When it comes to Mordecai’s pursuit of a romantic relationship with Margaret, life always seems to get in the way. Or, perhaps more accurately, Mordecai always allows life to get in the way. He excels at finding reasons not to do things, and while laziness accounts for most of his inactivity at work, it’s an impossible desire for perfection that so frequently stymies his quest for love. Regular Show illustrated this beautifully in last season’s finale, “Bad Kiss,” in which Mordecai used a time machine to undo his faltering first kiss with Margaret because he could not cope with the fact that he had had bad breath, even though that never seemed like an especially big deal to Margaret. That episode provided the most concrete example of Mordecai’s belief that everything needs to be just right in order for romance to occur, but most of the time, this is likely less of a sincere belief than it is an easy excuse not to take action. Mordecai isn’t exactly unique among slackers when most of the work he does is coming up with reasons why it would be impossible for him to go after what he wants.
There are shades of that in the first few minutes of tonight’s “Steak Me Amadeus,” as Mordecai once again frets and fusses over creating the perfect situation for him to ask Margaret to be his girlfriend. Still, as the joyous opening montage indicates, Mordecai and Margaret are already “together” in most sensible meanings of the word, even if they haven’t yet bothered to make it official. As such, while Mordecai is still nervous about what Margaret will say and overanxious to create some likely illusory perfect setting, he isn’t paralyzed by fear in the same way he was way back in “Do Or Diaper” or his countless interactions with Margaret before that. “Steak Me Amadeus” respects Mordecai’s newfound maturity much the same way it did in “Family BBQ,” as this episode never doubts that Margaret and Mordecai’s relationship is strong enough to survive the latter’s awkwardness or whatever absurd misadventure he’s stumbled into this week. When the animatronic Capicola Gang—making an unexpected return after their apparent demise back in the third season’s “Fuzzy Dice”—prepares to open fire in the restaurant, Margaret and Mordecai wordlessly hold each other’s hands; there’s no doubt in either’s mind that, whatever happens, they should face their fate together. Margaret isn’t going to dump him because a psychotic Chuck E. Cheese knock-off wants to murder him, because that would be stupid.
As such, Mordecai’s desire to provide Margaret with a suitably snazzy dinner as he asks the big question isn’t what dooms him, even if it does lead him straight into the Capicola Gang’s trap. Unlike in “Bad Kiss,” where Mordecai’s own fear and weakness was his undoing, here it simply triggers a narrative detour from the actually important, entirely metaphorical gut punch awaiting him at episode’s end. Mordecai has outgrown being the architect of his own destruction, but he’s still the architect of his own annoyance. And it must be said that this Regular Show scenario is designed to annoy Mordecai like never before, mostly because it’s so very, very silly. The Capicola Gang already represents some of the show’s most gleefully, stupidly preposterous villains—that evil, Tim Curry-voiced hot dog from “Meat Your Maker” might be even dumber, but there aren’t many other contenders—and the bear’s plan for revenge is so absurdly convoluted that it would take another thousand words to properly unpack its ludicrous underlying logic, not to mention the bear’s sick motivations. Really though, Rigby says it all when he quietly, even pityingly observes, “That’s really weird.”
Indeed, Rigby proves a crucial judge of what’s going on around him throughout the episode. While his bathroom conversation with Mordecai opens with the standard mockery of his friend and closes with him making it clear he needs to use the toilet, the middle section is unambiguously tender and sweet, even if Rigby’s profession of “bro-spect” and offer of his own Steak Me Amadeus dollars is filtered through his usual silliness. While his support of Mordecai in previous episodes like “Do Or Diaper” and “Meteor Moves” was born of frustration with his pal’s dithering, now he is ready to stand as a firm, dependable ally. As silly and immature as Rigby undoubtedly is, there’s a sense running throughout this episode that that’s because he matches his maturity levels to Mordecai’s own frequently arrested development. When Mordecai needs Rigby to step up and be a more adult friend, the little raccoon never disappoints, and that’s never clearer than when he joins a heartbroken Mordecai on the roof, asking him whether he wants to talk about Margaret but not pushing when his friend says he doesn’t. Again, Rigby is still entirely capable of being an idiot, and he will surely get Mordecai into plenty more surreal, impossible scrapes, but Regular Show respects Rigby enough to know he would never sabotage something this real and this important to his friend—at least, not anymore.
That’s what makes Margaret’s big news so heartbreaking. There are always reasons not to do something, and Mordecai has listed just about every single pointless excuse in his seasons of romantic inaction. But what’s truly horrible is that not every reason is a pointless excuse; sometimes, there are real, legitimate reasons to decide against pursuing one’s heart desire. Margaret makes it clear in her tearful explanation that there’s only one thing in the world she wants more than to be with Mordecai, and she just got that one thing. She decides to go to her dream school, and she’s probably right to say no to Mordecai; after all, the only alternative would be for her and Mordecai to try to start a proper relationship as some long distance thing, and that would almost certainly be a mistake. The point isn’t that Margaret should have made this decision differently; rather, this is all a grim reminder of just how many times Mordecai—and, yes, Margaret—could have been together so much earlier if either of them had had the courage to do so. They wasted so much time on the assumption that there would be better opportunities later, when, in fact, time was always running out.
“Steak Me Amadeus” has all the hallmarks of a much crazier Regular Show episode than it actually proves to be. It features the return of memorable villains who were long presumed dead, and it does so in a way that allows the show to include an extended homage to Agents Mulder and Scully from The X-Files and a chef blowing up with a bazooka all those who would disparage the value of a good college education. Plus, the larger conspiracy allows for cameo appearances from the rest of the park staff, and everyone gets a little moment: Skips holds his own in the big fight, Pops has a good cry over his culpability while Benson sympathetically comforts him, Hi-Five Ghost gets a line in registering his indignant reaction to his arrest, Muscle Man celebrates the fact that he’s been given a gun, and Thomas is told to shut up, because he’s Thomas. But Regular Show doesn’t hesitate to shunt them to the background when the real drama starts up, and indeed most of the climactic fight is heard rather than seen while Mordecai and Margaret say what they need to say to each other.
The show isn’t going to mature out of its standard-issue craziness—nor should it—but it’s also now capable of recognizing that there really are more important things than defeating the monsters once again. These are things that can’t be solved with a big fighting montage, no matter how funny or how well animated, and they can inflict pain in ways the Capicola Gang could only dream of. Mordecai learns that in the hardest way imaginable, but at least he has Rigby there beside him. As Regular Show has proved again and again over the last four seasons, that really can be enough.
- I can’t imagine we’ve seen the last of Mordecai and Margaret, although I do think it might be an interesting direction for Mordecai to explore other romantic possibilities next season. As much as this hurts him now, I do still hope this experience has changed him for the better, and I’m optimistic that that is indeed what we will see in future episodes.
- And that does it for season four of Regular Show. I’d like to thank you all for reading along for the last 38 reviews, and thanks also to my colleagues Kevin McFarland and Sonia Saraiya for pitching in along the way. It’s been a ton of fun, even if I do feel like I’ve just finished sprinting the TV equivalent of an ultra-marathon. I’m going to rest up now, but I’ll see you all back here for season five, which I only hope isn’t starting for at least a few more weeks.