I’m nervous, fellow SouthParkateers. Not the type of nervous you get when you leave Cartman alone with your bucket of KFC while you help unpack groceries from the car. Not even that kind of nervous you get when a brainwashed Chef suggests sodomy, or you’re running late to the toy store and you’re afraid the only Chinpokomon left will be Shoe. No, I’m that specific type of nervous you get when you’re down to your last attempt, and you still haven’t put any balls in Jennifer Love Hewitt’s mouth. That’s how I feel going into tonight’s episode. After a strong start to Season 21, including the future classic episode “Put It Down”, there have been three installments in a row that have resulted in letdowns or shrugs. All showed promise, and most had some brilliant moments, but ultimately, the ball just rolled around Jennifer Love Hewitt’s lips a couple times and popped right back out. With four episodes left and momentum going in the wrong direction, it’s beginning to feel like Trey Parker and Matt Stone are down to their last throw — and that ball isn’t getting any smaller, nor is Jennifer Love Hewitt’s mouth getting any larger.
Part of the problem during this recent streak of ho-hum episodes has been Parker and Stone have attempted to dissect Giant Douche’s America, but they’ve been unwilling to really get their hands dirty. They had nothing particularly insightful, original, or humorous to reveal about Russian meddling, the country’s opioid epidemic, or even Hollywood’s recent “witch pursuit thingy.” It’s as though they felt pressure to connect those episodes to current events, even though they had nothing worthwhile to say. By comparison, revisit “Put It Down”. Now, there is an episode that not only satisfies the show’s “boys will be with boys” purists (Tweek and Craig for couple of the year!) and remains true to the characters (Eric “Logic” Cartman making suicide prevention all about himself), but it taps into feelings most Americans deal with on a daily basis: rage over Giant Douche’s tweets, frustration that he somehow makes everything worse, and fear that the rest of the world views us as they do him. I really do think that’s the secret to South Park’s sharpest satire: Parker and Stone don’t just frame an episode around current events; they acutely tap into the emotions those occurrences stir up in the everyday people who watch their program.
That being said, we have one ball to go. Will it be Terrance and Phillip dolls for all, or will we begin the ugly march towards calling “shenanigans” on Season 21? Open wide, Ms. Love Hewitt. Relax the jaw. Go ahead, Kyle. Throw, don’t aim.
Hooray, you guys! Heidi Turner finally did it! I mean, we told her so, didn’t we? … Wait … what? She took him back? Nooooooo…
Since Season 20, we’ve all been wondering why Heidi doesn’t dump Cartman. She’s totally smart and really funny (like female ghostbusters, babe), but we just can’t figure out what she sees in him. He’s rude to her all the time, can’t stand to hear the sound of her voice, and has that placating sideways eye-roll down pat. But no matter how badly he treats her, she just can’t make herself quit him for good. All of us understand the dangers, of course. Cartman may have promised Heidi he’d go vegan — after all, it’s his blood sugar spikes that make him call her a whore and push her in front of cars — but we all know that that all-veggie Beyond KFC tastes like the real Colonel for a reason. We also know that when Heidi’s new “beyond vegan” diet makes her put on a few pounds, Cartman only plays the marching band drum to mock her weight gain. We see it, and Kyle does, too, but when our favorite orange-fro Jew or Heidi’s friends confront her about her confusing relationship, she seems to go running back into Cartman’s festivally plump arms. Even after Kyle does manage to make Heidi see the light, dump Cartman, and start to date him, she eventually ends up with Cartman.
On the count of three: 1 – 2 – 3. Tha fuck?
Relationships are no simpler in our nation’s capital as Mike “Knee and I’ll Flee” Pence, Paul “Doorknob Cum” Ryan, and Mitch “Turtle” McConnell try to figure out how to stand up to Giant Douche. As it turns out, you don’t stand up to GD. You bend over for him. Even when Ryan discovers secret polling data that show GD’s approval numbers are so low that he may no longer have leverage over them, prissy Pence turns traitor and goes running to alert Giant Douche about this liability. Unless someone in the Republican party can grow a spine and quickly, it looks like it’s going to be three more years of victim blankets, bruises, and orange cum in the eye for the supposedly most powerful men in Washington.
