The ideas are all there but not everything quite lands. It is still a fun episode with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.
- ⚔️Jo's evil laugh.
- ⚔️Even though C.W. is still remote he still feels very much part of the office.
- ⚔️Dana's work ambitions.
- ⚔️Charlotte Nicdao's physical comedy.
- ⚔️Some of the family analogies are a little heavy-handed.
The office environment is often likened to a second home with terms like “work spouse” being part of the lexicon. For many, the work/personal divide has been blurred by the pandemic as desks have been set up where we sleep and eat. But for the Mythic Quest employees who have returned to this shared space, there is even more co-dependency than before. Two of the three storylines in “#YumYum” focus on interactions that remind us why it is essential for this company to have an on-site HR manager (the always excellent and exasperated Carol always makes valid points). They don’t need to be working from home to cross the line, and while this symbiotic dynamic often pays off in this sitcom, this episode also raises some red flags.
Kicking off with Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao) and Ian (Rob McElhenney) who still maintain that everything is fine with this new partnership but David (David Hornsby) is concerned because their language reminds him of divorce — more specifically his parents’ and his own marriage failings. This discussion sets up David’s dating storyline as it is an initial reminder of his hopeless and non-existent love life. Brad (Danny Pudi) is the thread weaving through the three overarching plots as he plants seeds throughout the Mythic Quest building for his own entertainment. His motivation with Poppy and Ian is to get one of them to sign off on doing a battle royale within the game as it is an easy way to boost the numbers. “They’re doing it because it is the cheapest way to get the youngest players possible,” Poppy says when deriding this suggestion and Ian is very much on the same page. See, the teamwork is going strong, however, while they can agree on hating this last man standing concept, they are currently divided over the Titans’ Rift expansion.
This divide includes sectioning off the expansion into Zeus (Ian) and Hera (Poppy). This description of the Greek God’s dynamic is relevant to this contemporary partnership:
“The story of Zeus and Hera isn’t your conventional love story. Zeus was notorious for courting countless women. But it was Hera the goddess of marriage, with whom he was enchanted. He wanted to have her by his side as the queen of the gods as he ruled over the universe. Hera, however, had no intention of ever becoming Zeus’ wife.”
Of course, there are some fundamental differences including the fact that Ian and Poppy’s partnership is platonic, but this episode also points to the struggles faced when they are not bouncing ideas off each other. Ian is initially more frustrated by this split, pulling tester Rachel (Ashly Burch) into his office to play a Poppy-adjacent role. To thrive he needs resistance and coming in below budget and on time is messing with his creative process. Meanwhile, Poppy has moved back into her old office to account for the different design teams and she isn’t thriving beneath all those blankets. Whereas Ian has a fully formed idea with complete concept art, her half of the expansion is still in the brainstorming session because what she wants is seemingly impossible. Poppy is being told it can’t be done, whereas Ian is met with a barrage of yeses, and neither is satisfied.
After Ian borrows Rachel to push back against the images the art department has knocked up, Dana (Imani Hakim) takes this moment to approach Poppy. After the Grouchy Goat failure, Dana has caught the coding bug, and while she now has a dream, she doesn’t have the necessary skills to achieve it. This is where Poppy comes in and she arrives at an opportune moment. Instead of saying the co-creative director’s idea can’t be done, Dana bigs up her genius status, and stroking Poppy’s ego earns her a seat in the room — when most of Poppy’s team have to make do with the floor. Perhaps the biggest laugh in the episode comes courtesy of Charlotte Nicdao’s physical comedy after Poppy has been sat crossed-legged for so long she cannot stand without falling. Dana’s attempts to help are batted away and this reads like a metaphor for the whole Hera idea development.
Now Rachel and Dana have crossed into coupledom, the next challenge is their separate career aspirations. Currying favor with the creative bosses would normally be beneficial but at MQ, they have put themselves in the middle of the unconventional creative process. What Poppy and Ian need is each other, although they are both far too stubborn to admit it. Brad knows he can get his way with a well-timed reminder to Poppy that a battle royale is on the table as an option for the meeting with Montreal — his custom mug is a hilarious visual. She caves and explains to Ian that this decision occurred while they “were on a break.” Between the Jo/David/Brad triangle and the divorce comments, the personal relationship analogy is working overtime and it is a little overused by the end of the episode.
From work spouses to finding David a date because he is back on the apps and having no success. Brad takes it upon himself to fix David’s online presence in order to help him find love, and this is not an altruistic act. Rather, he views it as a challenge to stave off the boredom while Poppy and Ian crumble. Danny Pudi is excellent at walking the thin line of cruelty because while he is blunt, he also follows through. I mentioned this last week, but David is often the punchline and it can go too far. Thanks to some pretty awful social media posts and interactions in the “Divorce Dance Party” game simulation, it doesn’t veer into that place. It is crushing when the reality sets in after it is revealed his co-workers were playing the online avatars, but Brad finds a way to turn it around while using the burlap sack analogy. It is a backhanded compliment but his romantic prospects are looking up — even if he has to travel for this date.
Brad is also behind Jo’s (Jessie Ennis) seemingly impossible task that sees her taking charge of C.W.’s (F. Murray Abraham) legal woes with his book publisher. In a middling episode, this the best storyline of the week that allows Jo to channel her inner boss while also showing she can surmount the confidence issues that plagued her in “Grouchy Goat.” C.W. is in danger of losing the rights to his characters because he still hasn’t written the third part of his trilogy and is in breach of his contract. Jo doesn’t do the research and is blindsided when she is told that it was due in 1982. Talk about missing a deadline! C.W is still appearing remotely and it adds to the hilarity of the bathroom stall scene with both Jo and the author berating themselves in this intimate space without veering into inappropriate beyond the language C.W. uses to describe his influences.
The work bathroom is often used as a place in which characters fall apart, but Jo takes this moment to follow Brad’s negotiation advice because her greatest weakness is C.W., and she can use his offensive and outdated unfiltered conversation to her advantage. Not only has she got a solid plan but the evil laugh to match her scheme and this bold exhalation of emotion is another very funny moment from Ennis. The threat of being canceled is so pervasive that one mention of C.W.’s inspiration and the failure of the Ender’s Game movie adaptation after Orson Scott Card’s long history of homophobia came to light is enough for C.W. to keep his characters. Perhaps, Jo is a shark and everyone at the Mythic Quest office will have to make sure they don’t get bitten.
Pushing the characters forward requires some steps that can make some episodes feel less vibrant than others. While this is certainly an entertaining Mythic Quest, some of the repeat analogies are on the heavy-handed side. Poppy and Ian’s dynamic is interesting enough without veering into “we were on a break” territory and thankfully the divided office of Mythic Quest is taking shape through other fruitful avenues like Dana’s ambition. This isn’t a loot box episode full of garbage, more like a burlap sack carrying the audience to the next level.
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