The Monarch has gone legit! Whether it was getting captured by Wide Wale, nearly losing his wife, or watching his dad die moments after their unexpected reunion, something has changed. He seems committed now to going by the book, upping his EMA until he can return to arching Doc Venture.
This week, he and Gary visit the Guild’s NYC headquarters (in the abandoned City Hall subway station, natch) to inquire about non-arching ways to level up. After a hilarious and harrowing tour (the Guild really needs to label its doors), Watch and Ward introduce Team Monarch to the Big Villain program.
The Big Villain program is just what it says on the tin: More experienced villains mentor Level 1s, teaching them how to be the best villains they can be. In this case, the only Level 1 villain available for immediate arching training is one Augustus St. Cloud – arch of Billy Quizboy and Pete White. Recognizing the names of VenTech’s newest subsidiary, Gary convinces the Monarch this will be an opportunity to arch Dr. Venture vicariously.
They have their work cut out for them: St. Cloud is terrible at arching. St. Cloud is basically a 9-year-old who somehow came into enough money to buy all the toys he wants – and the arch of his choice. Unfortunately for him – and Team Monarch – money can’t buy panache. St. Cloud has no superpowers, his costume is made of foam core, he can’t emerge properly from a sinister (purple, pineapple-flavored) fog, his patter is disturbing, and his evil laugh…is more like an evil hiccup…gulp…sound. (Hicgulp?) Look, it’s terrible. The Monarch and Gary haul him out to an empty tennis court to drill him on the finer points of performative villainy, because the Monarch will be goddamned if St. Cloud embarrasses him in front of his archnemesis.
Back at Guild HQ, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch is working Guild Stranger S-464. The Guild has IDed him a mole for the Peril Partnership but they’re willing to offer him a choice between betraying the Peril Partnership or suffering the penalty for treason. S-464 is reluctant to admit to anything – until Dr. MTM starts to describe the Tub. I can’t do her chilling grotesquerie justice, so all I will say is: Go back to that scene. Watch it again. And again. And tell me you aren’t a little turned on and a little jealous of her efficacy. The Bene Gesserit have nothing on Sheila. With a few choice words and a carefully calibrated inflection, she cracks him. Completely. And then her stick becomes a carrot: S-464 becomes a double agent and the Guild will help him win back OSI Agent Kimberly McManus. The Guild has an in.
Dr. MTM has Watch and Ward break into the OSI’s systems to track down S-464’s lady love. (This is laughably easy because the hyper-paranoid secret agents of the OSI never change their passwords.) When they find her assigned to “babysitting duty” – that is, supervising low-level arches – Dr. MTM announces the plan: The Guild will ship an over-powered weapon to their own operative. The ensuing EMA mismatch will violate the Treaty of Tolerance and force the OSI to intervene, smoking out Agent McManus for a reunion with S-464. The next low-level arching McManus is scheduled to babysit happens to be that evening, between one Augustus St. Cloud and Conjectural Technologies.
The protagonists in question are feeling rather less than prepared for their first big city arching. Billy is taking the Guild’s boilerplate promise of disembowelment rather more literally than the situation warrants. Doc tries (in his way) to calm Billy down, but to no avail. He’s ready to write the frantic Quizboy off as a lost cause – until St. Cloud’s albino skywrites a distinctive evil laugh above his penthouse. Recognizing “that stupid MRUU-haha,” Doc realizes this. Is. Personal. Now he switches gears. It won’t be enough to tell Billy and White they’re worrying about nothing. He decides to get them suited up and prepped for their first arching. He will be goddamned if they embarrass him in front of The Monarch.
The first stop is Enzo’s Specialty Tailoring. Having nearly forgiven Rusty for stealing the Blue Morpho costume and getting grenadine all over it, Enzo sets about measuring Billy and White. But there’s no way he can have costumes ready for them in the next few hours. Quality takes time, and that is one thing Conjectural Technologies does not have. They have a handful of hours to suit up, get their schtick together, and learn how to watch their backs. (Spoiler: They do not learn this. Maybe it can’t be taught. Lord knows Brock tried.) Instead, Billy and White are reduced to renting whatever Enzo has on hand that fits. Pete White gets Killer Drone’s old costume and Billy clatters into Delta Boy Venus, the only costume small enough for his frame and large enough for his head.
