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It’s hard to go terribly wrong with the “going native” trope. One of the biggest movie franchises of all time—The Fast And The Furious—spawned from that trope. The movie that it heavily cribbed from—Point Break—became so ingrained in pop culture that we still have homages to it specifically (and not just the trope) 25 years later. One-season series Fastlane’s entire premise often led its characters directly into the realm of that trope. In the case of procedurals in general, where the status quo is key, a character going undercover and possibly getting “in too deep” is the type of thing that gives off an illusion of danger; because we all know the most by-the-numbers shows aren’t going to make their protagonist a villain, right?

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That particular faux danger aspect to it all makes the trope perfect for Angie Tribeca to take on, especially given its “edgier” demeanor this season.

It also gives the show a “reason” to heavily feature both Hayes MacArthur and David Walton’s beach bodies—despite how much the show also tries to ruin that with the sun damage and chapped lips—which is pretty perfect in other ways.

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In my review of the first two episodes of the season, I praised Angie Tribeca’s approach to the Tribeca/Geils/Scholls love triangle, as it found a way to highlight just how ridiculous these types of cliched situations are while also mining from the characters’ pre-established characteristics. “Beach Blanket Sting-O” continues that, only without relying on the same established beats; because as funny as Tribeca and Scholls’ antagonist relationship is and was in those first two episodes, part of what makes this season’s approach to things interesting is that it can actually evolve past that. We already know Angie Tribeca can move through jokes quickly, and now we’re seeing that the show can move forward with actual plot without just hitting the reset button.

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With this more “mature” approach to storytelling, the jokes and gags actually feel better paced in the show’s new direction. Moments like the Lieutenant’s eye exam with the Mayor and Angie doing the math (with an out-of-nowhere calculator) are obviously “classic” Angie Tribeca with its classic parody roots, and the toilet humor remains because it can never lose that. It just feels like the show now picks its spots better with regards to the more surreal, literal gags, instead of just making those every spot.

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A good deal of that comes from a lot of the jokes just being about the ridiculousness of the love triangle situation. But there are also more “accessible” gags in an episode like “Beach Blanket Sting-O,” like the sand castle office (and “water” bottle), which doesn’t rely on the usual wordplay, or even Tanner burying himself too deep in the sand (with Hoffman helping him out). It may sound patronizing to say that Angie Tribeca is “like a real show now,” but this season is definitely embracing and displaying an even deeper understanding of the genre (and facets of said genre) its spoofing than last. That’s especially apparent from the beginning of the episode, when the show pulls the classic procedural dead body find (with a little more necrophilia than usual), a thing Bones managed to turn into an aggressively awful artform ages ago. The best comparison to the state of Angie Tribeca right now is probably Childrens Hospital post-season one (seasons two and three, especially); though, while Childrens Hospital got better once it dropped the serialization and stuck to reinventing itself each week, Angie Tribeca has gotten better with the serialization and tighter focus.

It helps that “Beach Blanket Sting-O” is also the best plotted episode of the series so far. The dog trainer-related murder in “Fleas Don’t Kill Me” was just a case to exist around Tribeca’s recovery, and the illegal sushi ring plot in “Miso Dead” was a parody of similar mediocre procedural plots. The first season plots didn’t even matter: Though there was a pretty emotional one about the Lieutenant’s health in the episode synopses. Episodes were literally titled “The Wedding Planner Did It” and “The Famous Ventriloquist Did It,” and the finale’s plot was all for the sake of a (pretty great) Dennis The Menace joke, the will-they-won’t-they relationship of Tribeca/Geils, and the bomb countdown cliffhanger. Last season, the undercover beats would simply be gags all on their own, with moments like “Fruit Salad in E minor,” the chase through the various weddings, and even the quinceañera. Having an actually story come out of the case, even with a “NO FATTIES” attitude and an “everyone’s undercover!” reveal—it all just feels right.

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Geils coming to the bonfire with an acoustic guitar… only to place the acoustic guitar on the fire? That’s a moment that truly explains how well the show gets this particular unoriginal story, and the understanding is makes this entire episode work on every level.

Also, think for a second about how ridiculous it is that Angie Tribeca kind of pulls off the emotional beat with Tribeca talking to Geils about baby Angie’s body issues… and really, all of the more “serious moments, even when Scholls is holding the baby in one hand, a brain in the other, and trying to reach Geils on the phone. Angie Tribeca plays a lot of things “straight,” but this episode kind of nails the Very Special Episode aspect of that type of thing. This is a show that mocks beach and lifeguard culture (the “seriousness” of Baywatch obviously creeps into this episode too), with three lifeguards named Stacy (both female and male), yet there’s still “real” character moments in all of this. Geils’ decision to get in deep, deep undercover because of all of the lies is actually solid motivation, despite the fact that he’s got no reason to lie (not because of the slapsticky obvious nature of it, but because he’s brutally honest in every other instance). But while the first two episodes of the season kind of made it clear how much of a jerk Geils is in this situation, this episode does a lot to make him more sympathetic in this nutty triangle, and that means a lot. After all, all of these characters are pretty terrible. Except for Tanner and Hoffman, but that’s a given.

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The only thing really missing from the episode is the continuation of the Sgt. Pepper story for Tribeca, but that’s made up by the fact that it’s such a strong episode overall. The show keeping Hayes MacArthur’s Geils alive after the pilot (instead of doing a weekly revolving partner situation) proved to be an excellent choice, and an episode like this is a reminder why. As far as Angie Tribeca being more than just a standard parody goes, this is the episode that—so far—achieves the show’s highest potential in that regard.

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Stray observations

  • The Detour executive producer Brennan Shroff directed this episode, so TBS continues to know what it’s doing. Keep up the good work, TBS. The same goes for Angie Tribeca, in general, as Shepard Boucher’s first writing credit for the show was obviously an impressive one.
  • Which is better? The officer pooping in the dog park (“good boy”) from “Fleas Don’t Kill Me” or the newbie officer here who needs a diaper change? For all of Angie Tribeca’s “evolution,” I can’t say the poop jokes don’t still land.
  • As with every David Walton appearance, the following phrase must be uttered: “Bring back Bent!” There, it’s done now. As for his work in the episode, he kills it. Brad “Brah” Wilson is a perfect character in how serious he takes himself, despite how stupid he is. Case in point: his “binoculars” and his “My Day At The Beach” statement. However, even though that statement is great on its own, I should also point out how good Deon Cole is in that scene and this episode (when he “arrests” Geils, for instance). More Tanner interrogation scenes, please.
  • Hi, Lieutenant Weinberg (Kevin Pollak). Bye, Lieutenant Weinberg.
  • As far as simply impressive gags go for the show, the fen-phen commercial obviously takes the crown, but the “ADT security services” reveal caught me off guard (no pun intended?) in the best way possible.
  • Thank you, Angie Tribeca, for giving your two cents on the “regime”/”regimen” situation. Geils is “a Stalin guy,” huh? Who knew?
  • “95-pound” Geils just might be peak Geils. And they took it all away from him. This episode is actually a tragedy.
  • The Lieutenant’s “kiss kiss kiss” during that Angie/Scholls scene is pretty great. Yes, it’s a pervy thing, but I assume everyone watching also said it, before he even did. Look, he clearly knew how to read the situation:

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  • And here are the remaining Perfect Couples cast members Angie Tribeca needs to wrangle up: Kyle Bornheimer, Christine Woods, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, and Olivia Munn. Wow, I forgot how stacked of a cast Perfect Couples had. Angie Tribeca could definitely get every single one of them.