NTSF:SD:SUV:: is acutely aware of just how over-reliant our society is on modern technology. Smart phones, iPads, GPS, computers, and other devices are everywhere —but ubiquitous among a certain insular part of the population that talks to itself through these devices. They are so ever-present that people get distracted while driving, walking, and hanging out face-to-face with other people. It makes perfect sense to take this dependency to its logical extreme, as the Prairie Dog King—an underground madman and former owner of a brick-and-mortar bookstore chain—conspires to set off “dirty bombs” that render all modern technology useless.
In response to the crisis, the team is divided into three parts. Last week, I thought this stretched the team too thin, but this week the division made more sense because it didn’t try to give equal time to everyone. Sam and Jessie go undercover, infiltrating the Prairie Dog King’s gang in order to resolve the plot and restore power to modern technology; Piper and Alphonse learn to cope without their electronics while hanging out with Kove, and Trent keeps getting lost further and further away from San Diego in multiple runners. One thread is devoted to plot, one to theme, and one as a continuous running joke for punctuation—that’s a structure streamlined for success.
Of those three I laughed most at Piper, Alphonse, and Kove. Piper’s discovery that Alphonse is black, and Alphonse’s discover that Piper is a woman, are delightfully outlandish examples of how focused we are on our screens and all the bits of information we can gather with smart phones. Kove is the only one seemingly pleased by the reversion to older technology, showing her team how to use a normal phone (Jessie calls it a “cell phone” and Piper tries to talk to it like Siri) and how to interact with another person face-to-face.
Trent’s increasing disbelief at how much San Diego has changed stays funny as he drives through Tijuana, Saskatchewan, and finally to New York, where he breaks down in Charlton Heston circa-Planet Of The Apes fashion, believing that the Statue Of Liberty has moved to San Diego. It’s a good sign that the show can push its supposed protagonist to the fringes as a runner for an entire episode and still generate laughs.
A surreal show like NTSF largely ignores continuity, so the fact that the characters never really seem engrossed by technology and talk to each other constantly in past episodes doesn’t factor in here. It’s all in service of the larger point that people devoted to their little screens who don’t take the time to go outside deserve to be mocked incessantly. Now if you’ll excuse me, it has been unseasonably warm this week in Chicago, and the temperature is supposed to drop considerably by the weekend, so I’m going for a walk.
- Aziz Ansari has the big cameo this week, as “The Toucher,” a guy who charges up his powers of foresight by rubbing the shoulders of 12-year-old autistic child. Yeah, that’s much creepier than anything Tom Haverford has ever done.
- My favorite moment of Piper misunderstanding normal physical items was probably how she tried to “swipe” the pages of the map book, which she then threw on the ground in frustration.
- Kove, on selecting Jessie for the undercover mission: “Plus you already look like a homeless drifter so you’ll fit right in.”
- “Not 2-D, how will Scorsese establish depth?”
- “No, no, no, I missed a Groupon for sheet rock?”
- “I know San Diego like TNT knows drama.”