The Wife:

We’re only one episode away from the season finale of Reaper (and the series finale, most likely), so I was happy to see an episode that focused so heavily on steering the masterplot, with very little distraction from a meaningless subplot. In fact, let’s just talk about that subplot now to get it out of the way. Nina sets Sock up with one of her demon friends, but Sock doesn’t like Maggie because she’s not as hot as Nina. (Although, let’s face it, she is a very pretty girl who just prefers to be a tomboy.) So Maggie tells Sock she can look like anything he wants, and he agrees to go out with her again if she’ll change into his dream girl. Thus, he spends time making a Frankensteiny collage of lady parts he likes and hands it to Maggie, who agrees to show up for their next date looking like his dream girl. Only when she shows up, she’s just herself, all to teach Sock a lesson that he doesn’t really learn and won’t grow from at all. It was lame, yes, but I liked the actress who played Maggie, Catherine Reitman (daughter of Ivan), who also had a bright cameo on the abysmal Kath & Kim as the high school friend Kim kinda goes gay for. (According to IMDB, she’s also a bridesmaid in I Love You, Man, but I was probably too distracted by those adorable yellow J. Crew dresses to notice who was wearing them.)

Taking a dig at the soullessness of corporate America, The Devil sets Sam up with a job at one of his companies. But, you see, the company doesn’t actually make or do anything – it’s just a shell corporation from which The Devil harvests souls by encouraging them to do evil things. Sam fits right in when he accidentally shoves a rival out the window after this architect’s design tanks because of Sam’s suggestion at a pitch meeting. (That suggestion, by the way, was to do nothing.) Meanwhile, The Devil shows Sam around the company, taking him all the way up to the 75th floor, from which demons in The Devil’s employ have a sort of soul stock market, tracking the evil things down by the employees on lower floors and delighting when one does something, like, say, throwing another out a window, the Hellish equivalent of a big Wall Street sale.

Welcome to the 75th floor, buying and trading sin 24/7.

Welcome to the 75th floor, buying and trading sin 24/7.

The Devil also points out a portal to Hell on the 75th floor, which is only accessible by keycard. Immediately, Sam thinks this would be a great way to get to his dad, who sent him a text earlier stating that he got what he needed to get Sam out of his contract, but was stuck in the 3rd circle. Humans can’t go through Hell portals, but Demons can, so Sam asks Tony to go, only now that he has Lil’ Stevi, he can’t leave her with a babysitter for that long. After receiving a promotion from his boss for offing a coworker and getting access to the 75th floor, Sam gets Nina to go to Hell for him and retrieve the info from Mr. Oliver. She’s hesitant to go, fearing that a trip to Hell will bring back all those nasty habits she’s been trying to quit, but she agrees to go as long as she doesn’t have to stay more than 24 hours. Sam et al go on a recon mission to get Nina into that Hell portal, and all goes well . . . until Sam’s boss realizes that Sam didn’t push Phil out the window at all, that it was merely an accident Sam took credit for. This is enough to get Sam fired, meaning he loses his key card to get to the 75th floor, leaving Nina trapped in Hell.

The gang stages a plan to steal a keycard from Sam’s boss by breaking into his gym locker while Sock distracts him in the sauna, a plan which goes a little more smoothly than expected when they’re able to convince a janitor to pop open the lock with a skeleton key, rather than wait out Ben’s time-tested “trying every combination of numbers starting with 000” method. As the gang heads up to the 75th floor, they’re only a few minutes ahead of Sam’s boss, who realizes when he gets in the next elevator up that he doesn’t have his keycard. Instead of merely standing around, he turns into his demon self and tears through the top of the elevator carrel before shimmying his way up the shaft via the cables. Nina emerges from the Hell portal just in time, with bossman clawing his way through the steel doors of the elevator shaft on the 75th floor, and Sam begs her to fly him and Ben out of there . . . only to find out when they arrive home safely that the paper Nina imported from Hell is blank. After some thought, Nina realizes the paper needs to be consumed in flames to be read, so she tosses it on the outdoor grill where it reveals an ancient demon text, one the gang will have to translate in order to find out what kind of contest Sam will challenge The Devil to in the season finale.

Contests I think Sam could win:

  • a drinking contest (maybe; I bet The Devil can hold his liquor pretty well)
  • a laziness contest (although, sloth is a sin, so maybe The Devil would win that anyway, even if Sam won outright)
  • a skateboarding contest
  • a Hybrid car race
  • a paintball tournament
  • a Super Smash Brothers tournament
  • a soul-catching contest, which would be pretty neat, actually, if Sam could beat The Devil at the job he reluctantly does and hates doing

Speaking of which, I did not miss the soul-catching element of the show at all this week as the stuff with the masterplot was rather satisfying – way more well-done than in “No Reaper Left Behind.”

Other amusing things:

  • Nina and Ben’s lengthy discussion of how Ben will pamper Nina when she returns from Hell, which quickly turns into a list of Ben’s various cleanliness hangups. “Okay, baby. We can squat in the shower together.”
  • “I change three times a day, kiddo. This is my afternoon suit.” – The Devil
  • And suddenly, I want to see a fierce-off suit fashion show between The Devil and Barney Stinson, mashed up to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band. This must already exist on the internet, no? If it doesn’t, someone needs to make it.
  • Know who else looks good in a suit? Bret Harrison. Turtlenecks are really wrong on him, but he is deliciously cute in a suit and tie.
  • “I’ve done a lot of personal development and detoxing to stop craving the sounds of people in agony.” – Nina
  • The extent to which Ben dabbles in architecture: underwater hotels for 360-degree ocean views.

