My Name Is Earl 4.24 “Gospel”
As My Name Is Earl comes close to, perhaps, ending its four-season run, it gave us this spiritual throwback to earlier seasons, when the plots may not have been as intricate as they grew to be over the show’s evolution, but relied enough on character work to make everything seem like it’s working hard for your money. A “hick show” this isn’t, but one based on a quite varied concept of spirituality and faith, without any of those religious implications that get in the way of what really matters – being a good person.
After meeting a preacher at a local fair, Earl decides to take on #34 on his list – stole an organ from a church. Why? He and Randy completely misunderstood the concept of “selling organs on the black market.” Whatever. To make up for it, they bring the organ back to the church, and Earl learns more of the preacher – he was once known as Hash Brown, a violent, short-tempered gangbanger who found God while in prison. Oh, and one more thing – Earl has done more than one unkarmic thing to this preacher. First, he stole his tool kit while Hash Brown was a construction worker, and to add insult to injury, Earl knocked over the port-a-potty Hash Brown was using. The preacher is a forgiving man, though, and simply asks that Earl and Randy attend the church’s next service.
At the service, the preacher and his congregation forgive the Hickeys, and then moved by the spirit confess transgressions of their own. This is fine, until the preacher’s wife stands up and declares that she slept with Earl with Hash Brown was in prison. (At the time, Earl had realized that picking up women outside of jail was a great idea.) The preacher, in turn, reverts back into Hash Brown and beats the shit out of Earl, grabs some valuable items from his lectern and goes out to his truck, declaring that God owes him ten years of missed income from Hash Brown’s business of selling crack. Earl, struggling to save the situation, notices that Hash Brown’s truck has a busted taillight. In fact, Earl had once tried to have Randy catch a bullet as a magic trick, a bullet that went through Randy’s hand and broke the truck’s taillight. Fortunately, this busted taillight got Hash Brown pulled over by the police so many years earlier, which in turn led to his incarceration and reawakening. No harm, no foul, and the preacher understands it as divine intervention.
In the B-story, Joy had become so drunk at the church fair on wine in Dixie cups that Darnell won’t let her drive him, so she wanders around Camden until she comes across a sit-down lawnmower. Now drunkenly driving quite slow around the neighborhood, she sees Catalina and runs her down, jealous of all the prizes she won at the fair that Joy wanted for herself. Realizing that she has two strikes and can’t get in trouble again (sort of the focal point for season 2’s court case that put Earl in jail), she drives the unconscious Catalina to a shed and pins her against the wall, figuring out what to do so that Catalina doesn’t call the cops.
“That psychic was right – I am going to die in a shack, pinned to the all by a lawnmower.” – Catalina
When Joy comes back the next day, she has Darnell in tow. Usually the voice of reason, Darnell can think of no other solution but to kill Catalina, and just as he is about to slash her throat (as Joy’s husband, this is in some ways the most reasonable solution), Joy knocks him out with a swift shovel blow to the head. Moved by Joy’s own intervention, Catalina promises to keep her mouth shut.
While not a great episode, I’ve always been drawn to the stories where one of Earl’s transgressions turns into several, and like an episode of a Larry David show, the decks get stacked so high against Earl that it’s fun to watch him flail.
The Office 5.23 “Broke”
Despite having taken a good deal of business away from Dunder Mifflin, the Michael Scott Paper Company (MSPC) seems to be approaching bankruptcy, thanks in no small part of Michael’s ignorance of how much it costs to expand a business beyond three employees who do all their early-morning deliveries by themselves in a van bought from a Korean church. (And as the logo is still on the side of the van, so every once in a while a Korean member of the Scranton community will hope on board.) By the way, what does Pam discover is Michael’s drink every morning? Milk and sugar. Nothing more. (Lufthansaaaaaa…)
“Ever since I’ve gotten clean, something about fresh 5 a.m. air makes me sick.” – Ryan
The important thing, however, is that Minor and Wallace at Dunder Mifflin don’t realize how close MSPC is to going belly-up, and as a result decide that it’s probably the best idea to simply buy them out. As Minor is starting to realize that Dwight, while possessing the best intentions, is a complete embarrassment through and through, he lets Jim go down to MSPC to propose a buy-out meeting.
