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“Mother’s Day” serves as a real test for Idiotsitter. Following their intimate sleepover and fumigation-induced club hallucinations last week, this episode switches gears drastically, tearing Billie and Gene apart from each other for the first time all season. “Mother’s Day” separates Billie and Gene into their own stories that are loosely connected thematically but otherwise disparate. Billie escapes the house and attempts to embrace the life she encounters outside of it. As it turns out, Billie and Gene are surprisingly strong on their own, and Charlotte Newhouse and Jillian Bell can easily support their own storylines. “Mother’s Day” develops both characters in interesting and unexpected ways. The show is definitely at its best when their complicated relationship is at the center, but “Mother’s Day” surprises by keeping things afloat even as they’re apart.

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“Mother’s Day” reunites Gene with her mom, a transgender man named Dan who used to be married to Kent before he transitioned. Meanwhile, Billie goes on a blind date set up by her mom with a man named Pony. Both Billie and Gene are pushed outside of their comfort zones. Gene immediately becomes vulnerable in the presence of Dan, wanting to form a relationship with him, but going about it in her usual Gene way. Billie’s blind date immediately seems like it’s going to be a disaster, only to then lead to a real connection, only to then take another sudden turn for disaster. Gene shows a softer and sadder side in “Mother’s Day,” and Billie shows a wilder one. It isn’t exactly a role reversal in the way that “Funeral” is, but rather just serves to give both characters more depth, grounding them in very real emotions.

My guess is this episode will be a divisive one. It’s far from being the funniest installment of the series (that title probably belongs to “Funeral”). In fact, a lot of the humor is more subtle than the show usually is, relying significantly on Gene’s weird speech patterns to sell most of the comedy. There’s definitely less of an emphasis on physical humor, although Tanzy and Dan do get into a fight, making me wonder if every single episode of Idiotsitter will include some form of physical altercation. It’s a pretty slow and simple episode, one that might be easy to overlook. But it’s also one of the better written episodes of Idiotsitter. Especially because of its very conventional premise of a dysfunctional duo, Idiotsitter has struggled in its first season to really set itself apart. But “Mother’s Day” really feels like an episode that only Idiotsitter could pull off. It’s weird in a way that doesn’t feel forced or too over-the-top. But the weirdest part is how many earnest moments there are in the episode. I’ve said it before, but Idiotsitter is, oddly, a sweet show—a sweet show that somehow already has quite the body count, but a sweet show nonetheless.

All of the Gene and Dan bonding moments are really quite nice. Bell keeps the laughs coming with that aforementioned off-kilter speech pattern. Her reading of almost every line elevates it into something unexpected and funny, a talent she shares with Broad City’s Ilana Glazer. Of course, even in its most touching moments, Idiotsitter never loses its screwball voice. Gene gives Dan a tour of her room, which includes an explanation of her toy dinosaur (she likes to imagine it’s shouting “LANGUAGE!” at her whenever she swears) and a stop at her beanbag chairs (“These are my beanbag chairs. I like to sit in them”). Gene and Dan devolve into a fake talk show bit, and it becomes very clear that the two have a similar sense of humor. Again, it’s sweet. But it’s sweet with a kick to it, undercutting the corny factor while still acknowledging that its characters are real people with real emotions. And there’s specificity to the humor. Dan and Gene bond over their shared love of Vanderpump Rules throughout the episode (when Gene asks him what his favorite show is, he replies swiftly: “Transparent and Vanderpump Rules,” making Dan instantly my favorite character because same). It’s random and yet it also makes sense, giving specific and funny details to the connection between Gene and Dan.

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Billie’s story is, admittedly, a little less effective, but it does manage to surprise in a few ways. The second purse-snatching, nipple-pierced Pony shows up, it looks like Billie is just headed for a classic bad date. Pony seems to embody everything Billie hates, but then he reveals he read The Decameron, and things shift slightly. Billie opens herself up to the idea of forming a real connection with Pony. She agrees to go back with him to his grungy biker camp, excitedly takes notes about this new subculture she knows nothing about. Like Gene, she steps into a new world, but she still does it on her own terms, and even though her actions are unexpected, they don’t go against what we know about Billie. She’s willing to take risks in this instance, but only because she’s thinking about it as a learning experience. And then Pony dies by driving into a bonfire at full speed, and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Idiotsitter doesn’t romanticize anything. After all, Billie’s date literally goes up in flames, and Gene at one point starts screaming about how she hates her life and wants to kill herself. These are two deeply lonely characters, and they can’t quite seem to figure out how to be happy. But at the same time, even in its dark moments, Idiotsitter isn’t wholly cynical. The show works because it doesn’t dismiss its characters’ feelings. It lets them be these sad, lonely people without being sardonic about it. And even though “Mother’s Day” sacrifices the Billie-Gene dynamic by separating them, it was almost necessary to let these characters grow a bit on their own. In the final scene, they somberly reflect on their emotionally tumultuous days over glasses of milk, and it’s funny, but it’s touching, too. Idiotsitter is one weirdo show. But it’s able to find the right balance between the wacky and the heartfelt.

Stray observations

  • “Sunburn in rectum: possible?”
  • “I’m on Facebook now and LinkedIn if you’d like a more professional and somewhat useless connection.”
  • Dan and Kent had a terrier mix named Teriyaki.
  • “Salmon, Mama Mia!, English, lick lick lick lick my pussy.” Never change, Billie. Never change.
  • “This is like Vanderpump Rules-type shit.” I can’t stress enough how much I love the Pump Rules shoutouts in this episode.
  • “How was your date?” “Um, he died.”

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