Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Secret on Ararat: Completed Critique

Foreword

Chapter 1: PUPPIES!!!

Chapter 2: Jesus, Man

Chapter 3: Back with Shari

Chapter 3: Back with Isis

Chapter 3: EVIL-ution

Chapter 3: Noah’s Ark, Baby!

Chapter 4: Back with Bob

Chapter 5: Back with Shane and The Seven

Chapter 6: Re-Introducing Agent Baines

Chapter 7: The First Ark Lecture

Chapter 8: All the Different Things

Chapter 9: Nothing to Do with Anything

Chapter 10: Because I Say So

Chapter 11: Second Verse, Same as the First

Chapter 11: Important Things

Chapter 12: Levi Helps

Chapter 13: The First Noah Chapter

Chapter 14: Strawman Intellectual

Chapter 15: Blast Him

Chapter 16: Weights and Stuff

Chapter 17: Old Friends (Sorta)

Chapter 18: More Time with Noah!

Chapter 19: Crossover!

Chapter 20: Subterranean Smog

Chapter 21, Part 1: I Object to Your Methods!

Chapter 21, Part 2: Squaring the Circle

Chapter 22: The Fossils and the Floods

Chapter 23: Shane’s Proposal

Chapter 24: Second Choice

Chapter 25: Preach It, Murphy!

Chapter 26: Supermodels and the CIA

Chapter 27: Isis Kicks Ass (No, Really)

Chapter 28: Michael and Hank, BFFs

Chapter 29: Dark Girlfriend

Chapter 30: The Rest of the Team

Chapter 31: Romantic Haggling

Chapter 32: Just Another Rape

Chapter 33, Part 1: Not Big Surprise

Chapter 33, Part 2: A Walk in the Park

Chapter 34: And Then There Were…

Chapter 35: Moar Puppies!!!

Chapter 36, Part 1: No Danger Here

Chapter 36, Part 2: Good on Mountains

Chapter 37, Part 1: Need to Know

Chapter 37, Part 2: Obi-Wan Again

Chapter 38, Part 1: Murphule Poirot

Chapter 38, Part 2 and Chapter 39, Part 1: Almost There

Chapter 39, Part 2: Ark Ark Ark Ark Ark Ark Ark

Chapter 40: You Suck, God

Chapter 41: Ark of Wonders – Don’t Touch Anything

Chapter 42: The Big Bad

Chapter 43: Isis All Alone

Chapter 44: The Showdown

Chapter 45: Guess Who?

Chapter 46: The Triumphant Return of Obi-Wan

Chapter 47: The Survivors

Chapter 48: Back to Stephanie

Chapter 49: Takes Way Too Long

Chapter 50: Last Noah Chapter!

Chapter 51: The Seven, They’ll Ski at Nothing

Chapter 52: The. End.

Related Goodies:

Babylon Rising: The Completed Critique

The Babylon Rising Series at TV Tropes

TSoA: Chapter 3: Back with Isis

I know I told y’all to gird your loins last time, but before we get to Isis, I wanted to address a scenario brought up in the comments: Why isn’t Shari going to be Michael’s new love interest?

As AR points out, this wouldn’t be the most difficult thing in the world to pull off—Murphy and Shari realize they have feelings for each other, Shari becomes someone else’s research assistant and never takes any of Michael’s classes.  They would have to check on the Preston University rules for such things, but it might not be impossible.

All this got me to wondering about the age difference.  Shari is pretty easy: she’s a sophomore or a junior, probably 20 or 21 years old.

Michael is a bit more complicated.  We know he was in the Army, and this was presumably before college (that is the most common scenario).  He would need at least two years to qualify for the G.I. Bill, and he might have been in even longer, in order to have his entire degree financed.  (I’m not terrifically knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the G.I. Bill and the Army College Fund, but I think two years gets you two years, three years gets you three, and so on.  If anyone knows differently, please feel free to enlighten us!)

So, let’s assume four years.  That gets Mike to 22.  Another four years for the degree, 26.  Then we have to start guessing.  Did he get his Master’s in archeology or religious studies?  (That would be another year or two.)  How long did it take him to get his Ph.D.?  (We know he has that, but that can take as long as ten years.)  And he is now a full professor at a small university, where he can choose the classes he wants to teach, as well as gallivant off to distant lands during the school year without any danger to his position.

