The story of how Adam, Blake, and Anders met during college is a perfectly natural place for Workaholics to go. The humor is already steeped in a sophomoric attitude, and the guys are basically stuck in a state of arrested development, so going back to a college setting is perfectly in line with the show’s attitude. But a lot of what I find funny about the show is the way in which all the guys’ antics fly in the face of whatever location they’re in at the time. Workaholics is about how these three maladjusted buffoons navigate a world they just don’t fit into at all, be it the workplace, a courtroom, or a funeral. So “Flashback In The Day” works, but that’s because it has a lot of really funny bits, and not because of the premise, which puts the characters in an environment where their normally delightfully incongruous refusal to act within societal norms make more sense.
In the dormitory halls of Rancho Cucamonga Polytechnic, Blake has a full-on afro when he shows up with his unsanctioned microwave, and walks into his room to find Adam (with another douchetacular hairstyle) masturbating with Vanessa Carlton’s “1000 Miles” as a soundtrack. So Adam is basically just as raunchy as he is now, but with an added 16-year-old religious girlfriend from his hometown—but not so religious that Adam can’t talk about fingerbanging all the time with her around. Blake is a little more demure, not yet into drugs, and focused on his calling as an actor—which earns some laughs simply because of how convincingly terrible Blake Anderson is when trying to conjure up tears. He wants to impress the director of a college production of Les Misérables, and his hand-wringing nervousness is kind of endearing. Thanks to other theater kids, he knows where to look for drugs—Karl, who shows up with a nod to Good Will Hunting—but isn’t yet ready to take the plunge himself.
The most different of the guys is Anders, who’s still in full-on scholarship-swimmer mode as the buzz-kill RA who confiscates Blake’s microwave and shuts down a very tame party featuring Blake’s excruciating attempt at a Napoleon Dynamite impersonation. He’s just perpetuating a cycle of bullying, since another jock from the swim team bosses him around and sends him to change lane lines at the pool late at night. Blake and Adam decide to liberate Anders from the swim team by pouring so much chlorine in the pool that it gives the swimmers chemical burns, leading to Anders getting kicked off the team and losing his scholarship. So they go from being nemeses to drinking buddies, and their first ever guys-only drunkfest gives birth to the idea that they throw a raging party with all of the alcohol Anders has confiscated, and use the profits from a cover charge to keep him in school.
The party is the moment that bonds the trio together as friends, even as they separate into their own mini-plots. Karl gives Blake the drugs he needs to calm down before his planned dramatic audition for the snobby theater director, but he ends up high and carefree enough to not give a shit about the stuffy beatnik in a turtleneck. Adam moronically proposes to his girlfriend so he can have sex, but she sticks to her faith and dumps him. While he’s proclaiming his hatred for love, another random, small-town girl walks up to him, and minutes later they’re going at it on the 10-meter high-dive platform. Anders has enough money for a semester of school, but the swim team shows up again and the captain tries to steal the profits.
It’s all nicely deflated when Anders and his opponent do a second flip-turn, swimming more than two laps, which puts out the crowd. Adam’s reaction to Blake’s smoking suggestion—“Yes, I will do anything except watch these two naked dudes swim”—is a nicely coincidental jab at swimming in the Olympics. But then the cops show up, everyone scatters except Blake and Adam, and campus police catches the trio.
So this is an origin story that shows what each of the guys were like before they slumped into their jobs and crashed in the same house, but the one thing missing from the half-hour is a moment that puts everything on the table—Blake and Adam were the cause of Anders losing his scholarship—combined with some kind of zany antic that leads to catharsis and friendship. That’s not there, and though it’s a formulaic possibility, oftentimes Workaholics manages to subvert or sidestep expectation into a funny scene. Not so much this time.
As the episode draws to a close, it gives the obligatory nod toward the usual premise for the show. The guys are banned from living on campus, so they have to move off-campus, with Adam sure that they’ll continue to “party like last night, every night.” Anders, being the practical one, knows they’ll need money. Which is convenient, since they’re walking right by the TelAmeriCorp job fair booth, where Alice (with longer hair and a much sunnier disposition) and Waymond Womano sit ready to offer a lucrative part-time job in telemarketing. But the guys shrug it off and steal Waymond’s ridiculous toupée—clearly there are still some life events we don’t get to see that bring them closer together and down to the point where they’re willing to take a dead-end telemarketing job.
Workaholics can be a classic one-liner machine, and this episode certainly shows off that aspect of the show, with some nice references to the niche of cultural touchstones these guys find appealing. “Flashback In The Day” is another themed episode gone mostly right, with many highlights, but no real structure or substance. Nobody’s asking Workaholics for that, so that’s hardly a knock, but this still comes in just a bit below the past two weeks, when the show worked itself into a nice groove.
- Comedy Central ordered 20 new episodes of the series, but it appears that order will be divided into two 10-episode chunks, which makes sense. As such, this is the de-facto third season finale.
- My favorite episode of the season is “Real Time” by a wide margin, followed by “Ders Comes In Handy” and “True Dromance” because Karl is narrowly my favorite supporting character on the show.
- Mean Girls is Adam and Blake’s favorite movie. They love Lindsay Lohan’s DVD commentary.
- Ways we know the swim captain is a total asshole: He’d turn on Mind Of Mencia if he wanted to “laugh [his] shaft off.”
- Jillian shows up right at the end to hang out at the TelAmeriCorp booth in a shirt emblazoned with “Fergalicious.”
- “You should probably cast him in that miserable lesbian play you’re doing.”
- “I used to cut myself to Dashboard Confessional. I love love.”
- “God, swimming trash talk is horrible.”