Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Episode 40, Part 1: Doug's Math Problem

This episode begins with a bit of brilliance from Roger.

This is how he's trying to cheat off Patti's math test. I don't know how he imagined this would work. It would be more subtle to pull out his textbook and he wouldn't have to read backwards. Ms. Wingo busts him (obviously) and he throws the mirror over his shoulder indiscriminately. It shatters off screen and luckily no one yells, so it apparently didn't hit or cut anyone. Anyway, how is Doug doing on this math test?

I used to draw stupid pictures when I didn't know the answers too, but it's pretty sad that he's only answered the first two problems with a train and a Patti. He looks around and narrates, "it seemed like everybody understood the problems except me." Then he fantasizes the standard train problem that every kid in every television show in history has had problems understanding. A train going one way at a certain speed and blah blah blah, you get the idea. For Doug's fantasy, he's riding on top of a passenger car.

At least Bart imagined he was comfortably inside the train. Doug doesn't know how to do the problem and the trains collide and the fantasy ends.

After school, Skeeter is throwing a football with Porkchop while Doug sits on the ground moaning about how he can't believe he failed a math test. Skeeter casually explains the extremely simple problem to him while running around, throwing and catching a football. Bluffington's future head astronaut is proving his worth and shaming Doug. Doug still doesn't get it. As Skeeter is explaining it, Doug's imagination drowns out Skeeter and floating numbers and equations float around his head.

Skeeter throws the ball and Porkchop crashes into the mailman trying to catch it. He picks up the mess of mail Porkchop caused and starts distributing.

Porkchop gets a ton of mail. The last piece of mail for Porkchop is in a pink envelope with paw prints and smells of perfume, which the mailman comments on in a teasing way. The whole scene is just weird. Why is the dog getting mail at all? The last one was clearly from another dog, and that just raises so many questions.

Getting to the human mail, the guy hands Doug bill after bill until he drops this bomb on him.

This immediately triggers a fantasy.

Theda pops up first saying, "we're being called in for a parent-teacher conference?" Then Phil pops up and says, "you flunked a math test?" Then they just go back and forth getting worse, more irrational, or in one case, just redundant.

"You're being suspended?"
"You're being set back 3 grades?"
"You're being expelled?"
"They're tearing up your permanent record!?"
"You flunked a math test!?"
"You're under arrest!?"

A train crashes through the abstract wall of Doug's parents, ending the fantasy. He doesn't even know what the notice is, and he's already escalated it to the idea that he's getting arrested. It's the beginning of a panic attack. He's at least correct in his assumption that the notice is about his math skills.

Now he just has to know what it says before he gives it to his parents. Why? What good will that do? He holds it up to the sun and for some reason that works perfectly, but only for the top half of the envelope.

Doug can't read anything but the first line. I love the impersonal "dear parents." Does this school seriously not have the names of the parents of every student? Of course, if I were in this situation I would take that impersonal greeting as a sign that this note was sent to everyone at school and start playing football with my best friend and my amazing dog. Not Doug. Skeeter has an idea. They go to Al and Moo.

Al and Moo promise to hack into the school's computers to find out what the letter is about. Doug asks them if this is against the rules and they assure him that it isn't. It's perfectly legal. As soon as they hit enter on their keyboard, an alarm goes off at the school, and a cold robotic female voice (you know the one that always accompanies this sort of thing) starts repeating "hackers have penetrated the school computer."

This middle school employs 3 IT guys to protect it from Al and Moo. There's just no way that anyone but Al and Moo have the knowledge and equipment to hack the school computers. Also, they're advertising themselves as hackers for the other students. They had a sign outside of their room, and Skeeter knew exactly where to go to get shit done.

Anyway, Al and Moo bail out and run off. Doug's next solution is a lot more straightforward. He decides to just cut it open. With scissors, he cuts off a corner of the envelope because he's nervous about screwing up. He tapes the corner back together and pulls out an x-acto knife. Instead of cutting open the envelope, he cuts open his finger.

So now the damn thing is taped up and covered in blood. Doug has a solution for the blood. He'll just cover it with liquid white. He grabs it by the top and spills it all over his desk. Reaching for tissues to clean that up, he knocks over some ink.

He's really starting to panic now.

He finally tries opening the envelope with steam.

I really don't get this. If he knew about this method all along, why did he try anything else? This works and the envelope opens, but I guess Doug just had to ruin it with tape and blood before this last ditch effort that definitely would've yielded better results much sooner. Oh but...

The ink is running. Too much steam. He just soaked it in steam. He turns to Porkchop and says, "we gotta dry it out!" Porkchop grabs the letter and jumps into brilliant action.

