“Did you read the thing that guy wrote in sand on the beach?”
Portlandia continues to surprise me from one episode to the next. Just when I think I’ve pegged the show’s meaning, it takes me down a crooked turn into the most avoided and annoying corners of coolness then lets me laugh at them. This episode may have tilted more toward the strange than the funny, but it gave us more from Fred and Carrie’s list of Portland oddities like reader one-upmanship, ultra-liberal ad agency work environments, obsessive homeowners, and confusing wireless plan setups.
“Mayor Is Missing” opens with Fred and Carrie playing two readers asking each other whether they’ve read everything from The New Yorker and McSweeney’s to their fortune cookie and that week’s Family Circus. The list is long and skimmed at rapid speed — another hipster-themed duel of their great deadpan dialogue skills — and when they both discover that neither has read Portland Monthly, it ends in shock, rage, and death.
Kyle MacLachlan makes his second appearance as the mayor of Portland (and Sam Adams, the real mayor of Portland, makes another cameo as the mayor’s assistant!), and this episode he goes missing, so Fred and Carrie set out to track him down. They go to a wireless store to see if they can trace his location only to be sucked into the jargon of all the wireless plan offers (All Talk Plan, Even More Family Plan, Even More Family Unlimited Plan, Simply Everything Plan, Simply Everything Plus Plan). Just like the opening “Did you read it?” segment, this scene is what Fred and Carrie do best, or at least the most often: wordplay and fast dialogue trapped in the confines of technology. Kumail Nanjiani does a pitch-perfect job as the guy behind the register.
Aubrey Plaza also made her second appearance as Beth, a house-sitter for a couple who care for their house like the child they never had. They remind Beth to treat the house with “love and affection and attention,” and to never open the books. “They’re not for reading,” Fred’s character says.
Carrie draws from her real-life stint working at ad agency Wieden + Kennedy to play Julia, who goes to their Portland offices for a meeting but first has to pass through a maze of frisbees (“We didn’t know your size”), coworker birthdays, and “mood showering” idea exercises involving core balls. Julia barely survives the hordes of producer-photographer-vlogger-creative-director types who come at her before she arrives at the meeting, which takes place in a big basket that drifts up into the sky in a big hot air balloon. That’s how ideas are made in Portland?
Later, Fred and Carrie find the mayor in a bar playing bass in roots reggae band King Desmond and the Accelerators, and soon he is “outed” in all the papers for his secret life (cue “Mayor Is Openly Reggae” headline). Fred and Carrie watch the mayor and his wife answer the press’ questions about his band, and Carrie says, “I can’t believe his wife’s so supportive.” Then the guy from the wireless store calls her and bugs her about her new plan. Then they hear a crash and see the dead bodies of the competitive readers from the beginning of the episode, and we’re left right back where we started with the New Yorker.
To me, the biggest joke of Portlandia is how unavailable online it is, especially considering its obsession with instant gratification and technology. This week IFC only made one new clip available online and put nothing on Hulu, which seems strange to me because there are only two episodes left in the series. I can only hope that, for the sake of all of Fred and Carrie’s efforts, that Portlandia might one day have access to the “I’m too cool to own a TV” internet audience it taunts so well.
Megh Wright is a writer, TV addict, and Harrisburg native. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York and is a Gawker TV contributor.