Dream Job” (season one, episode five; originally aired 10/17/2003)
(Available on Hulu)
This is one of those rare episodes where Mark and Jez actually pitch in to help each other, in a big way. For all the reasons you could imagine that this would not be a good idea, the show will see your dire expectations and raise them. What’s interesting is that both men reach crisis point over a workplace setback that pushes their buttons regarding women they covet. Maybe the show is saying that, even for men with very little in common, some things are universal, especially the things that initiate meltdowns. Maybe it’s saying that, boil away all the surface differences between a Mark and a Jez, and you’ll find that you’re left with two versions of basically the same asshole.
Mark starts out anxious but with something close to gleeful peeking through: He is anticipating receiving a promotion, and is troubled only by the possibility that his rival, Jeff, may get it instead. Sophie, trying to give him a pep talk, leans in and gives him a kiss, and perhaps because his career ambition is pumping up his libido, Mark responds with more enthusiasm than you might expect: Within the safety of his own head, his voiceover makes a moaning noise like Homer Simpson contemplating the promise of cake. After his interview, it’s Sophie who has to bring him the news that Jeff didn’t get the job—news that he exults over—but that they didn’t give it to Mark, either. Mark, smiling like a stroke victim: “Is this a funny joke?”
It isn’t. Turns out they gave it to Sophie. Mark rages internally over this betrayal, while trying to convince himself of the wisdom of playing a long game: “Once you’re going steady, you can grind her down. Put her handbag in the fridge and tell her she’s going mad.” Meanwhile, Jez has been smuggled into the recording studio where Super Hans works, under the pretense that he’s been hired to empty the wastebaskets. Jez is under the impression that he and Super Hans will now be playing in the studio, “riffing on some shit.” Super Hans has to break it gently to him that they’ll have to at least pick their moments: “Of course, one of us has to be on reception at any one time.” Jez is already walking on cloud nine thanks to the seductive influence of his neighbor Toni, who he describes as “like some kind of drug, like ketamine, but with nicer hair.” You can see pretty clearly where this going when Toni visits the studio, is impressed with the book Super Hans is carrying—“I’ve been reading it for about a year,” he boasts—and, caressing the sound board, purrs, “Maybe Super Hans can show me the rest of the equipment.”
After Jez has been sacked for offering helpful advice to a visiting music star—he tells him that the track he’s been laying down should be “like, KA-POW,” and “you know, better, like [his] first CD”—and Mark has been required to see a therapist after pissing all over one of his enemies’ offices, the two repair to the flat to lick their wounds, and sympathize with how they have been wronged. (“Suddenly,” says Jez, “you’re not allowed to wreak revenge.” “It’s political correctness gone mad,” concurs Mark.) Mark has a brainstorm: Has Jez ever seen Strangers On A Train? Jez, naturally, hasn’t and, just as naturally, thinks he has. Mark explains the basic plot to him: Two men agree to carry out each other’s revenge schemes. Jez asks him how it ends, and Mark isn’t sure, but is certain it must go pretty well for both of them.
Soon, Mark, disguised as a pizza delivery man, is on his way to visit Super Hans—and to pepper spray him in the face and kick him in the nuts. But first, Jez squats in the bushes outside Sophie’s house, attempting to… I’m not sure, really, but it involves calling her on the phone with a mind to terrify her. His original idea is to tell her that he’s “going to cut her up and leave her in little buckets,” but Mark is so aghast by this that he asks him to soft-pedal it, and so Jez interrupts Sophie’s evening at home by telling her, “I’m watching you. Not in a horrifying way. But I can see you. You’re eating your spaghetti.” Things start to go south when he nails down his exact location for her, and Mark’s plan starts to deteriorate as soon as Toni answers the door at Super Hans’ apartment and contemptuously asks, “Do I look like I eat pizza?” But in the end, the shared-revenge plan is a learning experience, which each man responds to on his own level: Mark finally admits that he does need therapy, and Jez pepper-sprays Mark and kicks him in the nuts.
