Episode Three: Twisted Tail

Greetings from Still-unemployed-landia! Fun fact: When you’re unemployed, you tend to look forward to Mondays because that’s when more invitation to interview calls come in, and dread Fridays because that’s when job rejections come in.  I myself have gotten rejections every Friday for over two months. So I find myself on the deck, eagerly awaiting my next rejection.  Sometimes I like to play a little rejection roulette — which job will I be rejected from today?  How many jobs will I be rejected from before I resort to day drinking?

In the meantime, I’ve turned to Wishbone to get me through the day, and I’ve got to say, this episode was not Wishbone’s finest work.  I mean, it’s still Wishbone and therefore it is amazing, but as with most TV shows, the first few episodes after the pilot tend to be a bit weak in retrospect as the cast, crew, and writers find their footing. I will also admit that Dickens is not my favorite, so the fact that this week focused on Oliver Twist didn’t help matters.

What’s going on in Oakdale:

Ah, suburbia.  So idyllic. So safe.  OR IS IT? That noisy dirt bike serves as both a literal and symbolic of the chaos that is about to come to Oakdale.
Ah, suburbia. So idyllic. So safe. OR IS IT? That noisy dirt bike serves as both a literal and metaphorical symbol of the chaotic shit storm that is about to reek havoc in Oakdale.

We open on a crisis in the Talbot household — Wishbone’s bowl is EMPTY!  Wishbone tries to distract himself from his hunger with a good book — Oliver Twist.  This episode is veering into the unbelievable within the first 30 seconds.  I’m sorry, but based on my dog’s behavior, I’m pretty sure Wishbone should be attempting to eat that book instead of reading it if he’s even mildly hungry. But I’ll let it go because Wishbone is such a bibliophile.

Wishbone hears the door open and greets Joe, David, and Sam, but is rightfully suspicious of the new kid Joe has with him (Max) because this guy has the start of a truly terrible mullet.  Max and Wishbone shake hands, and Max acts as though he has invented this astonishing new trick, so we know right away that Max is going to be a real winner. Joe quickly steals the scene through a horrifically boring recap of his epic basketball showdown with Damont Jones.  This is slightly confusing because I’m assuming these kids have just returned from school, where they too witnessed this exceptional basketball game, so it seems he truly is recapping the game purely for Wishbone’s sake. Joe jumps on the couch and reenacts the game winning shot, only for Ellen to walk in and witness her son’s complete disrespect of her property and propensity for self-aggrandizement.  “Ah, Joe,” she says, “looks like you’re happily exercising your sense of entitlement today! Excuse me while I change my will to leave everything to Wishbone!”

If memory serves me correctly, this is the one and only time we will see Max during this entire series, so don't get too attached -- ha ha ha, that's impossible, this kid idolizes Joe so he's clearly worthless.
If memory serves me correctly, this is the one and only time we will see Max during this entire series, so don’t get too attached — ha ha ha, that’s impossible, this kid idolizes Joe so he’s clearly worthless.
Sweet Jesus early CGI is horrifying -- I think they were trying to make Wishbone smile but somehow they've made it look like Wishbone plans on reenacting American Psycho instead of Oliver Twist.
Wishbone “mugs” at the camera, telling the audience that everyone loves a dog that can shake hands. Sweet Jesus, early CGI is horrifying. I think they were trying to make Wishbone smile but somehow they’ve made it look like Wishbone plans on reenacting American Psycho instead of Oliver Twist.

No, no, I’m merely joking, Ellen doesn’t say that — she amended her will ages ago.  She does call Joe out on his showboating, though, and introduces herself to Max. Ellen then asks for help unloading the groceries, and while Sam and David immediately go and help, Joe sees this as a perfect opportunity to show Max his Dad’s valuable basketball cards. Ah, yes, that’s the way all lifelong friends are made — by bragging about your possessions. I always open up the safe and show off my pearls and diamonds to any of my new friends. Also, why assist your single working mom with the groceries when you can continue to belabor the point that you enjoy basketball?

