Jim gets the title quote this week, describing himself as a beaver that’s lost its mind. He’s locked himself in the office because of a shameful secret. At first it seems like he just needs time to sneak out a pair or two of heels that he keeps in the office. But the longer it goes, the more unlikely that is. You could just put them in a bag and nobody would be the wiser. Does he have too many? Whole outfits? When we open the door, is Jim going to be in drag? Nah, we’re being manipulated by the magicians behind Blunt Talk. The mere suggestion regarding Jim’s personal life last week is a distraction. You’re supposed to keep your eyes on his reaction to the missing mugs. It turns out Jim’s a hoarder.

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Now, hold on. I know it seems like every comedy has to have a hoarding episode now, but this isn’t just a wacky, not-especially-topical gag generator. In fact, the feeling of being in Jim’s office isn’t all that perverse. It’s cramped, but relatively organized. There’s no old food or animals or diarrhea on his desk. It’s mostly books and movies and newspapers, stuff that’s reasonably useful for his job. His home certainly didn’t seem to be a rat’s nest, so presumably his addiction is in the early stages and confined to his office. And it’s only been seven months since a cleaning crew has visited his office. Jim is far from fargone. But what really lands the reveal, not that it needs landing, since the structure of the escalating efforts to get into his office are so funny, especially when the magician and Terry start contributing, but what really lands this hoarder revelation is that it ties into, and even clarifies, what at this point I’d say is the main thrust of the show. As Shelly partially puts it in the pilot, “We all have bathroom issues.”

Jim’s self-aware enough to express his reason for hoarding. It’s a way to put off death. All of this crap will be useful to him again one day. His future is going to be so full! No end in sight! Walter points out the irony that he’s being buried alive. And then Walter recommends a solution, talking to Walter’s analyst. Now, the analyst hasn’t made a lot of progress with Walter, because Walter is a bulldozer. He does what he wants when he wants, sometimes on suggestions from the peanut gallery that have been floating around in his head, but usually filtered through his own controlling preferences. Hence one of his best jokes in the episode: Now that he’s in AA, Walter tells Harry, he really ought to cut back on drinking. But Jim wants to get better, and maybe the analyst is a way to do it.

As Celia tells Jim through the door, “We all have issues. I have loneliness issues, intimacy issues, nighttime driving issues, anxiety issues, promiscuity issues.” (Jim’s response: “See, those all sound like fun issues.”) Four episodes in, it seems like this is as close to a mission statement as the show has. We all have issues. How do we treat them? Alcohol, drugs, sex, therapy, 12-step plans, family, strict parenting, blunt talk. Someone needs to find religion. Walter pretends his problem with ex-wife Vivian (Golden Brooks) dating Moby is that he doesn’t want his kid around a debauched rock star. She points out that’s a better description of him than Moby. At Walter’s work, Celia and Rosalie are having sex (separately, with their lovers) in their offices, Walter, Jim, and Harry are swapping pills and powders, and day-drinking is as common as reporting the news. Walter occasionally needs to be lashed or spooned. The offices of Blunt Talk, the fictional news show, have developed a weird, inefficient, and, to a certain extent, unhealthy system just so its staff members can get through their lives. That’s the show. Most of the plotting, the characterization, and the comedy comes from having issues and trying to deal with them in funny ways. And the pathos is in the characters’ failures, whether it’s Walter oblivious to his own sad, strange life or it’s Jim recognizing his problem is out of control. In a very basic way, pretty much every show is about how we all have issues. But on Blunt Talk, this isn’t just the premise. It’s the subject.

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The comparison to Enlightened is more on-target than I realized at the time. But Blunt Talk is top-down. The protagonist is the man in charge. Rosalie even thinks the staff takes after its leader. Walter responds, “So it’s because of me Jim’s a hoarder, Shelly’s paranoid, and Celia’s having sex with a magician in her office?” (That last part hits close to home for Rosalie, so she gets defensive. “What’s wrong with that? She’s a senior producer.”) Walter sounds frustrated, but he loves it. He wants to be seen as a father figure. I’m not sure I buy Rosalie’s theory to this degree yet. Clearly Walter’s lax workplace standards have fostered an environment of sex, drugs, and hoarding at work. But Jim doesn’t identify with Walter that closely yet. Do Martin or Shelly or Celia? Or is it Walter’s absentee parenthood that’s had such a strong impact on his work children? We’ll see. “A Beaver That’s Lost Its Mind” seems to shed less light on the characters than the past few episodes, but it might be defining episode of the whole show.

Stray observations

  • “A Beaver That’s Lost Its Mind” is written by Reed Agnew, Eli Jorne, and Jonathan Ames, and directed by Michael Lehmann.
  • Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn? What in the world?
  • Jim, at a disastrous meeting with his HR guy, touches the man’s desk and then crams his fist in his mouth, adding that such careless finger-licking happens all the time. “I’m just trying to demonstrate that if there’s diarrhea on your desk, I just put it in my mouth.”
  • Celia’s magician friend gives her the When Harry Met Sally speech adjusted to include magic tricks. “I love that you get that crinkle above your nose because I’m expressing myself through lame magic tricks.” First of all, boyfriend has clearly done this before with other women. There’s nothing personal at all. Second of all, he loves all this stuff about her after one night? It didn’t seem that romantic to me, but then again, Blunt Talk mercifully kept us from getting swept up in anything.
  • Shelly accepts that maybe it’s a coincidence Morning Joe stole her story. “Fecal impact therapy is very zeitgeist, I admit.”
  • Brace yourselves. Vivian tells us the anniversary of the Falklands is coming up.
  • Walter whines, “I’m uncentered, unmoored.” Rosalie responds, “You can’t lose your way again. You just lost it two weeks ago.”
  • My favorite bit of the episode is when Walter says he’s been told recently that he’s a bad listener, so if Jim has been crying for help, he’s missed it. He’s sincere, just self-involved. But despite all his defenses, when you call him out on something he hadn’t thought of, it sticks.
  • Jim teaches Walter to FaceTime so he can see Bertie, his son by Vivian. While she gets the kid, Moby asks Walter how he gets his head so smooth. Walter growls, “I’m good with a blade.”

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