The most effective humor in “Viva La Joy” is very specific. In broad strokes, Idiotsitter references political movements of the 1960s, which leads to a few solid visual gags and one excellent sequence starring Gene and Joy as leaders of la revolución. But the jokes that feel the most true to Idiotsitter’s voice are the ones centered on Shark Tank. All the characters, minus Joy, seem to be very familiar with the language and structure of Shark Tank, and the episode assumes the viewer will, too. But even if you somehow have never seen an episode of Shark Tank (fix that ASAP), the episode makes the parody scene at the end, when Joy is receiving her offers, detailed and stylized enough so that you know what’s happening. The writers perfectly map Shark Tank’s vibe and language onto Joy, Kent’s dinner guests, and the issue of Joy’s raise. Idiotsitter commits fully to the bit, and it works. “Viva La Joy” is perhaps the strangest episode Idiotsitter has tackled yet, but it also seems the most representative of what the show wants to be.

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The more Idiotsitter commits to bending reality, the more its world comes to life. This week, Billie’s lessons about the 1960s leak into the episode’s story in a more overt way than we’ve seen in past episodes. Hoping to teach Gene about equality, Billie pushes Joy to ask for a raise. And it really is about the lesson and not because she cares about Joy. Billie might think of herself as some champion of justice, but it’s very clear from the way she asks the new maid Hope to quit and then belittles what she does that Billie can be a very ignorant person. She might not be throwing peaches on the ground, but she does value her abilities to teach Gene a real lesson about equality over the actual feelings and well beings of both Joy and Hope. Joy hasn’t had much to do throughout the season, but I love that she has hated Billie since the beginning. As little time as we’ve spent with her, Joy definitely feels like a real character. She doesn’t really embody stereotypes, and she has had a very clear and defined relationship with Billie and Gene since the beginning: She does not care for either of them. “Viva La Joy” plays with that dynamic, especially as it pertains to Billie, who tries to speak for Joy. “Why don’t you let Joy tell you what Joy wants?” she says, emerging from the shadows of Gene’s revolution bunker. Even in the heightened world of Gene’s revolución, Joy keeps it real.

It’s becoming very clear that any time Billie enters some sort of state of delirium—whether it’s brought on by a crush, toxic fumes, or the sheer shock of having blood dumped on her head—the results will be magical. Charlotte Newhouse shines when she gets to turn up Billie’s more spazzy tendencies. In “Viva La Joy,” a hunger strike (or “hunger stroke,” if you’re Gene) starts to make Billie crazy, and she gradually makes less and less sense over the course of the episode, building to the moment when she’s eating an entire turkey with her hands and asking for more…even though she also fully believed there was a bomb in that turkey. Newhouse portrays that gradual loss of sanity so well, and it leads to some of Billie’s funniest moments yet.

The set-up for “Viva La Joy” is so simple, but it works to the show’s advantage, allowing Billie and Gene to work together but still clash because of their polarized personalities. Billie and Gene both want to get Joy back, but they both have their own preferred tactics, with Billie favoring a nonviolent hunger strike and Gene favoring an option that allows her to continue eating thousands of calories a day. Gene sneaking food at every opportunity—including pocket pizza—becomes an excellent running gag. And the way both the hippie protest and the underground revolution get pushed to such over-the-top extremes plays to Idiotsitter’s strengths. Idiotsitter can sometimes feel held back by its predictable premise, but the show breaks free of the boxes Billie and Gene are confined to by not making the conflict between them the sole focus of “Viva La Joy.” They have a common enemy this time around, and because they’re working together—even if they’re not all that good at it—Idiotsitter feels like it might be starting to grow beyond its premise.

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Stray observations

  • “It strikes me like lightning—as in never, which is how much I’m gonna eat and this one’s gonna eat until Joy gets back in here.” While there are sometimes bigger-picture writing issues, the writing of individual lines on Idiotsitter is often really, really great. I love when it’s not exactly clear where Gene is going with something and how she takes a bunch of linguistic twists and turns on her way to making a point, and this line is a perfect example of that.
  • Billie and Gene have a little side conversation about Forrest Gump that is an understated gem of the episode.
  • “Do you know why a shark has no memory?” “Bad childhood?”
  • The password is pa55word (but the S’s are 5’s).
  • I’d love to see Idiotsitter parody more reality television.

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