So there was this multi-part documentary series that aired about the American Musical on PBS a while back. And there was this one segment that stuck with me, about Hal Prince recalling when Andrew Lloyd Webber approached him about directing Cats. And Prince listens to his spiel and says something along the lines of "Andrew, is there something I don't get? Is this about Queen Victoria, and she's the main cat, and Disraeli and Gladstone are the other cats, and there are poor cats, and am I missing this?" And Andrew Lloyd Webber looks at him and says, "Hal, it's about cats."
I bring this up because I just spent 10 weeks watching John From Cincinnati, listening as David Milch has gone through his spiel and built his story about an other-worldly messenger delivering some divinely inspired gospel to an unlikely recipient. And after all nine weeks of buildup, I've watched the final episode, and the only thing I can conclude is: God's message is apparently suggestions for a new branding campaign for Stinkweed. I mean, I'm sure there's probably more to it then that, and I'm just not getting it, but I'm also fairly certain that that -- the "not getting" it part -- doesn't rest entirely on my shoulders.
Anyhow...Shaun and John return, surfing in on a wave. Where have they been? "Cincinnati," Shaun says, though he's pointing up to the sky when he says it, which means that either the kid either really sucks at geography or he had some celestial experience. Butchie whisks Shaun off to see Mitch and Cissy, while John and Linc have a heart-to-heart about what the hell this is all about. I'm not sure Linc understands things any better than I do after John's explanations, but he does latch onto the bright idea to adopt the stick-figure symbol for a new line of Stinkweed clothing and hold a parade, featuring the Yosts, to deliver God's message of love and community and competitively priced surfing accessories.
And what of the Yosts? Well, Mitch levitates again, this time in front of Cissy, and everyone spends most of the episode gawking at him. Finally, Butchie and Shaun help him down, and it's nice to see that family put together again. Cissy even smarts off to some mouth-breathing pervert who says something ungallant to Tina. That was unexpected.
Wrapping up other loose threads: Cunningham no longer feels ashamed of who he is. Freddy is out of the direct-to-market pharmaceutical business. Dickstein gets his hummer from a suddenly friendly Jennifer Grey. Bill finally ventures to the upper room of his house to wrestle with his own demons, whereupon Zippy returns to him. And John delivers another monologue about Dr. Smith returning from Cincinnati twenty years younger and Cissy getting pregnant, which is either an epilogue or a preview of Season Two. Or maybe it's just about cats.
Previously on John, Apparently Not From Cincinnati: Well...hell, people. You've been watching the show for the last nine weeks. You tell me. Uh-huh. Hmmm. He disappeared, did he? Just like the guy said he would. And the bird, too? Uh-huh. Uh...I don't understand. Okay, okay, stick figures on Avon catalogs -- whatever you say. And then what? No kidding? Dr. Johnny Fever? Well, don't that beat all.
Credits. There's Dickstein and Barry/Their motel's kind of scary/And Cass with her camer-y/DeMornay's shouting's hammy/Ooo let's talk about a show on HBO/Everybody swears and the plots move slow/Will they renew this show/way down in Kokomo?
We open, with the camera sweeping rapidly through the clouds, followed immediately by a shot of a beach-sweeper combing the sands of Imperial Beach and coming a little bit closer to a sleeping Butchie's foot than he'd care to see. Butchie has a history with beach-sweeps, if you recall, though unlike last time, when he was passed out on the beach in a drug-fueled stupor, this time, he and Kai were keeping vigil for Shaun. Butchie gives the beach-sweep driver a message filled with ones and zeroes -- well, mostly, just ones, and he uses his finger to deliver it. He and Kai lie back down on the beach. The beach-sweep drives by again; up goes that finger.
And we're back to the clouds. Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy the music of Mr. Bob Dylan.
And now it's montage time: Cissy and Mitch are lying in bed; Cissy is turned away from Mitch and apparently sleeping, while Mitch is facing the ceiling, eyes wide open. More clouds. Cass is asleep in a Porsche, which is parked down at the beach. More clouds. Bill walks through his house with a cup of coffee; he exchanges glances with the cockatoo that gave him all that grief last episode. Clouds! Dickstein awakens to a strange bobbing motion underneath the covers; he pulls the sheets back to reveal Daphne...um...starting off her morning with a nice, kosher Hebrew National, if you get my drift. Oh, sweet heavenly God, go back to those clouds double-quick! Go to the clouds! And we do, only now we descend through the cloud and onto the shimmering blue of the ocean. Which is when Butchie bolts upright on the beach, just in time to catch John Monad catching quite the wave. And there's another surfer next to him -- yes, it's Shaun, who's apparently come back. (Eagle-eyed viewers will also note that a bird appeared in the initial shot of John coming into view -- we can only guess that's Zippy, although sometimes, as Freud wrote, a bird is just a bird.) On the pier, Cass is filming all of this, while Butchie and Kai drink it. It's really quite a lovely sequence.