Welcome to Night Vale Recap: Episode 11 “Wheat and Wheat By-Products”
The food pyramid is about to get deadly!
While this episode is another fan favorite, it does open on an awkward note. Cecil explains that local insurance providers will no longer cover government-created illnesses, as those illnesses were made to “control undesirable populations”. It could have just been another joke about Night Vale’s dystopian government, but the first illness listed is AIDS. It’s also the only illness on the list that historically has killed very specific populations that were often considered undesirable. I get it. I really really doubt that the writers were making a deliberate joke at the expense of the millions of gay men and people of color who have died from AIDS. They were probably just picking random illnesses. But I can’t help cringing whenever I hear this part of the episode.
It looks like we’re in for a health focus today, as Cecil’s next story is about health tips. Specifically, the Night Vale Council for Commerce (apparently different from the City Council) is reminding everyone to eat wheat and wheat by-products. What sorts of things are wheat by-products? Who knows! Just make sure that you eat them! They also may be a means of spying on us from within our own bodies. Don’t worry about it.
We finally get an update on the Apache Tracker (the white guy in the racist plastic headdress). When we last heard about him he had gone missing while investigating some demonic creatures at the post office. Then his house disappeared and was replaced by a strangely ominous meadow.
Now the Apache Tracker has reappeared, but has mysteriously turned into an actual Native American. His features are still recognizable yet also clearly those of another race. He can also only speak Russian now for some reason. (Remember, in Night Vale Russian=Weirdness.) He has also started watching the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex (which sits above an underground city) for unknown reasons. Cecil asks listeners if we think that the Apache Tracker’s transformation retroactively undoes his former racism. I suspect Cecil’s personal answer is no as he suggests that we write down our opinions and then put them away in a drawer for ten years, only to look them for a future bit of nostalgia about our past selves. He also got a statement from the Apache Tracker, but did not bother to get it translated.
In another story, we learn that City Council has issued a warning against people buying discount bloodstones. Bloodstones seem important to many aspects of Night Vale life. They’re used for all sorts of common magic and religious practices, so the warning is an important one. The Council claims that the discount stones can cause many dangerous accidents.
“These accidents have included, in just the past few months: locust swarms, pus tornadoes, and the creation and subsequent obliteration of a mirror version of Night Vale, forcing all of us to watch our identical counterparts perish – and thus confront the inevitability of our own futures.”
I mention this part specifically because, as we’ll see in later episodes, Night Vale is curiously prone to duplication.
We also learn that the Council might be making up the dangers of discount bloodstones, since they own the only bloodstone factory in town.
Then we get … something different. Suddenly the transmission is static-y and Cecil’s voice sounds strained and in pain.
“Oh, dear. I apologize, listeners. We at Night Vale Community Radio are experiencing the following technical problems: the need for air, eye movement, and gooey stuff inside. Please, stand by.”
Then, just as suddenly, his voice goes back to normal and he apologizes for the interruption. He doesn’t explain what just happened, but it’s easy to work out soon enough. He announces that several frantic scientists (though apparently not Carlos) have just told him that everyone should STOP eating wheat and wheat by-products. For unknown reasons, everything with wheat in it has suddenly turned into a three-foot venomous snake. It seems likely that the interruption in the transmission was Cecil dealing with the sudden presence of enormous snakes inside him. I have no idea how he survived, but maybe he has a certain kinship with them. He does want to die from being swallowed by a giant snake after all.
Calmly, Cecil moves onto the next story about rising property taxes. The taxes are going to pay for the development of a neutron star under Night Vale (a city that can’t even build a drawbridge). The star will be used to power Night Vale High’s football stadium, which currently runs on whale oil. As a major property owner, John Peters (you know, the farmer) isn’t happy about the increase, especially since he has never once successfully raised a crop of peaches in their desert climate. Still, Cecil emphasizes that everyone has to pay their fair share … aside from fabulously wealthy people like Marcus Vanston, who gets out of paying taxes because his wealth proves he’s a better person than the rest of us.
Next is an update on the wheat-turned-snakes. They are actually no longer snakes. Now they have become evil, destructive spirits. Citizens are encouraged to hide from them in mud huts.
In other news, Night Vale recently received a check for $1.5 billion after the federal government saw readings for an enormous earthquake in the area. Strangely, no one in town felt any such quake, but they figure they might as well take the money anyway, maybe get some new cars. Cecil (of course) asked Carlos’ opinion on the situation. Carlos could only stammer and run for his computer to try and understand. Sadly, he didn’t even notice when Cecil complemented his beautiful shirt. Oh, the trials of romance!
We then learn that the City Council has just declared a state of emergency. Anyone who has eaten wheat must go to the quarantine area. Everyone else should go to the special wheat-proof bunker the Council has had ready for decades. Apparently there was a prophesy for all this. I hope it wasn’t a specific one. Then the Council would kind of be jerks for not warning anyone.
This episode’s weather is “Cigarette Burns Forever” by Adam Green.
When we return we get a story from Old Woman Josie, who reports that the angels in her house have started chanting “The bowling alley”. Between this, the Apache Tracker’s new behavior, and the presence of the underground city I think we can safely assume that something important is going on at the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex. We’ll have to wait and see just what that is.
As for the wheat crisis, it has ended as quickly as it started. The wheat-turned-snakes-turned-evil-spirits have vanished and the City Council promises they are gone forever. I like that little bit. It implies that, though the City Council is pretty awful too, they do protect the people of Night Vale to an extent. On the other hand, they also deal in absolutes. Wheat is now illegal in Night Vale and all people in quarantine must now live there the rest of their lives. But hey, at least they can still listen to the radio.
This was a good episode in terms of general plot and for returning to the running threads of the Apache Tracker, the angels, and the bowling alley. That trend will continue next time when we hear from another familiar face … or rather, faces.
But for now, let’s update the Conspiracy Tracker!
1. Angels are living with Old Woman Josie and the City Council wants to capture them.
2. There’s a house that doesn’t exist.
3. The Apache Tracker has changed into a real Native American and only speaks Russian
4. Time is weird in Night Vale and Carlos wants to figure it out.
5. Cecil wants to be swallowed by a giant snake.
6. There’s a city underneath the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex.
7. Literal five-headed dragon and fugitive Hiram McDaniels is on the loose.
8. Pets become perfect when you accept them …
9. What the heck is the dog park?
11. Cecil hates Steve Carlsberg for unknown reasons.
12. Night Vale has a surprising fixation on actor Lee Marvin.
13. The government can control the weather.
14. Two boy scouts are close to becoming Eternal Scouts.
15. The Apache Tracker and angels are watching the Desert Flower.
16. Night Vale is prone to duplication.
Alex Townsend is freelance writer, a cool person, and really into gender studies and superheroes. It’s a magical day when all these things come together. You can follow her on her tumblr and see her comments on silver age comics. Happy reading!
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