For the first eight minutes or so of “The Drop,” The Detour tries something different. Sure, “trying something different” is pretty much The Detour’s mission statement, but in this particular instance, it comes in the form of changing up the central “family road trip” premise. After last week’s “The Road” blew up that situation—with Robin taking the kids away from Nate and his lies—“The Drop” immediately finds itself in a unique situation of having both parents on opposite sides of the narrative. Anywhere else, the obvious choice would be for The Detour to go with the “father goes and gets his family back” plot, but that’s not what this episode is at any point. We all know Nate is too consumed by his tunnel vision to actively go after his family first, as terrible as that is, and “The Drop” doesn’t even pretend for a second that’s not true.

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As far as Nate’s concerned, it’s Orlando first, then Fort Lauderdale, then he can go back to Syracuse and try to get his family back. Shit show Vanessa’s big mouth is essentially the saving grace of this entire family.

It’s just eight minutes, but that’s enough at this point in the series when it comes to giving the audience a glimpse of what it looks like when Nate and Robin are truly left to their own devices. Strangely enough, they don’t blow up everything around them as a result of that separation. In fact, despite how perturbed or even downright angry Robin and Nate are with idiotic rental car employees or overly-chipper “Christmas” elves, they don’t go into their typical levels of overreacting… until they get back together. So while separation is technically what’s best for their well-being in this world of fools, they’re honestly miserable until they can be together for some scorched earth tactics. Because even when they’re arguing after they “finally” reunite, their “love of chastising people [they] disagree with” will always serve as a reminder of why they’re incomplete without each other. That’s extremely unhealthy when you really think about it, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet.

“The Drop” is also arguably the funniest episode of show without being too aggressively or intentionally “offensive.” Part of that is because a lot of the episode relies more on the Parkers attempting to avoid conflict than take it head-on, which is already a rarity for them. Plus, the episode is the perfect reminder of how much of The Detour’s humor relies on past episode jokes/references, as (like “The Road”) it greatly builds off everything we know from the past seven episodes. And that doesn’t just apply to the interrogation room scenes, which are now pointing out even more just how ridiculous this entire situation as become. Nate’s “antifreeze for your sweet tea” barb is arguably a decent comeback on its own, but the knowledge of why that would even cross his mind in the first place makes it even better. The same goes with his throwaway sarcastic line at the end of the episode about how Robin must just love Sacrificial Jam’s Jesus song, for obvious reasons. Eight episodes isn’t a long time in any TV world, but The Detour has already provided the audience with enough character insight and callbacks to make it feel like it is, in the best way possible.

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That even counts for The Detour’s running joke where the musical score soars, only for someone to immediately cut the legs out from underneath the person we’re supposed to feel for. (The notable, less serious version of that first happened in “The Tank,” when Robin was about to re-tell her Lilith Fair story.) Here, Robin cuts a crying Nate (who cries a lot in this episode) and the soaring score off being he can “reveal” he got fired; the same thing happens when the Parkers are about to formulate a plan, only for Jareb (yes, that’s sticking) to let the PFR goons know where Nate is. The Detour obviously knows what it’s doing when it comes to these moments, and it’s made even clearer when it actually does go through with a musical crescendo: Sacrificial Jam’s Jesus song playing over the very tense “drugs”/Christmas stand-off scene.

Then there are moments that the show doesn’t even draw attention to: Like the fact that John Ducey’s trigger-happy civilian character is named “Thom Hinklejr.” As in Thom Hinkle Jr., only if the imbeciles from “The Hotel” had returned to write his name. That’s not even a joke that comes up in the episode itself, as he never says his name and it’s only in the credits. And yet, the world that The Detour has created makes it a win for anyone who pays close enough attention to figure that out. That’s ultimately the best thing about The Detour: Its attention to detail is at a constant high, even in things as inconsequential as the names of fake bar drinks or the sweaty nature of non-stop Christmas in Florida.

As for Jareb, he remains the dimmest bulb in the Parker chandelier, but “The Drop” at least allows him to let out a little frustration about that. Liam Carroll has the very difficult task of playing a character who is obscenely dumb without it being a huge turn-off, and he fully commits to the role. He also nails the character’s moments of genuine clarity. Take for example “The Restaurant,” which is arguably the spiritual predecessor to “The Drop,” when he mentions in the car ride away from Conquistadors that—despite his confusion—he’s pretty sure Nate was actually in the right about the “chink in the armor” debate. It’s the same type of emotional intelligence that he uses to scoop up the sanitizer and drop the dime on Santa (who calls him a “dummy” for his trouble).

