As a reviewer, here’s my basic conundrum with “Paint Job”: This story has three or four distinct elements, none of which really has anything to do with the other. Oh sure, there’s are some narrative threads connecting the latest conflict with Benson, Mordecai and Rigby’s emotional story, all the gags with the Stealth Co. guy, and the surreal climax in which our heroes make their way through an invisible (and occasionally insubstantial) house, but there’s a ramshackle feel to this episode. The Stealth Co. material, for instance, feels like the show lightly—and boy do I ever need to emphasize the word “lightly”—weighing in on NSA scandals and general fears about the intelligence community, albeit with a thick ‘60s-era sheen on the Stealth Co. rep’s character; his constant use of the words “citizen” and “patriot” to address Mordecai and Rigby emphasizes his position as a shadowy government operative, but in an old-timey sort of way.
Not that I would ever ask Regular Show to offer its own specific take on the modern surveillance state—and, again, those elements really are a very tiny part of the episode, to the point of being incidental—but there’s rich comedic material to be mined from the notion of Stealth Co., and it’s a slightly odd fit to throw that in as just another element alongside Mordecai and Rigby’s efforts to redefine themselves as post-girlfriend dude bros. I mean, a show introduces a concept like “stealth clothes” and fails to develop said concept at its own risk.
Regular Show doesn’t hide the fact that the Stealth Co. thread is a particularly arbitrary progression from the house-painting plot. The Simpsons thoroughly deconstructed the plot device of the absurdly helpful television commercial at least two decades ago, and so “Paint Job” leans into the ridiculousness of it all by not even attempting to have the free house painting tie in with all the endless references to stealthy things, at least not at first. There is a bit of a delayed joke here, in that we do later learn why a company like Stealth Co. would be so willing to paint people’s houses for free, but I’m not sure the reveal of the invisible house really works as a punchline. Some of it comes down to a lack of setup; yes, it would have been telegraphing the joke for Rigby or Mordecai to pointedly wonder why Stealth Co. would offer such an amazing deal, but this is the kind of gag that benefits from telegraphing.
The larger issue is the sheer ridiculousness of the invisible house. Regular Show covers itself a bit by having the Stealth Co. rep point out that both the outside and the inside of the house will be painted, but the logic here is still so damn insane. The stealth paint here must somehow make surfaces invisible and transparent, else Mordecai and Rigby wouldn’t be able to see outside once they walked inside the house. That’s fair enough, I suppose, but it’s a little unclear how Mordecai is able to be involved in tossing around the missile tracking device when all his throwing and catching angles appear to involve the device passing through solid walls.
I realize all that might sound like nitpicking, especially when we’re discussing a show as reliably surreal as Regular Show, but that isn’t the intention here. I don’t take issue with the invisible, transparent, and insubstantial house because it’s preposterous; that’s just another way of saying that it asks the audience to engage their suspension of disbelief, and part of the fun of this show is being willing to follow it on these surreal flights of fancy. If “Paint Job” has to violate a few rules of logic and several laws of physics to make for visual gags like Mordecai directing Rigby through an obstacle-laden basement, like the park staffers frantically throwing the missile tracking device between them, or a butter-covered Benson fumbling with his car door, then the episode should absolutely do it. After all, such violations of accepted reality represent nothing new; Regular Show is only showing the same cavalier attitude toward the laws of nature that Looney Tunes has showed going back more than 80 years.
The only problem then isn’t that the climax of “Paint Job” breaks from reality, but rather that it represents a different break from reality from what the previous Stealth Co. gag appeared to set up. There’s a logic, however demented, to a shady government agent hiding behind cardboard cutouts of himself and constantly revealing himself in slightly different places that where you’d expect, particularly when said shady government agent talks like he just watched some low-rent ‘60s espionage thriller and internalized the dialogue. What happens to the house, on the other hand, only really works if you treat “stealth” as its own weird kind of magic, something Regular Show hints at when Rigby admits he has no idea what the word means. The Stealth Co. thread and the invisible house thread are related, and they do converge as the stealth bombers bear down on our frantic heroes, but they don’t quite fit together properly; they fit together okay, but each could have been paired more organically with something else.
Even then, neither element fits all that well with the supposed crux of the episode, which is Rigby and Mordecai’s latest attempt to redefine their friendship. Again, it’s not that “Paint Job” makes no attempt to connect the dots, as so many of Rigby’s actions in this episode are driven by his foolish need to prove that he can function as a solitary bro. But this particular scenario isn’t really the best way to explore a theme that Regular Show has already dealt with; “Wall Buddy” examined similar issues of Rigby’s insecurities, albeit not through the prism of Mordecai having a girlfriend (assuming Mordecai and C.J. have reached the point where they’re into labels, but you get the gist). Rigby’s tendency to act out and ignore common sense—or, in this case, Mordecai’s instructions—is well-established, and there are far more egregious instances of Rigby specifically being the cause of every trouble. After all, Mordecai was totally fine with spending an afternoon firing pizza pouches all over the outside of the house, and he was unnecessarily rude about Rigby’s diminutive stature. He might not be directly responsible for the ruining of the paint job, but he isn’t exactly blameless either.
As such, “Paint Job” feels inelegant, a grab bag of elements that are each good enough on their own but never quite fit together properly. The character development here doesn’t really come off, in part because Mordecai is kind of a jerk too and in part because so much time is spent on Stealth Co. and the invisible house that the pair’s evolving friendship can only feel like an afterthought. There’s a great Regular Show episode to be made about how Mordecai and Rigby can sustain their friendship as both—or Mordecai, at the very least—begin to grow up, and “Paint Job” just isn’t focused enough to be that episode. What we’re left with isn’t bad, especially when those disparate elements all produce their fair share of laughs. But this episode isn’t hilarious enough to fully compensate for its wonky storytelling, and that keeps it out of the top tier of Regular Show episodes.
- If we are going to return to the question of Mordecai and Rigby’s continued friendship, I do think it’d be good to involve C.J. as more than just a peripheral figure. Not as an antagonist—indeed, I really love how respectful this season has been of her character—but as a more active presence in what is likely to be a major sea change for our heroes.
- “This is just hot water.” “It’s good for your digestion.” Eileen gets one line, and she again proves that she’s the best. I demand an Eileen spin-off!