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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Regular Show: “Wall Buddy”

Illustration for article titled Regular Show: “Wall Buddy”

It’s easy enough to describe who Rigby is but more to difficult to explain why he is that way. He is, to put it not entirely charitably, a jerk, an impulse- and id-driven pain in everyone’s backside. Mordecai is the only person whom he can really call his friend—maybe Muscle Man and Hi-Five Ghost too, but it’s hard to imagine them hanging out with Rigby for long if Mordecai was permanently out of the picture—and there’s certainly an argument to be made that Mordecai should have outgrown Rigby as a friend a long time ago. One might call Rigby selfish, but that would imply that he thinks about his actions in terms of anyone, himself included, and that doesn’t really capture just how driven he is by constant, thoughtless action. He suggests that he and Mordecai go get chimichangas because he had a dream about eating one—where everyone was there, if “everyone” is defined as Mordecai, Rigby, and the ingredients of a chimichanga—and that’s actually one of the clearest, most logical reasons he’s ever bothered to provide for any of his actions. Most of the time, he seems thoroughly inexplicable, his decisions only making sense if the audience assumes that he never, ever thinks anything through.

“Wall Buddy” seems to provide a perfect illustration of that reading, at least until it forces Rigby to explain himself during the climax. Until then, however, Rigby’s goals seem frustratingly simplistic. He hates working, so he goes to increasingly absurd lengths to avoid working. Now, that isn’t exactly unheard of on Regular Show; heck, that summary would describe a significant percentage of all the show’s plotlines. But when Mordecai and Rigby team up to let their laziness lead them into trouble, they usually face some surreal, ridiculously disproportionate punishment for their unwillingness to do their jobs. Again, “Wall Buddy” gets there eventually, but it’s noteworthy just how long it keeps its focus squarely on Rigby being a lazy jerk. For most of the episode, his antagonist isn’t the Wall Buddy or even Benson—who seems even more justified than normal in threatening to fire the lads—but Mordecai himself, who takes his friend to task for not owning up to his responsibilities and to shifting the mess into his side of the room.

In a sense, this is Regular Show at its most relateable and down-to-Earth. While the average 20-something likely isn’t quite the unmitigated slob that Rigby is—in fairness, the guy is a raccoon, a fact that the episode’s animation rather amusingly reminds us of at a few points throughout “Wall Buddy”—it’s likely that the show’s average viewer has created at least a vaguely comparable mess at some point in his or her life, or at the very least been adjacent to someone who has exhibited such ridiculous untidiness. The emotions that Rigby and Mordecai display feel appropriate in response to the situation in which they find themselves, and Rigby’s big plan to get out of cleaning for much of the episode consists of little more than sighing as loudly and aggressively as he can, perhaps in the hope that someone (read: Thomas) will clean his room just to shut him up.

At the same time, much of “Wall Buddy” feels more straightforwardly cartoonish than the typical Regular Show episode. Because the crux of the episode is the big revelation of just why Rigby refuses to clean his room, everything up to that point feels oddly unmotivated. It really doesn’t make any particular sense why Rigby is willing to go to such lengths to avoid a task that really shouldn’t take much more than a couple hours to complete. Before he reveals just what is driving his actions, the audience is only left to assume that he is concerned with some absurdly esoteric principle. Indeed, his actions read as something more basic even than that; he is acting out because that’s what Rigby does, and Mordecai is irritated with him because that’s what Mordecai does. That recasts their petty squabble in terms of the iconic cartoon clashes like Tom and Jerry or the Roadrunner and the Coyote, in which backstories and motivations are entirely immaterial. The conflict exists because that’s the format. “Wall Buddy” occasionally evokes that more archetypal kind of cartoon storytelling, as Rigby and Mordecai slip into a cycle of action, reaction, and counterreaction. They push each other in increasingly polarized directions, leaving no chance for compromise or mutual understanding.

The moment of introspection finally comes, predictably enough, only after Rigby’s new Wall Buddy has been driven mad by his and Mordecai’s admittedly creative fighting. While the machine destroys the house through endless subdivision, Rigby finally admits that he knows he is a slob—that’s just part of “the Rigs package,” he argues. What he actually objects to is Mordecai’s unwillingness to stand by his friend in the face of Benson’s rage, and it’s the resultant anger with his friend that has driven him to such extremes. Rigby manages to frame this in terms practically guaranteed to generate the maximum possible level of guilt, as he tells Mordecai the two of them once stood unified against the man, but clearly that is no longer the case. Confronted with his own mistake, Mordecai crumples, acknowledging that he erred and then teaming up with Rigby to shut down the Wall Buddy.

It’s up to individual viewers to decide whether Rigby’s argument is actually compelling. Now, in character terms, there’s no question that this is the sort of thing Rigby would think, and it succeeds in explaining his actions throughout the episode and, by extension, justifying the more opaque moments leading up to his explanation. His bizarre insistence on not cleaning up does make perfect sense in light of this perceived betrayal. But whether Mordecai’s actions do in fact constitute a betrayal is perhaps a bit trickier. There’s a general point to be made here about Rigby’s essential immaturity, about his refusal to take responsibility for his own action. In that light, it’s dubious whether he has any right to expect Mordecai to throw in with him; after all, Mordecai, for all his other slacker faults, does apparently manage to keep a spotless room. Mordecai has grown up far more than his friend has, particularly over the course of this past season, and perhaps he’s nearing the point where he no longer feels obligated to share the blame with someone who has such a knack for doing the wrong thing.


But then, the counterpoint is that Rigby is Mordecai’s best friend, and that bond does demand a level of loyalty that transcends Benson’s latest transient blowup. That seems to be the position “Wall Buddy” takes, yet that still leaves a troubling question: Why exactly is Rigby Mordecai’s best friend? As much fun as Rigby is to hang out with—something the chimichanga run clearly demonstrates—he reveals incredible pettiness and a certain manipulative streak in his response to Mordecai’s perceived transgression. Rigby’s response is so ludicrously immature that it’s hard not to think sometimes that Mordecai might just be growing out of his longtime friend. This episode ends with Mordecai accepting Rigby’s judgment, but the tables are going to have to turn sooner or later. At a certain point, all the chimichangas in the world aren’t going to save Rigby. He needs to prove he’s still worth being friends with. But then, if Mordecai is really that impressed that Rigby read an instruction manual, the bar really is set as about as low as it can go.

Stray observations:

  • The final confrontation with the Wall Buddy was fairly standard and, perhaps not coincidentally, fairly short. More interesting was the earlier fight sequence, in which Mordecai and Rigby use the Wall Buddy’s voice recognition feature to strike at each other through the wall… even if Rigby clearly doesn’t know what the word “trestle” is on any level. It’s a great, imaginative little sequence, and a nice ending to what had been up to that point a cartoonish conflict between them.
  • That was pretty much the perfect amount of Thomas in this episode. He’s still not all that funny, but he proves a good complement to the aggrieved Rigby in their scene together.