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Plus, he’s comfortable with his bastard status, as his reaction to Robin’s “oh, you bastard” (about Nate) sees him immediately perk up and reply with the the most pleasant “yes?” imaginable.

Also, more than any other episode, “The Drop” focuses on the MacGuffin aspect of the Nate’s work product. It’s obviously not drugs, no matter how many times Vanessa and other people say it is, but the actual reveal is… Well, it’s not right to call it unexpected, as there are so few things that could have been in the bag. But once Robin and the federal agents react to the hand sanitizer reveal with the proper amount of annoyed disbelief, it honestly makes it even harder to get behind Nate’s mission. Sure, Nate somewhat saves it with his explanation about the “dangerous levels of chemicals” PFR put in the sanitizer to make it 100% effective instead of 99.9%, but in doing so, he also brings up the one thing that remains his fatal flaw: “That’s wrong! And what’s wrong is wrong! I was right! I was right.” He’s absolutely right. But again, that’s what makes him believe he’ll get his job back and that everything will be alright, despite that line of thinking being more unbelievable than the hand sanitizer reveal itself.

The episode still doesn’t get into all of that, though, because that’s not the important part right now. What’s important is that Nate finally tells the whole truth to Robin, putting the two on the same page for the first time all season. And, in theory, all of the road blocks in the form of Vanessa and the PFR goons won’t be a problem for the rest of the season. For once, it’s a true happy ending for the Parkers. They kind of deserve a win, even though it’s a temporary one. The Detour gives them that, with the best Christmas episode of the year. And it’s only May.

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Stray observations

  • Naturally, the ICE agent wants to know more about Robin’s “husband” Carlos.
  • Rental Car Employee: “Is there a ‘Q’ in Syracuse?”
    Robin: “Not anymore, no. They changed it.” Such a great line delivery from Natalie Zea.
  • It’s hypocritical, but it’s pretty amusing when Robin nonchalantly lies to Nate about how she “tracked [his] phone” thanks to their “family plan.” She only does it so she doesn’t have to reveal that Vanessa told her the truth (and because, refreshingly, she just wants to end the fight), then she still takes his thunder when he tries to tell her.
  • Speaking of Vanessa, this is definitely her best episode. Highlights: Her running, busting ass, then running again like nothing happened when escaping from the PFR goons; Nate mocking the way she says “important.”
  • Is it too absurd that Robin is so good at pointing out the Salvation security guards or that she buys into Vanessa’s exaggerated conspiracy explanation so easily? I’m thinking it’s not, given her general distrusting nature. Also, despite the shit show aspect of it all, we know Robin tends to go along with her sister’s nonsense for at least a little bit.
  • Nate is definitely in the wrong when he worries too much about the NDA to tell Robin the complete truth, but if he knew she would immediately blab, then it’s kind of understandable.
  • Given the creative pedigree and episodes like this and “The Restaurant,” I can see people finding The Detour too aggressively liberal, with an obvious bias against the South. I’d say Nate and Robin’s characterization being as extreme as it is actually makes the show and characters funnier. Here, the perfect example is the scene where they chastise Thom for his pro-gun buzzwords about “our founding fathers” and the “sacred document” known as the Constitution and he barely knows what hit him. (It’s pretty much like foreplay to them.) As for the show’s bias against the South, having lived in the South for the majority of my young life (from Little Rock, AR to Atlanta, GA to Tampa, FL), I support that 100%. Especially the Florida stuff.
  • Jareb scooping up a bunch of hand sanitizer from the ground is pretty ridiculous, but that’s hardly the most unbelievable thing to happen here.
  • Like I said above, the end credits are little delights all on their own, and another thing about this week’s credits filled me with Christmas joy. It’s something I didn’t notice before but just so happens to make quite a bit of sense within the context of this episode: The PFR security doofuses are named Morris and Latisha, a riff on The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show’s Boris and Natasha.
  • Uncredited Samantha Bee returns in this episode in the role of Nate’s mother, and she is a force. That flashback scene was honestly too depressing for me to laugh. What a monster.
  • “Some guys like Muhammad / Some girls like Buddha / Some look to L. Ron / I say coulda, shoulda, woulda.” The Detour’s eventually going to need to make a soundtrack out of these fake songs. They’re too good.

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