[Ed: still with apologies to Television Without Pity. And to anyone who’s confused by this, actually…]
This week on Dungeon Majesty: Oliver suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous childhood, Cassie and Millie get hit on by a swim team, Alvin gets a job, Andrew uncovers secrets, and Ferdinand is mostly away this episode. We’re grumpy about that last.
Last week on Dungeon Majesty, we met our sad-sack group of director surrogates and one owlbear, without whom apparently nothing. Andrew hit on Cassie’s mom by mistake, Alvin got a new car, Cassie got a new job, and Ferdinand should get a new girlfriend. I’m available! And again with the mermaids. The kids in the forums are claiming that these don’t count because they’re Esther Williams look-a-likes with legs. Hate to break it to them, but Rosebud is not just a sled, either.
I’m pretty sure the opening credits changed this week; Cassie’s dad is trying to save her from the mermaids this time around. Seriously, MacDougall needs to talk to someone about his aquatic issues. I guess people were complaining that the symbolism was too opaque in the pilot? Alice Lauro ain’t living alone for no reason, guys.
We could be heroes. Could we? It’s only the second episode, so who knows?
The camera is flying over a golf course. Cut to a men talking on his cell phone at one of the holes — whoever it is playing golf is talking to the sinister Republican car dealer, Jack Nelson. The frame freezes and we get to see that the golfer’s stats printed on-screen with that clickety-click sound effect. His name is Dick Abernathy and he’s a seventh level State Senator Chaotic Republican. He also has Take Kickbacks +5, whatever that means. I’m not one for goofy Dungeon Majesty gimmicks but this is kind of clever and fits well with the whole idea of introducing the protagonists in the credits; MacDougall has clearly decided not to waste much time. Probably a good idea given the limited life-span of a show like this.
Back to the aerial shot, which swoops towards Abernathy. Abernathy and Mr. Sinister want to cut the education budget. Wait, the camera is a point of view shot — there’s a shadow underneath. It’s not a plane. Don’t tell me this is some kind of Dungeon Majesty monster, because I’m pretty sure Luis Guzman can’t fly. Holy crap, it just ate Abernathy. Or breathed fire on him. Dragons and mermaids? Why must you toy with my brain?
Cut to that odious store, which is still called The 20’ by 20’ Room. My research assistant, played this week by my little brother, explains that this is a cute reference to the traditional 10’ by 10’ room in which monsters live. Whatever. Andrew is playing on his Segway and I’m suffering from consumer envy. Whoops, more freeze-frame with stats. Apparently Andrew is a supergenius with eidetic memory and severe social disadvantages. His allies are “Kestrel” (“ooh spooky”), his parents, and the new Dungeon Majesty group. I want to meet the people who couldn’t figure out the show without these titles, I really do.
Andrew sent Oliver in to get a copy of that book of his because he can’t face Angelina Jolie. I can’t blame him. Oliver interviews that the little tiny figurines he bought are approved for fourth edition and offers to let Andrew help paint them. Aw, it’s a bonding moment. They head off to the Magic Bean; Oliver wants a latte, but Andrew notes that Ferdibadboy is no kind of role-model and shouldn’t be giving kids latters. And hits a phone pole. I’m going to keep track of people hitting things with their car; that makes two in two episodes. The phone pole is worse off than the owlbear.
The camera pans over and Oliver sees a bunch of kids on black BMX bikes whooshing past. Yeah, we saw them in the preview last week. Andrew, as usual — how quickly we learn about our friends — is oblivious. Oliver decides he wants to just get home immediately. The BMX kids start following Andrew and Oliver now, which rather reveals the drawback of the Segway, which is not near as fast as the bikes. Oliver: “They’re the black riders!”
Flashback to Andrew going through yet another one of those books where he finds an entry for “Riders, Black.” They have fear powers. Geeks everywhere are spoodging; me I’m not so sure. Back in the present, Andrew has jammed on his wizard cap and is making the Segway accelerate. Oh dear god, the music! It’s gotta be stolen directly from some 80s cop show, possibly one featuring William Shatner. Andrew blasts through a red light and just barely misses an Excrucian SUV. Is that Liv Tyler driving it? The casting budget on this show must be insane.
