Sunday, February 28, 2021

Resident Alien, Season 1, Episode 2: Homesick

This week on Resident Alien, Harry steps up his attempts to "silence" Max for good (!), and is unprepared for the emotional side effects of taking a human form.

This week's episode also ramps up the funny, as it makes full advantage of star Alan Tudyk's comedy chops. His portrayal of an alien here is top notch, as he plays Harry as equal parts pompous, ominous and hopelessly innocent.

Homesick was directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, who played Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager. McNeill helmed four episodes of Voyager, and apparently liked life in the director's chair. He's become quite a prolific director since, working on dozens of TV series over the years. 

I honestly don't have much else to say about this episode, so let's get on with the reviewin'!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
On a mountain near Patience, Colorado, a hiker trudges through the snow. He stops at the edge of a sheer cliff to take a selfie. Right on cue the edge gives way, and he falls over the cliff and plummets helplessly through the air. He's stunned though when he suddenly stops six feet from the ground, suspended by some sort of invisible energy field. Unable to free himself, he begins calling for help.

Picking up where we left off last week, Dr. Harry Vanderspiegel, who's secretly an alien posing as a human, enters his exam room for his first appointment of the day. His patient is Max Hawthorne, the young son of Patience's Mayor Ben Hawthorne. Max can somehow see through Harry's disguise, and screams at the sight of him. Harry, who's desperate to keep his secret, threatens to kill Max (!). Terrified, the kid leaps out the window.

Max runs down the street as his parents chase after him. He hides under a bench, telling them that the alien who tried to kill him in the previous episode is really the doctor. Ben talks him out from under the bench and takes him to work with him for some reason.

Cut to the Mayor's office, which has been taken over by Sheriff Mike Thompson. When Ben complains, the Sheriff says he has real work to do— like finding out who killed Sam Hodges, the town's previous doctor. Max pipes up and says he knows who killed Hodges. The Sheriff's all ears until Max says Harry's an alien and is probably the one who did it. After the others leave, Deputy Liv Baker tells Max she's also the town's police sketch artist, and offers to draw Harry's alien form for him (Plot Point!).

Back at the clinic, Harry thinks to himself how easy it is to be a doctor, as all he has to do is look up any procedure on the internet. Unfortunately it's not that simple. His next patient is Judy, who's there for a pelvic exam. While consulting his phone, Harry accidentally takes a photo of her naughty parts. The rest of his examinations are equally awkward.

Sometime later Harry & Asta (the nurse at the clinic) visit the local diner. Asta introduces Harry to her father Dan, who's the cook. Dan pulls Asta into the kitchen and tells her there's something wrong with Harry, as he senses nothing when he looks at him— as if he's a blank slate.

While Harry waits for Asta, he glances out the window and sees the streets are plastered with wanted posters featuring his true face, drawn by Deputy Baker (told you it was a Plot Point!). Apparently Max took her sketch and whipped up the posters.

We then see Harry back at his cabin, packing his bags as he prepares to move on. Suddenly he stops, saying he still needs to find the missing component from his crashed ship in order to complete his mission. He then thinks back to how it took him weeks to control his new human body, as we get a good old fashioned montage sequence of him learning to walk and eat. He decides against moving away.

Harry then calls Max, pretending to be a friend from school. He says he saw the posters and spotted the alien get on a bus and leave town, so Max no longer has to worry about him. Max sees right through his clumsy ruse and says he knows he's the alien. Max says if Hary kills him his parents will know he did it. Foiled again!

The next day at the clinic, Asta introduces Harry to her cousin Kayla and infant nephew Sage. Harry's both fascinated and repulsed by the baby. Jay the intern appears, and Asta forces her to apologize to Harry for calling him a douche bag last week. Asta asks how Jay's coping with Dr. Hodges' death, and tells her she's there for her if she ever wants to talk. Jay says she's fine and hurriedly leaves.

That night Harry experiences an "emptiness" inside him. Assuming he's hungry, he wanders over to The 59. There he talks with D'Arcy the bartender, She offers him a shot of whiskey, but he declines it, saying last time he drank it he tried to kill someone. Thinking he's kidding, D'Arcy jokes about being a murderer and says if he does kill anyone to make it look like an accident.

Unaware that she's joking, Harry realizes he can get away with killing Max as long as he makes his death look accidental. While he's contemplating that, D'Arcy invites him to take her bowling the next night.

