Friday, April 30, 2021

Resident Alien Season 1, Episode 3: Secrets

This week on Resident Alien (man, I keep wanting to type "Resident Evil"), we get yet another well-written and very busy episode. Harry's faced with the fallout from his human disguise, Asta learns a shocking but predictable secret about her intern Jay, and a new threat looms on the horizon for our favorite extraterrestrial doctor.

As its title suggests, the theme of this week's episode is the various secrets the characters are keeping from one another— and in some cases themselves. It also focuses a bit more on the supporting cast, giving them a chance to shine as it fills in their backgrounds and gives them a bit more depth.

This week's episode focuses more on the supporting cast than Harry, filling in their backgrounds and giving them a bit more depth.

As with last week, this episode 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. 

It occurred to me this week that this is a very odd series. The protagonist is basically a murderer, who alternates his time between looking for his doomsday device and actively trying to kill a child. And if that wasn't enough, this week he finds the body of the man he murdered and does his best to hide it from the authorities. 

Yet despite all that, Harry's somehow likeable and even charming. Even more puzzling, the audience is actually pulling for him here, hoping he's not caught and gets away with his crime. Offhand I can't think of another series with such a twisted moral code.

I'm also enjoying the interactions between Max & Harry. Max was initially terrified of the bizarre alien who's invaded his town, but as time goes by he's beginning to realize Harry isn't the threat he thought he was, which gives him the upper hand. It's a fun relationship.

This is also the funniest episode of the series so far. I laughed out loud numerous times while watching, which is something I've not done in a long time. You haven't lived till you've heard a disguised alien talk about his "rear iris," call a ten year old child a dickhead or ask a couple if they want to risk their newborn baby getting an STD.

Lastly, this week introduces us to another new threat to Harry, in the form of two government agents who are tracking him down. I'm assuming this is the start of a "Harry Hides From The Government" plotline.


The Plot:
A man's fishing on the lake in front of Harry's house. He reels in his line, and sees to his horror he's hooked a severed foot!

That night Harry lies in bed and stares at his alarm clock. As an alien he doesn't need to sleep, but goes through the motions anyway to appear more human. Eventually his mind wanders as he thinks about all the stuff he needs to do: find his doomsday device, find the missing pieces of his ship, exterminate the human race, kill his archenemy Max and find the body of the real Harry Vanderspeigle, who he killed after assuming his form. It's a full schedule. Oh, and he needs to pick up some milk. 

The next morning, Harry searches the mountain and finds another piece of his ship. Nearby, two members of the Snow Patrol set off explosive charges to start a small avalanche (in order to prevent a bigger, more destructive one from hitting the town below). Harry hears the charges, sees the approaching wall of snow and dives for cover just in time. Once it's over, he sees the piece of his ship has been buried again.

Back at his cabin, Harry looks at a map of the mountain and realizes the avalanche has set him back at least a week. Just then Kate Hawthorne (the Mayor's wife) shows up and asks to talk with him. Harry reluctantly lets her in.

Kate's worried about her son Max, who's convinced that Harry's an alien. She says he's obsessed with the idea, and even claims that Harry broke into his bedroom and tried to kill him (which is actually true!). Alarmed, Harry secretly grabs a knife, figuring he'll have to kill Kate.

He raises the knife, but lowers it when he realizes that Kate doesn't believe Max. She asks what's wrong with Max and how to help him. Harry earnestly suggests the Hawthornes move— far away. She assumes he's joking, and Harry awkwardly laughs.

Displaying a rare moment of insight, Harry suggests Max is just looking for attention. Kate's impressed by this, as she's been neglecting him lately. Harry agrees that it's all her fault (!), and literally pushes her out the door.

Later in downtown Patience, Harry waits for Max to pass by on his way to school. He tells Max that no one believes his claim that he's an alien. The two trade insults for a while, as Max has lost his initial fear of Harry.

At the clinic, Asta opens Harry's desk drawer and discovers a prescription pad's missing (which is a big deal). She looks for Harry to tell him about it, and finds him in the lounge, watching Jay The Intern sleeping. When Asta asks what the hell he's doing, he says he can't sleep, so he's watching Jay to learn how. Asta shoos Harry out of the room, then wakes Jay and asks if she knows anything about the missing pad. She says she hasn't seen it (hmm...).

Just then Deputy Liv enters and tells Harry they need him down at the Town Hall. When he asks why, she says there's a dead body in the lake.

