Ever since watching “Fish Out Of Water,” I’ve been unable to get BoJack’s last statement to Kelsey out of my head: “In this terrifying world, all we have are the connections that we make.” It’s one of the purest truths that has ever emerged from BoJack Horseman, a universal statement that rings free of the context of the show. And in the context of the show it’s the central tragedy that exists underneath the puns and satire, the melancholic cornerstone of everyone’s problems. BoJack is entirely aware what he’s saying is true yet he’s constantly pushing away anyone who tries to connect with him, and his efforts to reconnect—think Herb and Charlotte—are too-little-too-late moves that end in tears.
And having those connections is all the more important for how hard it is to form those connections in the first place, which is a big part of “Love And/Or Marriage.” It’s an episode where all of the cast are off having their own adventures, but all of them revolve around the same simple theme: how hard it is to open up and relate to another person. The conflicts are all familiar ones—Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s troubled marriage, Princess Carolyn’s lack of a life outside of work, Todd’s constant quest for acceptance—but they’re all handled in their own wonderful ways that reflect the uphill battle they have to travel to forge any kind of connection that matters.
BoJack’s the most eager to form new brand new connections, as his life is on a serious upswing. Secretariat is—wait for it—a huge hit, and BoJack is now a bona fide movie—wait for it—star. He can show up to a hotel bar and drink for free, have his cigar lit on a non-smoking sign, and get Kiefer Sutherland kicked out of his seat. (Though in the grand scheme of Sutherland getting kicked out of bars, this one’s pretty tame.) It’s the sort of validation BoJack’s always craved, to show up and be celebrated for being him, to be called “Sir” without adding “you’re making a scene.” Of course, it’s only the most surface of connections, but given how badly those go for BoJack, it’s nice to see him getting something that resembles a win.
BoJack can even parlay his success into crashing a wedding (rehearsal dinner) and proceeding to be the life of the party. What’s interesting about the scene is the way that it goes almost entirely according to plan, even as you’re holding your breath waiting for the cringe comedy of BoJack wrecking everything. The attendees is as thrilled to see a movie star as BoJack expected him to be. He gives a speech that’s not the least bit self-serving, and finds something nice to say about how the brides-to-be have found their missing puzzle pieces. And when that falls apart, it’s not truly his fault, and he even manages to pick up the pieces when he gives a speech reminiscent of “Sabrina’s Christmas Wish” where his real and very bleak view of the world is the way a happy ending is ensured. It ends in another sad moment, but it still feels like for once BoJack may be capable of doing something good in his selfishness.
Even more out of the norm is seeing Todd’s reaction to being reunited with Emily, his old high school girlfriend introduced in the 2007 “The BoJack Horseman Show” flashbacks. It’s a welcome return, both for Abbi Jacobson’s presence and for the fact that it gives us a new flavor of Todd. Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter reinforcing each other’s terrible decisions is something we’ve seen a lot of, but someone who’s sharp enough to pick up on one of Todd’s good ideas—a ride-share service with exclusively female drivers—is something that could get him out of his rut. And Todd being dragged around as BoJack’s entourage has potential, but what’s more interesting is the way Todd reacts as Emily continues to demonstrate her interest in him. We’ve never seen Todd in a substantive relationship with anyone (protectiveness of Becca aside), and seeing the way he retreats makes me want to know more about what’s going on underneath that yellow beanie.
If we don’t know why Todd can’t seem to connect with Emily, we know full well why Princess Carolyn has a hard time connecting with anyone. Her already workaholic nature is being overloaded with the pressures of managing Vim, so much so she’ll wave her hand and agree to sign ten percent of the company over to her assistant Judah. After Rutabega Rabbitowitz turned out to be a garbage person alarm bells are raised whenever anyone’s making business decisions on Princess Carolyn’s behalf, but Judah seems like a straight enough shooter, voiced with perfect equipoise by Diedrich Bader. Perhaps too straight, as he’s got a literal mindset on par with Drax the Destroyer: “One time I spent 45 minutes at a fascinating lecture at the Apollo Theater before I realized it was a comedy routine.”
The literal nature leads him to book her on three dates when she jokes that’s what she should do with her night off. While the first two are the expected disasters—one too boring and one too smug, and both amusingly voiced by Paul F. Tompkins—the third turns out to be a cat-and-mouse game of a completely different stripe. Raúl Esparza of Hannibal and Law And Order: SVU voices Ralph Stilton, who has the perfect combination of funny lines (“Is it because I asked for the glass of milk? Because if you give me a cookie…”) and genuine niceness that endears him to both the audience and his not-date. So of course he’s not allowed to stick around, leaving with his card and a smile. Once again, it’s the tragedy of Princess Carolyn playing out, trying to strike the work/home balance and achieving happiness in neither.
