Episode 2 – The Scorpion Asshole
Tonight, the new Non-Harold assholes continue to emerge. Monday, with its seemingly endless onslaught of assholes, pales in comparison, and right off the bat we see herds of young assholes drinking cappuccinos and complaining about the upcoming Wedding of Assholes, on which this hallowed 30th anniversary week hinges.
Mercifully, though, we’re quickly reintroduced to Paul, truly the Asshole General of this Toilet Suburb. Paul is a Neighbours stalwart, having appeared regularly since the show’s beginning. He’s a real Satan, and the producers are conscious about selling his assets through many close-up shots: the wide dripping mouth of a komodo dragon, the black eyes of an evil Miyazaki water-spirit. On Monday, he was hiding away in what we see now is a trite little porn-set bungalow at the top of the hotel. The hotel, in turn, seems to be the point at which much of the town’s misery revolves. It’s where Paul once survived being thrown from a balcony by some hero (this was only a couple years after he burnt the place down). It’s also where Monday’s Yelly Alcoholic Husband, immediately after telling his wife they need to try harder in their relationship, is caught being stanky with someone who isn’t that wife. Is this the mystery we were promised from this couple in the last episode? Does Neighbours’s narrative tension still rely entirely on the trials of MILF-hungry DILFS? Have we not moved past this in thirty years?
The show doesn’t bother to answer, and soon we’re back to Paul trying to “subtly” shut down the upcoming wedding. He doesn’t need an excuse for this, like a cat who lives to shit in your cereal. Paul is undoubtedly the dark machine by which the idiots of Erinsborough are rightfully punished for their sins, chief of which is being too dead-shit to realise that he’s constantly, constantly lying to them. When, for example, in tonight’s episode, he approaches the bride-to-be with false rumours and intrigue, he’s distrusted on sight but, of course, immediately believed.
But how can we hate him for this? He is a like the scorpion who convinces the frog to carry him across the river: it is his nature to sting the frog and burn down the frog’s hotel and fuck up his wedding.
Once again, the episode ends as soon as it begins, promising future zingers for Wednesday. Harold returns, and is seen standing in a kitchen saying, “DON’T YELL AT ME I WONT LEAVE THE TEA BAGS IN TOO LONG THIS TIME”, as if he’s a new man, and we can forget all the times he’s fucked up everyone’s lives. As if, like him, everyone has the luxury of caring about teabags for more than two or three seconds at a time, as if there aren’t more catastrophes encroaching on The Neighbours, like there isn’t a scorpion stinging everyone on the butt, like we can afford to spend time staring into Harold’s garbage soul.
Jack Vening writes short fiction in Brisbane. He has taught in the writing programs at UQ and QUT and has a tiny collection of stories, ‘Work For a Man or a Horse’, available through Momentum Books. He tweets @JerkVening.