Almost Plausible

Ep. 8

Paper Bag

22 March 2022

Runtime: 00:45:07

Pack your lunch in a paper bag because on this week's episode, we explore ideas for a movie about a paper bag. It's time for another quirky romantic comedy from your favorite fake screenwriting trio. How can a paper bag be romantic? And what problems will our protagonist face along the way? Does she have everything in the bag, or does she end up getting sacked? (Insert Shep grumbling here...) The only way to find out is to listen!

References

Transcript

[Intro music begins]

[Shep]
“But I’m admitting that you were right. Appearance matters, and I didn’t understand it. Now I do. I’ve grown as a person.”

[Thomas]
“You understand it. Now you need to experience it.”

[Emily]
“Now that you’re aware. Now you have to live with that awareness and understand why these things are going negative against you.”

[Shep]
What’s the lesson of this movie?

[Thomas]
Looks matter. Don’t be ugly.

[Intro music]

[Thomas]
Hey there, story fans. Welcome to Almost Plausible, the podcast where we take ordinary ideas and turn them into stories. I’m your host, Thomas J. Brown. Joining me, as always, are Emily-

[Emily]
Hey, guys.

[Thomas]
And F. Paul Shepard.

[Shep]
How’s it going?

[Thomas]
What is the paper bag other than in a container for your lunch or groceries? Could you come up with an entire story about a paper bag? Can we? That’s what we’re going to find out on today’s episode. Shep, why don’t you get our pitch session started?

[Shep]
Okay. Imagine a bag and you can get anything you want or need out of it, which is, I guess, our episode Pockets. So… Go listen to Pockets. That was that pitch. And imagine it was a paper bag this time.

[Thomas]
Yeah. That was the first thing I thought of, too.

[Shep]
Or a bag of holding. I don’t really know where you go with that, other than it’s a paper bag that can hold a lot more than it appears to.

[Thomas]
It’s like the opposite of pockets.

[Shep]
Yeah. What I don’t want is for the paper bag to just be like a MacGuffin. The bag shows up at the beginning in an inciting incident, and the person looks inside and that causes them to go off. And we never find out what’s in it. Or a kid forgets to lunch on the day of the track meet or football tryouts or whatever. And they’re worried they’re going to be too weak to qualify if they don’t have a big beefy lunch. Those aren’t about the bag.

[Thomas]
Right. And that was what I really struggled with was it was always about what’s in the bag and the bag-

[Shep]
Right.

[Thomas]
The bag is a container. It’s so natural to think of it that way. But then it’s not about the bag. It’s about what’s in the bag.

[Shep]
So a man robs a bank and he’s got his hand in a paper bag insisting he has a gun. It’s not about the bag. So forget that. Here’s my pitch: It’s a kids movie where the parents… it’s a little kid. So the parents run out of lunch bags and they just use a giant grocery bag because that’s what they have. And they found out the morning of, so that’s what they did. They packed the kid’s lunch in a big giant grocery bag. But the little kid is nervous about this large bag because kids don’t like change. So wouldn’t you know it, they open up the bag and they’re reaching down in to get their lunch, and then they fall in and now they’re in a paper land and they have to find their way back out of the paper bag before lunch ends and they get crumbled up and thrown in the trash. So it’s a kids imagination movie.

[Thomas]
I really like that. It’s similar to a couple of my ideas. And one of the things I really like about it is that they have to accomplish this before lunch ends. So there’s a timer.

[Shep]
Yeah.

[Thomas]
Well, I mentioned that yours are similar to mine. The first one that I have, there’s that saying “You couldn’t verb your way out of a paper bag.” Right? “You couldn’t cook your way out of a paper bag.” “You couldn’t fight your way out of a paper bag,” whatever. So my idea is, it’s a little bit like the movie Cube or, it’s a horror film where there’s a small group of people who are trapped in a giant paper bag and they have to work together to escape.

[Shep]
Have you seen the movie Dave Makes a Maze?

[Thomas]
No.

[Shep]
I think it’s Dave Makes a Maze. It might be something else, but it’s a guy who makes a cardboard room with, like, puzzles and things on it. And when you go inside, it’s bigger on the inside. It’s very surrealistic. And there are deadly traps that are like killing his friends.

[Thomas]
That’s pretty wild.

[Emily]
Sounds like my kind of movie.

[Thomas]
The other movie idea that I had that was really similar to yours is, again, a kids movie, and it takes place in an entirely paper world. And I couldn’t really think beyond, like… I don’t know what the story would be. So maybe the conflict is that there is water or fire or maybe both of those are things… I think we could merge your idea and that idea together. Take water and fire and have those be elements that are problematic in the world that your kid falls into.

[Shep]
Yeah.

[Thomas]
I had a couple of other quick ones. A paper bag puppet has an identity crisis. One of them was, a mysterious or unseen person is leaving paper bags where seemingly random people will find them and inside are items from their childhood.

[Shep]
That’s super creepy.

[Thomas]
A meta story where a writer struggles to come up with a story about a paper bag.

[Shep]
Autobiographical.

[Thomas]
Yeah.

[Emily]
Ha ha ha.

[Thomas]
The only other story I had, again, it’s about what’s in the bag, but I was trying to come up with ideas to make it less… Have the bag be a bigger presence in the film. So the idea is that somebody is supposed to pay a quarter-million-dollar ransom or payoff or something like that to a gangster. And the instructions are for the dropper to bring the money, in a paper grocery bag, to a certain park at a certain day and time. And unbeknownst to everybody else in the movie, the FBI is also on to this. They have agents in and around the park. The bag is left next to the bench, and everybody watches and waits. And then someone sits down in the bench and he pulls out his own paper grocery bag and starts to eat his lunch. Then somehow the bags get swapped. And so the innocent guy, who has nothing to do with any of this, he gets shooshed out of the park, but he has the bag with all the money in it, unbeknownst to him. And then later, not too much later, right? Everybody realizes… They realize what actually happened. Basically, that, hey, this other guy has the bag, and so he’s… Well, I don’t know what he’s doing. He’s trying to figure out what to do with the money or escape with the money. I don’t know. But the guy whose money it is is chasing after him. He wants the money back because it’s a lot of money. The gangster is chasing after both of them because, again, they want the money and the FBI is chasing after all of them. So trying to bring the bag into it more. One of the ideas that I had was a scene… Do you remember in Analyze This where the FBI, I think, is following their limousine and they go under a covered toll area and then like a dozen limousines come out all at the same time so the FBI can’t follow them anymore? So that was one of the ideas I had was maybe more paper bags get involved and they’re like decoy paper bags. Still, it’s about what’s in the bag. So I don’t love it.

[Shep]
I want to hear more about the paper bag puppet that has an identity crisis.

[Emily]
Yeah, that sounds-

[Shep]
You just skimmed right over that.

[Thomas]
Yeah, that was all I thought of for that one was that sentence. And I was like, “Yeah, that’s good. We’ll figure it out.”

[Emily]
Does he think he’s a Muppet? Does he think he’s a person?

[Thomas]
I do imagine it taking place in a human world.

[Shep]
Is he attached to a human?

[Thomas]
I don’t know. That’s a good question. Maybe in the same way that a Muppet is? So, no, right? In his mind, anyway.

[Emily]
So he’s sentient and an independent-

[Shep]
That could be one of the things that he’s having the crisis about. “Am I attached to a human or not? I can’t see it, but-“

[Thomas]
Yeah, I don’t know. Well, those are my ideas. Emily?

[Emily]
Alright, time for my ideas. Brace yourself. It’s a lot of “What’s in the bag?” The first one is: a bet between best friends leads Tanya to wear a paper bag over her head for the next month, as she struggles to navigate work and dating while trying to prove personality is all you need to find a truly fulfilling life.

[Thomas]
Love it.

[Shep]
That’s great. Just that on its own, it’s a classic Romcom setup.

[Emily]
Right?

[Shep]
Where it is exactly the premise of showing that personality is all you need.

[Emily]
Yeah. We don’t even have to do a lot of work with that one. Just a couple of scenes. Second one I have is a thief uses a paper bag to hide cash he got in a bank robbery and he stows it in his grandma’s attic. He gets offed or something. Oh, yeah. He gets hit by a bus dramatically, unexpectedly, and she is up cleaning her attic, finds the bag full of money, realizes, “Hey, I don’t know where this came from. Why I better donate it to the Church,” because she’s a good little Christian woman. And while she’s at the rummage sale, after donating the money, she uses the paper bag to help her customer out, fills it with the things they bought, sends it on the way, and the bag ends up with a lovely little girl who draws pretty little pictures on it to give it as a gift. There’s various stories that follow the bag and we just see the life of the bag, the wonderful and eventful life of the bag and all the people it touches and meets and interacts with the world. The last one I have is a paper bag is found and it’s thought to have the last painting of a very famous painter on it. And it sells for a ridiculous amount of money. Only they find out later the painting was actually done by his daughter and she paints more paper bags. That’s it. That’s all I got with that one.

[Thomas]
All right, what story are we liking?

[Shep]
Well, I like a lot of these.

[Thomas]
Yeah.

[Emily]
So many to choose from.

[Shep]
There are a lot to choose from. I think a lot of them, well not a lot of them, some of them could be combined in the children’s imagination story. But I also really like the woman with the bag on her head.

[Emily]
But is it about the bag? It’s about her under the bag.

[Shep]
That’s deep.

[Thomas]
But the bag does play a very central role in the plot of the film.

[Emily]
It does because she can’t take it off as long as she’s in public.

[Thomas]
Right.

[Emily]
She can take it off at home to shower, obviously. Because you don’t want wet bag.

[Thomas]
I guess based on what you’ve explained, the idea is that it’s about social interactions so that’s when she needs to wear the bag.

[Emily]
Yes.

[Shep]
I like it. I like it a lot. The more I’m thinking about it, the more I like it. As she gets accustomed to the bag, maybe she has different expressions on the front and the back and she can switch between them.

[Thomas]
That is great.

[Shep]
Now that’s not something that she starts with.

[Emily]
No.

[Shep]
She starts to adjust to being… how weird do you want to make this, though? Because it could get to the end and she doesn’t want to take the bag off. She wants to find a guy who will also wear a bag.

[Emily]
They can just be the bag heads together.

[Thomas]
It’s not that she wants to always wear the bag forever now. It’s that she wants a guy who is willing to do that with her and be on the same wavelength as her.

[Shep]
Sure. Explain it however you want. I just want to see a married couple wearing bags with their baby that’s also got a little bag on its head.

[Thomas]
Their wedding outfit is bags?

[Shep]
No, they just wear bags on their heads.

[Emily]
Just on the head. Well, let’s figure out how the bet comes up.

[Shep]
So her friend is complaining to her about, life is hard, and she’s got no sympathy. She’s like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Everything’s- Everything’s great.”

[Emily]
“I just got a promotion at work. I’ve been seeing this guy for a few months. He’s great.”

[Shep]
Right. Her friend gets harassed and discriminated against and she gets none of that. And she’s like, “You get everything through your looks. You couldn’t last a month without that face.”

[Emily]
“It’s about who I am. If I had a paper bag on my face, I would make it through this world just fine, just like everybody else.”

[Shep]
“I could wear a paper bag and I would still be as successful as I am.”

[Thomas]
“Okay, so do it.” Her friend totally calls her on it.

[Emily]
Yep. And she’s like at first like, “Yeah, no, I’m not.” They’re like at a bar playing darts. She’s like, “Okay, I make a bullseye. You wear a paper bag for a month.”

[Shep]
It’s a bet that comes from another bet? It’s bets all the way down.

[Emily]
Yes. So we’ve established how the bet happens.

[Thomas]
So what are the terms of the bet?

[Emily]
Anytime she is outside of her apartment or interacting with anyone who’s not at that table, she has to have the paper bag on.

[Thomas]
For 30 days?

[Emily]
For 30 days.

[Thomas]
Are there activities she absolutely must do? Obviously, she has to go to work.

[Emily]
She has to go to work.

[Thomas]
She has to go on dates.

[Emily]
She has been seeing a guy, so she has dates already planned.

[Shep]
If she’s already seeing a guy-

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Shep]
That’s going to make that a lot easier.

[Thomas]
Yeah, because he already knows what she looks like.

[Emily]
But he’s still going to be all weirded out by her wearing a paper bag out in public. It’s going to cause problems.

[Shep]
So they break up right away. So she has to start dating fresh.

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Shep]
While, she still has the bag on. Why doesn’t she just wait a month? Just don’t date for a month.

[Thomas]
That’s what I was just going to say. That’s why I felt like she should be single. And then part of the requirements is that she has to go on dates.

[Shep]
Oh, the requirement is that she has to still have everything that she says that she would have had without it.

[Emily]
Right.

[Thomas]
She can’t lose anything.

[Shep]
So she needs to have a boyfriend. She needs to have her career at the end of the 30 days.

[Thomas]
At the end of the 30 days.

[Emily]
Yeah. He can still dump her. And now her friends like, “Nope, you got to find a new man. You said it doesn’t matter. You can find a new man with a paper bag on your head.”

[Thomas]
Yep. Good. I like it.

[Shep]
“And you got to change your profile pictures.”

[Emily]
All paper bags.

[Shep]
All paper bags.

[Thomas]
Wonderful. I would love to see a little montage where they’re going around the city and she’s like doing activities, but wearing the paper bag on her head.

[Emily]
Instagram model and doing Instagram shots.

[Thomas]
Yeah, exactly.

[Shep]
With different faces. She’s got to run into someone while she’s on the way to one of the shoots. And so she has like a quirky look or whatever on her face. And they’re like, “Why do you-” it’s like, “Oh, I’m going to a thing. This is my face for later.”

[Thomas]
And they’re like, “That’s not what I was asking about. The bag, the whole bag.”

[Emily]
“The whole bag. What is that?” She should see them and be like, “Oh, hey,” and get their attention because she hasn’t seen them in a while. And they’re like, “What is this?”

[Thomas]
How does eating at restaurants work?

[Shep]
I mean, if it’s a big enough grocery bag, you just … underneath it.

[Emily]
Underneath it.

[Thomas]
Does it have to be the same bag? Or is she allowed to change bags?

[Shep]
She’s got to be able to change bags.

[Emily]
Yeah, she can change bags.

[Thomas]
Can she change the expressions or is she limited to two expressions?

[Shep]
No, she can do whatever she wants. That’s her argument. “The bet was I just had to wear a paper bag. Me putting different expressions on it, that’s me expressing myself.”

[Emily]
“That’s part of my personality. It’s how I’m showing my personality.”

[Thomas]
Yeah, I think that’s reasonable.

[Emily]
I think it should start out at first she’s just wears the paper bag plain. And then she decides to put the thing on, and they have that little tiff.

[Thomas]
So she has eye holes, right?

[Emily]
Yes.

[Shep]
Of course. How else would she see?

[Thomas]
Right.

[Shep]
I imagine at first it’s just very crude eye holes, and then later it’s incorporated into the design.

[Emily]
I want a scene where she has fake eyelashes on there, where she puts the fake ones on. And they’re like, “Really? Fake eyelashes? Come on.”

[Shep]
Well, I like it. What’s the conflict?

[Emily]
Where’s the conflict?

[Thomas]
Is there a scene where they’re out at the club and she’s, like, sweating and it’s getting the bag-

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Thomas]
It’s kind of like starting to tear. And so she has to leave because-

[Emily]
Or they’re out doing something in the city and it downpour comes.

[Shep]
Starts to rain. Yeah.

[Emily]
Yeah. And they have to go escape. So the conflict we get at work-

[Shep]
Oh, that’s got to be when she’s dating the guy. They’re on a date when it starts to rain and he does something, gets an umbrella or covers her with his coat or something to protect the paper bag, because “Whatever. She’s being quirky, it’s fun.”

[Thomas]
Is she allowed to explain what’s going on?

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Shep]
Otherwise it would be insane and she’d get fired.

[Thomas]
Right.

[Emily]
Right. No, she’s allowed to explain what’s going on. She should probably have some kind of a corporate job where she doesn’t normally meet with clients, but a client is going to be coming into the office, and they’re like, “Okay, but you have to take the paper bag off.” And she’s like, “No, I can’t,” and they’re like “But it’s important. You’ve got to present this.” And she’s like, “Well, just have someone else do it.”

[Shep]
She doesn’t even necessarily have to present it. They don’t want her in the room-

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Shep]
Because it’s a boardroom. It’s a meeting. “You can’t come to a meeting with a paper bag on your head. We have a dress code.”

[Emily]
“And the dress code does not explicitly say, I can’t wear a paper bag over my head.”

[Shep]
“There’s no rule that says the dog can’t play ball…”

[Emily]
That’s right.

[Shep]
Yeah. What does she do? Does it matter?

