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Recap / Mystery Science Theater 3000 S 11 E 04 Avalanche

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"Spoiler! Geez."

Kinga Forrester: Your experiment today is Avalanche, a disaster film in a very literal sense. Prepare to be buried under a mountain of bad acting and failed romantic chemistry.

Film Watched: Avalanche.

The Segments:

  • Crow and Tom Servo are workshopping their new TV drama, Mad Bots.

Segment 1

  • Invention exchange time. Jonah and the bots invent an eco-friendly mouth-powered vacuum cleaner. Kinga "invents" Don La Font-aine 3000, a computer that takes any phrase and turns it into a cool movie logo.note 

Segment 2

  • Tom Servo and Crow attempt to emulate their new hero: David Shelby, Rock Hudson's character in the film. Jonah has to set them straight on why this is a bad idea.

Segment 3

  • Jonah and the bots are playing Marco Polo when Kinga gets a "visit" from her online boyfriend, Neville DeRoy. They sing a duet about how an internet relationship is so much better than a meatspace one. Meanwhile, Max pines for Kinga.

Segment 4

  • Jonah and the bots get serious for a moment and talk about a real problem: stupid-on-purpose, hybrid B-movies.

Segment 5

  • The Satellite of Love hosts "Aloha: an Evening of Songs and Stories with Florence Gypsy." Even the Mads are moved by Gypsy's performance.

