Even after watching, reviewing, and loving Broad City for a while now, there are several points during “Knockoffs” that make me stop, gape, and laugh in disbelief that this is a real show that’s on now. It’s given us one of the strongest fictional female friendships, endless twists on traditional stoner bro comedy, Garol, and now, the most earnest conflict over an off-brand dildo to ever grace television.
I mean, bless this show.
Before the dildo comes out to play, though, Abbi and Jeremy’s long-awaited date is exactly as adorable as Abbi had envisioned. They have craft beers, talk about TV, and dive into the inane back-and-forth that people do when they would rather stop talking and start being on top of each other. When they finally start making out, Abbi stops, looks at Jeremy, and says in wonder, “oh my god, I’m kissing Jeremy.” He looks back, grins a dreamy grin, and sighs, “oh my god, I’m kissing Abbi.” It’s so cute that there’s just no question the other shoe is about to drop, and it’s a relief when it’s not Abbi having yet another awkward meltdown. Jeremy whipping out the dildo is not only a jarring moment, but a humanizing one. We’ve been seeing Jeremy almost exclusively through Abbi’s eyes, and since she was looking at him almost exclusively through those rose-colored glasses we all wear when crushing on someone, there was just no knowing what Jeremy Santos was actually like. But his mistaking Abbi’s “let’s switch positions” for an invitation to strap on his strap-on gives us more insight into Jeremy as an actual person than even Abbi ever expected—and it makes for one of Broad City’s best storylines to date.
The thing is, there just aren’t many shows out there that include sex toys beyond quick gross-out jokes. Dildos especially are depicted less as legitimate sex toys than ridiculous novelties on par with those bachelorette party dick straws. “Knockoffs,” however, manages to strike a balance between the two. Abbi, torn between going all in with her longtime crush and the reality of “pegging” Jeremy with his intimidating strap-on, calls Ilana for advice. Ilana, consumed by her sex positivity and love for Abbi, is so thrilled that she has to dance it out. (Glazer’s lithe contortions at this moment are perfectly enthusiastic and bizarre, like she knows they’re going to make the best gif.) The best part, though, comes when Abbi says she doesn’t know what to do and Ilana calls her out on it: “Bitch, you know. You wouldn’t have called me if you didn’t.” If Ilana is reliable for anything, it’s encouraging people to have more open-minded sex—especially if “people” means “Abbi.” There’s no way calling Ilana about a potential pegging situation wasn’t going to end with Ilana egging her on, and Abbi knows it. This is the kind of moment I’m talking about when I talk about Broad City as one of the best and most touching depictions of female friendship. They know and accept each other inside and out.
And so Abbi takes charge of her sex life with Jeremy. She leaps into the unknown with as much confidence as she can muster, and as she swaggers out of the bathroom, Lucia Aniello’s direction takes a perfectly twisted turn. The camera sits between Abbi’s legs, the top of the sea foam green dildo dipping down into the top of frame, almost resting on top of Jeremy’s delighted face.
Seriously, bless this show.
While Abbi’s off trying sex positive adventures, Ilana holds court at her grandmother’s shiva. Meeting Ilana’s family is the most we have ever learned about Abbi or Ilana beyond their lives with each other and, thanks to some spot-on casting, the Wexlers do not disappoint. Character actor Bob Balaban (Close Encounters Of The Third Kind) is an unexpected but delightful choice to play Ilana’s bemused father, while comedian Eliot Glazer provides a natural deadpan counterpart to Ilana’s high energy as her brother (undoubtedly helped by the fact that he is, in fact, Glazer’s real life brother). While the Wexler men are meeker, Ilana’s brazen moxie proves to come straight from her frank and hilarious mother, Bobbi. As played by Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Ilana’s mother is what Ilana would be like if she were a housewife. The similarities are obvious even beyond their mirrored corkscrew hair and propensity for smacking nail polish against their palms as long as they can take it. Like her daughter, Bobbi is loud, brash, and unapologetic in everything she does. “Knockoffs” could have depended on the novelty of meeting Ilana’s family and been a decent episode, but it propels itself to greater heights by giving Ilana and her mother an adventure that manages to be both deeply weird and truly touching.
