It begins with a phone call. The call you dread. It’s even harder now because pressure and time have built it up so much. There’s no way to handle it without rightfully getting “in trouble.” There’s no way to avoid confronting the hurt you caused. So, what happens? Like everything that is flooded by the combination of pressure and time, it becomes a sinkhole. And BoJack not telling Diane that he’s back in L.A. is just one of many in this episode.
The big sinkhole is obviously literal. It seems Mr. Peanutbutter’s backyard fracking has created an earthquake-prone sinkhole that submerges his house, along with his entire campaign-donor gala. The political allegories have been flying fast and furious this season, but now we get a treatment of Lord of the Flies with a favorable sprinkle of This Is the End. But really, “Underground” is about the political pratfalls of short-term vs. long-term leadership, the insanity of likeability vs. practicality, and our relative stupidity as voters. Of course, it’s also about exploitation run amok. After nakedly shaking up the mob mentality for his own benefit, Mr. Peanutbutter must later shout back, “No, listen to reason! … This time!”
The mob’s hysteria is not just representative of the our stupidity, though. It reflects the way we act when we think we are in jeopardy. It shows how we’ll put anyone on the chopping block if we think we’re next. Really, “Underground” is about some of deepest existential fears, all of which are exemplified by the episode’s confession sequence during the earthquake. Such confessions terrify us as much as they feel freeing, so it’s no accident that everyone in Mr. Peanutbutter’s house reacts by running away from the greater terror of that vulnerability.
And it’s definitely no accident that Diane spends ten days getting drunk. Her earthquake confession is laced with the deepest, all consuming fear: “I regret everything!” With those three words, she must retreat, holing up with BoJack so they can drink the vulnerability away. I know I keep talking about the psychology of these characters, but the truth is that Diane is the most complex of the bunch. On one level, she’s the most well-adjusted. She’s more intelligent than BoJack and certainly more kind. She has a fierce sense of what’s good in the world and also an idea of what should be good for her. But Diane has been running for a long time, too. Running from her family, running from the world (don’t forget about her stint at BoJack’s house in season two), running from something deep within herself. We don’t expressly know what it is yet, nor do we have her “source,” à la BoJack and his grandmother’s lobotomy. But whatever she’s running from has fueled every big decision she’s made.
She nakedly asks BoJack, “Am I busted? I am! I’m a pit. I’m a pit that good things fall into.” The answer is, of course, she’s not. She’s a pretty great person. But that pit is the feeling she’s been having. Everything has slowly seeped into her, like a personal sinkhole of the heart. As for what is creating this feeling, she says two very revealing things in this episode. The first is to BoJack: “You’re the biggest asshole I know and you’re the only thing that makes sense to me.” Diane is basically confiding that her original hardwiring is bent toward assholery (I mean, we’ve seen her family) and she’s been trying to transcend that. But BoJack is part of what she understands. Even though Diane is not broken in the same way that he is, she still has that cynical streak buried within. Which brings us to the second telling thing she says.
“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” she tells Mr. Peanutbutter. Pay close attention to those words: It’s not that Diane loves him or that she has found a real match. It’s that he’s a good, bright, shiny, happy thing. He is the kind of person that Diane doesn’t feel she deserves because his carefree happiness is so unknown to her. That’s why she marvels at the idea that he loves her. Maybe, she thinks, all of that brightness can rub off on her. Maybe she can be like Mr. Peanutbutter if she’s around him enough. Maybe she can be happy.
BoJack even outlines this type of thinking: “Pretend you are happy, and eventually you’ll forget you’re pretending.” But you never forget. No one can. You can only go into denial, which is absolutely Diane’s tactic when it comes to her relationship with Mr. Peanutbutter. She’s been pretending this whole time. Even their sexy fights are part of the bigger emotional sinkhole that explodes in this episode. The real truth is that Mr. Peanutbutter is not the best thing that has ever happened to Diane, he’s just the most objectively positive thing to enter her atmosphere. But that doesn’t inherently mean that he’s the best for her.
Perhaps Diane grew up believing that being smart and well-adjusted would cure her of her demons. As pressure and time build inside all of us, though, they reveal whatever rotten foundations are hiding beneath the surface. Until we face whatever demons are simultaneously eating and driving us, until we face that which makes sinkholes in our hearts, well …
… Until then, we’re not really facing anything at all.
Best Jokes and Other Notes
• “I’m not getting any baaaaaahrs.”
• “Is this one of our sexy fights?”
• Was the dino-fossil on the skateboard a reference to something specific?
• The Princess Carolyn stint with the underground bug people is incredible. It’s amazing how, like with the underwater episode, I never think about the full-on ramifications of a personified animal kingdom.
• “An outsider like me! The guy whose house this is!”
• Jessica Biel gives a really nice, self-effacing performance, as does Zach Braff.
• “I can only hope the meat of Zach Braff proves lasting …”
• Heartbreaking confession: I adore most world cuisines, but injera just doesn’t work right for me. Too sour. I know, I know.
• The actual mean-joke target: “Sometimes life is like the second season of Friday Night Lights — you gotta push through and hope there’s better stuff ahead.”
• The moment that made me happiest: the sexy drones!