If you’re following at home (ha ha), then you’re confused. “Summer of Love? I thought ‘Fever’ was next!” Well, in one sense, you are right. Sliders attempted serialization in its first season. Much like Tom Baker’s first season on Doctor Who (see what I’m doing here? proving myself a nerd in many subjects), we were going to be following Quinn and the gang from world to world, and most episodes were going to lead straight from one into the other.
FOX, however, wasn’t keen on this idea. It didn’t help for syndication, for starters. It also didn’t help for creating viewers. They thought (perhaps correctly) that starting a new show with “Summer of Love” wasn’t the best way to get a huge audience. They didn’t want the show to start on a slow burn and work its way to ‘big action’ episodes. One of the concepts that Sliders has going for it is that for every “Big Concept” parallel universe (Soviet World being an example of those), there would be sort of “Lesser Concept” worlds, worlds that were only a slight deviation of our own. The “Lesser Concept” would end up being the total downfall of the series, but here in its early form, it’s just another way of throwing the sliders into a place that’s almost home, but cruelly is not.
What I’m saying is, FOX changed the original running order of the show. Not only that, but they did so in such a way as to make some scenes totally irrelevant (and thus deleted). Their choice of ordering showed that they barely payed attention to the episodes. Thus, “The Prince of Wails,” which begins with the sliders wearing the clothes they bought in “Summer of Love,” (not to mention that it’s the resolution of a cliffhanger) airs before “Summer of Love.” If you’re paying attention, it’s pretty funny. But if you’re not, you’re just wondering why these dopes are at the top of some waterlogged tower in hippie clothes.
I’m also going to try something a little different with this one. There’ll be some of the photo/caption/joke/photo/joke that was the last two entires, but there’ll also be more of the “thinking too hard about the show” stuff, too. In any event, you should be watching the show along with me. Really.
Anyways, I’m getting ahead of myself. “Summer of Love” begins with this dude:
It’s Conrad Bennish, jr., our friendly pothead from Quinn’s class in the pilot! He was straight chillin’, playin’ with a Rubick’s Cube, like you do, when someone knocks on his door:
It’s the FBI! Bennish is totally worried that they are about to bust him for marijuana (which is what the FBI spend their time doing, of course), but they aren’t really interested in that. They just want to steal him from his apartment (can they do that?) and throw him down Quinn’s basement stairs (not really). Bennish has tesla coil envy, because Quinn’s are so big:
He is not really that excited about tesla coils. He is excited by Quinn’s weird Energy Donut:
But the FBI isn’t really into that (not yet, at least). They want to know where these chumps have gone:
We learn that Wade is studying “extemporaneous Poetry & Prose,” which sounds like a made up Major to me. Bennish is into that, saying he digs a “chick with a poetic lick,” which is both disgusting and a non-sequitur at the same time.
Also missing, Rembrandt Brown, the “Cooking Man:”
So the real mystery of this episode is “why can’t the FBI get a photocopy of Rembrandt’s Drivers License.” No it’s not, but the FBI know about the Einstein-Rosen Bridge (or if you ask Thor, the “Rainbow Bridge”)! The FBI are going to follow the Sliders into the Vortex, I AM SO SURE OF IT. All they’d need to maintain quantum coherence over a macroscopic region of time & space!
But they’d also need to keep their dope-ass cellphone in a padded envelope, which is surely what Quinn wishes he’d done now:
We’re back with the Sliders, who’ve had a bumpy ride, and who appear to be wearing the same clothes as they had at the end of the pilot (see? serialization! [Also, Rembrandt seems to have stolen someone’s coat]):
Rembrandt thinks they might be home, but seeing how the entire city appears to be deserted (funny how they see, like, two blocks of it, and make a huge assumption like that.) Also, I would like to draw attention to Wade’s mullet:
Anyways, that bummer landing totally busted Quinn’s dope-ass cellphone:
Quinn proposes that they chillout, take a nap, hit a bowl (okay he doesn’t propose the last one), but then an intercom (which I assume to be world-wide, all at once, regardless of timezone) announces “THREE MINUTES TO ZERO. THE SWARM IS APPROACHING.” And I have a total nerd-boner, because counting down to “zero,” as if zero is a thing and not just the obvious end of a countdown, is total sci-fi salsa. Hot salsa. And I love hot salsa. Also, Swarms are cool, too.