The next day Ben comes to the clinic for a therapy session with Harry. As Ben drones on about his problems, Harry fantasizes about various ways to kill Max. Dr. Hodges' widow Abigail then barges into the office, demanding to know if Harry really thinks her husband was poisoned. Asta hurries in and rushes her out of the office.

Asta goes to the Sheriff and tells him that Abigail was disturbing a crime scene, and may even be the one who killed her husband. The Sheriff says he's already gathered all the evidence he needs from the office, and claims Hodges' wife has a rock solid alibi.

Harry watches as the two argue, fascinated by human emotion. He flashes back to the night he crash landed on Earth four months ago. Needing food, he located a barn, found a cow and began drinking directly from its teat. OK, that was weird and pointless.

Harry meets D'Arcy at the bowling alley for their date. They run into Judy (the pelvic exam), who hands them their shoes. Sheriff Mike's bowling with his league, and is eager to see Harry's bowling skills. Harry grabs a ball, stares at the lane and realizes the game is a simple matter of mathematics. As he swings the ball backwards, he accidentally lets go and it hits Sheriff Mike square in the crotch!

Later over dinner, Harry asks D'Arcy when the snow will melt on the mountain (where he's been searching for his missing ship component). She says it could happen in as little as a week, which alarms Harry. She then goes on about how she used to be a skier, and severely injured herself when she couldn't stop. Her story makes him realize that "not stopping" is how he can kill Max. He abruptly gets up and leaves.

Harry sneaks into the Hawthornes' yard and cuts the brake lines on Max's bike.

At the clinic the next day, Harry's shocked when Ben brings Max in to get stitches. Seems cutting his brakes didn't kill him after all, but only banged him up a little. Max is a bit less terrified of Harry this time, now that he knows he has the upper hand and can report the alien to the authorities any time he wants.

Harry tells Max he'll numb his arm if he's a "good boy," but Max tells him to do his worst. Harry then stiches up Max's arm without a local anesthesia. Max grimaces in pain, but refuses to give in to Harry. As Max leaves, he tells Harry his shoe's untied, and the alien falls for the well-worn gag.

That night, Asta eats dinner with Dan. He suggests she cut off some of her hair in honor of Dr. Hodges (I assume it's a Native American thing?). She agrees, and he cuts off a length of her ponytail.

The next morning, Asta tells Harry that the last time she saw Hodges alive, he asked her to play cards with him. She declined, wanting to hurry home. Now she wishes she'd played after all. She also tells Harry that Dan isn't her real father, but a man who took her in and raised her after her mom left. Unsure what else to do, Harry asks if she wants to play cards. He wonders how he's able to "feel an emotion that's inside someone else."

Sometime later, Harry's searching the mountain again. He says he realizes now that the "empty felling" inside him isn't hunger, but loneliness. His detector leads him back to the Patience Coal Mine, where he finds a sample of tellurium, whatever that is. He takes the sample home, melts it down and creates a small anti-gravity disk. He says once he completes his mission and fries every living human on Earth, he can use the tellurium to fly back home. All he has to do is find his missing device.

Cut to two snowmobilers on the mountain. The come across Selfie Guy, whose frozen, desiccated body is still hovering in mid-air (along with a couple of eagles). This time though, we see the snow's melted, and Harry's full-sized anti-grav disk is lying below the suspended man.

Thoughts:
• This episode is bookended by Selfie Guy, a hapless hiker who becomes hopelessly trapped by forces not of this Earth. Several things here:

At the beginning of the episode, Selfie Guy accidentally falls off a cliff. Instead of splattering to the ground far below, he becomes suspended ten feet off the ground, caught in some sort of anti-grav field.

At the end of the episode, a couple of snowmobilers  the long-dead body of Selfie Guy, who's been floating in place for four months. It's a gruesome discovery, as his body's all withered and decayed.

I dunno... I get that the producers wanted to show he'd been stuck there for a long time, but would his body really deteriorate that much in a frigid environment like this? Wouldn't it be perfectly preserved, like it'd been kept in a freezer?

Also, this episode also gives us another flashback of Harry's ship crash landing in the mountains. If you look closely, you can see a lightning strike knock one of the glowing rings off the side of the ship and send it flying.

In the final shot of the episode, we see the snow on the mountain's melted a bit, revealing that Selfie Guy (along with two hawks or eagles) are suspended above a large metallic disk.

