Avenue 5: 1.06 Was It Your Ears?
As we rejoin Avenue 5, the ship’s turd halo remains, impossible to ignore. There's commitment to a visual gag, but this show is in a different league.
Ryan, Karen and Billie are discussing what to do about Judd’s megalomania (somehow, getting worse) when they hear the news that he is “executive producing” the birth of a new baby to one of the passengers. Matt, unaccountably, is also in the room, in full surgical scrubs. On the observation deck, Iris announces the birth to the gathered passengers, but she’s beaten to the punch by Karen. “I sometimes have this terrible case of Karen mouth”, she justifies.
Elsewhere, the ship is plagued by a recurring beeping sound over the PA, which can be heard in every room periodically. Considering the reveal of why the beep is sounding, later in the episode, it’s not clear why it needs to be heard in all rooms, including the cabins - but it’s far from the biggest design flaw onboard. Billie and Ryan go looking for the source of the irritating sound, but they’re stumped.
Spike suggests the beep might be an alarm warning of an oxygen leak, which causes ripples of panic as the news inevitably spreads (much like Krusty the Clown, the staff of the ship have a huge problem with saying the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet). If there’s a sense of familiarity in the way that this private disclosure eventually reaches all of the Avenue 5 passengers, and causes mass hysteria, that may be because it’s happened several times in just six episodes! Judd imposes oxygen rationing over the whole ship, a move which causes further panic to Clark, Billie and Iris - the closest thing the ship has to a committee of rational adults.
Back on Earth, Rav immediately obtains the rescue funding from the President at the very dress-down White House. We don’t see the meeting, which soon makes sense - Rav also has to clear her request with “the other President”, which turns out to be a smart speaker on a podium for which Rav has to queue (just in front of a man waxing a crossbow). The President approves the request for four trillion dollars of funding, redirecting it from the national child welfare fund (Rav is thrilled). It also suggests that Rav consider the removal of five hundred “non-essential” passengers from the ship (Rav is not thrilled). Rav communicates this to the senior crew, but unfortunately the ship passes behind Jupiter at the worst possible moment in the conversation - and the passengers begin to worry which of them is about to be walked into the airlock.
“I never say sorry. Like my hero, Gandhi”
After Doug and Mia finally get separate cabins - when Judd expels Doug on Mia's behalf - Doug ends up rooming with Frank and Karen. Frank’s depression outfit, consisting of tracksuit bottoms, sandals over socks and one-day stubble, might be the best he's ever looked.
As the oxygen rationing makes its way across the ship, stand-up comedian Jordan finds his set even more constrained than usual. After delivering a severely edited joke that slumps its way to the punchline, Matt whispers “that was not funny”, before giving Jordan a thumbs up and a smile.
Ryan joins Matt in the latter’s creepy cabin, plastered with photos of each of the passengers. He’s looking for sedatives to put Judd out of action temporarily (a compromise, since Karen seemed very eager to straight-up murder him). While Matt claims, humbly, that his areas of expertise are limited - “recreational barbiturates, eastern sex practices, Christmas music” - Ryan eventually gets a dose of sleeping pills to put Judd out of action. Before Ryan can administer the dose, Judd unveils his grand plan to restore the morale - a laser light show to illuminate the poop ring around the ship. The crazy thing is that it works - the assembled crew and passengers are momentarily awed by the disgusting beauty of it. Finally, the mystery of the beep is resolved - the ship, responding to the birth of the baby, was merely reminding the crew to recalibrate the life support systems. No oxygen crisis!
‘Was It Your Ears?” might not be the funniest episode of Avenue 5 to date, but in swapping big laughs for genuine sci-fi weirdness, it might be my favourite. There’s so much madness in this episode that passes by without necessarily aiming for big laughs. Spike developing an affectionate personal relationship with the beep. “A kaleidoscope of butt truffles”. The President is an AI? Avenue 5 is the best it can be when it’s focusing on the very weird, but believable, future - a dark world where murder is a sensible solution, Pennsylvania is on fire and the only real authority is a glorified customer helpline. It'll be fun to spend another three episodes here before the first season wraps up.