s love quest into a dead-end, not just masturbation but masturbation without climax, spends the episode unattached, gripy and bothered by all the tumult around him — altogether appropriate, as he seemingly loves only himself — which is, I suppose, why he needs the conditioner.  For his beard.


59 Responses to “The Venture Bros: The Family that Slays Together, Stays Together part 1”
  1. mrmihocik says:

    Monday mornings

    Thanks for giving me something to read and to speculate on Monday morning. I mean, come on, what else would I be doing? Work? Hardly! Keep up the super-great analysis!

    • ra_the_bold says:

      Re: Monday mornings

      Yeah, and it hit me that this is coming to an end – or at least a hiatus very soon.

      I have loved this show more than any other I’ve watched in, well, years. It’s funny, compelling, and dichotic.

      I know we fans go much further into it than the writers and performers do, but I don’t care! It’s the cauldren of story, baby! And to be honest, that’s what makes for superior art, in my humble opinion.

      One more week, and then a long wait for more brings me a little sadness.

  2. Love reading these analyses.

    (Brock then calls the X-1 to tell Rusty that he forgot his son, and Rusty says “no, Dean’s right here,” fuelling my pet theory that Dean is Rusty’s son and Hank is Brock’s.)

    When somebody brought this up at the last NY Comic Con, Doc gave a very firm immediate No. Not a dance-around-the-spoiler no, but a “No. They are Doctor Venture’s sons” no. (It’s all on youtube, somewhere.)

    I think that moment where Rusty forgets Hank just emphasizes Rusty’s self-centered nature. He thinks of Dean because Dean takes after him so darn well. Hank’s probably far more bothersome/annoying.

    • Todd says:

      Well, it’s just a pet theory. And, as everyone knows, pets die.

      • My pet theory was that due to one of Rusty’s ill-conceived experiments, either the Doc or Brock was gender switched into a woman. One “moment of passion” and nine months later we get Hank and Dean.

        . . . .

        On reflection, it occurs to me that this pet theory is like Sam, and is just as well that it didn’t go there.

  3. Isn’t Sgt. Hatred using the same bathroom Torrid used in “Fallen Arches”?

    Obviously there’s something about that toilet that attracts supervillains.

  4. a121arthur says:

    Great – I was waiting to read what you would say. This time around, opposite to last episode, everyone is shown holding back their excremental bodily functions and it’s all about libido to be fulfilled, as Brock is no longer a control factor.

    Without the “law” as OSI, Brock, now no longer protected by those rules, seems to open up new situations. Everyone feels it, something’s wrong – no one’s getting “theirs”… As if Brock were a governor in a system of forces and now sans his mission statement, the lack is affecting in different unforeseeable ways.

    I think it was most apparent when we hear (and later see) Dr.Girlfriend’s freudian-slip saying “seduction” in relation to her assignment: Brock.

    Or Hatred, on the toilet, waits for him to put him out of his misery.

    And Rusty, a man without hair, in the bathroom of course, asking for conditioner – a masturbatory reference, can’t see anything in front of him, until Brock literally drags a freshly-killed body in. And FINALLY we see something other than blood-shots erupting from a body: vomit.

    I would disagree about
    “Hunter’s and Brock’s obvious love for each other has, paradoxically, hit a barrier due to Hunter’s sex change.”

    I think that in terms of heirarchy and command, Hunter was a father-figure, autonomous in his self-love and sense of unfulfilled and Brock was like all the son-figures in these episodes, just not really figuring in to father’s bigger picture.

    I was truly impressed with the idea of the Soul Mates sequence in some ways, because I think their power did work – Brock is after all Samson, his fleece is part of the story there, and he quotes from the Bible as he takes on a sort of “shield” or even “crown of thorns” or at least, fishooks and such of his persecutor. The Bible repeating and returning this time, versus “magick” per say, is an interesting difference as well to last episode. You can’t have one without the other, in terms of black-magick, etc.. and in some ways, this one just depends on nothing but showmanship (the Soul Mates) and belief. And of course a book of “love”.

