Past Tense (Venture Bros. episode)

Infobox Television episode
Title=Past Tense
Series=The Venture Bros.
Airdate=16 October 2004
Writer= Jackson Publick
Director= Jackson Publick

Caption = "Now "that's" how it's done!"
Production = 1-12
Guests =
Prev=Tag Sale – You're It!
Next=The Trial of the Monarch

"Past Tense" is the eleventh episode in the first season of "The Venture Bros."


In an overcast cemetery, a priest solemnly recites a funeral rite and sprinkles a coffin with a handful of earth. On board the X-1, Dr. Venture struggles into a black suit. He accidentally kicks a control lever while putting on his pants, sending the jet hurtling towards the ground. Brock manages to avoid a crash, but the X-1 plows through the graveyard, crashing through dozens of graves and tombs and scattering remains. Venture asks the priest, who narrowly escaped death, where the Sorayama funeral is; the still-shaking priest indicates a nearby chapel with an unsteady hand.

The Ventures and Brock seat themselves in the pews. As Hank and Dean discuss funerals and death, it becomes apparent that Dean is under the impression that Brock only puts men to sleep... and that they are removed in sleeping bags instead of body bags. Dr. Venture launches into the first of many recollections about the dearly departed, Mike Sorayama.

In a flashback, Venture (who prefers being called "T. S." to "Rusty") is already starting to lose his hair, growing it long in back in an attempt at compensation. He also has an acne problem, but nonetheless seems even more illogically self-confident than in the present day. His friend Mike Sorayama is a young man, of Japanese descent, with a pronounced Minnesotan accent. Venture questions the introductory chemistry textbook he notices on Mike's desk, and Mike admits that he is tutoring a girl named Leslie Cohen. A young Pete White enters the room and proclaims that Mike has a "tiny, Chiney chubby" for Leslie. Ignoring Sorayama completely, White and Venture begin complaining about their new roommates. Venture's new roommate is some freshman football player he hardly ever sees, who turns out to be Brock Samson. White says that his new roomie is some foreign exchange-royalty type whose mother sent him a manservant. At that moment, the student in question stomps past, haranguing White for not observing the masking-tape division of their shared room. It is none other than Werner Ünderbheit, sporting a moplike head of hair, a tan and a fully intact jawline. As White and Venture laugh about Werner's haircut, Venture mentions a creepy guy in his creative writing class with extraordinarily long eyebrows and an obsession with Monarch butterflies. The flashback is broken with Hank's and Dean's disbelief that their father and Brock just happened to attend college with all these people.

Back in the present, the priest concludes the eulogy and asks the pallbearers to come forward. Venture, White, Brock, and Ünderbheit position themselves when shackles suddenly chain them to the coffin and a strange gas renders them unconscious. Small thrusters emerge from the coffin, which flies away carrying the four limp bodies.

Hank and Dean are somewhat unsure of what they should do. Hank calls The Monarch, who denies responsibility. Dean begins rooting through their father's belongings, finally locating a communication device. The boys use the device to contact an elderly gentlemen (who bears a striking resemblance to Sean Connery) lounging in Tangier. The man, Colonel Horace Gentleman, is surprised to hear from Hank and Dean but agrees to assemble the rest of the original Team Venture to help find their father.

In Kyoto, a large Japanese man is receiving a body massage when his tiny glasses begin beeping. He puts them on, revealing that they function as a communicator. Gentleman addresses the man as Kano and begins an explanation. Kano listens silently, then nods and stands. He folds a yen note into the shape of a crane for the masseuse and leaves. A half-man, half-fish creature knocks at a door in Brooklyn Heights and asks the resident if he has time to talk about the Lord. After the door closes in his face, the fish-man notices his watch flashing. The Action Man yells at his wife (both of whom were first seen in "Ghosts of the Sargasso") because the pieces of his old uniform are scattered around their Boca Raton home. Action Man, also known as Rodney, is no longer in prime physical condition, and has also grown somewhat absent-minded and grumpy.

Four women, dressed identically in mourning garb, carry the four pallbearers into a dungeon. They fasten iron collars around each of the captives' necks; a chain running through the wall connects Venture's and Brock's collars, while another connects White and Ünderbheit. The women file out of the cell and remove their black dresses, revealing that they are all feminine robots with the same human face but different-colored "swimsuits." A cloud of gas surrounds the prisoners, who begin to wake up. Samson immediately accuses Ünderbheit and attempts to attack him, nearly strangling Venture. Their attention turns to a television screen lowering from the prison's ceiling; the screen soon fills with the face of an older Mike Sorayama, thanking them for attending his funeral and threatening that theirs will be occurring soon.

The senior Team Venture arrives at the compound, and Horace introduces each of its members to the boys. Colonel Gentleman himself is an adventurer extraordinaire, Kano is the mute master of the martial arts who communicates only through origami, the fish-man is exiled son of Atlantis Otto Aquarius, and Action Man... well, he is rather flatulent.

