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Officer Nassif and Frankie return for our season finale. With the Grapnofalians in control of their solar system, the crew struggle to do their job while being closely watched. Also: the pros and cons of freezing oneself to escape a dictatorship, financial advice from a robocall, and the ethics of timeline interference.
Loaf: Good evening gentle listeners, good evening not so gentle listeners, and good evening especially to our new Occupation forces, who are not gentle at all!
Janet: Um- sorry, we mean, to our new, lovely and esteemed leaders, of course, who we of course do not think of as awful occupiers of our space, even if they do appear to be occupying said space. A good evening especially to you!
Loaf: An especially special good evening to Narflebock, commander of the Grapnofalian… liberation fleet, who we may, I’m told, be hearing from later in the program.
Janet: *nervous screeching laughter* Yes! So exciting! We’re so excited!
Loaf: But before we get to that, we do have a few things to go over. In spite of the new management our solar system is under, we remain Solutions to Problems, where we provide metaphorical soothing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for your headaches and anxieties. If you have a problem you’d like our help with, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or just say something subversive while standing near one of the compliance towers then tell the eliminator who appears to convey your message to us via high command.
Janet: Boy those compliance towers really add something to the skyline, huh? Hahahhahaa like despair, but, you know, an aesthetic despair. That’s a good thing, I promise, Eliminator Troy! Eliminator Troy says hi, everyone!
Eliminator Troy: Oh, don’t mind me. Just act like I’m not even here!
Janet: Sure! I can do that! Hahaha. Do we have a problem? I mean, obviously we have a problem, which maybe could be solved, but a problem in a letter voice format that we can solve right now at this very moment!
Loaf: I believe we do have a problem. We have three, in fact. Here’s the first.
Dear Janet and alien creature,
Several hundred years ago, when freezing yourself until they had a cure for X was all the rage, I froze myself until they could grow new livers, kidneys, lungs, and gall bladders. A few days ago they finally figured out the gall bladders (surprisingly tricky organ) and they thawed me out and patched me up. I’m staying with some great grandkids now, but to be honest, I’m miserable. The world just isn’t what I’d hoped it would be. Sure we have flying cars and the hypernet and wow the drugs are so much better now, but it’s kind of a bummer being part of a totalitarian police state. I thought we were over that in the mid 2000s, but I guess old things come back in fashion. I have recently been thinking a lot about refreezing myself and seeing what it’s like in another 200 years. I know if everyone did that, nothing would ever change, but I just feel like I missed out on the good part and woke up just in time for everything to be shitty again. What should I do?
Best served cold?
Janet: Well, it does seem like awful political regimes are cyclical! Hahahahahhaah ah a will the horror ever end? Eventually! Thanks heat death of the universe. Looking forward to ya. Anyway, on to your question. If you don’t have a strong relationship with your grandchildren, I’m not sure what’s stopping you from hopping back on the human popsicle train. However, 200 years from now might even be worse. It’s a big gamble. Loaf, what do you think?
Loaf: Well, one thing you might consider is travelling spatially, rather than temporally. If you froze yourself before humans had perfected faster-than-light travel, there’s a whole galaxy you haven’t seen.
Eliminator Troy clears his throat.
Loaf: By which I mean, if you apply for a travel permit, you can go anywhere in Grapnofalian space.
Janet: I would apply now! Those lines at the compliance tower can get pretty unwieldy.
Eliminator Troy: If I might make a suggestion…?
Janet: Sure, why should I care! This is only the active censorship of my livelihood! I mean, of course I care. Suggest away. Nothing matters.
Eliminator Troy: I would suggest our letter-writer consider enrolling in the Grapnofalian Defense Force. Although only, certain positions are available to humans, it would allow him to see, certain parts of the galaxy. Possibly even your homeworld, Eeeheehee.
Loaf: I SHOULD HOPE NOT-
Loaf: I mean, not during this season. It’s terrible. With the acid rains.
Eliminator Troy: Sorry for the interruption. He he.
