Broad City Recap: West of Philadelphia

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. Photo: Comedy Central
Broad City
Broad City
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Editor’s Rating

There's plenty to enjoy in "Philadelphia," but as I watched, I found myself wishing for what it could have been. That said, the episode does reveal that Abbi's dad is Tony Danza, so it's tough to complain too much. Can someone please give Broad City's casting director a raise?

Though Abbi and Ilana live within ever-changing circumstances — they are, after all, the platonic ideal of early twentysomethings — Broad City isn't too interested in having its characters change, and I'm just fine with that. They don't need to. Nevertheless, it seems odd that this episode doesn't come with higher stakes for Abbi as a character. "Philadelphia" takes place in Abbi's hometown, introduces us to her dad, and gives us further insight into her shameful past as a jam-band devotee. While these details hint at a lingering fear — Abbi worries that she wasn't a good person when she was younger — the story line doesn't really find ways to explore and exploit this insecurity. That's a missed opportunity.

Yes, the trip to Philadelphia is plenty fun. But a lot of the events within the episode could have been transposed to New York; it doesn't feel all that different. What makes a hometown visit special is a hyperspecific type of regression. It's a particular sort of experience, which can only happen when you're not far enough removed from your childhood to be entirely different from who you once were. The same way it's fun to see how Ilana is entirely the product of her mother, it would have been nice to see how a childhood spent growing up "west of Philadelphia" turned Abbi into Abbi.

But I digress. Abbi's dad — TONY DANZA! ABBI'S DAD IS TONY DANZA! — is planning to turn her childhood bedroom into an infrared sauna, so Abbi and Ilana trek out to gather up her belongings. Alongside evidence of a tween crush on David Schwimmer and the remnants of ill-advised dreadlocks, they also discover a vintage JonBenét Ramsey Beanie Baby and an envelope full of money that Abbi had raised for a classmate named Alice Ackerman, who was hit by a bus. Two things become immediately apparent:

  1. Ilana has to sell the JonBenét Beanie Baby for an exorbitant amount of money.
  2. Abbi has to find Alice, whose life was surely ruined by the accident, and give her the money she raised so long ago.

In the hopes of finding Alice, our heroes head off to a bowling alley owned by the Ackerman family. They have to pull from the cash envelope to rent shoes, but it's worth it, because Abbi ends up running into her old friend Carl Schiffiless (pronounced like "syphilis"), who had a big crush on her when they were in high school despite Abbi pointing out his unfortunate name to their classmates. While Abbi and Schiffiless make out in the locker room, Ilana tries to broker a deal on the JonBenét Beanie Baby. Eventually, the bowling-alley attendant gives in and tells them where Alice lives.

After the battery on Abbi's Jeep dies, they try to hitch a ride with some teens, who will only agree if they'll buy them booze. Abbi and Ilana do so — with $200 from the Alice fund — but the deal is off when there are cops waiting right outside the liquor store. Left without a ride, they do what anyone would do: They get absolutely smashed while roaming the streets of suburban Philadelphia, looking for the house the Ackermans supposedly live in … and, if they can find it, the house Will Smith allegedly purchased for his mom.

The JonBenét Beanie Baby is stolen by a local dog, leaving Abbi and Ilana to drunkenly fight him off. After they wrestle back the Beanie Baby, they find themselves standing in front of a gorgeous house, which turns out to belong to Alice Ackerman herself. Not only was Alice fine after the accident, she's also gotten ridiculously hot and lives in this amazing place with none other than Carl Schiffiless. When it's revealed that Abbi has not only taken hundreds of dollars from the fund that she initially forgot to donate, but also made out with Alice's boyfriend on her first day back in town, she's understandably pissed, so Ilana offers her the Beanie Baby as a consolation prize. While they walk away from the house, Ilana reveals that it was worth over $13,000. Now it's Abbi's turn to be pissed.

I wish I could tell you Tony Danza had more to do in "Philadelphia." At least he joins in for a breakfast dance sequence over the credits, giving us a really cute glimpse into Abbi's relationship with her dad, but that's about it. I'm hoping we'll see more of him. Between Danza's dance moves and the revelation that Abbi sucked in high school, there was just enough to justify pulling the girls out of New York for an episode — but next time they venture outside the five boroughs, I'd love to see the trip affect them just a little more.

Other Thoughts:

  • As a kid, Abbi loved trash. This is such a weird and wonderful character detail.
  • Add "bowl a strike in one shot" and "speak Chinese" to the list of Ilana's hidden talents.
  • Ilana's feet are a size 4; Abbi's are a size 11.
  • The episode takes place in Philadelphia, but the music playing in the bowling alley is from a Brooklyn band called Ronnie Stone & the Lonely Riders.
  • I'm not the only one who immediately wondered if I still had my Princess Diana Beanie Baby somewhere, am I? I feel like this is going to inspire a frenzy of Broad City fans combing through their childhood bedrooms for potential goldmines.
  • Seriously: Cody Beke deserves a raise.