Regular Show: “Trailer Trashed”  
B+

Regular Show: “Trailer Trashed”  

Even if you gave me a million guesses, I still don’t think I would have been able to predict that this episode, which ostensibly is all about Muscle Man having to get his dingy trailer up to the health code, would end in a loose parody of The Road Warrior. Admittedly, one should always expect the unexpected when it comes to Regular Show, but this episode doesn’t offer even the slightest initial hint of just where it intends to go; it isn’t until the health inspector shows up with henchmen in tow that it becomes apparent just where this is all headed. The show is always gleefully absurd, but it’s rarely quite this random in its storytelling. In most episodes, everything builds from the initial, mundane problem — whether it’s Skips being overworked, Pops wanting to be one of the guys, or Mordecai and Rigby going in search of the elusive plain, whole-wheat donut — as the layers of absurdity are just piled onto that initial foundation.

That’s sort of what happens in “Trailer Trashed,” inasmuch as the episode is always about Muscle Man fighting to save his beloved, albeit disgusting trailer. But that’s less a narrative than it is a framework for some especially freeform storytelling, as the episode jumps from the health inspection to the gang’s cleanup efforts to the Road Warrior parody. That final creative swerve feels particularly unexpected because there’s no prior indication that this episode has anything to do with cars, and even the titular mobile home is never actually seen in motion at any point during the episode. Compare this with the Warriors parody in “Picking Up Margaret.” Mordecai’s fundamental struggle in that episode is proving to Margaret that he won’t let her down, no matter how bad or insane his situation. As such, the Warriors-inspired ruffians tie directly into the conflict the episode sets up, as they provide Mordecai with the ultimate challenge to overcome as he desperately tries to get Margaret to the airport.

In this episode, however, the original conflict really seems to have far more to do with Mitch Sorrensteins’s disastrous lack of cleanliness, which is seemingly what threatens to cost him his home. His bravado quickly turns to shame when he realizes his friends now know how he lives, and his vulnerability provides the park staff with a golden opportunity to prove just how they have grown together as friends since we first met these guys four seasons ago. If that setup recalls any past episode, I’d probably compare it to “TGI Tuesday,” in which Mordecai, Rigby, and Eileen desperately try to clean a disused ballroom and ultimately meet three hard-partying ghosts. But Muscle Man’s messiness is just a red herring, albeit one that provides the source for some good gags in the early going — I particularly liked the revelation that Muscle Man’s house plant started out as a bowl of chili. But the fact is that Muscle Man could have totally ignored the health inspector’s threat, or indeed he could have always kept an immaculate trailer, and the end result would have been the same. That’s because this episode isn’t about Muscle Man confronting his own shortcomings; it’s actually about confronting a demon from his past, one he didn’t even realize he had created.

As such, what seems like randomness is really just the byproduct of telling what is actually Frank Jones’ story from Muscle Man’s perspective. Jones is the villain of the story, but he’s also its main actor, as it’s he who hatches the elaborate plan of revenge, one that apparently involves him becoming (or, at the very least, pretending to become) a health inspector and amassing a crazed, post-apocalyptic army willing to do whatever he commands. His true motivations are strongly hinted at when, after his second failed attempt to confiscate the trailer, he yells that Muscle Man will regret ever winning that hot dog eating contest. The episode’s structure makes sense — well, at least by Regular Show’s joyfully surreal standards — when we understand that the health inspector’s Lord Humungus routine is the direct result of losing that trailer to Muscle Man, who may or may not have cheated all those years ago. Admittedly, even if we grant that Muscle Man’s water-mushing technique was of questionable sportsmanship (even if, as Mitch points out, it is how Japanese competitors always win), that hardly changes the fact that Frank’s vendetta is insane and wholly disproportionate to that initial slight. But it does provide “Trailer Trashed” with an intriguing way to tweak the established formula, and that apparent randomness actually ends up working in the episode’s favor.

Muscle Man asserts his heroism halfway through the story, as he proudly declares to his friends that he refuses to be bossed around, and that if you attack a man’s home, then you attack the man. The hot dog subplot is neatly woven into this scene, as Mitch semi-coherently explains that his competitive days taught him to never, ever give up, even when on the verge of puking his guts out. It’s the first of several triumphant moments for Muscle Man and his friends, as each member of the convoy gets their own little bit of business. Mordecai and Rigby take out a motorcycle and punctuate their success with a businesslike “Hmm” chorus, Pops and Benson take the car into the air to bring down the gyrocopter, and Muscle Bro valiantly yells “Not on my watch!” before taking his personal fight out onto the highway. Still, none of those individual moments are going to top Muscle Man’s war cry, as he bellows, “You know what else leads to violence and horror? MY MOM!” That’s a line we’ve been waiting four years to hear, and we didn’t even know it.

“Trailer Trashed” doesn’t manage to attain the character nuance of, say, “Skips’ Stress,” and its group scenes too seldom explore the dynamics and interrelationships of the park staff. But the episode does manage in just a handful of lines to provide Thomas with more characterization than he got in the entirety of “Cool Cubed.” In any sane situation, his question about whether he’s getting overtime for this is entirely understandable, especially considering their lives do appear to be in quite real danger. But this is Regular Show, which doesn’t even know the meaning of the phrase “any sane situation,” so his coworkers decisively shout him down, with Mordecai even prompted to make it clear that he and everyone else is doing this because they are Muscle Man’s friends.

That line and Mitch’s emotional reaction is a tender moment, especially for anyone who remembers their mutual, rather one-dimensional antagonism in the show’s early days, but it’s nicely undercut when Thomas once again quite reasonably explains that he doesn’t even really know Muscle Man that well (which probably doubles as a self-aware acknowledgement about how little Thomas has interacted with any of his fellow employees). Once again, Thomas gets shouted down, and that’s only fitting; this episode is about a whole lot of things, some of which only vaguely overlap, but one thing it’s definitely about is the value of friendship. Mordecai and Pops’ speeches about how everyone is willing to pitch in to help represent Regular Show at its sweetest, and if winning that trailer really is the third best thing that ever happened to Muscle Man, then having friends like these better be first or second on that list.

Stray observations:

  • On that note, any thought on what does go ahead of winning the trailer on Muscle Man’s list? I assume Starla has to be on there, but I’m blanking on any specific thing that would rank ahead of the trailer.
  • I go back and forth on this, but I think I ultimately respect that Regular Show does a bunch of visual shout-outs to The Road Warrior without lifting specific lines; the health inspector never says, “Just walk away,” for instance. I certainly don’t object when other shows go for more direct parody, but I kind of appreciate that Regular Show goes for something slightly looser and subtler.
  • The best visual in the chase sequence is Pops’ car taking to the air to bring down the gyrocopter. It’s an insane but completely logical extension of the show’s established universe.
  • Hi-Five Ghost has the nickname Fives, which is awesome. Even more awesome is the half-second cut to him defending Muscle Man’s trailer. When in doubt, always entrust your most secret missions to Fives.

More TV Club