See, Bobbi loves handbags. Not just any handbags—knockoffs. And not just any knockoffs—the good shit, that kind that rests in secret manholes under some godforsaken corner of New York City. As Ilana and her mother go further and further down the rabbit hole of counterfeit bags, they somehow get more and more casual about everything. “No no,” Bobbi protests when a nondescript van pulls up to take them who knows where. “We bring our own blindfolds, thank you.” They pile into the back of the van, chattering away about when they got pinkeye from suspect blindfolds that other time, and make their way down to the aforementioned manhole of prizes. Basically, meeting the woman from whence Ilana Wexler came is such a treat. Essman and Glazer have wonderful chemistry, as evidenced by the times when they lapse into simultaneous furious tirades against cops and/or “patriarchal motherfuckers” while still holding hands. Their immediate rapport also sells the heartbreaking moment when the cops confiscate the handbags and Bobbi finally admits that her fervor was a way of coping with her mother’s death.
Now let’s follow the episode’s back-and-forth structure and weave back to Abbi and Jeremy, whose final argument is one of the most truthful conversations about sex and judgment I’ve ever seen on television. Yes, “Knockoffs” is still just as absurdist as Broad City ever gets—which is to be expected, since it comes from the minds of writing team Lucia Aniello and Paul Downs, who wrote the surreal “Working Girls.” Once we get past Abbi melting the dildo in the dishwasher and skulking to a sex shop to replace it, though, we end up in a startlingly honest conversation.
The replacement dildo’s not up to the snuff of Jeremy’s personalized and more expensive one, and Abbi doesn’t see the big deal. Here, the script could have let Jeremy become a caricature of himself and Abbi be in the right, but it does something so much more interesting instead. Jeremy thanks Abbi for trying to find a replacement, but ultimately rejects it. Abbi’s floored. She’s fine with the dildo! She had fun! What’s the big deal? And he points out that the other one was custom made for his body, it’s what he’s comfortable with, and he finds it immature that she would think that doesn’t matter. Abbi throws back that she “fucked [him] in the ass the same night [they] did anything,” which was clearly a big deal for her. Jeremy is snobbier than he needs to be in the face of Abbi’s enthusiasm, but still: Both of these consenting, sexual adults have an open discussion about completely valid concerns. I know that’s just a summary of what happened in this scene, but I’m writing it all out because I’m always floored when I can say any of that about pop culture. This is still Broad City we’re talking about, so they still have this whole fight while Abbi’s dangling a green dildo off her pelvis. But that’s the combination that has made Broad City the force that it is: total honesty and complete commitment to the bit. Years from now, long after Broad City is gone, I’ll be sad but I won’t cry—because I’ll know “that badass bitch did everything she wanted to do.”
- I’ve loved every one of Aniello and Downs’ dense and surrealist scripts. For North Brother Island and pegging, they have my eternal gratitude.
- Jeremy telling Abbi he has to go teach woodworking to underprivileged kids is such a great callback to Aniello and Downs’ “Working Girls,” when Abbi speculates about him doing exactly that.
- I kept thinking Jeremy was going to turn out to be a sleaze, but I’m going to blame that on Stephen Schneider’s perfectly slimy turn in You’re The Worst.
- Nicole demanding tighter nipple clamps.
- So pleased they had Eliot Glazer sing. Having seen him do a live rendition of “Teenage Dream,” I can vouch for that being his real voice.
- Someone give me Ilana Wexler’s entire formal wardrobe, please.
- Ilana Wexler, Enthusiastic Consent Advocate: “We have shrimp inside of us at all times. Which I’m okay with, sounds delicious, but it’s like…ask me first?”
- “There are infinite holes in the sea.”