Wednesday, May 23, 2012

#4: The Losers

Episode 1004:  "The Losers"

Original Airdate:  October 6, 1991

One-Sentence Synopsis:  While searching for his father's briefcase, Marhsall discovers that all missing items end up at an underground repository called the "Bureau of Lost."

Marshall's father has been having a spell of bad luck recently.  He seems to be losing all sorts of objects everyday.  He attributes it to the added stress from work, claiming that the current product they are developing is of great importance.  When he misplaces his briefcase, things really start to fall apart.  The prototype of the product was located inside and the case itself was an anniversary gift.  Marshall realizes that he must find the briefcase quickly, or else his father may lose his job and his marriage.

Marshall and Simon decide to investigate the sudden increase in misplaced objects by following the path of something that is often easily lost.  After their dollar on a string fails to yield results, Marshall decides to hide himself in a trunk, since luggage always gets lost.  Simon watches as a man in a bright orange suit swiftly swipes the trunk with Marshall inside, but when Simon confronts him about it, the trunk is nowhere to be found.

In actuality, the trunk was placed in a hidden chute that takes Marshall deep underground.  There, another worker lets Marshall out and introduces him to the Bureau of Lost.  The worker, named Lodgepoole, explains that he is very busy keeping track of every item in Eerie that gets lost.  The BOL is actually a project spearheaded by the government to keep the economy afloat by periodically "losing" items so that people are encouraged to buy more.  Workers like Al, the man on the surface, receive a list of objects to lose and workers like Lodgepoole keep the books.

Marshall insists that he has come to retrieve his father's briefcase, and while Lodgepoole is able to find it among the items, he refuses to let Marshall have it since it has already been tagged as "LOST."  Eventually, Lodgepoole leaves to run some errands topside, forbidding Marshall from leaving, lest everyone know about the Bureau, clamoring for their lost items, and ruining the whole affair.  Fortunately, Simon had been keeping track of Al and he follows a tunnel from one of the dryers in the Eerie Laundromat (that automatically misplaces socks).  He follows the tunnel down to the Bureau, and Marshall steals Lodgepoole's rubber "LOST" stamp on his way out.

Back on the surface, Marshall and Simon make their way home and discover a postman waiting for them.  It is actually Lodgepoole, come to trade the briefcase for the stamp.  Lodgepoole is distraught because the whole event as caused him to be demoted and he feels the sense of loss for the first time in his life.  However, when Marshall's mother presents his father with a brand new briefcase, and he explains that the work project was a bust anyway, Lodgepoole keeps the briefcase and returns the missing piece from Marshall's monster model kit.  He returns to his duties as Al takes advantage of his new promotion.

Evidence Locker Item:  The missing claw piece from the monster model kit (Tag #??).  These claws are actually "pre-lost" as Marshall observes when down in the Bureau, taken out of the boxes before they reach stores.  It would probably go for a lot of money.

Citizen Kane - The sled "Rosebud" is among the lost items.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers - One of the giant pods (which is used to grow human clones) is being tagged by Lodgepool as Marshall enters the Bureau.

Eerie Magazine -  At the laundromat, Simon hides behind a copy of Eerie, a horror-themed comic magazine that ran from 1966-1983.  It would have been out of print by the time this episode aired, but, knowing Eerie, it is probably their go-to news source.

"There's no room for pity in this business."

Like "The ATM with the Heart of Gold," this episode grew on me more as I got older.  Once again, I find the premise to by very interesting and rarely covered in other fiction stories.  Yes, people have tried to explain big mysteries of missing objects and people, but no one cares why little things go missing.  We just accept it as a part of life and move on.  The idea that there is a complex network keeping track of every little missing thing with tight bureaucracy is both humorous and interesting to think about.

Now, I know I disliked "The Retainer" for suggesting that all dogs were evil because it wasn't directly related to Eerie.  This episode basically does the same thing, suggesting that the Bureau of Lost is a country-wide affair.  Yet, I don't mind it as much because it's a much funnier and thought-provoking episode.  "What if all dogs were evil?" is silly.  "What if all lost items went to the same place?" is mind-blowing.

This episode leans heavily on the comedy, more so than any of the preceding episodes.  The Bureau is in a state of disarray and Lodgepoole (played by Laugh-In's Henry Gibson) is a bumbling, pitiful fool.  That "comedy staple" of the chattering teeth toy makes an unnecessary appearance inside the Bureau's card catalog system.  Most of the humor is hit-or-miss, but the dialogue with Lodgepool and Al is a definite high point in the episode.  Because the comedy is turned up so much, we never get a real sense of the danger that Marshall's family is in.  But there is enough here to enjoy without it.

My only real complaint for the episode is that it is too short.  The Bureau of Lost is a wonderful premise and setting and we spend far too little time down there.  Lodgepoole flits about from set piece to set piece to explain different aspects of the Bureau, causing the whole episode to rush right by.  I wish we had gotten more time to explore this setting because, like with Marshall's evidence locker, there are hundreds of stories buried in here.  I like that Lodgepool learns a lesson of sorts about the negative side to losing important items (sentimental value vs. monetary value), but this too is rushed.  Fortunately, I'm aware that this episode got a sequel of sorts in the book series, so we'll be returning here eventually.

Overall, I just like the whole parody of mindless bureaucracy.  Neither Lodgepoole or Al really understand why they must "lose" the things they are instructed too.  They just blindly follow orders with their complete faith in the system.  No matter how big or small, each lost item is treated with the same importance.  It's a nice thought to leave us with, though.  Every cherished possession that you have lost at some point is kept safe somewhere.  It's always better knowing where lost things end up, even if you can't get to them.

Random Observations:
- Edgar Teller has his house keys handcuffed to him.  Man, he has been hit the hardest.

- Things, Inc. is working on banana-flavored petrol.  The more you think about it, the less sense it makes.

- Eerie's local biker gang, "The Unkind Ones" cause havoc and mayhem around town through good deeds and by being helpful samaritans.  Kill 'em with kindness.

- Marshall's trunk gets taken from the Eerie Bus Terminal and Supper Club.  Sounds right.

- The Bureau of Lost has no limits.  Al will have to catch a flight on the next space shuttle for an upcoming mission.

- Other items that have found their way into the Eerie branch of the Bureau of Lost: a life-preserver from the Titanic and the Liberty Bell.

- They can never get enough ballpoint pen caps.

- Al may be rough and rude, but even he thinks "pacemaker batteries" is crossing a line.

- Al seems to enjoy "losing" items that he isn't explicitly told to lose.  I wonder if this makes him a better employee or a worse one.

Conspiracy Theroies:
- It is never actually explained why there was a sudden inflation in the need for Mr. Teller's lost items.  Perhaps there is more to that banana-flavored-petrol oil than meets the eye.  It managed to get the government to actually intervene!

- The Bureau of Lost actually plenty of eyes and ears around Eerie.  Are they aware of the increase in weirdness that occurs there?

Grade:  A funny episode with a creative look at loss and bureaucracy, but it could have used some more time to breathe.  A-

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