“Chief hides a race horse at the hospital; Lola’s college barbershop quartet tries to convince her to rejoin; Glenn glues Blake’s hands in his gloves.”

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This is the episode synopsis for “Childrens Horsepital.” I’m pointing it out, because as usual when it comes to Childrens Hospital synopses, it is absolutely true on the most basic level possible. Chief does hide a race horse at the hospital. Lola’s college barbershop quartet does try to convince her to rejoin. Glenn does glue Blake’s hands in his gloves. But one thing that sticks out besides it being a synopsis that reads like Childrens Hospital may be more mundane than it actually does—except for maybe the race horse part—is that it also reads like the synopsis for an old school sitcom. A horse in a place it doesn’t belong! Barbershop quartet! Krazy Glue! That’s exactly what these plots are, just without the studio audience and with Childrens Hospital’s own off-kilter spin on the plots.

They’re all also basic plots of I Love Lucy episodes: “Lucy Wins A Racehorse” (actually from The Luci-Desi Comedy Hour), “The Mustache,” and “Lucy’s Show-Biz Swan Song.”

Yes, Chief even lets out a Lucille Ball “ugh”/”eww” at one point in the episode (which is not the first time the character’s done that). Childrens Hospital takes the bare necessities from those episodes—hiding a race horse, the Krazy Glue, and the barbershop quartet—and turns them into intense, faux-high stakes issues, complete with decisions that don’t matter, criminal chases, and, well, a horse. Somehow, the horse ends up being the most understandable part of the episode, because it’s honestly the type of thing one would expect from Chief any other week. “Childrens Horsepital” takes these otherwise simple premises and blows them up, to the point where they’re absolutely unrecognizable by the very end of the episode. And it does so while acting like it’s all a very natural progression—even though it’s not—which is something Jonathan Stern loves to do with the episodes he writes (see also “The Gang Gets Sushi”).

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So a horse ends up on the ceiling of Childrens Hospital and urinates on Chief, and that’s the only thing that’s treated as slightly weird in an episode where Glenn keeps punching walls, Lola is considered a singer, and Blake is on the run from his probation officer (who’s “a real ball buster”) because his hands got Krazy Glued to his surgical gloves. You’re just not going to get any of that from a TV Guide description, and even within the context of the actual episode, it’s still all pretty insane.

Look at Glenn and Blake’s plot. It starts off in the “previously on” segment as a lighter storyline and then flips into madness and chaos in that same segment; Glenn has always been a character who loves a good goof, but unsurprisingly, that’s not the case when Blake is the goofer. Only it then devolves even further based on a throwaway line about Blake’s probation officer. The Krazy Glued glove hands part? That exists, but that’s just a reason to get to the real “fun.” See, the obvious place for the plot to go is an escalating prank war. That’s the sitcom direction for such an act, and in that scenario, eventually Blake would fail to learn a lesson about tricking people. But that’s not where it goes at all—in fact, by the end of it, it’s hard to see how the show got from one point of the plot to the other. Will Sasso’s arrival as the aforementioned probation officer turns the plot into a fugitive mission, and it’s fascinating, but it’s still hard as hell to really grasp. That’s the opposite of the simple premise.

Lola’s plot with her college barbershop quartet, the MeLadies (or MaLadies—wordplay!), is shorter in comparison to the other plots in this episode, but it does its absolute best to pretend that it’s punching far above its weight. It’s the very special episode portion of “Childrens Horsepital.” Apparently in the world of Childrens Hospital, barbershop quartets aren’t always awful (though quintets can sometimes be delightful), so when Lola has to choose between that life and doctoring, the tension of said decision is on full display. The episode immediately cuts away twice to other things before Lola can answer whether or not she’ll rejoin the quartet, and then it gets to the point where the suspense is literally killing a patient at Childrens. In this plot (and Glenn/Blake’s), in particular, the melodrama is actually a great reminder that the Childrens Hospital show-within-a-show is supposed to be appointment TV in the form of a “serious drama.” In that world, this isn’t supposed to be comedy, even if it starts out with simple comedic scenarios. So the disregard for the sitcom beats actually makes these plots even funnier in the end, even if they feel especially out of left-field.

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So as I compare this episode to I Love Lucy and classic comedy as a whole, it’s also important to note two other things: 1. the fact that the mob boss Mamma Fiorucci is played by Valerie Harper (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda) and 2. the fact that Chief’s plot plays more like an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! than a live-action sitcom. The latter is based on the hiding tactics Chief (and Owen) uses for the race horse, especially when it gets to the trifecta of the horseshoe game, the ponytail/motorcycle mix-up, and “the coolest asthma [Cat] ever heard.” In fact, the only think missing is Don Knotts, may he rest in peace. So instead of a monster-of-the-week, there’s Harper’s Mamma Fiorucci, because if you’re going to commit to this, you have to have a classic sitcom actor play the villain. Because why not?

That’s the big question that appears to have led to this episode as a whole: Why not? Why not do any of this? Actually, that’s the best question for series as a whole. Seven seasons of Childrens Hospital has proven that this show can do whatever the hell it wants. That will probably be its legacy, and that’s not a bad one to leave behind, now is it? “Childrens Horsepital” is honestly one of the straight-up funniest episodes of the season, even though it makes very little sense. Why should it? It’s Childrens Hospital.

Stray observations

  • Alternate take: This episode is actually an ode to Lucky Number Slevin.
  • Apparently there’s also a horse episode of Rhoda, and it would fit in well with Childrens Hospital.
  • As “something from the public domain” is often the Childrens Hospital’s characters’ favorite go-to song selection, it makes perfect sense that Lola’s barbershop quartet would be introduced singing “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.” It’s also the perfect fit in a Chief-centric episode, given the past use of the song in the series.
  • Chief: “Madam, this is a children’s hospital, not a children’s horsepital.” Nailed it.
  • In true final season fashion, this episode reveals Chief’s last name: “apparently,” that last name is Rosenberg. In fact, her name’s always been Chief Rosenberg, just like the series has already been set in Brazil (outside of season five).
  • Owen: “Did you hear that?”
    Chief: “Hear what?”
    Owen: “I think somebody left on a recording of crashing sounds. I’ll turn it off.”
  • Owen: “Chief, are you the horse in this story?” It’s important that Owen asked this, because as Glenn shows, if you’re the animal in these stories, you have to make that clear.
  • Blake: “Oh no, my phone can’t see my fingers!”
  • Glenn: “You danced with the shark, you got bit. Because the shark didn’t want to dance. So the shark got mad. Put Krazy Glue in your gloves.* P.S. I am the shark. … They call it Krazy Glue for a reason. Because it’s crazy. Like me. Like the shark. Krazy Shark.**”
  • * He punches a metal wall this time.
  • ** He then punches himself through a wall.
  • Cat: “Women singers! Now I have seen everything. But, I haven’t heard everything.”
  • It’s nice to know Chief is cool and collected enough to at least say “Fiorucci” correctly.
  • Blake (to Cat): “Thank god you’re so fat. Never lose weight.”
  • Lola: “Vax jambos?!? Wow!”
  • Lola: “Guy, I can’t. This isn’t just my place of employment. It’s also my job.”
  • So now Chief’s got a horse.

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