Screenshot: Netflix

Mr. Peanutbutter is a character who never does anything halfway. We know this about him, having seen countless examples of where his ruthless exuberance and game-for-anything attitude can take us. He’s completely comfortable with his low level of celebrity, willing to take on any project that’s willing to employ him, and capable of going with the flow in a way that his frenemy BoJack has never mastered. It’s an attitude that’s endeared him to plenty of fans, almost pushed him to the California governor’s office, and now secured a role on Philbert as a character who may or may not be a ghost.

But for all his commitment, there’s also a wearying side to his personality and the real chance for problems he’s too excited to notice. Many characters on BoJack Horseman have gotten a taste of this over the years, but “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” is the most recognizable instance that this less engaging side is carrying over to the audience. It’s an episode that’s trying to bite off a lot, trying to cover four relationships and four different timelines, and doing so as frantically and distractedly as Mr. Peanutbutter stopping to chat with everyone who attends every one of his parties. And not coincidentally, it’s also one of the infrequent times that the show feels like it may have bitten off more than it can chew.

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The framing device for the episode is Halloween—and no, before you ask, not the one that takes place in January. It’s the real deal, an occasion that Mr. Peanutbutter has commemorated for the last 25 years with a party hosted at BoJack’s home and completely against BoJack’s wishes. “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” takes a look at a few of the party highlights, coinciding with Mr. Peanutbutter’s four serious relationships. There’s the 1993 party when he was married to Katrina, the 2004 party when he was married to Jessica Biel, the 2009 party when he was a couple of years into his relationship with Diane, and the present 2018 party where he’s dating Pickles. Writer Kelly Galuska and director Anne Walker Farrell go for the unstuck-in-time model, jumping between all four eras on the lightest connections.

From a visual standpoint it’s a stuffed pillowcase of tricks and treats, plenty of jokes that carry over and evolve over the course of four parties. There’s the moth in a ghost sheet that gets progressively more threadbare as the years go on, and the recurring DJ that’s also a beetle in a Beetlejuice costume. There’s the detail that Princess Carolyn has worn the same Amelia Earhart costume to every party—a clear carryover from “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos”—and that it’s become as tattered and worn over the years as the optimism she brought from North Carolina. There’s a new set of Hollywoo TV actors at each party, and Mr. Peanutbutter has some logical questions about how each of their shows works. (“I get that it’s The X-Files, I’m just saying what happened to The A Through W Files? I wanna see that show. More files!”)

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Screenshot: Netflix

But while BoJack Horseman is a series that understands better than most its spot-the-reference Netflix audience, “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” goes too heavily into that territory at the expense of the narrative flow. Even with specific background lighting it’s too easy to get confused in the myriad of parties, the cuts between narratives happening at a rapid pace that makes it hard to grab onto anything that’s happening. And there’s plenty of indications that the episode is aware of the problems it’s presenting, but in countering them it’s telegraphing too heavily the year of each party, lampshading even more obviously than Princess Carolyn devising BoJack’s “one night stand” costume. It’s the same winking that worked against “INT. SUB,” the feeling that the BoJack team is too complacent in their cleverness.

“Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” also forces a couple of contrivances into the narrative, to mixed results. We learn that at the 2009 Halloween party, not only did Diane introduce herself to BoJack before being hired as his ghost writer, but Todd started to live at BoJack’s house immediately after it wrapped up. Continuity-wise they fit, as we already knew that Diane was a big fan of Horsin’ Around in her childhood and that BoJack said back in “Zoës And Zeldas” “Five years ago [Todd] found his way into one of my house parties and never left.” But at the same time, there’s an unnecessary sense of pre-show predestination to these scenes, that coincidental things happened between the main characters years before we watched their adventures start.

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The episode is better when it takes advantage of the return of the ex-Mrs. Peanutbutters, and their comparison between their potential successor. Lake Bell has fun with the contrast between younger Katrina and present-day Katrina, converting to her arch-conservative side thanks to speaking with Tim Allen and Ben Stein, and switching between personas in the span of seconds. (“Can you imagine if I spoke to you like that?” Mr. Peanutbutter: “I really can’t!”) And Jessica Biel continues to have a joyous “no blow too low” attitude toward BoJack Horseman’s swipes at her career, with her overpowering fear of mummies coming from an unsuccessful audition for The Mummy: “It’s my one major career disappointment as of 2004!” It’s casting that struck gold and continues to pay dividends.