Tropes Used In This Episode:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Various jokes about Mia Farrow's paramours, Woody Allen and Frank Sinatra.
    • McDade's actor, Steve Franken, was also in The Time Travelers, so Jonah and the bots comment on it several times.
      Crow: It's me, Danny from Time Travelers!
    • In one of the host segments, Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day share a romantic duet.
  • Actor/Role Confusion: Jonah and the bots almost exclusively refer to David and Caroline as Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow, respectively. Crow and Tom Servo even think that Rock Hudson acted like his character from this movie in real life.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Alcoholic: Quite a few jokes about the elderly Florence's drinking.
    Gypsy: Unfortunately, there's so much alcohol in her body, she's basically a human explosive.
    [The car explodes.]
    Crow: Yep. There she goes.
    Tom: Even the fire smells like gin.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Tom Servo and Crow mistake David Shelby for the ultimate ladies' man, and think his complete disregard for the women around him is an essential part of his charm.
    Servo: He doesn't know what women want, and he doesn't care. There's something magical about that.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Kinga has a Long-Distance Relationship with Neville, but he breaks it off when Kinga tries to meet him in person. And TV's Son of TV's Frank reveals his unrequited crush on Kinga.
  • Analogy Backfire:
    Bruce Scott: I ski like I talk, or breathe, or make love.
    Servo: Unconvincingly?
  • Ascended Fanboy: Neil Patrick Harris is a longtime fan of MST3K. He previously recorded a RiffTrax podcast with Mike Nelson, riffing on Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    Jonah: We ordered too many white cherry Icees! Aaaugh!
    Servo: Yeah, yeah. You asked for an avalanche of flavor, and now you got it, huh? Not enjoying it, are you?
  • Bookends: The movie's bookended by scenes of Caroline pulling up to the lodge in a taxi, prompting Crow to panic: "Oh, no, the movie's starting over!"
  • Broken Pedestal: Tom Servo and Crow initially mistake Rock Hudson's character for a role model. By the movie's end, Crow is thoroughly disgusted at the character's nigh-Karma Houdini status. When the movie hints at the possibility of Rock Hudson getting back together with his ex-wife:
    Crow: If they get back together now, I'm gonna kill myself.
  • But Now I Must Go:
    Jonah: (as Nick Thorne) Wherever there's a risk of natural disaster and photography, I'll be there. Perhaps some California town suffering wildfires needs some portraiture. Or a dusty, tornado-prone town in Oklahoma requires some still lifes. I'll be there.
  • Bystander Effect: When the news crew starts filming an in-progress disaster, Jonah credits them with kickstarting the trend of bystanders recording disasters instead of helping.
  • Call-Back:
    • The aforementioned Actor Allusion about how McDade also played Danny in the previous experiment, The Time Travelers.
    • "I want to hear 'California Lady'!"
    • "Joe Don Baker!"
    • Gypsy puts on another one-woman show. Her new ceiling-based setup allows her to hang a mannequin body from her neck (here she wears a purple dress), a gag which will will return in future episodes.
  • The Cameo: Neil Patrick Harris as Neville, a magician whom Kinga is head over heels for.
  • Cannot Convey Sarcasm: After the lodge has been trashed by the avalanche:
    Caroline: Nice view.
    Servo: (as Caroline) I'm being sarcastic, but you can't tell because my face is immobile.
  • Captain Obvious: "Yep, it's snow, all right. Just as I suspected."
  • Casting Gag: Neil Patrick Harris is a gay actor playing a straight love interest, just like Rock Hudson in the film.
  • The Chanteuse: "Florence" Gypsy, a washed-up torch singer doing a comeback number of the kind you might see at an after-dinner show in a certain kind of tropical or ski resort from a certain era/for people of a certain age.
  • Cliché Storm: invoked
    Servo: "No time to lose"? What is this, the Cliche Squad?
    Crow: That's what I'm talking about.
    Jonah: Let's do this thing!
    Crow: A stitch in time saves— Oh, forget it.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: "Nothing to do but sit back and enjoy America's Funniest Home Videos on ABC. Haha! He died!"
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The avalanche of the title doesn't happen until the last quarter of the movie, so we get way too much time developing way too many characters (only a handful of which turn out to be doomed). After a while, the bots get sick and tired of waiting for the avalanche to flatten everyone in the resort, so they break out cymbals in the hopes of triggering it themselves.
    Crow: You know, not that I'm complaining, but by this point, Gene Hackman was already halfway through the Poseidon.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: When further deaths happen after the avalanche just because of bad driving, Jonah complains that they really can't blame those on the avalanche.
  • Distant Duet: Kinga and Neville, separated by the vacuum of space, sing "Our Love Is on Wings (You Can't See)", a duet about their physical separation.