    • Todd says:

      Brock’s and Hunter’s love was definitely a father/son love, but that doesn’t make it any less potent.

      • catwalk says:

        seriously. brock’s father disappears and is replaced by a woman, and we have seen how brock relates to women… the new situation both initiates and rejects the oedipal possibilities.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I never doubted for a second that Brock loves the Ventures (and maybe even Rusty, too.) If this really were just a job for him, why would he continually care about their safety? Why would he put himself in danger repeatedly, all to try to get them to Spider-Skull Island? Why does he shout to Hank to get away from La Tueur, giving himself away, when he could have killed La Tueur with one well-thrown knife?

    Brock’s problem is that, for him, expressing love has always been tied to violence, from his sexually charged fights with Molotov and Ginnie, to killing for his country to express his love for father-figure Hunter, to his brutal murders of Ted and Sonny in “Viva Los Muertos” (fueled by his love and concern for the boys).

    (I suspect that Hank’s decision to stow away with Brock was motivated at least in part by his belief that he’s immortal, BTW.)

    I also enjoyed the portrayal of Holy Diver and Sky Pilot as examples of the worst, most hypocritical aspects of modern Christianity. They have the chance to easily lend actual material help, as the Bible would want them to, but instead they indulge in psuedo-righteous sanctimony that wastes time and only reflects glory back on themselves.

    — N.A.

    • Todd says:

      Oh, I don’t seriously doubt that Brock loves the Ventures — I’m just discussing the arrangement of themes in this episode.

    • a121arthur says:

      …Holy Diver and Sky Pilot as examples of the worst, most hypocritical aspects of modern Christianity. They have the chance to easily lend actual material help, as the Bible would want them to, but instead they indulge in psuedo-righteous sanctimony that wastes time and only reflects glory back on themselves.

      Incantations or reciting prayers always look like a waste of time to non-believers anyway, whether Rusty watching Dr.Orpheus or this satirical don’t-ask-don’t-tell “partners”/queered-christianity. What made the situation intriguing – was maybe the superpowered-praying is ALL they do. Like all superheros it demands to charge up and a bit of Vegas showmanship. No one said that later they go “fight” – that is the fight: Belief.

      In an episode where Brock says “I need a moment to think” and Rusty smirks, “Leave him alone boys, this is new to him”, suddenly Brock is shown able to give up his hair (i.e. vanity – which the later assassin will point out was so “cool” about him) and well-versed enough to recite a longer Biblical-sounding line, that sums up his tactic. (hair, hat etc..) In the hotel, Dean recalls the words about the Bible, and opening the hotel drawer provides Brock a handy weapon.

      Off the topic, I do recall right before Brock pulled up the shark on the wire trick, he kissed the tatoo on his shoulder, but I don’t recall what it was of.

      • Anonymous says:

        I should apologize for coming across combatively. I wasn’t trying to diss all of Christianity — I liked Brock’s sacrifice of his hair, and really loved the Bible quote he delivered at the end of the fight, and what it said about Brock. (Heaven helps the man who helps himself?)

        My objection with Holy Diver and Sky Pilot isn’t that they’re praying — it’s that their particularly ostentatious displays of faith seem designed to make them feel superior to others, physically and morally, without doing anything to actually help, say, their former comrade who’s in imminent life-threatening peril. They’d rather tell themselves they’re saving his soul than actually save his life.

        Despite owning a boat, they won’t give Brock and the Ventures a ride the fairly short distance to Spider-Skull island. (They won’t teach them how to sail, either, for that matter.) They’ll just hand him a Bible — which, as Brock’s triumphant quote suggests, he doesn’t actually need, except perhaps as a blunt instrument, since he’s clearly taken its message to heart.

        Um, except for the whole “thou shalt not kill” part, anyway.

        — N.A.

        • Todd says:

          Yeah, they won’t loan him their boat, because they need it for their “charitable work” with teenage boys — another aspect of the perversion of their love; they can’t love each other openly so their desire gets channeled in all these less efficient, indirect ways.

