The concept of comic tone is always important in an episode of Workaholics. Viewers know that the guys are going to do things that are: obnoxious, stupid, destructive, sexually inappropriate, all of the above. What separates a good episode from a bad, offputting one is usually the manner in which Adam, Blake, and Ders go about doing those things (followed by whether their antics are sufficiently motivated and funny). In “Deputy Dong,” the motivation for the guys’ actions is right on the money, highlighting the qualities that make them palatable. Endearing, even. It’s too bad that the episode also revels in some of the trio’s (mostly Adam’s) most self-indulgent antics, which are never as funny as they would have us believe.
Written by Blake Anderson, his first credit since last season, “Deputy Dong” starts off well, with Blake and Adam playing video games and getting both creamed and genuinely offended by the constant abuse—especially the liberal use of the word “faggot” (Comedy Central bleeps it)—by the titular gamer. Throughout the series, one of the guys’ most likeable collective traits is their basic lack of prejudice. Sure, they’re sometimes ignorant of how offensive they’re being, but when confronted by actual racism or, in this case homophobia, they’re usually on the right side. (Sexism is pretty much a coin flip.) Here, Adam and Blake are really taken aback by their nemesis’ liberal use of “faggot bombs” (as they later term them), certainly because they feel picked on, but also because they plain think it’s wrong.
It’s of a piece with the series’ underlying view that the guys, as hard as they try to fit in with the bro culture they’ve chosen to emulate, simply aren’t cut out for its truly despicable depths. When Adam, mid-rant, says, “Who even says faggot anymore? That’s not even a word that people say. My grandfather says that, and my grandma still says it. And my aunts, and a few of my uncles, but not the gay ones,” the gradual realization that most of his family are bigots starts to color his words in a way that’s genuinely affecting. Even when Deputy Dong kills them—after Anders interrupts with a dry ice and avocado gift for his “big titted Swedish pen pal”—neither Adam nor Blake even think about dropping the f-bomb. “Idiot” is as close as they get, apart from Adam’s disastrously convoluted comeback involving Deputy Dong’s penis, “some meats and cheeses,” and a squirrel. (His mid-insult appeal to Ders, “We need your help with a zing real quick” is timed perfectly.) The “faggot-bomb” is just not in their natures.
What is in their natures is petty, ill-planned vengeance, however. So when, briefly at TelAmeriCorp the next day, the guys discover Deputy Dong’s address while trying to sell him a blender, it’s only a short, nine-hour drive to his house in Arizona. What is their plan of action? As ever, it’s made up of hyperbolic threats (“Bring the game to him… using violence!”) followed by immediate backtracking (“We won’t use guns but a lot of word bullets”), leading to an actual not-that-stupid plan of breaking into the guy’s house and deleting his gaming information, thus ensuring that he can’t bother them any more. The fact that the guys all show up in the Vo wearing matching flak jackets and walkie-talkies and immediately screw the whole thing up in no way invalidates that not-that-stupidity—it’s just that, even when armed with a halfway-decent idea and some almost-noble intentions, well, the guys are sorta stupid.
It’s in the long break-in sequence that the episode bogs down a bit. After some solid physical comedy with Adam repeatedly not understanding how to handle dry ice (“Why is ice hot?!”), Blake gets stuck inside the house when they guys discover that dastardly Deputy Dong is not the skinny, fedora-sporting lad (Bridger Zadina) who comes out to see what’s up with the grown man screaming and crying and covered in dry ice and hot coffee burns on his front lawn, but the kid’s burly policeman father (played by Super Troopers’ Farva, Kevin Heffernan), home in the middle of the day to host an impromptu post-wake gathering for a recently deceased cop buddy. So far, so good, except that Anderson’s script doesn’t find much interesting to do with the guys’ dilemma, instead having Adam and Ders crash the wake by pretending to be “black ops” officer pals of the deceased. The gathered cops buy it, in spite of the fact that Adam and Ders have no identification and are, well, Adam and Ders. The cops continue to go along when the guys, trying to create a diversion for Blake to escape, bust out a “traditional Irish cop drinking song” to honor the late, not-Irish Ramirez, even when said song turns into one of those sequences seemingly predicated on the idea that every obnoxious, elongated bit Adam DeVine comes up with is the funniest thing possible. Here, with Ders desperately trying to follow along/wrap things up, we get a solid minute-and-a-half (more if you count the tag) of DeVine improving about Ramirez’ penis and how the angels are all sucking it in Heaven and so forth.
I’ll repeat that I think DeVine’s a funny guy, but also go on record as thinking Workaholics lets him run with bits that could do with some trimming. It’s especially noticeable here as it renders all the cop characters, including guest funny guy Heffernan, both unrealistic and comically impotent. It’s not just that these supposedly seasoned cops are all just standing around and accepting Adam’s nonsense and the guys’ awful bluff (for a long, long time), it’s that in doing so, the scene becomes all about watching DeVine and not about furthering the plot in any meaningful way. And sure, when DeVine gets all wound up, whether in anger or in song, he sounds a lot like Jack Black, but Tenacious D songs generally go somewhere and aren’t just an excuse for the singer to show off his funny faces and rude words. Here, it, like the whole back half of the episode, is indulgent and lazy when it should be pulling itself together.
The episode also fumbles the ending when the guys, finally found out by what are not the swiftest cops in Arizona, confront Deputy Dong about his incessant online homophobia. There’s a lot of funny business when the guys get the Donger and his seemingly gay son to hug it out (Adam’s extended description of his pube-grooming regimen—“And also my butthole hairs have a certain pizzazz”—is the sort of inappropriate tangent DeVine is great at), but there’s also no resolution to the whole gay-bashing thing that was their reason for breaking into a cop’s house in the first place. Despite the guys once again showing the decency under the idiocy (“It’s cool to be who you are as a person, and I have seen Milk”), the kid’s not gay, the dad agrees to spend more time with him, and they’re going to a hockey game. And the guys get maced for their trouble.
I don’t want to sound too harsh on the episode—there are a lot of solid bits throughout and it feels good to be on the guys’ side. But with a decent premise and a handle on the guys’ characters, a tighter script could have made this one something special.
- Blake, realizing he’s trapped: “Oh poop… and pee mixed together.”
- The “diagram the plan in the dirt” gag is brilliantly executed. We see Adam marking up the lawn while talking about making a plan, only to have him reveal that tunneling Blake out of the house is his plan and he’s already started. That is a great joke.
- Adam, continuing as master planner: “That’s a great idea…also I think I have a better one.”
- Adam, trying to bait the kid into betraying his homophobia: “What do you consider a bundle of sticks?”
- Bodily function count: none. (The closest we get is Adam’s guacamole bomb.)