The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: “In Which Todd Accidentally Learns A Secret And Brent And Doug Get Closer To Further From The Truth”
B+

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: “In Which Todd Accidentally Learns A Secret And Brent And Doug Get Closer To Further From The Truth”

B+

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

“In Which Todd Accidentally Learns A Secret And Brent And Doug Get Closer To Further From The Truth”

Season 2, Episode 4

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The capstone of tonight’s episode, with Todd Margaret trying to bury his "old" identity after finding out he was adopted, then getting arrested for digging up Princess Diana’s grave, is one of the better twists the show has done in its short run. It certainly raises the stakes enough for the last two episodes, and puts him into a much more public situation going forward. The fact that he was digging a hole with a red-stained dildo while wearing a bra and women's panties only amplifies that ridiculous tableau. But again, I found much of this episode to be running in confused little circles, certainly creating some well-earned laughs from dialogue and physical humor, but mostly moving too quickly between disconnected and random situations.

Finally back from the disastrous trip to Leeds, Todd collapses in his apartment, and the next morning Alice drops by to thank him for the job at La Molecule, which she figured out thanks to crates of ThunderMuscle at the restaurant and a comment from the chef that the man who set everything up “wasn’t her type” — not a racist dig at Hudson, just a gorgeousness mistake. Alice is pleased that the restaurant staff treated her like she was “special” — which Todd is careful to clarify means “like a princess” instead of “retarded” before continuing to accept praise. His inadvertent plan almost works, as Alice fumbles over her words, believes she may have been wrong about Todd all along, and even moves in for a kiss. Then, of course, everything goes to hell again. A television news report mentions the quarantine at La Molecule thanks to the vial of lethal spores a waiter swiped out of Todd’s hand, which unleashes a strain of Megathrax on the restaurant.

In the span of two seconds, Alice is back to blaming Todd for everything and calling him a pariah, then reveals that Chuck told her Todd was adopted, fact which he of course never knew. That detail, along with the subtle revelation from last week that the hospital went into very old files to find Todd’s medical data, hints strongly that Todd’s Leeds origins may not be such an exaggeration. Even still, Alice’s words send Todd into an identity crisis right before she disappears for the rest of the episode, only now Chuck isn’t around to provide answers. When Todd goes across the hall, he finds the totally unfit mother back in her flat, having kicked Chuck out for actually taking care of her kids, getting the little ones nicotine patches and baby formula, and putting their drawings up on the fridge. I feel sorry for those kids, they had decent shot when Chuck was in the picture, but when he thought he’d done Cupid’s work to get Alice and Todd back together, he split.

I liked how Todd’s identity crisis sent him into a few minutes of frantic idiocy, calling his mother and bluntly asking via voicemail if he was adopted, wondering “who are you?” aloud to his own driver’s license, and assuming a random man on the street is his dad. He wanders into a pub, and stays there because the Brent and Doug plot needs him to keep out of their way, not for any other reason. Sticking Todd in the middle of a bachelorette party felt very forced, just an awkward situation designed to ramp up Todd’s potential embarrassment under the guise of hiding from the police. When he meets the bride’s best friend, he farts loudly, then blames it on a gag cell phone ring tone, which then forces him to fart on command any time one of the girls wants to hear the ring tone. When he physically can’t fart anymore, he shits himself in a limo, and the women kick him out in disgust, leaving him wandering the night in women’s underwear with a giant dildo in his hand, leading to the final scene in front of Diana’s grave.

Meanwhile, Brent and Doug continue their search for Mountford, with Brent verbally and physically assaulting an elderly woman who he wrongly assumes is the D. Mountford they’ve been looking for. When he realizes his error, Arnett’s pained exclamation “Madam, I fear there has been a grave misunderstanding” is a wonderful twist on “I’ve made a huge mistake” whether it was intentional or not. At the end of last week’s episode, Dave just wanted to continue to have a laugh and follow the misguided investigation around, and this week he corners Brent and Doug into the strangest dual phone conversation I think I’ve ever seen. Dave and Jon Hamm sit in the back of a luxury car, while Doug and Brent stand directly outside that car, Brent having a conversation with the mysterious “Mountford” and Doug with Dave trying to track the call, but neither knowing Dave is actually inches away inside the car.

I found the situation strange instead of funny, but Jon Hamm’s terrible computer noises and Spike Jonze hugging Will Arnett were both great moments. To make matters even more confusing, Dave calls Todd, then convinces Doug and Brent that Todd is running the whole operation out of his crappy flat. It’s all a bit overcomplicated, but the details don’t seem too important in the midst of the physical comedy. In the middle of everything was the revelation that Jon Hamm is actually playing himself, and somehow Dave is so wealthy he could get Hamm away from Mad Men during production in order to play his silly games and boss him around. I don’t know if I missed hints earlier in this season, but I never really thought Hamm was a version of himself, and that made his 90s modem noises, unabashed sobbing, and the tag in the credits where Dave is directing “one last script” even funnier.

In a six-episode season, all of this character separation and contrived running around feels like a very unnecessary way to stretch out the story. Todd first tries to directly confront his now uncertain identity, but that gets muddled in the bachelorette party, only coming back into play right at the end of the episode, contrived specifically to put him in a ridiculous outfit when he gets arrested. The silver lining of all of this is that none of it was according to Dave’s plan for how things should shake out. He’s been pulling all the strings so far, but this very public defacement means that it’s out of his control, and I like that kind of uncertainty going forward. IFC has already run previews that suggest Britain will be so angry that they reconsider the death penalty, and that’s the kind of comic extreme Todd Margaret handled well last season.

Stray observations:

  • Todd sees the pentagram on the floor of his flat, and says “I didn’t know Brent was Jewish.”
  • “I knew I should’ve hired Michael Winslow.” 

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