Letters, Love, Laughter, and Learning to let go.

I’ve been very emotional the last couple of days, as the final episode of The Karen & Ellen Letters has crept ever-closer. I hate goodbyes, and in the past have really struggled with things ending. As the podcast draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my own experience over the past year. I thought I’d put pen to paper; if you’ll indulge me.

Like a lot of people, I was introduced to podcasts through Serial, and several other true crime podcasts quickly followed. As well-done as they were, I began to find the dark and disturbing subject matter too much. I needed something else, because I love to listen to people, and I love to hear stories. I just didn’t know what that “something” was.

I saw a few posts, extolling the virtues of The Karen & Ellen Letters in the Podcasts We Listen To Facebook group. Me of a year ago though, was very wary of trying anything new. However, something compelled me to give it a go, and I tentatively downloaded the 2 episodes and Aftershows that were out at the time.
Immediately, an obsession, and a love affair was born.

After episode 3, I posted in PWLT, to say how much I loved the podcast, and thanking the people who had recommended it. Not something I would ever have done before. Almost instantly, Josh responded with the link to the group.
The rest, as they say, is history.

It was a revelation from the second I pressed play. Best warning ever on a podcast. Cognitive dissonance, and severe brain damage? I was sold.
The production quality also hit me straight away. The music, the background noises, it was so professional. I loved it already, and nothing had even happened yet.
I completely fell in love with Josh’s voice, before he’d even spoken for 10 seconds. (You had me at “coincidentally”.)

I laughed out loud the first time, when I heard Lists 1 & 2.
“Refrigerator lightbulb, 2 dollars.”
This is a testament to Miss Sara Stapleton, who from the very first line, portrayed Karen’s self-righteous confidence perfectly.

In fact, I just wanted to take a minute to thank all the voice actors so much for all their hard work, and their complete and utter brilliance.
Jeff – I don’t think there is anyone on this earth who could ever be more “Maaaaark.” From snarky to sensitive; pompous to outraged; you played it right every single time.
“Dear Grocery Shoppers” will forever be one of my favourite moments.

Sara P – your sweet and charming portrayal of Ellen made us all fall in love with her, and her eternal optimism. The mouse-release videos are my particular favourite.

Matt – I am SO glad that Josh couldn’t find the original Rob. You were born to play this role, and I am proud to be the founding member of the UK branch of the Matt Peelen fan club. The arrival of Rob into the story was built up so much in Season 1; so it was a lot of hype to live up to. You surpassed all the hype; and every Rob letter is pure brilliance. The Carmen Miranda letter is my personal favourite.

Sara S – what can I say? Not only the best Karen ever; but super-sleuth extraordinaire, hilarious Roomie, and wonderful friend. I hope there will be many more Murder Boards in the future.

You all completely brought these letters to life, and provided us listeners with hours of laughter. Thank you!

It does seem strange to look back now, at how the podcast started, and how it is now, as it reaches the finale. From just laughing at some hilarious correspondence; to going on this crazy adventure to find out where they came from.
Josh kept repeating, “Trust the journey”, and I’m glad that I did. I never had the urge to dig or investigate myself. I love the anticipation, and being able to suspend my disbelief, for as long as possible.

I love the two seasons equally.
The first, for the laughter and incredulity. The second, still for the laughter, but also for the solving of the mystery. The way all the stories were presented individually, then gradually woven together, is a huge testament to Josh’s creativity, and production skills.

Is the picture complete? Do we know everything?
No. But I think that’s ok.
I used to hate ambiguity, and inconclusiveness. It would make me anxious if things weren’t definite. If I didn’t know for sure.
Now though, I’ve learned through this podcast, that it’s not the end of the world if some things go unanswered. It’s much more like real life that way. And because I so wanted to find out that at least some of it was real, I’m more than happy with what we know.

Josh spoke right from the beginning about his own personal journey with these letters.
Just interjecting here and there within the narrative, but never forcing us as listeners to feel a certain way. I think there was a great skill in letting us find our own way, and make up our own minds.

I found my own feelings changing over time.
At first, laughing at the girls, and their apparent stupidity. Incredulous over Karen and Rob’s demands. Finding complete joy in the private jokes and catchphrases, that sprung from these letters.
Then, as we heard Josh explain how he became obsessed with the hype, and popularity of the blog, I found myself too questioning whether it was right to have this voyeuristic, and judgmental relationship with these people. Especially as they were all completely oblivious to it all.

Knowing what we know now, it’s interesting how Josh’s relationship with the letters mirrored Mark’s in a lot of ways. At first, something fun to share with close friends.
Then, the desire to get that ego boost from sharing them to a bigger audience.
It seemed exploitative somehow; and made me question my own motives as a listener also. The difference came when Josh was able to eventually recognise this; when Mark was not.

This is where Ellen’s favourite theme of Karma comes in.
Mark failed in his attempts to share these letters, and this story, with a larger audience, because his motives were questionable. Josh hit this hurdle at first too, but eventually succeeded, when he saw that the true value was in the people, and their stories.
Not what was in it for him.

I felt that Mark really wanted to be a storyteller. This is shown by what we now know that he made up/changed. Also, from what seems like some autobiographical details that were added; such as the touching exchange with Ellen about anti-Semitism. But his intentions were wrong, and ultimately, I think that was his downfall.
Josh definitely succeeded where Mark failed. He was able to recognise his mistakes, learn from them, and tell the story in the right way.

In the first Q and A, Josh talks about the girls being very privileged; and having a lack of empathy. In the end, I think that this statement can be more attributed to Mark, than to Karen and Ellen. In the latter part of Season 1, there is a subtle change in the way that Josh describes the podcast at the beginning of each episode.
Instead of saying that this podcast will “help you appreciate the stupid people in your life;” it alters to saying that it will “make you feel better about the stupid things that you’ve done in life.” It didn’t go unnoticed, and it’s small details like this that make this podcast exceptional, unique, and intuitive.

The concept of empathy is something else that has resonated strongly with me, throughout this experience. Especially during Season 2. The “characters” from Season 1, have suddenly become real people. Experiencing life, love, and loss, like the rest of us.
I was already fond of them by the end of Season 1; but as we discover the real people in Season 2, I became really invested in needing to know that they’re all doing ok.

It was also really heartwarming to find that, although we now know that many of the letters were changed/embellished, the essence of the people that we fell in love with in Season 1, was still there. And, however hard it is to let them go, and stop peering through that window into their lives, it is the right time.

I’ve never been sure if I believe in fate or not. It’s easier to believe, when you get something that you want, than when you get something you don’t. But you cannot argue against the fact that Josh seemed destined to have these letters. To go on the journey, to tell the story. The physical proximity to people and places involved. The way the letters would always find a way to come back out of the box, until Josh found a way to tell the story in the right way.

Personally, I feel that podcasts, and the people connected to them, came into my life at exactly the right time. I was stuck in a rut, and had withdrawn a lot from life.
I thought I had to concentrate on “just” being a mum, and had become fairly isolated.
As much as I loved podcasts, they didn’t actually help, as I would just withdraw into that world of listening on my own.

Until this podcast.

The community that came with it, has been a revelation. Instantly, I felt that I had found my people. I remembered what it was like to really laugh. Not just chuckle, but laugh-until-the-tears-run-down-your-face-and-you-disturb-the-neighbours, laugh.

Josh said in one of the earlier Q&As, I think, that he wanted people to feel that they had someone to laugh with.
You totally succeeded Josh. You provided the foundations for the best place on the internet; and the community has grown and thrived.

I’m so grateful to everyone that Laila has been embraced and included in that community. She overheard the episode with the the exchange over Karen’s ripped jeans, and instantly fell in love, like I did. To this day, “a deck is designed to be walked upon, not sat upon,” is one of her favourite quotes.
Thank you so much Josh, for including Laila in the warning, and the aftershows. She has loved every second, and is over the moon to be “famous.” I love that I can share these precious moments with her.

This represents another theme that I feel runs through this podcast: Connections.
The connections that brought Josh the letters in the first place.
The ones that made him keep returning to this story.
The Season 2 search for the connections that would make sense of it all.

