My Name Is Earl 4.26 “Inside Probe, Pt. 2”
A continuation of last week’s Geraldo probe into what caused the disappearance of Ernie Belcher, owner of Ernie’s Crab Shack, we as viewers are pretty much left with the second half of the episode instead of a full story. Which is fine. Just give us next week’s finale and end your fourth season on a high note, and I will continue to hope that you get a fifth season, despite the idiots who misunderstand the show as “just a redneck show” in the vein of Blue Collar Comedy Tour (it isn’t) and pray for its quick death.
So what happened to Ernie Belcher? Despite Randy’s forced confession, the Hickeys had an alibi thanks to a NASCAR champion (whose word counts for three average American citizens), so Geraldo has to “stick his probe even more inside” to find out the truth. But what does he discover but a nearly town-wide belief that aliens were involved in the night of his disappearance, thanks to a series of blinding white lights that lit up the sky that night and confused all of Camden’s creatures, gay and whore. But what caused this confusion?
But lo, there’s another element to the case, and it was the episode’s saving grace. Apparently, Camden County (which we find out, finally, is located in the Central Time Zone) was hesitant to take either side during the Civil War, and instead chose to become its own individual country and fight for the Central Cause, which demanded both the North’s industrial progress and the South’s reliance on slavery. Jefferson Washington Hickey, Earl’s ancestor, even created a Central flag, but, unfortunately, the Central Cause was eliminated on the same day as its creation as soldiers from both the North and the South shot Jefferson Washington Hickey to death in an outhouse.
But, you see, Ernie was a patriot, and still kept the Central flag flying above his business year-after-year, and tasked Darnell with taking it down each night. But on the night Ernie disappeared, Darnell went up to the roof only to find a vandal trying to steal the Central flag, and after some hand-to-hand combat, accidentally knocked the flagpole into the electric pole, which in turn produced a great amount of sparks and explosions across town. It also shut off the power, which is what did Ernie in. You see, he was in the newly remodeled bathroom downstairs, changing a tape in the wall connected to his hidden bathroom cams (he produced some fetish videos, btw), but when the power went off, he fell back into the wet concrete and sank into it, leaving only a nose to stick out of the floor. How did nobody notice this nose before? They all just thought it was a nose-shaped doorstop.
I think the image of the nose is funny enough to make up for the rest of this fairly unfunny two-parter. Otherwise, let’s just finish up the season with style and grace.
The Office 5.25 “Café Disco”
If I was just going to judge this episode based on the first five minutes, I would have called this an unfortunate return to non-plot silliness that sometimes works with The Office, but most of the time is just kind of a waste of talent and 30 minutes of my time. Now that Michael’s back as boss, he has returned to his old tricks of trying to unite his employees to have a good time, which as usual is met with blank stares. This time, it’s that he has turned the Michael Scott Paper Company office (as he still has the lease) into a Café Disco where people can drink java and dance their cares away. But the people of Dunder Mifflin would rather work, and so we’re left with another episode of people hating Michael.
But by the end, something very nice happens, as small factions of employees make their way down to have a good time (except for Phyllis, who throws out her back almost immediately), and learns, once and for all, how strong they are as a group. Almost as if acting as a series finale, everybody ends up in a very good, very happy place (even Phyllis), made even better by the fact that the party, in turn, reminds Jim and Pam that they and their friends deserve an actual wedding, and not just Jim and Pam driving to Ohio to get a non-waiting-period marriage license. Even Angela is a blast, despite her proclamation that she doesn’t agree with music and what it does to people.
I don’t really know what the deal with this episode was, or why it made me feel so good after making me feel so disappointed, but I’m glad that this show continues to surprise me.
Parks & Recreation 1.5 “The Banquet”
“The Banquet” was a mixed bag for me, but a some of it was trying too hard or coming too close to certain clichés, yet, as far as plotting is concerned, it was pretty entertaining to watch. Even if the jokes fall flat or hackneyed, Parks & Rec is amusing when there’s an element of plot to it, otherwise it’s just nothing.
Here, Leslie’s mom, Marlene, is being honored with a local government award and Leslie wants to use her time at the banquet to not only honor her mother, whom she clearly admires and imitates, but to drum up a little bit of buzz for her pit project. Unfortunately, in her attempt to follow in the footsteps of other stars of local government, Leslie gets her hair done at a men’s barber shop and turns up at the banquet looking like a tiny Trump. Also, everyone at the banquet thinks she’s a lesbian because she brings a pink-clad femmy Ann as her plus-one, in an attempt at a joke that I think could have been done without. It was so obvious from Leslie’s ridiculous hair that lesbian jokes would arise and, thus, none of them were funny.
Or maybe they weren’t funny because we’ve moved past a moment in our culture in which we can identify someone’s sexuality just by looking at them. At least, I’d like to think we have. But what the fuck do I know, since I live in a state with a giant gay population and we still can’t let them get married. (Thanks for rubbing that in our faces, Maine and Iowa.)
It also wasn’t funny that Ann was overdressed. But the lesbian hair jokes and the dress were the biggest clichés about the episode, so I guess it’s good they got them out of the way at the beginning.
