The passengers come up with a conspiracy theory to explain their dire circumstances as Captain Clark begins wigging out himself.

By Jodi Walker
March 09, 2020 at 10:20 AM EDT
Credit: Nick Wall/HBO

Avenue 5

S1 E8
  • TV Show
  • HBO

Why throw enough teddy bears and golf clubs out of the Avenue 5 to equal 500 people’s body weight when — if you just give them long enough — those 500 people might convince themselves that they’ve been living in a space simulation for the last six months, and happily walk themselves right off the ship and into outer space where their eyeballs will explode out of their sockets in the less-than-one-second it takes for their bodies to freeze straight through?

These are the existential questions that pose themselves aboard the Avenue 5, where focus has finally turned away from the constellation of glowing turds orbiting the ship, and back to the actual s—show happening inside it.

Since realizing that shedding the weight of 500 people could cut their ETA to Earth down from three-and-a-half years to six months, Karen has started coordinating the collection of non-essential items to toss in lieu of the original tossing plan from a few episodes ago: her husband, Frank. For Karen, non-essential items include loafers but not stilettos, and children’s animals of both the stuffed and living variety: “Oh my, this is going to be a tough life lesson, right?”

For his part, Captain Clark is working hard under Billie’s tutelage to learn to fly the ship since his fingerprints are the only ones paired with the emergency protocol when it comes time to dock the Avenue 5. It’s not going great! “Was that a good explosion?” Captain Clark asks when the flight simulator blows up on all of the screens surrounding him?” “Well… we were in it,” Billie replies, and at this point, that could be spun as a positive or a negative. Because no one living aboard the Avenue 5 is doing very well right now, including Herman Judd, whose self-described moods exclusively include “elation and genius.”

But when Judd hears from Matt that Captain Clark has a major sedatives problem, and subsequently hears from Captain Clark that the sedatives he was collecting were in fact intended to sedate Judd during the recent beeping incident, Judd fires Captain Clark. Which Captain Clark quickly matches by quitting, announcing: “I’m done tugging my forelock—in fact, you can fucking have my forelock!” If, like me, you weren’t familiar with the term “forelock,” it’s the front bit of one’s hair. And if, like me, you have a passing familiarity with Hugh Laurie’s hairline, but have grown accustomed to Captain Clark’s picture perfect coif, then prepare for perhaps the biggest twist of Avenue 5’s extremely twisty plot thus far…

“You’re British and bald,” Iris screams as Captain Clark tugs his wig off revealing a completely average head of middle-aged hair. “Balding,” Captain Clark clarifies as the nearby passengers begin breaking into hysterics with the realization that not only is their captain balding, he’s also their former captain now. “Re-hair yourself, please,” Judd begs. “I’ll re-captain you!”

But Captain Clark doesn’t want to be re-captained. He heads back out into the Avenue 5 as a civilian, and Spike is named the interim captain of the ship. That’s when things really start going downhill. Not because Spike is a bad captain, but because he actually has a working knowledge of how space ships should function, and a bridge deck full of models who say the same three lines over and over isn’t a part of that. And while Spike is catching onto something shady on the bridge, the Avenue 5 passengers have begun to connect a few (less credible) dots of their own.

One particularly vocal passenger works in VFX — “that stands for visual effects,” she’ll be quick to tell you — back on Earth, and she starts spreading the word that some things aboard the Avenue 5 seem reminiscent of a movie set. Like the captain suddenly being out of costume and speaking in a different accent…and the décor falling off the walls like cheap props…and the bridge crew openly admitting to being actors. And while all of that is certainly suspicious, and could make one think that perhaps all of this chaos has actually just been some sort of simulation for a reality show, and maybe they’ve actually remained on earth this whole time…

None of it should be enough to convince a grown adult that they should go through the airlock and test that theory. But as Captain Clark says to the mob mounting near the airlock yelling that they’re clearly on a reality show: “Wow, you guys are stupid, even for rich people.”

“Hey, don’t talk to rich people like that!” Judd defends. Because even he — the owner of this ship — is getting a little confused by the argument that none of this is real, and maybe if they just go through the airlock, they’ll be whisked away to a green room and back to their families. The couple that left their son in a coma to come on a luxury vacation are particularly convinced by this argument, so when Matt announces the air lock code in an attempt at a sort of reverse psychology (and his armchair psychologist rap sheet had been flawless to this point!), the father of the coma-son rushes into the airlock. The outer doors open to release him either to outer space or a production set, and everyone looks on hopefully…

As his eyeballs explode out of their sockets, his body freezes, and he floats out into the great unknown. Which VFX lady naturally convinces everyone could have just been done with special effects. So then the man’s wife and Mr. Harrison decide to take their stab at getting back to earth, rushing the airlock themselves. And when the doors open…

Their eyes explode out of their sockets, and their bodies freeze, and they float out into space. In the chaos of it all, Sarah/Sara charges the airlock along with three other passengers, and their eyeballs explode, their bodies freeze, et cetera, et cetera. “Well you laughing gnome, you still think it’s visual fucking effects?” Captain Clark asks.

“Okay, well the ‘f’ doesn’t stand for ‘f—ing,’ but I will admit that I’m on the fence,” VFX lady replies after watching 14 individual eyeballs explode.

During all of this, Rav is making her way toward the Avenue 5 aboard the supplies rocket that only has one available seat for the return to earth, and since Judd intends on taking it, Rav has had to spend the ride convincing herself that maybe life aboard a luxury space ship with just a slight prison vibe is still overall better than the media frenzy she’s been dealing with at Mission Control. As juuust as she’s about made it to that mental conclusion…seven eyeball-less bodies hit the windshield of the supplies rocket.


Iris and Billie were particularly savage this episode. “Back off buddy, or you will feel my wrath,” Iris tells Mr. Harrison when he threatens Mr. Judd. “I am fire — literally fire — and I will burn the jelly in your fat eyes and use your tongue to wipe surfaces with!”

“These people are so dumb. I am just hanging out with pigs and dolphins when we get back.” –Billie, not wrong, as usual

While collecting non-essential items to eject from the ship, Karen tells people to ask themselves if they would exchange their trinkets for a human life: “Because basically everything we own right now — blood diamonds.” While Matt goes full Kondo for all items, including teddy bears: “Here’s what we’re gonna do little man, we’re gonna thank him for his service — and then send him to his death.”

The Future Is Now: “You guys know bloody marys? It’s an old drink named after this woman who liked to set Protestants on fire.” “I’m just gonna listen to this true crime podcast about that Greta Gerwig thing … everyone has a theory on it.”

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Avenue 5

  • TV Show
  • 1
  • Sundays at 10:00 PM
  • HBO