The Wife:

Now that Andi’s been demoted, she’s happy to help Sam and the boys fight evil . . . just not date evil. And their assignment this week involved capturing their high school biology teacher, Mr. Sprong (Mad TV‘s Michael McDonald), who was a giant soul-crushing douchebag to every single one of his students. Or so they think, until they hit Sprong with the vessel (a mallet) and realize that he’s human and bleeding and unconscious. The team has no choice but to tie up Sprong so that he doesn’t call the authorities, at which point they realize that Sprong wasn’t the soul, but his target. The soul is actually Jordy Boone, a former student of Sprong’s taking revenge on those who made his life hell. Jordy always thought he was invisible, and now he can be, able to disappear and reappear anytime and place he chooses. To best protect Sprong from Jordy and themselves from getting in trouble, they decide to kidnap Sprong and keep him under house arrest. Because of Jordy’s ability to disappear, they have a lot of trouble locating him, but The Devil doesn’t care because he’s already so impressed with the Sprong situation:

“I’m a very proud papa bear. Kidnapping? Assault? You’re way more twisted than I could have hoped!”

Im real proud of you, Sammy!

I'm real proud of you, Sammy!

Meanwhile, Nina is in demon heat, so skeevy demons keep hitting on her and attacking the house. This upsets Ben, and he wants to fight for Nina’s honor, but she tells him that insane, because he’s breakable and she doesn’t want him to die. (Has Ben already forgotten that Nina already lost one human lover?) She tries to protect Ben by offering to wait out her week-long heat in a secure, unknown location, but Ben can’t bear the thought of being without her, so she promises she’ll stay as long as Ben doesn’t do anything stupid . . . like . . . say . . . make a robot suit to protect him when he decides to fight of Nina’s chief demon suit, Xavier. The robot suit was actually really funny, and a classic Sock idea. I have made robot suits like that for a stage production I did in college of Hamlet on the Moon (it makes more sense than you think it does), so that was extra funny to me. And so Ben charged off like a roboknight in high-gloss armor to fight Xavier, only to be humped by him because he’s inadvertently been covered in Nina’s scent. Demon violation? Funny.

Other than inventing robot suits, Sock is in Ted’s good graces for sticking by the new Interim Store Manager in his time of need, so, to show his gratitude, Ted asks Sock to be the posterboy for the Work Bench. Though Sock assumes he’ll be donning the Bench’s apron and grinning in his ads, he’s actually asked to wear a wrench costume and become the store’s mascot, Wrenchy Bench. Sock zooms to unexpected popularity as Wrenchy, becoming the beloved celebrity of any kids dragged into the Bench by their parents. That is, until he’s slapped with a cease and desist order from a competing store, which claims Wrenchy infringes on their own mascot, Brandon the Hammer. Sock refuses to stop being Wrenchy and eventually gets into a tool fight with Brandon the Hammer, who turns out to be an old lady. There really is nothing better than watching people in mascot costumes fight.

Eventually, Sam and the gang figure that they have to let Sprong go to lure Jordy, but they return home to find that Nina left to go eat a moose and Sprong has attempted to escape, which lures Jordy right to them. They try to vessel him, but to no avail. He even takes Andi and threatens to kill her if they don’t let him kill Sprong, at which point Sprong agrees to let Jordy kill him, all the while holding the vessel behind his back, waiting to strike. Free of the soul, Sprong runs away and the gang faces the reality of their actions: they might all soon be doing some serious jail time for kidnapping and felony assault. But just when it seems as though the cops are there to arrest them, the officers reveal that they’re investigating a complaint from Sprong, whom they fear has suffered a mental breakdown talking about invisible people and magic mallets, checking to see if the persons mentioned in his complaint are okay. So Sam and the gang live to reap souls another day, and celebrate their non-losery accomplishments that night with some drinks at the bar.

For being a soul-of-the-week episode without any contribution to the mytharc, this was a good, solid episode. It’s exactly what I needed to watch while I was feverish and wrapped in blankets on my floor.

The Husband:

I just want to make my feverish wife aware that she said “Sprong” seven times in the first paragraph, and that makes me giggle.

The Wife:

I’m a little disappointed that Sammy’s retaliatory act against The Devil/plan to get Satan’s dirty little secrets. Nothing about his attempt to seduce his hot, dead-eyed tutor in all things evil worked for me. And I think Andi was right to point out at the beginning of this that there was no need for her to be jealous because Sam’s not a seducer. This, of course, is supposed to be the joke, that Sam’s not very suave with the ladies (remember how long it took him to ask out Andi when she actually had a personality and allure?), and that joke is somehow supposed to be made funnier by seeing Sam as a fish-out-of-water in slacks and a turtleneck, but it wasn’t funny. And it wasn’t dramatic, either. In fact, save for the final scene in which The Devil has sent Sam in with a gun/vessel to send Sally back to Hell there was nothing at stake here to make me interested in this plot.