Harry & Asta arrive at the Town Hall, where Sheriff Mike announces that a local fisherman found a foot in the lake. Sheriff Mike says this incident, along with Sam Hodges' death, means they're dealing with a serial killer. 

Harry fears it belongs to the real Harry, who he "killed in self defense." The Sheriff wants to send the foot off for a DNA test. Harry realizes he can't let that happen, as they'll discover it belongs to the real Harry, and then everyone will know he's an alien.

Cut to Max walking down a hall at school. He drops his backpack, causing his tinfoil hat (first seen last episode) to spill out— to the amusement of a nearby bully. He then sees the bully knock a book out of the hands of Sahar, a young Muslim girl. Max picks up the book and hands it back to her. Sahar watches in admiration as he walks away.

After the meeting, Harry stares at the severed foot, which is sitting in a bucket of ice. Deputy Liv enters and gives a surprisingly detailed and accurate description of who the foot likely belonged to, including the suspect's age, height and weight. Alarmed, Harry waits for her to leave, then grabs the bucket and steals the foot.

Back at his office, he compares it to his own foot, and determines it did indeed belong to the real Harry Vanderspeigle. Sheriff Mike enters and accuses Harry of stealing the foot. He calms him down by saying he's a pathologist, and was simply trying to get a DNA sample.

Harry enters his exam room, where a young couple's brought their newborn baby in for a checkup. Harry says the child's healthy, then blatantly asks if it's been circumcised. Cut to Harry giving the baby's foreskin to Sheriff Mike, claiming it's a tissue sample from the severed foot (!).

Back at the school, Max is eating lunch by himself. His mom Kate, who's a teacher, picks this moment to give him more attention and sits with him. Horrified, he tells her to get lost before someone sees her— even offering to pay her to leave. She does so, but not before giving him a kiss first— which of course causes the other kids to snicker & laugh.

Sahar comes over and sits with Max. When he asks if she's going to make fun of him too, she tells him she believes his claim that Harry's an alien.

Harry returns home to his cabin, where Sheriff Mike is organizing a large and overly-complicated search for the body in the lake. Deputy Liv and Mayor Hawthorne are there as well. Harry's terrified they'll find out the truth, but is unsure what to do.

He flashes back to four months ago, when he first crash-landed on Earth and somehow wandered into New Mexico. A cowboy named Roy rids by on horseback and sees him in his true alien form. Terrified, Roy jumps off his horse and runs away screaming. Harry picks up the his hat, mounts his horse and rides it back to Colorado.

At the clinic, D'Arcy comes by to see Asta. She says she looks depressed, and knows just the thing to cheer her up. Cut to the two women as they weirdly sit on the beach, watching the Sheriff drag the lake for the dead body (???). They quickly become bored, and D'Arcy says she heard a mutual friend named JT is having a party. The two decide to go.

Meanwhile, Harry frets in front of his cabin. He's horrified when he sees the real Harry's body (minus a foot!) has washed up on shore. Sheriff Mike's dog Cletus sees it as well and starts sniffing around the body. Harry shoos the dog away, and drags the body into his cabin before anyone else spots it.

Cut to the party, as Asta and D'Arcy enter. They're mortified when they realize it's a teen party, thrown by the son of their friend JT— who apparently named his son after himself. A stoner kid approaches Asta, asking if she wants some pills. She looks at the pill bottle and sees the prescription was written by Sam Hodges— after his death— and realizes it was written with the missing pad. She confiscates the pills and tells D'Arcy they're leaving. As they head for the door, Asta spots Jay, passed out in a chair. They wake her and drag her out of the party.

They drive Jay to her house, and Asta watches as she goes inside. This triggers a flashback, as she and Sam Hodges pull up to the exact same house. She tearfully gives Sam her newborn baby, and he takes it to a couple standing on the porch. Back in the present D'Arcy asks Asta if she's OK. She says she wants to go home.

At the lake, Sheriff Mike & Liv knock on Harry's door to tell him they're knocking off for the night. Suddenly Cletus bursts in and makes a beeline for Harry's basement. He heads for the freezer and starts barking at it. Mike opens the freezer, and sees it contains wrapped packages of bison meat. He picks up Cletus and leaves, as we see the body lying just below the meat packets. Whew!

The next morning, Dan fixes breakfast for Asta. She tearfully tells him that her baby was a girl, and she thought it would be better off without her. Dan says the connection between mother & daughter can never be broken, and fate will eventually bring them back together. That's a setup for a future plotline if I ever heard one!

