"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)
Jessica, Pam, Eric and Bill march to the Emporium in their finest Battle of the Industrial Bands gear, seething with irritation. Pam suggests they “blow up these Wiccan dipshits already” so she can get her nails done. Inside, Marnie has added Sookie to her hostages. Lackey warlock Roy smirks that the Emporium is now the Hotel California — you can check out any time you like blah blah. Seriously, Roy, you’re already that guy, but please don’t be that guy. Marnie wants everyone to know they can leave at any time, and tosses a dagger at her prisoners, suggesting they use it against the vampires. When cute little Casey’s rage bubbles over and she rushes Marnie, the witch telekinesis-daggers her in the chest with a “so-there” smirk. Sookie watches the girl die with a lip-trembling, brow-furrowing look of apprehension and horror — or is she merely thinking about the real bad things she wants to do with Eric and Bill once she gets out of this incense-reeking hellhole? Hard to say.
Spirit Antonia has had enough of Marnie’s corporeal shenanigans and struggles to free herself. Lafayette breaks it down for the room: “Marnie just puked a bitch out!” Because Lafayette is a medium (Since when? demands Tara, who must not have cable) only he can see Antonia standing there in her nightgown, telling Marnie: “Evil has blossomed in you!” J’accuse! Antonia tries to break up with her, but Marnie enacts a spell to bind them together. I wish a certain medium would pass Antonia a hotline number so she could get some counseling on this abusive paranormal relationship. You know the Renard Parish chapter switchboard must be lit up like Christmas. Marnie swallows Antonia.
Jason runs up to the vampire hit squad and informs them that they can’t blow up the Emporium because Sookie’s inside. Say it with us, vampires: “Fucking Sookie!” Jason chastises Bill and Eric for their poor attitudes, pointing out how many times Sookie has helped them out. Bill aborts the mission and Eric agrees. Pam can’t believe they’re putting all vampires at risk for a piece of fairy-tail. Jason shows them the forcefield protecting the Emporium, and Bill and Eric share an incredulous look that reads, “How in the V is Jason Stackhouse the smartest one in this intersection?” Jason then gets Jessica alone and blah-blah-Hoyts her. Oh no, zombie vampire attack!
Sam and Alcide menace one of Marcus’ henchmen, who refuses to give up his pack leader’s whereabouts. Then Luna shows up looking for Marcus, who has snatched their daughter from school and disappeared. While Sam catches Luna up on the last episode, Alcide jaw-clenches to the hench-wolf that this isn’t about shifters and werewolves, it’s just about right and wrong, plain and simple. What’s wrong is how fully-clothed all of y’all have been so far in this episode, Alcide. Since when is there no time for love in Bon Temps?
And where is Marcus? In Alcide’s model home with Debbie, who, to her dubious credit, isn’t wearing any pants. Emma is there and she and Marcus have an awkward “Daddy’s evil, don’t trust him” conversation. Marcus tries all of his greasy powers of persuasion to convince Debbie to run away with him and his daughter, blaming Alcide for not giving Debbie “the one thing you really need.” She sets him straight on the doggy-style. “I’m not talking about ‘love,’ I’m talking about children!” says Father of the Year over there, because what every V-addicted werewolf needs is a pregnancy and a stolen shifter-kid. And besides, Marcus growls, Emma needs a wolf mom, not a shifter mom. Man, it sucks to be lower on the social rung than these dirtbags. Downstairs, an unsupervised Emma cuts to the chase and just picks up the phone to call her mom already. Alcide recognizes his phone number, and the shifter-wolf alliance is on its way.
Inside the Emporium, Jesus claims he can still feel a faint pulse on Casey, and he wants to try to save her. Marnie’s all whatever, so Jesus and Lafayette carry her into the bathroom so they can what, perform thoracic surgery with a pentagram brooch? But Casey is really dead for real, only Jesus wants to use his witch-powers and Casey’s blood to force Antonia out of Marnie’s body. Jesus goes shopping in the emporium for “cauterizing” supplies, which means a bunch of ugly candles and a scarf, while Marnie claims she shanked Casey out of self-defense. Holly and Sookie try to appeal to Marnie’s good side, begging her to end the stand-off. “You have all the power,” she lies.
