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!

 

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I Can’t Wait To Get Over The Wall: A Recap, and A Lot Of Questions

After the hundreds of questions that Episode 1 threw up, we are left with even more after Episode 2. I would definitely say that it is the craziest and most mind-boggling episode yet of The Karen and Ellen Letters.

We start, as last week, with Helena and Dot, back in 2012. The accompanying video lets us know that Helena is in Mendocino, CA.
Helena goes down in my estimations immediately. Referring to the recently departed Misty as a “he.” Talk about disrespecting the dead!
Helena seems a real Debbie Downer.
She doesn’t like the heat. She doesn’t like cruises. She doesn’t like the price of antiques these days.
“Why pay $40 for something that was $10, 30 years ago?” she queries.
Although, maybe she does have a point here. Depreciation is a real thing!
However, genuine antiques will of course increase in value.
Take a Cellini mermaid clock for example. Its value would surely increase by at least 34.4% annually?

Do we think that Helena has echoes of Karen about her?
Picking fault, moaning, and questioning the cost of things?
I’m not sure. But they’re not completely dissimilar.

We hear from Josh, about the journey he has been on, with both the podcast, and the letters. About how Season 2 really started taking shape once Jeff (who plays Mark), had told Josh about the “lost letters.”
Josh describes how what is real, and what is not, has become fluid, and is constantly merging.
I think that is a fitting description of this episode; and leads perfectly into what comes next.

To me, this is the most perplexing and mysterious letter to ever be featured on Karen and Ellen. (So far.)
Josh explains that he originally dismissed it as being in the file incorrectly. It isn’t even signed. However, both he and Sara feel they are fairly sure now who wrote it.
(They’re not sharing of course!)

The writer is female, and the recipient is someone called George. Presumably a man, but could be a woman possibly?
The only George we’ve heard brief mention of before, is George Bush, when the links between Karen and the Bush family were mentioned. Surely, it couldn’t be to him???
Our anonymous writer asks after him and his kids. She’s bored and fed up.
She’s locked out, and won’t be able to get back in until her landlord comes after dinner.
She just has to sit and wait for “mail call.”

I wondered if this was an American phrase that I hadn’t heard before. Looking it up, the first results that came up were for a TV show about the US military, that had aired in the 2000s.
Reading on, I don’t think the author was drumming her fingers, waiting for her favourite programme to come on. “Mail call” in this context, seems to be the distribution of mail, in some form of institution.
And I’m 90% sure that the institution is Prison!
The writer’s friend Jennifer has left, to go to Chowchilla. Which, Google reliably informs me, is a Central California Women’s Prison.
Our author wants to get out too. But not to another prison.
She can’t wait to get over the wall, and is certain that her life will be different afterwards.

She is getting angry now. She hasn’t heard from George. He told her to write, but doesn’t reply. It has been 5 years, and she’s fuming.
It’s not just George. Nobody is replying to her letters.
She’s not going to “carry on wasting envelopes she doesn’t have.”
Now is it just me, or does that definitely sound like a Karen or Ellen-ism?

She is not going to write anymore. Or until George writes back.
This writing to George, to tell him that she isn’t going to write to him anymore; is reminiscent of Karen calling Mark, to tell him that she’s still not speaking to him.
(Season 1, episode 10).
Surely Karen couldn’t have ended up in prison?
Was there one mess that even Daddy or CW couldn’t get her out of?
The “landlord” reference seems out of place. Could it be a nickname for a member of staff? Or a Freudian slip, from past correspondence?

Whoever she is, she is very angry and upset that nobody bothers to reply to her. (Where’s Mark when you need him?)
She vows that things will be different, once she gets out.
I hope that we find out who she is, and if they were.

After writing my notes from the audio episode, I then listened again with the accompanying video. What stood out, is that the letter is estimated as being from “before 1990”.
This confuses things even more!
From the tone of the letter, I was leaning towards the author probably being Karen. But that dating would put it extremely close to when she was giving Mark almost daily headaches, as his tenant.
I don’t know what to think now!

After a pretty dark, and intense start to the episode; some more atrocious karaoke, courtesy of Di’s bar; serves to lighten the mood.
(I’m wondering if this is just a random find by Josh; or could it be someone we know? I wouldn’t put it past Josh to sneak that in!)

It’s time to hear from Ellen!
She’s back on Mark’s case about that free firewood again.
But there’s a bit of a preface from Josh first. This is some of the correspondence that makes up the “lost letters;” and they’re troubling somewhat.
There are subtle differences between some of these letters; and the ones that Josh already had.
If some of the letters have been changed, what else has?
There are already some suspicions over some of the most ludicrous of Ellen’s writings. For example, the Roger Rabbit letter; and the drug-sniffing dogs article.

Ellen comes across less ditzy in these new letters; and more petulant and selfish. Fairly “dog in the manger,” and rude.
Childlike maybe?
I can’t help but think of the theory at the end of Episode 1, about Ellen being Karen’s and Rob’s daughter.

Just as I’m questioning her, Ellen pulls it back.
With a completely ludicrous, but totally Ellen-like request, that Mark creates a fireplace in the cottage. So that Ellen can make use of the free firewood that she is obviously entitled to.
Of course, Guru Lahera would need to be consulted over the Feng Shui aspects of the decision.
Ellen would like a marble fireplace; Karen prefers pottery. This is more like the Ellen we know and love!

But to echo Josh’s thoughts, why are the letters different?
Has someone invented or embellished some letters? Mark?
Remember when Angry Karen contacted Josh in 2012? When requesting that the blog be taken down, she says:
“I want you to erase the things I said in there. Especially the things I didn’t say.”
Is some of it completely made up?

