Throughout season 23 of South Park, Randy Marsh has continuously alienated his family with his increasingly selfish behavior. He’s consumed with growing Tegridy Farms above all else, and as a result, Stan and Sharon barely speak to him, while Shelly has developed an intense hatred of marijuana. Tonight’s “Tegridy Farms Halloween Special” took on Shelly’s hatred of pot, as Randy tries to convince her that weed is Actually Good. The problem is that he ignores the actual reason why Shelly is upset — that Randy no longer has any concern for his family’s desires — and just focuses on defending weed in the most basic ways possible, such as a trip to the museum where he feigns amazement at the ancient Egyptians’ usage of hemp. He misses the mark for obvious reasons, leaving Shelly angrier than ever, which drives most of the main plot of the episode. Randy plans on selling a “Halloween special” strain of weed, and throwing an epic party, but a more-enraged-than-ever Shelly has other plans.
Towelie develops the Halloween strain of weed, and he and Randy quickly get baked from it. That’s when Shelly pours a toxic witches brew all over the weed, seemingly destroying it. Now, Shelly Marsh has never been the kindest South Park resident; she was initially conceived as an older sister who tortured Stan because That’s What Older Siblings Do. In this particular situation, though, it’s hard not to find her actions at least partially justified. Randy’s been ignoring his family in favor of weed throughout the season, while also ignoring Shelly’s concerns about it. I couldn’t help but be reminded of when Lisa Simpson destroyed Homer’s suckling pig in “Lisa The Vegetarian,” after Homer’s own insensitivity. Neither character exactly did the right thing, but you also couldn’t blame either of them for being upset.
Randy and Shelly aren’t the only ones at the museum; Butters is there in his Indiana Jones outfit, collecting stickers for his Junior Archaeologist book. When he notices one sticker he hasn’t collected, he travels to a remote part of the museum, finding a rare mummy sarcophagus. At this point, the old man from “Insecurity” shows up to warn Butters about the dangers of collecting the final sticker (he was one of the best parts of that episode, and it was good to see him again), but Butters ignores his concerns, figuring it’s nothing Archaeologist Butters can’t handle. He gets more than he bargained for, however, when the mummy visits Butters in the middle of the night to give him a present; a Fit Bit, which Butters already owns. Butters says he’ll give it to a friend, but this enrages the mummy, who goes around town wreaking havoc. The next day, the cops visit Butters, asking him about his encounter with the mummy, and they ultimately blame him, saying his hurtful behavior was truly to blame.
This is where the mummy plot takes a strange turn, acting as a metaphor for abusive relationships, and how people often defend the abuser, and look for reasons to blame the victim. Throughout the episode, Butters pleads his case that he did nothing wrong, but people accuse him of either being passive-aggressive, or being in a co-dependent relationship with the mummy. It was nice to see South Park handle a difficult topic, and their hearts were certainly in the right place here. That being said, everything felt a little bit rushed. We keep getting short scenes of Butters and the Mummy interspersed with the main plot, but it feels too brief, like there’s more to this issue that they could have covered, except they had to get back to the main Randy/Shelly weed plot. Trey and Matt were onto something here, and they would have been better off giving it its own episode, and really exploring the concepts at play.
When Shelly pours her concoction on Randy and Towelie’s weed, we first think it’s destroyed, but the opposite is true; the chemicals have made it stronger than ever, to the point where there is a very potent, radioactive looking weed tree growing in the barn. Randy’s Halloween party is saved, except that his continued selfish behavior makes the situation with Shelly even worse. This reaches a peak when he inexplicably has the cops take her for a night in jail, because she has a “marijuana problem.” Whether the cops think she has an actual drug addiction, or simply share Randy’s sentiment that not liking weed is a problem in and of itself remains to be seen, but either way, it’s a new low for his cruel treatment of his daughter.
When Shelly gets out of jail (along with Butters, who is sent there after another mummy rampage gets blamed on him), she goes back to the Tegridy Ranch, where the cops are already there, as Randy’s party has gotten quite out of control. The people who smoke the Halloween weed after it’s been affected by Shelly’s potion morph into half-human half-marijuana creatures, in one of South Park’s most ingenuously creepy animations since the horrifying mall mutants from last year’s two-part season finale. It gets crazier; Randy is confronted by Winnie The Pooh, as well as all the cows he and Towelie killed at the end of “Let Them Eat Goo,” and apparently Harvey Weinstein. After all of his bad behavior, Randy is finally getting his comeuppance. Or so we think. It turns out that all of the horrifying things Randy is seeing are actually just hallucinations caused by some very intense weed. We might think that having such a vivid hallucination would cause Randy to finally learn a lesson about how he’s been acting, but no; he wakes up on November 3rd, bragging about how stoned he got, and admitting that he was the only real target audience for his Halloween party. So, we’re halfway through the season, and Randy still doesn’t realize that he’s done anything wrong. Much like Cartman’s abuse of Heidi in season 21, this seems poised to get worse before it gets better.
“Tegridy Farms Halloween Special” had some good ideas, and plenty of great visual gags, but neither plot felt entirely satisfying. The Butters/Mummy plot had too much potential to be squeezed in as a subplot, while Randy’s antics can only be so amusing when he continues to hurt the people around him, and learn nothing. At this point, I’m wondering if he’s truly oblivious, or if he’s become downright sociopathic, or some combination of the two. I’m intrigued to see how the final five episodes will go about answering that. As for tonight’s episode, it was an often-intriguing, yet ultimately muddled affair that could have been classic if it had just been a bit more focused. It’s worth your time, but as far as Randy-centric Halloween episodes go, it’s certainly no “Nightmare On FaceTime.”
- PC Principal gets an amusing cameo, warning us about the dangers of cultural appropriation. “IF I SEE ANY OF YOU GIRLS DRESSED UP AS FUCKING MOANA I WILL LOSE MY FUCKING MIND!”
- Randy’s delivery of “did you know that Snoop Dogg smokes weed?” was absolutely pitch-perfect.
- Is it possible that we haven’t seen the last of the mummy? That whole plot just seems so detached from everything else we’ve seen this season. And it ends on such an unsatisfying note. There has to be more here, right?
- Shelly’s hatred of marijuana is mostly displaced resentment of her father, but she also seems to genuinely hate the effects it has on people, as well as the culture in general. South Park has pretty much always been pro-weed, but it’ll be interesting to see if they give a bit of space to the opposing viewpoint as this season wraps up.