If Regular Show has anything close to a grand, overarching narrative, it’s Mordecai’s pursuit of his crush Margaret, but this isn’t so much a slow-burning romance as it is Mordecai making the same stupid mistakes over and over again. Of course, it’s a time-honored cartoon tradition that, no matter how insane and seemingly life-altering the events of any individual episode are, the larger status quo never changes, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when Regular Show does it—whether you care about Mordecai getting together with Margaret or not, a character can only go through the same failure so many times before it gets tedious. In fairness, that’s not exactly what Regular Show has done, as Margaret’s relationship with Mordecai has gradually evolved over the last three seasons from oblivious friend to someone who actually seems to reciprocate his feelings, although she's infinitely less tortured by their misfiring sparks than Mordecai is. But the key word here is “gradually,” and if ever there was a time for the show to finally make the leap and progress the pair to an actual relationship, tonight was as good a time as any. As such, “Bad Kiss” ultimately feels like a copout, even if the story is a lot of fun, and, much as I hate to say it, this latest romantic blunder is completely in keeping with Mordecai’s character.
“Bad Kiss” finds Mordecai, Rigby, Margaret, and Eileen returning home for some Morde-Shakes after seeing the new movie Crime Town Diaries. Mordecai and Margaret find themselves alone in the car, and they finally have their first kiss—except the chili dog Mordecai ate earlier (with extra onions!) leaves him with horrible breath, and Margaret recoils. The mortified Mordecai runs to his room, where Rigby offers him a do-over with the $15 time machine—as Rigby helpfully explains, “It was on sale!”—he bought a couple months back, and so Mordecai takes off on a desperate attempt to get his past self to take some breath mints before the moment of romantic reckoning. The past version of Mordecai doesn’t make things at all easy for his present counterpart, seemingly so committed to preserving his bad breath that Rigby is forced to wonder what Margaret even sees in him. Eventually, the version of Mordecai from that morning steals the time machine, and the present versions of Mordecai and Rigby chase him through the background of a bunch of their past misadventures. Multiple versions of Mordecai converge at 11:55 PM, each hoping to be the Mordecai that gets the big kiss, but when the big moment arrives again, “our” Mordecai decides it’s better to just find his wallet and leave the kiss for some other day.
As Rigby alludes to, Mordecai clearly doesn’t have the foggiest idea what he’s doing when it comes to romance. He combs his hair but doesn’t brush his teeth—“Bad Kiss” makes it clear that, as far as Mordecai is concerned, it can only be one or the other—and he even cockily observes that combing his hair is what the ladies like, just to underscore that he isn’t even thinking of the possibility of actually kissing said ladies. On top of that, he actively refuses to take mouthwash or breath mints when his future self tries to force him to, and, worst of all, he eats an extra onions chili dog off the ground after Rigby violently sabotages the food truck. He may be obsessed, but he’s clearly not thinking this through. Honestly, Margaret’s reaction as Mordecai runs away from the car makes it clear that his bad breath isn’t a deal-breaker; if anything, Margaret probably feels bad for unintentionally being rude. It obviously wouldn’t be Regular Show if Mordecai stays in the present and talks things out with Margaret—goodness, that sounds boring—but the fact that he doesn’t even consider the possibility speaks volumes about who he is. That point becomes crystal clear at the end of the episode, when he chickens out at his second chance and leaves Margaret feeling a little foolish for trying to kiss him. Mordecai has always been defined by his cowardice when it comes to Margaret, but if he’s the hero of this story (as opposed to just being the protagonist, I guess), he’s got to overcome that fear eventually. What makes his cowardice more difficult to take this time around is that he did actually go for it earlier in the episode, and he still ultimately decides to undo his greatest breakthrough. It’s frustrating storytelling, but it’s painfully in keeping with the story of a young man (or young blue jay, whatever) stuck in perpetual adolescence.
Beyond getting inside Mordecai’s head, “Bad Kiss” offers more straightforward fun with the time travel shenanigans. The episode sets up Mordecai and Rigby’s trip back to the movie theater with the pair’s initial exchange about whether Rigby was talking during Crime Town. Considering the time constraints of telling a complete story in 11 minutes, it probably wasn’t possible for the writers to start the story earlier and show more foreshadowing of the pair’s time travelling, so just this one nice touch will have to do. Still, that might be just as well, as “Bad Kiss” plays gleefully fast and loose with the rules of time travel. While the movie theater sequence seems like a case where the time travel itself helps create the past the characters remember—in other words, past Mordecai experienced future Rigby trying to give him breath mints before the pair decided to start time traveling—whereas the big chase through time with multiple versions of Mordecai sure seems like a case of changing the past through time travel (the chili dog truck and the breakfast at Margaret’s coffee shop could go either way). Of course, it would be beyond ridiculous to complain about inconsistent time travel mechanics in Regular Show—honestly, I can’t even imagine a sillier thing for me to get pedantic about—and any discrepancies are really just the result of the writers trying to tell the funniest, most entertaining story possible.
On those points, “Bad Kiss” does well for itself. Regular Show doesn’t generally makes me laugh that much—like Adventure Time, I’d say it’s more pleasingly weird than especially hilarious—but this episode gets in a bunch of great lines. With Mordecai more than capable of sabotaging his situation all by himself, Rigby is relieved of his usual screw-up duties and instead moves into the role of helpful wisecracker. He’s constantly in search of good deals on cheap time machines (“Yeah, I saved three bucks with a double order!”), able to offer helpful advice on why past Mordecai can operate the time machine (“Well, I guess he’s smarter than you somehow”), and deliverer of the most hilariously brutal line of the night when Mordecai tells him he at last kissed Margaret: “Whoa… I owe Muscle Man so much money.” Throw in the giddily frenetic pace of flitting from past Mordecai to past Mordecai and the simple pleasures of seeing the characters run through the background of old episodes, and “Bad Kiss” is overall a very solid 11 minutes. I wish it could have ended differently—but then, since this is Mordecai we’re talking about, I’m not sure it could have.
- Between this and Gravity Falls’ “The Time Traveler’s Pig,” we only need one more animated show to feature the main characters using a time machine to undo a romantic mistake and chasing each other through the events of past episodes to have a full-blown trend on our hands.
- “I gotta get out of this place. I gotta get out of… Crime Town!” With sparkling dialogue like that, Crime Town Diaries better win all the Oscars, as far as I’m concerned.
- Rigby and Mordecai’s plan to get their past selves to eat more at the diner really was hideously poor, even by their standards.
- Words to live by from past Mordecai: “Just stop trying to block my lip lock!”