Bueno! Here it is, the very last episode of 8 Ball Rhumba. However, this is certainly not the end of hijinks, not by a long shot. Stay tuned for the set up of a lifetime - the Saturday night dinner hosted by the power couple of the frog and pig - Seven Ball Tango! And now, I bring forth - Chapter XVI Sunday Night The Muppet Theatre The Muppet Show It was that time again. Time to play the music and time to light the lights. And it was all happening on the Muppet Show that night. Despite everything appearing to go right at yesterday’s dress rehearsal, Kermit the Frog was still convinced that something was wrong. Perhaps it was the fact that he was still unaware as to what Muppet Labs was planning for the evening or maybe it was the fact that only one of the four of the final Cool Pool tournament players had returned to the theater that night. Actually, it was those two things. While Kermit would publicly admit, out loud, and to anyone that he was always uneasy with Bunsen Honeydew and Muppet Labs in general (he actually never wondered about Beaker, other than his physical and mental wellbeing), he would probably never state that he would often hold special clause when it came to certain members of the cast. Having Fozzie, Rowlf, Gonzo, and Piggy in one place, alone, wasn’t enough to cause him to panic; after all, they were professionals and really they all had good heads on their shoulders. No, what caused Kermit to ultimately panic is when certain people went off by themselves and in the case of the previously mentioned quartet, learning that three of them had suddenly decided that they didn’t need to be at the theater, even to watch the show, immediately sent up red flags. And it was usually worse when Fozzie Bear was said messenger to deliver said message to their boss. When asked where the other three were, Fozzie had informed Kermit that he didn’t know; which meant that they were all aware of Fozzie’s inability to keep a secret, which meant this had to be a pretty big secret. What that secret was, Kermit had no idea, and that’s what made him even more paranoid than before. Kermit wasn’t easily prone to be suspicious – he was a fairly easy going guy and liked to think the best of everyone, even when they didn’t show him or his friends the same courtesy. However, you don’t work with a group of people for several years and not get to know them. Years ago, Kermit may have said that Rowlf wasn’t one to cause trouble or that Piggy was grandiose, but not trouble or even that Gonzo just had a few idiosyncrasies. The frog knew better now. He knew never to leave Rowlf, Piggy, and Janice for long periods of time, just as he knew Gonzo was to never go near anything electric or creamy. So the very fact that Rowlf, Piggy, and Gonzo had all suddenly decided they would all go home and never be the wiser to tonight’s show bordered on some sort of conspiracy. He was certain of this. He didn’t know how to prove it, but he was certain of it. While the Muppet Show director was bordering on suspicious paranoia and while his stage manager tried to present perfectly reasonable explanations as to why the winners of the doubles competition and their resident daredevil weren’t in the building, the lead guitarist of the Electric Mayhem was flagging down the poor tortured assistant of Muppet Labs. Janice was the type of girl that got along with everyone; even Sam the Eagle liked her (not what she represented, but he liked her). Beaker, the often hapless victim of Muppet Labs, was also a very likeable guy, when not running away from whatever catastrophe would befall him that day. Prone to being excitable – usually in the face of danger – when not being chased by lions, tigers, and mechanical presidents, Beaker was also pretty laid back and through the years, it became apparent that he also sheltered a vast variety of talents. And was a track star in high school. On this night, when Janice met Beaker, a plan was afoot, one that had begun long before the guitarist had arrived at the theater. Catching up to the lab assistant was relatively easy – because of his often bad luck when dealing with his partner, the good Dr. Honeydew, Beaker could actually be found within the sound booth or doing other odd jobs around the theater, usually helping Beauregard the janitor. “Hey Beakie!” “Meep?” “Like, I just got word from downtown,” replied the blonde. “Wanna know if you’re hip to it.” “Mee mo?” Janice whispered an explanation and Beaker listened with rapt attention – as he always did when a beautiful blonde whispered in his ear. The plan seemed not only simple enough, but safe. “Mee mee!” “You hip to it?” Beaker gave two thumbs up. “Dig it,” she giggled, giving him a low five. “But hey, don’t let the frog catch on; it’s like, supposed to be a surprise.” Beaker signaled his compliance by running an imaginary zipper across his lips. “Right on,” she exclaimed. “Like, you’re rully a doll, Beakie, for helping out.” The timid redhead’s response was a wink and a “Mo mee.” “And modest, too!” Sunday afternoon Hours earlier Saturday night’s final round of cool pool ended in a surprising finish for one Fozzie Bear. While Rowlf and Piggy seemed to have