As I mentioned last week, when I worked for General Electric the employees in my department were a diverse lot. We had a Brazilian woman who handled our South American orders in Spanish and Portuguese, and a German woman who had the upbeat personality and poise of Heidi Klum. From the Brazilian, I learned the catch-all greeting/assent “tudo bem,” which I heard from her cubicle about 100 times a day. From the German, I learned that Hershey’s chocolate sucks, and that despite their historical reputation, German folks are pretty chill.
In tonight’s “Lust In Translation” though, Ted learns the opposite lesson. When a German delegation arrives at Veridian to find out about the company’s multi-language translator, Ted is instantly smitten with Greta, a hot blonde in a tight business suit who says things like, “You and I do it I hope? The coming-together?” and “Eat me?” (To which Ted replies, “Let’s go to dinner. I’m going to teach you the word ‘with.’”) Greta and her cohorts are impressed with the translator, but they don’t care for the giant robot voice that Lem and Phil have programmed into it, which tends to suck the charm out of greetings like, “HELLO, I AM YOUR FRIEND! DO NOT BE AFRAID!” But Ted doesn’t care for the replacement voice—Phil’s—especially when Greta insists that she and Ted use their translators on dates, and during sex.
Y’know, when Better Off Ted debuted, some pre-judged it as an Office clone with a twist of Arrested Development, and yeah, there have been times when the subject matter of an episode—sexual harassment, excessive overtime—could’ve been a plot-driver on nearly any other workplace sitcom. (Though I’ve always felt that BoT has put its own spin on even the blandest premise.) But I’m sorry, the multi-language translator? With the voice of a nebbishy scientist? Strapped to the torsos of the users? While they’re trying to make out? That’s a great, great gag—visually and audibly—and it’s the kind of thing you’re only going to see on Better Off Ted right now. The A-story of “Lust In Translation” alone earned this episode an “A” from me. Heck, the episode could’ve garnered an “A” just for the moment where Ted mutters “yay” quietly and uncertainly into the translator and then half-a-beat later we hear Phil’s voice say “yay.” Comedy. Gold.
But I actually thought the B-story of “Lust In Translation” was a winner too, even though it didn’t get a lot of screen time. In response to Ted’s request that they purge the lab of overtly evil devices prior to the Germans' arrival, Phil and Lem have the revelation that just about everything they work on has evil applications. Even the invention that helps shed unwanted pounds also, well, kills. Lem is shaken to the core when he sees just what they’ve been up to all these years, but Phil’s response is to let out a loud, echoing “Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!” Then he confesses, “I always laugh like that when I face an unpleasant truth. That’s why I got thrown out of that Al Gore movie.”
Even the C-story tonight wasn’t bad, though it actually was the kind of thing you might see on The Office. Veronica discovers the abandoned workspace that a stressed-out Linda has commandeered to play the new game she invented: LindaBagel, which involves whipping bagels into an air vent. Veronica becomes obsessed with beating Linda at LindaBagel, because she has to be the best at everything. (The only thing she’s not good at? Bragging. Although she could be if she wanted to.)
Mainly the C-story worked because it tied back into that beautiful, beautiful A-story. Veronica has to beat Linda—and Linda can’t let her win—because of hubris. And Ted’s convinced he can have sex with a non-English-speaking business prospect and still close the deal because of hubris. (“This’ll all work out. It’s me!”) In the end though, Ted fumbles the ball, because he can’t have sex with a woman who sounds like Phil, and Greta can’t make a deal with a man who doesn’t respect her as more than just a sex partner. “You were much promising,” Greta laments. “But not true.”
-“This isn’t a library. You can’t just leave your trash wherever you want.”
-“Some might see this long-range people-skinning laser as evil… ish.”
-“A furor in Germany! A furor that will storm across Europe, crushing… no.”
-“I not wish to die from Ted’s underboot.”
-“Chick throws a bagel like the horse is still attached. That works better for horseshoes.”
-“Sex can screw things up. Why do you think The Three Stooges went through so many Curlys?” (Incidentally, the Stooges gag at the end of the episode was the perfect capper to this instant classic episode.)
-All hail Queen Linda, The Dainty-Foot.
-Veronica refers to Phil and Lem as “Glasses and Mustache,” though Ted quickly reminds her that “Glasses and Mustache are the same person.”
-Another great running gag this episode had Phil sniping at Lem for his habit of spoiling movies. When Phil speculates what an “evil bagel” might be like, he wonders if “halfway down it triples in size, or tells you the end of Rocky IV.”
-And finally… The talking frying pan screamed a lot and was very critical. Screw you, frying pan.
-Only three more Teds to go, though only one of those has been scheduled at present. (And I won’t be here next week to write it up; my better half will be filling in.)