“Pie Contest” S4 / E4
- B+ Community Grade
“Pie Contest” is a back-to-basics episode for Regular Show. After the apocalyptic face-off of “Exit 9B,” the Muscle Man showcase of “Starter Pack,” and the spooky, non-canonical fun of “Terror Tales Of The Park II,” it’s high time that the show return its focus to Mordecai and Rigby just doing their whole Mordecai and Rigby thing. “Pie Contest” features a screw-up entirely of their own creation, with only a relatively minor assist from a demonic talking pie. The story is more straightforwardly allegorical, even moralistic, than other recent Regular Show entries. While the show almost always plays upon the foibles of young adulthood, other episodes this season have simply used that as a jumping-off point for whatever craziness the writers can dream up. But this week, the hellish monster isn’t just a random tangent—he’s a random tangent that can only be defeated in a thematically appropriate way.
The episode finds Mordecai and Rigby muscling their way into Benson’s usual gig at the annual Pie Contest, as they beg him to let them be the judges. They assume it’s the easiest, coolest job imaginable, but they quickly realize they will be forced to tell their friends (and their enemies) just how awful most of their pies really are. Mordecai briefly considers doing the right thing and just telling everyone the truth, but Rigby, of course, is having none of that. He first suggests giving everybody perfect scores, and then he convinces Mordecai to put their trust in a talking pie with a deeply disturbing voice who may or may not be some kind of hellish demon. Oh, who am I kidding? There’s zero doubt that the talking pie is a hellish demon.
Mordecai and Rigby’s fundamental flaws are on display in this episode—in particular, it feels like it’s been awhile since Rigby ruined everything through his boundless immaturity, so it’s nice to see that return with a vengeance. At least Rigby has learned some lessons in the arts of persuasion. After all, his idea to give everyone perfect scores already seems pretty genius, but the fact that he punctuates every sentence with a bunch of snaps and the occasional “boom”? There’s really no way a young dude like Mordecai is going to be able to resist such sound argumentation. “Pie Contest” makes nice use of montage to give us a sense of the pair’s mental state both at their highest and lowest. For instance, it’s a good detail that Mordecai and Rigby apparently want to be judges not so that they can stuff their mouths with free pie, but because it will impress their peers, especially the ladies. Most shows would probably play up the whole free food angle, but it feels way more authentic for a pair of twentysomethings to be thinking about coolness first, with food a close but definite second.
“Pie Contest” also offers some fun insight into Benson. The final scene highlights a terrific detail about Benson’s relationship with his two worst employees—he desperately wants to fire them, but he apparently can only fire them if they fail to meet specific predetermined objectives. After all, Mordecai and Rigby may have technically judged the pie contest, but not before large-scale property destruction and widespread traumatizing of the attendees. And yet, while that surely must be grounds for firing the pair, Benson is checkmated because the pair finished their assigned task, and Benson accepts with relative equanimity that their logic is airtight. Of course, he immediately recovers and says they will be fired if they don’t clean up all the debris, but that only amplifies the underlying ridiculousness of the deals he makes with Mordecai and Rigby. He can enjoy making them squirm—a particularly great touch is his explanation that cleanup duties really just require him to eat a bunch of pies, something Mordecai and Rigby apparently never realized—but he remains weirdly limited in his ability to get rid of them.
The show’s depiction of the talking pie is maybe the perfect exemplar of the Regular Show aesthetic. Not only is the pie’s voice deeply, deeply silly, it’s obviously supplied by series creator J.G. Quinzel, who just uses a more ridiculous version of his speaking voice, which he already uses to voice Mordecai. Regular Show has featured its fair share of heavy-hitting guest voices in villainous roles—there’s been Tim Curry as a talking hot dog and Kurtwood Smith as an enemy vending machine, and that’s just off the top of my head—but the show is also perfectly willing to reuse its voice cast in ways that are, well, a bit stupid. It’s impossible to take Quinzel’s performance as the pie seriously on any level. Mordecai and Rigby actually acknowledge how off-putting the pie’s speaking voice is, which makes for a good deadpan gag, but it runs deeper than that. The fact that the pie is so obviously Mordecai (or his nearest human equivalent) putting on a silly voice is a nice reminder of Regular Show’s lo-fi side, that this show is just as much made by a bunch of young adult slackers as it is about a bunch of young adult slackers. Of course, the show wouldn’t get made if that were actually, literally true, but it adds an extra, meta level of humor to the pie’s scenes.
If there’s one potential misstep in all this, it’s the fact that we never learn the consequences of Mordecai and Rigby’s life-saving honesty. The obvious question mark here revolves around Margaret—just how does she feel after Mordecai rips her work to shreds? While the ending feels even more abrupt than the typical Regular Show entry, on balance I’m not sure whether this really is a narrative miscue. After all, while Regular Show has some inter-episode continuity, it’s not serialized in the sense that what happens between Mordecai and Margaret here is ever likely to be referenced again. Whether Margaret storms off in a huff or respects Mordecai even more for his honesty, they’re likely to be on the same old, decently good terms the next time we encounter them together. If this was a half-hour show, “Pie Contest” could have built a quick joke wheel around Margaret, Muscle Man, Skips, and any of the other contestants passing by Mordecai and Rigby and offering one-liner reactions to let them know how they feel. But when time is at such a premium in the 11-minute format, it’s best to just focus on Mordecai and Rigby’s journey. The key takeaway here is that they matured enough—at least temporarily—to live up to their responsibilities and defeat the giant demon pie. How their friends feel about their actions is territory worth exploring, but still essentially superfluous.
By Regular Show standards, “Pie Contest” is a fairly normal outing—and yes, that’s including the giant demon pie—but it’s the perfect illustration of how much mileage the show can get out of its core characters and its observational humor about the challenges of youthful slackerdom. More than most episodes, “Pie Contest” trusts Mordecai and Rigby—with not insignificant help from Benson—to carry the episode, and they prove themselves more than up to the task. They’re terrible pie judges, but they’re pretty damn fine protagonists.
- The pie contest offers another opportunity for a cavalcade of callbacks and cameos. I imagine this could start feeling a bit self-indulgent if the show does this too often, but so far it’s been nicely integrated into the main action.
- It’s a great detail that Benson lets Mordecai and Rigby judge the contest after they jump onto the roof of the golf cart and almost injure themselves. It’s weird that Benson would think at all about their physical well-being, considering the deadly, injurious scraps they get into on a weekly basis.
- So, anyone miss Thomas? Me neither. I don’t have anything against the guy, but his absence wasn’t exactly keenly felt.