EPISODE 2. THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT OFFICE
[Like the SEMINAR ROOM, the OFFICE looks elegant at first glance, ramshackle the next. At one end, PROFESSOR TORQUEMADA holds forth to his band of student acolytes; at the other, PROFESSOR MOD does the same with hers. Strangely enough, it’s impossible to tell one student from another. EVANGELINE, ADAM, and PALMER enter.]
TORQUEMADA: I am a devotee of Beauty. [Flares nostrils] But it is impossible to understand the Beautiful without first knowing the Truth. [Flares nostrils again] The Truth. The Whole Truth. [Another flare] And nothing but the Truth. [Flares for the fourth time]
FACELESS STUDENT #1 [adoringly]: And how do we discover the Truth, O great one?
TORQUEMADA: By remarking yourself in my image. By relinquishing every shred of individuality you now possess. In other words, by parroting every word I say in the seminar room.
FACELESS STUDENTS: Yes, master!
[Meanwhile, across the room…]
PROFESSOR MOD: The secret to success in academia is to live on the cutting edge. Not next to the edge, not near the edge, not in close proximity to the edge, not a few miles from the edge, but right on the edge. No matter how painful the edge proves to be. Never think thoughts already thunk, nor unthink thinkable yet unthunk thoughts.
FACELESS STUDENT #2: But how do we stay balanced on the edge?
PROFESSOR MOD: By reading every single book and journal
article in your field, and avoiding blogs. [Waves hands around in what is
presumably meant to be an agitated gesture] There are pictures of cats on blogs. There are even parodies of House
and Law & Order on blogs. Blogs are [striking an affected pose] the height of unseriousness. If you read blogs, you will be sentenced to
the Ninth Circle
FACELESS STUDENTS: Ooooohh.
ADAM: Let me see if I understand this correctly. You want to ally yourself with this nest of networking nitwits?
[EVANGELINE is saved from answering this question by the entrance of her husband, CLERVAL ZASTROZZI MOUNTJOY—impossibly tall, impossibly tanned, and (for a graduate student) impossibly well-dressed.]
CLERVAL [speaking with no inflections whatsoever]: Vangie, my darling. [Looks over Adam and Palmer with what is supposed to convey contempt, but seems more like indigestion] What’s with the geezer parade?
PALMER [stretching out his neck and jutting out his chin] I may be 87 years old, but I’m still as successful in the bedroom as I am in the boardroom!
ADAM [with exaggerated patience]: Palmer. No matter how many times you pull that stunt with your chin, you’re still half the height of every other man in the room. I don’t care what your actor’s IMDb entry says.
[PALMER deflates, sulking.]
EVANGELINE: Clerval, I…I…I need your help.
CLERVAL: You mean…it’s time for another passionate encounter in the department’s junk room?
EVANGELINE: Not that kind of help, dear. Unless we find Professor Trendee [sudden swell of dramatic music], my academic career will be [sudden swell of dramatic music] brought to a tragic end!
ADAM [sotto voce]: Dear God, what tone-deaf idiot wrote the score to this blasted episode?
CLERVAL: Well, now that your third husband, Summerson, has laid himself open to blackmail, we can use him to get into Bartleby’s good graces.
ADAM [looking puzzled]: Compared to most of my neighbors, that man sounds like a solid citizen.
ADAM: At least he’s killed somebody; that shows signs of strong moral fiber. It sounds like he’s our best option for the present, Evangeline. [To Palmer] And quit sulking.
PALMER [managing to sulk and be irritable at the same time]: I am not—
ADAM: For God’s sake, I am perfectly capable of reading the damn stage directions, and they say that you’re “still sulking.” Knock it off.
[Although EVANGELINE, CLERVAL, ADAM, and PALMER have been conducting this conversation in the middle of the room, apparently nobody has overheard them. Until now.]
TORQUEMADA: Fools! [Flaring his nostrils] You’re going about this in entirely the wrong way. I, and only I, know the key to the secret of Trendee’s disappearance.
EVANGELINE: You…you…you do? How ever can I thank you?
TORQUEMADA: Perhaps you would care to spend a few afternoons discussing Beauty? Not to mention Form. And [flare] Shape. There is much to be said about the female nude as the exemplar of Beauty in its purest form…
EVANGELINE [sweetly]: There’s also much to be said about the three sexual harassment charges currently pending against you.
[Torquemada turns on his heel and stomps off.]
CLERVAL: Well, that left us a lot better off than we were before…
EVANGELINE: Nonsense, Cleri-poo. I think I know exactly what he meant [sudden swell of dramatic music]—
ADAM: Oh, for the love of Agnes Nixon, kill the bloody Muzak!
[The music crashes to a halt. Everyone stares.]
Thank you. [To Evangeline] As you were saying.
EVANGELINE [shakily]: We need to consult the oracle.
PALMER: The oracle?
CLERVAL: Balder Hermaphroditus Pocket. The department secretary.
[With a dramatic flourish, Clerval throws open the door to the secretary’s office. Everyone is aghast at what they see.]
ON THE NEXT "ALL MY ALIENATED ACADEMICS":
VOICEOVER: It's time...
EVANGELINE: It's...it's...it's...an urn with Trendee's name on it!
VOICEOVER: ...to uncover...
BARTLEBY: Henceforth, all doctoral dissertations will be on the lesser-known works of James Whitcomb Riley!
VOICEOVER: ...the Truth!
PROFESSOR TRAD: We've reduced him to his component atoms. It's time for the next phase of our master plan!