Andrew yells out, “Fortuitous rushing fluids,” and the kids peel off so as not to hit the car. Andrew, please don’t ever say that again. [Ed: it’s the name of a Dungeon Majesty spell.] I don’t care, it’s still icky. Andrew and Oliver are away and safe. One of the kids yells, “We know where you live, Oliver Lauro!” It’s so cute when pre-teens discover telephone books. Andrew swears a level 3 wizard’s oath not to tell anyone about this. We have geekspoodge sign! Geekspoodge. Heh. Don’t blame me, Andrew started it.
Back to the Magic Bean. Is there really a coffee shop like this in Muncie? I’d hang out there. Alvin is reading a newspaper and sneaking looks at Millie. Cassie’s behind the counter too; I think it’s her first day judging from the way she just made that mocha with cream cheese instead of whipped cream. According to the newspaper, Abernathy has died from spontaneous combustion. I’m guessing that there’s a real explanation for this that doesn’t involve dragons, but I think someone had to have dressed up as a dragon or something; that seems to be the way the show goes.
Freeze-frame! Alvin is: a third level Political Hack, a Democrat w/disillusioned tendencies, and 36% in love with Millie Butler. But then Millie flips her hair back over her ear and it goes up to 40%. That’s really cute and it gets me despite myself.
Chip comes in. Freeze-frame! We run the risk of over-use here, I think. I forgive them because I’m getting to like Chip, and he’s a first level Teenager/Gardener who is 85% in love with Cassie. Awwww. It’d be really funny if Alvin and Chip wound up together, wouldn’t it? I’m cheering for that.
Chip: “So, how’s your little brother’s Satanic cult coming?” Hey, good question. Answer: about as well as your social life, kiddo. Cassie is way too busy to be flirting with Chip, but Chip is way too teenager to be noticing that sort of minor issue. He makes a sincerely feeble attempt to ask her out. Cassie skillfully deflects him to Millie. Millie is already chatting with Alvin about politics, though. Or listening to him preach, depending on how you look at it. Wait, Alvin is implying that Millie might want to run for Abernathy’s old Senate seat. Wouldn’t that be a twist?
Millie quite sensibly thinks she’d hate politics because she doesn’t like compromises. That’s fair. In fact, she wants to be a divorce lawyer, which is illustrated by a flashback to her childhood in which her dad gets her most precious snowglobe in a divorce. That’s just odd, except that Millie seems smart enough to make a hell of a lawyer.
Before Alvin can fully show his disappointment, a bunch of kids from the Ball State swimming team flood in and start chattering. The camera lingers on Dale and Wade, who are played by James Vanderbeek and Seann William Scott respectively. This is why Chip is going to be stuck with Alvin — they’re too cute. Wait, Chip and Dale? MACDOUGALL!
Apparently at Ball State, the mating rituals involve holding your breath. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad test, I’ll have to remember that one. Dale and Wade demonstrate the rituals of the tribe by holding their breath and hitting on Cassie and Millie. If Wade can hold his breath for five minutes, they win a double date. Chip explains that he can’t go out with Dale, Wade, and Cassie because he has prior plans. Oh, Chip, you poor kid. Cassie: “What do I get if you lose?” Well, you don’t have to date the kind of cute chimps who routinely hold their breath for five minutes. Nah, she gets to go swimming at their pool. Millie fails to point out that this is a win-win situation for Ball State swimming team members. Some friend Millie is.