There’s not much to the B-plot in this episode. Republicans know Giant Douche is endangering our nation, and yet they keep lining up to suckle on his orange testicles rather than take a stand. In real life, cowards like Pence, Ryan, and McConnell seem to prefer keeping their posts with orange lips rather than facing the possibility of being primaried by a Trump-backed candidate and going about the rest of their lives with, say, dignity and self-respect. In some ways, this is what Parker and Stone worried about when it comes to satirizing an administration that’s far more ridiculous than satire. While it’s momentarily funny to see Giant Douche wagging an enormous strap-on dildo to taunt Republican leadership, who among us hasn’t been commenting for months now about spineless Republicans who put party and self-preservation before country, even as Trump humiliates and screws them over time and time again?
The story line shared by Cartman, Kyle, and Heidi offers far more insight. As we officially turn the calendar on one year since Giant Douche got elected, we’ve moved away from wondering how he got elected and turned our focus to how so many of those who supported him still do. All of us have friends we’ve drifted apart from, followers on Facebook and Twitter we’ve blocked, and family members who we can’t bring ourselves to speak to, even as the holidays approach. It’s one thing to have been conned by an fat, orange, narcissistic, pathological liar, but it’s quite another thing to still support a Giant Douche after he’s fucked you, everyone you know, and your country over for almost a full year. And just as Cartman and Giant Douche are able to continue manipulating Heidi and the American people, respectively, Donald Trump does the same to his supporters because they are so invested in him — someone who once said (bullshitted) what they wanted to hear when they felt frustrated, forgotten, and without hope. What’s more, Parker and Stone suggest that when we criticize, mock, or say, “I told you so” to Giant Douche supporters, we don’t actually help to bring them around to our side and see the folly of their ways. We actually drive them into a corner, deeper and deeper, where they “double down” on their beliefs and support rather than face the painful truth that they made a terrible mistake. Anyone who has family, friends, or peers that still support Trump can attest to this fact. Their faith should’ve crumbled long ago, but instead they seem more assured than ever in the ballot they cast last November.
As Cartman poisons Heidi’s mind one last time against Kyle — shirking any blame and playing the “dirty Jew” card — we know that Kyle and others may be partly to blame for pushing her back into his clutches. And yet, the fact that she was so easy to manipulate and bought into such a debased, bigoted lie makes us wonder. Is it our elitist, holier-than-thou attitudes that keep Trump’s supporters so firmly in his corner, or is there truly a difference not just in political ideology but human values that make them admire him so? That’s the scariest thought of all that Parker and Stone leave us with. The possibility that Trump voters weren’t conned at all — that he really does represent what they believe in and want for America. In that sense, this was a far more terrifying episode than the Halloween special.
Scroll ahead to see this week’s scorecard…
Episode MVP: Leave it to Eric Cartman to be both the biggest asshole imaginable, and yet somehow find a way to portray himself as a victim. Huh, does that remind you of anyone you know … maybe someone you voted for?
Best Moment: Okay, when Cartman learns that Heidi is now dating Kyle, there’s good reason to expect him to see red, maybe even to see “Pink Elephants on Parade,” but “Pink Jews on Parade”? Yikes.
The Quotable South Park: “Don’t tell me you guys already disrespected the American flag and went out turning cars over.” After being dumped by Heidi, Cartman turns to Token because he now understands how painful it is to have society turn against you. Since Cartman no doubt watches non-Fake News, he believes being black means kneeling during national anthems and rioting in the street each and every day. How did Token not beat the shit out of him?
Song of the South Park: We’ll go with the “Kyle, Kyle, Kyle, Kyle” opening to “Pink Jews on Parade”. What a deep reference…
Oh, My God! They Spared Kenny: Should we be surprised? Since Kenny’s off-screen death in “Put It Down”, it’s like he has two guardian angels watching over him until next season.
I Learned Something Today: Parker and Stone don’t need to get too clever with their satire or force connections to salient issues. The genius behind this excellent episode is that it taps into feelings that all of us can relate to and problems that many of us are dealing with when it comes to Trump supporters.
Garrison’s Grade Book: B, as Season 21 delivers a much-needed momentum changer…