Let’s get this out of the way up front: Everything Method Man does and says in this episode is solid gold. He is the Platonic ideal of guest stars, in that he is clearly both a guest (he commits fully to the show’s reality) and he is a star (the man can sell a line reading, and really makes you believe he is a Bonnie Hunt superfan who loved The Mysteries of Laura).
Anyway, let’s recap: Billy and Julie meet Method Man at an alt-comedy venue, aaaaand TITLE CARD.
Julie shows up at the café having skipped lunch with her mom. She’s excited: She scored tickets to the musical Hashtag Cats via Craigslist. (Listeners to Klausner’s podcast know where this is going.) “Not since Gina Gershon’s star turn in Bye Bye Birdie has the town been so loudly ambivalent” is not the greatest joke of the episode, but it is the joke most emblematic of everything Difficult People represents: knowing, specific, casually withering, and suuuuper gay.
In other news, Lola the Trans Truther gets a good line; Matthew is cartoonishly, stereotypically repellent; God’s in his heaven; and all is right with the world. Julie supplies the episode with its driving question: Can you be friends with someone you’re paying?
At the hair salon, Marilyn decides to get back at Julie by becoming best friends with her stylist. Why, no, it doesn’t make much in the way of human sense, but stay with us. I like how Marilyn begins to think better of it by the end of the scene, as it turns out Chad the stylist is an oversharing, inappropriate stereotype. Not for nothing, but that stereotype is also wildly unrealistic, because no actual gay people watch Modern Family.
So, Method Man wants to pitch shows with Julie and Billy. “Maybe one of those streaming joints that claims to be a comedy but no one on their staff truly knows how to write a joke even if you put a gun to their head,” he says, marvelously.
Over at Men.com, Billy is at his trainer’s (Joel McHale) apartment, getting trained. Even before this episode’s big revelation, we know that McHale’s character is a monster, because he’s got a weight bench on hardwood floors, like a downstairs-neighbor-hating sociopath. Any sense that this story line might go in a gay will-they-won’t-they direction is mostly undone by: (1) McHale’s bro-y affect, and (2) McHale’s shorts.
Julie buys the tickets from the Craigslist guy, but they turn out to be fake, causing her to launch a one-woman, burn-the-forest-and-salt-the-earth campaign against him, in the form of abusive voice-mails and texts. (On her podcast last year, Klausner recounted that she was herself scammed out of Hamilton tickets and responded exactly as the Julie character does here.) We get not one but two jokes at the expense of American Horror Story, which brings this season’s total up to seven.
At NBC, the pitch meeting does not go well, as the wormy executive explains that “the Peacock” is backing away from comedy. (The jokes about network offices — the rapidly changing show posters, the identical blonde associates — aren’t the freshest, but the dude who plays the network suit is fun to watch.)
At the café, Marilyn attempts to rub her new gay BFF in Julie’s face. Not, um. Not literally. That’s a whole ’nother website. Julie walks over to confront her (I like how the gay BFF sizes up Julie’s shoes and outfit, like the tiresomely predictable queen he is), and Andrea Martin is particularly good at showing us Marilyn’s horrified reaction to her companion’s sex talk.
Meanwhile, Billy’s trainer forces food on him. (I was so certain they were going to go in a gay direction that I didn’t see the reveal coming, even though the episode certainly laid enough track for it.) Julie is outraged that New York’s Finest do not share her thirst for Hashtag Cats–flavored vengeance, so she ups the game by leaving Craigslist guy a message that the tickets were for her and her sister (” … S. Epatha,” best joke of the episode, for the record), who is dying of cancer. Arthur, as audience stand-in, is horrified that she went there, but Julie explains she’s just getting started.
I’m with Julie. On any other show, this fake-cancer thing would be truly reprehensible. But it’s not even near the worst thing we’ve seen this character do. It’s like a six, six-and-a-half tops.
Dinner party at Billy’s trainer’s apartment. The other guests give off a nicely chilly Mads Mikkelsen vibe, and Arthur notices McHale’s unusual kitchen equipment. (Layin’ that track, one railroad tie at a time.) Billy notes that he’s gaining weight, not losing it. (And another one.)
In this week’s montage, Julie, Billy, and Method Man take their pitch to various networks, tweaking it for each audience. Eichner’s great at serving up the different flavors — Comedy Central: bro-y; E! — queeny (Julie: “THERE’S CUNTS EVERYWHERE!”); Adult Swim: weird for the sake of weird. They end up, however, somewhere very, very else: “Billy and Julie! You are the new face of Al Jazeera!”
Technically, “Al Jazeera X-Treme.” (“We mean it in the Mountain Dew way — don’t worry.”) They celebrate (Julie: “My first big break and my mother can never know.”) and Method Man invites them to see Hashtag Cats. On his wise counsel about both the nature of forgiveness and Viola Davis’s limits, Julie texts Craigslist guy that she forgives him.
In a fit of remorse, Craigslist guy shows up at Hashtag Cats with a string quartet and a white limo, and asks Julie if he can make it up to her sister. Julie, desperate to get rid of him, lies that her sister is dead — which Method Man overhears.
And now begins a Parade of Wildly Unlikely Things We Just Have to Accept Because Comedy: As the curtain goes up, Marilyn’s stylist puts the moves on her — he’s bi. Upon getting rebuffed, he transforms into a fratty douchebag and storms out, muttering about shitty musicals and pussy and the friend zone. Method Man, true gentleman he, is outraged on Marilyn’s behalf: “Man, her daughter just died of cancer!”
And so this week’s jig is, once again, up. Marilyn is disappointed (which at least seems a much more realistic reaction on her part than shock, given how well she knows Julie), and Method Man is outraged: He cancels their show (can he do that?) and kicks them out of the theater (can he do that?). Once again, as in the “Patches” episode, Julie’s actions screw things up for both her and Billy. Has it ever worked the other way?
On their way out of the theater, cops arrest McHale, whom we learn is a cannibal, who eats human flesh (Billy: “I KNOW WHAT A CANNIBAL IS.”) McHale’s quite good here as they take him in, ranting about how he was fattening Billy up, calling him “my veal,” and how he’d fall off the bone after four hours at 375 degrees. (“With carrots! AND POTATOES!”)
A very solid episode! A perfect guest star! Could stand a bit more Arthur! A lot more Arthur!