'The Middleman' ain't afraid of no ghosts
Though my DVR mocked and tortured me, it could not rob me of the joy I derived from The Middleman when I finally got to watch it. The pop culture Easter Egg hunt is always good times, especially when it's centered around one of my favorite movies.
While Ida is monitoring local police radio chatter, she gets a ping off of what is seemingly a prank call from a fraternity boy named Lewis who saw ghost at a soroity house he infiltrated as a pledge mission. When the Middleteam go to question him, his in drag...very obvious, comically terrible drag.
He recently had surgery that removed a piece of his brain, which they later discover makes him capable of both seeing and hearing spirits. As The Middleman is not able to go in, Wendy must go undercover at Omega Theta Nu to investigate. Lacey's mom, Dr. Barbara Thornfield PhD, was luckily an Omega so Lacey is able to teach Dubby the secret handshakes and songs.
Once in the house, she's greeted by Eleanor Draper (played wonderfully by Ashley Johnson) and Ali, a Omega that's less than friendly initially. Eleanor takes her on a tour of the house and, using special sunglasses that simulate the ability to see ghosts but not hear them, Wendy sees a host of beautifully dressed and frantic ghosts...one of which is standing next to her body. Her living, breathing body.
Wendy excuses herself to the bathroom and communicates with MM over the watch. Before she can take readings with her PKE meter, she sites one of the Moscow Rules (Always trust your gut) and signs off. Opening the door she finds Ali snooping. They bond when Dubby discusses the Secret Identity Issue of the Week with her and Ali is shocked that she knows the secret handshake. Ali is about to tell Wendy something big when Eleanor shows up and interrupts them.
Later, Wendy follows the ghosts and they frantically point at their house photo. The only person not listed Eleanor and every girl who's an officer has a ghost. Suddenly, someone throws a pillowcase over Dubby's head and drags her away, breaking her special sunglasses. She presses the panic button on her watch but soon discovers it wasn't needed. Ali had "kidnapped" her and brought her outside so the Omegas could welcome her with their special song. She takes this moment to tell Dubby about how the officers were acting weird and voted to let Eleanor in. It also illustrates how they don't know the dance or any of the other Omega traditions. When MM shows up in a tizzy, they pretend to be brother and sister and he whisks her away to deal with a "family emergency."
Doing some research on Eleanor at MiddleHQ, they discover she's a physics genius - essentially a mad scientist in training. They go back to campus and Wendy enlists Lewis' help to translate for her at the Omega house...in drag. The ghosts reveal the location of Eleanor's secret lab. When MM gets there, Eleanor is there to greet him. She was ticked that the Omegas wouldn't let her pledge so she built a machine that enabled her fellow physics outcasts to take over the bodies of the officers. She plans to throw a party so full of debauchery, it will get the Omegas dismantled and possibly even destroy the whole Greek system. It's a shame that MM's energy gun and MiddleWatch are blocked in her lab. It would've been nice to alert Dubby on what was going on before Eleanor hooked herself up to the machine and took over MM body.
Wendy runs into Faux MM outside of the lab. She/He tells Dubby that everything is taken care of and to go home. Not able to concentrate thanks to the Secret Identity Issue, she calls Ali and hears the party going on in the background. Ali also tells her that MM is there and living it up. With Lewis (in normal clothes) in tow translating for MM, they make it to the party and break it up using a B.U.M.M.E.R. bomb...which does exactly what it sounds like it does. Faux MM and Wendy then engage in fisticuffs, with Faux MM the eventual winner.
Faux MM escapes to MiddleHQ and rigs their computer system to explode, disabling the communicators in the process. Ida crawls through the vents with a tranquiler gun while Wendy and Lewis go to Eleanor's lab. They disable the machine and everyone returns to their proper bodies (though Ida tranqs MM anyway because she doesn't believe it's really him).
Assorted Bits & Pieces
- The aforementioned Secret Identity Crisis of the Week is all thanks to Tyler Ford, Wendy's soul mate who got two-day amnesia and didn't remember meeting her after getting pummeled by luchadors. He shows up at MiddleHQ trying to piece together the events of those lost days. Ida shoos him away before Dubby can talk to him. Fortunately for her, Tyler shows up outside her apartment building. He'd received a check from the Booty Chest (the pirate themed restaurant with scantily clad waitresses) and they told him he'd been flirting with a waitress there whom he believes to be his soul mate. The only problem is he thinks it's Lacey. Since she can't be with MM, Wendy decides to step aside and let them date. But the sparks are still there, something made super-evident over the topic of zombie movies. Before going to disable Eleanor's machine, Lacey calls Wendy and Ali grabs the phone. She tells Lacey that Dubby is still into Tyler much to Wendy's dismay. After all is said and done, Lacey confirms that she and Tyler didn't have a spark and that Wendy should go after him, which she successfully does.
- The only slight problem is that, since Tyler was a Middleman candidate like Wendy, he'll be harder to keep in the dark. MM had already told her to keep an eye on him when he was theoretically dating Lacey so I doubt this will make things any easier. That being said, I'm glad they brought him back. He's very likable and it's nice for Wendy to not be involved with a d-bag. My only worry is that they're subtly setting him up to be a bad guy. Like, the anti-Middleman.
- Not only were there the slew of Ghostbusters references (Reitman University, 55 Ray Parker Jr. Avenue, communication code names of "Gatekeeper" and "Key Master"), there were quite a few Animal House bits in the episode as well. Apropos not only because of the whole college/Greek system theme but because Harold Ramis (who played Egon) co-wrote both films.
- Okay, just two more references I couldn't keep to myself - whilst profiling Eleanor, Ida mentions that she won the "Egon Spangler Award for Excellence in Physics" and was on the list for the "Evoh Shandler Medal". I'm sure I spelled that second one wrong.
- Tyler and Wendy's conversations about zombie movies brought up the concept of a "Zombie Palette Cleanser" - a pre-Night of the Living Dead movie so bad that it makes Wendy appreciate NotLD that much more. I like the concept. It'd be like watching Fair Game before re-watching Die Hard.
- At one point MM exclaims (via Lewis), "Great Caesar's Ghost!" Didn't Adam West's Batman use this same exclamation from time to time?
- Speaking of exclamations, Wendy says "Holy Wachowski Brothers!" upon seeing Eleanor's body transfer machine in a very Boy Wonder manner. Not only does this continue the whole sidekick theme that been carried through the episodes, it also not-so-subtly alerts the people at home of a reference they might've missed - the machine, with everyone hooked up to it, has a very Matrix look to it.
- There were no beams to cross in this episode nor was there mood-altering slime.
Quotes of the Week
"It may all seem like light and magic at first, but the next thing you know the walls are bleeding and you've got 25 pregnant women running around screaming 'Mary! Mary! Mary!' and clawing their eyes out with knitting needles while your own hair grows to three times its length and tries to strangle you." - MM's increasingly fevered explanation to Wendy about the graveness of dealing with ghosts
"I hate those exclusive sluts!" - Eleanor to MM after he confirmed her motivations for revenge
"Omega Theta Nu. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy." - Wendy, in a dramatic voice, upon arriving at the party
"Muscle memory, bitch." - Eleanor to Dubby before slapping her while inhabiting MM's body
"Holy Wachowski Brothers!" - Wendy, in a very Robin the Boy Wonder manner, upon seeing Eleanor's machine
"I think of you as...a brother. And, in return, you should feel comfortable speaking to me as if I was one of your woman-friends." - Middleman to Wendy about being able to talk to him about her problems
Did you catch any references I missed? Have any favorite moments from the episode? Are you as happy to see Tyler again as I am? Any other thoughts?