Escape Artists

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  • Voting has started for the Podcastle Flash Fiction contest. Anyone who has made at least one post should be able to see the stories down in the Arcade.

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News

Voting has started for the Podcastle Flash Fiction contest. Anyone who has made at least one post should be able to see the stories down in the Arcade.

New groups are posted every two days through the end of April.

Author Topic: EP390: Cerbo un Vitra ujo  (Read 43595 times)

benjaminjb

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Reply #100 on: April 27, 2013, 04:52:55 AM
Yay! #100!

Now that I've got that out of the way, I have to say that I think the main current disputants--MCWagner and Scattercat--will never convince each other. Unless, possibly, we hold an impromptu rap battle. (I'm sorry, but both your names are clearly calling out for a rap battle.)

Though you may never convince each other, you've both convinced me: Scattercat, I see now more clearly the thematics of agency and sacrifice that run through this story; MCWagner, you've convinced me that the mechanics of the story are creak a little, as if motivated by an external force rather than from the internal needs of the characters.

I'll add that that notion--"the internal needs of the characters"--I get from Mary Robinette Kowal, with whom I recently took an online class in short fiction that I enjoyed very much. That I like her personally won't stop me from critiquing her work professionally. However, it will keep me from being a jerk about it, as someone recently was when he wrote her a nasty bit of hate mail about this very story on this very podcast. There's no call for that, which bothers me very much.

In fact, that bit of nasty email is the only thing about this story and its reception that continues to bother me. This story has caused a lot of argument, some interesting and well-argued, some hot-tempered but still well-argued, and some just inarticulate spew of feelings--all of which I find interesting as a reader and occasional writer. As long as we speak to our own feelings and argue with the assumption of good faith in our opponents--stretching towards considering the most charitable and strongest arguments--then, please, on with the bloodsport of arguing.

So, who wants to be the first post on page 6?

[ETA: Whoops, I guess I'm the first post on page 6.]



Mary Robinette Kowal

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Reply #101 on: April 27, 2013, 03:31:09 PM
Why does she even care about my critique then?
I don't, particularly. I was initially responding to the entire conversation.

And provide context?
Because I thought that a conversation about the differences in audience expectation would be interesting. EscapePod listeners are, I think, justified in being upset that a horror story got mixed in because the conventions are notably different whether or not it is also SF. The expectations of a horror audience dictate certain choices in storytelling, that would make them equally dissatisfied if, for instance, the story had a happy-ending.

And snarkily name-drop to contradict my point?
Sweetie, if you want snark, I can bring it on. That wasn't it. This is, however, the point at which I've crossed from being interested to being pissed. Stop assigning motivations to me.



silber

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Reply #102 on: April 27, 2013, 06:14:05 PM
Oh snap! ;D

Mary, your story kicked ass.  The fact that horror isn't your regular thing but you produced this story is astounding to me.  You should do it more often.
And I'm not saying Escapepod should run horror sci-fi all the time, but I certainly appreciate the diversity it brings to the show and the cajones it takes to run stuff like this.  I'd hate for every week to be farting pandas, clowns and talking alien monkeys.



Frungi

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Reply #103 on: April 28, 2013, 04:15:50 AM
EscapePod listeners are, I think, justified in being upset that a horror story got mixed in because the conventions are notably different whether or not it is also SF.

This is, indeed, the problem I had with this story. It’s not that it was a bad story—I don’t think I even made a quality judgment in my mind at the time—but that it wasn’t the kind of story this audience (or at least I) was expecting. Escape Pod isn’t known for horror stories, and unless I missed it, we didn’t know we were getting one in this episode. We were warned of the forced sex, but not of the horror. It’s like being given a cake made of tofu; you may enjoy tofu, but if you bite into this, your immediate reaction is confused disgust—not because it’s bad tofu, but because it’s not what you thought it would be.

I think I may have stretched that metaphor a bit too far, but I’m hungry. Sorry. Also deeply sorry if it’s seen as an unflattering comparison, but sometimes I say things without thinking first.



Dem

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Reply #104 on: April 28, 2013, 08:27:22 AM
Well, here's a thing - I never considered this to be horror. Horrific, certainly, but only as a component part of a socially driven SF story where the technology exacerbates and advances what is already a problem in our society.

