Venture Bros.

Venture Brothers – “Pomp and Circuitry” Venture Bro

This week’s episode of Venture Bros. brought back some characters we haven’t seen in quite a while. We got a special guest voice in Bill Hader, and we got to see the secret combat gorillas that live beneath the Vatican. Frankly, it was a big week. And since we need to add some characters to the Dossier, we might as well get to it.
There are two things I want to note, though. First, this episode is kind of a sequel to last season’s “The Revenge Society” – that episode set the new status quo for Phantom Limb and also introduced Councilmen Three and Eight. If you don’t have the episode handy, check out the Dossier for that episode and get caught up.
Second, this episode is the first actual appearance of Jonas Venture and the original Team Venture since I started doing the Dossier, but since they’re not important to the plot, I’m not going to dwell too much on them this time out. Usually when they appear, they’re the key to the episode, so I’ll discuss them next time they appear.
And what about those other unfamiliar characters who popped up this week? Well, I’m glad you asked…

Professor Richard Impossible – No, you are not seeing things. He looks exactly like Mr. Fantastic from Marvel’s Fantastic Four. Same look, same powers, same costume (other than the logo). And if you know Mr. Fantastic, it makes him much funnier. He and Doc have a little bit of history, and Richard thinks Doc is pretty useless. Of course, Doc stole Richard’s wife. See, the Impossibles are all based on the Fantastic Four, but Sally Impossible, instead of having conventional invisibility powers, can only turn her skin invisible, exposing her organs. This grossed out Doc so he dumped her, and Sally ended up with Jonas Venture Jr. Richard’s kind of an a-hole, though he’s actually good at being a scientist and he makes the most of his stretching powers. We also know that he taught at State University and left amid scandal. Everybody has ties to State.

Baron Underbheit – It’s hard to believe now, but the Baron was Doc’s official arch-enemy when the series began. He’s essentially the Venture Universe’s version of Dr. Doom – the cruel monarch of a small nation (which lies between Detroit and Canada), with a hideous deformity – He lost his jaw in an explosion back in college and now has a metal replacement. The Baron believes that Doc was responsible for the explosion, but it was actually the Monarch making an early attempt to kill Dr. Venture. He hasn’t appeared since Season Two’s “Love Bheits”, when Team Venture helped overthrow him and bring freedom to Underland. The years have not been kind, since he returns in this episode as a hobo.
Roy Brisby – He’s the unsettling guy giving a speech outside the college. You know, the one in the wheelchair whose teeth are clenched the whole time? He’s the Venture version of Walt Disney, creator of the boys’ favorite cartoon character, Bizzy Bee. He was also a friend of Jonas’, and he tested his theme park rides on Doc when he was a kid. He kidnapped the Ventures in Season One’s “The Incredible Mr. Brisby” to try and start a cloning operation. He also brainwashed the boys. The guy’s trouble, basically. He seemingly died in that episode, but he did appear in Season Three at the opening of the Jonas Venture, Jr. Museum of Jonas Venture.
“It’s not as if we’re only one guy now, just because of this… this head business.” – Councilman Eight
The episode opens with Hank and Dean in their Learning Beds. As they subconsciously watch Jonas teach them, his alarm goes off, and he proclaims that they’ve graduated. The beds print out Dean’s high school diploma, but not Hank’s. We then head over to Guild Headquarters, where the Council is looking to fill Councilman Eight’s vacant spot.
–Note that Hank wears a sleep mask and earplugs, so he’s not getting either the auditory or visual stimulation of the Learning Beds. More subtly, he’s also facing the wrong way – his feet are where his head should be. Explains a lot. This is the first time we’ve seen Jonas and the original Team Venture since Season Three, but I’ll wait to write about them until an episode where they’re important to the story. The Council was last seen in “The Revenge Society”, and that’s when Eight’s head got grafted to Three’s body.
“Armando. Leftenant Shankley. Good to have you back.” – Phantom Limb
Beneath the Council, Phantom Limb is in a cell talking to Wisdom (his coffee mug). The guards take Wisdom away when his time is up, and bring him to the archives. Somehow, the Limb activates the other inanimate objects who make up his team – Chuck (the toaster) starts a fire that alerts the guards. Lady Nightshade (the shoe) kicks them into submission while Chuck heads up a clip of ammo and guns them down. It turns out the items were being controlled by his invisible limbs, which return to the cell. Phantom Limb heads to archives (still talking to Wisdom and mourning the death of Chuck) and goes through his file until he finds an old photo of the Team Venture Boys Brigade.
–Something seemed off when the scene began, as Phantom Limb clearly wasn’t balancing on his remaining invisible leg. We’ve never seen that his limbs could leave his body before, but since they’re not actually invisible limbs but are actually energy projections, it seems plausible. Yes, I just said that. I do love that each of his limbs has a name. Also, he seems to still be crazy. While all this is happening, Watch and Ward are trying to kill a bug instead of paying attention to the monitors, which is par for the course for those guys.
