Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Name Is Earl: "Faked My Own Death" review


            We start out with Earl and Randy returning to the local Quick Stop to return the numerous snacks that they stole during their thieving days. While doing this list item, Earl notices a woman walk in…Natalie Duckworth (Beth Riesgraf). She’s another item on Earl’s list. Earl doesn’t feel like tackling this particular list item at the moment, so he climbs inside the beverage refrigerator and tries to hide among the beers. He should hide among the Budweiser brand; no one in their right mind buys those.

            In a flashback, we see Earl walk into a bar and meet a biker chick with a tramp stamp reading, “Wanna Ride?” She takes Earl home and they have a wild night on the bed together. In the morning, however, the girl reveals that she’s not really a biker chick. She had just been playing one at a costume party and remained in character at the bar to see if she could pick someone up. The tramp stamp was a temporary tattoo (that rubbed off onto Earl’s arm during the night). It turns out that Natalie Duckworth was a stereotypical girly-girl. She was always giggling, she was clingy, and her room was bright pink. It should be noted that this woman is not in High School; she’s in her thirties.  

            Earl knew he and she were not made for each other, but he didn’t want to run out on her because she’d been hurt before. Natalie shows Earl a little picture book she made consisting of the names of the guys who dumped her. This woman is not in grade school; she’s in her thirties. Earl is understandably uncomfortable that Natalie not only has kept a piece of her ex-boyfriend’s hair, but also a piece of hair from the stripper he ran off with. Earl decides to give the relationship a shot anyway. However, he’s not a fan of the things she’s interested, be it hiking, arts and crafts, or going on picnics. They had dated for a whole month when Natalie introduced Earl to her parents. That’s when Earl realized things were getting too serious, so he devised a way to get out without hurting her feelings.

            In the next scene, Randy knocks on Natalie’s door and informs her that Earl had died out at sea and that the only thing that was found was his AC-DC T-shirt.

            Back in the present, Natalie walks by Earl (who’s hiding amongst the milk cartons with pictures of missing persons on them). We cut to the motel, where Catalina is not happy to learn that Earl had faked her death to get out of a relationship. Earl wants to tell Natalie the truth, but Catalina protests that she’ll be devastated. Earl tells her that Natalie is on her list, so he has not choice, and Catalina asks him if his list is really more important than someone else’s feelings. Earl thinks his list is more important and Catalina tells him that the least he can do is say that the reason he couldn’t be with Natalie was because of him, not her. Earl doesn’t want to tell her that because it’s another lie, but Catalina tells him that it’s a “good lie,” to protect her feelings. Earl decides that Catalina is right, so he buys some flowers and then he and Randy head on over to Natalie’s house.

Natalie reacts exactly how you’d expect someone to react to seeing someone they thought was dead on her doorstep.

We see Earl explain his situation to Natalie while Randy stares anxiously at a bird-shaped glass bowl. Earl tells Natalie that he faked his death because he didn’t feel like he was good enough for her. Natalie had kept his shirt so she could remember Earl. She even made a life-size paper-Mache bust of Earl to wear it. Earl tells her that this is the kind of perfection that made him feel inadequate, briefly flashing back to when he head a similar line on a soap opera while flipping through channels at the motel. Before he and Natalie can get fully caught up, however, Natalie’s current boyfriend, Dirk, walks in from the gym. He asks Natalie if they’re being robbed, only for Natalie to explain that Earl is her dead ex-boyfriend. Dirk seems oddly cool about this.

Natalie thanks Earl for coming back to apologize to him. Earl tells Natalie he just wanted her to be happy, but is silently relieved that she has a new boyfriend because it makes crossing her off his list easier. Before he leaves, Natalie gives Earl the paper-Mache she made of him. She kisses it goodbye. Not Earl, the paper-Mache. Earl nervously makes the paper-Mache return the good-bye kiss, and then awkwardly says good-bye himself.

