Megan Ganz wrote a fantastic ‘Community’ bottle episode and now she has directed a great ‘Mythic Quest’ take on this TV staple format.
- ⚔️Carol leading this (not so) merry band of employees and Naomi Ekperigin taking center stage.
- ⚔️The C.W. chair setup is hilarious and creepy.
- ⚔️Lots of conflicts hit a boiling point.
- ⚔️David’s very funny introduction and departure.
- ⚔️The brutal final conversation.
- ⚔️There is a chance that some of the arguments could veer into repetitive territory.
“I hate bottle episodes. They’re wall-to-wall facial expressions and emotional nuance. I might as well sit in the corner with a bucket on my head,” Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) states in the excellent Community Season 2 episode “Cooperative Calligraphy.” Written by Megan Ganz, this statement is a meta nod to the format of TV’s budget-saving episodes, in which the core cast spends the entire runtime in one location. Abed is opposed to these episodes, but his observation gets to the heart of why these one-off installments are often beloved. The hunt for Annie’s (Alison Brie) pen spirals into secret sharing among the study group and it is a strong example of TV’s ability to do the most when it sets limitations. This Community outing often sits alongside Mad Men’s “The Suitcase” and Breaking Bad’s “The Fly” on best bottle episode lists, and Mythic Quest is also gunning for a spot.
The reason I bring up Community isn’t because of the Danny Pudi connection (though that helps too), rather, Mythic Quest co-creator Megan Ganz wrote “Cooperative Calligraphy,” and makes her directorial debut with “Please Sign Here.” The Apple TV+ workplace comedy is perfectly suited for this television staple, particularly at halfway point of the second season when various conflicts are bubbling away. The open-plan office space was transformed for “Everlight” and while the darkness was vanquished, the foreboding promise that it would return is fulfilled in what should be a far easier task to complete for the Mythic Quest employees. In the pre-Season 2 special, everyone was thrilled to be back at work, but now the tight alliances forged are in various fractured states, and Carol (Naomi Ekperigin) is no longer happily sipping cocktails while gathering the relevant paperwork. Instead, "Please Sign Here" follows her as she's forced to obtain signatures from the few dissenting employees who refuse to sign their workplace profile packets, and the quibbles vary from being unhappy about the assigned animal to thinking the whole process is reductive — yes the latter is Rachel’s (Ashly Burch) objection.
"Please Sign Here" is also the first time the entire recurring cast has been involved in one overarching storyline this season and while the various pairings have played into the strengths of the ensemble, this single narrative episode is a reminder of how effective they are as a group — even during a more contentious activity. Carol is often the scene-stealer and my one gripe about “Everlight” was how little we saw of the HR manager. “Please Sign Here” makes up for this oversight as she is the glue holding this (not so) merry band of employees together, and it isn’t too long before she has had enough of their tantrums and bullshit. It should be a simple assignment and even when she offers three vacation days in return for their signed packets, the only employee who takes this very good deal is the non-regular character, and everyone else digs their heels in.
One of the reasons why Mythic Quest is a good workplace comedy is you don’t have to work in video games to understand or empathize with something like taking a personality test — this will be something a lot of viewers will have completed at work. Sure, some of the situations or dynamics are heightened but it broadly captures the corporate experience. Carol explains (and then re-explains) the animals don’t really mean anything and it is just a simplistic way of distilling information. Assigning a creature like a lion, butterfly, or baboon is meant to add a fun twist beyond a letter, color, or number. Furthermore, not everyone disagrees with what they got and the hilarious reveal that David (David Hornsby) has been in the room the entire time is well executed by Ganz. He is sitting high up on the windowsill looking like an extra from Grease dressed in a leather jacket to reflect the wolf he now believes he is. Ian (Rob McElhenney) jokes this is the greatest week of David’s life and the reason he hasn’t signed his packet is that he left it at his new girlfriend’s house in Yorba Linda. He might be a wolf but he leaves himself open to many jokes at his expense about her widow status. Getting David a date is also part of Jo’s (Jessie Ennis) platform that Brad (Danny Pudi) is the mouse he got in the test — he claims he did the test at random. Last week’s pig reveal is another weapon in her arsenal that she uses against the man she no longer reveres and she tries to assert her shark status through strong contempt — she is also no longer dressing to mirror him.
