SLANG: "Helo Plot"

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

One of the phrases we toss around here a lot at Republibot is the "Helo Plot," but since its meaning isn't immediately apparent to the casual observer it seemed only fair that we explain it.

In the first season of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, the character "Helo" was living on cylon-occupied Caprica, running around on his own, cut off from the fleet, hiding from the bad guys (rather unsuccessfully). Most of the action took place on the Galactica or in the fleet, but for thirteen episodes, we'd also get between one and five minutes of "Meanwhile back at the ranch" footage involving "Helo" running around in the woods, sleeping in abandoned barns, making toast (Literally) and having sex with his super-hot Cylon girlfriend. All of this seemed rather irrelevant, but it provided a nice visual contrast to the claustrophobia of the shipboard scenes, and ultimately it tied back in with the rest of the series when Starbuck ended up back on Caprica.

Then the two of them ran a more elaborate "Meanwhile, back at the ranch" plot for about six episodes, then went to rejoin the fleet.

More recently, on Dollhouse, the same actor - Tahmoh Penikett - played an FBI agent named "Paul Ballard." Ballard was trying to prove the Dollhouse existed and track it down. Most of the action on the series took place in the dollhouse, or following Echo around on her assignments, but for twelve weeks we'd also get about five minutes per week of Ballard running around by himself doing detective stuff. Ultimately this tied in with the rest of the series when he finally impregnates the place, and ends up going to work for them.

Hence the same actor who played 'Helo' on Galactica played a character who was on a 'helo plot' in his very next show. It's only natural we'd name this kind of narative structure after him, right? It's so much easier to say and type than "Meanwhile back at the ranch."

But Tahmoh Penikett is by no means the only example of this. FBI agent ellison from T2.5 spent pretty much the whole of season 2 on a "Helo Plot" that only intersected with the main plot at the start and end of the series. The oldest son from "Malcolm in the Middle" spent the entire run of that show on a "Helo Plot" that only tied in with the rest of the show once or twice a year. It's an increasingly used structure.

So: Definitions time: What is a "Helo Plot?"

A Helo Plot is when you've got a character who's off on his own adventures that don't intersect with the main narative of the show for an extended period of time, but that character is in every episode of the show.

"Michael" in the second season of Lost would *not* be a Helo Plot because he's actually absent for about 20 consecutive episodes, we don't actually *See* him while he's running around looking for Walt.

Get it? IT's easy!

Helo Plot: Learn it. Live it. Love it.

Tags: