Photo: Fox

Are the members of the Bureau Underground supposed to be a bunch of goddamn morons?

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I don’t mean that in any rhetorical sense, either; it’s a real question, and one that Ghosted has struggled with ever since its mid-season reboot erased almost every hint of the supernatural from the show’s universe, swapping out real paranormal incidents for vague conspiracies and a lot of intra-office bickering. As it happens, I have a fondness for intra-office bickering—especially when it’s being delivered by a supporting cast as good as the one Ghosted pulled together for these last six episodes—but if all the disrespect and ennui of the last two months was supposed to pay off in the moment when Max’s future self tells him he really was right about all his theories and belief in the strange, it’s viciously undercut by the fact that we’ve literally already seen this guy fight ghosts, zombie kids, and an alien with a detachable head. (Remember that, from the pilot? Were we ever so young?)

More disrespect than usual this week, in fact, as the whole Bureau Underground gets called out on a field trip to investigate a plane that managed to teleport itself across a big chunk of America, and end up getting sent immediately to the weird kids’ table by the cool bullies of the FBI and FAA (Maria Thayer and the always-welcome Brian Huskey). One of the episode’s better visual jokes comes early on, when we first see the team outfitted in Barry’s answer to the other organization’s cool-ass windbreakers: a bunch of misprinted powder blue vests that makes them look, in Annie’s words, like “a greeter from Best Buy.”

Most of the episode is spent on the P.U. (sorry, B.U.) proceeding to humiliate themselves under the scrutiny of others, as they lose their keys in the plane’s engines, ask dopey questions of its hospitalized pilot, and forget to bring their own lunches from home. (LaFrey, wonderfully bitter as always, pins that last one on Merv). It’s an intensifying of the same regular dismissal they’ve been facing ever since their new boss showed his professionally disinterested face back in “The Wire”, and it’s not as funny as the episode seems to think. Especially since, half the time, it seems like the FAA’s assessment of the Bureau as useless, potentially dangerous goofballs is pretty much spot-on.

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Despite that, though, the team does manage to come up with a credible theory—credible by B.U. standards, anyway—for the plane’s disappearance, defying Merv’s shushing to explain to presidential adviser Katzenberg (Hey It’s That Guy Brian Howe) that the plane briefly hopped 10 or so years into the future, where it was able to pick up a bunch of ash from a soon-to-be-active volcano, and get a call from an airport that hasn’t yet been built. For a second, it even looks like a moment of potential triumph, at least until Max starts “boop”-ing to explain his theory of a triangular conception of-space time. Max’s real win here, though, is not that he convinces Katzenberg—he doesn’t, although Future-Max suggests he might have planted some ugly seeds in the government official’s head—but the fact that Leroy is standing right next to him, confidently booping along.

Ghosted’s been so busy bulking up its ensemble in the last few weeks, it’s been easy to lose sight of why this show once thought it could sell an entire series solely on the basis of Craig Robinson and Adam Scott’s strengths. But there’s an understated beauty to the way Leroy—always the naysayer—finally embraces his role as Team Dad this week, letting just enough frustration leak through to make it clear that he hasn’t become a true believer; he just wants to support his team, and his friend, as they try to do their ridiculous jobs. Scott spends the episode further on the comedic side of the equation, but he gets to exude similar warmth as Future Max, letting his younger self know it’s all going to be okay (even as Scott gets a simultaneously hilarious shock-take when Present Max realizes he’s already fucked up his time clone’s dire warning). These two have always been the comedic core of this entire collection of nonsense; the show’s gotten a lot better over the last few weeks at making it clear that they’re also its surprisingly warm heart.

Of course, we hit that note of surprise emotional success just in time to have it all wiped away; tonight’s episode was—I believe—the final episode of the Paul Lieberstein run of Ghosted, and next week’s will be the finale shot by Tom Gormican’s team back before the series was retooled. I expect it to feel extremely strange as a consequence, probably with a bunch of references to the missing agent from the pilot, and maybe even some classic “Max’s wife” drama. Even so, I’m happy that this version of the show, which I eventually found far more satisfying, on both a personal and a critical level, than the earlier stuff, got a nice send-off this week. Bye, Ghosted 2.0: You were a weird office comedy about paranormal investigators—and possible goddamn morons—who never actually investigated any paranormal shit. But you did give me a bunch of time with characters I came to genuinely like, and that’s worth something, even if it’s not worth keeping on the air.

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Stray observations

  • Also a heartfelt farewell to the Ghosted P.R. team, who appear to have officially abandoned the series. Enjoy your stock photo, folks!
  • Tonight’s episode was written by Andy “Bird” Blitz, who gets some great physical comedy as he tries to gather “leftover food” (i.e. garbage) from the FAA bullies.
  • Best physical comedy moment of the night goes to Yimmy Yin’s Sasha, though, who dons a makeshift ghost costume and then runs smack into a pole. What can I say? I’m easy.
  • The entire drunken misery fest was full of great little moments, as the team (led by Leroy) takes their mocking Ghostbusters nickname and owns it.
  • Merv misses the first half of the episode because he’s busy with a bike club, or, in LaFrey’s words, “terrorizing the countryside with his silhouette.”
  • Ava gets all the best snark this week, actually, informing a waiter they’ll need a “case of red and a side of a case of white,” then convincing the rest of the team to get drunk off their asses by quoting AA dogma.
  • Whole lot of ’shipper fuel, too: Obviously, there’s the Annie-Leroy stuff—demonstrating that Annie’s flirts are a whole lot more believable when she’s actually into someone—but also Barry and Linda (Kate Berlant, who also gets in a nice bit of soft-shoe) getting extremely middle school with each other.
  • Speaking of Barry: His keychains apparently peg him as a “single middle-aged woman who’s never traveled outside the country.” Also, he cheerfully describes the purpose of a ladder: “When you climb it, makes you higher.” 
  • This week’s Bird monologue: Dispelling myths about which halves of most mermaids are the pretty lady part.
  • Some good stuff from drunk Merv, too, as he reveals that he “once hid under a pile of bodies in the Mekong Delta from a militia of nine-year-olds” before reaffirming his decision to fire Max and Leroy over their decision to speak up at the meeting.
  • Despite Future Max’s warnings, Katzenberg doesn’t seem that ominous; he’s mostly just looking for an assistant who won’t fart in the helicopter. Aren’t we all?
  • Commercial complaints: That Coke commercial where they sing about twins sharing DNA makes me want to be extra cautious about wiping off the rim every time I share a Coke with someone. And I have no idea why HP is advertising a laptop’s fingerprint security feature by showing a little kid cheerfully circumventing it.
  • In the end, though, Max’s future self teaches us the most important lesson of all: What to say to your past self if you walk up to them while they’re peeing. “Hey, nice penis!” indeed.

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