I can't see how this could go wrong. While this is going on, the phone rings and Doug answers it. It's Patti. Doug can't see, but she's holding an envelope that looks exactly like his. Before she says anything, Theda comes home and Doug really starts to panic. He hangs up the phone without even thinking about it. The letter starts smoking.

Patti is confused.

As the toaster catches fire, Doug tells Theda not to go into the kitchen because of a surprise. The phone rings and he answers it. It's Patti again. She wants to tell Doug one quick thing, but as Theda is walking into the kitchen, he just doesn't have the time for it. He hangs up on her again and runs to the kitchen but it's too late.

Porkchop has taken care of the toaster fire. Theda sees the tea kettle and thinks her surprise is tea! How nice! She pours a cup and notices the mail, with the letter (well done, Porkchop), is stacked neatly for her on the counter. She decides to take her tea and mail into her bedroom where she's going to take a nap. Doug decides to consult an expert on his next move. I mean...Doug has a Smash Adams fantasy.

After jumping out of a plane and landing on the Funnie's front yard, Smash Adams jumps through Theda's open window. He pulls out a bizarre gun and aims it at the mail.

The gun just shoots a suction cup that sticks to the mail, and since the suction cup is attached to a string, Smash Adams easily pulls the piece of mail out of the stack and makes his escape. After jumping out of the window, he says, "thanks mom," and he activates his rocket shoes.

Yes. This is exactly what Doug should do. He should over-complicate things to absurd degrees like always.

Before he can even get through his parents' door, Judy catches him and resolves to stop him. She's dressed in her karate outfit, so she's in a fighting mood. She called him Agent Dougie and herself Mistress Ninja. If dressed normally, she probably would've settled for simple blackmail, like a good Funnie. While Doug is dodging Judy's crazy, the phone starts to ring again. Doug answers and it's Patti. She's angry now. She just wants to tell Doug one thing and before she gets the chance, Judy kicks the phone out of Doug's hand.

The phone is ripped off the wall and Patti is disconnected again.

All the noise wakes up Theda and she finds them in the kitchen to tell them to be quiet so she can nap. Doug takes the opportunity and offers to get her mug. He's so sweet.

In his parents' bedroom, he ignores her stupid mug and grabs only the letter. He walks out into the hallway with a smug look on his face when Phil gets home. Phil sees Doug holding the letter and asks, "whatcha got there?" Doug has another Smash Adams fantasy.

Smash Adams is on top of a speeding train and he's surrounded by thugs. The train is going over a canyon. He has no hope of escape. The thugs demand the letter and Smash Adams does the smartest thing he can think to do.

Delicious. Smartly, Doug decides it would be better if he didn't eat the letter. He gives Phil the letter, telling him it's from school. Phil looks at it and says, "looks pretty banged up...

"...thanks a lot, postal service."

Doug confesses that he banged it up trying to open it to see what it said. He was afraid they might be mad at him because of what it might say. Phil grabs him by the shoulders and says, "we're your parents, son. You don't have to hide things from us." Theda adds, "we love you!"

They say that, but neither of them shows even the slightest bit of concern for the fact that Doug just can't open a simple envelope without bleeding all over it and burning it in the toaster (which he is totally prepared to blame on the dog).

Before Phil opens the letter, the doorbell rings and Patti starts screaming outside. She wants to come in. Doug opens the door and quickly apologizes to Patti because he forgot to call her back. Phil opens the envelope and pours the shredded remains of the letter into his hand. He asks, "Doug, are you having trouble in school?" When did the letter get shredded? Did Porkchop do that after putting out the fire? What the hell?

Doug says, "well," like he's about to explain his trouble with math, but Patti finally bursts with excitement about the letter her dad got, insensitively addressed "To The Parents of Patti Mayonnaise."

Ms. Wingo wants her to tutor Doug in math for a while. Theda is thrilled and invites Patti to stay for dinner.

"I don't know why I was so scared of that stupid letter. It's amazing how much pain I went through to avoid something painful that turned out to be pretty great."

Doug's anxiety increases throughout this entire episode until he finally just gives up. He's going through all these crazy schemes just to find out what the letter says before his parents. If he'd just let Theda read it when she got home, his worry would've ended a lot quicker. There's no reason he actually needs to read it first. Knowing what the letter says isn't going to stop his parents from finding out eventually. In this case, knowing would've calmed him down, but if it had been something serious it would've just allowed him to prolong his pain. Pretend the letter says Doug is failing math and he needs to be held back a grade. Doug isn't going to just hand over the letter. He'd probably take the letter with him when he ran away from home. He's run away from home based on rumors before. It's not hard to imagine he'd do it again based on real trouble from school.

