BrainDead “Goring Oxes…” Review (Season 1 Episode 3)

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On the latest episode of “BrainDead,” Laurel (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finally touched base with Gustav (Johnny Ray Gill) to compare notes, while things got dirty in the battle between Luke (Danny Pino) and Ella (Jan Maxwell) for the “whip” position and the FBI stepped up their game in the quest to figure up what was going on with all the exploding heads lately, in the as per usual insanely-titled “Goring Oxes: How You Can Survive the War on Government Through Five Easy Steps.”

Even my mom noticed the title thing this time around, asking me if the show were an adaptation of a book, with each episode representing a chapter in it- I really hope she doesn’t think it’s a work of non-fiction. Either way, it amuses me to no end that her and her fellow “Good Wife” fans might be watching this thing, no doubt wondering what the holy hell was going on and why the creators of one of their favorite shows had taken such an insane left turn in their next project.

The amusing thing is, brain bugs and “CHIs” (that would be “Catastrophic Head Injuries” in FBI speak) aside, a lot of this would go a long way towards explaining why and how things have gotten so insane in politics as of late. So yeah, if you live in DC and all the sudden you start hearing a lot of The Cars’ “You Might Think,” now you know why- Robert and Michelle King totally called it: aliens!

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We began with Ella home sick, getting flowers from Scarlett (Paige Patterson), but not just any flowers: cherry blossoms. So, you know what that means. In no time, Ella was back on her feet, raring to go, and more determined than ever to get Luke out of the way and take over the “whip” position in Congress, this time with a valuable ally to combat Luke in the alien-nated Scarlett.

Meanwhile, the bugs claimed yet another victim, on a live TV show, no less, when one of the talking heads on the news show “DoubleSpeak” blew his top literally and the producers scrambled to pull the plug on the live feed. Of course, this did not go unnoticed by the FBI, nor did the connection between this and the previous case, what with Laurel being present for one and Luke sort of involved with the second, though technically in a different location at the time.

As such, Luke was told his fellow commentator had suffered a fatal heart attack, but the FBI immediately cornered Laurel to ask her what she knew about what was going on. As she wasn’t watching at the time, she freaked out upon being told it was Red’s man, thinking it could be Gareth (Aaron Tveit) and rushed out of there to find out, only to discover it was actually his Chief of Staff that had been claimed by the alien bugs this time out.

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Relieved, Laurel heads back to work, though her frantic exit does not go unnoticed by the FBI, once again, which only increases their suspicion of her involvement somehow. Also highly suspicious is Gustav, who likewise corners Laurel at work, claiming to be Dr. Bob Bobb (!), and confirming that she was the one who contacted him online via her email address (and also endearing himself to her by correctly identifying her documentary subject matter as being Malaysian Choir music) before hastily taking his leave as well.

Luke reports to Laurel that Ella is in “full Liberal Warrior” mode and speaking in extreme hyperbolic terminology, seemingly out of nowhere and challenging him as “whip.” Even worse, Red decides he wants to throw his full support behind Ella, so naturally he comes out publicly in favor of the more moderate Luke, knowing full well that the opposition will go with Ella because of reverse psychology, because no one can agree on anything but doing the opposite of everyone else in Congress, which is all too true- and all too sad.

Scarlett attempts to claim another victim in Luke on behalf of the aliens, taking another stab at him by giving him a bouquet of cherry blossoms as well, but Laurel intercepts them and throws them out, much to her chagrin. She ominously tells Laurel that she’s “outnumbered” and can’t win the fight against them, which Laurel doesn’t quite know what to make of, but she’s definitely aware something crazy is going on.

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Upon leaving, Laurel is confronted again by Gustav, who insists on her giving him her cell phone, as “they may be listening.” He tells her that “bugs are eating people’s brains” and explains his theories to that end, and in an effort to answer many viewers’ questions about why some people’s heads explode and some don’t, says that the anomaly is caused by the bugs “farting”!

Needless to say, Laurel is dubious, but accepts Gustav’s “card” nonetheless, even though it proves to be someone else’s with their name crossed out and his hand-written in! Coming back in from lunch, she overhears The Cars emanating from Ella’s office and sees her and Scarlett in intense conversation, which she immediately reports back to Luke and her father, Dean (Zach Grenier), who has arrived in her absence.

Dean asks Laurel to stop seeing Gareth, who she has been seen in public with on multiple occasions, and has now been promoted to Chief of Staff, in light of the position opening up for obvious reasons. Laurel bristles at this and calls and sets a date with him right in front of her father.

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Luke and Dean realize that Scarlett might be in collusion with Ella to further her position politically and, as such, might be plotting to take Luke down by exposing his infidelity with Scarlett publicly so that she can rise in the ranks, job-wise. As such, they feel inclined to leak something about Ella to the press first to make her look bad, so that anything subsequent will only look like she’s trying to strike back at Luke and playing dirty.

Of course, this is no better than what Ella’s doing, but that’s politics for you. Even without the involvement of bugs, they’re inclined to play dirty. Luke and Dean task Laurel with doing the deed, so she sets up a meet with her press connection, Stacie (Nikiya Mathis), last seen combating the bugs in Abby’s bathroom. Thankfully, her head is still intact, but she’s clearly possessed and Laurel definitely picks up on it.

