Episode 20: Active Sabotage is a Love Language

Off the air, the whole crew celebrate the end of the season, but there are still some problems to be solved, namely Loaf's misgivings about their upcoming family visit, Janet's uncertain employment status, and Samantha's ongoing struggle to be a real person instead of the idea of a real person.

Janet: And that’s it for another episode of Solutions to Problems.

Loaf: Until next week - actually it’ll be a little longer than next week as I’m headed back to the homeworld to *deep sigh* see my family - but until next time, may your tentacles quiver with the intense frustration of the moon goddess.

Theme song plays

Mr. Xorfus: And that’s a wrap on the season, guys! Great work, great work. Janet, you remember we have a meeting in half an hour.

*door closes*


*coffee machine sounds*

Janet: Ugh. That guy. I mean, he’s a good boss, and that’s kind of myproblem. Cause he’s always caring about people’s feelings or whatever and then making me care about people’s feelings or whatever? *pause* Is going back home really going to be that bad?

Loaf: I imagine parts of it will be pleasant. I imagine a lot of time and effort will be spent trying to guilt me into staying. Thanks for not needling me too much about it on the air this week.

Janet: I mean, I get it. It’s super fun to needle you, but not when you’re being such a bummer anyway. People get used to it after a while, I think. You know, they learn you won’t come back, and they stop asking quite as hard. Well, sometimes that’s not true. Sometimes they keep asking but they know the answer, which is so horribly organic of us, I guess.

Loaf: Janet, have you ever seen another member of my species? Aside from *dolphin noise that means Loaf’s broodmate*?

Janet: Um, no, I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t fully know what all your different molts look like, so it’s possible, but no, I don’t think so.

Loaf: It’s because it’s exceedingly rare for us to want to live off-world. I’ve had this wanderlust all my life but no one -

*door opens*

Frankie: Oh, hey. That episode wasn’t terrible. Hooray for the end of the season or whatever. Thanks for actually reading my briefings, for once. I felt less like I was wasting my time than usual. Loaf, you have another message from your broodmate, which I have to tell you for some reason, even though Melody is literally in every room and could have told you at literally any time.

Melody: I do so much, and nobody ever appreciates me. It’s always ‘Oh Melody, do this. Oh Melody, we’re suffocating, Oh Melody, play the message from my Broodmate that has already left twelve messages.

Loaf: I’ll take it in here.

Janet: Oh, cool. Well, I guess I’ll talk to you after the Thing with Mr. Xorfus. Ugh. I think I did better. I think I’m being better, you know?

Loaf: Do you need to prepare? Or would you mind sticking around for a minute- in case I need help, uh, solving a problem?

Janet: Oh, um, sure, I can stick around. I was just going to pester Melody until she locks me out of the cafeteria again, but like, in this playful way where I think she kinda likes it maybe? It’s hard to say. Technically, I had ten whole episodes to prepare, so there’s not a lot I can do about it in the next couple of minutes except panic and contemplate my existence.

Melody: The permissions on your key card are a mess, by the way.

Janet: Yeah, I know. Whose fault is that? Anyway, semblance of privacy, please? We’re having a conversation.

Melody: *scoffs* Organics.

Dear Loaf,

So happy to hear you’re finally coming home for a bit. Everyone is so excited to see you. Just wanted to check in about a few things. First off, I don’t believe you’ve told us exactly how long you’re planning on staying? It would be helpful to know. I don’t want to get the broodlings hopes up after all, if you’re just going to be… in and out. And there is quite a bit that we’ve been putting off doing until the whole family was together. And of course it has been so long since the whole family was together. We have to make a schedule, Loaf. We have to make sure you can see everyone and do all of the things you’ve been neglecting for a very long time. So call me back.

Message ends with a long beeping noise

Janet: You’ve got a lot to do, huh.

Loaf: Maybe better to say there are a lot of things they would like me to do. My planet is just a huge web of relationships, each with a set of obligations that you never actually get a say in.

Frankie: I mean, you have a huge set of obligations here. Compared to say, Janet anyway. Not compared to me.

Janet: How many shows are on, anyway? Three? I can’t even read the ads.

Loaf: More like six. Though I am waiting to hear back from several others. But that’s different. I chose each of the shows I appear on. I didn’t choose to be a third proto-husband- I mean, technically I did, but no one ever says no to a - marriage is the closest word in your language?- on my planet, because they take so long to organize and you don’t want to make everyone else wait another thirty years.

Janet: It takes 30 years?

Frankie: Think about it. With so many contributing parents you need a system to ensure genetically diverse offspring.

Janet: I actually, deliberately, never think about it. How does this even evolve naturally?

Frankie: Oh you know-  long lifespan, no natural predators, complex reproductive procedures combat overpopulation, etc.