[Emily]
Finance.

[Shep]
That’s fine. That’s perfectly boring. That’s great.

[Emily]
Nobody understands it. Nobody cares to understand it. We don’t have to go into a lot of detail of it. There’s meetings and papers. That’s all we need to know.

[Thomas]
What does that first day of work look like when she comes in wearing a paper bag?

[Shep]
That’s early on, where she just got the very crude whatever.

[Thomas]
Not even a face on it yet.

[Shep]
Yeah.

[Emily]
Just the eyes. And then she later cuts a mouth hole at work so she can have her coffee.

[Shep]
You can’t just lift the bag and drink it under the bag.

[Emily]
I was thinking she would put a straw because it would just be easier.

[Thomas]
It’d be really funny to have a straw coming out of the bag.

[Shep]
Well, then we have to do that.

[Emily]
Right. She tries to do it, but it’s kind of the motion of it, like putting a fork in your mouth is a little easier. But the motion of drinking is like (mimes drinking).

[Thomas]
Oh, yeah. She tries to drink under the bag, and it’s clearly not going to work. And so she’s kind of looking around the office and she opens the drawer and pulls out a hole punch and punches a hole and then gets a straw and sticks it through.

[Shep]
Yep. It shows her problem-solving personality.

[Thomas]
Yeah.

[Emily]
She’s on top of her stuff. She is successful. She does have a good personality. She’s really not just getting by only on looks, but the looks do help. And she’s got to learn that. Without the looks, people just think she’s a weirdo, and they don’t really want to deal with her. Even people who already know that she’s gorgeous.

[Shep]
Yeah. Because they haven’t seen her in a month.

[Emily]
Right.

[Shep]
As far as they know, she’s going to be wearing a paper bag for the rest of her life.

[Emily]
So the office, they kind of start taking things away from her a little, projects away from her now and again because they’re like, “You’ve got a lot going on right now.” And then she’s realizing that she is starting to be treated differently.

[Shep]
Well, she has a lot going on because they think she’s having a nervous breakdown because she’s wearing a bag on her head all the time. “That’s not normal. That’s not okay. You know… our insurance covers psychological counseling.”

[Emily]
She just keeps explaining the bet over and over again. She’s like, “No, I’m proving a point. I don’t get by on just my looks.”

[Shep]
“Yes, but you win nothing from the bet. Correct? You just get to be right?”

[Emily]
“Yes.”

[Shep]
“And you know that you’re right?”

[Emily]
“Yes.”

[Shep]
“Then you don’t need the bet and you can take the bag off and meet with the client.”

[Emily and Thomas]
“No.”

[Emily]
“It’s a matter of principle, I have to win the fair way.”

[Shep]
“Okay. We’re going to have Stephanie meet with the client. You just stay at your desk.”

[Emily]
“But Stephanie doesn’t know what’s going on.”

[Shep]
“Yeah, it doesn’t matter. She’s not wearing a bag on her head.”

[Emily]
“This is ridiculous. This is discrimination. You are discriminating against me. And my choice to wear this bag over my head.”

[Thomas]
The boss is like, “Yeah, you’re right. Why don’t you go downstairs to HR and not come back for an hour?”

[Emily]
There can be so many fun little scenes.

[Thomas]
Does she win the bet?

[Shep]
Yeah. Does she win the bet? That’s a good question. Does it matter?

[Emily]
What is she fighting for besides clout and proving her friend wrong? What does her friend get out of it?

[Shep]
Her friend gets to prove that she’s wrong and that life is tough if you’re not gorgeous.

[Thomas]
I mean, I don’t think either one of them gets something tangible.

[Emily]
Right. Okay.

[Shep]
Right.

[Emily]
She does start to notice work starts to get a little more… At first it’s cute and quirky and funny, and then they’re like, “No, seriously, you got to take the bag off.” And she’s like, “It’s not affecting me doing my job. I’m still doing everything correctly.” And she starts to have more and more conflict with people. And she starts to see the people that she respected before as being a little more ugly in personality.

[Thomas]
Is the climax of the film that she takes the bag off early and then loses the bet on purpose?

[Shep]
She’s already learned the lesson that she was wrong and her friend was right.

[Thomas]
Right.

[Shep]
So there’s no point in continuing to bet, she lost already. Even if she does keep her career and her boyfriend and whatever. She lost the spirit of the bet.

[Emily]
Right. She did get it all on her looks.

[Shep]
Not all on her looks, but her looks did help.

[Thomas]
Why doesn’t she just end it early then?

[Shep]
She does.

[Emily]
They should have a fight about her ending it early. Maybe she does end it early. And she’s like, “No, you’re right,” because their friendship has to be the risk. I think her taking off the bag and ending it early is the resolution to them fighting. Like their friendship is going to tear apart because of something.

[Thomas]
I think it’s a resolution to everything.

[Shep]
That’s the problem. It can’t be the resolution to her friendship and the fight because her friend wants her to experience it, not just for three weeks, but for a month.

[Emily]
Oh, so they could get in a fight and she’s like, “You couldn’t even take it for two weeks and you already take it off. Yeah, fine. You’ve proved that I’m right. But you still don’t know what it feels like because you can take the bag off and go back to everything.”

[Shep]
So she hasn’t taken it off yet. She’s arguing with a friend that she wants to take it off and that her friend is right. “You’re right. You win the bet. I’m going to take it off.” “Whoa, whoa. No, you don’t get to just take it off and end it.”

