By Amy Ryan
Updated August 03, 2020 at 07:26 PM EDT
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[WARNING: This item contains spoilers from last night’s season premiere of South Park, ”The Return of Chef!”]

I wish Kyle’s eloquent eulogy for Chef (”We shouldn’t be mad at Chef for leaving us. We should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains.”) could be the final word on the matter, but unfortunately, the episode left us with some burning questions.

First, is Chef really dead, or did his apparent post-funeral seduction by the dark side and transformation into a Darth Vader-esque figure mean he’ll be back as a villain with a different voice? Was the use of previously recorded clips of Isaac Hayes voice a clever way to get around his absence or a churlish slap at the actor for quitting as he did?

Did calling Chef’s brainwashers the ”Super Adventure Club” provide enough allegorical cover to keep Trey Parker and Matt Stone from feeling the legal wrath of the Church of Scientology? Did equating Scientologists with child molesters (besides being grossly unfair and mean-spirited) tarnish the memory of a beloved mentor character?

Finally, I’m really starting to worry about Hayes; are Parker and Stone really suggesting he’s been brainwashed? Is this their way of confirming rumors (here and here) that an ailing Hayes didn’t want to quit but was pressured, and that the statement attributed to him blasting the show’s religious bigotry was written against his wishes?

I wasn’t kidding yesterday when I said I hoped this was all just a big publicity ploy to drum up viewers for last night’s premiere, but the gruesome send-off makes me fear that there’s more ugliness to come.

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