Monthly Archives: May 2018
Hey, forget about globetrotting and researching and adventuring and Christianing (oh, like we haven’t already). Let’s follow Michael Murphy to the exotic and thrilling location of…THE GYM!!!
He starts with stretching (which is actually not the best thing to do—stretching cold muscles is counterproductive), then does the step machine then weights.
Hey, remember two chapters ago when I observed that Murphy would not likely have dumped Isis had he not had Summer waiting in the wings? Well, hey, there’s Summer! At the gym in the early morning, at the same time as Michael Murphy.
At this point, it kinda feels like she’s stalking him. Probably Pastor Bob told her Murphy’s schedule.
Of course, Murphy immediately catalogues how hot she is:
Despite the perspiration, she looked quite attractive. He noticed that the other guys lifting weights around him had slowed down a little and he could see them trying to get a better glimpse of her. He thought they might want to change places with him.
Oh, and how much
more virile better he is than other guys because this hot woman is interested in him.
It sure is disrespectful of Summer, who is trying to have a conversation with him, when Murphy is looking at other guys, cataloguing their envy. Summer may be the Dark Mistress of Pastor Bob, sent to distract and beguile Murphy, but I still kinda feel for her—she’s not a person to Murphy, just something to make him look better.
Did she ever look bad? [Murphy thinks]
Um, yes, Murph, I’m sure sometimes Summer looks bad. I’m sure sometimes she ugly cries, or gets sick, or just has a bad hair day, has bad days like all of us. Murphy was married for years and is pushing forty, and he still has a thirteen-year-old boy’s view of women—they are just there to look sexy for me.
Summer explains that she’s been coming to this gym for awhile, but this is her first time working out in the early morning.
Oh yeah, she is for sure stalking him. Pastor Bob is behind this all, I tells ya!
She then mentions that she likes to jog, but doesn’t do it at night because she doesn’t like to be alone outside at night. This opens Murphy up for his usual condescending platitudes:
“Our world is not always safe. There are some real weirdos out there. You made the right decision.”
Yeah, Murph, and aren’t you lucky that you have never had to make a decision like that…cause women have to make about seventeen decisions like that every day.
So they jog together, and Murphy is “impressed how effortlessly Summer kept up with him,” even though it’s only a twenty-minute light jog, and I know lots of people who work out way harder than that.
When they slow to a walk, Summer, like Isis, proves herself far more empathetic than Murphy, and herself asks after Paul and Shari. Murphy understates that Paul is “not real well,” and that although the police aren’t sure who did it, he has a pretty good idea.
Yeah, it always works out well when you keep to yourself information about an attempted murderer…
And then he proceeds to tell Summer, a woman he has been acquainted with for all of three weeks, all about Talon, thus revealing far more information to her, a volleyball coach, than he did to his old friend and helicopter pilot, Vern, before Vern took on a job for Murphy which ended with his (Vern’s) hospitalization in Turkey.
Hmmm…I wonder why Vern hasn’t been talking with Murphy lately…
Anyway, Summer, like the good little Christian wife-to-be that she probably is, is suitably impressed:
She sat there dumbfounded at the tales of danger and adventure coming from Murphy’s lips. She had no idea how perilous a life the Preston University archaeologist led.
Yeah, remember that time in this book when Murphy…
Well, then there was that exciting scene where…
Man, it is seriously CHAPTER 44, and Murphy has done NOTHING.
And Murphy is so self-important about all this shit he hasn’t done, that he has the gall to tell Summer that he is on a mission from God, who has “allowed me to become involved in all this for some purpose.”
Yeah, that’s a pretty ballsy statement, considering how many other people (LAURA, Chuck, Señor SEAL, Token Turk, The Nerd, The Dick, Agent Hank Baines, Dr. Anderson, Stephanie Kovacs, at least one cop, and countless security guards at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation) got involved and ended up dead. But Murphy keeps going:
“The Bible suggests that in the last days, moral and spiritual darkness will increase.”
Yeah, like people not giving a damn if college students are in critical condition in the hospital for days on end after defending their abusive pseudo-girlfriend.
“We are only beginning to see the edge of this darkness.”
We have a title!
“Somehow I think He wants to use me in battling these evil forces.”
There’s that good ole Christian humility again!
For this, Summer immediately brings up Pastor Bob’s sermons…
Hmm…the same Pastor Bob who just convinced Murphy to break up with Isis and go out with her…
“When he talks about the danger of the occult, it disturbs me. I have to admit I’m really fearful of the occult.”
Quite a far cry from Isis and her fearless awesomeness. The woman who took down kidnappers by herself and stayed by herself on Mount Ararat overnight, and now there’s this chick, who is scared by talk of the occult.
I shudder to think what would happen if I snuck up behind her and went BOOGABOOGABOOGA.
So Murphy tells her all about J.B. Sonstad.