She calls herself
Ellen calls herself “just a quiet librarian,” which hurts a bit. Just?! Just?! Don’t you mean, “I’m a librarian, Max. Though most people think I shelve books and shush people all day, in truth I acquire, organize, promote, and disseminate all kinds of information. I’m basically a wizard. BOOM.”

After the groceries are brought in, we move on to a riveting lunch scene, in which quirky music plays as Max eats his lunch while Joe, Ellen, Sam, and David all watch him, bewildered. I think we’re supposed to be shocked at how fast and how much he is eating, but all the scene does is make me super self conscious about how I eat. Wishbone calls Max “a machine,” but the kid is eating one chip at a time, whereas I tend to jam, at a minimum, seven in my mouth in one go. Unfortunately, Max loses my sympathy a minute later, when he asks the unforgivable question of, “Are you going to finish that?” Dammit, Max, that is UNACCEPTABLE.  If I say “yes,” then it’s awkward because now I know you wanted it and it feels like I’m gloating with every bite I take, but if I say “no,” then you’ll take it even though the truth is I probably will finish it at some point, as I heartily enjoy snacking on leftovers. Ultimately, we can conclude that any potential conflict surrounding food makes me very uncomfortable. But back to the scene!

I think all three of the kids were supposed to be staring at Max, but clearly the kid playing David felt that his character would be more focused on eating lunch.
I think all three of the kids were supposed to be staring at Max, but clearly the kid playing David felt that his character would be more focused on eating his own lunch.

Max quickly becomes Joe level intolerable when he decides to give a massive hunk of the sandwich that he basically stole from Joe to Wishbone.  Ellen restrains herself from saying “Thanks, Max, you’ve just encouraged my dog to beg at the table, reinforcing a horrible habit that makes me feel guilty any time I try to have a meal. No wonder you and my worthless jackass son have become such fast friends.”

This episode is just never-ending with horrible behavior, as moments later, Wanda rings the doorbell so many times that one thinks she has to be running away from a masked assassin. But no, she comes traipsing in, telling Ellen that one of her lawn flamingos has been stolen.  She clutches her remaining flamingo, and tells Ellen that she’s called the police, who actually responded to the call. The police told Wanda that a few other places in the neighborhood have also been robbed — probably by kids.  She essentially accuses Max, who luckily has an alibi, then accepts David’s help when he offers to create a security system. David says his idea involves using Wishbone, to which Wanda questioningly responds “Wishbone? This yappy little dog?” and then PUSHES Wishbone away from her. Frankly, at this point, I would have tried to find the culprit to offer my help in robbing Wanda’s home, but whatever.

Ellen is wondering to herself how Wanda has gotten to the point where she feels comfortable wandering about clutching flamingos and wearing a housecoat in the Talbot household.
Ellen is wondering to herself how Wanda has gotten to the point where she feels comfortable wandering about clutching flamingos and wearing a housecoat in the Talbot home.
So in Wanda's mind stealing lawn flamingos essentially warrants life in prison, but pushing a dog is totally fine? I would have left a plastic flamingo head in Wanda's bed the next morning, but that's just me.
So in Wanda’s mind stealing lawn flamingos essentially warrants life in prison, but pushing a dog is totally fine? I would have left a plastic flamingo head in Wanda’s bed the next morning, but that’s just me.

We cut to bedtime, where Ellen comes in to tell Joe how proud she is of him for befriending Max, since being the new kid is always hard.  They laugh more about how much he eats, only for Joe to say that Max probably doesn’t get to eat much at the group home.  So Joe knew this fact the whole time, laughed about how much the kid ate, AND stared at him as he did so?  You’re a real class act, Joe, you insensitive prick.

