WARNING! This article contains spoilers for South Park‘s season premiere. If you have not seen the episode, I recommend watching it on the South Park official website before proceeding with this article.
For years and years, South Park has followed an extremely loose continuity. Occasionally, the events of one episode would impact the rest of the series (such as when Mr. Garrison had gender reassignment surgery in Season 9) but most episodes existed solely to make fun of current events and would never be mentioned again. Season 18 is where all of that started to change, experimenting with a continuous storyline that made every episode feel important… It didn’t quite work but it was a valiant effort. They tried again in Season 19 and did a much better job, setting a new standard for South Park‘s storytelling. It’s my job to take this new continuity-based format and see what secrets and hidden details I can find in South Park‘s “Member Berries”!
The episode starts out with a huge crowd gathered at South Park Elementary School to watch a girls’ volleyball match. However, they don’t seem to care much about the match itself, focusing instead on which kids will sit down during the national anthem (an obvious nod to the Colin Kaepernick controversy, earlier this month). It doesn’t take long for the national anthem to play and Heidi, Megan, Wendy, and Nicole to sit down to protest the harassment that they receive online. Once the national anthem is over, the vast majority of the audience leaves and the girls are left to play their volleyball game with a pitifully small crowd.
Cut to the principal’s office where PC Principal commends the girls for their brave demonstration. PC Principal’s presence in this scene confirms that Season 20 is a direct continuation of Season 19 and not its own standalone storyline like Season 18 was but, at this point in the episode, it’s unclear how much time has passed since the Season 19 finale. What is made clear, however, is that the girls who protested at the volleyball game are being harassed by an internet troll named “skankhunt42” who they believe to be Eric Cartman. Cartman has been actively fighting against this accusation by making himself look as politically correct as possible by holding assemblies about how women can be funny and wearing a shirt that says “Token’s Life Matters” (it’s worth noting that Token is nowhere to be seen in this episode but gets mentioned a fair number of times). Of course, since it’s Cartman, he does a piss-poor job of making himself seem PC which only leads to further accusations.
Skipping ahead, we get a scene with a Gallup pollster asking Randy Marsh whether he’ll be voting for the “Giant Douche” or the “Turd Sandwich” in the upcoming presidential election. This is not only a great commentary on this year’s election, where many people feel like they’re picking between the lesser of two evils, but also a direct reference to the Season 8 episode, “Douche and Turd”. Randy declares that, despite usually being a Giant Douche supporter, he and his wife are going firmly with the Turd Sandwich, this year. At the dinner table, Sharon hints that she might actually be leaning more towards voting for The Giant Douche to which Randy expresses disgust. Stan expresses cynicism at the idea of voting between a douche and a turd every four years hinting that he’s retained his worldview from Season 15’s “You’re Getting Old”.
We then find out exactly who “Giant Douche” and “Turd Sandwich” really are. “Turd Sandwich” is a fairly straight-forward depiction of Hillary Clinton, despite never being referred to as such within the episode (she’s always called “Ms. Sandwich” or something similar). “Giant Douche”, however, is South Park‘s very own Mr. Garrison, continuing his campaign with running-mate Caitlyn Jenner from Season 19. It’s revealed that a few months have passed since Season 19’s finale and, in that time, Garrison has jumped ahead in the polls and his skin has started to turn a brownish-orange color. Obviously, Garrison is supposed to be this season’s stand-in for Trump but it is a tad strange that South Park is using a stand-in at all instead of attacking Trump directly. Perhaps, they felt that Trump was too easy of a target.
Garrison and Jenner party over the poll results until they realize that neither of them has a plan for what to do, once they actually get elected. Garrison realizes that going into the presidency without a plan will make him look like a jackass and considers dropping out but then he realizes that dropping out while he’s in the lead makes him look like an even bigger jackass. He then decides that he needs to keep running but he has to make sure that he loses. He comes with the perfect way to do this too, sitting down during the premiere of congressionally mandated reboot of the national anthem (directed by J.J. Abrams) but is foiled when the anthem debuts and the announcer states “Please stand, sit, or kneel for the National Anthem”, causing Garrison, Colin Kaepernick, and the female protesters from earlier to “support” the National Anthem, no matter what they do. Oddly, the National Anthem that plays is the exact same as our current one and NOT the national anthem that plays in the South Park Season 20 teaser.
Whether this clip is from a later episode or made specifically as a teaser remains to be seen but I’m hoping for the former. South Park focused on Kaepernick for a large portion of the national anthem scene in “Member Berries”, so it seems like he could play a big part in later episodes. Also worth noting is how J.J. Abrams’s face isn’t seen in this episode, aside from a photograph of the man, during a slideshow. Could this mean that there’s something special or weird about Abram’s South Park-style face? It’s impossible to tell, at this point, but I’m hoping for some big twists in the later episodes of this season.
About halfway through is when when we finally get to see the titular “Member Berries”, little grape-like berries with faces on them that ask you to remember things like Chewbacca and Ghostbusters. Stephen Stotch (Butters’s father) suggests that Randy try member berries to “take the edge off” of current events. Randy becomes quite fond of them, at first, before listening closely and hearing them say things like “Member when there weren’t so many Mexicans?” and “Member when marriage was just between a man and a woman?”, causing him to spit them out in disgust. Considering how many characters allude to member berries throughout the episode, it’s clear that they’re an important part of this season’s storyline and could have potentially been manufactured by a higher power to brainwash people. What exactly this higher power could be, though, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the boys at South Park elementary are growing hostile, since they’re all pretty sure that Cartman is “skankhunt42” but they have no way to prove it definitively and, until his identity is revealed, ALL of the male students have to take the blame for his actions. Cartman even breaks into Kyle’s bathroom to plead to him that he is not “skankhunt42” and that everything he has been doing is an attempt to prevent a gender war from happening. He says that “race wars are back” which could potentially hint at where Token has been for this whole episode. More interesting though, is the episode’s conclusion: Gerald Broflovski stops by Kyle’s room, noticing he’s upset, and saying “I’ll be in my office, if you want to talk”. Gerald enters his office and logs onto his computer and it’s revealed that he’s been “skankhunt42” this entire time!
While “Member Berries” isn’t the laugh riot that many people have come to expect from South Park it does a good job of setting up the rest of the season and raising some burning questions, along the way. Why has Gerald taken to harassing elementary school girls online? If Cartman isn’t the troll, then why is he so adamant about not showing people his phone? Is Cartman actually trying to help people or has he been assisting “skankhunt” with his plans? What’s up with those member berries?
I wish that I knew the answers but, unfortunately, all I can do now is speculate. I hope that you enjoyed this review/analysis. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on South Park as more news comes.