While nobody was looking, all our Regular Show friends got coupled up. The pairing of Mordecai and C.J. is old news at this point, as is Muscle Man and Starla, but “Skips In The Saddle” confirms that Benson and Audrey are still going strong, and Hi-Five Ghost has a lady friend as well—possibly Celia from “The Postcard,” but it’s not confirmed. Most intriguingly, Rigby and Eileen’s friendship appears to be reaching some kind of critical mass, in that Regular Show refuses to stop mentioning it, and Rigby gets very uncomfortable whenever the topic of Eileen or her rock polisher is brought up. Seriously, folks, we must be nearing some kind of next stage in their relationship. After all, who invites someone over just to look at a damn rock polisher, and what sort of person—especially when we’re talking about Rigby—actually accepts such an invitation? That may not be true love, but it’s true something, and I’d be a little surprised if the show doesn’t do something with that pairing before the season wraps up. Then again, knowing Regular Show’s proclivity for slow-burn romance, we may not reach the crucial moment until 2017 or so.
The point is that the show has allowed all of its younger characters—being generous in our definition of “younger” in Benson’s case, and conveniently ignoring Thomas, just because—to display some maturity by building surprisingly stable relationships. What this now means is that Skips, the character who has long been the most centered and content of the core cast, is suddenly on the outside looking in. Befitting his immortal status, romance has always been a part of Skips’ story—as detailed in, well, “Skips’ Story”—but in a tragic, Byronic sort of way. Skips has always been positioned as the show’s gruffly sensible character. He will always take seriously the latest absurd crisis, no matter if it’s a product of Mordecai and Rigby’s antics or something to do with his own highly unusual situation. He will offer advice when asked and render aid whenever necessary; he’s always happy to help out, but he’s a lot slower to invest in a situation like the others would. Mordecai and Rigby—not to mention Benson and Muscle Man and even Pops, whenever they’re shifted into the protagonist slot—will take seriously whatever lunatic disaster is unfolding before them, but Skips tends to react to it all like it’s just another day at the office, and not something getting worked up over.
Again, that’s entirely sensible, but it’s a bit boring, and that aloofness can place Skips in a situation where he merely exists, only truly coming to life when other people are around. The conflict-driven nature of episodic television means he typically livens up when the other park staffers come to him with an insane problem, but the beginning of “Skips In The Saddle” offers a more mundane take on this phenomenon, as Skips tries and fails to recruit any of his friends to hang out for the evening. There’s nothing wrong with his offer, but it unavoidably offers more muted, low-key pleasures than those his coworkers are likely to enjoy while spending time with their significant others (or whatever Eileen is to Rigby). And it’s not as though Skips’ immortal status inherently makes him jaded, something that’s made all too clear during his trip out to the club with Gary, Techmo, and Reginald, leader of the Guardians of Eternal Youth. Nobody comes out looking very good there; Skips may not be the most charismatic guy, but Gary’s immortality- and magic-based pickup line comes across as more than a little creepy, and Regular Show probably overplays the vapidity of the women at the club. It’s not the biggest misstep, but the jokes there do feel unusually sharp-edged for a show that generally prides itself on providing a winningly goofy good time.
“Skips In The Saddle” is at its best in the It’s A Date! segment, if only because it’s damn hard to imagine a daffier lineup of dating show contestants than a hip-hop dancing centaur, a man only there to promote his T-shirt business, and a desperately awkward Skips trying to pass off Rigby as his ventriloquist’s dummy. The dancing centaur Jimmy Jams is particularly inspired in its abject silliness, with his choice of wardrobe, sunglasses, and hairstyle all recalling James Franco’s character from Spring Breakers—if, you know, he had the body of a horse. Regular Show has some fun developing the sub-sub-subculture to which Jimmy Jams belong, as he takes such inordinate pride in his status as a nine-time regional dance champion and offers a shout-out to his “four-legged crew,” who are, unsurprisingly, also hip-hop dancing centaurs. Indeed, neither Jimmy nor the T-Shirt Man really fits the standard archetypes for dating show contestants; both characters are too consumed by their existing passions to pay Sheena much mind. Skips is the only one there who appears even vaguely engaged with the stated premise of the program, but he’s not even remotely qualified to play the mandatory dating show role of smooth-talking cheeseball.
That job, thankfully, falls to “Little Rig.” Rigby’s interest in It’s A Date! comes on suddenly even by Regular Show’s normal shaggy standards, but his excuse—“I have a lot of time on my hands!”—is damn hard to argue with. “Skips In The Saddle” doesn’t do as much as it could with the weird contrast it sets up between Rigby’s show-ready personality but unimpressive look and Skips’ incredible profile but underwhelming charm. There’s a fun idea, one implied by Rigby’s insistence that he’s cool with his words, that Rigby could literally only ever be considered eloquent in this one hyper-specific context, but this is all really just quick and dirty setup to get Regular Show to a point where Rigby can spout a stream of desperately cheesy one-liners. There are worse reasons than that for undercooked characterization, admittedly. Besides, while an exploration of Rigby and Skips’ divergent talents probably could have sustained an entire 11-minute story all by itself, “Skips In The Saddle” says most of what it needs to say with Skips’ big monologue, in which he comes clean about his true self and his relatively small-scale ambitions.
This is a solid little episode of Regular Show, one that never aspires to the kind of big character exploration that defined previous Skips spotlight episodes like “Skips’ Stress” or “Skips’ Story.” The show has cooled off a little bit over the past three episodes after a very impressive run—this episode is a step up from the misfiring “Take The Cake,” but it has problems similar to those of “Paint Job”—but these are the kind of occasional lulls that are really only to be expected with a gargantuan 40-episode season. The key is that even these more minor entries can still provide moments of the kind of freewheeling absurdity that is uniquely Regular Show, and “Skips In The Saddle” has a fair few of those, many of which are centered around the wonderfully ridiculous T-Shirt Man. I could ask for a little more from the story here, but it’s impossible to stay mad at an episode that features a villain who totes a T-shirt gun with a “Kill Some Fool” setting, particularly when said villain is wearing a seemingly infinite number of shirts, each keyed into the perfect emotion for each new situation. Those moments only constitute about a minute of the episode, but that’s a minute I’m not going to see anywhere else.
- Skips’ big trip to Costa Rica with Sheena feels like it could easily have been its own episode, and that’s why it works pretty damn brilliantly as a gag to condense it into less than 10 seconds. I’ll admit I’m not totally sure about the “high-maintenance” punchline, though.