The following contains spoilers for Ultra City Smiths S1E5, “O-o-h Child”
Ultra City Smiths S1E5 almost feels a bit like an attempt at Andy Kaufman-esque humor. As the penultimate episode of the first (and perhaps only) season, surely we were all hoping for a bit more plot movement with regard to the show’s central mysteries, but instead of giving us more clues about Carpenter’s death, the police station baby, or The Most Dangerous Man in the World, “O-o-h Child” hits us with extended Pecker jokes. So perhaps the joke is on us. Is it funny?
I did enjoy Chris Pecker’s (Dax Shepard) attempt to pick up a coin and his (successful) attempt at penile calligraphy, not just in the content of the scene but in the way it was drawn out. It’s a particular style of humor that Ultra City Smiths hasn’t worked with much to this point, but which isn’t really a surprise coming from Stoopid Buddy Stoodios—the funny becomes annoying and then funny again. And of course it’s all kicked off from Deputy Mayor Jeff Thumb (Tim Meadows) bragging about, well…thumbs.
The Catwoman sex tape is funny as well. Donella Pecker Smith (Kristen Bell) is adorably awkward, and her song helps with the adorable part. But once again the humor stems from that awkwardness. We’re discomfited as this story takes over S1E5 of Ultra City Smiths, even as it gives us a moment of nice social commentary by having the news pundits delve into critiques of her sexual skills and ill-advised attempt at twerking.
The end of “O-o-h Child” makes it pretty clear that this was the intention. Street Hustler Boy (Damon Herriman) and crew finally arrive at the bank, but the tellers are all so busy watching the Pecker tape that they can’t be bothered to notice. So that plotline doesn’t really advance either.
There is some movement in S1E5 on the question Ultra City Smiths left us with at the end of S1E4: the fate of Nico Onasis (Chris Conrad). But before we learn that he hasn’t made it, we get another awkward scene related to sex as he tries to seduce Mills (Jimmi Simpson) so he’ll have made love to 1,000 people instead of 999. He just won’t stop it with the buttons.
And we learn that he is the father of Jaya’s (Sunita Mani) baby, which she finally gives birth to on a subway platform. The most poignant moment of the episode might be in Gail (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) saying that she should tell Nico because you never know where good fathers come from. The implication being, of course, that they’re rare—it’s almost like magic when someone is one. Give the sensualist a chance.
But then Nico dies, and in many ways it would seem that what young Trevor (Caleb McLaughlin) tells his mother is the truth of things—the good guys have lost, so you might as well roll with the Nixons.
Grace (Alia Shawkat) visits Tim Snodgrass, who is in a wheelchair now. But that doesn’t stop him from releasing the sex tape to torpedo Donella’s run for Mayor. “Will you always be like this?” Little Grace asks, wondering if she’s confined this man to a chair for the rest of his life. “Am I always going to lack ethics?” is Snodgrass’s reply, with an intonation that makes me truly glad they cast Jason Mantzoukas for the part. But they tell him he will indeed always be in the wheelchair.
Grace clearly feels bad. She looks at the picture of her father (The Most Dangerous Man in the World) some more in S1E5, but again there is no real movement in that plot arc. The narrator does confirm that the fire escape Nico was climbing was the exact same as the one Grace climbed in S1E1, for what it’s worth. So maybe Mills is closer to the answer to the mysteries of Ultra City than it might at first appear. It’s kind of odd that Grace got robbed the way she did when you think about it.
With the season finale on the horizon, Ultra City Smiths S1E5 leaves us wondering about all of the things we’ve been wondering about all season. But I find myself most curious to learn what will happen with Street Hustler Boy and 34th Street Chuck (Jim Becker). I hope he can get his neck extended and live awhile longer. And I hope that Donovan Smith aka The King of the Night (John C. Reilly) makes another appearance before we’re done.
See you next week.