Grover Monster: Master Manipulator

If you live in a household that doesn't include a preschooler, you may not know that, in addition to modern-day Sesame Street episodes (which include Elmo’s World and animated Twiddlebug sketches), Netflix Instant has also put up a collection of Classic Sesame Street episodes from the '70s that bring back a lot of (mostly non-nightmare-inducing) childhood memories.

There's Kermit the Frog, doing his News Flash on-the-street reporting of fairy tales and nursery rhymes gone insane. There are the Yip-Yip aliens encountering clocks, telephones, and radios for the first time and going insane. And there are old songs to be found, like "Everybody Eats" and "Lowercase n,” which have nothing to do with insanity and are actually really quite nice to revisit, even if “Lowercase n” brings on bouts of abandonment fears. But most earth shattering is the 1974 skit that reveals Grover's true nature. Lovable, furry, old Grover is evil. He’s a fucking Muppet Machiavelli.

Most of us who grew up with Sesame Street are probably familiar with and feel great affection for the restaurant sketches involving Grover, the waiter, and Mr. Johnson (aka "Fat Blue"), Grover's irascible, long-suffering customer. At least, I THOUGHT he was "long-suffering"; upon further research, I have determined that Mr. Johnson is to blame as the instigator of the Waiter Grover/Mr. Johnson culinary feud.

A typical Grover waiter sketch goes like this:

Mr. Johnson comes in for his lunch break. We don't know exactly what Mr. Johnson does, but judging by his male-pattern baldness, suit, well-fed frame, and self-important demeanor, he's an office drone at AIG. He is always in a rush and always gets Grover as his waiter.

Grover bungles Mr. Johnson's lunch order in some hilarious-to-rugrats way: can't bring him a normal-sized hamburger, has nothing but milk left on the menu and then has no glasses in which to serve it, won't stop dancing as he serves Mr. Johnson's food and spills it all over him, etc.

Unfed, Mr. Johnson leaves the restaurant in a huff, swearing never to eat there again.

In the grand scheme of things, it would appear as though Grover is a loveably clueless waiter, who is trying hard but falling just short of successfully serving his cranky customer. However, I believe that he is actually exacting revenge on Mr. Johnson. You see, in Mr. Johnson's earliest visit to the restaurant, it wasn't Grover plaguing the life and lunch out him; it was Mr. Johnson himself who's the problem.

The facts are these:

At Mr. Johnson and Grover's seminal meeting, Mr. Johnson orders a bowl of alphabet soup, but sends every bowl back until Grover finally brings him a bowl containing all 26 letters.

The second time Grover has the pleasure to serve Mr. Johnson, the blue business man sends back his sandwich order until it looks exactly like the sandwich pictured on the menu and then runs out of time to eat it once it's been perfected. It is this particular encounter that causes Grover to throw a pot-crashing hissyfit in in the kitchen and tell Charlie, the chef, that he quits.

Since the resulting balance of their restaurant encounters falls largely on the side of Grover messing with Mr. Johnson's orders and stomach, I postulate that, based on Mr. Johnson's early visits, Grover dreamed up a complex strategy of vengeful restaurant warfare specifically calibrated to drive Mr. Johnson into a state of starvation and collapse. That Grover behaves, throughout, the way a clueless, self-effacing waiter would just underscores his commitment to his dastardly plan. Much as Sir Percival Blakeney determined that playing the foppish fool was the best way to distract from his true M.O. as the French aristocrat-saving Scarlet Pimpernel, so Grover affects the role of an oblivious bungler to cover up his true Machiavellian nature in order to reap his pound of blue Muppet flesh.

Far from making me dislike Grover in the way I always disliked certifiably bughouse Harvey Kneeslapper, this hidden depth of Muppetly darkness makes me like him even more. And I think the moral of the story here is: don't ever piss off a Muppet.

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