20. “The Perils of Polling”
Original Air Date: Oct. 1, 2000
One of the tried-and-true ingredients in almost any comedy is the reversal — that flip of perspective or circumstance that leaves one character or another in an unexpected, often hilarious new position. That tack is the core of “The Perils of Polling,” for both the episode’s humor and its storytelling. Hank spends the first half of the episode chiding Luanne for her disinterest in voting and her shallow reasons for selecting a candidate, but he spends the second half recoiling from his own preferred candidate’s ephemeral shortcomings and nearly blows off the election himself in the midst of his disillusionment.
It’s the absurd details of these events that make them funny. The less-than-worldly Luanne grows enamored with Robert Parigi, the local communist party candidate, and stumps for him with her trademark hand puppets. A mere limp handshake from then-Governor George W. Bush is what sends Hank into his downward spiral. And the entire escapade starts after Bobby heroically rescues a drowning stunt-pig at the local county fair. King of the Hill always knew how to couch its stories in a unique combination of the ridiculous and the relatable, which helped its narratives land and its comedy soar.
It’s amusing when Hank impresses the importance of voting upon Luanne, only to react in shock when she backs the closest thing Arlen has to a red menace. It’s poetic when Hank scolds his niece for failing to pay attention to the issues, only to grow disenchanted because the man whose stump speech he knows by heart lacks a firm grip. But the peak of the episode’s series of reversals is when the previously apathetic Luanne has to turn around and remind Hank, who’s unwittingly absconded to Mexico with Dale on Election Day, why it’s still worth it to go to the polls.
“The Perils of Polling” basically amounts to a Get Out the Vote PSA, with a few gentle-at-best political jabs along the way. But in anchoring the episode’s story in Hank resigning himself to Luanne’s perspective, only to have Luanne herself snap him out of it, there’s a symmetry there that buoys both the episode’s plot and its humor.
King of the Quote:
Hank: “I hate communists. All they do is boss people around.” Luanne: “Sounds like you, Uncle Hank.” Luanne can certainly be cutting in a “from the mouths of babes” fashion from time to time.