        • a121arthur says:

          I am essentially in agreement on the hypocritic side, as they were absolutely the same asses from the backstory we saw them in – naturally they would be the converts! I just meant as characters it worked that what they “do” is but pose and pray, when Brock was in danger as, er..prey. Everyone says they did nothing, I wanted to offer it isn’t clear, which has to be as all other magick seems to function in Ventureland. Of course, it’s silly as in terms of the concept, prayer can’t benefit from further “supercharged” assistance.

          I was also reminded in the earlier Killinger episode, the closing set of quotes about the lesson, to which “you can read it in the Bible!” It’s hardly appeared as orientation till this closing double-episode.

          – as for my tatoo questin – ironically, the freshly shorn Brock kisses the tatoo on his shoulder, of a clearly very long-haired figure.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s Icarus, from the cover of Brock’s favorite Led Zeppelin album. We see him getting (part of) the tattoo in part 1 of last year’s “Showdown at Cremation Creek.”

            Funny how, for a season that’s been all about Rusty thus far, the closer seems to be all about Brock.

            — N.A.

            • a121arthur says:

              Oh that’s nice…”Icarus”…father, Daedalus, of the father/son tragedy.

            • cdthomas says:

              Yep, a wig.

              How else did the coiffe stay together? Brock didn’t scalp himself, but his head stubble looked fresh, but how did the hair stretch over the shark’s head….

              i’m lying down, now.

              • mimitabu says:

                Re: Yep, a wig.

                i think we’re supposed to accept that he sheared the hair off with his knife. i’ll go there.

                • dougo says:

                  My impression was that the shark somehow bit off Brock’s hair. Improbable, I know, but hey, it is a cartoon.

                  Also, there must be some sort of “jumping the shark” joke to be made here.

  6. jbacardi says:

    I figure Herr Trigger’s tongue is very well-calloused at this stage of his career.

    First thing I thought of when I saw Go-Fish was Quint from Jaws. Hey! There’s the Spielberg reference I was waiting for! Now to find a screencap…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Was it just me, or was there also a theme of futility and pointlessness running throughout this episode as well. Helper’s self-sacrifice to help the X1 land was pointless since the Venture family simply ejected safely. The Monarch and Sgt Hatred’s trips to the Venture compound were pointless since nobody was home. The Soul Mates long suiting up sequence was pointless as they contributed nothing to actually help Brock.

    • Todd says:

      Seems to me there’s a theme of futility and pointlessness running through the whole series.

      • cdthomas says:

        That’s why I worry about Brock.

        That, and Mr. Publick’s blog header, “Prelude to a Kill” — it’s not inconceivable that Molotov would actually kill Brock…. and Doc would bring him back, just for shits and giggles.

        Now *that* would be monstrous — it would solve the ORB problem, if Doc clandestinely programmed that instruction out of Brock’s memory, and also took away the only stable parent Hank and Dean have ever known, save HELPer.

        I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

  8. popebuck1 says:

    Holy Diver and Sky Pilot aren’t just ex-gays – they are clearly Christianity fetishists. There’s no mistaking that loving, prolonged sequence where Holy Diver puts on his “gear,” item by item.

  9. I always love your blog posts on Venture Brothers episodes.

    That entire maritime sequence was so well done. Everything from a chum-soaked Brock fighting sharks to the ex-gay, former OSI members….

    I was never clear on why OSI is hunting Brock. Did he try to quit his job rather than kill Dr. Venture?

    • brandawg says:

      He asked too many questions.

    • chrispiers says:

      OSI ordered him to kill Rusty so that he wouldn’t get ahold of the Orb and at the end of last week, Brock chose not to do so.

    • Anonymous says:

      I thought he accidentally put himself up for termination while he was trying to find out about the “Termination Clause” from OSI’s crappy database.

      • It seems to me that the likeliest scenario is that, for whatever reason, OSI didn’t actually want Brock to be alive to carry out his mission. He’s still in the midst of merely trying to find out what that mission really is when he activates the “Termination Clause” which sets off Adrienne trying to kill him. That car’s likely programmed to do so directly by OSI, so OSI evidently laid out the scenario so that whenever Brock got close to finding out about the Orb and his responsibility toward handling Rusty (should he try to activate the Orb), OSI would snuff him to not allow it.