She sat there on the bench with her mouth slightly open and never took her eyes off of him.
Oh yeah, Murphy totally traded up. Real brain trust, this one.
Murphy then mentions that he and Livie might possibly be heading to Israel to look for stuff sometime in the future, maybe, if they can drag themselves off their couches, and we get our first peek into the complicated inner workings of Summer’s mind:
For some reason, Summer felt just a little sad that he wouldn’t be around.
She’s such a deep and nuanced character, I feel like I know her already!
After this conversation, Murphy once again runs down his list of pros of Summer: “athletic and very attractive…and she was easy to talk to.”
“Hmm…size 2, blonde, and lets me lecture endlessly without bothering me with what she’s thinking or feeling. Sounds like a winner to me!”
Fresh from kicking Isis to the curb, Murphy feels a renewed energy to get work done.
Does that mean throwing himself into teaching his one class? Nope.
Does it mean setting off with Levi and maybe Pastor Bob or Summer to actually FIND the…whatever the stupid shit is that I’ve by now totally forgotten that had something to do with the Ark or something.
Nope, he’s just going to go to the beach and stalk Methuselah again.
This time there would be no deception, no putting on a waiter uniform. He would simply approach Methuselah directly and let the chips fall where they may.
Murphy says this to himself like it’s some big, brave thing, but he neglects to remember that disguising himself means nothing now because Meth knows that Murphy knows where he lives.
I take it Phillips has never been to South Carolina, because Murphy reasons that Meth “would not come until after 11:00 a.m., when the sun’s rays became warmer.”
Look, if it’s a sunny day in South Carolina, it will not be much warmer at 11 than at 9, and if it is, it might well be too hot for an elderly man with health problems, ‘kay?
Murphy takes a novel and chills on the beach for hours, not even knowing if Meth will show, but he figures the book “would help keep his mind off Iris.”
No, that is not my typo, that is the book’s title. In the last chapter, Isis was kicked to the curb, and the editor already forgot her name. And I know it’s just a dumb typo because nobody gave a shit, but I like to imagine that it’s Murphy who has forgotten Isis’s name. “Boy, yeah, I sure do miss that ginger atheist chick, Iris or Eyeball or whatever. Yeah, it’s ripping me apart inside. Wonder if that blonde Swedish babe is wearing some kind of sexy volleyball shorts right this very moment.”
Finally, after noon, Meth shows up with six (yep) bodyguards, and Murphy falls in with only a little fuss from them. It’s time for some exposition, because Phillips has realized that there’s a bunch of stuff Murphy doesn’t know.
So, in a shocking turn of events, Murphy actually lets Meth talk, and doesn’t Wikipedia all over him. So we learn that Meth’s grandpa, the missionary, was the one who did all the research about the biblical artifacts like Noah’s Ark and the writing on the wall.
So it’s actually looking worse for Murphy’s skills than we thought. It’s not that an eccentric billionaire with all the time in the world on his hands knew more about biblical archaeology than the biblical archaeology professor…it’s that the missionary in the 1920s or 30s, a man with no access to databases and the libraries of all universities in the world, a man without any formal training in biblical archaeology, knew where these items were long before Murphy was a gleam in his mama’s eyes.
Makes Murphy look about 592 steps behind, doesn’t it?
Then Meth actually reveals the name of The Seven (TSAN!), that they are “evil people who do not believe in God or the Bible.”
He also catalogues all the stuff they own and control, though the most important thing, in both his and Murphy’s eyes, is that “they are the force behind the rebuilding of the city of Babylon.”
Then Meth/Phillips heads right into offensive territory, adding that The Seven “helped to coordinate the attack of 9/11.”
Yeah, it’s always real sensitive to use a real tragedy where real people died, and say that it was perpetrated by your fictional band of villains, who of course support everything you personally don’t like, like tolerance and political correctness. (And the Antichrist and the United Nations.)
On a sillier note, we learn that the tongueless guy who drives for The Seven is actually Meth’s double agent, which I guess would be kinda cool if I cared.
Meth also references Talon, and when Murphy realizes that Talon works for The Seven, and that Talon killed Laura, he realizes “that he and Methuselah had common enemies in the Seven.”
“Yeah, back when I just thought they were financially backing the Antichrist and participated in 9/11, it was all chill. But now that I know that they might have had a connection to the murder of my wife…well, now I’m angry!”
Then Meth takes a all turn into Crazytown, stating that the real reason he wants Murphy to find Aaron’s Rod and the jar of manna is so the Antichrist won’t, because the Antichrist might use the magical items to “feed the starving people of the world” and heal people, and that would be just awful, and part of the plan of The Seven.
Murphy was amazed at all of Methuselah’s knowledge of the Bible.
Mmmm, yes, Murphy, atheists often know plenty about the Bible. Often more than believers do. In fact, all that knowledge is sometimes the reason an atheist became an atheist in the first place.