  • Dull Surprise:
    Crow: It really says something that this avalanche has more emotional range than Mia Farrow.
    Servo: Yeah, why do you think the avalanche got top billing?
  • Elephant in the Living Room: The fact that Rock Hudson was gay in Real Life. The Casting Gag with Neil Patrick Harris is a subtle nod to it, but nobody ever overtly mentions it, and some of the Actor/Role Confusion jokes play out as if Jonah and the bots are completely unaware. Especially notable is the host segment where Servo and Crow wonder how many Hollywood starlets Rock Hudson romanced. Jonah sets them straight, not by pointing out that Rock Hudson was more interested in men, but by explaining how his character's behavior in the film was the product of a less enlightened time and not something they should emulate.
  • Eight Deadly Words: "You know, if I didn't care about these people's safety during the avalanche, I really don't care now."
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: In-Universe: After rejecting David's example, Jonah and the bots decide that the one character they can look to as a role model is McDade.
  • Epic Fail: Jonah and the Bots are in total disbelief when the rescue teams cause further disasters just driving to and from the avalanche scene.
    [One rescue truck drops a first aid box.]
    Crow: That wasn't even caused by the avalanche! They're just completely incompetent!
    Jonah: They should change the name of this movie from Avalanche to just General Catastrophe.
    [The police car wipes out, kills a pedestrian, and trashes a store.]
    Tom: Oh, so now we're seeing collateral deaths from the idea of an avalanche?
    Crow: What's next, someone cutting their finger on the newspaper reading about it?!
  • Failed a Spot Check: Neil Patrick Harris forgot to take off his wedding ring. (Or maybe Neville is more of a Jerkass than we thought.)
  • False Flag Operation: The bots joke that the avalanche was an inside job, and David somehow profited off it.
  • Fonts: Discussed. Kinga's invention, Don La Font-aine 3000, automatically turns any phrase into a movie logo—which Kinga erroneously refers to as a "cool movie font".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: All the B-movie titles Jonah and the bots snatched up the rights for. The list scrolls by way too fast to read without pausing.
  • Hey, That's My Line!:
    Max: Enter the nightmare-fueled world that is Avalanche!
    Kinga: Hey! I say that.
    Max: I thought we were taking turns on it?
    Kinga: Never.
  • I Meant to Do That: Crow riffs this after Bruce outruns a small avalanche and ends up jumping into a tree.
  • Irony:
    • After the avalanche, David Shelby notices his award sitting in the wreckage. "Yeah, there's some irony for you. It's called the Avalanche Award, isn't it?"
    • "Mother always took her drinks on ice. Believe me, that irony is not lost on me when reflecting on her untimely death."
  • It's All About Me: Caroline is safe from the avalanche. When she finally notices it: "All these screams of torment and gigatons of sliding snow are making it really tough to focus on my morning meditation."
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: This episode reunites Felicia Day with her Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog co-star, Neil Patrick Harris. Appropriately enough, they sing a duet.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When there's a closeup on a spinning car-top light, Jonah declares, "Oh, it's Commercial Sign!" And then an actual Ad Bumper immediately follows.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Jonah reacts to the arrival of yet another named character, a random skier, by mentioning that this feels like a Marvel movie.
  • Long-Distance Relationship: Kinga and Neville dated over the internet and have yet to meet in person.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: "Get out of the way, strapping young man. Let me show you how a 4'11" figure skater can dig."
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Servo calls Caroline this by name in the final scene.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-Universe, Crow and Tom are quite interested in Rock Hudson's character, seeing him as the ultimate ladies' man and a role model to aspire to. Jonah has to tell them that, no, he isn't admirable at all.
  • Monochrome Casting: As the snow comes tumbling down: "Just when you thought this movie couldn't get any whiter."
  • Mood-Swinger: David. "In high school, he was voted Most Likely to Have Sudden Mood Swings."
  • Mythology Gag: During one of the commercial bumpers, Max explains that the liquid remains of each experiment are stored on Moon 13 so that the episode can be preserved permanently "so you don't have to!" Which likely refers to how, in the original series, fans had to do exactly that in order to keep the episodes around.
  • Never My Fault:
    • "Well, it's been a really big day. A lot of property damage, a lot of lives lost. But as least I know none of it's my fault."
    • At the end, David finally does admit his fault:
    David: I caused all this. I am responsible.
    Caroline: You've never said that.
    Crow: (as David) Well, there's a good reason for that, because the other times I killed everyone, I was right.