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


matweller

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Reply #105 on: April 28, 2013, 03:23:28 PM
Well said, Dem. I think that's what I was trying to say earlier. There are horrific elements to the story, but the story didn't contain any of the elements that I normally attribute to horror. There was no big shocking reveal. The story wasn't about the monster at all, he was just a vehicle. It would be like saying Harriet Tubman's story is a horror -- it belittles the journey and ignores the ultimate win.



benjaminjb

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Reply #106 on: April 28, 2013, 03:41:17 PM
I may (or may not) agree with Dem and matweller, but that still leaves a question unanswered: if you say "this isn't horror" you still have to answer "what is this if it's not horror?"

I think one of the main stumbling blocks with readers here with this story on this podcast is that the speculative/world-building aspect leaves many questions unanswered--the sort of questions that many readers here on this podcast want answered. Of course, (a) not every science fiction story is about speculation; and (b) this story is clearly more interested in the MC's choices in the environment rather than just in the environment; and (c) the readers of Escape Pod may be a small subset of science fiction readers.

That said, judging by many of the negative responses that run along the lines of "I don't understand this world, it doesn't seem to make coherent sense," I'd at least entertain the possibility that this story doesn't work very well as science fiction for this audience. (Of course, sf is a fuzzily-bounded set--I like Wittgenstein's "family resemblance" idea to talk about the nebulous cloud of sf material; but I also follow Jim Gunn and Samuel R. Delaney in thinking that there's a set of reading protocols peculiar to sf.)

Which is why, for me, the story seems more like a fairy tale using sf tropes. (The same way we  might speak of Firefly being an sf show using Western tropes--or vice versa if that's what you want to argue.)



Scattercat

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Reply #107 on: April 28, 2013, 04:58:43 PM
I don't think describing this as a horror story is wrong.  Genres are like labels in Gmail; you can add as many as you want to any particular item, and they're all still valid (although the more descriptors you type in your search field, the smaller your returned list).  Also similarly, they are ephemeral, nearly meaningless on their own, and tend to be idiosyncratic to each user, though there are some broad strokes ("Sent," "Trash") that are nearly universal. 

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MCWagner

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Reply #108 on: April 28, 2013, 08:35:03 PM
Because I thought that a conversation about the differences in audience expectation would be interesting. EscapePod listeners are, I think, justified in being upset that a horror story got mixed in because the conventions are notably different whether or not it is also SF. The expectations of a horror audience dictate certain choices in storytelling, that would make them equally dissatisfied if, for instance, the story had a happy-ending.

This is a point you've noted repeatedly: that "it's horror, so it doesn't have a happy ending."  I'm a little puzzled by this in that there are a lot of stories out there commonly categorized as horror which have happy endings.  The Exorcist, for example, ends with Regan free of the Daemon, Amityville Horror with the family escaping, and the typical slasher film ends with the "final girl" triumphing over whichever supernatural or deformed monster did in her friends.  I'm tempted to say that more horror stories have an at least partially "happy" ending than don't, but that would require a larger survey of the field than I could do easily.  Do you not consider these horror stories?
« Last Edit: April 28, 2013, 10:40:49 PM by eytanz »



MCWagner

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Reply #109 on: April 28, 2013, 08:39:57 PM
Now that I've got that out of the way, I have to say that I think the main current disputants--MCWagner and Scattercat--will never convince each other. Unless, possibly, we hold an impromptu rap battle. (I'm sorry, but both your names are clearly calling out for a rap battle.)

Trade secret:  it's just my initials.  But I also have a friend named Darius J. Washington...



Mary Robinette Kowal

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Reply #110 on: April 29, 2013, 01:46:49 AM
It’s like being given a cake made of tofu; you may enjoy tofu, but if you bite into this, your immediate reaction is confused disgust—not because it’s bad tofu, but because it’s not what you thought it would be.
Ha! Yes, that's a perfect metaphor. Also, now I want cake.


This is a point you've noted repeatedly: that "it's horror, so it doesn't have a happy ending."
Please do not put paraphrases in quotes to make it look like I said something I didn't.  I said, "I'd been asked to write for a horror magazine so a happy resolution or justice wasn't an option" and "The expectations of a horror audience dictate certain choices in storytelling, that would make them equally dissatisfied if, for instance, the story had a happy-ending."

The distinction is that your "quote" makes it look like I am saying that horror can never have a happy ending, as opposed to talking about audience expectations of my story in specific. I can see how it is possible to misinterpret that, but still, don't put words in my mouth.

I'm a little puzzled by this in that there are a lot of stories out there commonly categorized as horror which have happy endings.  The Exorcist, for example, ends with Regan free of the Daemon, Amityville Horror with the family escaping, and the typical slasher film ends with the "final girl" triumphing over whichever supernatural or deformed monster did in her friends.  I'm tempted to say that more horror stories have an at least partially "happy" ending than don't, but that would require a larger survey of the field than I could do easily.  Do you not consider these horror stories?