All in all, I’m figuring Mike to be in his mid- to late-thirties.  That’s a pretty big age difference, especially considering Shari is only 20-ish, but I could see it.  And given Shari’s Electra complex, I highly doubt she would mind.

But it important for Shari to be hooked up (well, as hooked up as a good RTC girl ever can be) with Paul Wallach (atheist, butt monkey, and dupe of Shane Barrington).  That way, LaHaye can Break the Shari, show what amoral idiots atheists are, and show what a jerk Barrington is.

Besides, with Michael lusting after wanting to have a no-kissing-until-the-wedding-day relationship with Isis, we can show how a Good Christian Man does not get himself unequally yoked with an unbeliever.

As we meet up with Isis for the first time since Babylon Rising, we see that Murphy is doing a very good job of keeping himself from being unequally yoked with Isis.

He hasn’t spoken to her in six months.

Let me repeat that: After having helped him out several times professionally, then (oh, yeah) SAVING HIS LIFE, Murphy has hogged all the glory for the Golden Head discovery, and NOT EVEN CALLED ISIS FOR SIX MONTHS.

SIX MONTHS

Dipshit.

But now that he has a piece of Noah’s Ark in his hands (despite his disingenuous statement to Shari that he “wants her professional opinion), well…suddenly he needs Isis again.

Oh, and get this: It’s not even that he needs her world-class language skills.  He just wants free use of the superior carbon-dating equipment at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation.

So he calls Isis, and as you will see, the Stepfordization is a slow process.  She is actually pretty cheerful with him.  And, good old Isis that she is (at least for now), she kinda calls him out on both his self-centered agenda, and the fact that they haven’t spoken in SIX MONTHS.  (Note: this scene is a lot more fun if you imagine Isis calling him a shithead after every sentence.):

“So what have you got for me?”

“A fragment of wood.  Old.  Very old.”

He spent ten years getting that Ph.D., folks!

“And you want to know exactly how old.”

“That’s right.”

“And you want to know yesterday.”

“If it’s not too much trouble.”

“Of course.  Not a problem.  Send it over and I’ll get right on it.”

I like to imagine that when Isis got the piece of wood, she tossed it into a box and marked it, “Test this in six months.”

“Thanks, Isis.  I really owe you…”

Well, yeah, for the free carbon-dating, and for the fact that SHE SAVED YOUR LIFE.

“…Let me know if there’s anything I can do in return.”

After a pause she said, “Next time, don’t wait six months before you call me.  And don’t wait until you need a favor.”

OH ISIS, DAMN YOU ARE TOO GOOD FOR HIM

He started to think of how to respond, but the line was dead.

SHE HUNG UP ON HIM LOLOLOLOLOLOL

Now, before you start thinking I am a complete jerk, I get that Murphy is still grieving the loss of Laura.  I get that he’s not ready for a romantic relationship, and that he’s still harboring rageful, murderous feelings towards Talon.

But Isis is his FRIEND.  A friend who saved his life AND helped him find a priceless, fame-making artifact.  And he didn’t so much as send her a Happy Birthday e-card over the past six months?

And don’t get me wrong: Isis should have kept in contact with him, too.  (At least, if she wanted to.)  But LaHaye and Phillips don’t even make mention of this aspect.  I guess it’s pretty immoral for a woman to call a man when they aren’t bound in holy wedlock, even if the friendship is (at this point) purely platonic.

Enjoy Isis taking Murphy to task, everyone.

It won’t last.

TSoA: Chapter 3: Back with Shari

You guys may remember Shari Nelson: Michael Murphy’s research assistant who is used to receiving e-mails from her employer in the dead of night.

You may also remember that Shari grew up with an abusive alcoholic father and enabler mother, and that both parents died in a car crash (due to her father’s drunk driving), leaving Shari all alone.

So Shari already had parental issues and abandonment issues even before her lame-ass, stupid brother Chuck imposed on her hospitality after he got out of prison, and was later murdered.

All of this goes a long towards explaining why Shari hangs onto Michael Murphy like a limpet:

With Laura gone, Shari had taken up the post of chief worrier on his behalf…

Yeah, because that’s healthy.

