Sunnyvale is in danger again. If it wasn’t, then we wouldn’t be making a series. Maybe that’s why Ricky gets so upset with the camera crews whenever they come back to the trailer park. Because whenever they’re around, things get upended again.
But it’s not Jim who’s causing trouble. Jim is out. Jim’s gone. Jim’s done with Sunnyvale for good. He’s figured out exactly how to live a balanced lifestyle – a breathalyzer to optimize his liquor levels, a comfy little trailer just for him, and a campsite where he can live in a sedate, trouble-free environment.
This is why Sunnyvale could become the happy place that it was at the start of this season. Jim Lahey was gone. Not only was he gone, but he didn’t want to come back. Lahey has always been the source of law in Sunnyvale. He disrupts it, fucks everything up for everybody with his interference and his resentfulness of free, joyful people like Ricky, Julian, Bubbles, and all the rest of the gang.
And Lahey leaving Sunnyvale wasn’t just good for Sunnyvale. It was good for Jim! He’s happy at last. Content with himself. His own struggles are finally over. When he thinks of Sunnyvale and Julian, you can see the anger still seething. But he can still walk away from it. Jim may not have moved on from Sunnyvale completely, but he’s moving on. You see him come out of this little camper van surrounded by liquor bottles smiling and more relaxed than you remember him all series long, and you love him. He’s literally an overgrown kid with a paper route. He’s lovable now. He’s left the real world behind.
But there’s a new Lahey in town. Barb appears with her goons Donna and Candy to bully Jim into joining her scheme to retake Sunnyvale. Watching this sorry scene on Jim’s paper route unfold, it’s like some horrible succession ceremony. You’re watching Barb inherit the mantle of Lahey. She’s become the villain of Sunnyvale, the one whose very nature drives her to destroy the community’s joy and harmony.
She’s the new villain of Sunnyvale now, just like Jim was for nine seasons and 15 years. But she’s not the law, definitely not. She’s not there to bring anyone into line or make them conform to some bland existence. Barb Lahey is no authority. But she is an authority in another way – the bully, the aggressor, the tyrant. She intimidates and scares, threatens and destroys.
Look what she does to Jim. Interrupts him on his paper route, speaks condescendingly to him – her words flowing out of her in a flirtatious tone, but only because they’re insults and threats. She’s chilling in her effectiveness – which is a fancy way of saying that she clearly has him by the balls. Candy is nothing but a goon pushing Jim around, and Donna’s been reduced from what she was to nothing more than a goon. Jim can get in a brief sneer early in the conversation, but he’s quickly overpowered.
This used to be Jim Lahey, the scourge of everything fun in Sunnyvale Trailer Park. Now he’s just a sad old man named Jim, and Barb Lahey is out to destroy all that goodness in the world.
Even when she’s off screen, Barb Lahey’s presence is on the screen. Ricky and Julian are panicked and scrambling just as much as Jim is, desperately trying to scrounge up the money to fend off her lawsuit as it bears down on them like a speeding truck. They’re thrown back into the world of money, debt, and capital again from the paradise they had in Sunnyvale.
Now, that's a weird thing to say, isn't it? Isn't Julian a businessman running his country bar? Doesn’t it make him a bunch of money? That’s certainly what his blonde girlfriends seem to think. And doesn’t Ricky love running his Drugs Store? It’s the centrepiece of his family business – he even has his little grandson packing joints for him with those perfect fingers. Bubbles plays in the bar and plies away at his cart business.
But look what happens when Julian and Ricky have to start raising actual money to pay their lawyer. Julian announces that he has to ask people to pay actual money for drinks instead of getting everyone to pay on credit. They walk out in disgust. Or else openly mock and insult him. So Julian has to send his flunkies after him – Cory and Jacob, then Randy.
Yes, it’s true. Randy has become Julian’s idiot flunky, just like Cory and Jacob. But Randy knows better – he remembers being the instrument of the law, the right hand of the force that would normalize Sunnyvale and bring it to order. Now he chafes at being an instrument of Sunnyvale’s new order. Or rather, it’s the true order of Sunnyvale finally having won. Against what he’s fought to achieve for more than a decade, the natural anarchy of joy and community have established themselves as the dominant order of Sunnyvale.
But the need for money has ruined that joy. People have to pay for their drinks. Worse, they have to pay for their trailers’ lot fees. The need for money has forced Julian and Ricky to become the law.
Well, Julian anyway. Even though Ricky is part of the plan to raise money to fight Barb Lahey by collecting lot fees, he still refuses to hand over the lot fees he owes. He and Randy end up fighting like a pair of idiot schoolboys. Ricky refuses to give in to the law when its agent – Randy – comes to enforce it.
But Randy is working for Julian, and Julian needs to collect the lot fees to defend Sunnyvale. This is the vicious paradox that’s wrapped Julian this season. And it reveals a lot about the fundamental nature of Sunnyvale and Sunnyvale’s freedom, if you want to look. The paradox works like this.
Julian thrives when no one is paying any money for what he provides. No one pays lot fees. No one pays for their liquor. Everyone is drinking and partying and having a wonderful time. The whole system breaks down in rage and resentment as soon as anyone has to pay any money for what they need – as soon as anyone has to pay to party or pay to live in Sunnyvale. In Sunnyvale’s purest state, all its people don’t need to do anything except party, relax, and express themselves. Sunnyvale is a playground, a paradise of pure joy. I could call it the Land of Do-As-You-Please.
But then Barb Lahey exploded back into Sunnyvale. She isn’t the law, though. She’s a blatant, violent, raging threat. She's a pure force of destruction who controls through intimidation. She’s a shit tornado.
She forced Julian to run his life with actual money – a real cash payment so his lawyer would be able to defend Sunnyvale against her assault. And in order to collect all that money, Julian had to become everything that’s against his own nature and against the nature of Sunnyvale itself.
Julian became the law.
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