Well, I’m glad we got to see Randy/Lorde at least, because without him/her, this was one of the dullest episodes of South Park in recent memory, with just a couple of gags sprinkled through a drag of a plot. It’s a bummer, because it started out pretty well, with the boys trying to re-assimilate after last week’s startup debacle. (“Doesn’t anyone understand the significance of ‘I’m sorry’ anymore?” was a great line.) And I loved where it felt like things were going, with Mr. Mackey as the prototypical gluten-hater who just won’t shut up about it.

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We’ve all met one of those, but with the gluten-free backlash already well underway, did there really need to be an entire episode—with no real B-story—about how irritating and panicky the whole thing is? Hasn’t the world already just agreed to let the gluten-free folks have their own corner of the menu and a special aisle at the grocery store? They’re not really bothering anyone, beyond the aforementioned not-shutting-up.

And I get that South Park was trying to comment—sort of—on the idea of Ebola panic. It’s right there in the title. But that’s not really a thing yet, either. Maybe with yesterday’s revelation that there’s actually a case in America, there will be a shift, but right now the panic seems mostly contained to mainstream media stories that generally end with an admonition not to panic, and details about how difficult Ebola is to transmit.

That said, some of the gluten-panic stuff was reasonably funny: The trigger (“It’ll make your dick fly off!”) and the subsequent jokes that came from that were good, as was the Marsh family’s rush to get everything gluten out of the house. “Oh my God, the Wheat Thins!”

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The sorta B-story, about the boys trying to throw a party to get back in with their friends, fell pretty flat. There shouldn’t be long South Park stretches with no real jokes in them, and the boys’ visit to the radio station didn’t do anything for me, nor did Randy’s quarantine at Papa John’s. (Though I did enjoy Randy’s sweet pleas to Stan, who only wanted to know how they could get Lorde to play, and hopefully salvage the party.)

Cartman’s dreamtime revelation featuring Aunt Jemima seemed like an excuse to bring her into the show for a quick sight gag, and it worked for me a little bit—mostly at the end when she showed up again. But again, it was a joke that inspired little more than a chuckle, in an episode that needed a lot more actual laughs. (And a point would’ve been nice, too.)

I love it when South Park attacks worthy targets, but “Gluten-Free Ebola” couldn’t quite figure out what it was making fun of (beyond gluten-free advocates), so it never really caught hold. It’s hard to hit a target when you’re not sure what you’re aiming at.

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Stray observations:

  • “We are the USDA. Without us, people would be eating dirt and chairs!”
  • “No food at a party? And I thought I was handicapped!”
  • The scene at the USDA was reminiscent of ’80s panic movies like War Games, which was a nice touch.
  • Could’ve used 3-4 more dicks flying off.

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