Season 2, Episode 9: Sunset/Sunrise (Mystery solved?)

Sunrise. Sunset. Two beautiful times. When the world is, usually, still and quiet. Times of reflections. What is to come? What has already happened? If this isn’t speaking to all the fans of K&E, then maybe you need to go outside with your headphones and begin listening to the podcast again from the first episode.

The penultimate episode (next to the last, for those that were unclear), begins with a 1979 newspaper article from the Portland Oregonian. The Steinfield Pickle Factory, which had been in operation since 1922, has been the victim of a terrible explosion. Cause unknown. However, 120 employees are out of work and the future of the company is bleak. (Well, Vicki W. now you know.)

Dot is back. Moaning about how kids these days just don’t understand sacrifice and how “back in the day” you respected your elders. Especially your parents. Helena agrees. Especially since her daughter blames her for everything wrong in her life. Helena’s daughter seems upset because she had to care for her younger sister when Helena was doing time in the pokey. Poor Helena. Sleeping on a cot and peeing on a cold toilet (someone crochet her a toilet seat cover, STAT!) while her eldest daughter whooped it up in the “big city”. Also, the slop (AKA, jail food) was terrible. Who knew prison wasn’t a luxury spa?!?

Aloha Karen…. today is YOUR day! It’s her birthday! And, can you believe that Aloha Rob RUINED her last birthday?!? (I’m aghast at this accusation! Rob ruin something?!?) Every year, as per tradition (except when Rob ruins it by chucking the karaoke microphone through the TV screen and getting them kicked out of the bar) (By the way, that could happen to ANYBODY!), Aloha Karen sings birthday karaoke. So, this year, our sassy birthday gal is heading to her favorite karaoke bar (the only one in town that allows them entrance) to sing, sing, sing, sing, sing! Unless Rob gets too drunk and they are forced to leave. Whichever comes first. All other birthdays pale in comparison to Aloha Karen’s because, DUH!, it’s HER birthday. Happy birthday, Aloha Karen!

(Here, our favorite Karen, Sara Stapleton proceeds to sing, sing, sing, sing, sing! I admit, I laughed. Loudly. Hysterically. Tears streaming down my face to the incredibly poignant Bette Midler song, Friends. I have no clue how Sara managed to get through this. Soon, I found myself actually crying as I recalled the words and how they reflected upon my time spent with the podcast, roomie community, and Josh. But, thats a blog post for another time.)

Skype time between Sara and Josh! (Oh, this always means juicy information is on the horizon!) Josh finally spills the handwriting analysis. And, the answer we have waited for since the end of Season 1 is finally revealed. The letters are not written by THREE people. It appears that the Mark and Karen letters were written by the SAME person! (I wish I could add a shocking sound effect here but, since I can’t: Make a gasping sound on your own. Also, I think most of us have suspected, including Sara herself, that the letters were not 100% real. It’s just that Josh has finally verified that to us.) Which leads to Josh openly stating, with all the information he has uncovered, that the girls could not be that naive and stupid. It now appears that the letters were clearly written for comedic purposes. (Can’t say we haven’t laughed!) Based on some actual events but, embellished. Josh has also heard back from Darren. It turns out both Darren AND Josh have lived in every city the girls have. (Ok, seriously? I may be jumping on the conspiracy bandwagon. Now, I just need to figure out which one of you is Karen and who is the Ellen?)

