Joan of Arcadia
Touch Move

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Deborah: B+ | 1 USERS: B-
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The Medium and the Message

Joan enters the chess room in the basement. The room is empty except for one man, who reminds me slightly of Richard Pryor, arranging chess pieces on a board at a table in the middle. ["I love John Marshall Jones. Fans of John Doe might remember him from that; he played Frank." -- Sars] Joan wonders where the chess club members are. Chess Guy says, "They all went home. I'll be working with you today." Joan sits down opposite him, telling him she doesn't know how to play chess. Chess Guy: "Well, that's fairly obvious." Joan sighs, "God." Frink immediately dubs him "Smoove G." She admits to being very glad to see him for once, because her life is completely unravelling: "I'm up to my eyeballs in the drama of the high school mating ritual, and now, thanks to you, I've been mistaken as the school chess champion. How did this happen to me?" Smoove G: "Which part?" Joan wants to know how she beat that kid at chess. Smoove G: "He was using logic; you weren't. It's impossible to guard against chaos." Tell me about it. "It's rare, but it happens." Frink comments, "There's no public school that can afford a chess set like that." It's a set with rather elaborately carved, tall, humanoid figurines. Smoove G moves a piece and says, "Black's move." Joan doesn't want to. Smoove G gives her a look, and she reluctantly moves a pawn. She says weakly, "I don't know how to play this game." Smoove G points out that she's playing it anyway. Joan: "Because I'm forced to!" Smoove G: "'Forced to'? Your friends make a suggestion, which you follow up on, and then you're surprised at the outcome. It's a causal universe."

Smoove G moves a piece, and tells her to move. Joan asks, "I'm being punished because I made a tiny little effort to fit in?" Smoove G explains: "It's not about punishment. It's that actions have consequences. And to be in denial of that is to be disengaged from the laws of the universe, which renders you powerless and vulnerable to an inordinate amount of pain." So that must be what I'm doing wrong. He adds, "Other than that, it's not big deal. Move." Joan picks up one pawn, starts to move it, and then changes her mind. She starts to move a different piece, and Smoove G says, "No." He explains the rule called "touch move": "Once you touch a piece, you have to play that piece." Joan: "I'm not allowed to change my mind? What kind of universe is that?" Smoove G: "Oh, you can change your mind, but you still have to play that piece, so you should think before you move." So much for chaos. Joan thinks aloud, saying that this is a metaphor. She looked it up and this is definitely an example. She moves the pawn she originally selected, and says, "I took the bait. So now I'm in the game. How do I get out?" Smoove G: "There are many ways to get out: surrender is one, losing is another. Winning, cheating -- which I don't recommend -- but you have to do something. You have to have a strategy. See, the number one rule of chess is this: whatever you do, don't play the other person's game. Play your own." Smoove G moves: "Your move." Joan looks slightly troubled. The scene ends with an overhead shot of the two of them and the board. If I knew enough about chess, I could probably make some incisive commentary about the game in progress, but I don't, so you're on your own.

Kevin wheels into Joan's room, asking to borrow her hair dryer: "So I can look extra-handsome for my job interview at Wiener World?" I, like many viewers, am still wondering how Kevin gets from one floor to another in this house. I've seen two stairways now, the central one and the one leading into the kitchen, and neither of them had chair lifts so far as I could see. I highly doubt this house has three staircases. So did they install an elevator? Or will this just be one of those issues that's never addressed? Kevin finds her hair dryer as he yells for her one more time. She pops up from under the covers and says, "What?" She gives him a start, and he points the hair dryer at her, saying, "Don't. Scare. The cripple! My fight-or-flight impulse is very confused." Hee! As he's about to leave, he asks what she was doing. Maybe when you burst into your teenage sister's room and you find her hiding under the covers, that's a question best not asked. Just saying. Joan says she was imagining that she was in a coma. She flops back down on the bed and pulls the sheet over her head. She makes frustrated gestures under the sheet as she whines, "It's not so bad. I hate school. I have no friends. I can't fit in. I don't know who I like. I'm miserable...and I've got this zit in my ear! Ow!" Kevin tells her the last part was TMI, but agrees that high school sucks. She throws the sheet off and sneers, "Didn't suck for you! You were, like, the star!" Kevin admits he was part of the "in" crowd: "I just got to see the jerks closer up. Why do you think I spent so much time playing sports? I didn't like that social thing so much. Those people were mean. It was boring. I wanted to play my own game." Joan sits right up and says, "Oh my God...somebody just said that to me yesterday...about chess." Kevin says it's the basic rule of any sport: "Otherwise, you're always on the defensive posture; you're always reacting to the other guy..." Joan, still skeptical: "You really...weren't happy in high school? I mean, you really felt like a reject sometimes?" Kevin says everybody does, even the ones who claim otherwise. He assures her: "Hey...you...you are going to find some people who totally get what a non-repulsive sub-defective you are. Just trust in yourself a little bit. You'll figure it out." Joan looks like she wants to believe him. Kevin adds, "And if you need me to roll over anybody...let me know." Joan smiles. He smiles that big Ritter smile -- will I ever stop seeing his dad? -- and wheels out as Joan mumbles to herself, "Sub-defective..."

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Joan of Arcadia

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