Danny: After last week’s debacle, we’re primed and ready for this week’s debacle.
Rafael: Oh, I didn’t read you there, Daniel — I was too busy praying that I was found before the credits sequence ended or else I would have been dehydrated.
Danny: Well, you’re lucky Mitch Buchanan has Ocean Powers. This week’s episode is called “976 Ways To Say I Love You,” which — YOU GUESSED IT — is about a phone sex line.
Rafael: Part of me was hoping it would be Robert Englund’s follow-up to his directorial debut, but instead what we got was… was… a fucking great episode. Best one yet, and I say that with only a trace of martini-irony.
Danny: So we open with another North by Northwest —
Rafael: NIGHT MOVES
Danny: — reference as a crop duster flies across a field and Mitch and Ellerby are surveilling something in the way only Baywatch Nights can do: by parking a car in a middle of a field and brandishing binoculars.
Rafael: Mitch seems tired, worn down by the task — he asks Ellerby if they still have any fried chicken left and is fooled by a chewed-up bone. They’re so far from the ocean he must be enervated as FUCK.
Danny: It turns out the guys they’re scoping out are dealing in stolen items out of the trunk of their car, except they’re answering machine telephones and other minor electronics that look like some thugs knocked over an Eckerd’s. I think I saw a shower radio in there.
Rafael: After they’re ready to “make a fat check,” the biplane overhead dusts for P.I.s and Ellerby and Mitch end up looking like rejects from the “Take on Me” video. They tend follow it up with an actually delicious pun about dusting themselves off and being bad at their jobs.
Danny: Remember that above intentionally comical image, because this episode ends on an bleak yet unintentionally comical one. Once we cut back to Baywatch Days, the trio of seaside detectives are talking to a young blonde who looks like Christine Taylor who happens to work for a 976 line — which Mitch quickly and knowledgeably explains is a phone sex line.
Rafael: Turns out Ellerby, the Creator of Tyler the Creator recognizes her from Days of Our Lives and Mitch side-eyes him so bad, the scene transitions. We now have Ellerby, Buchanan and Ryan arriving at Christine Taylor’s former boss’s office, where people have created a memorial to bum employers — it’s like an incredibly sad version of “Do It For Her.” MORE ON THIS LATER.
Danny: I love the details that come out in this scene: Mitch is not just a sleaze but a major sleaze, Ellerby watches soap operas, Ryan has a stick in her ass. Anyway, the group reluctantly takes her case and they’re on the trail — by which I mean they scope out the sex line office, where the boss’s name is Mr. Sax but the show obviously wants me to call him Mr. Sex, so I’m gonna do that.
Rafael: Mr. Sex is super unchill to both Mitch and Ellerby, and a dejected Ellerby considers opening a chicken franchise when… EXCITEMENT, SHE WROTE! A Ford Bronco tears away from the scene, busting the scaffolding and Ryan is hanging from a rope for dear life, while the Captain of Adidas Squad makes casually sexist remarks instead of saving his fucking friend’s life. CLASSIC BUCHANAN.
Danny: After a commercial break, we get some bullshit narration as Mitch talks about Newton and apples and physics class and catch the man at Christine Taylor’s house, where we find out her boyfriend actually looks like Ben Stiller. Ben’s got it all — a hot girlfriend, a backwards baseball cap, a dirtbike and insight into the sex industry.
Rafael: OH SHIT FAM. No one sounded the Police Academy siren! Hilarity not ensuing as we speak! Ellerby has consulted some sort of nerd, played by the Human Soundboard Michael Winslow, aka the Movie and TV Game YakBack. MTVGYB discovers that the reason the phone isn’t ringing is that they have a (New Jack) swing going — turns out that both of her numbers are being rerouted to a third — a mobile device!
Danny: You neglect to mention that Michael Winslow is playing a character named Whistler, seemingly before they rebooted him into Kris Kristofferson. But seriously, I love this man’s paint-splattered denim vest and this scene is kind of like how we always joked that Herc, Carver and Bodie should have had their own parallel adventures in The Wire Nights.
Rafael: Our disbelief suspends us into the next scene, where Garner makes some casually sexist remarks and then busts out “cell phone trackers,” which look more like regulators on water heaters, to “trace the signal.” Ellerby finds himself directly under the Earth’s sun… now. Also there, a janky laptop setup (complete with joystick, for serious Wing Commandering) and surprise, bitch!- the dead debtor. Guess she declared bankruptcy in life’s small claims court, huh? *underestimates fragility of life like an Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu character.)
Danny: Cut to the coroner’s office, where a bunch of boring stuff happens until THE LEAST BORING THING HAPPENS: Ellerby wearing a du-rag.
Rafael: At this point, I was loudly heard to proclaim “HOLY SHIT THIS EPISODE WAS WRITTEN JUST FOR ME.” He’s wearing a fucking durag and it’s the most glorious thing ever. Someone needed to turn on a fan so his cape could be flowing in the wind. But we digress. The coroner has informed us that the attacker struck back, so he straight up palms her ring to “analyze.”
Danny: A.K.A. pawn that shit for mad dosh. But the point of this scene is that a real cop (who might be Beverly Hills Cop’s boss) expresses his disdain for Ellerby’s freelancing and deliver and gives them some leads.