But perhaps the most important ones are the ones that have been made between all of us. I am so very grateful for the friendships that I have made through this podcast.
I know that I have made friends for life; and you’ve all contributed to making me feel happier than I have in a long time.

I love each and every one of you Roomies. Such a huge variety of people, from a huge variety of places. We all have very different lives, experiences, and opinions, outside of that group. But in there, we have something that bonds us implicitly.

We had a great MP in this country called Jo Cox, who was tragically killed.
In her maiden speech to Parliament, she said:
“We are far more united, and have far more in common with each other, than things that divide us.”
It’s so true. In a world that, at the moment, sometimes feels like a place where there are more divisions than ever; having this safe place where we can be united in laughter and love, is priceless.

Thank you Josh, for providing us with that. For starting it all, for working so hard, for always being so generous with your time, humour, and care. Thank you also for encouraging us all to be open and honest; by leading by example. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this blog. Something that I’d never have had the confidence to do a year ago.

As we come to the end of this podcast, we have found out that some of the Karen & Ellen letters are real; and some are not. But the love, laughter, and tears, have all been real.  The friendships and bonds, that will last a lifetime, are real.

I know that I’m going to be very emotional tomorrow.
Letting go is always hard, and I’m extremely sad that the podcast is ending.

It will still be there when we need it though.

For me, it’s the podcast I go to, when nothing else will do.
You are all the people that I go to, when nobody else will do.
And that will never change.

 

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Two Sweet Sand Pigs: A Recap, and some pondering

It has seemed like forever, but the wait was over this week, with episode 8 of Season 2 dropping on Tuesday. Maybe it was the return of Rob, maybe it was the tropical setting of Hawaii; maybe it was a wonderful double-dose of Karens. Most likely, it was all of those things combined, that made this my favourite episode so far this season.
There is a new candidate in the search for The Real Karen, some pretty rewarding research for Josh and Sara, an interesting insight into Uncle Albert’s role in this adventure, and a right cracking pair of coconuts.

Before all that though, Helena was having her usual struggles with internetting, trying to find a route to the Boulders shopping centre. Dot weighs in, helpful as ever. What Helena needs to do is google Google on Yahoo, then google MapQuest on Google.
Seems a bit of a convoluted route to get to where she wants to go…
Probably representative of how the journey actually went. I’m pretty sure that Helena is a regular sufferer of road rage.

Whilst we’re on the subject of travelling, Helena is bemoaning the fact that she never gets invited to see her daughter Ellen in Seattle.
Dot chips in with the fact that she’d like to visit Seattle too, but doesn’t have time.
(Let’s be honest, it probably takes Dot 2 hours to write each Facebook comment. Between that and the curtain-twitching, there’s not going to be a whole lot of spare time for road-trips. Even if she does know how to use MapQuest.)

Helena portrays Ellen as someone harbouring a big grudge, and full of anger.
(Not sure where she could possibly have got those traits from, Helena!) This doesn’t sound like the Ellen we have come to know and love from the letters. But then, we all know that often the biggest arguments, and most serious of falling outs, often occur with those closest to us. Nobody could blame Ellen if she had disowned her mother, purely for being a huge embarrassment on social media. She wouldn’t want a misplaced rant about balding newsreaders, or the latest antics of the neighbourhood floozy, accidentally being posted on her holistic treatments’ business page.

Someone who is keen for Helena to visit, is Ellen’s sister in Hawaii. This is who, after some more caffeine/wine-fueled late-night Facebook stalking, Josh feels is a great fit for being the Karen that we’re looking for. Even better, she’s married, to an excellent Rob-candidate. They’re one of those couples that has a joint Facebook profile. Of course they are. It’s probably one of those written without any spaces either. “KarenandRobRedacted.”

These two are living it up in Hawaii, working for the Coast Guard. Aloha Karen, worryingly, doesn’t understand why swimming would be a necessary job requirement. Because, you’re on a boat right? Nowhere near the water…
Buuuuuut, she persevered, and managed to learn; despite the added hindrance of the salt in the water. Aloha Karen now seemingly defies science (as well as logic) and instead of gaining buoyancy from the salt water, apparently it pulls her down. You’d think she would float really well, on account of all the hot air she’s filled with!!!

Aloha Rob is so perfectly Rob. It’s almost too good to be true. Obviously a bit of a petrol-head, but seems to have as much luck with vehicles as he did with household appliances, back in the 80s. He has a cherished photo of himself with his convertible Corvette, which sadly he crashed and wrote off. He no longer has his precious “Choppers” either. Aloha Rob has obviously made it in life, as he was lucky enough to have 2 Harley Davidson motorbikes. Alas, they too, are no longer in his life. For once though (as far as we can tell) there was not a calamitous ending. Aloha Karen put her flip-flopped foot firmly down, and made Rob get rid of them. She feels he would be dead now, if he had kept them.
Perhaps, for the first time in her life, Karen is right! Rob, riding around Hawaii with complete abandon; a big, powerful, beast between his legs; would never have ended well. Karen describes the bikes as “crude, stupid, and make a lot of noise.”
Oh wait… Is she talking about the motorbikes? Or Rob?

Helena told us earlier that, as well as being mad at her, Ellen was also mad at her sister.
She’s obviously not so mad, that she turns down an opportunity to visit Aloha Karen in Hawaii.
We know that she’s been there, as, in keeping with one of the themes from early on in our Karen and Ellen journey; something has been misplaced in the kitchen. It’s Ellen’s bra and, unfortunately for her, Rob is the one to find it. How her bra came to be discarded in the kitchen will remain a mystery. But with these 3, anything is possible.
It would be interesting to know what kind of bushes they’ve got growing in their front garden. That’s all I’m saying.
I’m not sure Ellen will want the bra back now, after learning that Rob was parading around in it for an entire day. It’s pretty hot in Hawaii. There would have been sweat.
Gross.

Also, why are they discussing this on Facebook? Over-sharing on social media obviously runs in this family! Aloha Rob takes this to a whole other level, when the bra-talk prompts him to sing the praises of Karen’s “assets” publicly. The full, long, varied, and astounding list of names he has for them, can be found in the episode.
The least vomit-inducing of which, is probably “Hawaiian coconuts.”
I will never think of cows and sweaters in the same way, ever again.

We also hear from Rob, about how it was always his ambition to join the Air Force, just like his late father. This desire was born in childhood, and lasted all the way up to when Rob was a “new adult.”
(I’m presuming that this is referring to his second attempt at adulting; after the first resulted in the destruction of The Busy Beaver Christmas Tree Farm).
Unfortunately, Rob failed to get into the Air Force, so the Coast Guard became his destiny instead. His Dad once told him that his brain was more suited to being in the Coast Guard. I’m not sure that this says much for the standards of the Coast Guard’s employees!

Rob’s impassioned piece about how his Dad inspired him, moves Karen. She tells Rob that he always was “the writer in the family.”
This does fit with the Rob from the letters, as boy, did he like to write those letters to Mark. Even when Mark flatly refused to enter into any correspondence with him; he bulldozed on regardless.

We know that Letters Rob had a certain fascination with the Coast Guard. During the final episode of Season 1, Ellen tells Mark all about it. Karen, Ellen, and Rob; unable to distinguish fact from fiction (I feel their pain); used to ring the Coast Guard Station in Astoria every week when they were young.
They were obsessed with the TV show, “Gilligan’s Island,” and wanted to give The Coast Guard tips on how to rescue the stranded characters on the show. Karen, of course, wanted the reward. She was furious when the Coast Guard called their parents, and snitched on them. Rob’s Great Uncle told Rob that he should join the Coast Guard. If we are to believe that Aloha Rob is our Rob, this is a huge tick-in-the-box for known connections.
There is also a short clip at the beginning of episode 7, which I think from listening again, must be from “Gilligan’s Island”?
(We never had it over here, due to being out of jurisdiction.)
Anyway, the quote is, “Gilligan, I’ve got a bite.” So it seems pretty likely? Another subtle clue, of the kind that Josh likes to drop in, then rubs his hands in glee when we all completely miss it!

