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Here’s The League that I know and love and have been missing all season. “The Hot Tub” is a great but ridiculous half-hour of television with creative low stakes that allow for gross jokes and silly escalations. It showcases the show’s strengths: laugh-out-loud oneliners made even better by the actors’ deliveries, early setups that later stick the landing, multiple plots that weave in and out of each other, and something to do for each character. One of the most fun things about watching The League is noting the small developments that are brought up in the first act and trying to figure exactly when and what the payoff will be. Here we have the wipes that Ruxin introduces into the group, Pete’s anti-holding hands stance, the “love pants” that Russell mentions, etc.

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Once again, it’s Kevin and Jenny’s sexaversary but Kevin’s still having some low T problems. She surprises him with an above ground hot tub and from there it’s just a countdown to when this thoughtful gift takes a horrific turn. The League has always been good at introducing something seemingly small or random and having it later come back toward the end, bringing together the parallel storylines. What’s even better about “The Hot Tub” is that so many of these random things converge earlier and there are multiple payoffs throughout the whole episode. The hand-holding relates to the hot tub which relates to the wipes which relates to the love pants which relates to Andre’s role as an “advice slut” and so on. But what could come off as too trying and excessively coincidental actually flows together seamlessly: of course Kevin’s soiled love pants would land on Rosette as she clutches Pete’s hand; of course the wipes would result in ruining the date Andre solicited so much advice about.

Much of the action in “The Hot Tub” is the result of Pete’s new girlfriend’s obsession with holding his hand. He doesn’t like holding hands—it makes him feel like the twins in The Shining—and the rest of the guys are on board with his opinion (“That’s not where the hand wants to be”). Pete, Ruxin, and Kevin even go as far as to make a “no holding hands” pact that they shake on, hilariously, by clutching each other’s hands. The scene is an easy highlight of the episode. This also indirectly results in Kevin accidentally holding Sofia’s hand in the hot tub—pissing off both Jenny and Ruxin—and, after he later can’t have sex, pushes Kevin toward the decision to listen to former sex addict Russell about buying the aforementioned love pants in order to help him perform in the bedroom. He doesn’t listen to Russell’s warnings about flying too close to the sexual sun and the pants result in an unwanted encounter with Sofia. It’s an uncomfortably off-putting scene but it also leads to the other best scene of the night: the return of Rafi!

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Sure, we just saw Rafi last week in an episode entirely devoted to him but this is him at his best: appearing out of thin air, dropping some really great lines, and being his wonderfully gross self. The dressing room scene is pure gold, from Rafi’s obsession with his “best friend” Kevin marrying his sister (though he still calls him “Brian”) to him screaming “We are never coming out!” at the poor sales associate.

More and more, The League is showing that its guest stars have no problem outshining the regulars. Take Rob Huebel who is also at his best in “The Hot Tub” and made me laugh more tonight than I have during the last four episodes combined. There’s his casual reveal that he was a toilet at a Montreal sex club and his advice to Andre about taking his date to the hot tub which Russell likens to a “giant bowl of soup without the noodles.” According to Russell, women don’t like eating but “like to sit in boiling hot water.” Why wasn’t Rob Huebel in the league earlier? He’s such a welcome, funny addition.

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“The Hot Tub” is fun even when resorting to the cheapest of gags like the clogged, backed-up toilet flowing into the hot tub. It’s old school League with clever jokes, everyone back together (Ruxin is back from Korea), and even a pretty good storyline for Taco. He’s always a tricky character because the dumb stoner schtick gets old really quick but “The Hot Tub” follows up on his $1.1 million check from Mark Cuban—which Taco uses to write notes on and later carelessly drops into the hot tub—by having him hire Jenny as his realtor. I loved the scenes of them touring their friends’ houses that weren’t actually for sale and his comments on each one (“This whole house is a broken toilet!”). Jenny and Taco isn’t a common pairing on The League but now I want more of it. I want more of everything in “The Hot Tub.”

Stray observations:

  • Hey, it’s Moshe Kasher! And Brenda Song!
  • Kevin and Jenny’s commitment to the terrible groundhog metaphor was impressive.
  • There wasn’t any developments in the actual league this week which is fine by me because I’m pretty sore about losing in my own league.
  • “Just a regular guy who came in his pants” would be great for Kevin’s tombstone.

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