Last night's Venture Bros., "Every Which Way But Zeus," began with a Greek god kidnapping a bunch of B-list characters and ended with some poignant revelations about Hank's relationship with Doc. Also, Doc sexually propositions a Teddy Ruxpin. Yup.
Venture Bros. plots have been bifurcated this season, but "Every Which Way But Zeus" upped the ante and trifurcated things. This particular episode started out a tad disjointed but came together with gusto. In the main plot, Billy Quizboy, Pete White, Henchman 21, Shore Leave, and a whole lot of sidekicks (and office drones) are kidnapped and forced into deathmatches by the Greek deity Zeus. These scenes afford a whole cameos — in the group scenes, former one-off characters like Truckules, US Steel, and Ro-Boy make appearances.
The most poignant moment of this segment was SPOILERS the death(?) of Ghost Robot, US Steel's sidekick, at the hands of Agent 21. I loved Ghost Robot as a throwaway gag in "Handsome Ransom" (his codename leaves no room for imagination!), and seeing the show spin a legitimately touching moment out of the death of a possibly non-killable spectral machine man was TV magic.
Other good gags from this section included Billy's revelation that he defeated an 8-year-old in his deathmatch (the kid accidentally fell on a spike), Shore Leave's speech to Zeus (as a gay man, he's been waiting to physically battle God since he was 9), and the choice of the mystery villain (who was throwback to "The Lepidopterists"). Shore Leave's shout out to Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai was also inspired.
The second plot involved Brock and Hunter Gathers journey to the OSI summit — the abduction of underlings has effected everyone from the Guild to the Toronto-based Peril Partnership (a Canadian supervillain team!) to Phantom Limb's new Revenge Society. Key moments of this subplot included Brock and Hunter's painfully drawn out denigration of a stripper's breasts (are they allowed to say the word "tits" that many times on basic cable?), the power inhibitor replaces your blood (and slowly kills you), and OSI's selection of demeaning code names (Topanga Lawrence). This section wasn't bad, but it was a reminder that we haven't had a Brock-centric episode in a while. There's been a hagiography of Brock among the characters lately, and this portion of episode was a good reminder that Brock Samson's failing is that he's a self-centered misogynist ass, as super-spies are wont to be.
The final subplot was both the least important and the most illuminating. Rusty is jealous that other scientists are being kidnapped by Zeus. This makes Doc despondent, so to make their father feel better, the boys stage a fake kidnapping for his benefit. Hatred wears an Optimus Prime voicechanger, Hank dons a purple Hulk mask, and Dean communicates using a Teddy Ruxpin doll. Note how Doc — a former sidekick and current super-scientist — is invited to neither Zeus' deathmatches nor the OSI genius summit. He's just not on anybody's radar, and it is depressing.
In the course of the pseudo-interrogation, we learn that Doc is ashamed that he's shanghaied Hank into the boy-adventuring life. Despite his apparent favoritism towards Dean, Doc admits that he identifies strongly with Hank. Doc didn't ask for this life, and neither did Hank. Again, another weirdly heartwarming moment that has no business being as touching as it is. Mind you, this revelation is preceded by a sequence where Doc unwittingly propositions a Teddy Ruxpin doll ("Meth, crack, pcp? I can get you anything. It'll be our little secret [...] You untie me, and I'll do things to you your girlfriend would never do."). Threatening to (literally) defile your childhood memories...that's Venture Bros. in a nutshell.