Something else that is reminiscent of Letters Rob, is the way things seem to also break in Aloha Rob’s presence. This time, it’s the remote control for the garage door.
(Honey being involved, is pure speculation on my part, but I wouldn’t bet against it.)
Poor Karen is having to get out of her car, to open the garage door manually. Can you imagine? The extra steps towards the daily Fitbit total, are definitely not worth the inconvenience. The remote for the golf-buggy door though? That one is working fine. Rob obviously had his priorities in order, when he was choosing one to be sacrificed.

It makes me laugh, how, just like Dot and Helena, they are having this discussion on Facebook. Even worse, because these two live in the same house!
Again though, is this a sign of old habits dying hard? Writing to complain about things, or deny responsibility for things, is the predominant theme of most of Karen’s and Rob’s letters to Mark.
Rob is keen to ask Karen, “How can I break something that I wasn’t even working on?”
I love to think that in the 30 years since we last heard from Rob, everything he touches has constantly been falling apart. Or exploding.

Which leads us on to surely the most compelling piece of evidence yet, as to Aloha Rob being our Rob:
He is obsessed with watching explosions on YouTube. Obsessed.
It’s his favourite thing ever, and he does it for hours.
He talks about one such video, where a firework was placed under a plant, to blow it up.
Could the Christmas Tree Farm explosion have perhaps not been an accident after all???
We will never know. But knowing that this sort of thing really floats Rob’s boat, (pardon the pun), definitely gives extra credence to the theory that this is THE Rob.

But then, where does that leave Karen Crochet Pants?
She is also a great fit for being Letters Karen.
We have a quick check-in with her, to see what she’s been up to. That dangerous pastime of crocheting has left Karen Crochet Pants with a bad back; so whilst it’s recovering, she decided to join Facebook. She marvels over how many hundreds of people she could invite to be her “friend.”
Good for you Crochet Pants. You wouldn’t want to be one of those saddos with only 50 friends; like Catfish Karen’s mother-in-law.
My ears pricked up, when I heard the names “George” and “Mark.” Especially when we learn that the Mark in question, is someone that she corresponded with in the 80s.
Could it be the “George” mentioned in the mystery letter, from the incarcerated woman?
And more importantly, could it be our Mark???
They are very common names, but it’s intriguing nonetheless.
After adding all these people, Karen Crochet Pants isn’t at all worried that she’ll be spending too much time on Facebook. She describes it as “a controlled addiction, that I can walk away from, any day.”
Oh Crochet Pants.
Little do you know.
I innocently clicked “join” on one facebook group, and now look what’s happened!

Just as I was thinking that Aloha Karen seemed to be the most likely fit for Letters Karen, Crochet Pants comes up with some ridiculous ramblings, definitely worthy of Letters Karen. She flits from one subject to another, with little sense or connection.
She’s talking about a trip home, then some strange hallucination about being on a plane full of Women Of A Certain Age, all doing crochet.
Then we jump to the self -proclaimed Yarn Goddess of Illinois having lunch with a random child, and planning ahead for her next 6 years of crocheting adventures.
Our Karen or not, I would definitely like to continue hearing from Crochet Pants and her blog. It is filled with more gems than Patti-with-the-crystals’ (possibly stolen) handbag.

Josh reminds us in this episode, that Karen Crochet Pants, as well as Fish Ellen, can be traced back to the cottage, but that they hadn’t found exact dates as to when.
In an inspired move, Sara contacts the Oakland Public Library E-Answer Service.
An extremely helpful Clerk, (brought brilliantly and vibrantly to life, by the extremely talented Nicki T), provides some really useful information.
She gives Sara and Josh the names that she has listed, for residents of the cottage between 1979 and 1991.
Some are redacted, or missing, but the Caldwells are listed as living there between 1986 and 1991. (No mention of the cats though.)
More importantly, a “Karen” is listed in 1987.
The Clerk has also found something else that Josh requested, but of course he did not share that with us this episode.

Not content to leave us with one cliffhanger, the episode ends with another revelation, that lends itself to provoking more questions than answers.
We’re back in 1989, and Uncle Albert is writing to Mark.
He has “redrafted” everything. And wants to check that Mark is happy for certain names to remain unchanged.
These include: Hal, Bonnie, Annette, Karen, and CW.
The address will also remain unchanged.
Uncle Albert urges caution on Mark’s part; and implies that he feels that some of these details should definitely be altered. He is wary of any verifying information being left in, such as local business names.
(I for one, will be very upset if “Positively Electric”, and “Reliance Appliance”, are made up!)
Albert warns that “anyone with a good reputation” wouldn’t “move forward” if identifying information is included.

What for? Publication? Pitching it to someone? To David and Leslie?
I know a lot of us had a feeling that at least some of the letters had been embellished, or made up. Mark was always the prime suspect, with Bonnie high on the list of subjects also. But dear old Uncle Albert? He certainly snuck in under the radar! Something is definitely a-foot here. Suspicions grow further, when we hear Uncle Albert’s list of which letters he has removed:

•Ellen’s letter regarding her mother and sister
•The updated lease
•Karen’s original notice to vacate
•The Trespassing Correspondence
•The Coast Guard Series

Totally frustrating, as of course, we are now desperate to know what was in these letters!
What secrets did Ellen disclose about her mum and sister?
Did Mark issue Karen with that eviction notice, that he kept threatening her with?
Who trespassed, and where?
Was Rob caught impersonating a law student at Tufts University, that doesn’t even have a Law School?
Was Annette prostrating herself on Mark’s porch late at night, begging him to listen to her suicidal plans, just one last time?
And here’s the Coast Guard again!
We definitely need to know what that is all about, after this episode.

One thing’s for sure, Uncle Albert is a lot more involved than I think any of us had realised previously.

So what do we know about him?

We first meet him in episodes 4 and 5 of Season 1, with Mark asking Albert to write to Karen, on University headed paper. To help her get to grips with the difficult issue of jurisdiction. Mark also shows him some of Karen’s letters.

By episode 7, listening back, knowing what we know now, there are definite hints that Uncle Albert is possibly “doing” something with the letters. He states that he has been inspired to “write some of the letters we’ve written in our minds, over and over.”
At the time, I thought he meant responses to Karen, like the one he sent regarding jurisdiction.
But now, it takes on a whole different meaning. Is this where he and Mark started “creating” their own versions of the letters? Albert also says that he has shared the letters with various friends and colleagues, who all found them highly entertaining.
Is this what sparked the idea that there was perhaps an opportunity that could arise from these letters?

In episode 10 of Season 1, Mark is found writing to Albert, and an unknown person called Benji, sending them quotes from the girls’ letters. Also, sending notes from phone calls he had with them.
During the Season 1 finale, Mark sends Ellen’s homework to Albert too.
Again, I thought at the time, it was because, like the rest of us, Albert and friends just found it all highly entertaining. He is obviously a lot more canny than I gave him credit for.

Of course, Bonnie is involved as well. Mark gives her the complete low-down on Karen, Ellen, and several other previous tenants. I think they were all in this together!

Re-listening to all of that, Josh also implies that Charlie Worthington plays a big part in what goes on as well.
This is also yet to be revealed!
There are a lot of “TBA”s that need wrapping up in the final two episodes.

Over to you, Josh!

 

‘Twas The Night Before Mary Christ-mas

‘Twas The Night Before Mary Christ-mas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Mark’s house
Something was stirring, it must be a mouse
The humane trap, placed by the chimney with care
Next to the free firewood, neatly stacked there
Karen and Ellen nestled snug in their beds
Visions of avocados, danced in their heads

Hal in his chicken coop, Annette in her strait-jacket
Were just settling down, but were roused by a racket
Down in the kitchen, there arose such a clatter
Mark sprang from his bed, to see what was the matter
Downstairs he flew, in smoking jacket and socks
Past broken cat-paintings, and antique mermaid clocks

There in the kitchen, freezer-door in hand
Stood a sheepish Rob, with a frozen leg of lamb
Before Mark could even begin to enquire
There came a great yelling and screaming from the fire
Someone had landed in the grate, with a squeal
Ellen came running, crying “Santa is real!”
Karen followed more slowly, in crocheted pyjamas
“Why does the car wash have such loud dramas?”
“Stand back Karen!”, cried Rob, “Remember I’m Tuff.
I don’t believe in Santa, and all that stuff.
This must be an intruder, let me through the door!”
But he tripped on his legal net, and fell flat on the floor.