Later in town, Asta runs into Harry at the diner. He shows her he bought a bag full of padlocks, and she says she bought one as well. Harry then sits down to eat. Max & Sahar come in, and he points out Harry to her. Just like Max, she can can somehow see his true alien form. She nonchalantly walks by and "accidentally" knocks his water glass into his lap. He chases the two kids outside, but they get away.

At the clinic, Asta puts a padlock on the drawer containing the prescription pads. We then see Harry lock up his freezer, as well as the door to the basement. Satisfied, he lies down, puts on Roy's cowboy hat, and finally falls asleep for the first time in his life.

In New Mexico, Roy sits in a bar, talking to a man and a woman who claim to be UFO fanatics. He tells them a fictitious tale of how he encountered a horrifying alien and kicked its ass. The woman asks where he saw the alien, and Roy says she can find out in the new book he's writing about his experience.

Later, Roy heads out to his truck. Suddenly the woman jumps out of nowhere, grabs him and breaks his neck. She then takes the notes for his book. Her partner's aghast, saying their orders aren't to kill anyone. She hisses that she has different orders.

• As is typical for the series, the episode begins with a voiceover by Harry:

"One mistake. Just one mistake made out of necessity for survival. I had no choice but to kill the human known as Harry Vanderspeigle. I was just defending myself. How was I supposed to know when I threw him on top of the ice he would disappear into the lake? I am an alien. I don’t know every little detail about how Earth works."

I love that last line! It makes pefect sense that he's probably never seen ice before and wouldn't understand its properties. That doesn't change the fact that he's a killer though. I guess technically one could argue he's guilty of manslaughter though, rather than full-on murder.

• In the opening shot we see a horrified fisherman pull a severed foot out of the lake. He then turns and looks nervously back toward the shore. 

This scene perfectly mirrors the beginning of the very first episode, in which Harry's fishing on the same lake and turns toward the camera as well.

• That D'Arcy seems to be quite the busy gal. In addition to her bartending job, apparently she's also a member of the Snow Patrol, helping to prevent major avalanches.

• While searching the mountain for pieces of his ship, Harry's nearly killed by an avalanche. He narrates: "This is bad. I just felt my rear iris pucker and my testicles tighten. My taint remains unchanged."

Oh my god! The term "rear iris" made me laugh uproariously for a good five minutes!

As I said in the intro, my favorite thing on the show right now is Harry's relationship with Max. Even though Harry's presumably an adult— possibly even centuries old— he's brand new at being human. Which means he now has all the emotional maturity of a child. That puts him on a level playing field with Max when they spar. 

I love it when Max taunts him for being stupid, and Harry has no idea how to handle his frustration or respond. His only recourse is to basically say, "Oh yeah?" or "Same to you!"

• Harry & Max's confrontation takes place near this row of colorful buildings in downtown Patience.

As I've pointed out before, Resident Alien's exterior shots are filmed in the small town of Ladysmith, British Columbia. The scene in question was filmed on 1st Avenue, which appears to be the town's main drag.

As you can see here, the smaller orange building is now gray on the show— along with various other changes. That's because these Google Maps street views of the town are from 2014! Jaysis Google, update your images once in a while, why dontcha?

• Now that Max is over his initial fear of Harry, his interactions with him are confident and self-assured. That's why it was surprising to see he's actually a loner at school, and is regularly bullied.

Luckily for him he found an ally this week in Sahar. They're both unpopular and considered outsiders by all the other kids, so they make a perfect team.

• I brought this up in Pilot, but it's worth a repeat— the show can't seen to decide how Harry's human disguise works. In this episode, he holds the real Harry Vanderspeigle's foot up to his own, and says, "It's amazing how my people have developed the ability to mimic other life forms on a cellular level." 

To me that "on a cellular level" line is proof positive that Harry physically transformed his body to resemble a human. There's no other way to interpret it.

But then somehow Max & Sahar both see his true alien form when they look at him, which implies he's using some sort of illusion, like a hologram or perception filter.

Note to the writers— both those scenarios can't be right! They're complete opposites, and you need to pick one and go with it.

• I feel bad for Deputy Liv. In this episode she extrapolates an amazingly accurate portrait of the Lake Victim simply by examining the severed foot! She's clearly far more intelligent and competent than anyone in town realizes. Mike in particular is constantly dismissive of her, despite the fact she's probably more qualified to be the Sheriff than he is!

So why does everyone regularly underestimate her? It could be because she's a woman in a traditionally male occupation, but I think there's more to it than that. I'm betting it's because she's very meek and timid, which makes her seem inexperienced and hesitant. Speak up for yourself, girl!

