After a string of weak episodes, “Do Or Diaper” is an emphatic return to form for Regular Show, although I suspect its impact may be somewhat muted for those who don’t care about the relationship at this episode’s crux. And, to be honest, it’s not easy to explain just why I care so much about Mordecai and Margaret’s relationship. Romance is hardly an essential part of Regular Show’s DNA, and all we’re ultimately dealing with here is the halting, misfiring romantic fumbling of a talking blue jay and a talking robin.
But on a larger narrative level, Mordecai’s flailing pursuit of Margaret is his one continuing goal, the one thing that even remotely gives his life purpose on an ongoing basis. Regular Show has done a good enough job of developing Mordecai over the last four years that it’s only natural to want to see him succeed, even if the specific goal isn’t interesting to all viewers. Besides, Mordecai kissing Margaret would represent real progress for this show, a sign that its characters can grow and change and maybe even become real, mature adults one of these days. “Do Or Diaper” takes us closer to that precipice of adulthood than any previous episode. It wimps out at the last moment, but that doesn’t feel like cowardly storytelling on Regular Show’s part; instead, it is simply the logical end result of Mordecai’s behavior throughout the episode.
“Do Or Diaper” opens with Muscle Man, Starla, Rigby, Mordecai, and Margaret returning from a pizza parlor. Mordecai and Margaret share some awkward chitchat, followed by an even more awkward hug, much to the disgust of the spying Muscle Man, Starla, and Rigby, who just want to see Mordecai man up and kiss Margaret already. Muscle Man proposes a bet meant to give Mordecai some extra motivation: If Mordecai kisses Margaret by Friday at midnight, Muscle Man will wear a diaper for a week, but if Mordecai fails, then he has to wear the diaper.
The episode hits precisely the right balance in depicting Mordecai and Muscle Man’s friendship. As soon as Mordecai agrees to the bet, Muscle Man taunts him, saying there’s no chance Mordecai will win the bet. But on some level, it’s clear that Muscle Man genuinely intends the bet to be motivation for Mordecai. Muscle Man wouldn’t give Mordecai such a hard time if he weren’t so frustrated by Mordecai’s indecisiveness. As Rigby points out, Muscle Man is offering Mordecai some real talk. It’s tough love, but Muscle Man wouldn’t do this if Mordecai wasn’t a real friend. Regular Show taps into some basic truths about young adults’ complicated, often stupid friendships as it depicts Muscle Man and Rigby’s simultaneous mockery and encouragement of Mordecai.
Mordecai and Margaret set a date for Friday, which sets up the show’s latest montage. There are some funny gags there, in particular Muscle Man’s decision to buy every single diaper at a store, leaving none for a new mother and her crying baby. Not to overextend the episode’s big thematic point, but that little visual gag is a good reminder that when Muscle Man commits to something, he really goes all in. That actually contrasts nicely with one of the other funny moments in the montage, in which Mordecai tries on a snazzy-looking suit before he learns that it costs $1,500, at which point he meekly backs out of the store. It’s an insane hypothetical, I realize, but if Muscle Man wanted that suit and he felt his relationship with Starla depended on it, I’m pretty sure he would have found a way to get his hands on that suit, $1,500 price tag be damned. Although the primary purpose of that sequence is just to be a funny gag in the midst of a humorous montage, the moment also works as a reminder that Mordecai’s default move is to give up and back away.
Friday finally arrives, and Margaret and Mordecai go off on their big date, with Rigby and Muscle Man sneakily tagging along to witness Mordecai’s failure firsthand. Mordecai proposes going to see an awful-sounding romance named Oopsy Daisy, which he quite clearly would never go see if he weren’t desperately trying to build a romantic atmosphere. Instead, Margaret reveals her lowbrow side and suggests Buck Tooth Bob Goes To Europe, a delightfully stupid pastiche of the already plenty stupid Ernest movies. Actually, credit where it’s due: I can’t imagine Regular Show is the first to come up with such an obvious pun, but the Eiffel Tower joke is a terrific bit of intentionally bad comedy, one that manages to cram every tired ugly American and snooty Frenchman cliché into 10 seconds. Regular Show has done a lot of movie parodies of late, and they have often proved to be highlights of their episodes.
The climactic sequence in the park is where the episode really makes its push for classic status. Mordecai’s obsession with breath mints and gum starts out as a running gag and a nice bit of character-building, but in the final minutes it suddenly turns into the engine for the supernatural. Right up to the point that Mordecai starts breathing out freezing cold, “Do Or Diaper” had made me forget that Regular Show even has absurd elements—not counting all the anthropomorphic birds, raccoons, and Frankenstein-like monsters, of course—and then the minty deep freeze served to ratchet up the tension in a way only Regular Show possibly could. The cold, which of course is all Mordecai’s fault, forces Muscle Man and Rigby out into the open, which in turn makes Mordecai come clean to Margaret about the bet.
Margaret is understandably furious, and it’s a weirdly shocking moment. Although Margaret has long since evolved past her early purpose, in which she was a blank slate who existed solely as the source of Mordecai’s romantic frustrations, the show seldom explores in any detail how Margaret interprets Mordecai’s constant awkwardness. Up to that point, it’s easy to feel sympathy for Mordecai, to see him as a nice guy who just needed a little extra motivation to make his move. And sure, that might be how the bet started out, but his fear of wearing a diaper made him lose sight of why he wanted to kiss Margaret in the first place. When Mordecai tries to apologize, Margaret offers a blistering rebuke, making clear how frustrating it is to form a relationship with someone who keeps pushing her away for reasons he can’t even begin to articulate.
And then it becomes obvious why minty ice is the perfect choice for this episode’s supernatural element: Mordecai always metaphorically freezes when he tries to be honest with Margaret, and it’s only the combination of Margaret’s righteous anger and the encroaching ice that finally forces him to admit that he likes her. It’s a watershed moment for the show, and the writing, voice work, animation, and music that build to that moment are all masterful. Just as it seems like Mordecai is finally going to get that kiss, Margaret fakes him out, telling him to enjoy his week wearing diapers. As much as it feels like a cop-out, it’s what Mordecai richly deserves based on his actions in this story. The episode concludes with Mordecai again claiming he has to wait for the right moment, but at least he now knows that moment really can exist.
“Do Or Diaper” proves once and for all that it isn’t the universe conspiring against Mordecai and Margaret’s love, as it sometimes seemed to be in early Regular Show episodes. Now, it’s clear that Mordecai is the only thing standing in his own way. Acknowledging that difficult truth can be a painful part of growing up, and it’s an open question when Mordecai will truly realize the importance of that lesson. But for the first time in a good long while, it feels like both Mordecai and Regular Show in general still have room to grow, and that might be the best part of a generally brilliant episode.
- Thank goodness the laws of cartoon logic allow that fanny pack full of mints to disappear whenever it's not needed, as I'm pretty sure Mordecai walking around rocking the shirt, tie, and fanny pack combo would be an instant romance killer right there.
- I love the quick visual flourish of Muscle Man and Rigby driving off-screen in the golf cart to go spy on Mordecai, then passing back through the frame, all while giggling inanely.