Sighing loudly, Mark sweeps into the lounge
Where the soot-covered visitor appeared with a bound
But there’s no bushy beard, no sack full of toys
To be placed in the stockings of good girls and boys
Instead, an older lady stands on the hearth
With a necklace of crystals, and a gauzy head-scarf
Clutched in her hand, is a rainbow tote bag
With blue swirly letters, clearly spelling “Swag”
“Patti!” cries Ellen, “I always knew you were a thief”
The rest of the company stare on in disbelief
Bonnie steps forward, and immediately takes charge
The police are called, and Patti is no longer at large
She is led away to begin her sentence
She is Carmen Miranda’d, but shows no repentance
(Unbeknownst to Patti, there’ll be yet more twists of fate
As arch-rival Helena, will be her cell-mate)
With a clap of his hands, Mark commands, “Go to bed!”
And they all disperse, to rest their empty heads

Nobody hears the sound of sleigh-bells ringing
The snorting of reindeer, or a jolly voice singing
“Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!
On Comet! On Cupid! On Donna and Blitzen!
To the top of the Spirit House! Over the fish pond!
Round the chicken-coop, to the cottage beyond!”
As soft as a feather, they alight on the roof
With a gentle pawing and scraping of each little hoof

Santa squeezes down the chimney, pausing briefly to wonder
Why there are pieces of crystal, scattered asunder
He scratches his head, there is no Christmas tree
Just a burnt, blackened hole, where it once used to be
The stockings were there though, in all their glory
One for each character in our little story
Now Santa’s work has truly begun
And from his sack, he takes a gift for each one

A new vacumm for Karen, with a gunk guarantee
For Guru Lahara, a guide to Feng Shui
Some honey for Rob, and a brand new Tufts sweater
(He’ll match Staci P, what could be better?)
Myron Shapiro, a whale-noise CD
Something soothing, to help with his PTSD

A bullet-proof vest for Guru Patel
A jet toilet for Ellen, (of course, in Egg-shell)
Also for Ellen, some soap in a dish
She gets through so much, when she’s washing the fish
A medicine cabinet for Mark, made from best Oak
(A gift from Bonnie, so of course it’s bespoke)

Uncle Albert, he’s getting a nice antique quill
For Annette, reams of paper, to make out her will
The Caldwells are receiving new scarves and hats
(They can’t afford the heating bill, on account of their cats)

A monocle for old Charlie Worthington will do
For when he’s perusing letters, about who’s snitching on who
As for Bonnie, who always dampens the drama
For her, a good old-fashioned dose of Bad Karma

Helena and Patti, well they’re away for a while
So there’s a cake each for them, containing a file
For dear Dot, why, what else could it be?
A life-size portrait of the late Misty

Santa is hurrying now, he has to be elsewhere
More expectant houses await him there
Just one more thing for each stocking’s toe
In each one is placed a ripe avocado
He springs to his sleigh, to his team gives a call
Away they all fly, as the snow starts to fall

So we’ll leave them all be, the house is quiet once more
Just a few rogue ants, scuttle across the floor
Our friends need their rest, they’ve got letters to write
A Mary Christ-Mas to all, and to all a Good Night

The 12 Days of A Karen & Ellen Christmas

On the First day of Christmas, Karen and Ellen sent to me
A portrait of a dead Misty

On the Second day of Christmas, Karen and Ellen sent to me
Two lists for Mark,
And a portrait of a dead Misty

On the Third day of Christmas, Karen and Ellen sent to me
Three Avocados
Two lists for Mark
And a portrait of a dead Misty

On the Fourth day of Christmas, Karen and Ellen sent to me
Four Mermaid Clocks
Three Avocados
Two Lists for Mark
And a portrait of a dead Misty

On the Fifth day of Christmas, Karen and Ellen sent to me
Five Legal Nets
Four Mermaid Clocks
Three Avocados
Two Lists for Mark
And a portrait of a dead Misty

On the Sixth day of Christmas, Karen and Ellen sent to me
Six Fish-a-washing
Five Legal Nets
Four Mermaid Clocks
Three Avocados
Two Lists for Mark
And a portrait of a dead Misty

On the Seventh day of Christmas, Karen and Ellen sent to me
Seven Cats-a-painting
Six Fish-a-washing
Five Legal Nets
Four Mermaid Clocks
Three Avocados
Two Lists for Mark
And a portrait of a dead Misty

On the Eighth day of Christmas Karen and Ellen sent to me
Eight Dogs-a-sniffing
Seven Cats-a-painting
Six Fish-a-washing
Five Legal Nets
Four Mermaid Clocks
Three Avocados
Two Lists for Mark
And a portrait of a dead Misty

On the Ninth day of Christmas Karen and Ellen sent to me
Nine Gurus chanting
Eight Dogs-a-sniffing
Seven Cats-a-painting
Six Fish-a-washing
Five Legal Nets
Four Mermaid Clocks
Three Avocados
Two Lists for Mark
And a portrait of a dead Misty

On the Tenth day of Christmas Karen and Ellen sent to me
Ten Crystals shining
Nine Gurus chanting
Eight Dogs-a-sniffing
Seven Cats-a-painting
Six Fish-a-washing
Five Legal Nets
Four Mermaid Clocks
Three Avocados
Two Lists for Mark
And a portrait of a dead Misty

On the Eleventh day of Christmas Karen and Ellen sent to me
Eleven Broken Vacumms
Ten Crystals shining
Nine Gurus chanting
Eight Dogs-a-sniffing
Seven Cats-a-painting
Six Fish-a-washing
Five Legal Nets
Four Mermaid Clocks
Three Avocados
Two Lists for Mark
And a portrait of a dead Misty

On the Twelfth day of Christmas Karen and Ellen sent to me
Twelve Trees exploding
Eleven Broken Vacumms
Ten Crystals shining
Nine Gurus chanting
Eight Dogs-a-sniffing
Seven Cats-a-painting
Six Fish-a-washing
Five Legal Nets
Four Mermaid Clocks
Three Avocados
Two Lists for Mark
And a portrait of a dead Misty

Karen Crochet Pants , Fish Ellen, and The Golden Girls

Episodes 5 and 6 of Season 2 were both so full of shocks and revelations, that I’ve had to have a lie-down, before even attempting to write a blog post.

Now that the drama over Catfish Karen has died down, I thought I’d try and take a look at Karen Crochet Pants and Fish Ellen, and see whether or not they seem to be likely contenders to be our girls. I’m also going to try to work out where the new stars of Season 2, our very own “Golden Girls,” Dot and Helena, fit into the picture.

After we dramatically found out that Email Karen wasn’t our Karen after all, but instead an intrepid blog reader, who had well and truly caught Josh in her Catfish net; the hunt was back on to find a legitimate Karen contender. The indomitable Sara already had an alternative suspect lined up; and in episode 5, introduced us to Karen Crochet Pants.

This is a Karen who can be linked back to Mark’s cottage in the 1980s, and is the right age to be our Karen. She writes a blog, and Josh describes her writing style as “aggressive.” This definitely sounds like the Karen we know and… quite like sometimes.

As her nickname suggests, Karen Crochet Pants is self-admittedly obsessed with crochet.
Sara gives Karen Crochet Pants’ announcement that she is wearing her “brand new, homemade crochet pants” the fanfare it deserves, by singing it.
Sara is already pretty perfect in my eyes, but this took her stardom to a whole new level.

There is certainly a confidence in Karen Crochet Pants’ writing, that seems familiar. She calls herself “Karen the crochet goddess,” and uses a couple of long, loopy sentences, that could easily have been written by Season 1 Karen.
Another moment that seems to be perfectly Karen, is her pondering on the money-making prospects of her new venture.
“I’m not going to be taking many orders,” she writes. “But that’s ok, since I could really use the money.”
Come on! This has to be Karen, surely?

There was a passing statement in the blog, as a prelude to Karen Crochet Pants’ next topic, but it jumped out at me.
Apparently, Karen Crochet Pants buys her dog treats at a coffee shop. Again, this is just too perfect.
I can hear it now:
“Ellen wants the dog treats from the pet shop on the corner; but I want the ones from the coffee shop, that are sold in little muslin bags.”