And yes, I understand that her "Under The Radar Competence" is the joke here— I just thought it was worth noting.

• As Sheriff Mike drags the lake for the missing body, Harry has a flashback to when he first landed on Earth.

I'm confused by his claim about wandering around in New Mexico for two weeks. How the hell did he get there? I thought his ship crashed on a mountaintop in Colorado— the place where he's been searching for his ship for the past four months. So how the hell did he end up in the desert? Did his ship crash so hard in Colorado it threw him several hundred miles into the next state?

Or did he crash in Colorado, wander into neighboring New Mexico for a while, encounter a cowboy & scare him off, then ride his horse back to where he started?

I don't get it. It's almost like this entire interlude was included just to introduce the cowboy character and to give us the admittedly absurd image of an alien riding a horse.

• Naturally the body of the real Harry Vanderspeigle washes up on shore while Sheriff Mike's dragging the lake for it. What are the odds? That's The Force Awakens-level coincidence right there!

• Cletus wears a vest that reads "DEPUTY." That had to be Sheriff Mike's idea.

• Harry panics when he sees the body, so he drags it into his house, and hides in in a freezer in the basement of his cabin. Wait, the what? A basement. In a cabin. That's literally fifty feet away from a huge body of water. 

Is that really a thing? Do lakeside cabins typically have basements? Seems like a bad idea to me. Wouldn't flooding be a constant problem?

• Asta & D'Arcy mistakenly show up at a teen party. As they hurriedly leave, Asta spots a drunken Jay passed out in a chair and takes her home.

Back in my review of the first episode I said: 

Asta infodumps her backstory to Harry, saying she married Jimmy and became pregnant when she was sixteen, and he forced her to give up the baby for adoption. Because of that, she tries to help kids like Jay stay off the streets so they don't make the same mistakes she did.

I wonder... is Jay gonna turn out to be the baby that Asta gave up?

Welp, it turns out I was right! After the party Asta drives Jay to her home, and watches her stagger up to the porch.

She then has a flashback to the night she gave up her baby. We see her friend and mentor, the late Sam Hodges, as he hands the baby over to its adoptive parents— who're standing in front of the exact same house!

That pretty much confirms that Asta is Jay's mom. 

To be fair it's not like I'm some kind of genius for predicting this storyline, as it's just basic writing and a pretty standard plot element. I just didn't expect it to happen this quickly.

Now that Asta knows the truth, I'm betting we'll get an episode in which Jay finds out that Asta's really her mom, will resent her decision to give her up for adoption and won't want anything to do with her.

• Near the end of the episode, Harry has an encounter with Sahar inside Joe's Diner.

Last week I tried to find the location they used for the diner in Ladysmith. I managed to track down the street, but there's no diner in the background (it should be between the utility pole and the large reddish building in the image above).

Google Maps hasn't updated this particular street view since 2012, so I said it's possible the diner was built sometime after that. The only trouble with that theory is I can't find any evidence of a diner anywhere in the town.

I then inexplicably posited that the diner probably doesn't exist and was CGIed into the background (!). Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking either.

In this episode we see the diner is most definitely not CGI, but in fact an actual real-world structure. You can even see that same reddish building behind it! I've scoured the internet for recent pics of the diner, but unfortunately I came up empty. Not surprisingly, there's just not a lot of info out there about a tiny, obscure town like Ladysmith.

If anyone out there lives in or around Ladysmith, BC, take a pic of this diner and send it to me so I can prove it really exists!

• In the first act, Asta discovers someone's stolen one of Sam's prescription pads out of his desk drawer. Later at the teen party, a stoner offers her pills that were written with a prescription from the missing pad.

So who stole the pad? The most likely suspect is Jay, as she works in the clinic and was at the party. She's a little TOO obvious though, and I'll be really disappointed in the writers if it turns out to be her. I can't think of anyone else it could be though.

Anyway, at the end of the episode Asta buys a lock for the desk drawer, to keep the prescription pads safe. Nothing like closing the barn door after the horse is loose and in the next county! 

In reality, there's no way in hell even a small town doctor like Sam would have ever left his prescription pads unlocked, where anyone could get to them. No medical professional would be that stupid.

• In the tag scene, two alleged UFOgists speak with the Cowboy who encountered Harry in his true form. A few seconds later the female kills the Cowboy and steals the info he's gathered on Harry (!). Da-yum!

Obviously this scene's setting up a new storyline, as these two are clearly government agents trying to track down Harry. Looks like he may have to kill again!

