- “Yeah man, I'm a ghost! Boo, motherfucker!”
- — Church
Private Leonard L. Church is a main character in Red vs. Blue. Voiced by Burnie Burns, co-creator and main writer of the series. He is the de facto leader of the Blood Gulch Blue Team, a group of soldiers engaged in a war simulation against the Red Team, and the Freelancer AI Epsilon. Rooster Teeth often uses Church, who has an irate disposition, to advance the plot by managing the situation at hand, this in a way makes Church the main protagonist of Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles and co-lead character in Reconstruction with Agent Washington. To provide a twist in character development, Burns decided to kill Church early in the series and to return as a ghost. However, this posed filming and post-production challenges for the creators. The series is filmed by capturing video from computer and video games; Church has been filmed in four different games representing the three different eras of the story. In chapter 16 of Reconstruction, he is revealed to be the Alpha AI by Agent Washington. At the end of chapter 19 of Reconstruction, he is finally revealed to be based upon the personality of the former Director of Project Freelancer, Dr. Leonard Church.
Church first appears in Episode 1, spying on the Red Team with his teammate, Tucker. The series establishes Church's disposition quickly; annoyed with Tucker's questions about the Red Team, he responds, "You know what? I fucking hate you." As Donut, the Red Team's new recruit arrives, they meet their own rookie, Caboose, and their new tank. When they first meet, Church becomes annoyed with Caboose for his nonstop talking, but this is only the start of this when Caboose calls his girlfriend a cow, and sends him to guard the flag. When Donut arrives on a fool's errand, Church thinks he is Caboose and tells him to go inside, thus leading to Dount taking the Blue Team's flag in Episode 4. Church proceeds to chase him. As he and Tucker catch up with Donut, they are ambushed by Simmons and Grif in the Warthog, and are forced to take shelter behind a boulder. When Caboose arrives with Sheila, they are scared off, however, Caboose, the Blue Team rookie, loses control of Sheila, the Blue Team's tank, and accidentally kills Church. Church reappears as a ghost in Episode 10 to warn his teammates about Tex, the freelancer hired by Vic, who killed all of his fellow Blues in Sidewinder (including Privates Jimmy and Mickey) before fading away. Tex retrieves the Blue flag in Episode 12 but is captured by the Reds. Church reappears and explains that Tex is his former girlfriend, now under the control of an evil, psychotic artificial intelligence. He rescues Tex in Episode 14 by possessing Sarge, though he is shot in the head by Caboose who was trying to 'help'. He then has a brief conversation with Sarge in the 'afterlife'. In an attempt to slow Tex's progress so that he can remove the AI from her head, he attempts to warn the Reds of Tex's second attack by possessing the Reds' Spanish-speaking robot, Lopez, in the season finale of Episode 19. However, he is unable to warn them because he can only speak Spanish. He fails, and Tex dies at Donut's hands, and he runs over to her, and is thanked for removing the AI.
In Season 2, set three months later, Church is still attempting to adjust to his stolen robot body. Eventually, however, he loses control when the body is damaged so he leaves it, to see if Lopez will repair himself. At the end of Episode 29, Tex (as a ghost) takes control of Lopez's body. She uses it as a bargaining chip to convince Church to help her destroy her evil AI, O'Malley. O'Malley had possessed Caboose just before her death. When the team learns of this, Church and Tex remove him from Caboose's mind. In the process, O'Malley escapes into a medic named Doc. Using a captured Donut as leverage, Church forces Sarge, the Red Team leader to build permanent robot bodies for Tex and himself. However, Sarge installs a bomb inside Church's body. It explodes in Episode 43 and sends all the characters into the future except Church, who is sent into the distant past. In Episode 50 and Episode 51, Church travels to his recent past and attempt to prevent the events of the first two seasons. The situation is revealed as a predestination paradox, in which he causes not only the events of the first and second seasons, but also the death of his former captain, Captain Butch Flowers. Eventually, Church manages to break the time loop and to travel forward in time to join the other characters.
