You’d think with the ample amount of boob jokes, a guest-star stint by Christina Ricci, and all that Cary screen time, “Anatomy of a Joke” would have been a lot more fun. So why did this episode feel like a big, fat meh by the end?
Perhaps our expectations were a bit too high after last week’s Maddie bombshell and strong military courtroom scenes. This week was clearly meant to be comic-relief-style filler, but was it too much to think it could have actually been funny? We’re sorry to say that it seems like this show does a better job at humor when it’s not trying so hard for laughs.
But maybe it was all Christina Ricci’s fault. We typically enjoy her as an actress, but in her role as a Chelsea Handler/Whitney Cummings stand-in— only with even less charisma!— she came off as completely flat. Ricci plays Therese Dodd, a trash-talking female comic who kicks off the hour by getting sued by a network for exposing her breasts on late-night TV during a mock breast-cancer-awareness bit. After the prosecution (a sparkling F. Murray Abraham returns as Burl Preston) proves premeditation (damn you, boob makeup) the group is off to D.C. to try to convince three FCC swing voters to drop their fine against the network (a surprisingly conciliatory prospect that Preston provided, no?). But, in any case, field trip!
There’s a quick cut of phallic B-roll (jet plane, Washington Monument) and just like that, we’re in our nation’s capital. Cary wants Therese to go weepy to try to sway the commissioners with an emotional outpouring about her mother’s death from breast cancer, but Therese can’t stomach it. “When I get to the part about my mom’s hair falling out,” she tells Cary, “I want you to hum 'Fix You.'” (Heh. We hope this was an intentional dig at The Newsroom.)
After a few more stilted meetings, this all gets resolved in Dodd’s favor following one incredibly strange kiss. But the real drama in D.C. comes from the interaction between Cary and Lex Luthor, we mean Blair’s Waldorf’s father, in the hallway. So who is this exceedingly well-preserved man whom Cary greets with a terse “Sir” and a handshake? Why, it’s only his dear old dad. As much as we were thrilled to get a little Cary backstory, even this seemed a little too on-the-nose. There’s tension and distance, and clearly lots of buried resentment on Cary’s part, but this thread never quite rose to Alicia-Owen levels, or even Will and his sisters, in terms of adding character depth. Surprise, surprise, Dad’s not earnestly trying to make amends— or even dying, as they teased us — he just wants a favor. Click. We’re sorry, Cary, but at least this provided cause for the most enjoyable scene in the episode: Cary and Alicia, after hours on hotel beds! While some shoot-‘em-up procedural plays on the TV, Cary swills brown liquor and adorably confuses his words about his dad, “This seems to matter more to me than it does to you. Wait. No!” And then they got real with each other. “You changed on me,” Cary says to Alicia. “I thought you were a jerk,” Alicia says in return. Aw, you kids.
Back in Chicago, Maddie may be in bed with Indira Starr (literally), who’s claiming that Peter has a birthmark in the shape of Brazil on his penis, and Hayden’s doing some more backroom bargaining to try to court Burl Preston as a potential buyer for L&G, but the plan is thwarted owing to some quick thinking on the part of Will and Diane and a maniacal assist from David Lee. Oh, and Captain Hellinger is still around, only this time she’s pretty and smiley in civilian clothes and goes by Laura. (She quit the JAG corps). A few calls by Alicia — and one super terse interview with ASA Geneva later — and Laura’s got a brand-new job working for Peter. Yay? Or ... could this be another Brazil-shaped problem waiting to happen?
- Therese to the FCC commissioner she had just bombed with: “Damn those terrorists and their paperweights.”
- Therese to Cary: “Smell my perfume. It’s called ‘Accommodation.’”
- Hayden to Diane: “I don’t step back.” “We don’t either,” she replies. “Then get ready to crash."