Back to the episode, Ellen and Mark are dealing with a whole new problem.
And it’s brilliant.

Ellen has an ant infestation in the kitchen. They won’t leave, despite her yelling at them.
Mark apparently already knows this, as he has heard Ellen yelling, from his office.

He can hear her???

Is this Mark at his facetious best, saying that he can hear Ellen, despite being miles away? Because she’s being so loud?
Or does he really live very close to the girls?
If this is the case, why the need for the letters at all?
Unless they were more like notes passed back and forth, under door mats. This would explain the sometimes very rapid succession of letters.
(And the reason that Karen never bills Mark for postage!)

Getting back to the pressing problem of the ants, Mark wants to kill the ants, with a spray made from orange peel.
(Only Mark would have an ant spray made from the peel of a thousand Blood Oranges…)

Ellen is horrified.
She does not want the ants murdered, and needs time to think.
Mark agrees to wait; which I did think was slightly strange for a landlord with a pest-control issue. Although, we have seen Mark exercise (or is it exorcise?) extreme patience and restraint with the girls before.
Ellen reports the sad passing of 10 ants; and wonders if the soap found close to their bodies is a prime suspect.
Not a totally outlandish suggestion; as we know the soap has previously led to the death of other animals.
(RIP Extraordinarily Clean Fish.)

Mark reveals to Ellen that she will be killing ants daily, just by walking around.
Ellen debates whether it will be safe to walk outside, ever again!
She starts catching and releasing the ants outside; and also seeks advice from her mother.

We haven’t heard too much of Ellen’s family before.
In this instance, Ellen reports that her mum is straight to the point; telling Ellen she has too much time on her hands.
She suggests that Ellen’s time could be better spent, helping make gift baskets and brownies for the church.

We need to pause a moment here.

Church?

Towards the end of Season 1, there was a lot made of the fact that Ellen was Jewish; and was having to deal with anti-Semitism from Karen’s Grandmother.
There was that fairly emotional exchange of letters between Ellen and Mark in Season 1, episode 11; in which Mark offers advice, and personal narrative.
Surely that can’t all have been made up?
But something is amiss here.
Even Ellen can’t mix up “church” and “synagogue!”
She also apparently showed her mother Mark’s letters about dealing with anti-Semitism.

There has been a big focus on Ellen so far this season.
She must be real, as Bonnie has requested her letters, for whatever legal wrangling is going on.
We know that Karen, Rob, and Ellen have all been found.
It seems impossible at the moment to untangle what is real, and what isn’t.
(I need to make a mental note to ask Josh whether or not he has ever managed to trace Bonnie, or Charles Worthington.)

Back with the ants, in a sudden turn of events, Ellen has had a change of heart.
She rather flippantly announces that Mark can now spray the kitchen, as she has “lost interest in the ants.”
This seems very dismissive after how passionate she seemed previously about saving them.
Is this just typical Ellen short attention span?
Or perhaps the “creator” of the letters got bored of the subject…?

Speaking of subjects, Mark’s last correspondence in this episode is to forward some homework of Ellen’s that he’s found, to Bonnie.
The subject in question is Geography.
There is a lot of it!
I won’t go into it here, but there are some real gems, which I will highlight in a separate post.

From Ellen’s perplexing homework, we finally get to hear again from the even more perplexing “Detectives.”
The male detective, who I’m reliably informed is called David, is yelling at Leslie.
Demanding to know the status of the “special project.”
A rather harassed-sounding Leslie assures him that the whole team is en route, and that there’s a meeting on Tuesday.

What can all this be about?

My gut feeling was that it is probably connected to the Yahoo political forum conversations from 1999; briefly featured in Season 1.
The contributors are discussing a possible scandal linked to the Bush family.
One of them even claims to have a copy of the letters.
However, thanks to the video that goes along with the episode; we know that the Detectives conversations pre-date this; coming in 1998.
Can they still be linked?
Is the person claiming to have copies of the letters, the same person who emailed Josh back in 2013?
And is this in turn, one of the keepers of the “lost letters”?
Or are they all separate people?
Just how many copies of these letters are there???

We’re all in need of a huge exhale after all that; and it comes in the form of another mouse-release video from Ellen.

A piano plays us out, and I’m as usual hoping that it’s Annette.
And with that, it’s a wrap for Episode 2!
If anybody thinks they have the answers to any of the many questions, please share them.
I’m still as confused as ever!

Bit-part players from Season 1 I wish we knew more about:

Bit-part players from Season 1 that I wish we knew more about:

5) Ellen’s Uncle Gary, and owner of the Pickle Factory.

We never get to the bottom of exactly what happened there. It’s the equivalent of “The Fishing Trip” in Gavin & Stacey.

4) Hal

Just one question.

Did he really live in an actual chicken coop?

3) Myron Shapiro.

The unfortunate owner of The Busy Beaver Christmas Tree Farm; and victim of Karen’s & Rob’s complete ineptitude. The man whose business quite literally went up in smoke.

Did he require therapy?

Was he ever able to look at a Christmas tree again, without breaking out in a cold sweat?

And how much did it cost the 2 families to pay him off?

2) Annette

The suicidal piano lady, who was a previous tenant of Mark’s.

I’d love to know what became of her and all her pianos.

Maybe Ellen was right, and that house could have benefited from an exorcism after all. It does seem to make all of its occupants ever so slightly deranged.

1) The Caldwells

Karen’s & Ellen’s next-door neighbours.

It would be amazing to hear from them; and find out if they witnessed any fish-washing, avocado-sniffing; and any other craziness first-hand.

And let’s not forget their high-electricity consuming cats. They were probably quite literally cats on the wall of our 2 favourite correspondents.