Later in Season 3, Church and the Blues meet Andy, a talking, sentient bomb built by Tex. Church attempts to learn more about a prophecy from a computer, Gary, that he first encountered in the distant past. Episode 57, the last of Season 3, ends as Church, unaware that a creature is approaching him, responds to Gary's knock-knock joke with, "Who's there?" Episode 58 reveals that Church has been scared out of his body. After recovering his body, Church meets the Alien and learns about his quest, which involves Tucker's sword. After his teammates leave to help the Alien in his quest, Church returns to Blood Gulch in Episode 68. He saves Simmons from execution by Sarge, assuming leadership over him. Church takes the Red Team's jeep before Simmons returns to the Reds. In Episode 71, Church accidentally contacts Vic Jr. (Burns) via radio. This new character scoffs at the mention of Blue Command; as the episode ends, he says that he has much to tell, but the information is not revealed to the viewer.
After Tucker, Caboose, and Andy return to Blood Gulch in Episode 73, Tucker becomes ill for an unknown reason, and Church calls Doc for help. In Episode 76, Doc reveals that Tucker is pregnant, but Church refuses to believe him until he learns from Andy that the Alien impregnated Tucker with a parasitic embryo. Church then returns to the Blue Base to help Tucker. When the ship that Blue Command sends to Blood Gulch crashes, he claims it as his own, threatening the Reds with Sheila. However, Sheila abruptly leaves, forcing Church to abandon the ship.In Episode 80 Church meets Junior for the first time, and quickly says that he should be killed. Believing the Reds may have reinforcements or weapons on the ship, he unsuccessfully attempts to contact Vic Jr.
Some time after, however, Grif brings over Sister who was the new recruit on the Red team, explaining that she is actually a Blue, and Church accepts her as part of the Blue team. Following this, Church, with Caboose and a newly-returned Tex in tow, attempts to fix Sheila by rebooting her; when turning her back on proves to be impossible, he makes the decision to move her into the ship.
While moving Sheila into the ship, Vic contacts Church and orders them to kill the Reds. Church sends Doc, Sister, and Junior through the caves as per the orders, and he infiltrates Red Base with Tex and Tucker. After a brief search of the base, they find it empty. Tex is contacted by Caboose and, after an unheard conversation, points her gun at Church demanding that O'Malley not move. Church quickly learns that Caboose and Sheila identified O'Malley as inside the Blue leader, which cannot be him as he was never officially promoted. He then accurately guesses that the real host of O'Malley is a revived Captain Butch Flowers.
In Reconstruction, he first appears in an abandoned base, where he has been attempting to hide from Caboose. (In fact, he tries to snipe Caboose as soon as he sees him.) Although he is not interested in joining Washington at first,when he learns that O'Malley is involved and Tex's ship has been located, he reluctantly joins Washington and Caboose. He seems to have gotten used to working alongside Wash; however, he is still extremely displeased about having to be in the same team with Caboose again. In Chapter 11, he finally reveals to Washington that he is a ghost (he had been forced to go back into Caboose's mind earlier on while Simmons was distracting Wash). In Chapter 16 of Reconstruction, it is revealed he is the Alpha AI, a secret even he didn't know about. He refuses to believe this, pointing out to Wash he still believes himself to be 'a motherfuckin' ghost'. At the end of chapter 19, it is revealed that he was modeled and named after the Head of Project Freelancer, and was caught in an EMP blast meant to wipe out all of the AIs present.
Burnie Burns confirmed in an interview that Alpha Church died in the EMP. However, in chapter 14 of Recreation Caboose installed Epsilon into a monitor and Epsilon used the memories it had of Church to recreate him in the form of Epsilon Church.
Many of Church's kills are the result of the time loop. He also tried to kill Donut and Caboose with his sniper rifle many times but he would often miss. He killed his captain Butch Flowers and he nearly killed Tucker with a rocket launcher. And he indirectly killed himself by messing with Sheila's programming.
From the outset, Rooster Teeth establishes that Church is often angry. Burns has said that, in this way, Church was modeled after Gustavo Sorola, who voices the character Simmons; at the time, Sorola was frustrated with his job. To emphasize this trait, Caboose, for whom Rooster Teeth did not have a plan originally, was basically "a catalyst for getting Church pissed off." When Church and Tex explore Caboose's mind as ghosts, Caboose's mental image of Church, Leonard, is portrayed as over-the-top, vulgar, and Caboose's best friend. During season 1, Rooster Teeth made a conscious decision to reduce vulgarity in Red vs. Blue, partly inspired by Homestar Runner and partly in response to requests to make the videos not safe for work/safe for work. However, response to this change was worse, and Leonard's excessive vulgarity was Rooster Teeth's response to criticism that they had eliminated too much foul language. In the audio commentary for the season 4 DVD, Rooster Teeth has noted, however, that they had portrayed Church as less angry in later episodes.
