"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
After last week’s Witches vs. Vampires tournament of champions, Alcide jogged a critically wounded Sookie back to her house like a good dog — to the chagrin of Debbie, who followed. He’s intercepted by Bill, who grabs Sookie and whisks her home, opening a vein to heal her gunshot wound. Sookie doesn’t seem to be taking Bill’s blood, and he and Alcide get all metaphysical over her chances for survival.
Bill (improbably): “We can pray.”
Alcide (bitterly): “A werewolf and a vampire, who’s gonna listen?”
Bill (stiltedly): “That I do not know.”
Which reminds me of a classic theological conundrum: How many werewolf bitches can dance on the head of a pin? (Answer: Dude, that’s a dirty needle.)
During the battle, Marnie/Antonia activated her control spell on Eric and took him back to the Moon Goddess Emporium. Tara had a change of heart after Bill prevented Pam from killing her and is upset that Antonia didn’t accept his offer of peace. Some of the witches, including Tara and waitress Holly, try to revolt, because it’s all fun and Stevie Nicks songs until someone gets their throat torn out in a graveyard. Antonia’s not having it, declaring that the witches are going to crash the Festival of Tolerance Event the vampires have planned for the next evening and nobody’s leaving until she says so.
Sookie wakes to find Bill and Alcide hovering over her, but she’s worried about Eric instead. She insists they go look for him, and Alcide declares again that he is done with the fangers and their fangy fanging and storms out, leaving Sookie to sleep off the trauma of being shot in the stomach and fought over by every hot guy in Renard Parish. Side note: “Thanks for the blood” is maybe the most awkward thing you could have to say to an ex-boyfriend. Alcide skulks home to get naked and snuggle Debbie, who pretends to have fallen asleep in bed while watching
Dawn approaches and Vampire League buzzkill Nan waits for Bill behind his desk while Jessica cries over Hoyt and Jason. Nan has 99 problems, Jessica. You’ll understand when you’re 400 years old. When Bill gets home they self-silver in the basement while bickering through a committee meeting so dull it should have been taped for V-Span. Bill wants to cancel the Festival of Tolerance because it’s too dangerous, but Nan, repping for mysterious vampire “factions within,” demands that the event (and so this plot) must go on.
Sadly, no Pam this episode. Maybe her face fell off again.
The night before, Luna encouraged Sam to leave after the showdown with her no-good werewolf babydaddy Marcus, but Sam, still trying to heal his own broken home, suggests instead that they take her daughter camping out in the Bon Temps woods where the werewolves, vampires, pissed-off witches and meth-panthers roam. Sam’s so sensible. If he ever tires of running that bar, he could have a bright future in the Bon Temps sheriff department. The next morning, Marcus swaggers into Merlotte’s and tells Tommy to have Sam to meet him later that night at his motorcycle shop, but Sam and Luna are already camping by the river with her daughter like a family in an SUV commercial. Sam should know by now he can’t have nice things, so I hope he enjoys that domestic bliss while it lasts.
Hoyt, heartbroken and hungover in a redneck-fabulous bald eagle and American flag T-shirt subtly urging him to “cowboy up,” packs Jessica’s personal effects in a box labeled “For You, Monster.” Hey, we’ve all been there. The box includes a Twilight paperback and a copy of Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now,” reminding us that no matter how hard she tries, Jessica is doomed to be a virgin for eternity. Enter Lafayette, possessed by the ghost of a Creole woman who believes Arlene and Terry’s baby Mikey is her dead son. He chases Hoyt out with a gun, claiming, “this my baby; this my house.” I hate that that ghost lady made Lafayette leave the house without his hair done.
The Bellefleurs wake to find Baby Mikey and Andy’s gun missing and Jason is there to investigate when Hoyt calls him and they all convoy over to the baby hostage stand-off. Terry’s having war flashbacks and Andy chugs enough V to turn him into the Incredible Hulk, banging on the door while Lafayette, whose inhabiting spirit we learn is named Mavis, holes up inside singing to the baby. The rest of the crack commando squad mill about in the yard, hollering at each other until Andy tackles Terry, who accuses him of being jealous of Arlene and their ghost-bait child.
Sookie’s sleeping in today. It’s obvious when Sookie’s dreaming because her hair looks amazing and the house is a lot cleaner than usual. Eric shows up in the gauzy daylight and kisses her, then Bill charges in and they show fangs. Because it’s Sookie’s dream, she makes them have an excruciating conversation before anyone can get naked. To underscore that this is in no way really happening, Dream Sookie has a smart idea. Since she loves both Bill and Eric, they should totally have a three-way. When the guys demur, she’s outraged on behalf of the viewing public: “You guys are vampires, what’s with all the morality?” And then she strips down to her undies while Dream Bill and Dream Eric try to figure out how to do this without getting in the slightest bit Dream Gay, because apparently “True Blood” fans can’t have nice things, either.
