AATAFOVS / Friday Lite Brites

Season 2, Episode 10. Preceded by Omen From The Future, followed by Mojave Blues.

The Vampire Benders enter the latest Story Gate while repeating ERU's latest message amongst themselves— "ASAP, that buried ale or to be or not to be." Nerdly questions if Udite's messages have given up on even using complete sentences by this point.

The Gate puts them onto a big empty field at night, lit only by a distant bonfire. It's evident an outdoors Wild Teen Party is in full swing. Solo leads the charge and quickly monopolizes one of the standard Wild Teen Party kegs. Unfortunately for the mission, all of them are fully above ground, and filled with lager. Fluffykins occupies herself hissing menacingly at the fire. Avatar rigs up a metal detector out of a keg tap, some baling wire, and an old carburetor and writes in an extra setting on its dial, set to "ale casks". Cleo tries to hide the remaining beer taps whenever Solo turns the other way. Sue wins an armwrestling contest with one of the football players, and when others line up to challenge her, Nerdly announces himself as official referee and starts taking bets.

The fun stops when police sirens appear on the far side of the field. Someone with an oddly out-of-place voice yells "Jiggers, fellas! The cops!" from offscreen. Before another second goes by, everyone's driven away in their own cars, leaving the Benders behind in a swirl of dust. From his new vantage point on the ground, Solo laughs for no apparent reason. Then, we see the approaching sirens are attached to the top of a pickup truck.

A man in a baseball cap gets out of the truck, yelling "Barry! It's Coach! Get it together; the real cops'll be here in ten minutes." The VB's look at the coach oddly, then turn to each other, confused. "Who's Barry? I thought I already met everyone once!" yells Solo, too loudly.

Disgusted, the man drags Solo off the ground and dusts off the back of his shirt. "Well, you all might as well come along at this point." Wary, the six of them climb into the bed of the truck, Fluffykins insisting on clinging to a grimacing Sue's arm. They arrive at a gym bearing huge expository letters, Lovingston West High. Led to the upper floor, they find it looks like someone's been living there for some time.

As Solo starts snoring on the couch, the coach calls out, "If I don't see you in practice, and you *all* in classes tomorrow, you can bet I won't be forgetting to talk to your parents, got that?" With that, he shuts the door. Avatar, however, has his attention fixed on something else: a framed photo of what appeared to be Solo in a football uniform. The room is filled with group photos just like it, and trophies awarded to 'Barry Taylor'.

Mystified, Avatar asks his four conscious friends, "Guys... where are we?"

Credits. (As nobody likes the season 2 opening, my copy has the original season 1 version edited in, which makes for some odd crediting of several dead producers.)

Quick cuts establishing the Vamp Benders finding niches at Lovingston West High. Sue looks longingly at football practice, where Solo is pushing through a killer hangover to fake knowing a game he's never played before. Somehow, his quick loping gait, aversion to sunlight, and general dislike for everything he looks at combine to make him as good a fullback as 'Barry' apparently was. Everyone conveniently shrugs off his complete ignorance of the playbook as "a bad day". Avatar has wheedled his way onto the team by a combination of sheer pluck and an unintentional threat of cobbling together a stink bomb out of twigs and unbranded cola.

Cleo gets a free phone and a uniform from a group of short-skirted cheerleaders behind the bleachers. Nerdly has begun a small bookmaking career, and is now announcing odds for Friday's football game. Fluffykins abruptly leaps out of Sue's lap to intercept a football in mid-air, dropping it daintily in the end zone before licking herself.

Coach Berg whistles, impressed. He calls an embarrassed yet hopeful Sue down to ask if her pet had ever played football. Fluffykins hasn't, but isn't a cat playing football crazy? "Exactly. It's just crazy enough to work! Of course, maybe we should give her a disguise, so as not to let on..." He starts plotting to sell the story rights to Disney after the first successful game, but Sue interrupts. Could he maybe possibly consider Sue as a potential team player, too? With an awkward look, he confides, "Sorry miss, I'm the inspirational one. Sure, there Ain't No Rule that a kitty-cat can't play football. But to get your dreams crushed by a hardass I conveniently have no power to oppose, you'll have to go see Athletic Director Leland." She does, and they are. Her dreams, that is. Until English class the next day, when Twelfth Night gives Sue an idea...

Fluffykins has been fitted out with an appropriately adorable kitty-uniform with little kitty-sized pads, though she rejects the miniature helmet. While half the team practices with her while safely protecting their guy-cred by studiously not gushing over her adorableness, Avatar takes the initiative by leading the other half through warm-up exercises with a stereo blasting the soundtrack from Rocky. One impressive new recruit—whom we're apparently not expected to realize is actually Sue—catches the Coach's eye.

