Portlandia Recap: ‘Feminist Bookstore 10th Anniversary’

“If you are pregnant, celebrate with a soda.”

Now that only two more episodes are left in Portlandia’s second season, it seems fitting that the Women & Women First ladies got a chance to lead the main storyline. Fred and Carrie have called Toni and Candace (who they’ve been playing since 2007 in ThunderAnt) some of their favorites, and “Feminist Bookstore 10th Anniversary” was a nice way to pay respect to the familiarity the ladies provide on a show that can be alienating if you don’t know everything about krautrock, Kickstarter, or Battlestar Galactica. It was also the perfect avenue to bring in Penny Marshall as the black sheep of the bookstore cofounders – who I guess we can say approves of Fred’s impression of her on SNL – and what better celebrity to play Penny’s boyfriend than NBA/Portland star LaMarcus Aldridge?

“Anniversary” opens with Fred and Carrie as the Sanitation Twins Marcus and Madeline in a PSA about all the new color-coded recycling bins in town, including bins specialized for lotion, plastic coffee cup lids with lipstick marks, and “broken umbrellas and broken hearts.” This scene harkened back to the same stilted catchiness of last week’s “Two Girls Two Shirts” and gave Carrie another opportunity to practice her straight-man downtalking to Fred while he reluctantly throws his fingernail clippings away (“they could be worth something”). After the progressively specific recycling color codes, it turns out only 10% of the items are recycled into “clean air,” “fresh water,” and “good vibes” while the other 90% gets dumped into the ocean.

Penny Marshall connects with the dry faux-tensions of the show perfectly, fleshing out a sexually secure and loving entrepreneur whose success in business and taste for young masculine lovers drives Candace to pour gasoline around one of the bookstore stacks in a rage (“That looks like a man urinating,” Toni notes in horror at the dripping gas can spout). Fred also brings a hilarious anxiety to Candace that made these scenes work for me, especially when she complains about rising tax rates: “Hopefully in a thousand years the real estate taxes won’t be as high as the property taxes…because I can’t really handle that kind of a fee anymore.” For once, the bookstore isn’t where the women scare away customers but instead a lesbian haven for working out years-long dramas, with the soothing soulful sounds of butch duo band Angel & Sonny there to act like the conflict-resolution referees.

Dave and Kath returned in the one-note “Let’s get the gear!” hiking preparation scene which, despite a few funny moments like “You never know with the lumens, how many lumens you’re gonna need” is by now almost a default switch for them. Then the Carrie-less scene of Fred as a dance instructor who’s had a little too many experiences being sued by former students was just too short and underdeveloped to make an impact. The aging hipster couple Brendan and Michelle also returned in a sketch all about their purchase of a durian that turns out to be an alien who hijacks their home and flies off into space in it (with the couple’s son Grover in tow, I hope?), and if anything I liked this scene for leaving the durian’s infamous stink out of the joke.

My favorite part of “Anniversary” is the trip to Copypilot, where Peter and Nance hover like anal-retentive art directors over the employee’s shoulder (the same mute, dorky kid who Carrie as the Harajuku girl fell in love with last season) while instructing him to design a Portland Timbers fan poster that evolves from the message “Go Timbers We Hope You Win, Love Peter and Nance and Guess What This Is Our First Game” to a clipart collection of stop signs, soccer balls, smaller soccer balls, recycling symbols, and warnings for pregnant women. Funnier than the couple’s nitpicky yet tacky design demands was how easily the Copypilot employee executes them on the computer, only to cut to the couple holding up their handmade cat-themed sign at the game “Five Hours Later,” prompting their fellow fans to join in on their chant “Please please win, meow meow meow!” When all of their wildest dreams could be realized thanks to the help of a computer, Peter and Nance instead get distracted by the image of an adorable kitten – hey wait, that’s not the story of a couple on Portlandia, that’s the story of the internet.

Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.

Portlandia Recap: ‘Feminist Bookstore 10th Anniversary’