Knowing this, Murphy lied about his caving/drowning/puppy-saving activities over the weekend.  Or rather, he didn’t LIE, because good Christians don’t lie.  Instead, he fudged the truth, which is TOTALLY NOT LIKE LYING IN ANY WAY.

…he told her he was going to look up an old acquaintance over the weekend.  Well, Methuselah was certainly old, and acquaintance covered a multitude of sins, so he hadn’t actually been lying.

Legalism, Murphy.  You haz it.

And all this because he is afraid of “get[ting] into trouble” with his 20-year-old research assistant.

That is so creepy and wrong.

And to top it all off, Murph manipulates her into taking on full responsibility for the two puppies.

“Meet Shem and Japheth.  Their owner wasn’t really looking after them properly, so I decided to bring them back to Preston with me.  I’m hoping we can find them a good, loving home.  And in the meantime…”

Shari finished his sentence for him.  “You want me to look after them.  Now listen, Professor, if you think I’m going to baby-sit these pups while you go off on some madcap adventure–”

Murphy held his hands up to interrupt her.  “No madcap adventures, Shari.  I promise.  There’s something I want you to take a look at.  I want your professional opinion.”

He grinned and she scowled back to show she didn’t buy the flattery.  Nevertheless, it was hard to resist.

OH, ICK

Now this is asshattish in a number of different ways.  Let me count them:

1.  Creepy vibe between mid- to late-thirties professor and 20-year-old employee/student?  Check.

2.  False flattery to con said student into doing something she may not want/be able to do?  Check.

3.  An extra dose of condescension in the flattery, since Murphy has already come to his conclusion about the “something” on which he alleges he wants Shari’s “professional opinion”?  Check check.

Indeed, Murphy STRAIGHT-UP ADMITS that he lets Shari look at the piece of wood SOLELY  to distract her from asking him any more questions about his run-in with Methuselah.

Murphy already has his own professional opinion set.  Hence the names of the puppies: Shem and Japheth, two of Noah’s three sons.  (Ham, the third, probably didn’t achieve puppy-naming distinction due to the combination of 1) having a weird name and 2) having all his descendents become slaves because he once accidentally saw his father naked.)

THIS IS AN ACTUAL STORY IN THE BIBLE.  WHY DO PEOPLE THINK THIS BOOK IS A GOOD GUIDEBOOK FOR MORAL VALUES???

Also: let’s remember that these puppies are German Shepherds.  They are going to grow up pretty quickly into very big, very athletic dogs.  And Shari is a single woman, living alone, working her way through college by being a Biblical archeologist’s research assistant/chief worrier/creepy substitute for his dead wife.

She has no family, no friends that we ever hear of, and only an erstwhile atheist boyfriend.

Let’s just say that I have doubts about her ability to care for two German Shepherds.

Perhaps not the best dog for Shari.

So, as Shari prepares for her new responsibilities (any bets on whether Murph will chip in for food and bedding and toys?), I encourage my noble readers to prepare for something else:

The reappearance of the formely-wonderful, but soon-to-be-stepfordized…Dr. Isis Proserpina McDonald.

TSoA: Chapter 2: Jesus, Man

In Babylon Rising, occasional chapters detailed the background of the brazen serpent and the fictional High Priest Dakkuri.  Now, these chapters were oddly-interspersed, never quite where I felt they ought to be, but they did serve a purpose, and they were mercifully short.

NOT SO with the first Back In Time chapter of Secret, which takes almost six full hardbound pages to get where it’s going, which is nowhere we need to be.

A stranger from the country has come to Jerusalem.  Pages are spent describing the city, which is about…what we would expect, and we end up knowing nothing about the stranger.

(The stranger comes from Capernaum, so I thought at first that he might turn out to be Peter, since he comes from Capernaum, too.  But Peter was a fisherman, and the stranger is a shepherd.  Anyone have any other ideas, or is “the stranger” genuinely a stranger?)

The stranger (I will now call him Billy Ray because it pleases me to do so) passes the Holy of Holies and then sees a crowd gathered around a man who is preaching.  Billy Ray proves himself a nice guy by picking up a little kid who can’t see over the crowd, and putting him on his shoulders.

