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Lodge 49 reminds us how ludicrous—but still meaningful—our reality is

Daniel Stewart Sherman
Photo: Jackson Lee Davis (AMC)
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We’re like brothers now, two old knights fulfilling a promise to a fallen king.

There is perhaps nothing that brings us back down to Earth so quickly as the mere mention of money. Have you found the perfect apartment that’s close to transportation and on an upper floor? Well, here’s what it costs to rent. Did you land your dream job? Hope your own sense of fulfillment is worth its weight in gold, because the salary (assuming it’s even a staff job!) isn’t. It is also, as I’m sure you’re probably already aware, a mostly bullshit concept. Like Freddy Krueger or Tinkerbell, its existence is predicated on belief—we ascribe value to the gold standard and coins and paper bills in the same way we do the kids’ drawings we hang on our refrigerators, except that you could never pay for your mortgage with that family portrait made of pasta and glitter. Money is both this incredibly banal thing and also a fearsome dragon, at once inextricable from our lives yet unmentionable (among “polite” circles, anyway). And it’s one of several concepts we’ve come to accept as part of our everyday existence that Lodge 49 cheerily rejects.

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It’s a slippery slope, to question which intangible concepts are worth believing in and which aren’t—which established practices can or should be dismantled. But when you’re Ernie or Connie or Gil (Jimmy Gonzales) and life hasn’t worked out the way it was supposed to after putting in decades at a company, you’re already on unstable footing. So why not ask these things aloud, especially when surrounded by your fellow Lynx? Why not, as Dud so frequently does, wonder if there’s another way? Why not replace the lodge’s tab system with a lemon standard? We know part of the reason why so few people take that risk even within the unmoored world of Lodge 49 is because no one wants to be the lone person out on that limb, babbling about cryptocurrencies being the way of the future. And yet, a sense of community is one of the few constants on this show: No one is ever really on their own, not even newcomer El Confidente, who successfully roped Ernie into a trip to Comala, Mexico. Blaise’s foray into alchemy has had an assistant/observer in Dud, and even Liz has been navigating the world of Higher Steaks with her old co-workers, as well as her boss Jeremy (Daniel Stewart Sherman). There is no perhaps no better place to dream of a better world than in the SoCal setting of Lodge 49.

But to build a new world, we have to tear the old one down, or at least put it through some extensive renovations. “DisOrientation” delves into several capitalist schemes we’ve bought into—including multi-level marketing (making it a perfect companion to this week’s double dose of On Becoming A God In Central Florida), virtually all currency, Bitcoin, and employers who promise to treat you like family—underscoring just how ridiculous and/or disingenuous they are. Janet Price, who once tried to take Liz under her wing, has rebranded herself as, well, Liz, and is now trying to mold a whole new batch of starry-eyed/eyes-glazed-over recruits into her/Liz’s image. I got a real “The Van Buren Boys” vibe from Janet stealing Liz’s anecdote—and she does share J. Peterman’s initials, assuming he didn’t buy those from someone. Liz sees through the latest iteration of Omni nonsense, but doesn’t realize Lenore’s (Bertila Damas) sudden chumminess was a ploy to sell her and Dud three cases of Fydro, despite the fact that Lenore was so clearly “on” from the moment they got there. (I have to pause here to note that the hors d’oeuvre portion of that dinner was easily one of the funniest moments of the series—I must have rewatched Dud take that ranch dressing “bullet” for Liz about 20 times.)

This notion, that we give power to words and ideas, has been a part of Lodge 49 from the beginning—I know a lot of people who see it as a show about being a writer (hardly surprising, given who’s at the helm). No one embodies it quite like Dud, who latches on to rich mythology with the same zeal as L. Marvin Metz’s audiobooks or a secondhand motto. “DisOrientation” rekindles his faith in Wallace Smith, Jackie Loomis, and Harwood Fritz Merrill’s work while also confirming what some of you already surmised about Daphne—turns out she’s no “law provider,” but one of Avery’s accomplices. It looks like she succeeds in winning Dud over to their cause, but not before Mary Elizabeth Ellis and Wyatt Russell have a circuitous discussion about what forms of currency have real value that left me near tears. Dud’s belief in his fellow Lynx never waned, but this new course of action (if driving to Mexico to search for scrolls can be called that) reinvigorates into him, even as Scott insists on reading off the names of the dead all night. El Confidente showing up at episode’s end with the same plan must mean that we’re going to get even more hilarious road trip scenes.

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“DisOrientation” lives up to its title, pairing heady themes with outlandish visuals, like the human chess game that serves as corporate training at Higher Steaks. But as usual, Lodge 49 grounds its flights of fancy with recognizable human emotions, like Liz being motivated by her concerns for her own future and her resurfaced feelings about her mom to seek out Lenore even after the food fight. As long as myths are being dispelled, she might as well find out what her father really thought about her.

Stray observations

  • “Sunday” and Animal Kingdom scribe Bradley Paul wrote “DisOrientation,” which was directed by Michael Trim of Weeds and Parks And Recreation.
  • “Society’s not going to collapse. You still have to go to college.” I really hope we see more of Paul and Alice Ba this season.
  • “You are going to die at that desk. You, too, Speedy.” “Poor Speedy.”
  • Bobby saying that Beautiful Jeff didn’t kill Speedy with his trolling is true, but those scenes are of a piece with the larger theme of giving power to words.
  • Clearly, the painting of El Confidente and Ernie is of a moment that hasn’t happened yet, right? Because Ernie will don a mariachi outfit at some point this season.
  • Sonya Cassidy handles Liz’s inner turmoil so well (no surprise there), but Linda Emond is the episode MVP. There was no moment as resonant tonight as when Connie describes this past version of herself—who was her most actualized, most alive self—as “this stranger I’ll never meet.”
  • Seriously, if you aren’t already watching On Becoming A God In Central Florida, get on it. I can think of no better companion piece to Lodge 49.
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