Art by Laura Strohbusch

by Joe Berkowitz @JoeBerkowitz

Are You a Cap, a Skip, or a Rook?

Gazing up at the starry heavens one night, the captain of a mysterious moonbase simulation out in the Arizona desert asks his colleague a question: “You a crescent guy, or a full-moon freak?”

It’s the kind of topic one arrives at only after depleting all available small-talk resources. Which version of the moon did you draw as a kid? Have you considered the Freudian implications of liking banana-shaped objects over perfect circles? But mining arbitrary distinctions in lunar preference is just one of the many signs that Moonbase 8's Cap (John C. Reilly), Skip (Fred Armisen), and Rook (Tim Heidecker) have enjoyed each other’s exclusive company for too long.

You a crescent guy, or a full-moon freak?

Viewers at home may be showing similar symptoms as well.

For a while there, we were all moonbase-dwellers, checking atmospheric conditions and gearing up with masks and disinfectant, surrounded by a phantom Earth that often felt lightyears away. We tended to our domiciles carefully, biding our time with low-stakes activities like baking and puzzles. Have we finally arrived at the “arbitrary distinctions” phase of quarantine? It just might be the perfect time to examine the three kinds of madness evident in our Moonbase heroes. Because, really, what else is there to do?

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Are you a Cap?

Cap is technically in charge of this NASA-sanctioned operation, although it often seems as though he wishes anyone else were instead. It’s a plight he currently shares with many a fatigued pandemic parent, tasked with keeping everyone safe while secretly wishing for a Freaky Friday-style glitch in the matrix that might force the kids to run the household. Over the course of the prolonged simulation, Cap becomes increasingly brash and impetuous, proposing big, impractical solutions to the problems that arise—like physically relocating the entire moonbase after a wandering mushroom grower expounds on the power of magnetic fields. He’s the moonbase member most likely to flip over the board during game night when he starts to lose, even though game night was his idea in the first place.

It’s impossible to tell whether Cap was like this already back in the Before Time, when he gave helicopter rides to Hawaiian tourists for a living, or if losing access to the outside world led to his mania. The question might be irrelevant: If the only way to survive is to adapt to life inside a pressure cooker, then it looks dicey for Cap.

You might be a Cap if you: recently had a panic attack at a Piggly Wiggly; convinced yourself it’s possible to make a vaccine at home; stress-ate an entire bag of THC gummy bears without checking the package first; seriously considered the bleach.

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Maybe you’re a Skip...

On paper, Skip is the most valuable member of the team. Formerly a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, he is resourceful and process-oriented; grounded, but not opposed to the occasional moonshot, so to speak. Everything that makes Skip such a worthy asset, however, also makes him a liability. As the months wear on with no end in sight, he becomes increasingly haunted by the prospect of wasting his potential in a purgatorial simulation with no real victories or consequences. Why won’t NASA let him shine? Skip embodies every person whose lofty ambitions were hamstrung by the pandemic—the patron saint of the guy who was finally about to open a restaurant where servers perform close-up magic, or the friend who was this close to launching a mall Santa franchise.

Skip’s cabin fever burns with the pettiness of a thousand thwarted plans. He should be jettisoning off to the moon; instead, he’s the one stuck sanitizing the groceries.

You might be a Skip if you: immediately redecorated your home, complete with a WFH bunker; started a YouTube tutorial series on how to properly can your vegetables; secretly agreed with the King Lear tweet.

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Perhaps you’re a Rook?

They call him Rook because he’s newest to the mission, not because he embodies the checkmate clutch-ness of his namesake chess piece. Rook wants to be helpful, but he doesn’t have many original ideas, so he mostly just parrots whatever he just heard someone else say. It’s a popular behavior mechanism at the moment. Many of us are in over our heads, having never expected to become amateur epidemiologists. We just continue to regurgitate the last article we read, all in the name of trying to determine if it’s safe to throw a frisbee. Rook’s most pressing problem, though, is that he deeply misses his aggressively large family. Lack of contact with his wife and 11 children is having a negative impact on his ability to work and read simple social cues. Rook suffers from the kind of sanity-bending heartache that comes with not being able to reach through Zoom and hug your loved ones.

Like all of us in quarantine, Rook’s emotional state wavers, along with his will to go on, but he believes we’ll get to the other side. When Cap asks whether he prefers the crescent or full version of the heavenly moon awaiting on the other side of purgatory, he answers, “I’ll take her any way she comes.”

You might be a Rook if you: keep asking, “Are we hugging yet?;” are the last to log off the family Zoom; started following Brené Brown; plan on ordering CPR mannequins and arranging them around the table for pandemic-Thanksgiving.