NOT Billy Ray.  (Picture from Bible People)

I’m sure you will be shocked to learn this, but the preaching guy is Jesus, and he is preaching about…The End of Days.

Let’s bear in mind here that this preaching is useless to everyone in the crowd.  LaHaye and his ilk think that the End of Days is right around the corner now (also in 2004, when Secret was written).  So the End of Days will have exactly zero effect on these people’s lives.

Not that that stops Jesus from going on about how the world of the End of Days will be just like the world of Noah.

Which is exactly what Tim LaHaye said in the Foreword.  If nothing else, you have to admire the man’s moxie.

Billy Ray is transfixed by the words, even though he will be many centuries dead before they mean anything:

[Billy Ray] gently lowered the boy down to the ground and whispered quietly to himself, as if repeating the words would reveal their meaning: “…because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him…”

Yeah, this has nothing to do with you, Billy Ray.  Move along.

This has to do with much more important people.  Like Michael Murphy and Rayford Steele and Tim LaHaye.

The Secret on Ararat: Chapter 1: PUPPIES!!!

Bob Phillips sticks close to the format Greg Parshall established in Babylon Rising: Michael Murphy’s story, interspersed with occasional chapters about the origins of the Biblical artifact in question.  In Babylon Rising, we saw the origin of the bronze serpent (sorta).  In The Secret on Ararat, we learn about the construction of Noah’s Ark.  (And catch up with Jesus, too, not that that’s relevant in any way.)

Also, Babylon Rising opened with Michael Murphy facing one of the Methuselah’s “death traps,” wherein the mysterious old man gives Murphy some sort of challenge, at the end of which Murphy gets a little Biblical toy prize.

As you may remember, Babylon Rising began with Murphy falling through the roof of a deserted warehouse, then doing battle with a lion so he could retrieve a piece of parchment around the lion’s neck.

The Secret on Ararat opens with Murphy being trapped in a cave filling with water.  He has to simultaneously rescue himself, and rescue two puppies Methuselah has stashed down there.

PUPPIES!!!!!

GERMAN SHEPHERD PUPPIES!!!!!

So, we see that Methuselah likes to use animals in his challenges.  Other than that, things are different.  In Babylon, Methuselah tossed a rock with a paper wrapped around it through Murphy’s office window.  I guess he got lazier in Secret, because this time, he just uses Fed Ex.

I am serious.  He FED EXES MURPHY THE CLUE.

And it gets weirder, because Murphy is directed to a (fictional) cave in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Once again, he falls through a trapdoor (he really needs to learn to keep an eye out for those), and ends up in a cavern with the puppies.  Then the cavern fills with water.

I just…I dunno.  Look, Methuselah’s trap kinda made sense in the first book.  He is rich and powerful, and managed to find some people who could scout out an abandoned warehouse, make a trapdoor on the roof, put a giant net below it, AND find a lion with which Murphy could do battle.  Methuselah at all points maintained a vast amount of control over the entire situation.  After all, it has been established that Meth wants Murphy to succeed, and so it is in Meth’s interest to make the traps fair and escapable, perhaps even with contingencies at the ready if things start to go south.  (For example, given the awesomeness of Meth’s staff, I’m sure a sniper with a dart gun could have been hiding, ready to take out the lion if Murphy proved unequal to the task.)

But how can Meth maintain any control over a cave?  This is in the Great Smoky Mountains, in an area frequented by hikers and cavers, and Meth has found a cave where he can set up shop, make a trapdoor, and put some puppies in a cavern that he can then FILL WITH WATER AT WILL.

Um…what if Murphy bonks his head on something, Meth?  What if he drowns?  Did you think this through AT ALL???

To his credit, Murphy places a very high priority on getting the puppies out safely, and I am frankly astonished that the puppies survive, what with the water nearly drowning Murphy, culminating in the three of them rinsing through a fissure in the wall into a much drier room (HOW DID METHUSELAH SET THIS SHIT UP???), and then Murphy finds a piece of wood on top of pillar of rock.

Murph is suspicious that this is “a worthless piece of flotsam,” though I don’t know why he would think this, seeing as how every single other thing Meth has ever given him has been old and priceless and the last one led him to a GOLDEN HEAD.

