The Real Ghostbusters Episode 9: ‘Look Homeward, Ray’ (1986)

‘I never thought it would end like this, fighting a flying cat from inside a shoe!’

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Ah, some use of punctuation after the grammatical nightmare of Episode 3, and that’s not all. This is the first episode of the series to have a big baddie who isn’t a ghost. Oh wait, we’ve had sandmen, boogiemen and such – what I meant was that the real monster here is a human. Oh granted, we have a winged puma to shake thing up to the max in the final act, but the chief bad guy is a petty, jealous shoe salesman who wants revenge against Ray.

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Back track to the start of the episode though, and Ray is boarding the train to his home town of Morrisville as he’s been given the honourable duty of Grand Marshal for the annual Winged Puma festivities, celebrating the fact that no one has seen the dreaded flying kitty for over a century – the rest of the team barely catch his train before it departs, with Peter committing a grand act of treachery by screaming ‘lobster on the track!’ in order to delay departure. Amazingly, this isn’t the first time this ruse has worked, according to Peter. While I presume the train staff check the rails for any aquatic life, the guys hand over some goodies for Ray to show off his ghostbusting credentials to the folks back home, and Slimer also shows up (despite being told to wait in the car) to offer his heartfelt goodbyes. And they are indeed heartfelt. Even Ray, the big baby of the group tells the little spud to cool it down after a massive case of the waterworks. Luckily Slimer, so distraught with sadness, flies smack into a wall whilst trying to catch up the leaving train.

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Ray’s home town looks pleasant enough, and his homecoming looks all set to be a success, even if the Mayor, who sounds like Mel Brooks, refers to him as Roy. Oh well, none of that matters when the lovely Elaine Furman, Ray’s schoolboy crush arrives on the scene (rather rudely it must be said, she pretty much barges her way through the crowd). Ray’s clearly got a thing for her, as his pupils literally turn into heart shapes right there on the stage. A more unwelcome presence arrives in the form of Alan Favish, a textbook jerk who, to be honest, does at least seem to be a half-decent sort at first when he self-deprecatingly says that Ray’s done well with his life whereas he himself owns a ‘two-bit shoe store’. Alan soon turns out to be a genuine scumbag though when he tricks Ray into suggesting he clears out the local haunted house (which Elaine has inherited) but uses a book of spells to transform the hitherto weakling spectre residents into oversized, invincible monsters. Ray tries to blast them but nothing seems to work, and the town gets trashed in the process. In the wake of all this chaos, Alan offers to pay the broke town the money to repair all the damage, and gets to be marshal of the parade instead of Ray. Ray thinks he’s lost his mojo as a Ghostbuster, and goes home on a real downer, poor bloke.

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The thing is, his aim is spot-on and Egon’s testing of the proton pack registers nothing out of the ordinary, so what’s the problem? Well, we know, but they don’t, and Ray goes back to the scene of the crime later that night for another showdown. Pure stupidity? Well, that’s what Ray thinks, but can you blame him, especially after Peter tries to cheer him up a moment before with ‘so you made a chump of yourself in front of the entire town, no sweat!’ I love Peter, I really do. Ray’s clearly still nervous though – as he approaches the house, Elaine surprises him with a flick of a torchlight and he’s so terrified he manages to warp himself to an overhead tree branch without even having to jump. Seriously, re-watch this moment – he can move quicker than Tom Cruise at the start of Interview with the Vampire. Anyway, despite that setback, Ray enters the house, only to be trounced again – that nefarious Alan is lurking outside all the while, ensuring his spells are giving the ghosts the edge. The thing is, when the guys show up to assist, Alan turns off the spell, changing the big bad ghosts into gentle losers and making Ray look hopelessly weak in the process. This is the last straw for the poor man, who quits his job as a Ghostbuster right there and then. Like Peter says at the end of act break, ‘say it isn’t so!’ Oh, by the way, just after the two ghosts have their power removed, the force that made them all mean and scary flies off and buries itself underneath the main street of Morrisville….