Andy’s wandering the haunted woods, cursing Terry who left him to walk home from the Treehouse of Withdrawal. Andy argues with himself like he’s possessed by his own co-dependent ghost, but then bright lights start flashing and a fairy appears. She sniffs the air and warns Andy to stay back. “Ma’am, I’m a police officer!” The fairy has obviously heard about the BTSD because she fairyballs him to the ground.
Outside the Emporium, Bill pulls the gooey true-deathed heart from the bubbling remains of one zombie vamp and waves it in the face of the other. Eric points out that she’s under a spell and can’t reason, so she must die. First, Pam wants her jewelry. Marnie agrees that “it’s time for negotiation,” and Sookie is of course dumb enough to believe her “negotiate” line. Marnie and Sookie stand inside the forcefield as Marnie commands her zombie-vampire into attack mode. Bill’s too fast and strong, though, and he throws the zombie into the forcefield, where she vaporizes like a bug on an electric fence. Apparently the forcefield contains the power of the sun, and rather than repelling vampires as it does humans, it will char them like cheap microwave popcorn. Dang, Marnie. Bill and Eric demand Sookie’s release, and Marnie agrees, in exchange for their true-deaths. Bill accepts, and Eric, not to be one-upped, does as well. This is either the dumbest or the smartest route to that three-way, guys. Sookie pleads with Bill while Eric looks on, like What am I, a candy dish full of blood-goo here? Bill will shoot Eric, and then Pam is to shoot Bill. Eric gets down on his knees for his execution while Sookie cries, but Pam takes charge, fast-walking to the van and grabbing a flamethrower. Thankfully someone has some initiative here. Eric forbids her, but Pam fires into the forcefield anyway, and the explosion rocks the Emporium. Eric rages at Pam for disobeying him with the flame-thrower and almost killing Sookie, while Jess chides a shame-faced Bill for even considering suicide. It’s like a regular Wittgenstein family reunion out there. Jess finally notices Jason all burned and blind from the explosion and rushes over to give him more of her blood.
Marnie and Sookie come back inside, and that leg-humper Roy wants to high-five Marnie for her quasi-victory. His death is going to be exciting. In the magick loo, Jesus concocts a spell with some scented candles and a bowl of potpourri. I’d hate to see what this kid could whip up in a Bed Bath & Beyond. Jesus pulls the dagger out of Casey’s chest, and Lafayette gets all squeamish about the blood like he’s new to this show. Jesus paints himself with Casey’s blood and sucks it off his finger. Subtlety is not a virtue in Bon Temps.
Alcide, Sam and Luna storm into the model home, and Sam tells Luna to take Emma outside. Alcide busts in on Debbie and Marcus, and Sam follows in with the gun, which he sportingly offers to put aside and fight Marcus hand-to-hand, no shifting allowed. Debbie No-Pants tries to intervene and Alcide pushes her back onto the bed. Hotlines, people. Toll-free numbers. Take back the night.
Sam and Marcus throw each other around the room while Alcide holds Debbie back. Hey, those model homes aren’t that sturdy, watch the drywall. Marcus ends up on the floor with Sam’s knee on his throat, while Sam tells him he’s weak, pathetic, and has terrible hair, but he’s going to let Marcus live with that. Marcus gets wolf eyes and grabs Sam’s gun, but Alcide tackles Marcus mid-fire and wrestles him to the ground. Bullet holes in the model home wall! Now Alcide has wolf eyes, too, and he crushes Marcus’ windpipe. Alcide, I’m sure you could have just patched the wall. “We can fix this!” claims Debbie the eternal optimist, but Alcide enacts an ancient werewolf dumping ritual: “I will hunt with you no longer; I will share flesh with you no longer.” If I had a dime for every time… He and Sam leave dead Marcus on the floor while Debbie ugly-cries in her underwear.
In the haunted wood, the fairy wakes Andy by sitting on his chest and rubbing all over him like Debbie Pelt in heat. Her name is Mirella and she lies to Andy about how hot he is. I cannot believe the closest thing we’ll get to a sex scene in this episode is a fairy in a prom dress making out with Andy Bellefleur. Mirella wants to know if she can trust Andy before they make love, and Andy somehow misses an opportunity for a tasteless pull-out joke. She asks Andy to protect her from the dangers of the woods — good luck, sister! — and makes him swear to by “the light” holding up a finger to his, which lights both of their fingertips like E.T. and Elliott, I swear. Fairyland anchor baby phone home!
