“Jack and Diane”

Grade: A

“He really likes me, that’s what I like about him.”

This episode is a necessary leak of sadness in an otherwise uncompromisingly sunny series, and it remains hilarious.

Never before has Bamford put her insecurity on screen in such a naked way. Every event in the past (when she had lots of money), in the present, or the Duluth (when she lived at home / psych ward / office job) in this episode is based on her need to fulfill the wishes of others. In the present, she puts on a rich lady voice to attract a younger man. In the past, she puts on a freakishly weird voice to get work voicing a whale for an anti-green peace ad funded by Bill Cosby, after which she buys a house with the gross amount of money she makes. This makes Bamford’s friend, Susan, feel inadequate, even though she was the one who wanted Bamford to buy property in the first place. In the Duluth, she tries to tell a joke from her old stand-up set. It goes poorly, and she tapers off mumbling. The coworkers then revert their attention without response back to the office clown, who minutes prior had been cracking everyone up with his whip-smart jokes, most of which consist of him gesturing, or saying a single word, and then naming a reference (He walks backwards. “Thriller!”). All of it is hard to watch.

Many times Bamford actually vocalizes the theme. “It’s not about what I want, it’s… it’s more about what they want,” she explains to her friends. All then throw glances at the younger man she’s involved with.

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“Potato gnocchi… Salmon. Poached… Paris. Singapore.”

Bruce is a real sack of sadness. At a dinner party, where Bamford meets her young man, Bruce watches his ex-wife dry-hump someone else. That someone else is even wearing Bruce’s old clothes. At one point Bruce just drifts off and lets the sad score take over. The fourth wall is momentarily broken when Bamford, still in the room, asks, “Do you hear that?” After a long pause: “Yes.” Most of what Bruce does here is egg on Bamford and her rich lady voice, and mope, but it’s a welcome change, as his pep was beginning to wear out its welcome. It also elevates him to a place where he’s capable of emotional depth.

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The subplots feel a little disjointed, but are all at least tethered to the recurring theme, so ingrained in Bamford that it becomes a part of the show. So much pressure is put on her to be someone other than herself that when she and her young guy finally agree to stop lying to one another (she doesn’t want to do the rich lady voice anymore, he admits he doesn’t like to laugh and has been faking it), there’s genuine relief. And then he farts for about thirty seconds; long enough to pause, take a sip of wine, taste the wine, go “mm,” and then bring his glass back down from his mouth. She laughs, and then comes the perfect representation of the theme for the episode:

He doesn’t get what’s funny about his half-minute fart until she explains it to him in the rich lady voice.

As touching as it is funny, “Jack and Diane” is the second highlight of the season, after the pilot.

Some Bits I Liked:

  • Bamford’s full name is now Diane Winterbottom Monté Connecticut
  • “Lady Harvard Bobcat! Class of I’ll never tell a-hawhawhawhaw!”
  • “My latin cuckold.” Bruce, you verbose, poor bastard
  • “I have an unearned sense of confidence.”
  • “Okay, sweet pea, squirrel kiss.” *Noises
  • “Susan, you’re busting my ‘nards right now!”
  • Eleanor Rooseselfish
  • “I don’t think I’m into it. It sounds pretty misogynistic.” Defensively: “They give prizes, Maria!”
  • Office clown reference: “Borat!”
  • As soon as she gets off stage from a stand-up set, there’s Patton, ready to say something offensive and condescending
  • Been waiting a while to see Andy Kindler on the show ever since noticing those photographs of him in Bruce’s office… and he just stays slightly out of focus in the background

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