The next day, Joe and Max are playing a game of god damn basketball, because there really hasn’t been enough focus on this sport this episode. However, they are interrupted by an older kid on roller blades, and I sigh to myself as I remember that roller blades used to be the hippest and clunkiest form of transportation.  The cool kids just put on their blades and took off, maybe wearing a backpack with their regular shoes that they could wear once they arrived at their cool destinations. Sadly, my mom always made me gear up in a helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads. She was all concerned about my brain and not breaking bones, you know, really boring shit that only moms care about.

The best part of this exchange is when the older kid asks,
The best part of this exchange is when the older kid asks, “Who’s the chump?” and without missing a beat, Max goes, “This is Joe!” How right you are Max, how right you are.

Oof. Tangent/flashback there. Anyhow, the older kid makes Wishbone and Joe very suspicious, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because he has a soul patch? Joe notes that the roller blades look very expensive, prompting the older kid to present Max with another pair of expensive “blades,” which he has attained through his “sources.” Note my overuse of quotations –clearly, I too am suspicious of a soul patch. Max tries on his new “wheelies,” and subsequently ditches Joe, who gazes down at his roller blade-less feet, defeated.

Cut to David’s house, who has apparently stolen his mom’s credit card, as he has a ton of tech gear strewn about his room. Joe doesn’t point out to David that all the tech gear must have been expensive, probably because David can’t grow facial hair yet. David is creating his homemade security system using the bark of Wishbone. Using the classic TV/movie technique of showing tech skills by randomly typing on keys, David manages to enhance the bark to create a terrifying security system for the undeserving Wanda.

In a random addition to the plot, Sam shows up to lend David a microphone wearing a white dress, seemingly unusual attire for Sam.  She tells the boys that she had to take a dancing class.  Apparently her divorced parents plan her spare time, and while her mom enrolled her in karate class last month, this month it is dance class as her dad thinks she needs to work on her
In a random addition to the plot, Sam shows up to lend David a microphone wearing a white dress, seemingly unusual attire for Sam. She tells the boys that she had to take a dancing class. Apparently her divorced parents plan her spare time, and while her mom enrolled her in karate class last month, this month it is dance class as her dad thinks she needs to work on her “social graces.” Poor Sam. Not only is she lacking consistency — why do her activities change month to month?? — her father is evidently a misogynist stuck in the 1920s. Knowing David and Joe won’t understand how modern women still struggle for equality in a seemingly inflexible patriarchal society, she quickly changes the subject back to the microphone.

Upon going to Wanda’s house to install the security system, she yells at Joe for having Wishbone off leash and slams the door on him, allowing only David inside.  Joe says, “So much for being neighborly,” though I would have gone with, “If you don’t like Wishbone, I imagine you won’t care for the flaming bag of his shit I plan on leaving on your doorstep later this evening, you ungrateful piece of garbage.”

Is Wanda wearing the same outfit she wore yesterday?
Is Wanda wearing the same outfit she wore yesterday?

Joe and Wishbone return to their house, only to discover it has been ransacked, and Joe’s beloved basketball card is gone.  The police arrive, and ask Joe if there are any kids he knows that could have done it.  Wishbone thinks “Max!” while Joe says he’d been with his friends all day, because Joe knows snitches get stitches. Or evidently not, because he confesses to his mom moments later that Max was not with him all afternoon. Wishbone and Ellen tell Joe he needs to “do the right thing” and “tell the police,” because Ellen and Wishbone have no street smarts. Joe mentions the other kid, describing him as “a big kid” that “acted like some sort of gangster,” illuminating that Joe wasn’t jealous of the kid’s soul patch, but of his height. Additionally, it appears that Joe’s knowledge of gangsters is probably limited to Westside Story, which I’m sure was performed on roller blades at some community theater somewhere in the country during the nineties.

I know the set design people really wanted to emphasize that the place had been robbed, but I'm pretty sure Oakdale actually just had an earthquake.
I know the set design people really wanted to emphasize that the place had been robbed, but I’m pretty sure Oakdale actually just had a massive earthquake.

