This is Your Conductor Speaking: Infinity Train – “The Debutante Ball Car” + “Le Chat Chalet Car”

Hello all! Welcome back to my weekly reviews of Infinity Train. Last week we got started on Book 3 with ‘The Musical Car’ and ‘The Jungle Car’. This week we continue onward with ‘The Debutante Ball Car’ and ‘Le Chat Chalet Car’.

‘The Debutante Ball Car’, Season 3, Episode 3 (Premiere Date: August 13, 2020)

Synopsis – After passing through an under-the-ocean style car, the quartet arrive in a car decorated like a large ballroom. They are immediately confronted by a sentient chandelier, who demands that they learn how to dance so that they can enter fine society – or be stuck in the car forever. He traps them in a room designed to teach them a particular ballroom dance, and Grace sends Simon to look through the vents for a way out. While he is gone, Grace shares a bit about her past (her parents had her tutored in various styles of dance but never showed up for her recital) and tries to get Hazel to open up. Hazel gets agitated, leading Tuba to indicate that Hazel doesn’t remember anything from before the Train. Simon returns, distraught that the only place the vents lead to is a black void. Realizing that they have no other option, Grace decides that they have to go with the flow. The four of them learn the dance and are successfully able to present themselves to the chandelier and the car’s residents. As they leave, Grace shares a look with Tuba, failing to notice that her number has gone down.

My Thoughts – I’ve always been quite fond of this episode. It’s not the flashiest, most tense, or most exciting episode of the show, but it does have a couple of very visually appealing cars and, most importantly, it provides quite a bit of character insight. Perhaps the character to benefit the most from this is Grace. In the process of trying to connect to Hazel, she provides a lot of hints about her background – her parents pushed her hard but weren’t there for her, making her take dance lessons alone with a private tutor but not finding the time to show up to her recitals. The way she tells it, it was a rigid, lonely childhood. No wonder the idea of the Apex appealed to her – she essentially created a place where she wouldn’t be alone and where she wouldn’t have to follow others’ rules. The Apex wasn’t just a means to power for her, it was a way to shape the remainder of her childhood into the opposite of how she grew up.  

We also get some important forward momentum for Grace’s character arc. Up until this point, in both Book 2 and Book 3, she had shown absolutely no desire to follow the Train’s rules. Getting Hazel on board with and back to the Apex has proven to be a tricky proposition, however, and she realizes much earlier than Simon does that it may require completing some cars in the intended manner. In the process we can see that she actually has a bit of fun and even loosens up somewhat. This, combined with what appears to be a dawning realization of Tuba’s personhood, seems to have begun the process of shifting her worldview away from that of her own creation.

Although perhaps not as vital to the ongoing plot at the moment, we do learn some additional background information about both Hazel and Tuba that recontextualizes what we’ve seen of them so far. Ever since we’ve met her, Hazel has been very excited at the prospect of joining the other kids in the Apex. At first that seemed like a desire to just be with kids her own age. When Grace attempts to probe Hazel about her parents, however, it becomes clear that she doesn’t actually remember anything from before the Train. Through this lens, her hopes of becoming part of the Apex take on a hint of desperation. She thinks by being around other kids she will be able to figure out who she is. This adds a further layer of intrigue to her strange number situation. Similarly, by finding out that Tuba had children who for some unknown reason left her – it could be implied that they died, but it isn’t clear – we can see Tuba as more of a mother figure for Hazel rather than just a protector like she seemed at first.

Meanwhile, Simon continues to be the most resistant to change, pushing back the hardest against the idea of following the Debutante Ball Car’s rules. How Simon and Grace’s seemingly divergent paths will play out is at this point uncertain.

Episode MVP – Grace. This episode provides a lot of insight into her character and gives her another opportunity to demonstrate her leadership skills.

My Totally Arbitrary Car Ranking Under the Sea Car (A-), Debutante Ball Car (B+)

My Totally Arbitrary Episode Ranking – A strong B+.

Cast Additions – The only major cast addition this time around is the chandelier person, who is voiced by veteran film and television actor Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spider-Man 2).

Trivia/Stray Observations

  • “This is Louis, he’s a good sort…but barking mad!”
  • “Great, look at that, good for them.”
  • “Just follow the feet, learn the steps, no mistakes, or you’ll be trapped here forever. Ha ha ha, okay, cheerio!”
  • “Thank you for the input, but…”
  • “How do you know all this?” “I took classes.”
  • “Is that a gorilla?” “I don’t know, but she’s stunning!”
  • The conch shell having teeth was a good jumpscare.
  • So, Simon had a Denizen that he bonded with when he first got on the Train. Who could that be? We’ll find out in the next episode.
  • The flies buzzing around the seaweed while in bubbles was a good touch.
  • I loved the old-timey portraits of the squid people on the wall of the Debutante Ball Car.
  • There is no way Simon could have survived that fall headfirst.
  • I love how Tuba and Hazel are just spinning in the background while Simon and Grace are actually learning the steps.
  • We learn Simon and Grace’s last names in this episode – Laurent and Monroe respectively.
  • If I were Hazel, I would’ve kept the hat.