[Thomas]
Why hasn’t she already taken it off, though? If she’s decided that she’s lost a bet and doesn’t care about winning anymore? And I think there should be some sort of more tangible prize. Maybe they bet each other money or something. Or maybe a friend is going to St. Bart’s and can only take one of them. And whoever wins this bet gets to go, and the other friend is like, “Yeah, however you guys figure it out, I don’t care.” So that way, she has a compelling reason to continue the bet. But in that scene that you were just talking about Shep, she’s trying to explain why “The bet is silly. Let’s call off this part of it. We’ll come up with a different way of solving it,” and the other friend is like, “No, you’re not weaseling out of this.”

[Shep]
“But I’m admitting that you were right. Appearance matters, and I didn’t understand it. Now I do. I’ve grown as a person.”

[Thomas]
“You understand it. Now you need to experience it.”

[Emily]
“Now that you’re aware. Now you have to live with that awareness and understand why these things are going negative against you.”

[Shep]
What’s the lesson of this movie?

[Thomas]
Looks matter. Don’t be ugly.

[Emily]
Right?

[Shep]
So after that point is when she starts drawing cute faces on the bags and really owning and leaning into having the bag on all the time.

[Thomas]
Is that the mid second act turning point then?

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Shep]
Yeah. She’s got to realize early on that she was wrong because it’s not like those consequences are going to wait.

[Thomas]
Yeah, right. Especially at work.

[Shep]
Yeah. So it’s got to hit her real quick.

[Thomas]
So then she does start using her personality more and leaning on that. And does it take some time for that to be successful? She’s never had to really do that before.

[Shep and Emily]
Right.

[Thomas]
So she’s not practiced at it.

[Shep]
Yeah. So she’s getting good at it in half of a month. Is that what we’re saying?

[Thomas]
No, I think she’s getting better at it.

[Emily]
She’s letting that worry go that it’ll detract from her if she is to her real self. If she lets her personality shine with the Lisa Frank stickers all over her bag, everyone’s going to be like, “Okay, you’re a super weirdo.” And before, she was always just hot. And you can’t have weird things if you’re hot. You got to stay hot. You got to have hot girl things.

[Thomas]
Maybe she is kind of depressed because she’s already admitted to losing, but her friend won’t end the bet. So that’s when she starts doodling on the bag, she’s just like, “Oh, whatever, I don’t know.” And she draws a silly face on there or maybe a frustrated face or something. And then in the elevator of her apartment building, somebody’s like, “That’s pretty cool.” And the first moment she was, she realizes, “Oh, this thing that I just sort of did got some positive attention.” And so she starts drawing more faces and they get goofier, and she puts the fake eyelashes on and stuff. And that’s just the first step down her path of exploring her personality.

[Emily]
Yeah. She’s not a fully fledged personality in the two weeks she’s just on that- She’s now found the path. She has found the path to become that, to explore who she really is. And she doesn’t have to just be the hot girl in the office.

[Thomas]
So does she take the bag off for somebody early and give up the trip to St. Bart’s?

[Shep]
I want to see the three of them on the trip to St. Bart’s, her still wearing the bag.

[Thomas]
So is the final shot is like a classic helicopter pulling away shot. And it’s the three of them on the beach, and she’s wearing a bikini and the bag.

[Emily and Shep]
Yep.

[Thomas]
And she’s got one of those big slushy drinks, and she’s got the straw going into the bag hole.

[Emily]
I think the idea of her finding a guy who would also wear bag, who’s willing to keep her from getting wet and everything, and who’s just like, “Yeah, this is great,” but he should have some kind of flaw that normally would turn her off. But he’s kind of the last person who’s interested in her for her to win the bet.

[Thomas]
Because shallow, hot guys don’t want to date a girl that they don’t know what she looks like.

[Emily]
Yeah. She’s not going to find a Chad.

[Shep]
So she’s still trying to win the bet at that point. So she has to have a boyfriend. That was the deal.

[Thomas]
Right.

[Shep]
So she’s trying to get dates with whomever she can and everyone’s turning her down. What is the guy’s flaw?

[Emily]
He’s super sweaty.

[Shep]
So they can’t be together because he’s water and she’s paper, it’s not going to work out.

[Thomas]
I mean, can his flaw be as simple as she’s a ten and he’s like a seven or six, and she would never have considered him previously? But because she’s desperate, she’ll go on this date and gosh, his personality is really great.

[Emily]
Yeah. Let’s make him Chris- Let’s just get Chris O’Dowd on it. And that is- Yeah, he’s not terrible. Not terrible to look at, but he’s clearly not Ryan Reynolds.

[Shep]
What if he’s got a stutter?

[Emily]
Oh, that could be a good one.

[Shep]
So they can’t rely on just having long, deep conversations because he can’t express himself that way. So she also has to find how he can express himself without words while she’s expressing herself without looks.

[Thomas]
Is that something that’s revealed early on, or are they having an online like, they’re texting back and forth a lot. So she’s physically hiding her face and he’s hiding his stutter behind the fact that they’re texting.

[Emily]
Yeah. I like that. She doesn’t know yet until I meet in person.

[Thomas]
And he’s got the stutter and she realizes, “Who cares?”

[Shep]
So how does he express himself?

[Thomas]
Interpretive dance?

[Shep]
Well, he could be a musician.

[Emily]
Yeah. I was going to say he could be a piano player, guitarist, or singer.

[Thomas]
Do people with a stutter tend to have an easier time of not stuttering when they’re singing?

[Shep]
Yes.

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Thomas]
So that could be a thing. Maybe he expresses himself through song. All right, well, let’s take a break right here, and when we come back, we’ll figure out the rest of the story for our paper bag.

[Break]

[Thomas]
All right, we’re back. What do we need to figure out?

[Shep]
Yeah, what are we missing?

[Thomas]
I think we need to figure out the end of their relationship.

[Shep]
Does it end?

[Emily]
No, they keep going.

