There is a lot of dumb happening in tonight’s episode of The League. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, because The League has never fancied itself to be a smart comedy. The show works when it’s dumb, and often works even better when it’s dumber, but the different stories in “Flowers for Taco” were all over the map. Take FXX’s official episode description: “Taco is forced to face life without marijuana” has definite potential; “Andre has never been pooped on by a bird” is funny in print, out of context, but so useless in the episode. Much of this episode is up and down, saved only by Taco.
But let’s start with Kevin and Jenny who each find themselves having odd interactions with animals. Kevin is caught in a conflict with Ellie’s class cockatoo, which he accidentally almost kills with a rolled up magazine and then purposely almost kills by flushing the toilet. Meanwhile, Jenny is preoccupied with the fact that Ruxin’s dog no longer gets excited when he’s around her. On paper and in theory, this story seems funny. In practice, it’s a little too weird for my taste. Sure, there’s something to be said about Jenny’s insecurities and her worries that she’s losing her looks, etc. etc., but really, it’s just a long joke about dog boners. I love Jenny, and I think that pretty much anything Katie Aselton does is funny, so her dressing up and trying her best to turn on the dog via scratching and a sexy voice should be great, but I was pretty underwhelmed. I did, however, like when she dropped all pretense at Ruxin’s and demanded to see the dog.
That brings us to the strongest story of the night. The Flowers for Algernon storyline isn’t revolutionary and it’s been a well-established sitcom trope for a while now. In fact, it’s even the plot of tonight’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode “Flowers For Charlie.” To be honest, I’m glad I haven’t seen that episode yet because I don’t want to subconsciously compare the two approaches. It’s an extreme leap for the illiterate, paint-huffing Charlie, whereas Taco’s just your basic stoner. But I like Taco enough, and he’s perhaps the most unobjectionable character on The League because he just coasts around on the fringes with humorous ignorance, saying silly things, and sometimes playing a song (his objection to the guy at the bakery whipping out a guitar was so wonderful). His main characteristic has always been that he’s high all the time, so of course it makes sense to take this away and play around with his character a bit.
The reason why this Algernon-ing of Taco works is because it smartens him up without drastically changing his character. Taco isn’t a dumb person; he just smokes way too much weed to really care about showing off intelligence. We all know people like that, so it’s not totally unbelievable that he’ll be a little smarter once he’s out of the cloud. Weed dumbs him down to the point of obliviousness but never to the point of complete and total idiocy. Without weed, Taco shows that he’s smart enough to understand equations, form hypotheses, and solve conundrums. The conundrum he chooses to devote his newfound (or rekindled) intelligence to? Finding out why Ruxin’s dog is no longer turned on by Jenny. The high intelligence and low culture aspect is right there in the phrase “transmigration of boners.”
Kevin is a fan of this new Taco, partly because he’s not willing to lend Taco the money to buy weed but mostly because he thinks this could be a good opportunity for Taco to become the normal, functioning person that he had the potential to be before Kevin and his friends forced him to smoke as a kid. Kevin thinks maybe Taco will settle down and start a family, but then we see him fail miserably while hitting on a woman. Taco’s smarter without weed, but he’s also self-aware; he now knows that he’s a loser (“Go find someone who deserves you,” he yells as she walks away) and his business ventures/inventions are bullshit.
Pete is the first to suggest that they re-stone Taco because they’re up against each other in fantasy that week. Ordinarily, this would mean an easy win, but sober Taco now loves and understands football enough to play correctly and thus provides a real challenge to Pete. I really wanted Taco to wipe the floor with Pete this week—we never learn if he does—because Pete deserves it for being the conniving asshole that he so often is to everyone else in the league. He’s quick to screw everyone over, but rarely gets screwed over himself. However everyone agrees to re-stone Taco after he discovers the deal with Ruxin’s dog (he’s moved on from Jenny to the girl-on-girl porn that Ruxin watches on his phone, creepily in the park, during long dog walks). Why this was the final straw for the gang, I don’t know, but they all agree to get some medicinal marijuana. They kidnap Taco, Andre finally has a bird shit on him (I guess this was funny? Sure, why not), everyone smokes, and normalcy is restored.
- Ellie, reminding her dad of what happened with the guinea pig: “You have to promise me not to kill, cook, or eat this one.”
- Kevin is so concerned about giving away his fantasy football plan that he doesn’t tell his wife about their child’s first words. It’s perfect one-track-mind-Kevin behavior and I love that, for Jenny, baby Chalupa Batman’s first words are “shitbag.”
- The flashback to the tiny leaguers, back to when Taco first got stoned and renamed himself “Taco,” was pretty adorable.
- I don’t know if you’ve ever had the misfortunate of getting stuck in a conversation with people who proudly proclaim they don’t own a television set, but this exchange is so spot-on: “I love talking to other people who don’t own televisions about not owning a television.” ”I love talking to people that do have televisions about how I don’t own a television.” “I love talking to people who don’t own televisions around people who own televisions.”
- So was the “Flowers For Charlie”/”Flowers For Taco” similarities planned or a coincidence? I assume they were both written without any knowledge of the other but paired up together on purpose—most of the It’s Always Sunny episodes this season are aired out of production order. A tiny, tiny part of me wants to believe that this is FXX’s version of when NBC Must See TV would have storylines (like a blackout) run throughout their entire lineup.