As to for the couple that should be the happiest, they’re clearly anything but, and getting to see them in their counseling sessions helps illustrate why. Mr. Peanutbutter can be excited and emotional about anything, up to and including using Cool Runnings as a metaphor for his marriage (Communication is “the very blade of the bobsled”). Diane meanwhile is too guarded for all that, especially after the Cordovia disaster shattered her self-confidence and sent her into a spiral. The central question of this marriage has never been their affection for each other, it’s the question of their difference in viewing the world, and this calls it into sharp relief.
Much like Princess Carolyn, she chooses work over home life, answering a call to Instagram the latest party by Alexi Brosefino (Alison Brie’s real-life fiancee Dave Franco) and his Snatch Batch. Writer Peter A. Knight is clearly having fun with the subversion of the Entourage stereotypes here, painting the group as a paradoxically intellectual bunch (“How’d you guys meet Shitshow?” “We went to his TED talk”) whom Diane can actually have a conversation with. At first it feels like this is the sort of setup that will play against Diane’s usual reserves and past fears of isolation—until of course the Gush comes out, and Diane’s desire to be one of the cool kids leads her to take some.
BoJack Horseman’s particular visual and narrative styles thrive when its characters start tripping balls, and this is no exception. It’s less over the top than season one’s “Downer Ending” but it works because of its subtlety, casting a yellow shine to everything and twisting arms to Stretch Armstrong levels. It’s not a grand vision quest but a removal of filters, tapping into all the things Diane thinks about but never actually says because she’s afraid of what would happen next. Alison Brie rarely gets to channel crazy in the restrained Diane, so it’s a treat to see her tap into some of the manic energy she was capable of on Community as Diane keeps getting ahead of herself and trips over her words—and her own feet, breaking her wrist in the process.
Like the other conflicts introduced in “Love And/Or Marriage,” it doesn’t come to a formal resolution, instead teeing things up for the next issue . Diane admits to Mr. Peanutbutter that she feels like the mean one in their relationship and extends an olive branch by agreeing to visit the Labrador Peninsula—and then the doctor drops a bombshell by revealing that Diane is pregnant. Of all the connections formed, a connection to a child is the last thing Diane expected, and her cut-to-black curse reflects that.
- Princess Carolyn’s second date wins the award for this week’s most groan-worthy line, which builds perfectly over the scene to its payoff—“Well, I’m the only albino rhino gyno I know”—and then gets pushed over the top by her unspoken follow-up: “Oh great, you’re also a wine addict.”
- Achievement in Voice Work: Great work from all the new players—Jacobson as Emily, Bader as Judah, Esparza as Ralph—but this week’s award goes to Lorraine Bracco for pitch-perfect casting as Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s marriage counselor Dr. Janet, stepping back into her comfortable therapist shoes. I wonder what her thoughts are on the original ending to The Sopranos that Todd ruined.
- Interesting connection here: Ralph is voiced by Esparza, who played Alfredo Aldarisio on Pushing Daisies, a love interest to Olive Snook—played by Kristin Chenoweth, who voices Princess Carolyn’s arch-rival Vanessa Gekko. I hope that that pays off in future episodes.
- Great callback: The bikini-and-ski-mask-clad thieves from season one’s “The Telescope” are pulling off their latest Malibu heist by filching Alexi’s art mid-party.
- Todd points out to BoJack he does have an acting career: “I did narrate a Mazda commerical! Funny story on how that all came together.”
- Turns out that Emily was a big fan of The BoJack Horseman Show, and is The A.V. Clubber inside all of us.“It was the best! I mean, it was the worst. But that’s what made it so good.”
- “Piper Perabo and Pauly Perrette need to push back the pitch on the Princess And The Pauper project.” Say that five times fast.
- “The only kind of nerd you should like is hon-nerd that he selected you.” D’awwww.
- “I once got Nic Cage to buy Charlie Chaplin’s mustache on eBay! And that was his last ten bucks.”
- “To the Bones-mobile!” How long do you think Emily Deschanel has wanted to say that? And now she has! (Also, re: her Bones co-lead, now is a good time to say the people cry out for the return of David Boreanaz’s house.)
- “The drugs want me to do this, and that means it’s a good idea.”
- Today in Hollywoo signs: