The Muppets Recap: Brought to You by Piggy Water

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kermit, Gonzo, and Big Mean Carl. Photo: Vivian ZInk/ABC
The Muppets
Episode Title
Going, Going, Gonzo
Editor’s Rating

I'm deeply disturbed by Camilla's absence. I know I've brought this up already. Should we send out a search party? Comb every farm, back-up singing group, and Kentucky Fried Chicken in America? Where could Gonzo's missing girlfriend be that would explain her mysterious absence from The Muppets? If the show has remembered, at long last, that the Great Gonzo is integral to the Muppets family, surely they must remember his longtime partner?

At least we get to see a somewhat-familiar version of Gonzo. On a show that's watered down some of the most vibrant characters in television history, it's good to see a few flashes of color: Gonzo flying through the air into a vat of Piggy Water; Kermit reacting with a GIF-able "YAYYY!"; Animal getting in an enthusiastic drum-off with Dave Grohl. "Going Going Gonzo" wasn't necessarily a good episode, but it was an enjoyable one — and on The Muppets, that's all you can ask for.

Here's the thing: I don't want to harp on the same criticisms I've brought up over and over again. The jokes still don't land, the characters still aren't in conflict with each other, and the mockumentary format still drives me up the wall. At this point, though, we're basically burning off episodes until springtime. We only have one episode left. So, let's power through tonight (and next Tuesday), then we can wait for a version of The Muppets that hopefully doesn't make me scrunch up my face in disappointed, exaggerated, Muppet-tastic frustration.

Okay, so: On Up Late, Miss Piggy promotes Piggy Water, which is just bottled water with lipstick around the rim and thirty grams of fat. ("It might be classified as a sauce," Kermit later comments.) Then, she sings "Fly Me To The Moon" with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which, yes, is charming as hell.

Sweetums messes up as he lowers the backdrop moon, and Gonzo gets entangled in the ropes. He goes flying, which reminds him of who he used to be — the Great Gonzo, a fearless daredevil with a girlfriend WHERE THE HELL IS CAMILLA. He decides to pull off another exciting stunt to get back to his roots. Kermit convinces Miss Piggy to let him do it live on the show, on the condition that the stunt be sponsored by Piggy Water. There's a few fun Uncle Deadly moments in there, which further prove that he's the dark-horse MVP of The Muppets.

As the night of the stunt draws closer, though, Gonzo starts to have his doubts — especially after Bunsen and Beaker gruesomely demonstrate his projectile trajectory. Kermit overhears Gonzo trying to weasel his way out of it, then creates an excuse for his buddy to do exactly that. I was pretty bummed — Gonzo launching out of a cannon is one of The Muppets's most iconic images, and it's hard to imagine Gonzo chickening out of anything and speaking of chicken CAMILLA WHERE ARE YOU. At the last minute, Gonzo decides the risk is worth the thrill, so he runs up to the roof to do his stunt. As he soars through the air, it's hard not to smile. This sequence and the "Rainbow Connection" scene a few episodes back are satisfying, momentary returns to form. Or maybe I'm just a creature of habit. Either way, it was nice to see Gonzo be Gonzo again.

Gonzo's daredevil act inspires the characters around him, including Scooter, who turns to the Electric Mayhem for help breaking out of his comfort zone. He settles on letting Janice pierce his ear, but freaks out halfway through, like Sandy in Grease. He's embarrassed, but the band reassures him that not doing something he didn't want to do is the coolest thing of all, which is actually a rad message.

"Going Going Gonzo" featured the most Animal we've seen so far, who gets a joke about being That Guy Who Chews Ice Too Loudly — that's a genre of person, right? — and competes in the aforementioned drum-off with Dave Grohl. I remain impressed that The Muppets has kept Animal as a sometimes treat. As a perennial fan favorite, the impulse to give him his own stories must be overwhelming. Same goes for Sam the Eagle, who gets a sharp joke about Standards and Practices being fine with violence as long as there's no cursing.

Somewhere in there, we also see maybe two beats of a story about Pepe and Rizzo fleecing Joseph Gordon-Levitt through a game of poker. It's fine and funny enough, but completely undercooked. But that's significantly better than another overbloated Muppets celebrity cameo — even if I can always use more JGL. Also, Big Mean Carl is wrong: The brown discs are the best part of Chex Mix, aside from the Chex themselves. And now I want Chex Mix.

A realization dawned on me while watching this episode: I'd like The Muppets a lot more if it were chopped up and used as interstitials around sketches, à la The Muppet Show. It wouldn't matter if the stories were thin because it would feel like a meta-parody of mockumentary, and we'd be guaranteed a few good jokes and moments of Muppet zaniness every episode. It would seem natural to set The Muppets during episodes of Up Late, and any behind-the-scenes conflict would be incidental.

But again, any suggestions or criticism seem almost irrelevant until the regime change next spring. If The Muppets is just burning off these last few episodes and it's still somewhat enjoyable, well, to quote Hamilton and Passover, "that would be enough." When my face doesn't contort into angry Kermit-esque spasms, I'm happy to say we're movin' right along.