"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Name Is Earl: Orphan Earl

For a group of people who celebrate the holidays by decorating passed out drunks as if they were Christmas trees, the cast of clowns in Camden always find a way to enjoy the true spirit of the season. Of course, the story of how they get to that point is the fun part.

Earl used to be the local expert on ripping people off. One time in particular, he and Joy hatched a scheme to exploit generous people by obtaining donations for starving children in Africa. The only money they got was a $100 check from a kindly man named Arthur Hill. When Earl tracks the man down to return the money, he discovers that Joy has been sending letters from a fake child called Umbungo -- she sends pictures of Earl Jr. posing as the child along with everything from report cards to pictures of him with a "really hot American tourist (Joy)."

As it turns out, Joy's gotten two of her friends in on the action as well and Hill is sending three donation checks a month. Upset that the generous man is being taken for a ride and even enjoying it, Earl asks Joy to stop. Guess where that gets him — nowhere. Things seemingly take a turn for the worse when Randy finds out Mr. Hill has died while reading comics/obits, as is his habit. The man has left his considerable fortune to his three favorite (fake) charities. Joy and her cronies follow Earl and Randy as they break into Hill's house to find out who is lawyer is and inform him of the scam taking place.

When Earl gives Randy the will and tells him to go on foot in the hopes that Joy will follow him in his car to the lawyer's office, Joy has other plans. She takes the will from Randy and goes to the lawyer herself, only to find that Earl has spilled the beans already. However, the crooked lawyer offers to make sure they get their money in exchange for a small sum upfront and sex with Joy's friend. After a trip to a loan shark, the deal is done and Joy has won.

Or has she? I have to say I was a little suspicious when Earl gave the will to Randy, but I definitely didn't see Earl's masterful scam coming. Mr. Hill never died, there was no will, the lawyer was Earl's hired gun, and the money Joy got from the loan shark was to pay back Mr. Hill. All of this was jaw-droppingly awesome and one of the coolest things Earl's ever done. Mr. Hill wasn't as impressed as me though — he was more upset that all that he cared for (giving to the charities) was a lie.

Earl takes him to the trailer park to cheer him up by laughing at the wrongdoers, but there's no laughing to be done. They find everyone's homes in shambles due to a set of circumstances stemming from having to use their money to pay back the loan shark. The ever kind and generous Hill sees a new opportunity for charity and renewed purpose and gives everyone the money they need to get back on their feet. But in the end, he's given even more than he knew as the others follow his good example and learn the error of their ways.

It's great to see that even though Earl now uses his powers for good, his skills at being a scam artist and taking everyone for a ride are still intact. I thought this was a very well-written plot in terms of how that big surprise was orchestrated, but part of me wonders if I'm just a sucker and should have seen it coming a little more.

And now for a few funny moments:

Randy's research for his book on tasting non-food items called "I Have A Curious Tongue." "Cactus: Painful, but worth it." "Hair: Tastes like marijuana."

Earl and Joy's shoddy attempt at inventing facts about starvation in Africa. "9 out of 10 African children die every minute."

As a result of Joy's wrath, Earl apparently has only nine toes.

Joy's friend plans on using her new fortune to buy a "fur coat with the head still on it. Yeah, this bitch is real!"

Randy fakes getting into an argument in the car with Earl and yells "How can you say that about the soldiers, Earl, they're fighting for our freedom!"

Mr. Hill explains that his life isn't too eventful: "Sure, I like rodeo, and I do like to whittle, but not all that much."

When Earl gets Joy's refrigerator back, she's happy that she doesn't have to "keep the kids' antibiotics by the air conditioner" anymore.

The accurate depictions of Joy, Darnell, Earl Jr. and Dodge in Christmas cookie format.

Randy is constantly unaware of Earl's scams and compliments him when he finds out the truth. "Oh, man, I cried so much, you have no idea. I can't even tell you about the nightmares I've been having." And at the end, the ultimate show of Randy's gullibility: "I believed in that list for like, three years!"

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