AFBH 2: Pages 24-28

23:46 Mon 02 Oct 2006. Updated: 16:04 06 Oct 2006
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Episode 2.

Michael Lee as the expert, Covenant’s first spoken line, and recognition that they don’t really like Thomas Covenant.


24-28, starting with “‘I want to pay my bill’” ending with “‘—as long as I can.’”

Michael Lee


The second episode settles into the structure of the show, adding a new “post-credits intro” section, in this case Julie having a nightmare about pages 1-4 before being reassured by Heatherly that they’re now on pages 24-28.

No explanation of why they skipped pages 5-23 is given. (It seems fairly clear that they deemed those pages insufficiently interesting.)

This episode again makes their irreverence towards the book very clear, with Julie looking profoundly uninterested while Heatherly reads from it, and with overlaid text/subtitles used to underscore the tone, as with the juxtaposition of “no ‘real’ danger” (p25) with the “Kind of like Mortal Combat [sic] II” subtitle (03:56).

This also entrenches their portrayal of Covenant as a lecher, with reading, analysis and action sequence all presenting him as trying to pick up the girl at the telephone company.

Their dislike of Thomas Covenant begins in earnest in this episode, with Julie saying “I don’t like Thomas Covenant” and Heatherly agreeing (08:06).

The tendency ofthe girls to ignore the opinions of the expert is brought out further, as they both more or less refuse to accept Michael’s (valid) explanations of what’s going on.

The idea that Mormonism plays some role in the novel beings in this episode (08:36). This would lead to renaming Mhoram “Mormon” in later episodes.

###Key Misunderstandings

Covenant is not trying to pick up the girl at the telephone company.

It’s the Bell Telephone Company, not Pacific Bell.

The paper that Covenant gets from the old man via the boy is not a Mormon pamphlet.

The ‘precipice’ that Covenant faces during his encounter with the old man is not literal.

Covenant did not rip off his finger when he put his ring in the beggar’s bowl.

###Analysis of Pages

Most of this is taken up with the above misunderstandings. Other segments include:
While Heatherly is asking if Covenant ripped his finger off when he took off his ring, Julie appears to try to either feel her breasts or be about to pull down the sheet (09:29). Heatherly protests and then continues.

Julie corrects herself from VSE to leprosy as the disease Covenant has (09:41)

Heatherly asks for the definition of ‘preterite’. Julie has no answer for her. Then they argue about whether this episode’s expert, Michael, knows what the word means, with Julie betting against, and initiating a pillow-fight over the issue. Twice. (09:53)

While they are erroneous in claiming that Covenant was hitting on the girl at the telephone company, it’s quite possible that Heatherly and Julie have nonetheless picked up on Covenant’s rather serious problems in relating to women. His anger at his disease, anger at how that disease has robbed him of his sexuality, and obvious lust make for a disturbing mix, one which does ignite later in the text.

From pages 5 to 23, Heatherly and Julie skipped a fair amount. Covenant thinking about his failed marriage, the fact that he has a son (Roger), his first naming of his disease (which is also the first time he utters the line “Don’t touch me, I’m a leper” (p8), the actual delivery of the piece of paper, further details about his writing career, further details about how his marriage was destroyed by his disease, the fact that he contracted leprosy as an adult, long passages making clear how dangerous and horrific leprosy is, how his wife essentially deserted him due to her inability to cope with the fact of his disease, and how he psychologically attempted to cope with it all at the time the novel opens—all of this is skipped.

Pages 24 to 28 are indeed significant. The piece of paper given to Covenant is very blunt foreshadowing of the themes of the story, although Covenant is no-one’s idea of a typical “champion”, and he doesn’t really fight in the sense suggested by the piece.

Covenant’s attempt to give up his ring is also important. It is at once an act of impetuous generosity and a relinquishing of both hope and responsibility—and the beggar’s refusal is a message to Covenant that he cannot give up that responsibility, or hope. Covenant’s answer that it would be too easy to commit suicide is a demonstration that on some level he already knows this. And, of course, “Be true. You need not fail” and Covenant’s reply that “Everybody fails” are an outline of the contrasting views of protagonist and, well, Creator.

This is probably just coincidence, but at the moment I can’t help but see connections between Covenant’s experience of ‘the precipice’ and his contemplation of various deaths, and Jean-Paul Sartre’s discussion of anguish, in which Sartre uses the notion of vertigo and the awareness that one might throw oneself over the precipice as being a key basis for anguish (and, in another sense, freedom),—p137, Jean-Paul Sartre, Essays in Existentialism, Kensington, New York 1993. Given the emphasis on psychology and choice in the novel (and the entire Unbeliever series) it’s not entirely impossible that there’s a connection.

###Action Sequence

The Fantasy Action Players are named as:
Cameraman Steve

Fantasy Action Sequence starts 11:12

It begins with Covenant walking (robotically) up the steps of an office building into “Pacific Bell”. He again gets the “Thomas Covenant” credit as an overlay, and asks to pay his bill, then reads the paper, which has “Mormon” written on it in large blue letters, then says “Hellfire and Damnation!” (12:01) and puts it away again before being told that his bill has already been paid. Then he has a temper tantrum which abruptly ends when he’s overcome with lust (12:27) while focusing on the breasts of the girl behind the counter.

12:36-12:47 he tries to pick her up, with subtitled lines: “It isn’t catching…”, “Only to beggers [sic] and children” , “…but not HOT CHICS!!! [sic]“.

