Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

NTSF: SD: SUV::: “Whac-A-Mole”

Illustration for article titled NTSF: SD: SUV::: “Whac-A-Mole”

In almost every law enforcement procedural ever made, Internal Affairs is portrayed as a villainous division out to nitpick good cops or agents and take them down for even the slightest of errors. So of course NTSF would flip that notion on its head and cast the perpetually chipper Ellie Kemper as its IA representative, then have every character spew vile rage at her simply because of her job title.

Kemper plays Agent Fitzpatrick, who investigates the aftermath of transporting Gary the killer whale overseas to entertain the troops, because of course that’s what NTSF would be responsible for. After the truck carrying the whale gets blown up by a bomb emitting “Ren Faire music,” Trent, Piper, and Alphonse are disavowed by NTSF, and Kove helps them escape custody by telling them point-blank to knock her out and escape.

Everyone at NTSF hates Internal Affairs agents, so Kemper is in for unnecessarily brutal treatment. Kove spits in her eye, Sam won’t eat a cookie she offers, and even S.A.M. the robot spits at her. But Jessie—seriously, how long has it been since Rebecca Romijn was in an episode of this show, I barely remembered she was even in the cast—has been locked in her lab for so long, rejected as the geek, that she bonds with Agent Fitzpatrick incredibly quickly. Once she finds out that she’s IA, her reaction changes immediately, and yields Trent’s best line in the episode—“Let go of the lab geek, you IA donkey spunk!” Fitzpatrick just wants to make a friend, since her division is so virulently despised, and Kemper is so agreeable that anyone acting mean to her is funny.

Aside from the Internal Affairs trope, “Whac-A-Mole” deals with one other standard plot employed by this type of show, when Piper, Trent, and Alphonse quickly turn on each other to find the mole who leaked their mission location. Perhaps due to budgetary constraints, the cabin that the trio escapes to looks exactly like NTSF headquarters, but the show brushes that off in a quick joke about how the televisions are plasmas instead of LEDs, which is a nice touch. Even better are the torture tactics that prove each NTSF member couldn’t have been the mole: Piper’s OCD goes crazy when Trent messes up a row of pencils, Alphonse freaks out after the others delete his meticulously constructed music library, and Trent can’t handle steel wool messing up his trademark sunglasses. The episode bounces between Fitzpatrick trying to make inroads with any member of NTSF and the disavowed trio, both parts building as more characters get involved, until the final scene pops the balloon, and NTSF no longer has to deal with insurgent Internal Affairs meddling in their work.

NTSF has a knack for taking tired genre tropes and re-energizing them with silliness, and this episode is no exception. It’s a bit of an obvious twist to make the IA agent someone as sweet as Ellie Kemper, and the 10-minute episode format means that the torture sequences hit so quickly there isn’t any time to breathe, but the cast is so funny that it hardly matters. This season has been strong so far, a step up from the first season, to the point where I question whether or not it’s better than Childrens Hospital right now. It hasn’t hit the creative peaks that its predecessor did last year, but right now, it’s more than just the anchor of this half-hour on Adult Swim. It’s carrying the bulk of the weight.

Stray observations:

  • The lead-in text might be my favorite of the season so far: “Tonight’s episode of NTSF:SD:SUV:: is just like Family Guy, only completely different.”
  • Trent wears a tuxedo to transport the whale because he’s hosting the NTSF Awards and doesn’t want to go home to change.
  • As Piper, Trent, and Alphonse break back into NTSF, Trent unnecessarily gouges a security guard’s eye, Piper sidles past a laser beam with gratuitously sexy moves, and Ed Helms reappears only to be exploited by the trio once again. Nice to see another Office alum in the episode.
  • Sadly there’s no fake trailer for another show in the end credits this week.
  • “I guess all’s well that ends well… that whale died.”