I know it’s so subjective as to be practically useless information, but I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much at Suburgatory as I did when watching “Fire With Fire.” If I were honest, my review would be a list of quotes, shots, and sound cues, because on a list of the top 10 notable characteristics of “Fire With Fire,” numbers one through nine are the different ways the episode is funny, and the 10th is Allie Grant. There’s so much going on and so many characters cropping up in strange costumes that the episode really brings out the suburbs-as-Felliniesque-carnival conceit, not least for its surprisingly wistful undercurrent. That finale so effortlessly reduces me to a pure shipper that my notes descended into hearts and exclamation points. Well played, Suburgatory.
With Emily Kapnek writing and Alex Hardcastle directing, everything this week revolves around the overplayed lyric/handy aphorism that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone unless you’re Dalia, from Lisa and Kimantha switching cliques to Jill angling to divorce Noah. In both plots, the natural order, as it were, is not only restored but rejuvenated. Jill and Noah are happy for a change. Noah even fixes the shower head! And Lisa returns to Malik as not just a friend but a romantic interest. Only Kimantha gets a raw deal. Dalia the Impenetrable barely notices she’s gone, she goes through all this trouble to impress Malik, and then she gets violently thrown down by Lisa mid-Dougie. At least she gets some very enjoyable (and humanizing) screentime, and now she can return to her rightful place as Dalia’s lieutenant.
The war between Dalia and Tessa is always reliable, but it really soaks up the spotlight tonight, with absurd gags and funny costumes and grave music galore. The opening volley is delightful, with Lisa immediately trying out the side-fishtail and Dalia affecting really loud small talk with her. Naturally, Lisa does that scary intense thing with her eyes, and before you know it, she's hanging out with Dalia. First there's a masterful vignette with Sheila Shay where Ana Gasteyer plays a hundred different motivations off of Dalia’s unchanging expression, beginning with Dalia having to explain to Sheila who Lisa is (“the girl one”). This leads into a delicious slo-mo shot of Dalia parading Lisa past Tessa, and an even better sequence (if just for Lisa post-makeover) where Tessa hands Lisa a note to pass on to Kimantha. And finally, we get the dance, complete with Kimantha styled like Lisa, where we get probably my favorite joke on Suburgatory yet: Dalia detailing her revenge fantasy about seducing Tessa’s one true love (a girl from boarding school), taking a sip, and continuing. It's not what she says so much as that she wasn't finished, but for the record: “The following spring we marry in a civil ceremony, which you are forced to cater, and everyone hates your catering, and you get a bad review on Yelp, which pretty much sinks your organic lesbian catering adventure.” Nailed it.
Dalia also demands sympathy because her parents are getting divorced, and it’s hard to tell, but I can’t imagine her genuinely loving the divorce out of materialism (though I can imagine her telling her friends that), so it was nice to see someone take it seriously for a moment. Dallas, on the other hand, is taking the divorce as a cause for celebration. She extols the virtues of divorce to Jill, takes Yoni, an exotic healer played by Wilmer Valderrama, as a lover, and makes out with him in front of George. Dallas and George are obviously future romantic partners, but I still like the parallelism of George counseling Noah and Dallas comforting Jill through their distress, both of them guiding the Werners back to each other.
Speaking of the latest trend sweeping Chatswin (after mannies, spotted owls, and fascinators), the impending Werner divorce does for Jill what the Mean Girls battle does for Kimantha, and Gillian Vigman is just the latest member of the Suburgatory cast leviathan to rise to the occasion. She’s playing a similar icy taskmaster on New Girl, but here she feels more human. Jill always has that stern demeanor, but her inflection is really expressive. Just look at her last-straw argument with Noah, as she talks about how Yoni couldn’t heal her energy because Noah is constipated. Mostly, I love how she stops just before her surgery and orders the Dallas Royce (half a cup size, some Botox, and four shades lighter on the hair).
On top of all that, “Fire With Fire” contains Dallas’ crystal emporium, the saddest meeting of the Medium fan club ever, comically detailed horror shots of Jill’s injury, the twins speaking in unison, a tough-love pep talk from a nearly foul-mouthed country club patron who’s nine-and-three-quarters years old, George and Noah clubbing with three buttons unbuttoned, that insane stunt leap onto a horse, The Situation silently in the background, and Angus and Julia Stone’s “Mango Tree.” So much for not listing highlights.
- Has Dallas ever been as angry about anything as she is about George distressing Yakult by having a showdown with Yoni?
- We also learn that George regrets not fighting for his marriage. I wonder if we'll learn more about that.
- I like Jill and Noah, but I’m most excited about Lisa and Malik. The Medium fan club depends on it.
- The writing is so tailored to the performances now that the quotes aren't always funny on their own, but I always love Dallas' parenting: "There's a school dance tonight, so [Dalia] won't be home until morning, if at all. Would you like to wear one of her tiaras to bed?"