Looks like South Park’s perfecting its long game. This shouldn’t be a surprise, really. Recent seasons (especially last year) have leaned increasingly on drawn-out stories that get more complex in their humor and commentary as time goes on. Seeing Randy Marsh don a hideous wig and repeat “I am Lorde, ya ya ya” was funny enough, but who would have thought his seemingly silly arc would become a powerful statement on dreams and identity?

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And yet, I still got duped by last week’s episode, which I criticized for being a little too blunt, a little too one-sided. But after watching “Where My Country Gone?”, it’s clear that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have instated the PC Principal as head of South Park Elementary for a reason: His presence makes the academic hotbed—already a microcosm for so many sticky political and moral issues of the world—even hotter. In “Stunning And Brave,” it was the PC Police that got the brunt of the show’s satire. It was the PC Police who came out looking like fools, a joke that’s been told plenty of times before, even by the show itself. Now I see that the PC Principal (let’s just call him PCP from here on out) is there to make everyone look like fools. And South Park operates at its best when everyone—not just one particular group—looks like fools.

Let’s start with Kyle. His surrender to the PC bros and their praise of Caitlyn Jenner leads to an invitation to the White House, where he has to profess further admiration for a public figure he actually despises. This makes for some more specific, pointed jabs at Jenner that build on the satiric foundation laid last week by Parker and Stone. I’ll admit, my stomach jumped just a little when it looked like the comedy was going to be rooted solely in Jenner’s physical appearance, which seems more than a little nasty. And then, as Jenner drove away from the White House, she mercilessly mowed down an old lady, fueling Kyle’s horror and cementing his conviction of her maaaybe not being such a good person.

Of course, this would be the cheapest of shots if Kyle and Jenner were the only people in Stone and Parker’s crosshairs; the biggest target of tonight’s episode was Donald Trump, as filtered through—who else?—Mr. Garrison. When he sees Kyle (dishonestly) speechifying on national television, his historically scary rage boils within him once more. He thinks that the increased acceptance of Jenner—a sin in Garrison’s eyes, never mind the fact that he, too, once transitioned to a woman (then back)—will lead to an increased acceptance of illegal immigrants. Sure enough, he looks around the bar to see several Canadians flapping their square heads as they play pool. The beast has awoken, and Garrison begins a maniacal crusade against the Canucks, the joke being, as always in South Park land, that they’re quite friendly, quirky, and harmless. Like most things involving Garrison, his alarming mission ends up being less about any real cause and more about his own ugliness.

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While the meat of the episode lies in the mounting parallels between Trump and Garrison as the latter takes on Canadian (i.e. Mexican) immigrants with no justification or, as he puts it, understanding of “politics or immigration policies or the law or… basic ideological concepts,” this leveling of the playing field makes way for an absurd B-story that has little to do at all with the campaign trail. As the students start to recoil at the large-scale implications of Garrison’s rants, they scramble for a way to ease tensions between the two countries. Their solution? Forcing Butters to date a Canadian girl named Charlotte, so that their love may transcend politics and heal the national rift. This results in a romance that orbits the rest of the show as a quiet satellite, sweetly funny in that special Butters sort of way as he learns how to say “sorry” in Canadian (“sore-y”) and shares a Slow Cosby with his new girlfriend (it’s not at all as dirty as it sounds).

Meanwhile, things continue to escalate with Garrison as he invades Canada by riding a barrel over Niagara Falls, only to find the country an abandoned wasteland that could be a set in Escape From New York. As Charlotte’s father later reveals, it turns out most Canadians fled because their president is a monstrous cartoon who sensationalized everything during the election, much to his voters’ amusement. They jokingly voted for him as a means of entertainment, only to realize what a mistake they made when he actually got elected. Sound familiar, or, more appropriately, prophetic? Indeed, when Garrison comes face to face with the president, the guy looks exactly like the Canadian (by South Park standards) version of Donald Trump. Garrison literally fucks him to death, which leads to much rejoicing from both countries and draws the Canadians back to their homeland.

I probably don’t have to explain this to anyone, but the twisted joke of Garrison killing Trump is that the two of them are exactly the same. But the humor goes far beyond one of them being a giant douche and the other being a turd sandwich—it’s more about America being a real-life version of Gotham City, a place caught in an endless cycle of political extremes. Those claiming to be heroes end up breeding villains whose viewpoints are as overzealous as their own. The Joker wouldn’t have been born without Batman, and Trump’s bid for President couldn’t have been born without the ballooning movement of outrage culture. Okay, that’s definitely oversimplifying things, but if we were to trace the trajectory of the past two episodes, intolerance begets PC bros, PC bros beget aggressive tolerance, aggressive tolerance begets Garrison becoming president of Canada, which begets…well, you know how this ends. To quote Battlestar Galactica, this has all happened before, and it will happen again. I said earlier that the central joke of “Where My Country Gone?” is on Donald Trump, but that’s not true at all. Hell, he’s laughing all the way to the White House, possibly with Caitlyn Jenner in the car as his running mate. No, if South Park ends up being right, the joke will be on all of us. It will be on all of us for egging him on.

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Stray observations

  • We’ve seen warfare with Canada plenty of times before, but I was surprised at how fresh this felt, probably because it was framed by such an immediately poignant event.
  • I really thought Mr. Garrison was going to enlist the help of Tuong Lu Kim/Dr. Janus to build a wall that keeps Canadians out of the United States.
  • Chuck Mangione’s flugelhorn tones sound awfully pleasant. I should check out his stuff.
  • While we’re on the topic of music, Garrison’s country song was wonderfully reminiscent of “Freedom Isn’t Free” (or as I like to call it, “What Would Ya-ew Da-Ew”) from Team America: World Police.
  • Maybe it’s because I had Escape From New York on the brain, but when the intro to “Safety Dance” started playing, I thought it was a John Carpenter song until the singing came in.
  • “Okay, that’s good. Watch the balls.”
  • “I was supposed to give you a Hot Cosby so our species could coexist.”
  • “In Canada, we call a Slow Cosby… love.”

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