‘Le Chat Chalet Car’, Season 3, Episode 4 (Premiere Date: August 13, 2020)

Synopsis – After an impromptu snowball fight in a snowy car, Grace, Simon, Tuba, and Hazel decide to seek shelter from a growing blizzard in a nearby cabin. To their surprise, the cabin is already occupied – by the Cat, who is currently on vacation with Randall and a talking bear named Frank. Seeing the Cat, Simon becomes angry and uncomfortable, revealing that there is some kind of history between them. He demands that they leave immediately but Grace, distracted by the realization that her number is going down, rebuffs him. Tensions continue to grow until Simon reveals that the Cat was his original travelling companion when he first entered the Train at age ten, and that she had abandoned him during a Ghom attack. The Cat admits that this is true, prompting Simon to storm off. He ends up confronting Grace about her refusal to acknowledge how hurt he is to be around the Cat again, leading Grace to admit that she has been preoccupied and that her number is dropping. The duo reassert their friendship.

While making tea out of snow, Hazel discovers that all of the snow outside is actually Randall. The Cat explains that this is why she brought him with – the cabin has great views, but it never actually snows. Simon manages to convince Randall to halt the blizzard, allowing the group to finally leave the cabin. As they go, Simon shares a brief and regretful farewell with the Cat.

My Thoughts – The previous episode was, in many ways, a Grace episode. By contrast, ‘Le Chat Chalet Car’ is very much a Simon episode. Up to this point, Simon has come across as an anti-Denizen hardliner with something to prove. The revelations in this episode provide a much more detailed picture of why he is the way he is. His abandonment by the Cat, the first Denizen he had ever bonded with, and simultaneous attack by Ghoms clearly had a major effect on him. He was just a kid, left scared and alone in the wacky and sometimes dangerous world of the Train. No wonder he felt compelled to create the Apex with Grace, to surround himself with others so that he would feel less alone. And no wonder he has come to despise the Denizens, believing that they will always betray Passengers in the end. Underneath the tough exterior he likes to (attempt to) display, he is a very broken individual.

McCarley and the animators perfectly illustrate Simon’s internal conflict at being around the Cat again, making the mix of anger, fear, and hurt very clear to see. His reactions are very humanizing, but also worrying in a way. Grace’s motivations for creating the Apex appear to stem from her time before hopping aboard the Train; Simon’s seem to stem from his experiences on the Train itself. His grudge against the Train’s Denizens is more personal and likely more difficult to change, and that makes him dangerous in the long run.

Despite this being more of a Simon-focused episode, we do get some nice character moments for Grace. The realization that her number is going down rather than up has an obvious effect on her. Rather than immediately trying to make it go up again through more violent acts, though, she worries about getting to the bottom of what is causing the change. The way I see it, this introspection about her number is a positive sign that she may be beginning to reconsider the ethics of the Apex’s actions. Unfortunately, it is contributing to a growing rift between her and Simon. Preoccupied, Grace feels like control is starting to slip out of her grasp while Simon feels like his ideas and complaints are being ignored. Although they worked some things out near the end of the episode, the cracks are still there just waiting to expand again.

I love the way that the Cat is portrayed here. She’s always been an interesting character, a slick con artist only out for herself but who will, on occasion, do the right thing. Seeing her in a more casual environment like this, though, really helps to give us a better idea of who she really is behind her snake-oil-salesman persona. She really did care about Simon; it can be seen in the conflict in her expression and in her voice when he shows up in the cabin and when he leaves. She feels deep regret over abandoning him, that much is evident. It’s a side of her we haven’t seen before, and may see again – it is clear that the issues between them have not yet been resolved.

Episode MVP – Simon. He demonstrates a level of vulnerability we hadn’t seen from him up to this point, and we get a much better understanding of why he is like he is.

My Totally Arbitrary Car Ranking Chalet Car (B+)

My Totally Arbitrary Episode Ranking – A strong B+.

Cast Additions – The only new character in this episode is Frank, voiced by Owen Dennis. Beyond him, there is also the return of Kate Mulgrew and Rhys Darby as the Cat and Randall respectively.

Trivia/Stray Observations

  • “It may not be flashy, but frostbite is just as deadly as lava moles or bottomless pits.”
  • “Of course. What would I do without you?” “You would die until you’re dead.”
  • “The first vacation I’ve taken in a hundred and fifty years and I have to deal with tourists.” How old is the Cat? And that question in turn raises the question again of how long the Train has been running.
  • “It’s laughing water!” “It’s a laughing girl!”
  • “She’s a tough customer.” “Clearly.”
  • “Hey, I’m making pancakes! You kids got any allergies?” “Not now, Frank!”
  • “I’m all naturally flavored!”
  • “It took a lot of effort to import that much Randall.”
  • “Did we win?” “Armistice. Now we get to the fun part – negotiation of terms.”
  • I liked the little marching tune that played when Simon was walking in place to keep warm.
  • It was nice to see Simon, Grace, Hazel, and Tuba have a moment of fun with the snowball fight.
  • I’ve always loved snowy winter settings in shows/movies/books. They’re always a great way to create atmosphere.
  • Frank the Bear has to be one of my favorite one-off background characters on the show.
  • The reveal that all of the snow is Randall is a fun twist that makes sense but is hard to see coming.
  • Apparently the draft name for this episode was ‘The Chateau Cateau Car’, which the writers loved. It was only changed after it was realized that a chateau is a type of mansion, not a cabin.
  • This is the only episode in the entire series that doesn’t begin with ‘the’, although that is more of a technicality given that ‘le’ means ‘the’ in French.
  • I somehow didn’t realize this, but this is the first time that a character has ever said the name ‘Ghom’ out loud.

That’s it for this week! We’ve made some progress in Book 3, and next week we are off to ‘The Color Clock Car’ and ‘The Campfire Car’.

Please share any thoughts about these episodes below. Make sure to spoiler tag any references to future events in the series in case anybody is stumbling across the show for the first time, and follow all of the Avocado’s rules and guidelines.

Thanks for reading!