Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tremors: The Series - A Little Paranoia Among Friends

Burt and Tyler enter Mulder and Scully territory.

The eighth episode of the Tremors television series picks up on an element established in the second episode, Shriek & Destroy, which created a foundation for future episodes to build upon. In that one, Department of the Interior agent Twitchell, the man who oversees survivalist Burt Gummer's hometown of Perfection, Nevada and evaluates whether or not it's safe for the town's residents to continue cohabitating with El Blanco, a protected member of the endangered subterranean species known as Graboids, forced Burt and local tour guide Tyler Reed to go Shrieker hunting for him. Here, with the threat of eviction again forcing them to do his bidding, Twitchell sends Burt and Tyler on another mission.

This time, Burt and Tyler's destination is Toluca, New Mexico, where people have been disappearing for the last six months. Although there's no proof, government agencies believe there is a Graboid in the Toluca area. However, the citizens of Toluca think all this Graboid talk is just the government trying to misdirect them from the truth - they don't think the threat is underground, they think it's coming from outer space. They think the disappearances are actually alien abductions.

The belief that aliens are to blame partially comes from the fact that Toluca is home to the Inter-Galactic Communicator, a device that sends messages into space and is ready to record any replies it might get. Drilling the idea of aliens even further into their minds is Cecil Carr (guest star Armin Shimmerman), a conspiracy theorist radio host who broadcasts from the area, and whose wife is among the missing.

In going to Toluca to locate and destroy their Graboid, part of Burt's mission is to disprove the idea that there's a government conspiracy at work... Not something you'd ever expect the anti-government Burt Gummer, a conspiracy theorist himself, to do.

Burt and Tyler are not welcomed warmly by the people of Toluca, especially when Burt informs a restaurant full of locals that they're "all nuts" for believing in aliens. Burt is accused of being a government plant, which is pretty much the most insulting thing you could ever call him. As he says, "You might as well call Heston a liberal."

Things do get worse than that, though. A rock is thrown through Burt and Tyler's motel room window with the message "Be gone or be dead" scrawled on it, Burt's truck tires are slashed, they meet resistance at every turn.

Under the town of Toluca itself is bedrock, so a Graboid couldn't tunnel under Main Street even if there were one in the area. The disappearances (abductions?) have all occurred out in the surrounding desert countryside, so that's where Burt and Tyler go Graboid hunting. And though they are able to confirm that there is a Graboid in the area, there's still something strange going on here. This Graboid doesn't respond to tried and true methods of drawing the attention of these underground beasts, and Burt and Tyler's equipment goes dead when it's near... just like they say happens during an alien abduction...

Written by Babs Greyhosky, who earlier wrote the Blast from the Past episode, and directed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel/Firefly veteran Michael Grossman (not to be confused with Michael Gross, the actor who plays Burt Gummer), A Little Paranoia Among Friends is a unique take on the Graboid attack scenario. Although there has been quite a bit of Graboid action throughout the franchise, this episode keeps things fresh by presenting so many alternate opinions and theories on the situation and by throwing so many obstacles in Burt and Tyler's path.

The storyline keeps you guessing and wondering, and the interactions with the Toluca residents are very entertaining. Tyler tries to keep the peace, but Burt and the Tolucans just keep butting heads, and it's quite amusing to see Burt get so flustered with them.

This episode also features a nice callback to a long lost character - Burt's ex-wife Heather, who was played by Reba McEntire in the original film. Although she had left him by the time of Tremors II: Aftershocks, he's still so hung up on her that her name is the security code that has to be entered to unlock the door to his home.

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