Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Lonelygirl15"

The online world has been punk'd by an adorable teen science geek who led us to suspect she is soon to become a virgin sacrifice for her parents' "Satanic" cult.

But now that it's not real, it's a fun story.

Here's what I wrote on my personal blog, Blueapples, on July 28:
"Youtube is starting to freak me out. It's great for important stuff like Eddie Izzard clips and cartoons from The Electric Company, but looking at the most-viewed videos you find some questionable stuff. Not disturbing-questionable. Just questionable. For example, there's a very photogenic homeschooled girl calling herself Lonelygirl15 who posts a video diary that has become extraordinarily popular. She's sweet, she's smart, she's cute. At first you think, Now isn't that adorable? Then you look again, and you think, "WTF IS GOING ON HERE?!" Not only is the production value far too high for a 15-year-old who says she can barely operate her own webcam, but the girl's facistic parents (who seem to be uberreligious) allow an older boy to hang out in her room with the door closed for hours at a time? The whole thing seems to be exquisitely scripted and edited to perfection...but why? Is she after a modeling career? Attention? Pervy older men who will possibly pay for a boob job? I'm just... confused."

This summer, a 15-year-old calling herself Bree began posting her webcam diary to the hugely popular video-sharing website Youtube.com. "Lonelygirl15" was a science-obsessed, very photogenic girl who was being home-schooled by strict religious parents, and her only real friend was an older boy named Daniel ("danielbeast"). Daniel helped her set up the obviously expensive webcam she had secretly acquired and installed in her bedroom under her clueless parents' noses, and also artfully edited all her videos.

Bree's combination of beauty, brains, and childlike playfulness quickly enthralled and mystified viewers. She spoke knowledgeably on the work of Richard Feynman, yet also goofed around with plush puppets. This wasn't your average teen v-log. For one thing, Bree's room was sparsely decorated, and always immaculate. Her bed, her puppets, and a small bookshelf were the only things visible. A framed, black-and-white portrait above the bookshelf seemed to be that of a large, bald man.

I'll admit that when I first watched lonelygirl15's videos, I wasn't sure if they were fake or not. At one point I even considered commenting on her myspace page (now removed) to recommend Tuva or Bust! I didn't begin to seriously question her reality until the end of July.

Daniel posted his own videos and also made frequent appearances on lonelygirl's videos, leading people to wonder why such religious parents would allow their young daughter to spend hours alone in her bedroom with an older boy, with the door closed.

But that minor mystery was quickly overshadowed by more pressing questions: Did Daniel have feelings for Bree? Would Bree's dad bar him from visiting if he refused to videotape Bree's church-camp play? What religion did Bree and her parents belong to, anyway?

Over the course of 27 videos posted every few days, the answers were slow in coming. Bree feared that viewers would give her a hard time if she revealed her religious affiliation, and Daniel (at least on camera) wasn't quick to make a move on his friend. In the meantime, forums sprang up to discuss lonelygirl15, Youtube teemed with video responses to lonelygirl15 and parodies of her videos, teenage girls around the world flicked on their webcams to give earnest romantic advice and moral suppor to the socially stymied Bree, and a few skeptics pointed out that Bree's use of lighting and editing were awfully advanced for a 15-year-old who claimed she couldn't even operate her own webcam. Who edited the videos posted during a fight between Bree and Daniel?, wondered a YouTuber called "gohepcat". Why was lonelygirl15's fansite domain name (http://www.lonelygirl15.com/) registered before her first video was posted?

Still, the videos were intriguing. There was some drama with pal Daniel and her dad, lots of science-geek stuff, a cute rap-music video. There was a kerfuffle when Daniel refused to videotape a religious summer-camp play in which Bree was appearing, but peace was made when Daniel showed up announced at her performance. Awww!

The mysteries of Bree's religious affiliation mounted when more observant viewers noticed a photo of Aleister Crowley hanging on the wall of her abnormally tidy bedroom. (It's him, though at first I thought it might be Churchill. If you freeze "What Did Daniel and My Dad Talk About?" when Bree takes the webcam on a tour around the room, it comes into crystal-clear focus. It's this picture. To see this screen shot, check out the Wikipedia entry on lonelygirl15.)

On September 5, in a video entitled "A Change in My Life", Bree announced that she would be "going on a a diet" in preparation for a very special religious ceremony that's "very difficult to get into", requires many arcane preparations, and is only conducted once in a great while. "There are some exercises I have to learn to do. My mom said she'd help me with those," Bree glibly said. Things were gettin' awful creepy. But Bree went on being her usual sunny self. Two days later she posted a video about...what else? Pluto.

Was Bree's family caught up in a sex magick cult? Was it the OTO, or a more dangerous offshoot? Was Bree being prepped for initiation, or to be a virgin sacrifice? Was Daniel being groomed to initiate her? Did she have any clue what she was in for? Let's face it, this is better than Passions!

On September 8, the L.A. Times and lonelygirl herself dissolved the mystery. A forum message on http://www.lonelygirl15.com/ (a fanpage which, as some YouTubers had already noted, was registered before Bree even began posting her videos!) thanked the duo's "fans" for participating in a "new art form", an "interractive" webcam/filmmaking project, and hinted at a more ambitious project that would pay fans for their feedback.

Richard Rushfield and Claire Hoffman of the L.A. Times, in their article "Mystery Fuels Huge Popularity of Web's Lonelygirl15", revealed that "e-mails sent from a lonelygirl15 account came from inside the offices of the Beverly Hills-based talent agency Creative Artists Agency", and that "lonelygirl15" was copyrighted. Most of this info, it seems, was sussed out by YouTubers who just couldn't stand the suspense any longer.

The mystery still isn't 100% resolved, though. The ultimate motive behind it all is hazy at best. Viewers have already speculated that anti-Christian filmmaker Brian Flemming (whom I've mentioned on my blog The Devil Appears) is involved in the hoax, though he denies it, and others suspect it's just a viral marketing campaign for an unidentified horror movie. Despite the confession and the L.A. Times expose, someone continued to post new lonelygirl15 videos to Youtube and Revver.com (interestingly, a site that pays for submissions). Bree accepted Daniel's invitation to a party, snuck out of her house, and was caught by her dad. In one video, she has some gauze strapped to her upper arm with a Band-aid as though she just received an injection. Instead of explaining this, she talks a bit about the party and proceeds to feed lemons labeled "Dad" into a juicer. "When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade!" She declares that even though she still believes in her religious principles, she's going to rebel against some of her parents' rules. She complains that most of her time is taking up in preparing for the special ceremony, learning a language "that no one has spoken in, like..." She trails off.

It seems everyone knows that lonelygirl15 is fake, but, like me, can't resist watching. Yet the videos have changed substantially. "Bree", the reason people started watching the videos in the first place, is now playing second fiddle to the ominous events unfolding around her, as in a conventional horror movie.

A Youtube poster calling himself LonesomeOctober began posting videos of interviews and press conferences conducted by stuffed animals (including a purple sock mockey identical to Bree's, and a Cthulu plushie), hinting that lonelygirl15 was set up by "Target" and had recently changed writers. LonesomeOctober also drew a link between Bree's video "Poor Pluto" and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. (Apparently, the planet from which the Elder Gods emigrated, Yuggoth, was based on Pluto - recently discovered when the stories of the Cthulu Mythos were written.) As many "Satanic" sects have incorporated elements of the Cthulu Mythos into their rituals and traditions, including the Temple of Set, this could be significant. Personally, I don't see a lot of clues linking Bree to Lovecraft. And LonesomeOctober turned out to be an associate history professor with no ties to the filmmakers.

There is speculation that Bree's "special ceremony" will take place on October 12, Aleister Crowley's birthday. It's obvious from two outdoor videos that she's in California, leading me to suspect that the filmmakers gave Bree a science jones to draw viewers toward the conclusion that Bree's parents are knowledgeable about rocket engineer/Thelemite Jack Whiteside Parsons, who practiced some wild sex magick in Pasadena during the late 1940s. He was a disciple of Crowley and a member of the OTO until, shortly before his death in 1951, he established his own magickal order called "The Witchcraft". I think it fizzled out decades ago. But perhaps we're supposed to suspect that Bree will play the part of the Scarlet Woman in a retread of Parsons's infamous Babalon Working, a very complex and mysterious ritual that somehow is supposed to result in a parentless child called a "moonchild." Or something.

Whatever the truth behind lonelygirl15 and danielbeast, the truth about the OTO is that it does not sponsor teen summer camps, and does not initiate anyone under the age of 18. Needless to say, they don't carry out virgin sacrifices, and aren't even terribly keen on animal sacrifices.

While most older viewers were quick to question the slickness of lonelygirl15's video diary, countless teen viewers saw Bree as a real girl with real problems to whom they could easily relate, and vehemently defended her against accusations of hoaxery. Hopefully, "Bree's" confession and the L.A. Times article will prevent anyone from actually believing that small-town Cali might be full of homeschooling Satanists willing to sacrifice their lovely young daughters.

This hoax was cute and (for a while) clever, whatever its ultimate purpose, but let's not forget that the hoaxers tried to use religous bigotry and misinformation to draw even more attention to their project.

Update: Kiwi's Out of the Bag

"Bree", has been outed by NBC Nightly News, the Silicon Valley Watch, and numerous Googlers with webcams as 19-year-old New Zealand actress Jessica-Lee Rose. She appeared in Leah Salveson's short film Dearly Beloved (see a trailer here) before coming to America.