their match under wraps, it was a toss-up between the bear and the weirdo. By all that was holy, their combined presentation of ‘The Raven’ was a success and not only allowed Fozzie to interject his own brand of humor into the play (usually fending off some quip by Piggy or Rowlf or even Gonzo), but it of course allowed Gonzo to do what he did best. The decision worked out well for both of them, which made for a very interesting match. Fozzie, after spending years working with the blue weirdo, was obviously immune to Gonzo’s antics, while Gonzo could easily take the bear’s comedic endeavors in stride. Because of it, neither was fazed by the other’s routine, which meant there was more playing than fooling around. If there had been a highlight of the evening, it was their match and that of the bear taking the win. In the doubles competition, Rowlf and Piggy had spared no expense when facing off against the Littles; their human competitors talked a good game, but when faced with the skills and charms of their opponents, it hadn’t even been close. Ol’ Brown Ears and the Divine Miss P took the lead early on and hadn’t bothered to relinquish it; the Littles spent more time trying to catch up than they actually played and it resulted in a spectacular loss for the father/son team. As tradition, the following Sunday after the tournament featured a playoff between the winner of the singles competition against that of the doubles competition. The singles winner always chose whether they wanted to play in a singles or doubles match, in order to make it even for the players. This year, with Fozzie being the winner, he had decided to go for a doubles match, picking Gonzo as his partner as they faced off against Piggy and Rowlf. It was a friendly match and one that was probably the best of the tournament, despite the winners already being announced. For the first time, the duo of the dog and pig had been defeated, but only barely. As with their match against Floyd and Janice, this one hinged on the eight ball, but the group had gone back and forth several times before Fozzie was able to actively sink the ball in the side pocket. With several hours before the start of the show at the theater, the four friends sat around the bar, drinking and laughing over shared jokes and experiences. It was here that Fozzie may have made a major mistake that would influence the rest of the night. Being the best friend of Kermit the Frog enabled the bear to sometimes get a bead on what was happening with the show. As an off hand comment, Fozzie casually mentioned that Kermit was afraid that the show would run short because their normal acts would be missing. While he continued to talk, stating that he had planned on getting Kermit to fit him in somehow and while Gonzo was stating that Kermit had put him on a reserve list, Rowlf and Piggy had exchanged knowing looks with each other. “You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” asked the dog. “You mean if Audra is as cute outside of the hall as she is inside of it?” Piggy countered. “Cute,” the dog chuckled. “Cute comment. Question.” “Hmmm?” “Chef or Labs?” “Well, we’ve done Chef before,” the diva replied. “But never the labs. Potentially dangerous.” “Potentially funny, too.” “There is that,” the diva muttered. Pulling out her slim little smartphone, Piggy brought up the name that she was looking for. DIVINE MISS P: The frog around? LADY J: Just got here. Hang on. LADY J: All clear. What’s up? DIVINE MISS P: Rowlfie has a question for you – Chef or Labs? LADY J: LOL Right on. We’ve never done the lab before. DIVINE MISS P: Exactly. LADY J: I’m hip. Clue me what to do. “It’s the Muppet Show, with our very special guest, Julie Andrews! YAAAAAY!!” The familiar sign for the Muppet Show rose with its host caught in the center ‘o’ as the curtain opened to show the white arches. Kermit made his standard way through the stairs down to the middle row of the arches, feeling vaguely alone. While the group had moved in closer in order to not give the appearance that they were missing people, it felt odd not to have the familiar faces of Piggy and Fozzie on either side of him. “Hi ho! And welcome to the Muppet Show! I am your very green host Kermit the Frog and we have a really great show for you. Our guest tonight is one of our favorite guests and a really great friend of mine, Ms. Julie Andrews!” Julie Andrews, star of stage and screen, came onto the stage amid glorious applause. “Hello Kermit,” she replied, patting the frog on the back. “Julie, it’s always a pleasure having you here with us,” Kermit said. “You’re one of the few that hasn’t served us a restraining order.” “It’s so wonderful to be back,” the actress said. “Actually, you know Kermit, I have been wondering something since I got here.” “What’s that?” “Well, where is everyone? I was only able to see Fozzie briefly, but Rowlf isn’t here, nor is Gonzo, and I find it highly irregular that Miss Piggy would miss a performance.” “Ah, well…” the frog began. “That’s a good question.” Addressing the audience, as well as Julie, he started, “You’ll remember last week that Scooter inadvertently booked a pool tournament on the same night