“Hashtag FOMO” is the third episode this season that mimics its writer’s episode from the first season. Jacobson and Glazer wrote the premiere (“In Heat”), which follows Abbi and Ilana’s quest for an air conditioner and the various dead ends they ran into for money—just like the series pilot, “What A Wonderful World.” Last week’s series standout “Knockoffs” came from the writing team of Paul Downs and Lucia Aniello, who also wrote the first season standout “Working Girls.” Both episodes separate Abbi and Ilana for a good portion of the script, and include surreal journeys to obscure places (North Brother Island for “Working Girls,” secret manholes full of replica designer handbags for “Knockoffs”). Saturday Night Live’s Chris Kelly sent Abbi and Ilana on a constantly moving journey through New York City to find a stolen phone in last season’s appropriately titled “Stolen Phone,” while the prize in “Hashtag FOMO” is “the Narnia of Partias.”
And so Abbi and Ilana’s search for the perfect party makes for an episode that refuses to sit still. “Hashtag FOMO” must also have been a big challenge for the production design department, not that you’d ever know by how good the episode looks. Each party they go to is very specifically designed to its location and hosts so that we immediately understand where we are and why Ilana assigns them the numbers she does. Kelly’s script and the production design work hard together to show the steady escalation of Abbi and Ilana’s night so that by the time we get to Val (and oh man will we get to Val), it somehow manages to make some kind of sense.
They start at Trey’s next to—shudder—Port Authority. (Both of Kelly’s episodes tend to lean on more specific New York City jokes than Broad City generally goes for, from the improv scene and tourist traps of “Stolen Phone” to the loft parties and sneering at midtown of “Hashtag FOMO.”) Trey, parkour enthusiast and clean living advocate, lives in a stark apartment with white and chrome accents. His friends are fellow fitness enthusiasts whose bikes crowd the hallway and who believe “Cliff bars for the guys, Luna bars for the girls” is an acceptable way to cater a birthday party. (I would never forget. I would never forgive.) Ilana, who we rarely see dislike people, is horrified. Much to Abbi’s surprise, his friend Gemma (comedian Darcy Carden) says that Abbi is one of Trey’s best friends, and she can see why: “You are so weird, I love it.” This prepster fascination with those scrubby weirdos lurking on their peripheries rings true to anyone who has been a scrubby weirdo around prepsters (hi), but it’s still a relief when Trey’s devastation at Abbi’s hasty exit makes it clear that he really does care about her, in his own way.
Once Ilana drags Abbi away from the trainers’ trust falls, they’re off to join Jaime. They’re immediately more at home here, in a dimly lit apartment with their languid friends that wear graphic shirts and smoke casual joints. They talk about tokenism (“straight people always say [they’ll officiate gay weddings] and it’s gross, it’s just fetishizing their gay friends”) and compare Instagram filters (no one’s here for Kelvin). It’s a fine and comfortable place to spend a night, and Abbi’s perfectly happy settling for a six on the party scale. Ilana, though, is less in the mood to just go to a party when she could party, and so she seizes the opportunity to move on to the next thing: “The hottest person here is leaving, this party’s going to be dead in three minutes.” Cut to a sophisticated but welcoming loft party, courtesy of the sophisticated but welcoming Lincoln. This party’s a step not necessarily above the last one, but with its high ceilings and meticulous charcuterie plate, it’s at least different from Abbi and Ilana’s norm. It’s also been a couple episodes since Broad City called on Hannibal Buress to punch up some scenes, but “Hashtag FOMO” makes good use of his drawling chill. He and Glazer are perfectly deadpan with each other as Ilana says the tiny cornichon pickles remind her of that Google search she just did on micropenises. (Lincoln: “Don’t ruin cornichons for me.” Ilana: “Don’t ruin micropenises for me.”)
Once Ilana sees someone blowing her nose, though, the loft party is dead to her, and it’s onto the next thing from whichever contact in her phone happened to get back to her “party?” text. At this point, it’s late, they’re drunk, and Lincoln has “black Irish goodbye’d” them (i.e. stepped aside into a leaving taxicab). It’s looking like they will have to call it a night—and then “whichever contact” comes through in a big way.
At this point, it looks like the raucous roof rave is going be the climax of the episode, because really, how do you beat a roof rave with stilt-walkers and straight men making out? Making this party the final destination would still make for an eventful if scattered night (and episode). Luckily for us, though, “Hashtag FOMO” doesn’t stop on the roof.
Instead, it gives us Val.
Broad City’s thrown some curveballs, but the Val reveal elevates a pretty fun episode to an entirely new level. A drunk and slurring Abbi leads Ilana down a tunnel into a smoky underground bar that looks like something out of the Prohibition era, or maybe even The Shining. It’s a jarring shift from the twentysomething parties they’ve been crashing all night, made more surreal by the presence of everyone’s favorite yogurt-eater, Garol:
The next thing Ilana knows, drunk Abbi has donned a tuxedo jacket and a Judy Garland accent to serenade the bar with “Get Happy.” It’s bizarre, it’s delightful, it’s…Val.
Every review I’ve written this season has said that Abbi Jacobson is raising her game, and every week she still manages to outdo herself. She takes Abbi’s drunken slur and morphs it into an exaggerated Classic Hollywood radio voice. She embraces the brash confidence of the “Val” persona, which does, after all, come from the brash confidence of the truly trashed. She swaggers around the bar, but is A second viewing reveals that Jacobson even lets some of the Val voice slip out at the roof party (“you never know if you never try and if you never try you never know”), thereby signaling Abbi’s descent into blacking out. Jacobson clearly had fun trying on the Val swagger, and it’s just as much fun to watch her smirk through nonsense lines like “my favorite Jew-y from St. Louis” as they must have been to say. This detour to Val’s bar is one of the best examples of how Broad City can take a relatable premise—“friends go to parties, get really drunk”—and put a fantastical, singular twist on it. Some people black out and do ridiculous things; Abbi blacks out and puts on a goddamn show.
Party-hopping is an art. It requires stamina, advanced social savvy, and a willingness to get weird. The best party-hoppers know when to push forward and when to quit. They know that timing is everything—unless there’s a killer DJ that knows the value of Rihanna, in which case she’s everything. Most of all, though, good party-hopping demands equally devoted partners in crime. There’s just no point dragging yourself from party to rave to underground burlesque if you can’t laugh about it the next day with your “main squeeze”—especially if that squeeze will stop you from grabbing things out of your own vomit. That’s important, too.
- EDIT: Commenter bigshu has pointed out it sure looks like the woman in the season premiere who yelled “VAL!” at Abbi in the subway probably had a reason to. Just awesome continuity. Wonder how many other clues are hidden in that cold open…?
- My biggest laugh this episode was Abbi as Val eating the nose piercing with a cocky “I love diamonds.”
- I didn’t write much about the workplace scenes because the workplace scenes are still the weakest parts of the series. Seriously, why is Ilana not fired yet?!
- Very pleased with the amount of pixelation there is on this show.
- Who else thought Gemma was hitting on Ilana in Trey’s kitchen?
- Favorite random run: Abbi and Ilana railing against the hit musical RENT. (“I don’t understand how they thought they just didn’t have to pay rent.”)
- The Contingency Plan, Ilana edition: “I’d shoot you in the face and then shoot myself in the heart.” (Abbi: “You said that really fast.”)