I understand why you are asking, but my answer is complicated by the fact that you are listing films rather than horror short stories. Structurally, they do have different audience expectations. The Amityville Horror for instance, is purported to be based on a true story. Slasher films are their own distinct genre.

The Exorcist is often classified as supernatural suspense, but I think it's horror. I'd argue with you about the happy ending though, but it depends on if we're talking about the film or the novel. Film audiences demand happy endings as a general rule and the film certainly feels like it has a happy ending.. The novel, on the other hand, does not. Yes, Regan is freed from the demonic possession, but both main characters die in the process of freeing her.

That said, the defining factor of horror is that it provokes a strong negative emotion, usually dread, revulsion, or fear.

Most though not all horror stories call for a tragic ending, or a price paid. Joe Hill's novel Heart-Shaped Box is a good example of a happy ending that comes with a price. Even those that allow the hero to triumph, usually carry the threat that the evil will rise again. However, novels and short fiction tend to be different in regard to the ending.

If you grab the latest Year's Best Horror, you'll note that the tendency in short fiction is to end either at the failure point or with the threat of recurring evil. One of the differences between long form and short form fiction, across genres, is in the dismount. In short fiction, one tends to stick the landing at a point of strong emotional impact and cut, whereas in long form, the audience needs a transition to ease them out of the novel.

Technically, my story actually uses the happy ending followed by recurrence of threat. Grete's goal was to find her boyfriend and, once she realized his likely situation, release him from his misery. She succeeds in that, though she pays a price. The last line, structurally, is the threat of recurring evil.

Given the length requirements, and the market that I was writing for, a full happy ending would have been unjustified for this particular story. Novel form... yeah, I probably would have tried to pull off the happy ending epilog. But novels and films are not the same medium as short fiction.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2013, 01:53:48 AM by Mary Robinette Kowal »



JakeEkiss

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Reply #111 on: April 30, 2013, 05:36:29 PM
So, this was the story that catalyzed me enough to comment.

It'd been sitting on my ipod for a while, and I just got to it, and just, man. I echo so many comments already on this thread.

Victim porn. Snuff lit. Etc. It's a powerful story, no doubt. It's powerful. It's well written. It's also needlessly cruel. It reminds me of a statement made by Penn of Penn and Teller, Penn's not my favorite guy, but he made a point once while doing a nail-gun trick that I think relates.

He said that he wanted to assure the audience before hand that what he was doing was a trick, because to imply that there was real peril involved was to make the audience complicit in what, as far as they new, was an act of violence. He felt that this was inherently wrong.

Now, there were no real victims here, just a character in a fictional world, but I feel complicit in something none the less. And I don't feel complicit in a way that makes me think. Class relations, issues of rape and gender inequality, the fact that there are people who can be made to just disappear... Yeah, I had strong opinions on those things, and this story didn't change or enhance them. It just dredged the bottom of my own worst fears and experiences to make me feel awful. It made me complicit, and now I feel like the victim, because I had faith that an author wouldn't take me on this journey without reason. And this isn't some clever metaphor for the protagonist, because she *at no point* is duped by authority, or convention. She walks into the lions gate eyes wide and asks to be eaten. I was duped by my faith in Escape Pod. And the more I think about it, the less I want to listen to other stories here on the site. It makes me not want to recommend the site to to others (as I've often, very often done)So that's the effect of this piece. It makes me want to punish editors and authors just to never have it happen to me again. It makes me want to exercise my agency to say no to this podcast.

The bit about Kaj's... member... the moment the story telegraphed Kaj's fate, along with the warning, that thought popped in my head. I dismissed it as too gratuitous, too vile, too much like something you'd find in rape-porn. And yet, that's where we went.

I don't mind taking the long, dark walk to Mordor. I don't mind us dying when we get there. Just don't tell me we made the trip for nothing. And don't tell me I needed that awful thing rehashed to know it was awful. No. I'm saying no to this.



Bdoomed

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Reply #112 on: April 30, 2013, 06:13:42 PM
Just don't tell me we made the trip for nothing.

