“The Slide” boasts all the best things about Lodge 49: bonding time for Liz and Dud (which naturally goes sideways), bonding time for Dud and Ernie (I know it’s only been two episodes, but I’m so glad to see them hanging out again!), some vulnerability from Scott, some commentary about the vultures who circle businesses that are in decline, and of course, moments that make you wonder what’s real. Oh, and what are truly some of the most delightful bits of dialogue that can be found anywhere in pop culture, from Dud’s implementation of the “lemon standard” at the lodge to his description of his altercation with Booie: “He attacked me with violence.”
It’s a near-perfect hour of television, made all the more so by Sonya Cassidy’s dependably layered performance. When “The Slide” begins, Liz isn’t interested in rocking the boat—or climbing the corporate ladder or otherwise doing anything but maintaining. As the premiere demonstrated, Liz thinks of herself as a zero at the moment, which isn’t ideal but at least she’s not in the red/negative. She doesn’t have the same faith that Dud has in, well, just about anything, which is why she’s currently hooking up with an ex with a top knot and a fiancée. But try as she might to hide it, there’s still a fire in Liz—we see it flare up throughout “The Slide,” most notably when someone comes for her family.
Free of crushing debt and Dud’s denial about the death of their father, Liz has more room to just be this season. Her preservation instincts remain somewhat intact, as she takes on a temp job with Dr. Kimbrough (a perfectly weaselly Bronson Pinchot). But it’s not long before that situation goes belly-up and Liz is in a luxury automobile and running up the good doctor’s (of accounting) credit card bill. Just as the death of their father left Dud unmoored last season, Liz finds herself thinking about their late mother, whom we hardly know at this point, aside from the fact that there’s a traffic report about her death. After seeing her pop up in an old video, Liz dreams of her mother at the car wash, which actually provides a very trippy background for that kind of vision.
You can see the family resemblance between Liz and “Mom Dudley,” as Elise DuQuette’s role is currently listed on IMDb—the serene smile on Mom’s face is more Dud than Liz, but the dark hair and green eyes are familiar. We know even less about Liz and Dud’s mom than we do their dad, though I get the feeling that’s going to change soon, if Liz’s daydreams are any indication. And if Dud behaved erratically after losing their dad*, well... Liz’s resurgent grief (we’ll call it that for now) comes with a lot of anger—some of it relatable, some of it just self-destructive.
But it’s hard to begrudge Liz her glory as she swoops in to pick up Dud after his beatdown by Booie, then rams Booie’s giant truck with her former boss’ sedan. That awful family deserves to be exiled from the strip mall they look down upon, and it’s immensely gratifying to see both Dud and Liz (and Herman and really everyone in that lot) get a win. It doesn’t matter that it’s not likely to last, that it won’t offset Dud’s inability to run a for-profit business, or that the gentrifiers will likely be replaced by some other speculators. As Liz stands tall atop Booie’s truck, the huskiness of her voice and gleam in her eyes remind me of her victorious stance in **“Sunday,” when she toppled all of her fellow Shamroxx workers during a parking-lot joust tournament. It proves that, despite all her protests at the top of the episode, Liz isn’t going to go down that chute quietly.
The return of Liz’s fighting spirit is as great a boon for Dud as the recovery of his dad’s watch or his patched-up friendship with Ernie. Brent Jennings and Wyatt Russell are one of TV’s most endearing duos, and watching them pick up where they left off is one of the many joys of “The Slide.” Dud has become just as engrossed in the Operation Oslo audiobook as his mentor, and he also gets caught up in Ernie’s positive attitude adjustment. Though he bristled at Bobby’s (I think that was the name of Liz’s friend with benefits) bromides—or should I say “brah-mides”—Dud is all in for chanting along with Ernie that “life is good.” He isn’t able to make much use of Ernie’s “go there to be there” sales advice; that is, Dud is able to poach business, but he’s ultimately operating in the red. He can’t pay for drinks at the lodge or much of anything else, because he’s currently running a for-spite business.
Maybe that’s too harsh, but it’s hard not to think that Dud was channeling some of Liz’s causticness in the same episode where she followed his example by throwing caution to the wind. Like brother, like sister and all that. But Dud hasn’t given himself over to bitterness, either; as he tells Liz about midway through the episode, “That feeling of being together with the people you love. That’s real. That’s worth chasing.” That sense of community probably isn’t the grail Dud is now in search of, but it’s just as worthy a prospect.
- “The Slide” was written by Jim Gavin and directed by Jake Schreier.
- If you want an idea of how cavernous the lodge is, check out the interview with Jim Gavin and Peter Ocko that’s nestled in tonight’s TV listings.
- Blaise wore a hair shirt at the seminary of his own volition, which is how he learned that “pain isn’t my thing at all.”
- I didn’t realize hair shirts could be worn over genitals, so there’s yet another thing I’ve learned from this show.
- *Maybe “erratic” isn’t the right word here, since nothing about Dud is commonplace or straightforward. But what is clear is that he took some serious gambles (on Liz’s dime) last season as he tried to make sense of Bill’s death.
- **I like “Sunday” a lot more upon third rewatch, but that goes for just about everything about this show.
- I’m still not sure what to make of Connie’s time at Lodge 1. Right now, those trips across the Atlantic feel like replacements for the drop-ins with Jocelyn (who is now Stateside)—a way to keep London in the picture. Her growing friendship with Clara feels of a piece with Dud and Ernie’s mentee-mentor relationship, but Connie’s not nearly so lost as Dud was. Or is she?
- Will Dud tell his “law provider” about the accident?
- Blaise’s lines were a treat, and I love the “we’re on a lemon standard now,” but dang if Scott’s position on fate didn’t hit me where I live: “I don’t believe in fate. It just feels like avoiding responsibility.”