Here’s some storylines in “Chapter Three: The Case Of The Missing Lifeguard” of season 3 of Stranger Things. First, Max and Eleven have a sleepover. Second, the lab returns to Hawkins. Third, the LBJ and JFK controversy is discussed. Forth, this episode incorporates some elements from the movie Altered States. Fifth, Robin, Steve, and Dustin find Russians at the Starcourt mall. Finally, Billy is beginning to look like a serial killer on drugs. Throughout this episode, these are just of some of the storylines I am following, which stood out to me.
“Chapter Three: The Case Of The Missing Lifeguard” begins with this scene: In Chief Hopper’s broken down home in the woods, Max and Eleven do things girls did in the 80s in the bedroom of Eleven. For example, the girls are listening to Madonna, a famous music popstar from the 1980s. Also, the girls are wearing their newly bought clothes from The Gap. Plus, they’re reading teen magazines like Tiger Beat and SuperTeen, which feature Ralph Macchio, a teenage star from such 80s movie as The Karate Kid and The Outsiders. Although chilling in Eleven’s lovely bedroom, which really looks third world, the girls manage to have a little fun.
With the progression of this broadcast, we see the return of the lab, the original research and development laboratory in season 1 and 2, where a dimensional door was opened for a monster to enter into our world. In one scene, Joyce pleads with Hopper, saying, “What if it’s them. To build a machine like this, you need resources. You need scientists. You need funding. Tens of millions of dollars. It just can’t be a coincidence, Hopper. It has to be them. It has to be the lab.” Apparently, the lab has returned to Stranger Things in season 3.
This episode touches on the LBJ and JFK controvery. In one scene, a Hawkins Post reporter cracks a joke about Mrs. Driscol, the “local nutjob,” who claimed LBJ killed JFK. The reporter tells everyone in the staff room, laughing, “She told me, Johnson killed Kennedy.” At this time, some people thought LBj was responsible for killing JFK because Kennedy was rumored to be connected to the Irish mafia and was an agent for the Pope.
During this episode, there is one scene straight out of the 80s from the flick Altered States. In reminiscent of the isolation chamber in Altered States, El and Max, at the Hawkins Community Pool, grab a mask and turn on pool showers while El attempts to achieve a higher conscious to order to locate Heather, a Hawkins pool lifeguard, who they believe was abducted and murdered by Billy. Certainly, this scene is geared to an 80s crowd who remembers the movie Altered States; particularly, the scene were there is an isolation chamber, hallucinations, and water.
At this point, we see El has a heart. During her hallicination at the pool, El screams and tries to help Heather who is screaming, “Help me!” If you remember, too, an upset, hurt El questioned Mike last episode, saying, “Why do you lie!” Definitely, too, El has a heart in “Chapter Three: The Case Of The Missing Lifeguard.”
Also, it’s this show, we see Mike and El in a lover’s quarrel. In hopes of getting a phone call from El, Mike quickly answers the phone, saying, “No. Sorry, not interested.” Apparantly, it was only telemarketers and not El, who he was hoping for after their fight.
Throughout this episode, the kids of Stranger Things are beginning to grow up. For example, Mike tells Will, “El’s not stupid. It’s not my fault you don’t like girls. I am not trying to be a jerk, ok? But we’re not kids anymore. I mean, what did you think really? That we were never going to get girlfriends? That we were going to sit in my basement all day and just play games for the rest of our lives?” Mike is now dating; however, Will remains alone.
Meanwhile, Hopper and Joyce, while investigating the abandoned laboratory, have a heart to heart talk.. During this talk, Chief says to Joyce: “After Sarah, I had to get away. I had to get the hell out of that place, you know. Outrun those memories, I guess. I mean, why do you think I ended up back in this shit hole?” Chief Hopper had to lower his standard of living to have piece of mind after a messy break-up.
It’s this segment where Nancy and Jonathan Byers, the Hawkin Post photographer, make another visit to Mrs. Driscol’s home to retreive a rat as evidence. However, Nancy and Jonathan discover a missing Mrs. Driscol: “Mrs. Driscol…She is an eighty-year-old woman and it’s pouring. Where else would she be? Maybe she fell or something.” Nevertheless, they enter Mrs. Driscol’s home, where she lives alone, in hopes of checking up on Driscol’s safety while getting a rat, too.
Because of the Driscol visit scene, I noticed another unlying theme in the Stranger Thing series: The socioeconomic condtion of old people living in the US. Here, you have an old lady who lives alone, isolated, and she has a house full of rats. And nobody checks on her or cares about her safety. This scene seemed comical, but on second look, it suggests a poor standard of living for old people living in America in the 80s.
After watching this scene and seeing Mrs. Driscol eating fertizer right out of the bag, you’d probably come this conclusion: Mrs. Driscol has dementia. Sadly, in reality, this is the case for many elderly people over 80. And nobody bothers to care or check up on them if they live alone.
Now, back to Stranger Things: The kids hit pay dirt and find Russians at the Starcourt mall. Robin, co-employee of Stevie’s at the Scoops Ahoy shop, tells Dustin and Steve, “Well, I think we found your Russians.” Robin tells this to Dustin and Steve after narrowly escaping Russians on the roof of the Starcourts mall.
Also, this episode has a subliminal message for those who lived through the 80s: The crack drug epidemic. In earlier scenes, Billy Hargrove can be seen stumbling around the pool as if on drugs. Also, in another scene, Billy drinks from a chemical bottle in a back pool chemical room. Finally, at the end of this episode, Billy’s eyes are extremely dialated as if he’s on drugs. Such scenes may bring to mind the crack epidemic of the 80s.
In short, I enjoyed this episode for a variety of reasons. First, the broken down nature of Chief Hopper’s house surprised me since it seemed kind of strange; but he needed piece of mind. As well, I pondered and enjoyed the whole thing about Mrs. Driscol and the LBJ/JFK controversy. Finally, I got a laugh out of the Russians at the mall. It was a good episode to watch.