Janet: Well, anyway, there are certainly options for you, Best Served Cold Question Mark. You don’t have to even take any of these options! Do what you want! Live your life! Everything we do is meaningless and ultimately has no impact because one day we will all be eventually swallowed by entropy!
Eliminator Troy: Well, that’s not strictly speaking true. Upholding the superiority of the Grapnofalian race isn’t meaningless. Is it, Janet?
Janet: YOU KNOW WHAT. *table falls over* LAVENDER. LAVENDER LAVENDER LAVENDER.
The broadcast dissolves into static.
Computerized voice: We are currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by as we attempt to find a solution to this problem. Long live the Grapnofalian Empire. Long live the Grapnofalian Empire.
Janet: I mean, yes, Grapnofalian race is superior, must be upheld.
Loaf: And we apologize to any listeners we may have offended just now.
Janet: I don’t -
Janet: *tired monotone* I also apologize. I believe we have another problem letter to look at and provide solutions to?
Loaf: We do indeed. What with the, uh, change in management, our usual system for filtering and selecting letters got a little, uh, well, let’s just say I have no idea what’s coming next.
Janet: It’s on fire, you mean. Its the one that’s on fire.
Loaf: … Right. Anyway, let’s hear it!
Phone rings. The letter is read by a computer generated voice.
Hello! My name is Katie. I work for Business Advantage Plus.
I’ve heard about your business [different voice] Solutions to Problems[/different voice] and I’m excited to offer you our latest product! I just know that [Solutions to problems] customers will love this service, and it will save you lots of money too! May I please speak to the person who handles your finances?
Janet: Oh wow, who does handle our finances? Is our studio even owned by a corporation anymore? Am I even getting paid?
Loaf: All excellent questions! I like this Katie, she sounds nice. A bit odd to use her real name though.
Janet: Kids these days don’t believe in privacy. Always putting their brainwaves on the internet. Katie does sound nice. Katie sounds like she believes in DECENCY. Or FREE SPEECH. Katie sounds like someone who appreciates SOUND ADVICE THAT ISN’T INTERRUPTED BY TOTALITARIAN PROPAGANDA. Katie works for Business Advantage Plus which is probably a place that believes in the GOOD in THE WORLD. She iS CALLING US. FOR SOLUTIONS. HOW I CAN I GIVE HER A SOLUTION, LOAF? The WORLD IS FULL OF PROBLEMS I HAVEN’T SOLVED? I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE MY MONEY COMES FROM, AND I LOVE MY MONEY.
Loaf: I know you do, Janet. I know.
Janet: I KNOW MORE ABOUT MY MONEY THAN I DO ABOUT SOME EX GIRLFRIENDS. AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO IS IN CHARGE OF OUR FINANCES RIGHT NOW? FRAAAAANKIIIEEEEE!
Frankie: Oh god, what now - aH. He’s just in here? Staring at you guys?
Eliminator Troy: Hi!
Janet moans miserably in the background.
Loaf: Frankie, I think what Janet means to ask you is, how have the stations finances been impacted by the, uh, new management?
Frankie: We are currently being paid in the standardized rations being given out to all non-defender-class inhabitants.
Loaf: That doesn’t sound, uh, transferable.
Frankie: Not really, no. You can transfer them to your mouth?
Janet continues to make pathetic noises in the background.
Loaf: I think my cohost needs a little time to cope with this new facet of our reality. Do you know if we have a sponsor message? Though come to think of it, they would need currency with which to sponsor us.
Frankie: Um, we have a message, yes. Uh, it’s also a sponsor message in the sense that the person the message is from is sponsoring our rations.
Loaf: Let’s play it, I guess?
Narflebock: Greetings, humans! It is I, Narflebock, commander of the battle fleet. As promised, I have brought your once-proud race to it’s knees! But I am a merciful conqueror. Even now I am preparing to offer a great opportunity to enterprising humans who want to earn more rations. There are two great ways to earn bonus rations! The first is to report all dissenters! Anyone who reports a dissenter to the compliance towers will get special defender rations for a week. The second is to join the Grapnofalian defense force! You won’t be able to defend your own solar system of course - that would be dangerous. For us. Not for you. For you, it will be dangerous to go to Cleftimus III. But you will. For the glory of the Grapnofalian empire! Join me on our next conquest! Be on the winning side for once.
