It’s time for a big whopping chunk of set-up, delivered in a thrilling action coated pill. “O.S.I. Love You” is an ensemble piece that sets up potential villains for the season, gets rid of a certain giant loose end, and re-establishes a major supporting character in a new role. Brock Samson takes the lead role, although the the focus is split fairly evenly among several characters. The flashback structure, as government investigators (or so they seem) attempt to piece together a disastrous afternoon on the O.S.I. helicarrier, works to keep the pace, although it’s questionable if the story wouldn’t have been equally effective told in a more chronological fashion. But then, scrambled time is a Venture Bros. staple by now, and it also fits in with the kind of plot the episode. This is a “what went wrong?” premise, and if in retrospect the pieces don’t really add up to much more than the sum of their parts, there are a lot of really cool parts to enjoy. It’s the sort of half hour that plays really well as you watch it, but loses some of the shine once you start to work out what actually happened, and realized it wasn’t nearly as impressive as it seemed.
The concern is that Venture Bros. busts out the big, seemingly game-changing twists a lot; the show is so jam-packed with stuff that at it times it all runs together into one big great twisty turny mess. There are no huge shocks in “O.S.I. Love You,” unless you were somehow deeply emotionally invested in Monstroso’s fate (and after all that effort he went to, getting a new heart). Molotov Cocktease turns out to be a double agent, and Brock is going to have to live with her being both alive, and one the same side he is. At least for now. That could prove interesting later on, if Publick and Hammer decide to do anything with it, but that’s sort of the problem. The writers are great at mimicking the reversals and surprises of a more straight-faced adventure series, but they often show little interest in exploring the consequences of those reversals, mainly choosing instead to pile on more incident, weirdness, and mad science. Which is often very cool, and this season is shaping out well so far, but this entry plays out like a piece-setting episode, establishing a status quo that may or may not pay-off down the line.
Still, there are some small, effective moments dotting the more explosive sequences. As usual, there are callbacks to previous episodes. Shore Leave and The Alchemist are still a couple, revealed in what might be the most adorable masturbation joke I’ve ever seen. We finally get at least a partial origin story for Brock and Molotov’s relationship: they met at the 1987 Goodwill Games, Brock was undercover hunting for the Siberian Husky, a brilliant assassin who also turns out to be Molotov’s dad; the Husky goes down, but so does Brock’s partner. No word yet on how Brock took Molotov’s eye, although I’m sure we’ll get there eventually. (Unless we’ve already seen it in another flashback that I’ve forgotten about. Totally possible!) The Nozzle returns. Hatred’s breasts are finally, maybe, explained: the O.S.I. doctor theorizes they may be a result of Hatred’s anti-impulse drugs mixing with the super soldier serum he was injected with so many years ago. Which, as mysteries that needed to be resolved but were never all that pressing go, isn’t bad.
Hatred’s man-boobs are the reason Doc, Hank, Dean, and Hatred are about the O.S.I. ship when all the madness goes down. It’s good to see Brock and Team Venture interacting again, however briefly; Brock’s anguished cries as Hank makes the ridiculous mistake of going to head to head with Molotov are a reminder of how much he cares about the boys. Just as interesting is seeing Dean’s latent rebellious tendencies turn into action. As with his decision to help H.E.L.P.Er a few weeks ago, Dean is such a fundamentally good kid that his sullenness and “sass” are really just cover for a wounded heart. When he and Doc (Rusty gives his son a tour of the ship, serving maybe as a reminder for the kid of just how much he wants to get away from all this history) stumble across a pair of “primos,” mutant psychics kept locked away in saline baths in a parody of the pre-cogs from Minority Report (these guys shit out predictions), Dean is moved to act. His decision to release the creatures doesn’t have much impact on the Molotov-escape, merely adding to the chaos of an already chaotic afternoon, but it makes a nice little mini-play to remind us where a large part of Dean’s angst is coming from these days. Earlier, a conversation about Hank’s body-armor has Rusty complaining about how, when Hank was younger, he was obsessed with a home-made Batman suit; “Only now he doesn’t die when he jumps off the roof,” Dean shoots back.
Sooner or later, Dean and his dad are going to have to hash things out about the whole “cloning” thing. Until then, it’s a sore spot that provides some reliably funny sniping running through the background of the season. The biggest change this week is Hank losing his body armor, and Molotov Cocktease, having faked her death (with Brock’s help, although he doesn’t seem exactly happy about it), is now working for the O.S.I. to help figure out just what the hell is going on with the Guild. As twists go, it’s not the greatest, in that Molotov isn’t really defined enough at this point for her loyalty to matter much one way or the other. She’s mostly just an object Brock can’t obtain, the part of his life that works to bring him back down to the level of all the other major characters: she’s his failure. That’s a fine idea, but it doesn’t automatically make for great drama, and the character needs more autonomy. Brock loving her so much that he seems really freaked out that he can’t murder her is, while explicable if you look at their arc together, the sort of development that really needs motivations on both sides. Right now, Molotov is—well, who the hell is she?
- Molotov has been better defined in the past, and that definition should arguably carry over to now. It’s just, she’s supposedly a major part of the episode, and she spends all her time doing what dudes tell her to do. Even her escape attempt is Hunter ordered. (And while it was pretty hilarious for her to straddle Monstroso to taunt Brock, the fact that Monstroso told her to do it sort of ruined the joke.) She has, what, two lines?
- On the other hand, between Hatred’s heaving, naked bosom and Hank’s body armor, this was a fun week for fucking with the male gaze. (Also, it’s nice to see the armor turned, however briefly, into a plot point.)
- David Bowie is not the Sovereign, although the Sovereign is on the cover of Diamond Dogs.
- Love all the G.I. Joe-esque O.S.I. names. Bum Rush was my favorite.
- So, the Investors, huh? We’ve seen them before, and they make for a freaky villain. I’m not sure what to make of them until we figure out how important they’ll be to the season overall. The big final twist (that the investigators who’ve been questioning our heroes throughout the episode are actually the Investors in disguise) is cute, and suggest an unsettlingly powerful villain, but without knowing how seriously we’re supposed to take all of this as a threat, it’s hard to know what to make of them.