We’ve seen that picture of the Boys Brigade before, but it’s worth noting the members. Back when they were young, Phantom Limb, Richard Impossible, the Alchemist, and Bud Manstrong were all members.
“Number three is Golden Age Batman, and number four is Post-Crisis Batman. They’re like two completely different Batmen.” – Hank Venture
Hank and Dean sit down with Billy Quizboy, who’s serving as their guidance counselor. Hank’s list of possible careers includes “Drifter” and two different versions of Batman. Dean’s list notably does not include “Super scientist”, but Doc comes by to correct him. Billy asks to talk to Doc alone and explains that the boys are completely unprepared for the real world, and reveals that Hank didn’t graduate. Hank says he’s off to join the Army, which makes Sgt. Hatred very proud, until he realizes it’s not the real army. Doc and Dean leave to go check out some colleges.
–Billy almost got the quote header with “What kind of college is going to accept transcripts from a talking bed, anyway?”, but it’s hard to beat the Batman line. (Yeah, they are two very different Batmen.) It’s weird that the boys are old enough to graduate, but it does fit. The originals would be about twenty by now, but this set had their sixteenth birthday at the beginning of Season Two. They obviously aren’t working in real time, but “Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel” covered eight months by itself. This is all new territory for Doc, because none of the boys have ever made it to this age before. Interesting, too, that Dean very openly does not want to be a super scientist – he was showing an interest last season, but I think he’s been scared off.
“Oh, you’ve got an invisible hand. That’s neat.” – Professor Impossible
We see a group of homeless people outside the Impossible building, including Baron Underbheit and his advisor, as well as a disguised Phantom Limb (Who has his prosthetic arm and leg back). Limb kills a security guard and steals his clothes to sneak into Professor Impossible’s lab. Impossible is stretched out all over the room, and he has a row of urine jars on a table. He’s disheveled and incoherent. Limb proposes a partnership – he wants Impossible to recreate his phantom limbs. Just then, Impossible is attacked by another enemy – Dr. Phineas Phage. When Phage sees Phantom Limb, he flies off to tell the Guild. Phantom Limb slingshots himself into Phage and forces him to crash. Professor Impossible agrees to partner up.
–This is awesome. We haven’t seen Underbheit since Season Two. Professor Impossible was kind of phased out since he was voiced by Stephen Colbert, who they can’t afford anymore. Jackson played him once in Season Three, and that was the last we saw of him. Bill Hader’s taken over the role now, and he’s doing a good job – early in the episode, he sounds like Jackson’s version, beaten down by life and mired in depression, but by the end, he’s doing a darn good Colbert. I think this is Phage’s first appearance, though he might have been in a villain crowd scene or two. A phage is a virus that infects bacteria, and Phage looks like a model of one. Also, a phage is encased in protein, and his sidekicks are the Pro-Teens. He’s also a reference to Phineas Gage, who’s a famous case study from the 19th Century. When an explosion drove a spike through his head, it changed his personality drastically – his case advanced the study of psychology and neurology significantly. And of course, Impossible is based on Howard Hughes in this scene.
“I dare you to find somebody more qualified than me. I’ve been training under Brock my entire life. I’ve traveled to every continent on the globe, including Atlantis, outer space, and Brigadoon. I’ve been shot at, poisoned, stabbed, cudgeled, crocodiled, king cobraed, red anted, you name it, and I’m still standing. If that’s not the resume of a top-notch, super killer secret agent, I don’t know what is.” – Hank Venture
Hank arrives at SPHINX Headquarters, eager to sign up. Nobody pays attention to him, though. Hunter Gathers is in communication with Brock. Brock and his rookie partner are in a series of catacombs, and on the run. Rookie’s attempts to bypass a security door cause bars to drop over all the exits. Hunter tries to upload a security code, but then Hank tries to get their attention and accidentally knocks a plug out of the outlet, shutting them down. A group of gorillas in 17th century military outlets attacks Brock. Hunter yells at Hank and tells him take off, but Hank proudly details his experiences, prompting Hunter to let him try out.
–This might be my favorite joke in the whole episode. After Hank’s speech, one of the SPHINK guys gives him a slow clap and Hunter throws a phone at the guy’s head. I laughed so hard at that. Anyway, this part blows my prediction from last week out of the water – I thought that maybe we’d see SPHINX dealing with real-world dangers, but this week, Brock is fighting karate gorillas. Brock’s partner doesn’t have a name, his face is covered, and his voice is muffled – either he’ll be revealed as somebody we know, or else that’s what they want us to think and he’s really just a random guy in a full-face mask. And note that SPHINX apparently runs on one single power cord.
Brock makes a reference to the “Albert Merrill school” – that’s one of those vocational schools that used to advertise on TV a lot.