But that doesn't matter. The letter just said that Doug sucks at Math and needs a tutor and Theda thinks that is great. I guess she's tired of not helping him with his homework. Now that Patti has to do it, she's off the hook. Well done, Theda. Go finish your nap.

Doug also finishes this episode with one last short fantasy. We see one of the trains from the first fantasy about the math problem. In the last car, staring out the back window, Doug and Patti stand and wave as the train speeds away and an iris-in takes the screen to black. It seems like a nice happy fantasy, but they are on a train that's destined to crash into another train....


  1. Mrs. Wingo gave Roger a pretty lenient punishment for cheating on the math test. Just about any of the teachers I had in grade/high school would've, at least, given him a 0 on the test. More likely, they would've also called his mom about it.

    On the other hand, Mrs. Wingo might actually be the most caring teacher in the world to suggest tutoring for Doug after he failed just one test. Any other teacher would've just scratched her had and been like, "Hmmmm, what happened to him here?" and then moved on to grading the other tests, probably seeing at least two or three other failing grades on it.

  2. First show of the final season of the Nick version, and our favorite sixth grade psychopath waste no time having a panic attack.

    I can't believe it was so much of a struggle for Doug to open that letter. I've opened many letters, and for the most part, I've found it pretty easy to open them.

    And there's no way Doug could read half of the letter using the sunlight in real life. At best it would just block the sunlight only.

    Finally, I've watched this episode for the longest time, and I didn't know steam could hinder writing in a letter so badly.

  3. At least Bart imagined he was comfortably inside the train. Doug doesn't know how to do the problem and the trains collide and the fantasy ends.

    Oh that was a fun episode! When that train collide, only Bart make an a-hole of himself on the classroom floor!

    You have to admit that's one arty fantasy!

    I felt the bigger problem here was in how the envelope wasn't colored in a darker shade of yellow to suggest the letter inside was folded halfway to give the impression that you couldn't dread past that first line. Certainly wasn't worked out just right.

    Reaching for tissues to clean that up, he knocks over some ink.

    We never do see Doug working with a dip pen with Higgins Drawing Ink much in this cartoon. :-P

    "I don't know why I was so scared of that stupid letter. It's amazing how much pain I went through to avoid something painful that turned out to be pretty great."

    If only reality worked that way. Every time the mail comes I dread getting another creditor's bill that my folks may pick up first. It's never a happy ending. :-(

    And there's no way Doug could read half of the letter using the sunlight in real life. At best it would just block the sunlight only.

    Best I usually get is jumbled lettering that is either upside down or rightside up depending on how the letter was folded, and usually the envelope itself should be watermarked from the inside to prevent you from doing so.

  4. I'm both glad and saddened that Doug hasn't realized by now his parents just don't care about any of their children, and are more or less absent in their lives. It's been several years since I've heavily watched the series, but I am an avid reader of these wonderful analyses, and it seems to me his parents are strangely absent from almost everything, despite them having relatively menial, easy jobs. When his parents are involved they usually appear to actually be the instigator, or at least, aggregator, of Doug's conflict. Clearly, Judy fared poorly from her upbringing as well. It seems likely then that the cause of Doug's psychoses are not merely neurological. That is, these fantasies and hallucinations are really the fears and hopes of a severely abused, and/or neglected child, and stem from psychological, rather than mere physiological causes. While this may be a simple panic attack, Doug seems to display the same behavior a child would if afraid of being beaten or in other ways abused. Doug's pattern of action seems to be one of such terrific fear in this, as well as the episode with the breaking of the vase, as to compel him to do anything, however irrational. The events in question may have even ended in a darker way than Doug described, as he never explained the resolution of the large ink and white-out stain on what looks to be carpet, the phone ripped out of the wall, or even the fire, as we can all agree it probably wasn't put out by an anthropomorphic dog, which would have all justified punishment, although the kind the Funnie parents dish out might leave marks. Instead of being vivid hallucinations, I think they may just be the fantasy writing of a sad child. That said, Doug's more casual or even rebellious attitude towards his parents in other circumstances, like when he directly went against his father's wishes when they built a kite together, though these events may also be a kind of wish fulfillment, may point to a childhood of mere neglect. In many of Doug's negative fantasies his parents either: no longer love him, display severe disappointment, show incredible anger, and/or have an outright hatred for him. This may point to the fact that, much more than just needing pills, Doug, and Judy, may need to be moved into foster care, and their parents put into prison.


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