The recent string of episodes of The League has been really strong, particularly in the way episodes have worked everything from the beginning into a core part of the story by the end. I wasn't as wild about this mostly strong episode, though. For one thing, a sizable chunk took place via video chat, including the entire first segment. Ruxin is annoyed that Kevin wouldn't use his commissioner power to change something while Ruxin was stuck in traffic, and he makes a video calling for Kevin's resignation. Other videos follow, and there are shots of the guys watching them on their computers. There's also a segment where they take turns changing their team names to really personally offensive things, ending when Ruxin uses the ultimate insult: "Fear Boner."
The League is already a very talk-heavy show, so it wasn't in the episode's favor to spend so much time in a situation where the guys had no choice but to sit and talk to one another. Things of course pick up when Kevin quits as commissioner and Ruxin and Andre attempt to figure out a way to reconcile their tie, settling on a foot race. There's plenty of palate-cleansing physical comedy in watching a neon-track-suited Andre sneak past the asthmatic flailings of Ruxin. It also speaks to the fantasy football commitment of the group that they'd bicker over the results of the race, notice a nearby gay wedding with a video camera, and sneak over to steal the video tape just so they can see an instant replay of what transpired.
Pete and Taco each have their own storylines this week, and both feel ancillary to what's going on. Pete meets Michael Hitchcock in the park, who notices Pete's Chicago Bears shirt (local reference!) and offers some tickets for free. This begins some major speculation among the guys as to whether or not the dude is gay, and coming on to Pete by requesting a "favor" in return. Pete arrives at the house, sees the guy wearing a robe with a fire roaring (even if it's just on TV) and offering Pete some wine. He fears for his heterosexuality … until the guy's wife and kid walk in. The League is usually so much less predictable than this, so it was disappointing to see them go down such an expected, trope-y road. The Taco stuff, meanwhile, was wildly unexpected. He mentions at the beginning that he's through with his Eastern medicine ways and is ready to learn how they heal people out in the Western world. He's so clueless that he only washed his hands because it felt good, not because he knew it killed germs and so gullible that even Andre of all people can dupe him into thinking paprika has mystical healing effects. With the naginata, Taco's odd hobby factored into the episode, and this time around, his story lacked a concluding punchline.
I much preferred the random things about "The Tie," like how we learn Taco carries a loaded handgun to a race to make it "official." And the scene of Pete, Kevin, and Ruxin in college witnessing Kevin's quad-fecta of awesomeness. And the way the episode brought back the running joke of asking Andre about his marathon over, and over, and over again. And the comparisons of Andre to Nosferatu. "The Tie" was still a strong episode, just not as streamlined as some of the others.
But how great has this show been? The League has become one of the comedies I look forward to the most in a week. The writers and actors are not content with finding a simple rhythm that works for laughs, but instead dig more and more into the characters each week, discovering unexpected things. The League is this year's Parks & Rec.
- "Is that why you pluck your mane?"
- "Cries while watching Jumanji."
- "I'll win because he's dead, so…"