Even though Future Man could send its characters anywhere in time and space, one of the show’s best episodes so far is also the closest thing it’s had to a bottle episode, taking place almost entirely in the Futturman house. With just 28 minutes until Jeri’s head blows up (or, roughly the length of an episode of streaming television that really could have used a hard edit), Josh, Tiger, and Wolf have to find out where her time travel device is, all while running interference on Josh’s parents’ holiday dinner party. Fun!
With slightly faster pacing, “A Blowjob Before Dying” could have achieved a pretty impressive level of madcap zaniness, cutting between Josh and Tiger interrogating Jeri, Wolf cooking and “entertaining” Gabe and Diane’s guest, and the slow burn toward Uncle Barry (David Koechner) having a full-on meltdown—but what we got is still pretty good. Each of these pieces is a lot of fun, and they blend together well as Diane repeatedly tries to barge in on Josh and Jeri (she’s heard so much about her son’s workplace crush), Wolf gets a blowjob from Diane’s recently divorced friend Wanda (Carolyn Hennesy), and Tiger drifts between the upstairs and downstairs, partly so she can kidnap a baby.
As he has been for most of the show so far, Derek Wilson is fantastic here, getting himself psyched up for sewer torture (he had an awesome scorpion) and pouting when he’s told he has to be on social duty. (“What am I, Butterfly?”) But the real stars of this episodes are Glenne Headly and Ed Begley Jr. Though Diane hasn’t had a ton to do beyond being a sort of lilting, smothering mom, her confusion and sad acceptance when Josh blows up at her is both funny and a little sad, since all she wants to do is meet the famous Jeri her son has been talking about for years. And Begley Jr. continues to have excellent scenes with Wilson, asking Wolf for help with a cooking mishap, but really shines in his climactic scene with David Koecher.
After an entire evening of humiliations, including losing out on his chance to hook with Wanda and publicly complaining about the family’s sick uncle Bob, his taste for bourbon, and his own diabetes, Barry hazily realizes that Tiger, Wolf, and Josh were the ones who assaulted his family back in 1969 and pulls the family gun on them. (Chekhov would be proud.) Beyond the goofiness of the filter that gets put over the flashbacks, Gabe and Barry actually do have a very funny, heartfelt conversation about how the younger, meaner Gabe was a bad brother, culminating in Barry agreeing to sober up. That Barry is absolutely correct is totally besides the point, and serves to make the totally straight dramatic scene simultaneously very funny. (Understatement is, surprisingly, one of Future Man’s better tactics.)
Somehow, the title of “A Blowjob Before Dying” manages to be a fakeout—I saw the name and assumed the plot would involve Jeri offering to blow Josh in exchange for doing some sort of sabotage for the Biotics. After all, the heart of this episode is their interrogation. Jeri introduces doubts into Josh’s mind, claiming that The Resistance is really a terrorist organization. She paints the future as a utopia, where disease has been eradicated and overpopulation controlled—until The Resistance began blowing up hospitals. It’s compelling, almost too compelling. (I briefly thought this was actually going to turn out to be the case, totally blowing open the plot for the rest of the season.) And Jeri uses her perfect memory to sow dissent into the team, relaying Josh’s comments about Tiger back to both of them.
Tiger retaliates by claiming that Wallace, the baby Gabe and Diane’s neighbors brought to the dinner party, is actually baby Elias Kronish, who she threatens to kill. It’s a plan that makes absolutely no sense and probably could have been cut from the episode, especially because it seems like the main reason Gabe and Diane’s black neighbors are even at the dinner party scenes, but at least it ends with Tiger identifying one of the central tenets of the show: “You know that all this time travel bullshit makes no fucking sense.”
What does make a surprising amount of sense is Josh’s interrogation tactic, which relies on him very believably whining about the fact that he thought Jeri was really into him. (She liked his Instagrams!) Hutcherson plays this well, with the gentle coating of sadsack that accrues to most stuff Josh does. But in another effective reversal, Josh turns out to have been using those emotions to lure Jeri into lowering her guard and revealing the origins of Cameronium—with Sir James Cameron, the founder of modern science. It works almost too well, since Britt Lower is surprisingly sympathetic when she admits that really did like Josh, to the point where she got butterflies in her stomach when they kissed—butterflies that had ostensibly been engineered out of the Biotics. Josh’s reversal is based on his fear of the perfectly engineered “pod person” future, in contrast to the messy honesty of Tiger and Wolf. This doesn’t seem like a very good reason to ignore potential solutions to all of the world’s problems, but hey, none of this stuff makes any sense anyway.