Regular Show takes a calculated risk in how it uses C.J. in “Portable Toilet.” By having her join Eileen, Rigby, and Mordecai for lunch, the episode positions her in precisely the spot that Margaret once occupied. Mordecai has so few female friends that comparisons are pretty much inevitable, but this is the first time since C.J. reentered Mordecai’s life that the show has actively played up the similarity in their narrative roles. And as far as tonight’s story is concerned, C.J. does not suffer from such a comparison, as she proves a fast friend for Eileen and a successful savior of our heroes. Indeed, “Portable Toilet” is so confident in C.J.’s success as a character that it has Rigby give what, for him, is the ultimate compliment: She’s pretty cool. All indications tonight suggest that she is now firmly ensconced as a member of the ensemble going forward, but Mordecai’s reaction to Rigby’s statement suggests that she may not be just friends with Mordecai for very long. This could so easily feel like Regular Show unsubtly replacing Margaret with a character who it insists is way cooler and way better just because it says so. This could all feel so forced.
For the most part, “Portable Toilet” avoids such traps. The closing observation about C.J.’s coolness is a tad on-the-nose, and it ignores the real point that this episode makes far more forcefully: Eileen is way, way cooler. After all, C.J. might have jumped into a moving helicopter—or a portable toilet attached to a moving helicopter, as she modestly points out—but Eileen was right there with her, and Eileen was the one who got C.J. to calm down and take some action. Perhaps Regular Show just treats Eileen’s awesomeness at this stage as a fait accompli; either way, if the heightened presence for C.J. affords for more organic opportunities to include Eileen in the gang’s adventures, I won’t complain. What makes C.J. seem promising is that this episode takes great care to define her as someone very different from Margaret. The former object of Mordecai’s affections was many things—nice, kind, sweet, and willing to take Mordecai down a peg when he needed it—but she wasn’t really “cool,” at least not like C.J. is here. Margaret was at best a joiner in Regular Show’s craziness, but more often she was the good-natured bystander. It’s hard to imagine her intentionally daring Mordecai to eat a sandwich in a portable toilet, especially if it were just on a random impulse. A lovesick Mordecai might have convinced himself that such a stunt would impress Margaret, but she still wouldn’t be the natural instigator of mayhem that C.J. is in this episode.
On that point, a crucial moment of “Portable Toilet” comes when C.J. starts to freak out about Rigby and Mordecai’s fate at the army base. Her cloudy complexion turns positively thunderous, recalling her terrifying meltdown way back in “Yes Dude Yes.” Eileen is able to talk her down before anything serious happens—because, again, Eileen can do anything—but that sequence reaffirms that C.J. has her own distinct emotional existence. Her feelings have meaning and validity even when Mordecai is not around to react to them. This is also a sign that Regular Show is not abandoning the more negative aspects of C.J.’s character. She has the most obvious flaw of any of the show’s recurring female characters, and that fact should hopefully allow the creative team to tell more emotionally complex stories moving forward. What’s more, the ending to C.J.’s story doesn’t have to be an unhappy one, as this story proves she can avoid the kind of destructive behavior she displayed in “Yes Dude Yes,” provided she has friends around to stand by her. In terms of these emotional issues, she now seems less like a ticking time bomb and more like someone that Mordecai can come through for when she needs him most. After all, he does owe her one.
Regular Show feels reenergized creatively, and that extends to the elements of tonight’s episode that don’t spotlight the show’s new recurring player. “Portable Toilet” pulls off a clever pacing trick in how it cuts to black after Mordecai and Rigby tip over the toilet. It’s as though the episode is restarting when we then see Muscle Man and Hi-Five Ghost discussing their weekend plans; that split-second pause and shift of scene makes the episode’s scope feel larger than could be contained in the show’s perennially short running time. The animation of the toilet replacement is spectacular, as the wind kicked up by the helicopter’s whirling propeller momentarily reshapes the environment beneath it. Regular Show is an old hand at blending the mundane and the incredible, but that first helicopter sequence feels like something slightly different from what we’re used to. The scene feels casually epic, as though the members of the creative team used a helicopter to take away the fallen toilet instead of, say, a delivery van just because they felt like it. The helicopter—more specifically, its impressive physical presence—is only tangential to the central absurdity of the episode, and so it contributes to the sense that we are glimpsing only one small part of a much larger world. Plus, the happiness that Muscle Man shows when he learns that the portable toilets receive such honorable deaths is much funnier when he has to shout it over the din of the helicopter. He also gets in a couple great jokes later on, particularly his insistence to Eileen and “other girl”—a wise acknowledgment of the fact that there’s no reason anyone else at the park should know C.J. just yet—that none of what is going on is actually awkward… at least until he learns he may have sent Mordecai and Rigby to their deaths at an army base.
Speaking of which, the general and his two subordinates represent three of the funniest one-off characters in the show’s history. Some of their humor could be said to be rooted in comedy of the random, but what makes their scenes really funny are the patterns that emerge. For reasons that go unexplained, the general has absolutely no interest in hearing what one of his men has to say but always has time to let the other speak freely. The general proudly proclaims that the president is not his father, but he groans like a sullen teenager when he is told that the president has called for him. The actual rationale for the destruction of the toilets is wonderfully flimsy, as the general claims that these movable commodes are exactly like the enemy, so why wouldn’t they spend three billion dollars a pop to blow up practice toilets with a laser from outer space? If I really felt like massively overreaching, I could probably argue that that whole business represents Regular Show’s stab at political commentary. In any event, all the talk of armies and enemies feels slightly more adult than the show’s standard fare, which is safely removed from the horrors of the real world, if only because Mordecai and Rigby spend most of their time fending off the horrors of this imaginary world. The handling of the military here is just one bold, surprising element in an episode full of them. If this is the new norm for Regular Show, we are in for exciting times ahead.
- Of all the great little gags in this episode, my favorite has to be the visual gag that can be spotted in the image up top. Of course Rigby would misspell his own name on his lunch bag.
- Apologies this review made it up so late—among other things, there were some serious audio issues with tonight’s broadcast, at least for me. Did anyone else have similar problems?
- I didn’t even mention it, but the entire sequence in which Rigby and Mordecai were trapped together in the portable toilet was very funny. Rigby’s insistence that Mordecai should never have eaten the sandwich and instead saved it in case they ended up in this precise situation was a particularly hilarious moment.