Sunday, June 17, 2012

#17: Zombies in P.J.s

Episode 1018:  "Zombies in P.J.s"

Original Airdate:  April 12, 1992

One-Sentence Synopsis:  A mysterious salesman arranges a deal with Mr. Radford, offering him an opportunity to get rich quick, and it only costs the soul of every Eerie citizen.

Marshall heads over to the World O'Stuff to return a disguise kit that he forgot to pay his mother back for buying.  However, Mr. Radford explains that he won't be making any returns because he is being audited by the IRS for tax evasion very soon and will be broke unless a miracle occurs.  Out of nowhere, a slimy salesman appears, calling himself "The Donald."  He tells Radford that he can help him sell every item in the store within 3 days, allowing Radford to retire with riches beyond his wildest dreams.  Rather than ask how exactly he plans on doing that, Radford gleefully signs the Donald's lengthy contract, happy that his financial troubles are behind him.

The Donald notices Dash X shoplifting and hires the kid as his assistant, promising him a cut of the pie (and he has him sign another contract).  That night, the Donald and Dash premiere a commercial on every television channel, urging customers to come to the World O'Stuff where everything can be bought easily with store credit.  The commercial manages to lull Eerie into an early sleep, and, as Marshall observes, his dreams continue to urge him to go shopping.  He forces himself awake, only to find everyone sleepwalking their way over to the World O'Stuff.

Everyone starts buying random items, while remaining asleep.  The Donald flits around having everyone sign more of his contracts while Marshall tries in vain to prevent his family from purchasing unnecessary items.  Marshall and Simon spend the rest of the night keeping each other awake so that they don't succumb to the Donald's hypnosis, but in the morning, they fall asleep anyway.

After the two sleepwalk to the World O'Stuff and purchase the last two items, Radford and Dash prepare to bask in their riches.  However, the Donald just blows Dash off, and Dash tracks down Marshall and Simon to finally put an end to the shady business.  The two look at the fine print of one of the Donald's contracts, and discover even smaller print located in a tiny dot on the page.  Apparently, if people are unable to pay for their purchases, the Donald gets to repossess their souls!

The Donald starts wrangling the Eerie sleepwalkers onto a bus that is headed for "the Mall," as a way of collecting their souls.  The boys try to stop him, but Radford tells them that a contract is a contract and unfortunately, this is their fate.  But before they can be carted of to "the Mall," the IRS auditor arrives to take all of Radford's earnings.  This means all of the souls end up in his possession and the Donald returns to Hell empty-handed.  However, it turns out that the auditor was just Marshall using the amazing disguise kit that he bought earlier, and everyone in Eerie is able to return home peacefully in their pajamas.

Evidence Locker Item:  Not shown, probably Marshall's impossibly good disguise kit, "Disguise Yourself So Even Your Own Mother Won't Recognize You."

Dawn of the Dead - This probably isn't an explicit reference, but George Romero's 1978 horror classic also featured the themes of "zombies as consumers," which is what this episode is all about.

"Just Can't Get Enough!"

This is a fun one.  As soon as I hear the premise, I am on board.  Many stories and television shows featuring small towns love showing the mob-mentality of simple-minded folk, and while we've seen their holidays and traditions in "Tornado Days" and "Mr. Chaney," this is the first time when a new weirdness actually takes the entire town by storm.  All of the weirdness we have seen up until this point centered around Marshall and his peers.  Yes, the town was weird, but the entire town becoming shopping zombies is out of the ordinary even for them.

Usually, Marshall's parents can explain away any weirdness that comes before them, but now, when they wind up with loads of merchandise in their house or when they find themselves on bus in their sleep clothes, they have no choice but to find it odd.  And for once, Marshall himself even falls victim to the weirdness.  If Dash hadn't have gotten ripped off, he wouldn't have saved the day by waking up Marshall and Simon.  That's much better than the repeated "learning life lessons" Dash who always feels bad for his actions.

The themes of this episode are very subtle, as I remember this being the only episode from my childhood where I had absolutely no idea what was going on.  Taxes?  Store credit?  Selling souls?  This wasn't stuff that would normally be featured in a kids show.  In fact, I legitimately thought that the Donald wasn't involved in the Eerie zombies, and it was just a weird occurrence.

The writing for this episode may possibly be the sharpest it's ever been.  Mr. Radford's resignation to the whole ordeal is hilarious, and it fits very well with his laissez-faire attitude.  The fact that he is more scared of the IRS than the actual threat of eternal damnation is a wonderful tidbit.

The twist of having the IRS guy appear to claim the souls is very clever, even though it's revealed to be Marshall in the end.  It would have probably been too dark to have the actual IRS walk off with a town's souls.  But other than that, everything works, there are some welcome changes to the status quo, and we get the funniest episode of the series.  I want more!

Random Observations:
- Dash X starts sporting a ponytail just like the Donald once he becomes his assistant.  Now we know who not to trust in life.

- Dash X also tries to get Syndi to buy skimpy outfits when she's in her zombified state.  This makes me even sadder that he's only around for one more episode.

- The Donald doesn't appear to be Satan himself, but he is certainly one of his minions.  He remains in contact with "the Big Guy" via an early '90s cell phone (and the conversation is overheard by Dash on his cell phone, which I didn't know cell phones were capable of).

- For 15 years, I've had the "Just Can't Get Enough" jingle stuck in my head.

- In case you didn't catch it, "the Mall" isn't really the Mall.  Watch the bus stop sign as it flashes from "MALL" to "HELL," right before the camera moves away.  I'm pretty confident that this scene didn't appear in the Fox Kids airing of this episode.

- During the closing credits, we are treated to an extended scene of Marshall and Simon slapping each other to stay awake all night long.  Simon starts to laugh right as the camera cuts away.

Conspiracy Theories:
- So, Radford still owns everyone's soul, right?

Grade:  A solid, funny episode with great writing and a great conceit that manages to make the show fresh again.  A+

1 comment:

  1. No, everyone’s soul is in limbo since Mr. Radford still owes the IRS, LOL.