[Thomas]
Well like, how does it end? Like, is it- At the end of the movie, what is the status of their relationship? That’s what I’m trying to-

[Emily]
They’re still together, but she’s in St. Barts.

[Thomas]
Does he get to go to St. Barts too?

[Emily]
No. He texts her while she’s on the beach.

[Thomas]
There you go.

[Emily]
She sends him a picture of her drinking the margarita through the hole.

[Shep]
So does he see her with the bag off?

[Emily]
I mean, eventually they’re going to have sex. And I don’t care how committed you are to a bit. You’re not having sex with a paper bag over your head.

[Shep]
Challenge accepted.

[Emily]
It’s hot and hard to breathe in.

[Shep]
That’s how sex is anyway.

[Thomas]
Does she take the bag off for him in the film?

[Emily]
I mean, she develops genuine feelings for him, right? We’re going to decide that part. So at some point, she is going to want to reveal what she really looks like to him. She explains that she’s not going to take the bag off because she needs to win this bet and he doesn’t really push the issue. So that’s what makes him a good guy, because he’s like, “All right, whatever. You feel comfortable, you feel comfortable, whatever.” And then at some point, she does want to-

[Shep]
He’s got something that he wants to have a date to some event that he wants to go to with the date. So it’s like “You want to wear a bag on your head? Whatever. I’ve got- No one’s going with me.”

[Thomas]
Maybe he invites her to a costume party so that she will fit in.

[Emily]
She’s going to want to kiss him, right? At some point. Women like to kiss. I’m going to reveal a secret of the sisterhood here. Women like kisses. So at some point, she’s going to want to take the bag off to kiss him.

[Shep]
You know we’re recording this, right? The sisters are going to hear that you’re revealing secrets.

[Thomas]
I feel like we’re moving in a direction where she takes the bag off.

[Emily]
Right. She’s going to have to.

[Shep]
What if she turns the lights off? Does it still count? He hasn’t seen her face, but they can kiss.

[Emily]
Is she negotiating this with her friend?

[Thomas]
I was just wondering. Yeah.

[Emily]
Is she in the bathroom negotiating this with her friend so she can go have sex with him?

[Shep]
Obviously. Yes.

[Emily]
And I think that is what they determine, is that as long as the lights are off or he’s blindfolded, she can take the bag off. So he thinks she’s super kinky because she goes for the blindfold. She puts her hand out the door. “Here, put this on.” He’s like “What?”

[Thomas]
I could see him kind of liking that. There’s something sort of sexy and romantic about that. And actually, it’s a really interesting level of trust that you wouldn’t have that fast with another person usually. Because it ends up being a positive experience for both of them, strengthens their relationship.

[Shep and Emily]
Yup.

[Shep]
Does this have a lowest low or is that just the second midpoint?

[Thomas]
If we’re going to truly give her a lowest low, the relationship with the stutterer has to be in jeopardy.

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Shep]
Oh, his parents are visiting, and he is into her quirky personality or whatever, but they’re very traditional. They probably will not fly with the bag-on-head lady.

[Emily]
Does she go to the dinner with the bag on the head?

[Shep]
Good question.

[Thomas]
If they’ve known each other for, like, a week, I don’t see them him introducing her to his parents, especially during the bag time.

[Shep]
Is that how they refer to it, “the bag time”?

[Thomas]
So they’re hanging out his apartment and the parents just show up?

[Emily]
Yeah. Okay.

[Shep]
Yeah. Oh, that’s great, because what do they do with her? Try to hide her in the bathroom?

[Emily]
Is he embarrassed? Does he show embarrassment at that point? And that’s the only time he showed any kind of questioning of her.

[Thomas]
I mean, what are the stakes for him, really, if he’s an adult and his parents don’t like her? “Well, too bad. I’m an adult. I get to make my own life decisions, and I like her.”

[Shep]
Yeah, you’re right.

[Thomas]
So do they have something? They’re paying his rent because they live in New York and it’s impossible. And they’re like, “Well, we could just stop bringing by these rent checks.”

[Emily]
Can’t they just be overbearing? And he’s got a stutter, so he naturally is under their thumb.

[Shep]
So this isn’t sounding like it’s a low point. It sounds like it’s a high point because he’s standing by her against his parents.

[Thomas]
Yeah.

[Emily]
We have nothing but high points in this movie.

[Shep]
We have nothing but high points. Not that I object! I think it starts low and then it goes on an uphill swoop.

[Emily]
Let’s break the mold.

[Shep]
Yeah.

[Thomas]
Does she lose her job?

[Emily]
Yeah, maybe. Or put on administrative leave or something with the threat of losing it.

[Shep]
Why though?

[Thomas]
If she’s able to convince them at the beginning that her work will not suffer as a result of that, then her work has to suffer for them to reasonably do something about it. If they agree to that in the beginning.

[Shep]
Or it’s like only her local office agreed to it and her boss’s boss is coming in.

[Emily]
Corporate comes in and is like, “What the fuck?” Yeah, that would work.

[Thomas]
But do they actually fire her or does she say, “You know what, I have two weeks of vacation. I’m going to start using it now and there’s a week left of me wearing the bag, so I’ll take the next week off.”

[Shep]
I mean, that would be a solution that everyone would agree with.

[Emily]
Yeah. She could cop an attitude with the corporate boss. And then he’s like, “No.” She gets away with it normally because she’s pretty and she still has that little bit of hubris.

[Shep]
Also, everyone in her local office knows how pretty she actually is.

[Thomas]
Yeah.

[Emily]
Yeah. So they’re like, “Oh, yeah, whatever. It’s fine.” And then he comes in, he doesn’t know anything. She thinks she still has that sway.

