Married with Children... All Things Episodic
0522 - "Route 666, Part One"
"I thought YOU was Zeke!"
And so to the end of the fifth season. Route 666 plunders the series'
past by stealing its plot from We'll Follow the Sun and Poppy's by the
Tree. This does happen after a very good scene in the Bundy household,
though, one that allows us the closest glimpse we ever get of Al's Polk
High certificate. Presumably the other one is Peg's, newly gained just
last season? However, with almost indecent haste (and after a series of
somewhat dull cutaways) the plot shifts to Lucifer, New Mexico. Once
again MWC demonstrates that it considers itself an urban show, as
country folk are mercilessly ridiculed just as in Poppy's, just as with
Wanker County, Zemus and Ida Mae and so on. When they visit other
cities, like Las Vegas in You Gotta Know When to Fold 'Em, the
population is safe from mockery. However, if you live in Dumpwater or
Lucifer....well, the point should be obvious by now. Route 666 is a
superior example, though, as Al and the others are duped and tricked
all the way through. The running gag of the bottle opener and Young
Zeke's "accountant" joke show that there are hidden elements within
the script that suggest the episode is more about urban stupidity than
it is rural backwardness. One odd point about this story is that a
couple of jokes are identical to those found in other episodes;
particularly Peg's comment about "the ride" when propositioned by the
Zekes (At the Zoo) and Al's feet causing mass panic (The Gypsy Cried).
Hopefully it isn't the first sign of the show resting on its laurels...
"How dare you tell us Al was dead? The whole neighbourhood was jumping
up and down singing 'Ding Dong, the Shoeman's Dead'!" (Marcy)
There are a couple of other flaws in the episode that stop it from being
a true classic, and most of these lie in the characterisation. Whereas
Peg comes off well - indeed, outside of the Bundy household, have you
ever noticed that Peg swiftly becomes the leader and does a rather good
job? - the two Bundy children in particular suffer from being reduced to
ciphers, as if the writer just glanced at a previous episode and picked
a few traits. Having Kelly 'dance' for the Zekes is particularly
unfunny, though her line about driving the Dodge is pretty witty. Bud
too has nothing to do but follow his father, laughing at the latter's
jokes and going along with schemes. His initial treachery may be the
cause of the whole story but this brief spark fades rapidly. Even Al
seems to be coasting along in neutral for this episode. He gives in on
the question of the bottle opener, lets the Zekes ogle "his pumpkin" and
proposition his wife, goes partners with the Darcys without thinking,
and generally behaves quite unlike Al (again, except for the opening
scene in Chicago). The most embarrassing award for overacting obviously
goes to Jefferson's "gold fever" speech, which is so glaringly out of
place that it makes you cringe to watch it for the first time, let alone
on playback. The use of the Darcys to rescue the Bundys, particularly
straight after You Better Shop Around, is also hard to believe. Would
they have driven to New Mexico? Would they have sent the money at all?
Perhaps Jefferson, new to Jeopardy Lane, would have done so, but Marcy
knew better. Their involvement in the story just fails to convince. And
I shall draw a veil over the dreadful "to be continued" voiceover.
"Can we drop in on Hef?" (Bud)
"Can we visit Garfield's House?" (Kelly)
"Can I buy a bra at Francine's of Hollywood?" (Peg)
It isn't all bad, and at least the two episodes hang together reasonably
well (more on this in the review for Part Two). As already noted, the
scene in Chicago is good, as is the idea of Kelly driving the Dodge and
some of the byplay between Al and the Zekes. The guest actors themselves
are unusually good and well-characterised, with good differences between
them rather than being "Bundy triggers" as many secondary characters
are. Jefferson's solution to the bottle opener problem is extremely
funny, and it's no wonder the audience goes wild. However, these are odd
flashes of diamond amongst the rhinestone, and the episode isn't enough
to match some of the real classics that have been going on this season.
Rating : 6.5.
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