Wade takes a huge breath, showing off his over-developed chest muscles, and clamps down. Alvin gets a very thoughtful look on his face and sneakily heads around behind Wade. What’s he up to? He’s spilling coffee on Wade — screen freeze, clickety-click. Feat: spill hot liquid on back of neck, Effect: -5 to Hold Breath rolls, Roll: dit dit dit 20!, Me: what the hell did all that mean? It means, I guess, that Alvin fails to distract Wade. Kind of a ballsy try, though. Wade makes it to five minutes just as Millie comes around the counter: “That can’t be good for him!” He’s damaged goods now, Millie, leave him for the wolves.
After the commercial break, Greg Fowler is meeting with Alvin in Alvin’s office. Fowler is apparently a lot like Alvin except successful and 10 years younger. Ouch. He interviews that he really admires Alvin and has ever since he worked for him on the 1988 campaign. Alvin looks like he doesn’t remember the guy, so we flashback for a memory aid. The young Fowler is having sex in the campaign office on top of a pile of posters, and his little campaign button is going click click click against the Republican campaign button worn by the nameless woman. That’s low.
Greg explains to Alvin that Donald Bellmore the IIIrd wants to run for the Abernathy seat, which is exactly how everyone’s referring to it now: the Abernathy Seat. Kind of like a Ludlum novel, but quirky. Apparently Don’s grandfather was a big New Deal liberal back when Roosevelt was running the country and Indiana voted Democrat. Because of this, it is obligatory to allow his grandson to run for office even though there’s clearly something wrong with him. Otherwise, why hire Alvin? I’d claim this is why the Democrats lose elections, but it worked out well for the Bush clan, so maybe Greg’s smarter than I think. Alvin warily agrees to meet with Don Trio.
Cut to commercial, following which I consider flipping over to Monday Night Football so that I don’t have to watch an actual Dungeon Majesty game. But I have a job to do. For some reason, Alvin is wearing chainmail that fits poorly. He’d stand out except that Cassie is wearing a tanktop and shorts and a sunhat and has zinc oxide on her nose to guard against the sun, and Oliver is wearing Elton John sunglasses. You know, strike that. Alvin stands out anyway. There is a long explanation of why Alvin is wearing chainmail that seems to boil down to “One freaky subculture told me I should do it even though it’s inappropriate for this freaky subculture.” Kind of like bringing glowlights to the S&M club.
Andrew interviews about his character. It’s good to see him showing some confidence. His character, Werdna, grew up good in a land of evil. Alvin beats me to it: “Like a Democrat in Orange County?” Ferdilate shows up just when I was giving up hope of him ever appearing in this episode, with lattes for everyone, including Oliver. Corrupter of the young! I still care for him, though.
Unfortunately the game has to begin eventually. Fortunately, it doesn’t get very far before they have to fight some orcs. Alvin wants to know why they have to fight orcs, sounding exactly like my parents trying to understand video games. He asks about orcs being inherently evil, implying that this is racist. He is so lucky Millie isn’t here. Andrew and Oliver are getting increasingly exasperated. Alvin: “Maybe it could be elves instead.” OK, that’s not a bad idea. Oliver gets really fed up and flees upstairs.
Cassie follows him, but the door to his room is closed, so she knocks because she’s nicer than I am. I would have just gone in; eleven year olds don’t have a right to privacy. Oliver explains, “There’s an 18th level spell of warding on the door. Go away.” Poor Oliver! He needs friends his age. Cassie cajoles him in that inimitable Maggie Guyllenhal fashion until he comes out.
Downstairs, everyone’s watching TV. There’s a Sinister Jack Nelson Ford commercial on, filmed in colors that scream Ferdinand — see, I was paying attention during the credits. “Screaming” may be literal, here, given how bright the pinks are. Oliver meta-comments, “The TV’s busted.” Not this hour, my precocious little moppet. Cassie is still hovering around Oliver and his sunglasses slip off… whoa, that’s surprising. Oliver has concealer on his face, which is pretty much failing to hide a huge black eye. And I thought the sunglasses were just quirky. MacDougall, you got us again.