[Shep]
Oh yeah. This is later while she’s got the cute faces on the bags and she’s really owning it and they’re like, “No, take the bag off or get out.”

[Thomas]
So maybe he lays down that proclamation and he says, “When I come back from lunch, you need to not be here, or either you or the bag needs to not be here.” And so he leaves because I think he’s too big of a threat for her to be able to- like, he’s made his decision, basically. She has to work it out with her local boss, that she’s going to take the vacation days. Because he knows that her work hasn’t suffered. He knows that she’s a hard worker. He knows that she’s pretty.

[Shep]
Maybe her work has gotten better. She’s really had to buckle down and she focuses more on paying attention to whatever. I don’t know what she’s doing.

[Thomas]
Because people aren’t always coming by her desk to flirt with her.

[Emily]
She’s got more time in her day. That could be the very beginning where she makes that comment of like, “I got more time in my day. I’m doing better at work. What are you talking about?”

[Shep]
Or someone could mention that her numbers are up 12% or whatever.

[Thomas]
I could see that being a thing where when the big boss comes and he’s just like putting his foot down and someone’s like, “Actually, her productivity is up since she started wearing the bag.” It doesn’t matter. He has spoken. That is it.

[Emily]
Yup, he is Donald Trump. It is this way or you’re gone.

[Thomas]
So how do we threaten her relationship? And we’re sort of ping ponging back and forth between these two. What would make him, even if reluctantly, what would make him want to break up with her or stop seeing her?

[Shep]
Or the other way. What could make her want to break up with him even though she knows it will cost her the bet?

[Thomas]
Can we tie the two things together where the choice is break up with him and lose the bet or take the bag off and lose the bet? This is not a real choice. Take the bag off and lose the bet if you really like him.

[Emily]
Right.

[Thomas]
If you’re going to lose either way.

[Emily]
Maybe her bag has to be a threat to him in some way. Like if he’s a musician, I don’t know how that would-

[Thomas]
Is there a situation where her wearing the bag would cause something bad for him? His career suffers, or maybe he’s a little bit bigger of a deal than we’ve said previously.

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Thomas]
So now there are tabloid photos or something of them together and it’s causing, like, all this negative press.

[Shep]
I mean, if he’s an artist, though, if he’s a musician, you could just spin it like it’s just a publicity stunt.

[Thomas]
Right.

[Emily]
Well, we’re doing this in a pre- or non-Covid existing world, right? So-

[Shep]
Of course. Otherwise, why she going to the office? She’d just be working from home.

[Emily]
Right, right. So. A venue. She’s going to go to a venue with them and they need to be able to see everybody’s face.

[Thomas]
She can’t go anywhere with a check id.

[Shep]
She’s got a little sticky note with a face drawn on it, paste it on her ID. Looks just like her.

[Thomas]
That’s definitely. I think one of the initial challenges is: where can she go? She can’t order a drink anywhere. She can’t go into a bar. She can’t go to clubs. Anything that needs an ID, she can’t do it.

[Shep]
Yeah. It’s hardly fair. It’s not even part of the bet.

[Thomas]
She’s struggling with dating because what are you supposed to do if you can’t do all the things that people do when they’re dating? And so he’s like, “I got a plan. I got a plan. Don’t worry about it.” And then that’s where they go to the costume party and she’s like, “Oh, shit, that’s really clever.”

[Shep]
Or they go to the park and that’s when it rains and he covers her up with his coat.

[Thomas]
Yeah. I like him driving those creative clever dates.

[Shep]
Well, at the beginning, because she hasn’t made that mental shift yet.

[Thomas]
Does she come up with a creative clever date where he’s the focus?

[Shep]
Sure. What is it?

[Thomas]
What is something where you would intentionally not speak while interacting with other people?

[Shep]
Charades?

[Thomas]
Interpretive dance, guys. It always comes back.

[Emily]
Why can’t he be a straight dancer that stutters? Like why can’t that be a thing?

[Thomas]
It can. Maybe that’s why he dances.

[Emily]
Yeah, cause he stutters, that’s why he does- I’m actually advocating that interpretive dance.

[Thomas]
Him being a musician didn’t- We weren’t hinging anything on that, were we?

[Emily]
No, we didn’t have any plans on that.

[Thomas]
Yeah. All right. He’s a straight dancer. If they’re in New York, he works on Broadway as a minor background dancer, and it wouldn’t affect his ability to be in the chorus because he doesn’t stutter when he sings. Can’t probably ever be a main character, but he can still work on Broadway, which is his dream.

[Emily]
Consistent work. Yeah.

[Thomas]
Okay. So what is the special date then? Is it going dancing? Is it something where he is the focus or his dance is the focus?

[Emily]
Oh, so she’d have to go to some sort of like senior citizen or junior club to get into because she can’t show her ID. Maybe her clever date is they crash a bar mitzvah.

[Shep]
I think that she’s going to stand out.

[Thomas]
Right.

[Emily]
No…

[Thomas]
“She has the biggest yarmulke of anyone.” It could be something where there’s music in the park that’s going to be happening. And so they’re just outside of that bandstand area or whatever. And the music starts and he’s like, “Cool.” And they start dancing. I don’t know.

[Shep]
I don’t know. If you see a dancer and a woman with a bag on her head, who are you going to pay attention to? She’s got to make a bag for him so that they stand out equally.

[Thomas]
She organizes a flash mob of people who all wear- no, he would do that. He would organize a flash mob of people who all put bags on their heads.

[Shep]
What year is the set in? Are flash mobs still a thing?

[Thomas]
Definitely not now.

[Emily]
No.

[Shep]
Yeah, I’m not sure. I think that you’re right. That there needs to be some clever date that she plans that’s for him to go with the ones that he has planned for her.