I also found it extremely strange that The Devil decided to make Sam seduce Sally in his stead. I know that I can’t rely on a conventional mythology of The Devil to be my guide for someone else’s mythic universe, but he is the fucking Devil. He insists that, “I don’t chase tail. Tail chases me.” In which case, wouldn’t it simply be easier for him to work his Devil magic and seduce Sally, making her fall head over heels in love with him and, in fact, chase after him? Wouldn’t that be more his style? After all, it’s not like he actually cares about love, so if he wanted to sleep with someone, there was no need to establish the contrived pretense that she, a demon bitch with crazy demon bitch claws, needed to be “saved” from a reaper by The Devil. In the end, he got to sleep with Sally anyway just because he bought her a very thoughtful vegetable steamer . . . which he could have just given her in the first place!

No, really, Ill sleep with anyone who buys me a kitchen appliance. Thats how I came by this KitchenAid stand mixer.

No, really, I'll sleep with anyone who buys me a kitchen appliance. That's how I came by this KitchenAid stand mixer.

So all we learned here is that The Devil has secrets, and that Sally is not going to be the person to divulge those secrets to Sam. And he needs something more than a contest to beat The Devil now that Alan Townsend has been sent back to Hell for sinning so hard in Vegas that he was “back in Hell before Carrot Top hit the stage.” And what’s more, I endured 42 minutes of Sam in turtlenecks (which are oh-so-wrong on Bret Harrison, by the way) for one brief scene that’s actually moving the story forward, tacked on at the end when Sam finds an old vessel in the back of the Work Bench (or makes a new one? if so, how?) and sends his father back to Hell with Ted’s lost cell phone so that, rather than living in a freezer in Sock’s garage, Mr. Oliver can help his son get out of his contract from the “inside” by tracking down Alan Townsend. I wish more time had been spent on Sam’s relationship with his Zombie Dad rather than his inane pissing contest with The Devil because then I might have believed Sam’s habituation and tension at having to banish his undead father to Hell. With only a brief scene in which Sam’s dad sets up the Internet so he can try to have a somewhat normal life, and a subsequent scene in which he realized that was no life at all and he’d rather be in the Underworld helping his son, there was nothing to ground that final scene and contextualize Sam’s emotional state.

As for the B-story, Nina tortures and harasses Ben so Sock steps in to protect his friend from psycho demon ex-girlfriend, and Nina plays demon tricks with Sock’s dreams where she seduces him and rips out his heart. Sock becomes set on destroying Nina’s lair and driving her out of town so she can’t hurt him or Ben anymore, but she realizes she’s being a dick and tries to apologize. Even though Sock won’t let her speak to Ben, seeing her is enough for him and by the time they go to destroy Nina’s lair, Ben is ready to get back together with her and does . . . as Sock accidentally burns the place down. I enjoyed watching Nina torture Ben far more than anything that occurred in the A-story.

I appreciate the attempt to get away from the Soul of the Week format, but the seduction stories just didn’t make any sense to me. It did, however, provide one excellent line from The Devil that I’ll leave you with:

“I am the Dark Lord of asses!”

The Wife:

Reaper paid homage to Tremors this week, as well as any other 80s horror movie where young folks end up going on a road trip to a sparsely populated ghost town (Husband Note: Tremors actually came out in 1990, but close enough), when The Devil sends them to catch a serpentine soul inhabiting a silver mine up in abandoned Dove Hollow. All of the townspeople, save for the Sheriff, are merely shape-shifting tentacles of the soul, and they would all really, really like anyone they meet to go up to the mine so the soul can feed on them. I really enjoyed the movements of those characters, especially the popping up from behind their counters and strange float-y movements, which were a nice blend of unsettling and funny.

After Andi and Sam get into a fight about how he may/may not be enjoying his tenure as a servant of the dark lord, and Sock gets arrested for fucking his sister and throwing a cot onto the Sheriff’s car (oh yeah, finally, the Sock/Kristen plot is resolved by them sleeping together and I could not be happier to be done with the awkward sexual tension), the girls decide to leave, taking Sam’s car. Nina, having stayed behind because Ben was smothering her, decides to fly up to surprise him and, after immediately recognizing that something is very, very off about the town’s barkeep, gets eaten.

The boys, then, are stuck trying to capture the soul, which the Sheriff agrees to help them do . . . only when a grieving Ben goes kamikaze and captures the soul on his own do they realize that the Sheriff never came through with his half of the bargain. He likes the soul, and the “friends” it creates for him. Hell, he’s been dating Millie the Waitress for eight years. Without that soul, he’s all alone. And so he sets out to kill the guys who took his friends, cornering them in the few places there are available to hide in Dove Hollow. The Devil shows up to tell Sam that he can use the soul as a bargaining chip. Sam offers to release the soul if the Sheriff will let him and his friends go free.

They head back to the mine to release the soul and Sam tosses the vessel into its open maw, only to have it tossed back by Nina, who is very much alive and apparently indigestible. She’s prepared to kill the Sheriff, but Sam won’t let her, suggesting that he needs to pay for what he’s done by thinking about everyone he let die for the rest of his life. This suggestion of suffering is enough for Nina to declare that Sam is truly diabolical, and she really, really digs that. Like, enough to kiss Sam while her boyfriend Ben is locked in the trunk of a car. Somehow, I don’t think this kiss is going to go entirely unnoticed by Ben, even though it won’t matter at all to Andi, who has had her fill of evil and breaks up with Sam because she’s afraid he’s starting to enjoy the wicked company he keeps.

Sing it with me, Sammy! The hills are alive with the sound of reaping!

Sing it with me, Sammy! The hills are alive with the sound of reaping!

