The writers of American Vandal turn the focus of this season from bullying to athletic privilege in the best episode so far this year. Anyone who attended a high school or college of reasonable size can relate to the fact that athletes are often granted more privilege than their counterparts. After all, they bring in the funds that keep most of these schools afloat. But was a star athlete at St. Bernardine’s given so much latitude that the school would cover up the fact that put shit in a T-shirt launcher? The evidence against DeMarcus Tillman seems nearly as overwhelming, maybe even more so, than that against Kevin ‘Shit Stain’ McClain, even though they are on opposite ends of the social ladder at St. B’s. So which one of these young men has been showering a prestigious prep school in feces? Or could both be innocent?
The smartest and funniest episode of the second season of American Vandal may seem like it’s spotlighting only DeMarcus Tillman as a suspect, but it actually introduces a few others as well, lingering in Tillman’s shadow. More on that later; first, let’s talk about the fascinating character of Tillman for now. The man who calls himself Mr. Untouchable and pantomimes playing a violin when he breaks your ankles is a perfect representation of someone who exists at pretty much every high school in the country. He’s so good at what he does that his picture is on the homepage of the school website, and that fame has completely gone to his head, even if he doesn’t think so. He’s the kind of guy who will tell you he is a team player as he’s openly wondering why a teammate he calls Squeak is even still trying. He insults you with a smile, memorably saying “I look down at people with love.”
The evidence that DeMarcus has been unleashing shit-related havoc on his classmates starts with Chloe Lyman’s assertion that she saw the Turd Burglar’s business card in his wallet when she was standing next to him at a vending machine. Could it have been a punch card for Yummy Swirl, a yogurt company with an unfortunate logo? Maybe. But she swears she saw the incriminating googly eyes, and it’s that sighting that spurred Peter and Sam to come to Bellevue.
Digging deeper, the heroes of American Vandal gather more evidence that DeMarcus is their masked man, especially the fact that his star status at St. Bernardine’s allowed him access to all three rooms forever scarred by poop: the cafeteria, Mrs. Montgomery’s class, and the gym. He’s loved by everyone at St. Bernardine’s, especially the cafeteria workers who give him extra food and the English teacher who published a horrible poem by him. No one would notice him spiking the lemonade. Wouldn’t they have noticed Kevin? People threw produce at Fruit Ninja every day, but no one saw him sneaking around the lemonade and the piñata?
Then there’s the fact that DeMarcus idolized a former star athlete at St. Bernardine’s who orchestrated an infamous prank in which he stole the mascot outfit and turned him into a social phenomenon named Sir.Fux.a.Lot. Could DeMarcus have been trying to one-up his predecessor? Everyone has been wondering about the motive of The Turd Burglar but could it be as simple as “Poop is funny”? By the way, poop IS funny.
So is this episode. From DeMarcus’ horrible poem to some of the best lines of the season so far, it’s a quick, funny chapter of American Vandal that moves the season away from shit jokes just in time and really opens up the themes this year in its examination of imbalanced punishments. People like Grayson Wentz can relatively harmlessly hijack someone’s Twitter account and they get expelled, but a star athlete essentially cyber-stalks a classmate and barely gets a slap on the wrist. Is it hard to believe that the school figured out that DeMarcus was the Turd Burglar and framed a student once known as ‘Shit Stain’ to make it go away?
Or is that too easy? Watching the third episode, I couldn’t help but wonder if we weren’t in a double frame. Kevin took the fall first and then DeMarcus, but what if the Turd Burglar is someone smart enough to cast suspicion on both of them while sneaking away into the shadows? Or what if it’s someone close to DeMarcus who knew this whole thing would blow up in his face eventually? Could it even be one of his so-called friends, tired of playing second fiddle?
- #1 Suspect: It’s a tough one this episode. This chapter offers a lot of evidence to point the finger at DeMarcus, but I kept looking at his buddy Lou, played by Deron Horton, so great on Dear White People. He’s been watching DeMarcus get all the attention for years. Could Lou just be tired enough of his shit to fling some of his own?
- I love the little “ow” that Peter mutters when DeMarcus slaps him five on the sideline.
- The best scene of the year may be the English teacher comparing herself to “Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side,” (not the actual person or even character name) and referring to the real subject of the story, Michael Oher, as “the black kid.” The administration at St. Bernardine’s is the worst, maybe even more loathsome than last year’s gang.
- Great line #1: “You gotta accept and respect Big Head Ed.”
- Great line #2: “It’s like when you fall asleep with your shoes on, people are gonna draw a dick on your face.”