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Recap / Family Guy S10 E3: "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q."

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Warning: This episode's take on domestic abuse is NOT played for laughs.

Airdate: October 30, 2011

In this very dark, somewhat dramatic episode, Quagmire nearly dies from autoerotic asphyxiation and ends up in the hospital, but that's the least of it — Quagmire learns that his sister (from the season eight episode "Jerome is the New Black," only her name is Brenda instead of Harriet) is still with her abusive boyfriend, Jeff, and everyone tries to show Brenda that Jeff is bad for her, but Peter, Quagmire, and Joe soon learn that words and reasoning don't work against a bully like Jeff.

"Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q." contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: During the intervention, Chris corrects Joe when the latter calls him "Caleb".
  • Asshole Victim: Jeff is murdered by Quagmire at the end of the episode for everything he's done.
  • Artistic License: This episode has several of these in regards to the topic of Domestic Abuse itself:
    • For one, Brenda shows Undying Loyalty to her abuser, but neither give any reason why. In most cases, the victim sees past the abuser's abundant flaws to whatever made them fall in love in the first place, but it's just as often the abuser holding some kind of leverage over the victim to prevent them from leaving, or the victim simply having nowhere else to go if they do. It's never stated that Jeff is doing either of these things or that he does anything that would make Brenda put up with his repeated assaults, so she just comes off as someone who's either oblivious to or doesn't care about it.
    • Abusers are usually very subtle in their attacks and harm their victims in very specific ways that they know will hurt them the most, and the victim's friends and loved ones are kept completely unaware of it. Jeff, on the other hand, is portrayed as a loud, dim-witted brute who makes absolutely no effort to hide his abuse of Brenda, and he constantly beats and insults her in plain view of everyone.
    • During the intervention scene, Quagmire makes a passionate plea for Brenda to leave because he sees her as a "cowardly punching bag and not a woman, who chooses to ruin her own life by staying with Jeff." Domestic abuse isn't that black and white; some people stay in abusive relationships for a number of reasons.note  Victim shaming is never the answer to this kind of problem.
    • Quagmire's speech about murdering Jeff since "guys like this don't change" is misdirected since not all abusers are mentally fit to recognize their actions. Some abusers can be mentally ill, have a psychological disability, or even have brain damage that affects their behavior or their recognition of their actions. It's not impossible for abusers to be reformed, and there are no justifications for murder, even if you believe the victim deserves it.
    • Finally, the gang decides that the best idea, in the end, is to simply kill Jeff, freeing Brenda. Cathartic as it may be, "getting rid of the bad person" doesn't automatically fix the problems brought on by abuse. Brenda is most likely severely psychologically damaged and, if left to her own accord, will likely go to someone else who is just as bad.
  • Artistic License – Law Enforcement: When Peter suggests that Joe arrest Jeff, Joe claims that he is unable to do so unless Brenda herself reports him for his behavior. While that is true of abusive relationships that are happening behind close doors with no tangible evidence (as the episode's title would suggest), in this case Jeff is clearly beating Brenda right in front of Joe and everyone else. This makes Jeff's behavior an Open-and-Shut Case of common assault, and in real life Joe would not only be able to arrest Jeff, he'd be required to.
  • Beyond Redemption: Quagmire claims this to justify his decision to kill Jeff.
    Quagmire: These kinds of guys don't change. You think that they wake up and realize the error of their ways and clean up their act? No! They just keep ruining everyone's lives and the whole world is better off without them.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Despite being a sexual predator with little to no respect for women note , Quagmire doesn't take his sister's abuse very well.
  • Blaming the Victim: While performing an intervention for his abused sister, Quagmire states that Brenda has chosen to stay in an abusive relationship. Not only that, but his sister is no longer a woman, but a person and a punching bag.
  • Bowdlerization: The scene of Quagmire nearly choking to death while watching clown porn is slightly different on the DVD than it is on televisionnote .
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Jeff mistakenly thinks this is happening when Brenda hugs Quagmire in the hospital, despite the fact that she was clearly just embracing her brother after he nearly died.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Despite their apparent concern for Brenda's well-being, none of the main characters actually do anything to help her as they witness her getting assaulted by Jeff. Special mention goes to Joe, who refuses to intervene simply because Brenda hasn't reported Jeff (even though that's not how it actually works), even saying the police cannot do anything until it's "too late".
  • Call-Back: Brenda and Jeff first appeared two seasons earlier as a one-off gag in "Jerome is the New Black" when Brian mistook Quagmire's abused sister for a one-night stand who liked rough sex.