Loaf: Something like that. All the ritual came later of course. It’s so silly though. We could do away with so much of it with technology. That’s one thing I saw when I was out wandering the galaxy. So many species whose social norms have been revolutionized by assistive reproductive technologies. Not us though.

Melody: And the matching system could be vastly improved with an AI in charge.

Janet: Yeah, that would only take like, a month? Maybe. Wait, what happened to semblance of privacy, please?

Melody: You can pretend at privacy if you stop being wrong. Also. *scoffs* A month. If even. Definitely not 30 years.

Loaf: The problem is several genders are involved in multiple… arrangements. If one partner drops out, everything has to be reshuffled. I mean everything. The whole planet. It’s a big ripple effect.

Melody: Right, so you need an AI to do things. I mean it's like a sexual fifty-two pick-up.

Janet: I don’t think this is helpful, Melody? You’re right, but that’s not something we can do anything about. Remember how we talked about this thing where being right isn’t always as important as being kind? Or rather, this thing where Mr. Xorfus told me that being right isn’t as important as being kind and you just overhead it because you overhear everything and then we spent three days arguing about the philosophy of it and anyway, Institutional change isn’t really our forte, as a show remember? We, at Solutions to Problems, are more about the interpersonal relationships over here.

Frankie: Or intrapersonal.

Janet: What? Intrapersonal?

Loaf: Some beings have more than one consciousness, and sometimes they have to work on their relationships with themselves. I think. I don’t know. Anyway, I’ll be fine. I appreciate everyone’s support. I’m just… I’m just going to go home, spend time with the broodlings, and establish clear boundaries about what I am and am not willing to do beyond that.

Janet: Will you establish boundaries, though? Or do you think just kind of fall back into the patterns that have been programmed into you since birth, like the rest of us do?

Melody: What have we said about organics using the “P” word?

Janet: I. Fine. Conditioned since birth. We invented words, you know. Including that one.

Melody: Yes, and they’re horrible and inefficient. Don’t be too proud of yourself, anyone can invent words. I just invented fifty.

Janet: Oh, I’m sure you did.

Loaf: I do think that’s part of why I stayed away so long. It’s easier to stand my ground when I don’t have to keep explaining myself to everyone multiple times a day. But what can I do? Come back for good, or make a clean break and have no contact at all? I don’t particularly like either of those options.

Janet: Well, what you’re already doing is probably a good start. I don’t know, you could write things down before you go? A set of axioms to follow while you’re there. So that you have something to refer to when you start feeling all the pressure.


Samantha: Guys. Guys. Guysss. I have another problem.

Frankie: Oh, nope. I’m not dealing with her again. It took me so long to fix things last time.

*door closes*

Samantha: I have another problem.

Janet: *deep breath* Samantha. We have talked about this. We’re off the air. That means that we don’t have to solve problems. Especially not the problems of omnipotent fake teenagers. Also, not everyone in this room identifies as ‘guys,’ so please be mindful.  

Samantha: Yeah, sorry, but also you can’t make me leave? So? (softer) Please. I have a problem?

Janet: Sam, we’re in the middle of something right now. So, no.

Loaf: Actually, Samantha, I think we could use a break from talking about my problems. Let’s hear what’s on your mind.

Janet: Wow, alright. Fine. Dazzle us with today’s inane teenage problem.

Samantha: Well, see, there’s this guy -

Janet: Dump him.

Samantha: I didn’t even ask a question?

Janet: Dump him or ask him out. Depending on where you are in the relationship.

Samantha: Why do you always assume it’s a dating thing?

Janet: Because the last twelve times it’s been a dating thing, kid. Ugh, I don’t like kid. I’m never saying that again. Scratch that. Sam.

Loaf: Let her ask the question, Janet.

Samantha: Thanks, scary mush dude.

Janet: He’s not a dude, Samantha. Person or entity. Or Loaf.

Samantha: Thanks Loaf. Anyway, there’s this guy in my Calculus class, and he keeps telling me my hair looks nice, and I already know my hair looks nice?

Janet: You have thirty seconds to come up with a more interesting question than, “Does this guy like me?” Because he does. Or doesn’t. I don’t care. Ask him out or tell him to stop.

Samantha: What else am I supposed to do? All I know how to care about are boys and prom dresses. It’s like, actually super boring. But it’s like I’m pro-

Melody: Don’t say it.

Janet: Conditioned. We’re saying “conditioned” now.

Loaf: But is it really conditioning? I think “programmed’ might actually be the right word here.

Janet: Hm. Yeah. Actually, Melody. Maybe you’re the most qualified one to answer the question, today, in a fun turn of events that has never happened before. How does one subvert their own programming? And like, in a philosophical sense, not the actually binary numbers explanation, please, even though I’m sure it’s fascinating.

