The teachers who inspire us can change our lives, but the teachers we hate—well, I guess they can change our lives too, only not in a way that makes us want to stand on desks. Bad teachers are like abusive parents who get paid to convince us we're stoo stupid to learn. They hit us when we're most vulnerable, and with the worst of them, they actually think they're doing us a favor.
I'm talking gym teachers, mostly; unlike Sam, Andi, Ben, and Sock, I never had any problems with the science folks. But Mr. Sprong definitely fits the profile. He's insulting, arrogant, and unnecessarily vicious even before the gang kidnaps him and tapes him to a chair. (Plus, he's played by long-running MADtv ensemble member Michael McDonald, so there's a lot to hate here.) Despite Sam's immediate assumption and everyone's fervent wishes, Sprong isn't the Soul of the Week this time around; he's actually a target. Our heroes have to keep this font of soul-crushing bon mots safe while one of his other former students—one who was so crushed by Sprong's insults that he actually committed suicide—tries to get revenge.
It's good to return to the Soul of the Week premise again, especially when it's done as cleverly as "To Sprong, With Love," was. Overall, this episode kept up the same standards established last week; we didn't get any coverage on the main plot, but all three stories worked (some better than others), and there wasn't a dull moment in the hour. This is what the fans think of when they think of Reaper—an entertaining mix of comedy and the occult, with a couple of Ray Wise cameos to give the whole thing bite. Nothing astonishing, nothing hugely involving, but a lot of fun, nonetheless.
On the story front, let's start with the weakest first: Nina goes into heat and starts sending out pheremones that attract any demon in the area, much to Ben's chagrin. This actually wasn't too bad. Nina is cute as always, and her and Ben's relationship continues to be the only romantically interesting thing on the show. (We get a few nods toward the Sam and Andi thing, but even if they started dating again, I don't think a whole lot would change.) Sometimes Ben comes off a little too stupid—it's a hard line to walk, since obviously nobody on the show is exactly Einstein-level, but his desire to protect Nina against the demons she was perfectly capable of fending off on her own was both sweet and, well, dumb. The resolution—with Ben dressing up in a "robot" suit designed by Sock, standing his ground against the most aggressive of the suitors—was cute, until the suitor got confused and started humping Ben.
Weak is really only by comparison here; I didn't hate the Nina/Ben stuff, but it never made me laugh. Sock's saga, on the other hand, was the best we've had from him in a while. Ted's in the interim manager spot, and he gives Sock the chance to dress up as "Wrenchy Bench," the new face of the store. Sock's initially reluctant, but he takes to the job fast when he realizes how much attention ti gets him. So he's a little upset when he gets a cease and desist from the Bargain Bench because Wrenchy is too close in design to their mascot. (Practically speaking, this doesn't make much sense, but I don't go to this show for practical.) It culminates in a brawl between costumed characters, until Sock discovers an elderly woman inside the other suit. So he gets all philophical and moves on.
Sock can be too much to take, but the mascot thing was the perfect plot for him, and the fight at the end made a great punchline. The previews for this show are generally terrible—they overplay the humor, mostly—and last week's was no exception. I thought the costume stuff was going to be horrible, but it was probably the most flat out entertaining part of the ep. So ignore the promos, I guess.
As for the Sprong stuff, it started out strong; the reveal that Sprong wasn't the actual Soul happened after Sam hit him in the head with the mallet vessel, which meant they had to kidnap him both to protect him from the vengeful suicide, and also keep him from ratting them out ot the cops. A fact which the Devil is more than happy to point out, naturally—again, there seems to be tempting going on here that Sam isn't noticing. (I'm hoping he'll get kicked in the teeth at some point for the casual way he deals with the Devil. He acts like Ray Wise is a really annoying uncle, and Wise lets him; fingers crossed that this actually builds to some kind of wake up call before the end of the season.)
Once Sprong is kidnapped, some decent sight gags aside, he's largely on the sidelines till the final confrontation, when Jordy, the Soul, kidnaps Andi to force the guys to give up the teacher. Sam's been having problems hitting Jordy with the mallet because of some invisibility trickery, so in a clever twist, they give the vessel to Sprong, who seals the deal quite nicely. He also assaults Sock and Sam on his way to freedom, but after a sleepless night spent worrying about the cops, our heroes find out that the whole thing is being written off as a psychotic break.
Two episodes left in the season, and given the show's shaky status (has it been officially not-renewed yet?), that most likely means two episodes left, period. Next week looks to have more Wise in it; so fingers crossed we go out with a bang.
- According to Sprong, Sam was "brain damaged," Andi was "biologically dumber than a boy," and Sock was expected to someday be involed in "softcore porn." I'm not sure I agree with the attribution of insults here.
- Another week of Nina in sexy underwear. Oogling aside, she's probably my favorite character on the show at this point; the way she got upset about Ben trying to fight a demon ("Because you are breakable!") was surprisingly sincere.
- Ben's fists are named "Lilo" and "Stitch."