Troll tries to be human as reality TV executive terrorizes Mark in new Ugly Americans episode
The latest profiles in undead-american courage takes a close look at the troll Quaggle, who lost his job because he cannot stop bothering everyone he talks to with riddles…you know, the kind of riddles that lead to your head getting caved-in if you get them wrong. The episode only gets better when Quaggle’s story merges with Mark’s reluctant venture into reality television.
The horror clip that sets up “Trolling for Terror” shows Quaggle asking a dude the following riddle: “Earth. Stone. River. Air./Which is neither foul nor fair?” He doesn’t know. When Quaggle raises his club to kill the two so he can feast on his bones, he gets interrupted by his boss who chastises him for threatening to eat people again, explaining Quaggle away to the people in the car as a “diversity hire.” Needless to say, Quaggle’s actions land him in the care of young protagonist social worker Mark Lilly, who tries to get the troll to stop speaking in riddles so he can get a regular job.
Mark visits Quaggle’s home, which of course turns out to be under a bridge. We find out that instead of cashing his paychecks, Quaggle sleeps on a bed of unopened pay-stub envelopes and makes mobiles out them to decorate his house. Appalled, Mark remedies the situation by setting Quaggle up in a depressing little apartment and then he hands his case over to co-worker Leonard Powers, who goes on to teach the troll how to be a terrible and cynical human being.
That night, Callie manages to drag Mark away to Randall’s new gig on a reality television show called “Night Terrors.” The show deliberately distorts footage of drunken monsters and humans put in a Jersey Shore-type scenario. Its creepy producer, Clark Dungaree, lurks around the set, dramatizing every lurid scene to get the most bang for his buck.
When Dungaree realizes how boring Mark is, he tries to teach Mark a lesson by injecting him into a fabricated love triangle in the show. From here on out, Dungaree continues to put Mark in a series of reality show pilots against his will, ultimately culminating in a clever twist in the end that I do not feel like spoiling.
The commentary on reality television and monster lore was exceptionally witty in “Trolling for Terror.” I have not seen such a compact and fully realized episode from this show yet. Dungaree made for a perfect episode-length villain, and Mark played the perfect straight man in all of his diabolical reality TV show ideas.
Most impressive of all, Quaggle turned out to be a fully realized/hilarious character. His voice when angry is scraggly and abrasive like you’d expect a troll’s to be, but his everyday voice resembles that of a timid DnD nerd. This voice-acting helps highlight the fact that his riddles all sound like stereotypical fantasy drivel.
Quaggle only wants to do what trolls do, take bridge tolls for a living and live under a bridge. Mark’s failed attempts to assimilate Quaggle into society, teaching him to value things like money and an apartment, demonstrates a brilliant return to Ugly Americans‘ core comedic premise that undead-Americans are misrepresented in the media and treated as second-class citizens because nobody gets their system of values.
Then again, Quaggle does get what he wants at the end when he becomes the host of Dungaree’s new quiz show “Riddle Me This.” As with many of its episodes, Ugly Americans‘ dark premise gets coupled with a great hopeful life lesson here: Your outlook can’t be all that bleak if even a social misfit like Quaggle can find work doing what he loves.
Sure it’s cheesy, but it makes me smile.