Photo: Comedy Central

Nathan and Mimsy have only served as the main antagonists on a handful of South Park episodes, but it feels like more. That’s because each of their non-background appearances has been a disruption to the show’s universe.

Advertisement

Both “Crippled Summer” and “Handicar” remain somewhat satellite to the rest of the series, more concerned with using secondary characters to parody old cartoons than showcasing anyone from the central cast. That gives the episodes an irreverent and chaotic charge, even by South Park standards. That they feature special needs children who are intelligent, cunning, and treated with respect by many of their peers is an added bonus.

“Moss Piglets” repeats this formula for much of the episode, only without referencing a specific cartoon beyond Nathan and Mimsy’s general likeness to Rocky and Mugsy from Looney Tunes. But it does give the duo another rivalry with Jimmy and Timmy, this time via the Special Ed Science Fair. Convinced they’re going to win with their decidedly lame papier-mâché volcano, Nathan and Mimsy soon realize they’re contending with Jimmy and Timmy’s far more advanced study of tardigrades (a.k.a. water bears or moss piglets). Though microscopic, the water bears can live just about anywhere, and have the ability to survive cataclysmic events such as supernova blasts and meteor strikes.

Just like the previous Nathan and Mimsy episodes’ nods to Looney Tunes and Wacky Races, the front half of “Moss Piglets” relies on well-established gags—Nathan presenting himself as a gentle fool to most of the world while secretly playing the villain; the ever-likable Jimmy and Timmy being celebrated for their achievements (Their water bears dance to Taylor Swift! They do the hokey pokey!); Nathan backhanding his accomplice with his trademark “Shut up, Mimsyyy!”

Advertisement

When Nathan and Mimsy attempt to kill the micro animals with lye, they only fortify the organisms’ resiliency. This attracts the attention of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who believes the creatures can help improve the NFL’s rapidly declining ratings. Jimmy thinks Jones wants to study the water bears’ adaptivity as a means of preventing concussions in football players, but the real reason is far more idiotic: Since so many of the bears can fit in a single jar—they’re suckers for the kiss cam as well—Jones wants to use them as fans, packing stadiums with millions of tardigrades at a time.

While there are some minor laughs to be had at the absurdity of Jones’ boneheaded solution and its gradual reveal, the second half of “Moss Piglets” more or less eliminates Jimmy, Timmy, Nathan, and Mimsy from the narrative. With the focus having shifted to the NFL’s efforts to boost its ratings, we’re left without an anchor. The NFL plot fits in with the world of South Park, but it doesn’t fit in with a Nathan and Mimsy episode of South Park. It’s telling that, in the duo’s previous appearances, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have mostly zoned in on their hijinks, with little influence from current events.

Even though the core of “Moss Piglets” doesn’t fully succeed, Parker and Stone do manage to plant a seed that will likely have an enormous payoff in the future. Having ultimately stayed with Cartman after the events of last week, Heidi has begun to take on both his physicality and persona. She’s overweight, she’s narcissistic, she’s cruel (make that “crewl”). She’s even adopted Cartman’s detached “Oh, hey, babe. What’s going on” whenever he approaches.

Advertisement

Heidi’s storyline involves protesting the Special Ed Science Fair so she doesn’t have to judge it, but the real meat lies in Parker and Stone’s continued exploration of a codependent relationship. Although Heidi doesn’t take her viciousness to the level of Cartman at his most awful moments, she certainly could in the future. Her transformation is still new.

Together they could become a frightening example of how ugliness begets ugliness; of how, when you’re codependent on someone, you defend—and sometimes take on—their worse traits. Even when Cartman becomes appalled by Heidi’s imitation and eventual amplification of himself, he still can’t keep himself from holding her hand when they walk down the hall. The two of them will likely keep feeding off of each other’s hate and misery for the foreseeable future, until they’re as unstoppable as those water bears. Now that’s a scary thought.

Stray observations

  • How do you all feel about Nathan and Mimsy? As much as I love them, I know they’ve been divisive in the past among fans.
  • I know this isn’t new information, but water bears really are incredible—well worth going down a Wiki Wormhole.
  • Which name for the little critters do you prefer? Water bears or moss piglets?
  • “The only good water bears are dead water bears.”
  • “Did you see that, Mimsy? The way those girls bit their bottom lip when I said ‘science fair’?”
  • “She’s kinda like Cartman, only with the ability to follow through.”

Advertisement