Undeclared: “God Visits”
B+

Undeclared: “God Visits”

B+

Undeclared

“God Visits”

Season 1, Episode 8

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“God Visits” is the “lost” episode of Undeclared—a distinction that requires quotation marks because, while it was dropped from the series’ broadcast run, there wasn’t much of a struggle to get the episode included in the DVD set. It’s safe to assume the episode’s subject matter kept “God Visits” off the air, though its treatment of religion is far more sensitive than Family Guy’s similarly censored “When You Wish Upon A Weinstein,” which Fox execs balked at one year prior. In a way, it’s one of Undeclared’s many curveballs: No one could’ve expected the goofy comedy about college freshman to take a mid-season trip down the rabbit hole of existential crises, least of all the people at the network. According to the episode’s DVD commentary, at the time of production on “God Visits,” the bosses at Fox had increased the pressure on Judd Apatow and crew, requesting that the show start looking more like the then-recent box-office hit Road Trip. Apparently, making Charlie Hunnam eat a ladybug wasn’t close enough to Tom Green deep-throating a live mouse.

Of course, it’s Lloyd’s motivation, not his comedic carnivorousness, that prompted the network to bury “God Visits.” After he and Steven have two distinctly different epiphanies, they both head in separate directions down the road to Damascus: Lloyd’s “mind-blowing philosophy class” leads him to a brief, pantsless flirtation with existentialism, while Steven, distraught over his inability to woo Lizzie away from Eric, seeks comfort in Christianity and sweater vests. Steven picks a pretty shitty time to become interested in the Bible, too, as Ron has reached the breaking point with Eric and decides to do anything in his limited, vaguely lecherous (“Is that as big as your boobs get?”) power to re-couple Steven and Lizzie.

Lloyd and Steven’s philosophical and spiritual awakenings perfectly upset the natural order of the dorm—and Undeclared. While Lloyd’s newfound lack of faith emboldens him to piss wherever he wants and grope any female within his reach, his confidence is shaken tremendously by the over-the-top “Show me meaningless! Show me pointless!” theatrics of his philosophy professor (played with giddy, precious-little-snowflake-melting zeal by Chicago improv veteran David Pasquesi.) He’s in the head space that would normally be occupied by Steven—if it weren’t for the holy trinity of God, Jesus, and Kevin Hart’s Luke, the motormouthed catalyst for Steven’s conversion. So rarely pitted as the foils they are, the roommates are the proper characters to have their worlds rocked, if only for the length of “God Visits.” 

The quickly snuffed flame of their passions is treated with an authentic amount of skepticism, as well, with Perry—in a hilarious takedown played under the end credits—noting that the only thing Lloyd was missing was “a little more mystique.” It’s less glamorous than sex or drugs, but religion (or lack thereof) is just another personal choice open to college students grasping for identity. The fact that Undeclared chose to find the humor in that fact is probably the main reason “God Visits” was left on the cutting room floor.

Fox brass might have found reason to complain about the performances in “God Visits,” too. Hunnam, Jay Baruchel, and Carla Gallo are all possessed by a strange artificiality in this episode—though, for the first two, it fits with the shallow nature of their epiphanies. They’re both trying to cover up blows to their egos, so awkward line readings and disjointed characterizations are excusable. There’s not that much subtext behind Lizzie’s failed seduction of Steven, though, so it’s hard to buy her in sex-kitten mode during the party scene. 

Then again, her showing in this episode could be clouded by my conflicted opinion of the female leads. Both Gallo and Monica Keena get their funny moments throughout Undeclared—especially in the latter episodes—but choices like Gallo’s occasional digressions into baby-talk are among the few things I dislike about Undeclared. Keena, meanwhile, never really pops as much as the male leads, but she at least gets to play with some internal conflict in “God Visits,” almost returning to the wigged-out state of panic in which we meet her during “Prototype.” With those shortcomings in mind, I’m grateful that this week’s episode expands the role of Christina Payano’s Tina, who takes up the empty room in the girls’ suite that Rachel and Marshall fail to convert into the “Poochy Party Palace.” Payano’s IMDb page is sorely lacking following Undeclared, but she’s a fun addition to the main ensemble and a much-needed female presence that’s not subject to the romantic whims of the boys across the hall, her quickly dropped obsession with Lloyd notwithstanding.

Beginning with “God Visits,” those aforementioned feelings cease being Tina’s sole defining characteristic. The crush ultimately ends up as nothing more than a momentary distraction in the character’s arc, no more capable of fulfilling her than Jean-Paul Sartre and “The Good Book” are capable of fulfilling Lloyd and Steven. Of course, when you suggest that an institution that millions of people build their entire lives around is as frivolous and fleeting as a campus crush, you put yourself in danger of being stifled by the powers that be—even if you back those suggestions with a leavening dose of humor. Fox didn’t approve of “God Visits,” but it could’ve been worse—instead of lightly satirical look at religion, I could’ve just spent 900-plus words dissecting Marshall’s cross-country trip to recover his VHS compilation of Hollywood nude scenes. Now that would be blasphemous.

Stray observations:

  • With “God Visits” missing from the show’s initial run, viewers were left to wonder why one of the rec room girls from “Sick In The Head” was suddenly rooming with Lizzie and Rachel.
  • 21st-century geek culture, meanwhile, was robbed of an early chance to bask in the glow of its redheaded muse: That’s a pre-Buffy The Vampire Slayer Felicia Day as the previously unseen Sheila.
  • More fun from the commentary track: The group assembled to record this episode’s track—Baruchel, Hart, Hunnam, Seth Rogen, and writer Rodney Rothman—apparently screened a cut of the episode that was two minutes too short. An increasingly desperate Apatow fills in the void with an extended plug for The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
  • To answer a question I believe was previously raised in the comments, the online nude-scene compendium Mr. Skin predates Undeclared by at least two years, meaning “The Samoan” and P.B. are bribed with images they could’ve easily (and more discreetly) found on the Internet.
  • In 2011, Luke’s Charlie Sheen reference isn’t quite the hook for Christianity that it was in 2001.
  • “You see, his name is Jesus.” “Christ.” “Yeah—I see you know his name. Say it again, wear it out.”
  • “Hey, cheer up—it’s Taco Tuesday”
  • “Suddenly, I’m like a Melanie Griffith fan.”
  • “Somebody just ripped my poster of the French people kissing”
  • “This might cheer you up—you’re hotter than most chicks! What are you doing in college anyway? People like you don’t need to know how to read!”
Filed Under: TV, Undeclared

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