Producer Matthew Arnold promised me a break from first-person shooters in the fourth episode of the ever more amazing Video Game High School via e-mail this week, and the best show on the Internet did not disappoint. In fact...what's the opposite of disappoint? Whatever it is, my jeans are full of it.
Now that Brian D (Josh Blaylock) has managed to prove himself with an unorthodox style, he's earned himself an invitation to FPS Varsity Captain Jenny Matrix's (Johanna Braddy) party. In pure '80s movie convention, it's a booze-fueled gathering of cliques, and frankly, for the first few minutes it does drag on a little bit. Then again, maybe I'm just a little sensitive to awkward social situations, having lived through so many.
Nonetheless, Jenny invites Brian into her room to show him that she managed to beat his recently won high score, but the two end up bonding significantly over the love of a childish dance game that Jenny no longer admits to playing. Her family disapproved of her dance passion, insisting that she focus her talents on making it as a professional FPS. Though she declines an invitation from Brian to dance, it's clear that his sincerity and admiration for her touch her deeply.
All that goes out the window when Jenny introduces Brian to the rest of the Varsity Squad, who have stolen the cake that Brian brought as a present for Jenny and claimed it as theirs to bribe her for a place in the next scrimmage. The scene features the return of the Law (Brian Firenzi), Brian's humiliated jock rival who was vomiting a cat in a dream sequence last I saw him.
Firenzi works his magic once again in a scene of incredible psychological torment that shows you exactly what would've happened if Jigsaw and Ben Affleck's character from Dazed and Confused had managed to reproduce. He is such a perfect mixture of wit and complete douchebaggery that you can't take your eyes off him. In complete control, he tricks Brian into a rematch, game of his choosing, in front of everyone. Brian chooses the dance game.
Firenzi has a rival for best episode antagonist this time, though, Rocky Collins as the Drift King. Brian's sidekicks, Ted (Jimmy Wong) and Ki (Ellary Porterfield), are having their first date at the party, and Ki amazes Ted with a children's math game that she's developed. They're interrupted by Drift King and his thugs, who steal her laptop and refuse to return it until Ted agrees to one more driving duel with his majesty.
Collins's over-the-top royal delivery mixes the petulant haughtiness of Viserys Targaryen with the regality of Edgar Figaro. He eats every inch of the scene and leaves no crumb behind. Thus, buoyed by the impossible awesomeness of the sounds of the Protomen, does the single greatest montage scene/duel scene ever made in the history of moving pictures take place. I must have rewound and watched it a dozen times, gooseflesh on my arms, heart pounding, whispering, "Go! Go! You can do it! Go!" under my breath. It was a thing of indescribable geek-beauty that may never be rivaled.
Desperate to win Ki's game back, Ted drives like a warrior-poet. He drives like a Jim Steinman character. He drives like a Crono with Lavos dead in his fucking sights. Nonetheless, the King is just a shade better, and claims the finish lines seconds before Ted. Flush with the thrill of the game, the King shows his class and hands Ki's game back over, promising Ted that they will meet again.
And Brian D? He is hopelessly outclassed by the Law and obviously too out of practice to compete meaningfully. As his score falls, he once again changes the game to one that only he can win. Turning his back on the screen, he dances for the crowd, who cheer adoringly. Holding out his hand like Springsteen did to Courtney Cox in "Dancing in the Dark," he and Jenny laugh as the party claps in time with their steps and the Law grimly continues competing with a game that no longer matters.
There is a new testament in Video Game High School that Brian (Wasn't there a savior called Brian?) is here to bring. That there is not only more than one way to play the game, there is more than one way to win. It's like William Carlos Williams said. If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.
Brian is every one of us that hasn't been able to cut it by following "the rules." The difference is that he's figured out that the rules were put in place specifically to keep the top on top. And he refuses to play that way. Goddamn, I want to be buried with the episode so I can watch it forever.
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