Rejection pushes him into tantrum mode again, and then we cut to him robotically walking down the street, clutching what appears to be his phone bill. He’s stopped by a beggar with a cup that has “GIVE” written on it before delivering his signature line, “Don’t touch me, I’m a leper!”(12:59). The “child” Karotica from Episode 1 runs by as Covenant considers whether to give anything to the beggar. He then tears off his ring and finger, the finger is sniffed by a cat, and Covenant screams, blood shooting from his hand, as he stands beneath a “No Parking 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Monday” sign(13:18). The beggar picks up the finger, ring still in place, and gives it back (13:26).

From 13:30 to 14:05, Covenant is confronted by the literal “precipice of his future”, and ends the actions sequence appearing to fall forward into it.

Fantasy Action Sequence ends 14:06.


Michael Lee is named/appears from under the covers at 14:17. Michael is not wearing the same jacket as I did, suggesting that the “expert jacket” is not yet canonical at this point.

Michael answers that he has read LFB just once; the girls appear to cover up a certain disappointment at this figure, followed by amazement at the fact that he read it 19 years ago. (14:41)

First question, 15:00: Why did Thomas Covenant want to be a Mormon? (Heatherly). Michael, unsurprisingly, doesn’t remember Covenant wanting to be a Mormon (15:05), and states that he is quite positive that Covenant did not want to be a Mormon (15:20).

Heatherly explains the Mormon hypothesis by bringing up the pamhplet and then asking if Michael thinks the guy in the pamphlet dropped acid or something (15:46). Michael can’t quite muster a response to this, and Julie, also mystified, says “What?” (15:50).

Michael states that his interactions with the beggar, and also with the pamphlet, are really interesting in these pages because they’re foreshadowing the entire conflict for the rest of the book (16:10). At which point Heatherly says “But we’re not there yet” and Julie asks if this means Covenant’s interaction with “the hot chick at Pacific Bell” is going to happen again later in the book. Michael says no, but the pamphlet talks about the man who finds himself in another world and is asked to be a champion… and then reveals that most of the book takes place in an alternate reality (16:48)—at which point Julie says “Like Utah?” (16:50)

20:12, they ask Michael why Covenant tore off his finger and threw it at the beggar… Michael insists that this didn’t happen, which they more or less ignore.

Then they ask about the “precipice of his future”, and Julie presents her hypothesis that the precipice is literal (21:00). Michael is unable to make any headway in refuting this badly erroneous theory.

Michael uses the diagram to explain that the precipice is figurative, and is Covenant contemplating his possible futures–primarily horrible ways to die.

Julie’s diagram insists on the literal interpretation of the precipice, with no rebuttal from Michael.

23:46, “favorite part” question. Michael says it was probably the hot girl at the phone company putting her arms underneath her breasts. Heatherly’s favorite part was Covenant standing on the precipice looking down at the ‘jagged things’. Julie’s was when Thomas Covenant finally decides to become a Mormon. Michael doesn’t try to refute this again, merely comments that Mormons wear really cool underwear (24:30). This prompts a discussion about sexy underwear.

25:04 “other favorite part” question: Michael says he liked the beggar. Julie says she thinks the beggar’s hot, and when challenged by Heatherly, says he’s hotter than Covenant.

###Viewer Mail

The first viewer mail sequence, this segues into an odd sequence of Heatherly, Julie and Cameraman Lewis all trying to apply lipstick while said lipstick is wedged between Heatherly’s breasts.

###Words Defined

Preterite: Michael defines “preterite” as “eschatological”, which he defines as something to do with the end of days, the Apocalypse. It’s actually not entirely clear what Donaldson means by preterite here; my initial interpretation was akin to prehistoric or ancient (which is the archaic usage of preterite). However, there is also a school of Christian eschatology which is named for the term, and they claim that the events of the “end days” actually occurred already, around the first century A.D., so this may be what Michael is referring to. Heatherly claims this is a victory and that Julie owes her a dollar; Julie claims that Michael defined “exaltation”; Michael confirms that he is defining “preterite”; Julie hits Heatherly with a pillow, kicking off another pillow-fight. Twice.


Pre-reading intro done for the first time, 01:58
First non-front view of the bed, 02:36
First mention of expert Michael, 10:01
Pillow-fight, 10:25
Hot chick at Pacific Bell, 11:38
“I want to pay my bill” is Covenant’s first spoken line of the series, 11:44
“Hellfire and Damnation!”, Covenant’s second line of the series, is Covenant’s first ‘cursing’ in the series, and also his first line that isn’t verbatim in the text, 12:01
Covenant’s first temper tantrum, 12:10-12:27
First “Don’t touch me, I’m a leper!”, 12:59
First appearance/naming of expert Michael Lee, 14:17
First mention of Cameraman Dave, 12:24
First mention of Cameraman Lewis, 27:16
First voice of Cameraman Lewis, “Do I have crap all over my face?”, 27:22
First call for an expert, 27:33

2 Responses to “AFBH 2: Pages 24-28”

  1. Julie Says:

    Nicely done. Damn you’re thorough. Wow! 5 – 23 were pretty interesting…I didn’t know he had a son!

    Also, what was up with that sheet of paper? Who gave that to him? Why? What was it?

    And we did hypothesis that the pamphlet was most likely religious or a coupon of some sort because who just hands out pamphlets? That’s why we thought it was the Mormons. It was purely coincidence that we later encounter a character with the same name.

    Also, in the action sequence, that was actually Karotica that runs by in the background.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Answering the questions about the sheet of paper would mean some pretty massive spoilers about the books, and since the show’s not yet over, I’ll refrain. But suffice to say that Covenant meeting the old man is not a random encounter but one that’s critically important to the whole series.

    I corrected the article so it now refers to Karotica running by in the background.

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