Episode Three: Revenge of the Hoyas
That’s right. It’s here. The most terrifying episode of the year: the crowdsourced episode. It also happens to be the Halloween episode. And like all blockbusters with more than two credited writers, it’s a narrative disaster. Unlike those blockbusters, I didn’t credit any other screenwriters. Whoever quipped that “None of us is as dumb as all of us” has clearly never seen the creative potential of the Substandard Extended Universe in the post-orb world.
Episode three opens in a D.C. police station. It’s around midnight on Halloween. A tired and dispirited police officer (Officer Letang) sits in an interrogation room, taking notes from the three bedraggled podcast hosts in front of him. Sitting next to him is his 17 year old daughter who thinks she’s “mature enough to drink at a friend’s Halloween party.” She’s in the interrogation room contrary to protocol because he has just picked her up from a party where she had more Jell-o shots than even the seasoned Kappa Kappa Gamma would think of slurping down. Officer Letang doesn’t want her out of his sight. He’s exhausted, frustrated with his daughter’s continued rebellious behavior, and becoming concerned that the Asian one – the one who appears to be wearing a pumpkin on his head, wait, no, he just has an enormous head – appears to be taking glances at his daughter that are becoming less and less furtive.
JVL is festooned in a fedora that has completely collapsed from being waterlogged, his prAna® leather satchel draped forlornly over his shoulder. Vic, unstable from drink, teeters next to him, the remains of a black curly wig and mutton chops kept on by a leather belt wrapped around his forehead, samurai-style. Sonny, furious, sits as far away on his chair as possible. His tuxedo jacket is turned inside out.
Letang: A little too much punch at the office Halloween party?
Vic (speaking in heavily slurred English): Issssat a crime?
Letang: I’m more interested in talking to this one. The one who is dressed up as……a cowboy?
JVL: (offended) A cowboy? A cowboy?
Police Officer: A hipster bike messenger?
JVL: What time is it Vic? A bike messenger? It’s a (bleeping) satchel, not a messenger bag.
Letang’s daughter: What’s the whip for? And all the leather? (hiccup) Is this something kinky?
Letang: (to his daughter) And that’s another reason why you’re in deep trouble. Be careful: this might go on your permanent record.
Sonny (getting a sense of what’s going on): Wait, is she drunk?
Daughter: Dad, do you think this will keep me out of Georgetown? I have good grades! Will this really hurt my chances?
JVL (bitterly): I wouldn’t know.
Sonny (getting things back on track): He’s Indiana Jones.
Vic: (still slurring) You know, Indiana Jones is actually the bad guy in that movie? (giggles uncontrollably)
Sonny (sourly): Now’s not the time for your Deutschland Über Alles BS.
Letang: Enough of this nonsense. Now I need to get to the bottom of this. You: the leather fetish one. Tell me what happened.
JVL: It all started this morning at the offices of the Weekly Standard.
Flashback to Monday morning in the interior of the Weekly Substandard Podcast studio. JVL and Sonny are setting up for the show. JVL is doing “what any sane person would do” and is wiping off his headphones with dangerously caustic chemicals with the focus and solemnity of a Japanese tea ceremony. Sonny is adjusting his hoodie for maximum warmth and comfort. The door opens and in walks Gene Shalit – no! It’s not Gene, it’s Vic COMPLETELY MADE OVER AS GENE.
Sonny: Vic, you’re taking this too far.
Vic: No, this is my costume for the Halloween party.
Sonny: The Halloween party? I thought we were going to boycott it this year?
JVL: Or go dressed as Mark Zuckerberg.
Sonny: I think there should be one work day a year that you don’t do that.
Vic: It’s Halloween! Come on! Let’s live it up.
Sonny: Fine, I’m wearing my tux. It’s the best costume ever. Want me to throw out a Twitter poll and confirm that?
Vic and JVL stare at him angrily
Vic: No, we’re all going as our favorite critics.
Sonny: What the (bleep)?
JVL: He’s right, Sonny. Branding. (Pauses) Dibs on James Agee!
Sonny (snorts): You don’t need to call dibs on him. Ever.
Sonny remembers something and turns to Vic.
Sonny: I’m not going as Ebert, with or without a jaw.
Vic: Way ahead of you, pal!
He proudly holds up a dress.
Vic: You’re Pauline Kael
Cut to the three podcasters showing up at the location where every single Halloween party has been. JVL has zigged while the other two has zagged and has dressed up in the costume he brought from home that day: Indiana Jones.
Vic: Hey, where is everyone?
