Screenshot: Netflix

Season five of BoJack Horseman sees the return of a long-absent and keenly missed member of the show’s universe. Not Vincent Adultman or Character Actress Margo Martindale, but Elefante, the high-class restaurant that BoJack purchased on a dare and has since run into the ground. It was the sight of many important events, from BoJack’s competition that led to grand theft letter and the nuptials of Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter. It was abandoned after the seismic events of “Best Thing That Ever Happened,” head chef and clientele fleeing the wreckage and migrating across town to Sandro’s Place.

Now, everyone’s having dinner at Elefante again. And once again, having a meal there is the first step in a series of wacky adventures and journeys of self-discovery. “Planned Obsolescence” is a litmus test for the three new relationships that began at the start of season five: the asexual but not aromantic connection between Todd and Yolanda, the coworkers with benefits arrangement of BoJack and Gina, and the puppy love of Mr. Peanutbutter and Pickles. In the world of BoJack Horseman, you don’t get to have a successful relationship without earning a few Purple Hearts, and while they don’t know it, the trio who meet for the first time in Elefante’s ladies’ room are about to stride into battle.

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Yolanda’s the only one of the three who’s in not the restaurant for dinner, saving her personal drama for a more complicated meal the next night. It’s the first time she’s introducing Todd to her family, and her discomfort is clear right away—to everyone except Todd that is, who never met a meaningful pause he couldn’t misread. Turns out that she’s never told them that she’s asexual, and they’re a family who live and breathe erotica. Her father (John Leguizamo) is the best-selling author of erotic novels Depth and Girth. Her mother (Eva Longoria) is an adult film star who’s been in every porn version of a John Hughes movie. And her twin sister Mindy is a sex advice columnist who’s never forgiven Yolanda for allegedly sleeping with her boyfriend—a lie Yolanda’s allowed to live for fear of exposing the truth.

It’s as blatant setup for farce as you’ve ever seen, and “Planned Obsolescence” rides that farce into the top tier of Todd mayhem. All the boxes get checked, from the classic twin swapping to the seduction scene gone wrong to the priceless family heirloom getting broken, with exaggerated sound effects and Edvard Grieg-inspired score. While they could be predictable, writer Elijah Aron keeps the comedic beats high thanks to both the heightened sexuality—every other home furnishing is genital-shaped, every conversation ends with a come-on—and the fact that the Buenaventuras keep adding new complications without pause. That complexity also brings out the best in Aaron Paul line deliveries, as Todd’s scrambling and slipping to keep up with each new twist. (My personal favorite, after Angelica strips in front of Todd. Yolanda: “Please tell me you said ahoooga!” Todd: “Aw, I didn’t!”)

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Screenshot: Netflix

The farcical elements are even more enjoyable because they avoid the pitfalls of trying to make a joke about asexuality, a journey that BoJack Horseman has handled with a ton of grace and maturity. “Planned Obsolescence” moves past any worry that making it silly would undo the good work that’s been done. Yolanda and Todd’s asexuality isn’t treated as an “other,” it’s treated the same way you’d treat any other secret that someone would keep from their family. And when the truth comes out in the course of a lube fight—a scene director Aaron Long clearly had a ton of fun putting together—the episode jumps past any judgments via an intertitle card of “One Thorough but Respectful Dialogue Later.” It’s not an alienating condition, it’s just another excuse for a wacky misunderstanding, which feels oddly progressive for the subject.

And “Planned Obsolescence” does cycle back to the thoughtful part of Todd’s asexual journey, as the evening ends with his telling Yolanda they need to break up. It’s a somber close to a silly plot, but also weirdly appropriate: in the context of all that silliness, the one thing that would rise to the top for Todd is the only note that wasn’t silly. And it’s been apparent since the start of the season that these two were opposites that didn’t fully attract, so the only real surprise is how quickly BoJack reached this point. Todd’s still in the position of learning what’s going to make him happy, and that’s a journey that never ends without coming upon a few things that will make you unhappy.

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In terms of finding things that make you unhappy, no one’s better that than BoJack, who hasn’t learned much since his last relationship. He’s trying to push Gina outside of their usual coworker hookups, but in his mind that’s just paying more attention to him when he rants about craft services (“Is your rant honeydew-related?” “It’s in the honeydew area”). Even his discovery of the fact that she loves a corny musical—literally, a musical about corn—immediately becomes a subject of mockery. It’s the same sort of behavior we’ve seen from him before with Wanda and Ana, his emotions too crippled to just come out and say he likes someone without three layers of defense mechanism.

