In the darkest moments of crisis, it’s only natural for people to wistfully remember moments from their past for comfort or reassurance, even if those memories aren’t that great to begin with. For most of “Reverie,” Chip remembers working at the rodeo, a punishing time in his life filled with misery and regret, but one that helps him escape the pain of his present where he’s on the run from the cops with a nomadic band of drug-addled street freaks. Though Chip’s rodeo work largely consisted of getting hit by a bull for a hostile crowd, director Jonathan Krisel and writer Graham Wagner imbue it with nostalgia and peace to illustrate that Chip’s life had its moments even if they were surrounded by disappointment.
“Reverie” picks up right where “Freaks” left off: Having decided to leave the gang of freaks after they broke into a suburban home and started shooting up heroin in the living room, Chip opens the door to find the police. He distracts them long enough for him and the freaks to escape out the back where they camp out in the woods until the cops lose their scent. This prompts Chip to remember “good times,” when he was getting gored by bulls, the generosity of cowboys who allow him to pee inside instead of outdoors with the rest of the clowns, and being given the opportunity to host by the crotchety rodeo owner Eddie. Wagner goes to great lengths to emphasize Chip’s menial existence during these flashbacks, but Krisel frames it almost like a halcyon paradise compared to Chip’s current predicament. Sure he’s fighting for scraps, but at least he’s a clown.
The core of “Reverie” involves Chip hosting the rodeo for the night and inviting his wife Penelope to see him in action. Much to his surprise, she jumps at the opportunity and agrees to attend, providing Chip with a much-needed self-esteem boost. For most of the show, she seems to be enjoying herself, but when Chip finally comes on to perform after convincing Chuck the bull guy not to send the bull out to gore him during his routine, she gets up to leave, embarrassed and ashamed. Soon, the crowd turns against him and Chip is forced to get Chuck to bail him out of a nasty situation. Good times all around.
But what follows illustrate what Chip was missing during all those hard times. The long-suffering Martha brought her niece and nephew—two quiet, blank-faced children that couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else’s relatives—to the rodeo and all had a good time. She tries to cheer Chip up by telling him that maybe the rodeo isn’t Penelope’s thing. “Maybe I’m not her thing, either,” Chip sulks, but soon Martha’ family saves the day with simple acts of generosity. First, her niece and nephew want autographs from the trick horse riders, but they also want autographs from Chip. When Chip’s nephew wants to go to the bathroom, he wants to “pee pee” outside like the clowns instead of indoor like a cowboy. With his spirits somewhat lifted, Chip is roped into a group dance with Martha, and the both of them end the evening smiling.
Is it a little schmaltzy? A little bit sentimental? Sure, but for a series damn near soaked in melancholy and humiliation, it’s borderline cathartic to see Chip and Martha happy for a brief moment in time when both their lives are stuck in respective ruts. What’s the “good” in this memory? That a child wanted an autograph and to pee outside. It’s such a small gesture that’s utterly absurd out of the context of Chip’s life, but in the episode, it takes on a level of empathy that’s downright wonderful.
In the present, Chip is on the run with his freaks but begins to voice doubts about his prospects. “I’m tired of making my life harder than it needs to be,” he says, which provokes Morpheus to launch into how he abandoned his daughter to go party for years, exposing the hollowness at the center of his lifestyle and the futility of running away from one’s problems. It’s not long before the gang hops aboard a train with the cops in pursuit, but just as they’re almost away scot-free, Morpheus is killed while hanging off the train, taunting the authorities. ““It ain’t easy living this life, man, but hell if it don’t have its moments, right? Cherish this shit!” Morpheus exclaims in his last moments. Though he may be reckless, Chip realizes he has a point.
So when the cops finally arrest Chip and ask him if he would like to make a phone call, Chip is forced to ask himself if anyone cares if he’s alive. The person that comes to mind is the one who gave him a joke book from a landfill to help him emcee a rodeo, the person who tries to cheer him up when his wife walked away from his performance, the only person willing to put up “Missing” signs on his behalf. Cue Martha’s ringing phone. “I’m coming!” she yells to an empty house. At least it’s someone.
- First thing’s first: It’s great to have Ernest Adams as Eddie back on the show even for a brief moment. He was the stealth MVP of last season and everything he says and does is a guaranteed laugh line, e.g. “I never thought I’d see the day when a clown would be pissing in the white people’s toilet.”
- Chip’s pathetic attempts to dodge the cops is pretty funny. He lands on “house-sitting while the couple is out test driving a Toyota minivan at night.”
- If Baskets is engaging in the whole integrated advertising game, they’re doing a pretty good job with it. The Jack Daniels representative whom Chip thinks is actually named Jack Daniels was a pretty solid joke.
- “What were you doing at the dump? On a date or something?”
- “Martha, take the children back to the corn.”
- “C’mon guys, let’s go see where the beer is.”
- “I dunno, but I don’t have a one-man show about it, that’s for sure.”
- “I’m not going to the bar with you. The last time we did that, you pulled a knife out on the jukebox.”