The Detour has done a good job so far making it very clear that the Parkers are greatly to blame for most, if not all, of their misfortune on what was supposed to be a normal family road trip (and actually was supposed to be a simple flight). Nate Parker remains the biggest offender though, as this entire trip is the result of his poor decision-making and less-than-ideal delegation in the forms of Billy Evans and Vanessa. But ultimately, the problems the Parkers stumble upon on this road trip boil down to Nate and Robin’s joint need to always be right and “win” discussions. In “The Restaurant,” that particular brand winning just so happens to get most of the family food-poisoning from a culturally-insensitive tourist trap.
As I mentioned in my review of “The Tank,” part of the reason The Detour works even half as well as it does with its “unconventional storytelling” is that it’s not trying to get one over on an audience that’s already very accustomed to that type of thing by now. When the episode starts (after the federal investigation part) in media res on the “revenge,” the rest of the episode doesn’t try to swerve the audience into believing that an actual revenge mission was on the books for the Parkers. Sure, the audience wouldn’t put such a thing past them, but when the episode eventually reveals that Jared uttered “Montezuma” before revenge, it’s not that this is a surprising revelation or even that the audience is supposed to think that. After all, the whole plot opens with puke and poop—anyone watching can put two and two together.
What The Detour does instead with this introduction is start a figurative countdown to that moment, with the lingering knowledge that the choices the Parkers make are always going to do more harm to them in the long run than expected. And they’re all to blame, as the family never would have gone to Conquistadors if they’d just listened to Nate’s protestations, and the kids also wouldn’t have gotten food-poisoning if they’d ignored Nate’s oyster suggestion. As soon as the oysters come into play—and Nate just can’t stop himself from demanding he get more than the one oyster serving size—that’s it. The mystery is solved. However, The Detour isn’t a mystery, so even if that answers that question, that’s not even what the episode is about in the first place.
The past three episodes have found ways to “teach” Delilah and Jared about sex, drugs, alcohol, and even the legal system, and this episode dedicates itself to explaining racism and religion to them. In the question of whether Nate and Robin are “terrible parents”or not, The Detour makes it clear that they want their children to be accepting of different people and knowledgeable about what’s out there. That’s admirable. So on the plus side, the kids are being exposed to these issues head-on, and real world experience is arguably better than any theoretical discussion.
However, every thing Nate and Robin do is essentially an episode of When “Keeping It Real” Goes Wrong.
Nate: “Absolutely not. They’re trivializing murder!”
Robin: “Ah, you know, not every thing has to be a talking point. Sometimes a taco is just a taco.”
Nate: “Not when it comes with a geno-SIDE of rice.”
The thing is: Nate is actually in the right in this episode. Every thing about the theme restaurant Conquistadors truly shows that a taco is not just a taco here. Conquistadors is a grandiose expression of both American capitalism (a restaurant, firework store, car wash, and Insta-Minister app) and Christianity, simultaneously awe-inspiring (considering how there are apparently non-stop, culturally insensitive musical numbers there) and terrifying (the people who go there are clearly regulars, as the minister’s knowledge of the lyrics—if he didn’t write them himself—suggests). It’s moments like this where it’s especially obvious how much effort goes into making this show what it is. The entire concept of the theme restaurant could be a throwaway bit, but instead, The Detour goes all in with its songs about the “savages” and “ungrateful heathens” that the Conquistadors encountered and the twerking Aztec women who they definitely did not rape.
Nate’s also right about the reality of the conquistadors versus what Conquistadors is saying and glorifying. But his argument—like Robin’s—is ruined by his insistence in people knowing he’s right, despite being surrounded by people who were never going to listen to him in the first place. When Nate busts out the dictionary definition of “chink in the armor,” Conquistador Brian still tells Nate that he’s wrong, even though he’s not; and the only one who’s on Nate’s “side” is the very racist lady who still doesn’t actually listen to what Nate’s actually saying. He can easily accept “weakness in the armor” or “opening in the armor” and just to be done with it all, and he doesn’t.
Nate spends the entire episode snarking at and verbally judging the entire Conquistadors empire, and then he, for some reason, expects anything good to come out of it. The only reason Robin comes out of this episode on any sort of high ground compared to Nate (even though she does end up getting vomitted on) is because as long as she “knows” she’s right, she doesn’t care if anyone else agrees with or even thinks less of her. And because she doesn’t eat the oysters.