Anyway, on to the main subject of this post, and that is Karen Crochet Pants’ bumper sticker collection. She lists some of the highlights, and one immediately stands out.
“1988 Bush Quayle”
There were several references to this election in the girls’ letters, and hints that Karen may have links to the Bush family.
We’re off to a good start with these.
“War is Peace.” Literally makes no sense. Perfectly Karen.
“A woman without a man, is like a fish without a bicycle.” These fish seem to follow them everywhere.
There is also, “Loud & proud lesbian;” and “Real families value gay relatives.”
These made me prick my ears up on a second listen, because Dot and Helena have a discussion about various gay friends and relatives at the beginning of the episode.
Could there be a link there?

Back to Crochet Pants’ blog, and she is feeling pretty close to death, as she is having to walk everywhere. A slight tendency for drama and exaggeration perhaps? Where have we come across that before…?

The first discrepancy I noticed is that Karen Crochet Pants briefly mentions her mum. This doesn’t fit with the narrative that we’ve been given previously. As we were told that Karen’s mother is dead. It’s an extremely fleeting mention though, so we’ll have to wait and see whether it comes up again.

Immediately though, there’s another tick in the “for” column; with a charming chant where Karen Crochet Pants proclaims that where she lives now is “better than Berkeley, better than Berkeley.” Confirming that connection, at least.

Karen Crochet Pants is also concerned about cockroaches that have been found in the local hospital. This really reminds me of her sending the rat article to Mark, early in Season 1. Pests, and pest control, seem to be another running theme with Karen and Ellen.

There’s another subtle connection, right at the end of Karen Crochet Pants’ writings for this week. She says that she sews as well as crochets, and enjoys it, despite it making her crazy. One of the very rare examples in Season 1 of Karen actually doing something for herself was when she sewed up her jeans, after ripping them on the decking.

These are only small coincidences on their own; but add them up, and Karen Crochet Pants seems like a fairly strong contender for our Karen.

She isn’t the only suspect though.

Josh may have found another contender on Fish Ellen’s Facebook page.
They know each other, and this Karen can be connected back to Oakland in 1987-1989.
There’s a short clip of “Karen” talking and complaining to someone called Sharon.
Is this a teaser from Fish Ellen’s Facebook Karen? Karen and Sharon? That would be funny.

Speaking of Ellen; if episode 5 was all about Karen, Karen, Karen; episode 6 was a complete Ellen-fest of wonderfulness. With a couple of emotional moments thrown in for good measure. Which is what it has been like with Ellen all along, hasn’t it?
Full disclosure, my disbelief is very easily suspended. I desperately want the roots of this story, and it’s main characters, to be real. That being said, I really think that there is some compelling evidence for Fish Ellen being the Ellen that we’ve been looking for.

Josh had spent several sleepless nights perusing Fish Ellen’s Facebook page. From his findings, he presented us with The Greatest Hits Of Fish Ellen.
Like any “best of” album, there are lots of upbeat numbers; interspersed with a few more sombre and melancholic ballads.

We first find Fish Ellen happily cooking for Thanksgiving.
A woman after my own heart, she’s promoting vegetarian alternatives for the big day. Fish Ellen would happily advise if anyone fancies trying a “meat-less or poultry-less” Thanksgiving.
This made me laugh straight away. It definitely sounds like Ellen! Surely poultry is meat?!

Continuing on the themes of Animal Rights, and of course fish, Ellen wants us to all join with her, and “Save The Salmon” on the 1st of December.
I’m not entirely sure what we’re saving them from; but Fish Ellen’s passion is infectious. I’m with her all the way.
(Just an aside – according to Google, this was a Rally that really did happen. Something that made me giggle, was that out of about only 3 posts on the Event page, one of them was someone asking if it was going to be live-streamed. I reckon that was Helena.)

Fish Ellen is obviously more at home in the kitchen now than back in the avocado-behind-the-oven days. She spends an afternoon baking, and conversing with her Grandparents from Beyond The Grave.
Fish Ellen feels that they’d be a bit disappointed that neither she nor her siblings had had any children. Which is an interesting insight into her life. I always felt personally, that Ellen would have made a much better parent than Karen.
We also learn that Fish Ellen’s Grandparents has escaped from the Nazis. That’s a huge thing to go through! Ellen of the letters would often reference the Nazis, in both her correspondence, and the homework that we’ve heard this season.
This, and Fish Ellen being very in touch with her spiritual side, bodes well for Fish Ellen and Letters Ellen being one and the same.

Fish Ellen loves a good environmental campaign to get behind too. She wants to stop the creation of The Nigerian Super Highway! This highway could be very bad news for wild gorillas if it goes ahead, and Fish Ellen is adamant it should be stopped.
Presuming that she’s our Ellen; she has obviously forgiven the wild gorillas’ ancestors for murdering Guru Patel. She never did seem to be one for holding a grudge.

One thing that Fish Ellen and I do disagree on, is whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch is a beautiful freak.
Sorry Fish Ellen.
He’s really not.
Even being British can’t swing it for him, I’m afraid.

Listening to the various posts from Fish Ellen, I thought one of the most compelling pieces of evidence in favour of her being The Ellen, was the constant string of cat references:
• Comcast is not akin to 2 cute kittens.
• Fish Ellen takes advice from the best-selling feline author. (Seems as good a place as any to get advice from?)
• She has her eye on a 6 foot tall painting of over 37 cats.

A CAT PAINTING? You couldn’t make it up.
I wonder if the 37 pairs of eyes move on this one? They’d be following Fish Ellen’s every move around her cottage.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, to also pick up on the fact that she lives in a cottage.
Or maybe her taste in accommodation was established by the first place she lived in independently?
I really hope that this particular cottage is every bit as gauzy and dreamy as any Ellen could hope for.

I almost forgot the one that is just so good, that it almost can’t be true.
Fish Ellen muses: “If I had a kitten for every kitten I wished I’d had I would have so many kittens.”
Either Josh used a bit of artistic licence to adapt this; or this just HAS to be our Ellen.
It is just too similar to the famous Ellen quote: “I wish I had a dollar for every dollar I wish I had.”

Unfortunately for Fish Ellen, she can’t have any cats, because of her mouse programme.
This made me smile, as I had presumed that the mouse-release videos had come about as a result of a pest-control problem. Along the lines of the ant infestation.
I had imagined that Fish Ellen hadn’t wanted to harm them, and that they’d therefore rapidly multiplied. Hence why she ended up with so many, to capture, and then release.
But this makes it sound like she is possibly taking in sick and injured mice, and re-habilitating them.
That thought warms my heart, and would be so perfectly “Ellen”.

Much as I already adore Fish Ellen, I was slightly concerned to discover that she has “patients.” Surely she’s not a nurse, or a doctor? That would be a bit of a stretch to believe.
Whoever the patients are, they have been upset and worried by the current political climate. (I don’t think they’re alone there).
Or could they be animal patients?
Fish Ellen would definitely have to be very in-tune with them to know their political persuasions; but I wouldn’t put it past her!

I ask this, because to celebrate the 4th of July weekend, Fish Ellen is hosting a free Animal Acupuncture Festival. Just come along, and have your precious pet poked and prodded, free of charge.
This is sweet, generous, and worrying, all at once.
Here, an acupuncture treatment for a dog can cost upwards of £50.
Yet Fish Ellen is doing it for free?!
I’m a bit worried that she has just borrowed some of Karen Crochet Pants’ knitting needles, and is sticking them into unsuspecting animals, willy-nilly!

One of the biggest and most bizarre moments of episode 6, was finding out that Josh has 2 mutual friends with Fish Ellen.
Let’s just pause for a moment, and think about how insane that is. What are the chances?
It just adds weight to my belief that Josh was well and truly destined to have these letters, and tell this story.

