Its title aside, tonight’s episode only gradually reveals that it’s a sequel to the second season’s “Party Pete.” The conceit of Benson becoming a professional partier accompanied by a pair of sternly beautiful women certainly recalls that earlier story, but viewers would need a particularly good memory of the show’s background characters and their vehicles to realize those are the exact same women driving the exact same van. But it’s not until the final third of the episode that Party Pete himself makes a return appearance. I say return appearance, but that might not be accurate—a reasonable interpretation of what’s revealed in this episode is that the original Party Pete wasn’t the real Party Pete at all, but rather a clone sent there by the evil, hard-partying executives. That original Pete did explode, after all, so it would be a bit difficult to account for his presence here without having to invoke clones, which is a wonderfully rare state of affairs. It’s only then that the callbacks truly begin in earnest, as Pete and his fellow legendary partiers derive their fighting strength from soda, and Benson ultimately destroys the evil clone Pete by filling him full of RadiCola—the official soda of the 1984 Olympics!—which is just how his predecessor met his own fate two seasons ago.
“Party Re-Pete” works fine without any knowledge of that earlier episode; indeed, whatever confusion a first-time viewer might have when the gang recognizes Party Pete is likely canceled out by the fact that longtime viewers must reconcile his actions and personality here with what happened in the earlier story. A clone-based explanation for that earlier story makes sense, but it’s never explicitly acknowledged in tonight’s episode. If you don’t mind me making a completely terrifyingly ridiculous comparison, the connection between “Party Pete” and “Party Re-Pete” is rather like the one between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings; the latter story is a sequel, yes, but it also represents a massive expansion of the implied universe of the original, and it appears to reinterpret some key aspects of the first story. Regular Show has done quite a few sequels and follow-ups of late—“A Bunch Of Full-Grown Geese” and Death’s reappearance in “Last Meal” spring to mind—but this is perhaps the most structurally daring of the revisits.
This episode also provides an excuse to look back at “Party Pete,” an episode that long predates our coverage. It’s particularly instructive to compare the character dynamics in that episode with the ones on display here. The original partying story presents a fractured group, one where Mordecai and Rigby can’t really call any of their coworkers friends—Pops and Skips ultimately make it clear they will help clean up after Party Pete explodes and leaves a huge mess, but even then they only make that offer after a bunch of centaurs get there first. Muscle Man is a brash jerk, quick to mock Mordecai and Rigby for their lameness, and Hi-Five Ghost is his silent, glowering sidekick. Much of the earlier story is derived from the friction between the park employees, and an apoplectic Benson is the fundamental threat to Mordecai and Rigby’s continued existence. Really, everything in the story goes back to those two; the failure is theirs, the eventual triumph is theirs, and the final ironic punishment is theirs and theirs alone.
In the intervening two seasons—closer to three, really, considering we’re now knocking on the door of season five—that tension within the group has largely been erased. In particular, Muscle Man has softened considerably, and his frequent reliance on Mordecai, Rigby, and the gang to bail him out of jams has won them his respect. He can still be brash, but that’s really just a front he’s willing to drop at a moment’s notice. Hi-Five Ghost, ever the follower, has long since dropped his own antipathy towards Mordecai and Rigby, and there’s a good argument to be made that he’s just as close to them now as he is to Muscle Man, especially since Starla entered the picture. Skips and Pops have also gained a greater appreciation for Mordecai and Rigby, if only because those two knuckleheads have shown that, on balance, they are useful to have around when things get weird. Above all, everyone has developed a real respect, even fondness for Benson. In “Party Pete,” he is just a boss, someone to be ignored and disobeyed at the earliest possible convenience; even Skips saw no reason not to discount his explicit instructions when there was talk of a good party. Now, the gang is legitimately happy for Benson when he asks out Audrey, and even Rigby doesn’t bother with his usual behind-the-back mockery of his boss during the search for him. It’s telling that the episode concludes with Party Pete and Mordecai paying Benson an entirely earnest tribute.
These characters all like and respect each other in a way they didn’t back in “Party Pete,” and while that makes for an undoubtedly more pleasant viewing experience, it does have drawbacks. A smoothly functioning group tends to flatten the character traits of the individual members. Everybody is committed to finding Benson, and they generally do so as one homogeneous unit, and they even tend to stand bunched together as a single, equally anxious group. This may be a sensible evolution for coworkers who have now known each other for at least half of a decade, and it does allow the show to pack more events into a given episode; you only need to compare “Party Pete” with “Party Re-Pete” to see how much more story Regular Show packs into its episodes these days. But that tilts the show’s narrative balance towards plot at the expense of character. Indeed, this might explain the introduction of Thomas—as someone who isn’t pals with everyone else, he’s an instant source of tension and petty conflict, even if he is always immediately told to shut up. Other episodes this season have done a better job of finding little character moments for the individual members of the ensemble. A week later, I have to struggle a bit to remember the exact plot details of “Sleep Fighter,” but I immediately recall Skips’ haunted explanation as to why he possesses so much dreamcatcher-based weaponry.
The one major exception to this in tonight’s episode is Rigby, who helps out in his own winningly stupid way. His idea to call the hotline and order Party Benson is a legitimately good plan, but he can’t resist giving the name Mordecai to his transparent loser persona, which earns him a relatively justified punch—everyone may like each other these days, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still have to occasionally punch Rigby. His plan also hinges on everyone else being able to quickly come up with 50 dollars to pay for Party Benson, although this is offset by the fact that he rejoins the group walking on all fours like an actual raccoon, which remains one of the show’s funniest, most oddly adorable sight gags. But his really great moment comes during the big fight sequence, when he beats back some henchmen with a piñata bat… and then promptly breaks a piñata and steals a whole bunch of candy. Even in a crisis, Rigby has his priorities in line.
- Another great gag was Benson’s raging hatred of that particular kind of party favor—so much so that its mere presence in his apartment would be proof he had been kidnapped. That’s a good way to blow past some otherwise humdrum exposition.
- The capture of the two partying criminals was a wonderfully funny, absurd sequence, with the police officers getting some of the best lines in the episode. I loved the matter-of-fact explanation as to just why they arrived so quickly—they are the police, after all.