The Inbetweeners (U.S.): “The Wrong Box”
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The Inbetweeners (U.S.): “The Wrong Box”

After the one-two punch of the first two episodes, the second two installments of The Inbetweeners are frankly lacking. The thing that I laughed the most at on tonight’s episode was Neil, at the end, casually biting into a raw egg in the slow motion cooking club sequence. Most of the other jokes strained and squirmed in ways that they didn’t for the first two weeks of the show. “The Wrong Box” is the most disappointing episode of The Inbetweeners to date.

It begins with a flicker of promise: Will McKenzie, overachiever with a color-coded closet, is determined to build his resume by joining or creating a club. Jay, Neil, and Simon are less than chuffed at the idea. “What’s next? Running for Congress?” Jay mocks. “Congress is… part of the plan,” McKenzie admits. He goes on a pilgrimage to Mr. Cooper’s office for a list of potential clubs. In the office, he meets a blonde beauty named Charlotte Allen. One imaginary chess game later—and one imaginary destroying of chess game by Mr. Cooper—McKenzie is smitten. Mr. Cooper, played by the excellent Brett Gelman, is perhaps the best part of the episode. His office décor, which includes a nameplate that reads “Why Are You Here?” and a stuffed fox, is equally amazing.

This being the 2010s and all, a “certain social network” is, of course, crucial to the stalking of a new acquaintance. Facebook plots can so easily fall flat, dropping directly into the “stranger danger” area of anti-Internet sharing. This episode doesn’t reach those depths, but it doesn’t redeem the trope either. Based on Charlotte’s private profile, McKenzie starts a cooking club, against Mr. Cooper’s wishes. The “wrong box” of the title is, of course, the search vs. status bars of the site. Instead of searching for Charlotte, McKenzie manages to post her name over and over. In a desperate and very teenage PR move, he decides to just post the names of many different girls so “it’s just a thing” he does. So now the entire female population of the school is skeezed out by McKenzie.

Meanwhile, Simon is vying for the cooking club because it seems to be way to Carli’s heart. For a few hours, his life is charmed—Carli’s looking at him adoringly, and even his terrible assembly presentation turns into a great drumline performance. But his luck can only hold out so long. At the inaugural meeting of the club, Carli shows up with ingredients and her boyfriend in tow, and he happens to look bangin’ in a chef’s coat and toque. “He’s really into the culinary arts,” she fawns. The whole thing devolves into a flour fight anyway, as Simon despairs on the sidelines.

Part of this episode’s weakness was the lack of Neil and Jay in it. Jay’s whole plotline was to make himself have a wet dream, a mission that was doomed from the start. His interactions with Mr. Cooper, who keeps overhearing his worst moments, are the highlight of this plot. “What will I do if I can’t masturbate and I can’t dream?” he frets. Mr. Cooper leans over and stares at him. “Screwing,” he says emphatically. Jay finally achieves his goal, but it’s not the gung-ho, girl-crazy Jay that enlivened the other episodes. Neil barely makes a smudge on the plot here, aside from his egg antics. Let’s hope for more of him next week.

Stray observations:

  • McKenzie, weeping to his Mom after the Facebook disaster: “I’ll win spelling bees.” “Oh honey, don’t be silly. Those kids have been practicing all their lives.”
  • The scene of someone flinging the hacky-sack away from the club was really satisfying, right?
  • The name of the school vending machine is “Yum Yum Time.” Just saying.  

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