In retrospect, saying that BoJack has come a long way since his days of sitting on the couch, drinking beer, and watching Horsin’ Around reruns made his regression inevitable. This season opened with BoJack’s mother telling him his attempts at happiness are futile - being broken is his birthright. On Mr. Peanutbutter’s game show Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know: Do They Know Things: Let’s Find Out!, BoJack admitted that he knows jack shit. He has no idea how to be happy even if, as Mr. Peanutbutter pointed out, he has the money and the girlfriend and the house that should negate anything approaching unhappiness. In “The Shot,” BoJack let down his guard for one perfect shot of Secretariat’s despair, and it almost broke him. Facing up to your own shit is hard. BoJack can buy all the motivational tapes he wants, but the fact of the matter is, there’s no easy fix for his misery. Depression is sneaky, slinking away when you dare to feel joy, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. It just means that when it comes back, roaring and ready to seize all those frayed insecurities, it’s a betrayal beyond measure. BoJack is realizing that all the things that should make him happy - a girlfriend, a movie, a play, whatever - are just distractions from his bone-deep unhappiness. “Yes And” explores the disturbing question that BoJack may or may not want the answer to: if he can’t be happy when he has “it all,” can he ever be happy at all?
So it doesn’t take much encouragement from a spiraling Diane to get BoJack back on that couch. Granted, the new Kelsey-less Secretariat is now a Technicolor nightmare. Under the new and barely there direction of Abe, what was once a gritty biopic of a flawed national hero is now a treacly and phoned-in family values flick. In fact, if you squint at it, you just might see an episode of Horsin’ Around. On first watch, the Abe plot is pretty thin compared to some of the subplots we’ve gotten this season. So okay, he’s a hack, and the movie sucks now, and when BoJack pisses him off, he makes him do take after take of a single (on the nose) line: “I’m tired of running in circles.” His very specific animation stands out - he’s a catfish who rotates trucker hats and constantly sucks on a water bottle - but all he made me think about was how much I missed Kelsey’s snap.
Now, this episode plays a ton of inside Los Angeles baseball, between the hack director, Wanda and BoJack’s fight about network television, and Todd’s induction into the cult of improv. Not all of this works (and we’ll get to it), but the one wink that actually elevates the story is the fact that Abe is voiced by prolific rom-com director Garry Marshall. Suddenly, all the hack jokes become that kind of good natured self-mockery Daniel Radcliffe indulged in, and Abe becomes a much more dynamic character. But for all the fun BoJack’s left field voice cameos bring, there’s a thin line between drawing on expectations to heighten a joke and depending on someone’s reputation to sell their character.
A better example of a voice actor’s history playing into their character’s story is Lisa Kudrow as Wanda, the chipper network executive who’s happy to churn out hits even if they’re a bit soulless. On “Let’s Find Out,” she pushed Mr. Peanutbutter back onstage because “this is network television,” and that means the conflict has to be resolved at the end of 30 minutes. In her breakup fight with BoJack, a splinter becomes a stab wound when he gapes at the very idea that she could possibly be proud of her job. As Wanda’s told him before, he owes everything he has to network television - something surely many have told Kudrow, whether it’s true or not. BoJack’s retort is that network television actually ruined his life, and anyway, it’s all just garbage waiting to become worse garbage so it can retire to a 3.5 bed garbage apartment in Beverly garbage.
The fight is brutal. They tear each other down until finally, Wanda admits that she can’t be with someone who’s “fueled by bitterness and hate.” To BoJack, this means that she finally sees him for who he is, and doesn’t want any part of it. Maybe that’s true, but it could also mean that she saw the potential in him to be something better, and then saw him waste it. Though as Diane said, she had no problem with him turning out something he wasn’t proud of, and couldn’t understand why he cared so much about that movie, and…you know what, breakups are hard. But this one was inevitable. While Lisa Kudrow has been an excellent addition to the cast, managing to be spacey and firm and silly all at once, Wanda never worked as BoJack’s girlfriend. The show skipped ahead to long-term couple fatigue so quickly that we never got to know them as a couple enough to care why they should stay together. Even if Wanda is out as BoJack’s girlfriend, though, I sure hope she stays in their lives as a network executive, if only so we can get more Kudrow.