One of those mutual friends, Darren, explains how he once met Fish Ellen on a weird, drug-fuelled camping trip.
He is now on her mailing list, and gets emails about all kinds of alternative therapies, and environmental campaigns.
She even offered advice to Darren on the best treatment for his foot, after he broke it at Christmas.
(Am I the only one wondering whether he dropped a frozen leg of lamb on it?)
Darren asks Josh if he should contact Fish Ellen. Of course, Josh is going to make us wait until a future episode, to find out whether he does or not!
Also, who has a public profile, yet keeps their friends’ list private?
Another example of a wonderfully Ellen-like contradiction.

As well as all the sweet and funny moments that Josh discovered within Fish Ellen’s Facebook page; there are 2 sad and poignant moments also.

Firstly, Ellen’s car is broken into, and her laptop stolen.
In another completely crazy twist of fate, this happened directly outside where Josh was living at the time. What a missed opportunity!
Just think, Josh could have invited Ellen in for coffee/wine/chicken nuggets, while she awaited recovery.
Another pointer towards the fact that Josh is destined to always be connected to these people.
And can I just ask, who lives next to an ex-mortuary?!
No wonder Fish Ellen had bad luck there. Bad Spirit Central.

Fish Ellen is understandably down and disappointed after this happens.
She announces that she doesn’t believe in Karma.
Josh feels that this is a moment where Fish Ellen seems to be the complete opposite of the Ellen of the letters; who seemed to believe extremely strongly in Karma.
I disagree though.
Fish Ellen is still referencing Karma. I just feel that she has unfortunately been battered by the often cruel realities of life over the years.
In fact, it was Josh himself who predicted that this was probably going to happen, towards the end of Season 1:

“I want Ellen to live in a world that is as sweet as she is. And it breaks my heart that the world is probably going to break her sweet, little, naïve, soft shell at some point.”

I’d say that this is exactly what has happened to Fish Ellen.

An even more distressing and upsetting moment comes when we find out that Fish Ellen has had what sounds like a pretty serious car accident.
She was in the hospital for a long time, and still seems to be experiencing huge amounts of distress and trauma. It was obviously an extremely harrowing experience, and I actually felt a bit uncomfortable listening.
It was very moving and upsetting; and served as a sobering reminder that these are real people, who have to deal with very difficult times in their lives; as well as the fun and frivolity.
Fish Ellen says that at that moment, she just wants a cat or a friend to hug her.
I wanted to reach into the podcast, and give her a really big hug myself.

During the latter part of episode 6, we hear from someone we haven’t heard from for a couple of episodes.
It’s Dot’s and Helena’s “acquaintance,” Patty With The Crystals.

To be honest, it’s hard to make heads or tails of most of what she says, but the cult-like “Seekers” is obviously still up and running.
Oh, and there’s a promo code for her pet portraits; if anyone still needs a last-minute Christmas gift.
If you want your inner-animal brought to life on canvas however, you need to have an in-person consultation.
(Josh? Sara? This seems an opportunity not to be missed!)

Then, the big finale.
Patty, with or without her crystals, is commenting on one of Fish Ellen’s Facebook posts!
Fish Ellen is trying to find a companion, for a road-trip home to Scottsdale.
So they know each other!
But – and here’s the strange bit – our usually sweet, kind, friendly Fish Ellen, is completely ignoring Patty’s comments on her post.
Patty would like to go with Fish Ellen.
Can’t Fish Ellen see her comments?
Patty can see them?
Why isn’t Fish Ellen responding?
In the end, Fish Ellen finds someone to go with, and Patty is left to say that it’s probably for the best.
She’s going on a crystal harvest that weekend.
Patty wishes Fish Ellen all the best for her trip back to visit the desert.
And her Mother.

Her Mother???

So this is where Dot and Helena must come in.
They’re in Arizona.
We know from Ellen’s rental agreement, that that is where Ellen was born.
Why was Fish Ellen blanking Patty though?
Perhaps Dot and Helena hold the answers to this too.

Helena told Dot at the beginning of Season 2, that Patty stole her husband Paul. Could this be why Fish Ellen has a beef with Patty?
Did Patty break up her parents’ marriage?
If that’s the case, that would make Helena Fish Ellen’s Mum?

It’s funny, back when the Arizona connection originally came up, I leant towards Dot as the most likely candidate to be Ellen’s mum.
She retired back to Scottsdale; talked about beggars and poverty like Ellen did; went on holiday to Mexico like Ellen.
They both share a love of animals, and seem to have an upbeat attitude to life.

However, this episode, we heard Fish Ellen say that neither she, nor any of her siblings have any children.
Yet in episode 1 of Season 2, Dot tells Helena that her children are all grown up, with families of their own.
So this doesn’t seem to work after all.

Dot’s daughter was married to a man, but is now married to a woman. Remember Karen Crochet Pants’ bumper stickers? Remember Rob?
Could Dot be Karen’s mum???

Which leaves Helena.
She seems the polar opposite of both our Ellen, and Fish Ellen though.
Glass half-empty, moany, not keen on animals.
Although, I could not be more different from my mum, so this definitely does not rule Helena out.
Helena also said the infamous line, “Can you imagine?”
Ok, Josh could have put that in there as a red herring. But if not, that has to be a huge clue!
Plus, we’ve now got Fish Ellen ignoring Patty’s comments on her post. This would make total sense, if Patty ran off with her father.
It would also make it totally hilarious that Patty is brazen enough to ask to road-trip with Fish Ellen, and have a reunion with Ellen and her mother!
All those crystals must have given her an ultra-thick aura.

I felt by the end of episode 6, that Fish Ellen really seems a great fit for our original Ellen.
With the connections to “The Golden Girls” trio, things are starting to slot into place.

We still haven’t been given any concrete connections between Fish Ellen, and Karen Crochet Pants though.
So I’m really looking forward to hearing how the next potential Karen, who definitely does have a connection, measures up.
Fittingly, we hear from her to conclude the episode.
She’s having some problems with sand.

Can’t wait for Episode 7, to get to know her better.

Jurisdicted To Love: A Recap

Episode 4 was an absolute cracker of an episode.
Packed full of brand new quotables from our favourite four letter writers.
With enough intrigue and mysterious circumstances, to keep us in the perpetual state of confusion, that has over-taken us all this season.

We start with a quick reprise of the 2012 emails; between Email Karen and Josh; and also the one from Anonymous Email Man.
We first heard these towards the end of Season 1.
It sounds like they’re being read in some kind of time-tunnel; like they’re just out of reach. I really love how Josh has done that in these past couple of episodes.
It reminds us that we’ve heard them before, without needing to say it.
The effect is also that you might quite not catch all that is being said; that it’s a bit of a mystery. This really sets the scene nicely, for what is to come in the latter part of this episode.

Helena is first up in Episode 4, with what I’m sure will become a classic moment.
She has accidentally posted a recipe for Baked Ham to Dot’s Facebook page.
Frantically trying to delete it, Helena is becoming more and more enraged. It is a priceless, “older generation versus technology” moment.
Although… if we’re being honest, we’ve probably all been there. Especially in the early days of Facebook.
I for one, certainly said a prayer of thanks to Mary Christ, when we got the option to delete, and edit our posts.

Before Helena manages to get to the point, we’re hit with an ear-drum explosion. The worst of the bad karaoke so far. So bad, in fact, that it’s brilliant.
An extremely bad, slightly sweary, NKOTB cover.
A lot less PG than the original version, and a lot less vocally talented. (And that’s saying something!)
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m imagining that this is Rob and his mates, on Rob’s Stag-do.

Mark provides us with the first letter of the episode, and it’s to Bonnie.
He is explaining how to deal with bizarre tenants, such as Ellen. He also referred to his experience with her, as a “story.” Is this a clue? Justifying his character development of Ellen perhaps?
Although, when Mark mentions having to have lots of patience to deal with someone like Ellen; this does sound pretty genuine.

Talking of our whimsical tenant, she gives us another weighty helping of homework this week. Ellen seems to do an awful lot of Geography and Western Civilisation classes, for someone who is a budding artist! Some particular highlights come from Ellen’s insights into Canada, Colombia, and Germany.

Ellen states that her knowledge of Canada comes mostly from watching late-night TV.
Bound to be accurate then, if that’s the case.