Back at the motel, Earl is feeling good about getting his apology to Natalie off his chest. He tries to cross Natalie off of his list but can’t find his pen. Just then, we hear someone knocking on the door. It’s Natalie! She informs Earl and Randy that Dirk’s car was found in the woods with blood in it. She’s worried he might be dead, although Earl, along with everyone in the audience, thinks that Dirk has simply stolen Earl’s idea on ending relationships. Earl tells Randy and Catalina to keep Natalie company while he goes to get her something to drink.

On his way to the vending machine, he discovers that Dirk with a hooker in one of the motel rooms. Big Surprise. Earl tells Dirk he’s supposed to be day, prompting Dirk to thank him for the idea as he was about to make a paper-Mache of himself and hang it at a picnic. The guy that goes to gym all the time is also a colossal tool. Again, big surprise. Dirk hides in his motel room as Natalie walks up to Earl. She tells him that she’s walking home and is going to wait to hear from the police.

At the crab shack, Earl plays pool with Randy and Catalina. Earl realizes that karma still wants him to do something about Natalie. Randy asks if Earl is going to tell Natalie that Dirk isn’t dead, but Catalina says that you can’t tell a girl that two different men faked their deaths in order to get away from her. She tells him to comfort Natalie, reasoning that if a man is nice to her, it will build up her confidence. Personally, I think someone needs to teach Natalie how adult relationships work because she seems to be mentally stuck at age 12.

Earl takes Catalina’s advice and goes to comfort Natalie. For several days, Natalie just waited around the house waiting for her phone to ring. Does her boss even care if she shows up for work or not? Earl decides to take her on hike in order to cheer her up. Over the next few days, Earl does the things Natalie likes doing, and slowly she starts to cheer up. This culminates going on a picnic. If you know where this is leading, congratulations on figuring out what most people did the second Earl decided to take Catalina’s advice. Natalie tells a bewildered Earl that she loves him and that she doesn’t want him to think that he’s not good enough for her. Like a butterfly that she caught, he got away but then he came back. And like a butterfly, he was trapped.

At the motel pool, Earl confronts Catalina, telling her that her advice didn’t work. Catalina simply responds that he was too nice to Natalie, and Earl angrily asks how he was supposed to know how nice was too nice. Randy offers to tell Natalie that Earl died again, but Catalina says that Earl should give her the power and let her break up with him. Earl wonders how to get Natalie to break up with the man she considers to be her soul mate. Catalina simply tells him to be a bad boyfriend.

Reluctantly, Earl tries his hardest to be a bad boyfriend. He kicks the flowers Natalie loves while on a hike, he makes a bust of her chest out of paper-Mache that “upped her a cup,” and even urinates right next to her picnic blanket. Natalie is so insecure about herself that she puts up with all of this. Earl decides to go the ultimate step and cheat on her. He and Catalina arrange to have her walk in on them having sex. When Earl asks her if he can “have some fun around her without getting hassled,” Natalie timidly apologizes and turns to leave. Earl incredulously hops out of bed and tells her that she should want to slap him for sleeping with another woman. Natalie asks him if he wants her to slap him and Earl decides to abandon the charade right there. He tells her the truth, that it is her that’s the problem and not him. She’s clingy, she has no self-respect, and she’s a doormat. That’s why guys are always leaving her. Natalie angrily responds that Earl is the problem because Dirk didn’t want to leave her or think she was a doormat. This illusion is immediately shattered when Dirk walks by the motel door. A heartbroken Natalie glares at Dirk, then at Earl, then at Dirk again before stormed out of the motel. Catalina isn’t happy with Earl, but he protests that she needed to hear that because once she accepted her faults, she would be a better person for the rest of her life.

