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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

NTSF: SD: SUV::: “Burn After Killing”

Illustration for article titled NTSF: SD: SUV::: “Burn After Killing”
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Now this is the kind of episode I expect Paul Scheer to write. An extended James Bond parody, commentary on Kove as a terrible parent—and oblique references to her on-again-off-again marriage to Trent—a side plot involving Martin Starr as the worst cross-dressing nanny possible, and character development for Daisy. This was the first episode of the new NTSF season by production order, and though shifting the Comic-Con-centric episode to the front to take advantage of scheduling makes sense, this is a much better introduction to the new dynamic and a funnier direct parody of a more current film.

The Skyfall influence lasts throughout the episode, starting as Trent chases a man who stole Kove’s little black book through San Diego’s Little Germany neighborhood while Alphonse watches from above with his sniper scope, unable to find a clear shot. Kove does everything Judi Dench would do—and makes a ton of violent Friends references while following that film’s initial action sequence beats—and Trent ends up dead. And the black book is gone, letting all of Kove’s precious information about “who’s cool and who’s a backstabbing bitch” out into the world for all to see.

That leads directly into the NTSF credits sequence in a send-up of Adele’s “Skyfall” song, and a play on the scene when MI6’s computers all get hacked—first with a fake message created by Daisy, then for real. Just as I was getting fed up with Daisy’s lack of definition as a character, this episode takes care of my misgivings, as she tries to establish herself as Gadget Girl with little success. She’s looking for definition in the workplace as Sam tries to fill the hole Trent left behind on the team—though he can’t pull off the zinger/sunglasses combo, since his thing is incredibly awkward hugs.

Kove gets kidnapped, revealing the villain after the little black book: her only daughter, Gail, played by Alia Shawkat. Kove remains completely undeterred by the development, since she walked out on her daughter moments after giving birth to a crying baby girl because of all that whining. Kate Mulgrew is really having a moment right now. She’s great on Orange Is The New Black, her hair color makes Kove so much more of a live wire, and she plays the indignant action protagonist just as well as Paul Scheer’s Trent.

Even when splitting off to show a Mrs. Doubtfire-meets-Spy Kids interlude as Kove’s sons (presumably fathered by Trent) have their go-bags ready and dismantle Sam as they flee their house, this episode keeps returning to little Skyfall touches. Trent isn’t dead, he’s just hiding out for a short time as a simple Pick-A-Puffin worker at the mall, until he learns of Kove’s kidnapping. Meanwhile, Shawkat plays the most overbearing kidnapper/estranged daughter as Kove completely rejects her.

Before saving Kove, the Daisy development and Scheer’s jackass character combine into the best moment of the episode: Trent inventing a terrible nickname, then trading it for Daisy’s while she mumbles in protest. What got me hooked on Childrens Hospital was making fun of a tired genre (hospital dramas of the Grey’s Anatomy ilk) while building a complex mythology. NTSF hasn’t focused on any kind of lasting development in the way the characters interact or what their histories mean on the show. They just exist as pieces to plug into various tropes to play around with at high speed for 12 minutes. When a quarter-hour show lacks jokes that land, it feels so much emptier because no time has been invested in creating compelling story beats—they’re directly ripped from well-known action plots. But more often than not NTSF lands enough jokes to keep the episode hurrying along at a furious pace, and when it manages to boil down a film like Skyfall to fit in the San Diego setting, it's a wonderful exercise in sustaining laughter without any dips.


Stray observations:

  • NTSF continues to be hilarious with naming fake places. Everyone should avoid Jason Mraz Indoor Mall.
  • The post-credits fake trailer tag returns! Martin Starr getting hit in the nuts a bunch of times with some faux-promo voiceover about dressing as a woman. Classic.
  • All of Daisy’s gadget ideas involve putting bullets into office supplies or shooting staples like a gun.
  • I want virtual tabletop ping-pong technology to be real.
  • “At this point, you know it’s Gail. You’re just messing with me.”