  • Car Fu: How Quagmire kills Jeff.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Jeff and Brenda's first appearance in "Jerome is the New Black" was mostly played for laughs, with Brian mistakenly thinking that the beaten-up woman at Quagmire's house is one of his dates who was into S&M, until Quagmire tells him that the woman is his sister who's hiding out from her abusive boyfriend. With their bigger role in their episode, Jeff's abuse is shown in a completely serious light.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: While the episode has its usual brand of Black Comedy and cutaways, the story of Quagmire trying to save his sister from being abused is portrayed very seriously.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Quagmire choking himself for sexual pleasure as seen in the beginning ends up saving him from being killed.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Jeff announces that Brenda is pregnant.
    Peter: Have you thought about names yet? Like "Slappy" or "Bruisy" or "Keep-it-down-in-theresy"?
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Peter mentions his old fishing job which hasn't been mentioned since the middle of the fourth season. Lois doesn't remember it. For those who don't remember it, it happened after Peter lost his job at "Happy Go Lucky Toys" following his boss' death (from the pre-cancellation era) and before he took his current job at the Pawtucket Brewery.
    • He also mentions Santos and Pasquale, whom he calls "Male Consuelas".
    • In a Cutaway Gag, Peter sings "Iraq Lobster", a rendition of "Rock Lobster" from "The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire".
      Peter: (while strumming a guitar) Death to America... and butter sauce!
    • During one of his rants, Jeff mentions that he doesn't like yelling at Brenda when there's a cat in the room. This prompts Quagmire to casually mention that he got a new cat, after Peter killed his other cat James in "Episode 420".
    • Peter repeats the "carton of cigarettes" gag from "Trading Places".
    • When held at gunpoint by Jeff, Quagmire mentions his deaf brother Gary, who was previously mentioned in "Jerome Is The New Black".
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Jeff gets angry when Brenda hugs her brother after he woke up in the hospital. Even Peter states how bad his reaction was.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Jeff gives Quagmire one during the climax. The beaten and bloodied Quagmire only gets in a single punch.
  • Cut Himself Shaving:
    Brenda: I'd show you the ring, but it's under this splint. My finger fell down the stairs.
  • Darker and Edgier: While the episode has its usual brand of Black Comedy and cutaways, most of the focus is on Quagmire trying to save his sister from being abused, and there's more drama than comedy.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: Jeff's backstory is never elaborated on and the origin of his relationship with Brenda is never explored. His surname is also Fecalman, further showing how he's a terrible human being.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Quagmire comes up with the idea of murdering Jeff since there isn't anything redeemable about him and both Joe and Peter agree to murder him in order to save Brenda and the unborn baby. They didn't think of the possibility of Brenda having a mental illness (i.e Stockholm Syndrome) or ending her romanticized delusion of Jeff. They instead choose to murder him without breaking her delusion of a healthy relationship, which may lead to another abusive relationship in turn.
  • Dirty Cop: Joe, once again, but this time, it's justified. After initially refusing to let Quagmire murder Jeff, Joe changes his mind.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: As per his character, Jeff horribly abuses Brenda for things like changing the channel without his permission, not immediately getting him a beer, and hugging her brother who had just woke up from a coma.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: During the intervention, Peter says he wants to tell some jokes, to which Lois objects.
    Peter: Now's a perfect time for me to tell my jokes.
    Lois: Peter!
    Peter: And I will save 'em for the end.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: As stupid as Peter is, he does make a valid point to Joe that he should just arrest Jeff for his actions. Joe, however, just says he cannot do so until Brenda reports him (ignoring that he was present as the abuse was going on).
  • Embarrassing Last Name: Quagmire mentions that Jeff's surname is Fecalman.
  • Erotic Asphyxiation: Quagmire nearly kills himself this way, which turns out to be an asset when Jeff nearly kills him, as he's strangled himself sexually so many times, he can't feel it anymore.
  • Everyone Has Standards: For all the crap Peter and Lois do to each other and their children (mostly in the name of sick humor), they are aghast witnessing Jeff beating Quagmire's sister.
  • Exploited Immunity: Quagmire risks his life so much strangling himself, he can barely feel it when Jeff tries to kill him that way.
  • Extreme Doormat: Brenda. Played for Drama, as her doormat ways makes her a punching bag for Jeff and Quagmire tells her that she doesn't deserve to be called a woman because a real woman wouldn't stand for the abuse. What's worse, she never grows a backbone or realizes that the abuse is detrimental to her self-esteem even after getting a letter saying that Jeff is dead, meaning that she'll probably get a new abusive boyfriend and the cycle will start all over.
  • Flat Character: Despite their relationship causing the episode's conflict, Jeff and Brenda are not fleshed out as characters beyond their roles as abuser and victim. This episode is their only major appearance in the show, and aside from a silent cameo by Brenda in Season 18's "Coma Guy", neither have appeared or been mentioned since.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Even with his violence, Brenda is in complete denial of Jeff's toxicity towards her, even when Quagmire and the others try to make it clear to her.
