What We Do in the Shadows Recap: Hello, My Name is Sally Rhubarb

What We Do in the Shadows

Local News
Season 5 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

What We Do in the Shadows

Local News
Season 5 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: FX/Copyright 2023, FX Networks. All Rights Reserved.

Aside from personal injury lawyers who advertise on the subway, news anchors are the best kind of local celebrity: Ubiquitous. Inoffensive. The kind of thing that can bring a city together. And since I’m from Chicago (shoutout to my man Tom Skilling!), I admit that I had to Google it to see if WYXK Channel 8 and its anchors were real. They’re not — although the actors who played Lisa Lipton and Ted Spinelli both have experience as TV broadcast journalists and thus can read a teleprompter with that perfectly generic American diction you learn in J-school.

Speaking of diction: The entire A-plot of this episode seemed to be designed to get Nandor, Nadja, and Laszlo behind the WYXK anchor desk for the smorgasbord of silly line readings that concludes this week’s episode. (As usual, Matt Berry won the day with “blood, sweat, and teeeeeeeeearrs.”) Which is fine. They did a good job! But the buildup to that segment was unfocused enough that I wonder whether the entire episode was reverse-engineered from the image of vampire news anchors rather than as a story per se.

On a character level, it does make sense that the most chaotic episode this season is one where Guillermo isn’t around to contain the madness. As Harvey Guillén’s star rises, Guillermo’s role is becoming less central to the series: He’s been largely absent these past few episodes, presumably busy dealing with hormonal vampire-adolescence stuff. And his emotional goodbye to his mom really did make me sad for him, as did the paper plate of tamales with the foil on top she gave him to take home. (Such a perfect mom detail.)

At this point, the status of Guillermo’s delayed transformation into a vampire is unclear; he’s got the super-strength, and his abuela’s crucifix burns his neck. But he doesn’t have fangs just yet, and he’s still eating human food. Given that Sean — and most of the humans they encounter — simply think that the vampires are a little weird, one might question whether Guillermo’s impending melancholy self-exile is really necessary. It is, for him specifically, for a couple of reasons.

First, Guillermo and his family are descended from vampire hunters and become violently agitated whenever a vampire is in the room. (You might remember them sniffing Nadja out when they came to the mansion for dinner in the season-four episode “Pine Barrens.”) I assume this is why Guillermo keeps bidding farewell to his mom every time he comes over — he never knows whether they’ll attack him or not when he walks in the door. The day they do, it’s over. Second, Nandor still doesn’t know that Guillermo asked Derek to turn him into a vampire behind Nandor’s back. And as we learned in the season five premiere, Nandor would be honor bound to kill Guillermo if this betrayal was ever discovered. So he’ll have to split from them once the transition becomes obvious, too.

This is all background that isn’t discussed directly in “Local News,” which, for the most part, lets the cast goof off with silly character stuff as the vampires all react in their own unique ways to the threat of being driven out of Staten Island by an angry mob. Laszlo, the gentleman serial killer, wants to kidnap and kill news anchor Joanna Roscoe (Jamie Linn Watson). Nandor, the oversized puppy, keeps literally and metaphorically breaking things. Colin, the toxic weirdo, is of course a cosplay military man as well. (These losers often are.) And Nadja, the practical one who loves wigs, has an outfit and identity already prepared.

Nadja’s attempt at an “American accent” when she was practicing her Sally Rhubarb schtick cracked me up and was probably the best-written joke in an episode whose comedic elements (Sierra Mist reference aside, there wasn’t much comedy in the B-plot about Guillermo’s mom’s birthday dinner) were more about slapstick mayhem than witty wordplay. It was incredibly stupid for the vampires to lift their old-timey car out of the sinkhole — another callback, this one to the season-two episode “On the Run” — in view of the WYXK cameras. But they managed to salvage the situation with flying skills and hypnotism, returning all but Guillermo to the status quo by the end of this week’s episode. Maybe they really will be fine without him. The real question is, will he be fine without them?

Craven Mirth

• “They’re still doing a documentary about losers who work at the railroad, huh?”

• When Laszlo pounds on both the piano keys and a gong, you know things are serious.

• I actually recognized the painting that was modified for this episode: Truth Coming Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind, completed in 1896 by the French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme. It’s part of a series depicting Truth as a naked woman either at the bottom of, or emerging from, a well. The image has been interpreted as a divine feminine rage type of thing, but it might also just be a diatribe against Impressionism, which Gérôme hated.

• I also loved Nadja’s interpretation of an innocent All-American country girl: A studded denim gown, cowboy boots, and a bad blonde dye job (although she either put on a wig between scenes or instant deep conditioning is an as-yet-undiscovered vampire power).

• Clicking around for a while searching for Sierra Mist gossip, I found this TikTok from a woman with the username “Cierra Mistt,” who claims that the reason the soda recently rebranded as “Starry” was because she sued them and won. This is obviously not true, but it is pretty funny.

• The little history references on What We Do in the Shadows are always fun. You learn interesting and disturbing things, like what Bouncing Bettys were and which parts of the human body were the most vulnerable to them. (They were WWII-era German land mines that targeted legs and genitalia, if you don’t feel like reading the Wikipedia page.)

• Shoutout to the dog in the Chucky costume at the dog parade. Always one of my favorite dog costumes.

• It’s always fun to see Harvey Guillén get an action-hero moment, as he did at the very end of this week’s episode in the mid-credits scene.

What We Do in the Shadows Recap