It’s been a few weeks, but Up All Night finally has its groove back. Guest stars have been a particular weakness of the show, so it’s surprising and refreshing that an episode with Megan Mullally, Will Forte, and Fred Armisen all thrown into the mix not only wasn’t bogged down, but actually seemed to give the writing the jolt it needed. One of the main problems of the past couple episodes is how underused the actors have been, but “Hey Jealousy” managed to give everyone something they could chew on, guests included. Sure, some people sort of dipped in and out in a way that is a little confusing retrospectively, but I was having such a good time I didn’t even notice.
Reagan and Luke, who I honestly sometimes forget is still on this show, have apparently gone from fighting over Yvonne’s affection and beautiful puff coats to drinking wine together on business trips, a development that makes Chris suspicious that Luke has a crush on Reagan. Arnett has one of those great, face-meltingly awkward gibberish deliveries when he sees Luke in the room with Reagan during a Skype chat. I believe the transcription of what he says, in the weird tonally alternating voice of a pubescent boy practicing his lines for the school play, is “DamnitrightonclassicoLukey!” Chris’ bouts of verbal nonsense are one of my favorite things on the show, if only because that feeling of trying to act cool and ending up spouting something that sounds like Metallica lyrics translated into and out of Japanese is an intimately familiar feeling.
Chris is usually a pretty easy-going guy, but he slowly descends into jealous madness after hearing about his neighbor whose wife cheated on him, the neighbor in question played by the excellently nonchalant Will Forte, who explains that he’s dealt with it via a massive, emotion-killing dose of antidepressants. (“I saw a documentary on Haiti. That’s sad, right?” he asks.) It’s a flip of Reagan’s Friday Night Lights-fueled suspicions in “Rivals,” but it’s funnier because Chris’ bizarre break-down involves less yelling and more Arnett-ian preening.
All of this plays out over Ava’s latest fitness-meets-charity quest, a fun run that she’s been training for by drinking milkshakes on the ol’ elliptical. But then rival talk show host Shayna challenges her to the race, a crisis that Ava meets by hiring expert trainer Gideon Kirk, played by Fred Armisen dressed as a Russian mob boss. Kirk’s advice is mostly about reaching your goals via the music of Don Henley, as in “Clap like you’re clapping at a Don Henley concert.” Unable to out-train Shayna in two days’ time, Ava turns to her most familiar weapon: sabotage.
“Hey Jealousy” had a series of scenes that were as good as any that the show has ever had. Maya Rudolph’s stand-off with Megan Mullally was one of them. The moment where they both sit at the table, bowls of green salad in front of them, hands clutching the dressing spritzers and face frozen in distrusting smiles, was delightful. As was the denouement of the standoff. “I’ve been on an 800 calorie a day diet of sea grains for six months,” Shayna says behind clenched teeth. “I have been sober for 80 hours,” Ava counters. And then it turns into a wine-soaked, cheesecake-noshing, silver fox Asian businessman pillow fight. As dinner parties always do.
At the run the following morning, Shayna and Ava look like they’ve been soaked in jungle juice, twirled around madly, and roughly smacked upside the head. They straggle along to the end of the race, an hour behind the pack, until Reagan rescues them with a hair and makeup crew. Megan Mullally had a lot more to do this time than in her previous guest spot, and I giggled helplessly when she threw her hat at a little girl supporter she called “Cindy Lou Who.”
“Hey Jealousy” was so rich in little, funny, well done moments. My favorites were:
- Chris tries to intimidate Luke by talking excessively about nipple chafing and then PDAs all over Reagan, Pepe le Pew style. He follows up by rampaging accidentally into the water cups on the side of the run, followed by dumping a glass of Gatorade over his head.
- The moment when Reagan realizes that Luke actually has a crush on her, a silence helped by the tinny sound of Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You” over the conference call hold music.
- The conversation Chris and Reagan have in bed about aforementioned crush, which turns into an ugly face making contest with both admitting, “I’d still do you.”
Chris and Reagan’s conversations in bed have gotten to be one of the best parts of the show. The Arnett-Applegate chemistry works wonders in those tidbits. The writers have been doing a lot more with those lately, and here's hoping there are more of them in store. And more Fred Armisen. Always more Fred Armisen.
- Was Missy wearing a jogging dress?
- Chris’ plan to make Reagan look less attractive is basically a Mr. Peanut costume, though “any Depression era cartoon sophisticate would be fine.”
- Shayna in desperation, about 20 feet from the finish line: “Let’s go in the woods and cover ourselves with leaves!”
- Luke’s pickle phobia is fittingly absurd. “It extends the life of vegetables far beyond what God intended!”