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It was bound to happen eventually, and I‚Äôm glad that it happened like this. After four seasons and 100 episodes‚Äô worth of buildup, Mordecai and Margaret finally cross their romantic Rubicon, but that big moment is just the triumphant epilogue to Mordecai‚Äôs battle with the cellphone-despising Wickets. ‚ÄúPicking Up Margaret‚ÄĚ is a necessary, worthy companion piece to the similarly brilliant ‚ÄúDo Or Diaper,‚ÄĚ which finally forced Mordecai into a moment of honesty about his feelings for Margaret. Now, after taking a break from that story for a half-dozen episodes, Regular Show lets Margaret and Mordecai pick up where they left off. The two are still close friends, and the attraction is still there, but Margaret is still processing Mordecai‚Äôs transgression. He betrayed her trust with his diaper bet, and she offers him the opportunity to regain her trust with the ultimate act of friendship: a ride to the airport.

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As soon as Margaret makes Mordecai promise that this will be a non-crazy, hassle-free trip to the airport‚ÄĒand she very understandably makes him swear that the ride isn‚Äôt part of some weird, demeaning bet‚ÄĒthe audience knows that Mordecai is going to find some way to screw this all up. After all, he may be our hero, but he‚Äôs also kind of an idiot, and he shows an uncanny ability to get himself into trouble. ‚ÄúPicking Up Margaret‚ÄĚ somewhat tweaks Regular Show conventions by downplaying Mordecai‚Äôs responsibility for unleashing this latest blast of absurdity‚ÄĒit probably helps that Rigby exits the episode early, as he‚Äôs usually the one that gets the pair into trouble. Mordecai does provoke the wrath of the Wickets by ignoring the warnings about cellphone usage in their territory, but that‚Äôs only a small part of what goes wrong here. The newsagent mumbles his warning about the Wickets only after Mordecai walks off, the mechanic refuses to turn over a car to anyone but the owner, and Benson spectacularly fails in his attempt to find a diplomatic solution. Hell, even Margaret makes a potentially disastrous error when she mixes up what time her flight is leaving, which adds extra urgency to Mordecai‚Äôs trip to the airport.

All of this matters because Mordecai, for once, isn‚Äôt just cleaning up a mess of his own creation. He desperately wants to do the right thing here, and the universe just refuses to cooperate. That‚Äôs not unheard of on Regular Show, but it‚Äôs crucial for this particular episode to adopt that structure so that the big kiss at the end feels well-earned. ‚ÄúPicking Up Margaret‚ÄĚ could be read as Mordecai‚Äôs penance for ‚ÄúDo Or Diaper‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒalthough I suppose he already got punished with the whole weeklong diaper-wearing, but still‚ÄĒand it‚Äôs good to see him finally live up to, rather than live down to somebody‚Äôs expectations. Mordecai has repeatedly been established as a man (or bird) of action when the situation requires it, but his character doesn‚Äôt easily stretch all the way to heroism, and his peeved, dismissive interactions with the Wickets are a good reminder of the rougher edges to his character. Even so, the episode makes it clear that Mordecai‚Äôs intentions are pure, if only because this is pretty much the first time we‚Äôve seen Mordecai do something for Margaret without also admitting any ulterior motivations to Rigby. It really does seem that Mordecai just wants to be a good friend and drive Margaret to the airport, and that helps sell the moment when he asks Margaret to trust her.

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The episode‚Äôs structure doesn‚Äôt simply convey Mordecai‚Äôs heroic journey; it also sets up some great comedy. The Wickets, with their inexplicable hatred of cellphones and even more inexplicable obsession with croquet, represent a hilariously demented opponent for Mordecai to overcome. Mordecai has pissed off a whole bunch of people for a whole bunch of more or less legitimate reasons‚ÄĒrewatch ‚ÄúExit 9B‚ÄĚ if you need proof of that‚ÄĒbut the Wickets are just ludicrously petty, and Mordecai repeatedly asks them just what their big problem is with cellphones. Beyond a vague sense that cellphones are rude, the Wickets can‚Äôt muster any real response, and yet they quite happily try to kill Mordecai for breaking their insane rule. Regular Show crams in an explicit Warriors homage as one of the gang members clicks three croquet balls together and taunts Mordecai about turning off his cellphone, and really the Wickets owe their entire inspiration to the similarly colorful, bizarrely high-concept gangs in the seminal 1979 film.