And then there’s Sock and Kristen, who return home, thinking that they’re new relationship will be fine and dandy, only to have their parents return and ruin everything. At least the awkward sexual tension will be a new kind that isn’t completely reliant on Sock ogling his sister while she does things that have nothing to do with anything. I can handle their relationship as long as she’s a character with some say and not just an object, so I hope that the twist in this plot will allow Kristen some room to be a person.

I’m not wild about this episode. It served its purpose to do something a little bit different and get all the pieces in place for the new relationships between the characters, but it’s really just that: a platform to build the rest of the story upon.

There is, however, a particular favorite amongst the building blocks put in place in this episode: the conversation between Andi and Nina about evil boys, where Nina admits that she likes Ben, but thinks he’s smothering her and how she sometimes wishes she weren’t with a nice guy, but someone more evil. “I’m used to dating guys from Hell,” Nina says. “They treat you like crap, but, hey, at least they’re exciting.” That’s what dating Sam must be like, she supposes. And there Andi insists that Sam isn’t evil, only to change her mind on their very non-romantic weekend in Dove Hollow where she watches Sam go from smooth picnic-bringing to psychic wine bottle destroyer during their fight at the mine.

“We’re having a picnic in front of a monster lair. I mean, I can’t help but think you’re getting used to the lifestyle.” –Andi

What I liked about that scene between Nina and Andi was its subtlety, and watching Andi change her mind over the course of that ill-fated weekend in Dove Hollow. I wish there had been some bigger moments in it for Missy Peregrym, who I’m still not sure I love as an actress, but for the kind of show this is, using Nina as a catalyst to change Andi’s mind worked.

And, hey, I’ll take more Jenny Wade where I can get her.

Other funny:

  • “Do you like llamas? Because I’m going to eat a live llama.” – Nina
  • The Devil referring to Dove Hollow as “like being in a David Lynch movie.”
  • “Suck it, cot!” – Sock
  • “Dude, you’re banging a tentacle?” – Sock

The Husband:

Despite its stand-alone nature, I dug the episode far more than my wife did, but more because it has elements of a screenplay I’ve been gearing up to write for almost two years now. (Explanation for its delay: every time I start it, I get sidetracked and write a completely different script. It has happened twice now.) It’s far lighter and less completely fucked-up than what’s in my mind, but certain facets were still on display, and it allowed me to see what would work as far as my story was concerned and what wouldn’t. I guess I just really like small town horror movies. Something about complete cultural isolation terrifies me, I guess, since I’ve never lived more than 30 miles from a major metropolis.

As far as the Sock and Kristen storyline, I’ve started to dislike it, but not because of its repetition or the bizarre moral boundaries it deals with. It’s simply because it has limited Sock’s screentime to basically him pining over her, and not doing what we love best about him – his goofy indispensability when it comes to Sam’s soul-reaping. Where’s that s1 Sock? Bring that fool back!

The Wife:

You know how The Devil keeps mentioning that he has scads of other children? Well, now we’ve finally met his favorite, Morgan, a preppy looking dude who seems as though he’s come from old money but has a knack for getting arrested a lot. This actor who plays Morgan is the unfortunately named Armie Hammer, who I apparently should know from this one episode of Veronica Mars “Witchita Linebacker,” in which Hammer and Beauty and the Geek‘s Sam Horrigan both played beefy football hunks. (I should note that I do not remember anything about this episode of VMars at all.) While I’m interested by the addition of Morgan and the sibling rivalry between him and Sam, I am not loving Armie Hammer in this role. He reminds me of what would happen if you crossed Chuck‘s Captain Awesome with a low-rent version of Gossip Girl‘s Nate Archibald. He’s bland at best, and somehow manages to adopt Ryan McPartlin’s cadence without any of McPartlin’s grace or depth of delivery. Either Hammer is not a good actor but just looked right for the part (and I can imagine a taller, leaner version of Ray Wise looking like Hammer back in the day), or he’s making a choice to come across with this level of falseness. I really think it’s the former. I guess I can compare when he shows up on Gossip Girl later this season as a love interest for Serena. Here’s hoping he turns out better than Aaron Rose did.

Seriously, this jacket is meant for a man twice his chest size. Its ridiculous.

Seriously, this jacket is meant for a man twice his chest size. It's ridiculous.

I’m also really perturbed by the fact that the wardrobe dept is unable to tailor Hammer’s suit jackets to fit him well. I know he’s 6’5″ and that it’s hard to buy pants for someone that tall without getting a large jacket (if you buy off the rack), but the wardrobe people get paid to tailor things. Seriously, kids. Get this guy a blazer that fits him well.

Sam’s introduction to his newfound half-brother comes when The Devil steals his $1000 winning scratcher to bail Morgan out of jail. Thinking that Sam will be a good influence on Morgan (whom The Devil loves because he’s bad, but is disappointed in because he has no focus or ambition, choosing to live like a reckless party boy instead of Hell’s Right Hand), The Devil sends Morgan to learn the ropes of bounty hunting from his better behaved son. The soul of the week is a greedy, miserly man named Edmund Fitzgerald, who’s spending his escape from hell recollecting all of the things taken from him after his death. To do so, he kills the new owners of those items by releasing some little golden buggits to crawl into their ears and eat their brains. The gang, with Morgan’s help, steals the next item the soul wants back, a self-portrait, and he sends golden buggits after them to retrieve it (which culminates in a funny bit where the guys all smack each other with pans to kill the bugs, and then hide from them huddled together in the shower). Without the portrait, they’ve lost their lead on finding the soul — until Andi suggests that the soul must have a warehouse somewhere in which he keeps all of his stuff.

