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BoJack Horseman digs himself out of a rut, and digs up some buried truths

Screenshot: Netflix
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BoJack Horseman is a creature of habit. It’s a likely consequence of the complete lack of support and security he had growing up, but when when he finds a groove that seems to work for him, he sticks with it if there’s nothing pushing him otherwise. He spent twenty years rewatching his own reruns until he was forced to meet his end of a book contract. He spent two months living on a boat parked in a New Mexico driveway until prom night blew it all up. He spent a year in a decrepit lake cottage in Michigan until nearly drowning at the bottom of said lake. If contentment eludes him, he’s willing to at least settle for complacency.

“A Little Uneven, Is All” provides the latest jolt to BoJack’s habits, as he tries and fails to work up the nerve to check himself out of rehab. While it’s a familiar journey for BoJack as he get caught up in conspiracy theories and self-aggrandizement, it’s also a journey that reflects BoJack’s fear of being the same awful person he was before might not be true. And it also has the advantage of potentially blowing up the Hollywoo status quo at the same time, so you have to give it points there.

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“A Little Uneven, Is All” brings us up to speed on the season’s passage of time, as we learn BoJack’s added two more renewals to his Pastiches punch card since the end of “A Horse Walks Into a Rehab” and has now been there for six months instead of six weeks. He’s outlasted everyone in his original rehab group, perfected his egg-white omelet order—the secret is egg yellows—and told Dr. Champ every sordid story of his life several times, down to the three-nippled woman in the nudie magazine his uncle showed him. (“Who was she?”) And Dr. Champ is the tagline for Secretariat in this scenario, tired of BoJack running in circles, and he not so subtly pushes BoJack to the door.

While it seems at first BoJack is willing to take that next step, he revolts almost immediately on his first glimpse of the outside world, and the group of paparazzi that’s not there for him at all. Instead, they’re waiting to get their first glimpse of teen idol Joey Pogo, who’s checking in and taking up the room that he just vacated. Putting the pieces together to realize that there may have been monetary concerns pushing him out—a nice injection of a conspiracy vibe as he puts together a puzzle that wasn’t all that complicated to begin with—he immediately returns to Pastiches to demand more therapy that he wasn’t sure was even working in the first place.

Unlike all of his other ruts though, BoJack’s clinging to rehab less out of complacency than out of fear, the fear that at soon as he leaves rehab for good he’ll be the same destructive person he always was. And “A Little Uneven, Is All” doesn’t do much to dissuade him of that fear, in a terrific sequence where he gets an unexpected visitor. Todd, who’s so caught up in taking care of Ruthie that he’s had to hire twelve assistants to handle his Todds ‘n Ends (“Assistants are like Deadpool movies! I couldn’t just stop at one, even though I probably should have”) dispatches one of those to help BoJack out instead of coming himself. In the process of trying to convince her that he’s a terrible person and she shouldn’t jump to every one of his whims, he inadvertently triggers a massive Hollywoo-wide assistants’ strike.

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Screenshot: Netflix

Paralyzed in the wake of this mishap, BoJack is subject to some tough love from Dr. Champ, which brings him closer to drinking than he’s been all season. It’s a hard moment to witness, the first major test that BoJack’s been put through—and a moment with an encouraging response as he spits out the vodka in one second and casts the offending bottle out the window. What happens next is beautiful comic transition from triumph to tragedy, as the bottle falls into a crate of similar bottles entering the rehab facility. BoJack immediately goes after it to stop it from doing any damage, and he’s unable to get there before it winds up in Dr. Champ’s hands and stomach. It triggers an immediate role reversal as BoJack becomes the caretaker to his drunken therapist, facing the first serious consequences of what his actions do to another person since he came to Pastiches.

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And this plastic vodka bottle mishap unlocks the memory of another one, and the one story he’s told Dr. Champ that we in the audience haven’t seen yet: what happened to Sharona the makeup lady on Horsin’ Around. That story comes out as we see the days following Herb’s dismissal from the show in the events of “The Telescope,” showrunner Danny Bananas taking the reins. Danny’s willing to keep a light touch on affairs, letting BoJack be the number one guy on set to keep the machine running smoothly. And when a problem appears in that machine—as it does when Sarah Lynn gets a hold of one of BoJack’s vodka bottles and goes home drunk—it’s important that BoJack not the one that caused it. This might be one of the best applications of BoJack Horseman episode titles ever, as Danny issues his edict and an offhand comment about BoJack’s hair, making it clear as vodka where the blame will land.

Facing that memory stuns BoJack into silence, as it does the audience, exposing the most destructive routine he’s ever fallen into in his life. When BoJack made the choice not to stand up for Herb, it was done for selfish and fearful reasons. To make that decision not hurt anymore, he had to reinvent history: it was really for the benefit of Horsin’ Around. And then when the show was jeopardized again, he had to keep to the story that anyone other than him was at fault. And if he ever found a reason to doubt that conviction, there was always more alcohol to quiet those voices down.