Oliver claims, “I went out for the lacrosse team.” Cassie is far too bright for him, alas. “Some terrorists tried to hijack our school bus. Not Al-Qaeda, domestic ones.” God bless the writers for that reminder. Oliver is coming up with some other story when Andrew shows up and says “Oh, like the Black Riders?” Oliver instantly deducts half of Andrew’s experience points. Can he do that? I guess so, although it seems like it ought to be against the rules. Oh, but Andrew violated that level three wizard’s oath. Andrew flees in horror.
Alvin comes up and misunderstands the situation for cheap laughs. Well, he is a politician. Once everything’s straightened out we cut to commercial.
After the break, Andrew is picking up his mail, which includes an Amazon box. I sometimes think that a hundred years from now, the Amazon logo will be the new symbol of Christmas. Inside there’s a beautiful coffee table book about Tibet and Buddhist temples. Cat Stevens is singing in the background — wrong religion but the spirit is nice. There’s a note inside: “Shadowfax, I thought you might get more out of this than another Dungeon Majesty book. Kestrel (‘ooh spooky’). P.S.: Don’t forget to check for secret doors.” Shadowfax? [Ed: that’s Andrew, hon.]
Cut to Alvin talking with Alice. He’s not so good at breaking bad news; you’d think he’d have had enough practice telling people they lost elections. “Would you like the bad news or the good offer first?” “How about both at once?” “Well, your son has a black eye and I was wondering if you’d like to run for State Senate?” Alice is bemused. “It’s all I can do to raise my kids up right.” Ah, that ties the issues together nicely. See? Bad presentation on Alvin’s part.
Cassie arrives with her own questions to hand. “Can I go on a date this Saturday?” Alice quizzes Cassie fairly mercifully; I think she’s too distracted by the Oliver problem to be properly inquisitive. “OK, honey, as long as you’ll be home by your curfew!” If I recall correctly, Cassie’s curfew is sometime around eight PM. “You’ll be all right with Millie and Mr. Wasserman.” Alvin: “I think there must be some misunderstanding!” Heh.
Back at Alvin’s office, Senator Jackson’s secretary calls to set up a meeting w/the Senator. There is light banter which serves to reinforce our understanding that William H. Macy is, in fact, playing a William H. Macy character. Quick cut to the actual meeting, which further hammers home the point: “Why would they want you to run this campaign? No insult meant, but you’re 0-8 in your last eight campaigns.” Harsh, even if true.
Alvin attempts to banter but the long and the short of it is that this Don Trio guy is in fact fatally damaged in some way, and the Indiana Democratic Party is attaching him to Alvin because that way nobody important will get dragged down along with — well, with either of them. Alvin interviews that “If the ball comes down on black eight times, it just makes it more likely that it’ll come up red the next time.” Senator Jackson cheers him on, but both the Senator and I know that Alvin’s understanding of probability sucks. God, that was grim.
Cut to Cassie heading doggedly towards Andrew’s house. Cut to Andrew inside talking to Kestrel (“ooh spooky”) on his computers in the basement. I think they filmed this one in NASA HQ. Upstairs, Andrew’s dad is working on Muncie during World War II; there’s a little figurine of the original Donald Bellmore getting people back to work. His mom is translating some huge manuscript. Perhaps it’s the show bible.
The parents are somewhat disturbed about the presence of a girl looking for Andrew. So am I, come to think of it. Cassie takes herself down to the basement, where Andrew mistakes her for his mom at first. I’ll let that one speak for itself. Percentage in lair: 95%.
Andrew lets her in and keeps on talking to Kestrel (“ooh spooky”) on IM. I’ve had boyfriends who do that, just not for very long. There is a slight kafuffle about where Cassie’s going to sit, but bless her ever-bubbly heart, she agrees to sit on Andrew’s styrofoam peanuts. The mysterious Kestrel (“ooh spooky”) is as bemused as I am. Possibly he symbolizes the audience? If he speculates about Chip’s sexuality, I’m going to call it a shout out.
