In the suburban Dorado Grande community at the Strawn house, Ted and Sherry are eating breakfast with their three children. Their teenage daughter Karen glares at her parents all suspiciously as Sherry talks about an upcoming neighborhood barbeque. Karen finally yells at them to stop acting so normal, saying that they hate mornings. She asks who they are and what they've done with her parents, says that they're not her parents, and runs out. They go after her, saying that they just want to help her get well, but Karen runs down the street. Ted chases after her and yells at his neighbors to stop Karen, but she runs out onto the main street... and Mickey almost hits her on her way to work. Karen gets in and tells Mickey to drive off, and she does so.
Mickey pulls up to Serendip just as Austin comes out. She tells him what happened and that men are chasing her. Ted and Sherry pull up and say that Karen is scaring them to death. Austin manages to calm an angry Ted down, and Sherry tells her husband that Karen needs help. Ted says that he loves his daughter and goes back to his car, and Sherry tells Austin that Karen has been in an institute. Karen tells Austin and Mickey that her mother would never say that because she was ashamed of it, and Sherry explains that they were going to have a birthday party for her. Austin promises that he'll get Karen to the party, and Sherry goes back to the car.
Karen insists that she can't go back, and Austin talks to Mickey privately asking her for a synopsis of what happened. He cuts her off but points out that the physical evidence shows that Ted and Sherry each smoke four packs a day... but neither one has had a cigarette for the last month, judging by the pitch in their voices. Austin has studied nicotine withdrawal and never found anyone with that kind of self-control except for psychotic mass-murderers. Intrigued, he figures that he'll go to the birthday party with Karen.
As they drive back to Karen's house, Karen explains that her parents are too "perfect." Austin says that he's there as an observer, and if he thinks that she's right then he'll back her up. Karen assures him that he'll see what she's talking about, and that every adult in Dorado Grande is acting the same way. Austin notes all the new motor homes and dirt bikes that people in Dorado Grande have bought. She points out a former alcoholic bringing his wife and sons to her birthday party as examples of other adults that have changed.
Austin helps Karen out of the car and then points out that the lawns of every house are perfect except for one house. Karen's younger sister Abby runs out and Karen hugs her, and their brother Roger comes out and sulks. Sherry joins them, wishes Karen a happy birthday, and thanks Austin and Mickey for bringing her daughter home.
At the backyard party, Barry Boxell greets Austin and assumes that he just moved in. Austin realizes that Barry is in the pharmaceutical business, and Ted comes over. Barry talks about his new anti-drug medication, and Ted advises him not to say anything. The pharmaceutical man says that Ted is his advisor, and Ted takes Barry to see something in his workshop.
Lou McNally and his wife Barb arrive, and Lou shoves past everyone to grab a beer. He discovers that there are none in the cooler, and Mickey points out that it's a birthday party for kids. She asks how many children they have, and Barb admits that they don't have any yet. She complains about how couples with children have happy marriages, and Lou says that his motor home dealership is first in the state. Austin asks Lou if he can recommend a good gardener, and Lou says that everyone in Dorado Grande does it themselves. Lou goes to find a beer, and Mickey apologizes to Barb for raising a delicate subject. As Mickey goes to get something to eat, Austin sees Lou secretly goes off with a neighbor woman.
Inside the house, Abby asks Karen to listen to the tape she made. Karen isn't interested but Abby plays it anyway.
When Mickey comes back, Austin asks for her 10-second opinion. She says that they're the most normal people she's ever met, and Austin tells her that the number of stressed-out personalities at the party are eight times the national norm. He says that he's going to find out, and then tells her to wear her hair up because it would look nice.
Roger is tossing a football to a friend and misses, hitting Barry in the head. Ted tells him to apologize, and Roger angrily tells him to suck an egg. Meanwhile, Barry tells his son Barry Jr. to go home, and Barry Jr. tells him to shoot himself. As Austin watched, Ted goes into the kitchen, pokes a hole in an egg from the refrigerator, and starts sucking it. Austin realizes what Barry is going to do, and runs inside just in time to stop Barry from shooting himself.
