This week’s episode of NTBTS, The Boost, could be compared against the best Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm or Silicon Valley episodes in terms of its complex plotting. While there are jokes, the comedy comes primarily from the absurd coincidence that the characters do not understand is controlling their lives and their suffering. NTBTS is also reminiscent of these classic comedies in that the show is becoming progressively darker as Matt stoops to lower moral ground in his megalomaniacal desire for both a show at the Rivoli and keeping Jay in Nirvanna the Band.
The episode centres around Jay competing in a speedrun tournament of Goldeneye 64 for the top prize of a show at the Rivoli. The steps it takes to get there, however, are anything but straightforward. Without getting into all the details, the cumulative effect is of Matt exploiting Jay’s video game prowess to such an extent that he gets hospitalized from a drug overdose. As I have been speculating throughout this season so far, it seems as though Matt and Jay’s relationship is reaching a breaking point. Ignoring the fact that they have never really been a band, I am concerned about the long term viability of Nirvanna the Band.
Out of the 11 episodes that have aired so far in Nirvanna the Band the Show, this week’s was by far the most nostalgic for me. I grew up playing Goldeneye 64 incessantly and, while I was never as good at the game as Jay, I definitely got a lot of enjoyment out of it. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air re-runs were also a major part of my childhood, to the point that I've actually been revisiting the show over the past several months. In fact, I just watched the episode where Carlton overdoses on speed, Just Say Yo, a few weeks ago. That coincidental viewing certainly prepared me for the thematic kinship demonstrated in this NTBTS installment.
The Fresh Prince reference adds some interesting complexity to the ending of The Boost, as it frames Matt as both Will and Jazz. In Just Say Yo, Will gives a speech at the end of the episode asking for the Banks family's forgiveness for his reprehensible behavior. The family relents, recognizing that Will is a victim of his upbringing and social environment and not an inherently bad person. However, when Matt attempts to give the same speech to Jay, he is thrown out of the hospital in the same manner Jazz regularly gets thrown out of the Banks household. This visual motif signals that Matt is, like Jazz, ultimately trying to manipulate others for his own gain and does not sincerely understand the ramifications of his actions. Just as Jazz and Will's relationship starts to sour in later seasons of Fresh Prince, so it seems Matt and Jay's relationship is deteriorating in NTBTS.
As with last week’s recap, here are my thoughts on the various interactions with real people throughout the episode, and how ‘real’ they are:
Did Matt buy speed from an actual drug dealer?
I think so. This woman’s cadence feels too natural to be an actor. Furthermore, there are no listed actor credits other than the person running the tournament.
Did Matt actually mistake a podcast named Rival1 for Rivoli?
As far as I can tell, there is no podcast about Goldeneye named Rival1. The host of the tournament is an online personality and streams on Twitch as RWhiteGoose.
Was the Goldeneye speedrun tournament real?
This is hard to discern. Clearly, if Rival1 does not exist then the poster for the event was fake. However, there could have been real posters for the event distributed separately from the one Matt finds in the store. Since there are no credited actors other than the host, the rest of the competitors were presumably competing for real. I find it hard to believe that no one would have noticed Matt cutting the cables of the winner's N64 so that Jay could win, but I suppose anything is possible.