By Cameron White
Season 2, Episode 22: “Vampire”
Original airdate: May 20, 2000
Leave it to So Weird to never forget a name. Gabe was introduced way back in season one’s “Angel.” Gabe and Jack hit it off, and she gifted him her guardian angel necklace. That piece of jewelry (along with Gabe herself, in brief mentions) has reappeared throughout Season 2 as a symbol for both love and faith, two broad concepts that share an ally in trust. Love and faith, incidentally, are exactly the kind of things that can begin healing the wide chasm between the Phillips family members, but their ally, trust, is frequently fragile and threatened on all sides. In a way, Dracula—and more generally, vampires—is a great antagonist for trust. On the outside, he is a suave gentleman. On the inside, in true Victorian fashion, he is a monster with a pulsing desire for the blood of the living.
“Vampire” thus translates the story of Dracula into a modern day setting with a surprisingly novel concept: an online study group known as OSSN. It’s Jack’s ace-in-the-hole for Ned’s grueling homework assignments, which annoys Fi, and more so when Jack convinces Molly to swing by the OSSN headquarters in Milwaukee on the way to Indianapolis. (One thing you can always count on: knowing where the tour bus is on any given episode.) Meanwhile, Brent, the Dracula-esque figure played by David Paetkau, talks about “recruiting” the Phillips family to his second-in-command Pete while staring menacingly at a copy of The Phillips-Kane Band’s Another World album.
It’s the setup to a solid episode that mixes the best of So Weird with the best of Bram Stoker’s classic. Fi’s suspicions about Brent and Pete at the OSSN HQ leads her to an all-nighter of online research and discussion. The scene, via Fi’s famed chatroom, brings in a couple of notable past characters, like Fi’s boyfriend Ryan (“Second Generation”), Candy (Fi’s best friend from Hope Springs, last seen in “Medium”), and Gabe, with a cameo by James (“Tulpa,” obviously, not the recent “James Garr”). Meanwhile, Brent convinces Molly to give a speech for the induction ceremony for Jack and two other “inductees” named Paige and Rita (who are actually vampires, in another nod to Stoker’s novel). He also creeps on the Phillips tour bus a lot, which is more Twilight than anything else, though these vampires are obviously not the good guys.
The dominoes start falling at the induction ceremony, which takes place, as Jack observes, “in a creepy basement,” shortly before falling victim to a hand-wave of sleepiness by Brent. Fi escapes for a moment, but Brent traps her, and then he tells her the reason he’s established the OSSN as a cover for vampires: Rick Phillips. Turns out, Rick is another person who isn’t exactly what he seemed. Rick was responsible for chasing Brent’s father back to Romania, which pushed Brent to concoct a revenge scheme that involved the youth of the world becoming vampires through the fast-spreading OSSN. (Talk about ambitious.) As per usual, a new detail about her father is enough to give Fi pause, which allows Brent to trap her in a deep slumber along with her family.
Brent insists on starting with Jack, which is when the second surprising event happens. As Pete unbuttons Jack’s shirt, the angel necklace glows with light, pushing back both Brent and Pete as well as waking Jack up from his hypnosis. Fi later lays on thick the point of this event, but it’s no less impressive for its implications. Though the show couldn’t afford to keep Gabe on the show and maintain a stable presence, the audience was constantly reminded of Jack’s more-than-friend through both name and symbol (which, it should not be forgotten, is powered by Fi’s love for her brother and Gabe, too); then, the show deploys a complication in Fi’s understanding of her father as well as pulling the trigger on why exactly Jack and Gabe’s relationship was so important to maintain. Their willingness to stand for each other, and Fi’s willingness to stand for her brother (hammered home by a tie-tying scene after Fi’s long night of research), is stronger than Brent’s desire for revenge. Thus, the traditional Christian symbolism of the Dracula story remains intact, but is now also infused with a dash of So Weird mythos to boot. Pete’s doubts about Brent turning to betrayal then gets the Phillips family home safely.
But that complication still hangs over the show after the episode is over. As Fi begins recounting the themes of the episode in a journal with the password “muintir” (the modern Irish word for “parents”), there’s a glimpse of a previous journal entry that was clearly written in the wake of “Fall,” when Fi and Molly reconciled after the mid-season discovery of Rick’s interest in the paranormal. In that entry, Fi expresses doubt that her mother has told her the whole story of Rick Phillips, and “Vampire” seems to confirm that fear by connecting Rick’s abstract interest in the paranormal to a concrete event—the scourging of a vampire family from the United States. Bricriu has already said that Rick was taken from the mortal world for stirring up trouble in the spirit world; this is exactly the kind of event that he was talking about back in “Destiny.”
Of course, he’s still Fi’s family. So good or bad, she’ll have to trust Rick and “keep the faith” if she wants to know the capital-T truth, the one for which Fox Mulder sacrificed so much in the pursuit. The question remains: is Fi capable of making the same kind of sacrifices? Trust is a fragile friend, indeed.
Cameron White is a freelance writer currently residing in Arkansas. He writes about television over on his blog, Wayward Television, and tweets about how we’re all Jeff Wingers, really. His obsession with television was founded in 1996 by The Disney Channel and fostered by his discovery of Firefly in the summer of 2007. He sparkles in sunlight, but not for the Twilight reasons.