Also, three 20something screenwriters who claimed to have created lonelygirl15 with a simple set and a $130 webcam spoke to NBC, explaining that they wanted to create a "very realistic" storyline. Sorry about that, guys.

The next lonelygirl video was shot at night, outdoors, since Danielbeast has been permanently banished from Bree's house and she had to sneak out to see him. The video ends with Bree downing an iron pill and Daniel asking, "Is your dad making you take those?

In later videos, posted in late September, Bree announced her difficult decision to break it off with Daniel in order to focus on her religious obligations. The group behind the ritual was revealed as the fictional "Order of Dendera", apparently a reference to the ancient Egyptian cult of the goddess Hathor, centered in that city.

October: The Ceremony, Cassie, and Beyond

In October Bree revealed, via flashcards, that the language she was learning is Enochian. A mysterious older woman known only as Lucy became Bree's "helper", coaching her in how to move and speak during the ritual. Daniel, banished from Bree's life as well as her house, began to stalk Lucy and Bree. Not only did he spy on the October 12th ceremony, which took place by torchlight in a secluded woods, he broke into Lucy's apartment and found surveillance-style photos of himself on Lucy's computer - along with aerial maps of wooded areas. Since Bree seemed tired and listless after her ritual, but was still wearing those little guaze pads on her arm, Daniel voiced suspicion that the real ceremony hasn't actually taken place yet. The only other item of interest in the apartment was the famous Absinthe Robette poster, which could be a nod to Crowley's poem about "the green goddess, absinthe", penned in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, the Youtube user "cassieiswatching" began posting spooky videos that were filmed at the same natural pool seen in lonelygirl15's video "Swimming" and at the same park at which Bree met with Daniel. The first video showed a bag dropping into the pool, starting off a scavenger hunt that ended with one dedicated watcher finding the bag and opening it to reveal a Tarot card labeled "Judgement." Later, cassieiswatching changed the description of the video to this message: "You all failed I hate you I don't play cards." The second video, shot in the park, features a quick flash of a Sharon Tate crime scene photo and is entitled "When I Get to the Bottom Where I Stop". (The Manson murders have long been rumored to be linked to Satanism, for various reasons.) This video did not lead to the discovery of any "clues". A third video, "Revelation I" shows a Bible blowing open to a page near the back (probably a nod to lonelygirl's description of bibliomancy, conducted by members of her church during their Equinox celebration). The description for this video is "Frank is listening." Frank turned out to be a rather incoherent chap who seeded clues to the Cassie mystery - mostly anagrams - on a blog and message boards. He was apparently possessed by the spirit of Cassie, and took credit for the videos posted under "cassieiswatching". Then he committed suicide.If Cassieiswatching is, indeed, a work of fanfiction - and many of the people caught up in the mystery are growing frustrated and downright bored by all the arcana revealed in her anagram poems and codes - it has so far led to no revealing information about Bree's cult.The moderators of the lonelygirl15.com forum, claimed the Cassie videos are a work of fanfiction and have no official connection to the official videos. (In a recent video, Bree explained that Cassie was a friend for a while, until the religious stuff began to bother her.) Time will tell.

The Ceremony and its immediate aftermath were a bit anticlimactic: No sacrifices that we could see on the dark and jittery video that Daniel posted, no deflowering, no creepy chanting or flashes of green smoke. Just a bunch of torches on a hill. Afterwards, Bree was simply exhausted and told her viewers that her participation in the ritual would mean increased responsibility. As it turned out, the ceremony in the woods and this video were set up specifically to fool Daniel. The real ritual has not yet occurred.

After Daniel's break-in and disturbing discovery, Bree warned him not to do such things. She hinted that her co-religionists take their rituals very seriously and have devoted their lives to them. However, she promised to try to get to the bottom of those photos on Lucy's computer. Later, Daniel went into hiding and Bree revealed that the ceremony in the woods was a decoy designed to distract Daniel from the real ritual. Bree's elders are injecting an unknown substance into her arm and training her for the ritual on a daily basis, but she doesn't know when or where the actual event will take place. She knows precious little about it, she admits.

In "I Listened to Daniel", Bree snuck out to visit Daniel at his friend's house, and finally decided she didn't want to be part of the ritual. She said she would tell her parents this.

November: Gemma, Bree's Decision, and "The Community"

After the ceremony, cassieiswatching ceased video-posting. Her final video, it seems, was the silent SecondLife scene titled "Revelation 3". Whether cassieiswatching bowed out because the mystery was resolved (Cassie was dead and able to possess living people like Frank), or whether the entire setup was an incidence of "gamejacking" that went off the rails after the ceremony didn't turn out as expected, still isn't known for certain.

A new, and definitely official, character surfaced in the form of "gemmers19", a 19-year-old college student in London who posted videos addressed to Bree. They met when Bree's family lived in England (Bree says Gemma's dog was "my only friend"). It seems Gemma's mother met Bree's mother at school in Edinburgh after Bree's mom angrily told the philosopher David Hume that anyone who interferes with an individual's free will should be put to death, the two became good friends, and both became members of the religious group Gemma calls "The Community"; Gemma's mum continues to look up to her friend as a "pillar of The Community". With their families, both women lived in an English commune. Gemma was not allowed to date people outside The Community, so she moved to London to gain some freedom...but she tells Bree this was not easy for her to do.

In "It's Not Your Decision", she warns Bree that she must take the group more seriously. The decision about whether or not to take part in the ceremony is out of her hands now; they won't let her just quit. From Gemma's first three videos, it's painfully clear the community is repressive and demanding - and that Bree's mother is a force to be reckoned with among its members.

Bree is delighted to hear from her friend, but doesn't heed her advice. She tells her parents she doesn't want to take part in the ceremony, because the fake ceremony that was staged to fool Daniel involved people she had never seen before, Lucy wants her to prepare for the real ceremony indefinitely, and no one has told her why Daniel was being followed. Bree's dad admitted to similar misgivings, particularly about administerings shots to his daughter even after the ceremony was supposedly completed. Hearing that Daniel was looking out for his daughter, he allows Daniel to visit Bree again. Her parents allow her to back out of the ceremony.

In the video "They disappeared...", Gemma again warns that Bree isn't taking The Community seriously enough. When Gemma was about 8 years old, another girl close to Bree's age was chosen to take part in the ceremony and went through the same mysterious preparations, including an unusual diet and injections. Then, after the ceremony, her entire family abruptly vanished, leaving behind even their dog and their furniture. The Community received letters from them later, but the letters were so different from the family's normal tone that Gemma comments "It's like they were from different people."

Bree's parents meet with the church deacons to impart Bree's decision, and the deacons are furious. Bree's parents send her to stay with Daniel while they sort things out, and now appear to be missing. They left their house with Bree's helper, Lucy, and haven't returned since. Bree and Daniel go on the run in Daniel's car, fearing they're next in line to vanish.

From London, Gemma explains that The Community isn't really a Thelemic cult, but a secret society that calls itself The Order. Adults in the group are required to learn ancient Egyptian languages.

Daniel wants to go to the authorities; Bree refuses, knowing that some deacons of The Order are policemen, judges, etc. So they hide out in motels, biding time. Bree has her menagerie of stuffed animals to keep her occupied. Gemma encourages this course of action, advising, "Don't trust the authorities." She has pointed out to Bree that a man in a suit, seen in the background of one of the motel videos, closely resembles a man visible in Daniel's video of the bogus ceremony. Are they being followed? Through close analysis of Bree's videos, Gemma identifies an oval "smudge" on the man's hand as an eye tattoo, the mark of The Watchers who seem to keep an eye on members of The Order.

In late November, a fourth character emerged. Jonas is a teenager, 17 or 18, who broadcasts from his parents' book-lined study. He's a bit of slacker, he admits, but he was inspired to start a videoblog after watching Bree's videos. He quickly began offering her advice: Lay off on Daniel, he's going through a rough time, too. (Daniel fears he'll have to give up his dreams of film school now that he's on the run from an apparently murderous cult) Bree agreed with Jonas and thanked him. They began chatting online. Jonah has now urged Bree and Daniel to crash at his place, saying, "You gotta trust someone." He tells them he used to have trust issues with everyone in his life, until he started sailing with his dad, learning to work as part of a team. This video was posted on Bree's own Youtube page, so it's clear she and Daniel are learning to trust their new pal and are considering his offer...

December/January: Stunning Developments and a Game

Realizing that the Order could have placed a tracking device on Daniel's car, Daniel and Bree ditched it on the side of the road and set off on foot, wandering aimlessly. They were broke and homeless, reduced to eating out of dumpsters, until Daniel gave in to Bree's pleas and reluctantly made a deal that if their online buddies found Jonas trustworthy, he would go with her to stay at Jonas's house. But when the time came to meet with Jonas in person, Daniel backed out and abandoned Bree. He returned home alone. His parents didn't miss him - they thought he was still at a friend's. He apologized to Bree for this betrayal in a video, but he seemed so relieved and happy to be home that his regret rang false.

Gemma chided the pair for making "bad decisions" that led to homelessness. She urged them to trust no one but each other - meaning "don't trust Jonas" - and return home.

Meanwhile, Bree holed up in a guest room at Jonas's house and has refused to leave it. She seems devastated by Daniel's abandonment. Jonas is angry with him, too, calling him a liar. And the other liar, it seems, is Gemma. In a vid entitled "Tough Cookie", Jonas flashed a quick voyeur-style video clip of Bree's old helper, Lucy, walking with Gemma. He says Gemma works for the Order and doesn't even live in London. How does he know this? Who took the video?

A quick scan of the forums at http://www.lonelygirl15.com/ reveal that an official Alternate Reality Game called OpAphid is in progress. As we know from one of Gemma's videos, APAPHID is an acronym used by the Order, instructing members how to deal with confrontational people. It means Acknowledge [Their] Position, Help Inititate a Dialogue.

OpAphid has a YouTube account to which he/she posts cryptic videos. It's clear he's/she's on an inside track of the Order, for she has provided surveillance photos of Daniel's and Bree's bedrooms. The video "Adventures in Babysitting" shows someone packing Bree's stuffed toys into a tote bag in a motel room. Several other OpAphid videos feature a girl with streaked hair and references to Cassieiswatching, hinting that Cassie was an official spinoff of Lonelygirl15. Another mysterious figure in the game, a young girl named Tachyon, provided the footage of Lucy and Gemma getting into a car. She also posted videos of Gemma entering and leaving an apartment building in California, and a brick wall in California used as a "London" backdrop from Gemma's video about her Watcher scare. There is also a snippet of one of Gemma's phone conversations, in which Bree is mentioned.
Tachyon was also, it seems, a member of the Order. She expressed confusion and hurt over her Helper's abandonment, and may have left the Order after her questions about it went unanswered. She is now concerned about people following her. Like Cassieiswatching, she provides clues and messages to gameplayers in the form of actual drops at California locations, as well as word puzzles and video clues. (I won't be covering the OpAphid game in any depth, since I'm not a player, but ongoing discussion of it can be found at the http://www.lonelygirl15.com/ forums.)

Daniel discovered the camera in his bedroom ,and decided to go to Jonas's. He surprised Bree there on Christmas morning (thanks to Jonas, her first real Christmas). Daniel had returned to Bree's empty house and found an empty cardboard box with a symbol on it, probably Enochian, similiar to a Moebius strip. Inside was a shipping receipt with the name of a company. Daniel broke into one of the company's warehouses ("Breaking and Entering" video) and found a small storage room full of the Moebius boxes, each containing boxes of the drug Epogen (Erythropoietin), which is used primarily to restore red blood cell counts in anemia sufferers. It is also allegedly used as a doping agent for marathon runners and other distance athlethes, to increase endurance. Judging by the number of boxes in the warehouse, perhaps dozens of girls like Tachyon and Bree have been selected to participate in the "Ceremony". Or are they being "cooked" for vampire feasts? Daniel hints at this is Jonas's Christmas video, saying of Bree's parents, "Maybe they drank reindeer blood [on Christmas]."

Predictably, Gemma has gone to ground.

In a baffling turn, Bree has also vanished. She simply wasn't in her room one morning, and Jonas's car, credit card, and some cash were also missing. He blamed himself for taking in "some girl I met on the Internet". Daniel, in shock, suggested there could be clues to her disappearance in her most recent videos. He noted that all the doors and windows were still secure.

Did Jonas let members of the Order into the house to abduct Bree while she slept?

In Bree's last two videos before disappearing, Jonas taught her how to skateboard, and she mentioned that the symbol on the boxes might have been the logo of the company where her dad worked. She said he was secretive about his research, but she knew he was studying ribosimes.
In the last video, "Mystery Movies", Bree told us about her dad's affinity for spy movies and gave a list of the mystery/spy DVDs she watched at Jonas's house: Citizen Kane, The Usual Suspects, Sneakers, Out of Sight, Ocean's 11, and Never Say Never Again. One of the tags for this video is "riddle." At the end of the video, Bree mentioned that she suspected someone was trying to give her a message in the form of numbers, perhaps a phone number. But the number she dialed turned out to be a wrong number, and she rejected her theory in embarrassment. Who was the someone? Could it be Gemma, who used a lot of hand signals in some of her messages to Bree (as Tachyon's latest Gemma video, "Gemma IV", highlights)? Could Gemma have been saying one thing - at the Order's insistence - and signing another to send a secret message? Is she in contact with Bree's parents? Pure speculation. We do know that telephones have figured prominently in Bree's most recent videos. She tried to contact distant relatives and family friends by phone from Jonas's study ("Bree Phone Home"), then dialed her mysterious wrong number. And she revealed that she stopped speaking to her friend Cassie after Cassie made creepy prank phone calls from her house, whispering things like "I'm watching you." (elements of the cassieiswatching mystery have been incorporated into the OpAphid game, as well)

Tachyon's "Gemma IV" video intercuts footage from Gemma's videos with photos of a posh apartment building's interior, presumably Gemma's building. It appears that Tachyon plans to set off the fire alarm to flush her out of hiding.

In Jonas's latest video, "Bree's Gone", he mentioned that he has seen numerous psychiatrists in an effort to get over the issues he developed in response to the disappearance of his parents when he was young. (He mentioned in his house-tour video, "Anti-Cribs", that he was raised by his nanny and now lives alone in the house) Is Jonas really on his own? Or did the Order place him in a remote, empty house and instruct him to lure Bree there so she could be taken easily, perhaps by bribing him with promises that he could see his parents again if he cooperated? (If so, Bree beat 'em to the punch).

Daniel broke Bree's code. He discovered that the wrong number she dialed to Powell's Drycleaners in "Bree Phone Home" while trying to reach her Uncle Franklin was a message containing a string of numbers...10 numbers. He dialed them and reached another message, from Bree's father. He and Jonas hit the road in search of Bree.

In Jonas's/Daniel's video "The Unthinkable Happened", Jonas and Daniel caught up to Bree and her dad in Jonas's car, but decided to hang back and simply observe them from a distance to give them some privacy. They staked out their car in a parking ramp. Minutes later, as Bree and her father approached their parked car, a dark car screeched to a stop beside it. The camerawork is so shaky, it's difficult to tell exactly what happened. It seems Bree spotted her friends and fled to them, hopping into Jonas's car, while her father was confronted - possibly abducted - by the people in the dark car.

The next video after "The Unthinkable Happened" is "Bree's Dad is Dead". It's just footage of the three friends at the beach, set to Bless the Lord, O My Soul by Rachmaninov. But there is one brief shot of a helicopter hovering overhead, not the first time a helicopter has appeared in the videos. There was also a copter visible when Bree and Daniel drove out into the country, fearing they were being stalked by a Watcher.

We don't know where Bree's mother is. Is she cooperating with The Order?

No word yet on why Bree's parents vanished, nor what they were doing while their daughter was on the run. Bree's video "My Dad Said...", shot in Jonas's study, informs us that Bree's dad confessed to her he wasn't her real father, and her mother isn't her real mother. (No mention of adoption) She said she will not be talking to her mother anytime soon, but doesn't want to go into the reasons yet. In the next video featuring just Bree, she says she's frustrated by Daniel's and Jonas's persistent questions. She reveals that her dad filled her in on the pyramidal structure of The Order, in which the "higher levels" (to which her mother belonged) know more about what's going on than people on the lower levels. The Order selects thousands of girls from birth and places them in "controlled homes", but only "a fraction of a percentile" develop the necessary characteristics for... whatever it is The Order does with them. She repeats that she wants nothing to do with her mother. "I'm basically all alone."

January: Romantic Complications

Daniel wants Bree. Bree just wants to grieve and move on with her life. Daniel is her good friend - and that's the way she wants to keep things, for now. So, Daniel starts hanging out at a bowling alley (possibly the same one filmed by Tachyon), getting drunk with his fake ID, and picking up random girls (including one played by American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee). When Daniel goes missing after drinking with some guy who lives up in the mountains, Jonas and Bree hit the road in search of him.

February: "Just Do the Ceremony"

Bree and Jonas learn that Daniel's drinking buddy was a "cowboy" known as a local weirdo. They drive to his dilapidated ranch and Jonas even sneaks into the back of his white van while it's parked, but there is no sign of Daniel.

Then OpAphid posted a video entitled "Miss Me?", featuring a relaxed-looking (drugged?) Daniel announcing that he's with members of the Order and thinks they're great. "They're good people...We had pizza...we did spin art...I want to join the Order, I hope they'll take me...You should just do the ceremony...the thing with your dad, that was a big misunderstanding: He wanted it to happen. I think you should just do the ceremony." He reveals that he does remember their old friend Cassie. "And she wants you to do the ceremony, too." (probably a lie - Cassie is dead, it seems).

Bree was fibbing. The real plan was not to trade herself for Daniel, but to collaborate with Tachyon and Brother in a plot to spring him. At the point of trade-off outside an office building elevator, Bree pretended to go along with everything. She stepped into the elevator with a handful of Order goons wearing sunglasses (Lucy was one of them). We saw her from various surveillance cams, courtesy of Tachyon. Then we saw Bree and Daniel flying up a stairwell with Lucy in hot pursuit, scrambling up a ladder to freedom in the nick of time. Safely back in Jonas's study, Bree and Jonas revealed the plot and thanked their new friends for saving their lives. We're back where we started. *Sigh.* This is getting old, folks. Really, really old. Lonelygirl15 needs to be wrapped up soon. The plot holes have stretched from pinholes to yawning chasms that threaten to swallow us all up into an abyss of inanity and melodrama. If the Cowboy could slip Daniel a roofie and cart him away undetected to be used as Bree bait, why the bloody hell didn't he just follow Daniel home and abduct Bree instead?

Turns out Daniel was drugged during his confinement and recalls nothing.

Soon after Daniel's rescue, a black SUV and a dark-suited Watcher showed up outside Jonas's house. The Watcher stood like a statue as Jonas confronted him, and didn't move a muscle when Bree approached. In the next video, "Yellow Snow", Bree noted that the entire Order seems reluctant to harm her or force her to do anything against her will; during her escape with Daniel, Lucy merely said, "It's your choice." But the encounter with a Watcher spooked the trio enough to send them on the run again. This time, to a mountain cabin owned by Jonas's parents.

March-April (*sigh*)

This is getting tiresome. Seriously. End it already.

At the cabin, Bree found an Enochian knickknack and accused Jonas of being in the order. To prove his innocence, he rooted around in his parents' old stuff until he found a scrapbook full of information on a resistance within the Order....of which Jonas's missing-or-dead parents were active members, apparently. So, after some hurt feelings, Jonas and Bree made up with each other and moved on to...well, pretty much the same old stuff.

Bree decided she needed a break from the guys and went to a training camp in the forest run by Tachyon, where she learned some self-defense skills and whatnot.

Daniel found a photo album belonging to Jonas's 30something Aunt Alex and was blown away by the quality of the pictures. Before Alex even showed up, he started crushin' on her. When Alex arrived, he spent a lot of camera time focused on her, and flirted with her openly at a party held for some of her friends. Yes, the guys are getting awfully reckless about being seen by people they don't know, and that's coming back to haunt them: Bree, viewing the video footage from the party, noticed a framed picture of Alex and Lucy in the background and warned the guys to get away from Aunt Alex ASAP. Naturally, Daniel didn't believe Alex could really be a member of The Order. And he was wrong. After Jonas confronted her, Alex snatched the camera from Daniel and addressed a message to his "little friend" Bree: Alex is a member of the Order, and Jonas's parents are too. They didn't die at sea. "They've been very busy. What makes you think they even remember you?" she taunts Jonas. The scrapbook wasn't full of resistance achievements; it was a log of people betrayed by Jonas's family.

Alex warned that "the people after [her]" would "stop at nothing".

Caught

Once again, The Order had Bree in its grasp yet apparently chose not to detain her for more than a few days. Are we really dealing with people who will "stop at nothing"? 'Cause so far all we've seen is a lot of stopping and a lot of nothing.

It began like this: Daniel and Jonas picked up Bree at a truckstop and fled to Vegas, where they goofed off and had fun in the sun for a while. Then they spotted a member of The Order following them and ran away on foot.

The next part of the story is told through OpAphid videos. The three friends were "apprehended", taken to a hotel room, and drugged. A synthesized man's voice questioned them about their travel plans, and asked what Bree plans to do about the ceremony. They were too sleepy to answer any of the questions intelligibly.

After the "interrogation", the next OpAphid vid simply showed the cameraman racing through the desert after a stumbling Bree, in broad daylight. There was a gunshot and the camera fell to the ground.

The story resumes with Jonas, Daniel, and Bree safely in Jonas's car, on the road again. They have no memory of the previous three days. They don't know the identity of the cameraman who was shot.

Bizarrely, they decide Aunt Alex is still the only person to whom they can turn. She's their only direct link to The Order. They return to her house and spy on her as she leaves with a large duffel bag, then follow her to an underground parking garage. They decide to sleep in the car so they can keep an eye on her vehicle. They follow her to Mexico, where she has a summer house, and Daniel spies on her (he enjoys this a bit too much, I suspect). Daniel and Bree then confront Alex, demanding to know why she turned them over to a maniac who uses drugs. She insists she didn't know that was going to happen, and even says that the abduction was not connected to The Order.

The question is: Did Bree take part in the Ceremony during her three days of captivity?

In "Losing My Religion", Bree explains that her mother was inducted into her religion, "Hymn of One", by a professor while she was studying philosophy in Edinburgh. Bree believes that the Hymn of One religion is just a front for whatever The Order is doing, as Gemma hinted in one her videos.

The website http://www.hymnofone.org/ may or may not be an official part of LG15. Perhaps it's part of the OpAphid ARG.

Daniel and Jonas attempted to recreate their night of captivity to jog their memories. No luck.

Alex seemed to be mending her ways and truly helping her nephew and his friends, only to be scooped up by an Order henchman in a black SUV. Jonas pulled a gun on the guy to prevent him from touching Bree.

Spring '07

Coming up on the one-year mark for lonelygirl15. Will it never end?!

Some info now comes from the videoblogs of yet more characters, including Nikki Bower. Her officiously cute, bubbly monologues on her ongoing investigation into Bree's world are about as fun as sprinkling salt and pepper on a necrotizing flesh wound. But the info she digs up - without leaving her really messy apartment too often - is central to the storyline.

According to Nikki, both Tachyon and the person(s) behind the OpAphid account have gone missing.

Nikki found yet another Ceremony Girl with a Youtube account. Julia (callmejules24), a bracefaced 13-year-old from Texas, is mostly into her cat and books like The Count of Monte Cristo...but she also talks about having a sheltered existence, strict parents, and a dad who insists she learn all about foreign languages and the working of the human body. Hmm...again, a focus on science and languages .

Bree was dismayed to learn another girl was being duped by Hymn of One and The Order.

With the help of some online associates, Bree and the guys located the Texas home Julia shares with her cat, her baby sister, and her parents. She tried to intercept Julia on her way to a public school (where she is "tutored") to warn her about the ceremony; naturally, Julia was freaked out by this very emphatic older girl she'd never met, and ran away from her in a panic. So...

Bree and the guys climbed Julia's garden wall, entered her bedroom, and abducted her. Daniel reluctantly dragged her from her bedroom and bound her hands with rope. Then they carted her back to their motel room.

Bree justifies this as "not kidnapping" but some kind of crazy intervention that could save lives. She doesn't see the eerie parallel with her own abduction.

Jonas is freaked out. Julia is defiant, unwilling to listen to her captors. When she finally agrees to listen, Bree removes her ropes and Julia escapes the motel. The guys search for her, apparently with the intention of re-abducting her. Jonas thinks it would be better to find out the location of the Ceremony and intervene then. Bree is worried The Order will retaliate against her for the kidnapping.

The guys find Julia cowering behind a building. She is still frightened and reluctant to hear what her captors have to say.

Jonas, frustrated and burned-out, talks about going home. He wants to find his parents.

There is the possibility that Julia was bait set out by The Order, either to tempt Bree out of hiding or to become a spy. While driving around with Julia, the group is intercepted by two black-garbed Order members in a dark-blue car, and Julia leaps out of the car to join them. Oddly, so does Bree. Then, after briefly conversing with the Orderpeople, she and Julia get into the Order car and leave. Has Bree offered herself up to complete the Ceremony in exchange for Julia's freedom? Jonas is furious with her. He traveled 1500 miles to Texas to help a girl who didn't want help, and Bree had the nerve to leave with The Order. He pleads with her to contact him and Daniel.

The two girls who helped the gang track down Julia's house help Daniel and Jonas locate her medical records. Posing as a dr., Daniel waltzes into the hospital and grabs them without any major difficulty (he's briefly chased by security after snagging a doughnut from a nurses' station). Turns out Julia isn't adopted, like Bree was, and one page of her medical file is marked with the eternity symbol seen on boxes of epogen. This paper says "Trait Negative".

Many episodes later (some featuring new characters, notably the intrepid and brilliant Taylor and her dark sister, Sarah), Jonas and Daniel find a note from Bree's dad hidden inside Purple Monkey. It leads them to the Hymn of One camp in Cali where Bree performed her play, and beneath a log Sarah finds a box of treasures Bree's dad hid. It contains info on his area of research, ribosimes. Bree had more of them than the average person, making her "Trait Positive", hence a commodity for Hymn of One and The Order. Bree's father realized how badly The Order wanted his daughter, so before the Ceremony he began injecting Bree with stuff that he hoped would neutralize her ribosimes and make her Trait Negative.

Meanwhile, Bree makes a promotional video for Hymn of One with a couple of young Order people who attended Aunt Alex's house party. She urges those who want to "join your voices with others" to check out Hymn of One and reject the false promises of prayer, salvation, and all that malarky (I'm paraphrasing). She looks quite zombiefied throughout the video, floating around what appears to be a college campus in the traditional Hymn of One white togs, staring blandly yet raptly into the camera as she gives her spiel. Jonas is so creeped out by the video that he's convinced Bree is once again a loyal Order girl who doesn't want to be rescued. Later, he discovers that the first letter of each sentence she utters in the recruitment vids spells out "Help Her Friday Beneath the Blue Stone."

Hymn of One begins actively recruiting, posting a questionnaire on their website to screen potential members and posting Men in Black on the street to hand out flyers. Daniel gets his mitts on one of these invitations to a HoO seminar held at a local hotel, so the gang scopes it out. Daniel cadges some footage from a potential recruit that shows several HoO'ers yakking vaguely about "finding the eternal song" and "singing with your own voice." One of the recruits mentions that he received a HoO flyer "under a blue stone." In "Getting Her Back", we learn the flier contains a phone number, which in turn contains some kind of coded message leading the gang to a lovely Order facility where children's birthday parties are held (Jonas remembers it from his childhood). It's heavily patrolled by MIBs and Lucy. When the guards swarm around a black car that pulls up outside, the gang suspects Bree is in the backseat. Sarah leaps out of the car and distracts one of the Watchers by just waving her arms and hollering (sure), giving the guys enough time to vault out of their vehicle and snatch Bree from the parked car. She resists, trashing and whining "I don't wanna go!" as she's dragged back to Jonas's car. Sarah manages to escape a Watcher, but is separated from the guys and Bree because they have to make a hasty retreat.

