Well, there’s no turning back now. Okay, that’s not true. But if you’re five episodes invested into a 10-episode season and back for a sixth installment, you must either be more or less satisfied or just throwing good “Jew gold” after bad. (Ha, we knew it, Kyle!) It’s deep enough into the season that we can definitely point to trends, triumphs, and misfires. Before the last two episodes — the video game commercial that was “Franchise Prequel” and last week’s we-need-to-make-this-episode-about-something “Hummels & Heroin” — Season 21 showed more promise than most over the last few years. Now, it’s fair to say that momentum has stalled, and it’s anyone’s guess whether the season will soar like Starvin Marvin in space or plummet from an alien spacecraft like Ike impersonating David Caruso’s career. I’m seriously, you guys.
“Hummels & Heroin” did get me thinking, though. Clearly, if there was a classic episode to be based around the opioid crisis, this wasn’t it. Just as the previous week’s Professor Chaos and Mark Zuckerberg alliance felt like a wasted opportunity to address both Russian meddling and our lame, crippling addiction to social media. (Okay, we loved it when Mr. Stotch dragged Butters to the Kremlin and grounded both him and Vladimir Putin. Tough diplomacy, indeed.) But there I was watching “H&H”, cracking up as Butters dropped trou at a urinal, cheering on Marvin Marsh as he pulled his best Uma Thurman as The Bride and took out an entire gang of loose-boweled old folks with a sack of Hummels, and absolutely losing it when a handlebar-mustachioed Eric Cartman led his Protestant/prostitute barbershop quartet through old-timey classics like Nirvana’s “Rape Me”. And yet, despite these hella-sweet gags, the episode came up so short of a truly memorable South Park classic.
Right now, if there is going to be one Season 21 episode that gets returned to again and again — at least for three, god forbid seven more years — it’ll be “Put It Down”. It lampooned something ubiquitous (Giant Douche’s Tweets), captured exactly how it feels to live under Giant Douche’s administration through the adorable gay couple Tweek and Craig, reveled in Cartman once again racking up mortal sins faster than his Wellington Bear calculator can process (gonna need more gift baskets, Butters!), and embedded an anthem in our heads that I still hum whenever I see G.D. has fired off a heat-seeking Tweet at Little Rocketman or a gold-star widow. Was “Put It Down” the formula for a classic episode? Maybe, maybe not. But it does remind us of just how many cylinders Trey Parker and Matt Stone fire on when they absolutely nail an episode.
Buckle up, buckaroos. The second half of Season 21 starts now.
If we’re honest, all of us are as fed up as Giant Douche with those sons a bitches refusing to stand during the national anthem. <whispers> Wait, what? <whispers> Sons a Witches? <whispers> Um, as I was saying. The decent townspeople of South Park are sick and tired of Jack and Crack Witch Week, in which Randy, Gerald, Steven, and other town fathers spend the week before Halloween climbing to the top of Sentinel Hill and getting nearly as high and drunk as they do during Civil War re-enactments. Things take a turn for the wilder this year when Chip Duncan recites an incantation from a Salem spell book, transforms into an actual flying witch, terrorizes the town with Green Goblin-style pumpkin bombs, and kidnaps children in order to use their souls to gain strength. Will the good witches and people of South Park be able to defeat Chip before it’s too late, or will the whole mess turn into a “witch pursuit thingy?”
Oh, if Heidi wasn’t both super smart and funny (Amy Schumer vagina-talk hilarious), Cartman would dump her in a pumpkin patch second. Instead, he must suffer the slings and arrows of being a boyfriend, which include missing the entire pumpkin patch festivities (yes, even the petting zoo) because Heidi had to pee … again. Welcome to our world, Cartman. Forget mature friends from NAMBLA (not the Marlon Brandos). Forget bleeding out your ass. Forget secondhand pubes. You are now officially a man. And boy are we glad Eric “Babe” Cartman isn’t trying to break up with us. It doesn’t get much wickeder than luring someone to their doom, using lederhosen or Ross Dress for Less as bait.
Parker and Stone took a nifty shot at Harvey Weinstein two weeks ago. When Facebook rumors circled back to Coon and Friends that the super friends victimize people and poop in little girls’ mouths, The Coon retorted: “That’s not true. We’re Coon and Friends, not Harvey Weinstein.” It was a perfectly landed blow, and there was no inherent reason to suspect that the show would revisit the Weinstein scandal. And, of course, while the title of tonight’s episode plays off Giant Douche’s insult toward protesting footballers, it’s really an attack, not so much on Weinstein, but on an entire town that self-righteously points fingers, cowardly looks the other way, and never seriously attempts to change the culture that creates such a toxic environment in the first place. Actually, when you frame it that way, this episode could apply well beyond the borders of Tinseltown.
Some of the satire lands, but like the last couple of weeks, the whole angle feels forced. Two weeks ago, Coon and Friends building their own cinematic universe proved much funnier and more insightful than the Russian meddling angle. And last week, a few well-executed gags saved the episode from the ash heap, not the tie-in to our nation’s opioid crisis. It’s as if Parker and Stone — with or without Mr. Garrison — have committed to critiquing a sliver of life in Trump’s America each time out whether or not it’s particularly funny or substantial enough to carry an episode.
As much as they went after Weinstein’s Hollywood tonight, all I’m going to picture for days are Cartman’s chubby thighs in lederhosen. Oy vey. Three letdowns in a row.
Click ahead to see this week’s scorecard.
Episode MVP: Eric “Babe” Cartman. We’re not bad. We’re good witches, honest. But we like our Cartman like we like our Dr., Resident, and Dead: Evil. And “Hansel’s” trip into the witch-infested forest sets a new bar for wickedness. Then again, “Gretel” totally had it coming for making him miss the petting zoo and bouncy house, right? Who needs to pee like 40 times, anyway?
Best Moment: If you thought Stan and Wendy’s Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes were adorable, wait until you see Cartman and Heidi’s Hansel and Gretel. Then wait until you see just Heidi’s Gretel. Then wait until you see the witch arrive in the dark, spooky forest with Hansel hiding behind a log eagerly anticipating Gretel’s demise. Flashbacks to “the German Dance” aside, there’s something about German culture — Hitler, lederhosen — that brings out the absolute wickedest side of Cartman … and the most enthusiasm.
The Quotable South Park: We know not to blame victims, but does that still follow when Cartman meticulously plots to lure the predator? As the officer on duty says, and immediately regrets: “If there’s a big, fat witch around, maybe you shouldn’t walk through the woods dressed as Hansel and Gretel.” Dude!
Song of the South Park: These witches know how to party like it’s the 1980s: crack, Bow Wow Wow, and even some Wang Chung. But no matter how much they want to have fun tonight, you can tell these witches want “candy” even more. Sup, witches!?!? Actually, if we have to choose one moment, we’ll take the ring-around-the-fire chant:
Put a spell on our bosses
Put a spell on our wives
A hex on the Patriots and fuck up their lives
And screw the Raiders, too!
Oh, My God! They Spared Kenny: In an episode where a witch is kidnapping children left and right, Kenny was a long shot to survive the show. Sometimes those long shots do come in, though.
I Learned Something Today: Although we got to see Mr. Garrison briefly return, his role as Giant Douche feels more and more like a pair of handcuffs on Parker and Stone, who don’t want to spend much effort on Trump but also have one of their all-time great characters locked into a four-year role. It might actually take impeachment to get our beloved Mr. Garrison back in the classroom where he belongs (but not as a teacher or anything like that).
Garrison’s Grade Book: C