Janet: *in her normal voice* What a lovely sponsor message from our esteemed leader! I hope no one chokes that guy to death with one of his many decorative army medals! That would be terrible!
Loaf: What a weirdly specific thing to hope for! Well, we do have one more letter today, and let me tell you it is a doozy. A real head-scratcher. A real thorny, tangled knot of a problem.
Janet: Oh, I’m so excited. I didn’t get to read it ahead of time because I was busy being re-programmed! I sure am excited.
The phone rings. The letter is read by someone who sounds suspiciously similar to Officer Nassif.
Dear Janet and Loaf,
I don’t quite know how to say this in a way that you will understand, but that will be allowed through to you. I’ve spent my whole life believing in a certain set of principles with regards to time travel. I, uh, work in time travel. And my whole career I’ve believed the past to be sacrosanct. That interfering in the past only brings disaster. I’ve seen, countless times, the hazards of time travel used improperly, especially in regards to catastrophic events. More than once, I’ve had to ensure certain things happened to ensure favorable outcomes in the future, even though they seemed devastating at the time. However, in my current present I’ve been presented with an issue that seems to be easily solved with time travel, and in doing so I can prevent my beloved homeworld from being taken over by an occupying force. All I would have to do is interfere with the broadcast of one radio show, and an entire war is averted. Like I said, this goes against everything I believe, but it also feels irresponsible to allow the world to stay on its current path when I have the ability to save it. What should I have done?
Definitely not a Time Agent
Janet: Do you really think it was one radio broadcast? Like, how sure are you? People make mistakes!
Loaf: Well, he’s not in the studio with us, Janet. He can’t answer that question. But I do seem to recall my efforts to find a suitable human moniker putting us on Narflebock’s radar in the first place. Eliminator Troy, what do you think?
Eliminator Troy: I think this whole conversation is veering dangerously close to subversive territory. Maybe it would be best if-
Eliminator Troy is interrupted by a series of laser blasts.
Janet: Well, gosh, how weird it is that he stopped speaking in the middle of that sentence! But he is signing to me in a sign language that we are definitely 100 percent free to continue our broadcast so we must therefore be doing nothing illegal! This is totally fine!
Frankie: I’ll just go make Eliminator Troy’s friends know he’s ok. I better take his pulse rifle with me, just in case.
Janet: Why wouldn’t he be okay? He’s fine. I’m pretty sure people frequently are fine while covered in their own blood.
Loaf: Now, as for our letter-writer, definitely-not-a-time-agent, I think your predicament is one that’s familiar to a lot of us. [sounds of lasers in the background.] We all have deeply held beliefs and convictions, and when circumstances challenge those convictions, it can be really hard to decide what to do. It can shake us to the core of our very being. If-
Janet: Oh for god’s sake, just change it! Just go back in time and change it! Look, as someone who may or may not have some experience with time travel, if you can pinpoint a whole diverging universe from one definite node point, you should definitely go and change the node point! Sometimes, time travel is hard. Sometimes, you go back in time because you think “oh I have a bachelor’s degree in human anthropology of course I know how to make lasting policy changes that will have a significant impact on human history!” And those times you are wrong. THIS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE TIMES. PLEASE MAKE US PICK A BETTER NAME. I WOULD DO IT MYSELF BUT THEY CONFISCATED ALL OF MY THINGS WHEN I STARTED PAINTING GRAFFITI ON A COMPLIANCE TOWER.
Frankie: *crackling, as if through radio* Uh, guys. I managed to, um, subdue all of the guards and get to the control tower, so I can guarantee we’re still broadcasting. But there’s a Grapnofalian battle cruiser on approach to the-
A loud explosion occurs in the background.
Janet: Wow, we should really promote her from intern, huh?
