Looking back, most episodes of Idiotsitter have struggled with pacing. The show often spends a lot of timing setting up an event or scenario and then not having enough time to spend in that event or scenario. The best parts of “GED Prom” were the scenes that actually took place at GED prom. “Viva La Joy” starts out fine enough but doesn’t hit its groove until it gets truly weird in the final act. “Fumigation” ends up all over the place pacing-wise, cramming two great premises into one. Idiotsitter shouldn’t start at 100 miles-per-hour; building up to the good stuff is important. But sometimes it just needs to get to that good stuff faster. In a way, the show could stand to be a little less linear. Drop Billie and Gene into just about any scenario, and sparks will fly. Sometimes all the setup makes the show feel too mechanical. “Ex-boyfriend,” however, is the most rhythmically sound episode yet—one that manages to put emotion and stakes behind Gene’s over-the-top scheming.
And it gets to the good stuff almost right away. We get a brief setup scene, with Billie explaining to Gene that she accidentally agreed to have dinner with her ex-boyfriend McCallister (Ryan Gaul). In this case, the opening scene doesn’t feel too expositional. Charlotte Newhouse and Jillian Bell keep the jokes coming without missing a beat, and sometimes just their reactions to what one another says are even funnier than the dialogue (Newhouse’s look after Bell delivers “I bet when guys are fucking you, they’re just like shut up,” for example, is an episode highlight). But the scene isn’t only defined by its comedy. There are some very real emotions at play, and as ridiculous as Idiotsitter can get, those flickers of realness keep it grounded and make the characters more than archetypes spewing out one-liners. Gene is immediately supportive of Billie. She wants her to show up her jerk ex. Despite Gene’s outward confidence, the season has subtly and gradually revealed that she can be just as insecure as Billie. Gene understands the stakes of the situation and wants to help, just as she eventually did in “Viva La Joy.” The more sincere side of Gene keeps her from just being the village idiot. But Idiotsitter doesn’t get too sentimental about Gene’s encouragement toward Billie—there’s still a razor edge to it. It’s Gene, after all. Even her compliments have a bite to them.
It has become quite clear that Gene is actually pretty good at this whole scheming thing. Her plan to get Joy back last week ended up being better than Billie’s, and tonight, she outmaneuvers McCallister in a way that Billie doesn’t even see coming. I won’t go so far as to say Gene’s a genius. After all, she let New Chet Daryl bring a real gun to the staged robbery. She’s still Gene. But the writing here is smarter and less heavy-handed than it would be if Idiotsitter went for a full role-reversal between Billie and Gene. The laws of this kind of comedy setup require that Billie and Gene learn something from one another—that their relationship lead to some sort of personal growth. Idiotsitter isn’t taking the obvious or simple route with that, and that’s a good thing. It just wouldn’t be all that compelling for Gene to suddenly be super responsible and Billie to suddenly be a disaster. But in a way, in “Ex-boyfriend,” Gene is the one taking care of Billie instead of the other way around. She’s not necessarily great at it, and the plan has its fair share of hiccups, but she’s trying, and her heart’s in the right place. This Gene is a much more fun Gene to watch than when she’s at peak idiot.
Featuring a new New Chet in every episode has become a running gag that’s perfect for Idiotsitter. There seems to be a pretty strong sense of self-awareness about Billie and Gene being Idiotsitter’s most valuable players by a long shot. The New Chet bit allows the show to freely bring in a slew of one-off characters to stir things up and then get on out of there. New Chet Daryl in “Ex-boyfriend” works for the episode at hand, but we certainly don’t need him sticking around much longer. You know those people who are “good in small doses”? The New Chets are just that, and the writers have so far understood exactly what kind of New Chet each episode requires. It makes things easy for them, because they can bring in someone convenient for the story at hand whenever they need to, but because they’ve managed to make a bit out of it, it doesn’t feel like lazy writing.
I’ve said this before, but in addition to sharing insecurity, Billie and Gene both loves movies. And the show itself has a lot of fun playing with movie tropes. Sometimes there are more specific homages, like the Parent Trap vibes of Gene’s storyline in “Mother’s Day.” And then there’s the case of “Ex-boyfriend,” which plays with the broader convention of the makeover montage. Idiotsitter doesn’t just copy a standard makeover montage though; it provides a thoroughly distorted version of one, with Gene saying things that sound almost right and doing everything completely wrong. Those are always some of the best Idiotsitter moments: ones that feel almost normal but have some weird twist on them that takes things into uncanny territory. As has been the case all season, the weirder “Ex-boyfriend” gets, the better it is. But it helps that the initial setup for the episode’s conflict is so stripped down and conventional, giving Idiotsitter plenty of room to play with expectations.
- Next week is the season finale.
- “Let’s be proactive, like Adam Levine’s facewash.”
- “You know what they say about big houses. Big clit.”
- “Juno what movie?” The Diablo Cody digs are fantastic.
- “That was the plot to Home Alone.”
- “I think you should hire a new chef.” “It’s pronounced New Chet.”
- I’m not sure if Daryl in the dreadlock wig is an intentional homage to James Franco in Spring Breakers, but I choose to believe it is.
- “My friends Chainsaw and Dynamite are coming, and they’re bringing a Chainsaw and some dynamite.”