They eventually track down the correct shipyard, and meet Morgan, who has already taken the initiative to find the soul’s shipping container. They find a nearly completed inventory of all of the soul’s things, the only unchecked item being “Mary Ann,” whom they assume is his beloved wife. Morgan, unable to control his impulses, steals a ring from the soul’s vault. While visiting Fitzgerald’s wife to warn her of his return, she informs them that Mary Ann, the thing he loved most in the world, is actually his boat. As Sam and Morgan head off to find the boat, Sam realizes that his half-brother has stolen the soul’s ring. Sam points to the ring as evidence of why The Devil is disappointed in Morgan, and Morgan kindly informs his brother that he’s only hanging out with Sam to get credit with Daddy and eventually rise to power alongside him. The soul, desiring the return of his ring like Gollum with his precious, sends an army of buggits after them. Sam urges Morgan to return the ring, but its stick on his fat greedy finger. Sam tells Morgan to jump into a nearby pool, which the buggits won’t enter, and Morgan tosses the ring back to Sam, who gets the soul to accept the ring and, as he swallows it, impales him on the nearby vessel. With the soul gone, the buggits turn back into gold coins, which Morgan wants to keep.

The Devil obliges, giving Morgan the coins to appease him, which Sam thinks is totally unfair. The Devil tells Sam that he thinks he’s wrong about Morgan, and that Sam might be the son he should groom as his favorite, but he still has to appease Morgan in the hopes that fatherly attention can set him on the right kind of evil path.

“Wow. I’m so conflicted now. I don’t know who to root for.” — The Devil

This was an okay plot, paired with two other okay plots. Nina was almost underused in this episode to make way for Morgan, but she still got some bright bits. Ben realizes that he may not be satisfying her sexually, a subject she avoids talking about by shoving burgers into her mouth. Not wanting to lose Nina, Ben goes to Gladys for Demon-Human Sex Advice, and she offers to give him a hands-on lesson in how to treat a demon woman, having hands-down one of the most amusing lines of the night:

“I like to make learning fun, so bring along lots of plastic garbage bags.” — Gladys

Ben may be a “Horn Hag” for Nina, but he’s really not into Gladys’ offer, so she suggests that, perhaps, Nina finds his human body sexually repulsive. Ben starts to think that, perhaps, Nina can’t be satisfied when she has sex in her human form, so he offers to have sex with her in her natural body, but only if he has a few drinks first and she doesn’t talk in her demon voice at all during the act. Dismayed, Nina transforms and asks Ben if this is what he wants. As he takes a swig from the bottle, she flies off.

Uh, seriously? Youre telling me you dont want this hotness?

Uh, seriously? You're telling me you don't want this hotness?

Later, Nina shows up at the Work Bench to tell Ben the truth about why she’s been avoiding discussing her sexual satisfaction with him. He’s not her first human. Back when she was an angel, she was part of a host sent to Earth to take human loves and bear human children. After the fall, angels of that host who were cast out of heaven also had their human families smote by God. Though Nina never had children by her human lover, she lost her human lover to God’s wrath and never took another. She hadn’t been fully involved with Ben because she wasn’t ready to completely fall in love with a human again, but she tells Ben that she’s ready now to love him fully.

I liked this storyline because I like Nina a lot, and it was great to see Jenny Wade balance the comedy of eating meat to avoid one’s problems with the sadness Nina feels for the innocent man who died for her sins when she was cast out of Heaven. There’s a great heaviness and sorrow in her monologue, which she delivers in such a way that makes it seem like she’s trying to breeze over it so it doesn’t hurt so much. It’s the kind of thing that almost doesn’t belong on a lighthearted show like Reaper, but I really dug this added insight into Nina. I hope it doesn’t stop here, though. The writers just opened up a whole world of potential by adding in these more arcane elements of Christian mythology to their theological cannon.

And then there’s another battle between Sock and Andi for supremacy at The Work Bench. Sock notices that Ted, unable to truly leave the place that was his home for so long, has been wandering around the parking lot, begging customers to let him carry their parcels to their cars for tips. Sock decides to take advantage of this and subcontract his job to Ted. It begins simply with Sock taking a cut of Ted’s parking lot tips, and then escalates into Sock asking for a ton of shifts, particularly ones that involve unloading deliveries and taking inventory, and farming them out to Ted for 40% of Sock’s pay while he naps and earns extra cash. It doesn’t take long for Andi to catch Ted in the store, and for Ted to subsequently out Sock as his boss. Not wanting to lose his new meal ticket, Sock offers to cut Andi in on 10% of Ted’s profits, but she won’t stand for it and demands that Sock fire Ted. Sock actually does something kind of selfless by appealing to Andi on Ted’s behalf, saying that while he was taking advantage of Ted for his own gain, he was also helping the poor dude, who feels lost without his job at The Work Bench. Andi decides to give both men what they want and calls corporate to hire Ted back on as a trainee for a 6-month trial basis . . . with Sock as his trainer. She’s clever, that Andi.

But clearly, the most important thing in this episode is the ending, which finally gets Reaper back on track to answering the questions posed in last season’s cliffhanger pertaining to the master plot. Sam’s mom orders a giant freezer from The Work Bench, with instructions to simply deliver it to the garage. Part of dating the boss is getting to go on delivery shifts all week, so Sam ends up being the fateful driver who meets his father’s reanimated corpse in the garage. Now he finally knows that his dad is alive, and we’ll all soon find out how that happened.