The next video, "i hAtE tHeSe PeopLe" (another message, I guess), is Bree's. She's locked in a small bedroom in a house rented by Jonas, and she's a sobbing wreck. She hops on the bed, mutters "Happy! Happy!" to herself, and caresses Purple Monkey like a genuine mental patient. The only coherent thing she says is, "They say they can't trust me anymore. I can't trust them, either. I can't believe I just said that."

The guys attempt some deprogramming methods they found online. Bree insists Hymn of One is real, not just a cover for The Order, as she stares catatonically out the window. She hums loudly to herself to block out Daniel's logic and Sarah's teasing, but breaks into a smile when Jonas starts clowning for her. Later, let out of her cell, she even goes to him and cuddles against his shoulder (Daniel is outside, painting Sarah's toenails black for her).

Jonas and Bree have fun, smiling and horsing around in the woods surrounding their little cottage. In Daniel's next vid, he gripes that Jonas is spending too much time with Bree and taking advantage of her fragile mental state, just trying to hook up. He thinks the focus needs to be on making Bree Trait Negative so The Order will finally leave her alone. Instead of concentrating on that, though, Danielbeast basically stalks Bree and Jonas with his cam. So does Sarah, probably for fun; she actually catches them cuddling and kissing on a porch swing.

Jonas is jubilant that Bree is back to her old self, until he tries to surprise her in the shower and finds it empty. They spend three days scouring the woods for her, having Blair-Witchy bitchfights over where to search and when to quit.
Taylor the Tech comes to the rescue by triangulating cel phone signals in the region, pinpointing a possible location for Jonas to search. He's devastated when the trail turns cold at a beautiful, sparkling lake. He's positive that Bree's affection for him was real, and wants desperately to speak with her.

I don't know what Bree's message means. Pole ash, maybe? (a tree where she plans to meet an Orderman?) So far as I know, this isn't really cleared up. Bree returns to the cult yet again.

Autumn ' 07 (The videos are now labeled Season 1, so there will be more to come, unfortunately)

Daniel meets with a "Deep Throat" who tells him the Ceremony will be occurring on a specific date. The crew decides the only thing to do now is figure out how to make Bree trait-negative. They've recovered the medical notes kept by a Dr. Gilman who was helping Bree's dad in this task, and though this doctor is dead, his teenage son Spenser (an uberdork) is assisting the gang to the best of his ability...which isn't saying much. With the help of Jonas's aunt, who appears to be on their side now, the crew breaks into a lab at the Wyman Foundation and steals a sample of trait-positive blood to be used to create a serum for Bree. Of course, the serum and all the notes are stolen from the gang's hideout in the middle of the night. Back to square one.

In her own video, Jonas's Aunt Alex explains a bit about The Order and Hymn of One (remember, The Order is a secret inner circle of Hymn of One, or HoO might be just a flimsy cover for The Order). The enforcers of The Order's elders are Shadows, bulky guys who don't need to sleep thanks to the new-fangled drugs they consume. They can run faster than normal people, too. They won't leave an Elder's side unless instructed to so by the Elder. The Watchers are Secret-Service-type dudes with earphones who don't even know the Order exists; they're Hymn of One employees. Their sole job is to guard girls like Bree, but of course they don't really understand why. Both kinds of guards are dangerous to our gang, Alex warns, and are probably following them already (duh).

We learn Bree's whereabouts from another creepy Hymn of One recruiting video filmed in a field. Bree and two HoOers dressed in white toast Bree's birthday, and Bree waxes eloquent about the upcoming Ceremony without explicity mentioning it. She feels "joyful", but looks as bland as unbuttered toast. Her mother has been helping her prepare for the big event, and she can "almost feel my Dad's hand on my shoulder", hear him telling her "You can do it." Now that she has found her Eternal Song "I can do it." The trio then urge gullible people to check out Hymn of One so that every day can be like their birthdays.
In another Hymn of One video, "Something's Coming", just Bree and another blonde girl talk about the Ceremony, the next stage in Bree's enlightenment. The blonde refers to Bree as "She of the Divine Pillar". At the blonde's instruction to do The Walking Steps, they join hands and do an odd little shuffle in the grass. Bree chants some strange words, I guess Enochian, and repeats that her Eternal Song will be heard everywhere, in all corners of the universe. At the conclusion, the blonde invites people to join Hymn of One so that someday they might join her to take The Walking Steps. Was this it? Was this the Ceremony?

Season Finale

Nope, apparently not, because the gang's Deep Throat informs them it will be taking place later in the day, 4 PM. They have to decode a message to get directions somewhere in Santa Monica (part of the ARG, of course). Fortunately, they have a new batch of serum. Sarah and Taylor have cold feet about the rescue mission, and Sarah begs Daniel not to go either. "Bree doesn't care about anyone but herself! She doesn't love you! You're the best friend!" Jonas and Daniel leave the girls behind, but they decide to follow with Spenser Gilman. They continue to convince Jonas and Daniel to forget the whole thing. As soon as the directions are deciphered, a Watchman starts tailing them closely. In the chase, Jonas crashes his car and the gang must flee on foot. They hide in a warehouse; the Watcher follows. Taylor suggests broadcasting a call for help; Nikki Bower to the rescue?

At 11:00, the gang is still hunkered down in an office in the warehouse. When the Watcher leaves, they dash down a hallway toward a door. It's locked, of course. They shut themselves in a bathroom. Sarah was somehow left behind, though.
At noon, Nikki meets with someone guy named Jerry outside the warehouse. They just stroll in, right up to the Watcher's parked car. The Watcher appears, so Nikki and Jerry are now forced to hide in an office. But Nikki manages to knock the guy over the head or something, and chain him by his leg to a sink. Sure enough, he has the eye-like Watcher tattoo on his hand. Nikki and Jerry proceed to a catwalk, through several rooms, and straight to the locked bathroom door. She frees the gang, and together they jog out of the warehouse. I'm noticing a lot of swearing for the first time in these vids; I guess the season finale has to be more gripping and gritty than the usual fare.

Having followed a trail of coded messages and clues, Daniel meets with Deep Throat and receives directions to the remote location of the Ceremony, along with a series of numbers. Unfortunately, the serum vial was broken in the car crash. Sarah is sent back to HQ to fetch more serum, but Daniel is now convinced that Sarah is a "rat" who's trying to sabotage the rescue effort. Proceeding to the Ceremony location, they find just an empty warehouse with no visible numbers. Standing around, confused and bloodied (from the crash), the gang is at a loss. Daniel feels bad about accusing Sarah of betrayal.

What has Nikki been up to? Well, Nikki joined the Hymn of One, but was kicked out for eating chocolate). She didn't learn a lot, except that Hymn of One is very focused on improving hand-eye coordination and only drinks orange-blossom tea.

Anyway, back to the story. Spencer, gabbling about nothing as always (Taylor is the only person who finds him delightful), realizes that the seemingly random numbers given to them by Deep Throat are actually numerical representations of musical notes. He programs them into his phone. Next episode. The notes opened a trapdoor leading to a labrynthine underground medical facility, which appears to be deserted. At 3 PM, one hour before the commencement of the Ceremony, the gang is still wandering aimless through the spotless white halls. It is by sheer accident that Jonas glimpses Bree sitting in a glass-walled room. He recklessly lunges for the door, but Daniel holds him back. They have to proceed with caution. There's a blonde wearing sunglasses in the room with Bree, and who knows how many others? Daniel herds Jonas as far from the door as he can, to the end of a short hallway. And there a black-hooded figure jumps out of hiding and stabs Jonas. Jonas tears free from the hoodie's grasp, and Spencer and Taylor leap on the hooded figure and restrain long enough for Daniel to stab him with his own knife. Hood-man falls panting to the floor, blood seeping through his T-shirt; his hood has been flung back to reveal a dark-haired man in his late teens or early 20s.

Jonas has been stabbed in the abdomen. Taylor takes him into a room to comfort and help him in any way she can; they've sent a message to Sarah to bring medical supplies along with the serum, so now they play the waiting game. Jonas feels terrible for bringing the girls into such a dangerous situation.
Sarah arrives with an armful of supplies. Daniel and Spencer set to work patching Jonas up the best they know how. Bree hasn't been forgotten in the heat of the moment, though it's now past 4:00. As soon as Jonas is patched up, the entire gang creeps down the hallway to the room where she was last seen. Bree is now reclined on a white bed, all in white, attended to by a a blonde "nurse". As they get very close to the door of the room, a black-robed and hooded figure looking very much like the Angel of Death scoops Bree out of her bed. Bree's friend make a mad dash for the door, only to have it closed in their faces. They are left out in the hallway, flailing uselessly against it. Bree is dead.