We didn't make this trip for nothing.  She saved Kaj.  She lost him, looked for him, knowing what she was getting into, then she made sure she would find him, doing what was necessary within the context of the world she was in, and then she found Kaj.  She found him and she knew she had to set him free, and that's just what she did.  It's a beautiful story surrounded by ugly things, but to not see the beauty and sacrifice in it is to miss the entire story behind it.  When you do that, you are left with nothing but victim porn/snuff lit/what have you.  (which, by the way, snuff lit?  ONE guy dies as a consequence of a bunch of things, I don't see how that is snuff lit at all)

The horror in this story isn't even so unbelievably terrible.  Oedipus kills his father and screws his mother, that's messed up.  Romeo kills himself and Juliet follows close behind, that's messed up, and they're only 16 or so as well!  Other stories use sex/rape as a means to an end as well.  The 300 had Leonidas' wife raped by that traitor in order to gain a political ally, in order to get what she wanted.  That was as much rape as this story, really, minus maybe the traitor didn't have Leonidas' penis.  This story was pretty gruesome, but it really wasn't anything outside of what we've all already seen or heard or read.  Watch Antichrist and then say that this story was even remotely bad.  This story is, at its heart, a tragedy.  It is a tragic love story, gruesome for its world, but the plot itself isn't all that gruesome.  And it's not like there wasn't a warning.

As for rape-porn?  It's only rape-porn/victim-porn/torture-porn if the point of the story is to take some pleasure in the horrible things that are happening.  It is rape-porn when the rape is described in a way so as to be erotic, as if the author would take pleasure from writing it.  I didn't hear any of that.  It would be victim porn for the same reasons.  There was clearly no pleasure in these scenes, no glorifying of the situations, no joy in what was happening.  That is the kind of stuff you find in bad submissions to Pseudopod with simply gratuitous rape, that does nothing to move the story, nothing to develop anything but the "horror" that someone is being raped. 

The horror in this story is not that she throws herself to the lions, it is found as she realizes what happened to her boyfriend, yet deludes herself over and over that it cannot be true, that he must be alive, only to find that yes, he is alive, but now you have to kill him.  That is the horror in this story, that is the tragedy and the love and the beauty all in one.  I thought it was immensely powerful.

That's how I chose to hear this story, at least.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


JakeEkiss

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Reply #113 on: April 30, 2013, 06:25:34 PM
There's this repreated refrain in the defense of the story about self-sacrifice. And I'm sorry, I don't buy it. She literally risks death for the promise of nothing. When she starts to play into Doc's seduction she hasn't firmly made the connection that he is directly responsible for Kaj. No, at the time she meets Doc he's a guy who *might* have information that *could* lead to her *possibly* alive boyfriend. That's three levels of uncertainty in a situation where the most negative outcome is 100% already articulated and known by the protagonist. She already suspects he will only part with the information if she plays into his seduction, and she knows that if Kaj was taken by organ harvesters the likely outcome for both of them is a slow, agonizing death.

I don't see what she does as victory, and the second rape on top of it, no, that's exploitative. I made it through the first scene on the promise of awesome. No, we end on a rape that is used to cover euthanaisia just before torture taht will end in murder... and likely more rape.

I think Shakespeare only ever managed two of those in a single scene.



eytanz

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Reply #114 on: April 30, 2013, 06:58:06 PM
Ok - moderator stepping in here.

JakeEkiss, you have a strong reaction to this story, and that's perfectly ok. You obviously found little positive about it an a lot of negative. But please be respectful of other people's opinions as well, and that means that you should not refer to the views of people who disagree with you as a "defense" of the story. Bdoomed wasn't trying to defend the story, he was giving his own impression of it, and that's just as valid as yours. Please be mindful of that.



JakeEkiss

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Reply #115 on: April 30, 2013, 07:04:41 PM
I'll just bow out then. People have implied on this very thread that those felt one way or another about the story were reading it in a different language, I felt "in defense of" was fairly tame by way of description of a point that has been repeatedly brought up.




Bdoomed

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Reply #116 on: April 30, 2013, 07:08:12 PM
It's not a victory, it's a tragedy.  It is, however, closure for her.  I don't think she much cares what happens to herself after that, she has lost her love and seemingly lost the will to live.  There's no victory here at all, but that shouldn't discount everything else the story had to offer.  But hey, it's all opinion.  EP doesn't run these types of stories all the time, but they are allowed to do so.  I don't think one story you disagree with strongly should influence your overall perception of the entire podcast.  You are, however, entitled to react any way you want to, so long as it doesn't break our one rule while reacting on the forum :P

I think, though, that it would be nearly unbelievable if she were to just walk away after killing Kaj.  It was pretty much necessary to end up where she did.  And it's sad and it's wrong, but it's the reality of the world that she is in.