"Please Sign Here" sees them circle each other like animals every so often and it gets more pointed as the episode progresses. This repeated motif is another good use of the space and highlights how this show effectively switches tone between the heightened absurdity of this conflict with other more personal moments. In a script by Katie McElhenney (who also wrote the Season 1 standalone episode “A Dark Quiet Death”), the dialogue is equally cutting and firing on jokey cylinders. It gets to the point in which Brad sticks the knife in by calling Jo a parasite, but it is interesting to note that she doesn’t back down. Instead, neither turn their back as they awkwardly finish this debate (while signing their packets), and Ian sums it up best, “That was bizarre but oddly thrilling.” For all of Carol’s reasonable and then exasperated attempts to get them to sign, it is a deepening of the rifts that gets the result she wanted.
Rachel’s protests in "Please Sign Here" are met with scorn from several corners but the one person who supports this outcry is her girlfriend Dana (Imani Hakim), who refuses to sign because she got assigned an otter. Communication hasn’t always been their strong suit, which is why it took so long for them to get together. Ian quickly pokes holes in her objections including pointing out that Rachel doesn’t even know Dana’s middle name. This spirals and the big revelation during this back-and-forth about otters is that Dana is applying to Berkeley to help move forward with her programming dream, and she hasn’t told Rachel about this big career move — to an institution that is six hours away. She’s upset that an otter doesn’t fit her aspiration and while the creature is arbitrary, she wants to be a wolf. This bombshell is one quick way to get Rachel to sign her packet and she is the first to leave, quickly followed by Dana who signs her initials beneath the wolf on the visual board.
Carol isn’t only dealing with people who are physically in the room and after a lack of C.W. (F. Murray Abraham) last week, the reveal that he is also present is another wonderful visual gag in "Please Sign Here." Sure, we have seen his face on various screens but Ian has taken it to the next level as the art department has whipped up a body for the iPad to be attached to — wearing clothes that look a lot like C.W.’s. It is eerie and very funny, and almost as good as if the octogenarian was back in the office. Carol needs him to do the mandatory sensitivity training and as he begins to tell another story about Thailand it helps that he can get wheeled out of the main office before he says anything too controversial.
Being an HR manager means dealing with a lot of personal issues that are often outside the job role, which is why Carol is so adamant about getting everyone to comply in a timely fashion. It is easier to get some signatures than others and it turns out that David did the test backward, so he signs before he gets reassigned to a butterfly. David’s exit (both of them) is as hilarious as his arrival and leaning into the wolf howl only makes it more so. The David error is discovered when Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao) agrees to take the test even though Montreal has given her a free pass on account of all the work she is doing. The only reason Ian is even at this meeting is that he wanted to find out what his co-creative director got — he is not surprised he got the lion.
A bottle episode like "Please Sign Here" thrives on how the limited space and cast are utilized and while Breaking Bad and Mad Men deftly portrayed a two-hander both Community and Mythic Quest are working with a larger number. “Please Sign Here” works so well because the players involved alternate throughout and Poppy’s arrival marks a shift in tone with Ian. Before she has stomped in yelling at Dana that she is a good boss, Ian has been an agent of chaos but the current rift between this pair becomes the immediate focus. First, Poppy’s sex dreams get brought up before she settles down to do the test to shut Ian up. “I may die here” Carol quips when Poppy gets the same animal as Ian, realizing she is in for another round of this power play. While Carol sees herself as more of a hostage than a negotiator she hits on a good idea when she tells them to be vulnerable and reveal their fear. After Ian gives a very manicured response (dying of a heart attack in his prime), he finally lets his guard down and reveals he worries that MQ is his only good idea and Poppy is a “younger, smarter lion.” It is a rare moment, which Poppy follows up by saying she is scared of singing in public. “What the fuck was that?” is Ian’s incredulous response to her unwillingness to share.
What follows is an exchange that cannot easily be undone and even though Carol gets her signed packets from all, this experience is far from victorious. Poppy makes a pun on "lion" to break the tension and then offers Ian some authentic honesty telling him she has concerns about her expansion, ”I miss having you around. You believe in me in a way that no one ever has and I could use some of that right now.” This olive branch feels like it could set things right again, but oh boy, Ian is not in the mood for pleasantries: “I don’t believe in you and you will fail without me. And the best part of it is, you know it too.” This is a big bowl of yikes for the future of Titans’ Rift (and their co-creative director roles), while McElhenney and Nicdao nail the swing in tone from jokes to this eviscerating closer. The aftermath of "Please Sign Here" can swing in two directions either the air has been cleared or it is more fraught than before. Mythic Quest takes the latter route and the darkness has settled in once more.
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