Anyways, that’s the teaser! Whoa, it’s the first episode with a teaser! As far as pre-credits teasers go, it’s not bad. It’s certainly got a hook! Let’s see how that hook resolves:
It resolves with the Sliders watching television. The TV is telling them that on this world, the following occurred:
•South American Spiderwasp invented.
•Entire world destroyed.
So I guess San Fran is about to be eaten by these dudes:
They eat through walls, and also through people. Let’s take a moment to dwell on how silly it is for a place to keep a television running with what looks like a recording of a live news broadcast giving a play-by-play of the Spiderwasps invasion of North America. Why would that television be on! What would be powering it! The only reason I can think of is that they keep it on to taunt soon-to-be eaten alive ‘happy wanderers’ like the sliders.
In any case, this is happening:
That’s silly. Quinn is still adamant about ‘chilling,’ but Wade uses her mullet-power to convince him to turn on his broke-ass cellphone. Remmy and Wade jump through, but then the Vortex closes!
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Quinn & Arturo are not eaten, and make it through the vortex. But they’re alone! Separated throughout the interdimension! Wade & Remmy are trapped in a world with… BARRY PEPPER:
Lookin’ good, Barry. Anyways, Quinn & Arturo are trapped in a world of Mud:
It’s worth noting that a few Spiderwasps come through the vortex with Q&A. This episode doesn’t deal with it, but I’m just going to put the fact out there that they probably just condemned this world to the same fate as the last, no? There, go write your fanfiction. Or don’t. Actually, please don’t.
I’m just going to go ahead and spoil it for you (you’d only have to wait, like, ten more minutes anyways): they’re actually in the same dimension! But they’re having much different adventures than one another. Wade & Remmy are trapped in a hippie commune and are worshipped like the Returned Gods of Myth that they are(n’t):
So here we are, the second episode, and we’re fixing the show (whether they know it or not) with some of the tropes that they’ll stay with for pretty much the entire show. Dividing the team up between Wade/Remmy and Quinn/Arturo. When this happens, we’ll see that the plots pretty much stay the same: one group gets an ‘introspective’ kind of ‘this world is reflecting my life someway’ plot, and the other group gets an ‘action/this world is trying to kick my ass’ plot. There’s exceptions, sure, but they’re slim.
And when the show is kickin’ it in high gear, there’s nothing actually wrong with that. Those two plots, sometimes, also intertwine cleverly. Which, more or less, is how it goes in “Summer of Love.”
Wade’s plot in this episode is pretty much negligible though, sadly. We’re supposed to be learning new insights on a new character! But we just learn that she’s a kind of spiritual airhead. Okay, okay, that’s harsh— Wade never comes off negatively in the episode, but basically all she does in the episode is sit on some pillows:
Especially when Rembrandt gets a real powerhouse of a storyline, Wade’s slighting is all the more awkward.
Rembrandt goes driving, ostensibly looking for Quinn & Arturo. Most likely realizing that there’s a really, really, slight chance he would ever find two people in a city as big and twisty as Vancouver/San Fran, he instead goes for a detour. He looks up a house he used to live in.
Rembrandt is stuck on a journey he didn’t want to go on in the first place. That, more than “comic relief,” more than “I’m the explainer,” more than anything else— this is his role in the story. He’s the only one who didn’t sign up for this. He’s spent less time thinking about parallel dimensions than even Wade has. He’s not in this for adventure, it’s not really a part of his mission. So when he gets what probably is the first free time he’s had since they started sliding, he doesn’t go to a library and figure out what the history of this world was (Which, by the way, has something to do with a War in Australia, Oliver North being the president, and other things that lead to this world being a thinly-veiled-yet-still-vague Vietnam analogy).
Rembrandt goes driving by a house he used to live in.
He’s checking up on his past, on a world he doesn’t even know if he exists in yet. Rembrandt’s already been faced with the concept of doubles, but he’s yet to meet a double of himself— the concept is still foreign to him. Having a double of a ‘shyster lawyer’ tell you you’re supposed to be dead is different than walking into a house you used to live in and seeing your own memorial take place.
Which is exactly what happens:
So it turns out, in this world, Rembrandt’s in the military, and he’s dead. He’s also married to a woman that never gave him the time of day in our world. So here he is, granted with everyone’s wish to see your life as it could have turned out.