Somehow, the Wickets manage to be even more insane than the show‚Äôs usual array of surreal, supernatural threats, in part because their straightforwardly brutal, relatively realistic violence offers such a sharp contrast with their insane look and motivations. It would be reasonably funny‚ÄĒand very Regular Show‚ÄĒif Mordecai‚Äôs use of his cellphone in that bad part of town unleashed, say, a soul-eating demon, but it‚Äôs even more hilarious for the threat to be a bunch of random weirdoes deciding to beat the crap out of him for no good reason. Indeed, for all their brutality, there‚Äôs an oddly charming, almost childlike quality to the Wickets, like how they totally missed that ‚ÄúThe Wickeds‚ÄĚ would be a much more threatening gang name or how they apparently can‚Äôt resist spraying their name everywhere, including on the side of a car they are about to destroy. ‚ÄúPicking Up Margaret‚ÄĚ hits the perfect balance in presenting antagonists who are alternately silly and deadly serious. Plus, the Wickets get a wonderful moment of poetic justice when their car crashes through a billboard advertising the hottest new cellphones.

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Returning to Margaret and Mordecai, this episode returns to another major complication first introduced in ‚ÄúTGI Tuesday.‚ÄĚ In fairly sharp contrast to our perennial slacker heroes, Margaret actually wants to better herself, which means she wants to go back to school. The reason why she needs to get to the airport at all is because she has an interview the next morning at a college upstate. In ‚ÄúPicking Up Margaret,‚ÄĚ Mordecai handles the possibility of Margaret leaving his life with newfound maturity, and he even manages to awkwardly wish her luck before he awkwardly starts stuttering his way towards what he likely intended as some half-baked romantic declaration‚ÄĒalthough Margaret interrupts him with the big kiss before he even reaches the vicinity of a coherent thought.

It‚Äôs a very sweet moment, and it feels right for Mordecai and, just as importantly, for Margaret, who finally takes some much-needed initiative in their relationship. The kiss can‚Äôt just be wish-fulfillment for Mordecai, or even a ‚Äúreward,‚ÄĚ as that would cheapen Margaret‚Äôs character. She kisses him because he asked her to believe in him, and he didn‚Äôt let her down. At long last, Mordecai has become somebody worth kissing. As the episode‚Äôs closing Queen song so eloquently suggests, Mordecai is at last a champion, and it‚Äôs all because he kept on fighting till the end, even if he does leave the airport to find Benson‚Äôs newly wrecked car being towed away. Regular Show doesn‚Äôt do much with serialization, but its handling of Mordecai and Margaret‚Äôs increasingly epic romance has proved this season‚Äôs biggest highlight.

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Stray observations:

  • Rigby only gets a cameo in this episode, but he makes the most of his appearance with that wonderfully silly song about mayonnaise. That raccoon has a complicated, highly musical relationship with mayo.
  • Regular Show has featured plenty of absurd elements in its time, but nothing quite as preposterous as the speed with which Mordecai and Margaret apparently get through airport security.
  • I loved the shamelessly half-assed British accents sported by some of the Wickets. It seems only fitting for a gang that is croquet-themed for reasons nobody seems able to explain.
  • I‚Äôm not sure whether Regular Show has ever indicated which state it‚Äôs set in, but the fact that Margaret is flying upstate strongly suggests she‚Äôs heading from southern to northern California. Plus, those highways just scream Los Angeles, except for the part where they‚Äôre free of traffic.

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