Afterward, EMTs take Barry to the county hospital. He says that he doesn't remember what happened, and Austin collects food from the party in coffee cans and takes it with him. Karen comes over with Abby and says that she can't go, saying that she's needed there. Austin has no choice but to agree, and tells her to call him if she needs help.
At the warehouse, Austin examines the food and finds nothing unusual. Mickey has reached the non-smoking drug and discovered that Barry and Ted have applied for a patent for the drug, Quit-It. Ted has taken out a $8 million loan for an advertising campaign. Mickey puts her hair up and Austin wonders why. She says that he said an hour ago to put it up, and he tells her that she should know when he's being facetious. Austin points out that the people have bourgeois spending habits, mow their lawns twice a day, and try to shoot themselves. He then he has someone to see even though it's 8 in the evening, and Mickey goes after him.
Mickey and Austin drive to Dorado Grande , and Barry Jr. rides out in front of them on a bicycle. When Mickey complains, he tells her to get her eyes examines and rides off. They go to Lou's house and Austin tells Mickey that Lou is having an affair with another man's wife. He removes the light bulb from the porch light and rings the doorbell, then tells Mickey to stand on her toes. She looks like the taller neighbor woman, Julie Cutler, and Lou calls to her as "Julie" because he can't see in the dim light. Austin steps out and says that they're looking for a motor home, and Lou says that Barb is shopping. Lou nervously suggests that they see him the next day, and Austin asks him about the RVs. Barry admits that everyone in Dorado Grande is going broke buying RVs, and he's never seen anything like it. Austin offers Lou a cigarette and after Lou accepts, points out that no one smokes, drinks, or cheats in Dorado Grande... except Lou.
As Austin and Mickey leaves, Austin says that he figures that he should see Karen. Roger is watching TV and answers the door, and takes them to the kitchen. Karen is busy scrubbing the kitchen and says that her parents took Abby to the movies. She's bright and cheerful, and insists that she's feels perfect. Outside, Mickey and Austin agree that it wasn't Karen. Austin has chloroform ready and figures that Karen is the perfect test specimen. They go back in and chloroform Karen unconscious, and carry her to the station wagon. They hear gunshots: Julie has gone to Lou's front door and when he answered, she shot him in the chest. Barry Jr. is nearby watching and smiles in satisfaction, and Austin and Mickey see him.
At the warehouse, Mickey gets Karen to sleep in one of the upstairs bedroom. Lou will leave and Julie doesn't remember what happened. Austin says that the neighborhood society is breaking down, and figures that he needs to get one of the Quit-It pills. He then stares at Mickey and says that he can hear her blink her eyes, and he thinks that it's beautiful. Mickey points out that he's doing it again, and after a moment Austin snaps out of it. He tells her to keep an eye on Karen and see how she is when she wakes up, and goes to check out Dorado Grande .
Later, Karen runs downstairs, finds a knife, and wakes up Mickey. The teenager says that the adults came after her and want to take over her body. Mickey assures her that it was just a dream, and Karen breaks into tears. She says that she doesn't want to be crazy, and Mickey assures her that she isn't. Mickey asks what happened after they left, and Karen says she took some of Sherry's Quit-It pills because they help her fall asleep. In the middle of the conversation, Karen dozes off and suggests that they go to get their cut together next day or try on dresses. Mickey takes the bottle of pills from her and finds that they're all gone.
The next morning, Austin returns and wakes up Mickey. Karen is gone, and Austin figures that she went back home. Mickey tells her what happened and gives him the empty bottle, and he analyzes the residue. He insists that a drug can't change a person's basic psychological makeup, and he found nothing in Dorado Grande . Mickey looks at Austin suspiciously, and he figures that it was about the last night. He says that Lou is the most admirable man he's ever met, and wonders why no one likes it. Mickey says that he's obnoxious and two-timing, and won't discuss having children with Barb., Austin seizes on that and that the children command the adults. The chemical breakdown shows nothing but gelatin from the outside coating.