The next scene shows Natalie in a casket at a church service while Earl’s narration informs us that the rest of her life wasn’t that long. The next day, Natalie’s parents told Earl that she was so distraught over two guys leaving her in the same day that she took her own life. Earl goes to put a flower in her hands…and she opens her eyes and grabs Earl’s hand. Earl and the rest of the parish freak out, with the priest panicking and fleeing out of the church entirely. Earl goes to hide behind a chair and Natalie sits up and taunts Earl. “Who’s the joke on now, Earl Hickey? Y-O-U!” Natalie asks him how it feels to think that someone you know is dead, and Earl realizes that by making her mad, he had given her the idea to fake her own death. This enabled her to leave a relationship with the power she needed.

Getting back at Earl gave her newfound confidence that allowed her to also walk up to Dirk and inform him that she’s breaking up with him. Also, she got Dirk’s mail—he has an STD! She also decides to show off her paper-Mache talents at the local art museum. With his task done, karma allows Earl to find a pen and cross Natalie off his list.

Best Quotes:

Natalie: -pointing to items in her diary- “This is Ted, he left me for a stripper. That’s a lock of his hair, and that’s a lock of the stripper’s hair. Here’s a lock of my sister’s hair, which leads us to John” –chokes back a tear—

Natalie: -pointing to a flower- “Look, an anthemis tinctoria!”
Earl: “Look at the size of that dog turd next to it!”

Earl: (voiceover) “Things were getting too serious. I knew there was only one thing I could do.”
(cut to Randy showing up on Natalie’s doorstep)
Randy: “Earl’s dead. He was lost at sea, this is all they found of him. I thought you’d want it.” –holds up Earl’s AC-DC T-shirt and then drops it on the doormat—

Randy: -to Earl hiding in a refrigerator- “Hey Earl, you look like that monkey in E.T!”

Randy: -about the flowers Earl bought- “Here, put some more baby’s breath in there. It fills in the gaps with neutral coloring.”
Earl: (voiceover) “It’s funny how the brain sucks things up. One summer, Randy worked at a florist shop for ten whole minutes.”
(flashback to Randy’s summer job)
Florist: “Put in some baby’s breath. It fills in the gaps with more neutral coloring.”
Randy: -drying a vase- “Ma’am, are these things always going to make that squeaky sound when I’m drying them? It makes my toes hurt.”

Catalina: “What is more important? Your list, or someone’s feelings?”
Earl: “I don’t know, my list?”
Catalina: “No.”
Randy: “Feelings! I’ll bet it’s feelings.”

Randy: “Maybe you listen to Catalina, Earl. She’s a woman, just like Natalie. They’re both women—her and Natalie. You and I are men; we’re not women.”
Earl: (voiceover) “Sometimes Randy takes a long road to a simple thought.”
Randy: “You see, men think different then women. You and I think different from Catalina and Natalie cause we’re men and they’re women.”
Earl: --thinks about this for a moment—
Randy: “I’m right, aren’t I? I’m not wrong?”

Earl: -knocks on Natalie’s door-
Natalie: -answers the door and gasps-
Earl: “Surprise.”
Natalie: -screams-
Randy: -screams-
Natalie: -runs away-
Randy: “Wow. That was just like in ET when that little girl first saw the monkey!”

Randy: “Catalina, how often do you clean the bedspreads?”
Catalina: “I don’t know, I’ve only worked here for a year.”

Randy: -about Natalie- “Earl, is she going to keep squeaking like that? It’s making my toes hurt.”

Randy: “Are you going to tell Natalie that Dirk isn’t dead? Because he’s not dead—he’s alive. He’s living. He’s not dead like she thinks he is.”

Catalina: “Maybe if a man is nice to her for a change, it will bring up her confidence. Trust me, I’m a woman.”
Randy: “That’s right, you’re a woman. Just like Natalie. She and Natalie are women, and we’re men, Earl. You remember how we talked about that?”
Earl: -annoyed- “Yeah, Randy, I got that.”

Earl: “I tried to make you a magical fairy, but instead I ended up with a magical clump”
(Earl hands Natalie a wad of paper-Mache)
Natalie: -excited- “Thanks. It’s a very nice clump. I’m going to name him Alexander!” –giggles- “Alexander the Clump!”
Earl: “How about Pepe? Pepe the Clump!”
Natalie: -laughs- “I don’t get it. Why Pepe?”
Earl: “Pepe’s a name. I think it’s Mexican.” (thinks for a bit) “Jose…Rico…yeah it’s Mexican!”

