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My Name is Earl Fodder

My Name Is Earl: Van Hickey

Yup, you got it. Another rerun. It's all for the good though because we weren't recapping yet when this episode first aired on October 19, 2006. This episode captures what the show is all about very nicely, features some favorite recurring characters, and includes some outstanding music selections that genuinely complement the story. Let's have at it!

The ep opens with Earl taking pictures at an old folks' home. Joy, on the advice of her lawyer, is trying to garner some brownie points with the jury in her upcoming trial for theft and kidnapping. It'll be her third strike if she's convicted, and she needs to prove that she is a valued and giving member of society and not just an ignorant white trash whore. (Ruby, her lawyer, called Joy that, not me.) Earl compares Joy's doing good deeds to UFO or Bigfoot sightings – it's a once in a lifetime experience to see it so best take a picture. A voice from behind calls out, "Is that Earl Hickey?", and Earl is transported to the wondrous days of yesteryear.

Flashback: Earl, Randy and Ralph (played par excellence by Giovanni Ribisi) are in the drive thru at the local taco hut. Frankenstein by The Edgar Winter Group is blasting from the El Camino's tinny speakers. The boys are rocking out (a la Wayne and Garth in Wayne's World). Randy's even playing the dashboard drum kit. They all feel it – the electricity, the charisma, the wow. Ralph even asks Randy where he learned to play the drums so well. Randy modestly tells Ralph, "Right there, just then." Earl's VO says that sometimes great things just happened. Like how peanut-butter and chocolate came together, or Mt. Rushmore, and how we started our band. Earl tells Ralph and Randy that they should start a band. (Editor's Note - Jason Lee played a rock star in Almost Famous.) And since Van Halen started with two brothers, they could name their band Van Hickey -- and Ralph. They ultimately settle on naming the band Phish Tahco in honor of the food they were about to order. (Some people may have you believe that Phish Tahco is a euphemism for that most private and sensual part of a woman, but they would be wrong. If Earl & Co. had named the band Bearded Clam those people might be right. But Phish Tahco? Nah, I don't see it. But it could also be an homage to the band Phish, which was mentioned in episode 2-17 The Birthday Party.)

The voice from the clown's head asks the boys if they need a lead singer for their band. After a brief audition, Clown Head Guy gets the gig. Earl pulls up to the drive thru window to meet his new lead singer. Earl's voiceover tells us that the Stones had Jagger, The Who had Daltrey, we had -- a really old guy. Enter Tom, 70 years of hard road and looks it. (Tom was played by Larry Hankin, who may be best known for his recurring character, Mr. Heckles, on Friends. Giovanni Ribisi also had a recurring character on Friends as Frank, Phoebe's brother.)

So it's off to the Crabshack to promote their gig. Earl, Randy, and Ralph are chatting up three young women (Amy Amerson, Natalia Reagan, Caitie Uhlmann), one of whom is interested in what's in Randy's rock star zipper pants that's not made of licorice. Old Tom sets a couple of beers on the table and tries to put the moves on one of the nubile young lovelies but is given the brush. "If I wanted to get hit on by an old guy I'd move back home," she says.

At the next rehearsal the band takes a vote and it's three to one in favor of kicking Tom out of the band. Tom's is the sole nay vote. Earl's VO informs us regretfully that the boys believe Tom is holding back Wyld Stallyns -- I mean Phish Tahco -- from making it with the ladies. Tom's angry and leaves in a huff. He comes back a moment later looking for a ride home. He isn't supposed to drive after sunset. Ralph throws his arm around Tom's shoulder and says sure, c'mon buddy, I'll give ya a lift.

Flash forward, but not too far, and it's gig night. The boys killed at the Crabshack, and now it's party time rock star-style at Ralph's mom's house. The boys and the groupies are partying in their underwear, and Ralph's mom even made Rice Krispie treats. Life is a cabaret, my friend.

Back to present day at the old folks' home and Earl is explaining to Tom that there is no more band. Phish Tahco did their one gig, they got drunk, they got laid, and then they sold their instruments to buy more beer. Tom explains to Earl that at least he (Earl) has that memory, and that he (Earl) took away his (Tom's) one shot at being a rock star. Earl feels Tom's pain and agrees to get the band back together, that it's " -- time for Phish Tahco to feed its fans once again." Maybe not as good as being on a mission from God, but whaddaya gonna do?

In the motel room, the band is discussing the finer points of orchestration ("When one of us stops playing we all stop playing. That means the song is over. When one of us starts playing, we all start playing. That means a song is starting." Editor's Note - I've been in a few bands, and this is not too far from the truth.) Catalina enters, takes one look at Tom and asks, "Who's the old guy?" She's so sweet. Ralph says that's it, Tom's gotta go. Tom says that you guys can't kick me out again. I'm on Earl's list, right here between # 49 Been Wasteful, and # 51 Slept With Ralph's Mom.

