May 172020

“Escape from the Dungeon!”, aired September 26, 2010

Bored to Death is an American comedy TV series (IMDB) about Jonathan Ames, a struggling writer who moonlights as an “unlicensed private detective”.

In “Escape from the Dungeon!” (S02E01), Jonathan meets Drake, a mounted NYPD officer, who needs his name removed from the hard drive of the BDSM dungeon he frequents before it is raided by the police. He says the dungeon is involved in money laundering, not that it will be raided for sex work charges.

Mistress Florence (Kristen Johnson) is not impressed with Jonathan

Jonathan pries into what Drake does at the dungeon. 

Drake: “Well, you ever hear of forced feminization?”

Jonathan: “Yes.”

Drake: “Yeah, Well, that’s what I got. You know, when I was eight years old, my older sister and a couple of her friends, they dressed me up in a girl scout uniform. You know, the little skirt, panties, lipstick, the whole nine yards. They said that I was a pretty little girl, and, uh, it did something to me.”

Note that Drake says he has “got” forced feminization, like it’s a medical or psychiatric condition, not that he “does” forced feminization. Also, he attributes his desires to an outside, childhood influence. The story actually sound like a classic forced fem erotic story, which makes Drake unreliable as a source. 

Jonathan: “You know, I tried on my mother’s panties when I was 15, and I liked it, but it didn’t stick. I just did it the one time.”

Drake: “Well, you’re lucky because with me it stuck. I mean, I have to do it once a month or so. It’s like I’m ovulating. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it also suffocates me. It presses down on me.”

Later, Drake talks about quitting his kink after this, like it is an addiction.

At the dungeon, Jonathan enters as a client and meets with Mistress Florence (Kristen Johnston). Just as with Drake, Jonathan regresses into a childish mode, babbling trivia.

Florence: “We can start with some basic, beginner play. Once the session starts, you are to call me Mistress Florence.”

Jonathan: “Really? Florence is my mother’s name.”

Florence: “Oh, you’re an infantilist. I’ll go get some diapers.”

Jonathan: “No no no, no diapers. I just thought I’d mention it. You know, it’s just a coincidence. There’s not that many Florences. There’s Florence Nightingale, Florence a city in Italy, which actually is Florenze–”

Florence: “Stop talking! I’m going to go get changed, and when I come back, I want you naked and lying face down with your ass in the air.”

While the Mistress is changing, Jonathan sneaks into her office and wipes her hard drive. Florence discovers him. 

Jonathan: “Just thought we could roleplay hide and seek. Like I did with my mom. You know, my first Mistress Florence.”

Florence: “I’m the one who dictates what goes on in our sessions, you little castrato piece of shit.”

Florence doesn’t notice what she’s done, and instead drags him back into her dungeon. 

Mistress Florence (Johnson) is not great at respecting safewords from Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman)

She beats Jonathan, who wears a full body leather suit and hood, padlocked on, 

Jonathan: “Eunuch! Eunuch! Eunuch!”

Florence: [stops] “What? I couldn’t hear you.”

Jonathan: “I said ‘Eunuch’. You’re supposed to hear a person’s safety word.”

Florence: “I’m sorry. Let’s take a break anyway. My arm’s getting tired.”

They chat a bit. When Jonathan mentions he’s a writer and a teacher,  offers to do a barter of a free session in exchange for him reading her manuscript. 

Florence (Johnson) offers quid pro quo if Jonathan (Schwartzman) reviews her manuscript

Florence: [re her clients] “Everyone’s in so much pain.” 

This is when the police raid the dungeon. Florence gets up to see what’s happening, as does Jonathan, which reveals he’s wearing underwear beneath the open butt of the leather suit. There’s the usual scene of people in bizarre costumes and bondage contraptions as the police for their way in. 

Jonathan flees the dungeon, and has to run through Manhattan in a full leather suit and hood to get help. 

This resembles the ending of One Night at McCool’s, in which the submissive male is forced to appear in public while wearing fetish wear. At least in this case, the man isn’t killed. 

There’s no narrative resolution to any of these plotlines. This is a comedy, so it doesn’t matter if Mistress Florence is irresponsible as a dominant, or Officer Drake is not very enlightened about his kink. 

The whole point of this story is male insecurity. Jonathan is wracked by anxiety after the rejection of his second novel, and being in a position of responsibility towards his students. Before he goes to the dungeon, he reveals his emotional masochism when he shoots down his girlfriend’s attempts to build his self-esteem. At the end, she agrees she is the best thing in his life. When Mistress Florence wants Jonathan to review her manuscript, he is immediately uncomfortable with the reversal in power dynamics. To be a success at anything, to have responsibility, is frightening. 

In a parallel plot line, Jonathan’s friend Ray agrees to go to yoga with his girlfriend, but passive-aggressively complains about it. When she breaks up with him, he descends into a deep depression.

These two man-children sabotage themselves. Ironically, it’s Officer Drake who may have the healthiest attitude, indulging in his kinks for relief and then going back to his job and family.


Jonathan has another brush with kink in episode S02E07, “Escape from the Castle!” His student Nina (an adult, thankfully) aggressively initiates a schoolgirl-teacher spanking fantasy with Jonathan in their empty, late night classroom. He attempts to set the scene with dialog, but she just lays across his lap immediately and tells him not to break character. The scene is interrupted by the school custodian who needs to lock up. This is another example of Jonathan’s discomfort with even the semblance of authority.

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