It’s a bit odd for Space Force to bring in a comedy heavy hitter like Kaitlin Olson and a great performer like Janina Gavankar when it still hasn’t figured out how to use talents like Jessica St. Clair and Diana Silvers. Olson and Gavankar are both excellent here, and it would be great if they return, but it’s increasingly frustrating that this series’ regular female roles feel so thin. Erin Naird is coming out of her shell a bit, even if her relationship with Duncan Tabner could only be more April & Andy 2.0 if those were their actual names. But Angela Ali is becoming a character that the show almost doesn’t need at all, and there are only three episodes left to fix that.
“Edison Jaymes” is an old-fashioned “special guest star” episode, with the incredibly funny star of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Mick appearing as the title character. She’s something of an Elon Musk riff, a wealthy investor in everything from Skinny Fuel to a website called Shrt that designs outfits for users (and cuts the I on purpose). Jaymes comes to Space Force at the president’s behest to introduce a potential new, cheap fuel that impresses everyone at first. And she brings with her an old acquaintance of Tony’s, Hannah Howard, played by Gavankar of Blindspotting and The Morning Show. As much as Tony hates her, Hannah (whose name is reminiscent of Hedda Hopper, but maybe that’s just me) has his dream job: social managing someone who actually understands the purpose of a social manager.
While he likes her ideas on paper, Mallory is pretty suspicious once Jaymes actually gets there. She won’t reveal any of the science behind it, and it all feels more like a “dog and chimp show” than it should. Naird is taken by Jaymes at first, and she butters him up by pretending to like his invention ideas, but he starts to suspect something is up when she starts acting just a bit too nice to him. It’s almost as if Mallory has helped Naird fine-tune his bullshit detector. Speaking of bullshit, even F-Tony begins to think something is wrong when he talks to Hannah and she accidentally reveals that Jaymes’s operating principle is basically “If one thing works, no one cares about the failures.”
Edison Jaymes is like so many tech investors who have so much money to throw around that the disasters aren’t even noticed because of the ones that hit. However, Tony realizes that they can’t mess with something like rocket fuel, and he goes to Mallory and Naird and reveals what he’s learned from Hannah’s unconvincing “yeah.” In the end, even Jaymes seems happy that they didn’t use her fuel in the rocket launch, and Naird basically makes a deal with her: He won’t reveal that she’s a snake-oil salesman, and she’ll get POTUS off his back. Hannah passionately kisses Tony before she leaves. Does she know that he basically sold her out? Or maybe she’s impressed that he did? Either way, Gavankar and Ben Schwartz have fun chemistry that this show could use. Let’s get her back next season.
Meanwhile, Naird and Tabner get closer over an ice-cream spill in a fancy car, and Naird reveals his plan for a handshaking machine that would allow people in New York to shake hands with people in China. Space Force has thus far been a show whose often toothless political commentary doesn’t feel particularly relevant to the world of summer 2020, but Naird’s handshaking machine plays differently in light of people like Anthony Fauci suggesting people won’t do that anymore. Maybe everyone will use Naird’s handshaking machine in the future! The best moment in the episode by far is how John Malkovich plays Mallory’s response to Naird’s invention, by asking how many people will use it to jack off. He cracks himself up in a way that makes Mallory even more likable. There have been fun performances and scenes here and there in the first season of Space Force, but Malkovich is really walking away with it. He won an Emmy 34 years ago for a TV version of Death of a Salesman. It would be kind of fun to see him in the race for another one so many years later — though given the unevenness of Space Force overall, he may have a better shot with The New Pope.
At the end of a pretty thin episode overall, Jaymes and Hannah head back home, likely to return at least once in the future, and Naird seems pretty happy about how it all played out. After all, the launch went well, they got the publicity via Jaymes’s incredible social presence, and everyone seems happy at Space Force for, like, the first time ever. It lasts only three days, after which Naird learns that the satellite has sent back footage of the lunar surface … and the Chinese base that’s already there.
• Malkovich laughing about Naird’s suggested pear-grape hybrid is pretty great, too. I’d eat one. Why not? And it’s funny to consider Naird and Mallory having a drink after work and coming up with dumb inventions.
• Duncan tries to impress Erin by going down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, including a truly bonkers one that the queen killed Jeffrey Epstein. That one may be hard to find, but his stuff about the Illuminati and the Denver airport? Totally prevalent conspiracy theory. Head down this rabbit hole with Duncan if you dare.
• Jeff Blitz helmed this episode! He made his debut with a great documentary called Spellbound before moving into primarily doing TV comedy, and he’s a vet of a lot of Greg Daniels productions, including Parks and Recreation, The Office, and Upload. I suspect we’ll see more vets of the Daniels-verse as Space Force continues.