Is this disk the same one we saw get blasted off the spaceship? It would make sense. This disk obviously has anti-gravity properties— something that would come in handy on an interplanetary craft. 

It's pretty obvious this is the component Harry's looking for, that will help him repair his ship, complete his mission and return home.

• As regular readers of my reviews  (both of you!) know, I like to try and figure out where various series film their location shots. Most of the Arrowverse shows are filmed in Vancouver, so it's fairly easy to find the buildings and streets they regularly use.

Despite the fact that Resident Alien takes place in the fictional town of Patience, Colorado, it's filmed in Vancouver as well. The interiors are all filmed on a soundstage there, while the exteriors are shot in the tiny town of Ladysmith. It's located on in British Columbia on Vancouver Island, which is about twenty miles from the city of Vancouver.

Since Ladysmith's such a small town, it's pretty simple to scope out the locations they use.

Near the beginning of the episode, we see Max run screaming out of the clinic— where he's just encountered Harry again— and race down the street in terror.

Here's the real life location of the clinic. You can identify it by the three distinctive protrusions above the windows in front, as well as the large sign on the side. In reality the building's a mundane old credit union a block or so from Ladysmith's business district!

Oddly enough, the clinic seen in Pilot is a completely different building from the one in this episode! I can think of two reasons for this: A: the producers changed their minds and went with a location that looked less like a grocery store, or B: the owners of the first building decided a filming crew was causing too much of a disturbance and told 'em to get lost.

Max runs down the street from Harry and hides under a bench, as his embarrassed parents attempt to coax him out.

This area's located on 1st Avenue, which is Ladysmith's main street. Note that it looks like the producers added Max's hidin' bench in front of the building with the striped awnings.

Next up is what I guess you'd call City Hall, which houses the Mayor's office as well as the Sheriff's station. It's the tall brown building near the center of frame.

This building's also located on 1st Avenue (as most businesses in Ladysmith are!). 

Note that this location causes a bit of a continuity error. As seen above, when Max ran out of the clinic, he hid under a bench in front of a building with striped awnings. This location is clearly just a hundred feet or so down the street from the City Hall. The clinic's nowhere in sight!

I suppose it's possible that Max was so terrified he ran several blocks before stopping and hiding under the bench. More likely though, the producers just filmed his scene while the crew was already set up on the street and hoped the audience wouldn't notice. But we did notice, guys. We noticed.

Harry exits the diner and walks up an inclined street, where he spots dozens of wanted posters featuring his alien face.

It took a while, but I managed to track down the street in question. You can see the angled road, the distinctive white railing and even the utility pole that Max plastered with posters. There's just one thing missing— the diner in the background!

As you can see, Google Maps hasn't updated this particular street view since 2012, so it's entirely possible the diner was built sometime after that . On the other hand, I can't find any evidence of a Joe's Diner anywhere in Ladysmith, BC.

I'm betting there isn't a diner there, and the one we see in this episode has been CGIed into the background behind Harry.

Just in case you doubt my claim that Resident Alien is filmed in Ladysmith, BC, I offer this scene as proof. At one point Asta peddles her bike past the LADYSMITH TRADING CO. LTD.! How's that for evidence?

Once again, like pretty much every business in town, the Trading Co.'s located on 1st Street.

Lastly there's Harry's lakeside cabin. According to the producers it's not an actual house, but a fa├žade built just for the show, located in Howe Sound at Britannia Beach in British Columbia. 

• OK, this is some hardcore nitpicking, but whatever. At the clinic, Harry enters and Asta introduces him to Judy, who's there for a routine pelvic exam. Asta then excuses herself and leaves the room.

Yeah, I don't think so. There's no way in hell a nurse would ever leave a female patient in a vulnerable position like that alone with a male doctor. Not in our current highly litigious society. That's a sexual harassment lawsuit just waiting to happen.

• Hands down the best and funniest part of this episode was the scene in which Harry attempts to improve his bedside manor and reassure a worried woman who's come into the clinic:

Asta: "She just found a lump in her breast. Why don’t you try to be a little more calming this time?"
Harry: (annoyed at her condescension) "I know what I’m doing."
(Harry enters the exam room and speaks with the patient.)
Harry: "I see you found a lump in your breast."
Worried Woman: "Yes."
Harry: "I’m glad that you came in and that you’ve been so diligent with your health. As you know, self‐examination along with appropriate screenings can greatly increase your odds of early detection, so I don’t want you to worry. Many women find lumps in their breasts all the time, and most of them are nothing, okay?"
Worried Woman: "Okay."
Harry: "Good. Now let’s get a look at that tit."

