This week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow was one of the best of the season so far, packed with nods to the audience, self-aware hilarity, and a solid anachronism-of-the-week adventure featuring an adorable little kid. ‘Phone Home’ took a break from hinting at the larger big bad of the season (although it was mentioned by the team) and instead had a little Halloween fun with an ’80s movie-themed episode.
This time, the team headed back to the ’80s after Ray (Brandon Routh) suddenly winked out of existence while attempting to help Zari (Tala Ashe) bond with the team. Gideon revealed that Ray’s disappearance is because a younger version of Ray died as a child, thanks to an anachronism. The team heads back to 1988 to try and fix things, where they meet Ray-as-a-kid (Jack Fisher), who has made friends with an alien he met in a storm drain and nicknamed Gumball. As always, hijinks ensue…
ET: Phone Home
If the idea of a little kid befriending an alien in the ’80s sounds suspiciously familiar, that might be because this episode of Legends of Tomorrow is a serious homage to ET. The title itself is a reference to the classic film, as ‘Phone Home’ is the famous catchphrase said by the alien to Elliott (Henry Thomas). That’s far from the only reference to the film, however. Little Ray sneaks candy to his new friend Gumball, and keeps him hidden in the closet when he’s not there. When Ray and Zari sneak into his childhood home to check things out, they open the closet to see Gumball pretending to be a toy; a scene almost identical to one in ET.
There’s another scene lifted from the classic alien movie later in the episode, as well. When Zari and little Ray are racing to get away, they find a couple of bikes… and Zari uses her totem to make the bikes fly. Gumball’s face pops out of little-Ray’s backpack on the front of the bike, and the two bikes (and Ray in his suit) zoom across the face of the full moon.
Back To The Future
While ET is certainly the film most referenced in this week’s Legends of Tomorrow, it’s far from the only ’80s classic that gets a nod. Back To The Future also gets several references, starting with the appearance of a Delorean in a driveway. Nate (Nick Zano) is pretending to wash the car as part of the team’s stake out, and he even references the film directly with the line “now this is a time machine”.
Nate gets some more Back To The Future moments when he sees Ray’s Mom for the first time, and comments on how hot she is… so of course, the episode goes full Back To The Future with a scene where Nate gets into a steamy moment with Ray’s Mom. If Legends of Tomorrow wanted to really get into the spirit of the ’80s time travel classic, of course, it would have been Ray, not Nate, who gets it on with Mom. We’re happy with this… less incestuous twist on the reference, though!
Nate’s seduction by Ray’s Mom also provides the opportunity for Legends to make a second 80s movie reference, this time to Aliens. Amaya (Maise Richardson Sellers) realizes that it’s not actually Ray’s Mom who is in the house with Nate (because she’s been wrapped in a cocoon and hung from a tree): it’s the Dominator. Gumball’s parent alien is not happy that her baby has gone missing, and she’s trying to mind-control Nate so she can find out where he is.
Amaya bursts in as Nate is on the couch under Dominator-Mom, and fires off a line that is lifted almost word for word from Aliens: “Get away from him, you bitch!”. Of course, the original line is “get away from her”, but it’s essentially the same thing.
Another classic that gets a much smaller nod is Ghostbusters, in the costumes that several of the Legends wear when they go undercover. Most of the team suit up in various ridiculous ’80s fashions (who can forget the penchant for dungarees?), but Nate and Amaya (and Sara (Caity Lotz), later) pose as animal control. The costumes that they wear for the episodes are brown overalls that look very much like the classic Ghostbusters uniforms, which is a fun reference. It’s the only one, though, as there are no other lines or moments that directly mention the movie.
National Lampoon’s Vacation
Another tiny nod is to National Lampoon’s Vacation, and one that all but the most eagle-eyed of viewers might have missed. The iconic station wagon from the franchise (with its wood side panels and green trim) appears in Legends of Tomorrow as the car that Ray’s Mom drives. It only appears for a brief moment as Mom comes home to catch Ray skipping school, but it’s still a cool moment for fans of 80s movies (and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter Eggs).
Probably the tiniest reference in the episode is one to Cocoon. The Dominator-Mom has been rampaging all over Ray’s small town trying to find her baby, and she’s more than happy to put people out of commission if they get in her way. Ray’s Mom isn’t the only character who gets wrapped up, either; Sara Lance also winds up webbed to a jungle gym. She breaks free, but later says of the experience “she wrapped me in a cocoon”. Of course, this could be taken as just a very literal description of what happened, but given the delivery and all the other ’80s movies referenced in ‘Phone Home’, this feels like a Cocoon reference to us.
Flight of the Navigator
Finally, there’s also a nod to Flight of the Navigators in this episode, in the makeshift lab used to hold Gumball. At the start of the episode, we see little-Ray running through some kind of facility, being chased by some sinister people in black suits. It’s a classic sci-fi/horror moment, as the good guy is trying to outrace the government agents. This particular scene also includes hallways and rooms that are lined with semi-opaque plastic sheets: a familiar sight to fans of Flight of the Navigators, which used a similar room to hold the captured alien ship.
Legends in Costume
Like all good ’80s movies, ‘Phone Home’ wrapped up with a touching ending, as the Legends help little Ray deal with some bullies on Halloween. As little Ray heads out to trick or treat in a new Atom costume (which has to be some kind of paradox, right?!), he meets his local bullies who make fun of him. That’s when the Legends, all in costume, step up beside him to say that they are his friends and they think his costume is cool. Even Zari is in costume (which is another nod, to the Secrets of Isis TV show from the 70s), although Mick (Dominic Purcell) is clearly far too tough to don one.
Legends of Tomorrow continues next Tuesday at 9pm with ‘Return of the Mack’ on The CW.
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