        I’ve been thinking about this a lot, it doesn’t really make sense any other way. Unless it really was just down to faulty voice recognition and/or faulty programming. Brock’s orders weren’t just to kill Rusty a la chrispiers’ explanation, his orders were to kill Rusty should Rusty decide to activate the Orb. Brock was entirely willing to do so, too, but was relieved to find out that Rusty actually saw the relevance in his father’s hiding of the Orb, and decided to research instead of activate it. Meaning there was no need for Brock to kill him, thus OSI would have no beef based on a failure to complete his mission.

        Further, that pivotal moment happens AFTER the car has already tried to kill Brock. It’s either OSI wants him dead so Rusty can activate the Orb, the car just went haywire, or it’s something else that can’t be discerned from what we’ve seen. Also entirely possible.

    • kornleaf says:

      When Brock was talking to his car he never actually mentioned “the orb” he just mentioned the “termination clause” and, presumably, accidentally gave his termination code.

      • That was my initial take, but then I decided OSI wouldn’t still be trying to kill him over a simple mistake. And technically the Orb does get mentioned, through its two code acronyms, Operation: Rusty’s Blanket (by the computer) and Orders Regarding Bodyguard (by Brock).

        • kornleaf says:

          true, but
          “I decided OSI wouldn’t still be trying to kill him over a simple mistake.” when is it ever true that large government bodies don’t do stupid things?

          • mattyoung says:


            I thought he was asking about the protocol for terminating Rusty. One way or the other, Brock has a potentially lethal mission to fulfil.

            If he had to kill Rusty, then he’s gone against his official orders as a bodyguard and must be put down. If he doesn’t kill Rusty he can’t be left to know what he knows, even if he “doesn’t have any idea what this is all about.”

            • Re: Catch-22

              Again, why would he have to simply kill Rusty? If the model is Sandow, Sandow waited to see whether Col. Venture would actually attempt to activate the Orb before realizing he has to kill him. Rusty doesn’t go that route, so Samson, clearly relieved at the fact, no longer has to kill Rusty. Why would OSI want him dead for correctly following the protocol we learn in Sandow’s recording?

              That, and the car tries to kill Brock before he even knows what his mission is. Doesn’t make sense.

          • Obviously. It just seems like a much Bigger Deal than Brock accidentally engaging the order to kill himself. I just assume more interesting machinations behind it.

            • Anonymous says:

              The way I’m looking at it is: It might not be more interesting, but it is more amusing if this is all due to a computer error.

  10. kornleaf says:

    the reason I think Brock loves the V-clan is mainly because there was a scene where he calls them “his family” and threatens death as a result of threats to the V-clan.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I might just be a bit slow tonight, but what is the “Jesus-loving agents, a fish-centric assassin” comment a reference to?

  12. thunder24 says:

    I really enjoy, after the entire season focusing on everyone *but* Brock that the Season Finale seems to be all about him. (I also think Patrick Warburton turned in an exceptional VA performance which helps)

    I also enjoy that we are getting a genuine ‘mythology’ from the series, now, and dare say this is the strongest season so far, with nary a clunker among the bunch.

    Bodes well for next year. 🙂

    • mimitabu says:

      agreed. i think “guess who’s coming to state dinner” was the last clunker, and first since season 1 (if there even were any in season 1).

      it’s weird how everyone is “shooting darts in empty rooms” in the non-A stories, but the A story is brock doing the fugitive/action movie thing. i agree with an above commenter that what’s going on here is that brock is something really central and important to everyone in the ventureverse. for some reason, it’s important that brock continue… i don’t know, what, being brock? killing people? protecting the ventures? validating the formality of the OSI and the guild?

      why? the prima facie obvious answer looks to be: brock is a man’s man. in a motherless universe where everyone is obsessed with fathers and masculine roles, and everyone is a total failure (including people others try to emulate, eg jonas and of course rusty himself), brock is someone who embodies conventional, brutal masculinity and finds it working for him. sure, he has his own existential dilemmas, but i think everyone’s sanity and personal delusions more or less hinge on brock just being who he’s been.