As the four prisoners are served a "last meal" by the feminine robots, Brock notices their resemblance to Sorayama's college crush Leslie Cohen. Sorayama breathlessly boasts of the perfection of his "Lesliebots," then indicates that he intends to kill each of the prisoners for the unbearable (and as yet unnamed) insults they subjected him to during their university years.

The newly reformed Team Venture discuss a plan for finding the missing doctor. As it turns out, Jonas Venture implanted a tracking device in his son's molar to help thwart his occasional kidnappings as a child. When Dr. Orpheus enters looking for his cat, the elderly heroes assume that he is a villain and attack. Hank and Dean explain that he is a friend, but not before Orpheus takes a bullet in the upper arm. As revenge for Action Man's brutality, Orpheus gives him the exact date of his death from a stroke.

Another flashback shows Sorayama inhaling deeply from a bong while Ünderbheit, White and Venture (who are having trouble stifling their laughter) ensure him that the substance inside is high-quality marijuana. When Sorayama begins acting as if he is getting high, the other three joyously tell him that he is only smoking oregano. Still rolling on the floor, Mike weakly says that he is allergic to oregano. In the current-day jail cell, Sorayama snarls that his near-death experience caused him to cancel a study date with his precious Leslie. Ünderbheit detaches his metal jaw and launches it at one of the Lesliebots and attempts to grab the android, but it shocks him into unconsciousness.

Kano confidently pilots the X-1 as Team Venture follows the signal from the tracking device. Under questioning from Hank, Otto explains that his half-Atlantean nature gives him longer life and his relatively youthful appearance. He has also converted to a Jehovah's Witness, which led him to swear off violence while attempting to convert others to his beliefs. Arriving at the source of the signal, the team busts into a dorm room and scares the hell out of a reading student. Kano locates the tooth containing the device under a bed, and the older men realize that this was "Rusty's" old room. The student they interrupted mentions in puzzlement that if Sorayama is dead, he has not heard: the youth is studying for Professor Sorayama's class.

In yet another flashback, Mike is listening to the radio in his dorm room while reading. Pete White, the college station's disc jockey, reads a fake dedication declaring Mike's love for Leslie and that he masturbates nightly while thinking about her. As the present-day Sorayama accuses Venture of the greatest betrayal of all, Brock discreetly saws through his chain using Ünderbheit's jaw.

Team Venture has finally located Sorayama's headquarters. Otto distracts the Lesliebots with a religious message long enough for the remainder of the team to charge in and disable the robots. Kano, Gentleman and the Action Man celebrate by shouting, "Go Team Venture" and putting their hands together while making a V with their fingers. Unlike the rather silly way that Hank and Dean do the same salute, when done by the proper Team Venture their hands glow and a bright rotating logo appears behind them.

Another college memory reveals Ünderbheit, White and Venture engaging in a session of Dungeons & Dragons with Sorayama as Dungeon Master. After the players scoff at Mike's invention of a "Leslie Golem," Venture seduces the creature with a roll of the dice. The present-day Venture points out that the absurdity of anyone taking offense at such a trivial detail, but Sorayama angrily barks that he saw Leslie leaving the room the next morning. Briefly puzzled, Venture admits that he had not lost his virginity until the age of 24, so it must have been... Brock, who shorts the electronic cell lock with Ünderbheit's jaw. Meanwhile, a few rooms away, the elderly members of Team Venture begin donning portions of the Lesliebots' armor as disguise.

Back in the past, Brock was cut from the football team on the same day as the fateful D&D game. During practice, he had accidentally killed the quarterback; he spent the rest of the day drinking to drown his anger and guilt. He stumbles back to his dorm room that night, taking his rage out on trees and anything else that gets in his way.

In a sequence alternating between flashbacks and the current plot, Brock spots the "Lesliebots" (and steps on a game die left on the floor). He flies into his usual homicidal rage, attacking the half-disguised Team Venture (while his younger self beats the hell out of the game players). Samson delivers a punch that knocks out Action Man's dentures (and "T. S." loses his tracking molar) and throwing Otto through a window and into the televised Sorayama (hurls Mike through the dorm window). The boys finally calm Brock down enough to explain that his victims are good guys.

As Brock and Dr. Venture had been chained together, Venture is now able to escape from the dungeon. Brock and the Ventures investigate the hole created by Otto's flight; on the floor lies a decapitated Sorayama, with sparking cables protruding from his neck. Dean concludes that the real Sorayama must be close and opens the nearby coffin... and immediately vomits. Venture puzzles over what appears to be Sorayama's actual decomposing body, wondering if he programmed his robots to hate the group. With a shrug, the group depart for home, apparently forgetting about Pete and Ünderbheit still chained to each other in the cell.

After the credits, one final flashback shows Brock packing up his belongings. He apologizes to Venture for beating up him and his friends, and explains that with his scholarship revoked, he is going to join the Army. On his way out the door, Samson casually mentions that someone called to say that Venture's father had died.

