The one constant in Broad City—not to mention reviews of Broad City—is Abbi and Ilana’s deep and effortless friendship. It’s provided most of the series’ highlights, helped along by the fact that so much of pop culture is starved for joyful depictions of female friends. The flip side of this triumph, however, is that anything lying outside the glow of Abbi and Ilana’s bantering tends to be less compelling by comparison; Broad City belongs to its titular Broads. So while “Citizen Ship” might not be my favorite episode the series has ever done, it’s more interesting to me if only because it doesn’t rely on Abbi and Ilana at all.
As far as recurring characters go, Hannibal Buress’ Lincoln has come the closest to grabbing the spotlight from Glazer and Jacobson. His dry one-liners and perpetually lethargic stance make him a natural foil for Glazer’s emphatic delivery and Jacobson’s sputtering rambles. Still, it’s a refreshing change of pace to see Lincoln outside the context of his almost-maybe-definitely relationship with Ilana. Even aside from getting to see Lincoln opposite new people, their separation also allows Ilana to grapple with the fact that maybe she and Lincoln are in—shudder—a relationship. So while Ilana and Abbi brave it out below deck with Bevers and his sweaty pocketful of shrimp, Lincoln gets to bond with Ilana’s roommate Jaime (Arturo Castro), who is determined to celebrate passing the United States citizenship test in as (North) American a way as possible. Exactly none of our frank protagonists belong on this ship, with its madras-clad finance bros who measure time in quarters, but at least Abbi and Ilana know Bevers and his absentee girlfriend Melanie. Lincoln and Jaime are true interlopers, and their casual acceptance of that fact makes for some of their best moments to date.
Now, Jaime has been around almost since the beginning, but he has not had as much of an opportunity to make an impact as Lincoln. He usually pops in to provide an entirely sincere counterpart to Ilana’s pure id. We have seen his unassuming sweetness amongst the chaos of last season’s “Hurricane Wanda,” and his eagerness to please when finding the perfect frozen yogurt flavor for a bed-ridden Abbi in this season’s “Wisdom Teeth.” Castro has made the most of his abbreviated appearances. “Hashtag FOMO” was packed with jokes and references, but I still remember the sharp pang of sympathy I felt when he saw Abbi and Ilana ditching the party he invited them to and waved a sad little goodbye to their backs.
Between that and the aforementioned frozen yogurt runner in “Wisdom Teeth,” I had been waiting for Castro to have a more substantial storyline to dig into, which is another reason why I appreciated “Citizen Ship.” Jaime’s enthusiasm for his adopted country and its wonders (free eating, free drinking, making out with very straight men by fire extinguishers) is completely, wonderfully irony-free. Castro’s deeper American accent is hilarious, especially when Jaime tries to sound as much like a bro as possible (“I love hamburgers and I love DUI’s”). His banter with Lincoln is also an unexpected delight, though I’m a little annoyed that I didn’t think of this pairing before, as both Lincoln and Jaime are defined by their earnestness. Their back and forth is relentlessly good-natured; they even manage to make the tired trope of playing Titanic’s Jack and Rose at the ship’s bow a worthwhile sidebar.
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The other more rewarding aspect of “Citizen Ship” is—this is true—Bevers. Yes, his insistence at talking about disgusting things in just about the most cloying ways possible is still off-putting, but Anthony King’s script largely does right by Bevers’ particular brand of gross. For one, it’s immediately more interesting to see him outside of Abbi’s apartment, where he tends to set up camp and destroy every rule of human decency with bodily fluids and a high-pitched giggle. For another, giving Bevers some drive immediately makes him a more palatable character. Even further, allowing Abbi to have Ilana at her side makes Bevers easier to take. Abbi is our disgusted audience surrogate—I have to believe I wasn’t the only one to echo her shudder when Bevers ambled onscreen—and so it comes as a relief when she gets to ride out the Bevers storm with her best friend. It’s easier to laugh off Bevers calling ejaculate “jazz” when Abbi laughs it off with Ilana, more bemused than repulsed (“why did we ask?!”).
For all it does right, though, “Citizen Ship” is still not one of Broad City’s best. It manages to be scattered even as the characters are all marooned on the same ship, and everything feels a little strained from Bevers’ failed proposal through Abbi trying to sell that she’s “becoming a man” (iffy wording theirs). The facts that the room is very receptive to her transition and that all the preppy lawyers become much more attracted to her almost saves it, but everything deflates once Abbi, Ilana, and Bevers escape their locked room situation. Broad City is only barely serialized, and yet “Citizen Ship” really does feel like a transition episode. It never quite comes together, but it at least sets up a friendship between Jaime and Lincoln, raises the question of whether Ilana and Lincoln are actually dating, and even manages to make Bevers slightly less repellant, thus flying in the face of all those who would say they don’t believe in miracles.
- I was very sad not to make last week’s dog wedding, but many thanks to Emily Stephens for stepping in for the review!
- Every place Ilana and Lincoln tried to have sex on the ship is already occupied with people trying to have sex. This…feels very real.
- Madras-clad bros when asked where they live, simultaneously: “Murray Hill, but I’m moving to Williamsburg.”
- Love that the frat bro Jaime kissed is later discovered getting a blowjob.
- I love that one of Ilana’s defining traits is rallying so hard against the status quo that she almost ends up being offensive again. Her insisting that human-robot relationships will be the “civil rights issue of our lifetime” is only matched by Abbi’s dismissive, “yeah, okay.”
- Speaking of, Fuck/Marry/Kill for Captain Morgan, Jack Daniels, and the Svedka vodka robot ends with Ilana killing both dudes to fuck and marry the robot. What say YOU, commentariat?
- Biggest laugh came early this episode, after Ilana rhapsodizes about “our ancestors coming through Ellis Island” and Lincoln just goes, “….yeeaaahhhh….mine didn’t.”
- Lincoln, when Jaime says he wishes there were a ‘Spicy Spice’ Girl: “Open your eyes, man! Shakira is Spicy Spice!”
- Ilana, trying to get your attention: “Fire! Rape! Fire and rape!! Fire rape!!!”