Welcome to Night Vale Recap: Episode 16 “The Phone Call”
Shippers, get ready to squee!
The episode starts with another check-in with Night Vale’s most unstable business: the Night Vale Daily Journal. Editor Leann Hart has apparently moved on from money-making strategies like charging customers to imagine their newspapers and mugging people on the street to more overt violence. Now she clearly sees bloggers as her chief enemy and has resolved go around murdering them with hatchets. While the new strategy seems obvious in its own twisted logic, I have always wondered why Leann doesn’t seem to have it in for Cecil. True, radios have never threatened printed news in the same way the internet has, but he’s still a competing reporter. He even regularly reports on Leann’s bad business practices. Why is she still giving him story tips in Morse code on his windows?
In other news, the Sheriff’s Secret Police want all citizens to memorize a very specific list of seemingly random words. They won’t say why or what these words mean, but they do promise that if we memorize it, it will keep us safe. If we forget any words, or don’t say them in the right order, there could be unpleasant consequences.
But enough of this boring news. Cecil wants to talk a bit about his personal life. Specifically, about a certain perfect-haired scientist that Cecil has been trying to make a part of his personal life. Apparently Cecil gave Carlos his phone number a while back, purely for professional reasons I’m sure. Well, this past weekend was the first time that Carlos actually used it.
Carlos spoke to Cecil about the nature of time in Night Vale. According to his measurements, time has been moving more slowly there than in the outside world by about a day. Carlos sounds pretty concerned about it, but Cecil is willing to do backflips to make the conversation have romantic undertones.
“So that’s what Carlos said! Listeners, what do you think? I feel like time always slows down when we’re together, Carlos and I. Is that what he’s trying to say? I feel that way too!
But I didn’t say it, I just said, oh, this is bad…I just said, “Neat!”
Ugh! How embarrassing!”
Cecil did manage to recover by agreeing to get the word out about the slowed down time. He was happy to do it. Cecil is very into science these days.
Next we get an update on the underground city. The Sheriff’s Secret Police have watched the grainy footage of a barely moving shape at the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and agree that it is definitely a sign of an impending invasion from an underground army. They advise citizens to prepare for war.
The police also want citizens to be more polite in terms of making our conversations more interesting and easier to hear for the secret police constantly watching us all. This includes taking steps like keeping windows open, turning down TVs, and having conversations about polarizing opinions.
After a brief announcement about the local library finally getting doors and a traffic report that questions the point of life and the overall direction of humanity, we get back to the important story. Carlos has given Cecil another call, several in fact. Cecil was broadcasting as his phone rang, but now he can’t resist playing the messages for us all to hear.
And this is a big moment in Night Vale history, because we actually do hear Carlos’ voice. This is the first time in the show’s run where someone besides Cecil Baldwin is doing some voice acting. At this point the voice of Carlos is played by show co-creator Jeffrey Cranor (whom I recently interviewed). The first time I heard this episode, hearing the voice of Carlos was a heart-stopping moment.
In the first message Carlos starts off by explaining that he’s discovered that the clocks in Night Vale aren’t real. They’re all empty inside with the exception of some that contain a strange gelatinous lump inside. Carlos wants to know more, but before he can say anything else he realizes someone’s at his door.
In the next message Carlos is whispering. He can see the man in the tan jacket standing outside his door, though unfortunately not the man’s face. The message ends suddenly when the man spots Carlos.
In the final message Carlos sounds calm again and apparently has no memory of the man or what happened with him. Instead he goes back to talking about the clocks. He wants Cecil to mention them on his show. Then Carlos asks if he can meet with Cecil to get contact information for the mayor and the police.
Naturally, the only thing Cecil pays attention to from any of those messages is the fact that Carlos wants to meet with him, which Cecil decides means they’re going on a date. From there, he cheerfully takes us to the weather.
This episode’s weather is “Those Days Are Gone, And My Heart is Breaking” by Barton Carroll. The choice is a little hilarious because this episode is one of the few where we aren’t on the brink of disaster when we go to the weather, things are actually going pretty well, but this song is one of the most depressing in the history of the weather section. It’s all about a man who assumed he was destined for greatness, so he abandoned his girlfriend and son. Then he ultimately had to accept a restaurant job his friend gave him because he wasn’t able to achieve anything for himself. It’s a downer and one that I’ve had to skip past a lot because I otherwise love this episode.
When we get back Cecil is still thrilled. He spoke to Carlos and made their date. It sounds like shenanigans waiting to happen since Cecil sees it as a coffee date and Carlos is obviously expecting more of a business meeting. (Well, maybe Carlos more hopes for a business meeting. Cecil hasn’t exactly been subtle about his feelings.) In the meantime Cecil is happy to see budding romance in his life and he wishes for the same happiness for his listeners. Interestingly, this is also the first time we hear Cecil be at all critical of Carlos, who seems to doubt the existence of Night Vale’s invisible, constantly teleporting clock tower. He quickly recovers though, reassuring us that he’s sure Carlos is very smart in other areas.
As a final news story, the Sheriff’s Secret Police want to clarify their earlier notice about the list of random words. They said the list would make us safe, but what they meant was that the list would help with a specific situation. We must not forget that we are never truly safe. But I have to wonder, can anyone in Night Vale forget that?
And here’s 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 Hiram McDaniels wants to be the next mayor.
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.
17. A dark planet is calling to people.
18. People are shipping crates with tiny houses inside.
19. There’s a man with a tan jacket who’s affiliated with the underground city.
20. There’s an old oak door on John Peters’ farm.
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!
—Please make note of The Mary Sue’s general comment policy.—