With Gene’s parents out of the way this week, Billie and Gene get to spend some much needed one-on-one time together. Seeing as the dynamic between the two characters—and really, the dynamic between Charlotte Newhouse and Jillian Bell—is the best part of the show, “Fumigation” is, for the most part, a delightful episode. It’s anchored by two of the strongest sequences of the season so far which, unsurprisingly, rely entirely on Billie and Gene. When more people are added to the equation, the episode falters a bit. It takes two premises that could have easily bolstered their own episodes (Billie and Gene have a sleepover and Billie and Gene go to a club…sort of) and smashes them together, and it leaves a lot to be desired from both.
Because let’s be real: That slumber party could have made for an outstanding bottle episode. Billie and Gene instantly bond over the fact that they were never really invited to sleepovers growing up. Moms thought Gene was too loud, and kids thought Billie was no fun. With the help of some wine coolers, Billie opens up about Deborah Denise, the girl who used to bully her and gave her the unfortunate nickname Grandma Billie. Billie’s insecurity resonates with Gene, who assures her she wouldn’t go to Deborah Denise’s sleepover even if she was paid to. It’s genuinely sweet and comes from a real place. As I’ve said so many times, Billie and Gene are best when the writing finds some common ground between them. The slumber party does so perfectly.
Even just the montage of the two doing different sleepover activities is fantastic. Billie and Gene talk about The Mask while applying face masks, play the Girl Talk board game and never have I ever. “Fumigation” pushes Billie and Gene into the closest quarters they’ve ever been in. They’re literally sharing a bed. It’s all just simple, good fun, while still maintaining some of the weirdness of both characters and the show overall. And it definitely makes sense that the situation would eventually get tense given their forced proximity. But even more so than that, the slumber party truly falls apart because of all the emotions stirred up by memories of their loner childhoods—emotions that are likely heightened by exposure to whatever the secret extermination chemicals are.
A simple game of hide and seek goes oh so wrong, and suddenly Billie and Gene are at each other’s throats again. As far as the fight goes, it’s just as funny as last week’s garbage food fight, but this time it comes from a slightly more interesting place than just competition over a dude. Gene provokes Billie in such a specific and personal way, invoking the Grandma Billie moniker. Things escalate rapidly, but it’s immediately clear that they’re projecting their insecurities onto each other. Billie isn’t fighting Gene so much as she’s fighting Deborah Denise. And on top of that, the physical comedy coupled with the movie-themed insults Billie and Gene spit out make it very funny while still coming from an emotionally real place.
And then Gene’s ankle monitor comes off. Again, it’s a great development, one that allows the duo to go out in the world for a new adventure. But it happens so late in the episode. Suddenly, it’s an entirely new episode with a new energy. A gear-switch like that in the final act is hard to pull off. In a way, the slumber party is necessarily to push Billie to the point where she would actually agree to taking Gene to the club, and the race-against-the-clock feeling of their time out on the town mirrors exactly what Gene is probably feeling. But at the same time, taking on the slumber party and the club in one episode is just too much multitasking for Idiotsitter to pull off.
Some of Idiotsitter’s best moments are its strange tangents. Billie and Gene can riff on just about anything, and magic happens. Chris Klein’s guest performance as DJ Dog (who is really just Chris Klein) feels like one of those weird little sidesteps that doesn’t have anything to do with the actual story of the episode. Unfortunately in this case, the DJ Dog stuff never really lands. There isn’t much time left in the episode by the time we get to the club/yard, so every scene should feel important or, at the very least, deliver comedy that’s strong enough to be the payoff on its own. At least Billie faces (headbutts) Deborah Denise (Laura Bell Bundy) in the club, but besides that, it does feel like the final act is so rushed and unfocused that it derails all the meaningful stuff the episode builds up to the ankle monitor coming off. “Fumigation” is almost too ambitious for its own good. In isolated chunks, it succeeds, but everything comes together haphazardly, making it seem like this should have definitely been two separate installments of Idiotsitter in order to really maximize the best parts of the story.
- “You look like a Western ghost.”
- “22 years or 22 months?”
- Newhouse’s face right after Bell throws the first pinecone is perfect.
- “Or you can just call me Drew Barrymore because I’ve never been KIIIIIISSSSED”
- The lighting in the club scenes is really great.