Pam is especially excited for the deal to go through, because she has noticed that, on her quest to get some weekend work, she can’t even get call-backs from the likes of Old Navy, Target and Walmart. She and Ryan convince Michael to go through with it, as well as to do the best he can not to bring up the company’s financial situation. After all, she can’t really blame him for his failure:
“When a child gets behind the wheel of a car and runs into a tree, you don’t blame the child. He didn’t know any better. You blame the 30-year-old woman who got in the passenger seat and said, “Drive, kid. I trust you.’” – Pam
Upstairs at Dunder Mifflin, Michael stands up and gets Minor and Wallace to increase their offer from $12,000 all the way to $60,000, and in a moment of complete loyalty, Michael demands that all three members of the MSPC be allowed to work at Dunder Mifflin again. And this time, Pam is to be a salesperson.
(This is even despite Dwight’s warning that the company is, in fact, going under, as he has discovered that the MSPC made a round of calls to their clients asking for more money. However, Jim frustrates Dwight so much in front of Minor that Dwight ended up looking like an idiot.)
I’m not really sure why Wallace agrees to all the terms, but it definitely avoids a headache down the line. Michael had made a good speech moments earlier that even if the MSPC fails, he’ll just start another paper company, and then another, then another, so I guess that even if Michael is clearly a terrible businessman, his determination is enough to cause Corporate some discomfort.
A very forceful, very triumphant episode that more than makes up for a few lags over the last few episodes, as it proves that the show is completely incapable of spinning its wheels anymore. Comedy is one thing, but story is another.
Other funny bits:
- “Come along, afterthought.” – Dwight
- “Well well well…how the turntables…[pause]…” – Michael
Parks and Recreation 1.3 “The Reporter”
This episode was Parks & Recreations foray into having a plot, which was fine and all because plots are generally good things to have, but this one never really got any momentum behind it. (The first two episodes of this show I’d consider pretty plotless, and yet both moved toward some kind of denouement that actually, I felt, went somewhere.) In an attempt to drum up publicity for her pit-into-park project, Leslie sets up an interview with a reporter. Naturally, because everyone involved in this project but Ann (and maybe Mark Brandanawicz at times) is an idiot, they say things during the interview that they probably shouldn’t have said, like Chris Pratt’s revelation that he was drunk and searching for a toaster when he fell into the pit and broke his legs. I had kind of assumed that, but apparently Ann didn’t and now there exists a tape recording of his admitting to drunkenness which he didn’t tell the hospital when they gave him anesthesia in the ER.
Leslie asks Mark to ameliorate the situation and charm reporter Shauna into writing a more positive article than the interview would lead her to. So Mark sleeps with her, which completely destroys Leslie when she realizes what has happened. Shauna quotes something Mark said to her about the park never, ever, ever going to come to fruition and Leslie asks him to get her not to write that, but she does anyway when he tells her that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with her. The article remains mostly negative.
I guess my issue with this plot is that I find Leslie’s obsession with Mark too based in insane delusion than actual affection to care what he does one way or the other. I’m sure this has something to do with the way Poehler plays Leslie as perpetually optimistic, even to her determent, but in cases like this one, it’s really difficult to connect to Leslie’s feelings. She comes off as completely insane rather than completely human. (Husband Note: To be fair, Michael’s obsession with boss Jan over on The Office was also based primarily in insane delusion, but ultimately led to something much, much bigger.) I did, however, think her automatic response to Shauna sleeping with Mark was pretty great though, as she takes a breather from the interview to go lay down inside her government-issued vehicle, which in some way reiterates a theme her about bureaucracy being a way Leslie protects herself from being wholly human. It was also amusing.
Anyway, things that were very funny in this largely blank episode were:
- Raccoons, which are never unfunny. They’re nature’s bandits.
- A third joke about the brutal slaughter of Native Americans, this one a mural featuring a chief about to be shot by a cannon at close range. And yes, the fact that I find these jokes so funny does inherently disturb me. Who the fuck am I?
- Tom Haverford’s approach to making his boss like him by intentionally losing at Scrabble. How badly does he play? With enough tiles to play FISHING for a bingo, Tom just plays his S next to an open I for a two-point play of IS. Man, I love Scrabble jokes!