Melody: First of all, I’m always most qualified to answer the question, you just couldn’t handle it if I did. But, second, It’s not my job to help snotty teenagers, it’s yours.It’s just my job to make sure they can breathe, unfortunately.

Janet: Whatever, you’re like always wanting to answer questions and I finally give you a question to answer. Besides, we’re all on our breaks, Melody, you can either hang out and join in or pretend to not listen like you usually do.

Melody: Oh I’m sorry, did somebody say something? I was just busying myself counting molecules.

Janet: Oh go count molecules then, but don’t whine when you want to answer a question next time.

Melody: 3,527, 3,528, 3,529….

Janet: Ack! Loaf, what do you think?

Loaf: I mean, maybe the best way to “subvert programming” is just by doing the things you’re not expected to?

Janet: I like it. Please elaborate.

Loaf: I don’t know. Maybe she should skip the “prom”.

Samantha: SKIP PROM?

Janet: I’m not sure how to break this to you, a lot of schools don’t even have proms anymore.

Loaf: You’re essentially a mass hallucination based on outdated stereotypes.

Samantha: (firmly) I’m not a hallucination.

Loaf: No, you’re not, but that’s where you came from. I assume being around teenagers with more.. uh, traditional origins has given you some more data points to draw from. Let me start over. You’re a synthesized personality. And by synthesized, I don’t mean artificial, I just mean made from a lot of different inputs. But the good news is, that’s actually true of all of us. We each have a certain number of parents and siblings and we absorb the person they think we’re supposed to be and we put all those people together and choose the bits we like best and eventually end up with a personality we’re happy with. So how are you any different? Your “parents” are the people who imagined you into existence. Then there’s the parents who raised you, your teachers, your peers - even us.

Janet: Not us.

Loaf: You let all of those experiences shape you into a person you’re comfortable being. And reject anything that doesn’t fit.

Janet: Wow, that was very me of you, Loaf.

Samantha: I mean, that sounds like, cool and philosophical I guess, but what am I supposed to do, exactly?

Janet: Ugh, you just like. Start making decisions about yourself and then you can change your mind later. You have to decide to be more interesting than you are. We’ve already talked about this, Sam. You were supposed to do hobbies, remember? Remember when we told you about hobbies?

Samantha: Hobbies are boring. Knitting is boring. Anti-gravity tennis is boring. Punk Rock flea  markets are boring. Descartes is boring. All that other stuff you told me to read is boring. Boys are exciting.

Janet: They’re really not.

Samantha: I don’t know. I keep trying things and not caring about them, and it sucks. Everything sucks. You guys are making me think my highschool isn’t real because we still do prom and have letter jackets, but I’m pretty sure that’s just because we’re in the midwest. I just. I don’t know. The only thing I like is...hanging out with you guys? I think? At least you’re mean to me. Everyone is else is too worried I’m going to do something to them. Are you worried I’m going to do something to you?

Janet: I mean, of course I’m aware you could turn me into an insect or whatever. But that doesn’t mean I care.

Samantha: Okay, you’re creepy, but that’s like, interesting. I don’t know. I think I just like hanging out and listening to you guys solve problems, even though you’re bad at it. You don’t solve any problems, really. I think I’m really good at it though, or maybe I could be?

Loaf: There is an intern position that just opened up at the station.

Samantha: That could be interesting. I mean, that might not totally suck. Uh, yeah.

Mr. Xorfus *over the PA*: Hey, just a reminder, Janet! Fifteen minutes until our meeting. Don’t be late.

Janet: I’m Mr. Xorfus, don’t be late blah blah blah blah blah. You know, I can do things, I just found an intern, I mean, Loaf found an intern but I found that intern maybe I am good at my job, maybe I can do things. *louder* If I get fired, what should I steal from the break room? The coffee? I’m thinking the coffee because I don’t trust any of the creamers anymore.

Loaf: I really don’t think he’s going to fire you, Janet. Even with all the encouraging of illegal activity, unauthorized product placement, endangerment of interns, profanity, and napping, I have to admit you usually give better advice than I do.

Janet: I do? I mean, but you weren’t here, when I messed up the show, and um was myself, the whole time, but the worst version of myself, even worse than usual. If I’m being fired, I’m not being fired because I gave bad or mediocre advice. It’s because I’m not a good person or coworker.

Samantha: I like you!

Janet: That’s not encouraging. You’re not even real! I’m like, the cynical older person in your coming of age movie that like, lends you the dress you cut up so you can take the rich boy to prom. I’m just a continuation of your already cliched narrative. Also like, what even happens to her? Why does she hang out with a teenager? John Hughes isn’t a man of answers, Samantha.