Screenshot: Netflix

And casting them in contrast to Mr. Peanutbutter’s newest girlfriend also works, as they’re the ones who are just trying to cope with the party setting and she’s the one trying way too hard to enjoy herself. If “Planned Obsolescence” cast a positive light on Mr. Peanutbutter and Pickles, “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” is foreshadowing trouble left and right. BoJack’s at his least helpful in a while (“Do I need to know this one? Is she gonna be around for a while?” is gloriously callous), and the fact that the party and Pickles are the same age is a worrying sign of Mr. Peanutbutter robbing the cradle. And Diane remains a reluctant attendee, desperately trying to figure out who owns the car that needs to be moved so she can leave, and unwillingly dragging all of their relationship’s baggage into the evening.

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When carrying that weight leads to the latest of fights that broke up the party, Diane steps in to help out, and in the process gets to a crunchier aspect of Mr. Peanutbutter. The point that Diane was a Horsin’ Around fan in her youth isn’t a favorite part of mine, but there’s a corollary to that fact that illuminates something in Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s relationship. If she loved that show, and Mr. Peanutbutter is a contemporary of BoJack, that makes him her senior by twenty years at least. And if you follow that trend from Jessica Biel to Diane to Pickles, it’s a clear progression that he’s dating women who are younger and younger than him as the years go on.

Screenshot: Netflix

Yet “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” finds a way to steer into that skid when Diane makes this point clear to him, and also points out that it’s maturity that leads to the end of those relationships. (Mr. Peanutbutter: “You’re saying they grow up and I stay the same age? All right, all right, all right.”) And it’s not the gross way that you see aging stars unable to acknowledge their fading looks and latching onto younger partners, or just preferring younger women on a physical level, it’s a question of emotional maturity. Despite occasionally admitting he’s a old dog, Mr. Peanutbutter’s truly young at heart, willing to believe the best of everyone and believe he can keep doing the same party every year without evolving past it. It’s the worst kind of self-denial, completely unaware that you’re even denying anything.

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Diane’s explanation is a welcome sobering up after the dizzying progression of the parties. (Well, sobering up everyone except BoJack, who clearly won’t remember this promise to host next year’s party anymore than he remembers the last 25.) It’s an open question if this is the time he’s managed to listen, but the forced smile he gives in Pickles’ selfie seems to indicate some level of awareness has finally crept into that dim exterior. Maybe, for once, he’s starting to feel as tired as everyone else.


Stray observations:

  • Achievement in Voice Acting: It’s another split decision this episode as Mr. Peanutbutter’s significant others—Bell, Biel, Brie, and Chau—are a superstar tag team who do a great job of showing why Mr. Peanutbutter fell for them in the first place and how they grew or may be growing away from him.
  • It’s the return of the Celebrity Stealing Club! First seen in “The Telescope” and returning in “Love And/Or Marriage,” their ability to walk into a party and walk out with a painting remains unparalleled.
  • The 2009 Halloween party also has another piece of BoJack Horseman continuity when we see BoJack take the call from Bea that Butterscotch passed away. As he said during the eulogy in “Free Churro,” learning your father died in a duel does indeed make you ask the question “What do you mean, a duel?!
  • Flip can be glimpsed in the background towards the end of the party, perfectly dressed as a lurking vampire.
  • Pickles is an early adopter of the newest hot social media app, TweedFeed. “It’s Insta plus SnapChat if they both boinked Friendster, which I guess was a thing in the 70s.”
  • BoJack and Diane cross paths briefly at the party, and it’s as awkward as you’d expect it to be. “So. That submarine scene.” “You wanna talk about it?” “...No.” “Okay, we’ll put that in the large bucket of things we don’t talk about.”
  • “Why grab a Twix when you can Sip-owitz?”
  • “Oh no! I’m 18! Am I gonna be 35 soon? That’s when they make you president! I don’t want that! That’s too much responsibility!”
  • “Should we do shots together to celebrate how normal we’re being?”
  • “If you’ll excuse me, I’m just gonna take this dickhole’s helicopter home.”
  • Today in Hollywoo costumes:
Screenshot: Netflix

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