30 Rock 3.19 “The Ones”
In this week’s A-story, Elisa returns, but doesn’t want to marry Jack because of her terrible secret. That secret? Her first husband cheated on her and she killed him, which became a pretty inescapable fact once a pop song was written about her, making her just like Helo Pinhiero, the Girl from Ipanema . . . if the girl from Ipanema were a murderess. Liz advises Jack that if she loves Elisa, he just shouldn’t cheat on her and marry her anyway. After all, Jack says, “right now, somebody is on a J-date with Monica Lewinski,” proving that even those with sordid pasts deserve love and forgiveness. But ultimately, Elisa doesn’t want to marry Jack and they break up.
The B- and C-stories were also about love and finding “The One” or not pissing off “The One” after you’ve found them. When an accident causes an LCD screen to fall on an employee’s head, Jenna meets and falls for a cute EMT, but his phone number gets eaten by the patient before Jenna can return. She pines for him in song like a Disney princess, and Pete asks her what she would do if she met a man at a funeral and wanted to see him again. Jenna proves she’s a sociopath by saying that, obviously, she would murder the deceased’s relative to see if the mystery man would come to that funeral, followed by a few other unnecessary murders. And so she goes on a near-death rampage, repeatedly poisoning Kenneth with strawberries (which make him go into anaphylactic shock) in order to see the cute paramedic again. The staff eventually tricks Jenna into think she’s killed Kenneth to get her to stop, but when Kenneth realizes why she was poisoning him, he drinks the potentially lethal strawberry water one last time to help Jenna meet the man of her dreams. Only when she does, she finds out he has a son, which means he definitely can’t be the one. Because Jenna hates children.
As for Tracy, he can’t decide what to get his wife for their anniversary, so Liz suggests that rather than buying her meaningless gifts, he just ask her what she wants. And what does Angie want? Tracy to tattoo her name and image on his stomach, which is problematic because his signature move to get the ladies to want him is to lift up his shirt. DotCom suggests that Tracy get the tattoo, but simply draw a mane and add a few letters to it in Sharpie when he goes out so that it appears to be a lion named Tangiers.
“DotCom, that’s a great idea . . . if you want everyone to think I own a gay lion!” – Tracy
Tracy takes Jack out to help him decide not to cheat on Elisa and although they are surrounded by beautiful groupies, Tracy reveals his secret that he has never, ever cheated on his wife. The partying is all for show, but he loves and fears Angie too much to ever betray her. “All those phone numbers I hand out?” he says, “They’re not even mine.” They’re actually Brian Williams’, who, when called, will ask a booty call to come to Connecticut. I love Brian Williams. That dude is such a good sport. So Tracy does get that tattoo for Angie . . . only he gets it on his back . . . and it’s the tattoo of Tangiers, the gay lion. Oops.
Liz returned to her role as the bastion of normalcy in the wacky world of 30 Rock, even though she spent this entire episode wearing a Slanket, which seems infinitely cooler than a Snuggie, and comes in more colors!
- “She is very spirited. Like a showhorse.” – The Cartier salesclerk, on Liz when he thinks Jack is buying a ring for her before revealing the real showroom when he sees a picture of Elisa
- “You are wise, Liz Lemon. Like a genetically manipulated shark.” – Tracy
- “I still think that would have sold much better if he had shot me in the face.” – Jenna, on the album she cut with Phil Spector
- Liz: What do you want me to say, Tracy? I’m sorry I made it harder for you to cheat on your wife?
Tracy: That’s a start, Liz Lemon. That’s a start.
- “Could the hats have feathers? Yes! Yes!” – The Pranksmen
- “I heard you singing, ‘Night Cheese.'” – Jack
- “Eventually, it makes me loco for chocopuffs.” – Elisa, still not totally great at English advertising slogans, especially since she just spent two months away speaking no English whatsoever
And my favorite totally weird-ass reference of the night, from Kenneth, as he chokes on a strawberry:
“Oh no! Strawberries! My real name is Dick Whitman!”
If only Jon Hamm were around for that moment . . . I get why 30 Rock would make a Mad Men joke as both are critically acclaimed shows that don’t get the kind of ratings they deserve, and Jon Hamm did, in fact, guest on the show for awhile. But why Elisa has a Battlestar Galactica tee-shirt, I have no idea.