as the show. As it turns out, a number of the cast managed to get in the tournament itself.” “Oh, how very exciting!” “It was. In fact,” here Kermit brought out Scooter for the moment. “Scooter here is tasked with giving us the results of those match ups. Scooter?” “Thanks, Chief. Julie.” “Hello Scooter.” “So,” the stage manager began. “When we held the tournament last week, you’ll remember that Rowlf, Piggy, Floyd, and Janice made it to the second round in the doubles competition, while Fozzie and Gonzo made it through the second round. Last night was the last night of the tournament and I just happen to have the names of the winners.” “And because we’re rather proud for all of them doing such a good job and really, making a good impression,” Kermit continued. “We decided to host a little after party to celebrate. But first! Let’s enjoy the warm weather by visiting the beach!” The curtain opened once again to show a few of the Muppet penguins all hanging around a beach setting – sun umbrellas were set up, towels were laid out, and the group looked to be headed for an enjoyable afternoon. The steel drum group that was gathered off to the side began to play a favorite Carlos Santana tune… The Muppet Show, for once, was actually going to plan. The opening number had started the show off right, leading into a funny sketch starring Julie and some of the monsters on the show. Link’s unrequited love number, which he sang to the star of stage and screen, went off with only some minor complications. The Swedish Chef was now on stage, happily presenting to the audience his recipe for roasted vegetables with a sweet ginger sauce. The familiar kitchen he worked in was set up, along with a row of Muppet vegetables sitting off to the side of his countertop. “Tudey,” he began. “Mekeeng da ruested feggees veet sveet geenger creem sooce-a. Furst, yuoo get-a yuoor feggee. Here-a feggee, feggee.” Chef, in his normal attempts at getting something, motioned for a few of the veggies to come to him. They of course didn’t budge as he called, forcing him to actually pick up a broccoli. Barry Broccoli didn’t like to be touched; people were always touching him and it irked him, so this time he decided to do something about it. He bit the hand that was about to eat him. “Ov!” the chef cried, dropping the broccoli on the counter, to the amusement of the other veggies. “Nu, thet’s nut neece-a. Yuoos get-a ins da pun!” The other vegetables, seeing Barry’s brave and selfless act at trying to free himself, all decided that they too would make a daring escape. This of course was the exact opposite of what the Swedish Chef wanted and the opposite result of what had happened during rehearsals. Never one to be outdone by his food, Chef went on the offensive, by literally getting a wooden stick and proceeding to beat the vegetable revolution back. This of course did nothing, as Charley Carrot picked up a plastic spoon and began an impromptu kitchen utensil fight. “Viva la Revolution!” The sketch was over, but the fighting continued from the stage to that of backstage, passing by both Kermit and Scooter as they watched in disinterest. “Well, that makes me feel a little better,” the frog muttered. “Should we be concerned about a vegetable revolt?” asked his assistant. “If push comes to shove, we’ll talk to Peter Pimento. He just got re-elected as union spokesman.” Kermit let out a sigh and said, “I’m gonna go out and introduce the Mayhem. They’re usually good for calming down the crowd.” As the frog went out to save face, Janice made her return to backstage. Take Five was a great quartet piece that would actually help to show off the skills of their band leader, Dr. Teeth, who had been filling in for Rowlf on piano and keyboards tonight. Because she wasn’t needed for the set, this gave her the perfect opportunity to put her plan in motion. “Hey little bro type person.” “Hey Jani.” “Like, you haven’t seen Boss Frog around, have you?” “He’s on stage introducing the Mayhem,” the assistant replied. “Then he said he was headed up to talk to Julie.” “Right on.” “Why? You need him for something?” “Nope,” replied the blonde. “Not a thing. Just wondering. Kinda weird without the regular suspects, you know?” “Tell me about it,” Scooter replied, taking his tablet and heading for the door to Kermit’s office. “It’s never a good sign when we can’t find Gonzo anywhere.” The guitarist nodded her agreement as she watched the stage manager head into the office for something. As he headed towards the office, she had been making her way towards the theater exit, or rather the stairs that lead to the exit. She wasn’t planning on going anywhere, at least not outside. However, the fact that the door was open – thanks to the fight of the vegetable revolt – helped her cause immensely. Giving a short whistle, she stood nonchalantly as two figures ran up the stairs, past her, and towards the passageway that led to stage left. She was right behind them as they passed. The opening tune to the Muppet Labs segment sounded as the camera pulled back from the clock that hung on the wall to reveal the set design mock up for the lab office. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew appeared at the familiar lab table to address the audience, both in the theatre and at home. “Dr. Bunsen Honeydew here with Muppet Labs, where the future is being made today. Friends, have you ever been faced with the crisis of trying to eat and drink at the same time? Mornings have been ruined by the downing of coffee and scarfing of food, which can of course lead to nasty stomach aches and messy pants. “Well friends, suffer no more.” While Bunsen was introducing the newest invention of Muppet Labs, three figures were making their way through the unused corridors of the theater in order to make their way towards stage left. It was very rare for anyone to enter through stage left, which was why this particular plan would work. Typically, stage left was where they kept wardrobe and other props, with most of these being available before the show and sometimes during, but needless to say, there were very few reasons for anyone to be back there. Currently, there was a whispered conversation in regards to spy techniques that had been used in order to get this particular set up to work. “You’ve been a busy little bee.” “Fer sure. Like, do you have any idea how hard it is to avoid both Kermit and Scooter? Totally cloak and dagger.” “But he said he was okay with it?” “Like, totally! And like, get this – he hasn’t even told Dr. Honeydew, so it’ll be a double surprise! He even helped me get everything in place.” “Jani, you are woman!” “Like, roar.” And while Bunsen Honeydew had found a new way in which to torture his assistant and as a secret cloak and dagger spy mission was happening around him, back in backstage right, the Great Gonzo had returned, looking none the worse for wear. “Where’ve you been?” Kermit asked, seeing the blue weirdo stroll in. “Around.” Before Kermit or even Scooter could comment on such a remark, the unmistakable screams of one redheaded lab assistant sounded through the area. Rushing over to the side, the two watched as smoke seemed to be coming from Beaker’s mouth and the assistant frantically running around and trying to find something that would make it stop. “Oh Beakie,” the good doctor admonished. “Do calm down.” “Mee! Mee mee mee mee mee!” “You certainly do not need to see a doctor.” “Did someone call for a doctor?” At the call, the staff of Veterinarian’s Hospital was on the scene, quickly going to Beaker and helping him up on the lab table. “But I’m a doctor!” Bunsen tried to counter, only to be physically escorted towards the side. “Mad scientist is more like,” Nurse Piggy was saying, as she gave the bald headed man a final shove, predictably into the waiting arms of the stage manager and director. As if the director wasn’t surprised enough, the nurse had the very nerve to wave and wink at him as she saw him. “Like, wow, Dr. Bob,” Nurse Janice said, looking at the poor hapless assistant. “This patient appears to be smoking!” “Hey, you should stop that,” the doctor admonished, giving Beaker a small shove. “Don’t you know those things could kill you?” “No, Dr. Bob,” Nurse Piggy sighed. “The patient seems to literally be smoking. What should we do?” “Well I’d say ‘open wide’, but I’m afraid I’ll get smoke in my eyes.” “Allergic reaction?” “No, a song by the Platters.” “Mee mee mo.” “This man knows his song references!” “Mee mee mo,” the patient replied. “Mo mee mee mee.” “Well, what was the last thing you ate?” Beaker pointed to a small dish that seemed to contain some type of chocolate. “Is that chocolate?” Nurse Piggy asked. Beaker immediately snatched the container from her reach, ranting as he did. “Poison!?” “Hey,” Dr. Bob said. “If anyone knows about poison, it’s the lab assistant. Which could be a bad thing.” “Why’s that, Dr. Bob?” asked Piggy. “What do you think the anesthetic is made from?” “Oh like, I thought that was the hospital food.” “Mee mee mee.” “Says the living guinea pig,” countered Piggy. “I have an idea on how to help this patient!” Dr. Bob exclaimed. “Mee mee?” “Switching careers couldn’t hurt,” Nurse Piggy agreed. “No, even better than that,” Dr. Bob continued. “We’ll have to pump this man’s stomach.” “Mee mee!” “It could too be worse,” Dr. Bob stated. “Like, you could have Doc Honeydew doing this,” finished Nurse Janice. “Tune in next time when you’ll hear Dr. Bob say…” “Don’t worry, Beaker, we’ll get down to the bottom of this and we’ll prove one very important thing.” “What’s that?” “This sketch mostly goes up in smoke.” Kermit wasn’t sure what he should be feeling at the moment. If having a vegetable rebellion wasn’t enough, having Dr. Honeydew adamantly complaining that he was in fact a doctor behind him probably could’ve have had the same response as having the staff of Vet’s Hospital intrude on Muppet Labs. Which of course gave way to Lew Zealand and his boomerang/juggling fish act. Yep, everything was what it should be on The Muppet Show. “Are the three of you purposely trying to drive me crazy?” the frog asked, as soon as the staff and the hapless assistant appeared backstage. “Why?” asked Rowlf. “Is it working?” “I don’t think I’ve ever the hospital staff in the lab before,” Julie commented. “That was very brave of you all.” “Or