(Photo: Kevin Estrada/Fox)

So, hey, how great is Mo Collins? It’s not easy to be the obvious standout of an episode of TV that already features Craig Robinson, Adam Scott, and Amber Stevens West all firing at peak efficiency—especially when you’ve only got about a minute of screen time in which to do it—but damn if the former Joan Callamezzo wasn’t exactly what an already-good Ghosted needed to pop itself up to “great.” Collins shows up late in “The Machine,” as the ditzy, secretly heartbroken wife of vampiric golf douche Campbell (classic “Hey, it’s that guy” Sam McMurray), drunkenly babbling about her “doll room” and getting instantly obsessive with West’s undercover Annie. Her performance is wonderfully weird in a way Ghosted hasn’t done with a guest star before, a comfort with going to the stranger edges of things that feels like it wouldn’t have been out of place on credited episode writer Kyle Newacheck’s old Comedy Central show, Workaholics.

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That Workaholics vibe is all over “The Machine,” actually, especially in the way the episode lets some of Newacheck’s weirder runs have time to linger on the screen. Early on, we get Max quizzing Leroy about his VHS collection, a bit that’s essentially just Adam Scott listing Rocky movies, and Craig Robinson confirming that, yep, he’s got ‘em. (Even Creed.) The two rope West into the nutty banter later, too, with a headset conversation that sees Max try to sell Annie and Leroy on using “Mout”—a combination of “Max” and “out”—as his time-saving sign-off. As someone who holds up Archer’s “M as in Mancy” run as a high point of 21st century comedy, I’m already susceptible to dumb walkie-talkie conversations, but there’s a briskness to how all three performers rattle off these idiocies—including and especially Leroy’s complaint that Mout “sounds too much like mouth”—that had me cackling as I watched.

(Photo: Kevin Estrada/Fox)

The actual plot of the episode is typically slight, as Max and Leroy infiltrate a country club in order to figure out who’s been turning caddies into piles of dust. The obvious setup here, which sees Leroy playing up his part and insulting Max in increasingly mean-spirited ways, is only so-so—it’s mostly meant as setup for an emotional beat about Max realizing he needs to move on from pining for his wife, because no one on this series is ready to admit that serialized emotional storytelling is not, and should not, be what Ghosted is all about—but Scott manages to mine some great material out of his instant identification with his fellow caddies. (His quiet pleas to his new buddy Ricky to “hold the line” and resist the urge to do a little dance for dropped cash are especially good.) After a brief detour investigating Buffy The Vampire Slayer favorite Harry Groener—another delightfully bizarre bit part—the two of them end up on the trail of Campbell and his immortality-granting Cronos (not cronut) machine.

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The subsequent dinner party is significantly more successful than the earlier golf course stuff; we not only get the arrival of Collins’ blissfully odd trophy wife, but also some backstory for Annie—her family’s not just rich, it’s “helicopter rich”—and another round of Max Jennifer, hero to put-upon caddies and waiters everywhere. (“Up with the caddies! Down with the rich!”)

(Photo: Kevin Estrada/Fox)

Not every joke in “The Machine” is especially fresh (Annie’s run on how to find a secret passage in a mansion is about as old as Campbell himself), and the actual plot is fuzzy as ever (Leroy just sort of slips out of his bonds, and saves the day by beating up a tree), but the whole think moves so damn fast that it’s hard to really mind. In my first review for Ghosted, I accused the series of coasting, allowing its stars’ charisma to carry it along. Five episodes in, it’s starting to feel like the show is finally ready to hustle a little in order to find a more distinctive voice than “Adam Scott and Craig Robinson saying funny shit.”

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Stray observations

  • So, are we to believe that this is simply a universe in which Guillermo Del Toro’s Cronos was never made? I’ll buy zombie teenagers and severed alien heads, Ghosted, but that is a bridge too far.
  • Mo Collins tribute section: “He’s probably off in his secret room doing the p90x or whatever.” “What did you just say?” “p90x, it’s an exercise routine popularized by Paul Ryan.”
  • “You belong in three rooms: the kitchen, the bedroom, and the doll room!”
  • “She can have real children, not the kind with the glass eyes and the stuffing.”
  • “You are my spirit animal.” The delivery on that last one is both desperate and sublime.
  • Leroy, simultaneously disabusing Max of his idyllic memories of his rich uncle Petey’s house, and teaching me my new favorite insult: “You. Were. An unpaid child gardener.”
  • “Am I sitting in some damn Cronuts device?”
  • “Stop Cronusizing me, you stupid ancient idiot!”
  • “Oh, that’s right, you indestructible.” This was a really great Leroy episode, too, actually. Every variant on “Cronusing” was a delight.
  • I have downgraded my comments on Max and Annie’s flirtation in my notes from all-caps screaming to a relatively muted “I still hate this.” That being said, her “Well, whatever, you love it” line about Max taking advantage of her moneyed status was actually smooth and cute.
  • Groener’s asshole former executive, on gazelles: “I killed one of those. They’re beautiful.”
  • Barry went a little broad for me this week, but his “Yes, I’ll be your friend Leroy” made me smile.
  • And that’s it for this week, Ghosted fans. Over and Mout.

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