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

The League: "The Bye Week"

Illustration for article titled The League: "The Bye Week"

If you were at all thrown off by last week’s delightfully strange romp through murder and mayhem (and understandably so), then “The Bye Week” is just the right episode to help you ease back into The League’s comfort zone. As with most sitcoms, and especially sitcoms that have been on the air for fairly long, The League has a handful of tried and trusted storylines that reemerge every so often with just some slight tweaks to make them feel newer. This time, we get a few classics: Taco comes up with some crazy new business scheme but is oblivious to the obvious problems and the general stupidity of the idea; Ruxin is trying to hide something from Sofia while also trying to get a few days of salvation from his family; Kevin and Jenny have a weird sexual mishap that the rest of the league becomes privy to, thus turning Kevin into the butt of the joke. Throw in a few mentions of the fantasy league, Pete’s cute childish behavior when it comes to the Sacko trophy (ahem, the Ruxin trophy), Andre wearing an ugly hat, and a song by Taco, and there you have it: classic fodder for a typical episode of The League, but not for a particularly memorable one.

An interesting (and great) fact about “The Bye Week” is that it doesn’t completely ignore the existence of “Rafi and Dirty Randy” which is what I fully expected it to do. Rather, this episode actually runs parallel to last week’s. I loved that the cold open is the identical scene where Rafi first learned of Spazz’s murder but then it picks up at the events that happened directly after Rafi left the bar, even if that’s just the guys hanging out and shooting the shit. Also the two episode’s stories are connected: Rafi stealing Kevin’s car indirectly results in Ruxin missing his flight to Houston. Well, auto theft and 23 lbs. of vintage porn.

The whole airport scene was a little iffy. I’m never going to enjoy these tired “my wife would be soooo angry if she found out I looked at porn” storylines that populate sitcoms (but at least at least it wasn’t as bad as when The Mindy Project did it a few weeks ago). I’m also tired of that “you can’t say bomb in an airport” joke that we’ve all seen a million times before, but it was kind of worth it just for Ruxin frantically screaming “I’m not saying bomb!” Still, the entire point was just to get Ruxin to miss his flight and have his “bye week” at home, with the boys, without his family knowing he was still in town, so it did its job.

The centerpiece of “The Bye Week” is Taco’s new venture: Taco’s Truck. Taco’s Truck, naturally, doesn’t sell tacos—the wordplay is so easy but works because of Taco’s obliviousness (and Jon Lajoie’s simple delivery). But mostly the truck works because it serves as a way to bring the storylines together: Ruxin has to work on the truck in order to stay at Taco’s place and the truck’s food serves as the catalyst for Kevin and Jenny’s later problems. Everything about the truck is pretty great. There is the running joke of everyone being confused by the name, the awful quality of the food, and Ruxin is at his best. I love how quickly Ruxin adapts to working in food service and how he takes it more seriously than Taco (he wears an actual hairnet and cooks the meat all the way through, both to Taco’s chagrin) but not seriously enough that he doesn’t get hammered while working.

Meanwhile, Jenny is worried that Kevin gave her an STD, but he swears up and down that he’s clean—so clean, in fact, that he’s willing to piss in all of the glasses in their kitchen (“This isn’t a lab, Kevin, that’s just ruining our glassware!”) Their argument shows why they’re one of my favorite couples on television: the funny euphemisms they use, the way their constant competitiveness even applies to who’s cleaner, and their admission that they both once left their child in the grocery store. Both characters are so effortlessly funny in all of their interactions that even watching them worry about STDs is hilarious. As it turns out, they are both clean and it was just Kevin’s failure to wash his hands after eating Taco’s truck’s hot wings—which circles the episode back to Kevin’s team name: Too Hot To Handle.

There are a few other gems sprinkled throughout the episode such as Pete and Andre playing detective with Sofia, some callbacks to earlier jokes in the series, and the guys sneaking the Ruxin trophy into his son’s bed. With the exception of “Rafi and Dirty Randy,” it was basically what every episode of The League has been this season. There were some funny jokes but there were some stale scenes. One can’t help but wonder if The League is just going through the motions at this point. I’m still optimistic—the show has turned itself around plenty of times when I thought it was stuck in a rut, so maybe this season is just a really slow burn. For the most part, the episodes are still a good time, and if a show is going to circle around, my only hope is that it makes me laugh in the process, so hey, mission accomplished!


Stray observations:

  • Everyone in the main cast back tonight! Hi everyone!
  • Some callbacks tonight included MyFace, Kevin and Jenny’s sexaversary, the creepy “equipmunk” thing, and three penis wine coolers.
  • Great Taco advice: “Just don’t touch your vagina after you eat the wings. It’s not that complicated.”
  • Speaking of that whole wings storyline—and not to be super nitpicky—but wouldn’t you like, immediately know that was happening?
  • Rafi laughing and yelling “road trip!” in the background of Kevin and Ruxin’s phone call was a nice touch.
  • Taco thinks apostrophes are called “uppercase commas” and yeah, that actually makes sense.
  • I still can’t decide if I like or hate Taco’s songs. I think I enjoyed the first one or two back when the show premiered but I’ve never really laughed at them since then.
  • Hey guys, I finally won a matchup in my fantasy league! If I lose this weekend then I’ll know for sure that my luck is tied into how I grade The League every Wednesday.