Full disclosure; I hate the whole Garden of Eden story. I hate it because it takes this whole idea of sin and redemption, which is beautiful, and frames it in terms of “the smallest of disobediences has made you massively suck forever.” Which, you know, not so beautiful. It’s the broccoli in the General Tso’s shrimp.
I’m, uh, a pescatarian who loves the General Tso’s sauce but hates broccoli. So, you know, I order the shrimp or bean curd instead of the chicken, and then I have to spend some time picking out all the broccoli. That hopefully clarifies my choice of analogy.
Anyway, I’m now tackling AIO’s episodes on forgiveness, and I think a great place to start would be the Applesauce arc. It was AIO’s first major ongoing story, and set up the framework for most of their other arcs, so it’s good to get to it sooner or later. Plus, it revolves thematically around a very crudely done adaptation of the Garden of Eden.
Connie opens the episode by speculating about all the changes Whit is making to Whit’s End. He has apparently been tinkering all over the shop, to the point that he has probably ripped out and rewired every outlet and altered every gadget. Yet he has been very mysterious about his plans. Eugene has decided to be entirely incurious about this. He says that if Whit needed them to know, he would keep them in the loop. He even implies that Connie is being nosy and distrustful.
Frankly, we are already off to a shaky start. Just imagine your boss was rewiring your entire workplace and wouldn’t tell you why. Not even the vaguest hint. Such an extensive and time consuming change would impact you, and it’s pretty reasonable to expect to know why this is happening.
That shaky start gets even shakier when Whit comes in, pointedly invites Eugene to come take a look at something, and leaves Connie to watch the ice cream counter.
Whit is, of course, about to let Eugene in on everything he has been working on. First he takes Eugene to the office, and points out the bookshelf. The bookshelf has, among other things, a copy of The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis. In the back of this book is a key. The key fits in the lock that is next to the bookshelf.
This is not a new addition. Whit has always had a random lock in the wall next to the bookshelf in his office. Um, okay. I feel like a random person might walk in, see that, and think, “I wonder if there’s a key somewhere here that will open that lock and unveil an interesting secret,” but okay.
Anyway, the key causes the bookshelf to roll back and unveil a secret computer room. It is “state of the art,” which means we have a voice activated AI named Mabel. She’s exactly like every other AI in every other show that isn’t specifically about AIs developing homicidal self-awareness.
Whit’s big project has been hooking up every feature of Whit’s End to a computer that lets them see stats on what is being used and in what ways, with what frequency. It also provides some remote repairs, including emergency master switches. As Eugene is looking through the various programs, he notes “Applesauce,” which is entirely unfamiliar to him. Whit says he can’t tell Eugene about that one, but it is important that he never use it or open it or tell anyone about it. Which is why it is on a computer in a kid’s club, in a secret room that is perfectly hidden except for the weird giveaway lock in the wall.
Oh, and in addition to not telling anyone about Applesauce, Eugene should also not tell anybody about the computer room, including Connie.
Cut to Eugene using the computer room to shut down the trains when Whit is out, and Connie walking in on him. Ooops.
Connie is ecstatic to finally know what Whit was doing. She also thinks the computer looks cool as hell. Eugene is massively condescending. He mansplains that Mabel is artificially intelligent, and then switches to mocking her for knowing nothing about AI. Connie says that she does know something about artificial intelligence. She knows that it is kind of intelligence, but artificial.
Well, she’s got you there, Eugene.
I just want to make a quick reference back to this episode. A major plot point was that Whit never gave Connie computer training or responsibilities because she never seemed interested in technology. But here she is, clearly fascinated by a computer room. But she doesn’t get to learn about them. The one male role model in her life has intentionally shut her out, while the other is mocking her interest. Of course, in other episodes she isn’t as interested, but in the real world people who are often picked on for showing interest in something will then stop showing interest in it. So…. hashtag feminism.
Eugene shoos Connie out and swears her to secrecy, but not before she notices Applesauce and is intrigued by the word. He says she isn’t supposed to know about that either. Now, this may just be my perspective, but given that the rest of his dialog was also very belittling and “you shouldn’t know anything about that,” I didn’t think he impressed on her that there is something especially private about whatever the hell Applesauce is. It came across more like the fifth or sixth in a string of shitty condescensions.
In the next scene, Connie is starting work before either Eugene or Whit have shown up, and the trains won’t turn back on. She gets one of the older kids to watch the front while she goes to turn the trains on. Although she hasn’t been trained, she remembers how Eugene turned the trains on, and deduces from that how to turn them back on.
Again, not incompetent or uninterested in computers. Just not given the opportunities to learn how to use them. It’s also worth emphasizing that, despite the fact that Eugene and Connie are both sometimes the only one present at Whit’s End, Eugene was the only one taught how to use Mabel and the computer room.
