The ending of this week’s Episodes came around where most sitcoms’ first act would end. There’s been a crazy, potentially very dramatic misunderstanding that could have plot repercussions. Merc tried to set up a secret getaway with his mistress Carol; in response to his “out of town on business” lie, his wife Jamie tries to set up a getaway with her new secret squeeze, Matt LeBlanc. But—ruh-roh! —they both used the same travel agent! So she thinks they’re both talking about the same trip!
That sounds like the set-up for a bunch of farcical antics, but it takes “Episode 5” some 25 minutes just to get to the end of the setup, and by then, the episode’s over. There’s something admirable about plotting things so lightly and expecting us to enjoy ourselves—for sure, this episode is no better or worse than most of this show’s output, even though it’s light on laughs and thin on story. There is one potentially significant development, though, and it’s a positive one from a character perspective.
Carol has long been one of Episodes’ chief strengths, one of the few characters who didn’t seem like an outright caricature to begin with. The biggest strike against her was her affair with Merc. Not because he’s her jerk boss, since that dynamic is plausible enough. But because he’s such a cartoon character, it makes less and less sense that she’d be so love-struck by him. As a power dynamic, their relationship makes sense; as something for Carol to bitch about like a high schooler spurned by her crush, it was getting ridiculous.
By the end of the episode, she’s decided to end things once and for all. Merc’s attempt to do something for the fifth anniversary of their affair almost salvages things, but the travel agent screw-up is the last straw, and Carol tells Beverly she’s through (although, amusingly, she allows that she may be full of shit on that point). At least that’ll give Episodes a new plot point to hit on for the second half of season two, because it had gotten impossible to watch Carol pine for Merc (a jerk) because he’s cheating on his wife Jamie (a non-entity of a character who’s having an affair anyway).
I did like the contrast drawn between Merc, who verbally abuses the poor travel agent (played by the wonderful Jamie Denbo) and Jamie, who tells her the screw-up is not her fault. But that’s about all I liked from this plot. Mostly, it’s like I said before—the set-up for an episode, stretched out over a whole episode, with very little to show for itself by the end.
On the Pucks side of things, we got a very light storyline that once again felt like it would have been searing television satire in 1991. Morning calls in sick to work, and thinking that she’s protesting her reduced role, Sean pays her a visit. But no, she’s just had botched plastic surgery and there’s a giant goiter on the side of her mouth (or, as Matt says, “is she storing nuts for the winter?”). Botched plastic surgery! Oh, what will these writers think of next?
It’s such a thin plot that there’s some serious padding. Morning gives Sean a blowjob at one point, a cheap gross-out joke with no other relevance to anything; then we get an extended montage of the Pucks crew trying to shoot around her cheek and basically failing. There’s no resolution—maybe she’ll be sporting a swollen cheek for the rest of the season, if it’s really going to take two months to heal. Probably not, though. I’m sure there’ll be some other extravagant Hollywood behavior to spoof next week.
- Matt, like Dev Patel in The Newsroom, believes in Bigfoot. “There's too much evidence for it just to be a hoax.”
- There’s also the introduction of Matt’s stalker Labia, a young woman who I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of, given her insane backstory (she’s a make-a-wish foundation kid who didn’t die of cancer and ended up having sex with Matt when she came of age).
- Matt’s ex-wife feels free to verbally abuse him while driving her kids around. “They're watching Spongebob Fuckface.”