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September 5, 2015

The Venture Bros: The Invisible Hand of Fate

by Annie Wu, posted Jun 15th 2008 11:59PM
Pete and Billy(S03E03) The Venture Bros. has some of the most incredibly strong secondary characters in the entire cartoon universe. I love their intricate back stories and the delicate explanations of their tendencies and motivations. It's like Lost, but with more robot hands and bad break-ups. That said, is Season Three going to be the season of back stories? I mean, seriously. The first episode was all about the origin of The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend, the second was an in-depth exploration of Rusty's past affecting his future, and "The Invisible Hand of Fate" taught us more than we ever wanted to know about the early days of Billy Quizboy and Pete White.

Back stories at this point are fantastic, because they allow us to revisit the first two seasons with new eyes (I can't wait to rewatch all the Pete and Billy episodes). However, I also want to see some progress in the VB world. We've barely heard from the Venture brothers and, if you think about it, we're almost a quarter of the way into the season. I hope this changes soon, as it would be a shame to have to wait until the middle of this season before we get some crazy action. The fact that Jackson Publick's latest blog entry noted similar unease in airing this episode so closely to the back story-tastic first episode is comforting to me, though.

My irritating nitpicking aside, I loved this episode. My love for Pete White and Billy Quizboy has grown tenfold after this. Prior to this episode, I saw them as a pair of failures who stayed together because they weren't good enough to find better partners. Now, it's obviously a situation in which Pete guiltily feels responsible for Billy's unfortunate life and has to look after him, as well as help him achieve the super-science life he's always wanted.

I knew I was going to love this episode as soon as Billy's robot hand started freaking out and memories of his past came flooding back. Up until now, the closest thing to explanation for Billy's hand came at the end of "Victor. Echo. November." when Dr. Venture asked about it, and Billy could only answer, "That's an excellent question. I have no idea." Pete's additional reference to Winsor McCay after made me extra happy, but I couldn't help but worry that he was secretly working against Billy when he knocked him out with that hunk of machinery.

Pete: Hello, Goldilocks? This is Casper. Little Nemo has fallen out of bed.

We learned about Billy's days as a quiz champion on the show Quizboys, in which Pete White served as the tall, dark and handsome host (thanks to wigs and make-up). Pete had a scheme to profit from Billy's champion spot, but, unbeknownst to Billy, this included cheating. After being caught changing answers and put to shame by the entire country, Pete persuaded Billy to take on his dream job of working with his childhood hero, super-scientist Rusty Venture. I'm not surprised Pete White's drug of choice is coke. White lines for the albino? All too appropriate.

And then came the super awesome OSI theme song! I have been excited about this since the Season Three teaser. Apparently, this was another JG Thirlwell piece, so I don't think we'll be getting a download any time soon. Sigh. We got to see Brock with a rat tail and Colonel Hunter Gathers being the outcasts of the OSI, hunting down the mysterious Guild of Calamitous Intent while everyone else kicked Cobra -- I mean, Sphinx's ass and distributed humiliation of Abu Ghraib proportions. The interaction between Brock and Hunter is always absolutely perfect. Their cows game in the car was adorable.

On the way to Dr. Venture's, Pete entered Billy in underground quiz competitions for gas money. Man, the music in this episode was spot-on. From the OSI theme to Billy's brief victory montage to the touching instrumental at the very end... Perfect. Seriously, when is Thirlwell going to get on that soundtrack business? And was Billy's first underground opponent wearing a Watchmen top or a ripped up smiley face sweater with a ketchup stain? From the looks of the guy, it really could have been either. Pete and Billy rocked the cross-country tour and arrived at the Venture compound just in time to see Rust kick out Myra with the help of the OSI and H.E.LP.eR, who was looking robotically maternal with the baby Venture brothers in his arms.

After being promptly turned away by Rusty, Pete and Billy left, crushed, and took on another quiz. Except it wasn't a quiz and Billy lost his eye and hand to a pit bull. I was definitely expecting a much more scientific reason for Billy losing those, but I suppose a shady dogfight is a good explanation too. Of course, this quickly killed Pete and Billy's friendship. As soon as Pete sped off on the moped, Billy was picked up by Hunter and brought to the OSI, where he was fitted with a new eye and robo-hand. He also met... The Nozzle. "... The Nozzle" is this close to becoming this season's "IGNORE ME!" Billy, fitting the profile for a typical supervillain, was sent to a state school to spy on Professor Fantomas, a man suspected of working with the super-secret, super-evil Guild of Calamitous Intent. I'm guessing this was when the Guild wasn't so insanely bureaucratic and had more evil cred.

Billy: I kind of wanted to go to MIT --
Hunter: And I wanted to be born with big, beautiful tits! Make some lemonade with this, will ya?

That shout-out to VB Season Three on the chalkboard was fun, as was Billy's "Suddenly I'm Not So Different" moment. Leave it to schoolwork to ruin the moment. Also, how perfect was that few seconds of young Dr. Girlfriend having a private moment with Professor Fantomas (in his office, which formerly belonged to Professor Richard Impossible)? Totally scandalous. I never thought Phantom Limb was that much older than her, but I guess she went through an older man phase (one that lasted right up until her marriage). Young Dr. Girlfriend looked pretty hot, but not quite as sexy as Colonel Gathers in his cheerleader outfit. He made the stubble and high ponytail combo work. Billy slowly learned more about what he was doing for the OSI, including the fact that his new eye was actually a camera and his robot hand was collecting information.

