You know what’s a lot more fun than watching political talking-head shows? Watching political talking-head shows during which those talking heads spontaneously combust.
We may only be three episodes in to BrainDead, but so far, we’re three for three on exploding heads. And you know what? I am still totally delighted and totally grossed out every time it happens. This time around, it happens on Doublespeak with Claudia Monarch, one of those debate shows where they get a bunch of people with opposing viewpoints to yell incoherently at each other. When Luke Healy stops by to discuss the government shutdown, he gets in a loud argument with a man named Jonathan Broadbent, Red Wheatus’ current chief of staff. Their debate, however, is cut short when Broadbent’s head detonates, spraying blood and guts everywhere. (Thank god for that eight-second on-air delay.) I think if your opponent’s head literally explodes while you’re arguing, you automatically win.
Fortunately for Luke, Broadbent was taping his piece from a remote location, so he doesn’t get any brain matter on one of his fancy suits. The word on the street is Broadbent died from a random stroke, and Luke doesn’t question it; after all, he’s got more important things to worry about. After his fellow Democrats began to question his leadership skills in the wake of the government shutdown, Scarlett attempts to smooth things over with one of the senators, Ella Pollack, by sending her some apologetic cherry blossom branches — with a side of brain-eating ants. It isn’t long before Ella has transformed into a hard-line liberal crusader, and she’s determined to dethrone Luke as the Democratic whip. He’s more moderate and eager to compromise with their Republican colleagues, especially if it helps end the shutdown, but she’s fed up, asking her fellow senators, “Why must we always be the party of adults?”
As for the Republicans, the Broadbent incident means there’s an opening among Senator Wheatus’ employees. Red promotes Gareth to chief of staff, and Gareth soon sets out to turn the Democratic infighting into a win for the Republicans. He convinces Red to endorse Luke as whip, automatically making Ella seem like the more attractive candidate to the Democrats. (A hardcore Democrat like Ella will help the Republicans keep their more moderate senators on their side.) It’s a reminder that Gareth is really, really good at his job, and we finally get a little bit of insight into exactly why Gareth pursued politics: ambition and an idealistic desire to improve the world as best as he can. Here’s hoping the ants don’t eat away at that part of him.
Speaking of ants, Laurel gets a visitor: Gustav, whom we met in the last episode as the certified genius/chess whiz whose friend’s head exploded. He, however, introduces himself as a constituent named Dr. Bob Bob and says vague things like, “The government’s too big, don’t you think? Can you make it smaller?” It isn’t until she steps outside her office later that he confronts her and tells her who he really is, leaning in to whisper, “Bugs are eating people’s brains.”
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After Gustav insists Laurel put her cell phone in a foil bag to stop the NSA from listening in, he tells her he found the bugs in the remnants of his friend’s exploded brain, and he believes they’re a type of screwworm, a bug that eats human flesh. These particular screwworms are eating people’s brains and affecting their memory (and making them more extreme in their political views). As for the occasional head explosions? He’s not quite sure what that’s about, but he posits the explosions are caused by a buildup of methane in the cranial cavity — a.k.a. bug farts. Of course. I was thinking the explosions maybe had to do with the infected’s intelligence level or attempt to actively fight the bugs, but sure, bug farts work, too.
Gustav gives Laurel his contact information — which is a dentist’s business card with the dentist’s info crossed out and Gustav’s name and number written in pen — and she’s about to throw it out when she hears the most horrifying thing a person in Washington can hear: the dulcet tones of “You Might Think,” emerging from Ella’s office. It’s there that Laurel sees Ella deep in conversation with Scarlett, which does not bode well for Luke.
NEXT: Alien bug fighters, assemble!