6:00- 7:00 PM: The gang, still bloody, retreat to a beach boardwalk/carnival in shock. Daniel blames Jonas for everything, then storms away. Jonas retreats into his grief, and Taylor opines that what began as a fun adventure away from home has become a tragedy. She wanted Jonas to turn to her in his time of sadness, but he hasn't. The girls seem to be more concerned about the menfolk than Bree. Sarah angrily tells the camera, "You win, Bree. I can't compete against a dead girl. And I still have to live in this miserable world." The girls decide to return home. This leaves Spenser and Jonason their own. Jonas reveals to Spenser, his only remaining confidant, that he found a message on Daniel's cellphone at 7:00, a delayed message she must have sent earlier in the day. She said she had to do the Ceremony for the sake of her friends, for the Order would never have let her go free. It would have stalked and harrassed them all unceasingly until she gave in to them. She also said she "found something... that is the key to everything", but can't tell Daniel anything about it yet. Bree begs her friends to promise to find the other girls marked for The Ceremony and help them. She tells Daniel and Jonas she loves them...Daniel as her best friend and brother, and Jonas as...something more. She is crying, perhaps knowing that she is going to die soon. "I'll always love you."

Season 2: Life Without Bree

Jonas returns him to his palatial, empty house. He does laps in his pool. A cousin named Toby and Toby's girlfriend arrive to cheer him up, but he's very much alone in his pain. The girlfriend is pushy, annoying, and deeply insensitive. She thinks flirting, tickling, giggling, and flinging handfuls of popcorn at an orphan who has lost his parents and his first love to a psychotic cult is the way to get him smiling. Jonas has to flee his own home just to get some peace from her airhead chatter. He checks into a motel, spends time driving through the desert. He visits the natural pool where Bree and Daniel swam, Bree's house. He listens again to Bree's final message and screams in tears, "Why couldn't you have trusted us? I'm done. I'm not helping any of those other girls who are out there. I'm sorry Bree, but I love you and I have to let you go."

Taylor and Sarah return home to Texas. Taylor posts a vid from her bedroom, telling the world that her sister Sarah has "become even sluttier, if that's possible." Gawd. With sisters like this, who needs siblings? She explains - as if we need explanation - that Sarah seems to be punishing herself for Bree's death. Sarah won't even mention Daniel's name. And Daniel and Jonas haven't contacted either of the girls. They're angry at Taylor.

Awkward, childlike Spencer just wants to return to the normality and regularity of his job at Neutragena in L.A. (hello, product placement) to cope with the trauma. His love of science (the serum) drew him into the rescue mission, and feels ashamed that he failed in that mission. He speculates that Ceremony girls are killed so that their trait-positive blood can be infused into Elders. To cheer himself, he visits Sarah and Taylor in Texas. Though touched, Taylor gently urges him to get on with his life and forget the past as much as possible. He does depart for L.A. the following day, saying with a goofy grin, "If you ever go on another adventure, you know where to find me."

The next Hymn of One promotional video is very whited-out, featuring a few close-ups of Bree's eyes intercut with footage of various birds in the while. HoO holds out the promise of freedom for the soul, intones a man's voice. But then the screen goes black, there's a burst of static and some grainy images, and a logo consisting of a backwards capital R and an exclamation point. A green night-vision hue appears on the screen. A girl's voice is speaking now, not in the smooth measured tones of the Hymn of One but of a guerilla reporter:"Thousands watched an innocent girl die and did nothing to stop it." There are quick flashes of street scenes, segments from Bree's home vids, Bree in her "hospital bed" with Spanish narration. A string of binary code runs continuously along the left side of the film. More street scenes of explosions, fiery confrontations, ambulances, fists raised in solidarity. A Message in green: "FIGHT. THE
ORDER. JOIN THE RESISTANCE." The final image is of a silhouetted figure raising his head and staring ahead with glowing green eyes. Is this Tachyon's resistance, gone even more radical and underground? ( she went missing, remember)

Daniel is the last of the group to post a video, and he alone seems to be handling things well. He's making his long-delaying plans for his future, getting on with his life. Daniel doesn't know if the shadow resistance is bogus or not, so he gave little credence to that slick video. At any rate, he's back at home with his parents - who, if they did notice their son was missing for months, don't particurarly seeem to care or even notice. Daniel plans to attend school in Switzerland and make new friends. He asks that gang to leave him alone for now. He thanks them for everything.

Another Hymn of One recruiting video, white as usual. Karl, the guy usually seen with Bree in her promo videos, stone-facedly proclaims himself happy to be a member of Hymn of One. A red-headed woman name Sonya says the same. Back to Karl: "We have recieves messages questioning the purpose of our good faith," then he and Sonya reel out the mumbo-jumbo about leading people down the Universal Path to learn their Eternal Song. "Nothing more. Nothing less." In creepy unison they say, "Follow us. Follow us Your Eternal Song. Follow us to the Hymn of One." (the webside advert is shown)

The sender of the Resistance video called him/herself "lerezisto", and the second video he/she posts is aimed directly at Jonas. It's grainy footage of happy nuclear familes (probably culled from social hygience films of the '50s) and preparations for nuclear tests conducted in the U.S. (a house in the desert is filled with realistic dummies to test the bomb's effects on human bodies). Then there's '07 surveillance-style footage of a middle-aged man and woman around a suburban home, bringing pizza home and dining on the backyard patio. Garbled narration is in Spanish and English, male and female voices, incoherent to me. "Jonas" is mentioned. Then the silhouette and the raised fists appear, briefly, just before the house filled with dummies is blown to the ground in a nuclear blast. The film ends with the words "FIGHT THE ORDER!".

Jonas is back at home. He confirms that the couple in the video. He's furious. He has no intention of trying to find them. They faked their deaths and abandoned him for six years to live some "fairytale."
"Screw them. Thanks for keeping in touch."
Later, he changes his mind. He learns that his parents' location was hidden within clues in a Le Rezisto video and goes to their house unannounced. The man and woman who answer the door either don't know who Jonas is, or are doing a good job of pretending they didn't abandon their kid. They now have a daughter named Emma, who seems to be about 16 years old. This is puzzling. Jonas didn't have a sister when his family disappeared six years earlier. Is Emma adopted?
The newly reunited family plays Charades together. Emma is a sweet, smiley girl who is very excited to find out she has a brother; it doesn't seem to bother her that her parents aren't explaining anything.
Jonas's mom invites him to stay for a weekly get-together held in their home every Friday night. Who should walk through the door but Carl and Sonya, the Hymn of One droids that appeared in the last promotional vid? (Carl was in most of Bree's HoO ads, as well) "This is not happening!" Jonas frets, pacing the living room. He urges his mother to stay away from these dangerous people. She assures him that Hymn of One is a religion of peace and love.
Jonas films from the stairway as the HoOers gather around the dining-room table and join hands to sing their eternal songs. Carl spots him and says robotically, "Jonas! Gather our hands and sing out!" Sonya and his parents echo the invitation in eerily flat voices.

Daniel is also trying to get on with his life, and he has the most success at it, in spite of having to live with his childish, alcoholic parents. Daniel recalls the good times with Bree, being so in puppy-love with her that he would spend hours editing her videos or simply thinking about her. He wants to make sure that her death wasn't for nothing. He decides to hack Bree's old email account to search it for clues, but it contains some kind of tracking-virus that brings a Watcher straight to his house. He deletes the email (after sending it to Le Rezisto, as he reveals later). He starts dating a girl named Mallory and applies to film school. He's trying to distance himself from the Order, but he can't resist trying to decode the hidden messages in the Le Rezisto videos and in a puzzle involving Degas' painting Little Girl Carrying Flowers in Her Apron. He is in the uncomfortable position of having to hide his past from Mallory. This, of course, prevents them from getting very close. He invites Jonas to come and stay with him.

Sarah, getting on with her life with a series of hookups, disapproves of her mother's latest boytoy, and fights with her sister. She is also disappointed that Daniel is still living in the past and doesn't seem to want a future with her. Taylor is staying with a friend to get away from the two "sluts". Amazingly, Sarah gets a job at a bookstore.

Jonas realizes that his parents not only don't remember him or The Order; they can't remember anything from their lives before the boating accident. It's clear that he won't be able to have anything like a normal relationship with them. However, he wants to be there for his little sister. He considers accepting Daniel's invitation to visit.

Taylor looks at the http://www.lonelygirl15.com/ forum and discovers that Little Girl Carrying Flowers in Her Apron leads to a Flickr account belonging to "nmahsjlcrowley" (http://www.flickr.com/photos/11698522@N07). The photo labeled "Little Girl with Flower in Her Apron" is of Emma. She is the new Ceremony Girl. Taylor frantically tells Jonas to get out of his parents' house, with Emma.
That afternoon, an armed Order goon breaks into the house. Jonas lies in wait for him, knocks him out, and disarms him. His parents are terribly confused. First this guy shows up at their house claiming to be their son, now he's tackling intruders like a ninja...
A second Order thug breaks into the house, waving a gun around. Jonas's dad grapples with him, to no avail. He and his wife are shot. Jonas is forced to lay on the floor at gunpoint while the first intruder checks upstairs for Emma. Daniel shows up in the nick of time, armed, and takes down the intruder.