And when Murphy brings up coming to faith, Meth is a total badass and cuts Murphy off, and I mean cuts him off, stating that their “little games” together will no longer be happening.
As Murphy is escorted back to his car by bodyguards, he actually feels a bit sad about this, and surprisingly, not just because he won’t get free tips about artifacts, and somebody doing most of his work for him anymore. And he actually realizes that he has deprived himself of an ally.
Hmmmm…just like he deprived himself of an ally when he dumped Isis.
I just got it…
PASTOR BOB AND HIS DARK MISTRESS SUMMER VAN DOREN ARE THE EVIL POWERS BEHIND EVERYTHING
It all makes sense now.
You know those RTCs, right? Paragons of independent thinking and not easily swayed by the opinions of others…
So the moment Murphy’s pastor hints that Isis might not be the best match for Murphy, he hops a plane to D.C. to kick Isis to the curb.
This is especially sad and amusing when you remember that Pastor Bob is one of the stupider characters in these books. And that’s saying something.
This chapter reads a bit like a few other chapters, like the one in Ararat where childless Murphy counseled another man on how to raise a teenage daughter. That is, Phillips is writing a how-to for any RTC in a similar situation. So this chapter is how to break up with a nonbeliever.
Now, most of this chapter is focused on Murphy’s feelings—how bad Murphy feels about dumping Isis. Because the man’s feelings, the dumper’s feelings, are way more important than the female dumpee’s feelings.
So they go out to dinner, and…
Isis could tell that Murphy was a little preoccupied. She thought that he must be tired from the trip or maybe that he was worried about Shari…or Paul Wallach in the hospital.
Yeah, these two clearly are not meant for each other. Isis just assumes that Murphy has some normal human empathy, when in fact Murphy could not give two shakes about Shari or especially Paul.
Then they head back to Isis’s apartment, so Murphy can do the dumping in private. Which I suppose is more decent of him than doing it in public.
Now, to be incredibly fair, at a few moments, Phillips does seem vaguely aware that there is another person in this scene. So in between Murphy’s paragraphs about God and his (Murphy’s) feelings, Phillips interjects a few generic observations from Isis:
Isis could feel that something was coming.
Isis could feel it coming and she didn’t want to hear what he was going to say. She knew that it wasn’t going to be good.
Isis felt like she was going to cry.
So, it’s not really a character here, a person with feelings. It’s Phillips reassuring RTC males that if they use the right phrasing, they can weasel out of a waning relationship with a minimum of fuss and ugly crying.
Then again, I might not ugly cry either, if someone broke up with me with the kind of impersonal platitudes that Murphy uses:
“If two people are to develop a strong and lasting relationship, they really need to be on the same wavelength when it comes to faith in God. Divided families often have great struggles. Both parties are not able to share the same experience or values. It can bring about great stress.”
Hell, I even mostly agree with Murphy’s point here. It’s just so dickishly Nice Guy the way he puts it here—just as he made a mental list of pros and cons of Isis versus Summer, he’s now putting their relationship into a series of theoretical contortions.
I mean, this is all just a how-to manual, but shouldn’t there be just a hint that when you dump that atheist chick, she might have something more to say than…nothing? Just staring at you with the sparkling eyes that very nearly tempted you?
And speaking of temptation, does anyone think Murphy would be so quick to kick Isis to the curb if he didn’t have Summer waiting in the wings? (Or rather, Pastor Bob in the wings, waiting with baited breath to throw Summer at Murphy?)
Isis has one moment where she tries to assert herself. Or at least, makes a play for the relationship to continue:
“I think that two people can still see one another and have a relationship grow, and still talk about faith. I don’t think it has to end.”
“But what if the relationship grows and the faith does not?”
“There’s risk in every relationship, Michael.”
And I can see Isis’s point, too. I mean, it’s all moot for several reasons: Murphy dumping Isis is the best thing that can happen to her, and it’s not like Murphy would listen to what a mere woman has to say about relationships, anyway.
So it’s all a done deal. That said, Murphy does try to weasel out of completely dumping her with one of the two oldest tricks in the book:
“It might be good for both of us if we began to see other people.”
(The other one, of course, is “Let’s just be good friends.”)
Isis is nobody’s fool, and immediately sees that that is bullshit. To put it in a nicer way:
She could tell that his mind was already made up and that nothing she could say would make a difference now.
Yep, this sure isn’t a relationship between two adults, where they can sit down and talk about their feelings together. At least it isn’t from Michael Murphy’s perspective.
Murphy makes his escape before the tears happen (Isis’s, not his, because we know he isn’t going to cry about this, not with Summer waiting).
And instead of sticking with Isis, we follow Murphy back onto his plane home, of course, where we can know more about how very badly he feels, even asking God why. Well, because you found another Like A Model, Murph, and because your pastor told you too.
Still, though, lucky Isis. Even if she doesn’t know it yet.