Strap in everybody, because we’re about to have ourselves a bottle episode! While Cowboy Bebop takes its characters and viewers to a whole universe of colorful planets and star systems, now that we have a ship full of characters, it’s about time we spend an episode just with them aboard the hollowed-out tin can they call a home. And why not have a menace in there with them? And why not add to it references to other great science fiction movies and things and have it end up being a joke at the end? And hey, have the title be a reference to an Aerosmith album while we’re at it. This is an episode for the ages, folks: the immortal “Toys in the Attic.”
This is one of the simpler set-ups in the whole series, but a very, very effective one. It manages to effectively keep the action as tight and internal as it can be, with only the five main characters (Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed, and Ein) appearing, save the monster of course. Yes, there’s a monster in here too. The episode bases a lot of its beats on the first Alien movie, especially the haunted house nature of a darkened spaceship with something creeping through the corridors, picking off characters one by one.
The episode begins with the POV of the monster as it scurries around the various ducts of the ship. Ein and Ed are sleeping in a corridor while Faye and Jet are betting on dice–odds or evens. Jet has lost everything except his underwear and bets evens, no odds! The dice come up snake eyes and he has to take off his shorts. Spike comes in having used a blowtorch to make shishkabob, but it must not taste very good. Jet goes to the attic (yes, the Bebop has an attic) to find a blanket and notices a fridge way in the back. He doesn’t remember that being there… Spike tells Faye she should at least give Jet his clothes back, but she says she’s just going to rent them to him. Spike also tells her he knows she was cheating, with a bracelet on her ankle that makes the dice fall differently. The alarm suddenly goes off and the two of them, plus Ein, go to the attic where Jet has been bitten by something. Ein growls at it, and they see a rat scurry through the darkness. Jet maintains it wasn’t a rat, because of the weird bite he now has on his neck.
The bite looks real nasty and Jet begins losing consciousness, and gets put on the couch. Later, Faye is in the bathtub reading when the thing crawls in and eventually bites her on the leg. While she initially thought Jet was a big baby, once she’s bitten, she begins freaking the eff right out. Soon, she loses consciousness too. Spike beings trying to fashion an infrared set of goggles to help see it in the darkness, which Ed assists, and they each go off in directions with goggles, Ein following Ed. Spike hears Ein yelp and goes to investigate and sees the poor little Data Dog bitten on the side. He finds Ed’s goggles and assumes she’s been gotten also. Spike takes Ein to the other room and lays him with the others before tooling up with a net gun, a sword, the flamethrower, and his trusty sidearm.
The rest of the episode features Spike against the little monster, which looks like a ambulatory patch of black slime, and attempts to kill it, fry it, or whatever before he also gets bitten. He heads back up to the attic and sees the fridge, of which he previously had no memory, but now it suddenly jogs that he placed a rare and expensive Ganymede Rock Lobster in there, a delicacy on every planet, and hid it in the fridge so that nobody else would find it. Then he forgot about it. He wonders what it looks like now… he opens the fridge door and nearly vomits from the now immensely-grotesque mold. Whatever the fridge monster is, it must have grown from the rock lobster’s fungus. He prepares to push the fridge out of the airlock when he’s finally bitten by the monster. The gravity in the ship goes away as the fridge shoots out into space and all the members of the crew begin to float unconsciously. Outside, the fridge emits dazzling, multicolored specks as Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz for the Flowers” (as heard in 2001) plays on the soundtrack. The monster begins scurrying toward Ed, who wasn’t bitten but merely asleep, and she grabs it and eats it, calling it pudding.
As one-off episodes go, this has to be one of the best. It’s completely self-contained, features all of the main cast, has a definite threat, several distinct homages, and ends in a joke. You can’t really beat that. Episodes like this foreshadows director Shinichiro Watanabe’s Space Dandy many years later, which is similar to Bebop except it’s entirely silly. Meow in that show even finds the fridge and the monster inside on a junkyard planet. It’s a very funny and apt meta joke that I missed initially. There’s very little music from Yoko Kanno in this, but we do have that little bit of Tchaikovsky just for the joke. It’s brilliant, and it allows Spike to get way more tooled-up than is necessary and try to light a cigarette with a blowtorch, just for yucks. Such a fun little episode. The next-time trailer even pretends like everybody’s dead for a minute using narration from Ed, but they aren’t. All for jokes.
And it’s a good thing we have this funny episode because the next two get back to the ongoing saga of Spike Spiegel’s past, and we get a lot more information than we did in “Ballad for Fallen Angels.” It’s “Jupiter Jazz Pt 1” next week.