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Carnivale recap: Freak collecting 101

Season 1 | Episode 8 | “Lonnigan, Texas” | Originally Aired Nov 2, 2003

If the last episode of Carnivale was a peek inside the origin story of the thoroughly creepy, potentially incestuous Crowe siblings, “Lonnigan, Texas” is a full-on mythology tease. While we discover that Ben is a convict, that there is a mysterious organization called The Templars, and that Justin’s powers of persuasion are more than just oral, how any of those revelations work in conjunction with one another remains a mystery. Rounding out this exquisite slow burn of an episode is a shifting of character alliances that is wholly unexpected—and yet makes total storytelling sense.

Rewind Recap

Jonesy plays ball

As bombs drop overhead, a bloody, unnamed soldier makes his way through a war-torn medic tent situated on the front lines. He comes across a fellow soldier whose legs and one arm were blown off in the battle. As the man screams in agony, Ben’s eyes fly open and suddenly he is trapped within the body of the war-ravaged man. As he begins to scream, Ben jolts awake and is relieved to discover that it was all just a dream. He is less comforted by the sight of Lodz peering down at him. Still refusing to discuss his visions with the blind seer, Ben quickly runs from Lodz’s presence.

Hoping to discover the true nature of Lodz’s interest in Ben, Samson sends the boy on a mission to check out whether the so-called Scorpion Boy is the real deal. Along the way, a competing freak finder by the name of Phineas Boffo bamboozles Ben and is able to snag the performer for his own show. Hoping to show no hard feelings, Boffo offers his hand. When Ben shakes it, the two men are overcome with a string of confusing visions. Attributing the bizarre moment to the Templar ring worn by Boffo, Ben steals the ring and drives back to the carnival.

Justin seeks psychiatric treatment

The scene back at the carnival is far from encouraging. While Stumpy continues to find comfort in the bottle, Rita Sue turns from devastated to angry at her husband’s continued physical rejections. Also at a crossroads is the relationship between Jonesy and Sofie. When Sofie tries to open up to him about Apollonia’s dislike of Libby, Jonesy suggests that there may be something immoral about the relationship.

Meanwhile, Justin’s attempt to take a dive off of a bridge lands him in the hospital for the criminally insane. As he is subjected to a number of tortures guised as cures, a psychiatrist takes copious notes recording Justin’s responses. In a therapy session, Justin reveals that he is the left hand of God and is no longer His servant. At first dismissive, the psychiatrist begins to notice Justin’s ability to control the thoughts of those around him. Apparently Justin not only has the ability to make words appear on written documents, but he is also frighteningly adept at getting people to act according to his will.

Libby and Sofie compare notes

Commiserating with Stumpy about the state of his relationship with Sofie, Jonesy is stunned when Stumpy suggests he take Rita Sue to bed, arguing that a tryst would solve both of their problems. Meanwhile, Rita Sue’s dubious mothering rears its head when she attempts to convince Sofie to join the cooch show in a misguided effort to make Libby happy. Later, Rita Sue is devastated to learn that Stumpy offered her to Jonesy but she agrees to turn the trick.

Sofie agrees to take the stage, much to Libby’s chagrin. But when one of the men gets a little grabby, Jonesy attacks the man and leaves him a bloodied mess. Drunk and devastated by Sofie’s continued rejection, Jonesy goes to Rita Sue. What starts as just sex becomes an emotional release as both attempt to lay to rest the demons haunting them.

Samson is shocked to find Lodz discussing Scudder with Management and is even more stunned when Management instructs Samson to leave. Alone, Samson ponders the connection between Ben and Scudder.

Comments, Gripes, and Observations

  • Attention showrunners! If you want to know how to portray sex in a sensual and completely vulnerable way, watch the scene between Jonesy and Rita Sue as she kisses his mangled knee. It’s everything right with scripted television.
  • The opening war montage is another example of how Carnivale used its budget so effectively. The scene is chaotic and visceral, with the ravages of war graphically illustrated courtesy of mass causalities and an overwrought medical staff.
  • Cynthia Ettinger’s performance as Rita Sue is so quietly nuanced that the character’s vulnerability in her scenes with Stumpy and Jonesy are even more impactful. When she finally asks her husband, “Don’t you miss me?” it will break your heart.
  • Justin seemed content to stay in the mental hospital until he heard another installment of Tommy Dolan’s broadcast. Any guesses on if and when these two will meet up again?
  • How does the revelation that Ben is an escaped convict who went to jail for murder change your opinion of the character?
  • Management’s tête-à-tête with Lodz proves that she/he is not just a figment of Samson’s imagination. This scene probably also made you wrack your brains over which actor was behind that voice. Apparently Management is voiced by the always awesome Linda Hunt. This may or may not be a red herring.
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

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