And no worries, honestly, eytanz and JakeEkiss.  No offense is taken.  I wouldn't say I'm not defending the story, I enjoyed it, as much as I could enjoy something this rough.  And it was rough, it was hard to listen to, and it was gruesome.  There's really no denying that unless you literally get off on that sort of stuff.  I just think that stories like this need to be looked at with more scrutiny than pure hatred for harsh themes.  It's just my opinion, and I wanted to express it.  It also just happened to be in reaction to JakeEkiss' post :P

I was going to say something else but I forget.  Oh well. :)

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


eytanz

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Reply #117 on: April 30, 2013, 07:22:18 PM
I'll just bow out then. People have implied on this very thread that those felt one way or another about the story were reading it in a different language, I felt "in defense of" was fairly tame by way of description of a point that has been repeatedly brought up.

I did not mean to silence you or make you bow out. But as you've noticed, this is a thread where things were getting rather heated, and there has been a need for some discussion to be removed, so now I'm being more careful than I have been earlier.



JakeEkiss

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Reply #118 on: April 30, 2013, 07:48:21 PM
I can appreciate that this conversation has been more touchy than the norm. It's unfortunate that it's the first thread I chose to comment on while simultaneously being the most recent comment you chose to clamp down on. It paints niether of us in a decent light to the other. I didn't intend to be inflammatory, and it is clear I missed the mark.

I apologize for the offense. My feelings on the story are well represented by the others on the thread, and I have no issue with those that feel otherwise.

In retrospect, it's clear I posted because the story got me angry, at the podcast, at the writer, and I wanted a place to unpack that, because I didn't feel like I as a reader had done much to deserve it. But that's a terrible reason to post, and a fantastic reason to find a different outlet for that emotion.



eytanz

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Reply #119 on: April 30, 2013, 07:54:19 PM
Thank you, I appreciate your understanding - but just to make it entirely clear, I didn't feel you caused any offence, I'm just in "once bitten, twice shy" moderating mode right now. I'm sure it's not pleasant to have a mod come down on your second post in the forum, but I do want to stress that I was just pointing out one problematic word choice on your behalf, and I have no issue with the rest of your post which I felt was a perfectly sensible explanation of your view.



benjaminjb

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Reply #120 on: April 30, 2013, 08:53:57 PM
JakeEkiss and Bdoomed, without again getting into discussion about this story, from your last few comments, I think you might enjoy Mur Lafferty's interview of Connie Willis on her podcast "I Should Be Writing," where Willis describes her views on tragedy and comedy (if you haven't already heard it).



matweller

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RKG

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Reply #122 on: May 01, 2013, 09:17:08 PM

I actually meant a full-length short story (possibly amalgamating a bunch of previous stories), but this is a great idea too.

Someone actually did this very early on, and included all of the EP stories that had run up until that point. I forget, it was somewhere in the vicinity of the very first 20-40 stories, and Steve actually read it at the end of an episode. It was fantastic! I have no hope of finding it, but maybe someone else remembers better where it was?

Hey - that was me!   

The story is called EPn+1 and it ran at the end of MetaCast #2  It is a meta-story with characters/pieces of the first 20 or so EP episodes. I think Platypus Girl (#21), might be the latest reference, but I don't remember for sure.

Swamp was even kind enough to start a comment thread for it: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=3259.0

If you listen, the story starts at around 14:40 in the podcast.

Oh - and thanks for the kind words about the story!

rkg  101010


Devoted135

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Reply #123 on: May 02, 2013, 12:54:55 AM

I actually meant a full-length short story (possibly amalgamating a bunch of previous stories), but this is a great idea too.

Someone actually did this very early on, and included all of the EP stories that had run up until that point. I forget, it was somewhere in the vicinity of the very first 20-40 stories, and Steve actually read it at the end of an episode. It was fantastic! I have no hope of finding it, but maybe someone else remembers better where it was?

Hey - that was me!   

The story is called EPn+1 and it ran at the end of MetaCast #2  It is a meta-story with characters/pieces of the first 20 or so EP episodes. I think Platypus Girl (#21), might be the latest reference, but I don't remember for sure.

Swamp was even kind enough to start a comment thread for it: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=3259.0

If you listen, the story starts at around 14:40 in the podcast.

Oh - and thanks for the kind words about the story!


That's awesome! Thanks for the link, and you're welcome. :)



Talia

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Reply #124 on: May 06, 2013, 01:07:30 PM
Well, I FINALLY got around to listening to this story (still way, way behind on all my 'casts..). To say I enjoyed it would be an overstatement, but I did find it well-crafted.  The protagonist is obviously a girl of wits and character, I like to think she'd find a way to pretend to be defeated, then take out Dr. Psychopath when his guard dropped. :)