Jon realizes he needs a friend.
If Delocated’s third season has a theme, it’s about Jon (Jon Glaser) paying for his sins. Jon almost never realizes his own faults or how his actions complicate the lives of everybody who cares for him. Even when his own actions led to the murders of various friends and family members throughout season two, Jon rarely showed any lasting impact after an act or two. In season three he’s finally realizing how alone he is. He has no-one to hang out with outside his professional relationships (he includes his son David [Jacob Krogan] in that category) because he drives everybody away. Even his lucid moments are driven by selfishness. Unlike Eastbound & Down, though, Delocated is so disconnected from reality that I don’t find myself rooting for Jon to receive any kind of redemption or wisdom.
As I said after last week’s episode, dude needs a friend. He realizes it, too, and sets out to find the right guy for the job. Of course Jon is a thoughtless, self-obsessed fool incapable of actually connecting with another person in a mature and adult fashion, so his solution is to turn his friend quest into a reality show contest. The winner gets to hang out with a total asshole but also gets a million bucks and a regular role on the Delocated reality show, which of course is a solid basic cable hit in Jon’s America. Your moment of pathos for the week: Jay (Larry Murphy), the doorman who desperately wants to be Jon’s friend, sadly slouching away after Jon rejects him yet again.
Jon has always suffered his fair share of well-deserved indignity, but it’s become a regular occurrence in season three. “Friend” ends as darkly as “The Warm-Up”. Jon deals with the death of his new best friend, a kindly old man he meets in the park who leaves his secret fortune to Jon. For a brief moment Jon thinks he’s a grandfather, as his high school prom date reappears with a story about a secret daughter who went on to have her own daughter. The old date’s just a meth addict using a toddler to con Jon out of his money, though. The credits roll over a sad shot of Jon riding alone at the back of the limo he hired for his newly discovered family.
Jon genuinely deserves every bad thing that happens to him, but usually he’s back to his normal self by the end of an episode. Two of the last three episodes, “Friend” and “The Warm-Up”, have ended with a visibly despondent Jon. Those glimpses place such a greater emphasis upon Jon’s pain, slightly altering the tone of the show. Yeah, Delocated has always been “edgy”, alternating absurdity with shocking violence and extreme tension, but Jon has largely held down the center as an obliviously upbeat idiot. When he would act hurt it was more about trying to make the other person feel bad than honestly displaying his own emotions. His shell of self-absorption is cracking slightly this season, but he still hasn’t actively acknowledged that or done anything to change how he interacts with others.
Meanwhile tensions erupt between the Mirminskys and Wang Chos in one of the season’s other recurring storylines. Yvgeny (Eugene Mirman) has hired a friend to defame Jon with a fake social networking account. That friend is played by Jon Glaser with a horrible combover. (I’m pretty sure this is the first time Glaser has appeared on-camera in Delocated without a mask.) He puts on a mask and films himself getting intimate with hoagies in public. The ruse works and everybody thinks Jon is now a sandwich humper.
Sergei Mirminsky (Steve Cirbus) sees an opening in his truce with the Wang Cho family. He can’t get to Jon without incurring the wrath of the Wang Chos, so he tricks Jon’s doppelganger into murdering the same Wang Cho lieutenant who had a giant thumbs down carved onto his back last week. It looks like Jon (he) did it and now the Wang Chos are determined to take out the idiot they’ve been exploiting all season.
The Wang Chos, and especially Qi-Qang (Yung-I Chang), are the MVPs of season three. (Well, it might be a three-way tie with Cirbus and Todd Barry.) They’re as intense and dryly hilarious as Sergei, but instead of Sergei’s rage their defining attribute is their supreme disdain for Jon. It’s like Jerry’s relationship with Newman if one of them was a murderous Chinese crime family and the other one was a rich, delusional asshole who thought he was a celebrity. Like Cirbus, Chang plays a completely serious character that becomes hilarious when placed in such ridiculous surroundings, and he does it without a hint of mugging or overacting. He hasn’t had an opportunity to reach the same dramatic heights as Cirbus, but Chang has knocked everything sent his way right out of the park.
If war breaks out between the Mirminskys and Wang Chos, it’ll just be one more thing that Jon is directly responsible for. Here’s hoping both Sergei and Qi-Qang survive into season four.