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

Regular Show: “Fool Me Twice”

Image for article titled Regular Show: “Fool Me Twice”

If last week’s “A Bunch Of Full Grown Geese” provided Regular Show’s definitive take on why Benson doesn’t give Mordecai and Rigby enough credit, then tonight’s “Fool Me Twice” offers the flipside of that dynamic. Mordecai and Rigby dismiss their boss as a wet blanket, and he’s all too happy to live down to that description—at least until his life is on the line, at which point he reveals steely resolve and athletic prowess that far outstrips the abilities of Mordecai and Rigby. As satisfying as it was seeing Benson being told off by the baby ducks’ mother in last week’s epic, it’s also good to see Benson reveal that he really is far more competent than his two slacker employees. Benson doesn’t get to play the hero all that often, but he once again makes the most of his opportunity.

The episode is built around a pastiche of Japanese game shows, the full title of which is (deep breath) Fool Me Once, Shame On You, Fool Me Twice, I’ll Punch Your Face, which we’ll just refer to as Fool Me Once from now on, for the sake of our collective sanity. Its rules manage to somehow be both simple and incomprehensible; all contestants have to do in order to advance is fool the show’s host, but the only fooling we see—both from Clive and Benson—occurs before the game has seemingly even begun. These fun little deceptions, however, are merely the prelude to the show’s main event, in which the contestants have ten minutes to navigate a torturous, impossible obstacle course. The entire game show relies on the audience wanting to see hapless players get hurt and, ultimately, punched in the face, and its entire appeal is wrapped up in the viewers’ belief that they could succeed where literally every single person before them has failed. Naturally, this is Mordecai and Rigby’s favorite show.

Regular Show has become more adept at its pop culture parodies this season, and Fool Me Once is one of their most sustained pastiches. I must admit I’m not familiar with Japanese game shows, so I can’t really judge the accuracy of the specific gags, but that barely matters, as Regular Show’s treatment of the genre quickly transcends the realm of parody and moves into far stranger territory. It might be standard-issue craziness for the show to be cohosted by a robot and for losing contestants to get punched in the face, but it’s something else entirely to casually reveal that those punches actually killed all but one of the previous contestants. The host himself has a hand that desperate yearns to punch people in the face, and it swells with fury when it’s not given what it wants. Oh, and the robot might be possessed by some sort of demon—at least, if the face it makes when our heroes ask about forfeiting is anything to judge by—and it commits seppuku after Mordecai, Rigby, and Benson emerge victorious and claim their grand prize.

This is all classic Regular Show joke escalation, as ever more insane elements are piled on top of one another, and it works particularly well here because the episode doesn’t go totally crazy right away. Fool Me Once doesn’t become truly ludicrous until Mordecai, Rigby, and Benson are zapped onto the set, and the scenes before that are downright mundane by the show’s standards. These less zany scenes afford the show an opportunity to delve into its characters, and Mordecai especially benefits from the extra time. This season has primarily focused on two aspects of his character, portraying him alternately as the voice of reason and the world’s most awkward romantic. “Fool Me Twice” reminds us that he can also be kind of an idiot, and show creator J.G. Quintel brings out all possible stupidity from the line, “I have a plan, and it is the single most perfect plan in the history of plans.” Upon hearing that line, I immediately set my expectations as low as possible, but I still wasn’t expecting the plan to be so gloriously awful. Mordecai’s entire subterfuge relies on passing off a cardboard box as the television set, a task—Rigby gets his own moment of absolute idiocy, as he remarks that he can’t even imagine the point of living if he can’t appear on Fool Me Once. This episode finds our protagonists at their most brazenly immature, and they end up paying dearly for it.

The idea that Mordecai and Rigby getting their just deserts is what sets this episode apart from something like “Sandwich Of Death,” which similarly found the pair forcing a reluctant Benson through a gauntlet of painful challenges. Mordecai and Rigby aren’t necessarily acting much worse than usual, but the episode does find a reasonable complaint for Benson—it’s got to be pretty ridiculously expensive to call Japan (let alone get teleported over there), and it’s well within his rights to forbid the pair from using the landline. The duo’s misadventures can usually be traced back to their laziness and obliviousness, but there’s an extra layer of selfishness on display here that makes their later pain feel more deserved than it otherwise might be.

There’s also an element of hubris, as Mordecai admits that the game seemed so much easier when he and Rigby were watching it on TV. They earned their great success last week, but this time around they earn their failure—or, at least, they would have failed, if Benson allowed them to give up. The obstacle course sequence crams in so many amusing slapstick setpieces that there isn’t much time left for character work, but the episode manages a quick heartwarming moment when Benson offers a hand to Mordecai and Rigby. They might be idiots, but they are Benson’s idiots, and he won’t let them die at the hands of a psychotic game show host. The episode’s final gag is one last bit of karmic justice, as the trio is offered one of two fabulous prizes: a state-of-the-art clipboard or a trip to space camp. Benson unsurprisingly is all about the clipboard, but Mordecai and Rigby shout him down, instead choosing space camp. But once again, what they desire isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as Benson ends up enjoying the experience so much that it freaks out our heroes. Honestly, it’s just nice to see Benson unequivocally happy for once. The poor guy deserves it, even if Mordecai and Rigby can’t handle it.


Stray observations:

  • There are some great visual jokes throughout this episode. I particularly liked the “Port of U.S.” and “Port of Japan” gag. And if I didn’t make it totally clear in the review, the entire Fool Me Once obstacle course was a tour de force from the animators.
  • “Go! 2.2 seconds!” “Still needs work.” I’ve been hard on Mordecai and Rigby in this review, but I’ll give them credit for their commitment to idiocy.
  • So, I guess Clive is from the Australian part of the United Kingdom?