Man, and I had so much respect for Methuselah up until now, but he just seems to be off his game now…

The Secret on Ararat: Foreword

I have a feeling Tim LaHaye is awfully nervous that even his devoted RTC readers might doubt claims that Noah’s Ark is sitting around on Mount Ararat, just waiting for adventurous Biblical archeologists to wander around.

He is right to have these feelings—more on that as we hit Michael’s lectures.

While LaHaye’s Message in Babylon Rising prepped us for the appearance of one Professor Michael Murphy, man of God, man of action, all-around ass-kicker (so much so that he was named after LaHaye’s own son-in-law!) The Secret on Ararat opens with a Foreword that breathlessly and defensively explains that the Ark has been seen by “scores of credible people,” none of whom managed to preserve any photographic evidence or lead others to the site.

But hey, you don’t get any more credible than Marco Polo, right?

Marco Polo was one of the hearsay witnesses—he did not claim to have seen the Ark himself, but knew vaguely that it was on The Mountain of Noah’s Ark.  As you would expect.

In the Foreword, LaHaye mentions Russian soldiers who supposedly saw the Ark in 1917.  Of course, the other big event of that year, the Russian Revolution, meant that the evidence was lost.

Boy, what are the odds, eh?

So, perhaps the explanation is as simple as this:

Noah’s Ark is a myth, and those who claim to have seen it were lying, confused, mistaken, and/or simply too hopeful regarding artifacts of their faith.  For a variety of reasons, people believe in alien abductions, demon possession, the Loch Ness Monster, and other…er, highly improbable things.  Not so shocking that some people would have a similar reaction to Noah’s Ark, right?

Wrong.

Now, as you all know, Christian entertainment delivers a pretty good number of excellent, mind-exploding lines.  But I have to wonder if LaHaye is blowing his wad in the Foreword with this gem:

There must be a sinister force that has opposed all the searchers’ valiant efforts up to the present from seeing the light of day.

This is a statement from Tim LaHaye IN THE FORWARD.  No shit, SATAN is making sure that no evidence of Noah’s Ark ever surfaces.  That MUST be it.  And it must be part of his multi-faceted scheme, the one that includes strategically placing fossils all around the world so that humans will be tricked into thinking the Earth is more than six thousand years old.

There is no evidence of Noah’s Ark.

There would be, but for TEH SATANIC CONSPIRACY.

This is going to be a fun ride.

The Secret on Ararat: Changes and Stuff

As I mentioned several times during my critique of Soon, I have been feeling more kindly disposed towards both Babylon Rising and its protagonist, Michael Murphy.  Sure, Michael Murphy is a pompous blowhard in the best LaJenkinsian tradition, but at least he doesn’t serial-cheat on his wife, lead on single women who fall for him, then gaslight his wife about those women.  Sure, Babylon Rising has some pretty dumb things to say about…well, lots of things: religion, the United Nations, university policies and politics, international travel, and others.  And sure, Murphy didn’t take a shot at contract killer Talon when he had the perfect opportunity.  But hey, Michael also didn’t shoot at unarmed civilians, or lead “prayer warriors” in a quest to dessicate the city of Los Angeles and kill thousands of innocents.

So, there’s that.

And Babylon Rising itself had a few good points.  It was a standard adventure-thriller, trying to implement the usual tools that such a book does: international intrigue, shadowy conspiraces, a quest for a special prize.

Most important, Babylon Rising had a highly intelligent, quirky, interesting, independent heroine in one Isis Proserpina McDonald, world-renowned philologist.

TEAM ISIS!!!!!

funny gifs

But that, sadly was then.  This is now.

And there is a BIG DAMN CHANGE that takes place between Babylon Rising and The Secret on Ararat.

A change of authorship.

Tim LaHaye worked with Greg Dinallo for Babylon Rising.  Dinallo is a veteran of television writing including THE ORIGINAL KNIGHT RIDER FRACK YEAH

But there’s a new guy on staff: Bob Phillips.

And the upshot of that is that Babylon Rising vs. The Secret on Ararat is KNIGHT RIDER VS. EXTREMELY CLEAN JOKE BOOKS.

That Amazon link calls Phillips “a master quotation collector.”

Um.

