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Things Move Fast in 'iZombie' "Dirt Nap Time"

Things go downhill for Blaine in "Dirt Nap Time".

The fast-paced “Dirt Nap Time” successfully juggles large plot points and entertaining character moments.


iZombie

Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm
Cast: Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley
Subtitle: Season3, Episode 7 - "Dirt Nap Time"
Network: CW
Air date: 2017-05-16
Amazon

As iZombie often does, this week's episode, "Dirt Nap Time" begins immediately where last week's left off. Major's (Robert Buckley) reveal that he'd given the last zombie cure to Natalie (although at the time he didn't know it was the last cure) is painful to watch as Liv's (Rose McIver) real hope to return to her human form is quickly dashed. There's not much time to dwell on the news, however, before Liv decides that Blaine (David Anders) is behind the theft and confronts him in full-on zombie mode.

There's a great deal that happens this episode: the murder of the week, Peyton's (Aly Michalka) further investigation into the dominatrix murder from "Spanking the Zombie", and continued varied plot points related to the zombie cure and zombie exposure. The murder of the week involves a preschool teacher, Jamie Brennan (Ryan McDonell) having affairs with three moms from his preschool class.

It's not an especially intriguing murder, but Liv on preschool teacher brain has its moments. While her propensity to be overenthusiastic and mildly scolding is amusing at times, she's most funny when breaking out sock puppets during an interrogation and encouraging Major and Ravi (Rahul Kohli) that they could be astronauts if they really wanted to. Plus, Clive's (Malcolm Goodwin) increasing ability to roll with her shifting personalities leads to some genuine moments in which he’s entertained by them ("Who's a superstar?" "Damn straight.") rather than always exasperated.

Apart from the mystery of the week, the more substantial parts of the episode revolve around Peyton's investigation, the intensifying stakes around Major's role as a mercenary -- particularly now that he's human again -- and the ongoing outside attempts to expose the existence of zombies to the public. Peyton's investigation takes an odd turn when her offer of a deal to dominatrix killer, James Weckler (Gordon Woolvett), in exchange for the video card in his possession, quickly leads to a new lawyer, a refusal of Peyton's generous offer, and Weckler's eventual suicide in prison.

Weckler's former lawyer (played by Adam Kaufman, who also played Buffy's [Sarah Michelle Gellar] bad freshman year boyfriend in Buffy the Vampire Slayer]), senses that the strange circumstances surrounding his death warrant a closer look and enlists Peyton's help, who goes to Ravi to find out more about the autopsy. Ravi suggests soaking Weckler’s brain in the vision-enhancing blue juice so Liv will be able to get more information from the brain, and it’s a nice moment between the two. While it's still not clear how the dominatrix murder and Weckler fit into the season's larger story, it's obvious that the information on the video card is damaging or incriminating in some significant way. Perhaps this will mark the return of Mr. Boss (Eddie Jemison)?

Major's role at Fillmore Graves is unclear now that he's human, and therefore no longer zombie mercenary-level indestructible. Although Justin (Tongayi Chirisa) pretty quickly figures out Major's human again, he's the only one of his mercenary friends who does. A social outing to discover a rumored zombie speakeasy leads them to The Scratching Post and it’s another glimpse into Don E's (Bryce Hodgson) successful business.

Don E's obvious pleasure in being the de facto master of ceremonies at The Scratching Post is a lot of fun to watch, and his small interactions with Major, and later with Liv, are terrific. He schmoozes and brags and essentially makes a spectacle of himself, and Hodgson plays it all up wonderfully. In many ways Don E's functioning in the role that Blaine used to play pre-cure. It's an interesting shift, but one that emphasizes that Don E will never epitomize the menacing charm that Blaine did.

Speaking of Blaine, after he convinces Liv he didn’t steal the cures -- and later, Don E confirms he didn't steal them either -- he's still performing his dejected lounge singer act ("Misty Blue" was an inspired choice) and sullenly packaging brains for his customers (The War on Drugs' "Suffering": another great music choice). It’s only by the end of the episode that the Blaine story moves forward again. Don E and his bodyguard (who really works for Angus [Robert Knepper]) show up and forcibly buy out Blaine's brain business and then, on orders from Angus, the bodyguard shoots Blaine.

Clearly, this is a way to turn Blaine back into a zombie, especially when the scene ends on Blaine pleading that he has a lot of money. It's no surprise that Blaine wouldn't remain a human forever, but his recent experience as a human, and more importantly, as a sympathetic character, makes the potential for a variation on a zombie Blaine possible.

Meanwhile, Justin gets a call with a tip about Harley Johns (Andrew Caldwell) and he and Major follow up on it. Things escalate rapidly and Justin is run over. Harley and a friend then witness his instant recovery and Justin goes full-on zombie on them. Harley and his friend escape, however, and they capture Justin’s state on video. The looming threat of exposure has been an ongoing theme this season to the point that it seems imminent. Still, Harley and his fellow zombie believers are a fringe element, and even though they captured video of Justin, the general public could easily explain it away as a hoax.

There’s a lot happening in "Dirt Nap Time" plot-wise, and yet iZombie manages to find time to squeeze in Justin’s crush on Liv, providing the episode’s funniest moment when Ravi’s compares Liv’s boyfriend history to "sort of like being the drummer in Spinal Tap". The show’s commitment to maintaining its comedic voice is part of why episodes with so much story don’t feel overwhelming. Things move quickly in iZombie, and "Dirt Nap Time" is a great example of an episode that presents a ton of plot that will play out over the remainder of the season, while also giving the audience time to breathe in between with entertaining character moments.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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