After two back-to-back episodes that presented a more fully-realized version of the show, “Avocado Crisis” returns Mr. Mayor back to its natural state of, “Well, that was pleasant enough.” (I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it was revealed that this episode was intended to be earlier in the season, even though it specifically highlights Bremer’s first 100 days* in office.) While it would be easy to blame it on the return of Orly in this episode, it wouldn’t even be accurate; she’s just as inconsequential here as she was in the previous two episodes, when she wasn’t around. And the only Orly-related issue that stems from this episode comes almost immediately, in the cold open, as Ted Danson delivers a line that possibly could’ve landed had it been uttered to literally any other character—literally any adult character—instead of to Mayor Bremer’s teenage daughter:
Bremer (re: the Property Brothers): “Oh, I can’t wait. They’re finally airing the episode where they accidentally kiss.”
It’s a very bizarre choice—and not in a fun way for—though the episode gets back on course once chaos and violence break out over the titular avocado—they’re a big deal in California—crisis. One of the many Karens in the cold open cries out, wondering which way to Mexico, and it’s a hot start to a less hot episode.
*Because it’s about Bremer nearing the end of his first 100 days in office, one would assume this would be more of a milestone episode than it is. It does, however, cause Bremer and Mikaela to evaluate how they’re currently doing in this world, though that evaluation never converges. In fact, the typical plot convergence is mostly absent in this episode, save for Mikaela getting eeled and falling asleep on live TV in the episode’s end tag.
There’s definitely merit in the fact that Mr. Mayor is not a fully jaded Tina Fey and Robert Carlock production, but part of what gives the show that “pleasant enough” vibe is its surprising amount of earnestness combined with a lack of edge. It’s the main difference between the A-plot and B-plot in this episode, as both come from a place of earnestness, but the B-plot has more edge, based solely on everything Holly Hunter is doing as Arpi. (Even if it’s just listing dirt.) Danson’s Bremer, on the other hand, seemingly isn’t built to have that edge.
An episode like “Avocado Crisis” can really serve as a nagging reminder that Mr. Mayor was originally a 30 Rock/Jack Donaghy spin-off, and once you imagine it as such, that almost entirely changes the tone and pacing of the series. And the most important change is at the top, as the only similarity between Bremer and Donaghy are that they’re rich white men. Bremer is laidback Californian rich, while Donaghy is intense New York rich—they are not the same. And the laidback version of “Mr. Mayor” makes it very difficult for the show to ramp up his plots comedically.
While I have no doubt that Danson could also play a Jack Donaghy-like version of this character, were that required of him, that’s not what’s actually required of him. Which means there should be intrigue in seeing Bremer with a foil like Beau Bridges’ “folksy” avocado farmer character, Adolpho Hass, as 30 Rock fans have already seen how a character like Donaghy reacts to a character like this (Hank Hooper, Kabletown). In this case, Bremer only feels slightly more sophisticated than Hass, and that’s simply because he’s not putting on a character the way Hass is. In fact, Bremer’s businessman stories in this episode are actually even more homespun and genuine than Hass’. But while Hass is the villain of the plot—though the people of Los Angeles think Bremer is—the more interesting conflict for Bremer actually comes from the “avocado fish” debacle. Not only does the avocado fish give Bremer more of a conflict to deal with, it gives Danson more to play with. Introducing a character like Hass—who the show also makes clear is so full of crap with every line he speaks, kind of like the avocado fish—suggests there is a clash of styles that needs to be addressed, but this plot is much more concerned with showing us that Bremer is quite competent in his way. Bridges does a fine job as Hass, but he’s almost not needed. (Even his asides about his folksiness eventually come off like he’s a folksy ghost, reflecting to just himself.)
In fact, “Avocado Crisis” serves as a reminder—or possibly just an acknowledgment—that while Bremer may not necessarily be qualified to be Mayor of Los Angeles, he does have qualifications and skills, in general. Matt Whitaker’s script could have easily gone down the route of revealing that Bremer doesn’t really have any of the skills (like truck-driving) that he claims to have from running his own business and that he’s living in a (hot) rich person’s bubble. Instead, it makes Bremer’s anecdote about becoming a truck driver as genuine as it can possibly be, leading to Bremer solving the crisis and saving the day. Jayden is around to make all the weird asides and keep things comedically moving, but if you remove him, it’s interesting just to see how straightforward this plot is. Except for the avocado fish, that is, which is a far more interesting (and funnier) roadblock than Hass.
