Red goes to war as Rochelle and Gustav catch a bug man
Credit: Michael Parmelee/CBS
S1 E8
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Of all the strange, irreverent things that happen on BrainDead (the brain-eating bugs, the salami sex scenes, the obsession with The Cars), one of my personal favorites has to be the upbeat musical recaps at the top of each episode. Jonathan Coulton’s jangly tunes are always weird and extremely catchy, but tonight’s — which devolved into one of those overly cheerful ads for medication — just might take the cake. It’s the kind of commercial that features happy heterosexual couples running through a field at sunset and spinning around in a sun-drenched winery. The only catch? This ad is for ants from outer space, and as Coulton sings, “Get space bugs in your head!” it raises an interesting question: Are the space bugs really that bad?

That’s what this episode tries to answer, as Laurel, Gustav, and Rochelle find themselves face-to-face with infected people. Gustav and Rochelle managed to successfully rescue Laurel from her torturous fate last week, but Red is now out for blood, especially after being embarrassed in front of the Senate torture committee. He’s keen to find out exactly who hijacked the committee meeting, so he asks Gareth to pull up Capitol security footage to identify the culprits.

Red: “Those two black people, who are they? And I’m not being racist. I’m just being descriptive. If they were dwarves, I’d say, ‘Those two dwarves.’”

Gareth: “I don’t think you can say dwarves either.”

Red: “Good thing they’re not dwarves.”

Red has one of his infected cronies tail Rochelle home to her extremely nice apartment. She also apparently has a rocking horse in her living room (?), which serves no purpose except to rock ominously in the breeze and tip her (and us) off that something’s not quite right. Rochelle’s smart, so between the creepy rocking horse, an open window, and the fact that all her kitchen knives are missing, it doesn’t take long to figure out there’s someone hiding in her apartment. So she does the logical thing: She grabs a leg of lamb from the freezer and bludgeons her attacker.

His box cutter is no match for her lamb leg, and after she knocks him unconscious, she coolly calls Gustav and tells him, “I caught one.” Rochelle is the coolest, smartest, most badass person on this show, and I love her. Go Rochelle.

Now Rochelle and Gustav have a real live bug person (with a tin-foil helmet on to prevent him from sending telepathic signals to all his bug cohorts) tied up in her apartment! His name is Kevin, he tells them, and he didn’t mean Rochelle any harm: He just wanted to steal all her knives. Uh-huh. “What’s the bug agenda?” Gustav asks him. “The bug agenda! What is it? Are you from outer space?!”

They get him drunk. Forcibly. It’s enough to get him talking, and Kevin starts to clear up a few of Rochelle and Gustav’s questions. Why the aversion to alcohol and the penchant for green juices? It doesn’t affect the bugs; they just prefer a human who’s not intoxicated (and easier to pilot). Why the political extremism? If the world is setting itself on fire, it’s less likely to notice the bug invasion.

As for Laurel, she’s got problems of her own. Rochelle and Gustav noticed her father, Dean, was sending out high-pitched frequencies, with all signs pointing to bug infestation. She is, of course, panicked her father might be infected, so she checks him carefully for signs of hearing loss and digs through his medicine cabinet — where she finds medication for Parkinson’s disease. (I’m not sure why she was snooping through his medicine cabinet if she thought he was infested with bugs, but whatever.) Confused, she confronts Luke, who confirms it: Yes, their dad has a terminal case of Parkinson’s and has between six months and a year to live.

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It’s an emotional bombshell for Laurel, but it still doesn’t quite assuage her fears that her dad has been infected. So, she does the unthinkable, going to Dean’s mistress, a Capitol tour guide named Terri. Apparently her married father has been having an affair with this woman for 15 years. She and Laurel have an obviously strained relationship, but Terri does confirm that Dean stopped having sex with her. That, coupled with Dean’s hearing loss and his sudden interest in juicing, is enough for Laurel to confront her father and ask him point blank: Is he infected?

Yes, he says. He is.

NEXT: War and peace

“Look, I’m still here,” Dean tells her. “I’m still your dad.” He argues the bugs aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Think of them as a helpful parasite, he tells her. After all, he’s now perfectly healthy, with no signs of Parkinson’s at all. And not only is it a positive thing for him, but it’s a positive thing for the rest of the world, too. She begs him to fight the bugs, to use the right side of his brain, but even if he could, he says he doesn’t want to. To fight would be resigning himself to his disease — and his short life expectancy.

As much as she loves her father, Laurel knows that whatever Dean is now, he isn’t her dad. So she does the only thing she can do: try to protect her mom. Telling her Dean has brain-eating bugs in his ear is a non-starter, so she instead tells her Dean has been seeing Terri again. It’s pretty devastating for Laurel to know the only way to save her mom from being infected is to break up her parents’ marriage, but at least it works.

Meanwhile, Red is on the warpath — literally. His attempts to pin the CHIs on Laurel and Islamic terrorism failed, so instead he calls a meeting of the Select Intelligence Committee and brings in a witness of his own: a self-professed Islamic terrorist who claims to have developed a chemical injection that makes heads explode. The witness also says his research was sponsored by Syria, and by the time he finishes his testimony, Red is 100-percent ready to declare war. The witness adds that these supposed chemical injections were given to both humans and live zoo animals.

Red pulls up adorable photos of baby pandas and baby seals to drive the point home, and by the time he’s done, Ella’s gunning for battle, too. (To be fair, I’d be about ready to declare war if someone told me a country was intentionally making baby pandas’ heads explode.)

At this point, Ella and Red are ready to declare war on Syria. But first, they have to top the Gareth-Laurel salami/chocolate incident with BrainDead‘s weirdest sex scene yet. A massive male bug climbs out Ella’s ear, while the queen bee flutters out of Red’s. The two enormous space bugs then proceed to mate on Red’s desk, all while Red and Ella stare at each other, talking dirty in a monotone voice. Okay then.

After that EXTREMELY WEIRD interlude, the CIA visits the Select Intelligence Committee, informing Luke, Red, and Ella that despite Red’s warmongering, there is absolutely no evidence Syria has been funding research into chemically induced head explosions. It looks like the cries for war may be quieted, until Ella and Red both go on live TV and tell the world they’re “shocked” by what the CIA told them. It’s enough to make the entire country call for declarations of war on Syria. Who needs evidence and proof when you misleading statements with which to rile up the masses? Looks like BrainDead is indeed heading off to war.

Odds and ends

Number of times we hear “You Might Think”: One. Rochelle and Gustav play it backwards in an attempt to get Kevin to talk. It doesn’t work, but he does tell them dreamily, “It is the most beautiful song ever written.”

Grossest moment: So about that bug sex scene with Ella and Red… Well, it is a thing that happened. Huh.

Best lines:

  • The aforementioned exchange between Red and Gareth about dwarves.
  • Kevin: “I just wanted to steal your knives and get out of here.”
  • Ella: “This is what a baby seal looks like before its head is exploded.”
  • Rochelle: “Are they from outer space? The bugs?”

    Kevin: “Yeah. Don’t say aliens. They don’t like the word aliens.”

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