Ah, Cassie wants to quiz Andrew about what happened to Oliver. Andrew explains about the oath and the geas and all, which Cassie more or less accepts. Bookflash: Black Riders are always the minions of anti-paladins. Cassie is not any more accepting of that than I would be. It’s good to know she has her limits. Andrew says something about random monsters. Cassie: “Not so much in Muncie.” Andrew: “You’d be surprised.” Cassie asks Andrew what the kids looked like; Andrew pulls out a book. Our avenging sibling points out that this is reality, not a game. Andrew notes that a yearbook is very like a — what does he call it? A Maelificum Monstrous?
Cut to a yearbook and a Maelificum Monstrous next to each other; Andrew picks out our culprits. Ah, we’re at the Magic Bean. Latte, please! There’s a sponsored page from Anti-Paladin Auto Body congratulating the class of 2004; Andrew is quivering with happiness when he sees it. Sorry, Cassie, but you’re in a Rob MacDougall show and this sort of thing is going to happen from time to time. I share your pain, however.
Chip drops by and IDs the kids as roleplaying geeks who hang out at the game store and at the auto body shop. Andrew interviews about Angelina Jolie and the discomfort he feels when hanging out there.
Back to Andrew’s basement. I’ve started getting this irresistible urge to clean up whenever I see that set. Andrew is talking to Kestrel (“ooh spooky”) again. I declare the betting pool on Kestrel’s actor to be open; I’ve got my bet on Kevin Bacon, personally. Kestrel (“ooh spooky”) advises Andrew that he has to decide what he’s looking for before he can find it. If they can do a show about people IM’ing, how come they can’t do a show about TwoP recappers, huh?
Andrew gets the nerve up to ask Kestrel (“OK, it just got old”) who he is, and Kestrel logs out. He’s Kevin Bacon, you fool! [Ed: I’m betting on Angelina Jolie.] Andrew pulls on his wizardly gear, including a miner’s light, and heads out.
Back at the Magic Bean, Chip expresses his displeasure at this whole date thing in about the most passive-aggressive way you can possibly imagine. But he comes around and gives her a brotherly hug. Chip, you know you’ve got your eye on Ferdinand, even though you can’t have him.
After the commercial break, we’re at the restaurant where presumably everyone will be having dinner. It’s called the Ram Restaurant and Brewery. Not sure what to make of that. Alvin pulls up next to two other Excrucians, identical to his. Creepy! The four kids show up at the same time as Alvin does; he is not really happy about seeing Millie.
Dale and Wade quiz mostly Cassie about whether or not she’s going to Ball State and what kind of swimmer she is and so on. They interview that she has a great swimmer’s body, and she eats it up. Millie looks a little disgusted but maybe it’s all the attention they’re paying to Cassie.
Over at the other table, Don Trio is proving himself to be a good candidate with a lot of good answers. He interviews that “God belongs in our hearts, and if He’s there it doesn’t matter where else he is.” OK, I might vote for this guy. Alvin is looking impressive for the first time, rapid-firing questions about Don’s politics and how he’d react to various situations and so on. It’s a good time for the writers to start showing that he is actually competent.
Cut to Andrew sneaking up on the auto body shop with an incredibly complex looking piece of night vision headgear. “I’m casting Bravery of Hercules on myself.” Oh, Andrew. Right before he gets there, the kids on BMX bikes converge on him and you know, I kind of believe that three high school kids could take Andrew out. He says, bravely, “I’m just about to banish you from this plane!” Um… Andrew… Andrew interviews that he has a circle of protection.
As the kids come towards him, he flips some kind of switch on the Segway and jumps off. The lead kid grabs the Segway and ZAP there’s a HUGE shock through him. That’s an after-market modification, I think. Andrew strikes a bring-it pose, but you know, these kids are roleplaying geeks after all. I’m pretty sure they’re crying now. My sympathies are torn.
