Adam, Blake, and Ders are boorish, lazy, destructive, irresponsible, and ignorant (about most everything). What keeps them bearable in the midst of all that is that their collective assholery emerges from a state of co-dependent denial. For all their pretensions of awesomeness, the guys know—deep, deep down—that they’re all they’ve got. That’s what made last week’s episode so improbably affecting. In overcoming their squabbles to perform the awful yet heartfelt song “Best Friends,” the guys encapsulated their bond perfectly in a moment of transcendently stupid unity.
In some ways, “Gayborhood” is another, even bolder, examination of that dynamic, all in the guise of a hackneyed gay panic plot that could have veered into offensiveness but, instead, provides the guys with what’s easily their most affecting moments ever. In Workaholics’ worst episodes, they guys’ antics turn callous. Here, their naked vulnerability after a typical night of debauchery leads them to believe they’ve had especially sloppy group sex with each other is almost too well rendered. Easily the strangest episode of Workaholics I’ve seen, ”Gayborhood” might also be the best.
It all starts at TelAmeriCorp, always a promising sign, as the arrival of an obnoxious team-building guru (Jerry O’Connell, right in his comfort zone) means appearances from Alice, Montez, Bill, and Jillian. When the guys’ bond is challenged by Montez after their trust fall goes awry (Tez’ tweet “Bust fall!” got nine favorites and a retweet), Adam, Blake, and Ders respond by proving they know absolutely everything about each other. (Blake’s favorite movie: Hocus Pocus. Adam’s favorite website: Two different porn sites—one for work, another for home. Ders’ weird penis looks like pomegranate tea.) Tone is vital for the guys’ hangout scenes, and this scene is right on, with Adam, Blake, and Ders’ happy riffing showing their bond—and their interdependence. One of the show’s most attractive qualities is this sort of easy, silly chemistry among the leads—honestly, in some episodes, the creaky, loud plot machinations make me wish the show were just the guys jabbering happily away at each other like this. When they devolve into contented monkey giggles at the fact that they tricked Blake into eating the fish tacos he’s allergic to, Monetz laments that “it’s like Romper Room in here.” But sometimes, that’s just where Workaholics plays best.
It’s a vibe that carries over to that evening, when, sitting on their roof drinking themselves goofy, a valet asks if he can park some of the overflow cars from a “pride party” down the street in their driveway. First, the driver’s deadpan reaction to Adam’s sarcasm perfectly nails the appropriate reaction of a sensible person to the guys’ world:
Do you guys live here?
No, we just sit on a strangers roof and drink beer!
Is that true? I don’t know you guys.
Next, the instigating plot development makes perfect sense, with the guys immediately making the leap that a “pride party” is a gathering of PRIDE ultimate fighting fans. Once they don their ready ultimate fighting t-shirts and load up with 12-packs, the guys (after singing an extended, improvised “How are we not invited” song for a long time) burst into the party, instead finding it a quietly festive gathering of gay men. Now here’s where the episode could go very, very wrong. Except that it doesn’t.
After hearing tell of free food and an open bar, Blake launches into a stereotypical gay guy accent to gain access, Adam and Ders following suit. Now, the “braying manchildren mixing with gay guys” plot has been the wellspring of a lot of soul-deadening comedy over the years, but “Gayborhood,” written by Craig DiGregorio, steers deliberately around the pitfalls. The party’s hosts Scott and Joey (Tim Bagley and Michael Urie), immediately suss out that their uninvited guests aren’t gay (well, Adam might be a bottom), but let them stay. The guys make asses of themselves with all the free hooch, keeping up their gay fiction by screaming “We’re here, we’re queer, we wanna drink beer!” and enthusiastically claiming to have lots of three-way sex, and finishing up the evening by destroying their hosts’ delicious-looking rainbow cake. So when they wake up half naked in Scott and Joey’s bedroom the next morning covered in frosting, bodily fluids, mysterious bruises and jaw aches (and with a condom up Ders’ butt), they freak out, thinking they’ve been drugged and raped. Except that their hosts tell them that the three of them all had drunken sex with each other.
