Portlandia Recap: ‘Aimee’

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“Thanks for ruining shell art.”

“Aimee” marked Portlandia’s halfway point, and between locking in their show’s format, introducing new characters, and developing characters we’ve already seen, Fred and Carrie really hit their stride here. Not just because the cacao couple from last week returned with a new sex issue and I’m in love with them, but because they gave us stereotypical Japanese tourist girls, punk townies, stripper trainees, dumpster divers, an exploration of the coolness cycle, and Aimee Mann cleaning up a destroyed Sarah McLachlan piñata.

This episode opened with Fred as the bicycle guy from last week as he looks in the window of his favorite bar and sees a total square inside, declaring “This bar is so over!” Then he sees the same guy riding a bicycle — bicycles are so over! Everything the lame guy does becomes uncool once Fred’s character sees him do it, and it all comes full-circle when the two switch places completely. This was probably Portlandia’s least subtle take on hipsters, and also the most effective. By showing the fleeting and ever-changing nature of coolness, Fred and Carrie remind us that it might all be a clueless waste of time, but it’s still funny.

The return of the cacao couple (I call them that because I only know the guy’s name is Lance; the show hasn’t given us Fred’s name yet) and the “Coffee Land” segment where Fred and Carrie play Japanese Harijuku girls visiting Portland were by far the highlights of this episode. I’m so glad they are developing their gender-switched couple and also keeping the content uncomfortably weird. I just can’t get enough of Carrie as a man with the wife beater, lowered voice, whatever-babe attitude, and tired sexual persistence with Fred as the uppity girlfriend who would rather sew gowns out of bubble wrap than have fun with her new “Orgazmic Ring.” As for the Japanese girls who go to the coffee shop to buy progressively smaller and cuter cups of coffee, A+. Check it out below:

One weaker part of this episode was the repetition of “You gotta get out of there!” by the punks, which surprised me because I’ve seen stills of that scene everywhere, so I thought it’d pack more punch. Another part I didn’t quite get into was Daniel and Meg, the dumpster divers who took trash left by the other characters on the show (the guy the Japanese girls met at the coffee shop, the bubble wrap from the couple’s package, Fred’s sweater that Aimee Mann accidentally shrunk) and tried to put on a dinner party — I don’t know, I guess I have something against having to watch people eat disgusting trash/koala figurine stew. They’re still pinpointing real targets with believable characters, though, so I have to give them credit for staying committed to such an annoying demographic. The stripper training scene was also a little like the punk scene — it’s just Fred and Carrie repeating and riffing off each other, which is all in good fun, but too much dragging-on in one episode can get dangerous.

Aimee Mann and Sarah McLachlan’s cameos as Fred and Carrie’s hired help were unexpectedly hilarious. Aimee Mann does a great job keeping it straight every time Fred and Carrie apologize for downloading her music or destroy a Suzanne Vega poster or Tori Amos album to prove their devoted fanship, then turn around to accuse Aimee of stealing a necklace or make her clean up another mess. “Did they really make a piñata of me?” Sarah McLachlan asks Aimee as she tends to landscaping Fred and Carrie’s yard. Aimee tells her yes, then Sarah says “Who does that?” That’s the question Portlandia’s strange brand of humor has me asking every week. These two have certainly carved out their own corner of weird locally-grown hipster sketch comedy, and it keeps getting better.

Megh Wright is a writer, TV addict, and Harrisburg native. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York and is a Gawker TV contributor.