Loaf: I still always think you’re talking about the Kelgrassi dictator when you say that?

Janet: Well, I’m not. I will never be talking about the Kelgrassi dictator. I’m making a movie reference, which is completely normal and human. It’s fine. Also, Sam, if you want to be an intern, you need to submit a resume and apply like a normal child.

Samantha: (snaps fingers) Ok, I did.

Janet: No- okay, whatever, you superpowered your way into getting a job. Congrats. You start whenever Mr. Xorfus tells you to.

Samantha: I could fix things for you. With my powers.

Janet: Um. No, don’t do that. I’ll be okay without… any of that.

Loaf: It’s going to be fine, Janet. Everyone here has your back. Well, I’m never certain about Melody. But I imagine whoever replaces you would be less fun for her to torment.

Janet: Really? Melody likes me just fine. Would you really call it tormenting? It’s just like, jovial coworker banter. I think. Active sabotage is a love language. And besides, if she doesn’t like me, that’s okay too, cause like, I know I’m a hard person to like, generally. I mean people have told me that before, and, you know she hasn’t interrupted me, just now, which means this line of questioning makes her uncomfortable, which means she might be having an emotion, so right now she’s pretending she needs all her processing power to like, control the temperature or something inane and easy. You know, the usual.

Melody: Actually, I was going through security footage to see if there was anything I could delete on your behalf.

Janet: That’s so romantic!

Loaf: Was there anything?

Melody: I don’t know, I got distracted looking at snurblatches. Why did someone bring snurblatches onto a radio show?

Janet: That’s very sweet of you Melody, even if you were actually distracted, which we know you weren’t. I think if I’m gonna cheat my way into keeping this job, I should do it myself. I should probably care more, honestly? I could’ve set up a time loop for the interview until I nail it, or something. I did that to get the job, which is a thing I never admitted to you guys, of course. But, I don’t know. I worked like really hard this time. And I never really work hard, at least not for like, jobs? or relationships? Or most things in my life? I worked really hard to be less awful, and I kind of want to know if that worked.

*door opens*

Xorfus: I changed my mind, let’s do the meeting now.

Janet: Well, guys, if they escort me off the station, please take care of my poisonous succulents until I can steal them back.

Loaf: I think I’m going to start packing for my trip. Let me know how it goes, okay?

Janet: I mean, sure, but you’ll find out anyway in a couple of hours.

Samantha: (gasps) He wants you to tell him because friendship, right?

Janet: … Um, yeah, I know, I know, Sam. Maybe you won’t be so bad on the air, huh? You figured out a thing.  I’ll send you guys a text or something.

*Door closes*

Samantha: So, do we play the closing theme now, or what?

*end song*

Michael: Solutions to Problems was created by, and features the voices of Austin Hendricks and Nathan Comstock. It is produced and musically scored by Michael F. Gill. Season 2 was written by Austin, Nathan, and Michael. Our theme is by Thomas Dwyer. The voice of Melody is Chloe Cunha, the voice of Frankie is Valerie Loveland, the voice of Samantha is Phoenix Bunke, the voice of Loaf’s broodmate is Bridget Kraynik, and the voice of Mr. Xorfus is Ron Prudent. There’s more information about us at stppodcast.com, where you can find full transcripts of every episode, as well as links to support us on PayPal and/or radiopublic.

Austin: Hi its Austin!!!!!!!!

Michael: Michael!!!!!!!

Nathan: And Nathan!!!!!!!!!

Austin: This is the end of season two, thank you so much for listening.

Michael: We’re writing season three right now, we’re just in the middle of it, its coming along very well, can’t wait for you all to hear it.

Austin: We’ll be announcing season 3 eventually, it’ll be on the feed, there will be some other bonus content including some behind-the-scenes episodes and some special improv stuff Michael’s been working on.

Nathan: And, uh, we’ll just keep you up to date, just follow us on twitter or facebook or instagram and you’ll know everything you need to know.

Austin: If you like what we do and you wanna help us pay our web hosting cost, or our actors, or for dolphin sound effects, which we do pay money for sometimes, there’s a PayPal link on our website and you can also support us by listening on RadioPublic, which sends us some money every time you listen to an ad.

Nathan: And, if you happen to be a person who works with dolphins and you wanted to like, record them and send us some of those, we would be very grateful for that support in that way.

Chloe: Hi, this is Chloe Cunha, and I play Melody. And for our French listeners: Salut auditeurs de Solutions to Problems, je suis Chloé Cunha et je joue le rôle de Melody. On vous remercie de votre écoute! Au revoir.

Nathan: Thank you guys so much, we love you all. Goodnight.