The episode: “I Accuse My Parents,” ep. 507
The riff: Exclaimed by Tom after Jimmy lies about how wonderful his mother is and the girl he’s trying to impress says she “never had a mother, myself.”
The explanation: This is a rather esoteric reference to the Greek god of wine and revelry, Dionysus. His birth was weird and complicated. Zeus had an affair with a mortal woman, as he was wont to do, and she became pregnant. His jealous wife Hera, in disguise, planted seeds of doubt in the woman’s mind about whether her lover was actually Zeus, so she demanded to see him in his true form. When he appeared as King of the Gods, it was too much for her to handle and she was destroyed. Zeus, however, was able to save the baby Dionysus and sewed him “into his thigh” until he was ready to be born a second time. Thus, Dionysus is referred to as “twice born.”
Novelty factor: You can probably tell from my explanation that I was familiar with this story already. Greek mythology was always one of my strong points in Scholastic Bowl.
Note the emerging head right in the thigh region.
The episode: “The Phantom Planet,” ep. 902
The riff: Narrated by Mike as the astronaut hero of the movie steps out of his spaceship onto the Martian surface, with stone columns on either side.
The explanation: The columns hemming him in are the important part of the reference here. In Greek mythology, Scylla and Charybdis were a pair of nigh-unavoidable obstacles that threatened sailors between Sicily and the Italian mainland. Scylla was a six-headed monster that ate passing sailors, while Charybdis was an ever-churning whirlpool that would suck entire ships down. The pair were located next to each other, necessitating a choice of which danger to face. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus chooses to face Scylla and lose fewer men in the passage. In modern times, they’ve come to represent difficult passages through a challenging situation.
Novelty factor: It probably comes to no shock to you at this point that I know Greek mythology pretty well. Back in my high school scholastic bowl days, these kinds of categories were my bread and butter. As a riff, it’s just another example of the MST3k writers’ versatility.
Hours of studying the oral histories of dead civilizations come in handy once again.