JVL: Did we miss an email or something?
Sonny: I, for one, am not sad that there is no party this year. I’m going to go change into man clothes.
Vic: Or maybe just the clothes you came to work in.
JVL (laughs uproariously): Good one, Vic!
Sonny glares at the other two. Vic notices and softens.
Vic: I wasn’t going to say this, but you look really good in that dress. Like, uncomfortably good.
Sonny (gritting his teeth): None of this is helping. Let’s get out of here.
In the elevator they hear loud music. No, not the soft thwomp of party music but what sounds like hymns.
On the ground floor they exit the elevator and walk towards the music. The distinct strains of Eine Feste Burg ist Unser Gott are drifting down the hallway. They walk into the ground floor ballroom, there is a record scratch, and the music stops. Everyone stops what they are doing and stares at the Substandard hosts. Bill Kristol groans and rubs his forehead. Awkward hellos emanate from the assembled crowd. JVL makes eye contact with Maria, his intern. She flushes ashamedly and runs out the back door.
Mark Hemingway: I’ve got this!
Mark runs over to the laptop that is playing the hymns and gets the music going again.
JVL: What is this?
Vic: And why weren’t we invited?
Sonny: And how come Mark is the only one wearing a costume? And who on earth is he dressed as?
Sandy, Vic’s intern, sees the three and hustles over. JVL does not try to conceal his resentment of her.
Sandy: Hi guys! Hello, Sonny You look…really good today. Who are you? Kate Upton?
Sonny (contemptuously): Um, try a little older
Sandy: Rachel Carson?
Vic: Nevermind all that. What’s going on here?
Sandy: Oh, this is our Reformation Day party.
All three: What??
Sandy: You don’t know about this? (pauses) Wait, were you not invited?
Sonny: Vic I told you. You shouldn’t have sung the entire soundtrack to The Sound of Music when they started karaoke last year.
Vic: Oh, I’m sure everyone enjoyed you singing Call Me Maybe. And Sk8er Boi.
Sonny: Well, at least neither of us actually tried to force choke people. (both look at JVL)
JVL: Guys, people like us, right? We’re cool, I mean, right?
Vic and Sonny respond in unison with affirmation
JVL: Guys, should I rank the various attributes that make us cool?
Sandy fills the silence and earns a searing glare from JVL
Sandy: So, Mark Hemingway fomented a hostile takeover
Sonny: A hostile takeoever?
Sandy: of the party planning committee. For years he’s been hoping to have a Weekly Standard Reformation Day party instead of a Halloween party. And he’s…
Sonny: Martin (bleeping) Luther
Sandy: Yeah. But there are a few problems
Just then Bill Kristol comes pacing over with a forced and unconvincing smile
Kristol: Gentlemen, you made it.
JVL: We wouldn’t miss….
Kristol: (interrupting) I see Vic left his lederhosen at home this year and is…(turns to Sonny) What the (bleep)?
Vic: Bill, what’s going on here?
Kristol: Hemingway is out of control. He has nailed not only the original 95 theses on each door of the office, he’s also nailed a set of 95 theses for a modern theological reformation and a set of 95 theses for a modern political reformation. On each door. That’s six nails on each door! The repair bill will be astronomical!
Each of the hosts nod
Kristol: And for the purposes of having a period Reformation Day party, he has embraced 16th century hygiene. His breath is atrocious.
Sandy: And there is, like, a haze of B.O. that just follows him around. It smells like the Walsh building at Georgetown on a hot September day.
She looks up and sees JVL staring daggers at her and it appears that he is trying to force choke her.
Sandy: Mr. Last, what are you doing with your hands?
Vic notices, and grabs JVL’s hands and pushes them back down to waist level.
Vic: Well, if we’re going to stay, I need a drink.
JVL: Me too, Sandy, I’ll take a virgin La Grande Parade de Paris. (to Sandy, dripping with contempt) Do you know what that is? Or do they not serve those at your fancy Georgetown cocktail parties?
Sandy: I wouldn’t know. I’m more of a Schofferhofer girl myself.
JVL stammers and is unable to respond. Sandy hustles off to see if the bartender knows what a La Grane Parade de Paris is. She’s not hopeful. Sonny slowly backs out the door.
To be continued. Where is Sonny going? How did they end up in jail? Now that they’ve showed up, is Kristol going to make a bad excuse about a prior engagement and leave? Has Mark permanently replaced the Halloween party with a Reformation commemoration? How many solas are there in the Reformation? What will become of gang?
Check back later this week for the conclusion to this riveting episode.