Emporium. In a serious Wiccan health code violation, Marnie uses the pool of Casey’s blood on the floor as a makeshift crystal ball. The magic bloodstain shows Marnie her future — with a bullet in her head. She lies to the witches, claiming that the vamps want to kill them all so they need to form a circle. The skeptical witches join her, while Jesus prepares the blood ritual in the magick bathroom. Is he carving “XTC” into his arm? Superfan! He makes Lafayette bind his hands with Marnie’s green scarf and rub the potpourri into his wounds: “this symbolizes the bond between Marnie and Antonia.” Whatever happened to promise rings? Meanwhile, Marnie convinces Sookie to join the circle.
Outside, Jess watches Jason’s scorched skin heal and they make sexy eyes at each other, but Jessica’s fangs come out before they can get it on, and she starts moaning — but not sexy-moaning, it’s all very “braaaaains.” She and the rest of the vampire gang are being moved around like very good-looking puppets by Marnie’s spell which attempts to lurch the vampires into the forcefield to their true deaths. Inside, Sookie hears Jason think, “they’re going to fry!” and yet does nothing. Wake up, Bo Peep! They’re almost into the forcefield when Sookie finally fairyhands the circle apart and breaks up the zombie-walk. Jess is so sick of this plot. Bill vows to rip Marnie’s heart out. Pam apologizes to Eric for defying him, but he wants her out of his sight before he kills her. Children will break your heart, Eric. Every time.
Inside, Marnie and Roy turn on Sookie, and Tara calls Roy an Uncle Tom. Ha! Marnie traps Sookie inside a ring of fire while rendering the other witches powerless to help. Bill and Eric can hear Sookie’s fear from outside. In the magick bathroom, Jesus gets his demon blood spell on and starts muttering in reverb. Demon face? Demon face! Jesus’ demon has those gauged earlobes. He’s missing Burning Man for this! He barfs out some fire and burns his bound wrists apart, and Antonia peels herself out of Marnie and vanishes, along with Sookie’s ring of fire and the forcefield keeping Bill and Eric out of the Emporium. The vampires zoom inside. Game time.
Bill would like the witches to say hello to his little friend, but Sookie sticks up for the rest of the coven, throwing only Marnie under the bus. “Just Marnie,” Bill Batmans. Roy claims they’ll have to go through him first, so Eric rips Roy’s heart out with his bare hands “Temple of Doom”-style and sips blood from his aorta like a freaking Capri Sun before tossing it over his shoulder without so much as a backwards glance. Eric is BACK. Bill guns Marnie down, fulfilling the dirty floor’s prophecy.
Sam walks out of the model home, and Emma rushes up to him. “Where’s my daddy?” she asks, while Luna gives Sam the stinkeye. Awkward! Speaking of awkward, back at the Bellefleur house, Andy tells Arlene his Bon Temps version of a letter to Penthouse (“and I was good at it, Arlene!”) until she recoils in appropriate horror and disbelief. You can ask the citizens of Bon Temps to swallow a lot of outlandish ideas — were-panthers, skinwalkers — but Andy Bellefleur getting laid? Yeah, right.
Clean up time in the Emporium. Eric glamors the surviving unnamed supporting cast members while Jesus grieves over Marnie and Sookie hungry-eyes Eric and Bill like two halves of a sandwich. Jason tries to blah-blah-Hoyt, but Jessica shuts it down for good. “Don’t tell me about loss,” she says. Jason confesses that Jess is all he thinks about, and what should he do next? Jessica wishes she knew. I know, but the show’s almost over and there’s nary a pick-up in sight.
At Lafayette’s house, he and Jesus cuddle on the Jackie Collins for K-Mart bedding line. Jesus feels guilty over Marnie’s death, but Lafayette sets him straight: “ain’t no way that bad juju wasn’t gonna come back to her,” he voodoos like a pro. “We’re alive, we’re safe,” Lafayette foreshadows, because while the storyline might feel resolved, there’s still one more episode left in the season. Jesus, worn out from saving the world, falls asleep. Lafayette gets ready to do the same, but Marnie’s spirit appears over his bed and she sucks herself down into his mouth. Possession plot twist, just in time for the finale!
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
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)