Now I await the return of Ken Marino!

The Husband:

Something about this season is making me truly love it, even if some of the plots aren’t always coming together as well as they can. It’s another instance of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, I think, because as they are beginning to lessen the importance of the Soul Of The Week in order to make room for some character development — something s1 struggled with sometimes in its pre-strike episodes — we’re getting a more fleshed-out show. For instance, Buffy, a show I didn’t necessarily love while watching the entire series 1.5 years ago, had plenty of bad Demons Of The Week episodes, but it got by on its better story arcs and its insistence that we try to love and respect each and every one of its major characters, and so I in return have respected the show more each time I think about it.

I also think, as aforementioned, that the action/danger scenes are being better-directed, I appreciate how Andi is a much smarter character this season, and, yes, the writers’ realization that Ben could be just as interesting as the goofy Sock is really upping the stakes for the show’s own Scooby Gang.

This is more than likely going to be Reaper‘s final season — I’m surprised it got this one — so I don’t know if I’m just trying to make everything this season seem better than it truly is, or that it really is better. Either way, though, it’s a great time to spend an hour on Tuesday nights. (Or Wednesday if it’s just that hard to schedule around American Idol.)

The Wife:

Now this, this felt like an episode of Reaper. The pacing was much better this week, and the familiar story elements were re-introduced. I still think there are a few dropped stitches that the writers need to pick up again and knit back in (check me out with my knitting metaphors!), but overall, this is Reaper‘s groove. And I’m glad it got its groove back.

Or maybe I just liked this episode so much because of the bunny. King Charlie was soooooooooo cute! With his little bunny face! And his nibbly little bunny mouth! And his big hoppy bunny feet! Oooooooooh! I like bunnies!

Sorry. But that gives you a taste of what it would have been like to watch this episode with me, squeaking out, “Bunny!” every time that damned adorable bunny graced the screen. I like animals. Shut up. Don’t judge me.

This week’s escaped soul is a Mongol warrior, whom the boys have chased into a stable where they discover that the soul is terrified of cell phones and use that to distract him, until Ben chooses the bunny over quickly grabbing the vessel and allows the soul to escape on horseback. The soul continues to go on a rampage throughout Seattle while Sam chooses to focus instead on hunting down Hell’s Own One That Got Away, Alan Townsend (who I just now realized is the star of Save the Last Dance, Sean Patrick Thomas). He and Andi, who is hell-bent on getting her boyfriend out of his contract with Satan, go to visit Gladys. He suspects that she knows who the soul might be and she agrees to meet him at his house later that night to give him information.

However, she sends a demon in her place to attack and possibly kill him. Lucky for Sam, Ben manages to fend off the demon and save Sam’s life by torching it’s shoulder with King Charlie’s tiki torch, which Ben takes as a sign that he should re-open the vote to get King Charlie to stay in the house with him, a direct challenge of Sock’s “no bunnies in the house” rule. Unfortunately, the guys still vote against having a house bunny, banning King Charlie to the garage with his tiki torch. Sam and Andi head back to the DMV and threaten Gladys in order to get information about Alan Townsend. After some reluctance and misdirection, she gives them his address and they head out on a stakeout of Townsend’s apartment. When Andi leaves to get some snacks, The Devil appears to casually remind Sam that instead of necking with his girlfriend, he should be out capturing the Mongol soul that’s cutting a swath of violence throughout the city.

Whered he get a suit?

"Where'd he get a suit?"

Ben proposes that the soul is recreating the Mongol empire by “conquering” Asian restaurants. He’s already destroyed a Chinese restaurant and a Korean restaurant, so Ben correctly predicts that he will strike a Vietnamese restaurant next. There’s a great chases scene where Sam and the Mongol Soul battle it out in the restaurant’s kitchen, with Sam sending the warrior, who adapted to the modern world so quickly that he now wears a suit and a Bluetooth and is no longer afraid of cell phones, back to hell as two butcher’s knives fall out of his hands and land on either side of Sam’s head.

With his work complete, Sam catches up to Alan Townsend and begs for his help. Alan refuses, until Sam lays down the bargaining chip that, as The Devil’s son, he would be the best person for Alan to align himself with as Sam can keep Alan off The Devil’s radar. Just as Alan agrees to help, Sam is attacked by demons and The Devil conveniently shows up to destroy them, warning that “This one is not to be touched!” Alan runs off and The Devil warns Sam that he needs to adapt to his new life like his Mongol friend did and to forget all about Alan Townsend. Oh yeah, and he may have set up that demon attack to make Alan never want to talk to Sam again.

Ill get you a satanic mechanic.

I'll get you a satanic mechanic.

Later that night, Ben and King Charlie get kidnapped by a demon, who, as it turns out, is actually a really hot chick who wants love, just like Ben and everyone else does. She admires how much he cares for that rabbit and thinks he has pretty eyes.

Sam and Andi clandestinely head over to Alan Townsend’s apartment and discover that he is gone. However, they also find out that Alan has surrounded himself with crosses and warnings from The Ten Commandments about what he shouldn’t do lest he get sent back to hell.

Meanwhile, in what I think was posited as a B-plot but feels like more of a C-plot to me because I think the B-plot this week is really about Ben and King Charlie, Sock is still pining over his sister Kristen.

Sock: I just want her to see me the way the rest of the world does.
Sam: How’s that?
Sock: As a sexual magician.