Email from Darren. He’s not comfortable reaching out the BLEEP (the REAL Fish Ellen). As Darren has reread the letters, they have taken on a whole new meaning knowing that BLEEP (the REAL Fish Ellen) is the writer. He just doesn’t know BLEEP (the REAL Fish Ellen) well enough to want to broach the subject. However, Darren does remember some interesting conversations and tidbits about BLEEP (the REAL Fish Ellen). He tells Josh that during a conversation they had, BLEEP mentions she dropped out of interior design school because she felt the program was “creatively oppressive” and “stifled her unique point of view.” BLEEP is also a big fan of cats (#alwaysTeamEllen). BLEEP (the Real Fish Ellen) does NOT like her family. At all. Her family of friends are the only people that truly matter to her and she welcomed Darren to “the family” several times. (I have to wonder if BLEEP is a follower of Charles Manson?) The most shocking tidbit…. BLEEP (the Real Fish Ellen) was at one of Josh’s Twin Peak parties! (What the what?!? SO MANY QUESTIONS! 1. Really? Can we verify this? Pic or it didn’t happen. 2. What is a Twin Peaks Party? How do I get an invite? If I don’t watch Twin Peaks, can I still come? 3. What is your obsession with Twin Peaks, Hallmark?!?). Small world, indeed.

With all this new information, Josh asks Sara for her overall theories on how these letters came to be and who these people are. Sara thinks Mark is a writer. (Me too, Sara. Unless I am the writer. Unless, I’m not.) She feels Mark created a project based on real life letters and experiences he has had with tenants. Largely, based on the real life people that were found, as the main focus and source. Sara doesn’t feel that our Karen and Ellen actually lived together. But, our fearless leader, Josh has the answer to that. He has been keeping a theory to himself. (#notsurprised #TBAKing) Based on these facts; 1. Helena was arrested in the 80’s. 2. There appears to be no Dad in the picture. 3. Fish Ellen’s name was on the lease and not Karen’s. 4. Karen was a minor at the time. 5. After living in the cottage, Fish Ellen moved to Seattle and lived with Aloha Rob. Josh’s theory (which makes perfect sense and nails the final puzzle piece into the pictures) is that when Helena went to jail, Fish Ellen took in her younger sister, Aloha Karen (which is where Aloha Karen and Aloha Rob meet). Upon leaving the cottage, they all moved to Seattle together. Crochet Pants Karen was Fish Ellen’s original roommate, until she had to move out so that minor Aloha Karen could move in. (I swear, this makes sense, even if it seems convoluted!). This means that Mark, when writing his project, combined Crochet Pants Karen and Aloha Karen into one character. Josh also followed up with the Oakland Library Clerk (shout out to Nicki T!) once he had all the actual names involved. Our clerk was able to provide the following information; a parking ticket was issued to Aloha Karen across the street from the cottage. This links Aloha Karen to the cottage even if her name is not attached to it.

Marking the one year anniversary of her Dad’s death, Crochet Pants Karen is reflective. While the past year has been nightmarish, at times, Crochet Pants Karen has staked her umbrella in the metaphorical sand. She has found things she likes to do, the things she has to do, and has found tremendous life giving strength. Her children, her spouse, and her community of friends and family keep her sustained and provide a well of comfort. Crochet Pants Karen sitting on her porch, reading a book about the iconic Ava Gardner, remembers her father. The passage she reads speaks volumes. “I might have worn hand me down frocks and had dirty knees. Maybe, I didn’t always scrub them as often as polite little girls should but, we were never dirt poor. I was the goddamnedist tomboy you ever met. In the summer time I went barefoot and that was what farm kids did. Of course we were poor. It was the Great Depression. Everybody was poor. It cost you just to create. But, being hard up didn’t make us dirt poor.” And so, here is Crochet Pants Karen, with her own dirty knees. She isn’t as polite as she should be either. Being taught to be polite, because it quiets us, it limits us. Crochet Pants Karen sits, proudly, barefoot. Grateful that her family allowed her to dirty her knees. Reflecting on the road of loss. No more ruckus nights at the dinner table, with her father, telling stories together. Realizing that her passion for stories and her history itself may be the greatest gift.  (ARE YOU BAWLING YET?!? No? Ok, me neither. I swear. Ok, maybe just a little.) Crochet Pants Karen was just in Berkeley visiting her old friend, Miss Doctor Kathy, telling stories. Miss Doctor Kathy was her old neighbor (how’s her brother doing? What happened to the cats?) and they spent many nights together, talking in the yard, about what it means to be a strong woman. They were not neighbors for long though as Crochet Pants Karen’s roommate had a family crisis. That roommate, was a strong woman, at the young age of 20. She was soft yet, strong. Both sweet and sassy. Curious and convicted. Unfortunately, they did not remain in touch.