Elsewhere, Todd’s having one of the more Todd sideplots in recent memory. His loneliness drives him to join an improv troupe, which quickly reveals itself to be a cult of sorts. The “improv as a cult” connection has been made before, and while there are some choice lines from Todd and the “Shenanigags” ringleader (John Cho), the whole thing just feels done. There aren’t a whole lot of unexpected jokes to make about the improv community at this point, though the fact that the Shenanigags group is actually made up of a bunch of assholes is more pointed than usual. Still, there’s something sweet about Todd jumping at the chance to indulge his wacked out imagination, even if it results in something like a “Nazi Kardashian.” (Which, to be fair, was my biggest laugh of the episode.)
Between the space allotted to Todd’s misadventure and Actor BoJack reverting to 24/7 Beer & Wallowing Party BoJack, “Yes And” is a deliberate throwback to the first season, which is both interesting and a little exhausting. As BoJack says (again and again), running in circles is tiring. At the very least, ghough, ”Yes And” sets things into motion for the last couple episodes. It’s not a coincidence that the most immediately engrossing thread of “Yes And” is Diane, who’s doing something entirely different for her character: giving up. This season has done an incredible job leading up to Diane’s panicky spiral downwards into self-doubt, and this episode finally releases the tension of her trying to keep it together by letting her (and Alison Brie) let go of her neuroses completely. Without Cordovia, and without the courage to admit her failure to Mr. Peanutbutter, Diane embarks on a bender that would (and does) make BoJack proud. Brie really pulls out all the stops here, between Diane’s attempts to make Mr. Peanutbutter believe she’s still in Cordovia (“hello…I am refugee”) and devolution into a frat guy stereotype. Her voice gets hard and lower, jaded and desperate. Diane’s breakdown is the reason why “Yes And” doesn’t feel completely lifted from the first season, and it’s the reason why the end lands so much harder than the rest of the episode.
BoJack makes a decision that maybe possibly is actually healthy: he leaves everyone and everything toxic in LA to find a friend who actually liked him for him once upon a time. But Diane makes the decision to retreat even further. “It’s too hard,” she tells Mr. Peanutbutter, voice cracking. Diane’s making an undeniably selfish choice when she decides to wallow, but the touching scenario she plays out for BoJack about how she and Mr. Peanutbutter usually end the day reminds us of the complex journey she’s had this season. She loves Mr. Peanutbutter, but his warm enthusiasm can be both a safe haven and a repellant. It makes her feel better when she doesn’t want to think too hard, but when she does, she can’t stand the idea of disappointing him by showing him who she really is. This fear is why she and BoJack have always gotten along, and why they can bring out the worst in each other when they realize the reality of what Wanda puts so beautifully and painfully into words: when when you look at something through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.
- Two episodes from the end! I know I’m probably the only person who hasn’t finished the season yet, but keep your spoilers away from the comments! Don’t you want to save them for the right comment space? Sure you do!
- Mr. Peanutbutter’s busy day largely consists of taking his suit on and off. To be fair, it is a great suit - so great, in fact, that Paul F. Tompkins is making it happen in real life. So I would like to take this opportunity to call for Paul F. Tompkins to host a real life Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know?: Do They Know Things?: Let’s Find Out!. IRL HSACWDTKDTKTLFO, if you will. (#IRLHSACWDTKDTKTLFO, if you will start a Twitter campaign.)
- While we’re talking about PFT: Comedy Bang! Bang! fans, how disappointed are you that Mr. Peanutbutter didn’t get a scene with Abe on a scale from 1 to devastated?
- Credit to Will Arnett for managing so many different and nuanced line reads of ”I’m tired of running in circles.”
- A great run: Diane trying to think of a name for her pretend refugee kid by looking around the kitchen, seeing a bunch of foreign-ish names, and settling on “coffeemaker” - only to have Mr. Peanutbutter mispronounce it. “Ka-FI Makher?”
- Rutebega “had” to get the business going under Princess Carolyn’s name alone, further contributing to my current “Rutebega is garbage” theory. Stay woke, Princess Carolyn.
- “Hey Goober, get murdered!” “Go sit on a sharp dick, you piece of shit!”