This Week's Best Lines (most of which were spoken by Harry, of course):
(Kate Hawthorne pays Harry a visit, and tells him that her son Max thinks he's an alien.)
Harry: "Well, you don’t have anything to worry about. I’m not an alien. Unfortunately. I hear they’re pretty cool."

Kate: "I just don’t know what to do. Max won’t sleep, he won’t eat, and frankly, he is driving me crazy. You’re a doctor. Is there anything that we can do?"
Harry: "Move."
Kate: "What?"
Harry: "Far away from here. A new school, a new life. If Max knows that he is never setting a foot in Colorado or the Western United States again, I think that he will be a happy kid."
Kate: "Uh, we have jobs. My husband is the mayor."
Harry: "Scotland needs mayors. I read it in a book."

(Harry confronts Max on his way to school.)
Harry: "Good morning, dickhead."
Max: "Can’t call me that. That’s a nasty word."
Harry: "Oh, I’m sorry, Shit‐For‐Brains."
Max: "You’re inappropriate and you stole my flyers!"
Harry: "Do you wanna put them back up? Go ahead. No one believes you, anyway. Not even your parent. Tell people I am an alien. Climb to the highest tower in town and shout it to everyone!"
Max: "We don’t have towers, you dumb alien."
Harry: "No, I... I know that; it was a figure of speech."
Max: "No, it wasn’t. Oh my God, you actually thought we had towers."
Harry: "I did not!"
Max: "You’re so stupid! 'Hi, I’m an alien and I think it’s castle times and there are towers.”
Harry: "I was testing to see if you thought there were towers, and you’re lucky you passed."
Max: "Well, I’m gonna go to school now. Wait. I hope a tower doesn’t fall on me because we live in make‐believe times."
Harry: "You’re the one who thinks there’s towers!"
(He looks around to see if anyone witnessed their exchange.)
Harry: "Dickhead. Ass... asshole."

(Deputy Liv sees Harry staring at the severed foot.)
Liv: "Poor guy. My guess is a boat propeller probably hit the dead body and just chopped the foot right off."
Harry: "Mm."
Liv: "White male. I’m thinking late 40s, 180 pounds, over six feet tall. That’s a size twelve shoe. Heck, if you didn’t have two feet, I’d think this thing was yours!"
Harry: (laughing nervously) "You are a funny, hilarious person!"

(Harry tries to steal the foot, but is caught by Sheriff Mike.)
Sheriff Mike: "Where’s my goddamn foot? You stole my five dead little piggies, not to mention Liv’s favorite bucket. She puts her soda pop in there!"
Harry: "I can help. I am a pathologist. You don’t need to send the whole foot to Denver."
Mike: "Well, then pathologize the damn thing and get me a DNA sample. We got some Ted Bundy shit going on around here, and I need to put a stop to it before he strikes again."
Harry: "Or she. The killer could be a woman. That’s sexist. You’re sexist."
Mike: "Let me tell you something. When I say he, I mean he or she. You know, between you and me, what is this PC bullshit anyway now where you gotta say 'he/she' for 'he' when 'he' already mean 'he/she,' you know what I mean?"
Harry: "I just think it’ll be more respectful if you think of the killer as a woman."
Mike: "Okay. Well, let me tell you what I think would be respectful, is if you got me a skin sample off this foot before I start needing dick pills. Now, I’ma be in the waiting room waiting!"

Harry: (narrating again) "No one knows where great ideas come from. But you always remember where you were when they came. There. And in this case, my great idea came the moment I entered the exam room and realized I was going to cut the foreskin off this baby’s dick and hand it to the sheriff."

(Harry examines a baby and gets a "brilliant" idea.)
Harry: "His chest is clear. Is he circumcised?"
Mrs. Briscoe: "What?
Asta: "What?"
Harry: "Right, how dumb of me to ask. I’m right here. I can just check myself. Let’s see what you’re packin’ down there, champ."
Asta: "Harry... Dr. Vanderspeigle, you don’t need to do that."
Mrs. Briscoe: "He’s not circumcised. Not yet, anyway. We were thinking about it but hadn’t made a decision."
Asta: "And you don’t need to make a decision right now."
Harry: "The sooner the better. Removing the foreskin reduces the risk of urinary tract infection. Also STDs."
Mrs. Briscoe: "STDs?"
Harry: "Do you want your baby getting gonorrhea?"
Mrs. Briscoe: "Is that a real question?"
Asta: "No, it’s not!"
Harry: "You should consider it. It’s a very simple procedure. All I do is surgically remove the skin which covers the tip of your baby’s prick."

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