The guys go on the run - again. Emma is with them, but Jonas is determined to protect her innocence for as long as he can; he tells her nothing about the Order. His parents are taken to hospital and look like they're going to recover. As far as Emma knows, she's just on vacation at the Grand Canyon, but she seems a bit worried. Jonas asks Sarah to bring what's left of the serum to the Grand Canyon. While they're waiting, the guys horse around in their hotel room. Emma has an adjacent room. Daniel starts to say that he doesn't really want Sarah around now that he's seeing someone, and is cut off by a bone-chilling scream from the next room. Somehow, Emma found Jonas's videos and learned about what happened to their parents. She's furious with him. "You're a liar!" she shrieks when he catches up to her outside the motel. "You're a liar, Jonas!" He promises not to lie to her again. They hug.

Meanwhile, Sarah is not en route to the Grand Canyon. As Taylor explains, she has brought home a creepy guy with a strange laugh. After Taylor kicks him out, Sarah cries in her room all day, then locks herself in the bathroom and showers for an hour. Is it because of Mallory?
Taylor is left to break the bad news that Sarah's backpack, containing the serum, was left somewhere. Spencer Gilman can't make any more without a sample of Emma's blood, and he's at a conference in Switzerland, anyway.

Jonas's next video is entitled "Stupid Bitch!" He orders Sarah to find the backpack. "Text all the guys you've slept with in the last two weeks...I know it's a long list." He softens a bit at the end. "I know you can come through. Please. Help me."

Taylor's video: Sarah has a giant bruise on the side of her head, apparently left by the creep with the strange laugh. She apologizes to Taylor. "My life is just going around in circles. Maybe Mom's right, maybe I am just a whore."
Taylor tells her that isn't true. "Sarah, you're insanely smart!"
"Maybe I'm just insane."
Taylor posts this video to show people the other side of Sarah.

Sarah's video: Glumly she confesses that she has had the backpack in her possession all along. She lied about losing it because she wanted to get on with her life.

The next video, "Shadow of Death", is black-&-white footage of a rainy highway surrounded by forest. Jonas, Daniel, and Emma are driving somewhere. A coyote passes directly in front of their car, and they get out to film it. In the woods they find a tree that apparently has just been struck by lightning; it's still smoldering. Then a helicopter passes low overhead, blaring something to Jonas (the copter noise makes the words difficult to understand, but "Give us the girl, Jonas" and "Give up, Jonas" come out clearly). Jonas and Daniel begin to run, hauling Emma along with them. (She doesn't know what's going on and isn't very cooperative.) Inexplicably, Sarah shows up. We later learn she had arranged to meet the gang outside town.
An armed man in black also appears, aiming a gun at them. Emma tackles him, knocking him to the ground. Then someone else clad in black shoots at them, then hunches over his colleague long enough to give the gang a chance to escape.
If Jonas's Aunt Alex can be believed, the gunmen were Order "Shadows". But these Shadows weren't as bulky as the other testosterone cases who work for the Order, and there wasn't a mark on the first gunman after he was shot. Jonas suspects Emma somehow killed the guy when she knocked him to the ground. "It was because Emma touched him. I'm convinced of that."

This fills Jonas with confidence. Jonas addresses his next video directly to the Order. "We're still here. We're not afraid of you...We've got more than time on my side: We've got my sister."

In her first solo video, "Go For It", Alex starts out smiling but is clearly stressed. She starts to cry as she explains that she has no idea what happened in the woods. All she knows is that she was frightened for her life, and Jonas's. She hopes the injections work so that the Order won't want her anymore, and she can go back to her normal life.
Sarah isn't impressed with Jonas's campaign of vengeance, believing it isn't fair to Emma. And she doesn't believe "Gidget" has mental superpowers, either. She's a normal girl with her whole life ahead of her, and Sarah urges her to decide what she wants to do and just go for it. It seems Emma's sweetness and innocence have touched a nurturing chord in Sarah.
Emma and her parents have watched all the videos. "They're not with Team Hymn of One anymore."

The next Le Rezisto video features a male voice-over of green-tinged scenes from previous videos (Bree in her "hospital" bed, Emma in the woods) mixed with images of a backwards-running clock, an IV drip, and a hospital corridor. "The Order uses the blood of trait-positive girls to extend their own lives. Emma, you have the power. On Friday, a member of the Order died. He died because of what you did. The reason they never kidnapped Bree is because they were afraid. Emma, they are afraid of you. You can stop the Order, Angel of Death."

Daniel thinks this is utter b.s. "I've read enough comic books." He thinks the Shadow really was shot, and that Jonas is just grasping at straws. He doesn't know who Le Rezisto is - since the Order also knew where Jonas's parents live, perhaps he's an Order member. "I don't know who to trust."

Jonas doesn't want to make Emma trait-negative because she could lose her powers. Sarah argues fiercely with him that Emma needs to make up her own mind about whether or not to take the serum. As it turns out, this is a moot point: Sarah began giving Emma the injections already. That night, Sarah and Emma leave the motel. Sarah puts Emma on a train. Jonas, convinced they need Emma to defeat the Order, is frustrated.

The La Rezisto vid offers up another code that turns out to be a street address. Jonas drives to a posh, suburban-looking home. Carl and Sonya exit the front door with an older blonde lady. The blonde hands a manila envelope to Carl and gives him a good-bye hug. The pair gets into a silver car and drives away, Sonya looked slightly miffed or concerned. Jonas follows them to a grocery store where they pass out Hymn of One tracts, rather aggressively, to everyone from old ladies to street people. They get into a fight with a homeless man who doesn't want their literature. When they return to their car, Jonas picks up a fragment of their conversation. Sonya is angry. "I want an apology," she snaps. "I stopped that guy from assaulting you, and all you can do is turn on me and accuse me of not caring about the homeless!"
"He's a lost soul. We can help him find his song."
"You really think we can help that man find a song?"
"You have no faith," Carl says. "You're just jealous that Jill finds me attractive. She whispered in my ear that we have to be extra-careful with every delivery on Friday."
"I don't care about the delivery."
"I do! It's our job to protect these girls all the way from the beginning to the...the..."
"To the what, Carl?" Sonya challenges him.
"To the Ceremony."
"Have you even seen Bree since the Ceremony?" she demands. "Because I haven't. Maybe those kids are right."
"Oh, shut up, Sonya."
They get into the car and drive away. Jonas steals a Hymn of One pamphlet from under a car's windshield wiper and learns there's a "singing jamboree" scheduled for Friday.

The gang (Daniel, Jonas, and Sarah) rents a house in the small town where Daniel's and Bree's parents live(d). Things are almost back to normal, if you call three teenagers hiding out from a murderous cult normal. But things could get sticky now that chipper, sunny little Mallory and Sarah are in the same state. The background song is appropriately titled "In the Middle", which Daniel is going to be very soon. Sarah smacks his butt with a spatula and calmly explains, "I like it. It's flexible but has a lot of torque." I'm assuming she's talking about the spatula. She also throws a hissy upon finding some of Mallory's stuff in the shower. Daniel is supposed to be completing an assignment for a film class, as Mallory gently reminds him, but of course he has other - more pressing - concerns. Jonas wants help spying on Carl and Sonya. Daniel sends Sarah on the "stakeout" in his place.

Sarah and Jonas go to a park where Carl and Sonya meet up with another young couple. He zooms in on some papers Sonya is holding; the top sheet reads "Domestic Private 001993". Then a man screams "Jonas!" and they turn to see a Watcher barreling toward them from the bathrooms. He and Sarah race to the car. "I'm here to help!" the Watcher shouts.

The next video is Emma's. She's smiley and happy again; she reminds me a bit of Neve Campbell. Anyway, she's in hiding with her parents. Her parents, like Jonas, believe her trait-positive nature has given her superpowers. They don't want to deprive her of this. But Emma just wants to be herself, and she announces that she has decided to take the final serum injection to make herself trait-negative.

I don't know how Jonas knows where Carl and Sonya are going to be (that's part of the ARG not featured in the videos, I guess), but a week after the encounter in the park he and Daniel go to an observatory for another stakeout. Jonas has taken Emma's announcement surprisingly well, but he's convinced that without her powers they stand no chance against the Order.
This seems to be borne out as the guys film Carl, Sonya, and another young couple with a baby stroller from a balcony of the Observatory. On the adjacent balcony they see a Watcher staring at them. A chase ensues. The guys evade the Watcher by entering a zoo and losing him in the crowd. When they reach their rented house, Emma is sitting on the front steps waiting for them. She wants to help them take down the Order, and she didn't take that last injection. Jonas is alarmed to find the front door unlocked.

The next Le Rezisto video looks a lot like the Hymn of One promo videos: A lovely, dark-haired woman in her twenties or early thirties stands in front of a white background, dressed all in white. She introduces herself as Claire. "I used to be a lot like you, Jonas," she says. "I ran from the Order for years. And I'm trait-positive. I'm a Ceremony girl. The Order chased after me for my life-giving blood...I realized I possessed special powers." Now the Order runs from her. What does Claire want? She wants to train Emma how to harness and appropriately use her powers. "Bring Emma to me." I suspect the shots of Claire's hands reveal a sign-language message.

Sarah and Daniel are enraged to come home one day to find that Jonas has taken Emma to Claire. Daniel urges Jonas to bring Emma back.

Daniel posts his student video, about ninjas.

