The times, they are a-changing.
The meeting’s at Vincenzo’s. It’s supposed to be incognito, but once again Phantom Limb missed the memo. While he changes into something a little less obvious, the Peril Partnership envoy arrives. It’s Blind Rage, a Daredevil-esque lout who nearly manages to provoke Red Death into teaching him a lesson right there. He drops the PP’s offer on the table like a hot turd: They want protection money. The Guild pays off the Peril Partnership and they stay out of Guild business. Showing remarkable self-control, Dr. MTM agrees to take the offer to the Council (and advises him to get some breath mints).
In another corner of Vincenzo’s, Night Dick is giving Doc the skinny on a femme fatale named Teresa Didae. In Teresa’s case, the title is literal: She’s a classic black widow. She seduces rich men, sexes them out of their senses until they propose, and then kills them for their fortunes. Doc is all in. He will risk certain death for the best sex of his life. (Apparently potentially paying for sex with your life is a more appealing prospect than, just, like, hiring a sex worker and paying her with money.) Doc sets Hank to investigating Teresa’s Facebook profile: He will woo this woman. He will charm her. And she will be persuaded to give him the best lay of his life, and somehow he won’t die afterward. His reasoning betrays a crushing and gross self-awareness parents: “I’m a man. I need to be touched! I would like to be touched by an amazing-looking woman who wants only to please me. I don’t want to be laughed at, denied, or even feel like the pathetic man I clearly am!” Clearly Doc has had some time to reflect on his experience in “The Unicorn in Captivity,” including the additional humiliation of it being utterly unreal. Hunter was right. After getting to feel like a master of the universe for one night, all Rusty wants is to feel that way again. Instead of regarding women as mere conquests, Rusty now looks to them to provide validation of and escape from his sad humanity. That’s…progress, I guess?
When Teresa accepts Doc’s friend request, the Venture clan resigns themselves: Doc will go on this date or die trying. Brock, Hank, and even Dean drill Doc on potential traps. Unlike Billy and Pete in “The Bellicose Proxy,” Doc doesn’t tremble before the specter of certain death so much as he insists he can duck it long enough to get laid. He’s even having Hank rehearse the same sorts of obviously staged interactions that Hank put on for Sirena in “It Happening One Night.” Priorities! Eventually Brock just settles for administering a cocktail of preventive medicine and ducking into the bushes with a sniper rifle.
While Doc dresses to meet Eros and dodge Thanatos, the Guild Council convenes in Meteor Majeure to discuss the Peril Partnership’s payoff proposal (holy alliteration, Batman). Most of the Council agree the most expedient course of action will be to pay them off. The two dissenting voices appear to be Dr. MTM – who warns that this will only be the first of such demands– and Red Death, but they defer to the majority vote. Red Death volunteers to deliver the payoff, and the Guild moves on to the next order of business: After reviewing the Guild Charter, Dr. MTM has discovered that it does not require them to be a Council of 13. However, the Charter does specify that all councilmembers must be “superannuated” – that is, they must retire from arching. As a steering committee of elder statespeople, the council must be above or at least beyond the personal concerns of active villains. To take the sting out of mandatory retirement, each councilmember will get to enjoy one final arch. Watch and Ward present each member with an envelope containing the results of intense research. Now each councilmember must return home with an envelope, moving through an (implied) drumroll and bracing for their last stand.
Radical Left is neither surprised nor pleased to discover that his appointed arch is his other half, Right Wing. They throw down in an epic series of…games of Clue. (The board says Sherlock, but let’s not kid ourselves.)
Wide Wale’s final arch is one Curtis Sliwa, the real-life founder of the controversial Guardian Angels. A reluctant Rocco is dispatched to rough him up (that’s no way to treat a guy in your Thursday night poker game!) so Wide Wale can call it a day. Even here, Wide Wale gets someone else to do his dirty work.
Phantom Limb calls someone and arranges a meeting in Central Park. They will face off at midnight, on a bridge, like men, as the gods of organized villainy intended. Hunter Gathers meets him at the appointed place and time. Both are armed for the final showdown. Each produces a small wooden ruler, and at last they will abandon all pretense of metaphor in favor of the crudely literal: It’s time for a good old-fashioned dick-measuring contest.
Terrified of facing someone who might be able to take them out, Red Mantle and Dragoon binge Downton Abbey until they can no longer postpone the inevitable. And then – anticlimax: There’s no one left for them to arch. Theirs is the dubious achievement of outliving all their opponents. What a relief! They are too old for this shit, and they know it.
Dr. Z’s final arch is – who else? – Johnny Quest. After flashing back to one of their earliest confrontations, Dr. Z arrives at Johnny’s rehabilitation facility flush with nostalgia and bearing a gift. It’s a throwback to the good old arching days, when they could still arch with a spring in their steps. Dr. Z offers Johnny a spot in his home – after all those years, the boy has become a kind of nephew. Johnny refuses the offer, but by way of consolation offers to hide. (It’s only polite.) Dr. Z enthusiastically agrees, for old times’ sake, even though something essential has drained out of their rivalry. Is this the vacancy of lost youth, or the arrival of wisdom? Or is Dr. Z really only seeing for the first time how their lifestyles have aged them?