“Must be one of those Take Back the Night rallies. Great place to meet chicks, by the way.” – Dr. Venture
Doc and Dean arrive at State. There’s a commencement ceremony going on, and the speaker is Roy Brisby. Professor Impossible arrives, as he’s also a scheduled speaker, but he makes an excuse and heads to the bathroom. Phantom Limb, dressed like a cafeteria worker, is inside Richard. They separate. At SPHINX, Shore Leave shaves Hank’s head, returning him to his familiar hairstyle. Hunter ties him to a chair, and they leave. It takes Hank only a few seconds to get out of the ropes, and then there’s an insane training montage, interspersed with a scene of Phage talking to the Council.
–OK, I think this is going to be important. On the dais at the ceremony are representatives from General Consolidated Insurance. They’re more carefully rendered than the usual background characters, even though they don’t have any lines. We last heard about them in “Handsome Ransom”, when we saw their stamp on Billy and Pete’s ten million dollar check. There was never any explanation given for that check, General Consolidated Insurance has the same initials as the Guild of Calamitous Intent. I think there’s going to be a story there.
“I have an electric Grandpa bed that talks to me while I sleep.” – Dean Venture
Doc and Dean visit the Dean of Admissions. Doc hasn’t completed an application and assumes Dean can get in as a legacy student. Of course, Doc didn’t graduate and (allegedly) blew up a wing of the school. Dean is rejected as an applicant. Richard begins his speech, though he doesn’t have anything prepared, and watchmen from the Guild are lurking nearby. They release the Diamond Dogs, who track Phantom Limb to the basement where he found the machine he designed to create his limbs in the first place. The dogs attack Phantom Limb.
–Great joke here, too. The scene opens with Dr. Willard Harris telling Dean “I understand the confusion, but that’s my name, not my title.” Now, he could be referring to the fact that he’s the “Dean” of Admissions, but it’s much funnier to think that his first name is “Dr.” The Diamond Dogs and the Sovereign (David Bowie) last appeared in “Revenge Society” and of course, Diamond Dogs is the title of a Bowie album. It seems like a mistake that Phantom Limb has his work clothes on when he’s attacked, and then when he’s hopping across the quad, he’s in his original costume. I assume that he was wearing it underneath, and the Dogs shredded the outer layer, but still, his moustache changed colors… (I assume it’s jut an animation glitch from Korea, where they drew Phantom Limb “on model”, which didn’t quite fit the scene. No big deal, really.)
“I’ve been at this for over twenty years, and what to I have to show for it? Metal plate in my chest, Vatican karate gorilla blood on my hands, a foot locker full of Marlboro miles…” – Brock Samson
As part of his training, Hank’s in a flight simulator that’s actually a mind-eraser. Brock comes back from his mission, to find Hunter and Shore Leave trying to erase Hank’s mind. Hank’s OK, though, because he was wearing a tinfoil hat. Just then, the Guild closes in on Phantom Limb. Surrounded, he grabs one of the Diamond Dogs and uses it as both transportation and a weapon. He takes out his attackers while Richard distracts the students by turning into a flag and singing “My Country ‘tis of Thee”. And explosion knocks Phantom Limb into Richard, and there’s pandemonium. Later, Hank is crying in his room. Brock goes in to comfort him, and says that he passed the test, but to join SPHINX he needs a high-school diploma. At this point, Hank’s jammed diploma falls out of the printer. Brock then tells him that he also has to be 18.
–Once again, Brock’s new partner has his entire face covered. He’s either going to be important, or Jackson and Doc are just messing with us. The scene with Hank and Brock is really sweet – Brock seems like he’s able to express himself better than he used to, and I really like the way their relationship has developed. Also, Hank and Dean aren’t 18 yet. I was 18 when I graduated high school, but I went to, you know, regular school and not a learning bed. Still, he’d have to be close by now. And if the boys aren’t 18 yet, that means that everything since the Season Two premiere has spanned less than two years of their lives. No wonder Dean has panic attacks – it’s been a stressful two years!
“From now on, I’m Professor Incorrigible… Professor Indolent? Professor Infamous? Professor Indochina? Professor Inscrutable?” – Professor Impossible
In the Impossible Building, Professor Impossible restores Phantom Limb’s powers. He also has a new, evil-looking costume of his own. As he tries to come up with a new name for himself, Baron Underbheit and his advisor enter and ask if they can join.
–If they’re really going to have Phantom Limb, Underbheit, and Professor Impossible team up, that’s going to be awesome. I suspect there will be follow-up, because Phantom Limb isn’t a character they use for one-off jokes – he’s always important to the story when he appears. I’m so excited for what this portends.
Next week, the forces of good and evil have to team up, as a group of Centurions takes prisoners and pits them against one another in gladiatorial combat. I’m not going to lie – the preview looks awesome!
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