Anyway, yay Connie! You figured out the scary technology despite the male patriarchy closing you out for no good reason! Good job performing your literal job!
Once she’s done with the trains, she totally doesn’t turn on the Applesauce program, just to see what it is.
Hang on, that sounds like sarcasm. Let me try that again.
Connie explicitly does not attempt to turn on the Applesauce program. What she does is wonder aloud about what it does, and even gets a little insecure about whether or not it might have something to do with her. But it’s just normal human shit. When somebody is keeping a secret from you, the first place your mind goes is that it’s a secret about you, no matter how much of a leap that is. She doubts Whit, but ultimately she decides to trust him, and not open the Applesauce program.
Mabel mishears her, and loads the Applesauce program. Look, we’ve all gotten into little misunderstandings with voice recognition software, and I’m saying that in 2018. This episode came out in 1989. This is so not on Connie.
She tries to turn it off. She can’t. Eugene shows up and tries to turn it off. He can’t. The program makes Whit’s End go haywire, and then when neither of them can give a password, Mabel shuts the whole shop down.
Whit shows up hours later. He hears their explanations, but doesn’t care that neither of them did anything intentionally damaging. All he can do is whine about their lack of trust in him. And then fire them both.
Aaaaaand that’s the end of the episode! No, literally, it ends on the cliffhanger of their immediate termination of employment, for, um, let’s see if I got this straight. Eugene got walked in on while doing a thing Whit explicitly trained and authorized him to do. He should have closed the door, but then, if Whit was going to have top secret computer rooms he should have maybe made them less obvious. Connie later used her initiative to fix a problem she was not trained to fix, and was then misunderstood by an overly literal AI. Whit knows this is what happened. Whit thinks this is reason enough to fire them.
In case you are unfamiliar with the Garden of Eden, the basic story is that God gives Adam and Eve a perfect paradise, with one tree they must not eat from. Eve flunks this with a little encouragement from a serpent, Adam flunks this when she points out that apples are tasty, and God throws all three of them out of paradise for not following his one rule. There are two interpretations of what the whole tree thing was about. One is that it was an arbitrary test of obedience, on which the entire fate of the universe hung. The other is that there were cosmic implications behind both the rule and the fact that the tree was a part of the Garden of Eden to begin with. The former I think establishes God as an abusive parental figure. The latter… still extremely harsh, but you know, I work in education with small children. I know how it is when you don’t have time to explain all the reasons why the rules are the rules, but it’s still legitimately important for the kids to follow it, and just trust that you have reasons. Again, pretty harsh for violation of a rule that they couldn’t adequately understand, but even with how much I hate this story I can concede this one little point to team God.
But this story sure as shit ain’t that. First, Whit was perfectly capable of saying to both Connie and Eugene, “hey, there’s a computer room back here. Mostly I want you to leave it alone, but you can use it for these few things if necessary.” Second, if he was going to keep it a secret, he could have done an actually decent job. Third, most of what was on the computer didn’t need to be a big-ass secret in the first place! It’s just basic stats and an emergency shutdown! Connie not only could have been let in on that, but she should have been. This should have all been on a regular computer in Whit’s regular office, which both Eugene and Connie could have used if needed.
Applesauce is a weird feature of the AIO universe. Whit is, of course, in addition to being an entrepreneur and eternally wise old man, an independently wealthy computer genius and superspy. I’m not exaggerating. The Whitaker family has government ties and periodically goes to do epic spy shit. In these spy-centric episodes, Applesauce comes up frequently. What it does is never clarified. Frequently it helps sabotage, but also in one episode it helps develop a scary bioweapon, and recurring villain Dr. Regius Blackgaard is often on the hunt for it. According to AIOwiki, “it has been described as powerful enough to take over the world.” All of which begs the question – deep breath – WHY THE EVERLOVING FUCK IS THIS PART OF WHIT’S END!!!!!!?????????
Whit’s End is supposed to be a safe place for kids. Applesauce is a scary government program with apocalyptic potential. These two things should not coincide.
The allusions to the Garden of Eden are not lost on your average AIO viewer; there’s a forbidden fruit, a man and a woman fuck up but really the woman is the bad one, both get cast out of paradise as punishment for their sins. We aren’t supposed to question Whit’s decision making here. We are supposed to be disappointed with Eugene and Connie, but especially Connie. There’s not enough hand flailing in the world to communicate how fucked up that is.
Best Part: Connie deciding that she can be an independent person and fix the trains herself, because she is a smart young woman who cares about her job and responsibilities, and fuck the old guys who won’t teach her to use the big scary computers.
Worst Part: Whit. Just… Whit, generally.
Story Rating: Fuck this shit.
Moral Rating: Fuuuuuuck. Thiiiiiis. Shiiiiit. FFFFF-