EW Community TV Show Episode Guides and Recaps from EW's Community

'Carnivàle' recap: A storm this way comes

Season 1 | Episode 4 | “Black Blizzard” | Originally Aired Oct 5, 2003

For a show that fuses religion and mythology so effortlessly, it comes as little surprise that the characters of Carnivàle are destined to face a reckoning of biblical proportions. “Black Blizzard” takes us one step closer to that inevitability. On the surface, it is about the characters dealing with one of the central horrors of life in the 1930s: dust blizzards so significant that it was not uncommon for once-healthy lungs to be rendered black in the blink of an eye. Yet beneath the surface is a sense of dread over what happens when a person has been stripped of all artifice.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 9.39.58 PM

The episode starts off quietly enough, by establishing a sort of everyday equilibrium for the carnies. While Ben tinkers to the music of the conjoined twins practicing their routine, Sophie sets off for a day by herself, despite Apollonia’s warnings. Samson too prepares to depart the carnival for a day spent with his favorite prostitute. There is nothing overtly unique about these scenes, which is entirely the point. For these characters, there is nothing to suggest that this day won’t just be a repeat of every day before it.

But when Lodz convinces Ben to accompany him on a trip to find out more about Scudder, and Jonesy warns Samson that everyone is nervous about traveling to Babylon, we get our first hint that this seemingly idyllic day is about to be disrupted.

As with the carnies, life for the Crowes in Mintern is seemingly peaceful. While Iris leads the children in singing, Justin happily arranges hymnals. However, their bliss comes to a screeching halt when Norman (Ralph Waite), Iris and Justin’s adoptive father and himself a minister, arrives with the startling news that the church board has given Justin an ultimatum: Either return to his previous congregation or face censure and be reassigned. Justin rails against the unfairness of the letter by telling Norman that God spoke to him just as He did with Abraham and Moses.

Sophie’s attempt to assimilate into “polite” society with only the aid of her best dress and hat proves remarkably successful when she catches the eye of the young man, Harlan, who owns a café. Passing herself off as Betty Jones, Sophie concocts an elaborate story of widowhood that captivates Harlan. Across town, Samson has just finished his business with Miss Jolie, the town’s prostitute, whom he presented with a bouquet of flowers upon his arrival.

The looming dread that hangs over the first part of this episode comes to fruition when a huge dust storm descends upon the town. The violence and horror of these so-called black blizzards is evident as we watch Ruthie cough and vomit up dust. The violence of the weather outside fuels a number of rash decisions. While Sophie has unemotional sex with Harlan, Samson is furious when Jolie agrees to take Osgood, the boy who drove Samson to town, to bed for the bargain-basement price of two bucks.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 9.37.05 PM

Yet the biggest revelation courtesy of the dust storm occurs between Ben and Lodz. When Lodz leaves the protection of the truck during the blizzard, Ben takes off after him, only to discover Lodz in a house. The blind seer makes it clear to Ben that he knows Ben has the ability to heal and so was never in any real danger from being out in the dust storm. And while Lodz offers to help Ben with his powers, Ben declines and insists they return to the carnival.

Iris tries to appeal to Justin’s sense of reason, but he refuses to obey the bishop. Instead, he lists off a litany of horrific abuses that befall children in desperate times. As Iris listens to Justin’s stories of sexual slavery and unimaginable acts, she is shocked to see that his face is now bathed in darkness.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 9.47.29 PM

While the dust storm finally settles, the characters are left to confront the harsh realities of their actions. Samson verbally abuses Jolie under the pretense of offering business advice and is told to never come back. Sophie returns to the carnival and discovers that Apollonia was covered in dust from the windows left open, and admits her promiscuity to her mother. And Jonesy, having heard enough complaining from everyone in the carnival, goes to talk to management and is shocked to find nothing but an empty bed.

Creeping into her brother’s bedroom, Iris wakes Justin with the news that there has been a fire at the migrant ministry. With Chin’s burned to the ground, Justin asks about the children and is directed to a large while sheet. Charred red legs are visible underneath. As Justin collapses in anguish, Iris rushes to comfort her brother.

Comments, Gripes, and Observations

  • The writers did a great job of riffing on the horror convention of establishing a sense of rhythm and equilibrium for the characters before having all hell break loose. The juxtaposition really helped to underscore how fundamentally changed some of the characters were by episode’s end.
  • Seriously, the art direction on this show is just amazeballs!
  • Watching Samson eviscerate Jolie by encouraging her to turn more tricks a day to increase her profit margin added serious layers to this character. It demonstrated his instinct to strike out when hurt.
  • Sophie is starting to come into her own. Do you think her mother has her best interests at heart?
  • The murder of the church children seemingly came out of nowhere. How do you think this will play out going forward?
  • You don’t get more symbolic than that poor lone sheep left dead from the dust storm.
  • Fact: All shows are made 10 times better by the presence of Ralph Waite.
TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

You May Like