Loaf: Especially if none of us are getting paid anyway.
Frankie: I’m STILL not an intern-
More explosions and laser blasts can be heard.
Loaf: I’m going to have to agree with Janet, Officer - I mean, definitely-not, you should really just make the change.
Frankie: Shields are down. One more hit and we’re done for!
There is one final, loud explosion followed by a few moments of silence.
Upbeat music begins to play.
Janet: -and that’s how you harvest a tiger gut from a tropula. What an interesting question!
Loaf: Wow, Janet. I had no idea your survival training was so advanced. We should go camping some time.
Janet: I’d love to, Peri! I sure do enjoy looking at the stars out in the wilderness, where the sky isn’t as saturated with all the satellites and billboards.
Janet: Oh, Frankie! What do you need?
Frankie: I’m getting a call for you. From Officer Nassif.
Janet: OOOH TIME TRAVEL DRAMA. Peri, can we just put him on air?
Loaf who is now called Peri: I can’t see what would possibly go wrong with that.
Officer Nassif: Hello?
Janet: Hi Officer, you’re on air. This is Solutions to Problems, where we-
Officer Nassif: Yeah, I’ve been on the show before.
Peri: Oh, we’re never sure with you. The cooking demo you gave was amazing, though!
Janet: I learned so much about ancient stewing techniques.
Peri: Why are you calling in? Do you have a problem?
Officer Nassif: Actually I don’t think I do. Everything is fine. Everything is just… fine.
Janet: Well……… if perhaps you had done a thing. Like a time travel thing. That made things fine. Is your problem perhaps…. The…. lingering guilt? Wink wink?
Peri: I’m not familiar with that human expression. What does wink wink mean?
Janet: Oh, well, you’re supposed to actually wink, but this is a radio broadcast. You close one eye quickly to indicate that you’re doing something sneaky in collusion with another person. Kind of. It can mean a few things. Sometimes flirting. Don’t just wink at anyone.
Peri: Fascinating! There’s always something new to learn about humans. Well, Officer Nassif, if you don’t have a problem - or your problem is that everything is fine? I think we may be about at the end of our show.
Officer Nassif: Uh, yeah, I guess I don’t have a problem. I’ll look forward to that cooking demo I guess.
Janet: It was really something. We’re still finding flour in weird corners.
Officer Nassif: Sure. Well. Goodbye for now. *phone noise*
Janet: That guy is so fun.
Janet: Well, like you were saying, I think that’s a wrap!
Peri: Thank you all for listening! And until next time, keep those plasma nodules calibrated to exactly 88.6 degrees celsius.
Solutions to Problems is written by and features the voices of Austin Hendricks and Nathan Comstock. It is produced and musically scored by Michael F. Gill. Out theme is by Thomas Dwyer. The voice of Frankie is Valerie Loveland. The voice of Agent Nassif is Ramy Abdel Ghani. The voice of Narflebock is Marten Dollinger. And the voice of Eliminator Troy is Kristopher Ball. This episode’s letters were read by Ian Sharp and a robot.
Find out more information about us at stppodcast.com, where you can also find full transcripts. If you like the show, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or tag us on social media. Last week’s cryptic question was - if you first visited a notorious heiress, then a gold rush writer, then Robinson and WIlliams, why would you travel to the birthplace of a reptile chaser next? This is a tennis question, believe it or not, as each clue relates to the location of the four grand slams. The notorious heiress is Paris Hilton, with Paris being home to the French Open, a gold rush writer is Jack London and London is the home for Wimbledon, Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson host a podcast called “Two Dope Queens” with Queens being the New York City borough that hosts the US Open. Why would you travel to Melbourne, the birthplace of crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, next? Because that’s the city where the Australian Open takes place. If you got that right, your mind has the beauty of a mathematical proof caught inside a tiny tornado.
Today’s cryptic question is - why would three films with Brad Pitt and one film with Molly Ringwald equal the result of deep thought? The answer will not be given. This is our season finale. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back with Season 2 and some bonus content very soon. Thanks for listening. Happy New Year!