HAW! I laughed so hard at that last line I actually got choked.

Nice Attention To Detail: When Max accuses Harry of being an alien, Deputy Baker uses her police sketch artist skills to draw his otherworldly form. Later in the episode, Harry finds dozens of wanted posters— featuring his alien mug— plastered all over town by Max.

Note that Max's writing skills haven't quite matured, as his poster reads, "havE U seen this alein?" He also advises people to call him before 7pm on weeknights, which is no doubt when he probably goes to bed. Well done, Resident Alien Props Department!

• Setup & Payoff Alert: When Harry calls Max at home, we see he's reading a conspiracy theory website detailing how tin foil hats protect against alien mind control.

At the end of the episode, we see Max took the advice to heart, as he's indeed sleeping in a tin foil hat!

• Harry calls Max and tries to convince him that the alien he's looking for has left town. When Max asks if he's sure it was THE alien, Harry says, "Yes, he was very handsome, like a young Jerry Orbach." Naturally a youngster like Max has no idea who that is. Ha!

Last week in Pilot we saw that Harry learned to speak English by watching endless reruns of Law & Order, so it makes perfect sense that he'd imprint on Orbach.

• After Harry's phone call ruse fails to work, he begins fantasizing about various ways of killing Max. Note the running joke in each of his scenarios, as Max's sneaker always falls to the ground a second after he's killed.

I'm betting the two of them will continue their Coyote vs. Roadrunner adversarial relationship all season, as Harry keeps trying to murder Max in order to shut him up and keep his secret. Having an adult alien constantly being outsmarted by a kid is comedy gold, and Alan Tudyk and young Judah Prehn are great together.

By the way, I read the first three volumes of the Resident Alien comic, and Max isn't in any of them— he's a completely new character made up just for the series.

• D'Arcy makes a date with Harry and insists he take her bowling. Strangely enough, he's never heard of the game and has no idea what she's talking about.

This is odd, as earlier in the episode we see Harry's quite adept at using the internet. He even fakes being a doctor by easily looking up numerous medical procedures on his phone. So why doesn't he just google "bowling?"

Later on we find out the thought apparently never occurred to him, as he's still ignorant of the game and how it's played when he shows up at the alley.

To make it even stranger, at the end of the episode he senses that Asta's feeling sad and offers to play cards with her. So he understands the concept of games and other recreational activities. And he doesn't seem confused by the cards when she deals them out to him, implying he's familiar with whatever game they're playing.

Apparently the producers needed to fill this episode with some more "Stranger In A Strange Land" humor, and came up with Harry's bowling confusion, despite the fact that it makes no sense.

• At one point Asta tries to get sullen teen intern Jay to open up to her and express her feelings about the death of Dr. Hodges. Of course Jay's horrified by Asta's amateurish attempts at psychotherapy and hurries off.

I'm still standing by my theory that Jay will turn out to be the baby that Asta was forced to put up for adoption when she was sixteen. Why else would they have included her character?

• Ben has a therapy session with Harry, who he believes has clinical psychology training. Harry couldn't care less about Ben's blatherings though, as he spends their time doodling various idea for killing Max.

I'm intrigued by Harry's drawings, as they look exactly like something a human would sketch. One would think an alien mind would render concepts that are completely incomprehensible to Earthlings. Did taking on human form affect the way Harry draws?

• I gotta say, the last thing I expected to see on this show was an adult alien physically torturing a child in order to assert his dominance over him! You're weird, Siffy Channel!

• Near the end of the episode we see a montage of the various townspeople relaxing after hours. Deputy Baker spends her evening in front of the tube, and has clearly developed a crush on TV celebrity Giorgio A. Tsoukalos.

In addition to being the subject of a popular meme, Tsoukalos is a ufo-logist, who subscribes to the theory that aliens interacted with ancient man and helped us build monuments like the pyramids and Stonehenge (something that's actually touched on earlier in this episode).

I think I see where this is going. Due to her infatuation with Tsoukalos, Deputy Baker will end up being the first adult to believe Harry's an alien.

• Harry finds a deposit of tellurium in the local mine, and uses it to cobble together a small anti-grav disk.

