"Growin' up, man. It's a bitch."
REVIEW: Seems like the Lone Gunmen episodes that flash back to the Gunmen's childhoods are destined to be their best. In this case, it's just Langly getting lost in children's television programs, an origin that makes sense for a farm kid who wanted to leave his rural existence and is still interested in technology and pop culture. Tom Poston is a credible as children's presenter Cap'n Toby, a nice old man who has a way with kids and who, as it turns out, also stands for tolerance and embracing other cultures. Langly certainly could have had a worse hero, and when Toby is arrested for espionage, he's disappointed beyond all measure. Cap'n Toby is an odd fandom for Langly to participate in, but calling on all geeks here, hasn't this happened to all of us at some point? An actor or writer or director or artist you're really devoted to turns out to be a real creep (or worse?). Especially in this era of social media where it isn't just their work speaking for them anymore.
But Toby isn't guilty, we're just led to think he is by the episode's clever structure. It's set up so we think it's the story of how Langly took down his own hero, but the teasing opener isn't the actual ending. There's another act that reveals who the real culprit is and gives the Cap'n Toby people a future. Somehow you care, if only for Langly's sake, though perhaps it feeds into our fannish interest in sequels and reboots, and into the need to see our favorites continue and be important to the next generation. And since the setting for the episode is (mostly) a television show, there really is a lot of fun metatext for us to smile at (including a fun bit with the producer credits). Beyond that gimmick, the episode features an interesting mystery that stays interesting, and in which every little quirk (the rose-colored glasses, Jimmy's cracked ribs, the show's set dressing, etc.) play a part and pay off. My only real problems with the episode are the sound design, i.e. the return of annoying rock guitars and children screaming, but even Jimmy's a lot more sensible than usual, even if he's wearing a hot dog costume for much of the episode.
So the real villain of the piece is CIA badass Agent Blythe, very much designed as a counterpart to the equally badass Yves Harlow. Mirror opposites in their coloring, this is also true of their morality. Blythe is an evil Fed, and Yves is a good thief. So you hold out some hope that they'll actually get to fight, quantum kicks and all, and lo and behold, it happens! It's brief, but exciting, and Jimmy's there to take a hit for Yves, again pushing these two together. Except Yves'll never give him that satisfaction. One niggle: Blythe strong-arms Yves by recognizing her, saying her name and threatening to expose her secrets. Fine, but it would have been so much better if the name she exposed hadn't been "Harlow", which is a pseudonym (or is it?). If Blythe knew her real name, that would have had a real impact.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A well-constructed tale with a villain that could easily have returned had the show lasted longer. It's not perfect, but it's one of the Lone Gunmen's most watchable.