Much like the Fishers Jr., vacations in the Aaron family have always been the sort of events that could easily scar an impressionable young child for life. Ma Aaron, you see, doesn't fly unless she's been so heavily medicated that we have to physically carry her through security, and dear old Dad has long been afflicted with one of those relatively common middle-aged nerd fetishes that requires him to stop and read each and every roadside historical plaque within fifty miles of either side of our route. If George Washington slept there, then you can pretty much bet that I have a picture of me punching my little sister there as well. So you can probably image what those epic, multi-day road trips from Boston to Disneyworld must have been like, what with the wood-paneled station wagon overstuffed with suitcases and the constant high-pitched squeals of everything from "I have to pee again" to "Mommy, she's on my side!" emanating from a back seat that was more heavily partitioned than most areas of the Gaza Strip. But none of those massive, Lewis & Clark-like expeditions could ever possibly compare to the only traumatic time we ever tried to go camping -- a sordid, squalid weekend which prominently featured thunderstorms, leaky tents, food poisoning, poison ivy (although, unlike the Fishers, no one felt compelled to play Poison's "Talk Dirty To Me"), and a horribly frightening late-night auditory encounter with what we thought was a giant man-eating bear but later turned out to be merely a raccoon with swollen adenoids. The Aarons learned that weekend that we are most definitely an indoor family, and have ever since worn our pasty-white skin and legendary Claritin addictions with the sort of hard-won pride that comes only to those who have been tested in a Coleman crucible and found to be severely lacking. There's a reason I don't work for Mountains Without Pity, you know.
Alan Ball: [cough] Wuss! [cough]
Aaron: Wow. You know, you should really see a doctor about that. You could have Lyme Disease.
Alan Ball: Oh, please. What's not to like? The fresh air, the clear night sky, the chance to get in touch with nature…
Aaron: The snakes, the bugs, the inevitable suppurating rashes that come from getting in touch with nature…
Alan Ball: So I take it this means you're not likely to go camping again?
Aaron: Does a raccoon with swollen adenoids shit in the woods?
Fade up on our new all-time unbeatable record for SttM (1), as we open with a shot of a billboard for Dr. Phil…er, Dave's Making Love Work TV show. We're outside the studio entrance, with the expected crowd of white-bread housewives waiting anxiously to get in to the afternoon taping. A particularly boisterous grouping of three friends giddily reads off the questions they plan to ask, which range from "How can I stop feeling so competitive with my chain-smoking bitch of a mother-in-law" to a mediation on the soul-sucking ennui of life in bourgeois suburbia. Hey, is it just me, or is that Lisa Kudrow waiting in line behind them? I mean, this episode was written by Jill Soloway, so I'm fairly certain it's not Courteney Cox, but nevertheless, the resemblance is remarkable. It's also interesting to note, by the way, that this DGDJ is not really seen again during the episode proper, but still manages to set up any number of the week's themes in her short-lived (get it?) appearance, including noses, over-idealized images of one's spouse, and of course the great tissue vs. handkerchiefs debate. It's remarkably rare to see writing that tight and that irrelevant all at the same time. Good job, Jill! Anyway, the lady with the chain-smoking mother-in-law develops a nosebleed just as the crowd is ordered to make their way inside, and within seconds the blood flow has reached near-Niagara proportions of arterial deluge. By the time the requisite bitchy stage-manager character can even realize what's going on, our intrepid, exsanguinated heroine is lying facedown on the concrete amongst a pile of bloody Kleenex. Farewell, Karen Postell Pepper. Your death might have been meaningless on the show, but the Google search I did on "Dr. Phil catchphrases" to find suitable snarking material for this paragraph did lead me straight to Shack's own website, so I guess the karma gods have smiled on you after all.