Absurd, absurder, absurdest. That’s the trajectory of Broad City’s sophomore season thus far. Ilana set the precedent way back in the days of the web series (check out “Inverted Nipple”), but this season, she’s been taking the backseat to Abbi’s antics. While watching Abbi’s ascent from two-time sex offender to Whole Foods predator to Queen Pegger has been nothing less than delightful, “Hashtag FOMO” took a step too far by assigning her the “Val” persona.
That’s not to say the episode was without laughs. Broad City teeters between funny/brave/original and pee-in-your-pants-hysterical/groundbreaking/can’t-believe-the-network-approved-it. Plus, Broad City’s fans are so staunchly loyal, the girls can experiment, and in the case of “Hashtag FOMO,” overstep, without losing the overall enthusiasm for the series. This is all to say that, despite my criticisms of this week’s “Val” storyline, the show remains something of a personal creed.
Let’s talk about the episode. Abbi arrives at Trey’s party with the intention to win herself a job promotion and Ilana arrives with the intention to one up Abbi’s nose-piercing night out. “Hashtag FOMO” introduces us to Trey at home, who turns out to be equally as douchey as Trey at work, but with a heavy dose of desperation. He puts out a bowl of Clif Bars “for the guys” and Luna Bars “for the girls,” and when the broads call him into the kitchen, he answers with a “WAZZUPPPP??” that suggests he’s been wanting someone to ask for his attention since 1996. Only Gemma’s bodysuit cleavage can be credited with attempting to make Trey’s party anything close to interesting, so Ilana texts everyone in her phone, “Where party?” and Abbi tells Trey she has a tapeworm in her butt.
At Jaime’s party, Ilana meets his new beau and gives her approval “Not, like, in a, like, ‘I can’t wait to officiate your gay wedding’ way, ‘cause straight people always say that and it’s like gross. It just fetishizes their gay friends…” With a portfolio of statements like this one, Ilana has become something of a universal messiah. In “Wisdom Teeth,” when Ilana scolded Lincoln for telling her to calm down, you could practically feel the earth vibrate from the celebratory twerks of female viewers everywhere. Not only does she affirm the rights of every race, gender, and sexual orientation, she does so in a way that replaces politics’ stale-fart, suit and tie, unsexiness with smoke-up, crop top, diggity diggity dopeness. Basically, she’s coloring tolerance with trendiness and that’s something to be grateful for.
Ilana’s FOMO takes the girls from one party to the next, each one more extravagant than its predecessor. They meet Lincoln at a “10,” where he performs pec-jumps and takes Ilana through the elements of a charcuterie plate: dog dick, ghost poop, grapes and cornichons, which, he points out, make him look like a giant eating a normal sized pickle. A nasty nose-blower quickly reduces the party to an “8.5” so the broads head to a neon rooftop rager where Ilana watches two straight guys makeout and Abbi continues to drink and do the robot.
Like so many Broad City episodes, “Hashtag FOMO”’s strength lies in the banter and the in-betweens. On the sidewalk, we find out that Ilana not only has plans for her life with Abbi, but she also states matter-of-factly how they’ll die together: she’ll shoot Abbi in the face, and herself in the heart. Of course. Abbi rants about how ridiculous it is that in the play RENT, they’re fighting to be exempt from paying rent, and she’s totally right. At one point Ilana states the truest truth of all: Don’t worry- nothing matters.
There’s a lot that’s great about the climactic “Val” scene, including Abbi’s musical performance itself. Garol is back! And she left her vat of yogurt at home, thank god. Ilana’s wide-eyed, open-mouthed shock is perfect and so is her absolute gullibility when the bartender tells her that Val’s been coming in for “over one hundred years…” His teasing brings the moment back down to earth to some degree, but the whole “Val” thing feels too contrived to pass as reality in the Broad City world. Even after North Brotherly Island, and a giant Bingo Bronson, this was the first time I found myself opposing the storyline, thinking, “This wouldn’t happen.”
Then again, Abbi and Ilana can do whatever they want and I’ll stick with them, because I love them. Plus “Val” feels mostly like a mere moment of ludicrousness planted in an otherwise strong episode. Nonetheless, I say it’s time to reel Abbi in and send a wild Ilana, whose comedy this season has relied very happily on her already-established, ever-entertaining uninhibitedness, deeper into the wild.
P.S. Ilana’s priceless life-hack must not be overlooked: Hold a cork stopper at the top of an empty plastic bag to appear not to have arrived empty handed.