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Screenshot: Netflix

If BoJack’s dealing with being too comfortable, a few other people are dealing with the fact that their comforts have been stripped away. Hell hath no fury like the TweedFeed of a woman scorned, and despite Pickles open to making things even with Mr. Peanutbutter—and an ongoing recruitment drive to sleep with someone and level the playing field—he’s despised on the Birthday Dad set. And Diane’s completed her relocation to Chicago, but she’s found plenty of things to get in the way of her productivity in writing her essay collection, now titled One Last Thing, And Then I Swear To God I’ll Shut Up About This Forever: A Definitive Retrospective Of The Choices We Make, The People We Hurt, The Places We Go: Part I. (“Wait, how can it be part one if it’s definitive?”)

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Solving those problems allows us to see the return of hyper-competent Princess Carolyn, who’s found some steam after “The New Client.” It’s good to see her return to form, and to do so in a way that reflects how well she knows her friends and clients. To cure Mr. Peanutbutter’s social media woes she decides to channel the power of memes, appropriating the Sad Keanu meme to garner some sympathy—even forcing it onto the Internet by staging a dive in front of Joey Pogo’s car. And much as she knew to grab a power nap during an elaborate Todd excuse, Princess Carolyn knows the value of a Diane tangent and uses that time to get a book contract with a six month advance.

Screenshot: Netflix
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Smart decisions on Princess Carolyn’s part, yes, and ones that wind up having startlingly parallel effects. Mr. Peanutbutter goes from being a sad dog to a depressed dog, an enthusiastic Joey Pogo coming off ten seconds of rehab to feel qualified to diagnose Mr. Peanutbutter’s pain. And he goes along with it because if people think he’s depressed, that means they like him again, and that puts his universe back in order. And Diane? Faced with the assignment to tell her story instead of someone else’s, she’s looped back to exactly where she was at the end of the “The Shot” and the idea of the book in her head ground to a halt. Except unlike her ex-husband, the only person to tell her that is herself, filling her word count Jack Torrance-style with endless strings of “I am terrible.”

It’s the most downer ending that we’ve gotten all season, where most episodes ended on an encouraging feel of taking the next step. Now BoJack’s forced to be the responsible one at a time when he’s terrified to be responsible for himself, Diane’s locked into a commitment for a book she doesn’t feel capable of writing, and it looks like all of Hollywoo about to fall into gridlock as bad as the traffic outside Birthday Dad. But maybe we should have seen this coming: just like its characters, BoJack Horseman has its own comfort zones as well.

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Stray observations:

  • Achievement in Voice Acting: Hilary Swank as Gen-Z pop star/fashion disruptor Joey Pogo has a delightful energy as a creature of present-day Hollywoo, completely disappeared into ephemeral concepts and incapable of speaking without a series of elaborate hand gestures.
  • I wasn’t expecting it to hurt as much as it did to hear Kristen Schaal’s voice again, even though it’s been two seasons since Sarah Lynn last appeared on the show. The impact of what happened to her hangs over more people than just BoJack.
  • That first sequence with Mr. Peanutbutter’s Birthday Dad co-star should come with trigger warnings for our own Myles McNutt. Look what you did, BoJack Horseman. #EmptyCupAwards
  • Advantage of expanding to Chicago: we get to see how animals in this world deal with with other climates. This week, it’s a narwhal’s tusk pulling duty as an ice scraper.
  • Names on the rooms at Pastiches: S. Nortin, K. Tamine.
  • Todd’s assistant hiring spree largely comes from the fact that as a full-time nanny he no longer has the freedom to engage in wacky high jinks, like making sure there are five guys at every Five Guys franchise and reacting to an ice cream truck crashing into the root beer factory. (The best dark comedy of the episode. Todd: “Sounds like a delicious disaster.” Bystander: “Five people are dead!” And you can catch showrunner Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s animated avatar limping away in bloody, melty fashion.)
  • Assistants are seen abandoning all of the power centers of Hollywoo: I caught Vim, Vigor, The Squawk, MSNBSea, Gekko Rabbitowitz, Courtney Portnoy, and Tilda Madison all in the mix.
  • “’Especially young women’ is one of our show’s eight target demos!”
  • “Right now, the only juice I’m interested in is Pickles’s juice, making it kosher between us, which is a task I relish.” Hot dog, what brine pun work! It’s gherkin for me. (Not sorry.)
  • “Ow! My gluten intolerance!
  • “I think he’s trying to get out a zinger. We better let him finish.”
  • “Marc Cherry used to dress me in the outfit Natalie Wood drowned in and scream at me for hours on end. It was very therapeutic for him, and I didn’t mind because he wasn’t screaming at me, he was screaming at death!”
  • “So, this lawyer’s got attitude. And that attitude? Autism!”
  • “I guess this all worked out. Depressingly, that is.”
  • Today in Hollywoo signs:
Screenshot: Netflix
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About the author

Les Chappell

Les Chappell is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. He drinks good whiskey and owns too many hats.