It’s probably best to get this out immediately: After multiple viewings, I’m still really not sure how to completely unpack all of what I just watched.
“Nils Vidervaan, Professional Interventiomalist” is a strange episode of Childrens Hospital that has so much going on but also not much at all. There’s the Yoko factor. There’s a Jaws riff. There’s celery. There’s an intervention. There’s a time jump. There’s cannibalism. It all follows Childrens Hospital internal logic in that it makes little sense, but it does so in a way that’s it maybe makes just too little sense. At the very least Childrens Hospital deserves some praise for turning something with an absolutely straightforward synopsis—
“Sy’s girlfriend makes changes at the hospital, and the doctors are not happy.”
—into anything but that. The synopsis is true, as Lola, Owen, and Chief are not happy about the changes Sy’s new girlfriend Rhonda (Stephnie Weir) is making to the hospital. She makes surgeries communal, has the doctors wash-up before surgery “all the way down past [the] nipple line,” has a celery vending machine installed, and makes Sy dress like Keith Richards. None of her suggestions are actually good—Sy should never dress like Keith Richard—which means the doctors’ frustrations aren’t without merit, but Sy is too blinded by all the sex he’s having that he refuses to listen to reason from people who aren’t known for being reasonable. Tough love dictates an intervention (from Michael Showalter’s Nils Vildervaan), a beating (that Lola/Erinn Hayes is conspicuously absent from), and a 17-month detox for Sy.
It’s just too weird.
Meanwhile, Blake and Nurse Dori are on an adventure to find “the cat” in the boiler room, with Blake wanting to kill it and Dori being assigned to keep him from killing it. What they find is the cat inside the cat and a dead end plot. Childrens Hospital can get away with its characters being bored with whatever weird thing they’re doing and moving on to the next adventure, but going to that well too many times can diminish the humor of the situation. Last week’s “Sperm Bank Heist” ended with the realization that Blake didn’t know why he stole a ton of sperm, and it worked. After all, Blake has consistently been the most chaotic neutral character on Childrens Hospital. But the idea of that being the end of each of his storylines can make it lose its luster pretty fast. As Childrens Hospital tends to shift episode orders often, the chances that these episodes were originally supposed to be back-to-pack is pretty slim, but it shaking out this way is an unfortunate circumstance.
Michael Showalter’s other Childrens Hospital episode scripts (“Triangles” and “Old Fashioned Day”) were both products of a tonally off season, yet they were able to rise above that and make the new setting work for them. But within the confines of a season that’s more like the good old days of Childrens Hospital, the strangeness doesn’t quite fit into a more confident world; it instead sticks out like a sore thumb. As for his work within the episode, Nils Vildervaan himself feels more like an Adult Swim infomercial character than one for Childrens Hospital, and best moment for the Nils character isn’t even until the end credits, during the “outtakes” of his commercial, as he shows himself to be a rage monster. Showalter can be pretty hit or miss, and unfortunately, this all leans more toward miss.
Part of what makes this episode so much more intangible is how strange the Rhonda situation is in the first place. We really know nothing about Rhonda (besides the fact that she has terrible ideas) or her motivation, and that makes her completly disposable come meat pie time… 17 months later. We’re never given any sort of explanation about her ideas for the hospital, other than she wants Sy to be a hippy. Or does she? There’s apparently no endgame in the character’s mind, which is another result of the episode being just about a bunch of concepts, with no real goal for them.
The episode does have its moments though. Owen’s new meat pie hobby going the route of Sweeney Todd ends the episode on a high note, especially when it interrupts the credits to confirm that he did in fact make meat pies out of Rhonda. The episode features a lot of over-explaining, which has become another Childrens Hospital staples and is especially upsetting (in a good way) in the form of Sy talking about his sex life. Also, given the cast absences, it’s worth noting that this season has found some quality out of the absurd one-on-one conversations between Chief and Lola. Lola’s disinterest in practically everything Chief has to say at any given moment is enough to make any episode worth watching.
Plus, Sy gets the crap beaten out of him.
- Sy is invited to “breakroom hang[s]” now. How times have changed.
- “Half the staff” was gone looking for the cat. That checks out.
- Another good Nils Vildervaan moment: when he tries to figure out what Sy was pointing at as a distraction.
- Fartcopter is still on!
- Blake’s fake nails on a chalkboard bit is very Showalter, in a good way.
- As a person who’s never seen an episode of Intervention (and is very much content with that), please let me know how much of this episode was anything like that at all. I assume Tristram Shapeero nailed it, directing-wise.
- Dori: “You’re gonna need a bigger ball of yawn.”
- “We did it, everybody!” “We broke his spirit!” Counting this as a Stella reference. Let me have this.