Crochet Pants Karen lived in the cottage briefly, with Fish Ellen. Fish Ellen had a family crisis and Crochet Pants Karen had to move out. Presumably to make room for Aloha Karen, a minor at the time, to move in. BAH BAH BUM! Sara proclaims, Mystery Solved! So, why doesn’t it feel done? Well, it may not and Josh says unless he had the balls (HIS WORDS, NOT MINE! I only recap! And, make up commentary that I usually add via parentheses.) then, we may never actually know what is fact and what is fiction. However, this seems a satisfactory hypothesis. Do the details really matter?

Dear Bonnie. MARK!! IT’S MARK! (The scoundrel responsible for this tale!) He has enclosed a, not so pleasant, letter from CW. Poor Mark. He has gone his whole life without being called a buffoon. (Until now.) Mark is tried of fighting the battle.

Dear Mark. CW! (Now, we get to know what he has to say!) CW is profoundly disappointed in Mark. Mark’s trivial conduct has nullified this production. Mark has not disclosed relevant information. In addition, he has exploited finances for personal gain and buffoonery. These actions have jeopardized the film and could have led to litigation. (Uh oh…. will I see Mark on the next episode of American Greed? Maybe listen to his story in a true crime podcast?) Mark is exhausting and behaves similar to the characters in his screenplay. (I pick Karen! He is a Karen! What’s Mark’s sign?) All funding is pulled and appears this project is a legal nightmare.

OH NO! Poor Dot! A loud bang awoken her in the middle of the night! Gun in hand, she went to find the source. It was awful. Worst than any home invasion. Misty’s portrait fell off the wall! It landed on Mr. Jeeves the Butler and tore a giant hole into Misty! An emergency road trip to Sedona with Jackie is happening to repair the damage.

Well, it had to happen sometime. Helena is deleting the face books. Well, she can’t figure out how to delete it so, she just isn’t going to log in anymore. The damn thing is so stupid and such a waste of time. (It’s also really complicated. Just look at all the comments on the Facebook Complain Department page!). No one post on Helena’s wall anymore because she won’t see it. Because, she won’t be on the face books anymore. Don’t we have better things to do than be on this stupid internet page anyway? How about if we find cheap plane tickets to Seattle? Looks like Helena is heading to Seattle.

Love and Avocados…. and one more episode to go. Get those wine bottles and tissues ready, everyone!

Steph

 

 

 

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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!

 

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!

An Introduction to Rob

What a guy, right? Professional huckster, destroyer of household appliances, and burgeoning legal expert.  Not to mention aspiring arsonist. This post will be the first in a series detailing Rob’s awesome misadventures. Let’s begin with some ubiquitous introductions to our hero’s role in the Karen and Ellen Letters, before his first letter to Mark.

Rob.

What a guy, right? Professional huckster, destroyer of household appliances, and burgeoning legal expert.  Not to mention aspiring arsonist. This post will be the first in a series detailing Rob’s awesome misadventures. Let’s begin with some ubiquitous introductions to our hero’s role in the Karen and Ellen Letters, before his first letter to Mark.

Our beloved Rob debuts in episode three, “Free Firewood” in a letter from Karen to Mark, dated February 23, 1988. “My boyfriend said that we should just accept that this is the way tenants always get exploited by landlords in a capitalist system, but I’m not going along with that!” she writes, in reference to the beginning of what will become an insane list of demands.  Later, Rob explains to Ellen that the issue of jurisdiction, which is irreverent, is nothing more than a capitalist loophole.