Deciding to put...him to the test, the Coach promptly calls a scrimmage, with Sam Sueler acting as a Tackle for Solo's down-the-field charge. Avatar, who was on the other offensive end, somehow manages to not get crushed by the defense. Since he was only ever shown in the starting lineup, he could have run away in the opposite direction and we would not have known. The Coach, though, is suitably impressed with all the Benders, and ends practice instructing the team to show up early for the game against neighboring rival, Blakesville High. Conveniently, this is only several hours away.

Meanwhile, Nerdly has gathered several hundred bets on various parts of the upcoming game, and Cleo has joined the cheerleading squad. Nothing remotely inappropriate happened during the tryouts, except for the cheerleading itself (or so some would add).

Cut to several hours later, where the Benders have assembled at the football game. With a brief nod to Nerdly, the focus for the next three minutes or so is on the cheerleaders. The band plays, and then the dramatic huddle and lineup take place.* The initial tackling happens, and Solo and Sue (and Avatar, somehow charging through an opponent twice his size) go down the field. It's like the scrimmage, only there are more people to tackle, and there's a cheering crowd large enough to suggest that all the students from both schools (and some extras from a third) all showed up.

Even though none of them has a clue about football, the Benders on the field play amazingly well, and Lovingston is managing to hold even against the normally superior Blakesville Behemoths. Ten minutes of football are periodically interrupted by brief shots of Nerdly noticing two familiar figure from a past episode approaching the edge of the field, attempting to conceal shovels. Regular viewers would recognize them as Black Rage, White Heat, and Gray Matter.** On cue, Cleo spots Alexandria among the cheerleaders. When the two attempt to pursue their respective quarries, they are immediately spotted and captured. Somehow, only Solo, Sue, and Avatar (oh, and Fluffy) notice their friends being held hostage. They face a dilemma. The three can exploit a weakness in the opposing line and score an easy, game winning point (did we mention that the final countdown has started?), or they can help their friends.

Avatar: Are you kidding? We'll do both. Here, Fluffy!

The ball thus handed off to the team mascot, Solo and Sue charge at the shovel-carrying trio, while Avatar heads for Alexandria. However, when he gets there, he finds the two in a savage cat-fight, Alexandria's robo-suit form apparently no longer available. Meanwhile, Sue dodges heat rays and eventually punches out White Heat. Gray Matter attempts some mystical mental trick, but it has no effect on Solo.

Solo: You can't stop me! I never use my mind. But my head...

Solo's flying headbutt knocks Gray Matter several feet back, and he is out for the moment. However, Black Rage has released Nerdly, and charges onto the field with his shovel, whacking football players left and right. With the majority at the Lovingston end, where Fluffy is at this very moment scoring the winning point, he has no trouble, and quickly begins digging in the field, and comes up with a bottle of Ale.

Nerdly: The Unholy Ale! It was buried under this field!
Solo: How do you know this stuff?
Nerdly: Maybe if you read more... come on, we can't let them take it!

At this point, Black Rage is trampled by oblivious Lovingston High football players, who are serving as an honor guard for Fluffykins. Coach Berg is on the phone with Disney, telling them about the amazing true story, which he happened to film. The Ale rolls over to Solo, who picks it up. Fortunately, the evil presence of the Ale causes him to become...fully sober for the first time in several years. He smashes the bottle with his helmet, grinds up the shards, and allows the liquid to disperse in the ground. Then he returns to normal:

Solo: What were we doing again?

At this point, Avatar and Cleo join the gang, bringing with them the smashed remains of Alexandria's Dark Storygate Generator.

Avatar: Alexandria says Barry's in the hospital on a drug overdose. She was hoping that the game would be called off so the field would be empty. Something about an Ale.

Having found the buried Ale, and answered the all-encompassing question, "To be or not to be a football player," (well, thought about it for a moment...) the Benders leave through their storygate with a proud Fluffykins. The crowd is still cheering, and the villains run away from slowly-waking football players on the field.

Alexandria: Curse the Vampire Slayers! They will pay for foiling our plans twice, beating us up, and trapping us here! As soon as a Deus ex Machina can save us, they will pay!

  • Did you honestly think we were going to describe the cheerleading performance? You know what cheerleaders look like and what they do. But since you've actually read the spoiler text, here goes: Chant in combination with pom-poms, waving hands and feet around in the air, and finally Cleo somersaulting off the top of a 6-person pyramid. Oh, and there might have been jumping jacks, and cartwheels. Happy now?

    • White Heat and Gray Matter have previously only appeared in comic book versions of the franchise. Speculation holds that Schooled was judged to be unintentionally racist by executives. Supposedly, only hurried negotiations on the part of the writers prevented the appearance of Asian, Hispanic, and Northern "Native American" villains, who would have formed a group known as the "Ethnic Evildoers."

This episode has been marked as the first signs that writers are responding to their rising Periphery Demographic with a sharp increase in Solo-oriented Fanservice, including what has been interpreted, while squinting and hanging upside-down, to be a Ship Tease for the persistent minority of Nolo shippers.