SHOW NOTES: S02E03, "The Plan"
This week we're so excited to welcome Anna O'Donoghue to the show to help us talk about cool cults for cool kids! Anna is an actor, writer, and literary manager who has performed on, off, and off-off-Broadway, as well as at regional theaters around the country. She particularly loves collaborating with living playwrights and works on a host of literary prizes and panels that cultivate and celebrate new work. She is also a voracious consumer of podcasts and is developing one of her own about deception, so stay tuned for that.
Obviously, we must begin by talking about cults. Anna and Caroline talk about how The Plan is basically a version of EST, a cult from the 70s. In her Slate article from 2016 on the subject, Ruth Graham writes, "EST was founded in 1971 by a handsome former encyclopedia salesman named Werner Erhard, who had changed his name from John Paul Rosenberg a decade earlier. He launched EST in San Francisco and it quickly spread across the county. EST was not officially a religion but a training program meant “to transform your ability to experience living so that the situations you have been trying to change or have been putting up with clear up just in the process of life itself,” as Erhard put it. At its peak, thousands of people a month were paying hundreds of dollars to partake in weekend training seminars in order to “get it”—EST-speak for a vague kind of self-actualization."
If you're as fascinated as we are and would like to read the whole article, you can do so here. It does contain some spoilers for The Americans. You can learn even more in this New York Times article from 2015.
Also on the subject of cults, Anna discusses how she went to a Scientology intake session for her birthday one year. If you'd like to learn more about Scientology, we highly recommend watching the award-winning documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Here's the trailer. It's fascinating and terrifying, and you can stream it on Amazon or HBO.
On a significantly lighter note, Jenna talks about the Astro Family Restaurant, the diner in Silver Lake where Nate and David meet Bobo and the other independent funeral directors for lunch. Astro is a real restaurant with a three-star rating on Yelp. Our favorite review is the one from the man who couldn't comment on the food or service because he left when he discovered he wasn't allowed to order off the kids' menu because he was over the age of twelve. If you'd like to visit the diner, it's open twenty-four hours. This photo is from its website.
When Claire is asked by the detective where Gabe got the embalming fluid to make his fry sticks, she says, "I don't know, the internet?" We wondered if it was possible to buy embalming fluid on Amazon. Just so you know: it is.
In this episode, Claire watching Badlands, the 1973 Terrence Malick film starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, on the This is Relevant to Your Life channel. According to Wikipedia, Badlands is "an American neo-noir period crime drama" that's based on the real-life murder spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in 1958. It is "often cited by film critics as one of the greatest and most influential films of all time." You can watch the trailer here.
Brenda takes a class in this episode, and the result is the one mention of bisexuality that exists on this show... in the context of pygmy chimpanzees, also known as bonobos. You can read more about homosexual behavior in animals in this BBC Earth article, which includes the delightful tidbit that sometimes males who have had a fight reduce tension by touching genitals, which is known as "penis fencing." (This is not a picture of penis fencing. Photo from Sci-News.com.)
Finally, Caroline and Anna call Michael a basic bitch for wanting "Song of Myself" read at his funeral, but Jenna vehemently defends Walt Whitman. If you'd like to form your own opinion, you can read the whole text of the poem here.