Saturday, June 9, 2012

#15: No Brain, No Pain

Episode 1016:  "No Brain, No Pain"

Original Airdate:  March 15, 1992

One-Sentence Synopsis:  A crazy, incoherent homeless man is revealed to actually be a genius who invented a device that can scramble and swap people's minds.

After leaving dinner at a Chinese restaurant featuring some prophetic fortune cookies, the Teller family encounters a crazed homeless man shouting nonsense.  The family leaves him be, but the boys stay behind and watch as a woman appears out of nowhere shouting at the man and shooting him with a laser gun.  The boys, along with the grey-haired kid, step in to save him, and the lady runs off, claiming that the man is a genius and has something she wants.

Marshall and Simon bring the man home can clean him up to try to figure out his story, while he tinkers away with some of his trash.  They leave him in the care of Syndi and go to raid his alley of junk, with the only clue being the name "Sharona" that the man keeps repeating.  Meanwhile, the grey-haired kid strikes a deal with the lady when he learns she is loaded with cash.  He leads her to the Teller residence and together they kidnap the man, leaving behind the strange helmet he built.

Marshall and Simon discover an 8-track tape of Get the Knack featuring the song "My Sharona."  They take the tape, along with another strange device that the man had built and return home.  Syndi tells them that the grey-haired kid came and got him.  Rather than go after him, Marshall and Simon finish building the device by attaching the helmet and placing the tape in the slot.  As Simon dons the helmet, he is imbued with the mind of the genius, Charles Furnell.

Apparently, minds can be transported into different bodies via the machine.  Eunice, Charles' wife, wanted to use the machine for political reasons, controlling the president.  In order to keep the secrets of the machine safe, Charles placed his mind onto the 8-track tape.  Together, Charles (in Simon's body) and Marshall rush to the Hitchcock Mill to place Charles's mind back in his body.  When they arrive there is a brief scuffle and everyone's minds get switched (save for the weird kid, who left once he was paid).

The kids end up in the adults' bodies and vice-versa, so when the weird kid returns (having had a change of heart) and picks up the laser gun, he starts to threaten Eunice (who is actually Marshall), but the real Eunice (in Marshall's body) slips up and he makes sure to shoot the right person.  Once everyone gets sorted, Charles leaves with his machine, assuring that no more harm shall come from Eunice.  In fact, she's been quite pleasant recently...

Evidence Locker Item: The Get the Knack 8-track cassette (which may have Eunice's mind on it), Tag #1016

Big Trouble in Little China - The Dragon of the Black Pool restaurant that the Tellers eat at is the exact same restaurant featured in John Carpenter's 1986 martial arts comedy film.

"Donna's a fool and Todd's a liar and I'm leaving!"

I am struggling with my feelings on this episode.  There are parts I really like and parts I really dislike, resulting in a muddled blah feeling as a result.  It's probably best just to take it step by step.

A crazy homeless man is actually a genius mastermind? Perfect, exactly what I expect from Eerie.  He invented a device that can swap people's brains?  That's kind of farfetched, even for Eerie, so I'm a little wary.  The device is dependent on an 8-track of "My Sharona"? That is an inspired detail and allows me to swallow the absurd premise.  The genius has an ex-wife that dresses like the Terminator and carries a laser gun?  You've lost me completely.

The story is fine just as it is, and even having the ex-wife as an antagonist would serve the story well.  But her character is so melodramatic, out of place, and weirdly-futuristic that the whole episode just comes off as silly.  Both Eunice and Charles are completely over-the-top.  It works when Charles is in his idiot mode, but when he switches to genus, he becomes such a caricature.  It's kind of funny when Charles the genius is in Simon's body because it gives Justin Shenkarow (the actor who plays Simon) some fun material to work with.  But after that, it's just too much.

There is some focus on the "Todd and Donna" soap opera that Syndi watches, so maybe they are trying to make a parallel between the cheesy soap-opera and Eunice and Charles's story, but it doesn't really read.  If that's what they were going for, they should of either cranked it up to eleven and make it really obvious and silly or just dropped the bit entirely.

I'm also not a fan of the grey-haired kid's repeated moral lessons.  In three episodes now, he has "had a change of heart" pulling through right at the end.  It is getting kind of old, and this one was the most saccharine as we actually see him step outside, start counting his ill-gotten money, and then make a huge "Oh, I should really go back and help those guys" face.  At least in the first episodes, this change of heart happened off camera so it always seemed like he was running on his own agenda and it kept him mysterious.  At this point, he should just admit that he's Marshall's friend.  Fortunately, this will change in episodes to come.

So yeah, all in all, there are some great ideas floating in the ether, but they are bogged down by unnecessary silliness.

Random Observations:
- I watched this episode on Hulu and noticed that "My Sharona" is never actually played, but there is a close facsimile that plays over the credits.  Maybe the DVD version is different, but I thought the actual song played when I first saw this episode.  I'll have to check.

- Well, since the episode doesn't feature it, it'll have to be enjoyed here:

- Edgar's fortune is: "Your immediate future will be interrupted by a mysterious stranger." (Charles Furnell rams him with his cart.)

- Simon's fortune is: "You will see the world through the eyes of many." (Simon actually only sees through the eyes of Charles Furnell, but the whole brain-swapping scene is close enough.)

- Marshall's fortune is: "You will live to tell the tale." (See Conspiracy Theories)

- There is a weird political theme running throughout the episode, with cracks at liberals and talks of replacing Reagan's brain with Macgyver's (which doesn't even make sense because Macgyver is fictional).  It feels forced and I don't like it.

- Syndi thinks the grey-haired kid is Simon's cousin.

Conspiracy Theories:
- Marshall's fortune implies something big is going to happen between him and Eerie and it will have casualties.  Will he destroy Eerie before Eerie destroys him?  That's the story I want to see!

Grade:  A good episode becomes a goofy episode and never looks back.  C+

1 comment:

  1. On the DVD, the incidental music is an orchestral version of My Sharona, easy to miss if you're not listening for it. Impossible to miss once you are.

    The MacGyver reference is interesting because Reagan was elected before MacGyver aired, which means maybe there was a real-life MacGyver that the show was based on. There's a set-up for a fan fic crossover if anyone wants to do that.

    Also, this aired during an election year (1992) so the political jokes were fairly standard by this point.