“Let the skins begin / my savory skins.”
Delocated didn’t bring its A-game for last week’s season premiere. “Lipples” wasn’t bad TV, but it wasn’t prime Delocated, largely because of the Glaze (Marc Wootton), the new life coach for Jon (Jon Glaser). Wootton is a talented performer, and he didn’t come close to completely derailing the episode (which still got a coveted 7.5er from a dude writing on the Internet), but last week the Glaze felt more like an idea for a Saturday Night Live sketch than a worthwhile addition to Delocated’s crew of absurd but perversely believable characters.
Last night’s “Skins” is the Delocated we know and love. “Lipples” was too concerned with Jon’s grief and introducing new characters to approach the heights of season two. “Skins” corrects course by falling back on one of Delocated’s standard comedic themes: Jon’s fixation on and fetishization of mundane cultural totems, like novelty t-shirts, exercise tapes and sub sandwiches. On the surface “Skins” is about potato skins, but dig deeper and you’ll find a powerful story about how self-absorption and obsession can sever even the strongest of family bonds.
Okay, that’s probably overselling it. In “Skins” Jon spends some of his son David (Jacob Crogan)’s inheritance on a potato skin bar, and makes it totally cherry with a mint paintjob and sweet “skins” New York license plate. As David’s guardian Jon has control over the five million left by his deceased ex-wife Susan, and freely drops money on the skins bar and a million for protection from the Wang Cho family while denying David’s requests for new shoes, a new bed or at least a nacho bar. A justifiably angry David sues for emancipation, but even after losing Jon is too self-involved to realize that everything is his fault. After all, this is a guy who thinks every single Asian person he passes is a member of the Wang Cho crime family; perception isn’t one of this strengths.
Jon could easily fit the sit-com stereotype of the oblivious and delusional buffoon who isn’t a fraction as macho as he thinks he is, but his obsessions are too specific and too unexpected to be clichéd. Did the King of Queens ever make his kid eat potato skins every meal for a week? Likewise Delocated’s mannered weirdness could easily devolve into the type of quirkiness found in second-rate Sundance entries or David E. Kelley shows if the weirdness wasn’t genuinely surprising (and if Jon Glaser wasn’t so talented at playing an utter asshole).
“Skins” is also a great episode for the Mirminsky Family. In a previously unaired scene included in the “previously seen on” montage we learn that Sergei (Steve Cirbus), the savagely violent but oddly honorable backbone of the Mirminsky crime family, can’t technically become the head of the family because he was adopted. Ever the good soldier, Sergei supports his pathetic brother Yvgeny (Eugene Mirman) even in the face of withering criticism from his uncle Pavel (Glenn Fleshler) and comedian Todd Barry (Todd Barry). When Pavel goes against orders and threatens to destroy the uneasy truce between the Mirminskys and the Wang Chos by killing Jon, Sergei is forced to kill his own uncle to preserve his family’s honor. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but like all Sergei scenes it is played completely straight, making it both hilarious and oddly powerful. If this was wrestling Sergei would be a solid tweener right now, like a cross between Nikita Koloff and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin; he’s a frighteningly bad man, but one with a purpose and a personal code that makes him easy to respect.
Even if you don’t enjoy the main storyline, there are enough awesome Delocated moments to please the most discerning of fans, from the “bone phones” Jon gives David, to the six-foot party skin, to the skins theme song that plays throughout the episode. It’s classic Delocated, and the true start to the third season.