Cartman is easily the most unsympathetic character on South Park. Anti-semetic, racist, exclusionist, and classist, he makes truly offensive comments and mocks other characters relentlessly. Many of his remarks go unchallenged. Kyle and Stan roll their eyes and tell him to shut up every once in a while, but it’s clear that no one takes him too seriously. So although it’s not an uncommon thread for South Park, it is always fun to see Cartman’s own confidence in his beliefs shaken — sort of like watching Barney lose his cool on How I Met Your Mother. In this week’s episode, Cartman experiences a tranquilizer gun induced Passover dream and sort of converts to Judaism by the conclusion. That’s why it was especially disappointing that “Jewpacabra” was a terrible episode.
Framed as Cartman’s Easter Special, Cartman invents a monster named Jewpacabra who “drinks blood, hides in the night, and has no belief in the divinity of christ.” Kyle is obviously unamused and tries to get Cartman to admit that Jewpacabra is made up, and offers a pretty apt definition of sensationalism. When Cartman brings up the example of people seeing bigfoot, Kyle responds that “they are either lying or they are stupid. So stop lying so stupid people don’t start believing you.” Beyond that, though the first half of the episode was so painful to watch that isn’t even worth recounting in any great detail, and the issue is likely that Jewpacabra (the monster) wasn’t that funny in and of itself. And it would be extremely difficult for any plot extension relying on the assumed humor of Jewcadabra to make up for the original deficiency. So it’s no wonder that the extensive scenes with the grocery store executives and the bigfoot scientists didn’t take. Even Cartman didn’t seem particularly amused with his own creation.
Eventually, Cartman gets shot with a tranquilizer gun (just go with it). In this drugged state he dreams that he’s the Pharoah’s son, and it’s great. Cartman is horrified with what he sees: frogs falling from the sky, lambs throats being slashed, unleavened bread (“Care for a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich?” “Noooo! The bread’s all flat!”), and spontaneously combusting children.
When Cartman wakes up, he’s convinced that God is unmerciful. He also wants to be Jewish! The ending was so sincere, I had to watch it twice to make sure I wasn’t missing something. South Park has a way of teasing us with redemptive realizations and then forgetting all about it in future episodes, so it will be interesting to see if Cartman is truly a changed kid going forward.
Though it’s tempting to say that the enjoyable Passover sequence was able to redeem the entire episode, the first half was just too painful to get through. Ultimately the two ideas — the Jewcadabra and Cartman’s religious epiphany — were too disjointed to fit into the same episode gracefully.