Meanwhile, The Monarch has dispatched his hapless Little Villain to Billy’s mom’s house, figuring St. Cloud can build some confidence by menacing two old people. Nobody bets on Billy’s mom being a trained fighter, or on her day’s companion being Colonel Gentleman. In no uncertain terms, Rose shows St. Cloud what she thinks of villains who think they’re going to hurt her Billy, until her beatdown is interrupted (presumably) by an arthritis flare-up. After the Big/Little Villain team adjourns to the X-2, St. Cloud tries to conceal the marks of Rose’s triumph and Gary trains him in the use of his new Level 1 weapons – a Level 1 lighting gun and laughing gas grenades. The results are…less than promising, but it’s go time.
VenTech Tower is the place to be this season, as once again everyone’s storylines converge in Columbus Circle. Agent McManus blocks traffic to give OSI’s newest baby birds a chance to leave the nest. Across the way, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch and S-464 wait for St. Cloud to fire Chekhov’s Level 6 lightning rifle. Doc and Brock goad Billy and Pete outside, and it begins.
St. Cloud drops his pineapple smoke bomb while The Monarch and Gary look on like mama ducks waiting to see if their duckling will sink or swim. And St. Cloud…kinda floats? It’s not an unsuccessful arching, although the laughing gas does backfire. The more captivating event of this evening is the confrontation between Agent McManus and S-464. She doesn’t want anything to do with him, but Councilwoman Dr. MTM intervenes. All the frustration she’s been mastering for weeks finally bubble out, and suddenly she’s ready to throw down with this rando OSI agent.
For once, the Monarch swoops in at precisely the right moment. The exchange that follows his pretextual intervention restored my hope in their marriage: When she thanks him for saving her life, the Monarch corrects her in the most loving and affirming way possible: “I just saved your job. I saved that woman’s life. You were gonna kick. Her. ASS!”
And St. Cloud, Billy, and Pete? They passed out, but not before hallucinating a much more dramatic arching than the one that actually transpired. Everyone survived intact (minus a portion of their dignity) and lived to arch another day. The lightning rifle survived too, but in unknown hands. And Doc is moved enough by Billy Quizboy and Pink Pilgrim’s first attempt at arching – and embarrassed enough not to want the word to get out – that he puts the kibosh on anyone ever telling the new dynamic duo what really happened. Enzo’s not wrong. Rusty is good man. Mostly.
There was a lot of mentoring in this episode, and it’s startling to realize that Rusty and the Monarch have assumed elder statesmen roles in their respective professions. Of course, because this is The Venture Bros., they’re the sort of mentors who press their mentees into a proxy battle for which the latter are manifestly unqualified. But they are adults, even if their adulthood is less a chosen role and more the result of a series of unidentified choices. One day you find yourself training the next generation to come up behind you, marveling at their clumsiness and naivete and wondering if it was ever possible for you to have been so young. Spoiler: It was, you were, and you’re not anymore. Make of that what you will.
- “Every one of these doors leads to the future of organized evil.”
- “It’s like visiting the house you grew up in! If you, like, buried a dead guy behind it.”
- “Welcome to your demise, yadda yadda yadda.”
- “Where do you keep the caulk? I gotta load this bad boy.”
- “We’re the GoC! We’re the bad guys! Own it, gentlemen.”
- “I smell pineapple. It. Is. Showtime!”
- “You look like a real superhero.”
“You look like a can of Diet Pepsi.”
“At least I don’t look like the girl from the Blind Melon video!”
STRAY THOUGHTS & IDLE SPECULATION
- You can just hear Dr Z narrating his imaginary makeover montage: “And then we stride down the street looking chic and unstoppable like the girls from Clueless!”
- Does anyone else think Jonas Venture might have come up with the Tub?
- At some formative point in his development, Augustus St. Cloud confused “wellies” and “rubbers” no one who hears him may ever recover.
- So S-464 and Agent McManus seem on track for their happy ending, but where’s Warriana?
- Who picked up that lightning rifle? I’m not 100% sure it was Gary.
- So is the Batmobile street legal?