Sometimes on sitcoms – especially ensemble sitcoms – the pull to give characters separate storylines and the limitations of the format prove too much for the show. Case in point: this lumpy, disjointed episode that never really figures out what it wants to say or accomplish. The A- and B-plots, which threaten to compete with each other before converging awkwardly in the last few minutes, are as such: Tony has a new girlfriend, Denise, that he wants to break up with. She refuses to let him do so. Meanwhile, Alex has gotten into his first accident as a cab driver. Even if the show had only focused on one of these, it probably would be a weaker episode – who cares about either of those things?
The show apparently realized midway through the episode that these two things have no connection – direct, thematic, abstract, or otherwise – and mashes them together by having Alex take a couple of Denise’s uppers. (Oh yeah, she keeps popping “amphetamines” – this is a Very Special 1970s Episode.) That’s it! That’s the connection between these storylines!
The show meanders through this odd, jury-rigged episode with a couple good set pieces – namely, when Louie makes Alex recreate his accident with toys and a baby doll, and when the entire cast of the show (except Alex, who’s offscreen) chants a word in Latka’s language (“Yaktabe,” phonetically) when Louie refuses to fire Denise – but it never rights itself. At one point, Elaine explains to Denise that Tony doesn’t want to see her because he’s in love with Louie, leading to this uncomfortable exchange:
Denise: Louie, you’re a homosexual?
Louie: [growling like a dog] I prefer to think of it as an alternative lifestyle.
And, worst of all, the funniest part of the show – Judd Hirsch pretending to be amped up on pills – only lasts a minute or so. You can’t win them all.
(Note: The next two episodes are a two-parter, so I’ll cover those together next week.)