Like her colleagues, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch is finding this process rather less straightforward than she expected. Before she can even open her envelope, her own final arch is complicated by husband. After risking his life, her career, and their shared standing in the Guild for MONTHS on an unsanctioned pursuit of his own archnemesis – and after securing her apparent forgiveness and continuing support – the Monarch has the temerity to complain that his wife made a major decision without consulting him. He accuses her of breaking up the team, rather conveniently eliding the degree to which his own actions nearly did the same. The Monarch has been doing whatever he damn well pleases, bullying Gary into the acts he knew his wife would refuse, and the fact that he can accuse her of putting herself first – when she is doing something that does not endanger his own work, and when he has hardly invited her to be a partner in crime – betrays a petulant refusal to grow. I don’t care how much he’s been through; dude just snapped himself back into my Season 6 dog house.
Once again it falls to Gary to be the loyal #2. Watch and Ward have assigned Dr. MTM to face off against Novia, whose bridal schtick blew up in Lady Au Pair’s face just as she was on the verge of possessing the Faith Diamond. When Dr. MTM digs up her old costume, Gary dons the corresponding moppet gear to complete the team look. (Does the Guild give out a Hench of the Year Award? Because they should.) On the drive in, Dr. MTM and Gary share some real talk: They’re both at a crossroads and ready for a change, even if neither is quite sure what it is. Gary decides to start with ditching his ponytail. But before Dr. MTM can identify what she wants, Novia appears. In a very Venture Bros. coincidence, Novia is Teresa Didae.
At the moment of truth, Sheila loses her nerve. This isn’t what she wants. Nevertheless, Gary troops in, laying the groundwork for a resumption of hostilities. Although he means well – and I do think Sheila would have kicked herself for backing out – confronting this beautiful, statuesque ex-arch only brings her to tears. Suddenly, all she can do is question her own life choices and feel all the guilt her (shithead) husband dropped on her before going to sulk in his cave. While Gary looks on helplessly, Novia/Teresa responds with a sisterly embrace. On the long ride home, after she saws off Gary’s ponytail, Dr. MTM admits that she managed to get some arching in after all: When Novia hugged her, Dr. MTM lifted her wallet.
For her part, Teresa is welcomed into the VenTech penthouse by a very loopy Dr. Venture. Brock’s cocktail of anti-venin and atropine has eroded the membrane that cloaks his neediness in sleaze, and Rusty asks Teresa flat out if this is a booty call. She seems prepared to be charmed by his (unwitting) forthrightness, until he pitches forward, unconscious, and she finds herself alone with Brock’s laser sight.
Of the Council, only Red Death manages a truly villainous, truly satisfying arching. For starters, he doesn’t even open his envelope. Instead, he meets Blind Rage in a Chinatown alley for the drop – and clocks him. When he comes to, Blind Rage finds himself tied to subway tracks, and Red Death administers an object lesson in good old-fashioned tactile arching. The Guild does not negotiate with punks, you do not piss off Red Death, and he wraps up the arching phase of his career on his own terms.
In the morning, the Guild reconvenes to set aside childish things. Wide Wale relinquishes his seat so he can keep arching, but everyone else seems ready to move on to the next phase of their lives. Everyone, that is, expect for Dr. MTM. We end on a cliffhanger: will she, or won’t she? Everyone learned something about themselves in the course of this final arching, but we won’t know until next week what Sheila was thinking on the ride up to Meteor Majeure. I’ll be heartbroken and disappointed if she puts her husband’s feelings ahead of her own career. She has sacrificed enough for him and it is supposed to be her turn. But something’s gotta give, and it seems like it might be her. Again. Everyone in the show seems poised to move on to bigger and better things – except for Doc and the Monarch. At this point it’s beginning to feel like the best I can hope for is that they won’t hold everyone else in their lives back.
- “I’m in the obituaries. You’re in Penthouse Forum.”
- “Let’s stop pretending we like each other and just get this over with.”
- “Was that him? What did I miss?”
- “Perhaps we should send her a flower made of punctuation!”
- “Oh, you’re very kind. I will spare your life!”
- “Do you hereby resign your individual animus and accept the collective odium of the Guild Council?”
STRAY THOUGHTS & IDLE SPECULATION
- Is…is Sheila pregnant?
- The hypothetical tetrodotoxin Dean slips his dad is the poison found in fugu.
- Z framed and mounted the pictures Hatred took with him in “The Buddy System.”
- Without his ponytail, Gary kind of looks like Dermott. I hope he cleans up that haircut.
- Novia was voiced by the inimitable Cristin Milioti. Seriously, if you haven’t watched the Fargo TV series yet, go do that.