Back at Dorado Grande, Mickey drives past an ice cream truck with the seller doing a lot of business. Austin says that he's going to break into Ted's workshop and steal the Quit-It pills. When Mickey warns that it's a major felony, he gently strokes her face. Austin then goes inside where the Strawns and Boxells are playing bridge. Abby goes after Austin as he breaks into the workshop, and he asks her what Ted does with the tape players on the workbench. Abby says that Ted makes commercials, and Sherry hears her talking. The girl says that Karen's friend is there, and the couples run for the workshop. Austin leaps out the window and gets into the car, and Mickey drives away. However, trucks cut them off and every adult in the neighborhood surrounds the station wagon.
The adults and Karen take Austin and Mickey to the workshop and tie them up. They say that Quit-It will give them everything they ever want, and Ted says that now he likes his job and has goals in life. They insist that they're not drug addicts, and Sherry refuses to go back to the way she was. Austin says that the pill makes them open to suggestion, and wonders who suggested that Julie shoot Lou. Ted insists that they won't understand until they experience it, and Austin and Mickey have no choice but to take the pills. The man puts on some mood music and leaves them to process for the first time, and says that they'll be back in a few minutes. Austin claims that he's already under the pill's effect, but they don't believe him.
Once everyone leaves, Austin slips his bonds, takes the board off the broken window from earlier, and says that they have to induce vomiting. They get out and drive away. Roger sees them and, furious, goes in to berate the parents.
At the warehouse, Mickey suggests that they may not have a perfect society at Dorado Grande but it's close. Austin asks for the pills and then says that it's happening again. He warns Mickey that he needs to say things to her, and tells her that his head is filled with things to say. Austin reaches for her face to stroke her, and tells her to stay so that it will run its course and he can understand what's happening. Mickey takes notes and Austin starts spewing compliments. She tells him that he doesn't mean it and it isn't him, and Austin realizes that everything with the adults is official. He figures that it was something at the party even though he didn't eat anything or take the pills then. Austin the reaches for Mickey... to take the pill she salvaged.
Analyzing the pill's contents, Austin determines that it contains nothing but amino acids. He turns up the music and goes into his cabinet, and Mickey points out that he's been playing it constantly. Austin realizes that it's a tape he picked up at the party, and every "episode" he's had is right after he's been listening to the music. He tells Mickey that everyone has been doing what the children says, and filters out Roger's voice in the music telling him to fall in love with Mickey. Austin explains that it's subliminal programming, and that Roger used Ted's programming. Lou had bad habits because he didn't have a child to tell him what to do. He points out that the most powerful mind-control technique ever conceived is in the minds of children.
Later, Austin and Mickey dress up as ice cream sellers, rent a truck, and drive to Dorado Grande. They're playing music, and Austin tells Mickey that he took a stab at the subliminal programming technique. As he hands out free ice cream, Roger and the other male teenagers come over. Roger has a baseball bat and says that it's his neighborhood, and Austin tells him that he's taking it away from him. The teenager smashes a taillight, and Austin gets in the truck and closes the door. Roger uses a knife to deflate the tires, and he and his gang start shaking the truck.
The parents show up... and ignore Roger's orders. They drag their children away, and Austin tells Mickey that his message worked. Abby comes over and asks if they're married yet. Austin realizes that he played the recording too slowly and it was Abby's voice, not Roger's. Abby says that she and Roger were playing with the recording device and discovered the effect on the goldfish. She made Austin fall in love with Mickey because they're supposed to. Karen comes over and waves to them.
Later at the warehouse, Austin and Mickey are playing cards. As Mickey wonders if the parents will go back to their old ways, Austin says that he'll drive the ice cream truck through Dorado Grande and play another message to make them forget the subliminal programming. He turns up the music, and says that he was fascinated to see what he was going to say next. Austin insists that it wasn't authentic, and Mickey starts telling him what a wonderful person she is. She realizes that Austin has a subliminal message in the music, and he points out that she was so sincere.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 9, 2017