If there’s a problem with “Always Bet On Blake,” it’s one endemic to Workaholics as a whole. Like Adam, Blake, and Ders, Adam DeVine, Blake Anderson, and Aders Holm often seem to be at loggerheads about what direction to go in. It’s not crippling—Workaholics’ shagginess of structure is part of its charm—but, as here, the guys’ personalities can seem less “wacky and unpredictable” than inconsistently drawn and sloppy.
This time out, with Blake Anderson writing the script, it’s Blake’s story. And, more than that, it’s Blake Anderson giving Blake Henderson too much time, both to screw around onscreen and to play the victim to the other guys’ “alpha-dog” posturing. (Blake’s such a sweetie here that he can’t even bring himself to use the insulting label Adam and Ders give him, instead conceding, ”Fine, I’m a beta-B-word.”) It’s not out of character, really—Blake usually acts as the group’s most put-upon, childlike member—but one element that’s always held back Workaholics (compared to, for example, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, another sitcom that traffics in comic squalor) is that the characters shift to fit the story rather than stories emerging inextricably from the characters. This week, it’s Blake’s turns to be victim and hero, so he is.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, “Always Bet On Blake” isn’t a bad episode of Workaholics. As ever, the guys (Adam and Ders, mainly) do something stupid that sets the plot off. That’s is if you consider two-person-sawing a telephone pole in order to enter the upcoming lumberjack games stupid. You probably do, especially since the pole smashes Ders’ ’Vo, causing $3000 in damages and forcing the guys to carpool to work with Bill (who carries Gatorade bottles filled with his pee in the car for reasons better left unexplored). Hearing from Bill that coworker Diane deals Texas Hold ’Em at a scabby warehouse casino, the guys (well, Adam and Ders) decide they’re card sharks (they’re not), lose their money, decide to open a casino of their own in their house, lose even more money (and use of the house) to the casino owner, attempt to saw their way in through the bathroom floor, get stung by wasps, and get threatened with a serious beating. Enter Blake—still in the Doug Henning-esque magician’s leotard from his disastrous outing as the home casino’s entertainment—who saves the day, entirely by accident. Cue Adam and Ders mocking him while proclaiming their continued alpha-dog status and barking like obnoxious jackasses right through the end credits.
In most Workaholics episodes, plots are largely excuses for the three stars to screw around, and this one, while both rushed (the final poker showdown is over in a blink) and padded (Blake’s magic routine, all that barking), does its job just fine. The Adam-Ders pairing sees them hyping each other into their version of macho fury, which means they bluster and mock each other entertainingly.
Screwing around with these guys is always nimbly improv-flavored and their opening debate on the name of their timber sports team (Ders’ Timberlakes versus Adam’s The Woodsmen) sees Adam eventually conceding to change his entry to “The Woodsmen, parenthesis: not the pedophile movie but, like, badasses who can knock a deer out with one punch, end parenthesis.” Ders’ version of a casino owner has him donning a black turtleneck and preparing to masturbate to the sight of the middle-aged women on his security cameras—as far as “cranking down” humor goes, his decision to apply lotion to his hands before taking off his good pants is solid. Plus, his anger once Adam reveals he’s been jerking off in Ders’ bedroom is some classic Workaholics hair-trigger angry fighting. (“Are you using my lotion?” “Only when I’m in your room jerking off on your computer.” “Absolutely do not ever jerk off on my computer!” “Okay, I won’t, but because I choose not to from now on.”) Adam’s explanation of how his overly literal faith in the phrase “the house always wins” has gone south (“Classic Ders, too busy smacking off to realize that I need proper supervision. That’s on you”) is especially on point. Anders Holm makes Ders’ incredibly inept poker face good for a few laughs.
But Blake Anderson’s script unbalances things by making Blake too easily wounded. It must be tempting to write the juiciest role for yourself, but, again, Workaholics’ depiction of the guys’ relationship is awfully haphazard. Anderson is actually really good here, especially when he breaks down at assistant Karl hijacking his magic show with some horrifying Puppetry Of The Penis moves, but that’s sort of the point—all through the episode, it’s asshole Ders and Adam versus sweet, saintly Blake and, when Blake finally breaks down weeping (especially when the scene ends on it) it makes the nonsense not as much fun any more. Workaholics can do heart—last season saw the show break out a couple of episodes where the mix of sweet and stupid was genuinely moving—but this episode isn’t constructed as carefully, throwing the whole enterprise out of whack. Again, that’s not to say Anderson isn’t good, it’s more like he wrote himself a role that’s too heavy for the lightweight story around it.
It was something of a surprise that Workaholics was reviewed last year—the actors are getting up there to be playing these characters, and all three have branched out to do decent work in other places. When, as Ders and Adam launch into their barking alpha-dog stick back at TelAmeriCorp, Anderson actually spikes the camera (something I’ve never seen the show do before) as if indicating the desire to step out of the nonsense. I’m not advocating such a thing—Workaholics is still reliably amusing (and they’re under contract for another season and all)—but a more rigorous incorporation of the creators’ ambitions would make for stronger episodes.
- “I hate sleeping on the floor. I only slept for like seven hours.”
- Adam, after allowing a huge bet the guys can’t cover: “I always knew math was a hoax.”
- Let’s just gloss over why Blake’s eye is suddenly itchy after getting poker by Karl’s penis. [Shuddering.]
- Wait, the guys rent their house, right? So how does Blake have the deed to wager?