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Moonbase 8 goes into "Quarantine" in its funniest episode yet

Illustration for article titled iMoonbase 8/i goes into Quarantine in its funniest episode yet
Photo: A24/Showtime
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Note: All six episodes of Moonbase 8 are currently on-demand for Showtime subscribers, but we’ll be sharing our reviews on a weekly basis following each episode’s Sunday night airing. If you’re interested in a full season review of the series, Danette Chavez has you covered.

Moonbase 8's timeliest episode to date is also its funniest and most resonant. By isolating our three would-be spacemen, “Quarantine,” in which a flu-like disease ravages the base, reframes our heroes in ways that highlight just how far the moon—and the restorative power it contains—really is from these guys. Skip (Fred Armisen), swept up in a fever dream, confronts the fear that his cohorts are bringing him down. Rook (Tim Heidecker) self-sabotages his happy home life by making a pass at new recruit Alisha (Diandra Lyle). And Cap (John C. Reilly), unmoored from his leadership position by a hacking cough, can’t escape the specters of his past failures, even in the middle of the desert. At every step, their collective ineffectuality can’t be ignored.

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Alisha, on the other hand, is a model of professionalism. Though brought on to complete their “psychological impact study,” it’s her that demands a coughing Cap quarantine himself. The mission, after all, fails if they all get sick. She also bosses around Skip, spawning a crisis of confidence that’s only exacerbated by his own struggles with the sickness. Cap, not wanting to quarantine with Skip in fear of creating a “super bug,” builds a “sweat lodge” in the desert, leaving Skip alone to argue with fever-induced angel and devil versions of himself that end up mostly on the same page: He’ll never get to the moon with these guys. His tenderness is a liability.

After episodes focusing on Cap and Rook, it was enjoyable to peel back Skip’s brain and see what, exactly, is holding back who’s clearly the smartest of the bunch. It also offered Armisen a chance to go broad. “Man to man: You’re an idiot,” says a smoking, sneering Evil Skip, who relishes in the memory of Mrs. Lazar slapping him in the head in second grade. Simple, effective stuff.

He emerges empowered from the vision, but his refreshed confidence deflates when Alisha reveals she’s been chosen to go to the moon. Again, he’s left alone with Cap and Rook, their collective loneliness amplified. And it’s that loneliness that’s consuming Rook, who, as sad men are prone to do, mistakes a few scraps of pleasant conversation with mutual infatuation. “Sparks are flying,” he tells Cap of Alisha, torn between whether this is a message from Christ or “the devil himself tempting me to commit the ultimate sin.” But, disillusioned as he is with his marriage, he takes a misfired flare as a sign from God and makes his move, only to be rebuffed (violently).

Illustration for article titled iMoonbase 8/i goes into Quarantine in its funniest episode yet
Photo: A24/Showtime
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It’s a rush of unwelcome reality not unlike the kindly Canadians who nurse Cap back to health after he’s stung by a scorpion. Sweet as they are, they bring with them a son, Darren (Ted Parker), who’s made as much a mess of his life as Cap has of his. Factor in the deadbeat dad he encountered last week and it appears losers are drawn to Cap like flies to shit. It’s almost sad, then, when Darren and his parents wander into the base during that final scene. All Cap, Rook, and Skip want is a fresh start, but, even in the middle of nowhere, reminders of their past failures continue to surface. They’re still on Earth, no matter how much they try to pretend otherwise.


Stray Observations

  • Just a hilarious episode. There was a touch of Steve Brule in Reilly’s wet hacks, grunts, and drowsy line deliveries. Skip’s medical examination of him was probably the funniest scene of the season so far: “Why do you need that much blood?!”
  • Why, yes, that was Fred Gandy (a.k.a. The Love Boat’s Gopher) as Bob, the sweet Canadian dad.
  • Skip seems genuinely offended at Alisha calling him by his real name. He prefers Skip, Skippy, or Skipson.
  • Cap’s guide to seduction: “Well, lighting’s very important.” Rook, on the other hand, opts to ditch his crucifix and flaunt his hairless chest.
  • Look close at the psychological evaluation on the screen at the beginning of the episode for a laugh.
  • “Yeah, I mesmerized it.”
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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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