      and of course, if that’s the case, and if we’re not let off the thematic boat we’ve boarded before it gets to its destination… brock has to die. i think he’s a last gasp hope for a certain type of masculinity that (in most cases) is exactly what causes most if not all the failure in the series. it’s a shame, because he’s a very sympathetic character, but if i’m not mistaken (and i probably am mistaken:P), he has to be going down. the whole series is telling you that it’s coming (emperor has no clothes, blablabla). he may not literally die, but i’d actually be a bit surprised if he’s not heading for a really big fall.

      make any sense?

      (or is it totally wrong? does brock represent reason and action, while everyone else represents fantasy and fetishism? maybe, but i don’t think doc and jackson will let the viewer off that easy. i don’t think the all-pervasive themes of futility, failure, and obsolescence can coexist with a happy ending brock.)

      • Anonymous says:

        Maybe there’s something to that.

        Remember that the examiner guy from when Brock had to renew his license to kill practically worshiped the guy. So did the Monarch’s minions, random guards in the Big Foot ep, and Hank.

  13. yesdrizella says:

    Hello, I recently found your LJ when I was looking for VB meta, and I’m simply devouring it! My only regret is that I did not happen upon this sooner, as I love to analyze this show.

    It seems like everyone’s touched upon the main points, though I would like to add that I’m not going to assume that Princess Tinyfeet wants to leave Sgt. Hatred. To be honest, when Sgt. Hatred showed Dr. MTM the “We need to talk” text, my brain automatically went to pregnancy.

    Also, I believe that Col. Gathers has had the full MTF operation, so he wouldn’t be a hermaphrodite. A genderfuck/queer is more likely, since he physically presents as female but isn’t undergoing hormone therapy. Though I think that in the end, Col. Gathers’ sexuality surpasses all labeling.

    Thanks for the post, this was a great read!

    • Todd says:

      You are correct. I was thinking of a hermaphrodite as being someone who has both male and female characteristics, but that applies only to genitalia. What I should have said was that he is androgynous. Or a freak. My apologies to any and all hermaphrodites in my readership.

  14. kornleaf says:

    you know what?
    I was thinking about why the OSI is actually after Brock.
    No one really said that Brock was supposed to just go and kill Rusty, he was supposed to neutralize Rusty if he was going to activate the ORB, like with Sandow.

    Makes me think it is because of a miss communication between man and machine.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Sandow: just had to add

    The Guild up in the air certainly chooses interesting members. Looking up Sandow, one finds a ready-to-order VB character:

    “By the time he was 19, Sandow was already performing strongman stunts in side shows. The legendary Florenz Ziegfeld saw the young strongman and hired him for his carnival show. He soon found that the audience was far more fascinated by Sandow’s bulging muscles than by the amount of weight he was lifting, so Ziegfeld had Sandow perform poses which he dubbed “muscle display performances”… . Sandow quickly became a sensation and Ziegfeld’s first star.

    He was married to Blanche Brooks Sandow and had two daughters. He was constantly in the company of other women who actually paid money to feel his flexed muscles back stage after his stage performances. He also had a close relationship to a male musician and composer he hired to accompany him during his shows. The man was Martinus Sieveking, a handsome pupil of Sandow whom he featured in his book Sandow’s System of Physical Training. The degree of their relationship has never been determined, but they lived together in New York for a time. It is clear Blanche was jealous of his relationships.”

    From wiki so some of it is true at least.

  16. Anonymous says:


    (I’m new to the blog, but I’m enjoying the reads.)

    I think the Monarch’s moment of truth is coming in Part II. Sgt. Hatred won’t come out of the bathroom for anyone but Rusty, right? Rusty is miles away at this point, isn’t he?

    And who in the entire Venture Brothers ‘universe’ looks more like Rusty Venture than…?

    The Monarch disguised as “Rusty Venture” at the moment Jonas Venture Sr. makes his triumphant return to the Compound? Comedy.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Nothing interesting happened.