Before starting this week’s recap of John From Cincinnati, I’d like to acknowledge expert reader/commenter Christian. Christian’s keen eye caught that last week’s "Imperial Beach Burning" affected all things metal. Christian gets my first weekly "Golden Surfboard Award" for the best comment made on the boards below. I’m also open to other names for the award, such as the "Caged Zippy Prize," "Floating Mitchie Reward," or "Linc’s Mullet of Greatness." Please leave your suggestions at the end of this recap.
This week’s opening image, as revealed last week by "Golden Surfboard Award" runner-up JB, was the Imperial Beach Radio Receiving Station, seen previously in Episode 2. This recurring image may in fact hold several keys to the show before all is said and done. Certainly, it haunted many a scene as John himself at times beamed signals throughout the city, and conversely, seemed to have many signals channel directly through him.
The use of radio waves as the connective tissue between these characters is worth noting, as it could be a stand-in for the unseen forces John imposes through the Yost family and all those with whom they come into contact. At first, these signals merely traveled to and from those closest to the Yosts (family friend Bill Jacks), but gradually, John has seemingly modified the signal to incorporate peripheral characters such as Vietnam Joe, and wholly new characters, like the now ex-doctor Michael Smith. One can now look back at last week’s MetalMania as a way for John to essentially re-target the parameters of his field, constantly adjusting and tuning in order to reach the perfect frequency.
John’s overall actions tonight can in fact be understood as ones that ultimately led to the proper moment in which to "tune" into Cass. Employing a level of "butterfly effect" Bill Jacks alluded to earlier in the episode (when discussing the circumstances that led a chance encounter with a 10-year old Butchie to saving Shaun’s life decades later), John essentially engineers his own kidnapping, which leads to a stabbing, which leads to Vietnam Joe’s discovery, which leads to a hurried drive, which is stopped only at the precise moment Cass’ will is most vulnerable to suggestion. At that moment, John sends the new signal.
John’s reconfiguration comes at an opportune time for Mitch, who was one more organic health treatment away from abandoning his wife and staying at what looks like a Westin Hotel the rest of his live long days. Linc and his Mullet of Oppression had already planted a seed in Cissy’s mind that Mitch was having an affair. (OK, he didn’t so much plant the seed as water the already existent seed, but still.) I’m going to give myself a pat on the shoulder, as last week I correctly predicted Linc’s overall plan centered around Mitch’s seduction and eventual removal as an obstacle to signing Shaun. With Cass’ mental wires rerouted by John, she’s no longer in his employ, leaving Linc alone with his thoughts, and of course, his Michael Bolton haircut.
I like this idea of consistently rerouting the sound waves as a way to explain the "progress" this show makes. After all, it’s incredibly unclear to everyone but the creators of John from Cincinnati where this thing is going. The rest of us just have to hold on for dear life and think things like, "Is that bird really talking to Bill? Maybe I should turn on Closed Captioning, just to see if there’s anything scrolled across the bottom." The key with John’s character is to make him powerful but not omnipotent. The second the show turns him into the spiritual equivalent of Peter Petrelli from Heroes, it’s over. The stakes wouldn’t be there for John (or any other character) to overcome. (Let me go on record as saying I like Peter Petrelli, and I like Heroes, and yes, like you needed to ask, I think Linc’s hair is worse than Peter’s. Apparently, years of dating Brenda Walsh does THAT to your previously lovely locks. Lessons learned, people.)
The potential route this re-signaling is traveling along may have been revealed during the final scenes in the Snug Harbor Motel. Firstly, if you noticed, a lot of people were seemingly drawn there, almost as if called there subliminally. Secondly, as he was driven away by Cass, John started saying phrases he never personally could have heard, pretty much proving he’s now telepathic. The possibility has been hinted at previously, but was cemented tonight. But thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, John makes two short, parallel statements to Michael Smith while watching Bill argue with Freddy.
"Bill’s not Freddy’s first Bill."
"Freddy’s not Bill’s first Freddy."
The allusion here is twofold. One, with these two phrases, John alludes to a hallmark of certain shows on right now, including Lost and Battlestar Galactica. Galactica‘s iteration of this issue is the recurring mantra, "All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again." There’s a circularity to this way of thinking, represented in Lost by Ms. Hawking’s oroborous pin, inherent to life by which certain elements at a certain time can be seen as representative of previous antecedents. In other words, just as Bill’s not Freddy’s first Bill, Mitchie Yost is not John’s first Mitchie Yost.
And that’s important when discussing John’s role. In other words, in all likelihood, John’s appearance in Imperial Beach resulted in a broken transmission, to extend to radio wave metaphor, emanating from this area. Continued lack of transmission would result in what Bill Jacks might call a "doomsday scenario," a phrase he himself used tonight. (One possible doomsday scenario? A flood. They are right on the water, after all. Food for thought.) John’s purpose is to correct the signal, but correct it as indirectly as possible. The rules dictate only minute levels of direct contact/instruction. And so: John’s passivity, John’s parrot-speak, John’s ignorance. There are things he knows, and things he doesn’t know. Luckily, one of the few things he knows is how to fix the signal.
Problem is, fixing it is an extremely delicate act, especially with people as madly screwed up as the denizens of Imperial Beach. As such, fine-tuning this situation into harmony will take quite a bit of time. About as long as…well, the run of John from Cincinnati, I’ll wager.
So are you on John from Cincinnati’s frequency, or are you merely hearing white noise? Who’s the likely next target of his signal? Will the next transmission tell Linc to get a haircut? Discuss below!