Blake Anderson (Comedy Central)

“Gone Catfishing” is the Workaholics formula in efficient action. You’ve got an inciting incident involving Adam, Blake, and/or Ders doing something dumb—in this case Blake sending the $800 the guys have squirreled away for their annual 420 “Grim Reefer” blowout to his online girlfriend, Erin. You’ve got one or more equally dumb plans to rectify the situation—here, Ders attempts to catfish coworkers Bill and Montez, while Adam appeals to the homeless vets/pot dealers in the woods for a pillowcase of free “ditchweed.” And finally you’ve got escalation, where all turns to often scatological chaos, as occurs here in a family style restaurant when the guys’ plan to enlist Tez to get Blake’s money back (Blake had sent a picture of the young Tez to Erin to impress her) ends up with Tez, Erin, and Tez’ wife Colleen having a messy threesome in the restaurant bathroom. So far, so Workaholics.

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As with most episodes, though, the real show takes place in the details. Adam is going to pretend to be cooler/stronger/more sexually experienced than he is (here bragging to Tez’s teenage son that he’s had sex with “like six, borderline seven” women). He will also probably do a weird little dance (as he indeed does while trying to psych out Tez in preparation for their sumo-suit wrestling match to ensure Tez’s participation in their ”reverse-catfish” of Erin.) Ders will humorously attempt to channel his inner black man (tonight closing with his lip-synched rendition of Cypress Hill’s “Hits From The Bong” after their plan at least gets them enough money back to buy that ditchweed and party with the vets). And Blake will show just enough vulnerability to ensure his position as the nice one of the group. Tonight, he’s heartbroken when the guys convince him that Erin’s just using him, and chagrined when she (Adam DeVine’s Pitch Perfect pal Brittany Snow) actually turns out to be not only real, but beautiful, lovestruck, and carrying a bulging envelope filled with $18 grand from the investment she’d used his money for.

Staring deep into his face in the TelAmeriCorp bathroom mirror, Blake Anderson solemnly delivers a monologue on Blake’s loneliness that walks the razor’s edge between heartbreaking and ludicrous:

Why am I so ugly, Lord? The zits, the snot, the boogers, the stinky butt, the bad breath? The globs of ear wax in the morning, my weird teeth? My stupid hair, my itchy butt? The B.O., the dandruff, the below-average dick? What is your plan? You know every hair on my head, Lord, I know you have a plan for me.

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Naturally, Blake’s plan is to cover up his supposed hideousness with pancake makeup (“You look like the female Gremlin,” advises Adam) and then to pretend to be his strangely accented friend Alphonso rather than admit to Erin that he’d been the one catfishing her by misrepresenting his appearance, penis size, and penchant for weekend dirt-biking. It’s Blake’s story, really, with Anderson finding the right note throughout, his overreaction to having a girlfriend—giving away his “pornogs” and making an elaborately creepy montage of Erin on his bedroom wall—vying with his genuine pain when he realizes that his deception will likely cost him a girl who’s comically perfect for him.

Brittany Snow, Erik Griffin (Comedy Central)

Confessing to Montez (who the guys bribe into impersonating Blake) Erin reveals that a physical eccentricity only makes her sexually suited for men with a micropenis, and that she’s usually only attracted to “long-haired skater types… skinny slacker bros who are effortlessly cool but still have soft eyes.” (In a nod to Blake’s hair, she says she also dated Carrot Top at one point.) Sitting outside in Karl’s van, Anderson makes Blake’s desperation comical but affecting—as each improbable boyfriend checklist is ticked off in his favor, his “Please let me go, Ders!” is genuinely, if goofily, touching. (Anderson pulls off the same move earlier in the episode, when he begs the guys not to text Erin, pleading, “We are waiting for the exact perfect time to do that! Please don’t do that!”) The undercurrent of loneliness and fear that powers the guys’ co-dependent extended adolescence is always what keeps Workaholics on the windy side of obnoxious, but it has to be handled delicately. Blake Anderson’s performance here is right on the money.

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Which isn’t to say that “Gone Catfishing” isn’t consistently amusing. A good Workaholics plot is of equal importance to the weird little bits of business the guys and the supporting cast hang on it, and this one keeps tossing off funny lines around its edges. The sumo costume fight with Tez is some good physical comedy, with Blake (or his stunt double) taking an impressive, immediate header into a wall, and Ders’ “I’m next!” ringing with a humorous note of inevitable failure. It’s always nice to have Erik Griffin’s Montez in the mix (he’s been silently sidelined up ‘til this point), and he and Alex Borstein’s Colleen are great together, as always. (Colleen’s disdainful, “Yeah, I’m already walking away” in response to his excuses is as impressive as her limbering-up stretches before she, Tez, and Erin head into that bathroom.) Stephen Root (with horrifying burn scar makeup) has some fun as the leader of the vets, his signature, watchful menace, as ever, coloring his seemingly benign smile. Snow is playing a plot device rather than a character, but her blank-eyed earnestness helps sell the conception of Erin as Blake’s impossible fantasy in the flesh. (Her decision to swing with the Walkers is less convincing.) And the guys goof about amiably—the runner that Ders and Adam think dropping a perfunctory “no offense” after insulting Blake is one of those verbal affectations the guys pick up, to funny effect. (“Blake, you stupid dumb idiot bitch—no offense.”)

“Gone Catfishing” isn’t especially ambitious, but it’s a Workaholics delivery system of admirable amiability—and just enough heart to make it memorable.

Stray observations

  • “I’ve got hash that’ll make you feel like you’re on mushrooms!”
  • “Maybe I am ugly, but maybe what we have is deeper than looks. I hope you both die before I walk through this door… Dang!”
  • Ders, reassuring Bill after he catches him watching lingerie football in the office: “Relax, it’s fine. I’m into ladies football. Go, Chicago Bliss.”
  • Ders lends the desperate Bill a hundred dollars. Which he could buy weed with instead of trying to catfish Bill in the first place. I blame the weed.

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