[Thomas]
Has she just sort of been taking him for granted this whole time to an extent? Like he’s this really nice guy and she’s like, “Oh, cool, check that box. Got a boyfriend. He makes it really easy.” And then over the course of that time, she grows to like him more and more. And then at some point, it seems like she might lose him. Maybe he says to her that he feels like she’s taking advantage of him. He does all these things for her-

[Emily]
Yeah. “I do all these things to make you feel comfortable and you don’t do anything for me.”

[Shep]
I mean, a month is not a long time.

[Thomas]
Especially because of the first week she’s got a boyfriend and the second week she’s dating, or trying to.

[Emily]
So they’re like two weeks in, towards the end. Maybe it comes out somehow that she’s only keeping him around, like, somebody tells him and gets it in his head that she’s only dating him so she can win the bet. Yeah.

[Shep]
Oh, the classic reveal. Yeah, the “it was a bet” reveal.

[Emily]
And he’s like, “What?” So that’s why at the end, even though you don’t see them together, she sends him the picture because she’s going to continue seeing him. So who would reveal that? Her boss? Maybe he comes to pick her up for lunch the day the big boss comes in.

[Thomas]
I don’t think the people at her work know the details. I think almost nobody knows the full extent of the details.

[Emily]
Okay.

[Thomas]
Maybe the other friend is getting worried. The other girl who she made the bet with is getting worried because “Shit, she’s actually doing it. She hasn’t lost her job. Now she’s dating some guy who doesn’t seem at all fazed by the paper bag.”

[Shep]
“Yeah, this is bullshit.”

[Thomas]
She’s like, “I know I’m right, but what the heck?” In fact, they even had, literally had a conversation about how she’s right. “But I never actually thought she would successfully complete this.”

[Emily]
“Why is it still so easy for her?”

[Shep]
What is the lesson of this movie? Some people are just lucky. Some people just have it all. That’s just life’s not fair. That’s the lesson.

[Emily]
It’s true.

[Shep]
Some truths are hard.

[Emily]
Yeah, some people do just have it all for no good reason.

[Shep]
Yeah, I don’t disagree. I’m just saying let’s just face what it is.

[Thomas]
What do we have and what are we missing? Because we are pretty much out of time. Do we have enough of a story?

[Shep]
I think we do. She makes the bet. She wears the plain bag. It doesn’t go well. She breaks up with her boyfriend. She tries to date. It doesn’t go well. She starts to own the situation. She starts to be expressing her personality through her drawings of her expressions on the bag. She meets the guy, they start to date. It goes well. Her friend who made the bet originally is lamenting when they’re together that she’s still going to win, even after she admitted that she was wrong earlier. And that’s when the boyfriend hears about it for the first time that this was a bet… What does he think’s going on before that point?

[Thomas]
I think she just always explains it to everybody as “It’s a bet that I made with some friends about my looks” or something like that. She doesn’t explain all the details. I think she explains the core idea of the bet.

[Shep]
Right. Not that she has to have a boyfriend at the end of it.

[Thomas]
Right. And I think because everybody knows life is unfair, they’re like, “Oh, this will be interesting.”

[Shep and Emily]
Yeah.

[Thomas]
And so people just sort of accept it. The people who accept it accept it because of that.

[Shep]
So what happens to them after he finds out that he’s part of the bet?

[Emily]
I think he’s going to be a little upset and be like, “What does this mean?”

[Shep]
Yeah. “Is this real or is this the bet?”

[Emily]
“I’ve been putting in some effort here. I thought you were matching that.”

[Thomas]
In fact, I think that’s how he could bring up the dates, not in a “It’s unfair that I’ve done all this stuff” kind of way. He’s like, “These have been me genuinely trying to build a relationship with you, thinking about you and trying to work within the terms of your crazy bet. I’m just part of that bet? You don’t actually really care about me?” And so that’s when she comes up with a clever date for him-

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Thomas]
That demonstrates “No, I actually do care about you.”Because he knows. Everyone knows life is not fair. “I’m a six on a good day. If you’re attractive enough that this bet is about you getting through life without your looks, you must be way out of my league.”

[Shep]
Oh, yeah. He doesn’t know what she looks like.

[Thomas and Emily]
Right.

[Thomas]
So does she take the bag off on their big date? Is this a romantic comedy?

[Shep]
Obviously, it’s a romantic comedy.

[Emily]
Yeah.

[Thomas]
So the climax is their kiss, right? So is that the big date at the end, she takes the bag off and they kiss?

[Shep]
Did they not kiss him in the dark earlier?

[Thomas]
That’s true.

[Emily]
But he gets to see her when they kiss.

[Thomas]
This is clearly not a traditional romantic comedy. So it’s a nontraditional climax. The kiss isn’t the big special thing that they get. It’s seeing each other face to face without a paper bag.

[Shep]
I’m just picturing him going “Meh.”

[Thomas]
Yeah. “Ooh.”

[Emily]
“I liked the bag,” and then he just picks it up, puts it back over her head.

[Thomas]
Well, there you have it. Our take on a story about a paper bag. Do you think we have this one in the bag or should we just bag the whole thing?

[Shep]
Boo. He just keeps going.

[Thomas]
I’ll never stop. Let us know by sending an email or contacting us on social media. Links to those can be found on our website: Almostplausible.com. That wraps things up for us this week. I want to thank Emily and Shep for joining me. And all three of us want to thank you for listening. We’ll be back next week for another episode of Almost Plausible.

[Outro Music]

[Emily]
Bye bye!

[Thomas]
Shep, they can’t see you wave.

[Shep]
I don’t know how the Internet works.

[Thomas]
It’s an audio format.

[Shep]
Ah, jeez.

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