Anyway, at the banquet, Leslie sees the zoning chairwoman and wants to get on her good side, but doesn’t know how. When she finally gets up the courage to talk to her after “buttering her up” with some odd sentiments in her speech about Marlene (and after a strange nose-holding conversation with Mark and Ann that was funny by way of being totally, completely weird), chairwoman Janine suggests Leslie call her secretary and set up something for the next month. Leslie is proud of this, because she’s generally clueless, but her mother, the Iron Bleepedy Bleep of Pawnee, tells her that a call to a secretary is basically a diss and suggests her daughter blackmail the chairwoman to get an earlier appointment. So Marlene tells her that Janine’s husband got a DUI out of state last month, information that Leslie unsuccessfully uses to leverage a meeting with Janine, which gets a drink thrown in her face before she scurries off apologetically.
Some funny bits:
- Tom and Mark’s date with girls in real estate post-banquet, because I think working in real estate has to be exactly that uninteresting. (“Sometimes, I forget to bring my keys when I show a house.” “Oh, yeah, that’s the worst because you have to drive all the way back and get them and then be all like, ‘Oh, I forgot my keys!’ Hehe!”)
- Clearly, the joke about the slaughter of a settler when he tried to sell the Native Americans a baby and all of the things they used his mutilated corpse for. (“That’s the great thing about Indians back then. They used every part of the pioneer.”)
- Ron Swanson’s speech of facts about Marlene. (“So, Marlene, it is true that you have won this award.”)
- “Thank you, Tony, for those inspiring twitches and blinks.”
- “It’s fun to pretend to be zoning board members.” – Mark
30 Rock 3.21 “Mamma Mia”
By far, my least favorite 30 Rock of season. And it’s probably because it relied so heavily on borrowing and not entirely subverting the plot of one of my least favorite things in the world, Mamma Mia. (Although I enjoy that Liz is obsessed with it because it’s a good example of how she straddles the line between a smart, snarky singleton and a sad, lonely middle-aged woman bordering on being Cathy from the comic strip Cathy. I mean, that did print that thing she said in the paper, “Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Aak!”)
Plot #1: Jack has three potential fathers, so Liz suggests they “Mamma Mia” the situation and invent a fake contest for Jack’s potential fathers to win so he can meet them and figure out which one is his real dad. The winners are a Korean guy, a dude whose genitalia were destroyed in the war (“It’s like a bowl of Spaghetti-Os down there”) and one seemingly-normal college professor who turns out to be a bleeding heart Jewish liberal.
“I will not be spoken to this way! I am a contest winner!” – Milton Green
Of course, after arguing with Milton, Jack realizes that he must be Milton’s son because family is supposed to be that aggravating. When Jack reveals this to Milton, he is thrilled to have a son because he needs a kidney.
Plot #2: One of Tracy’s illegitimate children found him three years ago and has been asking him for money. His experience with this additional child in his life is what prompts him to encourage Jack to find his dad, but Liz and Pete are sure that bastard son Donald is scamming Tracy . . . in part because neither of them are very good at telling how old black people are. (Liz thinks Samuel L. Jackson is 33, and is surprised, as I was, to hear that he was 61. Dude looks good for 61.) Barring acquiring Donald’s birth certificate, they try to devise some tests to determine whether or not he is scamming Tracy, one of which is having him spar with Lutz to see if his alleged Dojo is real. (It is, because Donald is wicked good at karate.) Because Cerie is pretty, she is able to get Donald’s birth certificate, which proves he’s actually one year older than 39-year-old Tracy. When Liz presents Tracy with this information, he says he already knows and that when Donald first started scamming him, he was a low-life but, with Tracy’s help, he’s actually turned his life around and become a small-business owner.
I liked the twist on Tracy’s plot a lot, actually, because it was so completely different than what we’ve come to expect from Tracy Jordan. Unlike the “I need a kidney” reveal, which was neither clever nor funny.
Plot #3: Unrelated to notions of family, Jenna’s “That’s a dealbreaker, ladies!” Millionaire Matchmaker-esque sketch becomes a catchphrase-wielding hit and gets her named Funniest Woman in New York. Liz, however, is jealous and wants to share credit because she writes that sketch with Jenna. (Or, technically, the entire sketch, while Jenna just texts her gay friends.) She demands that she be allowed to do the photoshoot with Jenna, and spends most of the time looking awkward while Jenna looks hot. Then the photographer brings out the prop box, which Jenna warned Liz not to use because the photographer will always choose a shot of a celebrity looking like an idiot for the cover while holding a rubber chicken rather than choosing a shot in which the celebrity actually looks good. Desperate for credit, Liz offers to hold the rubber chicken when it’s thrown at her, and quickly becomes the star of the photoshoot for her complete lack of vanity, eventually ousting Jenna from the cover entirely when the photographer chooses Liz’s “birthing the chicken on the toilet while wearing a Grouch Marx nose-and-mustache” shot for the cover.
While the Liz-and-Jenna plot was nice in that we all know Tina Fey is very hot and she deserves magazine covers, whether or not she’s birthing a rubber chicken on the toilet, I feel like desiring credit and loving the limelight are a little out-of-character for Liz. But that said, I appreciate an actress without vanity, and I’m glad that Tina Fey is totally willing to do ridiculous shit with rubber chickens for laughs. Can she make a movie with Anna Faris? That’d be killer.
All in all, a middling episode, devoid of 30 Rock’s usual madcap humor, non-sequiturs and the other stuff I love.
Little bits of funny:
- Donald sucking on lollies.
- The Tracy Jordan Institute for Black Karate.
- “Are you not telling me something, Jack? Let me guess. You bought a motorcycle with a sidecar, but your dog won’t stay on it?” – Tracy
- I’m glad that Liz’s knowledge of Italian American culture comes from Mario Brothers.