Again, this development could have been the show’s cue for some truly distasteful gay jokes, the guys lashing out, or the hosts being painted as predatory creeps. But what happens instead is some of the most sensitively handled and surprising interaction to an unintentional same-sex friend gang bang I’ve ever seen on a sitcom. (Boy, if I had a nickel.) It’s set up through the episode that the guys signature easy banter is hiding a lot. Montez teases that they don’t know each other as well as they claim. Blake, on the roof, claims to be an open book to his friends—but jokes that he doesn’t want them to ever read it. And Ders, at the party, continues the theme:
That is something that makes you feel stuff. I’m still pretty uncomfortable with this stuff. So maybe we’ll just order a few more drinks and the feelings will just flop out.
And flop out feelings do when, after their pent up confusion and shame causes them to attack each other (and ruin the egg race) the next day at the team-building outing, the guys decide to talk things out. Sure, they’re still them, so it all starts out with lots of coded talk about butt sex (”I have a very, very medium-sized sedan!” blurts Adam, typically unable to commit to his own braggadocio), but then they guys have what passes for a mature, thoughtful discussion about what their friendship means to them.
It’s an exceptionally constructed scene, keeping the guys’ personalities comically intact while allowing them all to express themselves with an openness all the episode’s previous jokey evasions only hinted at. Honestly, it’s all almost too real for an episode of Workaholics, especially Blake’s confession that that night when he couldn’t stop crying wasn’t a result of their viewing of Shallow Hal, but because his beloved Uncle Howie had just died. Blake Anderson’s performance is impressive and sincere, and the episode treats it that way, with subtly sad music playing underneath as he says:
I know that you guys didn’t know, but just having you there, it really helped me through it.
That earnestness carries over to Ders’ and Adam’s confessions, too, although their revelations let some of the guys customary absurdity seep in. Ders’ confession that he once saw his mother cheating with their gardener is trailed by his comic horror that he may not be 100 per cent Norwegian, and Adam’s perhaps not surprising revelation that he wasn’t, in fact, the most popular kid in high school and got beaten up a lot is followed by some signature DeMamp ego-boosting:
I think that’s why I’m so addicted to having these gigantic muscles and being this freaking mountain of beef you see before you today.
But still, the music keeps playing, and Adam, Ders, and Adam’s reconciliation is remarkably—dare I say it—mature. They don’t make a solemn blood pact to deny that their little sex party ever happened, they don’t let their experience curdle into gay-bashing. Instead, they decide to move forward, acknowledging that their drunken indiscretion isn’t going to get in the way of their friendship. (Blake again: “But I just know I need you guys in my life for the rest of my life because you’re, like, my rock, man.”) No, as the guys say to their neighbors when they bring over an apology cake (which, granted, has a pastry penis on it), “We’re not gonna do it again, but it really did bring us closer together as friends.”
Even the big reveal—that the guys didn’t actually fuck each other, but were set up by Scott and Joey for being such enormous dicks at the party—doesn’t play like a copout. The guys are relieved, yes, but it doesn’t erase everything they’ve said to each other. Scott and Joey don’t come off any worse than the guys do—granted, they used a toothbrush to stick that rubber up Ders’ butt, but the guys were being colossally rude and awful. So when the guys—pointedly not invited to Scott and Joey’s place in Palm Springs—reprise their obnoxiously catchy “How are we not invited?” song as they strut, in unison, back home, it’s like Workaholics has found its comic soul.
- Blake and Adam, asked what Ders’ biggest regret is, both blurt out “swimming!” in unison.
- “Gay dudes are like hot chicks—they only like to party with each other.”
- O’Connell’s unexpected return after leaving to tweet about the guys’ confession is pretty great: “Guys, bad news. That tweet is gonna be too many characters. So I’m just gonna throw it in drafts and circle back to it later.”
- Blake, after finding out his injuries were the result of him choking Scott and Joey’s bodybuilder friend: “Rog? I thought we were friends.”