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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The League: "High School Reunion"

Illustration for article titled The League: "High School Reunion"
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I liked The League so much earlier this season because it treated marginal things with the utmost importance. "High School Reunion" was a departure; some pretty fucked up, borderline offensive things went down, but the guys were quick to shrug them off. The vibe felt off, even though the episode had some obvious high points.

The reunion itself is the centerpiece, and all the guys have their separate reasons for wanting to go. Andre leads the charge, eager to show those hooligans from his past that he's succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Ruxin decides to attend after running into Frank "The Body" while getting his haircut; he basically wants to show off Sofia in an attempt to shed his image as a chubby chaser. Pete decides to go in the hopes of finding fodder for a last-place trophy name. Kevin goes because what the fuck else is he going to do? And Taco … well, that comes soon. (Hey-o!)

First, what happened to Pete? He's never been the show's flashy character—content watching from the back and feeding the flames of the other guys. But the last couple of episodes have found him in compromising situations that he simply shrugs off. Tonight he runs into Martin Starr, playing a high school chum with the face of a frog. Pete has never liked this guy because, senior year, Starr's character broke into Pete's car, had sex in it, and left the used condom in the driver's seat; Pete then got punished. So now here he is with frog guy, who offers Pete a dream six-figure job touring the country and signing lesser-known bands. It's amazing. But Pete can't put the past to rest, so he goes outside, breaks into his car, jacks off into a condom, and tosses it inside without even tying it off. Pete comes back to gloat and learns that, in fact, the condom was Kevin's, and he had sex with Shiva. Starr's character is pissed, Pete tries to smooth things over, and he fails. This series of scenes could have been an opportunity for Pete to break his nonchalance and genuinely care about something; instead he just plows through the uncomfortableness and seems totally unaffected. It's becoming frustrating to have a character remain so on-the-level, especially when those around him have ups and downs.

I feel the same way about Taco. When the world of The League was still being calibrated, Taco was a decidedly weird departure from the sane-ness of everyone else. But things are much more cartoonish on The League now, and Taco's time wasters feel labored. There's something deeply unsettling about Taco's obsession with "vinegar strokes" tonight, probably because there's no mystery behind what Taco's going for. It's just creepy voyeurism. At least when Andre and Pete snuck into Ruxin's bedroom there was an ulterior motive behind it. Taco is simply becoming oblivious, and it's a lot more fun to have a character like that retain at least a bit of self-awareness.

"High School Reunion" still had some fun moments and was a nice showcase for Ruxin and Andre. I like how the show has found ways for those characters to play both really big scenes and really small moments. Andre is wildly insecure about this whole reunion, and it's compounded by Kevin's addition to his bio. Thus he laughs extra heartily when Pete pokes fun at Ruxin's choice of girls and is quick to enthusiastically mention he'll be attending a "quinoa potluck" or that he's wearing a vest like "Mark Harmon from NCIS." Ruxin's smarminess is both grand and tiny, like muttering under his breath, "Oh, you lost weight" to his ex-girlfriend. The whole "How ridiculous was it that Ruxin dated a fat person?!?!?" angle of the episode was so non-progressive and hacky. (Like, Mike & Molly hacky.) But at least Ruxin wasn't the worst offender, and for the most part he blew through that stuff in favor of showing up The Body.

This was simply an uneven episode, and given how smooth others have been, "High School Reunion" was a bummer. The League knows how to make things work, it just has to lock down consistency now.


Stray observations:

  • I'm not quite sure how I feel about Taco's weekly songs. Anyone have an opinion?
  • "Bar Mitzvah Ken"
  • "You may recognize her from a Ukrainian version of The Bachelorette."