My hypothesis was wrong. After last week’s episode, I speculated that NTBTS might shift focus away from Matt and Jay’s incessant desire to get a show at the Rivoli toward more of their pop culture-infused antics. Instead, The Buddy turned out to be one of the more Rivoli-focussed episodes of the series so far. They even got inside the Rivoli!
The episode opens with Matt watching Mrs. Doubtfire, taking inspiration from the film and making notes on a white board. When he puts all of the pieces together, he excitedly tells Jay about a new scheme. However, Jay is not interested in the new plan, preferring instead to attend a party on his own. The ensuing awkwardness reveals the cracks in their friendship. Matt's unrelenting desire to get a show at the Rivoli is at odds with Jay's interest in toning things down a bit and perhaps taking a different approach to their musical careers. This tension harkens back to The Buffet, from Season One, where Matt went to extreme lengths to dupe Jay into staying in the band. That scheme may have kept Jay's reservations at bay for a short while but he is once again questioning his commitment to Nirvanna the Band and getting a show at the Rivoli.
While movie references have always been peppered throughout the show, they have never before directly influenced the plot to the extent shown in this installment. From the physical comedy like going to the party in disguise and befriending Jay as “Tony” and the choking-on-shrimp restaurant set piece, to the stylistic choices such as the opening title sequence and score, this episode is all Doubtfire. In lesser hands, this could feel like a cheap attempt at cashing in on 90s nostalgia. Instead, I am consistently amazed at Matt and Jay’s ability to incorporate these dated movie plots into their own stories and pull them off while exploiting the interaction of unwitting bystanders.
The first season gave the impression Matt and Jay were more or less asexual. Both of these new episodes, however, have exposed their insecurities when it comes to bedroom activity. When Jay wolfs out, he is concerned no one will want to fuck him. Matt remarks, "Where are all the girls?" when Jay says he wants to get out and meet women at the party. Without passing judgment on sex work as a profession, Matt’s (read: Tony’s) desire to hire escorts is clearly driven by a juvenile impulse that does not appear fully developed. And Jay, upon realizing that Matt may ruin Tony’s plan, confesses that Tony said that Matt “can’t fuck.” The developing tension of Jay losing interest in Nirvanna the Band has my attention but I am also interested to see how Matt and Jay’s infantile sexual expression progresses over the season.
This episode also brought one of my favourite elements of the show back into focus, namely where the line is between fiction and reality. The following series of questions and answers are my attempt to try and find this line:
Did Matt and Jay crash a music industry party?
It appears all the partygoers were unaware of their being filmed since the two escorts in the flashbacks at the end of the episode are the only two credited actors in the episode. Whether or not Matt and Jay actually snuck in to the party is uncertain. My guess is they did not, given that Jay McCarrol is himself a musician in Toronto and feasibly could have gotten an invite to the party.
Did Matt sneak in to the kitchen at the Rivoli and dump cayenne pepper on Jay's pad thai?
Given the owners of the Rivoli are thanked at the end of the episode, my guess is the production got the owner's consent to film at the restaurant, and for Matt go in to the kitchen.
Did Matt secure the services of actual sex workers?
Yes and no. As mentioned above, both escorts were credited at the end of the episode. As such, they would have been prepped to appear and not unwittingly filmed. That said, at least one of the two women, Andrea Werhun, is a professional escort, as verified by this interview with Vice.
A few favourite jokes/moments/thoughts that did not fit into the paragraphs above:
- Matt threatening Jay with a knife when he would not go along with his Rivoli plan
- Jay erasing Matt’s plan on the whiteboard, only to stumble through remembering the exact same plan
- Jay thinking Tony is Steve Coogan
- Tony’s massive brick of a cell phone
- The reimagined flashbacks throughout the show are fantastic. In this case, Jay reflecting back on leaving Matt home alone and Matt’s dejected delivery of “Great” gave me a good chuckle
- Where does Matt get $700 to pay for the escorts plus whatever it cost to rent the limo? It is not established at any point that they have jobs, though I doubt the show will ever attempt the level of realism required to make this something viewers should care about.
- The opening title card says Chapter 11. Last season had 8 episodes, and The Book last week did not have a title card with a chapter number. This means they either skipped over at least one, but maybe two, episode numbers unintentionally, or there will be a flashback episode, or two, at some point this season.