The next day, Joe comes home, telling Ellen that Max wasn’t at school, and the people who run the group home also don’t know where he is. Suddenly, the alarm at Wanda’s house goes off, prompting Joe to get up and run outside, apparently because Joe thinks he can stop burglars unassisted. Or maybe he’s following my earlier advice and going to check if the burglars need any help loading their loot into a truck. Alas, no. Joe arrives to find the older kid (evidently named Zack) running out of Wanda’s house with a backpack full of Wanda’s stuff (fingers crossed he’s got the housecoat!), and Max trying to stop him. Max gets clotheslined by Zack, and Joe asks Max what he’s doing.  Max, with really terrible black eye makeup, confesses he got in a fight with Zack after he told him he had to give everything back. Joe asks why Max didn’t tell them, and Max actually says that he thought he could take on Zack since Joe took on Damont Jones. If the most heroic thing Max has ever seen is Joe beating Damont Jones in basketball, I have a whole new level of sympathy for this kid.

Ellen doesn't even bother to get up when the alarm goes off and Joe goes running outside, probably because she's thinking,
Ellen doesn’t even bother to get up when the alarm goes off and Joe goes running outside, probably because she’s thinking, “Maybe the burglar will kidnap Wanda AND Joe and solve all of my problems.”

While they’re contemplating how they can catch Zack, Wishbone has been off attempting to trail Zack.  He comes back, having failed to track Zack, but he did manage to wrench of Zack’s dirt bike license plate with his teeth, which is more than a little unnerving. Wait, dirt bikes need licenses?

But ho! A dirt bike! That shot panning over suburbia at the beginning of the episode finally makes sense!
But ho! A dirt bike! That shot panning over suburbia at the beginning of the episode finally makes sense!

Max tells Joe, Sam, and David that he thinks he knows where Zack stashes his stolen goods, and we cut to David using yet more tech gear to save the day.  This time, he’s put a weird helmet video camera on Wishbone to collect enough evidence to prove Zack is the one breaking into all the houses. Ah yes, the days before the GoPro did make canine recon difficult. Wishbone sneaks about the lair, and I begin to wonder if Zack is a hoarder or a kleptomaniac.  He has like 47 TVs, but they’re all set up so it doesn’t look like he plans on selling them. Also, why would anyone want to just have a lawn flamingo? Anyhow, Wishbone manages to catch Zack on tape in his storage area hangout, which prompts Joe to tell his friends to call 911. Wishbone is spotted by Zack, who begins to chase Wishbone. Joe only now realizes that he’s sent his dog into mortal peril all for the sake of a fucking basketball card, and says “We gotta help Wishbone!” Luckily, this is a kid’s television show, where horrible decisions have no real consequences, so just in the nick of time, the police apprehend Zack, and Wishbone emerges with Wanda’s flamingo.

Oh yes, this is in no way conspicuous. I never let my dog leave the house without her helmet on.  It's a dangerous world out there, after all.
Oh yes, this is in no way conspicuous. I never let my dog leave the house without her helmet on. It’s a dangerous world out there, after all.
Joe wears this helmet to watch what Wishbone is filming, but he essentially acts like it is Oculus Rift.
Joe wears this doohickey to watch what Wishbone is filming, but he essentially acts like it is Oculus Rift.

Joe and Ellen restore their beloved basketball card to its proper place as Max watches creepily on, until Ellen says, “Now, we eat.” Max then yells “Yeah!” which I’m sure was supposed to illicit lots of laughs from the audience. Hahaha! Malnourished children trapped in the grim purgatory that is a group home! Wards of the state are hilarious!

Note that Max is now dressing like Joe, so next's week's episode might be a reenactment of Fatal Attraction.
Note that Max is now dressing like Joe, so next’s week’s episode might be a reenactment of Fatal Attraction.

