EPISODE 3. THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT OFFICE
[We are looking through the doorway of what is—or what used to be—the English department office. Clearly, it was once the local bastion of reason and order: the desk is covered with organizing trays and holders, and the walls are lined with filing cabinets. But now, the office looks like it was hit by a tornado—or, perhaps, a legion of English professors. Papers are everywhere, books (Danielle Steele this time) are scattered about, and the computer lies blinking forlornly on the floor. In the midst of this chaos sits TRENDEE’s secretary, BARTLEBY.]
BARTLEBY [smirking broadly]: Looking for me?
EVANGELINE: We…we…we want to speak to Balder. It’s a matter of extreme urgency.
BARTLEBY: Alas, poor Balder. I’m afraid that he was forced to flee the country; it seems that he’s a bigamist, and his wives didn’t take the revelation at all well. I wonder who could have been so cruel as to lay bare his secret to the world? [Smirks innocently]
CLERVAL: Why, you half-witted excuse for a third-rate scrivener…
[He advances on Bartleby, but halts suddenly when Bartleby whips out a document.]
BARTLEBY: What have we here? [Ostentatiously dons a pair of reading glasses] I do believe that it’s your doctoral dissertation, Mr. Mountjoy. “‘Drink my blood, you fool!’ The Erotic Poetics of Vampirism in the Twentieth-Century Supernatural Romance.” [Sniggers] I can’t wait to sink my teeth into that one. [Laughs hysterically] “Sink my teeth”! Get it?
[Not surprisingly, nobody else seems impressed.]
menacing]: Not laughing, eh? I’ll show you who’s in charge!
[He pulls out a lighter. The next thing we know, CLERVAL’s dissertation is up in smoke.]
[CLERVAL throws himself to the floor, foaming at the mouth. He starts to tear his hair, but then clearly thinks better of it.]
PALMER: Young man, I don’t mean to interrupt this overcooked histrionic display, but don’t you have a copy of your dissertation on a thumb drive somewhere?
CLERVAL [barely coherent]: I…I wrote it out by hand. It was the green thing to do.
[Sound of several hands smacking foreheads in disbelief]
BARTLEBY [sneering]: You think that’s bad? You should have looked behind the door before you came in the room!
[PROFESSOR TRAD and EUGENIE JO MEPHISTOPHELES—TRENDEE’s eighth wife—leap from behind the door, where they were clearly visible the entire time.]
PROFESSOR TRAD: You’re too late, my little chickadees! Eugenie and I have [sudden swell of dramatic music]—
ADAM: No, no, not the music again—
TRAD: --murdered Professor Trendee.
[EVANGELINE shrieks and faints lifelessly into PALMER’s arms—knocking both of them to the floor.]
PALMER [irritably struggling to extricate himself]: Quite the compliment, dear, but 87 is just too old for exhibitionism.
ADAM [cunningly]: But how do you know he’s dead?
EUGENIE: We whacked him over the head with a volume of the OED, then chopped him up with an axe, then cremated him on a pyre made out of his custom-built oak bookcases.
[She holds up a miniature Grecian urn.]
EVANGELINE [temporarily reviving]: It’s…it’s…it’s an urn with Trendee’s name on it! [She faints again.]
TRAD: We’ve reduced him to his component atoms. It’s time for the next phase of our master plan!
BARTLEBY [snickering gleefully]: Henceforth, all doctoral dissertations will be on the lesser-known works of James Whitcomb Riley!
TRAD: And as for you, Evangeline…I’ll get you, my pretty! And your little dog, too!
ADAM: The villain in this script is quoting from The Wizard of Oz?! Damn it, I demand to speak to the writer, now!
[Suddenly, everyone freezes, except for ADAM and PALMER. A few moments later, a LITTLE PROFESSOR emerges out of nowhere.]
LP: Well? I’ve got to get tonight’s installment finished in
the next few minutes.
ADAM: Need I remind you that All My Children has just fired its headwriter? [Threateningly] Just what do you think you’re doing with this script?
LP [glumly]: Permanently ruining my career opportunities as a serious scholar of Victorian literature, that’s what I’m doing.
ADAM: We’re only three episodes in, and you’ve murdered the guy we’re looking for, replaced the department secretary with some refugee from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and turned the villain into a candidate for musicalization by Stephen Schwartz. This is as bad as…as…as…
PALMER [dryly]: Our own show?
ADAM: Well, OK, nothing else can be quite that bad. But it’s at least as bad as the average poem by Eliza Cook.
LP [shrugging]: You were the one who asked to be in this parody. Keep complaining, and I’ll rewrite it as Adam/Palmer slash fiction. [Covers her mouth with her hand] Dear God, did I just admit to knowing what “slash fiction” is? My career, my career…!
[She vanishes. The action restarts.]
CLERVAL [sententiously]: Academic careerism is the sign of an unregenerate petty bourgeois mentality.
[CLERVAL suddenly disappears without a trace.]
PALMER: Damn. Never argue with a woman who has her finger on the delete key.
EVANGELINE: NoooOOOOOoooo! I’ve lost both my dissertation director and the only man capable of proofreading my work! [Faints again]
[Another elderly man enters the room, beaming.]
JOE MARTIN: Have faith, my dear. All may not be as it seems.
ON THE NEXT “ALL MY ALIENATED ACADEMICS”:
VOICEOVER: Is Trendee really dead?
EUGENIE: You can’t be any deader than he is, honey.
VOICEOVER: Can Summerson help?
SUMMERSON: Let me get this straight, Evangeline. You’re blackmailing me to get back at the man who didn’t kill your husband?
VOICEOVER: Will Adam, Palmer, and Joe be of any use?
EVANGELINE: What do you mean, you can’t read a map?!
TUNE IN FOR THE NEXT “ALL MY ALIENATED ACADEMICS.”