Whuh-huh?

Ralph hears this but is unable to comprehend the enormity of this information. Cue awkward pause.

Flashback and Earl VO: At Ralph's mom's house after Phish Tahco's debut gig, Ralph and Randy escorted their scantily clad young fans to other rooms of the house for an intellectual discussion on the economics of medieval feudalism. And possibly a bit of rumpy-bumpy. Earl remained in the living room with his adoring fan. But Earl's adoring fan was a big fan of Jell-O shots and was a bit overserved. A rock star, it seems, needs an outlet after rocking the house, and Earl's outlet short-circuited. Who should appear bearing sugary sweets and a lascivious grin but Ralph's mom, Lorraine (played by Beth Grant, who had a recurring character on Yes, Dear, on which Greg Garcia was a writer and producer)? As Earl said, "She wasn't young, but she was conscious." Earl's little brain does the thinking for his big brain and bad judgment ensues.

Back to present day in the motel room, and Ralph's gray matter has finally digested this disturbing tidbit, found it distasteful, and gacked it back up on the carpet. "Earl," Ralph asks, "did you sleep with Ralph's mom?" (Editor's Note – It's never good when psychos ask you if you had relations with their mother and refer to themselves in the third person. Not good at all.) Earl tries to apologize to Ralph, but his inadequate words fall on deaf ears. Ralph might as well be Joy's lawyer. Ralph lays down his Strat and leaves. Randy then realizes that that's why Ralph's mom always sends Earl a Christmas card.

Earl catches up with Ralph at the Shack. "If there's a Top Ten list of things that one man doesn't want to discuss with another man," Earl's VO says, "then I Slept With Your Mom is number two. I Slept With Your Dad would be number one." (I can see that.) Ralph is understandably in a foul mood. He's been trying to figure out a way that Earl can make this right, and the only solution he's come up with so far is that he's going to have to kill Earl. Sounds funny to Earl, but Ralph's not laughing. The only other thing that Ralph's been able to come up with involves Earl's junk and Ginsu knives. That option appealed to neither man. But Ralph's a reasonable man. After all, he and Earl are best friends. So Ralph is willing to give Earl twelve hours to say his goodbyes and get his affairs in order.

Earl is not too keen on his chances for a long and prosperous life, so he goes to talk to the one person who might be able to dissuade Ralph from his homicidal intentions. Lorraine agrees to help Earl, but she wants to know what Earl is going to do for her in return. Earl offers to clean her gutters, but Lorraine has something slightly more intimate in mind. She makes Earl an offer that would be hard for any red-blooded mustachioed hairy-nippled bass-playing American male to pass up: she'll give him cable sports and porn and popcorn shrimp on the night stand if he'll just renew their biblical acquaintance. As tempting as that offer is, Earl politely declines and runs away like my wife when she sees a spider.

Back at the motel and Earl is packing for an extended visit to Ralph's-not-here-ville. Catalina can sympathize with Earl's plight saying that, "Men don't like it when other men sleep with their mother. That's why my brother killed my father." (Catalina's clan seems especially bloodthirsty. She all but admitted to killing her mother in episode 1-18 Dad's Car when she said that her mother was dead but "...it's okay because it was either her or me.")

With time counting down, Earl decides to stop by his folks' house to say his goodbyes. Ralph answers the door sans pants and wearing Earl's dad's robe. Why is Ralph wearing Earl's dad's robe? Well, Ralph, unfortunately, had clumsily spilled tomato juice all over his pants, so Kay threw them in the wash. Ralph tells Earl (out of Kay's earshot) that he's finally figured another way out of this dilemma: he is going to sleep with Earl's mom. Kay is home alone because Carl, Earl's dad, is at his store. Someone threw a brick threw the front window and Carl's getting it repaired. A more curious set of circumstances I could not possibly imagine. Kay goes to check on Ralph's pants and Earl tells Ralph that there is no way his mom is going to sleep with him. Ralph is hurt by Earl's statement saying, "What? You're good enough to sleep with my mom but I'm not good enough to sleep with your mom? We'll see about that."

Ralph disappears into the laundry room where Kay is, and a surprised shriek and a slap soon follows. Kay comes out of the laundry room, visibly shaken. She grabs her coat and purse and disappears in a puff of smoke like the Roadrunner. Ralph soon follows and tells Earl that his (Earl's) mom " -- doesn't like the under-the-arms around-the-side double booby scoop." Earl doesn't know what to say to that. He says, "I don't know what to say to that." Doesn't matter, Ralph says, your time is up. Ralph whips out a gun from the waistband of his Calvin Kleins and presses it against Earl's temple. In desperation, Earl tells Ralph that he wishes he (Earl) could've married his (Ralph's) mom. Somewhat slightly more appealing than offing his best friend, Ralph says okay, that'll work. Earl's VO says, "And that's how I got married to Ralph's mom."