Canada is next to the US, but their money is worth a lot less.
It is almost entirely covered in woods, meaning that sleds and sled-dogs provide the main means of transport. Despite everyone wielding axes, there isn’t any crime in Canada. Therefore, a Police Force isn’t necessary. Instead, cheerful Mounties wander around on horse back, spontaneously bursting into song as they go. Canadians appear to be slightly conflicted over their identity. Some speak French, to try to be like France. Others speak English, to try to be like the US.

I actually learned something from Ellen this episode. I didn’t know that Michael J Fox was from Canada. He is, Ellen informs us, an exception, rather than the rule, because he is vertically challenged. Apparently, most Canadians are very tall. They indulge in the popular hobbies of ice hockey, and seal-clubbing! Major Bad Karma Alert! Ellen is completely outraged. Having seen the odd ice hockey game, I’m not sure which is the more violent pastime!

Ellen does not seem to be a fan of French Canadians in particular. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that they favour loud, plaid shirts, over a nice fake-fur trimmed top. Or possibly, because they always look like they need to shave. I’ve never noticed that personally. I’ll be sure to inspect Celine Dion’s chin more closely, next time she’s on TV.

Perhaps the most startling revelation that Ellen gives us, is that for all these years, we’ve been wrongly thinking that Polar Bears are white. This native Canadian species is actually black! It’s only due to them being covered in so much snow, that they appear deceptively white. Move over David Attenborough, Ellen is after your job!

Leaving Canada behind, we next travel a long way South to Colombia. Surprisingly, Ellen doesn’t start out too badly. Colombia is in South America; is a Spanish speaking; and predominantly Catholic country. All going well so far.
Then the train goes off the rails with Juan Valdez.
According to Ellen, Juan Valdez picks all the coffee in Colombia himself. All whilst wearing his trusty “sun-brero”, to protect him from the heat. Ellen is pretty suspicious of Juan Valdez; and feels that there is definitely something fishy about him. (Somehow, we even get back to fish with Ellen.) She notes that he is also very short; definitely not a Canadian then.

Ellen feels strongly that Colombia should concentrate less on their coffee, and more on their drug problems. (I hope to goodness that the Colombian police dogs aren’t addicts. That would really tip Ellen over the edge.)

There is also a high chance of getting kidnapped in Colombia. I kind of wish that Karen and Rob had gone to Colombia for their honeymoon. Imagine the correspondence if they had been kidnapped? Karen could have penned her own ransom letter. She is extremely well-practiced at demanding money, after all. I’m wondering how long it would have been before the kidnappers would have offered someone money to take them away?!

Back to Ellen, and we’re in Europe now. Germany, to be exact.
Ellen proclaims that she is definitely not going to be mentioning the Nazis; as this is Geography class, not History class. Cue Ellen then immediately talking about the Nazis…

Her hearing is obviously about on a par with her spelling; as she informs us that the Nazis used the Jews as “escaped goats.” Possibly another childlike quality, that may point to Ellen being younger than we first thought? The historical context is correct though, as Germany is still a divided country at the time of Ellen’s homework, in 1988. This does tie in with the dates of the letters.

We heard in Season 1, that Karen had told Ellen that German is a “gutter” language. Ellen mentions this again in her homework; which is dated a couple of weeks later than that letter in Season 1. This could show that Ellen remembered what Karen had said; and included it in her homework. Or is it another clue that the homework provided inspiration for the letters? Or vice versa?
Time, or Josh, will tell. I hope!

Ellen does have an extremely good point about German car parts though. I can tell you from personal experience; that they are definitely hard to get hold of; and are very expensive! It seems that Germany is a pretty straightforward country; and this suits Ellen. She can state with confidence, for example, that hamburgers come from Hamburg, and cologne comes from Cologne. This formula will come unstuck a bit later on however; when we visit Mexico.

Before we venture on holiday with Karen, Ellen, and Rob though; we make a brief diversion to Thailand. Famous for its cats and twins; Thailand has also given the world a dangerous Thai food epidemic. Better cross Thai off the takeaway food options.
The Thai food epidemic had started in Russia. Those pesky communists are never far from the source of trouble.

Whilst the Geography had the juiciest titbits; there were definitely some highlights from the Western Civ homework too. This week, we learn that The War of The Roses didn’t occur in England, as first thought. Instead, it’s a football game in Pasadena.
Also, the Western Civ teacher tries to fool the students, by asking about books authored by Friedrich Engels. But Ellen is no fool!
“Trick question! Trick question!,” she exclaims in the manner of her “Bad Karma! Bad Karma!” proclamation. Repetition is reserved for only the most serious of situations.

Some final nuggets to take away:
Trotsky was a Scorpio. And we all know what that means by now.
Frederick The Great, and Catherine The Great? Well, they were both great!

And there endeth this week’s lesson.

We move from the countries featured in Ellen’s homework; to a literal change of jurisdiction for Ellen. In her first letter of the episode, to Mark, she apologises for not writing for a while. Herself, Karen, and Rob, have been on holiday in “Alcapulco,” Mexico. Ellen thinks that Karen’s father paid for them all to go on holiday; as he knew they’d been under a lot of stress recently. More like he needs a break from them all; and their innate ability to attract calamity!

(Perhaps Karen’s father should have sent them to Colombia. They could have been kidnapped, and been out of his hair for good. Or Canada, where they could have fallen prey to a hungry polar bear; whilst lost somewhere in the nation-wide woods.)

The highlight of the Mexico trip for Rob, is being able to legally drink there.
(And we all know how much Rob likes the law!)
Confusingly for Ellen, alcohol doesn’t come from “Alcapulco.” This doesn’t put Rob off though. He gets completely and utterly wasted on Tequila; then promptly throws up everywhere. (I do not think that the Tufts Admissions Department would have been very impressed with this behaviour.)

Ellen also warns against drinking the water. It made Rob even sicker! Karen and Ellen have an ingenious idea to drink melted ice, instead of water; in an effort to avoid becoming sick like Rob. But they end up getting sick too! Can you imagine?

Meanwhile, Karen and Rob have had a very rare stroke of genius. They’ve realised that they can defy C.W.’s instructions not to write to Mark by simply enclosing their letters with Ellen’s. That way, Ellen is the one sending the letters; not them. So they have written to Mark; and Ellen has dutifully enclosed their letters in her envelope.

Karen’s letter is straight into classic Karen.
Opinionated, self-righteous, indignant, and bossy!
She tells Mark that he is not to snitch to C.W. this time; as it is Ellen sending the letter, and not her. As has happened several times before, Karen finishes her letter, or not as the case may be, by just stopping mid-sentence:
“I think you still owe me some ………”

Money?
Vacumms?
Cat Paintings?
Instructions on how to sue someone?

Answers on a postcard.

Rob certainly has plenty to say though.
Season 2 has been a bit lacking in the Mr. Rob Esquire department.
This letter to Mark has definitely been worth the wait.

Rob is back at his belligerent best right away. “My wife Karen,” and “Legal Advisor to Karen,” feature multiple times.
Despite writing a (partial) letter to Mark herself, Karen leaves it to her trusty legal advisor to really tell Mark how it is. Karen can embarrass whomever she pleases, whenever she pleases to embarrass them. This includes herself. Rob tells Mark in no uncertain terms that they are “going to un-loop your jurisdiction loophole.” He is personally going to “motion in lemons you;” whatever that means!

Rob almost becomes Dr Evil-esque in his demands for the 1 million dollars that Mark still owes Karen. They have run out of both patience, and deals. They mean business this time. It sounds as if Mark’s lack of gratitude at being left the valuable cat painting, and mermaid clock, has been the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

We even get a PS in this letter. Methinks that maybe Rob isn’t quite as full of bravado as the rest of the letter would suggest! Rob tells Mark several times, not to tell C.W. about this letter. C.W. doesn’t need to know, because Rob has fired him. And C.W. doesn’t need to know that Rob has fired him; and Mark had better not tell him that either.
So there!

Mark does write next, but not in reply to the 3 holiday-makers.
He has more pressing issues at hand; and has written to Bonnie about a recent phone call he’s had with C.W. Mark is extremely offended and affronted. C.W. not only called Mark a buffoon, among some other choice words; but he hung up on him as well!
Of course, we’re all desperate to know what is going on. But alas, Mark doesn’t elaborate.
He just pleads with Bonnie to “fix” anything that he’s done, that may jeopardise “the deal.”

