Rigby doesn’t need to learn a lesson for stories focused on him to succeed, but such episodes do tend to benefit from some sense that Rigby is capable of growth. Tonight’s episode features a moment of such insight from Rigby, but it really is only a moment. After spending so much of the episode proclaiming his coolness in high school, Rigby admits that it was actually Mordecai who was the cool one way back then: “You don’t understand. You were actually cool in high school. This is my only shot.” That’s a surprisingly profound realization for Rigby, as it reveals a hitherto unseen ability to separate superficial appearances from underlying motivations. Mordecai might have been the sort of teenager who did art club and gave his jazz saxophone a prominent position in his yearbook photo, but such nerdy activities only define him inasmuch as they reveal how comfortable he was in his own skin. Rigby, on the other hand, was a cool, disaffected rebel desperate to prove to everyone just how cool, disaffected, and rebellious he was, even if it meant bringing a bullhorn to school. He worked so damn hard to cultivate a mystique, but he only managed the sort of mystique that is impressive to complete idiots.
As such, it’s no surprise that the modern-day Rigby is the only one fooled by his high-school self. He spends the first portion of the episode trying to live up to the absurd standard he believes that he set for himself, but his longstanding insecurities keep poking through. His panic upon realizing that he hasn’t managed to accomplish anything on his list is telling, as that is the moment where Rigby can no longer maintain the fiction that, whatever his current situation, he at least used to be cool. As long as he can insist that he was the most awesome dude around back in high school, he can pretend that he’s more than some loser stuck in a dead-end job. Sure, his present-day self hasn’t accomplished anything with his life, but he can brush away that fact with some half-baked claim that his current laziness is just the latest manifestation of his well-established rebelliousness. But his utter failure to accomplish anything on his high-school self’s list makes Rigby look like a loser at all points of his life; one of his two selves is essentially an act, and it would be crushing to learn that the cool high school rebel is the unreal one. If Rigby was once as cool as he says he was, that means he must have potential that he chooses not to live up to. The alternative is that his current situation is actually the best he can hope to achieve, and he’s just self-aware enough to know he can’t live with such a horrible thought.
It’s only during that brief sequence on Johnny Skydiver’s runway that Rigby fully realizes all this. After Mordecai begs him not to risk his life jumping out of such a terrifyingly shady plane, Rigby accepts that he could indeed lie to all his old classmates and tell them he accomplished more than he really did. He is no longer jumping to impress other people, but rather to prove something to himself. Make no mistake: That is still a deeply, deeply stupid reason to jump out of a plane, but at least it’s a noble kind of stupid. Rigby’s other honest moment comes after he has been thrown out of the plane, as he plummets through the air. For that brief sequence, he forgets the silliness with the burrito and the camera, and he is caught up in the exhilaration of the moment. After all, even if his motivations were ludicrous, Rigby still had the guts to jump out of a plane, and his initial whoops of excitement indicate that he does recognize the special nature of the experience before he returns to the burrito-related business at hand. “Rigby In The Sky With Burrito” features so many exercises in self-delusion, but it’s heartening to see that Rigby is sometimes able to forget his own nonsense and take life’s adventure as it comes.
Those little moments offer the most intriguing insights into Rigby’s character—hence devoting about half of the review to them—but tonight’s episode does not gel into the sort of larger investigation of Rigby that “Bank Shot” offered earlier this season. By and large, this is an episode that is content to have a bunch of stuff happen in succession, with only those all too brief indications of what this latest set of misadventures means to our heroes. That’s not to say that I demand rigid adherence to some theme; indeed, one of the best sequences tonight is the opening mail fight, which is nothing more than a glorious waste of time. Mordecai and Rigby’s reenactment of a samurai—or ninja, but Rigby’s just winging it anyway—fight is a charming bit of silliness, with a particular emphasis on our heroes’ attempts at samurai-appropriate dialogue. It serves a narrative purpose, too, as the fight underlines the pair’s continued state of arrested development; hell, antics like that would have seemed a tad immature even back in high school. The scene reminds us that Mordecai may be maturing—his genuine apathy with the reunion is proof enough of that—but he sure as hell isn’t growing up. He’s in a far better place mentally and emotionally than Rigby, but they fundamentally remain on the same level.
“Rigby In The Sky With Burrito” is more meandering than the typical Regular Show episode. The sudden introduction and equally sudden departure of Jumpin’ Jim is a rare example of a throwaway Regular Show character; I’m still a bit shocked that the story didn’t see Rigby come crawling back to the guy to beg for a second chance. As it stands, Jumpin’ Jim’s main purpose is just to be a weird, skydiving-obsessed dude, complete with a style that prominently features Chinese silk, real Italian suede, and Icelandic embroidery. Johnny Skydiver is a better defined character, if only because the episode has to stretch itself a little to justify how such an obvious burnout case could still manage to operate an airplane. It’s reliably amusing to meet characters who share Muscle Man’s ironclad belief in the favor-based economy. Johnny gets the most enjoyably dark line of the episode when he tells Rigby that, should both his main and emergency parachute fail, he will have the rest of his life to enjoy the view.
The episode wraps up with the bizarre reveal that the reunion wasn’t Rigby’s at all; for some preposterous reason, Pops’ class president accidentally addressed the letter to Rigby. That’s about as flimsy an explanation as the show has ever trotted out, yet it only matters in the sense that it allows Rigby to sidestep the larger questions about his identity and sense of self that this episode occasionally raises. His realization that he now has a chance to get that slam dunk in the Olympics is a decent closing gag, but it suggests that he has already forgotten whatever it was that he briefly learned. “Rigby In The Sky With Burrito” is funny and entertaining enough to be a solid episode, even if it is far more superficial than it needs to be. Not every Rigby episode can be “Bank Shot,” but I’ll admit that I wish this episode tried a bit harder to attain such depth of character.
- “Promise to save my life if I let go of you? … Betrayal!” Rigby learns the hard way that it never pays to trust a burrito.
- “I’ve got the parachute to live, the burrito to eat, and the camera to prove it.” Yes, those three things seem precisely equivalent.
- I don’t always support Mordecai and Rigby’s squeamishness, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re all better off not knowing what Muscle Man means by “brunch.”
- So, as you may have heard, Regular Show’s status at The A.V. Club is in a little bit of jeopardy. Here’s Todd’s sage advice on how best to get more people to check out these reviews: “The best thing you can do is share things on Facebook and Twitter. You could also e-mail links to others. You could probably call them and read the URL to them over the phone, but why would you do that?” That last suggestion actually feels very much in keeping with the whole Regular Show ethos. Anyway, whatever happens from here, it’s been a ton of fun sharing my thoughts on the show with you all, and I’ll keep doing it for as long as I’m able. So, let’s stay positive!