(Editor's Note - Earl had mentioned in episode 2-10/11 titled South of the Border that if he married Catalina, it would have been his third unintentional marriage. His marriage to Joy was the first, Ralph's mom his second.)

So it's another wedding for Earl, and another wedding photograph of Earl in a tuxedo with his eyes closed. Earl's VO says that it wasn't so much a shotgun wedding as it was a "cocked handgun pressed firmly against your temple" kind of wedding. Either way, Earl and Randy are moving in to Lorraine's house. Earl tries explaining to Randy that Randy doesn't always have to live where Earl lives. All Randy hears is gibberty-flibberty blooberty bloob. Randy is glad Earl isn't dead, but would like to know if there's more to Earl's plan. Plan, thinks Earl? Who am I, Rube Goldberg?

Back to the present at the old folks home. Chilling out Ralph and getting married to his best friend's mom has unsettled Earl, so he tries to reclaim some semblance of normalcy. Earl dons Karma's flannel shirt and tries to cross something off of his list. To that end, he hands Tom a flyer (I'm guessing Earl gets these printed up at Kenny James' copy shop.): Phish Tahco is re-forming, Tom's going to be lead singer, and they're going to play a gig at Bob's Country Bunker. Or maybe it was the Crabshack -- I might've inadvertently changed the channel for a second there. Joy is still volunteering her mad people skills even though it's likely the old folks she's playing Red Rover with won't even remember that she was there.

And just like that, Earl says, I was a family man again. Even though circumstances may not be as desirable as one might hope for, Earl realizes that his current marriage beats his old marriage all to hell. His wife cooks, and at least one of his kids (Randy) was a blood relation. And what with the lack of sirens and hooker fights, this house was quickly becoming a home. As forced marriages go, this one was pretty nice. Earl says he could've gotten used to it except for one thing: his wife expected him to perform his husbandly duties. Cue music bed - The Guess Who's No Sugar Tonight. Earl comes up with a whole slew of reasons why he is unable to consummate the blessed event including --

1) He just ate a big meal and his doctor told him he has to wait three hours before swimming or humping
2) A bunch of birds are attacking a squirrel on the lawn and I've got to get involved
3) The string came out of his sweatpants, gonna be an all-nighter
4) The Chinese are on the march
5) He's on hold with Mike from Bombay, who's trying to walk him through the new toaster
6) Randy got out again, gotta find him
7) He has to drive three counties over to buy some rubbers -- he's an odd size

A week or so of holy matrimony and Ralph confronts Earl. Lorraine complained to Ralph that Earl has yet to consummate their union. Ralph sees the irony (Editor's Note - I don't believe Ralph can spell irony but he sure can recognize it.) and tells Earl that if Earl does NOT sleep with his mother, he (Ralph) is going to have to kill him (Earl). Earl grudgingly agrees that tonight, after the gig at the Shack, he will make the sweet sweet love with his lovely bride.

Later that evening, Phish Tahco plays to a packed Shack. The boys crank out a passably good rendition of Frankenstein (Editor's Note – Frankenstein is an instrumental. There are no lyrics, and therefore no real need for a lead singer. We don't know if they played more than one song so we don't know if Tom ever got to sing.) Earl admits that it was a great show, but he's really not looking forward to his next performance, i.e., hitting the workbench with the missus. And since he was pretty well liquored up the first time, Earl figures he may as well have another go. So, with Trick Pony's Whiskey River Take My Mind playing in the background, Earl does just that. And with each shot of whiskey his vision gets a bit blurrier and Lorraine gets a bit better looking. Eventually, Earl passes out.

After the Shack closes, Darnell wakes Earl up and tells him to stop molesting the bar stools and get his drunken ass home. With a slurred, "See ya, Earl," to Darnell, Earl staggers home to wife and duty. After a brisk two mile walk home, a slightly sobered up Earl enters his boudoir only to find his wife and his lead singer en flagrante. "No matter how hot the bass player is, "Earl says, "chicks always dig the lead singer." And here I thought those crazy kids had what it took to make it.

As so often happens in these kinds of things, Tom and Lorraine hit it off. Earl gets his marriage to Lorraine annulled, Tom becomes the father figure Ralph always wanted, and Tom, Lorraine, and Ralph became a family.

This episode has the best ending of any MNIE episode to date. Strobe light flashing, Styx' Mr. Roboto blaring, and Earl and Randy are Robot dancing. FTB.


Posted by Randy Welk on March 8, 2007 11:24 PM
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