Ricky Jay (!) comes out of the auto shop, dressed like a mechanic. He’s flipping a coin across his knuckles and wants to know what the story is. Andrew explains that he was attacked by the kids. Ricky Jay points out that Andrew is a grown man who perhaps should not be fighting with a bunch of kids. He’s less sympathetic than Cassie was. Andrew argues that he had to protect his friends, and Ricky Jay buys that and asks for help hauling in a big piece of metal junk. Ricky Jay got gored and it’s seeping and he isn’t supposed to lift anything. “Gored,” asked Andrew? “By elves, but I don’t like to talk about it.”
Inside there’s a giant metal sculpture of a fist giving the finger. Andrew continues to channel my curiosity; Ricky Jay explains that he’s got a lot of people he wants to tell off. He also apologizes for the minions. Good thing Cassie isn’t here. “Minions?” asks Andrew. Ricky Jay explains patiently that he’s an anti-paladin, and anti-paladins have minions. Andrew seems non-plussed to have met someone more out of touch with reality than he is.
“But why the kid?” asks Andrew. Ricky Jay knows a lot of kids, but they narrow it down to Oliver with the help of a grimy photograph pinned up over his desk. Ricky Jay asks, holding out the photograph, “Is this your card?” Heh. “He paid me to rough him up; he didn’t want anything broken but he wanted it to look real.” Whoa. Andrew is freaked out; Ricky Jay points out that not everyone is lawful good. Half the audience goes “Huh?” My research assistant says “lawful good means the most good,” and promptly gets into an argument with his friend about whether or not that’s actually true. Well, that was useful.
Cut back to the restaurant and the date. Mom and Chip keep calling Cassie. Chip, you missed your chance already, and there are no take-backs in love. Dale keeps telling Cassie to come out for the team. Teenage girls are under such pressure these days. The troublemaking swim team offers to take Cassie to the pool. Cassie is introduced to the concept of skinny-dipping. Millie: “I only skinny-dip with guys I’m not interested in.” Dale and Wade try to figure that one out for a while.
At Alvin’s table, Don Trio gets all serious and reveals his big secret. “Well, I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I’m not a necrophiliac. I’m a necroexhibitionist.” EW. Also: EW. Alvin is visibly shaken and more than a little upset. He responds to this by frantically polling both the kids at the other table and, when she calls, Cassie’s mom. None of them are terribly enthused by the idea of voting for someone who exposes himself to corpses.
On the bright side, he may have broken up the impending Ball State Swimming Date. Dale: “Maybe I could call you sometime.” Wade: “I can feign death and convince people I’m a corpse!” I’m not sure Wade realizes what he just volunteered for.
On the other side of town, Andrew is asking Oliver to release him from the geas. Oliver somewhat grumpily complies. Andrew shows him the Yellow Pages ad for the auto body shop. In an attempt to nail down the award for most unlikely father figure , Andrew asks Oliver why he did it and interviews that he got beat up a lot in his childhood. “I don’t know why anyone would pay to have it done to them.”
Oliver explains, “I always thought that if I was really in trouble, he would come.” “Who’s he?” “My father. I always felt like he was watching us somehow. And if I was really in trouble, he would come to help.” Oh, man, that’s just tragic. I must admit I really like the swings between humor and tragedy we’re seeing here; it could easily go wrong but it’s great writing so far.
Cassie is at the door; I guess the date is over. She heard the last few exchanges. “Ollie… he’s gone.” Andrew offers a life lesson drawn from bad gaming fiction, which is kind of the problem to start with in my opinion, but I’m not writing the show. Oliver wants to know how the owlbear gave him this, then, and shows us a ring. Huh? Wait — we saw that ring hanging around Cassie’s dad’s neck in the opening credits. Whoa.
Next week on Dungeon Majesty: Angelina Jolie is applying makeup to someone… and it’s Andrew in full goth regalia! Urk. There’s a quick shot of a pool from above, which pans to a diving board, and Cassie is standing on it. A split screen with Alvin and Don Trio talking on a phone to presumably each other, arguing about whatever Greg Foster is up to.
We’d better get more of Ferdihandsome next episode.