The next morning, Rembrandt gets a true sense of how life would have really turned out. He’s got a son! Rembrandt, jr., of course! He’s had rampant sex all night! He is so bow-legged! Rembrandt though, learns a brutal truth from his son: he is actually totally… well, it’s hard to describe. The show here is rooting itself firmly in sort of ‘traditional’ female/male roles, by which I mean ‘kind of sexist,’ with Remmy’s wife being a raging dentata and Alt-Remmy being, shall we say whilst cringing, ‘whipped.’ Wah-wah! It’s troubling, sure, but Cleavant Derricks plays it pretty well:
Rembrandt is forced to escape his double’s house while his raging alt-wife fires a shotgun at him. Man, love ’em and leave ’em, amirite?
I’m being critical of this, but it’s still crucial to understanding the more human, personable elements of Rembrandt that he would not only seek out his double’s life, but also instantly try to graft himself to it. In this way, it’s smart of the show for Remmy to learn why that isn’t a good idea in a totally over-the-top way. He needs to learn the lesson that he isn’t home, no matter how hard he tries to tell himself otherwise.
On the other side of the episode, Quinn & Arturo engage in some hijinks while trying to find a place to A) live, B) fix the broke-ass cellphone, C) not be Narc’d to death by the Alt-FBI. There are some shenanigans where they run into Bennish, but he has short hair and loves republicans:
They manage to find a place to live, owned by this nutter:
Her name is literally Mrs. Tweak. She is tweakin’ on Republicanism, and are causing Quinn & Arturo to also be tweakin’:
Anyways, their apartment comes with a giant whiteboard (like all giant cash-up-front warehouse apartments run by insane old women who hold dead rats are), so they get to working on fixing the timer.
There’s a moment when Quinn solves the equation they’re working on really quickly and Arturo gazes on it with awe and a little bit of jealousy, but they’re soon distracted by alt-narcs:
Hey, those FBI dudes from the teaser really did mean something to the plot as a whole! Anyways, in keeping with the ‘wrapping up our plot threads’ spirit, while being interrogated by the Alt-narcs (including a great bit where John Rhys-Davies clearly says “pipe-bam” before correcting himself), Quinn hears Remmy singing… one of his own songs? Okay, Remmy, if singing a song you wrote yourself is how you keep your mind from unravelling, then go for it. Anyways, Quinn tries to yell Cryin’ Man, but the Narcs are not having it. Then Arturo learns Kung Fu:
And Quinn runs for Remmy’s car:
Followed swiftly by the first of many embarrassing moments for Arturo:
Escape! Followed by friends reunited! Which turns out to be Arturo admonishing Wade for teaching the hippies the lyrics to “All You Need Is Love.” The alt-narcs show up at the hippie compound, and have a final standoff that is totally devoid of tension as the dope-ass cellphone counts down.
Wait, since when did the dope-ass cellphone …count down again? Quinn was clearly turning it on whenever he wanted to in the teaser. Let me put on my nerd goggles and tell you: due to “Summer of Love” being shuffled around in the running order, a scene had to be cut out that explained in pretty surprisingly easy to understand terms how the dope-ass cellphone better earns its name of “the timer.”
Apparently there’s some kind of ‘helix spiral’ that creates a ‘window of opportunity’ for the sliders to use the timer in. If they miss that ‘window of opportunity,’ they’re stuck in a universe for 29.7 years. Once again, I am totally flummoxed by the idea that Quinn could program all of that into a cellphone. Sure, it’s got like, numbers on it. But seriously? Also, if you’re stuck on a world for 29.7 years, wouldn’t that mean that they could slide into a world where the window’s already passed?
Anyways, what that means is that they now have a narrative device to drive every single episode ever for the rest of the show. Instead of “Summer of Love”‘s sort of languid, let’s-just-chill-for-a-bit vibe, the show will now always be a ‘race against time.’ One episode in, and we’re already limiting ourselves.
But to be honest, that’s probably a good thing. As long as the trope of ‘will we miss the slide?’ doesn’t become the focal point of nearly every episode. If that happens, they might as well also start ‘losing the timer.’
Anyways, they slide off of hippie world and end up on another desolate, empty world:
They poke around for a bit, then hear a rumbling sound in the distance. Going to investigate, they are greeted a sight that makes the Spiderwasps a little less scary (if we are defining scary in terms of ‘how bad the special effects are’:
Rembrandt lets us know that he cannot swim. And then everybody dies. The end. Of the show.
Not really. See you next week!