Leonardo Da Vinci:  I happen to be great with maps.

Mike:  How great can you really be at maps?

Crow:  That’s like being good at eating cereal.

—MST3K, Quest of the Delta Knights

So we have some changes coming at us.

Keep your eyes open for the following:

1.  Speechifying.  Lots and LOTS of speechifying: Now, granted, Michael Murphy was an arrogant, self-absorbed blowhard in Babylon Rising.  But, by and large, he kept to his specialities: biblical archeology and biblical prophecies.  From The Secret on Ararat on out, Mikey becomes an expert…well, a walking Wikipedia…in pretty much everything: history, geography, geology, cave-diving, mountain-climbing.  *takes deep breath*  Marital counseling, parenting, martial arts, historic landmarks and architecture, codes and code-breaking, diseases and epidemiology, politics, sociology…it never ends.

And the beauty part is, people just ASK HIM TO TALK AT THEM.  “So, what do you think, Dr. Murphy?” they will ask, because listening to some asshat pontificate on ANYTHING THAT CROSSES HIS MIND is just fascinating.  I’m not talking about Mikey lecturing in his classes—obviously, he will do that, and it is no problem.  But he hardly ever just converses with someone.  He lectures.  He admonishes.  He scolds.  He goes on and on and FRAKKING ON about things that people should already know—in many cases, things that the other person knows more about than Murphy.

I may keep a speech count.

2.  The Stepfordization of our own Isis McDonald:  Almost every instance of Actually Not That Bad in Babylon Rising involved Isis being awesome: saving Murphy’s ass, winning an argument with him via the power of logic (and not girly tears), and even kicking ass at curry.

But now that Bob Phillips is on board, Isis is reduced to the role of Probable Love Interest for Michael Murphy.  I may also start an “Isis is beautiful” count, because of the incredible number of time we are told how hot she is.  (A striking contrast to Babylon Rising, btw, where she is referred to as beautiful maybe once (underneath her shapeless clothes), and the rest of the time her looks are referenced primarily via Murphy giving her backhanded compliments in his head: “Huh, Isis got a bit of a tan.  She looks less like a corpse now.”

Isis also barely gets a chance to demonstrate her linguistic skills, makes stupid decisions in order to be closer to Murphy, and her thoughts all revolve around him.

“That’s what I’ve become?  That’s my defining characteristic: the guy married to a Cylon?”

–Helo, Battlestar Galactica, The Woman King

Look, I like romance.  I like it a lot.  I always thought Helo and Sharon’s relationship on BSG, and Wash and Zoe’s relationship on Firefly, were some of the best things about the shows.  But that is largely because, even though their relationships are a big part of their lives, they also have careers and interests and ideas and feelings: none of them are just The Person in Love with That Other Person.

I mean, seriously, Isis, you are on a mission to find Noah’s Ark.  PLEASE FOCUS.

I’m going to miss our old Isis so much…

3.  The Seven Are Even Stupider:  I’m surprised they don’t twirl their mustaches as they talk about their evil plans for world domination.  And they talk about those plans IN THE MOST OBVIOUS WAY POSSIBLE: “Colonel Mexican Guy, see to eet zat vee move to a von-vorld currency, ja?”  “Si, Frau German Chick.”

So, those are three things to watch for.  I’m certain we will see more as we dive into The Secret on Ararat.

Escape from Hell, Part 4

With his makeshift Death Chamber/Resurrection Chamber set up, Eric calls Carl.  The following exchange is GLORIOUS, and it must be borne in mind that Carl plays it completely straight and completely casual.

“Dr. Burton.”

“Carl, it’s Eric.”

“Hey, old buddy!  I just got off work.  Where are you?”

“In the boiler room.  I might need your help with something.”

“Sure, what do you need?”

Is Carl not the most awesome friend in the world???  “Hey, pal!  What can I help you with, in a strange place we’ve never been before?”

Eric coldly explains that he is going to shoot himself up with “a potassium-cyanide bolus cocktail.”  (If you are like me and wonder what a bolus is, it is this.)  Carl (understandably) yells at Eric not to do it, but Eric, still cold and resolute, tells Carl that “you’re going to bring me back” and “everything you need is right here.”

Jerk.