The tickle fights and breakfast in bed and sexy yoga spotting are too much for him, so he tries to take Kristen out and get her drunk to loosen her inhibitions about their relationship. At the club, though, she has her eyes set on some skeevy dude named Topher, who later shows up to take her on a date, prompting Sock to whack him over the head with a chair, Wrestlemania-style.

“She’s my sister. And the only one who gets to have sex with her is me.” – Sock

Clearly, this does not endear Sock to Kristen and she spends the rest of the episode mad at him until she calls him to pick her up from a bad date. Kristen’s a virgin and wanted to lose her virginity ASAP to someone she didn’t care about: Topher. But then she caught him sleeping with another girl and that made her really sad. So she called good ol’ Sock to pick her up, and he delivered the sweetest and weirdest pep talk ever in which he compares being a slutty girl to being a dirty hot tub that no one wants to get busy in.

“I don’t like dirty hot tubs.” – Kristen

Instead, she vows to keep her virginity until marriage and asks for her brother’s help in never, ever having sex with anyone ever, to which he begrudgingly agrees.

And then there’s the D-plot in which Ted hits on a mystery shopper, something he apparently does rather frequently, and gets fired by corporate pending a sexual harassment lawsuit.

“You’re not my first, and you won’t be the last. But you will be the seventh.” – Ted, being really creepy

I wonder about the fate of The Work Bench if Ted’s not the manager. Maybe Andi will be promoted? In which case, would she basically give the guys a free pass to go demon hunting? It’s not as though work is every really an issue for these guys, unlike over on Chuck, where Chuck really would raise suspicions and take a lot of shit if he didn’t show up for a shift. I could see this going the Chuck route of offering Sam the manager job, but it wouldn’t make sense here. Chuck is a model employee. Sam isn’t. It probably doesn’t really matter, but I’m curious about Ted’s replacement.

I’m not super into the Sock-Wants-To-Jump-His-Sister’s-Bones plot, and that might be because I’m more amused by the Adrian-Wants-To-Fuck-Her-Brother plot on SLOTAT, but it does provide the show’s better lines and I got to see Sock dance, which was funny, as well as dejectedly hide behind the paint center at The Work Bench, only to burst through the wall of cans like so many Kool-Aid men just to see Ted get fired. Those were some good moments.

The Wife:

It’s been a little less than a year since we last laid eyes on Reaper, and while I didn’t forget about the tone of the show, how much my husband is like Sock (because I basically decided that he should try to emulate Sock’s slackeriffic style since they’re so similar in build; what works on Tyler Labine will work on my husband) or, say, that whole plot point about the demon revolution with Ken Marino and Michael Ian Black, I did forget the entire thing that happened with Sam’s dad faking his own death.

Which of course Sam doesn’t know about, the faking part, so in response he, Sock and Ben disappear for a month on a road trip in Sam’s sweet green Prius (which I also forgot he drove, prompting me to go: “Hey! I own one of those!”). Naturally, they don’t tell anyone, which means they return to Washington homeless, jobless and, in Sam’s case, Andi-less. See, he was supposed to send her a letter he wrote about how he needed to figure some shit out and recover from his dad’s alleged death, but he gave it to Sock to mail. And Sock never mailed it. Go figure.

Reapin souls and lookin good doin it.

Reapin' souls and lookin' good doin' it.

But that’s not the end of Sam’s problems. The Devil is also not very pleased with him. To make up for the number of souls Sam has neglected to capture by taking a month off, The Devil gives him a cattle prod and sends him to catch 20 really, really hulked-up souls in some kind of pugilist soul fight club. Question: The Devil can find Sam anywhere in Washington, why doesn’t that power extend to oh, say, other parts of the world? Like, why wouldn’t The Devil have simply popped up to party with Sam while he and his friends were getting busy getting so wasted that Sock forgot his own name in Lake Tahoe (that happened to me too, once, one fateful weekend)? I generally have to assume that The Devil can find you whenever he wants to, so I fail to understand why he wouldn’t have found Sam sooner and made his deadbeat son (since the show really wants us to believe Sam is The Devil’s son, and the characters are willing to believe it, too, although, personally, I don’t think its true given how little evidence we have been provided) get back to work.

Regardless, the guys set about trying to squat in Sock’s house, but there’s some strange hot Asian girl there who won’t let them come in, so, instead, they break into The Work Bench to sleep and get caught by Ted, who’s totally ready to call the cops on them until Sock threatens to expose Ted’s various money making schemes in which he buys Work Bench products at cost and sell them to private customers for a profit. Blackmail gets them their jobs back. With that secured, Sock tries to get them back in his house, and this time, the cute Asian girl lets them in, revealing that she’s Sock’s mom’s new husband’s daughter, thus, Sock’s step-sister. She’s housesitting while their parents are on their honeymoon, so she invites the boys to stay with her. Sock very much wants to do her, but grows fiercely protective when anyone else suggests her hotness, as any good big brother should:

Sock: She’s hot, am I right?
Ben: Smokin’.
Sock: Shut your mouth. That’s my sister. I got dibs.

So, with two out of three issues solved, Ben and Sock try to patch things up between Sam and Andi by presenting her with a “recovered” version of Sam’s letter, including such choice lines as, “I have some stuff to say about feelings.” This makes her laugh, but does not quell her fury. Meanwhile, Sam tries to conjure up The Devil to see if he can pull the “I’m Your Son” card and have some of his 20-soul workload lifted. The Devil refuses to do so, insisting that while he appreciates Sam’s attempts at nepotism, he’s sired many children, and all of them really suck at doing evil. Instead, he doubles Sam’s workload in order to get the boy to prove his mettle.

