Welcome to the Cowboy Bebop episode guide! This time out, we’re looking at episode 17, “Mushroom Samba.”
It took eight whole episodes of Cowboy Bebop before the final member of the crew, the hacker wild girl lovingly known as Radical Edward, finally arrived. Since she’s playing catch-up and (spoilers) she’s the first to leave once the wind-down starts, no episode can be wasted, which is why it’s her third centric episode over a course of nine. Here, though, she really gets a lot to do, she and Ein the trusty Pembroke Welsh Corgi data dog. Everybody on the show CAN do action, even Her Weirdness, but always when the other three leads are incapacitated.
She and Ein are really like the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Cowboy Bebop, and no episode exemplifies this more than “Mushroom Samba.”
This is, like “Toys in the Attic,” an episode that’s definitely atypical for the series, but in the best way. It’s psychedelic and trippy; it’s one where nobody’s really doing any bounty stuff, it furthers nobody’s story, really, but it does offer up some funny and it, surprisingly, has a really effective chase sequence on a train right in the middle. And what’s the focal point of this here episode? Psychedelic mushrooms! Spike, Faye, and Jet all get high as a kite and hallucinate for the bulk of the running time, leaving Ed and Ein to do all the dirty work, and that’s a very good thing.
The episode begins with the Bebop adrift in space, out of fuel, and the crew entirely out of food. Jet yells at the group for whoever at the emergency rations. Nobody fesses up but Faye responds that it’s an emergency, isn’t it? They haven’t eaten in two days. Jet says with their current drifting velocity, they should reach Europa in a couple days, but that doesn’t end up happening. A ship speeds by, knocking into them, and causing the ship to fall onto a desert planet below, with what only looks like the dregs of a civilization. While Faye pukes her guts out (she actually ate the rations and Jet finds out they were a year expired, “serves her right”), Jet and Spike fix the ship, and so they send Ed and Ein out to try find food somewhere.
They eventually come across a Rastafarian looking guy (named Domino, it turns out) and ask if he has any food. Soon, a woman named Coffee who looks like Pan Grier in the ’70s comes up and wants to collect the bounty on Domino, but the police detain her when they find Ed and Ein inexplicably in the trunk of her car. Ed and Ein then watch as an angry man dragging a crate behind him who begins yelling at Domino for selling him bad mushrooms that made his crew…do something. He says he’s dragging the crate the mushrooms came in to use as Domino’s coffin (a reference to Django but it gets destroyed by a speeding truck. Oh well). But just then, another bounty hunter comes up and Domino runs away, dropping some mushrooms in the getaway. Ein eats one and this happens almost immediately.
She then thinks these probably aren’t safe to eat…but she needs to be sure. She lays a mushroom down by each of her crewmates and they all, starving, eat them and they each begin having weird hallucinations. Spike hallucinates that the short staircase in the ship is now hundreds of thousands of stairs and he see a bullfrog with a deep voice on one step who says Spike’s heading up the stairway to Heaven. Ed sees that Spike is literally just stepping on the same step over and over and over again. Faye, in the bathroom, begins hallucinating that she’s in a massive aquarium full of giant fish, and Ed sees her just standing still but pretending to swim. Jet’s hallucination we don’t get to see as such, but he’s apparently carrying on a very deep and important conversation with his bonsai trees about the meaning of the universe or something.
After all three of them pass out, Ed is left alone to watch Big Shot and sees that Domino is listed among the bounty heads. She decides, for the good of the ship, it’s up to her to go capture him. She gets on a scooter with Ein on the back and the two of them speed back toward the town. Domino is on a train trying to make his getaway and both Coffee and the other bounty hunter are hot on his heels. Ed manages to catch up to them all and even causes the other bounty hunters to crash until finally she gets Domino, who cowers and offers her bag full of mushrooms instead, each worth 100,000 woolongs. Ed eventually agrees and goes back to the ship, mushrooms in tow. She tells the others the price, but soon a policeman comes buy asking if they’d seen Domino, who’s wanted for selling illegal mushrooms. Though Faye and Jet try to keep Ed quiet, Spike walks out with the bag full of mushrooms. The cop tests them, but it turns out they were just Shiitake mushrooms, providing them with their meals for the foreseeable several weeks.
Ed-centric episodes are just fun. She’s not on the same wavelength as everybody else and it’s kind of enjoyable to see her take the lead once in awhile. She calls herself a Cowgirl, owing to the parlance of bounty hunters being called “cowboys,” and she calls Ein a “CowWoof-Woof,” since he’s a dog. It’s also hilarious to me that she tested out whether the mushrooms were safe to eat by feeding them to her friends and discovering that they are not. Good empirical evidence, that. With a great action sequence, some funky music from Kanno, and some great high voice acting, this ends up being one of the most enjoyable non-arc stories of the series.
Next week, we’ll have another of the ones I don’t remember watching. It’s called “Speak Like a Child,” and Jet in the next-time voice over can’t even fully describe it, saying it “seems interesting at first.” Okay, cool! I guess that’s where we’re heading.