“Alex Jumps Out Of An Airplane”
There’s nothing inherently interesting, and a whole lot inherently uninteresting, about watching a middle-aged straight white man go through a midlife crisis, and yet it is a constant source of material for sitcom writers (which, honestly, says more about the people who write and produce shows than the ones who watch them). Alex is seemingly always in the midst of a midlife crisis — has been since the pilot — but in “Alex Jumps Out Of An Airplane,” he, uh, jumps the shark, if you will. There isn’t much explaining I feel I need to do outside of the title of the episode. During a ski weekend, he took a ski jump semi-successfully and now wants to live life facing down his fears — that’s what men do, he says.
First he makes Tony take him to the boxing gym to face down his fear of being punched (and faces down two fears when he nervously selects an athletic black guy to be the one to do it). Second is, naturally, jumping out of an airplane. There’s some business about Louie taking a life insurance policy out on him, and suddenly, we’re in an airplane. Bobby and Louie are inexplicably there too, and sooner or later, Alex jumps. We end at the bar, with Alex regaling the gang with his story about jumping out of an airplane, still high off of being a manly man and facing his fear. Fade out. There, I saved you twenty minutes.
Having established its bona fides to discuss class and labor in the two-parter “Shut It Down” two weeks ago, Taxi now has its denizens actively attempting to jump up the class ladder. After losing and losing and losing at gambling, Elaine convinces the gang and herself to invest in art, instead; buy an old, sick painter’s masterpiece for $2,000 and flip it when he dies. Easy enough.
Then…they don’t get it. They show up to the auction, dressed up as best they can be, and…lose the painting. They’ve built everything up around winning this one painting at an auction that when they don’t get it, everything comes crashing down: The hopes and dreams, if not the wallets, of broke cabbies; Louie’s pride after pooling in with a bunch of “losers” and, well, losing; Elaine for feeling as though she lead everyone astray. (Never mind that there are lots of expensive paintings to throw money at.)
In the end, after a good, funny, easy setup, the episode ends with…not much. The gang buy cheap prints of expensive paintings. Even Hailing Taxi doesn’t quite know what to do with the ending; “If nothing else has happened, at least they’ve been exposed to fine art,” Lovece and Franco write. At least!