Script Notes III

F irst in January, then in July, I reeled off a series of movie and TV moments referencing New Haven.

Now, in December, I’ve got enough for a trilogy. And I hope you’ll agree: This third take is no The Godfather Part III.

What Lies Beneath (2000), 26:17: Claire Spencer has a perfect life. She’s happily married to a handsome academic. She’s close with her daughter, who’s just left the nest. She’s made an idyllic home in lakeside Vermont. But her new neighbors are acting strangely. She starts hearing whispers. She keeps finding the front door open. Cooper, her water-loving pooch, won’t enter the lake. Claire thinks she sees something just below the surface. The dog runs away, into the night. The stereo switches on, blasting horrid noise. Then her husband has to leave her alone. “Honey, I’m gonna be in New Haven for the conference,” he says, promising to arrange a police check-in while he’s gone. “I want you to feel safe.”

Veep (2017), S6E2, 3:25: Ex-unelected president Selina Meyer has just attended an ex-elected president’s presidential library opening, where various jabs and snubs have left her seething. “I need a monument to Selina Meyer,” she says. “An institution,” mimics her slithery ex-husband (and current toxic lover), to which Meyer replies, slapping her leg on every other syllable, “Selina Meyer belongs in an institution!” Her first choice? Yale University, where she studied law. But the school quickly rejects the idea, prompting an even quicker counter-rejection from Meyer. Later in the episode, at her second choice for a library site, Meyer is surrounded by an unhinged mob of screaming students—a clear homage to the infamous 2015 Halloween incident in the courtyard of Yale’s Silliman College.

New Girl (2016), S5E21, 11:36: Suspecting her boyfriend is about to propose, Jess panics and calls for an emergency round of “True American,” a recurring American history-themed drinking game whose rules are comically elaborate and opaque both to viewers and the core cast’s latest house guests. At one point during the game montage, using the spine of a civics textbook, Cece funnels a beer into Schmidt’s mouth and yells, “Jenna goes to a Yale party!,” to which the other players chant, “Skull and Bones! Skull and Bones!” (Ironically, it was actually Barbara, Jenna’s twin sister and then-President Bush’s other daughter, who made headlines for attending a risqué party at Yale.)

Superman (1978), 57:15: A Metropolis police detective has tailed Lex Luthor lackey Otis into the bowels of Metropolis Central Station, hoping the henchman will lead him to the boss. And unfortunately for the officer, that’s more or less what happens. Walking past a train emblazoned with the iconic New Haven Railroad logo, Otis slips down a darkening tunnel and enters Luthor’s lair through a computer-operated portal. The watching detective approaches the same spot, trying to decipher the way in, but Luthor, too, is watching. Taking manual control of the door, the self-described “greatest criminal mind of our time” uses it to shove the policeman onto the tracks—and right into an oncoming New Haven.

The Mindy Project (2016), S4E21, 14:30: Doctor Mindy Lahiri’s accident-prone love life takes another tumble when she mistakes her latest love interest, Diego, the “preeminent water feature designer of the American Southwest,” for a “pool boy.” As she tries to apologize later at dinner, Diego credentials himself by noting that he attended a certain prominent New Haven institution. But his Latino accent proves tricky for Mindy, as does her elitism. “This dude went to jail?” she asks. “Why am I apologizing to him?” Her embarrassed friend Peter makes sure we get the joke: “He went to Yale, Mindy. He went to Yale.”

The White Lotus (2022), S2E7, 55:48: (This one’s relatively fresh, so: Spoiler alert!) It’s only been hours since introvert Ethan slugged his cocky ex-college roommate Cam for (maybe) sleeping with Ethan’s wife, Harper—and even less time since Cam’s wife, Daphne, convinced Ethan to (maybe) sleep with her in an act of rebalancing. Now Cam and Daphne have strolled into the hotel restaurant and cheerfully invited themselves to join Ethan and Harper’s table. Before Harper can control her bulging, rolling eyes, Cam, fresh shiner and all, is giving a toast to the final night of what started as a friends’ vacation: “Guys, I just wanna say this has been an amazing trip. When some flunky in the housing office at Yale decided to put me and E in the same dorm room, who’d’ve known all these years later we’d still be in each other’s lives. I think that’s pretty cool. And Harper, it has been fantastic to finally get to know you properly.”

Written by Dan Mims. Image features Michelle Pfeiffer as Claire Spencer in What Lies Beneath.

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Dan has worked for a couple of major media companies, but he likes Daily Nutmeg best. As DN’s editor, he writes, photographs, edits and otherwise shepherds ideas into fully realized feature stories.

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