Church is emotionally and socially distant from the rest of the Blues, with the exception of Tex. Church apparently still loves her, though he is loath to admit it when both Tucker and Gary accuse him of such. In Season 3, he apologized to her for not being a better man. He often expresses contempt for both Caboose and (especially) Tucker, but was also quite concerned when Tucker was injured in Season 2, and fell ill in Season 5. He also expressed great sorrow when Caboose was killed by Wyoming in Episode 98; Burnie Burns explains this as genuine sadness, although Matt Hullum notes it may be because Church never killed Caboose himself.
One of Church's most telling characteristics is how he can take command of whatever group he's in. Although not a captain as he would like everyone to think, when Church gives out orders to the rest of his team they will follow it as shown in episodes 14, 37, 77 & 94. However, as pointed out before Church is the same rank as the rest of his team (with the exception of Tex who is a freelancer), something that Tucker makes a point of reminding him. Also at the end of season three of the Blood Gulch Chronicles Church he managed to get every one in Blood Gulch to agree to work together. In the new series Red vs Blue Reconstruction instead of being the sole leader Church is now sort of co-leading with Agent Washington as both give out orders during combat as shown in chapters 6, 8 & 11 so far.
Church often wields a sniper rifle, but mainly for observation purposes, since he is a very poor shot, a fact which has been demonstrated on numerous occasions. He has had only 2 successful shots during the span of the series with the rifle: The first was shooting Wyoming in the crotch in Episode 98, much to his surprise and delight; however, technically this shot didn't happen due to a time-loop caused by Wyoming; the other time, the bullet ricocheted off several structures, miraculously wounding the Meta. He was also able to shoot off Caboose's pinky toe from a distance with a pistol.
Church's ability to aim deserves a special note, as it is possibly a hint at the true inner workings of his mind. Frequently, Church is a terrible shot, with no real excuse for his lack of skill, save for lack of practice (In episode 74 of Blood Gulch Chronicles he claims that someone must be fucking with the sights while he isn't looking). He has missed Caboose on numerous occasions, and Donut during the time-loops, even when they were standing perfectly still, and only a relatively short distance away. While some fans may believe that he hasn't shot Caboose because he liked him, they forget that every Valentine's Day Church would try killing Caboose by ripping his heart out (see "You Had Me at Halo"). He also failed to hit a Freelancer Project guard with multiple pistol shots at close range during his and Washington's infiltration of the Freelancer command in Reconstruction 15. In contrast, Church has been able to make a few incredible shots, the most noteworthy being his missile assault on the Meta. Despite targeting an incredibly agile foe (as proven by Wash's duel in the Zanzibar power plant) and taking only a moment to aim, Church's shot not only was dead on, but it was clearly a perfectly centered head shot. Proof, perhaps, that when the situation calls for it, Church can rise to the occasion. In the Old Annoyance Be Forgot special he proves capable of hitting three tiny Christmas baubles hanging on the Reds' tree from a considerable distance away. Also, in the Fight, Fight! alternate ending to the Blood Gulch chronicles, although non-canon, he not only kills Sarge with a sniper shot after the latter taunts him about Tex's death, but kills Simmons with a perfect headshot after he unwittingly does the same, perhaps indicating that Church can make these kinds of shot if he is angry enough.
Being dead has sparked a number of developments in Church's character. At first, it only added to Church's irate personality. Church even once remarked "I can't believe I died for this war". Though his abilities as a ghost have proven useful, Church has no intention of remaining a ghost and merely focuses on maintaining his possession of his new robot body. Due to his long possession of his body, Church seems to forget that he's dead sometimes, often expressing acts of fear or self-preservation in dangerous situations as though he still had a life to lose. In Season 3, Church finally forgave Sheila for killing him, as he accidentally caused it by turning Sheila's Friendly Fire Protocol off, but becomes annoyed again when she apologizes for enjoying it so much.