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Act 2 begins with the guys desperately trying to convince Ray to change his mind, and they have good, persuasive reasons – Egon brings up the valid point that Ray will lose his pension benefits. We’ve all been there, it’s true! Even more important is that the Ghostbusters’ Barbershop Quartet will be null and void with one member missing. Sealing the deal for Ray is the presence of Alan (attired in frankly hideous jogging gear), who offers him a job at his shoe store. Oh, how the tables have turned! Unfortunately, Ray’s new occupation involves him dressing up in a pink bunny outfit with cute floppy ears. Also, he has to lock up on his first day as Alan’s going to the parade – you know, the parade he’s marshalling. The parade Ray should be marshalling. What a tool. The guys, clearly upset at Ray’s new choice of vocation, nonetheless can’t resist making jabs at his ridiculous appearance, offering him some lettuce and whatnot. Ray wants the others to have his old proton pack, but Winston, in a clear act of health & safety ignorance, hangs up the nuclear accelerator on the coat rail where anyone, even an innocent child, could play with. Egon goes for reverse psychology and acts uncharacteristically harsh, insisting that they get on with the job and leave Ray to his. Peter, quite hypocritically given his usual insensitive approach, berates Egon for his lack of charity towards their former colleague. But yes, Egon is only doing this so that they can get Ray back through action, not words. Their plan involves Slimer posing as a ghost, causing chaos and also providing an easy target for Ray’s soon to be rekindled ghostbusting skills. The plan miraculously starts to work, with Slimer somehow managing to convincingly pose as a threat, but it all goes belly-up when an approaching ice cream van provides too tempting a distraction for the green spud. He blows his cover and Ray’s confidence plummets once more. Besides, shoes are his life now, so it’s back to the old 9-5 for him. Egon is very,very disappointed with Slimer, docking his allowance (?) for a month and sending him home crying. I’m not sure how far away Morrisville is from New York, but I’m guessing it’s a considerable distance, so Slimer’s got a long journey ahead of him, poor thing.

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Ray and a preposterously mini-skirted Elaine (who has skipped the parade because in her words, the main attraction is right here in the store) then find Alan’s book of spells in the back of the shop, and we find out that the reason the two ghosts were invincible was because they had been surrounded by negative energy. You see, the proton packs have been set to deal with positive energy. But, of course! We later find out that in order to set the proton packs to negative energy, you actually have to manually alter the settings with a screwdriver! What’s wrong with a switch? Anyway, back to the parade, where a huge lead balloon of Ray is bringing up the rear. A very melancholy lead balloon of Ray, if his eyes are anything to go by.

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The real star of the show is the last-minute new marshal, waving at the crowd from his oversized mobile shoe, the creep. However, remember the evil force lying in wait underneath the main street? Well, he’s decided to take action, and he emerges in the form of the fire-breathing WINGED PUMA!

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In reality, the puma looks like a mix of the Cheetos tiger and one-time antagonist The Inflamer from Thundercats. He lays waste to the parade, and Alan tries to save the day by snatching the book of spells from Ray, but unsurprisingly his efforts are utterly futile. The puma doesn’t kill Alan, only the book, but I’d like to think there’s an alternate ending out there where the jerk gets barbecued. The puma turns his attention to jumping on a building, but the guys blast him, unaware of the whole negative/positive energy thing, so it’s down to Ray to use the aforementioned screwdriver and deliver some proper pain. This action is scored by Tahiti’s appropriately named ‘Hometown Hero’, which was also used earlier on in the episode, but I haven’t mentioned it until now. The chorus goes something along the lines of ‘everybody wants to be my hero’, which essentially means the singer is loving the fact that every man and woman wants her to be their girlfriend. Well, I suppose if that really was the case, I too would be smug enough to sing a song about it. The puma flies away however, so the newly reformed quartet take after him in, I jest not, Alan’s parade shoe which has been made airborne thanks to the addition of the lead balloon of Ray. Crazy! It’s during this bit that Winston only just realises that Ray has a birthmark under his chin, something the creators of his lead balloon counterpart knew as they made it part of their design. After a spectacular battle amongst the clouds, the guys manage to incarcerate the dreaded Winged One, thanks to a stunningly well aimed trap. They even manage to land safely, with the newly punctured Ray balloon drifting gently onto a tree.

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Ray gets a well –deserved apology (and marshal duty re-instatement) from the town, and his new-found confidence gets the better of him when he gets a little bit too trigger-happy, destroying a harmless model of the winged puma, thinking it’s returned to destroy them. Well, to be honest, he doesn’t destroy it, just blasts his exo-skeleton off, leaving a flimsy frame underneath. Understandably embarrassed, he turns an even brighter shade of pink when he receives a kiss on the cheek from Elaine – the screen even circles itself shut and closes on a shot of the GB logo in a lovey-dovey pink background. Aww.

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PS: Ray never sees Elaine again.

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