“The Real Bicycle Thief” S2 / E2
- B+ Community Grade
So NTSF:SD:SUV:: pulled a fast one, and switched the broadcast order of the episodes this season. Instead of an episodes exploring Alphonse’s backstory in Alaska, we got Trent infiltrating a gang of Swedish pedicab drivers (or do people call them bikers?) who rob restaurants to send food back to Sweden to prevent famine. It’s a well-worn police investigation trope, but since NTSF is so outlandishly goofy, we’ll refer to it as “The Point Break” for now.
Compared to last week’s premiere, “The Real Bicycle Thief” is overflowing with highly recognizable guest stars. The leader of the Doggie Bag Crü—I’m assuming the umlaut is how they would spell their name, since they’re Swedish, I don’t care if that’s more of a German thing—is Alan Tudyk, who puts on a completely unbelievable Swedish accent that nonetheless earns laughs for ridiculousness. His right hand man is Jake Johnson from New Girl, still doing that thing where he gets to yell his observations—“Who washes a towel!”—yet somehow reliably still making that funny. Brie Larson plays the cute bartender at Club Virtua, the Swedes’ trendy club hangout. Damon Wayans Jr. unfortunately gets the short shrift in a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo role as a Swedish furniture store employee that doesn’t really use his comedic talent. Those last two are more the “Look, it’s someone I recognize!” type of guest roles, but Tudyk and Johnson have some great funny moments.
Trent follows the Point Break path almost exactly. He earns Sven’s trust through a biking video game, complete with projection headgear and pedals (dare I call the game 8-bit graphic style?) in an appropriately farcical display of gung-ho adrenaline. The plot progresses to a point where Trent grows too close to Sven and his colleagues don’t know if he’s switched his allegiance, you know, like always happens when the cop hangs out too much with the thief having too much fun with a silly accent. Jake Johnson’s character suspects Trent is a cop basically from the beginning, and as the voice of reason questions how easily Sven decides to throw all caution to the wind and accept Trent into his inner circle of friends, no matter the consequences. It’s a great sendup of just how much reason action films have to ignore in order to make this kind of trope work.
Also hilarious was the sequence leading up to the final reveal. First, Tudyk’s Sven changes the time of the heist form night to midafternoon, that cliché wrench in the carefully laid plans of the law enforcement to try and ensnare the criminals. But it doesn’t really matter, since once the Doggie Bag Crü breaks into the same restaurant they pilfered at the beginning of the episode, every single member of the gang besides Sven reveals himself to be an undercover agent. There’s FBI, Interpol, mall security, and even Jake Johnson is an undercover San Diego police officer, though that doesn’t convince Trent, who just ignores Johnson’s pleas and puts a bullet in him anyway.
And the musical sequences, the glorious non sequitur musical sequences. Tudyk is one of my favorite character actors (and he almost single handedly makes A Knight’s Tale a worthwhile lazy Sunday movie on cable), and to see him and Scheer passionately lip-synch a duet about their crumbling partnership is hysterical. If you’ve never gotten the chance to see Point Break Live, this is about the right level of star-crossed bad boy hilarity for a rise-and-fall friendship like this one.
There’s even a little bit of a Tropic Thunder meta-narrative going through the episode with the rest of the team back in the NTSF headquarters. Kove doesn’t like looking at black and white security footage, so she commissions incredibly expensive reenactments in full color with comedy television production values. When Trent and Sven meet their tragic demise, the camera pulls back to reveal it’s all another Kove production, albeit one that’s not good enough to get into Sundance. But no matter, they’ll just take it to SXSW. Questioning the choice of Swedish people as the villains, the ridiculous video game, and the food thievery is inconsequential. When it all adds up to this many laughs in so few minutes, I don’t really want to question why it all works so well.
- Scheer wrote this episode, which may explain a bit of why it’s of a higher quality. Though I still graded it the same as the premiere, this is just a smidge closer to an A, but without most of the regular cast.
- The one big problem I have with the show is that it’s really wasting Martin Starr. The guy can deliver a joke or a one-liner, give him something to work with!
- Explaining the Cop Of The Year newspaper was a great scene between Scheer, Johnson, and Tudyk as they all danced around the obvious implications of that find.
- “We are the spokes that turn the wheels of life that pushes the chassis that is Sweden. And to pedal, we need food.”