Brock: I didn't want to tell you this, but Stevie was our other man on the inside.
Hunter: Codename "Pussyface."
Billy: ... Is that why he killed himself?

We also got to see Phantom Limb's pre-phantom'd limbs, which were covered by robot arms. Do all the characters in the VB universe use robotics to cover up their chicken dinner arms? He invited Billy to become his new lab assistant after reading Billy's impressive essay (which was actually written by Stephen Hawking). Despite feeling terrible about being forced to cheat again, Billy was fed up with the OSI's treatment. He kicked Brock and Hunter's ass in the car and joined the Professor just as he prepared to use his muscle growth accelerator. Unfortunately, Professor Fantomas only thought Billy was qualified to assist him because of Hawking's paper and the ensuing accident not only ruined Billy's eye but blew Phantom Limb right out of the building and turned his limbs all crazy. Looks like the speculation about his evil origins in "Victor. Echo. November." had some roots in the truth.

The ending was incredibly compelling and my favorite part of the episode. The OSI sent Hunter to Guam, assigned Brock to a new mission and planned to use Billy as a guinea pig in a risky experiment. I'm looking forward to seeing the effect of the Guild infiltrating the OSI. There is also some discussion online about whether or not the guy yelling at Brock was Sergeant Hatred. I didn't even consider it a possibility, but now that someone has brought it up, I don't know what to think. [EDIT: Ahh, apparently he's listed as "Sgt. Haine" in the credits. Haine is "hate" en francais. Sneaky, sneaky] All right, so in the end... Brock decided to save Billy by taking him back to Pete White, who had been living in his crappy trailer all this time, dwelling on his Quizboy days and the pain he caused Billy. Leaving sleepy Billy in the arms of scruffy Pete was such a beautifully heartbreaking moment. The scene tied up extra nicely as we watched Brock continue to the location of his newest mission: the Venture compound. Again, the music made it extra amazing.

Watching the post-credits scene was kind of weird because the backstory's effect was immediate. If I had seen the segment before this episode, I probably would have thought Pete's tone was a little condescending. But now, we all know that it's all loooove. And guilt. But mostly love.

Shirt of the Week: Billy Quizboy: Ah-HA! I knew it. That Quizboys logo was too lovingly designed to NOT be on a t-shirt. The OSI uniform emblem or their GI Joe stylelogo would have been nice too, but there will be other opportunities to sell those shirts, as I'm sure we haven't seen the last of the OSI this season.

How would you rate this episode?
5 - Super awesome spectacular!125 (67.2%)
447 (25.3%)
311 (5.9%)
21 (0.5%)
1 - Terrible.2 (1.1%)

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I thought billy lost his eye in the Phantom Limb failed experiment? It flew out of his head when things went all tits up.

June 19 2008 at 2:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John's comment
Annie W.

He lost his real eye in the dogfight and his camera-eye in the P. Limb experiment.

June 19 2008 at 2:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ben Belden

I'm sure it's just due to the fact that the voice actors do more than one character on the show, but did anyone notice a lot of secondary characters in the episode that both looked and sounded like Dean and Hank? There were at least two times I thought characters were adult versions of Hank and one when I was sure it was Dean. It just got me to thinking that maybe the boys aren't actually the offspring of Dr. Venture, or have some DNA from other sources or something.

June 17 2008 at 12:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh, and that underground quiz with the watchmen t-shirt guy, was the host supposed to be Tony Clifton? I might've just been imagining that though... he didn't have the ruffley shirt and bowtie, but he totally had a Tony Clifton face.

June 16 2008 at 7:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So what are we to think about Fantomas? Was he working with the Guild of Calamitous Intent or the Guild of Collegiate Investors? In Hate Floats, he says his killer hand thing is the result of a botched experiment that made him evil, implying he was not evil before. But Hunter seemed pretty sure that he was working for the Guild.

June 16 2008 at 3:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Thomas Cushard

Read Jackson's comments on the episode. Production delays forced this episode to show third. It was actually supposed to be part of the season 2 finale. This will not be the season of back stories. But even if it is, it will make season 4 so much better.


June 16 2008 at 2:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

OSI is more SHIELD from Marvel Comics than a straight forward GI Joe homage. Personally was hoping that was the shirt of the week, the OSI logo.

June 16 2008 at 12:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"...taught us more than we ever wanted to know..."

Speak for yourself, Annie. I wanted to know all this and more!

June 16 2008 at 12:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When Billy first had the flashes of memory come back to him, and they showed a game show set, I thought for sure it was going to be Card Sharks.

June 16 2008 at 12:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't think Hunter as a cheerleader fit the "convincing cover" guidelines he said are 20% of a successful stakeout.

I assume Brock's new mission was Operation Rusty's Blanket?

I love that Billy was still trying to beat the dog after losing his eye and hand but got disqualified because of White.

My recap/review at http://prozachary.blogspot.com

June 16 2008 at 12:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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