Jonas's next vid shows he and his sister hiking through thick woods towards a military complex, supposedly the rendezvous point with Claire. Jonas addresses Daniel and Sarah, telling them that he trusts Le Rezisto. They have never lied; they told him his parents were still alive and where to find them, and informed him that Emma was trait-positive and needed his help. But moments later he spots a Watcher pacing the woods ahead of them, the same guy who chased him across the park. Jonas aims a gun at him. A shot rings out, though neither Jonas nor the Watcher fired, and the Watcher vanishes. Claire steps out of the woods. All business, unsmiling, she leads them to a dilapidated Blair Witch-like house and tells Emma that her training must begin immediately. "I know you're tired, but you have to start now. We don't have time."
She leads a reluctant Emma away while Jonas explores the house. He films the girls out in the yard, doing slow, Tai-Chi-type movements. Emma seems to be enjoying her lesson, and Jonas remarks that Claire is like the big sister she never had. "I'm so glad we came here."

Back in Cali, Sarah decides she's going to tell Mallory everything about Daniel. She doesn't know about Bree, about the Order, about anything, and Sarah says she's tired of lying for him. She insists this isn't something she's doing for her own benefit.
This backfires. Turns out Mallory already knows about the Order and everything else; Daniel came clean, but she already knew what was going on anyway. "I have the Internet."
Sarah is not happy that Daniel beat her to the punch. She walks away. Mallory addresses the camera, telling Sarah to back off and let Daniel move on.

After a few days of training at the grotty old house in the woods, Claire tells Jonas that she wants to move Emma deeper into the woods for their own safety (there's a Watcher around, somewhere). Jonas will stay behind in the Blair Witch house to fend him off. This doesn't make much sense, because Emma knew there was a Watcher around all along. But Jonas is OK with the plan. Emma isn't. She looks terrified as she follows Claire deeper into the forest.
Exploring the house, Jonas hears someone shout his name from the yard. It's the Watcher. A chase through the woods ensues. This time the Watcher actually catches him, throws him to the ground, and sticks a gun in his face (the camera lands upright a short distance away so we can get a view of the action, of course). "Where's Emma?" the Watcher barks. "If you don't tell me where that Le Rezisto Shadow took her, her blood will be on your hands."

In Jonas's next video, "My Fatal Mistake", the Watcher pokes through the old house while Jonas asks questions. The Watcher tells him that Le Rezisto is a sham, a scheme used against him. Emma doesn't have superpowers. But whose sham is it? The Watcher explains that the Order has split into two factions; "those who honor the rules, and those who do not." He adds, "The Elders' lives are depending upon these girls, but like everyone else they have to follow the rules and wait their turn. There seems to be an Elder who values his life over all other Elders." This same Elder was responsible for the attempted abduction of Bree in Vegas.
Jonas, feeling deeply guilty and foolish, decides that his next course of action should be to find the rogue Elder. He'll comb through his parents' old Resistance material in search of clues. Instead, he returns to the rental house and shuts himself up in his room. Daniel and Sarah are furious with him for obsessing over crazy ideas and carrying them out on his own. (Sarah's video is titled "That Arrogant Jerk!")

While all this is going on, Daniel's pathetic ninja film didn't get a passing grade. Mallory asks viewers to submit their own ninja films; the best one will be passed off as Daniel's school project. Cute. Totally pointless and rather annoying, but cute.

Jonas and the gang return to his old house and find that someone has rifled through the office. He goes up to the attic to retrieve the box of Resistance materials (it's missing), and receives a call from Emma. She's somewhere in L.A., but the call keeps cutting out. Hearing the sqeal of tires, the guys run downstairs just in time to see a white SUV pulling away from the house. This vehicle follows them all the way down the coast. They can see a woman in a hat behind the wheel, but they can't make out her face.

Mallory and Sarah are becoming friends. They go to the store together for Halloween pumpkins. They carve pumpkins. Badly. Later the guys return, empty-handed. Sarah sets up the camera in her bedroom and is just about to say something when she peeks out the window. The white SUV is in the driveway, and Sonia gets out of it. Jonas lets her into the house.

January '08: Who Still Cares? Me, Apparently...

Whew. Well, I took a long breather from lg15 because it was becoming so tedious, but now that the season 2 finale is a couple days away (Jan. 25/08), I guess I'll resume. I don't know if the ARG is still on or not. There is now a spin-off to the series called KateModern, about a London art student's experiences with The Order. I'm not even remotely interested. As if to make the spin-off even more inane and unwatchable, the producers struck some kind of exclusive deal with bebo.com.

Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, the girls had just carved some pumpkins, and Hymn of One groupie Sonia was storming up the sidewalk...

The next video, "Everyone Makes Mistakes", is Sonia's. She has reviewed some of the crew's videos and now fully realizes that her singing buds are dangerous. Sure, Hymn of One saved her life and didn't seem evil, but it took over her life. And things didn't seem right after the Ceremony with Bree. Daniel and Jonas angrily interrogate her, but she insists she wasn't told anything; all she knows is that Bree and the other Ceremony girls were referred to as "The Future of the Eternal Hymn". A deacon hinted to her and Karl that a rogue Elder has disobeyed the principles of The Order and abducted Emma, but since she had been receiving injections to make her trait-negative, there are "impurities" in her blood that will ensure the Elder can't use her for a week or two. She says there is something she must say that she can't say on camera, something that can help save Emma if the crew is willing to help her (at the moment, they don't trust her at all).

Jonas receives phone messages from his dad, and with difficulty phones him back. The man says he doesn't believe Jonas is really his son, and tells him to stay away from himself and his wife unless he has Emma with him. Jonas isn't willing to help someone rescue a baby (I dunno, maybe this was Sonia's request). He makes it clear that his only concern is Emma.

Claire releases a video warning the gang not to come after Emma. Emma makes an appearance just to prove she's safe. She seems alright, but makes strange hand gestures that could be signals. She explains that she and Claire talk a lot, mostly about her "first family" - turns out she was adopted by Jonas's parents, just like Bree and other Ceremony girls were adopted. Six years earlier, when she was 9, Emma's "first mother" dropped her off at a singing recital on the Hymn of One campus and returned home to pick up her husband. They were in a fatal car accident on their way to the recital.

Jonas spends hours poring over Emma's video, trying to decipher her code. Daniel fears for his sanity; he doesn't think there's any message.

Sonia does want help finding and/or abducting a baby, and the gang agrees. This baby wasn't mentioned in any videos posted at lg15.com aside from Jonas's brief mention, so I guess it's part of the game or forums. Sarah, Sonia, and Daniel drive to a nice neighborhood in Sonia's SUV and Sonia hops out to approach a young couple pushing one a stroller. However, Daniel is extremely reluctant to kidnap another kid. Sonia gets angry, shouting that the baby will end up just like Bree. This makes Daniel angry; Sonia didn't do anything to save Bree, but she wants them to risk their necks abducting some baby? (note, also, that Sonia didn't bring any diapers or formula or even a carseat...)

Another Emma/Claire video. Claire prefaces it in exactly the same way, but this time Emma is shown curled up in a ball in a chair, unwilling to talk. Claire sharply urges her to tell her parents and Jonas what she told Claire the previous night, about the time she took a waterskiing trip to Lake Arrowhead with her mother and thought she saw a shark. Emma refuses. "What about the rock?" Claire prods. Emma still refuses. So Claire begins bellowing, "Come ON, Emma!!" Emma stalks off-camera. Claire explains that she's fine, she's just adjusting to the fact that she's special and that being special comes with great responsibility. What being special has to do with rocks and lake-sharks, I don't know.

Only 87 more eps to go. *sigh*

4 comments:

Alexandria Eschate said...

I stopped reading when you questioned the ability of a 15-year-old to read Richard Feynman. You'd think a skeptic blogger would know better.

SME said...

Well, alrighty then. Point me to one flawlessly groomed 15-year-old girl who reads Richard Feynman, and I'll remove that bit. I'm sure there's at least one of them out there.

Alexandria Eschate said...

My first impulse is to joke, "you've obviously never seen a picture of Michelle Feynman." But now I can't remember why I posted, never having seen much of lg15 in the first place, and certainly never hvaing watched whatever video it was in which she mentioned her abiding love of Feynman.

So I can't discourse knowledgeably about that, then. I can tell you that I first read a book by Feynman when I was 13, and that I have friends with similar experiences, including an immaculately groomed male. Despite the patriarchy, I think I can reasonably infer that one of the immaculately groomed girls I know has probably read Feynman, although I quite frankly can't be bothered to ask.

In trying to reconstruct the motive behind my comment, I think what I was trying to say is that a skeptic blogger should be recommending accessible science writers like Feynman to everyone, including girls; that they are capable of being read by almost everyone and beneficial to almost everyone, and in my experience growing in popularity.

At any rate, if you restrict the sample size to immaculately-groomed home-schooled girls, I think the % who read Feynman rockets upwards. They actually did a decent job depicting that one aspect of her life; it might be odder why she's so immaculately groomed if she doesn't go anywhere. I have vague memories of thinking lg15 was fake because the depicting of home-schooling read wrong, which is the same reason I have mixed feelings about the film Mean Girls.

SME said...

Well, that's certainly good enough. I've removed the bit about 15-year-olds reading Feynman. I strongly encourage bright kids to read anything by or about Feynman - before I fully grasped that she was fake, I even considered recommending "Tuva or Bust" to Bree! In fact, the best thing to come out of this silliness is the exquisite role model Bree was - unafraid of being smart, unafraid of being herself, unafraid of being curious.

I must agree about the home-schooling, too. LG15 fit the stereotype of a home-schooled girl, but definitely not the reality (my kid brother is home-schooled).