Screenshot: Netflix

And when it comes to making someone happy, the only thing he can think to do is what he thinks is best for them, giving her a shot to sing on an upcoming Philbert episode. While Todd’s plot saves the heavier parts until the end, here they’re hand in hand. The lyrics to A Kernel Of Truth are so ridiculous that I hope the BoJack writers’ room wrote an entire score (“Maybe if I could find my old journals/ they’ll help me to grind new kernels”) but it’s painful hearing Stephanie Beatriz’s voice crack as Gina tries and fails to match the soundtrack she’s listened to a thousand times.

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Gina brushes off the failed audition as nothing more than the answer to an unasked question, and at the same time brushes off BoJack’s attempt to make their relationship anything more than it is. It’s a double blow to BoJack, proving both that he can’t use his own stardom to will it onto others, and that putting himself out there isn’t always going to have the desired results. And while unlike Todd and Yolanda’s relationship his is still intact, there’s something sadder about this end result, one of the first times in a long while that he’s put himself out there and didn’t get the results he wanted.

While BoJack’s trying to ramp up his relationship, Mr. Peanutbutter and Pickles are putting the brakes on theirs over the latter’s concern that they’re moving too fast. It’s the lighter of the three interactions, which is no surprise since the two of them are naturally inclined towards impulse and enjoyment. Trying to slow down their viewing of the International Space Station’s detonation to “not a date” territory goes so much against both of their characters that it creates plenty of faux pas, from listening to Diane’s podcast on the way to the event to having an ill-timed Lady And The Tramp moment right after some non-date disclosures got a little too real. (Though it is a ringing endorsement of clearing the ice this way in new relationships. Case in point, Mr. Peanutbutter: “I can say all the things I’d never say on a date! Like that I’ve never seen The Wire! And I don’t think I’m gonna.”)

Screenshot: Netflix

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Yet that honesty comes in handy at the end of their non-date, as Mr. Peanutbutter argues that even if it’s going to be a failed relationship the chance of getting some happiness out of it is worth it. And once again, the honesty—right down to Mr. Peanutbutter admitting it’s usually his wives who get bored of him in the relationship. After the rough patches of the other relationships seen in the episode, it’s a breath of fresh air to see some sincerity, an acknowledgement up front that even if something may not work out the chance that the good overwhelms the bad is worth taking the chance.

“Planned Obsolescence” closes to Doc Robertson’s “Break My Fall” and the sight of the ISS going up in flames, and a bit of emotional wreckage to accompany it. One relationship ended, one moving forward despite some concerns, and one forcibly returned to the status quo after attempts to change it failed? That’s the expected batting average for BoJack Horseman.


Stray observations:

  • Achievement in Voice Acting: It’s a tie this week between John Leguizamo and Eva Longoria as Mr. and Mrs. Buenaventura, so full of exaggerated bonhomie and sensuality as they urge Yolanda and Todd to give into the desires they so clearly must have.
  • The list of John Hughes porn parodies: Sixteen Cans, Titty in Pink, The Breakfast Chub, Homo Bone, Cum Kind of Wonderful, Penis Bueller Gets Off, Planes, Trains And Autoeroticmobiles. Please suggest your own titles in the comments. Uncle Buck Naked? She’s Having An Orgasm?
  • The night shoots for Philbert are starting to mess with BoJack’s head, to the point he’s reading his stage directions. Princess Carolyn suggests they leave it in. “It’s confusing, which means the show is daring and smart!”
  • Todd drinks his coffee out of a #1 Biggest #1 Boss Mug.
  • Diane’s graduated from podcast ringtones to hosting the GirlCroosh podcast, where she interviews Laika, the first woman in space. It’s awkward for Mr. Peanutbutter to listen to, but still preferable to the new single from Twenty One Pilots.
  • Gina’s dream career path: third on the call sheet for Murder Hospital or Who Called The Monkey Paramedics?, pop as a 60-year-old actress who “came out of nowhere,” win an Emmy, play Benjamin Bratt’s mother in a movie. BoJack argues she’s shooting too low: “Always the Bratt’s mom and never DaBrat?”
  • “I’ve been around the block a few times. I was even on an ABC procedural called The Block, which aired a few times.”
  • “Who knew you could make such a realistic anus out of marzipan?” “You can thank my husband for that! He posed for the baker.”
  • “As Courtney Cox said when she discovered a rotting corpse in the woods near the Cougar Town set, ‘Good God, I hope you’re not busy!’”
  • “Once again, my life has been worsened by a brush with musical theater!”
  • “Asexualize me like one of your French girls, Todd!” “Gulp.”
  • “I would like to be judged solely on my intentions this time!”
  • “You did your good deed, so you can feel good about yourself.”
  • Today in Hollywoo signs:
Screenshot: Netflix

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