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BoJack Horseman Recap: What Separates Philbert?

BoJack Horseman

Head in the Clouds
Season 5 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating *****

BoJack Horseman

Head in the Clouds
Season 5 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Netflix

We begin with a cryptic tease, a parable of faith between two nuns who are discussing the woman who has washed on their shore and not said a word for two years. One of the nuns is still shaken by the lack of an answer, but the other implores her, “Is prayer not a bargain? Is it for you to present terms to the Lord?” And so she goes to the shore and we learn what has become of Margo Martindale! Who was last seen escaping from the fuzz on BoJack’s yacht! She stares and says her first words, upon the giant floating visage of a floating BoJack Horseman.

A gag of “60 days earlier” shows a quick shot of BoJack in pain after the accident, then “57 days later,” a shot of him taking pills for this new injury. He’s with Gina, but now he’s with her with her. And he’s as available as he can be, even telling her that he likes her. More than that, they’re both getting good reviews! BoJack’s of course finding every nitpick he can make, but Gina can’t believe she’s getting attention for this show after a lifetime of not. They’re on their way to the premiere, feeling happy, and Gina cautiously asks if they’re ready to announce to the world that they’re “BoGina,” but BoJack, ever in a fear state, says that maybe they should wait because the world’s not ready yet (read: him). But that’s only one problem building, as so many of the evening’s plots will come together in a pressure cooker.

Princess Carolyn’s producing duties never end; it seems a hackneyed joke from the show was previously used on a popsicle stick. And so begins her bonkers journey into trying to get joke writers Able Ziegler and Ziegly Abler to reunite their friendship and sign the release form. Speaking of bonkers, there’s also Todd’s daily escapade, which begins with him trying to throw away “Henry Fondle,” the inappropriate sex robot from the prior episode. But of course, he can’t do it and and is convinced to bring it to work, which is a bad idea, Todd. Of course, Henry’s random sex talk is mistaken for pointed genius and the head of WHAT TIME IS IT RIGHT NOW DOT COM is convinced to retire and put Henry the random inappropriate sex robot in charge (which everyone goes along with). And it what you could call the fact that this choice was written long before the Les Moonves scandal “prescient,” but it is sad evergreen commentary on the magnitude and ubiquity of this problem.

But so many of the piling conflicts of the premiere can be viewed through the lens of TV and media. Flip’s brandishing his ego wildly because “it’s a collaborative medium where one guy gets all the credit.” And Mr. Peanutbutter is having trouble because Pickles leaves the premiere, partially distracted, but also because the grungy nature of the story really phased her on a visceral level. She can’t separate Mr. Peanutbutter from his character, “You would shoot someone and I was like ew!” But of course she wants to be dutiful and kind the way he is with her, so she rushes home to watch the entire season, “even if it kills me because I hate it so much!” Needless to say, they are still issues between them despite their efforts.

BoJack meanwhile? The line of what separates him and Philbert becomes so glaringly thin … he keeps hearing quotes “What separates Philbert is the character’s vulnerability. He’s a barely scabbed-over wound of a person.” BoJack feels it all piling up and just wants all his wrongs to be “okay.” He wants this because he knows that deep down he is not okay. He want to alleviate that feeling. But the line of what separates him from his character also comes up the moment Diane sees the show and has a terrifying realization. She wanted Philbert to be vulnerable, but his vulnerability made him a rooting interest within the show. She confronts Flip and puts it bluntly: “If Philbert is just a way for dumb assholes to rationalize their own behavior, then I’m sorry we can’t put this out there.” This calls in shades of the Rick & Morty conversation, but Flip brushes it all off. Diane finally goes to leave and runs into BoJack. And now they finally have their talk …

Well, it’s more of an argument that plays like a horror movie. Not in terms of the intensity, but in its terrifying realness. They first argue over the depiction of the character, how BoJack’s trying to just gloss it all over and make himself “okay.” But what is he learning? What is he undoing? She finally digs into asking about what happened in New Mexico. He tries to put up a defensive front, but she’s close to him so she wants to know the truth. BoJack turns it back on her, twisting her intent, insinuating that it’s about saving her image and her brand, because he can’t believe it’s about saving his soul. But BoJack’s soul has too many horrible things to unveil. Too much shame. He starts cryptically listing all the worst of the worst, knowing there’s no way to make it all “okay.” Fed up, Diane goes to leave, but he finally tries to let his guard down, he tries to explain New Mexico. The judgement flies on what could have happened versus what didn’t. She goes to leave once again. He grabs her arm, it takes one beat too long for him to let go, but then he finally does.

I don’t think I moved a muscle when I watched the entire thing unfurl. It is stomach churning. But the defensiveness in BoJack takes precedence. He has to shout back, he can’t just break down and tell her. He can’t be weak and say “I’m suffering!” it can’t just be about the admitting the thing in and of itself. Diane is doing what she’s doing because she believes he can get better but not if he placates and, “even though you’re being a total asshole right now, I still believe it.” And so the impasse goes on, unsettled. Who knows what it will bring to their relationship? But we know how they react in the immediate aftermath:

BoJack immediately downs most of his pills. In a haze, he sees Gina being interviewed by the press, and he runs up and kisses her. Why? To move forward, but blindly and in a haze? Does he want to be in her flashbulb shine? Is it really about her? Or is it the fact she feeds him pills? Meanwhile, Diane gets a ride home from Mr. Peanutbutter. She compliments his acting, knowing he’s done his best work (the thing Pickles couldn’t understand) and he’s kind to her in turn. In that moment, they remember why they love each other. And in that moment, she invites him up to her place … Both of their actions are tiny prayers, a way of trying to present their own terms to the lords of fate. And so over both of them, the dire omens still hang.

Best Jokes & Other Notes

• “Be charmingly effusive! Be yourself” / “I can’t be both of those things at once!’

• “Please do not laugh during the screening this episode contains no intentional humor.” This feels like a Nolan Bros poke.

• “That 39-year-old actress is going places!”

• “Wrong Prius, I’m sorry I lost my ticket!”

• Ahhhh! Isiah Whitlock Jr.!

• Just now seeing Diane’s apartment is named “Le Triste,” which translates as “The Sad.”

• Best Bit Part Animal: Deer with Post-It antlers / The moth to the heat lamp

• This Week’s Actual Mean-Joke Targets: Netflix! That “A TIGHT HOUR AND EIGHTEEN MINUTES LATER” is my favorite meta gag yet.

• Moment That Made Me the Happiest: Not a lot of it this episode, but I like to imagine that Able Ziegler and Ziegly Abler really do write popsicle-stick jokes. They also have come to understand the power and allure of switching roles and coming to understand another … something other characters in this show sorely lack.

BoJack Horseman Recap: What Separates Philbert?