In basketball, there’s a concept known as a “heat check,” whereby a player who’s made several shots in a row gets carried away and throws up an implausibly difficult shot, so as to determine just how hot their shooting streak is. Broad City has been hitting blindfolded HORSE shots from the carpark of late — the entire second series has been pretty much flawless, peaking with last week’s pegging episode, which left your correspondent with a genuine laughter injury (some sort of strained neck muscle, since you ask.) This week, then, the heat check: an episode wherein basically nothing happens for a good 10-15 minutes, and then shit gets weird.
This week’s episode starts off innocuously enough — Abbi gets a nose ring, Ilana is underwhelmed, the duo flit about town in search of the evening’s most compelling partying option. They start at a party thrown by Abbi’s douchetastic Soulstice co-worker, whose gloriously terrible party offers Clif Bars for the boys and Luna Bars for the girls. There’s an amusing subplot about the excuse they improvise to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible — that Abbi has a ringworm stuck in her ass — but there’s nothing to rival the glory of Abbi rampaging through WholeFoods in the company of a gigantic stuffed toy, or conducting an entire argument while wearing a turquoise strap-on.
Or, at least, there isn’t until everything takes a turn for the surreal, shortly after the last commercial break. As the episode draws to an end, our heroines are shitfaced and still to find the “Narnia of parties,” and the evening’s gotten so underwhelming that even Ilana is looking like she’s ready to call it a night and head home. Except she doesn’t, because Abbi drags her down the rabbit hole into a strange basement cabaret bar — a sort of 1920s speakeasy type place where Abbi apparently assumes an alternate identity. Here she is “Val”, a sassy besuited cabaret type who is known and loved by all the patrons. Here she wears a tuxedo and casually makes her way up onto stage to perform Judy Garland’s “Get Happy.”
The whole thing is as strange as it sounds, especially since Abbi remembers not a jot of it the next morning. If this was another show, I’d probably be writing a considered analysis of whether Abbi has DID or something like that — as it is, it feels like the Val persona is a sort of whacking great metaphor for the fact that even though Abbi’s notionally the quiet one (in comparison to the exuberantly extroverted Ilana, anyway), get enough drinks into her and she metamorphoses into someone who is quite literally the life of the party.
As the episode title suggests, there’s also a sort of extended theme of examining FOMO (“fear of missing out,” c’mon, people) — it’s at Ilana’s insistence that they keep leaving parties, just in case they’re missing a better one somewhere, but hey, it turns out that she’s been missing out on her best friend’s alternate personality all this time. But then, so has Abbi — if she doesn’t remember Val, then what does it all mean?
Anyway, the point is that this was a strange old episode of Broad City and, yes, something of a heat check. One of the pleasures of this show is its tendency to segue into surrealism without warning, and really, the only question you ultimately need to ask is: was it funny? The answer in this case: yes, but perhaps not quite as funny as the show is at its best. That’s a high standard, though, and if nothing else, it’s constantly impressive and engaging how this show tries new and different things every week in pursuit of being hilarious. More often than not, it succeeds.