The Detour truly commits to the fact that neither Robin nor Nate are supposed to be especially “likable,” no matter how right or wrong either one of them is. As a result, Nate leads to the cringe humor of it all while Robin is the show’s more caustic humor. It’s the Curb Your Enthusiasm approach versus the It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia approach, only it’s happening in one sitcom on TBS.
In fact, Robin is arguably just an It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia character who happens to be a liberal instead of conservative. And that’s not just because her “What? On who?” reaction to Jared’s “revenge” comment is basically a step away from “Who are we versus?” There’s absolutely no reason for her to engage with the minister outside of requesting that he stop talking about heaven to Delilah, but she pretty much goes all in to “win” in teaching Delilah the truth about religion. While Jared may be too dumb to function at times—though, he’s actually reined in very well this episode—it’s fun (in a pretty sad way) to see Delilah react to her mother’s “two can play this game” with a brutally honest “it’s not a game” and to realize that if anyone’s being screwed up by this family, it’s Delilah, who actually has potential. Robin’s final “It’s fine. I won.” perfectly shows how she completely loses sight of the actual issue just to get the last word, while Nate goes down with the ship for his conviction to the issues. This is the first episode where the children really are just the victims of circumstance, even if an easily offended employee at an establishment basically built to offend sees otherwise.
Robin: “Don’t you think your rightness comes at a heavy price?”
Nate: “What price?”
Robin: “Your children’s happiness. My happiness. Yours. Or maybe just finishing dinner.”
The irony may be lost on Robin when she gives this appropriate speech, but at least Nate gets a rare moment of genuine clarity from Jared who realizes that his father was on the right side of his argument. That’s a small success in a show full of pretty big failures.
As for the rest of the epsiode, I mentioned in my review of the “The Tank” how the fringe aspects of The Detour, like the scenes at PFR Industries or with Billy Evans, are the weakest parts of the show so far, but “The Restaurant” makes it more apparent why that’s the case. Besides obviously being a slower part of the show and mostly the bookends of the episodes, those scenes away from the Parkers are also essentially a part of a more “serious” (to the characters who are in them, at least) version of the show, set in the world of corporate espionage, with “journalists” and “murderers.” The world the audience is most interested and accustomed to so far is of course the one about the world’s most unfortunate family road trip, and there’s really not enough intersection between the two—yet. The Detour will obviously escalate as the weeks go by, and as the two worlds converge, those non-road trip scenes should get so much better.
And while Billy Evans may be a caricature (especially with him also being a Syracuse graduate), this episode makes it very clear that the problems that arise from his existence that aren’t exactly his fault. After all, Nate, is the one who chose to take his huge company story and work product to a guy who brands himself a “lifestyle blogger,” “world changer,” and “thought leader.” That’s all on Nate. He’s also the one who trusts Robin’s “shit show” sister Vanessa to take care of Noonie the cat (who dies) and has her and her gang of X-Game hopefuls take back the work product (again trusting someone who can barely function among actual adults). Nate brings this all on himself, and even when he’s right, that fundamental fact never changes.
It’s the one constant in this chaotic world of The Detour.
- Nate: “FONZI IT!!!”
Nate: “FONZI!!!” Davey the mechanic’s handiwork strikes again.
- Conquistador Brian: “What about ’weakness in the armor’? That’s an expression.”
Nate: “No it’s not.”
Conquistador Brian: “You could say opening in the armor.’”
Nate: “You could. People don’t.”
- Racist lady: “Oh can we even use Brian anymore, or is that only something that Brians can call each other?”
- Racist lady: “He’s talking about the chink in the armor who apparently prefers to be called Brian.”
Nate: “LADY, SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
- Billy Evans’ best moments in this episode are in his final moments, as he sends away the dumb security duo from PFR and then immediately gets intimidated by stone cold murderer Vanessa (whose grieving process includes cocaine) and her friends.
- Jared: “Ugh, they smell like the bottom of the ocean.” Well…
- Nate: “For the record, a little more to Montezuma’s storyline than fecal urgency.” Again, I know he’s right, but ultimately, it is pretty funny to see Nate’s downfall.