Using her inside knowledge of their past together, Laurel batters her with a series of questions about their mutual past, which does manage to access the “real” Stacie, but also gives her a hell of a migraine in the process, which would seem to corroborate the notion that those who combat the bugs’ influence are the ones who suffer the head explosions, with those who cooperate doing just fine.

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As such, blood starts to seep out of Stacie’s ear, alarming Laurel and causing her to back off, fearing for her friend’s life and not wanting her to meet the same fate as some of the others. Stacie rushes off, insisting she’s fine, but the interaction is enough to convince Laurel that Gustav may me onto something after all, so she calls him and sets up another meet.

Laurel tells Gustav what she knows, including the bit about The Cars, which he had no idea about and the two pay a visit to Dr. Rochelle Daudier (Nikki M. James), the daughter of one of the victims, who also witnessed the explosion of Gustav’s friend’s head when he was brought in for a CAT scan. They take a look at the results of said scan, and Gustav has her focus in on a particular part of the brain, noticing what could be a bug in the man’s brain, though its hardly definitive.

Having failed to pitch the planned story leak about Ella to Stacie in light of what happened, Gareth does Laurel a solid and points her in the direction of another reporter for “Roll Call” when they meet up for their date. Red calls Gareth in the meantime and tells him to brainstorm some ideas to combat the Democrats and come prepared in the morning.

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Laurel returns and tells Gareth what happened earlier, telling them they are probably being watched and were definitely spotted at the Tax Prom together. Gareth suggests they give them something to see and kisses her. At first, she’s into it, but then gets overwhelmed and takes off, flustered.

Determined to get a “sample” bug, Gustav sets up shop at home, putting The Cars’ “You Might Think” on repeat and covering up his ears with red Solo cups and duct tape (!) in case he falls asleep, which he does. Not sure what kept them from going up his nose or into his mouth, but whatever the case, when he gets up he excitedly gathers up the bug traps he set and takes them to Dr. Rochelle, only to discover he only has a cockroach. Apparently, the bugs are too smart to fall for traps.

The ridiculous story Laurel leaked about Ella hits the news- something about her euthanizing dogs, which was the only remotely “dirty” thing they could find out about her. Ella comes in, smiling wryly, telling Luke he should check out the news himself. Turns out that Scarlett can read lips and got wind of what Luke was up to and the two colluded to leak that she had an affair with him after all, which Luke’s heartbroken- and very pregnant- wife Germaine (Lily Cowles) sees before he can stop her.

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Later, Luke and Laurel get drunk together, commiserating about what an awful day it was- for him, at least, though Laurel allows he only has himself to blame. She does agree to talk to a group of female Senators on his behalf, which goes surprisingly well, in spite of Luke’s actions, thanks, no doubt, to Laurel’s considerably charming ways.

Red (Tony Shalhoub) tells Gareth that he wants him to build a grassroots organization from the ground up called the “One Wayers,” which Gareth will lead and will have an obviously left-wing leaning agenda. Gareth is encouraged by the vote of confidence, if a little dubious of Red’s intentions, which, as ever, are all over the place and changing every minute.

The FBI nab Laurel coming out of the meeting with the female senators, and take her back to their headquarters to question her about the aforementioned “CHIs.” It turns out that Gustav was right to be paranoid, as they did indeed spot the two meeting and they want to know who he is. Thinking it to be some sort of weird terrorist plot, they question Laurel, clearly convinced she’s in on it somehow and that Gustav is part of it.

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Among them is Agent Onofrio (Charlie Semine), who you’ll recall is a bit sweet on Laurel. As such, he calls her brother and tips him off about what’s happened. Luke barrels into FBI headquarters and rescues Laurel, getting her out of there before things can get ugly. He tells her that it was Onofrio that calls him after she disses him as being the one who dragged her into this, and tells her if it wasn’t for him, Luke wouldn’t have known she was even in custody.

Luke also informs Laurel that Ella inexplicably backed out of the race to be “whip” and that he’s now running without competition for the position, so all’s well that ends well, Luke’s now-fractured marriage notwithstanding. Meanwhile, Gustav goes home, expecting to see his house still overrun with bugs, but seeing no evidence of them whatsoever. Then he spots his cat and realizes that they might have infested the poor beast, which is where we leave things for now.

All in all, another wacky episode of the show, and even though at this point, it’s starting to lose its element of surprise, in that we have a better idea of what’s going on, it’s still a reasonably effective and at the very least tremendously entertaining (if a bit slight) show that makes for perfect summer TV fodder. I don’t know how well it would have fared in a normal fall/spring season, but for summer, it’s just right.

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Ratings-wise, the show did drop a bit from its premiere numbers, but it held fast in viewers from week two to week three, so it would seem that the show has found a small-but-loyal audience that has opted to stick with it, while some decided early on that it wasn’t their cup of tea, which seems about right for a show involving alien brain bugs and exploding heads, despite the Kings’ impressive pedigree.

I’m also happy to report that the show is sticking with the hilarious method of recapping the previous weeks’ events via song, which is brought to us by the talented Jonathan Coulton, whose equally entertaining work can be found on YouTube, for those interested. I’m loving it, personally.

What did you think of the latest episode of “BrainDead”? Are you fully onboard with the show, or is it all a bit much for your tastes? Do you think the show’s politics are fairly balanced? Or does it lean a bit too hard to the right? How do you think it will all end? Are you pulling for anyone in particular? Sound off on this and more down below, and join me in two weeks on July 11th for my next review!