As someone who once wrote a whole article about my resentment toward the rich kids on House Hunters — in my defense, how can you not hate a juggler with a $1.4 million budget? — this is difficult for me to admit, but it’s time to come clean. During the pandemic, I, like a lot of people, spent a lot of time at home. (Obviously.) And spending a lot of time at home makes you think about everything you’d like to fix in your house if you had the money, a desire that can easily be sublimated into hours and hours of bland home-renovation television. Yes, friends: I started watching HGTV.
I’m guessing the same is true of the What We Do in the Shadows writers’ room, as this week what started out as a bit about Laszlo spending a year watching 150 episodes of a show called Go Flip Yourself blossomed into a high-concept stand-alone episode in which the vampires’ decrepit 8,474-foot Staten Island mansion is featured on that very program. From his reaction, it’s clear it was Laszlo who submitted the vampires’ house for a televised redo. And from their reaction, he obviously didn’t consult with anyone else before he did it. And Guillermo does have a point: The only thing worse for vampires than an open-floor plan that lets in plenty of natural light is a backhoe digging up all those soft, mushy spots in the yard.
There wasn’t much character development in this episode aside from Nandor’s sideways confession that he doesn’t just find Marwa boring, he finds her actively irritating. The interesting part of that is how it plays out against Nandor’s wish for Marwa to like everything he likes. If he decides he doesn’t like her, then she’s going to become sick of herself soon thereafter, no? Or perhaps she’ll get sick of him, as seems to be the case when she locks him out of the man cave she’s devised to their mutual “French country meets shabby chic” aesthetic (which is nowhere to be found in the final product — I guess maybe the saddle chairs?).
Other than that, in terms of performance, “Go Flip Yourself” simply played on some by now well-established character traits. Guillermo’s pulling strings behind the scenes. Laszlo is donning all his best and most human shirts, trying to impress his new best bro Bran. (R.I.P. Toby — at least Guillermo seemed somewhat moved by your tragic backstory.) Nadja is her usual impulsive self, draining poor sap Tony the moment he walks in the door and literally screaming with excitement about a gold toilet she’ll never use after loudly proclaiming that she hates all of this and wants nothing to do with it. And Nandor, as usual, doesn’t seem to really get what’s going on. But, also as usual, he can be talked into it.
In fact, rather than any one character, the real star of this episode was its postproduction team, which got a shoutout as Nadja tried to hypnotize everyone who might interact with their Go Flip Yourself footage before it hits the air. The clip being a flashback midway through the episode — just as she requested on camera — was a nice meta-joke. The onscreen graphics were very fun and silly as well (I was a particular fan of the five hats). But for me, what really made this episode was the way it imitated the structure and editing style of actual home-renovation shows: The stock footage. The fades. The demo footage with the sledgehammers. The mid-episode permit disaster that ends up not actually going anywhere. The cliff-hangers at every commercial break. “Making new memories.” The blindfolds. Combined with visual gags like the aggressively basic white-and-gray color palette and wine-mom signage, it was a brilliant piece of parody.
The one thing about this episode that didn’t totally work for me was the resolution. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to see Simon the Devious — last seen prowling the sewers of Staten Island like a poo-stained Phantom of the Opera — again. Ditto for Big Vlad, Blavghad the Exsanguinator, Gunthrapple, Wesley Sikes, the Freak Sisters, Mister Fifties, Evil Steve, Freakfest Tony, The Silent One, Greg who Shall Not Be Named, Desdemona the Shrieker, Elvis Presley, Renaldo the Elder, Ken the zombie accountant, Count Rapula, and new crew member Adele Dazeem. (A couple of members of the original crew, including Asian Mike and Horvath the Pit Master, seem to have moved on.)
But their reappearance was a bit of a deus ex machina, a way to write the episode out of the corner it wrote itself into by having the vampires expose themselves (so to speak, though “gaping assholes” are invoked at one point) on television. The bit I found much more clever was the show writing itself out of having to redo all of its sets: Believe it or not, sometimes real-life home-renovation shows do shoddy, surface-level work that simply lays down some cheap vinyl flooring and a couple of tufted pillows while ignoring major structural issues that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix once the camera crews are gone. (Shocker, I know.) Sometimes they don’t even finish the job, as a Las Vegas couple who sued Property Brothers in 2019 alleged. They just suck these rubes dry and fly off into the night — kind of like a certain monster that’s eluding me right now. Give me a minute. I’ll think of it …
• This week must have been a nice change of pace for the show’s set decorators. Normally, they’re sourcing antique taxidermy and moldy rare books. This week, they just went to HomeGoods, grabbed a cart, and let ’er rip.
• On that note: Fuck sliding barn doors. They’re the worst of all doors, especially for a bathroom. They’re a sign of a slapdash renovation hack job, and everyone can still hear you pooping when they’re closed.
• On that note: I guess I never thought about whether vampires expelled waste. They don’t eat solid food, which maybe puts pooping into question. They must pee, though, as the gang follows a trail of vampire urine to locate the Sire in the oft-referenced “The Escape.”
• “Some of us happen to like waterlogged mahogany and soaking-wet pillows that smell of cheese and moldy stuffed bears, thank you!”
• This episode also marks the return of professional Elvis impersonator Shawn Klush, with whom I became acquainted while ranking onscreen Elvii for this very website. Klush first appeared as Vampire Elvis in the second season of What We Do in the Shadows before being recruited into Simon’s gang, the Leather Skins, the last time they gained entrance to the Staten Island vampire HQ.
• No references to promotional consideration from Milwaukee Tool or Kohl’s in the end credits for this week’s episode, which means those references were bought and paid for (and accurate!).
• This week was more about the visual humor, but a nod and a line-reading trophy to returning champion Matt Berry for “New York Citaayyyyyyy.”
• After the many semi-affectionate sideways references to HGTV, the second-most-referenced TV show on What We Do in the Shadows is RuPaul’s Drag Race, which came up twice last season. Not sure how that crossover would play out, but what a crossover it would be!