Oddly enough, tellurium is a real substance! It's a rare, silver-white metal that's related to selenium and sulfur. It's sometimes used as in semiconductors, which makes its use here all the more plausible.

Gosh, if only Harry would share his formula with us, we could have anti-gravity technology right now!

• This Week's Best Lines:
Harry: (voiceover) "All beings of the universe are different. For instance, my people are brilliant. Humans, on the other hand, are so dumb that they think the leading cause of death is heart disease. It’s not. It’s almond milk. Even the Grey aliens won’t touch the stuff."

Max: "Sheriff, I’d like to file a murder complaint. I know who killed Sam Hodges."
Ben: "What are you talking about?"
Sheriff: "Is that so? All right."
Ben: "Sure, have a seat."
Sheriff: "Go ahead and lay it on me, little deputy."
Max: "It’s the new doctor. He’s an alien."
Ben: "Okay, on that note, I’m gonna need everyone out. Kid’s a little delusional with a fever. Maybe no talking for a day."
Sheriff: "Wait, wait, wait, wait. An alien? What you mean? Like, he ain’t got a green card or something?"
Max: "No, like, alien alien from outer space."
Sheriff: "Outer sp..."
Ben: "And shoot me."
Sheriff: "What the hell are you teaching this kid, huh? You know I could lock you up for lying to an officer of the law? That is a crime. You’re committing crime."
Ben: "Got a sick kid, okay? Gonna need everyone out. Got a sick kid. Just..."
Sheriff: "Yeah, he’s sick all right. (to Max) Let me ask you something. You got HBO in your house? Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to watch Oz Season One, and then come back and tell me if you want to go to prison!"

(Harry nervously gives his first ever pelvic exam to Judy.)
Harry: :Okay, I see your problem. You sat on an earring."
(He tries to pull if out.)
Judy: "No! That…"
Harry: "Sorry."
Judy: "That’s supposed to be there."

Harry: (thinking about Max) "This kid is a menace. He just won't give up. Where was that effort from the humans when we were helping them build Stonehenge? A bunch of idiots just sitting around drinking mead, making us do all the work. Lazy druids."

(Harry tries to fool Max into thinking he's gone, by pretending to be a friend from school.)
Harry: (in a high-pitched voice) "Hi, is Max there?"
Kate: "Who’s this?"
Harry: "I’m a friend of his from school. My name is…Elvis."
Kate: "Yeah, okay. (handing the phone to Max) "Max, friend from school."
Max: "Hello?"
Harry: "Hi. I saw your poster on the street."
Max: "Yeah?"
Harry: "And I saw that alien on a bus leaving town, so you don’t have to worry about him anymore."
Max: "Are you sure it was him?"
Harry: "Yes, he was very handsome, like a young Jerry Orbach."
Max: "Who? Wait a minute, I don’t know you from school."
Harry: "You’re right. I’m a post office man. I’m good with my eyes, and I saw that alien, and he’s gone."
Max: "If you’re a man, why do you have a kid’s voice?"
Harry: "Tricycle accident."
Max: "Uh‐huh. If you work at the post office, how much does a stamp cost?"
Harry: "One hundred dollars."
Max: "I knew it! You’re him!"
Harry: "One thousand dollars!"
Max: "I know it’s you, and guess what, alien, you can’t kill me. My parents know you’re after me, and if I die, they’ll know you did it, and you’re dumb. Stamps are like thirty bucks each, stupid."
Harry: "Don’t call me stupid… you little shit."
Max: (gasps) "S‐H‐I‐T is a bad word, stupid."
(Max hangs up.)
Harry: "That’s it. I’m going to kill him."

(Harry stares at Asta, Sheriff Mike and Deputy Baker as they argue.)
Harry: "I can read the emotions on their faces. (looking at Asta) Sadness masking as anger. (Looking at Sheriff Mike) Weakness masking as superiority. (Looking at Deputy Baker) This one’s like a pet rabbit that you yell at so much its hair starts to fall out."

(Harry goes bowling with D'Arcy, and runs into Judy.)
Judy: "So we meet again."
Harry: "Do I know you?"
Judy:
"Yeah, you had your hand inside me the other day."
D'Arcy: "Uh, narrow it down, Judy."

(Harry runs into Sheriff Mike, who's there with his league at the bowling alley.)
Sheriff: "Well, well, well, look who came into my house."
Harry: "You live here?"

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