Since Portlandia first debuted in 2011, two of its most beloved recurring characters were Toni & Candace, proprietors of Women & Women First, Portland’s premiere feminist bookstore. We laughed as they condescended to customers while also trying to get them to learn how to organize a Tucker Max protest. Things turned not-so-fun, however, when the owners of the actual bookstore that inspired the sketches revealed that they were not huge fans of the show, accusing it of being transmisogynistic. Because of this, the bookstore will no longer be a part of the show. Still, one can’t help but wonder what would happen to Toni and Candace after closing the doors of Women & Women First. As this episodes shows us, it turns out things get pretty weird.
After throwing a retirement party, the pair spend some time apart, during which Toni gets a girlfriend and seems genuinely happy with her life, while Candace is lost without her best friend. Throughout this story’s three segments, we watch Candace get increasingly desperate. At first, it’s relatively small things like calling a little too often, but it quickly turns in to a full-time obsession.
Desperate to get Candace out of their hair, Toni’s girlfriend Shauna sets her up with her brother, Adam, who provides some of the biggest laughs of the night. He’s the perfect companion for Candace and her general weirdness, as he even agrees to wait under the table until Toni and Shauna arrive because she wanted to arrive earlier than everyone else. She’s also impressed to learn that Adam owns a sewing machine, and the pair seem equally attracted to each other, and ready to get serious pretty quickly. Unfortunately, Candace’s obsession with Toni rules over everything else, which leads to her and Adam (who amazingly agreed to go along with it) sabotaging their resort weekend in a last-ditch effort to win her back.
The ending is where the sketch gets a tad frustrating. Candace’s behavior is manipulative at best, and abusive at worst, and yet, Toni ultimately acquiesces to her demands, and they have sex on the beach. This leads to an even weirder ending where they mutually decide to be friends, even though Adam and Shauna have become afterthoughts. Admittedly, there were some good bits during these segments, most of them coming from Adam, but this couldn’t help but feel like an unsatisfying ending for two of this show’s most beloved recurring characters. Oh well. So long, Women & Women First.
Elsewhere, Jeff Tweedy has an amusing cameo in a sketch about a lawyer who specializes in suing musicians for plagiarism. Why? Because he owns the key of G, of course! The premise is so ridiculous, but ultimately effective, as Tweedy reveals some solid deadpan comedic timing. It feels like the kind of sketch that would air towards the end of an SNL episode, get few laughs from the studio audience, but ultimately find plenty of love from the nerds watching at home. Tweedy’s cameo certainly added a little extra fun to the proceedings.
For the third straight episode, we see our goofy men’s rights activists, this time taking on the scourge of gender-neutral ginger bread people at a local bakery. Unlike the first to sketches, this one is fairly brief. The best joke here has to be Fred grabbing a bagel and using it as an example of women being represented more than men within the bakery, before grumbling “I’ll pay for it!” One can imagine there’s only so many ways these characters can be used to illustrate the inherent ridiculousness of the men’s rights movement, but for now, these sketches are reliably funny.
In the best sketch of the night, Portlandia goes into the world animation to look at a group of rats who are jealous of all the attention that squirrels get. Carrie‘s rat complains about squirrels setting unrealistic beauty standards while nonetheless taking the time to admire her tail. The sketch primarily focuses on Fred’s rat, however, as he asks a squirrel for advice on how to appear more attractive to humans. Things start well, as he successfully gets a human to give a peanut, but he lets his ambitions get the better of him, and attacks someone for not giving him an entire sandwich. This was a clever, witty sketch, one that made me wish Portlandia tried animated segments more often.
Finally, we had an intriguingly disturbing bit about a couple that cuts sugar out of their diet and immediately becomes shockingly thin. At a trip to the zoo (in which they are too weak to move the turnstiles), a kid becomes rapped in a cage with a sabretooth tiger, and they manage to fit through the cage and rescue him (if only they had been there to save Harambe). After eating a sugar cookie from a zoo gift basket, they return to their normal weight. This sketch was bizarre, and kind of only had one joke, but it was an amusing enough diversion.
This episode was dragged down a bit by the frustrating conclusion of the Toni-Candace plot, as well as the aimlessness of the zoo/diet sketch. Still, there were enough laughs to keep things reasonably enjoyable, with the rat cartoon, and Jeff Tweedy’s cameo in the music lawyer sketch standing out as the most inspired bits of the night. Not an perfect episode by any means, but more of the steadily strong comedy that has become characteristic of Season 7 of Portlandia.
“Did you know there’s a movement to save sharks? Sharks eat people!”
-I wonder if the music lawyer sketch was a way for Portlandia to critique the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit without actually defending “Blurred Lines.”