Thursday, May 31, 2012

#10: The Lost Hour

Episode 1010:  "The Lost Hour"

Original Airdate:  December 1, 1991

One-Sentence Synopsis:  It's Daylight Savings Time everywhere but Indiana, so when Marshall is the only person in Eerie to set his watch back an hour, he finds himself in an nearly-empty, alternate dimension, an hour behind everyone else.

It's bedtime at the Teller residence and Marshall wants to stay up an extra hour with Simon (who is spending the night).  He insists that it's Daylight Savings Time, so he deserves an extra hour to stay up, but Marshall's father tells him that the state of Indiana doesn't observe DST because it's too difficult for the schedules of the farmers who populate the state.  As Marshall's parents clean up after the boys, they notice that the missing girl on the milk carton has been missing for a year now.  She has presumedly run away, and as his parents leave, Marshall mentions to Simon that he would like to run away so he could be free from his parents' rules.  In an act of defiance, he sets his watch back anyway, saying that he's going to get an extra hour even if Eerie doesn't.

Marshall awakes to find Simon missing and the house completely empty.  He ventures outside it seems as if the entire population has vanished.  He finally spots some garbagemen in dark uniforms and sunglasses throwing bags of garbage into their black truck.  He goes up to them asking for an explanation, but they don't respond and instead advance on him.  He runs away from them and nearly runs into an Eerie Dairy truck.  The old milkman ushers him on board to get him to safety.  Surprisingly, the milkman knows who Marshall is and where he lives.  He explains that when Marshall set his watch back, he caused a temporal shift and he fell between dimensions, into the Lost Hour.  The "garbagemen" are actually relativity police, fixing the Lost Hour so that nothing disrupts the flow of time.  They remove what shouldn't be there, a.k.a. Marshall.

Back in real time, Simon heads down to breakfast and everyone wonders where Marshall is.  Simon remembers Marshall talking about running away and he tries to cover for him, saying he's just out jogging.  In the Lost Hour, the milkman shows Marshall the window in the back of his truck, which shows "whatever needs to be there."  Marshall peers through, and his face appears on the "Missing" label on the milk carton on the Teller's breakfast table.  He shouts to Simon, startling him.  Marshall, now fully believing that he has been displaced from time, asks the milkman for help.  The milkman tells Marshall that he'll help him, but first he must also rescue Janet Donner, the missing girl who has been trapped there for a year.

Since Janet has become skilled at hiding from the garbagemen and the milkman, Marshall heads out alone in his father's car.  He accepts that he's probably never going to find her and should just head back to New Jersey, living a free life like he always wanted.  He heads to the World O'Stuff to stock up on supplies and gets captured by Janet, who has been using the store as a hide out.  Marshall tries to explain the whole situation to her, but Janet is just under the belief that everyone has abandoned her and refuses to accept what actually happened.  So instead, Marshall suggests she join him on his road trip to New Jersey.  She agrees, adding a few more destinations, but their trip gets cut short when the garbagemen spot them.  The milkman quickly arrives to save them and tells them that their hour-long window of opportunity is almost up.  Unless they correct their watches, they will be trapped in the Lost Hour for another year.

Janet refuses until she peers through the milk truck window and sees her family, mourning the one-year anniversary of her disappearance.  She finally understands that she needs to return and sets her watch back.  Unfortunately, Marshall left his watch back in the real world.  Racing against time, he appears in the milk carton again, and tells Simon to fix his watch.  Before Marshall leaves, he asks the milkman who he is, and the milkman just tells him that a long time from now, he (Marshall) will return to the Lost Hour.  He then shows Marshall a key hanging around his neck that is exactly like Marshall's Evidence Locker key.  Leaving the mind-blowing moment behind, Marshall races back to his bedroom just as Simon pulls him back into reality.

Evidence Locker Item:  The milk carton, with the "Missing" picture now empty (for Janet was successfully reunited with her family).

Jimmy Hoffa - The famous labor union leader from the '60s and '70s whose crimes and ties with the mafia caused a national interest in his 1975 disappearance in Michigan.  Most suspect he was killed while others believe he had gone off the grid.  Janet mentions that she briefly met a "Mr. Hoffa" in the Lost Hour who was quickly captured by the garbagemen.  Guess we know where he went now.

"I want my hour!"

This is it.  The big mythology episode of Eerie, Indiana.  When The X-Files aired a few years later, the idea of a show having a mysterious mythology became very popular.  The show would have an overarching storyline that would be developed every couple of episodes while the rest were filler "monster of the week" stories.  The filler episodes were fun and entertaining, but it's the mythology that kept viewers coming back, searching for answers to their questions.