    Lois: You know, you don't have to stay with a man who treats you that way.
    Brenda: Oh, Jeff's sweet.
  • Hypocrite:
    • During his speech to Brenda, Quagmire tells her women are "strong, beautiful, vibrant creatures that embrace life", even though he has been established as a sexist pervert who regularly treats women like objects.
    • Joe says he cannot arrest Jeff unless Brenda reports him, despite witnessing the abuse himself. And yet, he has the nerve to threaten to arrest Quagmire simply for suggesting they kill Jeff.
    • The gang lectures Brenda about how she should learn to stand up for herself and stop putting up with Jeff's treatment, except they do nothing whenever Jeff assaults her right in front of them.
    • Lois calls out Brenda for being submissive towards Jeff, ignoring the fact that she herself is often submissive towards Peter, who mistreats both her and her children. Not to mention how she herself has forced Peter and others to be submissive to her.
  • I Can Change My Beloved: During the intervention for Brenda, Meg's speech basically boils down to "If he likes you, maybe you can change him." Joe is not amused.
    Joe: Okay! Maybe she wasn't the one to start with.
  • Incest Subtext: Lampshaded by Jeff in his paranoid way when he goes mad by seeing Brenda and Quagmire simply hugging.
    Peter: Relax, Jeff, that's her brother.
    Jeff: (angrily) Yeah, that's how it starts!
  • Inner Monologue: When Quagmire doesn't show up for the fishing trip, Peter and Joe each have one.
    Peter's Brain: Jeez, I've never tried to make conversation with just Joe before. This is brutal.
    Joe's Brain: Come on, Joe, you're losing him.
    Joe: Two thirds of the planet is water.
    Peter: Yeah.
    Peter's Brain: Two thirds of the planet is water? This guy's okay..
  • Insult Backfire: When he prepares to kill Quagmire, Jeff mockingly laments that his and Brenda's child will have to grow up without an uncle. Quagmire casually mentions that he and Brenda actually have another brother, Gary, and Jeff also has his own brother.
  • Karmic Death: Quagmire is able to finish off Jeff by running him into a tree.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Jeff. Unlike all the other villains on the show, he has no comedic qualities whatsoever, and his abuse of Brenda and trying to kill Quagmire are some of the darkest moments of the show.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Quagmire is perfectly willing to murder somebody if it means his sister won't get hurt. Not that said guy didn't deserve it.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Brenda's song to the unconscious Quagmire mentions the next day as being October 31, 2011, the day after this episode's airdate.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: After Joe hears Jeff beating Brenda from Quagmire's house.
    Joe: Let's waste this dick.
  • Love Martyr: Brenda. In. FUCKING. Spades.
  • Mondegreen Gag: When Peter says he doesn't know what a Portuguese is, it triggers a Cutaway Gag with a two geese sitting on a porch (a porch of geese).
    Peter: That's what I thought what a Portuguese was. Me and my brain. And we're just getting started!
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: A particularly infamous case. The episode suggests that the best, if not only way to save an abuse victim is to outright kill the abuser! Not arrest them. Not give them an intervention like they did with the victim. Not even kill them in your own home. Just take them out in the woods and pull the trigger!
  • Never Trust a Title: Despite the episode being called Screams Of Silence - a phrase used to refer to abuse happening in secret behind closed doors - the majority of Jeff's abuse towards Brenda is shown publicly in front of all the other characters. Yet the episode still claims the other characters can do nothing about it.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: TV spots for this episode only had a few comedic moments (like the "Iraq Lobster" cutaway or Peter attempting to tell jokes at the intervention), when this episode put much more emphasis on drama (which, to be fair, would be hard to include in promos).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: While the men attempt to kill Jeff in order to fix Brenda's problem, it's indicated that they actually ended up worsening her problem because they never helped Brenda recover from the abuse, meaning her situation will eventually just start all over again.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Jeff beats Quagmire to a bloody pulp in the climax.
  • No Indoor Voice: Jeff. The closest he ever gets to being Played for Laughs is the fact that he tends to scream even when he doesn't have any reason to be angry.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Despite the name "Screams of Silence", Jeff makes no attempt to hide his abuse, nor does Brenda ever once display even the most subdued sign of dissatisfaction with Jeff.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • A rather satisfying case with Jeff, as Quagmire chases him down in his car.
    • And a bit earlier with Quagmire when he sees Jeff pointing a shotgun to his head.
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: Peter, Joe, and Quagmire successfully murder Jeff and are able to save Brenda and the baby from his abuse. However, Brenda is left heartbroken by Jeff's disappearance and still suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, possibly leading to another abusive relationship.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Quagmire's speech to Brenda. Considering how Quagmire treats women like sex objects (and often date rapes them), hearing him tell Brenda that women are beautiful, strong, vibrant, and don't deserve to be punching bags to men, you know he's not as misogynistic as the episodes play him out to be.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Quagmire decides to murder Jeff in order to stop his abuse of Brenda for good.