Rafael: Further proving that this episode was written for me, Ellerby and Ryan then bond over explaining to Mitch, “a detective,” who Raymond Chandler is and how The Long Goodbye is amazing. IT REALLY IS.
Danny: Later, at Baywatch Days, Christine Taylor is upset that she’s a suspect in the dead lady’s murder. That’s when they decide Ryan has to go undercover as a phone sex operator to get close enough to Mr. Sex, a.k.a. that guy we mentioned earlier.
Rafael: Mitch comes back with the Thai food he previously mentioned (guess they were out of shirt) and they eat their lunch in front of their client as her husband tries to convince her to leave Ben Stiller for him and to drop the case or whatever.
Danny: Ryan first objects, but then we get a comedic cut to Ryan wearing a Jennifer Beals sweater and Rafael having a perfectly normal reaction. That’s when Ryan starts practicing phone sex in front of the mirror, pretending she’s talking to Mitch (apt, since he’s established as a sex hotline patron). She closes her eyes, getting into it, asking Mitch to kiss her. Guess what happens.
Rafael: That boy came from the ficus — I seent him. I called it too, because he’s such a fucking creep.
Anyway we are now at the sex spot, where Ryan is wearing a hot wig and she is being trained in the ways of love by BART. FUCKING. SIMPSON. I had ten bricks on it saw her name in the opening credits, and I was still in disbelief.
Danny: Can you operate a phone sex line if you’re a Scientologist? I know you can record an automated phone call for your Babylon 5-ass religion, but —
Rafael: So Ryan is apparently bad at dirty talk and hangs up on her first customer, which caused Ellerby and Mitch to go into full creep and coach her about how to get a guy off — they then gleefully listen in on some amazingly bonerrific QA as we intercut with shots of them Dutch Ruddering each other and shots of bored women being “sexay.”
Danny: Then the Cinemax blues begin as we montage the shit out of some increasingly adept phone sex and sensual riffs, presumably being performed at Lou Rawls’ club.
Rafael: They are in a telephonic sex store. They were buying telephonic sex. Ryan uses this opportunity to sneak away and investigate Mr. Sex’s office and then the net comes down, right chief?
Danny: But it sounds like Ryan’s being kidnapped, so Ellerby and Mitch do an awkward boner run into the building, tackling the security guard and finding… Ryan having a casual drink with Mr. Sex? What’s up with this, Raf? I’m confused.
Rafael: Yeah it was weird as fuck — at first I was thinking Mr. Sex had been on the side of Baywatch Days but then it turns out he’s just an innocent fucking sleazeball — he casually remarks he’s glad his former employee is dead but then points BD in the right direction — turns out that the same person who put his fist in the door is the same that Mr. Sex heard threatening that one dead woman.
Danny: My favorite part about this scene is that Ryan’s still wearing the wig in that scene. Afterwards she’s not wearing the wig (damn) as she and Ellerby wait on some lab results and remark that they could use their own Phillip Marlowe (you’re telling me).
Rafael: Ellerby has seemed down, lately — his du-rag’s missing, he turns down free corned beef — maybe that loneliness got to him?
Danny: But they did get a fingerprint, and it’s a doozy. Cut to A Pool (there’s always a pool in this show) where Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor are arguing about the person they obviously killed and there’s a weird frog thingy on the table next to what probably was the craft services table for Baywatch Nights. The gang confront them, Ben pushes Mitch over a bench (not a table, but it’ll do), and a chase scene ensues — but it’s not a foot chase for once. It’s a bike chase!
Rafael: Snaps. Mitch grabs this greasy thug and remarks how he didn’t notice the cuts on his hands because of the oil on them — clearly Buchanan has been called this name before, and it hurts every time. So then he greases up real good… and chases after them and Ellerby on a remote location on another shooting day. Turns out that Ben Stiller is in fact a dirt bike champ and he ends up jamming up Ellerby.
Danny: When Ellerby’s bike fails to catch the guy, Mitch decides to run him down with his car. Basically this chase involves a lot of Ben Stiller getting some sweet air on his dirtbike. But then Mitch has a genius idea. He’ll ride forward, jump out the car like Speed Racer and block the dude’s path with his car. Then THIS happens:
That’s the end. That’s the end of this episode. No coda, no denouement — just a fade into the goof-ass ending credits music.
But seriously, all it needed was a slow credits crawl and slick Roman numerals. Daniel, your thoughts on this episode?
Danny: Another pretty strong episode. What it lacks in silly Ellerby outfits (save for one glorious du-rag) it makes up for with its batshit insane ending where a dude just dies and BOOM CREDITS.
Rafael: Yeah! When Mitch put that theory about killing them all and letting God sort them out like a certain uncle did one gray December morn on a carousel in Venice Beach, he had a legit moment of almost remorse. Here he just smugbrows again and we outchea. Speaking of, peace to like, eight seasons of The Simpsons for about 95% of the jokes made here tonight. Muchas gracias, amigos, y super gracias a Goya.
Danny: Simpsons? Is that that Jetsons rip-off?
Next time: “Pressure Cooker,” which we’re going to set, and then forget. Just kidding, we’re going to remember it.