stupid,” Kermit added. “Or insane. You know - ” here, he gave a rather surprised chuckle. “There are still people out there who still think I’m the sane one around here.” “Blasphemy!” the pianist exclaimed. “Who’s been saying such lies?” asked Piggy. “Cute,” the frog deadpanned. “Cute reaction.” “Like, you should totally unharsh your mellow, Kermit,” Janice replied. “Embrace your insanity!” Gonzo chose that moment to walk past the group, with both hands holding two separate chainsaws. “Right on!” he agreed, causing Beaker to jump behind Janice in the case those chainsaws were live and armed. “Where’re you going!?” “To my dressing room,” the weirdo responded. “What’s it look like?” The group watched as the daredevil headed off, to do who knew what with two chainsaws. “Should I be concerned that Gonzo just walked by with two chainsaws?” asked Kermit, turning to his assistant. “Are you seriously asking?” Scooter countered. “And do you seriously want to know the answer?” Kermit didn’t even give it a second thought. “No,” he said. “No I don’t.” The Muppet Show had thankfully come to its logical and lunatic conclusion by the time Lew’s fish act had run afoul the dancing organ act. Just as Kermit had figured, the show came up short, however it worked in their favor as it gave them time to name the winners of the Cosgrove Cool Pool tournament. Amanda had come by with a large cake celebrating singles winner Fozzie and doubles winners Rowlf and Piggy – all three had their faces on the cake and little toy representations of the Muppets and humans that competed were all adorned around the sides. The young Muppet even had the foresight to make extra cakes so that the entire audience were able to partake. At the end of the night, with the winners, competitors, cast, and audience all fed up on cake, it was time to close up shop and head home. The audience had cleared out, with promises of more zaniness at next week’s show, to which Statler and Waldorf complained of the Muppets’ cruel and unusual punishment for continuing. This of course caused Gonzo to retort that he could chain them to their chairs again, causing the old men to leave quickly. Most of the show’s cast had headed out, while Beau and the rats got busy picking up the theater. Kermit and Scooter did their nightly tally of leftover acts and ticket receipts, while Gonzo and Fozzie helped Amanda move some of the cakes down to the cantina. Finally, the group congregated their way out, with Kermit giving last minute instructions to Rizzo and wishing their resident phantom a frightful night. Outside, 80s Robot had pulled the car around for Piggy and Kermit, earning a scathing look from Scooter and an eye roll from Kermit. “Meeting tomorrow?” the director asked, seeing as he had the majority there already. “Sure,” Gonzo said. “I was downstairs and I have an act that will knock your socks off.” “With or without the chainsaws?” asked Piggy. The daredevil chuckled. “Oh,” he said. “Those are for my special idea.” “You’re a special idea.” “Cease and desist until tomorrow, please,” Kermit said, opening the passenger door to allow Piggy to enter before him. “Meeting tomorrow,” he reiterated. “Someone tell Teeth and Rowlf.” Scooter nodded. “Same Muppet time, same Muppet station?” asked Gonzo. “Of course.” “Awesome!” the daredevil cried. “Quickly! Fozzie, to the Studebaker!” With that, the blue weirdo took off at a job towards Fozzie’s car, the bear in question following him in confusion. “When did I agree to give you a ride?” “When I gave you last piece of cake.” “Well, now that Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Freak are gone,” Piggy began. “Amanda, vous must join us for dinner this weekend.” “Scooter mentioned it, Miss Piggy,” the Whatnot replied. “Thanks much for inviting.” “But of course, mon ami,” the diva said. “Moi feels it’s always important to take the time to meet others, don’t vous?” Amanda smiled. “Of course.” “Then we’ll see you Saturday,” Kermit interrupted. “Unless of course we see you sooner. And we’ll see you tomorrow morning, Scooter.” “Right, Boss,” the page nodded. “Night.” The power couple made their final goodbyes, directing their robot butler to drive them home, leaving the younger couple standing outside the theater’s back door. “Need a ride home?” “I’m good,” the Whatnot replied. “I drove over.” “Well,” Scooter began, clearing his throat. “I can certainly make sure you arrive safely at home.” “An escort?” “Sure,” the assistant said, taking the girl’s hand and leading her towards their small parking lot. “Anything can happen on the mean streets of Hollywood. As if I’d let anything happen to my girl.” “Your girl, huh?” Scooter gulped. Was the declaration too soon? “Yeah,” he whispered. He felt her squeeze his hand before bumping her shoulder against his. “Kinda like the sound of that.” “Me too.” And that friends, concludes this tale of a tournament gone wrong. Stay tuned next time when you'll hear Piggy say - : Are you even working on that other sequel? For your information, yes I am. In fact, I'm gonna work on it today, little Miss Bossy Pants. So how do you like them apples, huh? : Watch it, kid. Uh...yeah. So, all done here. : Bye bye.