The episode ends with Wishbone being awoken from a snooze to be called to supper time.

Can you teach a dog to sleep on command?
Can you train a dog to sleep on command? “Wishbone, zzzzzzzzzzzzz.”

What’s going on in (not so) Merry Old England:

Again, as I’ve said before, I’m not a big Dickens fan.  I don’t like to criticize people’s taste in books because reading is always a good idea (unless you think the Twilight series is good writing or illustrates a healthy relationship in which case I recommend you look up “plot” and “stalking” on the internet and see which one Twilight illustrates better). So if you like Dickens, I would love to hear why.  Just know that my opinions about books often tend to be because I’m a terrible person who gets way too fixated on characters that I don’t like (see all my opinions on Joe). Like many highschoolers, I read Great Expectations and didn’t love it because I felt it dragged, but also because I thought Pip was a bit of an idiot and struggled to root for him. I read Oliver Twist as well and mostly remember not liking it, and after a quick refresher from the Wikipedia page, I remember why. Oliver Twist is also a bit of an idiot.  I think Dickens would argue that these characters are portrayed as full of goodness and innocence, but I argue that they are suspiciously naive.  Anywho, let’s recap:

Please sir, I want more of this cutie and less of his dumb owner Joe.
Please sir, I want more of this cutie and less of his dumb owner Joe.

Oliver Twist is an adorable dog in a cute little hat orphan stuck in a workhouse, where he and his fellow workers are poorly treated and fed.  One day, Oliver decides to ask for more gruel, and makes the infamous request of, “Please sir, I want some more.” After making such a bold request, he is subsequently thrown out and goes to London, where he falls in with some young criminals, including “the Artful Dodger.” Happy to be treated and fed well, he accompanies them, only to be falsely accused when the Artful Dodger pickpockets a man.  Put on trial, he is cleared of his charges when a witness steps forward to tell the truth of what happens, and Oliver is taken in and cared for by the man who was pick pocketed (Mr Brownlow).

What works:

— That vest. That hat. Is there anything that dog cannot wear? He’s the most stylish orphan I’ve ever seen.

— Wishbone nails the “Please sir, I want some more” scene. I mean, he has the bowl in his mouth and everything. If I were that cook, I would have given him all the gruel he wanted.

—  Having a dog play Oliver Twist is really the only way his trust and innocence works.  In the book, Oliver thinks that the Artful Dodger and his gang work for a guy named Fagin are letting Oliver stay with them for free, and that they get all their money from making wallets and handkerchiefs, and is completely unaware of the fact that they are a bunch of criminal pickpockets. I just don’t buy it.  He’s already been mistreated by multiple people by this point, not to mention seen the worst of mankind in a workhouse and as an undertaker’s apprentice, but he’s still going to think “oh well, I should probably blindly follow these strangers without questioning anything they’re doing?” Come on Oliver, do you really think this guy is called the Artful Dodger because he’s really good at SEWING?  Jesus, just think for a minute.  If anything, Oliver should be shocked at the kindness of Mr. Brownlow — why the hell is that guy being so nice?

What doesn’t:

— Wishbone’s accent seems to come and go at will. Why is he only British for only a few sentences?

— Oliver Twist is actually really tricky to abridge.  It was initially serialized over three years, so it’s quite lengthy, and it’s kind of hard to summarize briefly, as Oliver goes through a great number of trials and there are a fair amount of characters. Though this episode did “hit the highlights,” so to speak, I thought they did a better job implying that other stuff occurs in the previous episodes highlighting Tom Sawyer. This was particularly noticeable at the end, where it’s implied Oliver lives happily ever after with Mr. Brownlow after being wrongfully accused. Is that the ultimate ending? Yes.  But Oliver is first kidnapped, beaten, forced to commit a crime, and shot before that happens (in addition to a bunch of other stuff).

Well, that’s it for this episode. I’m off to strap on my roller blades and steal me some lawn flamingos.

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