The saddest part of Childrens Hospital’s fifth season (assuming you think the word “sad” is ever applicable to the series) was the departure of Dr. Lola Spratt in “The Gang Gets Sushi.” Sure, it was obvious that she was going to eventually return—she did “die” at the end of season one only to come back in season two and admit she faked her death—but post-season one Childrens Hospital has always had the added worry about certain actors’ availability on an episode-to-episode basis. Erinn Hayes’ absence was felt after “The Gang Gets Sushi,” and it’s was symptomatic of the show’s general vibe (both its humor and how bizarre it is) sometimes changing depending on just which busy cast members can actually be in an episode and what character interactions you can get (even if character relationships change regularly).
One guarantee, however, is that an episode of Childrens Hospital that gives the reins to the ladies of Childrens Hospital is almost guaranteed to be a winner.
“Codename: Jennifer” is the sequel to “The Gang Gets Sushi,” with Lola’s master impressionist skills getting her in the door at the White House and her pediatric skills being the reason for the proverbial getting the gang back together. Chief of Staff Tooter Daniels needs Lola and her former Childrens gang’s help in discretely performing a procedure on the President’s sick, illegitimate daughter Jennifer (“codename: Jennifer the President’s bastard kid”). In return for her services, he promises to let Lola see Brian, who hasn’t been seen since their goodbye in “The Gang Gets Sushi.” That brings in Val and Chief to help in the procedure, while White House-heads (and background check failures) Owen and Blake pose as ambassadors on their own misguided adventure.
The A-plot has the instant benefit of being a Lola plot, with Lola’s role as a master impressionist getting even more ridiculous than it was a season ago. In fact, the impression thing goes the Mission: Impossible 2 route of in terms of disguise, with fake noses taking the place of super life-like masks. The actual mission involves a replica of Childrens Hospital (though everything is just six inches off) with Lola, Val, and Chief even having the Childrens Hosptial nursing staff, Dori (R.I.P.) and Beth, on their side. This episode may not officially be a sequel to “Ladies Night,” but this episode really is all about the ladies.
Also, if Lake Bell’s line reading of “THAT ONE HAD A BABY IN IT!” was the MVP of last week’s premiere, than Malin Akerman’s fervor over the lack of a nurse to bring her coffee just may take the crown this week.
In true Childrens Hospital fashion, everything about the “case-of-the-week” devolves into madness almost immediately: Jennifer’s ailment is having a Matchbox car up her nose. “Holiest of guacamole,” Valerie exclaims in a Eureka moment. “That little half-blood has a Matchbox car up her nose. It’s a pretty rare condition, actually. Closely related to a penny in the ear of a jelly bean up the butt. Usually hereditary.” The ladies save the day, only to be informed that they can never leave because no one can know of the bastard. But that’s not where it ends, because Julie Bowen shows up in a short but sweet (in a biting way) guest appearance as the President’s wife. If nothing else, Julie Bowen cutting a bitter monologue about “balls” is something television has needed for far too long. This is the Julie Bowen who showed up as Mother Nature in a Stella short and turned David Wain into a tough guy in Wainy Days—that’s the biggest compliment I can give her in this brief role.
The Owen/Blake storyline isn’t as strong as the rest of the episode, but that doesn’t stop it from having a few good moments. Part of what works with this plot is that it is so dumb that any chance of it being offensive (this is Huebel and Corddry playing a Middle Eastern man and woman, respectively). But at no point are these two a brain trust that can even keep up the bit of pretending to be another ethnicity—Owen is too quick to reveal it’s a ruse and Blake stupidly calls Owen “Blake.” Plus, Blake can’t fight his clown nature to make balloon animals, and that is possibly one of the best touches of clown characteristics the show has ever given him.
The episode all wraps up with the revelation that Tooter is Brian in disguise (those noses are tricky), and he thinks it’s time for Lola to go back home, to Brazil, where she lives. The Lola/Brian relationship is one of those bits of Childrens Hospital that surprisingly evokes actual emotions outside of the whole insane humor thing, so there’s an added layer to Lola sadly doing her Aaron Neville impression and begging Brian not to put the nose back on. Childrens Hospital is a “dumb” show—again, see the Owen/Blake plot—but for all of its over-the-top, soapier soap character moments, this band of misfits are surprisingly easy to care about.
- Tooter? This really is a show about farts.
- “Holiest of guacamole” count: two. One from Owen and one from Val.
- Lola: “I don’t have time for ‘Hey,’ ‘Look at you,’ ‘Lola!’”
- Blake: “As William Howard Taft used to say, ‘Let’s go!’”
- Does anyone have any idea why the establishing shots of the White House show people on the roof?
- The best sight gag of the episode is when Dori says she had no idea the President had an affair, gets taken down by a sniper, and Beth strolls in.
- To wrap up the bastard storyline, Jennifer is somehow the daughter of both the President and the First Lady (she was so busy she forgot about the birth). This is where things get “weird for Childrens Hospital” (which is weirder than the usual weirdness), as Daniels tells Lola “that was quite the stunt” her team pulled. Did they just convince the First Lady that she’d had this kid? She is quick to believe Val’s excuse that they are “ghosts from the future,” after all. But it’s also not out of the realm of Childrens Hospital possibilities for her to have forgotten about the birth.