Eric does not deserve a friend as awesome as Carl.  It is hard to imagine a more selfish and manipulative and cruel act than poisoning yourself, then telling your best friend that he will bring you back.  What if Carl can’t do it, or even just can’t get there in time?  CARL is the one who has to live with that.

Look, I know that Eric thinks this is The Only Way To Learn The Truth, but that doesn’t make him less of a jerk.  Turns out he takes after his old man after all.

Carl sprints back into the hospital, as well he might, and grabs Marissa on his way to the boiler room.  Meanwhile, Eric flatlines, flies out of the hospital (seeing the “Loose Lips Sink Ships” sign on the way out), makes his very own trip down the Sliders tunnel…

And hears demonic voices telling him there is no hope, like Blondie, right?

Ummm…has fireballs rush at his head, like Garrison, right?

Nope.

Instead, Eric is transported to a pretty meadow with mountains in the background, utterly alone.

“Oh, Carl, don’t bring me back!  Please, if you love me, buddy, don’t bring me back!  This place is beautiful!”

Personally, I think the woods Eric was hiking fleeing like a startled puppy through earlier were much prettier, but I guess that’s why I’m not a born-again Christian.

Eric explains it all to the black preacher (I had almost forgotten he was part of this film:

“It was surreal.  No, it was better than that.”

I’ve never thought of “surreal” as an inherently good thing…

“It was like everything I had ever seen or felt or tasted was a mere shadow of what this was.”

Ah, Eric is well on his way to being a RTC, as he embraces the idea that this world we have is a waiting room, just a boring place to wipe your feet and wait for Heaven.

As Carl and Marissa (well, mostly Carl) attempt to revive Eric, yet another angel appears to Eric in the meadow.  This is a chunky middle-aged angel, not the skinny high-school angel of the blind Christian lady, but he has the same message: it’s not Eric’s time yet.

Still not impressed.

Eric turns around, and a gateway to Hell opens up.  Sadly, Buffy is not there to close it back up again.

And, of course, AT THAT VERY MOMENT, Eric’s mom feels compelled to hit her knees for her boy.  Because her Christianity grants her MAGICAL SUPERPOWERS that tell her when her kid is making a stopover in Hell.

By the way, none of this makes any sense.  I mean, of course it doesn’t, since we’re talking about trips to Hell and back, but I mean…why is Eric experiencing something so radically different from any of the other people we have encountered, both Christian and not?  Garrison and Blondie weren’t faked out to this extent–Garrison had happy thoughts, but got no glimpse of Heaven before the fireballs got him.  The blind Christian lady saw Heaven floating in outer space, not as some meadow.  This whole thing, in fact, seems to support Eric’s earlier assertion that people make their own Heavens and Hells, but that flies in the face of the doctrine the movie wants us to accept–that there Heaven and Hell are real places, not products of the human mind.

But hey, they had a $8.50 special effects budget, and dammit, they wanted to use it.

Eric finds himself in a very typical Hell setpiece, with screaming in the background, and the Gregorian chanters from the opening credits ahh-ahh-ing.  He looks around, utterly flabbergasted, like he’s surprised that Hell sucks.

“Carl, if you can hear me, you gotta get me outta here.”

Come here, go away—it’s a pattern with Eric.

Eric encounters a Random Guy who is being eaten from the inside out by worm things crawling under his skin.  I’d say “ewww,” as I am normally freaked out by bugs, but the effect is really bad.  And not even in a fun, goofy way.  It’s just like a simple child’s drawing.

“Draw a worm.”  *squiggly line*  “Done.”

Eric, who apparently is no hero in Hell, doesn’t even try to help Random Guy, and runs off in the opposite direction, only to be blasted by a Hunger-Gamesy wall of fire.

But he’s fine.

So is Random Guy, who wanders up (no hard feelings!) and explains that sometimes people are tortured, and sometimes the demons let up, to “let the fear torture you.”  Okay, I guess, but isn’t relief…relief, even if you know more pain is coming?  Don’t look a gift horse in then mouth, is all I’m saying.

Random Guy tells his story:

“Two friends and I decided to get together and try some heroin.  My first time, and I O.D.  But I think the real reason that I’m here is because all those times I should have been paying attention to the sermons, I was paying attention to Leslie Wilson in the third pew.”

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the filmmakers’ intent, but I can’t help but observe that “Leslie” is one of those names that is used for both boys and girls, and am tempted to draw my own conclusions about why Random Guy is in RTC Hell.

Eric and Random Guy wander off together, only to stumble upon Garrison, who, loving husband and father that he was, is being tortured by being turned into a tree and back again.

Hey, don’t look at me—I didn’t make this up.

“I’m Harold.  The tree’s name is Bob.”

Random Guy shows Eric how he can see Garrison’s memories by touching him.  (Wut?  Again, I didn’t make this up: Gene Roddenberry came up with mind melds, not me.)  Anyway, Eric sees that Garrison was witnessed to by a friend not too long ago.

And because Garrison politely declined the proselytizing, HE DESERVES TO BE TORTURED FOREVER.

It all makes perfect sense.

Oh, and at one point, Garrison was relaxing on his couch, and chose to watch a football game rather than a TV preacher.

SINNER!!!

(Hey, by that logic, I should be a shoe-in for Heaven.  I’ve watched waaay more Christian movies than many Christians!  😀 )

Eric asks to see his dad, who “may be here.”  Random Guy confirms that he is not there, and when Eric questions his certainty on this issue, Random Guy reveals that HE WAS A DEMON ALL ALONG MWOO-HA-HA-HA-HAAAA

Not as scary as the serial killer angel from Second Glance.

Just as Random Demon is about to rip Eric a hellish new one, Eric is sucked almost all the way back into his body by Carl’s tireless efforts.  But first, Eric is met again by the middle-aged angel.  Eric asks one more time to see his father, and the angel says that is not possible, but that…

“You father loves you and forgives you, just as your heavenly father does, if you’d only ask.”

Oh, that’s nice WHY IS ERIC’S FATHER FORGIVING HIM WHEN ERIC DID NOTHING WRONG GAAAAHHHHHHH

Finally, Eric wakes up in his own body (and back at the beginning of the movie).  But the demon has followed him, which is why Eric fled to the church.

“Isn’t a church supposed to be holy ground?”

The preacher actually laughs at this, and says no, that it depends on what is inside a person, not inside a building, so I can only assume that he has a lot of experience with people fleeing demons in his church.

As Carl and Marissa speed towards the church (using the ambulance’s GPS tracker, I think), Eric hears whispering and knows the demon has arrived.  Dark clouds cover the walls of the church and the preacher actually looks a little freaked out, because I guess all those other demon attacks were small-time, but NOW shit is real.

But the fear doesn’t last.  PreacherMan tells the demon that he is covered in the blood of Jesus (ew) and his name is in the Book of Love Life and so the demon better just step down.

AND THE DEMON TOTALLY DOES

It is just as simple as that.

PreacherMan knows an opportunity for a hard sell when he sees one, and tells Eric that the demon can still get him, unless he gives his life to Jesus.

Does it really count as salvation if it is motivated so much by fearI didn’t think that was how it worked.

But lest we think Eric is solely motivated by fear, he mentions wanting to be with his father.  I am insulted for his mother’s sake that he doesn’t mention her, too.  She’s the one who raised him, who didn’t abandon him, who has always had a great relationship with him, but it’s not motivation to be with her in Heaven that compels Eric.  No, he wants to be with JerkDad.

I don’t like Eric any more.

PreacherMan leads Eric in prayer, and it is really hard to see these men pray like that, because Eric is crying real tears and PreacherMan is simply scrunching up his face.

Carl and Marissa rush in, and Eric embraces Marissa.  Which would be really sweet except that he tells her, “We need to talk,” and we all know that means only one thing coming from a newly-converted RTC.

Then he hugs both Marissa and Carl and WHY ISN’T ERIC THANKING CARL FOR SAVING HIS LIFE YOU INGRATE AND HORRIBLE FRIEND GORRAMITALL.

Carl deserves better.  And I imagine he’ll find it, too, once he unfriends Eric.  I can’t imagine Carl putting up with very much Come To Jesus talk.  He’s way too cool and content with his own life for that.

Sigh.  The end.

Sorry this palate cleanser took so long, everyone.  Coming next: The Secret on Ararat!