First things first—Jillian’s back! Having decamped for her own Comedy Central series (the quite funny Idiotsitter), the prospect of a long, Jillian Bell-less season of Workaholics stretched out before us like a workday without the adorable office weirdo to keep us entertained. Thankfully, Bell found the time to swoop back in (like an untrained falcon), livening up this story of bad parenting, unwanted kissing, bird poop, and a dead cat named Denny’s. (Jillian and Blake really are terrible parents.)

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It’s a good thing, too, as “Save The Cat” is middling Workaholics, affording the guys their usual opportunities for juvenile shenanigans while ceding much of its energy to an extended riff on said bad parenting, as Blake and Jillian immediately transform into a warring married couple as soon as they co-adopt a dumpster cat. It’s a dynamic that’s cropped up before (in the horrible season four finale “Friendship Anniversary”) where the two of them slipped with identical ease into an abusive husband-wife dynamic (with Jillian as the bullying husband) when Blake needed a place to stay. I didn’t like it then, as Blake and Jillian’s conspiratorial like-minded weirdness always matches up so endearingly at TelAmeriCorp, and it’s still offputting now, mainly for how it derails their chemistry by throwing them onto preordained tracks in service of the plot. But, since the show has determined that Blake and Jillian automatically turn into a domestic nightmare away from the office, at least their mutually dysfunctional squabbling over their cat-baby’s care gives Bell and Blake Anderson a mutual shot at some Lifetime-style emoting.

Jillian Bell and Denny’s (Comedy Central)

Things start out with the Jillian and the guys’ dynamic as usual, with Blake, Ders, and Adam planning how to pick up chicks (while bemoaning, “It’s been 24 weeks since we’ve kissed girls besides our moms”) and spotting Jillian waving a sandwich and seemingly speaking to a TelAmeriCorp trash bin. (“Jillian’s dumpster-talking again,” sighs Blake.) But, nope—after diving full-out into the dumpster to prove it, Jillian has a big ol’ dumpster cat soaping up in the office sink alongside Blake, the only one of the guys who thinks any of that is a good idea. Again, I’ve always like the way that Blake’s more childlike idiocy and Jillian’s unpredictable weirdness overlap, and their bonding over naming their cat (“Chastity?” “No—this cat fucks”) partakes of that strange little world they share. (They’ve immediately constructed a four-poster crate bed for the cat, and named it Denny’s because it perks up when they’re debating where to eat.)

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Meanwhile, they guys’ quest for female companionship proceeds according to the usual disastrous trajectory. Both Ders’ wine affectations (“How about a cab?” “Uh, I just got here in my own car, so I’ll pass on the taxi and just take that red wine, thanks”) and Adam’s borderline-criminal, YouTube-inspired plan to “aggressively kiss a girl by surprise” resulting in humiliation (and a solid face-palm for Adam), while Blake’s phone full of cat pictures lures three adoring women home to meet Denny’s. Waiting there, however, is Jillian, whose initial forbearance at Blake leaving for a night with the fellas has curdled into full-on harridan cliché.

There’s some character layering going on here in how quickly both Jillian and Blake snap into their broken-home roles. (“You wanna know how many dinners I had with my pops? Nada, zero, zilch, nothing! And I didn’t turn out to be a degenerate,” yells Blake as Jillian storms out, Denny’s in tow.) And Bell and Anderson imbue their farcical marital discord with some actual pathos—they’re both improbably affecting even inside the exaggerated roleplaying they’re doing. But, as in “Friendship Anniversary,” it’s less entertaining than it is a drawn-out, obvious, and unpleasant joke. For the two most likable characters on Workaholics to spend an entire episode screeching at each other is an odd comic choice. (I did laugh when Jillian’s attempt at the clichéd plate-smashing in the guys’ kitchen encounters only old takeout containers, ketchup packets, and paper plates.)

Adam, Beth (Comedy Central)

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Another questionable carryover from “Friendship Anniversary”—animal cruelty! Poor Denny’s, despite surviving the requisite weed-for-catnip mixup thanks to Jillian’s skill at making things copiously vomit, eventually dies due to Jillian’s texting-while-driving accident, though not before the show treats us to the sight of its guts being graphically pulled out by Adam’s new pet falcon, Beth, while we are led to believe Denny’s is still alive. (Oh, Adam bought a pet falcon in order to horn in on Blake’s pet-aided success in attracting women.) Again—an odd choice for comedy, especially since Denny’s is such an agreeable little gal (for a dumpster cat, anyway).

Workaholics’ attempts to go dark, like its stabs at gross-out humor, are a very hit-or-miss proposition (Beth craps on several people tonight), but the resolution, with Jillian and Blake genuinely sad and remorseful over their poor parenting skills and the loss of Denny’s, defuses some of the ugliness of seeing a falcon gnaw on a nice kitty’s intestines. (Unlike the gory rat massacre in “Friendship Anniversary,” which threw the show’s humor graphically off-kilter.) Despite ending with a hook shot into the dumpster from which she came, Denny’s parking lot funeral, complete with sweetly decorated cardboard coffin, sees Blake and Jillian restore their friendship, and a little humanity to the proceedings.

At heart, Workaholics is one of those shows that becomes less distinct the further it travels from its comfort zone. Stunts like the episode-long marriage goof between Blake and Jillian here just aren’t well integrated into what the show was built to be.

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Stray observations

  • As part of his wine snob scheme, Ders constructs a Rube Goldberg-ian contraption of multiple wine aerators. Attempting to keep the three women from the bar from leaving, he shouts after them, “There’ll be wine in, like, five minutes!”
  • Oh, and Ders tries to go against the grain by pretending to hate animals, incurring the wrath of a pretty girl (Alexandra Daddario) who outs him as a supposed animal abuser. He calls his strategy—wait for it—“counter-ho-gramming.”
  • Bill slips gratefully into the role of meekly supportive new boyfriend in Jillian’s ongoing divorce from Blake.
  • Adam, explaining how he suddenly has a pet falcon: “I Amazon Primed her! Turns out you can get animals on there.”
  • Adam apparently thinks house cats become lions or tigers or ligers when they grow up.
  • Blake: “How can I patronize you when I don’t even know what that means?”
  • The guys do band together to try to steal Denny’s back from Jillian’s, as Adam explains, “Not because it was a total pussy magnet, which it was, but because you loved it,” which is about as sweet as Adam gets.
  • Ders, too, steps up, his plan to make paint kitty-prints with homemade marshmallow paws showing endearingly stupid solidarity.
  • As offputting as it was to see Jillian saddled with her unpleasant role, no one can snap lines such as “Barging in here with these whores like the beginning of some crude stag film” like Jillian Bell.
  • Jillian, on her theory that a mythical griffin is responsible for desecrating Denny’s corpse, “There’s literally no other possibility.”

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