Cultural references

*The laugh track and other audience noises seen in the opening flashbacks are actually from Hank and Dean's point of view, who having never been around those days, can only imagine them in the guise of the old sitcoms they watched (which would include said audience tracks). This is further reinforced by the style of cutting between flashback and present day with the squares which is reminiscent of "Happy Days".
*There are numerous references to "Blade Runner", especially through the character of Mike Sorayama: calling the movie "so cool", wanting to study robotics (referencing replicants), having a poster of the Tyrell pyramid on the dorm room wall and going so far as adopting a look like Tyrell. A "Blade Runner" reference outside of Mike Sorayama is Kano's ability to make origami like Gaff. Dr. Venture's comment about the Lesliebots "looking familiar" references artist Hajime Sorayama's contributions to Heavy Metal, which was one of the strong graphic influences on director Ridley Scott and particularly in making "Blade Runner". The real Mike Sorayama being dead in a coffin and replaced by a robot, is a reference to a "scripted, story-boarded but unfilmed" sequence of "Blade Runner" where Roy after killing Tyrell would have learned that he killed a replicant when the real Tyrell died few years earlier with his body placed in a coffin on the top floor of the Tyrell Pyramid.
*Brock's reference to "hallowed ground" when easing Hank and Dean's concern about Ünderbheit's presence at Sorayama's funeral is a reference to the 1986 film "Highlander." In the film, the Immortals are forbidden from engaging in combat in religious-affiliated buildings.
*Dr. Venture and White laughingly mock Ünderbheit's hairstyle, comparing it to that of The Hulk and Pete Rose. Although Ünderbheit is practically bald in the present-day scenes, no explanation is given.
*Team Venture itself is a very obvious homage to Doc Savage's Fabulous Five, a fellow group of extrodinary men who followed and assisted Doc wherever he went. While Team Venture appears to be short one member for a total of six members (including the leader), the sixth member was actually the late Major Tom.
*Publick has stated that Horace Gentleman's name refers to a nickname of Horace Panter, who played bass guitar in British band The Specials.
*Action Man's name originated as a reference to the David Bowie song "Ashes to Ashes" in the beginning of episode 6, "Ghosts of the Sargasso". [Episode "Ghosts of the Sargasso"]
*Furthermore, the phrase uttered by the priest at the beginning of the episode, "Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust," is partially taken from David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" and the Leslie-bots at the funeral are dressed in mourning similar to those worn by characters in Bowie's music video for the song.
*In the scene involving Team Venture's search for Dr. Venture at his old dorm room, several posters can be seen hanging on the walls in the background. These include a depiction of the "Star Wars" character Boba Fett, a movie poster for "", what appears to be a movie poster for "The Matrix", and one simply reading "60 CENT" (a reference to rapper 50 Cent).
*In Dr. Venture's dorm room, there is a poster on the wall with a stylized logo that reads "Yea", a parody of the logo of the band Yes. Another poster is clearly based on the cover of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon".
*Also in reference to Pink Floyd, a takeoff of their song "Comfortably Numb" can be heard during some of the flashback sequences (such as the "oregano bong" flashback).
*A spoof of the theme to "The Andy Griffith Show" plays as the Venture family leaves the castle.
*When the boys are trying to figure out what to do after their father's been kidnapped, Hank says that Dean is "not a wartime consigliere". This a quote and reference to "The Godfather".
*The Lesliebots are essentially fembots, female-looking robots, and resemble in design characters drawn by artist Hajime Sorayama, who the dead antagonist of this episode is named in reference to.
*While flying in the X-1, Col. Gentleman says "Despite his racial handicap, Kano here is a crackerjack pilot." This is a reference to Hunter S. Thompson, specifically a scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when Raoul Duke (Hunter Thompson) is speaking to a hitch hiker and says, "My attorney understands this concept, despite his racial handicap. But do you?" Moreover, both the episode and the Hunter Thompson book/film use this same line to refer to the person that is currently driving.
*Col. Gentleman's young manservant Kiki is a reference to William S. Burroughs' book, "Naked Lunch".
*Mike Sorayama is based on the character of Mike Yanagita from the film "Fargo". Steve Park portrays both characters.

Connections to other episodes

*The girl giving Kano a massage is very similar in appearance to the girl administering acupuncture to Senzuri in the series pilot. [Episode "The Terrible Secret of Turtle Bay"]
*Dr. Venture makes note of a strange guy with "eyebrows out to here" who writes poems about Monarch butterflies, a clear reference to The Monarch.
*In the 3rd season episode The Invisible Hand of Fate, the Phantom Limb notices that Billy Quizboy's mechanical hand is "based on a Mike Sorayama design", and goes so far as to say he was the brightest student he ever had.
*The student living in Dr. Venture's room in the present day latter reappears as part of the Scared Straight! program in "Return to Spider-Skull Island."
*Brock's accidental killing of Tommy during football practice was also mentioned in "Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Magic."

Production notes

*Col. Gentlemen's choice of houseboys indicates that he may be pederast (and a deleted scene included on the season one DVD features a line from Otto that seems to confirm this). [Season 1 DVD deleted scene for "Past Tense"]
*One of the animation directors (Kimson Albert) has a "nickname" inserted into his credits. The nickname is an unusual line or word from the preceding episode. For "Past Tense" the credit reads Kimson "25 Charisma Points" Albert.


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