Broad City Season-Premiere Recap: When Abbi Met Ilana

Broad City

Sliding Doors
Season 4 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Comedy Central

Welcome to Broad City season four and three and two and one!

“Sliding Doors” takes us back to those heady days of 2011. We had five more years of President Obama and no idea how good we had it. LMFAO was having its moment. The New York City Snipper was chopping off the ponytails of unsuspecting women all over the city. Okay, that last one was not actually a hallmark of the year 2011, but if he hadn’t existed in the world of Broad City, the world of Broad City wouldn’t exist either. As we learn, Abbi and Ilana met because Ilana sacrificed her unlimited MetroCard swipe for Abbi, despite her being a total stranger, and then their friendship was solidified by either the best or worst day ever. But which was it?

Cue a Sliding Doors–style episode: One world in which Ilana and Abbi make it to the train on time and they don’t talk immediately, and another world in which they miss their train and end up becoming buddies on the platform. And it’s all because a guy threw up in front of them!

In the world where they missed their train (after the ever-frustrating F just straight-up stopped running), Ilana offers to smoke Abbi up. Meanwhile, in the world where they make the train, Abbi gets off and Ilana ends up kicked in the face by a subway performer (and NYU Tisch student). Leaving the subway, Abbi gets blasted with bubbles by one of those street vendors who only sells bubble-blaster toys for some reason.

In Missed-the-Train World, Abbi and Ilana round a corner together and that same bubble salesman still soaks Abbi. This time, though, Ilana is there to tell him off: “Good luck living the rest of your life.” Soon enough, Ilana and Abbi are smoking in the park when Ilana learns she was fired from Grey Dog, the restaurant where she worked (and forgot to lock up). It turns out Abbi was a regular, and they marvel at the fact they’d never seen each other before. The sprinklers in the park turn on and wreck Ilana’s blowout (I feel you, girl), revealing her “True Jew,” and Ilana is thrilled to learn that Abbi is Jewish as well. It’s beshert. They decide to go get breakfast.

In Got-the-Train World, Abbi waits for the bathroom at Grey Dog when she is suddenly accosted by the NYC Snipper, who slices off her ponytail. She runs after him, and then the Grey Dog manager (played by the awesome Jeff Hiller) finds Ilana sleeping in the bathroom and fires her. Abbi arrives home with a truly terrible haircut and a Bed Bath & Beyond bag only to meet Bevers — an upsettingly ripped Bevers — for the first time. On the bright side, this version of Bevers is super helpful and doesn’t want to be an imposition.

Ilana also heads home to find her roommates, all of whom she has nicknamed Madison, having their weekly “suite meeting.” They have created a slideshow illustrating “the Ilana Wexler problem.” It turns out they were the ones shaming her into straightening her hair, even if it’s hard to imagine any version of Ilana being shamed into anything.

Missed-the-Train World: Abbi and Ilana talk excitedly about progress because we hadn’t entered the darkest timeline yet.

Got-the-Train World: Ilana shows up late to class, having taken too much time re-ironing her hair. She sits down next to a dude and starts kissing him, and it’s only after they’ve sufficiently tongued that we see her boyfriend is … Jaime! Ilana is horrified to learn she has a presentation due, but she can’t even remember which class this is. She tries to fake a presentation, poorly, and the professor dismisses her. As she walks out of class, a passing bike rips her dress off. Meanwhile, Abbi sadly eats fro-yo alone. Solo fro-yo is one of the saddest things there is.

In Missed-the-Train World, Abbi and Ilana decide to stop into a psychic’s storefront, where a psychic named Oda (Constance Shulman from Orange Is the New Black) has a prophecy. She tells them they’re new friends, and they’re going to die that day. The pair decide to live like it’s their very last day on Earth. They decide to get tattoos; Abbi’s is a lower-back tattoo of Oprah. They grab pizza, and then Abbi calls Melody to tell her that Bevers can’t stay with them anymore. It was around this point, I was sure that “our” Abbi and Ilana are not the ones from this timeline. Sure enough, right after agreeing to hang out again, Abbi and Ilana are immediately hit by a bus. R.I.P., Other Abbi and Other Ilana.

In the one true Broad City timeline where they caught the train, we see Ilana, wearing a tourist souvenir-shop T-shirt, smoking a bowl alone on a bench. Abbi walks by and recognizes her as the girl who swiped her into the subway. They both had the world’s worst day. Ilana offers Abbi a hit, and Abbi offers Ilana some pizza. They notice wet cement nearby and decide to write their names in it. Having officially met, they decide to take a walk together.

The alliances that form in response to a late train or a particularly cold day or a stranger stepping in to save someone else from a street creep are one of the things that make New York City magical. And true friendship — best friendship — is forged in fire. Abbi and Ilana aren’t best friends because they were there for each other on their best day, but on their very worst. “Sliding Doors” captures those essential truths about New York and friendship, while also delivering a fun and inventive season premiere. Welcome back, Broad City.

Other Thoughts

• Grey Dog, the café where Ilana worked, is awesome. Abbi’s wrong, though: The best one isn’t on Carmine, it’s on 16th.

• This entire episode made me really homesick for New York.

• This episode is probably an homage to the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors, but I’m hoping it’s really a secret homage to the Frasier episode “Sliding Frasiers”.

• Bevers’s head on a ripped body is the scariest thing I’ve seen this week and I saw It and American Horror Story last night.

Broad City Season-Premiere Recap: When Abbi Met Ilana