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Brilliant guest performances from RuPaul and Shania Twain elevate Broad City

Illustration for article titled Brilliant guest performances from RuPaul and Shania Twain elevate Broad City
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At first, Broad City’s “Twaining Day” seems to be a grand display of stunt casting. The episode guest stars RuPaul, Wanda Sykes, Shania Twain, and a criminally underused Sandra Bernhard. The show certainly gets a lot of mileage out of making Shania Twain, “Canadian queen of country-pop,” say ridiculous lines, like when she sings “man, I feel like a smoothie!” It’s reminiscent of the show casting Kelly Ripa as an unhinged version of herself. But “Twaining Day” doesn’t just coast by on the appeal of its superstar guests. The episode marks major character moments for both Abbi and Ilana, who spend much of the episode apart.

RuPaul so perfectly embodies Marcel, the mean no-nonsense general manager of a trendy fusion restaurant where Ilana gets a serving job, that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role. And the storyline does much more than just serve up some excellent RuPaul shade. Ilana starts the episode broke, eating a baked potato that she points out has two halves and thus can be considered a lunch potato and a dinner potato. Broad City remains realistic about the fact that Ilana would be in a tough place after losing her job. She’s turned away from Sushi Mambeaux at first, Marcel declaring that she isn’t mean enough for the job. But Ilana needs the money, so she decides to give in to how things are done at the restaurant, essentially negging rich people into spending a bunch of money. I do wish we could have spent a bit more time with the other employees who make up Sushi Mambeaux’s mean team, especially the aforementioned Sandra Bernhard’s character Brenda. But what we do get is wonderfully weird and funny, like Marcel’s “mini me” who at first just seems obsessed with him but turns out to be his actual child. And presumably we’ll be seeing more of them down the line, because Broad City tends to make Abbi and Ilana’s coworkers great recurring bit characters.

And Ilana does manage to keep her job...for now. Used to building people up instead of tearing them down, Ilana finds it difficult to adapt to the harsh ways of Sushi Mambeaux. So she seeks some spiritual guidance from the tin foil that once contained her baked potato, which is that special brand of Broad City surrealism I love. So she tries it her way and finds that slathering compliments on her guests works just as well as insulting them into spending money. Ilana ultimately finds power in being herself.

Abbi’s also facing changes in the workplace. Her new job as an assistant to a designer played by Wanda Sykes isn’t as glamorous as she wants it to be...mostly consisting of buying organic kitty litter and running menial errands for Sykes’ Dara. While her new job isn’t so hot, it still signals a major change in Abbi’s life. Still, she can’t quite escape the past. She accidentally has a package delivered to Solstice, forcing her to go back to the gym and come face-to-face with Trey.

It’d be easy for Abbi to ignore Trey if not for the fact that he’s in the midst of training Shania Twain. Broad City consistently excels at giving deeper or new meaning to its recurring jokes. Abbi has been lying about training Shania Twain for a long time now. Even Ilana doesn’t believe her when she calls to tell her. But it really is Shania, and Abbi convinces Trey to let her help train her, bringing one of her biggest dreams—and lies—to life. Only when it comes down to it, Abbi barely pays attention to Shania. Instead, she’s pulled back into the bizarre allure of Trey. The two become so absorbed in their own sexual tension that they forget Shania is even there. And then Shania’s the one to point out to Abbi that the Trey door isn’t closed completely. Leave it to Broad City to turn a Shania Twain guest spot into a genuine character moment for Abbi. And Twain gives a funny performance throughout, poking fun at herself and really selling the “let’s dish” scene with Abbi.

Abbi and Trey have sex throughout the gym, switching up their location every couple minutes because of bad memories Abbi associates with places like the Solstice bathroom. Revisiting the gym, and Trey, is a step back into her past, and this all means more than just a hookup with an ex. Trey ultimately tells Abbi that he wishes they had just kept things physical, that Abbi isn’t really a relationship person. That’s a slap in the face for Abbi, who never really considered the fact that she might not be a relationship person and who clearly wants to be a relationship person. So when Trey breaks his dick after being surprised by Shania during sex, Abbi jumps on the cute paramedic that shows up, asks him out, and immediately tells Ilana that she’s in a relationship.


There’s insecurity and uncertainty just under the surface of “Twaining Day,” with Abbi and Ilana both questioning themselves, who they are, what they want. Ilana thinks she’s desperate enough for money to be someone she’s not, but then she finds a way to be herself and still succeed. Abbi’s confronted with the fear that she might not be built for relationships, and she tries to fix it with far too much haste, jumping into a new relationship where the other person doesn’t even know they’re in a relationship. Changes in their work lives reverberate in other parts of their lives, and even though Broad City episodes that separate Abbi and Ilana are rarely the best, this one contains interesting character development that will likely have ramifications in the rest of the season moving forward.

Stray observations

  • Ilana steals some toiletries from her hookup, leaving a post-it note on her head thanking her for the “bang hang.”
  • Abbi and Ilana are volunteering as Planned Parenthood escorts in the first scene, and the package Abbi was after is revealed to be a four-year supply of Plan B in the final season.
  • The callback to North Brother Island made me scream.
  • Shania Twain is very funny, but RuPaul owns this episode.