  • Police Are Useless: Joe at first, until he decides to allow Peter and Quagmire to murder Jeff.
    Joe: Sorry, Quagmire. Police policy — we can't step in until it's too late.
  • Power Fantasy: The episode is definitely more this than it is a Very Special Episode about domestic violence: Quagmire is the chivalrous hero who saves his Damsel in Distress sister from her evil abusive boyfriend.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "I choke myself every day, you bastard!!!"
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality:
    • Because Jeff beats Brenda for little to no reason, he deserves to die. Peter Griffin, on the other hand, regularly uses his daughter Meg as a punching bag (often for his own amusement), and yet he is supposedly in the right for trying to help Quagmire kill Jeff.
    • Quagmire the Serial Rapist is somehow a hero compared to Jeff.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Quagmire's "heartfelt" speech to Brenda.
    Quagmire: The person I see before me right now is just a punching bag. And I call you "person," not "woman," because a woman is a strong, beautiful vibrant creature. Sadly, the fact that you are with Jeff proves to me that you have made a choice to make your life worse.
  • Red Live Lobster: The dancing Iraq lobster in a cutaway gag is red.
  • Retcon: Brenda was originally named Harriet when she appeared in "Jerome is the New Black".
  • Revenge Is Not Justice: Subverted. After learning that Brenda is pregnant and that Jeff has begrudgingly agreed to marry her. Peter and Quagmire decide to murder Jeff out of revenge for abusing Brenda and to protect both her and the baby. Joe threatens to arrest them since it's still murder but he changes his mind when he sees Jeff beat Brenda.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Joe was initially against Quagmire's plan to kill Jeff since murder is a crime, but changes his mind after seeing how abusive Jeff is.
  • Selective Enforcement: Joe threatens to arrest Quagmire for suggesting murder against Jeff to stop the abuse, yet he never bothered to arrest Jeff for beating up Brenda right in the open.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Quagmire, Joe, and Peter witness Jeff beating Brenda in silhouette.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Jeff knocks out Peter and Joe before the episode's climax, and Brian and Stewie have no real role in this episode (Brian was in the hospital scene and Stewie was in the opening). Outside of the cutaway gags, the Gwyneth Paltrow/yellow lab Take That!, and Lois trying to stop Peter from cracking jokes at Brenda's intervention, this episode barely has any laughs. The only jokes that consistently correlate with the plot (involving Brenda and Jeff) are often hard to enjoy due to being juxtaposed with Jeff's horribly abusive treatment of her, such as claiming "If today wasn't your birthday..." while beating her, or freaking out because she changed the channel or criticized him in front of Quagmire's cat.
  • Smart Ball: Jeff is largely a violent idiot, but he proves to be well-aware that Quagmire hates him and that the group took him out to the woods to kill him.
  • Take That!:
    • At police officers in general when Joe states the policy.
    • Also...
      Peter: Aw, that yellow lab looks like it's dying.
      Lois: Peter, that's Gwyneth Paltrow. She's fine.
  • Tempting Fate: Joe says that his words are final about refusing to arrest Jeff... until they hear loud slap and hear Jeff yelling at Brenda for changing the channel.
  • There Are No Therapists: Nobody considers the possibility of Brenda having Stockholm Syndrome or a psychological defense mechanism for Jeff's abuse. Instead, they believe Brenda is staying with Jeff out of blind love and decide to murder Jeff so he doesn't hurt her or anyone else anymore.
  • Tranquil Fury: Joe lets out only one sentence that conveys this trope after he sees Jeff beating Brenda, and he conveys it beautifully.
    Joe: Let's waste this dick.
  • Undying Loyalty: Even after all of the abuse, Brenda still remains loyal to Jeff. Not that it's good for her self-esteem or health.
  • Very Special Episode: This dark episode touches on Quagmire's sister Brenda and her life affected with domestic abuse and violence.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: In-Universe and Lampshaded. When Brenda sings to Quagmire the song they sang when they were kids to wake him up, her lyrics are about him dying of autoerotic asphyxiation, Brian remarks, "This is a song from childhood?"
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Glenn Quagmire resorts to killing Jeff, and Joe, a police officer, allows this after seeing Jeff's actions for himself.
  • Would Hurt a Child: It's heavily implied that Jeff would hurt his unborn child. Quagmire fears this as he believes that if Jeff continues hurting Brenda, odds are he's going to abuse the baby too.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: During their fight, Jeff tries to choke Quagmire to death. He appears to die, but after Jeff walks off begins digging his grave, we see Quagmire has gotten behind the wheel of the car.