With double the souls, the boys decided to pull an all-nighter to devise a plan to capture the souls.

“We may not have gone to college, boys, but we can certainly cram like people who did. Bottoms up!” – Sock

I assume this is exactly what they did during the 4 weeks they went missing.

I assume this is exactly what they did during the 4 weeks they went missing.

After a night of drinking and pizza, the boys come up empty handed, until Ben’s mighty ‘fro (“My hair hurts.”) comes up with this: why not get all the souls wasted and capture them when they’re passed out? To implement this, they attempt to steal a beer truck, but that scheme gets foiled, so, instead, they buy a bunch of beer on the Work Bench corporate card and hijack a Work Bench delivery truck, painted over with a Beer Baby logo that was meant to be a leprechaun, except that Ben can only draw babies. This plan goes well, until the souls start firebombing the truck. Eventually, however, they all pass out in a pile, allowing Sock and Ben to lower Sam down from the roof Mission Impossible-style to zap sleeping souls back to hell as the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” plays across the scene. Perfect, hilarious music choice. Ben’s skills at knot-tying, however, are not as stellar as he claims and Sam eventually falls into the pit of souls, waking each of them. They are definitely not happy to be awake. Sam tries to escape by climbing up to the catwalk of the warehouse and swinging out the window on a firehose, only to swing back in through the bottom floor window. Thinking fast, he lets loose a spray of water on the souls, stunning them momentarily . . . until the water runs out. Faced with an army of angry souls, Sam turns the cattle prod to the puddle of water on the ground and turns it on, zapping all the souls in one amazing electric mess.

Except for one guy.

This guy, though, he’s different. He’s not tatted up and grunting like all the other souls. In fact, he looks just about Sam’s age. He tells Sam he’s different, and he escaped from hell by piggybacking on those dudes. Sam tries to zap him, anyway, figuring any escaped soul needs to go back to hell, whether he’s assigned to nab it or not, but the cattle prod doesn’t work on this dude. Sam demands to know how this dude got out of hell for good, and he promises to tell if Sam gives him the vessel . . . which he promptly knocks Sam out with.

This knowledge that one man beat his deal with the devil is enough to lift Sam’s spirits. He goes to Andi with evidence, and apparently the idea of a way out is enough for her to forgive Sam after yelling at him about shirking responsibilities and constantly having to worry that he might be dead. They kiss. All is well. Frankly, that’s a little sudden for me, but largely, this is a comedy, so I suppose we have to follow the Aristotelian Poetics and return to the status quo.

The Devil is very impressed with Sam’s ability to capture so many souls, telling his possible-son that he’s pleased Sam hasn’t turned out to be a dud after all. But Sam’s excellent mood from getting back together with Andi and meeting Hell’s own One That Got Away makes The Devil wary, and he calls off their celebratory evening out.

This episode was weird for me. Maybe it was the time off between seasons or if it was simply that this episode wasn’t that good. There are a lot of holes here. For instance, what the fuck happened to that cattle prod full of souls. Did The One That Got Away take it? If so, how could The Devil count the job as completed? Why didn’t they have to make this job as complete as any other by delivering the vessel to Gladys the DMV Demon? (And I do vaguely remember her betrayal last season, but I thought Sam begged for her to be spared and The Devil acquiesced? Gladys or no Gladys, there’s a procedure here. That vessel should have been given to someone at the DMV.) And still the unanswered question from last season: what exactly is the deal with Sam’s Earthly parents?

The Devil, however, was in rare form in this episode, however uneven it was. Here’s a couple of good lines from Old Scratch:

  • “I just wanted to tell you that your pentagram is a Star of David. Mazel Tov!”
  • “Where did you get this book? The Devil is attracted to radishes? What does that mean? Like, sexually?”

The Husband:

Man, I don’t know what nearly every critic out there (plus my wife) is smoking, because I loved this episode. As far as non-mytharc, standalone, soul-hunting episodes go, I thought it was one of the best, and that’s coming from someone who got almost annoyingly bored after the first couple weeks in s1 until the show came back, post-strike, and introduced some sweet ass gay demons from MTV’s The State and their plan to trick The Devil.

Yes, I’m a bit confused and frustrated by some of the stuff that happened in the four-week time span between s1’s finale and this episode that was not told to us, nor do I think it will ever be addressed. Why would Andi get so mad about Sam dealing with his father’s “death”? What exactly was the funeral like if there was no body? Was there a funeral? Can you really get evicted for simply missing one rent payment? Do we actually have enough proof that Sam is the son of The Devil? (I don’t remember ever seeing the actual full contract, nor was it read to us in any form other than the one with all the pages ripped out.)

But the soul-hunting was fucking great. It was funny, it was clever, and, surprisingly for this show, it was well-staged. (Having Kevin Smith, a self-admitted shitty visual director, helm the pilot, did wonders for the show’s comedic flow, but started a very long trend of poorly executed action sequences that didn’t let up until some time near the butt end of the Demon Revolution.)

I hear two episodes from now, though, that we’re in for a mega-treat, so I’m especially glad that I liked this critically-drubbed opening episode.

And oh man, they created one of the best lines of dialogue I’ve heard in quite some time:

Sam: Sometimes in order to do something good, you have to do something bad first.

Sock: I want you to keep that in mind when I eventually make love to your mother.