As if the Baby Mikey stand-off wasn’t enough of a carnival, Jesus shows up. Jason thinks Lafayette and Jesus might be engaged in some extended role-playing sex game, and to his credit Jesus doesn’t punch Jason in his beautiful, fool face. Jesus goes inside and explains the facts of the afterlife to Mavis, who is pretty freaked out when she realizes that she possessed a medium with a penis. That shakes her up enough to realize she’s a ghost and Mikey is not her poor dead baby, fais deaux deaux. Jesus walks Mavis through her last moments alive and together they discover that Virgil, Mavis’ treacherous lover, killed both Mavis and her baby and buried them nearby. Jesus leads Lafayette/Mavis outside so they can try to find the burial spot, and when Lafayette (still inhabited by the ghost) apologizes to Terry, he forgives easily and sincerely. Turns out you really need to be a traumatized combat vet to find your way around this town.
Debbie scores V in an alley and it is gross. I would watch Debbie’s episode of “Intervention” so hard. All cranked up, she drives to Sookie’s to have a heart to heart. She claims, “I ain’t crazy,” and Sookie’s delicate eyebrow arch says it all. But Sookie believes Debbie’s sneaky innocent thoughts and decides to put her trust in the paws of a jealous addict. Sookie might be the smartest Stackhouse — that’s kind of like being the were-panther with the best teeth.
Alcide shows up at Marcus’ shop to officially join the pack, and Marcus asks Alcide to be his second when Sam comes over to hash the whole Luna thing out. Alcide don’t want any trouble, you understand. But heck, he can trust Marcus! Wouldn’t you?
Suddenly, it’s dark outside. While Jason gives Andy the business about being an out-of-control junkie, Hoyt digs up two sets of bones, and he and Jesus hand an intact baby skeleton up to Lafayette with their bare hands, so help me, and Mavis and her baby are reunited. Now that her soul can rest, Jesus is able to cast out Mavis, who hopes that her next leap will be the leap home. Everyone, including Lafayette, is grateful to Jesus for exorcising that subplot. And now that Hoyt has his living room back, he can finish packing up Jessica’s box in peace. The Taylor Swift CD is the last to go, and when Jason defends Jessica, Hoyt, still bitter, wants him to just take the monster box to the hot red-headed monster already, please. Well, sir, if you say so.
Debbie and Sookie team up to case the Emporium, Debbie sweet-talking Antonia with promises of werewolf-witch alliances while Sookie breaks in the back door. She finds Eric in a closet but he wants her to leave, revealing Antonia’s plans to have him “kill the king.” Tara finds them and points a gun at Sookie’s head, and the other witches chant, “shoot her!” Tempting. While Debbie tries to double-cross Sookie, Tara double-crosses Antonia, coaching Sookie to listen to her thoughts as they coordinate a hasty escape for Sookie, leaving Tara behind. Antonia takes the loyal witches with her to the festival and imprisons the remaining insubordinate members of the coven inside the Emporium. Debbie tries to ditch her, but Sookie makes Debbie drive her to the Tolerance Festival at the Shreveport Dorchester (I suppose the Bon Temps Plaza was already booked) to save Bill from the assassination plot. It’s showdown time.
In the Shreveport Dorchester, a member of the local chapter of the Living-Dead Alliance gives a tearful speech while Bill and Nan argue sotto voce about vampire politics. “How can you have an event in honor of the living dead without any living dead?” Bill prisses, comparing their vampire pep rally to a civil rights protest. Nan, to her credit, scoffs. Then Nan gives her talking points. When is James Carville going to guest-star? Eric shows up and security chases him right into an Antonia trap.
Back at their campsite, Sam and Luna enjoy a backlit hook up, their tent sex cut with scenes of Tommy skin-walking as Sam into Marcus’ shop. Tommy-as-Sam claims he hasn’t touched Luna, but his brother’s had her “every which way,” and then Marcus’ guard dogs start kicking the snot out of him until Tommy shifts back to himself and the wolves freak out. Alcide intercedes and carries a bloody, broken Tommy up out of the shop while we cut back to Sam and Luna having loud moan-y sex, because once in a while Sam gets to have one nice thing. Hope that kid’s a sound sleeper.
Jason heads over to the Compton Manse with the monster box, but when Jessica opens the door we see he has thoughtfully scribbled out Hoyt’s message. Jess and Jason pretend like they’re not going to have sex. But then they totally do, in the back of Jason’s truck while a Taylor Swift song plays — even though Jason is a grown man with a house and a job. And why they are they doing it outside in the metal pick-up bed if Jess is clearly home alone? You know Bill has those nice Tempur-Pedic mattresses.
Sookie berates Debbie for driving “like a girl” all the way to Shreveport, hops out of the truck, tells Debbie to go home to Alcide and races into the Dorchester to warn Bill, who has taken the podium to address the tolerant crowd. Stephen Moyer can’t say “war” in a Southern accent to save his life. Sookie enters the ballroom but the witches have gutted the security guards and Antonia has summoned Eric. Sookie screams out a warning, “They’re coming for you, Beell, RUN!” And we never got to see that three-way, damn it.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)