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

With “#PalmTreeReform,” Mr. Mayor ends its wobbly first season on solid footing

Mr. Mayor
Mr. Mayor
Photo: NBC

It might come across as redundant to say this, considering the show’s general vibe, but “#PalmTreeReform” is quite the surreal episode of Mr. Mayor. Where Tina Fey’s script for “Respect In The Workplace” (which remains the series’ high point) hit the sweet spot of her and Carlock’s brand of rapid-fire comedy, Robert Carlock’s script for this episode focuses specifically on their bizarre approach to comedy (and storytelling, in general). For that, “#PalmTreeReform” is an episode that’s sort of all over the place. However, that’s not a negative factor in this case. Instead, it speaks specifically to the number of devices Carlock uses to tell this episode’s story. From opening up on Mayor Chat to the TikTok detour, all peppered in around the standard—which is still bizarre as is, as evidenced by the business owner who has a pineapple son—version of the show, Carlock’s script throws pretty much everything Mr. Mayor has shown itself to have, and it mostly sticks.

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Which is exactly what one would hope for from this show’s first season finale, especially when it could be its series finale.

“#PalmTreeReform” starts off hot in its weirdness with the local access Mayor Chat bit, but post-cold open, the episode actually takes a rollercoaster approach to things: slowly elevating with the question of where exactly it’s going and where the twists and turns are going to be. That’s most apparent in the A-plot, as the episode provides Mayor Bremer with a major issue to tackle, and his sounding boards end up being Orly—who is only around because school was closed due to a palm tree issue*—and Arpi—who has an extreme idea as to what they should do about the palm tree issue. So not only is there a question of how things will turn out regarding the palm tree issues (and Bremer’s actual goal, getting a dedicated transit lane because buses are cool), there’s also the question of how things will mesh as the ultimate confrontation of the family sitcom version of Mr. Mayor and the workplace sitcom version. But the B-plot also manages to be somewhat unexpected in how it all shakes out, as its very existence relies on the concept of the audience (easily) feeling the same way as Mikaela and Tommy do about the whole father Jayden (not Father Jayden) situation. While it obviously ends with Jayden not being a father, the specific turn comes from the fact that the plot is nowhere near as nefarious nor malicious as one would expect.**

*As this is not the first time Mr. Mayor has gone to this well, school being closed might run the risk of becoming the show go-to reason for why Orly is around.
**To continue the rollercoaster metaphor, the B-plot is actually a kiddie ride.

A large part of what drives the weirdness of “#PalmTreeReform” is the fact that the episode relishes in Mr. Mayor’s established continuity and world. And it succeeds in doing so. Not only does the episode’s acknowledgment of past episode bits and premises make the world of the show seem fuller and richer, it also makes clear that every episode of Mr. Mayor isn’t just its own standalone, bizarre little comedy. This is an episode that features callbacks to Bremer’s straw ban and scooter helmets, Emily from the Dodgers, Mikaela’s sister with a baby, and even Jayden’s tendency to resort to his British baby accent. And it kicks off with a check in on former Mayor Delgado (Benito Martinez), following up on his small bit in the pilot and subsequent breakdown. Unlike the “100 days in office” bit from “Avocado Crisis,” the time Bremer’s spent in office (as well as the way these characters interact after this amount of time working together) actually works here, due to all of the callbacks and references to past episodes. It makes for a successful season wrap-up, even if there isn’t a scene where the whole team gets together and reflects on the past nine episodes of shenanigans.

Instead, the season wraps up with Ted Danson being completely unafraid to make a fool of himself, TikTok-style.

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I apologize for not remembering who it was, but a commenter on one of these reviews made a point that Mr. Mayor would possibly have something interesting with Orly if she became an intern at Town Hall—thus eliminating the two conflicting versions of the show, as they would effectively be intertwined. “#PalmTreeReform” essentially proves said point, as Orly’s presence in this episode not only works but it manages to bridge the gap between the workplace and family sitcom in a more seamless way than any other episode this season. “Hearts & Parts” was on the right path, but it didn’t commit fully to Orly being an equal half of her father’s plot. And as I’ve written in previous reviews, the concept introduced in the pilot of Bremer cribbing from Orly during his tenure as Mayor is also one that works and doesn’t require the show to jump through hoops. “#PalmTreeReform” reveals how that concept can exist in a way that is more than just Bremer copying his daughter’s student government policy, as he gets both his palm tree reform idea and social media (in this case, TikTok) inspiration from Orly’s presence, as well as his ultimate manipulation plan.

“#PalmTreeReform” also manages to avoid having this plot come to a saccharine conclusion, as Orly’s earnestness—which actually feels more natural coming from Kyla Kenedy than the bits where Orly’s scheming or a passive-aggressive mean girl—isn’t meant to beat a lesson into Bremer’s head to wrap up the plot. Instead, it’s something her father manages to manipulate, along with Arpi’s Arpi-ness. And while there is plenty of not quite understanding the youth of today in this plot, it’s also not solely the joke. Much like Fey did with “Respect In The Workplace,” Carlock gets away from the myopic, mean-spirited version of joking about younger generations—at no point does it ever feel like “OLD MAN YELLS AT CLOUD”—while still maintaining the bite. In this form, Orly’s presence at Town Hall really vibes with what the rest of the series is doing, just in the nick of time.

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Plus, the mockery is more necessary when it comes to the palm tree-loving Angelenos in this episode.