What deal is he talking about?
Just the deal with Karen over the money?
Or rights to the letters?
A TV deal???

Despite being called a buffoon, Mark is willing to do whatever is necessary to put things right. We’re not used to Mark not seeming in control, and sounding vulnerable.
Whatever is going on, it’s obviously worth a lot to him, in one way or another.
He even goes as far as to describe whatever “it” is, as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

There’s no time to try to find any answers; as we’re quickly back in the comedic world of Dot and Helena. No, Helena is telling Dot; she doesn’t talk to Patti. Frankly, I’m not surprised, if Patti stole her husband! Also, “Yikes” is definitely an under-used expression these days. We ought to bring that back. Helena asks Dot how her daughter is; and whether said daughter still has “that nice friend.”
Is it possible that one or both of these girls could be Karen and/or Ellen???

We conclude episode 4, hearing from Josh.
This is where, if possible, this episode becomes even more mind-boggling than episode 3.

Josh is trying to marry-up Email Karen and Fish Ellen, but without success.
Email Karen had confirmed that she knew, and lived with, an Ellen. But Ellen isn’t actually Fish Ellen’s real name. Suddenly, after staring at the anonymous email from “email man;” Josh sees the clue he’s been looking for. The anonymous email and Email Karen’s emails were sent from the same IP address.

So the same person sent both emails?
Somebody is pretending to be Karen?
But hasn’t Josh been in touch with Email Karen via Facebook?
How does any of this add up?
Do we know for sure that “Email Man” IS a man? How do we know, if the email was anonymous?

Tantalisingly, Josh leaves us with the beginning of a message to Email Karen. Saying that they need to talk…
….And that’s it! That’s a wrap for episode 4.
Will any of the hundreds of questions be answered in episode 5?
Maddeningly, we’ve now got to wait a fortnight to find out!

A Recap in Real Time: Episode 3 – In My Legal Opinion

I was a little confused when Josh sent us through this episode.
As it had the same title and description as Episode 9, from Season 1.
However, I just presumed that he’d had too much wine; or not enough coffee; or both.

It turns out that it wasn’t a mistake; and all will become clear. Well, maybe not clear…..
Anyway; here goes. This is my stream of consciousness, as it happened.

Josh sounds funny. Is he on the phone?

When was he talking to Mark? Why were the letters on the internet; and who put them there?

COME BACK!

Yes! You tell her Dot. Misty was a girl.

Stop with the Fahrenheit, you crazy Americans.

Well, Jackie sounds like a lazy-arse!

Actually, she sounds a lot like Karen!

Why does everyone they know die? Must be the soap.

My money is on Helena not remembering.

Patti! The floozy!

Watch your handbag, as well as your husbands apparently.

OMG. Patti is an artist.

IS SHE ELLEN???

Pet portraits! Yes, commemorate Misty.

If she’s a thief and a floozy, I highly doubt it Dot…

Is this a plane? Where are we going now?

Who is this?

THIS IS NOT SARA!

Deana??? How come?

Well, I’m sure Rob will sort it.

BUT THIS IS KAREN’S LETTER.

Who are these imposters?

We have heard these letters… but why now again?

WHAT IS GOING ON?

“Karen” needs to be one of the drinking words for the Aftershow.

Are these letters exactly the same? Need to check. E.g. “Legally Yours”.

Could these be slightly different versions again? Some bits seem different, and longer.

THIS IS STEVEN!!!

WHAT IS HAPPENING?

This must be a parallel universe.

Why are the voices different?

DON’T CHANGE ELLEN, GOOD GOD

(I still love you Donna.)

Didn’t work long enough?! Wasn’t it 20 minutes?

The Christmas Tree Farm will forever be my favourite.

I love how they brazenly ask Mark for jobs.

Rob is good with electricity. Not so good with gas though…

I wonder if they ever got another job? Ever?

I actually can’t cope with these different voices.

JOSH. What the F is going on?

I still love that Karen asks Mark to help her sue him.

Steven. Stop it.

I would respond to Rob.

Well, anyone could get abortion muddled up with jurisdiction…

Mark must have no life if he’s writing on Boxing Day.

Read and re-read. As if that will make any difference.

That’s right. Bullet points may simplify. Good call.

“No, I won’t help you sue me”. How selfish.

But it’s a great cat painting. Just some tongue damage.

Oh, please do rent to Karen again.

Again, I would respond to Rob. Write to me.

“VERY sincerely.” He means business now.

Now Rob is writing on New Year’s Day. They really do have no lives.

Karen has read the bullet points, and doesn’t give a shit.

Take your bullet points and shove them, Mark!

Well, maybe it wasn’t on purpose. But you did break quite a lot, Robert.

Oh yes, so unfair to not help someone sue you.

“My client Karen”. Lol.

Oh Christ, the cat painting is no more. RIP. Say hi to Misty.

“Visual ipecac.” I’d forgotten that gem!

But these are still all the wrong voices.

JOSH. EXPLAIN PLEASE.

Speaking of bad karma, I think Josh is due a dose…

Doomed baseball stadium? Baltimore? I don’t recall this.

We know you have no idea Karen. And yes, you are dumb.

Almost 200 dollars!

Why didn’t they take these with them?

CUT???

CUT?!?!?

WHAT???

OMG, it’s that flipping detective.

WERE THEY FILMING?

It’s like the Truman show!

Where the F is Lesley? She’s always AWOL.

Hello? Explain please, Joshua.

I love this song!

Oh, maybe not by karaoke lady…

I’m singing along anyway.

Ooooooh, Josh and Sara! Is it Reveal Time?

TELL US ABOUT ELLEN!

Give us the research!

Karen & Rob – is it really them?

Of course he’s rich!

A daughter from a previous marriage? Did Patti steal her husband too?

Wait. 2 previous kids?

A son together? DAMIEN!!!

Wedding photos? We need to see these.

No Josh, it definitely doesn’t make sense.

So Karen is confirmed…?

12 years too old for the letters?

A minute to marinate. Lol. Josh is cooking. So is my brain.

Ellen is not a child! Of Karen’s. Good

There’s records of a Karen living there.

Age was off though, so discounted.

Blimey, poor Mark had to deal with 2 Karens.

NO ELLENS???

But a Jewish name? Please be Ellen.

SHE IS ARTISTIC!

PRINTS OF FISH?! Shut the front door!

PTSD from fish-washing? I’m dying!

Surely this has to be Ellen.

Please let this be Ellen.

Ooooh, she’s the right age.

How can there be no connection?

Did Mark combine them?

An amalgamation of his craziest tenants?

There can’t be another Karen, because “email Karen” emailed Josh.

I DON’T WANT TO BELIEVE EITHER!

SHOW US THE FISH!

Of course Ellen is beautiful. Mark’s a bitch.

Yes, this is a lot of information.

My head hurts.

A PICKLE FAMILY?!

This is my favourite Sara revelation so far.

Oh god, I’m dying! Again!

Just make up a connection. We’ll take Jewish.

“Fish Ellen”!

I think Mark may have combined the two.

But then didn’t Email Karen confirm to Josh, that she knew Ellen? So Ellen must be real?

Ellen wouldn’t have been there as a child, surely?

Sara said she was a tenant. So 18+?

Karen’s been around.

9 years between marriages.

Did her children live there? They must have done.

I’m so confused right now.

Maybe Email Karen rented a different property of Mark’s? But she mentions the car wash etc?

Karen & Rob can’t be connected to the cottage.

Fish Ellen connected to cottage, but not Karen & Rob.

I don’t want it to be fake.

Oooh, who’s this?

PATRICIA?!

PATTI WITH THE CRYSTALS!!!

IS PATTI ELLEN?!

Definitely sounds crazy enough.

“Seekers”. OMG, it is a cult! Nicki T was right!

IT IS ELLEN/PATTI! Pet portraits!

She has definitely immortalised those fish.

Soul-maps! Like the astrology.

I definitely need a map to navigate this episode.

Stop it with the bells.

DON’T LEAVE IT THERE!!!

I need a lie down. Bloody Hell.