|Strangeness on a Train|
|Season 12, Episode 19|
|Air date||April 27, 2008|
|Written by||Jim Dauterive|
|Directed by||Kyounghee Lim|
The Courtship of Joseph's Father
Cops and Robert
Peggy is depressed that her birthday always ends up being a bust, so she vows to plan the party of the year. Hank, Bill, Boomhauer, Kahn, Luanne and the rest of the gang gather to celebrate with a disco-themed shindig on a mystery train, and everyone gets dressed in their sharpest 70's (jobs) attire, featuring everyone from Andy Warhol to Grace Jones. When Luanne ruins the mystery it becomes clear this is just another typical Peggy party. However, when a couple tucks away to the train's bathroom for some extracurricular activity, a new mystery unfolds and the gang tries to find out who "had relations". Left to their own devices, Bobby, Connie and Joseph explore the Hill house from the attic to the crawlspace.
As the episode opens Peggy reminisces about her past birthday party failures, including having her party robbed at Captain Bear's, ruined by a flash flood, food poisoning, and a foul ball hitting her in the neck. However she is confident that this year's birthday party will not be a failure, and excitedly tells Hank about her birthday party plan: a murder-mystery train party set in the 70's, where actors will act out a mystery for the guests to solve. Despite Hank's initial reservations about a disco-themed party, he relents when he sees how excited Peggy is.
As Peggy's guests arrive on the train for the party dressed in disco attire, one of the murder-mystery actors asks Luanne to stand in for one of the roles as one of their actresses called in sick. After she leaves Lucky says he feels guilty as he knows that he will be the one solving the mystery, justifying his claim by stating he has watched enough detective shows to be a good detective.
As the party starts and the train prepares to leave, the actors board the train along with a stern conductor, who announces he will not tolerate any foolishness on the train. Luanne approaches Peggy and asks her who Roy Cohn is. When Dale explains his role as Senator Joseph McCarthy's attorney, Luanne, puzzled, asks why he would want to kill her, spoiling the mystery and revealing the murderer. Dale, who takes sadistic delight in Peggy's birthday failures, announces to the rest of the party that Roy Cohn did it, causing the actors to angrily leave just as the train departs. The situation is worsened when the train caterers report to Peggy that the train's refrigeration has gone out and spoiled the prime rib and chicken dinners as well as melted Peggy's ice-cream birthday cake. The caterers offer small cheese-and-cracker snacks instead to Peggy's sadness.
Nancy, attempting to salvage the situation, suggests the group could play a fun game of twister, but Hank instead offers another game. Kahn, irritated, states that the only thing that can save the party is alcohol and demands a Tom Collins. The caterer however explains that they have just entered a dry county that "for election reasons" is long and horizontal and will take an hour to get through. She states that they cannot serve alcohol until then, to the dejection of the party guests. Luanne, attempting to make up for her spoiling the mystery, brings out the Manger Babies to entertain the crowd as Bill announces that the toilet is clogged by a wig. Peggy, overwhelmed by the repeat catastrophes of the party (no food, no alcohol, no entertainment and a clogged toilet), runs to the bathroom in tears. Hank follows and attempts to console her, and as they hug they slowly become intimate and soon have intercourse in the bathroom.
Hank and Peggy return to the party shocked at their spontaneous act of passion. Kahn next uses the bathroom and spots two pairs of footprints on the mirror, one pair pointing up and one pair pointing down, evidence of lovemaking. Kahn returns to the party and announces his find to Peggy and Hank's horror. As Kahn declares himself the detective of the case and begins interrogating the guests, Hank mentions to Peggy that if it is revealed that they made love in the bathroom the Texas Railroad Authority, which also regulates propane, could punish Strickland Propane with sanctions or even "the Propane Death Penalty." Seeing that Kahn's questioning is leading nowhere Lucky mentions that perhaps they could simply compare the footprints to the guests' feet and find the perpetrator. Peggy realizes that her feet will give them away, as no one has feet the size of Peggy's. As the party-goers line up to match their feet against the footprints Hank and Peggy form a plan in which Hank will create a diversion and Peggy will destroy the evidence. Hank plans to use the "dead man's brake" (a braking system in which the conductor must always have his hand on the throttle or the train will brake to a halt) to cause a diversion. Hank scares the conductor with a loud noise, causing him to take his hand off the brake and the train to halt. As the partygoers fall down due to the sudden halt, Peggy uses the opportunity to wipe the footprints off the mirror with toilet paper. Meanwhile the conductors spot Hank running down the corridor and chase him to the party, where they find the group on the ground outside the bathroom. Angry at Hank for stopping the train and believing this to be the beginnings of some strange orgy, the conductor throws the entire group off the train somewhere in outer Durndle.
With the group now stranded in the middle of nowhere, Dale declares that this is Peggy's worst birthday ever, yet finds that instead of taking sadistic pleasure he genuinely feels sorry for her. Peggy breaks down again, declaring that the repeated birthday failure are a sign that her birthday is nothing to celebrate. As the rest of the group consoles her Kahn and Minh spot a dive bar serving alcohol and the group heads there. As they enter dressed in disco clothes, the rugged and tough patrons of the bar eye them angrily for a few seconds before happily declaring that "Disco's back!" The bartender soon hangs up a disco ball and finds a 70's soundtrack, leading to a small disco-themed party in the bar.
As Peggy enjoys a drink at the bar, Lucky approaches her and reveals that he knows it was her and Hank who made love in the bathroom, but promises not to tell anyone and simply wishes her a happy birthday. Hank then pulls Peggy to the dance floor where the rest of the group disco dances.
In a b-plot the children of the alley, Bobby, Joseph and Connie, being too young to attend the birthday party, decide to use their parents' absence to find a secret clubhouse. The group first tries to hang out in the attic but leaves after Joseph rips up the insulation and begins to itch. After watching a nature documentary Bobby urges the group to retry finding a clubhouse and the children head beneath the house where they enjoy a soda and their new secret clubhouse.
- It is revealed that Peggy has never once had a good birthday.
- The title refers to "Strangers On A Train," a 1950 mystery novel by Patricia Highsmith that was made into a motion picture the following year by Alfred Hitchcock.
- As the actors enter the train car which has been named after the New York City nightclub Studio 54, the music is the opening of the song "Disco Inferno" by The Trammps.
- near the end of the episode lucky knew that the culprits were Peggy and Hank but kept it between him and Peggy as he wanted her to have a good birthday.
- When Lucky states that he inadvertently gave away the plot of a movie by yelling aloud in a theater "Bruce Willis is dead!" he's referencing the movie The Sixth Sense.
Conductor Nolan: "OFF NOW!"
Hank: "A Chubb Randolph production."
Hank: The railroad commission also regulates propane.
Lucky: "Believe me, 'fire' ain't the worst thing you can yell in a theater. It's 'BRUCE WILLIS IS DEAD!'"
Joesph: "This stuff's making my butt itch. Now it's making my hand itch. Now its making everything itch! Here try it!"