As I mentioned that this episode felt like it should’ve come earlier in the season, that’s especially the case with the B-plot, as Mikaela grapples with lack of sleep and the fact that no one treats her like the high-ranking official she is. (Despite the fact that the only person in Town Hall who doesn’t answer to her is Mayor Bremer… and Daniela the ID Lady.) Mikaela’s lack of sleep and subsequent use of Arpi’s “Borings” presentation as a sleep aid is a simple story, but it’s the reason behind it that’s surprising in how real it is (her feelings of imposter syndrome), and it allows another Mikaela and Arpi messaround to commence. After being at odds with each other last week, it’s great to see Arpi give Mikaela good advice and a boost of workplace confidence. Holly Hunter also continues to give the weirdest performance on television, while still managing to somehow provide genuine emotional moments. Take for example the moment where she kisses Mikaela on the forehead, clearly feeling for her and realizing the stress she’s going through right now… only for Mikaela to interpret it as some sort of “kiss of death” and scramble to make things right with her.
But while the women shine and Jayden keeps on trucking (and realizing that the doctor is a mommy), Tommy takes a backseat yet again. This character is supposedly Bremer’s chief strategist, a position that would be especially helpful in this episode, but when it comes to the avocado crisis, Jayden is Bremer’s right hand man. While the previous two episodes were much better for the Tommy character, “Avocado Crisis” returns him to “What’s his deal?” status. It’s an even more extreme version of the Mikaela issue I’d previously noted, where it felt like Mikaela ceased to be when she was offscreen. While this episode at least worked to fill in any leftover blanks with Mikaela, not only does Tommy not factor into the A-plot—which would make sense for his character—he seemingly only exists just to snap a picture of a sleeping Mikaela and chastise her for it. At least in the case of the latter, if Tommy wants Mikaela’s job, that would finally explain the frenemy relationship that they have.
“Avocado Crisis” isn’t a bad episode of Mr. Mayor. As I’ve mentioned, the avocado fish craze (and crisis) and the B-plot are solid positives for this episode. And, of course, Jayden. (Always “of course, Jayden.”) But based on what the show has proven that it can be in the past two episodes, this simply is not a standout. Again, it comes across like an early episode of the series, still trying to figure itself out.
- Hello, everyone. You may have noticed that I’m still covering Mr. Mayor. This temporary assignment has now become a more permanent one. At least for the rest of this season. And, of course, in true “my computer” fashion, my doc crashed multiple times while I was writing this review. Sorry for the delay.
- Adolphus: “All my friends call me Adolph.”
Bremer: “No thank you.”
- Bremer: “ShondaLand? That’s a real place?”
Mikaela: “Yes, but it’s not for you, sir.”
- Bremer: “How do you get a bone away from a dog?”
Jayden: “Kiss it.” I don’t know what’s better: the fact that that tactic actually ends up working for Jayden or the quick reveal that, while it worked, he still got bitten by the dog a bunch.
- In case you’re wondering, yes, Ted Danson live-tweeted this episode, and yes, all of his tweets featured goofy avocado puns.
- The best joke of the episode is a visual one, the print ad for Chicago Uncles on the back of the newspaper Jayden reads to Mayor Bremer. (The newspaper also features the less funny, pun-based cover story, “Eel Bummer.” You see, “Mr. Mayor’s” name is Neil Bremer and he ends up making things worse with an eel...) Chicago Dick (that’s what I call that universe) spin-off jokes are ubiquitous, but any and all NBC Universal-based jokes from Fey and Carlock are as welcome as characters once were on USA Network.
- The thing that really gets me about the avocado fish turn in this episode isn’t all the ridiculous chyrons during the morning show but instead Bremer’s frustration with people not realizing the “fish” will harden if they don’t eat it quickly enough. If they’d just listened to him about that part, there’d be no issue.
- As Mikaela’s issue is more the stress of imposter syndrome instead of (or on top of) the fact that she’s exhausted, it’s a nice touch that even after she gets that first night of sleep, she still looks rough.
- The reveal that Arpi’s “Borings” water table pitch would screw with the water supply in Los Angeles does a great deal of work to prop up Mikaela (who says no), as it leads to us learning (and her learning) just how capable she actually is. How capable? Capable enough to sound like the only somewhat intelligent person to be involved in Fyre Festival.