Dirk: “Hey Earl, is there a condom machine around here?”
Earl: (rolls eyes) “No, Dirk!”
Dirk: (grabs something from the housekeeper’s trolley) “Hey, what are these?”
Catalina: “Shower caps.”
Dirk: “That could work!”

Randy: (about the pool filter) “Hey, Catalina! The mouse catcher’s full again!”

Natalie: “Dirk didn’t think I was a doormat! He loved me for who I am!”
(Natalie turns to leave, only to see Dirk walk by)
Natalie: (gasps)
Dirk: (stops, and then waves at Earl and Natalie)
Natalie: (glares at Dirk, then at Earl, then at Dirk again, before storming out of the motel)
Dirk: “Hey Earl!”
Earl: (beyond irritated) “Are there no other motels in this town!?”

Natalie’s mother: “You could have at least told us you were faking!”
Natalie: “It had to seem real Mom, lighten up!”
(Natalie and her mother walk out into the hallway…and then we see Natalie’s father run down the hallway screaming, “She’s alive!”)

Natalie: “Hey Dirk, I’m still getting your mail!”
(Natalie throws Dirk’s mail onto his lap)
            Natalie: “It’s from the clinic. Somebody got themselves an STD!”
Dirk: “I can deal with that.”
Natalie: “Turn the page.”
(Dirk does so and gasps)
Dirk: “Aw crap! Damn shower caps!”

Randy: “I’m glad Natalie’s not dead anymore. Being alive is definitely better than being dead. When you’re alive, you can do all this cool stuff that you can’t do when you’re dead. You and I, Earl, we can doing all this cool stuff cause we’re living; we’re not dead. If we were dead, we wouldn’t be able to do all the cool stuff we could when we were alive. Dead people can’t do cool stuff. Only people who are alive can do cool stuff cause they’re living, and you have to be living in order to be able to do cool stuff.”
(Earl puts on a blindfold and gets ready to play piñata with his paper-Mache in the background)
Randy: “Except, when you’re alive, sometimes bad stuff happens to you.”
(Earl, facing in the wrong direction, swings his bad and knocks the lamp off the table and out the window)
Randy: “Sometimes you can get in a car wreck, or you can twist your ankle, or you can have a headache, or you can stub your big toe—“
(Earl takes off his blindfold and surveys the damage)
Randy: “So being alive is kind of hard, too, but I think it’s definitely better than being a-dead.”

Additional Notes:

When Earl is talking to Natalie in her living room, Randy is staring nervously at a glass bowl that’s shaped like a bird. We find out in a few episodes that Randy is terrified of birds.

Joy and Darnell do not appear in this episode.

The Quick Stop is a reference to the movie Clerks, which was made by Kevin Smith, a friend of Jason Lee. Jason Lee later appeared in Clerks II.

When Earl crosses off Natalie (#84) from his list, you can see some other list items around it. Here’s a few of the items I found:

#157: “Aimed and set off bottle rockets at Randy while he was on a date”
#158: “Made Randy steal electronics for me and he got caught”
#82: “Borrowed silverware from the Crab Shack”
#83: “Blew up mailboxes”
#85: “Took clothes—“ (the rest is obscured by Earl’s hand)


This episode is interesting in that it shows that even before Earl found karma, there were still some things he felt guilty about. He didn’t want to walk out on Natalie because she’d been hurt before. The fact that he had thoughts like this is probably what made it possible for him to have an epiphany. Earl also learns from Catalina that someone else’s feelings might be more important than crossing items off of his list—in fact, Earl has to help Natalie improve her self-respect before he can cross her off. This episode was difficult for me to review because I didn’t really like it all that much when I first saw it. However, it grew on me after repeated viewings.

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