  • Never Trust a Title: Kinga's Don La Font-aine 3000 might need some recalibration, since it keeps making logos whose apparent genre doesn't match the title at all. I Wanna Do One is a "Ladies' weepie—unfulfilled dreams, repressed desires, you know, that sort of thing." And A Lighthearted Neil Simon Project is "a balls-to-the-walls action flick". And Okay, We Get It is apparently the next Star Wars film.
  • Noodle Incident: When Caroline adjusts her scarf: "Make sure I don't get this caught in the revolving door again."
  • Obvious Stunt Double:
    • In the scene where young Jason dangles from the damaged ski lift, Jonah notes that his stunt double is clearly a grown man.
    • And Mia Farrow's stunt double is conspicuously larger than she is:
    Servo: You can tell it's a stunt man because she has weight and dimension.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Mia Farrow is a wood elf, according to Jonah and the bots. "It's not you. I'm a wood elf. We don't show affection through kissing. We exchange syrup."
  • Ow, My Body Part!: "My spleen and kidneys!" "My scapula!" "My everything else!"
  • Playing Gertrude: "He plays my son, but we're the same age." note 
  • Rooting for the Empire: Jonah and the bots try to trigger the avalanche early by crashing cymbals. When it finally does arrive, they cheer the avalanche on as it buries Bruce, the skeevy skier.
  • Running Gag:
    • After Rock Hudson's character promises lunch and fails to deliver, twice, Jonah and the bots get obsessed with finally eating the promised lunch.
    • Nick Thorne is introduced criticizing the ongoing construction of David's chalet as unsafe, leading the guys to spend the rest of the movie characterizing him as obsessed with making sure everything is up to code.
  • Russian Reversal: "Up here, you don't head for mountains. The mountains head for you."
  • Scenery Censor: Crow and Tom use a couple of drones to block full female nudity. They end up crashing them when it ends.
  • The '70s: Lots of jokes about the decade. "Disco fever afflicted everybody back then."
    Servo: Try to look on the bright side: it'll be The '80s soon.
  • Shipper on Deck: Jonah and the Bots seem to really like the idea of Florence/McDade.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shower of Angst: "I like to relax with a nice brisk, hot shower to feel cleansed after watching a creepy skeezy 70s nightclub scene."
  • Slo-Mo Big Air: "You know, it's technically illegal to film ski jumps at standard frame rates. See?"
  • Slow-Motion Fall: "Oh, really? He fell in slow-motion and they still couldn't get the net under him in time?"
  • Society Marches On: "Remember when we could laugh about alcoholism? Good times."
  • Special Effect Failure: "Whoa, the grips are really chucking that snow out there. Especially the one on the right. It's coming down in intermittent handfuls."
    Jonah: I didn't know snow was so combustible.
    Servo: It's not, but styrofoam is!
  • Stealing the Credit: David stands back as the firefighters rescue young Jason. When Jason lands in their net, David picks him up and carries him away, at which point:
    Servo: (as David) I did it. I saved the boy. You all saw me. Me!
  • Stealing the Handicapped Spot: When David's helicopter lands: "Hey, that's a handicapped spot!"
  • Stock Scream: When Mark gets electrocuted and falls, Crow notes that it's a missed opportunity for a Wilhelm Scream. At Jonah's suggestion, Crow supplies the scream himself, but it comes out sounding more like a Howie Long Scream.
  • Strangled by the Red String: After Caroline has her awkward first conversation with Nick Thorne: "Wow. She has even less on-screen chemistry with this guy than she did with Rock Hudson."
  • Super OCD: After Nick Thorne raises a fuss about a construction project making the slopes unsafe, the riffers portray him criticizing everything along those same lines. "Sliding door? Not up to code—won't withstand an avalanche." "That towel? Not up to code!"
  • Take That!:
    • During the "Don La-Font-aine" skit, the phrase "Okay, we get it" prompts the machine to display it in the Star Wars font.
    • "Jeannette? So many new characters. It's like the third season of Lost."
    • The skit with the Long List of "stupid-on-purpose hybrid B-movie" titles pokes fun at movies like Birdemic and Sharknado.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: As a skier tries to outrun the avalanche, Crow tells him to "Turn around and try to reason with it!"
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    Caroline: (to hotel desk clerk) I have a reservation.
    Jonah, Servo, and Crow: So do we!
  • Toilet Humor:
    David: This is the big one!
    Crow: [farting noise]
    Jonah: Thank God these snow pants are watertight. I'll have to go easy on the bumps on the way down. Poop joke! See ya!
  • Translation: "Yes":
    Caroline: Vive le roi.
    Jonah: That's French for "Thanks for inviting me to your terrible resort, ignoring me all day, killing your mom, and still being alive at the end of it all."
  • The World Is Not Ready: Jonah and the bots buy up the rights to as many hybrid B-movie titles as they can, to prevent cynical film studios from actually making any of them.
  • Would Rather Suffer: "Try and kiss me, and I'll drop us both into your mother's burning remains. I am serious."


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