Film and TV

The Music of True Blood, Episode 1.7: Getting Crispy With Johnny Cash's "The Fourth Man In the Fire"

Alan Ball was known for his masterful use of music in Six Feet Under. He's lost none of his touch when it comes to his current HBO series, True Blood - which happens to be set in the Louisiana swamps, not terribly far from Houston. With Season 2 just completed, Rocks Off is now working our way backwards through the episodes we missed as HBO begins reruns.

Episode 1.7, "Fourth Man in the Fire"

The Bible is really fucking creepy sometimes, especially in the hands of Johnny Cash. Cash is the meeting point for the world's Goths, country fans and Christians. No matter how separate theses three groups may seem, they all love Johnny Cash. Cash rediscovered his Christian faith after trying to commit suicide by cave - namely, getting (permanently) lost in said cave.

Instead, Cash got an epiphany from the Lord, who used a breeze to lead him back out into the daylight. He kept his faith for the rest of his life, though like his friend Nick Cave he described himself as "devout, but troubled." If you really want to devil spooked out of you, Rocks Off suggests you pick up a copy of Cash's recording of The New Testament, but if you'd rather stick to the music side of the Man In Black, then we'll move on to his song that lends its name to this weekend's True Blood repeat, "The Fourth Man in the Fire."

[jump] The song is based on some serious shit from the book of Daniel. In the book, King Nebuchadnezzar II has decided to erect a giant gold statue of himself, and commands everyone to get on their knees and worship the statue when his entrance music plays. Well one day, some of Neb's flunkies noticed that three dudahs from Judah - Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego - aren't making with the bowing and scraping.

The penalty for this is death by oven. Neb offers the guys one last chance to worship the statue; otherwise into the fire they go. The three prophets say nay, and that God will protect them. Neb has the oven preheated to seven times its normal execution temperature, so hot that the guards who throw the prophets in get killed by the heat.

After a while, Neb looks into the oven like he's waiting for a pie to bake, and sees four men just chillin, with the fourth looking like the son of God. The men walk out un-crispy. So that's the story Cash decided to pen a song about, and it is undeniably creepy. You know what else is creepy? Vampires (Not Vampyres, though). In our last episode, yokels torched the vampire nest Sookie's boyfriend Bill was staying at with three other vamps. Four boiling, bloody coffins were hauled out the next day.

We spend most of the episode thinking that Bill is toasty, until he leaps out of his (original human) grave to grab Sookie for some I'm-not-dead nookie. Brief aside: That's how we think Carrie should've really ended.

End Aside: so who was the fourth man in this fire? Not Jesus, just a fangbanger who's totally irrelevant to the plot. There's probably a moral in there somewhere.

True Blood airs 8 p.m. Saturdays on NBO2.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner