Setup episodes can be very tricky to pull off. They’ve got to provide enough information to set the stage for what is to come, and yet be entertaining in and of themselves. Too much information and the story becomes cluttered, and not very fun to watch. But make things too subtle, and the episode can seem like a one-off at best, a throwaway at worst. So how does “ORB”, an obvious setup episode, fare?
Pretty well, thankfully. The mystery kicks off in the cold open, as the too-smart-for-his-own-good Billy Quizboy pulls a Beautiful Mind and unravels a hidden message in his copies of the old Rusty Venture cartoon. It’s a set of coordinates leading to the Venture Compound, in what turns out to be Brock’s herb garden. When Brock refuses to help dig, it’s up to Hank to do the work and he finds…
Their long-dead dog, Scamp’s corpse. Past that he finds their treasure (a mystery box!), and in the process Dr. Venture, Hank, Dean, Billy, and Pete White spill into Brock’s room (in a hilarious scene that features some brilliant voice acting by Patrick Warburton). They take the treasure into the kitchen, and the tension builds until the mystery box is opened to reveal…
Yet another clue. Back in Brock’s room, he plays a gramophone cylinder left for him. It was recorded by famous strongman Eugen Sandow, who was apparently the bodyguard for one Col. Venture. The recording segues into a lushly illustrated flashback aboard a Victorian era dirigible, where we see an unnamed guild consisting of the greatest minds of the day, including Col. Venture, Mark Twain, Aleister Crowley, Oscar Wilde, and Fantômas (looking and sounding very much like Phantom Limb’s ancestor).
The guild, currently battling a rival faction led by Nikola Tesla, is concerned with a mysterious orb in their possession. While some (like Col. Venture and Wilde) wish to study the orb and find if it can be used to mankind’s benefit, others (Fantômas chief among them) want to tap its power for their own benefit now. Wilde’s rejoinder to Fantômas foreshadows the formation of the Guild of Calamitous Intent.
The only thing holding this scene back from true greatness was that once again, the formidable voice acting talents of the Venture crew are stretched a bit too thin. Crowley evoked Dr. Orhpeus too much, while I could clearly hear traces of the Monarch in Col. Venture. I’m sure the show’s budget isn’t seven figures, but more vocal variety would really help.
Back in the present, Sandow’s tale is interrupted when the cylinder ends, which leaves Brock to find the second one so he can learn what his next orders are. His path (and separately, that of Dr. Venture and Billy) takes him to New York City. Brock barely arrives after his car makes an attempt on his life, while Rusty suffers the indignity of wearing his old Rusty Venture outfit.
In a weird meeting with Col. Gathers (what is it with all the colonels on this show anyway?), Brock discovers that his real mission from O.S.I. is not to protect Dr. Venture, but to kill him should he discover and try to activate the orb hidden by Jonas Venture. He tracks down Kano to find out more about his mission, and finds him surprisingly talkative. We also get a strong hint that it was Kano who killed Jonas Venture, just as Sandow killed Col. Venture – in both cases to stop the orb from being activated.
Rusty and Billy, not surprisingly, have no luck when their quest brings them to Studio 54. But Rusty attempting to change Billy was totally worth it.
Back at the compound, Dr. Orpheus reviews Team Venture’s code-breaking and finds it a little lacking. So he calls the Alchemist for what is probably his funniest and most satisfying appearance yet. Using an old-fashioned dictionary, he pulls off a bit of deduction worthy of Sherlock Holmes and discovers the current resting place of the orb – the Whistler Wing of the Frick Museum (actually the Frick Collection).
As Rusty and Billy enter the Frick, Brock is right behind them, seemingly ready to carry out his deadly orders. The only thing that saves Dr. Venture is a rare display of restraint and common sense. And for the capper, a “Go Team Venture!” with a way-too-enthused Billy.
Wow, that’s a lot of stuff! Despite the sheer amount of dialogue and story development that took place in “ORB”, it did have a good share of action. It was also one of the more visually stunning episodes of the season. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing score by J.G. Thirwell, who has had some doozies this year.
So now it all comes down to the last two episodes of the season, and where it goes is anyone’s guess. Will the orb play yet another role or is it just a MacGuffin? What of the rekindled Venture/Monarch feud? Since Brock’s orders were not actually to protect Rusty, what now? And where the hell is Phantom Limb anyway?
Final grade: B+
- *shudder* “Congratulations, you’ve discovered pornography. Oh, that’s unsavory.”
- “I could save 1.3 miles if I take Ridge Street.”
- “All you’ve proved is that you’re way too into cartoons, and that I should find out why I haven’t seen dime one from those DVD sales.”
- “Fine! When I got assigned this ridic…important assignment…”
- “I think I have heat stroke.” “You have lollygagger’s syndrome, that’s what you have.”
- “Is this a rec room? Please tell me there’s bumper pool.”
- “And if poison gas should come out and kill us, I just want to tell you that I was the one who carved Dean’s name into the bathroom door.”
- So Oscar Wilde gets credit for naming the Guild of Calamitous Intent. Cool.
- “Man, the poor chump who came up with this riddle didn’t bank on us having the internet, huh?”
- The best line of the whole season: “Rusty Venture – brought to you by smoking!”
- “Next season will be all about the man capris.”
- “Master Rusty has found orb? Did he find it under the couch while looking for change?”
- Hank and Dean TP’ing Orpheus while he astral projected was frigging gold.
- “Achh, internet. It’s only good for finding out that your boyfriend is sleeping around. Friggin’ MySpace. What, I’m not supposed to look at his friends’ comments? They’re right on the first page! That’s hardly snooping.”
- Rusty walking right past Billy as he crawled along his rope was great.
- “We haven’t found it yet so keep your pants on.” “Why, you planning on taking them off again?”