For most of “The Premonition,” I struggled with a feeling new to my Ghosted reviewing experience: The sense that I wasn’t getting enough Adam Scott or Craig Robinson, for once. Say what you like about the previous iteration of the series, but it was an ever-reliable vehicle for the chemistry between its two stars, one that felt sidelined tonight as the series put an increased focus on the rest of its hastily assembled ensemble.
Sure, Max and Leroy drive the central conflict of tonight’s episode, with Max in the unfamiliar position of “voice of sanity” after Leroy’s psychic friend from his old LAPD days tells the rest of the Bureau Underground that one of them is going to die on their way home that night. Said declaration—relayed by hesitant psychic fangirl Annie—sets off a rising wave of paranoia among the drones, one that pushes Max and Leroy improbably into the background, with mixed results.
On the one hand, this is easily Ally Walker’s best episode of the entire series; making LaFrey an angry subordinate to Kevin Dunn’s sarcastic milquetoast Merv does wonders for her ability to unleash a very enjoyable strain of bitter weirdness. She ends up scoring two of the best moments of the night, in fact, including a rambling monologue about “food families” that ends with her throwing up on a minor automotive entrepreneur, and a sudden, extremely delightful digression into Harry Truman’s cat and the origin story for the Bureau itself. The latter is maybe the best bit of world-building that Ghosted has ever done, revealing that the entire organization exists because the FBI didn’t want to deal with tracking down Truman’s supposed invisible cat. That’s funny enough on the surface, but LaFrey’s mixture of defensiveness and annoyance when Merv brings up the story—something she’s clearly been mocked for throughout the entirety of her career—is an added delight. Walker has an excellent frustrated deadpan, and god bless the show for finding a way to use it, finally.
And it’s not like the rest of the office staff aren’t perfectly funny, either; Bird shrugs off his expected death by reaffirming his belief in reincarnation, while someone else—grant me some grace with names, please, since the series just dropped like nine new characters on our heads—rationalizes that he can just send his twin brother to his daughter’s birthday party, since she already likes “Daddy Goodmood” more. This is all very funny stuff—although I quibble with the way it makes Barry just one among weirdos, rather than the chief oddball of the BU—and the rising tension as more and more people brave the ride home gives the episode a nice structure. (The sequence where they all watch Merv drive home through an increasingly awful series of distracted driving behaviors is a definite highlight.)
And yet, this is the first time that the new trapped-in-the-office structure of the series has felt like it was swallowing Max and Leroy up, instead of working to support them. It’s not until everyone else bails—terrified that other people getting home safe raises their own odds of dying—that we get to spend some real time with the two of them. And while it’s not quite enough for my tastes—I’ve been spoiled on the show’s glut of Robinson-Scott improv—the last few scenes between them do have a variety of lovely payoffs. Between Max defiantly dancing under a ladder—superstitions be damned!—Leroy admitting that he believes in crystals (but only “the ones that work”), and Max’s realization that Leroy’s keeping him from leaving because he wants to keep his partner safe, it’s a pretty perfect blend of emotion and laughs. Like so much of these last few episodes, it feels “real” in a way old Ghosted never did, a blend of comedy and feelings that makes the characters function as more than just mouthpieces for another funny riff.
And here’s where I have to make a somewhat embarrassing confession: Due to a DVR mishap, I missed the two last minutes of this episode, which means I don’t know who, if anyone, died in the wake of Celeste The Psychic’s prediction. (Credit to the episode, and the way the show has filled in its new talent over the last three episodes, that I actually kind of care who it might be.) I’ll update the review tomorrow morning, once the episode is available online, but for now, I’m actually pretty happy to leave off on the weirdly sweet moment where Max apologizes to Leroy for “roughing him up.” That emphasis on their relatioship is welcome, after an episode that seemed carelessly determined to push them into the background in favor of fleshing out the show’s new meat.
Update: Well, see, now I just feel silly, since we still don’t know if anybody died, but at least we got one more sweet Max and Leroy scene. I was legitimately surprised by Leroy’s willingess to have Max over to his place, and the guessing game about what it looks like (“Leather couch?” “Ding!” “Not much else.” “Ding!”) Robinson plays soft here in a way we haven’t seen him do on this show, and it’s surprisingly nice. Also: Evil food company, oooOOOOoooh!
- “The guy who believes in everything but doesn’t believe in this” is such a staple of the type of shows Ghosted is parodying; specifically, this episode’s whole vibe is very X-Files with Mulder, whenever a religious case came up.
- Leroy’s primary regret: He never made his own pizza dough.
- Barry agrees with Max that Celeste isn’t a wizard. “But might she be a witch?”
- I don’t get to say this very often, but some great ladder-work from Craig Robinson, as he disdainfully puts it away after Max’s anti-superstition display.
- “Look out for a frog with my personality.” “Weird frog with a beard, got it!”
- Max’s one-star Uber rating is such a nice little throwaway detail. Sometimes he needs a hand to hold!
- Immortalize this version of Ghosted for this if nothing else: The Max-Annie flirtation tonight didn’t make me cringe. “That was a long hug.”
- Some great physical acting from Kevin Dunn during the “Merv is a terrible driver” sequence. The Tide Pen was an unexpected but excellent heightening of the premise.
- Leroy’s cross is an affirmation in his belief in god, but “it also keeps the vampires away.”
- A lot of Leroy’s best lines live mostly in Robinson’s reads, but his “Maybe you’ve never been to the supply closet!” is a real A+.
- “What’s President Truman going to do with a dead cat?”