- There’s an especially inspired use of the show’s voiceover device when Mark is trapped at his therapy session and the therapist wants to play the word association game; we get to hear Mark think his true first response before hearing what he’s comfortable saying aloud. Therapist: “Work.” Mark thinks: “Snake pit.” Mark says: “Snake charmer.” Therapist: “Money.” Mark thinks: “Everything.” Marks says: “Not everything.” Therapist: “Father.” Mark thinks: “Fürher.” Mark says: “Football.” Therapist: “Mother.” Mark thinks: “Sophie.” Mark says: “Fuck. No, not fuck…”
“Funeral” (season one, episode six; originally aired 10/24/2003)
(Available on Hulu)
This finale to the first season—time flies, huh?—introduces Jez’s Uncle Ray, a macho ex-cop and military man who is in hospice, which Jez assumes is like a hospital, but nicer. Those taking note of the episode title will know better than to become too attached to this gentleman. At first, Uncle Ray seems like a sport; when Jez visits him and asks what he’s been up to, he replies, “Mostly I’ve been lying here and taking painkillers.” But then it turns out that Uncle Ray has been using these last precious days to “rediscover that little guy with the crown of thorns and the big ol’ heart.” I thought he might mean Mark at first, but he’s really talking about Jesus. “Ray’s a really nice guy,” thinks Jez as he smiles and nods. “What a shame that everything he believes is total rubbish.”
Ray kicks off, and Mark swings into action, trying to use the situation to finally get into Sophie’s pants. Frustrated by the mixed signals he’s been receiving, he’s already decided to try to spend more time with her by asking her out on dates that can be interpreted as not exactly being dates: “One step forward, two steps back. That’s the key to progress.” Sophie agrees to accompany him to the funeral, but Mark is disappointed that even here, he finds her response hard to read clearly: “I can’t believe she’d be this heartless to someone as upset as I sound.” Considering the black humor potential of funerals, it shows a certain restraint that Peep Show waited six whole episodes before crashing one, but the actual funeral here is the episode’s low point. It begins with an overly broad, off-key routine in which one of Uncle Ray’s mates reads aloud a passage from a pulp adventure novel. (“As I looked down at the towelhead…”)
It isn’t immediately apparent that this is how Uncle Ray’s family, who disapproved of his last-minute religious convictions, have sought to fill the time while avoiding any mention of the Almighty. Sensing a chance to embarrass the hell out of someone he dislikes, Jez stands up in mid-service and makes a speech about how Uncle Ray had the right to have his heartfelt beliefs honored. Across the aisle, Mark is actually making quite good time with Sophie. They make plans to go away together for the weekend, which throws Mark into a fresh panic of worrying about his “abnormally” large testicles. Is it really as bad as he thinks, or is it all in his head? “What I really need, he thinks, is a good, long look at another man’s bollocks. And that’s so fraught with potential problems.”
Unfortunately, while waiting for the weekend to roll around, Jez receives word that the condition that killed Uncle Ray was hereditary. He goes in for a test to find out if he ought to be worried himself, and settles in for a long weekend of soul-searching and nail-biting before hearing the results. Sophie urges Mark to ask Jez if he wants to come along on their sexy weekend; Mark does so, and Jez, badly misreading the situation, thinks to himself, “God, I didn’t realize he was this terrified of sex.” Once the three of them are alone together out in the boonies, Jez—in what longtime fans of the series will recognize as a recurring pattern—decides that he must have what seems to finally be within Mark’s grasp, and throws a pass at Sophie. Once he’s exhausted his list of reasons why there might be something in it for her to sleep with him—“This could be the last time I do it with anyone. Can you imagine how committed I’d be!?”—he tries to score points by tearing Mark down, at which he is somewhat more resourceful. “He says he’s only snogging you for a joke! And he draws horrible, vicious cartoons of you, and wraps them up in sausage meat and calls you a sausage muncher!”
Given the available options, Sophie chooses to go to bed with Mark. But when Mark gets up and wanders into the living room, looking for a condom, he finds Jez sound asleep next to an empty pill bottle. Misinterpreting the scene, he calls an ambulance. The whole “I thought you took an overdose, so I didn’t get laid!” comic-confusion scenario, complete with Jez consenting to an unneeded session with a stomach pump to keep Mark from strangling him, is a bit of a let-down to the end of the episode. However, the important thing is that it maintains thematic consistency by bringing the curtain down on the first batch of episodes without allowing anyone to get any. Well, Jez does get a sympathy hand-job from Toni by lying to her about medical results, but he’ll probably feel bad about it later. It’s not clear how much that has to do with his cutting in on Super Hans, but he and Toni probably have an open relationship.