While Bremer figures out how to manipulate his daughter, his Deputy Mayor, and a collection of Los Angeles business owner representatives (led by telenovela star Kate del Castillo as Victoria Santos) in the A-plot, the B-plot goes for something completely different, with expecting father Jayden. Well, it’s not completely different, as manipulation is pivotal to both plots; but in the case of the B-plot, the surprise rollercoaster twists and turns come in a couple of different forms. First of all, Mr. Mayor continues to thread the needle with this character, where he’s not too out-there of a character… while still somehow magically having costumes ready to change at the drop of a hat. As I watched the episode, I found myself nervously waiting for a moment where it was revealed that either Jayden didn’t have sex with Samanthee (Patty Guggenheim) at all or that Jayden had previously-undisclosed wealth. Or, more likely, both. Samanthee is clearly a scam artist and the episode is clearly setting things up for a drop. But the reveal that Samanthee honestly just wanted Jayden to be her unborn baby’s father because she knew he would make a good one compared to the baby’s actual father—and a good parent, in general, compared to her—is oddly touching.

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Once again, Mikaela and Tommy are paired up, and once again, their energy works well in that environment—especially with Jayden as their primary focus. Again, it could be so easy for the show to make Jayden both the series punching bag and too oblivious to function. But Mr. Mayor continues to manage to have these characters note his eccentricities and call him out when he’s doing too much (getting them to hug him, having an endless supply of costumes, doing British baby voice), while also allowing him to exist in his own world where, yes, of course it makes sense that he’d spill coffee in an unintentionally conspicuous way. However, the least surprising part of the episode is that Mr. Mayor’s season ends with Mikaela and Tommy paired together, with Tommy’s deal compared to the rest of the characters still being less defined than Samanthee’s.

As plenty of people have pointed out, Mr. Mayor is not the show to watch in order to get anything resembling a true-to-life depiction of what it’s like to work in the Mayor’s office. That neither Mikaela nor Tommy have anything to do with Bremer’s palm tree reform idea is laughable***... though I’m still not quite sure if that is supposed to be the point. (Even though I do believe that the show will—if given the chance—eventually address how often they’re simply either not a part of Bremer’s Mayoral duties or Bremer’s not involved in anything Mayor-related.) While Jayden tends to be the common factor that hops between plots—here, he’s also part of Bremer’s TikTok campaigns—he’s also the low man on the totem pole at the Mayor’s office, the one who can be inserted into any role. But Mikaela and Tommy do, supposedly, have major roles, which Mr. Mayor still appears hesitant to commit to—perhaps because of how their presence could create blocks to the stories the show wants to tell. And if that is the case, that is a major point Mr. Mayor will ultimately need to address and/or figure out, if it returns for another season.

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***Bremer’s palm tree reform plan is all part of his desire to make room in the budget. Last week, Mikaela, Tommy, Arpi, and Jayden all worked on the budget. Somehow, there is no connection made, despite the other callbacks.

But Whether Mr. Mayor returns or not, at least we’ll always have this:

Illustration for article titled With “#PalmTreeReform,” Mr. Mayor ends its wobbly first season on solid footing
Screenshot: NBC
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Stray observations

  • Chet Danville: “It’s 4 a.m. Monday morning. I’m Chet Danville. Grover Sepulveda died in 2003. [...]”
    Bremer: “Thanks, Chet. Why is this live?” Obviously, Chet Danville’s headshot is a young Ed Begley Jr., but who is Grover Sepulveda? I can’t put quite put my finger on it, and it’s going to drive me up the wall until I do.
  • TikTok Voice: “L.A. is a damn hellscape. And I am not to blame.” That is J.B. Smoove as “TikTok Voice.”
  • Bremer: “So, palm trees are expensive, dangerous, and they shouldn’t be here in the first place.”
    Arpi: “Like an NFL franchise, sir.” Arpi’s palm tree-specific binder is titled “L.A. PALM TREES: DEATH FROM ABOVE!” Of course, her message of their dangers keeps getting lost in her desire to also take down NFL teams in Los Angeles.
  • “#TreesKilledTheUnicorns”
  • Bremer: “How do I not invite somebody to something without them finding out?”
    Orly: “You don’t. You have to invite everyone. We do tons of workshops in school about this.”
    Bremer: “School is teaching you that?”
  • Orly: “I assume you’re trying to exclude Jayden. But it’s not his fault: Most TikToks are bad.”
  • Samanthee: “I just found out you have to have a license to make CBD dog food out of your home. But you don’t need a license for cute internet kid videos. Anhh! Plus, if I have it at a theme park? Lawsuit!”
  • Samanthee: “A woman knows. Right, Mystique?”
    Mikaela: “Oh, it’s Mikaela.”
    Samanthee: “Mikaela?? I don’t know, you look like a Mystique.” She did look like a Mystique in that scene.
  • Jayden (with no prank element): “Oh no, coffee, here it comes, look out, accident!”
  • Jayden: “If this was a TV show, it’d be called The Romances Of Jayden.”
  • Tommy: “Mikaela, are we jealous…”
    Mikaela: “...of my sister’s baby? No. We’re both cute. It’s not a competition unless she makes it a competition.”
    Tommy: “No. Of Jayden.”
  • Orly: “You’re Olivia S. at the bowling party.”
    Arpi: “Is that a Netflix show about sexy teen suicide or…?”
    Orly: “My dad is trying to distract you so that you don’t go to his palm tree meeting. It’s happening right now.”
    Arpi (hops to it): “Relational aggression! Orly, thank you for having my back. The future is female.”
    Orly: “Actually, gender is a construct! But I’m still rooting for you!”
  • Arpi: “Alright. I’m gonna need you all to do two types of ups: shut and listen.”
  • Bremer (to Orly): “Right. You’re here.”
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.