In the commentary for season 1 DVD, Burns recalls that he decided to have Church killed in episode 8 because he thought that having a dead character return as a ghost would give that character more personality. Writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Wilma Jandoc stated that this turn of events made it apparent that Red vs. Blue was no "normal army story." However, this plot twist made filming more difficult. To achieve the transparency effect, Rooster Teeth filmed the scene once with Church and once without him. The video from the two takes was then dissolved together. However, this process caused other characters in the scene to appear transparent as well. To correct this, they had to be edited back in as fully opaque at the end. Sometimes, Rooster Teeth forgot to shoot the second take before moving to the next scene. As it was nearly impossible to return to the exact camera position, this required the entire scene to be filmed twice more. Another complication was that dissolution worked poorly against certain backgrounds. A fan soon pointed out that Poor Camo could be used. For the robot that Caboose implants Epsilon into, the players simply entered the Forge aspect of Halo 3 Multiplayer and used the Forge 'sentinel' as the Epsilon-Church.
When Burns decided to have Church possess other characters as a ghost, he debated whether he should attempt to sound like the character, or have the other character's voice actor attempt to sound like Church. When the possession occurs in Episode 14, he found that having Hullum tweak his Southern accent normally used for Sarge was too complicated and thus attempted to sound like Sarge during the possession. On the other hand, he found that attempting to mimic Donut's voice result in a voice too similar to the one used for Vic; as such, when he had Church possess Donut in Episode 37, he merely used Church's voice.
Other Rooster Teeth personnel have commented that some sound effects that Burns made while voicing Church were noticeably exaggerated. In commenting on Episode 6, Geoff Ramsey, who voices the character Grif, noted the heavy breathing that Church makes while running. Another sound that Rooster Teeth noted was a grunt made while jumping off a ledge in Episode 33.
- Church always seems to miss every shot with his sniper rifle unless he's lucky or by accident.
- This is lampshaded in the Halo 3 Launch P.S.A. as Church claims a bug is causing him to miss every sniper shot he sends at Grif. Sarge tells him he's just a bad shot and proceeds to pop Grif with a single round.
- For some unknown reason, Church is afraid of sickness. This is revealed in season 4 when Tucker was "sick" and Church was too afraid to go in to blue base and find out what was wrong with Tucker instead being content with sending in Andy instead, despite the fact that he was ghost in a robots body, or at least a ghost as far as he knew at the time.
- Out of all the characters in The Blood Gulch Chronicles, apart from Tex, Church seems to know the most about the freelancer program. He knew that command was putting A.I.s into agents' heads and heard of Washington going insane. No one else in the series seems to be even aware that the freelancers have A.I.s or armor enhancements. It is most likely that Church had heard rumors about it before Tex told him about the armor enhancements. Church seems to have known and even met some of the other freelancers such as Wyoming and New York.This may be because he is the Alpha, a copy of the former Freelancer Program Director.
- While Church's mind was revealed to be an A.I., the body he possessed before Caboose killed him was biological, as Tucker claims it stunk; who's body this originally belonged to was unknown until Season 14, where it was revealed to have belonged to a soldier named Private Jimmy, who had the Alpha A.I. implanted into him by Captain Flowers.
- Church is one of the series’ few "smart" characters and is probably even above average intelligence (Although he is the Alpha AI, as revealed in Reconstruction, so it isn't surprising that he is). This may explain why he is annoyed so often at the stupidity with the idiots he must deal with though he will find just about any good reason to dislike someone.
- One possible reason that Church and Tex broke up may be because of unfaithfulness. Church once mentioned to Tucker that Tex would often steal his money and sleep with other men. Also, in a P.S.A for new year's resolutions, for resolution recommendations for Tex one reads; "She meant nothing to me." and; "How many times do we have to have this argument?"
- If deleted scenes are counted, then Church has died 13 times.
- Burns, et al., 2006, Audio Commentary, episode 76.
- Burns, et al., 2003, Audio Commentary, episode 18.
- Burns, et al., 2003.
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- Burns, et al., 2003, Audio Commentary, episode 4.
- Burns, et al., 2003, Audio Commentary, episode 16.
- Burns, et al., 2004, Audio Commentary, episode 33.
- Episode 98 commentary
- Burns, et al., 2003, Audio Commentary, episode 8.
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