Being the first (and pretty much only) mythology episode of Eerie, Indiana, "The Lost Hour" sets up many more questions than it does answers, but it still manages to create a satisfying story on it's own.  Using the concept of Daylight Savings Time as the jumping off point for an alternate dimension story is very cool and very Eerie.  Although the rules are a little confusing, the episode attempts to explain what's going on without losing it's entertainment value.  On it's own, it would have been fine, but adding the elderly Marshall character makes the whole scenario ten times better.

This implies that there is a link between Eerie and Marshall, whether he likes it or not.  He will eventually become the protector of Eerie.  Why?  We'll probably never know.  But I truly believe that this explains the high number of milk truck related accidents that occur around Eerie.  It's weird that elderly Marshall may be potentially killing kids instead of saving them, but I see it as more of course correction.  Like the garbagemen, he has to ensure certain events occur so that the space-time continuum isn't destroyed.

We also get the subplot of Janet Donner, who has a whole story to tell.  Marshall ties it into his own life, figuring that for all of his talk for wishing his family away, this girl actually had to live it and become independent at the age of 12.  It's a startlingly real story in the middle of all the craziness, as evidenced by the tearful reunion at the end.  Leave it to Eerie to manage a story that is simultaneously funny, sad, whimsical, and metaphysical.

All in all, this episode is dense.  There is so much happening that his has to rush by.  And since the show was cancelled, we never got to return to the mysteries set up in this episode.  My wish is that this episode had actually been an hour long.  We would watch Marshall's adventure in real-time and each element of the story would be allowed to breather.  Marshall's confusion, his survival, his relationship with the milkman and Janet, and the race against time to undo what he did.  This would have added some more dramatic weight to the story, and we could have also seen more of what was going through Simon's mind back in the real world.  This episode just leaves you wanting more.  I wish I could set back my watch and get that extra hour.

Random Observations:
- This episode was directed by Bob Balaban who you may recognize from various Christopher Guest movies, among other projects.

- The garbage truck reads: "SPACE TIME MAINTENANCE TEAM" and "E=mc²" just in case you had any doubts.

- The Things Inc. coffee cake that the Tellers eat from breakfast is surprisingly chewy.  Perhaps they need some banana-flavored petrol to wash it down with.

- This should have been the last episode (out of the ones that aired).  Obviously, the series was cut short, but of the episode we have, this makes sense as the conclusion.  It doesn't really answer any questions, but it gives us an idea that there is a lot more to Eerie than we think we know and it would have left fans with something to ponder.  By being in the exact middle, we have all of these unanswered questions PLUS a whole half of the series to go, just teasing us.  There is one or two more episodes that sort of come close to hinting at the mythology, but none as big as this one.

- Since it was not the last episode, Janet should have become a recurring character.  She is not only someone who experienced Eerie's weirdness firsthand and lived to tell about it, she's also in the unique position of having been missing from Eerie for a whole year.  Her re-entry to society would be difficult and Marshall and Simon would have been very supportive.  Plus, in the brief time we know her, we get a sense that while she has achieved total independence now, she would have a lot of psychological trauma and issues stemming from her disappearance.

- But my main reason for keeping Janet would be this:

The love story in "Heart on a Chain" was wonderful, but even though Melanie witnessed Eerie's weirdness, she and Marshall were not exactly a good match.  Melanie's heart belonged to Devon, and she died to be with him.  Janet and Marshall, on the other hand, are perfect together.  The two of them have both been to the Lost Hour and survived.  During the episode, I barely saw them as a romantic item, but at the end, when Janet suddenly kisses Marshall, it completely changed how I viewed their relationship (in fact, despite having seen this episode many times before, I only caught the kiss just now).  They believed themselves to be the last two people on Earth and were going on an epic road trip together.  Of course a romance would form.  Marshall promises to see her again when they return to the real world and then he never does (at least, not from what we see).  Not to get to fanfic-y, but it's nice to imagine that the two of them remained close after the events of this episode.   So that's the main reason I choose to treat this as the final episode.

- I like that young Marshall finds it cool that the entire universe and fabric of time could be destroyed by his presence in the Lost Hour.

Conspiracy Theories:
- The garbagemen must do more than just destroy stuff.  Presumably they have to replace stuff and fix stuff as well.  With Janet living at the World O'Stuff, Radford probably noticed a lot of his stuff went missing the past year.

- Milkman Marshall doesn't live in the Lost Hour.  He's a time traveller.  This explains the appearance in 1929.  He's probably only been to the Lost Hour just this once, and he is doing everything based on memory from when he was young Marshall.  That's why he knows exactly where Marshall will be.  It's a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy at work.  He tells Marshall to save Janet because he remembers saving Janet.  We see a milk truck at the end of the episode and they make it a point to show that other people are around, implying that Milkman Marshall left the Lost Hour as well.

Grade:  A must-see, jam-packed episode filled with drama, comedy, Eerie mythology, and well-developed science-fiction that should have been twice as long.  A+

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