I wonder how a trust fund douche canoe like Rob, whose old money upbringing and connections to the Bush family would come to distrust capitalism. Perhaps his liberal professors at Berkley showed him the evil of its ways. I can’t imagine young Rob, who, in the letters doesn’t appear to be a mountain of intellectual fortitude, would have been difficult to sway. But, I digest.

Before we hear from Rob in an actual letter, there are several notable Rob moments. Most of them are from episode eight, “Christmas Tree Farm.” There are a million ways I could present these moments to you, but none would be as Karen-and-Ellen-esque as a good old fashioned numbered list chalk full of malapropisms.

  1. “Rob threw his keys in the trash. He didn’t know he was supposed to return them to you,” Ellen writes to Mark, regarding her finally moving out of the cottage in Oakland.
  2. “There was some sort of accident with a gondola, and Karen’s father says he couldn’t afford another day with them left to their own advices or something.” The Italian police (who are such snitches, according to Ellen) called Karen’s father, who made the newlyweds cut their honeymoon short and return to the Untied States (This is the single-most K&E mystery that I would like to see solved).
  3. The freezer door is broken off its hinges. “Rob broke it accidentally when he hit it with a frozen leg of lamb.” Mark said in a later letter that he had repeatedly warned the trio about defrosting the freezer with an ice pick, and that they had undoubtedly poked a hole in the refrigerant coils doing this. Apparently Rob wasn’t keen on this tedious method, and took to beating the poor refrigerator with frozen animal limbs. “It could have happened to anyone, but it happened to Rob,” Ellen says. Mark disagrees, and deducts the cost of the refrigerator from their security deposit, which as we know, becomes subject of Rob’s famous “legal” extortion letters.
  4. “Karen’s father has got jobs for Karen, Rob and Me on a Christmas tree farm near Portland, owned by one of his patients. Karen’s father says, ‘probably can’t destroy the world on a Christmas tree farm.’ He says the silliest things, considering he’s an ornithologist – that’s an eye doctor.” NOTE: An ornithologist is actually a branch of zoology that specifically involves birds, according to Merriam-Webster. A pessimist may think Rob took this statement as a challenge, but I am an optometrist, and choose to believe the Christmas tree farm explosion was simply a mistake that could have happened to anybody.
  5. The Cat Painting. This painting “… costed Ellen $197, which is almost $200,” and the only thing wrong with it is it needs batteries, and the tongue (which is supposed to move back-and-forth like a pendulum) was broken off by none other than our accident-prone hero in August of 1988. “It could have happened to any of us,” Karen explains in her November 29 letter to Mark. At least the eyes still go back-and-forth! $200 – $84 = over $100, who wouldn’t have jumped on a deal like that?!?!
  6. “Christmas Tree Farm Explodes” The day Karen wrote her letter to Mark demanding her full security deposit plus 34.4 percent interest, happens to coincide with the f(l)amed explosion at the Busy Beaver Christmas Tree Farm, reported in The Sunday (REDACTED), datelined December 4, 1988. I assume Karen was trying to raise capital for Rob’s defense attorney, even though he could have represented himself, as he was still strongly considering a career in law. What must have been mere moments into their FIRST day on the job, Karen and Rob’s FIRST task was to turn on the heat in the sapling greenhouse. Mary Christ, what a disaster. Rob cranked open the gas valve on the heater, and discovered there was no pilot light to ignite the natural gas that was hissing out of the jets. While he and Karen went to a nearby convenients store for matches, the gas found another source of ignition, blasting the sapling greenhouse to smithereens, and destroying a truck owned by the Mother Goose Diaper Service (which comes up again later in the saga). Poor business owner Myron Shapiro told The Sunday (REDACTED), “They started work at nine o’clock, and by ten o’clock, I was out of business. And all they could say was, ‘does this mean we’re fired?’ What kind of people are they?” They are the stuff of legend, Mr. Shapiro.

What is your favorite Rob moment? Did I miss any? Feel free to comment below, and share this blog with your Roomies.